Category Archives: Four Stars

Burn Marks: A strange time for letters

Burn Marks: A strange time for letters by [II, Robert D. Rice]

A never before perceived dimension to the most famous events in history. This book presents five short stories that show a different side to the stories of Lee Harvey Oswald’s arrest after the Kennedy assassination and the reaction his mother Marguerite had. This shows the other people whose lives were affected by these historical events but on whom the light never shone. Not in a controversial kind of way though. These stories make for great exchanges and interesting conversations.

While these stories cover historical events, they are more entertaining than a simple relaying of historical information. The book would actually make great material for school. The casual writing style is approachable and one effortlessly retains information. Robert D. Rice makes the material captivating and engaging.

There are five stories, each focusing on a different notable historical event. The letters are quite interesting and provide an explanation for the title of the book. They are written at the weirdest of times with the weirdest of intentions and even weirder material. The letters leave the reader wondering about the state of mind of these people. Such is the beauty of this book. It evokes interesting questions about people whose lives are suddenly thrust into high profile and strange situations.

The stories, while engaging, lack a smooth flow. I found myself getting lost in the flurry of activity. Marguerite can be confusing. She calls a newspaper so that she can get some money out of it. On the other hand, she refers to Lee as her boy and it seems almost profound. This can leave the reader with a bit of whiplash.

In all cases, these short stories are captivating and punctuated with moments of levity. They refer to important times in American history.

It is a brilliant collection. The stories are like little bits of literary joy, easy to digest in small bits while traveling. Robert D. Rice has a way of sculpting the English language that is simple yet brilliant. The result is a hilarious and charmingly witty book that readers are bound to enjoy.

Pages: 227 | ASIN: B07RZD4MMV

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The Enchanters’ Child

The Enchanters' Child by [Sarikonda, Navya]

The Enchanters’ Child is a fantasy novel that follows the journey of three teenagers who are brought together through a bizarre set of circumstances. The Enchanter’s Child is a tale of friendship and, ultimately, trust.

The story is narrated by the three main characters; Wren, Quinn, and Zayne. Each of these characters are young, brave and determined. Each are hiding their true identity from the others – one is the last of Arobol, a group of magic-wielders, one is a prince – the son of the King and a member of the Gavreel Society and one is the infamous Black Assassin. Throughout the journey each must keep their true identity a secret, as they work together for a common purpose – to find the sorcerer. As the story develops we see their purposes are not as common as they have lead each other to believe.

The story is set in a variety of places including towns, forests, artificial towns and even an opulent castle. There are rich descriptions of sights, sounds and smells of the setting. Sarikonda cleverly describes the setting to ensure the reader feels they are there. The forests and gardens are full of magical plants and beasts. The towns are described in depth – easily transporting the reader to the setting.

The characters are generally well developed, although Wren appears to be the ‘main’ character. The story is told from each of their perspectives, allowing the reader to view the journey from three very different perspectives. The characters are developed through their dialogue and thoughts, and descriptions of their costumes, powers and even their unique weapons. The story opens with Wren as narrator, and closes with Zayne’s narration. Rather than losing continuity the story is actually enhanced with the change of narration. It is cleverly done, although I felt that the two male figures could be differentiated further.

Overall, The Enchanters’ Child is an engaging read. The plot is interesting and easy to follow. The setting is described using an array of rich imagery and the characters are intriguing and well developed. Just as you would expect from the title, it is a captivating story packed with magical twists and turns.

Pages: 290 | ASIN: B07L64XW8B

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“Bottom Down, Penelope Brown!”

"Bottom Down, Penelope Brown!" by [Pulliam, April B.]

For as long as she can remember Penelope Brown can’t stay sitting down. She wiggles and worms, dances and turns, and every teacher she’s had will insist throughout class that she remain in her seat. As Penelope enters the third grade, she dreads the new teacher, knowing exactly what she will say – or will she?

April Pulliam delivers a touching message with a simple story. The characters are kept to a minimum to focus on the issues at hand. Penelope is likable and relatable; she is described in good light with age-appropriate language. I appreciate how Pulliam never outright stated Penelope’s difficulties as a problem. She consistently views the characters through a young child’s perspective.

Penelope struggles, like many children, to stay in her seat. Like many young children she wriggles and squirms and is brimming with energy. How do children handle this? How do they handle the teachers that constantly tell them to put their ‘bottom down’? These are lessons that I think many elementary school children can relate to and one that is presented in a fun and understanding manner in this book.

Pulliam and Grantham team up to craft a wonderful opportunity to introduce and validate a child’s woes comparable to Penelope. I would highly recommend Bottom Down, Penelope Brown for the modern classroom.

Pages: 23 | ASIN: B07SRX418X

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Issaura’s Claws

Issaura's Claws (Incarn Saga Book 1) by [Wibell, Katharine]

Issaura’s Claws, written by Katharine Wibell is the first book in the three book Incarn series. The story is set in the kingdom of Elysia, an island inhabited by two races: humans and theriomorphs. The novel focuses on themes of racial divides, trust, friendship and gender stereotyping. Interwoven are legends and traditions, gods, and mythical creatures. All are called to work together when the kingdom comes under threat.

The setting for Issaura’s Claws is the kingdom of Elysia. Although outwardly appearing united, socially, the kingdom is divided invisibly into two groups: humans and theriomorphs. This divide becomes evident to the reader in the opening lines of Chapter One; “Trouble.  In the schoolyard, Lluava spotted a group of boys near a large oak. Definitely humans”. The reader feels Lluava’s pain as she describes these bullies and how they attack an innocent lamb. We then see her surprise and disappointment as she realizes that even her teacher sees theriomorphs as inferior. The author cleverly contrasts the beautiful setting with the social turmoil that exists in the kingdom. It is a clever way to address themes of stereotyping and racial divides.

Lluava is the main character in this story. She is a seventeen year old theriomorph, (a race that appears human but has the ability to change into animal form) and it is evident from the beginning she is headstrong and determined. Unlike her mother and many other theriomorph’s she values the old traditions and has not succumbed to all things human like many others. When an army needs to be raised she volunteers without hesitation. She begins to break down gender stereo types when she is placed in the women’s camp to learn to nurse the sick. She demands to be trained in combat, and is eventually permitted to train at the men’s camp. It is there that she soon proves she is a force to be reckoned with.

Overall the story is interesting an easy to follow. The one aspect of the plot that I felt could be improved was the number of ‘traps’ Lluava and her friends fall into. She and her friends are portrayed as intelligent, so the number of blatant traps they seem to fall into becomes implausible.

Issaura’s Claws is an entertaining fantasy novel. Descriptions of the setting and characters are detailed and rich. The themes of the story parallel with dilemmas that society faces today. I look forward to reading the second book in this fantastic series.

Pages: 362 | ASIN: B01MZZB80P

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The Journal

The Journal by [Stevens, R. D.]

The Journal, by R.D. Stevens, is the story of a young man’s search for his older sister after she goes missing in Cambodia and the police have given up looking for her. As he navigates an unknown country without any real plans, he realizes his trip isn’t just about finding answers to questions about what happened to his sister, it’s also about finding answers to questions he has about life. In his travels throughout Southeast Asia, as he meets people along the way who help to uncover the events of his sister’s life, he learns to challenge what he thinks he is capable of and to see the world in a different way. In the end, he learns a lesson about what is really important in life.

I thought this story was captivating and that Stevens did a great job of pulling the reader in through a relatable narrative. The narrator shares his thoughts, feelings, and fears with the reader in a way that seems real, relatable, and honest. The regular use of aphorisms in the story is a unique way to not only give the reader some food for thought, but also to help the reader understand the characters better and to get insight into what they are thinking. The way the author plays with time, switching between the current story line and the events of the past, helps to keep the reader’s interest and to slowly develop the characters and their personal histories in an interesting manner.

Although the book itself was compelling, I don’t feel like the title is. It’s vague, nondescript, and, in my opinion, doesn’t really capture what the story was about. In addition, although I found the plot to be well conceived, it bothered me that everything seemed to be a bit too perfect in some parts, a bit too coincidental in the way everything seemed to work out. I felt that the conclusion felt rushed. After taking so much care to build up the characters, the ending came in a few quick paragraphs that didn’t do justice to the complexity of the characters.

That being said, I really enjoyed the book. Although I think there is some room for improvement, the overall quality of the writing was exceptional and the story was engaging.

Pages: 253 | ASIN:  B078C7SH7N

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Wings at Dawn

Wings at Dawn by [Balustrade, Marie ]

Alexander Adler, an investigative journalist from Berlin is sent to India on a fact-finding mission to write an article about child pornography and human trafficking, while his two best friends, Matt and Julian also join him. Following the social worker and activist, Amrita’s instructions, they visit several brothels in Delhi and Mumbai in order to discover the local human-trafficking network and save many innocent children’s life at the same time. On their adventurous journey, they become familiar with the colorful Indian culture and the amazing Indian cuisine, and plenty of times they find themselves in life-threatening situations that put both their will power and their friendship to the test.

Wings at Dawn by Marie Balustrade is a gripping story about three adventuresome men who decided to fight against human trafficking, pedophilia, child pornography and slavery in India. I am completely amazed by the way Balustrade merges real social issues into a novel that touches your soul. With the long descriptive passages, the reader gets an insight into the Indian society and culture. The story is eventful, interesting, rich in cultural elements and despite the serious subject, it contains some humor as well.

The novel has a wide range of characters, all of them are well worked-out. The three main characters Alex, Matt and Julian have contrasting personalities due to their different origins, pasts, and habits that make their dialogues entertaining. However, they share the same enthusiasm, helpfulness, and stubbornness. My favorite character is Matt because I liked his colorful personality, he is a real gourmand who is always hungry and could eat all day long. Thanks to him I got to know more about the Indian cuisine and I learned that in India “the fewer the buildings, the better the tea”, which means that the tea is always more delicious further from the big cities. While reading about the innocent children’s distress, I felt really emotional, especially the little boy, Abdul Hakim’s and a father, Norbu’s story touched me.

The only thing I did not like is that it contains too many foreign words and expressions, after a time I stopped going to the end notes to look up the words as I found myself doing it often. Otherwise, Wings at Dawn is a very valuable and emotional novel that I would heartily recommend to anyone who interesting stories set in exotic locations.

Pages: 376 | ASIN: B07Q6ZS72B

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Fragile Mind

FRAGILE MIND: Mental Health Poetry by [Thompson, Wesley]

Fragile Mind by W. B. Thompson is a mental illness-themed poetry collection with a mission: raising awareness of mental health issues and their possible consequences, helping to understand those who struggle with mental health issues and offering support for sufferers. The touching and meaningful poems offer an insight into the fragile mind’s daily struggles, including low self-esteem, hopelessness and anger.

W.B. Thompson creates a strong base for his poems with the introduction and the included suicide statistics. Every poem comes with a related image which indicates the content of the poem. The verses describe the wide range of emotions that a person with mental health problems can go through: confusion, loneliness, frustration, sadness, anguish and discouragement. I liked how the poet was able to send such a deep message, I could absolutely relate to the feelings of someone who is afflicted. The images and the titles are well-chosen and match the content. As a fan of well-written rhymes, I would prefer more rhymes in the collection, but I found the free verse poems also valuable and interesting.

Pages: 38 | ASIN: B07SH5ZCGP

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Claimed by Nicolai

Claimed by Nicolai (Raiden Warriors Book 1) by [Holm, Denna]

Abby Harris, a beautiful blonde girl and her dog Quin were about to spend an amazing day together hiking in the mountains when an alien, Nikolai Nekbet from the planet Raiden, abducts them. Abby now finds herself on aboard a ship traveling towards another planet. The reason behind the abduction is quite surprising: the lizard-looking man – who is actually a Crown Prince on his planet – was looking for a mate. But can he convince the girl to love him? And can Abby forgive him for making her leave behind her family and friends?

Denna Holm’s Claimed by Nikolai is an amazing science fiction romance novel about love among different species, with political intrigue sprinkled throughout. The story is set on the Quadira ship in space and on the planet Raiden. The reader gets an insight into the lives of Raiden warriors, and how they are claim a mate from other species by injecting them with their shaprata and how they are ruling their planet.

Most of the characters are well developed and intriguing. The main character, Abby has a dynamic personality and changes a lot as the story unfolds (and as the shaprata starts to work in her body). She is lovely, brave, always follows her heart and learns how to trust her partner and cope with the new situation she got into against her will. I especially enjoyed how the contrast between Abby’s thoughts and the words she uttered is shown. Nikolai, the weird-looking alien with black eyes, red vertical pupils and sharp teeth is ready to do everything (except one thing) for her love, he is struggling hard to win Abby’s heart. He is a real passionate lover. Despite events being given from multiple character perspectives, I missed the exposition of Lena’s point of view. I wanted to know how she felt and what she was thinking about what happened to her. The sex scenes are well-written, sometimes even going into shocking details. I wasn’t prepared for the erotic scenes, I would have preferred less eroticism, but this would be mild for any fan of erotic fiction.

Claimed by Nikolai is altogether an enjoyable read with unique ideas, I recommend it for everyone who loves fantasies and love stories in general. Holm has brilliant writing technique, the book is filled with dialogue that constantly held my attention right from the start.

Pages: 349 | ASIN: B07R24YW7P

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High Flying

HIGH FLYING by [McFarren, Kaylin]

High Flying, written by Kaylin McFarren tells the story of Skylar Haines, a talented young pilot. This is a complex story, filled with both suspense, drama and themes of love, the complexities of family, self-harm and sacrifice.

The main character, Skylar has been orphaned – her father died before she was born and her mother died when she was seven years old. She lives with her stern and seemingly uncaring Grandfather. This has left a huge and detrimental impact on her life. The reader is plunged into the pain Skylar is suffering on the very first page, as Skylar retreats into her bathroom with a box cutter. She proceeds to self-harm, sitting desperately alone on her bathroom floor.

Skylar has found some solace in her new passion – flying, in particular stunt planes. Her enthusiasm and passion for flying are evident; as is her feelings for Jake Brennan, describing him as “an artist” in the cockpit. This new-found happiness proves to be short lived, as she flies into a storm when performing with Jake at an air show. After colliding with another plane she is transported back in time, where she is able to witness the poor choices her parents made that have led to her current life.

High Flying switches between modern day Nevada (2013 and 2018) and back in time to before Skylar was born. The story is however, predominantly set back in time – eight months before she was born, twenty-one years ago. I enjoyed the description of the town, in both the past and present, it was vivid and convincing.

The plot is generally easy to follow and logical. The plot is otherwise grounded and believable, other than the time travel bit. But the ending makes up for this by being quite believable and realistic.

Most of the characters are well developed. Their body language and vocabulary help discriminate between characters. We meet many characters when Skylar travels back in time, the ones that link to her present life are easy to follow but the addition of many other characters can be difficult to follow. But I truly enjoyed the relationships between the main characters and found the tension between the two both engrossing and believable. But some of the minor characters and their relationships are not quite as well developed.

Overall the story is engaging and entertaining. I highly recommend it.

Pages: 277 | ASIN: B07QYH3CD4

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Through Me to You: A Life Through Poetry, Stories and Songs

Through Me to You: A Life Through Poetry, Stories and Songs by [Wick, Eve]

Through Me to You: A Life Through Poetry, Stories and Songs by Eve Wick is a collection of writings that span the author’s life from age thirteen to the present. A verse of Bible scripture accompanies each poem, story, and song, and the author uses these Bible passages to show that no matter what a person is going through, they can find an answer in God’s word. The purpose of this book is to inspire and encourage others who may be going though a difficult time in their lives, and it focuses on a wide range of emotions, from despair to hope, friendship, and love.

I enjoyed reading the poems, short stories, and songs in this book. I liked the connection between the Bible verses and the author’s own writing, which illustrated that even though the Bible was written thousands of years ago, God’s teachings still have meaning and power in the present, and people can find peace in the written word of God. I especially enjoyed reading the author’s short stories throughout the book, which were a bit longer in length than the poems.

Some of the scriptures seemed much more fitting to the author’s writing than others. When there was not as strong a link between the two, a different scripture could have been chosen instead. And if no more appropriate verse could be found, then I would have preferred not to have a scripture accompany that piece, since it seemed to take away some of the impact from the poems and stories that were much more closely linked to the accompanying scripture.

The verses that accompany the song lyrics seemed particularly fitting, which led me to believe that some of the songs are likely based on those specific Bible passages, giving them the strongest connection between the author’s writing and the words of the Bible.

This is an exceptional piece of work that I heartily enjoyed reading.

Pages: 118 | ASIN: B0794HFFVX

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