Category Archives: Three Stars

Black Nation: The Deadliest West African Genocide

Black Nation: The Deadliest West African Genocide by [Ifeanyi, Jonathan E.]

Imagine being young again and feeling sure of yourself, heading into the world with your beliefs in place and determined to change the world. Now imagine that you’re finishing college and about to take a job that you’re excited about but of which your family disapproves. Life isn’t easy, but you’re young and have a strong mind made stronger by your education–things will be fine. What if the leaders in your country have other ideas? This is where Chino finds himself. He is torn. He is disappointed, and he is devastated. As quickly as he begins his new life, he is faced with the terror of what politics can do to a nation and its people.

Black Nation: The Deadliest West African Genocide, by Jonathan E. Ifeanyi, is based on actual events and follows the journey of young Chinedu as he watches things crumble around him during his service in the National Youth Service Corps. He is both young and eager which makes this story all the more tragic whether it’s based on real events or entirely fiction. The innocence of youth and the grand expectations they have is tragic when juxtaposed with the corruption of government. Chinedu is certainly no exception to this rule.

The author does an excellent job of expressing his main character’s distress and despair regarding the way in which the world he expected changes so rapidly. Chinedu is relatable, and readers will find themselves easily understanding how he can change his own stance and political leanings. As differently as Chinedu was raised and as far-removed as his own culture is from that of many readers, his experience is an excellent testament to the damage done by political parties and the horrific consequences dealt citizens when politics go awry.

Loss plays a huge part in Chinedu’s experience. Whether readers can easily relate to the culture in Nigeria or not, they will sympathize with Chinedu as he copes with multiple losses and finds a way to deal with the carnage around him. Watching a young boy, fresh from college become so quickly jaded is not easy, but it is relatable.

I found the writing style and organization to be rather scattered overall. I felt that it was difficult to follow the events and visualize them in order. Some parts of the writing seem to have been written with more authentic dialogue while others have a more standard feel. Authentic dialogue is, by no means, a drawback. In fact, this is what gives the book a genuine feel. I wish, however, there was more consistency with the narrative overall.

While it gives a riveting account of true events in Nigeria, I had to reread some sections looking for clarity. I would recommend this book to readers seeking more information about the atrocities of genocide in Nigeria. Jonathan E. Ifeanyi gives readers food for thought as he relates a tale that needs so desperately to be told and heard.

Pages: 445

What Happened To Joe French?

What Happened to Joe French? is a novella written by Hector Rodriguez that follows the winding story of Joe French, a man who lives his life by impersonating, lying, stealing, and creating cons at every turn. The text opens with the mention of a puzzle hidden in the pages of the story, with a prize of 33 gold ingots. After that attention grabber, the story begins with a young man named Daniel describing his limited experiences with Joe, an older man that Daniel would often see at the family bar. When Daniel receives a package years later with 33 gold ingots and a letter from Joe, Daniel does his best to narrate how Joe came to receive the package and where Joe is hiding now. After this information is set, the story follows Joe from a third person view and plays through his story, most of which occurred in the US military. You’ll have to read to the end if you want to know how Joe scrapes his way through situations and problems of his own creation.

What Happened to Joe French? is entertaining in it’s unique ability to create curious, compelling and sometimes amusing situations. Joe has many close encounters with famous people of the early 1960’s, which gives this novel some star power and Hollywood intrigue. He even spends a good amount of time convincing people that he is Otis Redding, which he uses to his advantage enough to make it into the Bud Billiken Parade in Chicago.

While I thought the story was entertaining and I enjoyed following Joe through his misadventures and his near escapes, I felt that Joe had no good motivation for what he was doing in the story. I didn’t feel like there was a potent reason for the lies and the thievery. There is a couple mentions of a lost chance at love, but it does not feel connected enough to the plot.

As for the puzzle that is hidden in the pages, I have to admit that, while I definitely located a few of them, I was not able to find all of them, and some I wasn’t even sure were clues. For example, there is a mention of “Coca-a-cola”, which has an added “a” in the middle. Is this a clue, or just a spelling error? There’s no way to know! It all just adds to the fun of the novel, which if I had to sum up this novel in one word it would be just that, fun.

Pages: 142 | ISBN: 1684701856

 

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Dvorah: Prophetess, Judge, Warrior

Dvorah: Prophetess, Judge, Warrior: The Simple Girl Who Grew Up to Lead Israel (Fierce Bible Women Book 1) by [Lalli, M.J.]

Dvorah is the only child of Eleazar and Ajalon, and as such she is trained in many different skills to help her parents. Her childhood in Israel is simple, but happy, surrounded by family and friends. One day, late in her teens, her entire life changes when she receives a message from God telling her to sit in judgement of the disagreements between others. She does this to great acclaim for three years before being given an even bigger task- to lead an army of thousands in war, alongside her cousin, Barak. The battle will change their lives and shape their future together.

In Dvorah: Prophetess, Judge, Warrior, M.J. Lalli tells of Dvorah’s life and lessons on her way to becoming the jewel of Israel. The book begins slowly, detailing Dvorah’s daily life with her playmates, time in training inside the wool tent, and time spent learning to make perfect bricks. Through it all, Dvorah’s persistence, precision, and level headedness are consistently referenced as some of her most remarkable traits. In the meantime, Lalli paints a vivid picture of Biblical-era Israel and infuses the text with many stories from the Bible, but never seems overtly religious. Many of the stories are told in the context of Dvorah’s challenges and belief. Other characters don’t feature very prominently, with many of them coming in and out of the narrative just a time or two, and some others appearing only once. Dvorah and her horse Zenja are the most constant players in the tale.

Faith, and remaining true to how you have been taught, stand as the primary themes of the book. Throughout the course of the novel, Dvorah never strays from the faith and religion she was raised on, and in due course is rewarded for her diligence. As a contrast, her childhood friend Simona is used to illustrate the dangers of straying from the path of their religion, suffering all manner of tragedies along with her sins.

Dvorah herself is a well written and well-rounded character that succeeds at her tasks, but never in a way that feels convenient or out of place within the narrative. She works hard for what she achieves. The book is also well written in that it has a religious foundation but doesn’t once feel preachy in the way it’s presented. However, the slow start makes it difficult to get into the story, and the parables, while relevant, are often long winded. The second half of the book does pick up the pace dramatically as Dvorah fulfills the second of her heavenly callings. Dvorah: Prophetess, Judge, Warrior is a thought provoking novel that many will enjoy reading.

Pages: 246 | ASIN: B07VG5J8H7

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Who Am I

Literature can be a powerful tool for delving deep into hot button issues and writer J.R Penna tackles a variety of highly contentious issues with true depth with the novel Who Am I.

The story’s main characters are Rita and Rosa, who are dealing with an unexpected pregnancy. The focus does not just stay on how two very different women handle the same situation; the main storyline of Who Am I is the repercussions of religious dogma and hate-filled activism.

Penna’s disdain for a certain religious views can not be missed, however, his writing is not just to strike down those with a narrow view of right and wrong, he also offers in-depth thoughts of depression, family values, family relationships and controversial rhetoric about Jesus and the Bible.

Rita and Rosa’s stories are both compelling and layered and as a reader, I root for both of them. But, there are some curveballs in this telling. Some of Rit’as development is more than a little jarring, although I enjoyed the end of her story.

Where I felt the story lost its glamour is in the narrative and writing style. While Penna pens some very thoughtful and insightful prose, there are pages and pages of dialogue that is only about religious views and what is wrong with conventional faith. It seemed like every person was anxious to have a deep physiological discussion when meeting someone.

For a story that offers a lot of thought on deeply complex issues like depression, and accepting yourself, the plot gets lost in a less than natural tone. Rita wastes no time telling anyone her personal issues in any situation. Rosa is a young teen who, initially comes across as a naive girl, but later delivers long paragraphs of philosophical conundrums like a theological professor.

That being said, Who Am I offers some very interesting and thoughtful ideas and points of view that should not be dismissed.

Pages: 247 | ASIN:  B07X4ZBZ36

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Save Him

Save Him by [Hayes, William M.]

Save Him by William M. Hayes is a time travel story about a scientist named Rydel Scott who works at the Genesis Lab in upstate New York creating new technology for the military. After he stumbles across a way to travel back in time, his terminally ill sister convinces him that he must use this discovery to prevent Jesus’s death on the cross. The Unit, an elite military group led by Ray Catlin, is sent to stop him before it’s too late and bring him back. But once on the mission, the Unit becomes divided. Will Rydel succeed in changing the past and saving Jesus Christ? And if he does, will the people in the present survive the repercussions?

I enjoyed reading this book. The story line was intriguing, and it was a unique take on a time travel action adventure story. I liked the descriptions of Jerusalem during the life of Jesus. It gave me a good sense of what it might have been like to live during that time period.

The technology described in the book was interesting. The story started out a bit slow, taking place in the Genesis Lab with a show and tell of the new tech rather than with action as the Unit is sent out on their mission. However, this did give me a chance to get to know the various members of the Unit, who might have been hard to keep straight otherwise, since there were so many of them.

The group became divided about the mission once they arrived in the past, which was something that didn’t sit well with me, since the Christian believers’ position did not seem logical. One of the foundations of Christianity is that Jesus died for our sins so that our souls would be saved, yet the Christian characters don’t act as though that sacrifice was necessary when it should have been a fundamental belief. I thought it was odd for them to think that saving Jesus would have no effect on the present when Christianity as they know it would cease to exist if Jesus did not die on the cross.

This was an intriguing book with an interesting plot, but I felt the book lacked a conclusive ending. If you enjoy science fiction stories with futuristic, yet believable, technology in a historic setting then this book is definitely for you.

Pages: 345 | ASIN: B07WQMP41B

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Lasting Photographs

Lasting Photographs by [Barbano, Luigi]

John Ragnar has found himself on the cusp of a discovery that will lead him in a direction he never anticipated. When he comes across a box of photographs, he sets out to identify not only the owner of the photographs, but he wants to put names with the faces in them. One woman in particular catches his eye, and he makes it his mission to identify her as he embarks upon a journey which takes him across the globe in search of someone who might be able to tell him more about this woman who otherwise remains an enigma.

Lasting Photographs, by Luigi Barbano, details the adventure upon which one man sets in order to find the owners of photographs he discovers in a box on the beach. His mission takes him to Italy, and by his side is the woman he has only known for two days and met by pure chance but with whom he has instantly fallen in love.

For as engaging as the plot of Barbano’s story is, the text seems to lack something in the way of relationships. I feel there is a good bit of narrative for a story that could easily have been rich with dialogue between the two main characters, John and Katia. As a reader, I enjoy immersing myself in the conversations of the characters and count on dialogue to contribute to the rising action. Barbano’s descriptions of John’s plight and the lengths to which he goes to retrieve information about the woman pictured in the mysterious photographs are more than adequate for developing the plot. However, I can’t quite get past the fact that more dialogue could have enhanced the entire story line.

In addition to the lack of dialogue, Barbano’s work feels a bit cut and dry for its genre. This blend of realistic and historical fiction consists of, in many cases, brief and straightforward paragraphs. Readers will not find the flowery language they might expect to find describing the scenes in Italy. Readers more interested in mysteries will appreciate the point-blank way in which Barbano addresses the dilemmas at hand and jumps right into the pursuit of the photographs’ origins.

Barbano goes to great lengths to include technical aspects in his writing. As a photographer himself, he does a phenomenal job of incorporating the most finite details of photography into his story. The author is also adept at weaving the complicated language of the mechanics of flight into his plot. Readers who appreciate text more focused on technical language will find this book a delight.

While I enjoyed the overall story line in which John and Katia make it their sole mission to recover the meaning behind the lost photos, it is my preference to read fiction in which characters’ interactions take precedence over narrative. Lasting Photographs is a short read and one where readers with an avid interest in photography will find to be a worthwhile pick.

Pages: 200 | ASIN: B07VLW1CYS

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Left on Main

Left on Main (Heart of Madison Series Book One) by Crystal Jackson is a contemporary fiction story. Freelance travel blogger Libby Reynolds moves to the small town of Madison, Georgia after her marriage falls apart, and she is determined to make a new life for herself. But it’s hard for her to move on when she was blindsided by her husband’s desire for a divorce. Then she meets Seth Carver, the owner of Lost Horizon Antiques, and she can’t deny that she feels drawn to him. But is she ready to take another chance on love? Especially with a man who has his own reasons for protecting his heart. Or will they allow their fears and past hurts to tear them apart?

I enjoyed the romantic element of this story, and I liked the characters because they were relatable and believable. The descriptions of the town and various businesses, as well as the changing seasons, painted a vivid picture of Madison, Georgia. Libby and Seth both had interesting jobs (travel writer and owner of an antiques shop), which were different from other books I’ve read, and I liked that unique aspect of the story. After their past heartbreaks, I wanted to see a happy ending for both of them.

The story starts out a bit slow with too a lot of focus on secondary characters. At the beginning of the book, there was a lot of interaction with secondary characters and not enough interaction between Libby and Seth. Libby doesn’t meet Seth until Chapter Five, and then after that brief introduction they are apart again until Chapter Fifteen. During the first quarter of the book, there was an issue with repetition, when the same information was mentioned more than once as Libby related the same details of her upcoming coffee date with Seth to multiple characters. There were so many characters–at the tea room, the coffee shop, the newspaper office, the antique shop, and all Libby and Seth’s family and friends–that it was hard to keep track of them all and remember who was who.

Once the story shifted to focus more on Libby and Seth’s romance and less on the secondary characters, things began to pick up and the book held my interest. I would have liked the story to end with a proposal and Libby saying ‘yes,’; but I suppose that’s just me being emotionally invested in the characters. There was a sneak peek of the next book at the end of this book, and I’m interested in reading more of Libby and Seth’s story.

Pages: 249 | ISBN: 198828175X

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Sea Scope

Sea Scope: A Psychological Mystery by [De Louise, Debbie]

Sea Scope by Debbie De Louise is a psychological mystery about an incident that happened twenty years ago with effects that stretch into the present. Sarah Collins, a children’s book illustrator, agrees to visit her aunt for the summer to escape the problems in her marriage. But returning to Sea Scope, the inn her family owned when she was child, is not the ideal place for a relaxing vacation. Because Sarah’s family closed the inn and left town after a young man died under mysterious circumstances two decades ago. Now, someone is not happy that guests are returning to Sea Scope. Sarah and her aunt begin to receive menacing notes and texts claiming to be from Sarah’s dead brother, Glen. Who is behind the attempts to scare them away from Sea Scope? And what really happened at the lighthouse all those years ago?

I enjoyed the mystery behind this story immensely. I really like books that I have to work at solving the puzzle. There were lots of clues in this story and I spent most of the book trying to figure out how the pieces fit together. I was able to guess at a few things, but there were also a number of unexpected twists that surprised me.

I liked the pictures and information about lighthouses that were included in the book and I enjoyed learning about some of the history of different lighthouses in the United States. It was interesting to that get additional insight into the character of Michael.

The story started off a bit slow for me. I felt that there was an over abundance of backstory and setup with nothing much happening for the first several chapters. I felt that there some information that was mentioned multiple times, this along with a surplus of detail made the story feel slow. I wanted the mystery element to be introduced sooner, because it’s enthralling, and that would have really pulled me into the story. It wasn’t until after Sarah arrived at Sea Scope that the story started to grab my interest.

I liked the additional details that were conveyed by the flashbacks, but they were confusing because they were not in chronological order. And switching back and forth from first person narrative in the present and third person narrative in the past was a bit jarring at first, although I got used to it.

I’m glad that the story ended happily for Sarah, especially after the tragedies she’d already suffered and all the shocking secrets that she learned about her past. Sarah was an intriguing character that I enjoyed following through a superbly developed mystery that was unraveled perfectly.

Pages: 464 | ASIN: B07PPW1D41

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