Category Archives: Three Stars

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

Buy Now From B&N.com

Die to Live Again

Die to Live Again: A Post-Apocalyptic Novel by [Crane, David]

Die to Live Again is a story about Tanya, a young woman whose existence becomes a perpetual question when the world faces nuclear destruction. She is one of the lucky few who survive and for a time she is housed in one of the pre-prepared military shelters. This arrangement does not last. She goes from being a preferred informant for a budding dictator to an outcast, left to survive off the contaminated wasteland. For a while she has Jack, her boyfriend with her. This also does not last as two humans are no match for the unfiltered aftermath of nuclear destruction. Jack dies and she finds herself transformed but surviving. Soon enough Tanya realizes the existence of humanity is under threat and it is up to the survivors to decide what new Earth looks like, this time, with mother nature paving the way.

David Crane combines post-apocalyptic confusion and political drama in some exciting ways in this captivating book. Although most of the action takes place on the American mainland, we still get a glimpse of what happened around the world. This perspective was a very interesting take and political drama lovers will undoubtedly find it engaging.  All of this balances well with the friction between nature and scientific input. There is even a religious aspect that is explored. These aspects are the underpinnings of human existence, and I felt that the spiritual inclusion added an intriguing dimension to this novel. The combination of politics, science and religion makes for a possibly overwhelming experience but I felt that it was balances just enough to never become too much.  Additionally, although there are several drastic turning points throughout the novel, they are rarely, if ever, predictable.

Although this is a well written novel, I felt that there were some inconsistencies in the timeline, and a few things seemed too unrealistic. I  would have liked the buildup and explanations of occurrences to be more robust.

Overall, this is a fantastically engaging novel that I found to be both interesting and entertaining; both things I’m starting to associate with David Crane novels.

Pages: 334 | ASIN: B00FZW20AQ

Buy Now From B&N.com

Slaves of Fools

Slaves of Fools: Book Three in the "Antebellum Struggles" Series by [Erman, Dickie]

When Collette Winters finds herself a widow with a hotel and a plantation to maintain, she is overwhelmed and at a loss for words. Enter Tolivar: a “trusted” overseer and Mr. Winters’s choice to run his plantation and guard his finances. Mr. Winters might not have made the best decision in selecting Tolivar. Any one of the slaves on the Winters’s plantation could testify to the fact that Tolivar is in everything for himself and only himself. When Tolivar’s purchases begin to mount and Collette fails to see the danger in allowing Tolivar to carry on unchecked, all of their lives take a turn no one could have predicted.

Slaves of Fools is the third book in Dickie Erman’s Antebellum Struggles series. Again, readers are treated to the dramatic dynamic between Trent and Collette Winters. Theirs is a complicated love story born out of the antebellum time period. As with book two, readers find that Trent is unfaithful to Collette who remains by his side and is somehow able to forgive even if she isn’t willing to forget.

I desperately want Trent, a businessman and plantation owner, to be smart, but he misses the mark. His desire to put Tolivar in charge of his trust is clearly a mistake but makes for a nice story line leading to the devastation of characters who begin to fall like so many dominoes as the book progresses. Colette’s love for Trent is really his one saving grace.

It’s difficult to find a character as loathsome as Tolivar. Erman has created a fantastic antagonist in this greedy and vile overseer-turned trustee. I believe I released some audible gasps of frustration and disbelief as Tolivar moved through the Winters’s money with lightning speed. Many villains have at least one redeeming quality–not Tolivar. From the extravagant jewelry purchase to asking the creepy, unwanted doctor to take up residence, Tolivar is as intolerable as he is predictable.

I was disappointed to see that Amana, a beloved character from the second book in the series, did not have as prominent of a role in this one. She is my favorite character and has a heart of gold. Her backstory is classic, and she is proof that perseverance is not easily achieved but is worth every second spent trying to achieve it.

Erman masterfully works humor into his writing. Twice I found myself guessing incorrectly and wondering what tone the book was about to take. Without giving anything away, I can say that I was pleasantly surprised both times at how misleading the author is and how well he uses humor to bring the story back around.

I had a few concerns regarding grammar choices, mechanics, and word choice. In addition, I found myself questioning some of the verbiage used as it didn’t seem to fit the time period. Throughout the book, I struggled to discern the characters’ thoughts from their dialogue. A few tweaks in this area would improve readability quite a bit.

Erman has created an engaging and quick read with relatable characters and protagonists the reader will inevitably cheer for.

Pages: 207 | ASIN: B07TDNPMW2

Buy Now From B&N.com

Saving Time

Saving Time (Community Chronicles Book 3) by [Lees, Jenn]

In her third book in the Community Chronicles series, Jenn Lees continues the adventures and perils of a world that is spinning into chaos after a major stock market crash. Set in the year 2061, Saving Time is the story of brave Scotsman and his companions who risk their lives to save Scotland from nuclear destruction. In a world where the government has deserted its people and bandits are always a threat, the story’s hero must take matters into his own hands even if that means risking a trip back in time to get the information he needs. Through her story of loyalty and betrayal, Lees shows readers the meaning of self-sacrifice for the betterment of all.

Although the book starts off a bit slow, I found the story line increasingly compelling as the book progressed. The topics of love, time travel, and impending worldly destruction that run throughout the book are ones that are likely to appeal to the reader and keep their interest. In terms of grammar, flow, and ease of reading, the book was well written and enjoyable.

I felt like the time travel part of the book was not as compelling as it could have been. It didn’t seem integral to the plot. The reasoning for traveling to the past seemed vague, especially when the information that the characters acquired from this journey was ultimately unnecessary in dealing with the nuclear threat. I thought that the surprise assistance that showed up for the ultimate resolution of the threat seemed coincidental and made the original plan seem unnecessary.

The characters were interesting and well developed. When they make their way through 21st century England, I enjoyed the outsiders perspective, but would have enjoyed a deeper contrast. Rory and Siobhan’s relationship reflects that kind of contrast and I savored the experience of watching the slow development of their characters.

Overall I thought the book was enjoyable, particularly after reaching the second half where the story really picks up speed. This would be well suited for anyone looking for post apocalyptic fiction with a time travel twist.

Pages: 255 | ASIN: B07PWYVYJC

Buy Now From B&N.com

A Bite of the Past

A Bite of the Past: Undying Love - Book One by [Nightingale, L.]

“I am Theodore Callington. I have a family. And a home. I belong somewhere.” These longing words are spoken by Teddy, who has lived a tortured life. An orphan taken in by a murderous uncle, regularly beaten to a pulp. An escaped cowboy, loved by an adopted family but trampled in the rodeo. And an unwilling vampire, slowly feeling his way to redemption. What will happen when Teddy attempts to reclaim his humanity from the devilish vampire who made him what he is? Follow Teddy’s twisted and terrifying journey in L. Nightingale’s A Bite of the Past: Undying Love.

A Bite of the Past is an exploration of what it means to be human, and conversely, sub-human. It is a heartbreaking story of cruelty, rejection, and longing for the love and stability of a family. Teddy’s journey is also one of hopefulness, reconnection, and the ascendancy of good over evil.

As our devastatingly handsome and sometimes repugnant main character, Teddy is truly a tortured soul—one dealing with the excruciating pain of his past but also searching for the truth and love that lies between the horror. Through sheer will-power, Teddy salvages the memories that have been suppressed by his malevolent teacher—the ruthless László. Under his tutelage, Teddy is truly a gruesome creature who carries out deeds that are sometimes hard to read.

Nightingale’s prose can be disorderly at times—perhaps intentionally so, as a reflection of the muddled psyche of her main character. He is confused much of the time, piecing together fragments of memories while simultaneously trying to quell his inner demon. This confusion spills over to the reader who, at times, feels lost as the narrative doubles back.

The twists, turns, and major surprises of the book do keep the reader engaged through the final cliffhanging scene. Gruesome descriptions of fights and killings will appeal to fans of macabre action. The throwback scenes to the wild west are charming, and Teddy’s vernacular peppers the book with memorable sayings, such as “the temperature would drop like a naked gunslinger beefed on a Dodge Street.” Overall, the yearning for love will resound with all.

A tale of a wayward cowboy looking for redemption that will strike a chord with its readers.

Pages: 343 | ASIN: B07SGWRTCN

Buy Now From B&N.com

The Flame of Telbyrin

The Flame of Telbyrin: A Tale of Heroism and Faith by [Dyar OSB, Br. Benedict]

The world of Telbyrin is no stranger to the high fantasy wonders of, Elves, magic, legends, and lore. The story unfolds as our two heroes strike out on a pilgrimage turned epic adventure. No sooner do they leave the confines of their beloved farmland do they quickly run into danger left and right. A fearful evil rises once again in Telbyrin threatening the peace and all its inhabitants. At the same time, the Eternal Flame is found extinguished throughout the land causing panic and dread.

From reading Br. Benedict’s book, I can spot his fantasy influences as well as his admiration for the genre. The plot is straight forward but with that Br. Benedict’s builds an elaborate world that is deftly created with care. The author has clearly spent a good amount of time developing and establishing name and traits for each concept presented in The Flame of Telbyrin. With so much effort gone into creating such a rich world, I would have liked to experience more substance in the writing. The story moves quickly and I quite enjoyed the fast pace of the novel. It added tension and suspense to the plot. But with that came less time to evoke a well-crafted setting and character development.

The Elves, Orilin and his wife Larilyn carry the plot as they traverse the land of Telbryin in search of an answer and hope to the fast-approaching Meldron, an arch-nemesis to the Elvish population. The black and white portrayal of morals between Elves and Meldron sets the reader up for a clear choice of who to root for. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is among the first of a few books Br. Benedict’s has written. The novel keeps the quest like adventure and characters simple and rarely deviates from the commonly used fantasy tropes.

It is evident that Br. Benedict loves the genre deeply and enjoyed developing and building the world of Telbryin. I enjoyed reading this book with the knowledge of Br. Benedict’s hard work and dedication to the novel. The Flame of Telbyrin is brimming with potential to become an epic fantasy novel with intriguing characters. I look forward to Br. Benedict further cultivating his ideas and giving us a fuller view of his imagination. The Flame of Telbyrin was a joy to read and I recommend it to any fan of the fantasy genre that is looking for captivating characters inhabiting an intricate world.

Pages: 171 | ASIN: B07HKT4441

Buy Now From B&N.com

My Name Is Bacci Bogie: Frequent Flyer Extraordinaire

My Name Is Bacci Bogie: Frequent Flyer Extraordinaire by [Glosser, Sandra]

My Name is Bacci Bogie, by Sandra Glosser, is a story of travel, of life’s ups and downs, and above all, of love and acceptance. However, unlike many other stories, this one is told from the perspective of a small, but boisterous, Maltese dog.

Bacci tells us the story of his adoption by his doggie mom, Sandra, and their lives together as traveling companions. By accompanying Sandra on her travels as a motivational speaker, Bacci becomes an expert at flying in planes, staying in hotels, and making friends. He gets to live a doggie life full of adventure while bringing joy not only to Sandra’s life, but to many other people’s lives as well. Through Bacci’s own voice we learn about the real love and companionship that is shared between animals and humans.

I think Glosser’s choice to write this book from the perspective of her dog works really well to convey her story in an interesting way. Many pet owners can attest to wondering what their pet is thinking from time to time, and this attempt by the author to reveal her dog’s interpretation of events can appeal to pet lovers everywhere. Even those who are not doggie parents will enjoy hearing about the world from a fresh perspective. By imagining what Bacci is thinking, Glosser reveals her story to us a lighthearted way that is fun to listen to.

While the overall approach to the book is compelling, I think the structure of the story itself could use some fine tuning. Frequently, one anecdote seems to lead into another without much transition, making it hard to follow where one idea ends and another begins. The text is not always divided into chapters in an effective manner, leading me to feel at times like I may have missed something in the plot. In addition, while the stories that Bacci tells are endearing I felt that they were underdeveloped. I think the book would benefit from elaboration on these stories to develop their significance a bit more. Without this, the book at times feels like it is a string of thoughts rather than a fleshed out story.

With that being said, the book is a fairly enjoyable read overall. The author’s message in the preface and epilogue turn what may just be another story into something with a more personal meaning as they reveal the author’s real feelings and motivation for sharing her story with her audience. Grosser’s heartfelt story pays tribute to the life of her beloved pet in a way that is touching to hear.

Pages: 51 | ASIN: B07R9Z76LC

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Choker

Choker by [Moseley, Bob]

Choker by Bob Moseley is the “coming of age” tale of basketball-obsessed Mark Chamberlain who, in the course on one year went from being the black sheep of his high-school’s basketball team to team captain.

A Clifton High student, Mark Chamberlain misses an all-important throw in the final seconds of a game, which costs his team a championship victory and gets him the nickname “the choker”. However, with help from coach Antonelli and his new girlfriend Su Metha, Mark is slowly getting over the setback and dedicates himself to training hard for the next season. His love for basketball helps him deal with heartache and pain and, after becoming team co-captain, he gets better and better at the game and ends up leading his teammates to victory.

This Young Adult book deals with a lot of issues that are important for teenagers nowadays: race issues, balancing school work and sports, bullying along with social media bullying, and dealing with loss, but also touches on the positive aspects of life, like the book hero’s first love, overcoming obstacles, bettering yourself through hard work. It definitely holds a lot of lessons for the reader, and teenagers and young adults will relate to the characters. The writing is alert and quite visual, and keeps the reader connected to the characters and interested in their evolution. Some of the pages are quite moving, such as the chapters that describe the death and the funeral of Mark’s father. I liked Mark’s character development, but I felt that the other characters were black and white, they were either good or bad. I would of appreciated more nuance.

The abundance of details related to basketball was a little overwhelming at times, for instance the descriptions of some of Mark’s games, a lot of information about game strategies and techniques, or about famous players. Any avid fan of basketball will appreciate the interesting facts and minute by minute break down of the games. This is an engaging and thought provoking coming of age basketball story that is sure to appeal to teens and sports fans.

Pages: 193 | ASIN: B07GX8B4T2

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Oink and Gobble and the Men in Black

Oink and Gobble and the Men in Black (Oink and Gobble Book Series 2) by [Whaler, Norman] Oink and Gobble and the Men in Black is a children’s story written by Norman Whaler. The story follows a duo of livestock buddies, Oink the pig and Gobble the turkey. Oink is an excitable young creature, and Gobble is more mature and a bit on the serious side. The two find some unusual things happening on the farm and Oink cannot contain his curiosity and must look for answers.

I think the story has a pretty good pace and flow for children, but seems to rise and build suspense and then end abruptly. I think there was some room for some more scenarios to play out following the “unmasking.” I did like the friendship between the pair despite their differences. I liked that the pig was overly curious while the turkey was more reserved. That made way for a nice back and forth exchange in conversation.

The illustrations were cute but the colors seemed over saturated. I think softening things up a bit would add to the playfulness of the farm. The “Men in Black” aspect felt borrowed and I was wanted to see some Oink and Gobble specific twists to the story.

I love the authors work and I think Oink and Gobble has huge potential to be something both whimsical and unique. I’d like to see Oink and Gobble in original story lines that give their relationship and whimsy potential to stand out. Overall, I enjoyed the book and I think kids will adore Oink and Gobble as they are both fun and funny.

Pages: 28 | ASIN: B07PBMNYKS

Buy Now From Amazon.com

For the Love of Self

For the Love of Self: The Proven Tools and Strategies for Healing My Life by [Hay, Kaylene]

For the Love of Self: The Proven Tools and Strategies for Healing My Life is exactly what the title implies: a story of how the author, Kaylene Hay, healed herself with her thoughts and practices. Hay describes herself as an intuitive healer. She claims to have healed many of her own illnesses and works on healing the illnesses of others without surgeries or drugs. In this book she describes many incidents where she says she healed herself.

In the book, the author sums up her beliefs by saying, “I believe that, with the help of my Angels, guides, and spirit family, I chose the perfect set of circumstances for my soul’s growth before coming into this life.” She continues on to say that everything that happens to a person is meant to be and that the way we experience life is how we were meant to experience it. She does not believe that the environment we are raised in has anything to do with what happens to us. She also believes heavily in the power of numbers and discusses at length the significance of dates in her stories.

This book, and the methods described within, rely heavily on positive thinking and how our thoughts impact our health. The author reiterates time and again that one must think it for it to happen. I see no drawbacks to thinking positively in life. While I would not rely solely on positive thoughts to cure my cancer, I believe that thinking positively cannot hurt as an addition to medically treating the disease.

Throughout the book the author presented her methods as ‘proven’ but there were no references to outside sources that corroborated her finding. All methods that were ‘proven’ in the book seemed to have been ratified by the authors own experiences. I would have liked to see more references to other studies done by other groups of researchers that substantiate her findings. I am willing to admit that, while I see no proof it is true, I also cannot prove it is not true.

The book could be a great read for someone who believes in the power of positive thinking and is seeking an alternative medicine approach to healing, but I would add caution and suggest you always seek medical treatment in conjunction with the methods provided in this book. I believe that how one receives this story is dependent on one’s belief system when it comes to illness and treatments for those illnesses.

Pages: 94 | ASIN: B07JJ6LPQN

Buy Now From Amazon.com

%d bloggers like this: