Category Archives: Three Stars

The Birthday Gift

 

 

 

The Birthday Gift by Betty Collier is a short story that follows Mrs. Williams as she finds her world turned upside down amid the sudden passing of her husband while he is away on overseas business. Among the themes present in the book are the difficulty in gaining closure from unexpected bereavement and the struggle to exercise forgiveness for transgressions. The role of religion is also significant in this book.

I appreciated the poignancy of Mrs. Williams’ journey to healing after the loss of her husband. It is apparent from the very beginning that she has much love for her husband – the kind that transcends boundaries of space and time. Collier depicts her in the different phases of grieving in order to reflect the immense pain of losing a loved one without having the chance to say goodbye. She reflects fondly on the memories she and her husband shared, and she even feels anger and disillusionment resulting from her God deciding to take her husband’s kindred soul prematurely. However, her love for her family, in particular her daughter Bella, prompts her to be a strong woman and a strong mother.

On the opposite side of the coin, this book is very evangelical in its message. The role of God and religion is prominently interwoven in Mrs. Williams’ thoughts and motivations, which may be triggering to a reader who may not have an interest in religion yet still seeks an inspirational read. Although I still strove to be objective in my reading, the constant preaching and heavy evangelical language were a bit overwhelming.

I appreciated witnessing Mrs. Williams’ healing process after losing her husband, as well as seeing her gain the wisdom to forgive. If you enjoy similar shorter books, such as “The Alchemist” by Paolo Coelho,  which have a religious theme to them, then you’ll also enjoy this book. The expressions of pain and passion is palpable and is the thing I truly enjoyed about this short story?

Pages: 106 | ASIN: B087THC8P7

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The Young

The Young by Nicholas John Powter

The Young by Nicholas John Powter

Sven is a war veteran who cannot yet lay down his arms because he still has to protect his family and friends from the evil forces in the Deluge lands. For a while, he has little to do and lives quietly with his youngest son, Fren but soon, chaos erupts and our war hero and his loved ones become the target of an evil tyrant Roland who wishes to absorb the essence of the evil night gods and take over the world for them. Now Sven and Fren must rise to protect their friends, battle mind-numbing sorcery, find Dason, Sven’s eldest son and leave the unsafe lands to a new location. But will all this prove to be too daunting? Will the forces of darkness prevail over the forces of light? Will our hero finally lay down his arms and find rest?

The Young by Nicholas Powter is an epic fantasy novel detailing the adventures of a brave war hero and his equally courageous son. The events in the book are set in medieval times in an imaginary land called The Deluge where fantastic beasts reign and cities within mountains prevail. And while Powter doesn’t spend much time giving intricate details of the surroundings, he makes sure to provide vital vivid images that still help us perceive man’s crude habits in those times. These images help set a perfect stage for the characters’ thrilling adventures.

Powter’s proficiency doesn’t end at setting a solid stage for his story, it also extends to his description of the characters in his book. He strikes a balance between showing us who the characters are through their actions and also having them tell us themselves and this helps to move the story along at a decent pace.

As the story moves along, Powter strings together events that pass few but very clear messages – you can’t miss them. We see ideas like the strength of the bonds of family and friendship and the power of courage as shown in Sven’s resolve to save his son and his friend’s wife. We also glean the themes of the continuous war between good and evil and man’s role in choosing which of these sides to submit to. Apart from these themes, two others also stand out. One relates to the categories of people most susceptible to deceit – the young or naïve, the overly curious, and the covetous – and the other is a soothing message that good will ultimately prevail if there are still people who believe in it and are ready to fight for it.

Powter might not be Tolkien or C.S Lewis but he surely did some things that caught my fancy. The story is kept simple and has no pointless detours. On top of this I found the story to be fairly imaginative. These two factors made the book a decent read on the whole even though I felt the narration could have been more engaging.

 

Good Life to Perfection Perception

Good Life to Perfection Perception: An Autobiography by [Karl Lorenz Willett]

Karl’s future assumed a bleak outlook after he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at the age of twenty. For many, at this age, life was just beginning, the world was at their feet and their dreams were there for the taking but for Karl, the disease he was diagnosed with was a likely precursor to a life of pain and struggles. He would later find himself popping anti-psychotic pills for forty straight years in an attempt to douse the incurable effects of schizophrenia and live the closest thing to a normal life. Tired of having to still deal with the symptoms of the disease and the side effects of the drugs, he chooses to slowly get off his medications in the hope of finding healing elsewhere. How will this decision affect him and his family?

Good Life to Perfection Perception by Karl Lorenz Willett is the autobiography that reveals the hardships involved in living with a mental illness and also shows the humanity of a man plagued by something beyond his control. Karl is downright honest and raw as he uncovers his thought processes, ideas, failings and victories. This book is definantly emotional, or at least I was emotional when reading this book. Emotions like passion, pain and pleasure are some emotions explored in this spirited book. I was both touched and intrigued by his candor and courage.

Karl doesn’t simply present himself as a victim of circumstance, rather, he shows that despite his limitations, he can think critically and hold personal views. For instance, in the book, he shares his beliefs about the possibility of there being a better way to handle mentally ill individuals without placing them on anti-psychotic drugs for the rest of their lives. He also expresses his thoughts on religion, societal ills and world peace. At a point, I nearly mistook him for an ancient Greek philosopher, no kidding.

While I appreciated the story, and the courage with which it is told, the book could benefit greatly from a thorough edit. A good editor could clean up the grammar errors and organize the story so that it is more coherent. As is, I had to reread some sections to ensure I understood what was being said.

While the author touched on many issues, his major focus was on telling the story of how schizophrenia impacted his life. He shed light on the difficulties he had like how it was impossible for him to hold down a job, the constant pain he felt, the cognitive limitations he had and many more. I was moved the most by his struggle with empathic distress, a condition that made watching the news and seeing all the sad events unhealthy for him. All in all, seeing these issues from the perspective of a patient of schizophrenia increased my ability to empathize with patients of mental illnesses.

Pages: 293 | ASIN: B084GZT9BP

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Inspirations: My Vivid Imagination Has been Transformed into Reality

Inspirations: My Vivid Imagination Has Been Transformed into Reality by [Francois, Peterson]

Inspirations: My Vivid Imagination Has been Transformed into Reality, by Peterson Francois, is a well-meaning book written by a person who has not only survived but thrived against all odds. Been through it all, as it were. Moved from an impoverished nation to one considered by most as the land of dreams and opportunities, the United States of America. With a profound understanding of how low he is in the social pyramid, he toils through pure grit, gets himself a sound education- where he achieves two university degrees and consequently climbs to the top. As he writes this book, he claims to have achieved financial freedom and self-actualization, and is on his way to clinch a PhD. This a story to inspire readers that anything conceivable is achievable.

Besides some grammatical errors I found this book to be most splendid and is an otherwise great inspirational book. I believe the intentions of Peter Francois are quite noble. Inspirations: My Vivid Imagination Has been Transformed into Reality sets up the author as a genius who intends to explain a simple scientific concept, but instead delivers a myriad of ideas. Chapter 3 stands out to me as a notable one, entitled Accepting Responsibility and Being Truthful where the author discuses American and Haitian politics. With the varied ideas and ruminations on disparate subjects I would’ve liked to have seen more cited facts in his book. The author had claimed that before Obama came to power, the American economy was completely down. Although the ideas are presented in an interesting manner, it seems more like a personal opinion than a fact, so I think more resources and quotations would have helped this otherwise genuine book.

This book has great potential, a little editing and concise ideas would make for a powerful read. Peterson Francois inspires reflection on oneself and the world in Inspirations: My Vivid Imagination Has been Transformed into Reality.

Pages: 224 | ASIN: B0792WKKWX

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Black Nation: The Deadliest West African Genocide

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 man, 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

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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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