Category Archives: Three Stars

Sunken Spanish Treasure Quest

Sunken Spanish Treasure Quest by [Johnson, Richard Joseph]

Sunken Spanish Treasure Quest by Richard Joseph Johnson is an adventure story about four friends who go in search of an 18th century Spanish galleon, the San de Cristo, that sunk off the coast of Florida during a hurricane in 1733. Brad, a commodities trader, finds a journal at an estate sale in Chicago. The journal is written in Spanish, and Brad gives it to his friend, Maximo to read. Max, the owner of a men’s clothing store, has a degree in world history and discovers a reference in the journal (written in hidden code) to the location of the San de Cristo and the lost Spanish treasure–gold and silver coins and ingots–that had been aboard when it sank. Brad and Max enlist two other friends–George, an electronic engineer, and Lou, a former boiler technician on an aircraft carrier and current restaurant owner–to help in the search. Although the four men have no experience or knowledge of maritime salvage, they set off to find this sunken treasure. Will they locate the lost vessel and discover riches beyond their imagining? Will their friendship survive this quest for lost Spanish treasure?

I liked the historical aspects of the story. The history imbued in this story is something that any history buff will surely enjoy. References to the 1700’s were very intriguing and lends an air of mystery to this story that doesn’t dissipate and was one of my favorite parts of the book.

The story started out slow, with a lot of lead up and back story before Brad, Max, George, and Lou actually begin their quest. I felt that there were a lot of unnecessary details (such as what the men ate during their meals together). Eliminating some of the details describing their day to day lives would have improved the pace of the story. The first quarter of the book is filled with the planning and preparing for the trip, including almost two chapters about the drive from Chicago to Florida.

The story picks up once Brad, Max, George, and Lou arrive in Florida and begin their search, and the adventure truly begins when we are introduced to a group of pirates that the four men must battle. Their adventure continues when they return to their lives in Chicago, and trouble follows them home. I liked that although many things changed for them in their lives after their quest for treasure, some things remained the same.

This was an enjoyable read that gets better and more interesting as the story progresses. The bond between the characters is something that I enjoyed watching develop as they pieced together their trip and battled pirates.

Pages: 434 | ASIN: B079437WVB

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Addicted to You

Addicted to You: Book 2 (SAPD SWAT Series) by [Mays, Nikki]

Michelle has known Damon for years. For years, Damon has known what Michelle could not possibly know–she belongs to him. When Damon’s stalking and pursuit of Michelle finally reaches its peak, Michelle can longer deny her attraction to Damon, and she gives in to her own curiosity. As Michelle and her best friend, Mellie’s, luck would have it, Damon is not the only one who has pursued and admired Michelle from afar for years. When what began as admiration turns to full-fledged obsession, Damon and his team are there for Michelle and Mellie when seconds count.

Addicted to You is the second book in the SAPD SWAT Series by author Nikki Mays. This second installment focuses on Michelle, co-owner of The Sweet Grind and best friend of Mellie. Mellie and her love affair with Morris were the primary focus of book one, and Mays has taken the same slant with book two shifting the perspective to Michelle. Written in first person and swapping between the two main characters, Michelle and Damon, the book hits on some particularly comedic moments as well as intensely romantic and sensual scenes.

As with book one, I enjoyed the shift in points of view between the two characters. Mays is adept at writing from each one’s perspective and helping the reader see each one’s thought processes. Damon, while intense, is a lovable character in his own right. Michelle’s reflections on his love for her further serve to build him as a favored character for readers. In turn, as Damon explains the passion with which he pursues Michelle, the reader is taken from wondering about his frame of mind to understanding his love for Michelle. Mays writes in a unique style that succeeds in quickly drawing in the readers and keeping them enthralled with the plot.

In both of the first two installments in the SAPD SWAT series, Mays steers the plot away from romance long enough to include an element of mystery. In Addicted to You, however, Mays seems to get to the point rather quickly. Even though I enjoyed and appreciated the mystery surrounding the drawings of Michelle left in the bake shop, it seemed the mystery was solved too quickly. I would have liked to have seen that aspect of the plot stretched out.

There is an undeniable quality of humor in Mays’s writing. She details a fantastic dynamic between her characters, both main and secondary. They have a rapport that is undeniable, and the entire group banters back and forth as true friends and siblings. Even their fights turn into comedic memories.

It is worth noting that there seem to be numerous punctuation and grammar errors in the reading. Only in a few places do these errors impact or interfere with the flow of the reading.

Author Nikki Mays writes an entertaining romance novel geared toward the new adult genre and succeeds in shaping lovable and memorable characters. Any fan of the romance genre will be pleased with the engaging plot and the sensuous visuals.

Pages: 150 | ASIN: B07J23W7JN

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Poisoned Touch

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This collection of poetry will cause readers to relive their youths. Poisoned Touch by Monica V. McCormick is full of angst and youthful recollections of a time gone past. The graphics help portray the words of the poetry in a visual sense and add a delightful element to this collection. Poisoned Touch focuses on romantic ventures gone past and are broken into sections that relate the age of the author when she wrote the work. Beginning at the age of eighteen and carrying on until the age of twenty-two, readers will get an intimate view of McCormick’s adolescence within these pages.

Youth is a difficult passage we all must go through to reach adulthood. The path is treacherous as we try to navigate the world without the constant support of those who want the best for us. It’s not that their support isn’t offered, it’s that we are trying desperately to show that we can handle our own lives and make our own decisions. This message comes across in some of the pieces of this collection. The readers will be able to identify with the youth who is trying to discover herself and who is trying to understand what love is. Written as a helpful reminiscence on her youth, this collection attempts to provide support to those who may be struggling with the same difficulties. As long as you are over eighteen.

While the imagery of the poems are consistent with the idea that love is a poison, present in both words and graphics, this collection of poetry is raw and unrefined. There is no doubt that the poetry can evoke powerful feelings and shares a dark tale, but the meaningful pieces drip with angst and teenage folly. The constant changing type-face also posed a problem for me and was distracting.

The rhyming scheme found in most of the pieces paired with the cartoonish, yet very high quality, drawings make this collection reflective of high school nostalgia. There are several individual pieces in this collection that I found to be moving and raw.

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Raven and the Panther ​

Raven and the Panther by [Fennell II, John V]

In ​Raven and the Panther by John Fennell II, readers meet very normal Barbara Ann, nicknamed “Raven” by her loved ones, a girl from rural West Virginia who, due to a shocking series of events, becomes an international spy in order to carry out a mission of revenge.

Raven’s story begins with her idyllic life – a perfect boyfriend completely devoted to her, a loving family, and a clear future pursuing work in the coal industry and caring for her aging mother. However, within a few short months and after several deaths, all of that is taken from her, and it’s not long before Raven’s excellent detective skills reveal it was the work of an organized crime unit right in her own small town. When she is given the opportunity to join a rival organization as a spy, she jumps at the chance to eventually even the score.

This story follows Raven as she faces the impossible question of following her heart or seeking an unknown and dangerous future in order to obtain justice. Readers will find themselves also asking how far they would go to do what they believe is right and what they would be willing to give up to find peace.

Raven’s quest is characterized by lots of spy bad-assery and revelling in watching a sexy, woman with a grudge toy with and rough up unscrupulous fat cats who think that their wrong-doings will never catch up to them. Raven’s organization takes down corruption at its most disguised level as they fight to preserve the conservative values that the book purports are sustaining America’s true way of life. If you want a story where right and wrong are black and white and the bad guys get what is coming to them, this story is extremely gratifying.

Readers are also treated to several steamy scenes which utilize a lot of creative terminology for bedroom extravaganzas. Removing these scenes from the book would make for a ​much shorter story, so plentiful are they, so get ready for the throes of passion and then some.

If readers can come to terms with the over-the-top dialog (“You know, Raven, during the day my heart is filled with love, and my dreams at night are only of you,” or “You bet, Naci. I love you so much. I don’t know how you do it, but your timing is perfect. I love our lovemaking”), a bit hard-to-follow scene transitions, and the suspiciously natural knack Raven shows for the spy industry, then they will love this book filled with swagger, romance, betrayal and action. From posthumous secrets to tracking down Nazi war criminals to covert Swiss bank accounts to international espionage to potato festivals, this book is one consecutive adventure after another.

Find out if Raven succeeds in her lifelong mission of tracking down the parties responsible for the deaths of those she loves, if her intrepid work will ever catch up to her, and if she can reconcile her quest to find peace with the ruthless deeds her new life demands.

Pages: 312 | ASIN: B077GSBRZ7

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Sombristic

Sombristic by [Sebastian, S.A.]

Sombristic, written by S.A. Sebastian follows a close group of culturally diverse friends who are all at different points in their lives and relationships – some are married and some are just trying to figure things out. But, they are joined by the bonds of friendship that keep them grounded in their search for the right person. The title, a word seemingly coined by the author, means to be optimistic in the face of romantic sadness. This being said at the beginning gives the text a positive opening tone – it makes you think that the characters are going to try and be optimistic even when the going gets tough, and hopefully things will work out for all of them.

There’s also a brief but helpful character list at the beginning of the text as the story dives into the deep end in an active scene between a father, son, and friends – so it helps to know who’s who. The list was particularly useful as there is little introductory context, which was initially a little difficult, but the characters come into focus as you continue reading.

This book is written in the form of a play, or a conversation-based work, the text is mostly dialogue and is written in a relaxed style, reflective of each character’s accent with each one being subtly different. The ‘acts’ are usually short, and they jump between different situations and have time lapses throughout, so it can be hard to keep up with all of the different goings on. However, the easy to read style helps the reader stay immersed when they come back around to a previously mentioned character.

The conversations between the characters, when split into male and female groups are very typical of the gender ideals. The men discuss sports and their level of sexual activity and the women discuss clothes and relationship gossip. Although this might be reflective of the groups general stereotypes, I though it made them one dimensional. I wanted to see the characters interested in things other than the overall theme of the book.

I thought that the story was a little hard to follow, as it moved from scene to scene so quickly, despite the relaxed and attractive writing style that kept me engaged with interesting writing. The book incorporates long descriptive passages that are interesting and well written, suggesting that the script would perhaps be more engaging if rewritten as a novel rather than a play.

What the text does do very well is highlight the varied types of relationships and dating that exist in modern society, and explores how hard these can be to navigate. There is also some pretty funny references in this book that made me laugh!

ASIN: B07DW4J71W

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The Witch Trials: The Becoming

The Witch Trials: The Becoming by [Generis, Intrigue]

The Witch Trials: The Becoming, by Intrigue Sui Generis, is a short work of historical dramatic fiction. The book is centered around the life and times of Sylvie, a middle-class woman living in southern France during the late 17th century. The story is predominantly about her life, her personal difficulties, and the broader milieu of the time period. Much of the story also concerns her husband Leon and his relationship to the broader Catholic Church, though the nature of this relationship is not well described, or at the least it is unclear how he is so involved with the church despite his main profession. The book also includes content about the broader scope of the time period.

The historical content of this book reads as semi-fictions with the author’s experiences, beliefs, worldview, and sense of morality bleeding into the pages of this book. The 1600’s in France were themselves bloody times, but the author largely washes away that bloody history, due in part to a lack of detail in the story. The story also includes much more active female roles, especially for those of a middle-class status during that time period. While it is heart-warming to think of a female character, seeking to rise above her station in a steeply patriarchal society infused with, what we would consider, harsh and vile religious fundamentalism, much of it is romanticized so that you can follow Sylvie’s story through this dark time without feeling too down about it.

Sylvie’s entire history prior to her marriage to Leon is contained within a single page, which seemed too short for me as I found her to be an intriguing character and I wanted to learn more about her. I enjoyed that this book was a short and concise novella, but at the expense of detail. Sylvie comes from a Protestant upbringing, but I felt it was unclear what kind of Protestant. The brevity of the story helps focus this book into a character driven novella, but leaves you wanting more. Overall, the historical additions of the book are strong and seemingly well-researched (as evidenced by the bibliography at the end of the text), but I would have loved to have this further fleshed out to lengthen the book, and these details would have clarified the setting and character motivations for me.

The Witch Trials: The Becoming is intended for a young adult audience with a decent attempt at historical accuracy. There is sexual content, but it is only slightly more bawdy than a television show from the 1950’s. There are also depictions of human suffering, the outcome of torture, and threats of imminent pain and death, but these are also very sterile. Overall, this book is short and easily provides a few short hours of entertainment.

Pages: 56 | ASIN: B07D68YSQZ

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The Blue Wings of the Dragonfly: Finding Magic in Every Day, Everyone, and Everything

The Blue Wings of the Dragonfly: Finding Magic in Every Day, Everyone, and Everything by [Roggeman, C. Lee]

Cynthia Roggeman’s personal memoir details the events throughout her life. She goes into great detail about her relationships, family and health complications. She does this while offering snippets of advice and wisdom that she has learned along the way. The book is often upsetting and full of events – on a number of occasions it seems as everything is happening at once for our author. She shares her life’s journey with the intention of learning from the process of writing and to divulge the positive aspects that result from a lifetime of hardship.

The sections about her family, mainly her father and her Italian grandmother, Nonni, are bittersweet and filled with memories that she describes in the manner of a child – because at the time she did not understand what was going on. Her childhood was filled with both happy and sad memories and she does not seem to resent any of the negative aspects at all. In her family circle, she experiences alcoholism and mental illness – which she regards as a choice.

Throughout her life, she has various serious health issues and is in the hospital a number of times. She suffers quite badly and even has to learn to self-medicate – something which carries a great responsibility, even if it is towards yourself. However, she does not let these problems set her back and each time she recovers and returns to work and normal life – this is not a woman who gives up easily.

The book is separated into short chapters, each beginning with a date. This makes it easier to place the events in the author’s life as they are not in chronological order. At times it can be difficult to remember at what age things occurred for her but she has ordered it according to her own time frame and reference of events – how she feels events in her past relate to each other. This is reflective of a realistic memory because often things do not go through our minds in order and jump around randomly.

She has written the book for it to be a therapeutic process, it seems to be a place for her grief, hope, and wisdom. She has learned to be imaginative and to really remember her past self. She has also learned to be grateful for the things she has, as well as the things she had. She writes that she has had to mourn her losses and accept them, as well as remember the fond memories.

Cynthia’s novel is a work of remembrance, which will make any reader reflect on their own lives and take heed of her writing. The deeply personal writing is both engaging and emotional, however sometimes it can be hard to keep track of the order things that happened. She urges us to be grateful, flexible and open to new things and changes and to be powerful – just like the blue dragonfly.

Pages: 100 | ASIN: B07DNDWFKN

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Julia’s memories

Julia's memories (Amor Mundi Book 1) by [Dröge, Dave]

A futuristic look at one woman’s life is what readers will find in Julia’s Memories by Dave Drӧge. The book is told from Julia’s point of view as she dictates her life to her PR robot. It’s an intense read that follows our protagonist as she navigates her life in this new world. However, her story takes place in 2050, which is not far off from where we are today. Readers in their twenties and thirties will find themselves identifying with Julia as she describes what is a not-so-distant future, but one we may not be comfortable with just yet.  While there are no flashy light saber battles in this unique science fiction story, this is a story of a woman’s experience with her life which transcends time.

The first thing to keep in mind about this book is that it is an English translation. That being said, it becomes easier to ignore the spelling or grammatical issues that crop up from time to time. They are not so great that they detract from the content of the story, but they are there nonetheless. There is a lot of content in this dense book. Not only is the word count dense, the content is dense. This book is a sort of existential look at a person’s life. With that comes philosophical thinking and a viewpoint that  is unique.

If philosophical thoughts and conversations about what makes up humanity are your thing, then this book is definitely something that you will enjoy. Drӧge certainly dives right into the existential theme that he has built this novel upon. Seeing this world through Julia’s memories gives readers the ability to distance themselves from it and see things in a different way. While there are things that have occurred quite differently from our current timeline, there is no doubt that reading a book that takes place in 2050 is daunting to those who will live to see it. Less than 50 years away yet with the technological advancement one comes to expect from future-exploration books.

While there are a few drawbacks to this book, I found it to be an interesting read, if you can get past the seemingly insurmountable walls of text that will greet you on every page. This book offers a fascinating exploration into the human condition, it picks it a part piece by piece and examines each one.

Readers will find an interesting life-story in Julia’s Memories by Dave Drӧge as the book explores the memoirs of the title character. While this book has been translated, it is linear and easy to follow. That doesn’t make it any less of an impressive declaration of the human condition in a not too distant futuristic world. This book is definitely the novel to pick up if you want to philosophically muse about what it means to be human.

Pages: 364 | ASIN: B07DWJQQ1M

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“Is That Your Aunt in the Attic?”: Another Edna and Edith Adventure

“Is That Your Aunt in the Attic?”: Another Edna and Edith Adventure by [Fletcher, Barbara, Gauthier, Cheryl]

Is That Your Aunt in the Attic? is a creative fiction novel that focuses on the characters of Edna and Edith, two sisters that are private investigators. The sisters have traveled across the country to get away from the wrath of an escaped convict whose plans to murder were foiled by the sisters. The ladies travel to San Francisco to get away and visit family, but they still find themselves as a target for the mobster’s hitman. What comes out of it is a strange sequence of events that proves how resourceful the sisters are in solving problems and getting answers to their questions.

One of the aspects of this story that I enjoyed was the whimsical situations that Edna and Edith seem to get themselves into. The authors, Barbara Fletcher and Cheryl Gauthier, are mother and daughter, and at the beginning of the novel, they mention that some of the events that take place in the novel are somewhat true and have happened to them in real life. I liked that disclaimer, because as I was reading the novel I could more easily picture some of the silly events that were happening to the sisters actually happening to someone like me and my sister. Some parts of the novel induced a good chuckle as I read them.

The only thing that I thought took away from the novel was the small talk that Edith and Edna made with each other. For instance, they would bring up a memory of a saying from their father or mention something weird or funny that they did a long time ago. In a way, the small talk adds a more realistic value to the novel; however, it seemed out of place and took away from the overall plot and momentum of the story.

Overall, this was a fun book and I would love to read another novel in this series.

Pages: 262 | ASIN: B0794PB8FR

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Survivor

Survivor (The Survivor Series Book 1) by [Duke, Samantha K.]

Survivor is Book 1 in the Survivor Series by author, Samantha Duke. This book offers a little bit of everything – romance, darkness, and humor embedded within a great supernatural adventure.

Friendship is one of the first key themes that the reader is drawn into. All Max Wilson wants is to do is fit in with everybody else. Set in a typical high school, Max attempts to befriend a girl called Amy. They hit it off and everything seems to be going swimmingly, until the sudden disappearance of students from their school. From here, the book takes a dramatic twist which is where creepy paranormal elements start to permeate the story. When the students are reported dead, and Max is accused of abducting them, the novel continues by unwinding the plot and working out what happened to the students, and what this has to do with Max.

Although the plotline is well-thought out, I think that the author could have divulged more about paranormal activities. I like to feel a sense of escapism, but I also like to feel a sense of realism. I think this book is great at promoting escapism, but lacks in realism. This is a thoughtful book full of emotion, but I was unable to connect with the characters because I didn’t understand their emotions in certain moments and some of the language used to convey those emotions was inconsistent.

One of the great things that Duke does articulate in her writing is her originality.  The author of Survivor creates a story line that is  endearing, especially the ending. I really enjoyed how the novel ended on an optimistic tone. Many YA novels recently forget that we want to feel good after reading a book, and Samantha Duke knows how to deliver a suspenseful yet endearing story. With this ending, I think there is a great chance to continue the series. A few editing errors aside, Duke proves to have a great writing ability.

Having read this book, I believe this book adds something unique and interesting to the paranormal genre. Although I struggled to comprehend some of the narration, I can appreciate the author’s attempt to create an enthralling and exciting novel.

This novel could be listed under the young adult genre, but I think anyone would very much be interested from beginning to end. Survivor is a noble attempt at creating a novel in the young adult paranormal genre that would be enjoyable read for the right reader with an interest in friendship, survival, and innocence.

Pages: 276 | ASIN: B01N7GNVRW

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