Category Archives: Three Stars
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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
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