Category Archives: Three Stars

Fire in the Heart

Fire in the Heart by [Mooney, Lesley J]Fire in the Heart, a novel by Lesley J. Mooney, traces the experiences of young Rianna as she copes with both unrequited love and a marriage that has swept her off her feet and into a new and sobering reality. When Lord Rowan McClaron introduces himself to Rianna and her friends, she has no way of knowing that her life in Scotland is about to change–and change for the worse. Her marriage to Rowan is plagued with secrets on both sides, and her seeming inability to produce an heir brings Rowan’s wrath upon her.

Fire in the Heart is a unique blend of romance and mystery. Mooney manages to keep the reader invested in Rianna’s plight by revisiting the strange and unsettling behavior of her husband, Rowan. Rianna, by all accounts, is an abused woman. What begins as a romance novel soon turns into a story of a woman trying to find ways to appease an increasingly abusive and disturbed husband. Mooney is more than effective at describing the heartbreak and the terror of her heroine.

Mooney paints a bleak picture of Rowan McClaron. He is as realistic an abuser as I have seen in novels of this genre. From beginning to end, he is that vile character the reader will want to see either make a turn for the better or be offed. The author is quite adept at giving readers a villain worthy of loathing.

Rianna’s desire to satisfy Rowan’s desire for a child is the primary focus of the storyline. I was, in fact, quite surprised that there was so little time spent describing Rianna’s pregnancy. Things move very quickly once Rianna finds out she is indeed carrying a child. I would have preferred the plot have been drawn out a little longer with regards to the long-awaited birth.

The dialect is absolutely delightful. Accents are thick and take a couple rereads at the outset, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading even the richest comments and slang-laden comments.

I admit I was thrown completely by the use of single quotes as a way of denoting dialogue. This took a bit of time to get used to and prompted me to do a quick bit of research. I wasn’t familiar with this particular style used by publishers in the UK. However, after a couple chapters, I found myself more concerned with the plot and less aware of the quotations themselves.

One thing I found a little difficult to look past was the changing of tenses mid-paragraph. The change from past to present and back with no obvious explanation was hard to navigate at times. Though it doesn’t permeate the book, these small lapses in consistency made for some awkward reading.

Mooney offers readers action, romance, and intrigue in one neat package. Rianna is a woman fighting battles with which many readers may identify. Her stubbornness and the fierce manner in which she protects her son make her a main character to remember.

Pages: 340 | ASIN: B01N7XHUZD

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Fathering the Fatherless

There are two kinds of fatherlessness. The first kind is where the father is never known to the child. The second, the father lives in the same home as the child but is emotionally unavailable and often physically absent too. Both of these have adverse effects on the child. Children need a special kind of love and nurturing from their father. There is some security that comes from having a father, especially in the formative years. Children cannot understand why other children have their fathers but they do not.

Todd Johnson tells a very intimate and personal story about his childhood. He grew up in a single parent home. He talks about the struggles he went through as a result of not having that special father figure in his life. He outlines all the choices he made as a result of his home situation. He talks about how that situation shaped the man and father he is today.

The most important thing in this book is the role of God in a single parent home. One can ask God to fill that void left behind by an absentee father. A fatherless person can find the love and care they need from God. It urges on the importance of God –lead fatherhood.

This book is centered on a very important subject. Fatherless homes are very common not only in America but on a global scale. In fact, the book starts with some very interesting numbers. Numbers never lie. They indicate the percentage of children affected by lack of a father or having an emotionally unavailable father. The numbers give the book a serious tone. One will understand the true weight of this subject.

Fathering the Fatherless makes proper use of scripture. It conveys the message God has about fatherhood. One will have a better understanding of their role once they have read through the verses given. He will understand that being a father has nothing to do with DNA but everything to do with nurturing, caring and loving. That, the kind of father one has great potential to shape character and identity.

The author is obviously very passionate about the subject and the book feels like a personal endeavor. However, the delivery of the subject matter suffers from broken statements, grammar mistakes, and anemic prose. At one point, the author strings together verses from the Bible and at times repeats verses and his personal story feels incomplete. This book does a fantastic job of starting a very important discussion, but stops short of diving into the deep end of that conversation. If you only pay attention to the intended message you can gain insight into what fatherlessness really is and this book does a great job of getting that conversation started.

Pages: 64 | ASIN: 0692075208

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The Day Momma Made Me Dance

The Day Momma Made Me Dance by [Brown, Patrice]

The Day Momma Made Me Dance, written by Patrice Brown, is a colourful children’s book depicting the consequences of what happens when children misbehave. The story follows a young girl who is constantly up to mischief, whether it’s in the form of skipping chores, fighting with her brother or doing cartwheels in the hallway. Her momma ignores her naughtiness, and it seems like the little girl will continue with her mischievous ways. Finally, momma has had enough of her daughter’s behaviour and decides to inflict some interesting forms of punishment.

The Day Momma Made Me Dance is a short story that takes a look at children’s behaviour and using physical punishment as a result of “naughty” or “bad” behaviour.

The story begins with a touching dedication which gives credit to mothers and the strength they carry through motherhood. In particular, it dedicates the story to her mother who has sadly passed and the strength they have had raising their children as a single parent. It sets the tone for the story and provides relevance to the types of punishment used for the children.

It then goes on to continue with a forward and preface section where the author outlines the love for her family and her daughter. It’s clear to see that Patrice has a strong love and bond for her children and family and values the childhood that her mother was able to provide for her. It also indicates how similar punishments of “making her dance” were used on her and her siblings and how she understood and accepted the reasoning behind the particular types of punishment.

The Day Momma Made Me Dance appears to be targeted towards children, however, the underlying message is created for adults as it pushes towards building an understanding of what constitutes abuse and discipline. The choice of punishment is a form of corporal punishment where the child experiences being whipped for her misbehaviour.

The Day Momma Made Me Dance could be used as a talking point of what parents may consider appropriate punishment for their children. At the end of the novel, Patrice Brown discusses what she believes to be abuse and what she feels is discipline. Patrice also goes into depth on the importance of not using sexual abuse as a form of punishment and how abuse can occur in many ways- emotionally, physically and mentally. There are questions you can use to discuss with your children on how they feel about being disciplined and how you can better your relationship with your child. These questions put a positive spin on the story and open up the passage of discussion of what you consider to be unfair or inappropriate discipline.

I would recommend this to parents who were comfortable in the use of corporal punishment or were looking for a storybook to open up the conversation of what family members considered to be abuse or discipline.

Pages: 39 | ASIN: B075KLRNLQ

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The Nightbreaker

The Nightbreaker (Gods and Men Cycle) by [Jerome, Kristopher]

The Nightbreaker is a short but welcome sojourn into the world of the Gods and Men Cycle series by Kristopher Jerome. Following a paladin by the name of Daniel, we first are introduced into the conflict between the gods of darkness and gods of light and the conflict that is played out on the Mortal plane. Daniel is part of a mission that goes awry, but learns of a terrible new champion of darkness, Rexin the Blasted. As the story unfolds, Daniel bands together with other brave souls who seek out and stop this terrible menace, otherwise the mortal plane will be swallowed by darkness.

The pacing of Jerome’s novella is spot on, although sword & sorcery novels are often quicker paced. The first battle of the story takes place only a few pages in and I was immediately taken in by the action and everything that Daniel saw as he fought bravely through the demons. The setting is not overly elaborate, especially with the clashing of light and dark. The simplicity of the premise will leave fans of stories like Game of Thrones and others wanting more. But in it’s brevity lie its virtues, The Nightbreaker is a great read for an afternoon of leisure.

The descriptions that Jerome uses is rich and quite cinematic and I enjoyed the writing the most when details were delved into. The main character of Daniel is fun to read about, but begs to be developed further with some character-defining internal dialogue. The narrative is much more “show” rather than “tell” which I happen to enjoy. The story is often punctuated with a bit of action, which saves the stories pace and kept my interest.

With all of this considered, The Nightbreaker is a great introduction to the world of mortals and Gods that Jerome has created. The struggle between paladins, demons, and seraphs is a supernatural backdrop to classic fantasy tropes. This novella will please any reader of classic fantasy or the supernatural, who also enjoys action, redemption, and the struggle between good and evil. At 78 pages, it’s well worth your time.

Pages: 78 | ASIN: B071HPDQXN

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The Life and Times of Tommy Kaos: Raising Hell

The Life and Times Of Tommy Kaos: Hell On Wheels by [Henry, T. L.]

The Life and Times of Tommy Kaos: Raising Hell, by T.L. Henry, is the first-person account of the main character’s life from his earliest memory to his incarceration as a teenager. Tommy, a boy raised in the worst of circumstances, sustains abuse, exposure to alcoholism and drug use, and endures the most unstable of upbringings, From a tender age and following the loss of his best friend–his grandfather–Tommy learns to fend for himself and does his best to protect and shield his sister, May from his mother’s drunken tirades and efforts to exploit them both.

From the first paragraph, I was sure I was reading a journal–a true account of the author’s own life. I found myself checking more than once to make sure I had read the introduction correctly. This book–purely fictitious–transports the reader into a completely different mindset. I didn’t feel as though I was reading; I felt as though I were listening to a boy relating his life story while sitting beside me on park bench–Forrest Gump style. The conversational style of writing makes for a smooth read and is actually quite fascinating.

I quickly lost count of the number of times Tommy and his family were forced to move from one ramshackle home to another in North Carolina within a handful of years. With absolutely no stability and no father figure for most of his life until his incarceration, Tommy is quickly schooled in the ways of the street. Early on, Tommy learns to steer clear of his own mother and the endless string of men she brings home. Both of these aspects of Tommy’s life are incredibly sad and only seem to magnify as the story progresses.

Tommy’s life, as horrifying as it is, is believable. From his earliest encounter with abuse, he takes a turn for the worse and, admittedly, becomes everything to which he was exposed as a child. This unique, memoir-type writing style helps to drive home the sad truth about abused, neglected, and exploited children. As he endures and participates in dangerous and self-deprecating behaviors, he begins to find advantages in them. Several chapters in, I began to realize that I could actually be reading this from the antagonist’s point of view. What began as the tale of a tragic childhood, turned, all too easily, into the life story of a career criminal.

The main character’s cries for help falling on deaf ears were the most painful aspect of the plot. The author has managed to create a storyline that illuminates the tragedy perpetuated by abuse early in life. As much as the reader wants to feel sorry for young Tommy, he/she will feel an overwhelming desire to scream at teenaged Tommy to remember where these same behaviors got his mother. It is a frustrating and heart-wrenching read, but a necessary one.

While the writing style is unique and the conversational tone appealing, I felt the concentration on young Tommy’s sexual obsessions were a bit overstated and became uncomfortable to read after a while. The author does, however, do an excellent job of revealing the impact of abuse and neglect early in a child’s life.

Pages: 132 | ASIN: B01F6ET17C

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Alyssa McCarthy’s Magical Missions: Book 1: From Frights to Flaws

Alyssa McCarthy's Magical Missions: Book 1: From Frights to Flaws by [Prasad, Sunayna]

From Frights to Flaws, by Sunayna Prasad, is the first in the author’s Magical Missions series and follows the plight of Alyssa McCarthy as she discovers a magical world complete with a talking marble statue and fantastic creatures bent on saving her from a newly-discovered nemesis. Alyssa is a twelve-year-old girl living with her cousin and uncle–a man who cares for her but provides a highly regimented life of homeschooling, chores, and virtual seclusion from the outside world. When Alyssa begins to find peculiar notes around their home addressed to her, she strives to make herself noticed and validated by her uncle. Her life, and the lives of her family and friends, go from humdrum to fantastically frightening in a matter of moments.

As the first book in a series of fantasy stories, From Frights to Flaws has the potential to be a memorable read. However, as a teacher who often uses literature from all genres in my classroom, I can’t help but notice some issues with character and plot development. On several occasions throughout the reading, I felt that unique situations were brought to light too quickly without sufficient background and build-up. The author is aiming at an audience who is still developing a schema as they read, especially in the fantasy genre. It is important to be as descriptive as possible to draw in readers with elaborate explanations. I feel those explanations are missing as the setting moves from the everyday to the land of mythical creatures and magical beings. The author takes for granted that the reader is able to follow quickly and make assumptions.

I was struck early on in the reading with the similarities to the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Alyssa, a wonderfully written character, is thoroughly described in the initial chapters, but loses some of her uniqueness as the book progresses.

The setting of the book is one of its more appealing aspects. The author has chosen to set Alyssa’s adventures in present times with references to tablets, iPhones, iPods and GPS navigation. This alone will attract a younger audience. The fantasy element interwoven with this modern-day setting makes for an appealing read for preteen readers. I was impressed with the growing number of fantastic creatures as the story line progressed. From dermaidens to the centidile and from Regulus, the marshakeet, to the ash-breathing adder, the author has laid out a long list of beings who can easily compete with those in any fantasy novel for preteens.

Prasad has the base for a strong work of literature for young readers, but lacks some of the well-developed background and detail I would like to see in this particular genre. Sunayna Prasad has created a story that is enthralling in many ways.

Pages: 216 | ASIN: B00EO8U7O8

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Point of Return and Vanquished

Point of Return and Vanquished

Point of Return by Lloyd Tosoff is an action thriller set in Great Britain. The story centers on a struggling, naive accountant Ian MacLeod and his entanglement with a murder conspiracy concocted by the Glaswegian underworld. He doesn’t become involved by choice because it is his friends who choose to mess with the Glasgow mob and their violent ways. He left the city, but after becoming an accountant, being in a loveless marriage, and losing his job, he ends up going back. He meets an old friend and a stranger when he arrives, and the mystery and conflict begin to envelop him as he realizes he has to fight for his life or lose it.

This novel is part of a “double novel” series, but Point of Return stands on its own as a snappy thriller that follows Ian Fleming’s Bond series. The first chapter begins with MacLeod still in Glasgow and his decision to leave the city, and then we jump eleven years into the future to when the real action starts, and the story picks up from there.

In many ways, Tosoff follows the regular beats for the unsuspecting hero to be swept up into a conspiracy and for a thriller, this trope is not a particularly unusual one. The real grit of Tosoff is how he chooses to have MacLeod deal with his past and personal connection to Glasgow instead. A victim of abuse at the hands of a violent stepfather, his inner demons come through in small bits and shapes his character. The reader is gradually introduced to these pieces of MacLeod’s past, and for the reader, it helps invest more of themselves in the narrative and our precarious hero.

The atmosphere and pacing do wonders for this book, which is critical for a thriller and Tosoff manages all of these elements quite well. The few times that the novel does become predictable it’s uniquely colored by MacLeod’s past struggles and how he faces them. I hope that his past conflicts come to a better resolution in the sequel, Vanquished, which takes place immediately following this novel, because I can’t wait to see what happens.

This novel is a perfect fit for fans of crime and spy thrillers, and fans of Ian Fleming may find a welcome new home among Tosoff’s pages.

Pages: 560 | ASIN: 1505533090

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Redemption: The Advent

Redemption: The Advent

Redemption: The Advent by Kimon Alexander is a fantastical sci-fi-thriller. Set during present day, police investigator James Baxter becomes host to a Valdor, an ethereal being from a parallel universe. The Valdorians have watched Earth and deemed humanity too far gone to achieve spiritual evolution. What the Valdor decide is to offer humanity one more chance and send one of their own, Balthazar, who ends up in Baxter. Balthazar not only has to convince Baxter to help him, but to also complete his mission and through their combined abilities they combat a drug lord with a mind-controlling micro-chip and an Islamic extremist bent on world domination. All of this coming to a rocking conclusion that sheds light on the very nature of humanity.

The immense project that Alexander has chosen to write on is incredible. He wishes to dig into the depths of humanity and fish for the largest pearls of wisdom that he can yield to the reader. His intentions are clear that he is seeking this with optimism because each chapter holds an inspirational quote from various figures of history. His optimism is in spite of the ruthless characters that his two joined protagonists confront.  In some ways, the narrative feels a bit indulgent of the author’s own ideals that bleed too much into the story, but for all intents and purposes the book rings true and is a welcome change from the cynicism of our modern day.

The novel presents itself as science fiction upon the opening scene. The Valdorian meeting bespeaks of space fantasy as the ethereal beings conclude that Earth might be saved, but that is a slim hope. It then jumps into the thriller genre with drops of science fiction and psychological drama as Baxter grapples with being a host to an inter-dimensional being, but also the last hope for humanity to redeem itself. Some passages become almost too weighted down by the philosophy and thoughts that fill the pages and it works against Alexander’s pacing as he attempts to make the work a thriller.

By the end, Alexander leaves the reader wanting more and leaves the story open for another book. There is so much that happens in this book that it can easily span two novels and still spend just as much time navigating the armchair philosophy he appears to enjoy.

Any reader who enjoys a sci-fi thriller with a parallel dimension backdrop would do well to read this work. Even thriller lovers would enjoy this book if they can get past some of the intellectual heavy lifting Alexander weaves in. True cerebral readers will enjoy this book and relish the mental corridors that Redemption leads us down.

Pages: 317 | ASIN: B01N1X540Y

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Death by the Jaguar

Death by the Jaguar

Sudden and violent loss is the introduction to this story, a war veteran and his family fall victim to a tragic and yet seemingly deliberate attempt on their lives. Our main character survives, along with the family dog, but we quickly learn the fate of his wife and son was far more grisly. When local law enforcement fail to provide the answers he seeks, our war veteran takes matters into his own hands. Answers alone will not right this; we follow the recently widowed down the rabbit hole of his own thirst for revenge, strongly driven in his pursuit.

Death by the Jaguar piqued my interest right away, a personal fan of sailing and being on the water, and I definitely enjoyed how often it returned to that setting. Either James Ruby is experienced himself or did his research, as his attention to detail regarding many basic mechanics and proper names surrounding the handling of water craft was on point. His technical skill as a writer shined through once more in regards to setting the scene. Ruby paints a picture well, giving enough focus on the characters surroundings to immerse the reader without putting too much weight in to detail. One aspect that continuously distracted me was his over use of commas. The flow of the story remained choppy throughout, thoughts consistently broken up too much by the trip of a comma.

I feel Ruby did a solid job portraying the scattered and distracted mindset of the main character, writing his portions of the story from a first person point of view. Consistently being pulled into the memories of a war veteran while he doggedly pursues justice for his family shows a glimpse of what it is like living with PTSD. I was a little bit back and forth on how I felt overall about just how quickly he gained his thirst for revenge, with little to no mourning and not even attending the funeral. However, I still felt he wrote this broken character with fair knowledge of human psychology. One thing that caught my attention was that we never seem to catch the name of our main character. I could be wrong and just missed it, but I personally find myself relating to a character better when I at least know their name.

Another issue was the repetitive interactions of Sullivan, an arrogant Chief of the local law. It seemed that with every interaction there was so much focus on this characters need to assert his station of power, his need for it to be recognized. The story itself left me wanting; the entire tale is a build up of vengeful actions, but in many respects it lacks the expected action factor, making it somewhat difficult to stay interested.

I was impressed with James Ruby’s ability to set the scene and draw the reader in, as well as his attention to detail regarding areas that the common person wouldn’t be too educated in.

Pages: 291 | ASIN: B0755JWFNR

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SAM: A Girl Undercover

SAM: A Girl Undercover

We all face various trials and tribulations through life, learning lessons along the way. We face a good majority of these during adolescence, especially in that gray transitionary age between teen and young adult. Sam – A Girl Undercover is a story of just that, the decisions, insecurities, and questions we face when learning our place in the world. We follow Sam as she struggles to accept herself and her flaws while trying to figure out her emerging feelings for boys. It circles around the various hurdles of social responsibility and the comfort we take in our friends and family, even when they cause us some exasperation.

This story is one that many will find them selves relating to, though is definitely more female oriented. Eva Beaty gives words to a lot of the issues so many of us face growing up, representing such through Samantha, or Sam as she prefers. She carries a birthmark that fields a lot of insecurity and self doubt, something that is very common among young women. We all have that flaw we constantly try to hide. That quirk we spend so much energy trying to not show. Through the various relationships Sam navigates, it’s easy to place ourselves in her shoes – changing our image for fear of judgement of others and yet seeking acceptance and love for who we are naturally.

Yes, Beaty does a good job of sharing a story that is easy to relate to; it could easily be a relative, a friend, or even ourselves in not just the part of Sam, but other characters as well.

The story is as I said relatable, but hard to read. The writing style is short, clipped, and jumpy, making it hard to really immerse yourself. I felt that the characters lacked depth which makes this book relatable but it’s also a draw back – the characters could be anybody, and I wanted something to make these characters stand out as unique in my mind. The story was also fairly predictable, I kept expecting some dramatic twist, but it was all fairly straight forward. It almost reads like a script versus a book, focusing on a lot of action and reaction, spending a lot of time in Sams perspective but with little supporting material. It has the potential to be a solid coming of age tale, geared toward female youth.

This is a story that shows just how complicated interpersonal relationships can become when we jump to conclusions without all of the facts, or omit the truth due to timing or fear of the reactions it could receive.

Pages: 395 | ASIN: B071GV3T92

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