Category Archives: Three Stars

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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Antitheus

Antitheus

A short, yet deliciously terrifying read can be found between the covers of Antitheus by G.A. Minton. A secluded inn, a group of religious leaders on a retreat and a well-timed blizzard set the stage for this thrilling horror story. When the aging innkeeper stumbles upon a badly mangled body that used to be one of his guests, the world he knew comes crashing down. Once the town sheriff comes to the inn to investigate our cast is complete. The horrors that await the soon-to-be stranded group evolve into a madness of biblical proportions. What could possibly be hunting them in the blizzard? Who murdered the minister and scrawled such a distasteful message in blood? These are the questions that will be answered in this compacted tale.

There is no shortage of gore and violence in this horror story. The graphic detail Minton puts into his storytelling is captivating while being slightly gruesome. It is not overdone, however, which can happen in tales like this. Not a drop of blood is out of place and the murders occur within a carefully crafted plan. This classic whodunit gets a twist while the characters try to flee for their lives. As each murder occurs it is clear that something is lurking in the blizzard and it very much wants to devour them. The infusion of religious content with traditional horror blends nicely. The religious aspects fit the story and they aren’t overdone or excessive.

The story begins strongly; captivating the reader and pulling them in. But there is the addition of a supernatural occurrence that doesn’t fit the story. The book would have been fine without it and while it serves a purpose, it seems like an afterthought. There is some concern with continuity: the characters refer to what is hunting them as ‘intelligent’, yet the trap they set is mundane. There is some clarification later on, but the tale is slightly marred by this. The ending feels rushed, which is a contrast to how meticulously the opening was laid out. G.A. Minton is a fantastic writer, I just wish that greatness was on display consistently throughout the book.

If you’re looking for a quick read and horror is your genre of choice, this is a tidy little book that will hold your interest. The majority of it has the makings of a terrific horror story; however it could have used some ironing out. There is magnificent potential and the reader will be able to tell that the G.A. Minton put thought and effort into the telling of Antitheus.

Pages: 198 | ASIN: B0744XJ11K

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Truth and the Serpent

Truth and The Serpent by [Rutledge, J.]

The Truth and The Serpent written by J. Rutledge is a fantastic work of fiction that explores an alternate creation story than what we’ve been told. Instead of focusing on the man and the woman in the Garden of Eden, this book focuses on the Serpent. The creature known as temptation and sin.

The book shows the Serpent’s side of the story as a present day man. I found this to be a very interesting concept for the book, as this was a story that I’ve known since childhood and had blindly accepted that the serpent was bad.

I really enjoyed the wit of the serpent. And the detail with which his character is developed is superb. If I had to think about what the serpent was like in the Bible, the description in this book would’ve nailed it. The journey that the serpent goes on is a thrilling adventure as well.

I really liked the language of the book although Sometimes The Capitals On Words Like Time took a bit of getting used to. Apart from that, the way the book was easy to read and the prose flowed naturally.

I knew going into this book that it would be heavy on the religion, but I didn’t expect it to be as heavy handed in it’s delivery. It was clear from the start that the author had done his research. Everything was thoroughly examined and fit it’s backstory nicely. I just felt that there was an overabundance of biblical references at times. 

This book is very well written. The first line had me melting into the sunset the author painted with his words. That’s why, despite the heavy biblical tones, I was able to finish it. The strength of his writing and the imagery surrounding his words and concepts got me through it.

I really related to all of the characters and what they went through. It was clear that this was done on purpose so I could get the lessons that I was being taught, which wasn’t something that I expected from a work of fiction, but it’s what happened anyway. My curiosity was piqued often and I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. I had to go back and re-read pages as I was going through and consuming the information so quickly. That’s how you know you’re onto a winner.

Pages: 499 | ASIN: B01N7SVJO6

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The Guardians of Eastgate

The Guardians of Eastgate (Seers #1)

The Guardians of Eastgate by Sherry Leclerc, is a classic fantasy tale. Maelona Sima is one of four champions of the race named seers. As a champion Maelona is tasked with protecting one of the four keystones that protect the realm of Sterrenvar from evil. When an evil sorcerer rises up, seeking to enslave the peoples of Sterrenvar, Maelona at the keystone at Eastgate is the first line of defense. But will the prejudice and oppression against the seer people work against her? Maelona teams up with a human prince, Gareth, and a wolf shapeshifter, Blaez, but the question remains, will it all be enough to stave off this tide of darkness?

Leclerc’s book is a fantastic fantasy novel accented with the inevitable threat of evil and darkness confronted by a ragtag group of “heroines and heroes”. Since this is the first book in a series there is a sense that there is plenty more story to come. There is something for everyone though, between world building, action and romance between Maelona and Blaez. Leclerc’s writing is easy to follow and the book itself is not long, just under 200 pages.

The “choppiness” of Leclerc’s chapters left more to be desired, since they seem to cut in every four to five pages. This tended to throw me off more than kept me turning pages. Because chapters can be natural stopping points I wanted the book to take advantage of longer more engaging chapters rather than serving all of the good parts up so quickly.

It was an interesting choice to make a standard figure of fantasy, the seer, into an entire race of people who are guardians. In some ways, it makes sense based on their foresight abilities but I felt like the race needed to have more depth, which could easily be built in the coming books. The Guardians of Eastgate is brimming with potential that should be brought to fruition but is hampered by the short narrative arc. The next book should prove to be more exciting if such world building continues to be developed and deepen the point of view of the characters there in.

Readers will enjoy this novel for how technically well written it is. Wait for the next installment because this story is begging to be expanded.

Pages: 165 | ASIN: B07579TCBC

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Utopia

Utopia

Utopia by Jerry Veit is a fun take on a dystopia amongst a plethora of dystopias on the shelf. We follow a defense attorney, Brian Troth, who wakes up from a 30-year coma to a world very different than his own. His past life is far gone and there is little want left in society. He is given the perfect job, perfect home and even the perfect spouse. Can all of this be too good to be true? Brian believes so, but his curiosity and questioning begin to cause too much attention and problems in this near-perfect world. Problems that could threaten his life and those he comes to care about in this new world of Utopia.

The plot begins in earnest about a third of the way through. The story arc follows other dystopian arcs, such as being the newcomer and slowly finding the “cracks” in the perfect visage of society. Veit executes this perfectly, tightening the tension as we go along, although hampered somewhat by the romance between Brian and Chloe that feels forced. The slow escalation of the rest of the action and tension comes to a dramatic ending which I won’t spoil here.

Brians character snaps with wit which is both a strength and weakness, Brian is the most fleshed out character in the story but he makes all the other players in the story more two-dimensional than not.

Veit continues with his play/screenplay format which works with his other stories but with a work that is 70 pages, the format makes the story a bit thin. The lack of real description and setting makes the novel hollow considering that utopic visions of the world are so brilliant, especially when they have such flawed underbellies, one thinks of Ayn Rand’s Anthem or Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We.

I was left wondering if Brian’s last name of “Troth” was intentional considering that he ends up discovering the “truth” of the Utopia. The symbolism is left lingering for me. The narrative flows well and follows all the beats necessary to provide you with an entertaining visit to another of J.C. Veit’s worlds.

Pages: 78 | ISBN: 1508572151

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The Midnight Bite

The Midnight Bite

The Midnight Bite (A Fishy Story) by David J Shepard takes the reader into a world of an avid fisherman, Johnny, who develops a love of fishing in his youth. However, it is one specific breed that catches his eye and this is where the story begins.

Once the character in the story realizes that his children are grown up, his working life is finished and his fishing buddy no longer wants to fish with him, he is aware that he has still not caught his ideal fish.

I liked this book as it threw me headfirst into the world of fishing. However, just because it’s a book about fishing doesn’t mean that it’s filled with fishing jargon. I found it very easy to read and the author has an immersive style of writing that makes you feel like you’re catching the fish alongside him.

It’s also an interesting read as you learn that the character is coming to terms with his own mortality through fishing and that’s what eventually drives him to seek out this breed of fish. It paints a very clear and refreshing picture of a man who is bitter, resentful and scared of his own life coming to a close.

It’s not until the 16th page of the book that you learn more about Johnny’s love of fishing from a young age. I enjoyed these flashbacks as it was interesting to read where his love came from, which was the days spent with his dad and family.

The author’s knowledge of fishing is clear throughout the book, as there are so many little details about the bait and fish that you feel like you’re learning while also exploring. It was eyeopening to realize that fishing can be more than a past time and become an art, in a sense. If you jerk the line too quickly, the fish will know something is up and therefore not choose to eat your bait. It was also interesting to realize that this man is a flawed individual who is open about his feelings of jealousy and resentment towards people who do better than he does. I really enjoyed reading his thoughts and perspectives on life.

The Midnight Bite (A Fishy Story) is an enjoyable and quick read for anyone who wants to learn a bit more about the complexities of life with a bit of fishing involved. Can’t get out to fish? Don’t have a fishing buddy? Well sit back and enjoy this book instead. 

Pages: 72 | ASIN: B073Q6KD2Q

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Capricorn

Capricorn

Capricorn by Jerry Veit is a pulpy thrill ride. Set in a dystopian world where a city has fallen to criminals and other underworld scum, we follow the hero, Montague, who deals out his own brand of justice. A man who clearly has a dark past of his own struggles with his unrelenting anger until he meets Capricorn, a beautiful young woman. They instantly have a connection but their meeting is cut all too short when a group of thugs kidnap her. Montague is driven by his pledge to Capricorn and undergoes seven trials in order to enter Mammon’s domain wherein his love is imprisoned.

The story is given in play format. The format does not detract from the story itself, although it would do well in audio format. The world of Capricorn is an interesting mix of fantasy, dystopian, and urban fantasy. There are even some themes and symbolism of classical mythology and the Judeo-Christian mythos thrown in for good measure. The world building itself walks a fine line of being just complex enough to make the world feel alive.

Typical of Veit, Capricorn is a story driven by fast actions and passionate motivations. Montague is a not quite anti-hero, but embodies similar traits of the archetype, especially by how he deals out justice. He seems to sway back and forth over the line of being good or bad, although he bears everything that is thrown at him. The trails follow a somewhat formulaic method, but still give the reader certain checkpoints.

This brings up the antagonist, who in some stories helps define the protagonist. Named the Demon, but later Mammon, Veit does some interesting things when the Demon clashes with Montague and it was these moments that will make the reader keep reading until the end. A traditional quest story set in a world that is so strange but familiar to us. Montague does seem to exist in a vacuum and does come across as too singularly minded, which tends to alienate the reader somewhat. This is circumvented by the pure romance and chemistry that Capricorn and Montague have for one another. The adventure, danger, and risk also keep this story lean and fast-paced.

Overall, Capricorn is a fun read for more mature fans of pulp fantasy, urban fantasy and dystopian fiction.

Pages: 136 | ASIN: B00IPSZQCQ

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Apples Don’t Sing – They Shine

Apples Don't Sing-They Shine by [Mardo, George J.]

Apples Don’t Sing–They Shine, by George Mardo, is a classic example of literary fiction. The story follows a family over generations from 1930 all the way to 1990. Some of the story does feel dated, but that might be because of historical events that frame the novel. In some ways, it is hard to simply summarize a novel that at its’ core deals with family drama of coming together in times of war and drifting apart after. Mainly it deals with Marie, a German immigrant and her struggles with her son and the family business.

Overall, Mardo does a great job with managing what would normally be an overly complicated or possibly self-indulgent topic to write on. The drama of an inter-generational story is more than enough for the reader to follow on and enjoy. The family does become expansive as it should through the decades, but remembering names and their relations can become cumbersome after a while. The conflict between the characters should be familiar to any reader who has a family and especially one that has first generation immigrants.

The story at times may seem U.S. centralized, but Mardo expands his scope by including a Ukrainian Monastery, family drama in England, and even venturing into South America. The global scale of his story enhances how far reaching and long the narrative is as we follow the rise and fall of family unity and how families change over the decades. As with any drama set over decades, the story can run the risk of being too brief or skimming over the details of the day to day. Mardo falls into this somewhat by giving us broad, quick snippets of events that happen. He sometimes jumps years ahead in the narrative to get to another point. He may have been able to do this with more skill to not create such choppy pacing, though it does lend to the novel’s biographical story of the families of the Nesbits and Reynolds.

In some ways, the main conflict involving the family’s business, Reynolds Enterprise, tends to become too central to what the novel is striving to be, an intimate tale of family and the relations that bind. The focus does seem to shift towards the end and recenter the novel, which is a saving grace.

This work is perfect for those that enjoy tales told over generations involving many different characters. A pure drama that is accessible to anyone of any age.

Pages: 204 | ASIN: B0190UKORY

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