Category Archives: Three Stars

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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My Journey From Warrior to Gypsy: Poems by Tom Yeager

My Journey from Warrior to Gypsy: Poems by Tom Yeager

My Journey From Warrior to Gypsy, by Tom Yeager, is a poetry collection centered around four main topics that relate to the author’s life: love and romance, riding and jumping horses, travel, and facing adversity. The 41 poems are split among these sections, and in between many of them are half-page, full-color photographs to illustrate the work, each bearing a quote from one of the poems. In general, the collection is written in a modern style with elements of free-form, with occasional uses of a rhyme scheme as well. The dedication hints at a fascinating journey of personal growth, from outcast, to horse-lover, to one who is seeking greater connection with other people. However, the poetry straddles a line between theme and personal remembrance.

I thought Horses and Friends resembled an anecdote containing bewildering detail about the menu, but not much for a reader to empathize with. Reflections On India could easily be a travel itinerary followed by an abrupt quote. However, one of poems I truly enjoyed in the collection is Giving Thanks at Gull Lake. It was one of the poems that resonated with me as it had a selfless purpose which I could relate to. The later Gull Lake and Gibran, on the other hand, begins with an inviting description to set the scene, but becomes a list of food and drink, ending with a quote.

I believe the aim of poetry is to express emotions and ideas over factual information and when the author frees himself from these literal shackles he creates some pleasant poetry. Fearless Daughter and Letting Go cover similar ground, but the best part that they have in common is a greater use of figurative language. The imagery that comes into play in Natural Knowing adds emotional depth and interest, inviting more than a cursory reading.

Ultimately, this is a collection full of touching personal poetry.

Pages: 112 | ASIN: B071VTNR2Y

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Triple Bagger

Triple Bagger: Vanity.Fear.Control=shortcut.2.Happy?

Mari Reiza’s Triple Bagger is the intricately woven story of one man’s experience in a company that takes him everywhere but leads him nowhere. Triple Bagger goes far beyond the story within a story format to reveal Vittal Choudhary’s correspondence with an editor eagerly awaiting the completion of his work. Reiza’s Vittal, the main character, reveals the intricacies of the corporation for which he worked in a first-person account alongside excerpts from the story he struggles to complete. Vittal, a man determined to work his way upward through Enterprise despite his growing displeasure, gives up more than most to succeed. 

Mari Reiza has bravely addressed the corporate world with her novel Triple Bagger. She includes distinct images of cities around the world–Rome, London, New York. She has completed quite the narrative on the loss of oneself within the complexities of ladder-climbing and the desire to succeed. Vittal Choudhary, the central focus of the book, is a relatable character. His confusion, his desire for more, and his dissatisfaction with the things his life has afforded him make him a character I found frustrating–a feeling that does tend to create interest for me as a reader. Anyone who has ever felt even the most temporary disdain for his or her profession will relate to Vittal as he grapples with accurately telling his experiences within his own written account.

Reiza takes both meanings of “triple bagger” and manages to fit them neatly into the multiple storylines of her very involved novel. As Vittal writes, he addresses the definition as it pertains to one’s looks. The remainder of the book, the part in which Vittal details his life with Enterprise, builds on the interpretation of “triple bagger” as a corporate success story. 

Though eloquently written, I found the style of Triple Bagger to be challenging. Reiza has chosen to include Vittal’s personal narrative along with letters to and from his editor, Nuria Friedman, in addition to text from the story Vittal is constructing. The jump from one perspective to the other and back again was challenging to follow. It is almost a story within a story within a third story. The constant shift between perspectives creates obstacles that detract from an otherwise memorable main character.

In addition to a complicated format, I found the rather large number of acronyms and long list of characters to be a bit overwhelming for the book’s length. Though each acronym was appropriate to the storyline and emphasized the absurdity Vittal felt with each of his positions as he made his way through the ranks of Enterprise, I felt they were too numerous from beginning to end. Reiza expertly defines a series of supporting characters. However, I found myself floundering a bit to recall each one’s particulars as the story progressed. 

The plot itself has the potential to be much more gripping. Vittal’s disdain throughout the majority of the book is obvious, and the fact that he remains bewildered as to his corporation’s overall purpose is not lost on the reader. 

Pages: 414 | ASIN: B06XWT55YW

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Fireflies of the Dead

Fireflies of the Dead

In the world of horror and short stories, Eric Kapitan could easily become your new favorite author. In his collection of stories, Fireflies of the Dead, Kapitan takes the reader on a horrifying journey of blood seeking killers and revenge loving victims. From page one to the last bloody word, each short story will have you flipping on a light and checking to make sure you’re all alone. The bonus to Fireflies of the Dead is that the author has sprinkled poems throughout, preceding each story and setting the mood for what’s to come, leaving you a fan of horror for life.

Even though Fireflies of the Dead by Eric Kapitan is a book of short stories, I think the poems that Kapitan uses make it easy to transition between stories.  Each poem helps to set the mood and style of what you are about to read. The poems, in my opinion, were an excellent choice to include. Not only because of how wonderfully written they were, but because they created the seamless connection from story to story. They also serve as a excellent stopping place if you need to set the book aside for a minute. You can pick right back up by reading a poem and flowing into the next story without feeling like you’ve been jolted out of the collection.

Since the book is a collection of many stories, it’s difficult to put a finger on one particular plot idea or setting. I can say that Kapitan does an excellent job of creating the proper domain for each of his characters to dwell. His descriptions of smells, sounds and internal struggles leaves the reader feeling as though they are in the scene, experiencing what the characters are going through. Throughout the book I felt the fear of the little girl, the unknowingness of the female campers and what it must be like to gag on the taste of human flesh. All things that every horror fan will love!

One issue I had was that there seems to be a lack of proofreading and editing. There are many grammatical errors but nothing that a good editor couldn’t point out and help fix. Also a warning about some profanity and explicit sexual references throughout the book.

I really enjoyed the journey of the poems and stories. I was constantly wondering where the end was going to take me and strongly felt that the author’s passion for the horror genre was relayed again and again throughout the pages. Overall, Fireflies of the Dead is a must read for anyone who craves the horror genre.

Pages: 73 | ASIN: B073PTNSMR

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Remember to Recycle

Remember to Recycle: Psychological Suspense (The Agents of the Nevermind Book 2)

Remember To Recycle explores a twisted state of dystopian society run rampant with political tension and censorship, as experienced through the eyes of a sordid slew of characters, each crafted to be as unique as they are controversial. Author Tantra Bensko unapologetically invites readers into the thick and gritty atmosphere of this nefarious nation on the brink of war. As seedy government organizations work through mass media to manipulate the opinions of the general public, three oddball outcasts must struggle to uncover their own personal truths, regardless of how dark and uncomfortable that truth may be.

There is an oddity and nuance to the style in which Bensko develops the story, weaving the intricate and disharmonious lives of the ragtag crew together. The characters are so individually strange, perplexing me at times to debate whose personal version of the truth I should put my stock into. What they lack in relatability, they more than make up for in personality. For instance, there is little for me to relate to in a neurotic homeless man suffering from a multiple personality disorder, but nevertheless, I found myself rushing to reach his chapters, drinking in the off-the-cuff humor and casual profanity of his perspective. Each character in the disjointed trio is unique and realized to the point of feeling authentic, boasting a well-rounded checklist of endearing qualities as well as anxieties and vices – certainly enough to make you love or hate them, respectively.

Although the modern literature lover in me appreciates the quirky and informal tone of Bensko’s writing, I do have to admit that I struggled a bit with the sporadic pace. The narrative voices are wildly different between each character, and on occasion, the sudden shift felt so abrupt that it confused me for just a moment. Bensko lovingly lingers in the details of certain interactions for quite some time, while briskly splicing other important moments into the middle of a quick paragraph. The revolving narrative among the trio is certainly a testament to Bensko’s strength in voices, but it didn’t make for the quickest read. Still a charming one though!

I felt a bit sheepish upon realizing that Remember to Recycle is actually the second installment in the Agents of the Nevermind series. Whoops! I suppose that’s always one tell of a good book though – if it can stand alone within a larger collection. Without knowing any of the events from the previous title, readers are still able to quickly grasp the tone and plot of this work, even within the steep setting of an economic fallout. Benkso poured such a generous amount of attention into the thoughts and motives of the characters, which served well to support this work standing on its own.

Overall, this was an undeniably interesting read, although the density of the political theme felt a bit heavy to me at times. I’d recommend it to readers with interests in the dystopian and psychological horror tropes, that also have an appreciation for quirky writing styles.

Pages: 285 | ASIN: B06XY4CF1S

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Apocalypsia

Apocalypsia

Apocalypsia by Jerry Veit is a saga in the best sense of the word. I was able to read the complete edition of this work, which consists of three books and three parts per book. They detail a post-apocalyptic Earth after what appears to be, for all intents and purposes, the end. Demons comb the land, freed from Hell and what is left of humanity struggles to survive and trust one another. It is left to small bands of warriors to come together and unite the warring factions, otherwise they will all perish with the rising of a new demon army.

The vision that Veit has for this world is expansive. It is also a fun blend of science fiction, fantasy and post-apocalyptic. These elements may seem to much for the casual reader but for Veit they are all ingredients that lend themselves to the epic that this work is. The edition I have, has a couple, very thick appendices, which was helpful for the wide cast of characters Viet details in all of these stories. Some of the terms, locations and overall history of this Earth is also given. All in all the world building that Veit skillfully brings to life is very present and rich for the reader to sink into and lose themselves.

I found Veit’s prose to be stilted in places and I wonder if his work would hold up better in an audio book or audio drama form. He did not shy away from any action and made sure the story kept moving through these pages, especially as the conflict became more and more intense until the dramatic conclusion. He does follow the time tested formula of having a band of hero’s and a singular villain, bent on destruction. The setting he built around this formula is what refreshing for this type of tale and the considerable scale he chose to write it in. The story itself could have been confined to two books but with drawing it out into a third he was able to deepen the plot just enough to please the reader. I won’t say anything else in that regard, lest I spoil the story.

What was difficult was the way that Viet chose to tell his tale. He took some grammatical liberties that a seasoned reader may have trouble reading at first. The most notable one is that Veit does not use traditional dialogue tags or quotation marks but instead uses names labeling who speaks (i.e. ADRIAN: Welcome to Apocalypsia). This is similar to how one labels dialogue in screenplays, which I am aware is in Veit’s background.

All in all Apocalypsia is an epic tale of loss, bravery and learning what it is to be human. Lovers of quests and end of the world tales will find something to enjoy here.

Pages: 387 | ASIN: B0726374N1

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Room 11

Room 11: A man sits singing where a woman lies dreaming

Mari Reiza, author of Room 11, gives readers two women’s accounts of the same events via their own dreamlike states. A comatose woman and her doting husband are tended by a dedicated but overly-involved nurse. The nurse, focused heavily on the needs of the adoring husband, gives her account of the meticulous care he shows his bedridden wife underscored by her own daydreams which reveal an intense yearning to take his wife’s place. In alternating chapters, Reiza allows the reader to hear the wife’s dreams loud and clear via her own tangled memories. Hers are dreams peppered with fantasies based on the events taking place around her.

The style Mari Reiza has chosen to use in writing Room 11 offered me quite a different reading experience. I enjoyed the alternating chapters revealing the two different points of view of both the needy nurse and the comatose wife. About halfway through the book, it became more obvious that Reiza was revealing dreams from the wife that painted a picture of her immediate surroundings and her husband’s desperate efforts to rouse her.

I did find it much easier to follow the nurse’s daydreams than the wife’s fantastical retellings. At times, the wife’s chapters became very difficult to follow. There are many lines that are effectively repeated to make an impact on the reader. Reiza has succeeded in expressing the wife’s distress over her own inability to have children. However, much of the wife’s narrative becomes a series of rambling and repetitive lines.

The author paints a clear picture of the man in Room 11, as the nurse refers to him throughout the book. His love for his wife is heartrendingly obvious. His dedication to her care and, most of all, her dignity in her current condition is indeed enviable. Any person who has been the caretaker for a relative or patient will relate to the exhausting amount of effort the man in Room 11 bestows upon his ailing wife day in and day out.

Throughout the dreams and musings of both women, multiple settings are incorporated into the story. Among them are Ghana and Northern Spain. Though the reader slowly discerns the main setting is in the United Kingdom, both women’s tales reveal troubled pasts beyond its borders. The author has created a vision of a tormented life for both characters. Living in vastly different economic circumstances, the nurse and the wife both expose the anguish of devastating losses. The two women share a common bond they will likely never realize.

As I read, I was both fascinated by and disturbed by the nurse’s infatuation with the man in Room 11. Reiza has created a memorable character with the nurse as she divulges dark, almost sinister, feelings toward her helpless patient. Her increasingly stalker-like behaviors leave the reader both intrigued and uncomfortable. It is a given that the reader’s compassion should be directed to the wife in her unfortunate state, but the nurse is a character much more worthy of pity.

Though the language is beautiful and the story woven by the two women is fascinating, I found their dreams difficult to follow. I feel that too much repetition, especially in the wife’s dream sequences, took away from the book’s overall appeal.

Pages: 128 | ASIN: B06XJ3X7JZ

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Typhoon of Fire

Typhoon of Fire

Typhoon by Fire by Ryan Grimbly is a fun read! We follow Ace Mcdagger, who teams up with Captain Loxwell of November squad, to rescue her teammates who are scattered in the forests of Malaysia. Three years after basic training  in combat and the use of magic, while studying monsters that roam the world, Ace and his team will be put to the test. A rogue scientist was the quarry of Captain Loxwell and remains at large. The joint effort is faced by many obstacles including psychic anomalies, scientific experiments gone awry, and a storm that threatens to consume the region…the Typhoon of Fire.

Grimbly’s writing is one that ensures good pacing. He gives us a small introduction to Ace and Shimon, two of the main characters, showing their roots of where they came from. The prose reads well and quickly, which for a novel such as this is a plus. The blend of genres is a notable factor considering I feel this fits into a military thriller, paranormal, or even urban fantasy. The book could even count as young adult with the playful elements within, but some of the language may be too intense at times for teens. The fact that this blend seems rather seamless is a good reason for any reader that likes these genres to pick this book up.

The prose is strongest with the interplay of Grimbly’s characters. Ace, Shimon, Tiffany, and Loxwell all have brilliant dialogue with one another and they feel like living characters who come off page. It is one of the reasons why I felt this book was such a pleasure to read in the first place. This along with the action that bristles in the scenes that fill most of the book, makes sure to keep the reader turning the page. The blend of military training, magic, and psychic powers may be off putting for some readers, but I think Grimbly manages to balance all of these genres surprisingly well.

Despite all of this, the book is not without some flaws, which include some of the plot and description. I won’t spoil the plot here, so I can’t say much on that front. I will say that those remarks do not mar the good points of this book. Grimbly does skimp on the description and enough that I  often became lost in some of his scenes. And as a reader there is nothing more disconcerting than realizing that you’ve lost the sense of “space” that a character or characters exist in.

With all of this in mind, the novel is a wild ride that does not let up until the end. The book is part of a series that I may check out in the future as well. I would encourage fans of urban fantasy, paranormal, and military fiction to take a dive into The Typhoon of Fire.

Pages: 474 | ASIN: B00UYRYZVE

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