Category Archives: Three Stars

Crown of Crowns

Crown of Crowns by [Clara Loveman]

As a daughter of one of the ruling families of Geniverd, Kaelyn has never known anything outside of her life of privilege and protection. She begins to realize the depth of that privilege when she meets Roki and learns more about the struggles of the common people. Through personal tragedies and charitable work, Kaelyn’s life changes drastically in just three years, but she is unaware that the changes are about to escalate quickly, and in ways she could never have imagined. Suddenly faced with more power and knowledge than she thought existed, Kaelyn has to become the savior Geniverd didn’t know it needed.

Crown of Crowns by Clara Loveman takes place on a dystopian-esque planet named Geniverd where disease has been nearly eradicated, natural births are against the moral code, and machines do every job previously held by humans. The ruling class, with royal families on each of the six continents, live in luxury and are insulated from any of the problems faced by the rest of the population. Kaelyn never questioned the traditions that her family, and the other elitists, followed until her mid-teens when she realizes just how much of a division they have actually created within the world and the majority of the people. At that point, Crown of Crowns moves the narrative along at a breakneck pace, as Loveman introduces a barrage of situations that forces Kaelyn to quickly mature, as she struggles with an ever-changing worldview. The story is a smooth and easy read for the most part, although the language occasionally reverts to almost adolescent type slang, which is jarring and a departure from the overall competent tone of the book.

Crown of Crowns deals heavily with the theme of morality, and the idea of doing what is right versus doing what has always been done. Kaelyn makes it clear early on that she believes tradition isn’t always what’s best, especially when a majority of people are suffering as a result. Her beliefs form initially from a place of selfishness (tradition would keep her from being with the person she loves) but as she grows and learns more about the world, she sees that genuine change is necessary for the people to thrive. 

Reading Crown of Crowns right now was also incredibly interesting because there were key plot points that reflected issues in our current society, namely an unforeseen pandemic and severe social unrest caused by years of disregard for the “common” people. The characters were engaging and I was invested in discovering what Kaelyn would do next, however, the book ends abruptly, leaving loose ends and questions to be answered in a followup novel. Crown of Crows is an epic dystopian fantasy novel that will entertain young-adult fans.

Pages: 238 | ASIN: B08BJGNHT7

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Now It’s Inescapable

Bill Mccausland’s Now It’s Inescapable depicts the psyche of a drug-addicted physician. Through his main character, Glen, he tells a relatable tale of how easy it is to slip into addiction, especially if you’ve lived a life full of adversity.

From the outside, Glen seems to have an incredible life. With his own practice and a beautiful wife, he appears to be the epitome of health and success, a stark contradiction to his real circumstances. As we read from chapter to chapter, his life unravels right before our eyes.

The author doesn’t depict Glen in the best of light. In many ways, he seems to be the villain of the story; reckless and unaffected by the way his addiction impacts those closest to him. On the other hand, his wife Julie is painted as the ever-supportive but highly enabling spouse. However, ultimately it is revealed that the two of them have a dangerous codependency that only births destruction. Interestingly, neither is purely evil nor purely good; each one has their own demons to fight.

This story mirrors real life by attempting to explain the complex multilayered nature of the human soul. By telling the story through the main character’s perspective, the author seems to bring us so intimately into his life. We not only see what Glen does but also why he does it and the mental process that leads to his decisions. Great details are given about all drivers of Glen’s addiction, giving us a fuller understanding of him.

However, the book contains some grammatical errors and inconsistencies that make it hard to get through this otherwise interesting story. There is also a lot of use of grandiose terms and long winded dialogues that don’t feel natural.

That aside, I do acknowledge that the author does a great job of expressing important themes through the book. The outstanding ones are the role that family dynamics play in adult dysfunction and the cyclic nature of life. Ultimately, I do believe that with a little bit of polishing, this story has the potential to be a fan favorite.

Pages: 245 | ASIN: B07GC72TTL

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Blessed Beyond Measure

Blessed Beyond Measure: Getting back to the Basic of what we were called to be by [K. Denise McQueen]

There are many life lessons to be learned from the Holy Bible and messages readers and believers can apply to their most trying situations. From relationships to remaining faithful believers in Christianity, the Bible can sometimes be difficult to interpret, and some passages have as many interpretations as they have readers. Blessed Beyond Measure, by K. Denise McQueen, is one woman’s work based on scripture and life experience. From being virtuous to having a forgiving spirit, McQueen covers a vast array of life’s dilemmas head-on and with scripture in mind.

Blessed Beyond Measure, by K. Denise McQueen, is filled with quotes from the Bible as well as quotes from inspirational speakers like former President Barack Obama. In each of McQueen’s chapters, she tackles an ethical dilemma or an aspect of relationships based on scripture and adds her own opinions throughout. Though I don’t agree with some of her thoughts on making sure the man is the one making decisions in the household, she does make some valid points about self-worth and being humble.

I was expecting a book rooted in the Bible and focused on general life advice but found this to be more of a text designed to advise women in their relationships. Peppered throughout the book is valuable commentary on self-respect, how to treat others, and how to live a life with purpose. The bulk of the book is centered on the choices one must make in order to begin a romantic relationship and how to maintain a strong marriage.

With a few organizational and grammatical issues aside, I think that Blessed Beyond Measure has strong messages that come from the heart, each of them valuable in different ways and K. Denise McQueen’s passion for life and faith shines through every chapter. This is an inspirational book that motivates readers to live a God first life.

Pages: 90 | ASIN: B07C33V2Z4

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Oink and Gobble and the Missing Cupcakes

Oink and Gobble have very little in common, but that doesn’t stop them from being the best of friends. No matter what others on the farm may say about either of them, they manage to ignore it and live happy-go-lucky lives. When Oink’s cupcakes go missing, the two best friends set out on a mission to find the culprit. With Gobble’s love for logic and Oink’s overactive imagination, the pair is bound to solve the mystery–with some light-hearted moments along the way.

Oink and Gobble and the Missing Cupcakes, written by Norman Whaler and illustrated by Mohammad Shayan, is a children’s book filled with humorous moments between farm animals and best friends on their way to solving a mystery. Bright and colorful illustrations clearly convey the story line and further add to the plot. Included is a page with the names of each farm animal complete with labels.

I enjoyed this book, but I felt like the story line belongs in a book for children ages 2 to about 6 while the verbiage and some of the exchanges between characters I think might be above the heads of most children in that age group. I enjoyed the asides and the humor injected into the dialogue but found it more appropriate for older readers. I would recommend the plot of the story for young children, but the narrative is much more fitting for young adult readers.

Well-written and superbly illustrated this book will bring a smile to readers’ faces. I think this book is best read with parents or teachers as it presents many learning opportunities. Oink and Gobble and the Missing Cupcakes is a fun and funny picture book.

Pages: 30 | ASIN: B07YN4W37Q

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Beasts

 

Beasts by [Angelina Kanan]

Beasts by Angelina Kanan is a classic example of the paranormal werewolf genre. Selene Knight is an alpha struggling to find her place in the world after the tragic death of her sister. For years she has run away from her past, but she is unable to continue avoiding it when an increase in wendigo sightings forces her to pay a visit to her brother, which also means having to encounter her estranged father and the bitter memories of her childhood home. Add the stress of a burgeoning relationship with her elusive mate, and Selene has a lot on her plate.

Beasts contains elements that will please fans of werewolf romance, including a mysterious and sexy mate with a tragic past, and an abundance of conflict stemming from the politics within and between packs. While the story line is enthralling, I was left wanting more from the scenes meant to be exciting, tense, or romantic. While the old adage “show, don’t tell” could be used here to draw readers further into this imaginative world. Much of the narration is devoted to explaining the relationships between characters and how those characters feel, as well as how Selene herself feels.

The most compelling character is Selene; as a female alpha who leads a small pack and is plagued by a host of demons from her past, readers will root for Selene to succeed. Her mate also proves to be an interesting character, with the question of his identity being the first of many mysteries Selene unravels as she gets to know him. Also strong are the connections between Selene and her deceased sister, as well as her brother. These sibling relationships, filled with love and loss, are touching. The rest of the characters blend together. Brett is the “sassy male friend who loves clothes and makeup” stereotype, while the other members of Selene’s pack come to the foreground when they are important to the plot.

The strongest aspect of this book is the plot, which presents some interesting conflicts and surprising reveals. Many readers will likely enjoy the relationship between Selene and her handsome mate.

Pages: 212| ASIN: B088TFBHJL

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The Birthday Gift

 

 

 

The Birthday Gift by Betty Collier is a short story that follows Mrs. Williams as she finds her world turned upside down amid the sudden passing of her husband while he is away on overseas business. Among the themes present in the book are the difficulty in gaining closure from unexpected bereavement and the struggle to exercise forgiveness for transgressions. The role of religion is also significant in this book.

I appreciated the poignancy of Mrs. Williams’ journey to healing after the loss of her husband. It is apparent from the very beginning that she has much love for her husband – the kind that transcends boundaries of space and time. Collier depicts her in the different phases of grieving in order to reflect the immense pain of losing a loved one without having the chance to say goodbye. She reflects fondly on the memories she and her husband shared, and she even feels anger and disillusionment resulting from her God deciding to take her husband’s kindred soul prematurely. However, her love for her family, in particular her daughter Bella, prompts her to be a strong woman and a strong mother.

On the opposite side of the coin, this book is very evangelical in its message. The role of God and religion is prominently interwoven in Mrs. Williams’ thoughts and motivations, which may be triggering to a reader who may not have an interest in religion yet still seeks an inspirational read. Although I still strove to be objective in my reading, the constant preaching and heavy evangelical language were a bit overwhelming.

I appreciated witnessing Mrs. Williams’ healing process after losing her husband, as well as seeing her gain the wisdom to forgive. If you enjoy similar shorter books, such as “The Alchemist” by Paolo Coelho,  which have a religious theme to them, then you’ll also enjoy this book. The expressions of pain and passion is palpable and is the thing I truly enjoyed about this short story?

Pages: 106 | ASIN: B087THC8P7

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The Young

The Young by Nicholas John Powter

The Young by Nicholas John Powter

Sven is a war veteran who cannot yet lay down his arms because he still has to protect his family and friends from the evil forces in the Deluge lands. For a while, he has little to do and lives quietly with his youngest son, Fren but soon, chaos erupts and our war hero and his loved ones become the target of an evil tyrant Roland who wishes to absorb the essence of the evil night gods and take over the world for them. Now Sven and Fren must rise to protect their friends, battle mind-numbing sorcery, find Dason, Sven’s eldest son and leave the unsafe lands to a new location. But will all this prove to be too daunting? Will the forces of darkness prevail over the forces of light? Will our hero finally lay down his arms and find rest?

The Young by Nicholas Powter is an epic fantasy novel detailing the adventures of a brave war hero and his equally courageous son. The events in the book are set in medieval times in an imaginary land called The Deluge where fantastic beasts reign and cities within mountains prevail. And while Powter doesn’t spend much time giving intricate details of the surroundings, he makes sure to provide vital vivid images that still help us perceive man’s crude habits in those times. These images help set a perfect stage for the characters’ thrilling adventures.

Powter’s proficiency doesn’t end at setting a solid stage for his story, it also extends to his description of the characters in his book. He strikes a balance between showing us who the characters are through their actions and also having them tell us themselves and this helps to move the story along at a decent pace.

As the story moves along, Powter strings together events that pass few but very clear messages – you can’t miss them. We see ideas like the strength of the bonds of family and friendship and the power of courage as shown in Sven’s resolve to save his son and his friend’s wife. We also glean the themes of the continuous war between good and evil and man’s role in choosing which of these sides to submit to. Apart from these themes, two others also stand out. One relates to the categories of people most susceptible to deceit – the young or naïve, the overly curious, and the covetous – and the other is a soothing message that good will ultimately prevail if there are still people who believe in it and are ready to fight for it.

Powter might not be Tolkien or C.S Lewis but he surely did some things that caught my fancy. The story is kept simple and has no pointless detours. On top of this I found the story to be fairly imaginative. These two factors made the book a decent read on the whole even though I felt the narration could have been more engaging.

 

Good Life to Perfection Perception

Good Life to Perfection Perception: An Autobiography by [Karl Lorenz Willett]

Karl’s future assumed a bleak outlook after he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at the age of twenty. For many, at this age, life was just beginning, the world was at their feet and their dreams were there for the taking but for Karl, the disease he was diagnosed with was a likely precursor to a life of pain and struggles. He would later find himself popping anti-psychotic pills for forty straight years in an attempt to douse the incurable effects of schizophrenia and live the closest thing to a normal life. Tired of having to still deal with the symptoms of the disease and the side effects of the drugs, he chooses to slowly get off his medications in the hope of finding healing elsewhere. How will this decision affect him and his family?

Good Life to Perfection Perception by Karl Lorenz Willett is the autobiography that reveals the hardships involved in living with a mental illness and also shows the humanity of a man plagued by something beyond his control. Karl is downright honest and raw as he uncovers his thought processes, ideas, failings and victories. This book is definantly emotional, or at least I was emotional when reading this book. Emotions like passion, pain and pleasure are some emotions explored in this spirited book. I was both touched and intrigued by his candor and courage.

Karl doesn’t simply present himself as a victim of circumstance, rather, he shows that despite his limitations, he can think critically and hold personal views. For instance, in the book, he shares his beliefs about the possibility of there being a better way to handle mentally ill individuals without placing them on anti-psychotic drugs for the rest of their lives. He also expresses his thoughts on religion, societal ills and world peace. At a point, I nearly mistook him for an ancient Greek philosopher, no kidding.

While I appreciated the story, and the courage with which it is told, the book could benefit greatly from a thorough edit. A good editor could clean up the grammar errors and organize the story so that it is more coherent. As is, I had to reread some sections to ensure I understood what was being said.

While the author touched on many issues, his major focus was on telling the story of how schizophrenia impacted his life. He shed light on the difficulties he had like how it was impossible for him to hold down a job, the constant pain he felt, the cognitive limitations he had and many more. I was moved the most by his struggle with empathic distress, a condition that made watching the news and seeing all the sad events unhealthy for him. All in all, seeing these issues from the perspective of a patient of schizophrenia increased my ability to empathize with patients of mental illnesses.

Pages: 293 | ASIN: B084GZT9BP

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