Category Archives: Five Stars

Just Shut Up and Drive

Just Shut Up and Drive5 Stars

It’s an important time in every young adult’s life: the final summer before post-secondary school and after high school. It’s a transitional period where one goes from being a teenager towards becoming an adult. For a young man who lost his parents before he could tie his own shoes, this final summer holds more than just pre-school anxieties. Wil Carter is preparing to head off to school in Just Shut Up and Drive by Chynna Laird but his grandfather, Gramps, has other ideas in mind. While Wil just wants to work and hang out with his friends, Gramps prefers to toss his charge into a classic truck and head on a road trip. This is a coming of age story where the bond between a young man and the only father he has ever known is tested, strengthened and celebrated. This is a journey across the prairies of Canada that will touch your heart and possibly make you cry.

Our tale starts with Wil and Gramps arguing about a road trip that the senior has pushed on his grandson. The dynamic relationship between Wil and Gramps is funny, heart-breaking and above all else: realistic. This is a delicate and interesting relationship that is being described. We have an eighteen-year-old boy and a ninety-five-year-old man with more than a ‘generation gap’ between. Gramps is the one who raised Wil after the untimely death of his parents in an automotive accident. While each gives as good as he gets there is a nostalgic respect that Wil holds for his grandfather. You can hear the irritation in his voice as he deals with the elder man’s stubborn personality but you can also hear the respect he has for him as well. Wil was not a golden child while growing up and as he is aging and moving forward with his life he is beginning to understand everything his grandfather has done for him. The description of the relationship between the two and the dynamic in action seems like something out of a movie.

Laird knows what Manitoba, Canada looks like and appears to have at least visited the cities, villages and towns described in the book. For readers who live near or in a location used in any story faithfulness to the recreation is paramount. Laird uses local vernacular when referring to some of the locations and even though the story takes place in modern times, Gramps’ relaxed and sentimental accent rubs off on Wil. While it could be said that Laird sometimes tries a bit too hard to make Gramps really sound like a stereotypical old man, it doesn’t detract from the story.

While a road trip before heading off to university or college is an idea that has been done before, Just Shut Up and Drive by Chynna Laird brings more than just self-discovery to the tale. Wil not only learns about himself on his journey with his grandfather. He also learns about the parents he can barely remember. He learns about what he is capable of when a small child stows away in his truck, begging for help. He learns what it takes to be a man to the standards of what his grandfather has wanted for him. This book is a delightful short read that will tug at your heart strings while making you laugh at the same time.

Pages: 166 | ASIN: B00DGJK3B8

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Tarbabies: The Siege at Friendly Haven

5 Stars

In an exciting take on a post-apocalyptic world we find ourselves face to face with a strange phenomenon: human beings are being swallowed up and turned into gelatinous creatures that look and smell much like tar. Tarbabies Book 2 The Siege at Friendly Haven by Allen R. Brady is a point-of-view adventure story about residents of an assisted living facility and how they handle the tarbaby infestation. Being the second book in a series, a reader may think it imperative to read the first, but Brady does a fantastic job of treating this tale as a stand-alone. The story shifts from the points of view of various residents in Friendly Haven and their individual takes on the epidemic. While you don’t really know how or why the tarbabies have come into existence, it doesn’t really matter. They’re out there, just outside the window of Friendly Haven and the residents are all trapped inside. Or are they?

This book was a delightful read. While the end of the world as most know it is hardly light reading, the sheer ridiculousness of humanity morphing into some strange black things that swallow every human being they touch brings a sense of comedy to the stark reality of this world. Referred to with names like Gummi Man or Sloppy Joe, it scales back the seriousness of the story. Brady does a great job as he shifts from each person’s point of view. He effortlessly moves between men, women and varying ages. Each person has their own distinct personality which can be difficult when telling a tale in this fashion. The fact that our protagonists don’t fully understand how the tarbabies came to be, makes it easier for the reader, because it’s told from the characters points of view. Our protagonists don’t know, and it’s okay that we also don’t know.

Brady crafts his tale in such a way that the reactions to the situation are all very realistic. It’s hard to determine how people would truly react to humanity becoming blobs, but Brady takes a very good stab at how he thinks things would unfold. The energy and action in this book are constantly on the go, which is a perfect distraction.

If you’re looking for an interesting take on the post-apocalyptic potential of our world, then Tarbabies Book 2 The Siege at Friendly Haven by Allen R. Brady is a definite must. Our protagonists share their thoughts and concerns about the tarbaby epidemic with their own colorful personalities. It’s clear that the world seems to be ending and the biggest question on everyone’s mind is whether or not they’ll survive it. Readers looking for an entertaining read with plenty of action and contemplation will find what they seek in this tale.

Pages: 235 | ASIN: B017PXY0BY

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Stirrings

Descendent Darkness: Book One: Stirrings5 Stars

Descendent Darkness: Book One: Stirrings, begins in 1982 in Clarkes Summit, Virginia, where an evil curse causes unimaginable horrors to the town’s favourite families. Fast forward 21 years later and three men are once again facing the terrors they thought they had diminished forever. Richard Gaston, Father Ryan Bennett and deputy sheriff Tom Campbell find themselves facing nightmares and tortured souls of evil that will pull them into the depths of their darkest days. This skin prickling adventure will bring your nightmares to reality as they face an evil, cold presence; guaranteed to chill you to your bones.

Descendent Darkness, Stirrings, written by A. J. Macready is a supernatural novel set with a dash of crime and drama. There are tortured souls, family bonds and mysterious servants of darkness in this edge of your seat vampire styled thriller. The story line follows several families as they face horrors and challenges that will threaten the relationships of everyone involved. Hold tight as you are thrown into an adventure where the characters fight evil even when they are in the shadows of exhaustion- in order to save the ones they love.  The story will leave you hungry for more, as bullets race across the page and violent killers storm through the darkest of nights.

Unlike a typical demon styled novel, Stirrings storyline is complex and filled with clues and details that far surpass any other supernatural story I’ve read for some time. Forget the Twilight era, this novel is filled with the traditional scares and fight scenes fit for a warrior. I found myself unable to turn away as I dove deeper into the novel, growing attached to the characters and their unknown fate.

The characters in Stirrings are surprisingly relatable and the fear for what may be lurking in the dark is a feeling we have all experienced. The relationship between the siblings Holly and Mike Gaston is one to be marvelled as they battle odds together, sacrificing their bodies and souls to pursue a mission with the belief that nothing is more important than family. As well as being siblings, they have a beautiful friendship and you can feel how much they genuinely care for one another as they battle against the odds. However it seems their family are bound for tragedy and the reader will feel emotionally connected to each family member as they fight for what they believe to be right.

Macready’s marvellous way of using descriptive language will have you huddled up and feeling the chills on the back of your neck. I found myself peering around the corner wondering if the cool breeze was the wind or was actually evil materialising its face in the darkness. The narration flows easily and feels like a picture is painted on the page with how beautifully the story is presented.

This is a heart-stopping novel and would recommend this to anybody who loves supernatural stories mixed with crime, drama and friendship. I look forward to reading the other stories in the series!

Pages: 199 | ASIN: B016WLQTS2

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Angie Brown: A Jim Crow Romance

Angie Brown: A Jim Crow Romance5 Stars

Our tale centers around the life of one woman, Angie Brown, as she struggles to live and love in an unforgiving world. Angie Brown, A Jim Crow Romance was originally written by Lillian Jones Horace 68 years ago. Angie Brown is a window to the past: a look at what life was like for black people during the Jim Crow era. It opens with heartbreak as Angie is denied medical care for her ailing child. Angie is at a disadvantage for her entire life simply for being black. Her child is black. Therefore, they are treated as less than second-class citizens. The beginning of Angie’s heartbreak occurred before that moment, but is amplified as her child dies in her arms: denied a potentially life-saving treatment solely based on the color of his skin.

Many books about this subject can feel like textbooks, but this book is beautiful and heartfelt. Wrapped up in an emotional love story, Angie Brown will teach its readers about life from the point of view of a young woman. She has loved, she has lost both her husband, Jim, and her son. She finds herself abandoned with no way to return home. Her religious mother has forsaken her and Angie must persevere if she wants to survive. Through her sorrow and her uncertainty Angie rises above the hand that life has dealt her. She works her hardest to become someone she can deem as worthy.

While there is activism in this book on Angie’s part, it doesn’t overshadow the romance. It is important to understand that Angie is not going to take her fate lying down. As she learns and exposes herself to the world she begins to understand that she can make a difference if she wants to. Her eyes are opened to the trappings of the world and she realizes that someone must stand up for the young black children who are disadvantaged solely because of their skin color. Described with powerful words the reader may feel as though they are there as Angie involves herself with politics and does her best to support Roosevelt in his bid for president. He desires to be a president for all people, something that Angie believes in.

Angie loves. She loses and she finds herself in sorrow. She sees the disgusting side of the world and she sees the beauty in it as well. She builds herself up from the timid young girl to the successful woman at the end of our tale. Angie Brown, A Jim Crow Romance by Lillian Jones Horace will show readers the beauty and agony of love against the backdrop of a time where injustice was rampant in the South. There are reading comprehension questions at the end of the book which make this an excellent selection for further classroom reading or even as an addition to a book club roster. The romance is beautiful in this tale but the underlying message is just as important. Whether you’re reading for fun or reading to learn more, you will not be disappointed with this book. Even though so much time has passed, this timeless piece remains poignant and elegant.

ISBN: 1478773030

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Return to Babylon

Return to Babylon (The Orfeo Saga, #5)5 Stars

Return to Babylon is the fifth installment of the Orfeo saga and begins with Orfeo and Clarice returning from the New World and their battle with the Spartans to settle into a somewhat peaceful life in Pylos. However with the battles still fresh in their mind and the nightmares still haunting their sleep, Orfeo knew evil would eventually reappear- it was just a matter of when and where. An assassination attempt on Orfeo’s life leads him to leave with Clarice to venture to the city of Mesopotamia in hopes they will keep their beloved city of Pylos safe.

Meanwhile, kings begin to drop like flies with the kingdom of Mursillius the Hittite becoming the first to fall. Zinaida wants vengeance upon the coalition who put her on the throne and sends spies to find Zurga. What price will be paid for those who fight for justice and freedom?

Return to Babylon, written by Murray Lee Eiland Jr, continues the adventures of Orfeo who begins the heroic tale in the city of Pylos. Prepare for an action-packed story line that explores the dynamics between different kingdoms and the blood thirst for those who want to save the world.

Assassination attempts and secret spies lead the characters to question whether the events taking place are purely coincidental or is there a more sinister evil at work. As the reader explores the different kingdoms, you soon learn who is trustworthy and who hides behind closed doors, plotting their evil revenge. Networks of spies will reveal information that will mean our favourite characters will have to risk it all for the price of glory.

Murray Lee Eiland Jr. has an impeccable flair to paint the scenes of his story with such conviction that the reader will feel emotionally involved with the main characters and their harrowing tales. At times the novel has moments of historical accountability, giving readers a front row seat into the secrecy of life and lies within kingdoms. Once you add in the brave and fierce heroes, Return to Babylon, has an epic story line that will leave you on the edge of your seat and eager to read all installments. My favourite character was Cyrus, a young and eager apprentice who begins to learn the ins and outs of spy craft. I particularly enjoyed the character development and surprise turns that each character entails throughout the story.

This book in the series delves deeper into the world of mystery, intrigue and espionage. I particular like how Murray Lee Eiland Jr adds a light-hearted touch to scenes in order to create a memorable and powerful story line. It is a cool reminder that some of our biggest threats are being spun together behind the closed doors within the most powerful people in the city.

Return to Babylon is brilliantly written. I would recommend this novel for anyone who loves an action-packed novel filled with twists and turns that will leave you on the edge of your seat, and eager for more!

Pages: 217 | ASIN: B01KEDH2CG

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King Kynneth

King Kynneth (The Atriian Trilogy #3)5 StarsSpoilers are unavoidable in this review, so if you haven’t read the first two books, read at your own risk!

In the third book of the Atriia series, Kynneth Zeria has declared himself King after the death of his brother Jerrod. He thinks Christa is dead and blames Lor LaRosse for stealing her body. He vows revenge, but in truth, Christa and her two children are alive and living with Hannen in hiding. Dahla is raising the decoy “heir” at Cas Zeria.

Kynneth is beating the drums of war, determined to bring the other Lors under his rule and defeat Lor LaRosse. When he papers the land with propaganda, Christa’s safety is compromised. Hannen orders her to never leave their home. Of course, circumstances intervene, and she is discovered. She may be able to stop a battle, but can she stop an all-out war?

The book offers a calm beginning, following Sam/Hannen and Christine/Christa as they heal and rebuild. Their shared experience on both Earth and Atriia get a lot of play here, with some surprising and heartwarming results. The first two parts of the novel are a great way to get reacquainted with the characters and the unique Atriian dialect—which can be a challenge—so there’s a glossary in the back if you need a refresher. Hannan loves her fiercely, but she struggles with the fact that he is her stepbrother. Even if they are not blood-related, she can’t bring herself to touch him, and if she does give in to her desire, another pregnancy would certainly kill her.

Don’t let the lovely pastoral scenes lull you into a false sense of security. This is the Loper of Zeria and the Foul Fraigen Dropper we’re reading about! Passion, danger, and the madness of King Kynneth are spreading across the land, and Christa—or her legend—is firmly at the center of it all. Powerful men from all sides of the conflict want to use her for their own gain. Some want to kill her, others to use her as bait, or want to lock her away to sate their own lust for power. But Hannen can’t let her go. He stalks her with a single-minded purpose: make her his forever, or die trying.

Christa Clavin again shows her bravery, even as she fights for her life through delirium, rage, and pain. She’s true to her headstrong nature, prone to ignoring advice she doesn’t want to hear while making incredibly risky decisions. Another constant is her sense of responsibility for the people whose very lives depend on her actions.

Fair warning: some of the scenes in this book make the other two books pale in comparison. Some of the horrific situations are pure nightmare fuel; it’s no wonder Christa has so many bad dreams.

The people of Attria think Christa Clavin, the Loper of Zeria is legend come to life, and indeed, her fate may be led by the hand of the divine Sola herself. It’s not hard to imagine her becoming a beloved hero of legend. I think fans of this series will certainly feel the same.

Pages: 569 | ASIN: B01KEMXROY

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Proud American

Proud American5 Stars

This collective memoir recounts the history of Sergio Tinoco, a migrant worker born in the USA accidentally, and his life as he maneuvers the complicated world of privileges and adventures. The storytelling is light and intuitive, offering a beautiful insight to the world of a maturing American trapped within a completely different frame-of-mind within his grandparents, who had raised him. As the years progress through Tinoco’s smooth narrative you see how his growth manifests in impressive ways as he joins the army and continues his life as a strong individual and proud American.

A tough beginning gives Sergio a critical and unique insight to the world that is clearly delivered through the narrative of the story, which is a tale about the author’s own beginnings and his growth into an adult. He was born into an immigrant family, having to be raised by his grandparents who were located in the US instead of his biological mother who was stuck in Mexico.

One aspect that is heavily played into in the beginning of the story is the itching desire to escape your hometown, your family, and reach a greater place. Most kids and teenagers feel this way, I believe, despite what kind of upbringing they had. It’s inspiring to read how that path opens up for a young soldier with such a rich background.

Fear and ambition is a common element in the history of Sergio, and the way he writes really draws readers in and lets them experience the emotions he feels during the twists and turns of his life. There are not many other characters aside from the storyteller, just brief occurrences of names and influences as years pass by in a beautiful trail of words and imagery. The narrative is quite similar to how our real lives unfold, full of minor characters and events that help mold and craft us into the people we stand as today. The same is true for Sergio, and the story is patriotic and full of struggles and achievements that you can share in while reading.

Every few pages readers are treated with an image of the author, sometimes accompanied by other family members and friends, or just of an action he has told us about. It’s a great way to connect with his audience and it really helped me get a picture of the life he lived and how it affected him.

Since I didn’t have an upbringing or lifestyle even remotely close to what Sergio’s environment, it was very interesting to read about, and I enjoyed the opportunity to learn about things foreign to me. The writing was thought-provoking, and I enjoyed the little instances of humor that were thrown in. Seeing the evolution of Sergio and his mindset over the years as he thinks back was a really enjoyable read, and I loved the way he painted vivid images and made me understand how his mind worked. A truly beautiful story.

ISBN: 1635241952

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Vampires: Don’t You Just Hate Them?

Vampires: Don't You Just Hate Them?: An Urban Fantasy Novel5 Stars

If you’re looking for excitement laced with lots of violence and sex then you need to look no further than Danny Estes’ Vampires: Don’t You Just Hate Them? We begin our story with our protagonist, Jonathan, who finds himself speaking with some form of a psychologist. At first, the reader is unawares in regards to what the story is going to be about. Jonathan speaks about how he always thought vampires were myth. It’s not until a bit later on that Jonathan reveals through the effort of flashbacks that he is a half-werewolf and he has been living with his mate, and full werewolf, Jasmine. What begins as a story of coming to grips with the laws and rules of Pack behavior that Jonathan is not used to, devolves in an exciting way into a gun fight between werewolf and vampire. However, not everything is as it seems.

Estes does a fantastic job with this story. He’s very descriptive and by telling the story from Jonathan’s point of view we can feel as though we are Jonathan as he struggles to accept the fact that his mate has brought him to live with a Pack, something he is not accustomed to, where females are dominant and his opinion is not required. Jonathan is faced with the difficult task of merging into a culture he has never heard good things about. His father is a full werewolf who ran away from pack life with his half-werewolf mother in tow. Jonathan is aggressive, stubborn and has deep rooted feelings about justice: traits that are not welcome in his new world.

It appears that werewolves are very physical, sexual beings, which is an interesting take on the race. Estes doesn’t go too over the top with his descriptions about the sexual events that take place in his novel. He describes things with enough emphasis that crude words are not necessary and it is clear what he is getting at. By having the story from Jonathan’s point of view we’re also awarded his assistance with explaining things that might not be understood at first glance. Whenever there is a chance the reader is confused, Jonathan is confused as well and asks for explanation or provides it. It’s almost like breaking the fourth wall without really speaking with the reader. A very clever tactic.

Estes does what he does best: tell an engaging story with all the trappings of entertainment. Vampires: Don’t You Just Hate Them? performs better than a movie with rigorous action scenes, lust and explosions in all the right places. There is a story to be told here, as well, which doesn’t get overshadowed by all the action. Jonathan is not all he seems to be, and he doesn’t even know it. While it may be clichéd to say that there is more to him than meets the eye, that is the reality. Estes milks that for all it’s worth and ends his tale with flair and excitement. Those who are looking for an exciting read with good character development and a plot that doesn’t get ignored, will definitely find everything they’re looking for in this book.

Pages: 276 | ASIN: B009PO52PK

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The Genocide Gene

The Genocide Gene (The Onryo Saga Book 3)5 Stars

The Genocide Gene is the third book in the thrilling Onryo Saga and continues the adventures of the teenage superheroes in their fight to save humanity. Chikara, Renka and Gen are the superhero trio with mystical powers that they inherited from a ring with a mysterious black rock. The trio is on a crime fighting spree when Chikara receives a message from her late mother that takes the superheroes on an adventure to Sierra Leone. Meanwhile, a team of brothers are planning to eradicate tribes in a deadly attack and soon enough the teenagers are caught up in a whirlwind of African supremacists, terrorists and evil politicians. Friendships and alliances will be put to the test as they battle their way through a storm of evil extremists. Will their friendships survive this heroic escapade or will it finally be the end of the Japanese crime fighters?

The Genocide Gene, written by Rocco Ryg, is the third edition of the Onryo Saga and as always he delivers an exceptional story line packed with action and charm. The story begins back in 1985, with a cover-up involving a mysterious black stone which gives people ungodly powers. This powerful stone forges the path to a catastrophe that will echo its effects in years to come.

It then flashes forward to the year 2012 where everyone’s favourite Japanese super heroes have banded together with their mystical powers to clean up the streets of drug crimes, child trafficking and murdering of innocent souls.

Like a voice beyond the grave, Chikara is contacted with a message left by her late mother where she requests that Chikara, Renka and Gen venture to the deep throes of Africa. Friendships will be tested and lines crossed as you delve deeper into the twisted underground world of Sierra Leone, forcing the reader to confront terrorists, gangsters and teenagers with magical abilities. You will reminisce with old friends and be left with a bitter taste as they dance with old enemies and form unlikely alliances in a bid to do what they do best- saving lives.

Prepare to be on the edge of your seat as you follow extremists on the hunt for those who can heal, and feel the terror as enemies are enveloped with an evil presence. My favourite part of Rocco Ryg’s novels is that he is able to intricately weave multiple story lines together in such a way that the reader will be engrossed from start to finish. I love seeing how the characters grow and how they challenge themselves in situations using their individual powers. The Genocide Gene also explores a rich diversity of cultural differences and gives you a taste of gangster life across different nations.

Staying true to the themes of action crossed with a dash of politics and mystical powers, The Genocide Gene will be sure to satisfy your need for a superhero tale. I would recommend this for all who are in need of an adventure. Will they be successful in Chikaras mission from the grave or have the superheroes finally met their match?

Pages: 268 | ASIN: B01M0KF137

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Another Tribe: Our Eternal Curse

Our Eternal Curse: Another Tribe by [Rumney, Simon]5 Stars

Heartache and pain follow our protagonist, Julii, as she makes her way through the life she is living in America during the 1860’s. Our Eternal Curse – Another Tribe by Simon Rumney shows Julii as a young, naïve Aboriginal woman living with her small tribe and ignorant of the world. She does not know about war on the scale of what the white American’s are fighting. She doesn’t understand racism and slavery in the way we have learned about. She lives carefully and quietly with her family. She is extremely intelligent and takes her small world for granted. Then she meets a man who is gravely injured at the side of a river she has always gone to. A man who does not look like the men she knows. A man who may never wake up from the coma he slips into. This man is Robert, and he will change the very way she lives.

While this book is part of a series, it’s easy to read on its own. Required knowledge of the previous books is not necessary, although it may heighten the experience. This book is overflowing with raw, human emotion while not being afraid to look at the disgusting parts of colonial history. Rumney certainly knows how to spin a tale. While told in the third person we see the tale from Julii’s point of view: we hear her thoughts, and we begin to understand and learn about the world through her eyes. It’s a clever way to do it, especially for those who may not be aware or understand this point in history.

As Julii learns about the reality of the outside world, we learn about it as well. Her confusion and the struggle with a foreign language are easily portrayed and the reader feels as though we are Julii: we are also the ones who are seeing this world for the first time and learning this language for the first time. The world of 1860’s America is cruel. To understand how an Aboriginal person, a woman for that matter, would have felt during this time is difficult. This is a time of rampant racism, of distrust and the inability to treat all human beings with respect and dignity. It can be painful to read, as it is important to realize that these thoughts and attitudes still exist almost 200 years later. Rumney does a great job of making the reader identify with Julii, the marginalized main character in our tale.

With a story so beautifully crafted it’s hard not to get immersed while reading it. Julii goes through so much in her life: she experiences things so rapidly that it’s hard not to feel for her. If you are looking for a heart-tugging story with excellent character development and a subliminal message, Our Eternal Curse – Another Tribe by Simon Rumney is definitely worth a pick up. Readers won’t go wrong by potentially stepping outside of their comfort zone and reading about the fantastical life of Julii.

Pages: 314 | ASIN: B00TI01JH6

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