Category Archives: Three Stars

West bEgg: The World’s New Power Elite

West bEgg: the world's new power elite3 Stars

West bEgg: the world’s new power elite centers on the narrative of four main characters; Luca, Anna, Carolina, and La Revolução. The first three characters are assistants working for demanding, ruthless, and utterly annoying bosses, while La Revolução is an architect who works under her own annoying boss as well as beside his self-righteous daughter. The main theme that connects these characters is that they all seem to hate their jobs, and the daily tasks that they are given. All characters and their bosses are brought together at The Fanta Party where, despite endless preparation, disaster strikes out of the blue.

Mari.Reiza does a beautiful job of crafting each character for the reader. While they are all united in their disdain for their bosses and perhaps even depression at their personal lives, the characters are in fact, completely different individuals. Luca knows he is a punching bag and keeps this mantra rolling on repeat throughout the short novel. Anna would never imagine standing up to her boss, and goes out of her way to make sure that everything is perfect, while Carolina is perfectly okay with getting on her boss’ nerves, yet cries to anyone that will listen about how terrible he is. And then we have La Revolução, who seems to be the most interesting out of all these characters. She is not an assistant, but she is tasked with working with Irajá, the boss’ spoiled daughter, who is more trouble than she is worth. In a way, La Revolução is an assistant to Irajá, but her ultimate concern seems to be with ‘living the dream’. This could be acquainted to actually making a difference with her life’s work, rather than building parking lots or destroying properties that act as safe houses for abused women.

Each of the characters’ stories are told through their own point of view in each chapter. The reader will read about Luca’s experience of tending to his boss’ needs, then the next chapter might switch to Carolina crying on the shoulder of a sympathetic listener. The author does a great job of leading the reader up to the moment of The Fanta Party, where all of these characters will meet. However, this is where it falls flat for the reader. As carefully planned as it might have seemed, the party meets with disaster and we find the assistants running around trying to piece everything back to together like always. It seems that the misdoings of each boss has come back to wreak havoc on this party, and the assistants are the ones left to clean up the mess. It’s all very rushed through. I felt that much of the novel detailed the daily workings of each character, only to rush onto the climax of the story and not spend enough time fleshing out what I thought was the most interesting part of the novel. This novel should definitely be applauded for the difficult positions in which it places its characters, but overall, more details and a greater climax would have been welcomed.

I loved the detailed character descriptions and the authors grasp of nuance in character development. West bEgg is a fascinating piece of fiction that colorfully reveals the lives of the upper class.

Pages: 150 | ASIN: B01N4MSUKV

Buy Now From Amazon.com

The Jealous Flock

The Jealous Flock: A Literary Epic in Miniature, 2017 by [Borodin, Ashley]3 Stars

The Jealous Flock by Ashley Borodin is a realistic fiction story that centers around the slightly strained relationship of a married couple and their lives as individuals in partnership and their young adult son. The narrative drops readers directly into the lives of the characters featured and lets you explore their lives and innermost thoughts as they struggle with identity and the maturing of unique ideas. Heavily geared towards deep thinking, challenging societal ideals, and the mass acceptance of those who are different, The Jealous Flock is a story that is designed to open the audience’s mind and heart and think outside of the box.

What seems to be an ordinary, white picket fence family in England takes the spotlight in a vivid narrative from each character’s point of view. Hints of tension between Doris and Martin, a married couple both caught up in their jobs, play their part on their son John who is beginning to phase into his adult life from that of a teenager. As Martin travels to Afghanistan to help stop a potential blood bath with jihadists, Doris is left at home to struggle through the differences in her personal opinions and morals as they pertain to her career in the law as a PR agent. Meanwhile, left behind in his parents own crisis, John quits his respectable job and flees overseas where he hopes to find himself and pursue his passion for photography. In Australia, he follows the steps of his father in participating in protests that aren’t always peaceful to defend Muslims battling hate and discrimination. Here he meets Randall, an unhappy widower pursuing an unusual relationship with a transgender prostitute who is stuck in her own shell of self-hatred.

The relationships in The Jealous Flock are realistic and relatable, breathing life into the characters both on their own and in harmony with their counterparts. The story takes on a political drive with themes of racism, xenophobia, and sexism as strong elements in the plot. Dynamics between the father and son of this story are particularly captivating, as Borodin manages to catch those meaningful moments that happen during the shift from parent to lifelong friend and mentor.

Ashley Borodin makes a strong call to arms to fight against society’s expectation of us in any walk of life. In a way, the author has created a coming-of-age story not just for young adults but for those in later years as well. This story dives deep into your thoughts and twists open the cap on unique thinking and encourages ideas of change and acceptance. The graphic, bold way that the author takes depression and insecurities relatable to everyone is a refreshing breath of life and gives you the chance to realize that you are more than what a shallow skin can provide for you. Though a bit wordy and emotionally daunting, Borodin transcribes a striking narrative that has the ability to strike the hearts of those who yearn for something more than mundane life.

Pages: 66 | ASIN: B01NAPZWB8

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Chasing Ghosts

Chasing Ghosts: a Reckless Perfection by [Francois, Laura]3 Stars

When we’re young, life seems incredibly hard. Things don’t go the way we want, we can’t do the things we want and we don’t understand why things are the way they are. Laura Francois explores all the trappings of teenage angst with Chasing Ghosts, a novel centered on the lives of four teenage girls who are trying to navigate high school, relationships and the pressures of reality. These four girls haven’t had the easiest life as all of them deal with some sort of familial crisis. There’s the girl who is just dying to be seen by her parents as a real human being with feelings, the girl who tenderly wants to have a music career while navigating her father’s shortcomings, the girl who has suffered more heartache than most teenagers and finally the girl who can’t forgive herself for letting her anger control her. These four girls will find their lives woven together for what proves to be an eventful year of their lives.

When writing for young readers it’s important to use language they understand. Francois does this quite well. She uses vernacular that teenagers would be comfortable with and recognize. She uses brands and references that the generation reading this book will understand, but the journey these young women have embarked on is timeless.

Francois doesn’t pull punches with her characters, either. One character in particular has been through hell and back yet it doesn’t feel overwhelming or unrealistic. The lives these women lead are certainly dramatic, as all teenage lives are, but they don’t feel fake. This is a story other young women would feel inspired by, and it resonates with the reader. Francois understands this and crafts something that is dramatic without feeling like you’re watching an unrealistic movie. Everything that happens to these girls could occur in real life. This lends that much more power to the underlying message.

This book is definitely geared towards younger readers and it demonstrates an ability to connect with the generation it is meant to connect with. Chasing Ghosts is a perfect title because all of these young women are certainly chasing after something. Readers will want to follow the journey to the end to see who reaches their goal and who is laid to waste by the very thing they desire.

Pages: 608 | ASIN: B01KELBYU4

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Sprk.It

Modern Day Cowboy: The Making of a Gunfighter

Modern Day Cowboy: The Making of a Gunfighter3 Stars

The novel Modern Day Cowboy: The Making of a Gunfighter depicts the life of Mattie, a young woman living in the middle of nowhere, Canada. Mattie struggles to recover from a painful incident which took the life of a mentally disabled boy that she cared for, and as a result, Mattie takes up employment at the local gun shop in town. It isn’t long before the owner senses Mattie’s need for revenge, and sends her to a boot camp in Arizona to train to become a gunfighter. She quickly becomes proficient at her newly acquired trade. But being rising talent comes with many disadvantages, as other female gunfighters come out to challenge Mattie. When she’s not off to a fight, she is conflicted with feelings for her contract and love interest, David. When his safety is threatened, unlikely friends come to Mattie’s defense, and old histories begin to reveal themselves.

What’s most interesting about this story is the idea of real life gun-fighting. The concept is very unique and Nathaniel Sheft really brings this hobby to life with his novel. The possibility of the organization, a multi-billion-dollar underground business, where women are trained for months at a time to go out and kill each other in a few brief seconds is fascinating. It’s even more empowering that the novel focuses on the sport as it is played by women. Sheft really challenges gender roles and introduces us to some of the most conniving, evil, clever, and entertaining female characters throughout this book, and it’s nice to read through a novel where the protagonist is a strong female character. Mattie’s transformation from depressed, isolated girl, to confident a, in your face, woman is what gives the story it’s flavor. She shows readers that you don’t have to be drop down beautiful or have any sort of history in etiquette. As long as you’re determined to accomplish your goals, you’ll be alright in the end.

The drawbacks to this novel however was that the writing style fluctuates between being great and just okay, especially when it came to dialogue or the inner monologue of characters. When any of the characters were joking or angry, their dialogue came through as more aggressive, however, the language was more colloquial – some slang words here, mispronunciations there, which is fine. However, it was unbelievable for every character to speak in that manner when they were angry. Also, throughout the book, we get a lot of David and Mattie’s inner monologues. These are so elegant, almost philosophical, especially with David. It’s such a strong contrast to the average, or less than polite language found throughout the rest of the novel. It seems that many characters in the novel have the same sort of inner monologue, so it doesn’t leave room for much originality in the words and thoughts of the characters. The language used to describe a scene was jumbled or vague at times which made it difficult to figure out the setting, who was talking, what action was going on, and what point in time the story was actually taking place.

Overall, the idea behind Modern Day Cowboy is intriguing and leads to fascinating possibilities.

Pages: 487 | ASIN: B01LXC2GTL

Buy Now From Amazon.com

The Nefarious, Noble and Nocturnal

The Nefarious, Noble, and Nocturnal by [Holman, Michael W.]3 Stars

If you’re in the mood for something short, supernatural and entertaining, look no further than The Nefarious, Noble and Nocturnal compilation by Michael Holman. These four short tales come together in one volume to tease and delight readers. We meet three ghostly women and a vampire during our adventure and they all have something on their minds. One wanders the world in limbo waiting for a lover that will never return. Another warns her former partner of impending danger and another woman is completely unaware that she has even passed on. We close out with a vampire who is seeking someone to accompany her on her immortal journey. Four women, four tales of spooky versions of affection. Will all four tales have a happy ending? What would be a happy ending for a spectre? You’ll just have to read to find out for yourself!

When writing a compilation of stories it is always good to have an underlying theme or two. Holman uses slight affairs with romance and the supernatural in all of this tales. While the ideas are entertaining, the writing lacks somewhat. Our first story doesn’t have clear transitions in time and the characters are all too accepting of the supernatural event that takes place. It seems unrealistic and rushed. Our second story is shorter and is written much better than the first installment. There are some stylistic issues, but they do not detract from the actual tale. The same can be said about the third and fourth story, although they all feel as though they were rushed and incomplete. It can be difficult to write in a shorter format and still get all the important details across, but I feel that Holman has made a valiant effort.

If you could skip the first story and focus on the remaining three you would have a much better read. They are better written and feel more like short stories than the first. The language used in the remaining three fits better and more of the important substance of the tale comes across. The first story is brimming with so much possibility that the story feels hampered by the shorter format, where it would really shine as a full length novel.

The Nefarious, Noble and Nocturnal is an interesting compilation of four supernatural events and their impact on a very natural world. All four tales are separate from each other but have an underlying theme of romance or affection. I found the ideas behind each story to be entertaining and the story lines were easy to follow, but the feeling of being rushed detracts from what could otherwise be an interesting read. The language is easy enough that these stories should be enjoyable for all reading levels. Readers will find a nice nugget of storytelling in this small book.

Pages: 28 | ASIN: B01NANCV3M

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Never a Choice but Always a Gift

Never a Choice but Always a GiftMax Kristoff, a man in his thirties who is living in New York, is about to come face to face with his past. When he walks into a house in Brooklyn, trying to connect with a person from that very past, he is plunged into a haunting situation. This situation sets him on a journey that will reveal—not only his character—but what lies in his heart and soul.

Will Max find what he is searching for?
Will he ever find closure?
Will he find himself along this journey?
Or will he die without every knowing the answers he’s always been seeking?

3 Stars

Never a Choice but Always A Gift By Adam Que is a book about change. Que takes you on a journey of Max’s life. Max was born and raised in the Bronx and currently living life with no real thought of tomorrow. After receiving some surprisingly unsurprising news, his life is bound to change.

Trials and tribulations surround Max and his long time friend, Bibby. Love, sacrifice and pride are challenged throughout the story. Memories are always with us. Can these two forgive and forget, or will they live the remainder of their lives holding a grudge?

Que’s use of vocabulary helps the reader relate to the different characters and really help you feel the emotions. The reader is lead along an easy to follow narrative that is sure to stimulate emotional response. That being said, there are times where the vocabulary becomes redundant and phrases are repeated which disrupts an otherwise sentimental novel.

Max is a well developed character and the story is gripping, but I felt that his thoughts in the beginning of the novel were constantly interrupted by tangents, side stories and information dumps which caused the story to lose focus. But when Max meets his love interest Celeste the background information is given in a less dense format and the novel flows easily and keeps the readers attention.

This novel is one of the more unique one’s I’ve read in 2016. Story detail is revealed through the use of double narrative. Things that Max is not willing to tell the reader is revealed through Bibby’s perspective. The switch of perspectives results in a change of language and tone which truly captures the feel of a new narrator. Few books I have read with a similar method of perspective change have lacked that quality.

I recommend this book to people going through hardships. Hope and unconditional love are cornerstones in the characters relationship. Never a Choice but Always A Gift is about a journey, but not the kind where characters trek through exotic locales. It’s a journey through life, to find love.

Pages: 266 | ASIN: B01EYS4Z9U

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Not Alone

Not Alone3 Stars

Not Alone is a modern retelling of the biblical story of Job, in which a man’s faith in God is tested by having everything but his life taken from him – his family murdered, his crops burnt, livestock slaughtered, and his physical self covered in boils and sores. Not Alone brings this story into a modern-day setting with Joe Moretti as Job. Joe, with his wife and five children, is mostly content with his life and hopes he is a good person. However, unbeknownst to him, there is a war being waged for his soul between the highest of angels and the lowest of demons. Joe suffers similarly to Job, and has most everything ripped from him. He and his wife must suffer immense pains to see if humanity and faith itself can survive anything.

The novel has a lot going for it, but it’s held back in many regards. There is an intelligent sincere voice in this novel, but there are many spelling and grammar errors. Many of the scenes are thought provoking, but there are jumps between narration that cause the reader to stop and ask what is happening. The overall pacing hinders otherwise great character development – the jumps in dialogue and setting cause far too much friction to enjoy the areas of the book where the flow moves the reader well. The story really draws you in with the depth of characters and tense scenes, but there is a lack of focus – the book will take its time to describe the visuals of the various angels and demons in the war for Joe’s soul, but then rush through other crucial scenes. A good example of this is when the news of his business being nearly destroyed hits Joe the same time as he is told that his five children have been viciously slaughtered. The whole scene flies by, with the police telling Joe that his children have been murdered in a ritualistic killing and then leaving moments later, with the whole exchange coming off nearly robotic in its utter lack of emotion from either party involved.

While the various descriptions help the reader visualize the setting and characters of the story, I often felt that the focus was on the wrong subjects, for example: pausing to inform the reader how tall every single fantastical entity they meet is really hinders the book. I often found myself engrossed in this novel and Joe’s life being torn apart, but I was often thrown off by common terms used in incorrect ways, like saying ‘beamer’ in non-speech text without capitalization to indicate a BMW, or misspelling the main female character of the original Star Wars (it should be Leia, not Leah, it could be that I’m too much of a nerd to even notice this). Not Alone is brimming with potential, there is nothing in here that a good editor cannot fix, so that this novel can be the truly great novel that I know it can be.

Not Alone is a re-skin of a morality tale from the Good Book; a conglomerate of descriptions; a hope by the author to show how much faith and understanding in a higher power can be pushed to the breaking point, only to bounce back. The author has a fantastic understanding of Christianity and how it can help people.

Pages: 242 | ISBN: 1633063194

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Sicania Rising

Sicania Rising3 Stars

Sicania Rising by Daniel Buckley is a work of fiction set in the ancient times of sea trade routes and praises to gods for their help in all matters of life. The story features several characters and a depth of detail sure to please any lover of historical fiction, especially of the Mediterranean variety.

One of the great rulers, Seidon, seeks to make headway on the islands of Sicania to further strengthen his hold on the trade routes of the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, his sons are hoping to be elected as the new rulers of the land but seem to have differing views on how to govern. Several other characters have roles to play as the power vacuum of the Mediterranean attracts all interested and worthy seafarers, creating a dynamic and intriguing story for the reader.

Particularly, I enjoyed the descriptions of adventuring and sea warfare. It was interesting to see how wars on the water would have taken place back then, and the author does a good job of putting the reader right in the middle of the battles to soak in all of the details he provides. Language issues do limit some of this, but the strength of the story still shines through the errors, leaving the reader with a solid understanding of what happened in each situation.

It’s unfortunate that the author doesn’t spend more time developing the characters, because they are interesting and beg to be fleshed out. The story has a tendency to jump into a bit of character development and dialogue, only to quickly fast forward through time with more exposition, leaving the reader’s investment in the characters lacking. Otherwise the historical accuracy of this book is the true gem of the story. If you are a fan of historical fiction you will enjoy the depth of detail delivered in this novel.

Sometimes the writing is difficult to follow as it often lacks structure and has inconsistent grammar. It’s a shame because there are glimpses of a great narrative hiding under all of the mistakes.

Overall, Mr. Buckley does a fantastic job of establishing a fictional conflict in a well-documented historical setting. However, his focus on historical facts and neglect of meaningful character development might leave fans of fiction wanting more. For those that enjoy nonfiction, historical sea battles and Mediterranean politics, this story is worth your time.

Pages: 235 | ASIN: B01M3X3YDG

Buy Now From Amazon.com

The Taming of Adam

The Taming of Adam: Part 1: The Path to Envale3 Stars

Adam Miller was never much of a student. Even though he dropped out of high school, his wealth and skill in magic get him into Cooper University for the Magical Sciences. Even though he’s signed up for many classes, he only attends the lectures on black magic. The shadow world of black magic fascinates him, and he’s learning fast. Adam is the ultimate loner; he’s rude and dismissive of others, considers his own professors to be idiots, and is physically violent with women. When he goes completely out of control, he’s arrested for his crimes and is forced to face his own shortcomings.

Gene London, Adam’s lawyer, has his own set of secrets. He is desperately looking for a powerful black mage to help him bring his lover Ellen back into the real world. Ellen is a white mage who is trapped in Envale, a place she describes as a world of light. When Adam meets Ellen, she shows him a whole new level of power that could grant him everything he ever wanted, or destroy him completely.

What I liked about this novel was that it is set in a contemporary world where magic is common. Mage is a trade like any other, and mages can earn a good living through magic. There’s also a predictable set of people who want to keep magic under control and set strict rules for mages to follow.

Adam starts out as a completely unlikable character. He’s a jerk to everyone, even those he thinks of as friends, and he seems to have no real reason for it. But when things go bad for him, he realizes that he can’t do everything alone, so he begins to make a few friends who help him practice and learn more spells. He’s not only mastering magic but also learning compassion for others and how they can be stronger by working together.

Gene London isn’t the greatest guy, either. He’s a slightly shady lawyer who uses bribery and intimidation to get what he wants. If he can secure funding for a top-secret magical experiment, he may be able to free her. He needs a powerful black mage to do it, and Adam just might be the one he’s looking for.

The first half of the novel is a chore to get through. It’s slow to start, bogged down by too many spelling and grammar errors and long information dumps that delay the plot. The information is “told” rather than shown, which makes for a dull reading experience. I was particularly disappointed in the chapter that laid out the origin of Renin. What should be an inspiring myth of gods and creation was poorly told.

Fortunately, both the quality of the writing and the plot gets much better, and the stakes get higher as the story progresses. As the magical experiment looms closer, danger and magical intrigue ramp up to a confrontation that could destroy everything Adam has accomplished.

Pages: 305 | ASIN: B00NJ2BZIW

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Another Self

Another Self (Our Eternal Curse #1)3 Stars

Another Self throws us into the life of a girl who has been broken of all spirit and self-esteem, and we’ve very often reminded of that. Perhaps that is why this extremely strange story catapults us through Ancient Rome and how this one damaged girl manages to take it all down with her.

While the beginning of the story is a bit confusing, especially when you have no idea why everyone wants to kill this poor girl for, the middle of the book catapults you through this insane spider-web of lies, deceit and pure financial carnage. If you ever wanted lessons on how to overthrow a government, destroy a black market and basically scare the daylights out of a houseful of poor slaves, Julia is your teacher. Though thoroughly damaged, she manages to corrupt all of Rome and herself at the same time. Did I mention that she was pretty mentally damaged?

In all honestly, the game she plays is fairly amazing. Outside of her time wallowing in a glass of wine or gazing lovingly at a piece of jewelry she doesn’t own, Julia turns out to be an incredible sponge of knowledge which helps her to become the guru of all things dirty and deceitful in the underbelly of Rome. Like a string of Cash and Loan stores, Julia becomes the wealthiest person in all of Rome, and very few people know that she is the one to do it. She strings up her victims in little chains of events that will make your head spin, and at some point, have you cheering for her until it all comes crashing down.

If the beginning didn’t exist, and the ending didn’t punch you in the face with unanswered questions and situations, the middle of the book would be an amazing tale of a poor unwilling slave girl who became the most powerful person in an ancient civilization. The sheer width of power that she gained from one well thought out plan and the manipulation of a powerful force who’s heart she stole, it needs to be read and admired. Take notes, as it can show that if you put your mind to it, as damaged as that might be, you can achieve anything. Even if you have an incredibly damaged mind from years of mental and physical abuse. Just pointing out how often you must remember that she’s mentally damaged, as the author will remind you just as frequently. Ignoring that fact, reading about how a city can be overtaken by any mentally equipped individual was a fun ride. Though a lot of people were hurt for it, watching someone get revenge from those that hurt them is very satisfying as well.

Hopefully a lot of questions will be answered as you travel through the series and through time with Julia’s character. She seems to gain a new life every time her old one ends, and hopefully this book can do that as well. Let’s go Julia, on to your next adventure.

Pages: 287 | ASIN: B00G4QWIZY

Buy Now From Amazon.com

%d bloggers like this: