Book Review: General Fiction

Book Review: Emerging From Shadows – Poetry by Balroop Singh

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Emerging From Shadows : Poetry by Balroop SinghEmerging From Shadows : Poetry by Balroop Singh by Balroop Singh
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Poetry is an inspirational and emotive format that allows writers to express a myriad of ideas and images percolating inside their minds. Balroop Singh takes this skill to new heights in her collection of poems entitled ‘Emerging From Shadows.’ This is the second book I’ve read from the author, but it will not be the last. I’ve previously read a non-fiction, self-help book focused on how to be a better person, and I’ve also perused many of her regular blog posts. If you’re looking for advice, beautiful imagery, or a wonderful spectrum of emotions, you should dive into her work.

The first thing that strikes me with many of these poems is the vocabulary. Singh has an immense handle on the English language; students and authors needing to expand their word choice and definitions would do well to read this book. Despite being well read and knowing many unusual and lesser-known words, Singh’s poems pushed me to look up many new words. In poetry, this is ideal, in my opinion. Sometimes the word choice is every bit as important as the rhyming, length of phrasing, or metaphors. By pushing our understanding of meaning and images, Singh has taken our experience to a new level in this collection.

One of my favorites, ‘In My Grave’ is lighter in terms of word choice but also had the more powerful images. Phrases such as: ‘I live unwanted inside my grave’ or ‘The choices were cryptically caustic’ or ‘The carcass waits, wilting without care’ stunned me for a brief time. The carcass, while potentially literal, is also figurative… shedding our past, ignoring the pain, etc. Great moments in this larger collection, and I really enjoyed being pushed to think harder and be more introspective in my analysis of relationships and everyday events.

A high recommendation for poetry lovers, and those looking to experience something from literature and words… 4.5 stars. Thank you for sharing this one, Ms. Singh.

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are five books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, and Haunted House Ghost. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

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Book Review: Thirsty for Water by N. N. Light

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Thirsty for WaterThirsty for Water by N.N. Light
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thirsty for Water is a short story by N. N. Light that was published in 2014. I’ve read other non-fiction books by the author, but this was my first fiction piece. It will not be my last. From the beginning, the story captivates your heart. Juliet is in class, disinterested in hearing about a village in Africa, yet her teacher groans on about it. While trying to ignore everything, Juliet is stunned when a 7-year-old boy appears on her desk. He’s tiny, almost magical, and wants to know why she doesn’t care about his village. It’s time for the heartstrings to be pulled… as in this tale, Juliet learns why it’s so important to help others who are in trouble and need your support.

N. N. Light achieves a lot in this quick read. Without being pushy or direct, the author shows readers how they can help when so many people around us are in need. Juliet is your stereotypical teenager (not everyone is like her, but we definitely know the type) yet she grows on you with each line. Learning a valuable lesson is an important part of life, and I’m glad there are stories like this one to help make it even easier. I do enjoy Light’s writing style — simple, effective, descriptive, personal. Kudos for a well-written and memorable story.

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are five books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, and Haunted House Ghost. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Tempted by Mr. Wrong by Jacquie Biggar

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Tempted by Mr. WrongTempted by Mr. Wrong by Jacquie Biggar
Tempted by Mr. Wrong, a novel published in 2017 by Jacquie Biggar, is the first romantic suspense book I’ve read in a very long time. I previously read another novel in a different genre by this author but wanted to sample something at opposite end of the spectrum [of a normal read for me] this week. I love suspense but the romance stuff is fairly new to me. In the end, it was quite a winner. Let’s dive into the review…

Tammy-Jo, better known as TJ, has a bad track record with men. She had a bit of an illicit affair with a stepbrother, Jason, in her late teens (parents had only just married) but her father chased him away, causing a family drama that wouldn’t end for years. TJ married another guy to help out her father, as they went into business together… but what type of business was it exactly? We don’t know in the beginning, yet something seems foul as the husband ends up dead. We know it’s bad when TJ looks guilty and someone attacks her to collect missing evidence. As Jason helps protect his stepsister, almost ruin his own career, and stops her father from interfering again, he realizes he still loves her. But how does she feel about the man who hurt her all those years ago?

From the get go, readers know this isn’t just a sappy love story; no offense intended to readers who want that… I only mean… this has a whole lot more going on. Murder. Stalking. Revenge. Power struggles. All the typical suspense and mystery elements which kept me highly intrigued. TJ is a complex woman. At first, she seemed spoiled, but as you got to know her, she was heartbroken. Her father is controlling. Her stepmother is developing dementia or Alzheimer’s. Her husband was a jerk. Jason is all she has left, and it’s been a decade since she saw him. Right there… the hook to want her to win. I fell, and I think most readers will too. She’s multifaceted and grows on you quickly.

Biggar developed the suspense quite well. I was all set to cast the villain, and in the end, it’s more open-ended until a final decision is made. Who exactly started all the trouble years ago? It may not be what you think it is… and that’s why I really enjoyed this book. It had so much of what I usually love to see in my reads, plus some extra. There’s one lengthy and detailed romance scene between two characters, which of course is super sexy and physical and all that fun stuff. Sometimes I closed one eye and skimmed (to kinda get the picture) and others I invested in the details. I think I feel like a voyeur when I read those scenes, so I revert back to a 15-year-old boy and giggle. But that’s just me, as I can definitely say they are written very well. There was heat, lust, attraction, and intimacy — all in a good way!

The dramatic opening scene really sets the tone, and from there, it keeps you glued to the pages. I think I devoured it in about 2 hours one afternoon. Having finished two novels by this author, I can safely say she crafts a superb story, writes with easy yet intelligent fluidity, and knows how to capture her audience. I’ll definitely be reading more from her, and perhaps I’ll learn to love the love scenes one day too! 🙂

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are five books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, and Haunted House Ghost. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: No More Mulberries by Mary Smith

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No More MulberriesNo More Mulberries by Mary Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

No More Mulberries is an international contemporary drama written by Mary Smith and published in 2009. The story focuses on Miriam, a Scottish midwife, who has married two men from Afghanistan during her lifetime. The tale unfolds by jumping time frames across different chapters to share the reasons why Miriam’s life has become what it is today. At times, her days have been heartbreaking, and at others, they have been an admirable source of strength. I chose this book because I’d seen many positive reviews and it fit the parameters for my month of international and/or autobiographical reads. Let’s chat more about this complex and wonderful story…

Miriam had a wonderful husband and life, but he passed away. She had a young son to raise in Afghanistan during a difficult period in the country’s history, especially for a red-haired Scottish woman with strong beliefs about how things should be. Knowledgeable in medicine, she won over some of the village, yet she always knew she was viewed differently. Then, she remarried and had another child with the second husband. At first, they had a strong love. Although she’d converted to Muslim, her husband, Iqbal was careful to find a balance between his beliefs and her beliefs. While he could be strict, he was by no means radical or excessively controlling of his wife. As tension rises between them, Miriam revisits her past to understand why her first husband died. Through the process, her eyes are opened about her own blame in the new marriage as well as as what truly happened to her first beloved.

The story is rich with a supporting cast who provide laughter, love, fear, and pain. Smith eloquently shares a culture and a lifestyle with her audience, some who may know little about the Muslim faith or Afghani culture. While I’ve read a few other books focusing on this part of the world, they tended to stick to the religious aspects of the Middle East rather than the social aspects. I was glad to experience a different side of the life through this story and the author’s wonderful ability to showcase both the good and the bad.

Questions of parenting, forgiveness, pain, tolerance, and curiosity quickly enter a reader’s mind. What will become of someone who defies her husband? Who will stand by you when you have no one else to trust? How do you ensure the village listens to your advice on bearing a child when the culture dictates the complete opposite solution? This novel helped me understand a different mindset, and while it wasn’t necessarily one I agree with or support, I found a balance of alternative ideas and options to push me to think more critically. It’s a great experience, and one we should all have when reading a book about something different than our own knowledge.

A great find, and something that would be a benefit for all readers with an open mind, a curiosity about life outside their own culture, and a small glimpse into the world that many know from the outside but little know from the inside.

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are five books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, and Haunted House Ghost. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Eva Luna by Isabel Allende

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Eva LunaEva Luna by Isabel Allende
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Earlier this year, my friend Nina and I were discussing internationally written literature, specifically from Latin America. We both had a connection to it for a few reasons, which prompted her to suggest a buddy read. We settled on Isabel Allende, and she selected Eva Luna. We spent the last week reading the book and discussing some of the key points and will continue to do so, I’m sure. For now, I’m sharing some of the highlights of my thoughts.

Let’s set the stage. Early to mid 20th century. Somewhere in South America (Nina and I saw a few options) but ultimately settled on it purposely being generalist in some areas given there were different cultures involved. Eva’s mother lived a tragic life. Let’s not even discuss her father. Once we learn about the past, we’re ready for Eva Luna, a storyteller who doesn’t know she is one until much later on, despite what everyone once told her. She lives in a string of homes, all difficult places. Yet in each, she finds someone to lean on, and develops a life-long relationship with them.. that is, until they are cruelly killed or die of natural causes. Eva has lived a life full of loss. But there are some beautiful moments too, it’s not all sad!

The story chronicles Eva’s life and relationships. Going into the book, I had little understanding of the detailed theme. If there was one thing I found a bit disappointing, it was the lack of a formal structure in how we learn about Eva’s life. It’s chronological, but we’re not quite sure of her age or role at the time. It’s not purposely unclear, just not as important as what’s happening to her. I generally prefer a deeper structure, perhaps a timeline or chapter description to showcase what part of her life we are about to explore. Then again, life is messy and often repeats itself, so this was very realistic in other ways. Nonetheless, I’m an orderly guy, so I would’ve loved just a bit more to make that part of the book come together. Nina had a great theory on this, so go read her review to find out more.

The imagery and language are astounding. It was compelling and beautiful, sad and disheartening… but through it all, stunning! I found the way in which Allende shows us how Eva is haunted and impacted by everything around her to be the star of this book. You clearly see and feel everything, yet you know the true horrors are purposefully left out. Eva suffers. We suffer for her. But it’s rarely graphic or detailed to the point you can’t read it. You know what’s going on, and that’s enough. Some of the pain occurs when she is a young girl and a teenager. It’s insane to accept what once happened to children, specifically female ones. Let’s not even discuss the current situation!

Another part of the book I found most forward-thinking was the character of Mimi, my favorite. At some points a man, at others a woman, perhaps shades in between, what Allende discusses ~30 years ago when this was written is fully apropos for today, and it appears so much more for ~75 years ago when some of this took place in the book. I’m truly shocked at the way people react to others. If the person isn’t hurting you/someone else/animals, let them do what they want. There are far better things to focus on that something that doesn’t truly involve the jerk with the issue! Walk away. Off soapbox as this isn’t that kind of novel. It’s more about an overall theme of what happened in many similar countries to people who didn’t have a lot of money or advancement opportunities.

I will definitely read more Allende, perhaps the short stories by Eva Luna herself (thanks, Nina). Overall, I give this 4.5 stars but I rounded down because of the missing pieces I felt would’ve made this an absolute stand-out. I still highly recommend it, and this translation in particular was phenomenal. I learned a few new vocabulary words, and when it results from a translation, and the original language was stunning, you know it’s a solid book. Thanks for making this a fun read together, Nina.

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are five books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, and Haunted House Ghost. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: In the Best Interest of the Child by Felicia Denise

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In The Best Interest of the ChildIn The Best Interest of the Child by Felicia Denise
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a surprising book! I knew it would be good because I’ve read author Felicia Denise’s reviews of other novels, interacted with her on social media, and visited her blog; however, there were so many different levels and components in the story, I really connected with it beyond expectations. And that’s saying a lot because I am very far removed from the primary topics and experiences it covers. Kudos to the author for capturing this reader’s attention and making my flight across the country quite entertaining and heartwarming.

Olivia was victimized in foster care ~25 years ago. Her father was killed, her mother’s memory practically erased in an accident. Despite everything that happened to her, Olivia pushed herself to become a successful lawyer who helped other children in similar situations. The only issue… her emotional confidence and ability to open up to others never fully developed. She threw herself into work and closed the doors to many things in life. But then life throws her a curveball with a case about a young girl in a very similar situation who needs help. Olivia agrees to take the case, but it’s far worse than she imagined: corruption, evil, family, secrets, and theft. On the flip side, the temporary family who is looking out for the young girl’s interest is amazing, and there’s a sexy uncle with a crush on Olivia. What’s a girl to do?

My favorite aspect of this book is the writing style Felicia Denise has chosen to employ. After much build-up regarding the awful side of the family who is trying to gain custody / oversee the case (hard to explain, but I don’t want to give anything away), readers will feel anger and frustration over the lengths selfish people go to steal from others. At the same time, we watch Olivia assemble information to protect the child, but we don’t necessarily know what facts she’s learning from all her meetings. We see her interact with others but through summaries while she’s getting to know the temporary family. It’s a wonderful approach because when the case goes to court to make the decision, EVERYTHING comes out and Olivia looks AMAZING. I had this jittery excited moment where I’m thinking… “Go Olivia, go!” I loved this approach and commend the author on igniting my passion for her story.

At some point, Olivia decides to give in to her feelings for the girl’s uncle whom she’s met and gone on a few dates with. The book completely changes in this chapter when we see Olivia’s barriers removed, and readers are treated to a passionate, vivid physical encounter, what I imagine is along the lines of a romance novel. I’m not a huge reader in that genre, so I can’t really compare… but it was quite strong and had a lot of contrast to the emotional tugging over what was happening to the young girl and Olivia’s heartbreak. I didn’t expect it and was like… wait… did I change books? All good tho, as it was tightly written, showcased the author’s range, and made me thoroughly excited for Olivia.

Well-written, tons of heart, lots of pain (in a good way), and provides proof that readers should chance reading different styles. I look forward to my next book by this author, as I hear there may be a sequel coming!

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are five books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, and Haunted House Ghost. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: One Step Closer – #1 by Lisa Reynolds

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One Step CloserOne Step Closer by Lisa Reynolds
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lisa Reynolds is an Irish blogger I follow. I read one of her books last year and was entertained by the wit and character relationships she created. Before continuing with that series, I wanted to try another one of her series to see which I preferred. While on vacation last week, I read the first book in the One Step Closer collection. Although the same tone and style were present in both books, this is a vastly different type of story but also one I enjoyed very much. I think I like this one slightly more…

One Step Closer is a televised music competition along the lines of American Idol and The Voice. It takes place in the UK and puts the contestants and the judges much closer together than I thought ever happened (could just be my ignorance of reality). When that happens, the plot becomes ripe with conflict and tension — both emotional and sexual. Wow, what a crazy dynamic went on behind the scenes and during the competition’s live performances.

We get to know all 5 judges and about 10 of the contestants, some more than others, as we get glimpses of those who fall out of the competition early and details of those who make it to the top 5. A few of the judges were monsters, of course, and Reynolds does a wonderful job making us dislike them. Near the end, a few have minor redemption points, but overall, the characterizations are strong and keep you interested in the action.

Relationships were key. Judges slept with contestants. Contestants slept with each other. Fights broke out. Contracts were signed. Blackmail happened. Secrets were unearthed. So much drama in such a short time period — I wouldn’t have survived, as if the producers asked me to spice it up for TV, I would’ve said ‘No thanks, this is me. Take it or leave it.’ Luckily, one contestant did just that, and so, Gavin was my favorite. That said, he made far too many snap judgments about the people around him, as did some of the others. Oddly enough, that’s probably a very accurate depiction of people despite my inclination to think it was too much to handle.

What it did was make for fantastic drama! Reynolds draws you in with the smoldering tensions and silly crushes until you can’t help but start to pair off characters. There are a lot to keep track of (each one has a voice and tells their story in alternating chapters), all with different personalities, but it’s a great start to the series. In the first 1/3, I struggled to keep everyone clear / straight, but Reynolds manages them well as the chapters unfold and we see which are the important ones to truly pay attention to. I’m very curious to see if the next book in the series focuses on a different group of contestants or the same group of people post contest. I could see it going in both directions, or even a combo.

I’d recommend this for anyone looking for a fun and indulgent read where you can get all angst-ridden about whether things like this really happen or not. I’m confident they do, but being removed from the industry, it feels shocking. Good drama – exactly what I like to read among my mysteries. Kudos to the author for showing such range in her writing style and genres.

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are five books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, and Haunted House Ghost. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.