Book Review: Kingdom of the Wicked

Title: Kingdom of the Wicked
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Year Published: September 7, 2021

Date finished: July 6, 2022

This book was recommended to me by my daughter. She loved it and thought I should read it because it’s fantasy and there’s romance. The cover was very pretty too.

The story is about a girl named Emilia who is on the hunt for the person who killed her twin sister. Emilia comes from a family of witches and can cast spells, summon demons, and whatnot. She’s got some powerful gifts, but because she’s portrayed as young (even though she’s 18), her personality falls on the very naive side. At times she seems mature, but her decisions always seem non-thought-out, hasty.

Emilia summons a demon to help her find her sister’s killer. However, in her haste, she summons the demon (Wrath) whom she saw at the alter where her sister was slain. She thinks he was the one who killed her sister, but because the spell she used forged the two of them to be stuck together for a time, she holds back. The story continues on the path of Emilia’s quest to find the killer even though she’s aware Wrath could be it. She begins to form an attraction for him, and he to her as well. Later, he gets into an altercation where he is injured pretty badly and leaves earth. Emilia now has fallen hard for him and wants to find him.

I’m not sure what to think exactly about this book. I don’t not like it, but I don’t love it either. I am intrigued enough to read the next book. It’s written very simply so it’s easy to read. The plot is simple as well. It’s sort of murder-mystery with magic, and then there’s the young, innocent romance. The characters don’t feel fully thought out. There is a sense that Emilia wants to go in one direction (to find the murderer of her sister) and yet she’s leaning so far the other direction (her sudden love for Wrath). There is consistency with the storyline. Nothing is too far-fetched into any direction so it makes it safe for the really young readers.

Who should read this book: Those who enjoy young adult fantasy or fantasy with a gothic or dark feel such as Caraval, For the Wolf, and Gideon the Ninth where it feels like it’s always nighttime. However, the writing style is more so for young adults, unlike Gideon the Ninth where the writing is more mature, similar to Dune.

Book Review: The Leadership Guide: Unleashing the Power Within and In Others

Title: The Leadership Guide: Unleashing the Power Within and In Others
Author: Dr. Srikanth Gaddam
Genre: Non-fiction; Education; Self-help
Year Published: November 11, 2021

Date finished: June 17, 2022

This is a book on how to be a better leader in the workforce and how to continuously work on leadership skills to stay on top. It focuses on techniques by looking at oneself and one’s goals and purpose. The book opens with an introduction providing insights into why the author wrote this book. It’s a really helpful section in that it helps you understand the purpose and importance of leadership. The chapters are executed with straight-forward descriptions using bullet points and bolded sections to make it easy to focus on each particular points. Each chapter ends with a chapter takeaway, a quick key-points of the chapter.

I have read other books on leadership in the past and this one is one of the best. I like that it talks about an individual’s abilities and to look within to find that leadership. The book is full of important methods and techniques in leadership. It explains why leadership matters and how to get to where you want to be. It also includes the different types of leadership styles, challenges to overcome, leading teams and organizations, organizational leadership, leadership during crisis, and more. It’s a very thorough book with excellent points.

The book is focused on leadership in the workforce, specifically larger companies, but it could also be applied to an individual or smaller businesses. If you’ve ever taken a Stephen Covey course, you’ll know that the skills you’ve learned can be applied to everyday life. This book works the same way. The difference with this book is that it’s to-the-point and can be used as a reference guide for years to come. There are no stories or examples of how to use these steps. It’s not meant for that. It’s rather about the inner self and how to grow one’s leadership skills by focusing within as well as paying attention to the changing world around. This book was extremely well executed.

Who should read this book: Everyone should read this book. Even if you’re already a leader or have years of experience in leadership, this book is a great reference resource for those moments you might question your own abilities.

Book Review: Life of Evil: A Reeves and Blake Thriller

Title: Life of Evil: A Reeves & Blake Thriller
Author: Robert Lalonde
Genre: Fiction, Detective Thriller
Year Published: June 25, 2021

Date finished: June 11, 2022

The is a detective thriller about a murderer who has a unique way of killing his victims. P.I. Frank Reeves is hard at work figuring out who the murderer is. His secretary, Sam who is working her way to become an investigator finds herself closer to the murderer than she imagined.

This was a pretty fast-paced read. The characters were thrown in almost all together, so it was hard to get into the story at first. I liked the idea of the story and how Sam worked her way to become an investigator. The murderer was hidden well. I couldn’t figure out who they were until the very end. That was done excellently.  Overall, this was a good read.

Who should read this book: If you’re into mystery thriller, detective, and psychological thrillers, this one is for you.

Book Review: The Combat Diaries: True Stories from the Frontlines of WWII

Title: The Combat Diaries: True Stories from the Frontlines of World War II
Author: Mike Guardia
Genre: Non-fiction; WWII; Anthology
Year Published: April 1, 2022

Date finished: June 9, 2022

This is the first time I’ve read a diary of sort about military men in war. It’s not so much a diary but stories—short memoirs—about a few individual service members during WWII. It lets us see (and just barely see) the horrendousness of war through the eyes of these brave men. The stories provide some backstory to how and where they grew up, and how and why they entered the military. Each story ends with what each of them did after the war and a photo or two of them either taken during the war and/or afterwards.

All the stories are well told and provide insights into the many ways these men dealt with survival, following orders, what they saw/experienced, and everything else. One of the stories took me by surprise. It was the one where the Lieutenant was introduced to an OSS agent named Julia McWilliams, whom after the war, married and became who we know as Julia Childs, the television chef. There were so many things I wasn’t aware of, like the POWs in the Philippines, the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) that eventually became the CIA, the concentration camp that contained not only Jews but everyone else that “didn’t belong,” etc. I don’t want to take away from each soldier’s story because it’s their story that reminds us what freedom looks like, but just wanted to point out that there’s so much to learn from this book.

This was one amazing read. I enjoyed every story and wanted more. What I found interesting was that even in this type of environment, the men were able to find humor. I wish there was a way to read as many of these stories as possible in this style. I don’t know why this isn’t done more often, but I can also understand, and respect, that some families might want to remain private. There were so many military servicemen that died, and their stories will never be heard. I find that so heartbreaking.

Who should read this book: I’d recommend everyone read it.

Book Review: The Peaceful Village

Title: The Peaceful Village
Author: Paulette Mahurin
Genre: Historical Fiction
Year Published: May 27, 2022

Date finished: June 5, 2022

This is a story that takes place in a small village in France called Oradour-sur-Glane. Marguerite is the main character. She’s an older woman and married. She lives a simple and quiet life with her family. As the story moves along, SS soldiers start showing up in the village. They’re a little rough and tough but the villagers don’t back down. They’re not afraid of these soldiers and fight back but fighting back created more anger from the soldiers. Marguerite just wants the soldiers to leave but she knows it wasn’t going to happen and she finds her way to help those who were injured, putting herself in danger.

Overall, this was a good story. I loved the writing and the opening description of this small village. I was surprised at what happened to the people in this village since they kept to themselves. It was unfortunate and sad. The story itself moved a little too fast pace with too much going on and with lots of characters thrown in that I felt a little confused as to who each character was. I would have liked to know more about Marguerite’s husband, their youngest daughter, and the priests. I think the tension buildup wasn’t very strong and thus it lost me a little, but it’s definitely a story to check out.

What I found unique about this story was that SS soldiers infiltrated a laid-back, peaceful, small village. When we think of WWII and what Hitler did, we tend to focus on the big cities. This was a great way to show that even small towns were attacked.

Who should read this book: If you’re into WWII historical fiction, this is a good read to add to your list.

Book Review: When She Woke

Title: When She Woke
Author: Hillary Jordan
Genre: Sci-fi; Dystopian
Year Published: September 18, 2012

Date finished: May 22, 2022

This story is about a future America where religion is a political power and having an abortion is a crime. Hannah Payne, the main character, falls in love with a pastor and gets pregnant. She is then chromed red for her sin. People stare at her and judge her because her red skin speaks for her crime. She refuses to tell anyone who the father is or the doctor who performed the abortion. She escapes the last institution she’s put in and stumbles upon people who were willing to free her from this strict world.

This story started out interesting. I couldn’t put the book down because I love myself a good dystopian story. It’s been a while since I’ve stumbled upon a book I couldn’t put down. The opening really grabbed me and kept me reading. However, midway through, the story slowed down and went a different direction. The ending was just meh. I may have had such high hopes that I was left disappointed. I wanted some sort of victory for Hannah. I also wanted to know what happened to the pastor, her family, and her friend. They all just seemed to disappear. There wasn’t anything said about what happened to them.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad read. It had a lot of potential, but just didn’t hit the right spot for me.

Who should read this book: If you enjoy “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “The Testaments” by Margaret Atwood, you’ll probably like this one.

Book Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

Title: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
Author: V.E. Schwab
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Year Published: October 6, 2020

Date finished: May 7, 2022

“Be careful what you ask for, be willing to pay the price. And no matter how desperate or dire, never pray to the gods that answer after dark.” ~Estelle

This was a marvelous book full of magic, anticipation, heartbreak, and love. Once you are pulled into the story, it’s hard to stop reading.

When the book first came out, I had wanted to read it and so checked it out from the library. I got a few pages in and couldn’t get into it. My mind just wasn’t there. The book expired and I waited a year to recheck it out (because I was busy). When I checked it out, again, I was busy, so the book expired and I missed my chance. I checked it out one more time and told myself that if I can’t get to it this time, then maybe it wasn’t meant to be. Luckily, I had just finished a book and had reading time on hand, so I gave it another chance.

How I wish I hadn’t given up the first time because this is a wonderfully written book. It opens with Addie in the early 1700’s. She’s young and curious and wants to know about the old gods from an old woman neighbor. As Addie becomes an adult, her parents want her to get married, but she’s not ready—especially not ready to marry a man who recently lost his wife and has two young children. On the day of her wedding, she runs into the woods and asks the gods to help her.

“I want a chance to live. I want to be free. I want more time.” ~Addie

The darkness speaks to her and tells her he can’t grant her what she wants, but she is determined and tells him he can have her soul when she is done. He agrees and her wishes are granted.

Addie lives a very long life. She finds things to do and places to see, but it’s lonely because no one remembers her. One day, she goes to a bookstore and meets a man named Henry. When she returns a book to exchange for another, Henry remembers her, and that changed everything.

“Everyone wants to be remembered.” ~the darkness

I truly enjoyed this book. The characters were well thought out, the dialogues were beautifully done, and the storyline was executed excellently. I might say that it did start out a bit slow, but it picked up pretty fast. It was a strangely thought-provoking story. It made me think about what I’d wish for if I were granted a wish in exchange for my soul. I’m not sure I’d wish for anything, but it’s very tempting. One thing I really liked about the book is that there are references to artwork that Addie is in, a few are done without her knowing it like the painting of her on the shore by a famous painter. I loved the way they were presented. It really piqued my interest because I almost thought they were real, that they were actually of her!

Who should read this book: The book reminded me of Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and the movie, The Age of Adaline. I found some similarities between those books and this one. So, if you’re into any of those stories, you’ll probably enjoy this one. The character “darkness” reminds me so much of the main character, Lucifer, in the T.V. series, Lucifer. For some reason that’s how he appears in the book to me, however, I don’t think darkness is meant to be portrayed as the devil. He feels more like the reaper. Also, the book is being made into a movie, so if you’re anything like me and prefer to read the book before seeing the movie, you might want to get on it.

Btw, I ended up buying a hardcover. Just couldn’t help it.

Book Review: You Have the Right to Remain Silent

Title: You Have the Right to Remain Silent
Author: Mark M. Bello
Genre: Legal Thriller; Detective Thriller
Year Published: April 12, 2022

Date finished: May 2, 2022

This is a murder mystery legal thriller about a case where a man was pretty gruesomely killed, and the key suspect is the wife. Zachary Blake is the lawyer on the case, and he doesn’t think the wife is actually the one who murdered her husband. Zach and his team tackle the detective work with Zach hiring Shari Belitz to work on a trial focus group to get answers that otherwise may have been missed. Everyone worked round the clock to get to the bottom of this case.

I’m trying not to give too much away because I think this book is worth reading and finding out who the killer is. The author doesn’t hide who the killer is. He subtly tells us who it is, but we still have to figure it out on our own. I loved that! Zach is one amazing lawyer. He knows who he needs to have work on the case, he doesn’t make quick conclusions or assume what-you-see-is-what-you-get. It was too perfect to have the wife be the primary suspect. Also, the doctor who watched over the wife knew a few things, proving that the wife didn’t do it, and I’m glad Zach listened to the doc.

The book was very enjoyable. The angle of the story from the lawyer’s perspective was unique and kept me intrigued. I liked how the author showed how well everyone worked together. They didn’t always agree but it all came down to proof, so even if someone thought they knew who the killer was, if they couldn’t prove it in any way, that theory was thrown out.

This was a fast paced read with lots of important information and knowledge about how the law works.

Who should read this book: This was an excellent read and I’d recommend it to everyone, especially those who love murder mystery or detective type stories. This angle (from the lawyer) is well done, and again, very unique in a murder mystery type of story.

Book Review: Bartholomew

Decided to try something different and make a video of books I unbox and review. Let me know what you think.

Title: Bartholomew
Author: Mark Lages
Genre: Fiction; Literary; Memoir
Year Published: March 17, 2022

Date finished: April 23, 2022

This story is written like a memoir and opens with the main character, Rick Harper, celebrating his 65th birthday. He reflects on his earlier life, remembering his invisible friend as a child, and how that friend visited him again in adulthood.

Rick comes across very nonchalant. He tells us all the mistakes he’s made through his life. He doesn’t really give reasons or excuses as to why he did the things he did. He does, however, show us that he doesn’t understand how he ended up in his life with all the mistakes he’s made. He shows us that he doesn’t understand what happiness is because his life had been both good and bad but not too extreme in either direction. He seems to just exist and thus his confusion with what happiness means.

Bartholomew is Rick’s invisible friend, and he (Bartholomew) is sort of a guiding energy for Rick. He makes Rick think about his purpose and his definition of happiness. Along the way, Rick begins to understand what it really means to live.

I got so much out of this story. My favorite scene was when Rick cheated a co-worker out of a job, and then a few years later, he helped a co-worker earn a spot in the company even when he was on a tight deadline of his own. I totally understood that. It wasn’t because he liked one co-worker over another, but because it was timing. The first situation, he was a young person just out of college and needed to do what he needed to do to gain status. Later, when he was experienced and had gone through a lot in his career and in his personal life, he then sacrificed his time to help another. This speaks so much about humanity. No one is perfect, yet we tend to judge others as though they have to be perfect, forgetting to look at ourselves and see that we too have faults.

This was a wonderful read. I think everyone can learn something from this book, but even if that’s not something you care for, you’d still enjoy the humor.

Who should read this book: I’d totally recommend it to everyone.

Book Review: Planet Q

Title: Planet Q
Author: Peter Quinones
Genre: Literary; Quotes
Year Published: 2022

Date finished: April 15, 2022

This book was an interesting read. At first, I wasn’t sure what to think of it because it’s not your typical book. It’s a bunch of short and long phrases/clips of thoughts that provoke…thoughts. It’s sort of like a comedy show but book-style. Some of the phrases are short and to-the-point while others are longer and requires more dissecting and thinking them out. The variety makes for a very intriguing read.

I found this book to be quite fun to read. You have to take each sentence and phrase lightly. Some of them are truly hilarious and had me laughing, some had me thinking and agreeing, some had me surprised, and some I wasn’t too fond of because they didn’t make sense to me, but I’m pretty sure they’d make sense to others, and that’s what I found likeable about this book. I felt like I could relate to a lot of the situations stated (that I’ve had situation in my life similar to what the author experienced). Also, not all phrases were the author’s personal experiences. Some of them seemed like observations or situations the author heard or was told of. It’s really a collection of human encounters and situations. It’s a bit unusual to describe because it’s very different from what I’ve read.

Who should read this book: If you’re not in the mood to read a full-on story or a genre book and want something a little fun with dark satire and phrases to ponder about, give this book a read. I truly recommend reading with an open mind because some of the stuff mentioned was a bit gross, but not in a bad way. I found myself laughing a lot but agreeing a lot too.