All Darling Children – Katrina Monroe

(Reviewed by Jeyran Main)

Exceptional

All Darling Children is a twisted, dark, villainous  story about Peter Pan. The boy who never grows old, rules Neverland and is in charge of the night and day, rain and the sun plus everything that exists in this enchanting world. He conducts horrific crimes, to stay young. Everyone else has to pay the price for his needs. This is not his only crime, though; he has much more, and that is what makes this book extremely intriguing and thrilling to read.

Madge Darling is the daughter of Jane Darling and the granddaughter of Wendy Darling. Wendy has told Madge that her mother died when she was young and abandoned her. However, Madge does not wish to accept this and sincerely believes that her mother is alive. As she attempts to run away, she runs into Peter Pan. He tells Madge that he knows where her mother is. Madge flies to Neverland in the hope of getting some answers and meaning to her life.

Although Peter Pan was originally written by J. M. Barrie and intended for children, this book is not. It has many uses of profanity, murder, sexual content and disturbing twists to a child’s story. Katrina Monroe has taken this tale to another level. Her writing style is easy to understand and to follow. There is still an endearing love story hidden inside a very thrilling, blood shedding plot with a titillating desire to wanting a happy ending. You also get to meet Captain Hook and Tiger Lily.

Things cannot go more wrong for Madge as she discovers the truth about her family and now has to make the ultimate decision about her fate. I love how the title of the story has two meanings, “All Darling Children”. Darling is, in fact, the surname of Jane, Wendy and Madge yet you can also consider Darling to mean wonderful.

I highly recommend this book to all adult readers and Peter Pan lovers. Your Neverland will never be the same again.

Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Mythology | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Ghosts – Chip Scarinzi

(Reviewed by Jennifer Wells)

Exceptional

“You can’t run. From what you are.”

Ghosts by Chip Scarinzi is a crime novel with a sci-fi twist in which we’re taken through the dream-like tale of Bennett Covington.

This isn’t your average mystery. This modern world has something new coming to light. A mix of chemicals, in the wrong hands can be used to distort others’ realities.

Bennett is an everyday guy. He has a steady office job complete with a nosy coworker and moody boss. He has a family he loves that he goes home to nightly. All in all he’s you or me – standard, maybe even boring, but happy.

Of course, Bennett’s life is about to change. It all begins with a dark scene in an alley that Bennett stumbles upon. From there, Bennett is sucked into San Francisco’s dark underworld. Confusion surrounds Bennett, his family, and the reader as murders are on the rise and Bennett seems to be at the heart of it all. There’s even surveillance footage of him committing these heinous crimes. And yet, Bennett has no memory of any of it. A man named Poe and his strange holographic-like scenes, tell another story however.

We’re taken through this mystery not only through Bennett’s eyes, but through the eyes of his wife, daughter, a strange professor and the police. Even with all those viewpoints we’re left in a shroud of confusion as we discover bits and pieces along with those involved. With Bennett you’ll question his true involvement in the many many murders that surround him and because of that you’ll pull for a win for Bennett and his family even harder.

Bennett’s wife and daughter, Rose and Viv, along with the novel’s other lead roles, are written so believably, you can feel each of their emotions with them. From the very first page, this novel draws you in.

Ghosts is a must read for any fan of crime and sci-fi genres.  There are so many twists and turns that you won’t be able to put it down.

Posted in Crime, Mystery and Thrillers, San Francisco, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Mythology | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

More Time to Love: One father’s extraordinary journal of living longer with ALS – Joseph L. Wions

(Reviewed by Pat Luboff)

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Exceptional

I have a confession to make.  I finished reading this book a while ago.  I was stunned into silence, unable to approach writing the review. The book has haunted me since.

My father went the usual route of people diagnosed with ALS. The doctor says, “You have ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease), you will die in two years.” Patient dies in two years, or, in the case of my father, less.  Joseph Wions traveled the road less taken. He decided that the usual medical model should be ignored because it offered no hope.  Instead, he explored a wide, I would say dazzling, and sometimes to me, confusing variety of alternative approaches to healing his body from the disease.

In this book, he describes this journey in intimate details.  He takes us from the first twinges that signaled something was wrong with his body to his ultimate spiritual triumph over the terror the disease inflicts on its victims.  Sidebars give us insights from his family and friends.  Excerpts from emails Wions broadcasted to family, friends and co-workers show his public persona, while his own journal writing takes us to the depths of his heart, mind and soul as he faces increasing physical limitations.  What emerges is a portrait of a human being of great intelligence and wisdom and love.

I’m still a little baffled as to how to tackle this review. I think it’s best to just give you a few quotations.  While he says these things in reference to his struggle with ALS, they ring true for me, and I bet they do for you:

”I learned that I had become addicted to a thought process that was not supportive of healing.  The conscious choice that I made to change it has pitted me against all conventional wisdom, which insists that escaping death from ALS is not only unrealistic, but impossible.”

“It takes considerable diligence to stay on the productive side of that fine line between surrender and resignation.  To effectively surrender, I must stay in the moment and abandon all judgments and projections that will invariably generate fear and doubt.  The minute a connection is made between the current circumstances and past experience or future expectations, the moment opens up to a frightening array of negative emotions, which limits me physically and further fuels the fears I have created.”

“When my muscles atrophied to the point that a motorized vehicle was required, I had to find new ways to have fun.”

”I can tell myself over and over again that I am going to beat this disease, but my gut is quick to remind me that I have not yet overcome my addiction to the fear of failure.”

“It took me a while to realize that letting others help me do things that I could no longer do myself was a way of helping them.”

“I have emerged from the nightmare of belief that a horrible and untimely death was rapidly approaching.  Several years after I was expected to be gone, I am still here and have enjoyed miraculous enhancements in my psychological, emotional, spiritual, and physical health.”

This is a must-read book for anyone who has a family member or friend diagnosed with ALS.  In addition to his incredible personal story, Wions offers an appendix of advice and resources on the services and equipment needed by a person who has ALS.  I also highly recommend it for anyone who is facing any physical or emotional challenge.  And who isn’t?

(Editor’s note: For more information on More Time to Love or to buy the book, go to www.moretimetolove.com

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Posted in Bios and Memoirs | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Brutal – Uday Saypathy

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

Exceptional

A warning mail ends up in the junk box of a school teacher and seven days later, he goes on a killing spree, murdering eleven of his students. Two months later, he is gunned down in broad daylight by an obscure militant outfit. Justice served. Case closed.

Seeking redemption for their own private hell, two ace reporters Prakash and Seema are unraveling a ball of thread from two different ends, both stirring a hornet’s nest that just may put their own lives at risk.

First, I must credit the author – his brilliantly crafted plot that maintains the suspense and play of action till the very end. Every element of the book has been captured and used completely to its very essence. The strength of the lead characters plays well with the plot line and adds a greater depth to it. There is no dramatisation indulged in, irrespective of whether it is the plot or the characters. The book manages to capture attention and keeps one engrossed till the very end.

The title and the cover image lives up to the name and theme of the plot and complements each other well with and the elements employed in the book.

Brutal is a fabulous and fortunate find that I am definitely recommending further on.

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Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think – Ralph Nader

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

Exceptional

“It’s a lot easier than you think to shape a political economy where corporations are our compliant servants, not our masters.”

“It is also easier than you think to have elections where voters shape the agenda where voters drive the candidates, where voters do the counting in competitive elections, and where using money to buy, rent, or influence politicians in banned. It’s in our hands as voters if we want this kind of democracy.”

I admit that I was skeptical at first. As an individual, I felt that I had no power to change our government whether it be national, state or even local. However, long-time consumers advocate, Ralph Nadar ,disagrees and shows how we can make a difference in his latest book, Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think.

The first half of this short book explores the history of our corporate- driven government and the private exploitation of common property as well as a history on how certain movements and individuals made changes to benefit the general public as well as those under served. He introduces the reader to names that most of us have never of, but who made major impacts to the good of society.

While he does address problems that keep resurfacing, and it does rile us up, I was anxiously waiting for specific suggestions on what I, as an individual, could do to solve these problems.

That is what the second half of the book is devoted to. Nadar maintains that “Social networks drive social movements” , and gives specifics on how it only takes one percent of us to get involved and make a difference.

Though this was published in October of this year before the final election results, I wish he would have gone into depth on a common political and social trend that keeps rearing its ugly head. This in itself puts power in the hands of a few, while controlling the rest of us. Politicians are pitting ethnic groups against each other in order to gain power. This resurgence of racism and xenophobia weakens our society and we need to learn how to specifically combat this when so much of the public buys into this philosophy. Could this be a topic of his next book?

That said, Breaking Through Power is a must-read for those of us who are fed up with current politics and are willing to get involved if we just knew how to go about it. After all, He keeps reminding us that “it’s easier than we think.”

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The Karachi Deception – Shatrujeet Nath

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

Exceptional

Three elite commandos of the India Army – Major Imtiaz Ahmed, Captain Shamsheer Suleiman and Lieutenant Rafiq Mehmood – are chosen for once in a lifetime one-of-a-kind mission: to enter Pakistan and eliminate the dreaded underworld don, Irshad Dilwar. Despite the detailed planning, the puzzle pieces don’t fit into place. It doesn’t take long for Major Imtiaz to realise that the mission has been compromised. Will he be successful or will he pay with his life like Abhimanyu did?

The debut crime thriller is a fantastic book with its well-crafted, richly detailed, dramatic plot that keeps the readers engaged with its fast pace action and  numerous twists and turns. The characters are strong, but because of the numerous subplots that were introduced to keep the book invigorating, they appear a bit lost and do not get the necessary definition and dimension until the climax. The political scenario of India and Pakistan has been beautifully painted in words and as an Indian I can definitely relate with it thoroughly.

The best part about the book is its plot and the excellent flair of writing style that the author has displayed ingeniously. There is no interruption in the flow. Non-Indian readers might flounder when they come to certain parts of the book that take on typical Indian connotations and enunciation. I would simply suggest the readers to just go with the flow since that one line definitely won’t hamper anything.

The Karachi Deception is another fabulous thriller from an Indian author that I am definitely recommending further on.

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The Glorious Heresies – Lisa McInerney

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“I don’t spend every second social occasion fantasising about enormous inanimate objects that one time used to mean something to me. But I’ve been fucked these past three weeks. I’ve been sick, and tired, and dizzy, and dead. And so that fucking piano is taunting parts of me I kept well covered until temporary madness stripped back the skin and left me beaten and bleeding. You couldn’t play me now, it says. Your fingers have fused, your mind’s gone grey… You’re nothing. “

Maybe fifteen year old Ryan’s life could have been different.  He loved the  piano and his girlfriend, Karine. Then again, he didn’t have many choices; his life was predetermined. Tony, an alcoholic father of six, couldn’t  stay out of trouble. Fifty-nine year old Maureen—a pyromaniac — hit an intruder with a Holy Stone and killed him. Fifteen year old runaway Georgie, who survived any way she could, moved in with twenty- two year old Robbie. Then there was Tara who helped drug addicts and prostitutes only for her own benefit.  Gangster Jimmy Phelan tried to protect his mother while keeping his organization intact. However, Jimmy wasn’t the only one who paid for the sins of his parents.

As we read on, we see how each of these lives were intertwined. It’s not just the dealers and the pimps who rule the underbelly of Cork City, Ireland, but author Lisa McInerney places the Church as a major culprit.

“The Church craves power above all things, power above all of the living. The Church has an ideal and it’ll raze all in its way to achieve it. The Church needs its blind devout…The Church creates its sinners so it has something to save.”


Initially I had trouble keeping track of all of the characters  in The Glorious Heresies , but their reoccurring roles eventually made it easier; and they were all essential to the story.

This novel is gritty and raw.  As you can tell from the opening quote, the expressive writing style draws you in.  Though I feel that it was longer that it needed to be, I still couldn’t put it down.

If you like dark realism with just a bit of sarcastic humor, The Glorious Heresies is the book for you.

Posted in Dark/Sordid/Bizarre, Irish literature | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Hearts We Mend -Kathryn Springer

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

Exceptional

Widowed at the age of 25, Evie Bennett has spent the last 13 years raising her son Cody, encouraging women to boldly pursue God’s plan for their future. She wasn’t happy, as per the dictionary definition, but she was content. But all her organisational skills went up the flames when she meets Jack Vale.

As Evie gets drawn into Jack’s world—a world that isn’t as safe and predictable as the one she’s worked so hard to create—he challenges her to open her eyes to the problems in the community . . . but will Evie open her heart to love again?

Often a good romance is clouded with a haze of lust and overwhelming chemistry. I was so glad when this book thankfully didn’t follow the trend of the usual romantic books. The plot has been wonderfully founded on a very simple and moral idea – the extent to which an individual can contribute in a society. The plot not only provides a depth to the story, but also helps in character development. Each character has been framed with such basic human traits that helps then in making them more real than fictional. The best part about the whole book is the sweet romance between the two lead characters which has been given plenty of room to grow and bloom outside the shadows of lust. It is not that the characters do not have chemistry, but their relationship is based on things that as a woman and a reader I can relate to since they are the ones that I would expect in my life. Easy flow of narration and the simplicity in tone of narration helps in adding a great amount of richness to the whole book.

The title is quite simple and reflects the plot quite easily. The cover image is quite simple and charming and represents the sweet, romantic relationship of the characters. It definitely looks like a poster advertisement for a Nicholas Sparks book.

In a world where faith is so little, this was a great book to get your hopes on. I loved everything about this book and I will definitely recommend it.

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What now?

(by JD Jung)

flagI apologize for the lack of activity on UnderratedReads, but I have been preoccupied with the depressing results of the recent U.S. Presidential election.  Actually, I have been in a daze, feeling powerless to fight what I know is evil and wrong.

Chock it up to my naiveté, but I’m shocked by all the hatred and prejudice that has been brewing in this country. Donald Trump stirred up these feelings and legitimized them. Let’s blame a certain group of people for our problems, instead of searching for real causes and effective solutions.  Half of the voters bought into this and it both angers and saddens me.

What infuriates me is how voters excuse his misogynistic and bigoted words and the actions that have supported them. Many supporters say that doesn’t represent the real Donald, but as Maya Angelou put it,   “When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.”

I won’t go into the testimonies of contractors and former students of Trump University. You’ve heard it all. You are also aware that he is the only presidential candidate in recent times who refused to release his federal tax returns .

Yes, our country needs to heal but I applaud the protestors who refuse to just sit down and accept this new vision for our country.

Personally, my healing process will include searching for “underrated” reads that express my frustration but also provide a ray of hope for a brighter future.

Don’t worry; we will still be reviewing books from all adult genres, just like before.  I appreciate that our readers and reviewers are from all over the world.

Stay tuned for more reviews covering world literature, mysteries, non-fiction, satire and so much more.  In the meantime, please take another look at Julissa Arce’s  My (Underground) American Dream.

I would also love to hear your thoughts. Let’s keep the lines of communication open…always.

 

Posted in Politics, What the...? | Tagged , | 9 Comments

Ashvamedha: The Game of Power – Aparna Singh

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

Ashwin Jamal is a charismatic youth icon with a fan following that is larger than all the politicians combined and he just became the youngest Prime Minister of India. Little does he know that for the last 25 years, he has been groomed to be the most powerful leader of the world under the control of a master manipulator – Hades. While the world starts looking up to Ashwin as the saviour, will the pawn be sacrificed in the end?

The virtue of the internet or rather Amazon, to be more specific, is that you find such gems accidentally. What a fabulous find. The entire plot has been played out beautifully and you can see that a lot of thought has gone into the process. Each segment of the plot, all of the characters and every single element of intrigue and mystery has been written to showcase the brilliance of a good book. The plot is absolutely gripping and will keep your attention engaged till the very end. What is authentic about this book is the touch of Indian culture through the quotes that have been used at the start of each section of the book. The entire categorization of the book makes sense and each character that has been introduced plays well with the whole theme of dark and dirty politics. Each and every element of the book is perfectly in sync with each other.

What appealed to me specifically was the clever cover image of a pawn and the dark horse which is a brilliant pictorisation of the plot and its various multitudes of themes.

Ashvamedha: The Game of Power is an absolutely fantastic read that I am going to rave about for a very long time.

Favourite quotes: 

“The position and the power to control changes an individual’s behaviour and outlook and he may end up doing the same things he protested against once. “

“Politics is such a bitch, it gives you pleasure, but takes away all you have. “

“I just wanted to be the ruler of the world. You have to dethrone a powerful man to be the most powerful. The ironies of the world. I was itching to defeat the single most powerful person and there wasn’t any. I was left with i ly one choice – To create a powerful person. “

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