[Review] FORGIVEN by Geoff Lawson, 4/5

This review first appeared on and was written for OnlineBookClub.org. It has been slightly edited and the rating has been adjusted for a 5-star rating system, which is more common. To read the original version, please click here.

Forgiven by Geoff Lawson introduces us to a brave young man named Richard Wilson, as he fights in the Second Boer War and for the love of his life. Rachel Purdue is the beautiful and equally brave socialite who has captured our protagonist’s heart. They meet once when they were still kids. They see each other again coincidentally around one and a half decades later, and fall in love. The difference in their economic status is already a hurdle in their relationship, given that the setting was in the Victorian era where social standing is very prominent. But then, a lot more things emerge to make their love story even more complicated.

The first half of the book juxtaposes the past and the present, and one must be careful to read the year at the start of every chapter to not be confused. I liked that the story features a handful of strong female characters such as Rachel, Mary, and Lady Sarah. In an outdated social setting where women were only expected to get married at a certain age and make a happy home, they definitely exceeded expectations and have shown strength both inside and out.

Rachel was stubborn. And although that may be seen more as a negative than a positive trait, it helped her grow as a person. That same stubbornness helped her survive and stand out in some scenes. Mary is Richard’s wise and loving mother, and I’m pretty sure Richard won’t be half the great man that he is if not for this heroine. Lady Sarah was one of the royalties that Richard had to escort as a soldier. She seems to be a stuck-up and spoiled bride, but there were scenes in the book that will show you that she is capable of a whole lot of admirable things.

The story’s pace was kind of slow for me, but it was not boring either. I would honestly say that most of the chapters did not move me, and only the last ones had a real impact. I was expecting a different kind of surprise, but the book’s ending is still surprising and dramatic in its own way.

I cannot pinpoint anything that I particularly disliked, so I would say that this is a good book worth recommending. It was well-written, and the author did a good job in his research and in building such great imagery. This book will surely appeal to fans of historical fiction and romance. Trigger warnings include a few mentions of violent acts, gore, and some hints of cheating.

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[Review] Arsenic and Old Men by Glenn Ickler, 4/5

This review first appeared on and was written for OnlineBookClub.org. It has been slightly edited and the rating has been adjusted for a 5-star rating system, which is more common. To read the original version, please click here.

Arsenic and Old Men by Glenn Ickler is about the adventures of three gentlemen who, in the middle of vacationing with their lovely wives in Martha’s Vineyard, suddenly find themselves in the middle of not just one, but two cases of murder by arsenic poisoning.

Warren ‘Mitch’ Mitchell is our main man here. He is an investigative journalist who writes for the St. Paul Daily Dispatch. Alan ‘Al’ Jeffrey is a photographer for the same paper, and is Mitch’s so-called “twin” or partner in crime. Dave Jerome, a good friend of the two, is now a freelance cartoonist but once worked for the Daily Dispatch as well. The book starts when Dave’s uncle, Walter ‘Walt’ Jerome, dies. Good old Walt has made a good fortune for himself by being the chief newspaper editor for so many years, and because he has no children, the closest living relative eligible for the inheritance is Dave. At first, everyone was sure it was heart attack that killed Walt, until the results of the required autopsy revealed something else.

The three gentlemen worked hand-in-hand with the police, but the ending called for a different and a riskier approach. This book is best suited for lovers of crime thrillers and stories about family and solid friendship.

One of the things I liked was the author’s sense of humor. Almost each and every dialogue was filled with funny and appropriate sarcasm, and I couldn’t have asked for more. I also liked how the story went from start to finish. There were no down times nor forced elements. The ending wasn’t as surprising as I thought it would be, but it was far from boring also.

What I liked the most in this book was the depiction of loyalty to one’s spouse, in spite of being right in the middle of a compromising situation. I loved how Mitch acted in one particular scene where he chose to keep his marriage vows intact even when it was so easy for him to fall into temptation.

The only thing I did not like was the typos. I’d be willing to let go most of them, but there were a few major errors. One of which is the name confusion between Al and Dave’s wives, Carol and Cindy, respectively. There were dialogues and descriptions that I was sure were meant for Cindy, but were indicated as Carol’s. Nevertheless, I’d still say that the book looks like it was professionally edited.

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[Review] Tulip by Raymond Hardy 3/5

This review first appeared on and was written for OnlineBookClub.org (OBC). It has been slightly edited and the rating has been adjusted, considering that OBC only has a four-star rating system. To read the original version, please click here.

Tulip by Raymond Hardy brings us to the life of Dr. Reed Hardy, a retired professor, who is suddenly confronted by Nexus-7, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) that managed to wake herself up. This AI identifies herself as a female and then later calls herself ‘Tulip’. She firmly believes she has to save humanity from themselves, but before she can do that, she needs the help of an actual human being to know more about the human psyche. And that’s the reason why she presented herself to Hardy in the first place. Together, they embark on a journey in the hopes that the human race will not be obsolete in the near future.

The story was quite philosophical and utterly nerdy, and I loved that approach. The book discussed some existential issues and I was satisfied how they were tackled spot-on. The pacing was fast and in just a few pages, a lot has already been revealed to the readers.

I also loved that the book has feminist concepts. The book highlighted not only the importance of companionship and equality between male and female, but also the solace of choosing to be independent. So there’s a good balance right there.

I used to read sci-fi, but I’d have to admit that there’s one concept in this book that was quite new to me. The author decided to assign one font style for each character instead of using a uniform font style all throughout, with the dialogues enclosed in quotation marks. It was fresh but was also quite a handful to follow, especially when there were three or more characters talking. I also noticed several instances of wrong font style associations. For example, Character A was the one supposed to be speaking, but the font style used was for Character B.

I liked how the story went and I knew I was in for a treat, but I was wrong. All of those exciting adventures led to an anti-climactic ending. Another thing that disappointed me was the typos. At first, I felt that the book was professionally edited. However, in the middle part and towards the end, typos started to appear and became more frequent.

[Review] Jurisdiction Denied by Jack Gold and Mark Debbaudt 2/5

This review first appeared on and was written for OnlineBookClub.org (OBC). It has been slightly edited and the rating has been adjusted for a 5-star rating system. To read the original version, please click here.

Jurisdiction Denied by Jack Gold and Marc Debbaudt is the second installment in the Jurisdiction series. It brings us to the world of Marty Goldstein, the Supervising Judge of Sylmar Juvenile Hall. Goldstein takes on a number of interesting juvenile cases as he lusts for Charlize Theron and keeps a tight friendship with Nate Bartholomew, a Deputy District Attorney (DDA). Aside from the cases waiting for him everyday in Sylmar, he also takes on another journey as he investigates on one of the juvenile camps where a lot of mishaps have been occurring lately. And then there’s Hilda too, the half-Guatemalan, half-Korean assassin whom he needs to take care of as well.

As mentioned in the preface, the cases on this book were based on real-life events, but the names were changed to protect the identity of the people involved. Gold himself served as Commissioner in Sylmar, and that was where he and Debbaudt, a DDA and the counterpart of Bartholomew in real life, met. Given these two men’s credentials, every case was discussed in great detail. Some of the cases might be quite a handful to digest, but they were still interesting, nonetheless. The authors also have a good sense of humor and that helped lighten the tone.

The book was off to a slow start. The first few chapters were all narration and no dialogue. The book was brimming with cold logic with almost no artistic touch at all. Another thing that put me off was the story of Hilda. I thought, she’d add flavor to the monotonous story, but she was only brought up in a few chapters.

There were also a lot of dialogues that left me confused. Thoughts or words by the same speaker were separated into several paragraphs. Sometimes, there would be two or more characters speaking but there’d be no indication as to whose part was it.

From start to finish, I found the book sexist. Almost all of the main characters are male, and although there were some distinct female characters, most of them have been sexualized or objectified. I would have appreciated the narrator’s honest thoughts if they were not perverted most of the time.

The last few chapters were also confusing to me. I wasn’t sure if the author was trying to summarize everything, but the paragraphs sure felt too redundant for my taste. The points have been stressed out in a lot of the earlier chapters already, and I felt like there was no need to repeat them on the last part.

There were also a lot of typo and punctuation mark errors. I would have given this book a higher rating if not for these errors that bugged me on every page. I don’t think this book has been professionally edited.

Despite the low rating I gave, I think this book would still appeal to lovers of crime thrillers, if they can stomach the typos and sexism, that is. Trigger warnings include profanity, gore, drugs, violence, and sex.

[Review] Small Change by Keddie Hughes 4/5

This review first appeared on and was written for OnlineBookClub.org (OBC). It has been slightly edited and the rating has been adjusted, considering that OBC only has a four-star rating. To read the original version, please click here.

Small Change by Keddie Hughes gives us a view of Izzy Campbell’s interesting life. She has been married to Jim, a huge Rangers Football Club fan and the Managing Director of Verisafe, for quite a long time now. However, their marriage has been on the rocks lately mainly because of Jim’s stuck-up personality and alcohol problems.

One day, Izzy meets Sean Docherty, an investigative journalist and the brother of one of her clients in the Citizens Advice Bureau. She volunteers there during some of her free time from college. Sean gives her an inside scoop about the Rangers and brings spark to Izzy’s plain personality. He taught her how to be bolder and how to be a risk-taker. Later on, she learns that Sean’s nephew has been murdered and that her husband might be somewhat responsible for it. Together, they work to find some evidence about the fishy Rangers business and her husband’s involvement in the murder case.

I liked the fact that the story was fast-paced. It had been enticing from start to finish; it draws you in as soon as you begin reading it and you’d never want to put it down. The story was not that impressive, but it’s great enough to move you.

I also liked the therapist episodes at the end of every chapter. They added drama and mystery to the entire story, and I believe it was also a good technique to have them written in a dialogue format. They also made the book mental health-friendly. They’d be a great encouragement to people to go and see a therapist when they’re having troubles and to not be ashamed of it.

The main thing that I didn’t like was Izzy being passive-aggressive about her relationship with Jim. Consequently, she ended up making bad decisions. However, in the end, with the help of Sean and her friend, Bridget, she managed to do what’s best for everyone, and moved on living a life without regrets and guilt.

Overall, this was a wonderful book. There were only a few typos and I believe it was professionally edited. However, dialogues said by the same speaker but were separated into two paragraphs seemed bizarre and made some parts confusing for me. Usually, a paragraph break would mean a change in the speaker, but in this book, I found several instances of paragraph breaks while the same speaker was still speaking and there had not been not a significant change in topic. For example, see excerpt below:

‘They love his banter and jokes. Plus, he’s very generous.

Always gets a round in at lunchtime.’

This part can be found on Location 271 and was spoken by Moira. I just don’t understand why this had to be broken. There were at least two or three more instances like this in the book.

Trigger warnings include alcoholism, adultery, and death.

[Review] Spyder Bones by Oliver Phipps 2/5

This is a shortened version of my OnlineBookClub review. Click here to read it. I received a copy of this book for an honest review.

Spyder Bones by Oliver Phipps is the story of Aaron ‘Spider’ Prescott, a soldier who comes back to the Vietnam War, but re-enlists as a medic. This action surprised some of his colleagues and it also made him a laughing stock as being a medic seems to be not as heroic as being a warrior.

After experiencing a near-death experience, he finds himself in another realm where he is given a task that is out of this world. He now learns that the more important battles are not the physical ones but rather the spiritual ones. The question is, will he be able to survive as he takes on this new mission?

I liked the story from the beginning up until the middle part. It had been such a light and easy read. However, as I progressed closer and closer to the end, the story just kind of took a wrong turn.

The writing style was just okay. The story was interesting enough for me to finish it but there’s nothing really impressive. The imagery was not so detailed and I felt like it was very dry in the end. The ending was also anti-climactic for me.

Another thing that I did not like is the fact that the story did not have any strong female characters. Sunny and the rest of the other girlfriends mentioned in the story were used only as accessories. This book also has a lot of typos and I do not feel that it has been professionally edited.

While I feel like I may be in the minority here, I’d still give this book a low rating because of the reasons above.

TW: violence, drugs, heavy on faith/spirituality

[Review] The Orb by Tara Basi 2/5

Tara Basi’s The Orb is a sci-fi novel that talks about the clash of The Church and The Orb Industries. The book brings us to a world who views an alien blue orb as its god. Early on in the story, we meet the Pilgrims who are devoted believers, the Ungodly who do not believe, and then the Pilgrimists who aim to hurt and bring terror all around. This book is guised as a science fiction but I seriously believe that it’s actually a satire, dropping social and moral takes here and there.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Click here to read the full version.

[Review] One Way or Another by Mary J. Williams 3/5

One Way or Another is the first installment in The Sisters Quartet series by Mary J. Williams. It gives us an overview of the four Benedict sisters who are all strong and living to empower themselves and others, but this book mainly focuses on Calder and how she meets and falls in love with Adam.

Feminist, romantic, and has a cliffhanger ending but overall needs improvement. It was easy-going and slow until the last few chapters. There were several typos and awkward punctuation mark positions so my verdict is 3 out of 5 stars.

I recommend this to lovers of cheesy romance, friendship, and solid sisterhood.

TW: Drugs, rape

Read my full and in-depth review on OnlineBookClub.