Strong Evidence (Marcus Lear Mystery Book 4)

Take a trip to Arizona with Marcus Lear in J. Kevin Earp’s newest book, Strong Evidence. In this fourth installment of the Marcus Leary Mysteries, a disagreement between Marcus and Jenny (his girlfriend) causes a rift in their relationship. Needing to get a way for a little while, Jenny leaves Perrys Island without telling Marcus where she is going. As a result, when a missing person’s case in Arizona makes its way to Marcus, he is forced to accept it and work it by himself.

During his investigation, Marcus discovers a link between Jenny and the missing person. Could Jenny be involved in the victim’s disappearance? Marcus doesn’t think so, but local law enforcement do. After all, there is strong evidence indicating Jenny’s involvement. Can Marcus discover the real culprit, prove Jenny’s innocence, and find the missing person before it is too late?

Well, I’m not going to answer that question…you will just have to read it to find out.

Ascendant (Songs of Chaos, Book 1)

Finding good books can be a challenge. Good books for me usually mean – clean (no sex and limited to no profanity), an engaging storyline, and believable characters. I really think it says a lot about an author who can craft a story without feeling the need to include “adult content”. Because of my unusually high standards, I often find it hard to discover good books. So I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered Ascendant (Songs of Chaos Book 1) by Michael R. Miller. It meets all my qualifications and is story I can recommend to anyone (child and adult), without reservations.


Synopsis:

“Holt Cook was never meant to be a dragon rider. He has always served the Order Hall of the Crag dutifully, keeping their kitchen pots clean.

Until he discovers a dark secret: dragons do not tolerate weakness among their kin, killing the young they deem flawed. Moved by pity, Holt defies the Order, rescues a doomed egg and vows to protect the blind dragon within.

But the Scourge is rising. Undead hordes roam the land, spreading the blight and leaving destruction in their wake. The dragon riders are being slaughtered and betrayal lurks in the shadows.

Holt has one chance to survive. He must cultivate the mysterious power of his dragon’s magical core. A unique energy which may tip the balance in the battles to come, and prove to the world that a servant is worthy after all.”

©2020 Michael R. Miller (P)2020 Michael R. Miller
https://www.michaelrmiller.co.uk/books


Miller describes this series as “combining the best of Eragon/How To Train Your Dragon with eastern inspired magic systems of Xianxia and cultivation fantasy”, and I would agree. However, I would take it one step further and say that Miller’s style of writing is far more developed than Christopher Paolini’s Eragon. (Don’t get me wrong, I loved Eragon and read and re-read it as a teen.) However, Miller’s Ascendant delves more deeply into the characters; you see the character’s internal struggles, which makes them more relatable and even more courageous because you know their fears and insecurities.

What I liked most about this story is that it affirms the dignity of life, even that of the unborn. Holt is tasked with destroying a dragon egg because the Matriarch sensed an imperfection in it. However, Holt is unable to follow through with the task because it “just feels wrong” (Chapter 5). Later, when an opportunity presents itself, Holt rescues the dragon egg, intending to protect it until he can release it into the wild. Of course, things don’t go as planned, and the dragon egg hatches before Holt can release it. The dragon inside is blind.

As the story continues both Ash (the dragon) and Holt face many obstacles, one of which is the hostility of the other dragons who believe Ash should not be allowed to live. Holt feels increasing guilt for the struggles Ash faces, both because he is blind and because he is ostracized by the other dragons. When Holt mentions this to Ash, Ash sums it up quite nicely saying “Never worry about my eyes – I’m glad to experience the world as I do rather than not at all. As for others of my kind, they can accept me or not as they choose. I will not allow my own worth to be determined by them.” (Chapter 54)

In today’s society where we can abort the unborn simply because we do not want the responsibility of raising a child or because the child is going to be born with “imperfections” (disabilities/deformities), this book provides a reminder that all life has value. Whether or not the author intended this, I do not know. However, I will say it is refreshing and one of my favorite aspects of the book. I look forward to the second book in the series and in the meantime will enjoy his other book series – The Dragon’s Blade.

I will be adding this book to my Favorites list, and it has even made it in the top-10.

Finding ‘Ohana (Netflix)

For a lot of us, spending a summer in Hawaii sounds like a dream come true, but not for siblings Pili and Ioane.

Pili and Ioane grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and enjoy the chaotic, city life. When their grandfather, who lives in Hawaii, has a heart attack, their mother rushes them to Hawaii to be with him. This unexpected summer trip does not go over well with Pili and Ioane who had their own ideas on how to spend their summer.

Now, stuck on an island far away from friends, the two must find some way to entertain themselves. For Ioane, this consists of spending time on his phone and mocking his sister. For Pili, this means embarking on a treasure hunt with the clues she discovered in her grandfather’s journal. Ioana soon finds himself (unwillingly) involved on his sister’s “stupid” quest.

What promised to be a boring summer, soon turns into an adventure they will never forget, ultimately bring the family closer together.

Finding ‘Ohana has a distinct Journey to the Center of the Earth / Indiana Jones feel to it. The cast, particularly Kea Peahu (Pili), Alex Aiono (Ionae), Lindsay Watson (Hana), and Owen Vaccaro (Casper) do a stellar job carrying the movie. This family-friendly movie (Fun fact: there is only one make-out scene) can be enjoyed by children and adults alike.

Safety (Disney+)

College is challenging enough, but it is even more challenging when you are struggling to provide for your younger brother.

Safety, recently released on Disney+, is based on a true story. Jay Reeves plays Ray McElrathbey, a young man with a football scholarship to Clemson University. What starts off as your average college experience quickly takes a drastic turn when Ray’s mother is admitted into a drug recovery program. Now, Ray must juggle caring for his 11-year old brother Fahmarr (played by Thaddeus J. Mixson) while maintaining his rigorous academic and athletic life. Ray’s devotion and care for Fahmarr ultimately jeopardizes his scholarship to Clemson, and Ray soon has to make a decision – football or Fahmarr.

With a talented cast and a good plot, this feel-good movie is definitely worth the watch.

Sufficiently Advanced Magic

Adventure awaits in this land of magic and mythical gods!

Five years ago, Tristan Cadence disappeared during his Judgement – a potentially fatal quest to earn a magical attunement. Now, it is Corin Cadence’s turn to enter the Serpent Spire for his Judgement, and Corin has only one thing on his mind – find his brother.

By completing the Judgement, Corin hopes to earn a powerful attunement that will enable him to find his brother. As with all heroes, things never go as planned. While Corin does survive the Judgement, the attunement he receives is not one he was hoping for; furthermore, his actions in the Spire may have put him on the wrong side of the gods. And the last thing any teenager wants, is to be an enemy of the gods.

Sufficiently Advanced Magic, book one of the Arcane Ascension series, by Andrew Rowe quickly draws readers in with it’s easy to read (or listen to) writing style and well developed characters. Once you start, you won’t want to stop.

Arcane Ascension is one series I will be adding to my “favorites” list for teens and adults.

In terms of content, I give book one, Sufficiently Advanced Magic, a PG rating and book two, On the Shoulders of Titans, a PG-13 rating. The series contains some brief references to LGBTQ issues/topics. For the most part these references are quick and almost feel like they were thrown in there for the sake of being politically correct. However, because the second book has a few more references and contains some innuendoes, I would be hesitant to recommended it to younger children. (I will note that books one and two did not contain any sex. I have not read book three yet, but I hope it continues to remain relatively clean.)