[BBNYA 2022 Finalist Tour] Book Review: Haven by Ceril N. Domace

Happy Thursday, my lovely peeps🐥!

For this week’s review, we have yet another blog tour! This time, we have one in celebration of one of the 2022 Book Bloggers’ Novel of the Year Award (BBNYA) finalists. For my stop on this tour, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on this imaginative and fast-paced fantasy, full of world-building wonders! Haven by Ceril N. Domace came in 13th place for the BBNYA 2022 competition and you’ll see why by the end of my review! A round of applause please 🎊

BOOK BLOGGERS’ NOVEL OF THE YEAR AWARD (BBNYA)

BBNYA is a yearly competition where book bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors, ending with 15 finalists and one overall winner.  If you are an author and wish to learn more about the BBNYA competition, you can visit the official website http://www.bbnya.com or Twitter @bbnya_official. BBNYA is brought to you in association with the @Foliosociety (if you love beautiful books, you NEED to check out their website!) and the book blogger support group @The_WriteReads.

Title: Haven
Author: Ceril N. Domace
Genre: Fantasy, Science Fantasy, Contemporary Fantasy
Age Category: Adult
Length: 280 Pages
Published: 30 April 2021
Publisher: Self-Published

LINKS:
Amazon Canada
: [Link]
Amazon USA: [Link]
Amazon UK: [Link]
Goodreads: [Link]

Disclaimer: Thank you to BBNYA, TheWriteReads, and the author for providing me this copy in exchange for a fair and honest review! All opinions are mine.

Most people think the fae are gone. Most people are wrong.

Owen Williams wakes after a horrific car accident to find his wife is dead—and somehow turned into a gryphon—and his kids gone after a home invasion turned horribly wrong. Shattered and reeling, he vows to do whatever it takes to find them.

When a fae scout appears and promises to reunite him with his kids, he doesn’t hesitate before joining her. But she warns him that if he wants to protect his family, he must follow the fae to their city, the hidden haven of Tearmann.

With enemies on the horizon, Owen needs to set aside his fears and take up arms to defend their new home alongside the people he’s always been taught were monsters—or he’ll lose everyone he’s trying to protect

I enjoyed this read a little too much and by the end, found myself ready to jump right into the next book. The writing was engaging and, if I wasn’t so busy or too sleepy to continue, I probably could have finished this book in a single go. I loved all of the characters, especially Owen, the main character. I’ve read a lot of books that star father, but usually there aren’t so many people in the family: a wife and many a son/daughter with a single sibling. Owen’s family is huge compared to that. He’s got him and his wife, their dog Toto, an older son (Arthur) and daughter (Ashley), a pair of twins (Jen and David), and a younger toddler (Dorothy). Right away, I loved the engagement and interaction between this family. We start the book with the family going to grab ice cream together after Ashley’s violin recital and the bickering and warmth made me fall in love immediately with the Williams family.

And then immediately, having known the summary of the story already, my heart already shatters knowing this is probably the last happy night they’re all safe, happy, and together. As they get ready to leave the ice cream shop, Tiffany collapses in agony with a splitting headache and Owen instructs his oldest son to grab the kids and head home first while he tries to get his wife to the hospital. On the way there, Tiffany undergoes a change, in which a human becomes a fae, and then Owen crashes the car. It’s the last thing he remembers until he wakes in the hospital, his wife declared dead, and when he gets home there’s blood and his children are missing. In a single night, Owen’s life is changed forever and he immediately sets out to look for his missing children.

The story is really interesting and I really enjoyed the twist of history and lore. The world is much like our own with the exception that the fae showed up fifty years prior, went to war with the U.S. after realizing they were being experimented on, and then isolated themselves in havens post-war. There hasn’t been a change, like Tiffany’s, in the last five years and Owen can barely believe it when the nurse tells him that his wife was in the process of this change when she died due to injuries during this vulnerable state.

The world-building here was great and the fae is such an interesting concept. When I think of the fae, I think of fairy-like creatures. Here, they’re not fairies, but rather the collective name for a number of mythological or folklore creatures including shades, werewolves, centaurs, gryphons, harpies, trolls, harpies, vampires, dragons, and so on. A werewolf is a fae but so is a vampire. Usually, they’re just called supernatural creatures, but here that given name would be the fae and that was a neat twist. When Owen eventually lives amongst the fae in their havens, he becomes a sort of audience surrogate and as he learns all about the fae, so do the readers. I really enjoyed reading every little small detail (which says a lot because I generally don’t care for supernatural/mythological plots).

Character-wise, we eventually see the children again and a lot of the story revolves around Owen’s struggle with not just trying to raise his children while the entire family is still hurting and going through grief and loss, but that it’s a whole new world out there and within his family. His wife being fae meant that his children have a chance to go through the change as well and are all partially fae by birth. The fear of knowing one of his kids may die in the process, much like his wife did, weighs heavily on his mind daily. But, they all eventually settle and attempt to adapt to their new life. You can see how caring and doting of a father Owen is. We constantly see Owen worrying over them or going into full papa bear mode, doing whatever it takes if it means his kids can be safe.

Owen is the character that we get to know the most through the book since we only get his perspective of events, but there are occasionally diary entries of different characters as well including a fae queen. The rest of the Williams aren’t forgotten either by the author. Everyone is unique, although some have stronger and bolder personalities than the others in the family; their “stage presence” is just that much brighter. Besides the Williams, the others in the haven are very interesting as well: the queen, the lords, the daycare werewolf, the guides, and even the neighbors.

Another aspect of this book I really enjoyed was that this was a bit of a slice-of-life read. Sure, the fae and the U.S. are getting closer and closer to war almost every day and throughout the story, the air is heavy with anticipation of this inevitable event. However, much of the book focuses on the every day for the family. Getting to know the new place, learning about the new cultures and new things about each other, making friends, Owen heading off to work or attending meetings, the kids going off to school or hanging with friends, walking through town, celebrating in the cafeteria, and so on. I guess, after all these casual sim games with small towns and farm life, getting to read it as a story makes me kind of giddy.

All in all, Haven was a very enjoyable read. I loved the characters, I adored Owen’s protectiveness, the world-building was top notch and the writing is engrossing. Chapters always felt short and I was just flying through the book. Seeing a larger family in a fantasy book, even if it’s more of an urban fantasy, is refreshing. Family is a major theme here and so are grief and loss. The family grows apart at times and then comes back together again. Many have incredible personal growth and they change physically and mentally by the end. The concept was neat and it was interesting to see how it built and added on the traditional supernatural creatures of lore A great read and I can’t wait to get into the second book.

Ceril N Domace is an accountant, the owner of the feline embodiment of violence, and a dedicated dungeon master. On the rare occasions she manages to free herself from an ever-growing and complex web of TTRPG, Ceril enjoys taking walks and griping that all her hobbies are work in disguise

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Blog Tour Book Review: The Urban Boys: The Discovery of the Five Senses by K. N. Smith

Oooh, guess who’s back to bring you her first post in a long time!
Today is my stop on TheWriteReads blog tour for The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five Senses by K.N. Smith and I’ll be sharing my thoughts and a review of the book!

Book Description

Title: The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five Senses
Author: K.N. Smith
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy/Thriller
Length: 292 Pages
Publishing: 29th September 2015
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0989474755/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26850355-the-urban-boys

Book Blurb

Welcome or unwelcome. Fate has arrived.

“A captivating and poetic tale of mystery, fantasy, and reality tied together by action!” 5-stars, Lars Jackson, Amazon Customer

A suspenseful incident in a forbidden preserve heightens the senses of five friends. Sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell become super-gifts that forever change the world. But furious battles confront the boys as they try to understand their sensory super powers in a race to save mankind. With light beings and mysterious strangers complicating their plight, can the boys defeat the evil Druth before it’s too late? Get prepared for the twisting and grinding of this award-winning, action-adventure story — an edge-of-your-seat narrative for young and mature readers alike.


Disclaimer: A physical copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. A huge thank you to TheWriteReads and the author for this copy! All opinions are my own.


Book Review

The story begins with a pretty good hook. Nothing’s more gripping and grabs your attention like two teenagers happening across a murder happening right in front of them. It almost seems like the act comes from nowhere and many years later, the very villain reappears to wreck havoc; destruction ensues and heroes are needed to stop him. The original team failed, but can these boys successed in what the original gang could not do?

The writing is an odd mix; It was the only thing I really couldn’t get over. It’s very poetic and flowery on the edge of purple, but only sometimes. The main characters of this book are teenagers, but there are times that it felt like they were a bit younger, like middle school superheroes, the kind that are 10 and mom waves you off to take on the world (*squints in Pokemon*). So it was a strange mix between YA-aged characters with the occasional middle-grade feel but with literary proses that felt like what I’d read in English class in college. There ARE times when it’s fantastic though. There were a few moments where nothing but purple could be used to describe a scene, lest you do it and the emotions injustice. I’ve seen some people describe the prose as lyrical and I can’t agree more. I swear I shed at least a few tears myself.

Like large almonds, captivating in their shape and color, Jordan and Mason’s eyes beautifully expressed their mixed heritage, showcasing a mash of brown, green, and blue. Reminiscent of a seascape, their dark eyelids and thick eyebrows perfectly framed their bluehazel features.

The parts that were really hard to read were the awkward pacing and descriptions. Sometimes things are overly descriptive and sometimes you lose chunks of time because of the utter lack of descriptions. Things that don’t need any more description have it in abundance. Things that do need more text don’t have it. The writing can be kind of tell-y vs showy.

It is a fast read though. The writing, despite all the flowers, is actually very easy to read. I’ve never had a book so “lyrical” and still so easy to digest. Gone are the days where I reread the same page 10 times because one paragraph lost me completely. Turns out, it really is possible to have fancy sentences that are still readable by my very slow-to-digest brain. I can’t tell you how refreshing that is. Combined with relatively short chapters, this was one of the easier-to-read books I’ve gone through all year! I practically inhaled it and it’s very easy to read in a single sitting. 

Magic and worldbuilding-wise, working around a plot related to the heightened five senses was a neat concept. I know super vision, super hearing, and maybe super smelling abilities are part of the widely used superpowers out there, but super taste and super touch are new and creative. The five senses are important and strong when together and that was a major theme in the book; being together. Alone, the boys were weak. What good is super-smelling abilities without the others backing you up? But when the boys work together, that very power can help the group track the villain down and the others can still back him up in terms of manpower and senses. Further in the story, this sense of sticking together becomes even more important.

The characters are interesting. We have a group of teenage boys all with interesting families. There’s a character where his mother had passed after an accident, another whose parents are together, and another who is being looked after by his very hard working older sister. All of their families are very supportive of the boys and are constantly doing their best to look after the boys. In turn, the boys do their best not to stress them out, even if this means hiding their powers and abilities (and the fact that they’re kids trying to save the world; but also let’s face it, tell your pops you have superpowers and see if he believes you).

As for the boys themselves, they’re pretty fleshed-out characters. The five boys claim a sense each and it was interesting getting to see how each of them adjusts to their powers, how they use them to both fight and support each other. They have individual lives outside of kicking butt, they have their own problems at home or with girlfriends, and all of them come from different circumstances. Despite the differences, they still do their best to mold their newfound powers to be inclusive of the others in the group and come to the aid when it’s needed.

Overall, this was a good book that I would recommend to YA readers. The writing is flowery and lyrical, is heavy on metaphors sometimes and quite poetic, but it’s also very easy to read, easy to digest, and with shortish chapters, I was able to fly through this book. The pacing and occasional awkward time skips made things feel a little off when reading, but that’s my only gripe with the book. The cast of characters are some pretty good and decent kids with their families just as good of people. All in all, a good book with a neat concept. 

About the Author

K.N. Smith is an award-winning author. She is a passionate advocate of arts and literacy programs throughout the world. Her lyrical flair sweeps across pages that twist and grind through action-adventure and urban fantasy in edge-of-your-seat narratives. K.N. has over twenty-five years’ experience in communications and creative design as an award-winning consultant. Reading is still her foremost hobby. She is also the founder of Mental Health California™, and creator and director of Brother Be Well, her signature nonprofit community initiative. Discovery of the Five Senses was awarded “Best of” in the category “Outstanding Young Adult Novel” at the Jessie Redmon Fauset Book Awards at the 10th Annual Leimert Park Village Book Fair. The event, voted one of LA’s best annual book festivals, attracts over 200 authors, poets, spoken word artists, storytellers, performers, and literary/ educational exhibitor participants, and boasts an audience of over 5,000. She is also a Readers’ Favorite “Gold Medal” honoree for “Young Adult – Mystery”.

Book Review: Righteous Prey by John Sandford

Happy Thursday, my lovely peeps🐥!
This week’s book review: Righteous Prey by John Sandford!

This was my most anticipated read of the year and I kept pushing it off as if to make the read even more rewarding the longer I wait for it. I finally got around to it, and I absolutely loved it!

Book Title: Righteous Prey
Series: Prey Series / Virgil Flowers
Book # 32 (Prey) / 14 (Virgil Flowers)
Author: John Sandford
Length: ~412 Pages (Based on Kindle Pages)
Publication Date: 4 Oct 2022
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Edition: eARC (NetGalley)
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Mystery > Crime, Thriller, Thriller > Mystery Thriller, Suspense, Police Procedural, Action

Goodreads: >LINK<
Amazon: >LINK<
Author Website: >LINK<

Disclaimer: A big thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley. An ebook copy was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. This does not affect my review in any way, and all opinions are my own.

Beloved heroes Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers are up against a powerful vigilante group with an eye on vengeance in a stunning new novel from #1 New York Times-bestselling author John Sandford.

“We’re going to murder people who need to be murdered.” So begins a press release from a mysterious group known only as “The Five,” shortly after a vicious predator is murdered in San Francisco. The Five is believed to be made up of vigilante killers who are very bored…and very rich. They target the worst of society—rapists, murderers, and thieves—and then use their unlimited resources to offset the damage done by those who they’ve killed, donating untraceable bitcoin to charities and victims via the dark net. The Five soon become the most popular figures on social media, a modern-day Batman…though their motives may not be entirely pure.

After a woman is murdered in the Twin Cities, Virgil Flowers and Lucas Davenport are sent in to investigate. And they soon have their hands full–the killings are smart and carefully choreographed, and with no apparent direct connection to the victims, the Five are virtually untraceable. But if anyone can destroy this group, it will be the dynamic team of Davenport and Flowers.

5 bitcoin traders, immensely wealthy, and absolutely nuts in the head, conspire along with another individual to commit crimes “for the better of the world.” They kill those they deem worthy of death, post their crimes out as press releases along with the reasons that the individuals were killed, and a hefty amount in bitcoin is donated to a charity afterwards, a test to see if these non-profits would accept the money if they were to come out of these crimes; blood money. Lucas and Virgil aren’t called on, at least not until one of the killings happens on Minnesota soil and the BCA and US Marshal become involved.

Though I’ve seen books revolving around an individual or groups of people going after people who deserve justice, it was still a pretty good book and I enjoyed the plot. Beginning with weeks of staking out their victims, following their every move and tracking all of their personal securities, these five million/billionaire, along with their leader, come up with extremely detailed and well-thought-out plans that fully cover their tracks behind them. It’s nearly impossible to link the crime back to the perpetrator, at least, of course, until the killer in Minnesota slips up and it’s just enough of a clue for Lucas and Virgil to work off of. From there, the plot takes off and it doesn’t take long for the duo to identify some of the members of the Five and begin their pursuit. When The Five’s plans begins to crumble beneath them, people start to get really desperate. And desperate people are dangerous people.

In the first book where Lucas and Virgil worked together, Ocean Prey, Virgil actually worked mostly with Rae and Lucas with another team, covering background. Both having a criminal mind, nabbing clues in not so legal ways (like breaking into a house to investigate with a copy of a key made by pressing clay on it?), they have vastly different personalities when it comes to crime. Lucas sees things like a puzzle while Virgil’s more emotional (not that deaths don’t affect Lucas), but there’s an interesting dynamic between the two of them.

Lucas and Virgil were each other’s closest male friends, in the way men form friendships around shared traumatic stress and a predilection for jockstraps. Though they were friends, they were not alike.

Lucas could look at a body and become immediately absorbed in the technical details of the death: how the killing had been done, possible motives, who had the opportunity. He saw murder as a puzzle. The body was a detail, but not the only one. Murder signaled a competition that he was determined to win.

Virgil sought balance, rather than a victory. He wanted to wrench his world back into what it should be, a peaceful place where people cooperated to create a civilization. He disliked violence and rarely resorted to it. Murder was always a shock to his system.

In Righteous Prey, this time the duo really does work together, starting by visiting the scene of the Minnesota death, and “walking and knocking” on doors. Lucas being Virgil’s old boss, they’re best friends and their conversations can be pretty golden at times. There’s a hilarious supermarket scene with the most cliché undercover cop “quick pretend we’re a cute couple to avoid attention” trope that was the comedic highlight of my read. They’re funny and witty, and fantastic at bouncing ideas off each other. The bicker and banter between them reminds me of siblings and their interaction lightens the tenser parts of the book.

The woman called, “What’d you do? Did he see you?”

A male agent, also inside the store, who’d been looking at tomatoes, said, “They walked by him holding hands. [killer] wouldn’t look at them. He’s a homophobe and thought they were gay.”

Lucas, not transmitting, said to Virgil, “I won’t live this down. You will, of course, being an ambisexual hippie.”

The woman agent said, “That’s so cool. That’s really so cool.”

Lucas: “Ah, Jesus.”

There’s a lot of character development over the course of multiple books, for both Lucas and Virgil. Virgil has been writing as a side gig since the earliest books, more so as a magazine column writer, though. Soon, taking nature photographs and writing for magazines became writing fiction books for publishing deals and he’s in the middle of his third novel when Righteous Prey is taking place, with Lucas, a game maker himself, encouraging him. Because cops burn out hard and fast. Lucas, already rich off his games and only picking up the most interesting of cases can only hope that Virgil will follow because neither of them can see the latter continue to run around Minnesota for much longer. They’re getting older and their lives have been constantly at stake. They barely make it through this book (though I’ve definitely said this earlier in a few other books too, so…)

There were some places that were slow, you can’t have promising leads forever, and there are multiple times the duo run into walls. Still, the thrill is always present and there’s always some form of a chase, but the killers are just as slippery as they are elusive. Along with cash to back them up, clever alibis, and this case taking place across multiple stakes, Virgil and Lucas are just running all over the place. In fact, if The Five had kept all of this on the down low, and not going about publishing every hit to the public, they probably could’ve easily gotten away with these killings for a long time!

All in all, I had a wonderful time with it and I’m definitely going to get the physical copy when it comes out next month. My only worry is, with Lucas and Virgil growing older, having promising new careers on their horizon, family, and with Lucas’ adoptive daughter, Letty, having her own spin-off series now, we may very well be nearing the end of both Lucas and Virgil’s adventures. The book ends pretty well though, especially given the scary events that took place in the climax. It has a very open end feel to it, with plenty of possibilities to come. Another gripping and solid book from Sandford. I could not put this one down!

Book Review: The 6:20 Man by David Baldacci

Hello, my lovely peeps🐥! Allergies are getting the better of me this morning, but I’m hyped because there’s going to be a Nintendo Treehouse Live Presentation in a few hours! I’ve never played Splatoon, but I am very excited for Harvestella (though I’m a little surprised at this random appearance in the direct). Only 67 more days until November! My wallet is ready!!

(No, not really)💸

This week’s review is for The 6:20 Man by David Baldacci! Exciting, riveting and gripping. An unputdownable book!

Book Title: The 6:20 Man
Author: David Baldacci
Length: 417 Pages
Published: 12 July 2022
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller > Mystery Thriller, Mystery > Crime, Contemporary, Action

Disclaimer: Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for this gifted copy! All opinions are of my own.

Goodreads: >LINK<
Grand Central Publishing: >LINK<
Amazon: >LINK<

Every day without fail, Travis Devine puts on a cheap suit, grabs his faux-leather briefcase, and boards the 6:20 commuter train to Manhattan, where he works as an entry-level analyst at the city’s most prestigious investment firm. In the mornings, he gazes out the train window at the lavish homes of the uberwealthy, dreaming about joining their ranks. In the evenings, he listens to the fiscal news on his phone, already preparing for the next grueling day in the cutthroat realm of finance.

Then one morning Devine’s tedious routine is shattered by an anonymous email: She is dead.

Sara Ewes, Devine’s coworker and former girlfriend, has been found hanging in a storage room of his office building—presumably a suicide, prompting the NYPD to come calling on him. If that wasn’t enough, Devine receives another ominous visit, a confrontation that threatens to dredge up grim secrets from his past in the Army unless he participates in a clandestine investigation into his firm.

This treacherous role will take Travis from the impossibly glittering lives he once saw only through a train window, to the darkest corners of the country’s economic halls of power…where something rotten lurks. And apart from this high-stakes conspiracy, there’s a killer out there with their own agenda, and Devine is the bullseye.

I’ve never read a David Baldacci book before, despite seeming them everywhere, and I can see why he’s so popular! Right off the bat, his writing has me amazed, the characters intriguing, and the first chapter had me already hooked! The mystery behind the guilt the fuels our protagonist’s every day struggle to work in a place that makes him loath his life had me fully invested in his life in just the first 5 pages.

The book is 84 chapters long, but at only 417 pages long, this means that each chapter is relatively short. Most are less than 10 pages, and some are less than 5. I love books that break things into tiny little chapters because I feel like I’m flying through the book, especially whenever chapters end on a cliffhanger. Besides the formatting, the pacing and the prose itself was wonderfully done. It’s fast and every time I open the book, I find myself lost in the story; there’s never a not exciting moment.

Our protagonist here is Travis Devine. From the very start of the book, we know that Devine had been a ranger before he randomly just left the services. But “leave and never look back” was not something he did. Devine left due to the guilt of having gotten away with a crime that he has not ever forgiven himself for and so, he punishes himself by getting up at 4 in the morning to work out before begrudgingly heading off on the 6:20 train to work in a place that he hates with a passion, grinding away with all of the other “burners” making money for people who don’t need more money. If he hates his life, good. It’s working.

The train started to fill, station after station, with the young gladiators in their suits and skirts, their laptops and clouds fired up and gestating future wealth for those with already too much of it. Later, the train climbed the little knoll, slowed, and then stopped, like a thirsty animal does at creekside for a drink.

I liked Devine. He’s smart, careful, stoic, analytical and observant. The first few chapters, I had thought he was going to be some one-worded or short sentenced, near silent protagonist, kind of character. He kind of does. He speaks in ways that feel like an interrogation and when he’s done with you, he leaves. There’s no need to rile people up more than needed and generally gives people more chances than they deserve (such as the time he beat up a few dudes, who followed him, after giving them MULTIPLE warnings, before asking a woman to call the ambulance rather than leave them in the alley). He’s intimidating and looking to punish himself for his past crimes, but, as another character points out, he’s kinder than he lets on and deeply cares about those close to him.

Devine thinks things through and often has some plan to get out of trouble, but if he didn’t have one, he’d be quick on his feet to think one up just as well. If that didn’t work, his ranger training never left him, and he’s able to get himself out of a tough situation, though he’s no invincible man and doesn’t always walk out without some injury.

When he does find himself cornered with no way out, he has people looking out for him, including some badass female characters. Devine lives with three other roommates, a woman who is studying to be a lawyer, Helen Speers, another the CEO of her own online dating company named Hummingbird, Jill Tapshaw, and then there’s Will Valentine, the hacker from Russia. All brilliant people with their own important roles in this book. They all assist him in some way, or another, as Devine investigates the murder of a woman he’s once dated, Sara Ewes. Then, there’s Montgomery, a very important character who sells herself short in being just a trophy girlfriend when she’s anything but; accompanying Devine even when she’s probably terrified for her life. She strikes me the most and is probably my favorite character, having helped Devine on so many levels.

The plot was fantastic; I could barely put the book down. When I was reading, I found myself flying through the book, and the short chapters aren’t the only reasons why, either. The plot and story, the interesting characters and dialogue, the mystery and suspense behind all of the crimes, the need to find out how things all tie up in the end, the adrenaline rushes, the plot twists, the writing in general, all of it made for a wonderful and explosive read.

Devine starts off trying to get to the bottom of a single “suicide” only for it to turn all the weird corners and suddenly, he finds himself in deep muck. A deal is proposed in which choice is just an illusion. Declining the deal means his past can get him in a great load of trouble so the only thing left is to agree, accept, and move forward. The more he uncovers things about Sara, the more things begin to surface, and they’re not good things either. Some things, even when discovered, are far too great for a single individual, or even a whole organization, to handle. Because money means power, and power can get you just about anywhere, so long as you don’t step in one of the dozens of minefields.

“But if you have enough money, the laws don’t apply to you.”

The ending was great as well, just short of mind-blowing. I was wrong in so many different ways, and Devine was actually not far off from me either. There’s a whole reveal chapter that ties all of the events together, from the first death to the last. That was the only slightly jarring chapter (I can’t say it was a bad chapter either, especially as my eyes widened, and my jaws dropped at every consecutive sentence that came out of the antagonist’s mouth) as it was essentially a whole confession chapter, on a nearly info dumping level and mostly dialogue. Devine was always so close to the truth, but was never able to finish the puzzle; having laid the connected clues in chunks to the side. The antagonist gave us (and Devine) that connection and closure that ended things neatly, with no pieces left over for us to question and guess on about. The last chapter was bittersweet, but I liked it. I think even Devine felt just a bit lighter as he, once more, rides the 6:20 train.

Book Review: Song of Kitaba by Mark Everglade

Book Title: Song of Kitaba
Author: Mark Everglade
Length: 252 Pages
Published: June 13th, 2022
Publisher: All Things That Matter Press
Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction > Dystopia, Science Fiction > Cyberpunk

Disclaimer: A huge thank you to the author, Mark Everglade, for providing me with a physical copy for review! All opinions are of my own.

Goodreads: >LINK<
Author’s Page: >LINK<
Amazon: >LINK<

What if the world knew your deepest secrets? What if the government had a monopoly on your thoughts?

In the City of Catonis, everything you think is written across giant screens for public scrutiny, and revolution can only be cloaked with meditation.

Things are the opposite in the Hollow Forest, where people are executed for writing, and ink is rationed for only the tribal council’s use. When the love of her life is killed, Kitaba Mahahara must leave her village and launch a cultural war for human freedom, but she’ll need help. Cybermonks, hactivists, and tech gurus will unite as tradition runs face to face with the oppression that passes for progress.

Two civilizations, one without self-expression, and one forced to reveal everything, will pave a new way for humanity, if they don’t destroy it first.

The book starts off with Kitara making her escape from the Hollow Forest, the only place she’s ever called home. Whereas in the City of Catonis, where your every thought is displayed for the public to see, your life and privacy hold no rights here, with the only escape being meditation to learn and shut your brain off from the constant and unconscious streams of information and words it generates, things are very different in the outer villages.

Life is the complete in the villages; opposite to the big cities. Electricity exists as a basic aid, but otherwise, there’s nothing else: no computers, no drones, and certainly no implants in your brain and sentiscreens displaying your every thought to the world. But, what there IS is the (near) complete silencing of their citizens. Unless you were of upper class, everything from ink and crayons, to even carving messages into rocks, is forbidden. One is of a city that oppresses its people by displaying it all to the world, and the other is one that prevents such expressions. In both, the reasons are the same. If you monitory your people, with or without words, there will be no wars, revolutions, and rebellions. Two extremes and people seem to just…live with it. Some are even happy, because control means safety.

But for Kitaba, things are about to change and she will be the change. She will expose anbd show the world the oppression that hides behind the trees of her home. The only thing is, she’s not the only one with a goal.

This was a pretty enjoyable read. Right from the start, we have an adrenaline pumping scene as Kitaba escapes her village, and it’s not without obstacles. She’s left the village after having stolen illegal goods, not meant for the common folk and poor of Hollow Forest, and the guards after her. Dead or alive, it doesn’t matter, and there are a handful of times they’re so close that she can feel their breath. If you think this kind of action diminishes as she’s safely in Catonis, think again. Regardless of where she goes, Kit manages to attract trouble in every nook, cranny, and corner. Throughout the book, she’s always on the run from something or someone, and the only constant in her life is that she now has allies by her side.

The characters are fun to read, and the world building is fantastic, fascinating, and neither worlds that Kit experiences sounds like a fun place to live. The contrast between the different characters, particularly any tech-saavy individuals placed next to the “girl from the outer villages” was definitely interesting to read especially when she uses her own terms for things (like “complanter”). I really enjoyed reading Kitaba and some other characters like Gaines, the hacker, and his girlfriend Nova, as well as Ciro who is fiercely protective of Kitaba. The characters all have their own set of flaws and some of them are addressed by the end of the book.

Description and world wise, it was pretty neat to read both the technologically advanced Catonis and Hollow Forest. Each has their own distinct government, laws, and both are oppressed in their own extreme ways (show all words or none at all!). I love the description of Catonis, the different technology and lifestyles already dependent on such equipment and implants, though the culture of songs and sea-shell homes of Hollow Forest is nothing short of impressive on their own.

I also really liked the writing and the prose was one of the first things I noted down as soon as I began to read. Descriptions are not over the top, though some occasional world building scenes, whether it was dialogue or descriptive text, felt a little like reading a textbook. There are also some scenes that are dialogue heavy, but the whole thing reads like an impressive movie and I find myself lost in the banters and arguments as well as the philosophy that comes out of Ciro or Kitaba.

Overall: The characters are fleshed out with some fine set of traits, personalities, and (as expected) we get pretty deep with Kitaba’s personal history, but we also get some nice background wit Ciro and even the two supporting characters, Gaine and Nova get their own little chapter, an entire POV from each of them, dedicated to tell their stories to Kit (and thus the audience). The world building is neat, the concept that ink is illegal is pretty interesting, but the most fascinating thing were the cog implants, sentiscreens, and their ability to project your inner and most private thoughts to the world. Social media (essentially the volunterry versions of the involuntarily display of private information to the world) is mentioned in here as well and that was one interesting point of this book. Song of Kitaba really does make you sit down and think about inner thoughts, monitoring, secrecy, and privacy.

A great read of a scary world.

Book Review: Old Country by Matt & Harrison Query

Happy Thursday everyone!
Last week, I was extremely hyped over the upcoming Pokemon Scarlet & Violet games in November, but in the last few days, I’ve been thinking more and more about Square Enix’s debut into the life/farm simulation world with Harvestella, also coming out in November. It’s going to be a hard hitting month on my wallet!

For this week’s review, I’m sharing my thoughts on Old Country by brothers, Matt & Harrison Query!

Book Title: Old Country
Author: Matt Query & Harrison Query
Length: 341 Pages
Published: 26 July 2022
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy > Paranormal, Fantasy > Supernatural, Horror, Thriller > Mystery Thriller, Adult

Disclaimer: Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for this gifted copy! All opinions are of my own.

Goodreads: >LINK<
Grand Central Publishing: >LINK<
Amazon: >LINK<

Based on the Reddit sensation, a horror thriller of a young couple who buys the perfect, secluded house—only to discover the terror within.

It’s the house of their dreams. Former marine Harry and his wife, Sasha, have packed up their life and their golden retriever, Dash, and fled the corporate rat race to live off the land in rural Idaho. Their breathtaking new home sits on more than forty acres of meadow, aspen trees, and pine forest in the Teton Valley. Even if their friends and family think it’s a strange choice for an up-and-coming pair of urban professionals, Harry and Sasha couldn’t be happier about the future they’re building, all by their lonesome.

That is, until their nearest neighbors, Dan and Lucy Steiner, come bearing more than housewarming gifts. Dan and Lucy warn Harry and Sasha of a malevolent spirit that lives in the valley, one that with every season will haunt them in fresh, ever-more-diabolical ways. At first, it seems like an old wives’ tale. But when spring arrives, so does the first evil manifestation, challenging everything Harry and Sasha thought they knew about the world.

As each season passes, the spirit grows stronger, the land more sinister, and each encounter more dangerous. Will Harry and Sasha learn the true meaning of a forever home before it’s too late? Haunting and bone-chilling, Old Country is a spellbinding debut in the horror genre.

This book had its ups and downs, and most of the downs revolved around a particular character, but otherwise, it was actually a pretty good read and I enjoyed the general theme and atmosphere as well as intrigued over the different rituals that were needed to appease the spirits in each season. I generally space my books over the course of a single week (two weeks if they are longer fantasies), but I managed to eat through this book to finish it up early. There were moments when I noted that it was kind of slow, and almost felt like the [in-book] days was dragging on and felt repetitive, but it’s followed by moments and chapters that kept me flipping through the pages like a mad woman, eager to see what happens next; cliffhanger chapters that make you gasp and all.

That’s a lot of swear words. It’s amusing.

The second half of the book felt like it had a slightly different writing style than the first half. This was the case in not just the story, but the characters and tone as well. I’m always curious how the writing in books with multiple authors, are split up; whether one person did all the writing and the other added bits in, or they split up sections to each other. The first half was sprinkled with swear words in a way if you were to hand the toppings to a kid and told them they had free rein to the ice cream. Don’t get me wrong! I have nothing against swears, I just happen to take notice of repeating words (there were 71 fucks/’ers/’ing in the first 100 pages alone!). It was amusing, to say the least. The only other thing I noted was, despite there were two POVs (Harry and Sasha), the two seemed to meld into each other. There were times I’d flip back to check on which POV I was reading in.

I mention writing styles because towards the middle, the swearing suddenly dies down by quite a lot. The tone feels different, the characters feel slightly different, and I’m able to start recognizing which chapter is narrated by which person. Rather than having a hard time distinguishing the two from each other, Sasha’s side of the story really felt like Sasha and Harry’s his.

Regardless of how it’s written or split, it’s easy to read and I enjoyed the book thanks to other aspects. The descriptions are fantastic and it doesn’t matter if it’s visual and something the characters see or if it’s physical and something they felt, everything they experienced is right there for you to experience with them, and it’s not pretty.

Seasonal manifestations of a malevolent spirit older than you can imagine!

There are four main characters in this book. There’s Harry (Harold) and Sasha (the two protagonists) and their neighbors, Dan and Lucy, who is this adorable and caring older couple that immediately takes a liking to Harry and Sasha, making sure to provide them with tips and tricks on both this new country lifestyle they’re living (both Harry and Sasha were city folks, so this rural ranch life is new to them) and, most importantly, the rituals that Harry and Sasha must follow.

In this valley, there is a malevolent spirit that manifests itself in different ways across the seasons, with winter being the only time it seems to take a vacation and not bother most of the residents of the town. With each different manifestation, there were rituals that Harry and Sasha must follow in order to not face its wrath.

In spring, when a light appears in the pond, you must light a fire in your house. If you don’t, you will hear drums outside your house and at that point, you’d better prepare to hunker down and bear the “storm” that follows.

In the summer, a bear will chase a man wearing his birthday suit, both running out of the forest in an almost slow jog. The man will be screaming his head off (as one would expect of a guy being chased by a hungry bear) and you must put a barrier between you and the man, not the bear. There’s no extra special ritual to follow other than to make sure that the man doesn’t get a hold of you. But, to purposefully sit, watch, and not interfere with a man being torn apart is definitely hard to watch.

The autumn one (which I thought was the creepiest) involves waking up to a scarecrow standing somewhere on your property, and you must burn it before sundown of the same day. There will be short bursts where the scarecrow will come alive and beg for its life, but, like the screaming crying man, you must ignore its pleas.

“‘How the hell is it standing like that?…It looks like it’s gotta have a frame or something to hold it up.’

That was, indeed, perhaps the most abnormal characteristic of the scarecrow. Its weird, lumpy feet were barely touching the ground, yet it stood upright, healthy posture and all.'”

The manifestation and rituals themselves were probably the most exciting part of the book. Knowing that each season will be worse than the last, you start to wonder what will happen next. The first season is the easiest, the second was kind of scary, so by the time you’re mid-book, it’s already a gripping tale because what is the last hurrah before the spirit, apparently, takes a break until spring?

I hated Harry from the beginning to almost the end.

Where I had the most problem were the characters, or rather, the one character of Harry (Harold). He and his wife, Sasha, are the two prospective in this book, and I actually kind of liked Sasha. She felt a bit flat and almost boring, though this begins to improve towards the end when Harry is nearly emotional incapacitated due to consequences of his own actions, and she starts to take charge of the situation for him. However, from the start, she was immensely more careful regarding the spirit. Of course, the disbelief was still there, but at the back of her mind, the spirit always lingered. She would ask Harry to at least humor Dan and Lucy and maybe entertain the idea of “but what if it’s real?” She always played it somewhat safe and this made me like her so much more than Harry.

Harry though, was nothing more than this stereotypical angry frat boy jock from the movies that somehow is always alive and kicking. Maybe a bit bruised up and scared, but still very much breathing. He’s so angry, can be mean, gives no chances to people, has no patience to speak of, doesn’t trust anyone, so reckless, and there are even times when he’s pretty childish. Because of this, he ends up putting multiple people in danger, including Sasha, the one person that he goes on and on about protecting.

From the start, Dan and Lucy try to talk to them about these rituals and what needs to be done each season to ward off harm. I get it. I really do. Imagine moving from the big cities to this rural countryside and your only neighbors, who, at first appeared to be this sweet old couple, turns out to be loons telling you about some crazy spirit of the valley. Of course there would some doubts that will surface! But, before they can even finish their next sentences, Harry has already unceremoniously booted them from his land.

At least, until the first signs of the spirit (light in the pond) begins to manifest themselves and suddenly things are starting to feel very scary and very real. There are still doubts and even when the town sheriff drops by to warn him that they’d better follow the rituals, thus confirming the spirit’s presence. From there, Harry turns his anger from disbelief into bullying the spirit. There are times when he mocks and taunts the spirit, and he doesn’t do it just once, but twice! The first time he taunts the spirit, he immediately knows he messed up big time…he could feel it…and then he does it again.

He kind of grows towards the end and learns from his mistakes. It’s hard not to when the consequences slap you in the face like a truck on fire. The part where a character rips into him and tells him he’s gone and messed up hard with disastrous results to follow was the single most satisfying moment of the book. Dan and Lucy, as well as Sasha and Dash (their golden retriever) are honestly the only reason he’s alive when he should’ve been dead ten times over.

Overall

The mood was creepy and kind of somber; so many bad things have happened in this valley and land in the past that the residents almost seem to just accept their shitty haunted life as normal. When it comes to acres upon acres of ranch land in the middle of absolutely nowhere, and you have like…one pair of neighbors that stops by? It’s creepy and feels so isolated! There are more people towards the end (like…two extra) and there was one sheriff towards the beginning, but that’s about it. In that general area? It’s Dan, Lucy, Sasha, Harry, and their dog (and their farm animals). You get this vibe where, you know you need to take care of each other because were anything to happen, things get really lonely really fast.

The spirit manifestation changing between the seasons and the rituals you have to perform were scary and interesting to read. The descriptions of the spirits and its wrath is bone-chilling. There’s a bit of mystery too, Dan and Lucy having their own secrets to hide. This secret and the history of the property is unknown to Harry and Sasha, so throughout the book, you get to have your own wild guesses about it until eventually things are revealed.

I kind of wish there was more lore regarding the spirit, but overall, it was a good book. I enjoyed some of the characters and certainly enjoyed the atmosphere around the settling as well as the different manifestations across the seasons. It wasn’t as creepy as I thought it would be (I’m a huge chicken when it comes to horror) so even the scare level was perfect for me.

Book Review: The Bookshop on Primrose Hill by Sarah Jio

Book Title: The Bookshop on Primrose Hill
Author: Sarah Jio
Edition: NetGalley > Ebook
Length: ~336 Pages
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, Womens Fiction

Disclaimer: A big thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley. An ebook copy was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. This does not affect my review in any way and all opinions are my own.

Links:
Amazon Link >HERE<
Goodreads Link >HERE<

Valentina Baker was only eleven years old when her mother, Eloise, suddenly fled to London, leaving Val and her father on their own in California. Now a librarian in her thirties, Val is fresh out of a failed marriage and utterly disenchanted with life.

One day, Val receives word that Eloise has died, leaving Val the deed to both her mother’s Primrose Hill apartment and the bookshop she opened twenty years ago. As Val jets across the Atlantic, she wonders – could this be her chance at a new beginning?

In London, Val finds herself falling in love with the pastel-coloured flat and the cosy, treasure-filled bookshop. When she stumbles across a series of intriguing notes left in a beloved old novel, it’s the start of a scavenger hunt that will take her all over London and back in time… but most of all, bring her closer to the mother she lost twice.

Bittersweet and uplifting, The Bookshop on Primrose Hill will steal your heart. Perfect for fans of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill and How to Find Love in a Bookshop. Published in the US as With Love from London.

‘Look at the stars up there, fighting to be seen through all these city lights. It’s like a battle between two opposing forces: eternity versus modernity.’

I smiled up at him curiously. ‘Eternity for the win?’

‘Eternity always wins,’ he continued. ‘And that is the greatest comfort, isn’t it?’

I wasn’t entirely sure of his meaning, but I liked it, nonetheless. He gestured toward the city while I listened, enraptured.

‘Man built all that, invented it, created it. And as remarkable as it all is, the stars were here first.’ He took a deep breath. ‘They’re wiser.’

Can a mother-daughter duo, separated and estranged, connect once more when one of them is no longer around? Two generations and two people, who were once dear and close to each other, separated by oceans, misunderstandings, and hurt, are finally reunited in one last mother and daughter scavenger hunt as Val begins to go through this last gift from her mother to piece together all the history she has missed.

This book is told in two perspectives: one of Valentina’s in the present and one of her mother’s (Eloise) in the past. In the middle of a nasty divorce after her husband left her for another woman, Valentina ends up as the new owner of a bookshop in London, England, one that she inherits from her estranged mother, after her passing, and one she did not anticipate on holding onto. Her plans were to travel to England and just sell the store; after all, she holds no feelings or attachments to the place, neighborhood, or even her mother who had disappeared when she was twelve with not a single peep since then. It isn’t until she discovers her mother’s final gift to her, a scavenger hunt, that she begins to fall for the neighborhood and its people and get to know her mother, once more, through the lens of these neighbors.

I adored the writing in this book. It was the first thing I noticed. The characters were well written and had wonderful voices to their distinct personalities. I adored both the different time pieces, the past with Eloise and the present with Val and her own newfound friends. The interactions between the characters were great too, and the prose was beautiful. Easy to read and flowing really well, the writing was full of emotions through the entire read, enough to have me crying through a good chunk of it.

The pacing towards the beginning was a bit slow. Things are just starting to get a move on with Val realizing she may be staying here, in her mother’s old flat, for good, and she settles into both her new home/neighborhood and the puzzle that her mother leaves her. All the same, Eloise dives into the entire history behind Val’s father as well as her own first love. Things really take off towards the middle, where both the mother and daughter are going through their own major crises, but slightly different times so that one story is just a little more nerve wrecking than the other, and you want to hurry through the less anxious one, so that you can see what happens next; of course, it repeats later when we go through the other major conflict in the other storyline down the road.

There are some wonderful characters from both sides of the story, but more from Valentina’s as she meets a community of folks who knows her mother more and better than she has ever known. Through them, her opinion of the estranged Eloise would slowly change, and it’s such a wonderful neighborhood of beautiful people. All sorts of customers stop by to tell her of the difference that Eloise has played in their lives, such as a character (around Val’s age) who knew Eloise all the way back to when he was a child listening to her during story time events that she would host.

Despite the disconnect between Valentina and her mother, the two are still able to communicate, albeit a one-way connection and via letters. On one end, the reader gets to know Eloise better as she tells of her tale of how she fell in love and how Valentina came to be. On the other end is Valentina going about her usual days, while occasionally coming across new clues for the next letter location.

This was a lovely book and though it felt a bit slow for me in the beginning, most of the rest of the book had me running through with tears in my eyes. I knew that there was something major and way more to Eloise than just “the mother who took off on her husband and daughter, never to be heard from again.” The ending is very sweet, and I’m glad that many of the characters, including Valentina herself, seems to eventually find some form of peace. With Eloise’s tale being one of tragedy and Valentina’s almost like one of closure, I really enjoyed how the book finishes off, especially given the multiple obstacles both mother and daughter run into throughout the book. This is a heartwarming story about family, a mother’s love for her daughter, and about community. The neighborhood is so tight-knit that I almost envy Valentina and would love to just live on Primrose Hill myself.

A very touching read, Sarah Jio is a new author to me, and I’m eager to read more. Her writing is beautiful, her characters warm, and the story engaging. I really enjoyed this book and if you love family books with a bit of romance and mystery (a scavenger hunt), this may be a good book for you to curl up to.

Book Review: A Mark of Kings by Bryce O’Connor & Luke Chmilenko

Hello and Happy Thursday, my lovely peeps🐥!
It’s time for this week’s review and today, we’ll be featuring A Mark of Kings by Bryce O’Connor & Luke Chmilenko!

Book Title: A Mark of Kings
Series: The Shattered Reigns Book: 01
Author: Bryce O’Connor & Luke Chmilenko
Edition: Physical > Paperback
Length: 568 Pages
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy > Epic Fantasy, Magic, High Fantasy, Dragon, Adult

Links:
Amazon Link >HERE<
Goodreads Link >HERE<

Despite his youth, Declan Idrys knows of the evils of the world. He knows of the bastards and brigands who plague the King’s lands, of the monsters skulking in the wooded depths of the realm. Together with his companion, Ryn – a horse of rather peculiar talent – he has spent the last decade of his life beneath the bloody banners of a half-dozen mercenary guilds, hunting precisely such wickedness festering within the borders of Viridian.

Unfortunately, fate is quick to pull on the leash of its favorite children. When one particularly troubling contract goes sideways, Declan and Ryn find themselves thrust into a war thought legend and long-ended, a conflict so old it is synonymous with a time in which dragons still ruled the western skies. Now, as dead men rise from their graves and the terrible beasts of the northern ranges descend into the kingdom with an appetite for savagery and flesh, Declan is faced with a profane choice. He can turn, can flee an ancient rising horror that would see the realms of man left as shattered death and wind-blown ash.

Or, Declan can face this mounting threat, can come to terms with the fact that his oldest friend might just be more than he appears, and learn to wield an ageless power all his own.

Centuries pass, after all, and the Blood of Kings does not fade…

Veteran mercenary who’s seen it all? Think again!

The first of four [planned] books, A Mark of Kings was a pretty good entry into the series. This book starts off in a prologue with our MC, Declan Idrys, as a baby in his mother’s arms, fleeing the terrors and monsters that have come to invade their town. The following chapter is where the story officially starts. Following a time skip, Declan’s now a hardened mercenary; traveling and fighting is a large part of his life now. The only constant in his life is Ryn, the “horse” that is introduced in the prologue and has stuck with him through thick and thin. During a particular mission, one that’s not so different from the countless other requests he’d taken up, Declan finds himself caught up in a whole different world of trouble and life may never be the same again. It seems, someone has a grudge with what courses through his veins and that particular enemy is murderously intent on getting rid of him and Ryn, for good.

“In the weeks to come, I’ve an unfortunate feeling you and I both will come to miss the time where our greatest concerns were hunting for our evening supper and what split in the road to take”

Beware the occasional info dumping

This was a good book, though could do with a bit of editing. The writing and prose are interesting with a light mix of dialogue (and moments) that seems too modern for the time period, but it wasn’t often nor did I particularly mind it. There’s occasionally a lot of info dumping and there was a moment that was perhaps two chapters worth of a century’s worth of history being told to Declan as the latter sat there, his head reeling in all the information…which sounds fairly accurate to how I felt.

The moments of info dumping coupled with long descriptions of scenes, and lots and lots of traveling going on, made for a really slow read. The beginning of the book was good. The prologue had me sobbing before the story even really began, and it was as good of an emotional hook as one would want! Somewhere towards the middle, though, it really began to taper off and some places dragged. Even the exciting fight scenes didn’t help bring the speed back up by much. Perhaps, it’s a bit like some RPG games. You know, the stage with the final map to the last boss? It’s full of monsters that you needed to grind through to get to the last dungeon? I, for one, have always hated dungeon grinding, so maybe this is just a me problem.

Favorite trope check! Ragtag bunch of misfits on the run from a deadly foe.

What I really enjoyed was the plot and the small cast of characters, the small band standing in the “Ragtag Bunch of Misfits” trope. You’ve got Declan, the veteran mercenary who carries about 7 guild companys’ worth of tattoos (like the Fairy Tail guild symbols!) though he currently only belongs in the Iron Wind Company. There’s Ryn, Declan’s peculiar midnight black stallion, who happens to be his mentor, and is just as big of a protagonist as Declan is. And finally, there’s the father and daughter duo, Bonner, the insanely powerful mage who somehow always seems to have some form of magic that can get them out of trouble (not always “all in one piece” but you gotta do what you gotta do!) and the crew’s only healer, and Ester, the half-elf who is deadly with a bow and will and can take you out in a heartbeat if needed. A strong female character, I think Declan may have needed rescuing more times than Ester did!

It’s a bloodbath out there and nobody’s safe!

“There were dozens of them, the ones tied to the columns apparently only the freshest of the gathered collection. The remnants of a score more were scattered about the feet of those secured upright, ribs jutting from the torn, rotting flesh of broken chests, empty sockets staring into the sky from drawn, horrid faces.”

This is a brutal book and I appreciated how realistic our characters are, especially Declan. An ordinary mercenary (with a not-so-oridinary horse) he’s seen his fair share of battles and has plenty of scars to show for it. However, most of his battles were against the occasional wild monsters and human, so it’s no surprise when he’s greeted with absolute defeat (and having to be rescued time and time again) upon being faced with the undead, chimera dragon beasts, and wights. These are creatures of legends, and suddenly they are very real, and you’re down on the ground about to be eaten or killed. Magic exists, to Declan’s ever-growing amusement, scary horrors of children’s tales exist, and history as he knows it may have been completely wrong all along. Can you blame him for being shocked every few pages? And remember, this is a guy who’s participated in and seen his fair share of violence:

“Declan felt like he had been playing the soldier with wooden swords his entire life, and only just been shown the gruesome reality of the battlefield he dreamed of fighting upon.”

There’s a lot of gore in this book, the authors don’t hold back a thing from hurting anyone. It could be a poor little 12-year-old gathering medical plants up in the mountains, it could be the slaughter of an entire village, and our protagonists are not spared any of this. There’s been times when Declan has been horrifically burned or Ester, so terribly injured, you can see the bone. There’s one scene of people torn apart and another of an eight-foot mound of bodies.

Slow character growth; I didn’t know I needed it until I came across it…

Declan does grow stronger, but on a scale of one to video game protagonist, he’s pretty realistic in this department too. There’s no point where he’s magically endowed with the blessings of the gods, and suddenly he’s capable of fighting a horde of monsters (his ancestor maybe, but not him). It’s a slow progress and though he is decent enough with the sword, even Ryn remarks that he’s far from the skills that his ancestors had possessed, having to find the occasional time to drill him on it. Bonner attempts to help Declan with learning magic, and that too is a very slow process. The small bits of lessons comes handy later on, but don’t except giant fireballs from Declan. He’s still learning, and I think this slow growth is what I enjoyed the most. I’ve always wondered how some anime characters go from “What? What’s that?” to being able to draw runes and casts spells (complete with technique names being shouted out) in the very next scene, and it’s one small thing that’s always ticked me.

This book is a good balance between some seriously messed up nightmare fuel and goodness. By goodness, I mean Declan. He’s an all-round good guy. He’s honorable and so humble about nearly everything. When I think of mercenaries, I think of the poor reputation they have most elsewhere (a sell sword who work for the coin, not loyalty), but here, mercenary guilds are found throughout! You could flash your ink at the border guards, and they would accept it as “Oh, okay, not a sketchy person like I thought.”

Overall Feelings

It may be a little while before I can pick up the second book. That crawl to the climax was excruciating. There were times when I nearly DNF’d at 80 or 90% because nothing was moving, even when things were. The ending being a huge twist and major cliffhanger isn’t enough to have me charging towards the next book. I enjoyed the nightmares this book may fuel (army made up of thousands of rotting and decayed bodies anyone?) and there are some seriously epic scenes (aye, let’s go dragon riding!) and I enjoyed the world building too, but I also kind of wished there was a map in front. There’s a lot of traveling going on, with the group being on the run for most of the book, and the different places mentioned in both history and present would have benefited from a map. However, overall, this was an enjoyable read and my rainbow of annotations and flags could tell you I really mean that. From a plot and concept point, this series has a lot of potential, and I’m intrigued on how things will move on from here.

Book Review: The Coordinates of Loss by Amanda Prowse

Happy Thursday, my lovely peeps🐥!
It’s the start of the month, meaning work is on 🔥with deadlines, but hey! The week is going by unforgiving fast! Not sure if that’s a good or bad thing, though.

It’s time for this week’s review and today, we’ll be featuring The Coordinates of Loss by Amanda Prowse!

Book Title: The Coordinates of Loss
Author: Amanda Prowse
Edition: Physical > Paperback
Length: 317 Pages
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Family

Links:
Amazon Link >HERE<
Goodreads Link >HERE<

When Rachel Croft wakes up on her family’s boat in Bermuda, it’s to sunshine and yet another perfect day…until she goes to wake her seven-year-old son, Oscar. Because the worst thing imaginable has happened. He isn’t there.

In the dark and desperate days that follow, Rachel struggles to navigate her grief. And while her husband, James, wants them to face the tragedy together, Rachel feels that the life they once shared is over. Convinced that their happy marriage is now a sham, and unable to remain in the place where she lost her son, she goes home to Bristol alone.

Only when she starts receiving letters from Cee-Cee, her housekeeper in Bermuda, does light begin to return to Rachel’s soul. She and James both want to learn to live again—but is it too late for them to find a way through together?

I’ve only read one book by Amanda Prowse, so far, and it had me sobbing through the entire book. I’m talking about crying nearly every single chapter. And so, having this one previous experience with the author and having read the blurb, I knew I needed to prepare my box of tissues and boy, I wasn’t wrong.

Rachel and James had it all. Both having moved from Bristol, a few years back, they were now in paradise; the blue seas and sandy beaches of Bermuda now their home. The couple adored each other and they had Oscar, their little seven-year-old son. What more could you have hoped for?

The story begins at sea, Rachel having woken up next to her beloved husband, enjoying their wonderful life. It wasn’t until she goes to wake Oscar, who, being an early riser, was strangely late and missing. When she peers into her son’s cabin, Rachel realizes he’s not there…or anywhere else on the boat for that matter. In seconds, their paradise crumbles, their happiness lost forever.

This book was terribly sad. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare, and the grief that follows just envelopes everyone, especially Rachel. So lost in the fog that follows, she can see no future, and eventually heads back home to Bristol to stay awhile with her family. To remain in Bermuda would have brought her pain with each waking day and along with grief, there’s blame and anger between James and Rachel. Neither can forgive each other nor themselves, and so mutually agreed that some time apart may be the only thing left that can help them move forward.

While in Bristol, she begins to receive letters from her housekeeper, Cee-Cee, who is cherished deeply by the family and who also loved Oscar with all her heart. Her letters were a way to help comfort Rachel, telling her stories of her past and of how she went through her own journey with grief after losing her own baby, at seven weeks old, five decades earlier. Here, Rachel begins to learn how to move forward and, along with the help from these letters, she also is supported by her parents, her best friend, and even a group of strangers turned friends at a lovely small café.

This recovery, on both ends, is not easy and by no means is it going to be short. It’s a lifetime of healing and this entire book essentially is their way of learning how to be whole again after losing a major piece of themselves. The story is horribly sad, and I have cried just feeling the raw emotions and screams from Rachel every time she remembers that her little Oscar is no longer going to come back. There is denial at first, and it’s the moment when denial turns to acceptance that hit me the hardest and was the most heartbreaking, but also the beginning of Rachel and Jame’s healing journey.

An amazing book that I simply inhaled my way through, the only thing I didn’t love was that I couldn’t seem to connect with many of the characters, especially the main three that the book revolved around (Rachel, James, and Oscar). I didn’t get to know Oscar outside of two or three memory lines, though those lines were written beautifully; to have Rachel glance at a certain object and getting that flash of a moment back with her baby boy was so realistic. I think, through her letters and stories about her past and her own grief of losing her child, I got to know Cee-Cee more than I got to know Rachel and James. It was also heartbreaking to watch their relationship crumble under them, each grieving their son differently and unable to connect or communicate with each other.

Told in two POVs, Rachel’s and Cee-Cee (and her letters), this was an extremely emotional book that was well-paced, not too quick nor did it drag, that was beautifully written. Despite feeling a bit far-away from some of the characters, in the end, I did love all of them. There are family, friends, and even strangers that have come to offer their own love and support to the family and it’s beautiful.

Book Review: The Journey Of Artemis : EXODUS by Lamonte Louis

Happy Thursday, my lovely peeps🐤!
It’s time for this week’s book review and for today’s post, we’re featuring: The Journey Of Artemis : EXODUS by Lamonte Louis!

Book Title: The Journey of Artemis: EXODUS
Author: Lamonte Louis
Length: 257 Pages
Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction, Science Fiction > Space Opera

Disclaimer: Thank you to the author for sending me an e-copy of this book! This does not affect my opinion, and all thoughts are mine.

Links:
Amazon Link >HERE<
Goodreads Link >HERE<

In the aftermath of a long ruthless interstellar war with an alien race called the Anpu, it has turned the Earth into a wasteland. With humankind left desperate, the Earth’s special force team chose Artemis to lead a mission into space to find another home for the humans and their alien allies. Joined by a crew of the best in the galaxy, Artemis begins an extreme journey of unexpected rivals, secret saboteurs, and mysterious hunters who aim to kill her. In this unique and captivating space opera sci-fi novel, join Artemis and her team as they risk it all on their world-spanning mission. Equipped with her resourcefulness and self-assurance, Artemis must find humankind another world or risk being swept into a whirlpool of mysteries.

I didn’t know what to expect going into the book. Sci-fi is a genre that I’ve only started to slowly ease my way into in the last few years, with even less time to space opera. But, given that my last few sci-fi’s were pretty solid reads, when the author asked if I would give his book a try, I knew I needed to give it a go.

I found myself flying through this book. The book begins with our main character, Artemis Harnish, in the middle of a rock climbing simulation, ending with her watching the scenery of what once was. After the war with the Anpus, much of Earth has turned into a wasteland (having faired a lot better than the poor moon, which had been blown to smithereens). As one can expect, the beautiful scenery that Harnish sees is probably a pretty rare sight, something she can only experience during a simulation.

Humankind is in a pretty desperate situation, with total eradication for an inevitable future. Having been a strong (and very vocal) activist for her race, her efforts are finally noticed, and she’s named the captain of the SSE MAE along with a crew of elites, the best of different races in the galaxy all of which are strangers to her except for one old friend. Together, they make across the universe in search of a new planet for the human race to inhabit, but things won’t be easy. There are powerful people whom are intent on hunting Harnish down and with a saboteur on ship, just escaping in one piece will be a miracle.

The writing in this book is fast-paced. The opening chapter is intriguing. How badly ruined is the Earth that Harnish has to pay for a rock climbing simulation in order to enjoy the view, one of which she has never actually seen herself? The Earth is probably barely habitable, at this point, and this makes for a great hook to the story, making me interested and invested right from the start.

“It was my father’s favorite season, and he’d lived in a time when he could witness the beauty nature had to offer. When I was a kid, he’d climb to the roof with the old-fashioned telescope he’d inherited from his grandfather and stare at the stars while telling me of how the grass smelled in spring with the flowers coming to bloom.”

The story is pretty good as well, and I enjoyed some of the writing in places. There are moments that have a bit too much dialogue or description, but it’s not exactly a bad thing. The imagery and the world that the author paints is wonderful and vast. It’s a broken world out there, and the desperation of this mission is a constant reminder of how important success is. Failure means that there will be no future for humans.

The characters here are just as interesting as the world. Our main character, Harnish, is a strong female character, and she can hold her own in a fight if needed, especially when faced against the much stronger Anpu warrior that’s hot on her heel. Given command over the ship, she’ll need her wits and leadership to not only guide the mission and her team, but also lead them against ruthless enemies, all the while keeping certain secrets to herself in order to root out the spy that’s hidden amongst her crew. In that aspect, this book also serves with a bit of a mystery subplot as well, and it kept me guessing through the book on whom this traitor is.

Overall, this is a pretty good book with good characters and world building. It’s a read that you’ll find to be quite the page turner as they make a couple of stops in different planets and trying to escape alive and whole (as a crew). The dialogues may be lengthy at times, but there are some moments where I really enjoyed the interactions between Harnish and her crew. It ends in a cliffhanger and leaves you with a bit of hunger for the upcoming follow-up. This book could benefit with some editing, but otherwise, I enjoyed it. For being both the author’s debut and as an entry into, I assume, a series, this was a good and gripping read.