Book Review: Day One by Lauren Runow

Day One by Lauren Runow

A Romance Novel published by Independently published (05/02/20)

Summary:

“That’s adorable. You know, I’ve always said you’ll know how a guy feels by the effort he puts into getting to know you. I’d say, he’s all in.” (Kindle Edition, 47%).

Day one of quarantine and Sharee is already bored. After reactivating her Tinder, she is pleasantly surprised to get a private message from a normal-seeming and decent-looking guy. Sharee is already infatuated with this new guy after a few texts and phone calls when she finds out he just signed a multi-million dollar baseball contract! They might live in the same town as each other but since they’re following strict quarantine orders (during the pandemic lockdown) they’ll have to find creative ways to plan out dates.

Keywords:

Pandemic, Covid-19, quarantine, lockdown, dating, baseball, romance, social distancing, teacher, creative dates

My Review:

Day One is an entire novel of meet-cute! It felt like a Hallmark movie in a book. Adorable, predictable, and satisfying. I loved reliving the enthusiastic optimism and initial crush of online dating/app dating with Sharee and Drew. I was instantly transported back through my own nostalgia to my own first dates years ago. I enjoyed this very contemporary novel set in the middle of the (still ongoing) COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine/lockdown.

Sometimes first-person can throw me off as it can be jarring but the first-person POV fits the easy-read simple style of this novel perfectly.

Sometimes in simple romances, one of the love interests can seem too perfect and to not have as much depth of character as the other love interest, but I felt like both Drew and Sharee were balanced. They were also fairly simple characters with simple backstories that worked well together. I was worried that all the dates were being planned and executed by Drew and that Sharee was not going to step up but eventually she did plan some dates and didn’t let Drew take all the initiative.

Overall this book was adorable and it was nice to read an optimistic pandemic novel that wasn’t doom and gloom.

This novel was published by Independently published 05/02/20 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.25

Links for more information:

Lauren Runow’s Website

Goodreads

Book Review: Asylum (Americans in Love) by Betsy Adams

Asylum (Americans in Love) by Betsy Adams

A Contemporary Romance Novel published by Americans in Love Books (11/16/20)

First reviewed through Reedsy Discovery

Summary:

“These things couldn’t mask the horror of the port, the great divider between those privileged by their birthplace, and those cursed by it.” (44% Kindle Edition).

“America would break his heart again. There would be new challenges, new disappointments. But at least he would be safe, and his life would be his own.” (86% Kindle Edition).

Adela pushes against the justice system every day as an immigration judge. She believes in fairness and honesty but the system is rife with injustice, prejudice, and plain meanness. Paul left behind his high-end lawyer life in New York City to work as a lawyer advocating for asylum seekers at the border. Love, at first sight, can’t happen between a lawyer working on the same cases as the judge!

Keywords:

Romance, Love, Asylum, Lawyer, Immigration, Immigration Lawyer, Judge, Immigration Judge, Border, Mexico, Cartel, Tent City, Policies, Asylum Seekers, Courtroom

My Review:

I chose to read this book because it looked well researched regarding asylum seekers, the writing style flowed from the very first page, and it was easy to read. I was more intrigued by the descriptions of the courtroom scenes and the way that the author described asylum seekers, immigration, and prejudice near and far from the border than by the love story. This book would appeal strongly to those who enjoy love-at-first-sight romances, courtroom dramas, and social issues.

Regarding the romantic plot – I felt like the novel could have been longer to fully develop the romantic relationship between Adela and Paul. I felt like the romance went from first dates and lust to in love too fast. I really, really wanted them to get together after their compelling backstories. They were meant for each other but I wanted the relationship to grow more before they encountered complications at the border. I don’t believe highly educated people would drop everything and risk so much for each other after only spending a few days together.

The courtroom action and legalese speak were fascinating and cleverly explained through the character’s thoughts and opinions and even body language. When the characters showed how they felt about some of the legal actions (or inactions) I learned about the implications of these actions.

I learned so much about asylum seekers from reading this book. Some of the details about the hardships endured during the months’ long uphill legal battles for gaining asylum into the United States didn’t even seem real! The difficulty and apathy of the system for those seeking asylum were hard to swallow. A country that advocates for freedom isn’t free for everyone. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that birthplace is enough for some people to discriminate against. Birthplace can be a privilege. I know I take it for granted. It made me angry, just like it made Adela and Paul angry, to hear about these injustices and the blatant lies and prejudicial treatment people in positions of power wielded towards those less fortunate or just trying to make a better life for themselves. A good book can make you angry, make you feel something, make you understand and sympathize. Asylum made me feel all sorts of angry. But the book also reminded me that not everyone is a good person or has good motives. How far does the corruption go? This book points out small injustices and biases as well as indicating a larger issue with the justice system, immigration law, and asylum in general. I started to question the more I read. What if there is even more conspiracy? What if cartels pay off someone in the system to deport those who will be granted asylum just so they can be held for ransom? How far does it go!?

I really liked the Author’s Note at the end of the novel, especially where she talked about the importance of the subject matter versus the romance… “That said, my greatest fear in writing Asylum was that the romance would trivialize the importance of the asylum issue. I felt a heavy obligation not just to the story, but to the people behind the story. The ones living it. I did not want to insult them. The love story is meant to bring the reader in and keep her engaged. To provide just enough distance, a reminder that love is never far away, even in the most desperate of circumstances.” (Betsy Adams. Asylum (Kindle Locations 3096-3099). Americans in Love. Kindle Edition).

This novel was published by Americans in Love Books on 11/16/2020 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.25

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Book Review: A Chance At L.O.V.E. (Love At Last #1) by K.L. Myers

A Chance At L.O.V.E. (Love At Last #1) by K.L. Myers

A Romance Novel published by KL Myers Publishing (7/2/18)

Summary:

“Normally, just the words ‘Lincoln Oliver Vincent Eastwick’ have people dropping money on anything I tell them to. Not this time.” (Kindle Edition 7%).

Lincoln will not settle. Not for an off-the-rack suit. Not for a relationship. He isn’t looking for love when he provides himself as a masked bachelor for the night at a local auction. But he is more than happy that Dr. Lillian Vicci won him in the auction. Dr. Lillian doesn’t have time for a relationship. She’s too busy saving lives as a renowned pediatric surgeon. When her best friend wins her a night with bachelor Linc, she will be more than a little upset because Linc’s nephew is going in for open-heart surgery on Monday.

Keywords:

Mafia, Surgery, Pediatric Doctor, Sex, Date, Millionaire, Family, Uncle, Siblings, Avoiding, Worry

My Review:

Lincoln has such obvious glaring flaws but also very strong virtues. He is endearingly loyal and caring towards his family, especially his young nephew Peanut, yet all his dates always end with sex. Linc would never bring a woman home to his real house (i.e. he won’t let a potential partner see his vulnerable side). I at first didn’t like Lincoln, especially from the very opening paragraph of the story, which set up the book as an average romance featuring a stereotypically egotistical male protagonist. Except, he isn’t… He is charismatic and charming for sure, but he’s also confident and devoted and would make an exceptional parent. I couldn’t wait for him to meet the woman who would prove to him that dates shouldn’t always end in a one-night stand.

I’m glad the author stuck with Lincoln’s POV for several chapters, as I really felt like I knew him by the time the POV switched to Dr. Lillian. Both main characters had equally strong backstories that made them very compelling and brought them to life. From the time that the two of them met, I was rooting for them.

The sex scene, when it ultimately arrived felt untrue to the story buildup. I much preferred the foreplay of all their previous interactions than to the sex scene that felt like a scene out of Literotica. I also was very turned off by the scene and how it starts. It also does not feel genuine to the characters that had been developed over the first 2/3 of the story. I am turned off by stories that feature romantic scenes where the woman says no (either verbally or through body language or both) but the man doesn’t listen and continues regardless… until she gives in. ‘“You’ve been avoiding me, Doc. This time, I’m not letting you avoid me.” I push my way past her, then I slam the door behind me. Before I know it, my animal instincts take over, pressing her back against the door and consuming her lips with mine. At first, she fights the kiss, but I can feel the moment she gives in.’

My other main issue with this quick and fun read was the lack of true climax and resolution. Though the author states that this story ends on a cliffhanger, I still think novellas and novels should have satisfying endings. This novella was like a prequel to the full story and should have just been part of the main story, in my opinion. Otherwise, it was a delightfully fun read and I really enjoyed all the character descriptions and motivations.

This novel was published by KL Myers Publishing on 7/2/2018 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 3.25

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Book Review: The Rally (Americans in Love) by Betsy Adams

The Rally (Americans in Love) by Betsy Adams

A Contemporary Romance Novel published by Americans in Love Books (7/10/20)

Summary:

“Being one third a lawyer does come in handy sometimes, I guess.” (33% Kindle Edition).

Madeline’s a corporate lawyer working for an insurance company that’s overseeing the use of a stadium. On the lineup for the week is a music group and a Trump rally. Madeline must coordinate details of these events with representatives from each group. The person working the Trump rally happens to be the guy she fell in love with during law school who suddenly dropped out and never contacted her again. Is this a second chance at love or will she have to make nice with the enemy to show her boss she’s ready for that promotion she’s been promised?

Keywords:

Romance, Love, Insurance, Rally, Politics, Trump, Stadium, Political Climate, College Flame, Opposing Political Views

My Review:

This book was a quick read, fast-paced, and short. I liked how the romantic buildup happened as part of the main characters’ backstory that happened years ago so it had proper time to develop. The romantic plotline was predictable but happened amidst an interesting and drama-filled environment – a rally where the main characters are on opposite sides of the political spectrum.

The characters both made assumptions that caused the dark moment of the plot arc. I just didn’t believe the characters would fall for those assumptions, both being mostly educated lawyers. Some of these plot points did feel a bit rushed due to the length of the novel. I wish the dark moment was more believable and heartrending. I knew a happy ending was going to happen, regardless of the ups and downs of the romantic relationship and I was more invested in the political drama butting its way into the relationship.

I found the political aspect fascinating but not every reader might feel this way. Strong political opinions are expressed directly through Maddie’s thoughts and what she says as well as how the scenes and people are described. If you are left-leaning politically you will most likely feel that this book confirms your opinions. If you are much more right-leaning politically… Maybe you’ll learn about the strength of conviction of the other side? Or you might be put off entirely.

I was satisfied that everything tied together in the end and that there was an adequate explanation as to why Jake suddenly stopped all communication with Maddie when they were in school together.

This novel was published by Americans in Love Books on 7/10/2020 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 3.50

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Book Review: Flicker of the Flame: A YA Epic Fantasy (The Outlawed Myth Book 2) by Evelyn Puerto

Flicker of the Flame: A YA Epic Fantasy (The Outlawed Myth Book 2) by Evelyn Puerto

A YA Fantasy novel published by Open Water Books (2/17/2021)

Summary:

Tereka just wants her mother’s approval, to fit in, and to be loved. There are things her Da hasn’t told her about who she really is and why there are secrets about her and a mysterious prophecy. Secrets that keep her safe and keep her from being Taken. After being kicked out of her mother’s house, Tereka will live with her Da and work as a trader. Keep her head down. Follow the rules. But will she be able to keep her tongue against the mounting unfairness and struggles against her Aunt Juquila’s ironclad rule over their village? As the threats against Tereka mount, will she choose to embrace her destiny or keep her head down?

Keywords:

Fantasy, Travel, Journey, Risk, Attack, Flee, Hide, Town, Secrets, Dystopian, Power, Prophecies, Rulers, Guardians, Guards, Peace, Safety, Love, Friendship

My Review:

What happened to Iskra from book one? This second book starts off with a new protagonist – Tereka. The author cleverly brings us back into this fantasy/dystopic world with a new character who I fall in love with almost at once. Tereka is an underdog – full of life and spirit and questions. She is stubborn about being fair and honest. As Tereka slowly uncovers the dishonesty and immoral behavior of those in power around her, she will begin to question her upbringing and the society she lives in – much like Iskra did in book one. But Tereka just wants to succeed. To be a trader with her Da and show everyone that she can follow the rules and be a good trader. Except they won’t give her a chance.

I absolutely loved how this book two reintroduces us to this well-built fantasy world and their semi-dystopic environment where everyone is supposed to be equal (but of course they’re not). Book two also does not seem to acknowledge book one until Tereka learns of her own secret and goes to meet the Riskers. I realized that one of the characters was actually from book one!

Tereka is a worthy underdog and Chosen One. She is headstrong and powerful. She believes in her convictions but is willing to step into someone else’s shoes and empathize with them. She gives those around her a chance to be good people and make good choices.

The book was well-paced and picked up momentum more and more as the plot unraveled. I love how Tereka grew into her role over the course of the book, along with the help of her family and the friends she made along the way, as well as the power of the amulets. Tereka reminds me of Katniss from the Hunger Games. Tereka has a rebellious streak, especially when it comes to being a good person. She is also a great archer, courageous, and has the ability to rally those around her to her cause.

This novel was published by Open Water Books 2/17/2021 and is available on Amazon here.

TLDR Star Rating: 5.0

 

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Twitter

Evelyn Puerto’s Website

Book Review: WARRIOR: CHALLENGE ACCEPTED by Jessica Duemig

WARRIOR: CHALLENGE ACCEPTED by Jessica Duemig

A Women’s Health/Cancer Novel published by Bright Publishing, LLC (08/11/20)

First reviewed through Reedsy Discovery

Summary:

One woman’s story of and experience with a triple-negative breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment and recovery. The story follows the nine most challenging months of her 32-year old life.

Keywords:

Women’s Health, Cancer, Breast Cancer Survivor, Triple Negative Breast Cancer, 2017, Age 32, Aggressive Treatment Plan, Chemotherapy, Surgery, Fertility Preservation, Reconstruction

My Review:

I zipped through the first half of the book, mesmerized with Jessica’s story and all the fascinating details of a breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment. Jessica’s writing style is charming and humorous. She provides the full picture, filling in all the little details as she tells her story. As someone who has not had firsthand or even secondhand experience or knowledge of cancer of any kind (let alone breast cancer), I felt like I could truly empathize with Jessica’s story and truly understand what she was going through. I know cancer is no joke but I never really knew what it felt like to go through a double mastectomy surgery and recovery before reading her story. Jessica was just one year older than me when she was diagnosed and she brought a little more fear of this unknown into my heart. But she also laid it all out there. If I were to receive a similar diagnosis or knew someone going through something similar, I would definitely recommend a book like this. Fear of the unknown can grip you and fester but knowing all these little details could pull back some of that worry. And Jessica writes about her experience with more than just details, firsthand knowledge, and a little bit of advice, she also writes about her experience with humor, compassion, and wit.

The second half of the book started to lose my attention. After Jessica finished with the details of her experience – Parts 1 and 2 of the novel – she delves deeper into the self-help/inspiration/motivation/support aspect that makes the reading experience feel much more like reading nonfiction than the first two parts. I started to lose interest in Part 3 because this is the part of cancer that I’ve read about over and over. The Grief, Strength, Attitude, etc. is generally what I’ve read over and over when it comes to cancer. I did not appreciate this part as much as the more detailed first two parts; however, I’m sure that for someone who is actually experiencing a similar diagnosis or supporting someone with cancer, this is the moment that could help provide momentum and strength.

Jessica has a natural writing style that is easy to read. She is a great storyteller and has a knack for punchy hashtags. Though I hope not to read a similar book by this author (#cancerfree), I would definitely pick up and read her next book.

This novel was published by Bright Publishing, LLC on 08/11/2020 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 3.75

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Book Review: Money: What I Wish I Knew When I Was Younger: A Cautionary Tale & Lessons Learned for Teens & Young Adults by Brian Siemens

Money: What I Wish I Knew When I Was Younger: A Cautionary Tale & Lessons Learned for Teens & Young Adults by Brian Siemens

A Personal Finance Novel published by Brian Siemens LLC (10/27/20)

First reviewed through Reedsy Discovery

Summary:

Brian Siemens is a financial educator and a public speaker, but he wasn’t always so money savvy. This nonfiction book on personal finance follows Brian’s early relationship with money, the pitfalls you should avoid, and how he learned to manage his finances. Through his own choices with money early on, Seimens shows the reader where he went wrong and how the reader can start off their personal finance journey on the right foot.

Keywords:

Personal Finance, Money, Debt, Student Loans, Personal Loans, Habits, Lifestyle, Quality of Life, Impulse Buying, Budgeting, Money Management Software, Credit Cards, Interest

My Review:

Out of all the personal finance books available, this book stands out because it is geared towards a younger audience. It is both a cautionary tale and a book full of words of advice. It is easy for adults to tell young adults and teenagers to avoid making the same mistakes they did. Usually, this phrase is accompanied by a lecture and a warning to avoid certain pitfalls. In personal finance, these pitfalls are abundant and include credit cards, student loans, impulse buying, etc. Brian Siemens expounds on these pitfalls with well-thought-out details and his own experience. He tells the whole story, including his own. For instance, he brings the reader’s attention to the concept of tax brackets. Even as an intermediate/advanced personal finance enthusiast, I haven’t fully taken tax brackets into consideration. Some of these small details can be very important and if overlooked, as Brian did early in his life, they can lead to poor financial decisions. Bad habits early on can be even harder to break. Even if you don’t know the difference in cost between getting new tires for a truck and getting new tires for a car, you’ll understand why the difference is important after reading this book. Maybe, if you’re a younger reader, you might even start an investment account!

Though this book is short, most of it is to the point and very practical. The last chapter is a tl;dr of advice that sums up the rest of the book. For those with short attention spans, this is a great beginner’s comprehensive guidebook for personal finance that is full of relevant and interesting personal anecdotes. 

I loved reading the quotes at the beginning of each chapter. Typically I skim over quotes like these, but I really enjoyed each of the quotes that Brian Siemens chose. 

This novel was published by Brian Siemens LLC on 10/27/2020 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.25

Links for more information:

Brian Siemens’ Website

Goodreads

Book Review: Horizon Found (Relic Trilogy Book 2) by Claudia Blood

Horizon Found (Relic Trilogy Book 2) by Claudia Blood

A Sci-Fi YA Action Novel published by Dragon Bane Publishing (02/15/21)

Summary:

Almost no time has passed between the ending of book one and the beginning of book two. Duff has been with Z-Crew for a few months now. Matilda has been working directly with Ravenne for a few weeks. Z-Crew and Ravenne have been finding fewer and fewer relics. Z-Crew needs a big win in order to survive, but without a Seer, it’s near impossible to find Relics. For Ravenne, time is running out to find the Seer who saved Ravenne’s daughter and send her back to that fateful moment years and years ago.

Keywords:

Assassin, Planet, Jungle, Orphan, Family, Survival, Attack, Mystery, Time Travel, Space, Evil, Power, Tracking, Alien Planet, Seer, Relic, Daughter, Safety

 

My Review:

Horizon Found was a strong middle book in this Relic Trilogy by Claudia Blood. Since motivations and characters had already been established in Book One, this book’s plot appeared more focused. Duff had more of a plan, or at least a place to stay, though even that’s in jeopardy. Both Books One and Two take place on an inhospitable planet, where survival is rough and not everyone can make it…

Though they didn’t end on the best of terms in the first book, Duff and Z will need each other to survive and to save the children of the orphanage. I really enjoyed learning more about Z’s backstory and origins. Since the book changes POV, I also was able to learn more about Matilda and her abilities. I really liked reading more about Matilda and seeing her interact with Ravenne. The more we see Ravenne, the more I wondered whether this conflicted bad character would have a chance to redeem herself in the end and whether she would take such an opportunity. Is she inherently bad? We know that her life’s purpose to save her daughter, even if it’s at the expense of an entire planet’s population.

After becoming familiar with the main characters I was rooting for them to not just succeed and survive, but also to fall in love. I was very on-board with the romantic sub-plots and can’t wait to see how they develop further in the last book of the trilogy.

I noticed more and more that there were certain plot conveniences. In book one I was too enthralled with the characters and the plot to let such details slow me down but it seemed that frequently when a character mentioned something, it would happen. For example, Duff mentioned a planet-dwelling creature for the first time, and then moments later it would appear and move along or dramatize the plot. The world-building sometimes seemed to happen as it’s needed.

I enjoyed the slower buildup of tension throughout this book (and from the first book). The climax was quite satisfying and full of excitement but the end of the book felt like it lacked a proper denouement and ended mid-action. I can’t wait to see what happens in book three!

This novel was published by Dragon Bane Publishing on 02/15/2021 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.75

Links for more information:

Claudia Blood’s Website

Goodreads

Book Review: Company Assassin (Relic Trilogy Book 1) by Claudia Blood

Company Assassin (Relic Trilogy Book 1) by Claudia Blood

A Sci-Fi YA Action Novel published by Dragon Bane Publishing (01/15/21)

First reviewed through Reedsy Discovery

Summary:

On the day Duff turns 18 he will be kicked out of the Company’s orphanage. Almost all of the extra income he’s earned over the years has gone back into helping the others in the orphanage. With nowhere to go and having been turned down at all of the other Families, Duff’s only hope is to attach himself to a freelance crew and hope to survive the harsh jungle. Perhaps he can even prove himself an asset in a crew’s search for Relics, the only thing of value on the planet.

Keywords:

Assassin, Planet, Jungle, Orphan, Family, Survival, Attack, Mystery, Time Travel, Space, Evil, Power, Tracking, Alien Planet, Seer, Relic

 

My Review:

This book had a lot going on!

Right from the start the author set up the problem and pulled me into it. I was worried for the main character Duff and how he was going to survive in this harsh world. I wanted him to succeed and I was rooting for him from the very beginning.

Duff does seem to have quite a lot of skills – whenever the plot requires them. Since he’s been living in the orphanage for most of his life, I’m surprised that he remembers how to do certain survivalist things like tracking, etc. He does have great instincts and a big heart. He puts others before himself constantly and does everything in his power to save those around him.

I really liked how the book centered on Duff for enough chapters where I felt like I truly understood who he was and his motivations and the hopelessness of his situation before the POV switched to Z. Z seems like a really fascinating character with a rich backstory. I really want to know why Matilda has such disdain for Z.

A lot of the characters have rich, yet mysterious backstories. I’m very curious about Ravenne and what drove her to be such an evil person when her motivation appears so virtuous. I can’t wait to see how Matilda will rise to importance further along in this series. Even Simon the orphan has a unique skill set and a brooding temper. Even though he’s a minor character, he is developed enough that he’s interesting and unique.

The plot gets more and more complex as the layers of the action unfold. I love how the more I read, the more details were divulged in this rich sci-fi novel. I can tell that the author has a complete story laid out behind the plot of this first book in the series.

The ending did feel less climactic than I would have expected. The momentum from the continual action slowly built throughout the novel and I imagine is still building to a more climactic ending of the story overall. Though the problem introduced in the first part of this book – how will Duff survive being kicked out of the company-sponsored orphanage – was answered in the course of this fast-paced novel.

Though this book is set on another planet where time and space are not the same as Earth, I felt very engaged in the environment and wondrous of all the little details of the world. I really liked how this sci-fi was very focused on the characters and the plot, keeping world-building lean and relevant.

I am anxious to find out what happens to Duff, Z, Matilda, the orphans, and even Ravenne.

This novel was published by Dragon Bane Publishing on 01/15/2021 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.75

Links for more information:

Claudia Blood’s Website

Goodreads

February Book Special! $5 Print Book Sale.

At cost book special for the rest of the month! At One’s Beast is only $5 – includes sales tax and shipping! Just send me a message (rachel.author.barnard@gmail.com) and I’ll send you an invoice via Paypal. This special runs until the end of the month or until I run out of copies.

Every month I’ve planned a print book surprise sale/giveaway. I’m planning to move at the end of the summer and want to finish off the rest of my physical inventory. I’m moving away from book writing/selling and more towards cat sitting and personal development.