Author Tuesdays: My Favorite Indie Authors 8 – AJ Downey

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AJ Downey

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I met AJ Downey at the Destination Staycation event at the AFK in Renton, WA. Her taglines and down to earth witty manner pulled me in. Her covers got my attention. When I picked up the first book in the Scacred Hearts MC Series I was hooked on AJ Downey.

 

I really like how Downey’s covers in her Scared Hearts MC Series are unique to the romance genre, they aren’t just bare chested men. Just like her stories aren’t just sex and romance, but also involve a larger story and the bigger picture of the Sacred Hearts MC.

 

I love AJ Downey’s writing style and how she describes the world in the Sacred Hearts MC. All her characters come alive and every book is interconnected with the others through the overarching story-line and the characters’ involvement in each other’s lives. I would like to mention how fantastic Downey’s character names are, very unique and purposeful.

Downey also has a knack with descriptions. I like how she describes everything: people especially. Shattered and Scarred, for example, was more sophisticated than the average book. The way Downey looks at a scene and describes it is fascinating.

links for more information:

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Book Review: Intrigue in the House of Wong by Amy S. Kwei

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Intrigue in the House of Wong by Amy S. Kwei

A Early Reader/Teen/YA Novel published by Tats Publishing (06/01/2008)

 

Summary:

 Wendy Wong and her close-knit Chinese family move from familiar Chinatown to the Upper East Side so that she can attend a posh private school through partial scholarship. The Wongs go into debt purchasing the restaurant under their apartment. A stop work order on the renovation and sketchy thugs hanging out in the alley threaten to shut down the business, but the Wongs, along with their newfound friends and allies, will stop at nothing to save the House of Fortune. Their plans almost fall apart when one of their friends’ lives is threatened and Wendy is torn between obediently following her family and doing what she thinks is best.

 

Keywords:

 Chinese-American, Chinatown, culture, understanding, being uprooted, teen issues

 

My Review:

Wendy is not a complex character, she is just going through that period of time when she is confused about who she is and how she relates tot the world. Her Chinese culture butts heads with her new American attitude and she is forced to choose between the two in some circumstances. “Wendy never dreamed of doing anything shocking or scandalous.” (Location 90).

This book highlights the lives and feelings of Chinese living in present day America, their trials and tribulations and the way they are perceived by others. “…the Chinese were unwelcome guests, and the American Chinese would be foolish to act as if they were equal citizens.” (Location 575). Wendy herself feels like she is straddling two worlds and ultimately she feels alienated from both.

This book starts out slow, but soon progresses into a thought-provoking stance on cultural integration and how some people are not willing to change, not ready to change, or can’t change to fit in. Wendy learns that it is hard to be in a new place with new people who don’t know or understand where she is coming from. Not everyone is born equal, therefore there cannot truly be equality in this world, but you can try to treat everyone equally. Wendy comments that “Yeah, when you’re not on your guard, everyone seems to slip into group think.” (Locations 1572-1573) and that “In times of mass hysteria, people can forget to be human.” (Locations 1413-1414).

Kwei gives the teens slang that seems out of place, just like how Wendy and her friend Debbie sometimes feel out of place. The two teens want to fit in, but even their speech is not normal. The style of narration in the book is even subject to the semi-halting lilt of a young teenager’s emerging style and of one experiencing sudden change.

This is a book for teens and so the villains are softer and more subdued than the average bad guy you read about. These villains reveal their plans directly to the kids and act in stereotypical villanous fashion straight out of a Disney movie.

 

This novel was published by Tats Publishing 06/01/2008 and is available on Amazon here.

 

TLDR Star Rating: 3.50

 

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Tats Publishing

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Book Review: Dragon Killer by Rob May

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Dragon Killer by Rob May

A Fantasy Novel published on amazon.com (05/01/2013)

 

Summary:

 Kalina Moonheart and a man in pursuit of knighthood find themselves on the same quest to rid a gold-mining island of a terrible beast. Two stories unfold, one of Kalina the Dragon Killer and the other of her present day predicament trying to solve the mystery of the island’s dragon and eventually just to stay alive. This is an adventure for those true of purpose and  who are ready to take on any enemy, no matter its form or shape.

 

Keywords:

 Young heroine, adventure, dragons, Dragonites cult, gambling, fighting, strong females

 

My Review:

It is easy to fall in love with Kalina Moonheart. Her name alone would make any reader a fan. She presents herself as erring on the arrogant side of confidence. Anybody looking for a super hero will adore Kalina. She is a young heroine of no doubt and no hesitation. She is strong, witty, and clever. She can use all the tricks up her sleeve to accomplish her goals. She remains emotionally above her past’s tragedies and stands tall in the face of her current enemies. She is the renegade Indiana Jones and for her to grow and develop as a character throughout the series, my guess is that she will learn humility. At times it was difficult to connect with her as a real person because she is superhuman. She gets injured but doesn’t tell us of any pain and is not slowed down by these injuries.

In Dragon Killer dragons are clever and to defeat one Kal must be cleverer still. Rob May has one more trick up his sleeve where dragons are concerned.

I wasn’t sure which I wanted to read more, the backstory of how Kalina got the name Dragon Killer or her present adventure in the heart of a mountain on the island of the present dragon, but I was glad May gave me both and integrated them smoothly throughout the book.

The author has a knack for throwing out intriguing cliff-hangers at the end of each chapter to keep you moving through the rather short chapters.

The only part that seemed out of character for the balanced novel was the romance between Rafe and Kal. It was as if Rob May was told his story needed romance, and he threw it in after he had written the entirety of the novel.

 

I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys the adventures and smart alecky-ness of Indiana Jones, the relentlessness of the Terminator, or a novel with a young kick-butt female hero.

This novel was published through Createspace Independent Publishing Platform 05/01/2013 and is available on Amazon here.

 

TLDR Star Rating: 4.25

 

Links for more information:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23021166-dragon-killer

Website: http://www.robertwilliammay.com/

Wattpad: http://www.wattpad.com/list/120355025-rob-may-dragon-killer

Book Review: Haylee Awakened Seed: an illustrated, paranormal, adventure (Haylee and the Traveler’s Stone Book 1) by Lisa Redfern

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Haylee Awakened Seed: an illustrated, paranormal, adventure (Haylee and the Traveler’s Stone Book 1) by Lisa Redfern

An Illustrated/Paranormal/Adventure published by Little Mountain Publishing (07/21/2014)

 

Summary:

 On the eve of Haylee’s 18th birthday, something inside of her changes. She is plagued with an insatiable hunger, a sudden blossoming of womanly beauty, profuse bleeding and a migraine so powerfully painful that it causes her to pass out. She awakens in the hospital with worried nurse and father looking on. After convincing them she is alright, the beginnings of another migraine spur her to steal some clothes and run for isolation, where hunger overcomes her once again and she eventually passes out. The next day, she is home again, convincing her father yet again that she is alright. She begins her new life as a ugly duckling turned swan 18-year old beauty at her high school with a hidden secret.

 

Keywords:

 Paranormal, Animal Kindred, High School, Teen Drama, Awakening

 

My Review:

Haylee is special, but we don’t know what she is turning into, what her secret is. We know that she is changing, but we don’t know much about her before the event, except for several short memories of brief moments in her life that were significant. The author does a very good job of setting up Haylee’s backstory in these briefest of moments even while keeping most of Haylee’s secrets to reveal later on. I don’t know what Haylee’s favorite color or tv show is, but I want to.

Haylee’s ability from early childhood and her newfound secret from the awakening are not described in much detail. Haylee herself seems mostly unaware that her abilities are not normal, only that she is different from the other children because they treat her that way. Even during the change Haylee doesn’t find it at all disturbing, either her voracious hunger or her unusual newfound strength. She has almost no reaction to her predicament or from passing out or bleeding profusely. Does Haylee know something the reader does not?

This was a short quick read that flowed easily up through the abrupt ending that acts as a subtle cliffhanger. There are many questions to answer in Haylee’s continued awakening and adventure.

This novel was published by Little Mountain Publishing 07/21/2014 and is available on Amazon here.

 

TLDR Star Rating: 3.50

 

Links for more information:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23155386-haylee-awakened-seed

Website: https://lisaredfern.wordpress.com/

Mind Space Volume 1: Conspiracy / Book 3: Mind Space by David S. Moore

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Mind Space Volume 1: Conspiracy / Book 3: Mind Space by David S. Moore

A Science Fiction Novel published on amazon.com (01/10/2014)

 

Summary:

 Book three of the Mind Space Series follows the last years in the race to ready the planet for Mind Space on the target date of 2084. Jaimeson-Cale is doing everything in their power to reach their target percentage of Mind Shield hosts planet-wide. The Mind-Freedom Alliance is still in the game to take down Mind Space, the Mind Shield, and Jaimeson-Cale with their increasingly threatening tactics. “…No, the problem wasn’t the Mind Shield itself. The problem was with the people who were behind it– the people who were determined to use it to assert control over all of humanity.” (Page 400).

 

Keywords:

Science Fiction, Mind Control, America 2070’s and 2080’s, Technology, Resistance Movement, Rival Product, Monopoly, Free Market, Restoration

 

My Review:

The Mind Space Series has a powerful message: Is it ok to enslave the mind for the good of the masses? “‘War will cease,’ Daniel added. ‘Hatred and prejudice will be gone. Drug abuse, obesity, domestic violence– the self-destructive behaviors that ruin lives in every country– they will all quickly become things of the past.'” (Page 303). The Mind-Freedom Alliance and almost all who had a Mind Shield removed, believe that it isn’t alright to enslave the mind no matter the results. Adam True and the Defenders of the True believe the opposite, but they are also deluded enough to think that the Mind Shield doesn’t enslave the mind, only frees it from the tyranny of its own doubt and confusions (Page 79). Those who are in control of their own thoughts and not under the influence of the sales pitch of the Mind Shield propose individual freedoms over any alternative. Many people, though, cannot discount the life saving and wonderful characteristics the Mind Shield has to offer. That’s where the Limbic Freedom comes in. It offers all that the Mind Shield offers, plus a thought sharing network to boot. Yet, the masses are still being converted by the millions to Mind Shield, but not through completely moral sales tactics.

As this is the third book in the series, it brings the finale. Throughout the third book I began to change my allegiance from rooting for the underdogs and those trying to free the mind to Jaimeson-Cale, but for a unique reason. I wanted the Mind Space to happen because I kind of wanted to see how a society without drug addiction, eating disorders, racism, hate or violence would look like. The world building for this type of world is silent, as we are only given one side of it: the planning, development, marketing, scheming world but what would a Mind Space world be like? What kind of world would David Moore build for his readers?

The vision of Jaimeson-Cale for humanity with the Mind Shield and Mind Space is warped, though, and I really would never want them to win the fight. Moore brings up an interesting point when he says, “The Mind Shield exerted a moderating influence on all behavior, even otherwise harmless behavior. It made one wonder what the masters of the Mind Shield thought ideal human behavior should be.” (Page 84).

I almost didn’t notice the fact that Moore had seamlessly given women and men equal roles in his novel. Women (just like the men) were in positions of power, they were victims and saboteurs, security guards and leaders.

I very much enjoyed the Mind Space series and look forward to more science fiction from David Moore. He brings up thought-provoking questions in his novels, can describe a world stirringly, and flows through his story seamlessly from beginning to end.

I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a well written novel and easy-to-read science fiction novel. This book reminds me of Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke  in it’s sweeping narration through long periods of time with a focus on a single aspect of society.

This novel was published through Createspace Independent Publishing Platform 01/10/2014 and is available on Amazon here.

 

TLDR Star Rating: 4.75

 

Links for more information:

David S. Moore’s Website

FreeValley Publishing’s David S. Moore

Book Review: Click Date Repeat by K. J. Farnham

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Click Date Repeat by  K. J. Farnham

A Chick Lit Novel Published thorugh CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform  (August 21, 2014)

 

Summary:

 Chloe is your average 25-year old. She hangs out with her friends, she goes to bars, she spends holidays with her families. On the urging of a friend she tries out online dating and almost every possible combination of hilarious encounters with questionable profiles ensues.

Keywords:

 Online Dating, Chick lit, Twenty-somethings, Dating mishaps, Dating baggage, Teachers.

My Review:

Click Date Repeat is one of those delightfully fun novels that is so relatable in today’s dating world. The story may be set in 2003, at the early stages of online dating, but almost every single detail and horrifying dating story is still applicable today. This book is everything you wanted and didn’t want to know about online dating. Farnham shows both the darker side of online dating as well as the hilarity of the situations that can and do arise from meeting potential partners online.

Chloe is a relatable character that any dating twenty-something will root for. She makes mistakes and poor decisions, but she maintains an unquenchable positivity in her experiences. “After a first-date kiss, guilt usually causes me to feel the need to continue seeing someone, regardless of any red flags. I get in too deep, too fast, often because of that physical intimacy.” (Page 59). Chloe is a loveable character, hopeful and able to see the good in people, giving them the benefit of the doubt to a fault because not everyone she meets is as well-intentioned as she is. But she is not without her own personality quirks and emotional baggage, which is the very reason you want her to succeed. She is like any person in the dating scene, vulnerable to the clutches of those who might have ulterior motives or those who lie about who they are to get what they want.

Not only did I relate to the main character, but also to the experiences she had with her first (second and third) dates. Who hasn’t had a bad first date at Applebee’s? Who hasn’t tried to assess the intelligence of a potential partner with the game of Scrabble, only to find the person didn’t  how to do simple arithmetic to add up the tiles? This book is like the quintessential online dating experience all wrapped up in a nice little package so that you can read about Chloe’s mistakes and potentially avoid making them yourself. The author also packages the novel with a great writing style, some well-worded phrases and well-laid out descriptions of all the characters. I was not at all confused between the myriad of dating prospects and Chloe’s friends because Farnham is able to give me short to-the-point unique descriptors. My favorite was: “Drew’s smile is contagious. He’s an eye-smiler: The type of person who isn’t capable of faking a smile. He also oozes emotion through his facial expressions.” (Page 54).

I absolutely love the author’s title, and her cover is spot on. The very first page contains the stats of the main character, an interesting choice, but perfectly placed considering the material of the book itself.

I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a light read, a chick lit novel, or reliving the ins and outs of dating.

This novel was published through Createspace Independant Publishing Platform is available on Amazon here.

 

TLDR Star Rating: 4.25

 

Links for more information:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ClickDateRepeat
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8496528.K_J_Farnham

Book Review: The Boy Who Fell into the Sky (The Possessor Wars, Book 1) by Chad Spencer

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The Boy Who Fell into the Sky (The Possessor Wars, Book 1) by Chad Spencer

A Teen/Young Adult Science Fiction Novel published by PossessorWars.com (July 22, 2014)

 

Summary:

Jeff Bowman lives a normal life… for a kid living in a mile-wide thousands of stories tall ‘arcology’ in a world where there are colonies beyond earth. Jeff, his friends Harriet and Akio, and a growing network of their friends have found a way to make extra money for school, lessons, and programs for their datapads. They rebuilt robots to help garden, because everybody eats synthpaste and real fruits and veggies are valued highly. Their friendship is disrupted when they are separated by colonization, and Jeff begins his true path, following in the footsteps of his father as an engineer on a Spaceship.

 

Keywords:

 Futuristic, 14-year-olds, friendship, revenge, life-changes

 

My Review:

The immediate opening of The Boy Who Fell Into the Sky is full of catchups, aka backstory. The reader is inundated with current technology and sci-fi knowledge of how space travel works. The author spends a lot of his first few pages defining all the new aspects of technology, which intrudes into the developing story and drags out the explanations that most readers of young adult will skip over entirely for the good stuff: the story and the action. The author even employs textbooks to help him tell the story of this modern society, dulling the impact of the crazy wonder of a new world by straight out telling the reader all about it instead of letting it soak in naturally from events, dialogue, etc.

I was intrigued by synthpaste, the concept of every food (flavor) from one tube. I was also quite intrigued when Jeff and his friends subverted this concept of fake food by growing a garden (illegally), but the author didn’t take this action anywhere. The gardens were a plot dead end and only showed the reader that Jeff was a nice guy and took care of his friends, which he continues to do throughout book, rendering the entire first part of the book unnecessary.

About a third of the way into the book, the author threw in a bright yellow wrench of surprise that blew me away. O cruel, cruel writers to give your characters their worst nightmares and have them struggle along, attempting to be the heroes and heroines of their own stories. What a grand plot twist.

Hissing and booing, I cringed when I came to this line: “Did it ever occur to you that girls like to do different things than guys?” First the author makes the one girl fit in as one of the guys, calling her Harry and then we find out she never wanted to be called by that name. Then the author gives her such a weak personality that is so stereotypically girly that I just want to tear the pages out. The other females introduced later are no better and none would pass the infamous Bechdel test (a work of fiction featuring at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man). Granted, the female characters are not that bad, but when Harriet tells Jeff and the guys that she wants to be treated as a GIRL because she is a GIRL, I take offense as a GIRL. Surely this novel was not just written to be read by young male readers?

Supposedly these three friends are approximately 14-years old. To me, their behavior and speech pegs them at a middle school age, not at a high school age. Their inappropriate behavior and near tantrums give the impression that they are younger and that the novel is intended for a younger audience.

The stylistic choice for capturing Jeff’s thoughts became annoying and intrusive to read. I understand the novel was written in third person from the point of view of Jeff (most of the time), but to tell the reader “Jeff thought” every time Jeff has internal dialogue was repetitive and annoying. I wish the author had thought to place Jeff’s inner-thoughts in italics or did away with them altogether. Were all of them truly necessary? Probably not.

I did really enjoy the concept of referencing others by Sirsen and Mamsen for Sir and Miss/Mrs./Ms. respectively.

One of the biggest issues in this novel was the pointlessness of the first part of the book. What is the essence of the story if not about Jeff’s great problem in space and the first part was a buildup to nowhere with Jeff and his three friends. Understanding that this book is a part of a series might come into play later on in the series, but looking at this novel as a unit in and of itself, it come up lacking in this regard.

I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys early reader young adult novels or futuristic space stories.

This novel was published by PossessorWars.com July 22, 2014 and is available on Amazon here.

 

TLDR Star Rating: 3.00

 

Links for more information:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22907331-the-boy-who-fell-into-the-sky

Website: http://possessorwars.com/the-series/book-1.html

Book Review: Empress Chronicles by Suzy Vitello

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The Empress Chronicles by Suzy Vitello

A Fantasy Novel published by Diversion Books (09/01/2014)

Summary:

Two young women are separated by time. They are both at the height of their adolescence, growing and learning. What is expected of each is different because they are separated by 150 years, but both women want what they can’t have.

Liz wants to be normal, but is surrounded by an unstable environment and troubled with an obsessive-compulsive disorder with secondary anorexic symptoms. Elisabeth of Bavaria (Sisi) wants a man who is not in her future and will go to great lengths to try to change this destiny.

The two realities collide through a common diary, and a story of two ladies trying to control their own worlds is born.

 

Keywords:

Teens, Drama, Finding Yourself, Disorders, OCD, Family, Fitting In, Love

 

My Review:

The Empress Chronicles by Suzy Vitello was so raw and convincing that my real life was influenced by the abundance of sensory detail in the book. I had a chiropractor’s appointment and I was so enveloped in Liz’s character’s aversion to germs and dirt that I myself was so grossed out by the minuscule hand print left on the lie-down table that I had to have the entire surface wiped down for me. Vitello uses the senses unlike any other author in her novel The Empress Chronicles. She made me revolt against a normal amount of dirt, not to the point of obsessive-compulsiveness, but  I emulated Liz’s symptoms. .

Vitello not only put me through the discomfort of Liz’s disorder, but also through the awkwardness of a teen coming of age, of the confusion that comes with divorce, and all the unpleasant thoughts and things that happen to teenagers. At times the language was hard and vulgar and into the nitty gritty of the unpleasant realities of a teen girl’s life.

It was as if the book was written about someone the author knew intimately, knew all about. Vitello describes classical music, horses and the intricacies of a teenager with the eye of someone who knows, who has seen this person. All that sensory information from someone living in a world of a disorder was detailed and knowledgeable.

I recently read a coming of age novel of a boy trying to grow into a man and I was very happy to read this book, a coming of age novel for a girl trying to become a woman. Not only that, I got two very different, yet very similar examples: Elisabeth Wittelsback and Liz.

I commiserated with both young ladies. Liz had a tendency to add drama to things when there wasn’t a reason, her imagination and reality wiggling together at times. For Sisi, “The world of pranks and misbehavior was past. Soon, I would be slathering on the beauty potions, quenching my hair in oils, and saving my smiles for what the governess called ‘appropriate occasions for mirth’ – a funny part in an opera. The antics of a young child.” (Location 1030).

Liz and Sisi were part of that limbo stage of beyond puberty, before adulthood that Sis describes as, “Not a child. Not a lady.” (Location 1201). I was very impressed with Vitello for giving her two teenagers life and vitality. Vitello didn’t settle for the easy angsty teen character who commits herself entirely to one bad decision. Teenagers (and adults for that matter) are not just one bad decision, they are many poor choices. Sometimes one of those bad decisions turns into a big mistake with big consequences. Authors tend to turn to the worst case scenario to build up the character of a mixed-up teen, but Vitello stuck with the everyday and the normal in real life. Liz makes a stupid error, brought out in part through her disorder, and part through her poor decision and lack of knowledge (all part of young adult life) and the results are grave, the consequences severe, resulting in a catapulting in her life that begins the story. Vitello used a real teen’s thought process resulting in bad consequences. A logical event with a grave conclusion. Teens are not always at their worst, just make some bad decisions at times. But it only takes one bad decision to have the worst case results.

“The real tragedy to one’s soul is regret.” (Location 2309).

 

I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a coming of age novel starring a female (two females actually), two tales interwoven into one story, or a story featuring young teen-girl drama

This novel was published by Diversion Books 09/01/2014 and is available on Amazon here.

 

TLDR Star Rating: 4.25

 

Links for more information:

On the web: http://www.suzyvitello.com/books/the-empress-chronicles/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22748429-the-empress-chronicles

Blog: http://www.suzyvitello.com/suzys-blog/

Book Review: Roots Entwine by Victoria Bastedo

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Roots Entwine by Victoria Bastedo

A YA Fantasy novel published by Fire and Ice Young Adult Books (08/21/2014)

Summary:

Joaquin was born unique, a blonde-haired blue-eyed boy with a powerful ability that some call a gift and others a curse. It is known as Phoshat. Kallum, on a king’s mission to find someone with Joaquin’s talents, describes the gift: “He’s capable of heightening his senses, to an amazing degree at times, whenever he chooses, and then calming his senses back into place until they are barely more perceptive than yours or mine.” (Location 2733).

This gift serves Joaquin during the mission by making him an asset in minute detection, but a liability in that the curse, if over-used, makes him ill and in extreme cases could cause death.

Joaquin learns to subdue his gift during the journey he makes with Kallum and their two companions Milte and Pearce, but will it be enough to triumph over the evil that has settled in Shenandya forest?

 

Keywords:

Fantasy, Action and Adventure, Coming of Age, Magical Abilities, Good Triumphing Over Evil, Nature

 

My Review:

This novel, like many great young adult novels, teaches the reader a lesson that Bastedo puts so eloquently in her book description, “A tree standing alone shades no one, but entwining his life with his team moves Joaquin towards the inevitable choice he must make for them. It’s up to him to decide what the sum of his life will be, and if his inborn ability will be a curse to him or the gift that saves his friends.”

This novel reminds me of one of Victoria Bastedo’s other novels, Sunrise Meets the Star, in that both contain a journey with a fantastic conclusion, having to overcome some essential characteristic to triumph, learning the power of friendship and loyalty, and being confident in one’s own abilities. Bastedo’s lessons are beautifully interwoven amidst the exciting plot and the quippy dialogue that make the novel flow from beginning to end. She has mastered the art of plot zigs, adding a depth to the tension that is the best combination of intrigue and of giving the characters room to make mistakes and grow.

One of my favorite things about the author is her character design. I fall for her main character every time. Bastedo gives me enough direct description and supporting action for me to know and understand the characters and follows through with just the right amount of perfection for me to be loyal to the character’s sympathies. Joaquin acknowledges his own choice in being a good or evil person with the opportunity Phoshat presents… “For no matter what, Phoshat is a part of me. It’s up to me to decide what the talent will become, a danger or a tool for good!” (Location 2958).

True to Fantasy as a genre, Bastedo gives me lovely character names that are fantastical, but no more difficult to pronounce than yours or mine so I’m able to read the story aloud in my head without the difficulty sometimes shoved upon the reader in fantasy novels. This is the beauty of a young adult novel and of a skilled author. Some of my favorite names were Malaya, Scarvus, Gridiron, and Shenandya. I was slightly hesitant whether Phoshat was the right word for Joaquin’s ability when I first picked up the novel, but I soon fell in love with that label as well.

Not once does Joaquin lament his birthright of Phoshat. I love a character that embraces who they are and with that embrace learns to control themselves and be confident in who they are and what they can accomplish. Joaquin only laments the fact that others can only see him for what the destruction and invasion of privacy the curse can cause. For most of those that are mistrustful of a Phoshat, Joaquin’s humility and politeness win them over. Don’t all parents wish their children as mindful of themselves as Joaquin!

Joaquin is not always on top of everything, because “…knwoing what was coming wouldn’t help him be ready to meet it.” (Location 776). He is, after all, still only a 15-year-old boy. He is not always the strongest. He is not always the most clever. He is just like any of us and that is why readers will love him.

As much as I loved the world Bastedo created, where she gives the reader a wide swath of land with many villages and not just one remote society, I thought she went a little over the top with the whole blonde-haired blue-eyed versus dark hair comparison. “But the worst combination of all was to be blond, blue-eyed, and the second son. Such was Joaquin’s fate.” (Location 104). The implications with blonde hair and blue eyes will never disappear and to invoke that in the opposite sense in a novel will always bring extra attention to the deliberateness of this choice. Being of dark hair myself, I did not dislike being a part of the in-group and when Joaquin proved that he would not live up to the rumors and legends of his own hair and eye color, I was also relieved.

I was let down by the lack of female characters. I know that not all books will be equal in every aspect of gender, race, etc but the females that did appear in this novel had very small parts and were almost completely unnecessary. I wanted to like Malaya, she has such a gorgeous name, but she kept acting small and childish and stubborn and rude. She was almost the exact opposite of Joaquin and I just kept getting annoyed whenever she showed up as the stereotypical girl. Perhaps she will grow out of her flat personality and into a warrior like a Shenandyan and Joaquin himself. I look forward to more by Victoria Bastedo.

 

I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys reality grounded fantasy, Sunrise Meets the Star, or easy reading fantasy novels.

This novel was published by Fire and Ice Young Adult Books 08/21/2014 and is available on Amazon here.

 

TLDR Star Rating: 4.50

 

Links for more information:

on the web: http://freevalleypublishing.com/featured-authors/victoria-bastedo/

blog:http://snovalleyhobbit.wordpress.com/

blog: https://victoriabastedo.wordpress.com/

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