Book Review: Tube by Ksenia Anske

Tube by Ksenia Anske

A Magical Realism Novel published by Ksenia Anske (07/06/20)

 

Summary:

“The most protected secrets had the longest lives.”

Olesya is a ballet dancer. She’s about to turn 21. She is riding the train with her ballet cohorts and dancing partner Dima. After being told she’s like a doll, not enough emotion to be principal, Olesya decides to have sex with Dima. When Dima undresses, Olesya discovers her childhood toy engine TUBE between his legs. What happened to TUBE and why can’t Olesya remember it? Why is she like a doll now? What really happened when she was 5? Olesya will have to travel to the haunted train car, open all the compartments of her childhood trauma and uncover the truth.

Keywords:

Ghost Story, Magical Realism, Train, Russia, Ballerina, Dancing, Family, Father, Horror, Trauma, Survival, Violence, Childhood, Struggle, Pain, Past,Surreal

My Review:

I read the first half of the book in one sitting, marveling at the starkness of the descriptions and wondering what the inevitable ending was going to be. Then I put the book down and didn’t feel compelled to pick it back up immediately. Though stripped down to bare bones, this book still felt heavy in its second half. Maybe I was having a harder time reading, knowing that I wasn’t going to like the conclusion. Knowing how terrible the reveal was going to be.

The setting was very lifelike and I could almost feel the motions of the train, even though I was not familiar with all the vocabulary of train travel and trains in general.

My favorite part about the book was the natural dialogue and dialogue tags. The conversations felt so natural, I could picture the characters speaking to each other.

This book was both light and playful and heavy and dark.

This novel was published by Ksenia Anske July 6th, 2020 and is available on Ksenia Anske’s Website here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.25

 

Links for more information:

Ksenia Anske’s Website

Goodreads

Amazon

Book Review: Drawing Breath by Laurie Boris

Drawing Breath by Laurie Boris

A Contemporary YA Romance Novel published by Laurie Boris (11/18/13)

Summary:

Daniel is a mid-thirties art teacher with a terminal illness. He is passionate about teaching, art, and maintaining his privacy. He has lived for years in an upstairs apartment to his downstairs landlady and her daughter, Caitlin. Caitlin grew up with concern for Daniel that has grown from protectiveness into her first real crush. Daniel starts teaching art to Caitlin, even giving her private lessons. As time goes on, Caitlin’s feelings for him grow stronger, even as Daniel’s condition worsens and he starts a relationship with a lonely married woman.

Keywords:

Coming of Age, Cystic Fibrosis, Sickness, Suffering, Art, Teacher, Painting, Love, Loss, Passion, Emotion, Coughing, Breathing, Pain, Infatuation, Protective, Family

My Review:

The world needs more books like this. Books with characters who have a terminal illness but are living their lives. Books where the terminal illness is a large part of who the character is and how it has molded them but also where the illness is not the main story line.

The way Boris describes breathing in this book brought me back to the days when I tripped my asthma and couldn’t draw enough oxygen. When the tendrils of panic would take hold. Maybe other readers who have never felt short of breath, short of oxygen, will also be able to sympathize and not just empathize with Daniel through these vivid descriptions.

The story itself was very interesting and I enjoyed both Daniel’s and Caitlin’s perspectives in their relationship.

The ending was very well written. It was truthful and abrupt. It was emotional yet inevitable.

This novel was published by Laurie Boris on 11/18/13 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.50

Links for more information:

Laurie Boris’s Website

Goodreads

Book Review: Moordym Downs by Victoria Bastedo

Moordym Downs by Victoria Bastedo

A Fiction/Mystery novel published by Amazon Digital Services (06/07/2020)

Summary:

“Like the wind comes on purpose to nudge you. You look out into the expanse and you feel like that land knows mysteries you’ve been trying to understand all your life. All you have to do is go out there. Become like one of the creatures that belong to it.” (p. 101).

Every year Locke’s mother insists on going to Moordym Downs. She was always tight lipped about why she went, other than to get her yearly stipend. Locke never much bothered to get to the bottom of this mystery until she has him go in her stead. Locke will discover and uncover more than this mystery as he searches the Moordym family, Moordym Downs, and the moor beyond for answers. During his stay at the castle of Moordym Downs, Locke will uncover truths about his family, fall in love, and become entangled in the secrets of Moordym Downs and the ever present lure of the surrounding Moor.

Keywords:

Family, heritage, ancestry, relatives, mystery, intrigue, castle, father, mother, Lord of the manor, legend, adventure, travel, disappear, farm, love, choice, history, greed

My Review:

Locke wants to pave his own path but it seems fate wants to give him a choice between two predetermined paths. He has to figure out what he wants in life and if he will follow one of these paths or rebel altogether. He struggles throughout the book with these choices and his apparent lack of choice in the matter. I could feel his frustration and relate to feeling helpless to his societal and familial expectations. Though this setting is unique from our own world, I could very much relate to Locke’s anxiety and stubbornness. He just wants to live his own life and be his own master, not relegated to the role others have in store for him.

The intro of this book took a bit longer to get to the inciting incident than most books I typically read and I kept putting the book down after a few pages until the exciting first bit of action and mystery took place. After that, the pacing increased and the mystery was a whirlwind that kept me fascinated and I couldn’t put the book down. Be sure to stick through the set up.

The continual play on the ‘long corridors’ of Moordym kept making me chuckle.

I wanted much more of Sintion! He seems like a really interesting character and could have his own novel to tell his story.

Though the two intertwined mysteries in this book were not as elaborate, the novel reminded me of the movie Knives Out. Each family member had a distinct voice and personality and there were quite a few of them!

 

This novel was published by Amazon Digital Services 06/07/2020 and is available on Amazon here.

TLDR Star Rating: 4.00

 

Links for more information:

Goodreads

FreeValleyPublishing

SnoValleyHobbit

Victoria Bastedo WordPress

 

Book Review: The Anti-Virginity Pact by Katie Wismer

The Anti-Virginity Pact by Katie Wismer

A YA Coming of Age Novel published by Ahimsa Press (06/17/20)

Summary:

‘Once people have decided you’re a “quiet one,” they never let it go.’ Location 391

Meredith has lived 18 years as the preacher’s dutiful daughter. They’ve never had to give her a curfew because she’s never been out late. She’s never had a boyfriend. Even thinking about being the center of attention makes her anxious. In her last year of high school Mare drunkenly signs an ‘anti-virginity pact’ with her best friend Johanna and promptly forgets about it. Until it resurfaces as copies spread all over school. Pushed into the spotlight, Mare doesn’t know what to do, but she wishes she was still invisible. All the attention – most of it negative – threatens her reputation, her standing with her family, and even her new romantic relationship.

Keywords:

Coming of Age, Teenagers, High School, Senior Year, Seniors, Party, Alcohol, Introverted, Anxiety, Bullying, Preacher’s Daughter, Atheist, Friendship, Dating

My Review:

I absolutely love an emotional coming-of-age story and this book did not disappoint. The strongest emotion I felt while reading was anxiety. I consider myself an ambivert and experience shyness and anxiety when I’m at the center of attention sometimes, but Meredith takes this to an entirely different level. Wismer so specifically describes all aspects of anxiety so well that not only could I empathize with Mare, but I could sympathize. I think anyone reading this novel could understand what anxiety actually feels and looks like if it’s unfamiliar to them.

This book unpacks so many teenage dramas and it packs quite a punch. The bullying felt real. The anxiety felt real. The home and church life of a preacher’s daughter felt real. The religious abuse felt real. The homophobia felt real. The nastiness of the in-crowd felt real. The only over-the-top drama subplot that didn’t feel as real was the animal abuse.

I absolutely loved how this book tied romance and a romantic relationship with a strong friendship angle and the relationship between siblings. I loved the story of Meredith and her relationship with Johanna, her relationship with Sam, and especially her relationship with her sister.

This novel was published by Ahimsa Press 06/17/20 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 5.00

Links for more information:

Katie Wismer’s Website

Goodreads

Book Review: The Future of Our Past (The Remembrance Trilogy #1) by Kahlen Aymes

The Future of Our Past (The Remembrance Trilogy #1) by Kahlen Aymes

An Romance Novel published by Telemachus Press, LLC (04/19/12)

Summary:

Julia and Ryan have been friends for years. Secretly each is interested in more of a romantic relationship, but neither will bring up their feelings. Neither wants to risk their strong friendship, until they’re about to move to opposite sides of the country. After revealing their true feelings, they start their long distance relationship.

Keywords:

Medicine, Doctor, Romance, Friendship, Long Distance Relationship, Unhealthy Relationship, Jealousy, Sex Scenes

 

My Review: SPOILER ALERT

It takes about a sentence to summarize what this book is about because this book lacked a plot. There was no real problem to solve, only the idea of navigating a long distance and jealousy. If you like reading lengthy passages about the cutesy love between couples, the frustration at being apart for weeks and months from your loved one, jealousy over interaction with the opposite gender, and sex scenes then you may enjoy this book. For me, it was a meandering overly worded romance full of too many sex scenes and too much “I love you,” and “I love you more” fluff. The only real action was the hard-to-read unhealthy jealousy Ryan felt for Julia’s interactions and relationships with her male coworkers. This is portrayed as normal but it is an unhealthy amount and expression of jealousy! I should have put this book down but felt compelled to finish and find out if anything was going to happen in the end. Where could this book actually go?

To create this series, the author finally launches into a tight sequence of action in the last few chapters and then ends abruptly in the middle of a scene to promote a cliff-hanger and get you to read on to the second book. The pacing throughout this novel was terrible. I will not be reading any more books by this author. I was especially turned off by the usage of a surprise pregnancy to push along the action. I’m quite fed up with romance novels using pregnancy, especially a surprise pregnancy, as a source of conflict. This book even uses the pregnancy to tear the main female character away from a promising career move (which the main male protagonist was against because everything is about him and what he wants). The ending was a disappointment.

Halfway through I started to consistently skim through all the mushy dialogue back and forth between Julia and Ryan because nothing new was being said and it felt like it was just filler dialogue. I also skimmed through the sex scenes because after the buildup to the first one, the rest were just not that interesting.

The one thing the author did that kept me reading at all, was the excellent buildup of expectation prior to the initial sex scene. The longing that Julia and Ryan felt for each other was palpable and felt very real.

This novel was published by Telemachus Press, LLC on 04/19/2012 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 2.50

Links for more information:

Kahlen Aymes’ Website

Goodreads

Book Review: Lies & Legacy (Project Gene Assist Book 3) by Allie Potts

Lies & Legacy (Project Gene Assist Book 3) by Allie Potts

A Science Fiction/Cyberpunk/Dystopian Novel published by Axil Hammer Publishing (03/26/20)

Summary:

Juliane wakes out of her cryogenic sleep to a devastated world where her legacy, her tech, is not being used the way she intended. What’s left of humanity is on the brink of war as those with the opportunity have stepped up to seize control. Can Juliane stop them? Stephen is convinced that Juliane can stop the drain, the key to halting the power-hungry new world leaders. All he has to do is find her before it’s too late.

Keywords:

Genetic Engineering, Science and Technology, Rivals, Technology,  Future, Dystopian, Survival, Dark Ages, War, New Government, Towers, Grit, Magic, Evolution, Economic Collapse, New Order, Salvation, Friendship, Romance

My Review:

It was difficult to pick up this third book after so much time between finishing book two. I couldn’t remember who the characters were, their relationships to each other, or what they wanted and how they got there. The third book starts off where book two ends without a lot of re-explanation of what happened before and it took a few chapters to get back into the swing of the plot and hooked into the current dilemmas. If I hadn’t immediately skipped to chapter one, I would have seen the handy recap of characters at the end of the book listed in the table of contents that would have helped me sort out who is who. If you’re also not reading each book right after the other I would highly recommend browsing the contents at the end of the book as a great refresher into the many characters.

I couldn’t wait to see how the isolated characters finally met up in the end. I did enjoy reading their separate journeys as they traveled through the post-apocalyptic landscape. I also enjoyed the growing romances between several of the characters and felt it added more depth to this novel.

Every time Juliane used her abilities for something small, like lighting up a dark space with her own body and technology, I was fascinated. The small details in the world building were well done and very intriguing. Juliane, as a strong female main character from the previous novels, continues to be a leader in this third novel of the series.

This novel was published by Axil Hammer Publishing on 03/26/2020 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.25

Links for more information:

Allie Potts’ Website

Goodreads

Twitter

Book Review: Gospel for the Damned by Gordon Gravley

Gospel for the Damned by Gordon Gravley

A Post-Apocalyptic Fiction Book published by Amazon.com Services LLC (03/23/13)

Summary:

The deadly contagion called the Omega Virus has been contained to the heavily quarantined city of San Francisco. Journalist Aaron, immune to the virus, is assigned to enter the area and investigate the initial release of the virus. Rumors point to a single minister suspected of purposefully releasing the virus. Upon entering the quarantined zone, Arron finds a city that is still like a war-zone and the people left within it are quite different than he imagined.

Keywords:

Contagion, Virus, Deadly, Quarantine, Bay Area, Journalist, War-zone, Violence, Misery, Death, Immunity, Investigation, Minister, Law, Friends, Suffering

My Review:

I was fascinated by the details of the quarantine and the psychological effects of being quarantined and of being so close to death’s door from the deadly virus. This book is even more fascinating in light of recent world events (Covid-19). The idea of the deadly contagion and the effective quarantine on the bay area is a compelling idea that has been truly well thought out in this book. The story has a Mad Max feeling within its city landscape.

Though this book felt like more of a slice of life than a story with a traditional plot, I did enjoy it quite a lot. The subtle plot that was introduced was slow to develop and it took a while for me to get hooked on the characters and to become fascinated by the world building centering on the idea of a plague and quarantine.

Another critique I had was the way the narrator created distance from all the current action by talking about these events as they occurred in the past.

This novel was published by Amazon.com Services LLC on 03/23/2013 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 3.50

Links for more information:

Gordon Gravley’s Website

Goodreads

Book Review: Tailwinds Past Florence by Doug Walsh

Tailwinds Past Florence by Doug Walsh

A Time Travel Romance/Adventure Novel published by Snoke Valley Books (01/22/19)

Summary:

“It was the nature of cycling to have your emotions dictate the pace.”

Kara had always wanted to travel the world by bicycle but Edward is too caught up in his work to take several years out of his career for this shared dream vacation. The day Edward loses his job is the day he will commit to cycling around the world with Kara, and not tell her why he changed his mind about the adventure of a lifetime. Little by little she will suspect something is going on with Edward as they race around the world together. Not only is Edward keeping secrets, but they keep discovering other mysterious travelers along their route.

Keywords:

Travel, Adventure, Marriage, Secrets, Cycling, Journey, Partners, Time Travel, Discover, Escape, Love, Mystery, Weather, Workaholic, Dream Adventure, Soul, Eternal Love

My Review:

Is it really possible to cycle around the world? What happens if you start too early in the season and are stuck cycling in the snow, mere inches from trucks and cars on the road? I was immediately hooked on the premise of this story and quickly dove into the plot of the book and the tension between Edward and Kara that was present all along. From the very beginning of the story, where Edward kept his first secret from Kara, I could tell that the tension was going to increase until all the secrets unfurled. And yet, the cute things that they did together and their easygoing nature made me root for their marriage from the get-go. What was going to happen to keep them together or to finally push them apart as a couple?

Meanwhile – they encounter various difficulties along their route, not to mention the fact that Edward keeps pushing them past their original pace, racing to a finish line only he can see. I wanted to yell at him to just come clean! He knew all along what Kara valued and yet he obstinately kept justifying his actions by telling himself that he wanted to provide for her, blindly ignoring the fact that that’s not what Kara wanted. And Kara wouldn’t talk to Edward about her misgivings, only expressing her anger when Edward blatantly changed something about their route. It’s easy to blame them both for lack of communication because it’s not always easy to talk with those you love.

At first I didn’t care to switch plots and characters from the young cycling couple to Alessio but soon realized the importance of Alessio and appreciated his perspective. He was at times both funny and rude! It was quite hilarious to read some of his scenes.

I thoroughly enjoyed the descriptions of the difficulties of cycling and traveling along lesser used paths and through smaller towns. The author was very adept at providing all sorts of tension, from the couple’s relationship, to the setting, to the addition of the mysterious men that kept appearing along their route.

This novel was published by Snoke Valley Books on 01/22/2019 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.75

Links for more information:

Doug Walsh’s Website

Goodreads

Book Review: Flight of the Spark: Book 1 of the Outlawed Myth Fantasy Series by Evelyn Puerto

Flight of the Spark: Book 1 of the Outlawed Myth Fantasy Series by Evelyn Puerto

A YA Fantasy novel published by Open Water Books (12/03/2019)

Summary:

“Taking a risk stretches you, so you can find out what you can do, instead of being sure you cannot.” (Location 2602).

Iskra has lived in her small town her entire life. She is safe. She follows the rules. But she longs to visit the next town over and when her mother allows it, she giddily accompanies her friend on the trip. The road between towns is dangerous, full of Riskers and other barbarians. Iskra wasn’t worried before stepping outside the town’s gate, but with only the protection of the guards Iskra is plagued with worry. Even her carefree friend can’t keep her from anxious thoughts and when she misses the caravan back to town, to safety, what will Iskra risk to get back home in time? What else is Iskra willing to risk when her friend is taken because Iskra was a cowardly mushroom? The more Iskra learns how the town keeps peace and safety for all its citizens, the more Iskra is willing to risk.

Keywords:

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

My Review:

From the moment I picked up this book, I couldn’t put it down. Before I had even started reading, this book contained certain elements I love in YA books: dystopian features and a female main character.

The mood is set so well, especially in the beginning. “The wind picked up, raising goose bumps on Iskra’s arms.It rocked the branches of the trees that stood behind the pines back and forth, rustling the leaves, sounding to Iskra like a thousand whispered threats.” (Location 316). The writing style was very easy to read and flowed from word to word and page to page. It was the dystopic plot, though, that really drew me in.

The story was very well set and the world building was very well done. Tension and mystery hinted at a deeper plot that both Iskra and I couldn’t help but run toward. The suspense and tension builds until the end.

I loved how much Iskra grew throughout the book. She is such a dynamic main character. As the reader, we really get to know and understand where she is coming from and how brave she is to question her surroundings and change. Those around her were fully fledged characters with backstories. The love story is well crafted and very believable and so sweet.

I can’t wait to read book two.

This novel was published by Open Water Books 12/03/2019 and is available on Amazon here.

TLDR Star Rating: 5.0

 

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Twitter

Evelyn Puerto’s Website

Book Review: The Mere’s Crown: Anthym Quest: Book Two by Victoria Bastedo

The Mere’s Crown: Anthym Quest: Book Two by Victoria Bastedo

A Fantasy novel published by Amazon Digital Services (11/25/2019)

Summary:

Anthym’s quest to find the Mere and save Moonlight continues. The Otterby travels with Anthym, along with members of the Blue Guard, leaders of the town of Moonlight, their out-of-town guide and her two friends. It is still unclear why Anthym was chosen, why he was changed, and why the gate is failing. It is up to this group of travelers to find the Mere and set things right again, but their journey is full of perils along the way.

Keywords:

Fantasy, Mythical, Otherworldly, Fighting, Quest, Water, Legend, The One, Boy, Change, Family, Friendship, Soldier, Citizen, Travel, Quest, Journey, Passageway, Training, Waiting, Secrets

My Review:

It was clear to me why Anthym was changed in the first book and I thought that the characters should have also guessed what his newfound abilities would be for; however, I wasn’t completely correct in guessing what Anthym was called to do in the end. This second book focused less on Anthym and more on the group’s journey as a whole, which I enjoyed.

It took me nearly a third of the book to get really into the story, though. This second book picks up right where the first book leaves off and they are already partway through their journey to the Mere. There wasn’t enough sense of urgency until the group gets to the water. Then I couldn’t put the book down.

I really enjoyed reading more about Kye and his story. I think he grows as much as Anthym does during the Anthym Quest Books. I really loved the fantasy setting of the world outside of Moonlight as well as the creatures that roamed (not all of them friendly) in this setting.

I enjoyed this second book more than the first and recommend reading them both one after the other.

This novel was published by Amazon Digital Services 11/25/2019 and is available on Amazon here.

TLDR Star Rating: 4.00

 

Links for more information:

Goodreads

FreeValleyPublishing

SnoValleyHobbit

Victoria Bastedo WordPress