Book Review: Barbara and the Rage Brigade by Karen Eisenbrey

Barbara and the Rage Brigade by Karen Eisenbrey

A Young Adult novel published by Not a Pipe Publishing (11/19/2019)

Summary:

Barbara had it all at the end of high school: a band, a group of friends, and her super cool superpowers. Now, her friends have left town for college and the band can’t practice without all the members. Barbara still has her superpowers at least but she’ll have to find her confidence again to make new friends. She’ll need all the help she can get when facing a new adversary in town.

Keywords:

Music, Band, Girl Band, Punk, Rock, Teenagers, High School, Superpowers, Garage Band, Invisible, Bully, Introverted, Church, Singing, Costume, Anxiety Driving School, Relationships, Friendships, Holidays

My Review:

Like the first book in this series, I read Barbara and the Rage Brigade from start to finish in almost one sitting. It is a very engaging story with interesting characters that is written in a mesmerizing writing style. This book is, in one word, polished.

This second book was more predictable than the first, but in the best of ways. The author even managed to pull off a complete happy ending, which is hard to do when some of the characters are villainous and even downright evil. I really, really enjoy reading about positive transformations, even when it appears hopeless.

I liked how the magic of book one expanded into a larger world of magic in this second book. More people had more powers and they were very interesting and imaginative powers. I would love to see how this magic develops even further and spreads out into the world even more with the next book.

Barbara is the sole narrator in this book and she grows into her superpowers even more. I really liked Barbara as the narrator. I especially loved everything to do with the anxiety driving school. Even though Barbara is often anxious around others, she seems to meet quite a few of them in the course of this novel. Each person she meets is unique and well developed.

My only critique is for the formatting. I’m not sure what is typical for formatting texts in a novel, but I am a very fast reader and was confused and had to slow down to read the message tags so that I knew who was texting. I wish the initials had been full first names instead, akin to dialogue tags.

This novel was published by Not a Pipe Publishing 11/19/2019 and is available on Amazon here.

TLDR Star Rating: 5.0

 

Links for more information:

Karen Eisenbrey’s Website

Book Review: Prose Before Bros (Green Valley Library Book 3) by Cathy Yardley

Prose Before Bros (Green Valley Library Book 3) by Cathy Yardley

A Romance published by Amazon Digital Publishing (11/05/19)

Summary:

Thuy Nguyen is fully supportive of her best friend, Maddy… Even when Maddy returns to her childhood small town to become a farmer whilst pregnant and no baby-daddy insight. Small towns can be very judgmental and the local biker gang is no exception. It isn’t just the biker gang that harasses Maddy and Thuy, but one in particular is keen to bump into the duo of women. Maddy’s brother is a loyal member of the biker gang and he will have to decide between helping his sister or staying with his biker family. And Maddy can’t keep her eyes off of him but she knows intimately how impossible and dangerous a relationship with a biker can be.

Keywords:

Multicultural, Interracial, Library, Small Town, South, Romance, Contemporary, Motorcycle Club, Gang, Money, Inheritance, Siblings, Family, Love, Sex, Danger, Redemption, Loyalty, Fighting, Violence

My Review:

I absolutely loved the fact that Thuy is a librarian and has a great love for books, reading, and introducing others to the world of literature. I especially enjoyed the parts involving her talking about her love of books, how reading influenced her childhood (in a good way) and how she values those who value reading and books. The scene with Thuy talking to Drill about books was hilarious and even though his reaction seemed too good to be true, it was such fun to watch them bond over reading.

Thuy may seem like an innocuous librarian, but she is full of solid backstory and backbone. She is sweet and kind yet fierce and loyal. I loved how protective she was of Maddy and how close the two of them are in their relationship. I like how their friendship is such a strong bond. They are family. They support each other and don’t doubt the success of each other. I would have tried to dissuade Maddy from running a farm, but Thuy is with her best friend 100% on her decisions and is willing to learn how to be a farmer. She’s willing to give up her old life, her old job, her old way of doing things to be with Maddy through thick and thin.

I had to warm up to Drill. Just like it took time to warm up to that name, it took time to warm up to him as a character. A lot was stacked against him. Being part of a notoriously violent gang that doesn’t allow its members to talk to their ‘former’ family just seems childish. They have questionable morals but Drill proves that he’s ready to live a life less violent. He shows Thuy, his sister, and his MC family that he has changed over the years and I really liked seeing his transformation.

I was really worried that the ending couldn’t live up to the buildup and climax, but I was pleasantly surprised by the twist – which seemed obvious afterwards – and I was not let down at all. The resolution was very satisfying.

This novel was published by Amazon Digital Publishing on 11/05/2019 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 5.0

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Cathy Yardley’s Website

Book Review: Snow in Vietnam: A Novel by Amy M. Le

Snow in Vietnam: A Novel by Amy M. Le

A Historical Fiction novel published by Amazon Digital Services (05/24/2019)

Summary:

Snow is the youngest of seven children growing up in Vietnam during a time of war. Life isn’t always certain. The future isn’t always certain. Snow agrees to marry a Vietnamese man even though she pines for an American G.I. She gives birth to sick child with a heart problem. America could be her daughter’s chance to live and Snow’s chance for freedom. Vietnam is uncertain in times of unification but every time Snow gathers enough resources to leave, another tragedy forces her to prolong her escape.

Keywords:

Love, Family, Survival, Hope, Politics, War, Vietnam, Mother, Struggle, Historical, Women’s Fiction, Trust, Strength, Fear, Uncertainty, Freedom

My Review:

This book was gritty and raw. I didn’t always understand why Snow treated her daughter or family like she did at times, but I felt like I was looking into the life of a real person. Snow felt like a completely genuine person, flaws and all. Snow was the essence of bravery and determination. Her goal to escape with her daughter was always in her mind and always in her actions. But family and tragedy kept getting in the way. I loved how close knit family is portrayed in this book. The characters in this book would do anything for family – to honor them, to love them, to provide for them, to give them a chance for a better life.

The love story in this novel was cleverly wound around the war-torn country and its effects on Snow’s family. The mystery surrounding her G.I. will keep you guessing as to where he is. The book was sad yet compelling because Snow had the strength to continue to adapt and survive and care for her sick daughter. If she can live and prosper and love under those conditions, then anything is possible.

This novel was published by Amazon Digital Services 05/24/2019 and is available on Amazon here.

TLDR Star Rating: 4.50

 

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Amy M Le’s Website

Book Review: The Gospel According to St. Rage by Karen Eisenbrey

The Gospel According to St. Rage by Karen Eisenbrey

A Young Adult novel published by Not a Pipe Publishing (08/20/2019)

Summary:

Barbara Bensen doesn’t want to be invisible anymore. She’s ready to be seen. She wants to form an all-girl punk rock band but doesn’t know who to ask or how to ask them. Then she meets Jackson, charismatic and popular, and he introduces her to the first member of the future band. But Barbara isn’t the only one on the fringes outside of popularity who wants to be seen.

Keywords:

Music, Band, Girl Band, Punk, Rock, Teenagers, High School, Superpowers, Garage Band, Invisible, Bully, Introverted

My Review:

I absolutely adored Barbara’s inner commentary about herself and the world. She’s bleak and yet hopeful at the same time. She is the perfect blend of quirky and shy. She is the underdog I immediately root for. Her goal is to be seen. Her dream is to be in an all-girl rock band. I know what she wants and I’m right there with her wanting her to get everything she hopes for and more. We are all losers sometimes. Barbara’s story and her description of high school reminded me all too well of my own time as a shy girl in school.

I was at first shocked when Barbara wasn’t the only narrator in this story, but I really liked getting the perspective of the other students and members of the band. I loved how distinct each voice was and how each person had their own look, personality, and set of unique problems. I loved seeing the characters grow as the novel progressed.

I’m not a huge music person, but I really enjoyed all the nuances of starting a band and holding practices and performing. I could feel the band’s excitement when they were on stage and I was right there with them.

I’m not quite sure how I feel about the supernatural element in this book as it seems to fit perfectly with Barbara and her teenage dramas, but them seems at odds with the very realistic contemporary setting. I’m not sure the story was improved by including this element of fiction, but I’m also not sure that it detracts at all from the story either. The plot was complex enough to where the fantastical element was not necessary but I’m interested to see where the author takes it in the sequel.

This novel was published by Not a Pipe Publishing 08/20/2019 and is available on Amazon here.

TLDR Star Rating: 5.0

 

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Karen Eisenbrey’s Website

Book Review: Santiago’s In Trouble by Victoria Bastedo

Santiago’s In Trouble by Victoria Bastedo

A Mystery Romance novel published by Amazon Digital Services (08/08/2019)

Summary:

“Santiago is where adventure meets truth and superheroes come to the aid of the homeless. Santiago, in a way, is my life here in Seattle.”

Jacoby lives a normal life. He works the night shift as a guard. He helps out with a local Christian group. But soon his calm life will be thrown into chaos when a mysterious letter shows up claiming something about an inheritance, the lady upstairs is in trouble and needs his help, and a stranger keeps calling him racist names. What is going on and how will Jacoby respond to the accusations against his family, his upbringing, and his ethnicity?

Keywords:

Romance, Friendship, Sleuth, Mystery, Seattle, Queen Anne, Superhero, Humor, Adventure, Racism, Inheritance, Family, Brothers

My Review:

This is the ninth book I’ve ready by Victoria Bastedo and every book has been better than the last. Every book set in Seattle (Mini-Droids and Tea, Black Poodle Over Seven Hills) has been utterly enchanting. This book in particular, and the other books set in Seattle, very much reminds me of the charm, ease of reading, and mystery of Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple.

This book was a simple, meet-cute novel full of witty dialogue set against the lovely hills of Seattle’s Queen Anne and the surrounding neighborhoods. Santiago’s in Trouble was a charming fast read with a well-developed mystery surrounding the main character: Jacoby.

I loved the fact that Vivienne was a writer and placed herself into troubling situations in order to fully understand her female sleuth heroine: Santiago.

This book was centered more on Jacoby and his mystery and life than on Vivienne. This book also features strong Christian ties, though it works with the characters and the situations. The book itself is a sweet romance and does not go any further than gentle hinting at sex.

I absolutely enjoyed all the scenes and dialogue that included Jacoby’s cousin.

There were moments where I yelled at Jacoby for not being more interested or invested in the “mysterious inheritance.” Sometimes I wonder if there really are people out there who wouldn’t be curious about an inheritance.

This novel was published by Amazon Digital Services 08/08/2019 and is available on Amazon here.

TLDR Star Rating: 4.75

 

Links for more information:

Goodreads

FreeValleyPublishing

SnoValleyHobbit

Victoria Bastedo WordPress

 

Book Review: Ship of Fools: A Geek Girl Rom Com (Fandom Hearts Book 6) by Cathy Yardley

Ship of Fools: A Geek Girl Rom Com (Fandom Hearts Book 6) by Cathy Yardley

A Romantic Comedy published by RYW Publishing (07/30/19)

Summary:

Previously on Fandom Hearts…. Cressida left the safety of the bookstore to hunt for real live treasure with an almost-stranger. States away, she is having an emergency agoraphobic attack. Rachel has the means to get to Cressida quickly, by borrowing her ex-high school sweetheart’s family plane. Rachel only hesitates a moment before making the call. Ten years later, Ren breaking up with her, still hurts.

Ren never got over Rachel. He was pressured to break up with her so that he could focus on his schooling and career path that would eventually lead to him taking over the family business. Rachel’s phone call out of the blue brings up all sorts of nostalgia for Rachel and their relationship. Is she still the same woman he broke up with ten years ago? He has to find out and pleads for a date with Rachel.

Rachel feels obligated to thank Ren in person for helping Cressida, but she is also curious whether he’s grown as a person. Is he still putting family obligations and career aspirations first in his life or does he have room for a new relationship?

Keywords:

Friendship, Romance, Sisters, Family, Trust, Book Shop, Risk, Fear, Workaholic, Family Business, Private Car, Rich, Old Flame, Family Obligation

My Review:

I absolutely adore the Fandom Hearts Series. I love reading about the characters and how their lives intersect. I love how I get to know more about each of the main characters as they star in their own novels and as we read about them in all the other books. Ship of Fools has been my least favorite of the series. It lacked the wow factor of the other novels. I still thoroughly enjoyed this book. The Frost sisters did not let me down, but the romance between Rachel and Ren just wasn’t satisfying in the same way as all the other sisters’ romances were. The happy ending a bit bittersweet and left me wanting.

I wonder in what direction the Fandom Hearts books will go after this latest installment. All Frost sisters have found relationships outside of each other and they are moving on with their lives. I really would like more of Cressida’s story in the future. Cressida is my favorite character because she is the most vulnerable and most unique.

This novel was published by RYW Publishing on 07/30/2019 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.50

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Cathy Yardley’s Website

Book Review: The Kitchen Brigade by Laurie Boris

The Kitchen Brigade by Laurie Boris

A Contemporary Women’s Dystopian Novel published by Amazon Digital Services LLC (01/10/19)

Summary:

In a not-so-distant future Russia occupies America. Travel is limited. Employment is limited. Freedom is limited. Valerie grew up privileged as the daughter of the secretary of state but is now forced to cook for the army in this occupied-America. With her culinary background she impresses a Russian general and is given the ‘opportunity’ to work in his mansion. Christened “Three” she works with a head chef and four other chefs in the kitchen during the day. This opportunity involves being led to her work space in handcuffs every day, bullied and belittled by the guards and the guests at times, and forced to work for the same men who killed her father and are destroying her country’s freedoms. She knows she will not do nothing, will not work demurely, will not stand idly by if an opportunity presents itself.

Keywords:

Social Sci-fi, Cooking, Kitchen, Servitude, Occupied America, Passion, Friendship, Loyalty, Courage, Despair, Russia, Violence, Oppression, Tension

My Review:

Though supplies may be scarce, the kitchen brigade bring life and love to the dishes they prepare. Head Chef Svetlana says some very poignant remarks about cooking and food throughout the novel. It is their love of food and their passion for cooking that bring life to the kitchen and hope to their hearts. It is this passion that seems to lead them in other areas of their lives and gives them the willingness to stand up for what they believe in and the need to act when they can.

I enjoyed all the characters very much. Head Chef Svetlana seemed so complex when viewed from both her point of view and from Valerie’s point of view combined. Who is Svetlana really and what side does she work for? Valerie is very courageous, even in the beginning she does not yield instantly to her fate. Yet, she does not fight when there is no reason. She is industrious and clever. Two seemed the most complex character with the least explanation or backstory and I really enjoyed this slight ambiguity. In the height of chaos, what would she do? She is the loose cannon that could crumble Svetlana’s plans and yet Svetlana loves Two like a daughter. I adored Four so much! She was so cool. Each of the women in the employ of Svetlana in the kitchen were full of personality.

I enjoyed the details of running the kitchen, including food preparation, wine pairing, cleaning, herb gardening, and more.

This book had great suspension and tension throughout. The ending came suddenly and some of the action I couldn’t quite picture but I enjoyed reading it nonetheless.

This novel was published by Amazon Digital Services LLC on 01/10/19 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.25

Links for more information:

Laurie Boris’s Website

Goodreads

Twitter

Book Review: Dangerous Territory: a Keltin Moore Adventure (The Adventures of Keltin Moore Book 3) by Lindsay Schopfer

Dangerous Territory: a Keltin Moore Adventure (The Adventures of Keltin Moore Book 3) by Lindsay Schopfer

A Steampunk Science Fantasy Novel published through Amazon Digital Services (06/01/19)

Summary:

Keltin Moore is a beast hunter starting his own beast hunting company with two of his faithful companions: Bor’ve’tai the Loopi and Jaylocke the Weycliff Wayfarer. Their first job takes Bor’ve’tai and Jaylocke away together to hunt a smoke beast while Keltin holds down the office by himself. Not even a day later Keltin is tasked with an emergency beast hunting job and a secret assignment. Without being able to wait for his companions, he is off north to Krendaria once again.

Keywords:

Fighting, Hunting, Prey, Beasts, Determination, Heroics, Strategy, Politics, Discrimination, Hate, Farming, Working Together, Survival, Thoughtfulness, Injury, Escape, Stealth

My Review:

Keltin Moore’s world is much like stepping into the fictional wardrobe of Narnia with all sorts of creatures, most of them unfriendly. The Beast Hunter’s monsters are varied in form, function, and appearance. I really enjoyed the imaginative world building of the monsters themselves and the weaponry made to defeat them. The author gives the reader the perfect amount of description for both amidst the action of the hunt scenes.

Much like with the other Keltin Moore book I read, the start of the novel builds the world slowly, re-introducing the reader to Keltin and the new problem he must solve. Keltin himself has grown into an entrepreneur yet he remains humble. I really enjoyed his embarrassment and the way he would normalize himself anytime he was being described overly heroically. If I had an Uncle in a fantasy novel, I would like him to be Keltin.

This book reminded of the narrative ease of the Tarzan novels and once the main plot was revealed, I was hooked into the story and didn’t put the book down.

This novel was published through Amazon Digital Services 06/01/2019 and is available on Amazon here.

TLDR Star Rating: 3.75

Links for more information:

Author Website:  www.lindsayschopfer.com

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Lindsay-Schopfer/e/B007EF3MQS

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LindsaySchopfer

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lindsayschopfer

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7078379.Lindsay_Schopfer

Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/lindsayschopfer?ty=h

Book Review: Love Songs, Detours, Et Cetera (Senior Year Sweethearts Book 1) by Starla Huchton

Love Songs, Detours, Et Cetera (Senior Year Sweethearts Book 1) by Starla Huchton

An Contemporary YA Novel published by Amazon Digital Services, Inc. (04/14/19)

Summary:

On the first day of her senior year of high school in the small town of Highland, Iowa, Trina gets to school before any of the other students so she can volunteer and help the teachers. Trina bumps into the most popular and best looking boy on that first day. Is it her imagination or is he trying to follow her around school? Trina has one best friend in the entire school and everyone else either ignores her or makes fun of her and her mom. Why would Ethan give her the time of day?

Keywords:

Romance, Love, Friendship, High School, Sewing, Costumes, Musical, Alternative Lifestyle, Family, Best Friends, Senior Year, Volunteer

My Review:

Starla has a way with building amazing characters. I felt like I was Trina. She blends into the background and does her own thing but isn’t afraid to voice her opinion and stand up for herself. Trina drives an old car and has dreams of going places, specifically leaving her small town. Though I’ve never really been in a small town, I felt like I understood entirely the feeling of being unique and standing out in Highland, Iowa. I loved Trina’s interactions with her mom, with her best friend, and with Ethan. Trina’s voice was distinct and she knew what she liked, who she liked, and what she wanted.

The dialogue was clever and realistic and mesmerizing. I couldn’t get enough of it.

The romance was perfectly developed and I loved being inside Trina’s head with her nerves and her anxieties throughout it all. I especially loved Ethan’s reactions to Trina’s anxiety.

Ethan was also well developed as a character. He had a robust life outside of his interest in Trina. He had his own wants and dreams as well as his own faults and problems. I really enjoyed the complication of Emmaline, Ethan’s younger sister in the story as well.

The details of costume building and theater were super fun and I really liked how at this particular high school the theater nerd was the most popular kid in school.

This novel was published by Amazon Digital Services, Inc. on 04/14/2019 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 5.0

Links for more information:

Starla Huchton’s Website

Goodreads

Book Review: SPIN by K.J. Farnham

SPIN by K.J. Farnham

A Young Adult Novel published by K J Farnham Publishing LLC (04/11/19)

Summary:

Jenna Kemp likes to run and hang out with her three best friends at the local park. She is your average teenager, but she is also hiding a huge secret. She has succeeded in pushing down her secrets so deep that she can live her daily life in peace, but those secrets will slowly bubble to the surface. Jenna will try anything to numb the pain, from nighttime pain meds to weed and alcohol. Her friends don’t understand why she is spinning out of control until the day Jenna doesn’t come home one night and her years of secrets begin to unravel.

Keywords:

Sexual Abuse, Child Abuse, Teenagers, Drugs, Alcohol, Parties, Friendship, Love, Missing Teenager, Diary, Teen Angst, Anger, Emotions, Family, Runner, High School, Blame, Guilt, Shame

My Review:

Spin was incredibly riveting. I was entirely engrossed in the book from the first chapter. What happened to Jenna? What will happen to Jenna? I had to find out and I was not disappointed in the ending. The plot was incredibly well paced and Farnham breaks up the narrative into two time periods: before Jenna’s disappearance and after Jenna’s disappearance. Slowly the days count up and down until they finally meet in the end with the exciting conclusion that answers all the questions.

Jenna Kemp was incredibly well written. Her diary entries seemed a little too polished for a teenager going through emotional torture and turmoil, but her actions and thoughts were very realistic. Her friends’ reactions and thoughts were also incredibly realistic. Their guilt after Jenna’s disappearance is so heartfelt. The emotions that Farnham describes are so authentic that I felt like Keely, Dustin, Delaney, and Leighton could be real people.

The interactions with the police felt real. The interactions between Jenna’s parents and her were also incredibly well written. I loved getting all the different perspectives. Each character had a unique personality and connection to Jenna.

Jenna herself was complex. From the outside she appears like a troubled and rebellious teenager. When you get inside her head and see what she writes in her diary entries, you see her for the adult that she truly is and the baggage that is slowing her down, overwhelming her at times, and growing heavier and heavier through her repeated exposures to her childhood sexual trauma.

The writing style is incredibly polished and this book is the best one of Farnham’s to date. I’m very excited for what she writes next.

This novel was published by K J Farnham Publishing LLC on 04/11/2019 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 5.0

Links for more information:

Goodreads

K.J. Farnham’s Website