Book Review: Boneyard (Silvanus Saga: Book Two) by D.M. Darroch

Boneyard (Silvanus Saga: Book Two) by D.M. Darroch

A Dystopic YA Novel published by Sleepy Cat Press (05/09/22)

Summary:

On the brink of turning eighteen, Lazlo almost has enough money stowed away from slinging dust to leave a life of crime, but he gets caught in a raid. Not yet an adult, he’s *luckily* just sentenced to 10 years in prison and spends the first in juvenile detention. Looking at a quarter of his life in prison, Lazlo whiles away the long prison hours using his lab-rat-induced abilities to cause mayhem amongst the other juvenile inmates. When the warden offers Lazlo a chance for a reduced sentence, he’ll jump at it, no matter the cost. Working with adult prisoners, Lazlo agreed to help clear the line, the wall that stands between civilization and the oxygen forest with its larger-than-life creatures that threaten to break through weak points. The labor is tough, the bugs are human-sized, and most of the other inmates aren’t that great either. Will there be a chance to escape or will he end up being an orb weaver’s next meal?

Keywords:

Dystopian, Coming of Age, Trees, Friendship, Juvenile Delinquent, Drugs, Fighting, Sentenced, Choices

My Review:

Pandora may be a utopia while the world Darroch creates in the Sylvanus Saga is a dystopia but both are richly vivid and alive. After recently rewatching Pandora, I felt a similar sense of wonder and sensory detail come alive in Boneyard. The world is beautifully and carefully crafted. Darroch is a master of the senses and this unique dystopian world she has created in this saga. I’m blown away by how real both the world and the characters feel to me as I read. I’m amazed, that yet again, the author has created another world. This new world is both at the line and on the ground. It is completely separated from The Canopy above the forest but still connected to it by more than just a shared history.

Boneyard feels like an entirely separate book from Canopy, at least at first. I was amazed at how well constructed this second book is. As a middle book in a series, I was pleasantly surprised that it was just as good as book one, just as entertaining, just as well written, and still slowly tying together pieces from the first book into the next book of this series.

Lazlo, the main character, feels darker than the main character of book one. He has more of a sympathetic backstory but he also seems to make more questionable choices and presents himself in a less than positive light in the beginning. The way the author writes him still makes me empathize and sympathize with his plight and his choices. I’m still rooting for him, wanting him to make good choices, but also understanding to an extent why he chooses to do some of the things that he does to other people. Lazlo uses his power for both good and bad and that makes him more complex, more fascinating, and more human. I was drawn into his story immediately.

I love how imaginative the world is and how the plot fits together. The pacing felt right. Similar to book one, I had a hard time putting this book down. I can’t wait to read the next book in this series or anything else Darroch chooses to write.

I received a free ARC for an honest review.

This novel was published by Sleepy Cat Press on 05/09/2022 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 5.0

Links for more information:

D.M. Darroch’s Website

Goodreads

Apple Link

Barnes and Noble Link

Kobo Link

Book Review: Hollywood Games (Kinloch Series, #2) by Evie Alexander

Hollywood Games (Kinloch Series, #2) by Evie Alexander

A Comedic Romance Novel published by Emlin Press (04/04/22)

Summary:

Kinloch Castle is in desperate need of money and every day there seems to be something new to fix. On top of those worries, Rory isn’t sure Zoe feels the same about him and of course, Rory’s mother still doesn’t like her. Zoe wants to help Kinloch and the perfect luck of an opportunity presents itself when Hollywood star Brad wants to film his next movie at the castle. The only problem is that Zoe’s had a crush on Brad since she was a teen and the man is an insufferable Hollywood star. Can Rory put up with the man and his entourage long enough to save the castle or will his temper get the best of him?

Keywords:

British Humor, Comedy, Romance, Scotland, Castle, Earl, Sex Scenes, Steamy, Cabin, Family, happy Ending, Dual POV, Hollywood, Star, Movie, Braveheart

My Review:

I read this book as fast as the first one in the series. Even though the two main characters had fallen from enemies to lovers in the previous book, the author does an excellent job of keeping up tension between the two romantic leads. Much like the first book, the author has the romance beat structure down solid and the pacing is still excellent. Every scene was satisfying from beginning to end. The climax felt real and well integrated into the plot of the story and the ending was very satisfying.

Hollywood Games is even more absurd and laugh-out-loud than the first book. The idea and main plot are well-executed, simple, and clean yet there’s always something going on. It’s a fast-paced book where the slowest parts are the steamy scenes!

I loved all the characters from the first book and enjoyed reading about the new characters that Brad brings with him to Kinloch. The Hollywood people seem ridiculous but very realistically Hollywood!

This novel was published by Emlin Press on 04/04/2022 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 5.00

Author Bio:

Evie Alexander is the author of sexy romantic comedies with a very British sense of humor. She takes a method-approach to her work, believing her capacity to repeatedly fail at life and love is what has given her such a rich supply of material for her writing.

Her interests include reading, eating, saving the world, and fantasizing about people who only exist between the pages of her books. She lives in the West Country with her family.

Links for more information:

Book Review: Sting of the Scorpion: A YA Epic Fantasy (The Outlawed Myth Book 3) by Evelyn Puerto

Sting of the Scorpion: A YA Epic Fantasy (The Outlawed Myth Book 3) by Evelyn Puerto

A YA fantasy novel published by Open Water Books (1/7/2022)

Summary:

“No sense imagining trouble. We’ve got enough already.” (Kindle Edition, 37%).

Damira and her clan members struggle every day to survive. One day almost everyone is slaughtered. Damira, her brother, and best friend only have two choices – cross the desert and hope there is peace on the other side, or join the local warlord and forever be his pawns. But a new power is rising and nothing can stand in this new warlord’s way. She uses a magical amulet and the only way to stop her is to wield one of these magical amulets. Are they evil? Damira doesn’t care, as long as she will never again have to worry about her safety and that of her loved ones.

Keywords:

Fantasy, Travel, Journey, Risk, Attack, Flee, Hide, Town, Secrets, Power, Rulers, Magic, Amulets, Love, Friendship, Romance, Training

My Review:

Much like the second book of this series, Sting of the Scorpion starts out with a new protagonist, and this time the setting and the world also appear to be different. The author once again builds the fantasy world setting, showing us a new previously uncharted portion of the map. The books, since they feature different characters and almost different settings, could be read as standalone fantasy books in the same world, with similar themes and character arcs. I’m immediately invested in this world and I’m immediately on the side of and rooting for the new main character, Damira.

There is so much at stake for Damira. She has everything and nothing to lose. Mush like Tereka in the previous novel, Damira grows into her role over the course of the book. The author knows how to write strong female main characters who don’t stick to the status quo.

This book, like the others, was well-paced and picked up momentum more and more as the plot unfurled. Throughout the novel, as things change, there are always high stakes and you won’t be able to put the book down.

I loved the changing POV from the three main characters and I love the distinct cultures of this fantasy setting. I thought there was a nice balance between politics and war as well as personal stories, struggles, and present actions.

If you like grounded fantasy with high stakes and strong, interesting characters, you will enjoy this series.

This novel was published by Open Water Books 1/7/2022 and is available on Amazon here.

TLDR Star Rating: 5.0

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Twitter

Evelyn Puerto’s Website

Book Review: Through the Cracks: A Reality with a Twist Book by Sheri J. Kennedy

Through the Cracks: A Reality with a Twist Book by Sheri J. Kennedy

A Magical Realism Novel published by FreeValley Publishing (12/25/21)

Summary:

“Money equaled power, or at least an opportunity. Especially outside the market. But you couldn’t find much trouble with five bucks.” (19% Kindle Edition).

“Sometimes reality – no matter how you spun it – wasn’t enough.” (38% Kindle Edition).

Lydia has been doing better but she still gets stuck in dark places sometimes. Therapy and structure have been helping but there are still times when she feels alone. After falling through a locked door when she wanted to help someone else, Lydia will discover how great it feels to ease another’s burden. Is it magic or something else? And how can she keep helping others when her mother’s imposed such tight rules on her life?

Keywords:

Identity, Suicide, Helping, Love, Making Friends, Market, Mother-Daughter, Magical Realism, Small Business Owner, Loneliness, Therapy

My Review:

This was a quick read that gets heavy at times. The subject matter can be intense. It was like reading heartwarming self-help fiction with elements of new age nonfiction. Lydia, the main character, is complex and written well. The author sprinkles in hints of her backstory cleverly throughout the story, tying them into the main storyline in the most intriguing way. I relished Lydia’s voice and the way she thinks everything that she’s feeling and thinking. Her voice was sarcastic, truthful, and wholesome all at the same time. The story itself was quite wholesome.

I loved how well integrated the magical realism element was to the plot and to the setting. I really enjoy when books with elements of magical realism really lean into the fantastical element and don’t make light or try to confuse the reader. The magical element in Through the Cracks is very important to the story and creates a unique plot structure that holds together the themes of the story. The story was very well grounded in a realistic world that was detailed visually and easy to imagine. The setting is so well detailed I can almost see everything that Lydia does when she walks around the market and can almost imagine that I’ve been to that specific art market and walked into the two main shops: Curiosities and Only Yesterday myself.

Sometimes the author would spring some really neat insights or lovely new phrases. One of the favorites that I don’t recall ever hearing before was, “Glossing lightly over important stuff felt more like making dark of things.” (60% Kindle Edition).

For anyone going through tough times, especially teenagers, this book is a must!

This novel was published by FreeValley Publishing on 12/25/2021 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.25

Links for more information:

Sheri J. Kennedy’s Website and Blog

Goodreads

Sheri J. Kennedy on Facebook

FreeValley Publishing Featured Author

Book Review: Wicked Souls (The Marionettes #2) by Katie Wismer

Wicked Souls (The Marionettes #2) by Katie Wismer

A Dark Urban Fantasy Novel published by Ahimsa Press (12/07/21)

Summary:

Valerie Darkmore made it. She’s passed her initiation and is now a Marionette, but this is only the beginning of her training and her secrets keep growing and growing. It isn’t just Valerie that’s adjusting to a new normal, there’s something else that is sinister and wreaking havoc on the city – leaving behind a pile of bodies. It’s up to Valerie and the Prince to get to the bottom of it before all hell breaks loose.

Keywords:

Urban Fantasy, Vampires, Witches, Paranormal, Romance, Sacrifice, Blood, Attack, Mystery, Friendship, Family, Love, Gothic Fiction, New Adult

My Review:

It’s been months since I read the first book and I was immediately lost when I picked up this second book. It starts just after the first one ends in time and slams you right back into the narrative without a summary or recap of characters. I quickly fell back into the story, though, as I found Valerie too interesting to ignore. I loved how much more detail and development Valerie (and other characters) get in this sequel. I also loved how much more the romantic sub-plot was developed and deepened.

I continue to be impressed with how much I am enjoying The Marionettes series since it is heavily urban fantasy and features vampires and witches. The author continues to build a world that feels real and visual and complete. It feels like a world that goes way beyond the environments the main characters are in.

This book delves deeper into the new adult and romance sub-genres as it features a fairly sexy scene, just as graphic as the scenes involving blood and feeding.

Much like my disappointment with the first book’s cliffhanger and abrupt ending, I didn’t appreciate the similar cliffhanger and abrupt ending from this second book – though this does feed more logically into the final book in this trilogy. I just hope I don’t have to wait too long to find out what happens!

This novel was published by Ahimsa Press 12/7/21 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.25

Links for more information:

Katie Wismer’s Website

Goodreads

Book Review: Please Fall for Me (The Brotherhood Series) by M. W. McKinley

Please Fall for Me (The Brotherhood Series) by M. W. McKinley

A NA Romance Novel published by M.W. McKinley (11/16/21)

Summary:

“A brilliant smile takes over his face right before he leans in and kisses me with so much emotion, I can taste each unspoken word of love he sends my way.” (Kindle 78%).

Lei has decided to follow his band Brotherhood to NYC but he’s worried that this was the wrong decision. He has to leave behind his grandmother just as he finds out she has a heart condition. Brotherhood is without a drummer and the guy filling in, Felix refuses to join the band. Lei and Felix both feel an instant attraction for each other before Lei arrives in the states, but Felix doesn’t want to disappoint one more person in his life.

Keywords:

Love, Band, Bassist, Artist, NYC, England, Farewell, Bandmates, Best Friends, Brothers, Family, M/M, Disappointment, Addiction, Drummer, College

My Review:

First Reviewed through Reedsy Discovery.

I really appreciate it when an author creates a world in a series where, over the course of multiple novels, multiple characters’ stories are told. The common thread between the books in this series is the band: Brotherhood. I love reading multiple stories and multiple narratives in a linear timeline throughout the series. I also really love reading the dueling POVs between Lei and Felix in this book.

Much like book one of the series, Please Fall for Me features two main characters with very compelling backstories that will pull you in emotionally. Both Lei and Felix have complex personal lives apart from each other before they meet. I love all the little details about each of their pasts and personalities. There are many rare small glimpses into the personal lives of the characters that one would miss in real life but the author is able to highlight. These subtle insights through setting, dialogue, and actions reel you in as a reader as if you’ve been invited to watch something private and amazing going on between and within Lei and Felix.

Each scene is carefully crafted using all the senses so much so that I felt fully immersed as I read. The details about music, musicianship, and addiction felt so real to me. I empathized and rallied behind the characters.

The relationship – friends to lovers – was very touching. Brotherhood and its members are so wholesome and loving to each other. I absolutely loved every interaction between roommates and band members Rob and Lei.

I often forgot that Lei was also a student in college while everything else is going on as there aren’t as many details or day-to-day insights into his time in classes or as a student.

Overall this book features beautiful writing and beautiful storytelling. If you’re a fan of wholesome and sweet romances, you will love this book. I can’t wait to read the next book in this series or any other book by M.W. McKinley.

This novel was published by M.W. McKinley on 11/16/2021 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.75

Links for more information:

M. W. McKinley’s Website

Goodreads

Book Review: A Cemetery for Zooey by Ashe Woodward

Hollow City by Beth Connor

A YA Dystopia Novel published by FriesenPress (09/08/21)

First reviewed through Reedsy Discovery as an ARC

Summary:

“She too was a monument of sorts; the lurking Beast that roamed the cemetery at nights and was enough to keep any of the curious kids from wandering in.” Page 8.

Zooey, as a Beast, has a natural talent for digging graves. She lives at the cemetery, away from human prying eyes, safe though not glamorous work. She’s good at her job but when a slew of monsters need to be buried, Zooey can’t keep up with the digging. She will get swept up in the mystery of why all the monsters are suddenly dropping dead.

Keywords:

Middle Grade, Monsters, Cemetery, Death, Race, Class, Gender, Authentic Self, grave-digging

My Review:

I absolutely loved the idea behind this story and thought the execution was excellent. The main character is a grave-digging Beast. She lives at the cemetery because humans are scared of monsters and Zooey is a monster. Most monsters who live amongst humans cover their monster features with a cosmetic product such that humans don’t even know there are monsters living amongst them. There are different classes of monsters: Beasts, Ghosts, Ghouls, Scales, and Plasmas.

The cover is unusual and immediately grabbed my attention. It’s just as quirky and interesting as the novella itself. The author walked a tight balance of tone, not growing too dark while still telling a fascinating story of the main character’s quick self-discovery amidst a pandemic-esque setting. In this world, only the monsters living amongst the humans are dropping dead and nobody knows why. The yuck factor of the imaginative types of monsters was kept at bay with the lack of gore, which helped keep the tone lighter; however, lurking behind this fun story is a heavy allegory on class, race, and gender.

This book would be an amazing read for younger readers who want a good story and an even greater post-reading conversation. If you liked The Addams Family movies but wanted something with more depth then you’ll enjoy this novella. As an adult reader, much like the way Animal Farm is an allegory, this novella too has a lot to say about contemporary topics like skin whitening, living as your authentic self, accepting others and others who are different, critical race theory, and more. If you just want to read this as a fun story with monsters, you don’t have to read too much into the heavier underlying topics.

The ending, though, drives home the lessons to be learned, reminding me that the target audience is a younger one. Until the ending big speech and moral of the story moment, this story reads as a sophisticated novella. The last chapter was short and abrupt. I wanted just a little bit more about Zooey.

This novel was published by FriesenPress on 09/08/2021 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.75

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Book Review: The Apotheon Awakening (The Apotheon Trials Book 1) By Arya White

The Apotheon Awakening (The Apotheon Trials Book 1) By Arya White

A Young Adult Dystopian Novel published by Swift Readers Publishing (01/29/21)

First reviewed through Reedsy Discovery as an ARC

Summary:

“I know and understand these rules far better than I understand the chaos inside my own mind.” (Kindle Edition, 16%).

Debrael can’t wait to get her Powers and live peacefully as a Beastsoother in the outer ring of society. But her Powers just don’t come and the Trial at the end of training looms closer. Without her Power, she will be Banished. The Powerless have no voice and are of no worth to society. Deb will uncover a great secret about the society and the Powers, but will it be enough to pass her Trial?

Keywords:

Dystopian, Power, Faction, Friendship, Suppressed, Control, Secrets, Dictatorship, Betrayal, Caste Society, Worth, Powerless, Survival, Rebellion

My Review:

When I pick up a YA dystopian, I want it to be different. With so many good books out there, it’s difficult to stand out. The Apotheon Awakening was a slight twist of the YA dystopian chosen one trope and I was there for it. I liked the characters, I rooted for the underdog main character Debrael, and I enjoyed the overall writing style in this book.

Debrael is Powerless in a society that places the highest importance on power (and is prejudiced against level and type of power). Without Power, Deb will be cast out of society because the society is built on the ironclad rules and notions that without order and power, the society could and would fall. I loved the character development that took place with Deb over the course of the novel. She wasn’t the only character that grew and changed though. Both Ela and Mosiah also went through transformations of their own.

For teens that are going through puberty and their own changes, reading a book where the main character is struggling with her development and her place in society is the best kind of comfort. For readers who get a thrill reading teen dystopians like Divergent, this book will satisfy that craving.

While the book is slow to start, the anxiety Deb feels for the Trials and the increasing inevitability of Banishment looming closer upstages most of the action scenes. The plot is formulaic for a YA dystopian and the pacing is slow and measured. I had a good guess as to what would happen in the end but was still pleasantly surprised by the ending. I really enjoyed reading Deb’s story and can’t wait to read the rest of the series and to find out what happens to the Five Rings and the rest of the Powerless.

I really liked the integration of the aspect of magic in this book and the world-building in general. I loved the premise for the dystopic event and how it ties into the genetics and the strength of Powers.

I thought the author did a great job at balancing the element of survival of the fittest with genetic evolution and Powers as well as the subconscious and conscious prejudices towards certain Powers. There are definitely parallels the reader can draw between Powers and human characteristics like IQ in our own society.

This novel was published by Swift Readers Publishing on 01/29/2021 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.5

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Book Review: The Finest Lies by David J. Naiman

The Finest Lies by David J. Naiman

A Young Adult Novel published by Empire Old Line Media (10/14/21)

First reviewed through Reedsy Discovery as an ARC

Summary:

Given the opportunity, Nicole would gladly trade her brother Jay with a robot. When a mysterious mirror man makes her this offer, she accepts immediately. But Jaybot isn’t Jay and mirror man keeps playing games with her.

Keywords:

Teenagers, Young Adult, Siblings, Sibling Relationship, FAmily, Friends, Lies, Past, Confrontation, Bully, Rape, Games

My Review:

This holesome story reminded me of the fun and wacky Willy Wonka combined with the Spirits of A Christmas Carol. If you like a story about personal growth and lessons learned, then you’ll pick up a thing or two reading this story.

There are so many great pearls of wisdom from the author, the Dad of the story, and the characters themselves as they learn and grow. These lessons are also articulated through the story as well. “You either change with somebody or you change without them.” (65%, Kindle Edition). “You can never change what you’ve done, but you can always be a better person.” (95%, Kindle Edition).

I loved the fun use of words and language. Phin, especially, loves to talk in alliterations and elaborate phrasings. Like, “I am the Grand Poobah of Grandiose Pontifications.” (18%, Kindle Edition). The writing is very cheeky, especially the way Jay jokes with Phin and his dad about alternate realities while one is in the library and the way the bots are humorous. The dad even says, “I guess there’s a certain magic to being transported into an alternate reality with high stakes.” (42%, Kindle Edition). while there’s a Nicbot at the table!

Nicole is forced to see some of the times when she was the most horrible and when her perception of events was skewed. She falls through interdimensional holes and into these scenes as view-only. No editing. At first, she doesn’t think about changing the scene. Eventually, she sees that she often jumps to the worst possible conclusions, letting her insecurities get the better of her, and lashing out with the intent to hurt those like she herself was hurt. At the time she saw her actions as necessary, at the moment she did what she had to and had no other choice, but through the re-viewing, with the holes, she gains a new perspective. She can see the disheartening, destructive theme of herself as a freshman. Gradually she sees the errors of her ways and wishes desperately to interact with the past and make better decisions.

Nicole wants a brother to say nothing to upset her and do whatever she wants. Both Nicole and Jay make assumptions about the other because they stopped talking to each other, stopped sharing their lives, stopped being a family. Phin intervenes just in time for Nic and Jay to halt this path and move in the opposite direction, closer to one another. The book itself is divided into Jay’s perspective and Nic’s perspective. I really enjoyed reading each of their stories.

This novel was published by Empire Old Line Media on 10/14/2021 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.50

Links for more information:

Goodreads

David J. Naiman’s Website

Book Review: Vanish (Seahaven’s Orphan Mystery Book 1) by Victoria Bastedo

Vanish (Seahaven’s Orphan Mystery Book 1) by Victoria Bastedo

An Inspirational Mystery novel published by Amazon Digital Services (9/8/2021)

Summary:

“If you let Him, He’ll bring adventure into life you weren’t expecting.” (71% Kindle Edition).

Lowtown in 1905 isn’t safe for young men. They are oftentimes snatched. Michael’s father creates a disguise so Michael won’t vanish. As Vanish, over the years, many crimes are attributed to Michael in this disguise, growing the legend. After his father passes, Michael will either have to take up his father’s occupation of fishing or find something else to support himself. The promise of money paid to help solve a kidnapping is too good for Michael to pass up since he doesn’t want to be a fisherman. As Vanish, he has the perfect disguise to sneak around and solve the mystery.

Keywords:

Religious, Inspirational, Mystery, Historical, Young Adult, 1905, Docks, Sea Town, Caste, Kidnapping, Rich, Poor, Family, Crimes

My Review:

I don’t often read inspirational, religious, or Christian fiction. I was unsure how the subgenre would present in this historical fiction mystery novel. Bastedo ties in an element of Christian awakening and finding one’s path to God as a form of Coming-of-Age in this young adult novel. The Coming-to-God revelation could have been fleshed out more in the scene that it occurred but it did tie into the plot nicely and makes a lot more sense in the early 1900’s in a small town near the sea. The people, almost all of them Christians, openly talk about God and his influence in their lives. The characters reference God and the Spirit as a positive influence, giving the book a very wholesome feel. It was nice to read a Christian fiction novel without religious controversy, to have religion be more of a theme and influence, than anything else.

I really liked Michael as both Michael and as Vanish. He is a wholesome young character without a lot of teen angst. He, like many young people, doesn’t know what he wants to do or be when he grows up but is thrust into the world to fend for himself after his father dies. Instead of resigning himself to a life he doesn’t want as a fisherman, he instead takes to wandering the streets in his grief, curious about the world and open to other options.

I enjoyed how the mystery played out. It was simple enough to visualize but complex enough to keep the plot moving. This book was nicely paced overall, seemed realistic for 1905, and played out in an interesting way up through the moderate climax and ending.

Like other Bastedo books, this one features a feel-good message and a happy ending.

This novel was published by Amazon Digital Services 9/8/2021 and is available on Amazon here.

TLDR Star Rating: 4.00

Links for more information:

Goodreads

FreeValleyPublishing

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