Book Review: Destination Azurah by Victoria Bastedo

Destination Azurah by Victoria Bastedo

A Fantasy/Romance novel published by Amazon Digital Services (09/17/2020)

Summary:

Romiya is determined to uncover the secret to her uncle’s mysterious and amazing sandcastle builder. After his sudden disappearance years ago, Romiya has been determined to uncover its secret and perhaps learn what actually happened to her uncle. Suddenly Romiya gets a breakthrough when she sees a sinister face stamped into the sand, but the other scientists don’t believe her. It will take much more physical evidence to convince them of what she saw overtaking every single grain of sand. Her bodyguard couldn’t protect her from the face’s attack, but he’ll help to whisk her away from the beach and the desert while she figures out her next move. When he resigns, Romiya will also see him in a different light.

Keywords:

Romance, Fantasy, Sand, Portal, Scientist, Female Scientist, Attack, War, Evil, Power, Sandcastles, Friendship

My Review:

I loved, loved, loved that every time someone refers to Romiya as a, “girl” she corrected him! This is such a pet peeve of mine in books and real life. Romiya even explains that if Ruedolf is no longer referred to as a “boy” then she should not be referred to as a “girl.” Thank you, Romiya!

The fantasy element – sand and time and alternate worlds was well described and very interesting to read. Every time that Bastedo dips into fantasy/science fiction, I’m captivated. Much like her novel The Kiss of the Blue Howler, this book is full of imagination and a new perspective. I was mesmerized by her descriptions of sand and memory and loved how she integrated that into a thoughtful and well developed romance/action story.

I thoroughly enjoyed this mashup of romance and fantasy. It was a fun, easy read with an adorable romance, a hint of mystery, and a strong female STEM leading the way!

(READ ON FOR VAGUE SPOILERS)

The plot was well paced and there was the perfect amount of action. However, I did find fault with the characters in the alt-world for letting the newcomers walk into evil hands! This was most likely on purpose to push through more drama, but it felt at times unrealistic (just like many blockbuster action movies). I also felt like the nighttime romance scene was out of place.

This novel was published by Amazon Digital Services 09/17/2020 and is available on Amazon here.

TLDR Star Rating: 4.75

Links for more information:

Goodreads

FreeValleyPublishing

Victoria Bastedo WordPress

Book Review: Exile (Forbidden Things Book 2) and Apostate (Forbidden Things Book 3) by Nikki McCormack

Exile (Forbidden Things Book 2) and Apostate(Forbidden Things Book 3) by Nikki McCormack

Fantasy Novels published by Elysium Books (12/15/15 and 04/16/16)

Summary:

Back in Caithin, Indigo continues training with Serivar and the Order. She is starting to find her place again when Yiloch is accused of the murder of the King. She knows he didn’t do it, right? In a desperate attempt to protect him from those who wish him dead, she strands Yiloch in a desert South of Lyra. Not only does Caithin want Yiloch to answer for his crimes, but a new enemy marches on Lyra.

Travel back to Lyra takes its toll on Yiloch. He is also burdened with rage for what Indigo did. Meanwhile, Indigo rushes to meet Yiloch in the desert, meeting a potential army on the way. It will take more than an army to face Lyra’s new threat because they wield magic in force. Indigo must decide who she is and where she belongs with all her Ascard power. Only one other person rival’s her strength in wielding magic, and he’s sworn vengeance on both Yiloch and Indigo.

Keywords:

Power, Control, Magic, Inner Strength, Inner Aspect, Travel, War, Fighting, Struggle, Talent, Healing, Abuse, Love, Lies, Hidden, Horses, Torment, Destruction, Crime, Murder, Revenge

My Review:

It has been quite some time since I read such a strong middle book in a trilogy. It was just as exciting as reading the first book in the series. It held up the action and continued to endear me to the characters I’d grown to know and love in the first book.

This series continues to build a great and compelling balance between romance, fantasy and plot. I was pulled in by Indigo’s struggles to find herself and her place in this world. The plot made sense in book two and in the larger sense of the trilogy. The romance felt so strong and real – the emotions and reactions of the characters for their relationships was so riveting.

Indigo is a role model for female characters. She’s strong, not in relation to man, but in relation to her enemies and her friends. Even those around her acknowledge her strength and her power. She is respected and feared and loathed. I really felt like I had a better grasp on Myac and his motivations but also couldn’t understand the evil inside him at all. He was a phenomenally crafted villain and I really, really wanted him to have a moment of redemption. Would it even be possible? Could he even live in a world where he had committed his previous actions?

I really appreciated the different perspectives of the characters as different chapters are told by these different narrators, even from the perspective of the invading enemies.

I absolutely loved the climax in the third novel and wished for the mini extra climax to have been a fourth book. The setup was there for an additional novel…

These Fantasy Novels were published by Elysium Books (12/15/15 and 04/16/16) and are available on Amazon here and Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 5.0

Links for more information:

Goodreads Book 2

Goodreads Book 3

Twitter

Nikki McCormack’s Website

Book Review: Around Seattle in 80 Dates: An Online Dating Journey by Renata M. Lubinsky

Around Seattle in 80 Dates: An Online Dating Journey by Renata M. Lubinsky

A Memoir Novel published by Renata M. Lubinsky (02/10/18)

 

Summary:

Suddenly divorced, forty-something Renata is suddenly entering the world of dating. Living in Issaquah and then Seattle, this Israeli woman is a mother of two. Renata joins several online dating sites. This book is a memoir of the 80 “Mikes” that she dated.

Keywords:

Dating, Seattle, Issaquah, Relationship, Mother, Family, Online Dating, Funny, Entertaining, Restaurants, Wine, Entertainment, Dancing

My Review:

I was pleasantly surprised that this memoir was so easy and fun to read. I went into it with the expectation that it was a memoir of a middle aged woman in Seattle and her experiences with online dating. And the book delivered on that expectation.

The narrative isn’t sequential, but rather jumps around between the Mikes, spending more time describing some and less on others. I enjoyed the way Lubinsky narrates these stories. She has an easy-to-read narrative style; however, as some have pointed out, a final copy edit would have been great to polish up the story. English is, as Lubinsky herself points out, her third language. Since she was born outside the US, she really brought an interesting perspective to dating.

I really liked how I was able to read the story and set it down without losing the flow of the story as it was broken up into pieces of her dating past.

This novel was published by Renata M. Lubinsky 02/10/2018.

TL;DR Star Rating: 3.75

 

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Amazon

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