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: 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: 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

Book Review: The Triskaidek (Camp Fae Book 1) by Basil Sprig

The Triskaidek (Camp Fae Book 1) by Basil Sprig

A Coming of Age YA Fantasy Novel published by CreateSpace (06/13/10)

Summary:

“Fairy magic makes things work in predictable ways, but you can’t always find the line between what is magic and what is just nature.”

On the thirteenth day of the thirteenth month of her thirteenth year, Alley is swept up in the magic of her Thirteenth. Then a magical creature shows up on her doorstep. Then her mom finds her a camp to go to for the summer: Camp Fae. Coincidence or are they related to her Thirteenth?

Keywords:

Magic, Sunbird, Elements, Learning, Fairy, Fae, Summer Camp, Leader, Escape, Evil, Power, Time Travel, Mission, Friends, Friendship, Betrayal, Helping, Together, Crafts

My Review:

Triskaidek is a cute yet full-bodied story with complex characters, a rich magical world, and an overarching plot.

I loved how well-developed all the magic details were in this story. I liked the specificity for learning different types of magic, even though Alley didn’t always follow the recipes. I loved how there are two approaches to magic – through hard work and dedication to the recipes and history and knowledge and then the intuitive type. Some fairies are naturally talented (intuitive) for certain magic, like invisibility, and others have to work and work for years and years on a type of magic in order to learn it (flying). The magic is also quite organic and the fairies are left to learn on their own time in their own way to earn ‘badges.’ To earn a badge is to show proficiency in a specific type of magic (like Flying 1).

I enjoyed all the characters, especially Alley. She is clever but magically ‘clumsy’ since she is new to doing magic. She doesn’t always realize or know the consequences of using her magic prior to intuitively using her magic! This results in problems for Alley and the entire camp. Not only that, but Alley must earn badges even though following a recipe for doing magic doesn’t come naturally to her and she must figure out how to do the mission the Sunbird gave her before going to Camp Fae. I would have liked to see more of Alley’s flaws, but I really liked her point of view.

Anyone who read and loved the Harry Potter series, will definitely enjoy The Triskaidek.

This novel was published by CreateSpace  on 06/13/2010 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.75

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Book Review: The Liberty Box by C.A. Gray

The Liberty Box by C.A. Gray

A Dystopian Novel published by Wanderlust Publishing (10/25/2015)

Summary:

In the Republic of Americas everyone is happy. Jackson has been excited to go back to his home in the Republic of Americas for years, but upon arrival, the land of plenty is a depressing landscape of malnourished citizens who appear happier than they should be. Just hours after his ship arrives, Jackson is singled out and taken to a Liberty Box. Only his mental training will keep him from being bewitched like all the other citizens in the Americas.

Keywords:

Dystopian, Mind Control, Medication, Drugs, Economical Collapse, Power, Technological advances, Escape, Fight, Politics, Government, Investigation, Reporter

My Review:

The Liberty Box is a mind control center, the place where the government and those who work for the government capture the brain waves of all newcomers. Once they have the brain waves, they can then send messages and lies to every person in the Republic of the Americas to control how they perceive their world. All citizens can be happy all the time doing anything the political leaders need or want them to do. Does this mind control work all the time? As long as the machines are up and running, they seem to work continuously. I liked that there has only been a short history of the Republic of the Americas since it was simply North America. Not enough time for history to dissolve in everyone’s mind but enough time to indoctrinate *most* of the youth. That is where Kate comes in. As a child she was sent to a camp for those who saw through the brain wave mind control. She was successfully rehabilitated, or so everyone thought.

I thought the author did a great job presenting the dystopian future and filling out the world building from the different perspectives in different chapters of the novel. I would have liked to know more about all the facets of the mind control. What difficulties did they face in the beginning of the Republic of the Americas when they had to create the infrastructure to support the mind control? How far does the manipulation reach? Perhaps these questions will be answered further in the series.

This Dystopian novel was published by Wanderlust Publishing 10/25/2015 and is available on Amazon here.

TLDR Star Rating: 4.25

 

Links for more information:

Goodreads

C.A. Gray’s Website

Book Review: Rhapsody (The Nightmusic Trilogy, #3) by Heather McKenzie

Rhapsody (The Nightmusic Trilogy, #3) by Heather McKenzie

A YA Novel published by Clean Teen Publishing (01/07/19)

Summary:

With Luke captured, Kaya has no choice but to save him. Kaya’s father, the evil Henry, has given her an ultimatum: her life for his. The clock is ticking and Kaya is all for rushing down to her former home, saving her beloved and sacrificing herself. Thomas, Lisa, and Seth are not as keen on Kaya’s plan. Nothing will stand in Kaya’s way. Not Thomas, who loves her as more than just a friend. Not Seth, who is more interested in keeping Kaya alive than in respecting her decision. But there’s more at stake than just her life and the best laid plans don’t always work.

Keywords:

Suspense, Romance, Love Triangle, Hate, Secrets, Mystery, Loyalty, Family, Hiding, Running, Escape, Heiress, Protection, Discovery, Past, Power, Corruption, Fight, Motivation, Money, Safe, Bargaining, Resources, Friendship, Destruction

My Review:

Rhapsody starts off right where Nocturne left off. Luke and Stephan are in custody (Henry’s custody). Kaya, with her group of friends is setting out to save Luke. Thomas and Seth won’t let her passion, anger, and emotion get the better of her. There is more at stake than Kaya’s life. I like how this book really drives home the bigger picture in the world McKenzie builds in this trilogy. Henry is up to no good and if Kaya goes back to him, it will be nothing but trouble for more than just her friends. He is evil on a much larger scale than Kaya ever thought. He is a real and true bad guy. I appreciated the fact that he is still Kaya’s father. Like in a real abusive relationship, especially one among family members, Kaya longs for the attention and love of her father. All she ever wanted was his love. If he had given her that when she was younger, would she consider him as evil as she does? Kaya has flashbacks to times when Henry could have shown his love and this illustrates all the more what a terrible person he is. It also breaks down any sort of connection Kaya might have had with her father.

I didn’t like this third and final book in the trilogy as much as the first and second books. Even though I read this book in a very short period of time and had a hard time putting it down, it felt like the entire book was a climax. There was so much tension and action that I was continually anxious for Kaya and an eventual happy ending.

Like with the first book and the second book, everyone falls in love with Kaya and her do-what-she-believes-in attitude. She wears her heart on her sleeve, will dig in her heels when she needs to, and will do anything to protect those she loves. Kaya is the heroine everyone wants to be and the woman all the men fall in love with. Even the women fall in love with her. I have to wonder how she manages to make enemies, but she does!

McKenzie is a phenomenal storyteller and has a seamless writing style. The story had a flow, as did the structure of the words on the pages. I would read books from a different genre from this author, if she were to leave young adult and write something completely different. I look forwarding to reading McKenzie’s next novel.

This novel will be published by Clean Teen Publishing on 01/07/2019 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.50

Links for more information:

Heather McKenzie’s Website

Twitter

Goodreads

Book Review: Nocturne by Heather McKenzie with Book Blitz

Nocturne by Heather McKenzie

A YA Novel published by Clean Teen Publishing (04/20/18)

Summary:

Kaya, free from her father, is not on her own. She has Luke and part of his crew. Hiding out in a random motel, they think they’re safe but it proves much harder to disappear then to run away. Kaya must leave behind those she loves to keep them safe and truly disappear. Or so she thinks.

Keywords:

Suspense, Romance, Love Triangle, Self-Discovery, Hate, Secrets, Mystery, Loyalty, Family, Hiding, Running, Escape, Heiress, Protection, Discovery, Past, Power, Corruption, Fight, Motivation, Money

My Review:

Nocturne starts off with a bang – right where Serenade left off. Kaya is still with Luke and all the problems revealed in book one are pressing down on her. She doesn’t just want to be normal anymore. She can’t have the normal life. Not with both her parents trying to find her – and not necessarily alive.

Kaya really comes into her own with this book. She is still young and ignorant of the wide world, but she is learning. She grows so much throughout this book, accepting who she is and what she must do. She is part of a larger conspiracy between her parents. A lesser person would slink off and disappear into whatever normal life is left for her, but Kaya shines. She is stubborn to a fault, but she almost always does what’s right. Even when it puts her in danger. Especially when it puts her in danger, it would seem.

Everyone falls in love with Kaya and her do-what-she-believes-in attitude. She wears her heart on her sleeve, will dig in her heels when she needs to, and will do anything to protect those she loves. Kaya is the heroine everyone wants to be and the woman all the men fall in love with.

I couldn’t put this book down and I can’t wait for more of Kaya’s story.

This novel was published by Clean Teen Publishing on March 20th, 2018 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.75

Links for more information:

Heather McKenzie’s Website

Twitter

Goodreads

Nocturne
Heather McKenzie
(Nightmusic Trilogy, #2)
Published by: Clean Teen Publishing
Publication date: March 20th 2018
Genres: Mystery, Suspense, Young Adult

I am hunted.
A pawn in a vicious game.
The only way I can protect the ones I love…
…is to disappear.

Finally free of her father, Kaya has the one thing that keeps her heart beating—Luke.

Blissfully content in his arms, everything seems perfect…until their world is shattered by a deadly invasion. When an old ally comes to the rescue, Kaya wants none of it. She is devastated to learn the identity of her attacker, and that she must do something truly heartbreaking if she wants to save the ones she loves. Sacrificing everything and sinking into bottomless sorrow, Kaya finds solace in an unlikely friend—one who shows her a different kind of love, and helps her discover an inner strength she never thought possible.

A heart-pounding journey of self-discovery, Nocturne is the transformative second installment of The Nightmusic Trilogy by Heather McKenzie.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

Grab book 1 – Serenade – for FREE!
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EXCERPT:

I flew out the door into the cool night, took four steps, then stopped—the latest enlightening news about my father had sent me over the edge. Tears burst from my eyes. The last shred of hope I’d been hanging onto that Henry wasn’t all bad had been completely obliterated; he was an actual monster.

I dropped to the curb and put my head in my hands. The rain started falling, lightly dusting my shoulders at first, then becoming a downpour just to add to my misery. I became soaked head to toe, but I didn’t care. I stayed where I was, wishing the rain would melt me into a puddle that would drain into the gutter and then just disappear into the earth…

“You left something in my truck,” said a voice from out of nowhere.

At the edge of my vision was Ben, rain coming down even harder now and pouring off his cowboy hat in rivers. He was holding out a paper bag, which was now soaked. It was the muffin I hadn’t eaten.

“I didn’t want it to go to waste,” he added, eyeing me with concern, then glancing at the café window where I could feel many sets of eyes on my back.

I dropped my gaze back to the gutter. My body didn’t want to move, and I still held out hope that the rain might just wash me away. Ben said something, and then he hauled me up and turned me to face him. He lifted my chin, and I had no choice but to meet his eyes. The rain plastered my hair to my face, mixing with the tears that were spilling out of me with blinding force.

He gave me a weak smile. “I tried to leave. Got in my truck and was ten minutes out of town, but then I realized…” He paused, fumbling for the right words. “I could really use some help at my ranch. Now, the job doesn’t pay much, but you’ll have your own room and all the food you can eat.
You’ll be dry.”

He waited patiently for an answer, but I was so grateful that all my words caught in my throat. He tossed the paper bag with the muffin into the garbage. After a quick glance at the internet café and the white-haired waiter watching from the doorway, his hand firmly latched onto mine. I had the sense I wasn’t being given a choice, I was going wherever this cowboy wanted me to.

“I’m taking you home now,” he said over the downpour.

Home. Home was in Luke’s arms….

The rain was falling in sheets. Since I wasn’t about to turn into a puddle and dissolve, I let the cowboy lead the way.

 

Author Bio:

Heather McKenzie is the Canadian author of The Nightmusic Trilogy. Also a professional singer/songwriter with five albums to date, she told stories through music for years before falling in love with novel writing. Heather pulls from her extraordinary experiences as a musician to fuel her passion for creating Young Adult fiction. She is a rocker at heart, a mom of three and an aspiring painter.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

 

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Book Review: Final Life (The Transhuman Chronicles Book 1) by Rose Garcia

Final Life (The Transhuman Chronicles Book 1) by Rose Garcia

A Young Adult Paranormal Novel published by Amazon Digital Services LLC (05/15/12)

Summary:

Dominique is the new girl in town. She thought having to move across the country during her last year of high school was bad enough, but lately she’s been having visions of a red desert accompanied by a bad feeling. The visions become more frequent and the feeling of foreboding gets worse. Is there something going on or is she just crazy?

Keywords:

Survival, YA, Action, Science Fiction, Time Travel, Science Fiction, Love Triangle, Friendship, Death, Moving, School, Psychics, Ouija, Fate, Chosen One, Afterlife

My Review:

There wasn’t much I liked about this book. It was written well enough to read until the end, but was full of issues. The love triangle setup was obvious and not very well put together. The tension just wasn’t there.

The plot was abrupt and rocky. The characters were thrust into the plot of the Pures versus the non-Pures.

I didn’t/don’t know enough about main character Dominique to identify with her before mysterious things start happening to her and I don’t really care. Dominique was a weak main character who seemed to do whatever she shouldn’t. The most emotion I got from her was her being worried about dying, but then she immediately sneaks away from her protector without a second thought.

The world building rules were not well defined and confusing. Some people know about the Pures and some don’t? The info dump between Dominique and her parents to explain what was going on was not very clever. Through this info dump we find out that she is The Chosen One, which is such a tired trope and not done well in this book at all.

This book is urban fantasy parading as contemporary fantasy romance. It was short enough and grammatically accurate enough to read all the way through.

 

This novel was published by Amazon Digital Services LLC on 05/15/2012 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 3.00

Links for more information:

Rose Garcia’s Website

Goodreads

Twitter

Book Review: The Inventress by Mary Victoria Johnson

The Inventress by Mary Victoria Johnson

A Young Adult Steampunk Mystery Novel published by Fire & Ice Young Adult Books (07/18/17)

Summary:

Kay Ross, daughter of one of the most hated families in England, hasn’t been able to make many friends. Domino is her only friend. Domino is the genius and the inventor, but she doesn’t always tell Kay all her secrets. Her new invention is going to be the grandest of them all, but she never gets to show the world. The same day Domino lets Kay in on her new security camera invention and lets Kay take her to a society ball, she is murdered. In order to figure out who is to blame, Kay will have to find out more about her own family history and what on earth Domino was inventing.

Keywords:

Steampunk, Mystery, Death, Murder, Friendship, Loyalty, Family, Rivalry, Inventors, Socialite, England, Past, Challenges, Enemies

My Review:

Slow to start, this story soon wound me up in its intrigue. I desperately needed to know what happened to Domino. The more that Johnson expertly showed me the past friendship between Domino and Kay, the more I was sucked into the story. Domino is more than just an inventor – she puts up with Kay and her moods. She would never harm anyone and doesn’t believe in weapons. Who killed Domino? And why? Kay will stop at nothing to figure this mystery out.

I absolutely love stories that have strong friendships and interesting character details. Kay is closed off from her world, choosing to become what those around her think she is – the same power-hungry money-hungry person as her parents.

The steampunk elements were subtle throughout the novel. They were woven into the details of the world. At times, I got a strong historical fiction vibe from when Kay had to dress up to go to society affairs, but for the most part the story centers around Kay and her need to solve Domino’s murder. Everyone is a suspect and the only clues left behind are Domino’s latest invention and a slow trail that keeps including Kay in the mystery.

Disclaimer: I received a free ARC of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

This novel was published by Fire & Ice Young Adult Books on 07/18/2017 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.75

Links for more information:

Mary Victoria Johnson’s Website

Goodreads

Twitter