Book Review: Delta (The Apex Cycle Book 2) by M.T. Zimny

Delta (The Apex Cycle Book 2) by M.T. Zimny

A YA Sci-Fi Novel published by M.T. Zimny  (10/12/21)

Summary:

Samantha now knows the truth about her past, but she’s still not an Apex and her abilities will only help her so much on the Apex Team. She’s trying to balance school, being on the Apex Team, and the continued anti-Apex attacks on New Delos.

Keywords:

Superhero Science Fiction, Fantasy Adventure Fiction, Romantic Action & Adventure, Super Human, Enhanced, Powers, Friends, Boarding School, Island, Secrets, Classmates

My Review:

Delta picks up right where Beta left off plotwise, with well-executed pacing and action to keep you on the edge of your seat.

I loved how this book seemed even more intense than book one. The stakes are higher. The characters seem even more real and their personalities are still unique and consistent from book one. I really liked how Sammy had to work through an identity crisis in this book. I really enjoyed seeing more of book one’s antagonists as well.

I did feel like I had to suspend my disbelief a bit more with this book, but like all superhero action movies/books, I was too sucked into it to step back and critique any of the individual story elements. Do they really train for hours every day and go to classes and fight crime? I was way too enthralled by the characters and completely strapped in for the story and the exciting conclusion.

This novel was published by M.T. Zimny on 10/12/2021 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 5.00

Links for more information:

Goodreads

M.T. Zimny’s Website

Book Review: Beta (The Apex Cycle Book 1) by M.T. Zimny

Beta (The Apex Cycle Book 1) by M.T. Zimny

A YA Sci-Fi Novel published by M.T. Zimny  (09/27/20)

Summary:

Samantha and her family are moving to the island that’s the Apex epicenter of the world, but not everyone is happy about the Apex. Even on the ferry ride over, there are people protesting against the superpower-enhanced individuals known as the Apex. Samantha doesn’t have to worry about that though, because she’s completely normal, except for her fainting spells. After being dropped off at boarding school, Sam quickly discovers there’s more going on with the Apex, the Island, and some mysterious man called Adrestus. Swept up in the mystery by her old friend and current new roommate, Sam will quickly find out there’s so much more going on with the Apex. She will even discover more about herself along the way.

Keywords:

Superhero Science Fiction, Fantasy Adventure Fiction, Romantic Action & Adventure, Super Human, Enhanced, Powers, Friends, Boarding School, Island, Secrets, Classmates

My Review:

The very first chapter sucked me right in. It was well executed. Immediately the story and the main character Sam piqued my interest. When I first grabbed this book, I was dismayed at its 600+ pages, but I quickly got into the story and finished in one weekend, ready to continue with the next book in the series. It is a big book. There is a lot going on and still, the pacing is excellent throughout the beginning, the middle, and the end.

I loved all the twists and turns the story took. I loved the training montage. I loved the buildup and mystery leading to the climax. I loved the ending.
There was just enough complication and depth to the plot to keep me guessing but not too much to confuse me. There were enough unique characters that I cared about all of them (though of course disliked Sam’s rival) but not too many that I lost track of who was who. I really loved how the author created such uniquely different characters.
I really enjoyed the worldbuilding on this remote man-made island and I can’t wait to learn more about the powers. The book was lighter on the science fiction superpower elements and I’m sure the next book in the series will delve even deeper into the powers, along with the friendships, romance, family, and Apex secrets. I know there’s more politics in there and I’m glad this first book was a solid action-adventure YA coming-of-age type book. I can’t wait for the next one!

This novel was published by M.T. Zimny on 09/27/2020 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 5.00

Links for more information:

Goodreads

M.T. Zimny’s Website

Book Review: Ugly by Kelly Vincent

Ugly by Kelly Vincent

A YA Novel published by KV BOOKS LLC  (06/07/22)

Summary:

Nic has never been self-confident and only has one friend, Sam. People often mistake Nic for a boy. It’s not just the kids at school who call Nic names because Nic also refers to herself negatively. Sam keeps trying to coax Nic out of her introverted shell and has cooked up a plan. The plan is Operation Social Interaction for Nic and they’re running out of time before Sam leaves the country. Meanwhile, Nic is prepping for the school’s art contest and has begun questioning more than just her sexuality. Is there even a label for how she feels and would people accept her as a gender nonconforming individual?

Keywords:

YA, Contemporary, Bullying, Gender Nonconforming, Identity, Art, Introvert, Questioning, Labels

My Review:

Nic’s perspective is so true and raw and heartbreaking at times. She has repetitive and increasingly negative thoughts about how she’s a loser and ugly. There are multiple and repetitive scenes where she’s mistaken for a boy. Her mind tends to gravitate to the negative and the worst-case scenarios because she’s been burned so many times before and has a healthy distrust of others. Nic is also relatively shy and a bit socially awkward. As an introvert-extrovert, I’ve totally been there!

In some ways, I identify so much with Nic’s experiences and her introverted head talk. “Eye contact was dangerous. It triggered interactions.” (10%, Kindle Edition). Yes, Nic, this is so true! In other ways, I think she’s too black and white about her thoughts. On the one hand, she’s so harsh about gender and its binary-ness, “… but it would be so awesome to be a person without all the stupid trappings of girl-ness.” (60%, Kindle Edition). On the other hand, she’s just voicing her own experience and frustration, “… even if I tried to wear feminity, it would come off all wrong on me.” (74%, Kindle edition).

At times the book was hard to read because of all the self-doubting and self-hate thoughts. There is a lot of repetition of Nic’s thoughts. At times, it seems like she’s being whiny while other times it is wholly justified. At all times she is a teenager questioning her own identity. Towards the end, we learn that there is a reason for her repetitive thoughts and it makes her much more endearing as a character. Her most redeeming characteristic was her unwavering love of art.

This book was slow-paced, very much a contemporary coming-of-age book.

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this story in exchange for my honest review.

This novel was published by KV BOOKS LLC  on 06/07/2022 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 3.75

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Kelly Vincent’s Website

Book Review: Always the New Girl by Kelly Vincent

Always the New Girl by Kelly Vincent

A YA Novel published by KV BOOKS LLC  (05/10/22)

Summary:

“Never expect a guy to change, like mom said. Fortunately I didn’t need anybody to change for me. I was in charge of my own life.” (Kindle edition 46%).

Sarah is at a new school yet again. Her single-parent mother keeps dragging her around the country, from one guy’s house to another. This time, as the new girl, she gets punked by the popular kids. And this time, she decides to fight back. The only way she knows how to fight back is through her knitting. Also through knitting, Sarah makes some real friends, and not just her thousands of followers from her knitting channel online. Things are looking up for Sarah until her mom gets bored and starts looking for a new life and a new guy on her dating apps.

Keywords:

YA, Contemporary, Bullying, Friendship, Romance, Sex, College Application, High School, Drama, Knitting, 3D Printing, Relationships, Mother-Daughter, Single Parent

My Review:

I love realistic contemporary YA novels, especially ones that focus on relationships and not just teen romances. Always the New Girl has a mother-daughter relationship, a daughter-absent father relationship, a new girl-new school relationship, a new girl-new friends relationship, and of course a young girl-young love relationship. I loved how true and honest all these relationships felt. They were deep, meaty, and developed. Throughout the relationships, Sarah voices her feelings and opinions in such a way that I was drawn to her voice and her stories.

The book is divided into parts, not chapters, and each part is like a small episode as if the book was written and released as parts of a whole or a limited series. Each part has a beginning, middle, and end with Sarah’s growing coming-of-age narrative woven throughout. If you read books in chunks, this writing style will help reorient you. At the beginning of each subsequent part, the author uses Sarah’s voice to summarize the previous part’s main drama.

The author does not hold back with the use of profanity, bullying, domestic violence, and a well-written sex scene.

I more than enjoyed Sarah’s perspective, I was rooting for her to find her voice, figure out her identity, and make her choices. And Sarah did not disappoint me. The book is satisfying. The way it is written is satisfying, easy to read, and insightful.

Given that this is a contemporary YA novel and that it is written in episodic parts, it does not have a strong finite and conclusive ending. The author left open a considerable plot point that I really hope I get to read more about in the next book in the series.

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this story in exchange for my honest review.

This novel was published by KV BOOKS LLC  on 05/10/2022 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.50

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Kelly Vincent’s Website

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: 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: 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

Victoria Bastedo WordPress

Book Review: The Big Score By Og Maciel

The Big Score By Og Maciel

A Young Adult Action/Adventure Novel published by Og Maciel (10/12/21)

First reviewed through Reedsy Discovery as an ARC

Summary:

Kate won’t let being new in town stop her from trying to fit in as soon as possible. She joins the local underground car emblem stealing contest to prove herself worthy but tensions are high as rivals Torres and Abby are tied with a few more emblems to go to win the race. One big score could determine the King or Queen of the emblems.

Keywords:

Car Emblem, High School, Competition, Stealing, Friendship, Thieves, New in Town, Skateboarding

My Review:

Maciel has a clean and efficient writing style that is easy and fun to read. This particular book proceeds immediately to the main plot and intrigue of the story. The book is on the shorter side, which didn’t leave much room for subplot development or deviation from the main plot. The core idea of this book, a contest where teens steal car emblems was fresh and interesting.

The characters are in high school and they act like they are teenagers, but the length of the story and the simple aspect of the plot, the stereotypically bad guy villain, and lessons learned make it seem like it’s intended for a younger audience. It’s as if this is a book written for middle schoolers wanting to read about kids older than themselves.

Kate is agonizingly outgoing. She is all in for excitement. She participates in a talent contest the day after she arrives in a new town. As an introvert myself, I wish I was more like Kate. To me, she seems fearless.

I love how we get the range of communication types of the teens. Kate has been taught by her software QA mother how to have an open dialogue and communication using communication techniques. While Abby is so blinded by her emotional reaction to something that happened last year that she won’t even talk to the person she’s upset with about it.

The big showdown climax was super exciting and the last chapter “Closing Time” reminded me of the way movies end with some text on the screen saying what happened to the characters after the movie ended. In general, this book, full of action and dialogue between the characters reminded me of a teenage TV drama show or PG movie that is interesting enough to watch as a teenager or adult.

If you enjoy over-the-top teen action movies or books, you will get a kick out of this fast YA read.

This novel was published by Og Maciel on 10/12/2021 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.25

Links for more information:

Og Maciel’s Website