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

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

A Contemporary YA Novel published by M.W. McKinley (12/18/20)

Summary:

“My plan to come to another country just to take photographs is slowly beginning to unravel as each new picture focuses on the face of someone I care about.” (Kindle Edition Chapter 14).

Avery is excited for her summer study abroad at Oxford University. She’ll have many opportunities to focus on her photography. After meeting Liam, she’ll also be focused on her new feelings of love. But he lives in England and she’ll be going home at the end of the summer. Liam is the lead singer of Brotherhood, but he also plays violin and has always wanted to attend Julliard. The band is starting to make waves and Liam will have to choose between the violin or the band. After meeting Avery, being in the same time zone as Avery will be more and more important as the summer comes to an end.

Keywords:

Love, Travel, Study Abroad, Band, Singer, Artist, Photography, England, Farewell, Bandmates, Best Friends, Brothers, Adoption, Family, Violin, Fate

My Review:

First Reviewed through Reedsy Discovery.

I love books that have compelling backstories for their main characters, especially in romance novels. Please Stay for Me gives each main character very compelling and emotional backstories. Both characters have grown up with deep traumas related to their family. It’s interesting to see how Liam and Avery react to their own childhood traumas. Liam holds tighter to the bonds he formed himself – the family he’s chosen while Avery holds everyone at arm’s length – not wanting to get hurt again. Both characters were stronger despite their tragic backstories.

I felt deeply connected to the emotion the author wrote about, the trauma from the characters, and the heartaches they were going through.

I absolutely loved how communicative Liam and Avery were throughout their relationship. I was glad the author didn’t rely on miscommunication to push the plot along. The flow of the story felt natural. The relationship between Liam and Avery began one-sided with Liam pursuing Avery. This made sense due to Liam being completely open and Avery reticent to allow anyone to get too close. Eventually, Avery was won over by the charming Liam!

I wish there was more description and details related to Avery’s study abroad and her day-to-day but I didn’t miss it that much since the story was more focused on the character relationships, the romance between Avery and Liam and their backstories.

I really enjoyed the additional subplots and backstories of other characters and the similarities that were drawn between the relationships the other characters had with their families (or lack thereof). The side characters were an integral part of the story. I wanted more scenes between Avery and Katherine. I really liked Katherine. I also really liked Trinity, Rob, Hugh, Lei, and Emily. I can just imagine future books in this world where we see the relationship between Rob and Emily or a book devoted to Trinity or Katherine.

I loved the passion the author communicates from Liam and Avery for their art, the violin, and photography. Even Avery’s deep appreciation for music is strong and the way she connects to music through memories of her family is poignant.

This is a story for those who enjoy summer romances that are built upon strong character backstories and feature character relationships heavily.

This novel was published by M.W. McKinley on 12/18/2020 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.75

Links for more information:

M. W. McKinley’s Website

Goodreads

Book Review: At the Cabin (Supernatural Detective Agency Book 1) by Claudia Blood

At the Cabin (Supernatural Detective Agency Book 1) by Claudia Blood

A Paranormal Suspense Novel published by Dragon Bane Publishing (04/15/21)

Summary:

“Money was great, but what she really wanted was a heist so big that it could never be talked about. A heist so big, it was a whisper and the person who’d pulled it off was elevated to the best of the best. A heist so big it didn’t matter if she wasn’t human.” (Kindle edition).

Supernatural beings live amongst humans and not everyone knows. Ex-FBI Todd is a simple carpenter now, but he can recognize a real threat when he sees one. Laura owns the local dog rescue. Everything has been going so well with Peter, her boyfriend, and Kate’s help at the shelter that when it all goes up in flames, she’ll be blindsided. Todd and Laura, two strangers, will have to team up to survive.

Keywords:

Mob, Suspense, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Contemporary, Heist, Money, Attack, Mystery, Arson, Dog Rescue, Threat, Target

My Review:

This book is different from other supernatural books. It’s different from other mystery books. It’s different from other heist books. It’s different from other urban fantasy books. It’s a little bit of all these subgenres and then some. I don’t typically read books from any of these subgenres but the first paragraph in the story pulled me in and I left all my preconceptions behind.

It was the idea that intrigued me so much. It was the word, ‘doppelganger’ that pulled me in. It was more than just the mystery of trying to figure out who is who and what is what that fascinated me. The first chapter is so well crafted, I didn’t care what kind of book I was reading. I had to know more.

I wanted to know who really was the antagonist – because at first I couldn’t tell.

The hot hint of romance also had me at the edge of my seat. I was very much on board with a romance happening during the heist of the century.

This novel was published by Dragon Bane Publishing on 04/15/2021 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.50

Links for more information:

Claudia Blood’s Website

Goodreads

Book Review: Time Rift (Relic Trilogy Book 3) by Claudia Blood

Time Rift (Relic Trilogy Book 3) by Claudia Blood

A Sci-Fi YA Action Novel published by Dragon Bane Publishing (04/15/21)

Summary:

After rescuing Horizon and promising to keep the time rift from exploding, Z-Crew must find each other and figure out how to stop the destruction. Pulling Horizon out of time has set in motion events that will lead to the destruction of time and the planet. They must work with Ravenne… to stop Ravenne. But will they have enough time?

Keywords:

Assassin, Planet, Jungle, Orphan, Family, Survival, Attack, Mystery, Time Travel, Space, Evil, Power, Tracking, Alien Planet, Seer, Relic, Daughter, Safety

My Review:

Book two ends mid-action and book three picks right back up in this action and doesn’t stop. Book three is like a continual drawn-out climax with some travel in-between. Not just travel by foot but also time travel. This third book gets more into the nitty-gritty science fiction aspect that was hinted at in the previous two books of the series. At times I got lost with the description and action in and around this time travel as it became more and more entwined into the plot and scenes of the novel.

If you like a page-turner that doesn’t slow down, you’ll enjoy this fast-paced finale. I would have liked to see more character nuances and some slower-paced scenes or perhaps more attention to subplots, but that’s just my preference.

The ending was satisfying and thankfully answers all the open questions from the previous two novels.

This novel was published by Dragon Bane Publishing on 04/15/2021 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.00

Links for more information:

Claudia Blood’s Website

Goodreads

Book Review: Horizon Found (Relic Trilogy Book 2) by Claudia Blood

Horizon Found (Relic Trilogy Book 2) by Claudia Blood

A Sci-Fi YA Action Novel published by Dragon Bane Publishing (02/15/21)

Summary:

Almost no time has passed between the ending of book one and the beginning of book two. Duff has been with Z-Crew for a few months now. Matilda has been working directly with Ravenne for a few weeks. Z-Crew and Ravenne have been finding fewer and fewer relics. Z-Crew needs a big win in order to survive, but without a Seer, it’s near impossible to find Relics. For Ravenne, time is running out to find the Seer who saved Ravenne’s daughter and send her back to that fateful moment years and years ago.

Keywords:

Assassin, Planet, Jungle, Orphan, Family, Survival, Attack, Mystery, Time Travel, Space, Evil, Power, Tracking, Alien Planet, Seer, Relic, Daughter, Safety

 

My Review:

Horizon Found was a strong middle book in this Relic Trilogy by Claudia Blood. Since motivations and characters had already been established in Book One, this book’s plot appeared more focused. Duff had more of a plan, or at least a place to stay, though even that’s in jeopardy. Both Books One and Two take place on an inhospitable planet, where survival is rough and not everyone can make it…

Though they didn’t end on the best of terms in the first book, Duff and Z will need each other to survive and to save the children of the orphanage. I really enjoyed learning more about Z’s backstory and origins. Since the book changes POV, I also was able to learn more about Matilda and her abilities. I really liked reading more about Matilda and seeing her interact with Ravenne. The more we see Ravenne, the more I wondered whether this conflicted bad character would have a chance to redeem herself in the end and whether she would take such an opportunity. Is she inherently bad? We know that her life’s purpose to save her daughter, even if it’s at the expense of an entire planet’s population.

After becoming familiar with the main characters I was rooting for them to not just succeed and survive, but also to fall in love. I was very on-board with the romantic sub-plots and can’t wait to see how they develop further in the last book of the trilogy.

I noticed more and more that there were certain plot conveniences. In book one I was too enthralled with the characters and the plot to let such details slow me down but it seemed that frequently when a character mentioned something, it would happen. For example, Duff mentioned a planet-dwelling creature for the first time, and then moments later it would appear and move along or dramatize the plot. The world-building sometimes seemed to happen as it’s needed.

I enjoyed the slower buildup of tension throughout this book (and from the first book). The climax was quite satisfying and full of excitement but the end of the book felt like it lacked a proper denouement and ended mid-action. I can’t wait to see what happens in book three!

This novel was published by Dragon Bane Publishing on 02/15/2021 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.75

Links for more information:

Claudia Blood’s Website

Goodreads

Book Review: Company Assassin (Relic Trilogy Book 1) by Claudia Blood

Company Assassin (Relic Trilogy Book 1) by Claudia Blood

A Sci-Fi YA Action Novel published by Dragon Bane Publishing (01/15/21)

First reviewed through Reedsy Discovery

Summary:

On the day Duff turns 18 he will be kicked out of the Company’s orphanage. Almost all of the extra income he’s earned over the years has gone back into helping the others in the orphanage. With nowhere to go and having been turned down at all of the other Families, Duff’s only hope is to attach himself to a freelance crew and hope to survive the harsh jungle. Perhaps he can even prove himself an asset in a crew’s search for Relics, the only thing of value on the planet.

Keywords:

Assassin, Planet, Jungle, Orphan, Family, Survival, Attack, Mystery, Time Travel, Space, Evil, Power, Tracking, Alien Planet, Seer, Relic

 

My Review:

This book had a lot going on!

Right from the start the author set up the problem and pulled me into it. I was worried for the main character Duff and how he was going to survive in this harsh world. I wanted him to succeed and I was rooting for him from the very beginning.

Duff does seem to have quite a lot of skills – whenever the plot requires them. Since he’s been living in the orphanage for most of his life, I’m surprised that he remembers how to do certain survivalist things like tracking, etc. He does have great instincts and a big heart. He puts others before himself constantly and does everything in his power to save those around him.

I really liked how the book centered on Duff for enough chapters where I felt like I truly understood who he was and his motivations and the hopelessness of his situation before the POV switched to Z. Z seems like a really fascinating character with a rich backstory. I really want to know why Matilda has such disdain for Z.

A lot of the characters have rich, yet mysterious backstories. I’m very curious about Ravenne and what drove her to be such an evil person when her motivation appears so virtuous. I can’t wait to see how Matilda will rise to importance further along in this series. Even Simon the orphan has a unique skill set and a brooding temper. Even though he’s a minor character, he is developed enough that he’s interesting and unique.

The plot gets more and more complex as the layers of the action unfold. I love how the more I read, the more details were divulged in this rich sci-fi novel. I can tell that the author has a complete story laid out behind the plot of this first book in the series.

The ending did feel less climactic than I would have expected. The momentum from the continual action slowly built throughout the novel and I imagine is still building to a more climactic ending of the story overall. Though the problem introduced in the first part of this book – how will Duff survive being kicked out of the company-sponsored orphanage – was answered in the course of this fast-paced novel.

Though this book is set on another planet where time and space are not the same as Earth, I felt very engaged in the environment and wondrous of all the little details of the world. I really liked how this sci-fi was very focused on the characters and the plot, keeping world-building lean and relevant.

I am anxious to find out what happens to Duff, Z, Matilda, the orphans, and even Ravenne.

This novel was published by Dragon Bane Publishing on 01/15/2021 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.75

Links for more information:

Claudia Blood’s Website

Goodreads

Book Review: Canopy by D.M. Darroch

Canopy by D.M. Darroch

A Dystopic YA Novel published by Sleepy Cat Press (01/04/21)

Summary:

“I had tremendous arm span, enviable upper body strength, and powerful feet that gripped tree limbs like hands.” (Kindle location 1703).

Many, many years ago people lived on the ground. When the earth was on the brink of destruction, a group of people climbed thousands of feet into the trees. Now, the community in the canopy is a close-knit group. So close that gossip spreads almost as fast as the potential plummet down to the ground. Everyone has their place and their purpose. Ostrya’s place is as an apprentice doctor. Her mentor is also her mother. Her purpose was assigned to her at birth when she inherited the canopy doctor’s trademark blue/green eye combo. But Ostrya doubts her role as community doctor. She is too different from the others. Too alone and outcast for them to trust her. She would rather spend her time climbing, exploring, or making rope anyways. But she bears the teaching and tries to settle into her role until a devastating storm tears through the canopy and reveals new gossip that could unravel everything Ostrya has been working towards.

Keywords:

Dystopian, Coming of Age, Canopy, Trees, Climbing, Gossip, Friendship, Doctor, Community, Rationing, Apprenticeship, Teaching

My Review:

If I were to describe this book in one word I would say that it is ‘polished.’ I couldn’t put this book down it was so entirely engaging from the plot to the characters to the pacing to the writing style and word choice. Even the ending was  flawless. The story that follows the main character Ostrya was expertly wrapped up but the overarching story of the world she lives in – the Canopy and the ground below – left me wanting to start the second book in this series immediately. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was a solid story that was very well written.

I really liked Ostrya and the way that she was portrayed in Canopy. She has her faults and she makes poor decisions but she is almost always making choices as a good person. Sometimes she cannot see beyond her own teen angst and wishes, but she also cares so much about those around her! Ostrya has a purpose in her world, as the future doctor in the community, but she doesn’t feel like she can live up to her Mother’s and grandfather’s examples. She also doesn’t feel like being a doctor is her real calling. But what else, other than climbing, is she good at? Ostrya questions herself and her abilities (not her climbing skills though) throughout the course of the book, meanwhile she knows that what she’s been told her whole life about her society and the world below on the ground can’t possibly be true. What is the truth and why are the elders spreading lies?

The world building in this story was masterfully woven into the descriptions, dialogue, action, and thoughts of the characters. I loved the details of everyday life in this tree world. They elevated the story and set it firmly in this science fiction/dystopic place of what if… What if humans abandoned the ground and generations of evolution passed thousands of feet above in the trees? The world felt genuine and alive. This civilization felt unique yet still surrounded by the faults and flaws of humanity. Gossip runs rampant in this society. Societal pressures still exist but are different because of the environment that the characters live in. I love how the story included multiple aspects of society so that I felt like I could see the world as a whole – including school, daycare, doctors, gardens, hunting, exploring, love, relationships, etc.

I received a free ARC for an honest review.

This novel was published by Sleepy Cat Press on 01/04/2021 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 5.0

Links for more information:

D.M. Darroch’s Website

Apple Link

Barnes and Noble Link

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