Book Reviews

Review: The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson

All her life Fern has been told she is blind to reality—but what if she is the only one who can truly see?

Fern Johnson is crazy. At least, that’s what the doctors have claimed since her childhood. Now nineteen, and one step away from a psych ward, Fern struggles to survive in bustling Los Angeles. Desperate to appear “normal,” she represses the young man flickering at the edge of her awareness—a blond warrior only she can see.

Tristan was Fern’s childhood imaginary hero, saving her from monsters under her bed and outside her walls. As she grew up and his secret world continued to bleed into hers, however, it only caused catastrophe. But, when the city is rocked by the unexplainable, Fern is forced to consider the possibility that this young man isn’t a hallucination after all—and that the creature who decimated his world may be coming for hers.

–back cover of The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson

I was given an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Upon receiving the book I first had two thoughts: I thought that the title was uncreative, but for what the title lacks the cover certainly makes up for–the cover of this book is fantastic and made me excited to read the book.

This novella was a quick read, and overall very enjoyable.

Swanson’s writing style is superb, and it kept me captivated throughout the book. There were several times where I sat down planning to read just one chapter and ended up reading several. That is a sign of a good author, and I think that for a first release she has made an impact.

I adored the main character, Fern. I thought that she was well rounded and relatable. Tristan was a good character too, but I did not find him as charming as many other readers seemed to think.

The plot is where I had an issue with this book. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good and well thought out plot. It was interesting and very original. It was very rushed though. This novella should have been doubled in length if not tripled. It also read very much so like a first draft–a first draft written by a very talented writer! There weren’t typos or grammar errors or anything like that, but I felt like it was rather rushed and underdeveloped.

Overall though, I really did enjoy this book. I suggest giving it a try because it won’t be a waste of your time. Even if it is underdeveloped, it is full of raw emotion. I expect great things from this author in the future. I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Book Reviews

Review: Eclipse the Warrior by J.L. Hendricks

Eclipse of the Warrior is a portal fantasy book written by J.L. Hendricks as part of a series. The book is set in Los Angeles where a battle from another dimension has spilled out into the streets. Fae and Vampires lurk in every alley, battling for space. With green blood and no concern for humans, they aren’t the typical members of these races we normally hear about. That’s when a middle-aged woman sticks her nose where it doesn’t belong. Will she be the hero our world so desperately needs? You’ll have to buy the next book, this one leaves you hanging.

I have mixed reactions to this story. I love the plot. The storyline sings the author’s creativity in a delightful tune – one that I’d like to hear more of.

The characters are a little underdeveloped, but that isn’t unusual in a multi-book fantasy series. They will have time to grow. In an unusual twist, after reading the whole novel, I cannot describe the main character – which is a bit unsettling. I can, however, find a possible reason – I think her appearance may change in book two.

My problem was with the flow of the writing. The first chapters I found a bit choppy. Some things were over described and repeated, while others were left completely missing. It was a bit distracting. By the last 1/3 of the book it either improved or I became accustomed to it, because it wasn’t noticeable anymore.

I definitely want to find out where Hendricks takes thing next. I’ll be watching this author and looking for some more books in the future.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Book Reviews, Young Adult

Review: The Last Star by Rick Yancey

The enemy is Other. The enemy is us.

They’re down here, they’re up there, they’re nowhere. They want the Earth, they want us to have it. They came to wipe us out, they came to save us.

But beneath these riddles lies one truth: Cassie has been betrayed. So has Ringer. Zombie. Nugget. And all 7.5 billion people who used to live on our planet. Betrayed first by the Others, and now by ourselves.

In these last days, Earth’s remaining survivors will need to decide what’s more important: saving themselves…or saving what makes us human.

–back cover of The Last Star by Rick Yancey

An alien invasion isn’t exactly a unique story. Whenever I go to tell someone about this series I feel kind of silly saying, “Yeah, aliens come and take over the world, but um…I promise it’s more interesting than that!” And it really is; I have genuinely enjoyed reading this story, but I felt a little let down with the last book.

The first book was amazing, so when I heard that it would be turned into a trilogy, I didn’t expect them to surpass the first book, and they did not, until the ending of The Last Star. The devastating–um, I mean beautiful–ending was possibly the most powerful part of the whole series, and that made some of the slowness from the second and third book worth reading.

The Last Star was an entertaining read overall. It kept me interested, but I did feel like some of the timeline was off and that some things from the third book did not add up to the second book. There was nothing major, just some elements of inconsistency.

As always, I love this author’s writing style. I love the short chapters, which is totally a matter of personal opinion, but the short chapters always make me so happy. Sometimes switching between points of view every few chapters would confuse me. I would miss that the point of view had switched–despite the obvious indicator–and get confused and have to backpedal.

Now, onto characters.

I was so disappointed with Cassie. She turned from a strong female character into a whiney and weak character. It was like she was a completely different character in this book, and I did not enjoy her point of view chapters.

Ben and Marika were developed excellently in this book, and I really grew to love them, but Sam is the one that I will never forget. He was just a baby, but he was so strong, and some of the things he had to do even adults would not be able to do. He is the character that will stick with me for a long time.

The sci-fi aspect of this last book was, at best, confusing. I had trouble following it at some points, and I think that if Rick Yancey would have kept it like the first and second books made it out to be it would have made a lot more sense.

And finally, the part of the book that drove me absolutely crazy…the romance. I am not one that needs romance in a story to begin with, but if it is done well, I don’t mind it, I may even enjoy it, but then there is this book. This quote sums it up: “My face is hot. I’m thinking of the night I landed on the shores of Evanland and planted my flag upon that sculpted beach.” The romance does not improve beyond that.

The book could have been written better in many places, but it is worth reading, because if nothing else it gives closure. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Book Reviews

Review: Emancipated by M.G. Reyes

The good girl, the bad boy, the diva, the hustler, the rock star, and the nerd. Six teens legally liberated from parental control for six different reasons, all with one thing in common: something to hide.

Now they’re sharing a house in Venice Beach, acting like a family, and living their lies. No parents. No limits. No alibis. One witnessed a crime, another might be a murderer—and one’s been spying on them all.

As they cling to a fantasy of freedom and slowly let down their guards, the past creeps up on them. And when one of them gets arrested, everyone’s carefully constructed facade comes crumbling down.

In this steamy, drama-filled series, relationships are tested and secrets revealed as lies threaten to destroy their perfect setup.

Emancipated by M.G. Reyes

This book started off with a clear lack of research, as each teen was emancipated within about two weeks. It made the process look incredibly quick and easy. The book then had a sense of unrealism as all six teens ended up living at the same house, not realizing beforehand that they are all emancipated. This was all in the first fifty pages and kind of threw me off from being able to enjoy the rest of the book.

The characters were flat. I felt as if I were reading cardboard cutouts with slight variations. They were unrealistic and impossible to relate to. There were six point-of-view characters, which made getting to know any of them a bit difficult.

The plot was slow and there often were inconsistencies. If it wasn’t for the fact that I refuse to DNF* a book I would have put it down. As I approached the end, it had a bit of a cliffhanger which, frankly, was the only interesting part of the book.

I give it 1.5 out of 5 stars.

*DNF: Did Not Finish

Book Reviews, Young Adult

Review: Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner

The war between humanity and Faerie devastated both sides. Or so 15-year-old Liza has been told. Nothing has been seen or heard from Faerie since, and Liza’s world bears the scars of its encounter with magic. Trees move with sinister intention, and the town Liza calls home is surrounded by a forest that threatens to harm all those who wander into it. Then Liza discovers she has the Faerie ability to see into the past, into the future, and she has no choice but to flee her town. Liza’s quest will take her into Faerie and back again, and what she finds along the way may be the key to healing both worlds.

Janni Lee Simner’s first novel for young adults is a dark fairy-tale twist on apocalyptic fiction as familiar as a nightmare, yet altogether unique.

Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner

Bones of Faerie was really very dark, so here is your official content warning. If the death of children or abuse are subjects that you would not want to read about, this is not the book for you.

In the first page, it becomes evident that the main character Liza’s father had burned her baby sister to death. Throughout the book, this type of content comes up again many times. The book, however, is good, very interesting, and it kept me up way too late when I was reading it. It’s the type of book that you know is kind of twisted, but you just have to know what happens next.

I thought that the characters were strong and interesting. Liza was the main character, and I liked seeing her develop her powers. Overall, there was just a cast of good characters; in addition to Liza there was Matthew, Kate, Allie, and Caleb. Matthew surprised me with how he turned out to be. Allie was the perfect portrayal of a child, which was nice to see. She wasn’t overly tough or overly annoying–she was just a child.

My only complaint with the characters is that most of them weren’t very memorable. The two that I’ll probably remember are Caleb and Liza’s father. I’ll only remember Liza’s father because he was so horrible, but Caleb was fascinating and I am excited to see what happens to him in the rest of the trilogy.

Overall, this book was well-written, had a good set of characters and an interesting, compelling plot. I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Book Reviews, Young Adult

Review: The Wizard, the Witch, and Two Girls from Jersey by Lisa Papademetriou

When mortal enemies Veronica and Heather get hit by a bar code scanner while fighting over the last copy of a hot fantasy novel, they are transported into the novel. Having accidentally killed the book’s heroine, Vero and Heather have no choice but to try to save the land of Galma from the Twilight Queen.

— back cover of The Wizard, the Witch, and Two Girls from Jersey by Lisa Papademetriou

This lighthearted and refreshing book was a quick and fun read. I was intrigued by the blurb and the author did not let me down. Hasn’t every reader imagined what it’d be like to live in their favorite book world before? Now imagine actually being taken there, but not just taken there–you accidentally kill the main character and now your real-life nemesis takes their place.

This book is meant to be fun, so I don’t feel as if we can expect to get too attached to the main characters. Veronica and Heather were good characters, and they were entertaining to read about although I don’t think they are all that memorable. They serve their purpose: to make you laugh and enjoy the story. They are not the type of characters that are unforgettable, but sometimes a story as light as this one has its own type of magic. My only complaint is that, at times, Heather could be very annoying.

The plot was intriguing and held me captive until the end.

The writing style was good. There wasn’t anything too exciting about it, but it did not distract from the story, and, in my opinion, if it doesn’t distract from the story it is a good writing style.

I give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars. I’d suggest it to anyone who is looking for a fun fantasy read.
Book Reviews, Young Adult

Review: A Summer Promise by Robin Jones Gunn

As 14-year old Christy leaves her family’s Wisconsin farm to spend the summer at her wealthy aunt and uncle’s beach home in Newport, she realizes this could be the best season of her life. Through it all, will Christy keep her promise to her parents not to do anything she’ll regret?

–back cover of A Summer Promise by Robin Jones Gunn

There are some parts of this book that are good and some parts that could be improved, but overall this was a pretty good read for the right audience. I think that this book is definitely for younger teens, and I also think that it may be more so a book for Christians than for those of different faiths. I think that some things said in the book may have been said in an offensive manner.

I think that Christy is a great representation of a fourteen-year-old girl. It shows the awkwardness and insecurities that often come with this age. Christy experiences self-image issues and an aunt who is so concerned about Christy’s appearance passes down some of that fear to her. This can happen so often in families, and I think that Gunn portrayed this wonderfully.

That being said, her aunt drove me crazy. I think that she was unnecessarily cruel throughout the whole book. I loved her uncle’s carefree approach to life though. Todd, the love interest, occasionally drove me crazy, because he didn’t seem that interested in Christy. He seemed more interested in leading her to God and controlling her. He could be inconsiderate and a bit of a jerk at times, but he could also be really sweet when he wasn’t being a jerk. Overall I found him immature and annoying.

The two characters that I liked the most were probably two of the secondary characters, Tracy and Allissa. Tracy wasn’t in this book much, but she seemed like she was a lot more well-rounded than the other characters, and a lot less judgemental. Allissa seemed to be one of the more interesting characters because of her lifestyle. It was like she was being shamed by the author for being sexually active, though, and I did not appreciate that.

As for the writing style, I felt as if she had done a great job. I have no complaints here, really. She did well.

The plot was interesting, especially around the climax. The author held my attention throughout the whole book, but I think that the plot was used as a tool to preach to people. I understand that in Christian fiction there will be Christianity, but I think that this went too far. It wasn’t intricately woven into the plot; it was literally a character standing in front of others speaking to them in a preachy manner. There were also strong undertones of, “if you don’t believe, you will be thrown into hell.”

For the right audience, this book would be enjoyable, but I still found some issues with it despite that. So, I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Book Reviews

Review: Trust and Treachery by Charissa Dufour

Who is up for a reverse harem style book? That is exactly what Charissa Dufour created in her novella, Trust and Treachery. 

For those of you who don’t know what a reverse harem is, I’ll take a moment to explain. The main focus of the story surrounds a single female character, who is surrounded by men. Each of the male counterparts has a quality women admire and is usually matched with good looks. They all also have one thing in common: they are crazy about the female lead. She, however, is attached to all of them in some way. This allows the reader to root for their personal favourite choice. It also means there will be no definite resolution to the love plot at the end of the book. It is important to understand that, in this type of book, the male characters are the most predominant part of the story. They are the ones people are supposed to connect with. Often times that leaves the female lead a bit two-dimensional, allowing the reader to step into her shoes – book boyfriend anyone?

I happen to like reading a reverse harem once in awhile. Dufour does an excellent job creating the correct atmosphere for that to happen. I enjoyed the writing and the flow from start to finish.

The main character is a slave who in the beginning of the book is lost in a poker game. Her new owner is part of an all-male crew. Soon, after being taken on board, the men find themselves competing for her attention. All the while, they still have a mission to complete–in space.

The only thing that stopped this from being a five-star review was what I felt was a plot hole. The female lead, Bit, is basically a slave. The author discloses she was never used for sexual relations; she can’t cook; she is malnourished and weak, therefore cannot lift anything heavy. The only thing we are told she has done as a slave is fix toasters. The question then lies in why, at the beginning of the book, is she at a high-stakes poker game with her owner? Why did he bring her? What does he need her for? Presumably not to fix toasters. Why is she dirty and dressed in rags at such an event?

All in all, this is a fun read and recommended to anyone who likes a different sort of romance. Four out of five stars.

Book Reviews

Review: Someday I’ll Be Redeemed by Kelly Blanchard

Kelly Blanchard’s Someday I’ll Be Redeemed is a clever conglomerate of epic high fantasy and fascinating science fiction. It chronicles the return of Prince Lorrek after his ten-year disappearance and delves into the long-lasting consequences that events long past can have on relationships and on nations. Through strategically placed flashbacks, the introduction of a vast cast of characters, and annoyingly persistent rumours circling Lorrek’s disappearance, Blanchard keeps the reader guessing as to the answer to one question: what did Lorrek do all those years ago?

Blanchard employs what she calls “cinematographic writing;” this style creates many memorable and powerful moments in her novel. This style is one that attempts to create scenes in a cinematic way, so that the reader can clearly see the action of the story and is left with those visual impressions long after they close the book, much in the same way that a cinematographer would manipulate a scene in a movie for ultimate impact.

Though there are multiple moments in Someday I’ll Be Redeemed in which this technique works, the necessity of multiple info-dumps throughout the novel (due to its high fantasy aspects and complex nature) sometimes cuts into these movie-like moments and slows down the pace. In the first half of the book especially, there are so many characters and places introduced that it is difficult to follow on first reading, let alone keep track of alliances and relationships. The reader must be on alert at all times to catch any detail that might turn out to be important later in the novel.

Though there are multiple moments in Someday I’ll Be Redeemed in which this technique works, the necessity of multiple info-dumps throughout the novel (due to its high fantasy aspects and complex nature) sometimes cuts into these movie-like moments and slows down the pace. In the first half of the book especially, there are so many characters and places introduced that it is difficult to follow on first reading, let alone keep track of alliances and relationships. The reader must be on alert at all times to catch any detail that might turn out to be important later in the novel.

This changes with the second half of the book, where Blanchard finally hits her stride and delivers a fast-paced and high-stakes narrative that gets us to cheer for characters we previously cared little about and even become sympathetic for characters that we previously despised. No one is a hero, no one is a villain. Everyone has a complexity that is continuously shaped by their experiences and the choices that they make.

Despite pacing issues and unclear direction in the first half, Someday I’ll Be Redeemed is an enjoyable novel throughout that kicks it into high gear in the second half and ends on a note that manages to satisfy the reader while exciting them for the next book in the Chronicles of Lorrek. It excels beyond other novels in the science fantasy genre and is even better upon a second or third reading.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Book Reviews, Young Adult

Review: We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

There are a few things Henry Denton knows, and a few things he doesn’t.

Henry knows that his mom is struggling to keep the family together, and coping by chain-smoking cigarettes. He knows that his older brother is a college dropout with a pregnant girlfriend. He knows that he is slowly losing his grandmother to Alzheimer’s. And he knows that his boyfriend committed suicide last year.

What Henry doesn’t know is why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button.

But they have. And they’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind.

The question is whether Henry thinks the world is worth saving. That is, until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past who forces Henry to question his beliefs, his place in the universe, and whether any of it really matters. But before Henry can save the world, he’s got to figure out how to save himself, and the aliens haven’t given him a button for that.

–back cover of We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

I really wasn’t sure what to think of this book. It was incredibly intense, and I think the whole thing needs a content warning for sexual content, a graphic rape attempt, and severe bullying.

I felt as if a lot of the book was just dramatic for the sake of being dramatic, and I really felt as if the whole alien thing talked about within the first few chapters had a disappointing let down later in the book. It just seemed like it was there for the sake of being there, and the book wasn’t at all how I anticipated it being.

The characters were okay. They were entertaining enough to read about, but they aren’t characters that will stick with me for long after the read.

There were some very good aspects of the book though. I thought that they portrayed a teen boy in a normal, healthy light, compared to how boys are often portrayed in the media. He was allowed to have emotions and feelings. It also showed that sexual harassment isn’t something that just happens to girls, and I think that this is a concept that needs to become as normal as girls being victims, because it is sadly true.

I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.