Thanksgiving 2020: A Holiday We Won’t Forget

This year has been rough. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it over and over again until it’s finally over. It has– by far– been one of the strangest and most difficult years for everyone I know. We’ve all had to adjust and flex and struggle our way through this. And it’s not even over yet!

We’re getting there, though, so that’s something! Maybe 2021 will be better! FINGERS CROSSED. I’m not superstitious, but I am a little bit stitious (only the best of people will get that one). So I’ll be knocking on wood and crossing my fingers and saying my prayers for the rest of the year. I don’t know how much more of this nonsense I can handle.

I hope you’ll bear with me as I steer away from my usual book review and writer musing on this special holiday. I love Thanksgiving. Holidays were hard growing up. We had a split family household, and most of my time was spent running back and forth on major holidays between my parents’ families houses, scarfing down food and scrambling to open presents and hug everyone I hadn’t seen in months. It was always “hurry, you’ve got to be at Dad’s/Mom’s by so-and-so o’clock.” I don’t blame my parents; I hold no grudges, really. It was just how it had to be, you know.

Thanksgiving was never like that, though. Most people say that Christmas is the slow holiday. You know– “You’re moving like Christmas!” Well, for me, Thanksgiving (or the week of, really) was when life really slowed down. We went to different houses, sure, but there was more time. I could sit down and really visit; I got to enjoy dinner AND dessert! No one was shoving presents in my faces. No one was rushing me. We were all so deep into a turkey-coma that life just moved in slow motion for once.

And I loved it.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. And not just because I’m a foodie and just really love eating. I love the PREMISE of Thanksgiving. Truly enjoying each other’s company and dwelling for a day (or week!) on the things you’re thankful for. “Shouldn’t we do that all year long, Amy?” Yes! Yes, we should, but shouldn’t we also give each other small gifts throughout the year to show each other our love (Coming for you, Christmas)? YES!

This year– in true Covid-19 style– things are going to be different. We aren’t traveling to people’s houses. We aren’t hugging all our great-aunts and grandfathers; we aren’t piling into living rooms that smell like stuffing and pumpkin pies. We won’t be watching the parade with our nieces and nephews or scouring through the Wal-Mart Black Friday catalog for Christmas presents. No one will pass out on the couch thirty minutes after we’ve eaten or ask the lone single female of the family when she’s going to finally find herself a husband.

And I’m going to miss it.

I’m going to miss the boisterous laugher and the hilarious family stories (even if I hear the same one’s every year). I’m going to miss hugging my husband’s great-aunt and seeing my step-grandparents. I’m even going to miss my mother-in-law’s precious but huge dog who is always so painfully happy to see me. There’s so much I’m going to miss.

But here’s the thing: I’m not going to dwell on that.

This isn’t what I want to rant on about.

Instead, I want to redirect my attention to some things I’m thankful for. Let’s do that, okay? Some unconventional things, maybe. I’ll skip over the usual spouse-family-food-God spiel, but don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for those things too.

  1. My students and their parents:
    I don’t tell my kids often enough how much I love them. This year is so hard. I’m a hugger by nature, and I can’t do that this year. So, having a room full of fifteen wonderful children that I love so much that I call them my kids and not being able to give each of them a hug at the end of the day is so hard. They constantly bring a smile to my face and never fail to make me laugh– even when it’s 8 am and I am a MESS. They always remind me to do attendance and apologize if they’re being a bit “too much.” They are so perceptive and forgiving and I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have them in my life.

    And I owe just how wonderful they are to their parents. Or guardians or grandparents or aunts or uncles or WHOEVER loves them from home. Whoever makes sure they come back to me the next day. Thank you for the wonderful children you’ve raised. I know it can’t have been easy. Not in this day and age. I’m a parent, too, and I know how it feels to constantly worry if you’re making the right decision or pushing them too hard or not pushing them enough or… This list could go on forever.

    As parents, you’re often asked to push yourself aside and set them first. During this pandemic, classrooms all over the world have moved to your living room. Virtual teaching is a world/challenge all its own. I know it’s a lot to ask of you, parents. Just know that I see you, I sympathize with you, and I’m here for you. I know this is so hard, and you’re doing the absolute best you can in a bad situation. We all are. Thank you so much for all that you do. I couldn’t do my job without your support.
  2. My friends
    I won’t call any of you out by name, but you’ll know who you are if you’re reading this.

    My Mother Hen: Thank you for always being a listening ear when I needed you. Quarantine has been hard on you, I know, but you’ve never turned me away when I need to talk. You have no idea how much that means to me.

    My OG: You’ve had a really hard past few months. God really ran you through the wringer. I love you. More than you can ever possibly know. I’m thankful that you’ve allowed me to support you through this hard time. Any time you need to go get some bulgogi, holler at me. You know I’m always down.

    My Long-Distance: One day, I’ll actually meet you. Until then, thank you for texting me each. and. every. day. You’re an escape. A nice little haven where I can pretend life isn’t wild. Thank you.
  3. My Job
    “Yuck, Amy. Your job? Don’t you just dread going in every single day?”

    Um, no. I’m super lucky that I get to do a thing that I LOVE every single day. Not only do I work with the best kids ever, I also get to pass on my love of the English language to a new generation. I honestly have a passion for what I do. Other than writing, I can’t see myself doing anything else.

    I’m blessed to work with the best people under the most amazing principal. If you’re reading this, JP, I can’t even begin to tell you how thankful I am for your patience. I have met some of the most wonderful people at North Elementary. Wouldn’t trade you guys for the world.

    Maybe for retirement, but definitely not the world. 😉

I hope everyone has a magnificent Thanksgiving. Be safe. Be smart. Don’t spread Covid everywhere. I’d like to NOT teach virtually for another couple of months. If you can’t see your family, call your family. It’s better than nothing.

Lots of love,
Amy.

Book Review #9: Misericorde by Cynthia Morgan

In the year 2446, the world exists as a mere shell of what it used to be. The Great Catalyst tore the human race apart as the Horsemen rode. War, Pestilence, Famine… All that remains to ride is Death.

Archangel Tzadkiel, Angel of Mercy, had taken the task upon himself to find one human on the planet who understands what mercy is. Humans are a vile species, though, and as his journey nears its end, he fears he may never find that person. When he is captured by the soldiers of The Bastion, hope wanes even further.

A mere scullery maid, Lourdes hears screams from her room every night. They break her heart and haunt her nightmares, and even though she doesn’t even know who they come from, she swear to find him and help him.

When she does exactly that, though, Lourdes discovers she’s opened a door that she might regret and entered a world darker than she ever imagined.

Style/Length:
Let me just get this off my chest before we start.

OMG THIS BOOK Y’ALL GOOSEBUMPS REVOLUTIONARY STUNNING

*clears throat* I, um, really enjoyed this book, guys. Morgan’s style is absolutely breathtaking. It’s thick with descriptions of the world she has created (which is incredible) and the people who live in it. It reads like a fantasy in that way, because it seems like a brand new created world. In reality, it’s what’s left of ours.

It was a rather long read, and at first, I struggled to get into it. My kindle is set up to track my percentage through the book because that’s how I set my pace. So, I was about 30% of the way through and had been reading for DAYS. Thats a bit unusual for me, considering how fast I read. But the beginning was just so description heavy that I didn’t want to miss anything by hurrying.

But DUDE did it get good after 50%. I scarfed this book down like Tzadkiel eating oatmeal (you’d understand that if you read Misericorde 😂). One night y’all. ONE. NIGHT. When I say I stayed up till one am, I 100% mean it. Please tell me you’ve done that before. I was lying in bed, telling myself that I needed to stop. One more chapter. Just till the end of this one. Oh wait, I can’t possibly stop THERE. Okay, till the end of this part them. But apparently my eyes don’t listen to my brain. Because I kept on going.

And boy, did this leave me with a book hangover. That awful feeling of MAN, NO BOOK WILL EVER COMPARE.  ugh. This is a lot to say: It had a slow start, but once I got in, it was just perfect. Chef’s kiss.

Characters:
The two “main” characters are Lourdes and Tzadkiel. That’s obvious. I’ll talk about those for a bit and then touch on some secondary characters.

Lourdes is a scullery maid. She is the perfect submissive slave, doing what she has to without complaint or attracting attention. The author makes sure to describe her as beautiful, of course. But she is so much more than that. Lourdes is incredibly strong, kind, brave and just… a wonderful female lead. She’s my favorite female MC that I’ve read in a while. Now, Lourdes does go through a lot, and there were tears shed for her. I’ll have to go into detail about that later.

Next up is Tzadkiel. I don’t read a lot of books about Angels and such. My background knowledge about angels comes from out Trenchcoat King Castiel. 😂 So, the standards were REALLY high for Tzadkiel. And lord a’mercy, he did not disappoint. While being the typical strong, macho male character that you expect from him, you also get to see a really vulnerable side of him as demons attempt to bring him down. He’s far from perfect, and endures so much along his search that I just… ugh. I love him. Happily simping over here.

Now we’ve got some other characters. There’s Levesque, head of the Tower Obligar and man in charge of “controlling” Tzadkiel. I didn’t like Levesque to start off with but there was a quick change in his personality that somewhat redeemed him in my eyes. He got what was coming to him, though. Then, there’s Philippe who deserved every ounce of HATE I felt for him. Sauvage: the man who deserved TO BURN IN THE FIRES OF HADES *clears throat* sorry. He’s a, um, bad guy.

I had no issue with the characters! Nothing negative! There were a lot to juggle, but each one stuck out enough for me to be able to pluck them out of the story easily. I was never confused. So Kudos to the author for balancing them out so well.

Plot:
There’s actually a few things I want to talk about in terms of plot. The structure of this book is fascinating to me. There are only nine chapters (and you thought CAGED had long chapters 😬) but each one is cut up into different sections. The story jumps around in time quite a bit to build this world that the author is developing.

You have an omniscient and omnipresent narrator who seems to just oversee and explain the history, then you have Gabriel and Anna’s storyline (2060), Tzadkiel’s arrest storyline (2445), and then Lourdes and Tzadkiel’s combined storyline (2446). Each storyline is very clearly marked at the start by telling you what year and era the part is taking place, like below.


I only mention this to show to complex the story really is. It was a bit off putting at first because I wasn’t used to it, but as I grew familiar with the style of jumping, it didn’t cause any problems at all. Just make sure you pay attention to the headings!

One suggestion I would make here would be to make each section its own chapter. Readers like me would want one chapter at a time, but these chapters were LOTS of pages at a time. The sections were only a few! I think I’d rather have more short chapters, just for pacing myself better as I read.

Other than what I’ve said before, I think this plot was exceptionally well done. It’s complex, beautifully wound together, logical throughout, and intense.

**Please note: This next paragraph has some sensitive topics. Read carefully.**
Last note about the plot: Morgan (the author) might consider adding a trigger warning. The book does contain a few short instances of rape as Lourdes faces some particularly despicable guards. It wasn’t an issue for me personally, but some readers might be thrown off guard. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent so much time on Wattpad that I’m used to these trigger warnings. I think it’s customary most of the time on larger, sensitive issues. Rape is a large enough issue that I thinks it’s necessary.

All in all, I would give this book a heaping 10/10. If I could, I’d give it 11/10. Buy it here!

My book hangover says I need to give it a 3/10 because OOF. 😂 That’s how you know it’s good.

You can follow Cynthia Morgan at the following links:
Website: https://www.cynthiaamorganauthor.com/
WordPress: https://booknvolume.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/morganbc728?s=21
Amazon: Author.to/CAMorganAuthor

I’m ready for my next book. I need something light and funny. 😂


Book Review #8: Cells by Julia Cowan

When James Hall wakes up in a dark, doorless, concrete box with no clue of how he got there or where “there” is, he has no idea that this is just the beginning of his problems. The truth unravels itself slowly: this is an unofficial, covert prison designed by two twisted minds to remove offenders off the streets and cleanse their neighborhood.

Surviving the cells is just step one. James will be forced to make impossible decisions, and in the end, it may just ruin him and everyone around him.

Image taken from Amazon.


Style and Length:

Cowan’s style is IMPECCABLE. It’s simple enough that I wasn’t bogged down by language, but at the same time, it was incredibly eloquent. The descriptions were very well-written and the emotion was very clear with each twist and turn of the story.

It’s an average length book. I started earlier in the week but didn’t really have a chance to start reading until Saturday morning.

I finished in a day, y’all. That’s how fantastic this book was. I was absolutely blown away.

I did have a slight issue with some of the POVs. I was thrown off when we starting jumping from one character’s POV to the next because James, the main character, seems to have a variety of nicknames. His father calls him Jim, Jimbo, and James. So, in some chapters, I struggled to know who was talking. It didn’t last forever, though. I cleared myself up pretty fast. So, this issue might be chalked up to me just being an occasional idiot.

Whatcha gunna do about that?


Character Development:

Cells has a fair amount of characters! There’s James (the main character and inmate of our “prison”), David and Joseph (the creators of the prison), Craig, Chris, Simon, Emily, Jill, Sally… The list goes on. Normally, I wouldn’t have an issue juggling characters. But this is a FAST read– chalk it up to the action of the story. I did have to slow down sometimes and really think about who was who. Again, we can blame that on the SPEED which I read this book.

I really liked the development of James through out the book and how well he handled all of the issues thrown his way! He’s a phenomenal main character. I’m glad the end worked out the way it did for him.

The two antagonists– David and Joseph– are also very well written. The balance between powerful David and meeker Joe works out good for the dynamic of the story. I don’t know what it is with me reading books with villains I sympathize with, but I can’t seem to avoid them here lately. I genuinely felt bad for these two men! Surprisingly enough, I felt more for David! Please, note: I don’t condone making a torture prison for anyone.

I did have one issue with the characters, though. Joe/Joseph started out as a follower: shy and submissive. He stays this way throughout the first half of the story, but after a certain event I won’t spoil, he seems to… stop being scared of David? It’s a bit sudden. The dynamic changes between them, and I really didn’t like it. Joseph starts giving the orders. I’m not really 100% why it didn’t sit well with me, but it didn’t.


Plot:

THIS PLOT. Ugh!

I am a huge Saw fan– you know, the movie franchise. I love the intertwining story plots, the torture prisons, the gore, the “justified villain” aspect, ALL OF IT.

Cells reminds me of Saw! I could see myself reading this book over and over just for fun. It’s also the first story I started taking notes on while I was reading! I was on the edge of my seat, audibly gasping, stopping to tell my husband what I thought would happen, complaining about my mistaken predictions…. I loved every bit of it. Honestly. I have nothing negative about the plot, y’all. It was just…

You can buy Cells by Julia Cowan here! I’m giving it a big ole 9.5 out of 10.

Book Review #7: The Sensorians: Awakening by Brigitte Starkenburg

*taps mic* Does this thing still work? I mean, it’s been dead silent for…. two weeks?

Let me just say: YIKES. Last week was rough, y’all. Between worrying about this election and work and life and UGH. It was too much.

I have been hard at work on the next Idyllic book, which I’ll start doing bits of reveals for here soon. Then, I did some reading. Which leads me to today’s review!

Ready?

Eliza had a rough enough childhood as it was. Between her father abandoning her and being diagnosed as schizophrenic, she did her best to muddle through and come out the other end. Things don’t get better when the mysterious Zack shows up in her life. He says he knows where her father is and that he needs her. In order to help anyone, Eliza will have to face challenges that will test her to the core.

Will she come out the other side a better person or be forever bent by the Sensorian way of life?

Picture taken from Amazon.

Style and Length:

Starkenburg’s style is very simplistic. Normally when we talk about someone being simple, it’s an insult. Don’t take it as that here. What I mean is, it flowed really easily and wasn’t overly complicated in vocabulary or grammar or side plots or anything like that. It was not a challenging read in any way whatsoever.


And I prefer that! It was an average length read, sitting at 232 Kindle pages. I started on Thursday (or maybe Friday) and got finished on Tuesday. The majority of the book I read over the weekend! Instantly it hooked me, and I was super eager to keep going.
One complain I do have (because I’m trying to do better about being constructive) is that sometimes the dialogue throughout the story was confusing. This is an issue in formatting and super easy to fix.

Above, you’ll see a snippet of conversation from the very beginning of the book. No spoilers this early in the review. 😂 I’m used to the start of a new paragraph (aka, drop down a line and indent) meaning that someone new is speaking. So, I read it as Kas-Eliza-Kas-Eliza. In reality, it’s supposed to be Kas-Kas-Eliza-Eliza. Like I said, an easy fix!! All Starkenburg would need to do is backspace where those conversations have been unnecessarily indented.


I’ll also go out of my way to say that in NO WAY does this affect the quality of the story. Once I got used to it, not a problem. It just boggled me at first.

Character Development:

I’ll start off this section by saying that I love these freaking characters. 😂 Starkenburg does a magnificent job at making sure her two POVs are different enough that a reader can tell. Plus, every single character is different! It’s truly phenomenal. Even I struggle with that.
Let’s start with Eliza. A fireball, for sure. Her personality is very strong, and she resists being oppressed throughout the book. I love how she developed into a understanding and much more sensible girl when it came to the Sensorian’s ways. I was caught a bit off guard by how much I liked her to be honest.


Next, Zack. My favorite!! Zack is an authoritative leader, taking control of many a situations. He struggles with figuring out his feelings for Eliza without compromising his job at the same time. I LOVE this character. He’s a bit of a swearer, but that doesn’t even take away. I really, really, really hope he gets a chance to finish what he and Eliza started. *winkwink*

There are other minor characters, each of which are very developed. I hesitate to even call them minor. Zaphyre, Zack’s sister, is the temptress of the story. I’m not a huge Zaphy fan (only because I’m Team Zack lol). Then there’s Markus and Laura (heads of the Sensorians), Kasper, Eliza’s boyfriend (*boos erupt all around*), Sam and Ned (Zack’s friends), and even Alice (Eliza’s mom). It wasn’t such a big cast that I couldn’t keep up, so I appreciate that from the author.


Plot:

First of all, this story moves along SO. FAST. The beginning was an absolute blur. In my opinion, I would have slowed down quite considerably. Zack and Eliza meet one day and then she’s leaving with him the next. I know the mission is important and time-sensitive but it really felt a bit rushed. I would have made the entire first quarter it’s own book, probably, developing their relationship and letting Zack convince her of who and what she is.

Now, it does slow down after the initial meet. Training and then the mission was much more developed in my opinion. I have no complaints or questions about how the main plot points unravelled. I am definitely excited to see what happens next, though!
You can count on me to read Book 2 when it comes out.😉


I’d give this book a big ole 9.5 outta 10. I’ll definitely be recommending. Might even ask Starkenburg to do an author interview for me.

You can buy The Sensorians on Amazon here.


Follow Brigitte Starkenburg on the following platforms:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brigitte__books
Facebook: https://facebook.com/brigittewritesbooks
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/BrigitteMorseS1

Author Spotlight: Paul McMurrough

So, this week on all my social media platforms, I’m featuring a fellow friend and author named Paul McMurrough. Paul is the author of a dystopian novel called Reliance.

About the Book

I did a full review on Reliance before (which can be found here). It is literally the best book I’ve read this year. Well written and an absolute page-turner, this book.

Because I loved it so much, I asked Paul if he would be willing to answer some questions about his career, life, writing habits, and reading habits. He was more than happy to oblige. I’ll drop lots of social media links below, but now, without further ado, my interview with the lovely Paul McMurrough!

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from?

I am a native of Belfast, N.Ireland. I lived briefly in the US and have travelled extensively throughout Europe and America, mostly through my work as a business and management consultant. My educational background was more Maths and Science focused rather than the Arts or Literature due to a struggle with dyslexia in my early years.

What does a normal day look like for you?

I mostly work from home (more so now in this Covid era). My home office is a small room with french doors out onto a balcony. A typical day will see me nose deep in project plans and spreadsheets. I try to make time in the evenings for writing (either research, outlining or the actual good stuff of writing itself).

Do you still have a “day job,” or have you promoted yourself to full-time writer?

Unfortunately yes. As much as I would love to, I have no illusions of ever being able to give up my day job to pursue writing full time. For now writing is a hobby. The process is cathartic and the feeling I get from seeing my words printed in an actual book is amazing.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

It was only in the past couple of years that I seriously considered writing. Until the age of fifteen I could barely read and so the thought of being able to write something of my own would have been shut down very quickly. In my earlier days, before I learned to manage and work around my dyslexia, my inner critic would have been more like an inner bully who knew my darkest secrets, fears and weaknesses – he would never have let me even consider that I could have the ability to write a book.

What does your family think of your writing?

I worked on my first book for about 12 months and didn’t tell any of my family until I held the physical copy in my hand. To say they were surprised would be an understatement. Since then, they have been nothing but supportive and are now quizzing me about the timeline for the next book in the series.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Writing definitely energizes me, when I get into a flow hours can pass like minutes. Reading on the other hand is exhausting for me as it takes total concentration.

What inspired you to write Reliance?

I have always liked posing the question “What if…?” usually related to a slight variation on reality. In the case of Reliance that “What if” concerned the sudden loss of power and what the immediate impact would be on society. For example what would YOU do if the power went off with no warning and was off for say a day, a week or even a month? The more research I did the more alarming were the answers – there are no aliens or zombies involved but it is frightening how quickly the mundane everyday things which we take for granted, can cause serious issues when they are no longer available.

How long did it take you to write Reliance?

When I first made the decision that I was going to commit my daydreams to paper, it was important to me that everything in the book would be realistic and believable (as much as possible). With that in mind I think I spent about six months researching a myriad of topics; everything from Space Weather, electricity grid infrastructure, the mechanics of gas and water supply, right down to how petrol stations work. I was a little nervous though (particularly living in Northern Ireland) when I started Googling things like – “How many active soldiers are present in N.Ireland?” or “What kind of weapons do prisons have and where are they kept?”  – I wouldn’t have been overly surprised to hear a size 10 boot kick my door in and uniformed men haul me away in the middle of the night. Thankfully that didn’t happen and after about 6 months of research and planning it took another 6 months to get it written and published.

I know that Reliance is the first book in the “Powerless Earth Series.” How many more books will there be in the series?

Book 2 of the series has been researched and outlined however, I have paused work on it to do a short novelette based on two of the characters from Reliance. The working title is “Dr Death”. It’s turning out to be much darker than Reliance. I am aiming for a release at the end of November. The second full novel should be published in the Spring of 2021. There will likely be a third novel in the series and possibly one or two more novelettes.

What is your favorite part of Reliance? No spoilers, of course!

There was a scene involving Martin (the Physics Professor), writing the scene took a lot of me, I found myself getting very emotional and actually had to take a break after writing it. 

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

An eagle.

What does literary success look like to you?

Success for me is keeping the self-doubt monster at bay long enough to get the book finished, once it is out there I know that not many people will ever hear about it but as long as those who do, find it entertaining, then that’s enough for me.

What advice would you give a fledgling writer?

Learn the technical skills required and the rules that should be followed. You don’t always have to follow the rules but, to knowingly break the rules for a reason is one thing, to break the rules because you didn’t know them is something else.

What sort of books do you read?

A wide range – mostly thrillers, dystopian and post-apocalyptic.

What’s your favorite book?

More the series than any one book out of it – The Remaining Series by D.J. Molles.

Book that made you cry?

Don’t think I have ever cried while reading a book but I’ve certainly been close to it a couple of times when writing.

Book that really inspired you?

The Creative Writer’s Toolbelt Handbook by Andrew Chamberlain helped me when I first embarked on my writing journey (and his podcast of the same name). As well as teaching the techniques and skills he also interviewed many guests from across the industry.

A book you didn’t like at all? (Maybe one you felt like you were supposed to like.)

The Stand by Stephen King (How dare I?) – Because reading is so exhausting for me, I prefer shorter books and at near 2 million pages The Stand is not a short book. It just seemed needlessly long winded to me.

What’s your perfect reading environment?

By a pool in the sun but I don’t have a pool and I live in Ireland so I don’t have the sun – so sitting on the balcony or in the back garden on a good day, or in front of the fire on a bad day.

Do you listen to music while you read/write, or do you prefer silence?

Have tried listening to music while writing, just doesn’t seem to work for me. I need total silence when reading so music would not be an option there.

Author Page: Reliance.fyi/Home

Amazon: Reliance.fyi/AmazonUS

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pmcmurrough

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pmcmurroughAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/pmcmurrough

I seriously cannot recommend this book enough. You will not regret picking up a copy! Good news: It’s free today and tomorrow!!

Book Review #6: Awoken by Billie Kermack

I’m really enjoying reading while I work on Caged’s sequel! It’s coming, I promise. Nano’s approaching; I can feel the slight chill in the air from all the dread it brings with it. That’s when I plan on working on Idyllic Series #2. Next week holds some sneak peaks, though! So look forward to that.

But today, I have another book review for you! This week is a paranormal romance by author Billie Jade Kermack.

Grace O’Callaghan has a seemingly normal life. Dealing with her father’s unfortunate death, she goes to school and tries to stay under the radar. 

That is until Beau walks into her life. 

Beau Milner is anything but normal. Strikingly handsome and frustratingly anti-social, Grace is instantly drawn to Beau. She’s not the only one though… Shadows wait for the sweet couple, and if they can’t fight them off, both will have to pay.

As always, taken from Amazon.

Style:

Kermack’s style is very descriptive. I don’t mind a good description in my stories! I want to be able to visualize how everything’s laid out and really see myself in the story. That’s completely possible while reading Awoken. Grace’s pain, love, and frustration is all so well laid out that it’s quite breath-taking at times. 


That being said, there were moments where my entire screen was just wall-to-wall text. That might be a Kindle issue, because the text is laid out so much differently. This could be off-putting for some readers. Even I found myself skipping forward because I was slightly overwhelmed. 

Length: 

This really goes hand in hand with what I said earlier about Kermack’s style. It is a very wordy book, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It took me about a week to finish, but as I’ve said before, I have a life and sometimes it takes me a while to finish. 

I found that the beginning of the book was slower than the rest, making it take much longer for me. After about 40%, things seemed to fly by. Even I found myself wishing the 400 pages weren’t over!

Character Development: 

Okay, so, I’ll talk about this in-depth more when we come to plot, in my opinion, Awoken is very similar to Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. The book, not that crappy movie. And I know that not everyone likes the books, but I’ve been a fan since I was in high school. So, I say everything from here on out as a compliment. 

Grace is a fantastic female lead. She’s independent while knowing when it’s okay to ask for help. She’s funny and strong but so weak at times. It’s extremely relatable. I found myself laughing out loud at some of her inner ramblings. Certain events unfold at the end, and I really expected her to fold— quite like Bella from Twilight— but she didn’t. That was the true moment that I knew these two characters were stark different. 

Beau is a dreamboat. Let’s get that off the table. He’s tall, dark, handsome, mysterious, protective— all the things we wished for in a boyfriend when we were in high school. Beau has a fantastic sense of humor as well, and he uses his gift for seeing the dead to do fantastic, great things. Yet, I have one complaint. He’s too much like Edward. He constantly blames himself for things, and he just… Let’s say I’m trying really hard not to spoil it for you. Not read this next part if you don’t want a mild spoiler in your head….

Dear Beau: It wasn’t all your fault, and you need to get your butt back before the next book starts. OR ELSE. 

Plot:

Now, when I finished reading this book, I messaged the author, Billie Jade Kermack, to ask if it was inspired by Twilight. 

Her answer shocked me. 

“No, it wasn’t.”

Well, you must be on the same freakin’ wavelength as Stephanie Meyer, then, because man, these books are similar! I’m not complaining. It reads like a typical teen romance, made better by the paranormal, spooky twist of ghosts. Grace wants Beau; he seems like her very presence is annoying. Finally, he breaks down, and voila! LOVE! 

That said, it really did make the plot a little bit predictable for me. I knew what was coming after the last event. I felt it deep in my soul, and I kept hoping I was wrong. 

I wasn’t. Let’s leave it at that. 

If you’re a fan of Twilight but wish it was darker— read Awoken by Billie Jade Kermack. Here’s the buy link. I’m giving it a solid 8/10. Pick it up.

Book Review #5: Challenge of the Gods by Michael Siddall

Another day, another book! I had a nice day off work today, and my husband and I raided two different bookstores. So, hopefully, I’ll get to actually dive into my seemingly bottomless bookshelves here soon!

Today’s review though is for an action-adventure fantasy novel rooted in Norse mythology and an epic journey for immortality.

Every hundred years, the greatest warriors across the land gather for the chance to compete in The Quest—a grueling set of tasks dreamed up by the gods.

Fafnir is one of five warriors embarking on this century’s Quest. If he wants a chance at immortality and fame, he’ll have to face challenges he never dreamed of.

The gods are fickle beings, though, and they won’t always be on his side. With Loki lurking in the shadows, a deathly entity awaits Fafnir. Can he survive, or will the challenge prove too much for even him?

Style:
Siddall’s style is surprisingly descriptive. The world he’s built is rich and vivid, leaving very little room for the imagination when it comes to landscapes. I prefer these long, beautifully written descriptions. It’s laid out so wonderfully that it makes it easy to picture where the challengers are traveling through their journey.

Landscapes aren’t the only well-described part of Siddall’s writing. He also does a wonderful job of painting scenes—whether it be a fight, a new creature appearing, or a character enjoying his or her triumph (or paying greatly for their loss). I was able to visualize every character as we went, along with the many creatures that I’ll admit I was unfamiliar with. I don’t know a lot about Norse mythology and the creatures/places in that world. But surprisingly, that didn’t matter. Even I could follow along.

Length:
Challenge of the Gods is an average length novel. At about 200 pages in my Kindle, it took me four days to finish.

I’ve talked before about how long it takes me to finish books. Michael contacted me Saturday and asked when I might be finished. When I said, “Give me a week.” He proceeded to tease that it was good he hadn’t asked me to read War and Peace. I honestly can’t imagine how long that book would take me to read. 😂 I say all this to get here: I finished in under a week, because, regardless of the length, it was a fantastic read. Action from start to finish! I never wanted to put it down.

Character development:
So, this story follows an omniscient narrator and all six POVs— Fafnir, Iona, Danzigfeld, Brung, Yolaf, Griswold, and Loki (with the occasional Thor and Odin himself). Because of this, there’s not a whole lot of room for individual development. Not all characters live through the Quest, though, if that counts.

Fafnir and Iona really get the main focus throughout the Quest, and I believe that Fafnir really does develop slightly. In the beginning, he really hungers for wealth and immortality. All the challengers do. But once he faces the death of someone close to him, he learns that it’s not worth it. I appreciated the decisions he made towards the end.

My favorite character was Danzigfeld, a wise, puzzle solving dwarf who rhymes almost every other sentence. His wit made me laugh out loud at times, and I was genuinely scared that we’d lost him at one point. Resurrection of a character never felt so good. Haha.

Another character I have some qualms about is Iona. I love that we have a female challenger. But… eh… she uses her femininity at one point to trick someone, then she really just acts kind of cringey at times. I still liked her strong, willful personality. There were just some iffy moments about her. I’d give her a solid 6/10, a low high.

Plot:
As far as adventure/action/fantasy stories go, this one has it all. Huge, monstrous beasts, fairies, dragons, a Sphinx, giants, odd creatures that I honestly don’t know the name of. The Blackhawks (the Quest challengers) face literally everything, even Loki himself. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again— PAGE-TURNER. I didn’t want to put this down. The fights, the struggles, the wins! It was back to back plot points.

And this is all from someone who gets her Norse-knowledge from binge watching Marvel movies.

If you’re a fan of action, adventure, or fantasy, pick this book up. You won’t regret it.

Definitely a 10/10. You can purchase it at the link below.

Purchase Link

Book Review #4: Collider by Richard Warwick

Hey, guys. It’s been a crazy week for me. But I’m back with another review!

This week’s review is of “Collider” by Richard Warwick. It’s another apocalyptic science-fiction for adults! I’m really loving these SF books, y’all. 

Dr. Mathers and Dr. Alder plan on changing the world— but not on this large of a scale. Their experiments on particle acceleration are very large-scale, but they’ve prepared for everything, even nuclear accidents. When an unexpected turn of events results in a tear in time itself, chaos ensues. 

People from the past start popping up in modern day countries. Soldiers from World War 2, bombers from World War 1, Civil War Confederates… Followed by a slew of natural disasters— the Great Fire of London, victims of Vlad the Impaler, volcanic eruptions, cholera outbreaks, the return of the bubonic plague… 

The world is doomed, unless two doctors can fix a mistake bigger than they understand. 

Picture taken from Amazon.

Style:

Warwick’s style of writing can be described in two words— informational and violent. 

I was shocked at the detail of some of the violent events happening in the story. That’s not a bad thing! You want readers to cringe at the detail. That’s a fantastic sign. There were times when I was literally turning away from my phone to take a minute. 

While it’s very detailed, it’s also informative. The book took me about a week to read, and it demanded a lot of my attention. Again, I don’t mind. This was an information heavy book, and I still loved it. That’s saying something. 

Length:

“Collider” was an average-length SF book. Once I was able to devote enough time to sit down and give this book the attention that it needed, it took no time at all. The action and intrigue make it seem shorter than it was. 

Character Development:

There are a lot of characters in “Collider.” Warwick does this thing where he follows multiple POVs through the events, using what set of eyes would be beneficial for the reader to better understand the plot. You jump from the president to the scientists to the German soldiers to a random event happening in time. It works perfectly for this kind of story. 

Due to this format, though, there’s not a lot of character growth. I didn’t mind this. Normally, I would, but there’s so much going on as far as plot that I didn’t care. It’s a plot-driven book!

Plot:

WHEW THE PLOT

I love this premise! A tear in time and history repeating itself seemingly randomly… I loved it. I’m a selective-history nerd. Post-WW2 really makes me giddy. So, following the two German soldiers made me all kinds of happy. I was trying to figure out what event would be next. American revolution? Yep! Civil War? YEP! I didn’t expect the Impaler stuff, though. That caught me off guard. 

The plot flowed wonderfully from beginning to end. There wasn’t a single boring chapter throughout the entire thing. 

And that ending!! *swoons* I won’t say another word, but… MAN. I knew it was coming, and I hoped it wouldn’t but OH MAN.

11/10 I would definitely recommend.  You can purchase here!

Caged Playlist

Hey, everyone! I thought for this week’s post, I’d share some of the songs that inspired and fueled Caged. I’ll type a little bit about every song to give you some background info!

  1. The Beginning by Factor Eight: I absolutely love this song. All of Factor Eight’s songs are instrumental and series soundtrack fuel. I listened to this one on repeat!
  1. Human by Christina Perri: This one’s sort of obvious. I mean, the entire story is about Eden’s limitations as a human and fighting to keep that humanity. She’s only human, ya know?
  2. Human by Rag’n’Bone Man: Another sort of obvious one. “I’m only human after all. Don’t put your blame on me.” I think this is Eden talking to herself. She does a lot of self-blame and deals with a lot of regret.
  3. Liberty by Factor Eight: I can’t speak enough for this band/group. There’s a part of this song, though, that quotes Charlie Chaplin’s speech from the Great Dictator.

    “Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost….”

I mean, if that doesn’t sound like Caged, then you obviously haven’t even read it.

5. To Be Human by Sia: I heard this song while watching Wonder Woman, and Oh My Goodness. “To be human is to love, even when it gets too much.” I mean, Eden’s downfall is her unending love!! Come on!

6. Helium by Sia: Um… I really like Sia’s voice. I think I went down a hole when I was song-hunting. This one’s another love song, but its all about vulnerability and wishing you didn’t need help but REALLY NEEDING IT ANYWAY. “Yeah, I wanted to play tough, thought I could do all this on my own but even Superwoman sometimes needed Superman’s soul.” Eden’s a beast, but she really needed a helping hand.

7. Rise by Katy Perry: Whoo, does this song give me vibes. I mean, it’s literally all about not giving up and rising when everyone thinks you’re going to fail. Eden much? “This is no mistake, no accident / When you think the final nail is in, think again / Don’t be surprised, I will still rise.” Gives me the heeby-jeebies.

8. Rainbow Connection by Trespassers William: I’m pretty sure this song is originally from the Muppets or something like that, but I like this indie version a lot better. In Caged, Eden tells Knox about how her mother used to sing the same lullaby every night. This is the lullaby. It makes me weepy.

9. Lightning by Little Mix: I mean, this is just a power anthem. LOL

10. The Coldest Winter by Pentatonix: I’m a Pentaholic as is, but this song just EXUDES the spooky, sad vibes of Caged.

11. Run by Awolnation: Who doesn’t like this song? I listened to it on repeat when I was writing the fight scenes. LOL Also, the opening line is “I am a human being, capable of doing terrible things.”

12. Out Loud by Gabbie Hanna: I thought about taking this out, ’cause of all the Gabbie hate going around, but I can’t deny how much I love this song. It’s basically about not being able to let go. This will be much more applicable for the sequel, but… I love it.

13. Rise Up by Andra Day: This power anthem speaks for itself. If you don’t sing along to this song, something’s wrong with you. I scream-sing this song. You have to.

14. Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken by Pink!: “There’s not enough rope to tie me down. There’s not enough tape to shut this mouth. The stones you throw can make me bleed, but I won’t stop until we’re free. Wild hearts can’t be broken.” It’s like Eden’s personal motto, y’all.

15. Dark On Me by Starset: All of Starset’s songs feel like I’m watching an epic space sci-fi and make me feel totally immersed. This one specifically fit my vibe, though. It’s about loneliness, being abandoned, feeling lost… “You’re the cause, the antidote, the sinking ship that I could not let go, who led my way and disappeared. How could you just walk away and leave me here?” Knox and Eden vibes, amiright?

The entire playlist can be found here for your listening pleasure! I hope it inspires you as it has me.

Book Review #3: Reliance by Paul McMurrough

Hey, guys! It’s time for another book review. I just finished this book today, so it’s fresh on my mind. 

This week’s book is Reliance by Paul McMurrough. It is a apocalyptic science fiction for adults— my FAVORITE genre. 

A crisis looms on the horizon. Professor Martin Monroe has predicted that a massive solar flare is on a direct path for Earth. The result will be a global power outage. 

Cell towers, power grids, water systems, prisons— nothing will be left untouched. 

How will the world handle this disaster? 

Cover taken from Amazon.

Style: First of all, McMurrough has a wonderful voice. It’s easy-to-read but really dives into the emotion of each character. He easily balances four points of view seamlessly, something that I definitely can’t do. He’s just descriptive enough to paint a clear picture, but he doesn’t linger too long. 

Length: “Reliance” is just about as long as my own book. It took me about four days to finish, but that’s only because I had other things to do. I bet if I’d sat down to read non-stop I would had finished earlier. The story was absolutely intriguing from start to finish, but we will get to that later. 

Character Development: There’s four different characters in this book: Martin Monroe, Lisa Keenan, Simon Wilson, and Derek Henderson. Let’s touch base on each of those for a second. 

Martin is the professor who predicts the crisis. Years before our story takes place, Martin made a bad call on the Haley Bopp comet and has since been branded as a bit of a wackjob. Yet, he refuses to let people ignore him this time. The author paints Martin as a anxious, jittery, somewhat depressed man who would do whatever it takes to look out for the people around him. 

Lisa works on an emergency response team for the government. Her job is simple: put together a statement to the public and help coordinate relief efforts if needed. That gets made a lot more complicated when the power goes out and no one has a working phone. She joins forces with Martin to try and get the news out to the locals, if they can get anyone to believe them in the first place. The author paints Lisa as a kind, determined girl who cares strongly about her job and the people she serves. I was genuinely concerned about Lisa towards the end of the book! No spoilers this time, but I thought she was a goner

Simon is Martin’s closest— and only, really— friend. Having lost his wife a few years back, Simon is a bit of a loner. But, when push comes to shove, Simon will stand up for Martin and his neighbors. I really liked this character. He was helpful but showed a lot of vulnerability when it came to the things he witnessed. 

Last but not least is Derek. As a prison guard, Derek’s job was never easy. The power outage only makes it worse, though. Staff stop coming into work; supplies start running low. Derek’s forced to make one of the hardest decisions of his life. Derek was my FAVORITE character! His story pulled me in. I felt for him, rooted for him, and wanted to cry for him. 

Plot: Now, I know I ranted on and on about the characters, but truly, the best part of this book was the plot. As it follows the four characters, there never was a slow part. Sometimes, I find myself skipping around books that are a bit slower, but I promise you, I read every word of this book. From the moment Simon got the phone call from Martin about the solar flare all the way to the final farewell, I was hooked. 

Each character’s story adds something to the plot. I honestly would have never thought about how a response team would handle a near-apocalypse. Yet, with Lisa, I get to see that. Simon shows us the civilian point of view, including all the looting and stealing and murdering. With Derek, we get to see a man struggle to take care of his family and worry about the people he’s tasked with. 

This story is so immersive. I swear. I felt like I was there the entire time. It almost makes me want to start being a prepper. I’m going to start buying non-electric supplies and stocking up on batteries. First, I need to actually find a flashlight that isn’t my phone. 

The Big Picture here, I believe, is on the fact that we rely so much on electricity. We’d be doomed without it, and this book shows that clearly. It’s scary. 

Pick up this book. You WILL NOT regret it. 

This is the link here to buy it.