Book Review #16: Trust (Sensorians Book 2) by Brigitte Morse-Starkenburg

**Be aware, there are spoilers in this review! So, if you haven’t read book 1, which I reviewed here… DO NOT CONTINUE**

All Eliza wanted was to be trusted. She’s been thrown head-first into this new community of people with gifts like hers, and now, they want her to prove she’s on their side.

After a month of isolation, Eliza’s read to face the world again. This time, though, she’s going to take the hunt for her father Rick into her own hands. When she hatches a plan to infiltrate his headquarters, things will quickly get out of hand.

People close to her will be hurt, and the consequences for her actions will be irreversible. Will it be worth it? Will she gain the trust she so desperately wants?

Style:
I love Starkenburg’s style. I’ve reviewed her book before, and I cannot iterate enough how much I LOVE this simplistic, yet emotional style of writing. It isn’t draggy with the descriptions but you can still see clearly the setting and emotions in every single line. Starkenburg really has done it again with a very well-written book. I absolutely gobbled this book down. No regrets at all.

I will say kudos to Starkenburg for fixing the formatting errors that I pointed at in my last review. I had no such issues this time! Aside from a few minor typos here and there, it was a solid read!

Now, I did have one slight issue (Say it with me, “Oh, Lord, of course you did, Amy. *insert heavy eye roll*). I loved this book. Ate it right up. And yet, at times, I was still hungry for more. This book felt like Starkenburg spent a lot of time telling me what was happening without really showing me. I wanted to see Eliza tricking Daniel. I wanted to see them conversing amongst themselves, playing around and relaxing. Some scenes feel very skipped over, and I’d really like to be able to see more. Instead of telling me that Zack was furious with her, show me him stomping away (I mean, he does that anyway, but I fully expect him to stomp like every other dang page).

TLDR; I feel like this book could have been longer and deeper than it was.

Characters:
Our beloved cast is back. Eliza is still in love with Zaphire. Zack is still a pining little snot with anger issues. But we’ve also got a whole new group: Daniel, Ned (old but with a bigger part now), Sam, Phaedra, Irena, I could go on for years, but I won’t.

Eliza is still as strong as ever, although she’s starting to realize she’s not perfect. I like that her character is changing over time– taking bigger risks and wanting to be more independent. She also realizes that she needs help and asks Zack. That was a great decision in my opinion.

Zack is still just as angry as always, and I love him for it, lol. I wish he’d make better decisions, but I understand why he’s making bad ones. He wants a girl he thinks he can’t have. The whole love triangle thing is mega-frustrating. I am glad he met Phaedra, maybe they can have some no-strings-attached time together and get out those frustrations. I really like Phaedra, despite the fact that Zack and Eliza belong together.

Zaphire made me extremely mad throughout this entire book. I tolerated her in book one, but I really just… Ugh. She seems really whiny sometimes, and she doesn’t want to accept the idea that Eliza left her. She’s way too cocky for her own good! And that gets in her in trouble.

Overall, Starkenburg always does an excellent job of creating characters that are both frustratingly and amazingly real at the same time. That’s obvious in how I describe the poor things.

Plot:
Other than the issues I’ve already discussed above, I have no problems with the plot. I would complain about the ending a little bit more, but if you’re a reader who can easily pick one book up after another, you will not complain about the way the end is formatted. It’s a massive cliff-hanger, and I’m just mad that Book 3 isn’t out yet. LOL So, my dislike there is a little bit biased.

Otherwise, the action moves along smoothly and makes perfect sense. As far as I know, there are no plot holes or unanswered questions (other than that STUPID END). Well done, Brige.

If you want to buy Trust or read it through Kindle Unlimited, you can do that here. 🙂

Book Review #15: What Lies Beneath by Michael R. Lowe

The ancient realm of Xovia is in turmoil. A dark, powerful figure known as The Masked One runs rampant across the land, pillaging and kidnapping as he sees fit. This evil entity is searching for the Lost Crowns, which will allow him to ascend to The Empty Throne, thus becoming the ruler of all.

When Arturius wakes up on the edge of a blood-covered battlefield– no memory of who he is or where he comes from– his journey begins. Together, he and a band of exiles take the task upon themselves to stop The Masked One and find the crowns themselves. His journey will be anything but easy, and the truth will be harder to uncover than ever before.

Isn’t this cover just drool worthy?!

Style/Length:
We’ll start with style. What Lies Beneath is an epic dark fantasy, meaning it is LONG and it is WORDY. I think the word I used to describe it was “chonker.” The language can be at times very description heavy and can often times bog the reader down, but this is very much a staple of the genre. If you’re an active reader of my reviews here, then you know I don’t read a lot of this heavy fantasy genre. I can handle some cross-genre stories, light fantasies, etc, but epic fantasy is really not my forte.

It may be after this, y’all.

This book was indeed the longest book I’ve read in a long time, and it did take some time to get moving. It’s not without issues (which I’ll get to in just a moment). Yet, I found myself just blank-staring at the wall after reading the end and WISHING it would keep going. I was both exhausted and amazed and…. blown away that I liked it as much as I did.

As far as issues go, the first three chapters really need to be condensed into a shorter prologue. I understand their significance now, after talking this through with Lowe in our Book Club. Yet, I still think they’re too long. Especially considering that they have nothing to do with Arturius to begin with. They seem very disjointed and a bit confusing.

Another rather small issue (because I loved the plot so dang much) was the amount of errors. It’s going to happen. The more you write, the more words start blending together and you start making little typos. No one is perfect, I know that. Yet, the amount of typos and punctuation errors throughout is sometimes distracting. It takes you out of the story. I suggest that Lowe invests in a line editor (which will be pricey) to go through and pick out the mistakes. I’ve done a lot of the spelling stuff through my notes, but the punctuation errors, I didn’t pick out. A good editor will be able to do that for you.

Characters:
Now, the PEOPLE. In true epic fantasy form, you’ve got a whole cast and crew of characters. They’re a band of brothers (for lack of a better word). I have problems keeping up with a whole bunch of names, but that’s just a personal thing. It wasn’t until past the halfway point that I was really able to start distinguishing between each individual person.

Our story really starts with Arturius (our hero) and Silas (our scholar/helper). As I was reading, I kept referencing Lord of the Rings. It’s one of my favorite movie franchises. Please don’t click away because I haven’t read the books. I tried. I told you I don’t like epic fantasy books; I lack the patience. Yet, I found myself comparing the characters and events to Tolkien’s characters. Arturius is Frodo– but with some killer sword-weilding skills and more height. He has a strong moral compass and fights over and over to do what’s right. I really like Art.

The rest of the group includes Silas: a young and often sheltered, for reasons that are semi-clear right now, scholar; Selwyn: the leader of the band of exiles that I compare to either Gandalf or Aragorn. We will see how one event plays out in his life before I finish that comparison. Then, there’s Garton, who reminds me a bit of Aragorn, cursed and broken but so faithful to the hero; Ozark: the guy who seems to know everything about untold legends, a Legolas in my book, Eskiel (Gimli, lol), Kezin, Robbard, Jorik, Burak, Dovan, Karlan… I’m honestly probably forgetting someone. It’s a list and a half. Sometimes they blend together, sometimes they do not. Some characters are world’s better than others. That’s just the reality, though.

Plot:
For my analysis of the plot, I have to keep in mind: this is an epic fantasy. I can’t look at it with the same glasses as I would one of my sci-fi or romance books.

We do have a rather slow start. Art and Silas are trudging forward to find the exiled crew, fighting their inner demons and some outer battles along the way. In terms of action, not a lot is happening for a while! I’m not a huge fan of the down periods.

About halfway through, things pick up. Fast. Once Art is joined with Selwyn and his men, they start engaging in battles. They travel. They bicker. This is the meat in the burger, y’all. This was by far my favorite part. The action is so well-written, and it doesn’t drag on like you would expect it to after this length world building (necessary for this genre, I know). Plus, the assorted talents of the characters really makes for an interesting read!

Some notes from my reading experience include:

  • “This is like that thing that killed Gandalf. You know– YOU SHALL NOT PASS. That thing.”
  • “OMG ELVES” followed by: “OMG NO! It’s an ent!” (I was wrong on both occasions, lol.)

Overall, a slow, imperfect read that was somehow bursting at the seams with all the potential to be a staple epic fantasy. I would recommend this to anyone who loves Lord of the Rings! It was wonderful, and I am so glad I pushed through to finish it.

8/10 from me.

Follow Michael R. Lowe on the following platforms:
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KGTSSZY/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LoweinXovia
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheEmptyThroneSeries

Book Review #14: Axel Lennart and the Ice World by DMZ Liyanage

Pilot Axel Lennart always thought the Völvur were a myth. After all, what kind of crazy person believes in dark sorcerers? Not Axel, thats for sure.

But suddenly, the Regime (rulers of his planet Eleusis) are swarming the ice fields around his home, looking for the mysterious artifact, one rumored to be an ancient Völvurian weapon. They’re not the only people searching for it, though. A dark presence looms on the horizon, fresh from prison.

Axel finds himself stuck right in the middle of the Regimes hunt for the convict and the artifact. What makes it worse is that he’s started to hear voices! Maybe he’s crazy after all…

Image taken from Amazon.

Style/Length:
This book absolutely FLEW by. I started it one day and felt like I was done the next. It took me about four days to read, but that’s because I was trying to pace myself. Trust me, it won’t take you that long!

Amazon has it marked at 242 pages which is a bit short for what I normally read, but it’s also marked at a early YA (not quite middle grades, imo) book. So, that length sounds about right. It’s a scifi book that honestly reminds me a lot of Star Wars– the snarky humor, the comedic bots, the starship fights, SPACE. It’s all very Star Wars to me. There’s even “the force,” it’s just been given a different name: sorcery.

Characters:
So, we’ve really only got one main characters and a whole bunch of side characters. Which I actually struggled to balance in my head. Weird, huh?

Axel first! Axel Lennart is a young pilot who honestly reminds me of a young Han Solo. He’s feisty, a terribly flyer, and often doubts himself– like any teenager would. He’s also incredibly brave, though, and he’s willing to put his life on the line for others. I really like Axel! What I don’t like is that there’s not a lot of growth from him as a main character. He does “grow” in the sense that he learns more about himself and his history, but his personality doesn’t. Nothing too wrong with that; it’s a very heavily plot-driven book.

As far as side characters go, you’ve got… The Proxy: Eleusis’s “leader” who is surprisingly benevolent through the story. A good breath of fresh air. Kjolborn: Axel’s adoptive father and a bit of an enigma himself. Let’s hope book two sheds some light on that. Chuck: Axel’s best friend, the perfect sidekick. Blix: Axel’s crush (every YA book needs a loooove interest, lol) who has her own mysterious connection to Völvur, I believe. Bodo: the guy who gives me serious Yoda/Dobby vibes. He’s like a mix between the two. I don’t know how else to describe him. Overall, there’s a large cast and Liyanage does a really good job of balancing the crew. Each character is easily their own, with personality and quirks to back it up. She’s created a wonderful little community here!

Then, there’s the protagonists. Ugh. Protector-9, or just Nine, is a Security Chief and by far the most detestable person in the entire book. He’s ruthless, evil, and overall just… EW. Axel is a child, for Pete’s sake, be nicer to him! Or at least be a little less… EVIL. I don’t know. And then, you’ve got Berau, who is a jealous little snot who needs to stop blaming Axel for all of his problems. That’s all I’ve got to say. Oh, and Berau: when a woman is literally backing away from you in fear, take a hint, you creep.

Plot:
Phew. Plot. Liyanage starts strong with a very Star Wars-like race through space (hehe, I rhymed). Axel has a debt to settle and the only way he can do it is if he wins the Banren Run. It isn’t an easy task, but it is very entertaining and a fantastic start to the story. Throughout the race, and into the end, even, you’re thrown bits of this mystery. It’s in the background, though. I like that. It was almost like the Völvur bits were Wraiths, whispering to me.

Liyanage keeps you hanging on until the very last page. This was one of those stories where I knew I had like fifty pages left to finish and was utterly SHOCKED when it stopped. I have trouble with this and ebooks. The endings always sneak up on me. Either way, it’s very well done on Liyanage’s part.

Solid 9/10 from me. 🙂 Buy Liyanage’s book here!

Check out DMZ Liyanage on the following platforms:
Website: https://www.axellennartbooks.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Axel-Lennart-Books-580495335979994
Twitter: https://twitter.com/z_liyanage
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/d.m.z.liyanage
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08FQ272DR

Book Review #13: The Sanctuary by Lauren Rigby

In a world torn apart by war, people flee to The Sanctuary for “safety.” What greets them though is a divided society where the High live in splendor, and the Slums are overrun with poverty and filth. The inhabitants aren’t supposed to mingle.

Selena and Rowan can’t help it, though. After a passionate start to their romance, things only go downhill, and years after their initial meeting, life only gets more complicated. Can love prevail and save them from the horrors of The Sanctuary? Or will evil win once and for all?


Style/Length:
Amazon has The Sanctuary marked at 288 pages, which seems about right. Once I got into the story line (which actually took me a minute), it moved along splendidly. The plot runs smoothly with enough twists and turns to make you want to keep reading but not so much that I feel like I’m being jostled around.

There are times, though, when the writing feels flat. It’s either not descriptive enough or too descriptive. There’s not really a happy middle ground. I think with a good run through by an editor, this story could be very well-polished and come out a shining star. That being said, I still really, really enjoyed it.

The Sanctuary reminds me a lot of my other favorite dystopian books. Forbidden romance between two people who are on different spectrums of society reminds me of Katniss and Peeta; overbearingly controlled government reminds me of The Giver; the culling process reminds me a lot of The Hunger Games and The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. This book is full of tropes that any dystopian fan will find comforting.

Characters:
There are a handful of characters throughout the storyline, and most of them remain consistent. Selena and Rowan are clearly the two main, but side characters include Madge and her son Clive, Lucas and his wife Camille, Caleb and Cole, and then the two antagonists Jerome and Troy. Let’s talk about a few of these.

We’ll start with Selena because I really like her. She’s a strong woman that turns into an excellent mother. I haven’t read a lot of dystopian books where the main character actually is old enough to HAVE children. This was a nice change for me, as a mother. LOL. Selene is very devoted to her two boys and would do anything for them– even when she falls for the valiant Rowan. What surprised me the most about Selena was actually the fact that she didn’t change who she was for Rowan. She didn’t stop being a mother. Actually, she tells him time and time again that the boys come first.

Rowan, on the other hand, was not my favorite to start out with! He grew on me, a little, once he stopped being so dang creepy. Sure, it was fine when the two of them first got together. He was sweet and charming. But then they break up due to Caleb’s conception, and he basically follows her around for the next eight (approximately, I have forgotten the exact number) years. Who does that? Stalkers. That’s who.

If you don’t know who this is, then… Watch the show You. That’s all I can say.

And then, he makes some really creepy comments about her breasts when she was pregnant, and its all just a little too much. Too strong for me. Now, he stops doing this. Like I said, he grew on me. I actually really like how he stepped up for both of Selena’s boys, even though one of them wasn’t his. Plus, he is her knight in shining armor (no spoilers). I don’t know; Rowan and I have a love-hate relationship.

Not let’s talk about the antagonists, because in the blurb it says “a truly hate-worthy villain,” and let me just say HOT DANG it isn’t wrong. Troy is the main antagonist and I just wanted to KNOCK HIM THE EFF OUT. Like honestly. He’s disgusting; he gives me the heebie jeebies, and I hope I never hear the words “pussy cat” ever again in my life. Ugh. That’s all I’ll say.

Plot:
As far as plot goes, I have no complaints here! I loved how the story moved, and I really found myself tangled in with the characters as they fought to make it out of this mess in one piece. It kept me reading, that’s for sure.

If you’re a fan of the dystopian genre, I don’t think you’ll regret picking this book up. I’ll be waiting for the next book, that’s for sure.


Follow Lauren Rigby on the following platforms:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/laurenrigbyauthor/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/Authorlaurenrigby
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sanctuary-Lauren-Rigby-ebook/dp/B08L9RD3H7

Oh, yeah. ADD.

Sometimes, I get lost going from point A to—


Where was I?


A thousand trains of thought zip past a single stationary point, and my eyes flit over each individual one. I find myself more concerned with the shape of my thumbnail— Good God, why is that side so flat when the other is round— than with the task I’ve already lost sight of. Wearing Overthinking like a designer backpack, hunched like Quasimodo— and there goes my brain again singing I am deformed and I am ugly.


No. Stop.

Why do I do this? Why are thoughts nothing more than vapors that slip through my fingers, droplets of water that slide down my hydrophobic body as I penguin through another Arctic Sea? If I focus on one shooting star overhead, if I try and hold it still in my hand— like a blue-haired anime boy named Howl— will it eat my heart out or stay with me?


No, neither. It will twist and deform itself into a metaphysical monster, grappling for another crevice in my body to climb like I’m nothing more than plastic rocks on a fake wall. Then, the monster will make its home in the cavern that is my head. It’s a tight fit— who will scoot over to make room: Yesterday’s Regrets or Tomorrow’s Anxiety’s? When I’m ready for that shooting star thought, I’ll reach down into Samara’s well and pray that A Mother’s Guilt doesn’t tear my arm from its socket.


How am I ever supposed to concentrate when my thoughts are a labyrinth and David Bowie is orchestrating a musical number between my breaths? Do you expect me to be able to remember anything when time has gone all wibbly wobbly and nothing/everything makes sense?

I know there’s a name for this feeling of chasing my own words around in circles, a dog chasing its tail. For the way my feet and fingers and hands and body need to always be moving; the perpetual motion of my mind shoved down into my body before it overflows into SCREAMS.


I know there’s a name for this.


But that thought must’ve taken the one a.m. train to Phoenix. I guess I’ll see you when you get back. Have a nice trip.

Book Review #12: Oath Breakers by Andrei Saygo

Quick Synopsis:
Robert Connor seemingly lives a normal life. He goes to work, comes home, works out at the gym, and enjoys his free time with his maine coon Ariel. But underneath his regular exterior, Rob has a secret.

He sees invisible assassins. Or rather hashashins, as he’s dubbed them.

On one particular night out with his friends, Rob’s spidey-senses tingle and a hashashin attack lands him right in the hands of the mysterious Dea– who reveals later that she’s actually a powerful witch.

Robert is suddenly thrown head-first into the world of magic and covens, fighting to protect his new flame and find out more about his own background.

Style/Length:
I love urban fantasy. I don’t like normal fantasy all that much, but this genre is where it’s at. This book is everything you want in urban fantasy. A sensible, realistic magic system, background that actually makes sense, power balances, histories… It’s all there. I adore the world that Saygo has crafted where magic blends so seamlessly into our current history and aids in explaining some of the more gray areas we have.

This book also fits into the action genre, though. Robert is trained in various martial arts and has to fight both man and creature through out the entire book. These scenes are beautifully written! I was able to follow every punch and kick and roll and hit, all while not getting bored or skimming over the words. And trust me, I have a problem skimming.

As far as the length goes, it was– once again– perfect. No complaints whatsoever. Sitting right at 20 chapters long and 292 pages, it took no time at all to read once I got started. Plus, it’s such a page turner that you’ll never want to put it down. The night I finished it, I told myself at the start of chapter 18: “Amy, you need to stop reading.” And my brain responded, “Ha. No. Not at all.” And I finished it. Oof.

Characters:
This book really has two main characters. Robert Connor and Dea Mitchell. Let me dive into each.

Robert Connor is a computer specialist. He’s a bit of a nerd, often referencing sci-fi movies and making obscure jokes that no one but the reader will get. The references had me laughing out loud. If you don’t follow my Goodreads, you really need to. (Do that right here!) because I took notes as I read and was cracking myself up. Robert’s fantastic. He’s a gentleman but not too pushy with it. He’s confident but not cocky. He knows his limits and doubt himself constantly when dealing with Dea. Plus, he has a dope cat and loves her to much that its absolutely adorable. He is by far the best male protagonist that I’ve read of late. That’s how much I adore him.

Now Dea. She’s gorgeous. She’s mysterious. She’s sweet and alluring and powerful, and… Lord, this girl has it all. I’m almost tempted to call her a bit of a MarySue sort of character. But Saygo could almost get away with her perfection because of how much I like Robert. Dea doesn’t really have any flaws, unless you could her overprotectiveness (which I don’t). She does have a bit of an overbearing family, though. But who wouldn’t when you’re a century old coven? I’m interested to find out more about Dea in the next book BECAUSE THERE HAD BETTER BE ONE OR I’LL RIOT


Plot:
“Okay, fine, fine. I’m cool. I’m fine.” ~Hades from Hercules

As far as plot goes, I’ve already touched on most of the praises I have for the storyline. It moves along at a perfect speed; there’s just the right amount of twists and turns that it keeps you going. You’ve got a constant air of mystery around Dea and her family as well as Robert’s past. Yet, Saygo definitely goes into enough detail in the down time to explain things that are happening.

The only issue I had with the storyline itself was when the FBI got involved. I won’t spoil anything this time. But the FBI reveals a sliver of information that I’m not really sure they would have in real life. At first, I thought, “Well, maybe that’ll be important for later,” but it never came back into play. I hope I didn’t miss anything.

Anyway, the whole thing reminded me of Harry Potter (but for adults) and The Magicians (that TV show on Netflix but without the cussing). So, I LOVED this. Caps-lock all the way.

Definite 10/10!

**I read this for a book club that I’m in!**

Buy this book on Amazon! Click here, or on the picture of the cover above.

Book Review #11: Bells and Spells by Lana Melyan

Quick Synopsis:
Ali and her friends are students at the Academy for Magic where each of them are popular in their own way. Students clear the hallway when they start coming!

But each of them harbors a secret…

When their common enemy summons Knock-Knock Santa (a twisted and evil creature), their lives and holiday are thrown into turmoil. It’s up to Ali to discover the truth about this creep and help save her friend’s Christmas.

Style/Length:
This was actually a novella! I was able to finish it in under a week– during the work day! GASP Well, obviously, I read after work, but I didn’t stay up until two a.m. with this one. It was a quick, little read and I appreciated that.

Melyan’s style was a lot different than what I’ve been reading lately. As a novella, the entire thing had to be to the point. So, the background and descriptions and such are left to conversation. I really liked that! There’s no long, drawn up backstories, no overwhelming descriptions… It’s just a simple, easy to read story about some teenage girls and their teenage problems.

Characters:
This novella has a slew of characters. Good on Melyan for making them all different, too! Ali is the main character, but her friends Millie, Debbie, and Valerie (I just noticed that all their names end in the same ee sound, lol) each have an important role in the plot. They balance each other out VERY well.

I thought it was hilarious when time after time Debbie turns into the comedic relief. Locked in a creepy Christmas cottage? “Where’s the wine?” Debbie asks. She’s also always worried about food, and I can 100% relate to that. She’s absolutely hilarious.

In terms of the character of Caleb (which I won’t ruin by telling you who HE is), I was intrigued. There’s an air of mystery around him throughout the story, and it continues on past the end. I don’t know if there’s going to be a continuation of this story involving him, but if there is, sign me up. Also, note to Melyan: You missed the obvious opportunity to name him Nick instead. You had one shot and you blew it. *eye roll* Seriously, though, I liked all the characters.

Plot:
I didn’t know what to expect from this storyline. I’m not a huge Christmas person, so I was kind of hesitant reading a story so closely knit with the holiday. Luckily for me, though, there’s not really much here in terms of traditional Christmas tales. It is definitely not a Hallmark movie (thank the LORD).

I found the plot to be both compelling and easy to follow. It was believable, and an entertaining read over all. Some of the girls’ dramatics were a bit much, but they’re teenagers. Of course they’re extra.

Overall, I’ll give this one a nine! Well written, easy to read, great characters… It was a nicely rounded book! Good job, Melyan.

You can find more information about Lana Melyan and her book Spells and Bells by clicking the following links.
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Bells-Spells-Academy-Magic-Novella-ebook/dp/B08M6FC3QC
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/svetlana.melyan.1
Website: https://www.lanamelyan.com

**Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review #10: Darkness of Wolves by Nicole Bea

Wynrie Lowe doesn’t understand what’s happening to her. After That Weekend, she’s been on a downward spiral of emotions– ranging from empty nothings to panicked highs and everything in between. She can’t get a grip on her emotions. At all.

It doesn’t help that her best friend Dawson just left for the military or that her boyfriend Ezra just doesn’t hold the same spark he used to or that she’s lost all interest in the things she used to love. If she can’t figure out her feelings for the two boys in her life, it might ruin what the three of them have. Yet, if she can’t figure out her emotions, there might be nothing left to fix after she explodes.

Style/Length:
I read this book by request of the author, who gave me a free copy of two of her books (Skin will be here in a week or two, Nicole, promise). I love YA books because that’s where my love of books started. I feel like I’ve been reading YA all my life, and I never want to stop. That wonderful teenage angst keeps me going. I’ve not read much YA lately because my author groups are lacking in that category, but I’m glad to be back in my niche.

So, about the length– I have no complaints. I believe I started reading on Saturday and finished on Monday night. Three days is about average for me. It did have a bit of a slow start for me, but we will get to that later in the “Plot” section of my review. According to Amazon, it’s about 134 pages (it doesn’t translate so easily in the kindle app, because it says 2000-something pages and that’s not the same as page flips, so get it together Amazon). That’s a short book for me, which might explain the contradiction between an average read and a slow beginning.

Nicole’s style is very YA. There’s a few “breaths he didn’t know he was holding” and “touch sent sparks,” but again, it’s a YA romance. I expect a little bit of this throughout. It feeds me, LOL. Darkness isn’t overpacked with descriptions, but the ones you get are very detailed. Again, I appreciate that. Overworked descriptions are why I can’t read a lot of fantasy books.

“Amy, I thought you were going to do better about telling your qualms as well as your praises!” Oh, don’t worry, reader. I’m getting there.

Characters:
This book really has three main characters– Wynrie, Ezra, and Dawson. I’ll go into each one just a little bit.

I like Wynrie. I really do. She’s extremely relatable for me (a person who also sometimes suffers from these unexplainable lows and bouts of incurable depression). She’s suffering throughout the book, and that’s so obvious. I mean, she kissed Dawson for goodness’ sake! What about kissing your childhood best friend is simple?! Nicole paints this dark picture of a girl with a severe mood disorder, bordering on suicidal depression, who really doesn’t have a clue what’s going on. We see everything: sleepless nights, screaming on high days, yearning for physical touch, unexplained mood swings, crying at the slightest inclination, etc etc etc. It’s extremely realistic. Good on you, Nicole for nailing that.

Ezra is… um… I don’t know, really. I want to like him, I do! He worries about Wyn throughout this, but he doesn’t really understand what’s happening to her either. He’s very inflexible in what he expects from her. Or as Wyn would say, “He’s nothing if not consistent.” That’s just a way of saying he’s stuck– but nicely. What I don’t like about Ezra is his frustration and the way he handles her lows. *SPOILERS COMING* Wyn thinks about breaking up with him throughout the entire book, and then he finally gets “tired” of her mood swings and breaks up with her, which of course sends her in an even worse downward spiral. Don’t think saving her life makes up for the fact that you handled it wrong, Ezra. Also: her old best friend? Really? Despicable.

Now, Dawson– that’s a character I can get behind. Phew. He is just… *chef’s kiss* That’s a boy who understands the phrase “It’s okay not to be okay.” He is so supportive of Wyn throughout the entire book, although it might also be slightly his fault that That Weekend happened. Dawson has his own problems. I mean, he did maybe get a girl pregnant, but he never once lets Wyn down, and I can get behind that. Plus: Bear? What a cute freaking nickname? Ugh.



Well done on the characters overall. They were realistic, consistent, well-developed characters. None were too similar, but they also weren’t world’s different.

Plot:
Now, this is where I do have some issues.

The basic plot is this: Wynrie accidentally kissed Dawson one weekend. She was dating Ezra at the time, though. So, she has this inner conflict about whether or not to tell Ezra about her new feelings for Dawson. She doesn’t want to lose either of them.

  1. I can’t get behind someone who cheats. She should have told Ezra right away and dealt with the consequences.
  2. SHE NEVER TELLS HIM. Are you serious?! I mean, the problem solves by itself but UGH.

I sent Nicole a message about 30% of the way into the book because I was slightly confused. This book reads like a sequel. There’s a lot of events that happen pre-book and characters we never see/meet that are extremely important to the plot. Robbie and Harper are crucial to Wynrie’s spiral but they never actually appear. Their whole story happens pre-book. We don’t ever get to see That Weekend except through Wyn’s memories.

I honestly think this book would be a LOT better if it was a sequel! There could be so much more character development if we knew Wyn before all of this. Maybe I’d actually like Ezra if I knew what happened before this (or maybe I’d sympathize with him a little). It’d be a really good duology where the first book is about the events leading up to That Weekend and then Darkness is about what happens post- That Weekend. Think about it, Nicole.

Overall, it was a good book. I really did enjoy it, despite the issues I had. I’d give it a…. 7/10. If you’re a fan of teen angst, love triangles, or realistic descriptions of depression, pick this book up. You can buy it here or here or by clicking the picture of the cover above.

You can follow Nicole Bea through the following platforms
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nicolebeawrites/
Website: https://www.nicolebea.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/nicolebeawrites

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. 😂