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.

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.

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.

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!

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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?

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.

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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

“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.

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.

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.

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.

**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.

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.

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.

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