Book Review #23: Walls of Orion by TD Fox

Orion City is in Quarantine. They have been for a decade now. The people inside have succumbed to the reality of their future– one where they’re never allowed to leave. Yet, the virus that caused them to become prisoners in their own home isn’t an average sickness. It’s a DNA twisting nightmare that transforms normal people into animals. Insane, raging animals.

Courtney is a barista by day, trying to avoid the craziness of her city and her father. She’s bored, though, or at least that’s what the eccentric W tells her. Their friendship is unintentional and feverish, one that includes gun fights and snow storms and homeless children. But when W is around, Courtney isn’t so bored. And that… doesn’t bother her?

When Courtney finds herself on the precipice between “good” and “evil” with her new friend on the other side, she has to ask what kind of life she wants to live– a tame, boring one or a daring, morally gray one? Better yet, can she get used to being a little “crazy”?

The Walls of Orion final cover.jpg
Gorgeous cover, isn’t it?

Style:
I was in love with this from the get-go. I knew I was going to love a book that was labeled as dystopian. But SUPERHERO dystopian?! Hooked. Instantly.

First of all, I want to say that this is a book that’s going to stick with you like glue. Fox just has this way of writing things that you dwell on long after you’ve finished with the book itself. Now only is her descriptive prowess phenomenal, but her way of creating and playing characters that are SO human absolutely blows my mind.

The world-building sucked me in as well. Orion City is by far the dingiest place I’ve travelled this year, through my reading that is, lol. But it’s just so real. I don’t know how else to explain it. Gritty, dingy, and… well, human. You’ve got criminals who are just trying to survive a world that threw them to the curb, you’ve got average citizens getting caught up in things they have no business dealing with, you’ve got families that can’t get over the past– Orion City is real. That’s what makes it such a terrifying place.

As far as length goes, it was a tad on the longer side, but that didn’t deter me at all. I ate every single word with relish. It wasn’t long enough, as far as I’m concerned! I’ll be sobbing over that ending for MONTHS. Or at least until book 2. Lol

Characters:
THIS IS MY FAVORITE PART! With every review I write, I generally have one section of this “outline” that I get really, really excited about. We’ve all got our favorite parts of books. A action-packed sword fight, a swoon-worthy kiss, a smart-mouthed granny– You do you. For me, for this book, it was the beautiful characters.

First of all, you’ve got Courtney. At first, you think she’s a pretty average, boring barista. She goes to work every single day; she makes her way through her routine with little-to-no enthusiasm. Her family is a bit broken: her father pushed her away after their mother left, and her teen brother keeps trying to jam those puzzle pieces back together. I wasn’t impressed with Court when I first met her. Honestly, she kind of bored me. I’m not sure if that was intentional or not, really. Because when W came into her life and he started to change her ideals about the world, she came alive. I liked how level-headed she was and how she wasn’t afraid to break away from the mold of society. She’s a free thinker and can’t be swayed by others telling her she’s “crazy.” Plus, she was NEVER helpless. Even when things started going downhill for her. She never once rolled over and let the men do everything for her. Talk about a strong female lead. Lol

Next, we’ve got Jasper. (I’m saving my favorite for last.) Jasper is an outsider in Orion City. He volunteered to come into the Wall in order to work as a detective. He’s one of the most naive characters I’ve read of in a while. At first, it was kind of charming how silver-lining his perspective was about everything in Orion City. He thinks he can save the world– within the limits of the law, of course. After a while, though, Jasper started to turn my stomach. Again, I think this was intentional. He started pushing Courtney to follow his ideals, started giving her advice she didn’t need, started pushing her boundaries and limiting her alone time…. Call it protective and cute if you will. I’ll stick with being a bit controlling. I didn’t like Jasper.

MY FAVORITE. W. I don’t know how I’m going to tell you about him without giving away some major plot points, but I’ll do my best. W is a bit of an enigma for most of the story. We don’t know a THING about him other than that he’s “eccentric,” to quote Courtney. He’s unconventionally handsome, says some off-the-wall and strange things, orders his coffee with an obscene amount of sugar, but he’s also…. very protective and… um, violent? W is a deep thinker. He forced Courtney to really think about her life and how she wants things to be. I adore how morally gray he is. He does bad, bad things, but good GREIF he does them beautifully and for some respectable reasons. He’s the perfect anti-villain. (I had to google that one, hehe.) I won’t say much more, because I don’t want to ruin it.

Plot:
Ooh, the plot.

When I say this book was one punch after another, I freakin’ mean it. The beginning was a tad slow for me. I worried about it, actually, waiting for it to pick up.

BUT GOOD GOD when it did, I just– I can’t. I just can’t.

It all sort of starts when W enters the picture. And everything just sort of falls like dominos. First of all, you’ve got Jasper’s storyline– the cop chasing the bad guy. In this case, the “bad guy” is a notorious criminal called The Whistler, who can somehow be connected to dozens of crimes and has managed to avoid police since the Quarantine. Then, you’ve got the scientists inside the AITO lab, studying the Changers (people who have gotten the “virus” and changed into animals). Then, you’ve got Courtney over here somehow surviving a wild stand-off with three armed brutes and getting trapped in snowstorms with her “friend” W.

And the romance. Good grief, the romance. This wasn’t as tense as the last book I read, but the feels were strong in this one too! There’s a bit of a love triangle going between Courtney, Jasper, and W. Courtney’s two men are world’s different, and I’m pretty sure you know who I’m rooting for, lol. Some of the romantic tropes present in this book had me falling on my bed in dramatic pining. The “villain” falling at Courtney’s door after he’s been shot, after he disappeared from her life to save her (very Edward-like, if I may say so). The scene where a nightmare wakes Courtney up and he proceeds to hold her and she says “stay, please” and he DOES IT. and I DIE INSIDE. And when they finally kiss. Someone slap me across the face with a wet rag. I need to go touch some grass. UGH.

Fun Quotes (and the notes I took when I read them, lol):
I had to add this part in, because this book has some golden quotes. Golden!

“You’re only as small as the person you see in the mirror. One day, if you’re wily enough, you might make that person change shape.”
My response: Goosebumps. Full body goosebumps.

“Sometimes you need a mask to tell the truth.””The truth of what?”His pale eyes seemed to burn in the shadows. “That one man can make a difference.”
My response: Those two were within pages of each other. I thought I might die. This one hit HARD.

“Behind her, the bed dipped, and two warm arms slipped around her. Open coat adjusted to invite her into its cocoon, (redacted) settled his head on the pillow behind her. Her breath vanished.”
My response: Squeal like a young girl and proceed to throw myself down where I was standing. A full fledged unintelligible meltdown.

Honestly, 10/10. All the stars. All of them.

Social Media Links:
Website: https://www.tdfoxbooks.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tdfoxauthor/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100050711880168
Twitter: https://twitter.com/tdfoxauthor

** I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.🙂 **

Book Review #22: Clandestine by Cynthia Morgan

The year is 2446. Tzadkiel, Archangel of Mercy, has somehow found the one merciful person left on Earth. His job is mostly complete with Lourdes at his side. Nothing but his conscious stands between him and releasing the Final Horseman from his waiting place.

First, though, he needs to find a place to keep Lourdes safe. As love begins to blossom in the French countryside, the twisted Savauge clings to their trails, intent on finding them and keeping Lourdes all to himself. Blinded by lust and rage, he’ll go to any length to get his hands on her.

All three of them will be pushed to the very edge, and there may be no coming back.

Clandestine (Mercy Series Book 2) by [Cynthia A. Morgan]

Before I dive into my actual review, I want to say how THANKFUL I am to Cynthia Morgan, who so gracefully gave me a free copy of the audiobook in exchange for an honest review. I have been DYING to read this sequel since I finished Misericorde, and even though life has been a bit insane and I haven’t had time to write up this review, Clandestine is all I’ve been able to think about. I’ve read other books since then, and I am just…. STUCK on this stinking series. Stuck like Savauge to— You know what, I take that back. Gross. Ick. No. *hits rewind on her life*

Style:
I’ll try to tone down my excitement this time, guys. I’m sorry for shouting at you all. Actually, I’m not. Because once again—

ABSOLUTELY FREAKING FANTASTIC. BREATHTAKING. 

Did you like how I used different adjectives this time around? Heh. Cynthia’s world building continues to blow my mind every time I pick up one of her books. The fantastical, science-fiction environment that somehow blends both reality as it could be in the future and the supernatural world of angels and demons is perfect. Within this book, we get a bit of an insight into the “science” side of things— the instruction manual of Tzadkiel. You half expect these explanations to be boring, but it was far from it. I didn’t mind listening to Little Tzad explaining things to Lourdes. He’s just so sweet. I could never get tired of listening to him.

Last time, I struggled with getting into the story, but with this installment, there wasn’t a lengthy intro. We jump straight in with both feet. It was a journey that took me some time (ten hours, to be precise) because I listened to the audiobook instead of reading it. About an hour a day, here and there, and then on my way to our vacation home, I binge-listened to like four hours at a time. I fully intended to listen to the entire thing on the way down, but I was so worked up about it that I had to take breaks. LOL 

Last style point— TENSION. Good grief, the romantic tension. That’s another reason that I had to stop so frequently. I’ll preface by saying this: I am a very expressive reader. If you watch me read, you’ll know exactly how I feel. So, this book is ROMANTIC. I put it in all caps and bold so you’ll know how important this is to me. Because it’s not the type of romance that’ll make you fan yourself and hide your phone screen. No, no, no. This is like squealing out loud in my car and beating the steering wheel while you blush like a little school girl (I did all of these things). This is the best, innocent style of romance. I was melting in my seat, you guys. I was eating lunch and telling my coworkers about it. It’s been a looooong time since I read anything that was this romantic without being smutty.

Characters:
Now that I’ve talked your ear off about style, buckle up for some character development!! Because there’s a lot of it! YAY! 

Lourdes is back, and she continues to be one of my favorite female characters. I stick to my guns in saying that she is so much more than the sweet, submissive maid that the men think she is. Her bravery really gets tested through this book, and her strength is pushed to a breaking point. I obviously cannot relate to the things she went through in the last scenes of the book, but GOD, did I feel for her. I kept wanting her to get up— murder some people— do something— but I also really understood her predicament. She’s sort of helpless in a very frustrating way, but I get it. So say the least, I am very excited to see her grow even more now that her eyes (and Tzad’s eyes) have been opened to how helpless she really is. Maybe he will teach her how to protect herself. 

Then there’s Tzadkiel. My freakin’ king. I call him Little Tzad, but I should really start calling him King Tzad. Not Kiel because we don’t like that side of him. Yuck. My journey through simpdom continues, and I honestly think hearing the narrator bring life to his voice was the final nail in the casket. Literal goosebumps. It was everything I imaged it to be. There’s growth though, in how Tzad has to tamper down his own demons. The more hatred that grows in him for Savauge, the more he struggles to maintain the “angelic” side of himself. Seeing that play out made him less perfect and more… human? Relatable? All of the above. I simply love him. Periodt. 
Other characters include Levesque, who is 100% redeemed in my eyes, Chevalier, who I believe is the real guardian angel here, and a slew of other people. I won’t dwell too much on them, simply because their role is much smaller than the others and I’ve dragged this on long enough. 

Last but not least is Savauge. To be honest, I wouldn’t even give this man the time of day. If I saw him walking down the street, I wouldn’t cross to the other side. I’d wave down a car and politely ask them to RUN HIM OVER. And when the judge asks me why I assisted in his murder, I’d tell them because the world is a better place without his stinkin’, nasty face. Then, I’d cuff myself. Disgusting human being. I’ve NEVER wanted to punch a character so much in all my life. (Good job, Cynthia, for creating a character that I hate this strongly. Lol. Very well done. But UGH)

Plot: 
*takes several heaving breaths* I’m wearing myself out. I’m too excited. LOL 

I don’t have too much to add, surprisingly, to what I said last time. The multiple POVs are still seamlessly well done. There’s a perfect blend of past and present, allowing us ample insight into Lourdes’ past and the other characters’ thoughts and feelings along the way. 
It probably wasn’t my advice that Cynthia followed, but I did see some things I commented on had changed. Shorter chapters but more of them (16 this time, as opposed to 9) and a trigger warning added to the Amazon description. I genuinely have NO COMPLAINTS. 

Weird, huh?

Once again, I’m gonna have to give his book a heaping 12/10. It’s honestly better than the first, and I cannot wait to read books 3 and 4 when they are released. I’d read Cynthia’s grocery list, at this point, if she’d let me. 

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


Stay tuned for my next review: a dystopian romance that honestly might give Cynthia a rival when it comes to ranking my top reads of the year so far.😉

In the Room With It

I spend so much of my time wishing I was happy. Wishing I was normal. Wishing I could remember things better. Wishing I could smile more, laugh more, sigh (happily, of course) more. I chase after that feeling of contentment like a a beagle after a rabbit— the hunts instinctual and unavoidable and almost so much a part of me that I forget I’m hunting. How long have I been searching for that Thing that seems to easy for other people?

How am I always standing on the other side of a precipice and watching Happiness sail away on a ship with a crew full of the merriest men and women and people? Because there’s always more happy people than there are sad. In this picture, I’m alone. Always.

But the cliff image isn’t really fitting. I wish it was. Watching Happiness sail away with a smirk on her face would be simpler than the truth.

You see, Happiness isn’t so far away. I can see her. 

She’s across the room, everywhere and nowhere, smack dab in the center of a throng of people that I don’t even have the nerve to walk up to. Her very presence attracts a crowd of sunshine faces and songbird laughter. I couldn’t go over there in a million years because I don’t belong with them. I don’t smile all the way to my eyes. I don’t laugh with my head tilted back, beckoning to the moon to join me. I don’t fit in.

I’ve never. Isolation is a friend of mine at this point.

But Happiness does. Happiness stands just there—across that room. So close that I could reach out and shake her. Why won’t you spend time with me? Why can’t we laugh and sing and run hand in hand down perfectly white beaches or careen through dim emerald forests?

I wish she were sailing away from me.

But no. I’m in the room with her. And somehow, that’s a million times worse— seeing her, hearing her, craving her, and knowing she’s always a brush of fingertips away.

Am I happy? No. But I’m in the room with Her.

Credit for the phrase “I’m in the room with it” regarding happiness goes to @billiethedoll93 on TikTok.

Book Review #21: Second Coming of Hell by Joshua Griffith

The world nearly ended years ago. Fireballs fell from the heavens, decimated cities, and changed the surface of the Earth forever. The dead were risen from the grave, and Christians were “reaped” from where they stood. By all outward appearances, it seemed like the Lord had came to unravel the prophecies of Revolutions.

But, years later, Rose Macready and Duncan Morgan– two friends who struggle just to survive in their village of Melona– are about to discover that there’s more than a heavenly hand in what’s happening. Together, they’re thrown into a fallen angel’s twisted plan to take over the Earth. Will they be able to fight their way through ghouls, angels, and vampires and save the planet, or will they fall waste like so many other vigilantes in this broken world?

The Second Coming of Hell by [Joshua Griffith, Judy Griffith]
Image taken from Amazon. Honestly, the cover was what got my attention in the first place! It’s gorgeous!

Style:
I honestly don’t know what I was expecting when I started this book, but this was NOT it. I think I expected a generic “second coming” sort of thing with some prophecy type events and Left Behind feel. But, like…. the opposite happened? I don’t know how to explain it!

First off, Griffith has a unique style that I’m not really sure I like or dislike. It’s a middle taste for me. There are well-written scenes of violence and action– tense and engaging while still being easy to follow– but then there’s romantic bits where the sexual nature of the individuals seems a bit pushed. The story itself is very intriguing and it did keep me reading long after bedtime on more than one occasion, but like… nothing really stood out as spectacular in the writing style itself. Call that personal preference, if you will!

Characters:
Now, this is a part that I cannot praise highly enough. We’ve got a whole SLEW of characters here. The diversity wasn’t something I genuinely did not expect. First, Rose is a sorceress. That’s a given. I struggled at the beginning with what her affinity for magic meant for the history of the world inside the story. I see it as a post-apoc set in our world, but then there’s Rose the sorceress. Don’t get me wrong, I love Rose. She’s a BA. Model female. I just didn’t expect there to be magic in that sense. Rose could have been simply human, and she could have still fit into the story. Things would have been harder for her, but it seems like the whole point of her being magic was JUST to make things easier for the main cast. Point being, I think I’d rather her just be human!

Then, there’s Duncan, which I have absolutely no complains about. He’s a well-rounded, strong, polite male. I liked his committment to his “wife,” even though I hated her from the very first mention of her. I like how he was rough around the edges but opened up to the right person. I even liked what happened with him and Purah. I have absolutely NO complaints!

For our last main protagonist, we have Devlin, who really represents the comedic relief in my book. Yet, he’s another character that I struggled with due to his species. Devlin is a vampire. But… why? Just because his super speed makes it easier to fight the baddies? I’m honestly not that convinced. He could have been a BA human and gotten away with it. His bloodlust did make for some interesting steamy scenes, though, lol.

Now, BADDIES. Sorath is the main antagonist. He’s a fallen angel Hell bent on taking over Earth. He masquerades as Jesus in front of his followers but his true side comes out around the fallen angels. Honestly, he’s everything you want a bad guy to be– punchable and detestable. Very well written and anger inducing but with a good enough of a background that you also kind of feel for the guy. He has some Lucifer-eqsue emotions. I enjoyed his character (although not the things he did– especially to Purah). He got what he deserved.

Plot:
As far as plot goes, I thought it was a generally well-rounded storyline with enough action and balance between POVs to keep me reading. I enjoyed it, even though I had some basic complaints.

Overall, an enjoyable book that I think I might have read too deep into. LOL. If you’re looking for a book that’s got a bit of EVERYTHING, then this is it for you!

Buy the book here!! You most likely won’t regret it. 6/10 for me. 🙂