Book Review #24: Tempting Fate by Emily Stormbrook

Miranda Grace Avery is a disappointment. A disgrace. Unloved. Disgusting. Responsible for her sister’s death. Useless.

And tired. Oh, so tired.

Maybe that’s why, after eleven years of torture at the hands of her abusive husband, Miranda bolts, faking her own death and running back to the only place she’s ever felt safe– Barrett’s Bay. But keeping her identity a secret won’t be as simple as a stack of fake IDs and a duffle full of bloody cash. Especially when her teenage crush– the breathtakingly handsome, knight in shining armor, Jesse– still harbors feelings for her and everyone else in town could pick her out of a busy crowd. Can Grace keep her past at bay and finally find happiness in the arms of Jesse Fateson, or will the things she’s running from catch up to her?

Tempting Fate: A Barrett's Bay Romance (Broken Fate Book 1) by [Emily Stormbrook]

Stormbrook has crafted a breathtaking erotic thriller that will leave you holding your breath to see what happens next– and next– and next. The suspense never ends. From the intro scene to the very last page, I never wanted to stop. The plot itself is absolutely magnificent– bordering on perfect. You’ve got typical romance tropes (strong, handsome men with hero complexes), and then, you’ve got very real, very personal mental health topics. Stormbrook doesn’t shy away from any of it.

I was concerned that Grace would kind of fall into the “weak and helpless” category, but goodness, was I ever wrong. Time and time again, she’s able to pull herself out of a dead-end situation. She’s the epitome of self-sufficient while also being very vulnerable and real. I’ve never related to a character’s feelings like I did with Grace at the end.

A spectacularly dark, passionate novel. Solid 9/10. So much better than I was expecting.

Book Link: https://www.amazon.com/Tempting-Fate-Barretts-Romance-Broken-ebook/dp/B0927QDMKT


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 #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. 🙂

Book Review #20: Illusion by Joseph Phelps

The allure of Blacklight Industries’ most immersive experience, The Life of Crime, has made it the world’s premier crime game, bringing users back to the 21st century, where they can shape the world with absolute freedom. For good or bad.

Players build crews, control turf, and fight for power and status along the way. Each server is home to a unique metropolitan city, and the West Coast US server, Illusion, is under attack. For the first time in the game’s history, an entire server is threatened with total takeover by an unscrupulous and power-hungry crew known as GoonStorm.

When Kurt finds himself expelled from college and without any prospects of employment, he joins the game at the request of his best friend Jimmy, albeit three years after the initial release. Needless to say, he has a lot to learn. The pair quickly fall in with the game’s most famous driver, the mysterious Getaway Gal, and find themselves a part of a dangerous campaign to stop Illusion’s most powerful guild from taking over the server.

Outmanned and outgunned, Kurt and company are going to have to use every trick in the book to save Illusion from falling into the wrong hands.

(This blurb is taken from Amazon, as I stared at my computer for 4 hours trying to figure out how to sum this book up. LOL)

Illusion: The Blacklight Chronicles: Book One by [Joseph Phelps]
Isn’t this cover gorgeous? Taken from Amazon, of course.

I honestly don’t even know where to start! Haha. I’m at a loss for words.

For starters, I will say that Phelps has done a magnificent job of creating this immersive world around a single game. Down to the background things like AI behavior and game mechanics and the power-balance system, everything has been thought of. It’s a well-formed, creative world above all else.

Not only is the world well made, but the characters are also phenomenal. There’s not one MC that I didn’t genuinely like (or at least interested me!). Some of the GoonStorm players made me want to stick my tongue out at them, but that’s a pretty basic form of dislike. And that’s nothing towards their author! Oddly enough, it wasn’t the main MC that I found myself intrigued by. I was genuinely annoyed by how slow he was when it came to catching on and finding his niche within the game. I preferred Jimmy with his cut and dry sense of humor and his love of BIG weapons and Kitty, actually, with her devil-may-care attitude and love of FIRE.

Speaking of Kurt, actually, it took me a really long time to figure out if he was even worthy of being a main character. He just wasn’t as interesting as the other two, and I struggled to relate as much as I should. I only held off saying something because I wondered if my opinion would change, and it did. I understand his importance. It just took me a while.
The biggest issue I had (and I think it’s a stylistic, preference sort of thing) was the drawn out descriptions of the weaponry and vehicles within the game. I have this bad habit of kind of glazing over when reading over long detailed paragraphs so that I can hurry on to the plot parts. Sadly, I found myself doing this quite a lot in the beginning and middle of the book. I’ll tell you why I didn’t do it at the end later. I think its good to leave the reader a little bit more room to fill in the gaps themselves so that they can create their own images in their minds. I prefer this actually. It’s no fun if you do it all for me.

I also wasn’t a huge fan of the back-to-back action. But that’s the plot! I get that. So, I know this is a definite preference issue. So, I’m not going to rag on this one for long. I felt like I could never catch a breath before Kurt’s trio were right back to getting into trouble. Although!! My favorite two action scenes were when they played Fox and Hound (because I thought his tactics really brought out his strength as a player and his personality) and then when Kitty basically told the GoonStorms her plan and then BLEW UP THE ENTIRE CITY. I like her guts, lol. She’s a woman of her word, and I can stand by that.

Overall, I’m going to give it a 4 simply because it wasn’t my style. It was still a phenomenal book, though. I feel like I’ve just completed a major accomplishment, lol. If you’re an action fan and like sitting on the edge of your seat, don’t hesitate to pick this book up.

You can buy a copy of Illusion here! Or read it for free with Kindle Unlimited.

Book Review #19: Witch’s Return by Sionna Trenz

Sonya’s life outside of Stargazer Island was nothing short of torturous. An overbearing, abusive stepfather and an controlling, condescending mother maneuvered her life like two evil puppeteers. But she’s back now– out of their grip and away from their power. Her one true love and an motley crew of gifted friends welcome her in with open arms, and Sonia is able to finally take a deep breath and relax.

Or so she thinks.

Her return to the island (a safe haven for an assortment of supernatural species) brings a dark presence along with it. A man’s death serves as the first breaking of the seals in a larger ritual, but the problem is, Sonya has no idea what ritual is starting. If she doesn’t figure it out before the last seal is unbroken, Hell with be unleashed on the island. Literally.

Witch’s Return (Stargazer Island Series Book 1) by [Sionna  Trenz]
Image taken from Amazon

Style:
I’m not a fantasy fan. I’m not. *Amy, you say this every single time. Stop repeating yourself.* BUT THIS IS FANTASY. It’s an Adult Fantasy Romance, and I’m giving it FIVE stars, y’all. Five. Stars. Let me tell you why.

First of all, Trenz has managed to weave a huge assortment of fantasy elements into one neatly-made basket. You’ve got shifters, brownies, demons, ghosts, witches… In my inexperience with the genre, I’m blanking on more. But I know they’re there. Even as someone who doesn’t read a lot of this genre, I was easily able to keep up.

Second, going with the point above, Trenz somehow managed to keep my attention– even though some of the species and magical rules required some foundation. The magical system in the book is new– to me, anyway– and while it definitely had to be explained, I wasn’t falling over drooling. It was short and succinct but definitely just enough for me to say, “Oh. Makes sense. Moving on.” Often as I read, I glaze over parts like that. Not this time.

I also need to include this in here: Third, this is a ROMANTIC book. I didn’t expect that when I first started reading. I won’t spoil who ends up with who, but HOT DANG, it was beautifully written. No cringey word usage (you know the ones I’m talking about with a steamy book), and no scenes that made me want to puke. The intimate scenes were exactly that, INTIMATE. There was all this talk about “going to the stars” and “exploding together” and “stardust” and good Lord, it was so perfect and sweet that I might need to visit a dang dentist now. I absolutely loved it.

Characters:
So, like most fantasy books I’ve reviewed, this book has a bit of an ensemble cast. There’s Sonya’s friends: Liam, Sam, Rowan, Celia, and Sage. Then later we add Mason, Grace, Siobhan, and so… many… more. Then, there’s the townspeople, Sonya’s parents, the deities involved in the ritual… So many characters, y’all.

I won’t spend too much time analyzing each and every character; that would take half a year. I just want to talk about the two main protagonists (Sonya and Liam) and the main antagonists (Albert and Sonya’s mom- Eleanor).

Sonya is the perfect protagonist. Troubled past, but strong and resilient through it all. Strong connection to her natural magic and talented at using it. She’s so dedicated to her island and is more than willing to give her everything for it. I like her a LOT. Liam, quite like Sonya, is the perfect Knight of Stargazer Island. He’s sweet, charming, strong, DREAMY. He’s like the Kristoff to Sonya’s Anna– the absolute puzzle piece support system. He’s not trying to run the show (which I appreciate), but he’s definitely strong enough to take over when she needs him too.

Now the antagonists. I’ve never wanted to smack someone as hard as I want to hit ALBERT. Even his name makes me want to just…

But, like, isn’t that a compliment? Lol. Shouldn’t we all want to smack a good villain? Now Eleanor– Shame on you. You’re a terrible excuse for a mother. I find it hard to say you deserved what you got, because I’m not that evil. But I am ashamed of the things you did. Periodt.

My one complaint about the massive cast was that everyone seemed very overpowered. I picked that up in the beginning when the plot was slower, when Sonya needed a person with one specific power and then someone else magically had that exact power she needed, but as the story went on and things picked up, I sort of forgot that it was an issue. Clearly, I didn’t even deduct a star for it, so it must not be a huge problem. Lol.

Plot:
As far as plot goes, I have absolutely no complaints. A super sweet main romance, several side digs between side characters, a strong main plot line filled with magic and mystery and action, and then there’s the potential for more installments when everything’s said and done. It kept my attention from beginning to end and even had me staying up late to read another chapter (or two, I won’t lie).

I genuinely, really, really enjoyed this novel. I’ll be picking up Book 2 at my earliest convenience. 9/10– Would read again.

You can buy Sionna Trenz book here! Then, go follow her on these social media platforms.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/sionnasstargazers/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sionnatrenz

Book Review #18: Wizards and Wives’ Tales by Kate Messick

Paula’s life revolves around two things: RPG and her friends. Everything else is secondary… her job, her exercise regimen, finding love. It doesn’t help that she feels like she’s not very good at her job and not the right type of girl to sweep the tall, well-dressed Luis off his feet.

Joe is an ocean away from the two people he loves the most: Dillon and Sandy. A new job, new people to play with, and a whole new world of problems. This should be simple, but Paula GMing style clashes with him (as does a few of her friends).

Can the two get past their differences and somehow manage to run a successful game? Even better, will something new blossom out of the wreckage of both of their lives?

Image taken from Amazon.

Style:
I don’t know why, but I feel like I’m falling in love with LitRPG. It’s almost like two stories wrapped up into one— the main “real world” story and then the campaign. This litRPG novel is somehow nothing like the others I’ve read, and yet, I love it none the less.

Like i said, two stories in one here! And I feel like that takes special talent! Not only do we have two well-balanced storylines that interweave absolutely seamlessly, we also have two sides to EACH character. Honestly, the level of skill this would take to write blows my mind. Each different POV is written so distinctively that I had absolutely no trouble bouncing from eye to eye, and I enjoyed each and every one of them.

While it is an indeed complex book in the layers of characters and plot lines, the style isn’t over complex. It was very easy to follow and understand from beginning to end. It was a average length read that took me about a week. With my busy schedule, that’s about normal.

Characters:
I’ve kind of talked about this already, but I can’t praise Messick enough for her talent in characterization. Honestly, every single character she wrote is a separate individual, and they all stood out from each other. No bleeding over or confusion at all.

The main characters are by far Some of my favorite I’ve read in a while. Paula is the epitome of a relatable character—less than confident, less than perfect, less than traditionally beautiful, and definitely not without fault. At the same time, though, she cares endlessly for her friends and would go to any lengths to ensure their happiness and safety. I was constantly rooting for her, even when I wanted to strangle her for not kicking Business Suit (for spoiler’s sake, I won’t say his name) out the moment he started being a controlling jerk.

Joe is not as perfect as Paula is in my eyes, but I like that he’s the typical protective male type without being too overbearing on anyone. He also has lingering issues, but don’t we all? And I mean, I love a woman fixing a troubled man. 😂😂

Overall, no complaints on characters! Last note: I appreciate that the office cat had his own chapters! It really added to the story in a unique way. I’ve never seen anything like that before. It was fantastic and hilarious.

Plot:
I don’t want to go too deeply into this, because I want everyone who reads this to go pick up a copy of this book. You NEED to. I don’t say that lightly.

I often abuse the term “page-turner” because I am a known book-aholic. I won’t deny that. But this book was indeed a page-turner. It had absolutely everything you might want– romance, action, fantasy, RPG. You name it, this book had it. The action kept me reading long after I was supposed to be in bed and brought me back after I finally had no choice but to put it down. The romance had me squealing and swooning (and even wanting to smack someone), but it wasn’t so overly done that I felt like gagging. And then THE FANTASY. I don’t do fantasy. I feel like a fish thrown into a desert when I read it. But this was simple enough (and well explained) that I wasn’t confused.

My one complaint was that the epilogue (I’d have to check back, but it was post-story definitely) didn’t really feel necessary. The story felt nice and wrapped up with a pretty red bow on the top, and then– there’s more? **SPOILER** The engagement wasn’t really needed in my opinion, and I could have been perfectly happy without it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they got together! shrug

Even if you’re not a RPG player– you NEED this book. You won’t regret it. I’m giving it a full 10/10.

You can buy the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Wizards-Wives-Tales-Adventure-Rolling-ebook/dp/B08JTGW2G6

AND follow Kate Messick on the following social media sites:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KateMessickAuthor
Her blog: https://justapotato.com/

Book Review #17: Dark Little Women by RL Wood

HEEEEEEY!! Long time, no see!!

I took a very long break from reviewing to finish up Book 2 of the Idyllic Series! It’s been sent out to my lovely beta readers and I’m so excited to start cleaning it up for publication!

But today, I’m here to tell you about this book I recently read!

Synopsis:
Long ago, Dorian made a deal with the Dark One– immortality in exchange for her enemies to suffer. There was a string attached, though. Now, her eternal life is tied to a portrait that will age instead of her. She spent the first few centuries living her life to the fullest.

Then, guilt caught up to her, and she decided to instead spend her time rehabilitating other immortal souls. She must all deliver 100 souls to the Dark One in order to become mortal again.

Together, Dorian and her team of unlikely friends will try to rehabilitate as many souls as possible. Yet, even the “best” of people have a dark side, and when you’ve partnered up with the infamous Doctor Jekyll, things are bound to get worse before they get better.

Dark Little Women : Fractured Horror Tales: A Dark Fantasy by [R.L. Wood]
Cover taken from Amazon! Click to go buy!

Style:
I knew I was going to like this book just from the description! I wanted to read it long before I actually got started, and boy, I wasn’t wrong!

Wood is clearly a clean, precise writer! She manages to create wonderful pictures with simple sentencing, making it very easy for the reader to grip setting and emotion while they read. Plus, the story itself was very easy to follow. I wondered if I would get tripped up jumping between characters, but no such problem here. Everything was smooth sailing.

Characters:
So, the characters are actually my favorite part of this book. We get an insight into the gender-flipped characters we know from hundreds of stories and movies. Dorian Gray is a staple name in traditional literature. But this is hardly Wilde’s OG Gray. Instead, she’s a Mother-hen sort of character with a clear moral compass and motivation.

Each and every character has their own personality, and Wood has done an excellent job of separating them from each other. This motley assortment of women (who were all once men in their traditional stories) work somehow magnificently together. A werewolf who’s hungry for men? A overly-loyal vampire? A dramatic, suicidal Marilyn ghost? Honestly, it’s so refreshing to see our favorite, familiar characters in a new light.

(What? No issues, Amy?) Ha! Not yet! Just wait.

Plot:
As far as plot goes, **SPOILERS** we follow Dorian on her adventure to rehabilitate her last few souls before she goes mortal. She’s trying to save Becca (the werewolf) from her craving for human flesh, but is finding it harder and harder as more and more full moons pass. It doesn’t help that Jekyll can’t get her evil alter-ego Hyde under control. I enjoyed this constant back and forth struggle between Jekyll and Hyde, as well as the other disagreements between Cleo and V. It really makes for a good well-rounded cast when not everyone likes each other.

The one issue I had was actually the beginning of the story. Starting off, I was slightly confused about who this strange nameless woman was because she didn’t even have a name (not that I can remember.) And she was young, but now she’s old. And there’s a Golden Chalice, and then she’s talking to who I thought was supposed to be the main character and… I was a bit confused. Now, the story straightened itself out pretty fast, and I get that the point was to grab the reader. But I wonder if it wouldn’t be just as intriguing and less confusing if that first chapter were from Dorians POV instead of the original werewolf’s. Just a thought.

Overall, an excellent book. I’ll give it a solid 9 out of 10! Five stars from me.

You can buy Dark Little Women here, and follow RL Wood on the following platforms.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RLWoodBooks/ and https://www.facebook.com/DarkLittleWomen.GirlPower
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/R-L-Wood/e/B08BS3KRYM/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1
Blog: https://rlwood.rocks/

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