Book Review #28: She Named Me Wolf by Tenkara Smart

On his journey through life, Wolf goes through too much: his father’s alcoholism, his mother’s crippling fear, his brother’s carelessness, his isolation at school. Yet, he’s never truly alone. Since he was a child, his best friend has been a spiritual entity named Polly. The Japanese ghost helps him to navigate the treacherous waters of life at home and his often visions and abilities. You see, Wolf can not only travel through time to visit his past self– a Japanese samurai named Junsako– but also talk to the animals that live around his Australian home.

Together, with his friends’ help, Wolf might survive his father’s horrific abuse, but it won’t be easy.

She Named Me Wolf (The Many Lives of Wolf, #1)

Smart’s writing is simply gorgeous. There was never a moment went I felt detached from the story. I was right beside Wolf as he went on innumerable adventures with Polly and the crew. We went on a trip to visit native americans, fought a shark in the bathtub, went to a pool party with ants, traveled to ancient Japan to watch a samurai… I could go on for ages. The nostalgia that came with reading this touching third-person narration was breathtaking. I was absolutely enraptured.

The characters themselves are so beautifully written as well. They each have their faults, and even when it’s frustrating, they even have redeeming qualities. As you can tell from the synopsis above, the obvious antagonist is Wolf’s father. The reader is meant to dislike him instantly. Hate him, almost. I found myself growing more and more frustrated with Smart for trying to give this horrible man a good side. I understood the purpose, but I didn’t want to understand or like him. (PS: It didn’t work. I hated him even more as the story went.) You feel for the individuals, though. I almost cried for Wolf, I wanted to scream at his mother, and I could have honestly throttled his father. Then, I thanked his neighbors, his sensei, Polly… I could go on for ages.

Yet, I had to bump the story down one star, and I’ll tell you why. I never recovered from an incident that occurs around 80% mark. It was almost too dark to handle, and it was extremely sudden, unexpected, and, well, a bit triggering. It knocked me sideways so hard that I found it hard to keep going. I wanted the ending to bring back the magic, but I was just too depressed from what Wolf did that I couldn’t really enjoy it as much as I liked. I guess that’s part of the point (which is why I didn’t bump this down to a three). The story is supposed to be dark, I know that. Such is the reality of the lives that some children in the world lead. No one wants to see that bleak nature. It’s real, though. God, it’s so real.

I honestly don’t have a valid solution for this issue. A trigger warning would have ruined the surprise and shock that I felt when the scene came, but at the same time, I needed it. *sigh* Anywho, it’s a 4 out of 5 stars for me (which translates to an 8 out of 10 on the Amy Scale). I really, really enjoyed it up until that point. Very well done.

Book Review #27: Skid Kids by Michael Franz

Zander is a mutant. Not by choice. Westport made him this way; President Crowley made him this way.

The Wastelands are full of mutants like Zander and his younger sister Kensy. They’re victims of the Cleanse– a deadly gas that leaves its survivors deformed. Cast aside by the humans that live in Westport, they are forced to survive as best they can, half-starved and deprived of even the most basic education.

Yet, each year mutants are invited to compete in the Skid Track League. It’s a roller derby-style race with deadly consequences. Win, and you get your freedom. Lose, and you disappear from the face of the earth. When Zander and Kensy manage to get to Westport and form a team, they’ll discover that not all humans hate them. Maybe with the help of the Rebellion and some sympathizers, they’ll have a chance to get that coveted freedom– for all the mutants.

Skid Kids
I’ve been told this is a temporary cover. I look forward to seeing the real one!!

Style:
This is going to be a long review. I hope you’re buckled up for this one!

First of all, I love this genre. I’ve been reading dystopian for about as long as I can remember. I was a reading junkie when YA dystopian hit an all time high. I’ve read almost all the classics– Hunger Games, Uglies, The Giver, Divergent, Maze Runner, etc, etc, etc. It’s no secret that this is MY FAVORITE type of novel.

That being said, this is a wonderful example of dystopia! I would line this us beside Hunger Games with no shame at all. You’ve got all the general tropes– children competing against each other, two out-of-the-ordinary competitors, competitors joining together to beat the Man, unusual alliances, evil grown-ups. It’s all there and very well done.

Franz style is very simplistic but poetic, if that makes sense. His characters often quote their mother’s book, and it’s always done in a way that made me wonder if it was some obscure poet that I didn’t know about, lol. If you’ve read Caged, then you know how much I love poetry. I appreciate the constant tie-in of the abstract motivational quote. It’s just my style.

My one complaint about the style is actually kind of unusual for me. This book is written in third person, present tense. I don’t know if I’m just not used to that combo or what, but it really caught me off guard and took some time to really get into. I write in first person, present, so I didn’t think it’d be that odd. It was, though! I wonder if Franz chose third/present for a reason… It’s probably waaaay too late to consider changing it, but it’s something to think about!

Characters:
Phew, have we got an ENSEMBLE cast. Lol. That’s one thing I really didn’t enjoy throughout this book: the sheer number of characters that I had to keep track of. I eventually gave up. *facepalm* You’ve got all the mutants in Zander’s circle, and then in Lockstone, and then there’s the mutants competing in the League, the humans, the sympathizers, the Ten Percenters, the soldiers, *deep breath* the… I’m just kidding; I think that’s it. But man, there were a BUNCH. I’ll try to focus on just a few to save your eyes.

Let’s talk about Zander and Kensy. I can kill two birds with one stone! They’re both hardened characters. Zander is more of a realist and a pessimist. He doesn’t give up easily, and he’s loyal to his sister beyond all else. Kensy, on the other hand, is a bit of a dreamer and an optimist. They’re both so strong. I enjoyed the juxtaposition between them while keeping the similarities. I appreciate how brave they both were, especially towards the end. I was annoyed that Zander lied to REDACTED at the end, but that’s also something I would write. Lol. It had me tearing up. And I also really, really liked that REDACTED was the one who tied together all of the mutants and sympathizers. #femaleempowerment LOL (Also, sorry to be so secretive, but those were both big spoilers, and you NEED to read this one!)

As far as the human sympathizers go, you’ve mainly got the focus on Rachel and Raulson. I was a bit confused about how old Rachel was, but I think I figured out she’s like… mid-twenties? Lol. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Another amazing strong female. She overcomes so much and fights an uphill battle. I was rooting for her from day 1. Raulson I kinda worried about. I didn’t know whether to trust him, and I was a bit suspicious at the end. I think he had a strong redemption arc, though! Kudos for that.

Now, the BADDIE– President Crowley. I really want to spit in his steak. I do. I want to grab him by the back of the head and just…. smash him into a table. We all know by now– I love a well-written villain. Crowley doesn’t even fit into the half-bad category. He’s all the way bad. Giving me HUGE President Snow vibes, and I’m here for it!

Plot:
I’ve kind of already talked about the plot here and there. This is a long book, friends. We’re tapping 400 pages. She could weigh down a starving child, I’m sure. LOL

In my opinion, the plot actually started out kinda slow. I pushed through in the hopes that it would pick up once the main group got to Westport. And man, did it ever pick up! At about the 25% point, when you get past all the exposition, everything falls into place and you’re in. Waiting for the next race, wondering what’s going to happen to Rachel, worrying about Fins and Rance… It’s one punch after another. Absolutely no complaints from me about ANY of the plot.

Well, one complaint. I reached out to the author with a concern about whether or not there was going to be a sequel. The end kind of threw me for a loop. I don’t know that it was necessary to kill REDACTED. It felt like a solid ending before that final chapter. All the ends were tied up except for Rance. The ending almost reads like a forced cliff-hanger.

Overall Thoughts: I really, really enjoyed this book. It was very well-written and unfolded magnificently. I’m giving it a solid 8/10!

You can pre-order Skid Kids here: https://www.amazon.com/Skid-Kids-Michael-Franz-ebook/dp/B093X632XJ

And check out the Skid Kids website here: https://www.skidkidsnovel.com/



Book Review #26: Transcendence by H.G. Ahedi

Zane Carter is a survivor– a hardened, broken soldier. The confidence he used to have in his country is gone, and he knows, without a doubt, that the US is going to lose WW2. So, when a battle goes sideways and Zane blacks out, he’s sure he’s dead. This is the end for him.

Except, it’s not. When Zane wakes up, he finds himself behind enemy lines in a German-run world. The US did lose, and now the Nazis have taken over. As the days progress, though, Zane discovers that this world isn’t what it appears to be. Weird shadowed men lurk around him; strange visions keep appearing to him.

Unlocking the truth to this new strange land will be more than he bargained for. Zane will learn that, believe it or not, he’s more than just a soldier.

This was a REALLY good, quick read. As far as genres go, it’s a surprising blend of historical fiction, alt-history, and science fiction. You don’t really see the sci-fi at the end, and it did throw me for a bit of a loop. Yet, I still enjoyed it! I saw a lot of familiar themes from pop-culture and novels. For example: the obsession with uniformity and one person who stands out from the Divergent series, the looping aspect from movies like Groundhog Day, and the weird simulation-like scenarios from the Matrix.

The storyline is interesting and engaging enough to keep you guessing up until the very last moment. The reader is just as lost as Zane is, and the act of putting together the little puzzle pieces was so much fun. It was like a guessing game. I went from “he’s in a coma” to “he’s stuck in an experiment” to “omg aliens.” It kept setting me up for one thing and then proving me wrong. I absolutely loved it. Somehow, the ending STILL caught me off guard!

Essentially, if you’re a fan of alt-history or science fiction, you’ll enjoy this quick read. Solid 8/10 for me. Very well done, H.G. Ahedi!

Buy here: https://www.amazon.com/Transcendence-H-G-Ahedi-ebook/dp/B088CPQDYD

Book Review #25: These Troubled Days by James Tarr

Boston is in shreds. America is sinking quickly into a fascist government. With unfits quarantined into the Chelsea Internment Center, millions of people are in distress.

Yet Harold, an ex-activist, only has one concern in life: protect his daughter Aiden from the very life he used to frequent. ProServ Officers like Eckart and Blair make it near impossible, though. When the riots turn sour, Harold is forced to face the rebellion whether he likes it or not, and everything starts to climb to a pinnacle.

Eckart, Blair, Harold, and other citizens are soon entangled in a game of life or death with the country’s freedom at risk.

These Troubled Days

First, this book wasn’t what I was expecting. At all. Sometimes, when you pick up a book and a quarter of the way in you start thinking, “this isn’t what I signed up for,” you’re probably not going to enjoy the rest of the novel. This was my exception. Although the beginning was a bit slow for me, the ending grabbed me with such ferocity that I was sitting up reading long after my bedtime.

Second, I want to commend the author on how clean and well written These Troubled Days is. Tarr is extremely knowledgable about the topic at hand– the act of domestic terrorism and police dealings in general. While a lot of the information was a bit over my head, I can still appreciate the sheer immersive nature of the writing. Tarr clearly knows how to write a fluid, action-packed scene and he does this exceptionally.

My one complaint, and I’m not sure if there’s a solid fix other than adding a few ten-thousand more words, was that I would like to have gotten to know the other main characters, notably Blair. We get to know Harold quite in depth, understandably because he’s the main MC, but I felt like we just grazed the surface on Blair. His actions are so interesting, though, and I’d love to dig more into his mind.

Overall, this was an exceptional read, despite the fact that it threw me for a bit of a loop initially. If you’re a fan of the futuristic political thriller genre, then this is a book you don’t want to miss.

Out for pre-order now here: https://www.amazon.com/These-Troubled-Days-James-Tarr-ebook/dp/B094MQ434L

These Troubled Days is set to be published May 25th!

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 #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. 🙂

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.