Category Archives: Book Reviews

The Eighth: Intro to The Alt-World Chronicles

The Eighth: Intro to The Alt-World Chronicles by [Somerville, Sunshine]

Written by Sunshine Somerville, The Eighth is a gripping, yet short, introduction to her paranormal fantasy series The Alt-World Chronicles.

The tale begins with Esme sitting at a bar delivering this hard hitting opening line, “Hi, I’m Esme and I’m going to die tonight”. Esme is the Order’s current alterni and is preparing to be called to battle. Esme recalls a nightmarish battle filled with monsters and demons, whilst drinking to calm her nerves.

The recollection of the battle is vivid and gripping. I felt like the opening was a good reflection of how the rest of the story unfolds. The tension and action throughout the book is punctuated with short, sharp sentences. There is absolutely no time to waste in this short book and the author utilizes every word to great effect. With that said, I felt like the sheer amount of characters and creatures in the second chapter made things a little hard to follow.

We’re introduced to King Owen and some of his soldiers. A battle ensues that is filled with graphic descriptions of demonic shrieks, winged beasts and beheaded elves. All described in a way that puts the action first and let’s you fill in the rest.

The Eighth is well written and grabbed my attention from the first line. Esme’s character is intriguing and begs to be explored further. As she sits at the bar her fear and resignation is palpable. With the introduction of yet another unique and expertly developed character like King Owen this book is the perfect launching point for any new fans to the series. Overall, an excellent introduction to a series that left me wanting more.

Pages: 23 | ASIN: B07QNLPZJY

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Paradox

Paradox is an intense read. Even though it’s basically a paragraph or two centered on each page, nearly all of them are hefty topics. The book is divided into four sections. However, it does not follow a traditional storytelling pattern. Instead the sections refer to the emotions that are evoked during the read. It is a fairly all-encompassing book- I’d have difficulty naming topics that it didn’t manage to cover. Everything from love, life, death, technology, philosophy, wisdom, psychology, nature. Everything is critically analyzed, re-analyzed, and stripped down to the core. Technically, one could refer to this as a collection of poems but it seems to transcend categorization. Also, I’m pretty sure that’s kind of the point.

Although I would never disrespect this book by calling it self-help, there were some strange observations that I encountered while reading it. I was implementing changes in myself; sitting up a little straighter, noticing more, listening more carefully, and paying attention to the decisions I made. Some of the passages feel like a sharp, cold breeze that wake you up. It’s so easy to succumb to the lethargy and passivity of life, but a jolt like this is required once in a while. Even if it doesn’t have the power to tell you what to live for, it reminds you that you’re still alive.

The passages about the connection between technology, especially social media, and the ego, or mask that you put on, were especially striking. They managed to voice issues and thoughts that are extremely relevant to this generation. Often, when I’m on any social media platform, I get the feeling that there is something problematic about all the pretension. It’s easy to brush that feeling away, because if the herd is doing it, so can you. This book shoots down that voluntary ignorance and encourages you to embrace the discomfort. There’s no glory in watching life pass you by.

It’s a strange exercise of the brain, reading this book. It’s almost doing sit-ups and looking in on itself. A little dizzying but how often does your mind get to do adventure sports. It was a strange and refreshing read that left me in a introspective mood. It’s the perfect read for anyone who likes to be haunted with their thoughts long after the book is over, but in wonderful ways. Go in with an open mind, and you will leave a different person.

Pages: 234 | ISBN: 1792977816

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Blood On The Chesapeake

Blood on the Chesapeake (The Haunted Shores Mysteries) by [Overbeck, Randy]

Darrell Henshaw is the keeper of many secrets–most of which are not entirely his own. When he decides to make a change and accept a job in a new school, he fully expects to leave all of his ghosts behind–literally. Entering this new school and beginning the season as the coach of Wilshire, Maryland’s high school football team, should be an exciting time for Darrell, but his past and present are now blurring together. He finds himself in the throes of researching the decades old story of a suicide that took place at the school. In addition, Darrell finds himself dredging up memories that might better be left alone.

Randy Overbeck’s Blood on the Chesapeake follows main character, Darrell Henshaw, on an epic journey of historic proportions as he tackles racial injustice and attempts to correctly label a suicide as a murder. With pertinent mentions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement, Overbeck has crafted a murder mystery for the ages that encourages readers to investigate their own feelings regarding social injustices.

Overbeck could not have taken a more perfect route than the diary he opted to have Darrell find and peruse. Kelly’s diary is not only the most telling sign that Hank was murdered, it is also an amazing glimpse into life in the 60s and a sure sign that desegregation was, in many areas of the US, as violently protested as it ever was decades prior. The readings of the diary by Darrell and Erin, his love interest, make the book. I could almost smell the mildewed pages, and I felt the characters’ frustration as they battled through the diary’s pages to piece together the mystery that is Kelly and Hank’s fates.

Overbeck’s pace is spot on and makes for a thoroughly engaging and quick read. With no excessive filler material, the author moves seamlessly from one tragic event and clue to the next.  Overbeck makes readers yearn for closure.

One of the most amazing aspects of Overbeck’s work is the way in which he conveys the characters’ feelings toward racism. Blood on the Chesapeake is not a book to be enjoyed; it is a book to appreciate for the reminders it provides readers. With mentions of lynchings and the KKK leading up to the setting of this book, and Overbeck gives readers a clear look at the way racism and bigotry continued to leak far beyond the bounds of the deep South even after desegregation began to make its way across the US.

Though the book is clearly focused on events from the 60s via Kelly’s diary, the plot is timely considering the state of today’s world. Readers will find themselves quickly caught up in Darrell’s descriptions of his ghostly encounters and eagerly awaiting each and every clue.

Pages: 296 | ASIN: B07N3BZBPR

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Son of the Serpent

Son of the Serpent (Fantasy Angels Series Book 2) by [Quiroz-Vega, Vashti]

Son of the Serpent by Vashti Quiroz-Vega is a fantasy novel of vengeance and revenge told from the dual perspective of Dracul, the Son of the serpent, and Lillith, his mother.

Dracul arises in a cave and discovers that he’s encased in a demonic body. He’s filled with agony and confusion as he pieces together his memories to determine how he arrived there. In a painful and shocking epiphany, he realizes that he is the son of Lilith, and that Lilith had tried to kill him. He vows to find out what happened and avenge himself. On this bloodthirsty journey, he faces death, destruction, and betrayal. People, encounters, and events further cement his determination for revenge. The author breathes new life into a host of fantastical characters, often from Biblical settings. Their lives and stories are familiar, yet enshrouded in darkness.

What I found most striking about the book was the depth of its darkness and morbidity. Vivid, gory scenes of slaughter left me uncomfortable, but totally engrossed. Lilith’s sections were almost unbearable. Scenes of Lilith’s cruelty towards others was always accompanied by a fascinating glimpse into her psyche. There’s a lot going on in her and just a surface glimpse was enough to leave me mesmerized. It’s been a while since I encountered such a well-portrayed and dislikable antagonist.

Dracul was just as well-written. His struggle to be good in the face of his own destiny was oddly inspiring. To fight where he came from, to whom he belongs, and the core of his being- his pain and loneliness were palpable. The ending was unexpected, but upon consideration, entirely perfect. Maybe it’s not inherent to him, but it’s clear that Dracul is a good creature.

The Biblical settings and references provided a whole new perspective on the worn-out stories. From angels to Cain and Abel, the otherworldly features heavily in this book- and not always in a favorable light. The Biblical events portrayed from a first-person and real-time perspective were super imaginative. I think it would be difficult to assign a genre to this book. Although it is set primarily in a fantasy world, the dashes of horror, romance, and the occult would make it an interesting read for nearly anyone. The world created by Vashti Quiroz-Vega is totally immersive. I was glad for the escape from reality and I would definitely visit again.

Pages: 303 | ASIN:  B07HS4C3B7

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Confessions of Eden

Confessions of Eden: A Riveting Spy Thriller (Michelle Reagan Book 1) by [Shinberg, Scott]

Michelle Reagan, alias Eden, is a CIA covert operator who conducts secret missions all over the world, and does what only a few can: take away someone’s life without getting caught. But having an undercover profession like this is not easy. Michelle works hard to be successful and gain the recognition of her boss and colleagues while trying to maintain a personal life and relationship. Every day, Michelle has to live with a burden, the moral consequences of killing innocent people. But can she handle it without going insane? And can she succeed and stay alive in this dangerous, male-dominated career?

The Confessions of Eden by Scott Shinberg is by far the best espionage thriller I have read this year: rich in action, danger, and unexpected turns. The plot is made up of Michelle’s reminiscences. This novel serves as her memoir in which she tells her story. The missions mentioned in the book are gripping and adventurous and filled with dangerous events. I liked the way the short stories and the descriptions of the missions came after each other and, despite the time gaps, there was no break in the story line, everything just falls into place to create a bigger story.

Michelle Reagan is an ambitious, hard-working agent, or assassin, who grows more confident as the story progresses. At first, she suffers from the psychological consequences of killing someone whose only fault is to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, but then, as her character develops and transforms from Michelle into Eden, she learns how to handle it. Her boss Michael and her two colleagues play an important role in Michelle’s life, and I appreciated how they supported her character development and I felt like they bring out another dimension to her character which really rounds her out. Because Michelle’s private life is built upon lies, she has difficulties finding and keeping a partner without getting exposed. This contrast between personal and private lives is something that I found intriguing and well balanced in this book.

Scott Shinberg is a talented author who can make you feel like you are in the middle of a CIA office with undercover agents. He catches the reader’s attention with the very first sentence and holds it right to the end. I look forward to reading the next Michelle Reagan novel.

Pages: 333 | ASIN:  B07PTPHTXS

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The Farthest-Reaching Ball: A Memoir of Motherhood

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The Farthest-Reaching Ball A Memoir of Motherhood by Sandra Bowman is definitely a unique read. The book starts with an Author’s Note explaining that the author has a daughter and that this daughter has always been her daughter. When I first read that sentence I wondered if maybe the author had adopted her daughter and that’s why she had declared that, but in fact, it turns out that her daughter is transgender which made it an intriguing read. In the story, you follow the life of Sandra and her son Grant with husband, Robert, and youngest son, Parker, almost being side characters. Grant realizes at a young age that he feels as though he is a female, but he is unsure of how to open up to anyone for fear of rejection.

Throughout the story, he is an intelligent man that everyone loves but he goes through some very dark times hiding away from the world, wanting to be left alone, dropping his grades despite his intelligence, dropping out of college multiple times as well as other situations all because he is afraid of rejection. He is afraid of coming out and people rejecting him, hating him, taunting him. He’s on medication for depression, later he’s diagnosed as bipolar, he skips therapy and doctor’s appointments multiple times. He’s one huge depressed messed. It takes years for Grant to finally come out and admit that he is a female and that his name is Grace.

I had mixed feelings towards this story because I try very hard to not judge parents since I’m a parent myself, but I found it hard to not judge Sandra for almost forgetting that she had a second son because she was so focused on Grant and his issues. I felt bad for Parker throughout the story and wanted to adopt him. I was so glad when Parker finally opens up about feeling neglected and I am happy that eventually the family is able to find happiness and become a whole again. I love that Parker accepted Grace for who she is even though she was the cause of him being neglected throughout his childhood and young adult life. I felt bad for Sandra for everything that she was going through, I could feel her emotions as she battled her own depression, I could feel her relief when she finally knew what the problem was with her daughter and I could feel her happiness when her family became whole again. I think Sandra did a really great job conveying the emotions in the story.

This is an exceptional memoir, the only thing that I didn’t like was that the timeline jumps around a bit, Grant is young and then in the next scene he’s an adult and then the next scene he’s young again. This happens a few times but isn’t really a huge problem, to be honest, it’s just the one thing that I think could have made the book a little easier to follow.

I liked how Sandra’s story helped me see what it’s like for transgenders growing up, what they go through during the transformation, the process of creating their new identity and being on hormones. I hope that this story helps to soften the heart of those that have problems with transgender people.

Pages: 234

Experiment X: Exposed

Experiment X: Exposed by [Haase, Nikki]

Experiment X: Exposed is the second installment of the Experiment X Trilogy. Exposed jumps right back into the lives of Karen and her commands a year after their escape from Dr. Thaddeus’s lab. Those freed from the horrors of their capture spend their days slowly recovering and training their elemental powers. It isn’t long until Dr. Thaddeus makes a grand appearance on national television to unveil his new plan to create an army of superhumans; Experiment R. The unsuspecting population rejoice. Soon droves of volunteers sign up to take part with the promises of wealth and prestige. At the same time, Karen receives a coded message from her former captain embarking her on a journey that once again puts Hher physical and mental capabilities to their limits.

For those who enjoyed the first book, I highly recommend the second. If Sacrifice was about Karen discovering her powers, Exposed is about mastering them. Needless to say, Karen is back at it, supercharged, and ready to go.

Despite the obvious difference in power, Karen is a relatable character. Her anger, pride, and raw emotions are illustrated with such care from a first-person perspective. As the main character, Karen is portrayed with enough detail to make her believable and yet still given room to grow. She is a strong girl with a strong personality. Such perfection with one character made the haphazard way that other characters were thrown in seem jarring. Because the story is from a first-person perspective, all other character growth is described through Karen’s thoughts. Some of the major players are well remembered for their importance to Karen. However, many new characters are not given the time to develop a relationship with the main character.

The pacing, I thought, quickly moved from one event to the next with barely any transition; I was left with no concrete timeline. Although the author mentioned tentative time frames, and the ambiguous period of various events was intentional, every section of the story felt similar.

But these are minor glitches in a book that has a lot of potential for the characters and expanding story line. These issues only stand out to me because I was so invested in the character and story. Nikki Haase has command of an entertaining writing style that elevates Experiment X: Exposed above many of the dystopian fiction I’ve read this year.

Pages: 262 | ASIN: B06W9NC7B7

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Phoebe Douse:S3A2

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Pheobe Douse, Secret Society for Special Abilities and Artefacts allows a view into the life of young Pheobe, a high school student whose tendency to be unusually distinct has her feeling like an outcast. After her grandmother dies, it leaves her even more unsure about herself. Her grandmother would always tell stories that seemed fantastical about her life and travels. Phoebe took those moments for granted and when she can no longer have them, she is left feeling guilty. When she receives a strange invitation to attend school in Scotland she accepts the offer with the approval of her parents. She has no close ties outside of her family and she hopes for an adventure like the ones her grandmother had lived.

She soon realizes that while she fits in more readily than she ever has before, this sense of belonging actually makes the new school, her new classmates and her surroundings pretty extraordinary. When she finally begins to accept the possibilities that come with being extraordinary in an extraordinary place, she finds herself torn between her loyalty to her new friends and her grandmother’s legacy. Pheobe has to figure out who she is able to trust before secret forces lead her on a path of no return.

It would be unsurprising if L. Samuels’ debut novel lands on the bestseller list. Any of the millions of Harry Potter fans would be a fan of Pheobe Douse and the well crafted, gifted characters L. Samuels brings to life. The origin of the main character is seeped in a legacy that is undeniably powerful but shrouded in mystery.

Every event and continuation was strategically laid out in a way that caused constant anticipation. Even so, at each moment of conflict, climax and revelation, there were still surprises. There were no moments of overwhelming unpredictability but the pace of events varied and provided an emotionally dynamic experience.

The least agreeable aspect of the book is that the reader is left wanting to know what happens next and in the world of storytelling, this kind of itch usually happens after a satisfying read. The best part is that a second installment is expected so the anticipation continues!

Pages: 348 | ISBN: 978-1-7322846-7-8

 

Butterball Goes to the Beach

BUTTERBALL Goes to the Beach by [Seaborn, Julia]

Butterball is a fun-loving dog who enjoys playing with all types of balls. He’s curious about the world around her, and loves visiting the beach. When Butterball and her owner arrive at the beach, Butterball immediately begins to explore and forms some new friendships as she roams. Along the way, she learns how she compares with her new seaside friends. When her exploration goes a tad too far, Butterball relies on her new pals to get her out of a tight spot.

As an elementary teacher, I can’t say enough positive things about Butterball Goes to the Beach by Julia Seaborn. Seaborn’s book about Butterball’s beach adventure is simple to read but contains enough challenging vocabulary to make it a wonderful teaching tool. This short picture book fits easily into a life science lesson for kindergarten through second grade students and features illustrations that engage readers and emphasize the educational aspects of the story line.

A unique aspect of Butterball Goes to the Beach is the author’s choice to include websites with further information about the sea turtles mentioned in the book. In addition, Seaborn has added a short list of discussion questions at the end of the book for teachers and parents to use to engage readers more completely with the book and its characters. Young readers will enjoy the activity pages following the story as well.

Seaborn’s book is an easy and engaging way to involve students with both an interesting main character and to teach facts simultaneously. I highly recommend Butterball Goes to the Beach to any teacher or parent needing a picture book for a text set or unit on sea life.

Pages: 34 | ASIN: B07V71XNT1

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The Dream Defenders

The Dream Defenders: A YA Sci-Fi Adventure by [DenHartog, Neal]

The Dream Defenders by Neal Denhartog is a young adult science fiction adventure story following Nolan Erling, a fourteen year old boy who has felt forgotten by his parents ever since his baby brother, Max, joined their family. When Nolan keeps waking up with a headache in the morning, he doesn’t suspect that the cause of his problems is his dreams. But Aeryn Sandman knows. She is a junior agent at the DREAM institute, and Nolan is her first official assignment. Her job turns into more than just a simple recruitment mission, however, after Nolan’s unchecked powers release two nightmares into the dreamstream. Suddenly, things turn deadly–because dreams can kill. Will Nolan and Aeryn succeed in protecting millions of innocent dreamers while they sleep?

This book had a unique premise and the writing style was engaging and kept my interest. The author’s descriptions of the actions taking place pulled me into the story. I enjoyed reading about the weird details of Nolan’s dreams and how he could control them and make things happen. There were several humorous parts, as Aeryn fumbled her first official assignment and failed to keep Nolan under control. I liked the descriptions of the whimsical and frightening dreamscapes, which painted a vivid picture of the setting. I loved the Wispes, Stan and Scranton. They were one of my favorite parts of the story.

I felt that the initial ‘reveal’ of the villain happened too soon. Or maybe it could have just been handled differently. Since it seemed as though I’d already learned the villain’s identity at one third of the way through the book, I felt that the story lost some of its momentum after that. Although it took me a little while to get excited about the story again, it did happen well before I got to the crazy twist at the end.

Although the ending was entertaining and thrilling it left me with many questions. I assume that this story is intended to be the first book in the series, and if that’s the case, I would definitely want to read the next book to find out what happens and learn all the answers to my lingering questions. Overall, this is an exceptional book with a unique premise that is guaranteed to entertain.

Pages: 318 | ASIN: B07S475R84

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