Category Archives: Book Reviews

The Optical Lasso: Beware of Neptune’s Dark Side

The Optical Lasso: Beware of Neptune's Dark Side by [Corwin, Marc]

Commander James Cody disappeared into a wormhole created by his own invention 100 years ago and is currently only a fable. This is all unbeknownst to him. He shares a cell with a creature so perfect she might as well have been conjured up in his head. She is the leader of a fierce group of fighting women. With mutual mistrust between them, can they come together to make it out alive?

The author has woven a delightfully strange and completely engrossing plot that bounces between James past and his present. The story evokes different kinds of emotions at different junctures which leaves the reader feeling bereft when the story comes to an end. The story pulls the reader in and goes on a whirlwind journey through different time periods as well as through Commander Cody’s mind.

The story moves quickly and efficiently. The setting is drawn so realistically, and scientific facts handled so deftly, that it’s hard to tell fact from fiction at times.

The book has a classic plot that is elevated with unrelenting wit and some lighthearted moments. The Optical Lasso is filled with shocking twists and action packed scenes colored with creative genius.

I enjoyed the characters in this book and thought they were all uniquely different yet relatable. Lt Cat is not to be messed with but she still maintains her femininity in a way that makes her character likeable. Commander James is friendly and extraordinary all at the same time. I found him to be a wholesome contradiction. Both characters were unexpected but still captivating and interesting.

This book is suitable for young adults and adults alike. It has characters the YA crowd can admire and be inspired by. They might not completely connect with the interactions but they will for sure love the plot and Marc’s imagination. The adults can relate to the characters and simply enjoy the adult adventure they embark on. You’ll feel like you’re on a first name basis whit the characters by the end of this book.

Pages: 349 | ASIN: B07QFC1WZL

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Resurrected Darkly

Resurrected Darkly (The Darkly Series Book 5) by [Smith, Tarrant]

Ena and her father are coping with multiple sudden changes in life as they have known it for centuries. They are giving up Ena’s younger siblings, and they are watching as the age-old practice of the pleasure dens are done away with. Nothing is as it should be in their world. When Ena is approached by Blodeuwedd, the matchmaking goddess, to run what she describes as a simple errand, Ena takes the opportunity. Little does she realize that agreeing to help Blodeuwedd will lead her to some of the most challenging moments of her life while opening her eyes to her true self.

Tarrant Smith jumps right into the action with Resurrected Darkly. From the first pages, the reader is swept into Ena’s world and given a myriad of clues as to her origins. Ena’s willingness to appease the goddess, Blodeuwedd, and venture into a strange castle alone make her an appealing character and one worth calling a favorite. Readers following Smith’s Darkly series will be pleased to see that Ena, in previous books, is the focus of this installment. As intriguing as her character is in the previous books, Ena endears herself to readers with the unique characteristics she possesses as both a dragon and fey.

I was excited to see Crank as the male focus in this book. I tend to gravitate toward secondary characters in novels, and Crank is one who caught my eye in previous books. His gruff demeanor and bluntness add an element of humor to Smith’s books. Crank, however, takes a dark turn in Resurrected Darkly. Readers will hurt for him as he faces a struggle beyond anything he has faced before. The guilt he bears is overwhelming and has grown into a burden that is almost more than he is able to bear.

Smith includes descriptions of “the enchanted” in her work; humans who have been taken into the fey realm to serve the fey. They seem to live simple lives, almost robotic, but their roles are quite complex. Ena, who has more of an affinity for the enchanted than most, shows actual emotion over the enchanted.

I found Resurrected Darkly to be the most engaging of the books in the series. The dynamic between Ena and Crank is simply enchanting. The impact that Ena, a hardened soul herself, has on the tormented Crank is just short of miraculous. I enjoyed watching the growth that took place between the two.

Smith brings together a multitude of characters from the first four books of her Darkly series as she heals one of her most engaging characters from an unspeakable trauma. Readers who enjoyed the first four Darkly books will be more than pleased with Smith’s fifth installment–a fantastic addition to the romantic fantasy series.

Pages:282 | ASIN: B07NMKM7CH

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Surrendered Darkly

Surrendered Darkly (The Darkly Series Book 4) by [Smith, Tarrant]

Cora, not part of the upper crust of society, is considered a low ranking fey. A handmaiden with an iron-clad memory, Cora has not forgotten Neb and the hurt he caused her in the past. Neb is as unseelie as he is unsavory in Cora’s mind, but he has other plans for the two of them–plans over which he has no control. While a romance is the furthest thing from Cora’s mind, she has no way of knowing that Neb will be the one to make plans for so very much more than a fleeting romance. Neb is about to change the course for both their lives no matter what it may take.

Tarrant Smith has added yet another colorful book to her Darkly series. Surrendered Darkly follows Cora and Neb on their journey back to one another and along a tumultuous and unlikely courtship. Cora is a strong-willed fey with a mind of her own, and Neb is determined to figure out why he feels so drawn to Cora, a woman he is convinced he should remember.

Blue, a mother figure to Cora and a goddess in her own right, is a truly interesting character. She has many layers Smith reveals throughout the book. Perhaps Blue’s most striking characteristic is her tendency to mother over Cora. As with all of Smith’s characters, I am always amazed and somewhat taken aback by their appearances in human forms. Sometimes I feel as if I am reading two different books.

Smith shows readers a little more of the reactions given by mortals. When Neb finds himself in town, readers are able to witness along with Neb the reactions of the humans around them when Neb isn’t quite in his full human form. It’s refreshing to see that the mortals around the seelie and unseelie are not totally oblivious to them. I find that adds a nice layer of believability to the fantasy being woven by Smith.

Of the Darkly books, I find this one to be the most steeped in romance though it lacks the frequent love scenes. The basis of this installment is the relationship, or lack thereof, between Neb and Cora. The entire plot centers around deep feelings taking over Neb and how he will deal with them. Cora, on the other hand, has a battle to wage within herself as she faces Neb a second time following her previous heartache. Readers who are fond of deep-seated romances will enjoy this fourth book in the series.

I am always intrigued by Smith’s abilities to write characters who are tied together emotionally and by their abilities.

From the first page, this romantic fantasy engages readers with the lives of colorful characters and explores realms via two headstrong main characters, Neb and Cora. Theirs is a story fans of romance won’t want to miss.

Pages: 266 | ASIN: B005ZWIIWK

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Wings at Dawn

Wings at Dawn by [Balustrade, Marie ]

Alexander Adler, an investigative journalist from Berlin is sent to India on a fact-finding mission to write an article about child pornography and human trafficking, while his two best friends, Matt and Julian also join him. Following the social worker and activist, Amrita’s instructions, they visit several brothels in Delhi and Mumbai in order to discover the local human-trafficking network and save many innocent children’s life at the same time. On their adventurous journey, they become familiar with the colorful Indian culture and the amazing Indian cuisine, and plenty of times they find themselves in life-threatening situations that put both their will power and their friendship to the test.

Wings at Dawn by Marie Balustrade is a gripping story about three adventuresome men who decided to fight against human trafficking, pedophilia, child pornography and slavery in India. I am completely amazed by the way Balustrade merges real social issues into a novel that touches your soul. With the long descriptive passages, the reader gets an insight into the Indian society and culture. The story is eventful, interesting, rich in cultural elements and despite the serious subject, it contains some humor as well.

The novel has a wide range of characters, all of them are well worked-out. The three main characters Alex, Matt and Julian have contrasting personalities due to their different origins, pasts, and habits that make their dialogues entertaining. However, they share the same enthusiasm, helpfulness, and stubbornness. My favorite character is Matt because I liked his colorful personality, he is a real gourmand who is always hungry and could eat all day long. Thanks to him I got to know more about the Indian cuisine and I learned that in India “the fewer the buildings, the better the tea”, which means that the tea is always more delicious further from the big cities. While reading about the innocent children’s distress, I felt really emotional, especially the little boy, Abdul Hakim’s and a father, Norbu’s story touched me.

The only thing I did not like is that it contains too many foreign words and expressions, after a time I stopped going to the end notes to look up the words as I found myself doing it often. Otherwise, Wings at Dawn is a very valuable and emotional novel that I would heartily recommend to anyone who interesting stories set in exotic locations.

Pages: 376 | ASIN: B07Q6ZS72B

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One Fire Burns Out Another’s Burning

One Fire Burns Out Another's Burning (Wheeler Book 3) by [Zalesky, Sara Butler]

I didn’t realize how much I missed my friend Loren MacKenzie until I picked up One Fire Burns Out Another’s Burning by Sarah Butler Zalesky. It may sound clichéd to refer to the protagonist of the Wheeler series as my “friend,” but over the course of the three Wheeler novels, I truly feel as if I’ve gotten to know Loren as a close friend. This third installment picks up where the second, Wheeler in Darkness, left off: Loren recently experienced a painful trauma and death and is struggling to cope with this recent trauma as well as the trauma of her childhood that has resurfaced. Combine those experiences with her high-stress career as a professional cyclist and status as the girlfriend of a famous celebrity and you have Loren MacKenzie, my friend. As in her first two novels, Zalesky packs a ton of action into the novel’s 270 pages, though the story never feels rushed. Rather, the pages feel as if you’re flying along on a bike with Loren, never knowing what’s around the next corner but looking forward to the adventure.

One Fire Burns should be read after completing the first two Wheeler novels, as Zalesky spends a modest amount of time recapping the action of the previous books. Repeat readers will be thrilled to find the return of familiar faces in Loren’s close-knit cycling teammates, the ever-charming actor Graham Atherton, and other supporting characters. But, Zalesky also adds in a few new intriguing characters, as well as deepens the character development of her existing characters.

Where Zalesky shines in this novel, though, is through her development of Loren. She skillfully develops Loren as a more mature and multi-faceted character. Though Loren has always been complex, this time she is finally able to tackle some of her metaphorical demons that have plagued her throughout the earlier Wheeler books. Loren’s romantic interest, Graham, also receives some well-deserved attention from Zalesky. He’s still the same Shakespeare-quoting heartthrob, but I finally felt as if I got to know Graham beyond his gorgeous exterior. As Loren and Graham develop, so does their relationship into a more serious and meaningful one.

Zalesky also brings back the thrilling, nail-biting race scenes in One Fire Burns, as the novel takes place in the spring racing season. Though I am not very familiar with the ins and outs of professional cycling, I love Zalesky’s electrifying play-by-plays of the cycling competitions. She skillfully pulls readers along the race track with Loren, explaining the strategy involved in cycling while also making the competition relatable to readers who may have never been on a bike. There is something universally thrilling about competitions, and Zalesky taps into this with several key cycling races this season for Loren.

In One Fire Burns, Zalesky offers readers a unique and magical blend of thriller, romance, and sports. As before, Zalesky gracefully handles the sensitive issues that Loren experiences, including emotional and physical abuse and harassment, creating a thoughtful and complex novel for readers.

Pages: 317 | ASIN: B07SG73LH9

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The Flame of Telbyrin

The Flame of Telbyrin: A Tale of Heroism and Faith by [Dyar OSB, Br. Benedict]

The world of Telbyrin is no stranger to the high fantasy wonders of, Elves, magic, legends, and lore. The story unfolds as our two heroes strike out on a pilgrimage turned epic adventure. No sooner do they leave the confines of their beloved farmland do they quickly run into danger left and right. A fearful evil rises once again in Telbyrin threatening the peace and all its inhabitants. At the same time, the Eternal Flame is found extinguished throughout the land causing panic and dread.

From reading Br. Benedict’s book, I can spot his fantasy influences as well as his admiration for the genre. The plot is straight forward but with that Br. Benedict’s builds an elaborate world that is deftly created with care. The author has clearly spent a good amount of time developing and establishing name and traits for each concept presented in The Flame of Telbyrin. With so much effort gone into creating such a rich world, I would have liked to experience more substance in the writing. The story moves quickly and I quite enjoyed the fast pace of the novel. It added tension and suspense to the plot. But with that came less time to evoke a well-crafted setting and character development.

The Elves, Orilin and his wife Larilyn carry the plot as they traverse the land of Telbryin in search of an answer and hope to the fast-approaching Meldron, an arch-nemesis to the Elvish population. The black and white portrayal of morals between Elves and Meldron sets the reader up for a clear choice of who to root for. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is among the first of a few books Br. Benedict’s has written. The novel keeps the quest like adventure and characters simple and rarely deviates from the commonly used fantasy tropes.

It is evident that Br. Benedict loves the genre deeply and enjoyed developing and building the world of Telbryin. I enjoyed reading this book with the knowledge of Br. Benedict’s hard work and dedication to the novel. The Flame of Telbyrin is brimming with potential to become an epic fantasy novel with intriguing characters. I look forward to Br. Benedict further cultivating his ideas and giving us a fuller view of his imagination. The Flame of Telbyrin was a joy to read and I recommend it to any fan of the fantasy genre that is looking for captivating characters inhabiting an intricate world.

Pages: 171 | ASIN: B07HKT4441

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Fragile Mind

FRAGILE MIND: Mental Health Poetry by [Thompson, Wesley]

Fragile Mind by W. B. Thompson is a mental illness-themed poetry collection with a mission: raising awareness of mental health issues and their possible consequences, helping to understand those who struggle with mental health issues and offering support for sufferers. The touching and meaningful poems offer an insight into the fragile mind’s daily struggles, including low self-esteem, hopelessness and anger.

W.B. Thompson creates a strong base for his poems with the introduction and the included suicide statistics. Every poem comes with a related image which indicates the content of the poem. The verses describe the wide range of emotions that a person with mental health problems can go through: confusion, loneliness, frustration, sadness, anguish and discouragement. I liked how the poet was able to send such a deep message, I could absolutely relate to the feelings of someone who is afflicted. The images and the titles are well-chosen and match the content. As a fan of well-written rhymes, I would prefer more rhymes in the collection, but I found the free verse poems also valuable and interesting.

Pages: 38 | ASIN: B07SH5ZCGP

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Kept Darkly

Kept Darkly (The Darkly Series Book 3) by [Smith, Tarrant]

Hiding far from her father, Riona never believed her life of isolation could change, much less change so drastically. For years, she has remained under the protection of the Seelie Queen and existed as a blemish on the face of her people. Riona knows her place and understands that she, for many reasons, must remain in hiding. When Riona, also known as Molly, is snatched from her home and finds herself assigned as the mate of the queen’s captain, Sel, she is more than baffled at her new station in life. Riona can’t help but wonder, and worry, what this actually means for her future.

Kept Darkly, the third book in the Darkly series by Tarrant Smith follows the unlikely pairing of Riona and Sel. Riona, by all rights, is far below Sel’s station in life and is painfully aware of the love he is said to have for the Seelie Queen. Smith’s decision to match Riona and Sel makes for an interesting plot that keeps the reader guessing as to the ultimate outcome–and hoping for a happy ending for the oppressed Riona.

I am always amazed at Smith’s character descriptions. Gloric is a prime example. An unseelie and questionable character all on his own, he is capable of metamorphosis. Smith draws a detailed picture of Gloric’s complete transformation in front of Riona. These types of scenes are definitely worth a reread and one of the hallmarks of Smith’s installments in the Darkly series. In addition, I was quite intrigued at the way in which Smith incorporates shapeshifting as one of Riona’s characteristics.

In the previous Darkly book, Smith provides readers with moments of comic relief, and Kept Darkly delivers the same. These brief scenes are welcome as the overall theme of the book is primarily thoughtful and brooding. With this installment, it’s not so much the dialogue that makes for the moments of comic relief but the images conjured by Smith’s narrative. I was particularly drawn to the levity created during the interactions between Sel and the sprite, Urias.

Smith’s characters are fascinating on many levels. Crank is easily my favorite of all Smith’s characters–I am partial to the unseelie. He is a no-holds-barred type of guy who says exactly what he means and has no problem making himself clear to anyone fortunate enough to listen to his tales. As with the metamorphosis of Gloric, I was impressed with the transfer of energy that takes place between Riona and Sel. What appears as a hopeless situation for Riona is suddenly turned around with minimal effort on Sel’s part.

Smith’s writing is beautifully descriptive and rich with character development. Readers following the series will enjoy getting to know Sel and watching his relationship with Riona bloom. The better part of book 3 feels dedicated to developing character relationships and describing the unique struggle between the seelie and unseelie groups, and fans of fantasy romance will find Smith’s work particularly fascinating.

Pages: 334 | ASIN: B004XWJ8TK

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Claimed by Nicolai

Claimed by Nicolai (Raiden Warriors Book 1) by [Holm, Denna]

Abby Harris, a beautiful blonde girl and her dog Quin were about to spend an amazing day together hiking in the mountains when an alien, Nikolai Nekbet from the planet Raiden, abducts them. Abby now finds herself on aboard a ship traveling towards another planet. The reason behind the abduction is quite surprising: the lizard-looking man – who is actually a Crown Prince on his planet – was looking for a mate. But can he convince the girl to love him? And can Abby forgive him for making her leave behind her family and friends?

Denna Holm’s Claimed by Nikolai is an amazing science fiction romance novel about love among different species, with political intrigue sprinkled throughout. The story is set on the Quadira ship in space and on the planet Raiden. The reader gets an insight into the lives of Raiden warriors, and how they are claim a mate from other species by injecting them with their shaprata and how they are ruling their planet.

Most of the characters are well developed and intriguing. The main character, Abby has a dynamic personality and changes a lot as the story unfolds (and as the shaprata starts to work in her body). She is lovely, brave, always follows her heart and learns how to trust her partner and cope with the new situation she got into against her will. I especially enjoyed how the contrast between Abby’s thoughts and the words she uttered is shown. Nikolai, the weird-looking alien with black eyes, red vertical pupils and sharp teeth is ready to do everything (except one thing) for her love, he is struggling hard to win Abby’s heart. He is a real passionate lover. Despite events being given from multiple character perspectives, I missed the exposition of Lena’s point of view. I wanted to know how she felt and what she was thinking about what happened to her. The sex scenes are well-written, sometimes even going into shocking details. I wasn’t prepared for the erotic scenes, I would have preferred less eroticism, but this would be mild for any fan of erotic fiction.

Claimed by Nikolai is altogether an enjoyable read with unique ideas, I recommend it for everyone who loves fantasies and love stories in general. Holm has brilliant writing technique, the book is filled with dialogue that constantly held my attention right from the start.

Pages: 349 | ASIN: B07R24YW7P

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No Old Souls at Fury Tavern

No Old Souls at Fury Tavern by [Matthes, Dave]

No Old Souls at Fury Tavern, written by Dave Matthes is a must read for anyone entertained by the trials and tribulations of the general dive-bar-going populace. In the story, we meet a regular guy, working in a regular place, who deals with a series of seemingly mundane problems. The ways in which the characters interact with their world, however, is much more interesting than what you would find in your rundown neighborhood dive bar.

Despite a few typos and minor grammatical errors, the writing is excellent. The author’s style is unapologetic and rich, with plenty of depth worked into his narrative to keep you hooked throughout the book. Never too simplified or overly complex, the short, bite-sized chapters keep the pace moving at a quick beat which is obviously what the intention was.

Characterization and world-building are areas that Dave Matthes excels at. While reading No Old Souls sat Fury Tavern, it is impossible not to relate with either the protagonist, Rocko Pitts, or any of the other inhabitant of his world. Each character is carefully crafted and comes with his or her own set of idiosyncrasies and personality. And, each of the characters seems to be placed very well within the world that Matthes creates.

From the descriptions of the physical attributes of Pitts’ world to the imagery – and empathy – that gets drummed up as the characters interact with their world, it is no difficult task to forget that you are reading a work of fiction. The world surrounding Pitts seems as real as the one we all inhabit and that makes identifying with and relating to him a satisfying experience, indeed.

The author is able to transport you into his world and the ride couldn’t be more believable. Add that to the fact that the story is entertaining, and you have yourself a highly-rated book that should be on your must-read list.

Pages: 220 | ASIN: B07R881T6Y

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