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Undying Sway

Undying Sway: A Paranormal Romance by [Jenny M Mason]

Jenny M. Mason’s book, Undying Sway, is an exciting fantasy novel in a modern setting with all kinds of plot twists and turns. Follow the heroine, Kara, as she discovers more and more about her family history all because of an online DNA test. Since she was adopted and never met her mother, a gap existed in her life. She then meets her long lost aunt and learns that they are more than meets the eye. Alex, a handsome cousin of hers, also turns out to lead a life more complex than it seems on the surface.

In this story, I found that the major character’s were interesting and relatable. Everyone has their flaws, and we see that in every character. The internal monologue of Kara was constantly intriguing and we really saw how she analyzed all sides when making her decisions. Her voice was unique but at times I felt it was a bit too colloquial.

Throughout the novel, we see Kara debate the themes of morals, family duty, and immortality. At the start of the novel, we see Kara exploring the concept of lucid dreaming. During those scenes, she lives her life freely without repercussions, but of course, over time we see that there is always a catch. When it comes to family duty, we learn more and more about Kara’s history. Then we see how Kara’s relationship between her grandparents becomes complicated like her own with Alex. Finally, we also see how immortality, while a fun dream, has plenty of flaws in itself.

The setting was interesting, but through much of the story we are told how to feel and see things by the narrator instead of witnessing it first hand. While voice and emotional tone were strong, the setting and description were not as strong at times.

Undying Sway has an interesting premise and I adore reading fantasy placed in the modern setting. I loved the idea of an immortal long lost family member. I would like to see more scenes with the side characters and delve further into their stories as they were really interesting. This is an exciting paranormal romance novel that is sure to entertain.

Pages: 324 | ASIN: B0812F7ZWK

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Crown of Crowns

Crown of Crowns by [Clara Loveman]

As a daughter of one of the ruling families of Geniverd, Kaelyn has never known anything outside of her life of privilege and protection. She begins to realize the depth of that privilege when she meets Roki and learns more about the struggles of the common people. Through personal tragedies and charitable work, Kaelyn’s life changes drastically in just three years, but she is unaware that the changes are about to escalate quickly, and in ways she could never have imagined. Suddenly faced with more power and knowledge than she thought existed, Kaelyn has to become the savior Geniverd didn’t know it needed.

Crown of Crowns by Clara Loveman takes place on a dystopian-esque planet named Geniverd where disease has been nearly eradicated, natural births are against the moral code, and machines do every job previously held by humans. The ruling class, with royal families on each of the six continents, live in luxury and are insulated from any of the problems faced by the rest of the population. Kaelyn never questioned the traditions that her family, and the other elitists, followed until her mid-teens when she realizes just how much of a division they have actually created within the world and the majority of the people. At that point, Crown of Crowns moves the narrative along at a breakneck pace, as Loveman introduces a barrage of situations that forces Kaelyn to quickly mature, as she struggles with an ever-changing worldview. The story is a smooth and easy read for the most part, although the language occasionally reverts to almost adolescent type slang, which is jarring and a departure from the overall competent tone of the book.

Crown of Crowns deals heavily with the theme of morality, and the idea of doing what is right versus doing what has always been done. Kaelyn makes it clear early on that she believes tradition isn’t always what’s best, especially when a majority of people are suffering as a result. Her beliefs form initially from a place of selfishness (tradition would keep her from being with the person she loves) but as she grows and learns more about the world, she sees that genuine change is necessary for the people to thrive. 

Reading Crown of Crowns right now was also incredibly interesting because there were key plot points that reflected issues in our current society, namely an unforeseen pandemic and severe social unrest caused by years of disregard for the “common” people. The characters were engaging and I was invested in discovering what Kaelyn would do next, however, the book ends abruptly, leaving loose ends and questions to be answered in a followup novel. Crown of Crows is an epic dystopian fantasy novel that will entertain young-adult fans.

Pages: 238 | ASIN: B08BJGNHT7

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Moira

Moira (The Witness Journals Book One) by Nix Damon is a fantasy fiction story set in New Mexico in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s (Anti-World 42) about a teenage girl who finds herself on her own as soon as she turns eighteen. But Moira Angela Starling has been fending for herself a long time, even before her aunt abandoned her without warning or explanation. After Moira is attacked when she is out for a run, she meets a man named Rafe. But is he friend or foe? Suddenly, Moira is thrust into a world of magical beings and unexplained mysteries and danger. Will she be able to find a way to survive?

This was a fun story to read. I liked Moira’s snarky wit at the beginning of the story. The author’s vivid descriptions of her characters really brought Moira and Rafe to life for me. It was interesting to learn details about the different anti-worlds and the witnesses, and Moira’s abilities and the secrets of her true identity. I liked the addition of the author’s playlist at the end of the book, which allows readers to listen to the music that inspired Moira’s story. One of my favorite aspects of the book was the interactions between Moira and Rafe. I enjoyed reading the parts of the story where Moira and Rafe were together more than the sections when he was gone.

The story line is a bit drawn out with several years passing. The book starts with Moira in high school where she doesn’t fit in, and this section felt very much like a young adult fantasy story. But then Moira is out of school and we see her working several jobs and trying to conform to be a more “normal” adult, which seemed counter to her personality, but the juxtaposition and development felt more like real life. But the fantasy element of the novel wavers in this part while we’re treated to a more grounded story. It didn’t feel like the two sections belonged in the same book since they were disparate. but then Rafe reappears in Moira’s life and takes her to his home, and the fantasy aspect of the story becomes much stronger again and I was reeled back into this riveting story.

The author leaves the reader with a lot of unanswered questions at the end of the story and Moira’s fate is uncertain. Hopefully, these questions will be answered in Witness Journals book two. Moira is an enthralling coming of age novel filled with magical realism that kept me furiously flipping pages.

Pages: 383 | ASIN: B0829FH2RX

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Worldshaper

Worldshaper (Worldshapers Book 1) by [Edward Willett]

Worldshaper by Edward Willett is an exciting supernatural adventure story that builds on a unique premise to deliver a mesmerizing story. Set in a small town, the book delves into the life of Shawna, a seemingly normal woman whose perfect life takes a suddenly deadly turn. Her best friend is killed. But after experiencing this horrific event it’s erased from existence, including her friend. Shawna then encounters a mysterious stranger that  helps her understand what is happening to her, her world, and comes to find out that all of it is threatened by an evil entity.

Worldshaper has one of the most unique setups to a story that I’ve read this year. Shawna has a supernatural ability to shape worlds to her liking, although she doesn’t know it. This sets up the story to be a learning experience where we as the reader learn along with Shawna as she’s learning about it. Delivered in the first person we get to see Shawnas wit and charm first hand. She becomes endearing and fun to follow. Shawna starts out as somewhat of a reluctant and naive hero, a bit cliched for the fantasy genre, but what makes this novel stand out from the rest is the extraordinary journey that she goes on, exotic worlds that she visits, and the dramatic twist at the end. To say I didn’t see the twist coming at the end would be an understatement. I don’t think anyone will see it coming. You should read this novel for the fantastic ending, if for nothing else.

What I liked the most about Worldshaper was the world building, but it was also something that slowed the story’s pace a bit. Edward Willet has obviously put a lot of thought into building not just one world, but a universe of shaped worlds. It’s all presented to the reader up front, which can be a lot to take in, but readers who enjoy deep world building and unique design will enjoy the meticulous development of the backstory. Sprinkle in some offbeat characters and dramatic turn of events and you have an exceptional supernatural story that is highly engrossing.

This is book one in Edward Willett’s Worldshapers series. This sets the bar high for the series. With most of the Worldshaper mythology established here, other novels are surely primed to deliver non-stop fun and entertainment. Worldshaper is thoroughly entertaining, rarely dull, and always fun.

Pages: 368 | ASIN: B0782XSM22

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Demon Heart

DEMON HEART by [David Crane, Mary Holzrichter]

Published in 2017, David Crane’s dramatic Sci-Fi novel, Demon Heart, is set in Osaka, Japan. It explores the roles of light and darkness in shaping the human experience. It is a powerful narrative about Naoko Kitamura, the protagonist who realizes that she is half-demon. Living amongst human beings, the character learns how to manage this dark side – by controlling the intensity of her powers.

Crane’s readers realize that learning one’s true identity has a significance in their life journey. All the challenges faced by Naoko, prove her strength and ability to achieve victory, regardless of all the tough circumstances at play.

I give this book a 5-star rating for numerous reasons. First, it was cathartic to read it in first person narration, as this made me feel closer to Naoko, the protagonist. It was easier to understand all the psychological battles within her mind, by progressing with her thoughts, throughout the story.

Furthermore, the book gives an account of the themes of good and evil, and the basis of human existence. Naoko reveals to her characters the importance of accepting one’s identity. Suppressing the shadows and demons within us only leads to chaos. If she wasn’t aware of her true identity, it’d be difficult for her to understand the origin of all the darkness around her.

Through the writing of Crane, the readers perceive demons from a different light. We have been taught, so often, that demons are destructive, and don’t want the best for humans. This is quite clear when Naoko is expected to keep her true identity a secret. Human beings cannot handle the intensity of divinity thus, they shouldn’t know much about this world. Keeping it a secret is also psychological since humans would not have the capacity to understand the healing powers of a demon-hybrid.

However, Naoko manages to engage the readers’ empathetic sides, as she thrives to create a balance between good and evil in the world. She is indeed one of the genuine police officers, who attempt to create this balance, while greatly fighting against evil.

This book also teaches its readers about Japanese cultures, traditions and beliefs, and it is a great narrative for readers like me, with a keen interest in the spiritual realm.

The story captured my attention, right from the title, and I’ll be sure to give it a second reading due to how much I related with the protagonist and her experiences.

Pages: 272 | ASIN: B074DSSBPY

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A Misunderstood Monster

Author Interview Craig DiLouie

Author Interview Craig DiLouie

One of Us follows a group of teenagers known to locals as monsters because they bear the markings of extreme genetic mutation. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thought-provoking story?

Thank you for reading it and for your kind review! I’d wanted to write a monster novel and try a different take on it.

Previously, I’d written a vampire novel, Suffer the Children, about a parasite that kills the world’s children and allows them to return to life for a brief period of time if they drink human blood. The children are vampires, but the monsters in the book are the parents who have to decide how far they will go to keep their children alive. It made for a horrifying twist on the vampire story that challenges the reader to evaluate how far they themselves would go for love.

For One of Us, I wanted to do a misunderstood monster take similar to Frankenstein, give the children developing agency similar to The X-Men, and make them hideous and terrifying such that they are subjected to horrible prejudice, which they fight in an uprising that is as cathartic as the classic 1972 film Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. When they finally rebel, the reader must confront whether this was necessary or if change could have occurred some other way. The whole story is produced as a Southern Gothic, really the most original twist here, which seemed perfect for the novel, as Southern Gothic has a dark and rich tradition of covering strong topics like the grotesque, societal decay, taboo, and prejudice. And while it is very dark and somewhat violent, reflecting the society these people live in, the story ends on an important note of hope.

I liked how you were able to imbue both the normal people and the plagued with good and bad characteristics. What were some themes that were important for you to capture in your characters?

Initially, I wanted to show very simply that books should not be judged solely by their covers, so as the story develops, we see very human monsters and in some cases very monstrous humans, all of them the product of the society they share that is broken by the plague and the genetic mutations it produced among a generation now coming of age and wanting their birth rights. As this is a Southern Gothic, there is an ensemble cast of characters, and also true to that literary form, we see the full pageantry of human behavior on display, the good, the bad, and the ugly. By the end, when the children begin to fight back and win, the reader will probably experience a sense of catharsis after seeing and experiencing what the monsters endured, but then question their feelings. I fell in love with these characters, even the bad ones, and I hope my readers will too.

Your characters are all well developed and intriguing. Who was your favorite character to write?

Readers seem to like Dog, one of the monsters, as he’s earnest and believes if he follows the rules and works hard, he’ll get a fair shake. Sadly for him, the world ain’t fair. Goof, another one of the monsters, was a lot of fun to write because has an amazing power but all he wants to do is have a fun, normal childhood, and he offers comic relief. Among the monsters, though, my favorite is probably Brain. He’s a super genius trapped in a hideous body and must hide his intelligence from the authorities. He doesn’t see him and his brethren as monsters but as the rebirth of the gods of ancient myth. He doesn’t want a revolution but plans one anyway, seeing it as necessary. When the violence starts, there’s no turning back even though he finds it horrifying and hates it, making him a tragic figure.

On the human side, there are a number of characters we can both root for and hate, from the idealistic Jake to the hapless loser Dave Gaines, but my favorite is probably Sheriff Burton. He feels for the monsters but is similarly trapped by his role and belief system, which is to enforce what he sees as the natural order. This also makes him a tragic figure trapped between who he is and what he must face in the story, including guilt over a secret connection he has with the monsters.

In the end, it is these characters who take well-worn themes in a fresh package and make the whole thing emotionally a gut punch that I hope will affect readers, make them think and feel and challenge their perceptions, and continue engaging with the story even after they close the covers.

Will there be a follow up novel that continues this story?

Unfortunately, no follow-up is planned at this point, as it was a standalone story. Based on reader interest, though, there’s always a possibility.

Author Links: Amazon | GoodReads

One of Us by [Craig DiLouie]They’ve called him a monster from the day he was born.

Abandoned by his family, Enoch Bryant now lives in a rundown orphanage with other teenagers just like him. He loves his friends, even if the teachers are terrified of them. They’re members of the rising plague generation. Each bearing their own extreme genetic mutation.

The people in the nearby town hate Enoch, but he doesn’t know why. He’s never harmed anyone. Works hard and doesn’t make trouble. He believes one day he’ll be a respected man.

But hatred dies hard. The tension between Enoch’s world and those of the “normal” townspeople is ready to burst. And when a body is found, it may be the spark that ignites a horrifying revolution.

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