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After reading the first part of M. C Ronen’s Liberation trilogy, The Shed, it felt right to proceed to the second part. The story picks up immediately after Sunny escapes from Nature’s farm. We get insight into her life after she’s recruited by DaSLiF, an activist organization with the sole purpose of liberating enslaved people. 

Leaving her past behind, Sunny strives to get acquainted with her new reality, but she is still haunted by nightmares from her past, particularly Jacqueline Roth. Roth is the reformed nature’s farm soldier responsible for her mother’s death, and Sunny is convinced that this former assassin is not all she appears to be.

Liberation by M. C Ronen is an independent read, so if you’ve not read part one, you will not be lost when reading this book. M. C Ronen carefully refills all the loopholes from part one. However, I recommend reading it for better context.

The author creates a world where all forms of slave exploitation are legal, a symbolic representation of animal exploitation in the real world. The brutal conditions these enslaved people find themselves in emphasize the cruelty of humanity. Readers’ discretion is, however, advised for young readers as the book contains detailed scenes of horrific experiences that could be triggering.

Another commendable element of Liberation is Sunny’s character development. She undeniably evolves from a dairy slave to an activist while balancing an ordinary life as a teenage girl. She confronts her fears, although not without a few missteps. M. C Ronen crafts an empathic character, making us feel the apprehension of the protagonist.

Liberation is a suspenseful dystopian novel that will leave readers with much to think about. The dynamic characters and drama of fighting for freedom will have readers waiting for the third installment to see how things end.

Page: 300 | ASIN : B084KKNJ77

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Welcome to the Madhouse

Stories about grand houses with lots of servants are a staple in historical fiction. A lot of the time, the house and servants are a backdrop for the story. Author Valerie Anne Hudson’s Maids of Maddington: Welcome To The Madhouse is a twist on that kind of story. Yes, it takes place in the home of a fabulously wealthy family. However, the story is very light on the “upstairs” part of the drama. Instead of focusing on fashionable upstairs intrigue, this story is told entirely by a housemaid.

Our narrator, Eliza, is a young woman who comes from grinding poverty. She works as a servant in the homes of wealthier people as a means to support herself, her mother, and her siblings. She is good-natured and dutiful. Eliza has no flaws to speak of. The story kicks off when Eliza starts working in the eponymous Madhouse’s Montague household. She finds a true friend, only to nearly lose her in a classic morality tale.

On the first page, the reader is immediately flung, in medias res, into the hubbub surrounding a high-profile murder trial. But, while a crime was committed, there is a long buildup. Hudson takes readers on that journey, seen through Eliza’s eyes, which builds the suspense. Eliza’s character is one that you grow fond of as she is courageous and kind, and you follow her on her journey as she struggles to take care of her family. Eliza and Annie form a beautiful relationship, and the drama that surrounds them makes this one read that is hard to put down.

Welcome To The Madhouse is an entertaining and engrossing story. The reader gets to see the ugly side of life in the Victorian era is at the heart of the tale, and Hudson effectively uses the contrast between the elegant lives of the Montagues and the difficult lives of Eliza’s family. This cozy little story is definitely worth reading, and I look forward to reading more books in the series.

Pages: 195 | ASIN : B09ZK9RB7P

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Ashes, Ashes

Jessica Goeken’s Ashes, Ashes centers around teenage monster slayer, Adrienne Young, as she navigates family drama, high school crushes, and magical responsibilities. Adrienne has more on her plate than your average seventeen-year-old — trying to strike a balance between attending classes and battling creatures from the Shadow Plane isn’t easy. But when her guardians come under attack by an unknown entity, Adrienne must put her life on the line to save them. With the help of her adoptive siblings, Adrienne is duty-bound to solve the mystery surrounding her guardians’ disappearance, alongside the death of several schoolgirls — and it’s going to take all her strength to do it.

Reminiscent of young adult adventure stories like the Percy Jackson series, Ashes, Ashes is an action-packed rollercoaster filled with fights, tears, and humor. While some may find the high school romance plot less compelling than the magical battle Adrienne becomes embroiled in, overall this novel strikes a balance between high-stakes conflict and more lighthearted concerns.

This story does make use of some well-worn tropes, such as the popular boy falling for the outcast girl (who, we are led to understand as readers, is beautiful but unaware of it). However, the world-building is immersive and exciting — the author has clearly put a lot of thought into the existence of her magi, with their uniquely turbulent lifestyle and varying skills and abilities.

The concept of creatures existing within different planes, and the relationship between our world and these planes, is also intriguing and employed to good effect. It is both thrilling and amusing to watch Adrienne leap between fighting malevolent creatures and returning to the Mortal Plane in time for school. I would recommend this book, particularly to any young adult who enjoys a mixture of supernatural horror and teen drama, as life-threatening events coincide with the typical trials and tribulations of growing up.

Pages: 344 | ASIN : B09YY333XL

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Rasputin’s Scorn

Rasputin’s Scorn is the exciting new YA mystery novel by Courtnee Turner Hoyle. While the book’s exact setting is never really confirmed, it can be inferred from clues within the novel that the book is set in the modern-day or near future. This world is almost exactly like ours except for one big difference. A new street drug, Scorn, has appeared that grants people remarkable new abilities but comes at a significant cost. Users become increasingly bestial and suffer from terrible blood lust. Addicts are often thrown into camps by the government, never to be seen again.

Our protagonist, Rasputin, a straight-A student, is one such potential user. At 14 years old, Rasputin’s life is beginning to unravel. His loving mother is terminally ill, his mysterious father abandoned his family, and the girl he’s crushing on seems unobtainable. This leads Rasputin to go against his better judgment and steal a vial of Scorn from a local dealer. What follows is a roller-coaster ride as Rasputin is dragged into a centuries-old conspiracy where he must rely on his closest friends, Loila, Monique, and Aiden. But in this crazy new world, he’s discovered not everyone can be trusted.

Hoyle has worked as a teacher for many years, which shows in her writing. She really nails the young adolescent voice. Rasputin is immediately likable as the lead and easy to root for. Young readers will find many of Rasputin’s attributes relatable, making it easy to empathize with his struggle. This novel may be a mystery at the core, but Hoyle fills the book with many real-life problems. Rasputin has to deal with issues of bereavement and abandonment. At the same time, it is clear that someone close to him is a victim of domestic abuse while another has struggled with drug addiction. The reader follows Rasputin as he and his friends start to deal with their changing bodies and the genuine nightmares of middle school, making this a read that hits close to home. There’s a lot to unpack here, and there’s a lot to relate to.

Rasputin’s Scorn is a great young adult fantasy novel. It deals tactfully with issues many teens struggle with today. It’s also an excellent read for adults, and I look forward to reading the next book in the trilogy.

Pages: 197 | ASIN : B0B1Q3GXJJ

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The Conclave

The Conclave by S. C. Eston is a fantasy book based in the world of Arvelas. The book begins with a worry amidst the protectors of the realm who have recently chased away a considerable threat to their city. The city is rebuilding, and people think the worst is behind them. The Seeker, however, is not so sure about that. The air is chilling, and a feeling of dread continues to seep within his heart. Onthar, the Seeker, calls a meeting of all the Vanguards and important people in a secret place. The meeting is to plan the further course as well as to find out about the traitor amidst them.

Eston’s writing style is engaging and flows smoothly. The interest spikes as we get deeper into the story making it hard to put the book down. The flashbacks and episodic introductions are used to explain the city’s current situation. Most of the actions and events are discussed in retrospect. The oscillation between past and present is visible and keeps the reader’s interest.

Even while being vague, the author can arise the sense of dread and fear that plagues the characters. However, the description of characters is effective and prevents them from merging in the shadows. Each character has its own story, which is reflected in the book.

I enjoyed reading this book with a fast-paced narrative with multiple characters and viewpoints. The shift in narratives is clear and makes the reading experience enriching. The book ends on an ambiguous note with a promising sequel to this story. However, the threat hasn’t been obliterated even though the story comes to an end. It will be amusing to read more about the world of Arvelas and the realm of Tilia.

The Conclave is a captivating epic fantasy novel. Young adult and teen readers who want a fast-paced, action-filled adventure with powerful characters will find this novel hard to put down.

Pages: 233 | ASIN : B07JMM42TR

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The Devil Pulls the Strings

Boone Daniels is your typical knight in shining armor. His sense of justice and loyalty is strong, especially after a terrible accident at a jousting match that puts his best friend, Flynn, in the hospital. Unable to perform with his band, the Village Idiots, Flynn asks Boone to take his place in New York at a charity ball. Provided with an address and time, Boone heads to NYC to meet the Village Idiot’s benefactor, Professor Stone. Boone soon stumbles upon his true purpose for being in New York – to stop Sinti from summoning the devil and stop Baba Yaga, an immortal being who has been trapped in a deep sleep for centuries, from destroying NYC. Along with his new friend, Sapphire, Boone helps a secret organization fight a long-time war with the Dragon and Nymph society.

In The Devil Pulls the Strings, Joseph Zarek brings to life magic and monsters found in European lore. This is an exciting story that I found to be fast-paced and full of action. The author hits on thrilling plot points rapidly, moving Boone through his next steps to stopping Sinti quickly with just enough time to digest what happened before moving on.

Readers are immediately introduced to intriguing magic and mythological creatures before the main character, which sets readers up to know what kind of imaginative story they are delving into, but I feel like this prevents readers from discovering this secret world along with the main character.

Some of the information the author uses is factual and conforms to the original mythology, which I loved, but in some areas the author bends mythological rules in unique ways, which I love even more. For example, Wendigos prey on people who are socially disconnected or corrupt, greedy and/or weak. I enjoyed the author’s fresh take on these mythological creatures.

The Devil Pulls the Strings is a quirky epic fantasy adventure that is relentlessly moving forward and never forgets to entertain the reader. The modern reimagining of old mythologies and the mash-up of multiple mythologies makes this a one-of-a-kind fantasy that readers will surely enjoy.

Pages: 254 | ASIN: B09435JJ67

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Finding The Oak Tree

Finding the Oak Tree: The First Druid Chronicle, by Louis Orozco Lopez, is an intriguing coming-of-age story of a young boy who can’t remember his name and appears from nowhere. He sets out on a gauntlet where you have a wealth of knowledge at your disposal if you’re the last man -or woman- standing. Few enter. Not many live to claim the prize. His journey of self-discovery takes him through darkness and into the light of his past.

I enjoyed this thought-provoking story as when it first starts out, the reader is not introduced to the main character; instead, the story just begins. This is partly due to the fact that the main character doesn’t know his name. He also is clueless about his past. We come to know him by the name Bera, but later, he is called Sol.

The main character is interesting as he has learned so much from his teacher and the reader watches him put his skills to use. I enjoyed the magical aspect of the story as it really enhances the characters and ups the stakes. Another aspect of the story I enjoyed was the addition of the quotes from different characters with snippets of knowledge sharing, and it sets the tone for each chapter.

The author flawlessly switches between characters making it easy to follow along. The timeline doesn’t follow a linear fashion, so the reader gets bits and pieces of information out of order. By doing this, I was eager to know more, and it made the book hard to put down. One aspect that stood out to me was the author’s use of descriptive language. His worldbuilding really brings readers into the story and allows them to feel like they are part of the action. I was able to clearly imagine what was going on. I was so immersed in the story that I was shocked once I got to the end. The ending of the story was unexpected.

Finding the Oak Tree: The First Druid Chronicle is a breathtaking epic fantasy. This coming-of-age novel will appeal to teens and young adults with an exciting adventure story and action from start to finish.

Pages: 220 | ASIN : B09N21FFFQ

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To Those We Found

To Those We Found by George Ander is a science fiction book based in a completely different galaxy. Instead of having features like tentacles and an exoskeleton, the aliens have the same physical construction as humans. This captivating story has been told from the viewpoint of an alien competing for the position of a champion; the winner will represent their planet in other solar systems.

The protagonist of the story, Taman Yedder, is selected by a random lottery to represent his world to the whole universe. He reaches the destination but finds himself trapped in a desolate hospital with the doctor forcing him to stay there. After a scuffle, he escapes the hospital and begins exploring this mother world he is supposed to prepare a report about.

Through the journey and thoughts of Taman, readers will explore his world. The historical evidence and the leaders’ talks are contradictory, and Taman begins his search for truth. However, his investigation leads him to deep and dark secrets which no one wants to hear about. He also explores his sexuality and begins to question the reason for his sacrifices. The leadership doesn’t want anyone to know things Taman has started asking.

The author explores many human world problems like religion, politics, economy, sexual identity, and technology through the alien world. The characters and their responses are eerily human but being in a different world creates an estrangement with the readers. This book is a deep dive into the psychology and philosophy of the human mind. I felt that, at times, the author’s explanation of the psychology of humans was lost in the story’s narrative or just confusing to understand. The cultural hegemony of our world has been shown, and capitalism has been questioned. The protagonist is an outsider, enabling him to question and look at these from a fresh perspective rather than blindly follow them. This book is fiction wrapped in ideological and realistic problems that plague our world.

The author brings out a lot of contemporary issues through the story. I liked the subtle yet firm way the author establishes the parallel between our world and this fictional world. The writing style is captivating, and the plot engages with enough dialogues and actions. So many contemporary and chronic issues of our world have been represented without any solution.

To Those, We Found is a riveting young adult science fiction novel for teens who want to read action-filled and engaging plots and for people who want a philosophical look at the world in their readings.

Pages: 389 | ASIN : B09MNS6J4V

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