Awakening Macbeth, by Carmen Amato

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Much like the title insists, Awakening Macbeth is the story of one woman’s journey of self-discovery. And, of course, the man she chooses to take on said journey. Throw in a few historically manned dreams where souls are literally at stake. 

When I go into romance novels, the biggest thing i analyze is the relationship itself. Is it healthy? Ups and downs, and conflict are one thing. All relationships have minor hiccups. The difference is how they’re addressed. I liked the fact that the narrative created incredibly imperfect relationships and presented healthy solutions. All of those obstacles (and then some) served to really develop Brodie’s character. The level of emotionality that went into the characters was done well. 

Characters themselves were done well. The author took a different route when creating character backstories. I liked the accuracy and the respect shown for types of characters created. I don’t want to spoil the types for other readers, but they’ll know it when it happens. 

The fact that the narrative was a paranormal romance without the romance itself being paranormal was a nice change in a genre over saturated with vampires, shape-shifters, and things like that. The paranormal actually plays a rather huge part of the plot, even though I feel like it sort of took a backseat at times. Because of that, the buildup was alright, but the climax and the mystery were too easy. I took into account that Brodie was smart and sharp, but it still felt too easy for her. 

Actually, to build on Brodie a little bit, I absolutely adored how smart she was. I loved her relationship with other women. There was no petty competition between them; only love and support. Something I wholeheartedly enjoy seeing in any sort of novel. 

Writing style supported the tone of the novel, I think. It was firm, without being overbearing. There was some lightheartedness to it, without being overly comical. I think the description worked well, and the brief historical interludes were a nice change of pace and scenery. 

Easily one of the better romance novels I’ve read. There was a lot of positivity as well as good messages interspersed throughout. While the mystery could use a bit of tweaking, the story itself was solid and consistent. It follows the general genre formula, yet still manages to not be full of stereotypes. It was really an excellent read. 

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Tears of Glass, by David Lake

8_5_17 Tears of Glass



Tears of Glass feels like a narrative constructed for a screen rather than a novel. There were quite a few moments where visual cues would have significantly helped the reader get a better idea of what was happening.


Morgan is an ex-football player that seems to be holding a bit of nostalgia for those days. He has the classic ‘bad boy’ feel to him, without embracing the excess hostility or emotional distress. Which, I suppose is a good thing considering people around him are dying left and right. All because of a mysterious tape. From there, things blow up on a huge scale.


An air of mystery surrounds the first few chapters. There a lot of information purposefully withheld to leave the readers in the dark about certain things. Things are left rather vague. Now, normally, that would be an excellent device to draw readers in and keep them guessing. Unfortunately, this one worked a little too well. It took a few chapters to get the story, plot, and characters organized and discerned into their proper places.


Once things got organized, the story was interesting enough. I liked how things started small, but once they got going, the repercussions were massive. I think the ending was pretty fitting for the sequence of events. A little on the cliché side, and definitely with a romantic hero vibe.


The language of the narrative was lighthearted and wordy. It seemed to add to the relaxed tone of the novel itself. There’s quite a bit of action, but the way it’s told and the way the characters react make things seem more mellow than they’re supposed to be.


Characters weren’t bad. Making an effort to make the female lead a feminist was nice. However, she was stereotyped as a “man hater” and illustrated some of the misconceptions of feminists. Sara was still a very likeable character, though. Morgan’s character wasn’t bad either. I enjoyed the fact that he was a music nut. Beyond that, his character didn’t feel too original. He felt very two-dimensional. Sort of like he had a cardboard cutout standing in for him while everything else was going on.


Feeling lost at the beginning of a novel isn’t always a good thing. I think there are areas that could be polished a little better and made to fit the platform. It had its ups and downs, like any novel. All in all, though, it wasn’t a bad book.


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Day of the Tiger, by Dallas Gorham

7_28_17 Day of the Tiger



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Carlos McCrary is a private investigator, not a cop, thank you very much (quite possibly my favorite running gag throughout the entire novel). Hired by a millionaire, ex-NFL hotshot to help a friend, McCrary’s life just got a lot more exciting.



Now, please believe me when I say that this is, at its core, wholly a private eye novel. A modernized version, for sure, but it stays mostly true to the formula. It didn’t follow the ‘damsel in distress’ trope as much as others seem to. That was nice. While it remains committed to its genre, it defied many stereotypes with its characters.



I can honestly say I enjoyed every character in this, with the exception of the villain. I don’t think he was designed to be a sympathetic character. And he was good at making the reader dislike him. All the characters were integral to the development of each other, in one way or another. The plot almost feels constructed around them—that’s how well it aided them.



The plot was fairly intricate. Several overlapping story lines peppered the narrative. All of them were needed for it to feel complete. It really felt well-rounded. Everything made sense and I didn’t have any questions left at the end. The mystery part of the book was really disguised as background information and world-building, in my opinion. It was how the readers’ learned information that added depth to the characters and the world, without boring or overloading them.



I also enjoyed the diversity of the characters. I liked how they were treated and how the narrative came together around them. That diversity was another place where stereotypes were broken. It helped add a bit more realism and relatability to the cast of characters.

I loved the way everyone interacted. There was plenty of drama to go around, for sure. However, the difference came during how they handled everything. There was no unnecessary in-fighting, simply for the sake of drama. People got along, had good relationships and good foundations.


Action and dialogue were at a good balance. Action was carried out with realism rather than flashy Hollywood stunts. It really felt that McCrary was flying by the seat of his pants instead of miraculously knowing exactly how to escape a situation. That’s not to say things weren’t too easy sometimes, but he still at least hit a few speedbumps.



Quite possibly the series I’ll turn to when the mood hits me for the genre. Very well done. Excellent characterization. Definitely a good read.



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Junkyard Kids, by Caleb Broderick

Junkyard Kids was a tale of the different variety. A dark, crazy variety. But, oh man, was it good.

After witnessing a murder, and subsequently becoming involved, a gaggle of homeless kids embark on the most terrifying journey. Serial killers, hallucinations, guilt, and plot twists.

There were quite the handful of unique things about this novel. We’ll start with the protagonists. Normally when homeless people are involved, the end goal is, of course, a home. Not in this narrative. To be honest, their main goal is survival. Food, shelter, clothing…all of that takes the biggest back seat. So the author is already deviating from standard tropes.

The main character is a POC. And he’s not a stereotype either. There’s a few intersecting storylines involved in the narrative, and I can’t decide if his or Leon’s is more heartbreaking. His level of development throughout is astronomical. He’s not the only POC in the novel, either. They’re all respected characters, not bad stereotypes.

Alright, now the tone and writing. Easily my favorite part. Mostly because of the dialogue. Instead of keeping everyone speaking “proper” like many novels do, these kids have imperfect grammar. They stutter. They feel like actual, real people.

Character dynamics between each other really came full circle, I feel like. They start together, split up, then come back together. Through everything that happens, they stick together. And, I mean, why not? It emphasizes the point that they’re all each other has left.

I liked the way the plot was set up. It teased readers with the appropriate amount of information. There’s several twists throughout. Most of the time, the reader won’t see coming, even if they recognize the foreshadowing points. I thought I had things all figured out. Nope. Not even close.

I will say some of time jumps took me a second. Chapters are marked with what time period each one takes place in, but it doesn’t feel like the smoothest transition. They did do an excellent job of providing backstory for the reader. They focused on all of the junkyard kids, how they met, and how they got to their current state of things. It’s adds a bit more emotionality and sympathy for them when the reader realizes just how bad things are for them.

Junkyard Kids provides such a powerful, colorful picture. These kids are crazy tough and resilient. And yet, they’re still brilliant. Not just smart (and believe me, they are), but they’re excellent people. This is such a wild, worthwhile read.
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Killjoy, by LeVar Ravel

I feel like the mob and hitmen go hand in hand. Killjoy’s no exception. Except…this hitman’s quite different.

Gwen’s dealings with the assassin are a bit different than that of her husband’s, the mob boss that hired him. Things with the assassin get more and more bizarre the more she deals with him. He has a zero percent failure rate. But…why? And that’s where the novel really picks up.



Honestly, I thought I had things figured out after about twenty pages. I was delightfully proven wrong. There’s an air of mystique and mystery maintained throughout the narrative. It helps the reader get into Gwen’s head. It also offers many different possibilities as to the resolution and ending. Because of that, it remains a bit of the unpredictable side.



I liked the dynamic between Gwen and her husband, Charles. They were both excellent, well-rounded characters that adhered to some common genre tropes. However, they deviated enough to keep their characters fresh.



I had one or two questions still remaining at the end, but it was more burning curiosity than anything. While I enjoyed all of the novel, I think the ending was my favorite part. Through all the tumult endured, it had a powerful message that will hit the reader hard.



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Names of Power (The Angel), by Travis Galvan

5_7_17 Names of Power

4 stars

Names of Power reads very much like a young adult book. It feels jovial, goofy, lighthearted–much like Maximum Ride, by James Patterson. Except narrated in third person, rather than first.


We follow siblings Bo and Ren on a very supernatural journey. With some help, they uncover a series of mysteries that will change their lives forever.


The authors’ hook is pretty intense without context. It sets a very promising narrative.


The very first thing that jumped out at me for this novel was the family dynamic. Ren and Bo come from a very loving home. With a single father, no less. Both of which are so nice to see in YA. Their father is so supportive and loving–sometimes a little too much. Brother and sister have arguments within normal parameters. They all love each other. The author sets up that this novel won’t follow all stereotypes.


For the most part, it doesn’t. Ren is a girl that’s not always thinking about boys. She’s smart, capable, and doesn’t need rescuing. She’s not “the chosen one destined to save the world” (yet). Her character development isn’t focused on love and finding “the one.” She gets a storyline that’s about her, and not a plot device that allows someone else to take the spotlight. I thought her character development went in a clear, logical direction.


It’s fast paced, so all the action feels nonstop. These kids never rest. Sometimes things felt too easy–like their father being too accepting, but it works. Everything flows from one scene to the next, without any weird breaks or jumps. The tone and style are very lighthearted. Very positive. Even when conflict happens, it doesn’t feel like it gets anyone down.


The story is well put together. Everything gets tied up, and makes sense from beginning to end. Even the mystery is well done. It takes unexpected twists and turns and unravels at the right pace. Characters feel like contributors to the resolution. All the information presented to the reader feels necessary, and never feels overwhelming. I can say without shame that it kept me guessing.


There’s a little editing needed, but nothing deal-breaking.


Given the title and the ending, Names of Power (The Angel), sets itself up as only a fraction of the actual story. It introduces a complete mystery, with a larger one lurking behind. This sets the stage for a story arc of epic proportions.


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Joaquin’s Ghost, by Mike Hershman

4_26_17 Joaquin's Ghost


Joaquin’s Ghost reads very much like a novel geared for younger audiences, like Nancy Drew. Or Babysitters Club. The style is very simplistic, as is the mystery. Alberto and Toru discover a washed up hand on the beach. So begins the mystery. Who killed him? Why? Why are Joaquin and Three-Fingered Jack so important? Beyond motivating two young kids to be sleuths, that is.
Things are confusing in the beginning. More than once I had to go back and re-read the same sentence. Alberto, the narrator, throws a bunch of information out at once. Trying to get the characters and the setting straight to start with is more work than it should be. Once the story moves on a chapter or two, things get easier. Still, keeping track of the minor characters requires your full attention. That was frustrating.
The setting was on the unique side. A time when immigrants were a big deal, and racism was more blatant than today. California, 1910. Alberto and Toru both deal with these, without making them the subject of the novel. And–as only children can–they offer up opinions wise beyond their years.
Joaquin’s Ghost needs to go back for heavy editing. Grammar and punctuation were awful. There were hyphens everywhere—and in places they didn’t need to be. It made reading frustrating. Breaking things up in the wrong places undermined the tone. I wound up jarred out of the story more often than I’d like.
Given the basics of the novel, I didn’t expect a whole lot of character development. Which was good, because there wasn’t any. Should this be a mystery series, then development would likely happen over a period of time. One book might have more life lessons than others. If that’s the author’s intent, then things work out.
I did like the characterization. Toru and Alberto were both likable. They acted and reacted as kids do. They asked a million questions and the adults (for the most part) indulged them and answered. It was nice to see this dynamic.
Language barriers weren’t addressed well. A bad mixture of Spanish and Japanese words peppered the novel in inappropriate places. I get what the author was going for, it wasn’t carried out as well as it could have been.
If this could get some editing, there is a good idea there. It has potential to be a cute book for a much younger audience.
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Campion’s Choice, by Geoff Warwick

4_17_17 Campions Choice

4 stars

Meet Jack Campion, your average thirteen-year-old. Except he finds weird coins and elephants in abandoned air-raid shelters. And makes piggy banks explode, and…Jack does a lot more than the usual kid his age.
I like the fact that while Jack’s life takes the obvious weird turn, his focus is clear: make his dad better. After an accident left his dad a walking vegetable, things haven’t been so great for the Campion family. It shows in the way Jack presents himself to other people. His emotions have range, and he uses them to his advantage to stay focused. Even when the aliens come for him. Or people get murdered. And now Jack must channel his inner Nancy Drew to figure out what’s going on.
The author’s style suits this novel. It was weird and choppy, like a kids’ brain. Not once did I experience an information dump. Backstory and minute details get fleshed out through dialogue and worldly encounters. The writing is very solid. It’s descriptive enough without being too much or too little. It’s humorous, without detracting from the importance of the situation.
Each of the characters were three-dimensional as well. Jack, Tia, and Liam all have their own unique personalities important to the story. All supporting characters, such as Jack’s dad, were all distinct. While distinct, yes, character development lacked. The character development for Jack is obvious. Main characters are easiest to coax along. Secondary characters are where the struggle gets real. That’s one area where this novel lacked. Or, in Tia’s case, thrown in as an afterthought. Only a few sentences at the end.
Another thing that bothered me was the age of the characters. Jack and Tia, the two that the narrative focuses on, are thirteen. Boy, do they not sound like it. While they don’t sound like it, their age explains why they up and agree to go along with aliens without much of a problem. Downside is, Tia’s character feels thrown in only to be Jack’s ‘love interest.’ There’s too much there. They’re kids. Boys and girls can be friends without any romantic attraction. Please, stop this trope. It’s so bad. And I don’t see any way it serves the plot.
Armed with a unique plot (something so rare nowadays), the author manages to tie up all the loose ends except for one or two—and they’re the ones you know are going to be the focus of the next few books. I love knowing that I finished a book without a multitude of questions that won’t have any play in the future. Well done.



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