Perfectly Normal, by Amy Martin

I’m going to be honest: when I started this novel, I thought it was going to be a very generic body-swap-girl-and-boy-fall-in-love type deal.

I’m so happy it wasn’t. In fact, right about halfway point, the novel took everything I thought it was and shattered that image.

When one of their friends goes missing, Rachel and Ellie go to investigate. Rachel wakes up inside the body of one of the “perfects,” and an old friend. Between Ellie and Dani’s boyfriend, they’re bound and determined to find out what happened: and the answer is the most shocking thing they’ve ever heard.

The beginning was very much like many young adult novels. The “popular” girls, the “outsiders,” the “hot boyfriend caught in the middle.” There were a lot of tropes present and they followed the formula for a blossoming romance to a T. The twist that follows was one I didn’t see coming, and it was really good.

The actual premise of the novel was good. It made sense for all the characters and it was a good plot device for their relationships and development. There is a noticeable difference between all of them at the end. I liked the way it forced them together and made them work with each other. For the most part, the characters all had their own unique voice and personality. There were moments where things felt a little flat. Dialogue helped things along, though.

The plot-twist world-building was done well. I’m trying to not give it away because it was really good and it fit well into the narrative. I liked how it got the parents involved, and how well thought-out it was. It did well for the overall tone of the novel.

There were a few moments where things stalled out, but things really came together at the end and it ended on such a good cliffhanger. For sure excited for the next in the series.

Advertisements

Sleep Savannah Sleep, by Alistair Cross

It’s very rare for the ending of a mystery novel to surprise me. I’m pleased to announce that this one did.

After the death of his wife, Jason moves to Shadow Springs with his two kids. No foreshadowing in the name, right? Small towns hold such ominous secrets, and Jason’s about to find out just how devastating they can be.

This was a pretty nice blend of both horror, suspense, and mystery. Time and effort were put into creating a compelling and well-paced mystery. The clues were all there, but they were expertly placed and not very obvious. I liked that a lot. It made the twist at the end even more shocking.

Jason, now a single father, was a very dynamic character. I liked how the author addressed the struggles of becoming the “mom” figure and dealing with a hurting family. Things were done tastefully and realistically. Family dynamics were done much the same way, too. Things were very believable, and it was easy to see a bit of familiarity in the way they interacted.

The overall plot was done well. I felt as though things progressed in a logical manner, even if things felt a little slow. The slowness came from getting to know important characters to make them stand out rather than just be bland and boring.

Development was an essential part of each character. It helped them come alive. Even the minor characters were treated with the same priority.

I did wind up having one or two questions at the end, but they were relatively minor in relation to the overall story. I felt like, for the most part, they didn’t affect anything and most readers would be very satisfied by the way things wrap up.

Icarus, by David Hulegaard

1_30_18 Icarus.jpg

4 stars

 

Don’t forget to check out my Patreon!

 

Whatever ending I expected, Icarus did not follow. The storyline veered hard to the right in an interesting way that will surely suck readers right in.

 

After a young girl goes missing, her friend hires Miller Brinkman, P.I. to investigate. What he finds begins a crazy adventure that pushes the bounds of the genre.

 

Aside from Miller sounding like a neckbeard on occasion (“I tipped my Fedora…”) he was a very likeable character. For a mystery novel it progressed in a patient manner that aided the narrative and didn’t give too much away. The foreshadowing was pretty on point as the book managed to hold everything to the end.

 

The mystery itself was also a rather riveting one. Things certainly were what they seemed like at the beginning. That’s what mysteries are for, though, right? At the heart of it were good characters. They were different from each other, with their own voices and their own role to play in the narrative.

 

I liked the way the style transitioned to accommodate the supernatural themes. It definitely had an X-Files theme to it towards the end.

 

While the novel and singular mystery wrapped up nicely at the conclusion, it ended on such a cliffhanger. And it was a good one, done in just the right way with enough tension to still make the reader feel a little anxious. I genuinely enjoyed it. I would love to read the sequels.

 

Buy it here!

Loading: Life, by E. N. Chaffin

Don’t forget to check out my Patreon!

The premise of a preternatural, video game-esque narrative is one that isn’t always done too well. However, in Loading Life, real world and video games mesh together excellently. 

Hero, the downtrodden, troublemaking main character without a special ability, is paired with Annie Mei, top student, for a project that will allow him to pass a class in school. From there his life gets weirder and more malicious, while he himself grows as a person. 

Now, usually when the main character is a delinquent, or made out to be something of an uncontrollable statistic, they’re inherently abusive in one way or another. In Loading Life, the author takes a different approach. Sure, Hero is a butthead, but he doesn’t abuse his friends or Annie, especially. Not using her as a sounding board was a huge deal for me. Therefore, when Hero’s character development came, he learned he didn’t need to be scared and run away. He learned he could ask for help. He wasn’t given up on and tossed aside like so many wanted to do. He was still a butthead, but it turned into friendly banter. Character development was huge in this novel for almost every character, even the minor ones, like the guys in the gang. The reader also go to know the characters well without a clogging info dump. 

The writing style was well-suited as well. It was light and serious where it needed to be. Gritty in places without being over the top. As for the world building: HUDs, mana bars, health bars, and things of the Life were as well-integrated as magic would be in a fantasy setting. 

All-in-all, a rounded novel. It’s easy to get sucked in. While the storyline isn’t necessarily original, the storytelling is refreshing and everything wraps up nice and neat at the end. 

Buy it here!

Death Unmasked, by Rick Sulik



A different spin on a classic cop tale. It follows quite a few stereotypes of the genre. However, it differentiates in the fact that it brings reincarnation and past lives–paranormal things–into the station. 

Sean Jamison’s so close to retiring. His coworkers think he’s losing it. In reality, that’s the farthest from the truth. Relics from a past life set him on a journey of self-discovery, heartbreak, and a killer much more familiar than he’s comfortable with. 

I liked the reincarnation aspect included in the narrative. The typical “gut feeling” that many cops seem to have was given more depth. My issue with it came near the end, during the resolution, when Sean suddenly knew an awful lot about other people’s past lives. Don’t get me wrong–the explanations tied things up nicely. A lot of information came that left me wondering why he knows all of this? Is the author looking to set things up for a sequel and explain things more then? The entire sequence felt a bit disjointed from the rest of the narrative. 

There’s a nice roller coaster of emotion that goes with this as well. Relationships were made and broken, people stepped out of their comfort zone, and really made quite a bit of progress with their personal development. I felt like things moved too quickly or easily on occasion, however. 

The ending felt a bit anti-climactic. There was a large buildup with the antagonist. It just seemed to coast along, though. I wouldn’t say it fell flat or short, but it didn’t feel nearly as exciting as the buildup led it to be. 

Character dynamics were nice. There were quite a few to get attached to, even in just a short period of time. And instead of featuring trim, young, handsome cops in the prime of their life, the narrative focuses on those in the later stages of life. It shows how it’s never too late for anything to happen–love, a sense of self and purpose, all of those can happen at anytime. Sometimes a person just has to wait a little longer than others. 

I also liked how the women were treated as characters. They were empowered, respected, and just as necessary to the narrative as everyone else. 
Death Unmasked was certainly a unique twist on an age-old formula. It followed quite a few stereotypes, but differentiated enough that it wasn’t boring. The world was set up in such a way that spin-offs and sequels that can explore some of the secondary characters a little deeper. 
Buy it here!

A Gleam of Light, by T. J. & M. L. Wolf

7_11_17 Gleam of Light

4 stars

Don’t forget to check out my Patreon!

 

To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure what goes better together than traditional Native American legends and ancient aliens. Seriously. Looking back at tales of sky people and creation stories—why can’t aliens be the answer? Now, the word ‘alien’ is never technically used, but…we all know. We want to believe.

 

 

After a crazy incident on a plane at 30,000 feet, Una Waters ends up distancing herself from her home. Now, as an adult, life has called her back to her Hopi roots. It winds up being exactly what she needs. A cave’s been discovered not far from her home, and now the military threaten the place she grew up.

 

 

The first thing this novel makes clear is that the main character, Una, is a POC. Not white, not ambiguous—she’s straight up Hopi and proud of it. In fact, not only does it focus on Hopi legends and traditions, but the plight of the Hopi and many other Native American cultures. They’re trying to preserve what little they have left with all the resistance from the white man. In many ways, the story parallels current events. There’s a lot of information given about the tribe, and it helps the reader to sympathize with Una’s plight. The information comes in intervals, as it becomes relevant to the plot.  Quite a bit of time and effort appear to have gone into researching the subject matter. Things don’t feel stereotypical.

 

 

With very much a Circle of Life vibe, the novel eventually comes full circle, as well. Coincidence is one thing, but the foreshadowing placed at the beginning of the novel shows that coincidence and fate are very intertwined.

 

 

If you’re looking for an action-packed thriller, you’re looking in the wrong place. For all of the conflict that does occur, the tone of the novel is still pretty mellow. It reflects Una’s character well. While she recognizes when she should have a sense of urgency, she feels very much at peace with herself and things around her. It’s an envious state of mind, to be sure. The relaxing narrative helped the reader to sit back and learn something new.

 

 

There was an incredible message wrapped within the entertaining narrative. It’s educational. A Gleam of Light is spun in such a way that it would make many UFO chasers sit down and say: “yes, please.” It’s only book one, and I’m very interested to see where Una’s journey’s takes her next.

 

Buy it here!

The White Raven, by Carrie D. Miller

The White Raven - Ebook - 1000

stars-5-0._CB192240867_

 

The White Raven gave me literal chills. Not just once or twice, either. Several times.

 

How many more lives must Aven live through? She’s on lucky number thirteen now. So lucky, in fact, that she settled in modern-day Salem, touting witchcraft freely. A fitting location for the mysteries of Aven’s past lives to haunt her. And everything was off to a great start, too.

 

I could honestly go on about this plot for days, it was that good. The thematic continuity was crafted so well. Not only did the author tackle good versus evil in an excellent way, they tried their hand at karma, too. The subject of karma comes up several times throughout the novel. The way it’s foreshadowed is brilliant. Key events and characters are placed at a point that the reader keeps them in the back of their mind. When the reveal happens, the message is pretty powerful.

 

Witchcraft has so many different renditions in the literary world. I loved the simplicity of magic in this novel. While it’s used often, it never feels like the characters are overpowered. It serves important purpose to the plot, so spells aren’t flashy or showy. The author took their time to make sure they did things right by modern witches, and it shows. The setting gave things a very traditional witchcraft aesthetic. However, modern Wicca makes a giant push for territory. The aesthetic really makes a difference in the tone of the novel. The way it’s written is almost a spell in and of itself. It draws the reader in so far that they lose sight of their own surroundings.

 

Characters came crafted with an expert hand. They had incredible depth. The cast also featured a number of women. The author turned the tables on many common tropes. The women were the stars of the novel, and I loved it. They were the ones in control. This time, it was a guy’s turn to be there as the love interest. I enjoyed the progression and the construction of the romantic subplot, something I don’t say too often.

 

And the ending. Oh, the ending. It was so deliciously evil. I hate it and I love it so much. The most brilliant way to guarantee readership for follow-ups, if there are any.

 

I don’t think I name one thing I dislike about this novel. I enjoyed everything about it–another rarity. This series is now on my watch list, and so is the author.

 

Buy it here!

First Charge, by Amanda Steel


Meredith’s life is anything but ordinary. She’s a Protector. She protects people. People who are destined to do great things in life that need protecting against other people that want to kill them. All in the name of the “greater good.”

 
First Charge takes the morally gray area of right and wrong and runs with it. Both factions believe that their mission is the right one, and so are at war with each other. As a character, Meredith doesn’t care. She is, of course, the one that doesn’t buy into any of it, and herein we have the remaining conflict. Quite a few industry-standard tropes involved in the narrative.

 
The writing style didn’t bring a whole lot of imagery to the table. It was very to-the-point, full of telling the reader what was going on. Because of that, the reading felt jerky. Words, sentences, and paragraphs didn’t flow into each other as well as they should have. There’s definitely some polishing and work needed on the technical side of the novel. The story and plot felt solid all the way around. Characters didn’t feel all that three-dimensional.

 
While a lot of young adult stereotypes ran rampant through the story, the fact that the author chose a LGBT main character was refreshing. And, while her character depth needed some fine-tuning, she reflected good qualities that younger people could look up to.

 
First Charge had good points and bad points, much like any novel. It’s not a bad read.
Buy it here!

Heavenwood, by Ernest Yungsi



So, you’ve heard of the snowball effect, right? Where something insignificant creates a chain of events that just gradually gets bigger and bigger? Heavenwood was the embodiment of that in novel form.

 
Jack Mann’s trip to Heavenwood was just a wee bit unexpected. Now that he’s there, his life got a whole lot more complicated. When I say complicated, I mean day time soap opera complicated.

 
That will bring me to my first point: the drama. There’s always two sides to every story. Well, both sides are equally as important should be awkward moment arise that it needs to be talked about. Which they did. Often. Their stories got deeper the longer things went on. The level of progression it takes to unweave the truth as to why they’re in Heavenwood happens in small increments. A breadcrumb trail leading to something much larger.

 
Don’t be fooled, however. Drama is not necessarily the staple of this story. It’s a means to an end. Amidst all the conflict, several good messages came out of it. Love, forgiveness…things of that nature. It was done to the tune of modern religion. Everything was alright up until the discussion inevitably turned to sexual orientation. While I like how the conversation got there, I didn’t like the end of it.

 
Writing style suits the narrative well. Things start short and choppy to set the mood, and then gradually get longer. Not by a whole lot, though. The plot was constantly on the go and the style kept up with that. It created an atmosphere of urgency, which is then reflected by the reader.

 
The level of depth to the story reflects the level of depth of the characters, as well. The reader gets to know them little by little, and each new chapter opens up a whole new perspective on them. Perspective and not judging a book by its cover are also two heavy themes throughout. All the stories end up intertwined somehow, each character being equally as important as the next. They’re on the journey together, and the plot makes sure of that.

 
Reading other perspectives on the “life after death” subject is always interesting. No two visions are the same. It brought to life some very basic points that humanity seems to have forgotten. They’re weaved seamlessly, yet obviously, throughout the narrative. Overall it was a good read. Excellent setup from start to finish. Good execution. Very creative.

 
Buy it here!

Miranda’s Extraordinary Life: The Beginning of the End, by Amanda Byrd

6_6_17 Miranda's Extraordinary

4 stars

 

Dreaming a dream is one thing. Dreaming a reality is a whole other thing.

 

Miranda’s Extraordinary Life: The Beginning of the End, feels like exactly that. So many questions remain that it has to be part of something bigger. And, given her situation, actually might be the beginning of an end. The author manages to set up a lot about the characters and their conflicts in such a short amount of time. It has a whimsical, daydreamy tone that starts with a sense of longing. As Miranda changes, so does the tone of the narrative. It’s a good, quick read.

 

Buy it here!