The Time Bender, by Debra Chapoton

time bender

 

An odd little alien romance that’s pretty well-suited for the target audience.

Tasked with abducting a human time-bender, aliens Marcum and Coreg get much more than they bargained for. Competition, sleeper-aliens, and the threat of other, more dangerous aliens keep these characters on their toes while they navigate through their feelings.

And a love-triangle. Beneath the sci-fi exterior, there was a very familiar romance formula. It was done better than most, though. Overdone, but not inherently detrimental.

My favorite part was how Selina’s friend, Alex, was incorporated to be important to the narrative. Rather than being left as the goofy sidekick/love-interest, he was given a solid character and treated to character development. He had his own storyline that assisted with the plot. The only thing that bothered me was how fast things were learned during the climax. Not just for Alex, either. Several characters fell victim to that category. And it all occurred about the same time.
The characters were very likeable and, for the most part, relatable. I liked the way they meshed together to push the story along. Their storylines intertwined without getting in the way of the overarching plot. Not only was Selina’s character development assisted by it, but it also catapulted minor characters into the spotlight. I enjoyed the dialogue; it flowed naturally and helped the characters be engaging. This played towards the more light-hearted tone that the narrative maintained.

The switching between first and third person was jarring, no matter how much I understood the desire to tell both sides of the story.

Overall an interesting read. There was definitely more than enough there to pique my interest in the rest of the series.

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.

Jake and the Dragons of Asheville, by Brian Kacica

Jake Winston, son of a heroic fire fighter, lives in a town where legends of dragons are everywhere: good ol’ Asheville. Secret government installations, a mysterious agent named Black, and ancient prophecies propel this youngster into a lifetime of adventure.

The novel started well. Dragon integration with the world seemed to be pretty seamless. Legends were accepted, of course, but everyone scoffed at the notion for the most part—the usual for locals, of course. Jake was at that age where life still held mystical wonders and was easily sucked into all the chaos. He was a personable character. One that interacted well with the world around him. His supporting cast of friends, like Arnie, I thought were excellent as well. They were meaningful to both the story and to Jake, and so they served to push the plot ahead.

The back story of the dragons, and how things used to be, was woven well into the main conflict. I liked the fact that while they were powerful, they still had many limitations. They were at a proportionate disadvantage against humans so things never felt either too easy or too difficult.

Getting on towards the end, however, things started to pick up. I don’t just mean plot pacing—the story itself felt a little rushed. Things started jumping around quite a bit to accommodate shifting perspectives and let the reader know what was happening on all fronts. Doing that, though, I felt like some explanations were lost. I still had some questions at the end.

Overall it was a good story. It had dynamic and interesting characters, excellent and realistic dialogue, as well as a nice writing style. It’s a series I could definitely see myself getting into.

James Fisher and the Bird Witch, by Simon Corn

Every little town has its own story of a reclusive older person that legend says is some kind of mystical being. Well, for James, there’s no exception. After fleeing from some bullies, he ends up on the doorstep of none other than the Bird Witch.

An endearing tale, Bird Witch teaches many life lesson: love, loss, hope, and a bit of redemption. As a kid, James endured a lot. He was resilient, though. A little too resilient and positive sometimes. I liked his character, and his development. He was an ordinary kid living an ordinary life, even though circumstances didn’t always seem so ordinary for someone his age.

Mental illness was handled in a relatively good way. It wound up being a bigger theme in he latter half of the book, and I think it was done respectfully, by someone who cares enough about accuracy. There were a lot of emotions to deal with. They came out well in both the characters and readers. It also highlighted the importance of something very easy to forget: how much a support system can help. We see the dynamic there in James versus Daisy (even Shaz) and how the circumstances of their lives changed because of who they have to talk to and the people there for them.

It was long, and there were plenty of ups and downs. James is an interesting and well-written character to follow. The interactions and friendships found along the way made for good learning experiences. It was easy for the reader to put themselves in James’ shoes, no matter how old.

Megan’s Munchkins, by Pamela Foland

This was an incredibly cute tale of a young girl learning responsibility, as well as the fact that every action has consequences, no matter how good the intent.

Megan really wants a pet. Her parents don’t think she’s responsible enough yet. Megan finds some abandoned kittens, so what does she do? Takes them home, of course! Now the race is on to prove that she can be responsible before her parents find out.

There were many, many good messages to young adults contained within the book. The writing style was age-appropriate for the target audience. It seemed like a good book to read with parents, too. In fact, I think there were lessons that even parents could learn from it regarding how to handle situations such as that. I really liked the communication between parents and Megan. Things felt realistic.

The story was complete and the resolution was one that left readers satisfied all the way around.

Realm of Mindweavers, by Marianne Ratcliffe

A full and complete story, all the while beginning a full series, Realm of Mindweavers was an enthralling tale.

Zastra, a failure in the eyes of her father because she isn’t a mindweaver, runs for her life after the most brutal of betrayals. Only thirteen and nothing but her father’s instructions to go on, she must survive on her own long enough to escape the country and seek help.

There was a lot that impressed me about the book. Instead of embracing the trope of an active hero with many forms of expertise, Kastra was a passive, almost reactionary, hero that really was just…average. Though young, it was so easy to identify with her as character. She was written with incredible depth.

Secondly, the world building. Oh, easily my favorite part. There was such depth and intricacy to the world. It was vast and unknown. Never once did I feel overwhelmed by the amount of new information about the world. I never felt lost in my surroundings. It was descriptive, well-though out, and so detailed. The setting really shone.

Characters were so fun and engaging. There were many of them, a huge handful of them only minor, but they all stood out as their own individual. They were made for the plot and served an integral part of it. Nothing felt like an afterthought or an unimportant detail. Plot was full of tightly woven depth. It answered all questions, made sense, and had such fantastic pacing. I love the way the series began, and I love everything about the story it told.

This was such an excellent read on so many levels. A series I would be happy to continue, and an author to keep an eye on as well.

Southwest on the A303, by Adam Gary

Sometimes taking a journey is the best cure; grief, loneliness, or just a clear headspace. After losing a very important uncle, Alex is gifted a van and an opportunity to travel. With some gentle encouragement from his mom, he sets out to see sights and experience things that will change his life.

Southwest on the A303 is about conquering anxieties, learning to let go, and learning how to just live life. Along the journey Alex is reluctant to take risks, but his Uncle Bill left beyond some very convincing arguments for Alex to just go for it.

At its heart it’s a sad tale. Loss is difficult for anyone to handle and some people cope better than others. Some have an immediate silver lining to their situation while others have to really search. A303 provides a lick of hope for those still searching that they’ll be alright one day.

Buy it here!

Madam Tulip, by David Ahern

2_1_18 Madam Tulip

4 stars

 

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Aiming for the high-flying life of an actress, Derry’s quest isn’t going so well. With a bit of help from her pre-cognitive abilities, Derry dons the alter ego of Madam Tulip after a bit of luck at the race tracks. Things went a little awry at the party she performed at, and now Derry’s trying to prove her friend’s innocence…with a little help from her abilities, of course.

 

I felt like Madam Tulip had a little bit of everything—except for romance, really, but that was alright in my book. Derry’s character and her subsequent development were more than okay without it. I digress, however. The book had mystery, intrigue, drama at the celebrity level, drug lords…man, Madam Tulip’s life was not boring. I was happy to see that the author significantly nerfed Derry’s pre-cognition. It helped add challenge to the story, though it was hard to maintain.

 

The mystery was a fairly linear, straightforward one. There were a couple of twists here and there—even with limitations applied, some abilities allow for things to get too easy. There were moments that felt easy, but the way they pushed along the novel was nice. So, there was a balance to find and sometimes it slipped in one direction and then the other.

 

I liked the characters; Derry’s father especially. I really enjoyed their relationship. It was weird, but at the same time felt realistic. And, I’ll be honest, it’s pretty hilarious. I won’t say he was used as comic relief, but certainly used as a tool to diffuse tension and bring a character or scene back to something of an equilibrium.

 

This was a cute story with some neat settings. Likeable and relatable characters were at the forefront of this novel. A worthwhile read.

 

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The Lyons Orphanage, by Charlie King

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stars-3-0._CB192240710_

 

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A rather slow-paced mystery, Lyon’s Orphanage centered around Sam, a young orphan that can read minds. He’s been there a lot long than he probably should have. The mystery deepens when Sam thinks to ask why he hasn’t been adopted yet. Now the kids are facing more than just a shutdown of their home.

As far as mysteries go, this one was rather predictable, albeit done fairly well. The kids were compelling characters, though they didn’t really sound their age, which threw me off as a reader. They all sounded like super-polite grownups. I kept picturing this weird amalgamation of a kid and an adult and it just got weird. Things remained pretty level and calm throughout the book. Even the scenes that were supposed to be heart-pounding felt pretty even-toned, lacking a voice of drama.

The mystery was still a compelling one. Sam and his friends were delightful characters with cute, interwoven story lines. I liked what the story lines meant to the characters, and how they aided in progressing the narrative.

There’s little to no action, most of the story being told through long bouts of dialogue or exposition. This certainly contributed to the slow pacing of the novel.

Editing is needed, but overall it was a pretty cute book. It almost feels like it has the start to its own little mini-series. I wouldn’t mind seeing these characters again.

 

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PsychKick, by Mark Marks

*Patreon is still not cooperating with mobile, and I completely forgot to upload from my laptop. That will be up later tonight after I get home*

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What would you do if there was a controversial operation that could save you kids life, but the consequences are unknown? You’d take it, right?

Well, that’s what Dr. Hill does for his friends, the Fullers, after an accident leaves little Ben with little to no chance of survival. Then the side-effects start, and the doctor disappears…now what?

PsychKick is definitely paced differently from the author’s other novels. There’s a bit more effort dedicated to characters and making them meaningful to the reader. There’s quite a bit of buildup to the main story, no matter how repetitious it was. There’s was a dramatic increase in the amount of detail that went into showing the story. After that, things smoothed out and kind of took off.

However, this novel does hit some of the pitfalls the other novels succumb to. Things feel rushed. Everything is still direct and to the point.

There’s a lot of perspective switching, but no clear indication or breaks with the current format. The reader will be engross in the Fullers’ lives, and suddenly they’re with the good doctor and his assistant. It’s jarring and breaks the immersion.

Once again. There’s a lot of good ideas. But this one so far is the best to convey these ideas in a way that connects with the reader. There’s more depth to t. Still very rough around the edges, but there is noticeable progression from the author. The ending was a little weird and unclear, and I want to get behind it because I like the connotations that could possibly be behind it, but it felt out of place. Perhaps give a little extra information as to what happened, and possibly a better hint as to the meaning.

There’s definite change and improvement in the author’s writing style. There’s still improvements to be made, but this feels like the polished of the four I’ve read from this author.

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