Tag Archives: three star review

This is Not the End by Chandler Baker

This is Not the End by Chandler Baker

 This is Not the End
by Chandler Baker

If you could choose one person to bring back to life, who would it be? Seventeen-year-old Lake Deveraux is the survivor of a car crash that killed her best friend and boyfriend. Now she faces an impossible choice. Resurrection technology changed the world, but strict laws allow just one resurrection per citizen, to be used on your eighteenth birthday or lost forever. You only have days to decide. For each grieving family, Lake is the best chance to bring back their child. For Lake, it’s the only way to reclaim a piece of happiness after her own family fell apart. And Lake must also grapple with a secret–and illegal–vow she made years ago to resurrect someone else. Someone who’s not even dead yet. Who do you need most? As Lake’s eighteenth birthday nears, secrets and betrayals new and old threaten to eclipse her cherished memories. Lake has one chance to save a life…but can she live with her choice?

Rated: ★★½
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publication: August 8, 2017
Genre: Young Adult
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this title.

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This is Not the End by Chandler Baker

If you’re looking for something super sci-fi and devious, this is not for you. More contemporary than anything else, This is Not the End by Chandler Baker is a very interesting YA book that I initially disliked but really ended up enjoying it by the end. The reasons for which will likely be made in a spoiler vlog in the next day or two. That said, yes, there is something devious, and yes, there is a kernel of sci-fi, but where the heart of the story lies is with Lake facing her truths and the truths of expectations unknowingly placed.

The premise, I have to be honest, feels a little flawed. That there is a procedure that can bring people back to life, but can’t actually be modified to help the living is weird. I know, sci-fi, suspension of belief, but there has to be something there to make it rational, and for me there wasn’t. Then, to limit that choice of resurrection to someone on their 18th birthday and only then, is just weird and feels arbitrary. Why 18? I suppose, for the story’s sake, it needs to be 18, but in general, it just doesn’t seem realistic.

Aside from the unrealistic premise, the story was actually really, really good! I was completely absorbed by it, right there with Lake trying to decide WHO she should resurrect, and then trying to figure out WHAT was actually going on. I had figured out a major spoiler fairly early on, but Baker still managed to surprise me with it as I hadn’t guessed the entire truth. Untangling the relationships Lake has with her family, friends, and boyfriend was well written. It felt so realistic, which is what ultimately won me over — because I could see these characters as actual people and actual situations.

Ultimately, This is Not the End by Chandler Baker isn’t about a cool sci-fi premise, or about some shadowy black market world. It’s about people, relationships, and how they all face their traumas and deal with the repercussions. Solid pacing, good use of the dual time framing technique, and incredibly human characters all make this a solid recommendation from me.

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

 

Beautiful Creatures
by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything

Caster Chronicles #1

Rated: ★½
Publisher:  Little, Brown and Company
Publication: December 1, 2009
Genre: YA, Southern Gothic, Urban Paranormal
Personally purchased title.

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Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Either I hyped myself up far too much, or I just didn’t get it for being out of intended target age range, but I could not fall for Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Though the premise was an interesting one, and the setting built it up to be part of one of my favorite genres — Southern Gothic — it just fell flat at the end.

Before it all fell away, things were pretty decent! I could get behind narrator Ethan, just a regular ole kid desperate to leave his small town behind. I mean, I grew up on the whole “I hate my parents and this whole town” genre of pop punk bands. So, I got it. I related. I was rooting for him to escape. Then, we get Lena, desperate to fit in outcast that lives moves in with her uncle, the town recluse/eccentric. She’s mysterious and stand-offish, and oh yeah, just so happens to be the girl that Ethan has been having dreams about for the longest time. So, obviously, they fall quickly in love, to the disappointment of the parent figures in their lives, as well as society. Sound familiar? It should because it’s so painfully overdone and by the book, and while there was nothing new about it, it wasn’t terrible! It was familiar and sometimes, that’s okay!

But, if it was all following a tried and true method of writing a YA urban paranormal/fantasy book, how did it fumble? Why was I let down? The answer is simple. The entire book continually set the message of trying to escape your fate, your destiny, your town. It almost beat us over the head with the message that you didn’t have to get swept away by everyone else’s expectations and could forge your own way. And then suddenly, by the end, the message dissipates. Your own path you thought you could take? Sike, you’re stuck reliving the same roads you’ve always been on because there is no escape! It was SO FRUSTRATING! And I think, that is a major departure from most of the books in this same genre.

I go more in depth on the theme of the book and the ending being such a huge disservice to what was a decent story in the Pages and Pause Screen podcast, so if you want to know more specifics about why I had issues with it, give it a listen! Otherwise, Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl simply fell flat for me. Will not be picking up the second book in the series and honestly, probably wouldn’t recommend this to readers.

 

The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle

The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle

 

The Goblins of Bellwater
by Molly Ringle

Most people have no idea goblins live in the woods around the small town of Bellwater, Washington. But some are about to find out.

Skye, a young barista and artist, falls victim to a goblin curse in the forest one winter night, rendering her depressed and silenced, unable to speak of what happened. Her older sister, Livy, is at wit’s end trying to understand what’s wrong with her. Local mechanic Kit would know, but he doesn’t talk of such things: he’s the human liaison for the goblin tribe, a job he keeps secret and never wanted, thrust on him by an ancient family contract.

Unaware of what’s happened to Skye, Kit starts dating Livy, trying to keep it casual to protect her from the attention of the goblins. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Kit, Skye draws his cousin Grady into the spell through an enchanted kiss in the woods, dooming Grady and Skye both to become goblins and disappear from humankind forever.

It’s a midwinter night’s enchantment as Livy, the only one untainted by a spell, sets out to save them on a dangerous magical path of her own.

Rated: ★★
Publication: October 1, 2017
Genre: NA, Urban Fantasy
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this title.

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The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle

A beautiful cover, a story inspired by Rossetti’s Goblin Market, and set in the PNW, I was all about The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle. Yet, I don’t really know how I feel about it now that I’ve finished it, other than saying it’s a true and solid three star book. The story was solid, but the pacing a little odd. Character development was good, but then weird. And the resolution we received at the end fell flat for me.

The setting and descriptions were fairly spot on. Having been to the PNW and hiking in Oregon, it felt real and authentic. I could almost smell the crisp air and feel the river and ocean mist. Ringle excelled at making this feel like a real place, but simultaneously feeling other. Perhaps it’s because these places, these peaceful out of the way woodland areas already lend themselves to your imagination, but either way, Ringle really brought out the excitement and wonder of running into fae creatures in your backyard as it were.

Character development was a bit odd. I say that only because it makes sense that it would be odd. When you have half of the 4 main characters under a spell, it’s hard to see much of a change in them. The change we see almost fades into the background with them. They exist, things happen, we’re supposed to care, but in the end, don’t really. However, when we get to the non-glamoured half, they really take off. We see how Kit is a good guy in a bad situation. We see him grow from being a loner to making all of these connections and wanting more out of life. With Livy, we see the same. From her devotion to her sister, to finally focusing on her own life, her own future. It was really great and those two were really strong characters that I would have loved to have seen more about.

Which leads me to my biggest issue with The Goblins of Bellwater: the pacing. It just didn’t click for me. There is this huge build-up at a slow and steady pace. Things are happening, slowly growing in intensity, but then suddenly, poof! Everything is fixed in a quick fifteen minute read. It felt like the set-up was more than half the story, and then the journey and resolution combined made only a quarter. I would have preferred the journey to resolving the problem to be as long as the set-up. But instead, we get a journey that happens in the blink of an eye, a resolution that happens even quicker, and then a nicely wrapped up ending. It should have taken longer.

Finally, for mentioned Rossetti’s Goblin Market, I’d feel like there’d be more to it other than hey, we’re goblins and we force people to eat fruit. I expected the tie-in to be greater or more significant. Possibly for the story to go deeper into the symbolism of the poem. For all my complaints though, The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle was an enjoyable story. I enjoyed the premise, the setting, and characters and really, only wish it was longer to more fully delve into everything.

Midnight's Edge

Secrets of Sleepy Meadows by David Chappuis and Michael Klinger

Secrets of Sleepy Meadows 
by David Chappuis and Michael Klinger

The title, Midnight’s Edge, comes from the time of night where the veil between the living and the dead disappears and, for a brief moment in time, the dead can return to the mortal world and live again. It is a story of a vile, evil man named Jeremy Wickcliff, whose wife, Lucy, arranged his death years ago to save the town from his wrath of destruction. In present time, he has been plotting from the spirit realm, a place of purgatory, to return to the mortal realm to seek revenge on those who wronged him and reclaim the life ripped away from him.

Book 1 of the Midnight’s Edge series

Rated: ★★
Publisher: Melange Books
Publication: October 31, 2015
Genre: Urban Paranormal, Witchy, LGBTQIA*
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this title.

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Secrets of Sleepy Meadows by David Chappuis and Michael Klinger

Secrets of Sleepy Meadows by David Chappuis and Michael Klinger is an interesting book but wouldn’t have held my attention as much as it did were it not for the inclusion of a gay romance. Outside of that, it felt like a decent paranormal book but just didn’t hold me like other witchy books have. Pacing was okay, character development could have been better. I also felt the use of Shelly’s ghost could have been better. That’s right, we’re seeing the events of the book from a ghost’s point of view. I know it’s just the first book of a series, and therefore most of what the authors are doing is setting up future books and trying to put enough questions to make readers vested in future novels, but it just didn’t work for me. A lot of the questions that were raised I had already predicted and answered. The questions I did want answered seemed to be the character development questions. In all, it’s an okay book to read if you have time and want to read something witchy, but if you’re not interested in the genre or are really vested in character/world development, then maybe you might have to look elsewhere.
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About the Authors

David Chappuis was born in Waterloo, Iowa, the fifth child of six, and grew up on a farm outside of Madrid, New York. He received a bachelor’s degree in English/Writing and Art/Studio from Potsdam College and later took professional development courses in Interactive Multimedia at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
He has made a living as a professional web designer, designing Radio Station websites across the U.S. He designs, develops, and hosts his own websites and blogs for his writing endeavors.
As well as web design, he co-writes fan fiction blogs for the defunct daytime serials, Another World and Dark Shadows, and runs Facebook groups for readers to actively participate in the stories. He also interviews the real-life actors from the shows as well as other talented people.
He is the co-author of “Midnight’s Edge: The Secrets of Sleepy Meadows”, a supernatural book series, that will be published by Melange Books, LLC in September 2015. He also pens his self-published mystery series called “Jenny’s Not Dead” which is currently available in all popular ebook formats.
He works from home as a full-time writer and graphic artist in southern Virginia.

Michael Klinger – Co-Author of Midnight’s Edge, Jenny’s Not Dead
Michael Klinger was born in Niagara Falls, New York. He received an associate’s degree in human services from Niagara County Community College and a bachelor’s degree in human services management from the University of Phoenix. He has made a living as a professional benefits specialist.
He co-writes fan fiction blogs for the defunct daytime serials, Another World and Dark Shadows, and runs Facebook groups for readers to actively participate in the stories.
He is the co-author of “Midnight’s Edge: The Secrets of Sleepy Meadows”, a supernatural book series, that will be published by Melange Books, LLC in September 2015. He also pens his self-published mystery series called “Jenny’s Not Dead” which is currently available in all popular ebook formats.
He currently resides in southern Virginia.

Dream Faces by Steve Shanks

Dream Faces by Steve Shanks

 Dream Faces
by Steve Shanks

Mark Stephens’ quiet life as an artist is turned upside down. At age 42 he finally receives the opportunity he has been working for. A national gallery discovers his art and wants to make him wealthy. At the same time he has big problems. His current series of paintings are based on the vivid dreams he has recently been having about three girls. The trouble is, as the girls appear in his paintings, they disappear from their families, and the police are eyeing him as the primary suspect. On top of that, the real kidnappers, a group of Russians from Detroit, discover his paintings, and believe he is aware of them, endangering him and his family. There is a silver lining. Out of the chaos Mark discovers he has a gift. He has the Sight. He can suddenly see his guardian Angel and other more sinister beings. The police think Mark is insane or at best a suspect. So Mark goes after the kidnapped girls to try and rescue them. Mark is not an action hero. He is an artist. But he does have a Guardian Angel. Dream Faces is a powerful new debut suspense supernatural novel about everyday heroes, self sacrifice, and the choices we make.

Rated: ★★
Publisher: CreativeSpace
Publication: July 13, 2016
Genre: Mystery, Angels
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this title.

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Dream Faces by Steve Shanks

Such an interesting concept, Dream Faces by Steve Shanks was a unique mystery novel that left me wondering what would happen next. It was an easy read, simple and to the point. Pacing never lagged. The main character seemed real, but the Russian mobsters appeared to be little more than caricatures, as did the cops. I’m unsure if Shanks watches many crime shows or detective series, but I was intrigued that the cops went in so hard on Mark when they didn’t have anything to tie him to the murders. They would usually try to play good guy. Or at the very least, have someone run surveillance on him or ask him for an alibi the night of the disappearances, none of which happened. All of that said, it was still a decent mystery and I really enjoyed the addition of angels and demons whispering and influencing the characters.

The Hidden People by Alison Littlewood

The Hidden People by Alison Littlewood

The Hidden People
by Alison Littlewood

In 1851, within the grand glass arches of London’s Crystal Palace, Albie Mirralls meets his cousin Lizzie for the first–and, as it turns out, last–time. His cousin is from a backward rural village, and Albie expects she will be a simple country girl, but instead he is struck by her inner beauty and by her lovely singing voice, which is beautiful beyond all reckoning. When next he hears of her, many years later, it is to hear news of her death at the hands of her husband, the village shoemaker.

Unable to countenance the rumors that surround his younger cousin’s murder–apparently, her husband thought she had been replaced by one of the “fair folk” and so burned her alive–Albie becomes obsessed with bringing his young cousin’s murderer to justice. With his father’s blessing, as well as that of his young wife, Albie heads to the village of Halfoak to investigate his cousin’s murder. When he arrives, he finds a community in the grip of superstition, nearly every member of which believes Lizzie’s husband acted with the best of intentions and in the service of the village.

There, Albie begins to look into Lizzie’s death and to search for her murderous husband, who has disappeared. But in a village where the rationalism and rule of science of the Industrial Revolution seem to have found little purchase, the answers to the question of what happened to Lizzie and why prove elusive. And the more he learns, the less sure he is that there aren’t mysterious powers at work.

Rated: ★★
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Publication: November 1st, 2016
Genre: Mystery, Fae
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this title.

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The Hidden People by Alison Littlewood

With such a gorgeous cover and an intriguing synopsis, I was super excited to read The Hidden People by Alison Littlewood. Slow to build, the pacing was problematic enough that it knocked the rating down two stars to three. Other than the pacing, the characters and story itself were absolutely fantastic! An amazing mystery that messes with your mind and keeps you wondering what is happening from start to end.

The characters were extremely interesting and well developed. The narrator was fantastic and reminded me of Edgar Allan Poe’s narrators in which they are strong of conviction and slowly begin to wonder if they are slowly giving in to madness or if madness is suddenly invading the real world. Leading him to wonder whether he is going insane is his wife Helena and her erratic behavior. While I know her behavior was altered to make the reader and narrator wonder whether she was herself or a fae changeling, it didn’t seem to make sense at the end, with the explanations given after everything unravels. I can’t go into it further without getting into spoilers so I’ll leave it at that. Mrs. Gomersal is perfect at her role as well, just so well developed and complex.

The story itself is great and leaves you as a reader confused and constantly wondering what is happening. Are changelings real? Are they not? What is happening? Then once the reveal happens, everything clicks and you realize what a fool you were for not seeing it earlier. It was incredibly well thought out and put together.

Pacing, however, was a big issue for this book. It didn’t pick up for me until around the 50% mark. It was a big hurdle. I kept having to push myself to keep going, telling myself it would pick up. It did, but if I hadn’t stuck with it, I would never have known have great it was in the end.

The Hidden People by Alison Littlewood has fantastic characters and plot, but with troubling pacing, it will take a dedicated reader to reach the payoff.

A Feast of Sorrows by Angela Slatter

A Feast of Sorrows by Angela Slatter

 A Feast of Sorrows
by Angela Slatter

A Feast of Sorrows—Angela Slatter’s first U.S. collection—features twelve of the World Fantasy and British Fantasy Award-winning Australian author’s finest, darkest fairy tales, and adds two new novellas to her marvelous cauldron of fiction. Stories peopled by women and girls—fearless, frightened, brave, bold, frail, and fantastical—who take the paths less traveled by, accept (and offer) poisoned apples, and embrace transformation in all its forms. Reminiscent of Angela Carter at her best, Slatter’s work is both timeless and fresh: fascinating new reflections from the enchanted mirrors of fairy tales and folklore.

Publisher: Prime Books
Publication: October 4th 2016
Genre: Retelling, Short stories
I received this title for free 
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Rated: ★★

A Feast of Sorrows by Angela Slatter

You know how most times, folks tell you not to judge a book by its cover, and it’s usually meant to encourage you to give things a try? Well, think of this as the opposite. The cover for A Feast of Sorrows by Angela Slatter is amazing. It is so creepy and inviting and wonderful looking; it seemed perfect for autumn. But, the stories within leave me wanting. They don’t drive me towards any strong feelings. They aren’t bad, they are good. They simply are.

I appreciate that all of the protagonists (not always the heroes) are women and that they need to be quick witted and strong in multiple ways. I loved that one of the characters that pops up in multiple short stories is a lesbian (though am horribly disappointed that she’s also shown to be equally as deviant as a pedophile mentioned in a latter story). So, why three stars? Because there were some real gems that had potential. I loved The Coffin-maker’s Daughter until we realize what sort of collection she holds (from a different story). I love the concept of there being a School for Poison Girls. Bluebeard’s Daughter was absolutely fantastic! But the rest, either seemed too identical to stories heard before (especially the Rumpelstiltskin ‘retelling’) or just didn’t seem to matter.

There is no doubt that she is a good author, A Feast of Sorrows by Angela Slatter simply did not capture my attention the way I wish it had. The way the cover made me wish to be whisked away by these short stories. If you’re looking for another collection of short stories and retellings that really left me with a great impression, perhaps try Sorrows and Wishes by Cindy Lynn Speer.

Quotes & Excerpts

[…] but memory is a traitor to good sense.
Sourdough

“No. Better we take our chances among the whores and thieves. They’re more honest, more loyal.”
Sister, Sister

Chasing Embers by James Bennett

Chasing Embers by James Bennett

 Chasing Embers
by James Bennett

Behind every myth, there’s a spark of truth…

There’s nothing special about Ben Garston. He’s just a guy with an attitude in a beat-up leather jacket, drowning his sorrows in a downtown bar. Or so he’d have you believe.

What Ben Garston can’t let you know is that he was once known as Red Ben. That the world of myth and legend isn’t just a fantasy, as we’ve been led to believe. And he certainly can’t let you know the secret of what’s hiding just beneath his skin…

But not even Ben knows what kind of hell is about to break loose. A centuries-old rivalry has just resurfaced, and the delicate balance between his world and ours is about to be shattered.

Book 1 of the Ben Garston Series

Publisher: Orbit Books
Publication: September 6, 2016
Genre: Urban Fantasy
I received this title for free in exchange for an honest review
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Rated: ★★

@Benjurigan

Chasing Embers by James Bennett

Dragons? Who doesn’t love dragons? Then, you add in dragons in the modern world? I couldn’t get my hands on this fast enough! Sadly, Chasing Embers by James Bennett didn’t live up to the hype I had built up in my head. It’s good, definitely worth three stars, but not as exciting or fun as I expected. It took perhaps a good 50% before it got to the point where I was like okay, I need to know what happens next and cannot put it down!

One of the biggest flaws I had with Chasing Embers, was also one of the things that I came to really enjoy: Ben’s constant introspection. His narration is one filled with self pity, and it’s understandable with everything he has had to endure in his life. It is also one of the easiest ways to get information out to the readers. But, it’s still so droll having it go on for pages instead of simply seeing action happen. I understand he doesn’t want to take action, but a story needs action to compel the plot forward and I think this one had a bit too slow of a pace for the casual reader. As I said earlier, it wasn’t until I was nearly halfway through the novel that the pacing finally picked up and I was sucked in. Most readers will not have that same patience, I’m afraid.

However, thanks to the introspective narrative, Bennett gives us incredible details about how this modern world works alongside the world of myths. He has a strong world built and it’s one I’d love to explore further. I think since this was the first book in the series, that is the reason for the absolute complete influx of overwhelming information that makes the narrative dull at the start. He needs to get his world built and make the reader feel as though they have their feet firmly planted in it. Hopefully, book two of the series will bypass the need to give all this extreme backstory and be much more active.

Something I absolutely LOVED though, was Rose. She was the shining star and character of this entire novel, which is a shame because we hardly see her. I desperately hope we get more of her in the second novel in the series. It was so incredibly refreshing to see a female love interest actually stand up for herself and essentially say f**k you to the hero. To walk away because she deserves better and won’t accept someone who cannot be honest with them, who hurts them on purpose. She was amazing and I wish more authors would write women like Rose.

Chasing Embers by James Bennett had a slow start but definitely laid down strong foundations for a compelling series. With the heavy world building out of the way in book one, the next one is sure to offer a better paced story that will be able to focus more on the already interesting characters introduced in book one.

Quotes & Excerpts

Technicolor pixelated death. Immunised by the ceaseless barrage of doom-laden media […]
One

The inside of the house was a tasteful tomb. Loneliness by IKEA.
Four

Arthur’s last breath signalled a crack in history, a final surrender of magic and myth, an end to its reign on these shores. If the Fay had devised this paragon, this Golden Example, in the hope of abiding peace, then they had failed. Where history and legend had intertwined, fate now wrenched them apart. Human lust and treachery had proved, at least to some, that the two worlds could never be one. They Fay had turned their backs in disgust and strode off into the endless nether, the outer dark that surrounded Creation, taking their golden age with them. An era of beauty and glory was done, and things would never be the same.
Four

Progress for some, it seemed, always meant decline for others.
Seven

Somewhere in the spectrum, the revolving door of accident, healing, disease and decline, there lay a central truth: humans are fragile and all humans die.
Eight

“The thing with myths is they never really die. […] Even when the memory of them fades, a seed always remains, spinning in the cosmic void. The Long Sleep was there long before the Guild called it that, imposing their makeshift medieval Lore on the fabled and numinous. The Long Sleep is simply a human term for a universal fact. All myths have their season, and in their time, pass. Dreams, monsters, ghosts, gods…”
Thirteen