Book Review: The Other Me

review-cover-the other meTitle: The Other Me

Author: Sarah Zachrich Jeng

Genre: Thriller, Science Fiction

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

On her twenty-ninth birthday, Chicago artist Kelly steps through a door at a gallery opening and emerges in her Michigan hometown. Suddenly her life is unrecognizable: She’s got twelve years of the wrong memories in her head and she’s married to Eric, a man she barely knew in high school.

Racing to get back to her old life, Kelly’s search leads only to more questions. In this life, she loves Eric and wants to trust him, but everything she discovers about him–including a connection to a mysterious tech startup–tells her she shouldn’t. And strange things keep happening. The tattoos she had when she was an artist briefly reappear on her skin, she remembers fights with Eric that he says never happened, and her relationships with loved ones both new and familiar seem to change without warning.

But the closer Kelly gets to putting the pieces together, the more her reality seems to shift. And if she can’t figure out what happened on her birthday, the next change could cost her everything…

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Talk about a journey. The Other Me by Sarah Zachrich Jeng wasn’t exactly what I envisioned when I picked it up. I remembered looking at the genre and expecting it to fall into a very specific box, but as I read, I discovered the story to be so much more than that. The plot unwound slowly, bit by bit as the main character, Kelly, navigated this new, familiar, but… off world she found herself in, and I was totally engrossed in her journey.

The characters, for the most part, had a real depth to them – they were complicated people and they weren’t perfect by any sense of the word. There was always a sense of unease underlying everything they did – making you wonder if they knew what was going on. The story was masterfully crafted in this way.

The only real drawback to the story for me was that the main character’s voice often made her seem detached. Sometimes I found it even hard to like her because she didn’t quite feel human. She used a lot of thesaurus-words that didn’t fit her art-student background, and it kept reminding me that it was an author writing this story, not necessarily a character telling it.

All that aside, if you enjoy thriller books with time-travel, science fiction, or alternate reality spin to them, I’d recommend you pick this up. Despite how I felt about the main character, the book was well written and I thoroughly enjoyed the complexities of the plot.

Book Review: Red Wolf

review-cover-red wolfTitle: Red Wolf

Author: Rachel Vincent

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fairy Tales, Romance

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

For as long as sixteen-year-old Adele can remember the village of Oakvale has been surrounding by the dark woods—a forest filled with terrible monsters that light cannot penetrate. Like every person who grows up in Oakvale she has been told to steer clear of the woods unless absolutely necessary.

But unlike her neighbors in Oakvale, Adele has a very good reason for going into the woods. Adele is one of a long line of guardians, women who are able to change into wolves and who are tasked with the job of protecting their village while never letting any of the villagers know of their existence.

But when following her calling means abandoning the person she loves, the future she imagined for herself, and her values she must decide how far she is willing to go to keep her neighbors safe.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I found Red Wolf by Rachel Vincent to be a fantastic retelling of the little red riding hood fairy tale. The book combined the familiar aspects of the original story (the woodcutter, little red riding hood, the wolf, and the little old grandmother in the woods), with a more modern and morally ambiguous plot.

The book was well-written and paced nicely. I only found one typo that stood out in the text, and I loved the characters. It was interesting to see the world-building behind the fairy-tale turned on its head and then turned over again by the main character’s choices.

If you like Young Adult Fantasy stories or fairy-tale retellings, I would highly recommend you pick up this book and give it a try. This book was fantastic.

Free Fiction Friday #225

Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Free Fiction Friday! For those of you who are new to this blog, or who may have missed out on the previous Free Fiction Fridays—every Friday I post an article containing 10 fiction e-books that are 100% FREE on Amazon at the time of posting and an additional 5 that are roughly of the same genre, and on sale for less than $5.

I try my best to make sure they are all 4+ stars, have over 40+ reviews, and are 100 pages minimum—so you can have a hand-picked list of the best-of-the-best to choose from and enjoy over the long weekend (while I do more important things, like laundry). I try to switch up the genres every week, and this week our theme is:  Young Adult Science Fiction & Fantasy!

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Book Review: Knight in Paper Armor

review-cover-knight in paper armorTitle: Knight in Paper Armor

Author: Nicholas Conley

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

Billy Jakobek has always been different. Born with strange and powerful psychic abilities, he has grown up in the laboratories of Thorne Century, a ruthless megacorporation that economically, socially, and politically dominates American society. Every day, Billy absorbs the emotional energies, dreams, and traumas of everyone he meets—from his grandmother’s memories of the Holocaust, to the terror his sheer existence inflicts upon his captors—and he yearns to break free, so he can use his powers to help others.

Natalia Gonzalez, a rebellious artist and daughter of Guatemalan immigrants, lives in Heaven’s Hole, an industrial town built inside a meteor crater, where the poverty-stricken population struggles to survive the nightmarish working conditions of the local Thorne Century factory. Natalia takes care of her ailing mother, her grandmother, and her two younger brothers, and while she dreams of escape, she knows she cannot leave her family behind.

When Billy is transferred to Heaven’s Hole, his chance encounter with Natalia sends shockwaves rippling across the blighted landscape. The two outsiders are pitted against the all-powerful monopoly, while Billy experiences visions of an otherworldly figure known as the Shape, which prophesizes an apocalyptic future that could decimate the world they know.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I wanted to like Knight in Paper Armor by Nicholas Conley. The synopsis was interesting, the cover was beautiful, I liked the genre, and the world-building was interesting… but I put the back down around chapter twenty-one.

Where this book lacked for me, was the writing itself. It was mediocre at best. The children characters didn’t talk like children. The Young Adult characters didn’t talk like Young Adults. There was an elaborate world and past history to the story, but at least as far as I got into the book, none of it was explained or tied into the plot in any way. Throughout the story I got this feeling that the worldbuilding and setting were arbitrary – you could have taken the characters and their histories and put it directly into a contemporary setting, and it would have made zero difference to the book. The connection between Billy and Natalia seemed tenuous and forced.

So much of the beginning of the book was filling in the backstory for the characters that I kept wondering when the story was going to actually begin. By the time I quit, at 21 chapters in, nothing significant had happened to drive the plot forward. I take that back… one thing happened. Natalia was thrown in the trunk of a car – but even that couldn’t keep me reading. I grew bored and tired of slogging through detail that didn’t matter.

There will be readers out there that enjoy this book far more than me, but in my opinion, the writing was lackluster. It didn’t feel like a well-refined and polished book. It didn’t suck me in, I didn’t care about the characters, and I didn’t feel any sort of draw that would keep me reading.

Book Review: Woman in the Wild

review-cover-woman in the wildTitle: Woman in the Wild

Author: Susan Joy Paul

Genre: Non-Fiction, Guide

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Few experiences rival a grand outdoor adventure. Hiking into the wilderness, camping under the stars, and exploring the backcountry offer new challenges that awaken a woman’s spirit and test her soul.

Woman in the Wild: The Every Woman’s Guide to Hiking, Camping, and Backcountry Travel is the perfect companion for any woman looking to get into the backcountry lifestyle or level up her current active outdoor life.

Adventurer and guidebook author Susan Joy Paul provides real instruction for women of all ages and skill levels, from beginners to intermediate hikers and experienced mountaineers. She shares details gleaned from two decades of training and real-world experience, bringing together everything a woman needs to know to be safe, independent, and self-reliant at camp and on the trail. Five sections and twenty-five chapters cover hiking, camping, and backcountry travel from the basics to advanced skills.

  • Backcountry Essentials: Learn what to wear, how to pack, and where to find hiking partners for your outdoor adventures

  • You in the Wilderness: What every woman needs to know about nutrition, first aid, and personal care to stay healthy on the trail

  • Pushing Off: Backcountry knowledge and skills around land navigation, terrain, and weather take your travels to the next level

  • Reaching New Heights: Beyond the basics, understand how training, setting goals, and engaging strategies for success add a new and exciting dimension to your outdoor life

  • Next Steps: Leave the flatlanders and fair-weather hikers behind with an introduction to high altitude mountaineering, winter camping, glacier travel, and more

The backcountry beckons, and women want to go. With Woman in the Wild, they can!

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I found Woman in the Wild by Susan Joy Paul to be a fantastic resource for those interesting in getting into trail hiking. Not only did I find the writing to be motivating, but the book is broken down into sections of incredibly useful and thorough information – from how to choose and fit a backpack, to personal care while out on the trail. I was impressed by the amount of detailed information and thought that went into the book, and I believe it would be a very useful guide for any beginner interesting in spending more time in the great outdoors. I couldn’t recommend this enough!

Free Fiction Friday #224

Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Free Fiction Friday! For those of you who are new to this blog, or who may have missed out on the previous Free Fiction Fridays—every Friday I post an article containing 10 fiction e-books that are 100% FREE on Amazon at the time of posting and an additional 5 that are roughly of the same genre, and on sale for less than $5.

I try my best to make sure they are all 4+ stars, have over 40+ reviews, and are 100 pages minimum—so you can have a hand-picked list of the best-of-the-best to choose from and enjoy over the long weekend (while I do more important things, like laundry). I try to switch up the genres every week, and this week our theme is:  Mystery, Thriller & Suspense!

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Book Review: A Tracker’s Tale

review-cover-a tracker's taleTitle: A Tracker’s Tale [Trackers 1]

Author: Karen Avizur

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

In Katherine’s world, werewolves, vampires, púcas, and other parasapien species – forced for centuries by human fear and prejudice to live at the fringes of society – have finally come out of hiding to demand their rightful place alongside us. It’s a fragile co-existence, fraught with mutual distrust: a new social contract for which the rules are still evolving. And when those rules break down – usually when a parasapien begins preying on humans – that’s when the Trackers step in. It’s their job to hunt them down and stop them by any means necessary.

Within this elite unit, Katherine Colebrook is one of the best. Her psychic abilities made her a natural for the Trackers Division, allowing her to move between the parasapien and human worlds in ways that no other agent could. But Katherine’s calling hasn’t come without struggle and losses along the way. As a single mother, she must contend with her teenage daughter, Alexandra, who not only shares Katherine’s psychic abilities, but seems determined to follow the same dangerous path as her mother.

And so, when Katherine’s latest assignment threatens to bring that danger too close home, she finds herself faced with the toughest challenge of her career: Can she protect her daughter’s life, while battling a ruthless adversary who’ll stop at nothing to destroy her?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I had a difficult time getting into A Tracker’s Tale by Karen Avizur. Although the plot was interesting and the characters likable, the more technical aspects of the writing left something to be desired.

The narrative was incredibly wordy. Descriptions were over-done and bogged down the pace of the story with irrelevant details. I think a strict editor could have brought the story back from the brink of a one-star rating, but as it is, I quickly grew bored.

For me, the story lacked the draw of good writing. It started with court proceedings and moved on to inane phone calls between professionals, in-head description, and minimal dialogue. There was little to no actions, personality, or soul.

Do I think the book was awful? No. There are definitely people out there that will find this an interesting read… but I didn’t feel drawn in or the need to continue past the first 10% of the book.

Book Review: Rebel Betrayed

review-cover-rebel betrayedTitle: Rebel Betrayed [Rebel Bound 2]

Author: Shauna E. Black

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Paradise isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Everything should be perfect in the Undercity, where Caelin and her younger sister Mardy are safe from the radiation topside. But safety feels more like prison. The Undercitizens aren’t exactly welcoming, and Lucio and his Impartialists continue to pound the city’s barrier, more scavs flocking to their army every day. Then Mardy goes behind Caelin’s back to accept a government assignment to spy on the Impartialists. In spite of the danger, Caelin goes after her.

Once more in the camp of the man who killed her best friend, Caelin must convince Lucio of a loyalty she’s renounced in order to bring Mardy home. It doesn’t help that Lucio suspects Caelin still has feelings for Jate, the special forces officer who betrayed him, or that Lucio’s suspicions are right.

As her cover story unravels, Caelin discovers Lucio’s true plan for taking over the Undercity. Her desperate attempt to protect Mardy backfires, and Jate is caught in the crossfire of Lucio’s revenge. Caelin can’t rescue the man she loves without abandoning Mardy to the Impartialists. How will she live with herself if she makes the wrong choice?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS TIME – REVIEW BELOW

Rebel Betrayed by Shauna E. Black was an engaging continuation of the Rebel Bound series. The book was well written, easy to read, and absent of any major typos. The characters were well defined and familiar from the first book, and the world-building was fantastic. Overall, I think the book was a good read, and if you like Young Adult Dystopians, you’ll probably like this series as a whole.

My only real problem with the book is that I found it a bit short, and with that, came a load of problems. There wasn’t a lot going on plot-wise, and a lot of the characters didn’t get much screen time – which is, in particular, a problem when it comes to Jate, the main male lead. He was rarely seen in the story, and there wasn’t enough interaction between him and the main female lead to maintain their relationship for the reader. This book felt a lot like filler in a way – spanning the gap between the introductory 1st book, and what presumably will be the finale in the 3rd book. The reader spends a lot of time in the headspace of the main character, but doesn’t get the time to get to know any other characters… it was just more of the same already established in the first book.

Is the book bad? No. I enjoyed reading it, and I enjoy the series as a whole… this just wasn’t a book I’d set out to read on its own if it wasn’t the 2nd book in a series. It doesn’t stand on its own well.

Free Fiction Friday #223

Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Free Fiction Friday! For those of you who are new to this blog, or who may have missed out on the previous Free Fiction Fridays—every Friday I post an article containing 10 fiction e-books that are 100% FREE on Amazon at the time of posting and an additional 5 that are roughly of the same genre, and on sale for less than $5.

I try my best to make sure they are all 4+ stars, have over 40+ reviews, and are 100 pages minimum—so you can have a hand-picked list of the best-of-the-best to choose from and enjoy over the long weekend (while I do more important things, like laundry). I try to switch up the genres every week, and this week our theme is:  RANDOM!

Note: This is a grab-bag of random genres, chosen mostly by reviews, synopsis, and covers. Have a look, and try something new!

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Book Review: Chasing Fae

review-cover-chasing faeTitle: Chasing Fae

Author: Cady Hammer

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

Grace Richardson is a young mortal woman whose only concerns are providing for her family, playing her violin, and spending as much time as possible with her brother, Leo. When Leo goes into service in the Fae’s world as a mercenary, she expects him to return with the honor that he deserves.

When Leo suddenly dies in an unspecified accident, not a word, medal, or penny comes down from the higher-ups. Suspecting foul play, Grace disguises herself as a Fae and sneaks into the Upper Realm to get some answers. She anticipates being in way over her head, but the Fae soldier who discovers her true identity only a day in? Not so much.

Now Grace is forced to drag Aiden along as she tries to work out exactly how and why her brother died. Along the way, she has no choice but to confront her prejudices against the Fae as she attempts to sort out the difference between the honest and the dishonest. Political conspiracies, demon realm escapades, and family secrets will all lead Grace to the answers she’s looking for… and some that she isn’t.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I tried so hard to get through Chasing Fae by Cady Hammer, in fact, I got more than 60% into the story before I decided to give up… and every minute of that was a push. Honestly, I probably could have stopped in the first chapter. This is one of those books that falls right on the midline of being really awful, or just entertaining enough to read anyway, but barely just.
 
Though the book was easy to read and flowed fairly well, where it fell apart was the characters and their actions. They were overdramatic when there was really no reason to be. It felt like the main characters were fighting and yelling and nearly dying every few seconds, but there was no real reason for them to be acting that way. It felt like the author just didn’t know how to push the story forward, so they threw in a bunch of needless conflicts.

On top of this, Aiden had no real personality of his own. Sure, he smirked a lot, and often gave hugs, and tried to comfort the main character… but that’s about all he did. He didn’t seem to have his own agenda or reason for being around other than to be a sounding board for the main character to yell at, fawn over, or be rescued by.

And the main character, whose name I’ve already forgotten? She was a brat. Constantly throwing tantrums, throwing herself and others into danger, and being rude to everyone she met.
 
It got old fast, and as much as I tried to push on to see how the story ended, I don’t really care enough to continue reading. I think the plot was interesting, but the rest of the writing just wasn’t good enough to carry it.