Book Review: Becoming Alpha

review-becoming alphaTitle: Becoming Alpha [Alpha Girl 1]

Author: Aileen Erin

Genre: Paranormal, Young Adult, Romance

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Tessa McCaide has a unique talent for getting into trouble. Then again, it isn’t easy for a girl with psychic visions to ignore what she sees. Luckily Tessa and her family are leaving California and moving halfway across the country, giving her the perfect opportunity to leave her reputation as “Freaky Tessa” behind.

But Tessa doesn’t realize that kissing the wrong guy in her new Texas town could land her in far more trouble than she ever imagined. Like being forced to attend St. Ailbe’s Academy, a secret boarding school for werewolves.

Even if the wrong guy did accidentally turn her into a shapeshifter and doom her to attending the weirdest high school ever, Tessa can’t help her growing attraction to the mysterious Dastien Laurent.

When vampires attack St. Ailbe’s and her visions pinpoint an enemy in their midst, Tessa realizes that boy drama and her newfound canine tendencies might just be the least of her problems.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I liked Becoming Alpha by Aileen Erin more than I thought I would. I don’t know what I expected – I picked it up as an easy book, a bit of a break from my current TBR, so I wasn’t expecting much… but as it turned out, I liked it quite a bit. It wasn’t a perfect book, I won’t lie. It’s a Young Adult Paranormal Romance, and as most books in that genre can sometimes be, there was a lot of drama and angst and misunderstandings, but that’s kind of par for the course.

Regardless, the book was easy to sink into. It was well written – I only found one typo – and the narrative flowed easily. I loved the characters, even Imogen. Okay, maybe not Imogen. The lore was slightly different than what I’ve read in similar books – especially when it came to the vampires, and it was a bit of a fun twist to see it handled in a new way. I enjoyed the tug and pull of Tess and Dastien’s relationship especially.

Overall, I think if you like YA Paranormal Romance reads, you’re most likely going to enjoy this one. I’m excited to read more from this author in the near future.

Book Review: The Infinity Courts

reviewcover-theinfinitycourtsTitle: The Infinity Courts [The Infinity Courts 1]

Author: Akemi Dawn Bowman

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Eighteen-year-old Nami Miyamoto is certain her life is just beginning. She has a great family, just graduated high school, and is on her way to a party where her entire class is waiting for her—including, most importantly, the boy she’s been in love with for years.

The only problem? She’s murdered before she gets there.

When Nami wakes up, she learns she’s in a place called Infinity, where human consciousness goes when physical bodies die. She quickly discovers that Ophelia, a virtual assistant widely used by humans on Earth, has taken over the afterlife and is now posing as a queen, forcing humans into servitude the way she’d been forced to serve in the real world. Even worse, Ophelia is inching closer and closer to accomplishing her grand plans of eradicating human existence once and for all.

As Nami works with a team of rebels to bring down Ophelia and save the humans under her imprisonment, she is forced to reckon with her past, her future, and what it is that truly makes us human.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I adored The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman. The worldbuilding and characters had depth, and the writing itself was clear and flowed effortlessly. The romance and tension between Nami, Gil, and Caelan was magnificent – my soul hurts at having the story end.

Speaking of the end… I loved every minute of this book until the last page. The last page? Lame and sort of cheesy. I honestly wish the book would have ended in the palace – and if you haven’t finished the book yet, trust me… put it down there.

I can’t wait to read the next book in the series. I still have a small tortured hope in my heart that Nami and a certain Prince will find a happily ever after. If you like YA Fantasy, I would highly recommend this book. It’s one of the best ones I’ve read so far this year.

Book Review: Neon Gods

review-cover-neon godsTitle: Neon Gods [Dark Olympus 1]

Author: Katee Robert

Genre: Romance, Fantasy (Mythology retelling)

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Society darling Persephone Dimitriou wants nothing to do with her mother’s ambitions. She’s biding her time until she’s able to leave the ultra-modern city of Olympus and start her doctorate degree. The one thing she never planned on? Her mother ambushing her with an engagement to Zeus—a man with more than a few dead wives in his past. Persephone will do anything to escape that fate…even flee the sparkling upper city and make a devil’s bargain with a man she once believed was a myth.

Hades has spent his life in the shadows, and he has no intention of stepping into the light. Not even for the woman who flees into his territory as if the very hounds of hell are on her heels. But when he finds that Persephone can offer a little slice of the revenge he’s spent his entire life craving? It’s all the excuse he needs to agree to help her—for a price. She’ll be his for the summer, and then he’ll see her safely out of Olympus and away from her mother and Zeus.

Hades and Persephone’s deal might seem simple enough, but they both quickly realize it’s anything but. With every breathless night spent with Hades, Persephone wonders at her ability to leave him behind. And Hades? Now that he has a taste for Persephone, he’s willing to go to war with Olympus itself to keep her…

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I loved Neon Gods by Katee Robert – it was everything I was looking for in a retelling of the Hades/Persephone myth. The book was incredibly well written, and I thought the more urban and modern environment of the worldbuilding suited the story well.

I found no noticeable spelling or grammatical errors throughout the book, and the narrative style was fast-paced and clear. It was easy to sink into the story and get drawn in by the characters. The romance between Hades and Persephone was both sweet and incredibly sultry – though I will warn you that it isn’t going to be for everyone. There are some themes of voyeurism and mild BDSM themes, though these are only mildly explored, so even those who don’t particularly care for kinks will find this relatively easy to look over and enjoy.

The plot was interesting and fresh given the context of the mythos behind the story, and I liked the little bits of historical accuracy thrown in behind the names and relationships of the characters. If you like the Hades/Persephone mythos and want a book that explores it in a more modern context, I would highly recommend you pick this book up.

Book Review: The Petrified Flesh

review-cover-the petrified fleshTitle: The Petrified Flesh [Reckless 1]

Author: Cornelia Funke

Genre: Juvenile Fantasy

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

Ever since Jacob Reckless was a child, he has been escaping to a hidden world through a portal in his father’s abandoned study. Over the years, he has made a name for himself as a finder of enchanted items and buried secrets. He’s also made many enemies and allies — most important, Fox, a beautiful shape-shifting vixen whom Jacob cares for more than he lets on.

But life in this other world is about to change. Tragedy strikes when Jacob’s younger brother, Will, follows him through the portal. Brutally attacked, Will is infected with a curse that is quickly transforming him into a Goyl — a ruthless killing machine, with skin made of stone.

Jacob is prepared to fight to save his brother, but in a land built on trickery and lies, Jacob will need all the wit, courage, and reckless spirit he can summon to reverse the dark spell — before it’s too late.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I had such high hopes for The Petrified Flesh by Cornelia Funke, so much so that I picked up all three books in the series at once before publication. Unfortunately, I was sorely disappointed. As a caveat, if you’re a juvenile reader, you might really enjoy this book – because the plot and the fantasy worldbuilding were captivating. However, as an older reader, and someone who works as a copy editor and reviewer, I could not get into this book.

The major problem I had with the book was the writing itself. There were a lot of repeated words, redundant thoughts, Bad grammar, and missing punctuation – which, okay, some of that can be explained away as I was reading an early review copy that may or may not have been unedited… so take this particular opinion with a grain of salt. That being said, at this stage in a book’s release, where dates are set and it’s being sent out to reviewers, I don’t expect the book to be perfect, but I do expect a certain level of editing that I think this book lacked.

On top of this, the narrative voice kept using words that didn’t seem age-appropriate to the main character. I get it, big words are great for adults, but a 12-year-old isn’t going to say “desiccated” instead of “dried up”. There were other issues with the way the narrative was written, such as the big moments lacking impact, and the author’s aversion to writing in any sort of description or atmosphere. The book ended up feeling muddled and contorted. Five chapters in, I knew nothing about the characters, their lives, or the worldbuilding other than a bunch of unfamiliar names. I didn’t feel drawn in. I began to skim, and eventually, put the book down.

In the end, the book is okay for younger readers, but it’s not something I’d add to my shelf, and I can’t bring myself to push through it. This book just wasn’t for me.

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: Cynetic Wolf

reviewcover-cynetic wolfTitle: Cynetic Wolf [Wolfish 1]

Author: Matt Ward

Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult, Dystopian

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

It’s 2096, sixty years after ninety percent died from a man-made Bioplague. Humanity has splintered into four unequal subspecies: immortals, cyborgs, enhancers, and subservient half-human, half-animal hybrids.

The world is anything but equal. Hybrids everywhere are suffering, but sixteen-year-old Raek Mekorian, a wolfish with a nose for trouble, doesn’t see an alternative. Except the Resistance, who don’t stand a chance against the world government. His mom always said, “Keep your head down.”

And he does, until his sister is murdered by a pair of cyborgs. Overnight, his simple life is shattered, fracturing the rigid governmental caste as he is thrust into the dangerous world of superhuman hit squads, Resistance uprisings, and secrets better left unsaid.

With only built-in blasters and the advice of a mysterious professor, Raek must navigate crushing betrayal, self-doubt, and a limitless enemy whose evil knows no bounds.

Can Raek unify his people and free them from tyranny? The fate of mankind may rest in his hands.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I had a bit of trouble getting into Cynetic Wolf by Matt Ward, and to be honest, I didn’t finish it. I ended up quitting the book at the end of the first chapter.

Overall, I found the book to be well-written in that there weren’t a lot of typos, it was grammatically correct, the punctuation was clean, and the narrative voice flowed well. I cannot fault its editor. I also adored the world-building – it was a fresh new idea, and vibrant in the way it was described. I found the futuristic world in which the characters lived to be fascinating.

Where I ran into issues with the book, and why I ultimately set it aside, is that though this is a “young adult” book, it read more like a middle-grade book. I genuinely thought the main character was maybe 13 before I looked up what the book was categorized as. Simple writing isn’t bad – as I said earlier, it flowed well and it was clear and easy to read, but it sounded juvenile, especially in the way the main character interacted with his mother and with his internal thought processes. I think the book was miss-categorized as a young adult book, and it would have been better received in a younger audience with some adjustments.

Another issue I ran into was a few minor writing style faults – repetition of ideas when they didn’t need to be repeated, details that didn’t make sense in the timeline, and the pacing of the scenes. The dog running away at the beginning of the story should have been fast-paced, and instead, it dragged on while the kid called his neighbor, walked home, talked to his mom, walked some more, talked to more people, wandered into an alley, and then eventually found the dog. I couldn’t figure out what the author was trying to do by dragging the scene out, and it would have better served the tension of finding the mutilated dog had the whole sequence moved faster and been more impending. Slowing it down muffled the impact, and in the end, I grew bored waiting for things to happen.

I think if you can look past these problems, you might enjoy the story, but as someone who copyedits novels for a living, it’s really hard for me to set these sorts of problems aside to enjoy the greater story.

Book Review: Breaking The Rules

reviewcover-breaking the rulesTitle: Breaking The Rules [Breaking 1]

Author: Ember Leigh

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

For Travis, there’s only ever been one rule: stay away from his best friend’s sister. But Amara Valenzuela has transformed from meek and sweet to a woman that Travis can’t keep his eyes—or hands—off of.

Before long, however, Travis learns that being with Amara isn’t just breaking the rules. She’s a dangerous distraction.

In a room full of hot, hard, sweaty bodies, these two have more than fitness on their minds. Will the undefeated MMA fighter be strong enough to resist the charms of his best friend’s sexy and sweet little sister…or will trying to win her heart be the showdown of his life?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Listen, Breaking The Rules by Ember Leigh wasn’t as bad as you might assume by seeing this one-star rating, but I just could not get into it.

The narrative actually flowed fairly well. The grammar and punctuation were correct, and I didn’t run into any major typos. All good things.

However, despite these strong points, I still had trouble. I didn’t feel anything for the characters. They weren’t particularly interesting and I didn’t really like them to be honest. Their attraction felt superficial because any sexual tension the author threaded through the story was overshadowed by the constant mention of it. It seemed like every few seconds the couple was thinking about boning each other, and it drained the impact. Sadly, there didn’t seem to be any plot outside of the romance and it just wasn’t enough to carry the book for me.

I grew bored. For some readers, this won’t be an issue… but it was for me, and I chose not to carry on.

Book Review: Crow’s Rest

reviewcover-crow's restTitle: Crow’s Rest [Faerie Crossed 1]

Author: Angelica R. Jackson

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

Avery Flynn arrives for a visit at her Uncle Tam’s, eager to rekindle her summertime romance with her crush-next-door, Daniel.

But Daniel’s not the sweet, neurotic guy she remembers, and she wonders if this is her Daniel at all. Or if someone—some thing—has taken his place.

Her quest to find the real Daniel, and get him back, plunges Avery into a world of Fae and changelings, where creatures swap bodies like humans change their socks, and magic lives much closer to home than she ever imagined.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT

I’ll be straight with you, I threw this book across the room (figuratively) somewhere amidst the third chapter. I’m not entirely sure what the author intended, but the narrative style of Crow’s Rest by Angelica R. Jackson was trying too hard to be quirky and charming. The main character, whose name I’ve already forgotten, is a tangled mess of poor writing. She’s ADD and Bipolar, and okay, sure, that can happen – but it has zero relevancy to the plot outside of an attempt at making her… what? Relatable? A special snowflake?

What catapulted everything off for me though, was the author’s need to word-vomit the most inappropriate asides and verbal tangents I’ve ever seen in a Young Adult book. I can’t even begin to repeat some of what was written for fear my review would get flagged.

This book is a mess, and honestly, you could do better.

Book Review: The Healer

reviewcover-the healerTitle: The Healer [The Healer 1]

Author: C.J. Anaya

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

Hope Fairmont longs for a normal teenage life, but with a gift like hers, normal equals healing illnesses and injuries instantly. Keeping a secret like that isn’t easy, but a small town is the perfect place for her to heal those who can’t heal themselves, and an even better place for her father, James Fairmont, to hide his daughter from the rest of the world.

Life takes an unexpected turn when two handsome strangers move into town and begin unearthing other secrets concerning Hope’s future and past, revealing to Hope that her gift for healing may be the fulfillment of an ancient, Japanese prophecy gone wrong.

Staying away from these mysterious newcomers would be the smart thing to do, but Victor’s gentle, easy manner, and Tie’s mixed signals and strange mood swings draw her hopelessly closer to revealing the secret she and her father have been so desperate to hide.

Hope’s life is complicated further with visions of a previous life and the arrival of a supernatural demon sent to assassinate her before she learns what she is truly capable of.

With the support of her father, the fiery loyalty of her best friend Angie, and the child-like love of Kirby, a ten-year-old patient, Hope must fight against the forces of a relentless demon god while unwinding the tangled pieces of her past, proving to herself and those she loves that destiny isn’t determined by some cosmic reading of the stars, but by the individual choices one makes.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’ll be honest, I expected more from The Healer by C.J. Anaya. Having read some of the author’s other work, I was excited to read more. Sadly, I was disappointed by this one.

The book didn’t open strong – it started with a lot of exposition rather than action, and I felt like I’d stepped into the story mid-series.

Though the narrative was fairly well-written from a technical standpoint and didn’t contain a lot of typos or grammatical errors, the main character kept bringing up topics for which the reader was given no explanation. I constantly felt lost. It took ages for the author to bring in any sort of setting or atmosphere, so until several pages into the book, I had no frame of reference for when or where the story was even taking place.

Let’s take a minute to talk about the healing. The main character goes on about how she doesn’t understand her powers or where they come from, and she’d love for someone to figure it out and tell her – yet goes into huge amounts of detail about how the power works and its limitations. Though the main character is a teenage janitor, they somehow know full medical terminology and boast about knowing more medical knowledge than the actual doctors. Not only did this not make any sense, but it made the main character seem arrogant.

Don’t even get me started on how she “cured autism” – like changing how an 8 year old’s brain functions on a fundamental level will instantly make them “normal”.

I was so incredibly irritated by the end of the first chapter that I almost missed the fact that I still didn’t even know the main character’s name. It isn’t said in the first chapter – at all – and I don’t think this was on purpose, I think it was simply overlooked.

I DNF’d this book because it needs a serious re-write. It didn’t flow the way a story should. I wasn’t pulled in. I didn’t like the characters… it was sloppy in the way it was put together, and I know for a fact the author could have done better. I’ve seen it.

Book Review: Across The Fourwinds

reviewcover-across the fourwindsTitle: Across The Fourwinds [The Maidstone Chronicles 1]

Author: Shane Trusz & Darryl Frayne

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

Since his mother’s tragic accident, Will Owens has been a loner. And for good reason: he claims to see dark creatures emerging from the forest near his home. Ostracism is a way of life until he meets Morgan Finley, a fencing champion with everything going for her—except a dark family secret.

In pursuit of answers, these unlikely friends enter the forest and discover a magical kingdom where a dragon has unleashed a powerful disease. When a young sage reveals their true identities, Will and Morgan join a small but courageous resistance on a quest to save the Fourwinds.

Can friendship and hope stop the swelling tide of destruction from breaching the portal to our world?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’ll be honest, I only got 2% into Across The Fourwinds by Shane Trusz and Darryl Frayne before I was ready to throw it out a window.

At first, I thought the narrative was well-written; it flowed well and started strong. However, as the book progressed, it quickly became evident that there were more problems with the writing than were initially clear.

There were some very odd word choices here and there that stuck out, not because they were inaccurate, but because they didn’t match the tone of the narrative. This eventually extended to whole ideas that were strangely worded, incomplete, and unexplained. It began to feel as if the authors were trying too hard to elevate the mystery and drama of the story, and it felt unnatural and out of place. This wrecked the flow of the storytelling for me.

I couldn’t get into the book… I was left wondering too often about why certain points were being made, over and over as the narrative jolted and lurched forward with each unfinished explanation and odd segue.

In the end, I couldn’t enjoy the book how I wanted to. I think it needs a strict content editor to clean it up and sort out the jumble the authors have crafted it into. There will be others out that that can skim over these odd bits and move on to enjoy the story, but I am, sadly, not one of them.