Book Review: Vanish

review-cover-vanishTitle: Vanish

Author: Becca J. Campbell

Genre: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Romance

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Eva has two secrets. The second is that she periodically vanishes into thin air.

Usually, Eva’s spontaneous disappearances last only a few minutes, but on the day of her high school graduation, she vanished for nearly ten years. For a decade she was invisible and intangible—unable to be felt or seen or heard. She can’t imagine a worse torture than standing on the outside looking in.

Now she’s back, but it’s not enough to be tangible once again. Eva needs to find a way to stop vanishing permanently. Which is why she’s facing her ten-year class reunion—and her ex-boyfriend. The clue to stopping her disappearances must be tied to him, intertwined with their past. Unfortunately, approaching him is awkward-level five billion, considering he broke up with her ten years ago.

When Eva starts getting threatening texts from an unknown source, she realizes the reunion has just gotten even more complicated. Especially when she discovers that source has found out about her second, worse secret.

In order to find the key to stop her vanishing, Eva must battle grudge-wielding friends, relentless old crushes, and a classmate with a vendetta against her. And, in the meantime, hope she doesn’t vanish again. Because somebody wants her gone for another ten years.

Vanish is a sweet romance with a fantastical twist. It’s the perfect blend of Magical Realism and Romance. If you enjoy charmingly quirky characters, a love story that will tug on your heartstrings, and an emotionally rich storyline, download this book today.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I have sort of an odd relationship with Vanish by Becca J. Campbell, in that I read it twice, and not because I loved the book so much that I wanted to read it again, but because I read two different version of the ARC, several months apart. Because of this, I have a somewhat screwed view of the story. I remember parts of the book that are no longer in the final copy—some of those bits I liked a lot, others no so much, but I’m going to try to stick mostly to the current version (as I assume, fellow reader, that this is the version you will be reading as well).

Here’s the thing: I went into this book having no knowledge about what it was about. I was given a two line teaser and signed an agreement that I’d read the book within a narrow 3-week period. I didn’t know the genre, the premise of the story… nothing. What I found, was a rather contemporary urban fantasy with some paranormal and romance thrown in. There’s quite a bit that happens in the story before the reader is introduced to the story—and I’m not a huge fan of stories that do that. Because the main character’s friendships, relationships, and initial disappearance (and subsequent 10-year absence) happened before the story started, I felt like I’d missed a huge part of the action and tension in the story. What I was left with, was a short, sweet story that spans about three days in its entirety.

Technically speaking, the book was exceedingly well edited. The narrative flowed well and pulled me into the story from the very beginning. There were no obvious typos or grammatical errors, and the actions and dialogue of most of the characters rang true. I say most, because the antagonist of the book, a former classmate, and ex-girlfriend of the male lead, was a rather lackluster character. For no real obvious reason, she was obsessed with Tait in a very stalker-ish way, even though they hadn’t seen each other in a decade. Her actions in this and other parts of the story came across as terribly contrived and unrealistic. Her motivations and the way she handled the paranormal aspect of the book just made no sense—and worse yet, fell apart easily once the characters began to stand up for themselves. She was like the evil popular girl in any teen TV show, but this wasn’t a teen book. This is an adult romance… which is probably why it sat so poorly with me.

That wasn’t the only issue, though arguably the biggest. There were mentions throughout the book of other special people like Eva, who also had super powers, but most of them were mentioned in passing and never shown. The relationship between Eva and her former boyfriend was forced upon the reader as something it wasn’t, and then immediately switched out for another romance with Tait, that seemed to pop up out of nowhere. There was no tension (sexual or otherwise) throughout the book, and the little bit of a teaser mystery that was tossed into the description turned out to be not that big of a deal.

Originally, I gave this book four stars after reading the initial copy. There were issues for me with the way the book was touted as a standalone, but obviously tied into another series (this seemed to be edited out in the second copy), but overall, I found it a sweet, enjoyable story. Maybe it’s the fact that I read it twice, maybe it was the edits that changed the story to the second version… I’m not sure, but I ended up not liking the story as much the second time around. It was entertaining, and it was sweet, but I felt that it was missing depth and a sense of tension.

I think this book is best geared towards readers who enjoy sweet, contemporary romance with a paranormal theme, and maybe the tiniest bit of drama.  It isn’t a story that’s going to draw you in and make you think, but it makes a nice afternoon read if you’re just looking for something fun and romantic to sink into for a few short hours.

Book Review: Bite of a Vampire

review-cover-bite of a vampireTitle: Bite of a Vampire [Volume 1]

Author: Anna Belsky

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Vampires

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

I never was a romance novel kind of girl, maybe that’s why I decided to get in the business of proving that love was meant to be unfaithful. Call me bitter but my full name is Emily Johnson, and I work as a private investigator for Jonesville Extramarital Affairs. It’s my daily job to investigate, snap photos of and usually proves that a spouse has found someone else to dilly-dally with. It was a bit of a dream job after having my own respect and dignity broken so many times in college by a guy named Robert, Bob for short. I don’t hold a grudge against him, he was my first, and he taught me that love relationships are not really things that exist. My best friend Abby doesn’t believe me so I decided to prove my point and become a Private Investigator.

On this night Emily’s world turns upside down when she comes across a vampire attacking one of her investigations. She is swept into a world of the supernatural and must draw from all her experiences as Private Investigator to survive… or so she thinks until she meets Michael.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Bite of a Vampire by Anna Belsky was a fun, if short, endeavor into an imaginative vampire-filled world. To be honest, I’m a little up in the air over it. It was a fun book. I liked the characters, I liked the intrigue of the plotline, the danger, and the steamy romance. There was a good amount of gore and danger, and the more paranormal aspects of the books (like the ghosts) were really well done.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the book was perfect. The editing in this book was poorly done. I ran into dozens of grammatical mistakes, misspellings, and sentences that just made no sense. The errors made me pause several times to re-read, and ultimately pulled me out of the book. The writing style was first person, present tense…but sometimes that tense was messed up. The style of the writing was a little underdeveloped, and it often felt like I was being ‘told’ the story a little too much, rather than the author letting me sink into the narrative.

Was the book terrible? No. I did enjoy it—but I think it could have easily been better than what it was. The story was just too short to do it’s characters and plotline justice, and the editing was sub-par, making it a difficult book to get into. This is something I’d recommend for people looking for a light, paranormal read to soak in on a bus ride.

Book Review: My Fair Assassin

review-cover-my fair assassin

Title: My Fair Assassin

Author: C.J. Anaya

Genre: Urban, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

It’s not everyday a teenage girl is singled out for assassination.

Crysta has come to accept the fact that she is freakishly different. Her shocking white hair, creepy powers, and weird eating habits have prevented her from fitting in with her various foster families. Now that she is fully emancipated and providing for herself, she hopes that life will settle down and become something halfway normal.

Her hopes are shattered when a dangerous man with lethal intent breaks into her apartment, but this enticing stranger isn’t what he seems. Is he here to kill her or protect her from others who will?

My Fair Assassin is a romantic short story with elements of paranormal and urban fantasy woven in for an entertaining read. It also touches on social issues involving personal self-esteem and acceptance. Adults and teens alike will enjoy getting lost in the pages of Crysta’s story as she finally comes to accept who she is…or rather what she is.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Though perhaps a bit short, I enjoyed My Fair Assassin by C.J. Anaya. The book was well written—I spotted maybe one typo in the entire book, which is pretty fantastic for any book, traditionally published or otherwise. The writing was clear, easy to follow, and moved at a decent pace.

I will admit that the characters struck me as a bit under-developed though. It didn’t feel as though Crysta was a genuine 17-year-old, and given her upbringing, she seemed a bit too well-adjusted to be believable. She felt fabricated at times because of this, and older than she was meant to be. Jareth on the other hand came across as, well, a bit dumb to be honest. I understand that he was meant to be simply ignorant of the idiosyncrasies of human culture and language, but between his complete lack of understanding of the nuances of a language he seemed quite fluent in and his penchant for bowing to Crysta’s will, he came across as a bit of a pushover, and maybe even a little air-headed. Also, despite his proclivity for speaking Gaelic, we never actually heard him even hint at using his professed favorite language. Outside of the two main characters, we barely saw any other characters in the story, and the ones we did see (Crysta and Jareth), didn’t seem well developed.

That being said, I did enjoy the story, and despite the flaws, I found with the characters, I did end up liking them both. It was hard not to enjoy their relationship. The world building, though not heavily delved into, was interesting, and I especially liked the plot. Overall, it was a quick, fun, read and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a shorter story that isn’t too heavy or gritty with its world building. It’d make a great sunny afternoon read for someone looking to while away a few hours. I do wish the book had been developed a bit more, and I think if it had been, the book probably would have easily made a full-length novel, but for what it is, I found it entertaining and enjoyable.

Free Fiction Friday #73

Hello ladies and gentlemen and welcome to Free Fiction Friday #70! For those of you who are new to this blog, or 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 that 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 them is: YA Fantasy/Coming of Age!

THE FREE

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THE BARGAINS

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Book Review: Ignition

review-cover-ignitionTitle: Ignition [The Escaping Demons Saga 2]

Author: Stacy McWilliams

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Romance

Rating: 2 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Life has never been easy for Jasmine Johnstone, but failing for Nathan Stevenson brings a whole new level of difficulty. Since she arrived at his home he’s blown hot and cold with her, turned against her and revealed a deadly threat. He is sworn to kill her, and fights against his love for her more than ever, but he knows he can’t live without her.

As they run from monsters, and each other, can their love survive?

Time begins to run out and with new friends and enemies in the strangest places, will they learn who to trust in time?

With their love stronger than ever, but forces pulling them apart, is love enough to keep them together or will Nathan’s parents succeed in pulling them apart?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

This book was a mess. Yes, a mess—and I’m being generous. I had some hopes after the first book that maybe this book would be better. Maybe the author would explain things, maybe Nate would somehow beautifully and tragically save Jasmine as to redeem their relationship in some matter. Anything… but what I got was an even bigger tangle of absurdity than with the first book.

The book was littered with typos. Missing words, improper grammar, misspellings, omitted words, even lack of clarifying punctuation. There were too many mistakes for a book that had a professional editor. On the plus side, the writing, for the most part, remained clear despite these problems and flowed along reasonably well.

My biggest problem with this book was the egregious amount of plot holes, obvious plot devices, contradictory phrases, and just the plain absurdity of what the characters were saying, doing, or thinking at any time. I literally broke down into hysterical laughter after about the 15th time the male demon love interest, Nate, shed a tear and Jasmine noted that she’d never seen him break down and cry before. REALLY? I cracked up laughing and exclaimed “Where have you been? He never stops crying!” Nate was constantly sobbing, breaking down into tears, or shedding a tear over everything. Their relationship was in a never ending loop that went something like this: “Baby, I love you more than anything, more than my life!” “I hate you. I never loved you.” “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it, I was protecting you! I love you! Please forgive me!” repeat ad infinitum. I lost track of how many times this cycle of love/hate repeated itself, but it was painfully predictable.

Also painfully predictable, was the number of times Jasmine tripped, fell into something, or got a head injury. The girl should have serious brain damage. More worrisome perhaps, was the author’s penchant for softening the blow of all the tensest moments by going meta and explaining what was about to happen. “I didn’t know then that…” became a common theme.

As the book wore on the writing got more and more absurd. Bits of information were thrown in to move the plot along that reasonably, the main character should have never known. She somehow learned magic and how to identify wild herbs out of nowhere when it was needed, even though she’d been orphaned and in the foster care system since she was little. When she needed to drive, it mentioned that she had taken a few driving lessons a few months before. When? When did this happen? She’d been living in the demon household for over a year at that point, and I really can’t imagine that they let her out to take driving lessons. She suddenly identified a witch trap even though until that moment, witches had never been mentioned in the books. She identified an obscure Japanese mythological creature by name even though she didn’t know they existed until that moment. It never ended. Things kept getting introduced into the story, and suddenly Jasmine knew what they were or how to deal with them “although she didn’t know how she knew”—and that was the best explanation we got.

At one point, we were even introduced to the fact that Jasmine had a little brother and sister… (which were never mentioned in the first book), that she somehow forgot existed. Soak that in.

Frankly, the book was badly written and a bit ridiculous. The romance between the two main characters was abusive—full of lies and physical abuse—and every opportunity Jasmine had to get away, she quickly went back on before the page was even over. She was constantly playing the victim, and it got to be both irritating, and after awhile, sickening to read. I honestly don’t understand how this book got so many 4 and 5-star reviews because it’s probably one of the most infuriating and repetitive books I’ve ever read. This is not something I would recommend. Period.

Book Review: Luminosity

review-cover-luminosityTitle: Luminosity [Escaping Demons Saga 1]

Author: Stacy McWilliams

Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Jasmine Johnstone’s life was relatively normal until she was forced to live with the Stevenson family. As she stayed she found she had no choice but to battle mythical creatures. Strengths she never knew she possessed began to surface, surprising those around her. Her only chance of surviving the rising tide of evil was Nathan Stevenson. Could she really trust him as he fought against his love for her? With the world against them and time running out, would their love be enough to defeat demons?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Honestly, I’m not sure what to say about Luminosity by Stacy McWilliams. I liked it. The plot was a somewhat new idea, I was curious as to what was happening, and for a few short hours, I was thoroughly entertained—but that doesn’t mean that it was necessarily a good book.

The book was riddled with typos—and I mean a lot of them. There were missing words, spelling problems, even words that were used in the wrong context. Although the writing was fairly clear and easy to read, the plot left me baffled. Half the time I didn’t know what was going on and there were no explanations forthcoming. The “romance” between Nathan and Jasmine was painfully contrived and woefully neglected for the first half of the book. It felt like I spent the majority of the book watching this poor, orphaned kid getting smacked around by basically everyone she met.I lost count of how many head injuries she received, but I’d bet you it was over half a dozen—and she barely stuck up for herself, tried to run away, or otherwise defended herself in any manner. She never even actively tried to figure out what was going on around her, even though she knew something very strange and very bad was definitely going down. Jasmine was a punching bag.

So why did I like it? I’m not sure. I guess I liked it because I keep hoping that there’s going to be more explanation. I keep hoping Nathan’s going to do something risky and beautiful to save Jasmine’s life. It’s all hope. I’m going to keep reading the series, and who knows? Maybe something will be explained in the second book. This definitely isn’t going to be for everyone, but if you’re looking for something different and dark, and you have a high tolerance for confusion, you may be interested in this book. Just be aware that this one needs a high trigger warning for people who’ve suffered emotional or physical abuse. It’s going to make you mad.

Book Review: A Threat From The Past

 

review-cover-a threat from the pastTitle: Bentwhistle the Dragon: A Threat From The Past

Author: Paul Cude

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Adventure

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

Bentwhistle the Dragon in A Threat from the Part is an adventure story children and adults alike will love, about the present day world in which dragons disguised as humans have infiltrated the human race at almost every level, to guide and protect them.Three young dragons in their human guises become caught up in an evil plot to steal a precious commodity, vital to the dragon community. How will the reluctant hero and his friends fare against an enemy of his race from far in the past?Fascinating insights into the dragon world are interspersed throughout the book. Ever wondered how dragons travel below ground at almost the speed of sound? Or how they use magical mantras to transform their giant bodies into convincing human shapes? In an action packed adventure that features both human and dragon sports, you’ll get a dragon-like perspective on human social issues and insight into what to do if you meet a giant spider grinning at you when you’re wearing nothing but your smile You’d be flamin’ mad to miss it.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I tried to get into this book. It sat on my TBR list for two years while I picked it up, set it aside, picked it up again, set it aside… again. I just couldn’t get into it. I’m not a huge fan of high fantasy, to begin with, but it was clear from the outset that I was going to have a problem mostly with the way the book was written. To be honest, the writing was weak. There was a lot of the author telling his readers what was happening, without putting any effort into showing them the world so they could come to their own conclusions. The narrative was written in an extremely passive manner and was littered with cliché phrases.

In spite of its size the dragon was clearly agitated, roaring occasionally, scraping the large claws on its feet along the top of the rubble on either side of it, and banging its tail into the ground intermittently.

Why “in spite of its size”? That has nothing to do with the fact that it was agitated. Why are you telling us that it’s agitated, to begin with? Why not show us with the roaring and the scraping and let it speak for itself?

As the apparently inevitable drew closer, the sprinting knight managed to find a little more speed and at the spit second before hitting the tip of the flame, dived headlong towards the cobbles.

Why “apparently inevitable”? There were so many instances of “apparently” and “seemingly” just in the first chapter that I grew frustrated with each new reiteration.

“For all intents and purposes, yes,” said the knight.

Why not just say “Yes.”?

“I require no reward. I’m sorry for the loss of life and damage to your city,” the knight replied in a heartfelt manner. “I have companions who as we speak are making their way there with great haste to assist with what has happened this day, among them healers and engineers. I ask that they are allowed to help out as best they can, and also that you not address me as Sir, as I have not yet earned that title, but by my name: George.”

The lack of appropriate punctuation aside, the dialogue was heavily crafted and monologue-esque. It didn’t feel real. I kept pushing, but by the end of the first chapter, it was clear that the entire book was going to be written in this way, and I just couldn’t push myself to keep reading. When I start a story, I want to be gripped by it. I want to be pulled in and several hours later find myself staring blankly at the last word of the story wondering how I got there so quickly and why it had to end. I didn’t have that with this. There may be a reader out there somewhere (probably a middle-grade reader) that will absolutely love this story, but It isn’t for me. I’m setting it aside and moving on to something a little more thoughtfully crafted.