Book Review: Afterlife Academy

cover-review-afterlife academyTitle: Afterlife Academy

Author: Jaimie Admans

Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Paranormal, Romance

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Even being dead isn’t enough to get you out of maths class.

Dying wasn’t on sixteen-year-old Riley Richardson’s to-do list. And now, not only is she dead, but she’s stuck in a perpetual high school nightmare. Worse still, she’s stuck there with the geekiest, most annoying boy in the history of the world, ever.

In a school where the geeks are popular and just about everything is wrong, Riley has become an outcast. She begins a desperate quest to get back home, but her once-perfect life starts to unravel into something not nearly as great as she thought it was. And maybe death isn’t really that bad after all…

Welcome to Afterlife Academy, where horns are the norm, the microwave is more intelligent than the teachers, and the pumpkins have a taste for blood.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

To be honest, I liked Afterlife Academy by Jaimie Admans more than I thought I would when I first opened up the cover. The main character, Riley, was rather difficult to like at first. She was a bully, sarcastic, quick-tempered, and most definitely in denial. She was the kind of girl you love to hate – because we’ve all met Riley Richardson. She’s the popular girl that everyone looks up to and despises in equal parts. As the story wore on, however, I learned that there was a lot more to Riley. She was capable of introspection, she was fiercely protective of her friends and those she loves, and while she isn’t always the most down-to-earth, she is strong-willed and determined.

Technically speaking, the book was written decently well. There were a few words that I stumbled over and would normally consider as being used improperly, but because this book was set in Europe, and I am from the US, I will give it the benefit of the doubt—as I’m sure it’s most likely a cultural language difference. Other than that, the narrative was easy to follow, the plot was intriguing, and the shenanigans and colorful world built around the Afterlife Academy were geared perfectly towards the audience. I think for what it is, this worked well – and I had a fun time reading it.   If you like  YA romances with a paranormal twist, this was a fun one to get into, and I recommend it.

Book Review: Nothing Stays In Vegas

cover-review-nothing stays in vegasTitle: Nothing Stays In Vegas [Vegas Series 1]

Author: Elena Aitken

Genre: Contemporary, Romance

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Lexi Titan has mastered the art of pretending everything’s fine. After all, how else could she ignore the fact that her husband is never home, her son barely knows him and the last time she had sex, well, who can remember? With her life crumbling, the last thing she wants to do is go on a trip, especially back to Vegas; a city full of glitz, excess, and Leo, the man she’s spent the last six years trying to forget. But when her best friend announces she’s getting married, Lexi doesn’t have a choice. Besides, it’s ridiculous to avoid an entire city because of one guy. Even if he is the father of your child. Face to face with memories of the past and the gorgeous man who started it all, Lexi can no longer deny the truth to anyone, especially Leo. But honesty will come at a price, and Lexi must decide if she’s willing to take that risk. And what exactly will she tell her husband? Because as she now knows, NOTHING STAYS IN VEGAS.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Nothing Stays In Vegas by Elena Aitken is a delicious contemporary romance filled with brazen attraction, misunderstandings, and the gaudy lights of Las Vegas. The story is both sexy, heartwarming, and filled with spunk. I loved the characters, the clear, fast-paced narrative, and the heart-wrenching romance.

On the technical side of things, there were very few typos or editing errors, and the few that I spotted were not enough to detract from the story. If you like contemporary romances with a bit of sizzle to them, I highly recommend you give this book a try. I will definitely be looking for more books by this author in the future.

Free Fiction Friday #141

Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Free Fiction Friday #141! 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!

THE FREE

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THE BARGAINS

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Book Review: Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board

cover-review-light as a feather, stiff as a boardTitle: Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board [Weeping Willow High 1]

Author: Zoe Aarsen

Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Paranormal, Horror, Romance

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

McKenna Brady thinks her junior year of high school is going to be the best ever when she’s welcomed into the elite group of popular girls at Weeping Willow High School led by blond, gorgeous Olivia Richmond. Prior to junior year, McKenna was known in her small town as the girl whose twin sister died in a tragic house fire, and she’s overjoyed at the prospect of redefining her identity. She has a date to the Homecoming dance with Olivia’s handsome older brother, and a good chance of being elected to student council. For the first time since McKenna’s parents divorced, things are looking up.

But everything changes the night of Olivia’s Sweet Sixteen sleepover birthday party. Violet, the shy, mysterious new girl in town, suggests that the girls play a scary game called Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board, during which Violet makes up elaborate stories about the future ways in which beautiful Olivia, brassy Candace, and athletic Mischa will die. The game unsettles McKenna because she’s already escaped death once in her life, but she doesn’t want to ruin her friends’ fun. It’s only a game, she reminds herself.

But it doesn’t seem like a harmless game a week later when Olivia dies unexpectedly in a violent car crash, exactly as Violet predicted. And something begins haunting McKenna’s bedroom at night, leaving her clues that all seem to point to Violet. McKenna enlists the help of her cute next-door neighbor Trey in finding out exactly what kind of curse Violet has put on all of the popular girls in the junior class. As Violet rises to popularity and seemingly steps into the life Olivia left unfinished, McKenna and Trey know they only have a limited amount of time to bring an end to Violet’s game before more lives are lost.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board by Zoe Aarsen was a chilling tale of vengeance and greed reaching forth from the afterlife to wreak havoc on a a small town as an unwitting group of teen girls become pawns in a plot from beyond the grave.

The story was well written and boasted a cast of characters both unique and complex. I thoroughly enjoyed this gripping tale would would recommend it to any reader looking for a solid supernatural thriller with strong characterization and a well-constructed plot.

Sorting Book Review Requests…

Although I am currently in the process of sorting through a year’s worth of book review requests, I feel the need to take a moment and talk about what I’m seeing in my inbox.  A few years ago I wrote an article about the various reasons I reject book review requests – and it still applies, but that information, readily available, seems to be mostly ignored. So we’re going to talk about it again – authors, listen up.

Book reviewers can’t read every book that’s sent to them. We’d love to, but we simply can’t. Over the course of this past year, I was sent more than 300+ review requests to my inbox. Assuming I was able to read and review a novel every single day of the year with no days off, I still wouldn’t be able to get to them all.

As it is, I post two book reviews every week, which is still quite a bit more than most people read. That’s 104 books a year, if I don’t miss any scheduled posts. I would wager a guess that as an author, you don’t read 104 books a year. You probably don’t read anywhere even close to that. Only die-hard readers will pick up and finish that many books. Unfortunately, that means that less than a third of the books that are sent to me are going to be read this year. It sounds staggering, but I want the authors out there to realize that even if you have the best book ever written, chances are I still can’t get to it. I have to be picky. Really picky.

There is a reason I have a FAQs section with a clearly outlined process to getting your book reviewed. It’s a weeding out process. And guess what? Out of the 300+ books I was sent in the last year, only about 50 of them bothered reading my FAQs and sending me appropriate information. That helped, a lot. If you didn’t send an attachment of your book to in my inbox, your e-mail went directly into the trash folder. I didn’t read it. I didn’t look at your title, your cover, your blurb, I didn’t even read your name. I just looked for an attachment and trashed those without. Why? Because I don’t have time to e-mail several hundred authors to inquire for more information about a book I still may not want to read.

From there, I read blurbs. If I read the synopsis to your book and didn’t think “ooh, this sounds interesting.” I trashed it. Because, again, I don’t have time to read every book – and I don’t want to read 104 books I don’t find interesting. I don’t like giving negative reviews – it’s painful to everyone… so if I read your blurb and your book doesn’t strike me right away, I pass it up. I look for books I think I’m going to love.

Although I’m not done, I’d venture to guess that out of the 300+ books I was sent, I will probably add less than 10 to my To Be Read list. Whatever space is left over will be filled with review requests that haven’t been sent to me yet, or books I randomly pick up off amazon or out of my library – sometimes I just randomly pick a book out of all the books that are sent to me – and here’s where that FAQs comes in handy. Are you paying attention?

If you sent me a book file, and I don’t put it on my TBR list, it goes directly into my library…. and there is a chance that I will still read it at some point – even if I initially rejected it. Sometimes it pays to pay attention.

So what can you do as an author to get yourself read? Here’s some tips:

  • Send your book to reviewers that specialize in and enjoy your genre. You are far more likely to be read by these book reviewers. I love romance. I am 200% more likely to read your book if it’s a romance and I’m emotionally invested in your characters than if you don’t have romance. That’s just a fact. If you write historical fiction—find a reviewer that specializes in historical fiction. You’ll be more likely to get read, and more likely to get a good review.
  • Read the book reviewer’s FAQs and stick to the procedures you find there about sending book review requests. Don’t waste our time – because we won’t feel bad about trashing your review request. We don’t have time to cater to every author. There are a lot of you.
  • Don’t pester your book reviewer. Don’t send several e-mails to remind them to have a look at your book. It’s annoying, it’s invasive, and we will probably trash your book.
  • Don’t be freaked out about sending your book file to reviewers – especially if it’s clear that that reviewer regularly does book reviews. We aren’t going to share your file. We’re not going to upload it to pirating websites or send it to our friends and family. If it gets out of our inbox at all, it’ll go directly to our library, where it will stay. You aren’t going to lose anything by sending it to us – because we have too many books to read already, and we weren’t going to buy yours just to give it a shot. We may purchase it afterward if we really like it though.
  • Have a good cover. If it looks like you photoshopped the cover yourself, we aren’t going to read your book – because we’re going to assume you put about as much effort into writing your book as you did on that cover.
  • Hook us with your blurb and your first page. Make sure they are incredibly well written and grab our attention – because that’s what we’re looking for. I’m making snap judgments… and if that snap judgment is that your book sounds interesting, you are beating 70% of the competition.
  • It’s okay to send us your review request more than once – as long as you do it better the second time around. Adjust the blurb. Edit your book, get a better cover. Provide more information. Try to sell me on your book… and be sure to include that book file. It may make it the second time around.
  • If you find an author that gives you a good review on one of your books – send them more books. They are more likely to pick them because we already know we’re not wasting our time by reading your stuff. You’re more likely to get more good reviews.

These are just a few tips – but they are important. Read them. Learn. Apply. I guarantee you will have better results than just blindly e-mailing every reviewer you find.

Book Review: Lost Girl

cover-review-lost girlTitle: Lost Girl [The Neverwood Chronicles 1]

Author: Chanda Hahn

Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Thriller, Adventure, Science Fiction, Paranormal

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Wendy doesn’t remember anything about Neverland—or the experiments done on her there as a child. Seven years later, all she wants is a normal life, but shape-shifting shadows plague her dreams and turn her life into a waking nightmare. When the shadows attack at a football game and a boy disappears right in front of her, she realizes these wraith-like shadows are real. They’re not just haunting—they’re hunting.

A mysterious boy named Peter, his foul-mouthed sidekick, and a band of misfit boys intervene before Wendy faces a similar fate. But can they trust Wendy enough to take her to Neverwood Academy and reveal all of their hidden secrets when she’s hiding a secret of her own, or will the dreaded Red Skulls find her and drag her back to Neverland?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Lost Girl by Chanda Hahn was a familiar story with a science fiction twist that was both delightful and fast paced. The author did an excellent job of taking the well-known children’s story of Peter Pan and twisting it into a face-paced YA Thriller/Romance. There were themes of genetic manipulation, human testing, super-powers, and even a taste of the supernatural.

Technically speaking, the book was well written. At times the repetitive use of character names could come off as a bit overdone, but it was easy to understand why the author chose to do it. The style of the book was easy to follow and understand for teen readers without dumbing it down too much or over-hinting at any of the story twists. There were some surprising twists and turns to the story, and I found the characters complex enough to hold my interest despite their familiarity. The romance was expected, but intriguing once the unfamiliar character of Jax was introduced.

Overall, I enjoyed the story and would certainly consider moving on in the series. I’ll be interested in seeing how this series pans out.

The Missing Year…

Hello ladies and gentlemen of blogland! I know, I know, it’s been awhile. Almost an entire year to be exact. So what’s up? Where have I been? Well, to be honest, I was super busy this past year. I moved just days before Christmas last year, which was crazy and exciting, and awesome – but it meant that I had to take some time off to organize my life, move everything I owned, and get my family back into a sort of routine.  We started homeschool for the year, and that involved a gigantic hands-on science project.

20181213_203407We started breeding fish, aquatic snails, and insects… and it took over our life. We went from having zero fish tanks, to having 17, four daphnia cultures, 150 betta fish, a couple hundred snails, guppies, beetles, worms, springtails…. it was nuts, and it took a lot of time and hard work to care for it all. We learned a lot, we started up a YouTube channel to share our journey, and it’s still going strong.

But it ate our life.

We had some family members pass, my daughter started High school, and I did some copyediting jobs. There wasn’t a lot of free-time involved. I even broke a finger and a foot. I didn’t have a lot of time to read, watch TV, or even hang out with friends. We had a blast – don’t get me wrong, but I’m glad to say that I’m back. My goal for this upcoming year is to better schedule my life and accomplish more, and in that vein:

Hi! I’m back. So let’s get started.

Kohaku2Free Fiction Fridays, as always, fall on Friday – and luckily I was able to keep up with them decently well this past year. That will continue into 2019. Same time, same place. Book reviews are being picked back up, and should fall on Mondays and Wednesdays – so keep your eye out. I’ve already gotten the next two weeks read, reviewed, and scheduled to go. I have a year’s worth of review requests sitting in my inbox that I haven’t looked at, but I will be sorting through shortly—so as long as you followed my procedures for putting in a review request, I should be getting around to picking through them in the next few days.  I may, or may not share some pictures and stories with what’s going on with my family in the upcoming weeks (weekend wrap ups!), so keep an eye out.

I’d like to get more writing done this year, more art, and continue on with YouTube, this blog, and reading/copyediting as I have in years past. We’ll see what we can get accomplished!