Book Review

Scythia Protostar – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★.5  (3.5 / 5 stars)

When an ambitious bureaucrat wants to rise to power, what does he do? Simple: hire a bunch of rogue minions to get the job done. Yet this is not the usual group of criminals: there’s Raza, a beautiful and cunning leader, Uthrairth, a deadly headhunter, Djaem, a hive-master rogue, and Scythia, a broke psychic. Can they put their differences asside to complete the assignment? Or will it all be for naught?

I had the pleasure of speaking with Author Jesse M. Harvey earlier this month. What a wonderful individual, and it really did help me with understanding the world of Scythia Protostar (pronounced Scythe-ee-uh, not Sith-ee-uh). This novel, short and action packed, is in a way the “pilot episode” of an ongoing series. You’re thrust into the action, getting a taste of the world (or…galaxy) at large, in a way reminiscent of the show Firefly. It may take some time to figure out exactly what is happening, but once it all clicks, you see the uniqueness of each character, as well as the strange beauty of the hive world unseen in many other stories.

Yet the speed of the story is probably one of its faults…at least for me. I like books that take a bit longer (although not too long) to establish things. I’m not the biggest fan of being thrown directly into the action. If the story took some time to set the scene a bit more, or perhaps slowed down just a little bit, I may have connected with the characters somewhat more…especially when it came to Raza and Uthraith. I loved Djaem’s and Scythia’s dynamic, I just wish I had a chance to understand more.

But no doubt, the next books in the series will help establish more about these characters and built upon the fight they will endure. Will they stay loyal this bureaucrat? Or will they rebel? What will happen?

I guess I’ll have to wait for book 2 to find out.

What’s it about?

An ambitious bureaucrat has brought together an unusual team to help him rise in power. In a world so dark that the only way to get ahead is by taking them. He has worked hard to gain the loyalty of the cunning and beautiful, Raza. He has found Uthraith, the deadliest headhunter from the far feral reaches of space. It took months of searching but he finally caught Djaem, the best hive-master rogue in the inner-sectors. And at last… he found it… His secret weapon. Scythia, a broken psychic from the Citadel.
Can this batch of imperial criminals, cooperate long enough to complete an assignment? Only time will tell.

Join them on their first mission, as they are sent to a hive mining colony to gather Intel and contain a Tyrling demon. Now he just as to hope that they will return intact with the colony still standing.

Book Review

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★✰  (4 / 5 stars)
Audio Book Performance: ★★★★✰  (4 / 5 stars)

We all know the story: Dr. Jekyll created Hyde, the embodiment of the darkest depths of his soul. It has forever left its mark on popular culture, inspiring superheroes (looking at you, the Incredible Hulk) as well as songs such as The Stranger by Billy Joel. Even if you haven’t heard the original tale, without a doubt, you have seen the inspiration.

This is a tale about the darkness inside all of us. Even though Dr. Jekyll undergoes a horrific transformation, the truth is, Hyde is always there. Jekyll realizes this, and as he leaves his last confession, he goes as far as to admit he was scared of himself all along. Perhaps, really, we need to be aware of our negative sides, take stock of the impact they leave, and remember they are part of human nature. Then, our Mr. Hyde’s will not be as gruesome. Perhaps, they’ll learn to live in harmony with our true selves.

As with a lot of classics, sometimes I find myself waiting for the story to speed up. In this case, I’m not sure if I can blame the writing or author, or possibly the audiobook narrator. Ultimately though, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is exactly the story I knew, but now…I know it at the source.

I’m so glad I read (well, listened) to this book at the start of the year. It really is the starting point for so many tropes about the two sides of every coin…and how we must learn to embrace our darkness in order to tame it.

What’s it about?

Robert Louis Stevenson presents the suspenseful, eerie and captivating story of a ruthless scientist who sets out to liberate his inner demon from the firm clutches of his conscience.

Upon bearing witness to the extent of Mr Hyde’s violent nature, Jekyll is horrified by his callous disregard for the welfare of others and greatly ashamed by the unstoppable nature of his ambition.

Eager to redeem himself, Jekyll sets out to capture and stop the bloodthirsty Mr Hyde, by any means necessary. However, in keeping with true gothic tradition, Dr Jekyll must now face a race against time as damning evidence is uncovered, and the investigating detectives and interested parties are brought right to his door.

Book Review

Amulet of Scion- Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★✰  (3.75 / 5 stars)

“Keep it secret.”

“Keep it safe.”

“Don’t take it off.”

These are the final words that Bailee’s mother utters to her before her untimely death. For years, this is exactly what Bailee does…that is, until her best friend Asher has an accident that costs him a leg, and leads to an eviction notice on his door. In hopes to help, Bailee goes to Fossil Park to sell her amulet, but when she goes to give to someone else, it glows. With the secrets of her amulet unlocked, Bailee must uncover the mystery and race against the clock to save both her professor and her friend…or it could mean an untimely demise for them all.

In a fast paced story that combines both mystery with fantasy, readers of all ages will join Bailee as she tries to uncover the secrets of her amulet, as well as her family’s past. Her curiosity will resonate with readers. Ultimately though, the message is not just about magic and witches, but about friendship, betrayal, and interwoven history. Each person plays a key part in Bailee’s story, and no one is there without reason.

Yet, with these interwoven characters, I do feel like the story might have benefited in being a bit longer. We are immediately thrown into witch’s lore and introduced to a handful of characters. If we knew a bit more about Bailee’s relationship with these characters, as well as a chance to explore the lore just a bit more, I think this book would have been even better.

But, I do know I am not the target audience either, and potentially having this much additional detail might overwhelm the children reading it.

Amulet of Scion, as my first read of 2022, was still a wonderful book that not only takes readers on a magical journey, but also through relationships and friendships. It’s definitely worth the read for young and old readers alike.

What’s it about?

At a Fossil Park, ancient relics go on display – a golden cat, a witch’s broom, mysterious twig-people. A child wearing an amulet enters, unaware of the mayhem she’s about to cause.

Bailee Paxton wants to help raise money for her friend, Asher. When she takes her amulet for appraisal, it glows the moment the professor touches it. Before long, he’s found in a trance and the relics from his display are missing. Meanwhile, someone… or something, spies on her from the shadows

Book Review

Switching Time: A Doctor’s Harrowing Story of Treating a Woman with 17 Personalities – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★✰✰  (3.5 / 5 stars)
Audio Book Performance: ★★★★✰  (4 / 5 stars)

When Karen shows up to Dr. Baer’s office in 1989, she is frightened, confused, and at a breaking point. Dr. Baer initially believes she is suffering from depression, but as their patient-doctor relationship grows, he discovers she has at least 17 distinct personalities living within her. In this documentation, Dr. Baer talks about his time treating Karen, as well as how they ultimately dealt with her trauma and distinct personalities.

A fascinating story, really, I initially discovered Switching Time after getting sucked into the Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) side of TikTok. I grew fascinated with the disorder, although I am also aware of how rare it is and how some individuals on the app might not actually have it. Of course, as someone who is not a mental health professional, I cannot say if these creators on TikTok are lying or not. So, ultimately, I wanted to learn more. DID is villainized so much in media (such as in Alfred Hitcock’s Psycho) that I wanted to learn what it was and why.

Switching Time does this by delving into Karen’s story. And while the story was both fascinating and heartbreaking, like many readers, I did go in with skepticism especially upon researching Dr. Baer. How much did he make up, if anything? How much did his patient make up? We can’t be sure, if any at all. If, as Dr. Baer wants us to believe, this is a 100% true story, then it is fascinating. Even at 80% it is fascinating. But, while reading, you also have to take into account the criticisms from others in the mental health field. Some go as far as to say DID doesn’t exist. Others say it is not possible for Dr. Baer to have “cured” Karen so easily. In addition, others have also said that he had too close of a relationship with Karen and that clouded his judgment.

I am not one to say.

What I do know is that the story is fascinating, even if it is just a story. People do suffer, whether from DID, psychosis, schizophrenia, etc. Whether what happened to Karen is 100% true is hard to say. Whether it is true or not, there are some evident content warnings readers should be aware of: Dr. Baer describes in detail some of what Karen told him (with the patient’s permission), and it is dark. Karen was very much abused, her family supposedly a part of the satanic cults of the 70s. So go in expecting so very vivid descriptions of abuse. In fact, they were so vivid, I would take a month between listening to different chapters, just because it was so heavy.

As I said, I’m not one to judge the truth behind Karen’s story or Dr. Baer’s encounter. So, I’m willing to also give it some benefit of the doubt, while also listening to what others have said. It was still a fascinating journey into the mind of a lost woman…and whatever happened, I happy to see she is thriving.

What’s it about?

In 1989, Karen showed up at the author’s (a psychiatrist) practice, terribly frightened and at breaking point. The author realized that he was dealing with a severe case of Multiple Personality Disorder. He encountered 17 distinct personalities, all living inside Karen since she was a child. ‘SWITCHING TIME’ chronicles his years of work with Karen.

Book Review

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow- Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★✰  (4 / 5 stars)
Audio Book Performance: ★★★★✰  (4 / 5 stars)

Since the day Morrigan Crow was born, she has been cursed. Everything always goes wrong, all because she was born on Eventide. With her death predicted on her twelfth birthday, Morrigan has become resigned to the fact that her life will end. That is, until she receives bids on bid day that offer her a chance to avoid the Hunt of Smoke and Shadows…and hence her death. In a spur of the moment, she joking accepts Jupiter North’s bid…and she is whisked away to Nevermoor and entered into the Wundrous Society trials. But Morrigan is convinced that, other then her curse, there is nothing special about her. How could she join the Wundrous Society if there is nothing wonderful about her? Yet the temptation to belong is too great, and Morrigan grows more determined to join…even if she has no clue what she is doing.

The Trials of Morrigan Crow is reminiscent of a handful of different stories: Alice in Wonderland, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland, The Graveyard Book, and many many more. It takes all these wonderful elements and creates a world that is both believable and unbelievable, with its own unique touch. Each character has their own unique knack, and personally Jupiter’s knack resonated very much with me (although I won’t go into how in case it spoils the surprise). As well, the world is painted with such pristine direction that it makes you feel like you are right there in Nevermoor.

Yet, despite how much I enjoyed Morrigan’s adventure and her plight, the one thing I didn’t like was how much was outside of Morrigan’s control. She was just pushed from one objective to the next, and in the final trial…I was kind of left with “oh…that’s it?” Granted, I had a feeling that what was revealed would be what was so special about her (not every reader or child will pick up on it though), so perhaps that was why it was sort of a let down. I hope that Morrigan will gain more autonomy in the next books…which I have full intention of reading.

The Trials of Morrigan Crow is wonderful story, filled with unique creatures, different magic, and hints of your favorite stories. I think both children and adults alike will enjoy it, and I cannot wait to pick up the sequel.

What’s it about?

A cursed girl escapes death and finds herself in a magical world – but is then tested beyond her wildest imagination

Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she’s blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks–and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday.

But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.

It’s then that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city’s most prestigious organization: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart – an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have. To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests – or she’ll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate.

Book Review

The Last Rose of Shanghai – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★✰✰  (3.5 / 5 stars)

When Aiyi Shao meets Ernest Reismann in Japanese-occupied Shanghai, she sees a business opportunity. He can play jazz, and is a perfect addition to her night club. What she didn’t expect was to fall in love him. Drawn together in a story of forbidden love, war, and different cultures, Aiyi and Ernest must choose their path…whether together or seperate.

In a heartbreaking story that takes a different approach to World War II, we see the Jewish Refugees of Shanghai as well as the Japanese Occupation there, two things often not approached in literature. Wrapped in a beautiful story, it will captivate audiences (and I believe, would make a great book-to-movie adaptation).

As beautiful as this story was, and as much as I should have loved it, I was left a bit underwhelmed. While I loved learning about Aiyi and Ernest’s plight, and I should have been drawn into the story (I went in convinced, actually, that this would be a 5-star read)…something was missing. I didn’t care about their romance, and the ending…it felt off somehow. The emotion wasn’t there. I think, in all honesty, it came down to the writing style for me. It didn’t resonate with me, and that is a personal opinion. While I did cry after what happened to Ernest’s sister, Miriam, and I was happy to see what occurred in the end of the story (which actually took me off guard), a lot of the time I was left pushing through to the next chapter. I do give this book 3.5/5 stars though because of the beauty in this story though, as well as telling a different part of WWII history that not everyone is familiar. Perhaps if it was written differently, I might have fallen in love the same way Ernest and Aiyi did.

Again, that is just personal taste.

I do think overall it is a lovely story though. As I mentioned above, it would be perfect for a book-to-screen adaptation, as I think screen could convey some of the emotion that I was missing in the writing style.

I still do recommend this book though for lovers of historical fiction and romance. I don’t regret reading it, even if wasn’t quite what I expected.

What’s it about?

In Japanese-occupied Shanghai, two people from different cultures are drawn together by fate and the freedom of music…

1940. Aiyi Shao is a young heiress and the owner of a formerly popular and glamorous Shanghai nightclub. Ernest Reismann is a penniless Jewish refugee driven out of Germany, an outsider searching for shelter in a city wary of strangers. He loses nearly all hope until he crosses paths with Aiyi. When she hires Ernest to play piano at her club, her defiance of custom causes a sensation. His instant fame makes Aiyi’s club once again the hottest spot in Shanghai. Soon they realize they share more than a passion for jazz—but their differences seem insurmountable, and Aiyi is engaged to another man.

As the war escalates, Aiyi and Ernest find themselves torn apart, and their choices between love and survival grow more desperate. In the face of overwhelming odds, a chain of events is set in motion that will change both their lives forever.

From the electrifying jazz clubs to the impoverished streets of a city under siege, The Last Rose of Shanghai is a timeless, sweeping story of love and redemption. ading to the risk of exposing a secret he’s been desperately trying to bury? Meet Patrick, a man who seems to have it all, yet faces the frightening possibility of throwing it away because of his own hubris and ignorance. How far will he go to protect his identity and keep his secret hidden?

Book Review

Terminal – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★★  (4.75 / 5 stars)

Patrick Heliher is ready to board his flight. But just as he scans his boarding pass, he denied access and is left stranded on the terminal with his plans unraveling. Yet, as he walks the terminal, waiting for a resolution, paranoia seeps in, leaving him convinced that someone is out to get him. But the person out to get him might just himself.

In a chilling short story, Terminal by TK Watkins examines the human condition – particularly how hubris, arrogance, and narcissism can lead to paranoia and self-entitlement. This is not a story about a man coming to terms with his past; this is a story about a man terminally ill with his own misperception. Sometimes, this illness cannot be cured, and it will forever be like walking along in an airplane terminal, waiting for a flight that will never arrive.

TK Watkins does a fantastic job painting the picture of this paranoia. It left me chilled to the core at the end. The only reason why I’m not giving this the full five-star treatment is because it took me a bit to get into the story. It was the ending that left me with my mouth wide open.

If you want to read a jaw-dropping story about the human condition, one that makes you examine your own mentality, definitely check out Terminal by TK Watkins. But note…it doesn’t end with a smile.

What’s it about?

Things aren’t what they seem. What happens when a successful businessman’s identity is tampered with, leading to the risk of exposing a secret he’s been desperately trying to bury? Meet Patrick, a man who seems to have it all, yet faces the frightening possibility of throwing it away because of his own hubris and ignorance. How far will he go to protect his identity and keep his secret hidden?

He’s minutes away from boarding his flight and saying goodbye to his previous life as an overworked, privileged financial executive, but when Patrick Heliher is stopped at the gate and denied from boarding, his plans to start over come unraveled, setting up a series of bizarre and disturbing events that cut him off from the outside world and threaten to reveal a secret he’s been desperate to leave behind. Though mild-mannered and sophisticated on the surface, his ordeal exposes cracks in his personality, bringing out the worst in him as he sees his whole world collapsing before his eyes.

See how far Patrick goes to protect his identity while he cunningly schemes to get to his destination and shakes off his murky past. While things may not appear as they seem, Patrick fights to keep others from discovering the truth, only to be vanquished and humiliated in the end.

Terminal is a story of arrogance, paranoia, and malignant narcissism — in the face of a deeper reality few can bear to fathom.

Grim Tales, Sordid Werks, & Other Compendiaries is a series of short stories exposing the unsavory side of the human condition while crossing paths with the manifestation of darkness in all its various guises. Featuring true-to-life characters who are caught in bizarre and dire situations, and must face their most formidable horrors — including themselves. Packed with terror, shock, dread, and, most of all, cruel irony.

Book Review

The Apprentice Storyteller – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★✰  (4 / 5 stars)

“We’re always granted what we wish for as long as we prove, through our behaviour, that we want to make it a reality. Our thoughts guide our actions, and those direct our outcomes. You left home with the fear of pursuit. Your fear became a reality, and your thoughts have fed your actions bringing you to this point—constantly foreseeing capture. When I left home, I feared I might die of starvation, or worse, all alone in the world, but I held that fear at bay by feeding my dream of becoming a storyteller and making that a possibility I could achieve. I recognised my fear for what it is—one option. I chose not to pursue it because it wasn’t a result I wanted. I focused wholeheartedly on what I did want to experience.”

Viola Alerion has been on the run for years. A renowned storyteller, her life has always taken her from one place to another. Alone. Until one day, a boy comes and demands to be her apprentice. He refused to take no for an answer. Reluctantly, she takes him on as her apprentice, but soon learns the boy is wise beyond his years, and perhaps he might just teach her some lessons as well.

In a story that is equal parts fantasy and sci-fi, we delve into Viola and the boy, Jo’s, story to tell stories and uncover pieces of the past. A beautifully written tale, The Apprentice Storyteller is not just an adventure, but a story that holds a deep message about being true to yourself and manifesting your own destiny.

Honestly, the book description is correct: very much so, Jo is reminiscent of the boy in Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. It’s not a traditional story about a master and an apprentice, but rather about how an apprentice can teach a master…and vice versa. Really, while Jo is learning the art of storytelling, Viola is learning about herself.

The biggest thing I wished for while reading this book though is “more.” I yearned to learn more about the world, which was so beautifully painted, and to dive more in Jo and Viola’s past and relationship. It was written more as a legend or fable, which makes sense, but I always do yearn for a tiny bit more when I read a book.

Overall though, this was a wonderful gem that I picked up for free many months ago. I’m glad I did…because it’s a beautiful tale about manifesting the future you want, and not the one you fear.

What’s it about?

The Alchemist meets fantasy with a splash of space opera.Viola Alerion, a renowned storyteller in the Haldrian Empire, wants to be left in peace. For years, she’s been hounded by her past, never to find a moment’s rest. Then she meets a boy who wants to become her apprentice. He refuses to take no for an answer, and she reluctantly yields, even though she knows taking him with her could endanger his life. As their journey progresses, Viola begins to understand she’s not the only teacher in the equation. The nameless boy also has something to teach, but Viola makes for a reluctant student.

Can she give way to possibility and embrace a future in alignment with what she’s always wanted? Can she find the courage to embrace the principles that will transform her life? Can she overcome her circumstances and face her past? Or will she keep on running with nowhere to hide?

And what of the boy who guards untold secrets and exhibits mysterious powers that defy belief?

Book Review

The Lurking Collection- Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★✰  (4 / 5 stars)

In this collection of short stories by Jaidis Shaw, we investigate some dark and chilling questions: is a sacrifice worth it? Is that boy in your class as kind as he seems? What secrets are we holding? Each story will chill you to the bones, and make you question your own life – for better or worse.

These stories are beautifully written, and each one will leave you at the edge of your seat…all for a different reason. My favorite one was definitely The Reluctant Seamstress. This one was jaw dropping, and I could have read an entire book about this character and her people. I sat up straight in bed as I devoured this tale, my heart racing…with a smile on my face at the end.

The other two stories, The House on Juniper Lane and Blind Justice, also had that same chilling atmosphere but they didn’t enchant me in the same way. These were much more closer to the real world (especially the last one), and reminded me more of traditional horror stories, similar to Stephen King or other similar authors.

That being said, all these stories are worth the read – they’ll leave you thinking about humanity, life, and all the secrets in the shadows. Definitely check it out.

What’s it about?

A collection of stories by Jaidis Shaw:

Is the sacrifice worth the reward?

The Reluctant Seamstress is an outcast among her people. Cursed to never set foot on land, she swims in the dark depths below the ocean’s surface. Now her life depends on making the perfect suit for her master. The only problem is that everyone knows human flesh is a fickle material.

Some family traditions must come to an end.

The House on Juniper Lane had always been a mystery. After a family was violently slain within its walls, it quickly became an attraction for teens looking for a thrill. It was just an empty house to Grace. So when the hottest guy in school wanted to take her there, she accepted. It was all fun and games until she woke up tied to a chair.

One night will change her life forever.

Blind Justice is what she provides. Molly wasn’t going to let blindness stop her from holding psychological criminals accountable for their actions. Now the bodies are piling up and Molly must identify the killer before her own secrets are brought to light and she becomes the next victim. 

Book Review

The Elite Wizard Games- Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★✰✰  (3 / 5 stars)

Melanie has been training for the Elite Wizard games for years. She yearns to be one of the five wizards that will win the battle royale and secure herself a place within the Elite Wizard Guilds. Yet, as a pernicious plot unfolds to destroy the Dragon Wizards, Melanie and her friends must join forces to stop the chaos. But will it cause her to lose her place in the guild?

Fast paced and action packed, The Elite Wizard Games is a fun afternoon read that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Filled with magic and battles, fairies and dragons, and friendships and enemies, there is something for everyone in this story. You’ll be on the edge of your seat routing for Melanie to both stop the plot to destroy the Dragon Wizard, as well as secure her place in the guild.

Yet, its fast speed comes at a detriment. So much happens in this book in such a short amount of time (I believe it took me 1.5 hours to read this book total). Personally, I didn’t have enough time to meet the characters or get a full understanding of the guilds. It felt like I jumped in halfway through the story, and really wish I had a chance to understand Melanie’s motivations and talents, as well as that of her friends. If this book had been 100-200 pages longer, I think we would have started to delve deeper into all of this, and create a much more well rounded story.

In addition, while I did not count this in my rating of the book, the cover confused me. The story read like a high fantasy, yet the cover made me think it was more urban fantasy or low fantasy. I couldn’t quite figure out if or where technology fit into this world, and while this didn’t impact my rating, it may impact how others feel.

Ultimately though, this was a fun book, and I think if you enjoy fast paced adventures, you’ll enjoy The Elite Wizard Games. It will keep you at the edge of your seat from start to finish, that I’m sure.

What’s it about?

The competition for a prestigious spot on an Elite Wizards Guild is at hand.
For years, nineteen-year-old Melanie has trained and worked for nothing else. More than anything, she strives to be one of the five wizards that will win the epic battle royale. Yet her plans shift in the midst of the games when she learns of a sinister plot to rob the Dragon Wizards of their ancient magic.
As the competition rages on, the stakes are upped to life or death. Teaming up with one of her competitors may be Melanie’s only chance to save the world. But will it cost her a place in a guild?
Game on. Are you strong enough to survive?