Book Review

The Vult – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★  (4 / 5 stars)

Amber’s life has always been one of uncertainty. Now in college, she is faced with the ongoing dilemma of her future. What is she supposed to do? Why does nothing really bring her joy? In a drunken stupor she considers ending her life, when a man who claims to be a vampire enters her life. Deklan comes forward as a friend, finally letting her see the beauty in life. But he has his own troubles at home in the Vult. Will his newfound friendship with Amber put the Vult and his way of life at risk? Will it put Amber at risk?

In a fast paced story about vampires and friendship, Katelyn Young takes the classic vampire tropes and spin them on their head. The girl doesn’t want to be a vampire. The vampire doesn’t want the girl. It’s story instead about friendship, and that alone is so beautiful.

Despite the length of the book, Young also dictates the rules of being a vampire – instantly playing on more famous and debunking parts of their tales. That’s the beauty of vampires in stories: so many rules can be redefined based on modern beliefs and expectations. That being said, I love what Young did with vampires.

While I had a few hang ups, especially around the dialogue, ultimately I really enjoyed the Vult. The pacing flowed well overall, yet it felt like the beginning of something bigger – almost like a prequel to another tale. The story ends on a decision that could so clearly create a new trajectory for the characters. So I do hope Young plans to write another book in the series. (And perhaps she has and I just missed it.)

I think anyone who likes a fun, fast paced vampire story that focuses on friendship will absolutely love The Vult. Definitely check it out.

What’s it about?

The Vult has strict rules that could never be broken. Rule one: Don’t kill humans. Rule two: Keep the feed short. Rule three: Stay out of the sun. Rule four: Don’t tell anyone what we are. To save Amber’s life, Deklan Powers was going to have to break the fourth rule.
Deklan is one of five vampires living at The Vult. All Deklan wants out of his immortal life is for everyone to be happy. When feeding at a college party, he stumbles upon an unusual girl. Deklan wants to know more about her so, he follows her to Willow Peak, where he catches her doing something unspeakable and he has no choice but to intervene.
Amber Edge is your regular college senior, except for the fact that she has no idea what she wants to do with her life. One night she gets drunk and tries to end her life, but she is stopped by a strange man. Amber and this stranger quickly become friends, but their friendship reaches a boiling point when old enemies of his come to town. 

Book Review

Hunters I: The Mission – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★  (4 / 5 stars)

In order to become queen, Akane, the Princess of Lear, is sent out on a mission to obtain relics important to her kingdom. With a team of warriors, her groj, and cocky Prince Ashton, she sets out on journey. But with a blue-fired phoenix from a legend following her, more dangers are afoot that she ever imagined…and it may just cost her team their life.

I had so much fun reading this book. Akane is determined, strong, but also a kind leader. Her friendship, especially with Olivia and Alayna, really bring to life her character. On top of that, her relationship with Ashton resonated with me the whole way through. My interest in Ashton grew with Olivia’s interest, from being kind of taken aback by him, to loving him and finding him both amusing and compassionate.

I absolutely loved the concept of the groj as well. Very much reminiscent of familiars or the daemons in His Dark Materials, I adored the twist that the author put on these creatures. They are not limited to just one standard animal; they can transform to the needs of their humans. Throughout the story, unique mythical creatures continue to dot the tale as well, adding more layers to an already well thought world. This includes the blue fire phoenix, the white humming birds, and so much more.

All of these, including that cliff hanger ending, made this a fantastic tale.

Despite how much I enjoyed the story, the ending – considering how dramatic and heart wrenching it was – felt slightly off in pace. I wanted to sit with it a little longer…but that might just be a personal taste. I had to reread the last chapter once just to make sure I got everything right.

Also, a small hang up for me, was the number of characters whose names started with “A”. After awhile, I was able to differ between all of them, but between Akane, Ashton, Axah, Ayek, Alayna, and Abner…at the beginning I definitely got a little confused. In the end, it didn’t completely remove me from the tale, but with so many important characters starting with “A”, it was a little difficult at first.

While there were a few editing errors in the story, after talking with the author, I know that she personally translates everything from Spanish…so I think these errors are permissible, and I really don’t think they hinder the tale at all.

Ultimately, I cannot wait for book 2 to be translated into English. If it was available now, I would be picking it up…as I absolute adore Akane and Ashton, and I cannot wait to see how the legend of the blue phoenix unfolds.

What’s it about?

Trained to be a warrior, Akane, Princess of Lear, must complete a special mission, to become queen after her initiation ceremony.

Stubborn and impulsive, she will stumble upon Ashton, a carefree and bold Prince, who has never committed to anything until he meets her. Leaving behind the comfort of his castle to go with her and together travel Quheco’s woods, facing unimaginable dangers and trusting unknown people to finish the mission.

Can Akane fulfill the mission despite her fears?
Did Ashton make the right decision?
Will they find what they want in each other?

Book Review

Genesis of War – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★.5  (3.5 / 5 stars)

A war is brewing. Kingdoms are divided. And lives are in danger.

With the vengeful Kelbain rising to power and overtaking the west, brothers Thasus, Andemar, and Rudimere are sent out on separate quests to gather friends, while fighting enemies. Yet little do they know that Kelbain has an internal war brewing, with disdain growing from his son, secrets coming to light from his soon-to-be wife Dirce, and trust growing fragile. Can the three brothers stop the brewing storm before lives are lost? Or is it already too late?

A traditional high fantasy tale with battles, high stakes, and magic, Genesis of War takes us on an adventure. Fast paced, readers will get to see the world right away, and learn the struggles without having to turn the next page. While Rudimere is set up to be the hero, without a doubt I was drawn into Dirce’s plight. Her ending shocked me…although, I do wish there was a bit more build up (more on that below).

While some readers will love this fast paced energy of the story, to me…I needed more. I felt like I was reading the outline to some long epic fantasy, and while I can appreciate why the author made it more fast paced (to make it more accessible to those daunted by the longer novels), I think it needed a little bit more. Dirce’s evolution came with an abrupt twist, and the battle that ensued happened far too fast, considering the depths of the climax. In addition, the pace damaged the overall worldbuilding. More build up was needed to really make the story succeed…at least in my opinion.

This book did cause me to have a revelation about my own reading preferences. Fundamentally, I should have loved this book. The plot was great, the characters had unique plights, and the darkness loomed. But…I realized something was lacking for me, and it was this: I am a character motivated reader. A plot can be amazing (as this one was), but if I don’t get a chance to sit with the characters and feel their emotions, the story doesn’t resonate the same way. This is no fault of the author, just a personal preference I identified while reading.

Overall though, I will eventually pick up Book 2 in the series, as I am inspired enough to find out what happens next. If you enjoy fast-paced high fantasy, with battles and magic…check out Genesis of War. I think you’ll enjoy it.

What’s it about?

A man with royalty in his blood has waited to prove himself…

A self-proclaimed sorcerer has waited patiently for vengeance…

In a land of giant wolves, mind readers, and elementals, it is only a matter of time before their paths collide.

But what will be left of the realm when that day finally comes?

Book Review

M to (WT)F – Book Review

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

It’s hard to imagine being born in the wrong body – especially when you identify with the gender assigned to you at birth. But in this hilarious but honest, Samantha Allen provides a description of her experiences that manage resonate with most audiences. Her story is one of self discovery, and mostly everyone has these moments of doubt.

Despite being a cisgender woman, I related so much to some of what Samantha joked about. I was on the elliptical when she went into a tirade about the public women’s restroom and I started to laugh so hard. But while the humor and anecdotes are amusing, it allowed me to see a few things: 1) how transgender individuals undergo and make choices about their transitions and 2) womanhood through the eyes of someone who was assigned the wrong gender at birth.

Samantha Allen (despite saying how much she hates her own voice) also was a fantastic narrator for this audiobook. I was so sad when it ended, because I really felt like I had entered her life and gained a new slice of understanding.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand the transgender experience and womanhood just a little bit more. It’s fun, amusing, but honest…and I absolute adored it.

What’s it about?

Samantha Allen, award-winning journalist and author of Real Queer America, delivers an intimate look at the unexpectedly hilarious moments of her gender transition.

In this poignant audio piece, Samantha Allen takes listeners along for the wild ride of her own transition: the good, the bad, but mostly, the funny. Because once she began this life-changing journey in earnest, Samantha realized that while the emotional trials of gender dysphoria and self-discovery could be harrowing, there were so many laugh-out-loud moments along this winding road.

Think about it: While her 20- and 30-something peers were settling into the people they were going to be for the rest of their lives, Samantha was going through puberty all over again, taking the whole womanhood thing step by glamorous step – from learning the differences between men’s and women’s public restrooms to figuring out how to take off a bra without taking her shirt off first. Recognizing these moments of humor brought her joy in times she needed it most – and sharing them, she learned, could be revelatory.

Part deeply personal memoir, part comedic adventure, and part insightful exploration of how gender informs the ways we see the world, M to (WT)F is a delightful listen that proves how powerful it can be to find humor in hardship.

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?