Review: “The Afterlife of Alyx & Israel” by Hanna Peach

A review by Domoni.

I would like to thank the author for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Alyx and Israel are soul mates, warriors from heaven who gave it all up for a mortal life together. Only things did not work out how they had planned. Born to mortal bodies on Earth, they grew up in the same town and never met. Now Alyx is engaged to Daniel, a boring man she doesn’t really love, but he is dependable and Alyx craves dependable. Their friends from the other realm have watched over Alyx and Israel and refuse to sit idly by while Alyx marries the wrong man and turns down her dream job for the boring stability that keeps her fear of abandonment at bay. But messing with fate has consequences.

When their friends arrange for Alyx and Israel to meet on the steps of the cathedral, for the first time in this life, everyone finds out why intervening with fate is a bad idea. The lost loves meet and feel strangely drawn to each other, like a memory hiding in the back of one’s mind. Suddenly a storm kicks up and lightning strikes a gargoyle, causing it to fall and hit Alyx in the head. Now she’s locked in a coma the doctors cannot explain. Back at his apartment, Israel is confronted by two friends he doesn’t remember from the past life he has not unlocked. They tell him Alyx is locked in her own mind and the only way to save her is to go into it with her. Now Alyx and Israel must fight through the labyrinth of her mind while learning who they are and remembering who they were.

I enjoyed this complicated love story; two people meant for each other held back by their own insecurities and fears. Alyx lost her mortal parents when she was young and developed a severe case of abandonment issues. She has to learn to trust Israel, though she fights the resurfacing memories out of fear and stubbornness. Israel is witty and cocky and sure of himself. He has made mistakes that make him feel like he does not deserve happiness though. He has to learn to let go of the past to open himself up to a future. As they let go of their walls and recover their memories they have to battle time and the trap of Alyx’s mind to release her from her coma before it is too late. The couple battles for each other even though they do not know if they will wake up and retain all the memories that they recovered.

The writing style was nice. The author did a good job of creating the world the characters inhabited. I enjoyed the banter, especially from the group of friends who often could only watch, hidden while Alyx and Israel found their way. This book found a way to touch me and there was a moment where tears sprang into my eyes. Books that can bring out emotions are the best, in my opinion.

This is the 6th book in a series, though it was easy to read as a stand alone. I have not read the previous books in the series but I enjoyed this one so much I will be starting from the beginning. Containing some romance and violence, this would be a good book for YA audience and older.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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Review: “The Ghost Chronicles” by Marlo Berliner

A review by Domoni.

I would like to thank the author for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Michael is your average American Teenage Jock. He’s about to graduate from high school and go on to play basketball in college. He has taken on the role of man of the house since his father’s death two years previously. Michael tries to keep his younger brother in line and help his mom keep things running smoothly. He has a steady girlfriend of two years and he thinks he is invincible. He’s not though. Driving over to pick up his girlfriend Melissa, Michael’s Mustang is struck head on by a semi whose driver fell asleep at the wheel. Now Michael is dead but he hasn’t moved on.

This was a difficult story for me to get into. It was slow with not much direction. I didn’t like Michael from the beginning. He was a rather narcissistic character. There’s a scene early on where he’s getting ready to go pick up Melissa. He showers then dresses in his name brand shirt with his name brand cologne telling himself how he could have any girl he wants and how they all want to sleep with him, but he is a great guy because he is being patient with his girlfriend and not pressuring her into sex. Even after he is dead, Michael acts like the rules don’t apply to him and one of his stated regrets is not having sex with Melissa.

While trying to discover why he is still on earth, Michael meets a few other ghosts along the way. Tom is an older man who acts as a mentor to Michael, teaching him about how to travel and protect himself. Sarah is a young female ghost about Michael’s age that he spends time with and evolves into a relationship. Then there is Matt, a ghost that is turning demon, whose job it is to collect Michael and take him to hell. These characters are well defined and I enjoyed their interactions with Michael.

Tom tries to guide Michael and even takes him to meet The Elders. The Elders are like a governing body for spirits and they tell Michael the rules to being a ghost.  One of the main rules is not to fall in love with another ghost; Michael completely ignores this one. His relationship with Sarah develops intensely even though he knows this will keep her from moving on and could destroy them both.  

The author creates a vivid world around the characters but the story lacked a goal. I kept reading and waiting to see what the whole point was supposed to be. The ending was simply infuriating because nothing whatsoever was resolved or explained. It was the most awkward ending I have read in recent memory. Not a cliffhanger or anything resembling closure, it just ended like the book was missing another chapter or five.

My rating: 2/5 stars.

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BOOK TOUR Review: “Carnival Keepers” by Amber Gulley

A review by Domoni.

I would like to thank the author for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

It’s All Hallows Eve and the Carnival has returned as it does each year, though this carnival is unlike any other in 1879 London. Strange things abound and spread throughout the town. James, on a mission to win a bet made with his friend Alex that has multiple quests to complete in one day, is refusing to stop his task due to the bizarre happenings in his town. Forces seem to be conspiring to keep James away from the carnival, while others work to bring him to it.  While the carnival keepers enjoy their yearly visit to London, and the feast so easily found on its streets and walking into their mists, some work to just get through the day before the carnival leaves again.

This is a strange horror story placed in Victorian England. James seems to be the main character and his portion of the story is in first person, though there are many characters we watch weave through the story. The carnival keepers are not human and many delight in the destruction of the mortals around them. For some reason James is a main goal. Many seek him, for good or for bad, it is hard to follow why. Being the indulged child of a wealthy family, he is more concerned with drinking, winning the bet and thoughts of his girl Laura, who he plucked from the streets and turned from a tart into a lady in waiting.

This story has great bones to be an amazing horror tale, but it lacks the threads to draw the whole thing together. There are characters placed into the story with no motivation which only seem to be there to end up dead. From the detective that starts following James, for no defined reason, to the cousin Emily, who never serves a purpose, I searched for a reason behind their appearance and never found it. I was more confused reading this story than captivated.

The author has an incredible talent for bringing her world to life. The fog-lined streets of London in their filth and clutter are easily pictured in one’s mind.  The hiss of gas lights and the smell of the stagnant air in the refuse-choked cobblestone alleys are the scene of supernatural creatures enjoying a gore filled meal of urchins and nobles alike. I just wish that there was more reason given for why the carnival keepers behaved the way they did. Why did none of the mortal characters react by seeking help, or fleeing the terrifying events in the plagued city?

 

As the carnival ends and the night is over, there is no conclusion to the events or explanation to the characters’ motivations. I pushed through the story hoping for clarity and was simply left puzzled.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

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Review: “The Lost Knight” by Candy Atkins

A review by Hannah.

I would like to start by thanking Enchanted Book Promotions for approaching Fangirls Read It First to review The Lost Knight. When I read the synopsis of the book, I called dibs as quickly as I could.

Agatha Stone is a quiet girl who likes to paint from Queens, New York. When she turns 13 her foster mother attacks her. Agatha is saved by Jonah, a Curramonstrusos from Ashra. Ashra is a world connected with Earth through gates. Once upon a time, the gates were open and guarded by Knights. Now the gates are closed and Knights from both sides of the gate have been hunted down and destroyed. Agatha is a descendant of those Knights; in fact she is the last of her line, and she is destined to save both worlds.

Now Agatha is on a voyage through Ashra. She is joined by her savior Jonah, Crown Prince Dathid, and Luxus, her new pegasus. How is she supposed to accomplish anything when she’s sure they saved the wrong girl? They need a knight and that is the opposite of what Agatha Stone is.

I knew that I might have a difficult time liking Agatha. She doesn’t have any self esteem, she comes off as whiny, she’s scared of everything, and she doesn’t like cats. Then I remembered that she just turned 13. Thirteen is the worst age to be, hands down, and Agatha’s home life doesn’t make it easier for her. I began to like Agatha much sooner than I anticipated. She is thoughtful, sassy, a talented artist, and she is growing braver by the hour.

There is no romantic subplot in this book, which I really liked. Agatha is 13 years old and she has to focus on her destiny. She doesn’t have time for the love triangle that usually pops into these kinds of stories. She receives hugs from Jonah and Dathid, but she never mentions that her heart starts beating a million beats per minute. She does casually mention that Dathid is beautiful, but it never goes beyond acknowledging his aesthetic. I find this refreshing and hope that this trend continues with the rest of the series.

I really enjoyed this book. Agatha is a well thought out character with room to grow. Ashra is a strange and beautiful land, and this is a great beginning to an amazing adventure. The only thing that irks me a little is the abrupt ending of the book. It ends with the question, “What am I supposed to do now?” I don’t know Agatha, but I can’t wait to find out.

My rating: 4.5/5 stars.

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BOOK TOUR Review: “Here’s The Thing” by Emily O’bierne

"Here’s The Thing" by Emily O’bierne

A review by Domoni.

I would like to thank the author for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Zelda has just moved to Sydney. A new school in a new place and the only friend she has is her cousin Antony. Zel is not happy to be leaving New York, which was her home for a year, to return to Australia, but not even the part of Australia where she grew up. Starting over is never easy for a teenager. Leaving behind Prim, her best friend and the first girl she loved, and with so much confusion, has not made it easier. Now she has to balance moving forward and holding on to hope that she can keep Prim in her life.

Zel is 16 and life can be confusing for any sixteen year old. Add in moving to a new place and being gay and you have a perfect storm of emotional turmoil. Even with all of that going on, Zel is a rather level headed girl. She is adapting to her new home and settling into her cousin’s group of drama friends. Focusing on her photography and the project for drama class fills the empty space after school. When she isn’t keeping herself busy, Zel replays her year in New York with Prim. She is struggling with the lack of communication and how much she misses her.

The story jumps between real time and Zel’s memories of New York. It is narrated in first person but in a style where she is suddenly talking to the reader. Though the main story is easy to follow, when she directly addresses the reader it disrupts the flow and pulls me out of her head and into my own. The author has done an amazing job creating the world in which the characters live though. She is description heavy and you can practically smell the Sydney air. Her ability to capture her characters is also on point. Each one has a distinct and developed personality. We get to know Zel’s group of friends at her new school. Antony, Zel’s cousin, who excels at dance and drama. Micheal the tall, neat boy who competes with Antony for the attention of Ashani. Ashani is the bossy, leader type girl who wants to be a director and likes to take control of the group dynamic and lastly, Stella, the quiet dancer, she is always late and somewhat of a mystery to Zel. I fell for Stella from early on. Her absent aloofness to cover a complex life made me want more of her. When her family struggles and her little brother’s autism were mentioned, I wanted much more of her.

Following Zelda as she navigated her emotions for Prim and opened herself to new relationships with Stella and the drama gang was moving. I could have read this book in one sitting if life hadn’t gotten in the way. I kept having to put it down but picked it back up the second I could.  Underneath the story of a girl finding her way in the world is the underlying theme of home. It’s seen in the assignments given in school and on the news stories Zelda watches, to the way she tries to find her own place. It makes the reader have to open their eyes to the world around them and their own home. I loved having that societal issue focused on without being the focus. I enjoyed this book.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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BOOK TOUR

Here’s the Thing by Emily O’Beirne
Genre: YA Contemporary (LGBT)
Release Date: October 19th 2016
Ylva Publishing
Summary from Goodreads:
It’s only for a year. That’s what sixteen-year-old Zel keeps telling herself after moving to Sydney for her dad’s work. She’ll just wait it out until she gets back to New York and Prim, her epic crush/best friend, and the unfinished subway project. Even if Prim hasn’t spoken to her since that day on Coney Island.
But Zel soon finds life in Sydney won’t let her hide. There’s her art teacher, who keeps forcing her to dig deeper. There’s the band of sweet, strange misfits her cousin has forced her to join for
a Drama project. And then there’s the curiosity that is the always-late Stella. As she waits for Prim to explain her radio silence and she begins to forge new friendships, Zel feels strung between two worlds. Finally, she must figure out how to move on while leaving no one behind.
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About the Author
Thirteen-year-old Emily woke up one morning with a sudden itch to write her first novel. All day, she sat through her classes, feverishly scribbling away (her rare silence probably a cherished respite for her teachers). And by the time the last bell rang, she had penned fifteen handwritten pages of angsty drivel, replete with blood-red sunsets, moody saxophone music playing somewhere far off in the night, and abandoned whiskey bottles rolling across tables. Needless to say, that singular literary accomplishment is buried in a box somewhere, ready for her later amusement. From Melbourne, Australia, Emily was recently granted h er PhD. She works part-time in academia, where she hates marking papers but loves working with her students. She also loves where she lives but travels as much as possible and tends to harbour crushes on cities more than on people. Living in an apartment, Emily sadly does not possess her dream writing room overlooking an idyllic garden of her creation. Instead, she spends a lot of her time staring over the screen of her laptop and out the window at the somewhat less pretty (but highly entertaining) combined kebab stand/carwash across the road.
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Review of “Vampire Girl” by Karpov Kinrade

A review by Amanda.

Arianna Spero spends her eighteenth birthday worrying about her mother’s decreasing health and working at a diner to make sure the two of them don’t get evicted. An odd exchange with a mysteriously handsome customer flusters Ari, but she shakes it off and makes it through her graveyard shift with no issues. When she arrives home and finds her mother unconscious and unresponsive everything goes to Hell.

Her mother is in a coma and the prognosis is, sadly, death. An encounter with another handsome man gives her a brief distraction until the man from the diner shows up with an unbelievable story and a chance to save her mother. Ari is shocked to discover that her mother sold her soul to Hell many years ago. Now she has to decide if she can believe in things that reason and logic tell her do not exist; things like vampires and Princes of Hell. Can she trade her freedom for someone she loves? To save her mother Ari will have to travel to Hell as a Princess, and choose between one of the seven Princes to marry and rule alongside as Queen.

I was not sure if I would like this book or not based on the cover and description. Ari quickly won my favor with her can-do, no-nonsense attitude, and her obvious love for her friends and her mother. She is skeptical, unlike heroines in other supernatural stories, and takes quite a bit of convincing before accepting the unbelievable things she’s been told. Ari does not accept the status quo. She is intelligent, reasonable, likable and compassionate. She sticks up for herself and doesn’t take any crap from anyone, but she also knows her weaknesses and learns to trust others to help her when she needs it. Romance is integral to the story but not in any way that I expected. Ari’s friends, human and otherwise, are all unique and lovable. I definitely hope to see more of Es and Pete in future books. The princes are interesting. All handsome in different ways, their personalities range from rugged warrior, genius inventor, cruel manipulator, and everything in between, and not all of them are happy with Ari’s presence. I am rooting for Ari to succeed as she pieces together the truth of why she’s been chosen to be a Princess of Hell, and as she tries to follow her heart when she makes her own choice.

The plot has several twists that I did not expect which is always a pleasant surprise. Ari does get physically attacked several times, and while she isn’t a stereotypical damsel in distress it does feel repetitive. There are some sexual components, both positive and negative, and I would not recommend this book to younger teens. Book two, Midnight Star, was released in the spring and I will definitely be picking it up.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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BOOK TOUR Review: “Dark Communion” by CJ Perry

A review by Domoni.

For 200 years, minotaurs have covered the land and enslaved humans. Women are used as breeding stock. If they carry a male it will be a calf, to further the line of the oppressors, killing the mother during birth. If a female is born, they are added to the slave ranks to be used for breeding when they come of age.  When Ayla is taken to be bred, she has nothing left to live for. Running away would be death. She cries out into the night for her mother; her cry is answered. The Goddess of Darkness comes to Ayla and imbues her with the power of a priestess. She must lead the revolution to free the people and break the curse placed on the Goddess’s own son Tor, who created the race of minotaurs.

This is a dark story. It opens at the conclusion of Ayla’s rape. The author does not pull any punches and I was emotionally spent within the first few pages. This does prove to invest you in Ayla’s fight and hope she can complete the task given to her by the Goddess. Ayla’s companion  from her home, Deetra, is devoted to her and wants to protect the new priestess. When Ayla kills the minotaur who raped her, Deetra sends her away and stays to take the blame. Ayla follows the Goddess’s directions and travels to the north to join the Freeman, who can help her in her quest to defeat the minotaurs.

When Ayla meets Alex, she finds the Freeman. But there are only four. Her arrival does not go quietly and the minotaurs find the Freeman’s hiding place. As they flee, the group heads to the arena, where a bull show is starting. This is how the women who kill a minotaur are publicly punished. It is as bad as it sounds. Ayla invokes the Goddess and saves her beloved Deetra from a public and brutal rape and death. The group then rallies the humans in the arena to fight back against the minotaurs.

The characters are strong and developed.  The story is stark yet captivating. I have been surprised by this dark story. It is graphic and brutal and I would not recommend it to young or sensitive readers. Ayla feels as though she is cursed to die because women do not survive giving birth to the half man calves. She feels as though she can fight with what life she has left to stop the minotaurs and then reunite with her beloved mother in the abyss.  She has a heavy faith that she places fully in the Goddess and allows her to heal injuries and defeat foes much stronger than her. She is willing to give her life with no hesitation.  I found myself easily rooting for her, scared for her and proud of her strength.

Deetra believes in Ayla. She loves her and is willing to die to protect her. This brings her favor from the Goddess. When Deetra offers her own life, the Goddess heals her and makes her Ayla’s knight and sworn protector.  With the help of the Freeman and the power of the Goddess they take on the masters and those who betray them.  Her motivation is never about the Goddess or the slaves though. She loves Ayla and this is what moves her.

There were some surprises along the way that broke my heart and incensed me. But a good book should strike those emotional cords.  I will be interested to continue this series when the next book comes out.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

 

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