BOOK TOUR Review: “The Fourth Piece (Order’s Last Play #1)” by E. Ardell

The Fourth Piece (Order’s Last Play #1) by E. Ardell

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.

Earth 2022 is not much different than 2016. Except for the aliens. Visitors have been officially visiting for 5 years, though they have been visiting unofficially much longer. There are embassies for other planets and government relations are being made, though humans remain the same. Hostility against offworld visitors, disrespectfully called vadors, and children of mixed descent, called vullatos, runs rampant. Viral videos of attacks on the nonhuman population are a daily event. Fear leads to anger, and violence is human nature.

Three brothers just want to live their lives. They know their father was from off world, but they appear human and are happy to pass. When the youngest brother Lawrie, always a daredevil and adrenaline junkie, pulls a stunt that doesn’t quite work out, the boys are set on a path to find their destiny and fulfill a prophecy, whether they want to or not.

While their parents are away, the brothers throw a party. Lawrie decides to ride a big-wheel down a slide into a pool. When he hits the water, a bright green glow surrounds him and he sees a bloody man drowning beneath him. Reaching out to save the man, Lawrie starts to drown. Lyle and his twin Devon are suddenly mentally trapped with Lawrie watching this man drown. Lyle, being a telempath, is able to better understand what is happening. Devon does not have psychic abilities like his twin. Though he possesses inhuman strength and healing, he is determined to never be outed and persecuted. He balks at trying to understand the vision the brothers share. When Lyle dreamwalks and learns that the drowning man is their eldest brother Evan, long removed from Earth by their father, he pushes his siblings to help save him.

As the brothers are pushed into a life they didn’t ask for, their powers emerge, stronger than should be possible. When Lawrie witnesses a vullato being attacked, he has to help. But when he is injured in the onslaught, his elemental powers burst from him, causing an earthquake, and catches him up in a fight that outs him and his brothers to the world and sets them on the path to fight a war between many worlds.

This story is written so that each chapter is from the view of a different brother and rotates so you follow along and get their individual turmoil as the story progresses. The author did a wonderful job of creating four distinct and moving characters and a story that flowed and captured my attention quickly. I understood each brother’s view and was conflicted as the story moved forward and they all had little choice in what happened to them. The brothers were so human, with strengths and faults, bravery and mistakes. It has been years since I enjoyed such well developed personalities.

The author created a world around her characters that made everything seem very real. I was worried that the constant switching between views would impede the flow of the story and the world around the brothers, but it enhanced it in a way I haven’t seen in other stories written that way. I read this story in one day as I could not put it down. When it ended, I was angry that I have to wait to find out what happens to the boys. I cannot wait for the next book in the series.

This would be a great book for teens, especially young men. Rarely do I find books that are written about strong teen boy characters that I can recommend to my sons. The language is appropriate and the violence and romance aspects are not gratuitous. This book will be in my top 5 list of 2016.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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The Fourth Piece (Order’s Last Play #1)
by E. Ardell
Genre: YA Sci-fi/Fantasy
Release Date: July 8th 2016

Summary from Goodreads:

Admitting what you are will end everything you know. Embracing who you are will start a war…

Life is great when you’re good-looking and popular…so long as no one knows you’re a vulatto. Being half-alien gets you labeled “loser” quicker than being a full vader. So it’s a good thing Devon, Lyle, and Lawrence can easily pass for human—until the night of the party. Nothing kills a good time faster than three brothers sharing a psychic vision of a fourth brother who’s off-world and going to die unless they do something. But when your brother’s emergency happens off-planet, calling 9-1-1 really isn’t an option. 

In their attempt to save a brother they barely remember, Devon, Lyle and Lawrence expose themselves to mortal danger and inherit a destiny that killed the last four guys cursed with it. In 2022, there are humans and aliens, heroes and monsters, choices and prophecies—and four brothers with the power to choose what’s left when the gods decide they’re through playing games.

Book I in the Order’s Last Play series 

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About the Author

E. Ardell

Ardell spent her childhood in Houston, Texas, obsessed with anything science fiction, fantastic, paranormal or just plain weird. She loves to write stories that feature young people with extraordinary talents thrown into strange and dangerous situations. She took her obsession to the next level, earning a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Southern Maine where she specialized in young adult genre fiction. She’s a big kid at heart and loves her job as a teen librarian at Monterey Public Library in Monterey, California, where she voluntarily shuts herself in rooms with hungry hordes of teenagers and runs crazy after-school programs for them. When she’s not working, she’s reading, writing, running writers critique groups, trying to keep up with a blog, and even writing fan fiction as her guilty pleasure.

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Review: “Orchid, Volume 1” by Tom Morello, Scott Hepburn and Dan Jackson

A review by Courtney.

I received this comic in a box from Comic Bento during the month that the fabulous Gail Simone curated the box and it has been sitting on my shelf ever since. From the description on the back of the book, it sounded like a comic I would love and I was excited to read it, I just hadn’t. So I finally picked it up to see if Dark Horse comics could produce something other than Firefly and Buffy that I would love.

Orchid is a dark dystopian comic that takes place after global warming has occurred. The ocean levels have risen, animals have evolved into terrifying beasts, the wild is now truly wild and people have to fight to survive. Class is a defining feature in this story; the rich are safe and because technology no longer works, the poor have become slaves because who else is going to do all the brute labor? The story starts with introducing Simon who is a member of the rebellion against the upper class. Simon is in possession of a magical mask that imbues the wearer with strength, however if the person is unworthy of the mask, it makes them implode. The mask was worn by the previous leader of the rebellion and is a symbol of hope. Simon’s group of rebels is captured and the leader of their group, Anzio, is taken prisoner for information and to be killed as a message later. Simon escapes with the mask and is on the run while trying to figure out how to rescue Anzio.

While running, Simon meets a whore named Orchid and her mother and little brother. Orchid is trying to work and steal to help her family survive so her brother can have a better life. Through a turn of events Orchid, Simon, and the little brother end up captured by slavers, which Simon swears is a good thing because it will get them where they need to go and they can help the rebellion. Orchid does not really care about helping the rebellion, only about getting free with her little brother; but since part of Simon’s plan involves escaping from the people who have enslaved them, she helps him. The story sets up a quest, a classic tale of the poor wanting to dethrone the rich so everyone can have a better life and so forth.

I didn’t really like this comic and that bummed me out because I wanted to like it. Orchid has a lot of the elements I generally lean towards when looking for comics or new stories to read; it’s dystopian and there’s a couple cool female characters. However, I couldn’t connect with any of the characters and the story wasn’t written in a compelling enough way to keep me interested or wanting more. The story felt like one that has been told, and there just weren’t enough new elements and it wasn’t told in an interesting enough way to keep me reading. The twists that the story tried to keep me interested with were all things I’ve read that have been done better in other comics. The cover to this book looks amazing, and is something I could have easily bought in a store, however the story after it and art inside just fell flat. I would only recommend this book to people over the age of 18 because the material the story covers is dark, violent and graphically sexual.

My rating: 1.5/5 stars.

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Fangirl Book Club Pick of the Month: “First Grave On The Right (Charley Davidson #1)” by Darynda Jones

Every month, our club votes on the book that we will read for that month. August’s winning book was First Grave On The Right by Darynda Jones. The following review is based on a verbal discussion at August’s meeting.

Spoiler-­free Synopsis:

Charley Davidson is a private detective with a unique edge on her competition – she can see and speak with ghosts. Working alongside her assistant Cookie, and her police detective Uncle Bob (also known as Ubie), Charley has a reputation for closing difficult cases. She also has a reputation for talking to people that no one else can see, and for being a snarky, strange lady who gives nicknames to body parts and inanimate objects, but that’s beside the point. Life is business as usual until the case that she’s on takes an unexpected turn, bringing a mysterious savior from her past back into her world. Cue the sexy dreams and sexual frustration…

What We Liked:

We had quite the discussion about this book at August’s meeting. A few members had read this series before and enjoyed the chance to start it over. Most of those who read it for the first time were hooked and immediately hunted down book two, Second Grave On The Left, to continue the series. Fans loved Charley and her unfiltered snark, Cookie’s unflinching loyalty in the face of extreme weirdness, and the sexy times starring Reyes Farrow. The chapter headings were a huge hit, featuring hilarious quotes from t-shirts, bumper stickers, and Charley herself. The plot kept us interested by switching between the main case that Charley worked with the police, one of her own PI cases, and her personal dramas, sometimes intertwining in unexpected ways. Charley was engaging, charismatic, and someone that we wanted to be BFFs with. She was oddly relatable, with her humor, flaws, and coffee addiction. Her friendship with Cookie gave us definite Squad Goals. Several members reported reading parts of the book out loud to family members and laughing aloud frequently. The story went by faster than expected; once we began reading it was difficult to put it down again.

What We Didn’t Like:

As for the downsides, there were only a couple of issues that came up in the discussion. First, as it’s the first book in a series, there was a lot of information given to set the world up and some members felt like parts were rushed. There appeared to be some gaps in information as well, although those are likely cleared up in future books. The interactions between Reyes and Charley bothered a few because they felt forced and one-sided. Perhaps because so many members related to her on a personal level, we felt somewhat protective of Charley and concern was expressed at Reyes’ callous behavior. Our collective hope is that this changes in future books, and we are eager to keep reading to make sure that Charley gets a happy ending, no matter who she ends up with!

Fangirl Rating: 4/5 stars

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BOOK TOUR Review: “A Lady Never Lies” by Stephanie Burkhart

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.

A Lady Never Lies is the third story in The Windsor Diaries series. I have not read the previous stories, this did not seem to be a problem in following this tale. The Windsor family are the adult children of the modern day British Royal family. With the permission of the government they use a time machine to travel back to Victorian England. This story centers on a young woman from the Victorian time period named Jocelyn Dunkirk. She is a noble lady of unconventional character who is more interested in tinkering and inventing with her father and trying to help clean the air of coal dust and smoke, than with sticking with expected protocol and gender roles. Richard Windsor is the modern day Prince of Wales and next in line to the throne. During his travels through time, he fell hard for Jocelyn but duty required he leave her, and now he is returning to her time to capture her heart.

The story opens on the night of the wedding of Edmund Windsor, Richards brother, and his new bride Keira, a woman from the Victorian time. Like Richard, Edmund fell for a woman out of his time. He chose to stay with her in her time and marry her. While at the wedding, the ring Richard left Jocelyn with to prove his affection, began acting strange and heating up. When she removed it from her fingers, her father noticed it sparking. As he leaned over the ring to inspect it, ash from his cigar fell on the ring and it causes a massive explosion. The ballroom is rocked and Jocelyn is thrown backwards, injuring her ankle. When she recovers her wits, she finds her father badly injured and burned. Festivities are halted as the Lord Ridgecroft, Jocelyn’s father, is carried from the room. At this moment Richard Windsor returns in time to see the woman he loves, terrified and angry that the ring he gave her caused this event, rushing out after her father.

The Lord Ridgecroft’s injuries are severe, but there is no time to dwell. The coal miners of England are on strike and the country is quickly starting to suffer. Parliament assigns Jocelyn to help convince the miners and the bosses to settle and she must be off to handle this business in her father’s place. What she did not expect to learn is that an unknown male cousin will be set to inherit her father’s title and lands if he were to succumb to his injuries. Due to a condition in her grandfather’s will, only males may inherit. So now Jocelyn must meet this cousin and take his measure while he accompanies her on the mission to settle the coal miners strike. During all of this stress, Jocelyn must decide where her heart lies. Can she be with Richard? He cannot stay in her time, but she cannot leave her father behind.

This book was described as steampunk, though I don’t find it to be so. Yes Jocelyn tinkers with a couple of items, which don’t get much description, and there seem to be steam engines, it is more like a time travel story with a small nod to steampunk. I was hoping for more on that front.

The bones of the story were good. Though I felt it lacked the support to be great. It was a quick read with little atmosphere or description. The love scenes were short and lacked description or heat. The personalities of the characters were not developed, nor were the relationships. To me it felt very rushed and I could have used much more detail to get me invested. I was never able to latch onto a character’s motivation for why they behaved the way they did and in the case of the main character, was conflicted in her behavior. She repeatedly said nothing mattered but being with her father, but didn’t argue or second guess the trip to deal with the strike. I suppose duty to country is important, but without enough insight to understand the characters, it made little sense.

I loved the idea of the story, but I just wanted more from it. It does end with a tie-in to bring the reader back for the next story and I may start from the first and read the series to see if the characters get more fleshed out with time.

My rating: 3/5 stars.


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Review: “One Piece: Baroque Works 19-21” by Eiichiro Oda

Review: "One Piece: Baroque Works 19-21" by Eiichiro Oda

A review by Hannah.

One Piece was started in 1997 and is continuing today. There are 81 volumes to date, which is why this series of reviews will be broken up into three volume books. From now on there will be spoilers for what happens in the rest of the series. You have been warned…

The Straw Hats are leaving Yuba and headed towards Rainbase a.k.a The City of Dreams, to confront Sir Crocodile with his crimes before the war starts. The rebels are gathering weapons for an all out attack on the kingdom’s capital Alubarna. King Cobra, Vivi’s father, learns who is behind the dance powder incident that sparked the rebellion to begin with, right before he goes missing.

In Rainbase, the crew runs into the Marines. Sanji and Chopper are separated from the rest of the group while they try to escape pursuit. The others fall for Crocodile’s “cunning” trap with Ltd. Smoker. After gloating, Crocodile and Ms. All Sunday leave their victims in a Sea Stone (a metal that neutralizes Devil’s Fruit powers) cage, in a room rapidly filling up with water and banana gators.

After escaping the death trap, the crew starts racing to the capitol. Luffy and Crocodile face off in the desert, when Crocodile snatches Luffy away from the others. Luffy learns the terrifying ability of Crocodile’s Suna(Sand) Suna no Mi and loses for the first time. Don’t worry, Ms. All Sunday saves him with her trademark smirk.

The rest of the crew make it to the capitol, where we get to see the defence against Bon Clay (Mister Two) in action. They split up to increase the chances of Vivi getting to the palace and square off against the top agents of Baroque Works. Zoro against Mr. One, Nami against Ms. Double Finger, Usopp and Chopper against Mr. Four and Ms. Merry Christmas, and Sanji against Mr. Two.

Each Straw Hat pirate takes a lot of abuse during their respective fights. Zoro loses a lot of blood, Nami gets her foot pierced all the way through, Sanji breaks a bunch of bones, as does Usopp, Chopper gets blown up a few times, and Luffy gets all the water in his body dried out of him. How will they survive?

The characters eyes are still drawn rather large, but ears and hands are more in proportion with the rest of the body. The change is gradual and feels like it’s connected to the evolution of the characters, more so than the evolution of the artist’s skills.

I appreciate the way Crocodile’s Devil’s Fruit power manifests itself. He is made of sand, so whenever he is hit directly, he explodes into millions of grains of sand. The way it’s depicted in black and white is amazing.

A lot happens in these volumes. All the build up from the last three volumes just explodes onto the pages, yet there is still time to throw in jokes, flashbacks, and tenderness. It’s an awesome rollercoaster of emotions. From the highs of Sanji and Chopper teaming up to save the others, to the lows of seeing Luffy lose, to the loop de loops of everybody squaring off against the top teams of Baroque Works.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Review: “When A Lady Deceives” by Tara Kingston

“When A Lady Deceives” by Tara Kingston

A review by Vanessa.

I received this book for free in return for participation in the release book tour, and an honest review.

When Jennie Quinn discovers her most recent informant murdered in the streets of Whitechapel she reacts predictably; she loses her lunch in the gutter. But Jennie is anything but a predictable woman. Her determination, drive, and sense of justice have pushed her to become a successful and respected female journalist at a time in Victorian London when such a thing was quite rare. Jennie knows who killed her lovely actress turned informant. In fact, her contact with the lady is likely what caused her demise. Now Jennie will do whatever it takes, including taking a job as barmaid for a ruthless mobster, to catch the culprit. If only the mobster’s right hand man wasn’t so distractingly handsome… But Jennie has never let anything derail her from her course. Harwick has been ruling London’s criminal element for years, and Jennie has been trying to expose his crimes and bring him down. But she’s not the only one who has that goal firmly in mind.

Matthew Colton does not like having the new auburn haired barmaid around. She has a penchant for getting into trouble poking around all the bar’s patrons, and she is distractingly beautiful… a distraction he does not have time for. He has already sacrificed years of his life trying to bring down the man who had his partner murdered. A sacrifice he was willing to make, even when it meant being disgraced from the police force and having to work closely with that same man. He never questioned his sacrifice, until a certain beautiful woman walked into his life and he realized that the man he had become would never deserve a woman like her. But together they just might find the justice they’ve been searching for.

Though the story does occasionally wander into the realm of the cliché, I much prefer the term classic. While the characters are at times predictable, they cannot be described as boring. The romantic entanglement stays true to what a reader would normally expect from an historical romance genre novel. However, that does not make it any less engaging. The innocent waif overwhelmed with desire for the dark, handsome, more experienced rapscallion is an evident theme, but it’s the twists on this theme that make it the engaging piece that it is. The lady may be innocent of the effects of true desire, but not because she has been coddled and sheltered. It is because she has been through so much, chased her dreams as a journalist, and never met a man who truly made her feel more alive than her work does. The handsome rapscallion is drawn to the lady as expected, but what is most unexpected is how he holds back. He tries to resist her charms because he believes she deserves better than himself. And in a thoroughly modern twist, the lady gives in to her desire for him not because she seeks the expected route of love and marriage. She simply wants to fully experience and explore what she feels for him.

In addition, throughout all the busy back and forth of the romantic story arc, there are also interesting interactions with secondary characters. The mystery, murder and mayhem broiling in Whitechapel is an excellent backdrop for the story. Background characters are intriguing and well written, but sometimes a little under utilized. Kingston writes characters you want to know more about, and I hope that is a problem that will be rectified in what is likely to be a future series.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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