Review: “Souljacker: A Lily Bound Novel” by Yasmine Galenorn

A review by Amanda.

Lily O’Connell is a Fae woman living in Seattle’s Blood Night District. The Fae, along with Weres and vampires, revealed their existence to humans several decades ago, mostly to everyone’s benefit. Lily’s closest friends are a witch named Dani and a human called Nate, as well as her cat Whisky who isn’t exactly what he seems. She runs a private salon called Lily Bound that allows her to feed her succubus appetite without killing anyone. When a prominent, married, Were-client is murdered in her home, which is also her place of business, the trouble has only just begun. Now she must contend with the wrath of a grieving widow, as well as the shock of discovering that the killer is not finished yet – and Lily and her friends may be on his list of future targets. Is teaming up with a private investigator, who also happens to be a chaos demon, a good idea or a recipe for disaster?

This was the first book in the Lily Bound series. The most interesting aspect of this story, without giving spoilers, was the circumstances surrounding the murders. The world-building of human and non-human society was well done and made sense. The characters were very superficial; what you see is what you get, with perhaps one exception. There were no hidden agendas or suspicious motives anywhere, which was a bit disappointing. Since this was the first in a series that, of course, may change in later books. The overall plot was predictable for anyone who has read an urban fantasy series. Fans of Yasmine Galenorn’s Otherworld and Indigo Court series may enjoy Souljacker, as well as those who like Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series, and Seanan Maguire’s October Daye series.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

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Review: “One Piece: Skypiea vol. 31-33” by Eiichiro Oda

Review:

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…

Eneru is trying to destroy the Sky Islands, in search of the endless Vearth. Vearth is what the Sky Islanders call earth or as we call “dirt.” There is only one person who can stop him and that is Luffy. Eneru has the power of lightning and mantra. Luffy is made of rubber and is a bit of an air head. Eneru never really had a chance.

There is a flashback about why the Shandians are fighting the Sky Islanders. Basically, they come from the island Jaya. The Knock Up Stream sent the Shandians into the air, ringing a giant golden bell all the way. The bell alerted the Sky Islanders, and they found the biggest collections of Vearth anyone on the Cloud Sea had ever seen. The Kami at the time quickly took over the island, kicked the altitude sickened Shandians out, and turned the former Jaya Island into Upper Yard. There has been war ever since.

The crew leaves Skypeia while running away from the natives in true pirate fashion. They had retrieved a bunch of gold from the ruins and thought that the natives would be angry with them for this. That’s not true, the natives haven’t assigned a worth to gold. It’s just shiny and yellow, apparently.

The Straw Hats land back in the Blue Sea. They meet another pirate crew and take part in the Davy Back Fight. This fight takes place in three rounds. A boat race, a ball game of sorts, and a brawl between the captains. The winner of each round gets to take a crew member of the opposing crew as their new crew. Cheating abounds and the crew lose Chopper in the first round. But they get him back in the second. Volume 33 leaves off with Luffy facing the other captain in a boxing match, declaring that he will win even if it kills him.

Overall I have always found the Skypiea arc to be kind of pointless and too coincidental for my taste. They only show up because Luffy is self centered and wanted to go up there. Then they just so happen to arrive at the same time that Eneru is putting the finishing touches on his “destroy everything” plan, and the civil war that has been raging for 200 years happens to kindof involve this guy they met a few days ago. Most of the other story arcs are entwined with the crew in a way that makes the what happens seem very important. This arc is more about setting things up for the future.

This is my last review of the One Piece arcs. If I haven’t convinced you of the great and wonderful adventure that is One Piece, then you are losing out. If you feel that it is too intimidating (it’s been around for twenty years), all I can say is that the effort is worth it. Watching these characters grow stronger and closer over the years has been a true delight.

A few things that you will miss if you do not continue the story: Robin’s secret and terrible past, Luffy’s family, a cyborg, a living skeleton, zombies,the crew gets separated, Amazons, the biggest war between marines and pirates that the world has ever seen, Zoro cutting a ship in half, Sanji flying, Nami manipulating weather, Ussop using killer plants, Chopper’s monster form, Robin summoning giant legs to crush everything in her path, and Luffy changing gears.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Overall series rating: 5/5 stars.

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Review: “One Piece: Skypiea vol. 28-30” by Eiichiro Oda

One Piece: Skypiea vol. 28-30

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 battle for Upper Yard has started. There are 54 warriors (including himself) in the Kami Eneru’s army; there are 20 Shandian warriors and 7 Strawhats. How many will be standing in three hours? According to Eneru, who has the power of Mantra, there will be five warriors.

Luffy, Zoro, Chopper, and Robin are headed for the legendary city of El Dorado, which used to be part of Jaya. Sanji, Usopp, and Nami are sailing the Going Merry out of Upper Yard with the injured Ganfor. Luffy gets swallowed by a giant snake.

After meeting with the Going Merry, Conis learns of Eneru’s ultimate plan for Sky Island. She must warn the citizens and the Shandian to evacuate. No one wants to believe her, but with the help of the White Berets, the people start to leave.

These volumes honestly make a better anime than manga. There is a lot of fighting with a lot of different characters. Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of who is fighting who and how. It looks amazing, but it can get a little confusing.

My biggest pet peeve with these volumes is that Robin is not as big of a badass as she could be. When she was Ms. All Sunday, she incapacitated the Straw Hat crew single-handedly without moving. She was a partner to Sir Crocodile, a former Shichibukai. She reads a language that has been outlawed for goodness sake. Now, she can’t win a fight without taking a ton of damage. Admittedly that is the Straw Hat way, but I really wish her opponent was more impressive.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

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BOOK TOUR Review: “Freeks” by Amanda Hocking

A review by Amanda.

Mara has had an unusual upbringing. She and her mother travel the country as part of Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow. Mara’s mother, along with many of the other carnies, have special abilities that make the carnival life appealing, and even rewarding on occasion. Despite her heritage, Mara doesn’t have any supernatural powers. She helps out where she can and enjoys exploring whichever town or city they happen to be in, forming fleeting friendships that end as soon as the carnival moves on. When the sideshow receives an invitation from a former worker to set up in a small town called Caudry, promising an exorbitant payday, Mara and the rest of the carnival workers are happy to go.

Things in Caudry are odd from the start. Abilities falter, animal attacks ravage the camp, and people go missing. Local boy Gabe, who intrigues Mara immediately, is the only good thing about Caudry as far as she’s concerned. Mara and Gabe each have secrets that threaten their emerging feelings, and Mara will have to decide who to trust as she works to try and solve the mystery of who or what is plaguing the carnival.

Freeks is a new story by Amanda Hocking, author of the popular Trylle trilogies and the Watersong series. It is unclear at this time whether or not it is a standalone or the first in a new series. Mara is an interesting character with a lot of potential. She does things her own way, is loyal to her loved ones, and fights insecurities as much as any teenager does. Both her mother and learning their family history added layers to Mara’s character. The supporting characters, particularly the carnies like Roxie and Luka, were diverse, although I would have enjoyed seeing them developed more richly. The romance was predictable, an “instalove” situation that is so prevalent in YA novels. Gabe was a decent character, mysterious and protective, if a bit cliché. I had trouble feeling connected to any of the characters, even Mara. The mystery kept me intrigued and had me guessing until the end. The writing style is simplistic, which suits the plot. Fans of the Trylle books, Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, and C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls series may enjoy this book.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

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BOOK TOUR Review: “Cubeball” by Michael Leon

Review -

A review by Domoni.

In a far off future, sports are just as competitive as they are now. Though through technology and synthetic enhancements, competition is much different. Michael is a cubeball champion. The future version of snooker is taken very seriously. After spending time as a world champion and becoming a well known celebrity, Michael has had enough of the life. He takes his wealth and moves to the outpost on Mars. Ten years later, his money dwindling, he has decided to return home to Earth.

This is an interesting sci-fi sports story. The book tends to jump back and forth through time. You get to see how Michael grew up and became a champion cubeball player, while also staying with him in real time as he makes his way through the world.  The author has created an interesting world. It is a believable future that is not hard to imagine. The characters are interesting and plausible.

This book does at times fall prey to one of the pitfalls of science fiction writing. There is much time spent on the description of technologies, yet they never fully make sense or capture the attention as much as they could if the specifics were a bit more glossed over so the reader can focus more on the story.  Though this was not as bad as it is in many other novels, I was able to get into the story.

Ludwig was the character that actually captured my interest the most in this story. The way the savant was written intrigued me and I enjoyed his interactions with Michael. He was an easier to like character than the often brash Michael. Overall, the story was good and I would consider reading more in this series.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

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GIVEAWAY:

Michael will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift catf to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour.

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BOOK TOUR Review: “Girl Within Girl” by S.P. Aruna

BOOK TOUR Review:

A review by Domoni.

Katrina is a nurse in a psychiatric hospital.  She goes about her day helping the doctors help the patients. She notices things are off, but she just ignores them, even when those things are about herself.  Cherry is a photojournalist who wants to travel the world, take pictures of famous men, and sleep with them. The rougher the sex, the more she likes it. Anisa is a spy for the government. She will use her vast abilities to take out her targets; the perfect soldier. What do these three women have in common? They all exist in one body. Now they know about each other, and the government can’t have that. Things are falling apart, they are unravelling.  With the help of  young Dr. Paisley they run and hide, hoping to be saved and in the end be healed.

This was a strange take on The Manchurian Candidate. The Cia operates in a hospital where they use extreme electroshock therapy to erase people’s minds and reprogram them. The goal is to create the  most loyal, perfect soldier. It appears they have done that with Katrina. She is completely unaware of the acts her other personalities participate in. Even when she stumbles over evidence that makes her wonder, she is programmed to ignore it.  Until she meets and falls for the new doctor.

Dr. Sean Paisley is enjoying helping patients and really enjoying getting to know the nurse Katrina. Though when he follows the prescribed protocols on the patients needing shock therapy, he starts to feel like things are not right in the hospital. Somehow he locates a file on katrina, Anisa, and Cherry. He makes sure she sees the file before he is fired and this starts them on the path of learning the truth and running for their lives.

The book had some good moments and some not so good moments. I did not like it for the first half. The characters felt cliche and the events rather implausible. The sex scenes were detailed but the wording was juvenile. As I pushed through the book, I was more interested and invested in the storyline. Though the ending was very abrupt and I don’t know if I would wait around to read the next book in this series, it did somewhat redeem itself to me. This book would appeal to fans of rough erotica and those who enjoy the 50 Shades series.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

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BOOK TOUR Review: About the Book
Title: Girl Within Girl
Author: S.P. Aruna
Genre: Erotic Thriller
Katrina is never alone. She is bound to others inside her, tighter than any Siamese twins could ever be: Cherry, the freewheeling photojournalist, Anisa, the covert spy-assassin, and others as yet unknown, all sharing her body and mind as she goes about her work in a psychiatric hospital. But she is starting to unravel, and her sole hope is the handsome Dr. Sean Paisley, the only one who can make her whole again.
Girl Within Girl is a dark erotic thriller that wanders through a sensual maze of mind control and torture.

S.P. ArunaAuthor Bio
Half French, half Khmer (Cambodian), I’m a woman whose head is filled with fantasies and intriguing stories, and who wants to share them with others.

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Review: “Firstlife” by Gena Showalter

A review by Amanda.

The afterlife exists – and it’s recruiting. Called the Everlife, it’s divided into two realms, egalitarian Troika and elitist Myriad. Agents for both sides are sent to recruit those still in their Firstlife. The two factions are deadly enemies, resorting to dangerous tactics and trickery to win souls. Citizens sign their afterlives away with ironclad contracts, often swayed by family loyalties or career expectations. Fear of dying while Unsigned is a powerful motivator; no one wants to end up spending eternity in the hellish nightmare realm known as Many Ends.

Tenley Lockwood is expected to sign with the same realm as her parents but she is plagued by questions and doubts. Instead of spending her Firstlife as an average seventeen year old, she has been locked away in an asylum where the head doctor uses unsavory means to convince Ten to follow her parents’ wishes. Ten has managed to resist by using her obsession with numbers as both a focus and a mental distraction. She only has to survive until her eighteenth birthday. As if her life isn’t complicated enough, the factions have decided that she warrants their special attention and each sends an agent to observe, infiltrate, and do whatever it takes to get her to choose.

Firstlife had a unique take on religion and the afterlife, without coming across as preachy. It was a dystopian story with religious undertones that added to the feel, rather than distracting from it. Tenley was a stubborn, unapologetic survivor. She was not concerned with being liked which made her all the more appealing. The romantic subplot followed a predictable path, although it did veer from that path towards the end. And while Ten’s character was well-developed and nicely fleshed out, others were less so. In fact, it was because Tenley was written so well that the lack of depth in the other characters stood out. Firstlife was the first book in Gena Showalter’s new series. The overall concept still intrigues me, and I am interested in seeing where it goes from here.  I will pick up book two, with the hope that it will continue to intrigue, and that the supporting characters will grow and gain more depth.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

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