Review: “The Veil (Devil’s Isle #1)” by Chloe Neill

A review by Amanda.

Claire Connolly lives in New Orleans, but it is not the New Orleans that we are familiar with. Years ago, a veil between worlds was forced open and magic-using beings from a parallel world, called Paranormals or Paras, came through to conquer Earth. A nasty war was fought and humans won, barely. New Orleans is still recovering from the damage and military forces are in charge. There is very little contact with anyone outside of the containment areas. Paras that survived the battles have been sent to live in Devil’s Isle, a heavily guarded community, for the safety of humans. Some humans were affected by the magic that came through the veil, gaining paranormal abilities that they didn’t have before. Called Sensitives, these people are regarded with suspicion and are also sent to live in Devil’s Isle, whether they want to or not. This is partly due to prejudices against any magic users, but also because Sensitives eventually become wraiths – frightening, zombie-like creatures who attack humans without mercy.

Claire has managed to keep her family’s antique store running by turning it into a general store. She has no family left but has close friends and a tight knit community that she is very connected to. Her recent discovery that she is a Sensitive has taken her by surprise and now she has to keep a huge secret from those closest to her. An unexpected encounter with wraiths brings her to the attention of bounty hunter Liam Quinn, whose motives are unclear. Will he spill her secret, or help her keep it? Equally important, can Claire avoid the fate that befalls all Sensitives?

This is the first book in a new series from Chloe Neill, author of the Chicagoland Vampires series. Claire is a nice character, but fairly typical. As of this first book, there is little about her that stands out from other heroines in the same genre. She loves her friends, misses her father, and feels a sense of responsibility to her community. Her biggest fear is turning into a wraith, followed closely by being discovered as a Sensitive and relocated to Devil’s Isle. When Liam offers to help her, she has to decide if he can be trusted. Her attraction to him certainly complicates things, but that takes a backseat to the danger they quickly find themselves in.

The description of a post-war New Orleans is stark and wonderfully done. Prejudice is a prevalent theme, well explored and thought-provoking. The world-building and magical concepts are where the book stands out, and what makes it worth reading. There is a lovely cast of supporting characters, all of whom I hope to meet again. Claire and Liam both have room to develop, especially since this is the first book.  I will read the next book, The Sight, with a hope that they will continue to grow into their own.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

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Review: “Bring Her Home” by David Bell

Review: "Bring Her Home" by David Bell

A review by Amanda.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Tragedy has struck the small town of Jakesville. Fifteen-year-old Summer and her best friend Haley, who has been missing for two days, were found in a local park. Both girls had been severely beaten beyond recognition and only Summer is still clinging to life. Summer’s mother died a year and a half before and her father, Bill, has been struggling to raise his only child on his own. Relief that she has been found alive is mixed with anger at whoever has done this horrible crime, and guilt over mistakes he has made as a parent. The investigation into the girls’ disappearance has uncovered some surprising and troubling details about things that shake Bill to his core, and lead to more questions than answers.

Bill Price appears to be an average middle-aged man who has been thrown into some extraordinary and tragic circumstances. He is overcome with grief, shock, and occasional bouts of rage, and has some secrets of his own that he’d prefer to keep buried. His sister Paige is his only real confidante as he tries to find the truth about what happened to Summer on his own. The beleaguered lead detective, Detective Hawkins, has his work cut out for him with Bill’s attempts to find the person responsible alternately hindering and helping the investigation.

The story is told exclusively from Bill’s perspective, so readers only know what he knows as the investigation unfolds. Bill is not the most sympathetic of characters; at times he is downright unlikeable in spite of the circumstances. Readers will be drawn in through the mystery and the unexpected twists and supporting characters will keep them engaged. Getting to know Summer, Paige, and Bill’s late wife Julia, albeit through Bill’s eyes, gives the book depth and warmth and gives readers characters to connect with and root for. Aside from the unlikeability of the main character, the story is well written and intriguing. The unpredictable plot twists are a pleasant surprise amidst the oversaturated mystery genre. Violence and strong allusions to sexual assault are mentioned but not graphically described.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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Review: “The Butterfly Project” by Emma Scott

Review- The Butterfly Project by Emma Scott

A review by Amanda.

Zelda Rossi is a mess. She has come to New York to meet with publishers about her graphic novel, Mother May I, but things are not going the way she had hoped. She is at her wit’s end when she stops in at Giovanni’s Italian restaurant for a last minute dinner. There, she meets Beckett Copeland, a busboy at the restaurant, who might be as much of a mess as she is. He also might be able to help her where no one else can. Both Zelda and Beckett have tragedies in their pasts. Zelda is trying to run from hers, while Beckett punishes himself, but perhaps they can help each other find some normalcy.

This is a story with an abundance of heart. Zelda is a talented artist who uses her art to heal. She has a prickly exterior that keeps everyone at a distance, but it hides a generous spirit and loving heart. She does her best to push past the fear and guilt that she’s lived with for ten years, not realizing that all she’s actually doing is making things worse. Beckett also lives with guilt and anguish over a tragic mistake, which he believes can never be forgiven. He works hard and looks out for his friends, avoiding any deeper connections. These two souls are drawn together in a serendipitous moment that could change both if their lives if they’ll let it.

The characters are well-rounded, fully developed people, including supporting characters. They have faults and virtues, they make mistakes, they freak out. The plot is well paced throughout and relies on the strength of the characters to keep readers interested, rather than fast-paced action or surprise twists. There are examples of Zelda’s art sprinkled here and there, and it adds another dimension to the story. This is a contemporary NA romance, with some salty language and steamy sex scenes. There is also some talk of drug use and criminal activity, light descriptions of traumatic events, and realistic depictions of panic attacks.

The author has several other books, which I will definitely be checking out, including the Full Tilt duet.

My rating: 4.5/5 stars.

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Review: “Time Thief” by Katie MacAlister

Review: “Time Thief” by Katie MacAlister

A review by Vanessa.

Kiya Mortenson has found herself quite down on her luck. She’s out of a job, out of love, about to be out of a car that should have died ages ago, and she’s just been hit by lightning… for the second time. But things seem to be turning around for her when she stumbles across a genuine and gorgeous good Samaritan in the form of one Gregory Faa. Gregory knows of a job that Kiya might be great at, but it would require her to stay in the forests of Oregon rather than heading back to her coastal home. Kiya decides to go for it, but when the job turns out to be puppy-sitting five pugs for a crotchety old gypsy lady, who happens to be Gregory’s grandmother, Kiya starts to wonder if it was really good luck. Mrs. Faa is very serious about her dogs, and the rest of the Faa family is very serious about keeping away any outsiders. Since they all apparently live in a suspiciously large group of RVs out in the woods, that is generally not hard to do. But something is going on with this strange group of people, and the mysterious cousin Peter who has joined them on their odd vacation.

Peter Faa is not just a gorgeous, violet-eyed mystery. He happens to be a member of The Watch, the police of the magical community. He is also not just visiting his family for pleasure; he is on an official investigation. Murders have been happening under mysterious circumstances and all signs point to the involvement of Travelers. Peter’s family is a well-known group of Travelers: those who have a strange and powerful relationship with lightning, and time itself. The last thing Peter wants to do is go back to the family from which he has been estranged to possibly arrest someone for murder, but he has always followed his duty. When he runs into Kiya, a pleasant if vexing surprise, he finds it might not be so bad after all. But the family is as close-knit and unaccepting of anyone as they have always been, and one of them just might be a murderer…

A twisting and engaging plot pulls you into this book and definitely does not let you go until the fascinating end.  The characters are each interesting, alluring, lovable, and irritating in fascinating ways. The main character Kiya is a little bit flighty, but altogether likable and easy to root for. Though she seems a bit lost, her experience in finding out who she really is throughout the story is quite captivating. Peter Faa is an enchanting character, with just enough gruffness and grumbly attitude to be charming, and a wholly good heart that will make readers just fall in love with him. The supporting cast of characters are no slouches either. There are characters you will love to hate, and ones that will drive you almost literally crazy. MacAlister builds on to her already wonderful universe of dark ones and dragons by adding a new and fascinating group to the mix: Travelers. Their relationship with time is a compelling hook for the story, and as usual, Katie does a wonderful job of creating a whole new world for them to inhabit, right in the midst of the real world. This book is the first in a series that already has two books out, and I would highly recommend the series as a whole so far.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Review: “At Yomi’s Gate: Book One of the Magma Sea Cycle” by John Meszaros

At Yomi’s Gate, Book One of the Magma Sea Cycle

 A review by Hannah.

Set in an Earth much like our own, volcanoes ring the Pacific Ocean.  People both fear and revere the volcanoes.  A select few have a deeper connection that allows them to control fire and lava.  Whether they were born with the power, acquired it, or had it thrust upon them unwillingly, all must learn to control their abilities to improve their connection to the Earth and the Magma Sea that lies beneath her crust.

Futomi has been forced by his uncle, Daimyo Kotoheisei, to track down the Batu-no-kaji, a living weapon of mass destruction.  Instead he finds Sakura, the girl who bears the god of fire imprisoned in a tattoo on her back and Ikuko, a shy but impressive priestess.  Even though his family is a stake, Futomi chooses to help Sakura instead of turning her over to his homicidal and powerful uncle.  When an accident involving a powerful artifact merges Sakura with the fire god, she resolves to save Futomi’s family.  Unfortunately her rescue mission ends in tragedy, when she loses control of her new abilities.  Her actions will take Sakura and her friends on a journey to confront the creatures of the underworld and those responsible for her transformation.

This book started out fast and shallow, like a stream.  The main antagonist is killed within the first quarter of the book.  Parties are quickly and easily created.  Fumito finds Sakura and Ikuko within the first chapter.  People were convinced to take certain actions, even if they were violently opposed to those actions a few pages ago.  Even though Sakura and Ikuko know they are being hunted by the Daimyo, they still team up with Futomi and he is not the most reliable person.

But, just like a stream, you must watch your step while wading through this book.  Before you know it, the story is more like a deep river.  Rash decisions turn out to be well thought out.  “Trusted” allies are only trusted as far the other party can throw them, which in Ikuko’s case is actually pretty far.  This story starts out with a save the maiden fairy tale vibe, but it turns into a tale about overcoming adversity, repairing damaged relationships, and always striving for a better future.

I am looking forward to the rest of this series.  I want to know what happens to everyone and who we will meet next.  There is so much potential that the story could literally go anywhere.  This part of the series is set in medieval Japan, but the next book may be anywhere along the Pacific Ocean.  I can’t wait to see how the characters deal with language barriers, secrets from their pasts, and the futures that awaits them.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

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Review: “Kitchen Overlord: Colorable Compendium of Geek History” by Chris-Rachael Oseland and Tom Gordon

Review: "Kitchen Overlord: Colorable Compendium of Geek History" by Chris-Rachael Oseland and Tom Gordon A review by Domoni.

I want to thank the creators of this book for allowing me the chance to give it an honest and unbiased review.

This is a coloring book. It is also a trip through time. Plus there is food! What could make it better? It is all about the awesome geeky things I love. Created by the authors of the Kitchen Overlord Illustrated Geek Cookbook, this is a work of art. Beginning with Prehistory and a nod to all things geeky and medieval then wrapping up with the year 2013 and the fantastic show Sleepy Hollow, each page is a fun drawing of geek culture staples mixed with food. The illustrations are comical and more like caricatures than true depictions, but what you are looking at is unmistakeable.

Each page has a year and a few lines about that particular creation. A few years get multiple pages, like Doctor Who, which began in 1963 and has continued on for more than 50 years. All the well known favorites are in there. You have pages for Star Wars, Star Trek, Monty Python, Indiana Jones, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Princess Bride. If Ghostbusters or Gremlins are not for you, turn to the page for Beetlejuice. If the page for Firefly isn’t making you feel shiny, turn back to 1993 to see what Jack and Sally are up to. All of the drawings brought a smile to my face and I know I will spend many hours filling this book with colors and happiness. It has a page for everything I could think to ask for and a few things I have not heard of, future fandom ideas ahead.

This fun adult coloring book would be an excellent gift to give to any geek.  Even if they never color it I know they would appreciate it. If they are a chef, they will love the little touches and you could win bonus points. I have had so much fun flipping through it and recommend it to everyone.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Review of “Phoenix Awakens” (The Phoenix #1) by Eliza Nolan

Review of “Phoenix Awakens” (The Phoenix #1) by Eliza Nolan A review by Amanda.

Julia Long, a sixteen year old in Minnesota, is woefully unprepared for the upheaval that siblings Graham and Clara bring to her life when they move into town from South Carolina. Bubbly Clara instantly befriends the awkwardly shy Julia, while Graham alternates between intense and aloof. This makes Julia’s insta-crush on him even more embarrassing, and the weird dreams she’s been having about both Graham and Clara don’t help at all. Julia’s dreams feature cloaked figures, swampy woods, and ritualistic ceremonies, as well as a mysterious young woman who bears a resemblance to Julia’s absent mother, claiming to be a guide. Between her father’s overprotective attitude, her best friend’s desertion, and Clara and Graham both hiding things, Julia is fed up with the secrets and lies. Slowly, she starts to piece together the clues she can garner from any source she can, including her dreams. Slowly, she’s finding the answers she needs. The question is, will she be able to figure out the truth before her ignorance puts her in danger?

Phoenix Awakens built the suspense at a slow but steady pace, and it really picked up in the second half. Julia was a fairly average teen, and utterly relatable. She didn’t make friends easily, quietly rebelled against her father’s strict rules – only the unreasonable ones – and was just trying to make it through high school each day without crossing paths with Libby, the resident mean girl. Graham and Clara throw everything into disarray from day one. Being thrust into one tricky situation after another revealed a strength of character that Julia didn’t know she had. Her instant attraction to Graham was predictable, but the unique aspects of the supernatural side of the story countered that quite nicely. Clara and Samantha balanced Julia in different ways, and I would love to see more development of both characters in future books. I am eager to read the next book and find out more about Julia and how the events from book one will affect her life.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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