Tag Archives: novel

“Heart of Mystery”– Mark Laporta

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Plot: 5/5       Characters: 5/5       Writing: 3/5        Entertainment: 5/5       World Building: 5/5

 

51wgxgwbihl-_sx331_bo1204203200_   When an unlikely intergalactic alliance comes to light, Ixdahan Daharek (AKA Derek) and his human best friend, Lena Gabrilowicz, must save not only the Earth this time, but the very fabric of space itself. Between their search for alien cookware, stopping a clone army, and calming down a moody robot, Ixdahan and Lena must also figure out their feelings for one another once and for all. But no pressure, right?

 

Guys. I love these books so much. Mark Laporta officially has a spot on my “Favorite Indie Authors of All Times” list and I haven’t even been reviewing for a full year yet. “Heart of Mystery” is just as funny, creative, zany, endearing, and memorable as “Heart of Earth,” if not more-so since it builds on such a great foundation.

 

Just like the first installment, the sci-fi elements are funny, colorful, and an absolute joy to read. Between the new, strange aliens and the action there’s never a dull moment, no matter what species Derek is around and, yet again Derek and his friends are some of the best teenagers I’ve ever read.

 

Laporta knows how to tap into the most universal aspects of being a teenager and bring them to life in the most outlandish situations. Derek and Lena not only grow as an individual characters, but as teenagers entering adulthood, which can be hard to capture, regardless of the YA subgenre.

 

I don’t want to give too much away, but I just want to give an example. There’s a scene where Derek is talking with another character about the gravity of his situation and what the adults are asking of him. The conversation turns to Derek himself and how important it is for him to stick to his morals, especially in a situation with such dire consequences.

 

That kind of message is so important for young people, especially in times like these. Not only that, but Laporta makes the world around Derek and his friends so much fun and exciting that the message is bound to stick. I know the scene itself will stick with me for a long time and I’m 24.

 

So, if you like bizarre worlds, even more bizarre conflicts, and wonderful characters, go read “Heart of Earth,” if you haven’t already, and read “Heart of Mystery” intermediately after, regardless of your age. Your inner kid will thank you. And don’t forget to look for the conclusion to Derek’s adventures in “Mirror at the Heart of Time,” set to be released this summer!   

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Indiana Belle–John A. Heldt

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Indiana Belle–John A. Heldt

Don’t miss your chance to get Indiana Belle for free on Chirstmas on Amazon!

Plot: 4/5       Characters: 5/5       Writing: 4/5       Entertainment: 5/5       World Building: 5/5

This is the second novel of Mr. Heldt’s that I’ve read and I’m beginning to think he can do no wrong. His dedication to portraying history in all of it’s nuances, layers, difficulties, and beauty is admirable and his ability to craft brilliant and unique stories shines across the lines of genre and time alike.

When Cameron Coelho began his doctoral dissertation, he never expected to find a photograph of the beautiful Candice Bell, nor did he expect to fall in love with her. The possibility of stepping back in time to save her from an untimely death in 1925 never even entered his wildest dreams until he met her distant cousin, Geoffrey Bell, who just so happens to know how to time travel.

When I first read the description for this book, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. As some one who doesn’t usually like romance, I didn’t expect much. I figured Heldt’s world building would be just as good as “The Mine,” but the plot would be a passable indie love story as best.

Oh, boy. Was I ever wrong.

I was right about the world building, at least. Heldt continues to floor me with his expertly crafted depiction of the past. Not only does he paint wonderful, creditable scenes with his words, but he captures the 1920’s in it’s entirety. Yes, the Roaring Twenties were new and exciting, but it wasn’t all jazz and flapper dresses for everyone. I don’t want to give anything away because I really want everyone to check out this book, but as someone who’s biracial–White and Black–I really appreciate the other half of my heritage being acknowledged in this time period. I feel like the experience of Black Americans is often over-looked when talking about history outside of the Civil Rights Era, so I really appreciate that Heldt included that experience and handled it well.

Not only is the history well done, but it’s woven in with the story beautifully. The two work together to create a unique and unforgettable narrative with plenty of twists, turns, and a climax that will have your heart racing and pages turning.

And then there’s Candice. Oh my days, is Candice Bell a delight. Anytime she’s in a scene she absolutely steals the show. She captures the sense of independence that the 20’s are so often associated with, but still stands out as her own own character, making her the strong female protagonist romance novels so often try to create, yet so often fall short of doing, in my opinion. In fact, if you writing romance, or if you find you struggle to write women regardless of genre (which is a longer conversation for another day), check out Indiana Belle for Candice alone. She’s worth it.

So, whatever you usually read–romance, historical fiction, mystery, sci-fi, you name it–take a break and get whisked away to the 1920’s with Indiana Belle no time travel required.

Emerald Child (Kalika Magic Book 1)–Karen Hughes

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Emerald Child (Kalika Magic Book 1)–Karen Hughes

Plot: 3/5       Characters: 4/5       Writing: 3/5       Entertainment: 4/5       World Building: 4/5

Fun, whimsical, and just a tad nostalgic, Emerald Child is a great fantasy adventure for young readers.

Far away on a secret island, Indie as grown up in hiding surrounded with burning questions and no questions. When smoke starts to rise from a mysterious chest, Indie thinks it must hold more questions, but it actually holds all the answers: who she is, where she’s from, and, most shockingly, the role she plays in saving a magical kingdom.

Hughes has done a brilliant job crafting a story that no doubt will capture young fantasy lovers and their parents alike. Indie is a wonderful, strong, capable girl–something I’m always excited to see in books meant for young readers–her supporting cast is fun and memorable and the adventure whisks you away from start to finish.

It reminds me of all the Studio Ghibli movies I watched as a kid, which is what make me think kids today would really enjoy it. It’s clean enough to be age appropriate, yet just dangerous enough to feel like there’s real weight behind characters’ choices. It’s whimsical and fun, but clever enough to treat kids like they’re smart.

If I really had to nit-pick, I’d say my only real complaint is that type of narrative Emerald Child goes on a well-worn path. It’s one that’s been used in a ton of fantasy novels, both for children and adults, over the years, which made it a bit predictable. However, given that it’s a book for kids, odds are they haven’t been as exposed to all the tropes yet, so they’ll still enjoy it well enough. Even if they can see what’s going on, there’s enough fun stuff here for them to still enjoy the ride.

So, if you have a young one in your life that loves to read, or you want to introduce to the love of reading, Emerald Child might make a good gift. It’s fun enough to get them to pick the book up and exciting enough to convince them to never put it down.

The Mine–John A. Heldt

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The Mine–John A. Heldt

Plot: 3/5       Characters: 3/5        Writing: 3/5       Entertainment: 4/5       World Building: 5/5

Well researched and brilliantly executed, The Mine is a vivid, memorable step back in time with a love story that could rival The Notebook (Pen Possessed).

In the year 2000, Joel Smith enters an abandoned mine in Montana out of simple curiosity. Thirty minutes later he emerges in the year 1941. With a band of colorful friends at his side, including his 21-year-old grandmother, Joel must carve a new life for himself or find a way home, but when a beautiful young woman named Grace walks into his life, making that decision becomes far more difficult.

Overall, I would say that The Mine works. The characters are believable and interesting enough to care about, both Joel and Grace are likable people, so I really did want to see them together, and with WWII right around the corner, how could you not be on the edge of your seat waiting for the other shoe to drop? My only real complaint was there wasn’t enough of that other shoe, so to speak. The Mine had a ton of potential thanks to number of well-written characters and the conflicts they’re bound to face and, as someone who loves history, I would have loved to see more about how they faced them. But, at the same time, I realize The Mine is a romance, so it’s only natural that the focus is more on Joel and Grace than the others, so the complaint really is a personal one rather than any sort of shortcoming on Heldt’s part.

And, speaking of history, that’s really where The Mine shines. The attention to detail and the obvious research that went into this book is remarkable and had me hooked more than the story itself. In fact, if you’re a writer and need to work with world building at all, whether via realism or fantasy, I highly recommend checking this book out, even if it’s not your typical genre. It’s a brilliant example of how to pull it all together and just how much it lends credibility to your story. When Joel is in 1941, it really feels like he’s in 1941.

So, over all, The Mine is good. While I would have liked more from the side character’s thoughts and experiences as WWII closes in, it still held my attention and the construction of America in 1941 is brilliantly done. Some of the other reviewers have compared The Mine to Nicholas’ Sparks works, so, if you’re a fan of romance, or a fan of history, definitely add it to your list and take a trip with Joel through The Mine.

Twice Upon a Time: Fairytale, Folklore, and Myth. Re-imagined and Remastered–Edited by Joshua Allen Mercier

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Twice Upon a Time: Fairytale, Folklore, and Myth. Re-imagined and Remastered–Edited by Joshua Allen Mercier

Welcome back to a regular review! With Halloween over I’ll try to get back to posting these as often as I can. 🙂

Given the nature of this work, I’m going with the more traditional rating method and give it a 5/5

“Twice Upon A Time” is a brilliant collection of tales that breathe new life into classic stories and introduce readers to ones that feel like they should be classics. It also provides a wonderful chance for independent authors to showcase their work along traditionally-published authors, proving once and for all that they have what it takes to write along side those who take more conventional routes to success.

My favorite thing about retelling fairytales is that the creative possibilities are endless. These stories speak to people in different ways, resulting in different characteristics being emphasized in their new versions while other things are change or diminished, depending on the writer. Nowhere is that more apparent than in “Twice Upon A Time.” Each author has their own unique take on stories most people know very well. That or they know exactly what makes a story feel like a fairytale and work to make something new and just as timeless.

I also love how dark retellings tend to be since it hails back to these stories’ earliest roots. The authors of “Twice Upon A Time” do a brilliant job making their fantastic tales spellbinding, eerie, and downright terrifying in equal measure.

So, if you’re a fan of the fantastic, the creepy, and the creative, I highly recommend “Twice Upon A Time.” The stories are diverse, well-written, and unique as the people writing them. And if it turns out you really like a particular work, “Twice Upon A Time” does a great job giving you ways to connect with those particular authors. There are quite a few I want to find on social media because I really want to read more of their work. If for no other reason, check out “Twice Upon A Time” for that, because there are some magnificent writers here waiting to be discovered.

Just Roll with It–Niki Hagar

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Just Roll with It–Niki Hagar

Plot: 3/5       Characters: 3/5        Writing: 3/5      Entertainment: 2/5

If you like New Adult romance, you’ll probably enjoy “Just Roll with It” well enough. Everything about it works, but nothing really goes above and beyond to make it great.

Rigbee is a college student with stellar art skills and social anxiety to boot. Roman is a play-it-cool bad boy who just wants to move on with his life and get through school without getting hung up on anyone who could possibly hurt him. Can Rigbee overcome her panic attacks and can Roman put away his fear of the past so that they can be together?

First off, shout out to Niki Hagar for writing about our joint home state of Michigan. Way to represent. ♥ Also, I’m loving this book’s cover.

Now onto the actual review, even if I’m not quite sure what to say in the review.

Much like “If I Could Turn Back Time,” “Just Roll with It,” is fine as far as New Adult romance goes, but I don’t feel like there’s much to talk about. The characters work fine, but we’ve seen similar characters a lot in the past decade or so. It was nice to see a main character struggle with an anxiety disorder since it’s so common among college students, but I feel like more could have been done with it. The college scenes are believable, but there aren’t enough of them, nor do we feel the pressure of them enough, for them to feel very important.

But, if you’ve enjoyed similar stories in the past, stories about troubled bad boys and girls who are supposed to be “not like other girls,” you’ll like this fine. The writing is polished, the story is believable enough, and the characters and their arcs are okay. If you want something a bit more adventurous and/or creative, it might be best to move along.

OUT TODAY!!!: If I Could Turn Back Time–Cindy Cowles

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OUT TODAY!!!: If I Could Turn Back Time–Cindy Cowles

Plot: 2/5       Characters: 3/5       Writing: 3/5       Entertainment: 3/5       World Building: 2/5

“If I Could Turn Back Time” is a passable love story. Due to its short length and the fact that I’m not usually one for romance, there’s really not much else to say about it. For the sake of a decent word count I’ll add that that the title made me want to break into song every time I turned on my kindle, but I’m not sure how useful that information is.

Sarah is a college senior who has carried the weight of regret on her shoulders every day for the past four years. When a heart-breaking news story brings her pain back to the surface, she’s uncertain how to process it or why it’s come back to haunt her in the first place, but that all comes to screeching halt when she wakes up to find herself at home, four years in the past. Now it’s up to Sarah to right past wrongs, make new choices, and even save lives.

The premises is interesting and relatable enough. Who hasn’t wished they could back and make different choices if they had the chance?  The idea lends itself to a lot of creative scenarios, especially since Cowles placed the story in the future, and great character development, but due to the book’s short length (152 pages to be exact), very little of that is taken advantage of.

                The characters are believable enough, but we don’t get a lot of time to get to know them or, more importantly, come to care about them. Sarah’s internal struggle has a similar problem in that the reader can understand why she wants to change things, but she does it so fast and with such ease that there’s never any sense of urgency. The writing is good (with the exception of some misplaced quotation marks and odd formatting choices), but I don’t think I’d recommend anyone read the book for its craft alone like I have with books in the past. Over all, the elements come together to make an okay, but not great, read.

                So, if you’re a die-hard romance fan, have enjoyed Cowles’ other books, or just need a quick read, you might enjoy “If I Could Turn Back Time.” If you’re looking for something with a bit more meat to it, you might want to keep browsing.