Tag Archives: novels

“Heart of Mystery”– Mark Laporta


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!   


The Mine–John A. Heldt

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

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

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.

“So You Agree? You Think You’re Really Pretty?”

“So You Agree? You Think You’re Really Pretty?”

In 2015, 18-year-old blogger Gweneth Batemen conducted a personal experiment: when men on social media complemented her on her appearance she would acknowledge that what they said was true. The men would usually revoke the complement as if Batemen’s confirmation somehow voided the fact that she was physically attractive. Whether she was polite or snarky to the people in question, the replies were the same: the men would retract their compliment as if her being attractive was something they could and give or take away depending on whether they liked her response.

A lot of readers saw exactly what was going on: these guys were acting like they were the gatekeepers of Batemen’s beauty and validity. And why shouldn’t they? That’s how it works according to our culture. Young women are often conditioned to take whatever affirmation or validation they’re handed rather than building up their own. That’s why, in Mean Girls, it threw Regina George for such a loop when Cady Heron responded, “Thank you,” to a complement, resulting in the line, “So, you agree? You think you’re really pretty?” 

Mean Girls is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the phenomenon. Other movies, TV shows, songs, and yes, even books reinforce the idea that young women have to be perceived beautiful before they can see it in themselves, especially is the perceiver is a love interest.

We all know the cliché: a shy bookish girl sees herself as plain, unattractive and uninteresting no matter what anyone around her says. Then her potential boyfriend shows up and helps her see how beautiful and wonderful she really is, triggering a boost in confidence, which is usually followed by a makeover. It’s either that or the protagonist simply doesn’t care about her appearance at all.

There seems to be a shortage of healthy middle ground: female protagonists who actually see themselves as beautiful before prince charming shows up or learn it on their own through the course of the book. They’re definitely out there—Rose from Vampire Academy and Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle come to mind—but I’d say they’re definitely a minority.

I understand that seeing yourself as beautiful can be hard. Growing up I was a chubby girl with frizzy hair, a crossed eye and thick bushy eyebrows, so trust me. I get it. It’s something a lot of girls and women struggle with, but what really sounds like it would have a more positive impact on readers: a girl who looks like them who has to be told she’s pretty by a boy who doesn’t exist, or a girl who looks like them and validates her features on her own as she kicks butt and saves the day?

Personally, I like the second better. I wish I had seen more stories like that growing up. It’s something to model yourself after instead of something to chase. We don’t just need characters that look like us, we need characters we want to imitate. I would rather imitate someone who sees herself as beautiful and worthy to be heard and seen, with or without a love interest, than someone who constantly needs it from an outside source. I’m not saying outside validation and compliments are bad, but they should be icing on the cake. We should strive for more than compliments. We should strive for confidence in ourselves and we should encourage others to do the same, even with characters if your craft so requires.

So, to all the writers out there, I encourage you to preform your own experiments. Write girls who love themselves. Write girls who learn to love and validate themselves through their own strength and the help of people other than their potential boyfriends. Give them flaws other than insecurity about their appearance and low self-esteem as you give them admirable strengths. Readers, pay attention to stories with these characters and share them with your friends. Encourage each other and encourage yourself because, whether your real-life prince shows up or not, at the end of the day we’re all we’ve really got.

All Mean Girls-related material copyrighted by Paramount Pictures. Image originally hosted on billboard.com