Just Another Quiet Little State by J.S. Frankel


Just Another Quiet Little State by J.S. Frankel
Publisher: Devine Destinies
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (293 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Teenager Gabe Common and his girlfriend, Millie Themmes, have moved back to Chumsville, the place where the magic that changed them started. Although they attempt to move on with their lives, some forces in the world will not let them. For one, the ambient magic still exists, and this time it has spread across the state of South Dakota. In fear, the president authorizes the military to contain the Changed, those transformed into something other than human. Additionally, civilian militias are out to kill the Changed. Once again, Gabe has to lead the residents of Chumsville and fight the intolerance around them, even at the cost of his life. It comes down to not only a battle for acceptance, but also one of survival. The only question is whether Gabe and his friends can survive the upcoming conflict.

How would you fight a foe who was many times bigger and stronger than you are?

The romantic subplot was handled well. I’ve really enjoyed seeing how Gabe and Millie’s relationship has developed over the years. They have been through a lot together since their bodies were transformed by ambient magic, but every crisis only seemed to draw them closer together. I liked watching them work together so closely, and I was pleased with how well they got along with each other.

This tale would have benefited from having many more details included in it. While the plot was just as fantastic as I would expect from Mr. Frankel, I had a lot of trouble picturing what was happening in many scenes because the narrator didn’t describe the events in them as vividly as he had earlier on in this series. It was almost as though I were listening to him retell it later on instead of experiencing the plot twists alongside him. I desperate wanted to give this story a much higher rating, but this issue prevented me from doing so.

While the world building in this series has always been excellent, it was even better than normal this time around. I especially appreciated all of the references the narrator included to various events that have happened in the United States over the past year or two. They made the plot even more meaningful than it would have otherwise been, but they were also subtle enough that I suspect they’ll still feel fresh and relevant years from now.

This is the third book in a series. It can be read on its own or out of order.

I’d recommend Just Another Quiet Little State to anyone who loves contemporary science fiction.

Broken Roots by Michelle Diana Lowe

Broken Roots by Michelle Diana Lowe
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary YA
Length: Full Length (224 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Snapdragon

After her father’s invention earns them millions, sixteen-year-old Teisha Cole moves from London to Florida with her family. Uprooted from the place she loves, she now lives in a broken home full of secrets and lies.

After Teisha’s grandmother dies, her fractured family is replanted in rural England, where a kingpin and his clan are laying in wait. What follows is a dangerous game that brings their house to its knees, as the family’s wealth begins to disappear.

When her father develops a mysterious illness, Teisha turns detective to unravel the truth. Escaping onto the streets and stumbling into the foster care system may be her only hope of survival.

Money changes everything right from the start of Broken Roots.

Written in a first person in a very conversational style, the story is like the main character Teisha’s, true confessions.

She a teen, transplanted from her home and not really enjoying what seems like it could be a great, if different, new life. However, ‘great’ is far from the truth. Sunshine and beautiful beaches hide misery.

Violence begins to mark her everyday. Its a relief to find she has friends, but yet another worry when we realize what they are really like. The ups and downs of Teisha’s life are unpredictable and frightening. She seems a victim of all; of people as well as circumstances.

We have the main character’s take on everything, including some things it’s hard to believe that a teen would know. There is definitely an ‘older’ world view in play here. That said, the older world view, while affecting believability, does contribute to the impact of the plot.

“The digital image of love excites you. Actual love means nothing. That is a major issue…” This sixteen-year-old says to her mother. This, and other of Teisha’s insights seem out of character, although this main character’s style is such that it is as if we are staring directly into her psyche: We may be doubtful, uncomfortable; but also enthralled.

My chief complaint is information overload: some repeated (I feel alone/isolated) and some simply too much. Her misery is very apparent. Her family members have become strangers… she lives in this ‘less than,’ yet idyllic-looking world.

Unique, unpredictable and engaging. Once you start reading Broken Roots it is hard to put down! The mystery adds to its intrigue. For a real change of pace from practically anything that is your usual, add it to your list!

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An Unstill Life by Kate Larkindale

An Unstill Life by Kate Larkindale
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (232 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 5 stars
Review by: Stargazer

When your whole world is falling apart, what are the chances you’ll find love in the most unexpected of places?

Livvie feels like she’s losing everything: her two best friends have abandoned her for their boyfriends, her mother continues to ignore her, while her sister, Jules, is sick again and getting worse by the day. Add in the request Jules has made of her and Livvie feels like she’s losing her mind, too.

Her only escape is in the art room, where she discovers not only a refuge from her life, but also a kindred soul in Bianca, the school “freak”. Livvie’s always felt invisible, at school and at home, but with Bianca, she finally feels like someone sees the real Livvie. As the relationship deepens and it comes time to take the romance public, will Livvie be able to take that step?

Livvie’s about to find out if she has what it takes to make the tough decisions and stand up for herself—for the first time in her life.

How far can you be pushed before you give up your quiet life and take a stand?

An Unstill Life is a deep journey into the life of Livvie, a fifteen-year-old girl with more than her share of life’s problems. Her sister Jules is sick with cancer and Livvie’s mother is preoccupied with the medical diagnosis. Hannah and Mel are Livvie’s two best friends, but boys become the major obstacle and distraction that tears the three apart. Livvie finds herself isolated and overwhelmed with everything going on.

An Unstill Life is a perfect view of how fast everything can spiral out of control. Kate Larkindale balances difficult topics with true to life emotions. The descriptions of events, emotions and reactions that each character has is directly on point and plays out smoothly within the situations presented. Issues of bullying, discrimination and even deep rooted domestic frustrations are cleanly addressed in an honest way.

The story, while told from the point of view of Livvie, really is something that could happen in most families. Events from both home and school are intricately interwoven to provide a great immersive plot that draws the reader in and makes it difficult to put the books down. Each event that piles onto Livvie’s daily life, is reflected in the change to her personality. The author takes great care in showing the transition and shifting of Livvie’s personality throughout the pressure, frustration and difficulties that she endures.

The dialog between characters is strong and flows naturally. Each character has a strong back story that unfolds throughout the story, including the mysterious Bianca. Each secondary character has strong personality development throughout the story as well, showing a depth to the storytelling that Kate exhibits.

If you enjoy an enveloping psychological look at life and how fast things change to shape and mold who we are-make sure you don’t miss An Unstill Life.

Prophecy Awakened by Tamar Sloan


Prophecy Awakened by Tamar Sloan
Prime Prophecy Series

Publisher: Clean Reads
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full (346 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4 stars
Review by: Poinsettia

On the first day of her new school all that shy, wounded Eden wants is to finish her senior year and escape to college. It can’t be too much to ask for, can it?

Noah has spent two years not knowing why he failed to come of age as every one of his ancestors has. Two years drifting aimlessly, searching for direction…

When the two meet the connection is instantaneous and undeniable. A connection that has Eden running and Noah burning to know more.

A connection destined to be the catalyst for a prophecy that neither knew existed.
A prophecy others are willing to kill for.

As families rupture and struggle to realign, as their hearts connect and ignite, Eden learns to trust. But with their love and life on the line, Eden must find the power to believe.

Prophecy Awakened is the first book in Tamar Sloan’s Prime Prophecy Series. If you enjoyed Stephanie Meyer, Lauren Kate or Maggie Stiefvater, then you’ll love a series that captures their best traits in an epic, captivating story of a love that defies boundaries.

Eden has one goal, survive her senior year.

Eden just wants high school to be over. While Eden is a bright and kind young woman, she’s never been popular at any of the numerous schools she’s attended as her mother moved them from place to place. Eden doesn’t think Jacksonville High will be any different. Eden has no idea just how wrong she is.

Eden is a very likable character. She’s intelligent, considerate, attractive, and deeply cares for animals. Many students want to be her friend when she arrives at her new school. Unfortunately, Eden’s fractured relationship with her mother and her experience at her other schools has made her extremely hesitant to trust others. Everything changes when she meets Noah.

Eden and Noah have an intense connection from the moment they meet. Instant connections can be problematic in that they are hard to believe. However, Ms. Sloan orchestrates the tension between Eden and Noah very well. Eden does everything she can to ignore Noah and the spark of attraction between them. Noah is very gentle and patient with Eden. He knows what he’s feeling is special and he is persistent in his pursuit of her heart without being overbearing and pushy. Once Eden stops fighting her feelings for Noah, I really like that they had time to get to know each other. Even though Noah and Eden are not normal teenagers, I enjoyed watching them do normal things like watching movies and doing school projects. It made the story and their relationship feel realistic. Unfortunately, Eden and Noah’s world is soon rocked by tragedy, and their budding relationship is put to the test. They are both forced to make some tough decisions. Will their relationship survive?

Prophecy Awakened moves at a steady pace as the tension gradually builds. Little by little I learned more about Noah and his family. Eden and her abilities remain a mystery for most of the story. I won’t spoil the story, but I will say that Eden has a very special way with animals, one that she doesn’t fully understand. I’m not even sure that Eden’s mother is aware of Eden’s power. I’m definitely curious and hope to learn more in the next installment.

I must admit I was hoping to learn more about the prophecy. There is just a vague hint about it at the end of the book. I did expect there to be some sort of mention about it since the title is Prophecy Awakened. However, this book is devoted to building the relationship between Eden and Noah. I have a feeling that something big is on the horizon for the young couple, and I sincerely hope they are strong enough to survive whatever comes their way.

I enjoyed reading Prophecy Awakened. The characters are solid and likable and the story is compelling. I look forward to reading more about Eden and Noah in the next book.

Immortal Matrix by Marisa Chenery

Immortal Matrix by Marisa Chenery
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (107 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

In the year 2217, Amarah is a donor for the Immortal Matrix, practically a slave, owned by a pharmaceutical corporation. Almost eighteen, she’s destined to be joined to a recipient to keep them young and fit while she does all the work. Her life is grim, except when it comes to a boy in her pod, Dyer, who means more to her than is allowed. Amarah and Dyer are sent to the pool of donors early, and their lives and feelings for each other are put to the test. She gets caught up with a group that wants to end the Immortal Matrix, and soon will find out how strong she really is, and how far she’ll go to keep Dyer as her own.

Amarah’s life has always been tightly controlled by the people who own her. Only time will tell if she’’ll ever get the chance to do something as simple as kiss the boy she likes.

This was such a descriptive tale. I could vividly picture what every room Amarah visited looked like because of how much time was spent showing the audience how they were laid out. The level of detail was even more valuable for the frightening scenes. Some of them made me shudder due to how easy it was to picture the scary stuff that was happening in them.

The cast of characters was so large that I had trouble keeping everyone straight at times. Had this been a full-length novel, there would have been plenty of room for the character development that would have made it easier to remember who was who. As it was written, though, everything happened so quickly that I didn’t always recall who was who because of how many different characters there were to get to know and how few scenes there were to explore all of their personalities and backstories. If not for this issue, I would have chosen a much higher rating as the storyline itself was well done.

Speaking of the plot, I enjoyed how much time the author spent showing what Amarah’s life was like in her pod. Every detail of her existence was meticulously planned by the employees of the Immortal Matrix, from what she learned to what she ate to what kinds of exercise she did. I was intrigued by the idea of someone growing up in such a restrictive environment. The more I read about it, the more curious I became to find out what would happen to this character once she was moved to the adult unit and if she’d ever find a way to make her own decisions.

Immortal Matrix should be read by anyone who likes the dark side of science fiction.

She’s Like a Rainbow by Eileen Colucci


She’s Like a Rainbow by Eileen Colucci
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (299 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

“The summer I turned ten, my life took a fairy tale turn.” So begins Reema Ben Ghazi’s tale set in Morocco. Reema awakes one morning to find her skin has changed from whipped cream to dark chocolate. From then on, every few years she undergoes another metamorphosis, her color changing successively to red, yellow and ultimately brown. What is the cause of this strange condition and is there a cure? Does the legend of the White Buffalo have anything to do with it? As Reema struggles to find answers to these questions, she confronts the reactions of the people around her, including her strict and unsympathetic mother, Lalla Jamila; her timid younger sister, Zakia; and her two best friends, Batoul and Khalil. At the same time, she must deal with the trials of adolescence even as her friendship with Khalil turns to first love. One day, in her search for answers, Reema discovers a shocking secret – she may have been adopted at birth. As a result, Reema embarks on a quest to find her birth mother that takes her from twentieth-century Rabat to post-9/11 New York. Reema’s humanity shines through her story, reminding us of all we have in common regardless of our particular cultural heritage. SHE’S LIKE A RAINBOW, which will appeal to Teens as well as Adults, raises intriguing questions about identity and ethnicity.

 

As soon as Reema adjusts to one new skin color, her complexion changes yet again. Will she ever discover why this is happening?

While this book had a large cast of characters, I never had any trouble remembering who was who. I appreciated how much attention Ms. Colucci paid to all of the small details of her characters’ lives. She made them come to life so vividly in my mind that I was able to keep track of everyone even when multiple new people were introduced at the same time.

The pacing was slow. As fascinated as I was by the premise, it was difficult for me to stay interested in the storyline at times because it took so long for the main character to find any clues at all about what was happening to her skin or whether or not she had actually been adopted. It was interesting to read about the ordinary details of her daily routine like what she ate for meals, but there were so many of these scenes that they slowed down the plot and distracted me from the mysteries of this character’s life.

Reema had a complex and difficult relationship with her mother that included a lot of conflict between them as she was growing up. Some of the most memorable scenes were the ones that showed how this relationship evolved as the main character began to make her own decisions in life. I found it intriguing to see how things changed between mother and daughter over the years. Watching Reema attempt to understand why this part of her life was so complicated was one of my favorite parts of this tale.

I’d recommend She’s Like a Rainbow to anyone who is in the mood for something thought provoking.

Day Moon by Brett Armstrong


Day Moon by Brett Armstrong
Tomorrow’s Edge Book One

Publisher: Clean Reads
Genre: Inspirational, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full (376 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Stargazer

BoM LASR YA copy

In A.D. 2039, a prodigious seventeen year old, Elliott, is assigned to work on a global soft-ware initiative his deceased grandfather helped found. Project Alexandria is intended to provide the entire world secure and equal access to all accumulated human knowledge. All forms of print are destroyed in good faith, to ensure everyone has equal footing, and Elliott knows he must soon part with his final treasure: a book of Shakespeare’s complete works gifted him by his grandfather. Before it is destroyed, Elliott notices something is amiss with the book, or rather Project Alexandria. The two do not match, including an extra sonnet titled “Day Moon”. When Elliott investigates, he uncovers far more than he bargained for. There are sinister forces backing Project Alexandria who have no intention of using it for its public purpose. Elliott soon finds himself on the run from federal authorities and facing betrayals and deceit from those closest to him. Following clues left by his grandfather, with agents close at hand, Elliott desperately hopes to find a way to stop Project Alexandria. All of history past and yet to be depend on it.

In making the world accessible for everyone-sometimes there are those who manipulate that accessibility to ensure their own motives are achieved.

Day Moon is an extraordinarily written book that follows Elliott, a college student, working on adding written books to Project Alexandria, a computer system designed to make all human knowledge accessible to all throughout the world. Through the course of his work, Elliott begins to notice that an original copy he possesses of Shakespeare’s plays is startlingly different than the electronic copy in Project Alexandria. It is not a huge jump to realize that there are those that would alter human records to reflect a different body of knowledge than one currently possessed.

I love the mystery and suspense surrounding Elliott. The plot unfolds so smoothly and seamlessly that it envelopes the reader in mystery and suspense without the overtones of immediate suspense. The strengthening and breaking of friendships between Elliott and his friends throughout the journey also leads to must suspense and suspicion. In a world where science and electronics have all but pushed out religion, Elliott finds himself looking deeper and deeper inward to understand the various riddles within Project Alexandria.

The dialogue is strong and the descriptions are thorough; in fact, some of the best character interaction involves the look or action rather than words. Brett Armstrong shows a definite understanding and appreciation for human communication, especially when cloaked within suspicion. The story is not overly violent or graphic, but finds the right amount of description and suspense to catch the reader and propel them into the story without going over the top.

The reality behind Day Moon is one that should seriously be considered since the similarities with our own technology and records certainly follow a similar path to the one described within Day Moon. The technological impact within the society and culture of the story could very well be on the horizon for our own society as well. While Day Moon is the first of the Tomorrow’s Edge Trilogy, it ends at a point that leaves the reader desiring to go to the next book, but not feeling unfulfilled as some trilogies do. It stops at a point that is perfect to give the reader an opportunity to pause, catch their breath, and then make the move to pick up the next in the trilogy!

If you are into an enveloping suspense story that shows you what could be with just a hint of human manipulation, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Day Moon!

Justice Unending by Elizabeth Spencer


Justice Unending by Elizabeth Spencer
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (185 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Poinsettia

Within the walls of the Bastion, it’s an honor to become a host for an Unending—the bodiless, immortal spirits who rule the country. But for Faye, it meant her sister would have to die. When Faye sneaks into the Mother Duchess’s manor, she just wanted to see her sister one last time. Instead, Faye finds a manor in chaos, a murdered man, and an Unending assassin named Aris who needs a new body—Faye’s body—to bring the Bastion to its knees. Now Faye’s harboring the Bastion’s most wanted criminal. And if she wants to live, she’ll have to escape the Duchess and her immortals, all while keeping Aris from harming anyone else. There’s just one problem—Aris is not the villain. And now Faye is the only one who can help her stop the Duchess before anyone else—and especially Faye—has to die for the Unendings’ whims.

Faye just wanted to say goodbye.

The Unending rule Faye’s world, but she never imagined that her sister would be claimed by one. Everything happens quickly and Justine is whisked away before Faye’s had a chance to properly say goodbye. Sneaking into the manor brings her face to face with Aris, the mad immortal. Is Aris really the villain, or is something sinister going on in the Mother Duchess’ manor? Will Faye discover the truth or is she simply a pawn in an ancient feud?

Faye is a very likable character. She’s very willful and stubborn, which isn’t always convenient for those around her, but I count this as her greatest strength. She has a strong sense of right and wrong, and her determination to stand up for what she believes is impressive. I do wish that Faye had been more willing to listen to Aris. They were sharing the same body, but Faye seemed determined to close herself off from Aris as much as possible. I think they could have avoided a lot of trouble had Faye been willing to listen. On the other hand, I also believe that the journey Faye and Aris take helped form their bond and understanding of each other. The glimpses into Aris’ past were particularly interesting, and I believe that as Faye learns more about Aris, they will be a great team.

The secondary characters definitely have potential, but haven’t been developed fully. At this point, they are mostly a background to Faye and Aris and I never felt that I got to know any of them well. The villains are also interesting, but I would like to know more about them and their motivations as well. The Mother Duchess in particular has piqued my curiosity. She seems to have had good intentions at one time, but her own wants and needs have blinded her to the horror of the society she has created.

I thoroughly enjoyed Justice Unending. The main characters are realistic, their story is compelling, and the pacing is excellent. I sincerely hope that Ms. Spencer has plans for a sequel because I would love to learn more about Faye, Aris, and the Unending.

Fox in the City by Daniel Cabrera


Fox in the City by Daniel Cabrera
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (172 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

This is the story of a fox–a fox named Tom. A fox who couldn’t in his wildest dreams imagine what it would be like to stand up on two. To behold and experience all the wonders of the world of man. The lights that light up the ground: The hum of the engines that roar and the fervor that engulfs everyone in the impassioned pursuit of happiness. Could he understand that the most amazing part is not in what we built?

The dividing line between human and animal isn’t always a clear one.

Tom’s character development was well done. It was especially interesting to see how he made the adjustment from being a fox to living as a human child. There are so many differences between those two species that he couldn’t take anything for granted. Everything he knew about the world had been turned on its head, and that made his emotional transformation something I had to keep following until I knew how it would end.

There were many grammatical and punctuation errors. I also noticed a sentences that were missing key words. It was hard to tell what they meant without knowing which word the author intended to use in that sentence. While I enjoyed the storyline itself quite a bit, another round of editing would have made a huge difference in my final rating for this book.

The friendship between Tom and Nora, the human girl he met soon after he was transformed, was beautiful. They were supportive of each other from the beginning. I really enjoyed watching her show him how to survive in the city and seeing how their feelings for each other slowly began to shift as they got to know each other even better. I thought they made a great team and couldn’t wait to see what would happen to them next.

Fox in the City was a creative tale that I’d recommend to anyone who has ever wondered what animals would say if they somehow learned how to speak.

Dragonsoul by Kayl Karadjian


Dragonsoul by Kayl Karadjian
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Fantasy
Length: Full Length (311 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 5 stars
Review by: Orchid

Littlehorn is the last dragon, born into a world that wants him dead.

The dragon’s blue scales and orange eyes are a stark contrast to the dull gray around him. The sky is gray. The ground is gray. Everything is gray, even the skin, eyes, and hair of every other living creature, including humans.

When Denyth, a simple farmer dreaming of a world of color beyond the gray encounters Littlehorn, the two set out on a journey to find the truth of where Littlehorn came from and if there truly is a world of color beyond the gray.

But Denyth isn’t the only human who knows of Littlehorn’s existence. A dragon-hunter named Zero, who has dedicated his entire life to purging anything of color, is coming after Littlehorn to finish the job.

Dragon and human flee together to the colorful land called Evenar, coming across a host of odd, colorful creatures, including a cat-like shapeshifter who can hear the land, a pacifist troll who wields a club the size of a tree trunk, and even a group of walruses who can talk.

Just as they think that they have found paradise, they discover a terrible secret: humanity wasn’t responsible for the fall of dragons after all.

Everything is grey, and most call it The Gloom. Zero, leader of the King’s Deprived force, has killed the last colorful dragon and returns to report to King Tayen.

Denyth, a farm boy of the Gloom finds a dragon egg which becomes a very colorful blue dragon, Littlehorn. Needless to say Zero finds out about the dragon and then the chase is on.

This book is brilliant. The difference between the grey Gloom and colorful Evenar are well written and very visual. The playful little dragon gets into all sorts of mischief which provides humor to the story.

The chase from The Gloom to Evenar is cleverly written and I had to read on to find out what happened next. The story took several unexpected twists and turns until it reached a wonderful finale. I have to admit I love dragon stories but I would have read this one if it had been about any other creature or just the humans and the faeries. An exceptionally good book to read.