I Like You Like This – Review I also

“Hannah always tried her best to hold it together. Tears only made it worse. Eventually she’d gotten used to the tormenting and pretended to be in on the joke.”

Hannah Zandana lives a bleak life. She faces unrelenting bullying at home and at school, and only wants to find a place where she belongs. This desire to fit in has her come up with a plan to buy drugs in order to impress the popular girls at her school. The only positive thing that comes out of this bad plan is gaining the attention of the drug dealer, Deacon.

There may be some minor spoilers in my review, for those who have not read yet. There are also several trigger warnings including drug abuse, verbal abuse, and bullying.

I wanted to like this book. I did. A book with dark themes relevant to teenagers is a book we actually need more of. Unfortunately, this book missed the mark for me.

To start with, the abuse from her parents was odd. They are verbally abusive; perhaps more, but that was really unclear. There is only one drug induced scene, where physical, maybe even sexual violence, is introduced. It was presented to feel like a repressed memory, but it was never brought up or explored again, so I’m not really sure.

They constantly belittle Hannah, berate her, ignore her and are generally extremely vicious towards her. Even though we get an attempt at an explanation of their behavior towards her, it felt very shallow and unrealistic. The level of abuse in relation to the feeble explantation was simply lacking.

“Hannah was a human pincushion for her parents’ criticism, and there was always ample room for just one more jab.”

As far as her attempts to impress the popular girls at school, choosing to buy drugs for a party seems like an odd choice. It’s never really explored that these popular girls would even be in the drug scene, just that everyone knew where to get ‘the good stuff’. The entire initial deal is awkward and weird, and the ensuing relationship between Hannah and Deacon continues down that path.

The characters and plot felt more like an array of scenes rather than a cohesive plot. Hannah is unsure of herself, has no self-confidence or self-esteem but she somehow manages to threaten and fight off the bullies of her school with no problems when it suits her. Other times she’s a quivering mess that can’t stand up for herself. That didn’t feel real to me.

It was set in 1984, which is very specific and I was hoping it was for a specific reason. The only reason I could gather was to introduce how crack changed drug addiction in some areas, but that was such a brief mention, I may be grasping at straws for that connection. Product specific nods, or other pop culture references were added in, but for the most part they were clunky and unnecessary.

I also really didn’t like Deacon. He’s supposed to be rich and charming, but damaged. A very cliche ‘more than just a bad boy’ character. He never really showed the kinder side underneath, and after one near rape scene, I was pretty done with his misunderstood excuses.

“She searched his face. His constrained grin didn’t match his words or the shot of sadness in his eyes.”

There are some problems with the romance portion of the book. Hannah doesn’t necessarily find herself other own, but rather changes her identity as a result of her relationship. The fact that the relationship is unhealthy, and at times, even toxic doesn’t send the message I would want in a YA book. I always struggle with books where the theme is we need someone else to become whole. Love is important, but it isn’t the key ingredient in self-worth or the journey to finding out who we are.

This book felt like a really good draft, and I felt like it had a lot of potential. There are some very serious topics introduced, but the opportunity to explore them is largely untapped. While bullying, abuse and drug use are all brought up, the majority of the story focuses on the weird romance between Hannah and Deacon instead. The deeper examination is lacking and it leaves the book feeling superficial rather than hard hitting.

As I said, I think that YA books that tackle the issues presented in this book are really important. They can help kids going through similar struggles and traumas feel understood, seen and maybe even help them work through them. But when these issues aren’t explored as fully as they should be, it can do more of a disservice to those teens who need it most.

Thank you BookSparks and She Writes Press for sending me a copy to read and review.

Exquisite – Review

“I was suspicious of love and what it did to people – those dark depths of anguish and horror; the thought of it all made me shudder.”

Bo Luxton has the life everyone wants. A successful writing career, loyal husband and two adorable daughters. She is the very picture of happiness and contentment. All she wants is to share her happiness with others. To help guide fresh new talent into the literary world, giving back to the world that has given her so much.

Alice Dark is young and lost. Full of hidden but unused talent, she writes an entry to a writing retreat, expecting it to end in nothing but disappointment like every endeavor before. To her surprise, she is selected and given the chance at everything she’s ever wanted.

From the moment Bo read Alice’s words, she knew this was the young talent she had been looking for. And from the moment Alice spoke with Bo, she knew this was a woman whose wisdom could guide her. Mentor and mentee. Two paths destined to cross and become entwined. So how does it all go wrong?

This book is breathtaking in it’s intensity! Every page has you swept into the story, the suspense building with a subtlety that is, well, exquisite. You know something is off, but it’s difficult to put your finger on it. For the life of me, I could not tell which direction Stovell was taking me. I only knew it was going to be a dark and twisted path.

“There’s only one direction this can go, and that is straight to hell.”

We are given the story of Alice and Bo in parts. The first is a story, a woman in prison, but where and when is yet to be determined. Is she a narrator, a story from one of the writers, or a third party yet to be presented? And then we get chapters from both Bo and Alice’s perspectives. These are alternating until after the retreat, where we get only Alice and then only Bo. And then back to alternating as we get closer to the truth.

Each side is presented, with their own slant told. And Stovell is masterful in her writing, never giving us enough clues to get a grasp on what’s actually taking place. Page after page has us feeling as if we are trapped in a cage of quicksand and fog. Nothing is steady, nothing is sure, except that someone is lying.

“The thing about being hurt badly is that the only person who can make you feel better is the person who hurt you, and so you keep going back and they keep making you better, but then they hurt you again, and so it goes on.”

Exquisite kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. I never knew who to trust, who was the victim and who was the assailant. Even when Stovell unveiled the details, the truth was so sinister, it hits you in the gut, hard and unexpected. Again, the word exquisite fits so perfectly, because that level of story telling is exquisite. You know something is coming, and yet it still manages to hit you by surprise. The title perfect in so many ways.

I am a huge fan of psychological plots, especially where the characters are so deeply complex it’s difficult to fault them for their flaws, and Stovell does not disappoint. But there’s also a deeper villain uncovered, and the cold, sinister motivations are chilling and pathological. We are introduced to someone unrelenting and unapologetic in their behavior, and that persona is truly terrifying. To be lulled into complacency, into sympathizing with someone this evil in nature gets under your skin. Stovell has given us a villain that really does make you stay awake at night because this is the type of villain that is real.

If you are a fan of psychological suspense or thrillers, you need to get your hands on this book. It is masterful in it’s suspense, brilliant in it’s psychology, and breathtaking in it’s twists. In all, this book is exquisite.

Thank you Orenda Books for sending me a copy to read and review!

Sip – Review

“The sun was up, so the dark could start. All about the ground, all in the same direction, shadows sprawled. And this is what he was after.”

Oh how deliciously dark Sip is! A novel where we find ourselves 150 years in the future. A future where people can drink their shadows and change their bodies to float and distort in ways not possible before. But there is a heavy price. Once you drink, you must always drink. And if you drink too much, you are lost forever.

We follow two main characters, Murk, a shadow addict, and Mira, a girl who can hide her shadow. Mira’s mother is a shadow addict herself, but her fate is far worse than Murk. For when an addict sips your shadow, if they don’t stop they can steal the entire thing. And you are left the shell of who you once were, forced to sip shadows or face the madness beyond.

Of course, Murk doesn’t have life easy either. His leg was stolen from him. Chopped and taken, sold to the black market to be kept alive for a time on a machine invented for creating shadows. But he lost his leg before he lost his shadow, which offers him some protection as his shadow will never be whole.

This world is dark and gruesome, full of violence,  and run wild with madmen. But within this world are pockets of people trying to live normal lives, away from these addicts. Called domers, for they live beneath a dome. Blocking the sunlight and moonlight so that the addicts can’t steal their souls. The perimeter blocked by a perpetually running train and guarded by soldiers trained to shoot if anyone gets too near.

“Bored soldiers slaughtering innocents predates the naming of war, will go on after the words we call it are broken.”

Mira’s ability to control her shadow catches the interest of a domer, Bale. But his interest is expensive, and he gets thrown out of his dome as a penalty for not shooting her on sight.

Now the three of them, an unlikely trio, set off to test the theory that if you kill whomever stole your shadow before Halley’s Comet appears again, after the comet passes, you will return to normal. Mira desperately wants her mother back, and so she sets off on her quest. Time running out, since the comet is due within days.

Sip does not hold back on the brutal reality of a world overrun with addicts. I actually found the use of shadow addicts an interesting way to show the desperation and extremes addicts will go through for one fix, for one more high, for just one more. In a world where they are the majority, things can become chaotic and bleak very quickly.

We don’t see the world outside of the rural Texas area that Mira, Murk and Bale live, but we hear hints of other dome communities scattered about. All with trains running in circles to protect them. I thought it was fascinating how the addiction was also like a virus, contagious and rampant, and hit before people knew how to fight it. It is a unique dystopian unlike anything I’ve ever read before.

This book is dark in nature but shines bright within the characters it creates. Mira and Murk, unlikely friends, but friends all the same. And even Bale, with his knowledge of nothing but life within the dome will cause you to root for them, to root for their success. Because the journey is difficult, and filled with unexpected stops and obstacles along the way.

If you can’t stomach gritty, raw violence or the stark yet simple brutality of an apocalyptic future dominated by ruthless addicts, this is not a book for you. It will make you cringe, and your stomach turn, for death and violence is simply the way of life in this world, and Carr does not shy away from immersing the reader into the full experience of it.

“Some madnesses are so bizarre that they entice witnessing. Those in the bar who had been preoccupied with debauchery, who had been lost in the melee of drinking and lustful deeds, tapered their pursuits in order to watch this grimy operation.”

It is a book that requires you simply accept things as fact without necessarily understanding them. I didn’t ever get the full sense of why people could drink their shadows, or how it made them addicts. It isn’t that Carr doesn’t offer a brief history through the characters eyes, he does. But it is done in the way you would expect stories to be told. Vaguely, details lost or misunderstood with each telling, the decades between the event and the present altering it, diminishing it, leaving only what they deem important. You don’t get science, or factual information. However, not understanding didn’t take away from the rich narration of this world, or make it’s reality any less detailed.

The before and the after are less relevant to this story than the here and now. Which, if anyone has ever dealt with addiction, first hand or otherwise, it felt like this focus on the present story was a nod to the adage ‘One Day At A Time’ that you hear in meetings and therapy over and over. For addicts, there is only today, and so in that same way, we get the present. It felt poetic to me.

If it feels that perhaps the book may be ‘too out there’, or ‘weird’, I assure you it’s my own reluctance to delve into too many details. The world sounds difficult to picture, and the concepts may be hard to envision, but once you dive into this world, as gruesome and violent as it is, it is worth the journey. Once you begin, the characters pull you in and the sheer determination they have to move forward will move you forward too. It is a dark world. A violent one. Full of mayhem and criminality that makes the Wild West look like playtime in preschool. But you still can’t help but hope with the characters that life can always get better.

For my dark readers out there, this is a novel you do not want to miss! I will be reading Carr’s short stories and will for sure read anything he puts out next. I am a fan!

Thank you Soho Press for sending me a copy to read and review.

Seance Infernale – Review

“All those things you fear will reach from into the shadows and pull you down there with them.”

Seance Infernale is an intense thriller following Alex Whitman on his journey to find a piece of film, only rumored to exist. In America, Thomas Edison is credited with building the first camera known to capture motion pictures. In France, the Lumber brothers. But one year before Edison filed his patent, a man named Augustin Sekular is rumored to have built and filmed the world’s first motion picture camera. Conveniently, or rather inconveniently, one year before Edison files for his patent, Sekular vanished from a train, never to be seen or heard from again, taking all signs of the camera with him.

However, the man hiring Whitman to find this lost piece of film isn’t interested in any of the film strips by Sekular known and catalogued. He wants one so rare, it is only whispered about: Seance Infernale. A film only referred to in a letter by a man known in history to be a conman of sorts.

This book is more than a hunt for rare art. More than a historical mystery yearning to be solved. We learn that Whitman lost his daughter ten years prior. Abducted in a park in Edinburgh and never heard from again, she haunts Whitman. His acceptance of this job, and this hunt for Sekular’s film takes him back to the city filled with ghosts. Whitman will have to face his own ghosts, while searching for Sekular’s.

“Sources failed to indicate Sekular’s exact Edinburgh address, they stated that the family lived in a perilous region, full of seedy businesses, dark alleys, and run-down tenements, a place “where wickedness loses its seductive appeal by manifesting in all its depravity.”

Whitman isn’t the only perspective we get; however. In addition to his hunt for this mythical film, a Detective Sergeant, Georgina McBride is hunting an elusive creature of a different sort. A serial killer prowling the streets of Edinburgh, kidnapping children and leaving their bodies in alleys. Georgina needs to find his latest victim while there’s still a chance they are alive.

Two different people searching for two different things, and yet their paths cross in unpredictable ways. But the more each of them discovers, the more they realize their searches are more dangerous than either one ever anticipated.

“Because a murder investigation is first and foremost a hired investigation; your client may be silent and dead, but he is still screaming out for justice.”

This book shocked me! I was expecting a hunt through time to solve a lost mystery. But, the present day twists with McBride’s serial killer hunt kept me on my toes! It was easy to lulled into the mystery of this lost film, and what happened to Sekular. As soon as you got comfortable in that story, you were slammed into the present day with the hunt for this killer. In addition, we get some narration from Elliot, the killer himself, told in such a way that you aren’t sure who he is going to end up being, or why he is important to Whitman and this film.

There is graphic violence in this book, both in what Elliot does to his victims and some flashbacks of other scenes in characters lives. One particular scene of animal cruelty was two pages I skipped, it was that grotesque. So, if that sort of violence unnerves you or makes you queasy, this may not be the book for you.

As far as dark thrillers, this book is crazy dark and crazy intense. I was climbing the walls, reading between my fingers, and definitely leaving the lights on to make it through this book! The author does a fantastic job weaving characters in and out of the plot, and just when you’ve forgotten about someone, they pop back in to play. He has a talent for making you look to the left and then hitting you from the right. Every twist and turn was like plummeting down a roller coaster blind folded. It is exhilarating but also terrifying.

My favorite parts are when we are taken below ground into ancient and forgotten parts of Edinburgh. Areas simply entombed over in the name of progress. Skariton does an insane job bringing places to life. I could taste the dust and smell the stale air as crypts and catacombs were discovered and explored. And nothing says creepy more than underground houses, forgotten tunnels and old graveyards.

“You could have walked past it every day on the way to work and you wouldn’t have noticed it, padlocked behind doors or hidden underground. It was right there, for everyone to see, yet it was unknown. But that was Edinburgh, revealing itself only in the constant vigilance of dark, steady eyes.”

I did read this as an ARC, so there were some pieces that seemed incomplete. I don’t mean the writing, it’s more the presentation of the book. This is a book that has art within the book, and with those pieces missing, it felt a little confusing. Some were there, but notes at the bottom and the notes in the back seemed to not quite be finished, so I didn’t feel that I got the entire experience.

The hardest thing, and again, this may be fixed in a final copy, is there weren’t any years in the chapter headers. The book is divided into sections with the date (month and day) listed at the beginning of each section. But, the narration jumps between the years quite a bit and it can get confusing, especially as we are reading between multiple points of view. It isn’t overwhelming, but I did have to backtrack a few times to figure out where I was supposed to be.

In all, this book was perfect for October reading and for the #spookathon. It will leave your heart racing and your stomach churning as you hold your breath waiting to read the outcome. If you like dark, if you love thrillers, and you don’t mind some intense violence, this book is definitely for you!

I won this in a giveaway from AA Knopf, and was not required or obligated to review.

The Balance Project – Review

“You’ve got to make your own dreams happen, Lucy,” Ty says. “Sounds a lot like you’re helping to make someone else’s dreams happen.”

The Balance Project is such a fun read! Very reminiscent of The Devil Wears Prada and The Nanny Diaries, The Balance Project is about the life of a working woman who earnestly and whole-heartedly believes that women can have the perfect life, everything they’ve ever wanted. If only they balance everything just right.

That woman is Lucy Cooper’s boss, Katherine Whitney, COO of a juice empire. Her new book, The Balance Project, has launched her into a new level of success with millions of women dying to know how they too can successfully have it all.

Lucy on the other hand, does not have it all. She doesn’t want to be an assistant forever, so her career isn’t exactly moving on the right track. And she doesn’t want to get married, which her boyfriend Nick is adamant about, so relationship may also be slightly unbalanced. When Katherine begins to fall apart at the seams, it falls even more on Lucy to hold it all together for her. Which is fine, until Katherine betrays Lucy unexpectedly. Not Lucy has to make a choice, and that choice will impact the course of her life. And Katherine’s.

“It sure doesn’t seem like your life is all that balanced, and you’re at ground zero of this balance operation.”

This book is a very fun read! And very funny! Lucy has an internal dialogue that is sarcastic and witty, which made her very enjoyable to read. Even when she makes the wrong choices, or doesn’t stand up for herself, she’s written in such a way, that it doesn’t feel cliche. She feels very real to me.

I think we’ve all had moments in our lives when we actively justify things that are happening, or make decisions we instantly regret, or even decisions we later regret. The thing I enjoyed about Lucy was it didn’t matter if you didn’t agree with how she processed things, or her decisions. The point was you understood. And were usually entertained along the way.

“It feels like there are crack-addicted trapeze artists in my stomach, and they are just beginning their routine.”

I really liked how we are introduced to the situation and characters without a giant info dump at the beginning. The flashbacks and narration is well paced and done so that it feels very natural to the progression of the plot. We learn a lot about Lucy and Katherine in the first chapter through a clever use of an interview. We also get a very real sense of the pressure Lucy feels as Katherine’s assistant in that first chapter. I loved that the tone and pace were introduced and maintained very consistently throughout the entire book.

Ava, her best friend is probably my favorite character. She’s the only one who I liked the entire time. It would be easy to hate the best friend who loved her job and made everything look easy while also posting an inspirational quote daily, but Ava is so kind and awesome you just want to be friends with her. I really loved that, because it’s so easy to go Mean Girls these days. It was nice to not have that cliche love/hate your best friend trope, and to also have a character that I genuinely adored throughout the entire book.

“Ava works at Cosmo – she is a fun, fearless female – as an associate features editor. She loves her job, and by love I mean she would make out with her job if she could.”

Nick, I wasn’t a fan of. And this part may get a touch spoiler-y so BEWARE! I didn’t like how the author managed to hold every other character accountable to their shitty behavior EXCEPT FOR NICK! Somehow he gets to act like a complete jerk to Lucy, give her a really intense ultimatum and in the end, he gets off the hook. Something about his list and how he handled her rejection just really didn’t sit well with me. It reeked of control issues and a refusal to compromise that didn’t fit with the rest of the books message.

Lucy is a complex character for me as well. She is willing to admit her fears and her weaknesses, but is also willing to allow people to treat her pretty poorly at times. Namely her boyfriend and her boss. And while their behaviors can be rationalized, Lucy doesn’t seem to be able to stand up for herself in healthy ways until extreme situations hit. The interesting part is I actually really liked Lucy, so maybe I just wanted her to be a bit more of her own advocate. I wanted her to see her worth more than if felt she did.

I realize that we all have to go through bad jobs, and bad relationships, and bad friendships to learn where our boundaries are. This book is a good exploration of that process. I think Lucy did forgive Nick way easier than Katherine, and wish that Nick would have offered a little more reflection on his bad behavior like other characters.

Overall though, I really enjoyed this book. It was a very fast read, I finished in an evening, and there were multiple laugh out loud lines. Even though that part with Nick really bothered me (obviously because I can’t seem to let it go), the book was a good presentation on how important it is to balance your life when you’re young.

Lucy explores some very relevant issues facing most women at all ages. How do we balance work and personal lives? When is too much too much? Is marriage and being a mother right for you? These are all very real things that most women struggle with. I was really happy to have a book that is enjoyable to read without seeming preachy, but still gives a thoughtful examination of some of these struggles. I think that most women will find a lot of it relevant and relatable, not to mention sassy and thoroughly entertaining!

Thank you BookSparks and She Writes Press for sending a copy to read and review!

Traitor’s Hope – Review + GIVEAWAY

TRAITOR'S HOPE

Traitors lurk around every bend. Mishi’s mind is betraying her, and she fears her kisō and katana will betray her next. Taka’s heart abandons her for a person she cannot possibly trust. Now that the two friends are obliged to help re-establish peace in the land of Gensokai, the only question is where the next betrayal will come from and if Mishi and Taka will have the strength to survive it. 

I was thrilled to be able to dive right into Traitor’s Hope after finishing Blade’s Edge earlier this week! You can find my review HERE. A huge thank you to Rockstar Book Tours for hosting this tour and including me as a tour stop! Click the picture above to find more tours and be sure to check out all the blog stops on this tour, by clicking the links below!

First, I loved the first book. LOVED! The world building! The characters! The magic! I loved it all! I even loved the darkness that the world presented. Traitor’s Hope kept the same pacing and tone from Blade’s Edge and leveled up!

We still get narration from Taka and Mishi, both grown and traumatized in their own ways from the war fought. Instead of hearing from Tsuko this time, we get the perspective of Kusuko instead.

Assassin turned ally, Kusoko was one of the most interesting characters in the book. Her story of how she came to be a hishi assassin highlights the cruelty and brutality of the crumbled regime. But we get so much more than a heartbreaking story from Kusoko. We get an interesting look at the psychology of lifelong abuse and brainwashing. The depth we get from her is quite astounding, and made her not just an integral part of the story, but really brought to life what the New Council was fighting against.

The themes in this book are no less severe than in Blade’s Edge. We are still in the aftermath of war, with factions attempting to start a new one. The island of Gensokai is no less violent than before, and it still holds on to it’s negative views on anyone other than male Kisoshi. The war may be over, but the old regime is not going to be easily reformed.

“The illusion of power can make men blind to many things.”

And there is a lot to love in this sequel! First, I adore that even though this is the second in a series, and the story is obviously building on the first book, the story isn’t reliant on the first book. You could easily read this on its own, and while the experience won’t be quite as deep or rich, it would be enjoyable still. The second thing is that we get a glimpse of what a society looks like after a war. Often in a series, we get the ending of the series at the end of the conflict. So we don’t get to explore what the next steps in that rebuilding of society looks like. Here we do, and folks, it isn’t as easy as we would hope.

“I hadn’t considered that there would be men evil enough to keep harming innocents even once they knew the truth of their own actions.”

As the society is dismantled and rebuilt, we also get more information about the elemental magic kiso. Learning more about how the elements work, and even how they can combine both within an individual and with Kisoshi working together was fantasy at it’s best! I wish we could have gotten a bit more with my favorite Dragon and Tree Kami, but I get it, rebuilding a society isn’t about training, so we didn’t see quite as much of them.

And talk about plots! Plots with plots, schemes within schemes! The brilliance of the title is that you go in suspecting someone of being treacherous. What you don’t expect is how many people that could possibly be! I gave up trying to figure out who was going to betray who, because the double crosses on the double crosses became impossible to guess. I really liked that each character presented, both old and new, were as vividly complex as before. And this complexity made predicting treachery nearly impossible. But it isn’t simply treachery between characters. McClain shows us the danger in betraying our true selves.

In keeping with the first book and taking an unflinching look at tough themes, this book dives deep into exploring PTSD. The emotional wreckage that violence leaves is real. And even if you’ve been training for war, the reality of it is often very traumatic. I loved that McClain really let us see how deep these wounds can be in a character. How patience and time and understanding can help heal those wounds.

“She was very afraid of what lay beneath the visions that haunted her dreams, both waking and sleeping.”

Finally, we get to see a budding same sex romance. It’s fantastic to see an author seamlessly introduce the budding sexuality of her characters and include diversity in that development. The romances are slow, and sweet, written more from the emotional development rather than focusing on the physical. That was refreshing and added to the emotional growth of each character.

This is a world I am deeply in love with. I love the characters, and want to know what happens next. I love how McClain isn’t afraid to explore some really intense topics, and she does them justice. Whether it’s revisiting old characters, or getting to know new ones, the dialogue and personalities are such  joy to read! This is a series that I will be continuing as long as she writes them!

Thank you Rockstar Book Tours for the opportunity to participate on this tour; as well as the chance to read and review these books! They are phenomenal!

New Cover

Title: TRAITOR’S HOPE (Blade’s Edge #2)

Author: Virginia McClain

Pub. Date: October 14, 2017

Publisher: Artemis Dingo Productions

Pages: 284

Formats: Paperback eBook

Find it: AmazonBuy The Paperback, Goodreads

 

V and Artemis

About Virginia: 

Virginia thinks dangling from the tops of hundred foot cliffs is a good time. She also enjoys hauling a fifty pound backpack all over the Grand Canyon and sleeping under the stars. Sometimes she likes running for miles through the desert, mountains, or wooded flatlands, and she always loves getting lost in new places where she may or may not speak the language.

From surviving earthquakes in Japan, to putting out a small forest fire in Montana, Virginia has been collecting stories from a very young age. She works hard to make her fiction as adventurous as her life and her life as adventurous as her fiction. Both take a lot of imagination.

She recently moved to Winnipeg with her husband (a Manitoba native) and their dog.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

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1 winner will receive a signed paperback set of BLADE’S EDGE & TRAITOR’S HOPE, US Only.

3 winners will receive eBook sets of BLADE’S EDGE & TRAITOR’S HOPE, International.

CLICK THE SAMURI SWORD TO ENTER
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Be sure to follow the rest of the blog tour, and visit the previous stops too!

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

10/9/2017- Two Chicks on Books Interview

10/9/2017- Blushing Bibliophile– Review

10/10/2017- Arvenig.it– Guest Post

10/10/2017- Bibliobakes– Review

10/11/2017- Kati’s Bookaholic Rambling Reviews– Excerpt

10/11/2017- Ashley M. Delgado– Review

10/12/2017- A Dream Within A Dream– Excerpt

10/12/2017- Don’t Judge, Read– Spotlight

10/13/2017- BookHounds YA– Guest Post

10/13/2017- Adventures Thru Wonderland– Review

Week Two:

10/16/2017- Novel Novice– Excerpt

10/16/2017- Nick Bryan Dot Com– Review

10/17/2017- Books at Dawn– Guest Post

10/17/2017- YA and Wine– Excerpt

10/18/2017- Fire and Ice– Spotlight

10/18/2017- A Gingerly Review– Review

10/19/2017- My Nook, Books & More– Excerpt

10/19/2017- Jena Brown Writes– Review

10/20/2017- Seeing Double In Neverland– Interview

10/20/2017- Ramblings From An Alternate Reality– Review

Berserker – Review

“She was a Berserker, cursed to fly into action whenever anyone she loved was in danger. A killer who would be compelled to murder elegantly, viciously, and without remorse.”

Berserker is the story of a family blessed with the Nytte. Or cursed with it. It depends on who you ask.

The story is told through the alternating narration of Hanne, Owen and Rolf. Hanne is the oldest daughter in her family. Her older brother Stieg, and her younger brother Knut all have a variation of the Nytte. The youngest, Sissel, shows no sign of the Nytte. Owen is a cowboy in America trying to find his way in the wild frontier; with plenty of his own demons to fight along the way.

After an incident forces the siblings to pack up and flee their home in Norway. They head to America, where they have family living in Montana. They hope to be able to find someone with the Berserker gift to help Hanne keep her gift under control.

“Embrace the Nytte,” Aud said, as Hanne scrambled backward in the pine needles and dried leaves. “Open your heart to it, or it will be the ruin of you. And your siblings, too.”

Rolf is an interesting character, and I won’t say much about him though to avoid spoilers. His is mission finding the Nytte in children and ensuring that the gifts do not die out. The role he plays with Hanne and her siblings brings a richer understanding of the legend of the Nytte, and it keeps some of the mythical elements entwined in the plot.

“Rolf kept his eyes trained on the faces of the crowd. Despite the hectic and daunting landscape that presented itself, what Rolf saw again and again, on all manner of faces, was hope.”

Once the family gets to America, they manage to make it through immigration and onto the train that will take them to Wolf Creek where their uncle lives. But they have been pursued from Norway and fleeing the men who chase them causes their path to collide with Owen’s. Literally. Owen agrees to take them the rest of the way.

“It was a strange spell that had been cast. Disaster had been so narrowly averted, and by such sudden heroics. No one could think of quite what to do next.”

The relationships between the siblings was written well. Sissel goes from being a bratty younger sister, jealous of her older siblings, to quite loving and doting when necessary. There were a few times when her tantrums felt a little shallow, but overall, it felt natural. Tantrums and jealousy aside, it was nice to read how they all worked together as a team and really only wanted the best for each other.

Owen and Daisy, his dog, were great characters. It is through them that we get a real sense of the frontier, and how hard life could be back then. In his agreeing to be their guide, we also get to read details about what travel was like then too. He is teaching them at the same time he is teaching us. I thought that was really well done.

“Perhaps even the most friendly town might seem hostile when you were on the lookout for it.”

This book is a mix of western folklore and mythology. The blend was unique and refreshing to read. It was a very fast read, at only 288 pages, and they all flew by. Laybourne does a really good job mixing enough information to really submerse us deep into both the reality of the frontier with the legend of ancient mythology, all while driving the plot forward.

What I rally liked was how each of the characters all struggled with acceptance in some way. Owen, to accept that he was good enough, even if his family thought he wasn’t. Hanne’s struggle for acceptance is a little more complicated. Her impulse to kill when her loved ones are in danger must be controlled, so she isn’t necessarily looking to ‘accept’ that aspect of herself. Sissel and Rolf both struggle with acceptance as well, though I don’t want to give anything away. And acceptance means different things for each of the characters, some leading to tragedy and others to triumph. I really enjoyed the complexity of each of these characters and how their journeys were both internal and external.

“Feelings didn’t seem to care if they made sense.”

We read books to get lost in a story, but the best stories teach us something as well. Legends and folklore often had morals to them. Endings to help us see a bigger truth either about ourselves or the world at large. So, it felt right that a book based on legend and folklore would have a moral wrapped up in it as well.

Overall, this was a fun read with a good story. It did feel a touch on the younger side of YA to me, so some of the conversations and plot pacing felt a little simplistic to me. But, it didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the book.

Thank you NetGalley and MacMillan for approving my request to read and review this book!

After Life – Review

“To learn the true value of something, all you had to do was lose it.”

After Life is a stunning book, that was so unexpected I am still reeling from it. If you want to read a novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat and constantly surprise you, this is a MUST READ!

Will Brody is an FBI agent, tracking a sniper wreaking havoc in Chicago. Claire McCoy worries he takes too many risks on the job, worries one night he won’t make it home. Her concern even more complicated because more than just his lover, she is also his boss.

Claire, running on no sleep and intense pressure to catch the sniper who is wreaking havoc and terror in Chicago, feels herself on exhausted and on edge. She wants to stop the madness. Brody in the field, focused on finding the same sniper no matter the risk, no matter the cost, doesn’t help. The city is wrapped in panic, the fear so intense it is a living, breathing thing.

“Maybe there was no bottom to fear. Maybe that was what made it fear.”

Yet, somehow amidst all this chaos, all this fear and panic and terror, Claire and Brody found each other and fell in love.

When this chase ends in an explosion, Brody wakes up, not a scratch on his body. But, the Chicago he wakes up in is dark, seemingly abandoned and eerily quiet. The relief he feels when he spots other people is short lived when they chase him with weapons. Whatever world he woke up in, it wasn’t the one he lived his entire life in.

Claire mourns Will, feeling the loss of him harder than anything she’s known before. Already running on empty, she can’t face her empty apartment. Strange dreams in an anonymous hotel room lead her down a path she can’t walk away from.

To quote the jacket, “What if death is just the beginning.”

And this is all THE BEGINNING of the novel! Worried I put spoilers in there? NOPE! That’s all in the description and the jacket. This my friends, is the beginning of a novel that throws all the rules of plot out the window and does whatever the hell it wants!

I’m going to try and wrap my thoughts on this book, nice and neat, without giving away any spoilers.

I opened this book expected a thriller. A standard suspense novel where an FBI agent tracks a serial killer. Sure, it says on the cover, “the love story from the film Ghost dropped into The Matrix.” I figured there would be some supernatural elements. Fine, great! Not even close. You really have to forget everything you think you’re expecting and just go along for the ride with this one. After Life will push the boundaries of your imagination and demand your full attention.

Claire and Brody are chasing more than just a serial killer. This novel is more than suspense, more than a supernatural thriller. It is an exploration of life and death, fear and love.

“It turned out that there was a difference between knowing you’d never see someone again and knowing they were dead.”

If you have problems with the idea of any sort of afterlife that deviates from any strict religious doctrine, this probably isn’t the book for you. After Life takes you into a world of life after death. A world where things are both familiar and unfamiliar.

I reference the cover earlier, where this book is described as a cross between Ghost and The Matrix. It is, but it isn’t. To me, this book felt much more a result of Dante’s Inferno meets The Odyssey. It is bold and iconic and epic. Brody and Claire journey farther in their duty to restore peace in the world we all know, and fight hard to ensure that their love doesn’t simply fade away and die out.

I highly recommend this book and am not surprised that Ron Howard and Brian Grazer have already embarked on making this into a movie. The plot is masterful, the emotions intense and palpable, and the characters scream with vivid life. If I had one piece of advice to give a reader, it is this: suspend what you think you know. Stop trying to figure it out. Simply let yourself be taken on the journey Sakey has written.

There are many books that examine the war between life and death. That showcase battles between good and evil. Books that take us on love stories that fill our hearts and ones that break them. But none are like this.

“Two lovers in the path of destruction they could not avoid.”

And for all that Sakey has written, all that he has created and plotted, he somehow manages to write an ending that allows for each reader to draw their own conclusions. Not of the story, we are left with a satisfying end. But to decide what it means. What the journey meant, what the future holds. He gives us the end of a story that is still ripe with possibility.

Beyond the existential debate on death and what it means, or life and what it means. Beyond the discussion of fear and terror, of good and bad, of right and wrong. Beyond all that, After Life is a love story. Two souls bound together, and the power of what that sort of love can achieve. What ends it can reach, what boundaries it can push. Life is a power. Death is a power. Fear is a power. And love is a power that can break through them all.

Thank you Amazon Publishing and Little Bird Publicity for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. I can’t wait to see this brought to life!

Blogger Recognition Award

Danielle tagged me for this award, THANK YOU!!! Her blog is HERE and her Twitter is @dmcdowall129. Go give her a follow!

I have never done this before, so this should be fun! Here is the Pirate Code (this means the rules for all ye land lubbers) I will be following:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  2. Write a post to show your award.
  3. Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  4. Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  5. Select 15 other bloggers you want to give this award to.
  6. Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them & provide the link to the post you created.

Pirate Code #1 ⚔️☠️⚔️

THANK YOU AGAIN!!!! Her blog and Twitter are listed above. Be good pirates and go follow her.

Pirate Code #2 ⚔️☠️⚔️

This entire thing is the post, so I think we can all agree that the code has been rightly honored in that aspect. Pirate Code really is more a set of guidelines than rules, so I think we’re okay.

Pirate Code #3 ⚔️☠️⚔️

I started this blog in January 2017. I had been considering writing a blog for a while, but never did. I was afraid, and stressed, and really didn’t know what I wanted to write about, frankly. But, after being involved in the #bookstagram community for a few months, I decided a blog reviewing books and talking about writing was a perfect fit. I’ve loved every minute so far!

Pirate Code #4 ⚔️☠️⚔️

My first piece of advice to new pirates, is BE YOURSELF! There are a ton of posts about how to blog. Really, people have “should” posts on everything. There really is no right or wrong way to blog. If you review books, let your personality shine through. If you like meme’s and gif’s, USE THEM! Animate, or don’t. Write short reviews, long reviews, fangirl your heart out. This is your little piece of the internet. Don’t let others tell you what that space should look like.

Second, put yourself out there! Put your links in follow trains. Follow blogs you love and comment. DM people when you have questions, or when you just want to say hello. The internet can be lonely. BUT! It can also be an amazing place filled with YOUR CREW! Pirates traveled from all over the world, joined crews they never knew before. The Internet is the new high seas. Find your crew and SAIL!!!

Pirate Code #5 ⚔️☠️⚔️

OK, I am going to try and tag 15 bloggers. Remember, the code is a GUIDELINE, so I won’t be walking the plank if I don’t reach the 15

@thepagesinbetween ⚔️☠️⚔️ www.thepagesinbetween.com

@kp_chaos ⚔️☠️⚔️ www.karapeck.wordpress.com

@pnwbookworm ⚔️☠️⚔️ www.pnwbookworm.com

@pageturner83 ⚔️☠️⚔️ www.vanessaturnspages.wordpress.com

@howlinglibrary ⚔️☠️⚔️ www.howlinglibraries.com

@mellisarock ⚔️☠️⚔️ www.instagram.com/mellisarock

⚔️☠️⚔️ www.justonemorepaige.wordpress.com

⚔️☠️⚔️ www.readtolivetowrite.wordpress.com

⚔️☠️⚔️ www.ljcassidyblog.wordpress.com

@tballa04 ⚔️☠️⚔️ www.bookwormcoalition.wordpress.com

@pri_bibliophile ⚔️☠️⚔️ www.abooklionhideaway.blogspot.in

@suzyapproved ⚔️☠️⚔️ www.facebook.com/suzyapproved

@adelewalshblog ⚔️☠️⚔️ www.adelewalshblog.com

@readeatsleeprpt ⚔️☠️⚔️ www.readeatsleeprepeat.com

@ramblinglisa ⚔️☠️⚔️ www.ramblinglisasbookreviews.com

@singermezzo ⚔️☠️⚔️ www.singerofstories922.wordpress.com

Pirate Code #6

Alright me hearties! I will tag on Twitter and Instagram! I actually don’t know how to just tag on a blog (I may walk the plank for that one, so me maties) Feel free to add your own twists and make these rules all your own. Yo ho, it’s a pirates life for me ⚔️☠️⚔️

Light Radiance Splendor – Review

This is a difficult review to write. I need to preface by saying, I don’t know much, if anything about Kabbalah. And while I know some of the basic tenets of Judaism, again, this is not a subject I am well versed in.

I preface my review with that disclaimer simply because I am not sure if some of what confused me in this novel was this lack of knowledge. It is entirely possible that a lot of my misunderstanding is a result of this. This review may contain spoilers.

Light Radiance Splendor is a story about the Divine Shekinah tasking a family of Kabbalists with a sacred mission. Beginning with Jaakov, a young rebbe living in a shtetl in Poland in the early 1900’s.

The mission is to decode a scared manuscript beginning with Jaakov. His life’s work is focused on this task, though he isn’t given much to go off of, except the initial decoding notes from his mentor and the previous mission keeper.

His obstacle in completing his task, is being able to find peace and forgiveness in his heart. The person he needs to find this with, is the man who raped his daughter and subsequently fathered his grandson. It is only when he is able to forgive these crimes, along with later attempts at kidnapping and other vague misdeeds, that Jaakov can fulfill his duties.

When his contribution is completed, the work is passed to his grandson, Benjamin. Benjamin faces his own struggles and challenges in his journey as mission keeper. Although his are layered on many levels. Having to endure the cruelty of the Third Reich, from the very beginning is terrifying and heartbreaking on so many levels. Rather than face a crime committed against one person, he witnessed his entire people segregated, persecuted, tortured and in many cases, executed. Simply for existing.

All of that would be heavy and difficult, but his specific struggle is forgiving a Nazi Officer who helped him survive and ultimately saved him, although for his own purposes. Again, it is only when he lets go and allows forgiveness into his heart that he is able to complete his piece and pass the manuscript on to his own son, the third and final mission keeper, Raphael.

Raphael has grown up in Jerusalem. Born in the war, his father not even knowing he existed, Jerusalem was supposed to be a life of peace. But political turmoil divided the Palestinian people and the Jewish people, increasing the tensions until they turned violent. When the son of his close friend turns radical and kills Raphael’s son, he cannot fathom forgiveness.

The main message of this novel is the universal nature of love and the importance of forgiveness. I don’t know if the quotes given by the Divine are tenets of Kabbalah, or if this how the author is trying to frame a general belief to the reader. Essentially, we all come from one people, one belief, one spiritual plane and love heals what hate divides. This is an extreme paraphrasing.

While I appreciate what message the novel was attempting to convey, it did come across, to me, as preachy. I felt as if I was in a religious class being told certain doctrine rather than reading a novel.

I also felt that the author chose to tackle some seriously heavy and deep issues. Rape, war, genocide, hatred, racism, terrorism, extremism. These are topics that libraries have been filled with. They are incredibly complex and difficult, and I just didn’t feel that she did a good job really exploring how heavy they can be. At least not in terms of forgiveness.

Chyten spent a lot of time immersing us in the horror of these topics, but when the time came for forgiveness, the only one I really understood was Raphael. Page after page of suffering and at times outright evil, and very little time was spent on the journey towards how they landed in the capacity to forgive. Jaakov and Benjamin felt forced and unrealistic. It would take someone with an extremely pure heart to reach that level within a conversation, and obviously these men spent lifetimes struggling with forgiveness. It didn’t ring true.

I didn’t understand the manuscript piece. It was given to Jaakov, but was already partially decoded, or he had a decoded key from the first mission keeper? I’m unclear, but then Zeff (the rapist) comes seeking forgiveness so he doesn’t carry debt to the afterlife (um, what?) and decodes the manuscript as payment. But then Benjamin and Raphael work on decoding the manuscript? Why, if it has already been decoded?

Benjamin spent significant time in Auschwitz, and we only hear about him working on the manuscript at the very end. Raphael also spends little time with it. I didn’t understand this piece of the novel. It felt like a way to keep the Divine in it, which felt like pushing the religion, rather than taking a more neutral tone. I could be wrong, but it was very confusing.

Finally, I didn’t understand the ending. For all the trauma I was inflicted with, the ending felt unfulfilling. The manuscript “served it’s purpose”?! I’m not sure I understood the purpose.

For me, this was a miss. I don’t think I understood some of the tenets of the religion for the plot to make complete sense. The book is described as spiritual not religious, so I did feel that was a touch misleading. I think that the author tried to fit too much into the book, and it felt stretched thin. For the heaviness of the subject matter, it needed a much deeper examination. Too much time was spent on the horror, and not enough on the journey back.

Overall, the message of love and forgiveness is a good one, but I didn’t think the author did enough to convey the difficult journey to get from tragedy to forgiveness, if you take faith out of the equation. If normal people don’t have the Divine guiding them, how would they reach these same conclusions?

If religious tones appeal to you, this book may make more sense, and be more appealing.

Thank you BookSparks and She Writes Press for giving me this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.