Review of “Cruel and Unusual” by CE Wilson

31821174I picked up this book on a whim and because the cover is gorgeous.  The writing grabbed my attention in the first few pages, and I could tell this author had worked hard to craft this story.  Then, the uniqueness of the story kept me reading to the end.

While the setting is sparse and simple, there’s much going on inside Malcolm’s mind. This book tackles some dark psychological issues, and this setting works perfectly to illustrate the damage of isolation. Even though Malcolm is selfish, guilt-ridden, quick to anger, and blindly obsessed with his past girlfriend, you feel bad for him.  Anyone left alone this long is bound to lose some of their humanity. Anyone who gets stuck in this experimental prison…that’s unlikely to end well.

Now, as for the “unusual” character of the story, I loved how I was never sure what Verity really was.  You want her to be real for Malcolm’s sake, but at the same time his reactions to her show the effects of his situation and how his mind might be slipping.   The dynamics there get weird, but also meaningful.

The title has many levels of meaning, and I noticed that more and more as I read. There’s the usual meaning of cruel and unusual punishment. There’s Malcolm who’s cruel and Verity who’s unusual. There’s the whole situation with Mauve.  It all works together to make for a very complex, unique read which leaves you thinking that this world is really, really not right.

4 Stars

See it on Amazon!

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Review of “Serpent’s Sacrifice” by Trish Heinrich

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Of course I’m going to read about superheroes. I went into this book expecting a fun, action-packed adventure, and I was delighted by how much more this story held.

Female main characters are often used for the sake of just having a female main character, but the time period this book was set in allowed for a lot of feminist exploration.  That, in a superhero book, I found really compelling. There were a lot of modern comparisons to make from the simple set-up: “in 1960’s Jet City, women are supposed to want marriage and babies, not cowls and secret identities.”  It was great to see how Alice tried to break out of those expectations. It was also interesting to see how the other characters reacted to it.  I think any female reader would nod along at certain parts, and these struggles might be good for some men to recognize too.

But the book didn’t stop there.  Set in the 1960s, of course racism was incorporated into this world-building.  The book’s characters who are equally as smart and talented as their white counterparts aren’t used as simply token black characters, but instead they play vital roles in the action.  Also, the book tackles the traumas of abuse and alcoholism, making them real issues that Alice has to deal with as she grows into an adult.

This book is quite long and covers a lot of ground, but I was neither bored nor overwhelmed.  The cast of characters is full but not too full.  The dialogue is genuine and strengthens the relationships between the characters. The action is well-described and believable, with the superpowers adding a boost of fun.

Overall, this is a great first novel from an author who packs a lot into her superheroes, villains, and familiar-but-amped-up world.  It’s sure to please fans of more famous superhero/comic stories, fitting into that club but definitely holding its own as a unique story.

5 Stars See it on Amazon!

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ALTERNI Cover Reveal

I’m having so much fun writing this new series with new characters, a new world, and new monsters!  Here’s the brand new cover for The Alt-World Chronicles Book 1, ALTERNI. 

Description: 

Ever have a nightmare where you’re naked in public? What if everyone else in the room was also naked…and also a version of yourself? That’s the reality Esme Kuchis finds herself in, and soon things get even weirder. 

She’s not in her Kansas City anymore. This alternate world is home to an ancient, secret Order with a king, conjuri magicians, cavali fighters, and dozens of paranormal races. And the purpose of this magical Order? They protect an unsuspecting public from malevolenci, demonic beasts from otherworldly rifts. 

As an alterni summoned to this world, Esme must partner with the king and fight using magic only an alterni can wield. Unfortunately, the model-perfect King Owen is broken by grief and guilt, the Order has little faith in her, and the malevolenci are worse than ever.

Eight alt-Esmes preceded her. Eight lost their lives. Can Esme use her unique gifts to master this world’s magic? If she can’t, the consequences might be more devastating than Owen is willing to say.
Stay tuned for some cool stuff ahead until the book release on 12/12/17. 

Preorder HERE

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Review of “Border Lines” & NEW RELEASE “Every Storm Breaks” by L.E. Fitzpatrick

(I don’t normally post reviews of sequels, but these books are REALLY good, you guys.  To see my earlier review for Book 1 in this series, go here:  The Running Game)

33553840I love sequels that don’t feel the need to recap every little thing from the first book before moving on with the story. While you should read the first book in the series first, this one is very much its own thing. Same characters, yes, but the setting quickly becomes different and the job, dangers, and relationships are different.
The dynamics between Rachel, Charlie, and John are great. The interactions between the brothers feel and sound the same as they did in the first book, but with Rachel added to the team they’re now more protective and a bit more loving. Rachel isn’t afraid anymore and has her confidence bolstered by the brothers, and I really liked how these three worked together.
The story’s world again feels very dystopian, and there’s some interesting commentary here about the health care system in particular. The “whodunit” aspect adds a nice mystery element. The ongoing background tension with characters from the first book ties in nicely to keep the books connected and the overarching story moving forward, but it was balanced well with the brand new plot of this book.
The writing is great, witty, and sets the mood perfectly for the story. I eagerly look forward to the next book.

5 Stars

See it on Amazon!


21148270_1355021074595848_121658889_n(Okay, so I didn’t wait long between reading the previous book and this one.  I was supposed to read other books in between, but I cheated.  That’s how good these are.)

I loved the first two books in this series, so saying this one is my favorite should give you some indication how much I really, really loved this one.  We know these characters by now, we know how they interact, we recognize the world they’re in.  At the same time, nothing that happens in this book feels predictable or boring.

Charlie, John, and Rachel are once again quickly in over their heads in a dangerous situation, and the suspense and twists kept me reading.  I love how subtly this dystopian world is different. The telepathic, telekinetic Reachers add a Sci-Fi element, of course, but it blends so well that it doesn’t feel overly Sci-Fi.  These books all feel more like crime thrillers, in a way, which is a cool way to approach it.

The fact that this chunk of the overall story is once again a complete book unto itself is also great.  It helps to read what’s come before, of course, but this book feels like its own unique part of that story with nice resolution for what’s happened here.  You feel satisfied with the ending because it wraps up this particular storyline, even though it’s obvious Charlie, John, and Rachel have more work ahead.

5 Stars

See it on Amazon !


 

Psst!  

Because the above book is a new release, the author was kind enough to give me a snippet to show my followers!

 

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EVERY STORM BREAKS
Reacher Series #3
L.E. FITZPATRICK

SNEAK PREVIEW….

The concrete barrier separating London and the surrounding Safe Haven was impenetrable. Built to withstand a full militia invasion, it was guarded day and night by trained security officers. On a normal day they would be watching a queue of traffic as the daily commute crossed the open gates, but this wasn’t a normal day. A full watch was gathered at the top of the blockade, automatic weapons poised, ready to shoot, ready to kill. The growing crowd being kept out was swelling, spilling over into the surrounding streets like an overflowing drain. The bubbling cesspit of discontentment polluted the atmosphere. Tension climbed as more and more people took up the plight of the immigrant workers, fuelled by fear, isolation, and more hardship. The rioters crushed themselves against the gates, kicking at the barbed fencing; screaming, climbing, falling. Blood stained metal like crimson rust. Things were turning bad and turning quickly.

John pulled up the car at the junction leading to the main gate. It was farther away than they had originally planned their ambush, but there was no way they were going to get any closer without being swallowed by the crowd. A raucous energy surged through the concrete jungle. Rachel dared a glance behind them. Another tribe of urban warriors was coming towards the gate, and soon their current position would be compromised too. Police sirens were getting louder, a tinnitus in this nightmare. It was going to erupt into a full-scale riot, and in a few minutes all of S’aven would be engulfed.

She twisted her fingers together, focusing on the closed border, allowing her powers to penetrate the collective feeling of the mob. The concentrated fear and hatred were overwhelming. She could feel their frustration, their utter hopelessness, even as far back as she was. Desperation was winning, and nothing short of a miracle could sate it. Bottles, launched into the air by the protestors, smashed against the fence. Glass rained down on the crowd, and blood started to pour. The police were closing in. Soon the fighting would flood into the surrounding streets. All of S’aven would be consumed. Rachel watched the gate and the air around her seemed to thin. She took a desperate gasp, trying to visualise their rescue attempt in this chaos. Anything leaving London was going to get swallowed up; anyone trying to help would be trampled.

“What if they don’t come out?” she asked.

“They’ll come out.” The certainty in John’s voice was unwavering. Nothing about their current view seemed to concern him. His composure was measured, as though he were watching this from a distant window, unaffected by the consequences of the phone call he had made.

Rachel couldn’t understand how he could be so calm. A couple of hours ago he was throwing bottles at a wall like the desperate men and women in front of her. Now he was sitting patient and expectant, waiting for a miracle she couldn’t believe in.

“And what if they do come out?” she said, softer this time. She clasped her hands together. The anguish around her was contagious. She wanted to lash out. To scream. To charge the gate and save Charlie herself. This wasn’t fair. This wasn’t how people should be treated. The rich shouldn’t be locked behind a wall with all the wealth, while people on the other side died in squalor. People shouldn’t be punished for wanting a better life. For trying. For being different. They shouldn’t be locked up, experimented on, executed.

“Hey, the gates are opening,” Roxy said, drawing her back before her outrage compelled her to action.

A shower of rubber bullets and gas canisters rained down on the crowd. Through the chemical mist, a vehicle pushed into the mess. It was unmarked, but it was obviously a government transporter. What else would brave leaving London in the middle of a riot? Before anyone could react, the guards behind it opened fire again. People dropped to the pavement, gasping in the smoke, crying out as feet stomped on their helpless bodies. Rachel could feel the rage surge through the street. If there had been a chance this was all going to pass over, they’d just lost it.

“Well, that was a good idea,” Rachel said.

The smoke hissed, making it impossible to see anything. Bloody, bruised people fell out of the poisonous fog, into cleaner pockets of air, but more were coming. Coming from the surrounding streets; healthier, stronger, angrier. And the border patrol continued to fire. Rubber bullets giving way to metal. This wasn’t a security mechanism—this was war. The gas was clearing and the gates were once again closed, but that left the van stranded and suddenly the only thing the crowd could retaliate against.

“Oh God, do you think Charlie’s in there?” Rachel said, unable to control her panic. Would the crowd take mercy on a prisoner? She didn’t think so. Even if they did, how much damage would they do before they even reached him?

“He’s in there,” John said. Still cool. Still calm.

The protestors started pounding on the truck, rocking it back and forth. Again and again.

“Holy shit, they’re going to tip it!”

“Take the wheel,” John told Roxy. “Turn the car around and get ready to move. Do not fall behind. Rachel, you’re on crowd duty.”

“Are you bloody kidding, they’re going to rip you apart!” Roxy shouted.

John gave Roxy a look, half smug, half challenging—I’d like to see them try—and gestured for Rachel to get out.

Marginally inspired by John’s confidence, Rachel took his hand and focussed. If they were going to have any chance, she couldn’t let her surroundings frighten her. The people’s tension and anger were fuelling the riot. This wasn’t going to dissipate. This was years of stored-up fury at the richer classes, at the injustice folk on the wrong side of the border suffered. There was so much hate. Too much to control. The weight of it was oppressive and, as Rachel tried to sway the crowd to her favour, she found herself blocked and unable to push her commands into their one-track minds. Her subtle Let me pass was being ignored, or unheard, or deliberately disobeyed, as though that was the one command they had conditioned themselves to reject. She needed something more, something that suited their mood.

Red and blue started flashing. The police were encircling them. They were surrounded, unable to go anywhere, and Rachel knew what to do.

“Stop the police cars,” she said, tapping the nearest man to her. He paused, his hand held up in the air as her words filtered into his brain. Then, like a switch being pressed, he was charging towards the nearest police car. She touched another, giving him the same command. By the third, the crowd had picked up the idea. They covered the police cars like a swarm. There was no escape.

Rachel squeezed John’s hand. She braved a step deeper into the rabble. If her powers failed, if her concentration slipped, they could both be crushed. A shot was fired in the distance. More smoke canisters struck the crowd. John took over. He pulled her towards the truck, somehow able to see what was happening in the frenzy.

“Get in the passenger’s side,” he told her.

She let him go, and for the briefest moment she was drowning. Smoke stung her eyes, and she had to hold on to the vehicle for support. As her hands touched metal, she could feel Charlie inside. The connection to him steadied her nerves. It was as though he were speaking to her, only there were no words or directions, just a feeling, a knowingness. A tremor passed through the vehicle, and she knew he had unlocked the doors for her.

She grabbed the door handle and pulled. It flung open, and she nearly went with it. A rioter pushed past her and grabbed a fat man from the passenger seat. As he came hurtling out of the truck, she launched herself inside. She swung the door closed and jammed the lock in place. Another rioter pounded on the glass, ecstatic that she’d breached the vehicle. He cheered, and a bullet hit him in the temple, spattering the window with pink flesh. His body fell out of view, swallowed by the violence below.

She turned to the driver and froze.

Mark was staring back at her. His lost brown eyes were wide, his mouth agape. Of all the people to come across. She tried to think of something to say, and then she saw the barrel of John’s gun press against his head.

“Don’t do anything stupid,” he said, and hauled Mark from the driver’s seat.

John slammed the door closed. A bullet hit the safety glass, scratching the surface. “We need a route out of here,” he said.

Rachel nodded and closed her eyes. She pressed her hands on the dashboard. Her heart was racing, but her head was focused. The command was instinctual. Attack the border! Immediately, the crowd was moving, abandoning the vehicle and heading straight to the gate. She didn’t watch them go; there was enough on her conscience already. John slammed his foot on the accelerator and hit the road.

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See all 3 books here:  Reachers (3 Book Series)

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Review of “Amongst the Killing” by Joe Compton

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This book has absolutely everything I look for in a crime thriller.  Is there a ton of action?  No.  Is the editing in this book perfect?  No.

  Did I care?  No.   I read a book hoping for great characters, and the two main men in this book are so well-portrayed that it was impossible for me not to get sucked in.

I felt on every page that the author knew exactly what he wanted to do.  This genre works perfectly for getting into the minds of your antagonist and protagonist, and I loved the back-and-forth approach.  These are very different men in terms of the morality spectrum, but there are also similarities that make things really interesting.  I wondered at first if it would be confusing to jump from one guy’s mind to the other’s, but with each break I immediately knew whose head I was in – that’s how clearly this author knows his characters. (As an avid reader, I can safely say this isn’t always the case.)

I also wondered how it was going to work that the biggest/worst murder happens right away, never really building to a climax of action, per se.  But this works because the story is about a cat-and-mouse chase, and Charles Street’s breakdown from the start makes the tension really complex.  Jack’s journey is, in a way, even more complicated as he avoids getting caught.  I can’t say I was ever really cheering for him, but you do understand him.

I did find some bits a little too convenient or simply wrapped up.  An offhand comment leads Jack to see through the cops’ plans.  The big confrontation plays a little quickly and the “trick” felt a bit forced to me.  BUT, there’s so much else going on that I got over the sticky bits, and this really was a great read.

4.5 Stars

See it on Amazon!

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Review of “Refugees” by R.A. Denny

34853614I love good world-building in Fantasy, and this book is packed with it.  Many elements of the scenery, races, politics, and religions feel familiar but not directly copied from anything in particular, and it was a nice balance between originality and common elements of the genre.  I enjoyed how each of the main characters showed their different peoples and parts of the world (Mud, Rocks, and Trees), and we got deeper into each through their POVs.

The main characters are kids, but they are quickly forced to mature beyond their years. There’s a great sense of urgency throughout the book, a bit of mystery as the kids try to figure everything out, and you grow to care about each of them enough to keep you reading to find out what happens next.  The minor characters are also pretty well fleshed out, and I liked that the families of each were explained – a lot of child heroes seem to spring forth from no significant background.

Like I said, there is a LOT of world-building description in this lengthy read.  At times there’s maybe a little too much that gets in the way of the plot moving forward, but there are good bits of action as well.  Very early on this action gets pretty violent, so I’d be careful about suggesting this to readers that might be a little too young/sensitive for that kind of thing.

My biggest aggravation was that the story just stopped at the end. There was no sense that this was a story complete unto itself that resolved anything.  The book just stopped.  I suspect this is one of those series where the author chopped the series into divided books, so the first book “ended” here.   I guess you could look at this first book as “okay, this is how the adventure starts” and then expect it to pick right up in book 2, but it always bugs me when a book isn’t in at least some way a complete story.

That said, this is a very enjoyable read.  The writing is sharp, the characters are likeable, and it’s a good world to dive into.

4 Stars

See it on Amazon!

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Review of “Strange Luck” & “The Nightmare Birds” by Amie Irene Winters PLUS Early Look at “A Darling Secret”

25418989First, beautiful cover.  I feel like it fits the playful, whimsical, slightly mysterious tone of the story.

Second, I loved the complex and unique use of memories.  It was a great way to shape the fantastical world Daisy finds herself in, and it was a neat way to bring so many fantastical elements together – in a world of happy memories and dreams, anything goes!  The danger of Daisy losing memories added a great sense of tension. Her romantic partnership with her best friend Roger was also believable and made me care about the characters.  And, how she gradually learns how to save the day was creative and pulled it all together.

I have to admit that Daisy’s character bugged me a bit.  At times she’s loving and confident and brave.  At other times she flies off the handle and is snippy and doesn’t think before saying or doing something stupid.  This would sometimes all happen in the same scene, and it felt a little unnatural.  Also, towards the middle of the book, the maturity level of the writing shifted weirdly.  The book was plugging away and feeling very YA, and then suddenly it was like the dialogue and action were more fitting for a far younger audience.  I still liked the story during this part, but it was a bit jolting to read.

BUT, I really enjoyed the last half of the book.  I felt like the plot finally had solid direction, and I loved how everything I’d been wondering about came together.  The twist towards the end was pretty cool too – although you worry for a second.  And I really liked the time jump at the end that further showed how everything turned out.

Overall, I’d recommend this for anyone who likes YA fantasies that give you a mystery to figure out.

4 Stars

See it on Amazon!

 


29806696A bit of time goes by between the first book and this one, and the maturity level definitely goes up as well.  It’s nice to see Daisy has moved out of her teens but is still young enough to struggle with questions about life and who she is.  For that reason the book still feels YA, but it’s definitely not as light as the first.  This story is a lot darker.  There’s dark magic, many skeletons, murder, etc., and the Theater of Secrets is definitely a dramatic place full of dangerous characters.

I liked how this plot felt much more straightforward than the first book. While there are still plenty of magical surprises, this world also feels more familiar.  I think that makes the danger to Daisy that much more suspenseful.  She again made decisions that annoyed me, but considering her emotional state, it kind of makes sense.

I loved how the plot thickened and you were never really sure what to believe – and Daisy wasn’t either.  Is her own mind tricking her? Is Mr. Black telling the truth after all and there’s going to be a huge twist on everything we thought we knew as a reader so far?  This story definitely kept me turning the pages as I tried to sort it all out.   I liked how certain things from the first book tied in here, but it’s definitely a new story.  And the end certainly suggests Daisy has more to learn.

5 Stars

 

See it on Amazon!

 


A DARLING SECRET_AMIEIRENEWINTERS_FRONTCOVER

A Darling Secret
Strange Luck series, Book 3
Coming September 22, 2017

 

Learn the fate of your favorite heroes and love-to-hate foes in the thrilling conclusion to Amie Irene Winters’ bestselling Strange Luck series.

Before the Theater of Secrets was formed, before the Nameless was built, before Daisy Darling learned of her magical bloodline, there was the Realm of the Shadow Gods—ruled by the most powerful and wicked creatures known.

For nearly two decades, Daisy’s twin sister, Rose, was held captive by the Shadow Gods and survived. Now Rose has come to find Daisy to stop their impending evil from spreading into the human world. But Rose bears a terrible secret that has the power to destroy everything.

In the devastating Realm of the Shadow Gods, dark magic holds no bounds. Daisy will risk everything to save those she loves, but will the truth finally break her?


Unlock the final book in the Strange Luck series with A Darling Secret.

Pre-order today, read it September 22, 2017.


 

A Darling Secret excerpt:

A slow, creeping fear wound its way around me.

Tiptoeing around the mysterious plain, too afraid to call out, a surprising wisp of music came floating through the air. It was a jingly little melody—like a music box—followed by soft voices.

I paused. Through the violet-stained sky and swirling rainbow mist I saw something moving. My eyes narrowed as I stealthily approached an illuminated cave.

Shadows were gathering there.


A Darling Secret Amazon link:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074JVRWH4?ref_=pe_2427780_160035660


MEET AMIE IRENE WINTERS

Amie Irene Winters Headshot Cropped.jpgAmie Irene Winters was born and raised in California but now lives and writes in western Pennsylvania. She is the author of the bestselling Strange Luck series.

When not writing, she can be found hiking with her dog, baking desserts, or breaking a sweat in kickboxing class.

To learn more about Amie and her books, visit amieirenewinters.com.

 

Sign up for my mailing list here! You’ll only get emails when I have a new release coming up, a sale, or a giveaway.

Social media links:

Website: http://www.amieirenewinters.com

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00XZ88V5A

Blog: https://golden-cricket.blogspot.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aiwinters

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13851542.Amie_Irene_Winters

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Twitter: https://twitter.com/AmieIWinters

 

 

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