Tuesday, September 7, 2021

We Can Be Heroes by Kyrie McCauley

We Can Be Heroes is a YA inspirational realistic fiction book with a fantasy twist. This book was sent to me by the author and is released today!

Cassie Queen's life was taken by her abusive boyfriend Nico Bell when he took a firearm to school. After, he shot himself. Nobody cared that he was physically abusive and threatened to kill her, because Nico's father runs Bell Firearms, the company that controls their small town. Cassie's friends, Vivian and Beck, are angry. They want to tell Cassie's truth and hold Steven Bell and anyone who caters to him responsible. Beck decides to paint murals throughout the town of Greek mythology symbolic to the truth about Cassie's life and how she fell through the cracks. Oh, and one more plot twist; Cassie comes back as a ghost who lives in Beck's van.

We Can Be Heroes is a powerful, relevant story that illuminates how the rich and powerful can take control of the system. It establishes a clear link between domestic violence and gun control. McCauley paints a picture (no pun intended) of all the signs that were missed leading up to the murder and what should have been done when the abuse started. The police continued to cover up her cries for help because they couldn't let domestic violence be tied to Steven Bell. His father witnessed the abuse, heard the threats, and still left extremely powerful guns within his son's reach.

Having Cassie present as a ghost was a skillful part on the author. Rather than chapters simply explaining what happened in the past, the author created sections for Cassie's poetry, reflecting on her life and relationship with him. Even though she is technically dead, she does have her own character development of growing courage and strength through the activism of Beck and Vivian. We Can Be Heroes embraces the title; anyone can use their voice, art, or writing to make a difference in the world, no matter how powerful the person is you are going up against.

I highly recommend this book!

Title: We Can Be Heroes
Author: Kyrie McCauley
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Pages: 368
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Friday, August 20, 2021

Feather Frost (The Dryad's Cede Book 2) and Spring Tide (The Dryad's Cede Book 0.5) by K.C. Simos

Feather Frost
is the second book in the middle grade fantasy series The Dryad's Cede. The author sent me both books and recommended that I read Spring Tide, book 0.5, before Feather Frost.

Spring Tide takes place 400 years before Kindled Embers and Feather Frost, and tells the relationship between Chastain, a wood nymph, and Freddie, a young prince who enjoyed sitting under Chastian's chestnut tree. In Feather Frost, which takes place 5 years after Kindled Embers, Eliza's friend Prince Anders goes missing after an incident in the mountains. Concerned by the state of his chambers, she travels there to rule out otherworldly activity, but soon finds herself accepting the opposite and engaging in a war between the Ice Maiden and the Sea Witch, learning stunning revelations about her past along the way.

The short story of the friendship between Chastain and Prince Freddie in Spring Tide was beautiful, and I loved how the story spanned many years over the developing course of their relationship. While the ending is sad, it is also serene and sweet of how Chastain's legacy lived on. The ending also has an "aha!" moment, as it put some of the events in the first book, Kindled Embers, in greater context. I do wish that I had read Spring Tide first.

Readers not only become invested in finding Anders and saving the world, but in Eliza's wellbeing and personal journey. The foreshadowing was strong in Feather Frost, and many times I gasped aloud at the plot twists and my certainty of knowing where the story was going. The book also has many funny and cute moments that lighten the tone but still uphold the potentially dire outcomes. 

It was interesting to see Eliza's growth in the past 5 years and what aspects of her personality and interests remained the same. Most scenes were vivid and enticing; this is not a book to start reading if its likely that you might be interrupted. The ending of Feather Frost was skillful in that it concluded the series, but it also leaves an opening for there to be another installment in the series in the future.

I highly recommend this series!

Title: Feather Frost and Spring Tide
Author: K.C. Simos
Publisher: K.C. Simos
Pages: 40 and 162
Series: Yes, Book 0.5 and Book 2
Rating: 5 Stars
Goodreads 0.5

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Contingence (The Rover Universe Series Book 4) by C.E. Whitaker III

Contingence is the fourth book in the YA science fiction series The Red Rover that was sent to me by the author. Orion's sister, Kelly, is on the Yellow Rover base. She crashes into the planet Kethyrie, and is taken hostage and tortured. Meanwhile, as the cadets on the Red Rover base try to find the Yellow Rover, Dr. Marius struggles to cope with his deteriorating and dying body.

In comparison to the other three books in the series so far, this is my least favorite of them. This book switched perspectives from basically filler material to Orion's sister being tortured. The extreme shift from mostly uneventfulness to severe pain and torture seemed sudden and unnatural. The detail of the other cultures on Kethyrie is interesting, and Delly's torture and physical and emotional turmoil was well-written and vivid. A parallel can be drawn between Dr. Marius's opioid issue and Delly's torture, but I was disappointed in the other content aboard the ship. 

The amount of unnecessary curse words bothers me. When used in rare occasions, they could sometimes make a point, however when used over and over they become meaningless and show a lack of sophistication and real emotion. I counted 72 instances of cussing. The sexual scenes and their implications felt out of place and shoved in to make the cadets' sections of the book eventful. Not to mention being a distraction, the only other purpose of these could be to elicit emotion in the reader, and for me that was anger and shock.

It is problematic that I only liked half the book. Contingence is emotionally heavy and I was disappointed in how it felt like the plotline came to a halt, a sharp contrast from the intense and fast-paced previous book.

I still recommend the overall series, but I was disappointed in this one and I emphasize this book being for older YA readers due to the mature content. 

Title: Contingence
Author: C.E. Whitaker III
Publisher: C.E. Whitaker III
Pages: 275
Series: Yes, Book 4 of eventually 15
Rating: 3 Stars

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Frequency Of Distress (The Red Rover Series Book 3) by C.E. Whitaker III

Frequency of Distress is the third book in the YA science fiction series, The Red Rover, that was sent to me by the author. 

Instead of making a home on Araneus where the Aphotritons welcome them, the five cadets choose to leave and search for other Rovers in the hope that other humans survived the destruction of the Galicia star system. As they leave Araneus, they are attacked and captured to be slaves by the Draconoires, intergalactic pirates, on the dying planet of Felicity. Escaping this horror will be their toughest challenge yet, and will require more resilience, determination, and bravery than ever before.

"As beautiful as this world is, I’ll never consider it to be my home. Not while my family’s still out there,' Orion said."

Everyone's lives would be a lot easier if the Rover ships could send out a distress frequency call to the others instead of searching countless galaxies and getting killed nearly a dozen times. They have no proof that their families or anyone else from the other Rover Bases survived, and abandon a beautiful world in the hopes that their families are still hovering in space somewhere. If it were me, I might want to put the past behind me and move forward on a safe planet. Maybe, if the cadets knew what was ahead of them, they might have made a different decision. Or, was the horror that they go through worth the value of family? It is ironic that "Felicity" means "great happiness", according to Merriam-Webster. At what cost does it take to be happy in a dying world? 

Frequency of Distress is almost the definition of apocalyptic and dystopian. I loved the uniqueness in the plot, like the alien trapped in a glass tube who's powers stabilize the seismic activity of Felicity. While a familiar concept of being kidnapped and imprisoned as slaves, Whitaker embedded unique and clever details that made the situation original. I admire the teens' inner strength and determination. It is almost impossible to believe their grand escape and seems like something belonging in a Dwayne Johnson or Marvel movie. I admire these kids for their determination to not let the Draconoires break them.

I highly recommend you read this book! I do recommend this book for older YA readers due to some mature content and violence. I look forward to reading the fourth book, Contingence

Read my review of the second book in this series, Clash of the Celestials, here.
Read my review of the first book, The Red Rover: Origins here.

Title: Frequency of Distress 
Author: C.E. Whitaker III
Publisher: C.E. Whitaker III
Pages: 286
Series: Yes, Book 3 of 5
Rating: 5 Stars

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The Coming of the Spirits (Spirits Book 5) by Rob Keeley

The Coming of the Spirits is the fifth and final book in the middle grade fantasy series Spirits that was sent to me by the author. Ellie and Clara's plan in 1936 to set World War 2 back on track went awry. Present-day has the Nazis controlling Britain with the powers of the spirit world. History calls upon Ellie one last time, to finally be the Grand Defender and seal the breach between the spirit world and the mortal one. Except this time, Ellie has had enough with others ordering her future. Torn between the past, present, and the future, Ellie's friends from all over the timeline must come together and help her save the world one final time.

A great quote that sums up the book is from the pilot of DC's Legends of Tomorrow: "If we have the power to change the world, don’t you think we have the power to change our own fate?" Especially when the friends across time and worlds come together, it reminded me of that CW show. 

The majority of the series focused on Ellie helping others and bonding with other characters; in contrary, The Coming of the Spirits delved deep into the root of who Ellie is and the events in her life that changed time. Ellie has gone from a child to 18. In that time, she has grown not only physically, but emotionally and mentally. The setting of the books have aged with her appropriately. This the most intense and dystopian of the series. One climatic event was even a bit scary to me with its detailed imagery. As usual, Keeley's descriptions and settings were vivid and real. It is actually hard to believe that it was only 144 pages with how much had happened and how gripping the plotline was.

The series did wrap up surprisingly well. The ending was definitely unexpected. I was not prepared for that change of destiny, and I cannot find any foreshadowing that leads to this shock. While heartbreaking in the moment, I can understand why Keeley chose to end the series this way. While the choice seems almost contradictory to the plotline and previous books, it does attune to a theme of changing destinies and the course of history.

Overall I largely enjoyed the series and highly recommend it. The second book, The Spirit of London, is still my favorite. 

See my review of:
The forth book, High Spirits
The third book, The Sword of the Spirit
The second book, The Spirit of London
The first book, Childish Spirits

Title: The Coming of the Spirits
Author: Rob Keeley
Publisher: Troubador Publishing Ltd
Pages: 144
Series: Yes, Book 5 of 5
Rating: 5 Stars

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Epiphany (The Heir of G.O'D. Book 2) by Harper Maze

Epiphany is the second book in the YA dystopian series Heir of G.O'D that was sent to me by the author. In 4 days, Hailey's comet will destroy the virtual reality world Sol, unless the Heir decides to stop it. Upon getting Ana's visor upgrade and finally being able to see the real-world, she is discovered by the Church of G.O'D. and kidnapped, only to discover that she is Gaiana O’Drae- the Heir. With every group of political and economic power after her for personal gain and betrayals at every turn, she must decide who is worth trusting and live long enough to make the world-changing choice.

(For consistency's sake, I will continue to refer to her as Ana)

This was a huge gamble for her father to take. Create a comet to destroy Sol on her 18th birthday unless she finds out that she is the Heir, can escape all the people trying to kill her, get into his mansion, know what to look for, all in the hopes that she will... press a button? There are a million ways this extremely elaborate plan could have ended horribly. How could he even count on her still being alive? I feel very bad for Ana to have this giant burden on her. 

While I understand the corruption in their world, there should have been a stronger support system for her. One thing I do not understand is the amount of kidnappings and betrayals. While I understand trying to influence her decision, I wish more people treated her with respect and worshipped her the same way they worshiped her father. It is my hope that in the next book that she can rise up and become the leader of the Church of G.O'D and help both the suffering in the real-world and maintain fairness in Sol. Those aren't necessarily critiques, because writing in a way that causes emotions in the reader is helpful for drawing them in longer and making connections with the characters.

I do not know what I would have done in her situation. Honestly, I see the merits of destroying Sol and focusing on present real-life issues such as building safe housing, access to food and water, education, and medical care. On the other hand, Sol is so entwined with their economic society that destroying it with no plan of support ahead of time would be catastrophic. I look forward to reading the next book and finding out what she chooses to do and who she can finally trust to do it with.

I recommend this book and look forward to reading the final one, Exodus! Read my review of the first book in this series here.

Title: Epiphany (The Heir of G.O'D. Book 2)
Author: Harper Maze
Publisher: Harper Maze
Pages: 256
Series: Yes, Book 2 of 3
Rating: 5 Stars

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Rise of the Sidekicks by Charity Tober

Rise of the Sidekicks is a middle grade fantasy book that was sent to me by the author. 12-year-old Ethan Parker attends the Justice Academy school for kids with superpowers. He and his friends are ecstatic for the Sidekick Tryouts competition where the Nexus Guardian superheroes of the city will choose recruits. While he doesn't have powers like super speed or pyrokinesis, he hopes that his tech skills and inventions will impress them. But a week before he can, the "Hero Smasher" tricks the Guardians into leaving and mind-controls the population into surrendering all the supers for neutralization. Ethan and his friends band together to take on the Hero Smasher and his army of mechanical robots.

While a very familiar concept of those with powers banding together to save the city and mind-controlled robots, Tober weaved an interesting plot of the Sidekick auditions and the kids desperate to prove themselves to the Guardians. Irony is, they aren't here to see it. The author also did a great job of character development, overcoming self-doubt and fear. Rise of the Sidekicks is the type of book that can be read over and over again, even knowing the ending. For the author's first middle grade book, it is impressive.

A central theme was also what defines a superhero. Ethan doesn't have flashy powers, and battled the belief that he doesn't have "real" superpowers. His cleverness, tech-savvy skills, and leadership abilities are outstanding. Ethan did remind me of Richard Greyson (Robin), from the Teen Titans, and most others reminded me of those featured in The Arrowverse. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it made the book a bit nostalgic and more enjoyable.

The only complaint that I have is the lack of origin for their powers. Where did these powers come from? Why these families? The Hero Smasher's background story of why he came to hate the Guardians was strongly written, and it made perfect sense. His origin story was great, but I am just missing the piece of people had these powers to begin with. But for middle grade readers, they may not care about that part.

I recommend this book!

Title: Rise of the Sidekicks
Author: Charity Tober
Publisher: Charity Tober
Pages: 315
Series: No
Rating: 4 Stars

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