Angel Leya

Author, Blogger, Dreamer

This Dread Road

This Dread Road - Olivia Folmar Ard This book was great in that it provided hope, but getting to that point was a rollercoaster of emotion.

Claire's just broken up with her long-time on-again-off-again boyfriend, realizing they just weren't working out. She seeks a new job - wanting to learn the family business and work her way up in the world, really become her own woman. But adulting is hard, and she has a secret that she's not sure how to deal with.

Annemarie is a woman who has lived through it all - love and heartbreak that speaks to Claire's own misgivings. Late one night they share tea, coffee, and stories, and the whole thing comes tumbling out.

I loved the way these stories intersected. Annemarie's story takes over the book in a way that is beautiful and emotional and in the end provides hope. If you've ever wondered if there's hope for a better life, for second chances, I think you'll love this book.

I received an advanced reader's copy with no obligation to review. This is my honest opinion of the book.

Children of Dreki: TYR (Book One)

Children of Dreki: TYR (Book One) - N.R. Tupper Kai is captain of a rustbucket starship with a ragtag crew. They're running one last transport in the hopes of making enough credits to go straight with their business. But when the transport goes terribly wrong (murderous cargo escaping, hit by space debris, attacked by alien technology), they limp to their destination with grim determination. But their destination is not the safe haven they hope for, and when their ship is stolen and they're stranded on the planet, Kai has to figure out how to protect her crew from the dangers left behind.

There are some great things about this book. Like Kai wears glasses - unusual for any type of book, but especially for a futuristic reality. The Dreki are an alien race that's been unstoppable since they began attacking. Basically, the Dreki are dragons that can survive in space and breath fire. So cool. And the worlds, history, and tech are everything you'd expect from a sci-fi story.

My only complaint is that we spend so much time in Kai's head and with her thoughts, that it was hard to actually get in her skin. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but for instance, she's always beating herself up for what she considers poor leadership for her crew. It's not too often as to get annoying, but it does kind of get like "I get this, already".

There are some hints at romantic entanglements, but this book doesn't go very deep into them. Instead, we find ourselves being thrust from one bad situation into the next. Kai doesn't wallow in self-pity, though, but is always striving to exude strength and keep her crew safe.

I only wonder what TYR stands for. That wasn't made clear. But apparently the title is Children of Dreki, which makes more sense given the story.

Overall, an enjoyable read.

Ghost Hand (The PSS Chronicles)

Ghost Hand (The PSS Chronicles) - Ripley Patton This book is amazing! If I could give it more stars, I would.

Olivia has a ghost hand, a PSS condition that's only cropped up within the past decade or so. It looks like a hand, but it can go through things or hold them, and her hand happens to have one more ability - it can pickpocket your soul.

When the new guy in school helps her after her hand goes rogue and pulls some razors from Passion Wainwright - preacher's kid, goody two-shoes, and cutter - he warns her that she's in danger. But Olivia isn't one to just trust a stranger, even if he is kinda cute.

But things go from bad to worse when her house burns down, and her mom is siding with the doctor who wants to run tests on her ghost hand. Olivia has to find out what's going on - with her ghost hand, the new guy, and the danger he's warning of - or she may lose her ghost hand forever.

This book surprised me. I kept skipping it because of the title, but when I finally cracked it open, I was kicking myself for not reading it sooner. Everything is so vivid, from Olivia and her ghost hand, to the dangers she's up against.

I love Olivia for her spunk. She's not just "Oh, he's cute, let me trust him." She doesn't swoon or back down. She's strong and ballsy and fights for the truth. All the characters, really, are amazingly well-formed and realistic and unique.

Ghost Hand grabs you by the collar and keeps you turning the pages until you come to the conclusion - which is only the beginning. I'm itching to get my hands on the next books, and they'll be jettisoned to the top of my wish list. This is a highly recommended book for anyone who loves contemporary fantasy, sci-fi, or paranormal fiction, and while it's written with young adults in mind, I think the adult crowd will eat this one up, too.

The Private Life of Estelle Knight: Lights, Camera, Infatuation

The Private Life of Estelle Knight: Lights, Camera, Infatuation - Keisha Ramdhanie, Katherine Locke, Natalie Cannon Wow! This is an emotional book.

Estelle Knight appears to have it all. She's young, she's beautiful, she's famous, and she's on everybody's favorite sitcom with her childhood crush, fellow actor Colvin Meters. But when one night she gives herself to him, all the pain she's been covering up comes crashing in. He's upset when he learns she's only 15 (almost 16), and he pushes her away, not wanting to go to jail and ruin his career.

She comes up with a positive pregnancy test, and it sends her world spiraling further and further out of control. Every decision is fueled by a broken and battered past that is dredged up by every awful decision.

I imagine this was an emotionally draining book to write. The author has captured the perfect imperfection of celebrity, the absolute out of control lives that I imagine many teen stars live. And Estelle is so broken to begin with. As the drama unfolds, we're pulled into her dysfunctional world rooting for her to claw her way back out. And she sort of does.

The ending is bittersweet, as Estelle makes a few more bad choices in order to save herself. Not my usual kind of read, but a good reminder that celebrities are people too, and should be treated as such, rather than idolized, scrutinized, and torn down.

Strange Lands (Heroes of Distant Planets #1)

Strange Lands (Heroes of Distant Planets #1) - Anderson Atlas In Strange Lands, Allan has his head in the clouds. He loves swimming, but his grades are slipping. As he goes into a championship meet, he finds out that his grades are bad enough to kick him out of the competition. When his parents find out, they're irate, and spend the ride home lecturing him on the importance of academics. But they don't make it home. A terrible accident kills his parents and leaves Allan without the use of his legs.

His voice also mysteriously disappears, as he works through the tragedy. Living with his Uncle isn't so bad, but it does nothing to soothe the wounds left by the accident.

When they take a camping trip far out in the mountains, Allan thinks it's going to be a drag. Instead, he finds himself in another life-and-death situation when a flood washes up the river they're fishing in. Allan goes for help, but finds he's not quite anywhere familiar. Strange creatures and talking lizards and birds have him convinced he's no longer on Earth. He has to find a way to get back and help his Uncle before he loses everything again.

This was a fun book of fantasy. The other world is kind of amazing, both beautiful and dangerous in nearly equal amounts. I love the struggle that Allan goes through, as all the bad that's been festering in him comes to the surface. I also found the bit of doubt the author casts on the whole experience to be just enough to make it interesting, but thankfully not so much as to become disappointing. I wish the description of the book highlighted the story as much as it highlights the good reviews.

The only thing I didn't quite find believable was that Allan seems to lose sight of the fact that his uncle could be dying. He gets in the new world, and he wants to get back and save his uncle, but it feels like he forgets in light of his new situation on many occasions. I think after a few days had passed, I'd be out of my mind with worry, fearing the worst.

Regardless, it's a fun book, and I enjoyed reading it aloud to my toddler son.

Prosperous Creation: Make Art and Make Money at the Same Time (Growth Hacking For Storytellers #5)

Prosperous Creation: Make Art and Make Money at the Same Time (Growth Hacking For Storytellers #5) - Monica Leonelle What a wonderful book! Monica details the steps you need to take to go from creator to authorprenuer. It's an easy read with lots of big ideas, and loads of information if you want to delve deeper into any of the tiers. I'm planning on posting the tiers on my wall with the steps needed to complete it so I can have a visual reference to where I am. I kind of loved it all (even the WooWoo stuff). :) And it has me excited for what I can do as an author to make a living off my work. It's a great read for artists of any medium, and especially for authors looking to level up their game.

Obsidian Alcatraz

Obsidian Alcatraz - J. Aislynn d'Merricksson I have to say, I struggled with rating this book. I enjoyed the premise, but the story itself fell short of my hopes for it.

Cadi is a magister, doing police work on the floating city of Port Jericho, the only misfit city without a patron god and rampant with crime. She's a misfit herself, a guardianless magi. Working one crime, she comes across an object that calls to her, and eventually she releases its occupant - Loki - who takes on the role of her guardian.

But all is not well in the city when an archeological dig releases an ancient deadly threat. He begins stalking the city, taking prey, and no one's quite sure how to stop him.

There is so much to love about this book. There's a rich alternate world, magic, mystery, and the promise of romance. I was intrigued from the outset, the first couple of chapters setting everything up nicely, but then the story kind of fell apart for me.

We begin by establishing Cadi and Loki's link - totally awesome. The "bird man" is intriguing, and I was immediately drawn to him. But then he disappears. He goes off and does his own thing for most of the book, only showing up when he's needed or called. I would have loved to see him more integral to the story.

Then there's Cadi's partner. We hear a lot of growling from him (he's wolf? but according to the end of the book, he has a face of a man. I couldn't quite draw a picture of him in my mind), but he's kind of forgettable, having little impact on the story, which in light of the end revelations was kind of disappointing.

Cadi, herself is an interesting enough character, but I didn't feel any emotional connection with her. She seems to have three guys interested in her, but is consumed with the police stuff. She kisses two of them, one kind of out of the blue, but any real connection only seems to happen with one, and he's the wrong one... (Though so much more interesting than the one she does end up with.) In the end, she seemed to base her choice on romantic interest more out of pity and a need for stability than out of any romantic reciprocation.

The initial crime is never resolved, and we barrel into the ancient threat. Who, though powerful and disrupting, is not nearly as destructive as I imagine an ancient beast finally let loose might be. He carefully picks off his victims, one by one... Creepy, and possible to overlook, but it stood out in my mind as odd.

And then there are the info dumps. It seems that every time we hit something unfamiliar, we got an aside about what/who they were and how they fit into the city. I understand - creating a whole world in the span of a novella can be difficult, but it felt a bit rushed and I found it distracting. The beginning of the final chapter was the most pronounced instance, where we gloss over weeks of happenings and how it affected the city and characters in the span of a few pages. I would have liked to see the information woven more seamlessly with the story, maybe add a scene or some action to introduce the elements mentioned.

And then there was the rather overt rant about one god versus many which seemed a bit preachy to me. I don't mind that viewpoint, but there are more subtle ways to get it across.

Overall, it wasn't a bad story, but I didn't find myself satisfied with it, either. Which is unfortunate, because I really wanted to like it. The setup had my hopes high, which is perhaps why the ending fell flat for me.

But the author is certainly one to watch. Her prose was smooth, her world was deep and developed, and her characters were varied and intriguing.

Ornamental Graces

Ornamental Graces - Carolyn Astfalk Dan is damaged, the last woman he was with taking every last ounce of self-respect when she dumped him. So when bubbly Emily comes into his life, he's not sure how to take it.

Emily is trying to figure out where her life is going. She's moved out of her brother's place, but she's not really taking life by the horns. When Dan comes into her life, she's intrigued, but his hot and cold routine just confirms everything she fears about herself - that she's just not pretty enough, and no man with a better option will give her the time of day.

This is a sweet romance - great for any time of year - in which two people find themselves as they find each other. There's a deep Catholic resonance running through the story as well, which becomes as much of a redemption story as it is a romance.

Highly recommended if you love women's fiction and romance with a sprinkling of Christmas magic thrown in.

Bed Time Stories for Grown Ups

Bed Time Stories for Grown Ups - CearĂșil Swords, Maria Eftimie, Joe Johnston What an interesting collection of short stories. From a woman who gets a day off from her job in the dungeon with an ogre and a troll, to a man whose fears of the impossible consume his life, these stories range from downright hilarious (in that wacky, absurdist style reminiscent of [b:The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy|11|The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, #1)|Douglas Adams|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1327656754s/11.jpg|3078186]) to meaningful and touching.

My favorite story was definitely The Woman Who Needed to Sit. It's told using all of about 3 sentences, though one runs on so long, it quite accurately conveys the hectic life of a busy mom, while still remaining perfectly readable.

Each story begins with "Once upon a time," and ends with "And they all lived happily ever after," lending a fairytale feel. I love how the author takes the most mundane of ideas (a man who is running late and needs to tie his shoes, a woman whose parent's fear she doesn't have a good head on her shoulders), and gives it a fantasy twist (the shoes refuse to let him move, the woman takes her head off and tries on some others).

I'm not sure about the sample in the back, though. It rambled on in the most curious way, and I couldn't tell you what that story will be about. Don't blink. You might miss something. Though in his defense, the author did say that "Its process of construction resembled sending vowels and consonants downstream towards a waterfall and making a story out of the words formed by the letters that cling desperately to one another and to the driftwood as they fast approach the drop."

So I can't vouch for the end excerpt, but the rest of the book is fantastic. And you don't even have to be a grown up to enjoy it. :)

Tiger Kingdom & The Book of Destiny

Tiger Kingdom & The Book of Destiny - Stacie Eirich, Suzanne Hunt Suzie is awakened one night by tigers, chasing through the streets, though her twin brother, Jack, dismisses the notion. Still, she can't seem to get them out of her mind, and when a school assignment promises the winner tickets to the circus - a circus with tigers - Suzie sets to creating. But she's pulled into another world instead. Along with her brother Jack, they must figure out where they are and why in order to return home.

The story started out so promising. The writing is great, the story interesting, pulling you into the mystery. I know it is part one in a series, but I found the ending to be a bit abrupt, and the story not as full as I would have liked. It seemed to me that only one question was answered, and it wasn't any of the ones asked by the characters (or the reader).

In addition, the real world leading up to the transition lacked solidity. I got very little sense of the house, family, or life they came from.

Each chapter is prefaced by a poem. The poems are pretty, but I found it a little confusing, as sometimes they appeared to be referred to in the story (the song stopped...) but most of the time they were not. And the change in voice was a little jarring. I wonder if the author's poetry would make for an interesting epic poem, as a companion piece to the original story...

But the chapters are short, and the Tiger Kingdom is vivid. Really a beautiful story and I just wish it had continued a bit further before dropping us on the edge of the cliff.

Mandestroy

Mandestroy - James Hockley Because you can't beat a Mandahoi.

Joss Kantal had a hard childhood - growing up a boy with a girl's name can do that to you. Youngest of 5 boys and seemingly a disappointment to all, he spends his time learning and dreaming in the library when not being bullied and abused. Until he discovers the meaning of his name, Kantal - or blacksmith - and creates a Mandahoi sword from Mandari steel. And now he has a purpose and a goal, if any will listen. He needs to win back the land the Mandari stole over 100 years ago, and prove his worth, not only to the world, but to himself.

Because you can't beat a Mandahoi . . . unless you have what it takes to become the Mandestroy.

Only complaint is that the prologue could have been abbreviated with just as much effect, and the use of the Mandahoi phrase became a bit overwhelming in its frequency of use in that chapter.

Otherwise, this story is gripping. It's an underdog story, at its heart, and a gritty tale of wit and guts and fear and hope. The story stops on quite a cliff-hanger, but it doesn't feel cheap. The story is rich and full, and it continues past the last page (thankfully with more pages :).

Fair warning - this is a very adult tale, in that it deals with difficult material, like his dark childhood beatings and assault that may not be suitable for a younger audience. All of it is handled well - not too graphic and even with a touch of humor without making light of the terrible situation.

It's not my usual read (definitely not the fairies and magic kind of fantasy), but if it's your kind of thing, it comes highly recommended.

Blue Sky

Blue Sky - Brian Kindall Blue Sky, daughter of an alpinist and a dream, was orphaned as a baby. Old Stone, an ibex, witnessed her father's death and her mother's fading, and took the child in, though against the convention of the ibex, who do not believe humans belong in their world. He's joined by Nan, an ibex who just lost her child to an eagle, and together they raise the child as their own. She's kind, strong, curious, and being half dream, is able to survive the harsh winters without fear of freezing and the rough terrain without fear of falling. The herd kicks Blue Sky out when the males return for the winter, and Sky, Old Stone, and Nan set off on their own. But Sky isn't quite of their world, and she longs to find her place. She meets her dreamer, a young boy who is a snowflake like no other, and she finds the world is much bigger than the mountains she grew up in.

Beautifully written, this reads like literary fiction to me (though, admittedly, I don't read in that genre). There's an airy, dreamlike quality to the prose that lets you drift through most of the story (which is great for bedtime reading). Sky is a strong and curious character that's easy to root for.

A couple of notes - Sky said "oh" quite a bit. Reading this out loud, it became a bit redundant after a while, though not enough to totally distract from the story.
Also, I found I wasn't terribly fond of the ending. Though it showed Sky's strength, she never really made her decision, not fully. It was kind of made for her. She didn't accomplish her one goal, and instead seemed to wander from the very possibility as it presented itself in the end. I felt myself wanting for something a little more solid, and a little more satisfying than what I got.

Otherwise, an entertaining read and a sweet story for young readers (or anyone who enjoys character driven literary fiction).

The Amazing Wolf Boy (The Amazing Wolf Boy 1)

The Amazing Wolf Boy (The Amazing Wolf Boy 1) - Roxanne Smolen Cody enjoys his life as the only son of two wealthy doctors, but when one Christmas eve on a vacation abroad he turns into a wolf, his life is shattered. His parents send him to his "black sheep" Uncle Bob's in Florida with no explanation and no time to process. Cody is understandably angry and confused, but when he spots a girl headed into a video shop, he decides the sweltering heat and his odd uncle might not be so bad.

But Cody quickly runs into trouble, and when the drama at school finally begins to die down, he's faced with a much more frightening threat - one that could get him, his uncle, and the cute video store girl killed.

I'm always pleased when I run into a book that grabs me by the throat and propels me at breakneck speed through the story. The characters, story, romance, and drama are intense, and I felt myself riding on the roller coaster with Cody. The writing is excellent, the pacing is excellent, and there's so much heart in this story. If you like werewolves (kind of reminiscent of [b:Twilight|41865|Twilight (Twilight, #1)|Stephenie Meyer|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1361039443s/41865.jpg|3212258]), then you'll love the Amazing Wolf Boy.

The Missing Yesterdays (The Adventures of Tremain & Christopher #1)

The Missing Yesterdays (The Adventures of Tremain & Christopher #1) - Terry Marchion I loved the concept. It felt fresh and fun, and felt about right for a younger YA audience.

In the distant future on another planet, Christopher and his brilliant bumbling scientist of an uncle are trying out a new invention when they're transmitted to coordinates unknown. But when they make the return trip, they find something has happened, and New Earth is now uninhabited. That's right, the human race no longer exists on this planet, so they take a trip back to the unknown coordinates, and end up in the midst of a primitive tribe, penned in by a mysterious Godswall. But what does that have to do with why the human race failed to make it to New Earth, and how can they set everything right again before they blink out of existence?

Of course, 4 stars means there are complaints, so here's a quick run-down of what I found.

The writing at the beginning (and probably throughout the book, but I just started interpreting it correctly) often pairs the actions of one character with the words of another character, making it difficult to understand who is talking. There's also times when (if paired correctly) a dialog tag is not necessary because of the actions of the character. There are times when we stop and stare at everything (sometimes appropriate, sometimes would've been more dynamic to work it into the action. There's a few times where the author explains things a little more thoroughly than necessary. And there were a few things in the story that I felt the author could have addressed more fully (like where the missing villagers were going - I think I know, but to just ignore what happened seems a bit unfortunate).

That being said, I think you should give it a try. If writing issues perturb you terribly, you'll probably dislike the book, but if you can overlook those, the story is worth the effort (and I'm beginning to read the next book, [b:The Purloined Pictograph|33114679|The Purloined Pictograph (The Adventures of Tremain & Christopher #2)|Terry Marchion|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1480359438s/33114679.jpg|53778609], and the writing seems to have improved, so there's that).

Violet and the Missing Puppy (Violet and the Missing... Book 2)

Violet and the Missing Puppy (Violet and the Missing... Book 2) - R.A.P. Smolen, Aurora Smolen, Persephone Smolen Excellent easy reader book. There's a diverse set of characters, a cute scenario with a missing puppy, and a great trail of clues to help the characters and reader come to the sweet conclusion. There's drawings a the beginnings of the chapters, which are cute. The cover is cute, too, but I wish it looked a little more professional/finished. I worry that readers will pass this book up because they don't connect with the cover. But give it a chance. My toddler son enjoyed listening to this cute story with a great message.

The Phantom of Faerie Mountain

The Phantom of Faerie Mountain - E.M. McIntyre, L.M. McIntyre This was a cute story!

Abby basically grew up without a mother, and her dad just moved her back to Scotland, a land she doesn't really remember. Good thing her big sister's there to help.

But being so close to where her mother died, Abby decides to do a little digging, and the big green dog demanding that the Red King free him certainly sparks a helping dose of curiosity.

When she goes to Faerie Mountain to look for clues, she encounters the green dog again, but this time he sends her back in time. She's dropped on top of Rory, a young man who has lost everything, and together they must figure out why she's here by digging into their own pasts.

This was a fun story. I love the elements -- the evil faeries, the big green dog, and there's plenty of that lovely brogue to immerse you in the Scottish setting. The characters are endearing, and the story is fast paced and full of mystery.

So why four stars? First, I kinda hate the cover. The drawing is beautifully done, but the upward shadow on the face is kinda creepy, and the overall coloring of the cover doesn't read YA Scottish fantasy to me. The writing was fairly solid, a few typos and such, but not so much as to overly distract from the story. But the characters at times acted a bit odd, even for 14-year-olds (although I don't think Abby or Rory's ages are ever mentioned in the book...) -- at one point, Rory stomps around, pulling his braids, yelling how it can't be true. It was a tad over the top.

But all that aside, I enjoyed the story, the riddle, and the mystery, and there's even a little bit of adorable romance in there. An enjoyable debut novel and start of a series. I look forward to the rest of the Red King trilogy.

I received an ARC of this story with no obligation to review. This is my honest opinion.

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