A ‘high school for heroes’ tale about the power of accepting who you are paired with some unique world building…
Welcome to Aries High, a school for those with unique powers but in this world they are known as Fragments. The only problem is our main character and narrator Samael Judd doesn’t appear to have any powers… That is without mentioning the many pressures he faces for someone his age from stepping out of his older brother’s shadow to even making the basketball team and while he does his best to hide a lack of powers he’s also concealing his sexuality. If both are revealed the repercussions could be disastrous, at least to him anyway. There are only a few he can fully trust and confide in – perhaps the most realistic thing about the social politics of high school, something this story captures well.
There are some unique and interesting concepts in this world of Fragment’s and that world building is something I want to see more of. Terminology and abilities like ‘technomancy’ and ‘magnekenisis’ sound cool and these concepts are only really touched upon as most of the story focuses on Judd’s journey and his high school life which is most probably just the beginning. The symbolism paired with the struggle to accept one’s self is what you’ll find at the centre of this tale and it’s bravely executed. From fighting bullies to borrowing a new girl’s magical dragon to pretend you have powers – as I said cool concepts, there are even some awesome references to video games and music.
On a few occasions there were moments where scenes felt crowded with quite a number of characters present so it was a little difficult to follow and transitions between scenes did occur rather abruptly but overall Judd is a unique story full of drama that captures coming of age, explores social issues and celebrates diversity.
4 Stars – Reviews left on Amazon and Goodreads. Thank you to the Author for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review. Judd is released today – grab yourself a copy here!
Candid, brave and ultimately inspirational…
While many of the subjects in this memoir aren’t easy to talk about, Danielle Larsen delivers her story flawlessly and highlights the moments and events of a journey that makes for a gripping read. In this day and age the subject of mental health needs to be talked about more and this book does that. Being wrongly diagnosed at a young age ultimately paves the way for Larsen’s struggles while the main bulk of the story focuses on her being in a relationship with an abusive controlling partner. For much of the time it’s frustrating to see the abuse that unfolds – why can’t she just leave? Unfortunately it’s a little more complex than that and part of the journey is understanding that it’s hard to leave sometimes and breaking those shackles is difficult when the circumstances of gaslighting and emotional abuse are present.
“Normal does not have to mean good or comfortable, but simply what one gets used to…”
This book acts as guide in some senses to spread awareness while also informing others. The narration style feels natural and relays every moment with dignity and there are some moments when you cannot help but feel for a person who has been through so much – a lot of it wasn’t even her fault and you just want her to succeed in the end. There are even some brighter moments later on which highlight finding inspiration from musical theatre and how we all need to find something for emotional release. For Danielle Larson to share a memoir like this it’s incredibly brave and ultimately inspirational because the message is no matter how many chips are down you can always come back, there’s always hope and survival is probably the greatest gift we have.
5 Stars – A gripping and touching well-written read that bravely shares so much. Reviews left via Amazon and Goodreads.
A breezy paranormal romance with a young adult edge…
For a short book Sarah Jayne Harry has managed to deliver a satisfying story with a range of themes with an easy to read writing style. There’s a young adult vibe from the very start as ‘Charlotte’; a paranormal sceptic is dared to spend the night in an abandoned manor house. It’s spooky and descriptive from sight to smell and we even get a harrowing backstory of the place – some elements of this book do go to dark places and this is mentioned beforehand but only for a short while and it’s not exploitative but necessary for plot and eventual resolve. On this night our main character and narrator comes across ‘Lewis’ a ghost which she befriends. This friendship in turn becomes something more.
We also see ‘Charlotte’s’ home life where her over protective and abusive Father casts a shadow over everything while the pressure of succeeding in school is ever present. There are other characters in this story, even if they are smaller parts they contribute to the wider picture. Soon this picture culminates with a choice or suggestion that ‘Lewis’ makes and an ending perfect for the genre. I would have liked to of seen perhaps a little more between ‘Lewis’ and ‘Charlotte’ but for a short read which most will complete in one sitting, it makes for a perfect spooky season experience.
4 Stars – Reviews left via Goodreads and Amazon
A feel-good swashbuckling fairy tale style romance of the seven seas…
The Pirate Captain is an easy to read short but fun tale that follows the journey of young lady ‘Avalee’ who escapes her abusive confines and empty promises made to her for an education. From the first page we get a lot of information that helps set the scene as her life transitions from that confinement to escape and the terror of being on the run to an eventual destination; that being a stowaway on an infamous Pirate’s ship.
After some quick thinking our heroine disguises herself to fit in and talks her way into joining the crew of this vessel. She changes her name and spends her days adjusting to the life of a pirate in sometimes amusing and possibly disastrous ways that almost reveal her true identity. All the time ‘Lee’s’ journey unfolds a slow burning admiration for the ship’s captain begins to form into something more.
The strength of this story is the slow build towards an eventual romance which runs the course of an enjoyable tale where the worst of situations in life bring the best possible outcomes. Nearer the end it get’s a little steamy making this one probably better suited for a more mature audience. My only real critique is that the story does tend to tell as opposed to show but for a shorter book that works.
4 Stars -Reviews left via Amazon and Goodreads.
An enjoyable yet sinister tale of the macabre that’ll keep you turning pages…
There is so much going on in this book and I found myself quickly turning the pages as the events build, unfold and eventually intertwine in what is a clever fusing of several stories that centre around the strange dark small town known as Blackwater. Bruce Knapp has delivered a tale that is dark, sometimes gruesome and wholly satisfying and the setting is delivered well and through the multiple characters. Throughout, the story evolves along with those characters as everything plays out.
“Grim shadows loomed over Blackwater, trying to conceal the hatred, but the evil continued to grow like a fungus, a black poisonous mould…“
We see those who are looking for faith, some with lust on their mind, religious types, businessmen, lawmen and even those on the fringes of the occult and witchcraft. Hell, there is even something monstrous lurking in the local ‘Suwanee’ river, this tale really is one of variety that even feels like an anthology piece that is all wrapped up in less than a 200 pages and with short but sharp chapters which keeps those pages turning and the flow consistent.
Main character ‘Robert Thompson’ seems to have a dark cloud following him and his choices soon lead to a shocking and gruesome turn of events. It was at this moment I really became invested in the story. Robert is a changed man from this point and his journey is filled with sometimes graphic brutality to himself and others. Of course that cloud hanging over him has a name (‘Nyx’) and plays an influencing role in the form of possession.
Eventually we see the ‘Noxious’ part of the story which kicks in later on but has been cleverly built from the early stages. Of course Robert’s journey culminates during this satisfying finish for a book with so much variety in the horror genre. The town and setting of Blackwater feels like a character in its own right, it’s always there, hanging over everything with a certain darkness. This makes for a great atmospheric feel to the reading experience.
Those who like multiple character led stories with elements of the occult, witchcraft, paranormal that’s a little graphic in places will enjoy ‘Noxious’. Everyone else may just end up in the ‘Otherworld’ on Leap Day.
4 Stars – this review first premiered via Reedsy Discovery. Reviews left on both Amazon and Goodreads.
An entertaining gem of a read celebrating the glory days of pro wrestling with a modern voice…
Marc Cavella has flawlessly captured the glory days of American pro wrestling by way of a story that’s both fun and unpredictable. From anyone that’s ever followed the industry casually to the die hard fans or even those who are entirely new to it will appreciate the journey in this book.
We are introduced to the closed doors world of an industry that’s seen less as entertainment and more as a reality where ‘Ricky Risotto’ plays an integral role in keeping pretty much all aspects of the ‘Ozark Championship Wrestling’ promotion together along with the struggle of having an aging ‘gimmick’ or act. Known as ‘Waylon’ behind the curtain he’s part producer, coach, negotiator, matchmaker and booker, that is while trying to maintain a presence in front of the curtain among the fans where he aspires to be. The conflicts he faces are both personal and professional, from dealing with his sexuality in a not so progressive era to getting the current champion and friend to drop the belt at the upcoming event; we are presented with this story of a man who’s probably too good for the industry he’s in.
Wrestling in the by gone age conveyed in this story was big business and governed by the political players both inside and out of the ring, you see plenty of that along with some larger than life characters who may or may not be inspired by reality. The big rival promotion is simply named ‘New York’ and most of us can work out that cool reference and overall this is a cool story with a great twisting end. With money, pride and everything else at stake, the Ballad of Ricky Risotto makes for a great read with a modern voice!
5 Stars – A great read about one of my favourite subjects. Thanks to the author for reaching out and providing a copy of the book in exchange for a review.
The Ballad of Ricky Risotto is released today, grab yourself a copy here and remember to support an author by leaving a review!
A twisting unpredictable creature feature set in a small town with a big secret…
It doesn’t take long for the action to get going in what is a multi genre tale that sits within the fringes of supernatural thriller. ‘Sawyer Shepherd’ takes the lead in this book’s best feature; an ensemble of characters that have depth. He carries the typical mysterious past well even though he just happens to roll into town at the right time – but stories with prophecy and the like justify that to an extent because for me this book worked as an escape.
The setting comes as a strong second and is delivered with a unique style of writing that runs throughout. There is however a lot of cliche moments that some will probably roll their eyes at, but saying that, tropes are there for a reason, because they work and for all the moments that appear to be typical of the genre, most of the time they tick all the right boxes. Saying that I particularity enjoyed the original take on big business developers and how they fit into the threat element of the story and their perception of power.
The dialogue at some points I found to be perhaps a little tongue in cheek along with a romance that felt pushed which then suddenly back tracked. Fans of character driven narratives about ancient evil, secret demon fighting societies and unpredictable action will find plenty to get their ‘claws’ into. There are even some fitting tributes to some of the authors influences which made for a nice touch.
The book breezes by with decent pacing and a few revelations along the way including a double twist in the final stages. Although it was enjoyable, and a wider story is hinted throughout, I’m not sure the ending carried enough weight to interest readers in a potential sequel. Either way new stories about perhaps older tropes deserve to be recognised.
3 Stars – This review premiered via Reedsy Discovery
An engaging and original debut that takes readers down the ‘well’ of crime…
Cells is a story that begins with intrigue and mystery and keeps you reading all the way to the end. There aren’t many books that manage to carry the mystery element throughout and for her efforts Julia Cowan has done quite well. Somewhere between psychological and crime thriller, the story is told though multiple points of view, a perhaps different choice as it switches between various characters in third person and then first person for main character James – this would be my only real critique as many of James’s scenes feel a little repetitive in writing style but in the same breath pages are turned quickly.
While being about many different things, Cells explores the morality of rehabilitating criminal offenders by way of what is a dark experiment of sorts that aligns with vigilante justice. James never really had a chance from a young age and is caught up in some rather unfortunate circumstances by way of coincidence, or perhaps that’s how it was always supposed to be. His father’s influence is a central theme to his character arc.
What follows is a cat and mouse account that switches back and forth in time while overlapping in what I imagine took some real thought and work to put together by the author. From police corruption, blackmail and even a complicated love triangle this story ticks many of the boxes that fans of crime thrillers will enjoy. In some places it’s brutal and doesn’t hold back with the darker edges readers will experience. The question readers will face at the end of it all is whether or not James is any better for the journey he has been on.
4 Stars – an impressive debut, looking forward to reading more from Julia Cowan!
A short and twisting tale of the unexpected that stirs the mind…
‘The Skeleton in Gelatin’ manages to entertain and stir the imagination of readers even if it is quite a short story. For what begins in one place slowly and gradually twists into something completely different and unexpected. This could easily be the premise of a Black Mirror episode with it’s sci-fi edge that uses intrigue as the vessel to carry the story.
For anyone looking to be briefly immersed and distracted from the real world then I highly recommend this book!
5 Stars – A different one for the Hall of information, but different is good even if I was unsure about what to say in a review for such a short book.
A romance story with a unique premise…
At the initial stages of this book it would appear the premise is a little absurd but stories like this are supposed to be and the more you lean into it, the more enjoyable and unique it becomes. What starts out as quite a heavy subject actually turns into something quite the opposite for ‘Sophia Larkson’ who is a typical older teen with attitude and character. It is revealed she has been sold to a billionaire by her father who is in debt. As the main narrator of the story she confides in the reader as everything unfolds which works most of the time even but on occasion it can interrupt the flow.
‘Aiden Livingston’ our billionaire in question spends some of the time taking over narration duty and we see elements of his backstory some of which was cleverly done but other parts felt less detailed. I would have preferred to be shown a little more of his ‘darker elements’ side and origins as opposed to being told. Being a man with so much money and with a history of loss ‘Aiden’ faces great difficulty in finding genuine love – a dilemma which he looks to solve and hence the story unfolds.
Sarah Jayne Harry has combined elements of many different genres into what could be a sophisticated fairy tale of sorts but suited for older teens and above. Depending on how you look at it, this could be Stockholm syndrome or a story that tributes elements of Beauty and the Beast but either way there is never a dull moment. The main characters are believable and the whole experience I enjoyed.