Strayborn by E.E. Rawls

About the book:

Elemental Manipulation is tricky. Only those with the power can train to become a Draev Guardian.

Cyrus Sole hates life. She’s only half-human, with weak wrists, and not a day goes by when someone doesn’t say something mean about it. But when the forbidden power to manipulate metal awakens inside her, everything changes as the Argos Corps is sent to hunt her down…
Aken is a Scourgeblood, the last in a line of monsters. But all he really wants is to gain wings and be free. Until a new power suddenly awakens, changing the course of his life…

The Draev Guardian Academy is their only sanctuary. But training to become a Draev won’t be easy. Cyrus has to hide her human side, as she gets placed in Floor Harlow with the outcast students, and nightmares of her deceased mother keep returning.
With creepy Corpsed on the prowl, and whispers of Cyrus possibly being a reborn Hero, both she and Aken find themselves caught up in a web of secrets, racial tension, and an old legend with enemies that could spell their untimely demise…

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My review:

This middle grade fantasy by E.E. Rawls has some fascinating world-building that a young reader could easily get lost in. The “Abilities” that the students at Dravensett have are diverse, well-thought, intricate, and interesting. She has created quite a vast magic system with rules for each Ability and race, making the characters have use their differences to work together. A wonderful lesson!

Tucked within the pages of Strayborn are several beautiful lessons that young people really need to hear and take to heart. There is a lot about not judging a book by its cover and seeing the heart instead, or about not comparing yourself to others, but striving to be the best version of you, that kiddos these days definitely need to be reminded of often.

There were some issues for me as a reader, however. The author inserted onomatopoeic words (such as bong-bong or skrnch-chnk) that either didn’t leave much to the imagination of the reader, or took me out of the story because my mind was trying to figure out just what that word was supposed to sound like. I think she did this because it’s a middle grade novel, and she felt she had to help young readers understand, but it seemed a little over-the-top to me.

Also, for a middle grade book, this was quite long: over 400 pages. If a middle-grade-level reader is going to tackle a book this size, they are likely going to be a decent reader to begin with, and likely won’t need the extra help of all the onomatopoeic words. And there are quite a few little errors that a good editor could clean up quickly, but that could lead to confusion for younger readers.

Overall, though, Strayborn is a decent read for a middle-grade-level reader, and the world building is definitely interesting.

Thanks to the author for providing an e-copy of this book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

About the book:

Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:

1) Woo the Shadow King.
2) Marry him.
3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.

No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.

But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen—all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?

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My review:

I honestly read this book in less than two days, because I just couldn’t put it down. I loved Levenseller’s Daughter of the Pirate King duology, so I had high expectations going into this. The Shadows Between Us most certainly lived up to those expectations.

“Cunning” and “villainous” perfectly sum up Alessandra…but I liked her for it. She was smart, sassy, knew exactly what she wanted, and was never discouraged by other people’s opinions of her. In fact, she used them to her advantage.

I would, however, recommend this book for the older end of the YA spectrum (I would not let my twelve-year-old goddaughter read this!). From the very first page, Alessandra uses her sexuality to get what she wants: whether it is power or money or simply something to relieve her boredom, she knows how to effectively use her feminine wiles. And use them she does!

The Shadows Between Us is a great fantasy read, and I highly recommend you get lost in this book when it is released in February! Until then, preorder so you can be sure to read it as soon as possible. 😉

Many thanks to MacMillan Children’s Publishing Group/Feiwel & Friends and NetGalley for this ebook for review purposes. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

Seconds to Live by Susan Sleeman

About the book:

When cybercriminals hack into the U.S. Marshal’s Witness Protection database and auction off personal details to the highest bidder, FBI Agent Sean Nichols begins a high-stakes chase to find the hacker. Trouble is, he has to work with U.S. Marshal Taylor Mills, who knows the secrets of his past, and the seconds are ticking down before someone dies.

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My review:

Let me just sum it up for you: not awful, but not great either. The premise sounded interesting, but the substance was a bit of a let down. The team that the protagonists worked with were touted as being the best of the best, yet they let their own preconceptions keep them from figuring some rather obvious things out. There was a twist at the end, but I wasn’t as surprised as the author probably expected me to be.

The dialogue had moments where it flowed and was well done, but there were also a number of places where I felt like I was watching whats-her-name on Bones: things got a bit stilted and monotone. And the action scenes could definitely benefit from a good polish: they tended to be either so fast you miss that something happened or so awkward you wonder how anything did happen.

The protagonists drove me a bit nuts with their inabilities to see past their own problems, especially Taylor. Taylor is more than willing to think the best of her witnesses — people who have proven their lack of trustworthiness by their actions which led them to be in WITSEC in the first place — yet she constantly judges Sean and others for their actions and gets her feelings so easily hurt, I can’t imagine her being in law enforcement. Sean can’t stand people who lie and expects everyone around him to fit a mold he has dreamed up for them, but is very good at doing his own thing and keeping his own secrets, no matter how it will affect his team, even though he is supposed to be leading the investigation. It was so blatantly obvious that they would *not a very big spoiler alert* end up together, but I seriously don’t think they should have. They are both train wrecks. Maybe the next book in the series will show some true character growth, but I doubt I’ll read it to find out.

Overall, if you want a relatively quick read and don’t care about details too much, feel free to grab this one. It was an okay read, but I have definitely read better books. Bummer.

Thanks to Bethany House Publishers and NetGalley for this ebook for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus by Asheritah Ciuciu

About the book:

How to focus on Christ during Advent

Most Christians agree that Christmas is all about Jesus, yet most of us spend little time preparing our hearts to celebrate Him. Why is this? Partly because we don’t know how.

In Unwrapping the Names of Jesus, Asheritah Ciuciu leads readers through the four weeks of Advent (Hope, Preparation, Joy, and Love). Each week:

  • Begins with an interactive family devotional that equips readers to celebrate Advent together
  • Offers five daily reflections that focus on that week’s name of Jesus
  • Includes suggestions for fun-filled family activities or service projects 

This devotional can be used by readers in their own personal worship times or as a tool to engage in family worship during the busy holiday season. Either way, participants will gain a greater sense of awe and wonder at who Jesus is.

By focusing on the person and character of Jesus throughout the Advent season, readers will prepare their hearts so that when they admire the live nativity, sit in the candlelight service, or wake up on Christian morning, they can join the faithful who sing from the bottom of their hearts, “O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!”

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My review:

A few years ago I started doing Advent devotionals to center my heart on Christ during what can be a crazy time of the year, and they have been a blessing. Last year, I picked up Unwrapping the Names of Jesus at my local Christian bookstore because the title intrigued me, and I thought it would make for a great study. But I already had a devotional that I was working on at the time, so I shelved it and almost forgot I had it.

Praise God, I was rearranging my bookshelf and came across it just before the start of the Advent season, because this is an amazing devotional! Each entry is informative, as well as heart-warming; great for both deeper knowledge of Christ and deeper love of Him.

And the way the author set up the devotional grants a wonderful range of flexibility for how it is used: individually, with your family (even with young children), or even in a small group or at Church. She gives many ideas and a great foundation for using this devotional in a variety of ways. It’s a devotional that I want to share with everyone.

Advent is all about preparing your heart for Jesus, and Unwrapping the Names of Jesus does a magnificent job of helping you do just that. It is a devotional that I plan to go through again next year (and the year after that…). I highly recommend you get one for yourself or a family member or a friend or anybody!

Praying you have a blessed Christmas, filled with the love, peace, hope, and joy of Christ. And that you get lots of books for Christmas! 😉

The Chameleon with a Sword by B.L. Logan

About the book:

Duro.
Protectors of the Day. Life. Loyalists.
A word that slices fear through sixteen-year-old Leena Niran the way her sword does enemies. A people who decided her destiny, but don’t even know she exists.

Nox.
Protectors of the Night. Death. Traitors.
A word once signifying respect and honor in Prince Mordecai’s homeland. A people synonymous with betrayal because of him.

The Oculan.
The reason life exists peacefully. The sum of Day and Night—two ancient energy forces a king must keep in balance or risk blending life and death in a cataclysmic melee. A risk worth Leena’s life.

Suddenly, a nomadic fencer finds herself wanted. By a government, a king, and a vengeful exiled prince seeking salvation for the illness killing his people. A cure flowing through Leena’s veins.

Leena’s safety becomes the duty of another protector, but her fate is her own. With a bounty on her head, Leena must decide what she’s willing to sacrifice to protect herself, her dreams, her family, her world. The choice will be deadly either way.

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My review:

So, I liked this book, but I can’t say that I loved it. The main reason I am not super excited about it is that I felt it could have been condensed or even split up into a duology. It took me forever to get through this story, mainly because I found myself getting lost in obscure things that in the end were really not all that important and missing bits that could have helped me make sense of the story.

The author built an incredible world, but that world-building was also confusing at times. It seemed dystopian at first, but then Leena ends up in the oddly peaceful suburbs, where she is dumped into more of a fantasy world with confusing magic. There are a number of territories in this kind-of-dystopian world, and the author drags us through them, but the information we learn along the way turns out to be mainly superfluous and doesn’t have much of a bearing on the overall storyline. And I understand wanting to step outside of social norms to differentiate your fantasy world from reality, but when no reason is given for making a change, it just leads to awkwardness and confusion. For example, the author calls one woman “Lord Kamare,” but Leena (and all other women I can recall reading about in the story) is called “Lady Niran,” yet there is no explanation for the distinction, which just made it kind of weird.

I’m also not sure I fully (or even partly) understand the Oculan, or the Duro and the Nox, or why exactly Mordecai would want to trigger a Rupture (or what a Rupture really entails), even after reading the entire book. I feel like I missed an episode and need to go back and start the show from the beginning, because I’m still a bit lost.

I did really like how the author showed both Leena’s and Mordecai’s perspectives before revealing the larger conflict that bound them. It made the villainy a bit ambiguous, but that’s only because I had so much sympathy for both characters, I could see their motivations and cheer them both on in their own quests. Both characters were flawed, both tried to do what they truly believed to be right. So I did enjoy at least one aspect of the story.

Best part about the book: the title! Because this is what it made me think of… 😀

But overall, I don’t believe I could recommend this book. Too many things didn’t make enough sense, and I was left wanting. I think an honest beta-reader and a good editor could do wonders to clean this up and make it a decent read, but it’s not there yet. Bummer.

Thanks to BooksGoSocial and NetGalley for the digital copy of this book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own!

Dear Author Blog Tour!!

About the Book

Think your words might not matter? Think again.

Words have the power to change lives, especially when they are used to create meaningful stories. In this collection of letters, bookish fangirl Laura A. Grace addresses topics related to every writer’s journey. From “character conversations,” to embracing one’s unique writing style, to celebrating a release day—there is a letter for every author no matter where they may be in sharing their story with others.

“Dear Author” includes six illustrations by Hannah S.J. Williams.

AmazonBarnes & NobleBook DepositoryGoodreads

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My Review

Do you mind if I gush for a bit here? I mean, that’s what the book is about, after all. 😉 And Laura has done an absolutely a-maz-ing job of putting into words what my heart has been saying about and to my favorite authors for ever.

This book is a sweet, heart-warming, giggle-filled tribute to authors. It is a book that every writer should read…to remind them of why they do what they do and to be inspired to keep at it. And it is a book that every reader who has ever been touched by a book should read…to remind them of why we love books and how much joy they can bring to us. And if you’re a reader who hasn’t been touched by a book, you’re reading the wrong books! Check out Dear Author to see how a book should be affecting you. 😉

If you know an author or someone aspiring to be published someday, send them this book! It will bring a smile to their face and a renewal to their passion. I can’t begin to recommend it highly enough! 🙂

Check out the links at the end of this post for the rest of the blog tour to read all about the sweet author, Laura A. Grace, to find out what other reviewers have to say about the book, and lots of other fun stuff!

Happy reading everyone!! 🙂

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About the Author

Laura A. Grace had a lifelong dream of getting to know authors behind the covers of her favorite reads. Little did she know that one day she would become an author too! Now an avid book blogger at Unicorn Quester and writer of clean, Christian manga, Laura creatively balances her passions of supporting indie authors and feeding her readers new stories. In between, she wields plastic lightsabers with her children and binge-watches anime with her husband. Join her quest to find wandering unicorns for your favorite authors at unicornquester.com!

WebsiteNewsletterFacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube

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Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, December 2nd

Tuesday, December 3rd

Wednesday, December 4th

Thursday, December 5th

Friday, December 6th

Saturday, December 7th

Monday, December 9th

Tuesday, December 10th

Wednesday, December 11th

  • Video Book Review: Janeen Ippolito
  • Book Review & Guest “Embrace Your Inner Fangirl: Three Easy Ways to Support Authors (That Don’t Require Reviewing or Purchasing Books)”: Wounded but Hopeful

Thursday, December 12th

Friday, December 13th

Saturday, December 14th

The Story Raider by Lindsay A. Franklin

About the book:

Deceiving an empire is a treacherous game. 

Tanwen and the Corsyth weavers race to collect the strands of an ancient cure that might save Gryfelle. But Tanwen has a secret: Gryfelle isn’t the only one afflicted by the weaver’s curse.  

As Queen Braith struggles to assert her rule, a new arrival throws her tenuous claim to the Tirian throne into question. Braith’s heart is turned upside down, and she’s not sure she can trust anyone—least of all herself.  

The puppet master behind Gareth’s rise to power has designs on the story weavers and will stop at nothing to reclaim the throne. A plot to incite the angry peasants of Tir takes shape, and those dearest to Tanwen will be caught in the crossfire. As the fight for Tir consumes the realm, no one can remain innocent.

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My review:

Gasp.

I have to catch my breath after finishing (in two days…it was so hard to put down!) this second installment in Lindsay A. Franklin’s Weaver Trilogy.

I loved her first novel, The Story Peddler. It is one of those books that has stuck with me, and I tell everyone about how great it is and how they need to read it. I never expected The Story Raider to compete with the first novel, since the middle novel of a trilogy is often just okay. It is there to keep the overall plot going, maybe give a bit more depth to the characters, but so much of the time, it doesn’t bring the punch that the bookend novels do.

The Story Raider brought it. This book dug at my heart, brought tears to my eyes, made me laugh, encouraged me, and floored me. And, as in the first book, there is so much truth packed into this extraordinary story that your heart can’t help but be touched.

The way the author juxtaposed the characters of Tanwen and Yestin on their voyage was absolutely fascinating: as she grew weaker, he regained his strength; as her control slipped, his power grew. And through all of it, their relationship gained purchased as they relearned what it was to be a daughter and a father. Beautiful!

You have to read Lindsay A. Franklin’s novels. I can’t recommend them highly enough!

And, as an added bonus, she just had a cover reveal the other day for the finale of the Weaver Trilogy, The Story Hunter, and I wanted to share it with you.

Happy reading, everyone!! 🙂