Guest post: Topaz Reign Character Interview by Teresa Richards

Blog TourTopaz Reign, the latest novel by Teresa Richards and sequel to Emerald Bound, is out! To celebrate, here’s a guest post by the author to give insight into her characters, and perhaps even do some foreshadowing into book 3… Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for some awesome prizes! a Rafflecopter giveaway

This is the prize pack for the giveaway. Some cool stuff here!!

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Today I’m sitting down with my characters from Topaz Reign for a little round table discussion. With me are Maggie, Garon, and Lindy, whom you all know and love from Emerald Bound. Joining them are Trevin and Thumbelina, new faces from the groups’ most recent adventure.

Me: So, Maggie, here we are again. Round two of your adventure.

Maggie: Yeah, why did you have to do that? Garon and I were perfectly happy with the way our summer was going until you showed up and threw things out of whack.

Me: Um, I didn’t throw things out of whack. That was Oliver, thank you very much. And you got some pretty amazing news as a result of the whack-throwing so it’s not like it was all bad.

Maggie: *bites her lower lip, but can’t hide the smile stretching across her face* Well, that’s true. I am glad about that.

Me: Okay, so let’s talk about the new adventure. Thumbelina, why does it take you so long to enter the picture?

Thumbelina: It doesn’t take me all that long, really, you just don’t recognize me at first. Keeping my true identity a secret is what’s gotten me this far.

Me: But don’t you feel the tiniest bit of remorse? Deceiving people like that?

Thumbelina: No. I did what I had to do and I would do it again. If being alive for so long has taught me anything, it’s not to trust strangers.

Me: Speaking of strangers … Lindy, what made you trust Trevin?

Lindy: *ducks head, but not before I see her blushing* Well, it helped that he was the son of my most trusted bodyguard. *darts a glance at Trevin and he grins* And when he offered to teach me how to swordfight, that just sealed the deal, you know?

Me: That’s right. Your brother refused to help you, didn’t he? And that’s when Trevin stepped up.

Garon: Hey, to be fair, I didn’t think I’d be sticking around long enough to teach her anything. *darts a longing glance at Maggie, who holds his gaze*

Lindy: Trevin was the first man to treat me as his equal. Before I became Queen, I was just a silly girl to them. And after, despite the fact that most men treated me with the respect due a queen, they also treated me like some fragile thing. I’m not fragile. I can do hard things, and I can make difficult decisions. And it’s nice having someone around who supports that. It makes me even stronger. *reaches over and grabs Trevin’s hand*

Me: *swooning*

Maggie: Learning to swordfight was one of my favorite things about this adventure. Unfortunately, it’s not a skill I can use much back at home.

Me: No, I imagine not.

Maggie: But I found this cool group in DC that teaches sword fighting to people who need it for entertainment purposes. Like traveling Renaissance fairs and actors involved in medieval plays and movies. I’ve been volunteering there a couple times a month and I think if I get good enough they might give me a job.

Me: That’s amazing! I’m so glad you found a way to use your skills back at home.

Maggie: Me, too. It’s really fun.

Me: *turning to the group* Let’s talk for a minute about the altered gemstones. First we had an Emerald, now a Topaz and a Pearl. Seriously guys, are there any more gemstones I need to be aware of? And where did Oliver get all of them anyway? Did he have a hidden cache of pirate treasure or something?

Garon: He found the Emerald while traveling during his days as a medicine man.

Thumbelina: And the Topaz was brought to him by the witch, who probably stole it from some traveling nobleman.

Me: And the Pearl?

Thumbelina: He spent a lot of time by the sea. Out of all the stones he used, the Pearl was by far the easiest to come by.

Me: So did he have others?

Thumbelina: Pearls, you mean? Sure. He collected them.

Me: *raising an eyebrow*

Thumbelina: But he did not alter them.

Trevin: *leaning forward in his chair* Are you sure? If he did, it would be helpful to know now before another crisis arises.

Thumbelina: I’m sure. One hundred percent sure. There are no more altered stones.

Me: *eyeing Thumbelina* We don’t really get to say good-bye to you at the end of this adventure—you kind of sneak off during the night.

Thumbelina: I left early in the morning. Not at night.

Me: Still.

Thumbelina: I had to find my husband, you know that. Make sure he was okay.

Me: And did you? Is he okay?

Thumbelina: I found him, yes.

Me: Well, good. So what’s he like? We didn’t learn anything about him at all during your latest adventure with the Topaz.

Thumbelina: It’s hard to describe someone you love so much in a way that does them justice, you know? I’d rather have you meet him and see for yourself.

Me: Really? We can meet him? Did he come in with you today?

Thumbelina: No, he’s not here. But I’ll introduce you to him soon.

Garon: I’ve met him. You’ll like him.

Me: That would be amazing.

Thumbelina: I think he’d like to meet you, too.

Me: I’m going to hold you to that.

Me: Well, guys, that’s all we have time for today. Thanks so much for sitting down with me. I hope to see you all again soon.

 

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Book Review: Topaz Reign by Teresa Richards

Topaz Reign.jpgCalling all fairy tale fans: here is a book for you! Book one of this series—Emerald Bound—gives us an interpretation of the princess and the pea. Topaz Reign continues this tale and introduces the story of Thumbelina.

Lindy—the princess who slept on an enchanted emerald, or “pea”—is back in her native land and time. As she tries to learn how to lead her country, a topaz that grants its wearer unmatched beauty and power threatens to overthrow her family, country, and even the world. With help from friends and family, Lindy must figure out the secret of the topaz and destroy it, before it destroys everyone she loves.

Lindy is my favorite character from Emerald Bound, so I was very excited to see her grow into a confident, powerhouse woman in this book. Maggie and Garon are also significant players in this story, and Tanner has a more important role in helping take down the wearer of the topaz.

I loved trying to figure out which character was Thumbelina, because it’s not obvious at first! Thumbelina is another fairy tale that, like the princess and the pea, is not one that I’ve heard many times. I feel like Hollywood and mainstream books redo the same fairy tales over and over—Cinderella, Snow White, the “classic” princesses—and I love the author’s ability to bring lesser-known fairy tales to the limelight and give them a twist.

Like Emerald Bound, Topaz Reign is so much fun, full of action, and sure to keep you turning pages!

5 out of 5 stars

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Book Review: Dead by Morning

dead-by-morningI know I haven’t reviewed much (read: any) horror on this blog, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t read much of the genre. While it’s not my primary genre of choice, a good dark read can be a fun break from the happy stories I typically choose. Dead By Morning by Kayla Krantz is a young adult horror story with psychological thriller elements and was recommended to me by a friend. 

Synopsis

Luna is a social outcast at her high school. She doesn’t mind; it’s her senior year and she’s looking forward to bigger and better things, like college. Her only problem is that super-popular Chance, whom she despises, won’t leave her alone. What starts as a seemingly ordinary story of a high school romance quickly turns dark when Luna discovers Chance is a Satanist full of deadly secrets. To make matters worse, someone–or something–begins to haunt her dreams, giving nightmares that soon become reality. Luna must figure out how to survive her dreams and convince everyone that pretty-boy Chance is not as innocent as he seems.

Strengths

This book hooked me right at the beginning and kept me reading through the end! The writing style is clear and easy to follow, but still provides adequate imagery so the reader can become fully immersed in the story. The author did a good job in creating conflict in her story; poor Luna is dealing with problem after problem from page one until the end! The pacing is great–the story moves along quickly and kept me interested throughout.

Weaknesses

There were a few issues I had with the overall story. It was really frustrating to watch Luna let herself be bullied by Chance. A normal person would have gotten help from the authorities–police, teachers, parents, ANYone. Her parents and best friend are so stupid and totally ignore the HUGE red flags about this guy. Normal parents would be more concerned about the safety and well-being of their daughter than pleasing some random kid from school. Her dad doesn’t seem excessively negligent, so I have to assume he’s oblivious to his daughter’s mental state. All of this behavior is a little hard for me to believe because it’s just not consistent with normal, healthy individuals.

Luna is constantly surprised at the horrible things Chance does. Don’t want to give away any spoilers, but she KNOWS he killed someone, yet is horrified when she sees an additional piece of physical evidence. That behavior is inconsistent.

The supernatural elements in the story are not fully explained and leave loose ends. There’s a character named Max who helps Luna deal with Chance. Max shows up with inexplicable knowledge of the whys and hows of her dreams. How does he know this stuff? It’s odd that Luna never questions how he knows what he does. Perhaps she didn’t wonder, but as a reader, I certainly did! Other supernatural stuff–like Luna’s vague ability to know the future, how Chance’s Satanism connects with the dream world stuff, and how Chance gained his abilities–are never really explained. 

Conclusion

Dead By Morning was definitely an entertaining read, especially if you enjoy the horror genre. The writing is strong and mechanically-sound; Krantz has a lot of talent as a writer. There were some loose ends and other issues with the overall story, and I think the supernatural element of the book needed some developing. But overall it was a fun, quick read that horror fans will enjoy. For those who haven’t read horror and want to try it out, I think this would be a good starting book. It’s not overtly gory or unnecessarily gross, but prepare yourself for unexpected character deaths! 

3.5 stars

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Book Review: Waterwight by Laurel McHargue

waterwightI’ve finished Laurel McHargue’s Waterwight. What a fun read!! I found this gem on Book Club Reading List.

Synopsis

After a catastrophe only known as “the Event”, Celeste escapes from a home for orphans with little to no memory of what happened to her parents. Determined to learn the truth, Celeste embarks on an adventure to save what’s left of the world from an ever-growing ocean of toxic ooze. Guided by a mountain spirit and befriended by a giant, flying frog, Celeste must learn how to live in this changed world devoid of adults where children have started getting supernatural powers. Hunted by a murderous shape-shifter, will Celeste uncover the mystery behind the ooze before the rest of the world is overcome?

Strengths

I thought this was such a creative take on a post-apocalyptic world. I’m not sure I’ve ever read one where the children were the only survivors. Throw in supernatural powers and you’ve got a really interesting story. I think the characters were well-developed; my favorite is Orville, the French, flying frog. Who knew a frog could be so overwhelmingly charming?? I am dying to know how his story continues in the next book!

The supernatural powers that start manifesting in the children are so cool and varied. Mind reading, flying, invisibility, time-stopping, visions, super-strength…I could go on.

A huge strength to this book is the driving mystery. Where did this ooze come from? What exactly happened during the Event and what caused it? There’s a dreamlike quality throughout that makes the book feel very magical.

Weaknesses

There were times when the traveling of various characters got a bit tedious. Celeste has to fly across the ocean a couple of times and I think those parts could have been sped up or condensed further. But otherwise there weren’t many weaknesses!

Conclusion

This is a definite must read! Especially for the YA or middle school audience. Fun characters with superpowers and fast-moving, interesting plot, this is a book you won’t want to miss!

5 stars

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Laurel loves to hear from her readers! Contact her on Book Club Reading List or on Facebook

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Book Review: Downburst by Katie Robison

downburst-coverI just finished reading Katie Robison’s Downburst. Readers, this was an AWESOME book! I can’t wait to tell you more. I found this read on the Cheap eBooks reading list.

Synopsis

Kit is a girl who has run away from home. She is making a meager living by delivering illicit goods (drugs, fake ids, etc) to their buyers. One day, when the cops discover their location, she goes on the run, spending her first night in an empty train car. The next morning, she witnesses the murder of a girl who looks so similar to Kit she could be her twin. As she runs away, she is kidnapped by a man who mistakes her for the girl who was murdered (named Aura) and is taken to a bizarre week-long summer camp. Since staying at camp seems safer than running from the cops, Kit decides to play along and be Aura. Assuming a new identity turns out to be harder than she thought it would be, especially since her fellow campers seem to have supernatural abilities: they can fly–er, windwalk. Can Kit fit in with her surroundings and survive the week? Or will she be discovered as an impostor and tortured as a spy?

Strengths

Wow, this book was awesome! And I don’t say that very often. This book was described as something that “fans of the Hunger Games will love” and I agree. It is fast-paced with a fascinating undercurrent of supernatural, Native American mythology and a plot that keeps the reader guessing. Each time I had a theory on what was going to happen, further reading repeatedly proved me wrong. There wasn’t a single moment in the book where I was bored, which has not happened to me in a very long time.

Kit is a great character who experiences a lot of personal growth throughout her story. It was fun to witness. There were several other supporting characters that I became attached to and emotionally invested in their well-being. I won’t give away any spoilers, but I very nearly cried couple times and my heart definitely broke once.

Weaknesses

The only weakness is that I didn’t have the sequel in my hands when I finished!! I’ve gotta get on that…

Conclusion

I would probably categorize Downburst as a YA action/fantasy. If you like mythology-inspired books like Percy Jackson, you’ll love Downburst. If you like action-packed survivalist books like Hunger Games, you’ll like Downburst. If you like YA, you’ll like Downburst. Why am I still writing?? Do yourself a favor and go read Downburst!! You’ll love it.

An easy 5 stars

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Author Interview: Teresa Richards

Teresa Richards

I was able to speak with Teresa Richards, author of Emerald Bound, a young adult dark retelling of the princess and the pea fairy tale. After the interview, read on for more info about Emerald Bound and enter the *giveaway* for a signed copy of the book!!

How did you come up with the idea for Emerald Bound?

I’m cringing as I admit this but, honestly, the spark that started Emerald Bound was from a dream. In the dream, I had to save a friend who’d been taken captive, and a gemstone under her bed had the power to hold her there.

So weird, I know.

When I woke up, the gem under the bed immediately reminded me of the pea in the fairy tale, The Princess and the Pea. I’ve always loved fairy tale retellings and the idea of twisting up The Princess and the Pea intrigued me because I hadn’t seen it done before.

My creative juices went to work and I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. The story unfolded and grew and morphed into something I was so excited about. Seeing it come to life on the page was a ton of fun.

Who is your favorite character?

Garon is my favorite, simply because he was a surprise. As in, he was not in my original plan for the book.

Gasp, right? Now that he’s here I can’t imagine the book without him.

I knew I wanted to have a love interest in there somewhere, but I wasn’t sure who it would be or when Maggie would meet him. In the chapter where she literally runs into him as she’s fleeing the scene of her attempted crime, my original plan was to have her run back to her car and come up with a new plan. But she turned the corner and suddenly, Garon was there, in my head and on the page. It just happened. One of the best kinds of writing surprises.

As soon as he showed up, I knew he was a keeper.

Did you base any of your characters on real people?

Yes and no.

None of my characters were based on real people on purpose, but several of them seem to have bits and pieces of my favorite people woven into them in different ways.

Some of my characters share characteristics with people I know, or they might share certain life experiences that have shaped them. And sometimes they might just talk the same.

For example, my fourteen-year-old son was reading Emerald Bound and at one point exclaimed, “Wait, am I Tanner?”
He was reading a part where Maggie’s brother, Tanner, drinks directly out of the kitchen faucet without using a cup. Maggie tells him to get a cup and Tanner says, “What for?”

I didn’t write this scene specifically with my son in mind, but it’s highly likely that I had that exact same conversation with him the day I wrote that scene, because we have that conversation on an almost daily basis.

So characteristics from people I love often creep into my fictional characters, sometimes without me even realizing it.

Fair warning.

Describe your writing process.

For my first drafts, I just sit down and write. The only thing I need is my laptop and complete silence. I often go to the library so I can concentrate on my writing without getting distracted by all the other jobs around my house that need to get done, but I like writing at home, too.

It’s a little different when I’m editing or doing rewrites–I can work on those almost anywhere, and I bring my laptop everywhere I go so that whenever I have down time (usually while waiting for one of my kids to be done with an activity I’m picking them up from) I can stay busy.

Sometimes I even leave my laptop out on the kitchen counter so I can tweak sentences in the down times while making dinner.

Who are some authors who have influenced you?

Maggie Stiefvater, A.G. Howard, and Rae Carson through their awesome writing, and several others like Lori Goldstein, Brenda Drake, and Diana Urban through their support and advice to beginning authors.

What made you want to become an author?

I’ve always loved to read, and writing has been an outlet for me since my earliest years of writing away a bad day in my journal. But it wasn’t until I’d spent several years raising babies and yearning for a creative outlet that I decided to write a book.

I wrote my first serious novel in three months and it was a magical, wonderful, amazing time. During that time, I didn’t think about anything but my book. I’d be pushing a kid on the swings and daydreaming about my characters, or doing the dishes while planning plotlines in my head, or driving my kids around and working out the perfect metaphor for my next scene.

In the end (after attending a writers’ conference, spending a year or so querying, and receiving a mountain of rejection letters), I realized that initial book wasn’t good enough to be published. But it had a ton of heart. And writing it made me realize I wanted to do this writing thing for real.

I started researching publishing, reading craft books, joined a local critique group and the online writing community, had a couple of short stories published, and tried again with Emerald Bound.

What advice would you give to other aspiring writers?

Everyone says this, but that’s because it’s true: Keep at it. Don’t give up.

That doesn’t mean your first book will be published. Or even your second or your fifth. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from reading other people’s success stories, it’s that every writer’s path is different.

But if you really love writing, and you can’t imagine keeping your stories inside you, then it’ll be worth all the time you invest in learning how to do it right. It will be hard, and it will probably make you cry a few times. But it will also be one of the most rewarding journeys of your life and you’ll make some great friends along the way.

The writing community is so, super supportive. Published authors are eager to share their knowledge because, in almost every case, someone once did the same for them. Everyone starts at the beginning.

Thank you Teresa!!

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Emerald Bound

 

Teresa RichardsEmerald Bound cover

Fantasy, Romance, Suspense

Evernight Teen Publishing ~ 83,000 words

Editor’s Pick

A princess, a pea, and a tower of mattresses. This is the sliver that survives of a story more nightmare than fairytale…

Maggie Rhodes, high school junior and semi-reformed stalker, learns the tale’s true roots after a spying attempt goes awry and her best friend Kate ends up as the victim of an ancient curse. At the center of the curse lies an enchanted emerald that has been residing quietly in a museum for the past fifty years. Admirers of the gem have no idea that it feeds on life. Or that it’s found its next victim in Kate. 

 Enter Lindy, a school acquaintance who knows more than she’s letting on, and Garon, a handsome stranger claiming he knows how to help, and Maggie is left wondering who to trust and how to save her best friend before it’s too late.

 If only Maggie knew her connection to the fairy tale was rooted far deeper than an endangered best friend. 

Excerpt: 

A part of me died long ago.

It was the part of me that feels, and it was Calista’s fault.

What happened tonight was nothing new—innocent victims welcomed into our home, not knowing they would never leave. I learned long ago I could not help them, so I stopped trying.

But this time something was different. This time I was awake, burning with a gut-wrenching guilt, as the next victims slept downstairs. This time I knew the victims. And they didn’t deserve what was coming.

It had always been hard for me to make friends. I’d been called loner, loser, outcast, and freak. Even still, I remembered Maggie offering to show me around when I first transferred to their school. Through her, I met Kate and Piper. The three of them were always nice to me, while other kids kept their distance and spread rumors behind my back. I told myself I didn’t care—I wasn’t like them.

But being a loner was lonely.

So tonight when I saw Maggie and her friends here, something inside me snapped. Or, perhaps it was the dead piece of me coming back to life. Now I cared desperately about what was happening in the room below mine.

But there was still nothing I could do.

Calista usually lured in victims from out of town to avoid arousing suspicion. Pregnant ones were a particular favorite—easy prey, she called them. But Maggie and her friends came here all on their own. The opportunity was too good for Calista to pass up.

Everyone thought Calista was my mother, but she wasn’t.

Back in my day, almost four centuries ago, Calista had an alternate method of luring in victims. She and her husband, Theodore, advertised for hired help with their inn. The number of parents willing to sell their daughters into a life of servitude in exchange for a forgiven debt or a clean slate was staggering.

My father was one of them.

By the time my mother found out what he’d done, it was too late. There was no escape. I was bound.

My story was well known in this land, whispered as a bedtime tale to ease children into sleep. But, just like any other story passed down through time by rumors and idle gossip, the fragment that survived was woefully incomplete. It began something like this:

There is rumored to have been (once upon a time, of course) a princess, a pea, and a tower of mattresses.

That much was true, though in actuality it was only one mattress, not twenty. The pea was also real, though most would call it a precious stone—an emerald, to be precise.

The gem that sealed my fate was now in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. Calista was furious when she found it missing. She thought I’d stolen it until she remembered my limits. The identity of the true thief remains unknown.

Even though the emerald is no longer in our possession, we are still bound to it, as it is bound to us. Admirers of the opulent necklace where it rests don’t understand it. Like me, the gem is a prisoner, struggling against its fate.

Even now, centuries later, I don’t understand all the details of what happened to me that night. But it began with a troubled slumber on a bed of enchanted emeralds.

About the Author:

Teresa Richards writes YA, but loves Teresa Richardsanything that can be given a unique twist. Her zombie stories ‘Are You My Mombie?’ and ‘The Zombie Code’ can be found in Z Tales: Stories from the Zombieverse by The Fairfield Scribes.

When Teresa’s not writing, she can be found either chasing after one of her five kids, or hiding someplace in the house with a treat her children overlooked. Emerald Bound is her debut novel.

You can connect with her on twitter @BYUtm33 or at authorteresarichards.com.

Giveaway:  1 signed copy of Emerald Bound!

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Book Review: Prophase, A Present Tale

prophase-cover-low-resJust finished Prophase, A Present Tale, by Mitchel Street, last night and holy cow! Talk about a killer ending! Those last few chapters were simply amazing. I’m wishing the sequel was written so I could continue the journey. You can find this young adult, science fiction/fantasy novel on Book Club Reading List under the “Action and Adventure” genre.

Synopsis

Piper Walker is a high school senior who plays the bass in a band with her best friends, is on the swim team, and has been responsible for raising her little brother Charlie since their mom died from breast cancer shortly after he was born. One night, not long after being dumped by her boyfriend of two years, Piper is in a car accident with two of her best friends. The near-death experience ignites something inside her, unleashing powers she never knew existed. She now has the ability to move things with her mind, see others’ auras, and manipulate the laws of gravity. She soon learns that she is not alone in her new abilities but that there is a whole world and history of people like her. These people are currently being ruled by an unjust dictator and Piper is the only one with the strength and potential to restore balance to their world.

Strengths

I love the premise of this book: an average girl discovers special powers and realizes her destiny to save the world. It is a theme that has been repeated many times but one that never fails to excite me. Probably because it’s fun to imagine myself as the hero and become immersed in a world of fantasy to distract from the tedium of daily life.

I think M Street’s characters are strong and convincing. I love Piper; she is relatable and able to adapt as her world quickly changes. This quote describes her attitude toward her new life: overwhelmed but still wants more.

“I was adrift without oar or anchor. Even though I was overwhelmed and underwater, I thirsted for more answers.” (Chapter 15)

 

Her best friend, Lisa, is the best friend every high school girl needs. While I didn’t like her ex-boyfriend Chris (though we’re probably not meant to like him much anyway…he IS the ex-boyfriend after all!), he played a strong role in making me care about Piper. If she had a perfect life and everything was great, it would be harder as a reader to care about her. I also loved her pet cat Jazz. It probably seems weird to love the cat, but he’s one special guy!

I don’t want to give away spoilers, but Piper gains a new connection after her breakup with Chris that is fabulous and made my inner teenage girl so, so happy.

Weaknesses

For a story with the potential for a lot of exciting action, the pace felt….strange. Inconsistent. There were parts where I couldn’t read the words fast enough because it was just so good, and there were other parts where I felt my eyes droop and had flash backs to boring high school history lectures. I’ve been thinking, trying to put my finger on what went wrong, and I think I figured it out. When Piper gained her powers, her eyes were opened to a whole new sphere of seeing. She sees colors in absolutely everything. In what I’m sure was an effort to help the reader see what Piper sees, Street was very descriptive and almost poetic in his writing. Parts of the story that should have been leaping from the pages, like Piper learning how to manipulate gravity and jump up toward the stars, were slowed down by over-description. It was just too much.

Conclusion

Overall, Prophase is a highly compelling read. I love the story, characters, and most especially the twist ending. The last 2 or 3 chapters seriously knocked my socks off. I think I’m gonna go back and read them again. I think with a little editing of a few sections in the middle–basically any scene where Esther is telling Piper history or describing how to use her new powers–it would be perfect. Since I can’t give partial stars, I’m going to go ahead and give Prophase 5 stars. If I could it would be more like 4.5, but regardless, I can safely say Prophase is a good tale! Go check it out!

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