Cover reveal: Topaz Reign by Teresa Richards

Topaz ReignCheck out this beautiful new cover for Topaz Reign, sequel to YA novel Emerald Bound by Teresa Richards! Topaz Reign will be available at the beginning of October, so stay tuned!

Topaz Reign

Fairy tales are simply tales, told and re-told, but changed over time.

It has been four months since Maggie learned the dark truth behind the tale of the Princess and the Pea and freed Princess Lindy from the cursed Emerald. Lindy is now back in the past where she belongs, queen of her tiny Scandinavian country, and Maggie is a fully reformed ex-stalker. 

Except… she can’t stop doing internet searches on Lindy and her country.  

One morning, Maggie wakes to find history turned on its head. Apparently, you can’t destroy a centuries-old curse without consequence. In order to prevent the changes in history from wiping out the present, Maggie resurrects her stalking gene and learns that fairy tales don’t stay dead for long. 

Or at all. 

Back in 1623, Lindy is juggling a threat to her family, a handsome new guard she’s not supposed to have feelings for, and a cursed Topaz with ties to the tale of Thumbelina. When past and present collide, Lindy and Maggie are brought together again, and another of Andersen’s tales turns from twisted fiction to chilling fact. 

Author Bio

Teresa Richards writes YA, but loves anything that can be given a unique twist. She grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, got a degree in Speech Pathology from Brigham Young University, then moved to the greater New York area for a little adventure. Now she’s settled somewhere between coasts with her husband and five kids, and has realized that writing is her passion. When Teresa’s not writing, she can be found chasing after one of her littles, driving one of her teens around, or hiding in the house with a treat she’s not planning to share. She is represented by Mallory Brown of Triada Literary Agency. You can connect with Teresa on twitter @BYUtm33,  Facebook  @AuthorTeresaRichards, and Instagram @authorteresarichards.

Check out the first book, Emerald Bound, on Amazon.

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Book Review: The Bug Boys by Stewart Hoffman

I’ve just finished The Bug Boys and, oh, what a delightful read! This good tale can be found on Book Club Reading List.bug-boys

Synopsis

Alex and Ian are two ordinary middle-schoolers growing up in an ordinary small town in England. One afternoon they ate a lunch that made them feel peculiar. Little did they know, that peanut butter sandwich and apple were saturated in an ancient alien life form that turned their bodies into portals to a distant planet. They first discovered something was amiss when, after being forced to swallow a ladybug by the school bully, Alex grew 4 extra arms, acquired super-strength, and could understand the language of bugs–but only for about 20 minutes. With their newfound superpowers, Alex and Ian felt unstoppable. What better way was there to use their new abilities than to fight crime and become superheroes? After dealing with the local school bully, Alex and Ian find themselves tangled up in a corporate conspiracy far out of their league and soon long for the days before their problems became so complicated.

Strengths

This book is SO funny! I love the storytelling style and the humor that is woven so effortlessly throughout. The author has referenced his love of Terry Pratchett and I can see his influence in book’s sense of humor. I love the lighthearted, fresh twist on a superhero story, and I love that the main characters–Alex and Ian–behave exactly how you would expect pre-teen boys with superpowers to behave. They are absolutely believable and genuine characters that are so easy to love. While The Bug Boys is an entertaining read for anyone, if you have a son who might struggle with finding interesting books to read, you MUST give them this one! They will love it! Maybe I’m biased because I’m a girl (and therefore exposed to a plethora of interesting-to-girls literature), but I don’t think there are enough books geared toward middle school boys. The Bug Boys would be a fantastic addition to any young reader’s bookshelf.

Weaknesses

There were a few chapters where the action slowed down a bit, examining the story from a different point of view. While it was nice to get a different perspective, the change in pace during these chapters was a little slower than I preferred. But these chapters were generally brief before connecting back to Alex and Ian’s adventures.

Conclusion

This is a book you don’t want to miss. It has broad audience appeal, thanks to the easy humor and fun writing style, and will be enjoyed by readers of any age. I would especially recommend to middle school age boys, but again, everyone can enjoy this read. Go get yourself a copy and enjoy your next good tale!

5 stars

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Contact the author on Book Club Reading List

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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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Contact the author on Cheap eBooks

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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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Book the author on Book Club Reading List

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Book review: Surrender

I’ve had the privilege of reading and reviewing Surrender by Jennifer Burrows. (Check out my author interview for more information about Jennifer and her story.) I found it through Cheap eBooks if you’d like to go get yourself a copy!

Synopsis

Surrender starts with our heroine Katherine Anderson, a renowned food critic from New York, as she discovers her fiance cheating on her in her own bed. Her world turned upside down and her dream wedding cancelled, she decides to go on her honeymoon to Italy for a little private time. While on her way to Florence, Katherine meets a dashingly handsome Italian man with the most gorgeous emerald-green eyes she’s ever seen. They hit it off right away and Katherine is amazed at her luck; how many people meet a sexy and charming Italian in the most romantic country in the world? But as Katherine gets to know Tony better, she realizes things aren’t as perfect as she thought. Tony is a fugitive of an underground olive oil cartel that killed his family and is using Katherine to help him escape Italy. As she gets pulled into Tony’s dangerous affairs, Katherine wonders if she’ll ever make it home alive.

Strengths

There were a lot of great things about this book that kept me reading through the end. The three biggest strengths to Surrender are:

  • Story line
  • Character development
  • Action

Story line

I thought the story line was a lot of fun. I did a study abroad in Italy when I was in college so I especially loved roaming the Tuscan countryside with Katherine and Tony. The imagery took me right back.

“Hills lined with vineyards and small houses made of brick and stucco came into view as the train hummed along the tracks enticing her into a trance.” (pg 8)

For a significant portion of the novel I was skeptical at how solid the story was. I couldn’t figure out why the cartel had targeted Tony’s family and why he was in so much danger. It seemed unrealistic. However, in the last several chapters there is sufficient information that made the conflict convincing.

Character development

Early Katherine is uptight, reserved, a rule-follower, and grieving the loss of the life she had imagined for herself. As the story progresses, she learns to experience the world differently. Instead of reacting to what life throws at her, she decides to act boldly and make her own decisions.

“She was too busy running away from the person she was only to find a person she didn’t know. Did she like this new person? Who was she? The new Katherine was brave; she was a fighter, took life by the horns, and refused to let fear take control. She was Kate. This Kate was going to get home and start a new life.” (pg 284)

Katherine becomes Kate, a woman who knows what she wants and says what she thinks. Later in the story she is captured by the cartel and is beaten and tortured for information. Instead of meekly accepting the situation, she speaks out against her captors with cheeky attitude. This may have resulted in additional physical pain, but her spirit was stronger than ever.

Action

“When the beatings first started, they were tolerable. She’d never been hit by anyone before. Somehow, the physical pain was a relief from the emotional pain she’d felt for the last few weeks; it was somehow cathartic….She was too tired to fight anymore; her strength was gone, and the only glimmer of light she had left was the will to not die like this.” (pg 258)

Holy moly, there was a lot of action in this book! It starts out touristy and a little slow but speeds up fast. Kate and Tony go all over Italy searching for clues, left by Tony’s deceased father, that will give him a new identity and help him to escape the country. They are pursued by the cartel, Kate is kidnapped and tortured, Tony teams up with government agents, who may or may not be trustworthy, all leading up to the final confrontation with the cartel’s boss. You will not be bored reading Surrender!

Weaknesses

This book also had some weaknesses. Mainly being:

  1. Editing and grammar mistakes
  2. Italian inauthenticity

Editing and grammar mistakes

Ok, this is actually a HUGE weakness for me. In my opinion, there is no excuse for mistakes in a published book. Mistakes in early drafts? Fine, we’re all human and typos happen. But that’s why editing is so important. This book definitely needed another round of thorough editing because there was an embarrassing number of mistakes that could have been easily caught by a simple read-through. From my notes, which probably didn’t catch everything, there were at least 20 typos or wrong word-choices, like using “in” instead of “and” or “your” instead of “you’re”. Your vs you’re is a particular pet peeve of mine and it was exceedingly irritating to read typos, especially repeat offenders.

Italian inauthenticity

This probably isn’t a weakness for anyone who doesn’t know Italian or has never been to Italy. There were a few names that were misspelled or simply not Italian for characters who probably should have had Italian names. For example, Katherine and Tony go to a restaurant and their waiter’s name is John Paolo (chapter 6). “John” is not Italian; it is instead spelled “Gian” and is pronounced basically the same. Also, the dish “spaghetti bolgonaise” came up repeatedly. Now, I’m not a foodie, but I do know that there is an Italian dish called spaghetti bolognese. These are details that could easily be learned from a simple internet search. If you are going to write about another culture or country, you gotta do your research.

Conclusion

There is so much to love about Surrender: the charming Italian setting, the dynamic story and action, the sizzling chemistry between Kate and Tony. I had a lot of fun reading this book. The biggest detractor was the blaring grammatical errors. I can forgive one or two typos, but 20+ drove me crazy. For these reasons I give Surrender 3 out of 5 stars. Definitely worth the read–lots of fun and a highly entertaining story. If you’re not annoyed by typos then those contained in Surrender won’t bother you. In any case, go check it out here and enjoy your next good tale!

Surrender by Jennifer Burrows

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Find it on Goodreads here