Children of Swan: The Land of Taron by Carol Walker (Review)

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Kindle Price: $2.99

Official Rating: 1.5/5

Synopsis:

“There is something small and peculiar in young Bo’s hand — it’s Dad’s ring. How could Dad have left without the ring?
Bo is abducted. Chasing after him, his older siblings Jack and Brianna dive into a wormhole that takes them to the land of Taron, a perilous land fuelled by hatred and plagued by vicious snake-like, man-eating bokwas.
Blue-skinned Baran people catch them and sell them to an arena where Barans entertain themselves watching slave boys fight to the death. Dad is there, staring at them like they are strangers.
The contest is brutal; the rules are clear — one game, one survivor.
There are boys as young as Jack. Can he kill?
And there’s Brianna, the one he has spent all his life squabbling with, and the last person he thought he would care about. If he doesn’t kill, she will die.
There’s no choice. He must kill, for Brianna, for Bo …”

My Review:

Have you ever lost something and you look around for it, but it isn’t in its usual place and you just can’t seem to figure out where it went? That’s how it felt reading Children of Swan: The Land of Taron because much was missing from it.

You need depth in most, if not all, things when it comes to writing. Characters, plot, worlds, even the conflict must have depth. But I couldn’t find depth in Children of Swan.

The worlds, firstly. Earth, Cygnore, and then of course, Taron. I already know what Earth is like (surprise!) but I don’t know what Walker’s dying Earth is like, but it wasn’t mentioned or explained so I still don’t know. I vaguely know of Cygnore and even more vaguely know of Taron, besides the fact that they have slaves, blue and red people live there, and they have some barbaric spin-off of the Roman colosseum/Roman gladiators only with children. You have to give more than just a few descriptions and call it a day. It is crucial to any story to build and create the world that your book is in, especially if it is a world you made up, so that the reader can explore it.

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You Made Me by Kelvin Reynolds and Mia Dakin

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Kindle Price: $2.99

Official Rating: 1/5

Synopsis:

“You think you know your mum and dad. But you don’t. My name is Coral and I’m fifteen years old. One photograph changed my life. Without the photo I would never have met Tilly, the nastiest girl in the school or had my first fight. Without the photograph I would never have met and lost Joel, the fittest boy on the planet. Without the photograph I would never have flown an eagle owl or sang in a rock band. And without the photograph I wouldn’t be crouching on a sheepskin rug soaked with blood, looking up into the barrel of a shotgun. And it’s not true what they say. THE CAMERA DOES LIE. This is my story but it could so easily be yours.”

My Review:

I wish I had something to compare this book to so that everyone could understand how painful it was to read it, but I don’t. Hopefully, the rest of my review will clear everything up.

Actually, I do have an analogy. Once, I watched a video where a guy put two-hundred (200) pieces of gum in his mouth and then proceeded to chew it. Not to be too graphic, but there was saliva cascading out of his mouth, he couldn’t close his mouth, and the gum was a disgusting mess. In two words, I could describe two-hundred pieces of gum and this book: Too Much.

The synopsis. Completely misleading, especially this part: “This is my story but it could so easily be yours.” Don’t quote me, but I’m pretty sure that the probability of someone having the same life as Coral in You Made Me “easily” is around a 1/100,000,000,000. Make no mistake, everything in the synopsis does occur in the novel, the issue is that it makes you think this book will be interesting. That’s why it is misleading.

The main character, Coral Matthews, was empty. I don’t mean in the “I feel like I have no purpose” type of empty; I mean the “Is this what is supposed to realistically represent the female teenagers in our society?” empty. The whole truth, and nothing but the truth, is that Coral is one of the worst characters I have come upon. She wasn’t clever, had no brains, “acted out” in the name of being a teenager, wasn’t interesting, was quite rude to multiple people without reason, and was just…awful. I’m not saying she is impossible to love…I just don’t see what reasons the people around her could give as to why anyone could. Is that harsh? Probably. To give an example without spoiling anything, Coral ends up having to leave a place that she’s made many friends in. Instead of talking to said friends or at least thinking about her response beforehand, she responds by lashing out at everyone because “it’s better this way.” (Cliche line, by the way) Or another example, a certain person is told very important information for the first time with Coral present. Instead of thinking to herself, “Wow, I didn’t know you didn’t know that. We’re both in shock,” Coral decides that that certain person has blatantly lied to them. She screams, “You lied to me! I hate you, I HATE YOU!” How does that make sense? If Jane is chatting to Jack about her new dog and Austin walks up and tells Jane that her dog just died, is Jack entitled to call her a liar? What has Jane lied about? How do you lie about information you don’t know yet? Final excerpt from the story, Coral is angry at a certain person for not making the attempt to contact her, even though Coral is the one who has actually done wrong. Coral’s response? “I am still angry, very angry after all these years but I needed to know the truth, you can’t blame me for trying can you?” If I were in this novel, I would most definitely blame her, but instead, the person she’s talking to does not in order to continue this poorly thought out plot.

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A Time to Reap (The Legend of Carter Gabel series) by Jonas Lee

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Kindle Price: $0.99

Official Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

Pemberton Academy is not just a school, it’s a gathering place for the children of the future that are afflicted with Temporal Displacement and Telepathy; in short, time travelers and mind readers who have been diagnosed with this “disease.” The Academy is not all as it seems after an explosion nearly takes one of its classmates, but not before Carter Gabel rescues her by using an unknown symptom related to his described illness. An unsanctioned group called the Program begins taking notice as the two classmates exhibit stronger abilities when they are together. Carter’s sense of reality begins to unwind as he learns more about his estranged father’s involvement with it all.
Carter will have to overcome the past of his father leaving, the present of an unknown adversary hunting him down and a future that seems to change with each decision he makes. He will have to learn who to trust out of the people in his life if he wants to conquer the looming notion that the government may be hunting him down because of his developing abilities.

My Review:

A book about time travel that I can understand without a migraine? By all means, let me read it.

I sincerely enjoyed A Time to Reap and here’s why.

Carter Gabel is a Leaper. That is, he can “leap” through time, which is an interesting ability; the only problem is, he can’t control it, all he knows is when it’s about to happen. And to make matters worse, when he gets back to the present, he’s stark naked. Unbeknownst to everyone, but his mother, Carter is a lot more powerful than he could fathom and things are about to get pretty rocky in the boat of life.

Carter was a rather well-rounded character and I enjoyed him. He had a genuine mother-son relationship with his mom; they were friends but his mom made sure he knew who wore the pants in the house. I don’t recall much about his life outside of being a Leaper, but he still had depth. The main focus of his life wasn’t just being a Leaper, but a compilation of being a teenaged leaper and being a teenager in general. He had flaws, struggled with anger, feelings of abandonment, strong feelings of love, and many other things that made Carter who he was as a character. He was a true hero with some snarky comments that made him loveable.

Maureen “Mo” Zester is just as interesting as Carter. Mo is an Eventual, someone with a low-level ability that’s hidden quite well, but occasionally have telepathy or telekinesis (sometimes both). I loved how Mo wasn’t a cliché “damsel-in-distress” love interest, but was more than just a beautiful girl who the hero loved, she was a beautiful heroine. Carter could have never done what he did throughout the story without her and vice versa. I liked that Mo kept him calm when his anger was consuming him and also knew when he had his anger under control. There isn’t too much about her and hopefully in the sequels book she will get more of a back story, but for now, the information that was given about her was enough.

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From the Ashes (Legend of the Liberator series) by Shelby K. Morrison

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Kindle Price: $3.99

Official Rating: 3/5

Synopsis:

“For eighteen years Aia Wynnald has lived a lie. Raised as a highborn in the Kingdom of Tharien, she’s filled her days with tutors and archery lessons. But simmering beneath her polite surface is a dangerous gift, one which she must keep a secret. Aia is a Bender. And in Tharien, Benders are feared and hunted.
When her unruly power breaks free with dire repercussions, Aia’s lifelong goal of independence shatters. As she scrambles to piece her life back together while evading capture, she disturbs a vengeful force intent on destroying the kingdom.
Now, with the help of an unlikely ally, Aia will decide the fate of Tharien. To rescue those she cares about will require accepting what she is. But can she risk becoming the monster she’s dreaded to save the very citizens baying for her blood?

My Review:

This book wasn’t bad. There were some undertones that I felt were put in subtly and not-so-subtly, but it was good overall.

The heroine is Maia Wynnald and she’s a Bender. A Bender is someone with paranormal powers that runs through their veins and gives them the ability to Bend. Bending is a bit like telepath but a lot less predictable and a lot harder to control; especially when you spent the first eighteen years of your life suppressing it.

I liked Maia, who prefers to be called Aia and will be from this moment forth. She was rather calm in some situation and had amazing compassion for people who hated her. Though I think the compassion was half foolish and half brave, but not to the point that it was the definition of courage. Would I have done the same thing? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know. At times I wasn’t sure what Aia stood for. I know that she never received the full truth from both parties, but she just seemed very undecided. One moment she would be totally ready to fight for Side A and then she would feel something or see something and suddenly she’s completely Team B. I feel that Aia should have understood that you can’t always bake your cake and eat it, considering she’s eighteen. Yet, I don’t think she ever did. I didn’t see much character development and I had really wanted her to embrace who she was a lot more than she did by the end of the book. Such a long time of suppression would no doubt make it hard for her to accept herself and I’m not saying that “it took her too long,” just that I wish she had experienced more acceptance. I don’t see her as much of a leader, but that’s definitely something that could change in the later books. There was obvious room for improvement in Aia, but I think that that may have been done on purpose so that there was a gradual and realistic change in her. Aia wasn’t a terrible character, she wasn’t even bad. I didn’t love her, but I didn’t dislike her. I would’ve liked to have seen a more fiery side of her, but she’s learning more about herself so I’ll let it slide.

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Germination (Feast of Weeds series) by Jamie Thornton

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Kindle Price: $2.99

Official Rating: 2/5

Synopsis:

A group of runaways. A horrifying virus.

Mary knows how to thrive on the street. She makes it her mission to keep other kids away from everyday monsters. But when she’s attacked by a crazed man clutching a bloody heart she realizes—there’s a new kind of monster in town.

A single drop of blood, and now Mary’s one of the infected. Unless she can stop the virus and save her friends, the new monster in town might just be her.

A post-apocalyptic Young Adult series where the runaways are the heroes, the zombies aren’t really zombies, and you can’t trust your memories—even if they’re all you have left.”

My Review:

If I had two words, I would describe Germination with “possibility” and “little.” Now if I had, say, a whole blog post to describe Germination, this is what I would say.

It wasn’t terrible. It wasn’t an awful novella that lowered my expectations for other novellas, but it wasn’t great. I wasn’t on the edge of my seat, despite the action that takes place on almost every page. Nonetheless, I saw a sound plot which is why Germination received a two star rating.

Mary was a different pre-heroine. She wasn’t different because she was more special than the others (she wasn’t from what I could tell) nor was she different because she was the “only” one in the world that distrusts the government. Mary was different because she was poor and homeless. In a numerous amount of stories, the heroine is usually saying “We never have a lot of food on the table, but we’re happy because we’re together as a family.” or something along those lines. What made Mary stand out is that she has a family, yet she ran away, embraces her homelessness, and made a new family/tight-knit group with a few other homeless kids on the street. There wasn’t enough of the novella to really understand much more about Mary. You are brought to an understanding about her that she is loyal to her new family and that she writes a blog giving advice to other teens who might want to run away. Besides that, there isn’t much to go on.

The plot was fascinating, or rather, hints to being fascinating. That was what Thornton lacked in Germination: Plot building. She had successfully built the characters and gave them a backstory, albeit a small piece of a backstory, but it sufficed, she had completed the world building, and her description skills are admirable. Unfortunately, Germination didn’t have a chance to develop the upcoming plot. As a reader, I was left with a large amount of action, little information, and a bit of indifference towards the characters.
Germination isn’t worth almost three dollars; the price isn’t practical, especially when you consider the fact that it’s only ninety-two pages. It wasn’t a bad novella as I said, it had a glimmer of promise in its pages, but it just didn’t strike me as a riveting read.

I received a copy of this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Forgiven (The Trouble series) by Rachel Morgan

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Kindle Price: Free!

Official Rating: 1/5

Synopsis:

Three hundred and six days ago, Julia ran away from home. Abandoning her family, friends, boyfriend, and university plans, she fled with no explanation. She can’t hide forever, though, and now it’s time to face the mess she left behind.

My Review:

If you listen very carefully, you can hear me sighing loudly. If you’ve ever been at an amusement park at least once, and I’m sure you have, there’s always that one ride that kind of bothers you. It’s that single ride that has all of those twists and turns, but ends too quickly for the thrill to actually hit you. That’s what Forgiven felt like. Forgiven follows a girl who ran away from home. But she didn’t just run away from home to a town nearby, she ran all the way to London.

I didn’t like this very much, which is surprising since I liked a different book from her that I reviewed, and it’s one of the last few prequels/novellas that I’m probably going to read. The story deals with rape and I don’t appreciate how it presented it. The whole story was based on how a rape was handled the wrong way and it left a bad taste in my mouth. In all honesty, it seemed to me that the book was mainly “romance with a dash of rape to add character.” It would take quite an author to convince me that a story that covers a girl who is raped, can be wrapped up with a cheery ending in seventy-six pages. It wasn’t quite disrespectful (from my limited point-of-view), but it didn’t accurately cover the physical and psychological effects of rape. It just left it all out. (spoiler) One minute she left because she didn’t want to ruin all of the relationships because of what happened and the next she’s completely fine. Maybe she got therapy during her time in London, but if the reader doesn’t know that, then you can’t not include that.
There wasn’t enough time to develop Julia or any of the characters. I couldn’t relate to her, not even remotely, and she was dull. I would be shocked (and I was) to find out that she was the spice to someone’s life. Maybe that’s a bit too harsh, but it was true. I notice that in a lot of “0.5” and novellas and prequels there isn’t a lot of development. It’s never a good idea to write a novella without the intention to have development in it. Even if it’s to provide a tiny bit of background, definitely make those 76 pages worth the time you spent writing it and the time the reader spends reading it.

No, Not That Jane Austen by Marilyn Grey

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Kindle Price: $0.99

Official rating: 2.5/5

Synopsis:

The complete opposite of her parents, Jane doesn’t like reading love stories and can’t stand all things romance, but most especially she hates her name. “No, not that Jane Austen,” she’s said so many times to so many teachers, friends, and strangers, while lamenting the fact that her parents named her after one of their favorite authors, the very author who sparked their own love story.
Jane isn’t looking for a love story, and on the eve of her 18th birthday she happily considers changing her name and finally steering her life away from the self-imposed expectations that come with it, but … she meets a charming British boy on his way back home and everything she’s fought hard to control suddenly becomes irresistible.

My Review:

This wasn’t a very exciting adventure and it ended in a boring way. No, Not That Jane Austen’s synopsis is pretty misleading. It seems as if Jane has her life completely set out in front of her and then suddenly a British boy throws himself into her plans and Jane is thrown for a loop. That’s not true, don’t get it twisted.

Jane Austen isn’t an intriguing character; her name sure is, but she isn’t. She felt like a side character, a girl to push the plot along but didn’t have much else reason to be present. I didn’t and still don’t see what made the male interest want to kiss her so bad. I also don’t understand why the male interest kept saying he wanted to kiss her even though she would blatantly ignore him after he said it. Take a hint?

The plot of the story had about the same amount of meat that a vegetarian dinner would have. None. What was the point of the whole story? Technically, it can’t be called a short story, rather a really long sample of the actual story (that is definitely not worth a dollar). I think this wasn’t much a prequel, but more of a short short story that is supposed to tease you into wanting to buy the next book. Unfortunately for Grey, in order for that to work, as an author, you need to make sure that if you read No, Not That Jane Austen you would want to buy the next book. And not just because it’s yours.

The Starter Boyfriend by Tina Ferraro

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Kindle Price: Free!

Official Review: 1.5/5

Synopsis:

“17 year-old Courtney is completely stressed. There’s the rift with her softball teammates, homework, housework, her part-time job at the tux shop, her dad’s upcoming wedding…enough! Would it be too much to ask for someone special in her life, a boyfriend she could talk to, count on, even lean on a little?

The best she’s got is a blue-eyed surfer boy who seems to save his biggest moves for his board, and a “friend date” to Homecoming with a guy still in love with his ex. Oh, and then there’s the tuxedo mannequin in the shop window, who happens to be reliable and an amazing listener.When the mannequin gets stolen in a senior prank, Courtney finds herself in a midnight pursuit along beach boulevards, trying to save more than the mannequin, but the job she’s come to love. After turning to the unlikeliest of people for help, and finding that surfer boy is as resourceful as he is good-looking, her load begins to lighten. In fact, she soon might find not only what she needs, but what she wants, too.”

My Review:

I’ll be honest, this is one of the weirdest books I have ever read. It was decent, but also pretty creepy.

Courtney is seventeen and using a mannequin in the clothing store she works at as her “starter boyfriend.” He’s supposed to be simple something she can make mistakes on without experiencing heartbreak. Yet, she calls it ‘him’, named it “Tux,” imagines how his breath might smell, how his lips might feel, and what his manly scent might be. (spoiler) She even goes as far as breaking into (she had a key though) the clothing store in order to sit and talk to him. The mannequin effectively distracts from the main point of the story and it was painful. I cringed every time I heard her mention Tux or any time she thought about it. To each their own, but I thought that was a bit weird, Courtney might need counseling.

There was little to no character development with Courtney, besides maybe she stops lying. I don’t understand why she felt the need to lie to everyone though. It was so unnecessary. She goes from pretending that she’s stressed out and feeling sorry to herself to realizing that everything is pretty great in her world. I didn’t see what she learned besides that.

Almost all of the rest of the characters were unfortunately very uninteresting. The antagonist, the love interest, the best friend…all of them except for Courtney’s stepmom. She was so energetic and lively. A little over the top, but she was fun to read about. Did she need more book-time? No. She had enough, but I do think that she should have been seen bonding with Courtney more in the time that she was given.
The book itself wasn’t terrible exciting. It was just a quick read that wasn’t completely boring, but not very intriguing either. It didn’t seem to be going anywhere, just simply stating what was happening in Courtney’s life. Even the conflict seemed rather minor, just a simple spat between high-schoolers that didn’t have much foundation to it. Everything consistently worked out for Courtney, no matter what it was. In the end, she has a wonderful stepmother, a great best friend, a boyfriend, good news about her mother…it was all too much. Courtney’s world is too perfect and that honestly made me want to side with Saffron. What Saffron did was wrong and there’s no excuse for that (plus her execution for her plan was terrible), but I at least see why she was so upset. Overall, this book was a kind of weird, had a decent ending, but it wasn’t memorable.

The Cure by Stephanie Erickson

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Price: $3.99

Official Rating: 5/5

Synopsis:

“One life will make the difference.” Macey Holsinger has been hearing that promise her whole life. But it hasn’t saved anyone yet, not even her little brother.
The disease has claimed countless lives in the last hundred years, and the government is working hard to find a cure through human testing. Testing that has killed nearly as many people as the disease.
At sixteen, Macey has better things to think about than saving lives and submitting to any rule other than her parents’. As a budding artist, she has her whole life ahead of her, at least until she faces her own testing.
Questions plague Macey. Questions that make everyone else nervous. How can death be justified with more death? What’s the point of all this?
Answers evade her until she’s left with only one question: How much will she sacrifice in the name of the cure?
If you liked The Hunger Games or Divergent, you’ll love The Cure!

My Review:

I’m always very skeptical about books in the free section and in the dystopian, Young Adult genre. The abundance of the less-than-riveting choices is astounding and not in a good way. But, The Cure shocked me and I loved it.

The first thing that I noticed was that this is under the dystopian genre, but if you look at the title of this review, this isn’t a series. Yes, this is a young adult dystopian book that is not a series. Everything is tied up in just one book and that is amazing.

Macey Holsinger is the heroine, and she honestly is. Macey is in tenth grade, loves art, misses her little brother, has two parents and a best friend who’s like a brother, and a whole lot of questions. Her questions and natural instinct to defy what everyone just accepts gets her in trouble in school, but lands her an opportunity she would’ve given almost anything to participate in. Macey had a well-developed personality. She went through a range of emotions: anger, sadness, fear, depression, determination, and so on. Her main objective wasn’t to take down the government nor was it to just let the government do whatever it wanted and I respect Erickson for pulling that off. Macy was real, a person who just happened to live inside of a book. She loved, cried, screamed, defied, glared, stayed in a vegetable state for a week, stood up for herself, questioned everything including herself, thought outside the box, cared, and never stopped being human.

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Sophie’s Secret (Whisper series) by Tara West

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Official Rating: 2/5

Synopsis:

“After shedding 30 pounds of baby fat, Sophie Sinora has grown into a pretty, but insecure, teen in bloom. To make her life more complicated, Sophie can sometimes read minds.
Sophie’s BFFs, AJ and Krysta, are also ‘gifted’ with paranormal abilities. Keeping their gifts secret proves difficult, as their powers are strengthening, making them feel more and more like freaks.
When Sophie falls for Jacob, she hopes he’ll ask her out to the Freshman Formal. But when she’s forced to cheat and lie for him, she wonders how far she’ll have to go to make him like her. Add to her growing list of problems – her teacher’s suicidal thoughts, a locker bully who wants to kick her butt, the hot school flirt who won’t stop teasing her, her pregnant sister who boots Sophie out of her room, and the growing tension between Sophie and her best friends.
Sophie’s got issues. Hopefully, she can fix them in time to save her teacher’s life and her social life.

My Review:

When I opened this book, I didn’t have access to the internet so I couldn’t double check what the synopsis was on goodreads. Everything that was in the synopsis occurred in the book, but it was very watered down. I was expecting the book to be more about the supernatural powers that Sophie, AJ, and Kyrsta have. Instead, I got bits and pieces about their powers and mostly learned more about Sophie’s her pregnant sister, depressed teacher, her rather small issues with her friends, and her romance life.

Sophie is the main character and the whole book is from her perspective. It was interesting to see things through her eyes and read other people’s minds, but she insulted people too much for me to enjoy it. While yes, a teacher that picks his nose is very gross, to call him “Pick-and-Flick” isn’t very kind. Nor is calling Cody Miller “Grody Cody” polite either. Sophie uses her power to try to understand a few people better, but only if it benefits her. For example, Frankie (spoiler) who she uses her telepathic powers to figure out if he likes her or her favorite teacher or her new best friend, Lara. Yet, not with Mr. Dallin or Cody. Why doesn’t she want to know what those two are thinking? Surely they know about what people call them and I’m sure their feelings are probably hurt. Everyone is dealing with something, being ridiculed by the “entire” school can’t help. But Sophie doesn’t care because she has already labeled them and therefore doesn’t want anything else to do with them.

The rest of characters were just as okay. They all felt 2D and I didn’t connect with any of them. Sophie’s best friends, Krysta and AJ, didn’t really do very much, especially Krysta. AJ only served to give the plot a bit more “trouble in paradise” between friends. The only interesting part in the whole book was the issue between Sophie and her sister, Rosa Marie. I would have like to have seen more bonding between them, but it just didn’t happen.

The plot was rather interesting, but it didn’t hold up because of the lack of anything that actually had something to do with the three main characters’ powers. In order for me to have even thought about the sequel, there had to be more than a few obscure hints about the girls having an increase in power. There had to be more to the plot and I was disappointed that there wasn’t.