Sunday, January 26, 2020

Review: In Restless Dreams by Wren Handman

The Phantasmer Cycle, Book One
by Wren Handman
Parliament Press
YA Fantasy
293 pages

JANUARY 28th, 2020!!!

Sylvia is just a normal girl with huge, normal problems – her mother’s attempted suicide; how to adjust to life on the Upper East Side; trying to make friends in a rich prep school where she doesn’t belong; whether or not to trust the cute boy with the dangerous eyes. She thinks that’s more than she can handle, but she tests the limits of her endurance when she learns that she is the long awaited Phantasmer, a human who can change the fabric of Fairy simply by believing in a new story. Sylvia’s life is thrown off course as two warring Courts, the Seelie and Unseelie, both attempt to co-opt her gift to fight the other Court, which she has to deal with while trying not to get kicked out of school for fighting. And it doesn’t help matters that the fairies begging for her help are both attractive young men – with their own agendas.


Fans of Fairy, the Unseelie and Seelie Courts, and those who love a bit of unsure romance will enjoy this one.

Sylvia is a very usual high school student with a normal life in a small town out West. That is, until her mother tries to commit suicide. While her mother undergoes very necessary therapy, Sylvia and her younger brother move to their father in New York, who happens to be one of the richest and most well-known men in the city. The culture shock isn't an easy one to master as Sylvia is suddenly thrust into a private school with the elite's of the high class, especially when they decide to bully her. Tricked into taking drugs, Sylvia is meets two very strange men while she's high, ones no one but her can see...and even afterwards, she still sees them. Just as she's sure she's going crazy, she stumbles into Fairy and discovers that so much more awaits her. And most of those things are anything but nice and safe. They're down right deadly.

I could give two very separate reviews on this book if it were divided somewhere about a third of the way through. In the first third, we meet sixteen-year-old Sylvia as she's dumped by her boyfriend and immediately are drawn in as her life flips upside down. The writing is pretty well done (with only a few stumbles here and there), and it was fairly easy to fall into the scenes. I was a bit thrown by Sylvia's snark and found her a little unkind at times. The side characters also didn't have the depth I would have hoped for, but still, the entire thing was interesting enough to keep me reading. So, I'd give that section three stars.

It takes over one third of the book before the fantasy really gets going. During the first pages, the Stranger does pop in with his own section every now and then, but it's always very short and doesn't meld into the happenings with Sylvia...making it almost possible to forget magic is supposed to be involved at all. When Sylvia finally does see Fairy, her talents hit suddenly and without a real explanation (unless the accidental drug use was the cause?). The reasoning behind her being born with such powers is never neared upon, which I found a little disappointing.

Once Sylvia is hooked in with the Fairy, the adventure truly begins. Everything she faced with her private school fades away, making the entire drama between new friends and such meaningless...and made me wonder why much of it was necessary.

Anyway, the fairy side is simply a fun read. The author develops the two fae men well done as their two very different personalities add amazing tension and bring even more secrets into play. Sylvia has a lot to figure out and deal with, and none of it is crystal clear. This kept me guessing until the last pages and made every twist and turn fun.

The scenes and imagery are a treat. The world is packed with fantastical details and each set is vivid. The emotions run high in a mix of black and white as the two opposing worlds of Fairy collide. Even the background history, which the author has created, melds in wonderfully and makes for an exciting  and unique predicament. So much happens during this latter section of the book, and it's packed with danger, action, mystery and adventure. The romance adds even extra spice.

All in all, I enjoyed the read and will meld the rating together to form four stars.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Review: Gone by Nightfall by Dee Garretson with Giveaway

Gone by Nightfall
by Dee Garretson
Swoon Reads
January 21st 2020
YA Historical

A young woman is torn between her home and her dreams during the Russian Revolution.
It’s 1916, and Charlotte Mason is determined to make a life for herself in czarist Russia. When her mother dies, Charlotte is forced to put her plans to go to medical school aside to care for her unruly siblings. Then a handsome new tutor arrives. Charlotte has high hopes that he’ll stay, freeing her up to follow her dreams of becoming a doctor. But there’s more to Dmitri that meets the eye.
Just when she thinks she can get her life back, Russia descends into revolution and chaos. Now, not only does Charlotte need to leave Russia, she needs to get her siblings out too–and fast.
Can Charlotte flee Russia, keep her siblings safe, and uncover Dmitri’s many secrets before she runs out of time?


This is one of the most richly written historical novels for young adults that I've run across, one that truly brings the time frame to life.

Charlotte Mason is a young girl living in Russia in 1916. Since her mother passed away, it's her dream to continue the dream of helping others, and she's determined to go to medical school. But with the world around her revolting, chaos is found around every corner. She's told to leave and return to her relatives in America, but with her siblings, her mother's hospital and a man, who isn't what he seems, she's determined to do what she thinks is right.

This one surprised me. While many young adult historical novels tend to feel a bit 'light', this one dives in with a very rich and vivid world. Charlotte does have a lot to learn and makes usual mistakes for girls that age. It's easy to connect with her and makes her believable, but never is the atmosphere of the time frame scratched. The tension and the danger growing coming from the world falling apart around her hits from the very first page and holds through the entire read. And while a few handful of moments, especially in the romance end, weren't as smooth as they might have been, these didn't hurt the story by any means. 

It's an exciting read which not only historical fiction fans are sure to enjoy.

And here she is...
Dee Garretson spent her childhood helping her father build his offbeat inventions and playing adventure games in the woods. After working as a landscape designer and teaching landscape horticulture classes for several years, Dee returned to writing. Her debut novel, Wildfire Run, has been praised for its suspense and its hero, Luke, who “with his companions, displays generous measures of courage and ingenuity in rising to the occasion” (ALA Booklist). She lives with her family in Cincinnati, Ohio. 


Thursday, January 23, 2020

Review: Twisting Minds by Tessonja Odette

by Tessonja Odette
Crystal Moon Press
YA Dystopian

For fans of The Hunger Games, Black Mirror, and Divergent comes a mind-bending love story you won't want to put down.
In a future where social status is determined by wealth, debt is punishable by law. Seventeen-year-old Claire Harper lives on the lowest rungs of society. Once an Elite, she’s now a probationary citizen who’s lost everything—her rights, her family, her privacy.
She has one goal. Work her way back to the top. Even if it kills her.
Then she meets Darren.
Darren turns her world upside down. He shows her there’s more to life than working herself to the bone. And she’s falling for him. Hard.
But what good is losing her heart if her sanity goes with it?
When tragedy strikes, her reality shifts. She can no longer tell what’s real and what’s not. Is Darren who she thinks he is? Is she who she thinks she is?
In a dangerous game she doesn’t know she’s playing, her only hope is to make it out alive.
One part futuristic thriller, one part dystopian romance, Twisting Minds is a psychological thrill ride that will leave you questioning the power of love, technology, and the human mind. 
"If Suzanne Collins and Blake Crouch had a teen baby while watching Black Mirror, it would be Twisitng Minds."


I hadn't picked up a dystopian for awhile, and whilthis one does start out with a familiar feel as many other dystopian novels, it definitely branches off in a refreshing direction quickly.

After WWIII, Seattle has turned into a society with very clear social levels, but these levels can change for any individual according to their efforts or failures. The main character's parents were able to make it all the way up to the lower level elites, which meant she had a life of privilege...for awhile. An accident at work takes away her father, and her mother dies of a disease. In order to pay for medical attention, the mother takes out a tithe, which leaves the main character owing the amount back to society after her mother's death. But paying back debt is not an easy thing.

The writing flows nicely in this story, making it simple and engaging to read. And still, the author effortlessly drops in grabbing, meaningful phrases along the way and leads the reader to thought without sliding into the atmosphere of being 'literary'. It's a laid back and still, gripping style.

There is a sense of familiarity during the first chapter, but it's exactly this which allows the reader to settle into the world without much trouble. As the main character works hard to help her situation, the tension builds little by little. It's as if something evil is there but not close enough to understand what it might be. The ending, though, hits hard and unexpected, throwing this into a thriller category.

Romance touches as a light of hope and adds the needed warmth and emotion. It's a bit of love-at-first-sight but not from the main character's side. She's dealing with quite a bit, and allows the romance to build bit by bit. And this fits horribly well into the rest of the plot as the entire thing molds together in the last pages.

If you like psychological thrillers with romance and a dystopian setting, this is definitely a great read to pick up. It's an intriguing twist, which I can't wait to see more of.

Review: Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business by Lyla Lee

by Lyla Lee
Aladdin Books
Children's Chapter Book
77 pages
ages 6 to 9

Alyson Heller at Aladdin has acquired at auction, Lyla Lee’s debut chapter book series, pitched as FRESH OFF THE BOAT meets JUNIE B. JONES, the first book entitled MINDY KIM AND THE YUMMY SEAWEED BUSINESS, in which a Korean American second grader moves to a mostly Caucasian Florida community. In an effort to adjust to her new school, she starts a snack trading ring with the Korean food from her lunch to make new friends. Publication is set for Spring 2020, Summer 2020, & Fall 2020; Penny Moore at Empire Literary negotiated the deal for World Rights.


Mindy Kim is a sweet girl, who deals with a situation almost any kid can relate to, while presenting a bit of cultural diversity along the way.

After the passing of her mother, Mindy and her father have moved from California to Florida, and that means they finally have a house with a yard. That makes Mindy one step closer to reaching one of her dreams: having a puppy to call her own. But that's going to have to wait thanks to other challenges. She's going to start a new school with the problem of finding new friends, and her father is still very sad about the loss of their mother. Mindy might have a way to solve both problems...maybe.

This is such a lovely story, and so easy to sink into. Mindy is a girl, who's hard not to like from the very first moment. She's kind, a little shy, wants to help where she can, but still faces the same problems of an average seven-year-old and doesn't always know how to deal with them. When she steps into the school for the first time, it's easy to understand her insecurity and feel for her as she sits at the lunch table by herself. Her attempts to make things work bring a smile to the face, and the stumbling blocks as well as her mistakes, make her into the kind of person most kids would want as a best friend.

The story rolls along in such a smooth way that it's hard to put down. And not only is the story one kids can sink into, but there's an important message as Mindy works through whatever she faces. The author also slides in aspects of Mindy's heritage, letting the reader learn a little bit more about an Asian culture along the way.

Summed up, this is a wonderful read I can see many kids really enjoying and can't wait to see where the rest of Mindy Kim's adventures will take her...and catch up on the ones, which have already are out there. This one gets a two thumbs up from me!

And here they are...

The Author...
Lyla Lee is a writer of many things. After working various jobs in Hollywood and studying psychology and cinematic arts at USC, she now lives in Dallas, Texas. When she is not writing, she is teaching watching Korean dramas and other TV shows, and eating all kinds of good food. Visit her online at and on Twitter and Instagram at @literarylyla

The Illustrator...
Dung Ho was born and raised in Hue, Vietnam, where she studied graphic design at the Hue University College of Arts. After graduating, she worked in the design and advertising industries before discovering a great passion for illustration and picture books and becoming a freelance illustrator. Currently, she lives and works in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. Ho draws inspiration from mature and the interaction between people and nature and especially loves to draw children. When not drawing, she enjoys cooking and watching movies. Visit her online at and on Instagram @dunghanhho.

Also coming out on January 14th...

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Review: Reynard's Dream by Geoffrey Simpson

The Three Hares, Book 2
by Geoffrey Simpson
Upper Middle Grade Adventure/Mystery
263 pages

Ethan, Jacob, and Liz are back in this explosive follow-up to The Three Hares: Bloodline, which was described as “A smart, twisty adventure mystery that will keep young readers simply spellbound until the remarkably unpredictable conclusion” by Midwest Book Review.

Ezra Reynard returns with rage, reinforcements, and a dream. As the school year wraps up, an unexpected announcement echoes through the halls. Students are dismissed early, and a new school system is to be introduced after the summer. But first, they must take a test… one which will define their entire futures.

Winslow Falls is teetering on the brink of disaster, and their only hope is lurking within a three-hundred-year-old cypher.


Packed full of adventure, mystery and never ending excitement, this is book is tons of fun to read.

Ethan, Jacob and Liz just got through their first adventure in book one and are met with an even more dangerous one just as the school year closes. If they thought the one in their classrooms and halls was tough, there's even something worse awaiting in Winslow Falls. If they want to stop the evil from lurking in, they'll need to decipher an ancient text and, even then, stay on their toes if they even want to have a whispers chance of making it through.

Often times, the second book in a series doesn't quite meet the expectations that the first one left off. That's not true of this series. The author has managed to notch things up a bit and pack in even more adventure and tension as the three heroes go up against a very sinister adversary.  The plot thickens with every page, and the never-ending twists and turns make it hard to see what's coming next. Add in a few historical tidbits, and this is an exciting read...especially for those who enjoyed book one.

And here he is...

Geoffrey Simpson was born and raised in Avon Lake, just outside Cleveland, Ohio. From an early age, he connected with nature through camping, building forts, fishing, and treasure hunts.

After graduating from Kent State University, building a career in program management, and growing a family of two boys, Jonathan and Henry, with his beloved wife Lili, he took a breath. A breath to recapture the spirit of adventure so that it may never be lost. An adventure which can be passed down for generations, including to his own sons. Now living in Minden, Germany, with his family, he became a writer.
Geoffrey is the author of the young adult adventure-mystery series, The Three Hares. He specializes in nature-themed, puzzle-solving stories driven by a pulsating grip of good versus evil. The Three Hares is his debut series.

Happy Book Birthday, The Not-So Dead by Isaiyan Morrison with Giveaway!

The Not-So Dead
Isaiyan Morrison
The Dead Series, #1
YA Fantasy, Horror

All Faye wants is another chance at being normal: hanging out with friends, playing video games, reading the latest Manga… As a wraith, her craving for a normal existence seems forever out of reach. When she makes the move to the small town of Hueman, Texas with her not-so dead nomadic family, she prays this fresh start will be the one that sticks.
Until… one of her kind is murdered by a mysterious man in a black mask.
With only Carter, an unlucky human witness, by her side, Faye must find a way to prevent the body count from rising and protect her family’s secret identity. As the man in the black mask lurks in the shadows waiting to strike again, her choice becomes a matter of life and death.
In the face of true evil, being normal is overrated.


As far as Faye knew, explorers explored, but she didn’t tell Maddy that. She probably would have stayed there waiting for Dusk to come back, but another person shakily emerged from inside the club. It was the guy from before, the one she had fed on. He swayed, and his legs shook heavily as he turned toward her and made eye contact. That was when she decided to leave. She grabbed her backpack from the ground, stuffed her gaming device back into it, and jogged off after Maddy.
“Hey! Wait!” She heard the man shouting after her.
She caught up to Maddy and dared not to look back. The man chased after her, and when he caught up with them, he grabbed Faye’s arm and forced her around. His eyes drooped. “What did you do to me?” he mumbled.
Faye didn’t know what to do. She drew closer to Maddy, even reaching out to take her arm. Then he was gone.
There was a brief eddy of wind as Maddy moved faster than a human eye could follow. She took hold of the situation and forced the weirdo to release his grip before she tossed him into an alley. His body slammed against the wall, and she stood over him a second later.
The veins underneath her skin pulsated red, and with both hands on his face, she fed.
Then it was over. He crumpled to the ground, and she dragged him behind a dumpster. None of the passersby noticed what had happened.
“That’s how you take care of drunken idiots.” She wiped her hands and strolled down the street.
“Did you kill him?”
Maddy shot her an evil glare. “I should have, but no, he’ll wake up in a few hours.”
“Th-thank you,” Faye mumbled.
Maddy sneered. “Don’t thank me. Next time, stand up for yourself, Dora. You could have done that just as easily as I did.”
She turned and continued moving down the street, away from the center of town. Faye followed. They walked for a while in silence. Maddy was right; she could have handled the guy as easily as she had. So why had she been so scared?
“I’m Asian,” Faye muttered.
“What?” Maddy asked.
“I’m not Hispanic.”
Maddy stopped and whirled on her. “What?”
“Dora isn’t Asian.” Faye avoided her eyes.
Maddy threw her hands up. “I don’t call you Dora because I think you’re Hispanic, dumb ass. It’s ’cause you carry that stupid backpack everywhere.”
“I carry my games.”
“You carry kid toys, like your games,” she said. “You know, Dora, you could use those to lure stupid nerds like that boy, but you don’t.”
“Whatever the boy’s name is. I mean, why hang out with that if you aren’t going to at least try him?”
“I didn’t want to leech off him.”
“My God, you’re just annoying as all hell, aren’t you?” Maddy turned down a side street. “After two years, you’d think you would’ve grown into this by now, but no. You still get all depressed when it’s time to eat.”
“How long did it take you to get used to it?”
Maddy slowed her steps. “As soon as it happened. I had no regrets. Actually”—she faced Faye—“I was happy it happened. I felt special because the wraith who did this to me chose me. He could’ve killed me after he took what he wanted, but he didn’t.” She jabbed her finger in Faye’s chest. “Instead he took it all and he made me into what I am now. He understood that taking only a little doesn’t stop the hunger.”
“We take just a little so they won’t end up like us. That’s what Dusk says.”
“If you always do that, you start to rot and smell like death. Eventually you need to take it all.” She rolled her eyes. “Maybe you want that to happen to you again? You want the death splotch.”
Faye remembered the moment vividly. First it had started with a small blemish on the skin. Then it spread all over her body, leaving a putrid stench that even her acute sense of smell couldn’t take. “But I don’t want to kill anyone.”
“It’s a little too late to be the pacifist,” she growled. “We all do it, even Dusk. How do you think he was able to survive after all these years? We have to eat, Faye. If we don’t, we die.”
Faye started to follow her but stopped. As she thought it over, she realized Maddy was right. Sucking away the essence from unsuspecting people was part of her new life, a life she hadn’t asked for. It wasn’t easy to accept and fit in with the rest of them. How could they expect her to only after two years? They were much older and had more experience. They had time to adjust while she was just learning how to work with her newfound abilities. And what kind of wraith didn’t enjoy leeching, knowing full well they had to in order to survive? She hated it and the stereotypes that came with being what she was.
“You already did it once. You took too much and the guy became one of us,” Maddy added. “And it felt damn good, didn’t it?”
Faye nodded.
“So, stop fighting your stupid emotions and do it again.”
“Well, why didn’t you want to kill that boy back at our old home?” Faye asked.
Maddy stopped abruptly. “That was different.”
Faye walked around Maddy and faced her. “Was it because you liked him?”
She folded her arms. “Dusk told you that, didn’t he? As usual, he likes to keep out the important details, make himself look like our leader who can do no wrong. You think he’s squeaky clean, don’t you? You think he has all the answers, but he doesn’t. He’s just as dark and evil as any wraith. We all are.”
Faye felt something sharp jab into her shoulder, followed by a burning sensation. She hadn’t felt that much pain since she’d been turned. She screamed before Maddy took hold of her and whisked her down the street.
They stopped and hid behind a parked car. Faye reached up and gripped her shoulder, finding a wooden stake embedded in her skin. Cold, thick blood oozed from a puncture wound. “What did you do that for?” Her blood was as dark as hematite. Wraith blood usually was.
“Shhh.” Maddy’s eyes revealed confusion and fear. “That wasn’t me, you idiot.”
A tall figure loomed across the street, wearing olive cargo shorts and a black tank top that exposed pale, muscled arms underneath. A belt wrapped around his waist held sharpened stakes of varying sizes, and he held a machete in his left hand and a crossbow in the other. However, it was the oval-shaped black mask covering his face that made Faye melt with slight fear. With narrow, vertical slits across a long slit in place of their mouth, the individual looked more beast than man. She also saw a weird mark, the Roman numeral three etched just between the eyes.
“Hold still.” Maddy grabbed the stake and yanked it from Faye’s shoulder.
The pain was excruciating, but immediately dissipated.
“Who is he?” she whispered to Maddy.
“Whoever he is, he’ll be sorry for attacking us.” She stood from behind the parked car. “Stay here. I’ll take care of this idiot.”
“But why would he throw a stake at—” Faye didn’t get the chance to finish her question as Maddy rushed across the street. Faye immediately thought back to what Carter had said about vampires and vampire hunters, but they didn’t exist. Even if they did, they didn’t hunt wraiths.
She stumbled to her feet and watched as Maddy’s fist whipped at incredible speed at the man. He ducked under her arm, and with the machete, he sliced at her right arm.
She screamed as it fell useless at her side. She leapt backward when the man kicked her in the stomach and sent her backward onto the pavement. He aimed the crossbow at her chest and pulled the trigger.

And here she is...
ISAIYAN MORRISON knows how to tell stories about kick-ass women. In her best selling Angelbound series, the heroine is a part-demon girl who loves to fight in Purgatory’s Arena and falls in love with a part-angel prince. This young adult best seller has driven more than 500,000 ebook downloads and 9,000 reviews on Goodreads and retailers. The first three books in the series are now available as audiobooks on Audible and iTunes.
Morrison has also told the story of the Women’s March on Washington by leading PR efforts for the Massachusetts Chapter. Her pre-event press release—the only one sent out on a major wire service—resulted in more than 19,000 global impressions and redistribution by over 350 different media entities including the Associated Press.
Christina graduated from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School with BA’s in English along with Television, Radio, and Film Production. She lives in Newton, MA with her husband, son, and semi-insane golden retriever, Ruby.
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