Book Review: The Alchemyst’s Mirror

Title: The Alchemyst’s Mirror
Author: Liz Delton
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Year Published: October 27, 2020

The Alchemyst’s Mirror by Liz Delton is a fantasy story about two sisters who are on a quest to find their kidnapped brother. At the same time, there is a missing object/item that’s very dangerous and needs to be found before the wrong person gets to it. 

Petra and Maisie own a bakery and are very happy in their lives. The only thing that worries them is their missing brother. They both want to find him, so they set a plan to find him. Maisie gets kidnapped before they began the search leaving Petra to go without her. While Maisie is gone, Petra and an explorer named Evan commence the mission to find the brother. During their search, they find clues to a dangerous secret society, and before they know it, they get tangled in a trap. Maisie, while kidnapped on a ship outsmarts the person who kidnapped her and finds her way back to save her sister and Evan.

This was a really fun read. The two sisters were strong and knew what kind of life they wanted to live. Even though they had lost their parents and their brother was kidnapped, they kept it together. They were very protective of each other and you can feel the love between them. The action was wonderful, and the villain was well done. This story was a little fast-paced and there were lots of telling/describing things (that were unnecessary), but otherwise, it was a great read.

There was one thing I found a little annoying and I hope this changes in the following books, but I found Petra somewhat unlikable in the sense that she was often verbally abusive to Evan, who happened to really like her. She bossed him around and yelled at him when he made mistakes. I’m not sure why he stuck around or why he’d like someone like that. I was confused. I think that’s the only issue I had. I secretly wanted Evan to stand up to her.

I’d say this book would be great for those who enjoy a middle grade level of reading. It reminds me a little of Harry Potter in writing style.

NOTE: This book was given to me to read and review, but the opinion is purely my own.

Book Review: Theseus’ Lostness

Title: Theseus’ Lostness
Author: Stefan Calin
Genre: Fiction, Literary, Erotica
Year Published: August 5, 2020

Theseus’ Lostness by Stefan Calin is the first book in The Journeys We Wander trilogy. The story is about a man named Allan who finds himself between two relationships. He seems to struggle with which woman to get closer to but eventually makes his decision after some soul searching.

Allan works at a newspaper agency as a reporter. The receptionist at the agency, Marry, is one of the women he’s attracted to. The other woman is named Ilsa. Ilsa was accused of murder and was hospitalized due to injuries during the altercation that allegedly led to the murders. The case was so popular that the agency sent Allan to interview Ilsa for her side of the story.

While Allan is with Ilsa at the hospital, he listens to her tell him the story about her relationship with the man who was murdered. As he listens to her and spends more time with her, he begins to fall for her. She was a free-spirit, adventurous, and willing to try different things. These qualities appealed to him and kept him excited each time he visited her. At times, she was abrupt and impatient and that clashed with him making him question why he went to visit her at all. At the same time, he was slowly beginning to have an interest in Marry. He’s worked with her for a while but suddenly was attracted to her. Marry’s character is very straight forward. She comes across a little stiff or cold because of that. Allan tries to spend time with Marry but finds that it’s not as easy as he’d thought.

I enjoyed this story. It’s not very long and took me a couple of days to finish. I had originally started it and then took a few days off to catch up on other things. When I returned to it, I started from the beginning again. Once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down. I found the story of Allan and Ilsa very interesting. My personal opinion of Allan was that he took advantage of Ilsa after she opened his eyes to what he calls “freedom.” I liked how Ilsa went about it. She allowed him deep into her heart to see all the good and the bad about who she was. I think he was attracted to that and the fact that she was easy to get along with and open up to. She had a way with pulling him to her with her words and actions and he totally fell for it. But then on the other end, he knew she had less freedom than he did, and here he was selfishly wanting the one thing she gave someone else. Marry wasn’t so easy to get close to. She was the perfect girl with a stable job and lots of friends. There were hoops to jump through to get close to her so even though she liked Allan and he liked her, she made him work for their relationship. I think Allan kind of spoke for all guys when he didn’t pursue her as hard as he could have. It took too much effort for maybe, just maybe, a chance to date. And even then, the relationship might not last. I can’t say for sure what decision Allan will make in the end. There are two other books in this trilogy so I don’t know who he’ll will end up with.

The sexual tension/erotica was tastefully done and necessary. I really liked the foreshadow surrounding this part of the relationship.

The only thing that I really didn’t care for were the surface, unclear, going nowhere thoughts and wonders Allan had. He does a lot of reflecting about life. At one point he talks to the reader as though the reader is a friend. Sometimes he will talk about thoughts in general, but have it come across as though he is preaching. It’s almost as if he thinks the reader agrees with him or the reader already knows what he just concluded. It didn’t provide any deeper meanings as I think it was meant to do. I also found the title a little confusing. Theseus was a king in Greek mythology, but I don’t know if I may have missed something in the book that was associated to him. There was no reference of any sort, or if there were, I missed it. These things were just minor though. This story was interesting with a well-developed main character and theme.

If you’re looking to read a fast-paced book with slight tension buildup, interesting perspective, and well-written erotica scenes, this would be an excellent choice.

NOTE: This book was given to me to read and review, but the opinion is purely my own.

Book Review: Fake Like Me

Title: Fake Like Me
Author: Barbara Bourland
Genre: Fiction, Thriller
Year Published: 2019

Fake Like Me is a thriller by Barbara Bourland. The story is written in first person point-of-view through a no-name narrator who starts out as an art student and moves her way upward.

While in art school, the narrator becomes obsessed with a particular art student named Carey Logan. After graduating, Carey and her artist friends soon create attention grabbing visual art. They work as a team becoming very famous and banking. The narrator puts Carey on a pedestal and hopes to one day have talent and fame like Carey.

Things are not as they seem and suddenly Carey decides she doesn’t want to do art anymore. Instead, she wants to be an actor. The narrator found that odd and wondered what made Carey change her mind. Then, Carey drowns in a lake and the narrator is even more curious as to the cause.

The narrator loses her apartment in a fire and decides to move into a cabin in a village exclusive to exceptionally talented artists, and where Carey lived. Carey’s friends were all still there and narrator hoped to learn the cause of Carey’s death through them, but everyone is hush-hush, including the narrator’s girlfriend, Max, who lives in the neighborhood but in a gorgeous home.

While getting around the village, the narrator gets to know Tyler (Carey’s boyfriend) and falls in love with him. She also hoped that he’d be the one to tell her about Carey’s death, but he refused to talk about anything having to do with Carey. In fact, no one wanted to talk about Carey, not even Max.

With the narrator’s pushing, everything is eventually revealed and with this revelation, the narrator becomes a stronger person.

This story was one crazy ride and I loved every bit of it. I found it strange that the narrator didn’t have a first or last name. The story was written so well that I didn’t even know she didn’t have a name until I finished the story and went back to find where I had missed her name, only to find that it was never mentioned. Good trickery there.

I enjoyed the buildup, the tension, the confusion, the curiosity, the way the characters tried to hide the truth (they were good at it), and the determination the narrator had at finding the truth. It was one great story that had me reading until 5am in the morning. That’s right, it was one those books where I kept saying, “Just one more chapter then I’ll go to bed.” This book is definitely up there with the thrillers, mysteries, and suspense.

This was a free Amazon book I chose to read and review for Vine.

Book Review: Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick

Title: Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick
Author: Philip K. Dick
Genre: Fiction, Sci-fi, Fantasy
Year Published: 2013

Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick is a collection of short stories in sci-fi and fantasy by Philip K. Dick. I would say it’s some of his best works. There are 21 stories and they were all enjoyable, but my favorites were:

“Beyond Lies the Wub”

“Second Variety”

“The King of the Elves”

“Adjustment Team”

“Autofac”

“The Minority Report”

“The Days of Perky Pat”

“We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”

“Faith of Our Fathers”

“The Exit Door Leads in”

“I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon”

PKD has had quite a few of his short stories and novels made into movies and TV series/episodes. Since this post is about his short stories from Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick, I’ll only be mentioning the movie adaptations from these stories. I should also mention that if you have time, read the stories first. However, if you don’t have time because you have a long list of TBRs like I do, then watch the movies.

Adaptations (those marked in red are what I’ve seen):

“Second Variety” – Screamers (1995); Screamers: The Hunting (2009)

“Paycheck” – Paycheck (2003)

“Adjustment Team” – The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

“Autofac” – Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams episode (2017)

“The Minority Report” – Minority Report (2002); Minority Report TV sequel adaptation (2015)

“We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” – Total Recall (1990); Total Recall (2012); Total Recall 2070 TV series (1999)

Looks like I have a lot of watching to do. If you’ve seen any of these shows, let me know what you thought and if they are worth watching. I didn’t realize PKD had so many of his stories adapted. I think it’s crazy awesome because now I don’t have any excuse not watch TV when I have nothing else to do (non-existent, really) or need a break.

Book Review: An American Story

Title: An American Story
Author: Mark Lages
Genre: Fiction, Literary, Memoir
Year Published: 2020

An American Story by Mark Lages is a fictional memoir about a man named Huey Baker. Huey tells us stories and experiences from his life and within it, he includes some satire, war stories, alcohol abuse stories, family dynamics, and many other facets of his life. It is a story that some might find relatable, interesting—even amusing, maybe depressing, and possibly enlightening.

Huey Baker is your ordinary American, and his life is…pretty ordinary. However, there are things in life that he can’t control. Even the demons within himself are hard to keep at bay. Huey seems a bit rough on the outside, mostly in the way he thinks and in what he believes, but on a deeper level, he’s got a good heart. Huey also likes to tell stories so not everything in the book is about him. He shares quite a few life experiences from observation or from hearing it from someone else.

Lages writes with ease and flow and the story just spills out so smoothly that it’s easy to feel as though you are listening to a friend talk. The style is like comedy. If you listen to good comedy, you’ll find that the comedian will deviate from the main story and return to it here and there, finishing it off with the main point of the story. Speaking of comedy, there were some really funny stuff that had me laughing. I’d have to say, the joke about the names of the sons had me for a bit, but I did figure it out and it was an LOL moment. There were also a lot of sad stuff that broke my heart, like the kid and the toy. An American Story is the true essence of what it’s like to be an American, and the title fits it perfectly.

I enjoyed the read. It’s one of those stories that makes you think and wonder about life and being human. It’s made me more aware that we’re not perfect and that we should do our best to be kind and forgiving.

NOTE: This book was given to me to read and review, but the opinion is purely my own.

Book Review: The Dawn Chorus

Title: The Dawn Chorus
Author: Samantha Shannon
Genre: Sci-fi, Paranormal, New Adult
Year Published: 2020

The Dawn Chorus is a novella between The Song Rising (the 3rd book in the Bone Season series), and the upcoming 4th book, The Mask Falling. The novella doesn’t give anything away from the main story. It basically delves into Paige’s pain and suffering from the last book. It also gives us a glimpse more into Paige and Warden’s relationship.

It’s been awhile since I read The Song Rising so I really don’t remember exactly what happened. I do remember that Paige escaped to Paris and that she wasn’t doing well. If you are interested in how Paige heals and how she gains the strength to fight back, then give this novella a go, otherwise, it’s totally fine to just wait for The Mask Falling.

Book Review: Jesus and Magdalene

Title: Jesus and Magdalene
Author: João Cerqueira
Genre: Fiction, Literary, Satire, Contemporary
Year Published: 2015, 2016

Jesus and Magdalene by João Cerqueira is a contemporary fiction with satire and thought-provoking points. The story follows Jesus and Mary Magdalene as they try to figure out how to stop environmental damage, greed, and racism.

In the story, Magdalene is an environmental activist working for a group known as Green Are the Fields. This group consists of the apostles and Jesus’s mother, Mary. Judas is the leader of the group and while everyone goes along with his plans, Magdalene somewhat begins to listen to Jesus on a different approach. Jesus isn’t part of the group. He comes into the picture a little later, appearing from thin air. Magdalene brings him along to where the group was camping near the farm where genetically modified (GM) corn was being grown. They were planning to destroy the crops, but Jesus told them it was better to teach the farmer about the effects of GM rather than destroy his property.

The story jumps from GM crops to a town where a resort was going up. The labor and services provided from the resort would in turn provide money to the townspeople and boost their economy. However, greed from the engineers led to a terribly built hotel and thus nothing came of that town.

Then, the story jumps to a future Europe where gypsies, blacks, and whites live among each other. Things were peaceful until one group began blaming the other and things ended badly for everyone, including Jesus and Magdalene.

This was a very interesting story. I found myself enjoying it. I’d have to agree that in our world today, if Jesus suddenly appeared, he would actually be like the Jesus described in the book. However, if he was born and raised from birth in our world today, I believe he would have found a way to do what he could to make the world a better place. It’s not that he wasn’t trying in the book, he just wasn’t given the momentum as he was given in the New Testament. With that said, what if Jesus is actually in our world today and doing just that (making a difference) and we just don’t realize it like the characters in the book?

There were a couple things I found lacking. One was that the three chapters had no real ending or resolution. The third chapter also ended very quickly with little explanation. And two, none of the chapters came together to form one cohesive story. That aside, I didn’t find either of these points to impede the message and the sarcasm of it all.

The book is a great conversation starter and worth the read. I didn’t get the feel that the author was forcing anything onto me. It was satire at its finest. If you are faithfully religious, I’d recommend reading it with an open mind.

NOTE: This book was given to me to read and review, but the opinion is purely my own.

Book Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Title: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Sci-fi, YA, Dystopian
Year Published: 2020

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins is a dystopian sci-fi about a young Coriolanus Snow before he became President Snow. The story takes place many years earlier, before The Hunger Games trilogy, when Coriolanus was seventeen and climbing his way up in the Capitol in Panem.

We follow Coriolanus through the 10th Hunger Games in which he is a mentor to a tribute named Lucy Gray Baird from District 12. It’s tough in the arena and Coriolanus does whatever he can to help Lucy Gray win. Outside of the Games, Coriolanus begins to fall for Lucy Gray and starts showing his attraction for her. She notices and reciprocates.

After the Games, it was revealed to a higher up that Coriolanus assisted Lucy Gray in unethical ways so that she would win. He was forced to become a Peacekeeper but was allowed to choose which district to work in. He chose District 12 to be closer to Lucy Gray.

In District 12, Coriolanus learns that Lucy Gray, along with a few others, including Lucy Gray’s ex-boyfriend, were planning an escape. One of the other members in the plan was Sejanus Plinth. Sejanus was originally from District 2 but moved to the Capitol as a young kid and became good friends with Coriolanus. Sejanus was also a Peacekeeper in District 12. After having seen how poorly the District people were being treated, he vowed to help the small group escape. A crime occurs during the planning in which Coriolanus took part in, thus causing the escape to terminate.

Lucy Gray still wants to run away so Coriolanus agrees to go with her. He was also afraid the crime would catch up to him and didn’t want to be hanged. On the day he was to sneak out to run away with Lucy Gray, he gets a promotion and is required to head to District 2 the next morning. He has to choose between his future and the girl he loves. He chose love, but while they were out of District 12 in an area where the Peacekeepers were not monitoring, he finds the weapon he used during the murder and attempts to discard it. He also learns that Lucy Gray had betrayed him and goes after her to kill her, but he couldn’t find her. He returns to District 12 and leaves for training the next day.

During the flight to District 2, they made a stop at the Capitol. It turns out that the Head Gamemaker, Dr. Gaul, wanted to train Coriolanus at the university because Dr. Gaul found Coriolanus brilliant with his Games ideas.

In The Hunger Games trilogy, Coriolanus is the antagonist and someone we detest because of his cold-heartedness and brutal ruling. In The Ballad, he is the protagonist and someone we are supposed to like and feel sorry for. He does come across as a decent person in Ballad. His love for Lucy Gray was real. He went out of his way to help her win, even doing things he shouldn’t be doing. It felt as though he wanted her alive because she meant so much to him. Even if he never saw her again, at least she’d be able to live her life in the District. However, because he was found out, he got the opportunity to be with her and to really know her. She was all that she said she was: a singer and song writer; a free spirit. She was also very clever. In the Games, her cleverness helped her survive and it also, at one point, helped save his life.

The story goes much deeper than a dystopian story about a young adult falling in love and learning about who he is. I read the QA, which included the idea behind the story, and was completely surprised. I did get the sense of a struggle between an authoritarian world and a romanticism or “freedom” ideal. It wasn’t about which character I liked better or who I should like more than the other. It was more about understanding people’s behavior based not only on their upbringing but also the environment they’re exposed to. It was a very powerful book with so many hidden messages and meanings.

I wasn’t expecting to say this, but I’m totally shocked by how great this book was.

Book Review: Aftershocks

Title: Aftershocks
Author: Marko Kloos
Genre: Sci-fi, Military Sci-fi, Space Opera
Year Published: 2019

Aftershocks by Marko Kloos is a military sci-fi novel following four characters. The main character, Aden, a POW on a foreign planet, is freed and makes his trek to a new home. Things don’t go as planned and he ends up working for another group of people under a fake identity.

The other characters are minor to Aden, but they equally share their stories: Solvieg, a young vice president of her father’s business has just started her position when terrorists attack her city. She’s also Aden’s younger sister; Idina, a ground soldier whose team was destroyed in an ambush; and, Dunstan, a fleet captain whose cargo ship also comes under attack.

The story is about interplanetary treaties and things going awry when one or more groups choose not to keep their word. Those on the planets agreed to work together due to limited resources, but due to power control, the planets with the most resources have the upper hand and those in charge then manipulate the others, leading to confusion as to who started what and who to trust.

This is book one of The Palladium Wars. The ending was a cliffhanger which makes sense being that it will continue in future books.

I enjoyed the military and space opera writing. Kloos is an amazing in-depth military storyteller. I loved all the details and space/military terms. It was well done. I thought Aden was put together well. I like how his story started and where it ended. Dunstan wasn’t so bad either. He didn’t have a lot of chapters but I’m guessing there will be more of him in the following books. What I didn’t enjoy so much were the two female characters. Idina was tough at the beginning but then her character changed. I wasn’t sure what role she played after the ambush. And, Solvieg seemed way too young to be vice president of a large company. She’s 23 and came aross clueless. Initially, it came across as though she worked hard for the position but then as her story grew, it felt more like she was handed the position. I wasn’t sure if that was the point or if she was meant to be a strong, intelligent character.

Overall, it was a good read.

Book Review: The Burning White

Title: The Burning White
Author: Brent Weeks
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Year Published: 2019

The Burning White by Brent Weeks is the fifth and final book in the Lightbringer series. I’m not sure how to review this book because it was a whole lot of everything. The plot basically was to defeat the enemy but there were assassins and spies and people you don’t know if you should trust that it created this huge organized mess of a story. In this story, we learn a little more about Gavin Guile’s father, Andross. We also learn that this story is pretty much all about the Guiles, including Kip and Zymun.

I’m not the man you think I am,’ he’d told Ironfist. Ironfist had replied, ‘Are you not the man I’ve served these past ten years?’ ‘I am.’ ‘Then perhaps, my lord, you’re not the man you think you are.’

Gavin himself overcomes the struggles he’s had with himself since the first book, The Black Prism. In The Burning White, he spends pretty much all his time finding himself. That wasn’t what he had set out to do, but it became so.

Kip, always being the hero, continued to do what he knew best: save the people; save his friends. He is so much like his father, Gavin.

Andross in this book was interesting. Throughout the first four books, he came across sort of like the enemy. You couldn’t tell whose side he was on. He never favored the White King (Koios, aka the Color Prince), but he never gave the impression that he was good. This made for a really intriguing ending.

“We keep secret what we fear makes us weak, not realizing in our fear that it is the keeping of secrets itself that weakens us.”

And Zymun. He was a very obvious character.

There were minor main characters such as Teia who showed what she was truly capable of; Liv who stood her ground. She really broke my heart; and Karris, who never seemed to give up. I loved how she finally showed her love toward Kip.

The fight/war scenes are always impeccable. They are semi-gory but they are my favorite action scenes. I was beyond happy to finally see black Luxin at work.

There was one thing I wanted more and that was Liv’s pov. I felt she had a lot to give and deserved more story time. She sacrificed so much to save her friends and nothing became of her. Near the end when she crossed path with her father, I bawled. I loved what she did for him, but I was sad for her. I so wanted her to see Kip face-to-face (it was mostly Kip whom she protected by surrendering herself to the White King), to see how he would react (from the damage of drafting superviolet to the extreme), or what he would say to her. Maybe it was left out because it would have been too sad?

Overall, it was a great read.

A hug didn’t fix everything. Perhaps it didn’t fix anything at all. But it did feel good.