Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews

REVIEW: When the Sky Fell on Splendor by Emily Henry

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*No Major Spoilers*

Almost everyone in the small town of Splendor, Ohio, was affected when the local steel mill exploded. If you weren’t a casualty of the accident yourself, chances are a loved one was. That’s the case for seventeen-year-old Franny, who, five years after the explosion, still has to stand by and do nothing as her brother lies in a coma.

In the wake of the tragedy, Franny found solace in a group of friends whose experiences mirrored her own. The group calls themselves The Ordinary, and they spend their free time investigating local ghost stories and legends, filming their exploits for their small following of YouTube fans. It’s silly, it’s fun, and it keeps them from dwelling on the sadness that surrounds them.

Until one evening, when the strange and dangerous thing they film isn’t fiction–it’s a bright light, something massive hurdling toward them from the sky. And when it crashes and the teens go to investigate…everything changes.

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First off, I have to say that when I saw the cover of this novel at the library, I fell in love with this beautiful book cover. When I finished reading When the Sky Fell on Splendor, I can say that the story is just as beautiful as the cover.

“How many billions of things had to happen just right to give me this ordinary life.”

Emily Henry, When the Sky Fell on Splendor

I love how the characters were relatable and had depth. Franny and her brother Arthur grew up living in their older brother’s shadow. After the steel mill explosion and their brother Mark ends up in a coma, Franny’s mom and dad divorce and Franny and Arthur continue to live in the background of their depressed dad’s life.

We don’t get much from the other characters other than what is on the surface that Franny has observed. One of the key facets of their friend group is to not talk about emotional stuff. Even though some of the signs of the parents’ issues have clearly effected their kids in subtle ways.

Franny had grown close to one of the other boys in their group, and during an emotional moment he shared about how his mom’s doomsday prepping quickly spiraled into hoarding after the accident. He even took up a job at the local Walmart just so he could support his ailing mom and how he had become the sole breadwinner after his dad died in the accident.

I personally would’ve loved more insight on Sophia. I think she was left out when it came to emotional weight. She was the smartest one of the group and wasn’t an outcast like the others. She wanted to be a lawyer after a weekend with her grandmother watching Law and Order: SVU. She seemed to have a great relationship with her mom, and doesn’t understand why Franny started keeping her at arm’s length.

I read this book being compared to The Serpent King and Stranger Things as well as Super 8. I personally haven’t read or watched any of these, but they seem to have similar themes to When the Sky Fell on Splendor. So if you are familiar with any of these popular stories, I would recommend this novel for you.

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Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews

REVIEW: Stoker’s Wilde (Fiction Without Frontiers #1) By Steven Hopstaken and Melissa Prusi

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*No Major Spoilers*

Years before either becomes a literary legend, Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde must overcome their disdain for one another to battle the Black Bishop, a mysterious madman wielding supernatural forces to bend the British Empire to his will. With the help of a European vampire expert, a spirited actress and an American businessman, our heroes fight werewolves, vampires and the chains of Victorian morality. The fight will take them through dark forests in Ireland, the upper-class London theater world and Stonehenge, where Bram and Oscar must stop a vampire cult from opening the gates of Hell.

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I have read about the supernatural and paranormal in the past, but Stoker’s Wilde comes with a twist. A story about two historical writers coming together and battle the world of the supernatural. I knew I had to read this as soon as I discovered the sequel to this novel has Teddy Roosevelt joining the duo. So let’s dive into Stoker’s Wilde

First off, I love how Bram Stoker was just a friend of Oscar Wilde’s brother in this story. He didn’t want to go on this wild goose chase to hunt a werewolf. Werewolves don’t exist. However, with the help of Stoker’s curse, they soon find the werewolf was the captain on one of the ships in the harbor. Afterward, the duo set off into the world of the supernatural, willingly or not.

One thing I liked was how the story progressed through journal entries and letters to loved ones and friends. However, I was getting confused because I started getting minor characters mixed up. I’m not sure if I would still be confused if I read the ebook or not. However, this was a small complaint I had as I was listening through the audiobook. 

Stoker’s Wilde was a tale full of twists and turns. I couldn’t put this book down until I found out who was the leader of London’s vampires as well as what a member of royalty had to do in all of this puzzle. The conclusion will leave you breathless and ready for more! 

I would highly recommend Stoker’s Wilde for fans of horror, historical fiction, and alternative history. I can’t wait to dive into the sequel of this novel and reuniting with these lovable characters again.

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Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: The Dark Deception (Daphne and Velma #2) by Morgan Baden


*No Major Spoilers*

Despite their differences, Daphne and Velma were able to solve the mystery of The Vanishing Girl. But there are a lot of secrets buried in the town of Crystal Cove. And the biggest case of all still remains unsolved… why did the town’s original settlers all disappear? What happened to them?

Velma is determined to find out… especially because her family’s ancestors were among the disappeared. And now that she and Daphne have started to get a reputation for solving mysteries, everyone in town is looking to them for answers.

But digging up the past can be dangerous… especially when some people in town have profited from the mystery for so long. Can these two intrepid teen detectives crack the case… and escape with their lives?

~~ Trigger Warnings for mentions of bullying ~~

As you know, I love Scooby-Doo and, the franchise is something near and dear to me. When I found out about this series existence, I read and reviewed The Vanishing Girl in March. I loved the novel overall, and I couldn’t wait to read the sequel Dark Deception. So let’s see how the sequel stands up. 

Since the previous book tackled most of the drama between Velma and Daphne, that’s now resolved. Though there are hints here and there that times haven’t healed things completely, overall things are better. 

This novel takes place shortly after the previous one. I loved how there was a smooth transition back into Crystal Cove and, hijinks abound. Shaggy is in trouble and, it’s up to Velma and Daphne to figure out what has their childhood friend troubled. Don’t worry, no mention of child abuse!

However, Shaggy’s family troubles are the least of their worries when gems start washing up on the shores of Crystal Cove. It seems like Velma and Daphne have more investigating to do!

If teenage drama is not your thing, then I would say to start with this novel. There’s a little high school drama, but it’s nothing like the previous entry in the series. Velma continues to deal with the insecurities that high school gives. Daphne received an internship to work at the local paper and quickly develops a crush on one of her coworkers.

Overall, I liked this sequel. I think this one was a bit of a letdown because the mystery was predictable. Of course, I am a twenty-something reading a book series meant for kids. Even though the case was easily solvable for me, it doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the story.

I enjoyed the characters and the familiar nostalgia that the Scooby-Doo series brings. I am already looking forward to the next entry in this series! I would recommend this novel for lovers of Scooby-Doo, mysteries, YA fiction, and female detectives. 

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Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Doctor Who: Bloodtide by Jonathan Morris

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*No Major Spoilers*

The prehistoric Earth is dying. Thunderclouds roll across the skies, cloaking the land in darkness. The seas crash and boil as the rain turns to acid. The remnants of the Silurian race place themselves in suspended animation, deep below the surface.

One day they will awaken and reclaim their world…

The TARDIS has landed on the Galapagos Islands, a desolate outcrop of rocks shrouded in mist and fear. In the settlement of Baquerizo Moreno, there are rumors that prisoners have been mysteriously disappearing from the gaolhouse. A fisherman has been driven insane by something he saw in the caves. And the Doctor and Evelyn are not the only new arrivals; there is also a young natural philosopher by the name of Charles Darwin.

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I have been a fan of Doctor Who for several years. I don’t remember exactly when I first started watching the show, but it was back when Doctor Who was still on Netflix. I fell in love with its quirky humor and characters you can’t help but love.

I have been reviewing the Doctor Who “expanded universe” books and audio dramas since I started writing this blog. I have been using these stories as a way to dip into something familiar. I have to restrain myself from just turning this into a Doctor Who blog sometimes. Even too much of a good thing can make it toxic and unhealthy.

Bloodtide follows traditional Doctor Who formula. Since this is a historical novel, we get to meet Charles Darwin on his historic trip to the Galapagos Islands. When the sister of one of the prisoners on the island asks the Doctor for help, they soon discover things aren’t as they seem.

Overall, I enjoyed this audio drama. The actress who played the sister of the prisoner I found to be annoying and irritating. I love how throughout the story, we see Charles Darwin’s inner battle with what he’s discovered versus what the Christian church has taught.

Even in modern times, the discussion of evolution is controversial in more conservative and religious areas. The idea that species change to fit the needs of their environment is generally acceptable, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we came from primates. You can easily fall into the rabbit hole about “the missing link” and how that may or may not be related to Sasquatch or Bigfoot.

The Christian belief says that God created the Earth as it is, and nothing has changed since He created it. The fact that you have the same species of finches with different sized and shaped bills can cause deep thinkers like Darwin to question everything he’s thought up to that point to be true.

I won’t spoil the “big reveal,” but it was a shocking surprise. I think anyone listening to this will be pleased with the plot twist and how the story ends.

Overall, I think any Doctor Who fan will enjoy Bloodtide. The thing I love about the show as a whole is how comforting it is. If you are having Doctor Who withdrawals or just craving something familiar, then I would highly recommend Doctor Who: Bloodtide.

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Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: The Reflections of Queen Snow White by David Meredith

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*No Major Spoilers*

What happens when “happily ever after” has come and gone?

On the eve of her only daughter, Princess Raven’s wedding, an aging Snow White finds it impossible to share in the joyous spirit of the occasion. The ceremony itself promises to be the most glamorous social event of the decade. Snow White’s castle has been meticulously scrubbed, polished, and opulently decorated for the celebration. It is already nearly bursting with jubilant guests and merry well-wishers. Prince Edel, Raven’s fiancé, is a fine man from a neighboring kingdom and Snow White’s own domain is prosperous and at peace. Things could not be better, in fact, except for one thing:

The king is dead.

The queen has been in a moribund state of hopeless depression for over a year with no end in sight. It is only when, in a fit of bitter despair, she seeks solitude in the vastness of her own sprawling castle and climbs a long disused and forgotten tower stair that she comes face to face with herself in the very same magic mirror used by her stepmother of old.

It promises her respite in its shimmering depths, but can Snow White trust a device that was so precious to a woman who sought to cause her such irreparable harm? Can she confront the demons of her own difficult past to discover a better future for herself and her family? And finally, can she release her soul-crushing grief and suffocating loneliness to once again discover what “happily ever after” really means?

Only time will tell as she wrestles with her past and is forced to confront The Reflections of Queen Snow White.

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I was contacted by the author to review his novel and to finally come across a fairytale retelling that isn’t based on Alice in Wonderland. So let’s see how this retelling of Snow White stands up.

This novel starts as we find Queen Snow White lost in a state of despair and depression over the death of Prince/King Charming’s death over a year ago. While wandering around the castle she stumbles upon her stepmother’s room. She then finds the magic mirror and soon is forced to face her past.

Overall, considering everything life has thrown her way I honestly wouldn’t blame her for being in a catatonic state. However, she works through all the pain with the magic mirror. He helps her see things for how they really happened, not through the bias and pain she’s built up as a defense.

The story is primarily told through memories and flashbacks. I thought this was an interesting way of telling the story. Snow White and the magic mirror have a long in-depth conversation about how Snow White is seeing things all wrong.

At first, I was concerned that this whole story was going to make it where Snow White feels better instantly. Sadly that’s not how depression works it takes longer than an intense conversation to cure her of her sadness. However, the author shows that Snow White feels better as she learns to see Prince Charming in their daughter, and thus loving what she already has versus missing all that she has lost.

This novel is well written, and I felt like I was transported to Snow White’s kingdom and reliving her memories with her. The author took his time writing this novel and putting a lot of love and care into this world to tell Snow White’s story.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. The Reflections of Queen Snow White is a novel I’d recommend for lovers of fairytales and overcoming mental illnesses. Here’s another one where you better have a box of tissues while you’re reading. Snow White learns to live her life again. No one is going to do it but her, however at least she knows she’s no longer alone in the world.

Read on Kindle Unlimited; or with your Audible Subscription.

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