Book Review: Uniting Kingdoms by Oran Thaller

Title: Uniting Kingdoms
Author: Oran Thaller
Genre: Literary, Metaphysical, Magical Realism
Rating: 3,5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

A highly contemporary and enthralling book about a spiritual journey and the creation of a new society!

A mysterious figure seemingly out of nowhere sets in motion a plot flittering between truth and fantasy, featuring a hero embarking on an adventure, a spiritual quest even, highlighting conflicts concerning the most burning and complex issues of our time.

This captivatingly dynamic and beguiling tale grapples you by virtue of its realism and contemporary subject matters, taken from real life. This book outlines a new society of men and women and charts its course as it unfolds under the radar of the mainstream, which reveals itself more and more as an obsolete civilization.

Compass for a new course

This highly compassionate and charmed tale has the protagonist evolving on the path of self-discovery as he comes to terms with himself, with his challenging personality, and all the while illustrates a holistic way of life which is simple to live by, aided by its light, oft sardonic, humor and life-affirming attitude.

The book’s optimistic teaching is a call for society to change, to espouse a set of simpler, natural values by way of solution to the most challenging malaise of our time, from the challenges posed by globalization, through the failings of capitalism, corrupt governments and the erosion of democracy to issues of education, ecology, energy, and most important of all: Love!

Uniting Kingdoms is a human and personal book of social awakening. The almost surreal plot and fantasies coming true would not have been so thrilling had the events described and the characters alike not been real and true.

Uniting Kingdoms is primarily a book of personal and social awakening. Combining a surreal plot, fantasies coming true, magical realism, it creates a new society of men and women, and follows the protagonist as he comes to terms with himself and his own personality.

The subject matter is relatable for everyone, and it’s an intriguing book for fans of the genre. However, it does take a while to get used to the writing style and the way the story is told, so be patient at the start and once you get past the first few chapters, you will enjoy the story and the protagonist’s journey of self-discovery.

Book Review: When A Stranger Comes by Karen S. Bell

Title: When A Stranger Comes
Author: Karen S. Bell
Genre: Magical Realism, Supernatural, Paranormal, Mystery
Rating: 4 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

Satisfying one’s greed can come at a devilishly high cost.

Achieving what you crave can also bring the terrifying fear of losing it. For Alexa Wainwright, this truth has become her nightmare. Born Gladys Lipschitz, the daughter of an unwed Soviet-era Jewish immigrant, she was beyond thrilled and amazed when her debut novel, A Foregone Conclusion, soared to number one on the bestseller’s list and became an international sensation. The accompanying fame and riches were beyond her expectations. Unfortunately, her subsequent work has yet to achieve the same reception by critics and readers. Yes, they have sold well based on her name recognition, but she dreads the possibility of becoming a mid-list author forgotten and ignored. She vows to do whatever it takes to attain the heady ego-stroking success of her debut. But is she really?
Witnessing an out-of-the-blue lightning bolt whose giant tendrils spread over the blue sky and city streets below her loft window, Alexa doesn’t realize just how this vow will be tested as she’s magically transported to an alternate reality. In this universe, the characters from her books are given the breath of life and she meets publisher, King Blakemore, who just might be the Devil himself. At first, she shrugs off her doubts about this peculiar publisher and very lucrative book deal offer because the temptation of riches and refound fame is too strong. But all too soon, Alexa realizes she’s trapped in an underworld of evil from which she desperately wants to escape. For starters, she finds herself in an iron-clad book contract that changes its wording whenever she thinks of a loophole. Desperate to get her life back, she devises schemes to untether herself from this hellish existence. She’s also aided by the forces for good who attempt to help her. However, King Blakemore is cleverer and more powerful than she can begin to understand. Playfully, he decides to give Alexa a second chance to save herself from eternity with him and to be free. He offers her the prospect of a rewrite, as most authors do as part of the writing process. Given this chance, will Alexa make the same choices and the same mistakes again?

In When A Stranger Comes, Alexa Wainwright’s debut novel, A Foregone Conclusion, reached number one on several bestseller lists, becoming an international sensation. Of course, Alexa never imagined such fame and fortune, and when it stays out for her subsequent books, she cows to do whatever it takes to attain the success her debut novel received.

One night, she suddenly sees a lightning bolt in the sky, and it magically transports her to an alternate reality. There, she meets King Blakemore, a publisher who might turn out to be much more than a regular publisher. Evil is everywhere in this alternate reality, and if Alexa wants to escape, she’ll have to use all her wits, intelligence and inspiration to get out of there.

This book had such an original plot, I was completely blown away by it. From the moment I started reading, I couldn’t put it down. The writing was strong too, and Alexa was an intriguing character, although a tad superficial at first with her constant need for fame and success, she changed and grew a lot throughout the book, learning to value other, more important things.

When A Stranger Comes was an entertaining, fun read that I would recommend to all fans of magical realism.


Book Review: The Boy Meets Girl Massacre (Annotated) by Ainslie Hogarth

25264711Title: The Boy Meets Girl Massacre (Annotated)

Author: Ainslie Hogarth

Genre: Young Adult, Horror, Mystery, Paranormal, Magical Realism

Age Group: Young Adult

Rating: 5 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Noelle takes a summer nightshift job at the infamous Boy Meets Girl Inn, even though she’s well aware of the grisly murders that happened there decades ago. That’s why she has a diary—to write down everything she experiences in case things go bump in the night. But the inexplicable freezing drafts, the migrating rotten-flesh smell, and the misplaced personal items don’t really scare her. Noelle has bigger problems: her father’s ailing health, her friend Alfred’s inappropriate crush, and the sore spot on the back of her head that keeps getting worse.
When a party commemorating the anniversary of the original killings ends in a ghoulish bloodbath, Noelle’s diary becomes the key piece of evidence for investigators. But the cryptic and often incoherent entries suggest there is more to the bizarre case than can be rationally explained…

After reading and reviewing The Lonely by Ainslie Hogarth, which I thought was an amazing read, I just had to read her second book. The books aren’t related, nor are they part of the same series, but they do have some of the same qualities. Both books have a magical surrealism theme going on, making the reader question what is real and what is just in the character’s minds. I love those types of books, so naturally, I loved this one too.

The book starts out rather cryptic. Noelle and her best friend Alf take on summer nightshift jobs at the infamous Boy Meets Girl Inn – a place where several decades ago, some grisly murders happened. Murders that included the perp eating people. Yep, they’re that horrific. So Noelle and Alf go to the inn hoping to find signs of a haunting, and of course, to invite all their friends (and the kids from school they just want to impress) to the Anniversary – of the murder, of course. Or of the last murder to be precise. But while some strange things happen, like the bathroom light turning on all by itself, Noelle doesn’t really get scared. She has al ot more to worry about – for instance, the diary she started, and that now seems to have a life of its own. Then there’s her Dad’s illness, which makes it almost impossible for him to go out or take care of himself, and leaves her in the tough position of having to be his personal nurse twenty-four/seven. Then there’s also the sore spot on the back of her head. She’s been touching it for years, sometimes even scratching it, but the last few weeks, the pain has been getting worse, and going into patterned space (which usually helps) doesn’t do the trick anymore….

The book has an unique format. We start out with an introduction to the case – apparently the bodies of Noelle and some of her friends were found after a massacre at the inn, and Noelle’s diary is the only piece of evidence that might explain what happened. A film maker bought the diary from a retired detective, in an effort to turn it into a movie. Then we get Noelle’s diary, and from then on, apart from some annotations (like the title suggests), it’s Noelle doing the talking.

I loved the unique format, and I think that, along with the author’s unique writing style, is what worked for me the most. The story isn’t all that original – a haunted inn, a murder/massacre – but the author adds so many cool and fun elements that it reads unlike anything I’ve read before, making it unique. We get the sore spot on Noelle’s head, and wonder what the connection is. Is Noelle seeing ghosts, or is she going crazy? Then in her diary, Noelle says some pretty intense stuff, and again, the reader is left to wonder. The book has a high level of gore though, but for me, I didn’t really mind, if anything, it made Noelle appear more realistic that she talked about gory stuff too.

If you don’t mind books that’ll have you scratching your head (hopefully not on a sore spot, like Noelle) and leave you baffled at the end, and have a high creep factor and some gore, then you should absolutely, definitely, no doubt in my mind, read The Boy Meets Girl Massacre (Annotated). It’s amazing.

Book Review: The Portal & The Panther by R.A. Marshall

PP - FINALTitle: The Portal & The Panther
Author: R.A. Marshall
Genre: YA Fantasy / Science-Fiction
Age Group: Young Adult
Rating: 4 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

The only thing seventeen year-old Jon Parker wants is to escape his sleepy hometown of Mecksville, Arkansas. But everything changes when Jon stumbles into the boys’ bathroom and transforms into a black panther.

Without choice, Jon is thrust into a world where parallel universes are real, shapeshifters exist, and dangerous “intruders” can control the elements with a mere thought. Jon learns he’s inherited his shapeshifting ability from his long-dead mother, and now, like it or not, his mission is to protect our world from invaders from other worlds.

But is it a mission Jon will accept? His decision will determine the fate of the people he loves — and our whole world.

In The Portal & The Panther, Jon Parker is seventeen years old, and has lived a pretty normal life so far. That is, until one day he starts feeling ill at school, escapes to the boys’ bathroom, and transforms into a panther. His entire world is turned upside down when he realizes humanity isn’t the only group populating earth. Shapeshifters exist, and he’s far from the only person who can change into a panther or another animal. Apart from shapeshifters, there are also “intruders” who can control the elements with just a thought.

Layla, a fellow shapeshifter, helps him adjust to his new world, and his new powers. Along with her help, Jon must protect the world from aliens invading it from other worlds. Then a girl from his class, Kristin, who he’s always had a crush on, gets involved, and suddenly his mission turns a lot more dangerous and he risks hurting the girl he loves.

There’s a bit of a love triangle going on between Layla, Jon and Kristin, but I didn’t mind that much. Each character is likeable in their own way, particularly Jon. He’s flawed, suffers from a less-than-perfect childhood, and he’s easy to relate to. Layla is tough, but at the same time she had a vulnerable side too. And Kristin seems like your typical girl next door, but she has more courage than you’d give her credit for at first.

The story is engaging and well-written, and the characters shine on the pages. The world-building is impressive, and I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Book Review: The Lonely by Ainslie Hogarth

20786095Title: The Lonely

Author: Ainslie Hogarth

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Magical Realism, Dark Humor

Age Group: Young Adult

Rating: 5 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

A darkly humorous and imaginative story
After she discovers The Terrible Thing, Easter Deetz goes looking for her sister, Julia, but ends up pinned under a giant boulder with her legs crushed into tomato paste. Bored, disappointed, and thoroughly dismembered, Easter slowly bleeds to death in The Woods with only sinister squirrels to keep her company. As The Something Coming draws closer, memories of Easter’s family surface like hallucinations: a mumbling father who lives alone in the basement; a terrifying grandmother who sits in her enclosed porch all day; an overly loving mother who plays dead in the bathtub on Sunday nights.
As the story of her life unspools, Easter realizes she’s being stalked, making it very difficult for her to bleed to death in peace. Will The Something Coming save her? Or will it do her in entirely?

Let me start out by saying The Lonely isn’t for everyone. Right from the start, it’s obvious some people will love it, and others will hate it. It’s either love or hate, and I’m definitely in the “love” category. Dark humor is the key element of this book. It is dark – I mean, it starts out with the main character Easter ending up pinned under a giant boulder with her legs crushed. She thinks she might die, but heck, bleeding to death is cool, in some way. Sh’s more bored than anything else. While she’s lying under the boulder, Easter starts reliving memories. They’re told like some kind of feverish dream or hallucination.

The truth is, even after reading the book, I’m not sure if I grasped all the pieces of this story. At its core, it’s a dark story – about a disturbed girl and her family. Her loving mother, who plays dead in the bathtub every Sunday night. Her Dad, who locks himself up in the basement. It’s impossible to figure out what is real and what isn’t. Main character Easter is the most unrelieable narrator I’ve ever come across – and I loved reading things from her POV.

The book is specked with dark humor, and sometimes I even laughed out loud, and felt ashamed right after, because I was laughing at the most terrible things.

The writing is superb. It has a dream-like quality, almost as if the writing itself is just another of Easter’s hallucinations.

If you want something different and aren’t afraid to read a book that will leave you wondering what the heck just happened, The Lonely is definitely for you. I loved it. It’s impossible to review it and tell you just how good it is without you checking it out for yourself, so I’ll just end by saying that when Ainslie Hogarth writes another novel, I’m buying it right away.


Book Review: To Live Forever by Andra Watkins

Cover for websiteTitle: To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis
Author: Andra Watkins
Genre: Paranormal Fiction
Rating: 4,5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

Explorer Meriwether Lewis has been stuck in Nowhere since his mysterious death nearly two centuries ago. His last hope for redemption is helping nine-year-old Emmaline Cagney flee her madame mother in New Orleans and find her father in Nashville. To get there, Merry must cross his own grave along the Natchez Trace, where he duels the corrupt Judge, an old foe who has his own despicable plans for Em.

To Live Forever is an inspiring, engaging story about explorer Meriwether Lewis. He’s been stuck in Nowhere since he died over two hundred years ago. He’s on his thirteenth mission to redeem his soul, and is sent to New Orleans of the 1970s where he has to help Emmaline, a 9-year-old girl who was just sold to the highest bidder by her prostitute mother. He offers to help Em finds her father in Nashville. That means crossing his own grave along the Natchez Trace however. Like that’s not bad enough, they’re also chased by the murderous Judge, who has despicable plans for Em.

A lot of things happen along the Natchez Trace, and both Em and Merry grow as characters as the story develops. The story is told from the alternating perspectives of Em, Merry and the Judge. This book is a great example of magical realism that works – this is a difficult genre, but Andra Watkins handles it well. The story is intriguing, and the plot develops with some unexpected twists. The characters are great, but Merry was easily my favorite. The story is fast-paced and the settings are described in great detail.

Recommended to anyone looking for something different. This book is a great choice.

Book Review: I Believe…A Ghost Story for the Holidays by Valerie C. Woods

16300676Title: I Believe…A Ghost Story for the Holidays
Author: Valerie C. Woods
Genre: Magical Realism, Novella
Rating: 4 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

Was Marley & Scrooge the only ghost-to-human intervention ever? This is the question. Marley’s haunting, and the arrangement he made for Scrooge had a far-reaching and beneficial effect.

Surely, poor Jacob Marley’s ghost found some peace for being such a compassionate medium. Further, it would be nice to believe that attempts at interventions like this occur with some frequency among unfulfilled spirits. Even now.

“I Believe… A Ghost Story for the Holidays” is a contemporary holiday romp through a Los Angeles neighborhood that invites the reader to join three wandering spirits hoping to transition to the light by New Year’s Eve. But it will only happen if each of them can cure a human heart of their Scrooge-like tendencies to become more loving and charitable citizens of the planet.

I Believe…A Ghost Story for the Holidays is, like the title suggests, a great story for the holidays. The age old story of Scrooge, that we all know, is thrown into a contemporary setting here, and Scrooge is replaced by three unknowing human beings, who’ve each got plenty of problems of their own, and who need their deceased loved ones to help them.

The first ghost we meet is Trevor. When he was alive, he wasn’t always the nicest person, but since he passed away, his sister Viveka has really gotten off track. He wants to help her find love and friendship, before he can move on. Then there’s Gabriel, who wants to help Simon, who is his spitting image in every way and mimicks his lifestyle and bad choices. Lastly, there is Sara, who wants to help her husband and son. Her husband has been uptight and angry for years, and she doesn’t want him to ruin their son’s life because of that.

Each ghost has their own mission, but when their paths intervene, and the lives of their loved ones do too, they’ll need to work together if they’ll ever want to cross over to the other side.

This book had a great writing style, and I loved the premise. Of all the characters, Sara was my favorite. I wish we could’ve learned more about the ghosts though, and how they were in life. It’s a short, sweet, heartwarming read for the holidays.


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Book Review: The Sky: The World by Jessica McHugh

9453982Title: The Sky: The World
Author: Jessica McHugh
Genre: Adventure, Romance
Rating: 4 stars
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Tours.
Visit the author’s website | Goodreads

Who is Doctor Azaz? It is the 19th Century, and Azazian England is at it’s pinnacle. Aeroplanes rule the sky, and crystalline technology has transformed life itself. But for stunt pilot Jack Racine, life is little more than an endless tailspin into liquor, laudanum, and loose women. But all that is about to change. For Jack Racine is about to have an audience with the architect of the age, the mysterious Doctor Azaz…

As you all probably know, I’m a big fan of Jessica McHugh’s writing. I’ve previously read and reviewed two other books by her: Camelot Lost and Rabbits in the Garden, both whom I enjoyed a lot. I was thrilled to participate in the book tour for another novel of hers, The Sky: The World. Although this book is something entirely different from the two other ones I mentioned, it was a nice and interesting read as well.

The Sky: The World starts out promising enough with pilot Toby and his pregnant wife Sarah crashing down with their plane. Unfortunately, the EPS appears not to be working properly, something which is unheard of because the only two people who know the location of the EPS are the pilot himself and his engineer. When the authorities investigate the bodies of the deceased, they realize two things. Number one, Toby was on laudanum at the time of the crash, and number two…he was a triap. In a world where its normal for people to be born out of a Fertility Pool rather than out of two people making love to each other, being a triap means being discriminated against, laughed at and a lot more. If the Royal Air Force ever found out Toby was a triap, it would have cost him his job. Even after his passing, it costs him his reputation.

Although Toby’s brother Jack is painfully aware of his older brother’s triap-status, he isn’t eager to believe that Toby was on laudanum. Drugs and opium are Jack’s trademarks, not Toby’s. He’s responsible, ambitious, and a good man. He won’t do anything like that, especially not with a baby on the way. Jack realizes right away that something else must be going on. Accidents don’t happen and EPS’s don’t just quit working for no reason. And when the organisation Toby worked for tries contacting Jack as well, he knows that this is his one change to find out what exactly happened to Toby. But although Jack’s suspicions may be correct, he is in for a lot more than he bargained for. The mysterious doctor Azaz, the sole inventor of aircraft, the fertility pool and most of mankind’s inventions might have something to do with why Toby was in Egypt as well…

The Sky: The World is a book with a lot of levels. On the one hand, it shows us a world other than the one we’re familiar with, where every major invention can be accocounted to one man only: the mysterious Doctor Azaz, who has lived for over a hundred years and is apparently immortal and all-knowing. On the other hand, we meet Jack, a young man who struggles not only with himself and the fact that he’s a bit of a loose canon, drinking, sleeping with several women, etc. but also with the fact that he has spent his entire life in the shadow of his father and of his brother Toby. Whereas Toby was the ambitious one, the good and reliable brother, Jack always was the wild one, the irresponsible one. But losing first his father and then his brother several years later, brings Jack to the verge of depression. Determined to clear his brother’s name and to prove he wasn’t on laudanum at the moment of the crash, Jack is willing to do whatever it takes to find out more about the accident, including working for Mr. Pratt, who was Toby’s previous employer.

Jack’s inner struggle will porbably look familiar to a lot of us, and I could relate to it fairly well myself. I was not a fan of his behavior, his constant switching between women (choose one, already!) and his sometimes cruel behavior towards Kat, who has loved him since they were both very young. At times, I didn’t like his attitude at all, although it is in a way understable. Jack grabs booze and laudanum when he cannot longer handle the world, and he has trouble commiting to one person for the same reason as well: whenever it gets tough, he wants to escape. Throughout the book, he does grow as a character, which was all the more reasons for me to like him better. He has sort of this James Bond-esque/Indiana Jones-esque style and attitude, and with the addition of Egypt, ancient Amulets, century-old secrets and the mysterious Doctor Azaz I could not help but imagine him as looking like Indiana Jones as well.

I loved the many notions of aircraft. I’ve never been in an airplane before in my life, but it must feel great to fly through the sky like that, freedom at your fingertips. The mystery surrounding Toby’s death, and how the intrige builds with every passing scene is excellently done as well. Add the dystopian myth of Doctor Azaz, the references to ancient cultures, and you have an adventure novel I personally greatly enjoyed. On the downside though, the pace picked up quite slow, and it took me several chapters to really get into the story, especially as Jack first reminisced about his childhood and his relationship with his brother Toby. I do have to mention that the pace picks up significantly in the second half of the book.

If you like Indiana Jones style novels, then you’ll probably like The Sky: The World as well, although Jack has a lot more depth than Indiana ever had. Jessica McHugh’s writing style, as always, was flawless. A nice read, but I have to admit that I did like her other books better.