Shine with Me by S.J. Pierce

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Some reviews are easy to write. Some are a joy. Then there are the ones that feel impossible. That is the case here. Bear with me as I try to put my thoughts down in such a way that you feel less lost than I am.

This is book three in the series. Many books have clues that tie back to the previous ones; that way a new reader can still jump in and enjoy the last book. This is not one of those. It begins with a journal and a character, whose name I didn’t even learn for several chapters, but there is absolutely no back story. What is this super-important journal? How did they come to possess this journal of evil? This is the way of the entire book. My face held a perpetually confused expression. These magical teenagers were tied to trees in another book, which is highly intriguing, but why? There is no explanation, but the memory is called upon more than once. Some of them were sacrificed for someone else to have immortality. Were these baddies originally human? Were they devil worshippers or just witches? It seems that everyone else is demon or angel or the most-common-type-of-being, hybrid of something with something else. There are numerous evil sisters, but I don’t even know how many or what happened to them. The entire story supposedly revolves around Kat and this evil woman’s, Lilliana’s, need to do something to her, but I don’t know what or why. Kat is very powerful, though I didn’t see it here, so is the villain going to use that or just torture and kill her? There are a lot of buts. This is a series that must be read in order or you will be utterly lost and frustrated.

Usually I like to discuss the characters, but since there was no history they felt empty. They were not described physically or personality-wise. Not even Gabe, her soul mate, is given any detail. The only sense I got from this first-person narrative is that she cannot live without him and that he is a healer. Kat herself is a mystery. If I was forced to describe her, which I guess I kind of am, I couldn’t. My thought is that all of that information is given in the first book and, therefore, it all relies on what was previously read and what those readers bring with them.

War is coming. I don’t know why, but there is a lot of hatred and fear. The first sixty percent is basically internal musings about this impending battle and how much Lilliana has tortured them and now she’s coming back to finish the job in this description-less dimension. I had no clue where they were or how they got there or why they were there. The only details given were that one of the elders could control the weather, there were trees, and they lived in cabins. Later it is stated that they are permanent residents, but this is a magical place. Who knows what can happen when the supernatural is involved, including The Creator and possibly Lucifer himself.

Warning: Some might find this paragraph a spoiler, but it really isn’t at all. Finally, some action! It was exciting and I was more than ready for it. Then it was cut in half. It’s a very popular writing tool. The actual action is not lived. The main character is knocked out or killed or goes somewhere else or what-have-you, but the reader doesn’t get to experience it. It is all relayed to the reader via other characters explaining how it all went down. With this tactic, not only does our main character miss it, but so do we. The battle was off to a great start, after I’d flipped through pages of teenage lust for vengeance, only to leave me hanging. The ending was long and drawn-out, perhaps to make up for the extensive build-up that led to a few pages of excitement. The so-called return to “normal” was exceptionally long. The overall balance of the book was off, especially considering the many confusing references to thrilling moments from the previous ones. They sounded like non-stop action, so I kept waiting for that here, only to finish empty-handed.

My review is based on what I read, which is only the final book, and my personal experience. Keep that in mind, as I highly suggest everyone read the first book. The premise sounds interesting and I wish I’d been able to start with Captivate Me. That being said, for a new reader it was anticlimactic and a whole lot of “Huh?” Nothing is explained, because it was all done beforehand, so it was a long haul, reading in the dark. There were brief moments of emotion, sadness or anger, but they were miniscule, since I didn’t know the characters. There were a lot of them, too. Due to the dozens of characters in the story or those that were referenced to, it is not surprising that I couldn’t get a good feel for anyone.

The rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – Fantasy for teens.
  • Level of sexuality – They do the deed several times, but it’s blissfully glossed over. That was a major plus.
  • Is there graphic language? Surprisingly, yes. It is very obvious that the story is YA, but they swore more than once and right off the bat. Even an angel cursed proudly and Kat thought that was pretty cool.
  • Did I cry? Nope. Not even when people died. The mourning period was frighteningly brief and the characters continually mentioned life returning to normal. For the people who survived, and they’re all immortal so the memories will stay with them forever, there is no return to normal. It’s called accepting and moving on and scars you for life. Only they have far more than seventy or eighty years, which sucks for them. So, the term “return to normal” didn’t really fit. Although, it was quoted as such after several weeks of healing and the reader is led to believe that most of the people are fine. If only real life were that sweet. In actuality, a new norm is what happens.
  • Did I laugh? Not once, but I believe there were a few moments that were supposed to be funny. The book is very serious, though, so it struck me as out-of-place.
  • Level of character development – I just didn’t see any. The characters are barely touched upon. They are in the story, or at least mentioned, but there is no hint of their past behaviors and emotions. There was nothing for a new reader to build upon and they never changed. I couldn’t come up with a decent way to describe our heroine and even her lover remained simple and perfect, not really a part of the story until the end. The dozens of others were a mish-mash of super hero abilities.

This book was hollow for me, but I went into it completely unprepared. Many times I can pick up in the middle of a series and quickly figure things out. Not here. My review is based solely on my experience. It is obvious that the author put a lot of effort into the book and there were hardly any typos. The repetitive thoughts about Lilliana and how much Kat wanted to kill her could have been cut in half and made it flow smoother, but for someone who has read the first two I’m sure it’s a decent ride. Normally, I would rate my experience a two, but since I was at a severe disadvantage I’ll give this ⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars. My suggestion is that all readers of fantasy and those who love characters with numerous and fantastical magic powers should grab book one and dive right in.

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Blood Dragons by Rosemary A. Johns

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I’m not a fan of vampire novels. Twilight created an influx of vampire stories and, while each is special in its own way, I’ve grown tired of blood-suckers. This book is completely different. It stands next to Anne Rice, all-time writer of vampire fiction, and holds its own.

The story is written as a letter to the woman he loves, talking about the present and the past. After decades together, Light has watched the all-too-human love of his life wither and grow old. Her dementia adds a devastating aspect to the story, but is far from the only soul wrenching part of the book.

A large portion of the story is dedicated to his life with his Author, in other words maker, Ruby, the red-haired devil. She introduces him to Blood Life when he is on the way out from his First Life. Immediately drawn in by the connection of creator and creation, he cannot separate himself from her and they spend over a hundred years together, wreaking havoc and killing indiscriminately. It isn’t until the late 1960’s that he sees another side to Ruby. She is controlling and punishing, then she forces him to live with their “family”, brothers from the same vampire lineage. This change alters everything about their lives. No longer is she his angel and savior; she becomes the one who holds him back.

In walks the incredible Kathy. From the get-go she is a strong, hard-headed character who is easy to love. She’s a perfect counterpoint to Light, our hero who continually comments on his lack of hero status, all the while performing acts that require bravery. By the time the story begins, he is a man looking to live a life in harmony with humans, not as a selfish vampire who believes he is worthy of worship. I fell in love with him right away. He’s entertaining and brutally honest. His insight into human nature is astounding and forced me to open my eyes and honestly look at our ideas and behaviors. Overall, the book is a tremendous observation of humanity. This is why Kathy is so important to Light. She stands for all that is good with humans: honesty, loyalty, independence, strength, and the basic need for love. She accepts and loves Light for all that he is, even though he has committed atrocious acts. That is why they were able to make a happy life together, even though she grew old while he remained eternally young.

The story has a vocabulary all its own. The novel originates from the UK and has a thick accent, but the unique vernacular creates a fantastic setting that is unlike anything else I have ever read. It took a few chapters to fall into the groove, but before I knew it I was reading it with the accent flowing smoothly in my imagination. For the majority, I do not care for stories that fluctuate constantly in time, but this book handled it flawlessly. At times I could not wait to return to the era that I had just been diving into, but it was so fast-paced that I was back to the 1960’s before I knew it, a hundred years passing in less than half an hour. This is the first story in a very long time that strikes me as perfect. At no point did I find myself floundering or distracted.

For the rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – Fantasy for adults and possibly older teens.
  • Level of sexuality – There are references to it, in some new and exciting verbage, but it is light and the deed is never spoken of in detail.
  • Is there graphic language? Not that I noticed.
  • Did I cry? I didn’t, but there were many moments that made my heart hurt.
  • Did I laugh? Not really, but Light is extremely entertaining and a joy to read.
  • Is this part of a series? Yes, it is book one of the Rebel Vampire Series.
  • Level of character development – The characters are amazingly well-written. It is easy to fall into the arms of Light with his open and endearing storytelling. Ruby is an evil being that you love to hate. Kathy is the heart-warming bridge to the human world for Light. Even the other vampires are so well-done that they are easily envisioned and each forms a tight emotional tie to the reader.

This is one of the finest vampire novels I have ever read. The pages flew by and I cannot wait until I can delve into book two. I suggest this to readers of all genres; this is not just a vampire tale. This is a real look at human nature and the first-person view of a man’s honest introspection into his life as a vampire and his desire to be part of the human world. I am thrilled to give this book ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ shiny stars.

Available here on Amazon

Dark Wine at Midnight by Jenna Barwin

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The beings referred to as the Lux are not actually human and very few know they even exist. Their goal is to protect the human population from war and extinction by an equally hidden vampire population.

Although the vampires try hard to prevent overpopulation since their food source, humans, would be depleted, there is a constant political push and shove. Some vampires feel there are too many rules, such as no one being allowed to create another vampire for the most part, no legal hunting of humans, and lots of meals courtesy of a blood bank. The Lux has discovered there is a group planning to topple their somewhat fragile government and return to their old ways.

Dr. Cerisse Patel lives with her people at the Lux Enclave. She prefers to think of herself as a scientist, but her superiors prefer she be a spy, even though she is pretty sure she lacks the talent. Vampire Leopold knows Cerisse as a human hired to be his envoy. This means she will live amongst vampires for many years, as she will be a daytime employee; the eyes and ears for Leopold. At the same time, she will watch out for the rebel vampires on behalf of the Lux.

After months of training and learning vampire protocol, Leopold sends Cerisse to the vampire community, Sierra Escondida. She is to seek out a certain property for him, where they hope to build a research lab that will benefit all vampires. Hopefully, the community will be willing to financially support such an endeavor. At the same time, she is to watch for the rebel vampires. She hadn’t expected the vampires to like her presence right away, but she is unprepared for the open dislike she faces.

The vampire hierarchy is extremely strict and immovable. Slowly, she approaches individuals to find they are not amenable to the research lab in their community. They dislike the thought of humans being employed and working on their turf. The strictly upheld law of no unmated humans in their midst is taken seriously.

Henry Bautista is one of the original founders of the town and he and the others created the basic laws and, as the years pass, have changed them as needed. Cerisse, an unmated human, is right in the heart of them. Henry is disturbed by her entrance as Leopold’s envoy and even more so by his attraction to her.

I found the story interesting. The first chapter starts with the Lux. Basically, I was left in the dark about them and confused about their abilities and differences from humans. The author mentions Cerisse’s abilities as if the reader is already aware of them. I had to turn back a page looking for a paragraph where I must have missed the ‘and here it comes’ moment. It was several chapters before I acquired any significant knowledge of Cerisse as a Lux, and I felt like the author didn’t have a finished product with this character, that it would have been helpful to the story if more information had been given. As it is, Cerisse has several interesting and handy skills, making her the latest in super-women. I thought Cerisse needed to have a more mature personality, being a Lux of substantial years. Also, the ending is quickly rolled up, as if the author was racing towards the finish line.

The grading:

  • Genre and general reading age – Romance/Fantasy for adults.
  • Level of sexuality – Graphic.
  • Is there graphic language? Yes, but definitely milder than a lot of books.
  • Did I cry? No.
  • Did I laugh? No.
  • Is this part of a series? This is book one in the Hill Vampire Series, complete with a cliffhanger.
  • Level of character development – They did not change or mature.

I rate this book ⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

Available here on Amazon

Traveller Inceptio by Rob Shackleford

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This is a very long book and I was surprised by my willingness to stay with it. Of course, this means it is a very good story. Although they are somewhat entwined, there are three threads woven through this futuristic tale. Here futuristic doesn’t mean an earth beyond recognition, but it does mean time travel.

The first thread consists of six college students who want to be recognized for their talents, receive lucrative job offers, and a PhD. They have been selected to work on an upgraded security screening device for airports. Humans are known for a certain amount of clumsy stumbling and that is what happens here. Their wiring is somewhat fried and suddenly they’ve developed something out of this world: a time machine. After a suitcase is sent out and returned, the cat goes next, and the next logical step is a human. If one gets to go, why not all of them? In their excitement, they are unable to keep their secret for long and, although they continue to fine tune their machine, they are forbidden to time travel again.

The second thread is the military grab for the machine involving power plays, the occasional threat, and who has the best financing. During this time two students, Phil and Yeti, are the most involved with the time machine. The others have pretty much moved on to other things.

The third thread is the most powerful part of the book. This is the telling of what it takes to prepare a military team to be prepped for time travel. One of the interesting parts is that the time machine will only travel one thousand years back in time and then it will return back to home base on command. It’s very attention grabbing when the reader is led through the training required to prepare the team for old England and the Saxons. Who knew they might one day need to be able to skewer everybody and everything with a sword, knife, or even a stick?

My question is, and always has been, at which point is the timeline of history compromised? Is it when someone stays in the past, dies in the past, or someone comes to the future? Also, how can one travel completely without the doo-dads of their time, such as aspirin, shampoo, and ,obviously, deodorant? There is some mention of how important it is to keep one’s loin cloth clean. Yuck. The last third of the book is where the story really takes off and I couldn’t put it down. I was drawn into the need to help some people, but always remembering the native population is to lead their lives as they normally would. That’s a tough one when you remember you have an aspirin in your fanny pack!

I believe most readers will find the author has laid out a well-done story that draws you simply because it’s easy to place yourself in this tale of the past, when it was a tale of the future.

Now for the rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – This is a futuristic fantasy for older teens and adults, just because there is a lot of story.
  • Level of sexuality – Low.
  • Is there graphic language? Low, if any.
  • Did I cry? No.
  • Did I laugh? No.
  • Level of character development – These characters were set at a high level of development and, thankfully, had nowhere else to go.
  • Is this part of a series? No.

I don’t think I will ever look at time traveling as a ‘well, what are you going to do’ type of story ever again. Anyone who is interested in a ‘what if’ will be totally engrossed and that is why I give this book ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars!

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The World of Erganna by W.T. Keeton

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Daniel Wilton has a nice and normal life, until one day, driving on a lonely back road, he and his family’s lives come to an abrupt end on Earth. Daniel survives, but is surrounded by car and body parts when he awakens; he is the only survivor. He has fallen on an ice-bound planet, imprisoned by the native people. Their skin is different shades of grey, reminding Daniel of corpses. They are intrigued by his light, pink coloring, but he is rather skittish of theirs.

Daniel learns the planet is made up of snow and ice, except for the plateau close to a volcano, where grain grows and hunting is plentiful. The natives call themselves the Winter People. Kelvakantaw, his caretaker and first friend, tells Daniel of an old tale of a man who fell from the sky and made himself from nothing. He tells her that he is not that man. Even so, she tells him that man’s name is Odhikaza and claims he must be a great shaman. During his imprisonment, he has plenty of time to learn the language, with Kelvakantaw’s aid, and when membership into the tribe is offered, he is glad to accept it and only then finds out that he must pass an act of bravery to win his place in the tribe.

During his time of adjustment with a technologically backward people, he is secretly called to visit some very strange beings, who communicate that the planet will soon be in danger and it is up to Daniel to draw all the people together, that they might overcome it. While he travels, informing others of their need to unite, he makes friends and realizes that his tribe is led by a greedy woman, who leaves other tribes without food. In order to stabilize the tribes, he discovers he must form a group of warriors to depose his own leader.

This is an easy read. There is no deep thinking here and Daniel seems to overcome each challenge rather easily, whether it be physical or emotional. He doesn’t appear to miss his home world, and although he occasionally grieves for his family, it doesn’t seem to slow him down much. I also found it rather strange that this pink dude, who spoke grandly of freedom for mankind, was so easily accepted as the man to lead a planet he had so little experience with.

Now for the grading:

  • Genre and general reading age – Fantasy for teens and adults.
  • Level of sexuality – Extremely low-key, some would say non-existent.
  • Is there graphic language? No.
  • Did I cry? No.
  • Did I laugh? No.
  • Character development – None.
  • Is this part of a series? The author does not call it a series, but there is a second book called The Ergannon-Largon War.

Overall, I give this book ⭐️⭐️ stars.

Available here on Amazon