Survive at Midnight by Kayla Krantz

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This is an amazing book to follow after the first two. Personally, I didn’t read either, but I didn’t need to. This is one book that gives you all the details you need to truly enjoy it. There was plenty of back story and the history was easy to follow. While I wish I had been able to start from the beginning, I’m still excited that I got to read this one.

Luna is probably the loneliest girl on the planet. Only a few years out of high school and pregnant with no friends. Why? Because mostly they are all dead. Murdered in numerous and vicious ways. Even the relationship with her mother, Rose, is painfully strained. She spends her days lamenting the loss of her loved ones and developing a connection with her baby. The father is her mortal enemy, so it’s not an easy thing to do, but she grows to love her baby immensely.

So much happens in this book that it is hard to discuss it without giving anything away. Suffice it to say that it’s a roller coaster of emotions and jumps from one “No way!” moment to the next. I wondered through the entire book whether what was happening was real. It seems her enemy is not exactly who she thought he was and that revelation has dire consequences. Chance, the villain from the previous books, did a marvelous job at isolating her and destroying everything of meaning in her life. He had a grand exit in the second book, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of Chance.

The story does an incredible job of taking someone who is despicable in every way and whose past behavior can only be described as pure evil, and turning them into someone human and a person to sympathize with. It is not a task accomplished right away, though. So much goes on that the reader must grow along with the character to get the real emotion behind it. At times it is very difficult to read and disturbing doesn’t quite cover it. The question is who is Luna really. Who is she becoming? Was she always destined to become an extension of Chance? Can she turn around from the path she has started down? The answers are only found at the end of the book, when your jaw is on the floor and you feel Luna’s pain and desolation.

From the very beginning I was sucked in. I couldn’t believe what I was reading and I only saw three ways out: prison, asylum, death. The author proved that I wasn’t thinking outside the box and I was relieved to discover that it had the perfect ending. The story remains consistent from start to finish and carries you through Luna’s journey as she evolves. There were several issues that caught my attention. The story is definitely not your everyday tale with realistic interactions, but the fantastic never bothers me. It was the little things, like Rose expecting her daughter to pull herself out of her grief in a matter of weeks, or an obstetrician doing house calls in the matter of fifteen minutes. If only that was true, then a pregnant woman’s experience would be much easier. It was only these moments of un-believability that interferred with the flow of the story. Keep in mind, though, that I’m a stickler and pay attention to the little things.

The grading:

  • Genre and general reading age – Paranormal for adults. Definitely not for teens.
  • Level of sexuality – None. Her pregnancy is already a done deal when the book begins.
  • Is there graphic language? Nothing that impacted me or my reading experience.
  • Did I cry? No, but I felt her sorrow and her confusion acutely.
  • Did I laugh? Absolutely not.
  • Is this part of a series? You bet. This is book three in The Rituals of the Night series. Book four is due out later this year.
  • Level of character development – Luna has a complete makeover. Throughout the course of the book she becomes an entirely different person. It is a fantastic example of how a character can start out as one person and, through internal and external forces, do a one-eighty.

This is a suprising and chilling tale. Do not approach this book lightly and prepare yourself for many shocking moments. I love Luna and the way she is torn between her old life and her new. At times it felt like Stockholm syndrome, but she ultimately chooses who she becomes. The ending is satisfying and this is a book that I would gladly read again. I was so engrossed that I cannot give it anything under ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars. Well done, Ms. Krantz.

Available here on Amazon

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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.

Available here on Amazon

Available here on Barnes & Noble

Macadamian Pliers by Steve Conoboy

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This book has a strange and awesome title and an equally awesome story. There is no way for you not to be caught up in this freaky mystery. Cherry Rains and her family are moving into a new house half a state away. She plans on never calling it home, as moving was never her idea. Her goofy brother, Frank, has already tried to claim the attic as his bedroom. Thankfully, she won’t have to listen to him stomping overhead every night, since Mom vetoed that plan.

Not only is Cherry upset about the move, but the realtor is a real creep, too. He has a strange body shape, seems to walk around on silent, kitty feet, appearing near her when she is most vulnerable and alone, has a wicked missing eye, and the other eye stares mercilessly at her. Don’t forget the long, knobby fingers that are never still. Cherry is truly frightened when she notices him standing outside their house at night, his fingers moving rapidly or appearing to wave a stick. What could possibly be going on?

Frank, on the other hand, has found a new friend, Jack, and a haunted house! On the way to school they walk by and Cherry decides right then and there that she will never, ever go in. However, Jack and Frank are already plotting when they will take a peek. Adding more excitement to their lives, packing boxes begin to hop up and down, doors slam, and even a bathrobe assumes the shape of a human and floats towards them. When Mom receives a nasty bite on her arm, Cherry decides she has had enough. There must be some way to rid themselves of these nasty spirits. She enlists Frank and Jack to help her research ghosts and other scary things. She’s stunned to find that there seems to be an overabundance of these in town.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. The characters are so engrossing that I enjoyed pursuing the story of each one. They are all interestingly intertwined to give us an engrossing tale. This is not your usual woo-oooo story; at no time was I creeped out, bored, or wishing it would just end. This has a cliffhanger ending, but a sequel is not mentioned. I was fine with the end, since it all came together nicely, but you do have to wonder…*a little Twilight Zone music here, please*

Now for the rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – Paranormal mystery for older teens and adults.
  • Level of sexuality – None.
  • Is there graphic language – Very low.
  • Did I cry? No.
  • Did I laugh? No.
  • Is this part of a series? This was published in January 2017 and there is no mention of a sequel.
  • Level of character development – Nicely done. The kids are a bit quirky, but it’s entertaining and aren’t kids always that way?

I gladly give this ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

Find it here on Amazon

Barking Madness by Ryan Hill

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Beautiful senior Rosetta and her family have recently moved from Florida to a town called Ashwood. The high school is small, so she causes quite a stir; there aren’t enough pretty girls to compete with her. What the boys don’t realize, is that Rosetta is quite capable of seeking out handsome boys.

The first day is an exciting one, because she meets Tommy, who happens to be the star quarterback. His rippling muscles and cute face convince her that he will be her new boyfriend. Soon, they are considered a couple and she accompanies Tommy everywhere he goes. Friday nights are officially party night, with lots of drinking and hopefully drugs. The cool kids meet at Brad’s house, but across the street is Phil’s, where the other few gather. They never start drinking until Phil does and begin to fantasize about what it would be like to be a part of that group. Following suit, their little get-togethers break up the same time as Phil’s.

One night, Rose and Tommy are too drunk to drive, so they decide to walk through the woods, trying to make it home before her curfew. As they are laughing and stumbling along, Rose realizes they are being followed. Tommy is too drunk to realize anything. Suddenly, a large wolf confronts them on the path with a menacing growl. Tommy protectively shoves her behind him, and is sadly consumed by the wolf. Seeing her chance, she escapes, screaming. She never has a chance, though, and the wolf is right on her, ripping into her shoulder.

Michael, a very shy senior who has talked with Rose, even though she hardly knows him, has just left the party when he hears her screams, as he is driving past the woods. He runs to her rescue, chasing off the wolf and helps her to a neighboring house.

After the attack, Rose begins to have dreams of a masked man who threatens her and her family. She cannot begin to understand the reasoning behind them. About this time, a girl shows up in her room, who looks exactly like Rose. She comes and goes, seemingly on a whim, and Rose continually stops her from giving advice for all of Rose’s problems. At the same time, Tommy starts appearing, too. Being dead and all, he seems to be hanging around just because he likes her and has nothing better to do.

Although Rose is traumatized by Tommy’s death, it doesn’t take her long to pick out her new boyfriend, Zach, who happens to be known as a bully, only Rose doesn’t have a clue. His favorite victim is Michael, but she feels obligated to him and agrees to go to the carnival with him. In reality, she’s indifferent to him and as they enter an attraction, she loses sight of him, not caring. Michael has been cornered by Zach and his friends, who proceed to beat the stuffing out of him. Believing that Michael abandoned her, she finishes out her evening with Zach. Frighteningly, Zach meets the wolf and joins Tommy as a ghostly spectre who haunts Rose.

Gradually, Rose begins to see the good in Michael and he is constantly amazed by her beauty and kindness. As time passes, she realizes that she has a secret that she doesn’t know how to share with him or her family. More students fall prey to the wolf and join the ranks of her ghostly friends.

Now, for my take on the book. Rose is quite arrogant and I found her hard to like. In fact, I couldn’t sympathize with her at all. She is overly involved in others’ appearance in regards to whether they are worth her time. She is mean to Michael, but he forgives her because he believes he is in love with her. She sneaks out at night to get drunk, party, and do drugs. I thought that she set an awful example for others, especially her little sister. Being grounded for her behavior never stops her from going out anyway.

Michael has a severe ‘savior complex’. He just has to throw himself into harm’s way to save everyone, which happens on more than one occasion. He is crazy for Rose, but she doesn’t warrant his devotion. Of course, Michael being tongue-tied half of the time, does not earn him brownie points.

Overall, the book was repetitive, long, and definitely YA. I don’t think adults will be too interested, but I think it is well put together. There is no wandering far off topic or getting lost in large groups of characters and their activities. The ending pops up all of a sudden, isn’t terribly exciting, and then it’s over.

For the rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – paranormal for young adults.
  • Level of sexuality – low.
  • Is there graphic language? Very little.
  • Did I cry? No.
  • Did I laugh? No.
  • Is this part of a series? No.
  • Level of character development – none.

I give this book ⭐️⭐️ stars. Good effort. Some strong points. Not for me.

Available here on Amazon

Available here on Barnes & Noble

Dead by Morning by Kayla Krantz

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Luna is a high school student who doesn’t fit in with her classmates. She has one friend, Violet, who has been her BFF since grade school. Then there is Chance, the most popular boy in school, who attracts girls like moths to a flame. His favorite activity is stalking Luna. While Luna cannot stand him, Violet yearns for him to notice her, but he constantly seeks Luna out; after school walking home, in class where he pokes her with a pencil until she acknowledges him, even showing up at her home. Eww. Not only does he give me the creeps, he creeps her out, too, with his non-stop sneaking around and perpetual smirk.

Luna watches with helpless anger as Chance encroaches upon her life. He visits with her father, Dave, who then encourages her to show some interest in Chance. He lies to Dave and soon she finds herself in trouble with her father and pushed into Chance’s waiting arms. Well, it all just goes downhill from there. Obviously, there’s something seriously wrong with Chance and she desperately needs to be freed of him.

On top of that, Violet quickly becomes jealous and their friendship comes to an end, leaving Luna feeling completely abandoned. To add even more creepy, Luna begins having dreams and Chance is in every one of them. Her father eventually insists that Luna go out with him, since he’s such a fine fella. When he takes her to his home, she finds proof that he is a Satan worshipper. Thankfully, Max, someone she’s known for a very long time, enters the picture and enlightens her as to Chance’s super scary interest in the supernatural and explains her dreams. Chance has a plan for Luna and he is never going to let her go.

This book is obviously written for teens and I think they would enjoy it. Personally, I found it repetitive and the editing started to break down in the last few chapters. The facial expressions of the characters were rather limited. For example, there was a whole lot of glaring, pinching the bridge of the nose, cold stares, etc. Chance is a deadly dude and I’m surprised by the fact that he threatened many girls, yet not a single one had a parent or friend they could turn to in their time of trouble. I was further dumbfounded, when Chance turns Luna’s own father against her. He was a huge failure as a parent and apparently none of the other characters even had parents.

Enough of what I disliked, here is what I did. Although the characters did not evolve during this book, Luna was a steadfast friend, but to no avail. She was considered a non-entity by all her classmates and, other than keeping her head down 100% of the time, she didn’t seem to let her confidence drain away under so much negative attention. If you have to have a scary character, Chance is your man. Evil, evil, evil. How anyone slept with his presence in their dreams, is beyond me.

Now, for the rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – paranormal/suspense for older teens.
  • Level of sexuality – none.
  • Was there graphic language? Mild, if any.
  • Did I cry? No.
  • Did I laugh? I didn’t do that, either.
  • Is this part of a series? Rituals of the Night Series.
  • Level of character development – basically none.

There’s good and bad, like any book. Considering the target audience, I give it ⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

Available here on Amazon