Echo Volume 2: The Taste of Ashes by Kent Wayne

51t2xvzk2bcl._sy346_Most of us change gradually—over the course of decades. For Crusader Atriya, it will happen in a single, agonizing day. On the edge of a decaying cityscape, Atriya struggles to hold onto his identity as he faces death from both enemies and allies alike. In the process, his old self is torn away, and he catches a glimpse of what he may one day become.

Twelve hundred years ago, humanity left Earth to settle on Echo. Despite hopes for a golden age, an era of darkness fell. Government and corporations merged into the Regime. The military and police merged into the Department of Enforcement. Over half the planet is covered by crumbling cityscapes and the elite live high above, removed and remote from the greater populace on the moon-city of Ascension. Hope lies in Atriya, but before he can break the cycle of darkness and ignorance on Echo, he has to do it within himself.

REVIEW: A thrill to read! | ★★★★★

Whew! I actually finished this right after reading the first book (Echo Volume I: Approaching Shatter) and it actually felt like a complete package like that. In any case, this entire second book is action packed and such a thrill to read, from start to finish. Can’t wait to read the next installment! Hang in there, Atriya!

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Echo Volume 1: Approaching Shatter by Kent Wayne

26308563In the late 21st century, humanity left Earth due to multiple resource shortcomings aggravated by an acceleration in climate change. They settled Echo, a planet that was nearly a carbon copy of Earth except for being devoid of all but the most basic life forms. Fast forward 1200 years later. Echo has endured over a thousand years of dark age. Corporations and government merged early on, becoming the oppressive authority known as the Regime. Military and police merged into the Department of Enforcement, their only mission to crush the huge network of rebels known as the Dissidents. Over half the planet is covered by decaying cityscapes and the elite live high above, removed and remote from the greater populace on the moon-city of Ascension. Hope lies in one man, a former Enforcer named Atriya. But before he can break the cycle of darkness and ignorance on Echo, he has to do it within himself.

REVIEW: Intriguing but unresolved | ★★★☆☆

The story in this novel is unresolved which caught me off-guard. I’m glad the author included the first three chapters of the next book because this one ended where it was getting more intriguing. I bought the next book immediately.

I do like the world-building, but I wish there were more showing than telling because the first half of the book was too much descriptions and background that it couldn’t hold my interest and several times I had to put it down.

I was very much engaged during the second half, though – Atriya being a character I enjoyed following, and the author’s writing style to my liking – that by the time the novel ended, I was ready to dive into the next book.

Atriya has a lot to overcome, both physical danger and mental distress, and from what I’ve read from the next book, it seems like it’s gonna be a thrill ride and I can’t wait.

Boracay Vows (Carpe Diem Chronicles Book 1) by Maida Malby

51rfi8d6kxlTo fulfill one vow she has to break another 

Krista Lopez has five days to fulfill her Turning-Thirty Vow—the promise to do something life-changing in celebration of this milestone birthday. Her plan: give in to her attraction to her Irish-American hunk of a boss Mr. Blake Ryan who is conveniently vacationing in the same posh resort in Boracay.

When he proposes a one-week affair while they’re on vacation, she accepts. It’s only a fling, after all. Krista will not fall for an American. She can’t. She promised her mother.

Promises are made to be broken 

Krista and Blake hope what happens in Boracay stays in Boracay. They want to keep their affair a secret from their colleagues, from her family. But, secrets have a way of coming out. When they’re found out, will Krista and Blake end their affair or will they say Carpe Diem to the promise of a love of a lifetime?

BORACAY VOWS is the first book in the fun and sexy multicultural contemporary romance series Carpe Diem Chronicles.

REVIEW: A sweet and spicy romance | ★★★☆☆

I haven’t been reading a lot of romance novels and I’m not really the target audience for this book, so I don’t know how it compares to other romances nowadays. The sexy parts were definitely spicy for sure but storywise it wasn’t as impressive as I’d hoped. However despite the plot feeling contrived and rushed, the male character quite bland, and the conflict kind of lackluster, it still was quite an enjoyable read especially with all the Filipino touches. I’m also Filipino, so I really appreciate that. It’s also a nice look into multicultural romance, and the relationship between these two individuals – despite their somewhat adult arrangement – was kind of sweet.

So To Honor Him: the Magi and the Drummer by Laura VanArendonk Baugh

51pxexo6golArash is a slave drummer accompanying the Megistanes and other scholars on their journey to find the new king, whose star they have seen in the heavens. He does not understand their enthusiasm for this Jewish child, prophesied centuries before by one of their own, but each night he plays his drum for his master and dreams of earning his freedom.

When they reach Jerusalem, Arash is made an offer by King Herod himself: once they locate the child, return and tell him of this infant king of the Jews. For this small favor, Herod promises Arash’s freedom.

But Herod does not seek the child to honor him, and Arash is trapped in a plot to murder an infant.

Characters from Rome, Babylon, the Decapolis, and the Han Dynasty experience the events surrounding the Nativity in this meticulously researched and historically plausible retelling of the Little Drummer Boy carol.

REVIEW: A charming retelling of The Little Drummer Boy as historical fiction | ★★★★☆

The Little Drummer Boy has always been a song to me – my favorite Christmas song actually – and I never came across a telling of it as a story. So to take notice of this as a historical fiction type novella intrigued me, especially during the Christmas season. (I’ve long since become an atheist, but I respect and appreciate Christmas, be it fact or fiction. It’s a wonderful holiday to spend with family!) I enjoyed reading and learning through the slave drummer Arash’s perspective, and it was eye-opening to discover what it would have been like during that time period. Both Arash and Saman are likeable characters and I would have liked to continue following them beyond the events of this story. Overall, this is a charming retelling of The Little Drummer Boy and I wish there was more to it.

Sorted: Freedom Through Structure by Gillian Perkins

51qz4ri7g9lThis is your chance to finally break free from clutter.
Whether you realize it or not, your home, schedule, and mind are filled with clutter. Perhaps you wonder why you often feel stressed, even if though your life seems tidy. Why do there never seem to be enough hours in a day?
That’s clutter at work. Clutter is hiding in your home, confusing your schedule, and stressing your mind and body. You need to clear away the clutter and create a more organized life so that you are not constantly being distracted by all that stuff. You need to stop letting clutter waste your time and energy, so that you can instead use these resources to live and enjoy life! It’s time to once and for all reclaim that time as your own.
SORTED is your guide to a beautiful destination: a place where you have the time and space you need to think clearly, discover meaning, and embrace life. SORTED is the detailed system that will enable you to finally achieve order for your schedule, home, and future plans.

SUMMON
ORDER
RECLAIM
TRANSFORM
ENJOY
DETERMINE

REVIEW: It’s 40% instruction, 60% encouragement | ★★★★☆

This book feels like 40% instruction and 60% encouragement. That 60% is working because I am very encouraged to apply the principles laid out in this book when my vacation ends. Although both my fiance and I are slightly organized and our place is not that messy to begin with – and we try not to have too many stuff at home as well because we move to a different apartment every two years – I still feel that there’s still a lot of clutter and a complete lack of routine. A routine is something I feel I personally need, especially in the near future, since I plan on doing a personal project in addition to… well, adulting. I think that this book will provide a great guide to achieve a doable routine. I can even start by using the author’s examples and tweaking it to fulfill my needs. I’ve been eyeing this book for some time now, and I’m glad I finally got it. And for sure, this won’t be the last time I’ll be reading this.

Firestone Key by Caroline Noe

41ndczvifilWhat power would you use to make it right?

Elaine survives an abusive childhood that leaves her with a scarred face and an exceptional mind. In order to save humanity from a terrible fate, she devises The Project: an impossible manipulation of time.

But when the fading vortex inexplicably bursts into life, Elaine is blasted into a medieval society that bears no relation to the history books; a land of curiously human animals, foul monsters and violent magic; a land living in fear of the infamous Firestone and the hideous Queen that wields its power.

Finding in the oppressed villagers the family she has always craved, Elaine learns that time is in flux and every action bears a consequence. Encountering a traitor as scarred as herself, she begins a relationship that will tragically alter future, present and past.

But what is the Firestone? And what if it lies closer than she knows, for…

Every evil has an origin.

REVIEW: An exhilarating adventure through time travel and dark magic | ★★★★★

What an exhilarating adventure through time travel! Action, tragedy, and love surrounding complex and charming characters make for an enjoyable read. This is such an inventive tale, expertly crafted with a bit of science and a lot of magic. It takes a while to get through to the language structure, but it eventually elevates the material by taking the reader to a different time and place. For quite a dark story, it has a cozy feel to it, full of characters you can’t help but love. I finished the story completely amazed and would really encourage everyone to pick it up and read it. ❤️

The Elysian Prophecy (The Deian Chronicles Book 1) by Vivien Reis

51jcwwzf2plAn enchanted island. An evil resurrected. A society determined to gain power…

When a violent attack leaves their father in the hospital, Abigail and Benjamin Cole discover there’s more to their family history than mental illness.

But after fifteen-year-old Abi is abducted, she learns the attack wasn’t random. Thrust into an exotic and beautiful world part of a multi-millennial feud, she must decide who to trust in a society built on secrets. Questioning everything she’s ever known, she enlists the help of a boy connected to her in impossible ways and uncovers a dangerous secret stretching generations.

Seventeen-year-old Ben desperately tries to search for both his sister and his mother, but his hold on reality is fading. Something dark has latched onto him. In a race against his own failing mind, where violent hallucinations and paranoia force him to believe he’s next in line for the family curse, he learns he’s the only one that can save his family.

When darkness is coming, who do you trust?

Magic. Deceit. War. Perfect for fans of Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, and Leigh Bardugo.

REVIEW: Lukewarm but very promising | ★★★☆☆

I follow Vivien Reis’ YouTube channel and really like the way she presents her points, and I easily admired her. So when I found out she wrote a book, I immediately set out to buy it and read it. The cover was gorgeous too. Unfortunately, it did not live up to my expectations, especially in the beginning where I didn’t feel any connection between the two main characters Abi and Ben, who are supposed to be siblings. I realized later that it might have been intentional, as hinted in Abi’s observations of her friend Cora’s much warmer relationship with her brother Jesse. Speaking of Jesse, the romance was a bit flat for me. But, this is not a romance novel, it’s a fantasy novel. And the more I got into the story, the more the fantasy elements intrigued me. By the time it ended I was already eager to read the next one. So overall, this may not be the best start for a series, but I’m still willing to discover what else it has to offer in the future.

Nocturnal by Wilder Poetry

41kt0uxmncl._sx311_bo1204203200_Nocturnal is a collection of words and imagery inspired by darkened skies and sleepless nights. it is a journey of healing and self-discovery whether love stays or leaves. it is dreaming with your eyes wide open while the rest of the world is hiding.

and when they ask me,
are you afraid of the dark?
i will remind them that
there’s nothing to fear
when the night is a reason
we can see how honest
everything shines
while the rest of the world
is hiding. 

REVIEW: Beautiful. Poignant. Inspiring. | ★★★★★

This book is a wonderful creative package, full of beautiful, poignant, and inspiring poetry sprinkled with black and white pieces of art.

Aletheia (The Seventh River Book 1) by Megan Tennant

51ow2rBQekLNearly two decades after the fall, the transcendent city of Iris is the only place rumored to have a cure to the disease that decimated the world. Beyond Iris, are the remnants of the old world, crawling with the Depraved. Infected with Lethe, they no longer remember the people or dreams they were once willing to fight for, and are left instead with familiar voices that whisper dark and unfamiliar words within their minds. Instinct is all that keeps the diseased struggling to exist another day.

Deep underground, below Iris, exists a compound, prison to the Nameless who traded their freedom for the cure to Lethe. It is here that 736 fights to protect those she loves. Not against the Depraved that she’s taught to fear, but against the society that saved her from that fate. She was willing to trade away her rights to regain the ability to form memories, but she won’t let the cult that cured her treat the lives of the Nameless like a resource to be used and discarded. At least, not without a fight.

How much is 736 willing to sacrifice for revenge against her captors? For those she cares about? For freedom? Everything has a cost, what would you be willing to pay?

REVIEW: An excellent dystopian fiction that is gritty and depressing in all the right ways | ★★★★★

The start of this book was quite slow for me. I was only half interested with what was going on and was easily distracted with other things. However, when I got into the meat of the story, I was completely swallowed whole. I really respect the guts of the author to give the main character a number – “736” – for a name. It actually contributed to my lack of interest in the beginning because I couldn’t remember it. Was it 736 or 763 or 793 or 765? And because it was written in first person perspective, the name is not stated as repeatedly as it would have been in third person. So, for someone like me, it’s a very forgettable name. But as it turns out, the character is not a forgettable character. She is only one of many compelling characters – some of which have numbers for names too – who have their own unique way of dealing with their circumstances. I would say that the best thing about this book are the character arcs and how they impacted 736’s psyche and mentality. Aside from the characters, I feel that the story and how it plays out is well-crafted, even though the writing may need some improvement in some areas. Don’t get me wrong, the writing is beautiful and has that poetic quality to it, but it can slow the pace down in certain scenes, such as in the beginning and in action scenes. But overall, the story took me on a ride where there are times I am overwhelmed with emotions, or just overwhelmed. The world-building plays a lot into this and I appreciate the way in which certain elements were not stated outright and are discovered by the reader as they become important, which is clever because it enhances the reading experience, sometimes with a punch. That, and of course, the elements of it that 736 discovers herself for the first time. The world-building itself feels much more realistic than other dystopian novels like Hunger Games (which I like despite the world-building) or Divergent (which I didn’t like because of the world-building) and it just seems like real effort is done to flesh out this book’s world-building and I really appreciate that. (Disclaimer: I haven’t really read a lot of dystopian books.) Overall, this is gritty and depressing in all the right ways, and because of that it has high entertainment value for me. This is definitely a book worth reading, and even worth rereading. It is by no means flawless, but for the quality of the story and my enjoyment in reading it, I feel it deserves 5 stars. I cannot wait for the next book!

She’s Not Here by Mandi Lynn

41nndg4adtlWillow watched her father diminish in front of her as Alzheimer’s pulled him further away each day. When a fire creates the perfect disaster, Willow’s desperation to find a cure to the disease causes her to change Samantha Ellison’s life forever.

Treated as an experiment, Willow injects Samantha with a serum that mimics Alzheimer’s and deteriorates her brain. With Sam’s mental capacity declining at an alarming rate, it won’t be long until people start looking for answers. With Willow’s husband as the doctor, it’s only a matter of time before he uncovers the truth. The only question is whether he discovers Willow’s secrets in time to save the innocent life at stake.

REVIEW: A hospital drama of quiet suspense | ★★★★☆

I did not expect this book to be that of quiet suspense, especially from the cover. But I have been reading two eventful stories back to back and for me this was a welcome change of pace. In my ebook version, I found several misspellings and formatting issues, which I hope the paperback doesn’t have. I also realized, after reading the book, that I have no idea what the characters look like. Maybe I missed their descriptions or maybe it didn’t matter to me, but I managed to enjoy the book despite all of that. This story takes place almost entirely in a hospital and that already makes things uneasy. Add to that the tragic circumstances that surrounded Sam and her family, which pulls on the heartstrings. Sam’s interactions with Pup was quite cute and disturbing at the same time. I wish we’d had more background on Sam’s teenage life to get a bigger impact on what she had lost after what Willow did to her. I fully sensed Willow’s desperation but did not sympathize with her selfish goals until the end when I felt so bad for her. I completely sympathized with Randy, who was stuck in an impossible situation, except at the end where I felt he should have been less selfless. Overall, I respected this book and appreciated the message I felt the author was trying to convey. I’m glad I picked up this book.