The Helm of Darkness (War on the Gods, #1) by A. P. Mobley

41ykgfebyylAndy and Zoey are two normal teenagers living in the modern day—that is, until they’re knocked unconscious in a freak storm sweeping the United States. 

When they wake up, the world they know has been tossed away. Their city is in ruins, strange creatures walk the earth, and worst of all, everyone is gone. They stumble across Diana and Spencer, two kids around their age who possess incredible magical abilities, and who claim to be the demigod children of Greek gods. Not only that, they also claim the year is 500 AS, five hundred years after the gods conjured a massive storm that destroyed most of humanity and helped them take the world as their own once again. 

Andy and Zoey are soon handed an impossible task: To save humanity. To lead a war on the gods. 

They’ll have to battle monsters, death, and their own inner demons to survive and to protect the people they love.

REVIEW: A sweet dive into the world of greek mythology | ★★★☆☆

A sweet dive into the world of greek mythology in the eyes of young adult humans and demigods. As a fan of greek mythology, this is definitely a fun read for me, although it caters to much younger readers than myself. Maybe apart from Spencer, I couldn’t find myself that much invested in the main characters, but the adventure and the world-building makes for a wonderful ride. A solid start to a series and will definitely check out the sequel!

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Only Words (Shane Ashby Trilogy #1) by Summer Kiska

419ky6iv5blIf magick defines me, who am I without it?

Has your boyfriend been turned into a bunny?  Does your creepy stalker need a time-out as a toad? Or maybe you want a little more oomph in your spells? Shane Ashby—Celtic witch with three times the power of your average magick-user—has you covered.

Or, well, at least I used to.

I’ve been cursed. That’s bad enough, but now I have to defend against a sister I never thought I’d see again. And with the worst timing ever, a desperate, if irritatingly attractive warlock shows up at my door in need of a tutor. Apparently, I’m his “last hope.”

Somehow, I have to figure out how to keep breathing, not have an emotional breakdown, and make sure no one around me gets caught in the crossfire. All while having one proverbial hand tied behind my back.

Sure, I’ve got this…

 

REVIEW: A fun read with a refreshing perspective | ★★★★☆

It’s such a refreshing perspective for a story to be told from a witch whose speech is limited due to a curse. I had a lot of fun reading this book, and from Shane Ashby’s interesting point of view. It was incredibly easy to like her, and the love interest Jeremy Reeves as well. Though to be honest, I am rooting for the other guy, only because he’s a P.I. and a teleporter! There are few other characters in the story but none of them are bland, including Freya, the cat! Overall, this is definitely a good read and a great start to a trilogy.

Unknown Element by Brittani S. Avery

518i87uvc7lIn fifteen-year-old Rex Marshall’s mystical world, beings are classified by and can harness the powers of Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Light, and Darkness. When Rex, the rebellious son of an abolitionist councilman, impulsively purchases the freedom of Meenal, a peculiar blue slave, they discover a deep connection over one commonality: both don’t know who—or what—they are.

Rex and Meenal’s journey of self-discovery and Rex’s need to defend his birthright and inheritance takes them to the Saldur Empire, the country from which Rex’s homeland, Maventa, won its independence—the same place his missing mother hails from. As Rex acts as ambassador between Maventa and the Saldur Empire, his connection to his mother becomes stronger than ever, and his origin becomes eerily clear.

The quest to unearth their elements may prove life-threatening— or worse.

REVIEW: Intriguing but with character issues | ★★★☆☆

There are some aspects to enjoy about this book, but it’s significantly hindered by the main character Rex who is difficult to like. Even though his hot-tempered personality is meant to be part of a mystery, it’s still difficult to follow such an unlikeable lead. His behavior (and some others as well) is also a bit much for a teenager although that may depend on the culture? For me, it’s cringey mainly because they’re underaged. However, the world itself is interesting and there are other intriguing characters such as Meenal. So, if there is a sequel to this book, I will still continue with the series, hoping that Rex would have developed into a better character.

 

Echo Volume 3: The Dialectic of Agony by Kent Wayne

34114908While Crusader Kischan Atriya fights to keep his life and sanity, his mentor Chrysalis Verus undertakes a perilous journey across the wilds of Echo. Their separate paths intertwine in the unlikeliest of places and across all borders, both psychic and physical.
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REVIEW: Glorious mech and “magic” | ★★★★☆

This third installment is a more in-depth exploration of the world of Echo as well as the psyche of our broken hero Atriya and his enlightened mentor Verus. Both the sci-fi and supernatural elements in this were enjoyable to read, most especially the intense action. A few philosophical elements were also inserted here, and I especially enjoyed Verus’ interaction with the “Flow-riders” as well as Atriya’s conversation with the Regent.

Verus’ journey in the desert was a change of perspective and change of pace from the previous book’s fast-paced action which centered on Atriya. She does eventually encounter some action herself, this time with manipulation of Kaia (which is somewhat akin to magic) rather than advanced military tech like Atriya. Gribbles the Tokage lizard added a little bit of quirk, and that scene with Gribbles and Atriya was completely unexpected but enjoyable to read nonetheless. I’ve seen documentaries about dolphins and orcas lifestyles and intelligence, which really fascinated me, so a particular scene with the dolphins was quite endearing.

Intriguing as Verus was, the highlights of this book, though, were definitely Atriya’s scenes. From him sleeping in such a horrible apartment to his epic battle in the Wastes with his Exo, I was with him in both slow scenes and intense scenes. I was genuinely full of dread when I came across the term Enhancile (what? again?? now???), and was internally screaming for him to stop boosting when he kept doing so (have you not learned from Cityscape 87?!). The world-building continues to be excellent and the way Atriya navigates it is thought-provoking. The sci-fi elements and military jargon are so cool to read as well and I especially like the terms Judge, Jury, Enhanciles, Enforcers, Crusaders, Specters, Harvesters, Orbital, Ascension, Regent, Dissident, Kaia, “approaching shatter”, and how they are used within this world (“Wraiths” not so much, but we’ll see). The epilogue in the hospital was especially heartbreaking because I know a lot of people are suffering that way in the real world.

It’s so ironic that Verus considers Atriya as someone incredibly important, while Atriya himself is questioning his own purpose and survival.

(Some things I didn’t like were when the narration gives descriptions of specific real-world things which are not part of the current timeline of Echo because it takes me out of the story and reminds me that I’m reading a book where apparently the author is a fan of this and that. It makes me think of the author rather than the story, and therefore takes me out of the story. Like maybe describe a pose as something cool or majestic rather than saying she looks like a samurai; or describe the music as something empowering or energizing rather than saying it came from Pacific Rim, “an Old Earth classic”. Basically I’m not fond of these Old Earth references, although I do like that Atriya is old-fashioned, with his revolver and such. Note that I love Pacific Rim and the soundtrack, but some of my friends did not, and it didn’t do as well as it should have in the box office so I don’t think it will be a “classic”… see? I’m thinking these things when I really didn’t need to when reading this story. Good thing there were no references to Evangelion or Gundam or anything like that, then my mind will go to emo fifteen-year-olds piloting mech LOL. This also goes for directly naming the specific martial arts styles that Verus uses as the fight is still ongoing. It is impressive indeed but you can’t be thinking of the specific name of the fighting style your friend is using while you are in a life-and-death situation. That only happens in anime! But then, I’ve never been in a life-and-death situation so what do I know? The phrase “spooky action at a distance” also took me out of it because that’s what Einstein called quantum entanglement, and I felt that it wouldn’t take me so much out of it if the narration had just mentioned “quantum entanglement” instead. My brain got interrupted in the middle of the story because it reminded me that Einstein was wrong about quantum entanglement. I can’t be thinking about Einstein while reading a book that had nothing to do with Einstein. But anyway, this is just me. Other readers might love all these references. And with that, I’ll end my nitpicking. Also, sorry for nitpicking.)

Overall, definitely a compelling read. On to the next one!

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!

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.

Internet was kind of spotty where I was so I put off blogging until I’m back from the Philippines.

Indiecember

I’m happy to report I’ve completed flush style for my Indiecember board which ultimately looked like this:

indiecember2018

I also wrote about Indiecember in the following posts:

Here are my Amazon reviews for the last few books since my last update:

Sorted: Freedom Through Structure by Gillian Perkins

img_6375This 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.

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

img_6398The 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.

Boracay Vows by Maida Malby

img_6447I 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.

I was definitely more active in Instagram when it came to updating my Indiecember progress and the link to my Indiecember stories is here.

I’ve somewhat became a bookstagrammer in December (because I wanted to record my Indiecember progress) and now I think I may continue to post bookstagram photos. It’s just a little bit tricky with ebooks because the light reflects on my iPad and I have to get creative in getting good shots. I don’t also know if I can read as much books in one month as I did in December so I may not post as often as I did then. But if you’re interested, you can follow me on Instagram here.

Lastly, I won a prize pack! I got an email from Megan Tennant – the creator of the Indiecember Reading Challenge – saying, “Congratulations!!! You won a prize pack with multiple physical books, a $10 Amazon gift card, and some other assorted goodies!” Yay! She also announced the winners in this YouTube video. Some, if not all, of these books in the prize pack (I don’t know yet what the books will be) will definitely go into my 2019 reading goal of 50 books. It would also be nice to take photos of physical books for Instagram!

2019 Reading Goals

img_6512I definitely intend to read more books this year, especially fantasy books, because I am planning to write a fantasy novel myself. For the past two years or so, the books I’ve read and re-read are mostly the Witcher series and A Song of Ice and Fire series.

I also have five indie books in my December TBR that I was not able to read in December in favor of other indie books for my Indiecember board. So I’d like to finally read them this year, within January or the next two months if possible.

Lastly, I’ve been intending to complete The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini but I’ve put that on hold for Indiecember. I got all the four books in one compiled volume in my Kindle app but I’ve read the first three a long time ago. I am thinking of rereading the whole entire thing.

My Goodreads Reading Challenge Goal for 2019 is 50 books. I feel optimistic about it and I think I can accomplish it. Wish me luck!

In summary:

  • Read 50 Books in 2019 (some of them can be from the prize pack)
  • Finish The Inheritance Cycle
  • Read the 5 indie books in my December TBR, namely: Eve: The Awakening by Jenna Moreci, It’s Killing Jerry by Sharn Hutton, The Confectioner’s Guild by Claire Luana, Echo: Approaching Shatter by Kent Wayne, and The Lone and Level Sands by Emerson Grey.
  • Read at least 12 Fantasy Books (where a series would count as one)

2019 Writing Goals

img_6198First of all, I definitely want to participate in NaNoWriMo again this year as well as Camp NaNoWriMo.

Secondly, I want to continue writing poetry so I’m setting a goal of 12 Poems for this year – in theory, one for each month. I could end up doing much more, but I think one per month is a good goal to set.

Lastly, I want to complete a first draft of my fantasy story which now has around 50K words thanks to NaNoWriMo 2018. The story is not finished yet (far from it!) and I estimate around 120K words, which means I’m lacking 70K. I don’t think I’ll wait for NaNoWriMo to do the 70K but we’ll see where life takes me in 2019 hahaha! My goal right now is basically just have the experience of finishing a first draft of a story, regardless of whether the story ultimately ends up getting published or not.

I don’t have any goals for blogging right now but I may think about it and set up some goals in the near future.

Thanks for reading and have a great year, everyone! Happy New Year!

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.

This update is a bit delayed considering I’ve accomplished my initial Indiecember plan, and then some! Before I begin, these are my past Indiecember posts:

I’m happy to report that I have completed the middle row of Indiecember with Aletheia by Megan Tennant and Nocturnal by Wilder, thus accomplishing the traditional bingo style of playing. Upon completion, my board now looked like this:

IMG_5931

The O’s represent the boxes I am aiming for and must contain unique books. The X’s are the ones those five books also apply for. As you can see, there are only 7 squares left to fill the entire board to accomplish the flush style. So, why not?

In order to accomplish the 7 remaining squares I decided to come up with some kind of plan. The square are: [POC Author], [Novella], [10-20 Reviews], [Self-Help or Learning], [0-5 Reviews], [White on Cover], [40-60 Reviews].

My first action was to check my own library and see which indie books apply. Although I really wanted to read new books, I may not have enough time. I have already read The Elysian Prophecy by Vivien Reis but have not reviewed it yet, so I am including that one since it can cross out [White on Cover] and [40-60 Reviews].

The book I really wanted to read next was Firestone Key by Caroline Noe and I’ve actually started a bit on it, but wasn’t sure if it would cross out any of the remaining squares. I was happy to discover that it indeed crosses out [0-5 Reviews].

So right now, this is what my new Indiecember board looks like:

IMG_6370

Let me also list here the new reviews I have written, just to be consistent with my previous update:

Aletheia by Megan Tennant

IMG_6243The 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!

Nocturnal by Wilder

IMG_6200This book is a wonderful creative package, full of beautiful, poignant, and inspiring poetry sprinkled with black and white pieces of art.

Note: For this book, I got both the physical book which is “the gift” and the ebook for my Kindle :) 

The Elysian Prophecy by Vivien Reis

IMG_6280I 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.

Firestone Key by Caroline Noe

IMG_6349What 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. ❤️

As of this writing, I have just finished Sorted: Freedom Through Structure by Gillian Perkins. However I have yet to review it (or post on Instagram). I usually include a nice photo with my Amazon reviews and I want to do the same with this. I will have to do that after my social obligation later today. That will cross out my [Self-Help or Learning] square.

For Novella, I managed to read The Architect of Elysia by Vivien Reis while waiting for a flight the other day. However, this novella does not have an Amazon page. I do plan to also read So To Honor Him by Laura VanArendonk Baugh because Little Drummer Boy is my favorite Christmas Song. I’m an atheist now, but I still appreciate Christmas or be it fact or fiction. Anyway, this book will cross out both [Novella] and [10-20 Reviews] boxes.

Lastly, I found a book which is set in the Philippines – which is where I am now – and written by a Filipino author – and I am also Filipino. So, why not? It’s a romance novel called Boracay Vows by Maida Malby which will cross out the [POC Author] square.

I think this plan is completely achievable to me as the remaining books are not that long anyway and I have the time to read them before December 2018 is over.

Wish me luck!