Categories
Middle Grade Paranormal Science Fiction Young Adult

ARC Review: Catalyst by Tracy Richardson

  • Title: Catalyst
  • Series: The Catalysts, #2 (reads as a standalone though!!)
  • Author: Tracy Richardson
  • Publisher & Release: Brown Books Publishing Group: June 2, 2020
  • Length: 248 pages
  • Rating & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for younger readers

Thank you so much to Books Forward for my advanced copy of Catalyst by Tracy Richardson!  This is the second book in a series but reads as a standalone with no spoilers, so no worries there.

Here is the description from Goodreads:

Marcie Horton has a sixth sense. Not in the “I see dead people” way, but . . . well, maybe a little. She feels a sort of knowing about certain things that can’t be explained – an intuition that goes beyond the normal. Then there was that one summer four years ago, when she connected with a long-departed spirit . . . But nothing that incredible has happened to Marcie since.

This summer, Marcie is spending time working at Angel Mounds, the archeological dig her mother heads, along with her brother, Eric, and his girlfriend, Renee. The dig is the site of an ancient indigenous civilization, and things immediately shift into the paranormal when Marcie and her teammates meet Lorraine and Zeke. The two mysterious dig assistants reveal their abilities to access the Universal Energy Field with their minds-something Marcie knows only vaguely that her brother has also had experience with.

Marcie learns how our planet will disintegrate if action is not taken, and she and her team must decide if they are brave enough to help Lorraine and Zeke in their plan to save Mother Earth, her resources, and her history. It looks like the summer just got a lot more interesting.

This book contains a lot of really great messages for young readers, first and foremost the environmental consequences of our actions.  Marcie and her team are dealing with an energy company that wants to expand fracking in the area, and there is a great amount of info about that and other environmental disasters.

Marcie has an interesting character arc as well.  She knows there is something about the world that she can sense, but isn’t sure what it is.  With the help of Zeke and Lorraine, two grad students on the dig, Marcie and the other teens learn about the Universal Energy Field and the implications of the fourth, fifth, and dimensions beyond.  Leo is the other main character and provides the opposing point of view on fracking, as his father works for the energy industry.   Their relationship is interesting because it pretty accurately portrays how teens have trouble with opposing viewpoints, and how to talk around issues and make compromises. I really shipped them.

I’m also Greek and ran cross country and share a name with the alien space ship…so…yeah, there are those things too.  I liked Marcie a lot.  The book reminds me of The Celestine Prophecies, which I was obsessed with in high school, and I’m really glad that this generation of young readers gets a book like this too.

The book turns from fairly normal, to paranormal, to sci-fi Jesus in a spaceship REAL quick, and I loved it.  I thought the context of spiritual leaders made sense, since it would be pretty egocentric to assume that the gods and goddesses and religious leaders are only dedicated to one planet.  The sci-fi element is definitely a bit out there in left field but it worked for me.

The book is relatively short at 248 pages.  The pacing is pretty even and I’m sad that it took me so long to start because once I did, I read it in two sittings.  I was never bored at all. I would totally and fully recommend this for teen readers as an environmentally and self-conscious read that has some great examples of conflict resolution and interpersonal relationships within the team.

The paperback releases on September 22nd, while the Kindle version released on June 2nd.

Have you read it? Want to discuss it? Let me know!

Categories
Contemporary Fantasy Middle Grade Young Adult

ARC Review: Dwarf Story by Professor W.W. Marplot

  • Title: Dwarf Story
  • Series: no – stand alone
  • Author: W.W. Marplot (G.D. Marplot)
  • Publisher & Release: Waxing Gibbous Books – June 30, 2020
  • Length: 404 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ for younger readers!

“I found a dwarf, and there is something funny growing in my yard”

So begins the story of Arty & Co! Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

First, Arty finds a sweaty, bearded ax-swinging warrior Dwarf scaring his dogs. Soon enough, Emma, Cry, and other middle-school friends also find fairy creature—Elves, Spriggans, Pixies, and a hoped-for Dragon—crashing into their normal homework-doing, backpack-carrying, phone-charging schooldays

Why are these magical beings here? What should be done? Is that ax sharp? Can Pixies be given aspirin? Arty, with his friends—and spying jerks and questionable strangers with long names—follow the clues and try to find out, even as things turn dark and dangerous. The mythical beings take sides.

The Gwyllion, that legendary Old Woman of the Mountains, has a sinister plan that will turn the neighborhood into a fantasy battleground.

Thank you so much to Books Forward for my copy of Dwarf Story! Arty woke up one morning and found a dwarf, thus starting a scientific adventure. Or an artistic adventure if you ask Emma. An awesome adventure if you ask Cry. The three friends each find their own fairy and have to navigate a war as an ancient force returns to reclaim Long Island!

This is a super cute middle grade fantasy, mixing modern with fantastic. There are dwarves, pixies, libraries, old books, giants, cell phones and a bit of everything for every reader.  The advertised age range is 9-14 and definitely qualifies as a “clean read” – AKA something I would personally hand a Catholic 10 year old.  There is also a good amount of basic learning in the story, an intro to some of  the Irish legends and fairy folklore in general.

Arty and Emma are the two main characters.  Arty is more scientific, and Emma artistic.  The book includes a lot of learning and more informational bits that are well tuned to younger readers.  Arty spends a lot of time reading books as he is putting the pieces together to learn about what’s happening with the fairy folk.  Some parts of this honestly might drag for some kids, and there are whole chapters where literally nothing happens, and the characters are complaining of being bored.  Generally with younger kids I would say axe all of this “boring” content, but it still reads quickly with short chapters, even at over 400 pages.  This is where I knocked the stars off the rating – a slightly older kid would be more tolerant of this where I can see a 9 year old maybe flipping until something exciting happens.

Despite the lulls in action, the pace and exciting bits are pretty well even throughout the book.  The end was a bit anticlimactic, with the biggest battle occurring mostly off-page, and the ultimate fight almost entirely glazed over in another characters recap of the action.  I understood how we were mostly just following Arty’s role, and the puzzle involved, but I would have liked to be in on more of the battle action even as a bystander, or another “Mary” chapter.

The characters split the chapters to tell what happened throughout, and I did like them all.  It was told in a 1st person POV but they were talking directly to the reader at times.  This is a great format for engaging kids too.  The other thing I liked is that the kids really did seem to act their ages (around 13) and I would recommend most for that middle-school aged group.

Overall I think kids will enjoy this, and it is entirely age-appropriate for any reader.  A great intro to fantasy and fantastical creatures that could really encourage kids to keep reading in the genre.

Thank you again to Books Forward for my advanced copy!! The book releases on June 30th and I would preorder now if I had kids!!

Categories
Mysteries Suspense Thrillers

ARC Review: The Safe Place by Anna Downes

  • Title: The Safe Place
  • Author: Anna Downes
  • Series: no, standalone
  • Publisher & Release: Minotaur Books, 7/14/20
  • Length: 368 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌞🌞🌞🌞 probably

Thank you so much to Minotaur Books for my free ARC in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Emily is a mess.

Emily Proudman just lost her acting agent, her job, and her apartment in one miserable day.

Emily is desperate.

Scott Denny, a successful and charismatic CEO, has a problem that neither his business acumen nor vast wealth can fix. Until he meets Emily.

Emily is perfect.

Scott offers Emily a summer job as a housekeeper on his remote, beautiful French estate. Enchanted by his lovely wife Nina, and his eccentric young daughter, Aurelia, Emily falls headlong into this oasis of wine-soaked days by the pool. But soon Emily realizes that Scott and Nina are hiding dangerous secrets, and if she doesn’t play along, the consequences could be deadly.

The Safe Place is a slow burning suspense novel, perfect for anyone itching to get out and visit the French countryside this summer.  Emily is a trainwreck and her new job offer seems too good to be true. Her boss, Scott, clearly has some issues of his own as well. We travel with Emily to his remote French estate and meet Scott’s wife and daughter. Everything looks normal as long as Emily doesn’t look too hard. What secrets lie in the house and why is the daughter, Aurelia, also such a trainwreck? Is it really just an illness or something more sinister?

I enjoyed this one. It is told from alternating perspectives, resulting in a fairly quick read.   I kept wanting to read more to get back to Nina’s chapters.  The book winds its way slowly through the women’s lives on the estate, through afternoons spent poolside and Saturdays in the local market.  The dark undertones are subtle and present throughout, and the end result wasn’t what I was guessing at all.

I felt like not enough truly suspenseful things happened though until the end, and a few great shock opportunities were passed by the author and never resolved at the end.  I mean that odor that Emily kept smelling…

Anyway – the book never dragged nor got boring. I definitely enjoyed meeting Emily and the others, she was a good character.  Naive but found her way in the end.  All of the perspectives were pretty easy to read although i did favor Nina’s the most.  I think lower level suspense fans who enjoy a twist of mystery will love the book!

Have you read it? Want to discuss it? Drop a comment below!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

ARC Review: Ruthless Gods by Emily Duncan

I have been sitting on this review for weeks and with the release now imminent, I should probably post it.  I believe the review is spoiler free for both books.

Thank you so much to Wednesday Books via NetGalley for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own.

I read Wicked Saints as an ARC last year and enjoyed the basis of the story, but if you all remember I just absolutely hate her writing style. I found Duncan’s writing repetitive to the nauseatingly “I need to skim” point of being terrible.  A good author would take that significant round of criticism from Wicked Saints and build a better novel in Ruthless Gods….but OH god was I wrong in thinking it would happen.  (My review of Wicked Saints

Here is the description for Ruthless Gods:

Darkness never works alone…

Nadya doesn’t trust her magic anymore. Serefin is fighting off a voice in his head that doesn’t belong to him. Malachiasz is at war with who–and what–he’s become.

As their group is continually torn apart, the girl, the prince, and the monster find their fates irrevocably intertwined. They’re pieces on a board, being orchestrated by someone… or something. The voices that Serefin hears in the darkness, the ones that Nadya believes are her gods, the ones that Malachiasz is desperate to meet—those voices want a stake in the world, and they refuse to stay quiet any longer.

The first thing to note is that book one was supposed to be Nadya’s (HAHAH), this is  Serefin’s (got it, he was no hero though) and book three is to be Malachiasz’s.  I don’t think Duncan is doing a great job of clarifying this but Serefin did have a very large, if not incidentally passive at times role in this book.  I will come back to him later on but do appreciate the title character having a firmer role.

So. Duncan’s writing. If I had to read “*one of 5 adjectives* + boy” one more time I would have DNF’d, and almost did. Again.  Duncan has the continent’s ENTIRE future political leadership trekking across the country together in this book and all they do is continue to pine and chase each other’s tails. Maybe the hunter couldn’t have done much politically but can we treat Serefin like the actual king of Tranavia? The entire trek could have been EPIC and brilliant and all we got was more of “blah blah I was betrayed blah and now I’m afraid but let’s kiss again…” and Nadya’s broken record just played, and played, and played.  The plot and mechanisms did advance but it took a lot of weeding through nonsense to get there.

Oh yeah, Nadya thinks that she learned but she really learned nothing from book 1 and she’s still terrible. She is changing but doesn’t seem to be internalizing any of her lessons, although Kostya comes back long enough to force some true self-reflection. That particular dynamic was surprising and one of the more interesting ones.  Nadya is basically a punching bag and while she knows it, she doesn’t seem to care.

Duncan did do a better job showing monstrosity versus just talking about it, but again it was so repetitive. I liked the shifting faces and did like her take on the gods and monsters and older beings, but she could have used Nadya’s broken record headspace to talk more about some of the Slavic lore she was throwing out in names and titles only. That is something I’d like to have read about.  Think Winternight Trilogy – if you’re going to mention the Chyerti why not talk about them?

Serefin was my favorite character again because he is amazing, even though Duncan turned him into the token “other” character. I really think Ostyia would have been enough in that department but she got sidelined plot wise. Serefin and his moths and his bad vision and his nonexistent brutality (talk talk talk, never shown) just make me happy, and I think he had the most interesting arc in this book. If nothing else Duncan did use his and Malachiasz’s time together to explain all of the Tranavian political hierarchy that was missing from Wicked Saints.  I fully enjoyed the parts in Serefin’s head where he was grappling with the God-Monster-Deity-Chyerti-Other.

The ending sounded cool but that last sentence…was a terrible word choice.  It sounded cool but ENTROPY doesn’t even fit, just say his name already.  It was almost enough of a cliffhanger to make me think about book 3, but the plot is not enough to cancel out Duncan’s writing. I will be waiting for the cliffnotes version.

Last but not least: the @OneReadingNurse infamous medical rant. Have you ever actually seen a pupil blow? I have. Someone having a stroke? A blown pupil is TERRIFYING, and having someone’s pupils “blow open” is A TERRIBLE choice of phrase for someone surprised or experiencing adrenaline. Not only that but I think it was used at least 3 times throughout the book and I just don’t understand why an editor didn’t clam this up

This is the second book this year that shut me down in the middle of a trilogy, *cough* Heart of Flames * cough*.  These are the authors that must not read their critical reviews and editorial advice at all.  I haven’t posted it yet but when I feature The Silvered Serpents, I will highlight and throw praises down on Roshani Chokshi for elevating her second book above and beyond the first in every conceivable way.  Duncan and Pau Preto need to learn from her!

In summary: if you liked Wicked Saints, read Ruthless Gods, if not or if you were on the fence, stay away. Ruthless Gods IS marginally better but I personally can’t do it for a third novel.

Categories
Fiction Suspense Thrillers

ARC Review: The Wife Stalker by Liv Constantine

Thank you so much to Harper Books and GoodReads for the giveaway win of The Wife Stalker by Liv Constantine!

Here is the description from GoodReads:

Breezing into the tony seaside paradise of Westport, Connecticut, gorgeous thirtysomething Piper Reynard sets down roots, opening a rehab and wellness space and joining a local yacht club. When she meets Leo Drakos, a handsome, successful lawyer, the wedding ring on his finger is the only thing she doesn’t like about him. Yet as Piper well knows, no marriage is permanent.

Meanwhile, Joanna has been waiting patiently for Leo, the charismatic man she fell in love with all those years ago, to re-emerge from the severe depression that has engulfed him. Though she’s thankful when Leo returns to his charming, energetic self, paying attention again to Evie and Stelli, the children they both love beyond measure, Joanna is shocked to discover that it’s not her loving support that’s sparked his renewed happiness—it’s something else.

Piper. Leo has fallen head over heels for the flaky, New Age-y newcomer, and unrepentant and resolute, he’s more than willing to leave Joanna behind, along with everything they’ve built. Of course, he assures her, she can still see the children.

Joanna is devastated—and determined to find something, anything, to use against this woman who has stolen her life and her true love. As she digs deeper into Piper’s past, Joanna begins to unearth disturbing secrets . . . but when she confides to her therapist that she fears for the lives of her ex-husband and children, her concerns are dismissed as paranoia. Can she find the proof she needs in time to save them?

The Constantine sisters are back with another psychological thriller! Joanna is aggressively forced out of her family life by Leo’s new love interest, Piper, who has a shady if not murderous past. Joanna will do anything to protect her children from this monster, and the story unfolds.  I think the jacket description of the book is way too wordy, it would have thrown me off of the book if I wasn’t familiar with the author duo.  If it sounds flaky just give the book a chance anyway!

The characters are likeable enough.  I love big Greek families and it was fun to see Leo’s  interact a little bit.  Joanna seems like a dedicated enough parent, Piper seems crazy and entirely insensitive, and what is going on with Leo? He seems like a total ass with how he treats Joanna.  Leo’s kids are fun too, they seem realistic for their ages and I enjoyed reading Stelli’s antics.  Evie’s love for books and Nancy Drew is something I can all relate to!  Joanna carries the first person POV, which alternates with Piper’s chapters told in the third person.

Some parts of the book do feel like “too much” even after all the facts. There is no way someone would get a child abuse citation just for swatting a kid’s butt. People are so crazy (but that’s the point of the book)!  I found myself thinking back on the Joanna butt-swat  episode and I think it’s supposed to reflect back on Piper, who is the one supposedly hurting at least one of the kids.  The whole thing feels extremely unfair to Joanna.

This entire book lives for the twist. I was a little dumbfounded and confused until it hit me that … no spoilers but let me just scream UNRELIABLE NARRATORS at you!! They are my favorite psychological thriller trope and the last couple chapters, especially the last sentence of the book, had me shell shocked!

I read the entire book in two days then went back and re-read some parts to see if I missed any obvious clues.  The twist & reveal were sudden but well done, and the answers aren’t necessarily given so I got to make my own conclusions at the end.  I kept looking for redeeming characteristics for certain characters and really just…well… the character changes at the end were just too little too late for me. I’d love to discuss my conclusions with anyone that’s read it.  I appreciate the open ending though and wish those children the best!

There isn’t much to have a OneReadingNurse Medical Rant about.  The only bit that shocked me was… so the father is going to freak out over a slight fever (not really a fever) but not be concerned when everyone says Stelli looks pale?  When he’s constantly complaining of stomach aches?  Wouldn’t Leo start suspecting something?  It could have been a false lead in the book (I honestly don’t know) but I imagine Stelli’s complaints would have been taken more seriously especially since Leo knew Piper had started dosing him with something “natural,” and Leo said multiple times that the kid was a trouper and only complained when things got really bad.

Anyway anyway, I enjoyed the book quite a bit.  The Wife Stalker reads quickly and I think it is a great summertime novel for anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers.

Thank you again to Harper Books for the giveaway ARC in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.