Review: We Still Live by Sara Dobie Bauer

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We Still Live by Sara Dobie Bauer

Running from a scandal that ruined his life, Isaac Twain accepts a teaching position at Hambden University where, three months prior, Professor John Conlon stopped a campus nightmare by stepping in front of an active shooter.

When John and Isaac become faculty advisors for the school’s literary magazine, their professional relationship evolves. Despite the strict code of conduct forbidding faculty fraternization, they delve into a secret affair—until Simon arrives.

Isaac’s violent ex threatens not only their careers, but also John’s life. His PTSD triggered, John must come to terms with that bloody day on College Green while Isaac must accept the heartbreak his secrets have wrought.

Purchase: Amazon.com

Goodreads: We Still Live


Review

*I received this novel for free in exchange for an honest review*

Rating: 3 stars

We Still Live is the story of two university professors who are both struggling with traumatic pasts. Isaac is fleeing his hometown and the scandal that his divorce left behind and John is suffering from PTS due to confronting an active shooter at the university. The two of them make a connection and embark on an affair that could not only cost them their jobs but their lives as well.

I was divided as how to rate this novel. There were some parts I liked and some I didn’t. I liked the premise and the issues that the novel dealt with. It was hard-hitting in places and brutally honest as it needed to be. All the characters rallied together well to support each other and even in the darkest moments there was hope for a better future for all of them.

However I do feel that the relationship between Isaac and John could have been better developed. For me it fell flat in places and it got on my nerves how many times Isaac reiterated that John was not his normal type. It only needed to be stated once, possibly twice, then it should have moved on from that point. I think a lot of people have fallen for someone who they wouldn’t normally, but the constant making of that point really was needless. Also the professional relationships they had with their students bordered on unprofessional. They acted like the students ages themselves in places and also in front of them. There needed to be further boundaries in place there to make this more realistic.

We Still Live is very well-written and touches some difficult subjects in a sensitive way but whilst being honest and not shying away from the aftermath of these events. I enjoyed reading it but for me there were a few things that could have been better so I can only rate it 3 stars.

Review: Quantum Night by Robert J. Sawyer

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Quantum Night by Robert J. Sawyer

Experimental psychologist Jim Marchuk has developed a flawless technique for identifying the previously undetected psychopaths lurking everywhere in society. But while being cross-examined about his breakthrough in court, Jim is shocked to discover that he has lost his memories of six months of his life from twenty years previously—a dark time during which he himself committed heinous acts.

Jim is reunited with Kayla Huron, his forgotten girlfriend from his lost period and now a quantum physicist who has made a stunning discovery about the nature of human consciousness. As a rising tide of violence and hate sweeps across the globe, the psychologist and the physicist combine forces in a race against time to see if they can do the impossible—change human nature—before the entire world descends into darkness.

Purchase: Amazon.com

Goodreads: Quantum Night


Review

*I received this novel for free in exchange for an honest review*

Rating: 3.5 stars

Quantum Night is a science fiction novel centred heavily around the theory that not all humans have a consciousness and in fact walk around in a zombie-like state and others are psychopaths. When psychologist Jim Marchuk discovers that a scientific experiment that he voluntarily took part in twenty years ago resulted in him temporarily losing his conscious state of mind, he teams up with his ex-girlfriend from his forgotten period to discover exactly what happened to him and who was responsible.

The themes running throughout this novel are really interested and delves deep into theories regarding conscious thought whilst engaging the main characters and pulling them towards the discovery of the truth. Quantum Night is a very interesting read, however I do feel there were missed opportunities. Rather than focusing on humanity as whole in the novel’s finale I feel a better direction might have been on the two main characters. This left me feeling slightly disappointed when the novel reached its conclusion.

That being said, I did enjoy reading Quantum Night and it drew on some very interesting theories and concepts. There was plenty of action and suspense to keep me wanting to turn the next page.

Review: Kogitsune (Takamagahara Monogatari #1) by Xia Xia Lake

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Kogitsune (Takamagahara Monogatari #1)

by Xia Xia Lake

A coming of age story set in medieval Japan. A friendship between a young fox god and his human childhood friend is built on deception, but grows stronger and purer as it’s driven by common purpose. However, the vast differences of the worlds they live in can’t be ignored, as their relationship is frowned upon by both humans and spirits.

As Kogitsune’s feelings for his human friend turn from friendship to something deeper, he will learn that love can be all consuming and heartbreaking.

‘Kogitsune’ is a retelling of the famous Noh theater play ‘Kokaji’, a story about a swordsmith who requests the help of the Inari god to build a sword for emperor Ichijo (980-1011).

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Kogitsune on Goodreads


Review

*I received this novel for free in exchange for an honest review*

Rating: 4 stars

Kogitsune is a short story and is the first in the Takamagahara Monogatari series. It is a romantic retelling of the play Kokaji, which tells the story of a swordsmith who is tasked with forging a sword for the Emperor Ichijo, and his quest to seek help from the Inari God to do this.

Kogitsune is a short yet beautiful read focusing on the young God Kogitsune’s life and his growing friendship with the human Kokaji. Growing up under the tutelage of his father, the God Inari, Kogitsune is warned of the dangers of humans and that his friendship with Kokaji will only bring him pain. To begin with, Kogitsune sees any heartache as another lesson in life but when Kokaji does seemingly betray their friendship he understands the depth of his feelings.

This story is extremely well-written. It is steeped in the detail of Japanese folklore, which the author has managed to combine beautifully into a tender love story between the two main characters. I enjoyed the use of Japanese words and phrases, most of which I was familiar with already but there are meanings there too for readers who are not. The romance aspect is subtle and almost bitter-sweet as the story reaches its conclusion. I am looking forward to reading further books in the series.

Review: Tears of Winter (Light from Aphelion #2) by Martine Carlsson

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Tears of Winter (Light from Aphelion #2)

by Martine Carlsson

Paradise is an illusion, and the progressive, experimental city of Nysa Serin was living on borrowed time. The winter festivities that should have warmed everyone’s heart take the contorted face of a feast of fools. Despite their knowledge, Selen, Louis, and Lissandro are swamped by events. Falling one after the other, the sick litter the streets of Nysa Serin. A natural pestilence? The vengeful hand of the gods? Turned to ashes, Louis’s dreams slip through his fingers like a shattered cathedral of sand.

Jeopardizing its fragile stranglehold on the crown, the royal couple leaves for a desperate mission while, trapped inside the walls, the citizens strive to survive. Though the clock ticks on, in sickness and fear, the tensions surface and friendships are tested.

The line is thin between cowards and heroes. Should the rescuing party even make it back, the capital will never be the same again and neither will their lives. Therefore, why not haste into darkness… till death do us part?

Purchase Link: Amazon.com

Tears of Winter on Goodreads


Review

*I received this novel for free in exchange for an honest review*

Rating: 5 stars

Tears of Winter is the second instalment of the Light from Aphelion series. After the events of book 1, Louis and Selen have begun making Louis’s visions for Nysa Serin a reality. All children have a right to access an education, city infrastructure is vastly improved and all citizens are treated equally and fairly. However the society is built on the fragilities of the system before it and an epidemic of plague threatens to destroy all that they have accomplished so far. Louis, Selen, Lissandro and their allies set off to find a cure whilst desperately hoping that not only is their mission is successful, that they make it back to the city in time.

Book two is a lot darker in tone than the first novel in the series, which really fits giving the setting and just what is at stake. I very much enjoyed seeing more of the Kingdom and also the addition of new characters, all of whom have their own motivations for joining the heroes on their mission. The description is as rich as ever and so immersive that you are immediately pulled into the world. There is no lag and plenty of action to keep you turning to the next page. However my favourite aspect of Tears of Winter has to be the characters.

On their quest Louis and Selen find themselves tested in ways that they could never imagine and even the bond between them is stretched to almost breaking point. When Selen voices a desire for something that is seemingly impossible as well as something that Louis would never contemplate, it creates a rift between them at a time when they need to be united more than ever. I really felt for both characters in these moments. I could see where they were both coming from and whilst neither of them were really at fault, it took them a long time to reconcile and come to an understanding. This rift really shows how they have both developed, but despite wanting something different their love for each other means that they can find a way to resolve this. The character development was especially great to see in Selen as I was worried that he would become more of a supporting character, but he just goes from strength to strength in Tears of Winter. He complements the head-strong, and at times reckless, Louis perfectly.

You also learn more about Lissandro’s character and the truth about who he really is. I had suspected in book 1 and I was thrilled to have my suspicions confirmed. It makes a very interesting twist and one that I hope is expanded on further in book 3.

Tears of Winter is the perfect follow up to Rising from Dust and if you haven’t checked the series out yet then I definitely recommend that you do so!

Review: Saints and Curses by Alexis Lantgen

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Saints and Curses by Alexis Lantgen

The short stories in Saints and Curses explore fantasy and magic from a wide variety of perspectives and settings. The stories range in tone from lighthearted modern fantasy in stories like Elven Carols, to the dark and ominous stories like Erlkonig, and in time from the late antiquity to the modern day. Magic, like all forms of power and like human nature, has two sides, light and dark. Whether we find (or become) a saint or a curse depends on our circumstances. And, of course, our choices.

Purchase Link: Amazon.com

Saints and Curses on Goodreads


Review

*I received this novel for free in exchange for an honest review*

Rating: 5 stars

Saints and Curses is an extremely well-written collection of short stories with magic and curses as the theme running throughout them. I really enjoyed the mix of modern and historic fantasy tales, each with plenty of twists to keep the reader guessing as to how they will end.

My favourites in the collection are:
Grackle – a poignant tale with a lovely ending.
Cinnamon Ultra Pumpkinator – an amusing tale of the perils of addiction with a fun and very relatable main character
The Rats – An excellent and original retelling of The Pied Piper of Hamelin

The collection has an outstanding array of very different tales with something for everyone. I highly recommend checking them out!

Review: Rising from Dust (Light from Aphelion 1) by Martine Carlsson

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Rising from Dust (Light from Aphelion 1) by Martine Carlsson

FIGHT FOR JUSTICE. DIE FOR LOVE.

War is raging in the kingdom of Trevalden. Up north in the Frozen Mountains, the amnesic hermit Selen survives as the pariah in his community. Drawn by a mysterious call, he travels to Trevalden and meets Louis, an enigmatic archivist. Together, as Selen remembers his past, they face the desolation of war with a group of misfits. For the sake of the people, they fight back the king’s armies, prepared to meet death…or a new dawn. As Selen and Louis understand that their feelings for each other may be their undoing, they are torn between their emotions and the greater good. But in the end, what is the greater good?

While they try to find their place in an unknown world, they carry a secret that will shatter the society and make them realize that the hardest fights are not against dragons but within oneself.

Rising from Dust is an epic journey where gritty fantasy and history cross paths. A graphic story of loyalty, violence, magic, court plots, and unwavering love where no one is what they seem.

Purchase: Amazon.com

Rising from Dust on Goodreads


Review

*I received this novel for free in exchange for an honest review*

Rating: 5 stars

When strangers Louis, Selen and Lissandro are mysteriously drawn together they find themselves not only fighting for the land that they have been re-born into but also piecing together their former lives. Each is terrified that the tragedies that befell them the first time will repeat themselves once more.

Louis is a heroic warrior who does not hesitate to put his friends’ lives above his own. Driven by his strong ideals and desire to make the world a better place, his determination sometimes prevents him from seeing the truth in how things are vs how he wishes to see it.

Selen, whilst also a warrior, is a gentler character and his sense of compassion is also a positive influence on Louis. He is fiercely loyal to his friends and shares Louis vision for the future of their world.

Selen and Louis are in a relationship which, if discovered, would get them both killed. Their relationship is one of my favourite aspects of the novel. It is beautifully written and you can really feel just how much they care for each other.

Lissandro’s character has a more accepting and practical view of the world that they now live in. His advice and guidance to Louis is more practical and he’s not afraid to speak out if he feels his friend is making a mistake. I feel that perhaps his character was not explored fully in book 1 and look forward to seeing much more of him in book 2.

I absolutely loved this first novel in the Light from Aphelion series. It combines two of my favourite genres; fantasy and history. The immersive world and wonderful main characters draws you in right from the beginning and I just didn’t want to put this book down. I enjoyed slowly uncovering the details of the characters previous lives and how they were linked to world-history. The detail in the battle scenes, whilst quite graphic in places, was brilliantly written and I really could imagine that I was right there along with them.

There is never a dull moment in this novel and there are plenty of twists and turns that I did not see coming. The finale of book 1 is beautiful and couldn’t be more perfect.
I can’t recommend Rising from Dust (Light from Aphelion 1) enough and cannot wait to read book 2 in the series.