Just published my sixth novel, a YA fantasy!

Dirty Sci-Fi Buddha

Just completed a YA fantasy, and it is now up for sale! Here’s the link: The Unbound Realm, Volume 1: A Door into Evermoor

I knew there was a reason I played D&D when I was younger! (To be honest, me and my buddies rarely got past the character building phase; I only remember playing one quest).

The hero of my story, Jon, is facing a fate that I once dreaded: a few years of college, then decades of slogging through the 9-5. Things take a surprise turn when he stumbles into a fantasy realm, filled with Wolven and witches, goblins and gargoyles. Along the way, he meets a thief and a Wayfarer, a High Taire Duelist and a half-elf princess. Follow him on his adventures as he lives out a fantasy-geek’s dream!

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The Bone Shard Emperor by: Andrea Stewart

You know that feeling when you give a series a chance and the first book is actually a fairly solid outing? So you’re willing to give the second book a chance and it doesn’t measure up?

That feeling is why I’m always hesitant to give series a try and unfortunately this book fell right into the whole “book two kind of bites” pit.

Why?

Pacing, too many POVs, a romance that has no business, in my opinion, being there, weak conflict due to lack of communication.

All that leads to a pretty big lump of a book. I feel like the extra POVs could have been trimmed down, they really bogged things down, plus the plotting was a bit weak.

I really feel like the romance was forced, just be friends, it felt like it made more sense? And with a story with so many secrets and lies, I got bored.

Does the book pick up? Yes, but at that point, I was just finishing the book. I cannot stand bad pacing and this book was bloated with it for the first 2/3.

There is also animal injury so be wary of that.

Also, scale is an issue. How big are things? The size of dogs but what size because descriptions of events afterwards don’t make it clear. And the Empire itself is hard to get a great feel for size wise. It doesn’t feel big to me.

It was nice to see more of the queer characters.

Maybe book 3 will be stronger. I hope so.

I’m giving this a 3 star rating and it just barely eked into that.

I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

A History of Wild Places by: Shea Earnshaw 

This book was a big departure from what I usually read and I really enjoyed it. She Earnshaw has a beautiful way of writing and it was atmospheric, dark, compelling. I spent an entire day reading this book when I planned to do other things, I couldn’t put it down. I kept promising myself one more chapter.

The problem with that? The chapters were potato chip chapters, short and left you ready for the next one.

How do I describe this? We follow a man who was hired by a family to find a missing woman. He’s not a professional but he’s someone that people go to when they’re out of options. And he has a special ability.

When he touches things that other people have touched, he sees glimpses of their lives. Things they’ve done, places they’ve gone. It’s interesting and this ability of his plays a pretty heavy role in his backstory which was heartbreaking.

The characters are interesting but I was more interested in him than anyone else just by virtue of his personality. The book is split into three different points of view and they’re all fairly distinct.

I wasn’t expecting the twist that came in this book. And I actually, audibly, gasped, eyes went wide when I figured it out at the same time the characters did. I love that feeling. The pure actual shock? It’s amazing.

As I said, the chapters are short for the most part. Except for maybe the last twenty percent of the story but even though those are the longer chapters, they feel like they’re nothing at all because of how well paced it all is.

The book is expertly paced with beautiful prose. I have two issues. A lack of diversity and the way a disability is used.

The disability comes in the form of a blind woman. Due to the lack of vision, her hearing has improved. This is a thing that actually happens. I’ve read articles that say when someone looses their vision, the occipital lobes are repurposed for hearing. Cool little science stuff there.

However, it doesn’t turn people into Daredevil and it doesn’t give them super hearing. This character could hear literally everything, the sounds trees were making, worms underground, hearing things she really shouldn’t have been able to.

Disabilities don’t’ give people super powers.

When it comes to diversity, everyone is white. I mean everyone. That’s unbelievable and it always will be. Writers need to do better. I’m never going to let that go.

All in all, a solid four (4) stars.

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Accidentally Engaged by: Farah Heron

Once again we have a romance where the illustrated cover does not match the main character. She’s described as soft, plump-ish. The woman in the window? Slim. Of course right?

Anyway, this book stars two Muslim characters. Reena Manji, a woman who loves baking bread and wants a scholarship to a prestigeous culinary arts school and for her family to take th ebiggest step back out of her life, and Nadim , the man who’s recently moved into th same apartment complex as her and they find out, during their first conversation, that he’s here on a work visa working with her father under one condition.

Marrying Reena.

Notice how I said she wants her family to take a big step back? This is why. She wants them less involved, less trying to steer her life the way she wants. She wants independence from them even though she live sin a building that her father, a developer, owns so she pays less rent.

I’m not Muslim so I can’t comment too much on specific familiar issues but I cans say this” her parents don’t listen to her. They’re so overbearing she feels the need to hide that she’s lost her job from them because she doesn’t want to be forced to work with her father and he keeps pushing it.

Reena straight up tells Nadim she won’t marry him. They end up fake dating for a baking contest and then fall for each other.

Nadim has a thing for feet, no shame there.

There is a foot job in the book and that is distinctly not my thing so…not fun.

The spice level is really low so none of the sex was ever detailed but reading about a foot fetish wasn’t something I was down for.

I just didn’t really like it. I didn’t like their chemestry. He came to the country to marry and girl to rehab his image after some things happened with his previous fiancee and what does he do when he lands in Toronto?

He slept with a elementary school teacher and wound up with lice. When lice is a plot point, I’m sort of done. Plus, I didn’t like his personality. He slept with someone when he was there to get married. When he met Reena in the hallway, he started flirting with her without knowing who she was. And when it turned out they were supposed to be married she had the same thought I did. Although it didn’t last for her, it really bugged me.

Maybe the book just wasn’t for me., I don’t want to rip it. But I just couldn’t get into it. Especially because the lice thing felt contrived to force them to spend time together and that’s not sexy or fun.

Of course Reena has friends that have her back through everything, one of them is gay and that’s something I’ve noticed in a lot of romance lately.

Why does the main character always have one friend that’s always a gay guy? It’s never a lesbian or a bi or pan person. Or Ace and Aro. Always a gay guy.

And his love life is almost always in tatters when hers is also on the rocks.

It’s weird and feels a little gross now that I’m really thinking about it.

I didn’t really get to know the side characters in this book. They were a bit flat for me. Honestly all the characters were.

There are themes of independence, family dynamics and boundaries which are interesting if not explored with any real depth. I actually got bored reading this book about halfway through.

All in all. A weak book. 2 stars.

The Nightmare Brigade #1 Sample by Franck Thillez, Yomgui Dumont

So far, I’m giving this a solid four stars. This graphic novel has a really interesting premise, interesting art, and the first one I’ve seen where one of the protagonists is disabled.
I’m giving it four starts but the writers need to listen to the disabled community. We have, at large, for decades been telling people not to use the word handicapped. The word is DISABLED. That is what we want. Handicapped is insulting.

Unfortunately, since being disabled is such a traumatizing experience, I know a few readers I can’t recommend this to because that language is triggering. All they needed to do was use the word disabled. It isn’t hard.

One good touched as the disabled boy was able to walk when he was functioning in other people’s dreams. That’s smart, As a wheelchair user myself, dreaming is the one time I can walk without any problems.

I hope the creators learn from this and stop using the word handicapped. That’s a big slap in the face honestly. It isn’t hard to not use it. That’s something that I really need people who make books and any form of media really to understand.

When you have a job that’s telling stories, you need to remember words have meaning. And when you write about a marginalized community, you need to get the language correct for that community. I can’t think of any time when it’s been acceptable to disabled people to be called handicapped. That isn’t the language the community uses. It hurts.

It sounds like I’m harping on this but it’s important. If someone used a derogatory word for a racial minority, people would rightly be up in arms about it, demanding change and apologies. When it comes to language referring to disabled people, no one bats an eye. And no one listens to our voices.

I need the creators to do better. All creators.

I received this sample for free in return for an honest review.

The Dating Plan by: Sara Desai

In this fake dating romance we follow Daisy Patel, who works for Organicare working on code. And the love interest Liam Murphey, a venture capitalist.

Her family wants to set her up with men they’ve approved she has no interest in marrying. Liam ends up in a situation where to save the family distillary, he needs a wife by his next birthday–cough cough (in three months) and to be married for a year. His brother Brandon is an absolute jerk and I hated him the second I was done reading the first things that came out of his mouth.

The two wind up dating and falling in love by the end. In order to make their fake relationship seem real, they go on a series of pre-planned dates and learn about each other (again) so no one will question it.

He broke her heart standing her up for senior prom and she’s hated him for ten years. And then he vanished into the night, telling no one, after living in the Patel’s home.

While the reason for him missing prom was actually a good one, I didn’t think that was enough of a reason for her to hate him. Even a female friend of his found out and acted like he was truly atrocious. I don’t know, prom never meant much to me so that’s just me issue.

Now what did bother me was the fact the author sort of played into that Irish violence trope. Brandon and Liam almost come to blows, Liam makes jokes about hitting people. I don’t know it was annoying.

After sex Liam was impossible to deal with. He was like a cocky child. For some people that might be fun but I couldn’t stand it. I rolled my eyes at it and wondered when he’d shut up and the story would move on.

I really didn’t care for him.

Then there’s the fact that Daisy keeps talking about her “extra padding” repeatedly. When she and Liam are getting intimate there’s a line about him having to double dip over her stomach to get between her legs.

The art on the cover? Skinny woman. That’s really aggaravating. Representation matters, I will never not say that. So to have a character depicte done way in the book and have that erased on the cover is awful. And such an easy thing to not do. Look at the cover for Spoiler Alert.

It’s also illustrated and there’s a fat body on the cover. There’s no reason this didn’t get the same treatment. I mean the reason it didn’t is most likely fatphobia.

I give this a 2. And that’s because the writing was easy and Daisy was cute as a character but that’s it.

Have any of you read it?

The Ex Hex by: Erin Sterling

The Ex Hex is one of the easiest romance reads I’ve experienced all year.

Our main character is a with who works at a fun store with her cousin Gwyn, also a witch, and she spends a lot of time with her at her aunt’s house. Also, you guessed it, a witch.

She works at the local college teaching history. Fun fact the college actually has course for the magical individuals in town. But she doesn’t teach those.

Her mother didn’t tell her they were witches so she feels disconnected from it.

In a nutshell that’s Vivienne.

Her ex is a Welsh man named Rhys Penhallow and the town of Graves Glenn was founded by his ancestor and the college that Vi works at is actually named after them.

After an intense 3 month fling back when she was ninteen, they haven’t had any contact. Why? Well, breakups suck but this one was worse. See, while they were cuddled in bed–naked might I add–Rhys said he had to go back home to handle something.

That “something” was the fact he was betrothed to another woman. Y’klnow. Typical family issues.

She threw his pants at him, called him names and told him to get out. And that was how they left it.

On the town’s Founders Day, Rhys comes back to Graves Glenn. It’s against his will. His stoic and harsh father Simon forces him to. Rhys owns a travel business and uses a wee bit of magic to make sure things always go smoothly for his customers.

I liked that magic is used all of the town by witches in totally believable ways. Make sure coffee never falls and spills in the local café, what Rhys does with his business and even Vi does it to help her get through grading. It was a nice touch. Yes magic is hidden, but the only magic being done wasn’t the big, super noticeable kind.

I liked the characters, I was interested in Graves Glenn as a town. And I liked the way the story played out with the curse.

Vi got drunk and cursed him with her cousin. She didn’t think they were actually doing magic. After all she was using a pumpkin spice candle. But her aunt has a saying for a reason. Never mix vodka and witchcraft.

The things I didn’t like were how the plot was actually handled. As the curse unfurls and things start to go wonky, some big plot points are pushed forward but they don’t feel like they’re really given the time they need to shine. I know it’s a romance and yes the romance takes center stage but it was a little bit of a letdown, I wanted to see the plot points more developed.

Then there was the ending. This is where I have the biggest issue.

It wrapped up so fast. They’re doing some serious magic, then there’s a hitch and oh no–but it doesn’t matter because twenty words later it’s solved. It was so fast and it felt cheap. I frowned reading it because it was just a pain to have such a weak ending to a fun story. It could have benefitted from a couple more pages just to give it time to play with the problem before solving it.

As far as the romance went, it was nice. Rhys is a cocky guy but he understands consent, love that. It’s spicy but not Talia Hibbert spicy. The language is a little toned down compared to her writing. Also, I was always a little confused about if he was handled. He made sure she was but the scenes always ended before that was really made apparent.

One thing I did love however was the use of condoms. And magic as a contraception got brought up but that Vi’s aunt said to trust science for it. I really loved that. Any time a romance has contraception I’m very happy.

So a solid three stars. It was fun, fast, the magic was fun, it takes place around and on Halloween which was cute. Three (3) stars.

Please leave a comment if you’ve read the book or are interested! What kind of romance do y’all like?

Fly by Night by: Tara O’Connor

Fly by Night is a young adult graphic novel set in a small town. Our main character is a young girl named Dee whose twin sister Beth went missing at some point before the beginning of the story. Her parents are divorced, father remarried and his new wife is pregnant.

Beth’s disappearance is a festering wound for this small family. The dad has friends in the police department who are promising to give the case all the attention they can. Beth’s mom has been living alone for a while now and dealing with the grief of her missing daughter on her own. It shows. Dee is very emotional and her father is in his own way.

He also, at one point, takes his anger out on his wife, calling her a failure as a mother and wife and saying what happened was her fault. Dee steps in and he realizes what he’s saying and eventually gives a real apology for it but it’s apparent that this family is broken. The twins’ parents weren’t good together and now one is missing which has broken their hearts.

While staying with her mom, Dee now sleeps in the same room she shared with her missing sister. There are a lot of tears throughout the book.

Even though Dee doesn’t actually have to go back to school to graduate–she’s got enough credits–she chooses to go back to the school the girls used to be at together. She wants to see if there are any clues and see the friends she herself had.

We’re introduced to her best friend Tobi and another character. Apparently, Beth had started dating a boy named Lucas. After the girls’ family split, they hadn’t talked the way they used to. So she knew he existed but that’s really it.

There’s also a company that wants to build a pipeline through protected pinelands. And with the head of the company looking as much like a greasy business man as anyone I’ve ever seen, it’s looking like it’ll be difficult to protect the lands. Even though there’s a council that’s dedicated to doing just that.

Add in some supernatural elements and things sound like they should be pretty good.

They would, meh, decent. The pacing was off, it was lagging in some places, just awkward really. And it felt like it was trying too hard to give both of the main ideas the exact same amount of time.

Pipeline issue, finding out about Beth but it didn’t really work that way. Because the supernatural elements become bigger and the answer to what happened to Beth felt a little weak. We get to know the full truth, but still. The pacing toward the end felt very fast. Like they knew they needed to wrap it up.

My biggest issue with that was the fact that everyone ends up accepting the existence of some things way too easily. I mean it’s just like “huh, ‘k” and they kept it moving.

The art was interesting. No color, only black and white. It makes certain panels really striking when there’s a lot of black and the white cuts through it but I wonder what it would have looked like with splashes of color to enhance it. It didn’t bother me, life time manga reader, but sometimes a little more would have been nice.

The character designs were interesting but some details got a little difficult to read. And the diversity that I could see, one woman is obviously African-American and I felt she avoided stereotyping. In fact she’s a teacher wearing box braids. That’s something I would have loved to see growing up on my actual teachers that wasn’t an option for them. So for that, I was happy.

All in all, a weak 3. It’s just barely there. But it’s an interesting read. I think it’s sort of bitter sweet with the way it ends.

I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley. Thank you to them and the publisher.

Werewoofs by: Joelle Sellner, art by: Val Wise

Werewoofs is an interesting take on the myth of the werewolf. In the town of Howlette, werewolves are real but after a treaty with the humans, are now in hiding.

One day at school, a group of children are bitten by a random pack of dogs who have seemingly gone feral. Each child, in turn, becomes a were-dog. And the breed of the one they were bitten by.

This graphic novel felt like it had too many ideas it was trying to handle so they were all condensed for the sake of being able to cram them all in. And that’s disappointing.

One character is gay and we see him struggling to get the attention of the boy he’s interested in (more on him later, I have a bone to pic.) (pun unintended.) Then there’s poverty, how assumptions can damage relationships and the fear of being able to be accepted for who you really are.

It’s a lot to try to cram into a single volume and due to that, it’s not done well. Which is a letdown after seeing Joelle Sellner’s resume and the big names she been able to handle in the past. DC, Blizzard, IDW. That’s not the quality storytelling we get here.

The art was stunning and I loved it, absolutely loved it. Val Wise get’s an A+ from me. His art really added the heaviness and lightness in spots it was needed and I loved his style.

When it comes to character development and character relationships, I stopped caring. Why? Because the pacing in this graphic novel is awful. One page, something is happening and the next page, an indeterminant amount of time has passed and things have progressed. Some things weren’t set up for the characters until about midway through and it was a bit ham-fisted in my opinion. Pls, the writing was just a bit weak in some places, kind of awkward.

It has promise but since it’s a first volume, they needed to cut some of the ideas out or make it longer. Something, because what the reader ends up getting is an awkwardly paced story that sort of throws events at you.

Now this is where things get a little spoiler-y

The gay character is the brother of one of the other were-kids. He’s an pain. When they introduce the Black boy, all this kid has to say is mean, cruel things and when someone calls him out on it he calls them sensitive or says “can’t anyone take a joke.” It’s 2021, we all know that behavior like that is unacceptable. And that those are ways to deflect valid criticisms when someone says something hurtful. It’s not something anyone needs to perpetuate, especially in a medium meant for younger readers.

Second, the way he goes about talking with his love interest. When he can turn into a dog, he walks home and his crush sees him, thinks dog him is cute and walks home with him, giving him scritches. His sister says it’s creepy and all he says is he’s not proud of it but with a huge smile.

They visits go on and he learns the boy loves cereal and anime and tries to use these to stare a conversation. Of course it’s awkward and the crush thinks he’s being cyber stalked by this kid.

I didn’t feel any sympathy for him when he was turned down and honestly, the fact that he and the crush become friends at the end of the volume annoyed me. Because, he did stalk him. Plain and simple. And still gets what he wants.

He’s a jerk to the new kid, essentially the entire book and it’s annoying to read. He’s not a good character and the idea that he gets to be with his crush at the end after abusing his trust in this little dog form is disgusting.

This book gets 1 star from me. It had big ideas and didn’t execute them well, awful pacing, and some serious character issues.

I received this arc for free in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher.

Skin of the Sea by: Natasha Bowen

Skin of the Sea is a little mermaid inspired story intertwined with West African deities and mythology. As a Black woman who grew up loving the little mermaid, when I heard about this book I was excited to get it and will still buy it once it’s out in the world.

Skin of the Sea gets a very solid 4 stars from me.

Our main character is Simidele, a Mami Wata (mermaid) created by the goddess Yemoja. A Mami Wata is created by Yemoja when one of her people is dying in the sea.

She saves them, turns them into mermaids and gives them a responsibility: to ease the passing of the souls lost to the people kidnapping, buying, and then skilling West Africans.

Simidele trails the ships and when a person is thrown overboard, she goes to them, eases their soul and stores it in the gem that hangs around her neck until she can get to Yemoja’s island. There she sets the soul free with a prayer.

When Simidele is on land, she has legs and in the water, a gorgeous tail. On land, she has snippets of memories from her life as a human but they’re faded and in the sea, they aren’t there at all. She is one of only a handful of Mami Wata who find enslaved people in the ocean and ease their passing.

That was a lot to read. It was painful to think of my ancestors, those thrown over and those who jumped rather than be enslaved and tortured.

As the book goes on, Simidele is following a boat and a body is thrown overboard. She goes to it, swilling through blood, telling sharks to back away and she catches the body of a boy.

He’s not dead. And she can’t let him die, not when he’s still got some life in him.

So she takes him to Yemoja’s island, heals him and in doing so breaks a covenant between Yemoja and Olodumare, the Supreme God.

The boy she saved is Kola and he is desperate to get back to his home. He won’t sat why and in his first interactions with Simidele he is a bit aggressive. Enough to leave a bruise around her wrist. He’s traumatized, wounded, half drowned and frantic to get back home.

Yemoja tells Simidele what she will need to do in order to make the mistake right. She needs to get two rings and summon Olodumare so she can beg his forgiveness.

As far as the characters go, they were all really intersting and well fleshed. Some were a little weaker than others but they were side characters and by virtue they tend to be weaker on the page because of that.

I will say that as the book went on the pacing was great, it never felt like it was lagging or going to fast until the end. I almost got the feeling the author was in a rush to end it? It wasn’t paced as well as the rest of the book.

Then there’s the big twist. I saw it coming but still enjoyed it. It sort of made me feel smart and who doesn’t love that? But on the other hand, it was a little, not obvious but I could really see it.

I was a bit dissatisfied with the very end of the book. Like the last 5 or so pages. Because it was so, so, incredibly rushed. Then the story was over and I was starting at it like…can I have a few more pages please? Maybe it’s set up for a sequel, I’d love to see one.

Seeing so much African Mythology was amazing. Hopefully it’ll get some Black kids interested in learning about their heritage. And maybe instill understanding in other readers.

I’ll be getting my younger sibling a copy of this book.

4 stars.

I received this for free in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Netgalley, the publisher, and Natasha Bowen for writing it.