Book Review: Rival by Cindy R. Wilson @CindyRWilson @EntangledTeen @YABoundToursPR

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Title: Rival
Author: Cindy R. Wilson
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication Date: October 7, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
Entangled Publishing

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Rival
Cindy R. Wilson
Entangled Teen, October 2019
ISBN 978-1-64063-351-3
Ebook

From the publisher—

For years, our families have had one rule: We leave them alone. They leave us alone.
When Juno caught me scavenging for supplies in her family’s territory, I had no idea that the war between our two families was about to be pushed to the edge.

But she takes a chance on me. Trusts me. Lets me go.

Now there’s a greater threat to both sides. Someone’s stealing from my family, too.

And it’s up to me to find the thief before anyone else. Because if I can’t, both sides will blame each other. Rule broken. Game over. No one wins.

My only ally is Juno. The one girl I can’t be found with. The one girl who tempts me like no other. She’s the definition of off-limits. If our families knew how we look at each other, and kiss each other…

Star-crossed doesn’t even begin to describe our fate.

I’ve always been fascinated with the feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys that lasted through much of the latter half of the 1800’s on the West Virginia/Kentucky border so, when I first saw the description of Rival, I hoped this would be a fitting re-telling of that inter-family war. I’m happy to say that Ms. Wilson has done a really good job with this.

Re-framed in a future time when conditions are dismal and people are struggling to survive, this also offers a nod to Romeo and Juliet in a sort of disjointed manner and the two threads combine into a tale that held my attention all the way through. Juno and Pillar have a friendship that has allowed them to survive a harsh life and, when Maddox ventures into their community’s territory, a hope for peace between the warring sides is born, if only tenuously. First, Maddox and Juno have to learn to trust.

Although I’m not generally a fan of the kind of angsty romance we usually see in young adult fiction, it works here, maybe because they really do have to overcome the hatred and distrust that have been bred into them. Ms. Wilson has gotten my attention with this story and I’ll be looking forward to many more.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2019.

An Excerpt from Rival

It was Maddox who’d broken the rules this time.

He reached for the lock on the storage room door then froze. It was undone. Wait—had he forgotten to lock it? Or had someone else been by? It was a simple lock, probably easy to pick, but they’d never had problems before.

He opened the door and felt around for the flashlight that hung on the closest hook—one of several he was pretty sure Theo had stolen from the people by the bridge.

He cursed the moment his eyes adjusted.

No, no, no. He shone the flashlight around the room, shock waves rolling through his body. When he’d illuminated every dark corner of the room, his heart dropped to his feet.

Things were missing. Half of their supplies and food were gone. Lanterns, flashlights, cans of beans…so many things missing.

It had to be a mistake. Maybe Theo moved some things, or his mom. But why would they do that? No one was allowed to take anything unless they had permission from the community leaders, and even then, it was only in the direst of circumstances. His mom and Theo were big believers that each family or individual took care of their own needs and only got handouts if the leaders agreed.

He reached overhead and pulled open cupboards, the doors banging against each other. Then he ducked down to the lowest shelves, but he couldn’t find much. Theo hadn’t said anything about moving supplies, had he?

Maddox swallowed, mind racing back to the girl on the beach. Someone had stolen from her, too. He hadn’t believed it. Or at least, he hadn’t believed someone from his community could have done it. But now…he wasn’t sure.

It looked like the girl on the beach might not be the only one who was dealing with a thief.

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About the Author

Cindy lives at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and loves using Colorado towns and cities as inspiration for settings in her stories. She’s the mother of three girls, who provide plenty of fodder for her YA novels. Cindy writes speculative fiction and YA fiction, filled with a healthy dose of romance. You’ll often find her hiking or listening to any number of playlists while she comes up with her next story idea.

Author Links:

Website //  Goodreads // Twitter // Facebook

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Book Review: Helix by Mary Ting @MaryTing @VesuvianMedia @XpressoTours

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Title: Helix
Series: International Sensory Assassin Network #2

Author: Mary Ting
Publisher: Vesuvian Books

Publication Date: September 10, 2019
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // ISAN
Amazon // Indiebound

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Helix
International Sensory Assassin Network #2
Mary Ting
Vesuvian Books, September 2019
ISBN 978-1-944109-86-8
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Alliances are forming. The resistance is growing. Everything is about to change.

With her memory still fragmented, Ava returns to the International Sensory Assassin Network (ISAN) to find the twin sister she never knew she had.

But as Ava hunts for information, she finds herself tangled in a web of yet more lies and conspiracy. The Helix serum may not be required to access her superpowers, and the number of male assassins—previously considered too volatile to tolerate Helix—is growing in every territory.

The more Ava uncovers, the more of a threat she becomes to ISAN. Her only salvation may be to join the rebels—if she isn’t killed first.

Sometimes, a second book in a series lacks the excitement and energy of the first book but that is certainly not the case with Helix. If anything, it’s a lot more frenetic, and all the action and intensity kind of wore me out although in a good way for the most part.

interestingly, we get the POV of Rhett this time as well as Ava’s and that made it easier for me to buy into the relationship between these two. So often in young adult stories I think the hormones get out of control to a laughable level but I’m more comfortable and less distracted by the romance this time.

As Ava searches for her twin, she learns a lot more about her own unusual abilities and the widespread conspiracy behind them but it’s the introduction of the younger players, the children, that let Ava and me begin to understand. I wonder what the author has in store for us next time.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2019.

About the Author

International Bestselling, Award-Winning Author Mary Ting writes soulful, spellbinding stories that excite the imagination and captivate readers all over the world. Her books run a wide range of genres and her storytelling talents have won her a devoted legion of fans and garnered critical praise.

Becoming an author happened by chance. It was a way to grieve the death of her beloved grandmother, and inspired by a dream she had in high school. After realizing she wanted to become a full-time author, Mary retired from teaching after twenty years. She also had the privilege of touring with the Magic Johnson Foundation to promote literacy and her children’s chapter book: No Bullies Allowed.

Mary resides in Southern California with her husband, two children, and two little dogs, Mochi and Mocha. She enjoys oil painting and making jewelry.

Author links:

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Tour-wide giveaway (INT)

$25 Amazon gift card

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Book Review: Beneath the Surface by Rebecca Langham @rlangham85 @ninestarpress @AnAudiobookworm

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Title: Beneath the Surface
Series: Outsider Project #1
Author: Rebecca Langham
Narrator: Kate Roth
Publication Date: March 18, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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Beneath the Surface
Outsider Project #1
Rebecca Langham
Narrated by Kate Roth
NineStar Press, March 2019
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the publisher—

When a change in collective conscious sends the Outsiders, a group of aliens, to the shadows below the city, humans reason that the demonetization of their peers is simply more “humane”. There’s no question nor doubt. Just acceptance.

Lydia had embraced that sense of “truth” for as long as she can remember. The daughter of a powerful governor, she has been able to live her life with more comforts than most. Comforts can be suffocating, though, and when the opportunity to teach Outsider children in their private, “humane” community becomes available, she takes it.

What she finds beneath the city is far from the truth she had grown to know. There she meets Alessia, an Outsider with the knowledge and will to shake the foundation of all those who walk above ground. The two find a new and unexpected connection despite a complete disconnect from the technological world. Or perhaps in spite of it.

Still, it takes a lot more than an immutable connection to change the world. Lydia, Alessia, and a small group of Outsiders must navigate a system of corruption, falsehoods, and twists none of them ever saw coming, all while holding on to the hope to come out alive in the end. But it’s a risk worth taking and a future worth fighting for.

Days after reading Beneath the Surface, I’m still unsure of just what I think about it and it keeps popping back into my mind. That’s not a normal state of events for me but it must be a good thing that I’m still cogitating over this book, right?

The premise is a good one, that humans have won the war with the aliens and have subjugated the survivors, and it’s refreshing to see aliens that are so close in appearance to humans and so subject to many of our behaviors. I missed having any  of the initial conflict between the two because that would have brought a lot of frenetic action to the page and, in fact, the story suffered, for me, by being sort of staid. I also could have done with less attention to the romantic entanglements—I always think there’s too much of that—but the characters did appeal to me a good deal.

Perhaps my indecision about this book lies in the feeling that there are too many threads to follow, too many soapbox issues. Did the author really intend that? I don’t truly know but there’s no doubt that this felt like an allegory for our current conditions in the US (and in a few other countries but most noticeably here) what with our government’s treatment of immigrants and the rise of racism, corruption, terrorism, broken promises and all the other ill will going on here.

Narrator Kate Roth does a nice job other than having some difficulty with male voices and her use of varying accents helped bring it all to life. I’ll gladly listen to more from her.

So, bottomline, Beneath the Surface has a lot to offer but there are facets that prevented me from liking it 100%. I’m hoping for—and expecting—some more booklove with the next installment  😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2019.

About the Author

Rebecca Langham lives in the Blue Mountains (Australia) with her partner, children, and a menagerie of pets. She has been a foster carer for over ten years.

A Xenite, a Whovian and all-round general nerd, Rebecca is a lover of science fiction, comic books, and caffeine.  When she isn’t teaching History to high schoolers or wrangling children, Rebecca enjoys playing broomball and reading.

Connect with Rebecca:

Website // Twitter // Facebook

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About the Narrator

A global voice, Kate brings her broad experience and expertise into the studio and into her voice over delivery. With her unique blend of accents, a project can only “shine” with the versatility and distinct sound of her voice

Australian, British and North American accents are within Kate’s range.

Adaptive in style and tone, depending on your needs, Kate can deliver a wide range of voices. From conversational to authoritative; fun to serious; sophisticated to knowledgeable and beyond.

Connect with Kate:

Website // Twitter // Facebook

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Play an excerpt here.

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Book Review: Icehaven/Sum of All Tears by Kim Cresswell and M.K. Chester

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Title: Icehaven
Series: Sum of All Tears #1
Authors: Kim Cresswell and M.K. Chester
Genres: Post-Apocalyptic Dystopian, Paranormal

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Icehaven
Sum of All Tears #1
Kim Cresswell and M.K. Chester
KC Publishing, April 2019
ISBN 978-1999558819
Trade Paperback

From the authors—

They said it wouldn’t happen.

Everything would be better.

They were wrong.

After a climate change experiment goes terribly wrong, August Madison finds herself resurrected in a frozen wasteland.

With most of the world’s population and food sources annihilated, depraved nomadic gangs patrol the lawless landscape as outlasters claw for survival.

Amid the chaos, Graysen Marx, iron-fisted leader of the domed settlement Liberty, emerges from the catastrophic event with his own agenda.

When August crosses his path, he sees an opportunity he must exploit.

She sees an evil she must destroy.

Isn’t it wonderful when you come across that book that is SO good that you’re kind of stunned by it? Icehaven is the one for me for a lot of reasons starting with being thrown into the midst of disaster right away, literally on page 2. No lollygagging here, no building up to the horrible event you know is coming. Then the questions begin, the obvious ones such as how the few people left will survive, but also the ones that are so unexpected, particularly regarding why and how some survivors have developed special abilities.

Our protagonist, August, is a miracle herself, having apparently died and then come back to life but, at first, she  remembers very little about what happened other than she does know that she’s the daughter of the man who set off this devastating experiment. Besides taking on her duties among the group that found her, August also feels a strong need to figure out what went wrong; meanwhile, an old friend, Brandon, is miles away and wonders if August is still alive. Then there is Graysen Marx, the man behind Liberty, a biodome facility that seems to be the only hope for longtime survival but is he the honorable man he seems to be or is he ruthlessly intent on his own agenda?

The action in Icehaven is nearly nonstop with something new and alarming happening constantly and the plot is full of suspense, so much so that mystery readers will be as enthralled as post-apocalyptic fans but plot does not overshadow character development. The players, primary and secondary, are vividly drawn and they all come alive on the page while the authors’ worldbuilding is remarkable, making me feel the intense cold and hunger and the emotional havoc wrought by the attempt to control climate change.

I could say much more but it would be hard to avoid spoilers so let me just say Icehaven is going on my list of best books read in 2019 and I heartily encourage one and all to jump right on this one 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2019.

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Purchase Links:
Books2Read

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About the Authors

Kim Cresswell resides in Ontario, Canada and is the bestselling and award-winning author of the action-packed WHITNEY STEEL series.

Her romantic thriller, Reflection (A Whitney Steel Novel – Book One), has won numerous awards including RomCon®’s 2014 Readers’ Crown Finalist (Romantic Suspense), InD’tale Magazine 2014 Rone Award Finalist (Suspense/Thriller), UP Authors Fiction Challenge Winner, Silicon Valley’s Romance Writers of America (RWA) “Gotcha” contest. Kim also signed a 3-book German translation deal with LUZIFER Verlag for the first three books in the series: Reflection, Retribution and ResurrectLethal Journey won RomCon®’s 2014 Readers’ Crown (Thriller).

The Assassin Chronicles TV series was in development with Council Tree Productions. The TV series is based on Kim’s upcoming 4-book paranormal/supernatural thriller series: Deadly Shadow, Invisible TruthAssassin’s Prophecy, and Vision of Fire.

Website // Newsletter // Facebook // Twitter
Goodreads // Instagram // Bookbub // Amazon 

M.K. Chester is an RWA award-winning author of historical and contemporary romance. Her first novel, Surrender to the Roman, is currently published with Carina Press. Her three-book historical series, Bryeton Books, focuses on love, loss and redemption in small town America at the turn of the 20th century, while her latest release, Crashed, is the first book in the contemporary New South Series.

M.K. is a native Buckeye who lives in Tennessee. She’s married to a veteran, recently became a MoM (Mother of Marine), and will soon become a grandmother. She adores her Scottish Terriers and is fighting MS.

Newsletter // Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

Series Instagram // Bookbub // Amazon // Goodreads

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Coming in March 2020

Liberty
Sum of All Tears #2
Kim Cresswell and M.K. Chester
KC Publishing, March 2020
ISBN 978-1999558819
Trade Paperback

From the authors—

A new enemy rises.

Surviving the cold is only the beginning.

In the second installment of the exciting Sum of all Tears series, a core group of survivors from Liberty travel to Boston, endangering themselves and those they left behind in a winner-takes-all showdown that will leave readers breathless.

Pre-order Links:
Books2Read

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Giveaway

$50 Amazon Gift Card

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Book Review: The Red Labyrinth by Meredith Tate

The Red Labyrinth
Meredith Tate
Flux, June 2019
ISBN 978-1-63583-034-7
Trade Paperback

In Trinnea, the citizens are Skilled or Blank. Enviable abilities set the Skilled apart and allow them to create their own hierarchy. Almost. Pathetic people possessing only the capabilities of mere human beings are Blanks; good for only hard labor and deplorable jobs.

Wonderfully walled to keep out criminals, the banished and Blanks…along with anyone who has insulted The Leader, the population of Trinnea is a proud one. And eerily of one mind. Except Zadie. Having been stripped of pride at a tender young age, she is one of the few Un-Skilled inside the city, and she certainly stands out.

As if her blatant lacking wasn’t enough to elicit sneers and jibes, Landon, the golden-boy of Skills and Trinneans alike, is inexplicably her best friend. Bitter jealously and undeserved anger permeate the air around her. While this leaves much to be desired, Zadie is soon to see how simple and safe this life is.

It is one thing to be among determinedly ignorant individuals that have banded together to support someone that seems to be a self-absorbed blow-hard; but when said crowd syncs into submission under rebels, simple survival is no longer enough for Zadie. She has others to save and, for once in her life, Landon is nowhere to be found.

Communications down, Zadie’s only option is to actually approach The Leader. She will need to outwit dark riddles and terrible tricks while traversing the terror-inducing twists and turns of the Labyrinth that separates The Leader from Trinnea. Worrisome, but the inevitable encounter with Dex, the psychopath who has made the maze his home, is what truly scares her.

Shoving her fear deep down, Zadie enters the Labyrinth. Challenges and lessons learned along the way show her that, even if she makes it out alive, every single part of her life will be drastically different.

I was immersed in Zadie’s quest, admiring her strength, selflessness, intelligence and inherent need to do the right thing. Quite frankly, if there isn’t a follow-up, Ms. Tate has firmly established herself as one of those ornery authors whom I adore, as I gnash my teeth, just a tiny bit.

Reviewed by jv poore, June 2019.

Book Review: The Circle: Taken by Sage Sask

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Title: Taken
Series: The Circle, Book 1
Author: Sage Sask
Publisher: SBSK Corp.
Publication Date: March 7, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Amazon // The Book Depository // Indiebound

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Taken
The Circle, Book 1
Sage Sask
SBSK Corp., March 2019
ISBN 978-1733579391
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Abandoned at eleven with no memory of her family, Alexia seeks her true identity. Under the new government’s regime, sixteen year-olds are evaluated for their desire to harm others. Throughout the test, Alexia struggles to conceal her psychic ability to read the past and future of anyone she touches. When her secret is revealed, Alexia is taken to an island where other highly skilled agents and readers like her train to survive.

As Alexia gains more control over her abilities, she desperately tries to piece together her elusive past. In her quest for the truth, Alexia’s loyalties are tested when forced to make an impossible choice between those she loves and the family she can’t remember.

A spell-binding adventure of friendship, love, unforeseen twists and learning that our most dangerous enemies are often the people we trust the most. A captivating novel filled with forbidden romance and shocking betrayals that demand the question – Can One Decision Determine Your Destiny?

Most of the time, I either like a main character with few or no reservations or I close the book early because I can’t make a connection with the protagonist. Alexia evoked altogether different feelings because of her complexity and because the author allowed her to have faults, very natural faults at that. Alexia appealed to me because she’s not the near-perfect being who rarely makes a misstep. In essence, she is in search of herself while she learns some very valuable life lessons.

Taken is in some ways a study of good versus evil and how difficult it can be to know the difference, who can be trusted. I especially enjoyed this arc of the story because it’s such an essential part of a person’s growth and watching Alexia learn these things made her seem quite real. The Circle itself is full of contradictions, a quagmire of choices and decisions she has to face…much like what we’re all faced with in growing up.

Most of all, I was intrigued by Alexia’s search for her past and for a path to connect with those around her. She’s a girl I hope to see more of in the future.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2019.

About the Authors

Sage S.A.S.K. is a team consisting of USA Today, Washington Post and Amazon Charts bestselling author Sejal Badani and a group of young adult writers. Kiran, Akash and Sienna are the creative force behind the story concepts, editing, social media, marketing, and book trailers for the novel.

Kiran

Kiran is still processing the bait and switch pulled by his parents of having been promised a sports car and ending up with their old minivan. When he’s not running track or falling asleep in class, Kiran can be found driving around with his friends blasting Travis Scott.

 

Website // Twitter // Instagram // Pinterest // Tumblr // Facebook // Goodreads

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Follow the tour:

Week One:

4/15/2019- Lone Tree Reviews– Excerpt
4/16/2019- Lisa Loves Literature– Spotlight
4/17/2019- Jheartlovesbooks– Review
4/18/2019- BookHounds– Interview
4/19/2019- Reese’s Reviews– Review

Week Two:

4/22/2019- Writing on the Sunny Side of the Street– Excerpt
4/23/2019- Life With No Plot– Review
4/24/2019- Daily Waffle– Excerpt
4/25/2019- Two Chicks on Books– Interview
4/26/2019- Dorky Girl and Skeletor– Spotlight

Week Three:

4/29/2019- Buried Under Books– Review
4/30/2019- Smada’s Book Smack– Spotlight
5/1/2019- Taking It One Book at a time– Review
5/2/2019- A Dream Within A Dream– Excerpt
5/3/2019- Smada’s Book Smack– Excerpt

Week Four:

5/6/2019- Adventures Thru Wonderland– Review
5/7/2019- Mama Panda Bear– Review
5/8/2019- Jaime’s World– Guest Post
5/9/2019- A Gingerly Review– Review
5/10/2019- Book Briefs– Review

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Giveaway

3 winners will receive finished signed or unsigned
copies of THE CIRCLE:TAKEN, US Only.

Enter here.

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Book Review: Alien Minds by Christina Bauer



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Alien Minds
Christina Bauer
(Dimension Drift #1)
Published by: Monster House Books
Publication date: April 23rd 2019
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

DIVERGENT meets OCEAN’S EIGHT in this urban fantasy heist!

On my seventeenth birthday, I wake up in the hospital to find I just survived a sketchy but terrible accident. My parents stand by my bedside—both are beautiful, wealthy, and super-nice. They tell me that once I leave the hospital, I’ll attend the prestigious ECHO Academy, where I’ll churn out equations for the government along with my mega-smart peers.

So, I’m living the perfect life.

Then why does everything feel all wrong?

My parents, my house and even ECHO Academy…none of it fits. Plus, what’s up with Thorne, my brooding yet yummy classmate who keeps telling me I need to remember my true past, which seems to have included a lot of us kissing? That’s one thing I’d really like to remember, except for the fact that I’m pretty sure Thorne is hiding a ton of nasty secrets of his own, including the fact that he may not be from this world. But considering how my own past seems alien to me, it’s not like I can judge. Plus, Thorne has dimples. That’s a problem.

And worst of all, why does it feel so yucky to work on these calculations for the government? It’s all supposed to be part of ECHO, but my heart tells me that I’m helping something truly terrible come to pass. Thorne seems to think that kissing him again will release my real memories.

Maybe it’s time to pucker up.

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After this series’ prequels, Scythe and Umbra, I was pretty sure the first full-length novel would be a wild ride and so it is. Alien Minds delivers a punch on all levels—action, intrigue, and nefarious government activities—and it’s all at the core of masterful worldbuilding I’ve come to expect from Ms. Bauer.

There’s romance, of course, between Meimi and Thorne, and I can’t say I was thrilled with that part but such things seem to be de rigueur in young adult fiction so I just go with the flow these days. Actually, neither of these two is in my list of 5 favorite characters but that’s okay because I really connected with their story if not them.

Ms. Bauer has added in just the right amount of snide humor to make me chuckle in all the right places but, make no mistake, her core theme is one to beware of. It’s bad enough to be doing things at the government’s behest that don’t exactly sit well but how much worse is it to not remember enough of your past to understand how you came to be in such a situation? Meimi has misgivings almost from the moment she wakes up and is confronted with a man and woman purporting to be her parents and telling her she’s going to the ECHO Academy; once she gets there, all does not become clear and there’s this hunky guy, Thorne, telling her a simple kiss will bring back her memories. When she’s assigned to a special project, she bargains to have a few friends help her and, with her team, embarks upon a plan to escape…and do some damage while they’re at it.

There are a few hiccups along the way but, all in all, Christina Bauer still has my attention and I’ll be waiting for the next Dimension Drift story.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2019.

“Appealing and engaging. Love the strong female character!”
– Arlene’s Book Reviews

This new series is perfect for: fans of urban fantasy, action & adventure, cool science, evil corporations, forbidden romance and hot new classmates who may or may not be aliens.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble
Kobo / iBooks / Google Play

About the Author

Author Bio:

Christina Bauer thinks that fantasy books are like bacon: they just make life better. All of which is why she writes romance novels that feature demons, dragons, wizards, witches, elves, elementals, and a bunch of random stuff that she brainstorms while riding the Boston T. Oh, and she includes lots of humor and kick-ass chicks, too.

Christina graduated from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School with BA’s in English along with Television, Radio, and Film Production. She lives in Newton, MA with her husband, son, and semi-insane golden retriever, Ruby.

Be the first to know about new releases from Christina by signing up for her newsletter: http://tinyurl.com/CBupdates

Website / Blog / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / LinkedIn

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