Book Review of Join or Die by J. Adrian Ruth

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Title: Join or Die

Series: Heir to the Scion

Author: J. Adrian Ruth

Review by: Dani Hoots

Rating: 5/5

Amazon

Back cover:

A group of outcasts, struggling to survive in a school filled with monsters.

An average kid, growing up in Las Vegas, Alex Ayers life skids off the rails when a dragon shifter comes for him. Alex is a Creature, monsters from myths and legends. And he’s in line to lead all the Creatures in the world, if he doesn’t get killed first.

Now forced to attend a school filled with every horror he’s ever imagined, Alex draws together a group of friends to become his own mini-army.

A depressed vampire facing an identity crisis.

A class gossip with white hair and a frosty outlook.

A werewolf who plays with magic.

A Valkyrie straining against her berserker’s rage.

Can Alex keep his friends safe, fight for his own life, and catch a killer, all while keeping his grades up? And what will his future hold, as he begins his change into a Creature he knows nothing about?

*I received this book from Netgalley for my honest review*

This is a really cool mixture of Rosario+Vampire and Harry Potter. Alex’s life is thrown for a loop when he finds out he is halfbreed—half human, half creature. I won’t spoil what he is, as that is a big mystery he has to discover, but it is a really cool twist. He is mad his father left him and never told him the truth, and that resentment plays a big part on what he need to do to accept his fate.

I liked the other characters as well, especially Elvey, the half vampire-half elf roommate. That is, actually, one of my favorite mixtures and one that I think would be cool to read more about. Both a creature of life and death—a cool dynamic that hasn’t been touched on. I also like Yoshi and how he is a Japanese creature. The author did a great job of mixing a few different creature myths from different parts of the world.

All in all, if you like Percy Jackson or Harry Potter or Rosario+Vampire, I think you will like this series! The story is a little on the shorter side, but to me that is nice as it is a relaxing read.

~Dani

Book Review of Girl on the Run by Abigail Johnson

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Title: Girl on the Run

Author: Abigail Johnson

Review by: Dani Hoots

Rating: 5/5

Release date: 10/6/20

PREORDER HERE

Back cover:

A fast-paced original paperback thriller about a girl who discovers that her mother might not be who she says she is . . . and now someone is hunting them both.

Katelyn wants the best for her widowed mom. Surprising her with an online dating profile seems like a good idea.

It isn’t. Katelyn’s mom hasn’t just been acting overprotective all these years–she’s been hiding something. And now that anyone can find them online , Katelyn is in a desperate race against time to uncover the secrets of the past–not only her mom’s, but also her own.

As Katelyn’s world unravels, she begins to trust the guy who brought this nightmare to her door and to doubt the one person she never thought she would. Because her mom has been hiding for a reason: she’s been waiting.

Underlined is a line of totally addictive romance, thriller, and horror paperback original titles coming to you fast and furious each month. Enjoy everything you want to read the way you want to read it.

*I received an ARC for my honest opinion*

This novel had me hooked from beginning to end! From chapter one, we are on the run and we don’t stop until the end. Everything is fast-paced and you can feel the adrenaline dripping from the page. This novel is filled with suspense, mystery, heartache, and you can’t put it down! The pacing was perfect and information was given to the character and reader in a believable amount and at a believable time frame. Johnson does a great job of showing us the emotions and action instead of telling. No wording felt awkward and the series of events flowed naturally together.

The characters were very believable as well. You get the right info about them at the right times to make you wonder what is really going on. I loved the mystery behind it and how our main character had to figure out what really happened. Katelyn was a believable teen going through this madness and her actions never felt contradictory. While reading, I could tell Johnson did a lot of research to make this story unique and believable, which is something I really like in a book.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves YA or thrillers. You won’t be disappointed!

~Dani

 

If you preorder from Changing Hands, you can get a preorder special! For details, CLICK HERE.

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Book Review of Shinto: The Kami Way by Dr. Sokyo Ono

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Title: Shinto: The Kami Way

Author: Dr. Sokyo Ono

In collaboration: William P. Woodard

Review by: Dani Hoots

Rating: 5/5

Buy Here

Back cover:

Shinto, the indigenous faith of the Japanese people, continues to fascinate and mystify both the casual visitor to Japan and the long-time resident. Relatively unknown among the religions of the world, Shinto: The Kami Way provides an enlightening window into this Japanese faith.

In its general aspects, Shinto is more than a religious faith. It is an amalgam of attitudes, ideas, and ways of doing things that through two millennia and more have become an integral part of the manner of the Japanese people. Shinto is both a personal faith in the kami—objects of worship in Shinto and an honorific for noble, sacred spirits—and a communal way of life according to the mind of the kami. This introduction unveils Shinto’s spiritual characteristics and discusses the architecture and function of Shinto shrines. Further examination of Shinto’s lively festivals, worship, music, and sacred regalia illustrates Shinto’s influence on all levels of Japanese life.

Fifteen photographs, numerous drawings and Dr. Ono’s text introduce the reader to two millennia of indigenous Japanese belief in the kami and communal life.

Chapters include:

  • The Kami Way
  • Shrines
  • Worship and Festivals
  • Political and Social Characteristics
  • Some Spiritual Characteristics

About the Author:
Dr. Sokyo Ono was a professor at Kokugakuin Daigaku, a Shinto university in Tokyo, and has lectured for the National Association of Shinto Shrines. He also served as Executive Director of the International Institute for the Study of Religions and the Japan Religious Cooperative Council

William Woodard directed the research unit of the Religious and Cultural Resources Division, Civil Information and Education Section, SCAP from 1946 to 1952.

I asked for this book for Christmas to help with my research for two different YA Japanese Fantasy novels I am working on. I felt that this gave some good insight of what it is like at Shinto shrines and how Shintoism is engrained in a lot of daily life actions in modern Japan. I found it to be quite fascinating, as we don’t learn much about this religion in schools or while looking at cultures in general. A lot is said about Buddism, but not much is said about Shintoism, and this book goes over a bit of why that is. I wished it went a little more on the changes throughout history and what actions changed or didn’t with a timeline, as my novel takes place in different periods through Japan.

I highly recommend to anyone who wants to learn more about this religion, whether it be because they are interested in Japanese culture, research for something they are writing, or if they want to visit shrines in Japan and understand what is respectful and what is not. I can’t wait to visit Japan and pay my respects to the kami at various shrines.

~Dani

Manga Review of Act-Age

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Series: Act-Age

US Publisher: VIZ Media

Tatsuya Matsuki (Author), Shiro Usazaki (Illustrator)

Genre: Coming of Age/Adventure

Rating: 4/5

CLICK HERE TO BUY

Description:

Kei Yonagi must delve deep into her psyche to succeed in the cutthroat world of acting, but can she keep her sanity while doing so?

Is there a method to Kei Yonagi’s madness when it comes to acting? The young actor has a family of siblings to feed, but she finds herself struggling with her psychological demons when playing a role. Her desperate acting catches the eye of a famous director, Sumiji Kuroyama, who’s looking for raw talent to mold. Can he help Yonagi navigate the cutthroat world of acting without losing her sanity?

*received an ARC from VIZ via Netgalley for an honest review*

I found this story to be quite interesting. It follows Kei as she wants to be an actress and support her brother and sister. She is obsessed with movies and associates things her life to feel the emotions. She is a method actress and becomes who she is supposed to be playing. The first manga is about how she gets selected by a director/agent.

The plot was interesting, and while the characters are quite unique, I couldn’t get into it. I think a lot of people may like it, and that is why I gave it 4 stars, but I don’t feel it is one I would continue. It just isn’t my style, and I didn’t care for the art. It isn’t a style I like and I felt there were quite a few mistakes for a published manga. As for the pacing, it is a little slow, but it picks up at the end. I definitely recommend for people who like stories about actors and actresses.

~Dani

Book Review of The Damned by Renée Ahdieh

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Title: The Damned

Author: Renée Ahdieh

Review by: Dani Hoots

Rating: 5/5

IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon

Back cover:

New York Times bestselling author Renée Ahdieh returns with the second installment of her new sumptuous, sultry and romantic series, The Beautiful.

Following the events of The Beautiful, Sébastien Saint Germain is now cursed and forever changed. The treaty between the Fallen and the Brotherhood has been broken, and war between the immortals seems imminent. The price of loving Celine was costly.

But Celine has also paid a high price for loving Bastien. Still recovering from injuries sustained during a night she can’t quite remember, her dreams are troubled. And she doesn’t know she has inadvertently set into motion a chain of events that could lead to her demise and unveil a truth about herself she’s not ready to learn.

Forces hiding in the shadows have been patiently waiting for this moment. And just as Bastien and Celine begin to uncover the danger around them, they learn their love could tear them apart.

The Damned, Renée’s latest installment in The Beautiful series is just as decadent, thrilling, and mysterious as her last, as she continues her most potent fantasy series yet.

This book was nonstop magical! From page one I was hooked! I finished the first book a couple of months ago (see book 1 review here) and I enjoyed it a lot, but this one was all that and more!

*Warning, Book 1 spoilers below*

Book 1 leaves off with Celine having her memories of Bastien wiped and Bastien having been turned into a vampire. Instead of starting off with Celine, whom was the main character for the first book, this story mostly takes place from Bastien’s POV and other vampires in his group. I loved this duality, so we finally see what is going one behind the series. The first book was a little slow, although there is something to be said about slow paced books to really set the mood, but this one is nonstop. We learn a lot more about the folklore behind vampires and the werewolves. I won’t spoil any more, but this a mythology that is well weaved together and left me wanting more. I really want to read book 3 right now!

If you didn’t care for book 1, I highly recommend still picking this book up to read. You will not be disappointed!

~Dani

Manga Review of Prince Freya Vol. 1 & 2

Series: Prince Freya Vol 1 & 2

US Publisher: VIZ Media

Mangaka: Keiko Ishihara

Genre: Action/Fantasy

Rating: 5/5

CLICK HERE TO BUY

Description:

Freya thinks of herself as a simple village girl, but her idyllic life is shattered when she is caught up in the aftermath of a treacherous Sigurdian plot. She bears a striking resemblance to her country’s beloved Prince Edvard, who lays dying from poison. Without its ruler, all of Tyr will quickly be engulfed by Sigurdian violence. Now Freya must take Prince Edvard’s place and lead his valiant knights in defending the realm!

Vol 1:

This series starts out introducing the kingdom of Tyr and the impending war from the Sigurdian army. I find the mix of Viking folklore but also creating one’s own world to be quite fascinating. It was definitely a world I was interested in and found myself hooked at the start.

In the beginning, Freya felt a little too helpless to me, but she grows in character in the first and second volume. Although it appears to be almost lighthearted, I will warn you now, this is not for the faint of heart. There are some really sad scenes that made me want to throw the manga (except I read it on my iPad so I wasn’t going to. I am really fascinated, however, and definitely want to read what happens.

Vol 2:

*received an ARC from VIZ via Netgalley for an honest review*

In this volume, I feel Freya definitely grows as a character and we see what causes it (no spoilers). We also learn more about the surrounding characters, and about the different towns. I feel it still is a little bit of setting up the world, but still has enough movement to keep you reading. I am looking forward to see what happens in book 3. I want to know more about Sir Julius and what is going on with him. The art is beautiful and very well done. I recommend to anyone who likes Viking history and fantasy.

~Dani

Book Review of Opium and Absinthe by Lydia Kong

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Title: Opium and Absinthe

Author: Lydia Kang

Review by: Dani Hoots

Rating: 5/5

Amazon

Back cover:

From the bestselling author of A Beautiful Poison comes another spellbinding historical novel full of intrigue, occult mystery, and unexpected twists.

New York City, 1899. Tillie Pembroke’s sister lies dead, her body drained of blood and with two puncture wounds on her neck. Bram Stoker’s new novel, Dracula, has just been published, and Tillie’s imagination leaps to the impossible: the murderer is a vampire. But it can’t be—can it?

A ravenous reader and researcher, Tillie has something of an addiction to truth, and she won’t rest until she unravels the mystery of her sister’s death. Unfortunately, Tillie’s addicted to more than just truth; to ease the pain from a recent injury, she’s taking more and more laudanum…and some in her immediate circle are happy to keep her well supplied.

Tillie can’t bring herself to believe vampires exist. But with the hysteria surrounding her sister’s death, the continued vampiric slayings, and the opium swirling through her body, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for a girl who relies on facts and figures to know what’s real—or whether she can trust those closest to her.

I haven’t read any historical mysteries in quite a while, but when I saw this one had the folklore of vampires, I couldn’t resist. From page one, I was hooked on this story. It started off with Tillie getting injured from a horse-riding accident. She gets treated with some opium, and slowly the opium addiction Tillie faces starts to develop. I could tell Kang did a lot of research on the history of medicine during this time. I loved how it was weaved into the story and had a big part of what challenges Tillie faced.

The mystery of her sister’s death was also well set up. There were a lot of twists and turns, and I didn’t know who to trust. I really loved how much suspense and mystery there was. Although there were some parts that felt a little slow, I felt it was good pacing overall.

If you enjoy Historical Fiction and Amateur Sleuths, I highly recommend!

~Dani

Book Review of The End of Magic by Mark Stay

 

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Title: The End of Magic

Author: Mark Stay

Review by: Dani Hoots

Rating: 5/5

Or Buy Here

Back cover:

Two powerful mages. One steeped in privilege, the other bound by a moral code. Their world is thrown into chaos by the end of magic.

‘What will you do when the magic is gone?’

Sander Bree is a royal mage. He lives an easy life advising the king on matters of court and politics, yet he still complains that he’s stuck in a rut.

Rosheen Katell is a wandering mage and, with Anzu her griffin, she’s worked hard to build a reputation as a trustworthy truth seer. She never lies, never kills.

Very soon, their magic will be gone. A cataclysmic event will change their lives and world forever.

Sander must keep a promise that would have been difficult enough with magic, but is a suicide mission without it.

Rosheen is forced to side with a murderous warlord, and her once-solid principles are tested and found wanting. Both will be set against one another in a war unlike anything the world has seen before, in this sweeping fantasy of magic’s ending.

A stand alone fantasy novel for fans of Joe Abercrombie and Scott Lynch

This story is a mix of fantasy, adventure, mystery, and friendship. The main characters must help to save the life of a young girl as she is dying from poison. The only way to do this is to go get mermaid blood. This is not an easy task, especially since something happens and magic is no more.

Stay does a great job weaving in different characters. I really liked Rosheen and her griffin Anzu. She faces a lot of trouble as magic is now gone and she must fight without it. She is an awesome character that I enjoyed a lot!

I definitely recommend to anyone who loves fantasy!

~Dani

 

About the Author

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Mark Stay co-wrote the screenplay for Robot Overlords which became a movie with Sir Ben Kingsley and Gillian Anderson, and premiered at the 58th London Film Festival. Author of the fantasy novel The End of Magic, he is also co-presenter of the Bestseller Experiment podcast and worked in bookselling and publishing for over twenty-five years. He lives in Kent, England, with his family and a trio of retired chickens. He blogs and humblebrags over at markstaywrites.com

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Manga Review of RWBY: The Official Manga, Vol. 1: The Beacon Arc

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Series: RWBY: The Official Manga, Vol. 1: The Beacon Arc

US Publisher: VIZ Media

Mangaka: Bunta Kinami

Genre: Action/Fantasy

Rating: 5/5

CLICK HERE TO BUY

Description:

Experience the introductory arc of the international smash hit series RWBY in a whole new way—manga!

Monsters known as the Grimm are wreaking havoc on the world of Remnant. Ruby Rose seeks to become a Huntress, someone who eliminates the Grimm and protects the land. She enrolls at Beacon Academy, eager for the tests and combat challenges to come.

Ruby knows she has the talent to achieve her goal, but is she ready to clash with Weiss Schnee, a fellow student and the haughty scion of the Schnee Dust Company?

*I received this manga from Netgalley for an honesty review*

I watched the show a while back and love it! I was excited to be given a copy for an honest review. This manga follows the show as much as I can remember. The art is beautiful and I really admired it. I believe it brings the right style to mimic the anime, but also be it’s own thing.

This series has strong female characters that kick butt, mystery, suspense, friendship, heartbreak, plot twists, and cunning bad guys. Although the first season/manga is more setting up who the characters are and how the became a group, make sure to keep on reading/watching as the plot starts to speed up, we learn more about the world, and fall in love with he characters.

So if you love RWBY, give this a read, or if this is new to you and you love strong female characters with a fantasy element, definitely check this out!

~Dani

Manga Review of Kakushigoto: My Dad’s Secret Ambition

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Series: Kakushigoto: My Dad’s Secret Ambition

US Publisher: Kodansha Comics

Mangaka: Akane Shimizu

Genre: Comedy/Slice of Life

Rating: 5/5

CLICK HERE TO BUY

Description:

Kakushi Gotou is a single father with a secret: he’s a top-selling manga artist of a raunchy series that perhaps isn’t suitable reading material for his young daughter, Hime. So he does what any doting father would do—he hides it all from her, no matter the hijinks that ensue!

*I received this manga from Netgalley for an honesty review*

This series is really adorable! A single father going WAY out of his way to make sure his daughter doesn’t find out that he writes dirty manga. The stories are short and sometimes play on top of each other. I really liked how there were notes from the author on how some of the stuff has happened to him, and how it is in the manga business. You learn a bit of what goes on and at the same time, are laughing at what this father is willing to do. I have seen some spoilers from Funimation, but I am not sure of all that happens at the end of this series, but I think it might be a little sad so heads up! It is also an anime on Funimation, but I haven’t finished it yet.

If you like slice of life, definitely check out this series!

~Dani