Refraction by Terry Geo

5 stars

A paperback copy of the book Refraction by Terry Geo.
Refraction by Terry Geo

Based on the reviews and the Twitter hype, I had high expectations going into this book. In fact, I was so excited about it, I bought the e-version and the paperback  so I would have my choice of formats when I was ready to enjoy.  Refraction did not disappoint!

With a lot of build up and a clear turning point for the action, Refraction feels like two different  books in the most amazing way. Geo takes his time setting up the adventure, planting little seeds and letting you get to know each of the characters who will go on an action-packed, head-spinning ride in the second half of the book. 

From there, we encounter a unique world where reality and dreams collide in unpredictable and unexpected ways. 

It is truly difficult to pick out what I enjoyed most about this book. From the London setting, the truly imaginative plot, the fun pop culture references, to the diverse cast of likable characters, there is so much to love and enjoy.

I read The Cracked Reflection, Geo’s introductory novella, first. After reading Refraction, I want to go back and reread it to see if it changes how I interpreted Maria’s story.

My review of The Cracked Reflection is available here.

Both books are available on Amazon and Terry Geo’s Refracted World website.

The Mother by J.E. Clarkson

4 stars

The cigarette smoking detective Kate Monroe is back on the scene, investigating a serial killer in this sequel to The Lamb. The book takes us right back to Barnsworth, where Monroe and Halifax are pulled back in with fresh murders, one of which might be the new girlfriend of Monroe’s ex-husband.

The Mother: A Detective Kate Monroe Crime Thriller displayed on an iPad.
The Mother by J.E. Clarkson

I adored that Clarkson included a glossary of characters in the front of the book. As someone who has read several books since reading the first installment in this series, I appreciated the refresher on the cast of characters. I was also glad to get an answer to a major item that the first book left unresolved.

Clarkson’s distinctive writing style is present in this fast-moving tale, which can be consumed in a single sitting or savored at a slower pace. Again, I was able to add a few new British colloquialisms to my vocabulary, which is always fun.

Reading this respectable follow-up to The Lamb reinforced my love for J.E. Clarkson as an author and for Kate Monroe as a character. I continue to be a dedicated Clarkson fan and intend to keep auto-buying all of her new releases.

My review of The Lamb: https://bookpicksandpics.com/2021/12/11/the-lamb-by-j-e-clarkson/

To read my reviews of all of J.E. Clarkson’s books, browse her category on my blog.

Dreamtaker by L. Krauch

5 stars

The cover of Dreamtaker by L. Krauch

Darker than its predecessor, Dreamtaker features many of the same characters as the original 13th Zodiac story. However, the sequel adds a few new players, most notably the evil Damien who takes the story in a new, more sinister direction. 

Dreamtaker is a riveting read that boomerangs you through a wide range of terrifying emotions for your favorite characters, particularly for the King and Queen of Chall.

Although Jase and Liya are prominent in this story, other familiar characters have their stories fleshed out a bit. The author’s trademark vivid descriptions of the action scenes and running jokes (apples, anyone?) are also present in the sequel. 

While I wouldn’t have thought it possible, I am even more excited for the next installment of the 13th Zodiac series than I was for Dreamtaker. As readers, we are set up for so many different possibilities, that I can’t wait to see what direction we are catapulted into next.

My review is based on an e-ARC provided to me by the author. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Dreamtaker releases on May 13, 2022, and can be purchased through Amazon.

My review of The 13th Zodiac: https://bookpicksandpics.com/2022/01/08/the-13th-zodiac-by-l-krauch/

Waiting for Saturday by Catherine Morrison

5 stars

Waiting for Saturday by Catherine Morrison

I picked up a digital copy of this book because I was intrigued by the title – in some ways, aren’t we all “Waiting for Saturday” to come around? 

Based on the crushed red lollipop on the cover, I was expecting this book to be either a lighthearted YA romance or a sinister thriller about a young villain. Instead, I found an unexpected gem of a story about a young woman slowly opening her eyes to the mistreatment she suffers and regaining trust in herself. 

On the surface, Abi seems to have it all – a beautiful 4-year-old daughter, a gorgeous house in an upscale neighborhood, and a husband who provides for her every need. One Saturday morning, she meets Henry and his son at the play center. A friendship develops that gives Abi a new perspective on what’s really happening in her life. 

I devoured this fast flowing 150 page story in one weekend morning, cheering for Abi with each page. Not everyone will be satisfied with how this books ends, but I appreciated some of the warnings and the hope Abi’s story offers.

After reading Waiting for Saturday, I definitely plan to check out more of Morrison’s work.

The Backup Superhero by Kayla Hicks

4 stars

I absolutely loved the concept of this novella. In a genre where everything has been done before, the idea of having tiers of superheroes seemed original and intriguing. 

The Backup Superhero by Kayla Hicks displayed on an e-reader.
The cover of The Backup Superhero by Kayla Hicks

Tanser Girl, a D leaguer, is our heroine. After a bad day, she heads to the Hero’s Cave, a bar where the backup heroes hang out, to pick herself up. She meets up with Dwighter, a fellow level D superhero with a drinking problem, and Frank, the mysterious barkeep, both of whom are instrumental in the events that follow.

The spotlight-hating, funny, self-deprecating Tanser Girl is a likable character. With a Board of Superheroes and rules that apply to the different levels of superheroes, the story also gives us some background on the politics of saving lives. I thought these references added an interesting dimension to the book.

As much as I enjoyed the adventures of Tanser Girl, Frank, and Dwighter, the novella felt a little incomplete to me. It stops abruptly and seems more of a teaser to a fuller work than a stand-alone story. Lucky for us there’s more to the story in a second superhero book, The Original Superheroes.

The Backup Superhero and other works by Hicks can be found on her website: https://kayla-hicks.com/

Hicks has also written a young adult romance novel, Anywhere Else. My review of Anywhere Else is available here: https://bookpicksandpics.com/2021/09/04/anywhere-else-by-kayla-hicks/

Cousin Calls by Zeb Haradon

A barn sitting in a grassy field with a blue clouded sky overhead.

What a wild and weird book! Cousin Calls is a series of vignettes that all start with a call from a cousin. The stories are recalled sitting around in a bar when several patrons are stuck there during a winter storm. 

The exaggerated, satirical writing style is reminiscent of how a story that is retold repeatedly grows bigger and more unbelievable with each retelling.

Some of the stories were a little strange and sexually graphic for my taste, and some were more interesting than others.

At the same time, there was something bizarrely compelling about Cousin Calls. I kept thinking as I read that I will most likely never encounter another book like this one, so kudos to the author for originality.

As someone with tons of cousins I adore, this book might make me think twice next time I see a cousin show up on my caller id.

I received a free e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Cousin Calls and other books by Haradon can be found on the author’s website.

The Moon of Lycca by Anne Winchell

5 stars

“As soon as she stopped, a growl behind her reminded her that she was not alone.”

Anne Winchell, The Moon of Lycca
The cover of The Moon of Lycca displayed on an e-reader. The e-readers is surrounded by green ivy.
The Moon of Lycca by Anne Winchell

Winchell’s novella, The Moon of Lycca, is a fast-moving space saga. Mei is attempting to rescue two colonists when her glider crashes in a remote area of a dangerous planet. Armed with a limited supply of ammo, the small-framed peacekeeper must find a way to survive the perils she encounters in the darkness.

Winchell packs a lot of action and meaning into this 28-page novella. With her determination, resourcefulness, and adaptability, Mei pulls the reader in and quickly demonstrates why she shouldn’t be underestimated. I appreciated the novella’s message about women’s empowerment.

I was already a fan of Winchell’s writing and this novella left me wanting to read more of her works.

The Moon of Lycca is available for purchase on Amazon.

The Kill Switch by J.E. Clarkson

4 out of 5 stars

Clarkson keeps the adrenaline pumping in The Kill Switch, the third installment in her dystopian, techno-thriller series. The short, action-filled chapters keep the suspense high as the nameless main character known only as The Cleaner and her allies continue to fight against the evils of Stella and Nemo & Co. 

The Kill Switch by J.E. Clarkson

Leaping in where The Ghost Society ends, the book revisits some familiar themes and scenes present in the first book, while adding a political element reaching the highest levels of power. We also get a teaser for the fourth book with references to a parcel of documents labeled Dark Cygnet.

In addition to the fast pacing and endless curves, I enjoy the observations like, “They say you don’t hear the bullet that kills you,” which are present in Clarkson’s writing. Her astute metaphors also keep me engaged. One example: “I felt a bit like I was taking a slow walk into hell and the soles of my feet were beginning to burn.”

These books are definitely written to be read in order, not as interchangeable stand-alones. So, if this review sounds intriguing, and you haven’t read the first book in the Nemo and Co. series yet, do yourself a favor and download it today. You will quickly start to see why Clarkson has her own category on this blog.

As for me, I will be devouring The Dark Cygnet Files, the next in the series, as soon as I can.

Clarkson’s books are available on Amazon.

The Sky Looked the Same by Marissa Dike

4 out of 5 stars

The cover of The Sky Looks the Same displayed on an e-reader placed on a pink and blue blanket.

Set 60 years in the future, The Sky Looked the Same is told through the main character Mia’s diary entries. After defending her friends turns into a violent situation, sixteen-year-old Mia is sentenced to 30 years for her crimes.

However, in the world Dike has created, instead of serving time, convicts have time taken away from them by undergoing an aging process. Readers follow the first year of Mia’s life after her sentencing. 

Through its exploration of aging, death, and the human need for love, friendship, and forgiveness, this memorable book can be depressing at times (despite its cheery yellow cover). The short journal entry storytelling style helped keep the heavy story moving at a good pace. I also appreciated the poetry that is interspersed throughout the book. 

I fell in love with Dike’s writing style after reading her debut work, Liam’s Town. Her writing has an incredible depth and vulnerability to it that was also present in this novel.

One of the lines from The Sky Looked the Same that resonated with me was about how much an individual can endure in their lifetime. “It’s just a reminder that even strong things can break,” she writes.

The book has some triggering content, including references to a racial slur and rape/incest.

Marissa Dikes books are available for purchase through her website, www.writingmarissa.com.

Thank you to the author and to BookSirens for providing a free e-ARC. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Between the Birches: Awakening

The e-book Between the Birches displayed on an ipad propped on an ivy-covered tree.
Between the Birches: Awakening

Between the Birches: Awakening opens with Beth, her husband Tom, and their best friend, Grady heading on a camping trip in the Appalachian mountains to celebrate Beth’s 25th birthday. Shortly after they arrive, the trio unexpectedly encounters two of Tom and Grady’s old friends, and the trip quickly turns into a nightmare.

Told from multiple points of view, Between the Birches is an imaginative, unpredictable, genre-bending story. From cults to forest beasts to magic, this book weaves in a little bit of everything – and it works. Throughout the book, I honestly had no idea who or what was lurking on the next page.

Like all good horror stories, there were several moments, especially early in the story, when I wanted to grab the characters and scream, “Turn around” or “No. Don’t go there!” There is also an unusual love triangle that is responsible for a lot of tense and tender moments. All three of the main characters are relatable in their own way, though Tom was my favorite.

As a side note, I enjoyed that there were a few references to my home state of North Carolina (although, after reading, I don’t think I’ll be going into any forests on the NC/Tenn border any time soon!). 

The book ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, setting us up for the next installment in the series. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing what the future holds for this crew.

Thank you to K.P. Roberson for providing a free e-ARC. The views expressed in this review are entirely my own.

Between the Birches: Awakening, featuring a new cover design, will be available through Amazon in May 2022.