Emma and the Minotaur by Jon Herrera

5 out of 5 stars

“There is a light inside you, Emma. Deep within. Faint and frail. Find it.”

Jon Herrera, Emma and the Minotaur
Photo by Flash Mama Photography

The first installment in Jon Herrera’s World of Light series, Emma and the Minotaur takes readers on a magical, fantastical journey. The main character, Emma Wilkins, is an eleven-year-old girl who lives on Belle Street with her father and brother, where her days are filled with going to school and interacting with her teachers and classmates.

She makes friends with Jake, a boy whose father has disappeared and her town’s mysterious forest becomes of interest as the two start searching for him. 

With her youthful innocence, loyalty to others, and determined spirit, Emma is an easy character to love. I was intrigued by her adventure, the secrets she uncovered, and the mystical creatures she met along the way. The book ends on a cliffhanger with the reader wanting to know more.

This review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the fantastic cover art. It is truly beautiful, with the cover of each book in the series even lovelier than the previous one.

Although I enjoyed this book as an adult, I would have loved to have read it with my daughter when she was younger. I highly recommend this book for adults and young people alike.

Entanglement by Alina Leonova

5 out of 5 stars

With implants, DNA edits, and human memory rewrites, the storyline in this dystopian read was beyond inventive. Cay, Limea, and Vietra are layered, unique characters, who become entangled in situations that kept me guessing throughout the book.

The circumstances that these well-developed characters face force the reader to confront the question of “What is the most fundamental element that makes a person who they are?” I was completely captivated by the different paths Limea and Vietra took to uncover their true selves.

Set in a world where plant life is beginning to threaten human life, the book manages to weave in important messages about environmental preservation.

Leonova does take the reader down a few rabbit holes, but the story is so mesmerizingly distinctive that I didn’t mind. I’m looking forward to seeing what she writes next!

Thank you to the author for providing a free review copy in exchange for my honest opinions.

The Ghost Beside Me by Lee Hall

4 out of 5 stars

“…what do you know of the forces that stretch beyond the boundaries of our own mortality?”

Lee Hall, The Ghost Beside Me

October is the perfect month for a ghost story. I learned about The Ghost Beside Me through the Twitter writing community.

With its enchanting cover, The Ghost Beside Me drew me in. Part ghost story and part love story, this beautifully written novella is about the lonely M. Neville and his quest for companionship.

Initially, I was a little thrown by the formal tone of the language, but it worked with the setting and the story. I appreciated the book’s overall message. I just wish it had been a little longer with more character development.

I’ve read other works by Lee Hall and he is a versatile writer. Bonus: Hall includes a sneak peek of The Teleporter in this book. I will be reading that one soon as well.

Stranded by Sarah Goodwin

4 out of 5 stars

I pre-ordered Stranded after seeing Twitter connection and Book Blogger Dawn Robinson post about it being one of her top reads this year. I’m so glad I did!

When botanist Maddy loses her parents, the only two people who have ever cared about her, she signs up to live for a year on a remote island with 7 strangers for a reality TV show. The show is similar to Survivor, but with harsher conditions and no competitions. Things start off well enough, but soon, the socially awkward Maddy finds herself outcast by the group.

This book was a fascinating study in human behavior, and all that can go wrong when people are trapped together, fighting for survival, and toxic groupthink ensues. 

The premise grabbed me from the beginning. The book itself built slowly, and then quickly picked up the pace. Once I got to the 40% mark, I literally stayed up all night to finish.

The book is told from Maddy’s perspective, and she is the most likable character among the 8 castaways. I related to her introverted, straightforward nature and thought she was a trustworthy narrator, which made it hard to understand why the others so turned on her. With no competitions or prize winners, the point of the TV show also wasn’t well established. Aside from these minor issues, this was a well-written, absorbing read.

I think this book is one my book club would enjoy. I will most certainly be on the lookout for Sarah Goodwin’s next novel.

The Humane Algorithm by Trevor Wynyard

4 out of 5 stars

The Humane Algorithm, a newly-released dystopian novel, is told from the perspective of Matt Turner, an older brother and father figure to Kevin. Matt lives with Kevin and his mother in a society where the government strictly regulates electricity and controls access to medical care. The Turners find themselves in desperate need of high level medical care when Matt discovers their mother is gravely ill.

The premise of this book was interesting to me, and I liked that it centered on a family of three. With his oldest child syndrome and deep love for his mother, Matt was a relatable protagonist.

Wynyard does an excellent job with world-building in this novel. I appreciated his descriptions of scenes, like when Matt and Kevin try to get their mother admitted to the government-run hospital. He gives enough detail for you to envision what’s happening without being too sparse or overly descriptive.

My quibbles with this book were minor. I would have liked more background about how society evolved to be the way it is described in the book. I also had a little bit of trouble following some of the family timelines — I couldn’t figure out how much older Matt was than Kevin. The ending also felt a little unresolved, though that’s likely because the reader is being set up for the next book in the Streetlighters Trilogy. The odds are good that I will read the second book in the series.

I received an ARC of this book through BookSirens in exchange for my honest review.

Anywhere Else by Kayla Hicks

4 out of 5 stars

Anywhere Else is my most recent book discovery from participating in the Twitter #writingcommunity. 

Self-reliant Leena, a pick-up truck driving young woman with an alcoholic mother, is the main character of this YA novel.

Through this story, we see Leena navigate romantic relationships, figure out how to live on her own, and learn how to trust others. I enjoyed reading Leena’s story. She is easy to connect with and you want to see where her journey goes. 

This book relies on the classic love triangle for much of its storyline but it is well done. To me, the book was like comfort food — it uses your favorite ingredients and satisfies your craving. It is not a life-changing book but it is charming and delivers on your expectations in a pleasing way. 

I will be reading another book by this author. In fact, I have already purchased a copy of her novella, The Back-Up Superhero.

Thank you to the author Kayla Hicks for providing a free ARC of Anywhere Else in exchange for my honest review.