Guest Review: Vortex Street

Misc.

Guest Review by: Kailey Tedesco

Kailey Tedesco is the author of She Used to be on a Milk Carton (April Gloaming Publishing), Lizzie, Speak (White Stag Publishing), and the forthcoming collection, FOREVERHAUS. She is a senior editor for Luna Luna Magazine. You can find her work featured in Electric Literature, Black Warrior Review, Fairy Tale Review, and more.

For further information, please visit kaileytedesco.com

The Review

Let Yourself be Swept into Heather H. Thomas’ Vortex Street

In a labyrinth, a vortex represents a choice. You’re in the center of a maze. You’re spiraling. You’re confused. All passageways say “exit”, but you know it’s not that easy. You must choose or else find yourself back where you started.

In Heather H. Thomas’ Vortex Street (FutureCycle Press), the reader is guided on a temporal journey through memory and witness where all paths lead back to the starting point, and the starting point is in a constant state of manifesting new paths to follow. All that are lost are eventually found, but the found will then continue to re-seek lostness dutifully. It is a collection that begs the reader to question the comfort of nostalgia so that the entirety of the self might be viewed objectively. In the ekphrastic poem “Voyage” inspired by Magritte’s “L’Evidence Eternelle”, Thomas writes:

As though parts of a body can suggest

            what is missing, a child and her father

sing open a spot where the parts

            reassemble and walk forward,

carrying themselves.

The speaker of these poems is acutely aware of & influenced byher ancestors, both biological and spiritual. She conjures apologies and confessions from deceased or missing relatives in order to create closure so as to continue the path of understanding the self in relation to those who surround her. In “Letter My Father Never Sent Me”, the poet writes: “All those years you were just across the bridge. You had a new / father, new name. Why interfere? How could I, having failed to give /your mother a cent” and later, “Look, there’s a war going / on. People getting killed by the hundred thousand, guys sweating it out / learning life, death, and God in the air…”

By adopting the persona of an absent father, the speaker exercises an act of empathy crucial to this collection as a whole. By removing the self from the self, the speaker briefly rectifies her relationship with her father by examining the possible trauma that may have led to him causing further pain. This insistence on interconnectedness is vital & woven into every poem. Further, the poet interrogates the way place and upbringing inform our ideas of family. In the poem “Pagoda”, Thomas writes:

            A poet becomes emperor of ice cream

and my parents split. The closed door where

a poem takes the place of a mountain.

Closed door that takes the place of my father.

Through masterful language & tone, the poem makes a direct allusion to the poet Wallace Stevens and then immediately ties this allusion to the speaker’s own familial background. Throughout the book and in the Notes section, it becomes clear that the poet briefly lived in the home where Stevens was born in Reading, PA.  Later, this same poem reads:

            I’m attached to my father because

his body was conjoined with my mother’s

before he was erased and

            When he died, we did not separate.

I am not this thing a hungry ghost

with my neck as thin as a needle’s eye

and my stomach the size of a mountain —

This home is then a place atavism for the speaker. The inhabitants behind the closed door of the house, in both past and present, inform her identity and her desire to understand the voices and ghosts of those who surround her as a way to insist that she is not a ghost herself. She is working on her own story through the stories of others. Here, to understand the past’s mingling with the present is to understand the significance of life.

And while this childhood home certainly holds significance, this collection also rejects the idea of home as a place. Instead, home becomes the practice of conjuring memory and bearing witness to all other existence. Vortex Street is also not a home, but a place to be visited or passed through. It seems to exist along the river of the speaker’s geographical upbringing, but it is also a place where the speaker “follow[s] the map / of your voice / divergent, convergent” and finds that those who inhabit Vortex Street have “defeated old ghosts / and stayed.”

These words come from one of six postcards from Vortex Street, each dated with no year. However, this particular postcard shares a date with a previous one: 4/13. The first of these April 13th poems reads: “The trees are for you, / the whole of their wideness // blooming magnolia.” In this haiku, the poet communicates succinct images suggesting growth and spring. Yet, on the later April 13th postcard, perhaps from the same day or perhaps from years before or after, there is a lack of trees — only darkness and ghosts. Something has been lost and so it becomes imperative to “[find] a flashlight and [go] / looking for [ghosts] again.”

Ghosts haunt the pages of Thomas’s collection. Sometimes they are guiding and sometimes they cautionary. In the poem “Oblivion”, the poet writes:

            Stone faces in my house tell their harrowing stories:

I got out but I lost my wife.

The men forced my son to watch. I never saw him again.

I crawled from a ravine where they’d thrown a pile of bodies.

Here, survivors of war and immeasurable pain speak of their trauma. They testify as the speaker listens, sometimes recording their stories in her “reporter’s notebook.” All of these stories become woven into the walls of the many homes the speaker inhabits and into the very infrastructure of the poems the writer records. The aforementioned poem continues: “Inside, the living / room brims with fish and fresh water. Everyone is coming in to eat, / drink, live on in the space after I disappear.”

A book of knowing and clairvoyance, Vortex Street is a testament to the existence of the living and the dead. It is a collection about survival through an examination of those who survive to tell our stories. It is a reminder that even behind closed doors, there are others witnessing our stories, recording them, validating our existence through understanding, even if that understanding is “Brief as a negative / held to the light.”

Thomas is a phenomenal poet, and so naturally Vortex Streets is a phenomenal collection that blends varying structures and language that is reflective of both modernist and contemporary sensibilities. Through a voice uniquely her own, Thomas weaves each striking image into the reader’s body & bones so that all who engage with this work are swept into the vortex, joining the chorus of prophetic and reflective voices that echo in this collection.

Heather H. Thomas is the author of six poetry collections, including Practicing Amnesia, twice a finalist in the National Poetry Series; Resurrection Papers; and Blue Ruby. Her honors include a Rita Dove Poetry Prize and a Gertrude Stein Award in Innovative American Poetry. Thomas’s poems have been translated into seven languages, including Arabic, Hebrew, Lithuanian, and Spanish. An award-winning teacher, Thomas is devoted to sharing the creative and healing power of poetry. She lives in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Guest Review: Arcatraissa

Book Reviews, Guest reviewer
*** Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. ***

 

Arcatraissa.jpg

 

“And then the king of faeries whispered a private goodbye to his human love and disappeared into the trees. ” – Lacy Sheridan, Arcatraissa

 

Arcatraissa Review

By: Stephanie

 

**BE WARNED – CONTAINS SPOILERS**

Arcatraissa by Lacy Sheridan is a standalone young adult novel that demonstrates how limitations in life are directly related to the depth of one’s curiosity.  Arcatraissa by Lacy Sheridan features Cassie, a quiet yet determined young woman with a love for reading.  While visiting her dying estranged aunt, Cassie unearths an eccentric leather-bound book written in an indecipherable language.  From her initial observations, it appears to be a well-loved fantasy novel, complete with unusual illustrations and handwritten comments.  Unable to quiet her overactive imagination, Cassie questions her aunt about the distinctive manuscript; fearing it is nothing more than the ramblings of a delusional woman.

Instead, to her disbelief, Cassie’s aunt relays an extraordinary tale of Arcatraissa, an elusive underground kingdom that governs the world’s population of faeries.  While the very existence of faeries has long been considered legend, only existing in children’s fairy tales, the mythological creatures that reside in Arcatraissa are not what their famous fictional counterparts would lead you to believe.  Rather than embrace human kind, these faeries fear human beings for their notorious prejudice and violence towards the unknown.  They avoid human contact at all costs, even forcing the human realm to be considered off-limits to all faery citizens.

However, among this frightened faery population, there lives a faery prince who does not conform to his people’s principles; a prince that believes the human population is rather intriguing, not dangerous.  As an open-minded outcast among this rather close-minded society, this faery prince evades punishment by secretly visiting the human realm and its inhabitants; preferring to risk everything to admire the human world’s natural beauty rather than safely observing the unchanging scenery of his kingdom.  Through these various unsanctioned trips to the human world, the faery prince and Cassie’s aunt form an unlikely friendship; a relationship of knowledge and trust that later involves the prince giving Cassie’s aunt the strange volume detailing the history of his faery kingdom.

As her aunt concludes her anecdote, Cassie is left reeling; trying to process what she has just learned.  Is what she said true?  Does a secret faery kingdom really exist?  As she wanders her aunt’s gardens, contemplating the validity of her aunt’s words, she runs into a familiar stranger; a stranger that has only resided in her aunt’s outlandish tales until now, the faery prince himself.  Unbeknownst to Cassie, this chance encounter with the faery prince will set her on the journey of a lifetime; complete with adrenaline-filled lows and heart-racing highs.

Arcatraissa by Lacy Sheridan depicts the story of two individuals; a human teenage girl named Cassie and an ancient faery prince named Tae.  Both of these characters have separate fulfilling lives, but when they come together and combine their intelligence and life-experience, they are a force to be reckoned with.  However, before their dynamic relationship can be analyzed, we must first understand the driving forces behind their partnership, their personalities.  As our heroine of the novel, Cassie is first depicted as a shy yet eccentric young woman.  As an only child with a love for fictional worlds, Cassie’s parents worry about her tendencies to daydream; worrying that her future will follow the same path as her delusional aunt.

For instance, when Cassie first discovers the ancient novel depicting tales of mythological creatures, her parents quickly warn her against it; claiming it is unsuitable reading.  Despite her parent’s wishes, Cassie’s unrelenting curiosity forces her to continue exploring the book’s history.  When her investigation leads her to her aunt’s bedside, Cassie interrogates her aunt regarding the books’ origin story.  However, in the eyes of her parents, Cassie is simply ‘encouraging’ her aunt’s delusions, which only increases her parents’ fear for their daughter’s sanity.  Worried that she is toeing the line between reality and fantasy, her parents forbid her from visiting her aunt alone.  Regardless of the overwhelming opposition, Cassie continues to follow her curiosity.  She stays determined to learn the truth.

In fact, Cassie’s persistence and determination are further highlighted later in the novel, when she helps Tae investigate the disappearance of his sister.  Prior to their first encounter, Tae snuck his younger sister to the human realm to help her escape the kingdom’s walls.  As they are playing hide-and-seek, Tae runs into Cassie.  During these moments, Tae becomes distracted and loses track of his sister.  As time progresses, and with his sister is still missing, Tae begins to worry that something has happened to his sister.  With a recent string of disappearances in Arcatraissa, Tae is desperate; he frantically searches, looking anywhere and everywhere, and eventually employs Cassie’s help.  Since Cassie is not one to turn away a friend in need, Cassie happily accepts.  As she dives into the case, she begins to realize that there might be a faery hunter in their midst.  And her number one suspect is one of her family’s friends.

This deceptive suspect, commonly known as her aunt’s childhood friend, first introduced himself during a surprise family dinner.  Cassie’s initial impression of the man wasn’t anything noteworthy.  Rather, she was discomforted by his overall unnerving demeanor.  His unsettling presence and constant interrogation about Cassie’s ‘extracurricular’ activities left Cassie with a sore taste in her mouth.  However, when she discovers that he is in possession of fabric eerily similar to faery silk, Cassie’s suspicions proved to be on-point.  The only way this man would have faery silk was if he was in the business of trading the highly coveted item.  Therefore, even if this man is not the perpetrator, then he will have inside knowledge on the trading business, which can lead them to the true mastermind behind the kidnappings.

With Cassie’s relentless investigation and determination to right this wrong, Cassie was able to discover the truth behind the missing fae.  Overall, Cassie is a great character that effortlessly demonstrates that there is more to a person that what their initial impression will lead you to believe.  From the beginning, Cassie is introduced as an introverted individual who prefers reading than the company of others.  However, as the story progresses and as Cassie portrays her true identity, it is evident that Cassie may be shy, but she is also courageous, intelligent, and resourceful.  Without her, the story would have been bland.

Another important character in Arcatraissa is Tae, the faery prince.  Upon the audience’s first introduction, Tae is portrayed as the restless prince; awaiting his coronation to commence in order to be free to initiate change in the kingdom.  Tae is also depicted as rebellious through his indifference towards the kingdom’s laws; constantly breaking them to escape to his human realm sanctuary.  Once his mistakes have been revealed, losing his sister while in the human realm, his mother, the queen, relinquishes his right to inherit the crown.  In other words, his punishment for his irresponsible behavior is losing the thing he has been training for his whole life.  While this particular development would be upsetting to anyone, Tae handles it exceptionally well.  He understands his mistakes and is devoted to righting his wrongs.

Granted, he does have some hostile thoughts towards his mother but in all, he remains calm.  His composure and resolve during this sequence of events greatly demonstrates Tae’s character.  His determination to fix his mistakes without escalating to violence or emotional silence is commendable for a faery in their teenage years.  His actions just further prove how fit he is to be king.  Another aspect of Tae’s personality is his compassion.  He genuinely cares for other people, his fellow faery citizens and more.  One instance where his compassion is highlighted is when Cassie and Tae formulate a plan to rescue his sister.  The plan involves Cassie being bait; luring the suspect into a false sense of comfort so that he will reveal where the faeries are hidden.

With no previous experience, Cassie is nervous; can she really lure this person into believing her?  Tae, seeing her hesitation and not wanting to inconvenience her, gives Cassie an out.  He communicates with Cassie that if she is uncomfortable with her role, then she can walk away; with no consequences and without his perception of her changing.  In other words, he senses her anxiety and does not want to force her into a situation where it would cause her discomfort or place her in harm’s way.  Tae’s amplified regard for other people and their feelings is a great personality trait for a soon-to-be-king.  He sees the importance of others creatures and their overall wellbeing.  However, Tae also knows when punishment is due.  In the same situation, where Tae and Cassie are saving the kidnapped faeries, Tae punishes the perpetrator once they discover the cages of faeries in his basement.  He loses control once he sees his fellow faeries in such deplorable circumstances.  While his affinity for violence in this situation is questionable, his sense of justice is sensible.  In all, Tae is an inspiring character with many qualities fit for a king, compassion, strength, bravery, and justice.

Throughout the events of Arcatraissa, Cassie and Tae individually evolve into stronger characters.  The same can also be said of their relationship; as time progresses, their relationship takes on different forms and, eventually, mean something more to both.  In the beginning, their relationship was just a partnership.  They both were interested in learning more about the other and their world.  Essentially, their curiosity was driving their relationship.  Then, when Cassie and Tae were caught up in investigating the case of the missing fae, their relationship took a different meaning.  While solving this mystery, they began to depend on each other; they found comfort in the other’s presence due to their shared experiences.

During this phase, they also developed feelings for the other; they realized that they genuinely cared for each other, physically and mentally.  This is evident when Tae puts aside his desire to rescue his sister to protect Cassie’s emotional wellbeing.  On the flip side, it is also evident when Cassie puts aside her discomfort for her impending situation in order to help Tae release his sister.  Then, when Cassie and Tae are in the middle of the faery power upheaval, their relationship turned into something more.  When Cassie realizes that Tae is out fighting alone, she escapes her safe zone and looks for him.  She cannot stand not knowing what is happening to him.  She is frantic with worry over his wellbeing.  On the other side, once Tae realizes that Cassie is out in the middle of the fighting, he loses focus.  His attention quickly turns to ensuring she stays safe.  Finally, at the end of the novel, once the fighting and crime-solving has ended, Tae and Cassie get a well-deserved break.

This moment of peace allows for them to come to terms with their feelings.  Once they realize that there may be something more serious to the feelings brewing between them, they face each other and share a rather romantic moment.  Unfortunately, due to the numerous differences between the two, their romance will never reach past the beginning stages.  In other words, essentially, both Cassie and Tae experience the joy of finding love and the pain of losing it within the span of a summer.

Overall, Arcatraissa was a fabulous read; I was hooked from page one.  The characters were expertly portrayed; the plot, while a tab predictable, was suspenseful nonetheless.  I still find myself flabbergasted by the series of events that lead to (SPOILERS) the queen’s death.  After constant hatred towards the humans and her quick dismissal of Cassie, it was heartwarming yet devastating to see the queen sacrifice herself to save Cassie from the thug cornering her.  Also, I genuinely wish there was a different outcome for Tae and Cassie; their relationship would have been interesting to see play out.  Reading the last line of the novel broke my heart; the promise of ‘what could have been’ leaving behind a lingering sadness.  In all, if you are looking for a fun, quick, and gripping read, be sure to check out Arcatraissa by Lacy Sheridan.

 

Arcatraissa by Lacy Sheridan was published on September 14, 2018.  To discover this magical world of fantasies and faeries, follow the links below:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Book Depository

 

Visit Lacy Sheridan’s website here.

 

 

My Rating: 4/5

Guest Review: The Silver Queen

Book Reviews, Guest reviewer
*** Disclaimer: I received an ARC in exchange for a free and honest review. All opinions are my own. ***

“Fairytales lied all the time, she knew that. She’d experienced it too, much to her regret.” – Josie Jaffrey, The Silver Queen

The Silver Queen.jpg

The Silver Queen Review

 

The Gilded King left us a new world in pieces. The Silver Queen shows that with rebellion comes sacrifice. If there’s a common theme throughout this sequel it’s that the stakes are higher. The lines are blurry and as my favorite show quotes again and again, “there are no good guys.”

 

The Blue is crumbling, the royals have lost control. After the events of The Gilded King very few humans survived. Claudia and Julia are at a loss for what to do so they hide out, sorting through the mess that was once their home. If there is one character I dislike it’s Claudia. Julia plans to find out what life in The Red is like, since her world is now as foreign as the outside. But Claudia still holds her back.

 

Once the dust clears Julia is left alone in the blue. Believing Lucas abandoned her once the fighting was done, she tries to pick up whatever pieces of her shattered life she can. But this wasn’t a fight, it was a battle to ignite the war. One that will change the blue and Julia’s world as they know it.

 

The humans have been taught fear, to live afraid of the red, afraid of those who were contaminated. But after the night that they’re island fell apart, Julia is beginning to question the truth. She wonders if the fairytales Lucas told her may hold some truth for humans, and instilled fear in the royals they were intended for.

 

I can’t give too much away without spoiling the twists and turns of this awesome sequel. But I can tell you about the characters and for me how much they grew.

 

Julia was my favorite in The Gilded King, and continued to be my favorite in the sequel as well. She soared past her flaws with every chapter of this book and grew into an even stronger, more confident, young woman who realizes that she doesn’t have to belong to anyone. She doesn’t have to spend her life as a server, as a human who’s only worth her blood to the royals. She can be her own master and there is a life for her other than serving.

 

“It was the fairytales’ fault that she’d almost believed he would stay for her, and it was the fairytales’ fault that her raft was a mess.”

 

And Lucas. I kept waiting for him to appear, to prove me and Julia wrong in thinking he just decided to abandon her after saving her more than once. She wears his silver and well, he has good reason to run. To hesitate over the fate of a life with the girl who was supposed to be nothing more than his attendant, his food if you will. Lucas’s story merged with Cam and his band of rebels, bringing the characters together and connecting dots we didn’t know needed connected.

 

The most shocking of this all is the fact that I grew to enjoy Cam and his chapters. Cam is more complex in this story. He’s afraid of his feelings for Felix, afraid of Felix. That’s not something you see normally with vampires; their vulnerability. Because their budding romance is no longer at that stage of infatuation. Cam realizes they don’t know each other, he starts to question if he can trust him the way he originally thought he could.

 

Felix is a mystery, one unraveled throughout the story. When you find out his motive, his own secret, everything makes sense as to why he’s with Cam and why he wants so badly for Cam to be with him.

 

“Silvering. The magic that happened when the Nobles fell in love. She’d thought it was just a fairytale, and Lucas hadn’t been so sure himself, but he’d still told her the story of when the King had fallen in love with the Queen.”

 

Another refreshing aspect of this story is that even the royals aren’t prepared for what they unleash into their world. Their rebellion was bringing back their long lost queen, to have the world in which they remembered, those who are hundreds of years old. But they didn’t realize what they were bargaining for. They learn, along with us, that sometimes stories are better left written than brought to life.

 

When I start a series, I usually always like the first book best. It’s the setting up of a world, getting to know characters. Most first books are character oriented and that’s my favorite aspect of any series, especially fantasy. But with this series I have to say I enjoyed The Silver Queen even more than I enjoyed The Gilded King.

 

Maybe I’m a sucker for slow burns (okay yes I admit it I am) but even with Lucas and Julia separated I was on the edge of my seat. Cheering for Julia to grow, cheering for Cam to admit his feelings for Felix, waiting for Lucas to find Julia again. We learned what it means to be contaminated and why the royals essentially created the island of Blue to keep from tainting their supply of blood.

 

The stakes were so much higher and so much more character driven. This sequel didn’t let me down. This sequel reveals so many secrets, so many twists and turns, but still leaves doors open for a third. I for one cannot wait to see where all the characters ends up in the world that is nothing like the one we started with.

 

The Silver Queen comes out tomorrow!

 

Guest Review: The Replacement

Book Reviews, Guest reviewer, Misc.
*** Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. ***

 

 

“I broke a Lymerian law, and now I’m going to die.” – Bianca Sierra-Luebke, The Replacement

 

The Replacement Review

By: Stephanie

 

**BE WARNED – CONTAINS SPOILERS**

The Replacement by Bianca Sierra-Luebke is the first installment in a brand new young adult series that showcases the various consequences of transcending humanity.  The Replacement by Bianca Sierra-Luebke features Angelica, a strong-willed young woman caught in a series of unfortunate events.  Following a year of living in the shadows, Angelica and her Lymerian boyfriend, Merrick, abruptly discover that their time together has come to an end as they lose their strategic advantage over their powerful enemies.  Recently apprehended, a defeated Angelica now finds herself trapped in an unforgiving dungeon, alone.  With only her thoughts to keep her company, Angelica fears that their fate can only be death.  Unfortunately, true to the infamous expression, Angelica should be careful what she wishes for.  When the time has come for their punishment to be served, Angelica is brought out before the entire society of Lymerians.  To her horror, she not only witnesses her boyfriend’s death, but she also learns of her fate, a fate worse than death; to become one of the Lymerians.  In that moment, Angelica’s life, her human life, is over; all her desires and dreams for the future vanish before her eyes.  All that remains is the Liturgy, otherwise known as the emotionally charged Lymerian transformation process.  Luckily, Angelica does not have to endure this inhuman revolution alone; with her newly bonded family’s guidance, Angelica navigates the turbulent seas of her unending physical and mental evolution.

The Replacement by Bianca Sierra-Luebke features a world of unique terms and ethereal influences.  As the reader first dips their toes into this fictional world, there is quite the learning curve.  It takes some time and patience to gain an understanding of the terminology, but once the lingo clicks, the story takes off.  The word with the most significance throughout the novel is Lymerian.  Essentially, Lymerians are Vampires.  They rely on blood for sustenance and have heighten senses, like hearing.  They have the potential for extra abilities based on their destiny and overall blood consumption.  They even have extended life expectancies.  However, contrary to typical Vampires, they are not immortal; they do have an expiration date, it just takes their bodies a lot longer to reach that point.

An additional variance between Lymerians and the normal Vampiric depiction is the conversion process.  For Lymerians, the evolution process is commonly known as Liturgy; Liturgy is another foreign term that is essential to understanding the overall plot.  Liturgy encompasses many different processes and emotional influences but commences when a human is chosen to become a Lymerian.  One of the first steps of the Liturgy is emotionally bonding the ‘newborn’ with a central mentor and two guards.  These connections deeply affect not only the ‘newborn’ but also the bonded Lymerians; they all feel a special sense of loyalty or kinsmanship to one another.

As the numerous responsibilities associated with the Liturgy settle on the group, emotions are expected to run high and actions to become uncontrollable.  These influences are also side effects of the Liturgy.  In my opinion, Liturgy is a sort of umbrella term that explains the various outcomes of the transformation process.  For instance, if Angelica is erratic and fighting her mentor, Clara, it is because of the Liturgy.  If Angelica’s guard falls in love with her, it is because of the Liturgy.  If Clara’s warrior attitude softens, it is because of the Liturgy.  While having a label for these experiences is beneficial, it also blurs the lines between what is normal Lymerian behavior and what is a result of the Liturgy.  Furthermore, with the novel being from both Angelica and Clara’s point of views, both also a part of the Liturgy, it is hard to grasp what exactly is expected of a Lymerian, one not experiencing Liturgy.  Regardless, The Replacement weaves a fantastic tale of unique elements complete with compelling characters.

While The Replacement depicts Angelica’s evolution from human to Lymerian, it also features Clara, the architect/mentor of Angelica’s Liturgy.  Through the dual point of views, the audience gains insight into not only both sides of the Liturgy but also the personalities of both characters.  As previously mentioned, Angelica was essentially forced into the Liturgy; captured for being on the run with a runaway Lymerian.  However, despite her circumstances, Angelica fights through her situation with ease.  She thinks through her decisions, evaluates her options, and ultimately survives on her intelligence.  Angelica even handles the numerous “truth bombs” thrown her way with relative grace.  One such reveal was the fact that Angelica’s punishment, to become a Lymerian, was planned all along.

In the society of Lymerians, when one Lymerian dies, another must take their place.  And, since Merrick died as a Lymerian, Angelica must take his place.  However, as if that wasn’t twisted enough, it is later revealed that the mastermind behind this plan was Merrick.  He wanted to end his time as a Lymerian but knew he would need to offer up a replacement.  As a result, Merrick tricked Angelica into not only loving him but also running away; forcing his plan into action.  As Angelica learns of these revelations, Angelica is rightfully pissed.  Merrick manipulated her for his own gain.  However, as she learns that only people with Lymerian blood can survive the Liturgy, she begins to realize that maybe this was her destiny all along.  Maybe something good can come from this.  After being an orphan all her life, she can finally begin to understand where she came from.  This is also a chance for her to take control of her own life; no more letting others dictate who she is.  Through her actions and overall demeanor, it is evident that Angelica is a determined and courageous young woman.  In the face of betrayal and pain, she does not flinch, she meets the challenges head on.

As there are always two sides of the same coin, the same can also be said for Liturgy.  The other side of the Liturgy “coin” is Clara.  Clara is Angelica’s architect or mentor throughout Liturgy.  She is the Lymerian who, essentially, is in charge of ensuring Angelica’s transformation goes smoothly for not only Angelica herself but also for her fellow Liturgy family (the two guards).  Luckily, Clara has experience in strategic decision making as she is the Vegar of the Slayers.  In other words, she is the commander to the military of the Lymerians.  With her powerful position, Clara is skilled in not only fighting and military strategy, but she is also trained in leadership.  She employs her expertise in these areas while navigating the uncertain terrain that is the Liturgy.  For instance, Clara uses tough love and persistence while preparing Angelica for her upcoming examination; an examination that determines what Angelica’s role as a Lymerian will be.  Clara also constantly evaluates Angelica’s progress and attitude in respect to a newly appointed Slayer.  She holds Angelica to Slayer standards even with the possibility that she will not be categorized as a Slayer.  Her insistence on ‘raising’ Angelica with the Slayer influence demonstrates her undying loyalty to the Slayers as well as her high expectations for Angelica.  Since Clara believes that the Slayers are the best, it is rational of her to expect her Votary, Angelica, to be the best through the teachings of a Slayer.  Either way, through her obvious reliance on the Slayers, Clara exhibits her discomfort for her new situation and responsibility.  However, it also displays her humanity; a supposedly inhuman creature is unsure of the changes she is enduring.  In all, Clara is a fierce warrior who prides herself on her work as the Slayer’s Vegar.  However, with the Liturgy influence, Clara’s attitude softens as she begins to care for not only Angelica but also for her fellow Liturgy family.

The Replacement by Bianca Sierra-Luebke was an entertaining read.  At certain moments, it felt as if the story was dragging; always debating the next steps for Angelica’s progression or revisiting Angelica’s memories with her adopted family.  However, the story made up for those slow moments with the various mind-blowing reveals further into the tale.  Specifically, in the last chapter, there is an impending reveal that closes out the story.  Without any answers, the reader is left wanting more.  When I read the last sentence, I flipped to the next page and was flabbergasted to find the end.  How could it just stop there?  As any normal reader experiencing a cliffhanger, I then proceeded to devise possible resulting scenarios, all attempting to answer that huge cliffhanger.  Overall, The Replacement, while confusing at times, was a fast and enjoyable read.  The unique race of species, the complex characters, and the twisted plot all come together to create this compelling novel.

 

The Replacement by Bianca Sierra-Luebke was published on August 5, 2018.

Discover your destiny among the Lymerians with the links below:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Book Depository

 

Visit Bianca Sierra-Luebke’s website / blog here.

 

My Rating: 3.5/5

Guest Review: One Nation

Book Reviews, Guest reviewer, Misc.
***Disclaimer: All Opinions Expressed Are My Own.***

 

 one nation cover.jpg

“Did you ever experience Hell?” – Michael Leslie Karnes, One Nation

 

One Nation

By: Lindsey

One Nation is a futuristic thriller set in America.  Following the Second American Revolution, America is now under the grip of the Freedom Party and policed by the tyrannical National Police.  However, far from bestowing freedom, as the party title would have you believe, under the party rules basic civil rights and liberties have been curtailed with citizens being divided into class segregation and their movements monitored by use of an identity chip. Food is rationed and meat especially, is a scarcity.  The protagonist of the story, Jennifer Hanson, “a society type,” is one of the lucky ones.  Married to Matt, a political operative of the Freedom Party, although her lifestyle is repressed compared to others, she is one of the more fortunate ones.

This all goes awry though when she attends a lavish dinner party with Matt.   Her friend’s father, Attorney David Lewis, an outspoken advocate for the what is considered an “outdated” concept of Democracy frowned upon by the Freedom Party, engages in conversation with a leader.  However, his comments soon upset the prestigious guest for whom the dinner party is for.  His remarks, although honest, are interpreted as sedition and David is arrested soon after.  Yet, this is detrimental to Jennifer as under the regime, everyone associated or friends with David and his family, comes under suspicion. As Jennifer is a childhood friends with David’s daughter, Maggie, she is unfairly implicated and brought under investigation.

When Maggie confides to Jennifer her plan to escape to Cuba with the help of the mysterious Diablo5, after her father “disappears” Jennifer finds herself under scrutiny.  In the aftermath of Maggie’s departure, she is brought in for questioning about her friend’s whereabouts and is interrogated by Chief Inspector Jennings, a man who gets off on torturing his victims. Jennifer suffers incredibly brutal injuries through his cross examination and fears for her life.  She is duly her released, when her husband calls in favours but her nightmare is just beginning.  Jennifer’s finds her life in peril. Shunned by the Freedom Party, watched by the police, her status is demoted and she is denied privileges.

In desperation, Jennifer hatches a plan to vanish with her husband, like Maggie.  She remembers her friend’s plea to look for Diablo5 to enable this and is lead into a shady world of the rebel underground.  The couple decide to flee and go on the run with the enigmatic people smuggler.  Yet, they find they are soon labelled as fugitives with a bounty on their head and pursued by the Police, led by the evil Chief Inspector Jennings, who is determined to settle a score.  Jennifer finds that there is no way back and her life as she knew it is now just a memory.  But with a price on her head, no guarantee of safety and a sadistic cop wanting revenge, Jennifer is plunged into dangerous territory, at the mercy of dubious people who have their own agenda and whose motives are not always based on trust…

What to say about this book?  It was well plotted and a very exciting read which kept the reader on the edge of their seat throughout.  It reminded me of George Orwell’s 1984: the society which is depicted is ruled by an extremely domineering regime and those who fail to adhere to its command find themselves facing brutal consequences or even death.  There were some really intense scenes in the novel.  Jennifer was a very strong, fiery protagonist whose character changes incredibly through the course of the book:  at first, she is a privileged wife of a party member but as she goes on the run, her life changes inexplicably and she has to draw on inner strength to face the violence and carnage she witnesses.

The book really had some heart in your mouth moments and Chief Inspector Jennings was a particularly vile and odious character who possessed the traits of a zealous dominator, determined to mete out punishment.  The scenes between Jennifer and him were extremely cruel and although fierce, were nevertheless powerfully compelling.    This book really made you think and was a very realistic and insightful portrayal of what it would mean to individuals if such a tyrannical and unjust system was ever to be implemented.  Wonderful entertainment and with a very unexpected conclusion, this is definitely worth a read.

***However, due to the sexual and violent content, would not recommend for a younger audience.

Rating: 4/5

 

 

 

 

Guest ARC Review: City of Ghosts

Book Reviews, Guest reviewer
***Disclaimer: All opinions are my own.***

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City of Ghosts Review

By: Lexi

There’s an age old debate to if ghosts are real. Since there are theories upon theories about the spiritual afterlife, one of my favorite things is reading stories that features ghosts. You can create a world within our world and no one can tell you you’re wrong. Even if you’re a skeptic, there’s something fascinating about a world that exists after or even within our own.

My newest favorite story is City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab.

I was given an advance copy to ready by publisher in exchange for an honest review.

First I have to be honest and address the fact that last December I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Edinburgh Scotland. I truly believe I left half my heart and possibly my soul there. It’s a beautiful city and coming from Scottish and Irish descent I instantly felt at home. WIth that being said I was more than excited to get my hands on an early copy of this book.

Setting truly creates a story. I’ve never felt that to be more true than when I read this book.

We start by meeting Cassidy our eleven year old heroine, who lives in upstate New York. You could say she’s your typical eleven year old. She loves her vintage camera, she goes to school and tries to survive. Her parents are paranormal investigators. Her parents write books about the paranormal world for a living. Her mother writes the stories and her father checks the facts and the history.

She has a best friend, but this is where it diverges. Her best friend, is dead. He’s a ghost she met on the night that changed everything.

If we were in a comic book this would be our origin story. Some people get a spider bite, or a vat of acid. We got a river.”

The night she somehow crossed the veil and got stuck in between.

School is out for summer and Cassidy’s parents spring a surprise on her. Instead of lounging by the beach all summer, free of ghosts that constantly follow her, they’re going to shoot the pilot of their new reality show in….. Scotland!

“According to the weather app on my phone, Scotland’s definition of summer is cold and rainy with a chance of hail.”

Cassidy isn’t too happy. Mostly because it isn’t the beach. But also because Edinburgh is said to be one of the most haunted cities in the world. And she knows the pull she often feels, the ghosts who call to her and ask her to witness their stories, will be the worst it’s ever been in a city built on the dead.

She has no choice, so she packs her bags and after negotiating with Jacob for an allowance of five comic books to bring along, they set out on an adventure they never knew they’d find.

“By the time we step back out into the street, I am beaming. Edinburgh is officially my favorite place.”

A ghost story set in a place that’s crawling with ghosts is stunning. The history that can be found within her story is spectacular. The ghosts are made up, but the places Cassidy visits with her family are real. I don’t want to spoil too much for you, the adventure is truly one I never saw coming. Cassidy gets into trouble and like most tweens, she has her best friend to help her find her way out. But the trouble is bigger when urban legends prove to be true, and ghosts are real.

And you’re one of the only ones who can see them.

Victoria Schwab, who’s library spans from middle grade to young adult to adult science fiction, mesmerized me with this story. I haven’t read a book for this age since I was this age and I loved every moment. Cassidy is smart and solid. She has her flaws and she knows them. She reminded me a lot of my ten year old sister, and I’d like to believe myself when i was that age.

If you’ve never been to Edinburgh, you’ll feel like you have been after reading Victoria’s detailed and beautiful descriptions. She walks you down the cobblestone streets as if you have been there your entire life. You feel the enclosed space of Mary’s Kings Clothes and the true magic that is the Royal Mile. She paints the picture so vivid I was homesick for a place I’ve only been to once before.

I won’t spoil the story for you, because it’s an adventurous one. It’s got action, adventure, a heroine who knows what she wants but is also willing to learn. A best friend who has his own secrets and parents who truly love their daughter. Don’t let the genre “middle grade fiction” hinder you from picking up this book. Once you read that first sentence, you’ll be hooked.

It’s got everything you could want. A girl. A ghost best friend. A beautiful setting and a story that never gets boring. I for one, cannot wait for more.