Off Balance: Blitz

Off Balance
Aileen Erin
(Aunare Chronicles #2)
Published by: Ink Monster LLC
Publication date: February 11th 2020
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult

From USA Today Bestselling Author Aileen Erin comes the second book in the Aunare Chronicles.

Broken, beaten-down, and plagued by nightmares, Amihanna di Aetes is surrounded by the Aunare race that makes up the other half of her heritage, but she feels alien amongst them. She’s not sure which is worse: SpaceTech’s overt hatred of Aunare or the Aunare’s covert hatred of halfers. She hears their whispers whenever she enters a room and sees her death reflected in their eyes. Amihanna doesn’t know who to trust anymore, but she hasn’t survived this long by ignoring the warning signs all around her, especially when her instincts are screaming that a familiar choice is coming: flee or fight.

Her parents assure her everything is okay—that there won’t be any reason for her to fight, let alone flee—but with Amihanna’s sudden return, questions arise among the Aunare: who should be blamed for the start of a full-scale war with SpaceTech, how much danger will the war bring, and is Amihanna truly fit to be the next high queen?

Honestly, Amihanna wants to forget all the politics, her betrothal to Lorne, and the possibility of being queen. Her needs are much more basic. All she wants is a solid night’s sleep where she doesn’t wake up screaming with the phantom pain of her skin burning. All she needs is to live without fear of a mob tearing her away from her family. All she hopes for is a chance to dream of a future instead of constantly fighting for her right to live.

And yet, somehow, everything she does leads her back to Lorne. He always seems to know when she’s about to break under the pressures of her new life. His quiet patience is wearing Amihanna’s protective walls down, and she’s terrified of what will happen if they fall.

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EXCERPT:

“Let’s get this one thing straight—I’m not breaking our betrothal contract.” He stalked back to me. “Not now. Not ever. If you want to break it, then we’ll discuss it. They’ve talked a lot about our contract on the news, so I’m sure you have it in your head that I’m planning on breaking it. But I’m not. I haven’t brought it up because you’ve been dealing with enough. I was giving you time, but I’d marry you tomorrow if I thought you’d agree.”

Tomorrow? I had zero clue before this moment that he was completely insane. He couldn’t marry me, especially not tomorrow. I couldn’t be queen.

“What if I want to break our betrothal?” I wasn’t sure I did, but I wasn’t sure I didn’t either.

He strode quickly to me, knelt in front of my chair. I hugged my legs tighter to my chest, but he grabbed my ankles. “Look at me.”

I looked everywhere but him.

“Look at me, please.” He squeezed my ankles and let go. “Please.”

I blew out a breath and rested my chin on my knees so that I could meet his gaze. It was hard to really look at him. Every time I did, I wanted him more and more, and I wasn’t sure how much more I could want him without becoming completely addicted. It took everything in me not to wrap my arms around his neck and pull him to me.

He let go of one ankle and cupped my cheek. “Do you want to marry me?” He was using his low voice, the one that set my skin on fire.

My skin was so bright and my stomach fluttered and flipped and I forced myself to choke down my first immediate response. The dumb one that wanted to slide past my lips effortlessly. I couldn’t answer his question because I didn’t trust myself to give him the right answer. The one that made sense.

All signs of anger melted away from him. His back straightened, he held his head high, his fao’ana stopped flashing, and his skin dimmed a little.

But it was his smile that told me he knew exactly what I’d been thinking.

“This is where being your shalshasa comes into play. I’m as sensitive to frequencies as you are, but even more attuned to yours. I can feel your frequencies as your moods shift. Your immediate answer was going to be yes before you got scared.” He rose just a little, cupping my face with both his hands, and all I could see were his aquamarine eyes.

The color I associated with calm and safety. The color I’d painted the walls in my room on Earth so that I could feel more at home. The color I wanted to get lost in forever.

He brushed a soft kiss on my lips. It was quick, too quick, and it left me wanting more.

“Until you can say no—honestly and without stress—I’m going to assume your answer is yes, and that you just need more time. I don’t want fear to be a part of your decision. Okay?”

He leaned in for another kiss, and I wanted. I wanted it more than anything. But I made myself lean back in the chair, pulling my face from his hands.

“I can’t do this.” The words were shaky, but I’d said them. I had to stop it before this went too far.

“Why?”

“Because…” There were too many reasons.

Because he needed a queen.

Because I didn’t want that much responsibility.

“Because you deserve someone not broken.” That wasn’t the one I meant to go with, but words slipping out of me seemed to be the theme for our little chat.

“You’re not broken. If anything, you’re confused. Which is totally understandable. You’ve been through a very rough thirteen years, and memories that would help you readjust to being home aren’t there. So, you need some time to heal. Which is what I’ve been giving you. I think you’d feel less fragile if you got a decent night’s sleep. If you ate more. If you took a moment to take care of yourself instead of spending twenty hours a day in the gym. Declan and his mission are going to kill you.”

Author Bio:

Aileen Erin is half-Irish, half-Mexican, and 100% nerd–from Star Wars (prequels don’t count) to Star Trek (TNG FTW), she reads Quenya and some Sindarin, and has a severe fascination with the supernatural. Aileen has a BS in Radio-TV-Film from the University of Texas at Austin, and an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She lives with her husband in Los Angeles, and spends her days doing her favorite things: reading books, creating worlds, and kicking ass.

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Finding Esme Review

FINDING ESME
by
SUZANNE CROWLEY
  
Genre: Middle Grade (3-7) / Magical Realism / Family & Loss
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Date of Publication: August 14, 2018
Number of Pages: 288

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After her grandfather died from a heart attack while driving his tractor on Solace Hill, twelve-year-old Esme’s been inextricably drawn to that spot, although her grandmother warns her to stay away. But when she follows her little brother, Bo, and her dog, Old Jack, up the hill while chasing fireflies, she makes an incredible discovery—dinosaur bones peeking out from underneath the abandoned tractor.

The bones must be a message from her grandfather, a connection from beyond the grave. But when word gets out that the farm is hiding something valuable, reporters, researchers, and neighbors arrive in droves. Esme struggles to understand who has her best interests at heart, especially as the memory of her grandfather begins to slip away.

Full of friendship and adventure, and featuring a palpable Texas setting, Finding Esme is a moving and heartfelt story about family, friendship, and learning to deal with loss.

PRAISE & HONORS FOR FINDING ESME:

“Esme is a brave, appealing heroine with the odds stacked against her… Bad blood and layered family secrets drive this story to its ultimately optimistic and satisfying conclusion.” — Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)

“Esme McCauley is a lonely but spirited 12-year-old who feels nothing ever happens to her the way it’s supposed to…A poignant tale for readers who enjoy character-driven realism.” — School Library Journal

“Readers muddling through preteen changes or unstable family lives will identify with Esme’s struggles, but the thrill of discovery will appeal to most.” — Booklist

Texas Library Association 2019 Spirit of Texas (SPOT) reading program selection

Has anyone ever seen a studio ghibli movie or read the books? Reading Finding Esme reminded me of them quite a bit. It’s the transition between childhood and growing up, where the world seems bigger each day than it did before. To me, this book was on the cusp of that and accepting those things we face. Esme herself is struggling with wanting to stay who she is, even with the changes happening since her Grandpa Pap’s passed away. However, even with these strange and sometimes shocking discoveries, Esme does carry this mature sensibility within her.

“You came out like you were already grown-up, Esme McCauley, even though you were half as big as a minute. I looked into those green eyes of yours and it was like you’d already seen the whole world but were still looking for something.”

Dealing with this loss has created a rift in Esme and what she once knew. Even the people around her, friends and family, begin to act different. Or perhaps she begins to notice things she didn’t before. I had mixed feelings about Bee, her grandmother and primary caregiver. She is a mystery to Esme and can seem aloof in her affections. At the same time, you know that Bee wholeheartedly cares for Esme and her brother and want the best for them. She treats Esme like an adult at times but keeps things from her as well. This causes Esme to feel even more isolated with everything that has happened in her short life so far. Esme begins keeping her own secrets which lead her to discovering more and more hidden history along the way. Grandma Bee has a finding gift that she calls God-given, but Esme has conflicting emotions about it. Despite her gift seeming even more powerful than Bee at times, she wants to fit in and not seem odd to the town. I can’t always say this about characters but I really liked Esme’s character from beginning to end in this book. As you follow along in the story with Esme’s point of view, the mysteries unfold and you are left with more questions. Esme is clever, caring but level-headed, and does her best to be herself despite outside pressures.

While at first I had to get used to the pace of the story and characters introduced, it didn’t take but a few chapters to become fully immersed in Finding Esme. The interweaving of everyone in town was a great addition to this story and added an extra spin to everything uncovered. There were complicated relationships that had history spanning generations and the distinct personalities that were affected by other characters. I feel like Crowley’s writing really shone here and made it unique.

Suzanne Crowley is the author of two acclaimed novels for young readers, The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous and The Stolen One. The author, who is also a miniaturist and dollhouse collector whose work has graced the covers of magazines worldwide, was born in a small town in Texas and lives in Southlake, Texas. When not hugging her dog or imbibing in chocolate, she can often be found taking a nap.
 

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Fury of the Gods

Fury of the Gods
Amy Braun
(Areios Brothers #3)
Genres: Adult, Urban Fantasy

Fate brings consequence.

Separated from his brother by curses and lies, Derek Areios is forced into hiding. With rogue goddesses on his side, he begins his search for the Mind of Cronus. But his plans come to a screeching halt when the Olympians send nightmarish warriors to hunt him. Creatures even the gods themselves fear.

Liam Areios, lost without his brother and trapped in service for the Olympians, continues the hunt for the Mind of Cronus. The remaining gods refuse to trust him—or any human—and Liam begins to see just how mad power has made them. Becoming entangled in the schemes of mortals and immortals, Liam will have to fight or lose everyone he loves.

Deadly monsters, betrayal, and pulse-pounding action fill the pages of the third novel in the AREIOS BROTHERS series.

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Author Bio:

Amy is a Canadian urban fantasy and horror author. Her work revolves around monsters, magic, mythology, and mayhem. She started writing in her early teens, and never stopped. She loves building unique worlds filled with fun characters and intense action.

When she isn’t writing, she’s reading, watching movies, taking photos, gaming, struggling with chocoholism and ice cream addiction, and diving headfirst into danger in Dungeons & Dragons campaigns.

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All In: Review

ALL IN
by
L.K. Simonds
Genre: Gritty Realistic / Christian Fiction
Publisher: Morgan James Publishing
Date of Publication: August 27, 2019
Number of Pages: 282

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A woman’s empty pursuit of happiness leads to a crisis before finding redemption in the Lord in this challenging and gritty Christian novel.

Twenty-nine-year-old novelist and blackjack dealer Cami Taylor seems to have it all—but just underneath her confident exterior and newfound celebrity is a young woman in trouble. Cami’s boyfriend, Joel, wants to get married, buy a house on Long Island, and raise a family—a life that’s a million miles from Cami’s idea of happiness. Her therapist suggests compromise and trust, but Cami would rather bolt like a deer.

Breaking things off with Joel, Cami launches herself on a new quest for happiness. But her pursuit of pleasure only takes her further from herself—and toward a harrowing new reality unlike anything she’s faced before. What follows for Cami is a fight to the death that can only be waged with God’s love.

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L.K. SIMONDS PRESENTS CAMI TAYLOR:

Cami is as independent of a character you can get. She’s a writer that observes people, imagining their lives and motives, but ultimately pushing them away to remain in her bubble. When faced with someone seeking more, a typical ‘white-picket fence’ life, she wants nothing more than to run. While she struggles to determine what she really wants in life, her own decisions and discoveries leave her even more at odds. There’s more to loneliness than being lonely. Cami struggles with this existential dread that seems to have her denying wanting anything more for herself. From the start she says about relationships:

 

“I’m only twenty-nine years old, but I’ve pretty much seen and done it all. What are my choices, really? Apparently, the road to happiness must be traveled in vehicles I loathe: Sacrifice. Compromise. Surrender.”

 

I found it almost comical reading this at beginning of her narrative. Maybe it was hard to be in her shoes in this aspect but being in your twenties and thinking you’ve seen it all really stuck with me. I’ve been there. Then, of course, a few years or months pass and perspective hits you in the face. Cami is very analyzing to her own feelings but keeps this all in. Being the reader to these thoughts and feelings was a great choice and one of my favorite aspects to the book. To an outside perspective, it would be difficult to like Cami’s character and the actions she takes. Of course, most of her behavior seems to be a challenge to others and how they’ll react. While I type this, I realize how critical it may sound towards Cami. Ultimately, she’s human and has made mistakes. She struggles and is down to earth in a way that she is completely drifting aimlessly. Like many of us. She doesn’t know what she doesn’t know. It’s when everything starts to fall apart and her emotions are on the peak of exploding that she starts to snap out of this.

 

I went to Catholic school for ten years. Has this made me more faithful? Has this made me less? I can say is that it gave me clarity towards living constantly surrounded by faith and then not when I left. I share this because I can see why this Christian Fiction can have mixed views. Faith isn’t always easy. Especially if your intention is to share it with someone. I think that All In shares something different here. An emotional path, one with desperation but also acceptance. Maybe faith won’t heal all wounds but it helps accept them. I think Cami finds most of her peace this way. After living her formative years thinking it was normal to feel underwhelmed, meaning in God gives her hope for more.

 

Funnily enough, the ending reminded me of one of my favorite books, Life of Pi. I won’t share spoilers, but the book definitely had subtle metaphors that made me think of it. Not every person of faith or none will like the ending. Or maybe they will. It depends on our own emotional journey and what has lead us to this point. Maybe even putting aside faith, a reader will appreciate the impressive first novel Simonds released. They’ll enjoy the inner complexities of Cami and hopefulness of Kate. They’ll love the building of scenes that paint descriptive and engaging imagery that spark your imagination. They’ll think on their own faith and discuss it with others. A success in my opinion!

 

L. K. Simonds is a Fort Worth local. She has worked as a waitress, KFC hostess, telephone marketer, assembly-line worker, nanny, hospital lab technician, and air traffic controller. She’s an instrument-rated pilot and an alumna of Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas. All In is her first novel.

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