Book Review: Firebrand by Sarah MacTavish

24764918Title : Firebrand

Author : Sarah MacTavish

Publisher : Dove Hollow Books

Release date : March 22nd, 2016

Rating : 4.8/5

Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

In the summer of 1860, when slavery ruled the heart of America, two young abolitionists discover how dangerous it can be to believe in freedom for all.

Saoirse Callahan’s family is broken. Hunger forced them out of Ireland and they still struggle to survive in their new home, where scorching Texas droughts threaten their small farm. Then, on one blazing Sunday afternoon, a series of mysterious fires devastates the region. Whispered rumors of a slave rebellion soon flame into a statewide panic. Vigilantes scour the countryside for arsonists, targeting foreigners and slaves in a bloodthirsty witch-hunt. Saoirse is determined to find out how the fires really started, but the more questions she asks, the more she puts her family and friends in danger. And the truth may be more than she can handle.

Meanwhile, safe in Pennsylvania, Westleigh Kavanagh can call himself an abolitionist with little fear. But when he realizes his father’s new boarder is actually a runaway slave, he must keep the wanted man’s identity a secret. Because Westleigh’s father is the sheriff, and bound by law to help capture fugitives, whether he believes in slavery or not. Westleigh wants to protect his father from the truth, but the longer he lies, the greater chance they will all be caught. Then Westleigh makes his own discovery—an old forbidden journal that holds secrets of his father’s past. Secrets that lead to the Callahans. Secrets that, if unraveled, could destroy both families.

Review :

Historical fiction strikes me yet again to the heart, and I can thank Sarah MacTavish for several emotional hours of reading.

Like many people, I have taken history classes in high school; I might not have paid much attention, but I always got the general idea of a historical concept, you know? When I hear the word “abolitionist”, I think of heroes, of revolutionaries, of courage and of change. But I forgot that with those, there come villains, resistance, danger and a cause to change. And that’s what I realized in Firebrand. When your whole country opposes your way of thinking, the world becomes dangerous.

What I liked most about this novel was the dialogue. It was raw and sharp, and I appreciated the normality of the discussions. What do I mean by normality? You know when you’re reading a historical fiction, and the author goes out of her/his way to embellish sentences and to find elegant and old-fashioned words in order to make the readers practically feel out of place? Yeah, that’s not what you’ll find in this book. The characters talk in a way that you don’t feel like it’s 1860, you don’t feel uprooted by the sheer old-fashionedness of their dialogue. It just comes across as natural, not forced.

Firebrand is written in two POVs: one from the South, one from the North. Their perspectives on the world and slavery are very different, and this gives depth to the book. Readers encounter two separate lifestyles. Along with those two characters, the rest of the cast is amazing as well. They are all well developed, all with their own experiences, fears and desires. Action-packed scenes help to highlight how all of them are each an individual who is complete, in their own way. They bring so much life and emotions to the pages, that it felt so entirely right that I read it.

Firebrand is beautifully written, and Sarah MacTavish really did a marvelous job for a debut novel!

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Book Review: The V Girl by Mya Robarts

21799202.jpgTitle : The V Girl

Author : Mya Robarts

Release date : July 1st, 2014

Rating : 4.7/5

Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

In post-apocalyptic North America, rape and sexual slavery are legal. Lila Velez, desperately wants to lose her virginity before the troops visit her town and can take it away by force. She makes plans to seduce her only friend, Rey, the most attractive man in her town. Lila does not love him but he is the only man who has shown her true affection, an affection she is willing to take as a substitute of love.

Lila’s coping mechanism to her mother’s rape and kidnapping is her secret. A secret that will bring her closer to Aleksey, a foreign, broody man. Lila does not trust him because his links to the troops and his rough, yet irresistible appearance. Aleksey offers Lila an alternative to her plans, a possibility that terrifies her…and tempts her in spite of herself.

All the while Lila will have to find a way to live in the constant company of death, slavery, starvation, sexual abuse and the danger of losing the people she loves the most.

Review :

Woah woah woah, hold up, now. That was a freaking incredible book!!!

I have to start off by saying that this book is NOT for the faint of heart. So if you are, RUN AWAY FROM IT. Seriously, have you read the description?! Yeah, a book that talks about rape, abuse and slavery is certainly not for the sensitive. It’s brutal, and horrifying.

Now, for those of you who stayed: what a ride! The V Girl blew my mind away! Robarts wrote in a careful, mature and poetic way in order to handle such horrible subjects. She brought together some aspects that we can, unfortunately, find in our society. If you think about it, rape culture exists, and is present wherever you go. However, this book isn’t wholly about making people aware of this very real issue. It’s about Lila’s struggle to survive in her own way in her screwed up world, who had already screwed up her own family. The story is sprinkled with so many amazing details and new ideas and concepts that this fictional world felt real. I’m not saying that Lila’s world is awesome. Oh hell no, it’s atrocious! But Robarts’ imagination was, and I immensely enjoyed reading about it. Wow, how I would love to read more about it!

What I also really liked was the pace of the book. It was great, and gave me the time to get to know the characters, and their world, and the way this society works. I had a clear idea of where everyone stood before we jumped to the actual, interesting plot.

The V Girl might fall into the “coming of age” category, because its main character goes through a phase where she changes and evolves. And she did! At first, I didn’t like her, because she was fickle and naïve and constantly scared. She didn’t seem like the kind of person I’d like to read about. I mean, I know her growing up had been hard, and her situation explained why she acted this way…but still. I was irrationally pissed off by her. But then, after everything Lila went through, she became an incredibly brave young woman. She fought nails and teeth to overcome the obstacles she encountered, and she truly amazed me. I particularly admired her respect for herself, her values and her body, and the perseverance and strong-will she developed over time. And what can I say about Aleksey? He’s so HOT. Not particularly my type, but boyyyy, I fell head over heels for him anyway. He’s an artist, and mysterious, and my ovaries exploded many times at his scenes.

After finishing the book, I came to the conclusion that I could have used a sequel to The V Girl, because the writing was incredibly and the characters, fantastic. Unfortunately, I’ll have to rely on only the one.

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Book Review: Darkness Released by Candis Vargo

29844945.jpgTitle : Darkness Released

Author : Candis Vargo

Publisher : Limitless Publishing

Release date : March 28th, 2016

Rating : 1/5

Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

For Hailey James, the ghosts of the past have never truly been laid to rest… After a troubled childhood and one last visit to her family’s abandoned home, everything in Hailey’s life seems to be going according to plan. The business she runs with her best friend, Pat, has hit big time success, and she isn’t even twenty-five. When night terrors come out to play, her future is in jeopardy… With the demolition of her childhood home, and her twenty-fifth birthday drawing near, Hailey’s nightmares become even worse. She is no longer able to do her job. At Pat’s insistence, Hailey undergoes hypnosis. She doesn’t remember much of her childhood, but when she sees a man dressed all in red in her visions, Hailey knows he is the key to her understanding. Hailey can’t seem to escape her past and the ghostly women who haunt it. But she can break the cycle of suffering that has surrounded the women of her family, especially with the future of her little niece, Lilly, on the line. To move forward, sometimes we must go back… Hailey’s future remains uncertain if she can’t face her demons. She can only hope she will be able to defeat the evil which has pervaded her childhood and threatens her family. When the shadows of her past threaten to cloud her future, Hailey must find the strength to unlock the truth of her troubled childhood.

Review :

I’m sorry, but I’m just going to let it out and say it: Darkness Released was just as bad as the Scary Movie movies. And they were bad.

I’m often wary of short stories (well, short: less than 150 pages, more or less?). When they’re well done, they are amazing! But when they’re not… they just feel like a waste of time. It’s like the authors have many ideas, but not enough words or patience, and they just throw everything at our faces. It feels rushed and overwhelming (not the good kind). Even with this thought, I wanted to give this one a try because I love horror stories, and this one’s cover fit just the description! And hurray! I got my scares!…

But they were quickly dampened by just how fast Vargo dismissed them afterward, with either humor or, I don’t know, a kind of writing flatness. The fright wasn’t lasting, and it was too bad, because it was different than the typical ghost scares, you know?

Talking about quickness… The story feels rushed, as I already told you. Hailey was a near-complete stranger to me. I didn’t know her very well, she had no character development, I was indifferent. Of course, since she’s the protagonist, I was hoping she’d discover the source of her problems, but I can’t say I would’ve been very sad if, say, something tragic happened to her. I would have been happy as long as the mystery was solved.

The world and the histories presented were lacking in depth. Everything just fell flat. Actually, the other emotion the book evoked in me, apart from the occasional scare, was annoyance. Darkness Released was filled with clichés, going from horror story tropes to character stereotypes that Robarts decided to use. Hence my comparison with Scary Movie.

All in all, this novel could use a little bit of creativity and thinking. Oh, did I just say “a little bit”?

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Book Review + GIVEAWAY: Legacy by Ellery A. Kane

Title : Legacy (Legacy #1)

Author : Ellery A. Kane

Publisher : Balboa Press

Release date : September 5th, 2014

Rating : 3.5/5

Synopsis (from Goodreads) :


How do you want to feel today?

In 2041, the choice is yours.

San Francisco is deserted, the Bay Bridge bombed, and the BART subway trains grounded. The Guardians, members of an elite and mysterious government-appointed military police force, are maintaining order at all costs—thanks to emotion-altering drugs like Emovere that suppress fear and anxiety. Lex Knightley, daughter of a prominent forensic psychiatrist, risks entering the devastated city to partner with the Resistance, a group of rebels intent upon exposing the dangers of Emovere. Lex discovers an ally in Quin McAllister, a magnetic Guardian Force recruit with a haunting past that binds them together. As she uncovers the secrets of the Guardian Force and confronts the truth about her family, Lex begins to realize that even those closest to her are not quite who they seem.

Review :

** I’m sorry for the lateness of this review. I hope you will enjoy the reading nonetheless!

Legacy’s summary was promising, and the story itself delivered.

I’m going to go and start out with the characters. We follow Lex’s story as she goes out to find the Resistance, and as you probably guessed, the journey is dangerous. Therefore, I would expect our hero to have certain character traits, right? Such as resourcefulness, caution and toughness. And hallelujah! Lex, although some parts made me doubt it, has in general all those qualities, and even has some more that made me like her.

Quin, on his part, was very typical. He’s the troubled boy with the secretive past. You know the kind. I wasn’t impressed by him, and even less by the “romance”, which felt like it came out of nowhere. I just couldn’t ship them together just because of that fact, unfortunately. It’s also too bad the romance took up so much space also. However, I greatly enjoyed Lex’s friends. They surprisingly had a lot of depth, and they were fun to read!

For a debut author, I was pleasantly surprised by Kane’s writing style. It didn’t seem at all like it was her first book! Legacy is very well thought out, and it pays attention to details amazingly well. The idea of emotion-controlling pills is very good, and it was obvious Kane spent a lot of time thinking about it. It was very well constructed. I do wish there would be more action, and also that we would get to know the world a little more. I felt just a bit let down, but I suppose the author is saving all the juicy details for the sequel.

In conclusion, Legacy is a solid debut novel by Kane, and you should definitely give it a try!

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