Monday, December 28, 2020

Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston – Book Review

Amari and the Night Brothers

Author: B.B. Alston

Genre: Adventure Fantasy, Middle Grade

Publisher: Egmont Books

Publication date: 19 January 2021

Number of pages: 416

ISBN 13:  9780062975164


"What if I told you that living among us are all the things we've come to pass off as myth? Dwarves and sphinxes, mermaids and oddities you could see with your own eyes and still not believe – these and countless more dwell in our towns and walk our streets. One might be your neighbour or even your favourite teacher."

Wow! It's been a LOOOONG time since I read such an exciting book!

Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston is the first installment in the Supernatural Investigations Series. AND IT'S AMAZINGGGG!

I was expecting an adventure and fantasy but what I got was tons of humor, snark, bravery, adventure, and not just a touch of fantasy tons of it mixed with all kinds of supernatural and mythological creatures.

Amari Peters is a 13-year-old black girl, living in a low-income housing neighborhood with her mother. Her brother Quinton disappeared a few months prior, supposedly while working.

Amari is constantly bullied in school for coming from a low-income family. Until one day, when Amari gets a visit from a beggar-like-looking-man who asks her to sign for something, says he "won't erase her memory" but that she should check her brother's wardrobe after midnight.

When she does, she finds a suitcase with strange-looking clothes and sunglasses. Putting the sunglasses on, Amari sees her brother in a hologram. He tells her many things but many questions also come to light. Amari is invited to attend a summer bootcamp where, if she succeeds in for several summers, she would be eligible for a scholarship at an Ivy-League university.

"There's a huge part of me that wants to tell her about Quinton's Wakeful Dream. She deserves to know. But how do you explain being visited by your missing brother in a dream where you took a flying boat to go look at some underwater trains without sounding delusional?"

There she discovers a new world of fantasy and mythical creatures living amongst humans. The bootcamp is part of the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, an entity and task-force that manages affairs between humans and non-humans, that is the secret world.

This reminded me of how Harry Potter discovered a whole world of magic just surrounding him. Many aspects of the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs reminded me of the Ministry of Magic in the Harry Potter books.

Especially the bureau's Director Van Helsing (yeah those Van Helsings!), who was a lot like Cornelius Fudge. And I'm just going to leave it at that.

There were many parts in Amari and the Night Brothers that reminded me of the Harry Potter books – but the characters and book are significantly different.

There are many interesting and lovable characters in Amari and the Night Brothers including Amari herself, Elsie, Agent Fiona and others. Then there is Lara Van Helsing, a Draco Malfoy-like character (that you can't help but hate) while her brother is something else entirely. And I loved how Amari confronted him about being nice one minute and a meanie the next.

"I try again to think of something I'm really good at. Falling asleep on the sofa after school I doubt the Bureau would have much use for that."

I instantly fell in love with Elsie and not just because she's part dragon. There was lots of character development for Amari and her friends.

There's a ton of humor in almost every chapter and with every character in Amari and the Night Brothers. Here's one after Amari goes to the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs and meets Agent Magnus.

"Just to be clear…you're having a conversation with the elevator?" I mean, sure I talk to my laptop sometimes when it's not working, but it's never spoken back.

The story is narrated from the first person perspective of Amari herself, a super sarcastic, fun, and brave character.

Amari's sole purpose in joining the Bureau is to uncover what happened to her brother and find him. But…

"I thought for sure that coming here would finally give me some real answers about Quinton, but it's just as big a mystery in the supernatural world as it is back home."

At the Bureau, the students like Amari discover their abilities. But Amari doesn't have an ability or rather she has an illegal ability. She has magic blood. Something deemed by the Bureau as instantly evil. Why? Because of the Night Brothers.

Two brothers who had magic blood like Amari and nearly destroyed the world. One of the brothers is dead but the other lives…

As a black kid, she discriminated against in the known or human world. When she goes to the Bureau, she finds another kind of discrimination, with everybody trying to get her to lose and leave.  

Overall I loved Amari, how she's human, who makes mistakes, how she's intelligent, brave, and creative.

It's the first time I notice or realize a main character as a black girl. And it was both interesting and different. And I laud B.B. Alston for that. That and letting Amari take over the story.

Originally, the author had other plans for Amari but the character pretty much took his writing pen and crafted a world and character of her own.

Overall, I absolutely loved Amari and the Night Brothers and can't wait for other installments to be written and published.

That said, the book doesn't have an open ending. :D


Overall rating: 5 stars

Note: I got a free Advanced Reader's Copy (ARC) of Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston as part of a blog tour with The Write Reads.

Add Amari and the Night Brothers on Goodreads.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Peppermint Cream Die by Carol E. Ayer - Book Review

Today, I'm reviewing a new cozy mystery called Peppermint Cream Die as part of a blog tour.


Book: Peppermint Cream Die

(Book 1 in The HSP Mysteries)

Author: Carol E. Ayer

Genres: Cozy mystery

Number of pages: 190

Publisher: Camel Press

Publication Date: 13 October 2020

ISBN: 978-160381-618-2/978-160381-629-8

Digital ASIN: B08LK1KLRV



Kayla Jeffries, home bakery owner and HSP (Highly Sensitive Person), has arranged her life just so to avoid stressful overstimulation. The California oceanside community in which she lives proves the perfect venue for the quiet and peaceful existence she desires. She happily spends her time baking, walking along the beach, and spending time with her close friends.

But when Kayla discovers her elderly friend Trudy Dillingham has been strangled, she vows to do anything she must to help bring the killer to justice, including overcoming the stress and sensory overload involved in playing amateur detective.

Using her HSP talents of attention to detail and ability to read other people's emotions, Kayla eventually cracks the case, all the while juggling two cats and a dog, non-stop orders for the Christmas holidays, and a budding relationship with handsome restaurateur Jason Banks.


Book Review of Peppermint Cream Die

"I'm also the one who found her and I'm trying to figure out who would have wanted to hurt her. Any ideas?"

"Me, for one."

Peppermint Cream Die by Carol E. Ayer is the first book in The HSP Mysteries and my first read for Ayer.

The main character Kyla is an HSP, a highly sensitive person. In other words, she struggles in certain situations like extreme stress or even extreme lighting and sounds.

I never knew that there was something as being an HSP and that was an interesting discovery for me. It also contributes to Kyla's character, making her sensitive to certain things while also helping her read others' body language.

Peppermint Cream Die opens with Kayla having a chat with her friend Trudy only to leave her to finish some stuff and discover a couple of hours later that Trudy died, or worse that she'd been strangled.

During the conversation prior to Trudy's death, Trudy tells Kayla: "I like your sensitivity and compassion, but sometimes you need to break through your fears and do things you don't want to. You might end up having the best adventure of your life, or, at least, an excellent learning experience."

Reading this on the first page, I felt it was like a kind of foreshadowing of what's about to happen to Kayla and how she'll need to work around her HSP to solve a murder.

Despite their being a police investigation, Kayla takes it upon herself to uncover what happened to her friend Trudy only discover that Trudy had a secret "wild" past life that may or may not have caught up with her.

"The lack of eye contact and way she was fiddling with her necklace made me think she was lying and that she knew exactly what the fight was about."

With Trudy gone, Trudy's cat Sugar lands in Kayla's lap and Kayla is worried about the new house guest. But a second death lands another cat in Kayla's one-person household and it's Sugar's sister. You'll love what she names the second kitty.

Despite being an HSP, Kayla is a baker, well cake-maker. And she loses herself in her baking and designs and just reading about what she's doing I fell in love with the cakes too.

Every time I sit down to Peppermint Cream Die, my mouth watered and I craved chocolate – and I used it as another reason to nibble on something :D

In the book, Kayla isn't struggling with a lack of suspects but more of an abundance of suspects as it seems Trudy had wronged many people in the past.

"Kayla, what has gotten into you? I thought you lived for staying at home, baking, reading, and walking on the beach. Now suddenly you're investigating crimes and you're the victim of break-ins."

One of the reasons I picked up Peppermint Cream Die was because of its title and the cover. I know I shouldn't judge a book by its cover but I can't resist anything with peppermint.

There was a time in the book when I struggled a bit with Kayla and felt that there was additional focus on her baking and business, which I felt wasn't needed.

Plus there is lots of description especially with how the days are moving forward – with no progress in the book or solving the murder. That said, the ending of Peppermint Cream Die was super-fast-paced and action-filled.

The book comes with a touch of romance as Kayla meets Jason but I felt their interactions and relationship was quite childish especially since both are over 30.

Although Kayla struggles with HSP, she goes to lengths – greater than the police – to uncover the reason behind her friend's murder.

There were a few flaws with Kayla's character like being childish with the romance. I also disliked the repetition of events Kayla had to go through when relating events to her friend Isabella.

On the other hand, I loved the ending. It was amazing with a grand finale and confrontation. It had me rooting for Kayla and her friends.

Peppermint Cream Die is a great holiday read.

Overall I enjoyed reading Peppermint Cream Die and would like to see more of this series in the future.

Overall rating: 3.5 stars


Note: I got a free copy of Peppermint Cream Die as part of a blog tour by Lori's Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours. This did not, in any way, affect my review.


About the Author:

Carol Ayer, a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), lives halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento with her cat, Rainn. 

When she’s not writing, she’s reading mysteries and thrillers or watching movies and cooking shows. As a native Californian, she visits the ocean as often as possible.

Connect with Carol Ayer via her Website, Blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Purchase Links:  Amazon - B&N - Kobo



Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Bren's Blessing by Pearl Tate – Book Review

Book: Bren's Blessing

(Book 1 in The Quasar Lineage series)

Author: Pearl Tate

Genres: Romance, Adult, Erotica, Science Fiction

Number of pages: 152 pages

Publication date: 7 November 2018



"The onboard computers have detected a breach somewhere, whether structural or perhaps a security measure. The fact is that the self-destruct has been activated and in ten minutes, the Skylab will explode and I'll be dead."

I've been a Twitter follower of Pearl Tate for a long while now and I've wanted to read any of her books.

I got the chance and started with book 1 in her Quasar Lineage series Bren's Blessing, a sci-fi alien romance.

I've never read alien romance before, so that was an interesting first for me.

Bren's Blessing is narrated from two first person perspectives: Hannah, an American astronaut and Bren, the alien.

The book opens with Hannah telling the reader how she ended up going to space despite being "a doctor not an engineer." She also narrates incidents of her childhood that made her the supposedly strong woman she is today.

As Hannah recounts and remembers this, the space shuttle she is in suffers a breach and automatically goes into self-destruct. Luckily, an alien ship approaches and an alien grabs her to safety in the last minute.

"His mouth curls into a grin that could almost be panty-dropping if he were human."

There is an interesting and strange shift when Hannah and Bren begin to interact. The once-strong Hannah is turned into a kind of pet, a sex-pet, for Bren, who views himself as a higher being. It takes a while for Hannah to make him understand that he can't boss her around, although she relents to the sex easily.

At some point, Hannah points out that she is willing to have sex with Bren if it will keep her alive.

In a way, both main characters are selfish in a way.

There were many obvious parts in Bren's Blessing that I felt resulted in redundant repetition, like describing Bren as "humanoid" then going on to say that he "has two arms and two legs." No kidding!

Also the flow in some of the ideas stood out to me. When Hannah is captured from the self-destructing Skylab and taken to the alien ship, she is first turned on by the alien then she faints when she realizes she's been saved-and-abducted by an alien.

In terms of imagery, there wasn't a lot of it in
Bren's Blessing. Plus there was a lot of telling.

"I need and want you all the time. You are mine and I will always be yours. Never doubt this. Instead of thinking about the past or the future, think about what we have together. You don't have to worry with useless fears. It's done, and it will work out."

In terms of characterization, I struggled a bit with Hannah. I wasn't sure if she was a strong character or pretending to be. I mean, she was a woman alone in a space shuttle but at the same time.

I struggled to like Hannah though and that dampened my enjoyment of the book.

One of the interesting things about Bren's Blessing is how Bren's body reacts to Hannah and shows him that she's the mate compatible for him – tons of sex aside.

In terms of erotica, the scenes were vivid and well-written.

"I can't speak as a symphony of sensations crash into me on all sides." – Bren

Things get heated towards the final third of the book when Bren is summoned to return to his world to be married. Together, Bren, Hannah, and two of Bren's friends draw up a plan to overrule Bren's fate and make Hannah a citizen of the alien realm.

Overall, I found Bren's Blessing to be an ok alien-romance read. It was a new experience for me. While I didn't like the main characters much, I enjoyed the premise and the idea behind the book.

Overall rating: 3 stars.