Looking for Dei

Looking for Dei

Looking for Dei by David A. Willson (YA Fantasy)

Nara Dall is a twin separated from her sister as a very small child. Raised in a small hamlet by a fatherly old monk, she knows nothing of her past nor does she understand why she is being told to hide her magical powers. She does know that if and when one’s magical powers are discovered, they can mark a person as “blessed” or “cursed,” and the person’s fate will vary accordingly. Are these god-given gifts from Dei or do they carry the potential for evil? How does it all fit in with a prophesy about “The Twins”?

The story takes place in a fictitious world, but this is not a dystopia. Magical people face risks from those who would take advantage of their powers and capabilities, but society itself is a reasonable place. Learning more about the land and its people was interesting but did not overwhelm the story so that it was possible to concentrate on the characters. Nara, her friend, Mykel, and the old monk show their true natures over time, as do the other characters who become critical to Nara and the people she cares about.

My biggest fear was that I would be left hanging regarding Nara’s expected reunion with her twin, but that did not occur. At the same time, their reunion exposes new sources of tension, and plenty of opportunity was left for a sequel. I’m not sure I would read the sequel as I have a pretty good idea what will happen, but I did enjoy this book and how believably the reunion of the sisters was portrayed.

Bella gives Looking for Dei four stars. 4 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.





Rotten Magic

Rotten Magic

Rotten Magic by Jeffrey Bardwell (Science Fiction/Steampunk)

This novella is the prequel to The Artifice Mage series. Devin is a young mage living in an empire that seeks to rid itself of mages. In addition to his magical capabilities, he has a creative mind that gets him into an apprenticeship with the Artificer’s Guild, the techies who keep the steam-powered Empire running and who abhor mages. He tries to suppress his magical side, and as a result we are witness to a continuous internal argument between his artifice side and his mage side. When he attempts to move up from apprentice to journeyman, the internal conflict takes its toll.

I don’t know why, but I never really learned to care about Devin. He has a mom and a little sister, and the story begins with a dialogue he’s having with his little sister. As a result, we know he’s basically a good person with these inconvenient magical capabilities, but somehow he never quite comes across as a sympathetic character. He has a female friend among the apprentices, but no real relationship is explored there. He has an arch enemy. And he has some unfortunate run-ins with egotistical journeymen who ultimately have power over his future.

Overall, I found this to be a downer of a book, with characters I couldn’t connect with. It would also benefit from one more proofreading to rid it of some obvious mistakes.

Bella gives Rotten Magic three stars. 3 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews Books received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Patriots of Mars: The God That Failed


The Patriots of Mars: The God That Failed by Jeff Faria (Science Fiction)

I don’t read a lot of books about sci-fi worlds, and, of course, if you’re reading about life on Mars, this is world-creation stuff. That part of this book was very impressive to me, although daunting at times. Simulated intelligence, bots for everything, aural and optic implants, artificial atmosphere, communication wonders, and an all-knowing technological presence called MOM that keeps everything going and everyone under observation. Lots of technical information about how things work and lots of detail that was mind-boggling but impressive. Lots of creativity and imagination.

The story itself starts with a group of young people trapped in a mine on Mars, and we soon learn that they’re up against some real baddies in terms of transnational corporations that control everything. We don’t get a lot of time to know these characters, however, before the story starts jumping among lots of characters on Earth and in various locations on Mars until, frankly, I was exhausted from trying to keep track of them all. The Homesteaders and the New Australians and others on Mars are doing their best to change the balance of power — hence the “Patriots” reference — while on Earth, the U.S. military is sending a ship full of troops to maintain the status quo. The early group of young people, one of whom gets visions from something called The Guide, become critical members of the resistance who must stop the incoming ship. Meanwhile, the SIMs and bots and MOM seem to be doing their own thing, in a complicated scenario that made me glad I wasn’t there.

The book is fairly long (or at least it felt that way), but it doesn’t really contain that much action, and the characters are flat. I would have been more interested in a book about the Homesteaders and the folks in New Australia who lived outside of the colonies established by the transnats. They seemed to have some personality and depth, but they remained on the periphery in more ways than one.

Grandma gives The Patriots of Mars three stars. 3 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews Books received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Delphi Effect


The Delphi Effect (The Delphi Trilogy, Book One) by Rysa Walker (Science Fiction)

Seventeen-year-old Anna Morgan has been in and out of foster homes and psychiatric institutions for most of her life. As a three-year-old, she was abandoned by her parents in the food court of a shopping mall, wearing a note that said, “This child is possessed.” What possesses her are the spirits of dead people who have not been able to cross over because of unfinished business. She picks up these mental hitchhikers unintentionally, simply by touching something where they linger.

She is currently carrying the spirit of Molly, a teen who was brutally murdered and wants her family to know how it happened. Of course, Molly’s grandfather refuses to believe that Anna is anything more than a con artist, so Anna must let Molly come to the forefront and take over the conversation in order to convince him. When she does, Anna finds herself caught up in the machinations of a covert organization and becomes a person of interest to people on both sides of a dangerous game.

Although a little confusing sometimes in terms of who was who, the story was engrossing and I cared a lot about Anna and the secondary characters who come into her life as a result of Molly. The premise is very clever; among other things, once her hitchhikers have achieved their goal, they leave, but she retains their memories and skills, which can come in handy now and then. This is the first in a series, so not all of the questions are answered, such as exactly how did Anna come to have these skills and who were her parents, but we know enough to be satisfied at the end of this book while curious enough to want to read the next one.

Bella gives The Delphi Effect five stars. 5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I’m Not Her

I'm Not Her

I’m Not Her by Cara Sue Achterberg (Science Fiction & Fantasy)

I’m Not Her is a body-swap story, which makes it a combination of fascinating and terrifying. What would it be like to suddenly “be” someone else—to live in that person’s body instead of your own and to have to be her, day in and day out, for better or for worse?

Carin is an attractive, spoiled, well-heeled young woman who looks down her aristocratic nose at Leann, the morbidly obese young cashier at the local grocery store. Leann leads a tough, impoverished life, and she has no use for the skinny, snotty Carin who buys organic food and puts on airs. When an accident in the checkout lane causes the two women to swap bodies and identities, but maintain their own personalities, the adventure for both of them begins.

Some of it is predictable. Carin learns what it’s like to be shunned because of her physical appearance, and she comes face-to-face with the realities of survival at the bottom of the social ladder. Leann, meanwhile, finds that possessing good looks and money is no guarantee of eternal happiness. Their lives are further complicated by Leann’s precocious and lovable five-year-old son, Trevor, whom Carin in her new role comes to love and wants to nurture and protect, while Leann realizes she cannot live without him and must get him back, even if she no longer looks like the mother he loves. Leann’s low-life husband provides added tension and danger to Carin’s new life and Trevor’s safety.

Both Carin and Leann take turns narrating their experiences as they attempt to negotiate the lives and relationships of their new identities. The author does a good job of giving each her own distinct voice and personality, which they maintain throughout the book even as we watch them grow and change within their awkward circumstances. Meanwhile, Carin’s family and friends must cope with her new honesty unfettered by fake niceties, while Leann’s abusive husband finds his wife’s not so submissive anymore.

My one complaint is the ending, which leaves a bunch of loose ends and implies a future that feels a little too simple after such major upheavals for both women and their acquaintances. But since the entire thing is a fantasy, suspension of disbelief and assumption of a rosy future may not be all that much to ask.

Grandma gives I’m Not Her four stars. 4 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.




Treasure of the Black Hole


Treasure of the Black Hole by S. Evan Townsend (Science Fiction)

This book is a fun space adventure with lots of inventive creatures, a treasure to be found, bad guys to avoid, and a possible love interest with questionable motives. Private detective Rick Bailey and his trusted secretary, Rose, who happens to be a giant Roach, are pulled into a scheme to help a lovely princess recover royal jewels. The truth of what’s going on is soon revealed when Rick finds himself sucked into all sorts of tough situations and the princess is no such thing.

The best part of this book is the creativity of the author in coming up with weirdo space folks with multiple body parts, unusual capabilities, and strange habits. Add to that the mysterious world of space craft dynamics and outer space physics — including the black hole mentioned in the title – and you have the makings of an intriguing novel that will keep you well-entertained.

The lead character tells the story with just the right amount of wise-guy attitude to keep it amusing while he encounters his assorted roadblocks and evades the cosmic police who happen to be after him, as well. A few twists and turns keep the story from being predictable. I have no idea if any of the space dynamics are accurate, but it didn’t matter to me as a layperson. I enjoyed the author’s version of how things worked, and while I didn’t always understand what it all meant, it just added to the adventure.

Grandma gives Treasure of the Black Hole five stars.5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.



Imaginary Things

Imaginary Things

Imaginary Things by Andrea Lochen (Science Fiction/Fantasy)

Grandma Says:

In this book, described as “magical realism,” young mother, Anna, can see her four-year-old’s imaginary friends, a gift that is both enlightening and scary. His dinosaur friends appear to be protective, although she’s not sure what they are protecting him from, but when a dark smoke-like creature eventually solidifies into a terrifying panther living under the bed, she realizes that the boy is terribly afraid of something, and the vision terrifies her, as well. Woven into the story are her own personal demons — a dysfunctional childhood, bad marriage, frightening ex, and an on-again/off-again relationship with the childhood friend and neighbor who has loved her since they were kids.

I found this book a little slow to get going and didn’t really become interested in the story until about 2/3 of the way in. At that point, Anna learns something new about her own mother and their relationship, which included Anna’s own imaginary friend. The story begins to pick up, with the real crisis coming close to the end of the book, where it’s resolved fairly quickly. With a typical fairy-tale ending, all is well and the future looks bright.

All in all, the premise is interesting, the book is an easy read, and I think young moms will especially enjoy it. Anna’s son is sweet and endearing, and her childhood sweetheart is sexy and appealing and he has been waiting years for her to come back home. What’s not to like?

Grandma gives Imaginary Things four stars. 4 stars