Secrets of PEACE by T.A. Hernandez

CoverFrontFinalv1Title: Secrets of PEACE
Author: T.A. Hernandez
Publication Date & Publisher: July 27, 2016, Sanita Street Publishing
Genre(s): Thriller (Dystopian), General Fiction
My Rating: 3.5/50

Description (from Goodreads):

Nearly 30 years ago, the PEACE Project rose from the ruins of a global war to take power over a new America. Providing stability in exchange for absolute authority, the Project controls every aspect of citizens’ lives through each of its five units:

Protect
Enforce
Advance
Control
Eliminate

Raised in the Project since infancy, eighteen-year-old Zira has been trained as an assassin under the stern guidance of unit E-2’s Chairman Ryku. After she makes a careless mistake on an assignment, the chairman partners her with Jared, the best operative in her unit. Their partnership transforms into friendship as they work together and learn to rely on each other. But when misinformation causes a solo mission to backfire, Zira’s deepest loyalties and strongest relationships are tested in a place where even a hint of doubt can be perceived as treason.

The life she knows is falling apart, and nothing will ever look the same again.

My review:

Okay, I’m going to attempt to give a review here without any spoilers, but it’s gonna be really hard with this one…

Secrets of PEACE tells the story of a promising young assassin named Zira. She’s spent her entire life as a member of the PEACE Project. The Project is supposed to be taking care of what’s left of civilization, but how it goes about doing that is a secret not just to those living outside of the Project’s compound walls, but even to members in the organization itself.

Since most of the members in the Project were raised by the Project, they are completely brainwashed to believe the Project is infallible. Going against the Project isn’t an option and leaving is considered treason.

I loved the way both sides are portrayed in this story. You get to see life from both inside the Project and outside, and you can’t help but feel for both those protecting the Project and what it stands for and also those opposing it.

Ryku, the PEACE Project Chairman in charge of Zira’s unit, partners her with Jared, another E-2 operative. Neither of them are happy about the situation, but as they train together and prepare for their first mission as a team, they grow on each other.

When Zira is sent on a solo mission without Jared, everything falls apart and she is changed forever. By the time she returns to the Project, she has no idea who to trust and is no longer able to follow orders blindly. Jared and her best friend, Aubreigh, can’t help her as she wrestles with the consequences of what happened on her last mission. Her eyes have been opened, but she’s not sure that’s a good thing.

The pacing of this story is super fast and I found myself kind of disappointed when I got to the end because I wasn’t ready to be done with it yet. And speaking of “the end”… I both loved AND hated it!!! I’m not even sure how that’s possible, but it happened. I read the last sentence and was like NOOOOOOO…I need to know what happens from here! (Thankfully, there’s a second book (Renegades of PEACE)!!)

My biggest pet peeve about this book was that it went back and forth between Zira’s point of view and Jared’s, but at times it was hard for me to tell the difference. I often forgot who’s head I was in and then they’d say something and it’d completely throw me. Normally, this kind of thing would put me off of a book completely, but that didn’t happen here. Even with this, I couldn’t stop reading because I NEEDED to know what was going to happen. (So I probably should’ve realized the ending was going to drive me nuts.)

Overall, I’d recommend reading Secrets of PEACE if you like dystopian novels.

I received a free review copy of this book from the author. This in no way influenced my review.

What do you think? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave me a comment below!

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Seek by Anthony O’Neill – BOOK REVIEW

Dr Jekyll and Mr SeekTitle: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Seek
Author: Anthony O’Neill
Publication Date & Publisher: October 16, 2018, Skyhorse Publishing
Genre(s): General Fiction (Adult); Horror(-ish)
Length: 288 pages
ISBN: 9781925143898
My Rating: 3.0/5.0

Description (from Goodreads):

In this dark, atmospheric sequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s timeless classic, the strange case continues with the return of Dr. Jekyll . . . Seven years after the death of Edward Hyde, a stylish gentleman shows up in foggy London claiming to be Dr. Henry Jekyll. Only Mr. Utterson, Jekyll’s faithful lawyer and confidant, knows that he must be an impostor–because Jekyll was Hyde.

But as the man goes about charming Jekyll’s friends and reclaiming the estate, and as the bodies of potential challengers start piling up, Utterson is left fearing for his life . . . and questioning his own sanity.

This brilliantly imagined and beautifully written sequel to one of literature’s greatest masterpieces perfectly complements, as well as subverts, Stevenson’s gothic classic. And where the original was concerned with the duality of man, the sequel deals with the possibility of identity theft of the most audacious kind. Constantly threading on the blurred lines between reality and fantasy, madness and reason, self-serving delusions and brutal truths, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Seek honors the original Stevenson with a thrilling new conclusion.

My review:

The events in Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Seek take place seven years after those in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. While I was familiar with the general Jekyll & Hyde story, I’d never actually read the book. About a chapter in to Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Seek, I decided it would be worthwhile to read the original work. It was definitely beneficial to do so, as it gave me insight into who the main character in this case is.

As Dr. Jekyll has been “missing” for the last seven years, Mr. Utterson, his attorney, friend, and beneficiary, is about to inherit Dr. Jekyll’s estate. But a wrench is thrown in those plans when it appears that Dr. Jekyll has returned to his home, along with a new butler. The story is told from Utterson’s perspective, a man with more knowledge than most of what happened the night Jekyll disappeared and Hyde was found dead. So of course, Utterson is secure in his knowing that the man claiming to be Jekyll, must be in impostor.

Unfortunately, Utterson appears to be a greedy man who is only out to destroy Dr. Jekyll and steal his fortune. And if Utterson came forward and let everyone know what he knows happened to Jekyll seven years ago, he’d be labeled insane and locked away for the rest of his years. He’d never practice law again.

The suspense is high throughout the book in that you’re constantly wondering whether it’s possible Jekyll is alive. You’re left pondering the implications of everything, the motives of just about everyone, right up until the last chapter, where everything is tied together and you’re given a somewhat plausible ending.

While I enjoyed this book a lot, the ending was a bit of a let down. It definitely didn’t end the way I expected and there was something disappointing in that. I’d love to elaborate, but if I tell you how I wanted it to end, then I’d totally spoil the book for you!

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys stories featuring the characters of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I also recommend reading the original story when you get the chance!

I received a free review copy of this book through NetGalley. This in no way influenced my review.

What do you think? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave me a comment below!

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The Swan Keeper by Milana Marsenich – BOOK REVIEW

38336382Title & Author: The Swan Keeper, Milana Marsenich
Publication Date & Publisher: April 2018, Open Books
Genre(s): Historical Fiction, General (Adult) Fiction
Length: 245 pages
ISBN: 9781948598033
My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Description (from Goodreads):

Girlhood, courage, nature, and flight from a tyrant’s hand in post-frontier Montana.

The Swan Keeper is an historical, coming of age novel set in Northwest Montana’s Mission Valley in the late 1920s.

Lillian Connelly loves trumpeter swans and vows to protect them from a hunter who is killing them and leaving their carcasses for the wolves and coyotes to ravage.

On her eleventh birthday Lilly’s family visits the Cattail Marsh to see the newly hatched cygnets. The family outing turns tragic when Dean Drake shows up with his shotgun and fires on not only the swans, but on Lilly’s family. Unable to prevent tragedy, Lillian witnesses Drake kill her father, injure her mother, and slaughter the bevy of trumpeter swans.

The sheriff, Charlie West, thinks that Lilly is reacting to the trauma and blaming Drake because of a previous conflict between Drake and her father. Lilly’s mother, sister, and her best friend, Jerome West, the sheriff’s son, all think the same thing: that Lilly is trying to make sense of a senseless accident.

Left alone to bring Dean Drake to justice, Lilly’s effort is subverted when Drake woos her sister, courts her mother, and moves into their home.

My review: 

This book really surprised me!

I loved the way it started out:

Lilly told three lies to go with her father one stormy afternoon when she was ten, the afternoon that she first learned about the swan killer. She said she’d done her chores, she forgave Pa for fighting with her mother, and she wasn’t afraid.

I’m not sure what it is with me picking books featuring liars lately, but I seem to be addicted to them. (Lies that Bind Us, All That’s Left of Me, The Irrationalist, Truth Seer)

It turns out that Lilly is good not just at telling lies, but she can also tell when others are lying – her mom, dad, sister, her mortal enemy – Dean Drake… but it doesn’t seem to occur to her that they must know when she’s lying too. She’s growing up, but even with her “tiny” lies, there’s still so much innocence left in her – even after her father is killed.

So much is thrown at her, and yet she faces every challenge in her life head on. I love her stubbornness and her deep drive to see justice carried out even when it means putting herself in danger! Being someone who loves children deeply, I connected with Lilly on such a deep level that my husband had to remind me that she wasn’t a real child… twice!

(I just wanted to be able to hug her, let her know I was there for her, and that everything was going to be okay. That’s totally normal when we’re talking about a fictional character…)

The Swan Keeper is divided into four parts – White Swan, Dark Swan, In Flight, and Landing. In each section Lilly changes and grows spiritually and emotionally. True to life, she’s not the same person at 10 as she is as a 12 year old at the end of the book. But her journey is FAR crazier than what most preteens experience.

And amid all the craziness happening around her, she’s experiencing her first crush on a boy. She’s known Jerome West her entire life, but suddenly he’s becoming something else to her entirely and she has no idea what to do with those emotions. I found Lilly’s interactions with Jerome as her feelings for him started changing absolutely adorable!

Just when I thought I couldn’t love Lilly anymore, I think I may have found a new favorite bookish quote from her in this book as well…

Books were full of information. She’d learned to consult books and thank God. It was a good system.

Read that and pretty much screamed in my brain, “Me too, Lilly!  Me too!!!” (Again, it’s totally normal to have imaginary conversations with fictional characters… Stop judging me!!!)

As much as I ended up loving this book, I wasn’t so sure about The Swan Keeper when I first started reading it.  There were a couple of pages before the first chapter that I assumed was a prologue. It didn’t make sense to me until the end of the book, when I realized it was basically excerpts from the last part. I really wish I had just skipped it and gone straight to Chapter 1… if you pick it up, I suggest you do the same!

My only other complaint is that there are a couple of times where people speak and it doesn’t seem completely normal to me. For instance, a character that uses the word “‘specially” for “especially” would use “isn’t” instead of “is not.” That might not throw other readers, but things like that stick out to me and drive me batty if it happens too often. Thankfully, it only happened a couple of times in this book so it wasn’t a deal breaker for me.

I received a review copy of this book from the author. This in no way influenced my review.

What do you think of my review of The Swan Keeper? Have you read it or are you planning on reading it in the future? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave me a comment below!

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Dark Queen Rising by Paul Doherty – BOOK REVIEW

cover141884-mediumTitle: Dark Queen Rising
Author: Paul Doherty
Publication Date & Publisher: October 1, 2018, Severn House
Genre(s): Historical Fiction
Length: 224 pages
ISBN: 9781780291079
My Rating: 3.0/5.0

Description (from Goodreads):

First in a brand-new historical mystery series featuring Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII and matriarch of the Tudor dynasty.

May, 1471. The Wars of the Roses are reaching their bitter and bloody climax. Edward of York has claimed the English throne, and his supporters are extracting a savage revenge on all who supported the Lancastrian cause. Surrounded by enemies wherever she turns, the position of Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and mother to Henry Tudor, the last remaining hope of the House of Lancaster, is precarious to say the least.

Determined to protect her son whatever it takes, Margaret must rely on her sharp-witted clerk Christopher Ulswicke to be her eyes and ears. When four bodies are discovered in a London tavern, their throats slit, and Margaret herself is suspected of being behind the crime, it’’s up to Ulswicke to prove his mistress’ innocence and unmask the real killer.

My review: 

This may be a really confusing review… which is probably good because I’m really conflicted on exactly how I feel about Dark Queen Rising.

I picked Dark Queen Rising fully expecting more murder mystery than historical fiction, but I personally wouldn’t have categorized it as a mystery at all.

Although it didn’t have the mystery I was looking for, overall, I did actually enjoy the story. It begins with Margaret witnessing a horrific slaughter in what should have been a place of sanctuary. (I mean, how could you go wrong from there, right?)

The story goes back and forth between Margaret and her trusted henchman, Ulswicke. Ulswicke was definitely my favorite character in this book! He’s funny, smart, and scary all at the same time. He also came across as more of believable/relatable character than Margaret (which seems a little odd now that I’m sitting here writing it down for all the world to see. I mean, he kinda kills some people… weird).

At the beginning of the book, there are a lot of people thrown at you and it got confusing for me trying to keep up with everyone. Thankfully, it doesn’t take long for the main characters to surface and it gets easier to follow who’s who, who did what, who’s on who’s side, etc. There was also a handy dandy list of key players at the start, so that was nice!

There were times when it seemed like there was too much detail and it slowed the pacing down for me. Other times, I couldn’t seem to put the book down because I was so into it! (Another sign of how conflicted I am with this one!)

I could totally see this being made into a movie. And I’d definitely go watch it… and I’ll probably be reading the next book in this series when it comes out… So a definite “okay” pick…

I’d recommend it for fans of historical fiction, especially fans of fiction during the War of the Roses.

Thank you to NetGalley and Severn House for providing me with a free digital copy of this book. This in no way influenced my review.

What do you think of Dark Queen Rising? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave me a comment below!

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The Sun King by Allison Lee Palmer – BOOK REVIEW

the_sun_king_by_allison_lee_palmer_200Title & Author: The Sun King, Allison Lee Palmer
Publication Date & Publisher: October 2017, Open Books
Genre(s):  General (Adult) Fiction
ISBN: 9781370072774
My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Description (from Goodreads):

A mother, her son, and mania.

In this fictionalized memoir, a mother recounts the emotional journey she and her son take when he becomes mentally ill.

Jack is known as the Sun King because as a child he resembled the illustrated boy in his mother’s deck of tarot cards. Already on the verge of madness, Jack leaves for college in Ohio but secretly decides not to take his medicine. When Jack becomes manic, his mother must retrieve him from a psychiatric hospital and bring him home to Oklahoma. She and Jack spend the next year dealing with court hearings, doctor appointments, and counseling sessions precipitated by his bipolar disorder and resultant psychosis.

Guiding Jack back to sanity leads his mother to a fateful decision—one that brings about her own emotional unraveling. In the end, it is the Sun King who must save his mother.

My review: 

This book started out absolutely amazing!!! By Chapter 3, I was beginning to send out texts and Snaps to my friends letting them know they NEED to read this ASAP! It’s a story about a very serious issue and situation that’s told in a way that’s sometimes hilarious, other times serious or sarcastic, and always deeply emotional.

The Sun King tells the story of the narrator and her only son, Jack, who is suffering from mental illness. The story begins with his latest stint in a mental hospital after he’s stopped taking his meds (again.)

When Jack’s mom discovered he wasn’t taking his medicine, she began searching for ways to help her son. She searched the internet and tried, unsuccessfully, to help with the herbal remedies she bought at the local health store.

The entire story is told from Jack’s mother’s perspective. I found myself laughing often at her view of the days when Jack’s illness was just starting to manifest itself. Having a daughter who recently graduated high school and began her first year of college with extreme, almost crippling anxiety, I related to her a lot. At times, she seemed to be too close to the situation to recognize the signs that her son was ill. I know I’ve been in that same situation… too close to my daughter to see clearly that she’s about to break down on me.

So I was emotionally attached to both Jack and his mother very early on in this story! When I read this:

In retrospect, I would argue that not only should the purchase of copious amounts of aluminum foil and cardboard be a warning sign at least mentioned in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but the constant need for high drama should also be noted in the DSM, because all together they can only lead to the building of this spaceship that matches the criteria for Bipolar Disorder I. But I didn’t know that until later.

I knew this mother and I were the same… I could hear my daughter explaining the need for the materials and my response being “Yeah, that seems legit, baby. Of course… here’s some more foil.”

Despite Jack being the one with the illness, his mom’s life is also flipped completely upside down and she herself begins to spiral out of control. At times, she thinks she’d be happier if Jack had cancer or was missing an arm instead of suffering the way he is. What makes it even harder to bear, is the fact that she’s doing so much and constantly sacrificing for son, and he doesn’t even seem capable of caring or understanding what she’s going through herself.

To give you some kind of an idea on how much I loved this book, let me explain how my reading speed varies between books… Basically, the speed at which I read is entirely dependent upon my enjoyment level of the material being read. So a book I’m kinda into, but not exactly thrilled with might take me weeks to read, while the same length book that I AM thrilled with might take a day or two…

I read  The Sun King in about 6 hours… a good indication that I LOVED the book! But…

the end… it…

Let me down.

HARD.

I’m not completely sure what I expected, or what I wanted, or how I saw things ending, but the way it actually ended was definitely not satisfying for me. I still want to know what happened…I feel like without that knowledge, the story just isn’t over. Perhaps that’s what the author intended, but unless it’s a series, I just hate these type of open-ended, no indication of  happily ever (or never) after, vague endings.

So overall, I still recommend reading The Sun King. I enjoyed the majority of the book so much that even the ending didn’t make me regret reading it.

I received a review copy of this book from Open Books. This in no way influenced my review.

What do you think of my review of The Sun King? Have you read it or are you planning on reading it in the future? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave me a comment below!

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