Posted in book reviews

The Curse of Judas by Cynthia Brandel

The Curse of Judas by Cynthia BrandelThe Curse of Judas by Cynthia D. Brandel
Published by Amazon Digital Services on October 31, 2018
Pages: 112
Source: the author
Goodreads
four-stars

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Synopsis

After generations of advancement, the human race had thought they were invincible. That was until the revenant made their presence known. The humans that survived the culling must pay to survive.

The cost......their blood. The source of life for all living things.

The Covenant (a pact between the humans and the revenant) was made at the end of the war. In order to maintain power and to ensure the continuation of the human race (the food source of the revenant), the Consulate (a group of higher class humans living in the upper city) was formed. Their main job was to maintain order and to work as a go-between for the humans and the revenant.

Persephone Black (Phoebe) lost her mother when she was born and she had never known her father. She and her Pappy made a living on the outskirts of the revenant city where the poor and desolate are numerous. Every month, Pappy would give blood in place of Phoebe (his way of silently rebelling against the revenant). Persephone had kept her head low and remained unnoticed for her entire life. She was content working as a junior gardner at the nursery as long as it meant her and Pappy's continued survival within the city walls.

"As long as Pappy has a roof over his head and food in his belly, then I couldn't complain."---Persephone Black

As fate would have it, Phoebe wouldn't be able to go unnoticed for much longer. She caught the attention of Cassius, a revenant (one of the sons of Judas) and was summoned by him (through the use of the Consulate) to the tower.

Phoebe would learn more about the revenant than most other humans. Cast into a world that she was not yet ready for, Phoebe would do anything to survive.

But she would soon learn that sometimes the cost of survival is more than a person could bear.

The Curse of Judas is a post-apocalyptic adventure interlaced with biblical prophecy and religious innuendo centered around the story of Judas Iscariot.

Judas's betrayal of Jesus was preordained, but his death (his suicide) was of his choosing. When he ascended he was rejected by Peter at the gates of heaven, but when he descended into hell, he was rejected there too. Being rejected from both the higher and the lower kingdoms, Judas was forced to roam the middle kingdom (the kingdom of man). Neither alive nor dead, his spirit was forever cursed.

Judas was the first revenant, a being that lives off the blood of humans. Although he was neither alive nor dead, Judas still maintained a likeness of his humanity. His betrayal of Jesus led to him being cursed and a shift in the divine plan for humanity's future.

Persephone Black would be cast into the fray when she meets a son of Judas. Her existence is both a blessing and a curse for the revenant. If the secret of her birth ever came to light, the world of the revenants would turn on end.

I received this book for free from the author. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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My Thoughts on The Curse of Judas:

This was a book I “knew” from the description, I was either going to love it or hate it.

When the story opens, you quickly find out vampires are real-ish. The legends we all grew up with had their basis in facts. The creatures the vampire legends were based upon, the Revenant, are done hiding. They want to rule – and a truce has been established between the humans and the revenant.

Similar Premise to…

If you’ve read the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris, or watched True Blood, this will sound familiar to you. I’m doing the buddy read with Shelbi at What’s My Page Again?, so I really couldn’t help noticing the similarities in how the revenants thought and behaved, as well as how they felt about being “out” in the world.

In Charlaine Harris’ world, vampires “came out of the coffin” and wanted to mainstream (live among the humans), so they drink synthetic blood and only drink from “willing” humans. (Yes, I know that’s not a great explanation, but it gets my point across.

But in the world of The Curse of Judas, they want to feed off of humans, and, in order to be allowed to survive, every human must “donate” a pint of blood every month.

So the similarties pretty much end between the two series once you get past the fact they’re both pretty gothic in nature and both involve vampire type creatures coming out of hiding after centuries.

What I enjoyed/hated about The Curse of Judas…

The world is gritty and the characters are living in survival mode, which brings out the best and worst in people. I loved it! I pictured this super dark city where Phoebe really stands out like a light, at home, and at work. Phoebe is an amazing person who takes care of her adopted father and stands up for her friends, even when she’s terrified.

When Phoebe’s best friend, Val, is hurt, Phoebe does everything she can to ensure Val and her little brother aren’t killed or kicked out of the city. Unfortunately, this has disastrous consequences for Phoebe and her Pappy – but she never regrets her decision. She stands by it and doesn’t back down from it.

Too often in this type of story, I’ve seen where the heroine is whiny and complains about the consequences for their actions. But Phoebe owns up to everything she does. Her only regrets seem to come from when others get hurt because of her. She owns up to it though and I really felt connected to Phoebe throughout the story. Her fear, pain, worry (both for herself and others) was real for me and made me cry at times.

While I really enjoyed reading this book, I wish it was longer. There were pieces I wish would have been explored further. For instance, how and why the revenants first made their appearance and about the war that took place afterward. Something that would’ve made it longer automatically would be the times where it just stated a character felt something, instead of describing it (like they were unsettled, but there was no description of what that looked like).

Side rant:

The thing I loved the most about the story… it’s BELIEVABLE! I love fantasy, so I’m all about dragons, mages, wizards, dwarves, elves, etc. But I need to be able to believe those things are actually possible and that the world they’re happening in could exist. The stakes need to feel real!!! (Sorry, I just finished a book that took place in the “real” world and I found it completely unbelievable… but you’ll hear about that later in the week, so I’m gonna shut up about it now…)

This is a quote from Phoebe in the book, where she’s kind of re-examining the world she’s been raised in, a world where many families couldn’t eat a meal together:

Pappy once told me that there was a time when families stuck together, weathered every storm and every trial together as a unit, but that was a long time ago. That was before the revenant–a time when humans were favored by God. We were his children and we had misbehaved. I’d guessed the revenant were God’s way of punishing humans for their sins.

Phoebe, The Curse of Judas

This is a world in which I can see the revenant existing. It’s not so different from our own world and I could picture it all clearly.

To Wrap it all up…

I really liked The Curse of Judas and I can’t wait for the next book to come out!!! I recommend it for anyone that enjoys a good vampire story (where the vamps don’t glitter).

Have you read The Curse of Judas? Any thoughts on my thoughts?? Leave me a comment below! Thanks for visiting

Thanks for visiting and happy reading! 🙂

four-stars
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Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed – BOOK REVIEW

31207017

So I’ve had Samira Ahmed’s Love, Hate & Other Filters on my radar for what feels like FOREVER! I finally got to snag a copy from South Charleston Public Library last week when I took my daughter and her friend for some library fun.

Description (from Goodreads):

A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape—perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.
American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.
There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.

My review:

There is so much I enjoyed in this book! First, I immediately took a liking to Maya and completely understood her relationship with her parents. She feels suffocated by the expectations put on her by friends and family for her future. In order to deal with the outside world, she uses her camera as a shield to kind of hide in plain sight. She views life through a documentary lens.
While Maya wants to live the life she truly wants, she doesn’t know how to do that and still be a good daughter. One such example of this is in her love life. She’s had a crush on an American boy named Phil at school for forever! But along comes a boy named Kareem who could have easily come straight out of her mother’s dreams! Maya has to choose between the two. While it shouldn’t be such a hard decision, it’s made even harder by the fact that Phil has a girlfriend.
Honestly, I loved Kareem and wasn’t all that thrilled with Phil. Even after finishing the book, I’m a little upset with Maya for even needing so much time to choose between them. Kareem seems to be the better fit in my opinion, but maybe I’m looking at it through a mother’s eyes?
Just when you think everything is starting to go Maya’s way, a terrorist attack happens in a town not too far from where Maya and her family lives, she has to deal with out of control Islamophobia. She and her parents are put in danger and her world is turned upside down.
While I connected a lot with Maya, I wasn’t a big fan of the way her parents were ultimately portrayed in the end. I saw some similarities in other real-life Indian parents I know, but at times I felt like there was too much stereotyping, especially for a book dealing with the very negative aspects of stereotyping!
Overall, I thought this was a great read and I’m so glad I finally got the chance to read it! I think it’d be a great required reading book for high school (HINT, HINT to the English teachers who read my blog).
What do you think? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave me a comment below!
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Mammoth by Jill Baguchinsky – BOOK REVIEW

38769727Title: Mammoth
Author: Jill Baguchinsky
Publication Date & Publisher: November 6, 2018, Turner Publishing
Genre(s): Young Adult
Length: 340 pages
ISBN: 9781684421947
My Rating: 4.75/5.0

Description (from Goodreads):

The summer before her junior year, paleontology geek Natalie Page lands a coveted internship at an Ice Age dig site near Austin. Natalie, who’s also a plus-size fashion blogger, depends on the retro style she developed to shield herself from her former bullies, but vintage dresses and perfect lipstick aren’t compatible with prospecting for fossils in the Texas heat. But nothing is going to dampen Natalie’s spirit — she’s exactly where she wants to be, and she gets to work with her hero, a rock-star paleontologist who hosts the most popular paleo podcast in the world. And then there’s Chase the intern, who’s seriously cute, and Cody, a local boy who’d be even cuter if he were less of a grouch.
It’s a summer that promises to be about more than just mammoths.
Until it isn’t.
When Natalie’s hero turns out to be anything but, and steals the credit for one of her accomplishments, Nat has to unearth the confidence she needs to stand out in a field dominated by dudes. To do this, she’ll have to let her true self shine, even if that means defying all the rules for the sake of a major discovery.

My review: 

So I pretty much knew I was going to like this book before I even read it. Some other very trustworthy bloggers had given it high praise, and I was excited to get my hands on it! When it finally arrived, I made the mistake of letting my teen daughter read the blurb, and she offered to fight me over who got to read it first… (Don’t worry, I shut that down and no child abuse was exacted in my reading of this wonderful novel!)
I ended up loving Mammoth so much that I’m not even sure where to start… Guess I’ll just jump right in…
Natalie totally reinvented herself during the summer before she started high school. She doesn’t just dress differently, she’s got a whole different attitude that she wears as a shield to guard herself from her real feelings. “Be awesome” is the mantra she’s learned from her aunt and her awesomeness is obvious to everyone around her… including some of the kids that used to pick on her before she had the courage to “be awesome.”
While she’s putting on the front of awesomeness to the entire world, inside she’s all insecurity and self-loathing. And now that she’s going to be digging up bones for the summer, it’s a lot harder to put on that awesome clothing and makeup she’s been using to hide her true self away from the world.
While at the amazing internship she’s landed at the mammoth dig site, she gets to meet her hero, Dr. Thomas F. Carver. This should be a dream come true, but it turns out to be anything but… and not just because she’s become frenemies with Dr. Carver’s daughter, Quinn, who’s also interning at the site.
Dr. Carver, who Natalie has idolized both personally and publicly, steals credit for a huge find and Natalie and Quinn are expected to just roll over and take it. Another paleontologist, Dr. Gallaher, tries to cheer Natalie up and I just loved it…

“There are two lessons you can take from this,” he says. “First, understand that this kind of thing happens. It’s part of the game. Anyone who’s been in the field for a while knows how you feel. At least you got your first experience with it over with early. You’re way ahead of your peers – and with the way word travels among paleontologists, those of us who matter will know who really found that calf.”
At least it’s something. “What’s the second lesson?”
Dr. Gallagher gives his ample whiskers a casual stroke. “Never, ever trust a male paleontologist without a proper beard. They’ll screw you over every time.”

(Shortly before I started reading Mammoth, my husband had started having to shave his beard for work…I loved his beard and pouted fought him shaving it hard! I totally dropped the paleontologist part & used the above to win my argument that he shouldn’t shave if he’s not at work!)
I loved how real the characters seemed. Natalie reminded me so much of my younger self with her insecurities and body issues, but I also related to the other characters. I loved that she didn’t have a horrible relationship with her parents and that the adults weren’t portrayed as complete idiots. (A personal pet peeve of mine in YA lately.)
Being the mother of two daughters, I love that this book shows women in STEM!!!
I definitely recommend this book to… just about everyone that enjoys a good young adult read!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Turner Publishing. This in no way influenced my review.

What do you think of Mammoth? 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!
Planning on purchasing Mammoth? Please consider using one of these affiliate links: Amazon, Book Depository
 
 

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BOOK REVIEW: Truth Seer (Truth Seer Trilogy Book 1) by Kay L Moody

40598920Title & Author: Truth Seer, Kay L Moody
Publication Date & Publisher: July 2, 2018, Marten Press
Genre: Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Teens & YA
My Rating: 4.0
Amazon Purchase Link: Truth Seer (Truth Seer Trilogy)

Description (from Goodreads):

A world of lies. A cell of terrorists. When her sister is taken hostage, only the power to see the truth can set both of them free.
Egypt, 2121. Imara Kalu knows how she wants her future to go: Become a police interrogator in Kenya and then graduate as a truth seer in her last semester of the summer training program. But her plans fall apart when a group of terrorists take over the school and carry out a desperate kidnapping. Devastated that her sister is among the victims, Imara leads a rescue team and descends into the dangerous catacombs where the hostages are rumored to be hidden.
Although suspicious of others because of the truth she sees, Imara knows the rescue team will need her help as a truth seer to bypass the lethal illusions laid by the abductors. But as the terrorist traps escalate, Imara realizes how much truth she’s been ignoring and that holding back could get her sister killed. Throughout the journey, Imara confronts her past and amplifies her abilities as a truth seer only to discover that her sister’s kidnapping is just one piece of a much darker secret.
Truth Seer is an enthralling YA sci-fi fantasy novel. If you like tenacious heroes, incredible mind powers, and futuristic tech, then you’ll love Kay L Moody’s fascinating world.

My review:

If you had the ability to see (literally SEE) others truths and intentions, would you really want to?
Before reading Truth Seer, I would have said “Um, Yeah!” without thinking twice about it. But now?!?!? I’m not so sure…
Truth Seer takes place in the future, after we’ve tapped into innate abilities that allow us to basically have superpowers (hilas). It seems a little far fetched when I say it that way, but Kay L Moody actually had me thinking I could totally have a hila!
Basically, we’re currently in a world where we all have “abilities” we just haven’t tapped into yet. Are you good at nursing people back to health? You’re probably a healer. Have an incredible sense of smell? Yep, there’s a hila there! Can you predict when it’s about to rain? You’ve probably got the same hila as Imara’s sister, Naki. OR at least, you would…if only we’d figured out how to unlock our hilas already. Not gonna lie… I’M SUPER UPSET WE DON’T HAVE SUPERPOWERS!
Oops! I got distracted. I’m supposed to be telling you what I thought about the book…
The main character, Imara, is a truth seer. She’s able to see the truth and intentions behind what people say. I both thought this was awesome, and felt so bad for Imara that this was her hila! Because she knows anytime someone is lying, she can’t trust anyone. Everyone lies.
Imara and her sister, Naki, have some issues that go far deeper than most sibling rivalries. But when Naki is kidnapped by a terrorist group called “taggers,” Imara risks her life to save Naki and the others who were taken with her.
My favorite thing about Truth Seer was definitely the characters! I was drawn to Imara and loved how complicated she was. She is constantly seeing the truth around her, but the truth about herself is much harder for her to see. While Imara is my favorite character, there’s a mystique about Abe that has me dying to see what happens in the next book… I’m really hoping to learn more about him!
One of my favorite scenes was probably really only my favorite because I found it hilarious and could totally see the scenario taking place in the not so distant future. And I could totally see me talking to my grandchildren the same as Mr. Nazari talks to the students…

… “There’s writing on it. There’s actual writing on this paper. By hand!”
Mr. Nazari snatched the paper from Darius. “Let me see that.” He masked his curiosity with a patronizing look. “You children. Getting excited over paper. It used to be commonplace, you know.”

Because of Imara’s hila, no one ever questions her. They just go along with whatever she says. But she falls for Abe, who questions everything about both her hila and Imara herself. I loved their back and forth and they may be my new favorite fictional couple!
So those are the pros, on to the cons…
While I loved the book, there were times when Imara rubbed me the wrong way. She said and thought things that just didn’t make sense concerning her sister. It really got to me – to the point that I started not to like her so much. But you are given an explanation later in the story and it’s this “AHA!” moment, where suddenly it all makes sense and you think “Okay, now I’m shocked she wasn’t having even worse thoughts.” (So I guess this wasn’t actually a con. But I put it here because Imara REALLY angered me a couple of times before I knew what was going on.)
There were quite a bit of typos in my copy, but it may have just been because I had an ARC and these may be taken care of. In case they aren’t, I feel I need to mention that it was a problem. There was also a couple of times when the dialogue didn’t seem quite right…it either wasn’t something I would have expected the character to say, or it didn’t sound natural to me.
But basically, I loved Truth Seer and I definitely recommend it for those that enjoy young adult science fiction/fantasy novels. Book 2 in the trilogy is coming in January and I’m excited to get my hands on it!
In case you’re wondering…my hila would totally be truth seeing, just like Imara. And just like her, it’d cause me to isolate myself from everyone… What would you’re hila be? Would you actually want one, or do you think you’d be happier without it?
Do you plan on reading or have you read Truth Seer? What did you think? Do you want a hila now? Let me know!

***UPDATE: Since the original posting of this review, it has been confirmed that the typos mentioned above were because they had not been fixed prior to my receiving the ARC from the author and typos were corrected prior to final version of book.

 

Amazon Purchase Link: Truth Seer (Truth Seer Trilogy)