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The Out Crowd by Michael Kirby Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Examining the life of two groups of students, the In-Crowd and the Out-Crowd, of a high school, this coming of age satire explores the toxicity of division in author Michael Kirby’s YA satire/drama, “The Out Crowd”. 

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The Synopsis

Hallie Flynn was ready for the perfect senior year, but everything changes at Homecoming when petty rumors spiral out of control. The In Crowd was always who everybody in the Out Crowd dreamed of being. The Out Crowd consisted of everybody else. Isaiah was also expecting a normal senior year. His biggest concern was earning a scholarship for college, but then all the norms evaporated. Gossip piles on top of itself, overwhelming his social life, and everyone else’s. Friendships are ruined. People from all walks of Gates High School life no longer know who to trust.

Determined, Hallie makes it her mission to set the record straight. But by the time the gossip desperately needed to be stopped, it was already too late. Gates High could never be the same as it was again, because rumors and gossip are not toys to be played around with. What appears simple and straightforward becomes more confusing. Eventually the rumors take on a life of their own and truth and untruth merge into an unrecognizable blur. Both the In Crowd and the Out Crowd learn to live with their new fate in different ways. Inevitably, lessons are learned, but only after the damage is already done.

The Review

An engaging read, author Michael Kirby has created a great YA read that not only delves into the inner-workings of high school life but on a much broader scale examines the social and political divides that keep our world at odds with one another. The author’s use of high school life to illustrate the larger problems of society is an inspired choice here, as often high school life can serve as a precursor for what is to come in life later on. 

The narrative is very character-driven, with kids from both the In-Crowd and Out Crowd showcasing the various aspects of high school’s social scene, and how rumor and gossip can not only spread like wildfire but how it can ruin and change lives wholeheartedly. The characters remain relatable and engaging to readers as the story progresses. However the only note I would make is that at times the narrative and dialogue can become repetitive at times, and although the story still flourished it did take me out of the narrative at times. 

The Verdict

Well-written, entertaining and relatable, author Michael Kirby’s “The Out Crowd” is a must-read YA drama. Creative and engaging, the characters come to life in the reader’s mind easily, and although a shorter read the core story has an amazing impact that will stay with the readers long after the final chapter. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 8/10

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About the Author

Ever since childhood, Michael has had a constant urge to liberate stories from the realm of his imagination and share them with the world. Various tales and characters would nag at him from inside his head until he finally agreed to give them a new life by putting pen-to-paper or finger-to-keyboard. In time, he realized this meant becoming a writer.

In college he wrote articles for the campus newspaper. After graduating he tried out publishing on various blogs over the years. Now he has turned to books, with a focus on novels.

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Life Sliding by S.L. Mauldin Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young man forced to give up his summer vacation in order to serve as a camp counselor takes an emotional and roller coaster turn in author S.L. Mauldin’s novel “Life Sliding”. 

The Synopsis

As Gavin’s junior year comes to a close, he faces an inner conflict with his status as the most popular kid in high school. It’s not lost on his father, who sensed for some time that his overly indulged son needs redirection. Making matters worse for Gavin, his dad sends him away for the summer to assist at a camp for children with special needs. 

Arriving at camp Life Me Up, Gavin is suddenly forced to dabble in a world less familiar. After his first uncomfortable encounter with a strange girl with multi-colored fingernails, who refuses to waiver his arrogant behavior, Gavin comes face to face with a person from the past, which leaves him uneasy. 

Inevitably, three people clash and collide, but when tragedy strikes, they come to an understanding regarding their differences. Becoming a young adult, Gavin faces a summer of harsh lessons in reality. Once he crosses the bridge from a self-inflicted prison to the road to freedom, Gavin and his new friends implement a strategy to stir up the social order when they return to school in the fall. 

Because of one jaded person jumping to conclusions, the plan backfires. Will they be able to survive the fallout of what they’ve put into motion? #LifeSliding

The Review

A truly powerful read, author S.L. Mauldin has created a truly accurate portrayal of the harsh reality of high school life, the social hierarchy that often rules the school scene, and the dangers of intolerance and hatred of the unknown. More relevant now than ever before, the issues faced by the protagonist and the cast of characters is a reflection of our society as a whole, and the sad reality of judgement and cruelty that knows no bounds in society. 

The journey of Gavin to rediscover who he truly is, as well as the emotional toll of the loss that hits Gain early into the summer, makes him such a compelling protagonist. More than anything however, what the author does a masterful job of showing is that everyone is going through private struggles in life, and not only should society realize that, but work to help those struggling whenever possible, and to fight hatred and ignorance with love and compassion whenever possible as well. 

The Verdict

A brilliant YA drama that creates a relatable story as old as time, and yet breathes new life into the story of a young man struggling to define himself and determine what is more important: his image or his self-worth. Fantastic writing all around and a great cast of characters make this quick read a must have, so be sure to grab your copy of “Life Sliding” by S.L. Mauldin today!

Rating: 10/10

About the Author

Born in the suburbs of Atlanta, where he now resides and continues to write young adult books but stories relatable to readers beyond those turbulent adolescent years. 

Shannon is a producer, screenwriter, and  author of the young adult novels Life Sliding and Always Here. 

Currently, he is editing Kudzu, a fiction title and working on a new adult novel tentatively Somebody Else.  

Always Here by S.L. Mauldin Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A story that begins as a young woman’s dream of becoming a musical theatre star begins with a local high school production turns into an emotional story of painful secrets, things that are not always what they appear, and shocking loss in author S.L. Mauldin’s novel “Always Here”. 

The Synopsis

Miranda is an awkward teen, who dreams of musical theater stardom and following some encouragement from her eccentric best friend Christian, she decides to audition for their school’s upcoming performance. It comes as no surprise when she is beat out by the most popular girl in school. 

All is not lost however since Miranda is selected to understudy the girl whom everyone views as perfect. Perfect looks, perfect money, and the perfect boyfriend. Even her younger brother’s goofy best friend falls prey to allure of Pam who Miranda jokingly speculates might be a vampire. 

Soon after the leap of faith, Miranda and Christian uncover that someone in a seemingly perfect high school romance is hiding something. The bruises and the public displays that aren’t so affectionate initiate the discovery. The secrets are well hidden behind the walls of popularity and gated communities where proper fork placement takes priority over the frivolous dreams of a teenager. 

Rushing to save someone dramatically alters to the lives of six young adults when late one night on a two lane road a flickering brake light leads to the revealing of truths and the fulfillment of promises. One of those promises Miranda and Christian made in the third grade. With an auditorium fully seated on opening night, it becomes necessary for Christian to remind Miranda of a pact they made at a very young age. It came with two words “Always Here.”

The Review

A gripping tale that hits all of the emotional chords in perfect procession, author S.L. Mauldin does a magnificent job of creating characters readers will be able to relate to while also showcasing the everyday struggles that people don’t always think happen around them. 

From Miranda’s journey to realize her dreams and escape from under the shadow of another’s popularity and her attempt to cope with a shocking loss, to Christian’s inner conflict regarding his parents reflecting the way he handles another couples violent romance and a young woman seeking to find her own way in life despite an overbearing mother and an abusive boyfriend, this novel touches on truly emotional, deep and imperative questions of not only social views, but of mastering one’s own self-worth in the process. 

The Verdict

A one of a kind, passionate and emotional read, author S.L. Mauldin’s novel “Always Here” is a must read story. A fairly quick read, this YA drama never misses a beat, and creates an engaging story with a fantastic cast of characters that readers will instantly identify with. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

About the Author

Born in the suburbs of Atlanta, where he now resides and continues to write young adult books but stories relatable to readers beyond those turbulent adolescent years. 

Shannon is a producer, screenwriter, and  author of the young adult novels Life Sliding and Always Here. 

Currently, he is editing Kudzu, a fiction title and working on a new adult novel tentatively Somebody Else.  

Again, But Better by Christine Riccio Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young woman yearning to follow her dreams and overcome her shy nature finds herself far outside her bubble and struggling with new friendships, possible romances and a road very few travel in author Christine Riccio’s novel, “Again, but Better”. 

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The Synopsis

From one of the most followed booktubers today, comes Again, but Better, a story about second chances, discovering yourself, and being brave enough to try again.

Shane has been doing college all wrong. Pre-med, stellar grades, and happy parents…sounds ideal—but Shane’s made zero friends, goes home every weekend, and romance…what’s that? 

Her life has been dorm, dining hall, class, repeat. Time’s a ticking, and she needs a change—there’s nothing like moving to a new country to really mix things up. Shane signs up for a semester abroad in London. She’s going to right all her college mistakes: make friends, pursue boys, and find adventure! 

Easier said than done. She is soon faced with the complicated realities of living outside her bubble, and when self-doubt sneaks in, her new life starts to fall apart. 

Shane comes to find that, with the right amount of courage and determination one can conquer anything. Throw in some fate and a touch of magic—the possibilities are endless.

The Review

This was an amazing read from a wonderful new author. The author perfectly captures the raw emotional struggle of those who struggle with self-doubt and reservedness that makes it difficult to put one’s self out there for friendship, love or any social life whatsoever. As someone who frequently struggles with this to this day, it was a novel and protagonist that truly spoke to me and I believe many readers will be able to identify and relate to as they read this novel.

One of the fun and interesting aspects is the sudden introduction of a magical or supernatural element of the story halfway through the novel, taking readers by surprise. This story element does a remarkable job of bringing a new understanding not only to the characters but to the concept of fighting for your dreams and overcoming that struggle between shyness and confidence. Readers will love this new element of the novel and will grow more with the characters overall as the story progresses. 

The Verdict

This was a fantastic novel from a promising new author that has a deep understanding and command over the YA genre. Protagonist Shane is a beloved character that readers will instantly root for and relate to, and the novel itself is an evenly paced read that will keep readers on the edge of their seat as the narrative comes to its end. This is a top contender for YA Book of the Year, and a wonderful read that will have readers excited to read more novels from the author in the years to come. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy of “Again, but Better” by Christine Riccio today! 

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Christine Riccio has been on a quest to encourage more humans to read since the third grade. No one really listened until she started making videos about books on Youtube in 2010. Now her channel PolandbananasBOOKS has over 390,000 book-loving subscribers. She makes comedic book reviews, vlogs, sketches, and writing videos chronicling the creation of her own novel. She’s also one of the three YouTubers behind BOOKSPLOSION. Originally from New Jersey, Christine graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in Film and TV and now lives in Los Angeles, CA. Other hobbies include hot yoga and oatmeal. 

https://www.youtube.com/user/polandbananasBOOKS

https://www.instagram.com/xtinemay/

https://www.facebook.com/CMRproductionz/

https://www.christinericcio.com/

Northfighters: The View From The Christallis by Colm Dowd Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Worlds collide in author Colm Dowd’s debut YA novel “Northfighters: The View From The Christallis”. The first in what hopes to be a powerful new YA series, a world filled with magic and creatures unlike anything our world has ever seen merges with our own world, and four kids find themselves thrust into a war they never asked for. Here is the synopsis:

The Synopsis

What happens when you start to write a book for your kids to compete with Pokémon but you take so long to write it, it ends up more influenced by Smallville, Lost, Lord of the Rings and The X-Files? (To name a few) You end up with ‘Northfighters – The View from the Chrystallis’.

This is not your typical fantasy book, but it is a fantasy. And it has it all.

Eleven year old Chris Talbot is the likeable protagonist, with his nerdy friend Josh, his bully nemesis Mike, and his heart’s desire Sylvia. All four of them end up avoiding near death on their school trip near Seattle. They are being pursued by ghoulish monsters that have been sent after them by the charismatic yet maniacal super villain Salazon. Salazon ‘The Evil’ as he would prefer to be known has supreme psychic powers and a pretty big chip on his shoulder. He has an elaborate scheme to trigger a massive battle between two of his world’s people that, he just doesn’t want to have around anymore.

Salazon has been given a forewarning that this boy Chris is somehow going to be a thorn in his side. Luckily for Chris and his friends, they are taken through a portal to a strange and beautiful land by the heroic Talbar, a lord of the Northfighter people. Talbar, with three of his fellow men, make it their duty to guide the children on a trek with war and deceit all around them, to try to find the real reason the kids have ended up here.

The spectre of Salazon builds throughout the book, but he is not the only stuff of legend that is to be found in this land. Fables tell of great and powerful beasts, the true Northfighters, namesakes of the people that came after. Do they exist? Salazon and Talbar both believe that they do. And this may be where the children are to come in.

Back in the real world the tough and cynical detective Janet Lansing is perplexed by the mystery surrounding the missing kids. Where this is all going and why is anyone’s guess. But it’s an entertaining ride, come jump on.

The Review

This was a fantastic read. Some of the most original fantasy driven characters and creatures I’ve read in a long time, this novel blends the real world drama of four children disappearing from a school field trip and the police investigation that sparks as a result, to the heroic adventures of a rag tag group of warriors and four children who try to stop all out war between various nations. The mythological scale of the battles and the power of the villain Salazon will keep readers entranced throughout the entire story.

While there were brief areas within the story that held some minor grammatical errors, the overall story and mythology built by the author was so powerful that these moments never deterred from the overall story. The characters were relatable and engaging, while the setting felt like the YA equivalent to Game of Thrones. The blend of fantasy and drama felt natural and helped the story flow smoothly, making this read truly amazing.

The Verdict

Overall I loved this book. Filled with action, character development and shocking twists and turns, readers will love to get lost in this new fantasy world created by author Colm Dowd. With a cliff-hanger ending that leaves room for a hopeful sequel, this is a must read YA adventure like no other. If you haven’t yet, pick up your copy of Northfighters: The View From the Christallis today!

Rating: 9/10

https://www.amazon.com/Northfighters-View-Chrystallis-Colm-Dowd-ebook/dp/B07J1Z5TXM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1540436403&sr=1-1&keywords=9781999466602