[Roxie Reviews] | ‘Heritage: Volume 1 (Transcend)’ by Addie Hunter

‘Heritage: Volume 1 (Transcend)’ by Addie Hunter
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4/5
Finished on September 12, 2017
$1.99 on Kindle | $12.99 in Paperback

A warehouse accident in Arhaus, Nevada in 2012 created six teenage superheroes. Going their into senior year as superhumans is real a challenge. 

Strange symbols begin appearing all around town, a new kid moves in, someone threatens to bomb the news building, and Dave still can’t find a date to his senior homecoming. Blaise hopes that they can figure out who keeps setting all these fires, and Kat just wants to graduate in one piece.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This is the first book in the Transcend series. For fans of the superhero genre, this is a new and fantastic addition to it. 

The town of Arhaus is chock full of superheroes. Six of them struggling to juggle their newfound abilities and their senior year of high school. It’s difficult to keep their identities secret from their friends (and the press!) while also keeping up with their social lives and school work, but somehow they manage.
The characters in this book are all very likable and real. All of them are individual and very much like the folks we all knew in high school. It took me a little while to keep their hero names separate from their real names, but that’s probably more on me than the author. 

Hunter did an excellent job setting up for the other books in the series. There’s a lot more story to be told, both for the current heroes’ future and about the town’s past. 

[Roxie Reviews] | ‘The Missing Piece’ by Marie Lavender

‘The Missing Piece’ by Marie Lavender
⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3/5
Finished on September 4, 2017
$.99 on Kindle

Studious and predictable Alyssa wakes up on the lawn of a frat house. She doesn’t remember how she got there. She doesn’t remember attending the party there the night before or why she would even agree to go to such a thing. It’s completely out of her character. When she hears she spent the night with one of the frat boys, her world crumbles. But one of the guys there, Justin, agrees to help her put the pieces together, and she finds she’s more drawn to him than she should be. 

Can the biggest mistake of Aly’s life turn into the promise of new love?

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This was more of a 2.5 stars for me. 

I wanted to know why Alyssa went to this party in the first place. She is such a neurotic character, it is so out of character for her to do something like this for no reason. It seemed extremely unbelievable to me that she couldn’t remember a single reason why she would go to a party. Yeah, you forget what you’ve done once alcohol enters the picture, but a heavy night of drinking (especially when you’re a novice drinker) doesn’t make you forget what you did BEFORE you started drinking. It didn’t make any sense to me. And wouldn’t she have a friend or a roommate who could help jog her memory as to why she decided to go out that night? That whole initial setup threw me off for the rest of the story.

The romance is sweet and charming and saves the weaker plot elements. 

[Roxie Reviews] | ‘Hidden in the Dark’ by RaShell Lashbrook

‘Hidden in the Dark’ by RaShell Lashbrook
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5/5
Finished on September 4, 2017
FREE on Kindle Unlimited | $.99 on Kindle | $9.99 in Paperback

Genevieve Carter, after a lifetime of abuse from her husband, finally has enough and leaves him. But she doesn’t know how to be on her own. She only knows how to be a victim. For decades, she focused only on avoiding punishment – on pacifying her husband – so much so that she paid little attention to the suffering of her three daughters. All of whom she now needs to rely on to make it. Will they help her?

Her oldest, Lily, left home as soon as she could and found solace in the arms in a wealthy, San Antonio blueblood. She reinvented herself to fit his life and to run from her past. But no one can run from their past – their secrets – forever.

Thirty-five-year-old Randi shields her shame beneath sex and drugs. She thought if she stopped communicating to her parents entirely, she could forget about it all entirely.

And Raine, the youngest, was left to deal with her father all on her own after her sisters were gone. To cope, she invented Shanti, a friend free of conscience, who is back and who is ready to get revenge. Once and for all.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book could be triggering for those who are sensitive to child, domestic, and or sexual abuse. It is not one for the faint of heart, but it is a powerful story. While it’s a thriller, for sure, I think it’s a very realistic look into the mind (and hearts) of those who live through abuse. 

The father in this book is a cruel, sociopathic, pedophile, and he puts his family through absolute hell. Through this, the women in this story all cope differently.
The mother, Genny becomes like wilted flower. A perpetual victim. It becomes hard to like her – to respect her – because she doesn’t protect her daughters but, at the same time, if you have any sort of knowledge of what happens to battered women over time, you can’t help but have sympathy for her. He has beaten her down, over and over again, over time until she is but a shattered version of a person. She couldn’t have helped her daughters because she couldn’t help herself. 

The girls all try to find ways to escape, to run away, from their pasts. But if you don’t ever actually heal your trauma, you can’t expect to live any sort of happy life. All three girls need to learn this through the course of the story. 

Raine is a particularly interesting – and tragic – character. I had a hard time putting this book down simply because I needed to know what was going to happen with her next. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It was heartbreaking and disturbing, but it made me feel, and that’s what I need in a book more than anything these days. 

[Roxie Reviews] | ‘Out of Body’ by Christopher John Chater

‘Out of Body’ by Christopher John Chater
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4/5
Finished on August 30, 2017
$2.99 on Kindle | $9.99 in Paperback

Harley Baker had a near-death experience when he was young bringing along a lifelong obsession with the afterlife. This obsession led him to discover astral projection. Inexperienced with it, he doesn’t protect himself before jumping into out of body experiences. In doing so, a demon takes over his empty body. While in spirit, Harley has little choice but to watch as this demon, using his body, woos the girl he’s been after, lives his college life, and brainwashes his best friend with wealth and power. Worse, this demon is murderous and has plans to unleash untold evil. Harley’s time is limited. Soon, he’ll be trapped in the spirit plane forever. He needs to figure out how to get back in his body and stop this demon before it’s too late.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Harley and his friends are not the most likable bunch. Harley doesn’t start out with much of an appreciation for life despite being given a second chance at it. Stephanie is a bit of a doofus, as she isn’t able to tell when Harley has been taken over by a demon, and his best friend is selfish and money hungry. Perhaps it’s because they’re young and dumb, but they are the perfect targets of a demon like Horace. 

This is imaginative and fun. I particularly liked the other spirit trapped in the astral plane, a poor hippy who’d traversed there during a drug trip and gotten stuck. He was helpful yet funny and added a charming element to the story. 

Harley’s character arc is well-done. He grows from a cynical, self-absorbed, well, brat into a young man with an appreciation for life and others. Chaters writes with humor and a delightful cynicism. 

Donate. Or Don’t. | Flash Fiction Piece | Roxie Prince on Patreon

I have been writing a collection of flash fiction (short stories of 500 words or less) on my Patreon. These stories are mostly horror stories, but there’s an occasional genre-bending tale in there, too. Currently, I’ve written 35+. My plan is to release said stories in a collection later on this year, but my patrons get a first look at (and free paperback copies of) these pieces and how they form in my mind. 

I’ve made two of these tales public on my Patreon page, the most recent one is linked above, if you would like to check it out. Afterward, if you’d consider becoming a patron of mine, for as little as a dollar a month, it would be super rad. As an independent author, it helps me out more than you know. You’ll get cool rewards, depending on your tier, and I post new content almost on a daily basis. You’ll get your money’s worth, I think. 

Anyway, check out the two free stories I’ve posted there and make your own judgment. Supporting creators you like is one of the coolest things you can do.

Donate. Or Don’t. | Flash Fiction Piece | Roxie Prince on Patreon

[Roxie Reviews] | ‘The Unlocked’ by JD Stonebridge

‘The Unlocked’ by JD Stonebridge
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4/5
Finished on August 30, 2017
FREE on Kindle

Sarah and Carl Hartley witness a brutal car accident in the middle of the night on the highway. When they stop to help, they quickly realize there is no hope for the two adult passengers, but the baby in the back seat? They can save her. They take the infant, and they run, raising her as their own. But as little Charlene ‘Charlie’ Hartley grows up, they realize she is more special than they could have ever imagined. She has the ability to move objects with her mind.

Brilliant and kind at seventeen, Charlie is on her way to Harvard when she’s forced to use her powers in an incident that changes her entire life path. She gets invited to attend a government-run school for people like her – people with special abilities – and there she discovers she has a long-lost twin sister. She cannot pass up the opportunity to discover her past and be with her sister.

But things at ANDREI, the institute for superhumans, are not all they seem. The more she works to hone her powers, the more she realizes how corrupt the woman heading the institute is. If she wants to be reunited with her sister, she’s going to have to make some hard decisions.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Charlie seems to have a perfect life. Her parents love her, and she loves them. They get along extremely well. Almost to an unreasonable level given that most teenagers have some sort of tension with their parents. She’s bright. So much so that she’s set to attend Harvard in the fall. And she’s got telekinetic powers. What a life!

This pollyanna life of Charlie’s felt like too much to me. I suppose it is supposed to work in stark contrast to what she is set to face later on in the novel. Even when she gets the news about her true origin, her reaction is nothing but loving and accepting which didn’t feel realistic to me at all coming from a late teenager/young adult. Hell, even a full grown adult would probably have some real anger over finding out what Charlie does. 

Overall, though, the plot of this novel is solid and engaging. The pacing is nice, even, and kept me wanting to keep reading even when I had other things I needed to be doing. I wanted to find out exactly what was going on at ANDREI and what was up with Jeanne.

The dialog is a little stilted at points, but not enough to draw me out of the story, and as the story progresses, it seems to even out.

The novel ends with a cliffhanger that made me want to read the next installment in the series. The ending is neither abrupt nor flat.

If you enjoy young adult novels with a strong female protagonist, superhuman abilities, and government conspiracies, consider giving this a read.

A Reconnection Two Decades in the Making

At the end of June, something happened that changed my life forever in the very best way. I reconnected with my dad’s siblings.

We had not seen each other since my father died in February of 1995. Not because of any ill feelings or any sort of falling out, but simply because life is incredibly hard and cruel sometimes. HIV/AIDS destroys much more than our bodies. It wrecks entire lives, and it did just that in my family. 

After my dad died, my brother and I moved from Colorado to live with our mother’s sister in Texas. My dad’s sister lived in Utah, and his brother lived in Illinois (at the time). Both my dad’s siblings had young children, HIV/AIDS was a real monster back then, and this was a time before the Internet. It wasn’t as easy to keep in touch as it is now. We wrote letters (and my grandparents kept them all, I discovered when I met up with my family, which really touched my heart. I read through all of them.), but as time wore on, and grief and guilt (which I will get into in a moment) sunk their claws deeper and deeper in, we slowly fell out of touch.

I must preface all of this by saying that my brother and I never held any ill feelings toward our dad’s family about any of this. Things happened the way they happened, and our lives made us who we are. We like who we are. We wouldn’t necessarily change it, if that makes sense. We knew they had their reasons. We knew they lost their brother (and others as time wore on), and grief doesn’t always give us a choice in how we react. It’s an absolute bitch. They were victims as much as we were. 

I struggle to write this because if I went into all of the details, it would add up to thousands and thousands of words, and I don’t think anyone would want to read it all in a blog post. I don’t really know how to sum it all up in a short and concise way. When I write my memoirs one of these days, I’ll be able to tell the whole story, but here, I can only tell so much.

In short, as the years went by and we spoke less and less, and we didn’t see each other, the guilt built up in my dad’s family. They felt guilty they didn’t take me and my brother in – that they didn’t raise us. Guilt and grief grows and grows and becomes a monster. It negatively impacted them and their families’ lives in ways that breaks my heart.

Then, along came Facebook. For as much as I hate Facebook and the bullshit it brings most days, I have to love it because it has allowed me to connect with my family. 

Initially, I started connecting with my cousin, Shae, my dad’s brother’s daughter a few years ago. It was such a light in my life to have her in my life. We are so much alike, and she and her kids bring unbridled joy to me every single day. Through her, I was able to connect with my Uncle Bill, Aunt Rochelle (her parents), cousin Audrey (her sister), and my Aunt Monica (my dad’s sister). 

This brings me to June. 

My Uncle Bill messaged me saying that he, Rochelle, and Monica were going on a road trip, and in the process would like to swing by my area to see me and my brother. Would that be okay? After talking to my brother, of course, we decided we’d like that!

A week or so later, we saw them for the first time in twenty-plus years. It was a little bit scary but mostly amazing. 

We spent two days together laughing, hugging, telling stories, and getting to know each other. It was incredible to see these people I didn’t really know but who were so much like us. They looked so much like us, moved like us, and spoke like us. In my Uncle Bill, I simultaneously saw my dad and my brother; it was surreal but awesome in the truest sense of the word. I had almost forgotten what my dad sounded like until I heard my Uncle Bill speak. He has my dad’s hands. 

For the first time ever, I didn’t feel like I talked too much! I felt like I was among my people. I’ve been told all my life, for as long as I can remember, that I’m a motormouth, that I need to stop talking, but with my Prince family, I realized I have just been around people who didn’t talk enough. It was one of the most validating moments of my life.

Before they left, my Uncle Bill asked me if I would like to make the drive back out west with them and spend some time getting to know them. It was entirely spur of the moment and a huge deal for me as both traveling is hard on my immune system, and I don’t like to leave my house (and dog!) very often (you know this if you know me well). Especially with people I didn’t even really know. I only had one night to make my decision. Come to find out, my Aunt Rochelle and Uncle Bill bet on whether or not I’d go or not. Rochelle won, I think. Haha!

I decided to go. I packed a bag and left the next morning. We made the drive from the Houston area to New Mexico over the next couple of days. I had so much fun. 

We died laughing so many times. Especially when they kept me up snoring for a whole night, and they realized they’d spent an entire two weeks together never realizing they snored. LMAO And when we got lost trying to find a hotel, and Monica teased Bill relentlessly. 

I spent two full weeks out west with them going back and forth between New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah seeing all sorts of beautiful country, meeting my family, and getting to know my dad in ways I have never gotten to before. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to properly put the experience to words. That’s part of the reason it’s taken me months to write this post at all. 

It was a hard experience, too. For someone with PTSD, there were times I struggled. 

I had a full-on breakdown in the car in front of everyone (talk about embarrassing) during the car trip when we were talking about my mom. And I had a few nights as I tried to fall asleep when things would overwhelm me (that’s when my panic attacks typically hit me), but for the most part, things were amazing. 

Coming home has been hard, too. I feel like I’ve been on a roiling ocean of emotions since. I wouldn’t change it for the world, and I’m beyond happy we are all back in each other’s lives, but it has seemed to make the ups and downs of PTSD worse. I mean, it makes sense. I’m confronting memories and feelings I haven’t thought of in years. Stuff I have pushed back for decades. But it’s all stuff I need to confront. Stuff I’m in therapy for. Still, it’s hard. I never know what wave I’ll be riding next.

Oh, and something surreal happened when we were driving through the Rockies that I’ll never forget. 

Bill and Rochelle took me to go see the Black Canyon, and while we were going up (we went all the way up to 13k feet!), a song my dad used to love and we listened to together all of the time, “King of the Road” by Roger Miller, randomly came on the satellite radio. All of us went silent. I was so choked up I couldn’t speak for a good five minutes. The Rocky Mountains were the last place I ever was with my dad. I always knew that going back there would be emotional – special and hard – for me. That he would be there. Well, when we were coming back down the canyon, the same song played again on the radio! At this point, all of us started laughing and were like, “All right, Steve! We get it! You’re here!” It was great. 

Since coming home, my dad’s family has kept in contact with me every few days. I have felt more surrounded by love than I ever have in my entire life. Forming these relationships with my aunts has helped fill a hole in my heart that has ached and ached for ages. The hole for my mother. It’s not completely filled because no one can ever replace my mother, but it’s soothed, and I can never express how grateful I am for that. I never thought I’d have that. Ever. 

My brother has actually moved to New Mexico. He left just shy of two weeks ago. He’s working for our Uncle Bill. Bill has provided my brother with an amazing opportunity. So, not only has this changed our lives in an incredible emotional way – allowed all of us to heal – but it’s given my brother a chance for a better life financially, too. 

I miss my brother, fiercely. We are orphans who have never really been apart, but it’s for the best. We message and video chat, so it’s not so bad. I’m happy for him, and for the first time in his life, he has a male influence.

All of us, the whole Prince clan, are finally getting the chance to heal wounds that have festered for over twenty years. It’s about time. Finally, we are able to kick grief and guilt in the nuts and be happy and healthy. And it feels goddamned good.

So, I’ll wrap this epically long post up with a few photos from our reconnection and my trip out west. I love you all. Thanks for reading this far.  

This is around the last time I saw my Uncle Bill. 

Bill, Rochelle, Monica, my brother Cody, and me. 

Me and Monica. 

Me and Rochelle. I taught them about selfie angles. LOL 

Cody and Bill.

The first time I’d been in Colorado since I was about 12. 

My Aunt Rochelle and Uncle Bill took me to the beautiful library in their town of Farmington, New Mexico because what author doesn’t wanna visit the library?!

Finally meeting my cousin Shae’s kiddos, Jocelyn and Maverick, was truly a highlight of the trip and lifechanging in itself. I will write about that at a later date.