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Ratings and Book Reviews (2 2 star ratings
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  • Solid Follow Up/Perfect for the Season

    I was excited to read this one because I loved the first one and was hoping for a similar experience. I wasn't disappointed. And, for me, this one was a little more exciting compared to the first because of where the book takes place. But I'll get to that in a sec. First off, I want to comment on the consistency between the novels. Whenever I read a series, it's because I've fallen for the characters and cannot wait to get back into their lives/world. Being in Alex's world again was comforting. Margaret's back and as sassy as ever, and I love how these two work together. It's a YA cloud of yumminess. They click and it just makes sense. I love Alex' vulnerability and innocence, and M's strength & attitude. Alex has a good head on his shoulders. His integrity (the way he treats the people he loves) makes me like him even more. So the story in general goes like this.... Alex crosses paths with a lost soul in his world. Being who he is, he can't let it go. He travels across dimensions (with Margaret!) to the Academy of Souls, and of course, has to deal with an evil entity that is threatening the existence of the lost souls there. Overall, this book has consistent characters/world that welcome you back, interesting story/conflict, amazing setting, funny moments, suspenseful moments, heart-warming and squishy teen love, and the obligatory evil-entity butt kicking. Okay, *now* back to the setting. This is basically why I liked this book more than the first. It takes place at an afterlife academy...which I find to be a totally cool trope. There are so many other books I've read that also do this, but it feels borderline cliche. Not the Academy of Souls. I found it to be a dynamic place for Alex (and Margaret) to do their thing. And the lost soul students...terrific supporting characters. I could definitely see an entire series happening here. *The Parliament House Press provided an ARC of this novel.

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  • Plenty of Potential

    Vicki-Ann Bush’s second installment in the Alex McKenna series, Alex McKenna & the Academy of Souls, offers plenty of teen mystery solving and clever paranormal world-building. Fans of paranormal urban fiction may get some enjoyment out of this book if they can ignore formatting issues and consistent editing issues. The novel opens with protagonist Alex McKenna finishing one of the most taxing cases of his career before literally jumping into another case (and another world) with his girlfriend. I adore Bush’s execution of Alex as a transgender protagonist and how he copes with his physical and emotional needs. It’s presented in a realistic way that doesn’t seem preachy or overtly educational. I was enamored with the world-building of the Academy and its denizens. It was interesting to learn how places like the “in-between” and “The Nowhere” functioned in relation to the world of the living, even if it became a little confusing at times. All-in-all, I was prepared to fully enjoy this novel and its characters. Unfortunately, the lack of a thorough line edit made the journey through this world quite a difficult one. After the first chapter, we were introduced to a sizable cast of ghost teens, which is where I found it difficult to invest in the overall plot. There were several secondary characters introduced who offered little to narrative. I found myself questioning if the story actually needed them to be there. This wouldn’t be too much of an issue if we didn’t spend a large chunk of the book with them. Ultimately, I found their characters to be largely unnecessary outside of having people for the main characters to interact with besides themselves. Awkward sentence structure made it difficult to figure out who was speaking during dialogue, but the biggest culprit was the overuse of commas. They were often used in the place of periods and semicolons, often in places where a comma wasn’t needed at all. An example from the novel: “Visiting family that had migrated to a warmer climate, was a yearly trip he’d have to miss this time.” Beyond grammar and formatting, there was way too much telling and not enough showing. A character would reveal they were upset, and this would be followed up with text explaining why instead of allowing the character to convey the emotion organically. I also would have liked a bit more background on a few characters who showed up to help solve very specific problems. It was a little too convenient at times for “this character who knows how to enter this very specific dimension” to suddenly appear and rectify the characters’ plight. Overall, if you can ignore the abundance of grammatical errors and superficial characters, you’ll probably enjoy this book. I adored the protagonist as well as the world-building. I believe with a proper line edit, this book could at least be a decent page-turner. We need more LGBT protagonists, and I hope Bush continues to hone her craft for any potential future installments.

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