Book Reviews

When Time Stands StillWhen Time Stands Still by Sara Furlong Burr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sometimes, it's impossible to know how to begin to describe a book that touches your heart. All I know is I read something beautiful and real and heartbreaking at once. Maybe because I'm of an age with the main characters and related so much to their stories, their lives. Or maybe because it reminded me of a piece of myself I'd forgotten. Either way, Burr has given us a gift with "When Time Stands Still."

Before you start thinking me too dramatic, let me argue my case. This is much more than your typical "second chances" trope. It's a lot less about sex and romance than it's about what happens when we stop believing in ourselves. When we choose to give in to the doubts in our heads that we don't deserve happiness, and forget how to fight for ourselves. Elle has given up and doesn't know it until she's called back to the only place that felt like home. Forced to pretend the last decade doesn't exist, thrown together with the family she didn't know she missed, causes her to second-guess herself. To second-guess her life. Nothing prepares her for seeing Luke again. Somewhere between memories of their epic love and pretending to live in the past with him fuses together the pieces of her heart she lost. And the result is beautiful.

I have to hand it to the author because there were several times I couldn't guess the ending. Normally that wouldn't be a question with a contemporary romance, especially "second chance" romance. But there was just enough tragedy and enough realism, I wondered if we would find happy-ever-after or not. I don't want to spoil the ending for you, but I can say I wish there had been more. While this was a quick and easy read, I felt lost at the end and wanted more time with these characters. This is the sort of story you want to fall into, which considering its modern setting is saying a lot. But it was a bittersweet nostalgia trip for me, personally. Like Elle, I wondered what would happen if I was forced to confront my own past. Here is the brilliance of Burr's writing. I should stop talking now before I really spoil you for this book. Don't take my word for it. Read it and love it. I know you will.

The Battle is O'er (The Blue Bells Chronicles Book 5)The Battle is O'er by Laura Vosika
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Since childhood, I've been in love with historical Scotland (no small part thanks to Braveheart). I have been drawn to historical fiction ever since. Author, Laura Vosika blends a unique view of romantic past, mixed with the brutality of medieval Scotland. "The Battle is O'er" is fifth in a historical time-travel series, about a thoroughly modern man who is pulled back to the time of Robert the Bruce. I'm a big fan of time-travel stories, where the author literally transports us through the main character, into a different world. But Vosika's "Blue Bells Chronicles" is unique in that she allows her characters to rewrite history.

"The Battle is O'er" concludes the adventures of Shawn and his friends in the distant past. Shawn may have returned to the present, but the danger is far from over. A prophecy leads Simon Beaumont to unspeakable acts, while Christine is desperate to escape her captors and return home. In the present, Shawn and Amy struggle to protect James, while discovering where they stand in their relationship. This is a carefully interwoven tale, with chapters written in both past and present. Each scene led seamlessly into the next, until I had to reach the satisfying conclusion.

"The Battle is O'er" blends the excitement of a modern thriller, with the immersive details of the best historical fiction. Vosika clearly shows her writing chops here, drawing her story forward with a cast of colorful and relatable characters living through extraordinary circumstances. I'd highly recommend this to fans of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series.

PretendingPretending by Shanna Clayton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can honestly say, without any reservations, this is the best contemporary romance I've read this year. Perhaps because, while it has all the things you crave in the best romance novels, Clayton gives us so much more. So much of the plot and characters took me by surprise.

We begin with Doll, who lives in a mansion with a guy she has ignored the past three years. It's quickly established they aren't related. He is the son of the man who gave Doll a home and chance at being part of a real family, before his tragic death. In his will, he declares his son and Doll will split his estate...if they agree to live in the house together, while completing their college degrees. As for exposition, this is one of the more original and intriguing set-ups I've read in ages. Possibly my favorite theme in this novel is the love of treasure and archaeology that is shared by our MC's.

The two main characters, Doll and Wesley, both carry big chips on their shoulders, entirely based on misunderstandings. Towards the end of their junior year of college, Wesley returns from a school dig in Egypt. Wesley soon runs into the housemate he's ignored out of spite, only to find she's not at all what he believed. Doll is set on hating him, but neither are prepared for their instant attraction, or the fact they might be soul mates after all. I loved Doll and Wesley's individual struggles. Finally, I could read a romance with relatable and reasonable characters. Instead of treating each other with contempt, they seek to learn each other.

As past secrets and more difficulties come to light, these two choose to fight for each other, to work out their issues. I can't tell you how often I've wanted to throw a book (or my phone) across the room because of two romantic leads who are too selfish to give into the selflessness of true love. For me, this is true love, not two people lashing out at each other when they don't get what they want. Rather, two people who will go to any lengths to make the other happy. So thank you, Shanna Clayton, for avoiding that unnecessary trope. Thank you for writing such an unputdownable book, and crafting the perfect love story. This is a book that will remind you why we read romance in the first place, to recapture that incandescent feeling of falling in love for the first time.

Refugees (Mud, Rocks, and Trees #1)Refugees by R.A. Denny
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the tradition of the very best epic young adult fantasy tales, R.A. Denny's "Refugees" is a sweeping epic for all ages.
I wasn't sure what to expect as I began reading, but was immediately struck by the dangerous beauty of Denny's imagination. Here is a science fiction world as dangerous as it is awe-inspiring, with creatures and landscapes just tempting the reader to explore. One of the most important aspects of any epic fantasy, is the strength of the worldbuilding. Refugees takes place in a world both distant and almost mythical, compared to our own. A warning, reader, before you dive in, this is a place you won't want to soon escape.
Our story begins with a prologue and a dooming prophecy. An all-powerful Emperor, naturally paranoid because of his power, is driven to unspeakable evils. Anything, to keep the prophecy from coming true. And as is the case of most prophecies, his very resistance is what sets events in motion, indeed, his impeding doom.
Meet Amanki, a "webbie" boy from a simple fishing village, who is guided and warned by an elderly wise stranger to flee. Yet they are too late to escape witnessing the tragedy Amanki's mentor feared. Now Amanki is determined to see his quest to its end, no matter what comes. Just as his wise friend unveils they are both of them much more than what and who they appear.
Refugees is told from multiple perspectives, yet through shorter chapters. Rather than forgetting events happening to a character five chapters back, each overlapping story weaves together seamlessly. The attention to details and rich cultures, the relatable emotions of each character, keeps the reader easily engaged.
While I felt the novel had a slower beginning, I was quickly enveloped in the story and somewhat desperate to see if my favorite characters would survive their next encounter.
Refugees ends on a big cliffhanger, but never fear, the author has already released the first six books in this epic series. A solid beginning to a unique and engrossing epic series, Refugees is a novel you'll be happy to get lost in.

 Sense and SensibilitySense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Years ago, I attempted to read Sense and Sensibility, but never made it past the halfway mark. Each time I attempted it, I grew so frustrated with the characters, older writing styles notwithstanding, I shoved it back onto my bookshelf. This year I decided to read and re-read all of Jane Austen's novels. I've always been a fan of classics and enjoy the challenge of stepping into the language of the time. But Sense and Sensibility, while as brilliant as Austen is deservedly lauded, suffers from characters restricted by society and their own dispositions.

Marianne is overflowing with too much sensibility, without a care of restricting her emotions, no matter who she hurts in the process. Meanwhile, Elinor is equally too sensible, and always covering up her sister's mistakes. Both love one another, while barely understanding each other's motivations. And the men in their lives are no better.

Edward Ferrars, our first "potential Darcy" arrives with charm, and much needed kindness. He fits perfectly with the ladies Dashwood and attempts to ease the vulgarity of his sister. But he is never driven to explain his feelings, or his true situation to Elinor, with whom he grows especially dear.
It's difficult, with our modern view, to think two people could love one another so thoroughly, without touch or privacy. But this is a time, while simpler in many ways, is rife with traditions, and strict customs. Every gesture and look is a language of itself, and people rarely are indisposed to express themselves truly.

Marianne is somewhat modern, in this respect, yet her inability to care for anyone's suffering but her own, makes her difficult to like. And her true love, the desperate-yet-miserable Willoughby is too much like her. Both these characters run about the country disrupting polite society by daring to act publicly in love with one another. Could you imagine how early 19th century British society would think of us today?

Back to Elinor, who is long-suffering to the point of ridiculousness. She refuses to blame Edward for anything he does, like every girl thinks about her first love. Meanwhile, she is forced to endure the "friendship" of Edward's secret social-climbing fiancé. I cannot go on enough about how much I detest Lucy Steele. She reminded me of every girl from high school that befriended me, only to blab all my secrets behind my back. Elinor is thankfully, as clever as Lucy.

But by the time Elinor and Edward are reunited, I didn't even want them to get together. Much like Willoughby and Marianne, Elinor and Edward are too much alike. Both are too reserved, honor and duty-bound, to reach for their own happiness. Of all the characters in the story, my favorite quickly became the busy-body Mrs. Jennings. While she is often thought annoying by the main characters, I enjoyed her candor and the way she just wanted everyone to find happiness.

I often had the feeling, if everyone just said what they thought and felt, so much of the angst could have been avoided. I'd like to blame this on the time, but I blame these characters. It was a relief to finally reach the end.

While much of this review sounds like a rant, I cannot say enough about Austen's writing. So often, she hid insults inside narrative text, I was laughing along with her. As if the author was aware of how ridiculous her characters were being.

I grew up watching the nineties Sense and Sensibility and loved the story and characters. Emma Thompson adapted the novel brilliantly, keeping true to these characters while making them more sympathetic. The acting of the male leads helps tremendously in this regard. Where Colonel Brandon comes off as slightly creepy in the book, spouting of how much Marianne reminds him (in looks and personality) of his first love … (yeah, I said creepy), Alan Rickman made us root for him.
While the book's characters are a bit less relatable than their modern adaptations, I still enjoyed the prose and wit synonymous with an Austen novel. I dove eagerly into Pride & Prejudice and haven't looked back since.

Trouble In Glamour TownTrouble In Glamour Town by S.R. Mallery
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Truly great historical fiction rests in the little details, minute things that give authenticity. From the first scene in Trouble in Glamour Town, we are dropped into a past as troubled as today. A constant theme is in the contrasting grit buried beneath the surface glamour so present with the '20s.

Nostalgia abounds as we come across Old Hollywood starlets of the silent screen. I grew up on these films, thanks to my grandparents, so I knew them immediately. However, if you're a fan of the roaring twenties, but a little rusty on your cinema trivia, never fear. S.R. Mallery has written introductions and indications so effortlessly, you won't realize you're being educated. While I was familiar with Old Hollywood films and its stars, there was much about the industry at the time that I found fascinating. Clearly, Mallery has done her research.

I can't say enough about the writing here, really. This is a great story, everything you can want in your next read. The author's writing was so immersive, I easily stepped back into 1926. I loved how the mystery unveiled itself through multiple perspectives, giving us tastes of very visceral emotions.

Remember what I said about great historical fiction? Mallery is truly an author for readers to invest with. In Trouble in Glamour Town, S.R. Mallery has spun words into gold and given us an trip through time.

Lady Helena InvestigatesLady Helena Investigates by Jane Steen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I haven't enjoyed historical fiction this much in years. While I was once a voracious reader and watcher of all things period and historical romance, I've since abandoned it for fantasy and it's many sub-genres. This year I decided to pick up historical titles again, which led me to Historical Fiction Book Tours and Jane Steen's Lady Helena Investigates.

From the beginning, Steen paints the era and imagery of the English countryside in beautiful shades, yet with air of mystery. I found it easy to step into Lady Helena's heeled boots as she suffers through the death of her husband, due to a tragic accident. Her large family attempts to micro-manage her life, as a woman naturally must need help managing such a richly-endowed title. Only now, with the freedom of widowhood, Helena chooses to assert her independent wealth. As she steps into her husband's shoes and begins an active role in her estate, unexplained questions arise surrounding her husband's death. An enlightened and mysterious French doctor aids her investigation, which soon leads them to places she never expected.

Jane Steen is a master storyteller, weaving the heartaches of grief with familial affairs and new relationships in a way which truly transcends time. Lady Helena Investigates challenges conventional period tropes while transporting the reader to a time as complex as ours, yet rife with the nostalgia modern audiences crave. Beautiful language and sensual prose, Jane Steen has gifted us with a modern classic.

Immortal Descent
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An unexplained encounter with a dangerous woman turns Ethan West's world upside down. Soon he is swept up into an action-packed underworld beyond human imagining. Lorns are the descendants of Biblical Nephilim and the source behind many an immortal legend. It all seems too bizarre to believe, except for the fact Ethan might be one of them, with a terrible destiny wrapped in the fate of all immortals.

While I enjoyed the pacing and sheer creativity of these beings and their world, I had a hard time diving in at first. There are many players in this epic tale, with many fully-fledge back stories. Everything happened to Ethan so quickly without the reader getting a full grasp of his character, then followed by many conversations explaining the rules of the game. However, I was hooked somewhere in the middle, once I had time to absorb the sheer brilliance of what Carolyn M. Walker has done.

This is clearly an origins story novel, setting the scene for many future installments. As each layer is unveiled and Ethan is drawn deeper into the secrets and wars within Lorn society, the book truly shines. Now I'm dying to learn what happens to Ethan, Rue and company in the sequel. An visionary re-imagining of Biblical proportions.

Entombed in Glass (Unfortunate Soul Chronicles, #2)Entombed in Glass by Stacey Rourke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fairy tale retelling with a swashbuckling twist!

I loved Rise of the Sea Witch for its sass and obvious love of classic Disney. While there were hints of a much larger, inter-connected world in the first book, we didn't venture much further beyond under the sea. So I was excited to read Entombed in Glass and discover where Alastor's story would take us.

Alastor, the Sea Witch's childhood best friend and true love, is separated from her at the end of Rise. Rather than recount his perspective of events from the last book, Stacey Rourke begins his story from the point of his separation from Vanessa and carries us from cursed queens to the Never Land. Soon we are drawn into an exciting world of magic and adventure, led by Alastor's innate sense of duty and honor. With each trial he is tested beyond his limits, until he begins to question what he's fighting for anymore.

The Unfortunate Souls Chronicles takes beloved fairy tale characters and gives us the ugly truth behind legends. Answers to questions I had in Rise of the Sea Witch are revealed in this excellent sequel. I loved the inclusion of Hades, as well as a hilarious, albeit sympathetic re-imagined Mad Hatter. Entombed in Glass explores the lands above the sea, with a colorful cast of familiar fairy tale characters. A world worth exploring, I dare you to read Rise of the Sea Witch without craving more Unfortunate Souls.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A beautiful, haunting retelling of Beauty and the Beast. In this rare case, I have no words to describe how deeply this novel touched my heart and inspired my imagination to see through to the heart. Proof that fairy tales are truly timeless and once in a while, retellings can achieve perfection.

Hawthorne & HeathcliffHawthorne & Heathcliff by R.K. Ryals
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I first met R.K. Ryals' writing through The Story of Awkward and was impressed with the depth and scope of the author's imagination. I picked up Hawthorne & Heathcliff because I initially presumed this to be a retelling of Wuthering Heights. While I both love and hate Wuthering Heights for the same reasons (even I'm not 100% sure why), I was excited to read Ryals' YA Contemporary.
This is NOT a retelling of Wuthering Heights.
This isn't a retelling of anything, in fact, so scratch that thought from your brain now.
This book is so much more than its title or cover.
Hawthorne & Heathcliff is a book about love more than a love story. The narrative is at times Southern Gothic, others a love letter to literature. It always exceeded my expectations, scrubbed my preconceived notions and left me raw before the end.
Having recently experienced similar sickness in my family, and the odd coincidence of having a beloved uncle with the same name as Hawthorne's, the prose and heart of this novel truly broke me. I can't say enough what a gorgeous book this is. It may not be perfect, but it's beautiful in its imperfections as anything of true beauty should be.

Ocean of Stars (Twelfth Keeper #3)Ocean of Stars by Belle Malory
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After years waiting for more sequels to Belle Malory's visionary Twelfth Keeper series, I was beyond excited to discover not just one but two new installments.

Ocean of Stars picks up right where Center of the Universe left off. The enemy left Earth's Keepers with a devastating blow, and as the stakes are raised, our heroes have difficult choices ahead.

Kennedy and her water circle have the opportunity to travel the stars and learn from water keepers on another world, but Phoenix is still reeling from a friend's death and not all enemies are alien. A key moment between Kennedy and Phoenix happens that we've been waiting for since book one if memory serves. Malory writes her characters' longing and love in such a way you can't help but feel with them.

As their powers grow, not only do we dive deeper into the meaning behind the Keepers' mysterious abilities, but see them begin to work as the team they were always meant to be. In the end, however, our heroes are left with even more questions that can only be answered among the stars.

I easily devoured this in one day, and I dare you to put it down once you dive back into Kennedy and co.'s elemental world.

The Rancher's Temporary EngagementThe Rancher's Temporary Engagement by Stacy Henrie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the tradition of Francine Rivers & Liz Curtis Higgs, The Rancher's Temporary Engagement carries us back through time in love and the lives of women of faith. Stacy Henrie has truly done her homework on this fascinating time in America, when British aristocrats turn to Wyoming ranchers and battered women rise into the ranks of the Pinkertons. As the stage is set, we are gifted with a glimpse into a world that promises danger and beauty in equal turns.
Both protagonists, Edward Kent and our not-so-damsel in distress, Maddy are brought together by nefarious circumstances. Kent, the outcast son of a British Earl, has found success with his beloved ranch, until someone begins stealing his horses. He enlists the aid of the Pinkertons on a whim. Enter Maddy, whose background, deep in abuse, rings true. This inner vulnerability is something she has worked hard to bury beneath a veneer of wit and cunning. While she's known as "get her man" Maddy, our heroine isn't as tough as she presents herself on the surface upon meeting Edward.
Maddy's boss sends her to solve this one last case, with the promise of the promotion of a lifetime. All Edward Kent cares about is nabbing the horse rustlers and proving once and for all that his mad move to the States merits worth. The last thing either expect is to find their well made plans work best when working together.
I was surprised by the depth and sincerity of Henrie's writing. In such a light genre, many inspirational authors shy away from the grittier aspects of the time period. Henrie handles both the bad and ugly with honesty and a deeper message of hope. As Maddy slowly watches the way Edward weaves his faith through his daily life, Henrie also urges us to "see His hand in everything." The impact of Edward's faith in God and in Maddy, as she unravels the mystery is more than empowering, it's a reminder of the true meaning of redeeming love.

All The Ways You Saved Me (Love Unplugged, #1)All The Ways You Saved Me by Jamie Howard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

All the Ways You Saved Me sank its hooks in and didn't let me go until I had reached the inevitable ending. What I thought was going to be a simple, typical but enjoyable romance turned out to have layers and emotional depths I wasn't expecting.
I don't always like reading A-type personality POV, because my personality is the opposite, but Bianca's need for control, her need to please her parents struck a chord in me. When her best friend Renee dies, Bianca's perfectly planned life comes crashing down around her and she clings to her memory and the challenge in her friend's last words. Renee was the opposite of Bianca, daring and willing to take chances. Bianca finds Renee's unfinished bucket list and makes the radical decision to alter her life to complete it.
As Bianca pushes herself far outside her comfort zone, she meets Ian. Again, I can't begin to describe the depths Howard has given these characters. Ian was complicated and gorgeous, a beautiful walking disaster. In true romantic fashion, his broken loneliness speaks to the loss and loneliness Bianca feels and they are drawn like moths to flame.
As their story unfolds, Ian's past is also revealed in reverse order until we arrive into the present with him. This shift in perspective surprised me and in my opinion, is what truly gave this story its heart. While I wasn't sure what I was looking for when I started reading this book, I have never been more happy to be blown away. Howard's poignant love story touched my heart and made me feel, just like Ian.
A story about broken people picking up the pieces together, All the Ways You Saved Me will help you learn how to believe in love again.

Frost (Midnight Ice #1)Frost by Kaitlyn Davis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I first fell in love with Kaitlyn Davis' gift for character through her Midnight Fire Series a few years ago. While I've read plenty of Vampire novels, I loved the new spin on Kira, the main character being a Conduit, a different, deadlier sort of mortal enemy to the vamps. I devoured all four of the companion series because like I mentioned before, Davis has a true gift for introducing compelling but real-life characters and making you love them. Which can also be a curse when she puts them through the gauntlet and you don't know who will live and who will die. Angst aside, I was excited to discover she had published a new series in the Midnight Fire universe.
From the beginning, Pandora Scott comes off as the typical bad girl with a heart tough chick act. Catch is, she's a master thief vampire. Right away, we know she's on the opposite team. However her story is intriguing, being a Titan with unique abilities. It's easy to see Pandora is mostly bark with only occasional bite, but events quickly spin out of control when her first love shows up.
Jax was a fun leading man because he's a little cocky, but all heart. Where Pandora seems frozen and callous without reason, Jax constantly and often beyond his will, showers her with the love they once shared. He is so good at winning over Pandora, the reader falls for him as well.
Prepare for the proverbial rug to be pulled from beneath your vampy shoes.
I can't say more without betraying the plot, but I was completely thrown for a loop and ultimately impressed with the depths Davis has given her paranormal world.
There are several guest appearances from the old gang of course, who appear too "sunny" and happy to Pandora and Jax. But Kira and Luke bring just the right amount of hilarity and hijinks to lighten an otherwise darker toned companion series.
Having following Davis for many years now, it's been a pleasure to see her writing voice mature so much. Frost is well-written and imbued with hidden depths and even deeper questions of morality and consequences, as Pandora is forced to draw upon the shadows which give her power.
A must read for fans of Buffy and The Vampire Diaries.

Loving Yourself in StyleLoving Yourself in Style by Shabana Feroze
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loving Yourself in Style guides you through overcoming body issues, lack of confidence and finding your purpose. Encouragement is what Shabana's novel is all about. A lot of what she had to say about society expectations resonated with me. Coming from an "American Dream" background where you're expected to work, marry, have kids, die is something we're brought up to chase. But without that joy for our work, without that confidence and love for ourselves, we can never find a fulfilling life. And everyone knows it's too easy to stay miserable in circumstances you are afraid to change. The hard part is as Shabana coaches, to "fake it" til you believe it. Loved the hopeful message and inspiration in both fashion and life. I definitely took notes and plan to reference the fashion section for creating my own must-have wardrobe mix. Everything you want and need to hear in inspirational non-fiction.

King of Ash and Bone (Shattered Realms #1)King of Ash and Bone by Melissa Wright
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

2nd Read-through: When I found out Melissa Wright was planning on releasing a sequel to King of Ash and Bone, I decided to re-read the original. My initial impression remained true. This is a dystopian novel unlike anything you've read before. In place of zombies or nuclear warfare, the real enemy are wicked fae. Or are they wicked? This is the question as Kenzie meets Hunter, a young man who is much more than he appears to be. I really enjoyed Kenzie and Hunter's perspectives as they led us through the magical apocalypse. Kenzie is naturally street smart and resourceful, everything you want in a dystopian heroine, but with real vulnerability hidden beneath it all. Hunter both protects and puts Kenzie in harm's way, though that's not his intention. The fae in this story are refreshingly darker and willing to do whatever necessary to steal energy from our world. Everything is set up for a truly unique epic series.
A few things I noticed this read-through that were missing last time. Wright has clearly revised her original edition because the prose was richer, the characters breathed real life and previously confusing events were made clear. Plus we get extra content, always my favorite thing about revised editions! Melissa Wright has put surprising depth and heart into an otherwise harsh genre. Much like The Walking Dead, Shattered Realms makes you care about its characters to a level you're willing to follow them, no matter where the journey takes them. Anxiously awaiting the sequel!

1st Read-through: Almost a year after I first began reading this epic dystopian novel, I finally finished it! The best part was once I started it up again, I couldn't put it down until I read the last word. I have been a long time fan of Melissa Wright's works, ever since I stumbled upon Frey in the "free" category on Amazon. I fell in love with the Frey Saga and hounded the poor author until she had finished her fantastical series. The Descendants was equally exciting for me, albeit a different genre. I enjoyed seeing this author grow and show off her talent for characters with a lot of snark and personality. King of Ash and Bone is her latest series, this time a dystopian fairy tale set not to far from the present. Wright did a wonderful job drawing you into her characters lives, and especially detailing the sudden fall of civilization. King of Ash and Bone is very different from her previous two series and promises even more surprises and wondrous discoveries for the future. Impatiently waiting for the next installment!

The Duality of Nature (The Monster of Selkirk #1)The Duality of Nature by C.E. Clayton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Monster of Selkirk by C.E. Clayton really surprised me. I'm not sure what I was expecting from the premise, besides wicked elves and what sounded like a historical Scottish setting. What I found was a kick butt heroine who not only knows how to fight (thanks to her Knighted cousin), but a cast of colorful characters in a very grounded fantastical world. Selkirk is actually an island, largely forested, where the humans have kept elves at bay for hundreds of years. Ever since the elves went feral and lost their ability to speak intelligibly, humans have treated them like animals. They even host frequent clearings, destroying the elves homes and killing without mercy. So is it any wonder the elves might decide to fight back?

Our main heroine, Tallis is somewhat unconventional from a small age. Her eyes are a little too big, her hair a little wild, but everyone seems willing to accept her as their own. Her village is poor but this doesn't stop Tallis from soaking in as much she can through books in the nearby abbey, learning how to fight from her cousin Donovan, and causing mischief whenever she gets the chance. From the beginning we can already see hints of what Tallis may become, but this doesn't detract in any way from each reveal.

It's been a while since I've read a story that takes the time to give you backstory like this. As we grow up with Tallis, we are drawn deeper and deeper into Clayton's imagination until we feel every injustice she witnesses just as keenly. Besides Donovan, Tallis draws a makeshift family of her own through her pick-pocket friend Rosslyn and monk-in-training/inventor, Tomas. Everything is set up for a hero's journey and we know we will see these characters see Tallis through to the inevitable end.

I can't say more without giving away spoilers for the book, but suffice to say, this was a privilege to read. Not only am I anxious to read the sequel, but I would highly recommend this series for fans of Shannara Chronicles and The Wheel of Time Series.

Christmas SecretsChristmas Secrets by Donna Hatch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Christmas Secrets, a Regency-Era Romance by Donna Hatch, is a heart-warming historical fiction about family and forgiveness. The Christmas house party drama plays out like a well-staged romantic comedy, filled with misunderstandings and one very lovely ghost.

There are plenty of shades of Jane Austen to satisfy fans of the genre. Will Berry is as worthy a hero as any Knightly with the gravitas of Darcy. As the youngest child in my family, I connected with Holly's struggle to be the perfect daughter. But also appreciated how any major conflict between family members is overcome in light of the season. While the romance is very clean in line with the expectations of the era, simple moments like the touch of a hand become swoon-worthy.

It's been some time since an author made me believe their characters like this, but Donna Hatch writes it so beautifully I was quickly drawn into the idyllic past. My only criticism would be several typos near the beginning, but don't let this deter you from enjoying the story. Many of the tropes are familiar but this makes it almost more enjoyable when these characters do something unexpectedly lovely.

A delightful holiday read for anyone in need of a little sweet romance this season.

A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3)A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The epic conclusion of the Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy is rife with intrigue, adventure, romance and a battle between gods and souls that will have you on the edge of your seat.
Favorite moments in the book included all the big Game of Thrones-esque moments between the High Courts. The face-off between opposing forces, Autumn vs. Night, pretty much everyone vs. Night for that matter. Words and magic both come into play in greater measure. Whereas Feyre spent most of ACOTAR dazzled by Tamlin and the Spring Court's beauty, and ACOMAF seduced and romanced by the wonder of Rhys and his Court of Dreams, in this latest installment she comes to terms with herself and her magic. Where before she was uncertain of her place in the Fae world, or if she even wanted a place among them, now she finds the courage to claim her power. Central themes to this book are not being afraid of who you are meant to be, to accept both the bad with the good and to savor every moment with the family you are born into and choose. I loved how the Night Court finally revealed their true selves to the other Courts. Much of this book was about unveiling the masks we wear to protect ourselves and others. I loved the fact Nesta and Feyre finally lowered their guard enough to truly be sisters again, and how Elaine overcame her trauma in surprising ways.
Big favorite moments for me included Lucien and Feyre's journey, the library chase, every scene with the Bone Carver and the ancients. While the Rhys/Feyre romance is still strong in this book, it takes something of a back seat as the war looms over Prythian. Instead we have a lot of Nesta and Cassian teasers. For me, I would have loved to see some real Lucien/Elaine bonding, but while I enjoyed the romance elements in this series, I wasn't disappointed with the lack-of. What I would have enjoyed more of was a little less Courts and more adventuring. Several times side characters leave on their own adventures and part of me wanted to go with them instead of more research and talking with Feyre. Although Helion was a pure delight and the Bone Carver had me wishing Feyre would steal him away and adopt him into the Night Court. And Amren continued to be both the most surprising and fun character to read. I wasn't satisfied with the results of the battle for reasons I won't mention due to spoilers.
It is difficult to write or review the third book in a trilogy because it is impossible to satisfy everyone. While there were many elements I would have rather seen SJM leave off or do differently, I can't say I didn't love this book, in spite of its flaws. I loved the beauty and ugliness of the world SJM wove. And I would be lying if I said I didn't just go and pre-order the novella companion. Excited for more adventures and fresh perspectives as we explore more stories from the Court of Thorns and Roses universe.

An Enchantment of RavensAn Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So breathtakingly beautiful in prose and form, An Enchantment of Ravens will spirit you away and hold you as captive as the fair ones. A unique faerie tale of the same vein as Robin McKinley, I could not put it down until I had devoured every last delectable word.

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer, #1)Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Laini Taylor never disappoints. Strange the Dreamer is written with dreamy prose and fantastical word pictures. A book to sink your sweet tooth into, sumptuous and seductive. Her prose is perhaps the best in her genre and something to aspire to. Some compare her work to striding the right side of the line of “purple prose." It’s rare in this modern “minimalist” age to get away with writing the way Taylor does. People don’t seem to have the patience for it anymore. Thankfully, Taylor is unafraid to let her prose be both beautiful and inventive in hand. She’s a bit of a modern L.M. Montgomery (Author of Anne of Green Gables + Emily of New Moon). So it’s a breath of fresh air to read Taylor’s work. In case you can’t tell, I highly recommend it. As strangely terribly lovely as you'd expect from Laini Taylor. Prepare to devour quickly and readers beware, lest the book swallow your soul into its dreamscape.

Intrinsic (The Forbidden Doors, #2)Intrinsic by Cortney Pearson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's rare for a sequel to surpass its predecessor but Intrinsic was simply fantastic. While I loved the characters and story of Phobic, I connected more with Everly. Also I'm a die hard fan of anything with fantastical libraries, old Russia, the 20s and time travel, which Intrinsic has in spades. Lovely paranormal romance for any age.

The Children of HúrinThe Children of Húrin by J.R.R. Tolkien
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Using language akin to The Silmarillion yet with the strong storytelling of The Hobbit, The Children of Hurin is a must-read for any fan of Tolkien and mythical prose. Rife with tragedy and heroics, Hurin and his children give voice to men in a time when Elves ruled & Morgoth wrought terror, long before Sauron took up his master's mantle. The stakes here are just as high as in Lord of the Rings, only more personal. Though the style is written with a higher prose to reflect a more distant time, something about these flawed characters brings you close to their woes and triumphs.

Bring Me BackBring Me Back by Micalea Smeltzer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This novel was so much more than a romance or a tragedy but a melding of everything, just like real life. It pulled hard on my heartstrings and helped me see and feel in new ways. One of those special books that transcends its genre.

Phantasmical Contraptions & Other ErrorsPhantasmical Contraptions & Other Errors by Jessica Augustsson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fantastic collection of steam driven stories compiled by the talented Jessica Augustsson. I enjoyed the many phantasmical adventures, most especially Verdigris, Obelisk, The City of Dragons and The Dieselman of Devil Wells.
Note, I am also quite thankfully and humbly, a contributing author to this excellent anthology.

The Sacred FlameThe Sacred Flame by Nanette Littlestone
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Sacred Flame is unlike anything I've read before, while breathing life to a moment in history I vaguely knew of. Rome is still in its early days as a Republic and not yet at the height of its power. The Vestel Virgins are charged with keeping the spirit of Rome safe. But new and often bumbling High Priestess, Livia, seems to make one mistake after another. She is close to retirement, after a lifetime of servitude, ready to settle down with the man she loves. Livia is soon wooed by a man from her past and torn between two types of love. This alone is enough conflict to typically keep a modern romance novel on its head. But Hannibal the Barbarian is on the march against the city, and the people are fueled by their fear. Fear plays a major role into the novel and its characters. Each one fears the loss of something, and in Livia's case, losing the chance to experience what she never has before. The stakes are raised and I was glued to Littlestone's carefully woven historical epic, one misunderstanding and wrong choice at a time. Very much in the same spirit as Francine River's brilliant Mark of the Lion trilogy, The Sacred Flame keeps you hoping against all hope. I found myself rooting for both hero and villain, as Littlestone reminds us these aren't evil or good people necessarily. Like us, the characters are revealed to be just people, albeit largely selfish people seeking their own happiness no matter the cost. The author proves her strength for painting rich setting, depth of emotion and the constant threat of tragedy that will reel you in and leave you breathless in the end. A must read for fans of historical romance and mythology and for anyone who just wanted to experience that all-encompassing epic love. This is a novel for the realists and the dreamers, a sweeping, engrossing romance for the ages.

Ashwalk PilgrimAshwalk Pilgrim by A.B. Bradley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As a new mother and having been in a similar situation as the titular heroine previously, Ashwalk Pilgrim tore my heart to shreds and mended it back together again. I expected a lovely twist on the high fantasy genre starting out. Yet time and again, the author threw me through a loop and my emotions through the gauntlet. Mara's world is filled with flawed people and exotic locations and she approaches everything with slightly tinted vision. Her innocence above all was what tugged at me the most. She truly expects the best from other people only to be crushed at every turn. Her journey grabs you and demands you take each painful step with her until the end. To avoid spoilers, suffice to say the ending was simply beautiful.
Looking forward to the next book and return of a few characters from the first, along with new lands, more magic and promised peril.

Entreat MeEntreat Me by Grace Draven
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Entreat Me was a pleasant surprise. As my first introduction to author, Grace Draven, I had this on my to-read shelf for a bit. I purchased the novel on a whim due to the gorgeous cover art. I was pleased and intrigued to discover smaller sketches spread throughout the book to accompany the story. As you might have guessed, Entreat Me is an adult re-telling of Beauty and the Beast, with some "Taming of the Shrew" mixed in, and a refreshing change in perspective. Not only are there two heroines, sisters, one a true beauty, the other a shrewish widow; but there are two beasts as well. I was curious to see how Draven intended to pull that off, and was surprised and delighted with the result.
While the ebook copy I purchased had several small errors here and there, otherwise this novel flows effortlessly. Description is a richly woven tapestry, filled with both savage and beautiful imagery alike. The characters, including a surly housekeeper and her lover, a persnikity magician, enrich and enlarge an otherwise predictable tale. Of course, the obvious Beauty and her Beast are delightful, revealing their imperfections over time. However the greatest delight in this moving, albeit humorous affair, is the "shrew" Louvaen and battle-worn Lord of the Manse, Ballard. Their constant back-and-forth dance and equal steel wits kept me on edge most of the novel.
Perhaps the best thing about Entreat Me, besides the prose, was the occaionally larger-than-life cast of characters. Grace Draven has a true gift for casting her spell and pulling us deep into the world she has created. Often I forgot I was supposed to be reading a Beauty and the Beast re-telling because I was too caught up in the relationships and swooning over Ballard along with Louvaen.
A must-read for a true fan of fantasy and not-so-perfect fairy tales.

Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #1)Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was introduced to Laini Taylor by her children's novel, Dreamdark, a rich piece of fantasy fiction. Daughter of Smoke and Bone was just as rich with color, life and soul as I hoped it would be. Much like the title character, Karou, Taylor is a word artist with a gift for making you taste the world her characters live in. In a word, sublime.

Something Strange and Deadly (Something Strange and Deadly, #1)Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I beyond adored this novel. Having been a huge Susan Dennard fan due to her writing workshops & blog I knew I would love her books. It is rare to discover a writer's writing before reading their novels, but I was not disappointed with Something Strange and Deadly. Dennard quickly throws us in a terrifying Victorian New England beset with the undead, parasols and other delightful steam-punkish things. Her characters were compelling and fun, the main cast a quirky band of misfits. Amidst her foray into this gothic horror, Dennard manages to deliver something fresh and original.

Venom and Steel  (The Frey Saga, #4)Venom and Steel by Melissa Wright
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"I was just a broken girl now, like my mother, and hers before. This was how it started. Emptiness and despair. Everyone knew how it ended."

From the beginning, Venom and Steel throws you back into a theater of elves verses fey, dark against light, & the humans caught in an age-old war. Picking up some time after "Rise of the Seven," we are quickly re-acquainted with the company of characters we fell in love with before. Only this time, the fey are the central threat, with changelings taking advantage of the chaos an old conflict brings about. Stakes are higher than ever and the battle of wits & magic is spectacular. While Ruby shines brightest in this latest installment, Frey finds herself powerless to stop events from unfolding. Veil, the leader of the fey court strikes a bargain with Frey that leaves the kingdoms reeling. As the company is split apart by outside forces, they must learn to overcome insurmountable odds. Old enemies must become new allies as dark and light join forces, and a new threat looms in the horizon that threatens to destroy them all.

The Last DragonThe Last Dragon by Jane Yolen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I actually bought this book as a potential gift and read it, to avoid the temptation of keeping it for myself. The illustrations are moving and beyond beautifully rendered. Having never read a graphic novel before, I didn't know what to expect beyond a slightly advanced comic. I was more than satisfied by Yolen's storytelling. The lines and color pull you in and make you feel as though you can smell the salty seas, taste dragon ash on the air and fly with the unexpected hero. A worthy addition to any fantasy collection.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was far better my second read-through. Some books are like that, striking your fancy more one day than the next. I think for me, the difference came from reading it a few years later. I'm a bit more seasoned and appreciative of witty nonsense verse apparently. This is unlike any other children's novel I've read. It's easy to see why so many people (particularly in the 60's) thought Carroll was on mushrooms when he wrote this. Truth be told, Lewis Carroll was a mathematician, fond of logic puzzles and an Anglican priest in the Victorian Age. His imagination ran wild for that time period in particular. Perhaps it was the cultural constraints of his society that sparked such a need to create a world like Wonderland. After all, it was this same time period that worlds like Oz and Neverland were also invented. Another aspect of the novel I noticed this read-through and missed entirely last time, is that Alice is just as mad as the many characters she meets in Wonderland. Every time she attempts to recite on call, her words become confused and jumbled, and she has a funny habit of talking things out to herself in front of other people. It seems fairly obvious that she did not happen upon this strange world by accident. While Wonderland is proposed to be Alice's dream world, I like to think she belongs there as much as the Hatter & the Hare.

Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, #2)Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Through the Looking Glass" was just as much of a pleasure and a puzzle as "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland". I had not realized that many of the elements of the classic story we think of (thanks to Disney's retelling) are featured primarily throughout "Looking Glass." Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the Jabberwocky & Walrus and the Carpenter poems are first given here, as well as the talking flower bed. While I enjoyed the different take and elements to Carroll's sequel, I wasn't as big a fan of Alice's obvious dreaming. At times Alice mysteriously appears in a new location, or a character suddenly transforms into another character, just like in dreams. I think I much prefer the first adventure into Wonderland, where the characters and world are more grounded. "Looking Glass" was much more surreal and at times confusing, yet still delightful.

Under the DomeUnder the Dome by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Upon my friends' insistence, I chose Under the Dome as my first foray into the Stephen King universe. Without having seen the television show I had no basis to compare or go off of. I am pleased to report that Mr. King lives up to his hype. He is indeed a seasoned master storyteller, interweaving characters and plots with deft precision and keen ruthlessness. I began this novel ready for the long ride and enjoying the fun. Then somewhere around the middle I grew frustrated and increasingly frustrated. So many political intrigues! So many instances where the bad guys seemed to rule over the good with injustice. I had to force myself to continue, yet knew it would pay off eventually. I was right. The ending of this novel, while surprising in its twists was satisfying and gratifying. It was as though Mr. King sensed my growing frustration and took care of the large portion of the problem for me in the end. And his work reminded me why I love storytelling in the first place. Now I plan to read anything that is under a thousand pages.

Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I fell in love with this book years ago when I discovered its hiding place on my mother's bookshelf. Now, as a fully aware adult I am able to appreciate it and Ms. Ripley's writing even more. I read Scarlett before I read Gone With the Wind, mostly because I was desperate to find out what happened to Scarlett and Rhett. The tale Ripley tells is epic historical romance at its finest. The rich details engross the reader into that long forgotten old south, determined to maintain its pride after the Civil War. And mysterious, beautiful Ireland is haunting and the ideal place for Scarlett to start her life over and allow her to finally become the woman she was meant to be, apart from the rigid opinions of the society she was born to. Rhett is just as strong, sarcastic and seductive as ever, though with a weighted sorrow behind his chagrin with Scarlett. It truly is a beautiful thing to watch unfold, after so much heartache and selfishness and blindness, they are finally able to see one another for what they truly are, not who they imagine themselves to be.

Casting Spells by Barbara Bretton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Sticks and Strings" is awash with quaint New England charm, with all the necessary components for some kick ace chick lit. A headstrong, albeit bumbling heroine in search of love, a poignant love triangle and plenty of colorful characters to bring the star-crossed lovers together. But, quite like Sugar Maple, your expectations will barely scratch the surface of this quirky paranormal comedy. Rife with nostalgia, 21st Century American cynicism and hilarity, "Sticks and Strings" keeps you on your toes. Chloe Hobbs is the reluctant heroine with a veiled past and a killer penchant for knitting needles. Bretton spins her web brilliantly as she introduces you to the last earthly haven for magical outcasts. There is plenty of intrigue, romance and magic to keep you believing in the bonds of friendship and the power of true love. A must-read for the avid knitter, cat person and reader.

Frost (The Frost Chronicles, #1)Frost by Kate Avery Ellison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was introduced to Ellison's writing with "The Curse Girl," a YA revamp of Beauty and the Beast. And at long last, I was able to read the first in her epic series, the "Frost Chronicles." From the beginning, we are introduced to the bleak, frozen world of The Frost, where monsters stalk the forests. The people live in a time apart, avoiding technology so as not to upset the Watchers.
While there is plenty of adolescent drama and hints of love triangles to satisfy most girls, Ellison brings it to the next step. Not only does she give you hope in the midst of her characters' desolation, but she gives us the gift of a sensible heroine. Lia Weaver must put aside her youth to care for her crippled twin brother and ditsy sister. She has blocked out many of her emotions in order to become strong. When love knocks on Lia's door post, she doesn't swoon and lose herself in the romance. She keeps her focus on what's most important, her family and people.
Frost leaves you with many questions, such as the origins of the Watchers, the fate of our hero and above all, what challenges the Weaver's will face next.

The Unicorn GirlThe Unicorn Girl by M.L. LeGette
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had promised myself to review books deserving special recognition. While I have neglected this special gem, I recently finished another novel, and wanted to finish this while it's fresh on my mind.
The Unicorn Girl looked appealing initially because of its fantastic cover art. A former art major, myself, I have always found hand drawn covers appealing, when done right. The designer truly hit the mark, evoking memories of "The Last Unicorn." The girl on the cover beckons you to read her story.
I kept it on my shelf a while, hoping to eventually devour it in one sitting.
Opportunity knocked weeks later, when I truly did consume the story of the unicorn girl.
It is hard to say what I loved most, be it the author's gift of feeding you words that breathe, or the nostalgia. Perhaps I loved this novel most because I was a fan of unicorns since childhood, when I first picked up Bruce Coville's "Into the Land of the Unicorns."
While "Unicorn Girl" is somewhat YA, I found many of the elements and her emotions, things I could relate with. It was as though someone reached inside me and woke up the little girl, longing to cross over into a similar world.
Leah Vindral grows up through the course of her journey, and carries the reader along with her. Not only does she live in an ancient castle, but has a witch for a godmother, and the legend of unicorns surrounding her life in perpetual mystery. While at times her light tantrums come across as annoying, it fits well with the age and her situation. Leah is a heroine who is unafraid to find the answers for herself, while being wholly vulnerable at the same time. My favorite part of her character is her weakness, because her true power shines through during those darkest moments.
M.L LeGette gives us not just a coming of age story, but a world we can sink our claws into.
I would recommend this novel to all you lost little girls who still secretly dream of falling into the land of unicorns.

Just One Day (Just One Day, #1)Just One Day by Gayle Forman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'Just One Day' proves that anything can happen in the span of a few hours, or in the case of "Lulu," a few minutes. Her encounter with free-spirited Willem shocks her out of the monotony of her planned out life and transforms her into a free thinker. While this novel did not shock and impact me like 'If I Stay,' I found it to be just as invigorating. Forman is not afraid to pull her punches when it comes to dealing with the hard stuff. And she wields the new adult experience with the kind of charged but fragile wistfulness we've all felt in our journey to womanhood. Before I wax and wan about this fantastic coming-of-age novel to the point of burn-your-bra feminism, I should also point out a few things.
I rocked back and forth between three and four stars because it required more from me as a reader than usual, but in the best of ways. To fully experience this novel you have to soak it in and recognize all the many carefully thought out parallels between Lulu's story and the greater message.
This novel resonated with me as well, falling in love hard and fast and jumping to conclusions. Above all things, this is so much more than an epic, trans-continental love story. It is Lulu's story, and the story of every young woman trying to find out who she is in today's world. Many of us try on different masks like Lulu's flaky best friend, Melanie. Others drift and follow the current like Willem. Still others, like myself, take longer to come out of our shells. It takes that earth-shattering moment to wake us up and help us take charge of our own futures instead of letting others decide for us.
Take a chance on life, love and read this breathtaking novel by Gayle Forman.

Falling Ashes (The Fire Mage Trilogy, #3)Falling Ashes by Kate Bloomfield
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Falling Ashes has it all, action, adventure, romance, and lots of warfare and magic of course. I loved this book simply because it brought back both old and new characters for a return visit. As well as introduced a huge plethora of Mages I had never met, my favorite of whom being Dagon and the water Mages and Fae who was a skewed version of "Brave" lol. This trilogy and its companion pieces have been a breath of fresh air, like the rest of Bloomfield's writing. You can rest assured that you won't read anything like this anytime soon, nor have you before. You simply have to dive in and let it soak you into this unique, dystopian world. While there are many things that were left unanswered or unexplored near the end, I felt satisfied if not sad. This book tugged at my heartstrings more than once, particularly the ending. Take a chance and dive into Bloomfield's imagination and prepare yourselves for one epic ride.

A White So Red by K.D. Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"A White So Red" is unlike any other version of the classic fairy tale you've read or watched before. From the opening chapters I knew this story was going to be markedly different. As the tale unfolds we're given a broad canvas that only grows larger once Snow escapes the Queen's clutches. In the metal forest, she is tried and tested and learns that she is so much more. Magic colors the world and the more Snow learns of her true heritage, the broader and more beautiful everything becomes. A few personal favorites are Snow's lessons with Via, her relationship with Wormwart and Tristan, and of course, the romance with Caspar. I loved the combination of high fantasy, poignant drama and well paced, light-hearted humor. Looking forward to more upcoming works by a gifted authoress.

Bound by Prophecy (Descendants Series, #1)Bound by Prophecy by Melissa Wright
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Melissa Wright's novels never fail to deliver stories that will wrap you up in a world filled with action, romance and magic. Her new series not only lives up to the standard of "The Frey Saga," but surpasses it. Set in the present day urban city of your imagination, the title character, Aern, is just another guy trying to make his way. Except Aern isn't just any ordinary guy. He's a Descendant of a race that has the ability to compel humans to his will. Trouble is, his brother has an extra ability, to compel other Descendants. Aern has to find a way to stop his brother and give his people another chance, even if it means changing the prophecy. Question is, can Aern change the prophecy, or will he discover he is already bound by it? Another gripping, spellbinding read from Melissa Wright.

Alpha GirlAlpha Girl by Kate Bloomfield
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I devoured Alpha Girl within a few hours after starting it. In the same vein as "Blood and Chocolate," Alpha Girl delivers hot and heavy tension, along with some difficult adult situations that a teenager shouldn't have to be faced with. But, of course, Rose isn't your typical teenage girl. She's a werewolf, and I quickly became wrapped up in her story. She's an understated herione, and in fact, she's kind of the bad gal in monster-verse. Part of Bloomfield's brilliance was in writing this in a way that allows us to see just how different being a werewolf is.
And the romance, whew, sign me up for a Mr. Stone. He's stone-cold-foxy older man, is what he is. And I just loved how wild he was about Rose. But don't take my word for it, read Alpha Girl for yourself. You won't be disappointed.
A refreshing, breathless and lusty tale, not for the feint of heart.

Where She Went (If I Stay, #2)Where She Went by Gayle Forman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wasn't surprised with the transcendence of this novel. Forman has such a talent for gripping your soul whether you want to be sucked in or not. This sequel was everything I expected and so much more. It also hit me during a difficult personal time and that's why I added it to my inspirational shelf. There's a lot to be said for a writer who is able to infuse hope into their readers. I can only hope to aspire to this kind of emotionalism one day. Thanks Gayle!

HopelessHopeless by Colleen Hoover
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just finished reading one of the best books I will ever read in my life. That's a loaded promise from someone who's barely lived a quarter of their potential life. That's a lot of books I will potentially read, but it stands true for "Hopeless." The third of Hoover's novels transcends what she already established after Point of Retreat. I didn't think it was possible to find a better New Adult contemporary after Slammed, and Hoover proved otherwise with her own work. So thank you Colleen Hoover, for creating Holder, Sky and Hope and reminding me that even the darkest nights are still lit by the stars.

Billow (Ondine Quartet, #2)Billow by Emma Raveling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once again I was swept away with the world Raveling has built for her characters. Kendra has grown up some since the last book and then again displays the trauma she has faced in some not so healthy ways. Along the ride are what remains of her core group of elemental friends. The sexy and roguish Julian is back to stir up trouble and of course, we can't forget the perfect and almost godlike Tristan waiting in the background. So many events take place in this novel that I was not expecting, some truly heart wrenching moments. Clearly the reader is going to be growing up alongside the Sondaleur. And if the excitement and action have amped up to such a level in only two books, I can only imagine what the next installment will bring us. Meantime I'll tide over with Raveling's novella and vignette series. Finally we'll get some insight into Kendra's mysterious love interests. Stay tuned. This is definitely a series you don't want to miss.

Porridge and Cucu: My ChildhoodPorridge and Cucu: My Childhood by Yolanda A. Reid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After receiving a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest thoughts, I quickly devoured this story. I adored every second, every glimpse into Yamila's childhood. It was refreshing, poignant, tender and sweet. I would love to see this novel with some full blown illustrations. It would make for a very delightful series of children's books. As it stands, "Porridge and Cucu" is everything it should be and more. Part poetic prose and part a collection of anecdotes, Reid manages to grab hold of her inner child and carry us with her.

Sunshine by Robin McKinley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Sunshine" is a character and a novel you can really sink your teeth into! (Forgive the pun) Not only does it manage to be an original vampire novel, but possibly the best of Robin McKinley's works. Having been a long time fan of her knack for storytelling, gift for re-telling's and penchant for witty heroines, I had some idea of what to expect. "Sunshine" delves into the supernatural world, deviating from her usual fairy tale genre. But McKinley more than proves her punk and merit. I can't wax enough on the gritty beauty of her description, the fanciful realness to her characters and joy of their dialogue. World building is at its best and brightest and gloomiest here. The human "coffee house" world is painted just as perfectly as the supernatural vampire mansion. And as both merge, as Sunshine's character is forced to accept and embrace what she is becoming, you're left with pure magic.

Rise of The Seven by Melissa Wright
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

At last, Wright’s much anticipated final installment in her Frey trilogy has arrived with a bang. RoTS shines in plentiful, often garish colors, pairing the grit with the gumption of a fully matured kick-butt heroine. One of the things I admired most while reading this was the added depth of Freya’s character. With a return of her memories at last, the character is given several new dimensions that all flow seamlessly together. The pages turn like a well-oiled machine, now that we have come to know the company so well, allowing for even more action. The addition of fey to this world was a delightful surprise and only added to the broad spectrum of the world Wright has created. Magic abounds with intrigue and at the heart of the novel is Chevelle’s unwavering love for Freya and their long history together. And in the end, all loose ends are tied and wrapped in a rocking package that you’ll want to pull apart and read over and again.

The Athena Effect by Derrolyn Anderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Athena” effects more than the usual YA/NA novel elicits. Not only does it have the usual helping of Anderson’s signature intrigue, romance and sense of wonder. But it dares to delve deeper into the morally ambiguous and the depths of human emotion. It also manages to do this while being a blast to read. A stellar improvement from Anderson that shines even brighter than her “Marina Tales,” I recommend this book to anyone looking for something meatier and grittier than they have dared to go before.

Blaze by Kaitlyn Davis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Finally the "almost" perfect ending I had been wanting from the get go! I believe I had read this before on someone else's review and I must wholeheartedly agree that "Blaze" is the best of the "Midnight Fire" series thus far. Kira's powers have grown exponentially as well as her struggle between life as a Conduit and the promise of eternity with Tristan. I can't say I was disappointed by the outcome.
Hopefully, we'll see Kira at last overcome all her obstacles, and everyone will find a happy ending, even if it's bittersweet for some.
Telling more would be giving away too many spoilers, a difficult task when I'm practically giddy with the goodies Davis has delivered.
Be quite prepared to be warmed, burnt and ignited while reading "Blaze."

Fate Succumbs (Timber Wolves Trilogy, #3)by Tammy Blackwell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm still reeling over the fact this series is actually over, and giddy with the thought of a brand new series coming in 2013, set within the same world. Tammy Blackwell you're my American Idol! Now on to serious thoughts. I was more than happy with the outcome of what quickly became my favorite of the Timber Wolves trilogy. Liam was the most compelling of all male hottie characters in book one for me, and more than lived up to my expectations in three. Scout became exactly who she needed to be. I continued to fall in love with these characters because they have the unique literary quality of breathing beyond the pages. I wouldn't be surprised if I ran into them on the street, or the Canadian wilderness... (yes please ;)
More light was shed on the world of Shifters that I had suspected yet was so giddy and happy to learn the truth. The thing I loved most about this series is that Blackwell allows her characters to grow and drift and form new relationships. That's what makes it more realistic, with none of this "end of the world" angst many teen paranormal fics keep promoting. Scout and all the other Shifters and beings aren't perfect and they have to make choices that may not be so popular to each other or their fans. But it is the quality of their character that makes them half human.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

All the buzz you've heard about "If I Stay" is true. I initially discovered this novel while researching to see if any other novels had claimed a title I'm planning to use. I stumbled on this and loved the cover. The premise sounded interesting enough I ordered a used copy and what I received delivered much more than I expected. Forman dives into a point of view that is truly unique and heart wrenching. While it surprisingly didn't move me to tears, I felt the emotions Mia and her family went through just as keenly on the inside.
I've heard they're making this novel into a movie and have been comparing it to Twilight. I don't understand why they would, when this book is much better and thought provoking than Twilight will ever be. But I am excited to see the adaptation when it comes out.
I highly recommend this to anyone who is looking for something deeper than their usual New Adult read.

Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days, #1) by Susan Ee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I bought Angelfall forever ago and only now came round to reading it. I was quickly taken by surprise not only because it was better than I expected, but the quality of Ee's storytelling. Penryn's story is engrossing, eerie, creepy, a half dozen other adjectives that don't even come close to describing it's greatness. Only be prepared to be thoroughly sucked in and desperate for the sequel and you'll have a good idea what I mean.

Salt Bride: A Georgian Historical Romance by Lucinda Brant
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Being an modern American gave me the distinct disadvantage in believing I was about to read a novel that takes place in Georgia, in the 1700's. Of course, once I realized the main character wasn't being shipped off to the Americas, I realized my mistake, and from then on fell in love with Brant's story. Intrigue, deception, love, lust, triumph and despair are in ample amounts here. And she uses just as many adjectives as I used, only not altogether and much better. Perhaps the most refreshing aspect of Brant's work is the language. I fell in love with the speech of the times. Unlike some novels/movies that pretend to know how people spoke back then, Brant's obviously done her research. I would read more from this author and recommend "Salt Bride" to anyone who's an old fashioned romantic at heart.

The Scarlet Dagger by Krystle Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Return of the bad-ace vamps! Finally a YA novel that not only portrays Vampires as real monsters, worthy of the pulse-pounding nightmare inducing fear they should exibit. Possibly my favorite line in the story was when Aden tells Sloane, "...we don't glitter". The Scarlet Dagger is an action packed, unique blend of dystopian and the vampire genres. But this novel accomplishes where others fail to deliver, as much a coming of age story as it is "Underworld for teens". And while the story went a different direction than I initially anticipated it was well worth reading to find out where things turned. Jones manages to surprise her readers as much as her heroine. Several times I had to stop and think which is something few YA books get me to do these days. Beware of blood, fangs and unexpected twists and turns! The Scarlet Dagger is one wild ride.

Veiled Eyes (Lake People, #1)by C.L. Bevill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Be prepared to be swept away into a world of bayous, mystery and the secretive world of the Lake People. Anna is a strong yet vulnerable woman seeking a new life and on a continuous string of bad luck. Gabriel is a man of simple ways yet many complexities, and all his life he has dreamed of her. Their love story however is only one of the major players that make this book such a compelling, addictive read. C.L. Bevill, whoever you are, have just now become one of my all time favorite storytellers.

by Tammara Webber
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Never have I read a novel of this genre that impacted me so deeply. You ever read a book that hits you at exactly where you're at, at exactly the right time? Flawless grace, pure truth and moving love, thank you Tammara Webber for writing something with such honest emotion.

Neverdark by C.S. Einfeld
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Neverdark is a delightfully entertaining, occasionally thrilling and all around slice of faerie heaven. The only thing that threw me off was the computer animated illustrations (sub-par) and while entertaining I would have preferred to see fully realized versions of the characters in their environment. But it does allow this fantastic piece of work to stand apart from most of its genre.
The prose is beautifully rendered, the characters unforgettable and the subtext message about our own misuse of the world very chilling.

The Curse Girl
by Kate Avery Ellison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have started this review half a dozen times and continue to come up speechless. The Curse Girl drew me with its compelling cover and blurb, but within the first few pages I knew I was about to fall in love. Beauty and the Beast is my favorite faerie tale, so imagine my surprise in discovering its modern day retelling. Knowing the source material, be prepared for more than a few twists and turns as Bee tries to unlock the curse.
The Beast is terrible and charming. The servants magical and though small in their parts engaging. The history and magical element is fresh and exciting.
Purchase this book and be prepared to read something extraordinary.


  1. Thank you so much, Jennifer, for taking the time to read and review NEVERDARK. I'm so glad you enjoyed it! :o)

    1. You're welcome C.S! I really enjoyed it! It combined my love for faeries with elements from my favorite childhood movies&books. You did an excellent job :)