The Queen’s Opal (Stone Bearers: Book 1) by Jacque Stevens

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4 Stars

Publisher: sjacquebooks

Date of publication: December 5th, 2017

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Series: Stone Bearers

The Stone Bearers—Book 0 (review here)

The Frog’s Princess—Book 0.5

The Queen’s Opal—Book 1

The Queen’s Gift—Book 2

The Queen’s Heir—Book 3

The Queen’s Bane—Book 4

Where you can find The Queen’s Opal: Amazon | BookBub

Synopsis:

Elves never use magic or leave the forest.

They aren’t supposed to get sick either, but Drynn’s mother just died from a mysterious illness, which has targeted the elven queens for generations. With no female heir left, the symbol of the curse—a green stone called the Queen’s Opal—passes to Drynn. Unwilling to lose another family member, Drynn’s impulsive and overprotective brother drags him out of the forest to search for a cure. And the oft-diseased humans seem the most likely place to start.

But the opal isn’t all that it seems. Once outside the forest, it shows Drynn visions of the first queen—a time when the mortal avatars of the lost gods walked the earth and the humans and elves lived in peace. Much has changed in the human lands since then. It’s a darker world, ruled by power-hungry wizards who covet any kind of magic. Magic like the opal. Magic like the natural energy the wizards can see inside the elves.

More than healing one illness, Drynn’s visions call for him to restore the world’s former peace, but if the wrong wizard learns about the elves’ innate gifts, even the forest will no longer be safe. 

Family bonds will be tested. Friends will become foes. With two kingdoms spiraling into chaos, can a shy bookworm conquer his fears to bring peace to the realm?

The Queen’s Opal is book one in a new high fantasy adventure series set in the same magical and exotic world as The Stone Bearers (2016).

This coming of age story will appeal to teen and young adult fans of the TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender, Cinda Willams Chima (The Demon King), Christopher Paolini (Eragon), and other works of epic sword and sorcery.

Clean Read. Fantasy violence and a few darker themes. Recommended for young adults and teens twelve and up.

Stone Bearers:
0. The Stone Bearers (2016)
0.5. The Frog’s Princess (2016)
1. The Queen’s Opal (2017)
2. The Queen’s Gift (2018)
3. The Queen’s Heir (2018)
4. The Queen’s Bane (Coming 2018)
5. The Queen’s Rite (Coming 2019)

Please Note: The Queen’s Opal is Book One. The Stone Bearers is a standalone novel that can be read before or after the full series.

The short story, The Frog’s Princess, can also be read in any order. Find it in The Fantastic Worlds Anthology (2016) or have a free digital copy delivered to you after signing up for my email list at sjacquebooks.com. Those on my email list will receive monthly emails with updates on deals, review opportunities for new releases, and other exclusive content.

Fairy Ring:
1. Fairy Ring: Shards of Janderelle (2017)
2. Fairy Ring: Changeling of Janderelle (Coming 2018)
3. Fairy Ring: Prince of Janderelle (Coming 2019)

Others: 
Winter Falls: A Tale of the Snow Queen (2017)
Depths: A Tale of the Little Mermaid (Coming 2018)


My Review:

The Queen’s Opal is the story of Drynn and his journey into the human world. It is also the story of Tayvin and the reason why he wanted to leave the forest. Finally, it is the story of Kol, his secret and his hatred of the robes. What happens when Kol meets Drynn? What happens to Drynn in the human world? Will Tayvin find what he is looking for? Can Kol overcome his hatred for the “robes“? Or will that hatred be his downfall?


Drynn (Aldrayndallen-Falberain): I liked Drynn. The main character in The Queen’s Opal, he was my favorite. I did feel bad for him. His mother dies, his brother forces him on a trip out of the forest and he gets kidnapped. On top of that, he starts to have these strange dreams about the first Queen and her life. He had a lousy couple of months. There was a point in the book where I wondered if he would ever be free of those people. I also was kinda hoping that Tayvin would find him first. I wanted to see a couple of those thieves get drop-kicked into next Monday (Picc and Cain mainly).

Tayvin (Tayvinaldrill-Falberain): I understood why he wanted to go to the human world. He wanted to save his brother. He couldn’t deal with losing another family member. He was impulsive and hot-headed at the beginning of the book. But, that tempered as the book went on. By the end of the book, he showed a lot of restraint. Even when Drynn told him what happened to him. I was half expecting him to go off and avenge Drynn.

Kol: I wanted to shake Kol during certain parts of the book. The way he treated Drynn at first. He wasn’t exactly nice. He was also afraid of the robes (wizards). That fear was understandable. He watched his mother burn to death, protecting him from his father. But to act the way he did after Xavien got guardianship over him was jerky. He refused to heed the advice that the dragonet gave him until it was almost too late.


The Queen’s Opal as a great read. The author did a great job with world building. She took what was a flat 2d world and built it up. I can’t wait to see what this world is going to look like in the other books.

She also did a great job with character building. Drynn, Tayvin, and Kol were complex characters with many layers. They were as realistic as two elves and a halfbreed can be.

Any issues that I had with The Queen’s Opal were minor ones. I wished that more went into how the stone chose its bearer. During Drynn’s dreams, Saylee was called to the temple. But how? I also wanted to know why someone so young? With my luck, it will be answered in the next book.

The Queen’s Opal can definitely be read by kids as young as 12. The only thing that I could even see being traumatic for anyone younger are the beatings that Drynn and Kol endured. They were somewhat graphic. There are also scenes where Drynn was chained in a cart and a scene where Drynn was drugged. Other than that, this book is a great starter book for someone starting to read fantasy.

The end of The Queen’s Opal was intriguing. Some storylines were wrapped up. Other’s were started and other’s were left open. It made me want to read book 2 and see where everyone ends up. Also, I loved the epilogue. It was a different way to do things.


I would give The Queen’s Opal a Young Teen rating. There is no sex (only one kiss). There is violence. There is mild language. I would recommend that no one under the age of 13 read this book.

I would reread The Queen’s Opal. I would also recommend this book to family and friends.


I would like to thank the author for allowing me to read and review The Queen’s Opal.

All opinions stated in this review of The Queen’s Opal are mine


Have you read The Queen’s Opal?

Love it?

Hate it?

Let me know

The Last Letter by Rebecca Yarros

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4 Stars

Publisher: Entangled Publishing LLC and Entangled: Amara

Date of publication: February 26th, 2019

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Where to find The Last Letter: Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Goodreads synopsis:

Beckett,

If you’re reading this, well, you know the last-letter drill. You made it. I didn’t. Get off the guilt train, because I know if there was any chance you could have saved me, you would have.

I need one thing from you: get out of the army and get to Telluride.

My little sister Ella’s raising the twins alone. She’s too independent and won’t accept help easily, but she has lost our grandmother, our parents, and now me. It’s too much for anyone to endure. It’s not fair.

And here’s the kicker: there’s something else you don’t know that’s tearing her family apart. She’s going to need help.

So if I’m gone, that means I can’t be there for Ella. I can’t help them through this. But you can. So I’m begging you, as my best friend, go take care of my sister, my family.

Please don’t make her go through it alone.

Ryan


My review:

When I read the blurb of The Last Letter, I knew that it was going to be a good book. A blurb in the form of a last letter? That alone made me go “I need to read this book“. I am so glad that I did because The Last Letter exceeded what I thought about it.

I will warn everyone, you will need tissues while reading The Last Letter. I was ugly crying from the scene where Ella found out that Maisie had cancer to the end of the book. I would invest in a few boxes. You will need them.

I thought that Ella was one of the strongest people I have read in a book to date. Life kept dropping bombshells on her and she didn’t even flinch. She took no flak from people. She also had a softer side. It wasn’t showcased in the book that much but it was there. When it did peek through, I loved it.

I did get annoyed with Ella at several points in the book. Put it this way, she was stubborn and afraid to let someone get close to her. When she did let Beckett in, she did begrudgingly. I did want to smack her upside the head when Beckett had a solution for Maisie’s cancer treatments. If I was in that situation, I would have jumped all over it. I got why she acted that way. Still. I am glad that Ada and Hailey talked some sense into her.

I liked Beckett. He arrived when Ella needed him the most. He stayed through Ella freaking out on him about who he was to Ryan. He was the one who came up with the solution about Maisie’s cancer and insurance. He fell heads over heels for Ella when they were writing letters to each other. He was a nice guy. When he opened up about his past, my heart broke for him.

Like Ella, I did get annoyed with him at points in the book. Like the whole Chaos storyline. How hard would it have been to tell her that he was Chaos? I didn’t understand how that didn’t come up. Ella did point blank ask him how he knew Ryan. That was the perfect time to say “Well, I’m Chaos“. But no, it comes out later in the book. I would have been pissed at him too.

I thought the romance that Beckett and Ella had was a sweet one. Of course, it was bumpy and there was a point where I thought it was over. But it was sweet.

I thought that the storyline with Maisie and her aggressive form of cancer was very well written. The author didn’t paint a rosy picture for us. Instead, she showed the stark realities of having a child with cancer. It was a realistic and heartbreaking look into childhood cancer.

I will say that the storyline with Ella, her ex and his parents made me throw up in my mouth a little bit. How can someone be so heartless? Not once but twice.

I also liked that military dogs are featured in this book. What I liked is that the military let Beckett keep Havoc. Mainly because she only listened to him. I liked how Ella described Havoc and her adjusting to not working. She was being domesticated and learning how to act like a dog.

There was a twist at the end of the book that broke my heart. It was surprised that came out of nowhere. I am not going to give anything away but I will stay that Beckett and Havoc’s training were well used. This is a tissue warning. You will be ugly crying until the end of the book.

The epilogue at the end had me ugly crying. I loved the insight that it gave into Beckett and Ella’s life 4 years later.


I gave The Last Letter an Adult rating. There is sex (not graphic). There is language. There is mild violence. There are triggers. They would be childhood cancer, the death of a sibling, the death of a friend, death of a parent and parental abandonment. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would reread The Last Letter. I would also recommend this book to family and friends.


I would like to thank the publishers, the author, and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review The Last Letter.

All opinions stated in this review of The Last Letter are mine.

Love-Lines by Sheri Langer

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4 Stars

Publisher: Red Adept Publishing, LLC

Date of publication: February 26th, 2019

Genre: Romance

Where you can find Love-Lines (will contain affiliate links): Amazon | Barnes and Noble | BookBub

Synopsis:

What if you could find the love of your life just by reading between the lines? 

Single mom Fordham Price is juggling her job at a small publisher, her precocious ten-year-old daughter, and her feisty mother. She wants to find time for men, but after a series of dating disasters, her relationship status is still stuck at single. 

As if her macchiato lite wasn’t already overflowing, a co-worker gets pregnant, and Fordham is expected to step in and deliver the company’s latest reality read from the Flowers from the Heart series. She must now supplement her own romantic misadventures with tales of cynical cat-ladies, identical-twin husbands, spunky monks, and countless other web-crawlers. 

As she wades through the submissions, she finds one from a widower whose story gives her tingles in all the places she forgot existed. His words draw her in until she finds herself daydreaming about him more than she’d care to admit. 

Could she have a love like that, or will her romantic fate be forever bound to her philandering ex-husband?


My review:

I will admit, when I read the blurb for Love-Lines, I wasn’t that impressed with it. I thought that this book was going to be one of those silly rom-com type of romances. I thought that I was going to read a book that had little substance. Don’t get me wrong, I like those types of books. But I also like books with a little more meat. So, I was surprised when I started reading Love-Lines and it wasn’t all fluff. There was meat to it!!

I wasn’t expecting to connect with Fordham the way I did. I didn’t know what I was expecting with Fordham’s character. Having her as a frazzled working mother who’s experiences in dating was normal made me love her. She was realistic. She was snarky. I loved her!!

While Fordham was great, it was the secondary characters that made this book sing. Whitty, her 10-year-old, was the epitome of every 10-year old that I have met. Her mother was sweet and sassy. Plus she was supportive of Fordham. I will admit that I didn’t like Aaron. I loved David. There were so many other gems in this book, it was hard to keep track of them.

I liked the main storylines of Love-Lines. The author did a fantastic job of keeping them separate until the middle of the book. Then she was able to merge them. I loved it. I do wish that I got more insight into what an editor does. I got a good feel for it here but I do wish a little more depth was given. I also felt that the way Fordham got the job was not that great.

What I enjoyed the most about this book was that it made me laugh. I had several laugh out loud moments while reading. Mainly centered around Fordham’s dating life. Her date with the much younger man cracked me up. As did her observances afterward.

I liked the romances that Fordham found herself in. I will admit, I didn’t like Aaron. He came across as too smarmy. Plus, the way he treated Whitty wasn’t right. David was perfect. Of course, there were some misconceptions that lasted until the end of the book. Even then, he was awesome about clearing them up!!

Speaking about the end of the book, I loved it!! I had a huge grin after reading it. Let’s say that things ended perfectly for Fordham!!


I would give Love-Lines an Adult rating. There are mild sex scenes (like so mild I didn’t know that they were having sex). There is no violence. There is mild language. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would reread Love-Lines. I would also recommend this book to family and friends.


I would like to thank the author and the publisher for allowing me to read and review Love-Lines.

All opinions stated in this review of Love Lines are mine


Have you read Love-Lines?

Do you like it when a book surprises you?

Let me know!!


My Favorite Cowboy (Heart of Texas: Book 3) by Donna Grant

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4 Stars

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: February 26th, 2019

Genre: Romance

Series: Heart of Texas

The Christmas Cowboy Hero—book 1

Cowboy, Cross My Heart—book 2 (review here)

My Favorite Cowboy—book 3

Where to find My Favorite Cowboy: Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Goodreads synopsis:

Hot cowboy heroes in Texas abound in the third book of the Heart of Texas series by New York Times bestselling author Donna Grant.

New York Times bestselling author Donna Grant rounds up the hottest cowboys in Texas in her latest novel of no-holds-barred passion.

Audrey Martinez is a veterinarian who has devoted her whole life to the care and protection of horses—even if doing so leaves her little time for meeting a man. Who would have thought that a strange case of criminal horseplay would lead her to falling deeply, wildly in love? If only the man who makes her heart race faster than a wild mustang would let his guard down, that is. . .

Caleb Harper is no ordinary cowboy. Sure, he wears his hat, boots, and jeans like a second skin, and displays an easygoing charm that comes from years of working on the ranch. But with his military background, and Army buddies at his side, he is tried-and-true Texas tough. Audrey knows she can trust a man like Caleb to help her save horses. But can Caleb trust himself to resist his attraction to Audrey—or will the sparks of their desire end up getting them burned?


My review:

I have mentioned in other reviews that I love reading contemporary western romances. Something about cowboys makes me weak in the knees. They are my not so guilty pleasure. It was a no brainer that I was going to read and review My Favorite Cowboy when I was approached by the publisher.

I liked Audrey. She was a no-nonsense large equine veterinarian who genuinely cared about the animals. She worked for two large ranches and also helped a horse rescue out, free of charge. Her passion and love for horses were palpable. I loved that she was Hispanic. I have read very few books where Hispanic’s are the main female romantic lead. I thought it was wonderful and refreshing.

Caleb had some serious abandonment issues. He was the last person to see his mother before she took off. He asked her not to leave and she left. Her leaving affected everyone but Caleb was affected the most. That left some deep-rooted issues that manifested in Caleb having trust issues. He also couldn’t invest himself in relationships. I did like Caleb. Besides his issues, he was a great guy. It was interesting watching him fight himself as he was falling in love with Audrey. Interesting and sad.

The main plotline was excellent. It went from who was making the horses sick to who had a personal vendetta against Audrey. Usually, I guess who the person was early on in the book. But, in this case, I was kept on my toes. I was surprised at who that person turned out to be. I was also surprised at the lengths that person went through to cover their tracks. I thought it was going to be someone else and my mind was blown when that person’s identity was revealed.

There were a few secondary plotlines. One involved Caleb, Brice and Abby’s mother, Helen. Another one was Brice and Naomi’s fertility issues. Another one involved Audrey and Maddy’s father. They were all wonderfully written.

I was mad with the storyline involving Brice and Naomi. Caleb shouldn’t have said ANYTHING. NADA. It wasn’t his place. I would have been so upset if someone else broke news like that to the family.

I also understood why Caleb was so against meeting Helen. I also understood why he did what he did at the end of that storyline. Forgiveness is a hard thing to do.

I will say that the storyline involving Audrey and Maddy’s father was the only one that didn’t make sense. From the beginning to the end, I was left going “He did what? Why turn up now?“.

The sex scenes were fog up my Kindle’s screen hot. I was a little disappointed that the author went the whole “I forgot to wear a condom, hope you are clean” route. I know these are fictional characters but I was mentally screaming at them “Diseases, people. DISEASES. Get tested ASAP.

The end of My Favorite Cowboy was nail-biting. The bad guy was revealed as was the reasons why that person did what they did. I loved the epilogue. I was left wondering if there was going to be more books in the series. I am hoping so.


I would give My Favorite Cowboy an Adult rating. There is sex (not explicit). There is language. There is violence. There are triggers. They would be the abandonment of a child, death of a parent, death of a spouse, infertility and animal abuse. I would recommend no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would reread My Favorite Cowboy. I would also recommend this book to family and friends.


I would like to thank the author, the publisher, and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review My Favorite Cowboy.

All opinions stated in this review of My Favorite Cowboy are mine.

After She’s Gone (Hanne Lagerlind-Schon: Book 2) by Camilla Grebe

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4 Stars

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books

Date of publication: February 26th, 2019

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Series: Hanne Lagerlind-Schon

The Ice Beneath Her—Book 1

After She’s Gone—Book 2

Where you can find After She’s Gone: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Bookbub

Synopsis:

In a small backwater town in Sweden, a young boy with a dark secret comes across a diary. As a cold case investigation suddenly becomes eerily current, a police investigator mysteriously disappears. What links these seemingly random events?

As atrocious acts from the past haunt the present and lives are changed forever, some will struggle to remember – while others struggle to forget . . .

The new thriller from the acclaimed author of THE ICE BENEATH HER, described as ‘Scandi-noir at its powerful bleakest’ by the Daily Mail and ‘unsettling, menacing and compulsively written’ by Heat, this is another slice of tense and twisted drama that will chill you to the bone.


My review:

I seem to be reading a lot of police mysteries/thrillers that are set in Finland/Sweden/Iceland lately. I don’t know why I am drawn to them, but I am. It is a combination of fascination with how their laws work and the culture.

The first 30-35% was slow. I don’t like books with slow beginnings. But, in this case, it worked. This plotline needed to be built up. I needed to read about what happened to Malin and Jake. I needed to see what formed them into the people that they were. I also needed to read about what was happening to Hanne through her diary. Once all the backstories were explained, then the ball started rolling. And man did it catch momentum.

Jake was the character I connected with. He had a lot of turmoil over the past year and kept to himself. It was his secret and what he thought about himself because of it that hurt my heart. His character growth came when he started to read Hanne’s diary. He related to Hanne and started to care for her. Not going to give anything away but Jake was the true hero of the book. He came to accept himself for what he was. His actions at the end of the book broke a cold case wide open and released secrets that were long buried.

I didn’t care for Malin. While she was a great detective, I didn’t care for her on a personal level. Her dislike for her fellow team member had no reason. She didn’t like him. I did agree with Manfred that she was racist. She protested way too much throughout that scene. She wasn’t a sympathetic character. Even with everything that was revealed at the end, I couldn’t help but go “Oh well” when it happened.

I felt awful for Hanne. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be losing my memory. Especially if I had a job where my memory has to be sharp. Hanne’s confusion and sadness came across the pages. I understood why she needed the diary. To be honest, I thought that Peter was drugging her at one point in the book. His secretiveness (or what Hanne perceived to be) was suspicious. I also wondered if she was going to remember everything that happened to her.

I thought that the plotlines were well written. I got involved with the mystery behind who the woman was and how she could be related to the girl found 8 years earlier. The author did a fantastic job of pointing out latent racism. The resentfulness that people had against the refugees could have been pulled from the headlines. Same with the bullying that Jake endured.

I was surprised at the end of the book. I wasn’t expecting the “bad guys” to be who they were. It was a twist that came out of nowhere. I was thinking how Malin and her partner picked up was the killer. Also, the confession was chilling. Talk about no remorse. I was also surprised at how Malin was tied into what happened. Again, a twist that I didn’t see coming.


I would give After She’s Gone an Adult rating. There are sex and sexual references (nothing graphic). There is violence. There is language. There are triggers. They would be imprisonment, refugees, bullying, and homophobia.

I would reread After She’s Gone. I would also recommend this book to family and friends.


I would like to thank the publisher, the author, and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review After She’s Gone.

All opinions stated in this review of After She’s Gone are mine.


Have you read After She’s Gone.

Let me know your thoughts!!


The Woman in the Lake by Nicola Cornick

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4 Stars

Publisher: Harlequin – Graydon House (U.S. & Canada), Graydon House

Date of publication: February 26th, 2019

Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction, Thriller

Where you can find The Woman in the Lake: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Bookbub

Synopsis:

From the bestselling author of House of Shadows and The Phantom Tree comes a spellbinding tale of jealousy, greed, plotting and revenge—part history, part mystery—for fans of Kate Morton, Susanna Kearsley, and Barbara Erskine

London, 1765

Lady Isabella Gerard, a respectable member of Georgian society, orders her maid to take her new golden gown and destroy it, its shimmering beauty tainted by the actions of her brutal husband the night before.

Three months later, Lord Gerard stands at the shoreline of the lake, looking down at a woman wearing the golden gown. As the body slowly rolls over to reveal her face, it’s clear this was not his intended victim…

250 Years Later…

When a gown she stole from a historic home as a child is mysteriously returned to Fenella Brightwell, it begins to possess her in exactly the same way that it did as a girl. Soon the fragile new life Fen has created for herself away from her abusive ex-husband is threatened at its foundations by the gown’s power over her until she can’t tell what is real and what is imaginary.

As Fen uncovers more about the gown and Isabella’s story, she begins to see the parallels with her own life. When each piece of history is revealed, the gown—and it’s past—seems to possess her more and more, culminating in a dramatic revelation set to destroy her sanity.


My review:

I have mentioned in past posts that I am a fan of historical fiction. I don’t read it often because I am afraid of getting burnt out. I am also a mystery/thriller fan. I like reading a mystery/thriller and trying to guess what is going on. So, when there are those two genres thrown together, I will pick it up. That’s what happened with The Woman in the Lake. I saw it, read the blurb and got it.

The Woman in the Lake was a bit different than some of the other mystery/thriller books that I have read in the past. Those differences actually made me like the book more.

The first difference is that the book went back and forth between 1st person and 3rd person. I usually dislike it when a book does that. The storyline gets lost between the constant back and forth. Not in this book. The author makes it clear when the POV changes. It made that part of reading the book pleasurable for me.

The second difference is that there are 3 separate storylines. Again, something that would drive me nuts. Like the POV changes, the author handled the 3 storylines wonderfully. Lady Gerard and Constance’s storyline was intertwined. The author was able to keep them separate until the pivotal scene towards the end of the book. It was wonderfully written.

I loved the characters. There were layers to them. I loved that when one layer was peeled back, another was revealed. This kept up until the end.

The historical fiction angle of the book was wonderfully written as well. It was set in Gregorian England. The author did a fantastic job of describing everyday life in that era. She also did a fantastic job of portraying how women were treated. Lady Gerard was beaten by Lord Gerard. Everyone turned a blind eye to it. Constance was sold to Lord Gerard and forced to be Lady Gerard’s maid. She was treated like she was invisible. Which was all part of being part of a servant and catering to the nobility.

The mystery/thriller angle had me guessing also. The author did a fantastic job of keeping me on my toes with Fenella’s storyline. Was she going insane? Was she suffering a psychotic breakdown? How come she kept seeing Jake? What was she going to find out about the gown? I couldn’t get enough.

The ending was fantastic. The author did a great job at bringing all 3 storylines together, merging them and ending the book. I was surprised at the twist that the author threw in at the end of the book. I didn’t see that coming!


I would give The Lady in the Lake an Adult rating. There are somewhat graphic sex scenes. There is language. There is violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would reread The Lady in the Lake. I would also recommend this book to family and friends.


I would like to thank the publisher, the author, and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review TheAll opinions stated in this review of The Lady in the Lake are mine.


Have you read The Lady in the Lake?

Did you like it?

Do you like it when there are 3 POVs/storylines?

Let me know!!

Within the Darkness (Wisteria: Book 2) by Shelby Lamb

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4 Stars

Publisher: Shelby Anonymous

Date of publication: January 4, 2019

Genre: Dark Fantasy, Dystopia

Series: Wisteria

Something—book 1 (review here)

Within the Darkness—book 2

Where you can find Within the Darkness: Amazon| Bookbub

Synopsis:

“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad.”

— Aldous Huxley

Aubrey has done it. She has teleported herself to “the hidden domain” and have managed to bring along her dream boy, Nathan, and nemesis/ex-besty Adelaide. But how could this be? They were all just at a party. No one knew getting into the backyard shed and saying the “magic words” would work. And the three are absolutely stunned. But the world Aubrey thought would be a wonderful paradise is actually a nightmare. As beautiful and enchanting as it is, Wisteria is like jumping down the rabbit hole with the Devil waiting on the sidelines. 

The people are different in this world. They are monsters, and not just physically. The Moss Wall is supposed to serve as a protection, separating the demons from the non-demons, but that doesn’t mean Aubrey and her friends are safe. Non-demon Aristocrats are nasty and cruel, indulging in their favorite daily past-time: the torture of the red maidens. 

And as for the handsome demon boy who wants Aubrey’s soul? “You’ll never escape,” warned fairies swooping down on her.

But Aubrey, Nathan, and Adelaide won’t go down without a fight. They simply must make it to the safe house and find their way out of the realm. Thankfully The Underground Annual is on its way. It is the biggest party, an explosive rave that happens once a year. And now it is their only window of opportunity. But will their plan succeed?


My review:

Trigger Warning:

I rarely do this but I am going to start this review off with a warning. Within the Darkness is a graphic book. I am not shocked by things that I read. Not at all. But even I had to do take a step back at the casual, extreme violence that was showcased in the book.

I will include a trigger warning with this book because it needs it. The triggers are rape, drug use, physical abuse, mental illness, cutting and talk of suicide. If you are triggered by any of these, then skip reading this review and the book.


The Plot:

Within the Darkness starts off with right after the events of Something. Audrey, Nathan, and Adelaide have been transported to Wisteria. Very soon after arriving in Wisteria, they find out that the magical land they were sent too has a dark side. Sexual assault, drug use, murder, and violence are the norm in Wisteria. Monsters roam the street and the forests. Audrey, Nathan, Adelaide, and Morgan are soon pushed right into the thick of it. They are captured by a sadistic Auntie and her sidekicks. Forced to endure and do things that they would never do, they vow to escape and go to a safe house. They find their chance when they realize that there is a rave that is held only once a year. They hope to escape in the crush of people. Can they do it? Can they survive until then?

I thought that the plot of Within the Darkness was well written. The urgency that Audrey, Nathan, and Adelaide felt was palpable. Their terror at being in a world where graphic violence was the norm was palpable. If I had seen some of the things they did, I would have freaked out at the beginning.

I will admit that the amount of violence showcased in the book was a bit off-putting at first. But, as I got deeper into the book, I came to realize that the violence was part of Wisteria. Audrey came to realize that towards the end of the book. It’s hard to explain without giving away major spoilers. All I will say is that I had an “Aha” moment the minute Audrey realized it too.


Characters:

Audrey: I wasn’t a fan of Audrey in the first book. So, I went into reading Within the Darkness with a little bit of prejudice against her. She took Nathan and Adelaide into Wisteria against their will. Which was kind of a dick thing to do. I wouldn’t go as far to say that I liked her but I did start to understand her. She was struggling with an untreated mental illness. It caused her to do things that she regretted after the fact. She did try to make things right. She tried to get them to the safe house. But she also got them into some pretty hairy situations.

I thought Audrey’s struggle with her mental illness was spot on. I also thought that her coping mechanisms (the cutting, sex, and drugs) were spot on also.

Nathan: I felt bad for him in this book. He was dragged into a world that was alien by his stalker. Plus, he had his girlfriend to protect. I didn’t blame him for how he felt about Audrey. Heck, I would have felt the same way. I did admire how he didn’t allow the violence of Wisteria to influence him. I was the only person at Ambrose’s parties that didn’t drink or do drugs (that I can recall). He also loved Adelaide.

Adelaide: I didn’t have any feelings towards Adelaide during the first half of the book. I did sympathize with her. I also understood her anger at Audrey. Who wouldn’t have been angry? She didn’t evoke any sort of strong reactions from me. I did start to like her after what happened to her at Auntie’s. I am not going to go into what happened but it made her a stronger person.

Morgan: She was the only one out of the foursome that I didn’t like. She was a junkie looking for a fix. She would do whatever it took to get her drugs. Even if that meant selling out the people she was traveling with. She was the only person in the group that wasn’t disgusted by the violence in Wisteria. It actually turned her on. I was hoping that she was eaten by something or killed. But it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.


My Thoughts on the Book

I did enjoy reading Within the Darkness. The author did a fantastic job with world building. I liked how she incorporated Japanese/Asian themes in the book. It made for an interesting background for what was happening in that realm.

There were parts of the book that made me wince while reading it. The treatment of the red-maidens was a huge part of that. A close second was how the Main World girls were treated. The casual violence towards those women was cringeworthy. I winced while reading those parts of the book.

The end of Within the Darkness was a cliffhanger. I wasn’t surprised by what happened. I was surprised that it happened with such ease. The author did not wrap up storylines. So I am expecting most of them to be carried on into book 3.


I would give Within the Darkness an Adult rating. There is sex. There is language. There is explicit violence. This is not a book for anyone under the age of 21.

I would reread Within the Darkness. I would also recommend this book to family and friends. I would make sure to tell them about the triggers.


I would like to thank the author for allowing me to read and review Within the Darkness.

All opinions stated in this review of Within the Darkness are mine.


Have you read Within the Darkness?

Let me know!!


A Life for A Life by Lynda McDaniel

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4 Stars

Publisher: Lynda McDaniel Books 

Date of publication: August 15th, 2016

Genre: Mystery

Where you can find A Life for a Life: Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Synopsis:

When a young woman is found dead in a wilderness area of the North Carolina mountains, the county sheriff says suicide. Della Kincaid disagrees. As a former reporter in Washington, D.C., she knows how to hunt down the real story. But she’s living in Laurel Falls, N.C., trying to revive a struggling general store and create a new life for herself. Without her usual sources, she turns to an unlikely cast of characters—friends, customers, ex-husband, and forger. With their help, she uncovers how unbridled greed has spawned an interwoven series of crimes and sorrows. Along the way, Kincaid discovers how much the Appalachian landscape and its people mean to her.

Lynda McDaniel, award-winning author of 15 books, has woven together true events from her early years living “back to the land” in Appalachia with an intriguing mystery story.

“A Life for a Life,” an autobiographical mystery novel, shares funny, moving, and surprising stories from those years. You’ll meet a cantankerous laundromat owner who was just as weird as Lynda portrayed her, and a gentle giant of a beekeeper whose love for his family was as big as he was. And Cleva, who’s based on a lovely woman who taught Lynda how to can tomatoes and make the best blackberry jam you’ve ever tasted. Many of the other characters are fashioned after real people who opened their hearts to this deer-in-the-headlights city slicker. Lynda had moved to the mountains of North Carolina to see what rural life was all about. Over the years, she realized that everything that is important to her today—she learned in her Appalachian home.


My Review:

I very rarely read books that are straight mysteries. The mysteries that I read have thriller and/or psychological elements in them. To be honest, I was getting a tad bored reading them. So when I got the invite to review A Life for a Life and read the synopsis, I decided that I needed a change. I am glad that I decided to read this book. It was a well-written mystery that kept me guessing to the end.

The plotline for A Life for a Life was very simple. Della, a former reporter now running a country store, stumbles across the body of a young girl. Everything points to suicide but Della thinks that there is more to the story. So she starts doing what she does best, investigating. With her sidekicks, Abit and Jake, Della digs into the case. What she discovers will change the lives of many people in her small town.

I liked Della. I liked how she dug into Lucy’s case and refused to let it go. She had so much thrown at her during the course of the book. She had opposition from the sheriff. Her dog was kidnapped (well, dognapped). Her store was vandalized and then set on fire. If it was any other person, they would have dropped the case. But not Della, it made her even more determined to find out why Lucy was killed.

Abit was one of the sweetest characters that I have read to date. He had a way of looking at the bright side of things that made me smile. He also had thick skin. He had to. I mean, look at his nickname, Abit. His father gave it to him while describing him as “a bit slow“. Even though he was slow, he had an amazing insight into the people in his town.

I thought that the mystery angle of the book was well written. I usually figure out who the murderer is by the middle of the book. Or at least the motive. Both were kept under wraps and not revealed until the end of the book. The red herrings that the author threw out were wonderful too. I did think that the murderer was the person that was arrested.

What I liked the most about this book was the small town feel that I got from it. I know, getting a small town feel from a book. I’m nuts. But, I do. The other thing is that I live in Western North Carolina. I live in the Foothills. Everything that was written in this book could have been where I live.

The end of A Life for a Life was excellent. Like I mentioned above, the author did a fantastic job of keeping the murderer and the motive under wraps. She also did a fantastic job of wrapping up the smaller storylines and merging them with the main one. There were no loose ends.


I would give A Life for a Life an Older Teen rating. There is no sex. There is language. There is mild violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 16 read this book.

I would reread A Life for a Life. I would also recommend this book to family and friends.


I would like to thank the author for allowing me to read and review A Life for a Life.

All opinions stated in this review of A Life for a Life are mine.


Have you read A Life for a Life?

Do you like it when the author keeps a mystery 100% under wraps?

Why or why not?

Let me know!!


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Let’s Talk About Sext (Let’s Talk About Sext: Book 1) by Evie Claire

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2 Stars

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Loveswept, Loveswept

Date of publication: February 19th, 2019

Genre: Romance

Series: Let’s Talk About Sext

Let’s Talk About Sext—Book 1

I Wanna Sext You Up—Book 2 (expected publication date: August 20th, 2019)

Where you can find Let’s Talk About Sext: Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Goodreads synopsis:

Her: Unstoppable, workaholic, driven force of nature. Him: The exact opposite of that.

Phebe Stark needs a punching bag. No, on second thought, she needs a donut. No, on third thought, she needs to escape into a dark bar with a strong drink. She’s just been harassed, for the umpteenth time, by the slimy supervisor standing between her and a shattered glass ceiling at her high-pressure Atlanta firm. But then a tall, bearded, sexy lumberjack of a bartender saunters over, and suddenly Phebe knows she doesn’t need gin . . . she needs him.

Brody Cantrell didn’t exactly intend to become a bartender. He planned to help out at his ailing uncle’s bar for a year, then get an advanced degree and rise to the top of his field. Instead, he got a Ph.D. in Real Life from his customers. Brody thinks he’s seen everything—until he meets Phebe Stark. And when he gets a load of her fearless sexting skills, he just has to see what’s under that power suit. Brody’s certain they’ll have a good time or two—nothing serious. Then again, all these steamy messages and breathless trysts have him seriously considering . . . Why not?


My Review:

I hate leaving negative reviews. I do. But that is part of the job of writing a book blog. You need to showcase the bad along with the good.

I did not like Phebe at all. From the minute she appeared outside of Brody’s bar, I got the vibe that she was a ball buster and a snob. My vibe was confirmed in the next chapter when she went from zero to witch on Brody. My dislike of her started around that time also. It grew and grew until the first breakup scene happened. That is where her true colors came out. She was a snob and was all about money. From that point on, I read her scenes a bad taste in my mouth.

I did like Brody but I thought that he was a pushover. I also couldn’t understand why he kept taking Phebe back after everything she put him through. I would have told her to go take a flying leap after what happened at the Boys and Girls Club gala.

Because of my dislike for Phebe, I couldn’t get into the sex scenes. They did nothing for me. If Phebe had been more likable, then the sex scenes would have been fun. But they were colored by her actions throughout the book.

I did like the secondary characters in this book. Phebe’s friends weren’t afraid to call her out and let her know how she was acting. When she told them what she said to Brody during their last fight, their reaction was the same I would have had.

I did appreciate the author trying to reign Phebe in. I did. But I didn’t believe that she changed in that short amount of time. I mean what she said to Brody was awful.

A bartender with Daddy issues

Who says that to someone that they loved? And over something that she had no business being a part of? What Brody did with that land was up to him. Not her. I would have booted her butt out of the door and blocked her number.

Which takes us to the end of the book. I know because its a romance, they are supposed to have a HEA. But in this case, I can’t see it happening. I have a feeling that Phebe and Brody’s relationship will be a quick one. Like a Kardashian marriage. I was left feeling unfulfilled by the ending. Which is something that I rarely feel when reading any type of book.


I would give Let’s Talk About Sext an Adult rating. There are explicit sex and sexual situations. There is language. There is mild violence. There are triggers. They are sexual harassment, women’s rights, talk of alcoholism and talk of parental neglect and abuse.

I would not reread Let’s Talk About Sext. I also would not recommend this book to family and friends. I would be open to reading more books by the author.


I would like to thank the publisher, the author, and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review Let’s Talk About Sext.

All opinions stated in this review of Let’s Talk About Sext are mine.

Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy: Book 3) by Katherine Arden

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4.5 Stars

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Ray

Date of publication: January 8th, 2019

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Series: Winternight Trilogy

The Bear and the Nightingale—Book 1 (review here)

The Girl in the Tower—Book 2 (review here)

The Winter of the Witch—Book 3

Where you can find The Winter of the Witch: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Bookbub

Synopsis:

Following their adventures in The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, Vasya and Morozko return in this stunning conclusion to the bestselling Winternight Trilogy, battling enemies mortal and magical to save both Russias, the seen and the unseen.

Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, stronger than ever and determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself and her history as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all.


My review:

I had a mix of emotion when I started reading The Winter of the Witch. I was happy because this book was out. I was apprehensive because of the blurb. I was sad because the trilogy was ending. My feelings were validated for The Winter of the Witch. I never get emotional reading a book. But I did for this one.

Vasya was one of my favorite people in The Winter of the Witch. Even when pushed to her limits, she was one of the strongest people in the book. What she endured in this book would have killed lesser people. Instead, it made her a stronger person. It fueled her desire to bind Bear. I was worried about what was going to happen to her after Bear was bound. I was worried that the story was going to flounder.

Morozko is one of my favorite characters to date. He stole every single scene that he was in. The fight scene with Bear, his twin, was one of the best supernatural fight scenes that I have read to date. His scenes with Vasya after that were touching. I mean, he did follow her to summer. If that doesn’t tell anyone how he felt, that I don’t know what would. My only complaint is that he refused to get involved in the war. But I understood why.

Vasya’s rise to power in this book was amazing to read. I knew that something was going to happen when she was thrust into Midnight. I was thrown for a surprise when it was revealed who her grandmother was. I remember shaking my head and saying “Well, that explains a lot”. I liked how Vasya was able to keep her promise to the chyerti. There were points in the book, after her journey to Midnight, where I thought that she was failed. I have never been more happy to be proved wrong!!

There were several deaths in The Winter of the Witch. The death of Solovey, at the beginning of the book, broke my heart. Vasya never recovered from it. There was one death where I cheered. The other notable death was at the end of the book. I was crushed at that person’s death. Freaking crushed. I did cry. No shame here in admitting that.

The end of The Winter of the Witch was an emotional read for me. I am not going to give away spoilers but I was thrilled with how it ended. I was also thrilled with the other thing that happened. That came out of left field for me. I was happy. I might have done a fist pump and say “Yes!!“.

I want to add that the Author’s Note was a welcome surprise. I liked that the author used an actual battle as the backdrop of the one that took place at the end of the book. The Grand Prince and Sasha were actual people. She admitted to tweaking parts of the battle (which I expected). She pointed out something interesting about Russia that ended with the Revolution. Made me go “Hmmmm“. As was her fitting reference about the guardians of Russia.

What I loved was that she included a glossary. She also included a note on Russian names. Both were helpful!!


I would give The Winter of the Witch an Older Teen rating. There are mentions of sex (not graphic). There is no language. There is violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 16 read this book.

I would reread The Winter of the Witch. I would also recommend this book to family and friends.


I would like to thank the author, the publisher, and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review The Winter of the Witch.

All opinions stated in this review of The Winter of the Witch are mine.

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