Spies Never Lose (Banana Girls: Book 3) by M. Taylor Christensen

Publisher: Zoom Press

Date of publication: November 10th, 2022

Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Spy

Series: Banana Girls

Spies Never Quit—Book 1 (review here)

Spies Never Swoon—Book 2 (review here)

Spies Never Lose—Book 3

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

Hannah’s new husband is going to drive her absolutely crazy.

Never having been married before, Hannah McCarthy doesn’t know if what she’s feeling is normal. Even though she has to pretend to be madly in love with her fake husband, she really just wants to wring his neck. But her annoyance and frustration would all be worth it if it means putting a stop to the illegal international adoptions they’ve discovered.

Can Hannah and her fellow agent set aside their differences and work together to track down the mastermind of the adoption operation? And, perhaps more importantly, is Hannah willing to let her incredibly condescending yet aggravatingly adorable pretend-husband actually get his way?

If you enjoy kick-butt spy-girls and enemies-to-lovers, you’ll love Spies Never Lose. This stand-alone novel is the third book in the Banana Girls series. As always, the romance is sweet and the suspense is cozy.


First Line:

A loud bang shattered the stillness of the scrubby Georgia woods.

Spies Never Lose by M. Taylor Christensen

I was super excited when I got the invite to review Spies Never Lose. I had read the previous two books and enjoyed them. So, I jumped on the invite. I am glad that I did because this book was fantastic.

Spies Never Lose has a fast-paced and exciting plotline. Hannah has been assigned to work with one of the most infuriating men she has ever met, Special Agent Jason Briggs from Homeland Security. Their job is to infiltrate an international adoption agency suspected of kidnapping children from their families in China and adopting them into families in the United States. Hannah and Jason are posing as social media influencers looking to adopt. The closer they get to exposing the agency, the more dangerous it gets. The only thing is Hannah can’t stand Jason, and it isn’t easy for her to pretend to like him. Can Hannah and Jason put aside their differences and work together? Or will they fail their mission?

Spies Never Lose is the third book in the Banana Girls series. While the readers can read it as a standalone, I recommend reading the first two books before reading this one. That way, you can get the background on why the Banana Girls were formed, who the other team members are, and the relationships the previous two girls found themselves in.

Spies Never Lose is a fast-paced book that takes place in Atlanta, Georgia, and the surrounding areas.

I like characters that grab me from the get-go. I get a better connection with them if they do that. Thankfully, both Hannah and Jason were able to do that.

  • Hannah—-I was thrilled that Hannah finally got her book. My opinion of her has been rocky because of how she acted in the first two books. She was a jerk, and I was praying that she wasn’t written that way in this one. Well, she wasn’t. All those jerky traits were toned down and morphed into qualities that complimented her. I loved it. I also liked how single-minded she was in her hate of Jason. I knew it would turn to love at some point, and when it did, I loved how Hannah showed it.
  • Jason—I did not like him at first. He came across as a cocky, misogynistic man who told Hannah she was privileged to work with him. But, as the book went on, the author revealed a man who cared deeply about his case and Hannah. I also loved his explanation about why he came off the way he did. By the end of the book, I was 100% team, Jason.

The former characters from the previous books did make appearances in this book. The author, though, kept them in the background. Other notable characters (the two influencer families and the adoption coordinator) added extra depth and character to the book.

Spies Never Lose has a hybrid of genres. It is a combination of young adult, suspense, mystery, thriller, and a little bit of romance. As with his other books, the author was able to meld all of those genres together in a way that caught and kept my attention.

There was one major storyline in Spies Never Lose. It was Hannah and Jason infiltrating and taking down the international adoption ring. It was slow-moving at first (with all the talk of influencers and an adoption camp), but the pace did pick up. I enjoyed trying to figure out who was behind the buying of the children.

There were secondary storylines, and they complemented the main one very well. I loved the storyline with the influencer families that Jason and Hannah had to make friends with. I was dying laughing. Mainly because the representation shown was 100% what I imagined those people would be like.

The end of Spies Never Lose was standard. I was surprised by who was behind the adoptions. I also liked the HEA for Jason and Hannah.

Three Reasons You Should Read Spies Never Lose:

  • Great storyline
  • Readers can read it as a standalone
  • Great melding of genres

Three Reasons You Shouldn’t Read Spies Never Lose:

  • Jason at the beginning of the book. I wanted to strangle him.
  • The influencers. As much as they amused me, I didn’t like them.
  • The kids are being stolen from their families and adopted.

I would recommend Spies Never Lose to anyone over 16. There is mild language, violence, and no sex (some kissing scenes).

A Maiden of Snakes by Jane McGarry

Publisher: JM Books

Date of publication: August 28th, 2022

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

When Marchioness Lamberico fails to conceive a child, she solicits the help of Imelda, the village witch. Nine months later, she gives birth to a baby girl. Biancabella. Though perfect in every other way, the infant is born with a snake wrapped around her neck. To the relief of the marchioness, the creature vanishes at once and, in the joy of motherhood, is soon forgotten. When Biancabella is a young girl, the snake reappears and explains their uncommon sisterhood. Samaritana helps Biancabella unlock her magical gifts and asserts that so long as they are together, all will be well. Their close, though secret, relationship unites them above all others. Years pass, the sisters contented, until the day King Ferrandino of Naples arrives, seeking Biancabella’s hand in marriage. What follows shatters the sisters’ bond, leading to misfortune and betrayal, which forces them to grapple with not only the loss of their connection, but leaves each fighting for her life. Loosely based on the Italian fairy tale Biancabella and the Snake, the story explores how the love can transform from a domineering and covetous power to authenticity and, ultimately, redemption.


First Line:

The day was perfect, a warm spring sun in a cloudless sky.

A Maiden of Snakes by Jane McGarry

When I got the invite to review A Maiden of Snakes, I hesitated to accept the invite for the review. The blurb didn’t stand out to me. After taking a couple of days to think about it, I accepted the invitation. My reason was this: My blog started off reviewing indie authors, and I have made it a point to accept any/all invites that come across my inbox. Well, I am glad I accepted because this book was excellent!!!

A Maiden of Snakes had an exciting storyline. Biancabella is the much-loved child of lesser Italian nobility. A miracle child, she was born with a snake wrapped around her neck. When she was ten, she met with her snake sister (Samaritana) and completed a bonding ritual. But that ritual comes with a price. Biancabella must always stay with her Samaritana. If she does, life will be great. But if they are separated, then bad things will happen to Biancabella. Biancabella doesn’t heed Samaritana’s warning and is married to the King of Naples. Intrigue follows her to court, where her stepmother-in-law looks at her as someone to get rid of. When a deadly sickness overtakes the city, her stepmother-in-law jumps, she has Biancabella kidnapped and leaves instructions for her to be killed. Samaritana interrupts Biancabella’s killer, but it is almost too late. The assassin had cut off her hands. What will happen to Biancabella? Will she and Samaritana make up? Or will Biancabella live with the kindly woodcutter and his family forever? And, more importantly, will the evil stepmother get away with everything she has done?

A Maiden of Snakes is a fast-paced book set in medieval Italy. This book takes place in Monferrato and Naples. I enjoyed seeing glimpses of what these cities were like back in medieval times.

The characters of A Maiden were Snakes were interesting. But I did find them a little underdeveloped.

Biancabella: I liked her but found her almost too innocent and trusting. I also didn’t like that she could easily brush off Samaritana’s concerns because “she was in love.” Towards the end of the book, I found her character much more engaging than the innocent little miss portrayed until the assassin took her from the castle.

Samaritana: I liked her also and thought she was very wise in some ways. But her jealousy when Biancabella met and married Ferrandino got on my nerves. I had wished that elder snakes had stayed to advise her. I also felt that her jealousy caused a lot of Biancabella’s issues when she was in Naples. But Samaritana did come through when Biancabella needed her.

Ferrandino: He annoyed the ever living out of me. How could he not see what his stepmother was doing? How could he not see what she did to his father? And when faced with Biancabella’s stepsister (who was forced to take her place), why didn’t he SAY SOMETHING!!! I was so annoyed with him; it wasn’t even funny. Of course, he did make up for it in the end.

The Stepmother: She was one of the evilest, vile villains to grace the pages of a book. Everything she did in A Maiden of Snakes was for her. She showed no mercy to Biancabella when the plague hit the castle. She knew Biancabella was pregnant and STILL told the mercenary to kill her. She got what she deserved and then some at the end of the book.

The Woodcutter and His Family: Besides Biancabella, he was one of the book’s only good people. He found a critically injured and maimed young woman and brought her back to his house to nurse her back to health. They were prepared to take care of her for the rest of her life (even if Biancabella did have other plans). And when the author revealed Biancabella’s identity (along with Samaritana), they helped to get Biancabella back into Ferrandino’s life (and get rid of the stepmother). They were the MVPs of this book.

A Maiden of Snakes has many secondary characters that flesh out the storylines. They made the scenes more enjoyable (and sometimes sad) to read. There were some that I wished stayed in the story (the elder snakes, for one).

I wasn’t entirely sure what genre to put A Maiden of Snakes. I decided upon Young Adult (Biancabella was around 18), Fantasy (Samaritana did have magic, as did Biancabella), and Romance (Biancabella’s love for Ferrandino and his for her). Romance, I am still undecided. I want to say yes because of the love they had for each other, but at the same time, I want to say no. I do feel that this book fits very well into the young adult and fantasy genres.

Oh yes, before I forget, this entire book was based on the Italian fairytale (Biancabella and the Snake) by Giovanni Francesco Straperola for his book The Facetious Nights.

I liked the storyline with Biancabella and Samaritana. I wish more time had been spent with them, not apart, but I understood the author was following the fairytale.

The storyline with Ferrandino, Biancabella, and his stepmother was sad. There was a point in that storyline where I thought Ferrandino wouldn’t get his HEA with Biancabella. I felt the stepmother got everything coming to her and then some. So, yes, I was thrilled when everything came to a head at the end of the book.

Some trigger warnings do need to be discussed in A Maiden of Snakes. They would be infertility, abandonment (Samaritana’s elder snakes), child abuse (stepmother beating her daughters), a graphic scene where Biancabella’s hands are cut off, and she is beaten, and what happened to the stepmother. If any of these triggers you, I recommend not reading this book.

The end of A Maiden of Snakes was your typical fairytale ending. Everyone got their HEA. I am hoping that Samaritana gets hers in another book.

Three things I liked about A Maiden of Snakes:

  1. It takes place in medieval Italy
  2. Biancabella and Samaritana’s relationship
  3. Based on a fairytale

Three things I didn’t like about A Maiden of Snakes

  1. Samaritana’s jealousy
  2. The stepmother
  3. The blurb/cover

I would recommend A Maiden of Snakes to anyone over 21. There is no sex or language but graphic violence. Also, see my trigger warnings.


If you enjoyed reading A Maiden of Snakes, you will enjoy reading these books:

The Wilderwomen by Ruth Emmie Lang

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: November 15th, 2022

Genre: Fantasy, Magical Realism, Young Adult, Fiction, Paranormal, Contemporary, Family, Mystery, Adult

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powell’s | IndieBound | Indigo

Goodreads Synopsis:

Ohioana Book Award finalist Ruth Emmie Lang returns with a new cast of ordinary characters with extraordinary abilities.

Five years ago, Nora Wilder disappeared. The older of her two daughters, Zadie, should have seen it coming, because she can literally see things coming. But not even her psychic abilities were able to prevent their mother from vanishing one morning.

Zadie’s estranged younger sister, Finn, can’t see into the future, but she has an uncannily good memory, so good that she remembers not only her own memories, but the echoes of memories other people have left behind. On the afternoon of her graduation party, Finn is seized by an “echo” more powerful than anything she’s experienced before: a woman singing a song she recognizes, a song about a bird…

When Finn wakes up alone in an aviary with no idea of how she got there, she realizes who the memory belongs to: Nora.

Now, it’s up to Finn to convince her sister that not only is their mom still out there, but that she wants to be found. Against Zadie’s better judgement, she and Finn hit the highway, using Finn’s echoes to retrace Nora’s footsteps and uncover the answer to the question that has been haunting them for years: Why did she leave?

But the more time Finn spends in their mother’s past, the harder it is for her to return to the present, to return to herself. As Zadie feels her sister start to slip away, she will have to decide what lengths she is willing to go to to find their mother, knowing that if she chooses wrong, she could lose them both for good.


First Line:

Nora Wilder was supposed to be a bird.

The Wilderwomen by Ruth Emmie Lang

When I first read the synopsis of The Wilderwomen, I was very intrigued. I am a big fan of anything fantasy or paranormal, and with what the blurb said, it was right up my alley. And it was. But, as I got into the book, I realized that it wasn’t what I thought it would be, which kept me from truly enjoying it.

The plotline for The Wilderwoman was interesting. It centers around two sisters, Zadie and Finn, and their search for their mother, Nora. Aiding in that search is Zadie’s ability to see glimpses of the future and Finn’s ability to see echoes of the past. On their journey, they meet people that can help them find their mother. Can Zadie and Finn find Nora and confront her? Or will this trip tear them apart for good?

Before I do anything else, I will throw up a trigger warning. There are two significant triggers in The Wilderwomen; they are the abandonment of children and mental illness. If any of these trigger you, I highly suggest not reading this book.

The Wilderwoman is a fast-paced book in the Southwest, the Rockies, and the Pacific Northwest. Zadie and Finn started in Texas, stopped at a campsite in Arizona, followed Nora’s trail to a house in the Rockies, and ended the journey on the beaches of Oregon (or Washington, I wasn’t sure).

The book centers around three main characters: Nora, Zadie, and Finn. I will highlight what I liked/disliked about each character (instead of writing huge paragraphs).

  • Nora––The author didn’t spend as much time on her as I would have liked. Anything I got from her was from Finn’s echoes and Zadie’s memories (mostly not nice). The more I got into Zadie’s memories; the more Nora became unstable. The author did try to redeem her at the end of the book. But I had already made up my mind at that point.
  • Zadie—I had alternate feelings about Zadie. I pitied her for what had happened to her (her mother taking off and having an unplanned pregnancy). But, at the same time, she annoyed me. She had a woe-is-me attitude the entire book. I also wanted to shake her because she wasn’t the only one affected by Nora’s leaving. As for her secret, I understood why she wanted to keep it from Finn. Also, I didn’t understand why she was so afraid of her ability, but I guess if I could see glimpses of the future, I would have acted the same way.
  • Finn—I liked her. She was the exact opposite of Zadie in so many ways. She was upbeat. She was determined to use her ability to find Nora. At one point in the book, I got worried when it seemed like her ability threatened to overtake her life. I thought her storyline would go in another direction, and I was surprised by the turn it took instead.

Several secondary characters added some much-needed depth to the book. I liked them all except Finn’s foster mother. She annoyed the cr*p out of me. I could hear that high-pitched voice and see her facial expressions whenever Zadie was around. Uggh.

The Wilderwomen’s primary genre was magical realism and a bit of fantasy and mystery mixed in. I wasn’t a big fan of the magical realism angle. I thought it covered the fact that Nora took off on her kids. But I did like the fantasy and mystery angles. The fantasy was great, and I liked how the author showcased it differently. The mystery angle was also good. I liked that Zadie and Finn had to work to find Nora’s echoes. I also liked that they had to solve why she left them.

The end of The Wilderwomen was a little disappointing. The author did an excellent job of wrapping up all the storylines, but there was something off with it. I didn’t particularly appreciate how Zadie could accept things (same as Finn). It just left a bad taste in my mouth.

Three reasons why you should read The Wilderwomen

  • Complex characters
  • Finn’s use of echoes to see the past
  • Zadie and Finn’s road trip

Three reasons why you shouldn’t read The Wilderwomen

  • Triggers of child abandonment and mental illness
  • Zadie’s attitude for 90% of the book
  • The ending. I wasn’t expecting it to end the way it did.

I would recommend The Wilderwomen to anyone over 16. There is no sex. But there is some mild violence and language. Also, see my trigger warning above.


If you enjoyed reading The Wilderwomen, you will enjoy these books:

The Last Huntress (Mirror Realm: Book 1) by Lenore Borja

Publisher: Sparkpress

Date of publication: November 1st, 2022

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction

Series: Mirror Realm

The Last Huntress—Book 1

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo

Goodreads Synopsis:

Alice Daniels has a problem. Her reflection keeps misbehaving when she looks in the mirror–and the longer she ignores it, the harder it tries to get her attention. On her eighteenth birthday, she learns why: she is a huntress, someone gifted with the power to enter mirrors and the magical world that exists beyond. But with this power comes immense responsibility, for in the Mirror Realm lurks an evil that has infected the human race for centuries: demons. It is up to her and her three huntress sisters–with the help of one handsome and overbearing protector–to hunt and banish this evil one demon at a time, thereby keeping the chaos in check. But when an ancient god pays Alice a visit that turns deadly, it is clear the Mirror Realm is more than it seems, and she soon finds herself in a race against time to save the life–and soul–of the one man the gods are determined to never let her have.

The Last Huntress is a story of redemption and sacrifice, the bonds of true sisterhood, and the impossible, sometimes frightening, things we’ll do for love.


First Line:

Alice watched the blood pool into a dip in the asphalt.

The Last Huntress by Lenore Borja

The Last Huntress is the book that made me rethink my NetGalley hiatus. When I got the invite, I didn’t notice that it was from the publisher (I thought it was from the author). I also didn’t see the address of the link that was in the email. So after reading the blurb, I was very interested in this book, made up my mind to read it, and clicked the link—which brought me to my deactivated NetGalley account. So, I decided to reactivate it and start my NetGalley journey again. I am glad I did because this was a fascinating book.

The Last Huntress is book one in the Mirror Realm series. Any of the usual stuff I write in this section doesn’t apply.

The Last Huntress had an exciting storyline. Alice has just moved to Arizona after her parent’s divorce. Living in her mother’s childhood house, Alice is convinced that she will hate it there. Around the same time, Alice notices that her reflection is acting up. Thinking nothing of it, Alice ignores it until she can’t anymore. When things start to implode around her, Alice meets Soxie, Olivia, and Hadley.

Along with Colin, they tell her that what she is experiencing is real because she is a Huntress. She is supposed to hunt demons in the Mirror Realm. But Alice soon discovers more at stake than being a Huntress. What she finds out sets off a series of events that holds grave consequences for her and her loved ones. What is Alice? Can she stop whoever is manipulating her? And can she stay one step ahead of the person she loves the most?

I liked Alice for about 90% of the book. She was headstrong and wasn’t afraid to stand up to anyone. She did have her moments of weakness, though, centered around Colin. There were points where I wanted to shake her and say, “Dude, just leave him be.” Her storyline did get a bit convoluted when the author introduced Greek mythology. I figured it was going in that direction when the girls explained Colin’s/The Mirror Realms backstory, and there was an abundance of Greek mythological figures being named. But I wasn’t expecting it to get as messy as it did. Honestly, I wasn’t a fan of it and wished that the author had just stuck to her being a Huntress and left out the other stuff (but then again, those scenes with Hades and Persephone wouldn’t have happened).

I didn’t like Colin. Even with knowing his backstory, I felt that he was a bully. He refused to acknowledge his feelings for Alice, and when he did, he turned into a psycho. But, in the end, he did prove himself when he tried to save Alice by going into the Mirror Realm (he was forbidden too).

I loved Olivia, Soxie, and Hadley. They were everything that Colin wasn’t, and they weren’t afraid to tell him where to go. They took Alice under their wings and taught her everything they knew about the Mirror Realm and defeating demons. They even helped when Colin turned psycho. They were the besties that every girl wished they had in high school.

The storyline with Alice, Colin, the girls, and the Mirror Realm was exciting. I loved the lore behind how the Mirror Realm came to be. I also liked the twist thrown in that storyline about Alice being a Huntress. Also, Colin’s relationship with the goddess is interesting. I wish the author had expanded a little bit on it.

The storyline with Alice and Colin was interesting but disturbed me at the same time. I will come right out and say it; there was Instalove. It was immediately with both, but Colin, the d-tickle, refused to acknowledge it. The disturbing part was what happened after Colin admitted his feelings and discovered what would happen to Alice. I was horrified to read about the drugging and keeping her sequestered from everyone else. All because of a prophecy.

The author amazingly wrote the storyline with Alice and the Greek Gods. I couldn’t get enough of reading about that. The author extensively researched everything, and it showed. The main gods showcased were Hades and Persephone. The Fates were also talked about (and man, were they scary!!). Zeus also makes a very brief appearance toward the end of the book. I was enthralled with what I was reading.

The author very well wrote the young adult angle. I did feel, though, that teenagers went one of two ways. They were super immature and did stupid things or acted like mini adults (everyone else). There was no in-between with them. Still, I found that the teenagers written about were well-written and had depth.

As I mentioned above, the author did a fantastic job incorporating Greek mythology into the storyline. The fantasy angle was also well-written. I liked that the darker the fantasy angle got (and it got pretty dark toward the end of the book), the more well-written it was.

The romance angle was meh. As I mentioned above, I wasn’t a fan of it because of the Instalove bit and the fact that Colin was a tool for 90% of the book. Of course, that storyline did take an unexpected turn at the end of the book.

The end of The Last Huntress was exciting and a little twisty. I wasn’t expecting the twists thrown in about Persephone toward the end of the book. I also wasn’t expecting the twist about Colin and what happened to him. That last chapter messed with my mind.

I would recommend The Last Huntress to anyone over 16. There are non-graphic sexual situations, language, and mild violence. There are also scenes of kidnapping and drugging.


If you enjoyed reading The Last Huntress, you will enjoy these books:

The Lost Son by Aidan Lucid

Publisher: Jongleur Books

Date of publication: October 27th, 2019

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Young Adult

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

A NEW EPIC FANTASY ADVENTURE BEGINS!!

It’s November 5th, 1945. Captain Edward Johnson and Sergeant Conor MacCall are flying somewhere over the Bermuda Triangle. What should have been a routine patrol mission turns into a fight for their lives when they are attacked by two dragons! After barely escaping, they think the worst is over. It’s not.

Fast forward to present day America and seventeen-year-old Henry’s life is turned upside down when he finds a magical gold coin. It takes him to Zargothia. There he meets the US Airforce pilots and Jasper the cat. Together they learn that they have been chosen to free King Argoth and the people of Zargothia from a cruel oppressive race known as the Sadarkians. With King Argoth’s army being vastly outnumbered, however, will Henry and his friends succeed?

In this fast-paced fantasy adventure, danger lurks around every corner and nothing is what it seems.


First Line:

Avram and Temrok, both Sadarkian, in their black armor, jumped as the throne room’s double doors slammed shut.

The Lost Son by Aidan Lucid

Part of the reason why I started this blog was to feature indie/self-published authors. Some of my best books have been from self-published/indie authors. So, it is a given that if I get an email request, I take it. I might take a little bit (I unplug on the weekends), but I will answer. This happened when the author emailed me to read/review his book. I am glad that I accepted his request. This book was a fun, action-filled book that I couldn’t put down.

The author kindly included a glossary at the beginning of the book. That glossary showed how to pronounce the names of the different people/races/countries in The Lost Son. I enjoyed that because I wonder if I am pronouncing things right. What would have also been great is if the author had included a map of Zargothia. It wouldn’t have to be anything fancy, just something that showed where everything was so I could visualize it.

The Lost Son had a complex and exciting plotline. I say complicated because the author wove several different storylines together and did not have them overshadow each other. The main plotline is basic: Henry finds a coin that takes him and Tracey to the land of Zargothia. While there, he learns he has been chosen to free the people of Zargothia from a cruel race, the Sadarkians. As Henry trains, he discovers hidden secrets about himself. Can Henry do it? Can he save Zargothia from the Sadarkians?

As I stated in the previous paragraph, the secondary plotlines were very much intertwined with the main one. They added an extra depth to the book, making it wonderful to read.

Henry was a relatable main character. He wasn’t perfect, and the author didn’t attempt to make him a perfect character. All of Henry’s flaws and faults are on display throughout the entire book. In my eyes, that made him a better hero. While I like perfect heroes, I also like ones who are messy (which is why I like The Boys so much).

When I first started reading the book, I didn’t understand why King Zakarius hated King Argoth. I did have several ideas floating around in my head about what could have happened, but I wasn’t expecting what was revealed. Everything that King Zakarius was doing was based on lies told to him by another person. It made me sad because of the mental anguish it caused and how that turned into hatred.

Let’s talk about Tracey. I didn’t like her at first, but as the book continued, she started to grow on me. When her backstory was revealed, it ripped my heart out.

Many secondary characters added additional depth to the book. The author spent some time building up minor characters (like Karina and Hannorah). The RAF pilot and his co-pilot were featured constantly, but they were also kept in the background. They were instrumental in teaching Tracey some defensive moves that would come in handy during the final battle.

The fantasy angle of the book was well written. I loved that the author included a unicorn queen. Unicorns are one of my favorite mythological creatures, and having them be shapeshifting badasses was utterly incredible.

The adventure angle was also just as well written. I loved exploring the different areas of Zagorthia with Henry and his friends.

Going hand in hand with the adventure angle was the action angle. During the book, there was a lot of combat. I wasn’t the biggest fan of it, but I did understand why the author included it.

The young adult angle of the book fits it perfectly. Henry and Tracey were both 17 and, wait for it; they acted like it. They acted like immature teenagers throughout the book. It was a refreshing take on the teenage hero. Usually, when I read these books, teenagers act like they are older, which isn’t believable. But in this book, it was.

The end of The Lost Son was great. I will not go into it because of spoilers, but I thought everything ended perfectly. There is so much lore, and that last scene threw me for a loop!! I am hoping that the author will write another book in this universe.

I would recommend The Lost Son to anyone over 13. It is a clean book, just a few kisses. There is violence and some very mild language.


If you enjoyed reading The Lost Son, you will enjoy reading these books:

The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five Senses by K.N. Smith

Publisher: Two Petals Publishing

Date of Publication: September 15th, 2015

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Adventure, Action, Urban Fantasy, Supernatural, Thriller, Mystery, Contemporary

Purchase Links: Amazon | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

Welcome or unwelcome. Fate has arrived.

A suspenseful incident in a forbidden preserve heightens the senses of five friends. Sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell become super-gifts that forever change the world. But furious battles confront the boys as they try to understand their sensory super powers in a race to save mankind. With light beings and mysterious strangers complicating their plight, can the boys defeat the evil Druth before it’s too late? Get prepared for the twisting and grinding of this award-winning, action-adventure story — an edge-of-your-seat narrative for young and mature readers alike.


First Line:

An alluring midnight seeped through the preserve, where huge, wavy leaves dances beneath the moonlight.

The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five Senses by K.N. Smith

Fantasy has been one of my go-to genres to read since I was a child. I remember reading The Hobbit for the first time and thinking, “I like this!” But I wasn’t a contemporary or urban fantasy fan until I was a little older. And when I say a little bit, I mean in my late 30’s, lol. But, once I started reading them, I liked that subgenre. When I was approached to read/review The Urban Boys, I considered how I felt about the genre/subgenre and decided to accept the invite. I am glad I did because this book was a great read.

The Urban Boys had an exciting and somewhat complex plotline. Five boys acquire magical powers that affect their five senses. They also learn that they are responsible for keeping a peaceful alien race secret and protecting the human race from a being determined to enslave them. But it isn’t easy because the boys need to learn how to control their powers and work together. Can they do that? Can they overcome Druth and save the world?

The pacing of The Urban Boys went from fast to medium and back to fast. It didn’t bother me because I could keep up with the shifting pacing. Plus, when it did shift, it allowed me to take a breather (as a reader) and process everything that had happened up to that point.

I loved that there were five teenage boys (all of various ethnic backgrounds) as the heroes/main characters of the book. The author did something I considered difficult and gave each boy a distinct personality. So, if the book shifted to that character, I immediately knew who it was.

As stated, each of the boys acquired a heightened sense that turned them into superheroes (for lack of a better word). They are (in no particular order):

  • Hearing—Jordan
  • Sight—Kinsu
  • Touch—Chase
  • Smell—Rhee
  • Taste—Alex

I enjoyed reading as the boys discovered what had happened to them. It was interesting to read each boy’s response. The responses went from thinking it was cool to wishing they never had it.

The villain in this story was an evil person, but I felt terrible for him simultaneously. He felt neglected by his parents and forgotten by people that mattered to him. But, it doesn’t excuse what he did. He used the powers he was given by the Naculeans and exploited them. He turned that power into a weapon of destruction and used it to hurt countless people.

There were a lot of secondary characters in The Urban Boys. I did have a minor issue keeping them straight until I realized I could make notes of them on my Kindle (and so I did). The main secondary characters were The Dark Stranger, Mason, and Alina Alcaraz Olivas. The other secondary characters consisted of Druth’s main thugs, the Naculeans, the parents/guardians of the boys, and Alex’s girlfriend. They were all well written. Some I wished I had more info on, and others I wanted were more involved in the plotline. But all added an extra depth to the overall plotline. I will say that I wouldn’t have been as cool as the parents/guardians were when they found out the truth.

I do want to mention the Naculeans. I found them and their backstory fascinating. They were genuinely peaceful beings who tried to help humans. But, I liked that the author made them make mistakes. The big one was telling Druth a half-truth about his powers. They realized that and ensured they had the right people (the boys) before they again bestowed the powers.

There is a lot of action in The Urban Boys. It primarily centered around the boys learning about their powers and fighting Druth’s thugs. I did enjoy it because it showed the boys’ growth as people and as a fighting unit.

A substory line was running in the background of The Urban Boys. It involved the parents of a couple of the boys, Druth, Alina, and The Dark Stranger. I was wondering how the author was going to tie everything together. I wasn’t disappointed and was very surprised by what was revealed.

The end of The Urban Boys was interesting. I loved how the author resolved the main storyline. It was a classic good versus evil battle, and I was on the edge of my seat. Of course, there is a lead-in to the next book, which I can’t wait to read.

I recommend The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five Senses to anyone over 13. There is violence, mild language, and some kissing scenes (otherwise, a clean book).


If you enjoy The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Fives Senses, you will enjoy these books;

This Time Next Summer by Moses Yuriyvich Mikheyev

Publisher: Moses Yuriyvich Mikheyev

Date of publication: April 5th, 2022

Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

In his semi-autobiographical novel, This Time Next Summer, Mikheyev weaves a tender tale about love and loss, one that is distinctly personal and yet universally human.

She was beautifully broken. And his everything.

Hurt and scarred by every man in her life, Jasmine had vowed to never love again. Then she meets Avgust, and her broken heart resumes beating.

A romantic idealist who measures love by his poetry output, Avgust had given up on finding that elusive once-in-a-lifetime kind of love he’d always dreamed of. But the moment he spies Jasmine in a coffee shop, he knows unequivocally that she is his Her—the woman who will change his life.

It was the perfect love story.

Until the secrets and betrayals of the past threaten to break them apart.

Will their love be strong enough to save Jasmine from her past, and Avgust from his future?


First Line

A few hours later, when the two of them were back in the car, he held her hand and pressed it to his lips.

This Time Next Summer by Moses Yuriyvich Mikheyev

When I started reading This Time Next Summer, I thought it would be a cut-and-dry romance. You know the plotline:

  • Boy meets girl.
  • Falls in love, the girl breaks up with the boy.
  • They get back together and have their HEA.

Also, sprinkle in lots of sex, and boom, perfect romance novel. This book is not a cut-and-dry romance, and there is no HEA. Instead, this book focuses on two damaged people (one mentally and one physically), and their on/off-again romance. I was a little bleh about this book and will explain why later on in the review.

This Time Next Summer did have an interesting plotline. Avgust is a nurse and a want to be poet who has recently relocated to Seattle from Georgia. Jasmin is a Texas transplant who is in Seattle working on her degree. They meet when Avgust happens to go into a coffee shop that Jasmin is in, and the story takes off from there. But both Avgust and Jasmin are damaged. Avgust has a disease that has taken a toll on his heart. Jasmin is mentally impaired from her past (father and fiance left her). Can Avgust help heal Jasmin? Will Jasmin allow herself to be healed? And will Avgust heed his doctor’s advice about his heart?

I liked Avgust, but I found him too angsty in certain parts of the book. He was utterly obsessed with Jasmin and sometimes came across as stalkerish. He also rushed the relationship in my eyes, and his blind love of Jasmin was a little off-putting. I also didn’t understand why he didn’t tell Jasmin about his health issues upfront.

I wouldn’t say I liked Jasmin. She played games with Avgust’s head. “I want to be with you, but I don’t” got old. I did like that she was upfront with Avgust about how damaged she was, but at the same time, I eye-rolled at her inner monologue. Even her roommate thought she was ridiculous with the back and forth with Avgust.

The romance angle of the book didn’t do it for me. Like I mentioned above, I did think that Avgust came across as stalkerish in certain scenes. Also, I wouldn’t say I liked that Avgust immediately saw Jasmin and loved her. I usually don’t mind love at first sight tropes, but this one pushed my buttons. Mainly because of how Jasmin acted with Avgust during their on-again/off-again relationship.

There are sex scenes in this book, but only one is explicit. The explicit scene was when Avgust fingered Jasmin in the car and kept talking about how wet she was. Again, I was bleh about it.

The end of This Time Next Summer was heartbreaking. There is a twist in the plot that I didn’t see coming. It broke my heart and also made me livid with Jasmin. The scenes at the end of the book, at the fair, were sad, but my sadness was a little tempered. I can’t explain why (spoilers), but I did like how it came full circle. It was just the person it came full circle with that I wasn’t happy about.

I would recommend This Time Next Summer to anyone over 21. There are sexual situations, language, and mild violence.

Meara: A Contemporary Fantasy Romance by Anya Wylde

Publisher:

Date of publication: May 31st, 2022

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Contemporary, Young Adult

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

A whisper of someone like her being born has been discussed for aeons by the gods. The question is, who is she, and where is she?
Meara lives an ordinary life with her eccentric grandmother and three siblings in a small Georgian house in Dublin. On her eighteenth birthday, her little sister is kidnapped by an incredibly powerful man, and her entire world turns upside down.
Long hidden family secrets tumble out, and supernatural beings suddenly surround her. However, she thinks she is a side character, the hero’s friend, and the heroine’s sister. After all, her nature is more girl-next-door than a tortured soul with ninja fighting skills.
Her only desire is to get her sister back and keep her safe but to do so; she must battle dangerous beings and reign in her treacherous heart which has begun to beat for her family’s sworn enemy, a gorgeous demigod.


First Line:

The weather department said that the sudden startospheric warming event that caused the easterly winds to rush over and blanket Ireland in snow and ice was rare.

Meara: A Contemporary Fantasy Romance by Anya Wylde

When I was younger, I was very much into researching myths/fables/different Gods and Goddesses of the world. I was also fascinated with learning about the other mythological creatures/entities worldwide. So, when I realized that the author used a variety of gods/goddesses/mythical creatures/entities, I was intrigued. But this book is so much more than that, and once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down.

Meara had an interesting plotline. Meara is a girl who lives with her two older brothers, grandmother, and six-year-old sister in Ireland. Meara’s life is quiet and somewhat dull until the day of her 18th birthday. She has an accident while ice skating and, during her birthday party, her best friend tries to kill her sister. She finds out that she is from a long line of magical immortal beings, that her sister is part of a prophecy, and that prophecy has put a big target on her head. Everything comes to a head when a gorgeous demigod, Kamraan, kidnaps her sister. Determined to get her back, Meara is sucked into Kamraan’s world. Can Meara get her sister back and go back to the life she knew? Or will she become a pawn in a war that she didn’t know about and wanted no part of?

I loved Meara because of how real she felt to me. In every situation she was in, I could see myself (if I was 18, which was ages ago) doing the same thing. She wanted only to see the best in people, even when they proved otherwise. I felt that some of the people in the book did take advantage of her and her giving nature. I also thought that what Kamraan put her through for 90% of the book was awful, but I will discuss that later in the book. I loved when she finally found her backbone, but I did feel that the author could have done it earlier.

Kamraan was a colossal jerk for 95% of the book. I understood why at the beginning. There was a war, and Meara and Bree (her sister) were the enemies. But I didn’t appreciate his attitude and cruelty in the middle and towards the end of the book. At that point, he knew what was happening (Meara did not). He did try to justify his behavior during a pivotal scene at the end of the book, but still. Other than that, I liked him just fine. He was a devoted brother/son and did everything in his power (which was infinite) to keep Meara and Bree safe.

The secondary characters added extra depth to an already great storyline. I was disappointed with how a couple of them turned out (talk about a surprise), but it back up Meara/Kamraan’s storyline perfectly.

The romance angle of Meara was a slow burn. It was so slow that I wondered if Kamraan even had feelings for Meara. The romance did speed up once they were on the island, and it was full force by the end. There are no sexual situations, but the author laid on the sexual tension thick. I almost wished there was a sex scene so that tension would go down.

The fantasy angle of Meara was excellent. I loved how the author introduced Meara and her family’s powers and how she explained the different dimensions. Meara’s eyes fascinated me because they didn’t have an actual color and acted like a mood ring. White=fear, red=anger, green=jealousy; the list could go on.

As mentioned above, I loved that the author used the book’s different deities/mythological creatures and beings. It made for an enjoyable read for me (since I knew most of them were). It also reinforced that the gods/goddesses were inbred…lol. Meara carried the blood from everyone in her (including demons), and it was fun to watch her learn and interact with them.

Meara also showcased that family can be messy and complicated. Meara’s parents abandoned them when she was 12-13 years old. That left Meara to raise Bree (her brothers and grandmother were never around). It also left Meara with so much anger and bitterness towards her parents. I didn’t blame her for erupting on them the way she did; they deserved it.

The end of Meara was interesting. I liked how the author wrapped up the various storylines that were throughout the book and how she introduced new characters. She also introduced a new storyline (hopefully) that involves Meara, Kamraan, and their child. I will go out on a limb and say that there will be a book two because of how book 1 ended. I hope so!!

I would recommend Meara to anyone over 13. There is violence, mild language, and no sexual scenes (kissing scenes with Meara and Kamraan/Violet and Kamraan).

Together We Burn by Isabel Ibanez

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Wednesday Books

Date of publication: May 31st, 2022

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance, Dragons, Young Adult Fantasy

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

Eighteen-year-old Zarela Zalvidar is a talented flamenco dancer and daughter of the most famous Dragonador in Hispalia. People come for miles to see her father fight in their arena, which will one day be hers.

But disaster strikes during their five hundredth anniversary show, and in the carnage, Zarela’s father is horribly injured. Facing punishment from the Dragon Guild, Zarela must keep the arena—her ancestral home and inheritance —safe from their greedy hands. She has no choice but to take her father’s place as the next Dragonador. When the infuriatingly handsome dragon hunter, Arturo Díaz de Montserrat, withholds his help, she refuses to take no for an answer.

But even if he agrees, there’s someone out to ruin the Zalvidar family, and Zarela will have to do whatever it takes in order to prevent the Dragon Guild from taking away her birthright.

An ancient city plagued by dragons. A flamenco dancer determined to save her ancestral home. A dragon hunter refusing to teach her his ways. They don’t want each other, but they need each other, and without him her world will burn.


First Line:

My mother died screaming my name.

Together We Burn by Isabel Ibanez

I had been hearing a lot of hype around the blogoverse about Together We Burn before I got the invite to review it. With everything I had been hearing, I was very interested in reading it. So curious that I went and put it in my To Read pile. So when the publisher sent me the invite, I jumped on it. I am glad I did. This book was a great read!!

Together We Burn had an exciting plotline. Zarela is a flamenco dancer who lost her mother, a famous flamenco dancer when the dragon her father was fighting went rogue and burned everyone in the arena. Disaster strikes again when, during the 500th-anniversary show, another dragon broke free of his bonds and rained carnage on the arena. One of the dragon’s victims was Zarela’s father. He wasn’t killed but was severely injured. That left Zarela to deal with the backlash. Convinced it was sabotage, Zarela starts an investigation. She is also determined to return her family’s arena to its former glory. Her investigation into that day and her quest to bring the arena back are merged when she realizes that the attack was not random. Failing to convince the Dragon Guild that there was foul play behind the attack, Zarela is left with no choice but to fight the dragons herself. But, she only has days to learn. Can Zarela find out who is behind the attacks? Can she save her family’s arena? And more importantly, can Zarela learn to fight dragons and not get killed?

The plotline in Together We Burn moved slowly during the book’s first half. On the one hand, I liked it because it let me learn about Zarela’s background, the background of dragon fighting, and the tragedy of her mother’s death/the arena carnage. But on the other hand, the book started dragging by 40% of the book. But, after Zarela hires Arturo, the book picks up speed. By the end of the book, the plotline was super fast.

What I loved about this book was that the author included a glossary of the different types of dragons and other guilds in Hispalia. I can’t tell you how many times I used that glossary, and I wish every author would do something like that. I found it helpful while reading.

I liked Zarela. Even though she was devastated by what happened to her parents (and remember, it was two different occasions), she rose to the occasion. She was willing to do whatever it took to keep the arena afloat. That included learning how to fight dragons so she could keep her family’s arena. And that meant hiring a dragon hunter/ex-dragon fighter to teach how to survive in the arena. While doing that, she was also investigating what happened at the arena. I found her to be a very well-rounded character who surprised me.

Arturo didn’t become a central character until the middle of the book. He wanted nothing to do with Zarela at first. But, her stubbornness and resolve won him over. He was hard on her, which didn’t surprise me. He needed to teach her the basics of dragon fighting before the event that could save the arena. He also reluctantly became involved with her investigation into the events at the arena. He was instrumental in several key scenes towards the end of the book. The author wiped away doubts about him before the arena scenes at the end of the book.

Several memorable secondary characters breathed life into the book. They added additional depth to the storyline. I will not go into each one, but I enjoyed the flair they each added.

I loved how the author portrayed the dragons. She went from seeing them as ferocious creatures who lived to kill and maim to creatures who were misunderstood and wanted to be left alone. I loved it!!

The storyline with Zarela and the investigation was well written. I didn’t figure out who was behind everything until the author revealed that person. I was completely surprised by who it was and the reasons behind it.

The storyline with Zarela, Arturo, and learning how to fight dragons was interesting. I liked how Zarela convinced Arturo to work with her (the girl is stubborn). But, I also liked how Arturo showed Zarela a different side to dragons. The lessons made me wince, and Arturo was rough on Zarela. But considering she could die, he wasn’t harsh enough. And the twist to that plotline (what Zarela and Arturo figured out and used) was amazing!!

There was a romance angle in Together We Burn, but I was kind of meh about it. I liked that Zarela and Arturo got together but did the author need to discuss it? In my opinion, no.

The fantasy angle in Together We Burn was well written. I liked how the author chose to portray magic (both good and bad) along with dragons. That alone made me want to see more books written in this universe.

The end of Together We Burn was good. There were no twists (other than the dragon fight), and everyone did have their HEAs.

I would recommend Together We Burn to anyone over 16. There are sex and sexual situations (not graphic) and violence.

A Spark of Ash (Ember of Night: Book 3) by Molly E. Lee

Publisher: Entangled Publishing, Entangled: Teen

Date of publication: May 24th, 2022

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult, Paranormal

Series: Ember of Night

Ember of Night—Book 1 (review here)

Shadow of Light—Book 2

Spark of Ash—Book 3

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

The Seven―the Divine beings meant to protect the world―just declared war. On me. They took Ray, my baby sister, and now they’re using my boyfriend to do their dirty work.

Well, screw that.

I may not be able to wipe them off the face of the earth now, but I know what can.

Thanks to an Ather connection, I know about the Seven Scrolls. An ancient incantation made by the Creator to counteract the Seven’s great power, scattered into pieces across the world.

With the help of my new crew, we’re on the hunt. And with each located scroll, I face new battles, bloodier and harder than I’ve ever known before. But now the stakes are even higher, because Ray has always been my bright light in the darkness, and Draven is my hope when all seems lost, and if I don’t get them back?

Well, then I might just become the scariest legend the world has ever known.


First Line:

Harley giggled as I lean over her on the bed, laying a line of kisses down her neck.

Spark of Ash by Molly E. Lee

When I got the invite to review Spark of Ash, I almost didn’t accept it. I had read Ember of Night (and loved it) but didn’t get to read Shadow of Light. What ultimately made my mind up was that I was intrigued by the synopsis. I hoped the author would review what happened in Shadow of Light so I wouldn’t be lost. While that didn’t happen, I could still follow the plotline.

Spark of Ash is the 3rd (and final) book in the Ember of Night series. Readers cannot read this book as a standalone. I also strongly suggest reading the series in order.

Spark of Ash had an exciting plotline. Harley and Draven live peacefully on a plane in the Aether when Draven is kidnapped by the head of the Seven, brainwashed, and then kidnapped to kidnap Harley’s baby sister, Ray. Harley is given a quest that could save both Ray and Draven: She needs to find the Seven Scrolls. These scrolls, when united, can be used to counteract the Seven’s power. The scrolls are located in various parts of the Aether and Earth, and each comes with dangers. But Harley is determined to find them, even if that means facing the demons of her past. Can Harley find the scrolls? Can she counteract the Seven’s powers? Can she defeat the head of the Seven? Can she free Ray and Draven? And most importantly, can Harley get through to Draven? Or will she fail?

As I mentioned above, I almost didn’t accept the review invitation because I didn’t read Shadow of Light. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to follow the storyline. I was fortunate because the author briefly reviewed what happened in Shadow of Light before diving into Spark of Ash. Some parts confused me because I didn’t understand what was happening. But that was only for 3-4 scenes. The rest of the book flowed smoothly.

I loved Harley. She was a badass b*tch who would do anything for her family (found and otherwise). It was showcased when she didn’t hesitate to rescue Draven and Ray. She agreed to get the scrolls, knowing she could get hurt or even die. She was willing to risk everything to find them. I really can’t say anything bad about her.

I loved Draven, too, even though he spent 90% of the book with his memories wiped. He cared for Ray, even though he had no clue who she was. I wouldn’t say I liked seeing him as a mindless machine, though. After reading the first chapter and seeing how much he loved Harley and knowing he was in Ember of Night, I couldn’t come to terms with how he was in this book. But, once he got his memories back, man, he was something else.

The storyline with Harley and Cassiel looking for the scrolls was interesting. But I did feel slightly let down by how easy it was for Harley to get some of the scrolls. I was looking for more battles than what was shown. The only one that put me on edge was when Harley returned to her abusive stepfather’s house to get a scroll.

The storyline with Ray, Draven, and the Seven was interesting. I liked seeing how the Seven was splintering on the inside. I was curious about Ray and her abilities, but the author didn’t get into them. I am hoping for a book (or series) when Ray is a little older that will explore them. As I mentioned above, I wouldn’t say I liked seeing Draven without his memories, but that did serve its purpose.

The romance between Harley and Draven was terrific. It showcased that true love can overcome everything. I loved seeing Harley trying to reach Draven on so many levels while looking for the scrolls (thanks to the mate bond), and when she did, it was incredible!! I also liked seeing the beginning of a romance between Ryder and Wallace. Again, I hope for another series or a standalone book in this universe.

I thought the fantasy angle of the book was well written also. Having Hell (aka Aether) be a whole other dimension with layers was fascinating. Harley’s journey through those layers was eye-opening and made me want to read more about this universe.

There were several twists in the plot towards the end of the book. The one with a significant character broke my heart. I kept saying “Oh no, no, no!!!” when it was revealed what that person did. There was a twist with Harley that left me with my mouth open. Mainly because I couldn’t believe what Harley found out; not only did I not believe it, but I also couldn’t believe that this person had stayed in the shadows for so long. The biggest twist, though, was the end of the book. I did not expect it to go the way it did. It only made me want to read more from this universe.

As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, the end of the book took me by surprise. Mainly because of everything that happened and was revealed. The author did wrap up Draven and Harley’s storyline, but I am hoping for more books in this universe.

I would recommend Spark of Ash for anyone over 16. There are mild sexual scenes (kissing but no sex), violence, and language.