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.

The Wizard’s Ward by Jules McAleese

Publisher: Vale Media

Date of publication: April 30th, 2022

Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Young Adult

Series: Vale

The Wizard’s Ward—Book 1

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

Francis has gray blood.

The King of the Elves ordered all gray bloods be put to death, by any means necessary. Francis, the Wizard’s Ward, has been hiding in plain sight all her life, under the care of Billington, the King’s wizard. When Billington disappears from the Cardinal castle, Francis enlists the help of her first love, a battle-ridden soldier called X, to find the only family she’s ever known.

But outside the castle walls, there is a war raging between kingdoms and Francis faces countless dangers that plague the land of Vale. Shapeshifting bounty hunters search for military deserters, pirates maraud Vale’s seas, combat-trained dragons dwell in the witch’s mountains, and betrayals harden once-warmed hearts.

As the journey pushes Francis to her limits, she uncovers the true power of her gray blood, a power that could fulfill a prophecy and bring down a psychotic king.

Vale: The Wizard’s Ward is the first installment of an epic young adult fantasy franchise.


First Line:

“Three pieces of kings copper?” Billington asked, as his unruly gray eyebrows rose in skepticism.

The Wizard’s Ward by Jules McAleese

I first saw reviews for The Wizard’s Ward on a couple of blogs I follow. I was very interested in reading it from the blurb and the reviews I kept seeing. But I figured that I would have to wait until I saw it for sale on Amazon. So, imagine my surprise when the author emailed me and asked if I would like to read/review this book. Of course, I jumped on it, and when I got the physical copy of the book, I decided that this would be my vacation book. Let’s say I read this book in 4 hours (split between two days) while driving to Fl, and I couldn’t get enough of it. I also have loaned it to a friend and her daughter (remember, I got a physical book). When I get it back, my 16 and 14-year-olds want to read it. So yes, I liked this book and have been recommending it to everyone.

The Wizard’s Rule had an exciting plotline. Francis is Billington’s ward, the wizard for The King of Elves. But Francis has a secret. She has gray blood, and The King has ordered all people with gray blood to be killed. Billington is hiding her in plain sight to protect her. Several things happen at once. Francis’s first love, a soldier named X is back from his 2-year deployment, Francis is required to attend a ball about her bully who happens to be the sister of The King, and Billington disappears. Determined to find him, Francis needs to go outside the castle and follow clues to where he could be. With the help of X, she escapes the castle but soon realizes that X is damaged and dangerous. With help from a surprising source, Francis enlists on a journey that will have her sail with pirates, fly with dragons, and confront a tyrant. But, can she find Billington, and can she learn what makes her so special to so many people?

I loved Francis. She did take her relationship with Billington for granted until he disappeared. It was then that she realized how much she had been protected. She also realized that he would have never disappeared without letting her know. That is when she took action and decided to go search for him. She learned much about herself and what her gray blood could do on that journey. Seeing her character grow and evolve was awesome!!

Let’s talk about X. I was pretty conflicted about his character right from the start. I didn’t understand why Francis had such strong feelings for him. He didn’t seem like her type. As the book went on and I got to see what happened from his perspective, I understood what attracted her to him. I also began to understand what attracted him to her. Francis was X’s haven. Memories of her helped him keep sane and not lose it when he was on that horrible island and forced to do awful things. So, I was a little surprised when the author had the storyline go the way it did. Surprised didn’t precisely entirely cover my reaction to that scene. More accurately, I was sad, horrified, and disgusted by his actions. Those feelings carried over for the rest of the book with everything he did and who he ended up hooking up with. But there were hints of the old X in there. He still thought about Francis constantly and imagined her when he was with Medea (which did gross me out).

I wish that Billington was more of a presence in the book. I loved how he came into the custody of Francis and raised her as his daughter. But there was a massive chunk of the book where he was just gone. I couldn’t get a feel for him as a character because of that. I hope he will be more there in the next book. I also hope the author explores Billington and Francis’s relationship a little more. He is her father, he did raise her, and I would love to see that discussed more.

The storyline about Francis’s gray blood was well written. I loved that the author didn’t fully explain what it meant (other than the prophecy and magic) until the end of the book. At that point, it made perfect sense, considering what had happened. I hope that in book 2, the author delves more into what gray blood can do.

The romance angle of the book was well written also. But, to be honest, I couldn’t pair Francis and X together in my head romantically. They were just too different. I hope that the author has them come together at some point in book 2. There are a lot of unresolved feelings on both their ends.

The author very well wrote the fantasy/magic angle of The Wizard’s Rule. The author did a fantastic job building this rich world where magic existed and was used for almost everything. I loved that Francis didn’t have a good grip on her magic for 90% of the book. She understood the spells, but they wouldn’t obey her. She ended up “wishing” for the magical things to happen, and they did. I can’t wait to see where the author will take that. I also can’t wait to see more of the fantasy world that these characters live in. The author gave us a glimpse into witches, sirens, centaurs, dragons, and pirates. What else could there be?

There are a couple of twists in the plotline. One comes with X’s storyline (see above). While I didn’t see it coming at the time, looking back, it made sense. But, the other plotline twist is HUGE and takes place in the very last chapter. I was so taken aback by what was revealed that I had to read that chapter 3 times. And each time, I kept thinking, “OMG, what did I READ!!!” It was very sneaky of the author to do that because there are certain characters that I can’t look at the same now. It also makes me want to read book two because of what was revealed.

As I mentioned, the end of The Wizard’s Ward was a complete bombshell. The author didn’t wrap up any of the storylines. Instead, she left them open, which left a vast opening for book 2.

I would recommend The Wizard’s Way for anyone over 13. There is no language, mild to moderate violence, and some very mild non-graphic sexual content (with X and Medea).

In a Garden Burning Gold (Argyrosi: Book 1) by Rory Power

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Ray

Date of Publication: April 5th, 2022

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, High Fantasy, Paranormal

Series: Argyrosi

In a Garden Burning Gold—Book 1

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

Twins imbued with incredible magic and near-immortality will do anything to keep their family safe—even if it tears the siblings apart—in the first book of mythic epic fantasy from the New York Times bestselling author of Wilder Girls.

Rhea and her twin brother, Lexos, have spent an eternity helping their father rule their small, unstable country, using their control over the seasons, tides, and stars to keep the people in line. For a hundred years, they’ve been each other’s only ally, defending each other and their younger siblings against their father’s increasingly unpredictable anger.

Now, with an independence movement gaining ground and their father’s rule weakening, the twins must take matters into their own hands to keep their family—and their entire world—from crashing down around them. But other nations are jockeying for power, ready to cross and double-cross, and if Rhea and Lexos aren’t careful, they’ll end up facing each other across the battlefield.


First Line:

A week was too long to be a widow.

in a garden burning bright by rory power

When I got the invite for In a Garden Burning Gold, I was intrigued by the blurb. A book about near immortals who control the tides and seasons of their country? It was an immediate yes from me. I was super hyped to read another book by this author (having read The Wilder Girls), and I did expect something very similar to that book. But, this book was very different from that book.

In a Garden Burning Gold is the first book of the Argyrosi duology. This book lays the foundation of the different families, their powers, and how they came by them. It also explains a complex religious system. The author was kind enough to include a glossary at the beginning of the book that details the different families and countries. But, even with that, I still had an issue keeping people/countries straight.

The plotline for In a Garden Burning Gold was interesting. Rhea and Lexos are twins who serve their father in ruling their country. Each has a magical power: Rhea can control the seasons, and Lexos can control the tides and stars. Their father uses their powers to his advantage. Rhea is married several times a year and uses her husband to usher in the seasons as a human sacrifice. Lexos only controls the stars and tides when directed by their father. But there has been stirrings of unrest in their country and other countries. As Rhea is married off to the only son of a northern ruler, Lexos is left behind to deal with his father’s increasingly erratic behavior. But some secrets will impact Rhea and Lexos’s relationship with not only each other but their father. These secrets are explosive and could rewrite everything they thought they knew about their family. But are Lexos and Rhea willing to let that happen?

I am going to put a trigger warning in this review. I usually don’t, but I feel that certain situations in the book warrant it. Per the author’s post on her blog, these triggers are emotional and physical abuse by a parent, death, manipulation/discussion of loss of agency, discussion of state violence and war, a history of imperialism, and mention/description of blood. If any of these could potentially trigger you, I highly suggest not reading this book.

Out of all the characters in In a Garden Burning Gold, Rhea was my favorite. She wasn’t a precisely likable character, but I loved seeing her evolve from a self-centered, father-pleasing woman to a woman who embraced everything about herself and found the courage to become who she was destined to be. It was like watching a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, it was a little painful to read, but the result was terrific. I am curious to see what she will do in book two since she has embraced her mother’s legacy.

I wasn’t that fond of Lexos, on the other hand. Outside influences easily led him (certain scenes with the ruler of a different country showed that), and he was terrified of his father. Now that I understood. His actions were directly related to his fear of his father. So, I was surprised when he decided to do what he did in the second half of the book. He meant well, but I wasn’t surprised when it blew up in his face. I also wasn’t surprised when Rhea had the reaction that she did.

The younger siblings intrigued me. I thought Nitsos’s powers were terrific (even if his father didn’t). I wanted the author to explore his character a little more. But I feel that he will become a significant player in the second book. Chrsyanthi was an enigma. I couldn’t quite place her power (it was something to do with paint), and I hope that the author thoroughly explains it in book 2. I could have missed it, but I expected her power to be very obvious.

The storyline with Rhea being Thyspira was engrossing. I was fascinated by the fact that she needed to have a sacrifice to bring about winter and summer. It made me wonder how human sacrifice was brought into play and if the author would explain that in book 2. I also loved how it evolved. I can’t say anything without giving away spoilers, but I will say that I found it very fitting.

Lexos’s storyline was also exciting, but I was a little bored by it. I am not a hugely political person, so the talk about overthrowing rulers bored me a little bit. But it did get interesting towards the end of the book. I can’t wait to see where Lexos ends up in book 2.

The end of In a Garden Burning Bright was exciting. Again, I can’t say much about what happened, but I will say that I agree with what Rhea was doing. I didn’t quite agree with the other thing she did, but I understood why she did it. It hooked me in for the next book.

I would recommend In a Garden Burning Bright to anyone over 21. There are several triggers (see above). There is also mild language, violence, and non-graphic sexual situations.

Daughter by Kate McLaughlin

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Wednesday Books

Date of publication: March 8th, 2022

Genre: Young Adult, Thriller, Mystery, Contemporary, Suspense, Crime

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

Scarlett’s life is pretty average. Overly protective mom. Great friends. Cute boy she’s interested in. And a father she’s never known – until she does.

When the FBI shows up at Scarlet’s door, she is shocked to learn her father is infamous serial killer Jeffrey Robert Lake. And now, he’s dying and will only give the names and locations of his remaining victims to the one person, the daughter he hasn’t seen since she was a baby.

Scarlet’s mother has tried to protect her from Lake’s horrifying legacy, but there’s no way they can escape the media firestorm that erupts when they come out of hiding. Or the people who blame Scarlet for her father’s choices. When trying to do the right thing puts her life in danger, Scarlet is faced with a choice – go back into hiding or make the world see her as more than a monster’s daughter.

Kate McLaughlin’s Daughter is a novel about trying right deadly choices that were never yours to begin with.


First Line:

Dayton Culver was well aware he was trespassing when he and his golden retriever, Lulu, veered off the path in the woods.

daughter by kate mclaughlin

When I first saw Daughter on NetGalley, I was mildly intrigued. But, at the time, I didn’t request it. I figured that if the book gods wanted me to read this book, they would make it happen. Well, it happened. I got the invite from SMP, and I was pretty excited to read it. But I got it at a pretty bad time. I had some personal things going on and had to push this book to the back burner. It sat on my TBR for almost two months, and during that time, I kept seeing reviews for it everywhere. Nearly all were favorable, and that kept me amped to read it. I was blown away when I read it. It lived up to my internal hype and the hype I kept seeing.

Daughter had an exciting plotline. Scarlet is your typical seventeen-year-old. She has a great group of friends, a boy that she is interested in, and a mother who is beyond overprotective. That is blown away when Scarlet finds out that her life is a lie. She has been in hiding her entire life. Why? She is the daughter of a serial killer. That same serial killer is dying and wants to talk to Scarlet. The FBI is hoping that he tells Scarlet about his remaining victims and hopes to keep her identity under wraps. But that is blown when pictures of Scarlet and her mother are leaked to the press. Overnight, Scarlet’s life is ruined. She is stalked by the paparazzi and groupies of her father. Most of her friends turn on her. But Scarlet feels connected to her father’s victims and is determined to find her way through this mess. What will Scarlet do?

I will admit, I am a true crime junkie. I watch everything and anything on serial killers. But I have never seen anything that discusses what the families of the serial killers go through. I have seen plenty of speculation but never what their trauma was and how they coped with it. So, reading a book from the perspective of a serial killer’s daughter was interesting.

The author chose to interweave news articles, web forums, and podcasts throughout the book. It made me upset and very uncomfortable to read those articles. I also got mad that one outlet released Scarlet and her mother’s home address, city, and state. I also was a little irritated by how cruel some of those articles/forums/podcasts were. Scarlet was a baby. She had nothing to do with her father’s crimes and was actively helping the FBI. What else did they want her to do?

Scarlet was a powerful young woman. Her reaction to what her mother and the FBI told her was nothing short of what I would expect from a teenager. She handled everything else with grace. I did think what the FBI asked of her was a little too much. But she was a boss when it came to talking with her father. She couldn’t have handled it any better. I also loved her idea of honoring the victims. I thought it would be healing not only for Scarlet but for the loved ones the victims left behind.

Jeffery Lake was an absolute monster. My skin crawled when I read his interactions with Scarlet, and I wanted to throw up when he told Scarlet the reason behind her “real” name. And what he did after he died, I have no words.

The thriller angle of Daughter was a bit slow at times, but it was there. It did ramp up when Scarlet and her mother traveled to Raleigh—not knowing what Lake would do or say added to that.

The suspense angle of Daughter was excellent. I never knew what direction their conversations would take. Would he give her another name, or would he play mind games with her? It was that part of the book that kept me glued to it.

The end of Daughter was a bit anti-climatic. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop or something to happen (different than the storage unit deal). Nothing happened, though. I liked seeing how Scarlet and her mother were thriving now that Lake was dead. The legacy he had left was awful, but they both were learning to live with it.

I would recommend Daughter to anyone over 21. Drug use, alcohol use, language, description of necrophilia, language, sexual situations, and mild violence.

I Am Margaret Moore by Hannah Capin

Book Cover

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Wednesday Books

Date of Publication: March 15th, 2022

Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Thriller, Paranormal

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

Lyrical and haunting, Hannah Capin’s I Am Margaret Moore is a paranormal thriller that tests the hold of sisterhood and truth.

I am a girl. I am a monster, too.

Each summer the girls of Deck Five come back to Marshall Naval School. They sail on jewel-blue waters; they march on green drill fields; they earn sunburns and honors. They push until they break apart and heal again, stronger.

Each summer Margaret and Rose and Flor and Nisreen come back to the place where they are girls, safe away from the world: sisters bound by something more than blood.

But this summer everything has changed. Girls are missing and a boy is dead. It’s because of Margaret Moore, the boys say. It’s because of what happened that night in the storm.

Margaret’s friends vanish one by one, swallowed up into the lies she has told about what happened between her and a boy with the world at his feet. Can she unravel the secrets of this summer and last, or will she be pulled under by the place she once called home?


First Line:

It is summer again and we are alive.

i am margaret moore by hannah capin

When I got the email from NetGalley that I Am Margaret Moore was available to “Read Now,” I jumped on it. I had this book on my TBR since I saw that Hannah Capin was publishing it. I had loved Foul is Fair and had high expectations for this book. Well, I Am Margaret Moore fell short of my high expectations.

I Am Margaret Moore is the story of Margaret and her friends. The summer before, Margaret was involved in a scandal with another camper and was sent away. This summer, she was going to move past the drama and enjoy her summer. But things don’t go the way she wants. Her friends want the truth about what happened last summer, and Margaret isn’t telling them. Because if she tells the truth, she’s afraid no one will believe her. What happened that night?

I will be very blunt; I wasn’t a fan of how the author wrote this book. There are no chapters. Instead, once a scene ended, some headers separated them (example: The Girls with paragraphs describing Margaret’s friends). I get why the author chose to write the book she did, but I like cut-and-dry chapters.

The flow of I Am Margaret Moore was choppy, and the timeline jumped around a lot. I couldn’t tell if I was in the past or present. Again, I get why the author did this, but for me, it didn’t work.

I wasn’t too sure about how I felt about Margaret. During the first half of the book, I couldn’t connect with her at all. But, by the second half of the book, I did start to like and pity her. Yes, pity. She had so much happened to her in a short amount of time.

Margaret’s friends were the true backbone of the book. They were determined to find out what happened to Margaret. That led to disciplinary action from the naval school, but that didn’t deter them.

There are a couple of twists in the plot that I saw coming. I guessed the first one right away, and once certain events happened in the second half of the book, I figured that out too.

I wasn’t a fan of the end of I Am Margaret Moore. Again, it was choppy, with events playing out of order—the choppiness and the fact that the HEA seemed thrown on as an afterthought.

I would recommend I Am Margaret Moore to anyone over the age of 16. There is implied sex, some kissing scenes, mild language, and mild violence.

Crystal Vision by Larry Rodness

Publisher: Valley of Books

Date of publication: January 9th, 2022

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

Scotland, 1342. The Great Plague ravages the countryside. In its wake the body of a beautiful, young noble is laid to rest on a funeral pyre. Her fiancé begs a sorcerer to use his magic to summon a demon and bring the young woman back to life in exchange for his own.
Fast Forward to:
America, Present. Fourteen year old Jeremy McKee attends a fantasy workshop which is run by a young woman named Ariella. One afternoon, an old vagrant on the street offers Jeremy a small crystal which produces visions of a young woman resurrected from death hundreds of years ago. Slowly, the truth begins to reveal itself. The woman in the vision and the one running the workshop are one in the same. The vagrant is the sorcerer, Armand. He explains that Jeremy’s ancestor, D’Arcy, offered his soul for the life of his betrothed but reneged at the last minute. Now the demon has returned for payment and is prepared to unleash the Black Plague if he doesn’t get what he he is owed
.


First Line:

The sound of slow-beating drums echoed through the hills as it moved solemly toward the Stones, a curious outcropping of twenty monoliths, jutting twenty feet into the sky.

crystal vision by larry rodness

Young Adult fantasy has been a hit-or-miss genre for me in the past, but lately, I seem to have been hitting a gold mine with this genre. Crystal Vision is a hit for me. It appealed to the nerd in me (a role-playing fan here), and it was a book that I could see my 14-year-old son reading. So, yes, I am thrilled that I read this book.

Crystal Vision had a fascinating plotline. Jeremy is 14 years old, and he has spent his summer role-playing at a fantasy workshop run by the beautiful Ariella. But, on the last days of his summer vacation, Jeremy’s life is turned upside down when a vagrant named Armand presses a crystal to his forehead, and Jeremy sees a vision with Ariella in it. Armand reveals himself to be a sorcerer and tells Jeremy a story about true love, cowardice, bravery, demons, and immortality. What is Jeremy’s role in that story? Does he have what it takes to do the right thing, even when he doesn’t want to? And can he take on a demon who is determined to get the girl?

Crystal Vision had a medium-paced plotline. It slowed down during certain parts of the book and sped up during other parts. I had no issue with the changing pacing and thought it suited the book perfectly. There was a slight lag in the middle of the book (when Jeremy and his friends were trying to track down the dagger), but it didn’t affect how I liked the book.

I liked how the teenagers were portrayed in Crystal Vision. They acted their ages!! I know that most of you are going, “Well, that’s not special,” but in this case, it is. They didn’t have powers or unlimited resources. They had limitations and were treated like regular kids. Heck, there was even a lice outbreak towards the beginning of the book. I enjoyed it. It made me connect with Jeremy on a level that I wasn’t expecting. The mother in me was internally yelling because of some of his stuff. But the gamer/fantasy love in me was also urging him on.

The fantasy angle of Crystal Vision was well written. I liked that the author chose to omit specific facts from Ariella’s resurrection and then gradually added them into the plotline. Put it this way; I was 100% behind her when she was freaking out on Armand because of what the author chose to reveal. But, when she had her vision, the author showed the missing pieces. I did a huge “AHA” at that.

The adults in this book (minus Armand and Ariella) did disappoint me. Jeremy’s father came across as weak during various parts of the book. Spike (the Overlord) and his gang were cruel and did many unnecessary things to Jeremy and his father during the first half of the book. Jeremy’s mother was petty (to Jeremy’s father). It didn’t ruin the book, though. Instead, the adults were a perfect foil for Jeremy and his friends.

I loved that the author chose to incorporate role-playing games into the plotline. The game the kids were playing reminded me of Dungeon and Dragons. I wish the author had gotten more into the game’s mechanics (it would have come in handy during a specific fight scene), but that was a minor annoyance. I was more thrilled about RP getting shown in a positive light!!

The pandemic angle did rub me the wrong way, but (and I stress but) I liked how the author chose to revive a previous pandemic. So, instead of it being a COVID-like pandemic, it was something else. And actually, it was something that I could see happening under the right circumstances.

The end of Crystal Vision was interesting. The author did wrap everything up in a way that made me happy. I did feel for Jeremy when he realized what had to happen to banish the demon (and I will never look at donkey-eared beings the same way again).

I would recommend Crystal Vision to anyone over 13. There is mild violence, mild language, and no sexual situations.