Category Archives: Book Reviews

Strawberry Summer: A Review

Strawberry Summer

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*I received an ARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

Margaret ‘’Maggie’’ Beringer has a troubled past with Courtney Carrington, heiress of Carrington’s retail store. The two were madly in love during their teenage years, yet they parted for a poignant reason. Now, Courtney comes back into Maggie’s little town known as Tanner Peak. Will their love survive the issues of the past or crash once again?

I picked this book on NetGalley as soon as I saw it was a lesbian romance. I had never read one and I think it’s cute; unfortunately, there are not enough of them around without being erotica. Plus, the description of a past love and now they find themselves still in love yet struggling against those past issues is just perfect to me. Of course, I had to request it and I was more than thrilled to see the publisher had granted my request.

There are so many good points about this novel that I don’t know where to start yet I’ll try to do my best! The most prominent one is how much emotional it made me in general and how much I cared about Courtney (mostly) and Maggie. I wanted them to have a happy ending and I could barely put this book down–I yearned to learn what next would happen with them! Another point worth mentioning is how I couldn’t find typos or mistakes of any kind in the writing. That got me quite pleased as many of the ARCs and even some published books are full of them. But not this one so it’s a bonus. The sarcastic and humoristic main character (Maggie) makes for a welcome touch of humour. I have found her humour to be really funny, which made it all the more interesting to read.

I swear this bittersweet romance has got me in for highs and lows (ouch, my poor heart!). I bet it will no doubt do the same to you. The romance is also playful and teasing, which is highly amusing for us. There is a good and cute evolution of Maggie and Courtney’s relationship–it is even adorable, I have to admit. I’d also like to remark that Maggie knows and accepts she’s a lesbian which I love, even though there is a funny scene of her coming out. In fact, I thought this part was plain hilarious! The MC (Maggie) is strong, and the writing is vivid–it comes to life. Some scenes in this novel made me think I was a teenager again with how Maggie was acting in certain flashback chapters. The author, Melissa Brayden, has a knack for making the teens pop and look real on the page. The feelings of high school and popularity were realistic (up to a point where most of the popular kids befriended Maggie) along with a realistic account of life and diverse people in it.

As for characterization, it is present and good but it takes a long while to take effect. I still haven’t figured out if it’s because of Maggie’s personality or the author wrote it that way. I am still struggling with that one… Nevertheless, it was there and mostly brought about by friends and family members towards the end. Do you want to learn something fun? There are some twists in this story! I enjoyed them, actually. There was even one I hadn’t seen coming, which is so rare with me (I always figure out plot twists well in advance). I had to add that the drama is well built-up, a point that I genuinely adored! I’m one for angst in stories (even my own) so I thoroughly enjoyed the drama in this one (I even cried out of sadness AND cuteness overload later on).

The timeline was impeccable and shown to us in a clear manner. I’ll forever be grateful for that. Another point I appreciated is the fun and developed insight into the MC’s thoughts. I just want to say that I loved Courtney Carrington. I know she isn’t the main character, but she is so sweet and caring! I couldn’t help but root for her during all the book. Seriously. Both characters were well-done, of course, but let’s say I prefer Courtney because of her kindness. On another note, there are many events (which reminds me of a good adventure or fantasy book thanks to the action), which is quite surprising in a romance novel (and much appreciated on my part, too). I didn’t find any long, boring parts, which is a relief. Lastly, we get to read about every important character’s life (where they are now and what is their job and relationship status) and the epilogue is a nice follow-up. It is like a neat little bow on top of a present!

Here come the bad points. There were too few descriptions and not enough insight into Maggie’s emotions–it was more telling than showing although one could guess through her humoristic and sarcastic lines. But it was not enough. I wanted to feel what she was experiencing. I could never truly connect with Maggie because of that; I always felt like a nosy neighbor knowing all about her life. It’s sad because I wanted to connect. Also, the popular kids are perhaps too nice to Maggie (most of them, that is)–it’s usually not how it works in high school with popularity (and I experienced it first-hand). Last but not least, I believe the sex scenes are not spaced enough–there were about four of them in less than 60 pages! Fortunately, they are short (just a few pages, if not a few lines sometimes) and sweet in a way. Even though I understand the focus on sex at such a young age, I’d have preferred the emphasis to be put on their feelings and emotions, mostly Maggie’s because she seems to me like lacking in that department.

I would love to tell you what types of fans this book is perfect for but this is the first lesbian romance I ever read. However, I can assure you that if you love a good emotional roller coaster ride and cute but poignant romances, Strawberry Summer by Melissa Brayden is for you!

I give Strawberry Summer a rating of 4 out of 5 because of how emotionally invested I became with this novel and because it made me cry (I love it when I cry because of books, that means they get to me), and the lack of emotions on Maggie’s part – or so it seems. I was delighted to win this ARC and I must say it hit home with me. I recommend it in a heartbeat!

Empress of a Thousand Skies: A Review

A saga of vengeance, warfare, and the true meaning of legacy.:

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Empress
Rhee, also known as Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an, is the sole surviving heir to a powerful dynasty. She’ll stop at nothing to avenge her family and claim her throne.

Fugitive
Aly has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. But when he’s falsely accused of killing Rhee, he’s forced to prove his innocence to save his reputation – and his life.

Madman
With planets on the brink of war, Rhee and Aly must confront a ruthless evil that threatens the fate of the entire galaxy.

This review is spoiler-free.

Let me say that I loved this book! First of all, I usually dislike anything that has to do with sci-fi (except for Star Trek: TOS), but this novel caught my attention on the shelves and I had to take it home! Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised. I now call it my go-to sci-fi series.

The main characters, Princess Rhiannon and Alyosha, are quite lovable and deeply flawed, which helps greatly in making you want to see what they can do next. There is a lot of action and twists and turns. No kidding: I was panting while reading the last 50 pages! It was so engrossing. Also, I loved the cube technology (it allows living beings to re-live their memories, sensations, and feelings!) and the different alien races. Although there are aliens, the focus is not on their differences, which I particularly liked. It reminded me of Star Trek with how they all know the other races and live with them like it’s no big deal. Of course, there is tension because of different point of views, but overall it was a nice change. A funny fact: the story is happening in another galaxy than ours! I think it’s a good idea, having them live out their lives out in the open (instead of aliens hiding in our galaxy), all civilized and advanced in technology.

The only negative point I could find was how the author, Rhoda Belleza, uses euphemisms and wording that sometimes reminds me of middle grade fiction. I think her job as a children’s book editor showed in this novel… However, it’s not always like that and it’s worth reading for all the fun and adventure it can give you!

Because of all the action that left me panting and how lovable the characters are and the writing that is sometimes a bit too young for the intended readership, I give this awesome novel a rating of 4 stars out of 5. And that’s coming from a woman who dislikes sci-fi in general, remember? So that’s saying a lot, in my opinion.

P.S.: I just can’t wait for the sequel! I want it now.

The Castaways – A Review

TheCastaways1

*I received an advance reader copy on NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.*

Olive Gagmuehler, a bullied teenager, decides to go to the pirate-themed Castaway carnival that’s just come back in Texas. Unfortunately, her bullies gang up on her at the carnival. Left with no other option, Olive runs away into the maze where teenagers have been known to disappear until she lands on a lost island. Two groups of teenagers and kids, the Lions and the Panthers, are at war on that mysterious island, unable to go home. Olive joins them and tries to survive in the wild as well as break the island’s curse keeping them here. But is it really a curse or something much bigger than them that intends to teach them to face their demons?

There are few negative points in that novel, so let’s start with that! The first one is nothing major, only a few typos and mistakes here and there. It was not enough to be annoying, but another round of proofreading would make The Castaways almost perfect. The last point (I told you there were few) is the lack of plot about the mysterious island throughout the book. Sometimes it even seemed as though the kids were not living away from their family and friends, stranded like by magic on that island with no apparent way home. Although I understand the author meant to keep the mystery surrounding the island, I feel like this particular topic could have been tackled more times during the story. Instead, the characters appeared to forget or at least not think a lot about being in an unknown place with perfect strangers. Perhaps their questioning could be present? That’s what I would have loved to read. It would also make for a more realistic situation as I doubt we’d easily go about our business, forgetting how far we are from home and to question ourselves about how we can get home.

Now, how about we talk about the positive points (which are legion)? Let’s go! I found the subtitles to be enticing – it was original and gave a sense of foreboding, which I appreciated. The chapters are generally short, which makes for a fast read. The idea of mixing bullying with a magical island full of warring teenagers and kids is marvellous! Plus, the story’s got quite a lot of action. Just when you think you can start to relax, something unexpected happens and has your blood boiling with excitation! This book contains poignant bullying; it was well-done (unfortunately, I speak from experience so this story particularly moved me) and is laced with a lesson to stand up for oneself, a good surprise! It shows that bullying is eternal, it’s always been there and will keep on being unless we stand up to it. In my opinion, this book managed to show the effects that bullying can have on people, mostly on teenagers. As for the characters, the author made me care about them and more particularly about Olive’s dangerous yet adventurous situation. They’re all different and I could well imagine the teenagers, a feat in itself! The characters seem alive, which was fun to read. As for Olive, the main character, she is a strong heroine (more than she knows) and likeable. I could easily identify with her. Her development as a character was interesting to watch; it was done through highs and lows, just like in real life.

If you’re looking for realistic reactions as well as both inner and external conflict (beautifully conflicted Olive and others), look no more! The Castaways is a gold mine of realism, conflict, and solutions. Not only was this book thrilling, but it was also a pleasure to return to every single time. There were twists and turns I wouldn’t have expected and a pinch of humour that was more than welcomed in the midst of all these emotions. Speaking of emotions, they were well-woven in the tale, which will have you caring for the characters in no time! And they feel real, at least for Olive. By the way, there is a sweet romance in the story and even though I’m not overly fond of romance, I must admit this one was cute in its own right. It didn’t take the space required for the action. Did you know that the main character, Olive Gagmuehler, is somehow ill? She suffers from hyperventilation, which was probably caused by her being bullied. I found the idea of having her suffering from some kind of illness was different and a good move. I connected with her more easily and it makes us want to help her somehow, which only proves my point of the characters being unique and alive in our eyes. The basic needs and survival situations were respected – there was the matter of hygiene, odors, bladder, and else. The descriptive imagery used was great and the vocabulary was diverse. I felt as though I was once again a teenager, stranded on that island with those other kids. Last but not least, the ending wraps up the book quite nicely. It’s like a present with a cute bow on it.

The Castaways is a book I thoroughly enjoyed. It made me experience all kinds of emotions on that roller coaster ride and even managed to make me cry towards the end (and I rarely cry in books nowadays). It is perfect for fans of Peter Pan (yes, the classic story!), Lord of the Flies, and the Red Queen series because of the non-stop action and unexpected twists.

I give The Castaways a rating of 5 out of 5. It was that fun and really got me deep in the emotions, which I loved! I even have a hard time deleting it from my Kindle Fire to make room for other books – but really, I think I’m going to keep it. Who knows, I might just re-read it one day, something I like to do with books that left their mark on me. Honestly, I wanted to read more of it and I still do. While recommending this novel to other readers, I will definitely look forward to Jessika Fleck’s upcoming works.

Waters of Salt and Sin (Uncommon World, #1) – A Review

Waters

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*I was given an ARC in exchange for an honest review*

Let’s start with the positive sides! The writing is engaging and the author uses the five senses, which adds to the reader’s experience. She also writes detailed descriptions of the settings and events, and uses a good vocabulary (mostly linked to sailing, which makes it even more interesting). This story is intriguing, full of magic, adventure, and a realistic caste system! It is exotic with all the names, the caste system, the food, and the description of objects and titles. Moreover, the plot is interesting. There is drama, much conflict, and a sense of urgency. It is not a boring read due to its being action-packed! I felt as though I were in the story with Kinneret and her crew. Speaking of Kinneret, she is a strong main character – she makes decisions and gives her all to accomplish her goals, and her motives are clear. It was quite enjoyable. As for the characters in general, they are interesting; we care for Kinneret and Avi, and the rest are pleasant to read.

I find Kinneret headstrong and inspiring. Plus, she has a good dream: becoming a ship kaptan instead of the usual dream of piracy! The forbidden romance between Kinneret and Calev, her high-caste childhood friend, is bittersweet and well-done. It was quite fun to read. The story’s introduction was good and I’d just like to point out a thing that I liked: the author mentioned a woman’s bleed, which is rarely done in novels. Klapheke’s world-building is fantastic and exotic! It feels real because the people inhabiting her world live by their traditions, conventions, and social classes (mostly represented by the caste system). It feels both out-of-this-world and familiar. I greatly enjoyed her world-building skills!

Now, let’s talk about the negative sides. The dialogue is a bit too revealing and unrealistic. The characters disclose too much information and/or the sentences are too long. It could definitely be stronger and have more subtext. The action could use more description to make it even more engaging. The emotions could be more detailed. I could not identify them easily except for shame, anger, and love. Otherwise, it’s more telling than showing. The other characters (other than Kinneret) lack goals and motives or they’re not clear enough or too weak. Most of them just seem to fall in line behind Kinneret and whatever she does.

For all these reasons, I give this book a rating of 4 out of 5. I enjoyed spending time with Kinneret and her crew, living all those adventures at sea to rescue her sister, Avigail. Klapheke’s world is brilliant and exotic – a pleasure to read and travel to. However, the lack of showing the emotions instead of telling and the fact that nearly everyone goes Kinneret’s way are tiresome and unbelievable. This being said, I still recommend this book to those who love adventure-packed novels! One doesn’t grow bored with this novel! I will read the rest of Klapheke’s upcoming and past books about Kinneret and her crew and the Uncommon World.

Not Everything Dies (Princess Dracula) – A Review

NotEverythingDies

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* I received an ARC of this book on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review *

I’ve been interested in Princess Dracula for a very long time so when I saw Not Everything Dies by John Patrick Kennedy on NetGalley, I jumped on it. I was lucky enough that this second book in the series is about Ruxandra suffering from amnesia, so even if I was new to the series, I could still read it starting with the second one.

Ruxandra, an amnesiac vampire, is fighting for control against the Beast within. She finds herself locked up in Countess Elizabeth Bathory’s castle. Ruxandra needs to learn the ways of royalty and help Bathory, her odd mentor, keep her lands. But in the end, is the countess friend or foe? Romance, magic, and supernatural elements are all part of this intriguing tale.

I must say this book about vampires did not disappoint me! The cover is simply mesmerizing and well-chosen. It is eerie, gorgeous, and true to the story. The author uses a good vocabulary throughout the book, which makes it pleasant to read. The battles are rough and realistic, just like his depiction of fear. The author makes it all believable. He writes an interesting transition between the Beast to Ruxandra, then back. We can feel the Beast’s anger and its ache for food. The descriptions of settings and characters are precise. There is also a clear difference in characters – I like that! Realism (even though there are supernatural elements) plays an important role in this book. I particularly enjoyed that the novel was divided in short chapters because it made for a quick yet entertaining read. Plus, everything that can go wrong does! There was a lot of conflict, which made it even more enjoyable. I liked how the author describes trivial matters – it’s marvelous to discover such things as soap through Ruxandra’s eyes. It’s as though everything is magnified and impressive.

The friendship between Ruxandra and Elizabeth Bathory was sweet to read. Speaking of the countess Bathory, I thought this was an interesting take on her character. I’ve read a good deal about her as a teenager and seeing her being used in a vampire story makes perfect sense. The character is weird and sensual – a good move from the author, I must admit. This book is true to the vampires’ sensuality. It is also worthy of original, bloody (no pun intended!) vampires with a remnant of a human side. Their cruelty is faithful to folklore with the harsh reality of deaths and tortures. The author is quite respectful of their powers too. Plus, there must have been a good deal of research involved to get the eras and settings well done along with the characters (mostly the countess Bathory), but the author aced it in my opinion.

Everything is logically put into place like pieces of a puzzle. The author pulled it off brilliantly. Let’s talk about dialogue… it was (thank God!) believable. The characters said just enough things to leave us wondering, yet they gave us the necessary information at the right time. Moreover, the way Ruxandra recovers her memories, how she learns of things past, and the way she discovers her powers is interesting and well-written. Finally, the ending was awesome! It was quite thrilling and intriguing, as well as gory and dark. The very end surprised me and I usually figure out the plot twists well in advance!

As for the negative points, the description of the action and fights and the drinking of blood could be expanded. It is quite short compared to the other descriptions. Or when it’s long, it’s because the description is mostly of sexual nature. I understand vampires are usually sensual, but I want to know more about the fights and how it feels to drink blood to survive! In general, more detailed descriptions are needed. Also, they were loads of typos and words that should have been erased. I really hope the book will go through another round of thorough editing because this novel deserves to be read without confusion. Moreover, there are a few inconsistencies in the wording, like in the beginning when Bathory tells her people to use the pronouns ‘’she’’ for the Beast, yet in the next line the countess uses ‘’it’’ too. Lastly, one thing that bothered me was Ruxandra’s lack of motives and goals while the Beast does not. She doesn’t decide anything for the most part of the story… Events just happen to her.

This book (and I bet the series too) is perfect for fans of Anne Rice’s vampires and the Vampire Diaries series and for those who love the sensuality of vampires and their gory life. Even though one hasn’t read the first one, they can jump into Not Everything Dies without any problem for we learn little by little of Ruxandra’s backstory just as she does (of course, reading the first one once you’re hooked to the series is probably a good idea). I give this book a rating of 4 out of 5 because of how true to the vampire’s myths it was and how much of a captivating time I had reading it.

I will definitely read the rest of the series. In fact, I cannot wait for the third book to come out! I highly recommend Not Everything Dies by John Patrick Kennedy – if you love vampires and action, you’ll probably love it just like I do.

Ivy in Bloom: A Review

ivy

Ivy in Bloom on Amazon

Ivy in Bloom on Indigo

Ivy in Bloom on Goodreads

I picked ‘’Ivy in Bloom: The Poetry of Spring from Great Poets and Writers of the Past’’ on NetGalley because of the marvelous cover that speaks of spring, the idea of introducing children to poetry (which is a big love of mine!), and the topic of the changing seasons, which is rarely explored in children’s literature (yet it is part of their life too).

I must say this book didn’t disappoint me. At all. It is a fun take on poetry for children what with an introduction by Ivy, the main character, and writings from great poets and authors. The poems rhyme, which make it all the more amusing, and they’re easy to understand. The pictures help clarify the meaning if there is some confusion. It tells a story many children live through as they wait for winter to end and spring to arrive so they can play outside and have some real fun. This book achieves it by combining sweet poems with pictures, which are pleasant to look at and cute. The emotions are portrayed by Ivy are easy to identify thanks to the pictures. As for the mood and setting, they are well conveyed.

Even though one of its two main topics is the weariness of winter, the book is quite colorful and filled with beautiful images. One can clearly see Ivy is bored, but without becoming as such ourselves thanks to the entertainment the colors and poems provide us! Moreover, Ivy is a likeable everyday girl who goes from bored to hopeful to happy. I think she is realistic and we can’t help but wish spring to arrive soon too!
I really love how the author credited the great poets and authors at the end of the book by including a short biography of each one and the works from which the lines (in green) were used. I find it highly respectful. Plus, the fact that they described the illustrator’s process in the biographies is interesting. The book is short, yet it delivers its content well.

Although, there’s only one thing I wasn’t comfortable with: one line of poetry talks of God. I know the author probably wanted to convey how everything is going well, so they mentioned God and Heaven. While I think it’s okay for people to believe in God, I am not sure it belongs in children’s literature the way it was presented as we are all different and not all religions believe in a single God. The author could have chosen a better line of poetry to express this.

Besides that, the read of ‘’Ivy in Bloom’’ was entertaining and I consider this book an inventive way to introduce children to poetry and help them expand their knowledge! It is also a lovely addition for those who already love it at a young age (I’m sure I would have dived right in was I still a child!). I decide to give it a 5/5 and I greatly recommend it.

At Writer’s Block and Inspiration’s Beck and Call (A Book Review)

Hello, fellow bloggers and readers!

Today’s book review is about Conquering Writer’s Block and Summoning Inspiration: Learn to Nurture a Lifestyle of Creativity by K.M. Weiland. I devoured this book! It took me only two days to read it thanks to its interesting take on those two (difficult) aspects of any writer’s life.

writersblock

It has many good points. I’ll start with the best aspect of this book: it is uplifting, even inspiring to read! Not only does it give you good tips to try and apply, it also tackles an author’s hardest topics: writer’s block and the ever-so-mysterious inspiration.But Miss Weiland approaches these topics with a dose of humor and a good common sense; there’s no burying your head in the sand to try and avoid reality in this book. It’s as comforting as it is a wake-up call. When I finished the book, all I wanted to do was sit down and write (which I did) – I was so motivated by what she had written! I also greatly appreciated that she talked about author’s depression and the highs and lows of the job. These are never easy topics to go over, but I think she did well. Plus, she ends the book on such a positive note, touching the topic of being born to be a writer and embracing it.

The only negative aspect was the lack of examples. We read about what to apply but with no guidance as to how we can actually do this. I would have liked more detailed instructions about it all, if I can say.

The negative does not outweigh all the positive points of this book, so I give it a 4.5 out of 5 rating. The book was excellent and encouraging, yet down-to-earth. But it lacked some good ole’ examples. That’s why I removed a .5. I strongly suggest you all read this, mostly if you’re an author or an aspiring one. It will help you or at least rekindle that passionate flame called writing. It is genuinely a good book you want to read whether or not you’re struggling with writer’s block and summoning inspiration.