Book Review #24: Tempting Fate by Emily Stormbrook

Miranda Grace Avery is a disappointment. A disgrace. Unloved. Disgusting. Responsible for her sister’s death. Useless.

And tired. Oh, so tired.

Maybe that’s why, after eleven years of torture at the hands of her abusive husband, Miranda bolts, faking her own death and running back to the only place she’s ever felt safe– Barrett’s Bay. But keeping her identity a secret won’t be as simple as a stack of fake IDs and a duffle full of bloody cash. Especially when her teenage crush– the breathtakingly handsome, knight in shining armor, Jesse– still harbors feelings for her and everyone else in town could pick her out of a busy crowd. Can Grace keep her past at bay and finally find happiness in the arms of Jesse Fateson, or will the things she’s running from catch up to her?

Tempting Fate: A Barrett's Bay Romance (Broken Fate Book 1) by [Emily Stormbrook]

Stormbrook has crafted a breathtaking erotic thriller that will leave you holding your breath to see what happens next– and next– and next. The suspense never ends. From the intro scene to the very last page, I never wanted to stop. The plot itself is absolutely magnificent– bordering on perfect. You’ve got typical romance tropes (strong, handsome men with hero complexes), and then, you’ve got very real, very personal mental health topics. Stormbrook doesn’t shy away from any of it.

I was concerned that Grace would kind of fall into the “weak and helpless” category, but goodness, was I ever wrong. Time and time again, she’s able to pull herself out of a dead-end situation. She’s the epitome of self-sufficient while also being very vulnerable and real. I’ve never related to a character’s feelings like I did with Grace at the end.

A spectacularly dark, passionate novel. Solid 9/10. So much better than I was expecting.

Book Link: https://www.amazon.com/Tempting-Fate-Barretts-Romance-Broken-ebook/dp/B0927QDMKT


Book Review #23: Walls of Orion by TD Fox

Orion City is in Quarantine. They have been for a decade now. The people inside have succumbed to the reality of their future– one where they’re never allowed to leave. Yet, the virus that caused them to become prisoners in their own home isn’t an average sickness. It’s a DNA twisting nightmare that transforms normal people into animals. Insane, raging animals.

Courtney is a barista by day, trying to avoid the craziness of her city and her father. She’s bored, though, or at least that’s what the eccentric W tells her. Their friendship is unintentional and feverish, one that includes gun fights and snow storms and homeless children. But when W is around, Courtney isn’t so bored. And that… doesn’t bother her?

When Courtney finds herself on the precipice between “good” and “evil” with her new friend on the other side, she has to ask what kind of life she wants to live– a tame, boring one or a daring, morally gray one? Better yet, can she get used to being a little “crazy”?

The Walls of Orion final cover.jpg
Gorgeous cover, isn’t it?

Style:
I was in love with this from the get-go. I knew I was going to love a book that was labeled as dystopian. But SUPERHERO dystopian?! Hooked. Instantly.

First of all, I want to say that this is a book that’s going to stick with you like glue. Fox just has this way of writing things that you dwell on long after you’ve finished with the book itself. Now only is her descriptive prowess phenomenal, but her way of creating and playing characters that are SO human absolutely blows my mind.

The world-building sucked me in as well. Orion City is by far the dingiest place I’ve travelled this year, through my reading that is, lol. But it’s just so real. I don’t know how else to explain it. Gritty, dingy, and… well, human. You’ve got criminals who are just trying to survive a world that threw them to the curb, you’ve got average citizens getting caught up in things they have no business dealing with, you’ve got families that can’t get over the past– Orion City is real. That’s what makes it such a terrifying place.

As far as length goes, it was a tad on the longer side, but that didn’t deter me at all. I ate every single word with relish. It wasn’t long enough, as far as I’m concerned! I’ll be sobbing over that ending for MONTHS. Or at least until book 2. Lol

Characters:
THIS IS MY FAVORITE PART! With every review I write, I generally have one section of this “outline” that I get really, really excited about. We’ve all got our favorite parts of books. A action-packed sword fight, a swoon-worthy kiss, a smart-mouthed granny– You do you. For me, for this book, it was the beautiful characters.

First of all, you’ve got Courtney. At first, you think she’s a pretty average, boring barista. She goes to work every single day; she makes her way through her routine with little-to-no enthusiasm. Her family is a bit broken: her father pushed her away after their mother left, and her teen brother keeps trying to jam those puzzle pieces back together. I wasn’t impressed with Court when I first met her. Honestly, she kind of bored me. I’m not sure if that was intentional or not, really. Because when W came into her life and he started to change her ideals about the world, she came alive. I liked how level-headed she was and how she wasn’t afraid to break away from the mold of society. She’s a free thinker and can’t be swayed by others telling her she’s “crazy.” Plus, she was NEVER helpless. Even when things started going downhill for her. She never once rolled over and let the men do everything for her. Talk about a strong female lead. Lol

Next, we’ve got Jasper. (I’m saving my favorite for last.) Jasper is an outsider in Orion City. He volunteered to come into the Wall in order to work as a detective. He’s one of the most naive characters I’ve read of in a while. At first, it was kind of charming how silver-lining his perspective was about everything in Orion City. He thinks he can save the world– within the limits of the law, of course. After a while, though, Jasper started to turn my stomach. Again, I think this was intentional. He started pushing Courtney to follow his ideals, started giving her advice she didn’t need, started pushing her boundaries and limiting her alone time…. Call it protective and cute if you will. I’ll stick with being a bit controlling. I didn’t like Jasper.

MY FAVORITE. W. I don’t know how I’m going to tell you about him without giving away some major plot points, but I’ll do my best. W is a bit of an enigma for most of the story. We don’t know a THING about him other than that he’s “eccentric,” to quote Courtney. He’s unconventionally handsome, says some off-the-wall and strange things, orders his coffee with an obscene amount of sugar, but he’s also…. very protective and… um, violent? W is a deep thinker. He forced Courtney to really think about her life and how she wants things to be. I adore how morally gray he is. He does bad, bad things, but good GREIF he does them beautifully and for some respectable reasons. He’s the perfect anti-villain. (I had to google that one, hehe.) I won’t say much more, because I don’t want to ruin it.

Plot:
Ooh, the plot.

When I say this book was one punch after another, I freakin’ mean it. The beginning was a tad slow for me. I worried about it, actually, waiting for it to pick up.

BUT GOOD GOD when it did, I just– I can’t. I just can’t.

It all sort of starts when W enters the picture. And everything just sort of falls like dominos. First of all, you’ve got Jasper’s storyline– the cop chasing the bad guy. In this case, the “bad guy” is a notorious criminal called The Whistler, who can somehow be connected to dozens of crimes and has managed to avoid police since the Quarantine. Then, you’ve got the scientists inside the AITO lab, studying the Changers (people who have gotten the “virus” and changed into animals). Then, you’ve got Courtney over here somehow surviving a wild stand-off with three armed brutes and getting trapped in snowstorms with her “friend” W.

And the romance. Good grief, the romance. This wasn’t as tense as the last book I read, but the feels were strong in this one too! There’s a bit of a love triangle going between Courtney, Jasper, and W. Courtney’s two men are world’s different, and I’m pretty sure you know who I’m rooting for, lol. Some of the romantic tropes present in this book had me falling on my bed in dramatic pining. The “villain” falling at Courtney’s door after he’s been shot, after he disappeared from her life to save her (very Edward-like, if I may say so). The scene where a nightmare wakes Courtney up and he proceeds to hold her and she says “stay, please” and he DOES IT. and I DIE INSIDE. And when they finally kiss. Someone slap me across the face with a wet rag. I need to go touch some grass. UGH.

Fun Quotes (and the notes I took when I read them, lol):
I had to add this part in, because this book has some golden quotes. Golden!

“You’re only as small as the person you see in the mirror. One day, if you’re wily enough, you might make that person change shape.”
My response: Goosebumps. Full body goosebumps.

“Sometimes you need a mask to tell the truth.””The truth of what?”His pale eyes seemed to burn in the shadows. “That one man can make a difference.”
My response: Those two were within pages of each other. I thought I might die. This one hit HARD.

“Behind her, the bed dipped, and two warm arms slipped around her. Open coat adjusted to invite her into its cocoon, (redacted) settled his head on the pillow behind her. Her breath vanished.”
My response: Squeal like a young girl and proceed to throw myself down where I was standing. A full fledged unintelligible meltdown.

Honestly, 10/10. All the stars. All of them.

Social Media Links:
Website: https://www.tdfoxbooks.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tdfoxauthor/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100050711880168
Twitter: https://twitter.com/tdfoxauthor

** I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.🙂 **

Book Review #22: Clandestine by Cynthia Morgan

The year is 2446. Tzadkiel, Archangel of Mercy, has somehow found the one merciful person left on Earth. His job is mostly complete with Lourdes at his side. Nothing but his conscious stands between him and releasing the Final Horseman from his waiting place.

First, though, he needs to find a place to keep Lourdes safe. As love begins to blossom in the French countryside, the twisted Savauge clings to their trails, intent on finding them and keeping Lourdes all to himself. Blinded by lust and rage, he’ll go to any length to get his hands on her.

All three of them will be pushed to the very edge, and there may be no coming back.

Clandestine (Mercy Series Book 2) by [Cynthia A. Morgan]

Before I dive into my actual review, I want to say how THANKFUL I am to Cynthia Morgan, who so gracefully gave me a free copy of the audiobook in exchange for an honest review. I have been DYING to read this sequel since I finished Misericorde, and even though life has been a bit insane and I haven’t had time to write up this review, Clandestine is all I’ve been able to think about. I’ve read other books since then, and I am just…. STUCK on this stinking series. Stuck like Savauge to— You know what, I take that back. Gross. Ick. No. *hits rewind on her life*

Style:
I’ll try to tone down my excitement this time, guys. I’m sorry for shouting at you all. Actually, I’m not. Because once again—

ABSOLUTELY FREAKING FANTASTIC. BREATHTAKING. 

Did you like how I used different adjectives this time around? Heh. Cynthia’s world building continues to blow my mind every time I pick up one of her books. The fantastical, science-fiction environment that somehow blends both reality as it could be in the future and the supernatural world of angels and demons is perfect. Within this book, we get a bit of an insight into the “science” side of things— the instruction manual of Tzadkiel. You half expect these explanations to be boring, but it was far from it. I didn’t mind listening to Little Tzad explaining things to Lourdes. He’s just so sweet. I could never get tired of listening to him.

Last time, I struggled with getting into the story, but with this installment, there wasn’t a lengthy intro. We jump straight in with both feet. It was a journey that took me some time (ten hours, to be precise) because I listened to the audiobook instead of reading it. About an hour a day, here and there, and then on my way to our vacation home, I binge-listened to like four hours at a time. I fully intended to listen to the entire thing on the way down, but I was so worked up about it that I had to take breaks. LOL 

Last style point— TENSION. Good grief, the romantic tension. That’s another reason that I had to stop so frequently. I’ll preface by saying this: I am a very expressive reader. If you watch me read, you’ll know exactly how I feel. So, this book is ROMANTIC. I put it in all caps and bold so you’ll know how important this is to me. Because it’s not the type of romance that’ll make you fan yourself and hide your phone screen. No, no, no. This is like squealing out loud in my car and beating the steering wheel while you blush like a little school girl (I did all of these things). This is the best, innocent style of romance. I was melting in my seat, you guys. I was eating lunch and telling my coworkers about it. It’s been a looooong time since I read anything that was this romantic without being smutty.

Characters:
Now that I’ve talked your ear off about style, buckle up for some character development!! Because there’s a lot of it! YAY! 

Lourdes is back, and she continues to be one of my favorite female characters. I stick to my guns in saying that she is so much more than the sweet, submissive maid that the men think she is. Her bravery really gets tested through this book, and her strength is pushed to a breaking point. I obviously cannot relate to the things she went through in the last scenes of the book, but GOD, did I feel for her. I kept wanting her to get up— murder some people— do something— but I also really understood her predicament. She’s sort of helpless in a very frustrating way, but I get it. So say the least, I am very excited to see her grow even more now that her eyes (and Tzad’s eyes) have been opened to how helpless she really is. Maybe he will teach her how to protect herself. 

Then there’s Tzadkiel. My freakin’ king. I call him Little Tzad, but I should really start calling him King Tzad. Not Kiel because we don’t like that side of him. Yuck. My journey through simpdom continues, and I honestly think hearing the narrator bring life to his voice was the final nail in the casket. Literal goosebumps. It was everything I imaged it to be. There’s growth though, in how Tzad has to tamper down his own demons. The more hatred that grows in him for Savauge, the more he struggles to maintain the “angelic” side of himself. Seeing that play out made him less perfect and more… human? Relatable? All of the above. I simply love him. Periodt. 
Other characters include Levesque, who is 100% redeemed in my eyes, Chevalier, who I believe is the real guardian angel here, and a slew of other people. I won’t dwell too much on them, simply because their role is much smaller than the others and I’ve dragged this on long enough. 

Last but not least is Savauge. To be honest, I wouldn’t even give this man the time of day. If I saw him walking down the street, I wouldn’t cross to the other side. I’d wave down a car and politely ask them to RUN HIM OVER. And when the judge asks me why I assisted in his murder, I’d tell them because the world is a better place without his stinkin’, nasty face. Then, I’d cuff myself. Disgusting human being. I’ve NEVER wanted to punch a character so much in all my life. (Good job, Cynthia, for creating a character that I hate this strongly. Lol. Very well done. But UGH)

Plot: 
*takes several heaving breaths* I’m wearing myself out. I’m too excited. LOL 

I don’t have too much to add, surprisingly, to what I said last time. The multiple POVs are still seamlessly well done. There’s a perfect blend of past and present, allowing us ample insight into Lourdes’ past and the other characters’ thoughts and feelings along the way. 
It probably wasn’t my advice that Cynthia followed, but I did see some things I commented on had changed. Shorter chapters but more of them (16 this time, as opposed to 9) and a trigger warning added to the Amazon description. I genuinely have NO COMPLAINTS. 

Weird, huh?

Once again, I’m gonna have to give his book a heaping 12/10. It’s honestly better than the first, and I cannot wait to read books 3 and 4 when they are released. I’d read Cynthia’s grocery list, at this point, if she’d let me. 

You can follow Cynthia Morgan at the following links:
Website: https://www.cynthiaamorganauthor.com/
WordPress: https://booknvolume.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/morganbc728?s=21
Amazon: Author.to/CAMorganAuthor


Stay tuned for my next review: a dystopian romance that honestly might give Cynthia a rival when it comes to ranking my top reads of the year so far.😉

In the Room With It

I spend so much of my time wishing I was happy. Wishing I was normal. Wishing I could remember things better. Wishing I could smile more, laugh more, sigh (happily, of course) more. I chase after that feeling of contentment like a a beagle after a rabbit— the hunts instinctual and unavoidable and almost so much a part of me that I forget I’m hunting. How long have I been searching for that Thing that seems to easy for other people?

How am I always standing on the other side of a precipice and watching Happiness sail away on a ship with a crew full of the merriest men and women and people? Because there’s always more happy people than there are sad. In this picture, I’m alone. Always.

But the cliff image isn’t really fitting. I wish it was. Watching Happiness sail away with a smirk on her face would be simpler than the truth.

You see, Happiness isn’t so far away. I can see her. 

She’s across the room, everywhere and nowhere, smack dab in the center of a throng of people that I don’t even have the nerve to walk up to. Her very presence attracts a crowd of sunshine faces and songbird laughter. I couldn’t go over there in a million years because I don’t belong with them. I don’t smile all the way to my eyes. I don’t laugh with my head tilted back, beckoning to the moon to join me. I don’t fit in.

I’ve never. Isolation is a friend of mine at this point.

But Happiness does. Happiness stands just there—across that room. So close that I could reach out and shake her. Why won’t you spend time with me? Why can’t we laugh and sing and run hand in hand down perfectly white beaches or careen through dim emerald forests?

I wish she were sailing away from me.

But no. I’m in the room with her. And somehow, that’s a million times worse— seeing her, hearing her, craving her, and knowing she’s always a brush of fingertips away.

Am I happy? No. But I’m in the room with Her.

Credit for the phrase “I’m in the room with it” regarding happiness goes to @billiethedoll93 on TikTok.

Book Review #21: Second Coming of Hell by Joshua Griffith

The world nearly ended years ago. Fireballs fell from the heavens, decimated cities, and changed the surface of the Earth forever. The dead were risen from the grave, and Christians were “reaped” from where they stood. By all outward appearances, it seemed like the Lord had came to unravel the prophecies of Revolutions.

But, years later, Rose Macready and Duncan Morgan– two friends who struggle just to survive in their village of Melona– are about to discover that there’s more than a heavenly hand in what’s happening. Together, they’re thrown into a fallen angel’s twisted plan to take over the Earth. Will they be able to fight their way through ghouls, angels, and vampires and save the planet, or will they fall waste like so many other vigilantes in this broken world?

The Second Coming of Hell by [Joshua Griffith, Judy Griffith]
Image taken from Amazon. Honestly, the cover was what got my attention in the first place! It’s gorgeous!

Style:
I honestly don’t know what I was expecting when I started this book, but this was NOT it. I think I expected a generic “second coming” sort of thing with some prophecy type events and Left Behind feel. But, like…. the opposite happened? I don’t know how to explain it!

First off, Griffith has a unique style that I’m not really sure I like or dislike. It’s a middle taste for me. There are well-written scenes of violence and action– tense and engaging while still being easy to follow– but then there’s romantic bits where the sexual nature of the individuals seems a bit pushed. The story itself is very intriguing and it did keep me reading long after bedtime on more than one occasion, but like… nothing really stood out as spectacular in the writing style itself. Call that personal preference, if you will!

Characters:
Now, this is a part that I cannot praise highly enough. We’ve got a whole SLEW of characters here. The diversity wasn’t something I genuinely did not expect. First, Rose is a sorceress. That’s a given. I struggled at the beginning with what her affinity for magic meant for the history of the world inside the story. I see it as a post-apoc set in our world, but then there’s Rose the sorceress. Don’t get me wrong, I love Rose. She’s a BA. Model female. I just didn’t expect there to be magic in that sense. Rose could have been simply human, and she could have still fit into the story. Things would have been harder for her, but it seems like the whole point of her being magic was JUST to make things easier for the main cast. Point being, I think I’d rather her just be human!

Then, there’s Duncan, which I have absolutely no complains about. He’s a well-rounded, strong, polite male. I liked his committment to his “wife,” even though I hated her from the very first mention of her. I like how he was rough around the edges but opened up to the right person. I even liked what happened with him and Purah. I have absolutely NO complaints!

For our last main protagonist, we have Devlin, who really represents the comedic relief in my book. Yet, he’s another character that I struggled with due to his species. Devlin is a vampire. But… why? Just because his super speed makes it easier to fight the baddies? I’m honestly not that convinced. He could have been a BA human and gotten away with it. His bloodlust did make for some interesting steamy scenes, though, lol.

Now, BADDIES. Sorath is the main antagonist. He’s a fallen angel Hell bent on taking over Earth. He masquerades as Jesus in front of his followers but his true side comes out around the fallen angels. Honestly, he’s everything you want a bad guy to be– punchable and detestable. Very well written and anger inducing but with a good enough of a background that you also kind of feel for the guy. He has some Lucifer-eqsue emotions. I enjoyed his character (although not the things he did– especially to Purah). He got what he deserved.

Plot:
As far as plot goes, I thought it was a generally well-rounded storyline with enough action and balance between POVs to keep me reading. I enjoyed it, even though I had some basic complaints.

Overall, an enjoyable book that I think I might have read too deep into. LOL. If you’re looking for a book that’s got a bit of EVERYTHING, then this is it for you!

Buy the book here!! You most likely won’t regret it. 6/10 for me. 🙂

Book Review #20: Illusion by Joseph Phelps

The allure of Blacklight Industries’ most immersive experience, The Life of Crime, has made it the world’s premier crime game, bringing users back to the 21st century, where they can shape the world with absolute freedom. For good or bad.

Players build crews, control turf, and fight for power and status along the way. Each server is home to a unique metropolitan city, and the West Coast US server, Illusion, is under attack. For the first time in the game’s history, an entire server is threatened with total takeover by an unscrupulous and power-hungry crew known as GoonStorm.

When Kurt finds himself expelled from college and without any prospects of employment, he joins the game at the request of his best friend Jimmy, albeit three years after the initial release. Needless to say, he has a lot to learn. The pair quickly fall in with the game’s most famous driver, the mysterious Getaway Gal, and find themselves a part of a dangerous campaign to stop Illusion’s most powerful guild from taking over the server.

Outmanned and outgunned, Kurt and company are going to have to use every trick in the book to save Illusion from falling into the wrong hands.

(This blurb is taken from Amazon, as I stared at my computer for 4 hours trying to figure out how to sum this book up. LOL)

Illusion: The Blacklight Chronicles: Book One by [Joseph Phelps]
Isn’t this cover gorgeous? Taken from Amazon, of course.

I honestly don’t even know where to start! Haha. I’m at a loss for words.

For starters, I will say that Phelps has done a magnificent job of creating this immersive world around a single game. Down to the background things like AI behavior and game mechanics and the power-balance system, everything has been thought of. It’s a well-formed, creative world above all else.

Not only is the world well made, but the characters are also phenomenal. There’s not one MC that I didn’t genuinely like (or at least interested me!). Some of the GoonStorm players made me want to stick my tongue out at them, but that’s a pretty basic form of dislike. And that’s nothing towards their author! Oddly enough, it wasn’t the main MC that I found myself intrigued by. I was genuinely annoyed by how slow he was when it came to catching on and finding his niche within the game. I preferred Jimmy with his cut and dry sense of humor and his love of BIG weapons and Kitty, actually, with her devil-may-care attitude and love of FIRE.

Speaking of Kurt, actually, it took me a really long time to figure out if he was even worthy of being a main character. He just wasn’t as interesting as the other two, and I struggled to relate as much as I should. I only held off saying something because I wondered if my opinion would change, and it did. I understand his importance. It just took me a while.
The biggest issue I had (and I think it’s a stylistic, preference sort of thing) was the drawn out descriptions of the weaponry and vehicles within the game. I have this bad habit of kind of glazing over when reading over long detailed paragraphs so that I can hurry on to the plot parts. Sadly, I found myself doing this quite a lot in the beginning and middle of the book. I’ll tell you why I didn’t do it at the end later. I think its good to leave the reader a little bit more room to fill in the gaps themselves so that they can create their own images in their minds. I prefer this actually. It’s no fun if you do it all for me.

I also wasn’t a huge fan of the back-to-back action. But that’s the plot! I get that. So, I know this is a definite preference issue. So, I’m not going to rag on this one for long. I felt like I could never catch a breath before Kurt’s trio were right back to getting into trouble. Although!! My favorite two action scenes were when they played Fox and Hound (because I thought his tactics really brought out his strength as a player and his personality) and then when Kitty basically told the GoonStorms her plan and then BLEW UP THE ENTIRE CITY. I like her guts, lol. She’s a woman of her word, and I can stand by that.

Overall, I’m going to give it a 4 simply because it wasn’t my style. It was still a phenomenal book, though. I feel like I’ve just completed a major accomplishment, lol. If you’re an action fan and like sitting on the edge of your seat, don’t hesitate to pick this book up.

You can buy a copy of Illusion here! Or read it for free with Kindle Unlimited.

Book Review #19: Witch’s Return by Sionna Trenz

Sonya’s life outside of Stargazer Island was nothing short of torturous. An overbearing, abusive stepfather and an controlling, condescending mother maneuvered her life like two evil puppeteers. But she’s back now– out of their grip and away from their power. Her one true love and an motley crew of gifted friends welcome her in with open arms, and Sonia is able to finally take a deep breath and relax.

Or so she thinks.

Her return to the island (a safe haven for an assortment of supernatural species) brings a dark presence along with it. A man’s death serves as the first breaking of the seals in a larger ritual, but the problem is, Sonya has no idea what ritual is starting. If she doesn’t figure it out before the last seal is unbroken, Hell with be unleashed on the island. Literally.

Witch’s Return (Stargazer Island Series Book 1) by [Sionna  Trenz]
Image taken from Amazon

Style:
I’m not a fantasy fan. I’m not. *Amy, you say this every single time. Stop repeating yourself.* BUT THIS IS FANTASY. It’s an Adult Fantasy Romance, and I’m giving it FIVE stars, y’all. Five. Stars. Let me tell you why.

First of all, Trenz has managed to weave a huge assortment of fantasy elements into one neatly-made basket. You’ve got shifters, brownies, demons, ghosts, witches… In my inexperience with the genre, I’m blanking on more. But I know they’re there. Even as someone who doesn’t read a lot of this genre, I was easily able to keep up.

Second, going with the point above, Trenz somehow managed to keep my attention– even though some of the species and magical rules required some foundation. The magical system in the book is new– to me, anyway– and while it definitely had to be explained, I wasn’t falling over drooling. It was short and succinct but definitely just enough for me to say, “Oh. Makes sense. Moving on.” Often as I read, I glaze over parts like that. Not this time.

I also need to include this in here: Third, this is a ROMANTIC book. I didn’t expect that when I first started reading. I won’t spoil who ends up with who, but HOT DANG, it was beautifully written. No cringey word usage (you know the ones I’m talking about with a steamy book), and no scenes that made me want to puke. The intimate scenes were exactly that, INTIMATE. There was all this talk about “going to the stars” and “exploding together” and “stardust” and good Lord, it was so perfect and sweet that I might need to visit a dang dentist now. I absolutely loved it.

Characters:
So, like most fantasy books I’ve reviewed, this book has a bit of an ensemble cast. There’s Sonya’s friends: Liam, Sam, Rowan, Celia, and Sage. Then later we add Mason, Grace, Siobhan, and so… many… more. Then, there’s the townspeople, Sonya’s parents, the deities involved in the ritual… So many characters, y’all.

I won’t spend too much time analyzing each and every character; that would take half a year. I just want to talk about the two main protagonists (Sonya and Liam) and the main antagonists (Albert and Sonya’s mom- Eleanor).

Sonya is the perfect protagonist. Troubled past, but strong and resilient through it all. Strong connection to her natural magic and talented at using it. She’s so dedicated to her island and is more than willing to give her everything for it. I like her a LOT. Liam, quite like Sonya, is the perfect Knight of Stargazer Island. He’s sweet, charming, strong, DREAMY. He’s like the Kristoff to Sonya’s Anna– the absolute puzzle piece support system. He’s not trying to run the show (which I appreciate), but he’s definitely strong enough to take over when she needs him too.

Now the antagonists. I’ve never wanted to smack someone as hard as I want to hit ALBERT. Even his name makes me want to just…

But, like, isn’t that a compliment? Lol. Shouldn’t we all want to smack a good villain? Now Eleanor– Shame on you. You’re a terrible excuse for a mother. I find it hard to say you deserved what you got, because I’m not that evil. But I am ashamed of the things you did. Periodt.

My one complaint about the massive cast was that everyone seemed very overpowered. I picked that up in the beginning when the plot was slower, when Sonya needed a person with one specific power and then someone else magically had that exact power she needed, but as the story went on and things picked up, I sort of forgot that it was an issue. Clearly, I didn’t even deduct a star for it, so it must not be a huge problem. Lol.

Plot:
As far as plot goes, I have absolutely no complaints. A super sweet main romance, several side digs between side characters, a strong main plot line filled with magic and mystery and action, and then there’s the potential for more installments when everything’s said and done. It kept my attention from beginning to end and even had me staying up late to read another chapter (or two, I won’t lie).

I genuinely, really, really enjoyed this novel. I’ll be picking up Book 2 at my earliest convenience. 9/10– Would read again.

You can buy Sionna Trenz book here! Then, go follow her on these social media platforms.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/sionnasstargazers/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sionnatrenz

Book Review #18: Wizards and Wives’ Tales by Kate Messick

Paula’s life revolves around two things: RPG and her friends. Everything else is secondary… her job, her exercise regimen, finding love. It doesn’t help that she feels like she’s not very good at her job and not the right type of girl to sweep the tall, well-dressed Luis off his feet.

Joe is an ocean away from the two people he loves the most: Dillon and Sandy. A new job, new people to play with, and a whole new world of problems. This should be simple, but Paula GMing style clashes with him (as does a few of her friends).

Can the two get past their differences and somehow manage to run a successful game? Even better, will something new blossom out of the wreckage of both of their lives?

Image taken from Amazon.

Style:
I don’t know why, but I feel like I’m falling in love with LitRPG. It’s almost like two stories wrapped up into one— the main “real world” story and then the campaign. This litRPG novel is somehow nothing like the others I’ve read, and yet, I love it none the less.

Like i said, two stories in one here! And I feel like that takes special talent! Not only do we have two well-balanced storylines that interweave absolutely seamlessly, we also have two sides to EACH character. Honestly, the level of skill this would take to write blows my mind. Each different POV is written so distinctively that I had absolutely no trouble bouncing from eye to eye, and I enjoyed each and every one of them.

While it is an indeed complex book in the layers of characters and plot lines, the style isn’t over complex. It was very easy to follow and understand from beginning to end. It was a average length read that took me about a week. With my busy schedule, that’s about normal.

Characters:
I’ve kind of talked about this already, but I can’t praise Messick enough for her talent in characterization. Honestly, every single character she wrote is a separate individual, and they all stood out from each other. No bleeding over or confusion at all.

The main characters are by far Some of my favorite I’ve read in a while. Paula is the epitome of a relatable character—less than confident, less than perfect, less than traditionally beautiful, and definitely not without fault. At the same time, though, she cares endlessly for her friends and would go to any lengths to ensure their happiness and safety. I was constantly rooting for her, even when I wanted to strangle her for not kicking Business Suit (for spoiler’s sake, I won’t say his name) out the moment he started being a controlling jerk.

Joe is not as perfect as Paula is in my eyes, but I like that he’s the typical protective male type without being too overbearing on anyone. He also has lingering issues, but don’t we all? And I mean, I love a woman fixing a troubled man. 😂😂

Overall, no complaints on characters! Last note: I appreciate that the office cat had his own chapters! It really added to the story in a unique way. I’ve never seen anything like that before. It was fantastic and hilarious.

Plot:
I don’t want to go too deeply into this, because I want everyone who reads this to go pick up a copy of this book. You NEED to. I don’t say that lightly.

I often abuse the term “page-turner” because I am a known book-aholic. I won’t deny that. But this book was indeed a page-turner. It had absolutely everything you might want– romance, action, fantasy, RPG. You name it, this book had it. The action kept me reading long after I was supposed to be in bed and brought me back after I finally had no choice but to put it down. The romance had me squealing and swooning (and even wanting to smack someone), but it wasn’t so overly done that I felt like gagging. And then THE FANTASY. I don’t do fantasy. I feel like a fish thrown into a desert when I read it. But this was simple enough (and well explained) that I wasn’t confused.

My one complaint was that the epilogue (I’d have to check back, but it was post-story definitely) didn’t really feel necessary. The story felt nice and wrapped up with a pretty red bow on the top, and then– there’s more? **SPOILER** The engagement wasn’t really needed in my opinion, and I could have been perfectly happy without it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they got together! shrug

Even if you’re not a RPG player– you NEED this book. You won’t regret it. I’m giving it a full 10/10.

You can buy the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Wizards-Wives-Tales-Adventure-Rolling-ebook/dp/B08JTGW2G6

AND follow Kate Messick on the following social media sites:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KateMessickAuthor
Her blog: https://justapotato.com/

Book Review #17: Dark Little Women by RL Wood

HEEEEEEY!! Long time, no see!!

I took a very long break from reviewing to finish up Book 2 of the Idyllic Series! It’s been sent out to my lovely beta readers and I’m so excited to start cleaning it up for publication!

But today, I’m here to tell you about this book I recently read!

Synopsis:
Long ago, Dorian made a deal with the Dark One– immortality in exchange for her enemies to suffer. There was a string attached, though. Now, her eternal life is tied to a portrait that will age instead of her. She spent the first few centuries living her life to the fullest.

Then, guilt caught up to her, and she decided to instead spend her time rehabilitating other immortal souls. She must all deliver 100 souls to the Dark One in order to become mortal again.

Together, Dorian and her team of unlikely friends will try to rehabilitate as many souls as possible. Yet, even the “best” of people have a dark side, and when you’ve partnered up with the infamous Doctor Jekyll, things are bound to get worse before they get better.

Dark Little Women : Fractured Horror Tales: A Dark Fantasy by [R.L. Wood]
Cover taken from Amazon! Click to go buy!

Style:
I knew I was going to like this book just from the description! I wanted to read it long before I actually got started, and boy, I wasn’t wrong!

Wood is clearly a clean, precise writer! She manages to create wonderful pictures with simple sentencing, making it very easy for the reader to grip setting and emotion while they read. Plus, the story itself was very easy to follow. I wondered if I would get tripped up jumping between characters, but no such problem here. Everything was smooth sailing.

Characters:
So, the characters are actually my favorite part of this book. We get an insight into the gender-flipped characters we know from hundreds of stories and movies. Dorian Gray is a staple name in traditional literature. But this is hardly Wilde’s OG Gray. Instead, she’s a Mother-hen sort of character with a clear moral compass and motivation.

Each and every character has their own personality, and Wood has done an excellent job of separating them from each other. This motley assortment of women (who were all once men in their traditional stories) work somehow magnificently together. A werewolf who’s hungry for men? A overly-loyal vampire? A dramatic, suicidal Marilyn ghost? Honestly, it’s so refreshing to see our favorite, familiar characters in a new light.

(What? No issues, Amy?) Ha! Not yet! Just wait.

Plot:
As far as plot goes, **SPOILERS** we follow Dorian on her adventure to rehabilitate her last few souls before she goes mortal. She’s trying to save Becca (the werewolf) from her craving for human flesh, but is finding it harder and harder as more and more full moons pass. It doesn’t help that Jekyll can’t get her evil alter-ego Hyde under control. I enjoyed this constant back and forth struggle between Jekyll and Hyde, as well as the other disagreements between Cleo and V. It really makes for a good well-rounded cast when not everyone likes each other.

The one issue I had was actually the beginning of the story. Starting off, I was slightly confused about who this strange nameless woman was because she didn’t even have a name (not that I can remember.) And she was young, but now she’s old. And there’s a Golden Chalice, and then she’s talking to who I thought was supposed to be the main character and… I was a bit confused. Now, the story straightened itself out pretty fast, and I get that the point was to grab the reader. But I wonder if it wouldn’t be just as intriguing and less confusing if that first chapter were from Dorians POV instead of the original werewolf’s. Just a thought.

Overall, an excellent book. I’ll give it a solid 9 out of 10! Five stars from me.

You can buy Dark Little Women here, and follow RL Wood on the following platforms.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RLWoodBooks/ and https://www.facebook.com/DarkLittleWomen.GirlPower
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/R-L-Wood/e/B08BS3KRYM/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1
Blog: https://rlwood.rocks/

Author Interview with Brigitte Morse-Starkenburg!

If you’re a frequent reader of my book reviews, you know that I have read and loved each of Brigitte Morse-Starkenburg’s books. They are my lifeblood during these trying times.

So, I was extremely excited to be able to sit down (virtually anyway) with her to complete this interview. Without further ado, a word from one of my favorite self-published authors!!

  1. Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from?

I was born in the Netherlands and lived there until I was 23 years old, when I decided to join my fiancé after having had a long distance relationship for 3 years. We met in Assen (where I lived and he worked), but he had to return to England after a year, and we decided to give the long distance thing a go. It was the best decision as we’re still together and have a family with three gorgeous teenage children (if you leave out all the teenager horrendousness lol).

  1. What does a normal day look like for you?

What a day in the life of Brigitte looks like, depends on whether I am working or not as I still have a part time job at a secondary school. I used to be a teacher of geography, but now I invigilate during exam times and go on school trips! Obviously due to Covid, they have all been cancelled and exams have only just started again, so haven’t worked much over the last year. When I’m not working, I get up fairly late, do a couple of chores and shopping, walk the dog around lunch time, have some lunch at a pub occasionally when Steve joins me on my walk, do some writing in the afternoon, be a taxi driver for my kids when they get back from school to their sports and activities and nag them to do homework, do some more writing, cook some dinner, read for a while, watch some Netflix with youngest daughter or oldest when she’s home, Get the youngest to bed, sit down, do some more reading with a glass of wine (though not on Monday and Tuesday, our dry days) Then stay up way too late doing some more reading and watching Netflix with Steve and, by then, with some rum and coke. Go to bed way too late, rarely before 1am.

  1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I used to write when I was a teenager. I always wanted to tell a story. I loved reading and the world it transported me into, and I wanted to create worlds myself. Unfortunately, I never managed to finish one book! Then years later, when my children were a little older and I wasn’t working a demanding job the itching to write started again.

  1. What does your family think of your writing?

I think my family is quite proud but they are also extremely down to earth. Steve supports me with my terrible computer skills and gives me the time to write. My youngest is the most keen in that she has listened to me read my books out loud to her in the editing process, and she loves them! (I had to edit some of the language whilst reading, even though I damn well know she knows and probably uses the words with her friends!) My eldest occasionally chips in with helpful suggestions, but my son probably doesn’t even know what the book is about!J

  1. Does writing energize or exhaust you?

The actual writing of the story excites and energizes me. It is the best part of writing; making up a world where you have ultimate control! I think I am a bit of a control freak and in real life that is not practical as more or less everything is compromised by events and other people. This does make me sound rather weird, but it is the main reason I love writing! The editing phase of writing generally exhausts me and so does the promotion of the book. Not my favourite parts at all.

  1. What inspired you to write The Sensorians?

A little idea started playing in my head based on the  sensory issues my daughter experiences due to her ASD. For her, quite often it has been a negative experience as smells particularly can be challenging, but I was thinking what if it was actually a gift, and something you can use in a positive way? That was where the idea came from. Then there are different aspects of ASD in the characters, but ones that are quite often not associated with ASD but presents quite often in girls with ASD, like extreme empathy, almost making you really feel other people’s emotional pain.

  1. How long did it take you to write The Sensorians: Awakening? What about its sequel Trust? Will there be another?

The first draft of book 1 took about a year and a half to write, then I tinkered with it for ages, started writing book 2 at the same time as editing book 1, to finally dive into the world of publishing after about three year from the start. Lockdown gave me the time to really look into how I wanted to publish and I decided to go independent with KDP. I published book 2, Trust, 5 months after I published book 1. I plan to have book three in the trilogy published in June/July 2021. After that, who knows! Hopefully a new project! I do have some ideas swirling around in my head.

  1. What is your favorite part of The Sensorians? No spoilers, of course!

My favourite parts to write are the ones with Zack in it. I love his mainly grumpy arrogant dominant character. I like the attraction between the three main characters, how it develops and how they deal with it, but I also like the action parts.

  1. As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

My spirit animal is a black feisty horse or a wolf.

  1. What does literary success look like to you?

Literary success to me is finishing a book or in this case the Trilogy where I feel happy with it, but the icing on the cake would be that people read my books and have an opinion about it, hopefully a positive one!

  1. What advice would you give a fledgling writer?

 Advice to fledgling writers, coming from an not very experienced writer could be pointless, but I would say; just start writing, don’t keep postponing.

Reader Questions!!

  1. What sort of books do you read?

I have a very eclectic taste in books, including young/new adult, fantasy, literary thrillers, classics, women’s lit, erotica, psychological thrillers, dystopian, sci-fi, detectives. Anything that interests me I will read, no matter the genre.

  1. What’s your favorite book?

How can one answer that? One of the books that I often recommend as it made a big impact on me is the Book Thief by Markus Zuzak,  another favourite was the Secret History by Donna Tartt, and Wild Swans by Jung Chang, but I’m not ashamed to say that The Twilight Series are a little obsession for me!

  1. Book that made you cry?

Lots of books make me cry. An obvious one was You Before Me but also New Moon in Twilight!

(The interviewer would like to point out that while she shares a love of Twilight with Mrs. Brigitte New Moon is her absolute least favorite and she thinks it should burn in a hell fire.)

  1. Book that really inspired you?

Books that inspire me are any books that I am reading at that moment! Every book inspires me in a different way, even if I hate it or can’t finish it (inspiring me never to write like that). 1984 by Orwell, inspired me as a teenager and A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley really got me into the dystopian genre. Enid Blyton gave me the love for reading as a child.

  1. A book you didn’t like at all? (Maybe one you felt like you were supposed to like.)

I hated the sequel to The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Such a disappointment. Also cannot finish When The Crawdads Sing, hate it.

  1. What’s your perfect reading environment?

 I can read anywhere and everywhere, but I love to snuggle up on the sofa with a glass of wine and read.

  1. Do you listen to music while you read/write, or do you prefer silence?

I don’t specifically listen to music when I read, but I don’t mind it.

Well, that’s it! You can pick up Brigitte’s two AMAZING books at the links below! Follow her on ALL the social media platforms! Until next week, then. 😉

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheSensorians/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brigitte__books/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Brigitte-Morse-Starkenburg/e/B08BTH1CDT