Recent Reviews...

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Release Day Review! Selkie by Sydney Winward

Selkie (Mortar & Pestle #1) by Sydney Winward
Genre: Adult Fiction (Historical Fantasy Romance)
Date Published: March 7, 2023
Publisher: Silver Forge Books

No one has ever managed to capture a selkie. Until now…

On their wedding day, Klaus Lovik’s bride is stolen by an enemy chieftain. He will travel to the ends of the earth to find her, and in desperation, he captures a selkie and uses her as a bartering piece. But the selkie’s magic is powerful enough to drown entire islands, and if he’s not careful, he might find himself in a watery grave.

Mayla Brior is gifted with the power to shed her seal skin, enabling her to walk on land. But when a man robs her of the pelt, she is forced to follow his commands, endangering her skin, and preventing her return to the sea.

Venturing into enemy territory, Klaus and Mayla bond, escalating their relationship into more than adversaries. He realizes his pending nuptials are a dreadful mistake. But it might be too late to choose another path, especially when he knows he has to eventually let her go.

Selkie by Sydney Winward is a standalone romance in the Mortar & Pestle. Each book in this series is written by a different author with different characters, but within the same World. I'm definitely curious about these other books too. Selkies interest me. They’re a creature you don’t see too often in fiction, and I’d really love to learn more about them. This story built upon itself nicely , and you got to know the main characters and the inner wars they were fighting as it progressed. I’d say there was a quick attraction, but it definitely wasn’t instalove as they hated each other in the beginning… and rightly so. I completely enjoyed getting lost in their world, and I’d like to check out some of this author’s other work as well. 

The ARC of Selkie by Sydney Winward was kindly provided to me by the author through BookSprout for review. The opinions are my own.

Sydney Winward is an award-winning fantasy and paranormal romance author who dabbles in the occasional historical fiction. She loves building complex worlds filled with magic, strong characters, and emotional stories that can make you laugh and cry.

Sydney is the author of The Bloodborn Series and the Sunlight and Shadows Series. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, thinking about stories, or going on adventures with her children. She lives in Utah with her husband and three amazing kids.

To learn more about Sydney Winward and her books, visit her website. You can also find her on Goodreads, Facebook, InstagramTikTok, Pinterest, and Twitter.

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Monday, February 20, 2023

Book Review: The Defiant by Lesley Livingston

The Defiant (The Valiant #2) by Lesley Livingston
Genre: Young Adult Fiction (Historical Fiction)
Date Published: January 23, 2018
Publisher: Razorbill

Gladiator Fallon and her warrior sisters must face off against a rival gladiator academy in this lush sequel to the highly anticipated historical fantasy The Valiant.

They call her "Victrix" now. Victory.

But winning the highest honor ever bestowed upon a gladiatrix in Rome has earned Fallon more deadly enemies outside the arena than she ever faced within it. And it is those dearest to Fallon who will pay the price for her success.

Now, Fallon and her warrior sisters are thrust into a vicious conflict with a rival gladiator academy, one that will threaten not only Fallon's heart - and her love for Roman soldier Cai - but the very heart of the Roman Empire.

The Defiant is the second book in the Valiant Trilogy by Lesley Livingston. I loved Valiant! So, I went into this one with some pretty high expectations. But, for some reason I just couldn’t stay focused. The pacing was a bit slow. I didn’t feel the chemistry in the romance. And, it just didn’t grab me like the first book. There was still a whole lotta girl power, which was fun, and the action scenes are pretty entertaining. I was just waiting for it too pull me in like the first book, and that never happened. Maybe it was just me, as I just couldn’t stay focused this time around.

Check out my review of the first book!

Check out my review of another book by this author!

Lesley Livingston  is the author of Once Every Never, winner of the inaugural Copper Cylinder Award and shortlisted for the CLA Young Adult Book Award and the BC Stellar Book Award. She is also the author of the Wondrous Strange and Starling trilogies. She lives in Toronto.

To learn more about Lesley Livingston and her books, visit her website.You can also find her on Goodreads and Twitter.

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Thursday, February 2, 2023

Book Review: The Ballad of Never After by Stephanie Garber

The Ballad of Never After (Once Upon a Broken Heart #2) by Stephanie Garber
Genre: Young Adult Fiction (Paranormal/Fantasy Romance)
Date Published: September 13, 2022
Publisher: Flatiron Books

Not every love is meant to be.

After Jacks, the Prince of Hearts, betrays her, Evangeline Fox swears she'll never trust him again. Now that she’s discovered her own magic, Evangeline believes she can use it to restore the chance at happily ever after that Jacks stole away.

But when a new terrifying curse is revealed, Evangeline finds herself entering into a tenuous partnership with the Prince of Hearts again. Only this time, the rules have changed. Jacks isn’t the only force Evangeline needs to be wary of. In fact, he might be the only one she can trust, despite her desire to despise him.

Instead of a love spell wreaking havoc on Evangeline’s life, a murderous spell has been cast. To break it, Evangeline and Jacks will have to do battle with old friends, new foes, and a magic that plays with heads and hearts. Evangeline has always trusted her heart, but this time she’s not sure she can...

The Ballad of Never After is the second book in the  Once Upon a Broken Heart trilogy by Stephanie Garber. This story is keeping that dark fairytale feel, and I am loving it beyond words. I don't know if this is a world I want to live in necessarily, but I sure do love reading about it. I got to know Evangeline and Jacks so much better. I'm so addicted to the banthering and chemistry between Evangeline and Jacks. It's amped up so much more this time around. Everything is pretty amped up actually. We find out so much and so much is happening, and while things are happening, other things are happening behind the scenes. It's fantastic! Now, I just need the next one to be released yesterday!!

Have you read the first book?

Check out my reviews of the Caraval trilogy!

My favorite place in the world is Disneyland because it’s the one place on earth where I feel as if the fantastical stories I love to write about could actually come to life.

When I’m not writing, I teach creative writing at a private college in Northern California, where I’ve been known to turn assignments into games and take students on field trips that involve book signings. I’m also a blogger on PUB(LISHING) CRAWL. But I probably spend most of my time on Twitter where I tend to overuse exclamation points and emojis.

To help pay my bills during college, grad school, and the breaks in between, I worked as a barista, a waitress, a bartender, a customer service representative for an energy consulting company, and as a sales girl at Bath and Bodyworks. I also spent years working with youth; I worked as a counselor at space themed summer camp, volunteered at a school for deaf children in Mexico, and I took multiple groups of college students overseas to spend their winter vacations serving at youth hostels in Amsterdam. But out of everything that I’ve done, writing young adult novels has been my favorite job.

My debut YA fantasy novel, Caraval will be published January 2017 (Flatiron Books/Macmillan—US and Hodder & Stoughton—UK). Caraval has sold in twenty-five foriegn territories and the movie rights were pre-empted by Twentieth Century Fox.

To learn more about Stephanie Garber  and her books, visit her website. You can also find her on GoodreadsFacebookInstagramPinterest, and Twitter.

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Thursday, January 19, 2023

Book Review: The Wehrwolf by Alma Katsu

The Wehrwolf by Alma Katsu
Genre: Adult Fiction (Historical Fiction)
Date Published: September 29, 2022
Publisher: Self

Alma Katsu, the visionary author of The Fervor, The Hunger, and The Deep, brings readers a terrifying short story about monsters among men—and the thin lines that divide them.

Germany, 1945. In the waning days of World War II, the Nazis have been all but defeated. Uwe Fuchs, never a fighter, feels fortunate to have avoided the front lines as he cared for his widowed mother.

But Uwe’s fortune changes when Hans Sauer, the village bully, recruits him to join a guerilla resistance unit preparing for the arrival of Allied soldiers. At first, Uwe is wary. The war is lost, and rumor has it that Hans is a deserter. But Hans entices him with talk of power, brutality, and their village’s ancestral lore: werewolves.

With some reluctance, Uwe joins up with the pack and soon witnesses their startling transformation. But when the men’s violent rampage against enemy soldiers takes a devastatingly personal turn, Uwe must grapple not only with his role in their evil acts but with his own humanity. Can he reclaim what this group of predatory men has stolen from him?

Or has he been a monster all along?

The Wehrwolf by Alma Katsu had a very interesting premise, but this was a story that needed to be full length rather than told as a short story. For such a short story, I feel like the little bit of time we had wasn't utilized as well as it could have been. We're automatically invested in the characters' lives, because we know the horrible history behind what is going on, but as individual characters, I didn't really get to know much about them. They are still strangers. I feel like this could have made an excellent full length story. The author's note at the end took a lot away for me too. I was glad to read that other reviewers felt the same. Sometimes I wonder if it's just me. I will give her props for leaving the politics (other than what was needed) out of her story though. I'd much prefer it in an author's note at the end rather than woven into the story like so many other authors are doing these days. I still want to read more of this author's work, because I enjoyed The Hunger so much.

Check out my review of another book by this author!

Alma Katsu’s books have received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal, been featured in the NY Times and Washington Post, been nominated and won multiple prestigous awards, and appeared on numerous Best Books lists including NPR, the Observer, Barnes and Noble, Apple Books, Goodreads, and Amazon.

RED WIDOW is her first spy novel, the logical marriage of her love of storytelling with her 30+ year career in intelligence. As an intelligence officer, Ms. Katsu worked at several federal agencies as a senior analyst where she advised policymakers and military commanders on issues of national security. The last third of her government career was spent in emerging technologies and technology forecasting. She was also a senior technology policy analyst for the RAND Corporation and continues as an independent consultant and technology futurist, advising clients in government and private industry.

Ms. Katsu also writes novels that combine historical fiction with supernatural and horror elements. THE HUNGER (2018), a reimagining of the story of the Donner Party, was named one of NPR’s 100 favorite horror stories, was on numerous Best Books of the Year lists, and continues to be honored as a new classic in horror. Her first book, THE TAKER (2011), was named one of the top ten debut novels of 2011 by Booklist.

Ms. Katsu has relocated from the Washington, DC area to the mountains of West Virginia, where she lives with her musician husband Bruce and their two dogs, Nick and Ash.

To learn more about Alma Katsu and her books, visit her website. You can also find her on GoodreadsFacebookInstagramPinterest, and Twitter.

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Monday, January 16, 2023

I Still Love You (Quaint #2) by Sara Tallary
Genre: Young Adult Fiction (Paranormal/Fantasy Romance)
Date Published: October 25, 2022
Publisher: Self

Two years ago, I fled.

I have no choice but to pack up and move back to Quaint when a tiny computer glitch screws me out of my next traveling nurse opportunity. At first, it makes me anxious. Because he’s there. My ex, the man I pulled away from instead of leaning on after tragedy struck.

Then I realize I’m being gifted another chance to redeem myself from past mistakes and release the guilt I’ve been harboring. The problem? Luke Sacks has no intention of forgiving me. He spits nasty insults at me every chance he gets. Glares at me with those brilliant green eyes that used to worship me.

It only worsens when I put my foot in my mouth and lie to a coworker that Luke and I are together again. Only, we’re far from it.

Two years ago, she fled.

After a bar fight leaves me with a nasty little gash, my twin brother forces me to the emergency room. In a flash, it’s as if the past two years haven’t gone by because she’s there. My ex, the woman I lowered to one knee for.

The chance encounter is short-lived, but then suddenly, she’s back in Quaint, declaring to a coworker that we’re back together. I go from being her ex-fiancĂ© to her fake boyfriend in seconds. Stunned, I don’t clear the air. First, because this guy rubs me the wrong way. Second, the heartbreak is too real, the anger too palpable.

So, I strike up a deal that I’m positive will have her leaving Quaint permanently. Because there’s no way I’ll ever forgive Layla Robinson for what she did to me, for the shockwave she leveled me with when she pulled her Houdini act.

This time when she leaves, I’ll be looking forward to it.


I STILL LOVE YOU is a full-length enemies to lovers, second chance, fake dating romance with a hot twin, hilarious side characters, angsty tension, and past mistakes that eventually lead to a happily ever after! Recommended for 18+.

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I Still Love You is the second book in the Quaint series by Sara Tallary. Everyone mourns differently. For Layla she ran away for years. I don't really understand why she seemed to only run away from her fiance. She still talked to the rest of her family. She completely blocked Luke from her life though so I don't get that. I completely understand Luke never wanting anything to do with her again. In doing so, he's almost turned himself into a monster though. He lets his anger override everything in violent ways. Not a good thing. So, needless to say, there is a lot for these two to work on.... baggage piles everywhere! This was a quick story to read, and I'd forgotten it was part of a series until after I was finished. Will I read the first book? I'm undecided.

..... was kindly provided to me by the ..... for review. The opinions are my own.

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Sara Tallary lives in eastern Pennsylvania with her husband, two kids, and dog. When she isn’t spending her days writing or brainstorming new ideas for stories, she’s homeschooling her kids, cuddling up with her gorgeous Malinois pup, and binge-watching TV shows with her husband or playing Mario Kart (and winning, hah!). Though she tries to stay on a healthy diet, she has a love for sweets, is constantly adding books to her TBR, and loves a good laugh.

To learn more about Sara Tallary and her books, visit her website. You can also find her on GoodreadsFacebookInstagramTikTok, BookBub, YouTube, Pinterest, and Twitter.

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