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Book Review: The Grass Cutter Sword (The Healer 3) by C.J. Anaya

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Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of this book by the author, C.J. Anaya, for an honest review

Genre: Fiction/Romance/YA/Fantasy

Plot: War is coming, and the veil between life and death is weakening.

As a trusted member of the Samurai Rebels, it is up to Mikomi to gather information that will stop her father from creating a kami army. Katsu’s constant interference impedes her progress, and she is torn between her duty to the world and her love for one very reluctant rebel. Unfortunately, more than one party is interested in using the kami army for their own malicious purposes.

Mikomi’s enemies quickly multiply as a plot far more devious in nature is unearthed. Though Musubi works to prepare her for the many dangers she must face, remaining within the palace walls may no longer be an option. She must protect herself against nekomata disguised as normal humans, while a far greater threat lurks within the heart of a man whom she loves and trusts.

Opinion:

WOOOOOOOOO! Things are HEATING UP boys and girls!

Can you guys feel it?! That…that tingling?! It’s almost like goosebumps, or maybe butterflies? It…it almost feels like…NO! Could it be???

HOPE?

…I’m actually referring to the feeling or desire here though, not the character Hope…HA! *sigh* bad joke.

As Mikomi’s ascension and wedding to the warrior God Katsu nears, the threats against her life and her kingdom are at an all time high. With Katsu unable to heal the significant damage done to Mikomi’s Ki due to the healing of her mother, Mikomi and her teacher begin to wonder if the prophecy was interpreted correctly: if Katsu is even her soulmate. But while Mikomi searches for the truth, new concerns begin to arise. The Nekomata are attacking Mikomi left and right, and an army more sinister than the Emperor’s is readying to attack. With the rebels and Musubi at her side, Mikomi fights to free the enslaved God’s in the palace while looking for her own way out in the process.

*It’s Spoiler City down there*

That was probably a REALLY confusing summary that I just laid out for you guys if you haven’t started this series yet. So, what are you waiting for? Get on it! The Grass Cutter Sword is book number THREE in The Healer series, and it is just as action/sadness/heartbreak/romance packed as the previous! The reader continues to relive Hope’s past life with her as Princess Mikomi: the prophesized Healer who will join with the Warrior God Katsu to heal the veil between life and death. Now there really isn’t any way for me to review this story without giving away some HUGE moments from book two, so…beware? 😉

The Grass Cutter Sword leaves off right where The Black Blossom (book 2) ended; Mikomi has red eyes from her Ki being severely damage after she was forced by the Emperor to heal her mother, she isn’t sure if Katsu is actually her true soul mate, she has the serious obsessions with Musubi, and she is still trying to figure out how to win the war against the Emperor. This girl has A LOT to handle. But to her credit, Mikomi is turning into a real badass. She is honing her samurai fighting skills in order to protect herself, and even her healing abilities are getting stronger. Not only is Mikomi progressing on her own in this third installment, but FINALLY we are seeing some progression with Musubi!

The relationship between Mikomi and Musubi (remember kids, it’s also Hope and Tie) has FINALLY made a turn for the right!! But then…oh wait…it crashes and burns again. -__- *sarcastic monotone excitement* – WOO. These two…*le sigh* are trying to kill me. Every time I saw a little glimmer of hope (hehe) between them, just a little smidge of progression to “twue wuv” and happiness, Musubi literally runs away. Literally. He just leaves.

Umbye?

Now, this book ends on a somewhat bittersweet note. It filled me with romance, only to empty me halfway. Romance aside though, The Grass Cutter Sword  kicks some serious ass. The threat to the rebels becomes INSANE as they learn some dark news about their enemy. This is BIG guys, and it’s downright horrible. I have to say that where this book leads up to is by far my favorite, the epic battle scene and the end of Hope’s life as Mikomi is a true punch to your gut. What happens to Mikomi and her friends is DEVASTATING. But truth be told, as soon as I followed Mikomi back to the present, back into her life as Hope, I was a little bummed. I have grown to LOVE who these characters were in their past lives. They acted with so much more conviction and wisdom, and I couldn’t help but be a little annoyed when they started acting like ridiculous teenagers again when Hope woke up. My only complaint is that these characters shouldn’t have changed, and that the badassery that was showcased during Mikomi’s life should have DEFINITELY continued.

Ending aside, I am looking forward to finishing up book four and checking this awesome series off my TBR list. I am hoping for improvement when it comes to the characters and how they act in the “present”, but we shall see where the author takes this story. I am SO ready to get back to this epic love/adventure story!

4-stars

 

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Book review: The Black Blossom (The Healer Book 2) by C.J. Anaya

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Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of this book by the author, C.J. Anaya, for an honest review

Genre: Fiction/Romance/YA/Fantasy

Plot: Forced into a dream-like state, Hope is now reliving her life as Mikomi, Princess of the Kagami Empire and The Healer of the world.

Life as an Imperial Princess is rife with danger, betrayal, and intrigue as Mikomi joins forces with a rebel group of samurai warriors in order to usurp the throne from her tyrannical father. To win this seemingly hopeless war, she must train with Musubi, a warrior in the rebel army, and learn the art of the sword without revealing her identity as The Healer.

Unbeknownst to her, Musubi harbors his own secret identity and personal agenda, both of which hold dark consequences for Mikomi’s future. Neither one can afford to share their secrets, nor can they ignore the powerful chemistry building between them.

Further complications arise at the arrival of her betrothed, Katsu, who must aid her in mastering control of her own gift before she ascends as a full kami on her eighteenth birthday. Katsu is not the cold-hearted warrior god she expected, but how can she spend eternity with a deity she may never love?

Determined to avoid her destiny, she spies on her father and his generals, collecting intelligence for the rebel army in the hope that one day the empire of Kagami will be liberated and her own future will be hers to control.

Opinion:

Today from my far away land of Northern California, I bring you a riveting review of The Black Blossom, the sequel to The Healer by C.J. Anaya. I reviewed The Healer MONTHS ago, so if you have forgotten or never saw it, please go here before continuing. Or if you’re feeling rebellious and refuse to take s**t from me or anyone else, don’t. You go, you little rebel you! 😉

After nearly draining her life force in order to save Kirby, Hope has been forced into a state of dreaming so that she is able to relive the memories of her past life. The reader is taken back in time to Hope’s first life in 1000 A.D. as Princess Mikomi, the healer that is prophesized to heal the veil between the living and the dead with her betrothed, Katsu. Though Mikomi has a strict life path laid out before her, it doesn’t stop her from sneaking away from her duties in order to heal villagers in need. But the moment of her arranged marriage and ascension is nearing, and the vile Emperor’s countless abuse of Mikomi’s powers is beginning to wear her thin. In an attempt to defy her father, the Emporer, Mikomi joins forces with the rebel armies intent on taking back the Kagami Empire; and begins training with the mysterious and cold Musubi. Months of training and attempts by Mikomi to crack the hard shell of Musubi begins to make improve, but her conflicting feelings for her betrothed begin to rise as well. All Mikomi can do now is gather as much information against her father as possible, and hope that it will be enough to change her destiny.

Did somebody say…SWOON?!?

THIS is where this series takes off and becomes a story worth raving about. Though I did enjoy book one, The Healer, I can’t even compare the level of amazing that The Black Blossom is. This author COMPLETELY revamped the “enjoyable but okay” book that the reader starts out with. The characters, the world, the danger, and the intrigue are at LEVEL 10 and I am like a bug to a lamp…smashing my head against it for MORE, MORE, MORE! The Healer had a great direction that it was moving towards and introduced some dreamy characters, but it felt so adolescent and a bit “eye-rollish”. In The Black Blossom we are transported back in time, but these characters are EVOLVED. The men are actually MEN and there isn’t all of this immature banter going on between the males and females that makes me want to barf a little. Instead of feeling like I am reading a teen story, I feel like I am immersed in a true YA Fantasy series. HELL YES to that!

This installment of The Healer series starts out in 1000 A.D., where Hope is experiencing her first life as Princess Mikomi of the Kagami Empire. It has been prophesized that a Kami and a human woman will bear a child (Mikomi) that will be the key to healing the veil between the living and the dead. Once of age, Mikomi is meant to marry Masaru Katsu, Warrior God and keeper of the Grass Cutter Sword, where they will combine as one to heal the veil and save everyone…blah, blah, blah…happily ever after. For Mikomi, this life isn’t at all what she wants for herself. She dreams of being able to choose her own destiny and make her own choices, which includes sneaking out of the palace and healing villagers in secret.

Eventually circumstances land Mikomi in a position to help rebel armies overthrow her father, the Emperor. Now, in her defense, the Emperor is a Grade A Asshole. Not only is he power hungry and ruthless, but he uses Mikomi’s healing abilities to suit his own needs by interrogating rebels. He has no respect for human life, so you know…off with his head. As Mikomi begins to aid the rebels in healings, she also insists upon being trained in combat so that she is able to take care or herself and her loved ones. Enter: Musubi.

Now Musubi is an interesting fellow. Tall, brooding, cold, mysterious…a real prick. But a dreamy one at that! This guy is the epitome of SUH-WOON! Not only does he have a menagerie of secrets that he is hiding, but the reader just can’t help but fall in love with him. I mean come on, I’m in love with him.  The relationship between Mikomi and Musubi is gut-wrenching and heartbreaking, hopeful and delicate, but actually plain confusing and aggravating. There is an OBVIOUS connection between the two, but past circumstances have made Musubi cold and closed-off from his feelings. Every time Mikomi begins to break through his walls, Musubi adds more bricks. With Katsu, Mikomi’s betrothed, added into the mix, things really start to get interesting. HELLO LOVE TRIANGLE! We begin to see Mikomi struggle to do what is expected of her, and what she wants for herself. It truly is a hard thing to witness and I can’t help but give this character major props for being such a resilient little badass. The question of the century for her is simply this: which path is the right path?

I don’t want to give too much more away, but I think that will give you guys a great idea of what to expect from this book and the one following. The world that this author creates is detailed and dangerous, and it becomes a story that you just can’t imagine putting down. I am ENRAPTURED with these characters and the ride that I am being taken on. I am in the middle of the next installment, The Grass Cutter Sword, and I can barely describe to you how this author is making my heart feel! I feel sick and elated, but mostly full of hope. I know that there is SO much more turmoil and depressing events to come, and I am preparing myself now for some heartbreak. I am so glad that this series has turned into something SO much more than I had expected. This is truly a winner for me.

Book two is going to leave you with a bit of a cliffhanger, so have number three on hand so that you can dive in right away. Trust me, you’re going to need it. Good luck readers, this one is going to make you go crazy!

5-stars

 

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Book Review: The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

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Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing, via NetGalley for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Teen, Fiction, Fantasy

Plot: Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…

Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town.

Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into.

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.

But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.

Opinion:

Witch hunts, romance, drownings, and the ever-lovely rocks being tied to boots to make 3 women sink to the bottom of the ocean; this one’s a doozy.

For my fellow spell casting witches and wizards, I bring you The Wicked Deep.

Every Summer in the town of Sparrow, death marks the waters. Multiple young men are found drowned in the ocean, without any sign of a struggle or foul play. But the residents and tourists of Sparrow are never shocked, because they celebrate this time of year as part of their towns history. As the legend goes, the three Swan sisters (Marguerite, Aurora and Hazel) traveled to Sparrow by boat in 1822 and started a perfume shop. Quickly, the local men started to take interest in the sisters due to their intoxicating beauty and allure. But soon the three sisters were accused of being witches and casting spells on the men of Sparrow. So, the three were taken on a boat with rocks tied to their boots and thrown into the ocean where they drowned. Now in present times, Penny Talbot fears the coming of the new “Swan Season”. Her mothers condition has worsened due to the disappearance of her father 3 years earlier, and Penny only hopes that the deaths stop in Sparrow. But with the arrival of a boy named Bo, this Summer proves to be something else entirely.

Guys, this book is WILD! It has an even pace throughout and it kept me CRAZY interested the entire time, but the best part is the twist that Shea Ernshaw throws in! I will admit that I suspected at least part of what happened, but this author took it a step further and left me more than a little shocked.  The entire idea of this story feels very HOCUS POCUS, but with a style all its own. We’re talking some SCI-FI/Fantasy stuff here guys, and I am loving it! I also want to say that there is a bit of a mystery going on here that the reader gets to participate in. Are the legends true? If they aren’t, then why are girls randomly drowning boys? If they are true, how is that even possible?!

Penny Talbot is a tough character for me to give an opinion on, and after reading this story, you will understand why. From what I have gathered of her, she is a calculated and careful young girl. She is compassionate towards her mother and the state that she has left herself in, but she still has dreams to leave Sparrow. I really liked the character of Bo as well. He has a dark aura of mystery floating around him for a while, but he slowly starts to shed that as he gets to know Penny. Their relationship is…*sigh*…so complicated. It is incredibly hard to elaborate with out spilling the beans of the masterpiece that is this story. So trust me when I say, this romance is a heavy one.

The author made sure to keep my head going in multiple directions as I tried to figure out just WHAT THE HELL was going on in this town of Sparrow. It was so eerie yet entertaining to see all of these teenager’s party down at the beach as the Swan Season began, bating and teasing the girls to go into the water to be inhabited by a sister. This made me assume that most of the locals didn’t believe in the legend…but then. The witch hunt begins. These kids are INSANE. They accuse each other of being a swan sister and for drowning a boy, and then they hold each other captive. What’s worse is that the local police don’t do anything. That’s BIZARRE! I also liked that Penny and her mother lived on a separate section of Sparrow. At first, I was picturing a beautiful mountain range and cliffs with an inviting private dock, but then I was picturing a dark and scary setting straight out of Frankenstein.

I don’t want to give anything away because that would ruin the entire story, but I MUST express my distaste for that ending. It was an ending that we have all come to as readers, one that screams “I had no idea how to wrap this story up”. How Penny and Bo end up is just bizarre to me, but I guess to Penny it wouldn’t be considering the circumstances (I know this is painfully cryptic, I apologize). Regardless…the ending feels like a lie, and I loathe it. Also, these are teenagers. I know Penny’s mother is a little out of it since her father left, but honestly. Where is she every time Bo and Penny start hooking up?! Her senses are obviously off…

Apart from the ending, I loved this story. I thought the story line and the characters were riveting, the flashbacks to parts of the Swan Sisters time in Sparrow gave great insight, and the dark and eerie foreboding the author kept up during the read kept me slightly creeped out (in a good way). I love when a story keeps me guessing and questioning what I think will happen. Though some things were explained a bit too late, I was still able to keep up and enjoy every moment. I am definitely going to keep this author on my radar, especially if she keeps with this witchy theme!

4-stars

 

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Book Review: Along the Indigo by Elsie Chapman

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Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, ABRAMS Kids, via NetGalley for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Teen, Fiction

Plot: The town of Glory is famous for two things: businesses that front for seedy, if not illegal, enterprises and the suicides that happen along the Indigo River. Marsden is desperate to escape the “bed-and-breakfast” where her mother works as a prostitute—and where her own fate has been decided—and she wants to give her little sister a better life. But escape means money, which leads Mars to skimming the bodies that show up along the Indigo River. It’s there that she runs into Jude, who has secrets of his own and whose brother’s suicide may be linked to Mars’s own sordid family history. As they grow closer, the two unearth secrets that could allow them to move forward . . . or chain them to the Indigo forever.

Opinion:

Hookers, suicide, and skimmingoh my!

Along the Indigo: A tale so doused in grittiness, it almost feels lighthearted.

A book set in present times with a town that feels stuck in the 1800’s. There is romance, there is death, and you can bet your bottom dollar there is a whole lot of detail just DRIPPING in “oh yikes”. It might just be the most depressing book that will make you weirdly happy and overjoyed.

Emotionally confused? Perfect, you’ll fit right in here.

Sixteen-year-old Marsden wants nothing more than to leave her cursed town, Glory, and to start a new life with her little sister Wynn. Living in a boarding house that provides extra services to “Johns”, Marsden works as a cook in the kitchens while her mother serves as one of the prostitutes. Now that Marsden is getting older, the boarding house owner (Nina) is taking an interest in Marsden and trying to recruit her to become one of her “girls”. But Marsden only wants to get out of Glory, and the only way she can do that is by skimming. Down from the boarding house lies the covert, a piece of land that is believed to be cursed after her great-great-grandfather murdered his family before pulling the gun on himself. Now the covert is a place the locals go to commit suicide, and Marsden and her family are looked upon by the residents of Glory as lepers. Marsden walks the covert every morning in search of bodies, and upon finding one, she will take whatever money she can find before reporting the body. But the newest body she comes across is the brother of one of her classmates, who shows up at Marsden’s door one day with an interesting request.

Weirded out by that description? Good! I assure you, this is a strange story and I don’t blame you for thinking wtf. Maybe I’m just a creepy little woman-child, but I live for these abnormal stories. So when I saw this on Netgalley I thought this book looks like a winner, and low and behold, I was right as usual. Although I am seeing mixed reviews on it because some readers can’t get past that little ol’ “prostitute” thing, and I wrote prostitute as “prostitute” because come on guys…she’s just a prostitute. I am here to calm your sensitive nerves to tell you this, there is a YA/Teen story okay? You won’t be getting any graphic prostitute moments, I promise. These are nice prostitutes. Some of the best, I’m sure.

anyways

This story really isn’t as bizarre as it sounds. To be completely honest, it’s one of the best stand-alone stories I have read in a LONG TIME. It’s different, it’s dark, but it’s lined with a sunshiny innocence that makes it feel…normal? Yes, normal. Elsie Chapman has a gift, and that gift is that she can make weird ass s**t seem completely casual. My first impression about a chapter or two into Along the Indigo, was that it felt as if it as written YEARS ago. Though it is set in present times, I couldn’t help but imagine Marsden in a ratty white dress living in a house full of women in corsets and bustle skirts. I loved that I got this impression though because it made the grittiness of the events so much more sinful. I kept picturing an old ghost town with a crooked sheriff and handsy old drunk men stumbling out of the local saloon. If that’s too inconceivable, think To Kill A Mockingbird…that actually makes more sense.

Marsden Eldridge is the main character, and MY OH MY has that girl had a rough life. Not only does everyone (including her own family) think that the covert and the Eldridge family is cursed, but they are also treated like they don’t exist. Nobody in town will hire them, which is why Marsden’s mother works as a prostitute for Nina. Eight years prior, Marsden’s father was found in the Indigo and it was reported that he drowned on his way home from gambling one night. Now Marsden’s only goal is to save enough money to get her and her sister Wynn out of Glory, in hopes that they can start fresh. Skimming bodies is how Mars makes most of her money, and it is a task she has been doing for years. It is a truly dark and heartbreaking thing to witness through the eyes of Mars, and you can’t help but still love her…even though she’s stealing money from dead bodies.

One of the newest bodies that Mars comes across is a young man named Rigby, who is the older brother of one of her classmates, Jude. After his death, Jude shows up at the boarding house in search of Marsden with a strange request. He suspects that Rigby had buried something in the covert as a child, and he wants permission from Marsden to go into the covert to find it. Here begins a complicated friendship and romance. I adore Jude and Mars. Jude is incredibly sweet and caring towards her, and their relationship is very unique and special.

I don’t want to give too much away, so I’m going to stop right there. I have seen a lot of mixed feeling, on this story, but I personally loved it and couldn’t put it down. It is SUCH an interesting story with so many layers and emotions packed into it. Though so much of what happens feels crazy and abnormal, the author does a wonderful job of making sure the reader can relate to Mars and her family. If you guys have liked some of the weirder books that I have reviewed, you MUST read Along the Indigo. This story leaves you in a twisted dreamlike state that can only be described as “comparable to seeing your ex get lit on fire. Kind of sad and scary, but mostly pretty f*****g enjoyable”.

5-stars

 

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Book Review: Mother of Shadows (The Chosen Book 1) by Meg Anne

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*WARNING: Strong sexual and mature content*

Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of this book by the author, Meg Anne, for an honest review

Genre: Fiction/YA/Adult/Fantasy

Plot: Helena’s life had always been quiet. In fact, she liked it that way. When her childhood friend returns home and tells her that she is the prophesied ruler of the Chosen, those blessed with the gift of magic, her quiet life goes up in flames. Suddenly Helena finds herself surrounded by a circle of protectors, each having sworn their loyalty to her since her birth. All except for one: her Mate. It’s not enough that she learn how to use her magic and undergo a trial to prove her worthiness; in order to claim her title, Helena must also find the man who carries the other half of her soul. Exiled due to a past he had no part in, Von is the last man the Chosen expect Helena to select. Despite their protests, his soul calls to hers and there’s no denying that he was made for her. But the prophecy stands and all isn’t as it seems. There’s an enemy lurking within plain sight who will stop at nothing to destroy her.

Opinion:

*Ding ding ding*…. Addiction alert!

This series…is like a Cheez-it, a salt and vinegar chip, a girl scout cookie, a Hersey’s Kiss! YOU CAN’T HAVE JUST ONE! You can’t just read a few chapters and put this book down, you MUST devour the entire story in one sitting! I love a fantasy story where a female lead is a complete and total badass in a fight., but I REALLY love when that same female turns into an all-powerful demonic queen (for good of course). You go girl!

A prophecy has been foretold that a Damaskiri would rise and become the most powerful of all magical beings, even more so than the first of the Chosen. But with the acceptance of her title as ruler, the Shadow Years would begin, and her true power would be tested. Those gifted in magic may wield one, and sometimes more, of the branches; Earth, Water, Fire and Air. But only the Damaskiri may wield magic of the Spirit branch, thus making her the strongest of all the mother’s chosen.

Helena has spent the last 20 years believing that she was one of the few who were born without magic, an ungifted, and in turn living a simple and quiet life. But the return of an old friend brings shocking news; Helena is the Damaskiri and she was hidden away at birth in order to keep her soul pure and innocent. Now with her new title, Helena is thrust into a world where she carries the weight of so many on her shoulders. Only she can keep the darkness from touching the lives of those she cares about, but only if she is able to keep the darkness from reaching her soul.

Dedication for every girl that still carries a dream in her heart, this one is for you.

-Meg Anne, Dedication – Mother of Shadows

This series feels a little bit like Throne of Glass and a little bit like Sowing by Angie Grigaliunas but is a unique and interesting series all on its own. The idea for this series is really creative, and for some reason I am all about a series with a prophecy lately. Helena is in her 20’s and is told by her childhood friend Darrin that she is now the Damaskiri, who is the ruler and most powerful of magical beings. She is taken into the palace and thrown into lessons, given a circle of men who are her protectors and advisors, and must find a mate.

Oh yes, you heard me! A mate! Enter: Von. Von is that male character we all know and love. The ginormous brooding warrior who has a bad reputation and a sarcastic attitude. I love the introduction to his character, which is at this festival where any male may come forward and present Helena with a gift in an attempt to be her mate. As soon as Helena meets Von there is an instant connection between them, but I thought their relationship went WAY too fast. I understand that their souls instantly recognized each other, but where was the “getting to know each other” stage? I would have preferred the beginning stages to have been stretched out a bit more, but what can you do. I adore Von, especially because he had such a terrible reputation at the beginning. Not to mention he is a fierce warrior and extremely gentle with Helena.

“Smiling to herself, Helena closed her eyes and wondered how anyone would think Von was heartless. ‘Because I was until I found you.’”

From the beginning of the story, the author does a series of “switch backs” from the present to past moments. She executed them well and there wasn’t any confusion for me, even though the “switch backs” were only separated by a new paragraph. I did find the first part of this story to be a bit confusing though, in that the author doesn’t explain the Damaskiri and the chosen all that well until later. It’s one of those things where you must keep reading to figure out what everything means, but you eventually pick it up. The MOST confusing for me however, was the lack of indication for how much time was passing. Between Darrin telling Helena that she is the next Damaskiri and her trial to see if she is worthy, I literally have NO CLUE how much time has passed.

There also wasn’t a lot of moments for the reader to see Helena training and learning about her abilities and how to act now that she is basically Queen. The reader is sort of just told that she is learning things. Due to the speedy nature of this book, I am left feeling a bit disconnected from the characters. I would have liked to have a bigger idea of who Helena and Von really are by seeing their interactions more, not just being told by the author what their traits are. Furthermore, where exactly is this place located? Are we in another world? Another time? I can’t even recall if a city or kingdom name was ever mentioned.

Though these things were a bit annoying to me, in the end they really don’t hinder my opinion of the story all that much. Where the author lacks in a bit of extra explaining, she fully makes up for it with where she takes this story. I never once found myself bored or uninterested in what was happening, which I find is VERY hard for an author to do. As Helena starts to become stronger and take on her role as the Damaskiri, a lot of sinister moments begin to happen that jeopardizes her people and her relationships. Eventually Helena and her circle, Von and his warriors, and a smattering of others travel to Von’s home. On this journey, this story REALLY begins to form. There is some EPIC battles and the reader gets a glimpse into what Helena can really do with her magic. Mark my words guys, you don’t want to cross this woman when she’s angry. YIKES. In the major battle that happens the reader is introduced to Shadows, which is a corrupted spirit of a chosen. By this point, the reader is subjected to a lot of death and darkness…and it is gripping!

I don’t want to give too much away, but this story leaves you with a HUGE cliffhanger. UGH…what a way to leave the reader (well done Meg). Overall, I really loved the first book in this series. Though I had a few issues with it, I was able to look past them easily and really enjoy the story the author created. There is magic, battles, romance and a TON of witty comments in this story. I found myself laughing constantly from the things these characters would say to each other. With that, I leave you with one:

“Twisting his head, he pressed a tender kiss into the palm of her hand. Eyes closing at the contact, she savored the feel of his lips against her skin. As her hand lowered, her fingers curled into a loose fist.

‘I think I’ll save that for later.’

His lips quirked in amusement, ‘And why’s that?’

‘Just to remember what it feels like to have you eating out of the palm of my hand.’”

4-stars

 

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Book Review: Manipulated Lives by H.A. Leuschel

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Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author, H.A. Leuschel, for an honest review.

Genre: Short Story/Fiction

Plot:

Five stories – Five Lives

Have you ever felt confused or at a loss for words in front of a spouse, colleague or parent, to the extent that you have felt inadequate or, worse, a failure? Do you ever wonder why someone close to you seems to endure humiliation without resistance?

Manipulators are everywhere. At first these devious and calculating people can be hard to spot, because that is their way. They are often masters of disguise: witty, disarming, even charming in public – tricks to snare their prey – but then they revert to their true self of being controlling and angry in private. Their main aim: to dominate and use others to satisfy their needs, with a complete lack of compassion and empathy for their victim.

In this collection of short novellas, you meet people like you and me, intent on living happy lives, yet each of them, in one way or another, is caught up and damaged by a manipulative individual. First you meet Tess, whose past is haunted by a wrong decision, then young, successful and well-balanced Sophie, who is drawn into the life of a little boy and his troubled father. Next, there is teenage Holly, who is intent on making a better life for herself, followed by a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Lastly, there is Lisa, who has to face a parent’s biggest regret. All stories highlight to what extent abusive manipulation can distort lives and threaten our very feeling of self-worth.

Opinion: Hello readers, today I bring you a collection of short stories! Manipulated Lives showcases five different stories, with each story portraying a different form of manipulation. The reader is introduced to five characters who either come in contact with a manipulative person or prove to be the manipulator themselves.

The first story is called Tess and Tattoos and focuses on an elderly woman named Tess who resides in an “old folks home”. Tess is a very kind and artistic person and yearns for company and affection from others. As Tess forms a friendship with one of the staff members, she begins to open up about her past and an abusive relationship. I found Tess and Tattoos to be an uplifting and hopeful story about friendship and acceptance. Tess was a very gentle character who had been manipulated when she was younger into staying in an abusive relationship. Though this story is about how Tess was manipulated by another, I found that Tess even had her own forms of manipulation that were more positive. She would do small things in the mornings of her assisted living home to receive extra attention from staff, and this COMPLETELY pulled on my heartstrings. I think this is a FANTASTIC example of how manipulation doesn’t always have to be negative either.

The second story is called The Spell and is one of the longer short stories in the collection. It is about a woman named Sophie who meets a young boy named Leo and forms an instant kinship with him. Soon after Sophie meets Leo’s father (David) and they begin to date. Sophie becomes a mother figure for Leo, as his mother is out of the picture. David explains that Leo’s mother was a horrible and manipulative woman, and was put into a mental hospital years before. The Spell is interesting because there are two manipulators that come into Sophie’s life. One more obvious than the other. I found this dynamic to be very interesting, and it proves how hard it is to know when someone is manipulating you. Like Sophie, I am still not quite sure who was telling the truth by the end of this story. And like life, sometimes you never really know.

The third story, Runaway Girl, really hits home for me. This story was the one I really connected with, and it left my heart aching quite a bit after reading it. It follows a sixteen-year-old named Holly who is saving up every penny she has in order to run away to Scotland to live with distant family. One day at school, a boy named Luke starts to show interest in Holly. At first Luke is charming and caring with Holly, but that quickly changes. He begins taking advantage of her for her money, and smoothly talks his way out of things to continue manipulating her. I was once a Holly, so this story really resonated with me. It saddens me that this sort of thing happens a lot to young girls and women, and that so many boys/men can get away with it. I adore the ending and the strength Holly has, you go girl!

The Narcissist is the fourth story in this collection, and a great example of another type of manipulator. In this case, the character the reader follows is the manipulative person. The reader is introduced to an old man in a hospital who is dying and is having a hard time remembering his life due to his medical condition. Eventually, the reader learns that this man has been manipulating people his entire life in order to get himself ahead. He lived a double life and challenged and mocked anyone who tried to tell him he was wrong or incapable of something. In the end, he does something horrible which leads him to dying alone. This story ends on a sad note where I wished that the main character could have realized things sooner. Karma, karma, karma.

The last story is The Perfect Child and is about a woman who coddles and gives way too much to her child, and the repercussions of doing so. This mother spends most of her life making excuses for her “perfect child” by blaming others for his faults and insisting that he does no wrong. This obviously teaches her child how to manipulate others for his advantage, especially his mother. I know a mother and son just like these characters, and let me tell you, this author is SPOT ON. It is a great example of how a parent needs to be more objective and standoffish with certain things when it comes to raising their kids, in order to teach them right from wrong. After all, there is no such thing as a perfect child.

Go out and get this story guys, the writing is descriptive and paints a beautiful picture for the reader to get lost in. I think anyone can connect with at least one story in this book, and hopefully it can bring clarity to your personal life. I am so glad to have read Manipulated Lives, and so grateful for the author for reaching out to me. I think this is a great story for all ages to read, because it can teach everyone something different. I strongly urge you to read this, and if not you, your friends or kids! There are so many important lessons in these stories. I wish someone would have given me this book years ago. It is something EVERYONE should read!

5-stars

 

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Book Review: A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

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Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing, via NetGalley for an honest review.

Genre: Teen & YA/Coming-of-Age/Fiction

Plot:

Steffi doesn’t talk, but she has so much to say.
Rhys can’t hear, but he can listen.

Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life. The condition’s name has always felt ironic to her, because she certainly does not “select” not to speak. In fact, she would give anything to be able to speak as easily and often as everyone around her can. She suffers from crippling anxiety, and uncontrollably, in most situations simply can’t open her mouth to get out the words.

Steffi’s been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He’s deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she’s assigned to help him acclimate. To Rhys, it doesn’t matter that Steffi doesn’t talk. As they find ways to communicate, Steffi discovers that she does have a voice, and that she’s falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it. But as she starts to overcome a lifelong challenge, she’ll soon confront questions about the nature of her own identity and the very essence of what it is to know another person.

Opinion:

A Quiet Kind of Thunder is a refreshingly different sort of story that centers on two young teens. After stumbling upon this story on NetGalley and liking the description that was provided, I requested it with an excitement to see what I would be getting into. I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. This story feels genuine and realistic, and there is an innocence around it that hugs the reader until the end.

For years Steffi has lived with a crippling anxiety that has ruled her life. Her social anxiety has caused her to become a selective mute, and she is only able to speak freely and comfortably around her family and best friend. At school the teachers are understanding to Steffi’s situation, and it allows Steffi to sink into the shadows and become invisible to her peers. But when a new boy enters her school, Steffi realizes that she might not be as invisible as she thought. Rhys transfers to Steffi’s school in the hopes of having a more normal school experience, even though his hearing impairment requires special attention from teachers. Together Rhys and Steffi find common ground by way of communicating through sign language and form an instant friendship. As they grow closer and a relationship begins to form, Steffi notices herself starting to change for the better. A Quiet Kind of Thunder showcases the hardships two teens face as they navigate through school and personal relationships, while also learning how to adapt themselves into a normal way of life.

I found A Quiet Kind of Thunder to be a very unique and endearing YA story. I found Steffi’s situation to be VERY interesting…a selective mute? WHAT?! Steffi explains that she is psychically able to speak, but her social anxiety and fears make it hard for her to form sentences as easily as others do. Due to her having a hard time communicating in front of her peers, she chooses to be mute in public and at school. The reader catches up with Steffi as she starts her first year of school without her best friend by her side, which means she doesn’t have an ally or someone to talk freely to. But when Rhys comes along and her learns that she knows sign language, they form an instant friendship and understanding.

This story really gives the reader an inside look into what it is like for teens with hearing and speaking impairments. For Steffi, her parents explain to her how hard it’s going to be to go to University and to have a life on her own when she is unable to communicate with others. For Rhys, the reader sees that a lot of times he gets lost in translation if he is unable to read lips or if someone isn’t speaking in front of him. It made me much more aware of both conditions and made me realize how much we take for granted on a daily basis.

In regards to the writing and story, I found Steffi to be very mature for her age…but maybe even, too mature? I found her speaking to be very eloquent and beyond her years, which made me feel that it was a bit unbelievable. I also found the characters of Rhys and Steffi to be a little too positive and peppy. Obviously, I am not saying that these two should be depressed and sulky! I just thought that their characters were very fluffed and over-the-top with how perky they were. The manner in which they spoke was very formal, and it makes them feel a bit detached from their emotions. These are teenagers, not adult acquaintances! It felt a bit too “cookie cutter” for me, and it made me not connect with them as much as I would have liked. This was bothering me a lot while reading and is a reason why I didn’t fall 100% in love with the story.

The plot was entertaining, and I liked where the author went with the relationship between Rhys and Steffi. Their conditions put stress on their relationship and the relationships around them, and I thought the author showcased these hardships effectively. It was empowering to watch Steffi grow and begin to succeed. The dynamic of how it affected Rhys was something that any couple could relate to, and I began to really feel for his character in that sense. These conditions can make a person feel very alone and isolated unintentionally, and it was sad to see Rhys begin to feel defeated.

Overall, I enjoyed this read but I didn’t love it. It was even-paced, keeps the readers attention, and is entertaining and informative. In the end, I wanted a little more grit and raw truth from these characters. That being said, I think this might be aimed at a younger audience. Though this won’t be one of those books that I put on my “Have to Read Again” shelf, I still found it to be a sweet story that had a strong amount of innocence.

3-5-stars

 

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