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Book Review: Dead Dog (Zombie Dog Series, Book 2) by Doug Goodman

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

Genre: Fiction/Horror/Suspense

Plot: He couldn’t run anymore. He was just too tired. And the undead were getting closer. He wondered how long he could survive in the desert heat? His only hope for being found was a woman from halfway across the country and her uniquely talented dog, Murder.

For Angie Graves, hunting the dead was nothing new. She’d hunted them from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the bayous of Houston. But this vast national park the size of Rhode Island? The task seemed impossible. The scents were vanishing. Could Murder find the undead in time? Could she trust her dog?

Opinion:

Trust your dog. Trust your dog. Trust your dog. But never trust a zombie.”

Angie Graves, The Zombie Dog’s Handbook

These isn’t your regular zombie story.

It was in Colorado that Angie first came across a zombie when she was working on a case with one of her Cadaver Dogs, a dog that finds corpses. Nothing could have been more disturbing and grotesque to find that giant wasps had embedded themselves into the skulls of humans, in order to feed on other humans and reproduce. But after a dangerous search in the Colorado wildfires ended in the retrieval of a young girl, the services of Angie and her zombie tracking dog Murder are in high demand. With the outbreak of zombies in Harris county making Houston “Ground Zero”, Angie and her faithful dog are enlisted to help Harris County Wasp Control Unit in eradicating the threat. But a new group called the Missing Lone Stars who have come to Houston in order to help the zombie problem, succeed more in making a spectacle of it and Angie’s work. To make matters worse, a young park ranger frantically comes to Angie in need of dire assistance. He claims that a zombie is in the Big Bend National Park, though it seems impossible that one would have made it so far. But when a young hiker’s life is on the line in Big Bend, Angie makes the decision to change course. Now Angie must depend on Murder to find the trail to the zombies, and to a hopefully still alive hiker.

BEFORE YOU GO ANY FURTHER, be sure to read my review for book of the Zombie Dog Series, Cadaver Dog.

It has been a LONG while since I have had the immense pleasure of following Angie and Murder into the depths of zombie hell! But might I say you guys, it is GOOD to be back. Now let’s first begin with why I love this author, Doug Goodman, so much. I first read Cadaver Dog, book one in this series, back in 2015. So naturally, when I picked up Dead Dog and was about to begin my glorious descent into horror oblivion, I suddenly panicked at the thought that I may need a refresher of what happened! But to my wondrous surprise that included a loud “HAH!” from me, Doug did what no author I had read before or after him had done before.

He put the most beautifully, depressing and haunting dedication I have ever seen.

And then, he put in a recap of book one. Without having to even be asked.

Doug, you amazing man!

So since I was able to jump right into this story, let’s do the same! Our main characters are of course Angie and Murder. Angie has most of her experience in training dogs to find dead bodies, a skill she uses to help find missing people or to solve cases for the police. She is a saucy young woman who has a love for dogs, and a tolerance for her fellow people. Murder is a dog Angie had found abandoned and half dead on the side of the road, having gained his name by being almost eaten alive by a murder of crows. After one of Angie’s cases leads to the discovery of zombies, her services swiftly change and she begins training Murder to track zombies.

But these zombies, are so NOT your regular zombies! Sure. They walk around like gurgling drunk college students, and yes, they like to eat other people. BUT. These zombies are controlled by giant wasps that have attached themselves to the back of their skulls. These things use their giant stingers, insert them in the back of the head to control the body, and just have them walking around finding other humans to gnaw on! To make it slightly more disgusting, inserting those stingers is ALSO how they reproduce

I’ll let that sink in.

Go ahead and vomit a little, I can wait.

Usually I would find myself a tad bored following characters into forests and foliage while they follow scents and tracks. But Dead Dog makes it impossible to get bored or lose interest. There is CONSTANT excitement, turmoil and danger around ever corner. I found myself in a constant state of anxiety while reading, because I was expecting a wasp stinger to come out of nowhere and attack someone’s face! Thankfully, I can report that a stinger to the face doesn’t happen…*gag*. But with a new adventure, comes new characters! A few saucy volunteers, some entertaining park rangers, and even a haughty woman hell-bent on ruining Angie’s career for no apparent reason! OH! Happy day. Our story really picks up when new main character, Tyler, arrives on Angie’s doorstep. Tyler is a young Park Ranger who thinks that zombies may have infiltrated the Big Bend National Park after stumbling upon a dog that was practically ripped apart. His character is quick and intuitive, and I find him to be a great match to work with Angie and Murder. He proves to be an extreme asset to their team when they go out searching for zombies in Big Bend, and he inspires some touching and special moments with our usually tough and closed-off Angie.

“The great big, blue, cloudless sky rained heat down on his isolated hell. He was ostracized by fate and nature’s cruel designs from the world. From technology. From his loved ones.”

But as always, the real gem of these stories by Doug  Goodman is the writing. This author has a true knack for writing a detailed story that the reader feels almost trapped in, but ensures the reader won’t feel confused or overwhelmed in by too much wording. There is one chapter in particular that comes to mind, and it is when our lost hiker is stumbling through Big Bend. He has been lost for days, is being followed by zombies, and quite frankly having one hell of a mind trip. It isn’t a long chapter, just about two pages of hallucinations and sadness. But after I read it I put my book down, blew out a deep breath, and just said “well s**t”.

“By nightfall, he had crossed a desert of sand and stone. He stopped to pull a needle out of his boot, but found that it had impaled his toe. He was bleeding now. He hoped that didn’t attract coyotes, but more importantly, he wanted to drink his blood. It glistened like water. He knew it was a messed up idea. But there it was. Drink your own blood.”

I obviously can’t give much more away about this fantastic follow up to Cadaver Dog, even though I could probably go on about it for another three pages. I am honored to be able to read and review these books for Doug, and to be able to share his amazing work with readers. I can only hope that there is plenty more of his writing in the future, and I cannot wait to get my hands on book three in this series. I HIGHLY recommend you guys try this series out. Even if the genre isn’t for you, the writing will hook you and make you obsessed. Trust me. I know these things.

5-stars

 

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Book Review: The Prophecy (The Healer, Book 4) 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: Armed with memories of her past life and the identity of her true soul mate, Hope is bound and determined to fulfill her destiny and heal the veil…on her own terms, that is. Unfortunately, Hope’s inability to play by the rules causes a rift in the group and discord with Tie. Dark forces are at work fighting to tear them apart, while Victor, Ms. Mori, and Dr. Fairmont attempt to understand Tie’s role in saving the world.

Hope’s inability to sense the veil, Angie’s visions of loved one’s deaths, Kirby’s vulnerability, and an unwanted bond with a dangerous kami are certain to prevent her from ending the conflict once and for all. The group needs answers found in an ancient prophecy and written in a language few understand.

And they have no idea where it is…

And Amatsu’s servants are hunting them…

And the veil is failing…

Opinion:

It has finally come: the end of the road. The last crumb of the pie. The last of the Mohicans.

(This has nothing to do with the Mohicans).

After a long and emotional tug of war between soulmates, centuries, Gods, demons and amnesia; the Prophecy Series has come to an end.

But to be honest, I am left feeling pretty disappointed by this installment.

With every bit of knowledge from her past life, and the dangers in her present, Hope has finally reunited with her soulmate and begun the task of healing the veil. But nothing ever comes easy for Hope. With the Black Blossom binding her to the demon God Amatsu, she struggles to fight against her forced feelings for the God of the underworld and her true feelings for the God of Marriage, Tie. But with the bond between Hope and Amatsu only growing stronger, Hope and her friends rush to find the prophecy in hopes of learning the true translation. Only with the prophecy will Hope and Tie have a chance at healing the veil and saving the world, which means they must travel back to where it all started. In Kagami.

This is the fourth book in The Healer series, so check out my reviews for Book 1 – The Healer, Book 2 – The Black Blossom and Book 3 – The Grass Cutter Sword!

Let me begin by saying how much I enjoyed reading this series. The entire storyline is creative, well developed, and extremely addicting. The separation between past and present lives is so eloquently laid out, and the movement of the story between 1000 A.D. to the present gives this series an extra layer of WOW. I truly commend this author for creating such an exciting and detailed world for us readers. Even though Kagami was a dangerous place for Hope, I couldn’t help but want to be there with Musubi and Victor. This series gave a mix of history into this well created fantasy story, while also showcasing some brilliant girl power and complete badassery by our female characters. My weakness is a strong and capable woman who can do anything, so thank you to the author for…mostly doing that.

I do however, have a few qualms with the last installment of this story. First is with Mikomi/Hope when it comes to her being this strong and fierce female character. In her first life she was Mikomi, and she was a princess of the Kagami empire in 1000 A.D. who was the prophesized Healer meant to heal the veil. This character was beaten by her father, forced to be meek and obedient due to her culture, and given nothing in terms of choices for her future. But was this girl weak, HELL NO. She had strong morals and a wicked sense of what she wanted for herself. She did what she wanted, regardless of the consequences or what path was set out for her. So why, pray tell, does she become such a doe-eyed, man-needing, pre-teen as Hope? It broke my heart a little to see her become this childish version of herself that NEEDED Tie so badly that she became less independent, and more DEPENDENT. Tie’s wishy-washy behavior of “I’ll fight for you” and “I’ll let you go” was nauseating. If he goes, LET HIM GO. BYE!! Heal that damn veil on your own girl, you got this! I know it was love that conquers all, and that was one of the message from this story, but the Tie meltdowns were making me wish Hope would just finish it. THANKFULLY, Angie was my saving grace for a female who doesn’t need a man to do anything.

The only other issue I have with The Prophecy is the reason that it took me so long to get through the last book of The Healer series. I had a hard time with the characters transitioning from their lives in 1000 A.D., to their lives in present times. It wasn’t exactly the flashbacks from then and now, because those were constructed perfectly. It seemed as if the characters went from being these strong and mature people, to immature adolescents. In Hope and Angie’s case, I could understand them acting a bit younger due to them ACTUALLY being teenagers. They had only just remembered their previous lives, so naturally the culture now will have made them a bit more…innocent and childish? Sure, I can get on board with that. Makes sense. But WHY are Victor and Tie acting this way? THESE GUYS ARE GODS WHO HAVE LIVED FOR CENTURIES. They literally went from being MEN to BOYS. Why is Bishu the only character that has kept his eloquent form of speaking, and why is he the only one that still holds himself like he’s had years upon years of walking this earth? This made it incredibly hard for me to read this last book in the series. It made these characters feel so transparent and ridiculous, which is the exact opposite of the people I knew them to be. Needless to say, I am more than a little bummed out about how they turned out.

But with my complaining of characters aside, a review of this story as a whole is what I am really trying to get to. Hope finds herself bound to the demon God Amatsu, with his darkness only growing stronger inside of her. The true question of this book is this: Can Hope overcome this binding and fight for what she really wants? Because that is the REAL question in this entire series isn’t it?! Mikomi and Hope have been suppressed and forced to do so many things through their lives, except choose their own fate. So gold star for that! The real PEARL of this story is Amatsu though. Move over Musubi, Amatsu is my new male love for The Healer series. What can I say? I love a bad boy! I love a hated character, especially one engulfed in darkness and bad decisions! SWOON! Thankfully my boy finds himself a happy ending, though it was a bit unexpected.

Lastly, I would like to comment on the battles and the imagination behind the place that Kagami had turned into. These battles are EPIC and there are a TON of them. Someone is constantly trying to kill Hope and her friends, and I have to be honest, I was feeling it. Demon cat-like creatures coming from the underworld trying to maul them? Um hello, sign me up! We even get to meet Bishu, a demon who was a God once upon a time who lives as a hell cat, but has a heart of gold! Aw. The world of Kagami is where this story really excels though. The trek to Hope’s former home is a dangerous one, and the forest they travel through is crawling with all sorts of dangers. Every aspect of this land can kill you, and everything is alive. This makes for an AMAZING and EXCITING adventure.

All in all, I did really enjoy this series. I was pretty disappointed with this book in regards to the characters, but the story makes up for it. I read a few other reviews from other readers who DO NOT share my opinions on the characters, so keep that in mind. These are just my feelings and observations. This is still an amazing and creative series, and I think it is well-worth any readers time.

3-stars

 

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Book Review: In the Company of Wolves (Of Witches and Werewolves, Book 2) by Cory Barclay

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

Genre: Fiction/Mystery/Thriller/Suspense/Supernatural/Adult

Plot: It’s 1592. Europe is in chaos. Religious factions have torn the region apart and witch-hunts have become a part of everyday life.

In the Company of Wolves follows three groups of travelers – a fearless female pirate roaming the North Sea, a priest and his wife escaping to England to avoid persecution, and a young thief from the slums of Germany looking for a better life. Each has a different reason for venturing out in such tumultuous times – fear, greed, family secrets.

Is the Werewolf of Bedburg still alive, roaming the countryside and killing innocent citizens? Many believe he’s still out there—that religious and political leaders have forsaken the truth in their cunning quest for power.

As each traveler searches for individual answers, these three seemingly separate stories converge in a place which may hold the key for them all. Based on true events involving one of the deadliest witch trials in European history, this tale of adventure, mystery, and the search for truth reminds us that, ultimately, no one is safe . . . in the company of wolves.

Opinion:

It’s September kids, and you know what that means! Eerie moonlight, creatures waking from the dead, torture chambers and stealing. Witch hunts and religious persecution, prostitutes and pirates. Poison, potions and pillaging!

Tis the season to be demented and murderous!

Welcome to Europe in 1592, where you can be burned alive for false accusations and having your own beliefs! Say hello to book 2 in the Of Witches and Werewolves series, In the Company of Wolves. OoOoOoOo…*dramatic fanning*…it’s gunna be a whirlwind!

With Europe in a religious tug of war for control and regular accusations of witchcraft and sorcery, no one is safe. Sybil Griswold and her husband Dieter have fled to England with their family, in hopes of starting a new life after escaping jail and killing a man. Hot on their trail is Gustav Koehler, a man hellbent on avenging the brother that Dieter killed and bringing Sybil and her family to trial. Back in Germany is Hugo, the younger brother of Sybil, who was left an orphan after the wrongful conviction of their father Peter Griswold, who was accused of being the Werewolf of Bedburg. Now living as a petty thief, Hugo’s life begins down a dark path as he is thrust into the throngs of murder and manipulation. Across the sea, we come to a ship called The Lion’s Pride. Rowaine Donnelly has just assumed the role of captain after castrating her predecessor, all the while searching for her father that is thought to be dead. Though living separate lives, these people are more intertwined in their own pasts and futures than they realize. Through turmoil and murder they are forced to trek in order to meet their goals, while learning more about themselves than they knew, along the way.

Due to this being the second book in the series, and the reader needing to read book one to know what’s happening, please see my review HERE to see how this series begins.

When I read The Devil in the Countryside I must admit, I was a bit apprehensive. Usually religious driven historical fictions are NOT my cup of tea, but as I started reading…I got HOOKED. Cory Barclay has such a talent from writing descriptive and “old-timey” stories that have a little fact twisted into every bit of fantasy he throws at the reader. With no surprise on my end, he did a fabulous job extending this addicting story with In the Company of Wolves. This series truly has what every dark mystery needs. It’s a who-done-it with carnage, accusations of sorcery, pirates, thieves, religious turmoil, shocking twists and a touch of romance. A ton of blood will be spilled during this read, but never fear, it isn’t THAT graphic.

Sybil and Dieter have started a new life in England, with the hopes of practicing Dieter’s newly shaped faith by means of a new church. They have made new friends and work towards living a simple life in peace, but that of course isn’t going to happen to these poor characters. Enter: Gustav Khoeler. Gustav has been tracking the couple for some time, unbeknownst to them, seeking revenge for the death of his brother Johannes. Gustav is a vile and disturbing character, and it seems that the crudest and most despicable acts happen in his company. Gustav is the true picture of a man that would do ANYTHING to get what he wants. By capturing the couple, Gustav plans to bring them to his father Ludwig Von Bergheim in Trier, where they will be put to trial and burned alive for their crimes. So ensues a chase, a capturing, another chase, and another capturing. Eventually running the group into a fearsome female pirate, by the name of Rowaine Donnelly.

Rowaine is a  truly fierce, empowered, and BADASS female. Not only does she castrate her own captain in order to take his place (yes, you read that correctly) but she has little to no fear and a whole lot of charm. Rowaine’s mission is to find her adoptive father, a man that is thought to be dead. Along the way she finds herself protecting Sybil and Dieter, who share various connections from their pasts. In agreement to help each other, Rowaine, Sybil and Dieter head back to Bedburg to find Rowaine’s long lost father. But being back in Bedburg is a risky place to be for Sybil and Dieter, considering they are still fugitives on the run. But what is interesting about the return to Bedburg, is that many characters from book one now believe that Sybil’s father WAS actually wrongfully labeled the Werewolf of Bedburg. Which of course continues the search for the real werewolf. Hmmmm….who done it, indeed.

While all this is happening, the reader also follows Hugo, Sybil’s younger brother that stayed behind in Bedburg. Hugo is by far my FAVORITE character this time around. He is young and fresh, but has a strong sense of morals and loyalty. But a few turn of events land Hugo in a place that he didn’t expect from himself, the apprentice to the torturer of Bedburg, the famous Ulrich. If there was a book based on Hugo’s travels alone, I would be on it before you could even give a release date. This kid has guts and spunk, and he will SHOCK you with what he does. He eventually ends up in the pit of this never-ending religious power struggle, and the role he takes on is an interesting one.

I feel like I am leaving you guys completely hanging here because there is SO much that happens in this story. There are some epic gun fights and show downs, especially near the end. There are new characters who make this story amazing, and some old ones who make it even better. Now this book focuses more on the select characters rather than the Werewolf of Bedburg, like in book one. But I imagine that book three will tie everything back together, giving the reader a nice assortment of both stories. I truly cannot express the level of writing and detail this author has given this series. Though it may feel like a long read, you will get hooked and won’t want to put the story down. This second installment has left me NEEDING to get my hands on book three, because I have to know what the author is going to me up with next!

5-stars

 

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Book Review: The Quantum Ghost by Johnathan Ballagh

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

Genre: Young Adult/Fiction/Fantasy/Science Fiction/Adventure

Plot: On a cold autumn night, twelve-year-old Remi Cobb makes a startling discovery—a mysterious object floating on the pond in her backyard. With no idea where it came from, or how it got there, Remi is compelled to unravel its secrets. Her quest for answers takes her on a perilous journey across realities, where she finds a crumbling world—and the dark forces behind its ruin. Here she learns the truth about her connection with the strange object, and of those that will stop at nothing to destroy them both. But even if she can find a way to survive, can she find a way home?

Opinion:

Advert:

Are all those fairy and assassin stories getting you down? Too much pumpkin juice in your mortal cup? Not enough A.I. in your glass palace?

WELL LOOK NO FURTHER!

A few 3D printers, alternate dimensions, and an absurd combination of 1’s and 0’s is all you need! Not sure if black holes and quantum physics is your thing?!?

NONSENSE!

The Quantum Ghost guar-an-tees a safe and reliable journey into another world, with the protection and guidance of a metal dog and a slightly amnesia ridden robot child.

CONCERNED? DON’T BE!

It’s ONLY the fate of a thirteen-year-old girl and an entire world in your hands! Yes, there may be a few virus ridden robots trying to kill you along the way, but that’s the fun part! Right?

Strap on those goggles and space boots kids, because we’re walking into another dimension.

AGAIN!

No “actual” or “official” guarantees of safe travel to another dimension have been made by this author.

Doctors orders have required thirteen-year-old Remi Cobb to be separated from friends and stuck in her house until she gets better. But a strange encounter one night by the pond in her backyard forces Remi out of her home, and into the depths of danger. After finding a strange orb and waking up unconscious outside with no memory of what happened, Remi begins receiving packages and instructions to build some type of machinery. To her surprise, this machinery turns out to be a robot that changes her life forever. Soon Remi finds herself in the company of a young girl named Nova, a metal dog named Achilles, and a young robot named AJ. On the run from infected robots called Leaks and a dangerous leader named Kore, Remi works to find a cure for the virus that is spreading across her new friend’s world.

Peel back my preferences and call me a traitor, but I think I just jumped ship from Faeries and magic to demon robots and coding.

In all my dizziest daydreams (that was a HARD HP reference guys, look alive) I never thought I would want two books to be made into films as badly as I NEED The Quantum Door and The Quantum Ghost to be. I am praying OBSESSIVELY to the Book Gods to make this happen, because I just can’t take it! I NEED to see this on the big screen. Now if you haven’t read my review for book one of this two-part series, The Quantum Door, click here and have yourself a lovely time. For those of you who HAVE read that review (you little overachievers) then you will know how much I adore Johnathan Ballagh’s writing and imagination. I have not come across many writers that can write a Fantasy/Sci-Fi story without it being the length of a textbook, but Johnathan knows just how to get to the readers to end without leaving them feeling rushed or confused.

So here’s the low down kids: There is a world, in an alternate universe, that is filled with robots called Artifex. These Artifex were created by humans, and ironically the advanced Artifex called the Elder Minds, were the cause of the demise of the humans on this planet (see book one for that story). But the “regular” Artifex adored humans and some even went a little crazy trying to imitate them and become them. But now a virus is spreading across this planet, infecting the Artifex by turning them into zombie robots, which are called Leaks. The only chance of their survival is a cure for the virus which entails the knowledge of the “Primer Code”, which very few know about. Enter: Remi.

Remi is a young girl with a mysterious sickness that has kept her at home for some time. She is a curious and smart character, and to say that she has gone a little stir-crazy is an understatement. For her to go from being bored out of her mind day by day, to finding a floating orb by her pond and then being shipped parts to build a robot is QUITE the change of events. Wouldn’t you say? Obviously, we can guess that this young girl is the key to the survival of the Artifex, and OH BOY is she!

But our main character doesn’t do this all on her own, she is accompanied by a few of my favorite characters from The Quantum Door. A fiery girl named Nova, a metal/robotic dog named Achilles, and a “child robot” named AJ. These characters, in my opinion, are what really holds these books together and makes them so enjoyable. Robots with very human-like mannerisms and thinking is a common concept, but Johnathan Ballagh has given it a twist by giving these robots depth and emotions. The contrast between all of them gives the stories a lot of layers, and the author does an amazing job of making the reader forget that they are reading dialogue between robots and not humans.

I think one of the best aspects of these books are the visuals the reader gets in their mind while reading. I felt like I was watching all of these moments play out, rather than just reading them on a page. I was transported to another world with these characters, and all I want is to go back and be with them. I can’t help myself, I feel a bit of loss finishing this story. But let’s also not forget how truly spectacular the three drawings that we are blessed with are:

This is one of those sequels that doesn’t make reading the first story a requirement, but it might be helpful to give the reader a bit of background. One of the greatest things about The Quantum Ghost is that it’s a new story with a new main character, but we still get to see some amazing people and robots from book one. The Quantum Ghost is another story that provides and epic adventure, and gives readers of all ages a feeling of wonder and endless possibilities. This story makes me feel nostalgic and like I am a child again, and that is really all that I can ask for in a book.

5-stars

 

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Book Review: Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

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Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Random House Children’s – Delacorte Press, via NetGalley for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Fantasy

Plot: Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. On that day, the Kaiser took Theodosia’s family, her land, and her name. Theo was crowned Ash Princess–a title of shame to bear in her new life as a prisoner.

For ten years Theo has been a captive in her own palace. She’s endured the relentless abuse and ridicule of the Kaiser and his court. She is powerless, surviving in her new world only by burying the girl she was deep inside.

Then, one night, the Kaiser forces her to do the unthinkable. With blood on her hands and all hope of reclaiming her throne lost, she realizes that surviving is no longer enough. But she does have a weapon: her mind is sharper than any sword. And power isn’t always won on the battlefield.

For ten years, the Ash Princess has seen her land pillaged and her people enslaved. That all ends here.

Opinion:

Though I DID read this MONTHS ago, I didn’t review it right away, which in turn has caused me to re-read it so that I could properly refresh myself.

So, my review for Ash Princess…better late than never, right?!

10 years ago, Princess Theodosia Eirene Houzzara’s country was invaded by the Kalovaxians. Her people were slaughtered and enslaved, her home overrun by her enemy, and her mother’s throat was slit before her eyes. Now at sixteen, Theodosia wears a new name, Thora the Ash Princess. She now lives among the people that brought destruction upon her kind, the Astreans, and endures torment and abuse to just live another day. But life as the Ash Princess doesn’t come without it’s catches. Her best friend is a Kalovaxian named Cress who is the daughter of the Theyn, the man that killed Theodosia’s mother; she is whipped and beaten by order of the Kaiser when rebel Astrean groups attack, and she is guarded at all times to ensure that she stays loyal to her enemy. But everything changes when the Kaiser forces Thora to kill a man from her childhood, a man loyal to her mother. Soon Thora finds herself in a position to strike against the Kaiser, and to exact revenge on the people that stole everything form her. But sometimes not everything is fair in love and war, and Theodosia must make a choice when it comes to what she thinks is right.

My mother was known as the Fire queen, regal and strong. But I am the Ash Princess, a living joke.” – Thora, Ash Princess

Okay guys, Check. This. Out.

If any of you know me, you know that I LOVE a great fantasy read about royals and a little bloodshed. It just makes my blood thrum with happiness! Ash Princess does just that by giving the reader a little romance, suspense, turmoil, a question of morals vs. karma, magic, and of course some killing to keep in interesting. This is definitely a story you will have no problem devouring and speeding through, but be warned that it might feel a little “young” depending on your age/preference (despite the killing, etc.) which I will get into in a moment.

Firstly, more about this story! Theodosia (Thora) is sixteen years old and living in her palace that the Kaiser and the Kalovaxians took over ten years prior. After Theodosia’s mother was killed, the Kaiser gave Theo the choice to die or live amongst her enemy. She chose to live, thus thrusting her into the lions’ den and leading a life pretending to hate her own people. The Kaiser is a brutal man who takes what he wants and has no remorse for what he does. He uses Theo as a tool against the Astreans by publicly whipping and beating Theo every time rebel groups try to fight against the Kalovaxians.

When the reader is first introduced to Theodosia, she is living as Thora the Ash Princess. Thora is a timid, meek and subservient girl. Her spirit is broken, and she seems to have given up on ever being rescued and freed from her cage. Though she does have a friend in the palace, Cress, it is still a friend she can’t speak freely to. She is forced to censor herself and put on an act to show the Kaiser that she is loyal to the Kalovaxians, and it is truly sad to read. But what I liked about Thora was that even when she had metaphorically locked Theodosia away, there were still moments where she showed the reader that she hadn’t completely lost herself.

‘“You requested my presence, your highness?” I ask, dropping into a curtsy so deep I am flat against the ground. Even after a decade, my bones still protest the posture. My body remembers-even when the rest of me forgets-that I am not made for curtsying.’ – Thora, Ash Princess

But after the Kaiser forces Thora to kill one of her own, things start to change drastically.  Thora finds herself among rebels that want to rescue her, but instead she makes the decision to stay and work as a spy. Now I can’t go in to too much more detail because I don’t want to give away the good stuff, but I CAN tell you guys about this little romance we have brewing!

Insert: A Love Triangle. Or…is it?

Soren, the Prinz of the Kalovaxians and the son of the cruel Kaiser. He has just come back from apprenticing under the Theyn for 5 years, and APPARENTLY he is a legendary and fierce warrior. Soren proves to be the opposite of his father, and seems like he might genuinely care about changing the world. Blaise is our other male in this triangle, and he is an Astrean who grew up with Theodosia. As part of the rebels plan for Theo, she must basically make the Prinz fall in love with her. Of course along the way some true feelings arise between Theo and the Prinz, but not without some moments happening between Theo and Blaise as well. I can honestly say guys, I am TORN on this one. Usually I ALWAYS favor one character over the other, but I don’t in this story! Will she choose Blaise? Will she choose Soren?? Well I don’t know, because the author left me with this annoyingly HUGE cliffhanger!

Now there is also some magic that is happening in this story. For the Astreans, Spritgems were sacred gems that made up the four elements: Fire, Air, Earth, Water. The gems would give the wielder an extra boost of power to use with their magical element, and were considered very sacred. A select few Astreans would spend years in temples praying to their gods in order to be blessed. Some would be blessed with powers and become guardians, while others would go mad. Once the Kalovaxians took over, they forced the remaining Astreans into the mines to mine for the Spiritgems, while disgracing their beliefs and using the gems as jewelry. Wicked, right? Of course, our poor Theo was forbidden to be around any sort of gems. But if you are wondering why this poor girl is called the “Ash Princess”, the obvious reason is this: the Kaiser forces Thora to wear a crown of ashes every time they throw a party. Now if that isn’t the most legendary and cruel symbol of someone destroying your entire life and forcing you to show it off, I don’t know what is.

The only qualms I have with this story are this: it feels a little TOO young at times, and some things aren’t fully explained. Now I know that our main character is sixteen, but there are some HEAVY things happening in this story that make this character grow up fast. My issue is that Theo, Blaise, and a few of the other characters act and speak in such an adolescent way…that I found myself getting confused. The author is pulling me back and forth between them being mature, and not mature, and I am just not sure which direction I should be going in. If this supposed to be a YA read, or a Teen YA read?

My other small problem is the author not fully explaining things, or not fully building up moments. For example: Blaise tells Theo that she always gets a certain look on her face when she is about to do something rebellious. Theo retorts that he can never stop her anyways. As the reader, I don’t recall this happening much at all? I feel like I am being told something rather than just coming to that conclusion on my own. Another example is when it is said that Soren is a legendary warrior. This seems so shocking to me because I can’t help but imagine Soren as a teenage boy, not a fierce and feared man. There was no context that proves he should be anything else than what I am visualizing, so it left me a bit confused.

Those things aside, I think this is a really great read. I am sitting her twiddling my thumbs waiting for the next book, which I know will be a while from now. Sorry for that LONG ass review, but there was just so much to talk about! Though I did have a few annoyances while reading Ash Princess, I wholeheartedly recommend it if you love YA/Fantasy reads. I am a sucker for anything with royalty and fantasy, so if you are the same then you will REALLY enjoy this book.

4-stars

 

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

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Amazon.com – 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 Promo · Book Reviews · Books · Reviews

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

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Amazon.com – The Black Blossom (The Healer Book 2) by C.J. Anaya

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Bookdepository.com – The Black Blossom (The Healer Book 2) by C.J. Anaya

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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