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Book Review: Dream Keeper (The Dark Dreamer Trilogy, Book 1) by Amber R. Duell

dream keeper

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, The Parliament House, via NetGalley for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Fantasy/Paranormal/Romance

Plot: The Sandman is seventeen-year-old Nora’s closest friend and best-kept secret. He has to be, if she doesn’t want a one-way ticket back to the psychiatrist. It took her too long to learn not to mention the hooded figure in her dreams to her mother, who still watches Nora as if she’ll crack. So when Nora’s friends start mysteriously dying gruesome deaths in their sleep, she isn’t altogether surprised when the police direct their suspicion at her. The Sandman is the only one she can turn to for answers. But the truth might be more than she bargained for…

For the last five years, the Sandman has spent every night protecting Nora. When he hid the secret to the Nightmare Lord’s escape inside her dreams, he never expected to fall in love with her. Neither did he think his nemesis would find her so quickly, but there’s no mistaking his cruel handiwork. The Nightmare Lord is tired of playing by the rules and will do anything to release his deadly nightmares into the world, even if that means tormenting Nora until she breaks.

When the Nightmare Lord kidnaps Nora’s sister, Nora must enter enemy territory to save her. The Sandman is determined to help, but if Nora isn’t careful, she could lose even more than her family to the darkness.

(Please note: This story contains vivid death scenes.)

Opinion:

When I saw Dream Keeper on Netgalley, I just knew I had to have it.

A retelling of the Sandman, the weaver of nightmares, and a young girl caught up in the middle of it all? Sold. A YA story or romance, fantasy and magic? Sold.

A Lord of Nightmares, and a Lord of Dreams.

A Night World, and a Day World.

It ALL just promised to be SO. AMAZING.

I mean I just…loved it…

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With the description above basically giving away the ENTIRE book, I realize that it would be vastly unnecessary for me to give my own synopsis. So, let’s just jump right in, shall we? I have a feeling this review if going to be short and sweet.

Well…short and sour.

This book had a TON of promise, but really fell flat for me. The reason for that MAY be because it feels like it targets a younger audience, Pre-Teen/Teen, by the characters coming across as childlike and adolescent rather than somewhat mature. The author chose to use phrases like “sorry, not sorry” in one instance, and then words like perturbed and grotesque in the next. Though the writing is VERY descriptive and paints a beautiful picture of the dream and nightmare world, I felt like I was caught in a wind tunnel of conflicting writing styles. At one point it feels eloquent and mature, and the next it is simplistic and feels cheesy. I almost felt like I was reading a soap-opera at times.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a strong connection to Nora and the Sandman, especially when it came to their romance. When the reader starts this book, they are thrust right in the middle of the story. There isn’t much of a premise, so it eventually “backpedals” you through past events to catch you up. Sometimes this works in stories, but in this case, it was just confusing. Due to the quick start, and even quicker romance, it doesn’t give the reader adequate time to connect to Nora and the Sandman. The Sandman ended up sounding like a brooding teenager even though he’s supposed to be decades old, and Nora didn’t seem to have much of an emotional response to the murders around her…which is strange. Shouldn’t she be freaking the f**k out? I would be! So instead of exciting and fresh, these characters came off as quite dull and unimpressive.

The flow of the writing and the structure of this story also left me a little unsettled. With the beginning starting from nowhere and being rushed, it made me think that this series was going to be PACKED with exciting moments. I mean, it would have to be for this to be a trilogy and start that way, right?! Well, yes and no. I wasn’t bored while reading, but I DID feel like there wasn’t a lot of meaningful and necessary moments happening. Things felt a little out of order, or rushed in spots and slow in others. My editing brain kept wanting to rearrange different paragraphs and sentences, so it was a bit hard to get through.

Another confusing aspect was that a bunch of REALLY important characters didn’t come into this story until the end. By the time I got to these new characters, I was already checked-out of the story and skimming the lines. Maybe if they were introduced earlier, it would have kept my attention and interest more. I thought the character of Baku was very creative, so I wish he would have had a bigger role and made a stronger connection with Nora or the Sandman. It could have been a memorable and amusing duo for the reader to get hooked on.

This really came off more negative than I was anticipating, which is unfortunate. This story had a lot of great ideas and moments, but I think some final editing could have really improved it. Though I am slightly curious to see if the writing and characters improve in book two, I probably won’t be picking up the next copy. With the characters and flow of writing falling short, Dream Keeper turned out to be a real dud for me. This is of course, is just my opinion. A lot of other readers really enjoyed this story, so don’t use my words as law. Even though you could. 😉

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2-5-stars

 

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Book Reviews · Books · Netgalley · New Releases · Pre-order · Reviews

Book Review: The Cold is in Her Bones by Peternelle van Arsdale

The Cold is in Her Bones

The Cold is in Her Bones will be available for purchase on January 22, 2019.

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/Retelling

Plot: Milla knows two things to be true: Demons are real, and fear will keep her safe.

Milla’s whole world is her family’s farm. She is never allowed to travel to the village and her only friend is her beloved older brother, Niklas. When a bright-eyed girl named Iris comes to stay, Milla hopes her loneliness might finally be coming to an end. But Iris has a secret she’s forbidden to share: The village is cursed by a demon who possesses girls at random, and the townspeople live in terror of who it will come for next.

Now, it seems, the demon has come for Iris. When Iris is captured and imprisoned with other possessed girls, Milla leaves home to rescue her and break the curse forever. Her only company on the journey is a terrible new secret of her own: Milla is changing, too, and may soon be a demon herself.

Opinion:

Something slithery this way comes.

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Gather ‘round my cunning Slytherins!

I’ve got a retelling of our dear mummy dearest:

Medusa

If Milla knows anything, it is that she must be a good girl. She must do her chores efficiently, must always stay clean and tidy, mustn’t ask questions that do not deserve answers, and must always pray to keep the demons away. But Milla’s’ life is one of loneliness and solitude. She does not have the luxury of traveling to the nearby village or making friends, and her mother shows her much less attention and affection in comparison to her brother. Though the arrival of a young girl named Iris gives Milla someone to finally talk to and befriend, Milla finally learns of the reasoning behind her forced solitude. These is a curse on the girls in the village, one that makes each of them go insane, and Iris is showing signs of possession. Milla races to help her new friend, but soon finds that she might be changing as well.

Without a doubt, this is my first official positive WTF read of 2019.

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The Cold is in Her Bones is supposed to be a retelling of dear mother Medusa, but it’s a loose retelling. The tale goes as such: A young girl named Hulda lived with her mother and father, and her dearly beloved Sister. As young children the sisters were inseparable, sleeping so entwined with one another that they would wake with their hair knotted together. But as they grew older, the sisters drifted apart. Hulda was not given the same adoration and attention as The Sister, and grew lonely and isolated. To fulfill her loneliness Hulda spent her time in the woods, making friends with the snakes, learning their names and letting them burrow in her hair. But when one of the snakes was seen in her hair, it was ripped out and thrown into the fire by The Sister’s betrothed. For the anguish and grief that Hulda felt for her snake, the others saw her as being possessed. Her family took her into the woods, buried her in the snow, and left her there in the hopes that the demon would leave her body. When Hulda woke with vengeance in her heart, and a body consisting of snakes, she cursed the village and all the inhabitants so they may never again feel peace or content.

You know those horror movies set in the 1800’s where there is a family, with their farm, and they churn butter and chop wood? Where an older sibling will tell the younger children folk-tales about witches and curses, so as to scare them into being good? This is EXACTLY like that…

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except much more sad, and way less gruesome.

This feels like a Tim Burton film waiting patiently to be made, or at least one of similar taste. It has the oddities and dark tones that every great children’s horror has, but it is also loaded with all the necessary lessons and positive morals that one is told as a child. Or should have been told. It centers on themes of family values, being kind to others, having compassion for differences, and the cruel nature of vengeance. There are many small tales within this tale that is told to the reader, and each one enhances the grittiness and somber themes that envelope this story.

Once the reader is told the tale of Hulda, the story then switches off to Milla. It explains her home life and the struggles she endures to constantly be good and to please her parents. Milla lives in the shadow of her kind and seemingly-perfect brother, and she feels like she is a disappoint and burden to her family. She is unable to travel to the village and is kept under tight lock and key, with unknown reasons as to why. The story begins to unfold when Milla meets Iris, a girl that will eventually be married to her brother. The girls become very quick friends and create a fierce bond, but it all changes when Iris becomes possessed. Iris is taken somewhere called “The Place” where she will be held with other girls who have become possessed. Milla learns that it all stems from a curse that was placed on the village. A curse that was placed by her aunt, Hulda.

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The writing in this book is AMAZING. The author did a fantastic job of making the story feel like a folktale in how the characters spoke to one another, how the setting is given to the reader, and even during Milla and Hulda’s inner dialogues. But where the author REALLY shines in The Cold is in Her Bones is when she describes very beautifully heartbreaking moments where Milla feels like an outcast.

’Pretty is as pretty does,’ Gitta had always said to Milla. But Milla knew that couldn’t be right. Milla had never done anything but behave, and still she wasn’t pretty the way her mother was. If she were, she’d know it. She’d see proof of her prettiness in her mother’s eyes, or her father’s. Instead what she saw there was disappointment. Perhaps it wasn’t true that pretty is as pretty does…”

Though I can confidently say that I enjoyed this read, it DID take me a week to read it. Usually I can fly through a book in about two days, but this one was really taking me awhile to get through. The story moved a little slow for me, and at times I was feeling a little bored and irritated that I wasn’t moving on to what happened quicker. BUT, once I was finished, I realized how much I didn’t care at all about the pacing or how long it took me to get through it. I LOVE a creative and unique story, and that is EXACTLY what this is.

I recommend this to anyone who is looking for something different to read, who doesn’t get weirded out too easily, and who doesn’t have an affliction to snakes. Don’t go into this expecting an only slightly twisted retelling of Medusa, because this is completely different! The story has given me the inspiration to go on to read Peternelle van Arsdale’s other horror story, The Beast is an Animal, which is apparently in development to becoming a movie. Excitement!

If you want a little magic, to hear some folktales, dive into a curse, and even meet a witch (fangirling) then you MUST give The Cold is in Her Bones a try!

It’s so creative that it makes me wish I had snakes growing out of my own head.

4-stars

 

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Book Reviews · Books · Edelweiss+ · Pre-order · Reviews

Book Review: The Giver, Graphic Novel by Lois Lowry and P. Craig Russell (Illustrations)

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The Giver, The graphic Novel will be available for purchase on February 5, 2019.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, via Edelweiss+, for an honest review.

Genre: Teen/YA/Fiction/Graphic Novel/Comic

Plot: Placed on countless reading lists, translated into more than forty languages, and made into a feature film, The Giver is the first book in The Giver Quartet that also includes Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.

In this new graphic novel edition, readers experience the haunting story of twelve-year-old Jonas and his seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment, through the brilliant art of P. Craig Russell that truly brings The Giver to life.

Witness Jonas’s assignment as the Receiver of Memory, watch as he begins to understand the dark secrets behind his fragile community, and follow the explosion of color into his world like never before.

Opinion:

I can picture it so clearly as if it were yesterday.

I was sitting in class, a wee youngster at the time.

A black book with an old man on the cover was dropped on my rickety desk; assigned reading for the semester. Audible groans and grumblings of “this looks boring” and “dude, come on. Something from this century, PLEASE” were heard throughout the room.

The story of a young boy was given to us with a cover so wise beyond our years, with words so eloquently written, that it almost felt too much for our wandering minds to grasp. A book we appreciated and grew to love, but one that still left a dryness across our eyes.

If ONLY we had been given this beautiful version.

You all know the story of young Jonas and his path to becoming the Receiver of Memory. Living in a place where color does not exist, and the memory of it is not taught. But when he is given his Life Assignment, he is given a job unlike his friends. He is to be the Receiver of Memory, the one who holds all the memories of the world, including those with color. So ensues Jonas’s journey to learning about the world, one filled with happiness and pain, sadness and elation. This version of The Giver pulls in readers of all ages and gives them beautifully illustrated images of Jonas’ story.

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This graphic novel is AMAZING.

I honestly didn’t know how much I needed a graphic novel version of The Giver, until now. These illustrations are BEAUTIFUL and perfectly portray this story. Not only is it a great version for all us who had read this in school or when we were kids, but it is a FANTASTIC way to get the younger audiences and newer generations interested! I feel SO lucky that we were given a movie, and now this! The story is the same, but naturally, not every word from the original was transcribed to this rendition. This form of The Giver is much more direct with its delivery of the story, thanks to the illustrations being able to shorten the originals descriptions of scenery.

Instead of the reader having to imagine Jonas learning about colors and the world, they get to SEE it happening as they read. It’s a movie and a book in one! I think all ages can enjoy this adaptation of the classic novel by Lois Lowry, but I feel that it might end up targeting a younger audience overall. Due to the writing being shortened to accommodate the illustrations, it seems that some of the more dark and somber moments from this book are reduced. The reader can see the emotion from the illustrations, but it definitely doesn’t have that gut-wrenching effect that the original has.

Some things from the original were shortened, like Jonas’s big escape with the baby and some of the moments with the current Receiver of Memory. I also found it interesting that the illustrations only portrayed moments of full color for Jonas when he was receiving a memory, or when he had left. I would have expected him to have full color before then, but really, I suppose it doesn’t matter!

In comparison to the original form of The Giver, I found this graphic novel to be breathtaking and VERY enjoyable. As a long-time lover of this book, I was hit with a rush of nostalgia and happiness while reading. This version is truly a masterpiece and will be a great interpretation for younger audiences. I cannot WAIT to get this in a print version!

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5-stars

 

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Book Review:Immortal Girls by Griffin Stark

Immortal Girls

Disclaimer: I was sent an ARC copy of this book by JKS Communications on behalf of the author, for an honest review.

Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/YA/Teen

Plot: The year is 1095, Normandy, France. Five year old Skylar runs away into the woods to escape nuns who are convinced her inexplicable seizures are the work of Satan. She survives after being adopted by wolves, when two mysterious strangers appear and reveal Skylar’s destiny to her. Skylar is the first of the Immortal Girls, destined to save humanity from itself.

“Immortal Girls” follows Skylar, Rachel, Caitlin, Beth, and Bethany, five immortal sisters who, over the course of a thousand years, attempt to learn the purpose of their own existence while hunting down the worst criminals this world has ever seen. They’ve faced the likes of Jack the Ripper and the Nazis, but as a new enemy arises to threaten the sisters’ survival they’ll soon learn that immortality doesn’t mean forever.

Opinion:

It is I, on this Sunday, that blesses you with this:

A book with the potential to reach the stars

if only it had gone through a few Beta/Alpha readers first.

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This book has tremendous potential to be amazing, but it just doesn’t feel finished. There are a few positives, a few negatives, and some gray areas in-between. There were times when I really enjoyed the authors writing, and times when I had no idea what he was trying to convey to the reader. If I look at the work as a whole, I find it to be a cute story and something I really didn’t mind reading. But it could have been SO much better.

Let’s start with the length of the book. Yes, it is short. But let’s categorize it into the “Short Story” genre then. In that regard, it is the perfect size. The writing is quick and to the point, and doesn’t waste time with too many words and unnecessary “fluff”. But if the intention is for this to be a novel, then okay, it’s short. However, in my opinion, I think the story is fine at this length. I saw a few complaints from readers expressing that it was too short for a fantasy story which caused there to be a lack of story and character building. But every book is different. This just happens to be a shorter fantasy book that doesn’t include an exuberant amount of description and detail, but I think it works.

The plot for this book is what immediately interested me, and what compelled me to accept it for review. I loved the creative idea of moving through historical events and characters, and bringing a fictional side into it. The author successfully weaved a tale of inventive possibilities and outcomes that COULD have happened in history, and it was enjoyable to see them play out. I liked the interaction with Joan of Arc and how the author portrayed her as a typical teenage girl who was seeking friendship, the idea that Anne Frank met a girl in her concentration camp and wished her to share her diary with the world, and that a few eighteen-year-old girls were the true demise of Jack the Ripper. This is all VERY creative. But some of it just wasn’t executed as well as it could have been.

The change of scenes was only separated by paragraphs, which made it EXTREMELY difficult to keep up with what was happening. There was a moment when one immortal girl was introduced and described to the reader, but in the next paragraph the reader is thrown into a scene from her past. Where was the notice that this was happening?! It could have been completed with just three small characters. Look, it’s so simple:

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The author paints the parents, Isabelle and Alistair, to be these divine and heavenly beings who are tasked with showing the girls the “right” path in life that could save the world. I mean I think that was his goal? It’s not very clear. But who are these two characters? Where did they come from? They could be tricksters from Satan for all I know about them! But what is even more confusing is that these girls are actually “trained” to be savage killers. And when I say “trained” I mean they become immortal, and then instinctively know to reach through a guy’s chest and rip his heart out.

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I DID like the introductions for each Immortal girl though, and how each one was a little different. I REALLY liked the introduction of Caitlin when the author described her. THIS is how they entirety of the story should have been described. It was detailed and gave me a PERFECT image of what she looked like and who she was, but wasn’t overly wordy. It was just right. But then by the end of Caitlin’s story I was confused again because I didn’t understand if she was already immortal at that point, or if she was then going to become immortal?

Also, I think those cheesy one-liners when the girls are killing don’t even need to be touched on.

Honestly.

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By the end of the of the book I was a bit annoyed, but I had learned to accept it for what it is. I think it would be a great idea for this author to use Beta and Alpha readers for his next book, because it would only benefit him to have the opinions of readers that are going to give him honest helpful criticism. I think this story was cute and creative, but it just didn’t execute in the way I had hoped it would.

2-5-stars

 

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Book Promo · Book Reviews · Books · Netgalley · New Releases · Reviews

Book Review: Kiss of the Royal by Lindsey Duga

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Amazon.com – Kiss of the Royal by Lindsey Duga

Goodreads.com – Kiss of the Royal by Lindsey Duga

Barnesandnoble.com – Kiss of the Royal by Lindsey Duga

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Entangled Publishing: Teen, via NetGalley for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Teen/Fantasy

Plot: Princess Ivy has one goal—end the war against the Forces of Darkness.

Ivy’s magic is more powerful than any other Royal’s, but she needs a battle partner who can help her harness it. Prince Zach’s unparalleled skill with a sword should make them an unstoppable pair—if only they could agree on…well, just about anything.

But Ivy’s magic can only fully unlock with Zach’s help, and he’s not exactly cooperating.

Zach believes Ivy’s magic is dangerous. Ivy believes they’ll never win the war without it. Two warriors, one goal, and the fate of their world on the line. But the more they argue, the more they fall for each other. And only one of them can be right…

Opinion:

Goblins, dwarves, griffins, dragons, curses, witches, magic, Princes, Princesses, KISSES!

Oh my word, it MUST be another fairytale!

But NO! It isn’t! It’s BETTER than JUST another fairytale. This is the tale that puts all those other stories of fairies and….tales…to rest! ENOUGH of those sputtering damsels in distress. Poison apple this, lost slipper that! “But It can all be cured by TWU WUV’S FIRST KISS!”

LADIES! Get a HANDLE on yourselves!

HONESTLY!

By the seventh day of constant agony, I wished I hadn’t already killed the dwarf who cast this locking curse on me. I wanted the opportunity to kill him again. Slower this time.”

Ivy, Kiss of the Royal

In Ivy’s world, the ones with royal blood are the ones that fight on the front lines of battle. With the four kingdoms in a five-hundred-year battle against the Evil Queen and her dark forces, the need for royal warriors is in high demand. A partnership between a Prince and Princess is a force to be reckoned with, but the kiss that a Princess can bestow on a Prince is even stronger. Each kiss can heal a Prince of a curse put on them by a troll or dwarf, and it can also give the Princes the warrior power of ten men. The more pureblood a royal is, the stronger the kiss and magic. As Ivy is a direct descendant of the original Queen Myriana, her kisses are the most powerful. But with the death of her fifth Prince, Ivy must find another partner to go into battle with. Enter, Zach. Zach is unlike any Prince Ivy has ever met, and to say he is unorthodox is an understatement. Soon Zach and Ivy are given a dangerous task that holds every kingdom’s fate in their hands, but Zach refuses to kiss Ivy or cooperate with her in any way. With two very different outlooks, these two must come together to defeat a common enemy.

A prince that won’t kiss a princess?!? Color me SHOCKED and SPEECHLESS, and heavy on the sarcasm! 😉

Let’s just dive right in, shall we?

So where this story differs from our regularly scheduled fairytale programs, is that these Princes and Princesses are bred to be warriors. Literally. Princesses are sent to a place called Frieda to be paired with Princes and produce strong royals to be trained for war. Once a Prince or Princess has gone through training, they are bonded with a partner who matches their skillset or power. The more pureblood a royal is, the stronger they are. In this story, the Princesses are the real heroes. As the Princes charge into battle, the Princesses stay back an act as their eyes and ears; firing at anything that gets close to their Princes. If a prince goes down, their bonded Princess gives them a healing kiss and saves their lives. But these Princesses can kick ass too! They train just as hard as the Princes, and I love it!

Obviously, the main aspect of this story centers around kissing. When I started reading I kept thinking what a funny concept this was. For these Princesses to just be running around kissing Princes like it’s nothing? Oh, no big deal! But due to how these royals are raised, it isn’t a big deal. They believe in lust, but they don’t believe in love. They believe that love is a fantastical thought and idea that the “Romantica” created, and that there is no such thing. For these royals who put their lives on the line each day, kissing is what keeps them alive and fighting. It is a weapon, and that’s it.

But for Zach, that isn’t the case. Zach is a Saevallan Prince who travels to the Crown City of Myria with his Saevallan army to aid in the battle against the dark forces. He is rumored to be the best swordsman and fiercest warrior they have, which isn’t a lie. But Zach is unlike the rest of the royals. He was raised on the streets, didn’t acknowledge his royal blood until recently, and best of all…he was raised as a Romantica. DING DING DING. ROOOOMAANNNCEEE. So naturally the pairing between Ivy and Zach would be a formidable one, except for the part of Zach not wanting a partner. As a Romantica, Zach doesn’t agree with using the “kiss” as a weapon because it means something different to him. Which is true…but there is WAY more to it that I obviously can’t tell you.

As one could guess, a romance develops…but a difficult one at that! A boy who was raised on love and a girl who was raised to not even think it was real? Talk about complicated! As the two set out on their task, they encounter countless battles and dangers. Though I was a bit miffed about that ending, it wasn’t a complete issue for me. I wish the author would have wrapped everything up JUST a little better. I feel like I missed a ton of important moments between the ending of the story and the epilogue. I felt like this could have been elaborated on more because it left me feeling a bit rushed.

There is a ton of action in this story, a few close calls, countless arguments between Ivy and Zach, and a truly different outlook on the normal fairytale. These characters are developed in a way that showcases their fierceness, as well as their innocence and value. The reader is encased in a battle between doing what one is taught, and doing what one wants and feels. It is SUCH a different outlook and take on the “true loves kiss” idea and it is done PERFECTLY! I’m only wishing this was a ten part series…I want more, more, more!

When had I become someone who struggled with the difference between a kiss and a Kiss?”

Ivy, Kiss of the Royal

4-5-stars

 

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