Publisher: Self

Over Raging Tides by Jennifer Ellision | Audiobook Review

Posted June 21, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 2 Comments

Over Raging Tides by Jennifer Ellision | Audiobook ReviewOver Raging Tides by Jennifer Ellision
Series: Lady Pirates #1
Published by Self on March 20, 2018
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 239
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible, From the author
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3.5 Stars
The pirate crew of the Lady Luck lives by many rules, but chief among them is this: they do not allow men on board.

That’s a rule that quartermaster Grace Porter is willing to break when a shipwrecked young nobleman offers her information of an omniscient map, stolen from his warship by an enemy vessel. Until now, the map was only the stuff of legend… but with its help, Grace may finally be able to hunt down the Mordgris, the sea monsters who stole her mother away from her.

Unfortunately, some members of her crew have other plans...

To find the map and face the Mordgris, Grace will have to confront her past, put the Luck between warring nations, and uncover treachery aboard the ship. And ultimately, her revenge and the destruction of the Mordgris will come at a hefty price: the betrayal of her crew.

Grace promised them they wouldn’t regret this.

She just isn’t sure that she won’t.

I love stories set on the high seas, particularly when pirates are involved, but I usually gravitate towards romantic stories with male pirates because I have a major crush on bad-boy pirate types, apparently. lol. I’ve never read a book with female pirates before, but I really enjoyed this one!

First off, the narration was amazing. Victoria Boulton’s performance really drew me in and had me hooked from early on. She did not read too quickly or too slowly, and her British accent brought each character to life.

I loved the setting of the Lady Luck, and reading about all the ins and outs of life aboard the ship. The crew is made up entirely of women, who live by a very strict code of honor. No men are allowed on board, no children can be kidnapped and forced into service, no crew member is allowed to steal from the rest of the crew, etc. And unlike Captain Barbosa, these rules are not merely guidelines. They take these rules very seriously, and I quite liked reading about a bunch of pirates who at least have some morals.

The story itself was not particularly unique, but I still enjoyed this adventure on the high seas. The crew is on the hunt for the holy grail of all treasure: a map that will lead them to any treasure they wish. There are obstacles along the way, and two of those obstacles come in the form of two brothers who Grace saves from the Mordgris–the sea monsters who took her mother from her. Grace breaks a cardinal rule and brings them aboard the ship. As it turns out, the older brother, Leo, can help them find his map. The little brother, John, endears himself to the crew, so they decide both boys can stay. For now. I liked Grace, John, and Leo, but didn’t feel much for the rest of the characters. They all felt like typical pirates to me, with no real unique traits that made them stand out to me.

This was my first book by Jennifer Ellision, and I really enjoy her writing style and creativity. While the story kind of follows the normal pirate adventure formula, she’s added some elements that set it apart. I’m super intrigued by the Mordgris. I want to know more about them and their origins and purpose. What are they really about? Who are they? They play a big part in Grace’s life quest and are the real reason she wants this magical map. She hopes, against all odds, to find her mother. I loved reading about her determination, and the fact that she believes that family is more important than all the riches in the world. I’m really eager to see how things work out for her and to learn more about this world and the map. There’s so much to look forward to with the next book! And beware, this book ends on a major cliffhanger and you’re going to want more story ASAP!


Of Sea and Stone by Kate Avery Ellison | Book Review (+ Giveaway)

Posted February 14, 2018 by Jana in Blog Tour, Book Review, Giveaway, Young Adult / 10 Comments

Of Sea and Stone by Kate Avery Ellison | Book Review (+ Giveaway)

Of Sea and Stone by Kate Avery Ellison | Book Review (+ Giveaway)Of Sea and Stone by Kate Avery Ellison
Series: Secrets of Itlantis #1
Published by Self on February 2, 2014
Pages: 260
Format: eBook
Source: From the author
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5 Stars
Aemi lives in a village carved from stones and surrounded by sea. She wins spear-throwing competitions in disguise and earns slaps from her spoiled mistress by talking back. She hates being a slave. She survives by remembering her mother's tales of home, a paradise called Perilous.

Aemi intends to find it.

But then, black ships rise from the sea in the night. Aemi is captured and taken to Itlantis, an underwater world of cities and gardens encased in glass, dazzling technology. and a centuries-long war.

She is determined to escape, even if it means conspiring with fellow prisoner Nol, who fills her with equal parts anger and desire. Even if it means impersonating her mistress. Even if it means fleeing into the territory of the Dron, the bloodthirsty barbarians of the deep.

But when Aemi witnesses firsthand an attack by the Dron, she realizes not all is as it seems below the sea.

And Perilous might be closer than she thinks.

I love everything Kate has written, so I was very eager and excited to read Of Sea and Stone. I’m happy to report that I’m still a Kate Avery Ellison fangirl, and absolutely loved Of Sea and Stone! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. I love the world of Itlantis. It’s beautiful! There are different underwater cities spread across the ocean, each one special in its own way. Aemi has been captured from her village at the surface and taken to the city of Celestrus. This city has, what I can only describe to be, glass spheres that are suspended in the water. Each sphere is a library dedicated to each of the different cities of Itlantis. You can see sea life swimming by and light from the surface dancing. The libraries are filled with books, foliage, sculpture, fountains, and walkways. I’d LOVE to visit!

2. Kate’s writing is so beautiful. She describes things as if you were right there! I kept wanting to highlight all the descriptive passages because I loved them so much.

3. I really liked Aemi. She’s strong, versatile, brave, smart, and level-headed. She takes her kidnapping very well. Haha. She adapts well to her new home, but she’s got plans to escape. She’s assertive and makes people fall for her, whether it be in love or in friendship.

4. Nol is pretty swoony. In the beginning he was a very cocky, jerky guy who Aemi loved to hate. But they are the only survivors (that we know of) from their village, so they learn to work together. And I loved watching him grow from such a jerk to such a caring, selfless person.

5. There’s a little mystery, a little romance, and even some action! It’s the perfect blend of everything I love.

6. Holy cliffhanger. I can’t WAIT to buy the second book!

All in all, Of Sea and Stone pulled me out of a deep reading slump. I loved everything about it, and I love Kate’s storytelling and writing style. This is a wonderful fantasy/dystopia, and I’d recommend it to anyone and everyone!


About Kate Avery Ellison

I’m the author of the Frost Chronicles, an Amazon bestselling series and source material for the adventure app game Frost by Delight Games, as well as numerous other fantasy and science fiction novels. I love putting a dash of mystery in everything I write, an ode to a childhood spent reading Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie, and Sherlock Holmes. I can’t resist adding a good twist in the story wherever I can.

I wish I could live in a place where it’s always October, but until that’s possible, I make my home in humid Atlanta with my husband, children, and two spoiled cats.

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Heart-Shaped Hack by Tracey Garvis-Graves | Book Review

Posted September 21, 2015 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

Heart-Shaped Hack by Tracey Garvis-Graves | Book ReviewHeart-Shaped Hack by Tracey Garvis Graves
Series: Kate and Ian #1
Published by Self on August 25, 2015
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 277
Format: eARC
Source: From the author
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4 Stars
When Kate Watts abandoned her law career to open a food pantry in Northeast Minneapolis, she never dreamed it would be this difficult. Facing the heartbreaking prospect of turning hungry people away, she is grateful for the anonymous donations that begin appearing at the end of each month. Determined to identify and thank her secret benefactor, she launches a plan and catches Ian —a charismatic hacker with a Robin Hood complex—in the act.

Ian intrigues Kate in a way no man ever has. But after learning he’s snooped around on her personal computer, she demands retribution. Impressed with her tolerance and captivated by her spirit, he complies and begins to slowly charm his way past her defenses. Time spent with Ian is never boring, and Kate soon finds herself falling for the mysterious hacker.

But Ian has enemies and they’re growing restless. In the hacking world, exploiting a target’s weakness is paramount, and no price is too high to stop an attack. And when Kate learns exactly how much Ian has paid, she’ll discover just how strong her love is for the man who has hacked his way into her heart.

There’s never been a question about my love for Tracey Garvis-Graves’s books. I will always read anything she writes because she grabs you immediately, immerses you in a story with wonderful characters, and leaves you wishing she would write you a book every week. Heart-Shaped Hack is another title I’m adding to my list of reasons to love Tracey. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. Tracey likes to be unique. Every book she has ever written has never been written before. She keeps throwing in elements that make the story fresh, and I love that. Our main guy, Ian, is a computer hacker philanthropist. He’s basically Robin Hood. Can’t say I’ve ever read a book about a guy like him, and I’m pretty sure that if I did I would not like it as much.

2. Ian’s snark is probably my favorite thing about the entire book. He is blunt and cocky and has absolutely no filter. Everything in his life is gray. There’s no black or white, wrong or right. Everything is just Ian. He dissolves boundaries and can charm his way into anything. He finds Kate several times because he hacks into her credit card history to discover where she is. And then he goes there. And then he tells her how he found her. And he’s so charming and sexy that it doesn’t even matter that he’s spying on her! As much as he likes her, he turns their relationship into something SHE has to work for. Not only did he capture her heart against her will, he made her pursue him! This guy is something. And the master of the swoons.

3. Kate reminds me of myself. She’s following her dreams and living a relatively simple, quiet, almost cautious life. She cares a lot about helping others and making a difference in the world. I liked that Ian bugged the crap out of her in the beginning. She rolled her eyes at him and threw his cockiness back in his face countless numbers of times, and the banter that ensued had me giggling and turning the pages as quickly as I could.

4. Ian challenges Kate to break down walls and take risks, and Kate challenges Ian to be open and caring. These two are great together!

5. A hacker’s life is a dangerous life, and Ian’s attachments to Kate (and his desire to stay in one place for too long) bring with them a scary situation that nobody anticipated. I loved the mystery and the danger surrounding this part of the story, even though my heart is a little worse for wear as a result.

6. I feel like this book was really well researched! Garvis-Graves does a great job of portraying the life of a hacker.

7. The writing style is, as always with Tracey, amazing! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. She knows how to grab you immediately and never let go. And, even though I read an ARC, I did not find one typo or grammatical error. I noticed the same thing when I read her self-published On the Island back in the day. Tracey pays attention to every detail, and that’s why her stories are perfect. She’s just that good!

8. There were more sexytimes than I’m used to with her books, but I can kind of see why that was necessary for these particular characters. I wish there had been a little less, though, because I was blushing way too much!!

I can’t wait for the sequel, White-Hot Hack, which I know I’ll be bugging Tracey about over the next few months. I’m excited to see where Ian and Kate go from here! I still stand by my bold proclamation that I will read anything Tracey ever writes. Definitely give this book a shot if you like words.


Monarch by Belle Whittington | Mini Book Review + Giveaway

Posted October 20, 2014 by Jana in Blog Tour, Book Review, Giveaway, Young Adult / 1 Comment

Monarch by Belle Whittington | Mini Book Review + GiveawayMonarch by Belle Whittington
Series: Cicada #3
Also in this series: Cicada, Firefly
Published by Self on October 1, 2014
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction
Pages: 493
Format: eBook
Source: From the author
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4 Stars
Blair Reynolds was born to rule. Worlds, that is. Destined to reign over an ancient intergalactic race, it may seem her fate is written in the stars. But she’s willing to risk it all for another chance to spend forever with her true love – even if it means traveling through time and space to the other side of the universe.

As far as Ash is concerned, Blair's happily-ever-after involves him, not the mere mortal with whom she seems so infatuated. She was bequeathed to him by her father, and Ash will go to any lengths to keep Blair and her true love apart.

And Ash isn’t the only one.

Deep in the jungles of Brazil, where tribal drums call to Blair and her true love, other forces carry out dangerous secret plans.

However, Blair has secrets of her own … secrets so lethal she dares not even remember them.

Secrets so painful they could ruin everything.

Because some secrets kill.

I really loved Cicada (my review) and Firefly (my review) and was on the blog tours for both of those books, so I was very excited to be given the opportunity to be on the last blog tour for this last book in the trilogy. I’m feeling nostalgic! Monarch is a bit of a hard book to review, just because I feel like the things I loved about this book are the same things I loved about the first two. Plus, I don’t want to give anything away!

Monarch is probably the most exciting book in the trilogy, as things are getting real and intense. Decisions and sacrifices have to be made. Blair is discovering herself more and more (and getting more comfortable with who she is), and learning about how all the various, seemingly unrelated puzzle pieces in her life fit together into one big revelation of a puzzle. I love how Belle pieced all these details together. I had a lot of “ah ha!” moments. I also had a lot of “YES! I KNEW it!” moments. It was exciting to finally be in the know, as the first two books were mysterious and left me with a lot of questions.

In Monarch Blair, Andrew, and Everett leave their home, possibly forever, and travel to Brazil. The tribal drums are calling her, and it’s time for Blair to return to her alien people as their queen. She ditches Andrew and Everett at a bus station, fearing their safety, and takes to the jungles alone. Did she really think they would not search for her, though? Blair soon learns she is being hunted. She is forced to awaken her Royal Guard from a centuries-long slumber, and the fight between sides and loyalties begins. Blair must choose between her true love from her human life, her true love from her alien life, and the man who was promised her hand in marriage by her father. She also has to figure out how to survive it all.

I was so happy to see Andrew again. I love her big brother, and his loyalty to her. I was happy to see swoony Everett again. He’s not as nerdy as he once was! We don’t see as much of them as we do Blair, though. We spend a lot of time with her hiding out in the jungle and remembering things from her former life. She makes a lot of discoveries about herself and who she used to be. She learns more about who Ash really is. This is a very enlightening experience for Blair and the reader, but I found things to move a bit slowly at times. Because she was alone we did not get much dialog for a while, and I missed that interaction. Things did pick up, though, and then it was non-stop action and suspense. I loved watching everything unfold. I LOVE Blair’s Royal Guard. Each member has this incredible loyalty and amazing personality. Xi is my favorite, and I saw his as almost a father figure for Blair.

I’ve always loved Belle’s writing, and I still do. She paints such immaculate pictures with her words, and made the jungle come alive in my mind’s eye. She wrote such detailed descriptions of the Royal Guard and what they look like and their apparel. She brought everyone’s emotions to life and I felt their loyalty and love for one another. I felt the aching love between Blair and Everett as well. Theirs is a very special and unique love story. I have become so invested in all of these characters, even the ones I just met in this book. That’s the sign of a truly wonderful author. I loved how the story wrapped up, and am sad to see it end at the same time. I hope Belle continues to write more!

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Every Time I Think of You by Tracey Garvis-Graves | Book Review

Posted September 9, 2014 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 3 Comments

Every Time I Think of You by Tracey Garvis-Graves | Book ReviewEvery Time I Think of You by Tracey Garvis Graves
Published by Self on September 16, 2014
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Suspense, Thriller
Pages: 360
Format: eARC
Source: From the author
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5 Stars
Thirty-year-old Daisy DiStefano has two people she holds dear: the grandmother who raised her, and her three-year-old son, Elliott. But when Daisy’s grandmother is killed in a seemingly random act of violence, Daisy must take steps to protect herself and her child.

Despite a thriving career in San Francisco, thirty-six-year-old Brooks McClain has returned home to spend what little time his mother has left before she succumbs to the deadly disease that is ravaging her. The seasoned investigative reporter has taken a position with the local newspaper and been on the job less than twenty-four hours when he’s summoned to cover the death of Pauline Thorpe.

Brooks is all business, but the more time he spends with Daisy DiStefano, the more invested he becomes; there’s something about a single mother, a defenseless child, and an unsolved crime that has stirred Brooks’s protective instincts like nothing ever has before.

And when the unthinkable happens, Brooks will do whatever it takes to clear the name of the woman he’s fallen for and the child he’ll protect at any cost.

Romantic and suspenseful, Every Time I Think of You shows how far two people will go to fight for the ones they love, and the life they’ve always imagined.

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. I will read anything Tracey writes, and I was extremely excited when I heard she was writing a romantic suspense novel! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. I think I’ve mentioned this point in every review I’ve written for Tracey’s books, but I just love her characters. She is so good at writing about people you can find common ground with. I’ve never been in Daisy’s position. I’m not a single mom, I did not go through a nasty divorce, nobody in my family has been murdered, and I have never been as alone as she has. But I could still identify with her feelings of inadequacy, her worry that she had failed, her concerns for the future, and her desire to tear down the walls she has built around herself.

Likewise, I have never been in Brook’s situation. I’ve never had to give up a career to move home and take care of my parents, I do not have an immediate family member battling a tragic disease, and I never tried my hardest to get out of the town I grew up in. But I identified with his deep love for his family, his worries that he was not strong enough to go through things that were thrown his way, and his fears for the future as well. Tracey writes characters you become invested in and care about. You can tell these people are real to her, and she cares for them too. We learn so much about both Daisy’s and Brooks’s pasts, and I think that is just one of the many reasons readers will care about them.

2. I really enjoyed the realistic timeline of Daisy and Brooks’s relationship. It began as a simple reporter/victim relationship, but turned into Brooks worrying about her safety, into Brooks caring about her happiness, into Daisy recognizing how nice it is to have him around, into friendship, until it finally blossomed into something that seemed sweet and meaningful. Everything developed out of a mutual, supportive friendship and genuine need of one another. You feel like they have a chance.

3. I also enjoyed how Daisy and Brooks handled their feelings. Regardless of how they felt about each other, their families came first. Daisy was constantly putting the needs of Elliot ahead of her own, and Brooks did everything in his power to help his dad and comfort his mom through her illness. It was so refreshing to read about a mature, adult relationship that was both give and take on both ends. They both have so much at stake, so they proceed with caution rather than lustful feelings. And they both have to make a lot of difficult decisions.

4. I learned a lot about ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), and I appreciated that Tracey used her book to raise awareness for a disease that does not get a lot of recognition, especially in books where cancer is usually the culprit. She treats the disease with sensitivity, and the emotions she conveys really send a message about what this disease does to a person and their family. For me, it was much more effective the reading medical jargon.

5. The mystery aspect of the story was very intriguing, and I was constantly trying to figure out the reasoning behind Daisy’s grandmother’s murder. Again, it was real. This could happen to me! And that made things even creepier. The suspense was a little less than I was hoping for, but definitely enough to keep me flipping pages as fast as I could. The climax is a doozy.

6. The romance, while slow-burning, is so romantic and wonderful. I’m going to say flat-out that Brooks is a guy who will make you swoon. He’s the perfectly flawed hero that leaves you hopeful that there’s someone like him out there for you.

7. Tracey’s writing is flawless. She has me hanging on her every word every time. She never forgets to write you, the reader, right in to her stories, leaving a part of you there when it’s all over.

Basically, Tracey has done it again! I always worry that someday she will write something I won’t love, but it has not happened yet and I’m pretty sure it never will. I wholeheartedly recommend that you go and get yourself a copy of Every Time I Think of You. It has a little something for everyone, and it will leave you even more excited for what she has in store for us next!


Firefly (Cicada #2) by Belle Whittington (Mini Book Review)

Posted April 3, 2013 by Jana in Blog Tour, Book Review, Young Adult / 2 Comments

Firefly (Cicada #2) by Belle Whittington (Mini Book Review)Firefly by Belle Whittington
Series: Cicada #2
Also in this series: Cicada, Monarch
Published by Self on February 2, 2013
Genres: Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Romance, Science Fiction
Pages: 510
Format: eBook
Source: From the author
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3.5 Stars
“The darkest days are ahead of us,” Andrew whispered as the drape of shadows slipped away, allowing Blair to awaken. And in her heart of hearts she knew it was true. The unmistakable signs were all around her, growing within her. She was becoming something more than human. All she could do was accept the inevitable.

“I’ve become a freak … an alien. I no longer belong to the human world,” Blair told her true love, and he held her close, determined never to give her up.

“I’d stay in this darkness forever as long as I could be with you. Wherever you are … that’s my home.” Everett meant every word. In fact, he’d willingly give up his own life to protect the girl he’d always loved.

But there was a storm brewing … a firestorm so strong and catastrophic that it could keep them apart forever.

That storm roared into town wearing a brown leather bomber jacket and riding a motorcycle.

Ash was like a secret in human clothing … a dangerous secret. Everything about him was mesmerizing – right down to the swirls of ink that flowed over the smooth muscles across his chest and around his arms. Being with him was like playing with fire.

Blair knew all about playing with fire.

She knew something else, too. A small quiet voice deep within whispered that she really would be separated from everyone and everything she’d known and loved.

Because some secrets run too deep.

Welcome to my stop along Belle Whittington’s Firefly blog tour, hosted by Books and Broomsticks! I’m pleased to be a part of the festivities, and add my review to the pile of reviews, guest posts, and interviews. If you’re new to the series, check out my review of Cicada, book #1.

I had been anticipating Firefly after really enjoying Cicada last year, so I was delighted when I was invited to join the tour! Firefly is an exciting new installment in the trilogy, and did answer some of the questions we were left with at the end of Cicada. I’m going to try to keep this review as spoiler free as possible, but it’s going to be tricky because SO MUCH HAPPENED in this book!

Firefly picks up right where Cicada left off, and Belle gives the reader just enough information about Cicada to stir their memory, but not so much that it feels like we’re being told the same story all over again. Everett, Blair’s boyfriend, and Andrew, Blair’s brother, are not in this book as much as they were before, and I missed them! You might remember me gushing over both of them in my review of Cicada. They were off discovering themselves, though, and learning what was necessary to add their pieces to this crazy puzzle they are involved in. We did get to see them some, and they ended up being exactly where they needed to be at exactly the right time. And with their absence, we are introduced to a little telepathy and dream traveling, which was a really cool addition to their (and Blair’s) mysterious abilities. I still really adore Andrew. I wish I had him as my older brother!

The love triangle is introduced in this book, with Mr. swoony-Ash. I started out liking him, but as he got more possessive and stalkerish, I was definitely glad that Everett was still the amazingly loyal and sweet former nerd I loved in the first book. I had a lot of fun watching him morph into this new version of himself. Bug boy to bad boy, if you will. One aspect of the love story left me with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. This book seemed to be a lot more sappy and lovey-dovey than the last one. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love love stories. I eat love stories for dinner AND dessert. I just felt like this one was almost Disney princess sappy, though, with Blair pining away for her “true love” countless numbers of time. She could not handle having Everett gone, and she moped and complained a little too much for me. And when she did see him, she spent more time climbing into his lap than talking to him. It made Blair seem weak, and with the role she has in this book, you would expect her to be anything but.

I really enjoyed Blair’s transformation into something less than human. I also liked the history behind why all of this is happening to her. And I really liked watching her experience all these changes and new abilities. A lot of magic and mystery surrounds her, and it was fun discovering who she is right along with her. I loved her relationship with her mom and her grandparents. It’s refreshing to see such strong family bonds in young adult literature.

There’s a twist that we find out about partway through the book regarding Blair’s memory of the past, and I loved that twist. I swear, the creativity behind this trilogy is amazing. I love the unique take on aliens and other worlds. I also really like Belle’s writing style and attention to detail, even though there were several typos throughout the book. There are some gorgeous passages that I actually re-read, involving dreams, galaxies, and even descriptions of the changing seasons. You can tell Belle is very talented, and is extremely invested in her books. I’m really excited to see where the next book goes, as yet again, I’m left with a lot of questions!

Disclaimer: About a quarter of the way through the book, something happens that upset me a great deal, to the point where I almost DNF’d the book. It involves the mutilation of a beloved animal. As many of you know, I’m very against this theme in books. I wrote to Belle and her daughter, the tour host, and explained my feelings. I was informed that this is actually a common practice among alien hoaxes and crop circles. Once I learned this, I was still horrified, but it was easier on me knowing that this aspect of the story is based on true events, rather than a creative author. I appreciated the explanation, and thought I would mention it here in my review to help soften the blow on other sensitive readers. I’d like to thank Linda for explaining this to me.

 

 


A Hidden Fire by Elizabeth Hunter (Book Review)

Posted March 8, 2012 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Book Review / 3 Comments

A Hidden Fire by Elizabeth Hunter (Book Review)A Hidden Fire by Elizabeth Hunter
Series: Elemental Mysteries #1
Published by Self on October 18, 2011
Genres: Fantasy, Mystery, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Format: eBook
Source: From the Publisher
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3 Stars
"No secret stays hidden forever."

A phone call from an old friend sets Dr. Giovanni Vecchio back on the path of a mystery he'd abandoned years before. He never expected a young librarian could hold the key to the search, nor could he have expected the danger she would attract. Now he and Beatrice De Novo will follow a twisted maze that leads from the archives of a university library, through the fires of Renaissance Florence, and toward a confrontation they never could have predicted.

I was really excited to sign up for this book as part of the Elemental Mysteries Blog Tour, celebrating the third book’s release. The premise sounded pretty awesome. I loved the idea of the main character being a librarian, and there being such a focus on extremely old literature. And Giovanni is totally an Italian name, and combining that with the mention of Renaissance Florence, I was sold! Books and Italy. What more could I ask for? A Hidden Fire had its moments, but overall I was a little disappointed. It fell short of its potential, and I feel like it could have been so much better than it was.

1. The whole beginning is pretty mysterious. Beatrice is a librarian at the Houston University in the Special Collections reading room, picking up a new shift where she ends up spending time with Dr. Giovanni Vecchio, who is translating a very old document. He’s a unique person with a hidden past, and we go a while in the book before we find out who he is and why he’s connected to bunch of old literature. Beatrice is more to him than a librarian. Danger surrounds her, plus he’s developing feelings for her.

2. I liked the main characters. Beatrice is smart, shy, and bookish.She’s extremely level-headed, all things considered. I love her sarcasm and quick wit. I think we’d be friends. Giovanni is a sexy bad boy. He’s also very scholarly and is always reading or researching something. He’s also reclusive, with a very rich past that is coming back to haunt him. I loved the banter between the two of them. The sexual tension was definitely there. I just with they had done more with it.

3. The romance is kind of silly and unbelievable. You can tell Gio and Beatrice care about each other, but it’s weird. He treats her like a child he needs to protect, and she treats him like a knight in shining armor. They never really hash out their feelings or intentions. Sometimes they have to put on a steamy act in front of spectators, but then they avoid one another for quite a while after. They are always holding back, but never indicate to each other why. So they always appear to mad at the other, when in reality they are lusting after one another. It wasn’t really romantic to me. It was just frustrating and never really got resolved. I guess that’s book 2’s job.

4. The supporting characters were great. Gio’s butler, Caspar, is so sweet and grandfatherly, especially with Beatrice. He’s also very protective and caring towards Gio. He’s clearly part of the family. I love his cat, Doyle, as well. Caspar starts a cute little something up with B’s grandma, who is also a strong character with a lot of spunk. Gio has a friend named Carwyn, who is definitely my favorite character in this book. He’s a Welsh priest who has been around for quite a while, and has a lot of life experience. He’s funny, flirtatious, and becomes a great friend to Beatrice. He always seems to know how she’s thinking and feeling, and knows just what to say to put her mind at ease. I’m kind of envious of Beatrice. She has so many sweet men keeping an eye on her!

5. The settings were unique, and I liked them. I enjoyed all the library time, and it was fun to picture what everything looked like and smelled like. I love libraries! Gio’s house sounds pretty cool. We also get to explore Greece and Chile in this book, which was cool.

6. I laughed a lot. There was a lot of joking around, sarcastic remarks, flirtatious moments, and interesting tastes in clothing. The characters lovingly made fun of each other. It was refreshing, since the underlying story is a bit dark and dangerous.

7. I liked the incorporation of the elements (fire, earth, wind, and water). Each book in the series focuses on one, and this one obviously focused on fire. And I liked the paranormal elements. I’m not going to say what those are, for fear of spoiling things for you, but it’s an interesting twist.

8. Really, my only complaint is that some of the plot dragged on and on, and was rather repetitive. There was a lot of sitting around and talking, with not a lot of action until the last part of the book. This is a long book, yet the bulk of the story felt rushed at the end. Nothing was tied up for us.

I would recommend this to people who enjoy paranormal urban fantasies with a tiny bit of romance. I’m thinking book 2 will open things up a lot more, and I’m curious to see what happens next! Book 2 (This Same Earth) is already out, book 3 (The Force of the Wind) is out this month, and the concluding book (A Fall of Water) has a tentative release date in June of this year.

To visit more stops with reviews of books 2 and 3, interviews with the author and characters, book excerpts, and chances to win all three books, click here


The Intern by Jess C. Scott (Book Review)

Posted February 28, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 5 Comments

The Intern by Jess C. Scott (Book Review)The Intern by Jess C. Scott
Published by Self on August 17, 2012
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: From the author
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0.5 Stars
17-year-old Suzie Q, smart kid and closet dance enthusiast, travels with a classmate to a world-class city for an internship program. She finds herself undeniably attracted to the suave hip-hop instructor, Jo.Zee, who recruits her into a dance fitness DVD he is producing. When Suzie sees (or thinks she sees) the real Jo.Zee, she must decide if she will trust him...or her instincts.

1. I’ve got extremely mixed feelings about this book. While I liked the idea, the execution was poor. The grammar was bad, the editing needed to be more precise, and the style bothered me. I found a ton of typos… It was written in first person, which takes talent that this author does not really have…

2. The details were too specific, especially regarding feelings. Nothing was left to the imagination. Jess spelled out every single emotion so you couldn’t put yourself in the character’s place.

3. There’s a lot of long descriptions of dance routines, which were so hard to follow. I could never picture in my mind the dances that the character(s) were doing. You have to be a Korean-Pop/Hip-Hop dancer to really understand, in my opinion. Maybe that’s not a big deal, but there’s a lot of it and I would have skimmed over those more if I were not planning to review this book.

4. Now, I really liked the story… and the idea. And I did find myself reading further to see what happened next. However, I found myself being confused by critical story elements, which is not normal for me. I don’t get confused by what I read… lol. Not to sound pretentious, but I’m a reading teacher, so my comprehension was not the problem. It was the writing. I had to read entire passages a second time to try and figure out what was going on.

I dunno. I liked the story, but the grammar and writing was sub-par. It all boils down to two things: it screams of being self-edited, and it screams of being self-published. I did not get the feeling that this was written by a professional, but more like someone who thought it might be a fun endeavor.


The Bastard/Honor Bound, by Brenda Novak (Book Review)

Posted November 18, 2011 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 2 Comments

The Bastard/Honor Bound, by Brenda Novak (Book Review)Honor Bound by Brenda Novak
Published by Self on October 23, 2011
Genres: Historical Romance, Romance
Pages: 374
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
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4 Stars
Note: This story was previously titled The Bastard

To some men honor is just a word...

Jeannette Boucher, a young French beauty from a family left penniless by the revolution, must marry against her will to save them all from ruin. But almost immediately after the vows are spoken, she learns that her old English husband is impotent—and in his desire for an heir, he plans to compromise her in the worst way. Determined to escape such a fate, she stows away on one of His Majesty’s frigates. But a woman alone is in constant danger.

To Lieutenant Treynor, honor means everything...

Born a bastard to a wayward marquise, Lieutenant Crawford Treynor was given to a poor farmer to raise and was maltreated until he ran away to join the Royal Navy. Treynor is determined to prove he’s as good as any other man and rise to captain his own frigate. But once he finds Jeannette aboard The Tempest he must decide whether to return her to the man he knows would abuse her—or risk everything, even his life, to keep her safe.'(

The story was exciting! We enter the story right as Jeanette is marrying this ugly old man that she is really rather repulsed by. She’s doing it to help her family, though. By marrying him, her family will want for nothing, but she will always want true love! While awaiting her new husband’s arrival to their bedroom, her brother barges in with some scary news. Her husband is impotent, and plans to have his male friends sleep with her to get her pregnant so he can have an heir. Jeanette decides to flee. When she discovers a Royal Navy ship in port that will be leaving for London soon, she decides to pose as a thirteen-year-old boy and sign on as one of the crew. In doing so, she runs into some dangerous situations. Lieutenant Treynor figures out her secret, and takes care of her until they can get her back on dry land. Of course, love happens… along with some adventure.

I really enjoyed this story. I appreciated the fact that, as far as romance novels go, this one was a little on the tamer side. It’s definitely not a book for youth, as steam happens, but there’s not a ton of time or pages devoted to it. It’s very easy to skip if you’re so inclined.

Jeanette is one of those characters that easy to not really know how you feel about her. Do I like her? Do I not like her? There’s a fine line between the two in this book. At times, I really liked her. I mean, she had self-esteem. She knew she did not deserve the life her husband was going to give her. She had a sense of honor because she married him to help her family. She was brave posing as a boy and becoming part of the crew. She had a certain level of values, and was very ladylike. However… so many of the times she was in danger were because she was an idiot. She kept doing things she was told not to do, thereby putting herself and Treynor in danger. It happened all the time. I can’t stand heroines who lack common sense.

How could anyone not like Lieutenant Treynor? He’s described as being nothing short of a Greek god. He came from a very difficult background and ran away to join the Royal Navy at a very young age. He climbed the ranks, and gained a ton of respect from the people he works with. He has an incredible sense of duty and does everything he can to protect Jeanette in secret, as well as do his job. He respects women. At one point, Jeanette gt a little tipsy drinking rum with the boys one night, and tried to seduce him. He sent her away because he felt wrong taking advantage of her current state of mind. He never forced himself on her. He is compassionate. Even when he thought she was a boy, he protected this young thing and took “him” under his wing. He’s also very gentlemanly and well-spoken. I really liked him. Definitely one of my favorite males in romance, and the very best part of this book.

The supporting characters were great. There were not too many to keep track of, but enough to convince you that the ship was full of a crew that mattered. We even have a villain, as pretty much all books do. He bugged me, but he was supposed to! I found myself enjoying the company of many of the characters. I’m not used to that, but I suppose it’s because these were Navy men and not ruthless, cold-hearted pirates.

I loved the descriptions. I could picture the wedding, the town, the port area (with taverns and seedy inns), the ship, the ocean, all the different cabins and rooms on board, etc. I could picture the crew doing tasks that I’ve never seen done before. I pictured everything wonderfully. I understood everything, and even learned a little about what went on aboard ships in days gone by, not to mention French and British history.

I’m not used to books of this genre covering so much adventure. Many authors could have turned this in to two books. I loved how fast-paced it was. Just as I thought we were winding down, ready to tie everything up into a nice bow, something crazy happened. AND every loose end imaginable was tied up. I was not left really wanting anything. I was happy with the ending.

I’d recommend this book to people who love romance on the high seas, adventure, strong male leads, likeable heroines, interesting and amusing supporting characters, and happy endings.

I’ll definitely be looking into more of Novak’s books. I hear she writes a lot of romantic suspense, which is another favorite genre of mine. Happy reading!

(Notes for those concerned about sensitive content: (Some may consider these spoilers, so be careful in reading.)
– Foreplay happens, but the actual act of sex never does.
– Any steamy scenes are kept to a paragraph or two (with the exception of maybe one).
– There is a rape attempt at Jeanette by someone on the opposing side of the war. Nobody on her ship’s crew is involved with that.
– There is war violence. People die.

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