Tag Archive | family

Review: Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer

Series: Spindle Fire #1

spindle-fire-lexa-hillyerIt all started with the burning of the spindles.
No.
It all started with a curse…

Half sisters Isabelle and Aurora are polar opposites: Isabelle is the king’s headstrong illegitimate daughter, whose sight was tithed by faeries; Aurora, beautiful and sheltered, was tithed her sense of touch and her voice on the same day. Despite their differences, the sisters have always been extremely close.

And then everything changes, with a single drop of Aurora’s blood–and a sleep so deep it cannot be broken.

As the faerie queen and her army of Vultures prepare to march, Isabelle must race to find a prince who can awaken her sister with the kiss of true love and seal their two kingdoms in an alliance against the queen.

Isabelle crosses land and sea; unearthly, thorny vines rise up the palace walls; and whispers of revolt travel in the ashes on the wind. The kingdom falls to ruin under layers of snow. Meanwhile, Aurora wakes up in a strange and enchanted world, where a mysterious hunter may be the secret to her escape . . . or the reason for her to stay.

Spindle Fire is the first book in a lush fantasy duology set in the dwindling, deliciously corrupt world of the fae and featuring two truly unforgettable heroines.


4 Drink Me Potions


Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**Spindle Fire comes out April 11, 2017**

“Light too can be a curse. It can illuminate things no one should ever have to witness.”

Spindle Fire was more than just a re-telling of Sleeping Beauty. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting going into the book as Sleeping Beauty wasn’t ever one of my favourite fairy tales, but I truly enjoyed the imaginative atmosphere that Lexa Hillyer weaved into this story.

The plot and the girls

Moving between POVs from our two main leads, Aurora and Isabelle, made the story seem faster paced. I don’t know, it may just be me on this, but whenever there are multiple POVs and things just seem to kind of hang at the end of one character’s plotline, I seem to hurriedly go through the next character’s so that I get back to the really intense moment we were left with earlier. So this is how I kind of flew through much of Spindle Fire.

That’s not to say that the story wasn’t mostly well-paced. It was slow at the beginning, mostly because we all know the elements of Sleeping Beauty’s story (ie. Aurora falling asleep) would have to occur at some point, but the beginning was captivating with the backstory laid out.

Isabelle is clearly my favourite of the two. She’s blind, with the excerpt above coming from her wise, WISE views on the world. (You will notice as you read that Hillyer’s prose is very descriptive in a “oh, that’s such a nice way of describing this deep concept”.) She doesn’t let her position in court bring her down. Who says the bastard child can’t be just as awesome (if not better) as the “royal” one?

Her love for her younger sister is astonishing. You would think being the legitimate and the bastard child of a king would set them against each other but there was never animosity between them. Only love. It may be easier for Aurora to love her (or pity her for her station in life), but to be the underprivileged one to likewise feel just as protective for the spoiled one, it’s difficult to imagine.

Then again, Aurora was the cliched smart, beautiful, kind and obedient princess that fairy tales kind of like to have (or at least the traditional Disney ones–NOT your scary Brothers Grimm ones). So yes, Aurora wasn’t as interesting of a character, but she too grew a lot throughout her demise (and oh boy is there a lot going on with her even in sleep) which made me like her a bit more.

Oh, and there’s also the interesting fact that fairies tithed away 2 of 5 senses (you’re running out of senses, poor girl) on permission by her royal parents (such parents!) to make her the cliched princess that she is. She can’t speak, but even more interestingly, she can’t touch. I suppose that means no physical feelings, but I never could figure out if that included emotional ones. Maybe they’re all tied up in one another sometimes.

So what I’ve described so far hasn’t really made you feel too excited, has it? Cliched spoiled princess and the underdog who may show her true colours as a hero. And of course, the Sleeping Beauty story arc, with the needle pricking Aurora and evil witches (can’t have a story without those evil witches, can we?).

And then things CHANGE.

Nothing is exactly as you’d think it would be once Aurora goes to sleep. A mad witch queen who may or may not be evil, a whole kingdom hidden from the real world, and….a narwhal hunting expedition??

If I had to use one word to describe this book that made it stand out, it’d be IMAGINATIVE.

The romance (’cause of course that’s an important point to make)

Each princess seems to have a particular boy she sets her sights on. For Aurora, she meets a hunter named Heath who is very difficult to read. Here’s a princess who dreams of finding true love, and a jaded young man who doesn’t want to hope in anything more than the world they’re trapped in. Oh, and doesn’t believe in love. What kind of match would that be?

Unfortunately, the romance part on this couple doesn’t get too far, in my opinion. A potential love triangle pops up here with another girl who’s pining away for Heath, but I don’t honestly think she poses much of a threat (yet).

Then there’s Prince William and Isbe, who insistently calls her by her full name. William isn’t too cliched. He’s not extraordinarily brave or the kind of man you’d see “riding in on a white steed”. He’s supposed to be the answer to all of Isabelle’s problems: her vulnerable kingdom and the fact that Aurora is stuck in some perpetual sleep.

BUT, I always love a good forbidden love story. Their journey together to get to Aurora was one of the things that most delighted me. Things progressed a bit more with this couple, but unfortunately, I can totally see a love triangle looming in the distance with another guy who secretly feels things for Isbe (and whom she liked before William).

So Andge, would you say that this romance sets it up nicely for book 2?

Well, I dunno. I don’t like love triangles, and it doesn’t seem too serious at the moment (nothing happens between the other potential people) but I guess the only thing to do is to wait for the next book to come out….oh, in approximately A YEAR.

Hillyer’s prose

I have to remark on this before I conclude this review (I know, I’ve gone on for far too long already). You can clearly see the author’s poetry background. Small pieces of poetry actually pops in here and there. There’s a little lullaby both the girls know by heart and a very creepy scene where a crazy girl is talking in rhymes. So who says poetry doesn’t have its place in YA literature?

However, it’s also evident everywhere else you look! If you love metaphors strewn all over the place to demonstrate significant “character moments” and deep thoughts, then this is for you (or it may annoy you…I can see that happening too).

From Aurora learning to decide for herself and just GROW a backbone,

[Aurora] is not just swimming toward safety now but away from her former, meeker self. She can almost hear the wail of the old Aurora, weak and scared, carried downstream, far away.

to Isbe pondering on the concept of true love, one she never accepted as much as her sister did,

[Isbe] always thought romance was a cloudy concept, like the steam over a pot of boiling stew–it smells of hearty ingredients, it warms the senses…but ultimately it dissolves.

to grim thoughts.

“You know, I used to love looking at the stars at night. I used to think they were put there to guide us. Now I know they are just watching and winking, mute observed, bemused by our failures and our loss.”


Out of ALL else, this was what sold me on Spindle Fire. It wasn’t ever too over-the-top. The metaphors are strategically placed throughout, and some are more subtle than others. I do hope you enjoy the book when it comes out. I look forward to reading more from Lexa Hillyer.

Overall Recommendation:
Spindle Fire is an imaginative re-telling of Sleeping Beauty with a whole bunch of wild other stuff thrown in there as well. Lexa Hillyer’s prose is both beautiful and poignant, really describing the turmoils of the inner heart of both her main characters. Like a fairy tale, there is both action (fighting evil witches, of course!) and romance in it, but ultimately, this is a story about the love shared between two sisters. I think this story is worthwhile to check out, if at least just to read prose and descriptions.

Note: All quotes are subject to change when published

Review: The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee

the-secret-of-a-heart-note-stacey-leeAn evocative novel about a teen aroma expert who uses her extrasensitive sense of smell to mix perfumes that help others fall in love while protecting her own heart at all costs

Sometimes love is right under your nose. As one of only two aromateurs left on the planet, sixteen-year-old Mimosa knows what her future holds: a lifetime of weeding, mixing love elixirs, and matchmaking—all while remaining incurably alone. For Mim, the rules are clear: falling in love would render her nose useless, taking away her one great talent. Still, Mimosa doesn’t want to spend her life elbow-deep in soil and begonias. She dreams of a normal high school experience with friends, sports practices, debate club, and even a boyfriend. But when she accidentally gives an elixir to the wrong woman and has to rely on the lovesick woman’s son, the school soccer star, to help fix the situation, Mim quickly begins to realize that falling in love isn’t always a choice you can make.

At once hopeful, funny, and romantic, Stacey Lee’s The Secret of a Heart Note is a richly evocative coming-of-age story that gives a fresh perspective on falling in love and finding one’s place in the world.


4 Drink Me Potions


Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**The Secret of a Heart Note comes out December 27, 2016**

If you want a story filled with a diverse cast of characters and a little bit of magic thrown into your every day lives, then The Secret of a Heart Note is the book for you.

Mimosa, or Mim as she liked to be called, was a very intriguing protagonist. She was different (obviously, what with her special nose that could scent practically as well as a bloodhound), but she still held those same desires of any teenage girl her age. I liked that she was relatable yet still so interesting to read about due to her unique abilities that run through her family.

The world building, including the history of aromateurs and their ways, was fascinating and I very thoroughly enjoyed the quotes from aromateurs past at the beginning of each chapter. Even though she lived in California, a very familiar location that should not come as a surprise to anyone for the setting of a contemporary novel, the whole world felt so different when described through Mim’s eyes (or should I say, through her nose?). Stacey Lee really went into detail about the different scents for different emotions, and the ingredients that go into the makings of their love potions. The in-depth details of how their concoctions even work, and the rigorous rules they must follow in their line of duty to their special olfactory abilities was fascinating. I was thoroughly pleased to gain such insight into how it looked like being in Mim’s life.

Because, after all, it wasn’t all so easy being her. ‘Cause apparently, an ancestor cursed them from falling in love at the risk of losing their noses.

Beyond the world building that was superb, I really enjoyed the diverse ethnicities and cultures that were represented in the characters. Mim’s best friend was Samoan, one of their main clients was African American, and a star soccer player was Asian. It was great. I have never seen such representation in the YA genre before in one book. I normally don’t mind so much, but being Asian myself, I’m very proud of Stacey Lee trying to be so inclusive in her writings. I look forward to reading some of her other works because they seem to follow this same pattern. If you like seeing diversity in your books, I’d definitely think this story (and author) is for you!

The only problem I had with the story was, oddly enough, the romance. I did not enjoy it as much as I had hoped. Frankly, I didn’t care much for the love interest, to the point that I’ve even forgotten his name. Sure, I felt bad for Mim when there were misunderstandings because high schoolers of course would not understand what it means to empathize with those who are different. When their relationship got rocky (’cause of course it would), I just felt really sad for her, but I couldn’t bring myself to care as much as I would if I had thoroughly enjoyed the two of them together. Don’t get me wrong, this book was lots of fun and portrayed themes that were important. The romance was obviously a huge glue in the story as it’s a story about falling in love, after all. I just wish the love interest had a bigger personality that didn’t bore me.

Needless to say, I am very glad to have found this story. Lee is being added onto my list of authors to read more from, and I think you should give her a try too. Be sure to check this book out when it hits stores!

Overall Recommendation:
The Secret of a Heart Note was my first Stacey Lee book, and it’s opened my eyes to how a well-done story about falling in love, with a diverse cast and a hint of magic and fun, should look like. With every person holding a unique scent made up of many different scent notes, Mim and her family hold the unique ability to hone in on these to make potions to guide people to love. A very unique idea that was marvellously written with a witty and humorous voice, this novel is sure to entertain. If only the central romance had held more of my interest, this book would honestly have been one of the best of the year for me.

Review: The Collector by Nora Roberts

the collector -nora robertsFrom #1 New York Times-bestselling author Nora Roberts comes a novel of a woman who needs nothing, a man who sees everything, and the web of deceit, greed, and danger that brings them together—and could tear them apart . . .

When professional house-sitter Lila Emerson witnesses a murder/suicide from her current apartment-sitting job, life as she knows it takes a dramatic turn. Suddenly, the woman with no permanent ties finds herself almost wishing for one. . . .

Artist Ashton Archer knows his brother isn’t capable of violence—against himself or others. He recruits Lila, the only eyewitness, to help him uncover what happened. Ash longs to paint her as intensely as he hungers to touch her. But their investigation draws them into a rarified circle where priceless antiques are bought, sold, gambled away, and stolen, where what you possess is who you are, and where what you desire becomes a deadly obsession. . . .


2 Drink Me Potions


Nora Robert’s The Collector was probably the worst mystery I’ve read from her so far. I might even be inclined to call it the worst book of hers that I’ve read as well.

I’m not sure why, but before I began this novel, I had this weird assumption that this would be another creepy serial killer kind of mystery. A Collector that collects people, by which I mean kills them because, of course, these killers have no empathy for people. However, even when I figured it wasn’t a serial crime, what this book really was about was so far below expectations.

First, writing itself was bland and boring.

Roberts describes the locations and settings in fine detail sometimes. That’s okay. It really sets the mood and pulls the reader into the story with the characters. This time? I just couldn’t stand the tedious effort of it all. I found myself skimming all the long paragraphs about what Ash was painting or Lila was writing. Sure, it was enjoyable to see what these characters so passionately loved to do, but was the ridiculous amount of detail really necessary to further the MAIN plot?

As for the main mystery, there was absolutely NO suspense at all.

The culprit that initially killed Ash’s brother was just given to us, name and all. We don’t even have to guess or wait anxiously for the who-dunnit. It’s literally right there on the pages for you and I to read . I was incredibly annoyed with this.

So then I had hoped there would be more of a mystery when confronting the hired assassin’s boss. Well, that turned out to be a bust too. No drama or flair when Ash and Lila figure out who was behind it all, or why. It made everything so boring.

Then there’s also the fact that the characters weren’t all that easy to like or connect with. Lila lives a life as a house-sitter (which sounds kinda fun, if you ask me). She moves about and doesn’t set any roots down. A gypsy, as even Ash saw her as. But this definitely made her one of those prickly, “I can’t commit” kinda gals, which obviously led to romantic frustrations for Ash. It was all so tiring to see her go through her list of reasons for why she couldn’t go faster with the progression of their relationship, or to read her waiting for some kind of disaster to occur.

Ash was an okay male love interest, but he was nothing special. He deeply cared for his extremely large family, and he’s the one responsible for taking care of whatever problems befell them all. I liked that about him, but beyond a mild admiration, Roberts didn’t instill any great love for him. He was just another normal guy who fell into a bad situation.

Without the emotional attachment to them, I struggled several times to get through the extremely long length of this book. And I do mean, this book was extremely long. I swear half the book was filler material that didn’t really add much to the overall story.

The only thing I really enjoyed reading was the very beginning, with Lila looking through her binoculars and imagining the lives the people in those apartments were living. That’s what drew me into writing in the first place. The joy of picturing the endless possibilities of what was going on with other people. I didn’t mind those heavily described passages in this case.

With a huge, huge sigh, I’ve gotta say, The Collector was a huge disappointment to me. I hope more of Robert’s newer mysteries don’t all suck like this. I wish for stories similar to her older ones, like Sacred Sins.

Overall Recommendation:
The Collector doesn’t live up to some of Robert’s older and better mysteries, with absolutely no suspense and a plot that deviates into unnecessary details that just don’t overall matter. Lila, the protagonist, was hard to enjoy as she had commitment issues. The length of the book felt overdrawn with minute details on Lila’s work as an author and artwork that wasn’t essential to the mystery. If Roberts had spent more time on the main crime and mystery, without giving us the name of the killer like it was nothing, maybe there would’ve been hope for it. At this point, I’m surprised I even finished the book. The Collector lacked the chilling crimes and mysterious culprit that I had come to enjoy from Roberts. That in itself is a disappointment.

Review: A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

a mad, wicked folly -sharon biggs wallerWelcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.

After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?


 

4.5 Drink Me Potions


A Mad, Wicked Folly has been on my to-read list for a long while, but I kept putting it off for who knows what reasons. So to my utter surprise, I realize I had set aside this long a book that spoke volumes to me. The historical YA genre has started picking up with better books lately, so if you like a dose of history (with clear evidence of research into the time period) along with a strong protagonist fighting for a cause, this is the book for you.

Set in the early 1900s, the women suffragist movement was picking up in both America and England. I always love a good novel set in London, and this Edwardian era novel is no exception. The times are changing and women are fighting for more freedom and equal opportunities as men. More education, getting their own wages and doing something more substantial than just hosting the next dinner party for their husbands. I never considered myself a huge feminist and just briefly studied the history of women’s rights. But this book really opened my eyes to the very realistic struggle that such women went through in order to make a better life for their daughters, their nieces and any woman who was radical enough to want something more for themselves for a change.

Vicky Darling was no exception as such a protagonist. She yearns to go to art school, to exhibit her work in galleries and get paid for it. She dreams more for herself than just being a docile wife to a man who thinks she has no brain or useful purpose beyond being an arm candy.

I loved Vicky. She was already bold for a girl in her social circle. Being an upper middle class young woman meant more pressures into being the traditional kind of lady. Marrying for title and for money. It was harder to break out of the mold. But she posed nude. For the sake of art! I’m not sure even I would be bold enough to do such a thing now, 100+ years after.

Not only was she courageous enough to do such a thing, she faced the resulting consequences with her head held high. She grew immensely through the events of the book. Sharon Biggs Waller did a great job of documenting the events of Vicky’s life after that single moment. Vicky initially didn’t align herself with the suffragettes but the focus of this book is mostly on their fight for equality.

Now, normally, I would think such a premise would make it kinda boring, right? And of course, there’s tons more to this story beyond the historical accuracies of the women rights movement for voting. However, this surprisingly (and I’m glad for it) took my breath away, at the emotion of the fight. It might connect more if you are also a woman, to understand that real women fought such things so that we could do things we take for granted now.

If that doesn’t satisfy you enough to want to pick up the book, A Mad, Wicked Folly also revolves around a love triangle of sorts. You know I abhor those, but this was more of a complicated situation. On one hand, Vicky needed to get out of her father’s control, and marriage to a suitable husband could provide that. Even if she didn’t love him.

On the other hand, you’ve got Police Constable William Fletcher. Ah, Will.

The blooming romance with him was amazing. And it mainly stems from how great (and hot) of a model he makes for Vicky’s drawings. Here is where the other great aspect of the book comes in. Wait for it? Is it the romance? Sure, it played a decent role in the plot and was very enjoyable, but what blew my mind? The art.

I don’t confess to know much about art, or have the greatest passion for it. I’m more of a writer, if this doesn’t already surprise you. But the details that went into describing Vicky’s work and seeing her world through an artist’s eye made it all the more breathtaking.

I think there’s a bit of everything all wrapped up in a beautiful novel set in Edwardian London. Don’t make the mistake I did to wait so long to read it. Sharon Biggs Waller writes in a manner that draws you into the time period and into the emotions of our protagonist and those surrounding her.

Overall Recommendation:
A Mad, Wicked Folly is another example of how amazing well-researched historical YA books can be. Vicky Darling is an artist, or at least she hopes to be if she could ever get the chance to learn more. But in Edwardian London, women aren’t allowed the same opportunities. Set in the time period of the women’s rights movement, it gives a wonderful picture of how hard real-life women in the past fought for things we may take advantage of now. Vicky’s journey and self-growth as she learns what it takes, what sacrifices she may need to make, in order to pursue her dream as a young woman in the early 20th century. Add a sweet romance with her model, I’m sure this book has something to draw just about anyone in. Who ever said history couldn’t be fun to read about?

Review: Shattered Identity by Sandra Robbins

Series: Ocracoke Island #2

shattered identity -sandra robbinsSomeone—with a very personal motive—has it out for Lisa Wade, Ocracoke Island’s sheriff’s dispatcher.

She was viciously attacked, her home was ransacked and one very precious possession was stolen. Deputy Scott Michaels plans to stay close until the culprit is caught …but that means involving Lisa in the investigation. And her assistance may cause more trouble for Lisa when she finds clues in a journal to a deadly mystery.

As Lisa and Scott cross dangerous territory, they inch closer to the truth— and to each other.

But lurking in the shadows is a killer determined to keep some secrets buried forever.


3 Drink Me Potions


After reading the first Ocracoke Island book, I fell in love with the island and the Michaels family. I just had to gobble down the next book in the series.

This story focused on the new big brother in the family, the events which introduce him to us occurring in Dangerous Reunion. However, a little different from the previous book, the mystery felt a little more flat to me.

First, the culprit was slightly predictable (in my opinion, which may be biased considering I read a ton of mysteries), which is never good sign when it comes to who-dunnit mysteries. It still took a while to get to that point where I could 100% say I’m positive on the identity, but it definitely occurred before the climax of the story.

Second, Lisa’s character was a little more reckless and defensive when it came to her mother. Granted, it was warranted considering the small town didn’t always have the nicest things to say to her. But always fighting with Scott’s protective concern for her was a little tiresome. She honestly could’ve been killed so many times during the course of the book, if not for the fact that it couldn’t happen since she’s one of the protagonists.

And lastly, the romance was just harder to swallow. Both Lisa and Scott have emotional scars from their past. I understand this was the connecting point that brought them to each other, but also the point from which the healing powers that only come from Jesus can work its way through the story. I did like that. Peace that transcends all understanding comes only from Him. And in a beautiful setting such as this island? I can imagine what it would feel like if I were to bask in His glory there.

I will end with saying that this novel didn’t stick out all too much from the pack of Love Inspired Suspense books and its formula, but it still was an enjoyable enough read. My favourite point was the real-life story of how a lamb sacrificed itself to save several soldiers from being killed by an IED. That is the best story I’ve heard in a long time.

Review: Dangerous Reunion by Sandra Robbins

Series: Ocracoke Island #1

dangerous reunion -sandra robbinsA murderer on tiny, safe Ocracoke Island?

Deputy Sheriff Kate Michaels doesn’t want to believe it—until someone at the crime scene starts shooting at her. Then Nashville detective Brock Gentry shows up.

Brock broke her heart years ago when he called off their engagement. Now, torn apart by a case, Brock seeks sanctuary on the island. Yet as the threats against Kate escalate—and Kate’s sisters are targeted—she turns to the man she’s never stopped loving.

Even if their reunion is more dangerous than it ever was before.


 

3.5 Drink Me Potion


It’s been a long while since I’ve read a Love Inspired Suspense book, but I think it was fortuitous that I picked up a Sandra Robbins book as my first. In Dangerous Reunion, we get to see and experience Ocracoke Island off the shores of North Carolina. I’ve never been there, but from the beautiful descriptions of this place, it makes me wish that I could someday visit it.

There’s someone out to make life difficult for Deputy Kate Michaels. On such a beautiful little island that mainly attracts tourists in the summer season, they don’t expect to have a murder, let alone multiple incidents, in the span of several days. To make things worse, the culprit seems to be targeting Kate, leaving messages for her specifically at the scene of different crimes. With many red herrings thrown our way, it took me a while to try to guess who may be the antagonist. But when the identity finally came out, Robbins wrote it in such a way that this reveal made sense to me and that there were enough hints that justified choosing this character.

The romance wasn’t very strong in this one. I think the highlight of the relationship between Kate and Brock was that they wanted to rebuild a strong foundational friendship first before it can ever amount to more. I appreciated this. As such, the focus wasn’t on the potential romance between them but on how Brock could find peace on this lovely stretch of land called Ocracoke Island. Personally, I think this book came at the right moment. Finding peace isn’t easy; life gets way too busy and noisy for most to sit still enough to hear God’s voice. Sometimes His message doesn’t come flashing on crashing thunder. Sometimes, it’s written in the soft brush of the wind or the cries of a bird in the silence. I want to thank Sandra Robbins for inputting such a sweet message in the midst of a fun mystery.

All in all, this is a great taste of what the Love Inspired Suspense line brings. I suggest you give this book and others a try.

Overall Recommendation:
Dangerous Reunion is set in the beautiful island of Ocracoke, a place that feels so real to me although I’ve never stepped foot in North Carolina. The mystery was en par as the actions of the culprit escalates, all the while targeting Deputy Kate as she tries to keep everyone on her island safe. With the additional stress of seeing her ex-fiance, this story revolves around friendship, forgiveness and finding that peace that only comes from God. I can’t wait to come back to Ocracoke Island with more from Sandra Robbins.

Review: Her Backup Boyfriend by Ashlee Mallory

Series: The Sorensen Family #1

her backup boyfriend -ashlee malloryOne little white lie leads to more than she planned…

Straight-laced lawyer Kate Matthews always plays by the rules. But when her ex gets engaged and a big promotion is on the line at work, she blurts out that she has a new boyfriend. And now that she’s proved she “has a life” outside of work, everything is perfect. Except for one teeny little detail—there is no boyfriend. And now Kate’s liable for her little white lie…

Dominic Sorensen is hot, charming, and very definitely not Kate’s type. But not only does Dominic want to help Kate renovate her home, he’s also willing to play “boyfriend.” All he wants in return is a little pro bono work for his sister. Now instead of Mr. Right, Kate has a delectable Mr. Fix-It-Right—and some unbelievable sexual chemistry. And if falling for Dominic is a breach of contract, Kate is guilty as charged…


 

3.5 Drink Me Potions


I admit, the fake boyfriend trope fascinates me. It’s like, if you act it enough, you just start to believe in these feelings and situations. And I find it kind of cute that people can come to care for each other in this way.

In this story, Kate has suffered from watching her ex get engaged with someone else in her law firm. Struggling from heartache and also the pressures of becoming someone by making a junior partner in her work, she’s one stressed out character.

However, the plot isn’t all seriousness. It gets balanced out by the hilarious antics with her new Mr. Fix-It, Dominic, who also happens to be her neighbour’s nephew. Together, they hatch out a plan to get their families and work off their back about their love lives in order to get what they want.

But you know, as with these books, what they want eventually gets blurred and questioned.

It was a quick and easy read. I think what I loved the most was the Sorensen family. The Sunday dinners that were described really made me think about how family is very important, no matter our age. It shouldn’t be something that’s only done to pacify the parents. And Dominic being willing to bring Kate into that wonderful family dynamic showed her what she was missing from her childhood. Becoming someone important and “good enough” isn’t the most essential thing life.

All in all, it was a fun read and I got what I wanted from it, though it may not be as memorable.

Overall Recommendation:
Her Backup Boyfriend was a sweet and charming novel on the essentials of family and love. Kate is consumed with work, trying to be “good enough” in the eyes of her ex’s family as she’s not cut from the same rich cloth. Meanwhile, she meets someone who challenges those wants, who puts family first. Seeing the loving Sorensen family welcome her into their group made her question what she truly wanted in life. It was a nice read and perfect for a quiet summer afternoon.

Review: The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle

the-accident-season-moira-fowley-doyleEvery October Cara and her family become inexplicably and unavoidably accident-prone. Some years it’s bad, like the season when her father died, and some years it’s just a lot of cuts and scrapes. This accident season—when Cara, her ex-stepbrother, Sam, and her best friend, Bea, are 17—is going to be a bad one. But not for the reasons they think.

Cara is about to learn that not all the scars left by the accident season are physical: There’s a long-hidden family secret underneath the bumps and bruises. This is the year Cara will finally fall desperately in love, when she’ll start discovering the painful truth about the adults in her life, and when she’ll uncover the dark origins of the accident season—whether she’s ready or not.


2.5 Drink Me Potions


This book is deliciously eerie. There’s no other way of describing it. And the chaos that occurs to this little family is erratic and a bit dark, like there’s something otherworldly following their accidents. The strange coincidences that happen every October. I don’t know how to describe it. It makes you wanna peel it back layer by layer, slowly unravelling the craziness.

The imagery portrayed in the ghostly figures Cara sees and the other strange things this one particular “girl” keeps leaving behind for her to find. It’s a mysterious story with a plot that sometimes confuses you and makes you wonder what the heck is going on.

Amidst the scarier intrigue, there’s a bit of a forbidden romance going on. I personally have nothing against Cara falling for her ex-stepbrother but it is a little weird if you focus hard enough on it. However, I find their little piece of romance like a small island to float in and bask in its blissfulness amidst the hushed tones of the rest of the novel. It’s like this story’s version of comic relief, except more cute.

The ending is also wonderfully ambiguous. In a good way. Whether or not you believe in magic, ghosts or mere coincidences, this does teach the idea that secrets kept hidden in closets all eventually find a way to explode itself out.

Overall Recommendation:
The Accident Season is unlike any book I’ve read. It stands out with its mysterious airs and strange happenings to this little family. With accidents that aren’t always just small mishaps, the intrigue and excitement ramps up when Cara thinks she’s seeing things, or people more like it. It’s an interesting read, albeit a bit strange for my general tastes, but I’d say it’s worth a flip through.

Review: Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

Series: The Princesses of Westfalin Trilogy #1

princess of the midnight ball -jessica day george A tale of twelve princesses doomed to dance until dawn…

Galen is a young soldier returning from war; Rose is one of twelve princesses condemned to dance each night for the King Under Stone. Together Galen and Rose will search for a way to break the curse that forces the princesses to dance at the midnight balls. All they need is one invisibility cloak, a black wool chain knit with enchanted silver needles, and that most critical ingredient of all—true love—to conquer their foes in the dark halls below. But malevolent forces are working against them above ground as well, and as cruel as the King Under Stone has seemed, his wrath is mere irritation compared to the evil that awaits Galen and Rose in the brighter world above.

Captivating from start to finish, Jessica Day George’s take on the Grimms’ tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses demonstrates yet again her mastery at spinning something entirely fresh out of a story you thought you knew.


 

2.5 Drink Me Potions


If you know me well enough, you would know that I absolutely adore fairy tale retellings in general. However, something about Princess of the Midnight Ball just lacked in excitement.

Overall, this novel was a fun enough read while it lasted, but it’s easily forgettable.

The story is based off of one of the Grimm’s brothers fairy tales. This wasn’t one of those famous ones remade by Disney. It did give off a bit of a creepy vibe so I suppose Disney would have to change it up a bit. Anyway, it starts off with the evil villain. Some dude named the King Under Stone. Like, what the heck? I don’t know the fairy tale so it may have made tons of sense but it just seemed like a lame name for such a powerful villain. So what if he lived underground? Doesn’t make it right to give him such a stupid name.

There were 12 girls, all sisters and princesses of the kingdom, who lived under a curse of having to dance a Midnight ball every third night. For the evil villain himself. Of course, no one could know of this except the fact that they kept disappearing to who-knows-where in the middle of the night from their rooms, no matter how hard their father king tried to prevent them.

Enter Galen Werner, just an ordinary soldier boy coming home from a war that was over in the kingdom. He was a likeable character. He seemed to follow some sort of moral code. Maybe it came from seeing the sights he did in war that not many other young people his age did. He wasn’t jaded though, but gave off a trustworthy vibe, a you can count on me kind of feeling.

Of course, turns out that he really was the kind of guy who would sacrifice his own safety to help 12 princesses for their sake.

There’s a bit of romance in it between Galen and the eldest princess, Rose. Not by much for YA standards. It was an innocent first bloom kind of love, with glimpses from afar and the occasional conversation in the garden. It was still nice, I guess. Just…not the kind of thing to get your heart racing for them.

But all these things I mentioned above? Lackluster. That’s the best word I can come up with. There’s not much emotion beyond a slight oh hey, that’s cool, I guess kinda feeling. Things were predictable, it was just a matter of how they got there. Although there wasn’t much, here are the few things that I found unique and somewhat memorable:

1. All the girls were named after flowers. (I know, right? That’s also hard to keep track of with so many of them)
2. The lair of the evil villain reminded me of the Underworld, but described with water instead of fire.
And lastly,
3. Galen’s adventures with his invisibility cloak. (Harry Potter, anyone? Hmm?)

Princess of the Midnight Ball is not a bad fairy tale retelling, but may just be memorable for the younger YA audience. If I had read this a few years earlier, maybe my rating would have changed. Who knows? But as of right now, this story will probably fade from my memory amongst the many, many books I’ve read. It’s just missing that extra umph.

Overall Recommendation:
Princess of the Midnight Ball was a retelling of an unfamiliar fairy tale. This could’ve made it more intriguing and mysterious since I had no prior knowledge of how the story may go, but the story was still fairly predictable from the start. The characters were okay, especially our hero Galen who fits the knight in shining armor stereotype to a T, but no one stuck out as unique. The romance was innocent and cute and that’s not bad, but that doesn’t even give the story a little extra excitement that it clearly needed. Overall, it was decent, but it’s no competition amidst the rather large genre of fairy tale retellings in YA these days.

Review: Orchard Valley Grooms by Debbie Macomber

Series: Orchard Valley #1-2

orchard valley grooms -debbie macomberValerie rushes home to Orchard Valley, Oregon, when her father, David, suffers a heart attack. She and her two younger sisters, Stephanie and Norah, are gathering at his side, praying he’ll live, fearing he’ll die.

At a time like this, falling in love is the last thing on Valerie’s mind. And with Dr. Colby Winston, of all people! He’s David’s heart surgeon, a renowned specialist who enjoys small-town living, while Valerie is a high-powered businesswoman who prefers city life. They’re complete opposites in every way. Yet David keeps insisting she and Colby are a perfect couple.

Meanwhile Stephanie has other worries besides her father’s health. She’d fled Orchard Valley three years earlier after her humiliating rejection by local journalist Charles Tomaselli. Now she’s home, and it’s not long before they begin reliving past battles–and renewing old feelings. He was the reason she left. This time, will he give her a reason to stay? David seems to think so.

Does their father know something Valerie and Stephanie don’t?


3 Drink Me Potions


It’s a fairly open secret that I have some strange soft spot for Debbie Macomber. Yes, her stories can be cheesy with their happy-ever-after endings, but sometimes, a girl just needs those kinds of endings, you know?

With Orchard Valley Grooms, I had such high hopes. Two sisters falling in love with their respective special someones? Sounds like it fits the criteria to a glove.

But. Yes, there is a but. These two stories captured me with their endless drama and irritated me to no end all at the same time.

In Valerie, the immediate attraction and way Colby and Valerie fell for each other made some sense in a way. Valerie was under a lot of stress what with her father suffering from a heart attack. Colby was there to give her the emotional support that she needed. However, by the end of it, they were happily in love and thinking of marriage in, what, three weeks? Does this happen in real life? How can one know if this person would survive every bump in the road that’s sure to come in hopefully a long marriage? Sure, it may be an adventure to find out, but still. It was a little unsettling to see that it happened all so quickly.

And then there’s the fact of their drama that initially prevented them from getting together after realizing each others’ feelings. Colby is traditional as crap! Don’t mind my language. A women can very well work and take care of a family. Yes, he’s tired at nights after his long (and presumably emotion-taxing) shifts, but a woman doesn’t just live to serve hand and foot for him when he gets home. As for Valerie, I understood her inhibitions but she wasn’t all for compromise initially either.

If that first story wasn’t exhausting enough, I immediately jumped into Stephanie. Silly me thought it would help relieve my inner frustrations. Oh boy, was I wrong.

I liked Steffie more than Valerie in a sense that I could understand unrequited love. She ran away from the face of rejection and I don’t blame her. Charles was awful when she admitted her feelings three years prior. Who could blame a girl for wanting to get away from such embarrassment?

However, the resolution to Charles’ actions just didn’t seem quite…right with me. It wasn’t that it couldn’t have been plausible. It could have been. I just didn’t understand why wait so long to tell Steffie he felt the same way. So much drama and heart ache could’ve easily been bypassed if he did. Why get so angry if he knew she still felt the same way towards him? I just dunno. This poor heart of mine couldn’t handle all this nonsensical heart ache.

Anyway, I gobbled these stories up as fast as I could and although I didn’t love them as I had hoped, they weren’t terrible. A guilty pleasure, if you will. But never have I wanted to throttle guys as much as I did with these men. I can fully understand the Bloomfield sisters’ feelings.

Overall Recommendation:
Two stories in one with each based on one Bloomfield sister. I couldn’t ask for more, can I? Turns out, the story didn’t hold as much for me as I had hoped. In both Valerie and Stephanie, the male protagonists acted in nonsensical manners that drove me (and the Bloomfield sisters) crazy. I suppose there had to be tension and drama to prevent an immediate happily-ever-after resolution, but it was exhausting. I wouldn’t necessarily throw these stories out. It was still the cheesy, happy ending kind of story that I needed on occasion. At least it fills up that requirement perfectly. I would say it’s perfect if that is the kinda book you’re looking for on a boring, lazy afternoon.