Book Review: Smoke and Mirrors

review-cover-smoke and mirrorsTitle: Smoke and Mirrors [Blackhollow Academy 1]

Author: Jess Haines

Genre: Urban Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance, New Adult

Rating: 5 (4.5) Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Kimberly may wield ultimate cosmic power, but even a mage has to pay the rent. No one will hire her for her magic talents until she’s got the credentials, so she’s stuck in a crappy rent controlled apartment with her mother, yearning for treats she can’t afford at her part time job in a café, counting down the days until she graduates the secret Blackhollow Academy school for magi. Only then will she have the certificate she needs to land her dream job in a coven.

The problem? She needs a familiar to graduate.

As an illusionist, she doesn’t have the ability to summon or create a familiar of her own. Her only option is to convince a supernatural creature to let her bind it instead. Since having a powerful Other at her beck and call would guarantee her a place in a coven after she graduates—and legendary treasure hoards are an added bonus—she thinks binding a dragon as her familiar will solve all her problems…

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

This book couldn’t’ have come through my inbox at a better time. I was looking for a good, solid romance that I could effortlessly sink into for an afternoon… and staring at me was a long list of books I’d been asked to read that I wasn’t sure fit into that category. I couldn’t have been happier that this was the book that I picked up.

Technically speaking, the book was flawless. I didn’t catch any obvious typos or grammatical errors. The narrative and dialogue flowed smoothly, and at a good pace that was neither too fast nor too slow. I never came across a moment where I had to re-read or roll my eyes at what the characters were saying or doing.

Though there weren’t a lot of characters to the cast, the ones I got to know were well fleshed out and for the most part, likable. Kimberly was a great main character, and although I wish the romance between Kimberly and Cormac had been a bit more solid, it was easy to see why the surly dragon was so drawn to her. I think, for me, there just wasn’t enough of a build up to the romance between the two main characters. Obviously, there was an attraction between the two – but there was also a lot of distrust from both ends, and I just didn’t see them falling in love as quickly as they did. Despite that, their romance was entertaining, so I won’t fault it too much.

The world building by far was one of my favorite aspects of this book. It was an interesting mix of Harry Pottery meets Lost Girl, meets Dresden – and it worked. I liked that there were familiar aspects of urban fantasy (such as a magic academy, magical creatures living in a real life setting, and prejudices against certain types of magical creatures) that I’d seen in other series, but they were put together in a way that was new, and entertaining.

Overall, although the romance was an aspect of this book, I don’t think it was the strongest point. But it didn’t need to be. The story stood up in a lot of other ways, and all together, it made for a solid read. Would I read it again? Yes. Will I continue on with the series? Definitely. If you like Urban Fantasy with a little romance and a hard working heroine that delves into some pretty serious topics without getting too dark or gritty, this is something I’d recommend to you.

Free Fiction Friday #68

Hello ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Free Fiction Friday #68! For those of you who are new to this blog, or who may have missed out on the previous Free Fiction Fridays, every Friday I post an article containing 10 fiction e-books that are 100% FREE on Amazon at the time of posting, and an additional 5 that are roughly of the same genre and on sale for less than $5. I try my best to make sure they are all 4+ stars, have over 40+ reviews, and are 100 pages minimum—so that you can have a hand-picked list of the best-of-the-best to choose from and enjoy over the long weekend (while I do more important things, like laundry). I try to switch up the genres every week, and this week our theme is: YA Science Fiction & Fantasy!

THE FREE

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THE BARGAINS

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Book Review: A Lady’s Submission

review-cover-a lady's submissionTitle: A Lady’s Submission [The Warriors of Ar’mora 1]

Author: Frank Carlyle

Genre: Erotica, Historical, Fantasy

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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From what I can tell, this is no longer available on Amazon, I am unsure if it is available elsewhere.

Description/Synopsis:

Last of a clan that once ruled over a vast trade network and determined the fate of empires, Mahlon Arn, has the task of reclaiming a place once lost and now hidden within the jungled corridors of a tributary river that feeds into the mighty Amazon River. It’s a past that almost no one remembers except for the few who dare to return and once more reclaim all that once was and begin to build what is to become.

Journey deep into the jungle and follow the story of a warrior who reclaims a kingdom, only to ache for the completion of a prophecy spoken over him by a dying father. A prophecy that comes in the form of a red haired fantasy lady, who is born up the river by chance and circumstance or perhaps by Divine will, and that must be claimed and utterly brought into submission by the man, who has been tasked to not only reclaim a past but to build a future based on righteousness.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

You know that phrase “I can’t even.”, that’s how I feel about this book. I didn’t get past the first sentence before I realized this was going to be a very difficult read.

The wind whipped viciously back and forth across the land ever strengthened by the rising tempest of the ocean and beat against the rocks of the foundation of the last of the Sea People’s fortresses.

This pretty much summed up the entirety of what I read from that point forward (and I didn’t make it far). The writing was excruciatingly verbose and complicated in structure to the point of being clunky and muddled. Run on sentences, a formal tone with a lack of punctuation, and strange word choices made me cringe. The story didn’t flow, and the dialogue was easily just as formal and unnatural sounding as the narrative.

I thought him beyond speech as he lay staring up into my eyes with all the love of a father that I had yearned to watch grow old and enjoy playing with the offspring of my loins.

I pushed, really pushed to get past the first chapter of this story several times, and finally, I decided the book wasn’t for me. The writing –maybe- would have held up in a high fantasy, but as a historical erotica, it was just… poorly written, and needlessly complicated… and I don’t think it should be a chore to read a book. I couldn’t get past the language to enjoy the characters or the plot, and it was frustrating and tedious. Eventually, I gave up and declared this a DNF.

There may be someone out there that enjoys this kind of writing… but for an erotica novel, where the sex is basically the entire reason for reading the book… the language of the narrative and characters just wasn’t appropriate, and I wouldn’t recommend it.

Free Fiction Friday #67

Hello ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Free Fiction Friday #67! For those of you who are new to this blog, or who may have missed out on the previous Free Fiction Fridays, every Friday I post an article containing 10 fiction e-books that are 100% FREE on Amazon at the time of posting, and an additional 5 that are roughly of the same genre and on sale for less than $5. I try my best to make sure they are all 4+ Stars, have over 40+ reviews, and are 100 pages minimum—so that you can have a hand-picked list of the best-of-the-best to choose from and enjoy over the long weekend (while I do more important things, like laundry). I try to switch up the genres every week, and this week our theme is: Romance!

THE FREE

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THE BARGAINS

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Book Review: Story Prompts That Work

review-cover-story prompts that workTitle: Story Prompts That Work

Author: Carly Berg

Genre: Non-Fiction, Writing

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

There’s nothing like a well-crafted, guided story starter to put a stop to that dreaded empty computer screen!

Story Prompts That Work includes enough detailed prompts to write a story a week for an entire year (and then go back and use the prompts again the next year). Each prompt has enough options and examples that they’ll work well for just about anyone.

Carly Berg is a freelance writer who’s also been both an editor and a teacher, so she’s got you covered on this one.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Though this wasn’t my usual read, I love getting books on writing, and I love reviewing them just as much… because it’s always easy to tell if the author has written something genuinely helpful, or if they’ve jumped on the bandwagon of regurgitating information for profit. This, I’m pleased to report, was the real deal.

The prompts were diverse and offered up a variety of ideas and suggestions for multiple lengths and genres of writing. Though I’d like to point out, the author did tend to lean more readily towards odd, even humorous flash fiction. There were enough prompts, I felt, to provide multiple ideas for just about any author, often with examples of story starters.

The book was well edited, clean, and casual in tone, and I found it an easy read. For those looking for story prompts or ideas without being handed specific, hand-crafted topics, I’d definitely suggest this book as a place to start. The prompts are written in such a way as to make you think and imagine your own stories, often giving inspiration or advice on ways to think up your own topics. I found it very useful.

Just A Quick Check-In

Hello people of blogland!

So, obviously it’s been awhile since I’ve posted (although I did have some reviews set up ahead of time). Here’s the skinny: My broken computer has now been fixed, which means I can now regularly post again! BUT, I’m going to temporarily hold off on new posts for a short while.

Unfortunately, I had to get a wisdom tooth removed this past Monday, and as anyone who’s had a wisdom tooth removed can tell you, it kind of sucks. It wasn’t the easiest of extractions (they had to break my tooth into 8 pieces to remove it because it wouldn’t come out) and no, I was not knocked out for the procedure… just your usual numbing shots. So as you can imagine, my mouth/jaw is super sore right now. They’ve got me on some pretty heavy pain medication, and my body doesn’t like it. I’ve been feeling super nauseous, dizzy, and tired the last few days, and I’m still recovering. So, I’m putting myself on break, at least long enough to let myself heal and get off of medication… because I’m just not functioning right now. (and don’t even get me started on how tired I am of eating mush). Hopefully I’ll be feeling better closer to the weekend.

I have a ton of new review requests queued up in my inbox to go through (I promise, I’ll get to them as soon as I can) and then I’ll be back to reading and reviewing. Right now, using my computer or my kindle to read leaves me feeling motion sick, so I’m going to take the time to heal up before I jump back into things. I hope everyone has had a great couple of weeks, and I’m excited to be back!

Book Review: Descended From Dragons

review-cover-descended from dragonsTitle: Descended From Dragons [Moonlight Dragon 1]

Author: Tricia Owens

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

Rating: 5 Stars (4.7)

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Description / Synopsis:

Beneath the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas lies another city. A secret city in plain sight, full of warlocks and demons, shapeshifters and golems. A city that feeds off the chance magick that is generated by gamblers and which is ruled by mysterious beings called the Oddsmakers.

It is in this strange underbelly of the occult that Anne Moody runs a cursed pawn shop for the desperate, the curious, and the magickally inclined. Though the job is boring, it keeps her under the radar. None of her customers have any inkling that she is a dragon sorceress with a power that’s been feared throughout history. One day, a visitor to her shop pawns a stone statue that is more than it appears. The statue is a gargoyle named Vale, who is shrouded in mystery and secrets. When she learns that Vale is possessed, and that the person responsible for cursing him plans to take over Las Vegas with a horde of demons from Hell, Anne realizes it is up to her to defy the Oddsmakers and save the city, and possibly the world.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Descended From Dragons by Tricia Owens was so much more than I expected. I’ll be honest; I get a dozen or more review requests a day from hopeful authors, so as you can imagine, I’m fairly picky about what I accept. This was one of those books that I saw and thought “meh… it’s going to be hokey probably, but what the hell. I haven’t read anything like it in awhile.” and I picked it up on a whim. Thank goodness I did.

I loved it. The characters were colorful and unique, the writing was fluid and easy to follow. I ran into no typos or mistakes in the narrative…. it was a joy to read—and it was funny. I so rarely get humorous romance books, so I was pleasantly surprised by this one. The idea of the magical pawn shop that Anne oversees was genius. I found it incredibly interesting, and what I wouldn’t give to be able to peruse the shelves!

If I had one (okay two) nitpicks, they’d be 1. I wish there was more romance… because it was adorable. and 2. I wish the book had been longer because I honestly didn’t want to put it down. If you’re a fan of urban fantasy / paranormal / romance with a hint of humor, I would highly recommend you pick this up and give it a try. I’ll definitely be looking forward to reading further into the series.