Book Review: My Journey Through War and Peace

review-cover-my journey through war and peaceTitle: My Journey Through War and Peace

Author: Melissa Burch

Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir

Rating: 3 Stars



“My Journey Through War and Peace: Explorations of a Young Filmmaker, Feminist and Spiritual Seeker” is based on Melissa Burch’s experiences as a war journalist for BBC, CBS, and other networks. Her team was one of the first documentary crews allowed in the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War, and she was featured in a New York Times story about her time in Afghanistan. She was just in her twenties when she traveled with the mujahideen, filmed an attack on a Soviet convoy, slept with an Afghan commander, and climbed 14,000-foot mountains in the Hindu Kush.

“My Journey Through War and Peace” examines how, through outward action and inward exploration, life can unfold in mysterious ways, far beyond cultural and family expectations. In looking back at this momentous decade, Burch shares why she pursued such dangerous and difficult circumstances at such a young age and continued to live on the edge. She now understands that she was seeking self-discovery, a connection to something greater, and ultimately inner peace. This exciting memoir will resonate with fans of “Eat Pray Love,” “Wild,” and other popular memoirs that describe extraordinary inner and outer journeys.


My Journey Through War and Peace by Melissa Burch was a strange adventure through the life and career of a young war journalist. The story explored the ups and downs of this young woman’s life, her career in journalism, her experiences with feminism and sexuality, and ultimately her spiritualism. I found it to be an interesting story of disillusionment, understanding, fear, and ultimately a sort of peace as she worked her way through her early career and relationships and tried to ultimately come to terms with who she was and what she wanted out of the different aspects of her life. It wasn’t an easy tale—there were many terrifying moments, questionable choices, and compromises that were to be made, but it was certainly interesting.

To be frank, it wasn’t the type of story I normally read. I very rarely delve into non-fiction and certainly not memoirs, and I can’t say that it’s something I would pick up and re-read, but I am glad to have read it. If you’re interested in autobiographical memoirs dealing with some pretty heavy topics, I think there’s a good chance you might find this a really interesting read.

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



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…


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.

Book Review: Devil And The Deep

review-cover-devilandthedeepTitle: Devil And The Deep [Ceruleans 4]

Author: Megan Tayte

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

Rating: 4 Stars



Scarlett is living her happy-ever-after, back in the real world. Only the ‘happy’ part is proving problematic.

For starters, there’s the isolation. Being a Cerulean among humans is fraught with risk, so her time with people can only be fleeting. Which means being with Luke but not being with Luke.

Then there’s her Cerulean light, her power over life and death. Less awesome talent, as it turns out, and more overwhelming responsibility. And it comes with rules – rules that are increasingly difficult to obey.

But what’s really pushing Scarlett to the precipice is something much bigger than herself, than her life in the cove. A force to be reckoned with:

When long-buried truths are exposed, will Scarlett keep her head above water – or will she drown in the blood-dimmed tide that is unleashed?


I’m still in a little conflict over how I feel about Devil and the Deep by Megan Tayte. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the book… but it wasn’t my favorite out of the series. The front half of the book felt a little slow to me. Not a lot happened. I read the book 20% at a time, and I didn’t feel like I was itching to get back into the book each time I put it down… If I’d put down the book halfway through, I would have shrugged and moved on—but, I am glad that I continued to read because the second half of the book was much better.

Technically speaking, the book was well written. The pacing was steady, the writing was fluid and easy to follow. I ran into a few minor typos, but nothing that distracted me from the text, or would have made me put the book down. Once again, I loved all the characters…. even Evangeline. It was a solid addition to the series as a whole up until this point. But, like I said, the first half of the book just didn’t engage me like I’d expected.

The ending was great. There was drama and chaos and lines were being crossed, and I was engrossed. When that last line hit, I bemoaned the end of the story. I wanted more.

Overall, I really liked the book. Was it the best book in the series? For me, no. Was it enjoyable? Definitely. Would I recommend it? Yes. If you’ve enjoyed the previous books in this series, you’ll probably enjoy this one too. I can’t wait for the fifth book!

Book Review: Cinders & Sapphires

cover-review-cinders & sapphiresTitle: Cinders & Sapphires [At Somerton 1]

Author: Leila Rasheed

Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Romance

Rating: 5 Stars




Rose Cliffe has never met a young lady like her new mistress. Clever, rich, and beautiful, Ada Averley treats Rose as an equal. And Rose could use a friend. Especially now that she, at barely sixteen, has risen to the position of ladies’ maid. Rose knows she should be grateful to have a place at a house like Somerton. Still, she can’t help but wonder what her life might have been had she been born a lady, like Ada.

For the first time in a decade, the Averleys have returned to Somerton, their majestic ancestral estate. But terrible scandal has followed Ada’s beloved father all the way from India. Now Ada finds herself torn between her own happiness and her family’s honor. Only she has the power to restore the Averley name-but it would mean giving up her one true love … someone she could never persuade her father to accept.

Sumptuous and enticing, the first novel in the At Somerton series introduces two worlds, utterly different yet entangled, where ruthless ambition, forbidden attraction, and unspoken dreams are hidden behind dutiful smiles and glittering jewels. All those secrets are waiting … at Somerton.


I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It was given to me on a whim by a local librarian (thank you so much!), and at first I was a little hesitant to pick it up. It’s not a small book at over 389 pages, and as much as I love the historical, romance, and YA genres… having all three in one book is a tall order. YA books so often make romance into a silly affair, and history into a simplified, dumbed down alternate universe that is often woefully inaccurate. However, after having read Cinders & Sapphires by Leila Rasheed, I can assure you that you have nothing to fear.

The book was excellently well-written. The narrative was appropriately tinted by the dialect and romance of vocabulary known to the early 1900’s. The characters, while often ensconced in scandal, acted appropriately in their dialog, thought, and eventual shame. I never felt the need to question their actions or words, and I never stumbled over any technical errors either. The narrative was easy to read and devoid of any obvious misspellings. The sentences flowed nicely, and it was easy to sink into the text.

The characters were unique and colorful, each in their own ways. I adored Rose, Ada, and Georgina and loathed Charlotte and Stella. I sympathized with Oliver and Sebastian and swooned over Ravi and Lord Fintan. The characters never fell into the trap of fading into the background or melding into one another as time went on through the book—the author did an excellent job of making them all stand out for their own merits, and it made it easy to keep track of them—which, in a historical setting such as this, where the language can be hard to follow at times, was most welcome.

I will say that the plot was extremely busy. There were numerous scandals and intrigues going on throughout the course of the book. Relationships were complicated and intertwined, and everyone had secrets. It could be hard to untangle at times, but it certainly made things interesting. I never got bored with the plot—it always seemed like there was so much going on.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. I hate to compare Cinders & Sapphires to anything, but I think it’s a pretty decent analogy to call it Downton Abbey for the YA crowd. I’m certainly glad I read it, and I’m looking forward to more books in the series. If you’re looking for a smart, intricate-plotted YA story filled with scandal, secrets, and romance, it’s a good bet that you’ll like this book. It isn’t going to be for everyone (not everyone can stomach historical novels because of the language and the politics of the Ton), but I’d certainly recommend it.

Book Review: Stranded, Stalked, and Finally Sated



Title: Stranded, Stalked and Finally Sated [License To Love 1]

Author: Amelia Rose

Genre: Novella, Romance, Thriller

Rating: 4 Stars




Clara Roberts has found herself forced to flee across country, pursued by a madman who seems to have access to every aspect of her life. Consequently, she is off the grid and under the radar when her truck breaks down in a small corner of Southwestern, Oklahoma, and she finds herself at the mercy of a local cowboy. While she knows that she will eventually have to keep running to stay one step ahead of her stalker, she begins to find herself drawn to this man. With his support she decides that her life is something worth fighting for.

Shad Brandt wasn’t sure what to expect when he pulled over to help out the girl on the side of the road, but it isn’t long before he realizes that she was a lot more than he bargained for. He knows that she is running from something, but he can’t quite place his finger on what it is. However, he cannot turn his back on this woman in need and when he opens his home and his heart to her he finds something else entirely. So when danger comes to lay claim to Clara, he finds that he is willing to sacrifice everything to make sure she stays safe.


This was an exceedingly quick read (15-20 minutes), which I’ll admit, I wasn’t prepared for. I won a copy of this book from a Goodreads giveaway back in April, and then picked up a free digital copy just a few days ago when it got discounted on Amazon. Not realizing this was a novella, I jumped in. By now, most of my review followers should be aware that I don’t particularly care for Novellas. I tend to prefer longer reads because as a whole, Novellas tend to feel rushed (understandably so—there’s a lot of information being packed into a spectacularly short word count).

As Novellas go, this was actually surprisingly well written. As far as the technical side is concerned: the grammar was spot-on. Word’s weren’t misspelled or redundant. Punctuation was correct, and the narrative moved at a quick jaunt. There was tension, and excellently written dialogue…overall, this was a well-written Novella.

Unfortunately, as with all Novellas, the story was a bit rushed—but even then, I must admit, the author managed to construct the story in such a way that the rushed bits didn’t feel disjointed or skipped over. I’ve found over the years that most Novella’s tend to have really rushed narrative. There’s a lot of “telling” as the characters skip through the story at light speed, sometimes forgoing scenes all together. In this story that isn’t the case. Scenes are played out naturally as if from a longer book. There are a fair share of time jumps; the story takes place over a period of about three days—but the important scenes are all present.

My biggest gripe is probably that the romance seems a bit fake. The characters are making out in the first 24 hours (okay it can happen) and having sex within the first 48 (again, it can happen, but we’re pushing it) by the end of the third day, they’re moving in together permanently (okay, you’d have to be insane to allow this…). It certainly stretches my ability to believe in the story, but considering the short length of the story, I feel I can suspend my disbelief a little.

Overall, the story is cute. It’s well written, and if you can get around the time frame, it’s a good story. There’s a steamy sex scene, and a (somewhat rushed) fight with a stalker—I will say that I wasn’t a huge fan of the stalker. He was creepy and adamant on pursuing the main female lead…but I’m not entirely sure why he was doing it.

Would I recommend this Novella? Yes. If you like steamy romances and have 20 minutes to pick up a book, this wouldn’t be a bad choice. Would I read it again? Sure. Why not? I’m not a huge fan of Novella’s, but this one was good.

Is it Friday Again? Seriously?

It is going to be a long day of catch-up. For whatever reason, my WordPress reader has been completely inaccessible for this entire week. It’s finally back up, but that means I have at least a hundred articles to read through in order to catch up. *thumbs up* I’ve also got 3 reviews that are waiting to be posted (I didn’t want to post them while my reader was down, just in case everyone else’s was too). I haven’t decided if I’ll post them all at once or space them out yet. That’s a lot of writing for one day. I also need to get Free Fiction Friday up sometime today.

So I guess, stay tuned. I may be spending my entire day just sitting on WordPress.

On a completely unrelated note, did anyone catch the Geek & Sundry Vlogs hangout last night? No? It was awesome. I got to ask a question, had my name shouted out by Felicia Day, and subsequently, everyone talked about the zombie apocalypse for 10 minutes. The geek in me squealed.

Book Review: Superb and Sexy

ImageTitle: Superb and Sexy [Sky High Series 3]

Author: Jill Shalvis

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Suspense

Rating: 4 Stars



Description/Synopsis: Despite his brooding bad-boy attitude, Brody knows life has treated him pretty well. His luxury charter airline, Sky High, has given him financial security and the means to take to the skies whenever things on the ground get complicated. And lately, things have become very complicated, thanks to the insanely passionate, or perhaps just insane, kiss he shared with Sky High’s gorgeous, wisecracking concierge, Maddie. He’s tried to keep his distance, but now Maddie desperately needs help, and it’s triggering protective alpha-male urges Brody didn’t even know he had…

For months, Maddie hid her crush on sexy, exasperating Brody behind a cool, kick-ass exterior…and then blew that to smithereens by jumping him in the lobby. Yeah, real smooth. She’s tried to break her ties with Sky High, but Brody won’t let her walk away—especially now that he knows that Maddie and her twin sister Leena are in big-time trouble. To save Leena, Maddie and Brody must pose as husband and wife, and Maddie is amazed that the man she thought was oblivious to her existence knows her very well indeed. But that’s nothing compared to the way she’s about to get to know him—intimately, in depth, and over and over again…


So let’s start with the cover and title: They don’t really have much to do with the actual book. It’s marketing for the most part, so try not to take it too heavily in your book buying decisions. Once I’d actually gotten into the book, I was a little disappointed to realize that the cover did not reflect Maddie’s appearance/personality. Sure, at one point she does have short, auburn hair… but she’s one of those characters who changes her hair color almost daily. We’re talking, blues, purples, weird colors. It would have been cool to see some of that spunk in the models.

That aside, this was a very good book. The narrative and dialogue were extremely well written and the story flowed easily from page to page. I never felt like I was being rushed or jolted out of the story, and the story kept me turning the page.

The characters, particularly Maddie, were spunky, unique, and entertaining. I really liked Maddie and Brody. They were a cute couple, and you could definitely feel the attraction between the characters. The sex scenes were sizzling. Really, there isn’t much I can say that isn’t positive about them, except that perhaps Maddie’s personality seemed a bit off to me.

From the very beginning of the book we’re told that she’s kind of the duct-tape that holds Sky High Airlines together. She’s tough, quirky, and confident – and definitely unique in her appearance. Unfortunately, I don’t think I saw as much of that as I’d like to. There was very little interaction with the Airline or the other members of the crew at all. From nearly the beginning she’s been toned down into a normal-looking girl and spending all her time panicking about things from her past and present concerning her family (that apparently no one knew she had). What I saw, was a fairly normal-in-appearance girl who was stubborn, but afraid. Very afraid. Of her relationship with Brody, as well as her past experiences with her family. I didn’t see the confident quirky girl I kept being told about.

Now as a little aside, I also had some trouble being convinced she was a twin. I can’t blame the author much for this – because unless you are a twin, you wouldn’t know these things. I happen to be an identical twin, so I know the shoes that Maddie is trying to fill. I honestly don’t think an identical twin (who obviously still very dearly cared for her sister) would have left her in that situation with her uncle.. even to protect herself. Writers don’t seem to get that the bond between twins is extremely strong – I know people always describe it as “being the other half of a person” but they aren’t far off. Twins are together every second of the day from the time they’re born to the time they’re an adult for the most part. They have all the same memories, have been through the same experiences and conversations… They’re almost the same person, just viewing the world through a slightly different viewpoint. It was odd to see Maddie leave her sister Leena behind. It was also really weird to see that no one she knew had any idea she had a twin. Take it from me, even if you leave your twin (like I did to move half-way across the country), you will still refer to yourself as “we” in conversation. It’s a byproduct of always being together all the time. It’s very hard to separate the “I” from experiences shared. Even to this day, 10 years after leaving my twin, when I refer to my childhood I say “we”. I had a hard time believing Maddie was really a twin… but like I said, maybe that’s because some of these points just aren’t known to anyone who isn’t already a twin.

Also, another sore point I had, was that it was never really explained why Maddie’s uncle Rick hated her so much. He seemed to want to kill her on sight, but other than having left when she was 16… there doesn’t seem to be a reason for him to hate her to that extent. Sadly, most of the tension in the book was based around the fact that he wanted to kill her.

Overall, it was a great book. It was a fun, steamy read. The things I found wrong with it were minor, and only detracted from the story a little bit. I’d definitely still recommend it to anyone looking for a slightly unconventional romance.

In The Mail #11

ImageToday in the mail I received two books (or at least I’m trying to space these out a little so I have more than one book to show off at a time). The first is Visions of Heat by Nalini Singh:

Description/Synopsis: Hailed as a major new talent in paranormal romance, Nalini Singh takes us deeper into the world of the Psy and the changelings in her latest extraordinary novel, where a gifted woman sees passion in her future–a passion that is absolutely forbidden by her kind. In danger from fellow Psy, Faith NightStar’s fragile sanity will be tested by an all-consuming passion for a changeling who can take the form of man or jaguar.

Used to cold silence, Faith NightStar is suddenly being tormented by dark visions of blood and murder. A bad sign for anyone, but worse for Faith, an F-Psy with the highly sought after ability to predict the future. Then the visions show her something even more dangerous-aching need . . . exquisite pleasure. But so powerful is her sight, so fragile the state of her mind, that the very emotions she yearns to embrace could be the end of her.

Changeling Vaughn D’Angelo can take either man or jaguar form, but it is his animal side that is overwhelmingly drawn to Faith. The jaguar’s instinct is to claim this woman it finds so utterly fascinating and the man has no argument. But while Vaughn craves sensation and hungers to pleasure Faith in every way, desire is a danger that could snap the last threads of her sanity. And there are Psy who need Faith’s sight for their own purposes. They must keep her silenced – and keep her from Vaughn . . .


The second was Superb and Sexy by Jill Shalvis:

Description/synopsis: Despite his brooding bad-boy attitude. Brody’s luxury charter airline, Sky High, provides the perfect escape route whenever things get complicated. And lately, things have become very complicated, thanks to the insanely passionate, or perhaps just insane, kiss he shared with Sky High’s gorgeous, wisecracking, concierge, Maddie. He’s tried to keep his distance, but now Maddie desperately needs help,and it’s triggering alpha-male urges Brody didn’t even know he had–especially after he finds out that Maddie and her twin sister Leena are in big-time trouble. To save Leena, Maddie and Brody must pose as husband and wife. Good plan, except it’s hard to tell if the heat in bed is acting or something too good to pass up…


Both were won in Goodreads Giveaways. Visions of Heat is already out in stores, and Superb and Sexy will be released May 7, 2013.

Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

ImageTitle: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Author: Laini Taylor

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance, YA Fiction

Rating: 4 (almost a 5) Stars



Description/Synopsis: Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?


So, first thing’s first, I’m going to put forward the negatives of this story, or rather, what made me give this a 4 star rating rather than a 5 star. First off, going into it I found the writing a bit flowery. You get used to it fairly quickly, but there does seem to be a bit of needless description all throughout the book that’s there sole for the purpose of coloring the narrative. It’s not horribly obtrusive, but it did catch my eye in the beginning.

Second, for me at least, the book did drag in the second half. There was a lot of back-story and flashbacks involved that I didn’t find nearly as entertaining as the rest of the story. I believe that a good part of this may be attributed to the character we’re following around: Madrigal, who is part-beast. I don’t know what it is about having a character that’s not at least mostly-human looking that bothers me. Watching her romance with Akiva set me on edge. I guess I can call it the “human-factor”. I want my romance couples to at the very least, have a mostly-human appearance.. when you start swaying into animal-faces, I start to get a bit uncomfortable. (Shape shifters are fine, people with one animal feature… like wings, or a tail, or cat ears, etc don’t bother me..but leave the face alone.) It’s like watching a handsome guy make out with a goat. Creepy.

That being said, I did actually really like the book as a whole. The lore in this book and world-building is absolutely fantastic. The plot is complicated and incredibly engaging. The characters for the most part are interesting, but I will admit some of them were a little 2-dimensional. Though I really like Karou for the most part, and I LOVED Brimestone, a lot of the other chimaera characters, and all of the angels lacked any real substance. Many of them seemed to be present in the story only to make sure the plot was still moving and not to provide any real contribution. Even Akiva, the main male lead was rather single-minded throughout the story. There wasn’t a whole lot of depth to his character as far as I could tell.

I think a lot of what I liked about this book was wrapped up in Karou and Brimestone’s relationship. They have this sort of standoffish love/hate thing going on that is so deep and beautiful – you can’t help but love these two tragic characters (even if that means I have to love Madrigal too). Overall, I really enjoyed the book and I’m looking forward to reading the others in the series. It WAS a really great read – but there was some parts that I found sub-par. I’d still recommend it to anyone who wants an intriguing fantasy read. Brimstone has become my favorite secondary character of all time now. If nothing else, read it for him.

In The Mail #5


YAY! I just came home a few minutes ago to find this lovely book siting in a cardboard envelope on my doorstep. It’s Blood & Beauty: The Borgias by Sarah Dunant. I won it in a Goodreads giveaway where 100 copies were handed out amidst 1,597 entries. The book officially comes out July 16, 2013.

Synopsis/Description: Is there a family in history more dazzling, dangerous and notorious than the Borgias?

A powerhouse of the Italian Renaissance, their very name epitomizes the ruthless politics and sexual corruption of the Papacy.

The father, Pope Alexander VI, a consummate politician and a man with a voracious appetite both as Cardinal and Pope.

The younger Juan, womanizer and thug, and their lovely sister, Lucretia, whose very name has become a byword for poison, incest and intrigue.

But how much of the history about this remarkable family is actually true, and how much distorted, filtered through the age old mechanisms of political spin, propaganda and gossip?

What if the truth, the real history, is even more challenging?

“Blood & Beauty: The Borgias” is an epic novel which sets out to capture the scope, the detail, the depth, the colour and the complexity of this utterly fascinating family.