Book Review: Down World

reviewcover-down worldTitle: Down World

Author: Rebecca Phelps

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Alternate Realities

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

As the site of a former military base, there have always been rumors that East Township High School was the site of experiments with space and time. For years, students have whispered in the hallways of a doorway created within the school, one that can access multiple timelines and realities, a place known as the Down World.

As the new kid in school and still reeling from the unexplained death of her brother Robbie, Marina O’Connell is only interested in one thing: leaving the past behind. But a chance encounter with handsome Brady Picelli changes everything. He will lead Marina to a startling discovery. The Down World is real and the past, present, and future are falling out of balance.

Brady is determined to help Marina discover what really happened to her brother. However, what is taken from one world, must be repaid by another. And Marina is about to discover that even a realm of infinite possibilities has rules that must be obeyed.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Down World by Rebecca Phelps was an amazing, if not bittersweet, read. The writing itself was technically well-done. The narrative flowed easily, the dialogue was well-developed and felt realistic. I loved the characters, and each came across as distinct. The protagonist was easy to like and relate to, and the plot was full of time-travel and alternate-reality twists and turns that kept the small town scenery from getting stale.

I loved it. I was a little upset about the ending, but not in an “I don’t like this!” way, but just… sad. I don’t want to give anything away to any future readers out there, but I wish everyone had gotten more of a happy ending, even if I understood why it had to turn out the way it did. It was beautiful and painful at the same time – and that’s all I can say about it.

If you enjoy Young Adult Science Fiction stories, particularly with an emphasis on dimension-hopping and time travel, you’ll likely really enjoy this book, as I did.

Free Fiction Friday #91

Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Free Fiction Friday #91! 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 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: Time Travel Romance!

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THE BARGAINS

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Book Review: Splintered Souls

review-cover-splintered soulsTitle: Splintered Souls [Flames of Time 1]

Author: Erica Lucke Dean

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, New Adult, Time-Travel

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

When Ava Flynn walks away from a scholarship to Georgetown and moves into her grandmother’s abandoned summer home in coastal Maine, she steps into the center of a centuries-old curse. On her first night, she notices a mysterious leather-clad stranger looking up at her third-story window. For weeks, everywhere she goes, Ava catches more glimpses of him, but she can never get close enough to find out who he is.

Over three hundred years ago, Lady Catherine Fairchild risked everything to protect her unborn child, sending a ripple through time that would change Ava’s future. As the mystery unravels, the horrifying consequences of Lady Catherine’s choices drag Ava deeper into a world she never knew existed, trapping her in a conflict that’s been raging since before she was born. A winner-take-all battle for her soul.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Why did this book have to end?

That’s what I shouted when I closed the cover of Splintered Souls by Erica Lucke Dean. It was that good. From the very beginning, the book drew me in with its rich narrative voice and complex characters, and by the time the romance kicked in—well… I was done for.

The plot was engaging, and the characters were equal parts complex and heartbreakingly perfect. The pace moved at a steady jaunt and didn’t let up even as the book ended. Honestly, I can’t think of a single problem to complain about. I loved this book. Maddox, Laith, and Ava were only a few of the amazing cast of characters, and I can’t even begin to pick which was my favorite.

If you like New Adult Romance, particularly with a bent towards the paranormal and time travel, I would highly recommend that you pick up this book. I can’t wait to read more into the series. Now excuse me while I go look up everything the author’s ever written.

Book Review: Dunstable Park House

review-cover-dunstable park houseTitle: Dunstable Park House

Author: Therese Stenzel

Genre: Historical, Romance, Fantasy, Time Travel

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

After her fiancé’s death, Brenna Keelin travels to England, stumbles up hidden stairs in a cathedral and comes out in 1871 Yorkshire. To keep from starving, she becomes a servant in a great estate. More than anything she wants to return to her modern life, especially in time for her sister’s wedding, but falling in love has changed everything.

Lord Garren Buntingford left Scotland to take over an earldom. He has a lot to learn about the subtleties of being an aristocrat—and a title he never wanted. He desires to

return to his vast farm and family in Scotland until a beautiful housemaid is injured by a horse and he carries her back to the estate where she works in his arms.

Brenna must hide the truth about where she is from and find her purpose for being sent through time before the stairs will open again. But soon discovers that her calling is to help Lord Garren marry an aristocratic wife. Her heart is torn between fulfilling her call and a desperate passion for a braw Scotsman that society says she can never have. Both must choose between the home they long for and a forbidden love, between duty and devotion, the upstairs and the downstairs, all under the roof of Dunstable Park House.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Honestly, I’m on the fence with this one. The writing was subpar, and often littered with typos. It didn’t grip me like I’d expected from a time travel romance—one of my favorite genre’s, and I wasn’t a huge fan of the overall narrative voice. In fact, I very nearly put the book down in the first fifteen minutes.

But… I stuck it out, and in the end, I did enjoy the book, even if it wasn’t my favorite. It was a quick, light read, and though it was also light on historical world building and believability most of the time (something I generally look for in a time-travel romance), I did find it entertaining.

Overall, the story was… meh. It wasn’t awful, and it wasn’t great, but it was an okay read. If you’re looking for a light romantic read to peruse while sitting in a waiting room somewhere—this may be something you want to pick up. If you’re looking for a more intricate historical read… this may not be the book for you.

Book Review: Forever His

cover-review-forever hisTitle: Forever His [Stolen Brides 1]

Author: Shelly Thacker

Genre: TIme Travel, Fantasy, Romance, Historical

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

She is Celine Fontaine, the American darling of the venerable Fontaine family, celebrating the New Year at the family’s ancestral French chateau. As the clock strikes midnight, Celine is alone in her bedroom, barely aware of a lunar eclipse, until she is blinded by a sudden light and loses consciousness. She awakens to total darkness — in bed with a naked stranger — and a world that is not her own.

The man who shares Celine’s bed is Sir Gaston de Varennes and the year is 1300. Gaston believes that the beautiful redhead is Christiane de la Fontaine, whom the King has decreed he marry in order to end a generation of bitter feuding. Yet despite his resolve to shun her, Gaston finds Celine irresistible. Overwhelmed by passion, they dare to steal the magic moments that may be all to brief — to surrender to desires that promise forever . . . and a love that spans the centuries.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I adored Forever His by Shelly Thacker. I’ve been on a bit of a time travel romance bender the past week and being the 7th of it’s kind that I’ve read in a row, I was starting to get used to the idea that I wasn’t going to run into any 5-star reads in the genre. After all, I picked up this book on a whim from Amazon back when it was FREE—and the FREE section on Amazon is often very hit or miss when it comes to quality. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to find a genuinely solid read.

Technically speaking, the book was exceedingly well written. I ran into  maybe one or two typos the entire book. The grammar, punctuation, spelling, and the structure was spot-on. The narrative was clear and easy to follow, and I sunk into the story effortlessly. I found the world building to be well fleshed out without being overbearing, and the characters seemed to be genuine people with thought-out personalities.

I fell in love with Celine and Gaston as a couple. Celine was a genuine character, and I found it easy to relate to her. Gaston was hopelessly pig-headed at times and more than a little jaded, but the challenge of watching Celine bring him out of his shell against his will was an entertaining ride. They made a magnificent couple.

I honestly don’t have any complaints about the book. That is so incredibly rare for me to say, so bravo Ms. Thacker! I loved this book and the rich story of Celine and Gaston and their escapades in time, and I’d be happy to recommend it to anyone looking for a solid time travel romance to sink into.

Book Review: A Connecticut Fashionista in King Arthur’s Court

cover-review-a connecticut fashionista in king arthur's courtTitle: A Connecticut Fashionista in King Arthur’s Court [Twisted Time 1]

Author: Mari Macusi

Genre: Romance, Historical, Fantasy, Time Travel

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Once upon a time there lived an outspoken fashion editor named Kat, who certainly was not your typical damsel in distress. But when a gypsy curse sent her back in time to the days of King Arthur, she found she’d need every ounce of her 21st century wits (and pop culture references) to navigate the legend. After all, surviving a magical plot, an evil prince, and a case of mistaken identity – all without changing history or scuffing your Manolos – takes some doing!

Luckily, she’s got her very own knight in shining armor, Lancelot du Lac, on her side. The honorable-to-a-fault and devastatingly handsome champion insists on helping her out, even though she’s not quite sure she wants him to. After all, shouldn’t he be off romancing Queen Guenevere or something? Will Kat manage to stay out of trouble long enough to get back to her beloved lattes, cosmopolitans and cashmere? And what will Lancelot’s forbidden love mean for the kingdom of Camelot?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

It took a long time for me to decide what rating to give A Connecticut Fashionista in King Arthur’s Court by Mari Mancusi. This was the fun, sometimes silly, often thrilling adventure of Kat—a fashion editor who’s all about Starbucks and her Manolo’s, and not so much about medieval life—but it wasn’t without its snares.

Technically speaking, the writing was pretty decent. I found a small handful of typos throughout the book, but nothing terribly jarring. The writing overall was fluid, clear, and fast-paced. I didn’t feel like I was stumbling through awkward word choices or grammar issues. The romance between Lancelot and Kat was believable and steamy, and I rooted for them throughout the book. The world building was familiar and stuck pretty true to the core tale of Arthur and Camelot, and I enjoyed the idea behind the plot.

The problem for me, unfortunately, was Kat herself. I found it very difficult to like Kat. Honestly, she was kind of obnoxious and definitely more than a little self-centered. Her words and choices throughout the book were made with little forethought, often resulting in misunderstandings and trouble for the people around her, and instead of outright apologizing, most of the time she just pouted in her head about how no one liked her because she made bad first impressions. She certainly did at that—I hated her personality and found her more than a little annoying.

Still, the book was fun and a certainly interesting mash-up of an old classic tale and modern day drama.  Overall, I rated the book a “meh”. I liked it, I’m glad I read it, but I would have liked it a lot more had Kat not been as obnoxious, and had her actions had more realistic consequences. She just wasn’t my idea of a fun heroine to follow around for the entirety of a book.

Book Review: Beyond The Fortune Teller’s Tent

review-cover-beyond the fortune teller's tentTitle: Beyond The Fortune Teller’s Tent [Beyond 1]

Author: Kristy Tate

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult, Time Travel, Historical

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

When Petra Baron goes into the fortuneteller’s tent at a Renaissance fair, she expects to leave with a date to prom. Instead, she walks out into Elizabethan England, where she meets gypsies, a demon dog and a kindred spirit in Emory Ravenswood.

Emory must thwart the plans of religious zealots. His mission is dangerous, his enemies are fanatical, and Petra Baron is a complication that Heaven only knows he does not need. Or does he? Although Emory is on Heaven’s errand, he learned long ago that Heaven does not always play fair.

As Petra slowly falls for Emory, she wonders if he really is who he seems, or if he is just as lost as she is. How can they have a future while trapped in the past? Or is anything possible Beyond the Fortuneteller’s Tent?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

What a strange, but entertaining book. I picked up Beyond the Fortune Teller’s Tent by Kristy Tate on a whim after spotting it on Amazon for FREE. I’m a huge fan of time travel, and the book seemed to be right up my alley. I wasn’t wrong.

As far as the technical side of things goes, the book was well written. There were one or two typos, but nothing that distracted me from the story for more than a split second. The writing was clear and easy to follow, and I was engaged with the story from the very first page until the very last.

I adored the characters—particularly Emory, but also Mary, Anne, and Garret. I’ll admit I had my doubts about Petra—no offense to the teen, but there were times when she made really stupid comments/decisions that made me want to roll my eyes. I understood why she made them, though. She was definitely a fish out of water in the 1600’s.

My biggest complaints were the loopholes and tiny unfinished bits throughout the book. They weren’t enough to make me not enjoy the story as a whole, but they were distracting from time to time. One minute Petra was convinced she was dreaming, the next she knew exactly what year she was in without ever having to ask. She went from not knowing what to do in her relationship with Emory, to suddenly being in a genuine relationship with very little transition. I sometimes just had to step back, take a breath, and say “okay, so, that’s a thing now.” and move on.

Overall, it was a good book. Was it the best time travel romance I’ve read? No. I wish there had been a little more world building—but it was still a decent read, and it fit the YA genre well. It was a fun little adventure, a sweet romance, and I’m happy to have read it. If you like YA fantasy Romances, particularly delving into time travel, I recommend you give this a try.

Book Review: A Conall Christmas

cover-review-a conall christmasTitle: A Conall Christmas [Morna’s Legacy 2.5]

Author: Bethany Claire

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Time Travel, Historical, Novella

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Christmas is quickly approaching, and Adelle is determined to make this Christmas the best one Conall Castle has ever seen, but loneliness haunts her. Love for her daughter sent her into the past, but she’d not expected the isolation she would feel. A former socialite and serial dater, she finds that her current age seems much older in the seventeenth century than it did in the twenty-first. She resigns herself to the fact that she will remain single for the rest of her days. At least until an unexpected visitor arrives at the castle.

Hew Moray has spent the last twenty years all alone, only leaving his isolated home once a year to pay homage to the wife he lost long ago. When a winter storm causes him to seek shelter at the castle where his sister lives, he meets the first lass since his beloved Mae to make his heart flutter in his chest once again. Will he be able to release himself from his past grief to allow another love to enter his life? If he does, will his love be returned?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’m not the type that usually enjoys novellas. I tend to find them rushed, and too short to really enjoy, so when I do pick one up, it’s usually a miracle in and of itself. In this case, it’s a bigger one because I actually enjoyed the novella. I know, I was shocked too.

A Conall Christmas by Bethany Claire was well written, and even paced. I didn’t run into any typos, misplaced punctuation, improper grammar, or awkward sentence structures. The writing was fluid and clear, and the characters were both familiar from the series and endearing. I don’t often find myself reading romance fiction where the couple involved is of an older age, nor do I seek it out, but other than one small mental image I did not need, I didn’t have a problem with the romance between Adelle and Hew. The two were adorable together, and I was cheering them on throughout the story.

That being said, I can’t say that I wasn’t a little throwna by the author’s use of technology in the historical era. It seems almost too easy for things like stereo’s and batteries to be accepted openly by the cast of the Morna’s Legacy series, but I’ll let it slide, because it really was an endearing little story.

Overall, I enjoyed the novella, and it really would be a wonderful read for the holiday season—if I had actually read it during the holidays. If you’re looking for a quick read to enjoy a little closer to Christmas and you enjoy time travel romances, I suggest you pick this one up and give it a try. It has puppies.

Book Review: Love Beyond Hope

cover-review-love beyond hopeTitle: Love Beyond Hope [Morna’s Legacy 3]

Author: Bethany Claire

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Time Travel, Historical

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Baodan McMillan values many things in life: friendship, loyalty, kindness, but certainly not love. After the tragic death of his wife many years ago, he hardened himself to the idea of giving his heart to another. There is but one lass who can thaw his chilly heart, a lass he’s never met nor knows of, a lass whose birth won’t occur until centuries after his death…

Mitsy Fredrickson is in serious need of a distraction. With the ink still drying on her divorce papers, she flies to Scotland determined to forget about her own problems by helping her best friend re-enter reality. She knows Bri’s claims that she is able to travel back in time and is currently living in the year 1647 are a lie but, instead of locating her friend, Mitsy falls prey to the same magic and is quickly forced to believe the impossible.

Modern and sassy, Mitsy finds few who know how to take her fiery personality in the seventeenth century, but she finds her match in Baodan, laird of McMillan Castle. He is her opposite in every way, yet she feels balanced in his presence. The more time she spends with him, the harder she falls. She suspects he feels the same way, but something is holding him back — a dark secret from his past that even Baodan doesn’t fully understand. Mitsy works to uncover what is hidden in the hopes that with resolution Baodan will be free to love her. But the truth is darker than she expects, and it threatens to destroy them both.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I adored this book—much more so than the second in the series. Mitsy was one hell of an intelligent, spitfire of a heroine, and I loved every moment spent with her.

Technically speaking, the book was well written. Other than one misused word (Shuttered should not be the equivalent of Shuddered), the writing was practically flawless. I didn’t run into any typos, awkward sentences, incorrect grammar, or improper punctuation. The writing was clear and fluid and moved at a good pace. I was sucked into the story from the very beginning and didn’t stop until the book was over.

I felt the characters were well characterized, and I especially loved Mitsy, Baodan, and E-o (it’s okay Mitsy, I can’t pronounce or spell his name either). Though Niall was a little too black-hat for my tastes (what I wouldn’t give for a cleverly characterized villain who is neither good nor evil, but a delightful shade of gray), he served his purpose… though I still don’t entirely understand what his motives were.

My only true complaint, once again, is that the romance moved a little too quickly for me to be comfortable. I understand that Mitsy and Baodan fell in lust at first sight. The guy was hot, and she was a quirky redhead. Who wouldn’t love her? But, in what seemed like a few short days, they were ready to tie the knot. There was never any tension between them, no obstacles in their way to drive them together or apart as the book wore on. Their relationship was easy, and never in question. I only wish there’d been more drama between them.

I like the series so far, but I will admit that it seems to be a running theme that the characters all get pretty easy happily ever after’s. For whatever reason, the complications thrown in their way are almost always solved almost before they even cause a problem for the characters, and just about every character is suddenly falling madly in love despite years of not being interested. It doesn’t ring as genuine.  For hardcore romance readers who enjoy formulaic romance, this isn’t going to be a problem… but if you’re more of a fantasy reader who enjoys romance as a subplot, you may find it a little hard to believe—as I do.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, and I’d recommend it for someone looking for a heartwarming romance with a sassy heroine.

Book Review: Love Beyond Reason

cover-review-love beyond reasonTitle: Love Beyond Reason [Morna’s Legacy 2]

Author: Bethany Claire

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Time Travel, Historical

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

It all started with a spell.

Arran Conall lives with the consequences of his foolishness daily, his mistakes guiding him into darkness. He had no way to know that his beloved would fall prey to the ancient magic that awaited Blaire on the day he’d sent her away to marry his brother. Now, the only woman to ever give pause to his philandering ways lives centuries ahead of him, out of reach while still holding on to his heart. Now, he must try to live a life without her and marries another to save the lass from a greedy suitor who only wants to lay title to her father’s territory.

His love for Blaire haunts him. With every breath, he prays only one thing “” that she will be able to feel his love for her across the chasms of time.

Born in the seventeenth century, Blaire MacChristy lives each day trying to adjust to the challenges of modern-day life. Magic brought her here, but heartbreak keeps her from using the magic to travel back to her home. When visitors from her past arrive asking her to return to the life she’d known before, Blaire takes a chance on love. Once home, she is shocked to learn that the man she loves has married another. Will fate find a way to mend their broken hearts by bringing them together once again? Even if it does, will they be able to stop the darkness that is coming for them both?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Ah, yet another addition to the Morna’s Legacy series. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to discover that the second book in the series revolved around Arran and Blaire, and their complicated and often tragic love story. I fell in love with the two characters during the first installment to the series and was excited to delve into their story.

Technically speaking, the story was well written. The narrative moved along at a steady pace, was easy to read, and engaging. There weren’t any noticeable typo’s or punctuation problems, nor any awkward sentences or grammatical foibles to stumble over. I was sucked into the story right away and felt compelled to find out what would happen to the characters as I read. I couldn’t have asked for more!

Like the first book, however, the story wasn’t without it’s problems. Though a little slower paced that the first book, the plot was far more complicated. Problems seemed to be thrown at the various characters right and left—dire problems that should not have easily been overcome… unfortunately, they were usually fixed with little trouble. Many of the issues that arose for the characters were resolved almost before they knew about the problems to begin with, or very easily thereafter. It seemed like fate and luck were on their side, and because of it, it was hard to believe that there was any real danger of the characters not getting their happy ending. I really wished that the tension had been dragged out a little more, and the almost insurmountable problems hadn’t been so easily solved.

I can’t complain too much, though. Despite the all-too-easy way the plot was handled, I did enjoy the story. The characters have evolved and begun to develop more since the first book in the series, and the author stayed true to their voices. Overall, I’m glad I picked up the book. Despite it’s negatives, I feel the positives far outshine them. I’m interested to see how the series progresses in the next few books.