Category: Reading

Romance Book Review: Mae’s Cafe

Romance Book Review: Mae’s Cafe

What a small world this is! I got a chance to review an advanced copy of author Elsa Kurt’s new book, Mae’s Cafe. Why is it a small world? Let’s see. I first met Elsa at a writer’s group here in Connecticut about a year and a half ago. So we’re both from Connecticut!

Mae’s Cafe is set in fictional Chance, Connecticut. But it’s not fictional, or at least, it doesn’t read fictional. The small town life Elsa writes is spot on. It’s like you grew up in Chance yourself, reading all about the different histories between the characters; the drama, the connections.

I’ve never read any of Elsa’s books before, but I slipped into this book really easily. It’s a fast read. I also only just started reading romance, and I’ll blame Outlander for that ;) I enjoyed the romance and the tension and build and everything with Mae and William. William thought he was just “passing through” but he is very quickly sucked in to the cafe and Chance–Mae, the small town drama, Mae, and–what else?–Mae, draw him in.

I also really liked the “cafe” itself, it’s like its own character. It has a lot of history and detail that speaking of Outlander, is reminiscent of Diana Gabaldon’s incredibly detailed writing.

Grab a copy on Amazon!

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2MoNknU
Amazon CA: https://amzn.to/2W8k4kT
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/314WzwQ
Amazon AU: https://amzn.to/2wACxfq

And also give Elsa Kurt a follow to watch for the rest of the Welcome to Chance series on BookBub * Facebook * GoodreadsTwitter * Website

Currently Reading: Whispers from the Depths by C.W. Briar

Currently Reading: Whispers from the Depths by C.W. Briar

Happy Monday all, it’s wet and snow-covered here in New England, but my current read is a thrillingly dark adventure and today’s stop on the Whispers from the Depths blog tour!

Joyful and blessed are Voice-bearers, for the Heavens have set them apart.

As Whisperers gifted with the Voice, Betka and her people are enslaved. Only they can control the dangerous spirits that haunt the waters, but they are forced to serve under cruel taskmasters. Betka has little hope of freedom from her service or her own bitterness.

They toil for the goodness of others. 

A powerful water spirit terrorizes the castle where Betka’s sister is serving. Betka is assigned to the crew sailing to face the foe, and she fears for the only family she has left.

Rage is found nowhere in them.

In the beleaguered, flooded castle, a new threat awaits—a magic more powerful and horrifying than anything they have ever seen. Loyalties will be tested, and enemies will become desperate allies.

Betka is their only hope of escape—if she can subdue the wrath that endangers them all.

She who wields the waters for revenge drowns herself tenfold.

Check it out on:

Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Apple * Kobo * Goodreads * Publisher Uncommon Universes Press

Who is CW Briar?

C.W. Briar writes fantasy that’s dark but hopeful, filled with wonder and humor along with the suspense and creepiness. His favorite stories are the ones that make him both smile and perch on the edge of his seat. By day, he works as a systems engineer, testing or even riding on trains, airplanes, and helicopters. At night, when not writing, he prepares fancy dinners and shows off his awesome corgis. He’s a graduate of Binghamton University and lives in Upstate NY with his wife, three kids, and secret stashes of chocolate.

Sign up for newsletter exclusives through his website: http://www.cwbriar.com

Or follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Let CW tell you more about Whispers from the Depths and his process in this interview we did for his blog tour!

How did you come up with the idea for Whispers From The Depths?

I wanted a story where water is a sentient threat that invades a castle. I paired that with the exploration of how love can overcome evil, and the story grew from there.

Which books or authors have influenced you the most?

Beowulf was a huge influence on this story. Anyone familiar with that poem will see it in the conflict, the warrior culture, and the gritty tone. Beyond that, I drew inspirations from Michael Crichton and a variety of horror authors in portraying the suspense and action. I don’t know if I can say Brandon Sanderson is an inspiration for the magic, but his portrayal of magic is something I consider a benchmark to measure up to.

What is your writing process like?

(slower than I like)

I’m not a 100% plotter, but I do have to know the themes and major moments in the story before I write. Once that’s settled, I write toward whatever major moment is ahead of me. I have to squeeze in writing time around other demands in life, so my time is heavily broken up.

Part of the reason I’m slow is that I’m a sculptor rather than a painter. I can’t slap words on a page, see what comes up, and overhaul it later. I prefer to explore and plan away from the computer, then make real progress once writing. That’s why I don’t make a lot of major story changes once a first draft done (but I do polish the prose quite a bit).

What gave you the most difficulty when writing Whispers From The Depths?

The story grew after initial edits came in. I expanded a few scenes and character arcs. That required me to reassess everything to make sure it flowed smoothly. That was probably the biggest headache.

What is your favorite writing fuel?

Physically, coffee, even though I’m not a big fan of it. I drink caffeine, including tea and energy drinks, but mostly coffee.

Mentally, I’m fueled by topics that make me think. Articles, sermons, heavy discussions: those things inspire the themes.

I keep mentioning themes because they really are the bones on which I build story. I have something I want to explore and discuss, and I weave a narrative that represents it. When someone says something that makes me think, by brain starts recreating it in story form.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from this book?

I like to write stories with subtext, but it’s not critical to pick up on it. It’s okay if someone reads the book at a surface level and simply has a fun time. I hope I leave them breathless. Beyond that, I hope the story makes them think. I hope they reconsider how they interact with other people, especially those they don’t get along with.

What’s your next project?

I have two short stories coming out in anthologies this year and a couple more out for consideration. As for novels, I have two underway. One is a gothic horror/comedy/mystery. The other is a very different kind of project, but I’m keeping it under wraps for now.


Whispers from the Depths just released on February 19th; check out Briar’s tale for yourself, and look for my review coming soon!

Book Review: The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

Book Review: The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi


Two words: Magical. Heist.

It’s 1889 in an alternate Paris, where those who have the ability to “forge” can manipulate matter or minds just like magic–except it’s really about science and art–with infinite possibilities. It’s almost like Alice in Wonderland–especially when you can pass through a mirror to another place. The secret society of the Order of Babel regulates forging, controlled by the high Houses. Plants can be forged for beauty and function, statues can be forged for security, clothes can be forged to give you as many tricks up your sleeve as you can imagine.

This lush backdrop is where Séverin lost his inheritance. Spurned by the Order, he teams up with Enrique, the historian looking for a voice and power with his own community; Laila, the dancer with a life altering secret; Zofia, the engineer who is excellent at math yet awful with anything social; Tristan, a brother to him; and finally Hypnos, the entitled yet clever patriarch of one of the Houses. I have to say, Hypnos was my favorite! He was funny without being too over the top. Enrique was also funny, especially when paired with Séverin:

“You’re doing it again,” said Enrique.
“What?”
“That whole nefarious-whilst-looking-into-the-distance-thing. What are you hiding, Séverin?”
“Nothing.”
“You and your secrets.”
“Secrets keep my hair lustrous,” said Séverin, running his hand through his curls. “Shall we?”

This big cast of characters wend their way through a fantastical mystery at the heart of the Order of Babel. I did wonder sometimes whether the big cast was a bit too much–their voices sometimes blended together, when you jumped from one to another in the chapters. Sometimes their personalities were a bit too similar, except Zofia who was quite unique. They each do have clear motives, but it was really their voices (internal & external) that were a little too similar.

A simple heist leads them deeper into the mysteries of the Order than any of them ever dreamed. They must use their wits and their tricks to not only prevent total chaos–but to survive.

All in all, I really enjoyed the fantastic magic, the storytelling, and the suspense. Oh, and there was just enough romance–I’m not a big fan of over the top romance (unless I’m reading Outlander, of course), and Chokshi did a great job with some light romantic touches: it all felt very real and unforced.

I’ll definitely be on the lookout for the rest of this series!

The book is available for pre-order, and releases January 15, 2019.

I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for this honest review.

Book Review: Jack Be Quick by Benjamin Thomas

Book Review: Jack Be Quick by Benjamin Thomas

Occasionally I try to reach outside my normal reading genres and try something different. My comfort genres are of course Fantasy, Sci-Fi and YA. My favorite local bookstore recommended this book, Jack be Quick, by fellow Connecticut author Benjamin Thomas. I will be completely honest, I think it is the first thriller I have ever read, and I really enjoyed it! Now if it just had some vampires or something, it’d be perfect…just kidding!

Thomas writes a fast-paced thriller that just keeps you hooked from the beginning. I couldn’t stop reading it. The main character Noah is fascinating. A paramedic trudging through his own pain and addiction; meanwhile trying to decipher and stop the murderous Jack-the-Ripper style killings happening around him. It all starts with a message scrawled in blood when Noah responds to a paramedic call. And while Noah tries to figure out the pattern of the killings, the murderer also seems to stalk Noah.

The murders follow the pattern the original Jack-the-Ripper held, in Noah’s small Connecticut town. Noah knows finding the killer will prevent more murders, but he needs to battle through his own mental and physical wounds to stop the killings.

It’s a great read, it goes by very fast!

Book Review: Coiled by H.L. Burke

Book Review: Coiled by H.L. Burke

What a magical book!  I was really excited to read this book, because it’s a retelling of a Greek myth–but it’s entirely unique, and very well-told.

I recently interviewed H.L. Burke on my blog as part of her Coiled release blog tour, and the book will be available on June 15, 2017.

A twist on Eros and Psyche, the story of Laidra and Calen is at times heartbreaking, heartwarming, and full of intrigue, adventure, and even an Olympian-style quest.

Laidra is cursed with hideousness that worsens whenever she heals someone, while Calen is cursed with the incredibly debilitating–and rather inconvenient to say the least–problem of turning into a giant snake when he is seen by another person.

There’s beautiful symmetry with the two curses, and ugly humanity rears its head in different ways when their respective families are confronted with just how to handle their cursed children.

I enjoyed this read from beginning to end, and though I thought I could see where it was going one moment, was pleasantly surprised by each turn of events. I thought the tale was expertly woven, and–importantly for me–no cringe-worthy romance: I loved watching Laidra and Calen’s relationship develop right from the start.

Burke’s characters always have real depth to them, especially in this book. Even the gods and demi-gods, though by definition are stuck within a certain role, each has quite a personality and lends their voice to the story.  I always love the humanization of mythological gods.  On the side of a vase the gods look all perfect and pristine, but when they get involved with mortals, they’re squabbling and plotting right down in there.

I would highly recommend for a pleasant YA read that will give you a good adventure, love, curses, intrigue, and even a magical beast or two!



Available on Amazon, Kobo, Nook and iBooks.


Also check out the Facebook Launch party happening June 23rd!

Book Review: The Waterfall Traveler by S.J. Lem

Book Review: The Waterfall Traveler by S.J. Lem

Go ahead, judge this book by its cover!

The world behind it is just as intriguing and mysterious as the cover will lead you to believe.  Ri just wants to cure her adoptive father Samuel, but two chance encounters in the woods lead her on a wild journey through worlds she never knew–and Samuel and his sickness are part of a much bigger tale.  And to top it off, a strange phenomenon called the Culling is wreaking fatal havoc wherever they go.

The characters immediately grow on you.  Ri herself had an element to her that I couldn’t quite place–but, no spoilers, you’ll actually find out why that is later in this book.   And, to leave us wanting more, that element is revealed in full in the epilogue, no doubt to be explored in the sequel.

Ri encounters and picks up a band of characters throughout her journey, and some very unlikely ones at that–which is probably why the journey is so “fun” as a reader.  The chemistry is really fun to explore, and most of them are driven by love, which generally redeems their sometimes darker sides.

I did have a bit of trouble with the pacing in the beginning, but it picks up speed as it goes along.  The places Ri and the team travel through, and what they find there will keep you itching to know more about the Culling, what it may or may not have to do with Ri, and what the gods have in store for them all.

Book Review: Fallen to Grace, by A.J. Flowers

Book Review: Fallen to Grace, by A.J. Flowers

This book is fresh off the presses, and you won’t be disappointed with A.J. Flowers‘ first book in the Celestial Downfall series.  I received a free copy in exchange for my honest opinion.  I must say, I am looking forward to the rest of the series and finding out what becomes of Azrael!  And until 12/18/16 you can enter to win your own free copy on Goodreads!

Azrael is Windborn, and a hybrid, setting herself apart from all the other Windborn at Manor Saffron, where the not-quite-angels train for a life in the real world.  Her hybrid status makes her able to see not only light (like all other Windborn), but dark.  The unjust death of another hybrid in the Manor sparks Azrael into action–into making a deal with a demon.  Smartly, she only asks it to change her fate–anything more specific and she’d be dancing too near the possibility of the demon overtaking the deal.

Her fate changes immediately.  The Manor is in need of a new Queen, and Azrael has been chosen by divine power.  But Azrael quickly learns that being Queen is a life full of new secrets, new friends (real angels with agendas of their own) and new powers.  Flowers paints a realistic picture of a world where angels remain an open secret (special chairs for wings, anyone?), and I was impressed with the imaginative version of light and dark magic.

The juxtaposition of angels with normal flaws just makes sense, too.  Angels are always depicted as perfect beings, and as a human reader myself, the angel characters clicked perfectly.  Not to mention the swoon-worthy descriptions of wings and other celestial details.  I’m a sucker for description.

I did find myself craving an ordinary day in the life in the Manor, though–but Azrael has no trouble keeping up with one turn after another.  We end the book with a seriously motivated Azrael, and plenty of intrigue to have you looking for the release date of the next book.

 

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Request an ARC for A Rift Between Cities

Request an ARC for A Rift Between Cities

A Rift Between Cities by Liz DeltonIn a mere six weeks, the final installment of the Arcera Trilogy will be released!

Interested in reading it sooner?  Request an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy)!

Here’s how it works:

Fill out the form below.  I’ll send you an electronic ARC.

If you feel so inclined, I’d greatly appreciate a review on or around release time (December 9), on whichever forum you normally review books (Amazon, Goodreads, etc…).

Request an ARC:

Happy reading!

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Book Review: Beggar Magic, by H.L. Burke

Book Review: Beggar Magic, by H.L. Burke


Over the past few days I have had the pleasure of listening to H.L. Burke’s Beggar Magic through Audible. I’ve listened to lots of audiobooks over the past few months (Lord of the Rings, Outlander, Dune, The Martian…) and this one didn’t disappoint.

Burke’s imaginative world of Gelia City is a city of magic–a magic that resides in the very air and fills the city with its ever-changing sounds: the Strains. But not everyone is fortunate to hear the Strains and use their magic as well as others. The Highmost are born with seemingly unlimited control over the Strains, but the Common are only able to weakly wield them, with beggar magic.

Leilani, a Common, no-nonsense girl, crosses paths with a high-strung Highmost called Zebedy, and her world takes an unusual turn as she is swept into the manic life of the Highmost.  One of the things I admired about Leilani’s character is that she never settled for anything she didn’t want, and never let anyone walk over her.  Gotta love a strong female lead!  The two friends are drawn into a serious mystery concerning the Strains, leading them through Highmost intrigue, breaking class barriers, and there’s even a bit of romance.

The writing (and narration) flow quite naturally, and I loved all of the tiny details placed throughout the book by Burke.  Even before the main conflict was presented, I was drawn in to the unique setting and the two girls’ strong characters.  Seriously, the Strains were a whole new type of magic, the idea of which kept me thinking about this book even when I wasn’t reading it.

This is an audiobook that you can gobble up really easily.  I would definitely recommend it for fantasy lovers of any age.

I received a complementary copy of the audiobook in exchange for this honest review.

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Young Adult- Let’s Get Rid of the Age Qualification

Young Adult- Let’s Get Rid of the Age Qualification

Yes, this is my bookshelf.  Kim Harrison and J.K. Rowling are awarded prime real estate.
Yes, this is my bookshelf. Kim Harrison and J.K. Rowling are awarded prime real estate.

Back in the day, when I first started buying books, I remember beelining for the “Young Adult” section of the store.  In the beginning, it was maybe one rack of books in the corner, or behind the “regular” fiction/literature section.  It was the place in the bookstore where I would read each title, examine each cover, and figure out which books I hadn’t yet read.  Essentially no other section in the store existed for me for a long time.

Even now I can still visualize the young adult section in several bookstores I frequented long ago, most in stores that no longer exist.

I thought, “Young Adult”, these are the books for me!  I am a young. adult.

Even now, in my {insert age here}’s, I am still considered a “young adult”.  And I wonder, when will I stop being a “young adult”?  I feel as if I have been a young adult for a very long time.  When do I become an old adult?

But I refuse to stop enjoying young adult books because I am no longer a teenager, and I don’t think anyone else should either.  YA books are not classified as such because they are watered down, less serious, or not as good as “regular” fiction.  The only qualifier I can see is that they generally feature a teen protagonist–a character who, more often than not, faces far more emotional, societal, or crazy dystopian struggles than traditional fiction.

Sure, I read my fair share of traditional fiction, but Young Adult will perhaps always be my favorite section of the bookstore, and it will always hold that magic for me.

Yes, YA has certainly been gaining popularity recently with the Hunger Games and Divergent series being converted into movies; but I feel it still carries a stigma, which is why when I talk about Meadowcity, I like to tell people that it is for ages 12 and up.  I don’t think people should stop enjoying a style of writing once they reach a certain age.

YA books are for the young, and the young at heart–something I hope to be for a long, long time.

“I see now that dismissing YA books because you’re not a young adult is a little bit like refusing to watch thrillers on the grounds that you’re not a policeman or a dangerous criminal, and as a consequence, I’ve discovered a previously ignored room at the back of the bookstore that’s filled with masterpieces I’ve never heard of.”

– Nick Hornby

When I am finally classified as an “old adult” you still won’t be able to pry Harry Potter from my stiff, arthritic fingers.