Book Review: Rise of the Phoenix by Jamie McLachlan

Rise of the Phoenix (The Memory Collector Series, #3)Rise of the Phoenix by Jamie McLachlan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rise of the Phoenix is the third and final book in the Memory Collector Series. It follows where we left off with Moira, the empath, and Keenan, the detective, trying to solve the twisted games of the serial killer The Phoenix before another person is killed—or forced to commit suicide. Right away we are thrown into this fantastical world where people can alter emotions, read minds, and even “play” in the landscape of the minds of others (seriously, how cool is this? What would YOUR mind look like inside?).

There’s plenty of sexual heat, suspense, and so many twists I did NOT see coming. I was so connected to the characters by this point I was devastated when certain things happened to certain people. No spoilers but I kept thinking I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING??! It was a roller-coaster of emotions for me, which is the mark of a great suspenseful read, I think. I messaged the author (my pal Jamie) to ask how she could do this to me? lol. My nerves were shot at a few spots.

This is a spectacular series, and a great ending to a story that I thoroughly enjoyed. 4 solid stars. Fans of dark fantasy, sexy romance, independent bad ass heroines, and more will love this. I received an advance copy of ROTP in exchange for an honest review. I very much enjoyed this book, and the way it concludes the trilogy.

Pre-order your copy now, and if you haven’t already please check out #1 & #2 in the series. You can also purchase the 3 e-book set for $11!

Visit Jamie’s website for a free excerpt of the story, and to keep informed of all her upcoming projects! Trust me, you don’t want to miss what she’s cooking up next.

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Book Review: The Princess Saves Herself In This One by Amanda Lovelace

The Princess Saves Herself in this OneThe Princess Saves Herself in this One by amanda lovelace

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve had this book for months now, and it’s been staring at me from my TBR pile (stack?) for awhile. It took me some time to clear my mind of the buzz & reviews around such a popular book and pick it up. What can I say? I’m a rebel, and sometimes I am wary of bestsellers 😉

In any case, I follow Amanda Lovelace on Instagram and I like the snippets she posts from her book, so I finally dove in. I’m glad I did. The Princess Saves Herself In This One is a story, one I read as a poetic memoir, about someone who struggles and eventually comes out the other side stronger. I enjoyed the narrative, and I always lose myself more in poetry books with a storyline, rather than just poems with no connection. At times, it was so deeply personal that the rawness struck me. Some of the poems were stronger than others, and I’m still not a fan of poetry without titles, or with the titles on the end (personal preference). Also, I wish there’d been some more fantasy-ish ones, but I’d give it 4 stars for an overall powerful collection, with empowerment woven throughout. Plenty of people will relate to so many of these poems (and I know readers are really responding), myself included. I especially enjoyed at least a dozen, which I marked. Two of my favorites:

i was the one
who found your body
(you were nowhere
to be found)
mouth opened
wide enough
to suck all the oxygen
from the room,
wide enough
to plant lilies in,
wide enough to have
been calling my name—
that is, if only you
remembered it.

-i want to forget, forget, forget

and-
he
opened me up
like a book
& poured the
poetry back into
me.

-my personal pen & paper

It was a sensitive, and at times gut-punching book, and I look forward to more from the author! I’ll definitely be checking out her next book.

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Book Review: Magic With Skin On by Morgan Nikola-Wren

Magic with Skin OnMagic with Skin On by Morgan Nikola-Wren

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The cover drew me in first. How could it not? Once I opened the book I was quickly drawn in to the words Morgan Nikola-Wren created. Not just the words, but the world. As a reader, I loved it. As a writer (and poet) I was humbled. The word choices throughout are strong, beautiful, gut-punching. There’s strong imagery and metaphors in some, but it’s really the way the words are put together that create such beauty.
The poems are told in in Acts (7, to be exact), and there’s prose in between, so that it reads like a story, which I loved. The poems center around a relationship (somewhat toxic or damaging) and move forward through heartbreak, pain, and then healing. Themes of love—passionate and unrequited—are strung throughout, and there are several poems that touch on words/voice/power. I related to so much to it, I had to take a step back and breathe.
Sadly—or shamefully—I do not use bookmarks, and so I have a habit of dog-earring (?) pages that speak to me. I have over 20 pages of this book bent at the corners, I loved the poems on them so much. In fact, I plan to get a tattoo of one of them. Which one remains to be seen. But still, wow. Two of my favorites:
IX.
it’s nights like this, when
your grief goes smashing
into the walls that i think of
those moments that curled your hand
so sea-shell perfectly into mine
my memory skips
at the velvet shock of your skin
and i wonder
how i ever managed to fit
so much rage into my fists

and
XIII.

the next time you come at me,
with charm in your eyes
and a throat full of
“would never hurt you,”
i’ll remember that i’m just
a mistake your memory
couldn’t carry, and you’re
just an apology i’ll never
hear the air explode into,
a double-joined voice
and a snake oil smile—
so, scrub your shadow
from my front door
don’t sell me
a knock-off
love i don’t need

My only wish is that the poems had named titles instead of Roman numerals. I don’t even KNOW what those numbers are, ha, and it would be nice to put a title to each poem so I could say my favorites instead of “on page whatever”.
Gorgeous book of poetry, and a talented poetess. 5 stars. I hope to be this good someday.
If you love poetry that is rich, sensual, and powerful, get yourself this book. I’m already gleefully awaiting her next.

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Book Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon 

When Dimple Met RishiWhen Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I struggled with this rating, and here’s why: Dimple is not my fav. Rishi is adorable. How to marry the love/hate I have with the book, when actually, it’s more like like/dislike.
Liked:
-The premise. Two Indian teenagers with very different plans for life, and outlooks on tradition. Dimple hates make-up and has no interest in getting married. Rishi is a dutiful son who respects his parents, and just wants to get married. To Dimple. Though they’ve never met. But their parents have, and it’s they who plant the idea in Rishi’s head to get together with Dimple during Insomnia Con—some kind of coding/ap convention. Too bad Dimple has no idea this goofy stranger has already planned their lives together…
-Rishi. Like I said, he is adorable. It’s sweet to see a young man not be obsessed with sex, or be the same, tired old cliché. He was sensitive, romantic, gentle. Honey-colored eyes. And artistic. Hello? Yes, please.
-The little snippets we get of Rishi’s art and the comic convention was neat. Wish there’d been more of it. I’m not a comic-lover (mostly because I’m clueless about it all) so it would have been nice to learn more here.
-the Indian culture, in large doses, in small doses, just throughout the book. I have always admired Indian culture, food, clothing, dance, etc so it was wonderful to learn more and have it be from the main characters POV.
Disliked:
-Dimple? I don’t know. She’s kind of meh for me. Yes, I liked that she was smart, geeky, and wore glasses. Liked that she was a good friend to Celia. Liked that she got over herself and got her head out of her ass to be with Rishi. But. Why. Was. She. So. Rude. She’s just abrasive in general. And the whole “domestic” meltdown at the end didn’t feel realistic.
-Stop punching Rishi. Stop thinking you’d like to bite his nose? Ew. If this was a boy hitting a girl would it be cute?
-A little draggy in parts. I also felt like the structure was off in the plot, or the pacing. Like, they are hooked up very early in the book. Where’s the conflict exactly?
-Ending was super rushed. Also contest and all that done in like, two seconds. When did they have time to work on this project?
-Rich kid hate. Yawn.
-Did not buy the hook-up between C & A. At all.
-The dual POV. Yes, I like a dual POV in general. But why every other paragraph practically? It was distracting and kept me head-hopping the whole book. I wish the author had done every other chapter instead.

Despite the issues I found, I would read it again. It was enjoyable overall and a quick, easy read. I’d definitely read more work by this author.

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Book Review: Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann 

Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My PrettyPoisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved the description for this book (not to mention the cover) and read it quickly straight through, then went back to savor some of the poems again. I dog-eared my favorite pages (yes, I do that), and I have two that really stood out to me “The Never Ending Story” which was heart-breaking in its description of anorexia, and “To My Sheep, Wherever You Are” because I work at a library and it made me laugh. There were several that I loved, and only a few that were just meh to me; overall a really solid collection. Some poems were quite clever, spun in a way I’d never have imagined, such as the magazine retelling or the “If Tampons Were For Guys”. I enjoyed the comparison between modern day beauty standards and fairytales, between young women and these fantastical beings, although I wish there’d been even more of a fairytale aspect to some of them. I’d recommend this to lovers of poetry OR fairytales. I think it’s a sharp, lovely combination of the two, told in subtly powerful way, both funny and tragic. I’m definitely a fan of Christine Heppermann after reading this book. Oh, and did I mention the amazing photographs and artwork inside? Gorgeous, haunting book I will definitely read again.

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Book Review: The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs 

The Friday Night Knitting Club (Friday Night Knitting Club, #1)The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have had a copy of this book for years, and always liked the cover. I finally read it for a book club pick this month. From the description it reminded me of How to Make an American Quilt. Georgia is the owner of a yarn shop, Walker and Daughter, which she runs with her pre-teen daughter Dakota, and with the help of her good friend, the motherly-figure Anita, who helped get Georgia started with her business when she was still a single, pregnant young woman. There’s other characters too, including Lucie, who gets pregnant on the sly, Darwin (really??) a blunt college student, and James, Dakota’s absent father who stumbles back into their lives. He not only wants a relationship with his daughter, he may also want Georgia back too– but can she forgive him? There’s other characters too, but I honestly don’t even remember their names. They felt like disjointed members of a group.
The writing style was not for me. I didn’t mind the fragments as some reviewers, but the constant head-hopping was so frustrating. I don’t mind 3rd person POV, but for goodness sakes, I could hardly get invested in one character before it jumped to the next, sometimes in the same scene! I also thought the amount of backstory really dragged the story down. So. Much. Backstory. I didn’t feel a connection to any of the characters or believe they had a connection to each other until halfway through the book because the stories all felt so separate.
The ending had a bummer twist, and I actually cared enough by then to feel sad, but it was too late. 3 stars for effort and potential, and for the good parts, of which there were several. But honestly, I wish the whole book had been Anita’s story, with way more actual Friday night knitting and commradarie between these women.

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Book Review: Spells & Sorcery by S. Usher Evans

Spells and Sorcery (Lexie Carrigan Chronicles, #1)Spells and Sorcery by S. Usher Evans

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have been following S. Usher Evans (a.k.a. Sush) for awhile on social media sites, like Twitter, and when I saw Spells & Sorcery, I thought it looked like a fun read.
Lexi Carrigan is a teenage girl with two older sisters—bitchy Marie, and the nicer Nicole. They’re raised by their aunt Jeanie, a woman who was only in her early 20s when she took the girls in. The story starts off with Lexi being told, on the eve of her fifteenth birthday, that she has magic. Of course, she thinks her family is messing with her, but it’s not long before she believes them. They keep telling her it’s no big deal, but the whole thing is shrouded in all this secrecy and it’s not until Lexi meets Gavon fairly early on, that the older man begins to teach her to actually use her magic, and to also teach her the history of magic. Before long, Lexi can literally poof herself from place to place, summon her schoolbooks from her backpack, and have duals with Gavon on the beach. But why is this man teaching her when her own family won’t? Why has her grandmother abandoned her and refused to allow her to meet her extensive, magical family? What really happened to her mother? Why the hell won’t anyone tell her anything?
There’s some fairly exciting twists at the end that I did not see coming (like, um, yeah…let’s just say there’s this whole other world and story beyond what you think you know), as well as one character’s death that still pisses me off. Overall, Spells & Sorcery was a quick read, and I enjoyed the world that Lexi was from, and the way her magic manifested itself. It was fun to watch her grow stronger, and more sure of her abilities. If I have a complaint, it’s that I was not completely invested in any of the characters until further on. It would have been nice if Lexi had a friend or two—she’s a complete loner, and she was in her own head a lot. I didn’t always feel connected with her, or her connection to the rest of the characters Her family was frustrating at times, and I didn’t realize until later in the story why. Despite those things, I’m excited to continue on with book #2 and find out exactly what will happen to Lexi and those she cares about.

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Book Review: Anxiety Girl by Lacey London

Anxiety Girl: It's okay to be afraid...Anxiety Girl: It’s okay to be afraid… by Lacey London

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The premise intrigued me, because it seemed heavily centered on anxiety, which I have (fun stuff). Sadie Valentine is the main character, a beautiful young woman who seems to have almost everything—a great best friend (Aldo, a gay hairdresser), a glamorous apartment her mother gifted her, commission selling paintings (although I didn’t ever get the feeling she really enjoyed art much, just that it was a kind-of job) and fun, city living. What she doesn’t have is a love life, and getting over her ex-fiance is one thing that pushes her over the edge into a breakdown, even months after they’ve split. There’s also some catty frenemies, and Sadie’s distant, cold mother who make matters worse. Sadie ends up falling into a sudden and deep depression/anxiety mash-up, and finally leans on a support group for help before taking back her life.
What I didn’t like: I would have loved the author to develop the plot line with Sadie’s mysterious father a little more—it felt thrown in and back out just as quickly. The bitchy friends made me see red, so I was waiting for a Sadie to smack them down HARD for a long time, and it didn’t quite turn out like that, so I got miffed that she wasn’t tougher on them. And also, I think there should have been more solutions to anxiety presented (including a more in-depth look at medication, which does work wonders for some.) But…
What I liked: Sadie was a character I really enjoyed! I could picture her clearly, and I could feel her pain. I don’t know how different the story would look through the lens of a reader who doesn’t suffer from anxiety or depression (possibly quite different), but for me, it rang true many times. I cared about her. I cared about Aldo. Their friendship was endearing, and they really felt like family to each other. I liked the support group, and I would have even enjoyed more interaction with the group characters, besides the one girl she befriended (who I also really liked though I’ve forgotten her name).
Overall, I’d give it 3.5 stars, but let’s round to 4. I fell in love with Sadie in a way, and I was so happy for her ability to turn herself around. Good book that touches on the struggles with anxiety, particularly for someone who doesn’t think it can ever happen to them. I’d love to see what happens to Sadie next!

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Book Review: Legend by Jude Deveraux

 

I’ve been able to catch up on some reading lately (yay!) so I’ll have some more reviews coming (Caraval is one of them!). For a book review tonight, let’s do a little throw-back with a book I first read in high school. Back then (the late 90’s mostly, ::sob::), a couple of my friends and I discovered this tiny, little-known room (The Room of Requirement, possibly?) with loads of romance paperbacks, and a couple cool staff members who let us borrow them. If memory serves, I first found this book there, and it is one of my old favs to this day. 

Legend by best selling author Jude Deveraux, is a perfect mix of humor, plot twists and romance, although it is light on the steam factor. Kady Long is a 30-year old chef living in Virginia. In fact, she’s one of the most famous chefs around. People come from all over the country to eat at Onions, the restaurant where she works. She’s also happily engaged to Gregory, the son of her boss. Kady can’t believe how lucky she is and yet she cannot stop thinking about the mystery man who’s haunted her dreams since childhood. With only the top half of his face visible in her dreams, the rest covered by a black veil, Kady doesn’t know who he is but she convinces herself that her Arabian prince must be Gregory; they look similar enough.

As Kady runs a few wedding errands, she wanders into an antique shop and on a whim, purchases a rusty flour tin. Later, when she opens it, Kady is surprised to see a beautiful old-fashioned wedding dress, a pocket watch and a family photograph with the name Jordan on the back. To her amazement, the dress fits her perfectly. Having found no wedding dress as of yet, Kady knows this is the one she will wear to marry Gregory. But then Kady is overcome with a dizzy spell and when she comes to, she is no longer in her apartment but in the old Western town of Legend, Colorado. The year is 1873 and Cole Jordan is about to be hanged. What happens next is an amazing tale of time travel and love. As Kady tries to find a way back home, she is pulled deeper into this time period and into the arms of Cole. But then she learns a secret that changes everything in ways she never could have imagined.

Legend is warm, optimistic, and lovely. I fell in love with the characters, especially Cole. He is sweet and fun and he really opened up a side of Kady that I feel she was hiding. Kady is a joy to read and it’s refreshing in a romance not to read about a “perfect” woman. She’s also a very talented chef and for food lovers, this is a must read as she describes recipes and also puts on a feast that lasts for several days. Throughout the book she cooks everything from rattlesnake to croissants. I also couldn’t stop wondering about the mysterious Arabian man from her dreams. Who is he? Is he connected to Gregory? To Cole? And when you learn the answer, you will be surprised too. Legend is a wonderful romance novel that you won’t want to put down. And when you do, you’ll be wondering how long before you can pick it back up again! It’s a book I’ve read dozens of times, and I always enjoy it when I revisit it. Love.

Originally posted with Writers News Weekly in 2009. Revised and posted in 2017.

Book Review: we carry the sky by McKayla Robbin

 

I was offered a complimentary copy of We Carry the Sky by McKayla Robbin in exchange for an honest review.

This poetry book is full of small but mighty poems. There are themes, sometimes subtle, sometimes loud, about feminism, abuse, acceptance, body, healing etc. Some of the poems are extremely short, and many do not have titles—this confused me at first, because the titles are also at the end of poems, so I wasn’t always certain which poems were more than one page, since the title was at the end (maybe I’m still confused, and many of these were actually long poems, but it doesn’t matter and sorry for the long ramble on it)—I didn’t even mind my confusion once I got immersed in the words. I enjoyed this collection of poetry, though its different than a lot of other poetry I’ve read, in that many of the poems are very literal, and do not rely on much figurative language, which I was actually pleasantly surprised by in parts (because I’ve been told that about my own work and it is almost reassuring to see someone else do this). There were many good poems, and several great. One of my favs from We Carry the Sky:

since we last spoke

i have threaded my sorrow

into a sweater

and i am learning, i think,

to wear it

without letting it break me

but I also loved lines such as:

dancing is how your soul remembers to love your body

and

forget everything you learned before

your body is not a war

it is a celebration

Some of these poems are haunting, some are gentle. Since reading this book, I have added to the poetry books already on my shelves to include another five titles, and I have to say, this is one of my favorites of the new books. I’m really glad the author sent me this book to review (and I’m sorry I forgot to ask her to sign it! boo).

4 stars for a collection of poetry that has something to say.