Review | An Unreliable Magic  (A Hundred Names for Magic 2) by Rin Chupeco

Disclosure: All views expressed are only my honest opinion. Also, I may earn a commission on some affiliate links below, whose fees support independent bookshops. Hope you will consider getting it at a local bookstore.

Published on: May 3, 2022
Published by: Sourcebooks Fire
Type: trilogy, series
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Fantasy, Wizard & Witches Fantasy, Fairy Tales & Folklore
Tropes: fairytale retelling, folklore-inspired, LGBTQ+, Fantasy, Savior/champion, quest/adventure tropes, friends-to-enemies, grey moral characters, reluctant hero
Author: Rin Chupeco
Book Length: 432 pages
Reading age ‏ : ‎ 14 – 18 years
Grade level ‏ : ‎ 8 – 12

Read: 14 June 2022
Shelved: 16 June 2022
Rating: 4 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Synopsis

The second book in the A Hundred Names for Magic trilogy, an unforgettable alternative history fairy-tale series from the author of The Bone Witch about finding family, modern-day magic, and finding the place you belong.

Tala, Alex, and the rest of their friends are safe for now but know the Snow Queen is still out there. They have to be prepared for when she eventually attacks—and all decide to do so in their own way.

When Ryker comes out of the woodwork, showing himself when he starts attacking American detention facilities and freeing refugees. And the Nameless Sword, a legendary weapon that according to Avalon legend, will make its wielder the most powerful warrior of their time turns up with her name on it, Tala’s life gets messier…But when the Snow Queen arrives with an unlikely ally, the group will have to work together.


Review

Trigger Warnings:

– institutional abuse
– war / destruction
– immigration issues
physically and psychologically abuse
homophobia, racism,
police abuse/brutality
– actions of violence,
– mention of death
mind control or manipulation
“ugly side of capitalism”

Representation: 

– LGBTQ representation: cis, pan, sapphic, nonbinary, gay – supporting and otherwise
– Myriad cultures, heritage, ethnicity, race, and nationalities like Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, Nigerians, and Europeans

POV: multi-characters, limited

Note: this is a trilogy, so coming into this book would require readers to read Book 1 first to ensure all the characters and settings are well developed. Plus, the most important – the ending still needs resolving, which Book 3 will have to finish. So, if you are a reader who already wants everything laid out well, it is best to get all three books before starting the trilogy. 


Tala Warnock is back with her band of characters. This time, she’s more prepared with her powers and learns even more from her ancestors, who came straight from the Philippines to help protect Avalon.

This time, she and her team start learning more about themselves at a deeper level – their purpose, their prophecies, and how these prophecies weave into the fate of Avalon.

Things I Love About An Unreliable Magic

Amazingly fantastic adventures, extraordinary abilities.

Even if most of the exciting moments are within the kingdom of Avalon, there were many ground-breaking, memorable ones for the characters. Each character goes through a lot of self-reflection and discovery of their heritage, background, and purpose while protecting Avalon from villains besides the Snow Queen, as first realized. There were many heart-stopping and emotionally draining moments that got to me. 
Each character’s special “powers” are unique and further develop as Tala and her gang fight to defend Avalon.

Mini telenovela feels and drama. 

The multi-POV helps readers connect to the characters better and later connect each one of the “partnered-up” groupies to realize the importance of each character. Believe me that there are a lot of “voices.” Still, it was not confusing since (a) the chapter tiles mention something about the chapter and the character POV, and (b) each tone and voice is distinctly unique personalities and colloquialism oozing out of the scenes.

Plot twists that dug into the “meat” of the series

Leaving Book 1 with a hint of a traitor at the end was surprising BUT interesting as Book 2 began. I wasn’t sure how that traitor came into play until the absolute end! Flabbergasted is not even close to how I felt when the traitor revealed itself at the end. All the workings of the book culminated quite nicely. 
Aside from the traitor, there were “other players” that felt harmless at the start but as the book went on, what these players possessed seemed to have manipulated the populous perception that the good guys like Tala and Alex, Avalon’s king. 
Also, no matter what the good guys did, countless “detractors” feeding “bad press” kept popping up to destabilize Avalon further. 
All of the above, the traitors, “enemies in sheep’s clothing,” and double agents, seem to hit underlying political connotations regarding the state of the world. I get it and can see it hinted at in various political unrest depicted, and I respect the author for pulling those themes to the forefront.

Funny banter in Filipino!

One of my most looked-forward moments is when the Filipino characters inject their brand of Filipino slang expected from Filipino titos/titas (uncles/aunties). I couldn’t help bawling over so much, especially when Tita Baby told General Luna to “Landian mo” – a definite Filipino signature of flirting and “making the best of the situation.” *wink wink* 
It is hilarious each time. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the sassy, spice, and spunk of the Katipuneros! 

The ending…a cliffhanger of the sort.

Closing on the ending of this book, Tala somewhat gets what she wishes for as what she wished at the very beginning. But at what cost? The basis of Tala being the MC is that she was remarkable and noteworthy. A reluctant savior in Book 1, a slow acceptance in this book, then poof! What happens when it all disappears? What if she comes into the next book as not the Tala we all knew?
Did I pique your interest, readers? She seems that way, even after a big, epic enough battle that cost everyone to evolve and change – for the better or worse? This is anyone’s guess for now. 


Quotes I Love About An Unreliable Magic

This is a sense of the romantic and the adventurous that is linked to the Nameless Sword…The legend fires up the imagination. It’s a tragic history, but very popular.

~ Lola Urduja

Her fears may not as phobia-specific as yours is, but that doesn’t mean they’re not valid either. Just because she likes you doesn’t mean she’s not afraid of her doom coming true.

~ Tala Warnock

” The sword must always have a wielder. Reject it, and it will only find someone else. Most people think prophecy is like a mountain, unlikely to adapt to the whimsy of humans. That’s not the case. Prophecy is more like a river. filling in the spaces and crevices so it can continue moving in the direction it desires. And people forget that even mountains are impermanent.”

~ The Cheshire

“I’m afraid,” Tala said.
“As well you should be. It is not a responsibility to be taken lightly, no matter how many foolish people believe it will give them nothing but riches and prestige. People believe that the spells we use, with their sets of bound laws and explicit repercussions, are what natural magic is made of. What they don’t understand is that the wilder Wonderland magic is what magic actually is at its most basic form. It is the laws ad restrictions we place that make it unnatural, and those are where our problems often begin. Every spell comes with a price, and that is the same for this sword as for everything else.”

~ Tala and The Cheshire

“Saying no when others say yes doesn’t make it the wrong choice for you.”

~ The Cheshire

Forgive yourself. It’ll be the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do and also the best.

~ The Cheshire

Every day when he can prove to me that he is a better man than he was in the past is his ongoing proof of his love for me. For every person he helps without my prompting, for every day when he can realize his presence will help someone – that is his continuing penance. I love your father, and he loves me. But with us, forgiveness is always an ongoing process. It’s complicated.

~ Lumina Makiling-Warnock

Overall, An Unreliable Magic is a non-stop, emotionally charged rollercoaster of emotions with a good balance of light-hearted “Filipino” etiquette and beliefs that are relatable and tug my heart each time. I love the witty writing and creative plot that shaped the character’s growth and development. Each event helps the characters evolve through thought and choices that bring out bravery and courage to take on their fates, reunite families, and unrealized love. 

I appreciate the author continuing her underlying theme (mentioned in Book 1) of racial and socio-political implications are explored, discussed, and later criticized, drawing a lot of afterthoughts. I am excited to see the following (and final) book in the series, which should be a real doozy on how the author will resolve the complex items readers are left within this book and wrap up the series nicely.  


About the Author

Rin Chupeco wrote obscure manuals for
complicated computer programs, talked
people out of their money at event shows, and
did many other terrible things. They now write
about ghosts and fairy tales but is still
sometimes mistaken as a revenant. They were
born and raised in the Philippines and, or so
the legend goes, still haunt that place to this
very day. Their pronouns are she/they.

Sign up for updates, events, and new releases for their newsletter here.

Connect with Rin
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The second book in the A Hundred Names for Magic trilogy, an unforgettable alternative history fairy-tale series from the author of The Bone Witch about finding family, modern-day magic, and finding the place you belong.
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Review | Accidentally Perfect (Hideaway Harbor 1)by Melissa Clarke

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author and/or publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion. A positive review is not required. Also, I may earn a commission on some affiliate links below, whose fees support independent bookshops. Hope you will consider getting it at a local bookstore.

Published on: 01 March 2022
Published by: Entangled Publishing: Amara
Type: series, standalone
Genre: Small Town & Rural Fiction, Clean & Wholesome Romance, Contemporary Romance
Tropes: Rom-Com, Against-All-Odds, Second Chances, Grumpy Alpha, Strong female MC
Author: Marissa Clarke
Book Length: 338 pages
Read: 17 May 2022
Shelved: 19 May 2022
Rating: 4 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Synopsis

Workaholic Lillian Mahoney has given everything to her job. The hugely popular lifestyle show she helped create monopolizes her time, energy, creativity, and anything remotely resembling a life. But all it takes is the show’s womanizing, egomaniac star throwing a massive hissy on live TV to utterly implode Lillian’s career in a New York minute.

Now Lillian’s hiding out in the gorgeous and completely unknown seaside village of Blink, Maine. Out of gas. A stolen wallet. A broken heel. And worse, she’s somehow managed to completely piss off the town’s resident hunk, Caleb Wright. She’ll show that hot, grumpy single father exactly what she’s made of.

But Blink isn’t quite what Lillian expects—and neither is Caleb…or his feisty teen daughter she can’t help but love. And while her entire life and career are in shreds, Lillian might just discover what happens when she gives her bad first impression a second chance…


Review

Characters:
Lillian Mahoney – single workaholic, lifestyle content creator, the brains behind the Sharpe Lifestyle brand based in NYC

Caleb Wright – a single parent to a teenager, owns Wright Boat Works in Blink, NY.

POV: multiple POVs – Caleb and Lillian’s.

What I love about the book:

1.) A community saving a dying town
I did not know this premise from the summary. It wasn’t an easy problem for the MCs to resolve, and it took a bit more “creative” thinking and motivation to get the rest of the townspeople in on “Reviving and Revitalizing” Blink. 

“People will forgive ignorance; they won’t forgive laziness.”

~ Accidentally Perfect, Marissa Clarke

2.) Undeniable sexual chemistry
I love the grumpy-sunshine theme with a dose of opposites attract. I came into the book expecting a light-hearted, feel-good read, mainly because it is considered a “clean romance book.” Hence, I was pleasantly surprised to see hot sizzling flirting, banter, and chemistry that made the relationship believable with the amount of attraction on paper that worked from hate to love. 

3.) Colorful and humorous set of small-town characters that spice up Lillian’s uptight city life and see the beauty of a small-town environment.
There is no other way to describe the Blink Maine “peanut gallery” aside from nosey, crazy, yet supportive! Being in a small town, everyone’s at each other’s business, especially in Caleb’s love life. People like Amanda, Cassidy, Roger, etc., used everything to ensure that Lillian and Caleb found their way to each other. The group’s gentle nudge/manipulation got to me, and although there were many times that either MC sighted the group for their “sly ways,” Lillian and Caleb still felt for it and did end up with their HEA.

“That’s perfect. Just let me know the schedule. “
She waited for them to take her lead, but they stayed seated. Cassidy gave her an I told you so smirk complete with arched eyebrow.
“You’ll need dynamite to blast them out now,” she whispered as Lilian passed her on the way to the sink.

~ Accidentally Perfect, Marissa Clarke

4.) Story pacing and character development are well done! 
With the many things happening in the story, it was still great to see the focus on the characters and make them relatable. Many characters will make readers come to love and appreciate, like Amanda’s controlling yet ways or Roger’s manipulative yet well-thought-out plans.

5.) World-building was beautifully written!
I could see myself standing at the pier by Caleb’s boat in Blink, Maine, through the author’s vivid descriptions. I also got a few visuals as Lillian explored the town, and each rock/cliff was not left unturned. Lillian mapped out each inch of the place through her hikes and exploration of the town. Nature took center stage and was given much importance. It is why a city folk Lillian:
(a) got her inspiration after a slight “burnout,”
(b) found a way to marry her passion for organization and social media position to help the town, and
(c) found inspiration and love with Caleb – all the lovely views and breathtaking scenes.

Conclusion: I enjoyed reading Accidentally Perfect. It was well-written and full of magnetic chemistry on each page! Lillian is the perfect example of a workaholic NY perfectionist that paired well with Caleb’s laid-back yet hardworking lifestyle of a small-town business owner. How the author resolved the ending was hilarious, with the small-town AND Sharpe Lifestyle group combining their efforts to save a town from extinction AND ensure two people do not miss out on their second chance this time around. I cannot wait to see what the series will hold for the rest of the people in Hideaway Harbor!

” People should always help each other out. It’s what we’re put here for. “

~ Accidentally Perfect, Marissa Clarke

About the Author

Marissa Clarke lives in Texas, where everything is bigger, especially the mosquitoes. When not writing, she wrangles her rowdy pack of three teens, her husband, and a Cairn Terrier named Annabel, who rules the house (and Marissa’s heart) with an iron paw. She also writes young adult novels for Penguin USA as Mary Lindsey. You can contact her here.

Connect with Melissa
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Thank you to Entangled Publishing / Amara Publishing for my gifted copy.

Review | Hidden Moon (The Stoneridge Pack 4) by CJ Cooke

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author and/or publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion. A positive review is not required. Also, I may earn a commission on some affiliate links below, whose fees support independent bookshops. Hope you will consider getting it at a local bookstore.

Published on: 19 May 2022
Type: series, the finale
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Drama
Tropes: Reverse Harem, shifter/witch, paranormal romance
AuthorCJ Cooke
Book Length: pages
Read: 05 May 2022
Shelved: 18 May 2022
Rating: 4/ 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Other books in the series:
Book 1 – Wolf Hunts
Book 2 – Shadow Wars
Book 3 – Blood Feud

Synopsis

When had my life turned into trying to survive a war? It felt like just yesterday I was a ‘mostly’ normal girl. Okay, maybe being a shifter-witch hybrid meant I’d never been normal, but at least I’d led a quiet life.

We might have struck back at Councillor Stone, but it was only a matter of time before he made his next move. It was time for the pack to get serious about how we were going to survive the mess we’d been dragged into. That meant learning new magic and embracing a role I’d been trying to ignore.

When the fight comes to us and we have to leave the packlands, were we really going somewhere safe, or could it be possible that we still had no idea who we were really fighting? Power seemed to attract violence in our world and it was time to decide if we were going to fight back or find another way to survive.


Review

Disclosure: Aside from being a reverse harem book, there are a few scenes that depict physical, emotional, and psychological abuse that may trigger some readers. Take this as your warning. In my case, it triggered me to be frustrated but more towards the ones who inflicted it, and I felt for the characters involved. 

Hidden Moon is the fourth and final installment in the Stoneridge Pack series. Reading Books 12, and 3 are advisable before getting lost in the plot, characters, and concepts. This book starts directly where Book 3 ended – an epic battle! It will be a disservice to the whole story if readers miss one of the best battle scenes in the book to date.

The saga continues, and yes, this is the final book of the series! I am sad yet thankful since the series was exciting and addicting! I still needed to reread the previous book before diving back due to the new names, and admittingly, the last few chapters of Book 3 were the BOMB!

The Stoneridge pack grows as the book continues from the ending of the last with survivors taking shelter at Stoneridge Pack lands. The secrets shared in that secret lab that Calli and her mates destroyed were beyond imaginable! There was so much horror that the trauma affected everyone, even those not in the fight. 

What to expect:-

1. Amazing powers unfold further for Calli and her pack. Yes, all her mates start to evolve in this book. It goes beyond the shifter/witch powers since Calli learns a lot more about her destiny and the roles of her five (5!!) mates in all this. 

2. More politics and secrets about the Council, Calli’s parents, and the “other entities” working behind the scenes unfold.
While dealing with trauma survivors, Calli and her mates start discovering a lot more of the politics of the Council and the “hidden agenda” they seem to brew behind everyone’s backs. Too many backstabbing and betrayals make this final book an epic one. Each villain’s explanation and goals floored me because they were all so twisted!

3. Sinister plots and new revelations – even within the pack’s midst. The concept of mixed breeding and genetic chemistry are tackled – experimenting within themselves got “nasty” with dire consequences. I am still reeling over one of the characters, Jessa, on how she should supposedly see the future, plan and warn everyone, but not realize the one mistake that will directly affect her at the end.

4. Character growth and development finally come full circle in this book. Other new characters will be bringing in the trouble that moves the story to unexpected levels. This time, a few witches (again) cause the trouble in this book. Ironically, family relatives brought about more harm than help, which will frustrate anyone.

5. Epic battle brought me to my knees from start to finish! Why?!?! Because Calli’s pack is still the underdog in everything – even with so much power, it can only go so far with the many enemies they face. My only comment – the ending felt a bit too simple, based on the previous endings. I was surprised by how things “went,” but it felt a bit lacking, or was it supposed to be this simple?! I get that the author might want a more uncomplicated ending after the three previous books’ gruesome and messy endings that brought so much horror and tragedy.

Overall, I love how the author wrapped up the series with Hidden Moon. Calli and her mates have gone through so much growth and self-reflection that it was impossible not to connect to one or more of them. The series explored many facets of life’s teachings, healing, and hope. I am very excited about the hint of a spinoff with one or more characters in the series.


About the Author


CJ Cooke
 is an indie author who writes paranormal romance fiction. She’s just celebrated the release of her fifth book, Wolf Hunts. She lives in Nottinghamshire, England with her husband and son. She likes to rock the English cliché of being addicted to tea. Her background is in law but started writing the type of stories she wants to read.
Cat, as her friends know her, lives in the ever-rainy UK. She is Mama to one human child and a cat that possibly hates her. Always found with a cup of tea in one hand and a book in the other, unless there are biscuits available, then she’s definitely holding onto at least one biscuit!

Connect with C.J.
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Review | I’ll Stand By You (Carolina Classics prequel) by Karen Grey

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author and/or publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion. A positive review is not required. Also, I may earn a commission on some affiliate links below, whose fees support independent bookshops. Hope you will consider getting it at a local bookstore.

Published on: 18 May 2022
Published by: Home Cooked Books
Type: standalone, series
Genre: Coming of Age Fiction, Short Reads Fiction, Women’s Friendship Fiction
Tropes: nostalgic, growing-up, childhood friendship
Author: Karen Grey
File size ‏ : ‎ 3446 KB
Read: 05 May 2022
Shelved: 06 May 2022
Rating: 4 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Synopsis

Can five friends grow up without growing apart?

Summer, 1991: Working at a beachfront hotel in their sleepy southern coastal town gives life-long friends Violet, Danielle, Whitney, Ford, and Sully the chance to spend as much time as possible together after college graduation and before real life begins.

One exceptionally busy and very long night—which includes a wedding, a lost dog, hatching sea turtles, and a job offer— has each of them facing hopes and fears for the future. Wrestling with choices means loyalties are tested while alliances shift.

Don’t miss this combo sequel to Grey’s Boston Classics series and prequel to her new Carolina Classics series. It’ll take you from the neon, big-haired, shoulder-pads of the 1980’s into the boho, laidback 1990’s.


Review

Characters: Violet, Dani, Whitney, Sully, and Ford

POV: multi-character, limited

I’ll Stand By You is a nostalgic short story of five friends working at a hotel for one last summer after graduation that will lead them all on different paths. This prequel is an excellent crossover because it gives a good taste of what’s to time to these new set of characters! 

Also, the Boston Classic series characters lend their star power and storylines by slowly intersecting with Henry Smith’s (Boston Classics #4) family dog named Ribsy.

I enjoyed the mystery and how the MCs found clues to finding Ribsy and, simultaneously, tackle big decisions of what will be the following “chapters” after their summer job at the hotel.

I love the multi-character POV with the exciting and intriguing premises for the next book series. Each POV gives excellent insight into each character’s issues and, at the same time, keeps many details hidden for the upcoming books. The sharing and character development are just suitable for a novella. 

This book, set in the 1990s, brings back many fun memories for generation readers that is relatable, which all would appreciate as these moments are a great teaser to start the series!

Overall, I’ll Stand By You is a quick and easy read that gives the right amount of build-up to have readers excited for the upcoming new series. It is about growing up (coming of age), friendship, trust, and hope. With these new and complex characters coming with so much “baggage” and insecurities, the next series will indeed have a lot of “explaining” and “unraveling” soon!


Meet the Author

Karen Grey (also known as Karen White and K.E. White) has had several essays published, in Salt Magazine and the Nevertheless We Persisted collections (one an Audies Finalist and the other a SOVAs finalist), and a short story in the collection Vintage Love Stories. Her first romance novel was a winner of the NJ Romance Writers’ Put Your Heart in a Book contest and Hearts Through History’s Romance Through the Ages contest in the Modern History category and won second place in the GA Romance Writers’ Maggie Award. The first book in her 1980’s era romance series Boston Classics, What I’m Looking For releases June 23, 2020.

Connect with Karen
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Stay up-to-date with Karen by joining her mailing list today!

Review | Part Of Your World by Abby Jimenez

Disclosure: I may earn a commission on some affiliate links below, whose fees support independent bookshops. Hope you will consider getting it at a local bookstore.

Published on: 19 April 2022
Published by:  Forever
Type: standalone
Genre: Small Town & Rural Fiction, Humorous Fiction, Women’s Domestic Life Fiction
Tropes: second chances, age gap, country-city couple, socio-economic disparity, opposites attract
Author: Abby Jimenez
Book Length: 400 pages
Read: 29 April 2022
Shelved: 30 April 2022
Rating: 4.5/ 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2

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Synopsis

After a wild bet, a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich, and a cuddle with a baby goat, Alexis Montgomery has had her world turned upside down. The cause: Daniel Grant, a ridiculously hot carpenter who’s ten years younger than her and as casual as they come—the complete opposite of sophisticated city-girl Alexis. And yet their chemistry is undeniable.

While her ultra-wealthy parents want her to carry on the family legacy of world-renowned surgeons, Alexis doesn’t need glory or fame. She’s fine with being a “mere” ER doctor. And every minute she spends with Daniel and the tight-knit town where he lives, she’s discovering just what’s really important. Yet letting their relationship become anything more than a short-term fling would mean turning her back on her family and giving up the opportunity to help thousands of people.

Bringing Daniel into her world is impossible, and yet she can’t just give up the joy she’s found with him either. With so many differences between them, how can Alexis possibly choose between her world and his?

Trigger Warning (as per author via Goodreads):
” As you know, while romcoms, my books also deal with serious real-life issues. Please see below for a list of content warnings.
The following trigger warnings for Part of Your World may contain spoilers!
CW: Emotional abuse by side character, on page gaslighting by a side character, and on-page physical abuse of a secondary character. The main character is an ER doctor, and there are brief mentions of fatal accidents of minors, though we don’t see these on the page. ”


Review

Characters:-

Alexis “Alex” Montgomery is a successful ER doctor. He has a colossal “legacy shoe” to fill, outside of the not being successful in the love department, BUT good that she left a bad relationship

Daniel Grant is the sweet, kind, and young de facto mayor of Wakan, a small town, who chooses duty to his family business and has not met anyone meaningful yet.

What to expect:-

Age gap romance with lots of swoons!
Ironically, I felt like the reverse – no age gap going on since Alexis needs to “grow up” to the real world. At the same time, Daniel teaches Alexis about life and how the “real world” operates with love, respect, and empathy.

Heavy, controversial topics balance with comedy.
I love the author’s stance on handling abuse – domestic and otherwise. I like how the process of handling “victims” of abuse was written and described in detail to better educate readers (later maybe witnesses) on how to handle these sensitive situations. Alongside this heavy subject, the author adds lighthearted comedic moments to reel readers out of the possible depressing reality of the MC. This style is the author’s forte that I thoroughly enjoy. From having the most opposite and random strangers meet at the side of a snowy road with one of them in a compromising position, goat in PJs, to the hilarious pet names (i.e., Kevin Bacon, Mother Clucker, and Chick-a-las Cage) are a few examples sprinkled throughout the book. I COULD NOT stop laughing in these cases! It was impossible not to feel the rom-com with all this! 

Fated/mystical elements to amaze.
Dragonflies play a considerable part in the story. They pop up in various scenes but with hidden meanings to let readers know a scene is “one crucial, epiphany moment.
I like the “invisible hand” leading and molding the story, i.e., when lightning came out of nowhere and hit an oak tree and blocked Daniel’s driveway, hindering Alex from leaving.

My only frustrations:

Alex – for “being a baby” about relationships when the perfect man is right in front of her! Her toxic past has scarred her, but I wished she was mature and “grown-up enough” to stand up for herself and her man at times. She keeps seeing the impossibility of everything, even when a lot of this “negativity” is all in her head. Being the older one, Alex seems to set in seeing one way of “making a relationship work” that she doesn’t realize that a relationship’s success is all about the love, work, and respect between partners – people in the relationship, not the outside world. 

Although Daniel, the sweet and lovely male protagonist, can do no wrong, except being too forgiving and too eager at times. He looked like a pushover in too many scenes and may look like the “forlorn lover.” BUT I get it; someone has to be patient enough to wait and have Alex realize that all of Daniel’s actions and motives are true, sincere, and genuine in his unique skillset.  

———————-

In summary, Part of Your World is a deeply satisfying novel full of wisdom, courage, humor, heart, and second chances. It is a story about friendship, community, and the discovery of abilities that can rise from the ashes of the old world to create something hopeful and new.
It shines a spotlight on the new and fragile relationship phase when the fabric has started to fray and deftly observes how couples cope, grow, and eventually thrive together or apart.
I look forward to reading the next part of the series.


About the Author

Abby Jimenez is a Food Network winner and USA Today best-selling author with her hit debut novel, The Friend Zone. She founded Nadia Cakes out of her home kitchen back in 2007. The bakery has since gone on to win numerous Food Network competitions and has amassed an international cult following. Abby’s wry literary wit was spotlighted as the admin behind the hilarious viral comments on the now-famous Nadia Cakes Vageode ® cake.

Abby loves a good romance, coffee, doglets, and not leaving the house. 

Connect with Abby
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Review | An Arrow To The Moon by Emily X.R. Pan

Disclosure: All views expressed are only my honest opinion. I may earn a commission on some affiliate links below, whose fees support independent bookshops. Hope you will consider getting it at a local bookstore.

Published on: 12 April 2022
Published by: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Type: standalone
Genre: Teen & Young Adult, Multigenerational Fiction, Asian, Magic Realism
Tropes: Romeo & Juliet retelling, Hope Punk, Fantasy, Retellings, Asian reinterpretations
Author: Emily X.R. Pan
Book Length: 351 pages
Read: 20 April 2022
Shelved: 28 April 2022
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐1/2

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Synopsis

Hunter Yee has perfect aim with a bow and arrow, but all else in his life veers wrong. He’s sick of being haunted by his family’s past mistakes. The only things keeping him from running away are his little brother, a supernatural wind, and the bewitching girl at his new high school.

Luna Chang dreads the future. Graduation looms ahead, and her parents’ expectations are stifling. When she begins to break the rules, she finds her life upended by the strange new boy in her class, the arrival of unearthly fireflies, and an ominous crack spreading across the town of Fairbridge.

As Hunter and Luna navigate their families’ enmity and secrets, everything around them begins to fall apart. All they can depend on is their love… but time is running out, and fate will have its way.

Romeo and Juliet meets Chinese mythology in this magical novel by the New York Times bestselling author of The Astonishing Color of After


Review

Inspired by: Romeo and Juliet reimagined, Asian/oriental influences and background story

Disclosures: physical abuse, violence, anxiety, infidelity, mild intimate scenes

Characters: The Chengs: Luna Cheng (MC-f); The Yees: Hunter Yee (MC-m), Cody Yee (younger brother of Hunter); Others: Rody Wong


Based on An Arrow To the Moon‘s cover and premise, readers may expect the magic side to be in the forefront of everything, which did have in some way – BUT it is NOT the only thing that the book wants to focus readers on. I felt other essential and heavier topics would engage more readers (complex family dynamics, love, and fate – the “meant-to-be moments”) that readers might forget the paranormal things going on until the ending.

The Magic:-
All the characters seem to believe in some magic from the very start of the story. It is touched, mentioned in passing, and kept within each chapter to a minimum. I enjoyed this more than I realized since I set it aside and saw the story for what it is – two people, inexplainable magnetism with a rough road to HEA. When the magic does come and in full force, then and only then will readers realize this book’s uniqueness and magic at the same time! 

The “Family Unit” Emphasis:-
I can see why this book is under YA contemporary. The elements of growing up, high school kids elements, navigating new life, and sexuality are prevalent. I would note that this book stirs more to the heavier side of these topics, especially relationship building and family dynamics. It also explores the broken family with infidelity and secrets. 
Much discussion on the family as a critical unit to a generation’s success juxtaposes two polarized Asian experiences. The family secrets and looming urgencies took over the story from my viewpoint. The book will pull out all the heavy emotional feelings of being in an Asian family – the hidden, the “closed-door,” and sometimes ugly, cruel side of relationships. I know I had to stop in some cases and clear up a few thoughts before continuing the next chapter. The implications of family, duty, reputation, and honor provided an emotional build-up of angst, despair, and later hope. 

The Love Story:-
Luna and Hunter’s captivating story more balanced off all the negatives I could think of to the point that all these “possible complaints” were negated by the time one reads through the last few chapters! I cried my eyes out for the ending!
Note: The book mentioned some friendships for Luna, but because both MCs (especially Hunter) are introverts and had to keep to themselves due to circumstances, this was less emphasized.

My other comments are the pacing and some unresolved issues. 
Pacing:
The book, told from a multi-character POV, brought out a lot of emotions, and thus it was sometimes tough to speed through the chapters. Given this, the pace is much slower than most YA I have read in the past, which may not appeal. I felt so worn out and shaken whenever a chapter mentions a clue or revelation.

Infidelity and Abuse not fully resolved:
The author mentioned, discussed, and built up some critical topics, which was refreshing and needed to help equip readers on the possible handling of these scenarios. Just when I think this would come into a whole new level of self-discovery, revolutionizing and giving nuances to the topic, the book suddenly mutes itself on possible outcomes or resolutions, especially on the abuse and infidelity. It reverts to the typical Asian coping mechanism for such cases – silence and survival. I guess I was expecting too much for a YA book.

————-

Overall, An Arrow To The Moon is a fascinating story about relationships – familial, brotherly, friendship, “star-crossed soulmates,” and dire situations, and an exploration of what happens when we fall in the presence of someone that the rest of the world says we shouldn’t. How can we tell our hearts and mind that they are wrong and shut things down like a light switch? It explores the Asian ideology of the “right people” to be around as per an Asian parent’s POV – the right friends to hang out with, the right social circle to be in, the right person to love and procreate, etc. It also discusses the immigration and assimilation of families who moved across continents to find a better life, earn more, and maintain their identity. I love how the author puts her spin on the classical and heartbreaking love story by letting the sparks fly in the end. 

I recommend this book for readers of fantasy, angst, and classic retelling readers.

PROs:
– thought-provoking
– emotionally invested
– the journey of growing; a “coming of age” path
– inspiring resilience and determination
– questioning identity and self-revelations

CONs:
– pacing slower than expected (i.e., slow-burn)
– some issues, outside of the MC but mentioned, were unresolved or mentioned further


About the Author

Emily X.R. Pan is the New York Times and National Indie bestselling author of THE ASTONISHING COLOR OF AFTER, which won the APALA Honor Award and the Walter Honor Award, and received six starred reviews. It was also an L.A. Times Book Prize finalist, longlisted for the Carnegie Medal, and named by TIME Magazine as one of the 100 Best YA Books of All Time. Emily co-created the FORESHADOW anthology and is a passionate teacher of creative writing. She has taught at New York University, The New School, The Center for Fiction, 92nd Street Y, Tin House, and other institutions. Originally born in the Midwestern United States to immigrant parents from Taiwan, Emily now lives on Lenape land in Brooklyn, New York. She received her MFA in fiction from the NYU Creative Writing Program, where she was a Goldwater Fellow and editor-in-chief of Washington Square Review. She was also the founding editor-in-chief of Bodega Magazine. These days she spends her free time playing the mandolin, making art, and training her furry dog-beast to balance on strange objects. Her next novel, AN ARROW TO THE MOON, will be published by Little, Brown and Company in April 2022.

Connect with Emily
Website | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub


Review | Wicked As You Wish (A Hundred Names for Magic 1) by Rin Chupeco

Disclosure: All views expressed are only my honest opinion. Also, I may earn a commission on some affiliate links below, whose fees support independent bookshops. Hope you will consider getting it at a local bookstore.

Published on: March 3, 2020
Published by: Sourcebooks Fire
Type: trilogy, series
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Fantasy, Wizard & Witches Fantasy, Fairy Tales & Folklore
Tropes: fairytale retelling, folklore-inspired, LGBTQ+, Fantasy, Savior/champion, quest/adventure tropes
Author: Rin Chupeco
Book Length: 432 pages
Reading age ‏ : ‎ 14 – 18 years
Grade level ‏ : ‎ 8 – 12

Read: 05 April 2022
Shelved: 18 April 2022
Rating: 5 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Synopsis

What if every story you’d ever heard was true? Jack killed the giants. Red slayed the wolf. Rapunzel fled the tower. But the greatest one of all had yet to be told.

Once upon a time, the magical Kingdom of Avalon was left to wither and die after the Snow Queen encased it in ice. Its former citizens are now refugees. Which is why crown prince Alex and his protectors are stuck in… Arizona.

Tala Makiling has lived her life as an outsider. Her family curse, the one that’s doomed her to be a spellbreaker, someone who destroys magic, hasn’t won her too many friends. Except for Alex, who trusts her and her family to keep his royal identity a secret.

And then, one night, a famous creature of legend, the Firebird, appears in their tiny town, reigniting hope for their abandoned homeland. Alex and Tala team up with a ragtag group of new friends to journey back to Avalon. Their path is filled with danger―from deadly prophecies to terrifying ice wolves, a traitor among them, and the Snow Queen herself. But if they succeed… their story would be legendary.

Cover from Fairyloot’s box subscription: ARC 2020 WICKED AS YOU WISH BY RIN CHUPECO 03/20 YA SFF ADVANCE PROOF 2019

Review

Trigger Warnings: abuse of minorities/minors of government agencies/foster care physically and psychologically, homophobia, racism, police abuse/brutality, references to suicidal thoughts, violence, death, compulsion/mind control, “ugly side of capitalism.”

Note: this is a trilogy, so Book 1’s ending will have a cliffhanger-ish feel. Be warned. I am telling you now that if that’s something of a big deal, you better wait for the release of An Unreliable Magic (Book 2 of the series), then you can at least read both at once, then wait for the final one later on! 


Tala Warnock is the typical high school student going through her young adult life, living through a unique skill set. Tala has the power to negate magic spells, which may not be too impressive to some, but it is an important one when the story rolls on. Tala’s quiet, small-town life in Arizona gets turned upside down when Alexei, the sole survivor of the Avalon royal family, arrives and is assigned to her family’s protection. Tala’s family, who also fled Avalon when it was attacked and frozen over by the Snow Queen, promises to protect the prince and hopefully see him free Avalon. Then the mythical firebird shows up, and hope for saving their homeland reignites. Alex and Tala unite with a group of old and new friends to journey back to Avalon for a showdown that will change everything.

Representation:

– LGBTQ representation: cis, pan, sapphic, nonbinary, gay characters, reference to gay parents
– Myriad cultures, heritage, ethnicity, race, and nationalities like Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, Nigerians, and Europeans

Main Character: 

Tala Warnock “a Makiling” the main character, powers of negation, part of the group protecting the Prince of Avalon

Alexei Tsarevich: the heir of Avalona, Tala’s best friend, and she will be protecting him while finding a way to free Avalona from the frost that the Snow Queen encased it.

Lumina Makiling-Warnock: mother of Tala and is the link to the Makiling curse/powers that Tala possesses. 

Kay Warnock: Tala’s father trained Tala in the art of arnis and using her Makiling curse with it; he has a critical dark past in the book that may destroy the “family” that he hopes to protect.

Snow Queen: the evil Queen who cursed Avalona in frost forever; conqueror of countries who are against her plans.

The Order of Bandersnatch: Avalon’s finest younglings that serve the heir of Avalon for centuries with distinction; an unofficial charter; protects the heir: Zoe, Kensington Inoue, Loki, West, Cole (later Nya and Tala)

The Katipuneros: a band of guards/protectors who were assigned to foster Alex as he went into hiding


Things I Love About Wicked As You Wish

Buckle up to immense oneself into many world-building in fantastic mesmerizing locations.

I love the author’s rich and colorful descriptors of the new worlds like Wonderland, and Avalon, including the Royal States of America! As Tala moved along countries, each location was distinctive and unique to that area. The pacing can be a bit slow, but it is the essential requirement of all “long and rigorous quests” in books. I suggest readers be patient with the detailed world-building and many character descriptions and backgrounds. It will be worth it in the end. Believe me on this!

Be prepared to meet exciting and colorful characters.

There are many characters to tackle in the book that readers (most especially Asian readers) will relate to one or the other. I remember nodding my head at each turn since I GET IT! I lived through the controversies and situations proposed, but all told in narration POV, focusing on Talas POV. I appreciate the author pulling in local Filipino heroes, folklore, and fairytales in this mashup of characters. It’s like the Grammys when one song number has two or more singers – each infusing their own set of thoughts/voice/storylines shows the readers a whole new set of possibilities. Something refreshing!

Family history like no other – the usual “like mother, like daughter” can be expected.

There is something that repeats itself from mother to daughter in the book, aside from the Makiling curse, which I felt makes Tala a hypocrite towards the union of her parents when things reveal themselves. Agree that she was deceived and didn’t know, but heck, what the heart wants, it’s hard to tell it to stop liking someone, even if he/she is a “wolf under sheep’s clothing.”

Magic, agimat, segen, glyphs, etc. (hint: hundred names of magic indeed!) are the many ways to harness and acquire magic with an interesting Yin/Yang concept.

I like how the author created each character’s extraordinary powers with a counterbalance of trade-offs/misfortunes – i.e., having strength but with its sets of limitations or cannot be targetted to its people/kind. It echos the idea of karma/balance or yin/yang influences to ensure that one character does not go overboard with power. However, I’m still waiting to discover the Snow Queen’s “weakness” for her immense power, which wreaked much havoc in the story. This weakness has to be even more than the rest of the characters, right? Right? 
FYI – it’s still not mentioned in the book. I’m hoping this will come out in the next book.

Ready to decypher cryptic prophecies to solve various puzzles? 

I enjoyed the many prophecies mentioned in the book. The prophecies will enthrall readers to decode the various predictions that will lead or hinder them to their “goals.” But readers be wary – these “doom” can either help or later hurt the characters – sort of pre-empts of what’s the come. And there will be many important things happening during the three forths of the book. I gobble up all the clues in piecing together how to free Avalon, help Alex, support Tala and save the rest of the world.

It takes a village to raise a child” is an understatement in this book!

The Filipino spirit of community (Bayanihan) rings true in the book with the mention of the Katipuneros and other foreigners helping to hide and save Avalon’s heir’s escape – sending him with all their people like Tala for foretold future. There is no shortage of help that the heir of Avalon did not have access to…but what if one of those is the one that could ultimately betray him? *hint hint*

Surprising revelations and ending (till the next adventure)

I enjoyed the twists of the prophecies, the unfolding of truths, and the ultimate reveal in the epilogue that will tell all of us that the story has just begun. I like that no one can see the ending or that it’s not a “one-sided battle” since there was a lot of uncertainty. No one power can overcome everything or show a clear victor in the story. Because as one advantageous incident occurs, a counterbalance event happens, which neutralizes this “win” and vice versa. Even up to the end, things still come out like “buying time,” as those who were defeated have another “game plan” waiting in the wings. A bit of a surprise (or not), there is a traitor in the story (or maybe two). Who I suspected is the traitor is the most unlikely suspect, and I bet readers will NOT be able to see this one coming! I am excited for Book 2, which is coming out in a few weeks!


Overall, Wicked As You Wish is a page-turning story packed with an emotional wallop of suspense and drama. With compelling characters in all their humanity that is raw, genuine, and with flaws, readers will feel that they have known these people in real life. This series is a needed outlet to “open one’s eyes” to the oppression of some places in the world through an excellent fairytale/folklore retelling with diverse cultural influences with a principal focus on the Filipino culture and beliefs. Books like these open the doors for conversations and dialogue for better understanding and maybe “help correct” things for the future.

The writing is spot-on and raises a lot of “afterthoughts” in the end. Through fairytale marriages, the author explores the many controversial topics that may count this book as a satirical book that I believe drives awareness to the next generation on what is happening politically and socially. It may seem “propaganda-ish” because of the author’s background and ideology. The saying “reading improves empathy” rings true in this book as the author shares her sentiments with a few hidden connotations and criticisms about capitalism, colonization, oppression, abuse, etc. Coming from the same country and culture as the author, I get it and echo the same sentiments at some points and understand the irony of some things.

PROS:

– young adult magic, mythology, and folklore
– creative new takes on classic stories
– fresh and dazzling world building
– clear representation and ode to cultural references

CONS:

– it can be slow at some points, which is expected for quest/adventure books
– multi-characters with multi-voices/POVs may “overwhelm” some readers like me. My advice is to take it slow and take the story in on each page. Speeding through it will not help you enjoy the book, so I learned to take it slow and appreciate each character. I would want to see more from the other characters in the next book.


About the Author

Rin Chupeco wrote obscure manuals for
complicated computer programs, talked
people out of their money at event shows, and
did many other terrible things. They now write
about ghosts and fairy tales but is still
sometimes mistaken as a revenant. They were
born and raised in the Philippines and, or so
the legend goes, still haunt that place to this
very day. Their pronouns are she/they.

Sign up for updates, events, and new releases for their newsletter here.

Connect with Rin
Website | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads | Pinterest | Amazon | BookBub


The second book in the A Hundred Names for Magic trilogy, an unforgettable alternative history fairy-tale series from the author of The Bone Witch about found family, modern-day magic, and finding the place you belong.
B&N | Amazon | Indibound | The Book Depository US / UK

10th Annual Keith Milano Memorial Fund : May 2022 Edition!

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📚 💚 Welcome the 10th Annual Mental Health Awareness Month Book Fundraiser benefiting the Keith Milano Memorial Fund at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. 📚 💚

Here is how you can help raise money and awareness for mental health:

📗 Purchase a book from the amazing books listed below! We hope you will #1click4charity a number of these fantastic books! The portion of sales is from ANY platform: digital, print, and audio.

📗If you have read one of the wonderful stories included, gift a copy to a friend who might love it!

📗 Share the image below or any of the custom photos the participating authors share on social media to raise awareness and to show your support.

📗 In this digital age, COMMENTS are currency, so as you see these images, PLEASE Comment.

📗 Make a tax-deductible donation directly to the Keith Milano Memorial Fund at AFSP.

Thank you in advance for your support as we work to bring mental illness out of the darkness.

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📚 💚 Participating Authors/Books 📚 💚

Alison G Bailey
Evie Interrupted : Kindle | Paperback | Audio  

Carly Phillips
Just One Dare : Kindle | Paperback | Audio

Corinne Michaels
Say You’ll Stay  : Kindle | Paperback | iBooks | Audio  

Helena Hunting
Little Lies : Kindle | Paperback | Audio

Kelly Jamieson
Dancing in the Rain : Kindle Paperback

Kindle Alexander
Up in Arms :  Kindle | Paperback   

ME Carter
Under Fire Kindle | Paperback

Melanie Harlow
Make Me YoursKindle Paperback | Audio

Nicole Edwards
Filthy Hot Billionaire :  Kindle | Paperback | iBooks  

Penny Reid
Beard in Mind :  Kindle | Paperback | iBooks | Audio 

Rebecca Yarros
Muses and Melodies :  Kindle | Paperback | iBooks | Audio

Sierra Simone
Saint :  Kindle | Paperback | iBooks | Audio  

Leylah Attar
Moti on the WaterKindle iBooks | Audio

Roan Parrish
Invitation to the BluesKindle Audio

Piper Rayne
Wild Steamy Hook-upKindle iBooks | Audio

Kelly Jensen
Dancing in the RainKindle | Paperback

Alice Archer
Everyday HistoryKindle | iBooks | Audio 
The Infinite OnionKindle | iBooks 

Laurelin Paige
The Dirty Duet BundleKindle iBooks | Audio
Dirty Filthy Rich MenKindle iBooks | Audio
Dirty Filthy Rich LoveKindle | iBooks | Audio

Amy Lane
Hidden Heart : Kindle | Paperback

Natasha Madison
The Only One SeriesKindle | iBooks | Audio
The Only One KissKindle | iBooks | Audio
The Only One ChanceKindle | iBooks | Audio
The Only One Night : Kindle | iBooks | Audio
The Only One Touch Kindle | iBooks | Audio

AL Jackson
Hold on to Hope : Kindle | Paperback |  Audio   

Amy Lane
Hidden Hearts Kindle | Paperback   

Taryn Quinn
Bodyguard by Night Kindle | iBooks 

Sawyer Bennett
Baden :  Kindle | Paperback | iBooks | Audio   
Stone  : Kindle | Paperback | iBooks | Audio  

Leylah Attar
53 Letters for My Lover : Kindle | Paperback 
The Paper Swan : Kindle | Paperback | Audio
Mists of The Serengeti : Kindle | Paperback | Audio
Moti on the Water :  Kindle | Paperback | iBooks | Audio

Melanie Moreland
Hidden Justice SeriesKindle | Audio
The Boss Kindle Paperback | Audio
Second-in-Command Kindle | Paperback | Audio
The CommanderKindle | Paperback |  Audio

Crystal Perkins
Metros Hockey Series Kindle Paperback 
The Love Chirp :  Kindle | Paperback 
What the Puck :  Kindle | Paperback
Deking the Beauty : Kindle | Paperback

Natasha Madison
This is  SeriesKindle iBooks | Audio
This is Crazy :  Kindle | Paperback | iBooks | Audio 
This is Wild :  Kindle | Paperback | iBooks | Audio 
This is Love : Find on:  Kindle | Paperback | iBooks | Audio 
This is Forever : Kindle | Paperback | iBooks | Audio 

Jeannie Moon
Compass Cover Series :  Kindle | Paperback
Then Came You :  Kindle | PaperbackiBooks 
You Send Me : Kindle | Paperback |  iBooks   
All of Me :  Kindle | Paperback |  iBooks
The Christman Wish : Kindle | Paperback iBooks 

Piper Rayne
Hollywood Heart Series :  Kindle
Mister Mom : Kindle | Paperback | iBooks
Animal Attraction :  Kindle | Paperback | iBooks 
Domestic Bliss :  Kindle | Paperback | iBooks 

Aly Stiles
The Save Me Series
Rising West: Kindle | Paperback | Audio 
Falling North : Kindle  | Paperback
Breaking South : Kindle | Paperback
Crashing East : Kindle | Paperback
Guarding Shadows (with Hazel James) : Kindle | Paperback

Sarina Bowen
True North Series :  Kindle | Paperback iBooks | Audio
Bittersweet :  Kindle | Paperback | iBooks | Audio
Steadfast :  Kindle | Paperback | iBooks | Audio
Keepsake :  Kindle | Paperback | iBooks | Audio
Bountiful : Kindle | Paperback | iBooks | Audio
Speakeasy : Kindle | Paperback | iBooks | Audio    
Fireworks : Kindle | Paperback | iBooks Audio    
Heartland : Kindle | Paperback | iBooks Audio    
Waylaid : Kindle | Paperback | iBooks | Audio  

Saffron Kent
Heartstone Series Kindle | Paperback  |  iBooks
Medicine Man Kindle | Paperback |  Audio |  iBooks 
Dreams of 18Kindle | Paperback |  iBooks  
California Dreamin’ : Kindle | Paperback  |  iBooks

M. Jayne / Melanie Jayne
See Me Kindle | Paperback |  Audio
Feel Me Kindle | Paperback  I iBooks
Touch MeKindle | Paperback |  iBooks
You Only Kindle | Paperback 
GreysonKindle | Paperback 


Keith Milano Memorial Fund  

140 Adams Ave, Suite B-12
Hauppauge, NY 11788

Watch to learn more about the Milano Sprung Family’s mission below

Facebook | Twitter | Direct Donation

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Fund Information:

The Keith Milano Memorial Fund was established to help raise awareness about the devastating and deadly disease that is mental illness. Keith’s spirit and laughter are kept alive through our efforts to increase awareness about mental illness and raise money for education and imperative research. Keith often struggled with society’s perception of mental illness.  We hope that by having the strength to say that Keith was “Bipolar,” we can strip away the stigma and help others be more open about their disease.

Watch to learn more about the Milano Sprung Family’s mission

The Keith Milano Memorial Fund benefits the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). At the end of the event, participating authors pay AFSP directly.

AFSP is the only national not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research and education and reaching out to people with mood disorders and those affected by suicide. AFSP is a fully accredited 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization incorporated in the state of Delaware with primary offices in New York City. Federal tax ID # is 13-3393329.

Review | Fool Me Thrice (Fool Me Book 2) by Lizzie Morton

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author and/or publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion. A positive review is not required.

Published on: 28 April 2022
Type: series, HEA, duet
Genre: New Adult Romance, Romantic Suspense, Thriller
Tropes: thriller/suspense buffs, second chances fans, serial killer mystery readers
Author: Lizzie Morton
Book Length: 372 pages
Read: 28 March 2022
Shelved: 31 March 2022
Rating: 5 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Other retailers:
Amazon US | UK

Add to your Bookbub | Goodreads TBR!

Synopsis

Run, Josie, Run. Those are the words he wrote to me and that’s exactly what I’m doing.

I thought I was saving all of us, I thought I’d fooled him thrice. The only person I fooled was myself. Trapped in the darkness, I wondered if losing would be the easy way out.

Until Evan.

Off-limits. Dangerous. Everything I should stay away from.

The end was coming, I could feel it. But just when the odds were in my favor, the tables turned, taking me right back to where it all began, wondering who I could trust.

If anyone.

Only one thing is certain in this game of cat and mouse: there can only be one winner.

I’m determined to make sure it’s me.

**Fool Me Thrice is the final installment to the Fool Me Series. Please note this book has mature situations and themes which may be considered triggers for some. Reader discretion is advised.**


Review

POV: first-person, dual POV – Evan and Josie/Freya

Fool Me Thrice starts jointly as Fool Me Twice, wherein part of Book 2’s final chapters intersects and is told from Evan’s POV – leading up to Book 2’s finale. I enjoyed the “interlocking scenes” that jived and stayed true to the previous book. It was delightful to revisit the other Beckets, even if it was a “gloom and doom” moment. 

Since this will be the last book in the series, one can expect more action, more suspense, and a lot of angst and slow-burn between Evan and Josie/Freya.

The storyline’s complexity will make reading the whole series worthwhile! I highly suggest readers read the prequel and Book 1 before starting this book to see the clues and connections that will come full circle. When the answers come, be ready to be in awe.

I appreciate the author’s detailed character development that gives new meaning to “slow-burn.” Josie’s character goes through a “coming of age” growth – physically and emotionally, from a young adult to a woman. Although readers will be in the thick of the mystery/suspense of the story, we also see Josie’s coming of age story, wherein she goes through much angst with the reluctant Evan!

Evan has been with us from day 1, but it is only in this book that readers will see all his insecurities, which hinders him from listening to his feelings about Josie that would have given readers relief from all the tension all over the book. A lot more backstory is going on with him, making him one of the book’s most angst yet intriguing characters.

Although I found the ending was a bit faster than I wanted, or maybe because I was blind-sighted by the killer in the end. I did not know who was responsible up until the killer was “unmasked,” so all around, I would say this was a very successful ending!

Overall, I could not put Fool Me Thrice down! There is more nail-biting suspense with looming uncertainty in each chapter as Evan and Josie/Freya navigate their complicated relationship and find a serial killer. The book is an excellent example of the “right kind” of balance – between character growth AND zeroing in to find the serial killers (hint hint) that span months of investigation, leading to “unexpected acquaintances,” revisit of past characters, more deaths, and twists that will surprise and shock readers. 

I highly recommend this book to suspense and thriller buffs!


About the Author

Author Lizzie Morton is an author of Contemporary Romance and New Adult novels. She lives in the U.K with her partner and three children.
Previously, she worked as a Personal Trainer and Back Pain Specialist and trained as a Chef at Leeds City College.
Her first novel was initially just a note on her phone but became a full manuscript – released in August 2020.
Her favorite things include running, sniffling, and changing nappies when she isn’t reading or writing.

Connect with Lizzie:
Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Email | Goodreads | Pinterest | Amazon

Review | A Chance Encounter by Nikki Ash

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author and/or publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion. A positive review is not required.

Published on: 21 April 2022
Type: standalone, series
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Rock Star Romance
Tropes: single parent, surprise pregnancy, insta-love / love-at-first-sight, savior or protector
Author: Nikki Ash
Book Length: 385 pages (paperback)
Read: 09 April 2022
Shelved: 10 April 2022
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Retailers:
Amazon US | UK | CA | AU
Available also on Kindle Unlimited!

Add to your Bookbub and Goodreads TBR!

Synopsis

What do you get when a single mom saves a musician from a killer bee?

Sophia
When I was eighteen, I fell in love, but he didn’t love me back. The day he found out about my pregnancy, I found out about his fiancée. He warned if I ever told anyone, he would destroy me. So I kept the pregnancy a secret and disappeared. Being scorned has left me jaded, but it’s also made me stronger. All my love and attention are focused on raising my daughter. There isn’t room in our lives, or in my heart, for anyone else… until a chance encounter with Easton Blackwood changes everything.

Easton
Music has always been my one true love, but when a stunningly beautiful woman saves me from a killer bee, it just might be love at first sight. One minute she’s slapping me with her flip-flop, and the next, we’re naked in my bed. With every kiss, every touch, I have no doubt Sophia could be the one until she dashes from my bed without a trace. After weeks of our time together replaying in my mind, she appears back in my life with a confession that sends my world into a tailspin. She thinks the bomb she’s dropped will send me running, but she’s wrong. The last guy might have done that, but I’ll fight for her, our love, and our family. And I’ll stop at nothing to protect what’s mine. 


Review

Trigger Warning: abortion (mentioned), and the threat of violence and harm by an abuser

POV: dual multi-POV of Sophia and Easton

Main Characters (MCs): Sophia Davies | Easton Blackwater
Sophia: strong, determined, closed-off (after traumatic experience), hard-headed, funny, intelligent, resourceful
Easton: loyal even after betrayal, funny, kind, honest, considerate, allergic to bee stings (!)

Character vs. Plot Driven 
A Chance Encounter has strong characters deciding the story’s direction. Sophia and Easton’s varying life experiences, layered personalities, and mature outlooks move the story and focus on internal growth as a couple organically and naturally. The plot moves along as Sophia and Easton grow into a possible relationship through connections-building moments, giving readers time to empathize with either character as one moves on chapter to chapter.

Flawed MCs with different outlooks
Both MC’s lives are 180-degrees from each other.
Sophia came from a lower-middle-class family and had a rough life – with an unsupportive mother and an MIA father. She had to grow up a lot faster and earn her way through life with certain unforeseen circumstances and being with someone she initially thought was “the one.” 
Easton has the proper emotional and mental support from both their father (Sean), mother (Alice) and sister (Nicole). Betrayed by someone he loved, he got a huge “reality check.” He wants relationships to be honest and trustworthy.
Because of these varied life experiences, the reactions to trust and “disclosures” are different. Sophia’s past “honesty” got her into trouble that she fought “tooth-and-nail” to survive as a single parent to her daughter and had to move across the country for their safety. For Easton, betrayal came in the form of a broken engagement that later will shape how he wants his future relationship will be. He was more open to relationships but now requires total honesty from his “would-be partner.”
When Easton learned that there were secrets between them, one would think that he would start pressuring Sophia to disclose all of them. BUT Easton did not! He instead took on a more positive approach to the relationship: with love, patience, empathy, and unyielding support. He does come into some epic, alpha moments, especially nearing the end, wherein he had to stand up to Sophia’s past! 

Amazing supporting cast!
A good book needs terrific support to ensure any MC will succeed and shine in the story. This book has got of them. A few notable ones from Easton’s side are his mother, Alice, and his sister, Nicole, while from Sophia’s is her daughter, Kendall, and BFF/cousin, Naomi. I know that Easton’s side was skeptical of Sophia, but I am happy that they immediately realized Sophia was no “gold-digger” and is a great gal! The supporting characters ensured Easton and Sophia had “space” to learn about each other and grow their relationship. 

Overall, A Chance Encounter‘s theme is simple and easy to read. I appreciate the flawed characters who grow instead of hindering their progress due to internal doubt and trauma. Both Sophia and Easton complemented each other as individuals and partners in the end. I love the message of healing, soulmates/love-at-first-sight, and the “protector” factors in the story. The angst level is enough to be a page-turner but not deep enough for me, which may be why I feel that something was still missing. I wanted something more complex than it should be. The external conflicts like the past threats haunting the MCs were great starting points to something bigger but not explored or visited by the author. Nonetheless, I still recommend this book to second-chance, single-parent tropes as it teaches hope, redemption, and perseverance. 


About the Author

Nikki Ash resides in South Florida, where she is an English teacher and mom by day and a writer by night. When she’s not writing, you can find her with a book in her hand. From the Boxcar Children to Wuthering Heights to the latest Single Parent Romance, she has lived and breathed every type of book.

Reading is like breathing in; writing is like breathing out. – Pam Allyn

While reading and writing are her passions, her two children are her entire world. You can probably find them at a Disney park before you would find them at home on the weekends!

Connect with Nikki
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | TikTok | Goodreads | BookBub | Amazon

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