Review of Beauty and the Beast by K. M. Shea

Beauty and the Beast
Timeless Fairy Tales 1
By K. M. Shea

Star Rating: 
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Fairy Tale Retelling
Number of Pages: 272

Date Started: July 6, 2017
Date Finished: July 6, 2017 

Synopsis: (From Amazon)
Once upon a time Elle made a mistake. A small miscalculation sends her through the roof of an enchanted chateau. Stranded until her broken leg mends, Elle is unwillingly forced to rely on the good will of the sour chateau owner —the cursed Prince Severin. Prince Severin—the commanding general and staunch supporter of his brother the crown prince—is cursed to look like a beast until a maiden falls in love with him. He has given up all hope of shattering the curse, and has only disdain for Elle. Unfortunately, the pair can’t seem to avoid each other thanks to the meddling of the chateau’s cursed servants. Eventually Elle’s playful manners and Severin’s hidden gentleness draw the pair together. But not all love stories can end that easily. After all, Elle is not what she seems, and Severin’s life is placed in danger when hostilities flare between his brother and the monarchs of a neighboring country. When Elle risks everything to save Severin, will he be able to forgive her for her lies?

Review:
I love that our Beast looks completely different than any other version of the story I have heard of or read. He’s unique, not entirely threatening, but definitely something that most people wouldn’t be willing to look past without the added bonus of his wealth.

The entwined bits of the original Beauty and the Beast story with Elle’s life made the story more enjoyable. I thought that her family and their life beyond the scope of the story was expertly described without actually being witnessed.

How the curse effected the servants was ingenious and intriguing. I enjoyed the one time encounter with a villager regarding the servants’ condition. Unfortunately, there were several mentions during the third part of the book that made it seem as if the curse wasn’t in effect, with smiles and the way someone’s mouth would turn mentioned.

I don’t enjoy what happens directly after the spell is broken. Severin is supposed to be intelligent, and he’s lived with this curse for years, repeating the stipulations of it to Elle, and yet doesn’t believe what it means.

To be completely honest– I don’t know what I really think of this novel. There were bits that seemed randomly thrown in, as if there needed to be one scene to describe/show something to tie everything together, though they seemed disjointed and not necessarily needed, but the overall story eventually got to where most would expect it to lead.

Author Biography: (From Amazon)
K. M. Shea is a fantasy-romance author who never quite grew out of adventure books or fairy tales, and still searches closets in hopes of stumbling into Narnia. She is addicted to sweet romances, witty characters, and happy endings.

She is also extremely committed to her readers—who have set up their base camp at kmshea.com—and lives in the idyllic Midwest with her furry pet, Perfect Dog.

Review of A Darkness Strange and Lovely by Susan Dennard

A Darkness Strange and Lovely
Something Strange and Deadly Book 2
By Susan Dennard

Star Rating:  
Genre: Young Adult Steampunk
Number of Pages: 432

Date Started: July 2, 2017
Date Finished: July 2, 2017

Synopsis: (From Amazon)
With her brother dead and her mother insane, Eleanor Fitt is alone. Even the Spirit-Hunters—Joseph, Jie, and the handsome Daniel—have fled to Paris. So when Eleanor hears the vicious barking of hounds and sees haunting yellow eyes, she fears that the Dead, and the necromancer Marcus, are after her.

To escape, Eleanor boards a steamer bound for France. There she meets Oliver, a young man who claims to have known her brother. But Oliver harbors a dangerous secret involving necromancy and black magic that entices Eleanor beyond words. If she can resist him, she’ll be fine. But when she arrives in Paris, she finds that the Dead have taken over, and there’s a whole new evil lurking. And she is forced to make a deadly decision that will go against everything the Spirit-Hunters stand for.

In Paris, there’s a price for this darkness strange and lovely, and it may have Eleanor paying with her life.

Review:
Eleanor makes mistakes. I find it realistic that someone that had been so sheltered, treated as a lady and not taught any “manly” life skills would have issues navigating the world on her own, not knowing who to trust.

A new character comes onto the scene, Oliver, and while part of me loves him, I think that’s because I believe I know exactly how connected he was to Elijah, and believe it is only Eleanor’s youth and naivety that keep her from knowing it.

I enjoyed being introduced to new supernatural/mythological elements and not being stuck with what we’d learned in book 1. It’s an interesting contrast watching Ollie attempt to educate Eleanor versus the book approach that Joseph uses– showing that books can’t teach everything, and having someone actively help you can be beneficial in the learning process.

While others thought this novel was slow and grueling, I enjoyed the lead up to finding the Spirit-Hunters. We saw all of Eleanor’s issues laid out before her, and how she overcame them, plus, Oliver!

Can’t wait to read the third book soon!

Author Biography: (From Amazon)
Susan Dennard has come a long way from small-town Georgia. With a masters degree in marine biology, she got to travel the world—six out of seven continents, to be exact (she’ll get to Asia one of these days!)—before she settled down as a full-time novelist and writing instructor.

She is the author of the Something Strange and Deadly series (from HarperTeen) as well as the forthcoming Witchlands Series (Tor, 2015). When not writing, she can be found hiking with her dogs, exploring tidal pools, or earning bruises at the dojo.

Review of Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

Something Strange and Deadly
Something Strange and Deadly Book 1
By Susan Dennard

Star Rating:  
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Number of Pages: 416

Date Started: June 29, 2017
Date Finished: July 2, 2017

Synopsis: (From Amazon)
Sixteen-year-old Eleanor Fitt’s brother is missing. And when she discovers that the Dead are rising in Philadelphia and wreaking havoc throughout the city, she knows that her brother is involved.

So Eleanor enlists the help of the Spirit-Hunters. This motley crew, hired to protect the city from supernatural forces, is after the necromancer who has been reanimating corpses. Their skills can save her brother. But as Eleanor spends time with the Spirit-Hunters, and their handsome inventor, Daniel, the situation becomes dire. Now not only is her reputation at risk, but her very life may hang in the balance.

Review:
Steampunk meets necromancers and zombies = AMAZING. There are lots of layers in this novel, with multiple mysteries going on. Eleanor knows her brother is missing, and she needs to find her brother yet she’s stuck at home dealing with her mother and typical trivial society/family problems.

Sometimes one has to choose between the easy path and the difficult path, and what is easy is not always what is right, but it takes a lot of courage to break against the societal mold. Everyone faces this at some point, in how they dress, if they want to learn or work to become something their parents don’t approve of.

I loved the uniqueness of the characters. Each had their own personality, their own story, and we were allowed to get to know a bit of why they are the way they are. I absolutely love Jie, how different she is, and that she is willing to help Eleanor see that there are other paths to life.

There’s a great balance in this novel of home life versus trying to find her brother and having to deal with zombies.

Loved this book, and couldn’t wait to read the next, which I started as soon as this was finished.

Author Biography: (From Amazon)
Susan Dennard has come a long way from small-town Georgia. With a masters degree in marine biology, she got to travel the world—six out of seven continents, to be exact (she’ll get to Asia one of these days!)—before she settled down as a full-time novelist and writing instructor.

She is the author of the Something Strange and Deadly series (from HarperTeen) as well as the forthcoming Witchlands Series (Tor, 2015). When not writing, she can be found hiking with her dogs, exploring tidal pools, or earning bruises at the dojo.

Review of Mistaken Identity by Norah McClintock

Mistaken Identity
By Norah McClintock

Star Rating: 
Genre: YA Mystery

Number of Pages: 192

Date Started: June 12, 2017
Date Finished: June 13, 2017

Synopsis: (From Back of Book)
Sixteen year old Zanny Dugan isn’t sure anymore. Terrible things are happening in her life — things like murder and suicide — and she can’t figure out why. Now it turns out her father isn’t who she thought he was. And if your father is a stranger, then who are you? Zanny’s dead set on finding the answer — even if it seems the whole world doesn’t want her to know the truth.

Review:
My goodness. This book was like all of McClintock’s books I’ve read thus far: amazing. There was mystery and plenty of twists and turns. While I didn’t trust Nick AT ALL because he was fishy, I fell for the detective’s story. I loved Everett Lloyd, he was awesome. So was the neighbor lady, as well as Edward.

Though Zanny didn’t know anything about her dad’s past, and she regretted not knowing him better, it seems more common than one would think. When growing up, especially during the teenage years, parents aren’t going to tell children every little detail about their lives, their interests, and certainly not about mischievous things that children may be inspired to recreate.

I’d definitely recommend this book.

Author Biography: (From Amazon)
Norah McClintock has won an unprecedented five Arthur Ellis Awards for Crime Fiction for Mistaken Identity, The Body in the Basement, Sins of the Father, Scared to Death and Break and Enter. McClintock has also been nominated for the Arthur Ellis Award for her non-fiction title Body, Crime, Suspect; No Escape was nominated for the White Pine Award; and Hit and Run was nominated for the Red Maple Award in 2004.

Review of Ever After by Aya Ling

Ever After
Unfinished Fairy Tales 3
By Aya Ling

Star Rating: 
Genre: Young Adult, Fairy Tale Retelling
Number of Pages: 455

Date Started: May 20, 2017
Date Finished: May 21, 2017

Synopsis: (From Amazon)
Kat has survived. She returns to Athelia as herself, Katherine Wilson. Edward, elated at learning she is alive, vows to bring her back to the palace. The obstacles, however, seem impossible to overcome. Marriage between a royal and a commoner is not recognized, not to mention that he is already legally bound to Katriona Bradshaw, who will do anything to keep her position as princess.

And there’s even more to worry about. Due to an uncommonly harsh winter, the people of Athelia have been suffering from inflated food prices, and are getting irritated at supporting the small, elite group of aristocrats. An uprising in a neighboring country only adds fuel to the fire.

Can Kat and Edward finally get a happily-ever-after?

Review:
I absolutely loved learning what Kat’s life was like when she ended up back in America, after having been in Athelia for 8 months of modern world time. Learning that another had visited the same place, the same people, though years and years before, was enlightening and wonderful, artfully tied together and perfectly executed. All of the “surrogate” family members in this novel were lovely, and relatable.

There are times where it’s completely uncertain whether or not Kat and Edward will get their happily ever after. Katriona makes no attempt to understand Kat, and believes she is owed being a princess after her ordeals because of Kat’s sudden entrance in their world. Kat’s standing as a commoner is also problematic– especially when Bianca is still out to destroy her.

I absolutely adore Kat’s relationship with Edward’s mother. While they have more in common than meets the eye, it’s clear that she supports her son in whatever makes him happy, and that if he loves Kat, she does too.

Having a role reversal towards the end made me quite happy, because while Athelia is still stuck in the past, it is Kat’s modernity that likely attracted Edward in the first place. Her ability to take care of herself, understand concepts that many of us (male and female) would find common place, and adapt to her situation is refreshing.

While I did quite enjoy this series, this book really should have had a copy editor. There were multiple times when sentences didn’t read right, usually because the phrasing was slightly off, or because the wrong word was used. Nonetheless, I quite enjoyed this series!

Author Biography: (From Amazon)
Aya is from Taiwan, where she struggles daily to contain her obsession with mouthwatering and unhealthy foods. Often she will devour a good book instead. Her favorite books include martial arts romances, fairy tale retellings, high fantasy, cozy mysteries, and manga.
She is currently working on Ever After, Book 3 in the Unfinished Fairy Tales series, to be released in 2017. For exclusive bonus scenes, giveaways, and new release info, visit ayaling.com

Review of Soul Symmetry by J. L. Weil

Soul Symmetry
Book 3 in The Raven Series
By J. L. Weil

Star Rating: 
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/YA Urban Fantasy
Number of Pages: 278

Date Started: May 18, 2017
Date Finished: May 20, 2017

Synopsis: (From Amazon)
A BANSHEE.
A DEATH REAPER.
LOVE TRANSCENDING.

War is coming. The veil between the living and the dead no longer exists. Evil is running rampant and the universe’s symmetry balances on my fingertips. No big deal. Of course, nobody knows how or when the hallows will strike, or who among us is a traitor.

Hordes of vengeful spirits are multiplying by the minute, closing in ranks. Zane is poised to strike, but it’s going to take more than his killer instincts, more than swords and shadows to vanquish the hallows back where they belong. Stakes are higher than ever, yet I am determined to protect those I care about—to save the world.

Restoring the veil isn’t as easy as a snap of my fingertips. Nothing worth fighting for ever is. Friendship and loyalties are tested to the limit, sacrifices of unimaginable proportions are made, but in the end, all that matters is whether I succeed or fail.

Review:
Worrying about personal relationships when the world as we know it might be completely in jeopardy is a very immature thing to do, yet our protagonists are quite young, and so it is believable.

I could not help but wonder, with all of the power that Piper had, why she wouldn’t have simply taken out the threat that seemed far too obvious in causing all the mischief in the first place. She could have called the person forward and fought BEFORE all of the vengeful spirits appeared.

While predictable, this book series is exactly the sort of series most teenagers will love to read. In the end, despite being foreseeable and cliched, the complete story was alright overall. I enjoyed the ending, although I thought that the timing was perhaps a bit rushed.

Author Biography: (From Amazon)
USA TODAY Bestselling author J.L. Weil lives in Illinois where she writes Teen & New Adult Paranormal Romances about spunky, smart mouth girls who always wind up in dire situations. For every sassy girl, there is an equally mouthwatering, overprotective guy. Of course, there is lots of kissing. And stuff.

An admitted addict to Love Pink clothes, raspberry mochas from Starbucks, and Jensen Ackles. She loves gushing about books and Supernatural with her readers.

She is the author of the International Bestselling Raven & Divisa series.
http://www.jlweil.com

Review of Black Crow by J. L. Weil

Black Crow
Book 2 in The Raven Series
By J. L. Weil

Star Rating: 
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/YA Urban Fantasy
Number of Pages: 285

Date Started: May 16, 2017
Date Finished: May 18, 2017

Synopsis: (From Amazon)
I’VE LOST SO MUCH.
FAMILY. MY HOME.
PRIDE. MY IDENTITY.

And I couldn’t help but feel it’s entirely my fault. There is no one else to blame.

I’ve quickly learned that being the White Raven isn’t easy. The dead are restless and angry, and I don’t know the first thing about being a banshee. Those around me will get hurt. To keep them safe, I must endure painful decisions.

Zane Hunter, the ultra-bad boy who stole my heart, is one of those difficult decisions. Our souls are synchronized, making us a compatible duo. Too bad I’m engaged to his brother.

My forbidden relationship with Zane is complicated. Deep down I want more than what my duty demands of me, what my family’s past has shaped for me.

Our problematic relationship only increases in tenfold when a surprise I never saw coming shows up in Raven Hallow, changing the game. I thought I had nothing left to lose…I was wrong.

Yeah, being a banshee isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

Review:
Sacrifice. All heroes require sacrifice. Unfortunately, Piper seems to keep getting the short end of the stick in that regard.  Though mostly expected, it was still unpleasant dealing with all of the turmoil on top of the first book’s loss–perhaps something that should have been expected when the book is about ravens, which often symbolize death.

Unfortunately I found most of our star crossed lovers’ issues to be unoriginal and somewhat expected.

Despite the still odd phrases used at times, and my own insight about how the plot would turn out in the end, I still planned to read the the finale, which will be addressed in my next post.

Author Biography: (From Amazon)
USA TODAY Bestselling author J.L. Weil lives in Illinois where she writes Teen & New Adult Paranormal Romances about spunky, smart mouth girls who always wind up in dire situations. For every sassy girl, there is an equally mouthwatering, overprotective guy. Of course, there is lots of kissing. And stuff.

An admitted addict to Love Pink clothes, raspberry mochas from Starbucks, and Jensen Ackles. She loves gushing about books and Supernatural with her readers.

She is the author of the International Bestselling Raven & Divisa series.
http://www.jlweil.com