Review of Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Hex Hall
Hex Hall 1
By Rachel Hawkins

Star Rating:  
Genre: Young Adult/Young Adult Urban Fantasy
Number of Pages: 337
Summer 2017

Synopsis: (From Amazon)
Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It’s gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie’s estranged father—an elusive European warlock—only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it’s her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

Review:
I’d been looking at this book for quite some time when I finally picked up a copy and I have to say I was so very glad I did.

There is so much that Sophie doesn’t know about the supernatural world. Knowing essentially nothing about both herself and her father, she is thrust into a land with people who have always known what they were. As she tries to navigate the depth of which she’d fallen into, she realizes that there might be more going on than she was warned about.

The characters are quirky and irresistible, and while Sophie’s left to figure out everything in the magical world she’s been completely kept from, you get to go on an amazing journey alongside her.

Loved this story! If you love supernatural and don’t mind some romance, this is definitely the book for you!

Author Biography: (From Amazon)
Rachel Hawkins (www.rachel-hawkins.com) was a high school English teacher before becoming a full-time writer. She lives with her family in Alabama. To the best of her knowledge, Rachel is not a witch, though some of her former students may disagree….

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Review of Beauty and the Beast: An Adult Fairytale Romance by Vivienne Savage

Beauty and the Beast: An Adult Fairytale Romance
Once Upon a Spell book 1
By Vivienne Savage

Star Rating:  
Genre: Fairy Tale Retelling/Fantasy
Number of Pages: 270
Summer 2017

Synopsis: (From Amazon)
Princess Anastasia Rose dreams of attending school, but her plans are put on hold when war begins between her father and the beastly lord of a nearby castle in the mountains.

Prince Alistair isn’t an ordinary dragon. He’s a shifter afflicted by a curse, unable to become human again until he finds his true love. When a mortal king’s adventurers trespass in Alistair’s territory to steal a rare flower, the prince decides to steal a valuable prize of his own.

Undertake a magical journey in Vivienne Savage’s new romantic fantasy series loosely based on the lore of multiple fairy tales. Meet strong heroines supported by a cast of sexy heroes, intriguing friends, and devious villains.

Author’s Note: This is a magical retelling of the beloved tale written for an adult audience. Reader discretion is advised.

Review:
Finally, a princess who has desires beyond living in a castle, finding love and becoming a queen. Savage does an amazing job of personifying Anastasia, giving her reasons for loving books so much beyond enjoying stories. There is so much more to this novel than the Beauty and the Beast story we all know and love.

I greatly enjoy how all of the characters have an important role and how they come together in the end, revealing truths only hinted at. Alistair is such a relatable, wonderful character– great for those who are hot headed and perhaps needing to learn to control their temper.

While this book specifically states it’s listed as an adult novel, there are really only two “steamy” scenes, and while decent, no where near as heavy as might be suggested.

Splendid book. I absolutely loved it!

Author Biography: (From Amazon)
Vivienne Savage is a resident of a small town in rural Texas. While she isn’t writing fantasy or concocting ways for shapeshifters and humans to find their match, she raises two children and works as a nurse in a rural retirement home.

All works by Vivienne range from urban fantasy and sweet adult romance to spicy shifter fiction with an erotic kick. Visit her site to determine which series is best for you!

Official Site: viviennesavage.com
Facebook: facebook.com/savage.books
Twitter: twitter.com/msvsavage
Instagram: instagram.com/msvsavage
Email: vivi@viviennesavage.com

Review of Her Secret Desire by C. J. Archer

Her Secret Desire
Lord Hawkesbury’s Players Book 1
By C. J. Archer

Star Rating: 
Genre: Historical Fantasy, Historical Romance
Number of Pages: 316
Summer 2017

Synopsis: (From Amazon)

Prepare for a romp through Elizabethan England, where finding love is written in the stars…

Comely, courageous Minerva “Min” Peabody, a poor but passionate playwright, is determined to make her mark. Ill-fated to live in Elizabethan England, when women—deemed the inferior sex—most assuredly did not write plays, Min will prevail. With her finished play in hand, she implores Roger Style, a local theatre manager in London, to read it. Though desperate in his own right—due to a string of commercial failures—all Style sees before him is a woman playwright, and refuses to even look at her work.

On impulse, Min changes her story, claiming the play was written by the man standing across the street, and secures the manager’s agreement to review it. But her choice of surrogate, Robert “Blake” Blakewell, promises to be a mixed blessing indeed. Blake, a handsome blue-eyed sea captain with his own agenda, is a man with a mysterious past, a pair of breathtaking shoulders, and an irresistible aura of intrigue. Though he agrees to her outlandish proposal, she has to wonder, as she gets lost in his eyes, what in the world she’s gotten herself into.

Blake’s own mission? To ferret out the cad in Roger Style’s theatre company responsible for getting his sister with child. And when that objective threatens to derail Min’s nascent career, his dilemma is a daunting one: protect either his family’s honor or the woman who’s slowly but surely softening his heart and winning his love.

Funny, fast-paced, and with a deliciously dark edge, Her Secret Desire speaks to any woman who’s ever had to fight for her dreams in a world that just won’t take her seriously.

Review:
Too often is it easy to forget that jobs women now thoroughly enjoy and thrive doing had once been considered taboo. This book did an amazing job of showcasing what was expected of a woman, and how men were able to dictate exactly what a woman was allowed to do.

Min is a relatable heroine with worthy ambitions and goals. While she wants something unattainable her reasons for pushing so hard are admirable. Even in the face of complete ruin she is only willing to do what it takes to keep the ones she loves safe, even if it means sacrificing her own desires in the process.

C. J. Archer is such a great, wonderful person on top of being a great author.  She has a fan group on Facebook, CJ Archer’s Ministry of Fans, where people who like her books can talk about them, and Ms. Archer interacts with her fans frequently (which makes her even more endearing).  If you are like me and adore her books, join the group and chat with like minded individuals.

cj
Author Biography: (From Amazon)
C.J. Archer has loved history and books for as long as she can remember and feels fortunate that she found a way to combine the two. She has at various times worked as a librarian, IT support person and technical writer but in her heart has always been a fiction writer. While she has written historical romance in the past, she now writes exclusively in the historical fantasy genre (with a large dose of romance). She has several series which occur in the same Victorian-era “world”, one after the other. Each series can be read alone, but it’s more fun to start at the beginning with THE EMILY CHAMBERS SPIRIT MEDIUM TRILOGY. Follow that up with all 9 FREAK HOUSE books, then the MINISTRY OF CURIOSITIES series. GLASS AND STEELE, her newest series, is set in an entirely different alternate Victorian London.

Subscribe to C.J.’s newsletter to be notified when she releases a new book, as well as get access to exclusive content and subscriber-only giveaways. Join via her website: http://www.cjarcher.com

She loves to hear from readers. You can contact her through email cj@cjarcher.com or follow her on social media to get the latest updates on her books:
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CJArcherAuthorPage
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Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4615377.C_J_Archer

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 Gib and the Gray Ghost by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Gib and the Gray Ghost

Companion to Gib Rides Home
By Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Star Rating: 
Genre: Young People/Young Adult Western
Number of Pages: 240Date Started: June 26, 2017
Date Finished: June 28, 2017

Synopsis: (From Amazon)Gib and the gray ghost
Gib Whittaker is leaving the Lovell House Orphanage for the second time in his young life. He’s going back to live with the Thornton family, who are free to take him in again now that Mr. Thornton has died. Life has changed on the old ranch, and Gib can go to school. But he’s still doing all the chores in the barn and stable. He’s not exactly farmed-out labor anymore, but will he be adopted for real this time?

Luckily Gib has his beloved horses to care for, especially the beautiful thoroughbred, Black Silk. Then one day a strange horse gallops in out of a snowstorm, a handsome dapple-gray who has been severely whipped and starved. He’s frightened and dangerous. Gib knows he must find some way to save this magnificent horse — and in the attempt, he finds one place where he will always belong.

Review:
If you have or know of a young reader who loves horses, this book was definitely geared towards them. Gib faces some difficult challenges in this book, both with horses and with finding his own place in the world.There were some points where I thought the author should have spent a bit more time explaining horse terms, since I doubt the target audience will be switching to a dictionary to figure it out. Despite that, I quite enjoyed all the horses, and the talk of various bits and how to get them to behave. When Gib was giving Livy riding lessons, it would have been nice to have more context about what he told her to do.

All in all I quite enjoyed the story. It was a nice read without too many big words, something that I would recommend for elementary school kids, or preteens/teens that maybe aren’t into reading, but are into horses.

Author Biography: (From Wikipedia)
Zilpha Keatley Snyder was an American author of books for children and young adults. Three of Snyder’s works were named Newbery Honor books: The Egypt Game, The Headless Cupid and The Witches of Worm.