Review of A Goose Girl by K. M. Shea

A Goose Girl: A Retelling of The Goose Girl
Entwined Tales: Book 1
By K. M. Shea

Star Rating: 
Genre: Young Adult Fairy Tale Retelling
Number of Pages: 117
Winter 2018

Synopsis: (From Amazon)
As a royal lady’s maid, Rynn has one task: Escort the princess of Astoria to her intended’s kingdom and return home. Unfortunately for the former goose girl, the princess has other plans.

When her charge flees, Rynn’s not only forced to take the princess’s place, but she must also contend with a spiteful fairy horse, a good dose of political intrigue, and Conrad…the mysterious and all-too observant lord who consumes more of her thoughts than he should.

But with war looming on the horizon, Rynn stands to lose more than her heart. Can she convince the princess to return, end the charade, and make peace between the kingdoms?

More importantly, can she possibly avoid a death sentence when the truth is revealed?

A Goose Girl is a romantic fairy tale novella. It can be read on its own but is more fun when read as a part of the Entwined Tales, a series of interconnected fairy tales by six different authors. Each story follows the adventures of one of seven children from the same family as they seek out their own happily ever afters in spite of their reluctant fairy-godfather.

Review:
Wow. This book was fabulous. The characters had such depth and there was such a unique plot line in place. I thought I might have had an idea what was going to happen since I knew the original story, but I was nowhere near close. While the Princess is infuriating, Rynn is a very relatable character. Acting aside, one cannot help but absolutely love the royal family, and how Rynn infiltrates what could be a dastardly war.

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 Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Mist and Fury
A Court of Thorns and Roses book 2
By Sarah J. Maas

Star Rating: 
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Historical
Number of Pages: 640

Date Started: December 28, 2017
Date Finished: December 30, 2017

Synopsis: (From Amazon)
Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court–but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms–and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future–and the future of a world cleaved in two.

Review:
Things change. I think that’s the most important lesson in life and love that anyone can get. When things change in one person’s life, the other in a relationship must be willing to adapt and change as well. Sometimes things don’t work out, but relationships always have to be a give and take– as Feyre learns.

The depth of characters is expanded upon as we are introduced into more people, and learn that there is usually more to a person than an acquaintance would know and understand, and that rumours and gossip are not always true. But Feyre, Feyre is growing and changing and while she wants stability, she also wants to DO something, to have a purpose– for as a wise man once told me, life isn’t worth living if it’s stagnant.

The selflessness of some characters, in being so connected and invested, yet allowing others to do what would make them happy, was an excellent contrast to how some may not necessarily truly love a person but the idea of a person–what they represent, what they wanted/expected them to be, but not necessarily who they are.

Needless to say, this book was tremendous, and I’m well into the third at the time of writing this review. Read this series– it’s by far my favourite new series I’ve read in 2017.

Author Biography: (From Amazon)
Sarah J. Maas is the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series, as well as A Court of Thorns and Roses and A Court of Mist and Fury. A New York native, Sarah currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and dog.

Review of A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Thorns and Roses
A Court of Thorns and Roses book 1
By Sarah J. Maas

Star Rating: 
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Historical
Number of Pages: 432

Date Started: December 27, 2017
Date Finished: December 28, 2017

Synopsis: (From Amazon)
When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin–one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin–and his world–forever.

Review:
My copy of this book was a gift to me from a dear friend, Maria Picone. She’s awesome, and if you have the chance, feel free to check out her website here.

It took me a bit to get into this story, but once I was finished with the first chapter, I found it impossible to put down. During the first chapter, I worried. I worried that Feyre was going to be a Katniss. There’s something for everyone in this novel, and from the beginning I understood that this particular novel is, while not marketed as, a retelling of my favourite fairy tale of all time (which if you haven’t figured it out by now, shame on you!) but moreso, this novel in no way needed to rely on the original story it likely originated from, completely able to stand on its own. If Maria hadn’t recommended this to me after reading it, I’d really have to reconsider how well she knows me.

In so many stories there is an insta-romance, but with Feyre and Tamlin, it happened so slowly and gradually that it took me by surprise when Feyre realized her feelings had changed. I found myself thinking back on their interactions, on why they might have developed feelings for each other, and was pleasantly pleased with what had transpired. While Feyre and Tamlin are the main protagonists, I did enjoy the various other characters as well, and their relationships with Feyre. While Feyre is important, I liked that not everyone treated her nicely/with respect.

This book is listed as Young Adult but I’d say it’s more New Adult.

Such a depth and difference from any other fairy tale retelling I’ve read, having the faerie politic background, festivities, and interests not usually integral to most fairy tales, that it was impossible to not love this novel.

I regret waiting so long to read this amazing book, but when someone gives you a book, it has power. It has the power to either bring you closer together, or wonder if you know each other as well as you thought. This one was the perfect mark, and I can’t wait to devour the rest in the series. Thank you, Maria!

Oh, and as for the riddle… my original guess was wrong.

Author Biography: (From Amazon)
Sarah J. Maas is the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series, as well as A Court of Thorns and Roses and A Court of Mist and Fury. A New York native, Sarah currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and dog.

Review of Colorless by Rita Stradling

Colorless
By Rita Stradling

Star Rating: 
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Historical
Number of Pages: 452

Date Started: December 26, 2017
Date Finished: December 27, 2017

Synopsis: (From Amazon)
In Domengrad, there are rules all must live by: Fear the Gods. Worship the Magicians. Forsake the Iconoclasts.

To Annabelle Klein, the rules laid down by the Magicians are the mere ramblings of stuffy old men. As far as she’s concerned, the historic Iconoclasts, heretics who nearly destroyed the Magicians so long ago, are nothing but myth. She has much more important matters to worry about.

Heiress to a manor mortgaged down to its candlesticks and betrothed to her loathsome cousin, sixteen-year-old Annabelle doubts the gods could forsake her more.

Then Annabelle is informed of her parents’ sudden and simultaneous deaths, and all of the pigment drips out of her skin and hair, leaving her colorless. Within moments, Annabelle is invisible and forgotten by all who know her.

Living like a wraith in her own home, Annabelle discovers that to regain her color she must solve the mystery behind her parents’ murders and her strange transformation.

Meanwhile, hundreds of the Magicians’ monks, with their all-black eyes and conjoined minds, have usurped control of Annabelle’s family manor. An Iconoclast is rumored to be about—a person who they claim goes unseen, unheard, and lost to memory, yet is the greatest threat to all of Domengrad. For the first time in a hundred years, the monks plan to unleash the dire wolves of old.

Their only target: Annabelle.

Review:
How do you put this book down? From the beginning there is so much that the reader doesn’t know, and to be honest, at the end, I still had plenty of questions that will now and likely forever more remain unanswered.

The most intriguing twist in this series is that of the “iconoclast”. Upon looking up the meaning of the word, it makes literal sense when used in the novel, yet there’s a level of mysticism never fully explained or realized, adding another depth to this story. The iconoclasts are woven so expertly with the religion that while learning about their beliefs, there’s no doubt that there is something more than what the average layperson understands.

I loved this story, and the ending, oh the ending, what I wouldn’t have given for another paragraph or two!

Author Biography: (From Amazon)
Rita Stradling is the author of The Deception Dance series, the Dakota Kekoa series and The Fourteen Day Soul Detox Novella Serial. She has a BA in Art History and a particular love for modern and medieval art.

Rita lives with her husband and son in Northern California.

She has an insatiable novel addiction and mostly reads young adult and adult: romance, paranormal, urban fantasy and high fantasy.

Review of Unsightly: A Modern- Day Retelling of Beauty and the Beast by Amber Garza

Star Rating: 
Genre: YA Fantasy, Fairy Tale Retelling
Number of Pages: 222

Date Started: October 22, 2017
Date Finished: October 24, 2017

Synopsis: (From Amazon)
Layla has grown up hearing the rumors of the beastly boy who lives in the forest on the edge of town, but she knows there is no such person. It’s nothing more than an urban legend. On the night of her high school graduation she drives through the forest to get home from a party when her tire hits water on the road, sending her car spinning into the trees. She slams her head and is out cold. Fortunately, a mysterious stranger shows up to help her. Hours later she wakes up in an old abandoned house, her savior shrouded in darkness. Over the next couple of days, he nurses her back to health, but she never sees his face. He wears a mask and refuses to take if off. In the final minutes before her departure, curiosity gets the better of her and she yanks his mask off. Immediately, she is horrified. His face is deformed and unsightly. Angry, he tells her that she’s made a terrible mistake, and now she can’t leave. While held prisoner, her captor waffles between cold and kind. It’s in those kind moments that Layla feels drawn to him in a way she’s never been to anyone before. As days morph into weeks, the coldness melts away and the two grow closer. She realizes that the stories the town has heard about the beastly boy are false. He’s not the monster they’ve made him out to be. But Layla knows better than anyone that their love will never survive in the outside world. Therefore, she has a choice to make. One that she fears will end badly either way. This modern-day retelling of Beauty and the Beast reminds us that love is powerful, and it truly can conquer all.

Review:
Layla is superficial. You can’t exactly blame her, given how she grew up. Unfortunately, most of the characters within the book are superficial stereotypes and don’t seem fleshed out as real people, more like stock characters. Layla and the Beastly Boy are fairly well developed, but there seems to be a lack of reality– everyone seems as if the author has just dreamt them, without any real depth. There are a lot of instances of things being told instead of shown, especially in regards to how Layla was brought up, and her past in general.

As much as the author tries, even within the book, to claim that Layla isn’t feeling Stockholm Syndrome, there is a depth missing to the story. All in all, it’s an interesting take on beauty being only skin deep. I especially enjoyed that the book was not over when most are used to the story closing. Although the story was very beauty and the beast inspired, it isn’t exactly a retelling. Keeping that in mind, you could still enjoy this novel.

Author Biography: (From Amazon)
Amber Garza is the author of the Playing for Keeps series as well as many contemporary romance titles, including Star Struck, Tripping Me Up and Break Free. She has had a passion for the written word since she was a child making books out of notebook paper and staples. Her hobbies include reading and singing. Coffee and wine are her drinks of choice (not necessarily in that order). She writes while blaring music, and talks about her characters like they’re real people. She currently lives in California with her amazing husband, and two hilarious children who provide her with enough material to keep her writing for years.

Amber loves to connect with her readers. You can visit her at ambergarza.com, or find her on facebook or on twitter @ambermg1.

Review of Girl in the Shadows by Gwenda Bond

Girl in the Shadows

Cirque American
By C. J. Archer

Star Rating: 
Genre: YA Fantasy
Number of Pages: 380

Synopsis: (From Amazon)
Eighteen-year-old Moira Mitchell grew up in the shadows of Vegas’s stage lights while her father’s career as a magician soared. More than anything, Moira wants to be a magician too, but her father is dead set against her pursuing magic.

When an invitation to join the Cirque American mistakenly falls into Moira’s possession, she takes action. Instead of giving the highly coveted invitation to its intended recipient, Raleigh, her father’s handsome and worldly former apprentice, Moira takes off to join the Cirque. If she can perform alongside its world-famous acts, she knows she’ll be able to convince her dad that magic is her future.

But when Moira arrives, things take on an intensity she can’t control as her stage magic suddenly feels like…real magic. To further distract her, Raleigh shows up none too pleased at Moira’s presence, all while the Cirque’s cocky and intriguing knife thrower, Dez, seems to have it out for her. As tensions mount and Moira’s abilities come into question, she must decide what’s real and what’s an illusion. If she doesn’t sort it out in time, she may forever remain a girl in the shadows.

Review:
I was really excited when I found this book, since I had quite liked Girl on a Wire. While I didn’t hate this book, it wasn’t as amazing as the first in the series. Moira is a likeable protagonist and seems to have a solid plan in place to secure her future in the magic business. While Raleigh appears totally capable and ready to look out for her, given that she doesn’t try to take over his stage, she seems far too easily smitten with Dez.

Dez is too undeveloped, and it’s hard to like him or his connection with Moira, even when you realize just how much is on the line. I found this book a little too two dimensional and the females were too powerless. For the type of energy supposedly there, much of the book seems to be a damsel in distress story, which is the opposite of what the first book in the series was.

Nonetheless, I would read another book if it came out, and do like this author.

Author Biography: (From Amazon)
Gwenda Bond writes YA and children’s fiction. Her novels include the Lois Lane series (Fallout, Double Down), which bring the iconic comic book character front and center in her own YA novels, and the Cirque American series (Girl on a Wire, Girl Over Paris, Girl in the Shadows), about daredevil heroines who discover magic and mystery lurking under the big top. She and her husband author Christopher Rowe will launch a middle grade series, the Supernormal Sleuthing Service, in 2017, and Lois Lane: Triple Threat will be released.

Her nonfiction writing has appeared in Publishers Weekly, Locus Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and many other publications. She has an MFA in writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in a hundred-year-old house in Lexington, Kentucky, with her husband and their unruly pets. There are rumors she escaped from a screwball comedy, and she might have a journalism degree because of her childhood love of Lois Lane. She writes a weekly letter you can sign up for at http://www.tinyletter.com/gwenda. Visit her online at http://www.gwendabond.com or @gwenda on Twitter.

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 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 White Raven by J. L. Weil

White Raven
Book 1 in The Raven Series
By J. L. Weil

Star Rating: 
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/YA Urban Fantasy
Number of Pages: 291

Date Started: May 13, 2017
Date Finished: May 16, 2017

Synopsis: (From Amazon)
DREADFUL LIES.
UNEXPECTED LOVE.
IMPOSSIBLE TRUTH.

It only took one heartbeat to change my life–one chilling phone call in the middle of the night.

And then, as if my life didn’t already suck, my dad sends my brother and me to some idyllic island for the summer to live with a grandma we never met. WTH. Naturally, I rebel. In the end, I find myself shipped off to Raven Hollow…and bored to tears.

Until I get an eyeful of the mind-bendingly gorgeous Zane Hunter. The dark-hair cutie makes my pulse go bonkers, and I think, maybe this might not be so bad after all. Six feet of swoon inducing looks, with a hint of Celtic charm in his voice, he was the type of guy that left a string of broken hearts in his wake. And I had all the heartbreak I could handle.

Yet, there is something uncanny, almost supernatural about Zane, and it’s not just his devastating smirk. No matter how much distance I put between us, Raven Hollow isn’t big enough, and the sparking tension between is undeniable. Of course, the one person I want to avoid becomes my salvation.

My past comes back to terrorize me. Someone wants me dead, and the closer I get to the truth, the more I realize my whole life is a lie. I am no longer sure what is more frightening–the attempts on my life or the guy whose heart and soul are synchronized with mine.

Review:
Concept seemed good. Writing was… interesting, to say the least. I did like the story, and do intend to read the rest of the series, but there were a lot of little things that could have been done better.

The voice used to write this novel was… unique, but I’m unsure if that’s a good thing. Piper, the main character and narrator, uses language similar to what you’d hear from most teenagers, except in some instances where she uses really odd phrases I’m not sure have ever been used before (and I rather hope they aren’t used again).

Having two people who don’t necessarily get along, yet feel instantly connected, be fated to be together–or connected, at least, is quite cliche. One could say the same about the connection between Zander and Piper.

I was super excited when Piper began to notice something different about some people, but the reveal was not the angle I had expected, and I was rather disappointed. While some reference to pop culture, such as the show Supernatural, and the mention of manga was nice, it seemed in some ways like this was a hodgepodge of various fandom related things the author liked put together, mentioned too often to be a mere coincidence.

Despite the things I personally felt detracted from the overall story, I found it interesting overall, and want to know what happens next.

 

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