From Breath and Ruin (Elements of Five, Book 1)

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Author: Carrie Ann Ryan

Series: Elements of Five

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publisher: Indie

Pages: 351

Lyric is a typical eighteen-year-old girl, who has no idea what direction her life is going to take. She hasn’t really thought tings out much, aside from attending college in the fall. For as long as she can remember, she has had nightmares about monsters and these two central figures that feel very real to her. She knows that they can’t be real, though, right? 

The Maison Realm was torn apart hundreds of years ago in to warring factions of Elemental Wielders. Now factions of both light and dark have been sent to the Earth realm in an effort to find the Spirit Priestess who is prophesied to wield the Elements of Five that will bring the fractured kingdoms together. Rhodes and his sister, Rosamund, were sent from the light realm  on this mission. 

When an incident occurs while out on a hike, Lyric’s whole world is turned upside down. Everything that she thought couldn’t be true suddenly seems incredibly real and very dangerous. She is suddenly in a battle for her, and others’, survival. 

This is the first book in a new YA Fantasy series out from author Carrie Ann Ryan. She is multiple best selling author of many series in the adult arena, but this is her first foray in to the YA world. Let’s dive in! Ok, the premise: Honestly, it can be very difficult to come up with something in the YA Fantasy world that isn’t tropey or hasn’t been done and re-hashed before. Guess what- she found it! This felt fresh and not overdone. This didn’t feel like something that I have read over and over again, and I really enjoyed it. The pacing was great. It slowed a little in a couple of parts, but that happens in the first books of multiple book fantasy series when building the foundation, and it picked right back up. The characters were engaging and fleshed out well. I enjoyed learning their stories and she gave me someone to root for. The world building was wonderful! Now, this is not something new for this author. She writes PNR in the adult arena (also, if you read PNR check hers out), but this is much more detailed world building and she did a lovely job of it. I’m hoping that it keeps building even more in the books to come. Overall, I would say that Ryan’s venture in to the YA Fantasy world is a success, so far! 

The Next book in the series, From Ash and Flame, is due out in mid November & I can’t wait! 

 

Here There Are Monsters

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Author: Amelinda Berube

Genre: YA Fantasy/Thriller

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Pages: 352

Skye has grown up being the protector to her younger sister, Deirdre. Deirdre was always caught up in her games of queens, castles, and knights, and drug Skye in to them with her. She named Skye the Queen of Swords, the one that would protect her against everything, and that’s what she became. She also became an outcast because of it, the weird girl’s weird sister. When they moved to their new home, far away from their previous residence, Skye felt it was time for a new start. When they arrive, Deirdre is delighted that their new home is surrounded by woods and swamps to explore and create new kingdoms in. Skye, however, is done playing Deirdre’s games and makes a new circle of friends to call her own. Left to care for Deirdre while their parents are out one evening, Skye falls asleep and is awoken by her mother frantically looking for Deirdre. Deirdre is gone. Rescue crews continue searching to no avail, until Skye knows that she is the one who must go and find her. She must become her sister’s protector and play the games once again. 

Let’s start with the cover of this book. How creepy and beautiful is that?! It’s very fitting with the tone and story, and I just love it. Now that I got that out of the way, on to the book itself. It started out a bit slow for me, so I was a bit anxious that I wasn’t going to like it and I was not happy about that, as I went in to this very hopeful (this is definitely my kind of read!). Fortunately, it did pick up after a bit and I got in to it. The story is told in alternating time periods, as it flashes back between earlier in the girls’ childhood and present day. I did enjoy that as it gives a clearer picture as to what may have led up to the present day situation. The characters, especially the main characters, were well developed. The two main characters, Deirdre and Skye, however, were not particularly likeable characters in my opinion. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as the main characters do not have to be likable for a book to read well. I do know that some readers are put off by this, so I wanted to throw it in in case this is a sticking point for you. There are some supernatural elements that come in to play as the book moves on, and this was a fun element. It is a very atmospheric book, which I believe may have been my favorite thing about the writing of this book. The author did a wonderful job of building the world/atmosphere and making it fit the story well. Where the beginning of the book suffered from a bit of a slow start, the end could have used a bit of a slow down. It felt a bit rushed to tie everything up, and left me feeling like a may have missed something. Overall, though, it was a solid read and if the author were to write something else in the same genre, I’d pick it up. 

This book will be released on August 1.

Many thanks to Sourcebooks Fire for the opportunity to review this.

Black Wolf (Natalya Ivanova, Book 2)

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Author: G.D. Abson

Genre: Crime Fiction/Thriller/Noir

Publisher: Mirror Books

Pages: 336

A woman is found dead outside of St. Petersburg. After investigating, Captain Natalya Ivanova links her to an anti-Putin activist group. A government group that has been looking in to this group steps in and shuts down her investigation before it gets anywhere. After another activist disappears, Natalya is forced to go undercover in an attempt to discover what is really going on and find the murderer. This decision could put not only her career, but her family and personal life at risk. 

I was hoping for something a bit different than my “normal” thriller when I received this copy of Black Wolf, and boy did I get it with this wonderfully written crime fiction noir. This novel grabbed me and pulled me in to the story from the very beginning, and I did not want to put it down. The writing is beautifully atmospheric, and although I’ve never been to Russia, I could picture everything vividly. The story is very much character driven, so thankfully the author does a wonderful job of writing complex and multifaceted characters. I enjoyed getting to know each of them and their stories, especially Natalya, who presented a wonderful strong female lead. This was exactly the gritty crime drama that I was looking for, and I enjoyed it immensely! This is the first of Abson’s books that I have read, but it is the second in this series. The first is Motherland, and you can bet that I will be picking that one up! 

This title releases on May 16. 

Many thanks to Mirror Books for the ARC! 

Small Kingdoms and Other Stories

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Author: Charlaine Harris

Genre: Thriller/Suspense

Publisher: JABerwocky

Pages: 176

Anne DeWitt is not the kind of principal that one wants to cross. Before coming to Travis High she had quite a different job at a very different type of school, and a different name. That was before the incident, of course. She now has her new name, new job, new town, and new life- unless her old one catches up with her. Anne likes her new life, a lot in fact, and she’s willing to do anything to protect it… anything. She may have to put that resolve to the test when her past makes an appearance in her present. 

As a long time fan of Charlaine Harris’ work, I was very excited to receive her latest work for review, and I was not disappointed! This is a book of four short stories centered around Anne and another character (introduced in the first story) Holt, and their exploits under new identities and new lives. Both of the main characters are well developed the first story and continue to become more fleshed out as the stories continue on. The secondary characters that are introduced in each story are also interesting and well developed. These stories were very different from my favorite series’ of Harris’ (Midnight, Texas is one of my favorite trilogies!), but it is definitely written with her voice and style. While I certainly wouldn’t say that it is laugh out loud funny, there is some great snark and sass combined with a bit of dark humor from these characters that I found quite enjoyable. I truly didn’t want these stories to end, and hope that there are more to come from this world! 

Many thanks to JABerwocky for the ARC! 

This is out May 28! 

 

Here With You (Well Paired, Book 4)

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Author: Marianne Rice

Series: Well Paired

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Publisher: Indie

Pages: 350

Grace has always been the wild one in the LeBlanc family. She lived in Europe, but has returned to Crystal Cove to try and escape the scandal she created there. She and her sister have not had the best relationship, but Grace is hoping that she can keep her mistakes and string of poor decisions from her. Brady has lived his life on his family’s blueberry farm, and took over running it when his father passed away. He never thought much of Grace LeBlanc and her wild ways, until his mother becomes ill and she comes to help. Will he still think that she is worth falling for when he discovers her secrets? 

This is the fourth installment in the Well Paired series by Marianne Rice, and I think that this may be my favorite on in this series so far. I love these two characters so much! Grace is beautifully flawed in a way that I think that most of us can understand and relate to, at least on some level. She’s trying to figure out who she is and who she wants to be. Brady is the stable, steady guy, who is trying to do all of the things that he needs to do in order to keep his family and his family’s business running. As they have been in all of Rice’s books that I have read thus far, the characters are well rounded and full. I went through the full range of emotions while reading this book, but in the end I was left feeling full and happy. I can’t wait to read what comes next from this author! 

Angry Betty (Kate Darby, Book 1)

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Author: Jamie Lee Scott

Series: Kate Darby

Genre: Mystery/Crime

Publisher: Indie

Pages: 270

Kate Darby grew up in foster care, as her mother was a drug addict and alcoholic. Although she grew up not trusting the police, she is now an officer in the small town of Peculiar, TX doing her best to keep her town safe. As she’s heading in to the end of what has, up until this point, been an uneventful shift, Kate attempts to stop a care for a minor traffic violation. Instead of stopping, the Mercedes takes off on her, leads her on a chase, flips, and the driver runs for it. If that weren’t bad enough, there’s a dead body in the trunk. Now Kate has to go to the reading of the will of a grandfather that she never knew existed before working this case with her rookie partner and her ex-husband (who’s also her Sergeant). No big deal, right? 

This is the first in a new series from Jamie Lee Scott, author of the Gotcha Detective Agency Mystery and Willa Friday Food & Wine Mystery series’. I always enjoy Jamie’s books, but this one was very different from her other works in a wonderful way. It was much darker and grittier, but definitely still has her voice. The characters are all incredibly well developed and fleshed out, including all of the secondary characters. They all had a great foundational story built in this first book, and the ending just left me wanting more! I can’t wait for the second book in the series, Bang Switch, which is coming this month!

Torch

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Torch

Author: Lisa Carlisle

Series: Underground Encounters

Genre: PNR

Publisher: Indie

Pages: 206

Mattias is one of the three gargoyle brothers that were cursed to stay in stone form and stand guard at Vamps, the underground night club where all of the supernatural beings hang out. His brothers have found their mates and settled down, but Mattias has other plans; to travel and see the world. That is until she walks in…

Rachel had an unfortunate run in with a werewolf, and now feels that she is cursed. She has come to Vamps to meet with the witch that brews her an elixir to control her monthly urges. While at the bar she meets Mattias and decides that she may as well inject some fun in to her lonely existence. It was only supposed to be a fling…

They both have secrets that they are hiding. Neither one is looking for a long term relationship. Will they put all of this aside to see where this goes? 

Welcome back to Vamps, everyone!! I’m so happy to be back in the Underground Encounters world! I love this series. These books are always a great escape, and this one was no exception. These two characters (two of my favorite supes- gargoyles and weres?! All I needed was a dragon!) were just as fleshed out and well rounded as the characters that came before them. I have come to expect this in Carlisle’s writing, and I was not disappointed. The world building was mostly complete by this point in the series, but it is still great. I love that we get to see and check in on some main characters from the previous books as secondary characters in this one, and see how their stories are progressing. One of my favorite couples from a previous book had a really fun update! This book gave me a little more of a slow burn feel than the previous books in the series, but it was just what these characters needed. Overall, this is another Carlisle PNR success! This book is part of a series, but can be read as a standalone. (I, personally, recommend them all!) 

This is out now! Go, read, enjoy! 

The Last Dance

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Author: Aimee Brown

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Publisher: Aria

Pages: 352

Ambri and Henry were the best of friends throughout their high school years. They were always like family, and became family when Henry married Ambri’s sister, Rory. Tragedy struck and shook them both to their core when Rory died. The two later felt more for one another, and after one night of everything coming together, everything fell apart. Can the heartbreak that was caused be mended when these two finally reunite? 

This was quite the emotional roller coaster ride of a romance read, and I was all in! I absolutely adored Ambri, and immediately wanted her as a friend. It took me a bit longer to warm up to Henry, but I did understand him and what he was dealing with. All of the characters throughout the book were very well fleshed out, including all of the secondary characters. The story was so well rounded and full of everything that I needed it to be. Overall, this was a beautifully written romance story that will make you feel all the feels, but will ultimately leave you smiling in the end. 

Circle of Shadows

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Author: Evelyn Skye

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publisher: Balzer & Bray

Pages: 464

Sora and her gemina, Daemon, are apprentices in the Society of Taigas- warriors who are chosen by the goddess Luna and trained in magic and the fighting arts to protect Kichona. The kingdom has been relatively free of violence since the Blood Rift Rebellion a decade before, when the now Empress Aki had to fight her twin, Prince Gin, to the death for rule of Kichona. He was letting the power go to his head and was set to lead the kingdom in a dangerous direction. While on a scouting mission in the time leading up to their graduation, Sora and Daemon come up on an encampment that seems a bit off. They make a decision that may change Sora’s life and the life of everyone’s life around her forever. 

This is the first book in a new duology from the phenomenal Evelyn Skye (you’ll remember her from my gushing about The Crown’s Game duology!)!! This book was beautiful! I mean that in every way. The cover was beautiful, the writing was beautiful, the plot was beautiful, you get the point. Let me break it down for you, though. Obviously, you can see the cover, and it is even prettier in person (I’m a sucker for a pretty hardcover). The characters were all so well developed. The two main characters, Sora and Daemon, were obviously the most fleshed out, as they are the focal point of the story. The secondary characters, however, also have great stories, were incredibly well developed through the story, and a couple of them actually ended up being some of my favorites. The plot is fresh and new, which is something that I was looking for. It moved along at a great pace, so this long book really read quickly. Honestly, The Crown’s Game duology is one of my absolute favorite series (one that I recommend very often), so I was a little afraid. Trust me when I say that I was not disappointed in the least! I’m just sad I have to wait for the next one to find out what happens now. If you’re looking for a new, fun YA fantasy give this one a try! 

Love is a Many Splintered Thing (Gotcha Detective Agency, Book 12)

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Author: Jamie Lee Scott

Series: Gotcha Detective Agency

Genre: Mystery

Publisher: Novels & Coffee

Pages: 158

Mimi and Nick have gotten married and have settled in to their beautiful new home. Married life seems to be going well, and all seems to be just perfect. But is anything ever really as perfect as it seems? Something always has to come along and rock the boat. When Charles offers Mimi cruise tickets as a way to escape the chaos she, of course, jumps at the opportunity. With Charles and Mimi on board, though, a relaxing cruise was never going to be just a relaxing cruise! 

It was so much fun to be back in the world of the Gotcha Detective Agency! I had been waiting to see what happened after the end of book eleven, and book twelve did not disappoint! The ongoing storyline just got better, and the new mystery was a lot of fun. There was a bit of a “closed-door” mystery feel to it, as it was on a ship with limited access and limited suspects. Those have always been some of my favorite mysteries to read. The central characters have, of course, been well fleshed out over the course of twelve books. Scott did a wonderful job, however, with the introduction of the new characters and giving them great personalities, stories, and giving me a reason to feel some way about them. She also succeeded in giving this book great setting and atmosphere, as it was set mostly in a different setting than the usual Gotcha book. Overall, it was the reading experience that I was waiting for, and I’m looking forward to the next one!