Winter – Marissa Meyer

Title: Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult/Science Fiction/Romance
Page Length: 827 pages

Finally, I am getting close to finishing this series. Just two shorter books left! I am not a fan of extended series, but I am glad that Winter kept me engaged and excited to see what would happen on the next page. This is truly a creative take on the Snow White fairytale that will keep you on your toes.

If you like genre mixes that reinvent the old stories of yore, then I think you will enjoy this series and this installment as much as I have.

You can find the story on Amazon in multiple formats.

I have been reading from the 2015 edition box set.

Synopsis: Princess Winter is admired for her grace, kindness and beauty, despite the scars on her face. She’s said to be even more breath-taking than her stepmother, Queen Levana…

When Winter develops feelings for the handsome palace guard, Jacin, she fears the evil Queen will crush their romance before it has a chance to begin.

But there are stirrings against the Queen across the land. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even find the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter claim their happily ever afters by defeating Levana once and for all?

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Finale – Stephanie Garber

Title: Finale (Caraval series #3)
Author: Stephanie Garber
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult/Romance
Page Length: 478 pages

I rushed to finish the Caraval series, jumping head first into the final installment.

The final chapters split themselves between both Scarlett and Donatella this time, as their stories came to an end. My only gripe is that I started to feel there were perhaps too many love triangles going on.

It was just as magical as the last two books, except this one even ran a bit darker.

You can find the story on Amazon in multiple formats.

Synopsis: A love worth fighting for. A dream worth dying for. An ending worth waiting for.

It’s been two months since the Fates were freed from a deck of cards, two months since Legend claimed the throne for his own, and two months since Tella discovered the boy she fell in love with doesn’t really exist.

With lives, empires, and hearts hanging in the balance, Tella must decide if she’s going to trust Legend or a former enemy. After uncovering a secret that upends her life, Scarlett will need to do the impossible. And Legend has a choice to make that will forever change and define him.

Caraval is over, but perhaps the greatest game of all has begun. There are no spectators this time—only those who will win, and those who will lose everything.

Welcome, welcome to Finale. All games must come to an end…

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#Bookstagram Special Review: The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

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@km.randall

Back in the day, book covers always had the same power to grab you, but especially today in YA today, there’s a focus on making a cover visually stunning. Cover reveals are nothing short of magic if you’re a book lover. I find that vivid colors make bookstagramming especially fun. Here’s one of the latest in my collection of growing book art.

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw was a compelling story that felt original while also pulling in various components from tales of mermaids, witches, and ghost stories. Of course, while the antagonists in this aren’t mermaids, Ernshaw crafted in the power of the siren. I’m a sucker for any stories having to do with the sea, it’s still so unknown and vast that it teems with possibilities. This is a love story, a ghost story, a story about loss, a story about friendship, a story about free will, and how one can remake oneself out of ashes.


“It’s as predictable as the tide and the moon. It ebbs and flows.

Death comes and it goes.”
—The Wicked Deep

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Legendary – Stephanie Garber

Title: Legendary (Caraval series #2)
Author: Stephanie Garber
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult/Romance
Page Length: 451 pages

During this strange time in all of our lives, I came prepared with a slew of books to read. Legendary was in that stack.

This story continued the tale of the Dragna sisters, as they delve deeper into the world of Caraval and all its magical mysteries.

I was thrilled to see a different side of the story, this time told by Donatella, the younger and the feistiest of the two.

Similarly to the first book, the storyline is about exploration of love and finding inner power. It has a tad of family drama and our favorite love triangles to keep us at the edge of our seat.

It was fun, dark, magical, romantic and penetrating. I love this series, and I am thrilled to find another author to add to my list of favourites.

You can find the story on Amazon in multiple formats.

Synopsis: A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.

After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister, Scarlett, from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.

The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more—and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets…including her sister’s. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice, but now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about—maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever…

Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . the games have only just begun.

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Double Barrel Horror Vol. 3 – Various Authors

Title: Double Barrel Horror Vol. 3 (Short Story Anthology)
Authors: Matthew Weber (Editor), Christine Morgan, Mark Matthews, Theresa Braun, Calvin Demmer, Glenn Rolfe, Robert Essig
Publisher: Pint Bottle Press
Genre: Horror
Page Length: 150 pages

Looking for a short spooky adventure? Then look no further, this anthology is packed full of original and strange tales to delight all you horror fans out there.

First thing though, I loved the cover of this book. Brian Burks did an awesome job creating that B movie horror flick feel.

I don’t want to go into every story, so I will highlight a few that stood out to me.

Eye See You by Christine Morgan, was one story that grabbed me above all the rest. Morgan sparked my psyche as a reader and I fell under her spell. I found this tale to be both psychologically stirring and disturbing. I look forward to reading more by Morgan in the future.

Stillborn by Theresa Braun, made me feel all sorts of emotions that I did not want to feel. This story took a turn down an unexpected path by creating a perfectly crafted mother’s nightmare. Certain aspects of it reminded me a bit of Netflix’s Hemlock Grove series. A series which I thoroughly enjoyed. It had the same eerie kind of feel to it.

Motel Madness by Calvin Demmer, elicited feelings of excitement. This was one of the best stories I have read from Demmer. It hooked me in and it had a strong ending that left me thinking of all the possibilities where this concept could go. I thoroughly enjoyed this dark tale and I think it displays Demmer’s growth as a writer. Really well done!

You can find the anthology on Amazon in Kindle and paperback.

Summary: Brace yourself for another two-barrel blast of unrelenting horror and suspense. Volume 3 of the ‘Double Barrel Horror’ anthology series delivers two chilling tales from each of six talented authors for a 12-story onslaught that will blow you out of your sneakers. This time around, your fate lies in the hands of Christine Morgan, Mark Matthews, Theresa Braun, Calvin Demmer, Glenn Rolfe, and Robert Essig.

*I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review

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When We Believed in Mermaids – Barbara O’Neal

Title: When We Believed in Mermaids
Author: Barbara O’Neal
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Fiction/Romance
Page Length: 348 pages

When We Believed in Mermaids is not my typical kind of read. But it had mermaids in the title and it seemed to be all about sisters, which is a family thing I share with my own sister. So I could not resist.

It ended up being a deep romance/family drama story about two sisters finding themselves as one hunts for the other. It takes you to the ocean near California and the beaches of New Zealand, setting the scenery for a hot and stormy tale. While mermaids had very little to do with the story, it did not matter, because I was enchanted by the complex characters O’Neal created. A sisterhood marred by neglect and violence, that needs healing and release. A truly heart wrenching and warming story that brought tears to my eyes.

If you enjoy family drama types of stories with a bit of heat woven in, you will probably enjoy this story as much as I did.

You can find the book on Amazon in multiple formats.

Synopsis: Her sister has been dead for fifteen years when she sees her on the TV news…

Josie Bianci was killed years ago on a train during a terrorist attack. Gone forever. It’s what her sister, Kit, an ER doctor in Santa Cruz, has always believed. Yet all it takes is a few heart-wrenching seconds to upend Kit’s world. Live coverage of a club fire in Auckland has captured the image of a woman stumbling through the smoke and debris. Her resemblance to Josie is unbelievable. And unmistakable. With it comes a flood of emotions—grief, loss, and anger—that Kit finally has a chance to put to rest: by finding the sister who’s been living a lie.

After arriving in New Zealand, Kit begins her journey with the memories of the past: of days spent on the beach with Josie. Of a lost teenage boy who’d become part of their family. And of a trauma that has haunted Kit and Josie their entire lives.

Now, if two sisters are to reunite, it can only be by unearthing long-buried secrets and facing a devastating truth that has kept them apart far too long. To regain their relationship, they may have to lose everything.

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The Perfectly Fine House – Stephen Kozeniewski & Wile E. Young

Title: The Perfectly Fine House
Author: Stephen Kozeniewski & Wile E. Young
Publisher: Grindhouse Press
Genre: Paranormal/Mystery
Page Length: 230 pages

Always excited to read anything by Kozeniewski, I picked this up in a flash. And I was rather surprised.

Maybe it’s because this is co–written with Young, or maybe because it was a different kind of genre from the usual—but there was a different voice in this story than what I am used to reading from Kozeniewski. This was neither a bad thing or a good thing, just unexpected.

As far as the storyline goes, I never knew what to expect and the story was never predictable. It was a paranormal mystery with loveable and flawed characters. My only gripe being that sometimes the relationships felt forced and magnified when the storyline wasn’t ready for them. And sometimes, I felt confused by several of the events lacking clarity.

Overall, it was an entertaining read that kept me engaged and curious. Every story Kozeniewski is part of is always original and imaginative. Young is a new author for me, so I have nothing to compare it to, maybe that will change now.

You can find the story on Amazon in Kindle format and paperback.

 

Synopsis: In an alternate reality where ghosts are as commonplace as the weather, the most terrifying thing imaginable is a house not being haunted.

Donna Fitzpatrick runs a surrogacy agency, where ghosts can briefly possess volunteers in order to enjoy carnal pleasures. She’s also working herself into an early grave. But that’s no big deal because death is no worse than puberty. That’s particularly evident in Donna’s twin, Kyle, a self-absorbed roustabout who spends most of his time high on sage. Kyle’s been in arrested development since his motorcycle accident fifteen years ago.

When Donna has a panic attack, Kyle insists she take a vacation at an abandoned mansion. There’s just one small problem: there isn’t a single ghost in Jackson Manor. And while an unhaunted house seems no worse than an oddity at first, soon ghosts go missing, natural disasters consume entire cities, and every afterlife on earth is threatened by the terrible secret behind…

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Ruin and Rising – Leigh Bardugo

Title: Ruin and Rising (The Shadow and Bone Trilogy #3)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Page Length: 369 pages

During this strange time in all our lives, I am taking the opportunity to get some reading done.

Ruin and Rising, is the final chapter to the Shadow and Bone series. It was a grand finale and while it did not end the way my poetic heart wanted, it did have a satisfying ending for most readers.

Bardugo wraps up the storyline concisely, and the characters make a full circle. If you are a young adult, fantasy junky like me, then I feel you will enjoy this series as much as I did.

You can find the book/series on Amazon in multiple formats.

Synopsis: The capital has fallen.

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

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Siege and Storm (Book #2) – Leigh Bardugo

Title: Siege and Storm (The Shadow and Bone Trilogy #2)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult/Romance
Page Length: 448 pages

I am loving this series! However, I wish I was a loyal reader. Instead, I tend to read many stories at once, and this can get a little awkward when I start mixing up events from one book to another. I always end up confusing myself.

The second book in the trilogy was just as captivating as the first. I enjoy Alina’s sense of humor and the fact that she is flawed. I am not sure how I feel about the current romance situation, since I am waffling about who Alina should be with (if anyone). So many choices! And at the moment, Mal isn’t doing it for me. Such a complicated web of romance Bardugo has created.

If you are looking for a captivating, dark fantasy tale then look no further!

You can find the story on Amazon in multiple formats.

Synopsis: Soldier. Summoner. Saint. Alina Starkov’s power has grown, but not without a price. She is the Sun Summoner—hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Shadow Fold. But she and Mal can’t outrun their enemies for long.

The Darkling is more determined than ever to claim Alina’s magic and use it to take the Ravkan throne. With nowhere else to turn, Alina enlists the help of an infamous privateer and sets out to lead the Grisha army.

But as the truth of Alina’s destiny unfolds, she slips deeper into the Darkling’s deadly game of forbidden magic, and further away from her humanity. To save her country, Alina will have to choose between her power and the love she thought would always be her shelter. No victory can come without sacrifice—and only she can face the oncoming storm.

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Are We Rome? – Cullen Murphy

711957Title: Are We Rome? The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America
Author: Cullen Murphy
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: Non-fiction/History/Politics
Page Length: 272 pages

I picked this up from my workplace library and decided to give it a whirl.  I have always been fascinated by Roman history.

Overall, the book was short enough to be engaging, but lacked historical clarity regarding essential characters (both Roman and US) and Latin phrasing. Murphy writes in a way that assumes the reader already has a strong Roman history background. Additionally, I found the Latin catch phrases annoying only because I had to research what they were actually saying.

I felt this could have been organized more efficiently and with more clarity, as it seemed to jump around and got a bit flowery with imagery at times. Murphy’s writing is stimulating enough to push through the lack of historical explanation, but much will be lost on the common reader. That being said, there were several points in the book that I found illuminating.

You can find the book on Amazon in multiple formats.

Synopsis: The rise and fall of ancient Rome has been on American minds from the beginning of our republic. Today we focus less on the Roman Republic than on the empire that took its place. Depending on who’s doing the talking, the history of Rome serves as either a triumphal call to action or a dire warming of imminent collapse.

The esteemed editor and author Cullen Murphy ventures past the pundits’ rhetoric to draw nuanced lessons about how America might avoid Rome’s demise. Working on a canvas that extends far beyond the issue of an overstretched military, Murphy reveals a wide array of similarities between the two empires: the blinkered, insular culture of our capitals; the debilitating effect of venality in public life; the paradoxical issue of borders; and the weakening of the body politic though various forms of privatization. He persuasively argues that we most resemble Rome in the burgeoning corruption of our government and in our arrogant ignorance of the world outside — two things that are in our power to change.

In lively, richly detailed historical stories based on the latest scholarship, the ancient world leaps to life and casts our own contemporary world in a provocative new light.

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