Once Upon A [Fallen] Time (#2) – Samreen Ahsan

Title: Once Upon A [Fallen] Time (Stolen Series #2)
Author: Samreen Ahsan
Publisher: Self
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Page length: 417 pages

This is a month of sequels for me, as they just keep on coming.

Once Upon A [Fallen] Time continues the tale of Myra Farrow, a modern day woman who gets lost in her medieval fantasies and Edward Hue, a fictional 15th century, soon-to-be King of England.

I had read the first installment several years ago and I remember enjoying the tale at the time.

For some reason, I was much more aware this time and I have a real issue with modern day talking and swearing being used in the 15th century, albeit fictional England. The 15th century prince said, “Shit” more times than I can count, acting more like a Gen Z teenager, than a 15th century royal. While I don’t mind a fictional 15th century, it’s rooted in the real world and I feel should reflect some historical accuracy.

Additionally, the internal dialogues were long and repetitive. I skimmed a good part of this book because they just kept saying the same thing in their heads.

This felt like a first draft that is in need of heavy revision and modification. As a reader, I needed more show than tell. Additionally, the characters are immature and lacking in much development. Edward is a damaged individual and I don’t think he deserves Myra’s affection since he can be abusive. Myra is childish and seems to lack an understanding of her surroundings. I was mostly frustrated with her behaviour throughout the majority of the story.

As you can tell, I was disappointed in this continuation of the story-line. However, it still has good bones and with proper editing and guidance could be an interesting Beauty and the Beast twist. I’m not sure why my experience was so vastly different this time than the first, but I see a lot of potential in the writer and in time she could be a strong story-teller, but I think she would benefit from getting more outside perspectives before publishing and calling it done.

If you like romantic fairytale twists this story might intrigue you. She clearly has devoted followers who do enjoy her writing style. So, just because the book missed the mark for me, doesn’t mean that it won’t delight you!

You can find the story on Amazon in Kindle format.

Synopsis: 2015…
All her life, Myra Farrow has been obsessed with medieval castle-and the kings and princes who once inhabited them. When Steve Bernard, a wealthy videogame designer offers her to model for a princess character in his new game, Myra can’t resist his offer to enter the mysterious, colourless, and cursed Hue Castle. But unknown to Myra, her soul is bound to it by blood and sorcery. When she enters the castle’s doors, she awakens dark powers, time travelling through a cursed mirror, torturing her present, and rewriting her future, leaving Steve Bernard with millions of questions.

1415…
Edward Hue, the last of the Hue royal bloodline, has never stood in the sunshine, nor felt the rain, or held a living flower. Cursed from birth to live in darkness and bring death to all he touches, he is at the mercy of his cruel, tyrannical father King Stefan, who will not rest until he shatters Edward’s soul and makes his son into a diabolical copy of himself. Edward’s one hope is the mysterious woman, who walks into his life through a cursed mirror, out of his dreams, and introduces him: love.

Will Myra break Edward’s curse and bring him out of the darkness, or destroy him utterly? Will Steve ever be able to finish his game without Myra? Past and future collide in a tale of love, obsession, betrayal, and the hope for redemption.

This is book 2 of [STOLEN] SERIES

 

THE LADY BEHIND THE STORY:

History, art and literature are my passions. I love digging out information about prophecies, divine miracles and paranormal events that are mentioned in history and holy books, that don’t sound possible in today’s modern world.

Since childhood, I have been into reading and writing—and yes, it can’t happen without imagination, which luckily has no boundaries. Dance and music are also pastimes I enjoy, as well as reading romance fiction. I love to travel and explore historical cities. I currently live in Toronto, Canada.

A Silent Prayer and A Prayer Heeded from A Prayer Series is my first story about paranormal events based on Islamic concepts.

Once Upon A [Stolen] Time is a romantic fantasy fairytale.

My new book: UNVEILED is COMING SOON! This action-packed thriller takes a woman from the bonds of motherhood to the horror of radicalization when a single mother joins ISIS to find her teenage daughter, who is sold as a jihadi bride as she risks her life and her soul to save her daughter.

 

CONNECT WITH SAMREEN

Website

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OWL Rating:

*We received the story for free in exchange for an honest review

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Venators: Promises Forged (#2) – Devri Walls

Title: Venators: Promises Forged (#2)
Author: Devri Walls
Publisher: Brown Books Publishing Group
Genre: Fantasy/YA
Page length: 428 pages

Finally after close to three years, the sequel in the Venators series has finally been released. I had read the first as an ARC and had fallen in love with the world and characters Walls had created. I couldn’t wait to get back into the world of Eon.

The second installment picks up right where the first left off and once again you follow Grey and Rune as they come to terms with their new Ventator identity. Since it has been a few years, my memory was a bit cloudy regarding all the previous details, but I found that there were enough little reminders that I was able to pick most of the story-line back up. I feel it is important that writers give readers memory hints, so I appreciated her effort.

I was entertained and appreciated eighty-five percent of the story. I feel like I don’t know Rune as well as I’d like to, and I’m not sure how much I root for her. I find her kind of annoying at times and I am growing tired of her temper tantrums. Additionally, at a certain point the climax and action of the story became drawn out and a bit boring. It felt more like the writer was writing for word count instead of story progression. I feel bad saying this because the rest of the book was completely engaging and enjoyable.

Regardless, I love Beltrane! I was thrilled he played a more dominant role this time. Walls has an imaginative mind and I loved the new characters and landscapes we were introduced to. It was a colorful addition to the series that had a creative edge.

I look forward to continuing the series, and I hope the next installment comes out sooner than the last. This series has potential to be something much bigger and I could see it going on for many more books to come.

If you like portal driven fantasies where you’re in danger of your boss sucking your blood dry, and where heroes come in all shapes and sizes, then I recommend this series.

You can find it on Amazon in multiple formats.

Synopsis: It has been mere days in the world of Eon, where Rune Jenkins, her twin brother Ryker, and their friend Grey have been trapped, fighting for their lives. After discovering the truth of their ancestry, the three are far from home, and far from anything resembling their mundane lives of the past.

While Ryker is still held captive by the eerily beautiful Zio and her goblins, Grey falls into the clutches of Feena, the Fae queen. She begins to drain his soul bit by bit to feed her dark underground garden, and Grey has no hope of escaping on his own.

It is now up to Rune to save Grey, as his precious time slips away inexorably. But the Council has denied her permission to embark on a rescue mission, until she can harness her Venator gifts and prove herself capable of venturing into the Fae queen’s territory. As Rune discovers that promises in Eon are forged with life-or-death consequences, she realizes that she must act quickly, or else be swallowed and Grey along with her by the dangers of Eon.

OWL Rating:

Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) – Marissa Meyer

Title: Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3)
Author:
Marissa Meyer
Publisher:
Feiwel & Friends
Genre:
Fantasy/YA/Sci-fi
Page length:
550 pages

Hot on the heels of the second installment of The Lunar Chronicles, I pounced on the third and devoured it in rapid speed.

Marissa Meyer knows how to reel you in and keep you glued to every page. I love all her characters, whether they are dark and twisted or heroic and understated. The romance is a slow burn that leaves you tingling and hopeful for actualization.

Cress continues the storyline of the heroes of this series and welcomes a new character that claims to be a damsel in distress but is really anything but. I loved every moment and could not put the book down. It is hard sometimes to keep readers interest (especially mine) with series. It is a true testament to the authors storytelling ability when you love the sequels as much as the first.

Meyer has earned physical book buying ownership from me, which means that I like her enough to actually give her space on my shelves (a rare event these days).

If you like genre blending and bending, fairytale twists that keep your heart throbbing with love struck hope then this series is for you.

You can find the series on Amazon in multiple formats.

Synopsis: Cress, having risked everything to warn Cinder of Queen Levana’s evil pla, has a slight problem. She’s been imprisoned on a satellite since childhood and has only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her accomplice.When a daring rescue of Cress involving Cinder, Captain Thorne, Scarley, and Wolf goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the wold has.

OWL Rating:

 

Joe Vampire – Steven Luna

Title: Joe Vampire (Book #1)
Author: Steven Luna
Publisher: Dapper Press
Genre: Fantasy
Page length: 310 pages

Full disclaimer: I bought this book years ago when it was originally published by Booktrope. I have not read the re-released version published by Dapper Press. Therefore, I have no idea what changes may or may not have occurred between the two publications. What I can say is regardless of any massive changes, this story was a delight to read. And I cannot imagine that has changed.

(You can also see a previous review, done by my sister here.)

Joe Vampire is just an everyday guy trying to live an everyday life, except now he has the added bonus of being a creature of the night. If you like stories where the narrator speaks to you like an audience member with dark comedic timing, then you may find this story as entertaining as I did. It drew me in with how light the dark was treated and the conversational tone.

It was a quick read due to the presentation, but it was a full bodied story with self-loathing, monster hunters and a sprinkle of romance to complete the circle. It was good for a bunch of chuckles and maybe even a small eww!

I recommend the story to any dark comedy lovers out there that have a funny bone for the morbid and supernatural.

You can find the story on Amazon in multiple formats.

Synopsis: Hey, folks. I’m Joe, and I’m a vampire – not by choice, mind you, but by accident…a fate-twisting, fang-creating, blood lust-inducing misunderstanding. It started with a group date, a case of mistaken identity and far too many sake bombers, and ended with a ridiculous set of circumstances that I just can’t seem to wrap my head around.

Maybe you can tell: I’m not real happy about it. But I’m certainly not going to let it get in the way of my life.

So I’ve thrown my ranting into a blog. I’m hanging out my dirty laundry in an effort to explain the real deal about being a card-carrying member of the Undead Elite. Believe me, it’s not all satin capes and naked ladies…none of it is, actually. Instead, it’s just one nasty little surprise after another. The truth bears exposing, and I’m pulling back the curtain on all of it. If I can figure out how to keep it from mowing me over in the process, then that’s groovy, too.

And that thing about vampires sparkling in the sun?

That is a bunch of bull.

OWL Rating:

 

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) – Marissa Meyer

Title: Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2)
Author:
Marissa Meyer
Publisher:
Feiwel & Friends 
Genre:
Fantasy/YA/Science Fiction/Romance
Page length:
464

Three years later, I finally got back to this series to continue Cinder’s story. Except this time, the story also includes Scarlet who takes after our favorite Little Red Riding Hood. I can’t explain why it took me so long to continue this journey because the story deserves more attention then I have given it.

I had the day off yesterday, which meant I spent the entirety of my day devouring this book. It was thoroughly entertaining and engaging. I loved seeing both Cinder and Scarlet’s story-lines. If I got bored with one, I would quickly be thrown into the other’s timeline and I loved it. It kept the story hopping.

Meyer is an excellent romance writer, she knows how to build up the love and how to tear it apart as well. Her protagonists are always developed and likeable, even when you are not quite sure you can trust them yet.

I love the blend of fantasy and science fiction, I think it is one of my favorite genres when they are combined. Her twists on classic fairy tales is definitely original and keeps you guessing. Meyer is able to take something that is old and re-frame it in a whole new and exciting way.

If you are looking for a heart thumping, inspired and magical tale then I think you should check this series out.

You can find the tale on Amazon in multiple formats.

Synopsis: Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of Marissa Meyer’s bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison–even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

An NPR Best Book of 2013

OWL Rating:

Sea Witch (Sea Witch #1) – Sarah Henning

Title: Sea Witch (#1)
Author: Sarah Henning
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Genre: Fantasy/YA/Mythology
Pages: 386 pages

Mermaids are kind of a family thing. My sister and I used to spend rainy days reading from A Mermaid Summer by Mollie Hunter, so anytime a new mermaid tale crosses my path, I feel compelled to check it out.

I heard good things about this story from a fellow blogger and was captivated by the theme and cover art. I’ve been reading it off and on for a few months now (other stories getting in the way).

Personally, I enjoyed the tale. It surprised me a couple times and was not altogether predictable. I thought this was a unique retelling of The Little Mermaid story we all know and love. It was thoughtful, nicely paced and original. I found it to be a clever re-imagining version of the creatures that live under the sea and their origination.

My only disappointment lies within the world building. I felt so much more could have been done with the mermaid’s home and culture. My hope is that the next installments will reveal more and let us dive further into this creation.

I was pleased with the way the story ended. It felt finished but with the opportunity for more. I don’t feel forced to continue the series. I loathe series (even though I read them), so I appreciate when an author provides the reader with enough closure.

You can find the tale on Amazon in multiple formats.

Synopsis: Everyone knows what happens in the end. A mermaid, a prince, a true love’s kiss. But before that young siren’s tale, there were three friends. One feared, one royal, and one already dead.

Ever since her best friend, Anna, drowned, Evie has been an outcast in her small fishing town. A freak. A curse. A witch.

A girl with an uncanny resemblance to Anna appears offshore and, though the girl denies it, Evie is convinced that her best friend actually survived. That her own magic wasn’t so powerless after all. And, as the two girls catch the eyes—and hearts—of two charming princes, Evie believes that she might finally have a chance at her own happily ever after.

But her new friend has secrets of her own. She can’t stay in Havnestad, or on two legs, unless Evie finds a way to help her. Now Evie will do anything to save her friend’s humanity, along with her prince’s heart—harnessing the power of her magic, her ocean, and her love until she discovers, too late, the truth of her bargain.

OWL Rating:

 

Ayoade on Ayoade: A Cinematic Odyssey – Richard Ayoade

Title: Ayoade on Ayoade: A Cinematic Odyssey
Author: Richard Ayoade
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Genre: Non-fiction/Humor
Pages: 320

I am a fan of Richard Ayoade’s comedy style, so I decided to check out his quirky and comical interview with himself.

It was lightly entertaining in a puzzling kind of way. It is not a book that will keep you glued, but if you are looking for a few moments of smirking good fun then you have found it here.

This kind of comedy is not for everyone. And it likely will help you if you are a film buff/student/practitioner, but it is not necessary.

I will admit I read a few pages at a time over about a year time frame before finishing it.

If you are looking for a strange and chuckling experience then you can find the book on Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.

Synopsis: In this book Richard Ayoade — actor, writer, director, and amateur dentist — reflects on his cinematic legacy as only he can: in conversation with himself. Over ten brilliantly insightful and often erotic interviews, Ayoade examines Ayoade fully and without mercy, leading a breathless investigation into this once-in-a-generation visionary. They have called their book Ayoade on Ayoade: A Cinematic Odyssey. Take the journey, and your life will never be the same again.

Only Ayoade can appreciate Ayoade’s unique methodology. Only Ayoade can recognize Ayoade’s talent. Only Ayoade can withstand Ayoade’s peculiar scent. Only Ayoade can truly get inside Ayoade.

Ayoade on Ayoade captures the director in his own words: pompous, vain, angry, and very, very funny.

OWL Rating:

 

Girls of Paper and Fire – Natasha Ngan

Title: Girls of Paper and Fire
Author: Natasha Ngan
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson Books
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult/LGBT
Pages: 400

Enter a world of Asian beauty and human darkness. A world where hope is dying under the oppressive rule of the Bull King. Find within these pages, a special girl with golden eyes, who despite her human frailness will rise up against the tyrant that has claimed her body for his own. But he can never take away the one thing he wants most, her soul.

Everywhere I look people are talking about this story and I had to know why. I was excited this past week to delve in and learn the secrets behind the life of a Paper Girl.

Now I hate series, I really do. I am a huge fan of standalone books that don’t make you wait five years to complete the story-line. But alas, Girls of Paper and Fire is a series, so I sucked it up.

What an amazing world! Ngan created a world in which humans are the enslaved/marginalized race to the Moon Caste people, which are essentially humanoid animals. I loved the concept, the characters, the romance and the commentary on the slave/sex trade that parallels our own world.

My only criticism is that the trauma caused by rape was reduced more than I think is realistic. But it is a Young Adult book, so the darkness can’t be too strong.

I recommend this story to all fantasy readers, whether you like Young Adult or not, it deals with mature themes that I believe will connect with many readers.

You can find the story on Amazon in multiple formats.

Synopsis: Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for…and the most cruel.

But this year, there’s a ninth girl. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.

In this lush fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards still haunts her. Now, the guards are back, and this time it’s Lei they’re after–the girl whose golden eyes have piqued the king’s interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king’s consort. But Lei isn’t content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable–she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

Please note: The story contains scenes of violence and sexual abuse.

OWL Rating:

The Price Guide to the Occult – Leslye Walton

Title: The Price Guide to the Occult
Author: Leslye Walton
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: Fantasy/YA/Magical Realism
Pages: 272

I saw this recommended from a book blogger I respect and was excited to start reading it. I love fantasy and young adult fiction, so what could be better?

The premise of the story was inventive and felt original. I enjoyed the characters and their individual relationships. Nor (the main character) played traumatized well and I was glad she evolved as the story progressed. I loved her grandmother Judd, and how all the families were connected by history. Additionally, I loved the nature components of the story and how Nor was so connected to them.

However, I was a bit disappointed in the overall flow of the story. It felt rather uneventful for about 50% of the storyline. Additionally, there were moments of confusing dialogue and descriptive scenes. I felt they would of benefited from some clarity.

Overall, I appreciated the story and the experience, but I could have liked it more. I do feel like Walton is someone who will grow as an author and in time I could really love her, I am just not there yet.

If you are looking for a creative fantasy story that has a different character struggle than what you are used to, you may find this an enjoyable experience.

You can find the story on Amazon in multiple formats.

I feel I should warn readers that the story deals with the theme of self-harm, so if you are sensitive to this you may want to steer clear.

Synopsis: From the author of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender comes a haunting maelstrom of magic and murder in the lush, moody Pacific Northwest.

When Rona Blackburn landed on Anathema Island more than a century ago, her otherworldly skills might have benefited friendlier neighbors. Guilt and fear instead led the island’s original eight settlers to burn “the witch” out of her home. So Rona cursed them. Fast-forward one hundred–some years: All Nor Blackburn wants is to live an unremarkable teenage life. She has reason to hope: First, her supernatural powers, if they can be called that, are unexceptional. Second, her love life is nonexistent, which means she might escape the other perverse side effect of the matriarch’s backfiring curse, too. But then a mysterious book comes out, promising to cast any spell for the right price. Nor senses a storm coming and is pretty sure she’ll be smack in the eye of it. In her second novel, Leslye Walton spins a dark, mesmerizing tale of a girl stumbling along the path toward self-acceptance and first love, even as the Price Guide’s malevolent author — Nor’s own mother — looms and threatens to strangle any hope for happiness.

OWL Rating:

 

If You Leave Me – Crystal Hana Kim

Title: If You Leave Me
Author: Crystal Hana Kim
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Historical Fiction/Literary Fiction/Cultural
Pages: 432 pages

I started reading this story slowly, a page at a time, until I fell under its spell. It is a slow moving tale that winds itself around a tragic love story set in Korea during and after the Korean War (1950s-1960s). If you ever read Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, you might see a similarity between the two stories. It is a tale of broken dreams, whispered promises, caged aspirations and heart break. A story of tragedy and flawed individuals. But within this sadness there is a heart and a history that is worth immersing yourself in.

I absolutely loved this story. It was emotional, dark, forbidding and moved me to tears. The three main characters: Haemi, Jisoo and Kyunghwan, are not the most angelic people in the world. At times they are selfish and sometimes cruel, but they have redeeming moments. I found that I loved them all and equally was angered by them, but I never hated them. They were real and not just characters on a page. I felt they reflected my own selfish nature back at me.

However, even with all their selfishness, I forgave them for their moments of wickedness because in the end I empathized with them and their choices that led them to their individual destinations.

A truly passionate experience that I became trapped in and am still struggling to come out of.

You can find the story on Amazon in multiple formats.

Synopsis: An emotionally riveting debut novel about war, family, and forbidden love—the unforgettable saga of two ill-fated lovers in Korea and the heartbreaking choices they’re forced to make in the years surrounding the civil war that still haunts us today.

When the communist-backed army from the north invades her home, sixteen-year-old Haemi Lee, along with her widowed mother and ailing brother, is forced to flee to a refugee camp along the coast. For a few hours each night, she escapes her family’s makeshift home and tragic circumstances with her childhood friend, Kyunghwan.

Focused on finishing school, Kyunghwan doesn’t realize his older and wealthier cousin, Jisoo, has his sights set on the beautiful and spirited Haemi—and is determined to marry her before joining the fight. But as Haemi becomes a wife, then a mother, her decision to forsake the boy she always loved for the security of her family sets off a dramatic saga that will have profound effects for generations to come.

Richly told and deeply moving, If You Leave Me is a stunning portrait of war and refugee life, a passionate and timeless romance, and a heartrending exploration of one woman’s longing for autonomy in a rapidly changing world.

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