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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A Court of Frost and Starlight – Sarah J. Maas

Title: A Court of Frost and Starlight (#3.1)
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult/Romance
Page Length: 229 pages

Finishing off Feyre’s story-line, this was a nice holiday special edition after the war. The battle has ended and our heroes are given a moment to breathe and explore other interests. I believe there are more books to come in this world, but the starring roles will be performed by supporting cast members.

I usually do not like stories to go on after the major climax has occurred. I like to imagine for myself how their lives turned out. However, in this case, I enjoyed seeing the protagonists have a moment to enjoy being alive. Maas did a good job of wrapping it up, while leaving room for more adventure and progression to occur.

It was a short, sweet and wound licking experience. I look forward to her other stories in the future surrounding this world.

You can find the story on Amazon in multiple formats.

Synopsis: Hope warms the coldest night.

Feyre, Rhys, and their close-knit circle of friends are still busy rebuilding the Night Court and the vastly-changed world beyond. But Winter Solstice is finally near, and with it, a hard-earned reprieve.

Yet even the festive atmosphere can’t keep the shadows of the past from looming. As Feyre navigates her first Winter Solstice as High Lady, she finds that those dearest to her have more wounds than she anticipated–scars that will have far-reaching impact on the future of their Court.

 

 

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Caraval – Stephanie Garber

Title: Caraval (#1)
Author: Stephanie Garber
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Page Length: 407 pages

I was lent this book recently and encouraged to try it out. I am so glad I did, as I have found another gem to add to my list.

Looking for a spell-binding experience that will keep you guessing from one page to another? Then this is the adventure for you! Garber had me hunting the mystery right with the characters, and I could not get enough. I just had to know how this game would end.

There are two more in the series, and I am biting at the bit to get my hands on those sequels.

If you love mystery, magic and a dash of possible romance, Caraval is for you!

You can find the book on Amazon in multiple formats.

Synopsis: Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . beware of getting swept too far away.

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A Court of Wings and Ruin – Sarah J. Maas

Title: A Court of Wings and Ruin (#3)
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens Books
Genre: Fantasy/New Adult/Young Adult/Romance
Page Length: 699 pages

Riding the Maas wave, I jumped into the third installment of the Court series. The book is quite large for a young adult fantasy novel, but do not let that deter you, as Maas will keep you on your toes with never a dull moment to be had (except for the sex).

Unfortunately, this time the sex was way over the top. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. It got to a point, where I was skimming these sections of the story because it was no longer spellbinding and magical, but just plain repetitive and boring. And I hate saying this because I thoroughly enjoyed the series and the story, but the characters needed to take a cold shower.

Otherwise, Maas did a great job of wrapping the story up, with only a couple lingering and unanswered questions. I look forward to continuing my reading adventure with Maas in the years ahead.

You can find the story on Amazon in multiple formats.

Synopsis: Looming war threatens all Feyre holds dear in the third volume of the #1 New York Times bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s manoeuvrings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit – and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords – and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.

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Prickle Moon – Juliet Marillier

Title: Prickle Moon
Author: Juliet Marillier
Publisher: Ticonderoga Publications
Genre: Short Stories/Fantasy/Anthology/Fairy Tales
Page Length: 242 pages

A long time fan of Marillier, I was surprised to find out she had created a book of short stories. As expected they were full of magical and fantastical tales. However, fantasy was not the only genre included in this anthology, and I was pleased to encounter several stories of various alternate genres. I had never read anything other than fantasy by her and so this was a pleasant surprise.

Every story was wonderful and heart touching in some way. Whether it was an assortment of hedgehog critters that warmed my chilly insides, or the tale of a woman coming to terms with her dying — I was swept away. Additionally, for those who love her Sevenwaters series, there is a tale that adds a bit more to the story.

All of the narratives were well crafted and complete. I never wanted more because they were the perfect size to tell the story.

You can find the book on Amazon in multiple formats.

Synopsis: Prickle Moon is a collection of Juliet Marillier’s best short fiction. It contains eleven previously published stories and five new ones. Included are the Sevenwaters novella, “’Twixt Firelight and Water”, the epic Nordic story, “Otherling”, and “In Coed Celyddon”, a tale of the young man who would one day become King Arthur.

The title story, especially written for the collection, concerns an old Scottish wise woman facing an impossible moral dilemma.

Other new stories in the book include “By Bone-Light”, a contemporary retelling of the Russian fairy tale “Vasilissa the Wise”, and “The Angel of Death”, a dark story about a puppy mill rescue.

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A Court of Mist and Fury – Sarah J. Maas

Title: A Court of Mist and Fury (#2)
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult/New Adult/Romance
Page Length: 626 pages

Immediately, after finishing book #1 in the series, I delved into the next installment. Oh what a treat! I was completely captivated as the heroines story-line continued and became much more complex than I anticipated. I love when characters are revealed to have many layers, and Maas did not disappoint with any of her leading cast.

I cannot believe that I waited this long to check Maas out and I am looking forward to reading all the stories she creates. For a girl who loves fantasy and romance, Maas knows how to keep me coming back for more.

If you love a steamy romance, complicated relationships, faerie magic and strong leading ladies, this is the story for you!

You can find the story on Amazon in multiple formats.

Reader warning: Deals with domestic abuse and highly sexual.

Synopsis: 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.

With more than a million copies sold of her beloved Throne of Glass series, Sarah J. Maas’s masterful storytelling brings this second book in her seductive and action-packed series to new heights.

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