Book Review: Portraits of a Faerie Queen by Tay LaRoi

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I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t this. I’ve somewhat distanced myself from the fantasy genre over the years because it often felt tired and unoriginal. Thankfully, Portraits of a Faerie Queen was anything but that.

What drew me in most was how real the relationships felt between the characters. The romance develops naturally and is well paced. It was also nice to see diversity considering many books of this genre don’t feature LBGTQ protagonists. It was refreshing to say the least and the book felt much more with the times because of it.

I will admit that the plot was predictable, however it didn’t take away from the novel being a fun read.

Overall, it was an easy, enjoyable read. I look forward to the sequel!

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Book Review: Beartown by Fredrik Backman

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Ok, let me start by saying that for the first fifty pages or so, I had a hard time getting into Beartown. Maybe it was my mood, maybe it was the amount of characters introduced (there are many), but I almost gave up on it. This, friends, would have been a huge mistake.

Beartown is set in a town much like my own; tiny, somewhat dying, where people have little to hold onto aside from their hockey team. With the whole town’s hopes and dreams riding on them, the players are left with a heavy weight of responsibility to carry. The pressure is high and morality often takes a backseat to winning. When one act of violence brings a family to their knees, Beartown forces readers to evaluate their own ethical standpoint. It’s smart, honest and feels very real.

Beartown is beautifully written and touches so many important subjects from rape-culture, to homophobia, to peer pressure, that I feel like this novel should be a mandatory read in every high school. I’m embarrassed to admit that I had never read anything by Fredrik Backman before. After reading Beartown, this will change. And if you haven’t picked up any of his work yet, it should change for you too.

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Book Review: Salsa With the Pope by Samantha Wren Anderson

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Salsa With the Pope by Samantha Wren Anderson is a quirky, women’s fiction novel about a struggling actress going through the ups and downs of finding love – and in the end, herself.

I’ll say this; Salsa With the Pope is funny. The situations that Samantha finds herself in and her inner thought process throughout it all are downright hilarious at times. And although it isn’t necessarily the deepest novel that I’ve ever read, you know what? It doesn’t have to be. A fluff read is fun once in a while.

My only issue here is that I wonder how closely this novel walks the line between fiction and creative non-fiction. I couldn’t help but notice that the author and main character share many similarities and I have a sneaking suspicion that we have a “Mary-Sue” situation going on here (if you aren’t familiar with the term, click here).

Overall, I liked Salsa With the Pope and would recommend it for fans of the pop fiction / women’s lit genre.

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Book Review: Contamination (Feast of Weeds #2) by Jamie Thornton

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Sequels can be hit or miss, however Jamie Thornton nailed it with her second book in the Feast of Weeds series, Contamination.

Although the story picks up roughly where the first left off when it comes to timeline, Contamination follows a brand new set of characters in their journey to survive the outbreak that is quickly turning the population into rabid zombie-like beings.

I really enjoy how Thornton ties in the past characters to the new ones, and I appreciate that the author gives some explanations as to how the virus began and the scope of the spread.

Another aspect of the novel that I like is Corinna’s backstory. The glimpses into her past make it easier to understand her decision making throughout her stuggles. As for Dylan and her “friend” Jane, well… I didn’t like them much however I don’t suspect that the reader is supposed to.

Honestly, I preferred Contamination over the first book of the series. It’s just as action packed as Germination however since Contamination is a full-length novel instead of a novella, I feel that Thornton was able to offer so much more to her readers.

All in all, Contamination is a can’t-put-down zombie thriller that will have you reading into the wee hours of the night.

NOTE: I received a free copy from the author in exchange with an honest review.

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Book Review: A Dog and His Boy by T.F. Pruden

 

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Set in northwest Canada during the nineteen seventies, A Dog and His Boy by first time author T.F. Pruden follows one unconventional family and their lives in an isolated ranch as they learn to survive lost childhoods and broken homes.

Let me start by stating that A Dog and His Boy was a decent novel. While exploring themes of isolation, loss and family relationships, Pruden does a good job at giving the readers a sense of what life in northern Manitoba must have been like. I especially liked the strained dynamic between Tommy and his father and imagining how desolate it must be being a child growing up the way they did.

This being said, I found the novel to be very slow paced and I have to admit that I struggled to complete it. This could be blamed simply on personal taste; these types of novels/movies rarely appeal to me. Still, it didn’t keep me as engaged as I had hoped.

NOTE: This novel was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: He Knew a Firefly by Smita Bhattacharya

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He Knew a Firefly by Smita Bhattacharya centers on Akshara who has the ability to see the futures of the people she loves. However her “gift” is more of a curse than a blessing as it seems that every life she touches is thrown into turmoil. Akshara must try to light the dark paths of her loved ones before fear and guilt consume her.

Bhattacharya writes in a graceful, almost lyrical style that I’ve rarely encountered in past novels and this poetic talent is certainly her strong suit. Seriously, her writing is exquisite.

I also really enjoyed having a glimpse into some of the different cultures of India. The author does this with ease, even adding words from her native tongue into the dialogue of the story without losing her English readers.

Where I encountered some problems was in the plot. Bhattacharya has created three loosely connected stories, all tied together by Akshara’s relationship with them which in theory is great however I found the storylines were somewhat difficult to follow. Because of this confusion, it made it hard to connect with some of her characters.

If I were to give a rating on the story alone, He Knew a Firefly would get 3 cups of java. However, because I feel that Bhattacharya’s writing itself is so beautiful, I have given the novel a 4 out 5 cup rating.

NOTE: I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: The “She” Stands Alone by Nadine Keels

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The “She” Stands Alone by Nadine Keels is a cute novella about bibliophile Sheridan Jones; a woman who has been scorned by love and decides instead to date herself.

I really liked the message of this story; you need to be cool with who you are before you can fully invest in a relationship with someone else. In short, it’s ok to be single. Its advice so few people follow and yet it makes perfect sense.

Also, the awkward interactions between Sheridan and mailman/neighbor Eugene were funny. He may have been a tad too short for Sheridan’s liking but I was rooting for Eugene!

What didn’t I like? Honestly, I wasn’t crazy about the cover art. If I had been scrolling through the Kindle store, I would have likely passed on buying this book and that would have been a shame.

If you like a clean romantic comedy, I recommend giving The “She” Stands Alone a try.

Note: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange with an honest review.

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Book Review: I’m Not Your “Baby” by Joy Jennings

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I’m Not Your “Baby” by Joy Jennings is a poignant look at one woman’s personal experiences with sexual harassment, assault and rape.

Telling this story must have taken a great deal of courage on the part of the author. Victims of sexual violence are so often silenced by their fear and I commend Jennings for putting it all out there. And trust me, there are tons of terrible encounters to tell. Many instances in the book were very uncomfortable to read and I can’t imagine how it must have felt to actually live them.

What I found most distressing throughout the book was how Jennings’ experiences with sexual harassment and assault were so often downplayed by those around her. Being told to “just ignore it” or the ever popular “boys will be boys” excuse is unfortunately so reflective of our society. All too often, it seems as though the victims are pegged as the problem and that they should be the ones to change their behavior or appearance as to not entice abusers.

Another aspect that struck me was the degree of frequency Jennings was harassed and assaulted. I feel as though this woman has to be the unluckiest person in regards to the men. It’s so disturbing that there are women out there who repeatedly have to endure sexual violence. I feel blessed to have a fair amount of male friends – none of which would ever behave remotely close to the way hers did.

Normally, I feel uneasy about reviewing a memoir. There are so many useless memoirs out these days (I’m sorry, but having parents and a childhood doesn’t of itself qualify you to write a memoir). When I agreed to review Jennings’ story it was because I felt that there was something to be learned by the horrifying events that happened in her life. I respect the author immensely for her bravery and for sharing her story with her readers.

Note: This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Where Death is a Hunter by Christopher Stookey

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Where Death is a Hunter is a fast-paced medical thriller by author Christopher Stookey and an absolute gripping read. The book kicks off right at the moment where all goes wrong and doesn’t let up until the very end. It tells the story of Hannah Fâtier, an anesthesiologist who is accused of malpractice when a patient dies under her care in the OR. The more Hannah goes over the details of the event however, the less they make sense. As the pieces of the puzzle come together it becomes increasingly obvious that someone has framed her.

Medical thrillers are a tricky genre to write without them becoming a lexicon of medical mumbo-jumbo. This could especially have been the case considering the author, Christopher Stookey, also happens to be an MD. Thankfully, he succeeds in creating a very comprehensible novel with just enough hospital terms to make it believable but not enough to loose his readers.

Where Death is a Hunter is the type of book that refuses to let you put it down and I credit Stookey’s pacing skills for that (seriously, I read it in one day). He has written a novel mostly devoid of “fluff” which is incredibly refreshing . There’s little that is capable of losing my attention faster than reading paragraph after paragraph of unnecessary text (fillers, as I call them) and it’s great to see an author that keeps it to the point.

The characters are also very solid. I like how we get to know Hannah’s background bit by bit and I especially like her own personal growth throughout the story. I won’t lie – I had a pretty good idea who had “done it” so to speak, but wasn’t sure about the “why” until it was revealed.

Where Death is a Hunter is a fantastic novel and I recommend it to fans of the thriller/mystery genre. I look forward to reading more novels by Stookey in the future.

Note: I received this novel by the author in exchange with an honest review.

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Book Review: Pretty Dancer by Cora Graham

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Pretty Dancer is a contemporary YA romance novel by first time author Cora Graham. The story revolves around Lilly, an aspiring dancer who hasn’t had the easiest home life so far. As she fights to overcome her past, she must also learn to trust and open herself to the possibility of loving again.

Yes, it was a little long and dragged on in some places. Yes, there were some minor typos. And yes, the dance choreography descriptions weren’t my favorite aspects of the story (I blame this on being a dance instructor myself – occupational hazard).  But honestly, those minor issues didn’t take away from how much I loved this book. Let me say it again; I. Loved. This. Book. It had so much heart. Lilly’s relationship with her twin brother Luke was my favorite depiction of sibling dynamics in a book so far. As the story progresses, you begin to understand why Luke’s overprotectiveness is so appropriate regarding Lilly. The intrigue surrounding their father and what happened between them keep you guessing until the very end and for once, I didn’t see the truth coming from a mile away. And Carter? SA-WOOON! Holy hell. Seriously, the build is so slow it felt like the biggest literary tease ever. However readers don’t despair; it is so worth the wait. The car scene between Carter and Lilly? HOT, HOT, HOT.

The only things I would change about this book are some minor editing and the removal of the prologue. Honestly, the book would do nicely without it. It seemed unnecessary and actually had me thinking that I wouldn’t like the book (which, thankfully, I totally did).

If you’re a fan of YA, teen angst and romance then pick up Pretty Dancer. You will not be disappointed!

(Also, enter to win a free ecopy of Pretty Dancer here -> Pretty Dancer Giveaway, contest ends November 20th at 9pm Atlantic time)

Note: I received this novel by the author in exchange with an honest review.

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