Review: Song of Blood & Stone by L. Penelope

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

36347830Song of Blood & Stone by L. Penelope
Release date: May 1st, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Young adult, fantasy, romance
Format: eBook

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Orphaned and alone, Jasminda lives in a land where cold whispers of invasion and war linger on the wind. Jasminda herself is an outcast in her homeland of Elsira, where her gift of Earthsong is feared. When ruthless soldiers seek refuge in her isolated cabin, they bring with them a captive–an injured spy who threatens to steal her heart.

Jack’s mission behind enemy lines to prove that the Mantle between Elsira and Lagamiri is about to fall nearly cost him his life, but he is saved by the healing Song of a mysterious young woman. Now he must do whatever it takes to save Elsira and it’s people from the True Father and he needs Jasminda’s Earthsong to do it. They escape their ruthless captors and together they embark on a perilous journey to save Elsira and to uncover the secrets of The Queen Who Sleeps.

Thrust into a hostile society, Jasminda and Jack must rely on one another even as secrets jeopardize their bond. As an ancient evil gains power, Jasminda races to unlock a mystery that promises salvation.

The fates of two nations hang in the balance as Jasminda and Jack must choose between love and duty to fulfill their destinies and end the war.

This was a difficult book to review because while I enjoyed parts of it, others left me wanting something more, like it was incomplete and didn’t reach its full potential. It was definitely a book of ups and downs, which makes me rather sad because it could have been amazing.

The book had many beautifully written sections that were lushly described and almost lyrical. These fired up my imagination and completely engrossed me in the story. However, other parts were basically just tell, tell and tell. This character has a wonderful family, two brothers….but we never meet these people. We never actually get to see examples of this wonderful family. So many aspects of the book are written this way and if we were actually shown things rather than told, I truly believe it would have been more believable and I would have felt more of a connection to the characters.

Talking about the characters, they seemed too perfect to me. The female lead, Jasminda, was pleasant to read about. She was strong, brave and empathetic. Her love interest, Jack, was so kind and understanding. Together, their romance was very unbelievable, at least for me. Maybe it’s because I don’t like the whole destined to be together forever, true love conquers all thing? *shrugs* A lot of their interactions were kind of silly, with cheesy one-liners. The whole thing felt like a bit too much.

The book could have went in a very different direction and as a result missed out on opportunities to discuss racism and xenophobia. Jasminda lives in a world where the people appear to be predominately white, like her love interest Jack. The beginning of the story kind of touched on how she and her people were discriminated against and how hard it was for her and Jack to be together, but the message isn’t clear. It gets lost in the love story, which completely dominates everything else. Yes, it’s fantasy, but I wish more fantasy books would focus on topics that impact the real world.

The last few chapters in the story felt quite rushed and were basically a set-up for the sequel. While it had moments of amazingness I don’t think I’ll be picking up the next book anytime soon.


About the Author

9870934L. Penelope has been writing since she could hold a pen and loves getting lost in the worlds in her head. She is an award-winning author of new adult, fantasy, and paranormal romance. She lives in Maryland with her husband and their furry dependents: an eighty-pound lap dog and an aspiring feral cat.

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Review: Night of Cake & Puppets by Laini Taylor

I received this book for free from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

34733250Night of Cake & Puppets by Laini Taylor
Release date: September 12th, 2017
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young adult, fantasy, romance
Format: ARC (paperback)

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Petite though she may be, Zuzana is not known for timidity. Her best friend, Karou, calls her “rabid fairy,” her “voodoo eyes” are said to freeze blood, and even her older brother fears her wrath. But when it comes to the simple matter of talking to Mik, or “Violin Boy,” her courage deserts her. Now, enough is enough. Zuzana is determined to make the first move, and she has a fistful of magic and a plan. It’s a wonderfully elaborate treasure hunt of a plan that will take Mik all over Prague on a cold winter’s night before leading him to the treasure: herself! Violin Boy is not going to know what hit him.

Prior to reading this absolutely wonderful novella I had never picked up anything by Laini Taylor. An early copy of it arrived in the mail ages ago and I kind of forgot about it which was my loss because I loved it so, so much! I now NEED to pick up the series that it belongs to ASAP!

The story filled me with such happiness. It was adorable and reminded me of being a teenager, trying to deal with a huge crush and just ending up being dorky. The story revolves around Zuzana, a girl who has made it her mission to attract the attention of her crush, Mik. I absolutely adored Zuzana! She’s a bit strange, lover of all things dark and magical and small for her age. She totally embraces who she is and I thought that was wonderful. I also enjoyed her interactions with Mik, which were awkward and had me smiling ear to ear. These two were so darn cute together! My heart just melts thinking about it.

This particular version also featured very cool illustrations by taylor’s husband, Jim Di Bartolo. While not all completed in the ARC that I received, they were perfect for the story and characters. It was great to see the characters and the magical world that they inhabit come to life as I turned the page. I really need to pick up a finished version because I’m very curious to see how they turned out.

This short story was simply magical from start to finish! Whether you are a fan of Taylor’s work or want a taste of her writing, this novella is one that you must read. I just bought a copy of Daughter of Smoke & Bone (the first in the series that this novella belongs to) and can’t wait to start reading it. I need more of Zuzana and Mik right now!!!!


About the Author

324620New York Times bestselling author and National Book Award finalist Laini Taylor‘s works include Strange the Dreamer and the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy: Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Days of Blood & Starlight, Dreams of Gods & Monsters, and now this illustrated companion, Night of Cake & Puppets. She is also the author of Lips Touch: Three Times and the Dreamdark books: Blackbringer and Silksinger.

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Blog Tour: Spies, Lies and Allies by Lisa Brown Roberts

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I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

31450640Spies, Lies and Allies by Lisa Brown Roberts
Release date: May 1st, 2018
Publisher: Entangled: Teen
Genre: Young adult, romance, contemporary
Format: eBook

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Summers are supposed to be fun, right? Not mine. I’ve got a job at my dad’s company, which is sponsoring a college scholarship competition. I just found out that, in addition to my job assisting the competing interns, I’m supposed to vote for the winner. Totally not what I signed up for.

There’s a crazy guy running the competition like it’s an episode of Survivor. Then there’s Carlos, who is, well, very distracting –– in a good way. But I can’t even think about him that way because Crazy Guy says any fraternizing on the job means instant disqualification for the intern involved.

As if that’s not enough, an anonymous weirdo with insider intel is trying to sabotage my dad’s company on social media…and I’m afraid it’s working.

Much as I’d love to quit, I can’t. Kristoffs Never Quit is our family motto. I just hope there’s more than one survivor by the end of this summer.

I discovered Lisa Brown Roberts’ book last year and totally loved them! Spies, Lies and Allies was such a fun read full of Star Wars references, funny jokes, friendship, mystery and an oh so adorable romance. I honestly couldn’t stop reading it once I picked it up. It’s very rare when I read a book in a day, but this one I just devoured within a few hours. I should have been grading essays, but this was just so much more enjoyable!

The story focuses on Laurel who lands a summer job at her dad’s company in order to spend more time with him. She’s assigned to help a group of interns competing for a scholarship, however, nothing is what she expected. What I really enjoyed about this story was it’s many layers. It’s not just about the romance because it explores friendships, trust, betrayal, prejudice and family relationships. All of these aspects were well written and blended together perfectly. The book easily transitioned between serious to silly to swoon worthy without feeling forced or like it was trying too hard. Everything just flowed and the pacing was spot on. As I wrote above, I didn’t want to stop reading. It was exciting and full of so much fun!

What made the book for me were the characters. I completely loved Laurel right from the start. She’s determined, curious and very much a fangirl. Her constant Star Wars references had me smiling from ear to ear because it reminded me of a friend. Her relationship with Carlos had the perfect amount of cheesy one-liners, sass and romantic tension. I loved reading about their interactions and conversations. It’s something the author does well in all of her books.

If you are looking for a fun contemporary read this summer than this book is definitely for you. Also, don’t forget to check out the author’s other books as well!

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About the Author

lbr-color-headshot-200x300-1Award-winning romance author Lisa Brown Roberts still hasn’t recovered from the teenage catastrophes of tweezing off both eyebrows, or that time she crashed her car into a tree while trying to impress a guy. It’s no wonder she loves to write romantic comedies. Lisa’s books have earned praise from Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, and the School Library Journal. She lives in Colorado with her family, in which pets outnumber people.

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Giveaway

Click here to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway. You could win a signed copy of Spies, Lies and Allies and some great spy-related swag. Good luck! 🙂

Blog Tour: True Storm by L.E. Sterling

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

36104608True Storm by L.E. Sterling
Release date: May 1st, 2018
Publisher: Entangled: Teen
Genre: Young adult, science fiction
Format: eBook

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Lucy’s twin sister, Margot, may be safely back with her—but all is not well in Plague-ravaged Dominion City. The Watchers have come out of hiding, spreading chaos and death throughout the city, and suddenly Lucy finds herself under pressure to choose her future: does it lie with her handsome new friend, Alastair; her guardian, the enigmatic True Born leader Nolan Storm; or the man who makes her heart trip, her savage True Born bodyguard Jared Price?

But while Lucy ponders her path, fate has other plans. Betrayal is a cruel lesson, and the Fox sisters can hardly believe who is behind the plot against them. To survive this deadly game of politics, Lucy is forced to agree to a marriage of convenience. But is the DNA of her will stronger than the forces opposing her? Can she turn the tide against the oncoming storm??

As they say in Dominion, can rogue genes ever have a happy ending?

What a way to end a trilogy! The True Born series has been one of my favourites since the first book was released in 2016. It’s so unique and unlike anything else that I’ve read before. I’m sad to see it end…but boy did it go out on a high! I really enjoyed it from start to finish and it absolutely did not let me down.

The story takes place in an apocalyptic world where most of the earth’s population has been killed off by a plague. Those left have fractured into three groups: the Lasters, the Splicers and the True Born. The Lasters are the poorest of the poor and have no hope, they will eventually die of the plague. They are often homeless and starving, ignored by the Upper Circle of society. The Upper Circle are the richest members of the world who can afford protection details and expensive mansions. To survive, they cut and weave new DNA into their bodies. True Borns are immune to the plague because they have evolved and feature many of the abilities and characteristics of other creatures.

I always complain that it’s difficult to write a review for later books in a series and it’s not different here. I don’t want to give too much away or spoil something. When I started the book I was a little put off by the pacing of the first few chapters. They felt too slow and unlike the rest of the series. However, once I was a few chapters deep things really got going and I hated putting it down. There were so many questions and mysteries to solve. I just had to know what would happen! All of the major plot lines are eventually sorted out by the end, but some of them felt rushed. I wish the author would have spent a little more time on them because it’s such a disservice to the entire series which was perfectly paced out. I felt like the way things had been organized and slowly revealed really put the reader in Lucy’s place. She was just as much in the dark as we were and that really drew me into the whole story. So, the ending could have been extended, but it still was entertaining all the same.

From beginning to end I have to say my favourite character was Lucy Fox. Throughout the entire series she’s had to battle for everything. Nothing comes easy for her and I completely admire her development. She starts the series as a person who is used to hanging out in the background, letting others make decisions for her. However, once her family is torn apart, she really steps up and watching her grow was very rewarding. And for someone who usually doesn’t like insta-love romances, I have to make an exception here. Lucy’s relationship with Jared was frustrating but highly fun to read. Their banter back and forth drove me crazy but in a good way. There was never a dull moment when they had scenes together!

I also just love the cover! The purplish background really pops and the antler make sense once you’ve read the story. Actually, the covers for the entire series are quite unique and totally different from what I’ve seen on other YA books. They look fantastic together! I cannot recommend this series enough! It was wonderfully written, inventive and always entertaining. If you are a fan of science fiction than this is totally a series that you need to check out!


Book Excerpt:

Another laugh, this one not at all pleasant. “God, Lu, do you think I’m actually in control here? You,” he says, his lips coming so close to mine I can almost feel them on my flesh. He brushes them lightly, and the already swollen flesh lights up again. “You,” he says again, his voice dropping into a purr as with one hand, he strokes my hair, “you’re like a drug. I can’t get enough of you, can’t break away no matter how hard I try.”

I push at his chest and force him to let me down. “You make it sound terrible,” I grumble.

His voice and eyes are ragged, wild, as he tells me with conviction, “It is terrible.”

“Jared,” I warn.

Blond curls fall over his handsome face as he takes my cheeks lightly in his hands. I reach up and curl my own fingers over his, remembering what those hands can do. How could such brilliant, clever hands be capable of such violence? Like his hands, this man has the ability to make me feel as though I’m flying through the air one minute, bruised and sinking the next.

I try to look away, sick of the hurt, but he won’t let me. Staring intently into my eyes, he whispers my name like a prayer. “Don’t you get it? It’s ripping my guts out because I have never felt this way before. I need to be near you like I need oxygen. And I know full well I can’t have you.”


About the Author

7121486L.E. Sterling had an early obsession with sci-fi, fantasy and romance, to which she remained faithful through an M.A. in creative writing and a PhD in English literature––where she completed a thesis on magical representation. She is the author of cult hit YA novel The Originals (under pen name L.E. Vollick) and the Urban Fantasy Pluto’s Gate. True Born, first in the True Born trilogy, won the Athena Award® from the RWA. Originally hailing from Parry Sound, Ontario, L.E. spent most of her summers roaming across Canada in a van––inspiring her writing career. She currently lives in Toronto, Canada.

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Giveaway

Click here to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway. You could win a $10 Amazon gift card. This giveaway is only open to those residing in Canada and the United States. Good luck!

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Review: The Jewel by Amy Ewing

16068780The Jewel by Amy Ewing
Release date: September 2nd, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: Young adult, fantasy, dystopian
Format: Paperback

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The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.

Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence… and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.

I normally a don’t like the dystopian genre, it’s all pretty much the same story over and over again. I don’t think I would have picked up The Jewel if my students didn’t keep trying to push it on me. And….I’m so glad that they did! I loved this book from start to finish. It was fast paced and captivating….so much so that I binged the entire trilogy within a few days. I honestly couldn’t get enough!

The book is very political, which is why I probably enjoyed it so much. There’s a lot of secrets, revenge plots, people trying to climb that social ladder, etc. Basically, the book is based in a world where people are divided into different sections of a walled city. The poorest live on the outside in dilapidated shacks with mud floors. They barely get by working in factories or on farms. The richest people live in the middle of the city in an area called the Jewel. The city is run by these rich families and the royalty. However powerful the royalty may be, they have one flaw, they cannot carry their own babies. So, instead the use young women with special abilities known as surrogates to do it for them. Some surrogates welcome to opportunity to leave a life of poverty behind, but they are essentially slaves, bought and sold at a special auction. The book’s main character, Violet, is one of these surrogates.

I absolutely adored Violet! She fits the mold for the typical dystopian heroine, but it didn’t matter because of her personality. The author really made likeable and relatable. Let’s just say that I was beyond relieved when she didn’t end up being perfect or overly naive. Instead, she’s caring, compassionate and flawed. She makes tons on mistakes but actually learns from them. There are always consequences to her actions which makes it seem more realistic. I only just wish that the author held back a bit on the insta-love romance in the book. I’m all for romance but when it’s done right…I like a slow burn but that’s my own personal preference. What bothered me I guess was how in one chapter they were just meeting and the next it’s true love and “you complete me” stuff which was just too fast for me to properly believe.  

The best part for me was the cliffhanger ending! It made me so happy that I already had the second book with me. I guess I kind of knew something bad was about to happen but it still floored me. What a way to end a book! So, if you are looking for an entertaining read with twists, turns and political intrigue then this is for sure the book for you. I promise that you won’t be able to put it down!


About the Author

6549285Amy Ewing grew up in a small town outside Boston, where her librarian mother instilled a deep love of reading at a young age. Amy moved to New York City in 2000 to study theater at New York University. Unfortunately, her acting career didn’t quite pan out. She worked in restaurants, as an administrative assistant, a nanny, and a sales representative for a wine distributor before the lack of creativity in her life drove her to begin writing.

Amy received her MFA in Creative Writing for Children from The New School, where she was lucky enough to meet a fabulous community of YA writers who keep her sane on a daily basis. She lives in Harlem, where she spends her days writing, eating cheese, and occasionally binge watching The Vampire Diaries.

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ARC Review: Ride On by Gwen Cole

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

35804615Ride On by Gwen Cole
Release date: May 22nd, 2018
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Genre: Young adult, dystopian
Format: eBook

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The law can’t help her. But one outlaw can.

In the near post-apocalyptic future, the skies are always gray and people are constantly searching for the sun. For teenage outlaw Seph, it’s the only world he’s ever known. With his horse, his favorite pistol, and his knowledge for survival passed down from his dead father, Seph knows it’s safer to be alone. But after a run-in with a local gang that call themselves the Lawmen, and having been wrongly accused of murder, Seph teams up with Avery—a determined girl whose twin brother has been taken by the same gang.

After living in a small, rundown town her whole life, Avery knows nothing of the Wild—the lands controlled by nobody where travel is risky. With Seph’s help, they track down her brother but quickly find the tables have turned and they are now the ones being hunted. With rumors of mysterious dangers to the south and a safe sanctuary to the west, they’ve only got one option, but getting there won’t be easy with the Lawmen on their trail. The only thing that matters in the Wild is how fast your trigger hand is, but Seph doesn’t know if his will be fast enough to save them all.

I thoroughly enjoyed Gwen Cole’s debut novel, Cold Summer, and couldn’t wait to start this one. I nearly missed it on NetGalley and consider myself quite lucky to have been able to read it early. This is a book that you really need to read! It was full of surprises, action and drama.

I really didn’t know what to expect when I went into it. The cover isn’t that imaginative (this book deserves better) made me think it would be a straight up Western (no, I didn’t read the description which clearly stated that it was based in a “near post-apocalyptic future”). However, the book was so much more as it was a wonderful blend of the two genres…dark, moody and dangerous. I was automatically hooked from the first page. I particularly enjoyed the gunfights (you’ll be unable to stop reading) and how the chapters alternated between characters, providing a unique glimpse into Cole’s dystopian world.

What I loved most were the characters, something I think Cole does very well. They were so real and I felt deeply connected with the book’s leads, Steph and Avery. Here, like in her debut, Cole is able to craft complex characters. Nothing is straightforward, black or white. The characters have to make difficult choices and are often haunted by the things that they have done. Oh, and there is a romance, but it was honestly adorable. A nice little addition that didn’t take over the entire story. It felt organic and natural, not forced and instant like so many romances seem to be in YA.

Another standout aspect of Ride On was the setting. The world was slowly revealed as the book progressed and not fully laid out in the first chapter. Nothing was just given away and there certainly were no information dumps. Like the characters, everything felt like it was explained at the right time. The book wonderfully walked the fine line between descriptive passages and oversharing. As a result, the world truly came to life for me. I could see myself riding a horse in a grey and dusty world or opposing riders chasing after me through a dilapidated town made out of scrap metal and mismatched pieces of wood. My imagination ran wild with this story and I absolutely enjoyed every second of it!

Cole has honestly become one of my favourite new authors. I can’t wait to see what she releases next!


About the Author

1080169Gwen Cole grew up in upstate New York and then moved to Virginia where she did not graduate college. Instead she played bass guitar in a hardcore band and later married the lead guitarist. She enjoys large jigsaw puzzles, playing Xbox and softball, and watching movies. Gwen now lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, daughter, and very large dog, where she longs to live in the country again.

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Review: Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

34726469Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young
Release date: April 24th, 2018
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Genre: Young adult, fantasy
Format: eBook

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OND ELDR. BREATHE FIRE.

Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield—her brother, fighting with the enemy—the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.

The cover is what initially pulled me in. LOOK AT IT! Dark, mysterious, badass female warrior. How could I not want to read it? I without even reading its description requested it on NetGalley. Once I was approved I started it right away. I was beyond excited but the first chapter worried me. It was a bit slow and I felt disconnected from it. However, I didn’t let it stop me and I’m so happy that I pushed on because it surprised me in so many ways.

The book is heavily inspired and influenced by Viking mythology. From that alone the reader should be prepared for scenes of violence and this book has tons of them! But don’t let that turn you off because it has a fantastic balance between scenes featuring violence and beautifully written passages that deeply explore human emotions and bonds. This is what I think the author did best. I cheered when the book’s protagonist Eelyn went into battle. She was fierce and treated her enemies without mercy. I felt like I was right there swinging an axe alongside her, blood spraying everywhere…it was exhilarating! This types of scenes were placed in between scenes where the author examined Eelyn’s emotional state. She starts out in so much pain, her anger eating away at her. It hurt my heart but the development…it was so well done. It was gradual and not without a few bumps along the way. It felt honest and true to real life.

I loved how this is a standalone novel. So many books now belong to a trilogy or series, which is great, but sometimes that’s bit of a commitment. However, standalones also come with their own pitfalls. They are sometimes rushes and with too convenient endings. This book was well paced and ended in a satisfying way that didn’t feel like the author was just trying to end it. This is most definitely a book that all fantasy lovers need to read! And…..it looks like a companion novel will be released in 2019!!!!! *jumps up and down* I can’t wait to get my hands on it!

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About the Author

16640489Adrienne Young is a born and bred Texan turned California girl. She is a foodie with a deep love of history and travel and a shameless addiction to coffee. When she’s not writing, you can find her on her yoga mat, scouring antique fairs for old books, sipping wine over long dinners, or disappearing into her favorite art museums. She lives with her documentary filmmaker husband and their four little wildlings beneath the West Coast sun.

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