Book Review: The Summer House by Jenny Hale

Callie and her best friend Olivia are looking for a new start in an old place. They’ve purchased a North Carolina beach home that they’ve admired since childhood and are fixing it up. When they’ve finished renovating it, their new B&B should be ready for guests.

The next door neighbor is the rich, handsome Luke, who also happens to be a bit of a playboy. Despite the fact that Callie has little time or energy for a relationship, she finds herself drawn to her enticing neighbor.

When Callie and Olivia unearth a locked and long-forgotten diary that’s filled with town secrets, what they find out might just destroy Callie’s chances at happiness. And before the summer is over, a brewing storm will strike (literally and figuratively!).

The Summer House has all the elements of a perfect summer romance: ocean air, sunny skies, handsome neighbors, and secret pasts. The descriptions are vivid and the essence of summer is palpable as you read. They electricity between Callie and Luke is strong. There are some character development issues that felt left out, but it didn’t interfere with my ability to get lost in the story. The Summer House is a sweet, heartwarming summer read.

I received a copy of The Summer House from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1) by Emily Duncan

Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy, Book 1) by Emily Duncan

For a century Tranavia and Kalyazia have been at war.

Hidden in a mountain-top monastery, Nadya—a Kalyazi cleric with the ability to communicate with the gods, all the gods—has been living and training. When the Travanian forces breach the walls of the monastery, she is forced to flee into the snow covered lands that have—until now—kept invaders at bay. After fleeing, Nadya encounters a small band of rebels with plans to infiltrate the Travanian palace and kill the king in an effort to end the war. One of the rebels is Malachiasz, an escaped Travanian Vulture with a treasonous plan and a dark secret of his own.  

Serefin, the High Prince of Tranavia and a blood mage, has accomplished a victory that no other military leader has, he’s conquered the mountain monastery that hides the Kalyazi cleric. Even though she’s just barely slipped from his grasp, he can feel that her power is far greater than anyone had guessed. And now, with her so close to capture, he’s been called back to Tranavia by his father—for a betrothal ceremony. But Serefin will find that his betrothal isn’t the only danger that lies in waiting.  

Wicked Saints is a dark and tantalizing fantasy that balances politics, magic and religion. Everything about the setting and characters seems to exist in the gray area between good and evil. The descriptions are vivid and the monstrous creatures are so well-described that they are easily visualized and horrific to imagine.  Although I wasn’t as compelled by the romance as I’d hoped, and felt some of the secondary characters could have been better represented, I still found Wicked Saints to be an enjoyable read and look forward to the sequel.  

Book Review: The Winter Queen (Stolen Empire #4) by Sherry Ficklin

I’m a fan of historical fiction and I LOVE the Stolen Empire series—I can’t get enough of it. I was thrilled when I found out there was going to be another book in the series, and again when I receive a copy of Sherry Ficklin’s latest novella in the series.

The Winter Queen is a prequel to the Stolen Empire series and focuses on the life of Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great and future Empress of Russia. This novella is a quick read, and thrusts us right into the upheaval of the Russian elite. We get to meet the Princess Elizabeth and her sister Petra, witness the death of the heir presumptive to the Romanov line, and then the death of Peter the Great.

With their mother in Russia, trying to maintain a hold on Russia and others trying to secure the power for themselves, Elizabeth and Petra are suddenly in a very tenuous position. They are sent to the “safety” of arranged marriages, but Elizabeth was born a Romanov, and the throne is only just out of her grasp…for now.

I can’t wait for the next installment of what’s sure to continue to be an exciting series full of political maneuvering and intrigue.

*I received a copy of The Winter Queen in exchange for an honest review

Book Review: Romanov by Nadine Brandes

     One of the stories from history that has always intrigued me (and so many other people) is that of the Romanov family, particularly Anastasia. So much mystery still surrounds the last hours and minutes of her life, as well as her death. And so many theories have been entertained. In Romanov author Nadine Brandes offers her own creative imaginings about the life and death of young Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov. This novel is historical fiction, but with an imaginative bit of magic thrown into the mix.

   The strongest part of the novel, in my opinion, was the relationship between Nastya and her family. It was the one aspect in which I felt a strong emotional connection with the storyline. The family relationship felt loving, intense and authentic. Unfortunately, the rest of the novel felt emotionally distant to me, I didn’t feel a connection to the characters or action outside of that.

   There were some historical inaccuracies (perhaps creative stretching of facts to meet a storytelling goal?) and some things that were glossed over that could have used more attention and flushing out for a stronger storyline.  The inconsistencies in the novel as well as the historical inconsistencies were a bit distracting.

   Another thing that could have used more details was the world-building—especially the magic. It felt unformed and underwhelming.

   All-in-all Romanov was a decent read, an entertaining re-imaging of history, but it wasn’t as great as I’d hoped.

*I received a copy of Romanov from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Book Review: Baby of the Family by Maura Roosevelt


Baby of the Family is a novel about the once influential Whitby family.

Roger Whitby, the four times married family patriarch, has died after squandering a majority of his wealth. He’s left what remains of his estate to his youngest (adopted) son, Nick, the son of his fourth wife. Nick is a young man who has been struggling to find a purpose in his life. As his father is dying, Nick becomes involved in an act of political activism, and then goes missing.

Brooke, Roger’s daughter from his second marriage, is dealing with her own issues. She’s pregnant by a man she doesn’t love, afraid to admit to the love she has for Allie, and her house—the one thing she has from her dad—has just become part of Nick’s inheritance. Brooke doesn’t even really know Nick and has no idea if she’ll be forced out of the house. She’s barely able to get by on her nursing job, and the thought of having to add rent or a mortgage to her financial plan—in addition to the cost of having a baby—has left her unsure of the right decisions.

Roger’s daughter Shelley is living with her mother in the New York apartment Roger walked out of years ago. Her mom has left after descending into a years-long cycle of depression. Desperate for income, Shelley takes a job with a very peculiar man, and ends up in a complex relationship with him.

Told from the point of view of these three Whitby children, each abandoned and let down by their father, it explores the complex relationships between children and their parents. It’s really about finding and being yourself, despite your familial relations.

It was hard to identify with the characters (for obvious reasons—the lack of my own family fortune), but they were interesting enough to keep me reading. Baby of the Family wasn’t a novel that drew me in and kept me on the edge of my seat, but I was passively interested enough to continue reading to find out what happens to each of the characters.

*I received an ARC of Baby of the Family from Netgalley and Dutton Books in exchange for an honest review

Jan & Feb ’19 Book List

I love to share some of the great books I’ve read (and listened to!) every month. I’ve been doing this via my newsletter, but haven’t shared anything yet this year, so forgive this list, it may be a bit long!

The bestselling landmark account of the first emergence of the Ebola virus. A highly infectious, deadly virus from the central African rain forest suddenly appears in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. There is no cure. In a few days 90 percent of its victims are dead. A secret military SWAT team of soldiers and scientists is mobilized to stop the outbreak of this exotic “hot” virus. The Hot Zone tells this dramatic story, giving a hair-raising account of the appearance of rare and lethal viruses and their “crashes” into the human race. Shocking, frightening, and impossible to ignore, The Hot Zone proves that truth really is scarier than fiction.

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha)

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.
Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.


HE LOVES YOU: Adam adores Emily. Emily thinks Adam’s perfect, the man she thought she’d never meet.
BUT SHE LOVES YOU NOT: Lurking in the shadows is a rival, a woman who shares a deep bond with the man she loves.
AND SHE’LL STOP AT NOTHING: Emily chose Adam, but she didn’t choose his mother Pammie. There’s nothing a mother wouldn’t do for her son, and now Emily is about to find out just how far Pammie will go to get what she wants: Emily gone forever.


Agreeing to go to a wedding with a guy she gets stuck with in an elevator is something Alexa Monroe wouldn’t normally do. But there’s something about Drew Nichols that’s too hard to resist.

On the eve of his ex’s wedding festivities, Drew is minus a plus one. Until a power outage strands him with the perfect candidate for a fake girlfriend…

After Alexa and Drew have more fun than they ever thought possible, Drew has to fly back to Los Angeles and his job as a pediatric surgeon, and Alexa heads home to Berkeley, where she’s the mayor’s chief of staff. Too bad they can’t stop thinking about the other… 

They’re just two high-powered professionals on a collision course toward the long distance dating disaster of the century–or closing the gap between what they think they need and what they truly want…

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

In Furiously Happy, a humor memoir tinged with just enough tragedy and pathos to make it worthwhile, Jenny Lawson examines her own experience with severe depression and a host of other conditions, and explains how it has led her to live life to the fullest:
“I’ve often thought that people with severe depression have developed such a well for experiencing extreme emotion that they might be able to experience extreme joy in a way that ‘normal people’ also might never understand. And that’s what Furiously Happy is all about.”
Jenny’s readings are standing room only, with fans lining up to have Jenny sign their bottles of Xanax or Prozac as often as they are to have her sign their books. Furiously Happy appeals to Jenny’s core fan base but also transcends it. There are so many people out there struggling with depression and mental illness, either themselves or someone in their family―and in Furiously Happy they will find a member of their tribe offering up an uplifting message (via a taxidermied roadkill raccoon). Let’s Pretend This Never Happened ostensibly was about embracing your own weirdness, but deep down it was about family. Furiously Happy is about depression and mental illness, but deep down it’s about joy―and who doesn’t want a bit more of that?

Soldier. Summoner. Saint. Orphaned and expendable, Alina Starkov is a soldier who knows she may not survive her first trek across the Shadow Fold―a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. But when her regiment is attacked, Alina unleashes dormant magic not even she knew she possessed.
Now Alina will enter a lavish world of royalty and intrigue as she trains with the Grisha, her country’s magical military elite―and falls under the spell of their notorious leader, the Darkling. He believes Alina can summon a force capable of destroying the Shadow Fold and reuniting their war-ravaged country, but only if she can master her untamed gift.
As the threat to the kingdom mounts and Alina unlocks the secrets of her past, she will make a dangerous discovery that could threaten all she loves and the very future of a nation.
Welcome to Ravka . . . a world of science and superstition where nothing is what it seems.

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price―and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone. . . .
A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums. 

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.
Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction―if they don’t kill each other first.

Book Review: Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

I was mesmerized by the description of Gilded Wolves and thrilled when I received a copy. The promise of secret societies and art heists in Paris during the late 1800’s were all the temptation I needed.

Gilded Wolves is a YA fantasy about an ancient order with a drastically diminishing number of houses. Severin is an exiled member of his house—and an antiquities thief–, trying to earn his way back by finding an ancient artefact. In order to do so, he enlists the help of a group of colleagues and friends, each as unique and varied in skill as well as personality.

This book is rich in magic and artistry, as well as multi-cultural mythologies and beliefs. I found it very difficult to get in to, the first several chapters were slow to grab me in all honesty. But once I was finally drawn in to the story line, I was pulled along on a magnificent journey.

I adore how intricately the mythos was woven into the storyline and the subtle undercurrent of history and science that happens throughout this novel. Of course there are comparisons to Six of Crows, but I think Gilded Wolves has set itself apart as it’s own unique world and Roshani Chokshi has developed it beautifully.

*I received a copy of Gilded Wolves from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

Blog Tour: Policy of Truth by Scarlett Holloway

Policy of Truth: Book Review

Policy of Truth is a little outside of my usual reading trends, but (as a fan of Sons of Anarchy) I was interested in giving it a try.

Policy of Truth has one thing in abundance: strong, complex, bad-ass female characters. The female characters in this book, including main character Tamra “Durty” Simons, are well-developed, strong and face a number of real-world issues that happen in every day life, even if we prefer to not talk about them (ie- domestic violence). While they’re all affected by the things they’ve seen & endured, all these chicks are strong and maintain their own positions in a male-dominated world. Sometimes they even dominate.

In addition to the bad-ass women, there’s a ridiculously spicy love story that develops between Durty and “Sting” who’s equal parts mysterious, dangerous and endearing.

Policy of Truth is an easy, engaging, and steamy read with a great cliffhanger that’ll have you eagerly anticipating book 2.

*I received a copy of Policy of Truth in exchange for an honest review*

Enter for your chance to win the Policy of Truth giveaway:

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Don’t miss any of the stops on the Policy of Truth blog tour:

Coming soon from Scarlett:

The Light At Finnigan’s End Launch Party

Hooray!! I have print books in hand and can finally announce the details of the local launch party for The Light At Finnigan’s End.

My martial arts school has kindly offered to host my launch party (and has offered some giveaway goodies as well!).

Launch Party Details:

December 22, 2018

6-9 pm (MST)

Martial Arts Research Systems of Colorado

2460 Patterson Rd, Grand Junction, CO

Giveaways:

Each week leading up to the launch party I’ll be giving away free bookmarks, key lights, and e-books (US only).

Winners of the Martial Arts Research Systems giveaways and Rum Runners Grand Prize will be announced at the launch party on Dec 22, and MUST be in the Grand Junction area.

How to enter:

To enter (each item = one entry):
1) Visit and “Like” my Facebook author page
2) Sign up for my monthly newsletter
3) Visit and “Like” the Facebook page for MARS Knockout Kickboxing & Martial Arts Grand Junction
4) Let me know in the comments which you did so I can add your entries

 

Book Review: White Stag (Permafrost #1) by Kara Barbieri

White Stag by Kara Barbieri

Jenneke is a human who’s been living amongst the goblins in the Permafrost since they raided her village a hundred years ago. When a fight between two powerful goblins leads to the death of the Erlking, a hunt ensues: the goblin who fells the escaped white stag (the embodiment of the goblin king’s power) will become the next Erlking.

Jenneke accompanies her master Soren on the hunt. Though he is one of the most powerful of goblins, Soren has treated Jenneke as more of a friend than subservient. But Soren’s biggest rival is his uncle Lydian, an appallingly brutal sort who has inflicted tortures on Jenneke that continue to haunt her. Jenneke is torn between her hate for the goblins for the destruction they caused her family and the kindness she feels toward Soren, who has done nothing other than protect her. To make matters worse, Jenneke discovers she may be transitioning into one of the monsters she hates most—a goblin. But can she accept becoming that which she hates most, and must she give up her last shred of humanity to do so?

White Stag (Permafrost #1) is an epic, fantastical journey ensues, ripe with battles and creatures. But the one thing I found was that, while the concept is rich, the world-building was not. I wanted more details, more to anchor me into the world and make me feel as if I was right there alongside the characters. Some of the dialogue also felt a bit stilted and lacked a natural rhythm.

Kara Barbieri has a brilliant concept, but sadly I was hoping to love this book more than I actually did.

 

*I received an ARC (Advanced Reader’s Copy) courtesy of Wednesday Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*