New Release: As Told by Isolde, A Mythic Maidens Novella (Mythic Maidens #5)

My new novella is now available!

Cover art by Dragonpen Press Designs

“‘Tristan and Isolde’? More like stuff and nonsense…”

At age eighteen, Isolde of Ayrland is expected to master the healing arts and uphold her mother’s legacy as a healer, but she’s nowhere near ready for the undertaking. Though her mother’s always urging her to “trust herself,” Isolde doesn’t know the first thing about herself worth trusting.

When Isolde heals the wounds of a gallant stranger, little does she know he’s actually Trustan, nephew of the King of Lyonesse. Trustan’s uncle, King Marc, has been suffering a mysterious malady no one’s been able to cure. Isolde makes the voyage to the Isle of Lyonesse only to meet a prickly king who doubts her almost as much as she doubts herself. To make matters worse, whatever afflicts him is unlike anything she’s ever encountered—and completely impervious to her powers.

As castle intrigue and rumors abound, Marc and Trustan begin to confide in Isolde. She’s only there to do her job—not to befriend anyone, and certainly not to fall in love. But as danger looms and no one is who he appears to be, Isolde must decide whom to trust. Only, what if her own heart is the most deceptive one of all?

AS TOLD BY ISOLDE is the next YA fantasy romance novella in my award-winning Mythic Maidens series.
Includes a short bonus prequel!

Meet the Hero: Geo

Meet Geo


Full Name:
Georome Straussen

Featured in: The Wrong Prince by C.K. Brooke

From: Tybiria, East Halvea, World of Jordinia.

Status: The younger Prince of Tybiria

Distinguishing characteristics: Raven hair, athletic, courageous. Can be reckless but for noble causes.

Motivations: Loyalty and family. Will do anything for his brother.

Geo’s Story:
Although the two couldn’t be more different, Prince Geo’s best friend is his elder brother, the Crown Prince, Dmitri. While Geo bests all his father’s knights at swordplay and weaponry and Dmitri prefers the books in his study, the brothers share a close bond. But when the girl Geo has secretly been seeing is revealed to be engaged to marry his brother, Geo is beyond shocked—he’s devastated. On the same evening, Dmitri is abducted by an enemy king for a murder Geo is pretty sure the Crown Prince didn’t commit. There’s no question; Geo must go after his brother to rescue him. What he wasn’t expecting was for his ex-lover, his brother’s fiancée, to come along…


Start the Adventure in The Wrong Prince!

Available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Wrong-Prince-World-Jordinia-ebook/dp/B07J23ZG98/

Add to TBR on Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29750349-the-wrong-prince


Editor’s Review: Nocturnal Meetings of the Misplaced by R.J. Garcia

nmotm

*I was the editor of this novel for The Parliament House Press.

Nocturnal Meetings of the Mispalced (The Parliament House Press, 2018) by R.J. Garcia is my favorite book I’ve edited to date – and one of my all-time favorite novels ever. This unputdownable debut blends my favorite elements of YA, horror/mystery, small towns, a group of friends, and a creepy, but at times also humorous and romantic, Stranger Things vibe to create one of the most memorable books I’ve ever read.

The story is told from the POV of Tommy Walker, a fifteen-year-old boy whose mom has a drug problem and can no longer care for him and his little sister. They’re sent to live with a kind, young uncle and aunt they’ve never met before in the small town of Summertime, Indiana. There, Tommy befriends his neighbor, Finn – a lovable, geeky, and incredibly brave Ron Weasley-esque boy, who was easily my favorite character. Finn’s stepdad is a flawed and abusive man…and he’s also the town sheriff.

Tommy begins meeting up with Finn and Finn’s friends, two girls named Silence and Annie, at late-night meetings in the woods. However, these meetings quickly turn from lighthearted to sinister, as the misfit group begins to unravel clues to a cold case local murder and kidnapping that had happened decades ago. No one believes them, but the kids are in danger. And Summertime holds darker and more personal secrets than Tommy ever could’ve imagined.

I honestly can’t praise this book enough. It’s a haunting and phenomenal story, with unforgettable characters – even the side ones – that I still think of from time to time. If you’re looking for a solid read with an empathetic, young male lead, a small-town murder mystery, deadly secrets, complex characters, and a hint of humor and touching YA romance, you need to add Nocturnal Meetings of the Misplaced to your TBR, like, yesterday.

Book Review: Brave New Girl by Rachel Vincent

‘…you’re not a mistake. In fact, you’re kind of a miracle. … The girl who shouldn’t exist.’

Trigger 17, p. 152

Brave New Girl (Delacorte Press, 2017) is a YA dystopian novel by Rachel Vincent. The story is about Dahlia 16, a clone who was engineered to become a hydroponic gardener. Dahlia is one of 5,000 identical girls with the same DNA, all designed for the efficiency and productivity of their city, Lakeview.

‘You are just one pixel out of the thousands required to form a clear image, so you need to focus on that image as a whole.’

Cady 34, p. 14

Among the rules of this stringent society are no ego, no individualization, and no fraternizing with people outside their divisions – especially not people of the opposite sex. But when a freak incident traps Dahlia in a broken elevator with a young Special Forces cadet named Trigger 17, Dahlia finds herself facing forbidden feelings she doesn’t even know how to define: fascination, curiosity, and infatuation.

I can hardly imagine how different his classes must be from mine. I learn how to nurture life, and he learns how to take it.

p. 23

‘He’s…beautiful.’ I can’t figure out how else to explain. ‘And he’s dangerous.’

p.33

There’s something different about Dahlia, because her identical sisters don’t understand her feelings for the cadet. But if she wants to be with Trigger, then she must risk everything – including the lives of those very sisters. For, if Dahlia acts on her feelings, her genome will be recalled, meaning every friend she’s ever had will be euthanized.

“‘Faith in the system is ultimately of far more importance than any individual within it.’
What about five thousand individuals?”

p. 126

“I have to know what’s wrong with me. Why my defects will mean doom for thousands of perfectly perfect girls.”

p. 126

With such a steep price to pay – not just for herself, but for so many others – I would’ve hoped for a stronger romance between Dahlia and Trigger. The weakest point of this otherwise imaginative and gripping little novel was that Dahlia and Trigger’s romance fell flat. I had trouble feeling what they felt for each other or understanding why they’d make such tremendous sacrifices for someone they barely knew. The elevator scene that catalyzed everything wasn’t long or impactful enough; Dahlia hardly speaks to Trigger. Their relationship was insta-love, more of a plot device for a sci-fi thriller than the heart of a romance. So, I would’ve liked them to have shared more air-time and chemistry together before turning their worlds upside down for each other.

With that in mind, what makes this book worth reading is the capable dystopian world-building, the twisted revelation at the end, and the writing itself. Vincent’s style of writing in this book shares the same superb, concise simplicity as other YA dystopias, such as The Selection series, Soundless by Richelle Mead (which I know is more of a folktale, but carried dystopian vibes at times), and Atlantia by Ally Condie. This story held some of the best qualities of those books, but mostly reminded me of Delirium by Lauren Oliver – in how the characters aren’t allowed to fall in love, and what it costs them to do so – and Matched by Ally Condie. There were also some elements of The Giver, in terms of the city in which everyone is assigned their distinct roles, and from which escape is near-impossible.

WARNING: Brave New Girl *does* end on a major cliffhanger, so the story is definitely not over when you reach the last sentence! Much of this book does feel like it’s setting up for, or leading up to, the sequel. The sample I read of the sequel actually seems even more interesting (I love Prince & the Pauper-type stories about a working girl colliding with royalty/socialites). All things considered, I had an overall good time with this book and will be reading the sequel, Strange New World, as soon as it comes out in May 2018.

Memorable Quotes

Soldiers are all different from their identicals. They fit in because they’re different. That’s so absurd it almost makes sense.

p. 27

‘The toy soldier who woke up Sleeping Beauty. Too bad the world will never hear that story.’

Wexler 42, p. 178

None of the others were caught kissing a  boy they had no business speaking to. None of the others are running for their lives. None of the others have condemned thousands of their sisters to a hopefully peaceful but very permanent death.

p. 184

Book Review: Haunting the Deep by Adriana Mather

‘Someone or multiple someones are intentionally rewriting history,’ Alice says. 
‘And keeping the Titanic stuck in time before its sinking,’ Susannah says.” – p. 249

Haunting the Deep (Knopf, 2017) is the sequel to How to Hang a Witch by #1 NYT bestselling YA author, Adriana Mather. In Mather’s second YA paranormal thriller, we pick up six months after the ending of How to Hang a Witch. It’s spring time, and Samantha Mather has been avoiding magic and the Descendants of the Salem witches, ever since they were all almost hanged to death.

…they’re descended from the accused Salem witches and I’m descended from the stodgy Puritan minister, Cotton Mather, who hanged them.” – p. 6

But the Descendants need Sam as part of their circle now, especially since Alice and Susannah have been receiving psychic warnings about something bad about to happen in Salem – again. This time, it accompanies Salem High’s upcoming Spring Fling dance, which is Titanic-themed. At the same time, and perhaps not coincidentally, Sam begins receiving mysterious packages by a long-dead relative who survived the sinking of the Titanic. When she touches the enchanted objects, she is transported to a strange alternate replica of the ship on the days before it sank, where the doomed passengers are all enjoying themselves, and Sam herself begins to forget who she really is.  Only when Alice points out that these enchantments not only endanger Sam but other people does Sam finally agree to join their circle and embrace her magical gifts to help save the day once more.

The best part about this book, in my opinion, is that we got way more of the teen witches: Alice, Mary, and Susannah. I felt they were a bit underutilized in the previous book, so I was delighted this book centered more on them and their coven sisterhood with Sam. We also finally get to meet Sam’s father, and Jaxon’s character takes a backseat to some strange magic while we have the return of the seventeenth-century spirit whom Sam’s in love with, Elijah. But the second-best part about the book are the enchanted objects and the creepy revisits to the Titanic, where Sam plays the role of an Edwardian young lady courting a young man. IMO, Mather should really try her hand at writing full historical fiction (with paranormal elements, of course), as the historical scenes were thoroughly engaging and – dare I say? – even better written than the contemporary ones.

I adore how Mather gave a voice to the immigrants and third-class passengers who didn’t survive the ship’s tragic fate. Also, I love the way she wrote their Irish accents; I could hear them so clearly in my head. The idea of putting on a dress and being transported into another iconic time and place is such a fascinating concept to me; I could read a whole series about that alone. Given everything I loved about it, there were a few things I would’ve wanted a deeper explanation for. Namely, it wasn’t entirely clear why the perpetrator (not spoiling who!) wanted Sam to stay on the Titanic with them. I get why they needed her to summon someone else (again, no spoilers), but why try to keep Sam there, deluded, on the ship forever too? That part didn’t seem to be explained. But maybe it was and I was just reading too fast because I was too excited to see what would happen next.

Above all, the world-building in this series so far has made me a fan. The many ways spells can work in this world, such as through potions, writing, ritual, or enchanted artifacts, keeps the stories creative and fresh. I really hope Adriana Mather is working on a third book in this series, as I can’t wait to see where she’ll transport us next. I’ll be the first in line to go with her!

Watch the awesome book trailer

Memorable Quotes

“‘…stop judging magic and get over yourself.‘” – Alice, p. 43

‘You’re not allowed to try to fix me. I’m not broken.’” – Sam, p. 234

I’m here worrying about having to go to the Titanic as a first-class passenger with tea and parasols; meanwhile, some of those passengers have probably been locked in steerage for the better part of a century.” – p. 242

Book Review: How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather

“I have to convince a group of people who hate me to help solve a curse that could be killing our families.” – p. 125

How to Hang a Witch (Knopf, 2016) is a YA paranormal novel written by Adriana Mather, an actual descendant of the Salem Witch Trials’ Cotton Mather. The protagonist in this story is Samantha Mather – a fictional descendant of Cotton’s – who has just moved from New York City into her late grandmother’s home in Salem, Massachusetts. Sam lives with her stepmother, Vivian, while her father remains in a coma for unknown reasons.

As soon as Sam arrives to Salem, the town wants her out. Especially a group of goth girls at school, known as the Descendants, who are descendants of the persecuted Salem witches. It doesn’t help that strange and awful things keep occurring to everyone who comes into contact with Sam, almost as if she’s cursing them…when, in truth, it’s likely she’s the one who’s cursed.

In quick succession, Sam meets two guys: the outgoing boy next door, Jaxon; and a seventeenth-century ghost who haunts her grandmother’s mansion, Elijah. Sam is the only one who can see Elijah, and while he wants her gone, he also begins to help her piece together Salem’s true history to uncover why she is cursed, and how to end the pattern of killings in town. I liked the love triangle created between Sam, Jaxon, and the spirit, Elijah. Something about Sam and Elijah’s relationship reminded me of Casper and Christina Ricci’s character in Casper (1995).

This fast-paced YA occult suspense was an absolute delight to read. The chapters are short and punchy; Sam’s narration is to-the-point, sympathetic, and often humorous; and Mather’s supernatural vision of Salem, as well as her fascinating and approachable portrayal of its history, jumps off the e-pages. And we can’t forget the witches in the story – Susannah, Alice, Mary, and Lizzie – who are like something straight out of Mean Girls or The Craft. If you’re a fan of fun commercial YA with some solid, spooky witchcraft, a history-seeped mystery, and a good ol’-fashioned ghost story with a positive and powerful message, you need How to Hang a Witch in your life.

Watch the amazing book trailer!

Memorable Quotes

“‘Almost everything worth believing in cannot be seen. Love, for instance.‘” – p. 106

“‘Kindly do not interrupt me,’ he says with anything but kindness. Kindly I will smack you in your perfect face.” – Sam and Elijah, p. 116

The silence between us is thick with secrets.” p. 196

It is the greatest evil of all, to separate people who love each other.” – Abigail, p. 232

“‘I’m truly sorry for all of your pain. But I’m not the cause of it anymore. You are.‘” – Cotton, p. 339

‘Nothing is going to change unless you make different choices…’” – p. 341

DNF: RoseBlood by A.G. Howard

*DNF at 40%

RoseBlood by A.G. Howard (Amulet Books, 2017) is a YA urban fantasy novel inspired by Gaston Lereux’s classic novel and the opera of the same name, The Phantom of the Opera.

I enjoyed the author’s debut, the Alice in Wonderland retelling entitled Splintered, even though at times the second through third acts became overwritten. I was drawn to the cover of this book, the name of a familiar author, and the premise. The opening six or so chapters did not disappoint. Rune is an American gypsy girl possessing both a blessing and a curse – she can sing beautiful operas, even ones she’s never heard before. But it’s only because she is mysteriously compelled to, like a reflex, and if she doesn’t, it’ll virtually explode out of her. Whenever she finally sings, it depletes her of all her energy, to the point of illness.

Rune’s father believed in her supernatural gift, and used to help cultivate it. But since he’s dead now, she’s left with her mother who rejects the supernatural and believes the best way to straighten her daughter out while feeding her need for music is to send her away to a French music school in Paris. But Rune is leery of the old boarding school, believing it to be haunted by the same phantom who inspired Gaston Lereux’s writing of The Phantom of the Opera.

The story started out very strong. The mystery of Rune’s past and her talent kept me turning the pages, and I really enjoyed all the YA-ish parts about the friends and enemies she was making at her new school. But it began to lose focus once chapters were being told from the new phantom’s POV. Because we learn early on who the phantom is and what his motives are, there is no longer any sense of suspense or fear on Rune’s behalf when she encounters him. The storytelling would’ve been improved if we were learning about him at the same time as Rune, through her eyes, and not given such an omniscient perspective to know the answers to the mystery while our heroine does not.

While the author’s writing skill is beautifully displayed throughout most of these pages, as the plot thickens, the narration becomes convoluted, the sentences themselves purple, overlong, tedious. The characters became too lost in their own inner-monologue and backstory that, by midway through, it was no longer clear what was going on. If I were the editor of this book, I’d have suggested using short action sentences and focusing only on what was happening at present. I kept pushing because I really wanted to believe in this story, but by 40%, I knew it was time to move on to the next titles on my reading list.

That said, this book will still appeal to a wide audience. YA urban fantasy readers who don’t mind a denser and more detailed read, and anyone particularly interested in all things Phantom of the Opera, may find it suited to them.

DNF: Looking For Me by Beth Hoffman

Looking-for-meDNF at 50%

Because I so loved the author’s debut novel, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, I picked up Looking For Me (Penguin, 2013) by Beth Hoffman on my Kindle.

Looking For Me was a different story and writing style than CeeCee. The narrator, Teddie Overman, is an adult woman (as opposed to the adolescent CeeCee), and the first half of the story fluctuates between her current life as a single antique furniture refurbisher in Charleston and her childhood memories of growing up on a farm in Kentucky. In particular, Teddie is trying to piece together what happened to her brother, Josh, who mysteriously disappeared many years ago.

While the writing is cozy, safe and sweet, the stories – both past and present – meander along for hundreds of pages without any sense of urgency, direction, or plot. At about halfway in, when nothing more seemed to be happening outside Teddie’s furniture business, I skipped ahead to see if she’d make any progress, solve the mystery of her missing brother, or experience any interesting revelations otherwise. Nothing more unfolds or is determined, other than an eventual love interest, who is fairly unrelated to the rest of the story and isn’t prevalent enough to deem the novel a romance.

Because the story in general lacked plot and direction, and a resolution was missing from the ending, I was not invested enough to go back and read the remaining 50%. The writing, however, is good. This title may appeal to readers of southern lit and fans of Fannie Flagg, or anyone seeking a story featuring a mature narrator with slow, easy pacing and real-life settings.

Book Review: Uncommon Criminals (Heist Society #2) by Ally Carter

Kat and the team are back in Uncommon Criminals (Disney-Hyperion 2011), the second installment of Ally Carter’s Heist Society series. Now that Kat has established her line of thievery as a noble “Robin Hood” sort, she can’t resist when a kind, elderly lady approaches her, begging Kat to right a decades-old wrong.

Constance Miller beseeches Kat to find and steal back an ancient gem, called the Cleopatra emerald, which Constance claims her parents rightfully discovered as archaeologists, but was stolen by their conniving young assistant. Kat rounds up the team – the handsome, wealthy outsider, W. W. Hale the fifth; her gorgeous and talented cousin, Gabrielle; computer genius Simon, and the notorious Bagshaw brothers, with all their British bulk and banter, to successfully steal the Cleopatra emerald and replace it with their uncle’s forgery. However, this is only where the story begins.

Legend has it, the ancient stone is cursed. And Kat’s willing to believe it when she realizes she’s been conned. The old woman wasn’t the real Constance Miller, but a thief named Margaret, who once knew – and conned – her uncles. Margaret intends to pass off the Cleopatra emerald as its long-lost twin gem, the Antony emerald, and sell it to the highest bidder…but not if Kat has anything to say about it. Despite her wounded ego and the deep-seated fear that she is destined to become like Margaret someday, Kat rounds up her teen team once more to fix her egregious mistake.

This book was even better than the first! The plot was more complex, the new characters more ambiguous and interesting, and I loved the angle of ancient Egyptian artifacts. I am also now beginning to  see why Carter wrote this series in third person instead of first, since certain scenes are told by Interpol or the bad guys’ POV, like a Dan Brown novel, which works for this genre. I was also happy with the return of Nick and his mother who works for Interpol; I find them fascinating characters and I like the tension they add to the story.

The only thing I wished – which I learned after finishing Book 1 – was that the paintings and artifacts named in these books were real. I would’ve loved to learn some art history, or if the author could’ve used a real stone, like the Hope Diamond. However, the artists (such as Monet) and historical figures (Antony & Cleopatra) are of course real, and I do love the lore Carter created about the twin emeralds. I was fascinated to begin to see Kat’s seams and weaknesses in this installment. I seriously cannot wait to see what Book 3 holds in store!