“Whisper” Has Received Honorable Mention in the Readers’ Favorite Awards!

I’m so proud to announce that my YA fantasy novel, WHISPER, received Honorable Mention in the 2021 Readers’ Favorite Book Awards Contest in the Holiday Fiction category!

Thank you to everyone at Readers’ Favorite for their support. 🤩

View all 2021 Winners: https://readersfavorite.com/2021-award-contest-winners.htm

Get the book: 👉https://bit.ly/whisperckbrooke

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!

DNF: Pure by Catherine Mesick

Pure by Catherine Mesick is a 2014 indie-published YA urban fantasy novel. It is Book 1 of the Pure Series by Catherine Mesick. I think I found it on BookBub and was drawn by the absolutely gorgeous cover art. Also, it was free, so that didn’t hurt! I found the opening chapters intriguing with the unique YA UF twist on Russian mythology, and I liked Katie in general as a character.

I want to start out by saying that I have tremendous respect for Mesick. Not just for finishing a series of this genre, but executing it all correctly as an indie author (no easy feat) and deciding to make the first book in her series free to initiate readers at no risk. I think that’s a brilliant strategy and I commend her for it. I also think we share the same hometown (or at least, home state) but that’s beside the point. I would love to meet her at a book conference someday and shake her hand. (Post-covid era, of course.)

I read 50% of Pure. It was an overall positive experience. I am setting it aside for the time being at the 50% mark. The writing is good and the story holds a lot of promise. My issue is mostly just pacing. This is something I struggle with personally when I get to the ‘muddy middle’ of lots of books, so it’s not necessarily a criticism of the author. That said, the author chose to answer some pressing questions prematurely (what is William, where his & Katie’s relationship is going, what is the monster, what/who is killing people in town and why) that I feel would’ve been better saved for much later in the book. I was reading to unravel these mysteries. Once all my questions were answered around midway through, I no longer felt incentivized to keep reading.

Lastly, I’m not sure if it’s a literary style or just an editing oversight, but the text contains an exorbitant amount of em-dashes that were distracting and should typically be used very sparingly.

All that aside, I certainly wouldn’t discourage anyone from downloading a free book, especially if they’re fans of this genre. I may decide someday to finish the book (or even the series) and go back and update this review. For now, however, I have other books on my TBR to move onto, including some library books I don’t want falling overdue. Thank you to the author for allowing us to sample her work!

Book Review: All-American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney

All-American Muslim Girl is a 2019 YA novel by Nadine Jolie Courtney. This book was one of my random Barnes & Noble finds while perusing the shelves in the store the other day. (Don’t worry; I didn’t stay long and I had my Scholastic “I ❤ Reading!” mask on.) One fleeting glance at the blurb and a sweep through the opening page, and I knew I’d found “the one” going home with me. This book was exactly the YA #OwnVoices pre-Covid contemporary escape I needed going into the holiday season and day 14 billion of the pandemic.

Allie (short for Alia) is our 16 YO protag. She’s Circassian on her dad’s side and American on her mom’s, so she doesn’t “look” Muslim and can often “pass” as white. That, combined with the fact her dad has pretty much renounced his Muslim heritage in favor of secularism, leaves Allie feeling not quite like the basic white girl she pretends to be at school, yet also hardly fitting in with her own Muslim relatives, either. Just when Allie’s crush, Wells, starts to turn into more than just a friend, Allie feels called to start learning about her family’s faith. It doesn’t help that dating is mostly prohibited (haram) in Islam, AND that Wells’s dad is basically the Sean Hannity/Tucker Carlson/Rush Limbaugh of a conservative, Muslim-hating news outlet. Double whammy.

While the blurb and the beginning of the story might lead one to believe it will center on Wells and Allie’s forbidden Romeo-and-Juliet romance, it was a refreshing surprise to discover this book is, at heart, about faith and family. My favorite element was the friendships between the girls in Allie’s Qur’an study group and their painfully honest discussions about the complexities of Islam, patriarchy, and feminism. The reader learns alongside Allie as myths about Islam are dispelled and beautiful, uplifting aspects of the religion are showcased. Wells’s character definitely takes a backseat as more of a background supporting role while Allie tries to navigate issues of personal identity and what it means to be both a Muslim and an American at the same time. But perhaps the biggest part of the story is Allie’s parents. They’re a superclose family unit at home, constantly supporting her in the best way they know how. While Allie’s dad is miffed that she’s choosing to openly embrace the stigmatized religion he’d always tried to shield her from, we can see where he’s coming from and it makes his relationship with Allie all the more endearing.

If I have one criticism, I feel like the backstory of Wells’s parent’s could’ve stood to be more fleshed out. I would’ve liked to have seen Wells’s dad be someone other than a villain. We all know white men of a certain age who spew out racist talking points in one breath then would give you the shirt off their backs in the next. People are complicated. As much as we might disagree with someone’s politics, the real world is more nuanced than Jack Henderson’s character. I thought that maybe this would be a story about both sides coming around and seeing eye to eye, but I’m naive. America’s too polarized for that story right now. Instead, this is a story of Allie learning how to stand up for herself, speak up for her faith, and accept that not everyone is going to be accepting.

In many ways, All-American Muslim Girl is the American version of one of my favorite Aussie books, Does My Head Look Big in This? Above all, it’s a heartwarming, honest, educational, well-written and timely tale about identity, imperfection, faith, and family. And people of all faiths can, hopefully, relate to that.

Book Review: Obsidian (Lux: Book #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Title: Obsidian
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Series: Lux (Book 1)
Genre: Teen Paranormal Romance/Sci-Fi
Page Count: 400 pages
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: May 8, 2012

Publisher’s Summary: Starting over sucks. When we moved to West Virginia right before my senior year, I’d pretty much resigned myself to thick accents, dodgy internet access, and a whole lot of boring…until I spotted my hot neighbor, with his looming height and eerie green eyes. Things were looking up. And then he opened his mouth. Daemon is infuriating. Arrogant. Stab-worthy. We do not get along. At all. But when a stranger attacks me and Daemon literally freezes time with a wave of his hand, well, something…unexpected happens.

The hot alien living next door marks me. You heard me. Alien. Turns out Daemon and his sister have a galaxy of enemies wanting to steal their abilities, and Daemon’s touch has me lit up like the Vegas Strip. The only way I’m getting out of this alive is by sticking close to Daemon until my alien mojo fades. If I don’t kill him first, that is.

My Thoughts: I first heard about this book from a BookTuber (sorry, I forget which, I think her name was Emma?) who called it one of her “favorite trashy YA romance series.” I’d never seen or heard of it before, and alien romance was never necessarily my deal, but the BookTuber seemed to share my taste in other YA romances, so I ordered it in paperback along with the Syrena Legacy books. I instantly liked the narrator, Katy, who was a book blogger (yay!) and also, for some reason, a gardener? (Not sure if that has any purpose for the plot later in the series?) In very Twilight-y fashion, Katy is a high schooler who has just moved into a new town–this one’s in West Virginia–from sunny Florida. She makes fast friends with the girl next door, but the girl’s jerkwad twin brother hates Katy from the start for some inexplicable reason, and he never passes up the chance to let Katy know it.

Strange things start happening all around Katy. Next thing she knows, she’s embroiled in an all-out local alien war. Now, I was intrigued by the aliens’ powers and the worldbuilding in this one, but I don’t personally understand the whole ‘bully romance’ phenomenon. Enemies-to-lovers, on the other hand, I LOVE, so long as the character motivations are clear and the relationship eventually transforms into two people treating each other with loving kindness. But Daemon never stopped bullying Katy, and the only thing apparent between them was lust. It took until 3/4 of the book for me to finally warm up to him a little, once he helped rescue her from a potential date-rape situation. But I would’ve appreciated more opportunities to root with our hero.

The book is written in a super clever, snarky YA contemporary voice that is easy and enjoyable to read. It has just the right dose of sci-fi to be a genre PNR but doesn’t overwhelm you with science lingo or the physics (or astrophysics) of it all. As always with this genre, I tend to enjoy the side characters and their backstories, along with the world-building and scenery, more than the main couple. I recommend this book to fans of The Syrena Legacy, The Twilight Saga, and Guardian.

Book Review: Killing November (Book #1) by Adriana Mather

Title: Killing November
Author: Adriana Mather
Series: Killing November, Book 1
Page Count: 411 pages
Genre: YA, Academy Thriller
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 26, 2019

Publisher’s Summary: November is as good as dead. She just doesn’t know it yet.

At the international Academy Absconditi, there’s no electricity, no internet, and an archaic eye-for-an-eye punishment system. Classes range from knife throwing and poisons to the art of deception. And the students? All silver-spoon descendants of the world’s most elite strategists–training to become assassins, spies, and master impersonators.

One is a virtuoso of accents–and never to be trusted. Another is a vicious fighter determined to exploit November’s weaknesses. And then there’s the boy with the mesmerizing eyes and a secret agenda.

November doesn’t know how an ordinary girl like her fits into the school’s complicated legacy. But when a student is murdered, she’ll need to separate her enemies from her allies before the crime gets pinned on her . . . or she becomes the killer’s next victim.

My Thoughts: Killing November is a fast-paced, high-stakes YA academy-style thriller featuring secret societies, a deadly boarding school, and a diverse cast of characters with assassin-like skills. I love Adriana Mather’s previous two titles, How to Hang a Witch and Haunting the Deep. While I was entertained by November, I didn’t connect with her as closely as I did with Sam in Mather’s other series. It might’ve been because of the setting; a neighborhood and high school in Salem, Massachusetts is a little more relatable than an academy in an unknown location that teaches teenagers how to be assassins. One memorable character was an antagonist named Arya who could speak in any accent so perfectly, November has no way of knowing where she’s really from. I did try to read the sequel (Hunting November) when it was released a year later, but had forgotten so much from Book 1, I fell off the wagon after a few chapters. I’m eagerly looking forward though to Mather’s next release, and hope she puts out a new How to Hang a Witch series book soon!

Fiction I Read in 2019

Twenty-nineteen was a busy year for me! Between releasing several publications, freelancing for a publisher, a major website overhaul and relocation, and life in general with my family, I took a break from writing book reviews for the year. But that doesn’t mean I took a break from reading!

While I mostly read nonfiction last year, here are the fiction titles I did read:

Suspenseful, addicting, and edgy! Can’t wait for the sequel.
A love letter to New Orleans. Couldn’t connect as much to the characters, but voice and setting were well-executed.
Exceptional, fantastic YA dystopia! And I was the editor of this awesome book. 🙂
Twilight with Mermaids!
Twilight with Mermaids: Part II!
The best middle-grade novel I’ve read in possibly ever. I bought copies for everyone. Touching, beautiful story.
A classic I can’t believe I ever overlooked! Adored this story – will go down as a favorite.
A Riordan-esque romp with the Aztec gods. I love that the MC’s disability turned out to be his superpower. Couldn’t stand Brooks, though.
Super cute MG! A girl and her horse, a mythical kingdom.
Much-anticipated sequel to one of my all-time favorite YA romances. Felt a bit rushed, but was an engaging read.
Very cool academy-style dystopia about clones. Ended with a BANG. Am currently reading the sequel!

Meet the Heroine: Shell

Meet Shell

Photo by Emily Goodhart. Courtesy of Unsplash.

Full Name: Roshelle

Featured in: Shell: A YA Mermaid Short Story by C.K. Brooke

From: Eastern shore, Maryland

Status: Middle school student

Distinguishing characteristics: Beachy blonde hair, an alleged “skin condition,” according to her mom, that prevents her from submerging in water.

Motivations: The sea…it beckons her.

Shell’s Story
Weird things happen whenever Shell is near water. That’s all she really knows. Even though she lives by the ocean, her mother won’t allow her to swim, due to a supposed “skin condition” Shell has. But her best friend’s party is coming up, and they’re all going to the beach. This time, will she be bold enough to answer the ocean’s call?

Read my free short story, Shell:

Wattpad: https://www.wattpad.com/888436054-shell-part-1
Add to TBR on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40009480

Book Review: Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl #1) by Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl (Viking Press, 2001) by Eoin Colfer is the first in an eight-book children’s science fiction series. Born in Ireland, Artemis Fowl is a twelve-year-old boy genius. With the muscle of his manservant, a trained killer called Butler, young Artemis is the criminal mastermind behind innumerable schemes to regain the Fowl family fortune.

When Artemis embarks upon an elaborate scheme to take an elf captain hostage in exchange for a ransom of fairy gold, Fowl Manor is soon under siege by LEPrecon, the reconnaissance division of the “Lower Elements Police.” While the smugly brilliant Artemis is by far the most interesting and entertaining person in the book, the titular character definitely seems to take a backseat in the story and – in my opinion, unfortunately – the book focuses far more on Captain Holly Short, Commander Root, and the colorful, mythical cast of the LEPrecon unit than I would’ve preferred.

All the same, this was a fairly entertaining YA fantasy heist. There were some rather low-brow plot mechanisms that I didn’t think were altogether necessary; then again, I’m a 30-year-old woman, not the book’s intended audience of a 12-year-old boy. From a writing perspective, I was confused that the author wrote in omniscient voice; generally speaking, this practice is avoided. The narrative frequently head-hops between characters, often from sentence to sentence.

The bulk of my enjoyment of this novel stemmed mostly from the lively delivery and delightful array of accents performed by the audio book’s narrator, Nathaniel Parker. I’m looking forward to continuing listening to Mr. Parker’s performance of the series on audio.