Book Review: War of Wizards (Secrets of Shadow Hill) by S. P. Cervantes

I’m going to make a confession.  I have never read the Harry Potter series.  Yes, yes, I know.  I’m deprived.  But it is on my list.  As I continue in this genre of paranormal romance, it is clearer to me that I need to read some of the big books in the genre.  I broke down and read the “Twilight” series for example.  And now I can see all the references my vampire books make to it.  So now I have to read Harry Potter.

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I read the first two books in this series and loved them.  My review for “Always and Forever” is here and my review for “The Prophecy” is here.  It is strictly YA, no graphic sex, but in this one, Ava and Dalton are finally married and finally consummate their relationship.  The descriptions aren’t detailed and it is very tender and sweet.  Definitely YA appropriate.

Here is the synopsis for this final book:

Ava and Dalton want nothing more than to forget about the danger their love puts them in, and live peaceful lives in Shadow Hill; but that is not their destiny. Evil continues to haunt them, threatening to destroy everything. Volikai’s determination to summon the dark powers that the Originals have kept hidden for centuries before the Prophecy can be fulfilled.

When Patrick finds a new love, and learns of the reason for his powerful connection with Ava, he will stop at nothing to protect those he loves and destroy the evil that has plagued the world since the beginning of time.

Together, they will be faced with unimaginable choices to save the one’s they love as the final secrets of Shadow Hill are revealed.

As with the other books, this one is written from varying points of view.  I usually don’t have a problem with that, it is really creative and different.  But in this book it was a bit confusing when chapters went from Patrick to Dalton because it wasn’t exactly clear who the speaker was at times.

I do like the maturity shown throughout all of the books.  Especially with Dalton and Patrick.  It is a number of years after they first met, and with all they have been through with Ava, they now have a mature, adult, working relationship.  They both want to keep everyone safe, especially Ava.  They aren’t at odds anymore.  I truly liked seeing that particular relationship evolve.

Ava and Hannah have evolved as well.  They take their situation very seriously.  They go from knowing nothing about magic and wizards to leading their coven in the space of a few years.  Their strength is remarkable.

I hate to say this, and many YA fans will vehemently disagree, but it was kind of refreshing that some characters didn’t make it.  I’m not going to do a spoiler alert and name names.  But in most of these types of books, everyone lives happily ever after.  In this one, its a different kind of happily ever after.  And I really liked it.  It is more realistic, as much as realism can be found in a book about wizards.

A great follow-up to the first two books.  A great ending to the trilogy.  I truly love this series for its romance, its relationships between characters, its drama and aspect of a thriller.  And the magic is cool.  Definitely a must read for fans of paranormal YA.

Book Review: Revelations (Thera’s Eyes Series) by Leia Kiuski

Yes, I am on a paranormal romance, YA kick.  Again.  But I am so glad to be getting such different takes on the genre.  This one is no exception:

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Here is the synopsis:

Elizabeth Monterey is a 17-year-old girl, who always had everything: lots of money, friends, the perfect boyfriend, and a promising future in the archery world. But an inexplicable accident changed her life forever, and now she needs to face the harsh reality of the death of her parents, a brother in a coma and the loss of her fortune. 

As if she hadn’t problems enough, demonic-looking creatures want the freedom to come and go to the human world as they please, and Elizabeth is the one chosen to prevent that from happening. But, she can’t do it alone. It will be necessary to find out who her allies are… and her enemies. 

So, the hunt begins. 

‘Revelations’, the first book in the ‘Thera’s Eyes series’, is an incredible adventure story, filled with magic and romance. A novel that follows the current trends and still manages to be different from anything you have ever read.

This is really different than the typical YA fare with wizards, zombies and vampires.  I truly admire authors that can create these worlds seemingly out of thin air.  I love learning about their creation, the laws of their world, the lore and history.  This story was no different.

I love that the main character, Beth, is flawed.  She’s shaken.  Her life has taken a turn for the worst and she is still standing.  But she is strong.  She overcomes her situations and makes the best of it, becoming a leader in a new world that she had no clue even existed.

I also like that despite the fact that she is now a warrior, she still has the same issues that most teenage girls do.  Especially with boys.  And one particular boy, Leon.  Some miscues and an overheard conversation leads her to think that he isn’t interested despite her overwhelming feeling for him.  This is pretty descriptive of her imagined situation:

If she could not have his love, at least she would have his friendship and she could still be a part of his life, even after he left, and it sure was better than having nothing at all.

I truly appreciate this aspect of the story.  It lends some realism…even though they are fighting “demons” she still is struggling with her feelings for a member of the opposite sex.

I absolutely love the friendship between the warriors.  Their loyalty to each other.  Their willingness to do what is needed to “save the world”.  Definitely a bonus in this story.

And it is very well written. The characters are well developed, the plot is well thought out, the writing is fantastic.

Overall a great read, very different than others of this genre, highly recommended for those who love YA paranormal romance.

 

Book Review: The Prophecy of Arcadia by M. H. Soars

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A different spin on YA paranormal romance and I loved it.  Here is the synopsis:

Being a teenager is tough, especially when you have to pretend to be something you’re not, and you’re in love with someone you shouldn’t. 115 years ago, a small planet called Arcadia was invaded by a vicious alien race and nearly destroyed. Cut off from their resources, the Arcadians turned to Earth for help. A group of Arcadian explorers discovered a Prophecy that claimed their salvation lay in the hands of two children from Earth. To ensure their safety, the Arcadian Council sent their most gifted youngsters to Earth to act as protectors. Samantha is one of them.

To succeed in her mission she must learn to control her Arcadian powers and keep her true identity from her best friend, and the girl she swore to protect, Alexia. But Samantha will soon realize that nothing is as it seems. Someone is trying to prevent the Prophecy from taking place and the prophecy boy hasn’t been found yet. There is also a new drug circulating at school that is turning students into freakishly strong menaces.

To make matters worse, distractions keep getting in her way. Such as her love/hate relationship with her “cousin” Matthew. Or her confused feelings toward popular and mysterious Julian. She wants nothing more than to be free to live her life. But the survival of Arcadia depends on her and her friends. Free will is not an option.

I liked that this book wasn’t typical YA.  It involved aliens.  The first chapter kind of made my eyes cross with all the alien names, but the story was amazing after I got past that.

This is YA, but I would classify it as older YA, just because there is sex involved as well as drugs and alcohol.  I would say 16 and up.

Sam is the main character, but the points of view swivel from character to character.  The author does an amazing job of this, as it is very clear which character is the speaker.  This can be very difficult, and the author pulls it off nicely.

Sam and her “cousins” are sworn to protect Alexia.  They have super powers that help them do this and they are trained to be bodyguards.  But their powers don’t really manifest until they are teenagers, and this creates some problems, especially for Sam.

Add in the fact that they are several teenagers around the same age living in the same house who aren’t related and you have some romantic issues.  Considering that they are pretending to be “cousins”, this presents some problems.

What I do like about this book is how it clearly conveys the angst of this time in life.  Despite who is the character speaking, the author makes this time in life abundantly clear:

Betrayal was one of the worst feelings a human being could possibly experience.  It gnawed at your insides, it twisted your heart until you thought it would be better if someone just ripped it out — then you wouldn’t feel the pain of it bleeding inside of you.

This passage could have been written by me at age 17, but maybe not so eloquently.

I do like the aspect that the guardians aren’t 100% automatons.  They know what the prophecy says, but they use their own brains to figure out that something isn’t right.

I was completely sucked into the world of Arcadia.  It is completely different in that most of these books feature vampires, wizards, etc.  So this was completely new to me.  And it is very well written, very concise, and the prophecy, sci-fi rules, powers, etc are clearly spelled out.  You don’t find characters suddenly doing something that they couldn’t before, or the prophecy doesn’t meld to fit the situation of the characters.  That is really important to me with reading these types of books.

Highly recommended for fans of paranormal romance and YA.  I love the sci-fi angle to it.  I am eagerly awaiting the next book.

 

Interview with Indra Sena author of Closet Full of Coke

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I’m not sure if I have ever written a formal review of Closet Full of Coke for this site.  I have mentioned it here and here.  And here is my full Amazon review:

I read this book in one night. I was captivated by the story and strength and resilience of this young woman who, in middle school, began selling drugs to better her life. As I was a toddler when the narrative began, I personally cannot remember this time in American history. This book shed light on the Reagan years, and the advent of cocaine in America.

Portions of the book made me cry. The narrative is so heart-wrenching, you want to reach through the pages and hold this young girl, you want to step in for her absent parents. You keep turning the pages because you want to see how it all turns out.

What I really found lacking was more information on how the author is doing today. There was brief information at the end, but I would have found more information about her life in the intervening 25 years from her teenage years to publication equally as fascinating.

Another book perhaps?

After that review, the author tracked me down to thank me.  And we’ve  been exchanging email on occasion ever since.

I’ve been fascinated with her writing process.  What it takes to write about something so personal, so deep and emotional.  And to put it all out there.  You can tell by some of the idiotic reviews on Amazon (and especially Goodreads) that some of the people reviewing did not read the same book that I did.  Yes, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but instead of critiquing the book for its literary merit, they ended up critiquing the author for her personal choices she made as a teenager 30 years ago.  I recently asked Ms. Sena if she would do an interview about this subject, and she graciously acquiesced.

1)  Where did you get the idea for your memoir?  Was it something you always wanted to do after the events took place?  Or did you have a dream or a stroke of divine inspiration?
I planned to write my memoir for nearly twenty years. I was twenty years old and reflecting back on all the events of my teen years and I realized that the story had all the components of fiction. It was kind of startling to see life so perfectly imitating art. I started telling people then that one day I would write this book. 
When I finally sat down to write it twenty years later it became clear that I needed the perspective of lots of time and distance from the events to write something like this.
2) How did you decide which years to focus on?
I knew exactly where the book would end but I wasn’t quite sure how early I should start it. My first draft had an additional five chapters in the beginning that described my life when I was 13 and 14 years old. But my editor and I ended up agreeing that the clearest beginning was the day I met Armando. So my original chapter 6 became chapter 1.
 3)  How did you remember events and timelines?  Did you have journals from those time periods of your life? Court records?  Did you interview family members?
I have an overactive memory. It can be frustrating sometimes but in general it’s very helpful. I memorize everything in chronological order in my life. I can tell you what house I lived in by what age I was. I also memorize conversations, especially significant ones. Sometimes I watch a movie I haven’t seen in many years and I find I have memorized the majority of the dialogue. I memorize things that are significant to me, and I can often remember where I was, how old I was, and what I was wearing.
I do have court records. I never looked at them but I gave them to the lawyers who vetted my book and they were able to view the actual charges from the court. There really are no family members to interview except for Joan who doesn’t really remember anything.
Although I don’t keep journals I am an avid poetry writer. I’ve written thousands of poems and I did take the notebooks from those years and reread all the poems I had written. They are confessional but they didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already remember but they helped with my voice since I don’t always memorize my side of the conversation precisely.
4) Did you write chronologically, or as memories came to you?  Did you have a timeline?  Lists of events you wanted to cover?  Is there some fantastic, unabridged version of “Closet” out there? If so, can I get a copy?
I’m sorry there is no real unabridged version. I started by creating an outline and a timeline and a character sheet. Then I went through in the outline and I made a list of scenes that would take place in each chapter. I wrote chronologically but sometimes I would remember something that was going to happen a few chapters ahead and I would jump forward and place that writing into the appropriate spot.
 5) Have any of the people featured in the book read it?  If so, what were their reaction to their portrayal?
None of the surviving members of my family have read it to my knowledge. 
** I do want to note that Ms. Sena did add an “aftermath” portion to her website adding what she knew about the characters featured in her book as of today.  If you have read it and are curious, you can find it here.**
 6) Have your current friends read it who didn’t know about your past?  Was it difficult for them?  
Many of my friends had a hard time with the book. Many people were surprised that they’ve known me decades and they didn’t know the contents of the book although they knew the generalities. There were few people who felt like they couldn’t finish it because it was too disturbing. But part of that is the fact that my current friends are not the type of people that enjoy horror or scary stories like mine.
7) Was it difficult for you writing certain scenes?
I knew every scene I was going to write in advance and I really had no problem with any except the entire chapter about my sister. I saved that until last. I dreaded writing it because I really didn’t want to remember the details.
 8)  Your memoir is excellent at inserting the reader directly into a scene.  I was born in 1982, but I swear I could hear the music, feel the lace gloves.  Personally, I can barely remember what song was popular, what I wore, the atmosphere of a given day in 1998 (when I was 16), did you have to do research, or did it come from your memory?
 All the music and the outfits came from memory. I was able to grab a small photo album I have with a couple dozen pictures that reminded me of some of my more favorite outfits and I was able to write them into the book. I do seem to be wearing lace gloves in practically every photo! The music I remembered perfectly but I also have memorized thousands of songs. I could hear the music playing in my head. Still, I went to YouTube and watched the videos I spoke about from MTV, I reread the lyrics and listened to all the songs that I mentioned mostly just to bring back memories. 
9) This is a very emotional, personal, heart-wrenching story.  How difficult was it for you to put that much of your soul out there for the perusal of humanity?
 I followed the advice of my idol Erica Jong. She says she writes every book telling herself she will not publish it. I did a similar thing where I told myself I would cut out anything I couldn’t handle, or that made me uncomfortable.  She also said that whatever you don’t want anyone to know, that’s what you write about, so I did.
I cannot explain what gave me the courage to then publish it.  I have read the book myself hundreds of times since then and I cringe during some of the passages not believing I had the nerve to leave it in. But eventually I just accepted that what makes the book good is revealing all those secrets.
10) In some of the more traumatic passages, especially with the issue of sexual assault, your voice becomes more distant, more matter of fact.  That is very in line with how trauma survivors view the events they endured, as if it weren’t happening to them, but to someone else.  This lends incredible authenticity to your memoir.  Was this on purpose or was this how it just came out?
That was not on purpose and I am not aware of  as being different from the rest of the book. The book lacks exposition leaves a lot of room for readers to think and feel on their own. It gives the intimate details of the events but it doesn’t go much beyond that.
11)  Now that it has been out there for awhile, are you glad that you published?  Would you change anything about the process?
 Yes I’m very glad I published it and I don’t think I would change anything that I’ve done so far. I’m very happy I self-published and retained editorial control over my work.
One day I would like to publish a memoir of my experiences.  If you are interested in reading about some of that drama, email me and I may provide you with a link to my page that has content pertaining to my book idea.
Memoir fascinates me.  It takes a tremendous amount of courage to put your soul on paper for the world to see.  Closet Full of Coke is a tremendous study is strength, in resiliency.  An excellent read and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good read.

A Shade of Vampire Series

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Good Lord, I am addicted to another one of these “vampire romance” series.  I stumbled on this series as part of my Kindle Lending Library benefits, and probably as intended, I was sucked in and bought the rest of the series.  And I am now eagerly awaiting the sixth book.

Here is the synopsis for the first book:

On the evening of Sofia Claremont’s 17th birthday, she is sucked into a nightmare from which she cannot wake. 
A quiet evening walk along a beach brings her face to face with a dangerous pale creature that craves much more than her blood. 

She is kidnapped to an island where the sun is eternally forbidden to shine. 
An island uncharted by any map and ruled by the most powerful vampire coven on the planet. She wakes here as a slave, a captive in chains. 

Sofia’s life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn when she is the one selected out of hundreds of girls to join the harem of Derek Novak, the dark royal Prince. 

Despite his addiction to power and obsessive thirst for her blood, Sofia soon realizes that the safest place on the island is within his quarters, and she must do all within her power to win him over if she is to survive even one more night.

Will she succeed? …or is she destined to the same fate that all other girls have met at the hands of the Novaks?

What I like about this series is that is is more….realistic? than the other vampire series.  The other “we are vegetarian vampire” series.  Vampires are historically monsters.  They feed off of humans.  And this series is no different.  Derek Novak fully intends to murder Sofia at first sight.  But there is something special about her, something different.  And that is why this series, and those like it, appeal to teenage girls.  They want to feel special.

This series is darker.  It is more violent.  I would put it at 17+.  And there is also sex.  The heroine does not remain a virgin until her wedding night.  But it is not particularly graphic.  It is not Fifty Shades of Vampire.  Although an adult version wouldn’t be a bad idea.

I do like the magic interspersed throughout the story.  The magic of the island, the travel.  The prophecy.  The intriguing love triangle.  I love how the island has been cut off from the rest of the world for centuries.  That creates a completely unique element.

As the stories progress, I love the twists and turns it takes involving vampire hunters, Sofia’s family ties, Derek’s past.  I am looking forward to see how it ends.

My only complaints?  The books are too short, probably as intended, and Sofia is way too good.  Too perfect.

Here is the list of the books in the series.  I seriously devoured them in a few days:

  1. Book 1: A Shade of Vampire
  2. Book 2: A Shade Of Blood
  3. Book 3: A Shade Of Vampire 3: A Castle Of Sand
  4. Book 4: A Shadow of Light
  5. Book 5: A Blaze of Sun

I also read Bella Forrest’s Beautiful Monster.  That two book series was absolutely phenomenal.  Her writing is excellent, her ability to change the rules of her universes are extremely unique.  I also recommend those books as well.

If you are looking for an escape into an interesting teenage vampire world that is a bit different, give this a try.  But make sure you have some time because you WILL get sucked in and you won’t be able to put them down.

The Divergent Series

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Yes, I had to hop on this bandwagon too.

I love dystopian YA literature.  And I love books that turn into movies.  So its no wonder that I found this one.  And I did try to avoid it.  But one of my friends recommended it, and I was sucked in.  So here goes:

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.

I do not like the ending.  Period.  That is all I will say.

I do like the first book, and even the second, and most of the third.

The first fascinated me with the explanation of the factions, Choosing Day, the entire concept that you have to pick the entire rest of your life on one day.  I was fascinated with the idea that these people had no clue of their past, no clue of where they came from.  That question was answered later, but the logical, adult part of me was analyzing every aspect of it.  I had the same problem with The Hunger Games.  I guess if enough time goes by, and kids are indoctrinated into a certain way of thinking in schools, certain knowledge just goes away.  It makes me shudder to think that my child is educated in Texas public schools.

Outside of the dystopian aspect, it really is a true coming of age story.  Tris is figuring out who she is.  What she likes about herself, what she doesn’t like about herself.  What she chooses to accept from her upbringing, what she chooses to reject.  She is constantly challenging herself to do things she never thought possible.  And at such a young age!  At 16 I don’t think I could make the choices she continually makes.  I’m not sure if I know who I am at (nearly) age 32.

I love the aspect of the Dauntless, of facing your fears.  Of courage.  Not sure I could do it at any age.

The love story isn’t as developed as the one in the Hunger Games.  It seems that Four and Tris don’t actually get enough time to know each other before the shit starts hitting the fan.

It is a thriller, a page turner.  Something that I would have been totally immersed in about 15 years ago.  I may be able to cajole my husband into seeing it when it hits theaters in March.  Just because I love seeing what I’ve imagined in my head come to life.  And I’m a huge fan of Kate Winslet.  That’s the teenager in me (can you say “Titanic”?)

So if you are interested in this stuff, go ahead and read it.  I do think that The Hunger Games is better, but it does seem that the author of this series set out to NOT be the Hunger Games with the ending.  I hope I didn’t spoil it.

Book Review: Warrior’s Oath

18625006Title: Warrior’s Oath
Author: Jennifer Hines & Mindy Bigham
Publisher: Smashwords
Release Date: October 2013
Length:  264 pages
Series?: Sacred Promises #2
Genre: YA, supernatural, romance
Format: e-book

Synopsis: 

With war raging between the last two ruling families, the Skye’s and the Fino’s, Abbey will be forced to step up and announce herself as the rightful queen to the world of Elementals sooner than expected. At which time, her chosen advisors will also be declared. Including the person whose oath she unknowingly accepted to stand by her side.

Beginning her journey by traveling to Iceland to meet Garik’s family, and ask their blessing to put him through the trials to be her First, brings forth an entire new world. She dives deeper into the world of a warrior and what it means to have a family.

After a vision of destruction Abbey must make a decision to save a school or let it fall to Fino’s army. Saving it will mark her identity, but letting it fall would mean the loss of many innocents. Either way, her life will never be the same after her decision.

Review

A rift had been forming between the last two ruling families, the Skye’ s and the Fino’s. Their desires for power were now strong enough that there was only room for one. 

Nathan has gone and done it now. He’s used the powers of his Chosen Mate bond and cornered Abbey into admitting some very serious feelings. Little did Abbey know that Kaleb had followed in her wake and overheard this whole conversation.

Kaleb has been missing for two months. Not one single word from him. Abbey cannot shimmer to him any more. Nevara is not being very helpful either. The bond with Nathan is wearing on her every day. It’s getting harder and harder to resist him, and Kaleb is showing no signs of manning up and standing by her side.

I was not a bystander. I would not stand there and do nothing while watching innocence fall. 

While Abbey’s personal life is falling apart, so is their world. Fino has disbanded the Knights of Noir Council, and is enlisting and drafting Warriors as his own soldiers. He’s even gone so far as to draft Warriors from one of the other sister schools of Maramec.

I knew I could not take the world by myself. 

Just as in Sacred Promises, Abbey must make some very tough decisions, but this time she must make them almost instantaneously. There is no time to wait, and no time to lose. She must gather her chosen warriors and advisors, and fully mark them as her own.

What had this day become? Was this what my future held, a life full of fighting and death where even the lines between family loyalties became blurred? 

Kaleb finally comes around after a very blunt conversation that Abbey has with Nevara, which leads to her extending the oath to him. Unfortunately for them both, it’s a drunken night filled with Elemental punch, and neither can remember what happened…but Nathan has a pretty good idea. He no longer shares the bond with Abbey, and it isn’t hard to deduce why.

Abbey rallies her Divine Order around her, and those who will stand by her, to protect the sister school at Machu Piccu against Fino and his red soldiers. But then he comes to attack her very own school – and there’s nowhere for them to be protectively hidden from his wrath. Indeed, there are some traitors in the midsts.

This book eventually lands Abbey, Kaleb and Nevara back in her tribe and a lot of her history and marriage are explained. Will the animosity of years gone by, bad blood, and scorned love prevail in order to save Kaleb?

Sometimes no matter how much you think you know someone, you honestly have no iota of a clue. 

Traitors do run rampant in this novel, and I totally didn’t see the ending coming. Garik’s sister, Rowan, has been taken by a traitor who was once near and dear to Abbey. I’m sure this is where the next book, The Divine Order, will open. It will be available sometime in the spring.

Despite the wonderful spin put on this book, I do feel like this book was more rushed than the first in the series, that some of the finesse from Sacred Promises was lost along the way just to get the storyline across, but sometimes sacrifices have to be made.

Find my review of Sacred Promises here.

About the Authors

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Jennifer Hines

Jennifer Hines is a wife, mother, and indie author. She loves reading, writing, and taking long road trips.

She enjoys reading and writing mostly fantasy, paranormal romance, romance, and basically anything with vampires (the sparkly and/or sexy kind and not so much the freaky and scary kind), shifters, or magic – YA through erotica. Her favorite books/series include The Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead, Scanguards Vampires by Tina Folsom, and the Crossfire Novels by Sylvia Day.

Friend her on Goodreads to follow all of her reviews both requested and personal, and to see what she’s currently reading.

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Mindy Bigham

Mindy Bigham is a wife, a mother, and an indie author. She loves reading, writing, and vacationing anywhere there’s a beach.

She enjoys reading and writing mostly fantasy, paranormal romance, romance, and basically anything with vampires (the sparkly and/or sexy kind and not so much the freaky and scary kind), shifters, or magic – YA through erotica. Her favorite books/series include: The Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead, Bloodlines Series by Michelle Mead, and The Breathless Trilogy by Maya Banks.

Friend her on Goodreads to follow all of her reviews both requested and personal, and to see what she’s currently reading.

Find the authors: Website| Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads – Hines | Goodreads – Bigham

Check out Charlie’s interview with the authors!

-CA

Book Review: Sacred Promises

18073005Title: Sacred Promises
Author: Jennifer Hines & Mindy Bigham
Publisher: Smashwords
Release Date: April 2013
Length:  292 pages
Series?: Sacred Promises #1
Genre: YA, supernatural, romance
Format: e-book

Synopsis: 

Most children grow up in loving homes, with parents who tell them bedtime stories. Not Abbey. She spent her childhood training for a battle that always seemed too far away to ever become real. 

In a world of Elementals, now corrupted and misguided by the ruling families, a queen must rise up and make right the wrongs her people have had to suffer through in absence of a true leader. After spending her entire life secretly training with her guardian, eighteen-year-old Abbey must now join the Maramec Conservatory as a student, entering into a world where she will meet other Elementals, Mystics, Watchers, and Warriors. Being surrounded by the people she will someday rule over, she must keep her identity as future queen from being discovered, while managing to create friendships and deciding whom she can trust to stand by her side both now and as queen.

Review

Teenage Abbey has grown up in secrecy with her guardian, Nevara, who has taught her everything she could possibly need to become the queen. Nevara has prepped and trained Abbey for this moment: entering the Maramec Conservatory in the guise of a student, where she will study with other Elementals, Mystics, Watchers and Warriors. Nevara has versed Abbey on the school as much as possible, but the rest is up to Abbey.

Watchers and Warriors are housed together and known as the Knights of Noir, protectors of the people, and kept separate from Elemental, who have a range of abilities with one of the four elements and the very rare Mystics, gifted with sight and healing.

Abbey has to keep her identity a secret and her cards close. She must navigate the troubled waters of the Conservatory where so many students of different backgrounds converge – and avoid detection from students of the ruling families. Every 50 years a new queen is born with specific marking on her back, and in the last 200 years there hasn’t been a queen that’s surfaced – meaning only one thing: someone is finding the queens…and getting rid of them.

Seeing and living were two completely different things.

Abbey can’t afford to make enemies, but she can’t allow anyone in either. As her roommate soon spills all the gossip, Abbey finds she is the center of attention. Quickly she finds herself locked in stalemate with her mentor – fellow student Kaleb Storm, who has some unsavory rumors circulating about his past and his heritage. Kaleb takes his duties in the highest regard, yet there’s also something about Abbey…and someone else notices.

Soon Abbey is found in the middle of a love triangle, and things get ugly. One night could have ruined everything – her, her role, and the future of her citizens. Abbey’s new barrage of defenders are taking her safety seriously: she must have someone from her group with her at all times. This complicates things as Kaleb, and Abbey’s rescuer Garik, are also on the hunt. Kaleb and Garrik are both Knights of Noir, warriors meant to protect the people.

Abbey has to face some hard decisions. Does she tell Kaleb the truth? Does she tell her friends? Then comes a third guy into the picture, vying for Abbey’s heart – and he instinctively knows who she is, and that they are destined to be together. Nathan’s not making it easy on Abbey, as she struggles to stay true to Kaleb and out of the grips of the stalking wolf-changeling Darrian, who always seems to be one step ahead of Abbey’s posse of protectors. Meanwhile, Abbey learns the true identity of her guardian, who is connected to Kaleb.

This novel was so much more than I expected, and I was amazed at the range of change and growth in the main characters. Abbey struggles with many decisions throughout the novel, and the more problems that develop, the harder it is for her. Through the narration, readers are privy to the change in Abbey that reflect that she will be a kind, just, but strong queen. Abbey’s character is one who must come to terms with the fact that she’s not normal: she’s the queen in hiding, and while reading all I could think when I read narration from Abbey’s thoughts was how graceful she was in her attitude and mentality.

The novel was also unique in that a few chapters are denoted to be told from Kaleb’s point of view in first-person, so readers get insight into his thoughts and can understand his emotions. There is a chapter where this differentiation from the narration is crucial, so I applaud the authors’ use of this technique.

It is a wonderful, thrilling read and I could not put it down. I fell asleep with my Kindle several nights. The novel ends in somewhat of a lurch, but in a nice way, which I expect is going to open the conflict in the sequel, Warrior’s Oath. I’m looking forward to great things in Warrior’s Oath. I expect Hines and Bigham to deliver, and I am betting I won’t be disappointed.

About the Authors

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Jennifer Hines is a wife, mother, and indie author. She loves reading, writing, and taking long road trips.

She enjoys reading and writing mostly fantasy, paranormal romance, romance, and basically anything with vampires (the sparkly and/or sexy kind and not so much the freaky and scary kind), shifters, or magic – YA through erotica. Her favorite books/series include The Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead, Scanguards Vampires by Tina Folsom, and the Crossfire Novels by Sylvia Day.

Friend her on Goodreads to follow all of her reviews both requested and personal, and to see what she’s currently reading.

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Mindy Bigham is a wife, a mother, and an indie author. She loves reading, writing, and vacationing anywhere there’s a beach.

She enjoys reading and writing mostly fantasy, paranormal romance, romance, and basically anything with vampires (the sparkly and/or sexy kind and not so much the freaky and scary kind), shifters, or magic – YA through erotica. Her favorite books/series include: The Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead, Bloodlines Series by Michelle Mead, and The Breathless Trilogy by Maya Banks.

Friend her on Goodreads to follow all of her reviews both requested and personal, and to see what she’s currently reading.

Find the authors: Website| Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads – Hines | Goodreads – Bigham

Check out Charlie’s interview with the authors!

-CA

Book Review: The Keeper of Dawn

The Keeper of Dawn by J.B. Hickman (2012)

cover art

cover art

Genre: YA, fiction

*Nominated as a finalist for Young Adult Fiction by the Midwest Book Awards.

*Awarded “Reviewer’s Choice” for Midwest Book Review.

*Contender in Round 2 of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest 2013.

I received a digital copy via Smashwords in return for an honest review.

Curriculum Building Ideas:

  • Language Arts: Reader’s Notebook, Literary Circles, Guided Reading Groups, Writer’s Workshop, Sequencing, Plot, Character Map/Analysis, Inferences/Predictions, Connections (Text to Self, Text to Text, Text to World), Graphic Organizers, Symbol and Theme, Reader’s Theatre, Reflections
  • Social Studies: Scale Diagram of Raker Island, Map of Raker Island, Timeline
  • Math: “Design the Island” – based on information provided from the book, students create floor plans, diagrams or models of Wellington Academy

This is Hickman’s debut novel, and I found it interesting that he shared how pieces of this book came to be, including the title and some of the research he did. If you are a budding writer, you may want to check it out.

They had become a stain in my memory, the letters bleeding indeterminably together. But their impact lingered. 

Hickman most definitely hits the proverbial nail on the head, in so many ways in The Keeper of Dawn. Rebellion at its finest. It rips away the prestige of privileged boys and exposes what lies behind them, both in their personal lives and their school/career lives. The Raker Island lighthouse is both a symbol and a motif in this novel about four young boys sent to boarding school. I could not put this book down, and thought I’d finish it in one sitting. But life interrupted, and I had to finish in a few installments late at night which I think detracted from the momentum of the novel, and also the emotional connection between the characters and I. I’ve tried to capture all that I could in this review without spilling the beans, but let me tell you two things: Hickman’s written a stellar novel, and you won’t be disappointed! This book belongs alongside other award-winning young adult novels about coming of-age, life lessons and facing demons of the past.

Nothing stays for long. Nothing but that lighthouse.

Oh, how true this proves to be…

Sons of great men are sent to a belly-up island resort turned prep school, Wellington Academy, off the coast of Rhode Island. Rebellion is in the minds of adolescent boys, especially the flashy Governor’s angry son, Chris, who detests his father’s attitudes and tries to be everything his father is not. He acts out extremely to bring a glaring light onto Governor Forsythe.

Jacob Hawthorne, the main character, is a serious 15 year-old son of privilege. Yet he is nervous to meet his father, the “great vanisher” who continually disappears out of his life, on the celebratory parents’ day at his school. His mother professes that he’s a great man, but she’s not entirely convinced herself. Indeed, Jacob is sent to Raker Island to Wellington, the same resort island his parents honeymooned on. He’s been sent there so he won’t follow in his older brother’s footsteps, and he’s determined not to enjoy a moment of it. He yearns for his father’s approval – would even settle for acknowledgement – and has stolen a photo of his father from his mother’s wedding album. His father stands on the very same island he is now imprisoned on, and he often finds himself gazing at the photo.

Norman-Fell

Mr. Stanley Roper of Three’s Company (Normal Fell)

Benjamin Bailey, Jacob’s roommate, is the overweight kid who’s always left out, and swears he plays fair. Although he is a pessimist – or rather, because of it – he keeps his “unfavorable opinions to himself.” However, that quickly changes when popular Chris cozies up to him for a covert mission after lights-out. It goes terribly wrong for Ben, who then avoids the boys even though they rescued him. Things continue to get horribly worse for Benjamin at Wellington, forcing him to leave. 😦

Derek Meyhew is the equivalent of Mr. Roper from Three’s Company: the nosy neighbor, always butting and barging in. In the very first chapter, he’s telling Benjamin how to do up his tie with the eerily foreshadowing comment: The secret to a proper noose is you need just enough length to hang yourself. 

After a run-in with the ill-fated Chris and his sidekick Roland leaves them all with the punishment of helping the maintenance man, Max, restore the buildings and grounds, and another run-in with a group of upper-classmen and two quite accidental plays on the football field during an intramural game between halls, Jacob’s in for it. There will be no more “flying under the radar” for Jacob Hawthorne at Wellington…but a bond grows between him and the school’s maintenance man, Max, that will prove invaluable.

Looking for Alaska | John Green

Looking for Alaska | John Green

These boys band together for mischievous purposes at Wellington, breaking quite a few rules. The old abandoned lighthouse, rumored to be haunted, serves as a place that makes these young men face the not-so-well hidden realities of their lives, their families, and ultimately their destinies, serves to leave the buried secrets and fears in the dark…and incites them to grander adventures. It reminds me starkly of the barn scene (The Best and Worst Days) in Looking for Alaska in such a way that both makes me happy as a reader, but sad given what I know will eventually happen.

Meanwhile, other boys are taking notice of the group, begrudgingly dubbed The Headliners, in honor of their morning ritual of pouring over the news headlines searching for news of their fathers, when one day all of their fathers make headlines: Chris looking for Governor Forsythe’s next ridiculous act for attention to get voted back into his cozy seat; Derek seeing how his father’s home security company is faring financially; Roland perusing his four-star general father’s new post-Vietnam military strategies, and Jacob catching up on the court rulings so he doesn’t hear his judge father’s decisions from someone else. The Headliners take it upon themselves to help Jake out when it comes to his arch-enemy, “Loosy-Goosy” by playing a few pranks on him.

Dead Poet's Society

Dead Poets Society

Wellington’s new “absent-minded” history professor, O’Leary, from a rival school, is much like Mr. Keating in Dead Poets Society. He invokes the students to question, to think, and he also pursues Jacob in an effort to provide some guidance and support. At their first meeting, he assures the students:

It is my job to present the facts. It is your job to decipher them. There will be no fence-sitters in my classroom. To not have an opinion is to not be informed. 

A few grand schemes lead to some very unplanned and unexpected scares and injuries, separating all the boys. Long hidden secrets are revealed; all but one. Hype and the outside world is brought to the secluded island when Wellington hosts the 1980 Senatorial Debate – and things go horribly, horribly wrong, as planned by the boys. This begins the unmistakable scrutiny of both Wellington and Chris’ governor father. But as the book progresses and nears the end, you find that things are not quite as they seem with Jacob and his father, and a long-buried, painful memory is brought into the light of day in the newly renovated and serviceable Raker lighthouse.

Denial can lie very thick in a child’s heart.

But if certain events are edited, perhaps even omitted altogether, how much trust can we put in the printed word?

I had forgotten most of it, or made up lies to deceive myself into believing something less hurtful than the truth. 

The three quotes above are the essence of this book. We can’t talk about it – buy you can find out what I mean by reading the book. 🙂

The title of this book comes from a quote by a Coast Guard man whose grandfather was a lighthouse keeper:

They started a movement to preserve their profession. They wanted to go back to the way things were. All those years lighting the night sky, of preserving at least a glimmer of the dawn, and they didn’t know how to live without it. Something very dear had been taken from them, and they fought with everything they had to not let it go.

They were the Keepers of Dawn…just as Jacob will become.

The prologue is a bit disjointed, and it’s not clear in the divided section where he is. From vague comments, the first seems to be his initial trip to boarding school, while the second is back at his often deserted home. The fact that nothing looked recognizable to him suggests some amount of time has passed. The disjointedness of the first few chapters and the confusion in the last few will all be revealed – and explain these peculiarities (and in this case, tools) of writing.

Jacob’s memories don’t match up with the physical appearances of the present, but he is always pressing on … because of David. His parents hold his grandfather responsible for what happened to his older brother, David, and the reason behind why he left. Jacob seeks out his estranged grandfather to find out exactly what kind of hand he had in David’s leaving, and ends up forging a new-found bond that endures while he is at Wellington. It stays unchanged and keeps him grounded when everything else in his life is going one speed: hellbent.

The first chapter is noticeably jumpy from the first to second paragraphs, creating the same disjointedness as in the prologue. This appears again throughout the novel, juxtaposing the present with the past. It’s not clear why this is until it’s occurred few times. His flashbacks of the times spent with his grandfather are indeed juxtaposed in a sequence creating a parallel of his relationship with his grandfather and his experiences at Wellington: when he recounts first meeting his grandfather after all the years (and the David business), it directly follows the new start at Wellington; becoming familiar and less formal with his grandfather also follows an event of The Headliners in which it is apparent that they are indeed friends.

His grandfather is remarkable in that he has a lot of metaphors and similes about life, such as the following about bonsai trees:

*in reference to him, his son (Jake’s father), and David (and even Jake himself)….

Like most of us…they’re set in their ways. It’s taken years for their branches to grow to where you see them today. They have to be guided when they are young by wiring their trunks. Then the sunlight takes things from there. For most of them, it would be hard to change their location. The young ones could handle it, but the older ones like Julius here wouldn’t much care for it at all.

*in reference to his son’s absence from most of Jake’s life (and probably David’s too)….

Their name is a reminder that their life is in your hands….And they’ll know if you neglect them.

Being a good caretaker requires more than just performing the day-to-day chores. Perhaps most important of all, a bonsai needs to be loved. 

*in reference to himself and his son, and their behavior to their sons….

I meddle too much. I either cut too far back, or trim too often. That’s the mistake of an amateur – to try and do too much. You don’t want to smother them, but it’s human nature to tamper, to try to mold them into a particular image. It’s a mistake made innocently enough, but one that can have disastrous consequences. 

spoiler-alert

One of the many sad parts of this book was at the end of the chapter with the bonsai trees. Jake adopts one from his grandfather and eventually takes it home. The sight startled his own father and “sealed [his] fate to Raker Island” he was later to discover….and SO SO much more that I wish I could spill because I’m dying to gush about this book, but I don’t want to ruin it. I was saddened to see the progression of the bond between these boys (and the reasons for it), followed quickly by the disintegration of the boys’ friendship, as predicted by Mr. O’Leary in his warning to Jacob in the very beginning:

Are you part of it, Jake? Or are you caught up in it?….In adolescence, boys are clannish. Girls are intimate, but boys are more tribal. They’re like wolves – they socialize in packs. They’re loyal to those in their pack, but suspicious of outsiders. When a boy comes to boarding school, he is alone for the first time in his life. As a result, he loses his identity in the group. But it is also in the group that he truly finds himself. Forget about education, forget about the Ivy League and that six-figure job at the end of the road. A boarding school’s real mission is to give boys good tribes with good elders. If this is done properly, they will prosper and grow. But give them no tribes, and they will create their own without elders, and they will become irretrievably lost.

That’s what a scare is. A reminder that once upon a time you were hurt bad enough to be changed by it. 

-CA

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