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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Let's RE-Discuss: Why don't you like spoilers?

Let's RE-Discuss is a post series in which I will revive old discussion posts from the archives of my blog and see if I still agree with myself. 
Spoilers–why so taboo?

In 2014, I wrote a blog post about spoilers explaining that I actually prefer to be spoiled a lot of the time, and I didn't quite understand why people got so up in arms about them.

I re-read this article and I realized nothing has changed except now I'm even more on board for spoilers being a common place thing!

I wrote:
Just because I know that something does in fact happen, that doesn't mean know how or even why it happens. The "who what when where how and why" are what make things interesting for me, not the facts. So you can tell me "[insert character name here] dies" and that tells me absolutely nothing other than said character is in fact dead. How did they die? Who killed them? Why were they killed? What were the events in their life leading up to their death? All these are questions that can only be fully and completely answered by reading the book.
I couldn't agree more with myself! This was especially pertinent during the Avengers: Infinity War craze and people were getting pissed at spoilers being posted so soon after the movie first came out. Here's my thing: knowing that someone died does not equate to watching an entire 2 hour movie. Same for a novel, knowing one plot point doesn't equate to reading a whole entire book.

Maybe I'm crazy. I totally could be. But I enjoy spoilers, and I think they shouldn't be so hated.

What do you think?

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

BLOG TOUR & GIVEAWAY- Review: My Lullaby of You by Alia Rose @aliarosewrites @RockstarBkTours

My Lullaby of You
Author: Alia Rose
Pub. Date: June 16, 2018
Publisher: Plum Anchor Press
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 287
For fans of Jenny Han and Sarah Dessen, My Lullaby of You is a Young Adult Contemporary Romance about guarded love, complicated families, and the summer that changes everything.

It’s the summer after high school. Amy can’t wait to leave her small hometown in North Carolina for the vibrant city of Chicago, where she plans to go to her dream college and hopes to build a stronger relationship with her father.

But as she deals with her mother’s resentment over her leaving and an intriguing yet provoking college student, Amy’s reminded of things she’s tried to forget and forced to face emotions she never expected.

It’s the summer before the last year of music school. Seth would rather be anywhere else than a small beach town in North Carolina, reopening wounds he thought he’d patched long ago and facing the father he hasn’t seen since his mother’s death.

While on his mission for answers, Seth is drawn to an observant and driven local he can’t seem to figure out.

My Lullaby of You was a sweet and quick read about two people at a crossroads in their own lives who meet and fall in love. It deals heavily with intricate and oftentimes unhealthy family dynamics, and how to find your own way in spite of those failed familial relationships.

This book was an incredibly quick read, I read it in just a day. So, if you're looking for a quick summer read to bring with you to the beach or on a road trip, this could be a winner for you! It starts off by introducing us to our main characters, Amy and Seth. We see the story told from their alternating perspectives and get to spend a lot of time following them through their day to day lives. Because of this, it was very easy to feel at home viewing the world through their eyes.

Amy's father left her mom a few years ago, and that of course caused tension between her parents. Now that Amy graduated high school, she made the decision to go to college in Chicago--far away from her mother, and closer to her father. It didn't have anything to do with leaving her mom behind, but her mom took the news the wrong way and it created a rift in their relationship in which her mother doesn't speak to Amy for quite awhile.  Parents ignoring/abandoning their children was a running theme in this book, and reading how downright abusive Amy's mom behaved towards her gave me some apprehension (at one point, Amy's mom literally leaves her stranded inside of a store and just drives away without her because she got so upset at Amy). I don't think this was a fault for the book, but I did want to highlight that kind of behavior for potential readers who may feel uncomfortable or triggered reading interactions like that. It's a a dynamic that is all too real for some people, and I really think My Lullaby of You handled the topic well. Amy was a strong girl and she had a support group around her that she relied on to keep her going steady. That's important for people to see portrayed.

Seth's mother passed away recently and he's on a search for some answers. He's come to find his dad, whom he hasn't had contact with for several years (as I mentioned, a running theme). Seth was a vibrant character, despite the fact that he'd been through so much hardship and pain. When he and Amy found each other, they instantly connected and a very cute and genuine relationship flourished. They started spending every day together, and we the reader get to see some very deep moments between the two of them. I felt that Alia Rose did a good job portraying the thoughts and feelings of young adults falling in love, but also trying to navigate their own complicated lives.

What I truly enjoyed, though, was that the ending wasn't your typical "happy ending." We got to see Amy and Seth grow as people and the plot resolved in a very satisfying way, but it didn't quite work out the way it does in romance movies. Seth and Amy had to find their way back to each other through the ups and downs, all while keeping true to themselves.

This is Alia Rose's first novel, and I commend her enormously for all the work she put into it. If I have one constructive criticism, it's that a lot of the novel was exposition. We as the reader are told a lot, but not quite shown what we need to see. The writing style could also use a little refinement, as it fell into the formula of "I did this, then I did that, then I went and did this." Lots of passive "I" narration, when more active action based narration could have made the story pop that much more.

Overall, I'd give this novel 4 stars.

My Lullaby of You is available for download on Kindle, and as a Paperback on Amazon

About the Author
I've been writing since I fell in love with reading and now the characters in my head refuse to leave me alone. My debut novel, My Lullaby of You comes out in June 2018!

When I'm not writing, I work full time as an architectural designer and enjoy drinking too much coffee, making to-do lists, and traveling.

You can find me rambling about all of the above on Instagram and Twitter.


1 winner will win a signed finished paperback copy of MY LULLABY OF YOU a bookmark, a bookish beach towel, a beach inspired candle and annotation cards, US Only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:
Week One:
6/25/2018- Mama Reads BlogBlogger Made Playlist
6/26/2018- Here's to Happy EndingsReview
6/27/2018- What's Your Story ReviewsReview
6/28/2018- Books & Other PursuitsReview
6/29/2018- BookHounds YAInterview

Week Two:
7/2/2018- Simply KelinaReview
7/3/2018- A Gingerly ReviewExcerpt
7/4/2018- the bookdragonReview
7/5/2018- Sincerely Karen JoReview

7/6/2018- Book BriefsReview

This review copy was provided for free in exchange for an honest review. All views expressed above are solely my own. Affiliate links for Amazon included.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

#GIVEAWAY + Review: The Flip Side by Shawn Johnson @ShawnJohnson

The Flip Side 
Pages: 309
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary
Source: Publisher
She may seem like your average high school sophomore—but she’s just really good at pretending.

Because outside of school Charlie spends all her waking hours training to become one of the best gymnasts in the world. And it’s not easy flying under the radar when you’re aiming for Olympic gold…especially when an irresistible guy comes along and threatens to throw your whole world off balance.
Quick Thoughts

Super quick read, very juvenile, and very basic writing style.


I truly commend anyone that wants to take the deep dive into fiction writing, because it's hard. But Shawn Johnson had a co-author, A.L. Shonnichsen, so I was expecting something a little more polished than what The Flip Side offered. It wasn't horrible, but it was an incredibly basic book that didn't bring much to the table in terms of entertainment value or story line.

Essentially, this is the gymnastics version of Hannah Montana. Charlie keeps her gymnastics career a secret from everyone in school because she doesn't want to be treated differently. Gymnastics is Charlie's life, she has lofty goals of being part of the USA Olympic gymnastics team. That's an awesome concept, I love reading stories about girls working hard to make their dreams come true. So here for it!!

But the story really fell flat. It was a regular ol' high school book about regular ol' high school drama with the mean girl and the hot jock and all the other things that come to mind when you think of "high school setting." The characters felt bland and basic, and the stakes just never felt high enough for me to be interested.

One aspect of the book that did intrigue me quite a bit was the gymnastics and the description of all the training Charlie went through. As I read, I googled the moves that Charlie was describing so I could have some context as to what I was reading and could visualize it. I felt the gymnastics part of the book was totally cohesive, and really the crux of the plot.

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't horrible and honestly it was a pretty quick read, so if you're a fan of Shawn Johnson I think you'll enjoy it. It just wasn't my cup of tea. Perhaps it's because I'm not the target audience, which I'll totally grant.

About the Author
My first book, Shawn Johnson, Olympic Champion-Stories Behind the Smile, was published in January 2009. In June of 2012, my second book Winning Balance: What I’ve Learned So Far About Love, Faith and Living Your Dreams, was published and quickly became a New York Times Best Seller. I had a blast writing this and sharing some trials and tribulations with the amazing community that supports me.

In June of 2016 I was inspired to write a young adult fiction novel called "The Flipside" about a young woman who struggled with the same identity issues that I did as I tried to simultaneously pursue elite level athletics while also trying to be a normal kid.
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I'm giving away my hardcover copy of The Flip Side to someone who will hopefully enjoy it and give it some love! Must be 18 or older. US only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

This review copy was provided for free in exchange for an honest review. All views expressed above are solely my own.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Review: Pestilence by Laura Thalassa @LauraThalassa

Pages: 382
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Genre: Paranormal Romance
#1 in Series
Source: Kindle Unlimited
They came to earth—Pestilence, War, Famine, Death—four horsemen riding their screaming steeds, racing to the corners of the world. Four horsemen with the power to destroy all of humanity. They came to earth, and they came to end us all.

When Pestilence comes for Sara Burn’s town, one thing is certain: everyone she knows and loves is marked for death. Unless, of course, the angelic-looking horseman is stopped, which is exactly what Sara has in mind when she shoots the unholy beast off his steed.

Too bad no one told her Pestilence can’t be killed.

Now the horseman, very much alive and very pissed off, has taken her prisoner, and he’s eager to make her suffer. Only, the longer she’s with him, the more uncertain she is about his true feelings towards her … and hers towards him.

And now, well, Sara might still be able to save the world, but in order to do so, she'll have to sacrifice her heart in the process.
Quick Thoughts

There are two different versions of me who read this book and had two opposing feelings at the same time. The Ashley who hated it, and the Ashley who loved it. I'm not sure which one is right.

Maybe I'm crazy.


I'm going to write this review from the perspectives of both aforementioned Ashleys. I'll start with the one who loved the book.

Fangirl Ashley's Review
To give you some context, my fav book in the whole world is The Phantom of the Opera. Why do I bring this up, you ask? Because it tells you that I'm an absolute sucker for the "heroine teaches main male anti-hero what love means even though he's a dick" trope. If that wasn't a trope yet, it is now. It's the archetype that makes Beauty and the Beast work. 

I am fascinated by watching those kind of relationships grow. Where one side is all but clueless as to how love and attraction work, but those feelings start blossoming and so they need to be figured out. As Sara travels with Pestilence, the transition from cold Horseman of the Apocalypse to Dude Who Kinda Has A Boner but Doesn't Know What To Do With It is so entertaining, and Laura Thalassa had a way of writing it so the tension between Sara and Pestilence was always high. 

Normally, I don't like covers that show you how the characters look but holy sweet Jesus is this cover beautiful, and I pictured Pestilence exactly the way he's drawn on the cover. So, that's always nice to have some eye candy. 

Honestly, as crazy as it was, I was rooting the couple on and hoping they'd be able to get over their issues at the end. The sex was fun to read about, especially since Pestilence was a virgin and had that virgin moment of like oh wow this is the best thing ever!!! But this wasn't an erotica novel, so it wasn't at the forefront :(

Hater Ashley's Review
Where do I begin? Oh, let's begin with the fact that Pestilence literally tortured Sara. Like actually tortured. Can we say "Stockholm Syndrome"?? Whether or not the romance was cute as it continued on and Pestilence stopped being a psychopath, it still doesn't erase all the shit he did?

Honestly, based on the description, I was expecting something world-shattering in terms of plot. But, as some other reviewers have mentioned, the entire plot consisted of the exact same actions over and over again. Pestilence and Sara riding through a town and stealing someone's house as the inhabitants of the house died horrible, painful deaths. Someone would try to kill Pestilence, and Sara would freak out against her own better nature. Wash, rinse, repeat.

I'm not sure how the other books will play out, but I'm just concerned there's going to be more of this torture you and then stop because I fell in love with you kind of thing going on.

Pestilence can be purchased on Amazon as a paperback or Kindle copy (Kindle Unlimited).

About the Author
Found in the forest when she was young, Laura Thalassa was raised by fairies, kidnapped by werewolves, and given over to vampires as repayment for a hundred year debt. She’s been brought back to life twice, and, with a single kiss, she woke her true love from eternal sleep. She now lives happily ever after with her undead prince in a castle in the woods.

… or something like that anyway.

When not writing, Laura can be found scarfing down guacamole, hoarding chocolate for the apocalypse, or curled up on the couch with a good book.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

3 ways the book blogging world has completely changed: notes from an OG book blogger

100 followers was A Big Deal in 2010
I started this blog in 2009--almost 10 years ago (holy crap I feel so old). That was around the time that book blogging first emerged, and it was a much different universe than what we see today. It was an era of bad fonts, clashing color schemes, and default templates with no customization. All of us were just figuring out how to work a blockquote into our posts, so that was the extent of the formatting you'd see. And, we were all content with our meager followings of 100-200, which was slowly grown and hard won.

The community was small and tight-knit, and completely wide-eyed. We were all just figuring out what we even wanted this to be. Reviews were definitely the main focus, but back then people would write a lot of stream of consciousness posts about their thoughts and  Case in point: if you go through my archives to the first couple of months of this blog, you'll see some very questionable posts.
I... just... I don't know. I was a different person back then.

A Very Big Deal 2.0
This was before the time of Google Adsense ads, or Amazon affiliate links. Back then, our biggest and loftiest goal was to an ARC from a publisher. Contacts for publicists were elusive, slippery things and a lot of times, people had to wait for publishers to contact them first. On occasion, if you searched around a publisher's website hard enough, you could find a general PR contact email and send out an ARC request into the aether, hoping someone would read it and think you were worthy of one. I so distinctly remember when I got my first ARC, it was quite an accomplishment!

Without further ado, here are 5 things I've noticed that have changed in the years I've been witnessing this community grow.

1. Blogging today is more streamlined–there's a vague formula for success

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that there is a specific blue print that bloggers can follow to ensure they'll be successful. What I mean is that there's a lot less ambiguity around what works and what doesn't. Back in the day, people didn't usually post on a schedule, and there wasn't a format for how posts like reviews should generally look. Sometimes you'd be lucky if you got the cover in a post! Basically, the content of the blog was way more freeform.

We didn't have too many popular memes or challenges, so creating reliable content on a daily or weekly basis was solely up to whatever the blogger wanted to post about. It still is, but today there are a lot of pre-set ideas to choose from if you're running on empty. Do you want to do a book tag? There's plenty of those floating around! Or pick a specific day of the week and you can consistently have an idea for a post that day--i.e. Top Ten Tuesday, Waiting on Wednesday, In My Mailbox Sunday (is that still a thing? Or did that disappear with The Story Siren?)

10 years ago it was unheard of to have thousands of followers, especially only a year or two into your blogging journey. The thousand+ follower blogs were A-list celebrities, basically. The Story Siren used to be the reigning queen of all things book blogging. I believe she had about 9,000 at her height, although it could have been more as I stopped frequenting her blog after I fell out of blogging myself. Kristi, who ran The Story Siren, was like this golden goddess who got boxes upon boxes of ARCs and swag and press kits back before it was totally normal to be on a publisher's PR list. She always had the inside scoop with publicists and authors.

Now, I've noticed a lot of bloggers able to crash through the 1000 follower barrier well within their first year and get on those PR lists with ease. Which is awesome! I'm glad the blogging community has grown!

2. Things are all about social media

When I first started out, I had nothing but this blog. No Facebook, no Twitter, no Goodreads. I did have a Shelfari account, which I just recently learned was merged into Goodreads. The community was much smaller back then, so it didn't take as much marketing to get your content seen. Although Twitter became a big thing for the book blogging community even then, in the beginning I remember not even needing to do anything but hit "Publish" to get comments on my posts. Of course, I'd go out and look for other blogs and create some traffic back to me that way, but I swear it wasn't even that much.

Now, it seems that blogs have to be promoted on multiple platforms to have the exposure they deserve. It makes sense, since social media is how we as consumers derive a lot of our knowledge and even learn to curate our tastes and what media we consume. It's effective and practical to have a Twitter, Facebook page, Instagram, and active Goodreads account to get your blog some exposure.

3. Cool graphics and Buzzfeed style lists are the rage

Believe me, the title of this point and the irony of this post is not lost on me. Keep in mind, I'm not saying any of these things are bad, I think it's a testament to the adaptation of the blogging community to make relevant content. One of the first things I did a month ago when I decided to start blogging again was to find some new blogs to follow and read. Almost every blog I found was using square graphics as part of their post titles, and a lot of the posts were Buzzfeed style lists or discussions. It's certainly genius, because those kinds of posts usually garner a lot of engagement and help the blogger build a following of close readers who will comment on other posts in the future.

Some examples of blogs I began following who use this style of posting:
Forever and Everly 
A Whisper of Ink

These are just the main things I've noticed so far, although I'm certain I'll notice a few more as I start to dive deeper back into this world that I've known and loved for so long.

What do you think?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Review: The Eighth House by Eris Adderly @ErisAdderly

Book Title 
Pages: 278
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Genre: Greek Mythology/ Erotica
#1 in Series
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Catch me, Darkness. Again and again. The life of a virgin goddess might suit Artemis or Athena, but Persephone, daughter of Zeus, wants no part of it. While the rest of the immortals cavort, she grows restless in the shadow of Olympos.

Rules, rules. Always the rules. Her mother’s edict forbids her the company of any male god. She can’t speak to them, can’t look at them. Can’t even attend the Olympian feasts. As far as Demeter knows, her daughter remains a maiden.

But Persephone leads a double life. She finds her affection elsewhere, and in plentiful supply. If only the sons of Man made her happy. If only she could put a name to this need she feels. It grows by the day, dark and unfulfilled. An eternity of enforced loneliness looms, and Persephone contemplates a drastic choice to escape it.

Only one thing stands in her way.


Where earthquakes rend hill and vale asunder, and the abyss yawns to devour falling screams, the black halls of the Underworld await. The Lord of the Dead follows only one set of rules: his own.

And he expects Persephone to obey.
Quick Thoughts


So here's the thing. I am without a doubt in my mind, honestly, truly, I am the biggest fan of the Hades and Persephone myth/pairing. I've read every kind of book, every kind of fanfic, even read the actual Greek myths at least a dozen times. I do a regular search of the word "Persephone" on Goodreads to see what pops up, and Google has my "books about hades and persephone" search already pinned to the top because I keep checking in.

Hades and Persephone is my shiznit.
So when The Eighth House popped up on my Goodreads search and it was available on Kindle Unlimited I was as hyped as a mento in a bottle of soda. I was so ready to dive into some hot ass Hades and Persephone lovin' and sexy times. Heck yeah.

By the end.... I was disappointed. Blargh. Believe me, no one is more upset than I am! But, let me explain what was going on in my head.

What I Liked:
I loved the writing style. It was a little unorthodox in that it was like a mash up of poetry and prose. But I felt it suited the story well--this is, after all, mythology. We're talking about gods here. So, that's not a complaint for me at all. The story itself was vibrant and I could easily see everything in my mind's eye.

Adderly's rendition of Greek mythology and the gods involved was exactly the kind of thing I love from mythology retellings. It was historically accurate, and innovative in the creation of the Underworld. We actually got to see the Underworld in its complexity, which a lot of times mythology retellings skip over the surroundings and just assume the reader will piece together some semblance of a background.

What I Didn't Like:
In general, I've never been a fan of H&P retellings that actually do go the "he kidnapped her and made her fall in love with him" route. While I get this is a romance novel and there's def a market for that, I just can't personally be comfortable with that idea. Even though Persephone is always willing and happy about the kidnapping later on, it rubs me the wrong way. We have a whole entire mental illness for these kinds of situations, it's called Stockholm Syndrome. And no amount of "but he wooed her and she fell in love with him of her own accord" will change the fact that my homie Hades still kidnapped her. So, that gets a point knocked off for me.

As for the actual sex, it was good but still not up my alley. I guess this one could be more a "me" issue instead of the book's issue, but I'd like to clarify that I have no issue with BDSM in novels so I'm not sure. It almost feels like the obvious choice to have Hades be a hardcore dom. It was borderline uncomfortable at certain parts, where Hades literally was not listening or respecting Persephone's decision and was ordering her around without regard to what she actually wanted. A healthy dom/sub relationship technically puts all the power in the sub's hands, since the sub gets to decide when to say the safe word and stop everything. The fact that Hades thought he could overrule Persephone's decision was a big no from me.

As you can see, I had a lot of feelings about this book both good and bad. It is what it is, but based on other reviews there are people who have really loved this book. I'm very sad I wasn't one of them, but it's not a total regret.

The Eighth House is available for purchase on Amazon as a paperback or kindle copy (Kindle Unlimited). 

About the Author
Eris writes subversive romance for people who hate romance novels. She writes fiction in whatever genre suits the tale that needs telling: historical, fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal, or anything that bends a little askew from expectations. Her stories are the stomping grounds for bada** heroines, untamable alphas, a spectrum of sexuality and a serious disregard for convention. Sometimes light and humorous, often dark and intense, if you're looking for a break from reality, Eris writes for you. Much like her namesake, Eris likes to make trouble.
Website | Twitter | Facebook
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Friday, June 22, 2018

3 ways to read more during the day when you've got a bunch of stuff to do

It always feels there are never enough hours in the day! I know I have all these things I'd like to do, and I tell myself I'm going to get them done that day, but by the time I'm done with work and back home, I tend to only have enough time to make dinner for me and my man-love, shower up, and snuggle in bed for some anime. I've become such a tired old lady! Gone are the days up staying up all night to read a book--I become a truly cranky wench without my sleep!

I think back to when I was in middle school and high school, and by some freaking miracle back then I was able to read a book in almost a day or two flat. I don't even know how I did it, because I had more work back then between homework and the multiple plays I was in after school every semester. Then I realized that I was way more resourceful back then. As a teenager, I had amazing reading habits that I didn't even realize were habits--I just did them because I couldn't stand to put the books I was reading down. For example, after I finished taking tests or doing classwork, I'd immediately whip out my current book and read for the remainder of the class while everyone else finished up. That was easily a good 15-20 minutes of reading. Sometimes I'd get to school early and none of my friends would be there yet--I'd read until the bell rang for class or I saw someone I knew. Another 10 mins. Even during lunch, if my best friend was out sick that day, I'd kind of find a table off to myself and read. Boom, another 30 minutes.

All those extra minutes a day add up! In a single day, with those little moments, I could easily read an extra 50-80 pages of my book.

Based on my ingenious teenage self, here are 4 tips to read just a little more throughout the day.

1. Always have a book with you
This is kinda obvious, since you need a book with you to be able to read. I try to bring my current book along with me in my purse, or my Kindle if I happen to be reading that. But, sometimes it's not practical to take a whole entire book with you especially if you happen to be reading a big brick of a novel, and other times I don't want a purse at all so even the Kindle stays home. What I did is downloaded the Kindle app onto my phone, and I always keep a selection of books in my library so I can have something to read. Even if they're not the main book I'm reading, I know I'll finish them at some point so I figure it's just one more book I can check off as read.

2. Read during your commute!
This is a BIGGIE! I live in NYC so I end up taking the subway everywhere. Even if I only take it to work and back, that's an aggregate hour that I would otherwise spend with my headphones in trying not to make eye contact with anyone else. So, I decided to dedicate that time entirely to reading. The moment my butt hits that subway bench, my book is out. This also works if you walk or drive a lot--you can download some audiobooks and listen to those! I know some people don't like audio books, but I figure that it's worth a try to fill in some time you have to spend driving anyway.

3. Read every day for a set amount of time before bed.
I know there will be days when you come home late and all you want is to fall into bed and knock out. There's nothing wrong with that. But, getting into the habit of putting your phone away and spending even just 5-10 minutes before bed reading will make a big difference in the long run. It's also a really nice way to calm down after a long day. Studies have shown that looking at your phone before bed negatively affects your sleep, so this is a good way to slow down your brain and still get some good reading time in.

There you have it, just some tips and tricks to get in extra pages here and there. I guarantee if you start incorporating these habits into your life you'll see your reading progress accelerate!

Do you have any other tips for reading a little more during the day? Let me know!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Review: Natural Witch by K.F.Breene @KFBreene

Natural Witch
Pages: 353
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Genre: Urban Fantasy
#1 in Series
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Something has always been missing from my life. A hole that I could never seem to fill.

When I accidentally turn a coven of witches into nightmares, I find out what that something is.


And it turns out, I have a crap load of it.

As a latent power awakens deep inside of me, I’m exposed to one of the most powerful and corrupt organizations in the magical world—the Mages’ Guild.

Barely knowing a spell from a few swear words and luck, I won’t be able to evade them alone.

And that’s when I meet him.

The Rogue Natural. The best and most feared mage in the world.

He’s dangerous, mysterious, and has a vendetta of his own. He is now the only thing between me and magical enslavement.

I haven't read any of K. F. Breene's other books, so I came into Natural Witch with absolutely no context. Apparently this is a spin-off of another series of hers so maybe I'll check that out to get some more idea of this world she's created. Either way, I didn't feel out of place in story so it seems it can certainly stand on its own.

Full disclosure: I hated the first several chapters of the book. I felt they were totally unnecessary and added nothing to the story besides telling us that Penny, our MC, had a natural affinity for magic (*winks at book title*). Basically, Penny decides to travel all the way to New Orleans to attend a magic retreat (???? keep in mind that magic is not public knowledge) and ends up jumping into an experienced coven of witches and turning them all into zombies.


After that, the book transports back to Penny at home, living her quaint life and it kinda meanders there for awhile. It's not until Emery and Penny meet that things get interesting, and the story starts developing nicely. Emery is a Natural, which means that he can create spells using the elements around him and he doesn't have to think about it--he can just do it. Whereas other mages need to carry around encapsulated spells, he can just weave what we needs on the go.

Emery has a lot of baggage--his brother was murdered, and he's spent the subsequent years on the run from the Guild (think: the Ministry of Magic, but, like, tinier and eviler) and has had nothing but revenge for his brother's death on his mind. He's taken his fair share of lives, and when he meets Penny he feels that there's nothing more to his life than to get revenge--he thinks he'll die trying, and that's fine with him. But, Penny throws a wrench in that plan, and as they work together and get to know each other, his feelings on wanting to die young start to change.

Penny as a main character was entertaining, if not a bit frustrating at times. She had a very young and naive personality, but even then that doesn't explain her absolute carelessness for some of the things she did. No self-preserving person would do the above mentioned zombie coven thing, nor would they blindly trust a man they've just met. She grew up very sheltered, with an overbearing mother that didn't even allow her to curse (hence why Penny has a habit of making up innocuous curses like turdswallop when she's startled). She knows she's meant for something more than what her current life has to offer.

Full disclosure: Penny as a character is the literal archetype for "The One" syndrome. Like, almost up there with Harry (of the Potter variety). Through her journey with Emery, Penny uncovers a deep and seemingly endless power within herself and since she didn't grow up with training like other mages, it tends to run wild. Because of this, Penny is massively OP (overpowered). I'm not really complaining about that, because I'm the kind of kid that grew up watching Dragon Ball Z where a bunch of men stood around screaming until they leveled up. OP female characters are awesome and I'm always here for it, I'm just highlighting it.

For one thing, I just want to say that I'm very interested in this magical world K. F. Breene has created. It was a world embroiled in politics and subversion, not just about magic but about power and what that does to someone. Power is usually at the crux of these kind of stories, but something about the world in Natural Witch feels dirty and gritty with how every one is battling for more. Mages are constantly measuring each other up, making sure they're on the top of the totem poll in whatever group they're in.

As I kept reading and the story unfolded, I found myself incredibly drawn in. Penny's relationship with Emery did feel genuine and like a necessary natural progression of the story. They had an easy going chemistry, and that's integral to how their magic works together as well. I like Emery specifically, because he's a respectful young hero. He doesn't hold Penny back, or treat her like a damsel in distress. He want to help her achieve her greatest power--something most men would feel emasculated by. I really appreciate reading a male lead who has no qualms with a lady love who just may be more powerful than him, given the right experience. It's refreshing. As usual, the romance is one of my biggest drivers to see where the story will go next.

Overall, I'd recommend it! As I said, the beginning is a bit to slog through, but after that it's great!

You can purchase Natural Witch on Amazon as a paperback, Kindle copy (Kindle Unlimited), or audio book!

About the Author
K.F. Breene is a USA Today Bestselling and Top 10 Kindle All-Star author of paranormal romance, urban fantasy and fantasy novels. With two million books sold, when she’s not penning stories about magic and what goes bump in the night, she’s sipping wine and planning shenanigans. She lives in Northern California with her husband, two children and out of work treadmill.
Website | Twitter | Facebook

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

GIVEAWAY + Review: The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith @ASmithAuthor

The Way I Used to Be
Pages: 385
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Genre: Contemporary
Source: Publisher
In the tradition of Speak, this extraordinary debut novel shares the unforgettable story of a young woman as she struggles to find strength in the aftermath of an assault.

Eden was always good at being good. Starting high school didn’t change who she was. But the night her brother’s best friend rapes her, Eden’s world capsizes.

What was once simple, is now complex. What Eden once loved—who she once loved—she now hates. What she thought she knew to be true, is now lies. Nothing makes sense anymore, and she knows she’s supposed to tell someone what happened but she can’t. So she buries it instead. And she buries the way she used to be.

Told in four parts—freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year—this provocative debut reveals the deep cuts of trauma. But it also demonstrates one young woman’s strength as she navigates the disappointment and unbearable pains of adolescence, of first love and first heartbreak, of friendships broken and rebuilt, and while learning to embrace a power of survival she never knew she had hidden within her heart.
Quick Thoughts

An incredibly moving story, one that had my stomach curled in knots while reading about Eden's life after such a traumatic event. This should be obvious, but trigger warning for descriptions of rape in this novel.


I never read Speak, on purpose. As a woman in today's world, the fear of sexual assault is all to real and as a resident of a big city I am always looking over my shoulder. It's a sad reality. Reading stories of sexual assault, whether real or fictional, always fill me with such dread and emotion that I try to stay away from the fictional ones–ignoring the real life stories is impossible, and no matter how much it scares me, I make sure to listen to the stories of my fellow women when they speak out about their experiences. We have to support each other, and push culture and the media to listen to our voices when something is wrong.

Despite my general reluctance to consume fiction about this topic, I have set myself a personal goal of reading every book on my TBR pile and this happened to be one of them. So I set about reading. Be prepared, the actual sexual assault description happens in the very beginning. From there, it's about Eden learning to cope with her trauma--or rather, not really coping at all and trying her best to numb the pain. This one event permeates every single part of her life, and yet no one else knows because Eden is convinced that no one would believe her if she told them. That was one of the more heartbreaking parts to read, the moment when she rationalized to herself that she wouldn't tell anyone because she thought they'd think she was lying.

While this is a work of fiction, I think it's important to have books like this that portray some facets of the trauma that women and girls endure. Eden wasn't able to have a healthy romance because of it. She became alienated from her family, her self destructive behavior pushed away all of her friends. This is the reality for some people, although everyone processes trauma differently.

Overall, this was a very powerful book and one I'd recommend.

“Maybe He'll get what he deserves. Maybe Not. Maybe I'll never find it in my heart to forgive him. And maybe there's nothing wrong with that,either. All those maybes swimming around my head make me think that "maybe" could just be another word for hope.”

About the Author
Amber Smith grew up in Buffalo, New York and now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her two dogs. Fueled by a lifelong passion for the arts, story, and creative expression, Amber graduated from art school with a BFA in Painting and went on to earn her master’s degree in Art History. Her debut novel, The Way I Used to Be was a New York Times bestseller. Look out for her next book, The Last to Let Go in February, 2018. Visit her online at

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This review copy was provided for free in exchange for an honest review. All views expressed above are solely my own.

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Monday, June 18, 2018

Review: Blood Oath by Raye Wagner & Kelly St. Clare @RayeWagner @KellyStClare

Blood Oath 
Pages: 322
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Genre: Fantasy
#1 in Series
Source: Kindle Unlimited
More than anything, I crave adventure. But in the disease ridden land of Verald, life is mapped out much like the well-established rings of our kingdom.

At the very heart reigns our vicious king and Lord Irrik, an invincible dragon shifter, at his side. Their power poisons the land and the people, leading to a steadily mounting number of enemies.

But change is coming.

When the rebellion surges, the king strikes back. Captured by Lord Irrik, I'm suddenly embroiled in a deadly game. One where I'm desperate to understand the rules.

Because I'm not only fighting for my life... but also a love that could be the very key to my freedom.
Quick Thoughts

It started off slow, lots of repetitiveness. But, the plot did pick up I'm intrigued to see what happens in book 2.


Blood Oath centers around a 17 year old girl named Ryn whose life is about to get flipped and turned upside down.
She works at a tavern serving ale and stew, since that's pretty much all there is to offer in Verald due to the widespread famine and poverty. One night, she stays a little later than she should and ends up getting caught by the king's personal servant, Lord Irrik--who happens to be a freaking dragon shifter.

Admittedly, getting to this point in the story does take some lead up and if I'm honest I wasn't too sure what was going on until Ryn finally ended up being locked away in the king's dungeon to be tortured. (Tbh I found it a little unbelievable that the king would even keep her as a prisoner, since at that time he really had no reason to believe she was useful other a very tenuous assumption that she was linked to the insurgents.)

The middle section of the book is Ryn being tortured. This is the part that gets repetitive, as it's literally just Ryn being carted to and from her cell for various torture sessions. It's not until a very impossible thing happens to Ryn--or rather, Ryn makes a very impossible thing happen--that things change and the story really starts picking up momentum.

I see a lot of reviewers complaining about how childish Ryn sounds. That didn't bother me, I thought Ryn had a really great personality! Reading in her specific voice was fun but I can understand how it could be jarring given the setting.

Lastly, there's a surprise romance and that's really all I cared about after I finished reading. I'm hoping we see much more development in the romance, since this book left on such a cliffhanger!

Blood Oath is available on Amazon as a paperback and Kindle copy (Kindle Unlimited).

About the Authors
Raye Wagner is the USA Today Bestselling author of young adult fantasy books. She's a big fan of both the Percy Jackson series (shocker) and the Twilight saga (gasp), and those two series *might* have led her to pursue her dream of writing teen fiction.

Raye loves realistic characters who are believably flawed and act rationally. And kissing. Ooo, and fighting - the martial arts kind that makes you want to slay dragons or beat up the bad guy.
Heroes should be heroic, and anyone can be a hero. And the feels... Raye likes all the feels.

Kelly St. Clare is the USA Today Bestselling author of young adult fantasy and science fiction books.

When Kelly is not reading or writing, she is lost in her latest reverie.
Books have always been magical and mysterious to her. One day she decided to start unravelling this mystery and began writing.

A New Zealander in origin and in heart, Kelly currently resides in Australia with her husband, a great group of friends, and some huntsman spiders who love to come inside when it rains. Their love is not returned.


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