Second Sleep by Diane Stanley

About the book:

With insight and tenderness, award-winning author Diane Stanley paints an intriguing and thought-provoking picture of a place that embodies everything perfect about a childhood summer, and the secrets, friendships, and love that can be discovered there.

The time by the lake is everything perfect about a childhood summer. And maybe, these nights also hold the answers Max is looking for . . .

To get Max and Rosie’s minds off their mother’s mysterious disappearance, their grandmother suggests that they visit the old log cabin where their mom spent her summers as a child. That first night in the cabin, Max and Rosie share an identical dream of new friends, sunshine, and play. Only . . . it may be more than a dream.

As Max slowly grasps what is really going on, he wonders if he might have found the key to the mystery of his mother’s disappearance—and how to bring her safely home.

Hand this classic-feeling middle grade standalone to readers who love mystery, friendships, and a touch of magic . . .

My review:

Second Sleep by Diane Stanley was such a touching story. Max and the gang are wonderful characters that middle grade readers can easily connect with and learn from: they are adventurous and fun, but still respectful of their elders and the rules.

I was very impressed with how the author made what almost amounts to a time travel/portal fiction story seem both plausible and dream-like. I also appreciated how she very cleverly worked around what could’ve been awkward/creepy ages differences for love interests. And I loved her explanation of “second sleep,” and how she even explained its historical significance in middle grade terms. It was very enjoyable to get lost in Max’s story.

This is one I would most definitely recommend for middle grade readers. I listened to the audiobook voice galley and would love to listen to the final production. It was all that the blurb promised it to be: insightful, tender, thought-provoking, and more. 4 out of 5 stars. 🙂

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Many thanks to HarperAudio and NetGalley for the voice galley of this story for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

An Unexpected Adventure by Kandi J Wyatt

About the book:

Protect their community or protect their discovery?

For eighth graders Chace, Harley, Will, and Cherise, that’s a life-changing question after they find a dragon’s egg while hunting for thundereggs on the beach. Toss in summer jobs, family struggles, and a National Security Agent, and their summer vacation just became complicated.

Can they find a solution that won’t leave their hearts broken or their community in flames?

My review:

This was a fun read that I would certainly recommend for young readers. It tugged on the heartstrings, while it taught a great lesson about doing what is right, not just what you want to do.

The only bit that kind of bothered me was the duplicity and rudeness of the NSA agent. It was concerning in that it could foment distrust of authority. However, it could also be a catalyst for a great teaching moment about discernment and not being overly trusting, but looking more deeply behind what someone is telling you.

Overall, An Unexpected Adventure was great, and young readers (middle grade) would definitely enjoy it. I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend you pick up a copy for the kiddos in your life. 🙂

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Ashen by H.L. Burke

About the book:

Stealer of warmth, bringer of death. What if Cinderella had a secret that kept her locked away?

Unable to make her own body heat, foundling Lizbete survives in the tavern kitchen, drawing warmth from the fires, the sun—and sometimes, other living beings. Her days are spent cooking alongside the tavern owner and avoiding the suspicious gazes of the villagers in her small northern town. While she quietly longs for the handsome Brynar, she knows she has no chance with the mayor’s son, even if he invites her to the First Frost festival.

When sudden earthquakes strike Brumehome, blame falls upon Lizbete, and not even her friendship with Brynar can protect her. She finds shelter in the dangerous caverns of nearby Ash Mountain. There she discovers mysterious people with her same ability to draw heat—and a fiery doom in the mountain that slowly awakens with every quake.

Now the festival Lizbete thought to avoid is her only chance to warn the villagers. Yet even with Brynar at her side, can the strange girl dubbed the Ash Lizard hope to save the town that fears her?

My review:

This is Cinderella like you’ve never imagined her: she’s an orphan, yes, but has a mother-figure that loves and protects her; Lizbete is always “dirty,” but not because she spends her days cleaning up after wicked stepsisters; and she doesn’t fall in love with the prince at first sight — he’s actually her best friend. And best of all, she doesn’t need a fairy godmother to turn her into something special — she’s already a fierce, snarky, amazing character.

Ashen is more than a fairytale romance where the quiet, overlooked beauty finally meets her prince. It’s a story of a young woman finding strength and beauty within herself and then overcoming societal prejudices to save the very people who would rather see her dead.

What an awesome story for young girls to read. Most definitely recommended with 4.5 out of 5 stars!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Silence the Siren by Michele Israel Harper

About the book:

Huntress Ro LeFèvre is hired to hunt the sirens who have been sinking the king of Angleterre’s ships, and in turn, vast amounts of his wealth. All who have gone before her have failed.

Fleeing heartbreak, Ro gladly accepts, but there’s just one problem. The king will credit the Marquis de la Valère, and no other women are allowed on the voyage.

Ro will just see about that.

Hiring an all-female pirate crew without the king’s knowledge, Ro hopes they will follow her to the Caribbean, not take the gold and flee.

But when Ro is plunged deep into the ocean by the siren she’s being paid to kill, presented the sirens’ side of the story at knife point, and pressed to join them or die, Ro must decide whether to complete her mission, join the sirens, or something in between.

Before the sirens sink the ship full of men above.

My review:

This book was, honestly, better than I even expected. I knew it would be about sirens — the not-so-nice distant relatives of the loveable mer-creatures from fairy tales — but I didn’t know just how villainous those sirens would be and just how much I would enjoy reading about Ro’s encounter with them. I definitely have not gotten enough sleep lately, because I have stayed up far too late turning pages to find out what could possibly happen next to the crews of the King’s Ransom and the Siren Hunter.

The Beast Hunter series just keeps getting better. I really liked Ro, the no-nonsense huntress from Beast Hunter and Kill the Beast, the tough, yet vulnerable heroine. But Ro in Silence the Siren is even more complex, and she continues to impress me with her strength, both physically and emotionally. And Olt is a perfect comic counter-point to Ro’s intensity.

I can’t wait to read Ro’s next adventure (Quell the Nightengale, coming soon from L2L2 Publishing!). This was such a great read, well-balanced with excitement and poignancy, and that makes this story a 4.5 out of 5 stars read for me!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Many, many thanks to Michele Israel Harper and L2L2 Publishing for the complimentary copy of this novel. I wasn’t even required to give a review (let alone a positive one), but I had to share it with everyone, because it’s a great story! All opinions are my very own!

Dreams Lie Beneath by Rebecca Ross

About the book:

Perfect for readers of The Hazel Wood and The Night Circus, this lush and layered story about magic and the captivating power of dreams is delivered with acclaimed author Rebecca Ross’s signature exquisite style.

A curse plagues the realm of Azenor—during each new moon, magic flows from the nearby mountain and brings nightmares to life. Only magicians, who serve as territory wardens, stand between people and their worst dreams.

Clementine Madigan is ready to take over as the warden of her small town, but when two magicians challenge her, she is unwittingly drawn into a century-old conflict. She seeks revenge, but as she secretly gets closer to Phelan, one of the handsome young magicians, secrets begin to rise. Clementine must unite with her rival to fight the realm’s curse, which seems to be haunting her every turn.

My review:

This was a fascinating story. I loved the concept of magicians battling people’s nightmares come to life, defending them from those dreams that haunt them. It was a really interesting idea, fleshed out beautifully by the author.

And Clementine’s struggle was real. I got caught up along with her in the pull between wanting what she truly thought to be right versus wanting to know this super-intriguing guy and the fairly opposite truths he was revealing to her. That tension was marvelously forged and brought lovely depth to both the characters and the story.

The blurb says this book is for fans of the Hazel Wood and The Night Circus, and it’s definitely true that I found some similarities. But I also have to admit that I liked Dreams Lie Beneath better than either of those stories! I want to read it again. 4.5 out of 5 stars!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Many thanks to Harper Audio and NetGalley for the digital copy of this audiobook proof for review purposes. i was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

Reviving the Commander by Nadine C. Keels

About the book:

She isn’t a beautiful young maiden hoping to erase the Commander’s memory.

Opal Whilstead knows she has a reputation: a reputation as a bright, giving, upright woman—smiling and laughing her way through hopeless spinsterhood. It’s been so long since she’s had serious feelings for a man, but now she finds herself taken with the Commander Exemplar of Diachona’s army.

And she regrets it.

Not only is the Exemplar a widower still longing for his wife, but he’s the father of the reigning king. Even if a man of such prestige could find love again, he’d be unlikely to search for it among the kingdom’s old maids. Besides, Opal dreads being found, due to a grievous secret she carries…

My review:

I really did enjoy this sweet, heartfelt romance. It was different from your typical romance novel: the heroine wasn’t a young, gorgeous girl trying to decide which of the multiple handsome, eligible young men she should choose to dance with at the next ball (not that those are horrible stories, but…). Opal is a woman of middle years who has pretty much given up on finding love and instead spends her time serving others. She is more inspiring than I imagined she would be. And more complex.

We all know that there will be a happy ending for Opal and Staid, but there was enough of a twist in the story to give the reader a desire to know just how obstacles will be overcome to reach that joyful conclusion. I can easily give Reviving the Commander 3.5 out of 5 stars. It was a light read with heavy moments that I would recommend to fans of historical romance.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Many thanks to the author for the digital copy of this novel for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

Weird Writing Prompts Book Tour!

I am so excited that I get to be a part of this book tour for Janeen Ippolito’s Weird Writing Prompts: Random Questions to Supercharge Your Story. I’ve been amused and inspired by her random questions on social media and was overjoyed to see that she has compiled them into one convenient place. So let’s get started…

About the book:

Get more out of your writing prompts!

Weird Writing Prompts is a short book loaded with questions to jumpstart your creativity, dive deeper into your characters, and rev up your book marketing.

Oh yeah, and some questions are weird. Like “trap your characters in an elevator with an emu” weird. Because everyone needs a little weirdness to refresh their writing lives!

Grab this book to:

-Get Deep & Random – Expanded prompts with ideas to make your characters epic, plus absurd situations to unlock your creativity with play

-Get Sharing & Marketing – Author-centric questions to fuel your marketing brain and help with social media content creation

It’s time to refresh your brain, supercharge your story, and have fun with your marketing!

My review:

Weird Writing Prompts is one of those books that every author should have on their shelf. The first half of the book is packed with crazy questions to get your writerly mind in gear. They can help you take your characterization to a whole new level while having fun. And I really loved how Janeen not only complied this group of fascinating and diverting questions, but she also explains how different questions can help to reveal insights into your characters, making them more lifelike and relatable, and how the answers to these questions can develop plot lines and subplots and spinoffs and myriad other things.

But not only will this book help with developing your characters and strengthening your plot, the second half of the book is filled with wonderful social media marketing ideas, perfect for the average introverted author who needs to find fresh and fun ways to connect with their audience.

This book is gold in paper form. If you are an established author, you need this book. If you are working on your first novel, you need this book. If you have aspirations to write, you need this book. Who am I kidding? Everyone needs this book, if only to have crazy questions to ask your friends over lunch, to enliven you next family reunion, or to fill in those awkward moments on a blind date. 😉

I can only give this 5 out of 5 stars, because it’s a book that I will pick up over and over again, even if only for a chuckle. 😀 Pick up your copy today!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Where to buy this awesome book:

About the author:

Janeen Ippolito believes you should own your unique words. She’s a multi-published author of bestselling fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. She’s also an experienced editor, marketing strategist, and businesswoman, plus the CEO of Uncommon Universes Press. When not writing, she explores random hobbies or posts cute animal memes.

Connect at or find her on social media:

Thank you so much to Janeen Ippolito and Uncommon Universes Press for the digital copy of this book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review, but I couldn’t resist, because it’s awesome! All opinions are my very own! 🙂

Truesilver by D.J. Edwardson

About the book:

A young man stained with his father’s failures. A sword of untold power. A legend rises.

Kion Bray can’t accept that his father was a coward. Bullied for his dad’s actions in the last war, the seventeen-year-old shepherd is determined to restore his family honor. And the only way to do it is to win the village’s annual sword-fighting contest.

Lacking experience and struggling to find time to practice, Kion fears he might only cause his kin further embarrassment. And with his biggest tormentor awaiting him in the competition and a dark army mobilizing to the north, his quest for redemption may come to a swift and bloody end.

Can a simple herdsman become a master swordsman before his hopes and his people are crushed?

Truesilver is the first book in the epic Swordspeaker Saga YA fantasy series. If you like gargantuan quests, towering bravery, and coming-of-age tales, then you’ll love this razor-sharp story.

My review:

So this was one of those fabulous stories that I stayed up too late reading, because I got so involved in the world and invested in the characters. I rejoiced and commiserated with Kion through all of his trials; I hoped that Tiryn would pull through; and I giggled (and maybe even snorted a time or two) at Zinder’s antics. The author did a beautiful job of crafting characters that I enjoyed getting to know and then placing them in situations that made me want to cheer them on.

It is easy to give this story 4.5 out of 5 stars, because I thoroughly relished reading it. And now I am so looking forward to reading the next book in The Swordspeaker Saga. 🙂

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Many thanks to the author and NetGalley for the digital copy of this book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

The Tethering: The Complete Collection by Megan O’Russell

About the audiobook:

All he wants is to win her love. A dark spell may separate them forever.

A high school loner in a perfect town – that was Jacob’s life. Until his school was ripped apart by magic. After losing everything, Jacob is thrown into a world of enchantment. But the wonder of being a wizard isn’t enough to hide the danger lurking in the shadows.

Emilia is the heir of her clan, raised to help her people hide right under the humans’ noses. She can’t escape her duty as a witch. But there are some wishes even spells can’t grant.

When fate binds Jacob and Emilia together, war threatens to destroy all they hold dear. Wizards are under attack, and Jacob and Emilia find themselves at the center of a battle that will decide the survival of magic.

Jacob wants to protect Emilia. Emilia has to save the world. Facing an enemy that can shatter their souls, will they find love or be devoured by flames?

My review:

Note: This audiobook is a collection of all four books in Megan O’Russell’s The Tethering series.

With shades of Harry Potter and Vega Jane, The Tethering series is definitely an interesting read. It circles around two high school-aged teens that find themselves stuck with each other (the “friends-that-don’t-want-to-ruin-their-friendship-by-admitting-they-love-one-another” trope taken to a slightly different level) and caught in the middle of a battle essentially for the right to practice magic without humans knowing and interfering. If you think that sounds kind of like a Harry Potter repeat, it’s actually not. The Tethering series has other layers to dig through and find the treasures within.

That being said, there were times I felt like I’d read parts of the story before. I kept thinking it sounded almost familiar, but then it would shift direction, and I’d get pulled back into the story. The series is fairly well-plotted and does keep you wanting to know what will happen next, even across four books.

And the narrator of the audio collection does a decent job of giving personality to the characters, making it easy to keep track of the story while he reads.

All in all, I enjoyed listening to The Tethering: The Complete Series. If you enjoy stories of magic-wielding and fighting for the right to be yourself without being censored or persecuted, this is a read for you. I’d recommend you check it out and give it 3.5 out of 5 stars for a pretty good read.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Many thanks to the author for the digital download of this audiobook for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

Woman in Shadow by Carrie Stuart Parks

About the book:

A woman off the grid.

Darby Graham thinks she’s on a much-needed vacation in remote Idaho to relax. But before she even arrives at the ranch, an earthquake strikes. Then a barn on the edge of town is engulfed in flames and strange problems at the ranch begin to escalate, and Darby finds herself immersed in a chilling mystery.

A town on fire.

More fires erupt around town, and a serial arsonist sends taunting letters to the press after each. As a forensic linguist, this is Darby’s area of expertise . . . but the scars her work has caused her are also the reason she’s trying to escape her life.

A growing darkness.

As the shadows continue moving in, pieces of the town around her come into sharper focus. To make it out alive, Darby must decide if she can trust the one man who sees her clearly.

My review:

I’m always fascinated with how Carrie Stuart Parks so cleanly meshes the world of forensics with thrilling story lines and beautifully flawed characters. She did it again with her latest, Woman in Shadow. I’m now totally intrigued by forensic linguistics. 😉

Darby is one of those characters that I cheered on the whole time I was reading, because she doubted herself so much and allowed circumstances and people dictate her behavior. But she grew throughout the story, gaining mental, emotional, and physical strength through each trial she faced. The hints of romance with Bram brought yet another welcome dimension to the plot, and the attraction triangle — or would that be quadrangle? pentagon? — with all of the younger men competing for Darby’s attention was a nice bit of comic relief. 🙂

One of my hallmarks for a good mystery/thriller/suspense novel is that you should not be able to easily figure out what is really going on. Woman in Shadow definitely fit that bill for me. There was a twist at the end that I would never have expected. She dropped hints along the way that I can see in hindsight, but did it so subtly that I didn’t pick up on them. I found myself getting annoyed at life, because it kept interrupting me while I was enjoying being lost in Darby’s investigation. Absolutely wonderful! I’d most definitely recommend you read Woman in Shadow, and I’d give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Many thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishers and NetGalley for the digital copy of this book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own. 🙂