The Story Hunter by Lindsay A. Franklin

About the book:

Redeeming the past is a fatal quest.

In the wake of a deadly coup, the capital city of Urian has descended into chaos. Heartbreak and bloodshed await Tanwen and her friends as they discover the unlikeliest leader now rules Tir.

If they want to save the realm, Tannie and the Corsyth weavers must rescue Queen Braith and unmask the Master, ending the strife once and for all. But the success of their hunt depends upon an ally no one trusts.

The Master has a new target in sight: fragile, trauma-scarred Digwyn, whose unique weaving ability could turn the tide of any war. When the desire for vengeance proves too powerful for Digwyn to resist, Tanwen must face a terrifying truth: the fate of Tir rests in the hands of a volatile, shattered girl.

********************************************

My review:

Where do I begin? Epic. Awesome. Masterfully crafted. Heart-wrenching. Heart-filling. There are far too many things I want to say about the conclusion of Lindsay A. Franklin’s Weaver Trilogy, but mostly I want to say that I am so sad that it’s ended! I need more Mor! And Tannie and Diggy and Kharn and everyone, even Brac.

This series has been so wonderful in so many ways for me. Not only did I fall in love with the stories, but they helped others I know begin to enjoy fantasy for themselves. I introduced my book club, made up mostly of strictly mass-market mystery and non-fiction reading ladies (including my Mom!), to The Story Peddler, and I had no idea of the impact it would have on them. It opened up a whole new world for them and they haven’t looked back! They are now passing around my copy of The Story Raider and can’t wait to get their hands on The Story Hunter, which releases in May 2020. Be sure to pre-order your own copy!

They may be upset when I tell them that I cried through the last quarter of this story, but I will ensure them that the tears are so worth it. Lindsay again stuffs so much beauty and truth and feels into her writing that I am blown away with every new story. I cannot recommend this book, this whole series, highly enough, and I definitely can’t wait to see what else she has in store for us next. 🙂

So many thanks to Lindsay A. Franklin and Enclave Publishing for the e-ARC of this novel for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

My Alien Boyfriend by Janeen Ippolito

About the book:

He’s hot. He’s an alien. He didn’t tell her.
He’s in big trouble…

Anthony Salamandras is the perfect boyfriend: attractive, wealthy, caring, and fine with hanging out in the library while Kelley Vanders-Froggett studies for her senior year of college. Sure, she’s never seen his family or visited his home, but details like that can be sorted out after graduation.

Then he pops the question –and sweeps Kelley off to another planet. Now she’s dealing with alien future in-laws, creepy lizards, and a fiery transformation. Not to mention a fiancé who has no clue that this is not how Earth girls celebrate engagement.

Kelley’s in over her head. But one thing’s for sure: Anthony’s gonna find out just what this daughter of a vacuum cleaner repairman is made of.

A short romantic satire with a sweet core and a fiery happily-ever-after.

*****************************************************

My (short) review (it’s a piece of short fiction, after all!):

My Alien Boyfriend is a cute, light read, perfect for a quiet afternoon. I couldn’t help but get swept up in what could have been a sickeningly sweet romance that instead the author wonderfully balanced with a healthy dose of snark. 🙂

I listened to the audiobook version, and thoroughly enjoyed how the narrator brought life to the characters and the snark. It was a great way to pass a snowy Sunday afternoon.

*I got a free Audible download code from Janeen Ippolito for being one of her newsletter subscribers. Check out her website (www.janeenippolito.com) for more great reads. I wasn’t required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

Cry of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse

About the book:

Lady Selene Ravenwood has come into her full power as a dreamwalker just as the war with the Dominia Empire begins. Working with the other Great Houses, Selene and Damien use their gifts to secure the borders and save those devastated by the war. But conflict, betrayal, and hatred begin to spread between the Great Houses, destroying their unity as the empire burns a path across their lands. At the same time, Damien Maris starts to lose his ability to raise the waters, leaving the lands vulnerable to the empire’s attacks.

The only one who can unite the houses and restore her husband’s power is Selene Ravenwood. But it will require that she open her heart to those who have hurt her and let go of her past, despite the one who hunts her and will do anything to stop her power.

Will Selene survive? Or is she destined to fall like the dreamwalkers before her?

**************************************************************

My review:

I didn’t think the Ravenwood Saga could get any better, but I was wrong. The third and final installment, Cry of the Raven, is a breathtaking work of fiction, in both its non-stop excitement and in its beauty.

Busse ticked all the boxes for a great story: love and hatred, good and evil, action and drama, memorable characters, and a beautiful world to pack it all into. The depth of emotion she built into this story was unbelievable. I found myself cheering and sniffling and flipping pages like a madwoman to find out how they’d get through it all.

And that wasn’t even the best part for me. I loved how she wrote so much Truth into the character arcs, having her characters (most especially Selene) find the Light and then learn to seek the Light and depend on the Light for all their needs. Absolutely beautiful!

I most definitely recommend you read Morgan L. Busse’s Cry of the Raven. I would suggest you start at the beginning of the series, if you haven’t yet, and read Mark of the Raven and Flight of the Raven first. Not only are they also great reads, but reading the entire Ravenwood Saga in order makes everything more cohesive and wonderful.

Many thanks to Bethany House Publishers and NetGalley for the digital ARC of this novel for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

Paranormia by Paul Regnier

About the book:

A nerdy nobody is heaven’s newest hero. It’s too bad that the devil fights dirty…

Chris Loury is penniless and painfully geeky. So when the struggling illustrator makes a wish that grants him supernatural visions, the lines start to blur between his comics and reality. After he crosses paths with a protector who calls himself an angel, Chris must decide if being a hero is worth the danger.

When his newfound confidence helps him connect with the girl-next-door, he hopes he can balance a relationship and a superhuman secret. But after a devilishly gorgeous woman with money and an ulterior motive tempts him with career success and fame, he puts his crush, his town, and his life in jeopardy.

Will Chris fulfill his destiny and save the city from destruction?

Paranormia is an enthralling urban fantasy adventure. If you like underdog heroes, supernatural battles, and a dash of humor, then you’ll love Paul Regnier’s action-packed novel.

***********************************************************************My review:

So, for a change, the back matter description of Paranormia is spot on: it is an enthralling urban fantasy adventure with an underdog hero, supernatural battles, and a dash of humor! And I really enjoyed reading this story.

Chris is one of those characters that you want to smack upside the head most of the time, but can’t help but cheer for along the way. He such a great representation of the average human: thinks he knows how everything works, but is actually clueless; is proud of his accomplishments that mean so little in the grand scheme of things; puts off doing the little things in favor of things that sound special and exciting, but which are really just distractions from God’s will. We all have at least a little bit of Chris in us, and some of us more than others.

But the best part is when Chris finally comes to understand the reality of the supernatural around him, when he finally closes his human eyes and opens the eyes of his heart. Is he perfect from then on? Nope. But at least he tries, and that is what makes him a great hero to me.

Paranormia is a crazy ride on the spiritual warfare train. I’d highly recommend you hop on, buckle in, and hold on for a great read.

Labyrinth of Shadows by Kyla Stone

About the book:

A hero sworn to slay the monster. A princess determined to save it. But only one can live…
They call me the cursed princess. Daughter of a tyrant king. Sister to the monster. For seven years, I’ve watched helplessly as my father sacrifices human tributes to the monster trapped within the dark maze.

When the queen begs me for help, I seize the chance to prove myself–to finally break the curse, rescue my brother, and transform him into his human form. But is there any humanity in him left to save? Or will he try to kill me, too?

Either way, I have to try. I must enter the Labyrinth myself, where darkness reigns and terror lurks…

To survive, I’ll need the help of the tributes, especially brave, heroic Theseus. Determined to free his people from the terrible blood tithe, Theseus vows to slay the monster, no matter what.

But I won’t let that happen.

And I can’t let myself fall for Theseus’s charms either. My quest may cost me everything, including my heart…

To save my brother, Theseus must die.

And I Darken meets Everneath in this haunting historical fantasy adventure based on Greek mythology. Perfect for fans of myths and legends, alternative histories, conflicted characters, and strong female heroines.

*****************************************************************

My review:

Labyrinth of Shadows is a marvelous retelling of the myth of Theseus and Ariadne. The author’s command of detail made the story absolutely engaging, and she even managed to make the Minotaur a sympathetic character!

I loved how the author made Ariadne the star, the heroine, rather than the traditional route of Theseus saving everyone. Her detailed backstories for all the characters, especially Ariadne, made them so authentic, so real, so vulnerable, you could almost believe this had really happened.

I am very impressed with Kyla Stone’s work and look forward to reading more, and I’d highly recommend you check out Labyrinth of Shadows for yourself. Happy reading! 🙂

End Game by Rachel Dylan

About the book:

When elite members of the military are murdered on the streets of Washington, DC, FBI Special Agent Bailey Ryan and NCIS Special Agent Marco Agostini must work together to bring the perpetrator to justice. Unfortunately, all evidence points to a Navy SEAL sniper whom Bailey refuses to believe is guilty.

When Bailey and Marco start to connect the dots between the victims, including a link to a powerful defense contractor, they wonder if there’s a deeper cover-up at play. Then Bailey is targeted, and it becomes clear that someone is willing to kill to keep their dark secrets.

With the stakes getting higher by the moment in a twisted conspiracy, there’s a rush against the clock to determine whom they can really trust. As allies turn to enemies, the biggest secret yet to be uncovered could be the end of all of them.

****************************************************

My review:

I picked up End Game mostly because of the NCIS angle. I’ve been a fan of the TV show NCIS since the beginning and was interested to see Rachel Dylan’s take on it. And I did enjoy reading End Game. The twists kept me turning pages and the characters were pretty well-crafted–I especially liked some of the secondary characters/plot lines, like steady Jay and newbie Izzy.

And, of course, it was nearly impossible not to picture Agent Marco Agostini being played by Michael Weatherly in my head. Some of the similarities between Marco and Tony DiNozzo were pretty clear to me. But it was the differences–the faith, especially–that made Marco great.

I did notice that, unlike some other novels, Dylan did a great job of unobtrusively explaining all of those crazy acronyms the government is so fond of. Her characters never had to monologue about them or interrupt with parenthetical butt-ins. I very much appreciated that. 🙂

The only downfalls for me were that sometimes the dialogue felt a bit canned, a bit too Hallmark card-ish, for me (especially in the faith or romance bits). And, the bad guys seemed to have the skills of Storm Troopers in battle. It felt like Bailey survived more attempts on her life than John McClane in all the Die Hard movies. Sure, she’s an FBI agent, so she’s got some skills. But even she admits to freezing up, so it was a teensy bit unrealistic in that sphere.

Otherwise, it was a good read, and I can see myself reading on in the Capital Intrigue series as it continues. I’d recommend this one for a weekend where you need a bit of suspense to keep you going. 😉

Many thanks to Bethany House Publishers and NetGalley 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! 🙂

Strayborn by E.E. Rawls

About the book:

Elemental Manipulation is tricky. Only those with the power can train to become a Draev Guardian.

Cyrus Sole hates life. She’s only half-human, with weak wrists, and not a day goes by when someone doesn’t say something mean about it. But when the forbidden power to manipulate metal awakens inside her, everything changes as the Argos Corps is sent to hunt her down…
Aken is a Scourgeblood, the last in a line of monsters. But all he really wants is to gain wings and be free. Until a new power suddenly awakens, changing the course of his life…

The Draev Guardian Academy is their only sanctuary. But training to become a Draev won’t be easy. Cyrus has to hide her human side, as she gets placed in Floor Harlow with the outcast students, and nightmares of her deceased mother keep returning.
With creepy Corpsed on the prowl, and whispers of Cyrus possibly being a reborn Hero, both she and Aken find themselves caught up in a web of secrets, racial tension, and an old legend with enemies that could spell their untimely demise…

******************************************

My review:

This middle grade fantasy by E.E. Rawls has some fascinating world-building that a young reader could easily get lost in. The “Abilities” that the students at Dravensett have are diverse, well-thought, intricate, and interesting. She has created quite a vast magic system with rules for each Ability and race, making the characters have use their differences to work together. A wonderful lesson!

Tucked within the pages of Strayborn are several beautiful lessons that young people really need to hear and take to heart. There is a lot about not judging a book by its cover and seeing the heart instead, or about not comparing yourself to others, but striving to be the best version of you, that kiddos these days definitely need to be reminded of often.

There were some issues for me as a reader, however. The author inserted onomatopoeic words (such as bong-bong or skrnch-chnk) that either didn’t leave much to the imagination of the reader, or took me out of the story because my mind was trying to figure out just what that word was supposed to sound like. I think she did this because it’s a middle grade novel, and she felt she had to help young readers understand, but it seemed a little over-the-top to me.

Also, for a middle grade book, this was quite long: over 400 pages. If a middle-grade-level reader is going to tackle a book this size, they are likely going to be a decent reader to begin with, and likely won’t need the extra help of all the onomatopoeic words. And there are quite a few little errors that a good editor could clean up quickly, but that could lead to confusion for younger readers.

Overall, though, Strayborn is a decent read for a middle-grade-level reader, and the world building is definitely interesting.

Thanks to the author for providing an e-copy of this book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂