Protected: The Loss, The Struggle, The Story Untold

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It’s Been Over A Year

Hello my friends, if any of you are still out there!

It’s been over a year since I posted here. Which is crazy, because I write reviews for the paper all the time and the work is already done for me.

I’m sad, because I have not done much actual writing. However, I have done quite a bit of reading/reviewing. I’m pondering a Youtube channel on that.

I also started a reading journal which tons of fun.

So I hope to come back to you! And post again, and do all the things!

Review: The Shadow Queen

51iLk-Vq53L._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.

In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart. But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.”

I’ve been burned on a few retelling books of late.  I didn’t even finish a recent one I was trying to read for a review.  But this one?  Oh my, Redwine knows her fairy tales, and better yet – she completely transformed it!  I really liked this book.

It is a retelling of Snow White, but with so much more. For future reference, I love this one more.  Kol is quite possibly my favorite character, and I really enjoyed the characters as a whole.  Redwine does a good job of building the characters, showing us how they think, and bringing them together.  She also shows us various viewpoints, including those who are evil.

Now, it did take a while for the plot to pick, so in the beginning I was rather unsure if I was going to like it. That is my main criticism.   No – I take it back – my main criticism is that a character I feared would die, died.  …. So I’m still really angry about that. I’ve met C.J. Redwine a few times now (SOKY Bookfest, YA Bookcon – she was on a panel I moderated), and I always love her energy, stories and the way she interacts with others. Oh, and she LOVES Harry Potter, hosted the HP trivia game, and gave away a ton of books…. but I may just have to break out in tears in front of her and halfheartedly yell at her the next time I see her… As a warning…  Ahem, sorry – back to what I was saying. The plot would slow down quite a bit here and there, and drag on for a while before picking back up. I loved the overall story enough, and the twists on the fairy tale, that I kept reading, and I’m glad I did.

My main question after reading is about the ogres. What’s their deal? How did they get lose? It kinda references the other kingdom (besides the two we are dealing with) but not enough. I felt like I needed to know more about this, how they worked, if they weren’t intelligent… etc. That would have been good information.  As to another point – who takes all three main royals to a war front? Seems like a really bad idea…

Kol, and the shape shifting dragons, were my absolute favorite!  The pieces to who they were, how they worked, and all of those details were just amazing. I liked his friends, and the kingdom.  Kol was also one of my top two favorite characters – and their interactions with Sasha were even better.

Overall, about a 3.5 on the scale, because of the way Redwine transforms the fairy tale.  I look forward to reading the next!

Review: Harry Potter: A Journey through the History of Hogwarts

Oh, how I love all things Harry Potter!  They make me super happy.  I was given a gift card for Christmas to Barnes and Noble, and after three trips, and a lot of staring at many things, I decided to get this (I have money left, so more trips are in my future…).


“As the British Library unveils a very special new exhibition in the UK, Harry Potter: A History of Magic, readers everywhere are invited on an enchanting journey through the Hogwarts curriculum, from Care of Magical Creatures and Herbology to Defense Against the Dark Arts, Astronomy, and more in this book uncovering thousands of years of magical history.  Prepare to be amazed by artifacts released from the archives of the British Library, unseen sketches and manuscript pages from J.K. Rowling, and incredible illustrations from artist Jim Kay.  Discover the truth behind the origins of the Philosopher’s Stone, monstrous dragons, and troublesome trolls; examine real-life wands and find out what actually makes a mandrake scream; pore over remarkable pages from da Vinci’s notebook; and discover the oldest atlas of the night sky.  Carefully curated by the British Library and full of extraordinary treasures from all over the world, this is an unforgettable journey exploring the history of the magic at the heart of the Harry Potter stories.”

It wasn’t quite what I expected, but I liked it. It had some excellent art from the illustrated editions.  There are also great pieces features from the British Library’s actual exhibit, which I wish I could actually see.  I have to say, kids who love Harry Potter would probably love this much more, because they would be learning new fun things about history. Being obsessed with Witchcraft/Wiccans/Herbology/History, I knew most of this but did learn a few new things.

All in all, a must have for any Harry Potter Fan!

Review: Iron Gold

gold“They call him father, liberator, warlord, Reaper. But he feels a boy as he falls toward the pale blue planet, his armor red, his army vast, his heart heavy. It is the tenth year of war and the thirty-second of his life. A decade ago, Darrow was the hero of the revolution he believed would break the chains of the Society. But the Rising has shattered everything: Instead of peace and freedom, it has brought endless war. Now he must risk everything he has fought for on one last desperate mission. Darrow still believes he can save everyone, but can he save himself? And throughout the worlds, other destinies entwine with Darrow’s to change his fate forever: A young Red girl flees tragedy in her refugee camp and achieves for herself a new life she could never have imagined. An ex-soldier broken by grief is forced to steal the most valuable thing in the galaxy—or pay with his life. And Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile to the sovereign, wanders the stars with his mentor, Cassius, haunted by the loss of the world that Darrow transformed, and dreaming of what will rise from its ashes. Red Rising was the story of the end of one universe, and Iron Gold is the story of the creation of a new one.”

I am … unhappy… and conflicted.  Conflicted would certainly be the word I have to use the most.  I was so ecstatic when I found out that Pierce Brown was writing another novel, but I thought it would be around different characters. The truth is, it is and it isn’t.  Some of our favorite characters have returned, including Darrow, his howlers, and characters we know and love, and some new characters have surfaced.  The story is now told from four points of view, including from one character we met briefly, and two new ones.

Darrow is no longer the boy we knew. A decade of war has changed him, and rightfully so.  However, this novel dashes any hopes and dreams I had for him at the end of Morning Glory, and there were many times when I wished we could have just left him there and never returned to his story. Also, many times I just wanted to slap some dadgum sense into his brain, and make him realize that he did not always have to be rash. I mean, like I was seriously so angry reading this novel that I almost threw the blasted thing (except, it is rather large and heavy at over 600 pages). Unfortunately, I could not do that. Pierce Brown is also such a compelling writing that I could not put the story down. I kept reading. So, I am left conflicted.

What I liked most about this story is the young girl we meet on Mars. It was the main thing that kept me reading the story, and I at one point (I’m ashamed to admit) flipped ahead and just read her pieces of the story to make sure nothing happened to her. I’ll leave you wondering whether it did or not… Lyria is my favorite new character. She is brave, and scared, and conflicted.  She is fighting for herself and for others.  Her character knows the cost of war, what it means to be made promises and then left behind, and the dark side of revolution.  A quick study, she works hard to be a better person, and make a better life, but like so many of us, we long for others to understand us, and we become lost.  Her story was certainly my favorite, and the way that Brown connects it to the other three (for they all become connected in some way), is an amazing thing. Actually, the way Brown connects these four characters was truly fascinating. I imagine in my head that he has a whole room dedicated to the story of these novels, with a very long and complicated timeline along all four walls…

As with any book on war, we are met with death and tragedy. I have complimented Pierce Brown before on his ability to write war in such a way as to make it real to those of us who have never experienced it (albeit, in space, and with much fancier weapons than we have on Earth) – he faces down the tragedy, and the horror, and the senselessness of it in his stories, with unashamed transparency to the utter awfulness tha war is. Breaking my heart again, over and over and over. When I sit and think about it, Iron Gold is truly an honest continuation to Morning Glory, because while many authors would wrap the revolution up with a pretty bow, create a new government and move the story along, Brown is showing us the true cost of any war, the way the real-world works, and the cost of one person’s dream.  Even if we did not want to see it. To be clear, I’ve pretty much decided, I did not want to see it. The ending in my head was so very much happier.

Though we may have had many favorite characters from the original trilogy, be warned that though they are still there (if they were alive at the end of Morning Glory), their parts to play in the new novels are not as large.  We see a few of the original howlers here and there, but they are no longer the central characters to the plot.  A piece of me misses them, but another part of me is glad for the change, and loving the new people we meet. A couple of the howlers are still with Darrow during the story, and seeing how they have grown and changed was a wonderful part of coming back to this world (Sevro, I’m looking at you).

Brown races back into the world we had to come know, and reintroduces us to a world torn apart by war but slowly trying to come back together.  He writes in multiple points of view, flowing from the one to the next without a hitch and still giving each of the four characters their own voice (Darrow’s is much the same, but more depressing).  It would seem as if he writes as naturally as some of us breathe air, and indeed the second (if you view this as a new trilogy, which I originally thought it was)/fifth Red Rising novel (Dark Age) will come out in September this year – only nine months after Iron Gold is released; that is something to be thankful for, though it does not have a promising title.

Our other two new narrators, Lysander au Lune (though someone we briefly met before), and Ephraim, are interesting and add their own flavor to the story. Ephraim is a bitter thief, who understands the cost of war but is lost in his own tragedy.  Lysander is dealing with coming to terms with his own history, and how to become the man he thinks he should be. Ephraim is probably my least favorite of our new narrators, with Lysander coming in second behind Lyria.

This book is as fast paced as the others, leaving us on a major cliffhanger.  I am still playing a guessing game as to who some of the leading bad buys really are, and praying that Darrow eventually comes to his senses, or maybe is making the right choices. I mean, I have never been so conflicted over whether or not I like a book before. I loved so much about this, and then hated so very much at the same time.

As always… I’m looking forward to the next one…

Pierce Brown lives in Los Angeles, where he scribbles tales of spaceships, wizards, ghouls, and most things old or bizarre.  You can connect with Pierce on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads. You can also visit his website at

Review: Perennials

perennials.jpgPerennials by Julie Cantrell is a great read.  I started reading it at about 11 am on one of my days off during winter break, and kept reading it… until I finished it about 8 pm that night.  There were a few interruptions of course, as I have a three year old.

When two estranged sisters reunite for their parents’ 50th anniversary, a family tragedy brings unexpected lessons of hope and healing amid the flowers of their mother’s perennial garden.

Eva Sutherland—known to all as Lovey—grew up safe and secure in Oxford, Mississippi, surrounded by a rich literary history and her mother’s stunning flower gardens. But a shed fire, and the injuries it caused, changed everything. Her older sister, Bitsy, blamed Lovey for the irreparable damage. Bitsy became the homecoming queen and the perfect Southern belle who could do no wrong. All the while, Lovey served as the family scapegoat, always bearing the brunt when Bitsy threw blame her way.  At eighteen, suffocating in her sister’s shadow, Lovey turned down a marriage proposal and fled to Arizona. Free from Bitsy’s vicious lies, she became a successful advertising executive and a weekend yoga instructor, carving a satisfying life for herself. But at forty-five, Lovey is feeling more alone than ever and questioning the choices that led her here.

When her father calls insisting she come home three weeks early for her parents’ 50th anniversary, Lovey is at her wits’ end. She’s about to close the biggest contract of her career, and there’s a lot on the line. But despite the risks, her father’s words, “Family First,” draw her back to the red-dirt roads of Mississippi.  Lovey is drawn in to a secret project—a memory garden her father has planned as an anniversary surprise. As she helps create this sacred space, Lovey begins to rediscover her roots, learning how to live perennially in spite of life’s many trials and tragedies.  Years ago, Lovey chose to leave her family and the South far behind. But now that she’s returned, she’s realizing things at home were not always what they seemed.”

The back of this intrigued me enough, though I was kinda shaky on whether I thought it sounded good or not.  I’m glad I started to read it.

SPOILER WARNING – Highlight to read: As a warning, this book does deal with cancer.  This is a hard thing for me to read about as my mother in law passed away after a battle with cancer, and so did my husband’s grandmother.  Cancer is such a tough subject to deal with, and when it came up in this novel, (which I suspected long before I knew for sure) I was unsure if I wanted to keep going. However, I liked the characters enough and was wanting to know more backstory, so I did keep going. And I’m glad. Though I cried. A lot. END SPOILERS.

The beginning is slow, but eventually starts to pick up.  I’m so used to reading young adult fiction, I was surprised when I realized the main character was 45 years old. It honestly was quite a refreshing change.  Because even though she of course did not have her life figured out, she had a career, a house, and a whole slew of different worries.  I need to remember to read books like this more often.

I spent most of the book just wanting to royally slap Lovey’s sister, Bitsy. And honestly, still mostly wanted to slap the sister even later. However, the sibling rivalry, the parents, and how the past all factored in, was written very well. It was also spread out nicely and paced through the story.

Though religion is used in the text, it never becomes preachy, and remains powerful. Interestingly enough, it also mixes in some new age/Yoga/Native American traditions as well.  I loved the family dynamic, because it was so well written. It also reminds us that parents can make mistakes as well.  It deals with adultery, lying, grief, and hurt. It deals with coming to terms with our past, and deciding when to forgive.

There is also a beautiful mix of literature history of Oxford woven into this story, which I greatly enjoyed. The gardens and flower talk (though not my forte) was also enjoyable.  Metaphors and layers are used throughout in ways that worked well.

Secrets of the past and present are reveled, Kleenex is needed, and overall it is a story of warmth, emotion and healing.

Review: The School for Good and Evil


The School for Good and Evil is quite a fairy tale.  I have mixed feelings on this one, and rated it a 3/5. That said, I also immediately started reading the second one… or well listening to it.  The person who reads it for the audio book is quite good, by the way.

“The New York Times bestselling School for Good and Evil series is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one. With her glass slippers and devotion to good deeds, Sophie knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and join the ranks of past students like Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Snow White. Meanwhile, Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks and wicked black cat, seems a natural fit for the villains in the School for Evil.  The two girls soon find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School for Good, thrust among handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.  But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are?”

This book starts off slow, starts getting really good, and then eventually feels like its dragging on forever and could have ended four or five different times (if you read quite fast, this might be cured by actually reading the book versus listening to it).  With that said, I still rather enjoyed the story and the characters.  Sophie is… annoying. Pretty much always annoying. Agatha I rather quite enjoy, and there were a few good surprises with her characters. There are others you come to love (oddly, I like the evil characters better than the good characters), and some you just constantly want to smack upside the head (Teddy, I’m looking at you).

Perhaps one of the best pieces of this novel is the quirks, twists and add-ons to the fairy tale world.  It has a nice mix of the things we have always know about fairy tales, and new things that pop up when not expected.  I loved the guards, the teachers, the traditions and the castles.  There were so many little funny things to shake your head over, and others that could baffle you for a minute, but generally you like.

I do have to say that they talk about how evil cannot love, or like others… but all the kids at the school are children of evil characters… so you know… things had to happen… to have the children… so that part kind of bothers me. Just saying.

This was a book club pick, and we were generally torn on our overall opinion.  I think only me and one other person out of the seven decided to read the second.  It has an average rating of 4.2 on Amazon, so enough people seem to like it.  Also noted, it is a middle grades targeted book, and … we are very much not that.  I would probably have liked it more in middle school. Then again, … probably not. The same things would have still bothered me.

Notes from my fellow book club members: good laughs, darker than imagined (in a good way), and Aggravation with Sophie/Agatha.

Agatha, though her stupid devotion to Sophie is incredibly frustrating, is my favorite and her inner dialogue had me laughing out loud a couple of times.  She was just fantastic and I appreciate her love of candy.  I believe part of her message really gets lost at the end of the story, and that saddened me. I’m hoping it is picked back up in the second. Honorable mention is Hort and Hester. I rather liked them.

Overall, worth a quick read if you like quirky fairy tales.

Review: Reclaiming Shilo Snow


“Trapped on the ice-planet of Delon, gamer girl Sofi and Ambassador Miguel have discovered that nothing is what it seems, including their friends. On a quest to rescue her brother, Shilo, a boy everyone believes is dead, they must now escape and warn Earth of Delon’s designs on humanity. Except the more they unearth of the planet and Sofi’s past, the more they feel themselves unraveling, as each new revelation has Sofi questioning the very existence of reality.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Sofi’s mom, Inola, is battling a different kind of unraveling: a political one that could cost lives, positions, and a barely-rebuilt society, should they discover the deal made with the Delonese.

But there’s a secret deeper than all that. One locked away inside Sofi and ticking away with the beginnings, endings, and answers to everything. Including how to save humanity.”

5/5 Stars!  I love sequels that manage to up the game, and this one certainly did.  Part of me also especially likes the fact that this was a duology, something I do not see often anymore in the literary world.  Then again, trilogies are also becoming rarer, as everyone just writes in a series forever and ever…. Ahem, anyways.

I started reading this novel, and remember why I love Weber’s writing so very much. Or well, the many reasons I love her writing so much. She can transport us to another world with her descriptions and the characters’ actions, and it is easy to imagine their world, and what they feel. It takes no effort to be in “their shoes.”  I also love her writing because Weber writes for a cause.

For example, she dedicates this book to all the children who are being trafficked.  It is easy to see that this book speaks to what is happening on Earth.  With the speech that is given by one character at the end, I was close to tears.  We have to to remember who we are, and how we can change the worlds ourselves, and Weber reminds us of this with this story.  Fiction is such an amazing thing.

The pace of this story is perfect.  It pulls you along as you pray and hope for happy endings.  It has tragedy, and comedy, and hope.  I was especially happy at a new point of view we got to see (Inola), because it allowed us another view into the world around Sofi and Shilo and how they came to be who they are. Perhaps most interestingly, it gave us another view of a person and the choices they make – and the realization that we do not always make the right ones, even if we make the choice for the right reason or the greater good.

I don’t want to give too much away, but of course we see our favorite characters, Sofi and Migeul.  We also see others return, and a few new characters. We learn more about each of them, see into their past, and learn more about the Delonese.  The Delonese are particularly interesting in this book, as their past and their own fears become more apparent.

There is romance, there is intrigue, there is family affection.  There are so many emotions: sadness, grief, happiness, feeling lost, defiance, and more!  It certainly has its own core of strong women, something else I loved.  Overall, a truly great novel.

On a more important note – I mean I know we should not just a book by its cover, but can I just say how awesome this book cover is? Sadly, the ARCs have another version before final approval, so mine does not look this awesome.


If you have not read The Evaporation of Sofi Snow yet, you are in luck! I am fixing to do a giveaway of an AUTOGRAPHED copy of the book! Hardcover even!  So keep an eye out for that, and comment if you would like to participate!

Christmas At Carnton

“Christmas at Carnton: A Novella” by Tamera Alexander. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson. 2017. 256 pages. $12.99.

“Amid war and the Carntonfading dream of the Confederacy, a wounded soldier and a destitute widow discover the true meaning of Christmas – and of sacrificial love. Recently widowed, Aletta Prescott struggles to hold life together for herself and her six-year old son. With the bank threatening to evict, she discovers an advertisement for the Women’s Relief Society auction and applies for a position – only to discover it’s been filled. Then a chance meeting with a wounded soldier offers another opportunity – and friendship. But can Aletta trust this man? Captain Jake Winston, a revered Confederate sharpshooter, suffered a head wound at the Battle of Chickamauga. When doctors deliver their diagnosis, Jake fears losing not only his greatest skill but his very identity. As he heals, Jake is ordered to assist with a local Women’s Relief Society auction. He respectfully objects. Kowtowing to a bunch of “crinolines” isn’t his idea of soldiering. But orders are orders, and he soon discovers this group of ladies – one, in particular – is far more than he bargained for. Set against the backdrop and history of the Carnton Plantation in Franklin, Tennessee, Christmas at Carnton is a story of hope renewed and faith restored at Christmas.”

Christmas is always a great time read something uplifting, and a romance novel is even better. I was excited to get this in the mail, as I was certainly in the mood for a quick read that would bring up my spirits, and this book certainly fit the bill.  It is a perfect historical, southern, romance story. Even better, it is a launching a three book series!

The Civil War is always a tough topic, and at first I was a little worried, but overall, Alexander does an amazing job of weaving together the history and the characters. The story starts off with Aletta feeling hopeless, and we quickly are drawn into her story, her world, and the history surrounding it. I fell in love with Aletta’s son, Andrew, and it was perhaps my favorite part of this story. As a mother of a three year old boy, it was easy to visualize his face, his movements, and the way he would have responded to things.

The author also did a good job of challenging our own ideas.  Aletta’s father was a carpenter, and therefore she knows how to work with wood – an important piece to the overall story and a nice change for a woman in a historical novel. She was well developed as a character, a wonderful mother, and it was great to see her journey and her strength, even when she felt like she had failed.  The other women around her were also great characters, and I enjoyed their interactions and how they worked together.

One of the reasons that I loved this book is because of the glimpse it gives us into another life style, and time.  There is no major technology, no phone calls to be making, it was so often a waiting game for news. Alexander mentions how many women found out their loved ones had perished on the battlefield from reading the newspaper, because it was there before their letter came to their doorstep. We so often become removed from the history and the hardships we once faced, and it was good to be reminded of it as well.

Alexander simply knows how to tell a lovely, heartwarming story that is good for the soul. For those whom enjoy it, there is also a religious aspect to this novel, and as it takes place around Christmas, it is more special to those in the story.  Carnton Plantation is still in Tennessee today, and is now a museum. For more about Tamera’s books, visit

*Longer review will be published in The Bowling Green Daily News*

YA Bookcon


*Update – I started reading Reclaiming Shilo Snow last night and have devoured half of it. Plan to finish it tonight and review it! (Silly work!)

So, Bowling Green hosted the YA Bookcon, which was truly amazing, and tons of fun.  I got extremely lucky, and was able to moderate the panel with Mary Weber on it, and finally meet her in person. They asked people to dress up for the event, …. soooo of course I did!  Next year I plan to do an even more amazing job, but this was short notice!

If you cannot tell, I was the TARDIS… and I took all my books for Mary to sign, which means I also got to win swag!  Always fun. There were tons of high school students from surrounding areas, some I knew from my drama class when I was an American College Coach at ECHS in 2016, so that was fun too!

I moderated a great panel, entitled:  Like a Boss: Writing Your Way Through An Identity Crisis — “Figuring out who you are is tough in high school. Luckily, it’s tough for everyone, as these authors point out – whether you’re in the real world or one that’s made up!”


The authors on the panel were:
1. Isabel Quintero, Gabi, A Girl In Pieces
2. Mary Weber, The Evaporation of Sofi Snow
3. Cinda Williams Chima, Shadowcaster
4. Courtney C. Stevens, Dress Codes for Small Towns

They did a great job. Courtney Stevens was on the very first panel I moderated for our SOKY Bookfest, and I always think she does a dynamic job of engaging people. Sadly, after my panel I had to head back to work.  Lucky for me it was a two day event, so the next day I got to back, and attend a game of trivia about Harry Potter (which I sorely disappointed myself on, and must reread all of those at once – oh and the Hufflepuffs won!).

CJ Redwine hosted the Trivia Game (She is awesome as well).  She was on my panel this year for SOKY.  She brought a giant suitcase of books to give out as prizes, and then told us to take as many as we wanted, because she was not taking them back home!  Loved it.

Also, posted above in the middle, is Mary Weber’s daughter (Avalon), who was super nice. We got to talk about studying abroad, Harlaxton and college in general (you can’t tell what I do for a living, can you?).

All in all, it was an awesome couple of days, in which I spent too much money (though some of those books I got for moderating).  They also gave away free pins, which was way too much fun.

I cannot wait for our next SOKY Bookfest!