Review: The Silent Waters (Elements, #3), by Brittainy C. Cherry

The Silent Waters (Elements, #3)The Silent Waters by Brittainy C. Cherry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve now read several of Brittainy C. Cherry’s books and she never ceases to amaze me with how emotional and heartfelt her stories are. I know that when I pick up one of her books I am going to be a mess before it is over. She breaks my heart into tiny pieces and then slowly puts me back together from the wreckage. It’s a very love/hate relationship that I have with her work.

‘The Silent Waters’ was no exception. I fell in love with the characters and the beautiful, yet tragic, story. It made me fall in love. It gutted me. It broke my heart. It gave me hope. This is one book that will take you on an emotional rollercoaster ride.

We first meet Maggie as a young girl. Her father has remarried and she moves into her new home with her new family. Early on, she attaches herself to her slightly older step-brother and his best-friend, Brooks. She is the cute little girl that tags along everywhere that they go, crushing on Brooks and planning their wedding.

Initially, Brooks is irritated by Maggie and her girlish crush, until they kiss one day. From that point forward, the two are inseparable. Brooks and Maggie are the quintessential picture of childhood love.

On the day that Maggie and Brooks are supposed to have their “wedding” in the forest Brooks is late. A ten year-old Maggie goes into the forest that day, but is never the same again. What happened in the forest leaves her traumatized and her fear imprisons her.

The events of that day will have a ripple effect on everyone in Maggie’s life. Guilt and “what-ifs” slowly eat away at the people Maggie cares about the most, damaging relationships and fostering resentment. Yet, Brooks’ dedication to her is steadfast.

Over the years, life takes different characters down different paths. The dynamics of relationships change. Some grow stronger, some fade away. Old ghosts still linger, until the truth comes out so many years later.

I am being intentionally vague, because I don’t want to spoil this beautiful story for anyone. This is a book that should be experienced. It is sentimental and emotional, but so worth it. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a heartfelt, well-developed, slow-burn romance. This story is fantastic!

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Review: One Hundred & Thirty-Six Scars (The Devil’s Own, #1), by Amo Jones

One Hundred & Thirty-Six Scars (The Devil's Own, #1)One Hundred & Thirty-Six Scars by Amo Jones
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I picked up this book, I was looking for a raw, gritty, and dark read. Although ‘One Hundred & Thirty-Six Scars’ did have some dark content, it was primarily in the characters’ pasts. While that was certainly a big part of who they were, as a whole, this book wasn’t as dark as I’d hoped for.

Beast was raised by a secret organization called “The Army”. He never knew tenderness or kindness. He was trained to be an assassin from an early age and everything in his life revolved around his training and the next mission.

Despite never having experienced life on the outside, Beast somehow knows that it is better outside of the confines of the compound. He spends his youth trying to escape, bearing the scars as proof of his many attempts to free himself. Despite the brutal punishments, he never quits trying.

One day, he is successful. Along with his best friend, Hella, he manages to escape. The two go into hiding, with the help of a girl that Hella once knew from his childhood in foster care.

When Beast is recognized, it sets off a chain of events that will change his future. He meets the father that he never knew existed and is given the answers he’s always wanted about how he came to be in The Army. Immediately, he is taken in by the father that didn’t know he was alive.

Taking an apartment in a bad neighborhood while he tries to figure out his next steps, Beast is overcome by an urge to protect the girl next door. He hears her cries at night, until one day he has heard enough. He busts into the apartment next door and puts an end to the girl’s suffering.

When Beast saved Meadow, she was overwhelmed with gratitude for the huge stranger. Molested by her father from the age of four, she had finally decided to end her life. One last time and he would never hurt her again…and then, Beast saved her.

After barging in and saving the day, Meadow doesn’t hear from Beast. The two go their separate ways. Then, years later their paths cross again.

This time around, their attraction is instantaneous. From that point forward, things fell together rather easily for these two. In fact, it was too easy. There were none of the highs and lows that you’d expect. I needed a little more angst to hold my interest.

Overall, this story ended up being pretty good, but not great. The writing needed some work, but it wasn’t the worst I’ve read by a long shot. Contradictory, nonsensical phrases like “gently but roughly” and “shallow deep breaths” seemed to be a calling card for this author and left me scratching my head. There seemed to be a lack of attention to detail in the editing of this book, but I’ve read far worse.

That being said, it was still a pretty good book. Even though I wasn’t overly impressed with this first book, it did leave me very curious about the supporting characters. The author did a great job of paving the way for their stories and making me want to read their stories, even as I was nonplussed with the story I was reading. That takes some talent. I will be continuing the series. I only hope that the writing will improve as the series progresses.

From the point that the main characters re-enter each others’ lives as adults, it was pretty smooth sailing. In fact, I was taken aback at how quickly the two fell in love and how little drama there was surrounding their relationship. It was almost “too perfect”. In that way, it was surprising, but also just too easy to swallow.

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Review: The Bird and the Sword, by Amy Harmon

The Bird and the SwordThe Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amy Harmon has blown me away…again! I love her writing and the way she makes me fall in love with her damaged characters. I get lost in her stories, tuning out everything around me. I listened to the Audible edition of ‘The Bird and the Sword’ yesterday from start to finish. I couldn’t pull myself away. It was superb!

The magical world that Ms. Harmon created was vivid and engaging. I hung on every word as this story evolved, wondering what laid in store for me. From princes to trolls, witches to shifters, romance to revenge plots, this book offered plenty to hold my interest.

Fate is inescapable for Lark and King Trias. They first meet as young children, on the date that Trias’ father, the then King, murders Lark’s mother for using magic. The use of magic is against the law in the kingdom. Those that possess the special abilities, known as the “gifted”, are hunted down and killed.

With her final breath, Lark’s mother speaks of things to come, cursing the King with her final words while protecting her young daughter. For years after the death of her mother, Lark is a virtual prisoner in her father’s home. She does not speak, although she understands just fine. With his survival linked to hers, her father is determined to prevent any harm from befalling her. To stifle her gift of using words to compel action, her father forbids her from learning to read or write.

Years later, Lark and Trias meet again. Now the king, Trias takes Lark from her father as a means to force him into subservience. Lark’s father is next in line for the throne and has been working behind the scenes to stage a coup.

Despite being his captive, Lark grows close to Trias. He suffers from an ailment that only Lark seems to be able to help treat. Once her secret is revealed to the King, she is surprised to find that he doesn’t persecute her for it. In fact, he seems to be more curious about her gift than anything.

I enjoyed the slow burn feel of this love story. There was so much anticipation and storyline development that at times I wondered if I’d ever get the love story I craved. Eventually, I did and it was worth the wait!

From start to finish, I was completely engrossed in this story. There was a lot of action and adventure, with battles and fantastical beings. There was never a dull moment, but I didn’t get that over-stimulated, head-spinning feeling that many other “adventure” type of stories leave me with.

Paranormal stories are not my favorite genre, but this book was perfect for me. It had the just the right mix of romance and adventure to hold my attention. It was unlike anything I’ve ever read before and I loved it!

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Review: Ten Below Zero, by Whitney Barbetti

Ten Below ZeroTen Below Zero by Whitney Barbetti
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve read a lot of fabulous books over the last couple of weeks. Unfortunately, ‘Ten Below Zero’ wasn’t one of them. Was I harsher on this book because I had read so many spectacular books around the same time? Maybe. It is possible that I would have given this a 4-star rating if I had read it at some other point in time. However, it paled in comparison to the other books that I’ve read recently.

The story is about two damaged individuals that form a friendship, and later a romantic relationship. They help each other come to terms with their “issues” and face some hard truths. Most of this bonding occurs over the course of a long road-trip together after they check out of their day-to-day lives.

Although this story was okay, I never felt any type of strong connection to either of the characters. The heroine, Parker, was a withdrawn and socially inept lady that was a total doormat for her nasty roommates. She went through the motions, but never formed any attachments or had any concern for others. After escaping the clutches of a serial killer, she survived each day, but never really lived.

Everett was also tough to relate to. More often than not, I found him to be rude and insulting. He is an alcoholic with a brain tumor. Despite being relatively young and otherwise healthy, he decides to forego an operation that may save his life. Meanwhile, he constantly harasses Parker about the fact that she isn’t really “living” her life. Hypocritical much?

Together, these two were just overwhelmingly depressing. I just couldn’t get into this story or relate to the characters. I listened to the Audible edition and despite the good narration, I had to force myself to finish this story. It just seemed to drag along, like a dark cloud hanging over my head.

That being said, the writing was good. It just wasn’t the story for me at this time. I had a really hard time concentrating on this one. In the end, it picked up a little, but not enough to make me care about the characters or where they were headed. The whole story was just kind of “meh” for me.

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Review: Empire (Cartel, #3), by Lili St. Germain

Empire (Cartel, #3)Empire by Lili St. Germain
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! This book blew me away! I am still trying to wrap my mind around everything that transpired between the covers of this book. It was brilliant, dark, gory…and I loved every damn minute!

After finishing ‘The Gypsy Brothers’ series, I was not ready to let go of the characters that I had grown to love or those that I had grown to hate. I wanted more. I needed answers.

Dornan, especially, was intriguing. How did he get to be such a sadistic, deranged killer? What happens to a person to turn them into that kind of monster? Lili St. Germain did a spectacular job of providing brief glimpses of Dornan’s conscience, hinting at some underlying humanity, while not taking away from the fact that he was a really bad guy. Despite the fact that he was a brutal murderer, there was something about him that called to me.

Beginning the ‘Cartel’ series, I tried to distance myself from Mariana and John. After all, I knew how things were going to work out in the end. That was a given, if you read ‘The Gypsy Brothers’ first.

This is not a story with a happy ending. It is tragic. It is raw. It is absolutely heartbreaking. I knew this at the onset, but I couldn’t help but be devastated when it all came to pass, just as I knew it would.

The final book in the ‘Cartel’ series, ‘Empire’ illustrates Dornan’s descent into madness. While we were introduced to Dornan’s dark side in ‘Kingpin’, this book submerses us in his darkness. There is no coming back for him and Mariana must face the fact that the man she loves doesn’t exist any longer.

Even knowing how things would end, I found myself wanted Dornan to redeem himself. I wanted something…anything…to make it alright. I was devastated as I watched him literally transform into the cold, depraved killer that I knew from ‘The Gypsy Brothers’. It was inevitable, but it still crushed me.

After everything, I was still taken aback by Dornan’s vulnerability. Although he became a monster, embracing his darkness at the expense of his humanity, there was still a small part of him that was tender and loving. I was mesmerized by his thoughts and contradictory actions. He definitely had more than his fair share of daddy issues and his desire to please his father ruined his world.

If you’re a fan of dark romance/erotica, then I highly recommend that your read ‘The Gypsy Brothers’ series, followed by the ‘Cartel’ series. These books are not for everyone, as they contain plentiful and graphic accounts of abuse of every variety. However, if you like raw, gritty, dark stories then you can’t go wrong with these series. I am blown away by the disturbing, twisted content that Lili St. Germain produces. Take the disclaimers seriously…and buckle up! This story will rip your heart out and leave you rocking yourself in a corner.

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Review: Fallen Crest Christmas (Fallen Crest High, #5.25), by Tijan

Fallen Crest Christmas (Fallen Crest High, #5.25)Fallen Crest Christmas by Tijan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you’re a big fan of the Fallen Crest High series like I am, then this is a great little something extra for you. This quick “novella” is a nice little tidbit if you’re looking for a holiday read that won’t occupy much of your time. That being said, if you haven’t read the Fallen Crest High series, you probably won’t get anything out of this. This is essentially a very small collection of Christmas bonus scenes that tie in to the series.

In about 30 or so pages, Tijan gives us scenes from two of Sam’s Christmases. The first part revolves around a Christmas party at Melinda’s house. Sam’s mother, Analise, is out of rehab and wants to push her way back into Sam’s life. Of course, she’ll have to go through Mason and Logan to do it.

The second “extra” describes Sam’s visit to her father in Boston. Mason pays Sam a surprise visit and we get a nice, sweet bonus scene.

Overall, this was a nice, sweet little “extra”. It doesn’t add substantially to the Fallen Crest High series, but it was a great freebie if you’re looking for something super-quick, featuring some of your favorite characters. It was a short, fun read. I can’t get enough of these characters, so even though this “novella” was kind of pointless, I liked it.

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Review: Saint (Boston Underworld, #4), by A. Zavarelli

SAINT (Boston Underworld Book 4)SAINT by A. Zavarelli
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have loved every one of the books in A. Zavarelli’s ‘Boston Underworld’ series and ‘Saint’ was no exception. This book was great! I can’t get enough of these Irish guys!

‘Saint’ is the story of Rory and Scarlett. If you’re like me, you probably only had a vague recollection of who these two were at the beginning of the book. If that’s the case, don’t sweat it. A. Zavarelli did a good job of re-orienting readers to the characters and how they tied into the story.

Scarlett is not your ordinary heroine. I was equally terrified and impressed by her. She was a total badass! She is out for revenge and she is a force to be reckoned with. If you’re expecting a submissive, mild-mannered female leading lady, you’re in for a big shock with Scarlett!

Rory is just an all-around nice guy. He’s tough and sexy, but he has this kind of laid-back personality that draws you in. He was so patient and protective of Scarlett that I couldn’t help but love him. He was swoon-worthy.

As Scarlett’s past is revealed, it becomes clear why she now preys upon wealthy, entitled men. She wasn’t always the predator that she is now. One night years ago left her forever changed when she was brutally gang-raped. Set up by her own boyfriend, used by him and his friends, and then left for dead, she has now dedicated her life to seeking vengeance.

Rory wants nothing more than to claim Scarlett for his own. He is infatuated with the beautiful man-eater, but refuses to let her use him and then write him off as just another guy that wants her only for sex. He is persistent and won’t give up until he can call her his.

No matter how hard Scarlett tries to push him away, she can’t shake Rory Brodrick. When he continues to unwittingly botch her plans, she decides to use him as a means to an end. After all, he just won’t go away.

When Scarlett’s past comes back to haunt her, she finds herself relying on Rory more than she had ever anticipated. Time and time again, he comes to her rescue. He’s made it his number one priority to save Scarlett from herself, even if she doesn’t realize that she needs saving.

This was a great story from beginning to end. Scarlett and Rory did not follow the typical relationship trajectory, and that kept it interesting. It was nice to read a book with a tough as nails heroine and a hero that can respect that. Although this wasn’t my personal favorite book in the series, it was great. In fact, every book in this series has been wonderful. I highly recommend this series.

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Review: From Sand and Ash, by Amy Harmon

From Sand and AshFrom Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beautiful, heartbreaking and inspirational. Loved it! Amy Harmon is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. Each of her books that I’ve read has been incredibly emotional and touching.

‘From Sand and Ash’ is a gripping account of true love in WWII-era Italy. This story held my attention from start to finish. I fell in love with the characters and the visually rich setting. This book was so beautifully crafted that the scenes were nearly tangible.

At the same time, the beauty was in stark contrast to the brutality of the Nazi regime. Although I knew at the onset where the story would lead, it was easy to see how the brutality of the time snuck up on the complacent and disillusioned Italian people. I could relate to the responses from many of the characters that refused to acknowledge the danger until it was too late. The shift was gradual and insidious.

This is undoubtedly one of the most compelling romances that I’ve read this year. The love between Eva and Angelo was unbelievable. They had the type of love that is incredibly intimate and real. They weren’t perfect, but they loved each other in spite of their imperfections.

If you love a forbidden love story, this is your book. Never has there been a couple with the odds stacked against them more than these two. They fought for each other and their love, refusing to give up no matter how hopeless their situation might have seemed.

This story was inspirational and heartfelt. I was deeply moved by Eva and Angelo’s story. Not only was this book highly entertaining, but it was the type of book that leaves a lasting impression. I will not be forgetting these characters and their plight anytime soon. I can only hope that it will be made into a movie at some point.

If you’re looking for a suspenseful, heartfelt story, this is a great choice. This is the type of book that feeds the soul. It is beautiful and inspiring. This is a new favorite of mine and one of my top reads for the year.

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Review: Lost in Translation, by S. L. Scott

Lost in TranslationLost in Translation by S.L. Scott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I listened to the Audible version of this book while wrapping Christmas gifts earlier this week. At just under 3 hours, this was an incredibly short book — more of a novella really. The narration was good and the so was the story. It isn’t one that stands out as being spectacular, but it was a nice, sweet love story.

‘Lost in Translation’ follows Kandace Miller, an American college student, as she vacations in Paris. After a few humorous mishaps, she finds a friend in the incredibly handsome Oliver DeMarche. Oliver offers to show her around the city and Kandace is thankful to have a good-looking local give her the “authentic” Parisian experience.

Before long, the two are inseparable. Sparks fly. Kandace and Oliver fall head over heels in love.

Then, Kandace discovers a truth about Oliver that changes everything. She feels like a fool. Oliver is not the person he pretended to be.

Although this story was short and sweet, I thought it was a nice way to pass some time. Kandace and Oliver were entertaining, albeit a little immature for my tastes. As expected with such a short story, things did feel a little rushed for me.

If you’re looking for a quick, “light” read that you can easily finish in one sitting, this is a good choice. I can’t say that it will make a lasting impression, but it was a cute, fun read.

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Review: A Love Letter to Whiskey, by Kandi Steiner

A Love Letter to WhiskeyA Love Letter to Whiskey by Kandi Steiner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! This book. Have you ever read a story that is so heartbreaking and painful, yet you can seem to drag yourself away? You know, the kind where you feel absolutely gutted but cannot stop immersing yourself in the pain. That was this book. It was exquisite torture and I could not get enough of it.

When Breck, aka “B”, first meets Jamie, she is immediately smitten. Unfortunately, it is her stunning best friend that catches his eye. While B pines away for him, she is relegated to the role of his girlfriend’s best friend. I’m not going to lie, it sucked. That was the first of many heartaches that this book caused.

Luckily for us, Jamie’s relationship with B’s best friend doesn’t end up being a forever thing. His friendship with B ended up being far more long-lasting and durable. These two are a permanent fixture in each other’s lives, spanning thousands of miles and years of time, Jamie and B’s feelings are a constant.

However, while the two may love each other, they cannot seem to get their acts together. The timing is always off with these two. When she’s single, he’s not and vice versa. There was so much love between these two, but they caused each other so much pain also. It was heartbreaking.

Unlike most of my friends, I have to admit that I was not immediately a fan of Jamie’s. After all, he seemed to be constantly choosing others over B. I just didn’t feel that her feelings for him were reciprocated. I thought he was kind of selfish and that B served as his back-up girl. He wanted to have his cake and eat it too. I resented that and thought that B deserved better.

Eventually, Jamie grew on me. Although he still seemed to “replace” B a little to easily for my comfort, I have to say that she definitely contributed to some of the disconnect. Time and time again, I was heartbroken by these two.

In the end, everything does work out for the best. Some things are meant to be and some things have to be sacrificed. What you think you want when you’re young may not be what you end up needing as an adult.

If you are looking for an emotional, angst-filled book, this is a fantastic choice. This story broke my heart, only to piece it back together and then break it all over again. I was elated and then devastated. I was a mess, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I loved this story!

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