#Review: Project Snow, by @lafemmecherita

Title: Project Snow
Author: Cherita Smith
Rating: 4/5 stars

“Snow White meets genetic engineering in this captivating blend of science fiction and fairy tale that will hook you from the very first line.

Like most engineered kids, Amara can’t wait to turn sixteen. Sixteen means confirmation of immunity to the aging infection that plagues mankind. And confirmation means freedom, leaving behind the quarantine of the Tower where she’s lived all her life for a new life in the city — no filtration veils required.

But the queen has other plans. The queen is dying and needs a new heart. Daughter or not, Amara’s will do. (description from Goodreads)

fancy lineresize

I enjoy this short story from Cherita Smith. I’ve been trying to read more fairy tale retellings, so it was only natural that this one worked well with my current reading mood.

I’ll be honest that I’m not very familiar with the “original” Snow White story. But it’s safe to say that readers shouldn’t expect a Disney movie from this story. It’s a bit dark, like may tales are. I’m glad the author kept the not-so-happy element in there.

With this being a short story, an author must sacrifice extensive world building in order for there to be room for the characters and plot. I feel that to a point that’s the case with this story. Smith set this in a world unlike our own, after a major event that changed the way the world lives and even looks. While I wasn’t really lost reading this story, I do feel like it could have benefited from having some more world building take place. it was intriguing and I wanted more. Maybe there’s more the author plans on doing with this world and readers will get it when that comes out. I’d for sure enjoy that.

While the characters weren’t very fleshed out, I think it worked just fine in this one. I was actually a bit surprised to be content not getting so deep into each of the major characters.

Overall, I enjoyed this story. I wanted a little bit more from it. But as I mentioned, maybe there’s more in store for us. I’d be more than happy to read more.

fancy lineresize

You can grab this story from:

Amazon | Kobo | B&N

fancy lineresize

About the Author:

Hello, you! I’m Cherita, a Los Angeles native who writes speculative fiction of all kinds: dystopian, science fiction, paranormal & dark fantasy for teens and adults.

Dark, lush & haunting prose, with a dash of creepy-thriller and a sprinkle of fairytale-myth — that’s my writing jam. If that sounds like your jam too, you should give my stories a read.

Once upon a time in the not-too-distant past, I also did fundraising and online marketing for nonprofit organizations including a domestic violence shelter, the politically progressive Brave New Films, and Film Independent, the arts organization behind the Los Angeles Film Festival and the Spirit Awards. I did a lot of writing for all of them too, only none of it was speculative and it was (mostly) non-fiction.

Find out more:

#Review: 180 Day, by @TE_Ridener

180-daysTitle: 180 Days (Prairie Town #1)
Author: T.E. Ridener
Rating: 5/5 stars

“Lydia McIntosh left her old life behind when she said goodbye to Prairie Town, North Carolina and started over halfway across the country with her beloved Gran; away from her family, away from everyone who knew the person she once was, and from the identity she never quite wanted in the first place. When her grandmother passes away, she returns home and while she only intends to stay for the funeral, her grandmother has other plans, from the grave. Her will states that Lydia must remain in Prairie Town for six months in order to give her family and her old town a chance to get to know the new her, the real her.

Lydia has had years to adjust to long hair, summer dresses, and nail polish, but she understands her family will need time to get reacquainted with a daughter they’ve never known and a sister they’ve missed terribly. Anticipating the worst, as she always has, Lydia’s feelings about her old town begin to change when she meets her brother’s best friend, Callum. Callum is kind and more accepting than she could have ever imagined and she’s falling for him.

When her 180 days are over, will she be able to say goodbye to the family she’s missed so much? Will she survive her mother’s endless intolerance? Can she really leave the man who acknowledges her past and still wants her?

A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is a story about a transgender girl and her journey to acceptance and love when she returns to her hometown. Within the pages of this book you will be introduced to characters who color outside the lines and that’s just how they like it. I implore you to give them a chance because we are all beautiful and unique in our own ways, and we all deserve love and happiness.” (description from Goodreads)

fancy lineresize

I’m happy that this book wound up being my first romance with a transgender lead character in it. Through reading it, I was able to diversify my reading even more. And it’s not just a box for me to check off. It was a way to expand my understanding and knowledge of the real world where such a variety of people live. Along with that, I was able to discover a series that might make it on my favorites list as I read more of the Prairie Town books.

There was so much in this book that I loved. I could go on and on about the characters and the depth the author gave to them. Ridener was even able to make me enjoy a book with more than two POVs. And I think that was a major plus for helping the book work. As a reader I was able to see into the minds of a variety of characters, and not just the two romantic leads.

And this book was more than just a romance, though it was in there and worth the read for it alone. It’s a coming of age story. It’s a novel about family and acceptance within a family, a community, and within oneself. There are many different levels in 180 Days and I’d rather not pick the book apart. I think it’s better to just know that this book was a great read and worth giving a chance! It also has me eyeing the rest of the books in the series already, and I’ve only just finished it this morning. I can’t wait to visit Prairie Town again soon.

fancy lineresize

You can grab a copy of this book from

Amazon | Kobo | B&N

And since I listened to this on audio, and enjoyed it in that format, here’s the link for:

Audible

fancy lineresize

About the Author:

T.E. Ridener, better known as Tonya to her close friends and family, was born in a small town in Kentucky but be not fooled; she has huge dreams and chases them every day. With a love for the written word and the imagination to back it up, Tonya spends her days writing, playing on Photoshop, and getting into the usual shenanigans of an author.

She recently started a new series that features transgender characters. Two books have already been released (180 Days, 90 Days), and she *hopes* to release The Next Thirty Days soon. Her other titles include The Kadenburg Shifters SeriesThe Blood Betrayal SeriesThe Descendants Series, and Chartreuse.

When she’s not writing, she’s watching her favorite TV shows (Teen WolfThe OriginalsGame of ThronesSense8, Penny Dreadful, Shadowhunters), and lots of movies.

Find out more:

5 Years Later, Review Repost and #Indie Week Announcement!

I wanted to repost my review of S.M. Boyce’s Lichgates today because in a few days, it’ll be five years since I first read it. Long-time readers have probably seen this review, and various other reviews and posts about Boyce’s work. She’s one of my favorite authors and I talk about her any chance I get. Today’s no different.

A post on the Black Hearts Reviews Facebook page earlier today sparked this repost. It also got me thinking that I’ve been blogging for about five years, been in the Indie publishing world for just as long, as well as how much I miss the way some things in the Indie community used to be.

Back then, in 2012, while I was getting into the vast and ever-growing Indie world, I decided to dedicate a week to those authors, readers, and books. It was called Indie Week. And this is me announcing (without much detail) the return of Indie Week in April or May of this year! I think we could all use a place to get back in touch with that community feel we used to have in the book world. I’m hoping to bring back some authors from the original Indie Week. But I really hope I discover new authors who want to get in on the fun.

More details on that will be coming in the next few weeks. But if anyone’s already interested, drop me a message and I’ll tell you what I can at this time. And here are the original Indie Week posts.

Now, after all that, here’s my review of Lichgates, the first book in what was originally intended to be The Grimoire Trilogy, and is now a four book saga (all books available, separately and as a box set)! Hope you can read the whole thing. I wrote LONG reviews in the early days. I’ve shortened them up since. And the book is currently free. So grab a copy if you want to read it. Let me know if you enjoy it.

Grimoire Pendant copyGrimoire Pendant copyGrimoire Pendant copy

Lichgates Title: Lichgates (The Grimoire Saga #1)
Author: S.M. Boyce
Rating: 5/5 Stars

“The final page will leave you breathless.

When Kara Magari uncovers a secret door in the middle of the forest, she discovers (and trips through) a portal to a hidden world full of terrifying things: Ourea. She just wants to go home, but the natives have other plans for her. She clashes with immortal shapeshifters, is carried off by a dragon, nearly dies on several occasions, and somehow becomes the master of an ancient book of magic called the Grimoire. Every time she thinks she’s safe, her new “friends” show their true colors.

Kara needs an ally, or she might not survive Ourea’s monsters. She drops her guard when Braeden, a native soldier with a dark secret, vows to keep her safe. And though she doesn’t know it, her growing attraction to him may just be her undoing.

For twelve years, Braeden Drakonin has lived a lie. The Grimoire is his one chance at redemption, and it lands in his lap when Kara Magari comes into his life. Though he begins to care for this stranded girl, there’s something he wants more. He wants the Grimoire.

Welcome to Ourea, where only the cunning survive.” (description from Goodreads)

Grimoire Pendant copyGrimoire Pendant copyGrimoire Pendant copy

*Please note that since the time this review was originally published, The Grimoire Trilogy has developed into the four book The Grimoire Saga. I haven’t edited my original review to reflect this.*

The Grimoire: Lichgates is the first book in The Grimoire Trilogy. In this first book the author, S.M. Boyce, throws Kara (the main character) and the reader into an entirely new work called Ourea. To get to this world, Lichgates are necessary. They are portals linking our world to the dangerous, yet beautiful, kingdoms of Ourea. They are scattered all over both worlds and it is through one of them in the Rocky Mountains that Kara stumbles.

Upon falling into an underground library, Kara finds waiting for her an old red leather book. The book is very magical. On it is a necklace with a pendant that looks like four crescent moons configured in the shape of a four-leaf clover. This book is so magical that there are blank pages throughout, but when asked the right questions the pages flip to sections and words appear with an answer.

This book is one of Kara’s only defenses against what lies in wait for her in Ourea. Upon opening the book, she has become the center of every kingdom’s focus; she is the Vagabond. Her purpose in this strange world is to reunite the four kingdoms in peace, fulfilling the goal of the first Vagabond who died a thousand years before.

This concept really caught me from the beginning. Like I said I was hooked from reading the first chapter alone. It takes a lot to do that with most books. Part of what kept me reading was the fact that this book doesn’t wait to get the reader into the action. There is no lead in chapters, no foreshadowing, no mercy. Kara is hiking one minute and in Ourea fighting for her life the next. Every time throughout the book it seems that there will be some time to relax (for the characters and readers alike) something happens. It’s almost impossible to put this book down. Lucky for me I was able to force the book down, which allowed me to savor every experience it held; there are many.

I loved many elements of this book. First off, the setting made me want to visit Ourea. I know this is impossible (not only because it’s not a real place) because if I went there, I’d most likely die (more on that soon.) Ourea is like the worlds of most fantastical stories. It has its beautiful landscapes, luxurious castles, and even a dreary kingdom no one wants to acknowledge. Its landscapes include forests, a kingdom nestled on top of a vertigo inducing multi mile high cliff, and even a kingdom found in a magical dome on the bottom of an ocean guarded by sharks. And it’s not just the places themselves that I fell in love with, it’s the way Boyce’s words describe them. I can’t do it justice in my own words, you’ll have to take my word for it or read the book. Her words paint a picture of every aspect allowing the reader to soak in the images.

The setting wasn’t the only exciting part of the book. There are also the various creatures of the land. To mention a few there are griffins, dragons, something Kara says is similar to a squirrel, and one of my favorites a flaer named Rowthe. I liked him a lot because he’s a huge dog like creature. Of course he has a unique ability, but I’m going to let you find that one out, it’s just really cool.

The characters Kara encounters are very hard to figure out. This helps the story be what it is more than anything else. The Grimoire from the beginning warns Kara that she can’t trust anyone in Ourea. A lot of the times it seems like the characters can be figured out and trusted, but then there’s either a subtle or drastic hint to the contrary. As a reader I was always jumping to conclusions about a character only to change my opinion soon after. I’m still waiting for a character to make a turn for the worse, but we’ll see if that happens.

Kara’s journey takes the reader all over Ourea and she meets a variety of good and evil. She even has encounters with the evil King, Blood Carden. He is the father of Kara’s companion Braeden. I guess I should have mentioned him by now. Carden is the ruler of the Stele, the banished kingdom who reeks havoc on Ourea even through a banishment. Braeden, his son, escaped from his father’s kingdom twelve years earlier and has been hiding elsewhere ever since. But the ever present question in my mind was whether or not he was one to be trusted. When would the evil in his blood consume him, if at all? For most of the book I kept liking and trusting him, but wanted to keep an eye on him for Kara’s sake (not that I could have helped here, that’s just silly she’s in a book.) There is also a growing connection between Kara and the mysterious Braeden which leads to some complications in the relationship of him as protector and one of her few friends.

To wrap this up, The Grimoire: Lichgates is on my top five favorite books I have read this year and possibly in recent years. I keep reading great books so this list should be extended to at least ten. I loved the story, I loved the setting, I loved everything about this book. The only problem that I had with it is that I didn’t have the next book to read. I only hope that the day comes when I can read book two, then book three, sooner than it will.

Grimoire Pendant copyGrimoire Pendant copyGrimoire Pendant copy

Want a copy of this book? You can find it on:

AmazonB&N | Kobo | iBooks

Grimoire Pendant copyGrimoire Pendant copyGrimoire Pendant copy

About the Author

Boyce 300

When S. M. Boyce graduated with a degree in creative writing, she realized that made her well-qualified for serving French fries. It would take years of writing hundreds of thousands of words of all kinds before she became the bestselling action and adventure author she is today.

Boyce specializes in action-packed stories that weave in fantasy, mystery, and heroines with an knack for mischief. All romantic leads are based loosely on her husband, who proves that soulmates are real. She has a deep love for ghosts, magic, and spooky things. If you’ve already finished her books, check out her blog or twitter feed for a dash of adventure.

Find out more:

#Review: The Toad Prince, by @NikkiJefford

once-upon-a-kissTitle: The Toad Prince (found in Once Upon a Kiss)Author: Nikki Jefford
Rating: 4/5 stars

“THE TOAD PRINCE: Isabel Ivers’s stepfather will do anything to secure his place as Far North’s new ruler, even if it means marrying her off to the depraved prince of the lowlands.

ONCE UPON A KISS: Seventeen all new, magical stories from NY Times and USA Todaybestsellers and award-winning authors that will warm even the coldest hearts. Inspired by old favorites as well as lesser-known tales, find retellings of Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Old Rinkrank, King Thrushbeard, The Princess and the Pea, and many more – all with fresh, romantic twists – just in time for Valentine’s Day!” (description from Goodreads)

fancy lineresize

Fairy (or Faerie) tale retellings have always intrigued me. Most readers know the basics of the major tales out there, and have seen Disney retellings or read some here or there. I’ve read some good ones and some not so great ones. The Once Upon a Kiss collection is likely one that I’ll end up putting in the “good ones” pile. There are many familiar author names in here and I’m looking forward to reading them all. For now, I’ve read Nikki Jefford’s retelling entitled The Toad Prince.

What first jumped at me when reading this was something later confirmed in the author note after the story. There’s a Pride and Prejudice feel in it. While I didn’t love that book, I did appreciate the story and I like how Jefford was able to work in some light elements into her story. I also liked how, while it didn’t feel exactly like a retelling of The Frog Prince, the main event of that one was worked in  without doing the obvious.

Another reason I enjoyed the story was the world building. This is set in the world of an upcoming series from Jefford, and she used this story to help introduce it. I may have liked a little more world building, but it’s a short story and there wasn’t much space. It’s more of a teaser and it did what it needed to do.

I’m not sure where this Far North Fairy Tales series will go, but I’ll definitely be reading it. And I’ll be returning to this collection soon, as well.

fancy lineresize

You can grab a copy of this book from

Amazon | Kobo | B&N | iBooks

fancy lineresize

About the Author:

Nikki JeffordNikki Jefford loves fictional bad boys and heroines who kick butt. Books, travel, TV series, hiking, writing and motorcycle riding are her favorite escapes. She loves meeting people from all walks of life, from around the globe, and wouldn’t trade her French husband in for anyone – not even Spike!

She’s a third generation Alaskan, born & raised in Anchorage, now living in Northern Washington. Crazy about her dog, Cosmo. (Writer’s best friend.) The dark side of humanity fascinates her, so long as it’s balanced by humor and romance.

Her favorite TV heroines are Buffy, Veronica Mars, and Dr. Temperance ‘Bones’ Brennan.

Find out more:

#Review: The Tower of Never There, an @UltimateEnding book

the-tower-of-never-thereTitle: The Tower of Never There (Ultimate Ending #7)
Authors: Danny McAleese & David Kristoph
Rating: 5/5 stars

A date. A time. A set of pinpoint coordinates, and just two words:

COME ALONE

In the middle of nowhere, an enormous spire materializes before your eyes. But what does it want? And why has it summoned you?

Floor by perilous floor, the answers lie in facing the tower’s strange and often eccentric inhabitants — from both this world and beyond.

Will you reach the top of the Tower of Never There? Or will it ultimately blink away — taking you along with it — before you can manage to unravel its secrets?

YOU choose your own path in this fantastic adventure! Ultimate Ending lets YOU pick the story. YOU make the decisions, solve the riddles, avoid the traps and gather the clues. It’s a mystery and adventure book that YOU control!(description from Goodreads)

fancy lineresize

Let me just start off by saying that reading The Tower of Never There was the best experience I’ve had reading a choose your own adventure book. Recently I’ve read a few of the originals in the genre. And in the past I’ve read some set within my favorite children’s series. Most of the time I was left underwhelmed, whether I was a child myself or an adult reading them now. This time, that wasn’t the case.

Because of my history with this type of book I was hesitant to read the book at first. At the same time, I’ve been wondering what the authors of today had to offer. McAleese and Kristoph have written a story that somehow adds depth to the second person point of view, depth to a story that’s ever changing and full of confusion in setting and what’s next for the character/reader. I was fully engrossed when reading this book.

If you’re wondering if I made it to the “Ultimate Ending”, I did. But it took some time. I read through this book a few different times, taking different turns and different chances. Each read through was enjoyable and very easy to avoid being repetitive due to how many choices were available. I know I’ll be returning to this series of books to see what other adventures these two authors have for readers.

fancy lineresize

You can grab this book from:

Amazon | B&N

fancy lineresize

About the Series:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon | Smashwords

About the Authors:

Danny McAleese started writing fantasy fiction during the golden age of Dungeons & Dragons, way back in the heady, adventure-filled days of the 1980’s. His short stories, The Exit, and Momentum, made him the Grand Prize winner of Blizzard Entertainment’s 2011 Global Fiction Writing contest.

He currently lives in NY, along with his wife, four children, three dogs, and a whole lot of chaos.

Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Smashwords

David Kristoph lives in Virginia with his wonderful wife and two not-quite German Shepherds. He’s a fantastic reader, great videogamer, good chess player, average cyclist, and mediocre runner. He’s also a member of the Planetary Society, patron of StarTalk Radio, amateur astronomer and general space enthusiast. He writes mostly Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon | Smashwords

#Review: Erotic Writer Seeks Men, by @HeatherKinnane

erotic-writer-seeks-menTitle: Erotic Writer Seeks Men
Author: Heather Kinnane
Rating: 4/5 stars

Erotic author, Samantha Fox is one of those shy quiet types you need to look out for. Though publicly she still blushes at the faintest sexual innuendo, privately she likes to get all her darkest fantasies down on paper. She’s published one of her steamy novels, but a fear of being discovered led her to tone down the good bits, turning a hot erotic story into mediocre titillation.

Now with a sex life to match her pitiful writing, she’s come up with a grand idea of how to improve both—an ad in the local paper. “Fem. Erotic Author seeks men for experience, experimentation, and inspiration for erotic works.”

At first the whole idea seems to be a complete failure, but then she meets Richard, Jarred and Oliver. Suddenly the stories are flowing again, and Samantha’s love life is busier than it’s ever been.(description from Goodreads)

fancy lineresize

It’s not often that a story involving a character who is an author (especially one who writes within the same genre of the story) is anything but an awkward glimpse into  the writing life. With Kinnane’s story Erotic Writer Seeks Men, she’s surprised me by writing about an author without making me roll my eyes or cringe when reading about some authory things.

That isn’t the only reason I enjoyed reading this story. The author was able to take what sounds like an interesting premise and back it up with some great scenes and a developed story. While I felt some of it was a bit rushed, and could have benefited from some expansion, overall by the end I was left wanting to read more about Samantha Fox’s story with these men and her writing.

It was a fun, quick read. It was sexy at times, but didn’t forget that it also had a story to tell. I’m glad I got to read Kinnane’s story and will be checking out more of her work in the future.

fancy lineresize

You can grab this book from:

Amazon | Smashwords | Kobo | B&N

fancy lineresize

About the Author:

Heather Kinnane writes in multiple genres, though it is her romantic fantasy, and erotic stories that have found publication.

While she’s been traditionally published (both A Faery Dream and A Faery Union were originally published by now defunct Australian publisher Steam eReads, and Erotic Writer Seeks Men is published by UK Publisher Luminosity Publishing), she’s now delving into the exciting and challenging world of self-publication, starting with the re-release of A Faery Dream and A Faery Union, with many other stories due for revision and publication over the coming year.

Find out more:

#Review: The Immortal Mark, by @Amy_Sparling

the-immortal-markTitle: The Immortal Mark (The Immortals #1)
Author: Amy Sparling
Rating: 4/5 stars

From the bestselling author of Summer Unplugged, The Immortal Mark is the first in a new paranormal romance series by Amy Sparling.

The only thing Cara got for her eighteenth birthday was an unexpected invitation to move out of her uncle’s house. College isn’t an option for a poor girl with average grades, so when her best friend Riley finds them a mysterious job opportunity that includes room and board, Cara is interested but thinks it sounds too good to be true.

The night before their interview, Cara has an epic night out with Theo, an impossibly handsome guy she just met. He’s charismatic, a little mysterious, and it feels like she’s known him her whole life.

When she runs into him at her interview, he’s cold and elusive. He makes it very clear that he doesn’t want her working with him, which only makes their mutual attraction burn hotter. Cara takes the job for Riley’s sake and promises herself she’ll avoid this jerk and his mood swings, no matter how hard it is to keep away from him.

Soon she finds out her millionaire employers aren’t normal guys who live and travel in luxury. They’re immortals. Theo wasn’t trying to ruin her job prospects. He was trying to save her life, because the girls they hire never make it out alive.(description from Goodreads)

fancy lineresize

Up until now, I’ve only read Amy Sparling’s YA contemporary romances. But with The Immortal Mark, things have changed. This is a paranormal romance, and apparently Sparling’s first, though I wouldn’t have known if I wasn’t told.

This is a great first book in what can turn into one of my favorite series. I see, from this book alone, much potential for follow-ups, that I’ll be eagerly awaiting their release.

What I found interesting was that for a good part of the beginning, this book had the contemporary feel from Sparling’s other books. She was able to establish her main characters, their motivations, the very real-life situation they’re in, and a possible solution to their troubles. Then BOOM, there’s a curveball and we’re on a paranormal adventure! I really liked how this was worked into the book because it felt fresh to me. And the timing was right because I’d gotten to know the characters the perfect amount before things changed for them.

I really hope the next book comes out sooner, rather than later, because I want to see where this series is going. I know it’ll be a great adventure.

fancy lineresize

You can grab this book from:

Amazon

fancy lineresize

About the Author:

Amy Sparling is the author of The Summer Unplugged Series, Deadbeat & other awesome books for younger teens. She also writes books for older teens under the name Cheyanne Young.

Find out more: