To Wake the Dead by Sarah Lampkin

Rating: 4/5 stars To Wake the Dead.jpg

Length: 420 pages

Series: Dead Dreamer, Book 2

Genres: Paranormal, Fantasy, New Adult, Romance, Ghosts, Spirits

Publication date: December 2019

 

If you set foot in the woods on the night of a new or quarter moon, you leave yourself vulnerable to the creature’s claws. Should you survive the night without a scratch, you will be blessed. But should you be marked, you will perish within a year.

(Ch. 1)

More than ever before, Brenna teeters on the edge between the living and the dead. In her sophomore year at Nephesburg College, she’s more determined than ever to stick to the living side of her life. But with her own soul trying to kill her and a new Dead Dreamer fighting her for power, Brenna can’t help but be drawn back to the land of the dead.

Meanwhile, the Gatekeepers are doing everything in their power to regain the power they once held over the town. With the appearance of mysterious twins, Brenna needs to decide what’s more important: her secret, or fighting for what she believes is right. Brenna knows the stakes are high as her decision might result in her permanent death. Will she be able to choose wisely?

This book gave me more of what I enjoyed in To Dream is to Die. Brenna continues to try and balance her life in the Fade with her year of schooling in Nephesburg. Having been through post secondary myself, I know it’s not always the easiest to balance school with everything else – and that comes from someone who didn’t have to try live in two different planes. And here I thought being on a varsity sports team while balancing a double major was challenging. At least I didn’t have to juggle my soul on top of all of that!

The world continues to be filled with mystery and intrigue, leaving me with more and more questions and wondering how Breanna’s going to get herself out of the mess she’s in. Of course her friends are still there, but there’s only so much that they can do to help. And, of course, Brenna’s a strong personality who’d rather keep the weight on her own shoulders than force those she cares about to deal with the burden.

In this read we see Brenna continue to learn about her powers and what they mean. Having never met anyone with the same abilities as her before coming to Nephesburg, it’s no surprise that Brenna continues to be shocked and awed by the things she finds out. The more she and her friends learn about the powers of the Dead Dreamers, the less they seem to understand about what’s going on around them. It’s true what they say: too much information can make your head spin.

Overall, I enjoyed this read. The speculative elements kept my attention and the questions raised throughout the story keep me coming back for more. I look forward to seeing how Brenna will deal with what comes next and who she’s willing to open up to.

 


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To Dream is to Die by Sarah Lampkin

Rating: 3.75/5 stars To Dream is to Die.jpg

Length: 296 pages

Series: Dead Dreamer, Book 1

Genres: Paranormal, Fantasy, New Adult, Romance

Publication date: August 27, 2012, January 8, 2019 (Parliament House)

 

“Well, that’s one hell of a trick.”

I tried to play the stupid card. “What are you talking about?”

Damon closed the door quietly behind him and walked over to Erica’s desk chair to sit down. “Oh, I don’t know, leaving your body whenever you want? I’ll admit it was the first time I’ve seen that. I knew there was something different about you.”

If murder weren’t a crime, I’d kill him. “What do you want, Damon?”

(Ch. 3)

Brenna Whit expected freshman year of college to give her a new start and let her meet new people. However, she hides a dark secret. An accident that happened to her three years prior resulted in her spirit leaving her body and wandering the Fade whenever she sleeps. When someone spots her in spirit form, Brenna fears that her secret is out. Trying to balance new friends, a new crush, and possible new enemies, Brenna has a hard time juggling her first year of college.

The premise if this story is what originally drew it to my attention. What would it be like to be able to walk the plane of the dead before you yourself have died, to experience things that no one does before permanent death, all while waking up in the morning in order to go about your life?

Brenna might have been dealing with her nightly activities for three years before college, but she still wasn’t prepared for what Nephesburg was going to throw at her. Getting to experience everything with her, to be along for the ride while she learns where her powers come from and how she can use them, was a fascinating tale. To learn that there’s more to this world than Brenna expected and to know that even more is to come was a great way to peak a reader’s attention.

While this book has a slow start to it, I believe that it’s worth pushing through to when things pick up. If you’re looking for a unique young adult tale with speculative elements to it, this is a good book to pick up. The creation of the intricacies of this world are enough to keep me coming back for more. Lampkin did a fantastic job with this first installation of Brenna’s story and I, for one, look forward to reading more about it.

 


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The Kiss Thief by L.J. Shen

Rating: 4.5/5 stars The Kiss Thief.jpg

Length: 320 pages

Series: N/A

Genres: Romance, Contemporary, New Adult, Adult, Fiction, Dark, Politics

Publication date: January 6, 2019

 

I found my bride sitting in front of her vanity mirror, wearing a tight black velvet dress – it looked like we coordinated something other than trying to stab each other – a lit cigarette dangling from the corner of her luscious lips. She was shoving mud into a pot, gardening in the middle of her bedroom, in a Chanel evening dress.

She was crazy.

And she was my crazy.

(Ch. 6)

Francesca believed that a first kiss should be earned, not stolen. That the vows you make on your wedding day should be cherished, not broken. That your heart only beats for one man. That it isn’t split and bled for two rivals who’ll fight until the bitter end. She believed that all great love stories have a happy ending, but found herself erasing and rewriting her story until the very last chapter.

Francesca Rossi wanted nothing more than to marry her first love, Angelo Bandini, heir to one of the most powerful families in the Chicago Outfit. Yet instead she finds herself taken by Senator Wolfe Keaton who held her father’s sins over his head. Somewhere in the middle of this mess, she’s going to have to find her forever.

It took me a while to get into this story, and I’m very glad that I stuck it out until the tale had its claws stuck into me. I picked this book up because I was interested in its premise – who wouldn’t be interested in reading a modern day romance surrounded by the mob and political ambition? What, not everyone? Okay then. – but I wasn’t really sure what I’d gotten myself into. After all, the synopsis of this story doesn’t really let you know what’s in store for you.

This turned out to be for the best as I had no expectations going into the read, which allowed me to be blown away with what I found in the tale. Too often a synopsis will over promise things, leaving me feel let down when the story doesn’t blow me out of the water. The way that Shen left her synopsis purposefully obtuse allowed the story to do all the talking and I loved it.

Having taken a couple of Classics courses myself, I adored the casual use of Greek mythology in small ways throughout this tale. While the story of Nemesis and Narcissus isn’t the most well known, it’s a great tale and I encourage everyone to look it up if you don’t already know it. Having this myth play even a small role in this story made me smile and enjoy it that much more.

The thing that I most enjoyed about this read is the way that Shen made the relationships and characters messy. Too often I find that books try to make their characters seem perfect and infallible. Not here. Instead, Shen does a fantastic job at having the characters undermine and underestimate each other. She uses the lens of youth as a tool to allow the characters to make mistakes, while traditions help force people down paths that they wouldn’t otherwise have taken. These tools allowed the people and their interactions to feel more real than they would’ve otherwise.

I’d recommend The Kiss Thief to someone looking for a romance that deals with heavier topics such as political corruption and the mobster mentality. While I can understand that this read might not be for everyone (my earlier joke aside), I really did enjoy my time in this world. I think it was a great standalone romance, creating the perfect amount of world and character to fit into this tale to leave me satisfied without craving for more.

However, I’d like to give a quick warning about a near-rape scene in the story. If something like this is hard for you to read, I would look elsewhere. While the scene in question is not considered rape by the characters in it, it’s close enough that I’m sure some people will be uncomfortable reading it.

There are also scenes of domestic abuse in this tale. While these do not take the forefront of the story, they do play a role in it. If these scenes make you uncomfortable, you might want to find another read.

 


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Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

Rating: 5/5 stars Scrappy Little Nobody.jpg

Length: 275 pages; 6 amazing hours on Audible (highly recommend the Audio experience!)

Series: N/A

Genres: Autobiography, Memoir, AudioBook, Nonfiction, Biography, Humor, Adult, Comedy, Essays

Publication date: November 15, 2016

 

I gave up on being Nice. I started putting more value on other qualities instead: passion, bravery, intelligence, practicality, humor, patience, fairness, sensitivity. Those.

(Big Breaks)

I’m not the biggest autobiography/biography/memoir fan, but I picked this AudioBook up on the recommendation of one of my closest friends. And boy am I happy that I listened to her.

Anna Kendrick does an amazing job at reading her stories in this author read AudioBook. I listened to this book on my way to and from work on the days that I actually went into the office this week and enjoyed the car rides immensely. I found myself wishing that my commute was longer, just so I could get in a couple more minutes of this amazing tale. While I sometimes thought about picking up a physical copy of this book to read in while not in the middle of my commute, I couldn’t help but think I’d be missing out on some of Kendrick’s amazing narrative skills. There’s a reason she’s such an amazing voice actor and it’s clear even when she’s reading her own book out loud.

These stories made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion. Kendrick made it clear that even though she’s found amazing success as an actor, she’s still a regular human being. Finding fame doesn’t automatically remove your anxiety and it doesn’t magically make you a perfect human being. It takes work and dedication, and a whole lot of uncomfortable positions to look red carpet ready. No matter what front actors put out there, they’re still human beings and this book is a great reminder of that.

Yes, Kendrick has found even greater success since this book was published, but I still believe that she’s the same goofball that wrote it in the first place. I feel for her, always looking younger than you are and feeling like you’re being talked down to because of it. Yet she never let it stop her from being who she is – from going after her dreams and doing what she loves.

I’d highly recommend this book to everyone. You might not be all that interested in knowing everything about celebrities – I’m certainly not – but this book can still teach you valuable lessons. And all while giving you a good laugh.

That Night by Azaaa Davis

Rating: 4/5 stars That Night.jpg

Length: 197 pages

Series: Nadira Holden, Demon Hunter; Book 2

Genres: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Supernatural, Adult, Young Adult

Publication date: April 23, 2019

 

Nadira felt herself fading away. She found herself in that moment before sleep when someone can dream and be aware of their surroundings at the same time. The tricky thing was sorting out what was real and what was imagined. Her world tinted yellow and everything that was once hard to see in the dimly lit apartment became brighter. Her stomach twisted and felt pulled back to her spine. She heard it grumble and felt like she hadn’t eaten in days. Hunger pangs and thirst made her angry, upset, and impatient. Why was Devon trying to stop her from eating?

(Ch. 9)

All Nadira wants is to preserve the last of her soul and live a life free of magic, demons, and war. Of course, her involuntary bond with a succubus makes this impossible. Urged to find the succubus’ missing body, Nadia’s only hope of avoiding demonic possession involves working with the only demon she can tolerate without slaying. Except Derek has his hands full with his own issues. Desperate, Nadira agrees to help Derek with his issue in exchange for aid in her investigation.

Following the events of This Time, Nadira’s life has finally settled down enough for her to face the truth. Dealing with her recent resurrection and the subsequent change of everything she’s ever known and loved isn’t easy for Nadira. Now that she has some downtime to try and process, she has to fight spiraling into depression if she wants to move forward with her life. No longer wanting to associate herself with the Children of Orion means Nadira’s got her work cut out for her. Being a twenty first century young adult isn’t easy for someone who doesn’t understand the world and who’s trying not to kill anymore demons.

On the other hand, Roquelle has finally experienced life under her own control and is willing to threaten and barter with everything she has in order to get it back. Nadira can’t control her forever, so with one final ultimatum Roquelle sends Nadira on a quest to separate their souls from each other, ensuring they each have a physical form of their own. If not, she’s determined to do whatever it takes to be physically in control of her own life.

Then we have Derek. The Duke-turned-Prince of the demons. Nadira can’t decide if she hates him or not. Are they helping each other or using each other to accomplish their own selfish needs? And is Derek just helping her because to help Nadira means to help Roquelle?

This wonderful tale expanded on everything I enjoyed in This Time. The same badass heroine, the same strong morals. And, of course, the same twisted world that I can’t get enough of. While Nadira must focus on overcoming her depression, she’s still the powerful demon hunter she’s always been. Just with a few new tricks.

 

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Miss Match by Lindzee Armstrong

Rating: 4/5 stars Miss Match.jpg

Length: 388 pages

Series: No Match for Love, Book 1

Genres: Romance, Chick Lit, Womens Fiction, Fiction, Contemporary

Publication date: May 4, 2015

 

Brooke massaged her temples. Think! “There has to be something. Maybe if we start a refer-a-friend program with existing clients. Or what if we implement a free trial? Or maybe get a celebrity client to attract notice?”

Charlotte froze, her eyes locked on Brooke’s. “What did you say?”

“A celebrity client…” Brooke’s Brooke’s eyes widened. “Someone like Luke Ryder…”

(Ch. 8)

Luke Ryder, CEO of Ryker Communications, doesn’t want to hire hist best friend, Brooke, as his matchmaker. But when the matchmaking company Brooke works for threatens to close, he’s willing to put aside the eight years he’s been in love with her to help her try and save it. Brooke being engaged to another man just further confirms to Luke that she doesn’t see him as relationship material, yet he isn’t willing to give up hope and do whatever it takes to stop her from moving to Italy with her fiancé.

Meanwhile, Brooke’s dream career is going to crumble around her if she doesn’t do something about it. She’s determined to do whatever it takes to keep Toujour in the black. But when signing Luke as her big shot client ends up working better than she hoped Brooke wonders if she’s chosen the right man. Maybe it’s time to look past Luke’s playboy image and see that he really has changed like he claims. She just needs to decide if she’s willing to risk her heart.

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This Time by Azaaa Davis

Rating: 4/5 stars This Time.jpg

Length: 250 pages

Series: Nadira Holden, Demon Hunter; Book 1

Genres: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Supernatural, Adult, Young Adult

Publication date: October 1, 2018

 

“Interesting,” a stranger said, announcing his presence. He held onto the word and drew it out in a way that led Roquelle know he found her lacking. “I haven’t seen such a sloppy feeding and half-assed clean up since before the treaty. I wonder… Are you bold, ma belle, or an idiot?” he asked in a tone that became harsher with each word.

(ch. 10)

Resurrected into present day New York, Nadira Holden is asked to save the world… again. After achieving legendary status when she gave her life to protect humans from the demons, Nadira is unprepared for what the world is like just twenty short years later. People have made peace with the demons, worshiping them like celebrities. No one wants to believe that these beautiful creatures who brought magic to humans could be causing the disappearance of so many. When Nadira’s father goes missing, she’s done playing nice. It’s time to fight, to protect.

This story mixes badass demon hunting with sweet romance undertones, making it clear that Nadira isn’t afraid to do whatever she needs to in order to get the job done. Sure being resurrected wasn’t an easy thing to go through – Nadira did have to pull herself out of her own grave – but with the help of Roquelle she was able to do what needed doing.

Coming to terms with everything in the world being different than you remember isn’t easy for Nadira but with some major help she was able to remember what a badass she always has been. Sure things might not be as she remembered – cell phones can certainly be confusing, even when you grew up in this century – but nothing is going to stop Nadira from doing what’s right. She’ll stop at nothing to rescue her father from the demons.

Davis did a fantastic job at creating this universe. I could feel Nadira’s unease and her desire to understand a world that’s changed immensely since she was last alive in it. The interactions between demons and humans felt real – both the good and the ugly – and the characters carried real emotion behind their motivations and actions.

If you’re looking for a good read about a woman saving the only family she’s ever know, this read might be for you. Interested in demons and slayers? In the ways they interact with each other? Finding the different layers of “evil” in the world? These are all things that drew me to the story. Why not check it out?

 

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