ARC Review: Fanning the Flames by Chris Cannon

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Bryn McKenna has it all. Even though she’s a hybrid dragon, she’s finally fitting in the new shape-shifting dragon world that’s become her own. But her grandparent’s want to ruin everything by making Bryn’s nightmare of an arranged marriage to Jaxon Westgate a reality. It doesn’t help that Jaxon’s father is on a witch hunt for Rebel sympathizers and Bryn finds herself in his line of fire.

If she doesn’t say “I do,” she’ll lose everything. Good-bye flying. Good-bye best friends. Good-bye magic. But if she bends to her grandparents’ will and agrees to marry Jaxon she’ll lose the love of her life—her knight.

review3/5 Stars 

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via Entangled and NetGalley

Fanning the Flames is the 4th book in the Going Down in Flames series and unfortunately, my least favorite so far. The story picks up right where Trial by Fire left off, Valmont and Bryn in a complex but joyous relationship, Bryn and Jaxon engaged but with a plan to make it work with their respective romantic partners, the dragon world recovering after the attack on the school dance. Everything is uncertain, but the one thing that seems solid is the way each couple feels about each other. 

Here’s the thing, I never want to say a story is too happy or too romantic or anything like that, but when there’s not a balance between the romance and the major plotline, it feels tired and slows down the pacing. While I love Valmont and Bryn, Bryn’s head was always on wondering about Valmont, about their relationship, getting jealous, etc., that the major tunnel mysteries were rushed and cut off and occasionally felt like filler because the romance played such a huge role in this book. You almost forget that there are politics, terrorists, and attacks happening. There were three heart-stopping scenes that should have had a killer impact on the reader, and while the final scene did tug at my heartstrings, it was nowhere near the emotional carnage that should have played out and I think it’s because focus was pretty much soley on Bryn and Valmont and the other characters were neglected and fleeting. 

That final scene should have been devastating, but honestly, it needed to happen to refresh the story. 

The battle description, the gore, the fighting, the tension was A+ as usual. Definitely edge of your seat material. And Bryn was beyond fierce. She raged, she conquered, she slayed. 

The underground tunnels were interesting. I enjoyed the history and the knight stories that shed light on the past-it’s its own mythology.

While this might not seem like a positive review, it is. I enjoyed this book, I wanted to read it, and I will continue to follow the story, especially after that explosive ending. I just wanted more. It felt surface level. 

Lovely reading, 

Jordan

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ARC Review: Bound by Spells-Stormy Smith

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Bound by Spells (Bound, #2)-Stormy Smith

YA Paranormal

cooltext1790897456 copyAidan Montgomery hadn’t been prepared for Amelia Bradbury to walk in and then out of his life. He also hadn’t expected to find the powerful magic hidden deep within him for the last nineteen years, but he’s embracing it — finding more control and more answers every day. Now, with the help of Amelia’s best friend, Bethany, Aidan is on a quest to understand his destiny and find Amelia.

Amelia decided to stand by her duty, which meant walking away from her first chance at love. Trapped in Cresthaven at the Queen’s mercy, she spends her days with Micah — an ally she still holds at arm’s length — struggling to manage her heartbreak while keeping her mind focused on the task at hand. As she continues to unlock the secrets of the Keeper power, Queen Julia’s true motives reveal themselves, forcing Amelia to decide, yet again, how much she’s willing to sacrifice.

Will Aidan get to Amelia before it’s too late, or will the very power that sustains them keep them apart?

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cooltext1790896132 copy3.5/5 Stars

***I received this eARC in exchange for an honest review.

PROS:

  • Amelia is not perfect. She’s real, honest, and has doubts about what she can do. She doesn’t pretend to know what she’s doing, she’s not entirely confident and she makes mistakes. She’s flawed and that’s what makes her so relatable. Amelia sacrifices her heart to protect her loved ones, faces her fears, and puts her life at risk, diving into one precarious situation after another to save the AniMages. Amelia battles the force within her; a magic that is so potent she knows it has the power to destroy her and those around her. This power is also the salvation for her people. When Amelia discovers the truth, her heart breaks with each victim’s story. Amelia grows into a deadly fighter who embraces the Keeper within to rescue the women Queen Julia has abused for years. Amelia is confused, she doesn’t know who to trust, and her destiny is even cloudier than she expected. Her feelings are like the average teenage girls with magic and fate thrown in. It’s a hot mess of emotional turmoil that would throw anyone for a spin. Amelia’s heart is a wreck, sorting out her feelings is half the journey to her self-discovery.
  • Aidan’s love for Amelia is the one thing he can be sure of in this messed up new reality. He’s riddled with memories that haunt him and a past that is full of dark truths. Aidan struggles to deal with who he is and who he must be to save Amelia and the fate of the AniMages. Aidan sometimes falls prey to introspection and a defeatist attitude but his heart always rekindles with thoughts of Amelia. For her, Aidan will do anything and fight anyone.
  • Micah is a surprise. He’s brooding and crafty. Michal has the weight of the world and the sins of his mother on his shoulders. He’s been wronged and hurt others but never lost faith that one day, he’d help temper his mother’s wrath. Micah’s relationship with Amelia is a complicated one. Though it doesn’t feel entirely platonic, there’s a connection between them that is more than romance, it’s a joint goal to make the world a better place.
  • Bethany is a delightfully refreshing BFF. She’s a beautiful Southern girl with a take-charge attitude and feisty personality. She has wonderful Southern colloquialisms that will win you over and have you falling in love with her charms. Full of sass and determination, Bethany won’t take no for an answer and will stop at nothing to save her best friend, Amelia.
  • Queen Julia is a wickedly sadistic mastermind. Her methods are sinister and despicable. She has no regard for humanity, has a single-minded goal and doesn’t care who she has to crush to achieve it. Just when you think you have her figured out, there’s another layer of her personality to sift through that will have you second-guessing her motives. Is Queen Julia truly evil or simply misguided? Stormy Smith is a master of suggestion. She insinuates just enough for your imagination to run wild without going totally graphic in terms of violence and bloodshed.
  • Secondary characters were memorable and each had a fascinating backstory. Cole, Dillon, Baleon, Joran, Will and Rhi had distinct personalities and strong interactions.

CONS:

  • Each form of magical being is distinguishable by the color of their magic and unique talents. What each color represents, their stories, and what their capabilities are were left unexplored. There were some facts strewn throughout but I would have felt more comfortable and understood the stakes had the history been more in-depth and the roles of each group explained. When Amelia gets sucked into her Keeper magic and all the colors are represented, knowing precisely what each was and how it worked would have made combinations and Amelia’s potent power all the more deadly to the reader.
  • For all of Queen Julia’s supposed sense of urgency, the impending doom of the prophecy, and the need for Amelia and Micah to mate, she gives Amelia a lot of time to plot. There are big chunks of time when Queen Julia is missing from the story. Sure, the threat is an ever-hovering gloom over Amelia and Micah’s heads but there’s enough time for cross-country trips, days of planning, and rest. I kept asking myself when Queen Julia would be back to enforce her rule and make Amelia live up to her ultimatums.
  • The diary. There’s a whole scene frantically searching for the hidden pages and then, nothing. A couple pages read and there’s no big revelation or earth-shattering knowledge to help Amelia out. The diary’s importance was forgotten during the rest of the drama.
  • The battle scenes were a little anticlimactic. There wasn’t enough of an emotional build up to mourn some of those who were lost.

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ARC Review: Impossible-C.A. Gray

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cooltext1756232230 copyIMPOSSIBLE is the final installment in the Piercing the Veil trilogy.

The Shadow Lord has the Philosopher’s Stone, and therefore an army of invincible penumbra. He also possesses the fragments of Excalibur, the legendary sword prophesied to be the instrument of either his own destruction, or that of the Child of the Prophecy. The sword, he knows, requires blood to be reforged… and he knows exactly whose blood he wants. Meanwhile, the Watchers are desperate to steal back the fragments of Excalibur and find out how to reforge them before the Shadow Lord does. Isdemus places Peter and Lily in Carlion’s sister cities for safe-keeping until the war begins. But Peter and Lily have an idea that might enable the Watchers to steal back the fragments, in spite of the Shadow Lord’s invincible army. Their plan requires them to travel halfway across the world, to an island largely believed to exist only in Greek mythology. Along the way, however, the Shadow Lord uses a pawn to convince Peter and Lily that they are powerless. Without their gifts of the Ancient Tongue, will either one of them stand a chance? In this gripping conclusion of the Piercing the Veil trilogy, the Watchers and the Shadow Lord both amass their ranks, the battle begins, and the true identity of the Child of the Prophecy is revealed—to the shock of all. cooltext1756234795 copy

4/5 Stars

Impossible is a breathtaking, stunning conclusion to the Piercing the Veil trilogy. Soaked in suspense, violence, and epic battle scenes, the culmination is chaotic, gritty, and full of hope.

Typically I break reviews down into pros and cons but this time, I’ve decided to break down my thoughts into a play by play series of reactions. In the beginning of this book, the characters are still reeling from the devastating death in the last book, Invincible, and uncertain where to go from here. All everybody knows is that the Shadow Lord has risen, has horrifying weapons, and is en route to world domination at the expense of humanity.

Despite the obvious sorrow, the introduction was a little slow for me and the shifting between different perspectives, because there were so many subplots this time was a bit overwhelming. The story is divided into two missions, one to recruit warriors to fight against the Shadow Lord by forcing the civilians to open their eyes to the impossible, the magic within themselves and the terrifying creatures lurking in their shadows. The other, to reforge Excalibur, find the 3 weapons of the gods mighty enough to stand a chance against the Philosopher’s Stone, and ultimately, to fulfill the prophecy and slay the Shadow Lord.  

Every book in this series is amazingly intricate and it’s so impressive how the author integrates multiple myths and religious beliefs and mixes them with physics. It’s absolutely brilliant and the puzzle pieces fit into a seamless narrative. The plotting is astounding. Wow. If you’re looking for a read that will challenge, inform, and tantalize you, this is it.  The characters, down to the smallest, all play a role in the main thread of the Arthurian legends. Each has his or her part in shifting the balance of good and evil.

There’s something beautifully human about each of these characters despite their elemental magic. They are broken, scared, and lost but they find it within themselves to be brave, to face the darkness head on and put their lives on the line for the fate of the world. Brock has done a complete 180. He’s bold, confident, so sturdy in his beliefs that the pettiness that use to blacken his soul is completely erased. As a spokes person, he is critical in advancing the cause and a powerful leader whose faith can persuade the masses. Once again Eustace is adorably mischievous and courageous. He has utmost faith in Peter and when all hope is lost, it is him who has the light in his heart to change the world. The final reckoning in the Tower was heartbreaking, raw, and poetic. The part about Eustace’s role, the hope of a child moved me. It’s been a long time since something has struck me so emotionally and left such an impact on how I perceive the world. 

Lily was irritating. She’s stubborn and idiotic at times, she refuses to see more than one side, rushes head first into danger and drags Peter along with her and he goes with it just to shut her up. When Lily isn’t grating on your nerves, she’s fiercely loyal, adventurous, smart, and an insane risk taker. She makes the choices that everyone else is too afraid to for fear of failure and though she regrets some of the decisions, she comes out stronger. Lily’s feelings for Peter are more developed this time. She finally realizes how much Peter has become part of her life, he’s everything to her and the desperate way she yearns for him, not a hunger, or lust, but a need for him by her side is very different than many YA books out there now. 

Peter has grown into a man. He still weighs his options but he’s not not encumbered by logic and though he doubts, he has utmost faith in his friends. Peter kind of gets dragged along by Lily but is quick on his feet and uses his powers to filter out the worst options and manipulate fate. Peter views the world in an unconventional way and appreciates life. He’s not as angst-filled or brooding, he’s accepted that sacrifices must be made to destroy evil. Why it took him so long to recognize his feelings though made me want to shake him and scream at him to look at what’s right in front of him.

Kane. Poor, scarred, helpless Kane. It was truly disquieting to listen to Kane as he fought the Shadow Lord. His change of heart showed the scared, sad little boy beneath the cocky, sarcastic exterior. Kane’s words to Peter were so him, full of his edgy, snarky personality but revealing the connection he formed to Peter. 

The Greek mythology was a huge surprise but after Egypt in the previous book, it shouldn’t have been. The trip to the Underworld was dark and twisted and made of AWESOME. The wraiths and the Ferryman. I loved, loved, loved, these confrontations to achieve the weapons.

If you’re a fan of legends, epics, magically complex reads, this is the kind of story that will make your heart grow and fill you will hope as well as startle, mystify, and intoxicate you with the battles, mysteries, and sense of adventure. 

cooltext1756233300 copyunnamedWebsite/Facebook/Twitter/Goodreads

C.A. Gray is a Naturopathic Medical Doctor (NMD), with a primary care practice in Tucson, Arizona. She has always been captivated by the power of a good story, fictional or otherwise, which is probably why she loves holistic medicine: a patient’s physical health is invariably intertwined with his or her life story, and she believes that the one can only be understood in context with the other. She still wants to be everything when she grows up. She moonlights as a college chemistry teacher (she has a degree in biochemistry, with minors in Spanish and Creative Writing), does theater when she gets the chance, sings, plays piano, was once a personal trainer and in coffee shop management. She is blessed with exceptionally supportive family and friends, and thanks God for them every single day!

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Happy reading, 

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