Review: “At First Blush” by Beth Ellyn Summer

Review:

A review by Amanda.

At seventeen, Lacey Robbins has her future all planned out. She has spent years developing LaceyBlushes, her makeup tutorial channel on YouTube, although her romantic life has suffered a bit because of it. Her dedication has earned Lacey a coveted summer internship at On Trend, an online magazine. The internship could help Lacey reach her goals of finding sponsors for her channel and landing a contract with Glass Cube, a marketing and talent management company for YouTube. Life is looking bright for Lacey as well as her best friend Cynth who has the chance to intern for a late night show across the street. In a bid to help Lacey let some romance into her life, Cynth makes a bargain with her – she will accept the internship with the late night show if Lacey will flirt with hot guys at On Trend. Lacey reluctantly agrees, if only to ensure that Cynth takes the job. Little does Lacey know, the hottest guy at On Trend turns out to be their surprise guest editor and cover feature, musician Tyler Lance, whose reputation as a narcissistic party boy does not impress her. Add in a sponsorship from a subpar makeup company, family stress, and the struggle to keep her fans happy, and Lacey may have to reevaluate her life plan.

At first glance, this book may appear to be superficial and silly, like just another frilly story about a teenage girl falling for the cute boy. By the end of chapter one, however, Lacey has shown her potential to be a fully realized, multidimensional character. Her passion for makeup is not borne from a desire to simply look pretty; she has a natural eye and a deep appreciation for presentation and aesthetics. Lacey has found a way to turn her love of beauty into a profitable career, and she has sacrificed other aspects of a well-rounded life to make it happen. She has a genuine enjoyment of the process as well, from choosing the tutorials, to staging the background, filming, and interacting with her subscribers. While many adults consider teenaged girls to be silly and inconsequential, Lacey showcases the reality that girls can have ambition and goals beyond dating and boys. While there is romance in this story, it doesn’t dominate the plot. It is balanced nicely with both obstacles and pleasant surprises, and serves more as a metaphor for unexpected disruptions to even the best laid plans. The supporting characters have a realistic vibe and provide both drama and relief in Lacey’s life. There are some very minor cliché aspects, mostly regarding the romantic drama, and this is not a book that is full of dramatic plot twists but that does not take away from the enjoyment of the story. This is the first book from author Beth Ellyn Summer, and I will happily read future books.

My rating: 4.5/5 stars.

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Review: “The Mediator Book 1: Shadowland” by Meg Cabot

Review: “The Mediator Book 1: Shadowland” by Meg Cabot

A review by Vanessa.

Susannah Simon has a special gift. Well, she wouldn’t call it a gift, really, because it certainly comes with its obligations. Namely, the requirement that she speak to and help out all of the dead people whom she can see. As much as she would prefer to ignore them and be a normal high school sophomore, their reasons for hanging around sometimes interfere with her life; and her life has enough interference already. Her mother has married a really nice guy named Andy, and although Suze approves of him for her mom she’s not so happy about the moving from New York to Carmel, CA. Or being stuck with three new annoying stepbrothers, and changing schools, and leaving her one and only friend behind. What’s worse is that her new home has an unwanted guest residing in her bedroom. His name is Jesse, and he was so obviously young, handsome, with six-pack abs, lovely dark eyes, and gorgeous hair when he died. Suze doesn’t like having him as a distraction when she is trying to adjust to all the changes. But he is not the only distraction she finds.

Suze is startled to find several surprises waiting for her at her new high school. There is Heather, the very angry and dangerous dead girl haunting her locker. Then there is Father Dominic, the school’s principal, who it turns out is a mediator just like her! Suze doesn’t know what to think about meeting someone like her for the first time ever, and fitting in with other kids at the school. It seems like things might be ok in her new life. But Heather has some very dark revenge to enact and Suze is just getting in her way. Plus her youngest new stepbrother, a sweet and super smart kid who Suze actually likes, seems to know way more than he is saying. She’s always taken care of things all on her own, but this time it might be too much for her. Can she stop Heather, and protect the people in her life that she is really starting to care about?

As always, Meg Cabot delivers a wonderfully well told story of young life, but this time with a supernatural twist. Her famous Princess Diaries series may have put her on the map as an author but this series showcases her ability write in the paranormal genre as well. Her characters are totally engaging, and utterly realistic. The supporting characters fit right into all the expected tropes, but at the same time each of them holds their own interest for the reader. They might be typical, but they are so great to read it just doesn’t matter. Suze is both a “typical high school girl” and a very unique character. She struggles with school, friends, boys, raging hormones, and annoying brothers. She thinks about fashion and clothes, and what it would be like to be kissed.  But in between all that she struggles with suppressing her own emotions to accommodate the happiness of her mother, the ever present influence of death, the moral implications of forcing a ghost to cross over unwillingly, and the guilt that comes with being forced to lie to her family and friends for their own good. She also harbors a quick temper and some violent tendencies that make her an ever more interesting character. The only drawback to this book would be that some of the stereotypes might be embraced a bit too willingly. But even then, the characters cannot be described as boring or one dimensional. I love this series, and I would recommend it to young, and adult readers alike.

My rating: 4.5/5 stars.

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Review: “One Piece: Baroque Works 22-24” by Eiichiro Oda

One Piece: Baroque Works 22-24 by Eiichiro Oda

A review by Hannah.

One Piece was started in 1997 and is continuing today. There are 81 volumes to date, which is why this series of reviews will be broken up into three volume books. From now on there will be spoilers for what happens in the rest of the series. You have been warned…

Sir Crocodile is gloating to Princess Vivi over his victory in the royal courtyard. The battle has started, King Cobra is under his control, and just in case the battle stops, he has a bomb hidden near the town square, set to go off in 10 minutes. Koza, the rebel leader, overhears this and attempts to warn all the fighters in the battle below. Baroque Works shoots him before he can get the word out. So it’s up to Princess Vivi and the Strawhat crew to find and defuse the bomb before everybody is killed. Luffy shows up after figuring out Sir Crocodile’s weakness. Ms. All Sunday has King Cobra take her to the Tomb of the Royal Family.

Ms. All Sunday finds what she is looking for and King Cobra figures out that she is really Robin Nico, an archeologist who has been wanted by the Marines since she was eight years old. Luffy defeats Sir Crocodile in less than 10 minutes and Alabasta’s Civil War ends in a cleansing rain. After the dust clears the Marines surround the island nation and are searching for The Going Merry. Princess Vivi says goodbye to the Strawhats and volume 23 ends with the most iconic images of the series.

Volume 24 opens with Robin Nico joining the Strawhats. She earns the acceptance of the crew right before an ancient ship falls on them. Turns out there is an entire ocean in the sky with islands floating on the clouds. Luffy decides that they will go up there, so the crew goes to Jaya, the closest island on the regular sea, to get some answers.

If you do not get at least a little misty eyed during Vivi’s goodbye speech, there is a chance that you might not be human. She went through so much with the Strawhats, became a part of the crew, and all she wants is to know that she will still be their friend if they ever meet again. The crew can’t tell her anything, because the Marines are listening and they don’t want to get Vivi in trouble, so they show her. Princess Vivi of Alabasta is now and forever a member of the Strawhat crew.

This is not the last we’ll see of the Alabasta gang. Starting with chapter 35 (Vol. 4) the chapter titles are also a “where are they now” story for important characters, usually people who show up again later in the series. It starts with Capt. Buggy(vol. 2) and crew, then it’s Kolby and Helmeppo (vol. 1), next is Django (vol. 4) and currently Hachi (vol. 8). This is great, because it shows just how small the world is (many of the characters run into other characters from different story arcs) and it allows characters to return to the main story in a natural way.

Translation wise, it seems like it went stagnant. Zoro is still spelled Zolo, Luffy still says “Gum gum” before their attacks, and a devil’s fruit power that changes a man into a jackal is called the “Mutt Mutt Fruit.” I personally would have gone with “Canine Canine Fruit.”

I really like how the crew reacts to the transition of Vivi to Robin. Princess Vivi is an optimistic, driven, and self sacrificing girl. Robin is an older, disillusioned career criminal. They are opposites in just about every way possible, but both fit in well with the Strawhat crew for practically the same reasons. Sanji fell instantly in love with both of them. Nami was motivated by greed. Ussop, Luffy, and Chopper had a new playmate. Zoro remains aloof.

These are the volumes of One Piece that made me fall madly in love with the series. They show everything wonderful about the series. Action, character development, jokes, and incredibly satisfying sucker punches.

My rating: 4.5/5 stars.

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Review: “The Lost Knight” by Candy Atkins

A review by Hannah.

I would like to start by thanking Enchanted Book Promotions for approaching Fangirls Read It First to review The Lost Knight. When I read the synopsis of the book, I called dibs as quickly as I could.

Agatha Stone is a quiet girl who likes to paint from Queens, New York. When she turns 13 her foster mother attacks her. Agatha is saved by Jonah, a Curramonstrusos from Ashra. Ashra is a world connected with Earth through gates. Once upon a time, the gates were open and guarded by Knights. Now the gates are closed and Knights from both sides of the gate have been hunted down and destroyed. Agatha is a descendant of those Knights; in fact she is the last of her line, and she is destined to save both worlds.

Now Agatha is on a voyage through Ashra. She is joined by her savior Jonah, Crown Prince Dathid, and Luxus, her new pegasus. How is she supposed to accomplish anything when she’s sure they saved the wrong girl? They need a knight and that is the opposite of what Agatha Stone is.

I knew that I might have a difficult time liking Agatha. She doesn’t have any self esteem, she comes off as whiny, she’s scared of everything, and she doesn’t like cats. Then I remembered that she just turned 13. Thirteen is the worst age to be, hands down, and Agatha’s home life doesn’t make it easier for her. I began to like Agatha much sooner than I anticipated. She is thoughtful, sassy, a talented artist, and she is growing braver by the hour.

There is no romantic subplot in this book, which I really liked. Agatha is 13 years old and she has to focus on her destiny. She doesn’t have time for the love triangle that usually pops into these kinds of stories. She receives hugs from Jonah and Dathid, but she never mentions that her heart starts beating a million beats per minute. She does casually mention that Dathid is beautiful, but it never goes beyond acknowledging his aesthetic. I find this refreshing and hope that this trend continues with the rest of the series.

I really enjoyed this book. Agatha is a well thought out character with room to grow. Ashra is a strange and beautiful land, and this is a great beginning to an amazing adventure. The only thing that irks me a little is the abrupt ending of the book. It ends with the question, “What am I supposed to do now?” I don’t know Agatha, but I can’t wait to find out.

My rating: 4.5/5 stars.

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BOOK TOUR Review: “Dark Communion” by CJ Perry

A review by Domoni.

For 200 years, minotaurs have covered the land and enslaved humans. Women are used as breeding stock. If they carry a male it will be a calf, to further the line of the oppressors, killing the mother during birth. If a female is born, they are added to the slave ranks to be used for breeding when they come of age.  When Ayla is taken to be bred, she has nothing left to live for. Running away would be death. She cries out into the night for her mother; her cry is answered. The Goddess of Darkness comes to Ayla and imbues her with the power of a priestess. She must lead the revolution to free the people and break the curse placed on the Goddess’s own son Tor, who created the race of minotaurs.

This is a dark story. It opens at the conclusion of Ayla’s rape. The author does not pull any punches and I was emotionally spent within the first few pages. This does prove to invest you in Ayla’s fight and hope she can complete the task given to her by the Goddess. Ayla’s companion  from her home, Deetra, is devoted to her and wants to protect the new priestess. When Ayla kills the minotaur who raped her, Deetra sends her away and stays to take the blame. Ayla follows the Goddess’s directions and travels to the north to join the Freeman, who can help her in her quest to defeat the minotaurs.

When Ayla meets Alex, she finds the Freeman. But there are only four. Her arrival does not go quietly and the minotaurs find the Freeman’s hiding place. As they flee, the group heads to the arena, where a bull show is starting. This is how the women who kill a minotaur are publicly punished. It is as bad as it sounds. Ayla invokes the Goddess and saves her beloved Deetra from a public and brutal rape and death. The group then rallies the humans in the arena to fight back against the minotaurs.

The characters are strong and developed.  The story is stark yet captivating. I have been surprised by this dark story. It is graphic and brutal and I would not recommend it to young or sensitive readers. Ayla feels as though she is cursed to die because women do not survive giving birth to the half man calves. She feels as though she can fight with what life she has left to stop the minotaurs and then reunite with her beloved mother in the abyss.  She has a heavy faith that she places fully in the Goddess and allows her to heal injuries and defeat foes much stronger than her. She is willing to give her life with no hesitation.  I found myself easily rooting for her, scared for her and proud of her strength.

Deetra believes in Ayla. She loves her and is willing to die to protect her. This brings her favor from the Goddess. When Deetra offers her own life, the Goddess heals her and makes her Ayla’s knight and sworn protector.  With the help of the Freeman and the power of the Goddess they take on the masters and those who betray them.  Her motivation is never about the Goddess or the slaves though. She loves Ayla and this is what moves her.

There were some surprises along the way that broke my heart and incensed me. But a good book should strike those emotional cords.  I will be interested to continue this series when the next book comes out.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

 

BOOK TOUR

 

CJ Perry will be awarding a $10 and a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to two randomly drawn winners during the tour.

Enter here:

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The more you comment along the blog tour, the more chances you have to win!

 

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“Sleeping With the Fishes” by Mary Janice Davidson

Sleeping With The Fishes by Mary Janice Davidson

 A review by Vanessa.

Dr. Fredrika Bimm is an unusual employee of the New England Aquarium. Everyone thinks she has blue hair, even though she knows it’s really actually green. Her eyes are the color of Brussels sprouts. She is super cranky to everyone except her best friend Jonas. Oh, and she can talk to the fishes that she is responsible for feeding because she’s a mermaid. Only her parents and her best friend know that she is a human-mermaid half breed and she much prefers it that way. After all she has enough problems to deal with. Her mother’s apparent fling with a merman is not a new concept for her. She’s much more concerned about the fishes going on hunger strike, and the tall, dark, and handsomely intense new Dr. Thomas Pearson who has just arrived at the NEA. Fred is more than happy to keep her head down and do her work, while avoiding her annoyingly efficient boss Dr. Barb. But things in Fred’s life get suddenly very complicated when Artur, the High Prince of the Black Sea shows up at her parents’ house.

He is a merman of course, and in his human form he is incredibly tall and absolutely beautiful, with ruby red hair and eyes. He also happens to be annoyingly infuriating, as he has come to demand Fred’s help in figuring out who or what is polluting the waters of the Boston Harbor. Fred is not ready for the amorous attentions of the Prince. In an attempt to divert him, she decides to enlist the help of the new Dr. Thomas who has come to the NEA to research the same polluted water problem. When Thomas accidentally catches Fred in her mermaid form, he is all too happy to help out and act on some romantic intentions of his own. Despite Fred’s frequent protests, she suddenly has two male admirers on her hands. So Fred, Thomas, and Artur, with Jonas tagging along, embark on a mission to find out what is happening to Boston Harbor; while Fred tries to hold on to her secret, and her heart.

One of my favorite authors, Mary Janice Davidson, has laid out a wonderful and sharp witted twist on the mermaid legend. Fred is so much more than the classically beautiful, curious, and innocent waif who wanders from the ocean in search of her handsome love. In fact, if anyone suggested that to her, she might likely slug them. She is sarcastic and highly flawed, but entirely likable and easy to root for. Her impatience and intolerance belies her incredibly loyal and protective nature, and her chagrin at the attentions of two men somehow makes her charming. With a supporting cast of characters that never fail to entertain, the story swims along fantastically. Prince Artur is everything you would think that a magical merman prince should be, and Dr. Thomas is an interesting and mysterious wild card. Throw in the mysteries of the deep with mafia bad guys and demanding angelfish, and it’s no wonder why it’s almost impossible to put this book down. The worst thing I have to say about it is that it’s a short quick read. But then since it’s the first of an amazingly fun trilogy, I guess that’s not so bad.

My rating: 4.5/5 stars.

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Review: “Hounded” by Kevin Hearne

Review of Hounded by Kevin Hearne


A review by Vanessa.

Traveling the earth for more than two millennia should give one a great sense of wisdom and a very significant mental leg up on everyone else around.  So how is it that Atticus O’Sullivan finds himself square in the middle of someone else’s power struggle?  That is just how it is when dealing with ancient Celtic Gods known as the Tuatha De Danann.  In an attempt to stay away from them Atticus, a very old and possibly the last remaining Druid, has been hiding out in Tempe Arizona for the last several years.  He wants nothing to do with them but when the Goddess of Death comes flying into your life, you listen.  She warns him that an old rival who has been dogging Atticus for many centuries is coming for him.  Even with the advance warning, Atticus finds himself pulled by Gods of old, both friend and foe, into a frightening culmination of centuries of animosity.  His magic is old and powerful, and he has learned to wield it to create strong protections for himself but it may not be strong enough to defeat a God.  His best hope is the magical sword he still holds known as Fragarach, the Answerer.  It has the ability to cut down any enemy regardless of any magical protections, and also happens to be the source of the target on his back.

Lucky for him Atticus is not alone.  His best friend Oberon, who happens to be an Irish wolfhound with a telepathic connection to him, is a loyal soldier ready to fight to keep him safe… as long as there is the possibility of a harem of poodles in the end.  Atticus’s enemy is cunning and has no issue controlling some of the mortals in Tempe to force Atticus to give him the sword by any means necessary; including framing him for a crime and letting the police search through his things to find the sword.  It is a good thing that Atticus has lawyers that just so happen to be a werewolf and vampire.  On intimate terms with the Goddess of Death, the Goddess of the Hunt, earth elementals, a powerful werewolf pack, a coven of witches, and a beautiful bartender who is suspiciously more than she seems, the Druid just might prove very difficult to defeat.

This was a fun read from beginning to end, no doubt.  It had a depth of history and backstory that was delightfully engaging without being entirely overwhelming, although it skirted the line a couple of times.  I found myself laughing right out loud on multiple occasions, thanks to the frequent comic relief provided by Oberon’s telepathic dialogue with Atticus.  The Irish wolfhound was by far my favorite character.  But there was no lack of interesting and engaging secondary characters to choose from.  As my first foray with a male author into the world of Urban Fantasy I was very pleased with the experience.  The book is classified as fantasy of course, but those of us rabid, loyal fans of Urban Fantasy can certainly recognize a fellow of the craft.  The romantic entanglements of the main character do tend to hold a little less depth than one might desire, but it is not a detriment to the story in any way.  Hearne’s storytelling is wonderful; he has given just enough in the first book of this series to get me completely hooked for the rest.

My rating: 4.5/5 stars.

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