Sapphire Smyth & The Shadow Five (Part 1)
by R.J. Furness
Published by Union Publishing on March 16, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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Have you ever seen something you can’t explain? Did it vanish as fast as it appeared?
Perhaps that thing you saw was lurking in the shadows, and you caught a glimpse of it before it went back into hiding.
There’s a good chance, of course, that the thing you saw simply emerged from your imagination.
Or maybe, just maybe, it didn’t…
Sapphire Smyth is no stranger to rejection. When she was only a baby, her father abandoned her after her mother died. Since then, Sapphire has never felt like she belonged anywhere, or with anyone. To make things worse, Sapphire's foster carers have now turned their back on her - on her eighteenth birthday. After living with them throughout her childhood, Sapphire has to find a new home. Is it any wonder she finds it hard to trust people?
Abandoned by the people she called family, Sapphire is alone and searching for some meaning in her life. Except that meaning has already come looking for her. When Sapphire discovers mysterious creatures lurking in the shadows, she soon realises that her fate is unlike anything she had ever imagined.
"Sapphire Smyth & The Shadow Five" is a six-part, serialised young adult fantasy story!
Sapphire Smyth and the Shadow Five is part one in the Shadow series by author R.J. Furness. This young adult fantasy follows Sapphire who, on her eighteenth birthday, is asked to leave her foster home after being given a bracelet- something that had been previously owned by her birth mother. A series of mishaps on her birthday reveal curious mysteries lying just beyond the human eye, as well as a world only dreamt of in fantastical stories.
This was my first-time diving into a serialized series, and I have to say that I quite enjoyed it. The experience reminded me of watching an episode of my favorite, engaging shows on Hulu- except the episode played out in my imaginary internal screen. I already can’t wait to “tune in” to the next installment. As for the story itself-
Despite the short length (once again, this is a serialized series), the plot was incredibly engaging. I have always been a fan of whimsical, creative, and imaginative tales, and this story had it all! The beginning was dark and ominous- setting the stage perfectly for a mystery that immediately pulls you in. The somber tone of the story shifts and turns and reveals a much larger plot and, maybe, just a smidgen of a brighter, if not more involved, future. While I am still learning about Sapphire’s character, what I did find is that she has a lot of healing to do in regard to her upbringing. Growing up in a foster home and living with the knowledge that a parent of yours did not want you must have left scars, followed by being ejected from her childhood home…well, we’ll see Sapphire’s internal journey towards acceptance and peace (hopefully! I’m an eternal optimist). I can understand her trust issues with those closest to her- such as her best friend, Ben.
Ben was also an intriguing character in the short amount of time we got to know him- I can’t wait to learn more about him! He’s a dark and fascinating yo-yo carrying mystery! As for his sister Grace- I’ll have to reserve judgment until further novels. Finally, the mystical beings introduced in the story were fascinating and unique! I have to say, after finishing this story I immediately began looking around at the shadows, wondering if they really could move. Was I really seeing the shadows moving at the corner of my eye? Or was it just my imagination? (I love it when authors make you wonder!).
The story ended perfectly! I can’t wait to see where Sapphire’s journey takes her.
If you enjoy short, engaging, imaginative, action-filled, young adult fantasy stories, then you MUST check out this series by R.J. Furness! Just wait- I can see this one getting its own movie- if not its own T.V. series!!
Beyond the Wicked Willow: Chronicles of a Teenage Witchslayer
by M.J. RocissonoJoe Rocissono
Published by BookBaby on September 7th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy & Magic
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FRANKIE FRETINI has had a horrible year. And, just when he thinks things are looking up, well...all heck breaks loose. It happens in home-ec class just moments after the girl of his dreams, Jenny Moran, invites him to the annual town carnival. Still dazed from the unexpected invite, Frankie accidentally plasters the face of school bully, Brick McDuddy, with a giant scoop of chocolate mousse.
Embarrassed, and fuming mad, Brick plots to deliver his painful revenge at the carnival. When Frankie, and his pals, Sam, Beef, and Bookworm show up to meet Jenny, Brick and his nasty bootlickers, Harold “The Horrible” Dunson and Billy “Scat” Pile, chase them into the eerie tent of an old Gypsy fortuneteller named Mala. Trapped with nowhere to run, Frankie makes a pact with Mala not knowing that he and his pals would be swept through her crystal ball to Medieval Italy. Now, their only hope to return home rests in Frankie's hands. He must kill the evil Italian witch, Il Strega Diavolo, and rescue Mala's twin sister, Tsura. But, can Frankie find the courage to face the Strega?
Review of Beyond the Wicked Willow
Beyond the Wicked Willow: Chronicles of a Teenage Witchslayer is a novel by author M.J. Rocissono. The story follows Frankie Fretini, a fourteen-year old boy who, unbeknownst to him, is destined to find and destroy an evil witch named Il Strega Diavolo. Frankie, still struggling with the death of his father who was killed in Iraq, spends a great deal of time with his best friends- Sam, Beef, and Bookworm. When they’re not all picking on each other and harboring secret crushes (though, I wanted to shake Bookworm a few times when Sam drops obvious hints for her affection), they’re dodging the bullying tactics by Brick McDuddy and his cohorts. It is during one of their mad dashes to get away from Brick at a carnival that they stumble across a fortune teller’s tent and are met by a mysterious, magical gypsy.
This gypsy, Mala, ends up thrusting Frankie and his friends 800 years into the past to medieval Calabria Italy where they are charged with finding her sister Tsura and defeating Il Strega Diavolo- thus ending the evil witch’s reign of terror. As the story progresses, fascinating characters are met, and some even join Frankie and his friends on their quest. For example, there’s Ambroggio- an older, one-eyed man who rescues them near the beginning of the story from wolf shapeshifters (who is harboring a secret of his own), and Capricia- an orphan girl with some serious fighting skills and spunk who is looking for revenge on the wolf shapeshifters and Il Strega for murdering her family. There is also an awkward, and sometimes cowardly knight Giacomo (who grew on me steadily through the story and seriously redeemed himself).
I loved the dynamic between Frankie and his friends. Their bond was strong, and I enjoyed their interactions. Sam, being the only girl among her three friends, is tough and confident. She jumps into the fray, is loyal, fierce, and knows how to hold her own in a fight. Bookworm got his nickname for a good reason- he frequently makes references throughout the story to different facts and tidbits of information- his total randomness was refreshing! Beef was a favorite of mine. He has a HUGE love for food (which, right there, endeared him to me) and is the proud inventor of the snack- S’meeps. I was secretly joyful by the blooming feelings between Beef and Capricia- they are just adorable. Finally, I enjoyed Frankie’s journey- mostly from an emotional and mental standpoint. I watched him grow from an unsure, hesitant boy who has not come to terms with his father’s passing, to a strong, confident young man on the cusp of finally healing. When he met his father in his dream and was told to relay a message to Frankie’s Mom…cue the waterworks!
Beyond the Wicked Willow was a complete emotional rollercoaster and a thrilling, addictive adventure! There were monsters galore spattered throughout the story- I’m talking terrifying spiders and snakes, werewolves, vampiric creatures, ogres, cursed warlords, pirates, and flying beasts. There were moments that made you laugh, moments that made you cry- seriously though, I won’t be able to look at a cypress now without getting teary-eyed, and moments that made your heart pound from the intensity. By the end of the story I already wanted to flip back to the beginning and start the adventure over. It was bittersweet to say goodbye to Frankie and his ragtag crew.
Finally, this quote here completely struck a chord with me:
“You must listen, boy. Life is a crucible. It brims with fierce trials. You must either surmount them or submit to them. A third choice does not exist. There are some things in life that simply cannot be changed.” -Ambroggio to Frankie Fretini.
Five stars for Beyond the Wicked Willow!!
by Gena Showalter
Published by Harlequin on March 1st 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy & Magic, Action & Adventure, Love & Romance
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"Utterly unique and absolutely riveting—I couldn't put it down! What a marvelously cool world."—New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. MaasFrom the author of the New York Times bestselling White Rabbit Chronicles series comes book 1 of a brand new series in which life as we know it is merely a dress rehearsal, and real life begins after death.
Tenley "Ten" Lockwood is an average seventeen-year-old girl…who has spent the past thirteen months locked inside the Prynne Asylum. The reason? Not her obsession with numbers, but her refusal to let her parents choose where she'll live—after she dies.
There is an eternal truth most of the world has come to accept: Firstlife is merely a dress rehearsal, and real life begins after death.
In the Everlife, two realms are in power: Troika and Myriad, longtime enemies and deadly rivals. Both will do anything to recruit Ten, including sending their top Laborers to lure her to their side. Soon, Ten finds herself on the run, caught in a wild tug-of-war between the two realms who will do anything to win the right to her soul. Who can she trust? And what if the realm she's drawn to isn't where the boy she's falling for lives? She just has to stay alive long enough to make a decision…
Review of the book Firstlife
Firstlife book is the first book in the Everlife series by New York Times bestselling author Gena Showalter. The story follows Tenley “Ten” Lockwood a seventeen-year-old girl struggling to choose which realm to enter when she dies. On Earth, also known as the Land of the Harvest, humans are busy living their first lives- however, before they die they must pledge their allegiance to either Myriad- a dark realm of indulgence and pleasure, where only the strongest rise to power and privilege, or Troika- a realm of light where love, justice, and truth are cherished, and everyone is considered of equal importance. Unfortunately, both reals are embroiled in a vicious war and fight to convince humans to pledge their allegiance to their realm and cause.
That’s where Archer and Killian come in…
Archer, of Troika, is charged with convincing Ten to pledge her allegiance to their side as she is believed to be a “conduit”- someone capable of tipping the war in their favor. Killian, of Myriad, is charged with seducing Ten to their side as well- as they too believe she will bring victory to their realm. Unfortunately, for both guys, Ten is determined to remain “unsigned” as she doesn’t truly feel like she fits into either realm. She is told, however, that if she does NOT choose either realm, her soul will be sent to suffer in the Many Ends- basically, hell.
As Ten struggles to pick a side, she finds herself placed in a perilous position as someone is intent on ending her life. Amid this, Archer and Killian hold a temporary truce to protect her. The dynamic between both guys is interesting- I enjoyed Archer’s sense of honor and justice- he is so easy-going and likable (although there were times I almost thought he was too good). Killian…oh, Killian…this Irish charmer with the wicked tattoos, bad-boy persona, and devilish sense of humor instantly shot his way to my #1 spot for current book boyfriend. I’m seriously not surprised, however, as Gena Showalter creates some of the most tempting love interests in her novels.
There were many underlying themes and parallels drawn in this novel- you have two realms who hold two very different views, though neither of them is entirely wrong in their beliefs, who will do anything to trump or decimate the other side. They try desperately to convince people that their side is the “right” one- their egos overruling their actions- causing irreparable damage. One side even promises money, riches, and status to push their agenda, where another side hides their motives behind poetic words of honor and justice. I enjoyed watching Ten, with her quirky obsession with numbers, work through which world she felt more inclined to join.
Firstlife was a fast-paced, sizzling page-turner that kept me sleep-deprived.
It’s teeming with action, adventure, and romance- three of my favorite things! The dialogue was fun, the characters layered and dynamic, and the plot was thought-provoking.
Love Me Never (Lovely Vicious, #1)
by Sara Wolf
Published by Entangled: Teen on April 5th 2016
Genres: Romance, Young Adult
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Don’t love your enemy. Declare war on him.
Seventeen-year-old Isis Blake hasn’t fallen in love in three years, nine weeks, and five days, and after what happened last time, she intends to keep it that way. Since then she’s lost eighty-five pounds, gotten four streaks of purple in her hair, and moved to Buttcrack-of-Nowhere, Ohio, to help her mom escape a bad relationship.
All the girls in her new school want one thing—Jack Hunter, the Ice Prince of East Summit High. Hot as an Armani ad, smart enough to get into Yale, and colder than the Arctic, Jack Hunter's never gone out with anyone. Sure, people have seen him downtown with beautiful women, but he's never given high school girls the time of day. Until Isis punches him in the face.
Jack’s met his match. Suddenly everything is a game.
The goal: Make the other beg for mercy.The game board: East Summit High.The reward: Something neither of them expected.
Review of Love me Never
Love Me Never is the first novel in the Lovely Vicious series by New York Times bestselling author Sara Wolf. The story follows Isis Blake, a seventeen-year-old girl who has recently moved from Florida to Ohio with her Mom. After a traumatizing experience with a boy who not only broke her heart, but left scars emotionally and physically, Isis reinvents herself by losing all the extra weight, dying a part of her hair purple, and emotionally safe-guarding herself by adopting a flippant and perky attitude. But this newfound sense of justice and strength is tested when she meets Jack Hunter, an aloof and condescending boy with a personality cold enough to freeze the Sahara.
What happens when you mix fire and ice?
You get explosive and witty dialogue, and scenes fraught with tension and an underlying twinge of burgeoning interest and passion.
I found Isis to be an interesting and sometimes perplexing character. Her inner and outer dialogue is seamless. She rarely has a “normal” or sensible thought process. While she thinks in a very humorous and flippant way, there were times when I wanted her to snap out of it, so she could think a little more coherently. While Isis comes off as confident, she thinks very poorly of herself. Her self image had previously been destroyed by a boy she had been in love with in Florida, a boy she has dubbed “Nameless” in the book. Even after losing weight, trying to appear joyful and sure of herself, and being told numerous times by her friends and Jack that she’s attractive, Isis continues to tear herself down about her looks. Not once does she believe anyone when they compliment her on her looks. That got frustrating (though I understood why).
It was fun to watch the “battle” unfold between Isis and Jack. While they are so different, both characters have been struck by grief and tragedy in some way. I believe it is in this that they both begin to understand and accept one another. I had hoped, however, that there was just a bit more chemistry between the two of them. I have my fingers crossed that the burgeoning passion between them in this book begins to flourish even more so in the next!
All-in-all, a good read! I got plenty of laughs, enjoyed working out the mystery behind Jack’s secrets, and getting to know the insecure-though-seemingly-confident Isis.
Check it out today and tell me what you think!
by Erin Watt
Series: The Royals #1
Published by Timeout LLC on April 4th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Social Themes, Adolescence, Dating & Relationships, Young Adult Fiction, Dating & Sex
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"This generation's Cruel Intentions." Jennifer L. Armentrout, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author. These Royals will ruin you¿ From wharf fights and school brawls to crumbling lives inside glittery mansions, one guy tries to save himself. Reed Royal has it all--looks, status, money. The girls at his elite prep school line up to date him, the guys want to be him, but Reed never gave a damn about anyone but his family until Ella Harper walked into his life. What started off as burning resentment and the need to make his father's new ward suffer turned into something else entirely--keep Ella close. Keep Ella safe. But when one foolish mistake drives her out of Reed's arms and brings chaos to the Royal household, Reed's entire world begins to fall apart around him. Ella doesn't want him anymore. She says they'll only destroy each other. She might be right. Secrets. Betrayal. Enemies. It's like nothing Reed has ever dealt with before, and if he's going to win back his princess, he'll need to prove himself Royally worthy. Warning: This book ends in a cliffhanger..
Paper Princess Review
Paper Princess is the first book in the Royals Series written by #1 New York Times bestselling author Erin Watt. The story follows Ella Harper- a high school junior trying to make ends meet, under the radar, after the death of her mother. Ella eventually finds herself plucked out of one of the lowest moments of her young life by Callum Royal, an obscenely wealthy man determined to take care of her like one of his own. It’s in his home that Ella finds herself having to contend with Callum’s five sons. It is evident by their chilly first meeting, that this new golden life is going to be fraught with its own challenges.
Reed Royal, the second oldest son, makes you love him and hate him consistently throughout the book. Just when you think he’s making a turning point in his negative regard for Ella, he surprises you with another example of how douche-like he can be. Reed isn’t the only one targeting Ella in nasty ways, he has help from one particularly brutal girl at their high school. Ella is caught in the midst of trying to make a life for herself, adapting to this new environment, and having to suffer betrayal, bullying, and romantic interest all at the same time.
It’s a wicked combination.
I’m going to admit, I finished the book all in one sitting. I literally could not put it down. I found myself equally obsessed with the Royals, needing to see what devious tricks they had up their sleeves. The adults in the story were equally as deceptive as the teens. The story was one wicked moment after the other…and that chemistry between Reed and Ella? Well. Who would have that that two people so determined to make one another so miserable would provide such a concoction of passion, need, and want.
You can find Paper Princess on Amazon for the Kindle instantly for $5.99