Monday, May 16, 2016

Early Review of Sweet Little Lies (Heartbreaker Bay #1) by Jill Shalvis

Title: Sweet Little Lies: A Heartbreaker Bay Novel
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Heartbreaker Bay
Format: Paperback; 384 pages
Publisher: Avon (June 28, 2016)
ISBN-10: 0062448021
ISBN-13: 978-0062448026
Author's Website:
Notes: I received an eARC loan of the book for review purposes.

A girl with a secret.
A guy with issues.
One wish made by tossing a coin into a fountain...
and love will find a way.

This is a new series for Jill Shalvis called Heartbreaker Bay. The series takes place in San Francisco where Pru, the heroine of the story, is the Captain of a tour boat. Finn O’Riley, the hero of the novel, is the co-owner of one of the area's local pubs. Both have a lot of baggage, and Pru has some that could end up being a relationship breaker. For some reason, I kept picturing Finn saying, "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine." Granted, this is no Casablanca and Pru doesn't end up in Finn's bar accidentally--she's a woman on a mission--but for some odd reason that scene just kept playing in my head. If you've never read one of Ms. Shalvis' books, you are truly missing out on something special. She combines sexy characters with witty banter, humor, and fun situations that have me grinning as I'm reading and smiling long after I've finished.

Finn is a man with a plan. He's bent on making the business he and and brother, Sean, started a success. Distractions, like Pru, do not fit into his plan, but even though he tries to resist the attraction that exists between the two, he and she keep gravitating towards one another.

Pru is a fun loving individual who wants Finn to be happy. One of the first things we see is her do is make a wish that Finn find happiness. While he's not a sad individual he just isn't really "living" which is ironic because someone later says the very same thing about her. Seeing these two come together against their better judgment was amusing and extremely entertaining.

The song that started playing in my head as I read was 'Call Me Maybe' by Carly Rae Jepsen:

"I threw a wish in the well
Don't ask me I'll never tell
I looked at you as it fell
And now you're in my way

I trade my soul for a wish
Pennies and dimes for a kiss
I wasn't looking for this
But now you're in my way..."

Overall, I gave this one 4 1/2 out 5 roses. It was a fun and sexy tale that left me with a feeling that all was right with the world. Ms. Shalvis was also able to incorporated a tiny heartwarming little tribute to Prince (even though she didn't know at the time of her writing that he would pass) as Pru and her friends sing one of his songs while doing karaoke. It made me smile as I read it.  On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one scored a STEAM  rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed. I look forward to reading the next in the series.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Timeless Beauty: Over 100 Tips, Secrets, and Shortcuts to Looking Great by Christie Brinkley

    Classification: Adult Non-fiction
    Genre: Beauty/Health/Self Help
    Format: Hardcover; 208 pages
    Publisher: Grand Central Life & Style (November 10, 2015)
    ISBN-10: 145558794X
    ISBN-13: 978-1455587940
    Notes: Library Loan

When I was growing up in the eighties, Christie Brinkley graced the covers of many a magazine. She was beautiful then, and she still is today. As she enters her sixties. she's proving you can grow old gracefully while defying your age every step of the way. "Timeless Beauty" gives you guides, not so much a full out plan, as to how to fight the clock.
So as I sat down to read this book, my son came along and made a comment. He thought it was funny that I was reading a beauty book. I explained who Christie Brinkley was and then told him how old she was and his expression went from a teasing one to a look of surprise. While she makes looking great at 61 (now 62) easy, she has to work at it. Some of the weapons in her daily arsenal include Sunscreen, exercise, a vegetarian diet, exfoliating and moisturizing at night. Some of the less common tools that are picking up in popularity that she and/or her experts deem can enhance what you have include false eyelashes, hair extensions, facial fillers, laser treatments, and cool sculpting. Now while Ms. Brinkley's book talks about all these things, she doesn't specify whether or  not she's done any of the more costly or extreme procedures that are listed. I guess you need to read between they lines and while she writes in the book, "Does she or doesn't she? Only her dermatologist knows for sure!" I'd say a lot of the things her panel of expert dermatologists talk about are probably things she's tried and I must say they are working! While there may be no groundbreaking secrets revealed in this book, I like the fact that someone who seems to have defied the effects of aging without getting an unnatural stretched look about her is divulging some of her secrets as to how she went about doing it.

The book includes hair and makeup tips for aging woman given by experts. It also includes dermatologist recommended skin care treatments and product recommendations. Christie also incorporated some of the recipes she personally uses along with exercise routines and tips. While she plugs her Christie Brinkley make up line, the book doesn't read like an infomercial. She seems to always list a secondary product that isn't from her personal product line for those who might be a bit skeptical of them.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and learned a thing or two along the way. I gave this one 3 1/2 out of 5 roses. When new expensive procedures come out you always have to wonder if they really work or are just a ploy to get your money. Sometimes they really seem to good to be true and its nice to have someone actually say, "Yes, it works" before I spend my money. I like that Christie asked her dermatologists what people should look for when they seek out a dermatologist. So while we can't all afford the high priced and highly sought after dermatologists Ms. Brinkley uses, we'll be able to use the information provided to find a good one. The main thing I wish had been incorporated with the book. and it seems to be lacking from most beauty related ones, is a more intense tutorial on how to achieve the looks described. I would love to see authors and/or publishers create online videos to show precisely how to get the look being described. For instance, I tried putting on false eyelashes for Halloween last year, and let me just say it was not a pretty sight. Less than an hour after putting them on, the things were falling into my eyes. Plus, I almost managed to glue my eyelids shut using the glue that comes with them. I'd recommend that when creating instructions, use a cosmetically challenged individual for a trial run and see if they can manage it from what is written on the pages.

Christie talking about her book on the Meredith Vieira show:

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Passenger (Passenger #1) by Alexandra Bracken

Title: Passenger
Classification: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Time Travel
Series: Passenger
Format: Hardcover; 496 pages
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (January 5, 2016)
ISBN-10: 1484715772
ISBN-13: 978-1484715772
Notes: I borrowed this book from the library.

Etta thought she had her life planned out. She was just about to start her career as a professional concert violinist. On the day of her debut, however, everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Someone she loved was killed, she was knocked out, and the next thing she knew she was waking up on a ship in a time period that wasn't her own. One that was long over and done with before she'd ever been born...

Nicholas knew exactly where his life was going and decided he wanted no part in it. After years of trying to please his father and trying to fit in with his family, he'd finally decided he was done, or so he thought. Upon accepting what he thought would be one last assignment from his grandfather, he found himself more entangled than ever in the family business of time traveling. All because of a girl...

Destiny is a funny thing. Sometimes we're in control of it while other times someone else pulls the strings, controlling and manipulating it. That's when we become merely a passenger trying to survive the crazy and often wild ride.
This was a fast paced story with a lot going on all at once. I found the beginning a bit confusing because I didn't realize this would be a time travel book. I didn't get sucked into the story until about three or four chapters in. That's when the book grabbed me with a fierce voracity and there was no turning back. It sank its talons into me and I was a goner.

The whole concept of Etta being kidnapped from her own time was great way to start the novel. Imagine how powerless you'd feel not knowing exactly where you are, when you are, how you got there, or why someone kidnapped you from your own time. It'd be a little hard to take, yet Etta does so remarkably well. Although, I wish the author had led with this portion of the story instead of starting with Nicholas' prologue section. Don't get me wrong, the prologue is important. It conveyed a defining moment for Nicholas, but it totally confused the heck out of me by having the story jump around the way it did at the beginning. Once I realized who was who and that Etta was jumping around in time, as was Nicholas, trying to figure out what and why everything was happening was really fun. There were quite a few twists and turns with a love story happening smack dab in the middle of all the suspense.

 Etta is a strong, smart, quick thinking, and talented teen. She is perhaps a little too composed as everything unfolds. The only thing that truly throws her is the death of her violin teacher, Alice. Somehow her mind immediately sees time travel as something not to be fazed by, but as an opportunity in the making--“This was the danger, the seduction of time travel, she realized—it was the opportunity, the freedom of a thousand possibilities of where to live and how to start over. It was the beauty open to you in your life if you only stopped for a moment to look.” She begins to wonder if she can use it as a way to save Alice. First, however, she needs to figure out why she was taken and how to get home. She quickly realizes she'll need help, and that Nicholas is the most likely person to give it to her.

Nicholas is the bastard son of Augustus Ironwood. He once thought his family (despite his being born black in a time when blacks were thought of as nothing more than slaves) would welcome him into the fold. He possesses the family talent of time travel--a skill not all inherit. But the promises of grand adventures, magic, money, prestige, and what he'd really wanted, acceptance, hadn't been forthcoming. Instead, he finds himself as nothing more than an indentured servant who would aspire to be nothing more than a valet to his own half-brother. He's trying to get out from under his grandfather's thumb with one last job so he can find his own place in the world. A place where he belongs. When Etta shows up, she turns his world upside down. He, however, has a somewhat cynical outlook on love. From what he's seen, “Love was selfish, wasn't it? It made honest men want things they had no right to. It cocooned one from the rest of the world, erased time itself, knocked away reason. It made you live in defiance of the inevitable. It made you want another's mind, body; it made you feel as if you deserved to own their heart, and carve out a place in it.”  Yet, through his mentor, Captain Hall, he's seen a different side to relationships so he's not altogether opposed to it. He's just very guarded with his feelings.

The time traveling element in the book was fun. Hopping from one place to another and trying to figure out where the two had ended up after making a jump was enjoyable. Their having to figure out how to get to the next place they need to be added some additional suspense and danger. While there seem to be some huge holes in the understanding of how the traveling is done and why only certain people can do it, I'm hoping we'll get answers in upcoming books.

Overall, I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses. I really enjoyed the tale. I do, however, wish the romance aspect had gone a little slower. It seemed too much too soon. Add in that you've got a modern girl in a not so modern time with no readily available convenience stores to sell "protection" and, yeah, you could say my mommy senses were tingling. Especially when you consider Etta being only 17 and stranded in a time period where things would not end well if she found herself to be with child. While tame by romance novel standards (a definite Blush rating on the Lisarenee Romance Scale; at the beginning stages of romance where something is just starting to be stirred) it still had markedly more than most young adult novels. It didn't detract from the story, however, it just made me feel old. It reminded me of when my mom took me to see an Officer and a Gentleman and covered my eyes when the sex scenes played. While I vowed I'd never do that to my daughter, I wouldn't recommend this one to those under 12. It's much tamer than what you would see in a R rated movie, but it's definitely geared towards a teen audience. I look forward to reading the next in this series and seeing what wonderful things Ms. Bracken will come up with. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Early Review of Because of Miss Bridgerton (Rokesbys #1) by Julia Quinn

Title: Because of Miss Bridgerton
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Bridgertons/Rokesbys
Format: Hardcover; 304 pages
Publisher: Avon (March 29, 2016)
ISBN-10: 0062465821
ISBN-13: 978-0062465825
Author's Website:
Notes: I received an eARC loan from the publisher for reviewing purposes.

Billie Bridgerton was not raised as a proper Miss should be. She was well educated, raised as though she was the heir of her father's estate, and spoon-fed on the belief she could do anything. A regular tomboy, she ran around with the sons of their nearest neighbor who became her dearest friends. Billie never worried about her future until now. She always thought she'd marry one of the neighbor boys, but she never knew just how wrong or right she might be...

George Rokesby is the eldest of the three Rokesby boys and, therefore, heir to his father's estate and title. He's always taken his position seriously, and of the three brothers is considered to be the most serious. While his younger brothers and sister ran around the family estate, he studied and learned how to run it. While his brothers sought adventure, he sought knowledge. To say the man grew into a bore is most likely how Billie Bridgerton would see it, but a roof, an ungrateful cat, a sprained ankle, and a ladder are about to change everything.
The other day I was reading this book on a plane when the women next to me inquired as to what I was reading. I told her about about the book and the Bridgeton series and she asked me why I liked it so much. I've been reading Ms. Quinn's books for years and the Bridgerton family, which she created, is exactly the kind everyone would want to marry into. They're a close-knit bunch who love ferociously and are are fiercely loyal. If you're family, they would always have your back regardless of your innocence. The women of the family are they kind you'd want for your best friends while the men are the kind you'd want to marry. Some having just enough bad boy mixed in to make even a bad girl swoon. If I had to boil it down to one element it would be family. They are the epitome of what a family should be. In fact, at one point in the book Billie states during a conversation about women and war, "If someone I loved was in danger, I'm quite certain I could be moved to violence." I feel that statement kind of says it all.

This is the first of a new series called the Rokesbys. According to Julia Quinn's website, "Sybilla (Billie) Bridgerton is the older sister of Edmund Bridgerton. She is mentioned (although not by name) in  'Violet in Bloom,' which can be found in The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After." We’re going back a generation for 'Because of Miss Bridgerton'. " While the Bridgertons aren't the focus of this series, I'm sure we'll get some glimpses of Georgiana and her parents who will still resides next door to Billie and George.

This is the type of romance where a couple falls in love after knowing each other their entire lives. One is slightly older, but not by too much--just enough to make the age gap when they were younger seem huge. Slowly, however, they start to see each other in a new, romantic way. Billie is a bona fide tomboy and while she is a strong and confident woman on the home front, dealing with polite society is not her forte. When dealing with the ton, she feels like a fish out of water. Plus, an "incident" involving fire when she was presented at court led to her never having had a first season. While Billie can take care of herself in almost any situation, a verbal lashing by the ton, who don't easily forgive or forget, is not something she would know how to endure. She dreads making her debut.

George, on the other hand, is a much more serious than Billie. Raised as the heir, he didn't share in the adventures of Billie and his siblings. Until recently, he wouldn't have considered her a friend but rather someone he didn't really get along with. Truth be told, he's always been a bit envious of Billie and his siblings. They are all very close and he felt a bit left out growing up. Where as Billy could get away with just about anything--including acting like a boy--he felt restrained by his position. He, as you can imagine, has never had a problem fitting in with proper English society. An incident with a cat combined with Billie's confession about her fear of entering society will play a hand in bringing out his protective nature towards her. It allows him to see her not as the annoying spoiled girl of his youth, but as something more. Something much, much more.

This such a charming and delightful tale that I couldn't help but give it 5 out of 5 roses. I loved seeing these two slowly fall in love. It was a fun and sexy love story and after years of reading the Bridgerton series, it felt a bit like coming home. I simply adore Ms. Quinn's novels. They leave me feeling warm, toasty, and as though all is right with the world. If only real life played out like one of her books, life would be good. While this would be considered more of a prequel to the Bridgerton series, it had the feel of some of her earlier works--the ones before the Smythe-Smith Quartet spin-off, which I confess to also loving. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed. I highly recommend this one.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Early Review of The Study of Seduction (Sinful Suitors #2) by Sabrina Jeffries

Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The Sinful Suitors (Book 2)
Format: Paperback; 384 pages
Publisher: Pocket Books (March 22, 2016)
ISBN-10: 1476786070
ISBN-13: 978-1476786070
Notes: I was given and eARC loan for review purposes.

Lady Clarissa Lindsey is charming, witty, beautiful, and independently wealthy. She appears to have it all--including her own personal stalker...

Count Geraud Durand is the first secretary to the French ambassador, and since the ambassador's return to France, Durand is running the embassy as the charge d'affaires. The position gives the man a great deal of power and certain immunity. Upon meeting Clarissa, he's become obsessed with making her his wife--something both Clarissa and her family have made very clear is not an alliance they wish to pursue. Since her refusal of his proposal, however, he's become increasingly daring and crafty in his attempts to get her into a compromising position with the intent of forcing her hand. So when Clarissa's guardian needs to leave the country on another urgent family matter, he asks his good friend, Edwin Barlow, the Earl of Blakesborough, to be Clarissa's stand-in guardian and keep Clarissa safe from Durand's unsavory pursuits. It's a position that becomes increasingly complicated as Edwin finds himself falling for the beautiful young heiress.
One of the things I love about Sabrina Jeffries' books is watching her grow as an author. While even her first books are good, she's really come into her own, matured as a writer, and honed her craft over the years. With each new series, she seems to kick it up a notch in both heat and storylines to the point I feel I'm guaranteed a story that's more than worthy my time.

I personally adore stories where the hero and heroine seem like total opposites only to find when the two are forced to endure each others company that they have more in common then they ever could have imagined. This is such a story. Clarissa is the Regency version of a modern day party girl. She loves to socialize, dance, drink campaign, and have a good time. Yet underneath her party girl facade she's a very intelligent woman who is a tad bit lonely even though she doesn't realize it. Edwin, on the other hand, would be considered by all to be a stick in the mud. He's much too serious and really needs someone to shake him up and teach him how to enjoy life. We were first introduced to him in the fourth book of The Duke's Men series, If the Viscount Falls, and ever since I've been eagerly awaiting his story. Thankfully, Ms. Jeffries didn't disappoint.

The situation with Count Durand is rather twisted and scary. It makes one realize just how vulnerable women of the Regency time period were. Can you imagine being forced to marry your attacker because society dictates it or being shunned for being a victim of someone's unsavory advances that you never encouraged? Women and their rights have come a long way and while Ms. Jeffries may use such things to her advantage in her books, she never lets the story go completely dark. She tends to use these types of situations to add a touch of drama and suspense to her tales which I thoroughly enjoy.

I couldn't help but give this one 5 out of 5 roses. I enjoyed the story and the engaging characters. I loved how this book has a true hero, and while Clarissa is a strong, smart, and capable of taking care of herself, sometimes even the most self sufficient among us needs a little help when dealing with a seemingly unbalanced individual. Additionally, there were a lot of secrets and backstories that needed to be uncovered before all the pieces of what was going on fell into place which added a nice amount of suspense and a dash of intrigue. Plus, there was a major plot twist that I really liked. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed.

Notes to keep you in the know:
There were some really ingenious automatons in existence during the Regency time period. Ms. Jeffries incorporated some of them into this story by letting Edwin be a admirer, collector, and tinkerer of the art. Check out this article about seven early robots and automatons. I found it very interesting that such things existed all those many years ago:

Also, you may wish to take a look at the pinterest page Sabrina Jeffries has created filled with things associated with 'The Study of Seduction':

Videos of Automatons found on Youtube:

Pierre Jaquet-Droz's 'The Writer' Automaton:
(Video by BBC and lesterfontayne)

Order of the series:

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Early review of Marked in Flesh (The Others #4) by Anne Bishop

Title: Marked In Flesh: A Novel of the Others
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal
Series: A Novel of the Others (Book 4)
Format: Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Roc (March 8, 2016)
ISBN-10: 0451474473
ISBN-13: 978-0451474476
Author's Website:
    Notes: Received an eARC loan from the publisher. Contains some gruesome and disturbing moments.
Warning: This review contains spoilers for 'Written in Red' and 'Murder of Crows'  and 'Visions in Silver' so if you haven't read the first books, you may wish to look at my review of 'Written in Red' instead:

The Others own the continent known as Thaisia and the humans who live there are, for all intents and purposes, their tolerated guests. When guests overstay their welcome or abuse the hospitality extended to them, heads literally roll as well as other bodily appendages. In this case if you bite the hand that feeds you they'll bite back, for the Others view humans as the other dark meat.

For the past year, tensions between humans and the terra indigene have been rising. A movement known as the Humans First and Last (HFL), under the leadership of Nicholas Scratch, has been getting more and more aggressive with its pursuit to provoke discord in Thaisia. Promising humans they can overtake the Others and claim what they feel should be rightfully theirs--namely the land, houses, etc. that they've been allowed to lease/build. What they don't realize is that the terra indigene that humans have so far encountered aren't the worst of their race. The Others that populate the Courtyards were strategically placed where they are to protect humans from the real Big Bad that roam the continent. Boundaries were not just established to keep the humans out, but to keep the truly terrifying of their species in.

The HFL truly has no idea of the Pandora's box their actions are about to unleash upon the world, but soon they and everyone else will...
This is a series that I HIGHLY recommend you read the previous books first. Each book builds upon the last, and you won't get the full effect of the series unless you read it from beginning to end in order. In my humble opinion, it is well worth your time.

If you haven't already guessed, I love this series. A portion of the story (and, yes, I'm trying not to reveal any spoilers) had an almost biblical feel to it. Not in a preachy, spiritual, or religious way, but rather in a destructive/vengeful large scale way--think Noah's Ark and Sodom & Gomorrah type of chaos. The Others show why they're not ones to be reckoned with, and why the ancestors of those presently living in Thiasia strictly observed the Others' rules.

Meg and Simon's relationship is complicated, but it's kind of fun to see Simon who is usually so confident and sure of himself feel totally out of his element. Simon, for those not up-to-date with the series, is terra indigene. His other form is a wolf. Meg is a Blood Prophet, aka cassandra sangue. When her blood is exposed to the elements, whether accidentally through wounds or scrapes or via controlled cuts, she predicts the future. Her predictions and those by others like her are extremely reliable. She came to the Lakeside Courtyard seeking escape from the people who used and abused her. To say she has trust issues is putting it mildly, but Meg is slowly warming up to Simon and takes a big step (for her) towards furthering their relationship in this one. I love how she seems to win the Others over with her innocent charm and by just being herself. One of my favorite part of the book is when she asks, "Was it...were they laughing at us?" 

I couldn't help but rate this one 5 out of 5 roses. I'm loving the series, but I'm not overly sure where the author, Ms. Bishop, will take this series next. I'm sure she has something up her sleeve because there is at least (and I stress at least) one more book forthcoming. I'm not sure when it is due out, so I may need to try one of her other works to fill the void like her Black Jewels series, her Ephemera series, or her Tir Alainn trilogy. I am so enjoying the characters and world Ms. Bishop has created in her Others series.  I HIGHLY recommend this series. Just be warned, there are some gruesome and disturbing moments in these books and they are not for the faint of heart.

Order of The Others series:

Friday, February 26, 2016

Burning Glass (Burning Glass, #1) by Kathryn Purdie

Title: Burning Glass
Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: High Fantasy
Series: Burning Glass (Book 1)
Format: Hardcover; 512 pages
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (March 1, 2016)
ISBN-10: 0062412361
ISBN-13: 978-0062412362
Author's Website:
Notes: I received an ARC from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Two brothers raised apart.
One declared dead to ensure his survival. 
One raised believing he would rule the kingdom.
One yearns for power.
One strives for peace.
Only one can be emperor.
One girl has the power to change everything...

Sonya Petrova is the emperor's new Auraseer. She is the first line of defense against those who seek to hurt or kill the emperor. Auraseers can see people's auras and sense their emotions to the point that if they aren't properly trained they can't distinguish other people's feelings and desires from their own. Auraseers are usually trained from birth at the Auraseer convent, but Sonya's isn't like other Auraseers. Her parents put her into hiding and she wasn't discovered until eight months ago. She isn't properly trained. She doesn't want the position and power thrust upon her. By all rights she shouldn't be the emperor's Auraseer, but fate had other plans as a terrible fire took the lives of all the Auraseers who stood between Sonya and the position of emperor's Auraseer.

One girl will be able to tip the balance of power. 
Who will gain her loyalty? 
Who will she betray?  
Dare she trust herself to make such a decision? 

“Do you never take responsibility for your own emotions?” he asked.
“They far too often belong to someone else.”
This novel grabbed my attention from the very start and never let go. The beginning reminded me a touch of Maria V. Snyder's book 'Poison Study' and Robin LaFevers'  'Grave Mercy' although the two books are very different from this one. The world building was well done and I was able to create a clear picture in my mind of the kingdom. I am hoping in one of the next books we'll learn more about the fiefdoms surrounding Riaznin. I also wonder if any other supernatural powers exist in this world. I feel we've only scratched the surface as we've only seen a tiny sliver of it.

Sonya is a character that needs to find herself. She's never really fit in or belonged anywhere, and she is finally coming into her power. While we know from the beginning she is different from other Auraseers, we don't know the full extent of what she is capable of until late into the novel. I can't help but wonder if there is something more to the story of why her parents decided to hide her from the convent. Did they know she would be different? Is there something in her background that made her so?  I also wonder where these powers come from. No history, at least not yet, is given as to how or why children inherit the Auraseer abilities. From what we're told, it sounded rather unpredictable and random.

The two brothers. Valko, the emperor, and Anton appear to be as different as night and day. Valko's attentions toward Sonya disturbed me. He is a dark character carried away by his own power. Anton seems to love his brother and appears to have a good heart, but is conflicted about his brother's rule. He tries to help Sonya adjust to court life and ease her maneuvering of it and his brother, but I have to wonder...what if???? Throughout the book we see quotes like:
“Do you never take responsibility for your own emotions?” he asked.
“They far too often belong to someone else.”
~ and ~
“I'm not a mirror.”
Could all the seemingly random events that led to Sonya's rise to Sovereign Auraseer be due to some huge plan that has yet to be revealed? Could she have been an unwilling pawn in someone's (most likely Anton's) personal game of thrones that has yet gone undetected? Let's face it, she was knocked unconscious during the fire. The fact that she emerged from it seemingly unscathed despite being at the center of the flaming inferno was never really explained and leads me to two possibilities--either she has a power that hasn't been identified or someone may have manipulated things. Add in that we know she can easily be manipulated and has no loyalty to the Emperor after doing her best to avoid his service and she has the makings of someone who could easily be taken advantage of. Plus, would she notice someone else hijacking her emotions or gifts? Yes, I am probably over thinking things as as I didn't immediately have these thoughts upon finishing the book, but wouldn't it make for an interesting twist if by chance that is the author's plan? Even if that is not the case, there were plenty of other smaller storylines that I'm looking forward to finding out how the author will handle.

Overall, I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses.  It contained plenty of twists, turns, and surprises. This is one of those series where I feel the first book was extremely interesting and hints that the series will be something special, but the second book will be the one that makes or breaks it. I'm crossing my fingers that the author can pull off something special. Meanwhile, I'll have to patiently wait and see.

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