Review: Ambition — By Natalie Keller Reinert

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com.

Title: Ambition (The Eventing Series, #1)

Author: Natalie Keller Reinert

Rating:  ★★★★★ (5 of 5)

Genre/Pages: Equestrian Fiction / 368

Summary“Jules Thornton didn’t come to Ocala to make friends. She came to make a name for herself. Young, determined, and tough as nails, she’s been swapping stable-work for saddle-time since she was a little kid – and it hasn’t always been a fun ride. Forever the struggling rider in a sport for the wealthy, all Jules has on her side is talent and ambition. She’s certain all she needs to succeed are good horses, but will the eventing world agree?

On her own at last, Jules is positive she’s poised to become eventing’s newest star, but soon finds she’s making more enemies than friends in the close-knit equestrian community. Little mistakes cost big — her students are losing faith in her; her owners are starting to pull their horses. And then there’s the small matter of Peter Morrison, the handsome, on-the-rise event rider who keeps showing up when she least expects him.

Jules is convinced that all she needs is good horses — not friends, not romance, not anyone’s nose in her business. But it’s just the beginning of the long, hot, Ocala summer, and as Jules tumbles through the highs and lows of a life with horses, she might find she’ll need help after all to weather the coming storm.

Cover Review: It’s pretty, and it does a good enough job of portraying the book accurately. I think it could greatly benefit from some real artwork, not just an image with text over it, but it’s not the worst I’ve ever seen.

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is a difficult book for me to review. As you can clearly tell from my five star rating, I really really loved this book. But the protagonist was infuriating, and the love interest was almost unrealistically obsessed with someone who had made it crystal clear that she despised him… But I still loved it. And I even loved the protagonist and the love interest (he wasn’t quite fleshed out enough to be anything more than that right off, unfortunately). They were just infuriating and dumb enough to be realistic, tbh. 

Characters: So I guess I already started into this. Jules had a ridiculously huge victim complex, and was convinced that the ENTIRE world hated her (And if the person in question was rich, then they were basically personally responsible for every single one of her life problems), and as much as that part of her character made me want to talk (scream?) some sense into her, it was still very realistic. I mean, what’s the point of reading a book if you want the characters to be fairytale perfect without any unfair prejudices?  Unless, of course, you’re reading a legit fairytale, and even then, those are darker than we give them credit for.

Aaannd… I’m off topic again. Anyway, I really loved Jules. She was fiercely independent, she was very knowledgeable about horses, and had worked insanely hard to get where she was. She was a beautifully complex and flawed character, and I cannot WAIT to read the second book and get to know her better. Mostly I loved her because of the huge amount of character development she underwent throughout the book. The other characters in the book were all wonderful, as well, adding great depth to the story as a whole. 

Romance: I know I don’t usually have this section in my reviews, but I felt that if I didn’t have it, I would just rant about the strange relationship everywhere else. This is my attempt at some semblance of organization and self-discipline. So, I said above that Pete wasn’t fleshed out enough to constitute a co-starring character in the book, and unfortunately, that was true. He really was just an unusually complex love interest. I really hope he actually becomes a character in his own right in the second book. I really did love his character, though! I thought he was a pretty fabulous person, with amazing potential, and he was pretty fantastic with dealing with crazy-pants Jules. I definitely liked him more than I liked her, hahaha. He was really good at keeping a cool head all the time. I did wonder why he kept pursuing her when she kept telling him she hated him because he was rich / competition / both… But I suppose that’s just how romance novels are written. Once they finally got their act together, I thought the romance was beautiful and fun.

Plot: This was my favorite part of the book. I love love loved it. From the day-to-day drudgery and dangers of horse training and stabling, to the high stress competitive eventing environment, to the devastating natural disasters of Florida — this book had it all, and handled it all in such a way that made me always anxious to flip the next page and figure out what happens next. The plot and story of this book were absolutely PERFECT. The plot is definitely what made this a 5 star book.

Content Advisory: Some minor swearing, some huge and terrifying disasters, but nothing graphic. 

To Sum It Up: Not too long ago, I had sworn off of equestrian fiction entirely. But then something changed — I read Appaloosa Summer, and my hope in equestrian novels was restored. So I was only slightly hesitant about accepting this book, and I loved every single action packed second of it! highly recommend this book to all horse-crazy readers 16 and up!

Review: Blast of the Dragon’s Fury — by L.R.W. Lee

 

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com.

Title: Blast of the Dragon’s Fury (Andy Smithson, #1)

 

Author: L.R.W. Lee

Rating:  ★★★★★ (5 of 5)

Genre/Pages: High Fantasy / 200

Summary: “From the After Life, ten-year-old Andy Smithson’s relatives initiated a curse 500 years ago. Now they no longer agree it should continue and one is willing to sacrifice Andy’s life to end it. Unaware of the disagreement and with no say in the matter, Andy is unexpectedly and magically transported from his home. He finds himself in the Land of Oomaldee, facing mortal danger at every turn as he seeks to find a scale from a rare red dragon, the most ferocious of dragon species, to break the curse and save his life.”

Cover Review: A++ This cover is absolutely beautiful! Low-budget, but compared to mainstream published books, this is the Mona Lisa. (Have you noticed yet that I hate mainstream clipart covers?)

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I loved this book. I really did! It took ages for me to get around to reading it, but literally from the first page, I was hooked. This is one of those books where the second you start to read it you get completely transported to a world of ghosts in the afterlife submitting revenge plans to companies and getting authorization from the afterlife government to bring a modern ten year old into a medieval world to break an ancient curse. Crazy, huh? But you kinda fall in love with it immediately. 

Characters: I’ll admit, I was a bit skeptical about a ten-year-old protagonist. Most books I read nowadays are YA, where the protagonist is 12 at the very youngest, but usually 16. Often, young characters suffer from a severe lack of realism when they suddenly become master swordsman and battle strategists overnight. But that’s not quite what happened with this book. Yeah, you kinda have to suspend disbelief when dealing with a character this young, but I say go out and hang out with some ten year olds for a while, and maybe it won’t seem quite as unbelievable to you. Kids are smarter than we give them credit for. Now that I have totally derailed this paragraph, I’ll suffice it to say that ALL of these characters were complex, layered, and emotionally engaging. 

Plot: Wow, did I love this book or what? It was like going home to the MG books of my childhood. But I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that even as an adult (still haven’t fully accepted the fact that I’m 19 now) the plot of this MG novel was still wild, fun, and unpredictable. This book was more than just a fun read, though. It was a tale of friendship, of forgiveness, and of redemption. It was an adventure unlike any other. 

Content Advisory: Characters are put in deadly and intense situations. But this book is written for 8-12 year olds, so it’s really not very scary.

To Sum It Up: Do you know a ten year old? If yes, absolutely read this book with them, they will love it! If no, read this book yourself, you will love it! I highly recommend this book for readers 6 and up. 

Review: Stealing Darcy — By Cass Grix

 

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com.

Title: Stealing Darcy

 

Author: Cass Grix

Rating:  ★★★★★ (5 of 5)

Genre/Pages: Paranormal / 306

Summary: “Armed with gypsy magic, Caroline Bingley plots to take Fitzwilliam Darcy away from Elizabeth Bennet. Caroline takes Elizabeth’s place – through a body swap – and Darcy must determine which woman is his true love.

Stealing Darcy is a paranormal variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice set in the Regency Era. It was published previously with Jane Grix as the author.”

Cover Review: Although I think the face shape is a bit off, you could do a lot worse than this cover. (Especially in modern mainstream publishing where everything is clip art photoshop — but that’s a different post for a different day). I think the color scheme is absolutely beautiful, and overall, this is a book I’d love to have on my shelf! 

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I am a HUGE fan of this author — not only is she a fabulous person in real life, she’s also a masterful storyteller. I am not the world’s biggest fan of Pride and Prejudice, by any stretch of the imagination. But when Cass offered me a copy of her book, I couldn’t say no. And I did not regret that decision one bit!

Characters: Can I say WOW? Normally, Mr. Darcy bugs me. Like, a lot. He usually takes arrogant to a whole new level of infuriating. But not this Darcy. Sure, he’s confident and arrogant, but he’s also kind and understanding and sees people for who they really are. The biggest moral of this story was that love will prevail — regardless of outward appearances. This moral was beautifully illustrated through these realistically heartbreaking and heartwarming characters. 

Plot: I thought it would be weird to read a book when I already knew how it would end. I may not have read Pride and Prejudice, but everyone knows the basic plot of it. However, with Cass at the helm of this story, I never should have doubted that I would be intensely engaged by the actions of characters. Out of the two P&P variations I’ve read, and the three (?) that I’ve watched — this one is by far my favorite. I am head over heels in love with this book!

Content Advisory: Some intense scenes and some kissing. 

To Sum It Up: This book is a beautiful blend of romance, suspense, and magic. I was  laughing out loud, I was internally screaming at the characters, and at times I was nearly brought to tears. If you’re looking for a refreshingly quirky romance, this is the book for you. I highly recommend it to readers 14 and up. 

Review: Marry The Doctor – By Beverly Farr

 

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Title: Marry the Doctor (Love and Chocolate, #2)

Author: Beverly Farr

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 of 5)

Genre / Pages: Sweet Romance /143

Summary: Since the death of his wife, Frank Brannigan has focused on raising his two daughters and furthering his medical practice, but he’s lonely. Maybe it’s time to get married again, but how?

Marry the Doctor is book two in the Love and Chocolate Series. Each book is a stand-alone sweet romance without cliff hangers.

Cover Review: Okay, this cover may be kinda cute, but it’s super misleading. The characters portrayed on the cover actually like 40ish. Not 18. So the pic is just kinda awkward, tbh.

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Every time I read a Beverly Farr book, it hits me how much I love her writing. I always forget just how beautiful it is. Every time I open one of her books, I get re-immersed not just in her worlds and her characters, but her masterful writing. It pulls me in immediately.

I thought the premise of this one was very intriguing and refreshingly different. The characters were middle-aged, quirky, and realistic. Frank was dealing with the passing of his wife, being the single parent of two daughters, and when he finally ventures back into the dating world, he deals with countless people who are just after his fortune, and don’t actually care about him.

As I read the book, I became quickly invested in the characters and their lives. In addition to the stars of this book, there were some cameo appearances from the main characters of the first book, and the main character of the third book was introduced. It adds to the realism of the world, and Beverly weaves all of these storylines together effortlessly.

I highly recommend this book! I read it in one sitting — it was impossible to put down. I loved Marry The Doctor! It was the perfect way to spend a relaxing summer day.

Content Advisory: It’s a sweet romance novel. The author puts it this way:

“Very little swearing. There may be an occasional hell or damn, maybe even a b*tch, but there will be no Lord’s name in vain and no f-bombs. No explicit sex scenes. Characters might discuss sex, but any love scenes are off screen (Think AFRICAN QUEEN).”

To Sum It Up: Another fantastic novel from Beverly Farr! Looking for a light, fun, sweet romance? The best part is, though this is technically part of a series, it IS a standalone novel in it’s own right. I highly recommend the first book, but you don’t have to read it first! You’ll love this one, too. :)

I would recommend this book to anyone over 16+.

Review: The Hidden Oracle (Trials of Apollo, #1) — By Rick Riordan

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Cover image and summary from Goodreads.com

Title: The Hidden Oracle (Trials of Apollo, #1)

Author: Rick Riordan

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 of 5)

Genre / Pages: Mythology / 376

Summary: 

“How do you punish an immortal?

By making him human.

After angering his father Zeus, the god Apollo is cast down from Olympus. Weak and disorientated, he lands in New York City as a regular teenage boy. Now, without his godly powers, the four-thousand-year-old deity must learn to survive in the modern world until he can somehow find a way to regain Zeus’s favour.

But Apollo has many enemies – gods, monsters and mortals who would love to see the former Olympian permanently destroyed. Apollo needs help, and he can think of only one place to go . . . an enclave of modern demigods known as Camp Half-Blood.”

Cover Review: ★★★★☆ (4.5 of 5). As always, John Rocco’s work is gorgeous. I wish more authors would hire REAL artists to do their book covers, not all that lame photoshop junk that’s normally on covers. The real, gorgeous artwork like this is the best in the industry!

Book Review: Usually, you’re supposed to love a book’s protagonist from the very first page. But in The Hidden Oracle, the opposite is actually true, and it was a refreshing break from the stereotypical MG novel formula. The most rewarding part of this novel was growing to love Apollo, and the godly jerk that he can be, haha. Also, pretty much every Percy Jackson character makes a cameo of some sort in this fantastic book — our beloved hero Percy included! And is there anyone who DIDN’T miss Rachel Elizabeth Dare? No? I didn’t think so. Getting to see her again was amazing!

 

I’m really tired and am not really feeling like writing a review in my typical format. Honestly, I’ll just be happy when I get this one published. I haven’t been doing a very good job of staying on top of these things, unfortunately.

Rick Riordan does NOT disappoint with this latest book. HUGE story arcs that go back to the very beginning of the PJ&O series are coming to light and being explained – and frankly? It’s crazy awesome. Nostalgia and over arcing plots aside, though, this story still plays out to perfection. Our newly introduced characters are complex, flawed, and completely unpredictable. And seeing the god Apollo as a mortal, interacting with our friends at CHB (his children included)? Well, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Content Advisory: Some death and fighting, but nothing graphic.

To Sum It Up: Rick Riordan has outdone himself once more, and I cannot wait for the second installment of ToA. Adventure, laughter, betrayal, fighting… The Hidden Oracle has it all. I recommend it to Readers 8 and up.

 

 

Review: Sword of Summer – By Rick Riordan

First of all – I am still alive! I sincerely apologize for the hiatus I took. It was not something I wanted to do, but I overloaded myself with coursework this past semester, and a hiatus was necessary. Never fear, my friends! I have returned! Now on to the review!

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com.

Title: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer

Author: Rick Riordan

Rating★★★★

Genre/pages: Mythology/499

Synopsis: “Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother’s mysterious death, he’s lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers.

One day, he’s tracked down by a man he’s never met—a man his mother claimed was dangerous. The man tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god.

The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.

When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision.

Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die . . .”

My Review: I’ve been a diehard fan of Rick’s work since I read the first PJ&O book nearly six years ago. I remember when he first announced that he would start a Norse series “in 2015” and I would sigh about how very far away 2015 was. And now it’s gone! Anyway, I think MC&GA is going to be a fantastic series. It’s certainly off to a phenomenal start with SoS! I mean, I’ve read some crazy stuff, but starting a book with a death… that’s pretty cool, Rick.

Hero/Heroine: Magnus and Sam. What’s not to love? A street-smart teen with mysterious ties to the Norse, and a cousin by the name of Annabeth, combined with a hijab-wearing valkyrie? Well, it’s pretty crazy, more than a little weird, and plenty of fun. I’ve heard some people complain that Magnus was too much like Percy, but I didn’t really see that. He had the same endearing Rick Riordan sass and sarcasm, but they remained very separate and unique characters. I would love to see them meet, though. They’d be quite the pair. And Sam! Sam is epic. And I love that they have a very Percabeth banter, without the romance.

Plot: The formula is pretty much what you expect from Rick’s books: regular guy figures out he’s a hero, saves a bunch of people, prophecy/mission that has to be fulfilled within about a week, etc. It’s a tried and true formula, but that doesn’t make the book any less wonderful! The actual details of the plot and the characters kept me fully invested and on the edge of my seat. You never really know what’s going to happen when you’re dealing with Rick, and Sword of Summer is FAR from predictable. You will be wholly satisfied with this epic installment in the modern mythos of the Riordan universe.

Content Advisory: Some mild violence. Death.

To Sum It Up: An absolutely magical adventure by everyone’s favorite mythological author – Rick Riordan. Mixing modern with myth and a healthy heaping of sass, Rick creates a story that will thrill readers for years to come. Here is to the next generation of the Riordan universe! I recommend it for readers ages 8+.

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride — By Cary Elwes

Photo from Goodreads.com. Image links to Amazon book page!
Photo from Goodreads.com. Image links to Amazon book page!

Title: As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride

Author: Cary Elwes

Rating:★★★★★ (5/5)

Genre/Pages: Non-Fiction / 259

Summary: From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.

The Princess Bride has been a family favorite for close to three decades. Ranked by the American Film Institute as one of the top 100 Greatest Love Stories and by the Writers Guild of America as one of the top 100 screenplays of all time, The Princess Bride will continue to resonate with audiences for years to come.

Cary Elwes was inspired to share his memories and give fans an unprecedented look into the creation of the film while participating in the twenty-fifth anniversary cast reunion. In As You Wish he has created an enchanting experience; in addition to never-before seen photos and interviews with his fellow cast mates, there are plenty of set secrets, backstage stories, and answers to lingering questions about off-screen romances that have plagued fans for years!

With a foreword by Rob Reiner and a limited edition original poster by acclaimed artist Shepard Fairey, As You Wish is a must-have for all fans of this beloved film.

My Review: First of all, an apology. Many people claim to be bad at regular blogging. I think I win that title. I’ve missed every single second of it, though! If you could look into my life these days, you’d understand. (I think I’ve been on Netflix twice in the past few months). I will not let myself lag this long. To the review!

I, like many others, am a die hard fan of The Princess Bride. I grew up watching it, and can easily quote every line in the show. It is the ultimate height of film making. So when I saw that star Cary Elwes, who plays Wesley, was writing a book I knew I had to read it. I even got a signed copy of it! #Fangirling

Some people, myself generally included, are apprehensive of non-fiction. They’re afraid it will be uninteresting and won’t command their attention. That is NOT the case with As You Wish. Cary’s heartwarming and witty writing style, combined with the nature of the content (THE PRINCESS BRIDE) make this novel an engaging and beautiful ride. I laughed (a lot), and I may have even cried.

Have you ever wondered why Cary ended up in the hospital not once, but TWICE, during filming? (Hint: One of the injuries even made it into the film!) Have you ever been curious to get the inside story on why The Princess Bride fell flat in theaters, only to become arguably one of the most beloved films of all time today? Ever wanted to know the rigorous training that went into filming The Greatest Sword Fight of All Time? As Cary documents the making of The Princess Bride he compiles quotations from interviews with other cast and crew to create a truly unforgettable masterpiece.

To Sum It Up: If you are even a casual fan of The Princess Bride — READ THIS BOOK. You will love it, I promise. Witty, engaging, and beautiful, I flew through this book in a few sittings. This is one non-fiction novel that you cannot put down.

 

P.S. I REALLY REALLY REALLY want this necklace. Anyone else feel me?

Image Copyright of LittleGemGirl on Etsy. Image links to product page!
Image Copyright of LittleGemGirl on Etsy. Image links to product page!

 

 

Review: Chasing Ravens – by Jessica E. Paige

Cover image and summary from goodreads. Image links to goodreads book page.
Cover image and summary from goodreads. Image links to goodreads book page.

Title: Chasing Ravens

Author: Jessica E. Paige

Summary: “Orphaned at a young age, 15-year old Anouk’s punishment for being too outspoken is an arranged marriage worse than any she could imagine. Fleeing on horseback, yet without a sense of where to turn, she stumbles upon an idyllic village where she finds safe haven. Could this be home?

When a curse threatens to kill the villagers she’s come to love, Anouk takes on the dangers of the natural and magical worlds to save them. Her journey takes her deep into the Dark Woods where she must draw on all her strength to survive, but will come to realize that these magic woods hold the key to discovering a gift she never knew she had.

Ultimately, it will lead her to confront the very face of death, yet amidst the danger and darkness, she meets a handsome woodsman and finds a glowing blue flower with power beyond her wildest dreams.

Inspired by Russian fairytales and steeped in ancient folklore, Paige’s novel is ripe with fantasy, love, and courage.”

^^^ YESSSS Russian fairytales and ancient folklore FTW!

Genre/Pages: MG Fantasy/183

Goodreads. Amazon.

Rating: ★★★★ (5 of 5)

My Review:  Thank you to Netgalley for a free copy for review! Wow, did I love this book or what? It’s been a little bit since I read (this review took longer than I’d thought), and I have to say that this is a book that will stand the test of time.  It was absolutely magical.

Hero/Heroine: Anouk: I. Loved. Her. The end! She begins our tale as a terrified girl absolutely determined to escape a horrific arranged marriage. She grows into a confident young woman who is determined to save her friends. The character development was incredible, and Anouk was completely relatable. She’s the kinda person I want to be best friends with. ALL of the characters were excellently written, and with great depth and complexity. Even a relatively minor character had a complex and fascinating back story/motivations. I loved it!

Plot: I was kept guessing at every turn! I kept on predicting what was going to happen, but then Jessica would totally surprise me — in a good way. Wow, I loved this plot and story and world and characters so much! There is a main plot, but the plot is not simple. It is deep and complex and multi-faceted. You will not be bored. I adore how Jessica melded Russian fairytales with ancient folklore and a heaping dose of originality and creative story telling. Chasing Ravens was unforgettable.

Content Advisory: I can’t really remember anything bad. No swearing that I can recall (and I typically remember), no graphic violence or romance. It does deal with difficult subjects, like arranged marriages.

To Sum it Up: Do you love fairytale retellings? But do you want something DIFFERENT? Something that isn’t just Cinderella meets Snow White with a dash of Rapunzel? Something that’s truly creative with engaging and exciting characters and plots, in a world you’ve never been in before? Then you NEED to read Chasing Ravens. Buy it here. You’re welcome. :)

Have you heard of this book before? Have you read it? Did you like it? 

ARC Review: The Ugly Stepsister – by Aya Ling

Cover image and summary from goodreads.com. Image links to goodreads book page.
Cover image and summary from goodreads.com. Image links to Amazon

Title: The Ugly Stepsister

Author: Aya Ling

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 (5/5 stars)
Pages/Genre: 452 / YA Fairytale Retelling

The Ugly Stepsister will be available for purchase on June 12th! Pre-order your copy NOW! You won’t regret it!

Summary:

To-do list:

*Persuade the prince to give the ball

*Learn how to act like a noble lady

*Find fairy godmother

*Prevent other stepsister from sinking her claws into Prince Charming

*Find out why Cinderella has a mother and two brothers in the poorhouse

When Kat accidentally rips apart an old picture book, she’s magically transported into the world of Cinderella–as Katriona, one of the ugly stepsisters! Life turns upside down now that she’s a highborn lady and must learn how to survive the social season, including how to get through the door in a huge metal hoop skirt. To get back, she’ll have to complete the story, right to the end of happily ever after. But the odds are huge: the other stepsister is drop-dead gorgeous, the fairy godmother is nowhere to be found, and the prince, despite being insanely hot, openly dislikes balls. Can she ever return to the modern world?

My Review: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

One Line: This book is absolutely phenomenal.

I almost gave up on it, though. The beginning was very rocky as the author struggle to establish the world. If it wasn’t for my love of all things Cinderella, I might have given up on this book. But I’m so glad I didn’t! By the end of the third chapter, I was hooked, and couldn’t put it down! There was the occasional instances throughout the book that flashed back to the ameteur writing of the first two chapters – things like Kat yelling “Noooooo!” in her head when something went wrong. Luckily, those occasions of amateur writing were relatively few and far between, but when they were there, it was painful. I also wish we’d been given more insight into the goblins. Who they are, why they do what they do, etc., etc. We didn’t know enough, and a more complete knowledge would have significantly added to the book. The writing may still lack a certain maturity at times, but the plot, the world, and the characters MORE than make up for it.

Honestly, those first two chapters, and the swearing were the only things that kept this book from getting a six star review, because I adored everything else about it. Also, I really want a physical copy of it. Because that cover is gorgeous. And I loved the book.

Hero/Heroine: Kat & Edward. Without giving anything away, I’ll attempt to explain everything I love about these two characters.

Kat: When creating a character like Kat, I often see authors make one of two mistakes: a whiny feminazi who ruins the entire book with her elitism and superiority, OR a boring cliched teenage girl who refuses to see the bigger picture – ever. Luckily, Kat was NEITHER of those things and I adored her! She stood up for herself and for others. She kept her head and was both fun and relatable. I wish there were more protagonists like Kat!

Edward: *Swoon* Ahhh, Prince Charming. (I cannot say enough how thankful I am that “Charming” was absolutely nowhere in Edward’s name. So sick of that. Anyway.) Edward was the Prince Charming I have been waiting for. I’ve read and watched countless Cinderella retellings, and there was always something off about the Prince. Something that I just didn’t like. Never could put my finger on it. But whatever it is, Aya Ling fixed it. Edward is a refreshing take on an age old cliche – this prince is dedicated to his country and his people, and absolutely hates social gatherings. He is also totally swoon-worthy, loves gardening, always knows what to say (but is still a flawed character) and I cannot even begin to describe his perfection.

Content Advisory: The swearing, though only S, B, D, and H, was excessive. I notice this often when adults are trying to write for teenagers. Swearing is thrown in randomly, and without any real meaning or usefulness – just kinda forced in. Some of the swearing had merit, and worked well, but some didn’t. Aside from that, there are some make out sessions, but nothing detailed or inappropriate. Mentions of rape, and of the horrific conditions of child labor in factories.Again, no more graphic than necessary.

Plot: You go into a fairytale retelling knowing the story – and counting on the characters and setting being interesting enough to make up for the lack of suspense. In The Ugly Stepsister the characters and setting were absolutely phenomenal — but so was the plot! For the first time in my fairytale retelling days, I was actually kept guessing the entire time! I’d think I knew exactly what was going to happen, and then Aya Ling would throw another curve ball. I was literally on the edge of my seat in excitement (and sometimes on the floor in despair) as I devoured this book. THE FEELS WILL KILL YOU AND YOU WILL LOVE IT.

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Kat’s adventures (and misadventures) as she attempts to set up Prince Charming with Cinderella, find a fairy godmother, and organize a ball will keep you laughing (and screaming at the characters) for hours. You delve into a rich and meticulously created world of social classes and rules of etiquette and you enjoy every second of it. I’m probably not describing this book very well, but just know that you WILL LOVE IT. The Ugly Stepsister is probably my favorite fairy tale retelling – ever. It has taken incredible self restraint not to go full-on Caps Lock ASDFGHJKL fangirl on you during this review.

To Sum it Up: If you like fairytales at all — Please, please, please read this book! You will love it, I promise. Aya Ling manages to successfully tackle a very difficult premise (I’ve never before seen it accomplished to my satisfaction), while simultaneously keeping you engaged and invested in the story and happy with the ending. This was a very warm fuzzy happy book — and one that I will definitely be re-reading time and time again. One of THE BEST Cinderella retellings I have ever read (and believe me, I’ve read a lot of them) I would recommend The Ugly Stepsister for ages 14+.

Attention Horse-lovers! Review: Wednesday Riders — By Tudor Robins

Cover image from author, summary from goodreads.com. Image links to Goodreads book page.
Cover image from author, summary from goodreads.com. Image links to Goodreads book page.

Title: Wednesday Riders (Island Trilogy, #2)

Author:

Goodreads.  Amazon.

Summary: 

The island.
Meg can’t wait to get back. She’s excited to see her new mare kick up her heels in Salem’s old paddock. She’s impatient to run on country roads between breeze-blown hayfields.
Mostly, Meg longs to be back with Jared again.
It’s going to be the perfect summer.
But can real life live up to Meg’s huge expectations?

When Jared makes a heart-wrenching confession, Meg has to re-evaluate everything. If perfection’s not possible, can Meg find a way to build happiness for herself?
Fans of Appaloosa Summer will welcome the return to familiar places and characters, with the chance to be captivated by more of the beauty, romance, and dreaminess of Meg’s summer island life.

Pages/Genre: 181/Equestrian Fiction

Rating: ★★★★ (5 of 5)

My Review: You may recall the not so distant past when I was gushing to you about Appaloosa Summer, the horse book that restored my faith in equestrian fiction. And not to long ago, I was claiming that I believed that Wednesday Riders would be just as much of my “Happy Book” as Appaloosa Summer had been. Boy, was I in for a surprise. Probably no more than two or three chapters in, I was sobbing and throwing things.

So, thank you to the incredible Tudor Robins for sending me a free copy of Wednesday Riders!

I could just cut this review short and say “OHMYGOSH I LOVE TUDOR ROBINS SO FREAKING MUCH SHE WRITES THE BEST BOOKS IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD I CAN”T EVEN ASDFGHJKL”, but that really wouldn’t be professional, so I’m going to write a “real” review.

Hero/ine: Meg: In my review of Appaloosa Summer I gave a pretty good overview of all the things I loved about Meg. Appaloosa Summer was a happy book. It had conflict, yes, but it was happy. In Wednesday Riders, Meg was faced with horrific circumstances that would change anybody. Meg became a little bit of a whiny teenage girl in this book, but that wasn’t a bad thing. It didn’t make me mad like it did when characters like Tris or Katniss did it. Because it was different. She was incredibly complex and deep – she was a real character, with real feelings, emotions, and reactions. She was utterly relatable and therefore utterly lovable. Remember Amy Fleming from CBC’s hit family drama Heartland? (if you haven’t — BEST. SHOW. EVER.) Though the characters are each very different and unique, and I’m not saying that Ms. Robins ripped off Heartland by ANY stretch of the imagination, but the two women are very alike in a few ways. I love it. I think they would be best friends.

Jared: Without giving anything away, I can say that Jared was colored with an unfavorable light from the very beginning. And it broke my heart. Because I adore Jared. But even though he was not as physically present in Wednesday Riders as he had been in Appaloosa Summer, I still absolutely adored him. He was still very real, complex, and engaging. That’s what I loved most, actually. He wasn’t forced into the Male Love Interest YA Fictional Novel stereotypes. He wasn’t perfect and he wasn’t terrible – he was a real person. Good things, bad things, perfectly romantic and adorable things, ALL of those things are what make me love Jared so freaking much.

Plot: I felt the agony, I experienced the pain. This was a very pain filled book for me — and quite the shocker, since I’d expected it to be super happy and perfect. But, another PHENOMENAL thing about this book? It wasn’t all about the romance. Yeah, that factored into it, and yeah, it affected the characters, but they still had lives. I loved the plot about the Wednesday Riders, and about Bridget. Tudor isn’t afraid to address the hard issues. Nor is she afraid to resolve them. One thing is for certain, Wednesday Riders does NOT suffer from Second Book Syndrome. I wish I could say more about the specific things I loved, and the character decisions that I didn’t love, and the overall freaking amazingness that is this entire book, but, alas, SPOILERS. :(

Content Advisory: Eesh. This made me sad. I found it largely unnecessary, BUT… There was one scene of a sexual nature, went to second base. There was one scene of an implied sexual nature, but largely it took place off-screen. There were mentions of drinking, smoking, and of having sex. I can’t recall much swearing, so it was probably a relatively small amount of D’s, S’s, and B’s.

To Sum it Up: Though the sex scenes did disappoint me, aside from that I adored this book – almost as much as the first – even MORE in some ways. Appaloosa Summer put the bar ridiculously high, but Wednesday Riders did not disappoint. The complex and engaging characters (I loved the integration of the children!), the emotional and heart wrenching discoveries, and the horses (oh, the horses!) – this book was fabulous from beginning to end. I was crying, I was laughing, I was screaming, (and if I owned the physical copy, I would have been throwing it, as well). This is one of the best equestrian fiction novels you will ever read. I highly recommend it to 16+.