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I Belong

Review: The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy

July 26th, 2017 Tara Posted in Review Comments Off on Review: The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy

Title: The Disappearances

Author: Emily Bain Murphy

Genre: YA Fantasy/Mystery

Series: N/A

Publication Date: July 4, 2017

Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages

ISBN-10: 0544879368 (HMH)

ISBN-13: 978-0544879362 (HMH)

Reviewed by: Tara

Synopsis:

What if the ordinary things in life suddenly…disappeared?

Aila Quinn’s mother, Juliet, has always been a mystery: vibrant yet guarded, she keeps her secrets beyond Aila’s reach. When Juliet dies, Aila and her younger brother Miles are sent to live in Sterling, a rural town far from home–and the place where Juliet grew up.

Sterling is a place with mysteries of its own. A place where the experiences that weave life together–scents of flowers and food, reflections from mirrors and lakes, even the ability to dream–vanish every seven years.

No one knows what caused these “Disappearances,” or what will slip away next. But Sterling always suspected that Juliet Quinn was somehow responsible–and Aila must bear the brunt of their blame while she follows the chain of literary clues her mother left behind.

As the next Disappearance nears, Aila begins to unravel the dual mystery of why the Disappearances happen and who her mother truly was. One thing is clear: Sterling isn’t going to hold on to anyone’s secrets for long before it starts giving them up.

Quick & Dirty: After her mother’s death, a young girl begins to unravel the mysteries of her new home and her mother’s past in this spellbinding debut.

Opening Sentence: I want something of hers.

Excerpt: No

The Review:

This debut novel utterly dazzled me. Atmospheric and beautifully written, The Disappearances combines Shakespeare with mystery in a unique and fascinating way. When I first started reading, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. Then I kept reading and was entirely sucked into the web of secrets, hurts, and disappearances that make up the core of this novel. It was magical and fantastical and I loved every minute I spent reading it. Although this book should come with a warning – after I finished reading it, I immediately wanted to read all of Shakespeare’s plays.

I hadn’t expected this novel to be historical fiction but it truly worked for this storyline. The author obviously did a significant amount of research both into the time period and Shakespeare’s plays, everything felt authentic and entirely believable. The symbolism and layers of meaning contained in this book would make even the Bard proud. The pacing of the plot was sometimes a little slow for me but the writing was so beautiful that I didn’t really mind. The idea of the “Disappearances” and the curse intrigued the side of me that loves mysteries while the Variants appealed to the part of me that loves fantasy. Add in the fact that it’s WWII historical fiction and it had everything I want in a book. While this book may not be for all readers, I think that the mix of genres is well-done enough that most readers will find something they can connect to.

When I first met Aila Quinn, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like her. As the story progressed and I saw how she grew up, I fell in love. Her relationship with her brother rang so true for me and their interactions were some of my favorites in the book. Even the secondary characters were well-developed and the development of the antagonists was some of the best that I’ve read lately. At one point I was worried that Murphy would fall into the trap of having the pretty, rich girl be one-dimensional and mean just for the sake of being mean. I was so glad that I was wrong. For those of you wondering, yes, there is romance. And it’s wonderful.

 The Disappearances was one of the best debut novels I’ve read this year. It transported me into another world, where magic can be found in the unlikeliest of places. I would highly recommend this novel.

Notable Scene:

There’s a long pause, and I wonder if the conversation is over. But then Mrs. Cliffton asks softly, “Do you really think we made a mistake?”

“No,” Dr. Cliffton says. “Well, I don’t know,” he clarifies. “Let’s just hope Sterling treats them better than it treated Juliet at the end.”

The hair on the back of my neck prickles. I lean forward, pre- tending to look at my reflection in the fountain, waiting for him to elaborate.

But I don’t see anything. The water is cool and clear and dark. No stars or moon reflect above me. I wave my hand above the water, but it is opaque. Blank. As though I have disappeared.

I stumble backwards into the steadying bricks of the house. What is this place?
“Juliet must not have wanted them to know, if she never told them,” Dr. Cliffton says. I gulp at the night air, barely able to hear his voice over the thundering of my own heart. “But now that they’re here, Sterling isn’t going to hold on to her secrets for long before it starts giving them up.”

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FTC Advisory: HMH Books for Young Readers provided me with a copy of The Disappearances. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: Riot by Tillie Cole

July 25th, 2017 Kristie Posted in Review Comments Off on Review: Riot by Tillie Cole

Title: Riot

Author: Tillie Cole

Genre: Dark Romance

Series: Scarred Souls (Book #4)

Publication Date: March 7, 2017

Format: Paperback, 352 Pages

ISBN-10: 1250086280 (St. Martin’s Griffin)

ISBN-13: 978-1250086280 (St. Martin’s Griffin)

Reviewed by: Kristie

Synopsis:

Stolen by the Arziani Georgian crime mob as a child, 152 was raised and conditioned to be a Mona—the most subservient of the Arziani Blood Pit slaves.

Gorgeous and kind, she has been and under the imprisoning influence of the Type B drug and under the command of the Blood Pit Master’s sister, Mistress Arziani, for most of her life, until the Master calls her back home to Georgia.

He wants her under his total control, and Master always gets what he wants.

But when 152 is gifted to the Blood Pit’s fearsome champion death match fighter as a prize, 152 suddenly finds out that the men who appear most brutal, may just own the kindest hearts. And love may be found, even when living in hell.

Freedom, family, love, 152 will have to fight for what she wants and ultimately make an impossible choice.

Quick & Dirty: Intensely dark romance novel that may not be for everyone.

Opening Sentence: The course sand crunched under my feet as I pounded down the tunnel.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Riot by Tillie Cole appears to be the fourth and final book in the Scarred Souls series. It is the first book of this series that I have read even though I do own a couple of the other books in the series but I got this one for review. I will say that I was a little confused in the beginning because I thought these were more about like MMA fighters or something until I realized that that was not the case. I had to double check the synopsis again. As I started to read without double checking, I thought it was also possibly a paranormal but nope it is not. (It is drugs.) Then then other strange thing (at least for me) was that I had to decipher when they talked about Georgia and had to realize it was the country not the state.

Riot is a dark, dark novel that may not be for everyone. If you haven’t check out this series already then, I will highlight the details. This world is set in a dark underground world of whoring and underground fighting (often to the death). 152 is an orphan. She was kidnapped as a child to become a love slave for whomever… but since has been transferred to Master because of her beauty and she is his Mona (#1 exclusive woman). These love slaves are under the influence of drugs but once she becomes Mona she gets to be weaned off the drugs so she knows she is the Master’s woman.

901 is the Master’s #1 warrior. He kicks ass and doesn’t give a shit for names. He kills as quickly as he gets into the ring. As a warrior, he doesn’t have to worry about drugs. Master has been trying to control his blood lust for some time to no resort when 901 finally gives an emotional reaction to 152. When Master realizes this, he decides to fuck with 901s emotions and send him 152. 901 has rejected all other whores before but they refuse to let 152 out of his cell. 152 has been given drugs that give her a sexual high and the unfortunate side effect is that she must have sex and be released otherwise she will die. 901 has to give in to his “potential” feelings towards her or let her die, and for some reason he decides that he can’t let her die. Even though his number one goal is to piss off Master.

Riot ties right in to a storyline that has been ongoing with the Scarred Souls series. Characters from previous books appear to finally destroy what Master has been building all these years so I do believe that having prior knowledge to this series is a plus but it wasn’t necessary. (Although, I still plan on reading the stories that I have previously purchased.) And I will say having prior knowledge of the past characters would be a plus.

Honestly, I thought the romance was a bit more of forced circumstance than actual love. I still rooted for the couple but I did have a hard time really feeling the romance since their getting together was just completely awful. Not to mention, 152 is raped by Master explicitly several times throughout the story. (This is why I say this story isn’t for everyone.) These characters are put through really tough and terrible circumstances.)

Overall, if you like to walk on the dark side then check this series out. The story itself entertained me but I did struggle through some of it. I may not have, if I had prior knowledge of the previous books in the series. It is a contemporary, dark romance series. (Also, for bonus points, if you’ve watched any of Arrow it deals a lot with the Bratva and the Russian underground crime syndicate. I found that part entertaining.)

Notable Scene:

The air in the champions’ quarters thickened until I felt caged and hot. When I finally opened my eyes, unable to stand the tension crackling between us, it was too see 901 radiating with rage. His muscles were taut, protruding with veins. His teeth were gritted together. I could see he was about to explode.

I tried to capture his attention. I implored him to meet my eyes, but his gaze was transfixed on my thighs. It was only seconds later when 901 released a livid roar and charged the cell door that I shouted out as his shoulder slammed into the rigid metal bars. But Master didn’t move. He didn’t even flinch. When I glanced back to see Master’s face, it was lit with triumph. My heart stuttered in its beat. He wanted this. He was breaking his champion.

He had used me to achieve it.

I hated myself at this moment. But not as much as I hated Master.

Scarred Souls Series:

1. Raze

2. Reap

3. Ravage

4. Riot

FTC Advisory: St. Martin’s Griffin/Macmillan provided me with a copy of Riot. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: Obsession by Calista Fox

July 24th, 2017 Kristie Posted in Review Comments Off on Review: Obsession by Calista Fox

Title: Obsession

Author: Calista Fox

Genre: Erotic Romance/Novella

Series: Bayfront Billionaires (Book #4)

Publication Date: June 6, 2017

Format: eBook, 110 Pages

ASIN: B06WVK5RWF (Swerve/St. Martin’s)

ISBN-13: 978-125012916 (Swerve/St. Martin’s)

Reviewed by: Kristie

Synopsis:

100 Shades of Sin…

Delicious and hot, the seductive Bayfront Billionaires need one thing, and one thing only: the woman made for them, the one woman on earth who can complete their trio of passion and desire.

When Roxy Shea arrived in Bayfront, she had no idea she would instantly attract the attention of two of the town’s sexiest and most eligible bachelors. She doesn’t want anything to do with them—with a dangerous past in her rearview mirror, a new relationship would be disastrous. But with every smoldering gaze and unspoken promise of pleasure, these billionaire bad boys are determined to make her theirs, to claim her body and soul.

Nick Faulkner and Hunter Valens are forces in their respective entertainment industries, but a past conflict has put a strain on their lifelong friendship—and vying for the mysterious Roxy’s affection doesn’t help matters. Until their craving for her leads to an explosive night with for threesome. But can they show Roxy that she can trust the men responsible for the sizzling pleasure she finds with them—and that their love is soul-deep?

Quick & Dirty: Steamy erotic ménage romance novella with an insta-connection so events do move pretty fast.

Opening Sentence: “I have a buyer for your seascape.”

Excerpt: No

The Review:

Bayfront Billionaires series by Calista Fox is a series that focuses on ménage relationships. Obsession is the third book in the series and the first one that I have read. Obsession is also a novella sized story so events do play out pretty quickly. The romance is quite steamy but the ending was quite predictable.

Bayfront, California is the home to quite a few hot billionaire bachelors and Roxy Shea has made this her new home. She moves there not with the intent of finding a rich boyfriend but to escape a rich abusive ex-fiancé. Obviously, Bayfront isn’t a cheap place to live so Roxy is quickly running out of money. She’s hoping to supplement her income with her paintings and by her new business venture. Roxy meets the sexy Nick Faulkner at an auction held at his estate. Sparks fly and Nick can’t forget the sexy blonde.

Hunter Valens also makes an appearance at the auction but it isn’t until the next day that Roxy gets to meet her author idol. Once again sparks fly and Roxy is conflicted about her feelings to these two incredibly sexy men, who just happen to be best friends. Nick and Hunter both vy for her feelings but Roxy has heard about the many ménage relationships in town and decides to try her luck.

Each character has their own dark past that they must overcome in order to value the relationship that is being built. The sex is quite hot and explicit. Although, the guys (spoiler alert?) never hook up, they both just want to make Roxy the happiest and most satisfied woman around.

The ending was predictable although I expected a little more conflict than what happened. I would recommend this if you want a hot, sexy read. The guys were suitably hot and wanted nothing more than Roxy’s happiness while Roxy wanted nothing more than to make these hot men quite happy and restore their fractured friendship. If you want a quick, hot read then check Obsession out.

Notable Scene:

Hunter had flipped a switch—turning her on like nothing she could remember. Well, except that Nick had done the same the previous evening. They were both working some sort of spell on her that was too invigorating to resist caving to. At least from a flirtation standpoint. Possibly from a scratching the itch standpoint as well . . . but that was a difficult landmine to navigate. Once she shouldn’t be so lost in thought over at the moment.

Bayfront Billionaires Series:

1. Filthy and Rich: A Billionaire Menage Romance Box Set

2. Seduction

3. Confession

4. Obsession

5. Addiction

FTC Advisory: Swerve/St. Martin’s Press provided me with a copy of Obsession. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: Blood of the Earth by Faith Hunter

July 23rd, 2017 Stephanie Posted in Review Comments Off on Review: Blood of the Earth by Faith Hunter

Title: Blood of the Earth

Author: Faith Hunter

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Series: Soulwood (Book #1)

Publication Date: August 2, 2016

Format: Paperback, 358 Pages

ISBN-10: 0451473302 (Roc/Penguin)

ISBN-13: 978-0451473301 (Roc/Penguin)

Reviewed by: Stephanie

Synopsis:

Set in the same world as the New York Times bestselling Jane Yellowrock novels, an all-new series starring Nell Ingram, who wields powers as old as the earth.

When Nell Ingram met skinwalker Jane Yellowrock, she was almost alone in the world, exiled by both choice and fear from the cult she was raised in, defending herself with the magic she drew from her deep connection to the forest that surrounds her.

Now, Jane has referred Nell to PsyLED, a Homeland Security agency policing paranormals, and agent Rick LaFleur has shown up at Nell’s doorstep. His appearance forces her out of her isolated life into an investigation that leads to the vampire Blood Master of Nashville.

Nell has a team—and a mission. But to find the Master’s kidnapped vassal, Nell and the PsyLED team will be forced to go deep into the heart of the very cult Nell fears, infiltrating the cult and a humans-only terrorist group before time runs out…

Quick & DirtyA spinoff from the Jane Yellowrock series, this first book in the Soulwood series draws you in and doesn’t let go, despite not being as action-packed as its predecessor.

Opening Sentence: Edgy and not sure why, I carried the basket of laundry off the back porch.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Nell Ingram grew up in a cult, leaving it when she was a teenager to escape marriage to a much older and repugnant man. In the subsequent years, she has basically become a hermit, staying off the grid, while worrying about her sisters who still remain in the cult. She’s also done her best to keep secret the fact that she can interact with and influence the land that surrounds her. After helping Jane Yellowrock with a case, Nell’s special talents come to the attention of PsyLED, the paranormal investigative branch of law enforcement, this particular unit headed by  none other than Jane’s ex, Rick LaFleur. PsyLED requires Nell’s help to see if an anti-paranormal organization has people hiding within the cult that borders Nell’s land. Four teenage girls are missing, and it is imperative that they are found before it’s too late. But finding them means going back to the place that still haunts Nell’s nightmares. Will she be able to do it?

I was an odd combination of nervous and excited to read this book. First, the Jane Yellowrock series is one of my favorites, so spending more time in her world, but with new characters, was an interesting prospect to me. On the other hand, my least favorite Yellowrock character, Rick LaFleur, was mentioned in the book description, and I was really hoping to never see him again. Also, I didn’t really start liking the Jane Yellowrock series until Book 3, so I was worried that this first book in a new series would suffer from the same problems I felt the first couple books in the Yellowrock series did.

I’m happy to say that my fears were unfounded. By the time I finished the second chapter, I was completely immersed in the story. It was a refreshing change to go from Jane – someone who is confident in her ability to kick ass – to Nell, who is still figuring out what her powers are and realizing that she doesn’t have to wait for someone to rescue her. It definitely set this spinoff series apart from its predecessor.

On the subject of Rick LaFleur, I am also happy to report that he’s not so bad when he’s not a love interest. I still don’t think he’s entirely likeable, but neither does Nell, so that really made it easier for me to tolerate his presence. I even occasionally found myself liking him, which never happened in the Yellowrock series.

On the slightly negative side of things, if you’re looking for an action-packed thrill ride, you won’t find it here. There are action scenes, but a lot of the book is dealing with Nell making peace with her past and finding the courage to go back to the cult in order to find the missing girls. The kidnappings themselves take a back seat to that journey. It’s still an entertaining ride, but you’re not going to get the action scenes you do in the Yellowrock series.

All in all, I felt this was a great first book in this spinoff series. Since it’s set in an already established world, there’s not a lot world building that needs to be done, so we’re not bogged down with a lot of explanations on how everything works in this world. The characters are great and make you want to spend more time with them. I was really sad to finish the book because it meant I had to leave all of these new characters behind for the moment. I’m looking forward to seeing where they go from here!

Notable Scene:

I took in a slow breath and whispered, “Mindy?”

“Yup. But I like Mud, because I can grow things so good. Is you her? The one that could grow most anything? The one who left?”

“Yes,” I whispered.

She was my sister. I hadn’t seen her since she was a toddler.

I realized that my sisters knew more about me than I knew about them.

“They say you done got married in the eyes of the law. That you took land that shoulda gone to the Purdys. That you’un’s independent and read books and live alone instead of in a big house with a bunch of women and young’uns.”

I had no idea at all how to reply to that, so I just nodded my head and realized how much she looked like Mama, all long-limbed and skinny. And how much she looked like me.

“You like it? Living all lonesome? I think I’d like it. I like the quiet. I like planting things too, making ’em grow.” Her eyes went bright and intense. “If Mama says I can, can I come visit?”

Something unknown moved deep inside me, something I had no name for. So much was new and uncertain since Rick LaFleur and his mate came to my door–so much of the strangeness within me. “Yes,” I whispered again.

“You don’t talk much, do you?”

A chuckle burst from my lips, quickly stifled. “No. Not much.” She grabbed my hand, squeezed, and held on. Something slow but powerful passed between us, like the growth of roots in the soil, like the slow process of rock or glaciers beginning to cleave. Like nothing I had ever felt before. And then she let go and the feeling was gone. I shook my head.

“You’un’ll talk if I come visit. Mama says I can make a turnip talk when I’m of a mind to. Daddy tells me I’m to be seen and not heard. I think that’s stupid. I gotta go.” She whirled, her skirts flying, and in an instant, she was gone.

“I think it’s stupid too,” I whispered to the empty place where she had stood.

Soulwood Series:

1. Blood of the Earth

2. Curse on the Land

3. Flame in the Dark

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FTC Advisory: Penguin/Roc provided me with a copy of Blood of the Earth. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: The Reluctant Queen by Sarah Beth Durst

July 22nd, 2017 Kristie Posted in Review Comments Off on Review: The Reluctant Queen by Sarah Beth Durst

Title: The Reluctant Queen

Author: Sarah Beth Durst

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Queens of Renthia (Book #2)

Publication Date: July 4, 2017

Format: Hardcover, 360 Pages

ISBN-10: 006241335X (Harper Voyager)

ISBN-13: 978-0062413352 (Harper Voyager)

Reviewed by: Kristie

Synopsis:

Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow . . .
And those spirits want to kill you.
It’s the first lesson that every Renthian learns.

Not long ago, Daleina used her strength and skill to survive those spirits and assume the royal throne. Since then, the new queen has kept the peace and protected the humans of her land. But now for all her power, she is hiding a terrible secret: she is dying. And if she leaves the world before a new heir is ready, the spirits that inhabit her beloved realm will run wild, destroying her cities and slaughtering her people.

Naelin is one such person, and she couldn’t be further removed from the Queen—and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Her world is her two children, her husband, and the remote village tucked deep in the forest that is her home, and that’s all she needs. But when Ven, the Queens champion, passes through the village, Naelin’s ambitious husband proudly tells him of his wife’s ability to control spirits—magic that Naelin fervently denies. She knows that if the truth of her abilities is known, it will bring only death and separation from those she loves.

But Ven has a single task: to find the best possible candidate to protect the people of Aratay. He did it once when he discovered Daleina, and he’s certain he’s done it again. Yet for all his appeals to duty, Naelin is a mother, and she knows her duty is to her children first and foremost. Only as the Queen’s power begins to wane and the spirits become emboldened—even as ominous rumors trickle down from the north—does she realize that the best way to keep her son and daughter safe is to risk everything.

Sarah Beth Durst established a place of dark wonder in The Queen of Blood, and now the stakes are even higher as the threat to the Queen and her people grows both from within and beyond the borders of Aratay in this riveting second novel of the Queens of Renthia series.

Quick & Dirty: Creative, dark fantasy world full of heartbreak and strong-willed female characters.

Opening Sentence: Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow…

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

The Reluctant Queen by Sarah Beth Durst continues a story that is heartbreaking, heartwarming, and terrifying all at once. The second novel in the Queens of Renthia series follows the story set in the first novel The Queen of Blood. I recommend having read the first novel since it follows all the characters established in the first novel and continues to add more characters into this ever expanding world. This novel can still be read as a standalone but I wouldn’t recommend it.

I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting in this novel since it straight up says that Deleina is dying in the synopsis. I thought we’d be skipping a lot of her life and the characters that I grew to really like in The Queen of Blood instead I find that only six months have passed since Deleina was crowned queen of Aratay. She is losing control of the spirits and needs to find another heir that is powerful enough to reign them in. Champion Ven has been tasked by Deleina to find an heir and he doesn’t have that much time to find an acceptable candidate.

Naelin has spent all of her life hiding her powers. She has seen the death that comes from being able to control spirits and refuses to use her power until the one day she is forced to use her power to protect her kids and put her on the radar of the Champion. She is a wife and mother and she is content with her life in the country. She wants nothing to do with Ven. Ven knows Naelin is the only viable person who can protect the kingdom so he puts her through some awful testing in order to get her to come with him to the capital.

I found the first half of this book heartbreaking because of Deleina’s and Naelin’s situations and because both of them don’t want the futures that have been foreseen for them. Honestly, most of the book was a bit heartbreaking because most characters where going through situations that may not have a good ending and some were having to compromise in order to get what they wanted.

The world in Renthia is terrifying. This is definitely not a world I would want to live in but it is a world that I don’t mind reading. The Queens control the spirits constantly from eating/killing the humans because the spirits are hostile and don’t like humans at all. The kingdom of Aratay is tree spirit based so a lot of the people live in trees to keep away from the predators on the ground. Death is an everyday occurrence in this world no matter how well the Queens try to protect their subjects.

Deleina has grown to be a good queen in her short reign. Naelin is a wonderful grown-up character. She sticks to what she believes and doesn’t take Ven’s crap, she likes to call him on it. I really liked Naelin and I think her grounded/grown up years will help with controlling the spirits. Plus, I like the new developments with Ven.

The Reluctant Queen follows several different points of view throughout the novel. All stories are told through the third person POV. I really enjoy the writing style in all its wonder, gloriousness and terribleness (the world that is, not the writing). This novel definitely had more of an adult feel over the young adult feel of The Queen of Blood. Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and I am invested in this story. I cannot wait for the final book in the trilogy.

Notable Scene:

Naelin wanted to run out of the room screaming.

She forced herself to stand still.

She felt the spirits swirl around her, too close. An earth spirit cozied up to her ankle. A tree spirit ran along her arm. An air spirit entwined itself in her hair. She felt its tiny feet on her scalp. Sweat prickled over her skin, and Naelin wiped her palms on her skirt. Her mouth was dry, and she felt her heart beating so hard in her chest that it hurt. There wasn’t enough air. The spirits were sucking away all the oxygen. She began to gasp for breath.

“Calm,” Ven said.

“Doesn’t help,” she reminded him.

“Just breathe.”

“Trying.” She forced herself to take a slow breath and then exhale it. There wasn’t less air. It only felt that way. The spirits pressed closer to her. She felt their claws touch her skin, dragging along the surface without breaking it. She was aware of her blood pulsing through her and how easily they could spill it.

The Queens of Renthia:

1. The Queen of Blood

2. The Reluctant Queen

FTC Advisory: Sarah Beth Durst graciously provided me with a copy of The Reluctant Queen. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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