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Title: A Deal with the Elf King

Author: Elise Kova

Publisher: Silver Wing Press


Synopsis:

The elves come for two things: war and wives. In both cases, they come for death.

Three-thousand years ago, humans were hunted by powerful races with wild magic until the treaty was formed. Now, for centuries, the elves have taken a young woman from Luella’s village to be their Human Queen.

To be chosen is seen as a mark of death by the townsfolk. A mark nineteen-year-old Luella is grateful to have escaped as a girl. Instead, she’s dedicated her life to studying herbology and becoming the town’s only healer.

That is, until the Elf King unexpectedly arrives... for her.

Everything Luella had thought she’d known about her life, and herself, was a lie. Taken to a land filled with wild magic, Luella is forced to be the new queen to a cold yet blisteringly handsome Elf King. Once there, she learns about a dying world that only she can save.

The magical land of Midscape pulls on one corner of her heart, her home and people tug on another... but what will truly break her is a passion she never wanted.


Review:

What a fun read. I needed a break after finishing a complex sci-fi novel so I picked up A Deal with the Elf King and breezed through it in two days. Simple, steamy, romantic: three things I love, especially when well written.


Plot: I believe this is a distant re-telling of Beauty and the Beast and I enjoyed every page. Was it predictable? Yes, but I still loved going on the romantic adventure with Luella. The Elf King is the typical striking, snobby male that fans of Maas and Black will love to hate, then hate to love. The enemies to lovers troupe never gets old for me. If this overdone troupe isn’t your thing, then I suggest you pass on A Deal with the Elf King.


Characters: Luella, the Elf King, and Hook are the three characters who impressed me the most. Luella is likeable and stronger than most female protagonist in this genre. She definitely reminded me of Belle from Beauty and the Beast. The Elf King fits the mold beautifully for his role as the cold-hearted love interest, and Hook is the animal companion all Disney fans love. The side characters were enjoyable, but not nearly as engaging as the three mentioned above.


Writing: Elise Kova’s writing is easy to follow. Her steamy scenes are delicious and her banter is sassy. I enjoyed this book as a standalone. The ending leaves the reader very satisfied.


Final Thoughts: A Deal with the Elf King was an easy and fun read. As previously noted, it’s a great pause if you need a break between a dense fantasy series or if you prefer lighter reads. This story has been told a hundred times, but Kova gives it a fresh spin.


Triggers/Warnings: sexual content, language


Plot: 4/5

Pacing: 5/5

Escapism Factor: 4/5

Emotional Connection: 4/5

Character Development: 4/5


Star Rating:⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Completed Read: November 2021

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Title: Morning Star

Author: Pierce Brown

Publisher: Del Rey


Synopsis:

Darrow would have lived in peace, but his enemies brought him war. The Gold overlords demanded his obedience, hanged his wife, and enslaved his people. But Darrow is determined to fight back. Risking everything to transform himself and breach Gold society, Darrow has battled to survive the cutthroat rivalries that breed Society’s mightiest warriors, climbed the ranks, and waited patiently to unleash the revolution that will tear the hierarchy apart from within. Finally, the time has come. But devotion to honor and hunger for vengeance run deep on both sides. Darrow and his comrades-in-arms face powerful enemies without scruple or mercy. Among them are some Darrow once considered friends. To win, Darrow will need to inspire those shackled in darkness to break their chains, unmake the world their cruel masters have built, and claim a destiny too long denied—and too glorious to surrender. Review:

Wow. Wow. Wow. This book. This series. This author. The Red Rising Saga has officially made it into my top five favorite book series of all time. The writing is superb, the complex characters are unforgettable, and the plot twists are jaw dropping.


Plot: Original. Let me say that again. Brown has created an original story. I tire of reading the same plot with the same characters disguised as a new title. Thankfully, author Brown didn’t follow that trend. In the third installment of the Red Rising Saga, author Pierce Brown weaves an eloquent and brutal tapestry of heartbreaking themes. Betrayal litters the pages, questioning every character’s loyalty to Darrow. The pacing is fantastic. It ebbs and flows with the perfect amount of breathing room after heart-thumping action sequences. Though Brown guides you effortlessly through the galaxy, Morning Star is not for those who struggle with extravagant world-building. The cast of characters is long, and the complexity of the different planets is dense. As a writer, I have learned valuable tips and tricks from the talented Pierce Brown. Now, I will say this. The biggest plot twist was a gut-wrenching scene. I never saw it coming and neither did Darrow, or so I thought. Pages later, you discover that this horrible incident was planned by the Reaper and his pals all along, something I struggled to comprehend. Why? Because the book is written in first person present tense. If the protagonist has a secret, the reader has a right to know. Darrow expressed every emotion throughout the book, but suddenly withheld information so the author could trick the reader into thinking his beloved characters were all in grave danger. Hmm. Is this cheating? Perhaps. This is why I docked a star from my rating. Brown wanted the reader to feel a deep anguish, which I did, but once you discover the ruse, the shock value diminishes, transforming into irritation.


Characters: Darrow, Servo, Mustang, Cassius, Ragnar, the Jackal…the list goes on and on. The characters Brown created don’t linger in your mind after reading, they stay imprinted forever. The emotional connection I felt toward these brave, morally grey, loyal, and twisted souls rattled me in the way literature should. Brown’s cast is deeply flawed. Their internal struggles are relatable, even though they live in a fictional world.


Writing: Pierce Brown is my new gold standard author. His ability to create vivid details without boring fluff had me taking notes. His dialogue is never forced. It flows naturally. He varies his sentence structure, uses vocabulary that elevates his literature without sounding pretentious, and leaves you wanting more and more of the characters and worlds he created.


Final Thoughts: I can’t say enough about Morning Star, the third book in the Red Rising Trilogy. It hit every mark for epic science fiction. Writers, I encourage you to read Pierce Brown’s work if you want to improve your own writing.


Triggers/Warnings: graphic violence, adult language


Plot: 4/5

Pacing: 5/5

Escapism Factor: 5/5

Emotional Connection: 5/5

Character Development: 5/5


Star Rating:⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Completed Read: November 2021

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Howdy, folks!

In this edition of Away We Go, I‘ll chat about our stay in Kerrville, TX. Nestled in the rolling hills of South Texas, about an hour from San Antonio, this quaint town has a population of around 22,000. Friendly faces, HEB #1, beautiful parks, a charming downtown, and delightful eateries, made our stay more than enjoyable.



While getting our RV feet wet at the dealership in Boerne, an older couple told us about their next destination, Buckhorn RV Resort. Considering we had never pulled a 15,000lb RV behind our truck, we figured a quick forty minute cruise down I-10 would be the perfect maiden voyage. And it would have been, had the construction on the frontage road not whitened Justin’s knuckles and sent me into labored breathing.


“You’ll be fine,” said the service manager at Ancira RV. “Just take it real wide when you pull out of the dealership.”

Easier said than done, my friends. Thankfully, the kind men at Ancira stopped traffic for the newbies with the 42’ rig.


After a tense five miles of bracing ourselves for unavoidable pot holes, stop and go traffic, audible gasp from yours truly, and silent prayers, we finally merged onto I-10. What a relief! The truck handled like a dream, pulling the RV with ease. My job as co-pilot entailed hushing Emerson, randomly blurting, “Car merging, car merging!”and more labored breathing. Justin handled the job like a champ. He said the time he spent flying ROVs offshore helped ease his stress.


“It’s like during operations,” he told me. “It might look like I’m about to hit something but I’m not.”

I wish you could have seen my face when he said that. No, Justin. That didn’t make me feel any better. We were pulling our home, not flying an ROV underwater.


Well, we made it safely to Buckhorn, a beautiful RV Resort in the hill country. Justin backed our portable home into the site without issues, and an hour later, we were officially temporary residents of Kerrville.

Now, let me give you a little RVer advice. Always find the nearest hospital in case of an emergency. My mother had reminded me of this valuable information, but I failed to do my research. Fast forward a few days into our stay and BAM. Emerson started running a high fever… a 105 degrees, and it wouldn’t come down so I texted a friend, asking for an ER recommendation. She delivered, but Apple maps did not. After driving nine miles down I-10, Siri instructed us to make a U-turn and drive nine miles in the other direction. I expressed my sentiments with colorful words, calling the AI all sorts of nasty little names.


After going twenty-five minutes out of the way, we finally arrived at the hospital and Emerson received excellent care from the friendly staff. Note to self: Locate hospital and veterinary clinic once you arrive at RV resort. And remember, Mom always knows best.


Now, moving onto the highlights of our stay in Kerrville. Attention HEB shoppers. You may think your HEB is epic, but you haven’t seen a store like the #1 HEB in Kerrville. I literally got excited to grocery shop.


The BBQ restaurant inside was delightful. Emerson loved the ribs.



The weather in Kerrville during the summer is hot but not nearly as humid as Austin. There is always a breeze and the mosquitos are virtually non-existent. Emerson and I had a blast riding bikes around the resort. We’re mildly obsessed with winning our virtual races, but our favorite place to ride was the Louise Hayes park.


The trail goes for miles, winding through gorgeous cypress trees that line the Guadalupe River. We swam, enjoyed a visit to the splash pad, and biked while Justin rollerbladed.


For those of you who don’t know, old people are awesome. Their life experience and knowledge are invaluable. We made great acquaintances at Buckhorn. Everyone was friendly, helpful, and always willing to share a good laugh.




Emerson wasn’t super impressed with Stonehenge II, the concrete replica of the original. I thought it was pretty cool minus the quarter sized fire ants.




During Labor Day weekend, we met a wonderful family visiting from Odessa. Emerson made instant friends with their daughter and her friend. We roasted hot dogs and s’mores at night, then told stories around the fire. While the adults chatted, the kiddos played flashlight tag, braved the darkened tennis courts, caught frogs and bugs, fished, and went on adventures together during the day.







One of our favorite stops was Cafe at the Ridge. The food was fantastic; the scenery was picturesque, and the nursery was drool worthy. Other eateries we loved were The Carrot Patch, Billy Genes, Rails A Cafe at the Depot, Mamacitas (the best Mexican food I’ve ever eaten), and Pint & Plow. Thanks to the manager for give us a private tour of the brewery and for giving Emerson a little souvenir.









A few months on the road had my boys looking like homeless people. After much convincing, Emerson agreed to a haircut. And boy, oh boy, what an experience! I found this little barber shop called Lucky’s of Texas. It was like stepping back in time. The gentleman was so kind and caring, and the ducktail he gave Emerson had me calling my son James Dean for the rest of the day.





Speaking of hair, I went blonde…really blonde. Luckily, I found an amazing stylist at Pop Hair Art. Ladies, this salon is worth the drive!


Life was pretty chill in Kerville. We forgot about COVID, masks were always optional, and everyone just went about their own business. I was in a good mental state, distancing myself from the drama I had faced on social media, appreciating the beauty of life, enjoying time with my family, and crushing home school, but then life threw me a curve ball.


One morning, I spun around on the RV stairs, while trying to put on my shoes. A heartbeat later I fell, arms pinwheeling, dignity dissolving. My body slammed onto the ground and the loud crack that followed signaled my brain to go night-night for a few seconds. I wish I could say the fall hurt my pride more than the injury, but not this time. I had broken my foot. The fifth metatarsal, to be exact. Short minutes later, I woke up on the ground with the dog staring at me. Justin was at work, Emerson was sound asleep inside the RV, and Gunner was no Lassie.

“Get help,” I begged him. He sniffed the grass in response, then stole the scrunchie from my flattened pony tail, and proceeded to “kill” it before sauntering off. Feeling helpless, I army crawled up the RV stairs and yelled for Emerson, who then ran to our neighbors while rubbing the sleep from his eyes.



An ambulance ride later had me visiting the same hospital Siri struggled to find a few weeks earlier.

“Eight weeks in a boot,” said the doctor. “Stay off of it for 72 hours and keep it iced.”

Um. Easier said than done when you’re playing single parent to a young child inside an RV that isn’t wide enough for crutches.


Thankfully, my mother and stepfather were coming into town for Emerson’s birthday, days after the break, so my sweet mama drove down early. She took great care of me until Justin made it home from work. Did we rent a wheelchair so I could attend Emerson’s birthday celebration in San Antonio? Yes, we did. Did my mom push me around like a bat out of hell? Yes, she did. Did I insist my stepfather take over? Absolutely. The ride was much smoother thereafter. Regardless, we had a great time celebrating Emerson’s big day.





Sporting a stylish boot, I attended a book signing that EntertainMART hosted for me. Meeting new readers is always exciting. I even had the pleasure of chatting with a supporter and follower from Instagram.




So what did we learn from our time in Kerrville, TX? Old people are fun to hang out with, know where to seek medical attention, introduce yourself to strangers, you never know when you could meet a new friend, appreciate nature, don’t try putting your shoes on backwards, when life gives you a literal break, make the best out of it, and don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself. Life’s too short to worry about the things you can’t control.


So where are we off to next? You’ll have to wait and see. But here’s a hint…our journey has only just begun!


Much love and God bless,

J.M. Buckler



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