Wednesday, April 21, 2021

MUSINGS: Three Stars Upon Thars... Or No?

There is often a great debate among book reviewers that I have seen, and also participated in. If you feel a book deserves less than 3 stars, what do you do?

Personally, I am a bit perplexed as to why this is a debate. I mean, you just rate it... Right?

Apparently, there are many who believe that it is "cruel" or "unfair" to give a book less than 3 stars. So, they either rate all books 3+ stars, or they just don't review it at all. You see, the author obviously worked very hard on the book, so it isn't nice to rate it poorly.

I most certainly take issue with that type of thinking. Did the author work hard? Sure, probably. I have written a couple of novels, so I get it. (No, they never saw the light of day. I did it for fun when I was younger. My point still stands.). Their hard work doesn't give them an automatic high score, though. You aren't judging the author, you are judging their book (at least, you should be!). You are sharing your honest opinion. You are helping other readers decide if they might like the book. I have totally gotten excited to read a book based in 1- and 2-star reviews! What they didn't like was right up my alley.

To take it a step further, you, as the reviewer, are also helping the author, no matter what you rate their book. Take the time to explain the rating you are giving. What did you not like, and why? What did you want more of? The author can't imorove without constructive feedback, and just keeping quiet if you didn't like the book is an injustice to them and all future books they may write.

Do you know who else you hurt when you refuse to rate less than 3 stars? Authors who truly deserve that book to have 3+ star reviews. It is so incredibly frustrating as a reader to try to find a new book on GoodReads or Amazon and every damn book has 3-4 stars on average. NOT EVERY BOOK SHOULD BE RATED THAT HIGH! Sorry for the caps, but it needs to be said. I get so bothered when I see amazing books that deserve 3.5-4.5 stars get lost in the shuffle of mediocre books that readers were too scared to rate honestly.

I think it's important to really consider what you are rating a book and your reasons why. When I am writing a review, especially one that is 3 or below, I always try to come from the perspective of what the author's assumed intent was, and how well that was orchestrated. I would never lower a rating because, for instance, I was reading a fluffy romance that was obviously intended to be a quick guilty-pleasure read and wished it was deeper or less formulaic. Sometimes, you just want some popcorn, and that's okay. Authors are allowed to write fluff, and maybe that book was wonderfully fluffy, which means they deserve credit for that accomplishment.

Don't get me wrong - I don't hand out 1 and 2 stars often. A lot has to be wrong to get less than 3, but there are still books that deserve those. As you may see in my F.A.Q., I don't rain on book birthdays, or during tours. I keep my review back for a week or two, or reach out to see about sharing an excerpt or interview instead. I understand that a book is someone's baby. I just also understand that it, unlike a baby, can be changed by the author, and - not unlike a baby - helps the author grow.

What do you think? Where do you fall on the - apparently controversial - topic of lower ratings?


Saturday, April 3, 2021

REVIEW & EXCERPT: "Mu" by Lyla Oweds (Paranormal Romance, New Adult)

Thank you for joining us today as we bring you Origins by Lyla Oweds!

Origins is the first book in Lyla's New Adult Paranormal Fantasy, The Grimm Cases! Scroll down for my review, and an excerpt from the first book!

Coming Soon!

Coming Soon

Book 6, CHANGE!




A mate bond is stronger than any other force in the world.

At least, that's what they say.

But what Titus and I have is... unique. Especially as, even though we'd been reborn so many times, the dragon has never had a mate. No one knows what to expect.

Outside of that, everything with Damen, Julian, and Miles is not all fun and games. Things are different now, and while that's natural, I'm not entirely sure I'm ready to make that next level of commitment.

However, we might not have a choice.

When Titus's investigation ramps up, becoming entangled with my debut case, I've run out of all other options. The reality is, my usual methods of coping won't work anymore. But to live is to grow, and to change.

MU: The Grimm Cases Collection Part One
by Lyla Oweds

Genre: Paranormal Romance, New Adult
Publication Date: August 15th 2019

Series: The Grimm Cases, #1-3 & novella
Standalone: No, cliffhanger ending

Childhood Friends, Forbidden Love, Reverse Harem, Finding Yourself, Introverted Female, Small Town
Other Books in The Grimm Cases series:

#4 Goodreads

#5 Goodreads

#6 Goodreads
Description from Publisher:
The things I see aren’t for the faint of heart.

And I am no longer willing to ignore them. Not even when my family, and my best friend, tell me to keep quiet about what’s happening. They say people will think I’m crazy.

Maybe I am.

But the spirit haunting my professor’s house is definitely trying to tell me something, and I’m the only one who can see it.

The one person who can help me is my best friend's brother. But I don’t know if I can trust him or his friends. Or if I can step outside the protective bubble I’ve built around myself.

At this point it’s a toss up: the ghosts will kill me or my panic attacks will.

Either way, I figure I’m going to die.

My Rating:
Heat Rating:

I came into this series only vaguely knowing what I was getting myself into. The paranormal aspect was what pulled me in, and kept me reading (that, and the cliffhangers!!).

This series is about a young woman who has just started college with her best friend, and starts to see and sense that the house she is taking care of while her professor is out of town may be haunted. She seeks out the help of her best friend's brother, Damen, since he is supposedly into "paranormal stuff."

Bianca is incredibly naive, to such a degree that she actually annoyed me for quite a bit of this. She was sheltered by her only friend and parents, and has a dark past. I laughed when she missed obvious innuendos, but groaned at so many of her outlandish thoughts and theories. I am honestly still unsure of how exactly I feel about her, though the first novella from when she first meets Finn endeared me to her (and him) a bit more.

This story is mostly focused on the paranormal, but has some elements of romantic bonding. It would fit best as a "reverse harem" story, where one woman is worshipped by multiple men. Though there is nothing physical that happens in this. The worshipping is done in non-physical, sweet ways. As this was actually my first reverse harem book, I can't compare to others, but I felt that this was well-done, making it feel very natural for Bianca to basically fall for each man individually in seemingly equal ways.

So, I will speak of the boys as a group. They are all powerful in their own ways, and slow roll exactly what ways those are. I liked that they each did feel to have their own personalities, while also being parts of a whole.

For the first book or so, there does feel like there are quite a lot of characters to keep track of, along with all the world building that is done, but it eventually becomes easier to remember who exactly is who, outside out main five.

Overall, the story is an interesting one, and I look forward to continuing it with the next several stories! Mu includes the first three books, as well as the first novella (which gives a backstory on Bianca as a child).

My Source: I received a digital ARC from the publisher to voluntarily review. This in no way influenced my review. My opinion is unbiased and my 100% own.

About the Author:
Lyla Oweds is an Amazon bestselling paranormal romance and urban fantasy author who resides in the beautiful Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania. She grew up near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and is a native of Baltimore, Maryland, and has a deep appreciation for the paranormal, hauntings, and Edgar Allan Poe. As such, she loves all things fantasy, mystery, crime, and horror.

When not reading, writing, or working as a web programmer, Lyla can be found doing adult-y things such as being a mom to small children, cleaning, and gardening. She also frequently enjoys makeup videos, massages, wine, and coffee.
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Check Out This Excerpt From the first book in the series, Origins:
Then there was my second reason for being at the library today. If I truly wanted to help this ghost-girl, then I needed to learn more about my sensitivity and any abilities that gave me—and people like me.

I frowned down at the top of my white coffee cup. Remembering this topic made me recall the events of the night before—

“Bianca?” Finn’s shocked voice broke through my thoughts. My eyes shot up. The blond-haired man was pushing past students in line at the coffee shop in order to reach my small, round table. “What are…”

“Hello, Finn.” I smiled at him, hoping the guilt from my lies didn’t show on my face. “How are you? What are you doing here so early in the morning?”

Finn’s mouth dipped, and he didn’t respond at first. Instead, he set his leather backpack on the floor and sat down in the seat across from me. “It’s not early. And I come here every day—to study. But”—he leveled a suspicious look at me, his gray eyes calculating—“you don’t.”

I raised an eyebrow in response, but he continued, “I got your message last night. Why did you cancel our meeting? What’s going on? I was worried.”

Sure. I could tell how worried he was when he didn’t even care if the ghost killed me.

I picked up my cup and blew on the rising steam before I answered, trying to sound nonchalant. “I do have homework too. Plus, I like reading. It’s not unheard of for me to come to the library, you know.”

“All right,” he conceded as he continued to study me. “But you only come late at night, when most people are partying. In fact, how can you even stand to be awake before ten in the morning?”

Darn him, he was right.

“The magic of caffeine.” I sipped on my coffee again, as if to prove my point. “Lots and lots of caffeine.”

His lips thinned, but he nodded. From the wary look in his eyes, he knew I was hiding something. But he seemed inclined to let it drop.

Instead, he pulled out his laptop and opened it—ready to do his technology thing. That was kind of nonsensical. “Finn, why are you setting up? The library opens in less than ten minutes. Won’t you just move again?”

“Yes.” Finn began typing. “But that’s ten minutes worth of work that I’ve gotten done. I am busy right now, and I’m behind…” His voice trailed off as he frowned at the computer.

He was weird.

“I thought you finished your work for the semester already.”

Finn distractively waved his hand. “It’s not that. Don’t worry, it’s nothing that concerns you. I’m working on family stuff. My mother needed me to check into something. Where did you go last night?”

I ignored his question. “Your mom has you doing corporate work?”

“Something like that.” He looked up finally, his gaze meeting mine. My heart suddenly jerked—he was displeased. But about what?

After a silent moment, the look passed and he grinned warmly at me. “I’m glad you are here with me,” he said. And in an unexpected move, he shut his laptop and pulled one of my hands into his own. “I work better with you around. You inspire me. I don’t know what I’d do without you, Bianca.”

I almost choked, and my face exploded in heat. This was the side of Finn that always managed to catch me off guard—the one that made me think I meant as much to him as he did to me.

And every time, I acted like an idiot. “I do? I—I’m glad I could help.”

“You do.” He traced his thumb over my knuckles. My face grew warmer at the action and his grin grew. “We should work together today. Are you going to be in the library all day? Sit with me.”

My warm feelings vanished.

I averted my eyes, unable to stand his intensity. He couldn’t know what I was researching. “Maybe…”

Maybe?” Finn sounded surprised, and when I looked up, he was watching me with raised eyebrows. After our gazes met, he let go of my hand. “You don’t want to sit with me?” He paused, and an expression that I had never witnessed from him before shone in his serious eyes. “Bianca, are you meeting someone else? Have I done something?”

“No!” I vehemently denied, somewhat frightened at the intensity of his reaction. He was being terribly possessive. Especially for someone who had never even asked me on a date. I would have remembered if he had done so, because it was, after all, an event I had been dreaming about for years.

Or, was he only upset because he was afraid I had replaced him as a friend? I was so confused.

I fidgeted as I tried to think of a way to redirect his attention. “I have research to do today. In fact, I might not even be here all day. I planned on going back and forth between the library and greenhouses.”

He rested his chin on his fist as he watched me. “You’re a terrible liar. The greenhouses are on the other side of campus, and you’re wearing a skirt.”

I froze, the fabric he mentioned clenched in my fist. Finn was right, of course. I never wore skirts when working in the conservatory. “Um…”

“What have you been up to—today and last night?” Finn studied me, his eyes demanding answers. “Are you lying to me about something?”

I grew more flustered as the seconds passed. I had to think of something!

He had made his point clear two days ago, and I couldn’t bring up that topic again. Even outside of meeting Damen, he’d never believe what Damen had said about me being a sensitive. Plus, if he knew I was involved in anything paranormal—especially trying to talk to a ghost—not only would he get involved, but so would my parents. I couldn’t go through that confrontation with him again. Even if he—and everyone else—thought it was for my own good. It would break me this time.

So I had to think of something that would guarantee Finn would have zero interest in being anywhere near me today. A topic that would make a male flee in terror.

Something awful.

“I—” My mental resources screamed out ideas, but nothing brilliant came to me. Lacking anything else, I blurted out the first thing that came to mind. “I’m doing a research paper on how human placenta usage in gardening may or may not be nourishing to the soil.”

Finn’s mouth was opened in shock, and my face burned. But I couldn’t stop now. “I have a theory that if you grind up the pla—”

“Stop!” Finn’s complexion was slightly green as he watched me in horror. “That’s great for you, but I really don’t need to know anymore. Please.”

Crude, but effective. It had worked.

Tour Information

Monday, February 22, 2021

REVIEW: "Extreme Limit" by Kendall Talbot (Suspense)

by Kendall Talbot

Genre: Suspense/Romantic
Publication Date: May 2020

Series: Maximum Exposure, #1
Standalone: Yes

Introverted female, sports (rockclimbing), travel (Canada)
Other Books by Kendall Talbot

#2 Goodreads


Description from Publisher:
Two lovers frozen in ice. One dangerous expedition.

Holly Parmenter doesn’t remember the helicopter crash that claimed the life of her fiancĂ© and left her in a coma. The only details she does remember from that fateful day haunt her—two mysterious bodies sealed within the ice, dressed for dinner rather than a dangerous hike up the Canadian Rockies.

No one believes Holly’s story about the couple encased deep in the icy crevasse. Instead, she’s wrongly accused of murdering her fiancĂ© for his million-dollar estate. Desperate to uncover the truth about the bodies and to prove her innocence, Holly resolves to climb the treacherous mountain and return to the crash site. But to do that she’ll need the help of Oliver, a handsome rock-climbing specialist who has his own questions about Holly’s motives.

When a documentary about an unsolved kidnapping offers clues as to the identity of the frozen bodies, it’s no longer just Oliver and Holly heading to the dangerous mountaintop . . . there’s also a killer, who’ll stop at nothing to keep the case cold.

Will a harrowing trip to the icy crevasse bring Holly and Oliver the answers they seek? Or will disaster strike twice, claiming all Holly has left?

Extreme Limit is a thrilling action-adventure novel with a dash of romance set high in the Canadian Rockies. It’s a full-length, stand-alone Maximum Exposure novel, previously published as Out of Mind.

My Rating:
Heat Rating:

This had a bit of a slow beginning, despite the early excitement. I didn't connect with Holly until about 15% in, but was able to after. Holly is someone who is living the life of a hermit, hiding from her past and the traumas in it. She has very visible scarring on her face from a helicopter accident she survived, and less-visible scarring on her heart and mind from the helicopter accident her fiance and fiance's son's didn't survive. She is also haunted by something she saw frozen in the ice while she was hoping for help, even more so since she learned exactly what it was she saw. She starts to actually LIVE again after becoming determined to help resolve the mystery around it.

This was a solid story, with a little of everything. I really enjoyed the suspense, the slow burn romance, the mystery surrounding how Regi fit in, and the action. The only thing that felt a bit off was the description of sex. It was a bit awkward, but forgiveable considering how well everything else was described.

The tone of everything matched Holly's growth, and the ending felt very satisfying in many ways.

As a bit of an aside, I was amused several times throughout at some word choices (like describing a voice as "posh"). As an American who is very familiar with British/Australian English, it made me smile, but also wonder for a second if any of these characters were not from the U.S. That wasn't important to the story, and didn't detract any, though!!!!

My Source: I borrowed this via Kindle Unlimited to voluntarily review. This in no way influenced my review. My opinion is unbiased and my 100% own.

About the Author: Kendall Talbot
Kendall Talbot is a thrill seeker, hopeless romantic, virtual killer, and award-winning author of stories that’ll have your heart thumping from the action-packed suspense in exotic locations and the swoon-worthy romance.

Kendall has sought thrills in all 46 countries she’s visited. She’s abseiled down freezing waterfalls, catapulted out of a white-water raft, jumped off a mountain with a man who spoke little English, and got way too close to a sixteen-foot shark. When she isn’t writing, she’s enjoying wine and cheese with her crazy friends, and planning her next thrilling international escape.

She lives in Brisbane, Australia with her very own hero and a fluffy little dog who specializes in hijacking her writing time. Meanwhile, Kendall’s two sons are off making their own adventures – look out world.
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