All posts by Kasey

About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

Review: The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet by Stephanie Morrill

The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet
Stephanie Morrill
Playlist Fiction
Published May 1, 2013

Amazon | Goodreads

Some girls have it all in high school: great friends, perfect hair, the hottest boyfriend. Not sixteen-year-old Ellie Sweet. Next to her gorgeous long-time friend Lucy, Ellie is practically invisible. Everything about Ellie is hidden, from the frizzy hair she tries desperately to control in a knot to her secret passion to finish her novel set in medieval Italy. By day she may be invisible, but by night, all her frustrations and hurts are rewritten into a world where she, Lady Gabrielle, is the star. Only there does the handsome boy of her dreams (Palmer by day, Rafe by night) see her for who she is.

But when the local bad-boy reveals Ellie’s secret crush to an entire classroom of students, Ellie has to know why. Chase’s stubborn refusal to explain only adds fuel to Ellie’s frustration and earns him a write-in as the villainous prince in her manuscript.

As Chase pursues Ellie with attentive gifts, she wrestles with the rumors surrounding him and his family. With two older brothers already in jail, Chase is hardly meet-the-parents material. But they can be friends, right? Palmer doesn’t seem to think that’s such a good idea for Ellie. In fact, he wants to date Ellie himself, but only in secret.

With Palmer professing adoration, and her finished manuscript receiving praise from within the writing world, Ellie is over the moon. When the details of her novel come out publicly, however, not everyone is thrilled with the part Ellie has written them into. As Ellie scrambles to undo the damage, she realizes once and for all who her real friends are and the value of being loved and valued for who one really is.

This is a novel that is easy to love, full of the joys and disappointments of high school and teen romance. Morrill writes witty narrative with perky humor and great emotional depth, drawing readers into the very heart of this tale about a girl who feels totally invisible and the boy who truly sees her. This is the perfect read for an aspiring writer and a highly encouraging story for anyone who has experienced feeling overlooked or undervalued. Fans of Morrill’s earlier series The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt will not be disappointed. (See the review of Me, Just Different, the first book in the series.)

Ellie is the kind of girl I would have been friends with in high school. I loved her wit, and her awkward yet hilarious self-consciousness endeared me to her almost immediately. Beyond the lighthearted day-in-the-life antics of a young high school student lurks a brave look at the challenges of navigating relationships and realizing that those we are drawn to aren’t always the ones best for us. Tissues may be warranted, and the willing reader may find God speaking between the lines of this charming and candid story.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Sexual Content
A couple kissing scenes. References to the fact that other characters have been sexually active.

Spiritual Content
Ellie desires to live a virtuous life and refuses to indulge in alcohol or sex, despite the fact that her friends have begun to do so. She struggles with the realization that her spiritual life has become somewhat rote and recognizes that there is more to being a Believer than following a bunch of rules, but this isn’t deeply explored.

References to a fist-fight that happened off-scene.

Drug Content
While at a party, a boy drinks too much alcohol and passes out. Ellie is asked to pick him up and get him home safely. Someone receives a DUI.

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.



Review: Dragonwitch by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Anne Elisabeth Stengl
Bethany House
Published July 15, 2013

 Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Lord Alistair, heir to the Earl of Gaheris, finds his sleeping hours plagued by night terrors prophesying his death and his waking ones by his mother’s political schemes to make him king. Alistair resigns himself to a loveless marriage with Lady Leta, the daughter of the second-most powerful earl in the land. Leta appears to meekly acquiesce to the plans made for her. Inside her, however, a battle of wills rages, and the rebellious Leta will not so easily be silenced. Befriended and challenged by the reclusive Chronicler, Leta begins to desire more for herself than a lonely life as a silent and powerless queen.

As Alistair’s uncle, Earl Ferox’s life draws to its end, he reveals a secret that sends the entire nation reeling and upsets all plans to unite the people under one king. In the midst of this chaos, an evil army marches, determined to destroy the would-be king and his people and capture the fabled House of Light. Meanwhile the Dragonwitch waits, searching for the enchanted sword which ended her first two lives. Only a hero can wield it.

Once again, Stengl excels at drawing readers into the world of faeries and monsters. Dragonwitch reveals more story surrounding Starflower, as earlier Goldstone Wood novel Veiled Rose added to the series beginner, Heartless. Fans will enjoy piecing scenes from the two stories together as well as the cameo appearances by beloved characters from previous stories.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Sexual Content
Brief kissing.

Spiritual Content
Spiritual references are more understated in this novel than in previous books in the Tales of Goldstone Wood series. The Prince of Farthestshore (who seems to represent Jesus) makes a brief appearance. The idea that God has a plan, and it may not look like our plan, is discussed more than once during the course of the story.

Some characters are part of a cult in which they worship and serve the Dragonwitch. An acolyte first defends her goddess, but later sees her as an imposter who imprisons and abuses her people.

A mysterious narrator recounts the tale of two brothers given gifts by the true God who use those gifts to spread light and justice. One brother carries a lantern and the other a sword.

Battle violence. Some brief details are given.

Drug Content

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Like the sound of this book? Leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy! Contest begins July 25, 2013 at 7:53 am Eastern Time and ends Sunday July 28 at midnight Eastern Time. (Must have US address to win.)

To enter, scroll to the top of the blog post and leave a comment about one of your favorite fantasy characters. One random commenter will be chosen to receive a FREE copy of the book.




Review: Gates of Paradise by Melissa De La Cruz

Gates of Paradise
Melissa De La Cruz
Published January 15, 2013

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Through her mother’s shared memories, half-angel, half-human Schuyler knows her destiny is to serve as the guardian of the Gate of Paradise, to protect it from Lucifer and the armies of Hell. What she doesn’t know is Lucifer has already set a plot in motion to overrun the gate and take back Paradise, and to succeed, he has employed his most cunning weapons: the twins, Jack and Mimi. Though the twins had returned to Hell as covert agents of Heaven, Jack and Mimi soon discover that fooling the Prince of Darkness isn’t as simple as they’d believed. When Lucifer tasks the twins with killing their lovers, Jack and Mimi’s tight bond begins to fragment. Only a powerful weapon can stop Lucifer from destroying the gate and taking what should never be his.

The final chapter in the Blue Bloods series, Gates of Paradise brings a large cast of characters to the stage, many of whom have more than one name, depending on where they are (heaven, earth or hell) and who addresses them. Readers may find this confusing. The story world, which will be well-known to readers of the series, may further mystify readers joining the tale in this last novel. Angels on earth become vampires, who possibly thirst for human blood.

While these references and name changes don’t directly impede the reader’s enjoyment of the plot, it does sometimes become difficult to keep track of who is who. A character glossary would have helped tremendously. Still, it cannot be overlooked that De La Cruz weaves an intense story of passion and sacrifice, and spins together past and present in the high-energy conclusion of her best-selling series.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Moderate to Severe.

Sexual Content
References to promiscuous behavior and a few sex scenes.

Spiritual Content
While the characters are identified as angels or demons, these labels don’t follow the Christian understanding. A character who lives in Hell and serves Lucifer or belongs to his army is a demon. Heavenly angels and their allegiance is implied, but very vague. While on earth, these beings become vampires, regardless of their origin.

Some battle violence. Usually brief.

Drug Content
Several scenes depicting parties where characters consume alcohol.

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Sneak Peek: Dragonwitch by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Anne Elisabeth Stengl
Bethany House
Published July 15, 2013

 Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

The Twelve came to the doors of Omeztli Tower and their voices carried from the ground to our high perch above.

“Cren Cru commands. Send us your firstborn.”

I clutched Tlanextu’s arm in terror. I could not bear to lose him! He took my hand and held me gently.

Then we saw a powerful form rising up from Itonatiu Tower. It was Citlalu, our father. He flew across the city, his wings like a griffin’s, like a roc’s, blocking the sunlight from view they were so vast! He landed before us, and I shivered with fear and love at the sight of him, for he was King. A true King. Not like the foolish little kings we see nowadays wearing crowns, waving swords and scepters, ruling by feeble kinship-rights. He was King of Etalpalli, bound to the realm by his own blood, by the beat of his heart. He was strong as the nation itself, stronger, I thought. The pinions of his wings were like daggers, like swords, and he shouted down to the Twelve below:

 “Be gone, back to your master! You will take none of mine into that Mound, not while I have life yet coursing through my veins!”

His voice shook the foundations of Etalpalli. I thought the Twelve would run, would scream with terror, would flee the storm of his gaze.

They did not. They merely turned and retraced their path to the Mound and the concentric circles of bronze.

But the next day, they returned. Once more they called up to the heights of Omeztli: “Cren Cru commands. Send us your firstborn.”

Once more, my father denied them.

About Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Website | Twitter | Facebook

Anne Elisabeth Stengl is the author of the award-winning Tales of Goldstone Wood series, adventure fantasies told in the classic Fairy Tale style. She makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a passel of cats, and one long-suffering dog. When she’s not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and studies piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University.


Tour Schedule

Don’t miss the opportunity to learn more about the Goldstone Wood series with reviews, interviews, giveaways and more on these other great blogs. Be sure to visit the Tales of Goldstone Wood blog for a chance to win the first five Goldstone Wood novels!

July 14 – Day 1

Rebecca’s Book Blog – Interview

Jennette Mbewe – Sneak Peek

Bluerose’s Heart – Top Tens List

The Wordsmith’s Shelf – Sneak Peek

The Wonderings of One Person – Guest Post

Seasons of Humility – Interview

Worthy 2 Read – Guest Post

The Endless Road – Interview

Tea and Bree – Interview/Sneak Peek

JoJo’s Corner – Interview

July 15 – Day 2

Letters to the Cosmos – Guest Post

The Writer of Dream Things – Character Interview

The Sassy Sister – Sneak Peek

Makai Queen – Interview

JoJo’s Corner – Sneak Peek

Crafty Booksheeps – Interview

Young Adult Books – Sneak Peek

Darling Diaries – Interview

Blooming with Books – Interview/Sneak Peek


July 16 – Day 3

The Writer’s Window – Character Interview

Penning Praises – Guest Post

Crimilia – Interview

Rachel Herriman – Guest Post

Rina’s Reading – Top Tens List

JoJo’s Corner – Guest Post

Living On Literary Lane – Interview

Onto Her Bookshelf – Interview

An Ink-Made Maiden – Interview

July 16 Evening

Blog Tour Finale and Prize Awarded back at the Tales of Goldstone Wood!



Review: Unleashed by Jennifer Hartz

Unleashed (Heroes of the Horde #1)
Jennifer Hartz
Desert Breeze
Published May 20, 2013

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

After hearing a legend about a man who conquers demons and receives great power, six teens return to the site of the story and poke around. They flee following an accident, but over the next several hours, each begins to manifest a special ability.

Though the group is at first undecided on what to do with their new gifts, the team quickly realizes having these abilities makes them a target for a host of demons. They work together, using seeing gifts to sense demons and attack abilities to defeat them.

The fighting only gets harder as with each battle the demons seem to learn new ways to attack. Where are they coming from? The team must find out and must stop these demons before they are completely overrun.

Unleashed is a fun superhero team story in which each member takes turns narrating. While the opportunity to be inside each character’s head is great, some of the characters’ emotional landscapes leave few surprises. One fills readers in right away about his anger toward his dad and its sources. The peripheral characters are often one-dimensional as well. Despite this, young readers may find the intense battles against demonic hosts and romantic entanglements between the characters to be enjoyable and entertaining.

Jennifer Hartz has chosen to donate a portion of her royalties for this novel to The A21 Campaign, a group which fights human trafficking and the sex-slave industry. Visit the author’s web site for additional information.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild. Contains some crude language but not profanity.

Sexual Content
One boy fondles a girl he’s dating. References to the fact that characters are having sex without descriptive details.

Spiritual Content
While there are some references to Christian theology on demons and one character uses scripture to fight them, much of the battle strategy is physical, and only one character is described as having a relationship with God. The others do not even seem to question the spiritual implications of demons’ existence or how that might affect personal beliefs.

Character use superpowers to physically battle demons. Demons defend themselves by biting. Few graphic details.

Drug Content

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Review: Miracle by Phillipa Vincent-Connolly

Phillipa Vincent-Connolly
Pen Press
Published April 5, 2013

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Despite her mother’s fierce hope for her romantic life, seventeen year-old Orianna is certain she’ll never have a boyfriend. She can barely walk normally thanks to the pain caused by her cerebral palsy. Still, she enjoys the company of good friends and a loving (if romance-obsessed) mother and younger sister.

After seeing the latest movie in the Twilight series, Orianna and her friends gush about handsome Edward Cullen. If only there were men like that in real life, they tell each other. Then, as if he fell right off the silver screen, a rich and handsome new boy named Ashley Mason arrives at school. Though he is totally out of her league and constantly stares at Orianna with a look she can only interpret as disgust, she finds herself drawn to him.

As their tenuous relationship develops, Orianna’s life takes a devastating turn. Out of options, she turns to faith, praying for a miracle to rescue her from the terrible choice she will be forced to make.

In a dreamlike voice, Miracle introduces readers to an intelligent girl longing for true love and independence. Vincent-Connolly bravely tackles the issue of living with cerebral palsy and brings a story familiar to every teen about fitting in and finding love.

While at times the affection between Orianna and Ashley lacks complexity (Why are the two drawn to each other? They just are.), Ashley’s quick temper and emotional highs and lows keep this from being a too-good-to-be-true romance. It is a story of a young man of great passion and a young woman who desires steadiness and normalcy in a world in which not even her body can be counted on to provide them.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Sexual Content – TRIGGER WARNING
Brief rape scene. Some details given during the assault prior to the rape. See below for details and spoiler.

Spiritual Content (Contains spoiler.)
Orianna prays for a miscarriage after she discovers she is pregnant due to rape. When the miscarriage occurs, she believes God has answered her prayers and ended her pregnancy.

Brief rape scene. References to a fist-fight. No details.

Drug Content
Orianna and Ashley attend a party and participate in under-age drinking. Some people use cocaine. When Ashley sees this, he and Orianna leave the party.

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The story’s tension level ratchets up quickly following Orianna’s rape at a party. Desperate, she first attempts suicide and then confesses the truth to her friends: she is pregnant. She reaches out in prayer, pleading with God to end her pregnancy. It’s easy to imagine any girl in Orianna’s position feeling precisely the same way.

When Orianna experiences a miscarriage, she believes this is God coming through for her. She’s new in her faith and lacks any real form of spiritual mentoring, so it doesn’t seem terribly unbelievable that she’d draw such a conclusion. Still, it’s a little hard to swallow the idea that God basically terminated her pregnancy at her request. One can understand the relief a rape victim would feel, but it is tinged with discomfort.

As a plot device, it also seems weak. Because a central theme of the story is Orianna’s questions about her own worthiness for love, it seems like a miscarriage due to medical reasons might be another opportunity to raise the stakes on that struggle.