Tag Archives: City Owl Press

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Book Review: Second Star to the Left, by Megan Van Dyke

Megan Van Dyke‘s Second Star to the Left was featured over on Sadie’s Spotlight, and though I didn’t review the book for the book tour, I did end up with a copy of the book and decided to give it a read.

second star to the left
Tinker Bell, banished from her homeland for doing the unthinkable, selling the hottest drug in Neverland—pixie dust—wants absolution.

Determined to find a way home, Tink doesn’t hesitate to follow the one lead she has, even if that means seducing a filthy pirate to steal precious gems out from under his…hook.

Captain Hook believes he’s found a real treasure in Tink. That is, until he recovers from her pixie dust laced kiss with a curse that turns the seas against him. With his ship and reputation at the mercy of raging storms, he tracks down the little minx and demands she remove the curse. Too bad she can’t.

However, the mermaid queen has a solution to both of their problems, if Tink and Hook will work together to retrieve a magical item for her.

As they venture to the mysterious Shrouded Isles to find the priceless treasure, their shared nemesis closes in. However, his wrath is nothing compared to the realization that achieving their goal may mean losing something they never expected to find—each other.

my review
I am not, I admit, overly fond of fairy-tale retellings, and I’m especially suspicious of those that seek to redeem villains and present them as something other than what we know them as. But Van Dyke succeeds in some interesting and unexpected ways. How she got around Tink and Hook’s traditional animosity toward one another, to craft a romance between them, was notably clever. So was the recasting of the crocodile.

Having said that, I did think the broader plot was fairly predictable. I saw the “ah-ha’ twist coming miles before it was revealed. But predictable or not, I did have fun with this. I love that there really wasn’t a lot of angst in the romance aspect of it. Hook was pretty open about wanting Tink, even if he fought it in the beginning. Tink might have been a bit slower on the uptake, but also didn’t bother with drama. It was refreshing…and sweet. Yeah, there’s some steam in there too. But the romantic aspect wat truly sweet.

second star to left photoThe writing itself is clean and easy to read. There’s a bit of repetition in the beginning. But it smooths out. And every now and again a phrase would clang as too real-world, slangy for the fantasy setting—like “no shit,” or “it sucked” or “that’s a whole lot of nope.” But there were few enough not to really matter and I found more lines that made me laugh than raise an eyebrow.

All in all, I enjoyed this a lot. I even managed to pick up a 10 or so page-long epilogue somewhere along the way (probably from the author’s newsletter) and read it too. I look forward to more of Van Dyke’s future books.

Other Reviews:

ARC Review: SECOND STAR TO THE LEFT by Megan Van Dyke

Westveil Publishing – Second Star to the Left by Megan Van Dyke – 3.5 Star Review

Book Tour & Review: Second Star to the Left (Reimagined Fairy Tales #1) by Megan Van Dyke


edge of the woods

Book Review: Edge of the Woods, by Jules Kelley

I received a copy of Jules Kelley‘s Edge of the Woods through Netgalley.

edge of the woods jules kelley

There’s something wrong in Pine Grove, Montana, and its bite is vicious.

Haley Fern has been the alpha of her local werewolf pack for less than a year when their law enforcement liaison retires, and Leland Sommers, a man who knows nothing about werewolves or their world, is hired in his place. What could be an awkward situation turns complicated when the man shows up his first day on the job with an injured teenage boy he found on the road–a boy Haley knows has just been bitten.

But discovering who bit the kid isn’t as easy as it seems, especially with Leland asking questions and looking at Haley the way he does.

Can the alpha figure out who is attacking innocent people on her wildlife preserve and protect her pack? Or will the new sheriff and her growing attraction to him put her entire world in danger?

my review

This was a squishy, feel good read. It’s chocked full of diversity, has two sweet cinnamon bun leads, and a mild background mystery. But it’s the fact that the mystery is in the background that leads me to have not loved it more than I did. (I liked it plenty though.) Haley and the deputy are both lovely and they are genuinely careful with each-other in a really heart-warming way. There is no toxicity here. But I’m afraid that’s just not enough to carry a werewolf novel on it’s own. I needed a little more action, a little more bite, so to speak. I do look forward to seeing where the series goes and would be more than happy to read book two

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Other Reviews:

Caitlyn Lynch Reviews

Edge of the Woods – Jules Kelley

Book Review of Midnight Desire/Midnight Temptation (Ravens Hollow Coven #1&2), by Shari Nichols

Shari Nichols sent me a paperback copy of her book Midnight Desire.

Description from Goodreads:

Danger and desire collide to form an unlikely alliance between a witch with a sordid past and a special agent who might be her future.

While trying to escape her past, kick-ass witch Willow McCray dispenses her own brand of justice swiftly and without mercy, until she crosses paths with sexy Magickal Bureau of Investigations Agent, Alex Denopoulos. Now, she must use her powers for good if she wants to stay out of Hellios, the mage prison for those who have broken the Wiccan Rede of ‘Harm ye None.’

Alex will stop at nothing to catch a killer, including recruiting notorious felon, Willow McCray, to work for the agency. While under his guard, the lines between duty and passion become blurred the more time he spends with the red-haired beauty. His penchant for justice and deep-seated hatred of witches makes a future together seem impossible. But he’s not ready to let her go. Now he’ll risk more than his badge to keep her alive.

If only Willow can vanquish the evil surrounding them and give Alex what he wants—before she loses her heart and even her very soul in the process.


Shari Nichols is a new-to-me author. I’ve read exactly two books by her. And while they weren’t the exact same book, they were pretty darned close. In the first (Haunted), the heroine is a psychic medium who uses her gift to fight a psychotic ghost and get the big, hunky guy. In this one (Midnight Desire), the heroine is a psychic witch that uses her gifts to fight a psychotic fae and gets the big, hunky guy. It was very obvious that the same plot template was used for each (and followed very closely) and even some of the language/dialogue could have been cut and pasted from either book into the other (especially in sex scenes, which also played out almost exactly the same).

It makes it a little hard to judge this book on its own. What’s more, all of my complaints from Haunted have to be repeated here. The love is instant, unsupported, and unexplained. I mean, if you’re going to create a paranormal world and include insta-love, why not give it a reason—fated mates, matching magics, genetics, past lives, hell anything? But give a reason if two people are going to be inexplicably drawn to each other and act outside the norm.

I almost got whiplash from the two characters’ push-me-pull-me attitudes. I hate the way every scene is broken up with some lust-filled reverie. It doesn’t build the sexual tension for me. I just feel like it clutters the narrative and annoys me. Lastly, the way Alex pursued Willow was pushy and creepy as hell. She’d say some variation of “No, I don’t want to have sex with you. I’m mad at you.” And he’d come back with, “Let me make it up to you,” (by having sex).

Specific to this book, my complaints mostly focus on the lack of worldbuilding. We have mages and sorcerers and witches, but no explanation of what the difference is. Demons are both the villains and work for the good guys and I have no idea what it actually means to be a demon (other than having horns). There are vampires and pixies, but their place isn’t explained in any fashion. Hell, I don’t even know if the rest of the human population knows they exist. I assume so since everyone walked around without issue, but I don’t know.

Having said all that, the writing is perfectly readable and other than the occasional inconsistency (walking into a room full of crossbows and knives on the walls and then not being able to find anything to cut ropes with, for example) the editing is pretty solid. Like I said with Haunted, I think maybe this just isn’t the book for me.

I am actually coming back to this post a month later to add a review of book two of the Ravens Hollow series (Midnight Temptation). I thought it would be less confusing than linking back to this first review in a separate post. The author sent me an e-copy. Honestly, it was this book I initially requested, leading to the author sending me Midnight Desire (book one) until this one was released yesterday. Thus, the month between reviews.

Description from Goodreads:

What are the stakes for falling in love?

That’s the question tarot card reader Gillian Howe ponders when she hosts a supernatural speed dating event. Making the perfect match is her passion, too bad she can’t find one for herself. A chance encounter with a wealthy vampire provides her an opportunity to attend an exclusive after-party and prove she isn’t opposed to love. But she finds herself plunged into a secret society of trancing, blood bonds and human escort rings. The night ends in a police raid and of all the vampire detectives in Raven’s Hollow, Garrett Mulroney shows up at the scene. Even if he is scorching, hot, he accused her of a crime she didn’t commit and nearly ruined her life.

Fate has thrown them together again…

Garrett has been down this brutal road before and it didn’t end well. His sire tried to force him into a life of debauchery, but he chose to uphold the law instead. The fact that the one woman he can’t seem to get out of his mind or out of his lust-filled dreams is at the center of his investigation doesn’t bode well. It’s a good thing she hates his guts because it helps douse his growing desire for her and focus on the case. But when Gillian’s cousin is kidnapped into the Du Sang Brotherhood, she becomes the prime witness. Now they’re forced to put their differences aside and go undercover by pretending to be a couple. The more time Garrett spends with Gillian, the more he wants her in his life—and in his bed.

Knowing who to trust and who to love becomes a matter of survival, and possibly the only way to take down the Brotherhood.


This was not for me. The whole thing just annoyed me. Most of the decisions driving the plot made no sense to me. The heroine too often acted too stupid to live and the hero’s entire personality seemed to be developed by virtue of his fancy house and expensive car (and big dick). It was completely predictable. (I predicted not only the ending but how that ending would come about before the halfway mark.) Obstacles were overcome too easily and everything felt flat.

The flatness I know comes from the writing though. It is almost entirely tell and dialogue. There is far too little show to make the reader invest in anything. It also does things like force the author to make everyone run a charity so we know they are good people, instead of just showing us the actions of a good person in the course of the book. We’re told everyone’s heart is overflowing with love or emotions, instead of showing us people overwhelmed with love or emotions. Both characters have to share their traumatic past in order to have any depth, instead of the reader simply being shown some character depth. We’re constantly told, “she decided she should…” or “he thought…” instead of simply being shown what she decided of he thought.

Lastly, the book needs another editing pass. Off the top of my head, I remember missing spaces, the word ‘curse’ used in place of course, and some phrases popping up repetitively. (I think “magick pure and bright” must have shown up almost every time Gillian accessed her magic.)

I liked Gillian and Garrett, don’t get me wrong. But the book itself didn’t light me on fire.