Before. After. Always. by Morgan Lee Miller

Potential not seen through

I picked this book up as I absolutely loved the previous book I read by this author. And this book had so much potential! The beginning of this book had me hooked yet, somehow along the way, I started to be less engaged. By the end, instead of feeling elated at the immense HEA, I just felt disappointed.

I’m unsure what went wrong. I mean, long-term effects of PTSD is a thing and therapy doesn’t always help with completely taking away the anxiety and panic attacks, although it should help in easing them. Especially after a certain amount of time has passed. Eliza most definitely doesn’t have CPTSD (Complex PTSD), as that, as its name suggest, is a far more severe form of PTSD, caused by years of repeated trauma in childhood. Yet Eliza has never moved on from a severely traumatic event when she was eighteen (now being thirty-one). She’s achieved so much, is accomplished in so many ways, yet part of her is still stuck in the past. It is certainly possible, but for someone who is so strong in other ways, it’s not necessarily a hundred-percent believable. It’s not to say that otherwise strong and accomplished people do not have panic attacks and suffer from anxiety, but long-term PTSD is usually so debilitating that it prevents you from pushing yourself as much as you otherwise would, strong or not.

Then there’s Blake, broken in her own ways, still sore after losing her brother. She just gets on with things, only breaking down at the anniversary of his death. Yet she is still hung up about a bad breakup with a long-term girlfriend, from about the same time ago as Eliza. Blake has had a few short-term flings, but nothing serious in recent years, happy with that even if she does eventually want more. Eliza has barely dated at all since the accident, just going through the motions a few times hoping to find a spark.

How these two come together, through the understanding of loss, is cute. And when they eventually decide to call each other their “girlfriend”, that’s cute too. Yet their strange bout of miscommunication, not understanding each other, that wasn’t. Every relationship goes through it at some point, yet it was the lack of communication between the two that left me banging my head. They’re both stuck in their own world with their own fears, and neither wants to tell the painful truth of why they’re hurt. It takes yet another traumatic event to bring the two back together again.

I guess that parts of the story felt slow. Other parts felt predictable. Then there were little bits of repetition. Tension is good, but even the tense parts didn’t feel tense enough. I still had moments of rooting for both of them, with their slow progress towards going further in their relationship, yet something was still missing. I wish I could be less vague, but sometimes a book just doesn’t click.

All in all, not a bad read, but not as great as I was hoping.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆ – Sort of liked/OK

*I received a free digital ARC via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Valkyrie’s Oath by Arizona Tape

Well…

My ambiguous title is due to my mixed impressions. I was so confused when I started the book that I hated the first couple of chapters. Well, hate might be a bit strong, but I disliked it. Even up to the point of the MC becoming attracted to a new teacher. Eurgh! It just wasn’t for me at that moment.

But then, something happened. I left it a day and, when I restarted, I just had to read further. I went from “dislike” to “intrigue”. I don’t believe that it had anything to do with the writing per se, just that I’d come from reading a book with a completely different style. Besides, I usually like this author’s works, so maybe coming back with a fresh head meant that I could actually invest myself in this story.

Although I do believe that the beginning didn’t help any. I haven’t read any of the sister series, although that shouldn’t have an effect, as the first book wasn’t published that long before this one. But it felt like being thrown into the deep end without a lifesaver ring, no explanations, surrounded by laughing, warring, teenagers.

So, as I said, maybe that was it – the complete change of pace and style from the book I’d just finished. Although I would have been happy with a few more explanations, once I did finally get into the book, everything was fine!

I should have expected that ending, really. A cliffhanger, but none of Bryn’s supposed “friends” really felt like friends, anyway, especially with their attitude. At least one felt more like a hanger on. Considering how she’s an heir, you can expect that she’d have a hoard of frenemies in place of real friends, those who pretend to look after her but are really just waiting for her to slip up.

Anyway, my complete turnaround meant that I was invested in the story by the end, quite happily so, which came as a real surprise to me. So soon on with the next it is!

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free digital ARC via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*

Second Time’s a Curse by Laura Greenwood

Even more magical kittens!

Well, yes, what should we expect from a cursed witch who produces kittens with every spell? More kittens, of course! Wow, I’m not really sure how’s she’s going to have space for all of them if this keeps on happening!

Mona is slowly coming to terms with the fact that she has more than one love interest, partly buoyed by her best friend (and what doesn’t help is that one of the love interests happen to be said best friend’s twin brother…). Yet she has other things on her mind, namely this damned curse! Yet, despite the curse, she doesn’t want to do anything that might jeopardise the lives of her kittens, even if she’s frustrated that she keeps on producing them. I mean, they’re all seriously cute and all that, but a dorm room is only so big!

So, her friends pool together to try and find a fix for this wretched curse, in a less-than-legal manner, which, of course, doesn’t quite go to plan, or solve the problem of the curse itself.

Things not quite going to plan appears to be the name of the game, as serious trouble falls upon them once again. Well, there’s no “I told you so” in there, but there appears to be no clean way out of things this time.

Just as fun as the first book, with just as much cuteness, awkwardness, and trouble, this series is turning out to be fantastic so far! I just wish that the characters could see past the end of their noses sometimes…

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*

First Time’s a Charm by Laura Greenwood

Lots of squee moments!!

The basis of my review for this book can probably be summarised so:

1. Cute kittens!!
2. Harry Potter references!!!
3. MORE cute kittens!!1! Squeeeee!!!11!!

OK, ahem, I’ll calm down a bit now, and try to write my thoughts in a more orderly manner.

This is the first book in a new series, which is roughly based in the broader Paranormal Council Universe. Of course, the whole paranormal school/college/university trope has been used a lot, but I’m lucky to not have read too much of it (aside from Harry Potter, but this was quite gleefully filled with HP references. And, of course, those cute kittens). Ooops, got a bit distracted again but, for me personally, this does bring something new to the table.

We have a young, eighteen-year-old witch, who has been relatively brilliant at magic, until one day, she isn’t. She’s been cursed to reproduce kittens with every spell. Except, she is completely clueless as to what’s going on with her magic. But, despite not really being a cat lover, falls completely in love with these balls of fur that keep appearing with every spell.

You have the class bitch, a “harem” of potential boyfriends, and a brilliant and quirky best friend. Plus, yes, those cute kittens…! Tell me – what more could you ask for?!

A nice, good, fun read, with plenty of mishaps and shenanigans. Considering the language used, it fits quite easily into the young-adult genre, yet I’m not so sure the sequels will be, if our young witch is going to get her men…!

Final rating: ★★★★★ – Loved it/couldn’t put it down

*I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*