RSS Feed

Author Archives: Kristal

Book Review – Reclaiming the Sand by A. Meredith Walters

Posted on

reclaiming+the+sand

“He sees the beauty where others don’t. He hears love when others only hear pain. He gives me the strength to become the person I’ve been terrified to be.
You will hate me.
You will love him.
I love him.
He has changed my world
.”

Before reading Reclaiming the Sand my knowledge on Asperger syndrome was pretty limited. I knew aspergers was an autism spectrum disorder but wasn’t aware of the finer details. In fact, everything I knew about it, I had learned a few years ago from Shortland Street (a NZ medical drama). Hardly reliable info. So it’s fair to say that going into this book I had no character expectations.

The prologue captured me immediately. The writing was beautiful and I was instantly intrigued. This story is about Ellie and Flynn. Ellie McCallum has been brought up in the American foster system and life has been hard on her. Flynn Hendrick is a beautiful boy and an artist. He also has asperger’s. He finds it difficult to communicate with and understand others, he can’t read emotions or express his own clearly. But somehow these two beautiful (and in Ellie’s case, extremely flawed) characters find their teenage selves in an unlikely friendship. There are issues – of course. Ellie is a bully and Flynn is not exempt from her nasty tongue lashings. He is teased and taunted by Ellies’ friends and, sadly, Ellie herself. She’s embarrassed to be seen with him and hates the way he makes her feel. It’s way too confronting for her and she just isn’t equipped to deal with those type of emotions. After struggling with themselves and their friendship, a life changing event separates them and sends them on different journeys. They grow up and move on. But fate has other ideas and many years later their paths cross again. From there we follow them as they try to find themselves, their place in this world and their way to each other.

“I followed the man who had stolen my heart and stitched up my soul into the house of our shared childhood. Where I could remember the person I had almost been.”

This story broke my heart on more than one occasion. Particularly, as a mother, I found what both Ellie and Flynn went through hard to read. When you picture your own child in a situation like this it’s unbearable. Ellie’s self loathing was a hard pill to swallow and Flynn’s agony at the torment he faced daily was even harder.

“Your mom didn’t want you. We don’t want you. No one will ever love you. Those are hard words for a child to hear. Especially one who had already been to hell.”

But it’s not all bleak. They are both strong, and there was good in this story too. We got to see Ellie and Flynn experience many things for the first time; acceptance, connection, and unconditional love.

“He taught me that being Ellie McCallum was okay. Because she was flawed and troubled. But she was also smart and capable and worthy of love.”

There were so many levels of emotion going on while reading this book. A lot of people won’t understand Ellie and won’t be able to get on board with her character. How could she have treated him like this? Why does she do these things? It’s almost inconceivable. Almost. I didn’t find it impossible to forgive her like others might. Hard, yes, but not impossible. I loved Flynn with the fire of a thousand suns, he was loyal, forgiving and so strong. But I could understand how he would frustrate or upset someone easily – through absolutely no fault of his own.

“There was no coming back from Flynn Hendrick. Ever.”

It was intense and deep and brutally beautiful. It’s clear the the author researches the hell out of her characters and their various issues to make sure things are accurate. It’s a story that sticks with you and will give you a massive book hangover. I feel like I need a breather before jumping into my next book and I won’t forget this one anytime soon!

Book Review – The Law of Moses by Amy Harmon

Posted on


TLM-FOR-WEB “A story of before and after, of new beginnings and never-endings. A story flawed and fractured, crazy and cracked, and most of all, a love story.”

I’m going to be straight forward with you guys – I need help after reading this book. Serious help. Would it be rude of me to ask Amy Harmon to spring for a therapist??

The Law of Moses absolutely tore me apart. The good news is, it also put me back together but the scars it left are manifesting themselves in an epic book hangover. This book has everything we have come to love and expect in an Amy Harmon book – It is an original story, it is beautifully written and it is full of intense emotion. So much emotion, I found that I had to take small breaks to pull myself together. Sigh. Amy Harmon rules my life.

The beginning of The Law of Moses is told through Georgia’s eyes. Georgia is a small town girl with big dreams that revolve mostly around her horses. Her quirky, larger than life personality makes her a stand-out in a town of small minded people. Moses is the towns loose unit. He’s been a mystery since birth and the towns people have no idea how to deal with or relate to this beautiful, manic artist and his inability to follow the law. Moses and Georgia slowly find themselves forming an unlikely bond and so begins an intricately woven story of young love, heart-break and forgiveness.

While The Law of Moses is a love story, it is also SO much more than that. The real star of this this book is Moses. He is such a complex and intense character, I found myself hanging on every word of his story. The direction that it takes actually blew me away and the originality of his character made for a fascinating read. I loved seeing how the fractured pieces of his life came together over the course of the story and he evolved from a scared and wild boy to a confident and talented man, who was at peace with his ‘gift’.

Some may call this a paranormal story, due to the ‘gift’ that Moses possesses, but for me personally , it doesn’t read as a ‘paranormal’ story. There are spiritual elements, for sure, and there is something ‘other’ about Moses that is a big part of who he is, but I don’t want to say much more on this subject because to spoil the surprise for the reader would be a crime. However, I think that labeling this as a paranormal story would be misleading to the reader.

It took me a little longer than usual to settle into this book but once it hooked me there was no putting it down. I DEVOURED it. The Law of Moses contains strong messages about the need to forgive and move on. It also encapsulates a beautiful message of gratitude, to be thankful for every day you get and for every special moment this life gives you, no matter how big or small. It was a powerful and heart-wrenching story that evoked an array of emotions that will stay with me long after finishing it. I will forever remember The Law of Moses as the book that proved that I do have a fully functioning heart and working tear ducts after all 😉

“Before, after, always.”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CHARMAINE!!!!

Posted on

Today is a veeeeeery special day!! It’s our very own Charmaine’s 30th birthday!!!! Woop!!! Please join us in wishing Charmaine a MASSIVE HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Charm is an amazing member of the Once Upon a Book Blog team, as well as the best BFF anyone could ask for. We ❤ you, Charmaine.  

P.S Pics of the 30th shenanigans to come 😉

Book Review – Maybe by Amber L. Johnson

Posted on

I am always keen on an ARC of an Amber L. Johnson book. Keen as a bean. Amber L. Johnson has a knack for writing characters that I LOVE. Always different, always interesting, you won’t find any same/same in any of her books. Maybe was told in true ALJ style – original, engaging, heart melting. 

Letting go is hard. Admitting you need each other is harder.

Emily Portman loves her job. A writer for Breakout! Magazine, she shadows and showcases up-and-coming bands. When her next assignment takes her to Austin, Texas, she can’t wait to add the city to her map of places she’s visited. Places she’s left without looking back. Her plan is to keep moving on, and the last thing she needs is a man holding her back. She’s not going down that road again.

Tyler Macy is stuck in a rut. Despite his exceptional talent as a musician, he has chosen to take a back seat with his music and let others grab the limelight. Wounded and mistrustful, he doesn’t appreciate his friends’ efforts to bring him back to center stage. Emily comes onto the scene and sees his full potential, but he fights to stay in the shadows, shutting her out before she can add to the scars another woman gave him.

For Tyler to find his music again, he needs to accept the help that Emily and their friends offer. When he discovers that his muse lies underneath Emily’s skin, it is still not enough to keep her from walking away. Neither will admit what they really want until it is too late.

Emily is once again thrown in Tyler’s path when she is assigned to join them on tour. Despite the pain in his past, Tyler sees that she is worth it, even if she’s stolen both his heart and peace of mind. In order for them to be together, they both must discover whether the music and their passion are enough to overcome the obstacles that separate them.

Maybe finding love is worth the risk.

Maybe is a little different to the other books I have read by Amber L. Johnson, but the common theme among theme is a very sweet, very real love. Her stories tend to be low on angst and high on quality content. All too often it’s easy to get so caught up in the angst between two character that their real story and true personalities get lost amongst the drama. This is not the case at all in Maybe. Both characters had depth and charisma that kept the reader fully engaged in their story. However, I loved Emily and Tyler so much I wouldn’t have minded having a little more back story on them, and on Emily in particular. I felt like there was room to get to know her just a little more. 

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that Maybe took me a little longer than usual to get into BUT it’s entirely possible (and, in fact, probable) that this was a ‘me’ thing and not an ‘it’ thing. Once my full attention was captured there was no putting this book down. 

Once again Amber L. Johnson has proved herself to be one of my favorites. BOOM! Bring on the next ALJ .book!

**ARC provided in exchange for review

 

Connect with Amber L. Johnson!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amberlynnejohnson
Twitter: https://twitter.com/whereisjakeryan
Website: http://www.amberlynnejohnson.com/

Loves & Loathes – 8th February

Posted on

Love, Love. Love

1. Charm and I had the most perfect day on Saturday. We ditched our husbands and kids and headed to the beach for paddle boarding, eating and relaxing. We had almost the whole beach to ourselves and it was the perfect day of relaxation! – K (It really was the best day EVER -C)

2. Charmaine sent me this early today and it’s CRACKING me up. So spot on. Has anyone else noticed this??? http://defamer.gawker.com/50-shades-of-sigh-the-disastrous-50-shades-of-grey-p-1683492446  (Haha some of those GIFs! -C)

3. LSA peanut butter… Linseeds, sunflower seeds, almonds and peanuts all blended together to make my new favourite food! Seriously, I’m eating it by the spoon! – C

4. My husband and I are off on a big trip to the U.S later this year and I. AM. EXCITED. I’m most excited about seeing NYC, despite the giant roaches I saw on TripAdvisor. OMG. – K

5. I got the best package in the mail on Saturday from the amazing Kristal and Charmaine! I spend all day Saturday making my family try all the New Zealand goodies! -A

Loathes

1. Being unfriended on Facebook by someone you see (used to see?) regularly. The 21st century is a dangerous and exciting time 😉 – K (HUMPH! – C) (What??-A)

2. I just got my books that I ordered for ABF and one of them was all bent!! Come on! If I order a book brand new, I expect it to be in perfect condition! I’m the only one that should be damaging them….SIGH!-A

3. Waiting for the mailman to be kind to me… I am SO impatient! – C

4. I’ve hit a reviewing brick wall. I know what I want to say… it’s just not translating into written words. SIGH – C

5. I’m still hating moving…. Just saying! – C

 

Book Review – Falling Away by Penelope Douglas

Posted on

I was apprehensive going into this book. I adored Bully but Rival…well, not so much. When I one-clicked Falling Away I was looking for the same spark that Bully had and less of the boredom that Rival produced. Well I’m pleased to say that I found Falling away to be a MUCH better read than Rival. I was hooked from start to finish. While there were parts I didn’t love and found frankly a little disturbing (more about that soon), there were plenty of things that I did love.

First of all – The redemption of K.C. K.C wasn’t painted in a very positive light in previous books and frankly, she came across as a manipulative bitch. However, in Falling Away we get a little of her back story (not pretty) and get to see her grow up and transform into a pretty amazing person. Her transformation is actually epic and was extremely well written. It was one of my favorite parts of this book.

Second (of all?) – I loved Jax. More in a motherly way than a ‘damn he’s hot’ kind of way though. I knew he was going to be a wild card and I found his character and his story hugely interesting after being super curious about him for awhile now. While he was very ‘alpha male douche bag’ at times, I found his vulnerability and insecurities to be quite endearing. It took his character to the next level. He had layers, people! I did however take issue with a scene that occurred around the 69% mark. I can’t say what it is, because it will be spoiler-y. It wasn’t cheating, a death, or anything along those lines, it was more a situation that escalated quickly and got a little too far out of hand for me to be comfortable with. It sent up a bunch of red flags that would have me personally running for the hills.

With that being said I liked the pace of this story. It progressed well and had just the right amounts of both steam and angst to keep me entertained throughout the entire story. And the final scenes at the end were really sweet – keep an eye out for the shout-out to New Zealand! Loved it. I’m officially back on the Penelope Douglas bandwagon. 

Merry Christmas from Once Upon a Book Blog!! xx

Posted on

We just wanted to take a quick moment to wish you and your family a safe and happy Christmas. We appreciate the support all of you guys have showed us during the year and we’re looking forward to another exciting year to come. During the holiday period we will be taking a couple of weeks off to spend time with our families. It’s summer here in New Zealand so this will mean plenty of eating, drinking and beach time! And, of course, a few good books 😉

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year guys!! See you in 2015!

Love,

Kristal, Charmaine and Amy xxx

Book Review – Chasing the Tide by A. Meredith Walters

Posted on

“We spoke more in silence.

It’s where we communicated best.”

Reclaiming the Sand is a firm favourite of mine, so I have been looking forward to continuing Ellie and Flynn’s story. I loved revisiting these characters and seeing them develop further as a couple. Like Reclaiming the Sand, Chasing the Tide is a beautifully emotional story written by a truly talented author. 

The conclusion of Ellie and Flynns story was focused a lot more on Ellie this time around. We get to see her work through her issues and overcome them to become the person she wants to be. It was not without it’s challenges and struggles, and a lot of the story happened inside Ellie’s head as she worked through her thoughts and feelings. It was almost stifling at times and I would have loved to see a little more dialogue between Ellie and Flynn but I can see why this was a necessary direction that the story needed to take and one of my favourite parts of this book was seeing Ellie grow up and become and a happy, well- rounded person. I felt like she was misunderstood in the first book. Of course her behavior was vile, without a doubt, but she really was just a sad child with her own set of problems. To me, she was still 100% redeemable. Let’s be honest – we have forgiven literary heroes far quicker for much worse behavior. Flynn’s own behavior was not the ‘norm’ but was (correctly) never held against him and I never felt like Ellie’s shouldn’t be either. Both Flynn and Ellie tried hard to better themselves and evolve as a couple and that’s extremely admirable in any relationship.

Reclaiming the Sand will always be my first love because its where I met and first fell in love with Ellie and Flynn but Chasing the Tide is a fantastic follow-up to their story and I adored every moment I got to spend with them. 

“He was banana bread and holdings hands. He was soft smiles and warm touches. He was whispered words and solemn declarations.

He was love.

He was home.

He was forever.”

 

*ARC generously provided in exchange for review – Thank you!

Buy links – 

US : http://amzn.to/1uKxbnf

AUS : http://bit.ly/1AAkC2f

UK : http://amzn.to/1BMQP7y

KOBOhttp://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/chasing-the-tide

NOOK : http://bit.ly/1Ah3rmw

Book Review – Ripped by Katy Evans

Posted on

Synopsis

Every woman wants me–except the one I sing for. 
Seattle shakes with anticipation: they call it the concert of the year. They say girls are 
getting pregnant just thinking about my band being in town. 
But when you love a girl, you don’t leave her with nothing but a ring and a promise. Any 
man with half a brain should know. 
So what did I expect my girl would do when she saw me again? 
Well, for starters, she loathes our music. Particularly the song I wrote about her. 
When I sing it, the stadium is in an uproar. Thousands of fans scream my name like I’m 
a god–but yeah, not her. Crystal clear: the girl’s not happy to see me. 
Black hair, black boots, a bad attitude, that’s her — Pandora Stone is a freaking 
man-eater and she’s out for my blood. 
That’s alright. 
Let her come at me. Because I’m out for her heart and, this time, there’s no way she can 
stop me.

 

Review

“Have you ever had a secret?”

Ripped was another exciting addition to the REAL series. No one does angsty, intense, love quite like Katy Evans! She consistently manages to write characters that get under the readers skin from the very first page, making you completely invested in their story.

“The last thing he said to me was that he loved me. Now. I. Hate. Love.” 

Ripped started off brilliantly and kept up the pace throughout the whole book. In the beginning we get to meet the fire-cracker that is Pandora. She is hurt and angry in large part due to the shared past between herself and McKenna, and she holds nothing back. Sneaking into a huge concert McKennas band is playing, she lets loose on him in a juvenile manner that I freakin loved. I wish I could have exacted a similar revenge on some of my past loves! Of course she gets caught, and from that moment on a series of events occur that push the young ex-lovers back together again, creating a burning inferno of anger and passion.

“Promises. Lies. Loss. Hatred. The kind of hatred that’s only born of an intense, out-of-this-world love that went woefully wrong.”

While the ‘rock-star romance’ is a bit of a cliche and has been done many times over, Ripped felt fresh and not at all over-cooked. I think a lot of this is down to the main characters. Instead of Pandora being a sickly sweet virgin, she was a sassy-pants goth with many strong opinions on love and life. McKenna also had  many things going for him other than ‘hot man-whoring rock-star’. He was pensive and intense, moody and beautiful, all wrapped up in a musical genius type package. The breaking of these molds made for a thrilling and engaging read.

“Every part of him is a threat – his voice, his kiss, our past, my own heart. I was so sure I’d gotten rid of my heart, but he makes me so aware that it’s still here, inside me somewhere.”

Ripped could have easily been boring and cliched but instead we were offered a fresh and exciting story about love, loss and second chances. Admittedly, it was a little bit cheesy as times, but what’s a rock-star romance without a bit of cheese? It’s par for the course. Ripped was well worth the reading time. Upon finishing this book, I am 100% invested in this story and interested to see where the rest of Pandora and McKennas journey will take them.  

“Pandora. My nightmare, my dreams, my walking, talking fantasy.”

Purchase Links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ISBN=1476755620/ 
 
Barnes and Noble: 
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/ripped-katy-evans/1116527226?ean=9781476755625 
 
IndieBound: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781476755625 

Book Review – The Law of Moses by Amy Harmon

Posted on

“A story of before and after, of new beginnings and never-endings. A story flawed and fractured, crazy and cracked, and most of all, a love story.”

I’m going to be straight forward with you guys – I need help after reading this book. Serious help. Would it be rude of me to ask Amy Harmon to spring for a therapist??

The Law of Moses absolutely tore me apart. The good news is, it also put me back together but the scars it left are manifesting themselves in an epic book hangover. This book has everything we have come to love and expect in an Amy Harmon book – It is an original story, it is beautifully written and it is full of intense emotion. So much emotion, I found that I had to take small breaks to pull myself together. Sigh. Amy Harmon rules my life. 

The beginning of The Law of Moses is told through Georgia’s eyes. Georgia is a small town girl with big dreams that revolve mostly around her horses. Her quirky, larger than life personality makes her a stand-out in a town of small minded people. Moses is the towns loose unit. He’s been a mystery since birth and the towns people have no idea how to deal with or relate to this beautiful, manic artist and his inability to follow the law. Moses and Georgia slowly find themselves forming an unlikely bond and so begins an intricately woven story of young love, heart-break and forgiveness. 

While The Law of Moses is a love story, it is also SO much more than that. The real star of this this book is Moses. He is such a complex and intense character, I found myself hanging on every word of his story. The direction that it takes actually blew me away and the originality of his character made for a fascinating read. I loved seeing how the fractured pieces of his life came together over the course of the story and he evolved from a scared and wild boy to a confident and talented man, who was at peace with his ‘gift’. 

Some may call this a paranormal story, due to the ‘gift’ that Moses possesses, but for me personally , it doesn’t read as a ‘paranormal’ story. There are spiritual elements, for sure, and there is something ‘other’ about Moses that is a big part of who he is, but I don’t want to say much more on this subject because to spoil the surprise for the reader would be a crime. However, I think that labeling this as a paranormal story would be misleading to the reader. 

It took me a little longer than usual to settle into this book but once it hooked me there was no putting it down. I DEVOURED it. The Law of Moses contains strong messages about the need to forgive and move on. It also encapsulates a beautiful message of gratitude, to be thankful for every day you get and for every special moment this life gives you, no matter how big or small. It was a powerful and heart-wrenching story that evoked an array of emotions that will stay with me long after finishing it. I will forever remember The Law of Moses as the book that proved that I do have a fully functioning heart and working tear ducts after all 😉

“Before, after, always.”