Book Review: Dissident (Forbidden Things Book 1) by Nikki McCormack

Dissident (Forbidden Things Book 1) by Nikki McCormack

A Fantasy Novel published by Amazon Digital Services, Inc. (9/02/14)


Indigo has always suppressed her Ascard power because society does not allow the use of powerful Ascard. She can use a limited amount as a healer but has worked all her life to hold in her inner aspect and connection to Ascard. Her power does not go completely unnoticed, as an exotic stranger contacts her through Ascard, seeking her help. Intrigued by him and ruffled by her rocky relationship with her fiancé, she follows the stranger into his prison. After she helps him escape, she thinks she will never see him again. Fate brings them together again, but he still needs her help.


Power, Control, Magic, Inner Strength, Inner Aspect, Travel, War, Fighting, Struggle, Talent, Healing, Abuse, Sex, Love, Creation, Lies, Slaves

My Review:

This novel had a great balance  between romance, fantasy and plot. I was pulled in by Indigo’s struggles to live up to others’ expectations in her restrictive society and her struggles with her fiancé. The intrigue and quick attraction between Indigo and Yiloch pulled me into the romantic aspect of the book and the plot kept the entire novel together as action wove through until the end.

Indigo is a role model for female characters. She’s strong, not in relation to man, but in relation to her enemies and her friends. She doesn’t have to stay in her relationship. She has control over her fiancé in a way he can’t even fathom. She isn’t smug about her skills and she doesn’t look down on others, even though she is stronger than everyone around her, even her teacher.

I enjoyed the writing style of this fantasy novel, just as much as the clean writing of McCormack’s steampunk series – Clockwork Enterprises.

This novel was published by Amazon Digital Services, Inc. on 06/09/2015 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.50

Links for more information:



Nikki McCormack’s Website


Book Review: One True Pairing by Cathy Yardley

One True Pairing by Cathy Yardley

A Romantic Comedy published by Swerve (07/25/17)


Hailey works two jobs and then some to help make ends meet with her two sisters and their bookstore. Jake Reese is the hot TV actor who hides from his crazed fans in Hailey’s coffee shop. She doesn’t react like most fangirls, even though she loves his show. Her no-nonsense take care of problems attitude and his nature-loving sensitive sci-fi loving side go together. Jake needs to improve his social standing and Hailey needs something to boost the bookstore’s sales. It’s only natural that they pretend to date, but the attraction levels are through the roof.


Actor, Snoqualmie, Issaquah, Bookstore, Geeks, Convention, Fans, Romance, Family, Loyalty, Sex, TV Actor

My Review:

This is not the book to pick up late at night because you won’t be able to put it down. The storytelling is seamless and the plot is very well thought out. The second half became a little predictable, but I enjoyed every word of it. Every scene, every word, and all the descriptions were perfectly written and perfectly placed. Every detail was necessary.

The romance played out just the way I wanted it to – chance meet, mutual initial attraction, spending lots of time together to fall for each other. It was the best of the best romances.

Jake and Hailey were so detailed and their personalities full and alive. I loved being in each of the characters’ heads and watching them make mistakes and get in over their heads.

This novel was published by Swerve on July 25, 2017 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 5.00

Links for more information:


Cathy Yardley’s Website

Book Review: The Surfer Solution by Cathy Yardley

The Surfer Solution by Cathy Yardley

A Romance Novel published by Amazon Digital Services LLC (02/02/17)


Allison needs to ace her presentation, but the stress of her job is giving her panic attacks and the only solution is to find a relaxing hobby. Allison always gives 100% and goes full tilt with anything she does and her new ‘hobby’ is no different. She’s always loved the water and she lives in California so surfing is a natural choice. First she has to convince the zen surfer Sean that she’s ready to hit the waves and that he should teach her. Sean has his own set of problems though, like losing his job and his apartment. He can’t get Allison out of his mind and she can’t give up her job or the surfing.


Stress, Anxiety, Career, Panic Attacks, Office Job, Long Hours, California, Surfing, Romance, Relationship, Stubborn, Hard Working, Lifestyle Change

My Review:

We all know that person who is always busy and when you ask how they’ve been they tell you, “busy.” I, myself, succumb to this contemporary phenomenon of busy = successful. For Ali, busy is a way of life, ingrained in her very soul ever since she was a kid. Her family thrives on busy and stress. Allison doesn’t know anything else, but when her panic attacks start taking over her life, she must change or potentially die of a heart attack. If Ali can decide to relax and find something that helps her to relax, then any of us can too. If Ali can acknowledge that being busy and stressful doesn’t always make her happy and isn’t what she wants out of life, then there’s still hope for the rest of us.

This romance built up slowly and steadily through the mutual attraction between Ali and Sean. The pacing was excellent and I was stressed and anxious right there with Ali. I loved all the details of Ali at her job and when she was learning to surf. I feel like I learned more about surfing by reading this book!

This novel was published by Amazon Digital Services LLC on February 2, 2017 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 5.00

Links for more information:


Cathy Yardley’s Website

Book Review: A Wish to Build A Dream On by Vivian Vaughan

A Wish to Build A Dream On by Vivian Vaughan

A Historical Romance Novelette published by Diversion Books (03/22/15)


Andie joins a cattle drive as a cook so she can earn enough money to keep the ranch her late husband left her. With her 9-year old son, Jordan, in tow they join the cattle drive headed to Kansas. But the trail master didn’t realize he’d hired a woman. Women aren’t usually the cooks on a drive. Will she be able to keep her job and the men in line? Will self-proclaimed bachelor and trail master, Mr. Catlin, fall in love with cookie?


Romance, Historical, Ranch, Cattle Drive, Cook, Tension, Men v. Women, Gender Roles, Love, Cattle, Disaster, Widow, Mother

My Review:

I held onto all the details of life in the late 1800’s and wish there were more details. This story was too simple to be truly engaging. I wanted to see more of the interactions between the men and herself to really show the life of a chuck wagon cook and life on a cattle drive. Each little detail was interesting, but there weren’t enough of them!

This story was too repetitive. We hear over and over again that Reese doesn’t need a wife and won’t be cornered into it and that Andie thinks he’s attractive. If this story was longer and had time to become fully developed and fully immersed in the little details, I would have been much more interested. If you’re looking for quick historical romance read and don’t mind the repetition, you may enjoy this fast-paced read.

This novel was published by Diversion Books on 03/22/2015 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 3.00

Links for more information:


Book Review: Pole Dancer by Nikki St. John

Pole Dancer by Nikki St. John

A Contemporary Fiction Novel published by Nikki St.John (10/21/14)


After Alex is fired as a celebrity publicist, she moves from her hometown of NYC back to her parent’s house in Atlanta. After months of looking for a job, she finally starts working for a high end purse shop in the mall. After discovering pole dancing and a possible new celebrity client, Alex is on her way to a new career and a new self.


Pole Dancing, Reality TV, Rap, Rappers, Rich, Publicist, Celebrity Publicist, Corporate Life, Strip Clubs, Strippers, Professional Pole Dancer, Social Media, Betrayal, Friendship, Family, Communication

My Review:

I wanted to like this story but the typos, lack of editing and at times confusingly written scenes got in the way of my full enjoyment. This fun fiction book would have pulled at least four stars, grammar notwithstanding because the story was so juicy, if not for the abrupt (more than just a cliffhanger) ending. It literally stops mid-scene between two characters.

Pole dancing was throughout the book (after the first part), but it wasn’t the defining characteristic of the main character, which I liked. It wasn’t all about pole dancing, but it was an important part of the plot.

The pole journey of the main character, though she was a cheerleader in her earlier life, was somewhat unrealistic (at least for the majority of people). In a short span of a few weeks, she is able to do intermediate pole moves as a curvier 30-year old. Pole dancing takes quite a bit of time and even if this fast level of learning is possible in real life, it would be an anomaly. The strength to do moves takes time and the main character hadn’t even hit a gym in months when she started pole dancing. By the end she’s doing doubles moves, superman, and intermediate level inversions.

This novel was published by Nikki St.John on October 21st, 2014 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 3.25

Links for more information:


Serenade by Heather McKenzie Blitz

Heather McKenzie
(The Nightmusic Trilogy #1)
Published by: Clean Teen Publishing
Publication date: April 17th 2017
Genres: Mystery, Romance, Suspense, Young Adult

Kidnapped and held hostage in the Rockies, a teenage heiress falls for her abductor while her corrupt father and devoted bodyguard fight to get her back. The discovery of true love and dark family secrets turns deadly in this epic coming of age adventure.

Kaya Lowen dreams of living like a normal eighteen-year old, but being heiress to a billion-dollar company has put her life in constant danger. Fiercely guarded by her powerful and corrupt father, she develops close bonds with those who protect her, especially Oliver – a bodyguard who has proven his devotion to her time and again. He wins her heart – until a chance encounter with a mysterious stranger has her questioning everything she believes in. Haunted by true love and reeling from a guilty conscience, Kaya’s world unravels when she’s kidnapped.

Held captive in a rugged wilderness fraught with raging storms, mystical caves and deadly predators, Kaya’s father scours the forest and her bodyguard fights to get her back. But, the discovery of a dark family secret makes Kaya wonder if staying in the arms of her blue-eyed abductor—a captivating stranger with dark secrets of his own – is a safer place to be. At least, that’s what her heart is telling her, her head is saying run…

An epic adventure centered on a smoldering love-triangle, Serenade sings a timeless tale of courage, self-discovery, and life-or-death love that will leave you breathless.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo


This was it, now or never.

I gathered every single ounce of energy I had and steadied my mind to ignore the pain in my foot and the dizziness in my head. Then, with everything I had, I turned and bolted toward the dense forest. The darkness instantly enveloped me. I could see well enough not to run into tree trunks, but branches caught me at every turn. My head felt as if it was spinning like a top, but I forced my legs to keep going. I could hear the men’s voices yelling at each other in an organized manner.

I tripped and found myself on all fours. Get up, girl. There’s nothing wrong with you—get up…

I made it a few more steps before my head connected with a blue spruce, and then I collapsed in a pathetic heap. My arms were so wobbly I could barely wipe at the gash across my forehead. My body was completely failing me. I prayed to God that the dog would just snap my neck and get it over with quickly…

Human footsteps approached. I gulped in some air and tried to push myself up, but the world tipped on its side and I fell with it. Within moments, large hands had my wrists pinned to the ground. I struggled and fought with everything I had left, which wasn’t much.

“Stop fighting,” he said.

His voice created such confusion inside me. I kicked harder.

“Stop… please,” he begged.

His body pinned mine to the ground. I could feel tears welling up in my eyes.

“Please, Kaya, trust me. I won’t let anyone hurt you, I promise.” He leaned forward and pressed his sleeve to my bleeding forehead, dabbing and inspecting it closely while I had no choice but to gaze up him. How could this beautiful man be a kidnapper? It just didn’t fit.

“It’s just a scratch; no stitches required,” he said, voice trailing off as his eyes met mine.

We stayed like that for a while: me on the ground, him kneeling over me, and our line of sight only on each other—until an unmistakable sound broke through the tree tops.

“They’ll find me,” I said softly, wondering if Oliver was in the helicopter circling over our heads.

He positioned his arms under my body, and, in one graceful motion, he picked me up and into his arms. “Just don’t run. Promise me that, please. I’ll keep you safe. You have my word. Okay?”

He held me tightly—protectively—waiting eagerly for my reply with turmoil in his blue eyes. My whole body hurt, and admittedly, I couldn’t have walked another inch. The wolves or that beast would have got to me long before Oliver would have. I was at my kidnapper’s mercy, laying helplessly in his arms and falling harder for him by the second.

“I promise,” I said.


Author Bio:

Heather McKenzie is a Canadian author and Serenade is her first novel. A professional singer/songwriter with five albums to date, she has been telling stories through music for years and pulls from her extraordinary experiences as a musician to fuel her passion for creating Young Adult fiction. A rocker at heart, a mom of three, an aspiring painter, and a lover of animals, she is kept grounded by her husband at their home in Edmonton.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter


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Book Review: Beauty and the Bridesmaid by Lisa Souza


Beauty and the Bridesmaid by Lisa Souza

A Contemporary Romance Novel published by Wet Coast Media, LLC (5/30/14)


Nothing is going on in Dot’s life. After atteneding her mother’s fourth wedding and meeting the image consultant Kennedy J, who promises to do her for free, Dot takes the plunge. A strict exercise and diet as well as hypnotism regime turns into weight loss and plastic surgery and an entire wardrobe and personal makeover. After her transformation is complete, Dot meets Jmiller and they date. Everything seems to be going well, until John introduces Dot to his best friend, who happens to also be Dot’s former high school bully.


Bridesmaid, Plastic Surgery, Self-Confidence, Nutrition, Diet, Exercise, Cynicism, Boyfriend, Tragedy, Bully, Transformation, Technology, QA, Weight Loss, Extreme Makeover

My Review:

I love makeover stories; however, for a woman to put herself through hell and back just to be ‘attractive’ according to societal standards does grate on the back of my mind. But this story was told as if it was reality and I’m sure there are plenty of women who feel society’s pressure to be pretty and thin and who do something about it, maybe not as extreme as Dot to achieve her end result. I really did like how her transformation was complete and encompassed good living style according to nutrition and exercise and putting effort into her wardrobe.

The twist near the end caught me by surprise. No spoilers! But this twist made me pull back from liking the book as well as I was up until that point. It was a disappointing turn.

This book was humorous and Dot’s perspective was told realistically and with all the details I would want with a character such as herself. I also really appreciated the full experience of going through Dot’s transformation and I understood how hard and painful all the steps were according to her story, fictional though it was.

This novel was published by Wet Coast Media, LLC on May 30th, 2014 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.50

Links for more information:


Book Review: Across the Ages 1 by RaShelle Workman


Across the Ages 1 by RaShelle Workman

A Fantasy/Time Travel Romance Novel published by Polished Pen Press (12/21/14)


Lucy Channing lives in 1815 in England. She is supposed to marry her childhood best friend… Whom she does not love romantically. Holding out that something will change her fate, Lucy’s grandmother comes through with a locket to transport Lucy to her true love. Traveling to 2015 is quite a shock to Lucy, especially when the first person she meets is the arrogant, egotistical William Godwin.


Romance, Time Travel, Love, Fantasy, Mystical, 19th Century, 21st Century, Shock, Dressing, Helpless, Forced Marriage, True Love

My Review:

The first chapter was completely unnecessary and was only mildly related to the story told in the rest of the novel. I skimmed it so I could get to the actual story being told.

Lucy lives a typical life in the 1800’s in her class, but she has atypical feelings for a woman in her time. She thinks she can marry for love and passion and is not satisfied with her soon to be betrothed because she is not in love with him. Because she still loved him as a friend, it wasn’t that big a deal for her to find her ‘true love’ because the match was a good one! She could have learned to love Dashel and had a good life.

I absolutely enjoyed every minute and thought Lucy had when she was spirited 200 years into the future. I understood so well what she was going through because it was described in great detail and her thoughts were spot on. She was a traveler in a new land and new time and new world.

I didn’t believe in the romance between Lucy and her ‘true love’ William. It felt forced and rushed.

The pacing was very uneven and the ending was incredibly rushed and then abruptly left off. I will not be reading further.

This novel was published by Polished Pen Press on December 21st, 2014 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 2.50

Links for more information:



RaShelle Workman’s Website

Book Review: Black Poodle Over Seven Hills by Victoria Bastedo


Black Poodle Over Seven Hills by Victoria Bastedo

A Contemporary Romance novel published by Satin Romance (10/18/2016)


Soubrette offered to transport a high-end black poodle to Seattle in exchange for a free ticket to a new life, but when the owner’s cousin shows up instead of the owner, Soubrette will have to follow up to make sure the puppy gets to the right home. The cousin, Timothy, is immediately taken with Soubrette (and the dog) and offers to show her around and help get her settled. This simple meet cute will take a turn when Soubrette’s left behind baggage arrives in Seattle and interferes with Soubrette’s new life and new relationship.


Seattle, Poodle, Romance, Friendship, New Place, Moving, Leaving Behind, Stalker, Bully, New Beginnings, Queen Anne, Tourist, New Job

My Review:

A simple, meet-cute novel full of witty dialogue set against the lovely hills of Seattle’s Queen Anne, Black Poodle Over Seven Hills was a charming fast read. Where does the titular poodle fit in? She brings Soubrette and Timothy together – not in the ‘can I pet your dog’ sense, but in quite a different manner altogether. An airport chase and mistaken identity isn’t that big of a deal for Soubrette since she is calm in the face of potential danger, but this first scene foreshadows the depths the plot will jump to after the main characters meet and grow their friendship.

Both Soubrette and Timothy were fully developed persons with interesting backstories. Never has the answer to the question “so what brings you to Seattle” been so intriguing. Soubrette is a lively and cheerful lady with spunk and wit to spare even in the face of the past that won’t stop clinging to her coattails. Seattle may offer a new start for her, but she can’t leave her past behind, it will just take a bit longer to catch up to her.

Soubrette is a great mixture of passive and active character. Even when bad things followed her around, she was able to use her strength of character to make her own way and bully her way around some fairly tight situations. She is no damsel in distress, but even she can’t win all her battles. And that’s where Timothy Marsh gets a chance to save the day. Both Timothy and soubrette are independent, but any time they are together you will just have to smile at their witty banter and camaraderie.

I received an ARC from the author.

This novel was published by Satin Romance 10/18/2016 and is available on Amazon here.

TLDR Star Rating: 3.75


Links for more information:

On the web

SnoValley blog

Victoria Bastedo blog

Emerald City Writer’s Conference First Timer Experience – My Takeaways

Check out my YouTube video (please subscribe!) of my thoughts regarding my first time attending the Emerald City Writer’s Conference this weekend in Bellevue. And here’s the only picture of me I took during the whole weekend – me and one of the Wanderlust models.


My to read list from conference recommendations:

  1. Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover
  2. Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need (for pacing help) by Blake Snyder
  3. Silvia Day books because they’re angsty and have broken characters
  4. Nalini Singh for contemporary world building
  5. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
  6. Romancing the Beat: Story Structure for Romance Novels (How to Write Kissing Books) (Volume 1) by Gwen Hayes
  7. Elizabeth Moon for sci-fi/fantasy