Book Review: HEART OF IRON by Ashley Poston (OwlCrate Book March 2018)

“Heart of Iron”

Heart of Iron #1

by Ashley Poston

Nikki’s Rating: 8 out of 10

Summary: As a pirate on the notorious spaceship, the Dossier, Ana is no stranger to perilous situations and danger. And when her best friend and Metal begins to malfunction, she is willing to jump in headfirst and risk everything to save him. But as they hunt across space for the part he needs, they stumble onto a secret that shatters everything that they know about their world and each other. Now Di has been HIVE’d, absorbed into the super AI built to keep Metals in line, and is commanded to find and terminate Ana.

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8 Honorable Things about HEART OF IRON by Ashley Poston (OwlCrate Book March 2018)

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Anastasia

It appears that “Heart of Iron” may have been inspired by the fairy-tale story of Anastasia Romanova aka the 1997 cartoon movie Anastasia. I say fairy-tale because in reality Anastasia Romanova was assassinated with her family in 1918 but due to not finding her body and/or not being able to confirm thru DNA, there were rumors that Anastasia survived. In “Heart of Iron,” Ana, who doesn’t remember her life before the Dossier, turns out to be Princess Ananke Armorov. Her family was killed all on the same night and it was believed that she died as well but she in fact escaped. Also in “Heart of Iron,” the shady-ass bad guy is named Rasputin, Ana’s father’s name was name Nicholii, and there is a spaceship called the Tsarina. So yeah, “Heart of Iron” is a retelling of Anastasia in space, which is totally cool in my book! Anastasia is one of my favorite movies.

2. Space

Space! While I would never want to actually go to space in real life, I do enjoy movies and books that take place in space. There are so many options for different worlds, cultures, and species when working within a space setting versus just a world. “Heart of Iron” takes place in space, specifically on and between various planets within the same solar system and although all characters are human, one major character is from a people that originate from a whole other galaxy.

3. Love

Love can be hard to define and quantify, as many of our emotions are. Would an AI ever be able to understand these emotions or even experience them? Could a human develop feelings for an AI, even love them? Would the AI be able to reciprocate those feelings? These are just some of the questions that will come up while you are reading “Heart of Iron” because Ana is very much in love with her Metal and best friend, Di. While I’m not sure how it would translate in real life, in this fictional world I absolutely loved Di and Ana’s relationship! Their ability to work with each other and balance each other, along with their continuous banter made them a very enjoyable couple.

4. LGBTQ

“Heart of Iron” featured one LGBTQ relationship as well as a budding romance between two main characters. Captain Siege of the Dossier is married to Talle, a woman, and together they raised Ana. Sparks fly between main characters Jax and Robb as soon as they meet and hopefully will end with them being together. Although Jax can’t seem to touch another living being… It’s like Rogue and Gambit in X-men, so tragic!

5. Di

Di is my favorite character in “Heart of Iron” and there are many reasons for this. First is his dedication to Ana, being her bodyguard, partner in crime, best friend, or her caretaker depending on needs. Next his banter to himself and other characters was amusing af. And finally, that he was able to overcome the HIVE and not actually kill Ana. He’s still in there somewhere and I can’t wait for Ana to bring him back!

6. Ana

For being a princess, Ana is definitely not stereotypical. She is impulsive, loud, outspoken, combative, and rough around the edges. I like her a lot! Ana puts those she loves above herself and tries her hardest to solve all her problems on her own to avoid putting others in danger(which usually leads to more problems but at least she tries). She is also extremely inquisitive, which I totally relate to.

7. Writing

Overall, “Heart of Iron” was a blast to read! The story was intriguing with the mysteries surrounding the Metals, the HIVE, the death of the royal family, and Ana’s backstory. All the characters were likeable and relatable. And Poston kept things fast-paced, continuously moving the story along, while pulling on your heartstrings as characters endured heartbreak and setbacks.

8. Soul of Stars

Thankfully Ana and Di’s story continues in Ashley Poston’s Heart of Iron series, “Soul of Stars”, which is the second and final book in the series.


As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. If you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

July 2021 Book Reviews

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Book Review: THE GLASS SPARE by Lauren DeStefano (OwlCrate Book November 2017)

“The Glass Spare”

The Glass Spare #1

by Lauren DeStefano

Nikki’s Rating: 7 out of 10

Summary: Wanting nothing more to explore the world and wander, like the life her mother once led, Wil dreams of freedom but as a spare heir, she doubts the king will ever give her a mission beyond their kingdom. Then tragedy strikes as she develops a power to turn whatever living thing she touches into gems. Forced to flee her kingdom, Wil must now navigate the world while trying to find a way to break her curse.

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7 Great Things about THE GLASS SPARE by Lauren DeStefano

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Midas Touch

Lauren DeStefano’s “The Glass Spare” appears to be inspired by the Greek myth of King Midas who turned everything he touched into gold. In “The Glass Spare,” the main character Wil is cursed, turning anything living into a gem upon touching it. Obviously this kills whatever she touches and sadly only takes a few seconds to be devastating. While a curse to her, many others see her as a viable asset for unlimited riches.

2. Curse

The main differences between King Midas in the Greek myth and Wil’s character in “The Glass Spare” is that King Midas wishes for his powers while Wil is cursed with it. Loom is another character who is also cursed in “The Glass Spare” but we learn that he committed a crime and was therefore cursed. Wil was born with her curse and the great mystery is why.

3. Siblings

Wil and her two brothers, Owen and Gerdie, are absolutely heartwarming together. All three of them confide in one another and look out for each other in a way that I wish all siblings could. Sadly though, their other brother does not share their bond and actually appears to have a deep hatred for all of them, especially Wil. Regardless, DeStefano portrays loving sibling relationships in “The Glass Spare” that are based on trust, respect, love, gratitude, and healthy boundaries. Serious sibling goals.

4. Tragedy

Sadly, Wil’s curse causes the death of a beloved brother and it was heartbreaking. Wil struggled with blame and survivor’s guilt, both being understandable for how things went down. Interesting though is that through that event, she comes to realize that her father loves her more than she believed. He does not even attempt to kill her but rather banishes her because he does not have it in him to kill his daughter. Of course, the whole situation could have been avoided if he hadn’t ordered Wil on a dangerous mission to begin with.

5. Characters

“The Glass Spare” is rich with different characters, each with unique backgrounds, goals, and personalities. You have an exiled prince who is cursed and willing to sacrifice his life for those he loves. Then there is Zay, his wife, who is a powerful warrior, fierce mother, and loyal friend. Gerdie, Wil’s brother, who doesn’t allow his physical limitations to define him and is a genius, especially with alchemy. Even the bad characters are interesting as we try to figure out their end game for Wil.

6. Ruling

Both Loom and Wil show incredible responsibility and understanding of what it actually means to rule a kingdom. They both realize that when kingdoms go to war, it is the people that suffer the most. It’s not about the money spent from the treasury or the land or goods that may be obtained from winning, it is the people who pay the price on both sides and nothing materialistic is equivalent to a life. Loom and Wil love their kingdoms and only want what is best for the greater good. They both learned empathy through suffering and would make better rulers than their parents.

7. The Cursed Sea

The story of Wil and Loom continues and concludes in The Glass Spare book 2: “The Cursed Sea.”


As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. If you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

Book Review: THE SANDCASTLE EMPIRE by Kayla Olson (OwlCrate Book June 2017)

The Sandcastle Empire

by Kayla Olson

Nikki’s Rating: 5 out of 10

Summary: Day Zero changed everything. As land started being swallowed by the sea, the poor rose up against the wealthy through a group known as the Wolves. Those that survived, now live in work camps and continue to be at the mercy of the Wolfpack. But Eden refuses to live another day as a prisoner and makes an escape. As she and three other girls sail to find Sanctuary, they come to realize that the Wolves’ claws are further reaching than they thought and that Sanctuary may not be the safehaven they hoped for.

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5 Superb Things about THE SANDCASTLE EMPIRE by Kayla Olson

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Our World

The world that Olson imagined is actually our world in the future. It mirrors a lot of what is currently going on and also where many of us are afraid we are headed. One of the main parallels between the novel and our current world is the top few controlling the world, and all its resources. So instead of doing the best for the majority of humanity, decisions are based on what is best for the few at the top.

2. Moving On

One of the themes seen in The Sandcastle Empire is that of moving on. While moving on does not entail forgetting loved ones that have passed on, it does involve giving yourself permission to live even though they cannot. Eden struggled with this as she began to develop feelings for Lonan since her past love was killed during the revolution. Both Eden and Lonan have obvious survivor’s guilt but were able to ultimately embrace their feelings for each other and step closer to healing.

3. Not a True Wolf

Just as there were Nazi’s during WWII that did not agree with the teachings, beliefs, goals, and plans of the Nazi party and simply went along to save themselves and/or their loved ones, Olson included a character who did much the same in the Wolfpack. Alexa never intended on hurting anyone and went along with the Wolves in order to be able to help her boyfriend Cass who was targeted by the Pack. Of course, the natural consequence of this is that others cannot read your mind and therefore don’t know what your true intentions are and then become distrustful of you. It can really backfire as Alexa found out in The Sandcastle Empire.

4. Descriptive

The Sandcastle Empire is full of vivid descriptions of the beautiful scenery that Eden comes across during her journey. No matter the horrors that Eden lives through, she is still able to recognize the awe of nature around her and enjoy it. She doesn’t take anything for granted. Olson also does an amazing job of describing Eden’s feelings to the reader in a way that is powerful and at times emotional.

5. Technology

Olson really ran with her imagination when creating the technology that is seen in The Sandcastle Empire. Better still, they seem entirely possible in the future as we come to understand physics, DNA, and the brain more. There were so many cool and terrifying things such as beetles that targeted blood, a procedure that allowed a person to be controlled remotely, and vines that trapped you and then created life-like nightmares that were personally tailored to the victim’s worst fears. Hopefully we don’t make any of these but focus rather on creating things that could save us and the planet as Eden’s father did.


As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. If you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

Book Review: THE CRUEL PRINCE by Holly Black (Owlcrate Book January 2018)

“The Cruel Prince”

The Folk of the Air #1

by Holly Black

Nikki’s Rating: 7 out of 10

Summary: Stolen from the mortal lands, Jude and her sisters are brought up in Faerieland and it is not all that magical. Faeries are cunning, manipulative, and love playing tricks especially on mortals, which they generally hate. No longer belonging to the mortal world, Jude learns to navigate their world and play their malicious games. But then the High King is killed and Jude finds herself caught up in a web of intrigue and a bloody political coup, which turns her life upside down all over again.

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7 Captivating Things about THE CRUEL PRINCE by Holly Black

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Setting

While most of The Folk of the Air series takes place in Faerie, the world includes our modern mortal world as well. It is actually relatively easy for faeries to travel between the two realms allowing characters to go back and forth without consequences. This was a fun change from a fantasy novel being placed in a mythical land in which our world didn’t exist. Reminds me of Labyrinth.

2. LGBTQ

As always, I appreciate any author that includes positive, normalizing inclusion of the LGBTQ community in their novels. In Holly Black’s Faerieland, LGBTQ relationships appear to be accepted and Jude’s sister Vivi is actually in a serious committed relationship with another woman.

3. Sisterly Love

Overall, the three sisters, Jude, Taryn, and Vivi are there for each other and really show sisterly love. Throughout “The Cruel Prince” they are each other’s confidants, advocates, and counselors. They give each other space when needed, understand it when one of them has a secret that they are unwilling to share, and are willing to help each other with no questions asked.

4. Cardan

Cardan is an intriguing character, while he appears to be cruel there is an element of reserve, like he doesn’t actually enjoy being mean. He does terrible things but isn’t quite the monster his brother Balekin is and there may be hope for him to be better. It appears that Cardan is a product of his upbringing, as we all are, and with being abused, ignored, and taught to be ruthless, this is all he knows how to be. Perhaps free of his family he can become something different.

5. Emotional

“The Cruel Prince” pulls at the emotional strings, especially conflicting emotions. Madoc’s fatherly relationship with the girls, even though he murdered their parents. Taryn’s betrayal of Jude with Locke, even though they are sisters and twins at that. Cardan’s cruelty and then seeing him being beaten. Dain appears to be a fair and just prince and then he has Jude stab herself for making a mistake. Then there is Cardan wanting Jude but being repulsed and ashamed for his feelings. Holly Black creates an emotional whirlwind between her characters and one doesn’t know how to feel about anyone.

6. Surprise Twist

Holly Black did an amazing job of slowly revealing Jude’s overall plan to have Oak become High King. I didn’t realize who was going to be crowned until Cardan knelt before Oak, it was a surprising twist but makes total sense for Jude’s end game. Looking forward to seeing how this dangerous gamble plays out.

7. The Wicked King

As Cardan is now High King and in a binding agreement with Jude for another year, Holly Black’s The Folk of the Air series continues in “The Wicked King.”


As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. If you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

Book Review: BEFORE SHE IGNITES by Jodi Meadows (Owlcrate Book September 2017)

“Before She Ignites”

Fallen Isles #1

by Jodi Meadows

Nikki’s Rating: 6 out of 10

Summary: Mira, the Hopebearer, beloved to the people of the Fallen Isles, finds herself in the most unimaginable situation, imprisoned in the notorious and brutal Pit. When she went to the Luminary Council after finding out that dragons, the children of the gods, were being kidnapped, Mira expected outrage and a swift plan to stop the culprits. Now she must consider that it was her government, the Luminary Council, that sanctioned this affront to their gods. Mira must find a way out of the Pit to save her cherished dragons and stop the Great Abandonment, the rise of the Fallen Gods, from happening.

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6 Brilliant Things about BEFORE SHE IGNITES by Jodi Meadows

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Dragons

Probably my favorite fictional creature, I love dragons. I totally relate to Mira’s character of absolutely cherishing them and wanting to protect them at all costs. In the Fallen Isles world, dragons are children of the gods and endangered thanks to humans. Bit of a reflection of how we are killing our own beautiful animals on planet Earth.

2. The Fallen Isles

The Fallen Isles world is unique and utterly beautiful in its myths and constructs. The Fallen Isles are actually gods who fell from the sky and are known as the Fallen Gods. Each Isle has a unique culture, government, and religious book based on their Fallen God.

3. Gifts

Each of the Fallen Gods have gifts or powers that people of their island are bestowed. Some of them include being able to create silence and/or hear exceptionally well from Idris the Silent, increased speed, reflexes, strength from Khulan the Warrior, charm and allure from Damya and Darina the Lovers, Harta the Daughter allows her people to promote growth of plants, and people of Bopha the Shadow are able to manipulate shadows.

4. Anxiety

I’m really curious to know if author Jodi Meadows actually suffers from anxiety and panic attacks because she really captures this insidious mental condition very well. The main protagonist, Mira Minkoba, suffers from panic attacks throughout the Fallen Isles Trilogy and it actually caused me to experience some anxiety while reading because Meadows does a very accurate job of describing the feelings. As someone with mental illness, I always appreciate books that include characters with mental illness as it is a way to destigmatize it and help others to understand and realize we are human too, not crazy. Also provides great examples of someone being able to thrive regardless of mental illness.

5. Friendship

“Before She Ignites” portrays friendship at its finest. Mira’s best friends Ilina and Hristo attempt to spring her free from her imprisonment at the risk of their own lives and freedom. Even though dehydrated and a prisoner himself, Aaru gives Mira water and stays with her when she unleashes uncontrolled power. Mira chooses to go back to the Pit to free her friends instead of running free when she could have. These friendships are absolutely inspiring!

6. As She Ascends

The Fallen Isles Trilogy continues in Jodi Meadows’s “As She Ascends.”


As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. If you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

Book Review: MY PLAIN JANE by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows (Owlcrate Book July 2018)

“My Plain Jane”

The Lady Janies #2

by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

Nikki’s Rating: 8 out of 10

Summary: Wanting nothing more than to become a governess, Jane Eyre leaves the miserable Lowood school to pursue her dream. But then her secret gets out, Jane Eyre can see ghosts. As she is caught up in the Royal Society for the Relocation of Wayward Spirits, Jane finds herself falling for the wrong man, while her best friend Charlotte Brontë finds inspiration for the novel she always wanted to write.

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8 Magical Things about MY PLAIN JANE by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre is a beloved novel with a Romantic love-story and “My Plain Jane” is a rather hysterical and fantastical retelling of this classic. As Hand et al. states in their dedication:

“And for England (again). We’re really sorry for what we’re about to do to your literature.”

2. Charlotte Brontë

Being the author of Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë is actually a main character in “My Plain Jane” and in the novel, it is the events that take place in “My Plain Jane” that inspire Charlotte Brontë to write Jane Eyre. It is a nice touch done by Hand et al. and they also include some facts of Charlotte Brontë’s real life throughout “My Plain Jane.”

3. Hysterical

Probably the best thing about “My Plain Jane” is the humor. The authors’ main goal appears to be providing the reader with a comical story and they truly deliver. One of my favorite quotes that had me laughing:

“There was only one conclusion Jane could draw from the style and design of the dress and it was this: it had to be thought up by men. Then women could in no way outrun them, and with the lack of oxygen to the brain due to a rib cage the size of a fist, they could not outthink them. And with the bright colors, they couldn’t hide. No running, no thinking, no hiding.”

(Hand et al. 373)

4. Pop Culture

Throughout “My Plain Jane” are little pop culture references to other stories such as Harry Potter and The Princess Bride which just adds to the fun!

5. Collaboration

Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows are all successful writers and it is amazing to see such talented writers come together to collaborate on one project.

6. Explanations

Thankfully the authors explain terms and customs that readers may be unfamiliar with due to the novel taking place in the 1800s.

7. Fun

Overall “My Plain Jane” is a fun novel. The novel is fast-paced, writing is good, and while the novel is inspired by Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, “My Plain Jane” is drastically different and offers a fresh spin on a timeless classic.

8. My Calamity Jane

The Lady Janies book 3 “My Calamity Jane” is set to be published in 2020 and it looks to be another fun read!


As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. If you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.