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StephanieParent

Stephanie Parent, Reader and Writer

Stephanie Parent is a graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC and attended the Baltimore School for the Arts as a piano major. She moved to Los Angeles because of Francesca Lia Block's WEETZIE BAT books, which might give you some idea of how much books mean to her. She also loves dogs, books about dogs, and sugary coffee drinks both hot and cold.

So I tried to add my website on here, and it turned up as a "blog entry."  Clearly I do not understand this site.

www.stephanieparent.blogspot.com

Story of O

Story of O - Pauline Réage, Sabine d'Estree What the heck...I'm reading all the dirty books right now, I might as well admit I liked this one too.
By Blood (By Blood #1) - Tracy E. Banghart When I read the synopsis for By Blood, I knew I had to have it—modern Druids in England (specifically, Oxford)? Yes, please! I’ve been obsessed with ancient religions in the British Isles since I was a teen, and my teenage self would have been all over this book. Luckily, the writing and story was even better than I’d hoped for, and my adult self was all over it too!Our main character and narrator, Emma, is traveling to Oxford to spend the summer with her professor mom and stepdad, as well as her baby half-brother, when the book opens. I have only spent one day in Oxford on my one trip to England, and it was immediately clear to me that Tracy Banghart knows the city much, much better than I do. But even from my brief time there I can say that she got it right—the mixture of old and new, of ancient buildings and museums and youth culture, of crowded urban areas and idyllic natural beauty. I loved the depth and skill of the writing Tracy used to evoke her setting, and how well she integrated it into her story. I know this is a bit of a cliché, but I really felt like I was there as I was reading.Main character Emma has a memorable and realistic teenage voice, and while some readers might find her a little whiny at the beginning, she was true to her age and I enjoyed her honest attitude. (Sidenote: I’m finding I almost always like and identify with the more “whiny” characters…maybe this is b/c I’m a very whiny person myself?!) As the book progresses, Emma discovers some aspects of her family history that add a lot more depth to her struggles and her character. And these struggles are, at least in part, what attracts her to a group of modern Druids in Oxford…I really liked the way the author incorporated the Druid element, and I especially appreciated the variety of characters that were attracted to the Druid rituals for various reasons. Some of these characters were more likable than others, and even though they were all very different, I could see bits of myself and my teenage fascination with pagan rituals in Emma, Ash, and Bryna. And the rituals/beliefs themselves were described with just the right amount of mystery, walking the line between realism and fantasy.There is a romance in By Blood too, maybe even a bit of a triangle, but it’s pretty clear who’s the right guy for Emma. The romance is fun, not too overbearing or angsty, and I enjoyed it as much as the rest of the novel.Overall, I LOVED this book, and I really hope I can find time to read the companion novel, Moon Child, soon!
A Veil of Glass and Rain - Petra F. Bagnardi I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review.A Veil of Glass and Rain is a beautifully written, emotionally evocative book that I definitely recommend. The author is, I believe, European, and most of the book takes place in Rome, and the novel had a very European flavor to it that I found refreshing and different from my usual read. It’s hard to describe exactly what I mean, but it reminded me of other French and Italian novels I’ve read—there was a relaxed sensuality to the writing, not only in the love scenes (though those were definitely sensual!) but in the descriptions of scenery, food, emotions, and more. It also reminded me a bit of some of my favorite Italians films, like Stealing Beauty. The author definitely writes with a filmmaker’s eye.So on to the plot…A Veil of Glass and Rain is the refreshingly simple story of two childhood friends who’ve always been meant for each other, but who’ve been separated by circumstance and by their own emotional baggage over the years, and now reconnect as adults. The story flashes back and forth between the present and memories of important moments in Brina and Eagen’s pasts. Since most of the story is told in Brina’s POV, she was the character we really got to know the most, and I thought the author was very brave to create a female lead who can be extremely emotional fragile. It can be taboo to craft a “weak” female character, but by the end of the book, Brina doesn’t seem weak—she seems like a sensitive soul who is in touch with and finally taking ownership of her own emotions.Although I already alluded to this above, I have to say that I loved the poetic nature of the writing, with vivid sensory descriptions that just washed over me. I particularly liked the way the author worked music into the book, and the way certain smells became associated with characters and used as motifs. In fact, I think this book is worth reading for the writing style alone!Overall, A Veil of Glass and Rain, is an emotional, sad but also sweet and hopeful story that’s well worth reading. I look forward to more from this author.
Chaste (0.5) (a Short Story) - Kimberly  Russell Beautiful and poignant.
Council of Peacocks (Activation #1) - M. Joseph Murphy I beta read this book. It's thrilling, original, and filled with a dizzying (in a good way!) array of references to different mythologies and cultures.
Silver Heart - Victoria  Green A beautiful story and beautifully written. My favorite moment:“Happiness—and unhappiness for that matter—isn’t black and white,” he said. “It’s not the same for everyone and it isn’t an emotion you can be objective about.” His body shifted beneath the steam. “You don’t think happy or force yourself to be happy. You feel happy.”
Those Four Letter Words (TFLW, #0.5) - Christina Channelle Those Four Letter Words packed a lot of emotional punch for a novella. I was drawn in immediately by Jade’s raw, authentic teenage voice. The author did a wonderful job of crafting her as a sharp-edged character with some hidden vulnerabilities. Since it’s a novella, it’s hard to say too much about the plot without spoiling it, but I will say the author captured the difficulty of feeling justifiably angry with someone, yet at the same time feeling guilty and torn because that person has gone through something horrible. It’s a very difficult situation to deal with, and the author depicted that push-pull of emotions very well. With all that happens in Those Four Letter Words, I hope the author plans to continue Jade’s story, because I’m eager to see how she handles the many changes in her life.

Tears of Tess

Tears of Tess - Pepper Winters Tears of Tess wasn’t exactly the read I was expecting, but in the end I really enjoyed it and was impressed with what Pepper Winters accomplished here, and I’m so glad I read it. From the synopsis and author’s warning, I was anticipating something a bit grittier and more disturbing, but instead Tears of Tess read to me like a dark fairy tale—specifically, a version of Beauty and the Beast. And since I love fairy tales and believe that at their core they are very dark, adult, erotic stories, this really ended up working for me!I loved the way Winters developed this fairytale feeling through the setting, atmosphere and imagery of the story. The attention taken to the details of clothing, Q’s lavish mansion with its many hidden and mysterious rooms, and the French countryside setting that seems so tranquil but pulses with hidden dangers, all combined to create that lush fairytale feel. Q, of course, is the beast in this tale, despite his outwardly gorgeous appearance. The “beast ,” in this case, is the part of himself Q thinks of as monstrous; the author even uses the word “beast” to refer to him several times. And my favorite part of the fairytale imagery was the reoccurring motifs, including the use of seasons and weather (Tess’s last name is “snow,” and Q tells her she reminds him of winter), and, most of all, the birds. I loved the way the bird motif was integrated on so many different levels throughout the story.Now onto the part of the reading experience that did frustrate me somewhat…that was Tess herself. I really appreciated that the author made Tess such a complex character, and I identified with her a lot, but at the same time I became a bit exhausted by all the mental flip-flopping Tess did. Similarly, while I loved that Tess was a reflective character who really tried to understand why she had the desires and reactions she did, I felt the internal thought became repetitive at times. I was so glad that the author delved into the psychological depths of Tess’s situation, and so many of her observations were spot-on, but in some places I felt the same thoughts were repeated and I just wanted to move on with the story.As for the story itself, it absolutely kept my interest on several levels, both the practical question of how Tess and Q’s complex situation would resolve itself, and even more than that, the mysteries of Q’s dark past and internal struggles. While I did guess most of Q’s story before it was revealed, I still really liked getting the epilogue from his point of view. He was an alluring and very sympathetic character to me right from the beginning; I actually thought the author tried a bit too hard at times to make us see that deep down, he was a good man. Her characterization of him already convinced me of this, so I didn’t need to be reassured so often! As for the way the plot resolved itself, it was probably a bit unrealistic, but with the fairytale element to the story, I didn’t mind. I was happy with the way things wrapped up, and I am definitely excited for the companion book from Q’s point of view!Oh, and if you haven’t figured this out yet…this story is pretty damn sexy and romantic, too!
Take Me Now (Take Me Now, #1) - Faith Sullivan Faith Sullivan always has the ability to rip my heart out with her books, and Take Me Now is no different. This is one of those books where it feels like I can’t say too much about the plot without spoiling it, but I will say that I loved the heroine, Ivy, from the moment she walked into a theater screening Casablanca and confessed her love for classic movies. Classic films are mentioned quite a few times throughout the book, even playing a role in the plot (Ivy is reporting on a film festival as part of her internship), and Ivy mentions The Maltese Falcon as one of her favorites. I loved this motif because the book itself, with its sometimes dramatic plot, secrets kept, and a complex web of deception and manipulation on the part of a few characters, was a bit reminiscent of one of those classic noir movies.At the same time, the two main characters in Take Me Now, Ivy and Eric, felt entirely realistic and down-to-earth. Ivy is a college student more concerned with getting the credits she needs to complete her major than with romance or partying. She gets stuck in the internship from hell with a Devil-Wears-Prada worthy boss, but since she absolutely needs those internship credits, she has to put up with it. Even her college advisor is unsympathetic, and as someone who dealt with a lot of stress in college myself, I was really sympathetic to this. As for Eric, he has an incredibly tragic backstory, and he broke my heart and almost had me crying only 25% into the book. Like Faith’s other heroes, Eric is a real-life, believable, good guy who struggles and makes mistakes, but who will ultimately do anything for the woman he loves.As in some of her other books, Faith drops a bomb at the end of Take Me Now that will have you dying for the sequel. This book, however, does end with hope and a bit of closure. Still, the book’s ominous prologue makes me think Ivy and Eric’s struggles aren’t over yet… I guess I’ll just have to wait for the next book to find out!

Visited

Visited - Janine Caldwell Visited is a sweet, engaging, feel-good read that I really enjoyed. It has a Freaky Friday-type premise, where the main character finds herself in a strangely altered version of her life, and I always love those “what-if” types of books. I thought Janine Caldwell did a great job with the premise, and I raced through this book and finished with a huge smile on my face.At the beginning of Visited, main character and narrator Joanna is your typical angsty teen: she’s convinced that being tall makes her a “freak” among her classmates, she resents her new stepfather’s intrusion into her life and her mom’s pregnancy, and she secretly pines to becomes more-than-friends with her longtime best friend Tommy. Yes, Joanna initially comes off a little selfish and whiny, but that’s intentional and realistic, and I actually liked her right away. I identified with her insecurities about her appearance (although I’m definitely not tall!) and I appreciated that she’s not the typical YA heroine—her best friend has always been a guy, and she’s more interested in volleyball and sci-fi novels and TV shows than in, say, shopping.And then, of course, there’s the Freaky Friday-ish element: near the beginning of the book, Joanna falls off her roof and is rescued by a mysterious stranger who, she soon learns, comes from someplace other than Earth. Even more bizarre, though, is the way her life seems to have changed when she wakes up in the hospital after her accident: suddenly she’s short, and her relationships with her mother and best friend are very different. Things are finally the way she’s always wanted them…but of course there are new complications that she’s never considered. And then there’s the stranger, James, who’s suddenly enrolled in Joanna’s high school and inserted himself into her life…I was relieved that the situation with James and Joanna didn’t turn into the typical paranormal creature/teenage girl lovefest, and Joanna’s friendship/romance with Tommy didn’t take the clichéd route either. But what I enjoyed most of all was the way Joanna’s changed life gave her new insight and compassion for her mother’s situation. When Joanna felt true empathy for her mother, we could really see her growing up. I also liked Joanna’s relationship with James, although I wish we’d gotten to know her and see them interact a little more. Finally, I loved the evocative desert setting and the author’s smooth, easy writing style that drew me right into the story. Visited does have a bit of a religious message at the end which I wasn’t expecting—although looking back at the blurb, I probably should have. I’m not religious and it didn’t bother me at all, I just thought it was an enjoyable, sweet read. But it is something you might want to be aware of before reading. Overall, I loved Joanna’s story and I’m eager to read more from this author!
Never Let You Fall - Michele G.  Miller I’ll admit I was initially attracted to Never Let You Fall by the gorgeous cover. I read the blurb (which is, in a good way, rather vague) quickly, just enough to know the book had some sort of paranormal/fantasy element. I actually think it improved my experience to know as little as possible going into the book, and I’m so glad I read it, because…I loved it!I really don’t what to say too much in this review because, as I said above, I think readers will enjoy the book even more if you don’t know too much going into it. I will say that Never Let You Fall was an escapist read for me, in the best way possible. It swept me away into a larger-than-life story and romance. I loved both main characters, even though Xander was at times almost too perfect to believe, and I felt for both of them dealing with difficult childhoods and the loss of their families and, for so many years, the loss of each other as well. I also found the secondary characters interesting, and I appreciated the way the author continued to develop them throughout the story, leaving me questioning their motives and eager to learn more.Another thing I really, really liked was the way this novel melded the contemporary and fantasy genres. While I like fantasy, I often have trouble staying interested in traditional fantasy novels. I’m not sure exactly why, but I think it has something to do with the combination of the quasi-historical settings and complex world-building. As much as I want to like it, I find it hard to stay fully involved while reading. Never Let You Fall got around those issues by beginning in a contemporary setting and focusing on characters who’ve grown up in our world, even when they transition to more of a fantasy environment. This made the book much more accessible and enjoyable for me, as did the fact that the world-building, while interesting, wasn’t overly complicated. And I loved the parts of the world-building that were reminiscent of traditional fantasy, and even of fairy tales.While Never Let You Fall doesn’t end with what I’d call a cliffhanger, it definitely leaves a lot of possibilities open for a sequel. And I’m definitely looking forward to reading it!
Jenny's Blue Velvet - A.C. Davis Mindf***. Sorry to be crass, but that is really the best way to describe Jenny’s Blue Velvet, and if you love dark, twisty reads, you need to check this one out! It is, however, a very hard book to review for two reasons: one, I don’t want to spoil anything, and two, this story is novella length, and I’d really like to know if it will continue. I do like stories that leave you with a sense of mystery, but in this case I still had so many questions, and I’m hoping these characters’ stories aren’t over yet. I do see the author has future novellas planned, including one whose title character appears in Jenny’s Blue Velvet, so I hope this isn’t the last we’ll hear of Jenny and Cassandra.Jenny’s Blue Velvet begins as two separate stories: one is the first-person account of Jenny, a seemingly average woman who’s dissatisfied with her job and life in general. The second is the slightly gothic, eerie story of Cassandra, the heroine in the romance novel Jenny is writing. But little things about Jenny’s life seem progressively stranger, and also seem to coincide oddly with events in her novel-in-progress…I was drawn in by the strangeness of the story right away, and especially once the excerpts from Jenny’s novel-in-progress were introduced, I was fully invested in reading and figuring out what the heck was really going on. I particularly enjoyed the eerie atmosphere of the Cassandra sections, and the way this weird, unsettling atmosphere gradually encroached further into Jenny’s everyday life. The author definitely has a talent for creepy, evocative writing!Both Jenny and Cassandra are rather flawed characters, which I liked, since it enhances the dark mood of the book and makes the story more realistic and believable. At the same time, I think it was mostly this aspect of the book that kept me engaged in the story on more of a plot-based rather than an emotional level. I didn’t mind this at all, since the plot was so interesting and the story moved quickly, but by the last 15% or so I did begin to get emotionally involved. I want more of a chance to connect with these characters, so this is why I’m really hoping the story will continue in subsequent novellas!Overall, Jenny’s Blue Velvet is a quick but twisted read perfect for lovers of dark, psychologically intense stories. I will definitely be checking out the other novellas the author has planned!

Two Roads

Two Roads - L.M. Augustine After reading both of L.M. Augustine’s novels, I’ve decided we need a new word to describe his writing, something that encapsulates the way he mixes a very light, funny style with dark and serious subject matter. “Adoragic,” maybe? Or “tragidorable”? Either way, I really enjoy L.M. Augustine’s writing, and I really enjoyed Two Roads.At the beginning of Two Roads, our narrator Cali is snarky, bitter, and probably a bit unlikable to most, although I have to admit I liked Cali right away. I often relate to the “unlikable” protagonists and tend to write them myself, too; I appreciate characters who are flawed and who don’t always see the world through rose-colored glasses. There was one thing about Cali I really did not like (and I wasn’t supposed to), and that was the way she viewed her “friends” at college. I very much appreciated the way the author resolved this issue by the end of the book, so I’ll just say that if it bothers you, keep reading!The plot and romance of this book revolve around Cali’s relationship with the guy she loves to hate, Logan Waters, who’s transferred to Cali’s college and even lives in the same building as her. Their interactions provide much of the humor in the book, from the outrageous pranks they play on each other to their text message-insult battles. At the same time, Logan and Cali’s relationship is also at the root of the novel’s more serious elements: Cali and Logan are connected by their grief over the suicide of Ben, Cali’s brother and Logan’s best friend, four years earlier. Suicide is a very personal topic for me and can be hard for me to read about, and I thought the author dealt with the topic with sensitivity and realism. He really captured the frustration of not understanding why someone you loved made the choice they did, and the almost desperate need to find someone to blame and a reason behind what happened.I also have to say I loved the emphasis on poetry and poetry blogs in the book. The poetry and poetic references were integrated into the plot very well, and it made the story even more fun to read. So yes, Two Roads is dark and emotional, but it’s fun and hopeful too—like I said, “adoragic”!
Precious Things - Stephanie Parent My favorite words in Precious Things:DedicationTo all the amazing book bloggers, indie authors, and readers who have made this possible.