book review, New Book

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

The Hunger Games is a comfort read/watch for me. I really loved the apocalyptic setup author Suzanne Collins created. So when The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes came out, I snagged my copy right away.

Overall Rating: 4/6 Glass Slippers

Coriolanus Snow was born in the Capital of Panem to an old Capital family. He had the name and the prestigious penthouse to ensure all doors were open for him. But his parents are dead, leaving him and his elder cousin Tigress to care for their ailing grandmother and make sure no one knows how impoverished the once noble Snows have become.

As the 10th annual Hunger Games draw bear Coriolanus and his classmates are giving the chance to mentor a tribute. He’s given the girl from District 12, a slight against him, as it’s the poorest and weakest district. But his tribute Lucy Gray Baird is a born performer, and soon captures the heart of the capital.

While preparing for the games, Coriolanus and Lucy Gray find they have more in common than they knew, and soon they’re falling fast. From snake bites to escape plans, Coriolanus must decide if he should take of the mantle of the Capital or throw it all away in the search for love.

When I first heard about this book, I was skeptical. We know Coriolanus Snow as a villain, a sickly, evil poison or without a good bone in his body. Collins promised us a new look at the president, one that would make us think differently. I found myself reading, looking for fault in the unsure, charismatic boy who worked day and night to keep the snow family in line with the rest of the capitals elite. I was even rooting for him to come out on top, some thing I didn’t think I would do.

I was completely ready to adore this book, even though some parts were slower than I would’ve liked. But the ending made it difficult for me to love it. It was sharp and sudden, leaving so many unanswered questions that made me close the book with frustration. I know not every book is tied up in a neat bow at the end, but I have to say that I was truly disappointed.

One thing that didn’t disappoint, was the look at the formation of the capital, the way the districts interacted, and the lives of every day citizens. Before, we only knew what Katniss, an uneducated girl from District 12 knew. But Coriolanus was the son of a war hero, a scholar, someone who had an idea of how the larger world worked. Getting the extra locks into peace keepers and what led to the formation of the Hunger Games and beyond was really exciting.

Overall, I liked the book, but didn’t completely love it. Although, if Collins comes out with a new story set in Panam, I will be the first one in line to buy it.

New Book

A Good Man

I read author Rosanna Leo’s romance novel A Good Man, Handyman Book 1, when it first came out, but it’s been rereleased with some sizzling changes and a fabulous new cover.

He tears down walls for a living. She’ll tear down the ones around his heart.

Contractor Michael Zorn is one of the leading men on the successful home improvement show Handymen. He is also revered for an act of bravery he’d rather forget. The press may hound him, but all he really wants is to help couples realize their home renovation dreams.

One of these couples is Emily Daniels and her fiancé, Trent. When Emily inherits an old home in Toronto’s Little Italy, she sees it as the perfect location for her small business. The house needs a lot of work, but her appearance on the Handymen show means Michael and his contractor brothers will help her renovate at a reasonable cost.

When Michael and Emily meet, their chemistry is intense. Emily wants to stay true to Trent, but her fiancé has done nothing but disappoint her. Michael recognizes Trent for what he is—a cheater. And it isn’t long before he breaks Emily’s heart.

At first, Michael only intends to comfort Emily, but their friendship soon flares into passion. Unfortunately, Michael has secrets and wounds of his own, ones he has never trusted to another. Emily is determined to break down his walls, but can she trust her heart to a man who can’t trust himself?

Order your copy now HERE and see how one good man can make all the difference.

book review, history, New Book

The House on the Hill

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Irina Shapiro. From the first page, I know there will be heartbreak, betrayal, and a story that will twist through time. So today, I’d like to introduce you to The House on the Hill.

  • Genre: Historical Fiction and Contemporary and Historical Romance
  • Heat Level: ❤️❤️
  • Overall Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

In the modern day, Laura has recently been widowed, having lost her husband in Iraq. She leaves their apartment in the heart of Boston for a summer of healing in an old house on the shores of Cape Cod. She’s hoping to leave her ghosts behind and perhaps find new inspiration for a book. But a ghostly visitor shows her there’s something different about the Holland House.

In the 1700s, Sophie is on the cusp of adulthood, counting the days until she can marry Teddy, a boy she’s loved for years. Her book maker father has his sights set on a man with a title or some money, and forbids his only daughter from following her heart. When her hand is forced and she must make a decision to save herself, her life begins to unravel.

While Laura works to learn more about her ghostly visitor and sort out her feelings about the handsome vet she met in town, Sophie’s charmed world shatters. Both women are trapped in webs of lies and grief woven hundreds of years apart, but inexplicably tied.

Every time I read something by Shapiro, I’m instantly on edge. I know terrible things will happen, but I savor the slight feeling of apprehension. Wondering who will be the one to stab the man character in the back is something I’ve come to expect and thoroughly enjoy.

My historical specialty is European-based, so having American history tidbits was very welcome. I live on the East Coast and admittedly don’t know a lot about colonial life other than what’s taught in basic classes. I always like how Shapiro brings in facts to give her books a level of realism that inspires me to explore the themes more on my own.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it to all lovers of historical fiction and romantic suspense.

book review

After Anna

I love horror and thrillers. Something about zombies and midnight murders really pull me into stories. But nothing gets to me quite like books with realistic bases. Nothing’s scarier to me than what people can to do to each other. I recently read After Anna by Alex Lake and I have a lot to say.

  • Genre: Thriller
  • Overall Rating 6/6 Glass slippers

Julia’s life isn’t perfect. She and her husband are separating, her mother-in-law hates her, and her meetings at work often run late. The one shining spot is her five year old daughter Anna. But one day, another meeting runs late and she doesn’t get to the school in time to pick Anna up. When she arrives, the school is empty and Anna is gone.

A week later, Anna returns. Julia thinks the nightmare is over, but maybe it’s only just begun.

What follows is the harrowing reality for Julia that she has become part of an international news story, the kind she used to read with her morning coffee and think, that would never happen to me. I wouldn’t be so negligent. I wouldn’t make the same mistake as those parents. I would find my daughter.

I have a five year old daughter, so this book hit particularly close to home for me. It mirrored some of my own fears about raising a child in a world so large, it’s scarily easy to disappear. The author did a fantastic job of bringing those feelings to the page in an uncomfortable, winding way that made my skin crawl.

Another element that was particularly jarring was the glimpses into the kidnapper. They had a plan, they were too smart for police, they would never get caught. They were so sure that everything would go just as they hoped, failure was not an option. This little peeks into their thoughts were just enough to drive home how deranged this person was, and how meticulous they were.

Overall, I really enjoyed the chilling tale, even if it had predictable moments. They really caught the terror one small mistake can ultimately bring.

book review, New Book

The Fae King’s Curse

I’m back to chat about The Fae King’s Curse, the second book in the Between Dawn and Dusk series. If you remember, I actually read and reviewed Between Dawn and Dusk already and it got my fantasy romance seal of approval!

  • Genre: Fantasy Romance
  • Heat Level: ❤️❤️❤️❤️
  • Overall Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

The firstborn children of all Fae king are blind and can only regain their sight when they meets their fated mate, or soul mate. If they do much as kiss someone else, they will remain blind forever. Kirian, the prince of the Night Realm is no exception. Though he wishes he were as soon as he meets Quinn, a human girl who saves his life when he’s just a child.

Quinn is twelve when she meets Kirian, an odd boy she fishes out of the water. He promises to come back through the timed portal and see her the next day, but a day in the human world is a year for a Fae and she nearly doesn’t recognize him. This continues for years of daily meetings for her and centuries of yearly meetings for him until Quinn is eighteen.

Quinn’s loved him since childhood and fears one day he won’t appear in the woods near her house and he’ll be off with his true fated mate. Before she’s set to leave for college, she tells him she can’t meet him anymore. Loving him and knowing he will one day leave her forever kills her. Then, Kirian does the worst thing possible…he kisses her.

With one kiss, the pair is woven into a tapestry of curses, stardust, and fate.

This is what I was missing in Between Dawn and Dusk. I adore first meetings and Schlosser gave me a good one when a lavender eyed Fae prince and a small town girl in overalls met beside the river and felt sparks. The slow burn was perfect.

I love, love, loved this book and I’m not a huge fantasy romance fan, usually steering more towards the JRR Tolkien vein of elves and dwarves. But the way Quinn and Kirian’s relationship developed and the small quirks they each have had me swooning. I literally read it it one siting with a single break to make whipped coffee and turn on a light. It was funny and heartwarming, but steamy and dark all at the same time.

Congrats, Jamie Schlosser, you just created a fantasy romance fan.

book review, history

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Since beginning social distancing, I’ve been diving into my massive TBR list containing books that I’ve had waiting for months upon months. First up, The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris. It’s the memoir of Ludwig “Lali” Sokolov nee Eisenberg, called Lale in the book, and he was once the tattooer of Auschwitz.

  • Genre: Memoir
  • Overall Rating 5/6 Glass Slippers

In April of 1942, Lale arrived in Auschwitz-Berkinau. Due to his wit and talent for languages, he was soon made the tattooist’s apprentice, then the tattooist himself. He was put in the dangerous and prestigious position of tattooing the numbers on the arm of everyone who entered the camp. He had to be a cog in the Nazi machine, but was also able to help save a few lives.

His tattooing bag is a free pass through the camp, a sign of his status as an essential worker. He’s able to speak with guards, meet the workers from the nearby village who are building the crematoriums, and barter for food with goods slipped from the warehouse used to store and sort the stolen possessions of the prisoners. But Lale uses the most of his influence to keep someone special alive.

He first notices Gita’s dark eyes, and soon he’s smitten with the young woman in a way he can’t explain. He begs and steals, cutting deals to get her a job in the administration office where at least she’ll be warm in the long winter months. He trades hidden gems for chocolate with the village workers for her, and does everything in his power to make sure that when they’re free, they’ll have a future together. But first, they have to survive.

In college, I studied the Holocaust in depth, reading memoirs, taking classes, and taking advantage of my school’s Holocaust Resource Center where survivors would often come to speak. Overall, I found the memoir to be both heart wrenching, and a good lesson in humanizing what happened and how it changed the world. It’s easy to look at numbers in a text book and skim over the labels of Jew and Gypsy without really internalizing what those numbers truly mean. Lali wasn’t a number, nor were any of the other victims.

I wrote many papers on that part of history in my genocidal studies program, Auschwitz-Birkenau and Dr. Mengele in particular. I found some inconsistencies in how Morris portrayed Mengele and his experiments, fabricating some parts perhaps for shock value, although what he did was so terrible without the additional attractions, I didn’t see the reason for them. There were other inconsistencies highlighted by the Auschwitz Memorial Research Center, but I won’t go into because after all is said and done, this isn’t a history book, it’s a memoir based on the extraordinary life of one man.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and the story it told, even with the inaccuracies and simple phrasings. Memories, like memoirs, are tricky things, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget the story of Lali Sokolov.

New Book

Circle of Hurt

It’s release day for Lauren Campbell with her newest book, Circle of Hurt. A story of marriage, betrayal, and pain that reviewers are calling “completely engaging and just beautiful to read.”

For years, infertility followed me like a cloud.

But finally, the sun has risen.

Finally, I am pregnant.

Except now a new storm rages in the distance–one I have no choice but to pass through.

I have no idea if the child I’m carrying belongs to my husband … or to the man I’ve betrayed him with–a man I’ve come to love but whose name I don’t know.

What I do know is that I’m a cheat. A liar. Undeserving of this baby inside me.

I don’t know how this will end. But I do know it won’t be without casualties, because this is a story in which a true happy ending cannot exist.

A story of how my love for one grew into three but must end with only two.

Order your copy now wherever ebook are sold HERE

book review, history, review, television

The Bonfire of Destiny

Hello, everyone! It’s freezing here in New Jersey, which means it’s time to binge read and watch until I can go outside without 64 layers on. So between my usual book reviews, I’ll be sharing shows I think you should be watching. And if it’s based on true events, I’ll give you the real deal.

The first show? The Bonfire of Destiny.

Genre: Historical Drama

Where to Watch: Netflix

In 1897 Paris, the aristocracy has descended on an annual charity bazaar to see the moving picture show, shop with all their wealthy friends, and generally be seen. It’s just one of the many social functions for the French elite who have no idea, tragedy will strike.

Adrienne is the unhappy wife of a politician who mistreats her terribly. Although he has just sent their daughter away to boarding school to punish Adrienne, she must still make an appearance at the bazaar. As soon as she shows her face, she slips back outside and into a waiting carriage, safe from the impending flames. But she’s not free from danger.

Alice, Adrienne’s niece, is thrilled to go out on the town with her maid Rose, both to do some shopping and to see a man she’s had her eye on. Wide eyed and wealthy, she’s has a good heart and doesn’t expect one small fire to destroy everything. And as those around her being sifting through the rubble, she sees everything in a new light.

Rose the maid is gearing up to sail to a new life with her husband Jean. She’s fiercely dedicated to Alice, and even goes back into the building to se if she can save her mistress before the fire gets out of hand. She enters the bazaar a nobody, and like a Phoenix, rises from the ashes.

The mood is electric and stories are intertwined as a fire both destroys lives and gives the chance for new ones. As the show goes on, murder, intrigue, and secret affairs are revealed with death in the background.

Even if historical shows aren’t usually your deal, the soapy dramas and lovable, and hatable, characters pull you in. The voiceovers are immaculate, and every episode leaves you wondering when the other shoe will drop.


Onto the facts! Starting in 1885, the Catholic aristocracy of Paris held the annual charity bazaar. It was a chance for the wealthy women and their maids to socialize while giving back to a good cause. But in 1897, everything would literally come crashing down.

The bazaar that year was held in a wooden building, where the inside was transformed into a medieval Paris street with the use of wood, papier-mâché, canvas for a roof, and other various other flammable things. Scheduled to last for four days, it was expected to be a hit.

More than 1,500 people were in attendance on the second day of the bazaar. Even Americans and other Europeans came to see the sites. One of the most notable was Duchess Sophie, the sister of Empress Elisabeth of Austria. At around four thirty, the projector in the small cinema caught on fire. The fire burned hot and fast, rapidly engulfing the building in flames and setting the cloth ceiling alight.

There were several exits, but none of them were clearly marked, and some were hidden behind the decorations. Many ran for the main doors, which were soon clogged with people. There were men in attendance, who were faster and stronger than the women, who struggled to move quickly in their mass of skirts. There were reports of men pushing women and children out of the way to escape first.

This was before the idea of modern fire safety. There was a fire brigade, but no contemporary hydrants or way for them to really put out the flames. People escaped though some of the exits, though many of the doors opened inwards and jammed when frantic people pushed against them. Those outside broke out windows to help people climb to the streets. Most notably, the cook and manager of the Hotel du Palais broke bars off a window and saved over 150 women while also poring water down on the flaming bazaar from the hotel.

But the fire moved quickly and soon it became too risky to try to save anyone else. People, mostly women, were still trapped inside. Their skirts were flammable, many had been trampled, and the walls and ceiling were beginning to fall. The fireman continued to spray the building as those inside screamed until the only sound that was left was the crackle of fire.

In the end, 126 people were confirmed dead while around 200 were injured. Many were so badly burned, they could only be identified by their jewelry. Some dentists were even called on to identify their patients by their teeth, one of the first uses of dental records in the identification of a body.

The aristocracy, and the Parisians at large, we’re shocked and demanded both an explanation and justice. In the end, it was officially noted to be an accident. But the public still wanted someone to answer for the tragedy.

The President of the Charity Bazaar Committee Ange-Ferdinand-Armand, the Baron of Mackau was the first. His charge was negligence, as he didn’t hire enough staff or ensure the doors were clearly marked. Then came the cinema operator Victor Bailac and his assistant Gregoire Bagrachow. Apparently, the light for the projector went out and the cinema staff had to hurry to relight the small flame. But in their haste, a mistake was made as the match they used lit the ether gasses that surrounded them. Soon, the drapery caught fire and the damage was done.

In the end, all charged were set to pay fines, and Bailac and Bagrachow were sentenced to short prison terms. Items found in the bazaar’s rubble were auctioned off and the lessons learned from the tragedy resulted in better fire safety laws in France.


I hope you enjoyed this little look into The Bonfire of Destiny. Check back soon for similar posts on shows like Vikings, You, Daybreakers, Banished, and more.

New Book

The Power of Witches

Noa Rembrandt was found in a dumpster. 

Since then, she’s been wanting only one thing in life: to find a loving family to take her in or successfully age out of the foster system. She thought she’d found her family, until after her eighth birthday, her younger foster brother died under suspicious circumstances—circumstances Noa might have had a part in.

Now at sixteen and with no where else to go, Noa Rembrandt is sent to Gardenside County Home for Troubled Youth. With a countdown to her eighteenth birthday, Noa is determined to keep her head down and not cause any trouble.

Trouble instead finds her, in the form of her eccentric roommate and cute boy across the hall who both seem to know more about Noa’s background than she does.

Preorder The Power of Witches now HERE!


Shay Bencosme is a 22 Navy servicemember who writes and photographs in her spare time. She currently lives in North Carolina, USA with her husband, Josh, and their kitten, Lucy.

Shay has always had aspirations of being a writer and just decided to go for it one day, finishing her debut novel is less than 3 months. Since choosing self-publishing, she’s loved every step of her journey through the indie world.

book review

Twenties Girl

It’s the ’20s again, and for the first review of the year, I’d like to talk about Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella.

  • Genre: Romantic Comedy/Chick Lit
  • Heat Level: ❤️❤️
  • Overall Rating: 5/6 Glass Slippers

Lara is adrift in the world when she’s forced to go to her estranged Great Aunt Sadie’s funeral. She barely knew Sadie existed, as her father and rich, coffee baron uncle never really brought her up. But as Lara sits in the nearly empty funeral home, a slim, chic, upset young woman yells, “Where’s my necklace?”

Lara soon learns she’s the only one who can see Sadie’s ghost. Sadie appears as she did in the 1920’s, glamorous and blunt with a smart mouth and a missing dragonfly necklace, and she won’t rest until Lara finds her favorite jewelry. And no one is louder or pushier than Sadie.

She needs to save her failing business, reclaim the love of her ex boyfriend, and stop Sadie from using her shrill scream to persuade people to do her bidding…including having an American man go on a date with Lara so Sadie can live vicariously through her. From vintage shops and police stations to the London Portrait Gallery and backstage at a fashion show, Lara will do whatever it takes to help her new favorite aunt.

I’m a big Sophie Kinsella fan and always love the lighthearted stories she tells. I was skeptical of the paranormal aspect, as the only time I read ghost stories are when murder and horror are general themes. But Sadie is both a phantom and a real character with real feelings.

The romance in the story took a backseat to the relationship between Lara and Sadie. Their growing bond has highs and lows speckled with hilarious moments. I also enjoyed the small bits of flapper lifestyle like the makeup routine and how to do the Charleston dance.

Overall, Twenties Girl is a charming, witty take on chick lit and what it means to have a guardian angel.