A Court of Wings and Ruin

by Sarah J Maas
Rating: 
(4.53 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published May 2, 2017, by Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / YA

Format: Hardcover

Page Count: 705

A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3)If he was the sweet, terrifying darkness, I was the glittering light that only his shadows could make clear.

If you’re not familiar with this fantasy series already, quick sum-up: Feyre was kidnapped from the human world and forced to live among the faeries in Prythian. These aren’t Tinkerbell fairies, no. These are otherworldly creatures with varied characteristics and deadly powers.
Feyre suffers a lot (that’s a bit of an understatement), there are a few love triangles, she meets some nice faeries, and then she meets some not-so-nice faeries.  And in an extreme effort not to spoil the series for you, I’ll just say that several relationships become more than a little strained in Prythian, and Feyre has a lot to do with it!

This series was not one that I initially set out to read. As you’ve read from me before, fantasy isn’t my usual go-to genre (although I have read more of it recently than in times past). YA also isn’t my usual go-to genre, so I can honestly say that I got influenced to read this series based on fan enthusiasm alone. And, overall, I haven’t been disappointed. I gave high marks to both Book 1: A Court of Thorns and Roses, and Book 2: A Court of Mist and Fury. However, sadly, my fan-love couldn’t push me to give this particular book in the series higher than 3 stars.

It was war.

I don’t really enjoy reading about war, and this book is filled with it – rumors of war, preparations for war, strategies of war, outright war, individual battles,  casualties of war, and the aftermath of war. Is there gonna be a fight? Are we gonna have to fight? Who is gonna fight with us? Who’s gonna fight against us? Are we gonna win? On and on and on. Because of that, there were some chapters that I found tedious and repetitive.

Remember that you are a wolf. And you cannot be caged.

Here is where I make a confession: In movies where there is a battle scene, I often fast-forward until it’s over. Yes, I know, I know. It’s sacrilege. But I get it. Two sides disagree, they battle, it’s gory, there are some heroes, there are some cowards, one side wins, everyone loses some people. Done. See? I don’t have to see all the guts to get the point.

Only, with a book, I can’t fast-forward. I can’t skip pages. I can’t leave it unread. I know some people are able to do that and be okay with it, but – even with a bad book – I force myself to suffer through it all. So I did. Every battle, every slash of every sword, every clang of ash arrows against every strong shield, and every heart-wrenching injury to characters I’ve come to know and care about over about 1,750 pages now.

So, battle lines are drawn in Prythian and, if I’m being honest, the motive isn’t really clear. Apparently, the residents of neighboring island Hybern (with King Hybern as their lead – yes, confusing) don’t want to be confined to their lands anymore and they want to be able to take humans as slaves again. Yet, when they begin the war, they invade the human territories and just kill everyone. Uh, question? And then their interests are torn because they also want revenge against Feyre for surviving being Under the Mountain and ruining Amarantha’s plans (Book 1). So Hybern is fighting on several fronts, battling several individual Courts, AND the humans, and none of it seems very advantageous or sane.

But it’s war.

But I can say that in 705 pages, LOTS of stuff happens in this book. New allegiances are formed – on both the good side and the bad. Many new characters are introduced, some of whom I have been eager to meet since Book 1. And, of course, Sarah J. Maas does not skimp on the detailed faerie love scenes. Intense. Everyone’s beautiful/handsome, everyone is deadly, and everyone, EVERYONE, has an ego.

Several strings that I thought were going to be tied up were still left dangling in the wind and one of them, in particular, became a little more frayed as it just hangs there (What’s going to happen with Azriel and Mor in light of everything now?) Ugh, so frustrating.

You’ve read my gripes about war and about the dangling threads, but don’t let that make you think that this is a bad book. Sure, it was slower than the others, but still packed with the action and risky adventures that this series is known for. I enjoyed it, just not as much as the others. AND, I’m still looking forward to the novella A Court of Frost and Starlight (Book 3.1) that gets release May 1st, another short novella (Book 3.2), and Books 4, 5, and 6 after that!

Get it here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-million | IndieBound | iBookstore | Kobo | Waterstones | Amazon UK | Book Depository


About the Author

Sarah J. MaasWebsite

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Sarah J. Maas is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series, as well as the A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Sarah lives in Bucks County, PA, and over the years, she has developed an unhealthy appreciation for Disney movies and bad pop music. She adores fairy tales and ballet, drinks too much tea, and watches an ungodly amount of TV. When she’s not busy writing, she can be found exploring the historic and beautiful Pennsylvania countryside with her husband and canine companion.

(Bio courtesy of Goodreads)


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The Hazel Wood

by Melissa Albert
Rating: 
(3.77 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published January 30, 2018, by Flatiron Books

Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / YA

Format: Hardcover

Page Count: 368

The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood, #1)Look until the leaves turn red…

“Once upon a time…” It’s how so many fairy tales start. Then you go on to read about princesses and castles, dragons and unicorns, true love and happily-ever-afters. Those are the stories that taught me to believe in magic, in good triumphing over evil, and in happy endings.

It wasn’t until later that I learned about evil that seeps into the world outside of the pages of those fairy tale books. Evil that can’t be contained by a chivalrous knight or by a magic spell. Unexplainable things that occur even when you’re not reading, so you can’t just close the book and put it back on the shelf to make the monsters stop scaring you or make the bad things freeze in their tracks.

So what can you do when fairy tale evil follows you into the real world? Apparently, if you’re Alice Proserpine and her mother, Ella, you run.

Sew the worlds up with thread…

That’s what they had been doing all of Alice’s seventeen years – running from state to state, city to city, new life to new life. Though Alice thought they were just moving around to find a place where they fit; a place where their string of “bad luck” wouldn’t continue to follow them. Maybe finally moving to the place she’d longed to be for as long as she could remember: The Hazel Wood. Her grandmother was there – renowned fairy tale writer, Althea Proserpine, and Alice knew one day she’d meet this enigmatic woman who’d written a book that had made her famous (infamous?).

It wasn’t until Ella is abducted that Alice begins to see her world as it really is, and she realizes that she’ll have to leave everything she knows behind in order to retrieve Ella from a place where normal rules don’t apply. Accompanied by Ellery Finch, Althea Proserpine super fan and Alice’s only friend from school, she sets out to find the Hazel Wood, her mother, and, hopefully, all the answers to questions that she’s held close for so many years.

If your journey’s left undone…

I’ll pause here and say that I HATE unexpected spoilers. I love to let the story unfold on its own and be naturally either surprised or disappointed at the outcome. That’s why often my reviews contain very little of the story plot. I know that may be frustrating to some readers, but if you really want to know the plot of a story, you can find that anywhere. And, for this story in particular, I think it’s important for readers to not be exposed to too much of the plot beforehand. Giving it away removes some of the shrouded mystery of the book – and isn’t shrouded mystery what fantasy readers love about their books?

To review it though, I will share a story – a real-life story – that happened to me on a MARTA train (Metro Atlanta “subway” system) when I was a teenager. It happened like this:

When I was in high school, my friends and I took the MARTA train in order to get to school. It made us feel independent and mature knowing that our parents trusted us enough to get to school on our own every day. There were the usual cast of characters: The Reggae Man, who played Reggae music cranked up to its highest level on his Walkman so everyone on the train could hear it; The Toothless Woman, who went from one end of the car to the other asking for change while holding out a battered Styrofoam cup; The Business Man, who tried to ignore us all by burying his face in a newspaper as if he was better than everyone even though we were all taking the same train every day. We would often see the same people day after day. The cast became familiar. Regular.

Then one day, a large man entered the train car. A stranger. He was dressed in white from head to toe, almost like a chef. He even had a slouchy white hat cocked awkwardly on his head. You see all types of people on the train, so normally nothing about this man would have made any difference to my day at all. But there was something abnormal about this man. He was smiling. Not just a normal “Have a nice day!” smile either. A huge, gum-showing, 32-to-the-front, lips peeled back kind of smile. And he didn’t stop smiling that entire train ride. It was eerie. I knew I was being rude by staring, but it was like a creepy magnet that kept pulling me back. My friends were crying as they tried to suppress their nervous laughter (as we were sitting right across from this man). He seemed to be staring into nothingness. Just smiling and staring.

My mind was all logic, “There’s something special about him. You shouldn’t laugh. Just find another focus. Stop looking at him.” But it was like I was locked in and I couldn’t have looked away even if I wanted to. And the smile became more of a grimace and instead of a happy chef, he began to look more like a crazed assassin. (Note: Please don’t let my adolescent notions make you believe that I am insensitive to neurodiverse people or those who have unique physical features. Usually, I would never have behaved like I did that day, which is why it was such an odd experience).

After a few stops, the man got up and exited the train. When we started moving again, the volume of everyone, everything on the train (people talking, music, babies, etc.) seemed to be immediately louder. I realized that while he had been on with us, our train car had been almost deadly silent; as if everyone was holding their breath. And it wasn’t until he exited that we felt that life could continue as normal.

That’s kind of how I felt while reading this book: brain-warped.

Fear the rising of the sun

Melissa Albert tells a fairy tale about a fairy tale and once you’re in it, you can’t breathe again until that door is closed again. Although it has a rather slow start (things really don’t start to pick up until you’re more than halfway through the book), those who love weird goings-on and those who can imagine walking through their dreams will appreciate this trek through the Hazel Wood and its cast of dream-state characters.

I’ve seen some not-so-favorable reviews of this book from people who weren’t impressed with the story and the slow development of the plot. I can see where they are coming from. But I can also be appreciative that Albert has not given us a microwave story that is reminiscent of many other YA fantasy stories out there now – even though it does indeed contain princesses and castles.

This is absolutely a story that stands on its own – in all its individually abnormal glory. And if you can’t give a debut novel five stars for being a favorite, you can (or I can) at least give it four stars for definitely being original.

Get it here: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Half Price Books



About the Author

Melissa AlbertTwitter

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Melissa Albert is the founding editor of the Barnes & Noble Teen Blog and the managing editor of BN.com. She has written for McSweeney’sTime Out Chicago, MTV, and more. Melissa is from Illinois and lives in Brooklyn, New York. The Hazel Wood is her first novel. Her second book, a sequel to The Hazel Wood is as yet unnamed and is expected to be released in 2019. There is also a Hazel Wood 2.5 in the works, Tales from the Hinterland, that is anticipated for 2020.

(Bio adapted from Macmillan Publishers)


 

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Children of Blood and Bone

by Tomi Adeyemi
SmellRating5
(4.49 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published March 6, 2018, by Henry Holt and Company (Macmillan Pub. Grp, LLC)

Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / YA

Format: Hardcover

Page Count: 525

#ChildrenOfBloodAndBone


Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, #1)We are all children of blood and bone. All instruments of vengeance and virtue.

To say that I am enamored with everything this book has to offer would be a gross understatement. It easily earned every one of the five stars I willingly granted it. I was only disappointed that, by the “laws” that govern book rating, I couldn’t give it more. From the stunning cover (kudos Rich Deas!) to the heartfelt acknowledgments this book drew me in and refused to release me – even after the all-too-brief epilogue.

Tomi Adeyemi has birthed a world that instantly lives and breathes with some of the richest characters that have graced the fantasy genre. Orïsha is a land inhabited by the virtuous and the vengeful – each side holding their collective breath, awaiting a battle that will decide the fate of the kingdom and of magic itself.

Zélie Adebola did not ask for the battle to come to her. She only desired peace and for her family to be whole again – a fruitless hope since her maji mother had been slain by the king’s guard years ago. That’s when the magic disappeared and left Orïsha as hollow as her own heart. Since then, Zélie has seen people like herself persecuted, chained, beaten, and forced into the shadows of society – all at the hands of King Saran.

But when Zélie enters the capital city to trade a fish in order to pay her family’s taxes, her life is inexplicably and irrevocably changed forever. The events that follow will require more strength than she ever imagined she possessed, not only to attempt to bring magic back to her world but also to survive.

Her spirit swells through me like lightning breaking through a thunder cloud. It’s more than the feeling of breathing. It’s the very essence of life.

This is a story about a hope and determination that refuses to be quenched even in the face of extreme force and seemingly insurmountable odds. It’s a saga about learning who you are and opening yourself to trust others through life’s journey. It’s about recognizing that inner strength that is the essence of your very being and not allowing it to be suffocated by life’s circumstances.

Further, this is a story that is, in fact, a fantasy; however, its underlying topics echo real-world struggles of inequality, bigotry, and the overwhelming, invasive poison of corrupt government leaders. So, although this is a work of fiction, its themes are instantly recognizable and relatable to parallel current societal issues.

It doesn’t matter how strong I get, how much power my magic wields. They will always hate me in this world.

I recommend this book to fantasy lovers who appreciate an epic saga that is action-packed from the very first chapter. Fans of A Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings who love being able to follow the action along on maps included with the books will not be disappointed here. There are also descriptions of all the maji clans, their powers, and their deities (10 in all). All that is important because you’ll need it not just for this book, but also for… wait for it…

THE NEXT TWO BOOKS – because Children of Blood and Bone is only book #1 in the Legacy of Orïsha trilogy! And that’s not all. Fox is already adapting book 1 into a film!!! If I’m being honest, I hope they do a REALLY good job, because it will be hard to beat the images that played through my head as I read this.

…today I crave it. I’ve been practicing and I’m ready. I know I can win.

Twenty-three-year-old Tomi Adeyemi has written a book that I will not loan out. That’s big for me.  (Have you seen that cover? I’m taking NO chances with that beauty). She has also helped to renew my love for the fantasy genre again (I can thank Sarah J. Maas for that too). But it’s more than that too: This is The Black Panther meets The X-Men; It is Roots meets Indiana Jone;. It is Rosewood meets Harry Potter.

It is all those things and more. It is its own stand-out story of desperation, doubt, hope, and triumph in the face of debilitating hatred and destruction. It is its own story of failure, tainted victories, and questionable truces. It is like so many things, and yet like nothing else I’ve ever read before.

I have to say thanks to my Bookstagram community for hyping this book and inspiring me to read it. It’s one of the few impulse purchases that turned out to be totally worth it.

Get it here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Half Price Books


About the Author

Tomi AdeyemiWebsite

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Tomi Adeyemi is a Nigerian-American writer and creative writing coach based in San Diego, California. Her debut novel, CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE, was released March 6th, 2018 and the movie is currently in development at Fox with the producers of Twilight and The Maze Runner attached. After graduating Harvard University with an honors degree in English literature, she received a fellowship that allowed her to study West African mythology and culture in Salvador, Brazil. When she’s not working on her novels or watching Scandal, she can be found blogging and teaching creative writing to her 3,500 subscribers at tomiadeyemi.com. Her website has been named one of the 101 best websites for writers by Writer’s Digest.


 

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A Court of Thorns and Roses

by Sarah J. Maas
Rating: 
( 4.28 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published May 5, 2015, by Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Genre: Fiction / YA Fantasy / Romance

Format: Trade Paperback

Page Count: 448

thorns and rosesAll I had wanted — all I had dared want, was a life that was quiet, easy. Nothing more than that. Nothing extraordinary. But now… now…

Feyre Archeron is the sole provider for her household. Her father is crippled and her sisters are lazy and still clinging to ideals from their former lives as wealthy members of their society. But things have changed. Enough so that Feyre finds herself hunting in the woods in holey boots to bring home enough meat to keep her family alive. That’s when it happens. A dangerous predator. A well-aimed arrow. And now Feyre’s life has been irrevocably changed.

There are those who seek me a lifetime but never we meet, And those I kiss but who trample me beneath ungrateful feet.

ACOTAR – as it is commonly called – is a young adult (YA) fantasy book that, at first, was completely off of my radar. Primarily because YA isn’t my usual genre of choice, and also because (outside of A Game of Thrones) I haven’t read a whole lot of fantasy. Movies, yes. Books, no.

But despite that, I ran into a trade paperback version of this book in my local Goodwill store and decided to give it a try. I don’t regret that decision one bit.

At times I seem to favor the clever and the fair, But I bless all those who are brave enough to dare.

What initially pulled me in is that the book doesn’t immediately start off with people with pointy ears and tails. It begins as more-or-less a survival story. Feyre and her family have fallen on hard times and it’s up to her to not only protect them but to feed them and clothe them as well. She’s a young woman (late teens), so taking care of three other (mostly capable, but lazy) adults is a formidable task. But she does it. And she does it well.

I love a book with a strong female lead. I’m not the world’s best feminist by any means, but strong female characters make me feel like I could survive if I got dropped on a deserted island. Maybe.

Feyre is fierce and formidable. Even though she’s “only human” she is relentlessly brave.
However, even though Feyre is cunning and strong, as the story progresses and she enters the world of the faeries, we see that she sometimes makes unwise decisions. I always appreciate when an author is confident enough to make strong MCs fallible.
It’s her ability to survive those errors in judgment – sometimes not without help – that make the story compelling.

At times I seem to favor the clever and the fair, But I bless all those who are brave enough to dare.

Sarah J. Maas has dropped us into a world filled with beautiful flora, handsome men, and deadly enemies. And I loved it all.

A skilled writer, SJM’s buildup is slow and steady. Nothing is rushed, and that gives us time to get to know the characters, their motivations, and the complex world in which they exist. She writes so that we are constantly able to the see the world she has built as it surrounds us in the story. We’re never plopped into scenery that we have no basis of reference for.

Details are key in fantasy, and ACOTAR melds them perfectly into the story without it ever feeling like drudgery to read them.

By large, my ministrations are soft-handed and sweet, But scorned, I become a difficult beast to defeat.

You may have noticed that I’m not talking about the plot much. I know. That’s on purpose. The plot unfolded in a way that made me glad that I hadn’t previously read a lot of reviews and spoilers for it even though this book isn’t exactly new. I think readers who aren’t sure about exploring this world should definitely do it, but shouldn’t be spoiled on the nuances of it that ultimately pull you in.

For though each of my strikes lands a powerful blow, When I kill, I do it slow… 

I would recommend this book quickly and easily to lovers of YA fiction who love a good complicated romance along with their fantasy. I am not a young adult (anymore), but I still enjoyed the story, the skilled writing, the characters, and the promise of future adventure that will also appeal to series-lovers like myself.

I would also recommend it to those who appreciate a good bad-a$$ villain!

Get it here: Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Half Price Books


About the Author

Sarah J. MaasWebsite

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Sarah J. Maas is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series, as well as the A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Sarah lives in Bucks County, PA, and over the years, she has developed an unhealthy appreciation for Disney movies and bad pop music. She adores fairy tales and ballet, drinks too much tea, and watches an ungodly amount of TV. When she’s not busy writing, she can be found exploring the historic and beautiful Pennsylvania countryside with her husband and canine companion.

(Bio courtesy of Goodreads)


 

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Year One: Chronicles of the One

by Nora Roberts
Rating: Gold-star-star-no-background-clipartGold-star-star-no-background-clipartGold-star-star-no-background-clipart.5
(4.19 stars – Goodreads rating)

Chronicles of the One series, #1

Published December 5, 2017, by St. Martin’s Press

Genre: Fiction – Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Page Count: 419


year oneAnd some like us couldn’t handle what turned on inside them. They’ve gone mad, like she has. Immune to the virus, doomed anyway. That’s the reality…

The Apocalypse. The complete and final destruction of the world. Why are we so fascinated with it? Maybe we all have to admit to just a bit of doomsday thrill at our core. And after living here for a while, we may just imagine what it would be like to have a planetary “clean slate”.

Remember all those movies that sprung up at the turn of this century – apocalyptic and dystopian? The Day After Tomorrow, The Core, Contagion, I Am Legend, The Road, Armageddon. The end of the world was always upon us (usually originating somewhere around New York – go figure) and we flocked to see how bad that ending would be  — from the comfort of our reclining movie theatre chairs, of course. The same has also been true for fiction lovers. Remember Stephen King’s The Stand? Yep, we love the destruction and gore.

I guess even our romance-writing, relationship-loving, happy-ending-addicted favorite author Nora Roberts isn’t immune to the pull of the story of good pandemic plague. This is a story of survivors in the midst of incalculable death, heroes in the midst of innumerable bad guys, and overwhelming light in the midst of very dark days. And it has faeries!

It fights, it seethes, it snarls, and its creatures scream for blood. It will have blood, both good and ill. But it will never win. Now salt to smother what evil sought to free.

For me to have been so excited to read this fantasy book by Nora Roberts – one of my most-read authors – it pains me to only give it 3.5 stars. It wasn’t bad, but then again, it ultimately wasn’t that good either.

Want to know what this book was? Quick summary: Contagion meets the X-Men meets Little House on the Prairie.

Let me start off with what I liked: The Doom. Even the name gives it the weight it deserves. A biological plague on the land that decimates the human population and forces those that remain into survivor mode. Yes, I’m here for all of that! It passes from person to person quickly and without prejudice. There is no vaccine, no cure, and no escape. It is quick, it is dirty, and it is messy. Any pandemic that can eradicate more than 80% of the planet’s population in less than a year gets my full respect.

Add in the fantasy element: Faeries, witches, warlocks, shapeshifters, and, yes, magick! that all rise like phoenixes from the ashes of society, and you’ve got a recipe for a truly captivating and action-filled fantasy novel. You’d think.  But it didn’t quite turn out that way.

Now on to what I thought was lacking: There wasn’t ENOUGH action.  Sure, in every story the tide of action ebbs and flows. It just seems like there was a little too much ebbing; hence the Little House on the Prairie reference. The survivors set up communities and we learn all about their attempts at husbandry, lawmaking, breadmaking, and baby-burping. Spare me the details. I know these are very important babies; babies that may end up having a hand in saving the world, but dang they eat a lot!

And the grammar police in me wants to mention that the stilted dialogue that appears at some points was jarring. Unfinished sentences were peppered throughout the book and in several instances, it was entirely unclear who the speaker was. That seemed out of character for Roberts.

I wanted more action! The “busy” parts of the book were well written. I felt the danger, the fear, the distress, and the determination. But the parts in between were disappointingly bland and mundane. I know this is a trilogy and that creating a world – even a fiction one – takes some plot-building, but do I really have to know about every time Lana cooks a meal or someone plants some rosemary?

And can we know more about the bad guys? There are so many of them (maybe too many?), but I wanted to know more about the Raiders. Who are they? How did they form so quickly? It’s never mentioned if they are Uncanny or human. Are they motivated just to raid and nothing else? And the dark Uncanny — who are the ones that aren’t in human form? Where did they come from?

Plus, I wanted more of a pull into the next book. At this point, I almost feel like I could walk away from the series and be alright. That’s not what a fantasy series – or any series for that matter – is supposed to make you feel. Truth is, there are so many characters and so many storylines, it was difficult to feel attached to any one character or set of circumstances. Not to mention that at certain times, Roberts takes a few pages from George R. R. Martin’s books and… let’s just say, don’t get too attached to anyone.

I enjoy apocalyptic, dystopian novels. They help me appreciate the relatively calm and generally peaceful world I live in every day. Plus, they remind me to keep my go-bag packed full of new batteries and protein bars. Nora Roberts has put her pen (keyboard?) to the fantasy genre and though it wasn’t all that I expected, it wasn’t a complete disappointment. And what better way to start off a new year than to read about a pandemic plague that almost ends life as we know it?

3.5 stars: This book was alright. It had parts that were really well-written, but, unfortunately, there are things about it that might keep me from recommending it to all.

Get it here: Amazon ; Barnes and Noble ; Book Depository ; Half Price Books

About the Author 

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Born into a family of readers, Nora had never known a time that she wasn’t reading or making up stories. During the now-famous blizzard, she pulled out a pencil and notebook and began to write down one of those stories. It was there that a career was born. Several manuscripts and rejections later, her first book, Irish Thoroughbred, was published by Silhouette in 1981.