My Name is Venus Black by Heather Lloyd

Book Review

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My Name is Venus Black
By Heather Lloyd
Release Date: 2/27/18
Publisher: Dial Press
ISBN: 9780399592188
Pages: 368
Genre: YA Fiction



I think about this a lot lately, trying to figure out how I got here. I trace my life back in time, looking for all those places in the past where, if I could change one key detail, I would never have seen what I saw or done what I did that terrible February night. 

Venus Black is a straitlaced, straight-A student obsessed with the phenomena of astronomy—until the night she commits a shocking crime that tears her family apart and ignites a media firestorm. Venus refuses to talk about what happened or why, except to blame her mother. Adding to the mystery, Venus’s developmentally challenged younger brother, Leo, suddenly goes missing.

Five years later, Venus emerges from prison with a suitcase of used clothes, a fake identity, and a determination to escape her painful past. Estranged from her mother, and with her brother still missing, she sets out to make a fresh start, skittish and alone. But as new people enter her orbit—including a romantic interest and a young girl who seems like a mirror image of her former lost self—old wounds resurface, and Venus realizes that she can’t find a future while she’s running from her past.

In this gripping story, debut novelist Heather Lloyd brilliantly captures ordinary lives upended by extraordinary circumstances. Told through a constellation of captivating voices, My Name Is Venus Black explores the fluidity of right and wrong, the meaning of love and family, and the nature of forgiveness.


My Name is Venus Black tells the unpleasant story of 13-year-old Venus Black who has been locked up for a terrible crime that makes national headlines and devastates her family. During her incarceration, Venus struggles with the events that have occurred, blaming her mother and refusing to speak of what has happened or maintain a relationship with her. Tragically, before her release, her younger brother Leo, who the story indicates is autistic, disappears. 5 years later, Venus finds herself thrust back into the real world attempting to scrape together any semblance of a life while coping with the fact that Leo has never returned, and she no longer knows where she belongs.

Told mainly from Venus’ perspective, this was a unique character study that explores what happens when individuals find themselves trapped in terrific circumstances. Venus has done something awful but initially we are not given full details of what has occurred. What is received is a young, angry and closed off teenager who offers little insight. Establishing a connection with Venus is a slow process, but also one that I found to be ultimately rewarding. The author removes those factors of influence and allows us to explore her as an individual before fully divulging what she has done and why.

This is a slower paced story that manages to successfully capture the tension and angst surrounding the characters and their suffering and loss. The plot unfolds through events involving both Venus and Leo. Clever manipulation of time line and revelations provide an experience that feels not only original but gratifying. Narration is clearly defined and fluid, facilitating a somewhat fast read even with the slower pacing. I did find certain moments harder to digest than others, as the topics addressed are heavy ones and possible triggers for some readers. So while I try to avoid spoilers please be aware that there are difficult elements and themes contained within.

Heather Lloyd manages to engage the reader on all emotional fronts while refraining from coaxing them in any specific direction. She simply provides a solid, incredible story and leaves us to our own devices. And it works brilliantly. My only minor complaint might be that the conclusion was the one instance of Venus’ story that felt slightly disconnected from reality, but I highly recommend this to fans of character driven titles with heavy emotional aspects!

*I would like to thank Dial Press & Netgalley for this copy. The review above is my own, unbiased & honest opinion.

Untitled designEnjoyed with a nice cup of Earl Grey & lavender tea.

Purchase Links: Book Depository

Happy Reading,

Danielle ❤

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Excerpt: Snow City by G. A. Kathryns


Excerpt & Spotlight (1).pngToday I am pleased to share an excerpt from the magical realism book by G.A. Kathryns, Snow City.

About Snow City

G. A. Kathryns is an award-winning author of novels and short stories. Her latest release SNOW CITY is a novel of hope and magical realism.

SNOW CITY is a dreamlike journey into the life of a woman who has given up on a dystopian reality and fabricated her idea of a perfect dream world. And then one day she wakes up in that fantasy world…

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Snow City
By G.A. Kathryns
Publisher: Sycamore Sky Books
Genre: Magical Realism



Her name is Echo Japonica, and she lives in Snow City. But she was not always Echo, and she did not always live in Snow City. Somewhere else, she was someone else, and it was to Snow City that she fled in order to escape a place and a self that had at last become intolerable.

For Snow City is a dream — Echo’s dream — of a better place, an idealized place, a place of both anonymity and fulfillment. It is, for Echo, a haven of peace, a refuge, a sanctuary.

But Snow City remains, nonetheless, a dream, and dreams, being such fragile things, can so easily shade into nightmare…

Purchase:  Amazon UK


Excerpt from Chapter 3

“Good evening,” I say. I do not have to see her. I know she is there. “My name is Echo Japonica.”

“H-hello…” comes the uncertain reply. “Have you been following me?”

“I have not. But I knew where you would be.”


“I saw you here on a previous occasion.” I do my best to keep my voice noncommittal. “You were standing in the rain in the daylight, and now you are standing in the rain in the night. It is not right that you be out alone in the dark and the wet. So I wonder…”

I risk a glance at her. Yes: in the rain and at night. But not a drop of water on her.

“…I wonder whether I might once again be so bold as to offer you the sharing of an umbrella.”

Her voice drifts out of the dim alley like a distant hand groping through miles of mist. “Why?”

“Because you are a child.”

The hot denial comes quickly. “I’m not a child!”

I nod, sighing. I should have expected it. “And I, for my part, find it difficult upon occasion to believe that I am an adult. But,
leaving aside the question of our respective ages: share an umbrella with me, I pray, and I will see you home directly.”

“I…I don’t…”

I sense — no, I know — what she is a about to say, and it frightens me. Has Snow City fallen so far? Frayed so terribly? Raveled so completely?

“…I…don’t have a home.”

Homeless, then? Horror follows horror. This should not — cannot — be happening here.

“I mean,” the girl goes on, her words spilling forth in fits and starts, “I’ve got a home, and I’ve got a family. But they don’t…they
don’t want me. They turned me out. They told me…they told me to go away and never come back.”

I stare at her. Well-spoken, polite…vulnerable, perhaps, but with an edge of determination, she seems so unlikely a candidate for abandonment that for the better part of a minute I can find no words with which to reply.

“What about friends?” I manage at last.

“They run away…now.”

Which explains the scene I witnessed the other day: the students’ uneasy expressions, the agonized guilt of the older sister.
I cannot let this happen. Unbidden, I step into the alley and, uninvited, shield the girl with my umbrella…which appears to be
entirely superfluous: there is not a speck of water on her save for the tears trickling down her cheeks.

Has nobody spoken to her like this before, asked these questions, offered the slightest shred of help, of comfort?

What is happening?

“Child,” I say, “regardless of your family, regardless of your friends” — We are face to face, almost touching. I have never allowed anyone else in Snow City such intimate proximity. I never dreamed that I would ever permit such a thing. — “you surely cannot be living on the street.”

Anger flares…accompanied by a kind of vague shame. “Stop calling me a child. My name is Charity. I’m sixteen years old and I’m not a child!” And then: “And in any case, I’m…

She looks away quickly.

“…I’m not living anywhere now. At least…not…not really living.”

I stare at her.

“There was an accident,” she says, the water falling all around and she dry in spite of it. “In January. A car. I was killed.” She
lifts those green eyes to me, and I see in them what I, concerned until now only with surface appearances and bare facts, did not see before: a window into unknown depths, into abysses of knowledge that lie beyond all dreams, all nightmares, all imaginings.

“I…” I stare, stupid and bewildered.

“Don’t you see?” she demands. “I’m dead. I’m a ghost.”

The tears take her then, and she begins to sob uncontrollably.

Author Bio

G.A. Kathryns grew up on the West Coast and later on moved to the drier and higher realms of the high plains. She currently makes her home in the Denver metro area where she shares the company of a spouse and two small dogs.

Along with SNOW CITY, she has written a Southern Gothic themed title, THE BORDERS OF LIFE (soon to be reissued in a revised, corrected, and updated version), several pedagogical works devoted to playing the harp, a number of short stories, and a collection of dark fiction.

Follow G.A. Kathryns: Website  Facebook

I would like to thank the author and Book Publicity Services for this opportunity and excerpt!

Happy Reading,

Danielle ❤

Connect With Me: FacebookTwitterTumblr and Instagram

REN: Reposed by Brittany Quagan

Book Review

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REN: Reposed
By Brittany Quagan
ISBN: 9780578201559
Pages: 256
Genre: YA Fiction



From foster kid to awkward teen, Ren Nagel has always wanted to be “normal.” But, that’s probably never going to happen. Ren is just a little more than human––she’s an Implement sent to Earth to save the world. She knows what she’s supposed to be doing, but for now, Ren is ignoring all the signs.

Bound by promises made a very long time ago, and with the help of her friends––some human, some not––Ren reluctantly sets out on an adventure that, if it doesn’t kill her, will change her life––and everyone else’s.

There are other Implements out there whose help she needs to keep humanity from destroying itself, but first she’s got to find them. And then, she’s got a few debts to pay with her old friend Karma …


This series! I am going to be slightly immature here and just openly admit that I completely fan-girl when it comes to Ren Nagel. I would call this a guilty pleasure, but truth be told, there is zero reason to feel guilty about enjoying this series.

I do not want to dissect or summarize the plot too heavily, as I prefer to avoid spoilers for anyone who has yet to read REN: Awakened. If interested, you can read my thoughts on it here. I will say that Reposed follows Ren after the events having occurred in Awakened lead her to seek a “normal” life. However, this simply is not in the cards. She has obligations. Ignoring them will come at a high cost that could spell an end to all of humanity.

Character development is obviously Brittany Quagan’s forte. She establishes a solid cast that continues to evolve effortlessly and feels not only genuine but familiar. Ren Nagel might be anything but the girl next door, yet I find myself comfortably returning to her like a life long friend.  There is a strong sense of connection and attachment one longs for in a protagonist. She is an Implement with incredible powers and tasked with the unimaginable, yet she is ever convincing. Her actions and emotions continually progress in a direction that offers persuasive and often relatable responses. Sharing in Ren’s victories and losses comes as second nature.

“Of all things I know, that’s the one thing I can tell you with every ounce if confidence. The world will benefit from knowing you.”

However, these feelings are not limited to Ren. With the welcomed return of previous characters (I absolutely love Al) and some fascinating new introductions, this was rewarding and highly character driven adventure that offered a refreshing perspective, challenging the reader to place their self within the shoes of individuals who literally carry the weight of the world on their shoulders.

Story-line progression met and exceeded expectations with incredible ease. This was a sequel that I knew I would appreciate, but I admit I was apprehensive when picking it up. I struggled to imagine how Ren’s story would continue while avoiding the usual clichés and tropes you typically encounter in YA fiction. My concerns were thankfully unwarranted. Brilliantly expanded with added elements that almost felt like a beautiful blend of fantasy and mythology (that is all I am divulging) took REN to new heights. The result was a refreshingly unexpected and original experience that I found to be fully captivating and engaging.

World building is aptly detailed and immersive, creating an environment that feels real even when fantastical, while avoiding the superfluous. I was thrilled to discover that Ren’s journey expands to new locations and found myself vying to explore these fascinating new areas and the additional level of complexity and depth the gave to Ren and her story.

Brittany Quagan’s writing is invigorating and inviting. Within a matter of minutes, it is easy to establish her personal connection with the story she is weaving. Intelligent and well-balanced blends of spiritual principles, psychic abilities and realism offer the reader a mystical and memorable experience that successfully explores humanity, responsibilities and consequences. This is one series I will never stop recommending as I feel that while it is incredibly entertaining it is equally significant. With each encounter, I find I learn a little more about myself.

*I would like to thank the author for my copy of REN: Reposed. The above review is my own, unbiased and honest opinion.

Untitled design Served with several cups of Oolong Ginger tea and a splash of honey.

Purchase Links:  Kobo  iBookstore


About the Author:

Brittany Quagan has spent most of her life daydreaming like the stereotypical Gemini she is. As an anxiety-riddled teen, her existence became nothing less than a burden, but she was determined to escape it––convinced there was more magic to be discovered within her story.

Today, Brittany owns a holistic healing, spiritual & intuitive development center where she helps others who suffer from anxiety disorders, those who believe in the unseen to tap into their intuitive powers, and help people to grow, find empowerment, and manifest like a boss. She is also a therapist.

When Brittany isn’t teaching, counseling or writing, you’ll find her traveling with family & friends, dying her hair every color of the rainbow, trying craft beers, and talking to the moon.

Follow Brittany Quagan: Website  Twitter  Facebook

Happy Reading,

Danielle ❤

Connect With Me: FacebookTwitterTumblr and Instagram