REVIEW: Shattered Souls

Flames of Time 3: Shattered Souls
By: Erica Lucke Dean
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing
Publication Date: 5.18.2021
Genre: Romance, Time Travel, Paranormal
Pages: 247

Ava Flynn walked through flames to erase the past and bring her little brother, Josh, back from the dead. But the reboot doesn’t come without strings. While navigating her new reality, Ava must avoid Maddox… without fracturing the timeline. If she fails, she may never find Laith again.

With her own heart at stake, Ava scours time for the key to unraveling the curse binding her soul to both Laith’s and Maddox’s. One brother is the love of her life. And the other… Not even death will stop him from keeping them apart.

As Ava’s present collides with the brothers’ pasts, she discovers that breaking the curse might have unintended consequences. And this time, her soul isn’t the only one on the line.

If any of you have followed my reviews since before this blog became a house full of books, when it was just a gal in a blue mask, you’ll recognize Erica’s name and know that I have a love-hate relationship with her books. On one hand, I hate romance, with a passion, and am very vocal about it, but on the other hand, Erica is a fantastic sales person and can even manage to get this grouchy romance-hater to give her stuff a try. And even like it.

I want to add in a side note here before I continue on with the review of this book: I think the reason that I am drawn to her books is because the characters seem very real, even the characters that couldn’t possibly be real. Yeah, they may be beautiful or handsome, which is something that turns me off of romance books, but they are down-to-earth beautiful and down-to-earth handsome, with the clumsiness and awkwardness and stupidity and even not-so-great self esteem that could make them you or me. They are not perfect. They have family issues and have been hurt in the past. They make mistakes, and sometimes big mistakes. They need help. They come off as real people.

Shattered Souls is the third and final story in her Flames of Time series (you can find my reviews for 1 Splintered Souls and 2 Scattered Souls by following the links) and has been on my “much anticipated release” list for some time. (Note: There is not a “much anticipated release” list. I’m not one of those people who get super excited about the next book in a series or trilogy, counting down the days until release, but Erica leaves you wanting more, even when she ends a series.)

As with the other two, she had me wanting to throw my Kindle across the room, while she also had me glued to my seat because I couldn’t put it down, which is a glorious thing when you’re someone who has had a problem getting into any book for quite a while now. There were moments where I wanted to throttle Ava, where I liked Laith more than Maddox or Maddox more than Laith, and where I had a hard time trusting the people in her life, all with shocks and surprises around every corner. The time travel moments in all three stories, but especially this one, were very well done, leaving you on the edge of your seat hoping and praying that she would make it, which is an improvement considering I didn’t care for her in the first book. There was anger, tears, laughter, relief, heartbreak, and tension – all the things a good book should have – along with some unexpected moments that I’m still not over. The ending – oh my GAWD the ending! – thinking about it as much as I have since finishing this story, really, it is the perfect way to end it all, while also making me wish there was one more book. Just because I have questions. Especially since the book did not end anywhere close to the way I had thought the series would end all along.

The entire series did not disappoint. She had some fantastic side characters that I wish I had gotten to know better, so one can always hope she’ll use some of them in the next trilogy she writes. (One can always hope, right?) The setting was perfect, and became even more perfect as the series went on, as we realized more and more the importance of different aspects of where it all happened and where it all began. The bits of history she used throughout (for the story and the time travel) were very well researched (there were some little details that I went and looked up, just to see) and smoothly added to the story – they were literally hopping through time and she made it sound like the most realistic thing ever.

This series is definitely on my Top 20 of the Century list, and one that I may even sit down and read again. (Anyone who knows me and my reading habits well KNOWS that I am not someone who usually sits down and reads a book again, except for my yearly read of A Christmas Carol and my current read-through of the recently deceased Beverly Cleary books, but in this case, I think that, because of the wait between the three books, there are things I think I would notice and things I would look at differently if I did. Maybe even a few small subtle things I could have missed.)

Where Did My Love of Reading Go?

My passion for my entire life, even before I could read, was books. I remember flipping through my mother’s cookbooks, looking at the pictures, wanting to know the name of this and know the name of that. (In fact, a cookbook was my first adult book read. And I still read them as I did then – cover to cover, as if it were a novel, taking in every single word.) I remember staring up at the may bookcases we had FULL of all kinds of books, excited that one day I would be able to devour every word on every page – and I did end up reading quite a few of them in my lifetime, though the books themselves have gone on to other loving homes over the years. I would sneak down in the middle of the night to read my dad’s fancy copy of Lord of the Rings, hide under the Christmas tree with whatever book I was enjoying at the moment using the lights on the tree to read, and yes I was one of those kids who had a flashlight hidden under my bed so I could read after bedtime (and my mom probably not only knew what I was doing, but would have encouraged me to read had I not been sneaking in extra time to do so). My allowance, my money from my first job, my birthday and Christmas money, it was all spent on books. Or something having to do with books, like bookmarks.

Books were my everything. Bored – read a book. A few extra minutes here or there – read a book. Happy – read a book. Angry – read a book. Sad – read a book……. I’m sure you see where I’m going with this. I never left the house without a book. And I still don’t, though now it’s my Kindle that accompanies me everywhere.

But the last several years, things have been different. I still love books, I still purchase books, I still live for books… but not for reading.

And I can’t tell you why.

I guess I could blame COVID and the depression that came with that, or my anger over what the world is today, but this lack of an interest in reading started, sadly, years before that. I’ve given reasons, analyzed reasons, but they are all just excuses because the reality is that I don’t know what happened or why I stopped reading like I did.

I’ve tried forcing myself to sit down and read this or read that, but the reality is, most of the books I pick up have bored me so much that I just fall asleep. No matter where it is that I am attempting to read it. Sometimes even in public places. It’s gotten so bad that I don’t even bother picking it up any more, and have several books that I began but never finished.

Is it me? Is it the book? Is it the subject/story?

It’s even more depressing when I go to Goodreads and see that other people are flying through their stack of books and I am trudging, at best. (It feels like walking through a waist deep river of sludge. I’m getting nowhere and I know it.)

And it only gets worse when I come here and realize that, except for one post (a review of a short story collection by Armand Rosamilia), I haven’t written here since August of last year. And it was a post, kind of like this, full of excuses on why I haven’t written in awhile.

To be honest, it’s not because I don’t have anything to say. I have hundreds of topics I want to talk about – book related, TV related (c’mon – we’ve ALL been watching way too much TV through this time), even a few games – but I find myself not doing it, afraid to admit that I have hardly read anything over the last few months… years…

Not being able to read… it’s like losing a part of me. Like an arm or leg. Something that inhibits me from living the life that I want to live, the life that I long for. But I can’t seem to do anything about it. Minus a hand full of books that just really gripped me or books that I have been waiting so long for I just HAD to read them, everything else just sits there on my Kindle, staring at me, and the emails in my inbox, they just remind me of what a terrible book blogger I have become.

I’m not giving up, though, so please don’t give up on me. I have a review that I am writing today – a REVIEW!! I’m so excited!! – and a few more that I hope to be able to finish reading and review over the next week or so. (One is by an author whose works I really enjoy, one is the third part in a cozy mystery series, the first two being stories I really liked.) And I’m going to get to work on that list of blog posts I’ve intended to write for forever now haha.