Book 299: THE WONDER – QUEEN OF HEARTS VOL. 2 Review



The Wonder (Queen of Hearts Volume 2) by Colleen Oakes
ISBN: 9781940716213 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781940716206 (ebook)
Publication date: September 23, 2014
Publisher: SparkPress


An Exiled Princess. An Ancient Tribe. A Dangerous Stranger with Unknown Loyalties. 

Dinah, the former Princess of Wonderland Palace, has been chased into the wilds of Wonderland after the brutal murder of her brother and the ruin of her impending crown. Now, as her half-sister Vittiore sits on the throne beside her Father, the brutal King of Hearts, Dinah finds herself alone in the forbidding Twisted Wood with only Morte, a homicidal beast, for company. 

Hunted by the King and his army of Cards, Dinah struggles to evade those who long for her head, including Cheshire, the King’s clever advisor, who is slowly tightening his grasp around her. Spurred on by her rising terror, the former Princess finds herself at the center of a web of conspiracy reaching far beyond the Palace and deep into the mysterious Yurkei mountain tribes. 

Even with the balance of an entire Kingdom at stake, Dinah knows something that her allies and enemies do not: that the most dangerous conflict of all has already begun as she battles the enticing rage that beckons her ever closer as love slips further from her grasp.

The second book in the bestselling and award-winning Queen of Hearts Saga, The Wonder takes readers back to the most wondrous and curious places in Wonderland, and continues this darkly addictive tale featuring one of the most infamous villains of all time.

But be warned…not every fairy tale has a happy ending.

This is the story of a princess who became a villain.


Readers were introduced to Dinah, Princess of Hearts in The Crown, volume one of the Queen of Hearts Saga. We were able to see Dinah wander listlessly around the palace in Wonderland, still grieving her mother’s death, and saddened over the madness and others ills that her brother, Prince Charles (aka the Mad Hatter), must deal with. Her father, the ruthless King of Hearts, appears to despise her presence. Just when it seems the Dinah is getting closer to being crowned the new Queen of Hearts, her father presents the royal court with his bastard child, Dinah’s half-sister, the Duchess of Hearts – Vittiore. As Dinah rivals Vittiore, unsuccessfully, for her father’s affection, she begins to wonder about her father’s motives. On the night before her coronation, Dinah awakens to find her brother, Prince Charles, brutally murdered by her father yet Dinah is quickly blamed for the death. Fearing for her life, Dinah flees the palace and Wonderland.

The Wonder finds Dinah trying to survive in the wilderness. Her only companion is her father’s stolen steed, a horse as large as a house with spiked hooves. Amazingly Dinah survives, but little does she know that she’s being tracked by the best. Fortunately for her, the best tracker quickly becomes her ally. Or so she thinks until her ally leads her into the kingdom and the hands of the king’s sworn enemies, the Yurkei. Mundoo, the chief of the Yurkei, takes Dinah in and begins to train her in the art of war. Bewildered by this, Dinah isn’t quite sure what to think about what is happening around her until she stumbles upon the king’s most trusted adviser, Cheshire. The story Cheshire reveals demonstrates that he is indeed Dinah’s father not the king, and that he seeks to place her on the throne of Wonderland. Now Dinah has the most fierce and largest warriors in the land, the Yurkei, aligning to fight beside her to overthrow the present King of Hearts. Dinah also now has several hundred warriors from the House of Spades willing to fight on her behalf. Is it possible this teenage queen can become the warrior leader needed to overthrow the current despotic king? Will her reign as queen be any better than her predecessor’s? Will the people of Wonderland be able to respect a queen that is now despised and known as the Red Queen?

Ms. Oakes takes many characters from Lewis Carroll’s beloved Alice in Wonderland and twists them into a modern retelling of Wonderland. The readers are allowed to see how the legend of “the Red Queen” began and why. We discover the impetus behind the feared “off with their heads” threat. Instead of a Cheshire cat, we see the head of the House of Diamonds, a gentleman named Cheshire with a cat-like grin become the king’s most trusted and feared advisor. The Mad Hatter becomes the brother of the Queen of Hearts and is someone that suffers seizures and appears may be autistic in that he lives in his own world and hates to be touched. The game of Royal Croquet is played with mallets shaped like birds and balls carved to resemble hedgehogs. The Knave of Hearts is head of the House of Hearts and leads the king’s most-trusted and highly trained warriors. The House of Spades are considered the lowest of all of the house cards and aren’t afforded the same rights and privileges. These men live in squalor and poverty and are forced to do the king’s dirty work in the Black Tower, torturing various prisoners. Dinah isn’t a bad person but she is someone filled with anger. She seeks to avenge the deaths of her mother and brother. If she isn’t careful that righteous anger may become something just as twisted and dark as the emotions that drive the current King of Hearts.

I actually enjoyed reading both The Crown and The Wonder (I read them back-to-back on one Saturday). I’m not a big fan of fantasy, but it was interesting to read these books and see how Ms. Oakes deftly twisted the already twisted story by Mr. Carroll. Dinah isn’t a wholly likeable character but she is a sympathetic character that grows on you as you read (or at least she did with me). I know that there will probably be a great deal of bloodshed and anguish in the next volume in this series, because war seems to be inevitable. Although this series is classified as YA, I found it to be an engrossing read and one that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. If you are a fan of fantasy, the retelling of classic literature, or simply interested in something a little different to read, then I strongly urge you to grab a copy of The Crown and The Wonder today. This is one series you don’t want to miss!


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



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Book 253: ELLY IN LOVE Review

Elly In Love by Colleen Oakes
ISBN: 9781940716190 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781940716183 (ebook)
ASIN: B00L8BMPEE (Kindle edition)
Publication date: June 24, 2014
Publisher: SparkPress


The much anticipated sequel to the bestselling novel, Elly in Bloom, is finally here!

Curvy wedding florist Elly Jordan has had quite a year. First, she had to design her ex-husband’s wedding to the mistress who split them up, and then she broke up with the hottest musician this side of St. Louis. Three months have passed since then, and now Elly is primed for what promises to be the best wedding season of her life.

Helped by her loyal friends, Elly is on the verge of opening a chic flower boutique uptown when BlissBride, a popular wedding reality show, asks her to design the wedding of a famous—make that infamous—celebrity. Elly is about to get everything she’s ever wanted, when a stranger shows up at her store with a request that changes every aspect of her life—including her budding relationship with deli owner Keith. As she struggles to stay calm in the midst of growing chaos, Elly will learn the true meaning of love and sacrifice. 

Filled with the heart, humor, and horticulture that made Elly in Bloom a bestseller, Elly in Love welcomes readers back to Elly’s big, beautiful, and messy life.



Eleanor “Elly” Jordan is a successful small business owner. Last year she had to design the flowers for her ex-husband’s wedding to his mistress. She kind of fell in love with her neighbor, an up-and-coming musician only to break things off with him before taking their relationship to the next level. She’s learned to love her employees, especially Snarky Teenager, and considers them her extended family. Now she must decide if she can take her business to the next level and open a branch as well as allow Snarky Teenager to manage the new branch store. If that isn’t enough to take into consideration, she’s realized that she’s in love with Keith the deli owner, and she’s been contacted by a relative she never knew she had. And just to truly cap things off, she’s been given the opportunity to be the florist for a celebrity wedding on a wedding reality show. Last year pales in comparison with all Elly has to deal with this year. Can she deal with the stress of a new family member, allowing her relationship with Keith to grow even though she feels he’s keeping secrets from her, trust that Snarky Teenager can be relied upon with the new storefront, and handle the pressure of designing flowers for a reality television show? Only time will tell . . . 

I’m the type of reader that has to read all of the books in a series before reading the book I need to review. So I spent a glorious Saturday afternoon and evening reading Elly In Bloom then Elly In Love. I found both to be delightful, heart-warming, and fast-paced reads. It may not be necessary to read Elly In Bloom before reading Elly In Love, but it definitely helped with understanding the trials Elly has dealt with over the past few years. First her mother dies, then she catches her husband in flagrante delicto with his mistress in their marital bed, she leaves her hometown and state to wind up in Missouri and opens a floral business. Posies is not just any floral business but one that specializes in weddings. It is a small boutique florist and Elly only has a handful of employees: her best friend and fellow floral designer – Kim, her part-time worker/high-school student – Snarky Teenager (her actual name is never revealed), and her latest hire, Anthony. These four artistic and creative people comprise the Posies workforce and they do a darn good job, small or large. Now that Elly’s business has become famous, Posies is the “it” florist for the Missouri elite. Although business is booming, Elly’s life is still in upheaval. She loves Keith but knows he’s hiding something and she can’t let the relationship develop any further until he stops being secretive. 

Ms. Oakes has done a wonderful job of pulling the reader into Elly’s world, or at least she did with this reader. I couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen next with Elly, Keith, and Snarky Teenager. I found the stories to have just the right amount of romance, touches of humor, and angst (teenage and adult) to make it realistic. We’re given glimpses into the lives and backgrounds of Kim, Dennis (Elly’s half-brother), Keith, and Snarky Teenager. Those glimpses are just enough to make their interactions and behavior realistic and compelling. It was nice to read about someone that has everything going for them and yet they still have doubts and concerns about doing the right thing. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Elly in Love and can’t wait for the next book in this series, Elly Inspired.



Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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