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Book Review: Evenfall (Shadowfire, Book 1) by Gaja J. Kos & Boris Kos

Evenfall

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Fantasy

Plot: As if waking up in an unfamiliar world isn’t enough of a surprise, Ember gains a new title to her name. Savior.

Hunted by the Crescent Prince and his lethal shadows, she accepts a young Mage’s help to navigate the land of blood magic and its many illusions. But where Ada sees the good in her power, Ember discovers something else.

An icy darkness, designed to take lives, not save them.

The only thing worse than not being able to rely on her senses—or the reality she had once believed to be true—is knowing that she cannot trust her heart. Especially as it seems to draw her to the one person in whose hands she can never fall…

Opinion:

 “The thing I noticed above all else when unconsciousness released me from its talons of darkness, was that for the first time in my life, I found myself gazing at the night sky.

The second, just as enchanting, yet infinitely more unbelievable, was that the world around me was no longer mine.”

Ember wakes to find the various hues of black, blue and velvet of the night sky staring down at her. Where her world is flushed in light, this new world is flushed in darkness. With no recollection of how she must have traveled between worlds, Ember finds herself exploring a city called Nysa during their celebrated winter solstice. But the warning from a young girl named Ada brings caution to Ember. Their planes have been fractured, broken, and only a child born of the three worlds may have a chance at repairing them. The Crescent Prince seeks the savior, the one, to use in his quest for power and complete control. As a powerful mage, Ada feels that Ember is the one they have been waiting for. As Ada works to hide Ember from the cruel and ruthless prince, they formulate a plan to sneak into his palace to steal one of the three fragments that could keep the worlds from falling apart. But Ember soon finds that nothing is as it seems, especially when it comes to the past.

“But what truly drew my gaze was a fountain of starlight, pure and mesmerizing, a work of art that commanded the space with singular grace.

I was stunned by its simplicity, by the beauty of thousands of minuscule stars, cascading down the three levels before they were drawn up to the top again to repeat the cycle. I wanted to sit down before it, stare at this wonder until the flickering specks were imprinted on the backs of my lids…”

If I was to pick a set of authors to describe a fantastical world to me, it would be these two. Somraque is a world of night, of starlight and dark shades of color. It is a world that I fell in love with instantly, as did the main character, Ember. Walking with Ember as she explores the city and witnesses the various types of illusions and magic, was exhilarating. The writing is exquisite and beautiful, and it crafts a detailed and pulsing world for the reader to easily visualize in their minds eye. But as bewitching as the writing is, the construction of the plot felt over-drawn and dragged-out.

Truth be told..

…I was practically falling asleep during the first half of this book.

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About HALF of Evenfall is story-building and fillers. For nineteen chapters I was slipping in and out of consciousness. There was some speed-reading, some page scanning for dialogue, and the ever-true sign of a book you just CANNOT get into: I put it down about thirty times. I DID enjoy some aspects of the first half, such as the descriptions of the city and the explanation of the fate of the worlds, but I felt like I was drowning in words that were completely unnecessary. I NEVER thought I would say this in a book review, but the first half of this book was WAY TOO WORDY. It felt like I had lived through the stone age before the story started to pick up and pull me in.

But once I hit chapter twenty, something magical happened.

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~*I woke up*~

My advice:

Stay and get to Chapter Twenty.

It will fulfill at least SOME of your dreams.

“A touch so gentle it barely existed, yet it enveloped every inch of me, radiating through my veins and crackling through the very shadows that reached towards the starlight sky beyond the illusion.”

THIS is what I was waiting for! The point when the authors would throw a rope around my ankles and drag me into the midst of turmoil and heartbreak. Chapter twenty is when you will get hooked, when you will swoon, and when you will finally be able to make sense of what is going on. Here we are finally blessed with the prolonged presence of the crescent prince, not just a snippet or two of him. He is dark and mysterious, stone-faced and stiff, but is he…cruel? I just wasn’t seeing it.

“And yet it wasn’t his face or elegant demeanor that stole away my breath. It was the shadows- tendrils of pure silver that seems to unfurl from his body and dance in his wake.

Horrifying. And beautiful.”

For the entire first half of Evenfall characters are telling Ember how horrible and cruel the crescent prince is. That he is a murderer and only craves power. That he wants to enslave her and bend her to his will. But when we finally “meet” him, he just seemed…blah. I was expecting the Beast that trapped the Beauty, the High Lord of the shadows and night, the Cruel Prince with sarcasm and charm. But he wasn’t any of those things. He may have been described in a beautiful way to make anyone swoon, but his character fell flat. For all the time it took to build the first nineteen chapters, I would have expected twice the time to build up his and Ember’s relationship.

But alas, the details and buildup of that relationship was just as quick as my eyes fluttering shut at the beginning of this book.

The relationship between Ember and the crescent prince had barely any beginning before it jumped right into the middle! This man has lived for years upon years in isolation, so how is he so quick to be familiar with Ember being around? A gradual relationship was what was needed for this story. One where the reader could REALLY connect with both characters on a different level. This would have been the opportune time to really sharpen and mold Ember and the crescent prince.

I am left feeling like I know the characters as if another reader had explained them to me, instead of me seeing them for myself. The authors touched the surface of them, but I feel no depth and no kinship to them. I think the only character I TRULY care for in this story, is the dog. And what a precious dog she is! Though I don’t feel a strong and heart-wrenching passion for these people, my interest is still peeked for what happens and the possibilities of what COULD happen. This story ends with a cliff-hanger that DOES leave me wanting more, if only to know what happens to the cruel-but-not-so-cruel prince.

Though my review comes off more negative than positive, I find that I am much more appreciative of this story than I sound. It was creative and beautifully crafted, I just wish there was an even and consistent flow throughout the read. I wanted to be engaged and hooked the entire time while reading, not just for the last half. I am hoping the characters will have a stronger presence in the next story, which I plan on reading. It was a beautifully woven tale of magic and adventure, so hopefully it is in book two where I will really fall in love.

3-5-stars

 

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Book Review: The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air, Book 1) by Holly Black

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Genre: YA/Fantasy

Plot: Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

Opinion:

This tale may have faeries that harness such beauty that your throat will constrict on sight, a court of royalty both fierce and alluring, and a human girl thrust upon its center.

But this isn’t your typical Fae tale, and it isn’t for the fainthearted.

There are tricksters and murderers, kin slayers and cruel rulers.

There are romances with slit eyes and truths entwined in riddles.

There are faeries as flinty as a fox, ones who love tyrannical tricks and depraved deadly deeds.

But sometimes the most cold-blooded becomes the compassionate, and the most sympathetic becomes the sadistic.

Buckle up boys and girls. Your sweet faeries are dripping in poison.

At the age of seven Jude and her sisters were swept away to a land called faerie by the murderer of their parents, the general of the High King at the High Court of Faerie. After being forced to adapt to her new surroundings and way of life, Jude grows to love faerie even though humans are looked down upon. Ten years later, Jude can finally call the land of Faerie home with the goals of becoming a Knight to the High King. But Jude’s life in Faerie is far from easy. She is ridiculed and tortured by the Fae, especially by the youngest Prince of the High Court and his minions. Usually choosing to be meek and keep her head down, Jude decides to show a different hand. As she fights to win a place at court, she realizes that the politics and deceptions in the inner circle might just be more than she bargained for.

Call me naïve, and maybe even innocent as a stretch, but here I thought I was going to be reading a nice Fae tale with a grumpy prince, a whirlwind romance and the potential of a swift rebellion.

Dear oh me. Was I f*****g wrong.

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Where do I even start?! This book just went to the TOP of my favorites list, and THANKFULLY book two, The Wicked King, is coming out in four days or I might just have to fall over in some sort of dramatic goth-like fashion!

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The tale goes as such: long, long ago, in the far away land called Faerie that isn’t’ all that far away, Jude’s human mother marries a Fae general named Madoc and they sire a half-Fae daughter. Soon the human wife falls in love with a human swordsmith in Faerie, and they both escape to the mortal lands with the half-Fae daughter. Some odd years later AFTER the mortals sire their twin human daughters, said Fae General named Madoc finds the mortal couple and attempts to convince his wife and daughter to return to Faerie. After refusals and threats, the impatient Fae general murders the mortal couple in front of their children. But EVER the gentlemen that this Fae male is, he takes his half-Fae daughter AND her human sisters back to Faerie whilst bringing honor to the wife that he just killed.

Isn’t that just dreamy?

I knew you’d love it.

Let’s start with our lovable, though debatable, female lead: Jude. Jude is the epitome of an underdog. Nobody in Faerie expects much from her and Taryn due to their humanly status, and as such they are ridiculed and taunted mercilessly by Prince Cardan and his loathsome entourage. At first Jude strikes the reader as a meek and dutiful girl, trying to stay in line and invisible to the Fae. But quiet quickly a drastic change in her is thrust upon the reader, and we are given this formidable and fierce female. Plainly put, Jude becomes a Grade-A BADASS with a pension for s**t disturbing. I don’t know about you guys, but I want this girl on my team. Ruthless.

But what is the cause of this sudden change in demeanor for our female lead? Why, it’s the cruel prince himself, Cardan! Naturally it was easy to assume that the romance of this story would be between Cardan and Jude. That Cardan would be a sulky little prince at first meeting and then transform into a valiant and respectable man fit for a fairytale! Well…not so much.

Ladies, Cardan is a hulking jackass.

He is vicious, constantly in a state of inebriation, and does everything in his power to torment Jude. But this isn’t just a case of name-calling and shoving. He tears off other Faeries wings and tries relentlessly to persuade Jude to kill herself. BRUTAL. Truthfully though, I find Cardan to be sinfully delicious and intriguing. The author goes out of her way to confuse the reader about this character, and I am left with a vague and mysterious idea of him that makes me crave more.

The sisters of Jude are also interesting characters that bring an ENTIRELY different level of innocence and cruelty to this book. Taryn embodies the roll of a submissive female. She seems willing to do just about ANYTHING to stay out the path of ruthlessness provided by Cardan and his friends. The girl has a floppy spine, the heart of a rock and I would be GLAD to be rid of her. But Vivi is a completely different case. She is Fae but loathes living in Faerie, and wants nothing more than to return to the mortal world. She is a fiery and outspoken woman, especially when it comes to her EXTREME distaste for Madoc. I wish she had a bigger role in this story, but in the end, I suppose it make no difference.

The Cruel Prince has proved to be an extremely imaginative and completely different story than what I was expecting. These faeries are brutish and downright wild when it comes to getting what they want. I feel completely constricted in what I can say, but look out for those blindsides, because you will NOT see them coming! This book is packed with vague answers, manipulation, mind games, murder and brutality. However, I am slightly disappointed that there wasn’t more descriptions and world building for the land of Faerie. I felt that the author had a HUGE chance to make this world a whimsical and dauntingly beautiful place, but instead it comes across as “okay” due to the lack of description. I also would have preferred a little more insight into Jude’s physical training and to see her grow in that way as well. This was all mentioned, but moved over rather quickly.

With that said, I honestly can’t say anything more or I will give everything away to those of you who haven’t had the chance at reading this FANTASTIC book. I am counting down the days for The Wicked King to be released! Hopefully it will be just as addicting as the first.

4-stars

 

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Release Day Blitz: Dark Days – Semester 1 by Liz Meldon

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Title: Dark Days: Semester 1

Author: Liz Meldon

Genre: Enemies-to-Lovers Paranormal Romance

Release Day: December 6th, 2018

Dark Days Semester 1 Cover

Blurb

A vampire desperate to escape his past. A wolf shifter determined to protect her future.

A killer on the loose.

One year ago, wolf shifter Emma accepted her dream job teaching PE at a Norwegian international school, finally freeing herself from her mother’s incessant matchmaking. As the alpha’s heir, walking away from her pack, from her obligations—potentially even her fated mate—weighed heavy on her heart. But deep down, she knew it was the right decision.

Unfortunately, her sacrifice may have been for nothing—because the new history teacher has fangs.

With a reputation for kidnapping and selling shifters to research labs, a vampire is the last thing Emma needs in her life, but she refuses to be intimidated. This is her territory and she’s not going anywhere, so that grumpy, gorgeous vampire can suck it.

Forced together at a prestigious boarding school, two supernatural enemies are torn between ripping each other’s clothes off…

And ripping each other apart.

Eager for a fresh start, vampire Calder accepts an invitation to teach history at a private school above the Arctic Circle. Its remote location appeals to his sensibilities, and years of practice have taught him how to charm his human colleagues, but a certain gym teacher is seriously trying his last nerve.

All Calder wants to do is teach, so if the strikingly beautiful shifter refuses to see him as anything but the big bad vampire, perhaps he ought to lean into the part and really give her a show.

As summer turns to winter, humans disappear from nearby villages, gone without a trace and presumed missing—or worse.

Only one thing is certain: there are dark days ahead.

Even for creatures of the night.

Dark Days is a standalone enemies-to-lovers paranormal romance duet. While Book 1 has a cliffhanger, all will be resolved with a supernatural happily-ever-after in Book 2.

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Excerpt

My least favorite staff member had been assigned as a floater, helping wherever he could. Calder had shown up this afternoon the most dressed-down I had ever seen him, sporting a pair of dark jeans and a plain white T-shirt, just fitted enough to contour the muscular outline of his figure. I blamed Casual Friday, the last day of our homecoming spirit week, which had also included such hits as Crazy Hair Day, Crazy Hat Day—the works.

Predictably, there had been a squabble over where the vampire would be placed, groups of teenage girls bickering with one another until Calder graciously offered to share his time between everyone. I’d just rolled my eyes and done my best to ignore him, but he was kind of difficult to ignore with all that muscle normally hidden beneath a three-piece tweed suit on display.

I couldn’t blame the girls for fighting over him, either. The guy was gorgeous. They just didn’t know he was a vampiric ass beneath that shiny, hunky veneer.

After giving my precious gymnasium a onceover, the transformation for the upcoming dance making my inner wolf grumble, I folded the sheet of paper in half again and made my way to the far back corner, toward the door that would open to a hallway, my hallway, at the end of which sat my office. Hopefully the internet would have a suggestion or two for “cooler”, more “authentic”, on-theme drink names to appease the senior class president.

Never mind that she and the student council had come up with these ones in the first place.

One of the major items out of place during the prep stages were the chairs. Stacked some fifteen high, they sat bunched together in the back corner, and a crew of seniors had been moving them into the gym all afternoon, lugging the large black and gold chairs up from the storage room one or two at a time. As I neared the towers, my first thought was that they were stacked too high—that it wasn’t safe.

A suspicion proven correct mere moments later when someone on the other side of the chair wall tripped, their shoes squeaking out a familiar cry, followed by the clunk of chairs colliding with chairs. The row to my immediate left teetered, stacked too precariously tall, and I staggered back, tensed, waiting to catch the damn things, then pretend it had hurt me to do so.

Only the stack never fell.

Because some gorgeous vampire dick stopped it.

Calder appeared out of nowhere, his back to the stack, catching and righting it again in the span of about five seconds. It was a risk, using his speed around all these humans, but the music faintly whumping from the AV club’s speakers carried on, as did the chatter, the clatter of furniture, like nothing had ever happened.

“You okay?” I called, Calder and I no more than a foot apart, my heart in my throat as he stared me down, for once neither smarmy nor smirking.

“Yeah, I’m good,” the culprit on the other side called back, and I caught his shadow moving beneath the chair legs, marching back and forth, walking it off. “Tripped over my own feet.”

“These are stacked too high,” I said, still holding Calder’s gaze, unable to tear myself away, my stomach looping. “Cut them down by half so they don’t fall on someone.”

“Yes, Miss Kingsley.”

Calder smelled earthy today. Sandalwood. Oakmoss. Musk. My cheeks peppered with heat the longer I breathed him in, and when he eased away from the tower of chairs, I took a sizeable step back, crinkling the paper in my hand.

“I could have caught that,” I muttered, then ducked my head down and made a beeline for the nearby door. The metal handle squeaked when I gripped it, but the brightly lit corridor on the other side was mercifully silent. As soon as the door closed, the chaos outside disappeared. His scent vanished. Smoothing a hand over my loose waves, I dragged in a deep breath, then exhaled it slowly, making my way by the trio of closed, locked grey doors, beyond which was all my equipment. Balls. Netting. Rackets. The final door, way at the end of the hall, offered me guaranteed sanctuary, a private place to quiet my hammering heart.

The handle squeaked again, and I whirled around at the sound. Calder stalked in, letting the door slam shut behind him, and I turned away, unable to withstand that dark, brooding look for a second longer than necessary. If he wanted a proper thank-you for doing something I honestly could have done myself, he’d be waiting a long time.

I hadn’t made it more than three steps closer to my office before his hand snapped around my elbow, and my inner wolf snarled when he yanked me back and shoved me against the wall. Hackles up, my lips peeled back as the crumpled paper fluttered to the ground, forgotten at our feet. Calder caged me in with a hand on either side of my shoulders, his face ducking down to meet my eyeline…

Buy Links
Amazon: https://amzn.to/2KYteg1

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Stay in the DARK DAYS loop!

Keep up to date with the enemies-to-lovers paranormal romance duet by signing up for Liz Meldon’s mailing list. You’ll receive exclusive content and news regarding Calder and Emma’s steamy romance + paranormal romance deals on release day.

Keep me in the loop!

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Author Bio

Liz is a Canadian author who grew up in the Middle East. She has a degree in Bioarchaeology from Western University, and when she isn’t writing about her own snarky characters, she is reading about other people’s snarky characters, babying her herb garden, loitering on social media, or taking care of her furbabies.

Liz dabbles in both paranormal and contemporary erotic romance. Her paranormals are usually dark and angsty, and her contemporaries are stress-free smutfests, but you’ll find both full of feels. Most of all, she loves writing realistic characters in fantastical settings.

Author LinksWebsite | BookBub | Booksprout | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest | Amazon | Newsletter

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Book Review: Joshua and the Shadow of Death (Berserker Series, Book 1) by Gary McPherson

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Disclaimer: I was sent an ARC copy of this book by JKS Communications on behalf of the author, for an honest review.

Genre: Fiction/Crime Thriller/Suspense/Mystery

Plot: “I never thought my life would turn out like this. My best friend Richard Brown is dead. Parts of his brain still paint the wall where he shot himself. Eighteen years ago, he and Barbara entrusted me with curing their adopted son, Harold. I was so sure of myself. After all, I had cured his half-brother at the orphanage. I thought I knew what I was doing, but now I’m not sure of anything.

Richard left me a note telling me to help Harold find the men responsible. Richard claims if we fail to solve his suicide that his company and everyone working there will be lost. What does that mean, and does it matter? How can I help? I am a psychiatrist, not a detective. If I fail, what will become of Barbara? Will Harold’s grief unleash the beast living inside him? The berserker is controlled, but he is not contained.”

Join childhood development psychiatrist Doctor Joshua Zeev as he attempts to find the answers to his best friend’s death and help the family through their grief. Can Joshua survive his insufficiencies? Does Maria’s patient love give him the focus that he needs to discover the truth, or will she be a distraction? Does his challenge of a lifetime, bring answers and closure, or even more perilous dangers?

Opinion:

A suspenseful thriller JUST in time for the holiday season!

Put on those trench coats and grab those magnifying glasses boys and girls, there’s a conspiracy afoot!

Joshua has spent many diligent years working with countless young boys at an orphanage in North Carolina. Two of his most memorable cases were that of two half brothers who were both left at an orphanage by their mother. Both boys were diagnosed by Joshua with “Berserker Syndrome”, a condition that makes the person fly into a blind rage so bizarre that it can be described as being possessed. After curing the youngest of the brothers, Bill, Joshua is enlisted by the adoptive parents of the oldest boy, Harold, in hopes that he may also be cured. Years later in California, Harold is a grown man and Joshua is still living with the family and working with Harold on his blind rage. But when the sudden suicide of Harold’s father Richard Brown occurs, Joshua’s concern for the young man is at an all time high. As he tries to find the reason for his friend’s sudden death, while also keeping Harold under control, Joshua finds himself with more questions than answers.

This story has just about everything I could ask for in a suspense thriller; a man with a dangerous blind rage, blackmail, countless deaths, and even a little bit of romance. Did somebody say swoon?! Though I was expecting a story that focused on the slightly disturbed inner workings of a young man who starts beating people to a pulp out of nowhere; I was instead welcomed with a mystery on the suicide of a man who ran a very profitable weapons company. Though I am not upset about this change of events, I must say that I feel slightly derailed from what I was expecting of this story.

I was hoping to have a better understanding of this “berserker syndrome”, which the reader is introduced to right away at the beginning of the story. The reader is taken through a part of Harold’s life as a young boy when Joshua is first treating him for his condition, and the author paints a nice picture of how little Harold can control his rages. But we are fast-forwarded years later to when Harold is a grown man, and the story turns into more of a “who-done-it” rather than focusing on Harold and his condition. It feels like this initial idea for the book to be based more on the psychiatric and mental side of the experiences of this family was thrown by the waste side a little. I wish it would have had bigger role in the overall telling of this story, instead of just going right into being a search to find out the reason for Richard brown’s suicide. I felt like I didn’t get an in-depth look into Harold as much as I would have liked, which in turn made it harder for me to connect with his character.

Our other main character in this story is Joshua, a psychiatrist who specializes in child development and who had coined “berserker syndrome”. I found that Joshua’s character could have also been given a little more depth and attention. Many times, I found myself slightly irritated with the comments he would make about suicide or other observations. He didn’t come across as the intelligent and worldly man that I think the author was trying to mold him to be. Instead, I found him to be a little dim and overly simplistic in the way he thought and spoke. There were a few examples of Joshua and other characters emotions being TOLD to the reader, rather than SHOWN. A book can tell me someone is sad, but I won’t believe it until I see the evidence backed by the actions of the character.

Characters aside, the overall story has an interesting and thoughtful plot. The Brown family runs a very successful weapons company. Now, I think this may be something to do with nuclear weapons, but I am not very clear on that. Anyways. One day Richard Brown shoots himself in the head in his office in front of Harold (super casual), which commences the true question of the story: WHY?! This takes the reader on a hunt to find the cause of Richard’s suicide, which eventually leads to a bigger scandal. Now I don’t want to give anything away, but BE WARNED that this book will reference some not so pleasant things. Nothing graphic, so don’t worry. I found the journey to the truth in this tale to be likable, but at times a bit too wordy. There was a lot of dialogue that wasn’t completely necessary, but I think was used to give the reader a deeper connection to the characters. Unfortunately, it didn’t for me and I just ended up skimming through those parts.

I think Joshua and the Shadow of Death was an entertaining and different read but didn’t quite hit the mark for me in terms of a deep connection and concern for the characters. I think the plot definitely makes it a great book that had me yearning for what really happened, and I found that I rather enjoyed that aspect of the book. I think the writing and character development can use a little work, but it is still very easy to read and enjoy.

3-stars

 

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Book Review: Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

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Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Random House Children’s – Delacorte Press, via NetGalley for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Fantasy

Plot: Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. On that day, the Kaiser took Theodosia’s family, her land, and her name. Theo was crowned Ash Princess–a title of shame to bear in her new life as a prisoner.

For ten years Theo has been a captive in her own palace. She’s endured the relentless abuse and ridicule of the Kaiser and his court. She is powerless, surviving in her new world only by burying the girl she was deep inside.

Then, one night, the Kaiser forces her to do the unthinkable. With blood on her hands and all hope of reclaiming her throne lost, she realizes that surviving is no longer enough. But she does have a weapon: her mind is sharper than any sword. And power isn’t always won on the battlefield.

For ten years, the Ash Princess has seen her land pillaged and her people enslaved. That all ends here.

Opinion:

Though I DID read this MONTHS ago, I didn’t review it right away, which in turn has caused me to re-read it so that I could properly refresh myself.

So, my review for Ash Princess…better late than never, right?!

10 years ago, Princess Theodosia Eirene Houzzara’s country was invaded by the Kalovaxians. Her people were slaughtered and enslaved, her home overrun by her enemy, and her mother’s throat was slit before her eyes. Now at sixteen, Theodosia wears a new name, Thora the Ash Princess. She now lives among the people that brought destruction upon her kind, the Astreans, and endures torment and abuse to just live another day. But life as the Ash Princess doesn’t come without it’s catches. Her best friend is a Kalovaxian named Cress who is the daughter of the Theyn, the man that killed Theodosia’s mother; she is whipped and beaten by order of the Kaiser when rebel Astrean groups attack, and she is guarded at all times to ensure that she stays loyal to her enemy. But everything changes when the Kaiser forces Thora to kill a man from her childhood, a man loyal to her mother. Soon Thora finds herself in a position to strike against the Kaiser, and to exact revenge on the people that stole everything form her. But sometimes not everything is fair in love and war, and Theodosia must make a choice when it comes to what she thinks is right.

My mother was known as the Fire queen, regal and strong. But I am the Ash Princess, a living joke.” – Thora, Ash Princess

Okay guys, Check. This. Out.

If any of you know me, you know that I LOVE a great fantasy read about royals and a little bloodshed. It just makes my blood thrum with happiness! Ash Princess does just that by giving the reader a little romance, suspense, turmoil, a question of morals vs. karma, magic, and of course some killing to keep in interesting. This is definitely a story you will have no problem devouring and speeding through, but be warned that it might feel a little “young” depending on your age/preference (despite the killing, etc.) which I will get into in a moment.

Firstly, more about this story! Theodosia (Thora) is sixteen years old and living in her palace that the Kaiser and the Kalovaxians took over ten years prior. After Theodosia’s mother was killed, the Kaiser gave Theo the choice to die or live amongst her enemy. She chose to live, thus thrusting her into the lions’ den and leading a life pretending to hate her own people. The Kaiser is a brutal man who takes what he wants and has no remorse for what he does. He uses Theo as a tool against the Astreans by publicly whipping and beating Theo every time rebel groups try to fight against the Kalovaxians.

When the reader is first introduced to Theodosia, she is living as Thora the Ash Princess. Thora is a timid, meek and subservient girl. Her spirit is broken, and she seems to have given up on ever being rescued and freed from her cage. Though she does have a friend in the palace, Cress, it is still a friend she can’t speak freely to. She is forced to censor herself and put on an act to show the Kaiser that she is loyal to the Kalovaxians, and it is truly sad to read. But what I liked about Thora was that even when she had metaphorically locked Theodosia away, there were still moments where she showed the reader that she hadn’t completely lost herself.

‘“You requested my presence, your highness?” I ask, dropping into a curtsy so deep I am flat against the ground. Even after a decade, my bones still protest the posture. My body remembers-even when the rest of me forgets-that I am not made for curtsying.’ – Thora, Ash Princess

But after the Kaiser forces Thora to kill one of her own, things start to change drastically.  Thora finds herself among rebels that want to rescue her, but instead she makes the decision to stay and work as a spy. Now I can’t go in to too much more detail because I don’t want to give away the good stuff, but I CAN tell you guys about this little romance we have brewing!

Insert: A Love Triangle. Or…is it?

Soren, the Prinz of the Kalovaxians and the son of the cruel Kaiser. He has just come back from apprenticing under the Theyn for 5 years, and APPARENTLY he is a legendary and fierce warrior. Soren proves to be the opposite of his father, and seems like he might genuinely care about changing the world. Blaise is our other male in this triangle, and he is an Astrean who grew up with Theodosia. As part of the rebels plan for Theo, she must basically make the Prinz fall in love with her. Of course along the way some true feelings arise between Theo and the Prinz, but not without some moments happening between Theo and Blaise as well. I can honestly say guys, I am TORN on this one. Usually I ALWAYS favor one character over the other, but I don’t in this story! Will she choose Blaise? Will she choose Soren?? Well I don’t know, because the author left me with this annoyingly HUGE cliffhanger!

Now there is also some magic that is happening in this story. For the Astreans, Spritgems were sacred gems that made up the four elements: Fire, Air, Earth, Water. The gems would give the wielder an extra boost of power to use with their magical element, and were considered very sacred. A select few Astreans would spend years in temples praying to their gods in order to be blessed. Some would be blessed with powers and become guardians, while others would go mad. Once the Kalovaxians took over, they forced the remaining Astreans into the mines to mine for the Spiritgems, while disgracing their beliefs and using the gems as jewelry. Wicked, right? Of course, our poor Theo was forbidden to be around any sort of gems. But if you are wondering why this poor girl is called the “Ash Princess”, the obvious reason is this: the Kaiser forces Thora to wear a crown of ashes every time they throw a party. Now if that isn’t the most legendary and cruel symbol of someone destroying your entire life and forcing you to show it off, I don’t know what is.

The only qualms I have with this story are this: it feels a little TOO young at times, and some things aren’t fully explained. Now I know that our main character is sixteen, but there are some HEAVY things happening in this story that make this character grow up fast. My issue is that Theo, Blaise, and a few of the other characters act and speak in such an adolescent way…that I found myself getting confused. The author is pulling me back and forth between them being mature, and not mature, and I am just not sure which direction I should be going in. If this supposed to be a YA read, or a Teen YA read?

My other small problem is the author not fully explaining things, or not fully building up moments. For example: Blaise tells Theo that she always gets a certain look on her face when she is about to do something rebellious. Theo retorts that he can never stop her anyways. As the reader, I don’t recall this happening much at all? I feel like I am being told something rather than just coming to that conclusion on my own. Another example is when it is said that Soren is a legendary warrior. This seems so shocking to me because I can’t help but imagine Soren as a teenage boy, not a fierce and feared man. There was no context that proves he should be anything else than what I am visualizing, so it left me a bit confused.

Those things aside, I think this is a really great read. I am sitting her twiddling my thumbs waiting for the next book, which I know will be a while from now. Sorry for that LONG ass review, but there was just so much to talk about! Though I did have a few annoyances while reading Ash Princess, I wholeheartedly recommend it if you love YA/Fantasy reads. I am a sucker for anything with royalty and fantasy, so if you are the same then you will REALLY enjoy this book.

4-stars

 

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Book Review: Mother of Shadows (The Chosen Book 1) by Meg Anne

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*WARNING: Strong sexual and mature content*

Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of this book by the author, Meg Anne, for an honest review

Genre: Fiction/YA/Adult/Fantasy

Plot: Helena’s life had always been quiet. In fact, she liked it that way. When her childhood friend returns home and tells her that she is the prophesied ruler of the Chosen, those blessed with the gift of magic, her quiet life goes up in flames. Suddenly Helena finds herself surrounded by a circle of protectors, each having sworn their loyalty to her since her birth. All except for one: her Mate. It’s not enough that she learn how to use her magic and undergo a trial to prove her worthiness; in order to claim her title, Helena must also find the man who carries the other half of her soul. Exiled due to a past he had no part in, Von is the last man the Chosen expect Helena to select. Despite their protests, his soul calls to hers and there’s no denying that he was made for her. But the prophecy stands and all isn’t as it seems. There’s an enemy lurking within plain sight who will stop at nothing to destroy her.

Opinion:

*Ding ding ding*…. Addiction alert!

This series…is like a Cheez-it, a salt and vinegar chip, a girl scout cookie, a Hersey’s Kiss! YOU CAN’T HAVE JUST ONE! You can’t just read a few chapters and put this book down, you MUST devour the entire story in one sitting! I love a fantasy story where a female lead is a complete and total badass in a fight., but I REALLY love when that same female turns into an all-powerful demonic queen (for good of course). You go girl!

A prophecy has been foretold that a Damaskiri would rise and become the most powerful of all magical beings, even more so than the first of the Chosen. But with the acceptance of her title as ruler, the Shadow Years would begin, and her true power would be tested. Those gifted in magic may wield one, and sometimes more, of the branches; Earth, Water, Fire and Air. But only the Damaskiri may wield magic of the Spirit branch, thus making her the strongest of all the mother’s chosen.

Helena has spent the last 20 years believing that she was one of the few who were born without magic, an ungifted, and in turn living a simple and quiet life. But the return of an old friend brings shocking news; Helena is the Damaskiri and she was hidden away at birth in order to keep her soul pure and innocent. Now with her new title, Helena is thrust into a world where she carries the weight of so many on her shoulders. Only she can keep the darkness from touching the lives of those she cares about, but only if she is able to keep the darkness from reaching her soul.

Dedication for every girl that still carries a dream in her heart, this one is for you.

-Meg Anne, Dedication – Mother of Shadows

This series feels a little bit like Throne of Glass and a little bit like Sowing by Angie Grigaliunas but is a unique and interesting series all on its own. The idea for this series is really creative, and for some reason I am all about a series with a prophecy lately. Helena is in her 20’s and is told by her childhood friend Darrin that she is now the Damaskiri, who is the ruler and most powerful of magical beings. She is taken into the palace and thrown into lessons, given a circle of men who are her protectors and advisors, and must find a mate.

Oh yes, you heard me! A mate! Enter: Von. Von is that male character we all know and love. The ginormous brooding warrior who has a bad reputation and a sarcastic attitude. I love the introduction to his character, which is at this festival where any male may come forward and present Helena with a gift in an attempt to be her mate. As soon as Helena meets Von there is an instant connection between them, but I thought their relationship went WAY too fast. I understand that their souls instantly recognized each other, but where was the “getting to know each other” stage? I would have preferred the beginning stages to have been stretched out a bit more, but what can you do. I adore Von, especially because he had such a terrible reputation at the beginning. Not to mention he is a fierce warrior and extremely gentle with Helena.

“Smiling to herself, Helena closed her eyes and wondered how anyone would think Von was heartless. ‘Because I was until I found you.’”

From the beginning of the story, the author does a series of “switch backs” from the present to past moments. She executed them well and there wasn’t any confusion for me, even though the “switch backs” were only separated by a new paragraph. I did find the first part of this story to be a bit confusing though, in that the author doesn’t explain the Damaskiri and the chosen all that well until later. It’s one of those things where you must keep reading to figure out what everything means, but you eventually pick it up. The MOST confusing for me however, was the lack of indication for how much time was passing. Between Darrin telling Helena that she is the next Damaskiri and her trial to see if she is worthy, I literally have NO CLUE how much time has passed.

There also wasn’t a lot of moments for the reader to see Helena training and learning about her abilities and how to act now that she is basically Queen. The reader is sort of just told that she is learning things. Due to the speedy nature of this book, I am left feeling a bit disconnected from the characters. I would have liked to have a bigger idea of who Helena and Von really are by seeing their interactions more, not just being told by the author what their traits are. Furthermore, where exactly is this place located? Are we in another world? Another time? I can’t even recall if a city or kingdom name was ever mentioned.

Though these things were a bit annoying to me, in the end they really don’t hinder my opinion of the story all that much. Where the author lacks in a bit of extra explaining, she fully makes up for it with where she takes this story. I never once found myself bored or uninterested in what was happening, which I find is VERY hard for an author to do. As Helena starts to become stronger and take on her role as the Damaskiri, a lot of sinister moments begin to happen that jeopardizes her people and her relationships. Eventually Helena and her circle, Von and his warriors, and a smattering of others travel to Von’s home. On this journey, this story REALLY begins to form. There is some EPIC battles and the reader gets a glimpse into what Helena can really do with her magic. Mark my words guys, you don’t want to cross this woman when she’s angry. YIKES. In the major battle that happens the reader is introduced to Shadows, which is a corrupted spirit of a chosen. By this point, the reader is subjected to a lot of death and darkness…and it is gripping!

I don’t want to give too much away, but this story leaves you with a HUGE cliffhanger. UGH…what a way to leave the reader (well done Meg). Overall, I really loved the first book in this series. Though I had a few issues with it, I was able to look past them easily and really enjoy the story the author created. There is magic, battles, romance and a TON of witty comments in this story. I found myself laughing constantly from the things these characters would say to each other. With that, I leave you with one:

“Twisting his head, he pressed a tender kiss into the palm of her hand. Eyes closing at the contact, she savored the feel of his lips against her skin. As her hand lowered, her fingers curled into a loose fist.

‘I think I’ll save that for later.’

His lips quirked in amusement, ‘And why’s that?’

‘Just to remember what it feels like to have you eating out of the palm of my hand.’”

4-stars

 

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Book Review: Between the Blade and the Heart (Valkyrie #1) by Amanda Hocking

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Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, via NetGalley for an honest review.

Genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Fantasy

Plot:

When the fate of the world is at stake
Loyalties will be tested

Game of Thrones meets Blade Runner in this commanding new YA fantasy inspired by Norse Mythology from New York Times bestselling author Amanda Hocking.

As one of Odin’s Valkyries, Malin’s greatest responsibility is to slay immortals and return them to the underworld. But when she unearths a secret that could unravel the balance of all she knows, Malin must decide where her loyalties lie and if helping the blue-eyed boy Asher enact his revenge is worth the risk—to the world and her heart.

Opinion:

A slaying female heroine, naughty immortals hell-bent (haha, pun) on staying alive, and long walks into the underworld. Suh-Woon.

Kind of.

A Valkyrie has the sole duty of returning immortals to the afterlife once their lives are up. As one of the feared and sometimes hated Valkyrie, Malin dedicates her life to her job. When given a target, Malin knows not to ask questions and to complete her task as quick and efficiently as possible; when your time is up, your time is up. As Malin trains alongside her mother and learns her ways, she proves that she is almost ready to go out on her own. But when a boy named Asher attacks Malin in her apartment, she learns that her mother may have let one of her targets go in the past…and the repercussions involve the death of an innocent and the fate of their existence.

Sounds like a killer fantasy tale of badass female fighters and demons, right? Well, it is. It’s packed with action, has an INCREDIBLY strong female lead, a little romance, a little betrayal, and the ever-loving descent into the underworld. Though the author, Amanda Hocking, has laced this book with everything I love in a story, I still wasn’t completely blown away. I was intrigued with the direction that it took, and it successfully pulled me in. I just didn’t feel like I HAD to keep reading it. It didn’t seem to flow as easily and naturally as the other works from Amanda, and it left me a little disappointed.

Do not let that discourage you, because I am still giving this book a semi-positive review. I can honestly report that I did find enjoyment out of Between the Blade and the Heart, and I am still impressed with the idea and plot. I think my main concern was that I felt a lack of connection to the story and the characters. Malin is a fierce and insanely awesome main character, but I don’t feel like I know her as well as I would have liked. For me, the character and world development didn’t translate properly into something relatable. Obviously, it’s hard to do that in a Fantasy story about creatures that don’t exist. But making the reader feel like they could fall into this world with just a touch to the page is what makes a Fantasy story relatable, and I just wasn’t feeling it with this one.

I think my final opinion on Between the Blade and the Heart is “Eh okay, good…but not my favorite”. Since this is a series, I probably won’t go on to read book 2. BUT, there have been many a series to turn my opinions around in the second installment, so I will have to wait and see. Honestly guys, Amanda Hocking is one of my favorite authors, so I am a bit bummed out to be writing a not so stellar review for one of her works. I know this story really worked for a lot of other readers, but it just wasn’t all the way there for me.

2-5-stars

 

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