December 24, 2014

Dark Triumph

I was so nervous to read this book.  Grave Mercy was so good….how could a second book top it?

Dark Triumph is Sybella’s book which really made me nervous because Sybella is a bit insane.

But Oh. My. Goodness.  THIS BOOK WAS AMAZING.  I decided to read this book while waiting for Elder Scrolls Online to download.  It downloaded 1% in the time it took me to read this book. Whether that tells of how fast I read, or how slowly ESO downloads...

Sybella is awesome.  She is a survivor, albeit a broken one.  She is an absolute badass, and she loves fiercely.  Her character development was fantastically plotted.  The reveals along the way... I won't spoil them, but they were amazing.

Sybella’s family is FUCKED UP.  Not just a little.  A crap ton.  But how she gets through it, how she survives, how she opens up to the Beast…it is beautiful.  I actually cried during one part of this book.

We don’t get as much politics (government or convent) in this book, but all the signs of a storm brewing are there.  I am pretty excited for the culmination of all the intrigue and lies going on in the covent to happen in book three.

This book gets 5 out of 5 stars.  Definitely one of the best books i have read this year.

December 4, 2014

Fractured Dream

-I received a copy of this book to do an honest review-

 Have you ever wondered where fairytales go once they’re created?

It’s been eight years since Story Sparks last had a dream. Now they’re back, tormenting her as nightmares she can’t remember upon waking. The black waters of Lake Sandeen, where her Uncle Peter disappeared decades before, may hold the secret to Story’s hidden memories, or a truth she’d rather not know. On a bright summer afternoon, Story and her two best friends, Elliot and Adam, take a hike to the lake, where they dive into the cool water and never reemerge. What they find is beyond anything they’ve ever imagined could be possible, a world where dangers lurk in the form of Big Bad Wolves, living Nightmares and meddlesome witches and gods.

Now Story must remember who she really is and somehow stop two worlds from ultimate annihilation, all while trying not to be too distracted by the inexplicable pull she feels toward a certain dark-eyed traveler who seems to have secrets of his own. The fates of the worlds are counting on her.

This book was a fairytale dream.   A must read for fans of Once Upon a Time, Alice in Wonderland, and Kiersten White’s Paranormalcy series.  I can always tell when a book evokes an emotional response from me.  My reviews tend to get really long and geeky.

This post is going to be really long.

Things I loved!

I adored Story’s backstory.  The snippets we get of the Dreamer and Fiddler were fantastic.  The mythical land has its own myths!  Fantastic! 

Chapter 7 gave me chills.  Full body chills.  And I do not think I blinked once during the last two pages.  It was AWESOME.

The title, Fractured Dream, is perfect.  I won’t explain why it fits so well because SPOILERS, but trust me.  It’s perfect.

I loved Jess.  Take Traditional Little Red Riding Hood, add Once Upon a Time Red, and stir in a crackle of Selene from Underworld and you have Jess.  She was a firecracker.  I loved it.

LGBTQ.  This book had gay and lesbian characters!  *waves flag*  I love how Randall has her world treat gay characters.  No one hates or is disgusted by them, their interests are perfectly normal and valid.  I wish our world were as accepting!  In fact, it is even okay for a Thumbelina to like a human!  Cross-species love!  


The things I didn’t like so much…
The main character, Story, did, at times, drive me a bit nuts.  She avoids doing things or realizing things that the reader has figured out chapters ago.  Her inability and refusal to do/realize things gets other people killed and hurt, and drags out the story unnecessarily.  In this way she reminded me of Evie from Paranormalcy.  It was the biggest complaint I had about that series as well.  And also…her name.  Story Sparks.  I hated it.  Fractured Dream is a fantastically imagined book, and the main character’s name is Story.  It makes me so sad.

Adam.  The other character I didn’t enjoy very much.  His constant refusal to believe anything about Story being the Dreamer drove me bonkers.  You are in a fairytale world.  Shuddup.

I did really enjoy this book although there were some things I didn’t love.  I stand by my earlier statement.  If you are a fan of Once Upon a Time, Alice in Wonderland, and Keirsten White’s Paranormalcy series you will love this book.

December 1, 2014

Serpent on a Cross

Dennah Dubrovnika is a formidable hunter and talented healer. However, she cannot control her own powers, which have suddenly reawakened in the aftermath of her mother's violent capture by a powerful warlord who destroyed their village in his wake. As she races to free her mother, Dennah is accompanied by Jeth, the man she loves. But she's increasingly, inexorably drawn to the mysterious Skallon, who is allied with her greatest enemy. Will Dennah be able to gain a measure of control over her magic or will she lose everything and everyone she loves to its raging inferno? Serpent on a Cross is a novel of Jewish fantasy and adventure in Medieval Eastern Europe.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

I loved this book.  It was nothing like what I was expecting, but I found it compelling and original.

It takes place in 1043 AD in Poland.  So I was thinking hmmm medieval-ish fantasy!  My favorite!
Then I started flipping the pages and found this: "A novel of Jewish fantasy and Adventure in Medieval Eastern Europe".  I was a bit confused because the summary mentioned magic.  I was instantly afraid.  Jewish religion and magic?  Those do not go together in my head.  

But I am here to tell you.  Read on.  IT WORKS.  I don't know how Wendy Garfinkle managed it, but the Jewish culture works with the magic.  And reading this book made me learn a bit more about Jewish history.  Apparently antisemitism is much older than I thought.  I had no idea Jewish people were forced to wear badges to identify themselves before WWII era Germany.  I had no idea they were persecuted throughout Europe during this time period.  This makes me incredibly sad.  *waves freedom of religion flag in triumph*

Garfinkle does more than just weave a compelling story of medieval magic and female coming of age, her historical knowledge is fantastic.  She takes medieval eastern Europe and makes it come alive on the page.

The only problem I had with the book was the strength of the main character.  At times Dennah seemed a bit too 21st century woman.  She took me out of medieval Europe; I forgot she was wearing dresses, and probably had a rag around her hair because they didn't have chemical shampoos.

This book receives 4 of 5 stars for an awesome concept, fantastic writing, and rocking historical world building.

November 12, 2014

The Never Hero

What if when you died, no one would ever know you were all that stood between man and the enemy? When Jonathan Tibbs awakes in a puddle of his own blood, there isn't a scratch on him to explain it. In the weeks to follow, he comes to find he's been drafted for a war with a violent otherworldly species. A war that only he can remember. Now, the man Jonathan imagined himself becoming is no longer the man who can endure his future. The first installment in this science fiction action adventure series, The Never Hero is a gritty and honest look at the psychological journey of a man forced to forge himself into a weapon. Abandoned with little guidance, and at the mercy of a bargain struck far outside his reach, Jonathan races to unlock the means to surmount the odds, and understand the mystery behind a conflict raging outside of time and memory. In the end, the real question is what Jonathan is willing to become to save a planet that will never see his sacrifice.

I was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

 This book was fantastic.  Jonathan's journey as a hero is well-written and thought provoking.  I loved Jonathan.  I flew through the pages, invested in his development as a character.  The plot had me chewing on my fingernails throughout the book.  There was enough action to keep me interested, almost Marvel worthy action.

The concept was unique, the perfect blend of sci-fi and the modern world.  It's definitely a different kind of sci-fi than I have encountered before, but it was well done, and compelling.

If you enjoy strong male heroes, action, and sci-fi- this is your book!  Give it a read and let me know what you think in the comments.

November 5, 2014

Author Interview - Rival Gates

I don't know about any other writers with a publishing dream out there, but I find author interviews inspiring.  Learning about an author's journey from fresh page to published manuscript is EXCITING!

Rival Gates, author of Quest for the Red Sapphire (see the review I did on it here) agreed to do an author interview.  He gives some awesome insights on his work and great advice to future authors.

How long have you been writing?
I have been writing in contests since grammar school and have been working on this series since I was 13.  My father inspired me to start writing.  He was an editor and he would have a piece in every one of his magazines that he had penned personally.  I used to get so excited to read my father's name in print.  Even when he was the editor of an atomic energy magazine and I had no idea what he was writing about, it was just such a thrill to read something my father had created.  I dreamed of writing something of my own and one day seeing my name in print.

How did you get the idea for Quest for the Red Sapphire?
It actually came from an idea I had about a sword.  I imagined a living blade with the soul of Talana, the Queen of the Falcons residing within after her body had been destroyed.   The weapon would be impossible to break or dull and would never become lodged in an opponent, just like a talon on a predatory bird.  It would be light as a feather which meant its master could swing it more quickly and put more force behind the blows.  Thus the name of the blade fell into place; Falconfeather.  From there I created characters around it and then needed something fantastic for them to seek out.  The story snowballed from there.

Describe your writing process.  Are you a plotter or pantser?
I'm definitely a plotter.  I've tried writing by the seat of my pants and I always end up leaving out critical information.  I lay it out in bullet point fashion and then follow the plan as I write.  Sometimes I am inspired while writing and will add something that strikes me but I mostly stick to the plan.  Everything stays in order that way and I don't end up repeating myself.

Do you ever experience writer's block? What do you do to get past it?
Writer's block has never really been a problem for me.  I have been blessed with a good deal of ideas.  My problem comes down to choosing what to write and then forming it like clay into a coherent thought in written form.  When I am overwhelmed I usually lay down, go to church or go somewhere else completely silent and work through them.  When all the distractions are gone I can usually focus on one point.

Do you ever imagine Quest for the Red Sapphire being turned into a movie?  If so, who would play Linvin?
It is my dream to have the series made into movies.  If I had to have someone play Linvin it would be someone like Chris Hemsworth.

What was the hardest part of writing Quest for the Red Sapphire?
The hardest part was knowing where to stop.  It always seemed like there was one more thing I wanted to say and I finally had to end it.

How long did it take you to write this book?
I hand wrote the first draft in two years.  Then I put in in a drawer and worked on it occasionally for over twenty years more.  Only when my mother made me promise before she died to publish it did I finalize the book.

What books/authors have influenced your writing?
I was naturally influenced by Tolkien and his Hobbit/Lord of the Rings series.  The real source of my passion for the genre and my writing came from reading C.S. Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia.  I read various science fiction greats but C.S. Lewis made me want to write.

What book(s) are you reading now?
Right now I'm reading "Tempered Throne" by Ray Owen.

The cover art is beautiful, I may just have to give it a read as well!

Are you a full-time or part-time writer?  How does that affect your writing?
Right now I am a part time writer.  That is something I hope to change in the near future and is one of my goals.  It sometimes makes it hard to pick up where you left off in the story because it can be a while between writing sessions.  It is at times like that that I appreciate my storyboard.

What was it like to get published?  What was the process like?
It took me a year and a half to find an agent and a year and a half to find a publisher.  After all the work that went into that process it was so gratifying to finally be published.  The absolute joy I felt was like nothing I had ever known.  My work was finally out there for the world to see.  The stories that I had been telling to individuals would now be told to everyone.  What could be cooler than that?

What writing or publishing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
Get a good agent and trust their advice.  A lot of people try to go it on their own because they don't want to pay a percentage to an agent.  That leaves you at the mercy of the publisher.  If the publisher will even read your work, you don't know if the contract they offer is good or bad.  You need someone in the room working FOR YOU.  Take the cut in pay.  It is better to have someone watching out for you when you're swimming in deep water.

About Quest for the Red Sapphire:


The book centers around Linvin Grithinshield, a half-elf general called home from the goblin wars to
run the lucrative family trading business after his father's disappearance. Only after his mother's murder does he discover his destiny is to be the Master of the Red Sapphire, the most powerful magic any mortal can possess. Together with his wise but mysterious Uncle Anvar and his infuriating cousins Bander and Rander, Linvin must flee the would-be assassins and find the gem before the sinister forces from whom he flees find the stone and take it for a dark purpose.

About the author:

Rival Gates

I was born in the USA and moved to Canada when I was 5. My mother was American and my father was originally Canadian before trading his citizenship. I lived in Canada until I graduated high school. I returned to the United States where I graduated from Michigan State University. While I was there I met the most wonderful woman on this earth and amazingly she agreed to be my wife. We have been married well over 20 years and have three beautiful children.

I began work on my series of books at age thirteen during a difficult time in my family's and my life. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, I decided to escape to another of my own creation where I could create the characters. What started as a short story turned into a novel and then a series.

I sat on my work for years, sharing it only with my immediate family. Then my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The longest supporter of my writing made me promise to publish my work and finish the series. This is my attempt to keep that pledge. Enjoy the ride!

October 31, 2014

Quest for the Red Sapphire

 -This book was given to me in return for an honest review-

Quest for the Red Sapphire is a High Fantasy novel that fans of Lord of the Rings will love.  With the help of a small band, Linvin starts out on a quest to find the mythical Red Sapphire in the hope that they can prevent it from being used for nefarious purposes.

On such a quest there surely must be shenanigans barring the way to the goal.  And there were many, many bumps along the way, which just made this book more exciting!

I loved the story, but wasn’t crazy about the writing style.  I call this the Tolkien Problem. 

I’ll explain because that makes no sense.

Like Tolkien’s works I loved the story and the world- it was fantastic and grand and exciting.  The writing, like Tolkien’s, was a bit antiquated and at times slowed the story down a bit.  I tend to have a hard time maintaining interest with such language.  

That isn’t to say that it wasn’t well written, it was- really well written.  The language itself was beautiful.  There were some awesome lines, but I had too many favorites to post them all here.

If you enjoy Tolkien’s writing style and are looking for another good fantasy- this is your book!

October 17, 2014

The Lady's Blessing

-This book was given to me in return for an honest review-

I absolutely adored this novel.

The Lady's Blessing is a fantastically written historical romance.  The main character, Felicity, was realistic and yet retained the ideals modern women value.  Felicity may seem a bit weak to modern readers- always needing to rest and feeling faint- but to readers who love historical fiction, it is details like this that make a historical character realistic.  Women did feign headaches when they were too emotional and wanted to go lie down.   Felicity is demure and well behaved as any lady of this time period should.  And yet she retains her spunk.  She knows who she is and what she wants, and on occasion she shares that quite adamantly.  Her brief moments of spunk were awesome.

I also loved the relationship development between Felicity and Graham.  Too often romance novels skip straight to the sex.  I much prefer to see the relationship build and grow.  The gradual way Felicity comes to love Graham stole my heart, and the inclusion of Kate, Graham's daughter, in the story was beautiful.

Fans of Jane Austen's work will love this book.  If you are looking for a short, well written, beautiful, historical romance- this is the story for you.

5 out of 5 stars for The Lady's Blessing.

October 16, 2014

The Only City Left

-I was given a copy of this book for an honest review-

This book is a roller coaster of awesome and unexpected.  The Only City Left is a novel that will attract fans of The Maze Runner, Miazaki’s "The Cat Returns", and werewolves.

When I first picked up this book I had no idea of what I was getting into.  But it ended up being so much better than I had anticipated.

The cover is perfect.  At first glance it perfectly alludes to a futuristic, dystopian YA novel, but the moon is the crucial element that makes this the perfect cover for this novel.

The Only City Left starts out quite simply, our main character introduces his world to us and gives us his goal- seeing the Roof of the World.  I knew from the very beginning there would be some obstacles in his way.  I couldn’t have guessed just how many obstacles there would be!

Allin’s journey from young boy to confident hero throughout the novel is fantastic, and his companions along the way are as delightful as they are unexpected.

Andy Goldman’s futuristic version of Earth is compelling and original.  The many levels of the City and the amazing citizens of this world pose so many questions that had me ravenously flipping through the pages.

Also…the Clinkers terrify me.  I will be having nightmares for months.  I exaggerate…but really.  Terrifying.  I have not encountered any characters, since reading Joseph Delaney’s Last Apprentice series, that has creeped me out as much as these Clinkers did.  

Favorite quote:
“Then a team of cats had given me a massage while another cat took my measurements.”

This image made me giggle- how does a cat give a massage?  My cat massages me…with his claws... it doesn’t feel good!  I loved the city of the cats.  It was awesome and well imagined, an oasis in the tragedy of what remains of the Earth.

I give The Only City Left 5 out of 5 stars, and I cannot wait to read book two of Allin’s journey.