Random Musings by Frodosco

Posts tagged “Fantasy

Mini Review Monday: The Dream Thieves

MiniReviewMonday

The Dream Thieves

Summary From GoodreadsThe Dream Thieves

Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same.

Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life.

Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after…

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews on Mini Review Monday! Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

I’ve been waiting to read The Dream Thieves until Blue Lily, Lily Blue came out, but I managed to get a copy on Netgalley that I’ll be reviewing later, so I decided to dive in a little early. If you really enjoyed The Raven Boys then I’m sure you love or will love The Dream Thieves because the tempo, majority of the characters, and the feel of the book are very similar to the first one. However, if you had issues with the previous book in the series you might enjoy this one anyway, it’s more polished, the characters even more fleshed out (especially Ronan), and the magical bits that started in The Raven Boys take an even greater focus in The Dream Thieves.

Ronan is a fascinating character. He’s broken, constantly putting himself down and questioning himself (though mostly in his head), but he’s also a badass, and he pulls off that semi-facade masterfully. His powers of retrieving items from dreams are shown in detail in The Dream Thieves, and by the end they are flat-out amazing.

While Ronan is somewhat of the focus in book two (kind of like Adam was in book one), that didn’t detract from the rest of the cast of characters, a group that has become one of my favorites. Blue is still quirky and hilarious, Noah is an oddball of a ghost, Adam is conflicted and broody (but crazy levels of determined), and Gansey is well…Gansey. The dialogue and banter in this series makes for some of the most entertaining reading I’ve had recently, and I haven’t ever come across a series quite like this before, it’s fantastic.

The plot takes a ton of interesting twists and turns, there are a few new characters that are introduced or that get fleshed out a bit more outside of the main group, and the ending will blow your mind. I felt like The Dream Thieves was everything I wanted The Raven Boys to be, like a fully realized version, and I can only hope that Blue Lily, Lily Blue will continue the upward trend. Thanks as always for reading. ^.^

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Mini Review Monday: The Iron Trial

MiniReviewMonday

The Iron Trial by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

Summary From GoodreadsThe Iron Trial

From NEW YORK TIMES bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare comes a riveting new series that defies what you think you know about the world of magic.

From two bestselling superstars, a dazzling and magical middle-grade collaboration centering on the students of the Magisterium, an academy for those with a propensity toward magic. In this first book, a new student comes to the Magisterium against his will — is it because he is destined to be a powerful magician, or is the truth more twisted than that?

It’s a journey that will thrill you, surprise you, and make you wonder about the clear-cut distinction usually made between good and evil.

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews on Mini Review Monday! Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

I received a copy of The Iron Trial via NetGalley, which I was thrilled about because I love Holly Black’s work, had never had the pleasure of reading Cassandra Clare’s, and needed some more MG in my life. The Iron Trial was a highly enjoyable fantasy MG read, filled with magic of all kinds, not just of the elements on which it is focused. There is also the magic of the bonds you make, the wonder of a new world, and the thrill of facing your biggest fears and conquering them.

With the book being by Black and Clare, it is no surprise that the writing style was fantastic, and that I easily read The Iron Trial in one sitting. The pacing is excellent, the world has been fleshed out really nicely, and the Magisterium is a fascinating place to explore. Plus, how can anyone resist elemental powers and all of the cool ways you can use them? I know I couldn’t!

The cast of characters is one of the biggest highlight of the book. Black and Clare really took their time in developing each one, not giving away too much about any one character early on, including the MC. Call (short for Callum) is not your typical main character, being more moody and reserved than a standard hero, and the way his mind works is something quite fresh and interesting, though difficult to describe. Without giving too much away, he does open up after a while, which isn’t too surprising given that the supporting cast is stellar. I can’t wait to see how they develop going forward!

Comparisons to Harry Potter have been made, and while I can see how that might be, I would argue that The Iron Trial is darker in its undertones, and with significantly better (and more interesting) twists. Also, the Magisterium is nothing like Hogwarts, of that I can assure you! If I had to give any criticism to the book it would be that (even for 12yr olds) the characters are a tad slow on the uptake for certain things, and seem a little to clueless at times, but that’s a small issue. If you are looking for a MG fantasy story in the vein of Harry Potter, but with a unique personality and tone, then I’d recommend giving this one a try. Thanks as always for reading.

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Waiting on Wednesday #28

Waiting On Wednesday hosted by Breaking The Spine

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by the fantastic people over at Breaking The Spine that highlights upcoming releases that we are excited about.

For this week my pre-publication selection that I can’t wait for is:

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Set For Release On: March 26th, 2015

Summary From GoodreadsRed Queen

Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood—those with red and those with silver. Mare and her family are lowly Reds, destined to serve the Silver elite whose supernatural abilities make them nearly gods. Mare steals what she can to help her family survive, but when her best friend is conscripted into the army she gambles everything to win his freedom. A twist of fate leads her to the royal palace itself, where, in front of the king and all his nobles, she discovers a power of her own—an ability she didn’t know she had. Except . . . her blood is Red.

To hide this impossibility, the king forces her into the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks her new position to aid the Scarlet Guard—the leaders of a Red rebellion. Her actions put into motion a deadly and violent dance, pitting prince against prince—and Mare against her own heart.

From debut author Victoria Aveyard comes a lush, vivid fantasy series where loyalty and desire can tear you apart and the only certainty is betrayal.

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While I’m sure many of you have heard of Red Queen already, especially since it was released as an ARC on Edelweiss, but I had to pick it for WoW. That cover is pretty great, though initially it looked kind of like jelly or syrup dripping instead of blood, but the crown is awesome for sure. Then I saw that Nikki at Fiction Freak, who is awesome by the way, gave it five stars and was freaking out quite a bit about it.

I’ll definitely be picking this up when it comes out in March, if only it weren’t so far away! The premise sounds really cool, I can’t wait to see what abilities are showcased by Mare and the rest of the characters, and I certainly could use another great fantasy read.

Had you heard of this one before, and if not does it sound like something you’d enjoy? What book are you “Waiting On”? Let me know in the comments and/or leave a link to your own WoW post! Thanks for checking out my Waiting On Wednesday! ^.^


Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen: Frodo’s Review

Stolen Songbird

Summary From GoodreadsStolen Songbird by Danielle L Jensen

For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity.

But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader.

As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.

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Stolen Songbird was nearly a DNF for me a few times over, and had I not received an eBook copy in exchange for a review I likely would have done just that. However, I decided to give the book the full run through, but unfortunately it really doesn’t get any better.

To start off, the writing is poor in many parts of the book, most notably at the beginning. The word choice is simplistic when it should be complex, the characters are inconsistent and tend to change based on what the story needs at the time, and the “funny” parts feel forced at best. The romance makes no sense, feelings spike for no apparent reason and then drop off just as suddenly, and don’t get me started on the potential Stockholm syndrome vibes, blah.

nope

The main character, Cécile, was one of the least likable and inconsistent characters I’ve had the misfortune of coming across. Toward the beginning of the book she is naive yet is prone to bullheadedness, is said to be well read but often comes off as a dimwit, and has seemingly no capability or desire to be courteous. At best she was play-acting, going off of fairy tales she had read in order to get by, resulting in her being arrogant, pompous, and irritating.

By the end of the book she has somehow convinced everyone that she’s their savior-to-be, a princess in not only name but in her actions, and a friend to all of the downtrodden. The problem is she didn’t do much at all to cause people to change their opinions of her. She is still a human in a troll world, has made remarks that are plain rude, and yet they come to love her. This isn’t a magical turnaround of character, it is simply weak storytelling. The effect is without cause.

Tristan is just as bad and inconsistent. Some of it is supposed to be written off by him “acting” a certain way because he had to keep a “persona” of sorts. I didn’t buy it and no one else around him should have either. He falls for Cécile even though there is little to see why he would besides his remarks of her looks (more lust than love) and voice (appreciation of a gift) which left a bad taste in my mouth.

Eww, gross

I’d tell you about the plot, but the summary for this book gives away any possible twist or turn that could have occurred. The magic “displays” are not descriptive enough, the “battles” (if you can call them that) get all of a sentence or two, and the drama feels forced and weak.

Overall there just simply wasn’t anything I found redeeming about Stolen Songbird. I know that this review was harsh and incredibly negative, but the writing was maybe MG level while trying to discuss YA topics, and it failed on both fronts. Avoid this one if you still can and thanks as always for reading.

One Smiling Frodo w Background


Mini Review Monday: Into the Icebound by Larry Kollar

MiniReviewMonday

Into the Icebound

Summary From GoodreadsInto the Icebound

In the fourth “Accidental Sorcerers” story, Sura, Mik, and Bailar set sail for the Northern Reach, with Lord Darin in pursuit. Their journey is anything but smooth, with storms, raiders, and the prince of Westmarch standing in the way.

Joining an expedition to the ruins of Isenbund, Bailar disappears in the night. Now, Mik and Sura must help rescue their mentor from a legendary foe thought long extinct.

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews on Mini Review Monday! Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

Into the Icebound, the fourth book in the Accidental Sorcerers series, is a fun and easy YA read that could even appeal to MG audiences. This continuation of the exciting fantasy series that I have come to enjoy incorporates a few more classic elements, including goblins and northerners that might as well be cut-outs of vikings or Norse mythology.

Another enjoyable change from previous entries in the series is that it has far more action in it and doesn’t focus as much on the romance. While I like the pairing of Mik and Sura just fine, Into the Icebound is certainly the most entertaining read because of that change.

Displays of magic are plentiful, adventures are undertaken, and history is told in a grand fashion, but in such a way that even younger readers will enjoy. What makes Into the Icebound stand apart the most, however, is that the danger factor is cranked up a few notches. Where as in the first books in the series it felt like the characters were invincible, here this is not nearly the case as many of them encounter real threats to their lives. It isn’t that I want to see Mik or Sura hurt, but having godlike main characters isn’t desirable either, and Kollar manages to balance that aspect the best in this entry to the series.

If you enjoy sorcery, young love (in moderate doses and not graphic), great adventures, and/or great MG/YA style storytelling then this series, and this book especially, is one I’d recommend. You can pick it up on Amazon for a mere dollar here, it’s well worth your time and a fast read to boot. Thanks as always for reading.

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Middle Grade Books: Why I Love Them & Need to Read More

Middle Grade Books: Why I Love Them & Need to Read More

My latest Book Outlet binge (you’ll see the books tomorrow if you are interested) included a few MG books and made me wonder why I enjoy them so much, yet read them so sparingly. The Middle Grade books I have read recently such as Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver, Doll Bones by Holly Black, and, of course, the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, were absolutely amazing. That is not to say that I would or will enjoy all MG books, because that’s not the case for any age range, but so far my track record has been extremely positive. Why is that?

The running theme through all of the books I mentioned, and even ones I didn’t, have been that they are in the fantasy genre, as well as being in the MG age range. The childlike wonder that I see these characters expressing, something their more jaded or skeptical older counterparts in YA do not show, is beautiful. I don’t think that the fantasy genre has a monopoly on that, but perhaps it has the ability to show it off the best.

That belief that anything is possible, dreams can come true, magic is everywhere, and friendships can be just as strong (if not stronger) than romantic relationships, while all cliches, is refreshing and invigorating to witness. Maybe this just means I miss that time in my life or that getting older has jaded me and I wish for the innocence I no longer have, or perhaps MG authors just bring about a different set of emotions than YA, I don’t know.

Something that is a misconception, at least that I’ve seen among bloggers that tend to read YA and avoid MG for the most part, is that MG books are too simple, that the writing is too basic. Sure, MG books are targeted toward a younger audience so the word choice and length are often at a lower level, though not usually by all that much. However, I’ve found that MG books are just as deep, filled with as much content as YA, and often painting a picture that is easier to envision (at least for my brain, not sure what that says).

It's so beautiful

That brings me to my second question, and also my request. Why don’t I read MG more often if I enjoy it so much? Percy Jackson, Liesl and Po, Doll Bones, they have another thing in common: I found out about them through other bookish people, in this case specifically Kat at Katytastic (who is awesome). Maybe I don’t follow the right book bloggers (not that I don’t love the ones I do!) or I don’t pay attention, or whatever other reason there may be, but I never hear about MG books. It’s rare.

So perhaps I should follow more MG readers, if there are ones I can find, or just do some hunting myself. Once in a great while I will see a blog or vlog post that has maybe one or two MG books in it and I run off and insta-buy them. Though…that may speak more to my book buying addiction than anything else. o_o

So my questions to you! First, do you read MG, if so do you enjoy it as much as YA, adult, etc. and where do you discover new ones if you do? Second, are there booktubers/book bloggers I should be watching/reading more of and it boggles your mind that I haven’t already been doing so? Finally, what MG books would you recommend (with the knowledge that I read any genre and basically have no recent MG under my belt)? Thank you so much for reading and have a great weekend! ^.^


Waiting on Wednesday #16

Waiting On Wednesday hosted by Breaking The Spine

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by the fantastic people over at Breaking The Spine that highlights upcoming releases that we are excited about.

For this week my pre-publication selection that I can’t wait for is:

Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong

Set For Release On: April 8th, 2014

Summary From GoodreadsSea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong

In the Forest of the Dead, where the empire’s worst criminals are exiled, twin sisters Moria and Ashyn are charged with a dangerous task. For they are the Keeper and the Seeker, and each year they must quiet the enraged souls of the damned.

Only this year, the souls will not be quieted.

Ambushed and separated by an ancient evil, the sisters’ journey to find each other sends them far from the only home they’ve ever known. Accompanied by a stubborn imperial guard and a dashing condemned thief, the girls cross a once-empty wasteland, now filled with reawakened monsters of legend, as they travel to warn the emperor. But a terrible secret awaits them at court—one that will alter the balance of their world forever.

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This is another book that I hadn’t heard of until the Cover Snark feature that Christina at A Reader of Fictions does, and I am so glad I did! First off, I’ll be trying to get the UK cover which is the one shown above, because I would love to have that on my shelves. Secondly, emperors always make me think Asia, specifically Japan, and while this is Fantasy and likely set in a completely different world, I’m still excited by the possibilities of that type of culture being infused with the fantastic. Thirdly, and finally, while there are a decent number of books about twin sisters, not many are done in this kind of setting/genre/storyline and I really am looking forward to seeing how that dynamic works.

Does Sea of Shadows appeal to you? What do you think the setting will be like? What book are you “Waiting On”? Let me know in the comments and/or leave a link to your own WoW post and I will make sure to stop by! Thanks for checking out my Waiting On Wednesday! ^.^


Unhinged by A.G. Howard: Frodo’s Review

Unhinged

Summary From GoodreadsUnhinged by A.G. Howard

Alyssa Gardner has been down the rabbit hole and faced the bandersnatch. She saved the life of Jeb, the guy she loves, and escaped the machinations of the disturbingly seductive Morpheus and the vindictive Queen Red. Now all she has to do is graduate high school and make it through prom so she can attend the prestigious art school in London she’s always dreamed of.

That would be easier without her mother, freshly released from an asylum, acting overly protective and suspicious. And it would be much simpler if the mysterious Morpheus didn’t show up for school one day to tempt her with another dangerous quest in the dark, challenging Wonderland—where she (partly) belongs.

As prom and graduation creep closer, Alyssa juggles Morpheus’s unsettling presence in her real world with trying to tell Jeb the truth about a past he’s forgotten. Glimpses of Wonderland start to bleed through her art and into her world in very disturbing ways, and Morpheus warns that Queen Red won’t be far behind.

If Alyssa stays in the human realm, she could endanger Jeb, her parents, and everyone she loves. But if she steps through the rabbit hole again, she’ll face a deadly battle that could cost more than just her head.

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Unhinged…was not what I expected. Splintered, book one in the series, showcased this dark and edgy depiction of Wonderland that I fell in love with. The humor, characters, and style that were used fascinated me and had me hungry for more, instantly I pre-ordered Unhinged.

The characters are there. Morpheus is shown in all of his glory and mysteriousness. Jeb is still loyal, in love, and the kind of knight in shining armor that I expected him to be. Alyssa is conflicted, but slowly finding herself; magical, but wild and unsure.

Danger is lurking with the Red Queen once again causing all sorts of chaos, as well as the turmoil of the heart as Alyssa has to decide who she wants to be with and the life that they can offer her. Drama, magic, and incredible displays of artwork fill this story and make it wonderful with the same dark overtones that I enjoyed so much in the first book.

What’s the major difference? While many of the magical creatures of Wonderland make an appearance, my favorite being that of the White Rabbit (or Rabid White as he is known in this series), the shock to me was how much of this story took place in the “real world” rather than the magical Wonderland I had fallen so in love with. After giving it a fair bit of thought I can understand some of the reasoning for why Howard wanted to do this as there were many issues that needed to be taken care of there, but it caught me off guard.

What Howard did manage to do by keeping the majority of the focus on our world is make it seem magical in and of itself. She makes it so we question our surroundings, second guess preconceived notions of the way things “work” here, and I certainly don’t look at bugs or flowers the same anymore. She made reality wondrous and that is no easy feat.

So did I enjoy Unhinged? Yes. Was it the story I thought I was going to be getting? Nope. Does it really matter? Not really, I enjoyed the tale and I am just as excited, if not more so, to read book three in the series (even though I have to wait a year to do it) which I will likely pre-order as soon as possible. If you liked Splintered, especially the cast of characters, then you will enjoy Unhinged as well. Oh, and if you haven’t read Splintered yet, please do so, it is absolutely amazing and one of my favorite books that I read last year. Thanks as always for reading! ^.^

Goodreads 2014 Reading Challenge #12/365

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Killing My Kindle: The Sorcerer’s Daughter by Larry Kollar

Killing My Kindle

For 2014 I am tackling my Kindle app in an effort to make a dent in the large library of often forgotten eBooks. Every week I will talk about an eBook I read, be it good or bad, so that I can stay motivated and share some of it with you.

This week I took a stab at: The Sorcerer’s Daughter by Larry Kollar

Released On: December 10th, 2013

Summary From GoodreadsThe Sorcerer's Daughter by Larry Kollar

In the third “Accidental Sorcerer’s” story, as Bailar and his apprentices help the Conclave prepare for conflict with the rogue sorcerers, Sura learns that she is a descendant of a noble House in the Alliance. But when she discovers the price of her history, it may be too late.

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The Sorcerer’s Daughter is, by far, the best book in this magical series to date. Picking up right where Water and Chaos left off, Sura and Mik continue to learn more about magic and their abilities to control under the tutelage of their master Bailar. While there is some back and forth between the views of the two apprentices, this is Sura’s story, especially in the second half of the short but exciting adventure. After seeing things from Mik’s perspective in Water and Chaos, I’d say that I prefer things told from Sura’s point of view. There is more feeling, emotion, and passion behind her voice and the story is strengthened because of it. Kollar makes us feel what she is experiencing and, to me, this is his strongest piece from a writing standpoint as well.

The relationship between the two young sorcerers isn’t as central to the story, something for which I was very grateful, and that allowed the magic to be the focus. Spells using all elements, sometimes mixing them to create something even more powerful, and displays that were exciting and often rather humorous are spread throughout the book.

What sets The Sorcerer’s Daughter, and indeed the Accidental Sorcerers series as a whole, apart from other magical series is that the spells aren’t designed to just inflict damage against enemies or even to just protect yourself. In this series every spell has multiple purposes and uses, and often the initial intent behind them is peaceful in nature, but these sorcerer’s find creative ways to make them combative. It’s a nice departure from the never ending stream of books filled with fireballs and earthquakes.

The story is split into two halves, initially learning and teaching new spells that will be useful later on at the Conclave, and then with Sura having an adventure on her own as she learns about her history and what her life could be like if she desires for nobility. Both are equally entertaining, and the pacing is perfect. The personality of the other apprentices in the first half as well as the nobles and servants in the second helped to keep the mood light and kept me laughing. The cast overall was the strongest it has been in the series and I really enjoyed meeting some new people that I imagine will be returning in the forth book, Into the Icebound.

I’m really looking forward to experiencing more of the world Kollar has created and seeing what new spells he comes up with. This is a really light and easy read for fans of MG or YA fantasy and it’s only a dollar on Amazon if you want to check it out. I’m so happy I started the year off on a high note as this was the first book I read for my challenge and it makes me hopeful as I work my way through my Kindle app that this will be a fun feature to do each week. Thanks as always for reading!

Goodreads 2014 Reading Challenge #1/365; Mount TBR Challenge #1/200; 2014 TBR Pile #1/50; Seriously Series Reading Challenge #1/75; 2014 Ebook Reading Challenge #1/75

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Frodo’s Frisky Friday: Bran of Greenwood and the Scary Fairy Princess by Zoe E. Whitten

Frodo's Frisky Friday

Bran of Greenwood and the Scary Fairy Princess

Summary From Goodreads:

It’s a simple story about a half-orc barbarian, an elvish thief, a nightmare, a quest, a kidnapping…I’ll start over. It’s a complicated and raunchy romp following the gastronomical and sexual adventures of Lana the light-fingered and Bran of Greenwood in their quest for a certain belt. A 2010 NaNoWriMo “winner,” this is cheesy porn at its finest, best read after The Hunger Games. Yes, really.

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

The thing you have to understand when you go to read this story is that the author says in a note to her readers that this is a “lazy doodle” so it isn’t one of her masterpieces. This makes it all the more amazing how great the story turns out to be. I laughed throughout the entire piece, from the nods to Monty Python to the joking references to The Hunger Games, from the “normal” sexual tales to the absolutely bizarre and hilarious, it all works.

The characters are fun and engaging, the story is really strong and would hold up on its own which is quite the feat, and Lana’s plight is actually quite moving. There is a sweet relationship mixed in with the silly sexual exploits that take place and they mesh very well. Simply put, it’s all of Whitten’s fantastic skill mixed in with hilarity and naughty bits. Needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. Definitely recommended for anyone looking for a light naughty story. Thanks for reading! ^.^

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #142/200

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YA Wednesday: The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett

YAWednesday

The Nightmare Affair

Summary From Goodreads: 

Sixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare.

Literally.

Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy, is hard enough. But when Dusty sneaks into Eli Booker’s house, things get a whole lot more complicated. He’s hot, which means sitting on his chest and invading his dreams couldn’t get much more embarrassing. But it does. Eli is dreaming of a murder.

Then Eli’s dream comes true.

Now Dusty has to follow the clues—both within Eli’s dreams and out of them—to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what she’s up to and marks her as the next target.

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The Nightmare Affair caused much inner turmoil for me. The book has wonderful paranormal aspects, a rich and complex world and plenty of hilarity. However, the characters and I did not get along very well, many of the actions of the characters and their dialogue were childish and the ending was lackluster. So ya, I’m not sure what I should focus on more to determine my overall feelings beyond “mixed” or something similar.

So, lets start with the paranormal awesomeness since I want some positive vibes to at least start us off. You want ALL the types? You came to the right place! There are nightmares, witches and wizards, hags, sirens, fairies, well you get the idea. Arnett utilizes many of these paranormal creatures to their fullest potential and then some. She gives depth and a twist on each one to make them fresh and unique. Yes, there is a focus on a few types, but if you’re looking for a few new ones to read about you came to the right book.

The world in The Nightmare Affair is equally as awesome as the characters that inhabit it. The school really came to life for me and while some of the goings on weren’t wonderful I definitely would love to check a place like that out. Ooo and the creepy graveyard and the super freaky crypt? Loved those! Arnett definitely has a knack for creating a captivating world.

Dusty, the MC, gave me mixed feelings. While I enjoyed the edge she often had and her witty jokes there were parts about her that drove me crazy. One example of that would be her going crazy for seemingly every attractive boy she encountered or that gave her the time of day, it was just sad. Also, despite Dusty being an outcast because she’s a nightmare she is way too trusting. Meeting a person for the first time? Practically acts like they have a trust formed from years of bonding. It’s bizarre. Oh and the constant “woe is me because of my mother’s reputation” thing got old really fast. So ya, I kinda liked her but she bugged me at the same time. Eh.

Now, the not-so-fun parts. Love triangle? Check. Insta-love? Mega-super-sized check. The romance was pretty predictable, the direction it went obvious and the ending rushed and without purpose or build up. It was just a mess for me and the amount of times I had to hear how hot this guys is, how sexy the other one’s abs are, just stop it. Bleh.

Predictability. Unfortunately the plot was pretty obvious. The first encounter with one of the major secondary characters might as well of had “BAD GUY ALERT” stamped on it with red flags and flashing signs and lights. Some of the “twists” at the end were just as bad, especially with the crypt. I won’t elaborate because of spoilers and all but really this was what left me unsatisfied with the book overall. I could get over the romantic mess and Dusty’s quirks but when the book’s direction is clear 1/3 of the way in I am not going to be adding it to my love list.

So ya, I didn’t love the Nightmare Affair, but I didn’t hate it either. The flaws were pretty glaring but there were good parts that I did enjoy. It is Mindee Arnett’s debut so I’m curious to see how her writing develops from here. There is plenty of potential for the series but some tweaks and some surprises that aren’t quite so obvious would be welcome. Thanks as always for reading!

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #131/200

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15 Day Book Blogger Challenge: Day 13

15 Day Book Blogger Challenge: Day 13

15-Day-Challenge

The awesome people over at Good Books and Good Wine came up with the fabulous 15 Day Book Blogger Challenge!

Today’s Challenge is: Describe one underappreciated book EVERYONE should read.

There are SO many books to choose from for this challenge (as I’m sure all the bloggers participating in this one are saying) so it is very difficult to just pick one, but I’ll go with the first one that came to mind. The book is Thief by Sarah-Jane Lehoux which you can pick up from Amazon for only 99 cents!

Thief is primarily a fantasy book. You see elves featured a decent amount, though the dark elves are arguably cooler than their light counterparts if you ask me. There are also goddesses and pixies as well as a variety of other lesser used creatures which you’ll have to find out more about by reading the book.

Thief is headlined by Sevy, a kick-ass heroine who is easily one of my favorite characters in any book I’ve ever read. She’s that classic bad-ass on the outside and softie/sweetheart on the inside, but don’t let her know I told you that. She started from nothing, literally growing up on the streets and was stealing to get by until she runs into the other main character, Jarro. Picture your typical nice guy in your head, that’s Jarro, only he’s a gang leader. How does a guy like that end up in a gang? You’ll have to read the book to find out! I’m such a tease. ^.^

The book is action packed with displays of the fantastic, battles, rescues and grand adventures, the book has it all. There are also elements of romance that fuel a lot of the book’s plot but it melds perfectly with the rest of the story. Pain and loss are acutely felt by the reader, or at least by me, and the desire to see Sevy reach a “happily ever after” becomes just as big of a drive for us as it is for Sevy and the other characters in Thief.

I can’t say much more without spoiling major bits of the book so I’ll just say that I loved it and you should definitely read it. Fantasy fans this is a must read for you. Action junkies you too. Oh and sweet romance lovers make sure to check it out as well. Really just anyone who loves a good book needs to read Thief. What underappreciated book should I check out that you love? Why is it so amazing? Thanks as always for reading! ^.^


Review: Water and Chaos by Larry Kollar

Water and Chaos

Summary From Goodreads

Infiltrating a nest of rogue sorcerers can be hazardous… to your heart.

Mik and Sura are growing ever stronger as apprentice sorcerers, but neither knew what living in Mik’s hometown would do to their relationship. Torn apart by misunderstanding, Mik volunteers for a hazardous mission in a distant land. Now Sura must learn to trust, and Mik must learn the true meaning of home.

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I received an eBook copy of Water and Chaos from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Water and Chaos was released today! If you’d like to pick up a copy you can do so here.

Water and Chaos picks up right where Accidental Sorcerers left off. Mik and Sura are training to hone their powers while blossoming as a young couple. Then we are plunged in a series of adventures each of which seem more perilous than the last. Sounds cool right?

Here’s what I realized after finishing Water and Chaos, this series is, at least to me, romance with fantasy elements. I don’t think that is what I expected when I was introduced to the series, but the transition from Accidental Sorcerers (mostly fantasy but with romance intertwined) to Water and Chaos (romance abound with magical happenings around it) seems to lend itself to that type of series going forward. Also in my review of Accidental Sorcerers I mentioned that I thought AS was more Middle Grade than YA. Well Water and Chaos moves more into the younger YA range so it appears that as the MC ages (13 in Book 1, 14 in Book 2) the audience and corresponding writing styles go with it. Nothing is wrong with any of these adjustments in perspective, just some guidelines to go by.

Mik continues to be a very strong MC. He’s likable, he’s got a good sense of humor and he’s an all around good guy, easy to root for. Don’t get me wrong, he isn’t perfect as we find out in this book, but he’s a solid model of goodness in most cases. Possibly my favorite change from AS to W&C is the edge Mik develops. I can’t say why without spoilers but it breathes some life into his character to keep him from being a cliche.

Sura, on the other hand, becomes a whiner prone to fits of jealousy. She can’t handle even the hint of competition for Mik regardless of what he says to reassure her and even goes over the top at one point despite everyone around her assuring her she is seeing things that aren’t there. She pouts, she’s moody, she just bugged me. Worst of all the reader is stuck watching Mik deal with all of her crap, none of which he deserves. Not a fan.

I highly doubt it had anything to do with what I said in my review of AS, but Kollar incorporated the previously mentioned relationship issues just like I hoped for. It did work in the sense of providing some needed conflict between the lovebirds, though not all of the side affects of that were desirable as I pointed out. What I didn’t expect was that the conflict in their relationship would push the rest of the plot and mightily influence it to boot. It shows in the initial adventure to Mik’s hometown and in the one to “distant lands” even more so. What the book lacked though was action. I made a comment on Twitter while reading that 25% of the way through the book “the main action point has been chasing cows…admittedly with magic but still” and it didn’t get much crazier. Oh sure there was some minor skirmishes and displays of magic, enough to keep the book a “fantasy” and not bordering on some type of contemporary. However, there weren’t any “shock and awe” type of moments or large displays of magic to really excite the reader. That didn’t hinder the story, but it definitely changed the feel.

The world building is the shining success of the Accidental Sorcerers series. Kollar gives depth to his characters and the areas of the world they came from. There are different languages, ancestries, cultures, and everything else you could ask for. The landscapes come to life, spiny mountains, winding rivers and a certain narrow isle are described in beautiful detail. Between the diverse societies each with their own unique culture, the amazing lands and seas to discover and the in depth character development Kollar makes you want to read on and learn more, this is where the drive is to read the next book in the series each time.

Overall Water and Chaos is a good book with a character flaw, it’s human and there isn’t anything inherently wrong with that. It isn’t an action filled book and Sura could have done with an attitude adjustment in a major way. However, the romance is typical of young teenagers, the ups and downs are to be expected. The world Kollar creates is remarkably well done and I know in the next book I will enjoy exploring it along with a very solid MC in Mik, one with an edge to him that I really appreciate being added. I look forward to the next book and maybe a bit more magic and awe than romance, but we shall see! Thanks as always for reading!

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #103/200

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Review: Blood Winter by Diana Pharaoh Francis

Blood Winter

Summary From Goodreads

Max always does her job, no matter how brutal and bloody. That’s how it’s been ever since she was enslaved by a witch, turned into a supernatural warrior, and assigned to protect the coven of Horngate. But her job just got harder….

Waves of wild magic have returned much of the world to a time when fairy tales were real and danger now lurks behind every tree and bush. As winter descends and food, heat, and water are harder to come by, many have turned to Benjamin Sterling for protection. Leader of the Earth’s Last Stand cult, Sterling claims to be the Hand of God, but his power and charisma secretly come from a dark and terrible source. With devout followers eager to do his sadistic bidding, he has his eyes on Horngate and its magical inhabitants. To save those she loves, Max will knowingly walk into a trap. But when the cult strips Max’s soul bare for all to see, will even Alexander—her lover and her strength—remain? And if she were to lose him, what does it matter if she gains the whole world…

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This book. I can’t even describe how many times I almost quit on it. Truly the only reason I didn’t was because I received it from the amazing people over at Arcycling. It just didn’t feel right to DNF it, no matter how much I wanted to at times. So I slogged through and have made it through to the other side. The funny thing is, Blood Winter isn’t a bad book. I wouldn’t even be surprised if quite a few bloggy friends of mine into fantasy would read it and like it. It just wasn’t for me. Let me tell you why.

Wordiness. I love beautiful descriptions and depictions of the worlds authors create and the characters that inhabit them as much as the next person. That does not mean, however, that I want 50+ words to describe what you could tell me in 10. I will qualify all of what I’ll be saying about this book by reminding you that since I received it from Arcycling it is an ARC, there may have been some changes. The advanced reader copy I received is 388 pages. It probably should have been closer to 300. There is simply too much description, too much minutia to wade through and that’s all there is to it. Moving on.

Style. Francis wrote Blood Winter in a way where we are being told what is happening rather than being able to experience the action along with the characters. This happens. Then that happens. Then some more stuff happens. While there are exceptions to every rule, in most cases I don’t recommend writing in this way because it feels passive, or worse, even distances the reader. It’s like reading a history book where all of the action has already taken place. You aren’t connected, you don’t feel with the characters and because of it the book loses so much potential for readers to enjoy. Meh.

The relationship. Gag me with a spork. Alright, please don’t as that sounds quite painful, but this “romance” did nothing for me. At no point did I hope for Max and Alexander’s happiness, feel saddened by their struggles or uplifted by their happy times. I felt numb, kind of like they do at various points in the book. It’s this on again, off again spiral of frustration, it’s a ride they can’t seem to get off of and, at least for me, just gets annoying. I get it, you are fighting, you aren’t the most compatible of people, but can we move on yet? In fact that’s exactly what I’ll do.

There are positives in Blood Winter. Arcycling book or not, if I didn’t find some things that interested me I would have DNF’d it after 100 pages or so. Max is actually a great character when she isn’t dwelling on Alexander. She’s a kickass near-superhero type with a sharp sense of humor. Who doesn’t love that? I wish she would have just ditched Alexander in the beginning since she was clearly having attachment issues as it was and moved on to kick everyone’s butt. Alas. She felt the most real out of any character in the book and things from her perspective, as opposed to Alexander’s, just felt right. Give me more Max and less mushy crap and I’d have been hooked.

The world that Francis created is also very intriguing. It is teeming with supernatural creatures of all types from angels to “Blades”, from witches to “Grims” plus a host of others. This is where the author’s tendency to go into too much detail was a help rather than a hindrance. You could pick up Blood Winter, which is the fourth book in the Horngate Witches series, and read it as a stand alone without feeling lost. As a reader I understood every facet of the world after about 50 or so pages. If it wasn’t for the style of writing employed I’d be keen on coming back and discovering more.

So overall no, I didn’t enjoy Blood Winter. If you are tempted to DNF a book that many times it takes some miraculous writing near the middle and end to save a book, this one didn’t have it. I didn’t like the style, the book could have been a lot shorter to cut down on the wordiness and excessive descriptions and the relationship was grating on the nerves. The positives, Max and the world building, couldn’t outweigh the negatives. Nothing to be done. Thank you as always for reading and don’t forget that I’m hosting a big celebration giveaway on July 2nd!

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #101/200; Mount TBR Challenge #60/150; 2013 TBR Pile #60/50

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Day 91: Prolusio: Three Stories of Fates Fire Shifters & Dragons by Kris Austen Radcliffe

Day 91

Summary From Goodreads

Three short stories set in the Fate ~ Fire ~ Shifter ~ Dragon universeProlusio sets the stage for Games of Fate: A New Adult Urban Fantasy with Strong Romantic Elements, also available now.

Pop Rocks: In Texas, the struggling rock star Billy Bare attempts a comeback. Fire, though, has other ideas.

Welcome to the Dells: In Wisconsin, Shifters do what they do best—anger a Ladon and Dragon.

Cinder to Dust: And in Minnesota, Rysa’s mother, Mira, struggles to free herself from the bonds of a fate she cannot escape.

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! This is where I write a review in the time I have before I go to work or before I go to bed. Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

I found someone mentioning this short story collection on twitter and thought it looked like it could be pretty interesting, I mean who doesn’t love dragons? Unfortunately I can’t say that I enjoyed any of them. All three short stories felt disjointed and they lacked any cohesiveness or any direction. Worse still I couldn’t see a purpose in any of them, there was no “moral of the story” moment in any and maybe they would make more sense if I read full length novels, or even novellas of these stories afterward, but in and of themselves I don’t get them at all. Oh well, even stories of dragons aren’t impervious to some…flops. Thanks as always for reading.

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #91/365

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Day 84: Oddities by Larry Kollar

Day 84

Summary From Goodreads

An odd little anthology of flash fiction and short stories, for those who love fantasy and science fiction.

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Today was the release day of Oddities by the always amazing and entertaining Larry Kollar so I thought it only fitting that I review it today! You can get it from Amazon here for only 99 cents! Oddities is separated into two halves, the first made up of fantasy stories, the latter science fiction, both with one entertaining story after another. As usual with anthologies I will do a list, this time of my five favorites with a little about them and why I enjoyed the stories. So without further ado, my top 5, in reverse order of course:

5. Siren in Training – It’s exactly what the title would suggest, a short story about a young girl that happens to be a siren. She just finds this out at fourteen and after finally accepting of her new powers puts them to use. These powers do have some limitations and some…side effects on her life that are a nice twist on the usual siren story. A funny little story, quite enjoyable.

4. The Seventh Sage – A story that shows nothing is as it might seem. Great warriors can become great scholars if the path they choose dictates they must. The message seems to be that the greatest rewards are those that you are not even searching for, but find naturally. A more deep-thinking story, but enjoyable.

3. Bait – Another sci-fi story as well as being yet another humorous entry, Bait is about a world where humans live but are under the power of aliens, apparently which like to fish. While the aliens have a different objective, the humans believe they do so to capture them. However, the only currency remaining is obtained by risking this capture. The ending is the selling point for Bait and definitely made me chuckle as it was a pretty good comparison for how humans often assume they know what the other people are thinking when the reality is quite different. If we take Bait as words of wisdom it would be to work on communicating more clearly with other cultures and thus bring us closer together.

2. Spark – One of the science fiction stories, Spark is another one that causes some deeper thinking. In this case the story examines our dependence on technology as well as the virtual reality that so many of us lose ourselves in. It asks us what we might lose in exchange for the way we are spending our lives and whether we are willing to pay the price. Will we risk losing our spark? I loved this one, it brings up quite the quandary.

1. Asmus and the Dragon – Filled with both subtle humor (the name of a certain land Asmus, the main character, traveled to was rather funny in a punny way) as well as the downright hilarious (two words: allergic. dragon.) this story was fabulous. Though one of the shorter ones it had me laughing throughout and my only wish is that it had been longer. Besides, who can resist a good dragon story?

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #84/365

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Day 81: Prophecy by Ellen Oh

Day 81

Summary From Goodreads

Kira’s the only female in the king’s army, and the prince’s bodyguard. She’s a demon slayer and an outcast, hated by nearly everyone in her home city of Hansong. And, she’s their only hope…

Murdered kings and discovered traitors point to a demon invasion, sending Kira on the run with the young prince. He may be the savior predicted in the Dragon King Prophecy, but the missing treasure of myth may be the true key. With only the guidance of the cryptic prophecy, Kira must battle demon soldiers, evil shaman, and the Demon Lord himself to find what was once lost and raise a prince into a king.

Intrigue and mystery, ancient lore and action-packed fantasy come together in this heart-stopping first book in a trilogy.

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Prophecy has many of the elements of a great fantasy novel but unfortunately it just can’t combine them effectively. Demon slaying, 7 different kingdoms potentially fighting one another whether in wars or political discourse and, of course, prophecies. All of those combined, well they’d likely make up a slightly different version of Game of Thrones, but Prophecy falls short in execution and fails to draw me in.

Let’s start with the characters. I didn’t connect with any of them. No, seriously, not one, not the MC Kira, not her siblings, not the “love interests” if you can even call them that, nobody. The main reason for this is they simply aren’t fleshed out enough. There is no reason to sympathize with them. Oh sure they go through a ton of crap in their lives, but a lot of people do, and without knowing enough about them and connecting with them there is no way to separate their plight from anyone else. Kira has many burdens she deals with, but while Prophecy seems to want to make you believe that she grins and bears them silently, or as much so as possible like a good little soldier, in reality she whines and gripes a lot. The love interests, if you even can call them that, have no spark. To top it off the little brother is just annoying, not compelling whatsoever. Blah.

While there could be plenty of world building and wonderful scenes presented considering there are seven kingdoms to develop and showcase for some reason Ellen Oh does not go that route. None of the scenery even manages to add to the book’s allure, or lack there of, as they are surface only. There could be so much done here but alas this story could be taking place in Japan or in Venezuela, you really couldn’t tell any differences in how the novel would play out.

As for the plot, I wasn’t engaged. I tried getting into it a few times, even going so far as to put the book down for a while (never a good sign) and then picking it up a couple hours later to see if it gave me a new feel or perspective. All it did was prolong my time getting through the piece. The battle scenes were akin to a hack and slash video game, one that is so repetitive as to get dull within the first half hour of play. I don’t care how trained or hyper sensitive Kira is supposed to be, she isn’t dodging every single attack at the last second in a realistic battle, especially when her and her group are outnumbered multiple times. Forget it. The pace is slow despite the action scenes mixed in and it just never piqued my interest.

I really had thought Prophecy would be a solid read especially after one of my best bloggy friends Annabelle gave it such a glowing review, but alas I just didn’t find the same things enticing as she did. Kira was a strong female MC but I don’t think that being a “badass” gives you enough leeway to be seemingly devoid of personality. Nor did I need to be reminded every other chapter about how everyone everywhere doesn’t like her at best or wants her dead at worst, I got the gist in the first few chapters, really. While Prophecy had plenty of potential (I did compare the elements it could have used to Game of Thrones after all) it wasn’t executed well in my opinion. I don’t think I’ll be reading the rest of the series. Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 82!

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #81/365

DNF


Day 71: Feeding the Feral Children by David Farland

Day 71

Summary From Goodreads

In 235 BC, a young man in China falls in love, but needs money to buy land in order to convince a young woman’s father that he is a worthy suitor.

Taking the dangerous new Silk Road into Persia, he must face giant pink-tusked elephants, desert sandstorms, and dangerous bandits.

But when all that he owns is stolen, he runs afoul of Mongol sorcerer, to the peril of his soul.

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! This is where I write a review in the time I have before I go to work or before I go to bed. Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

Even though the story did feel complete I still wish Feeding the Feral Children could have been longer. The novella was captivating and packed so much detail into such a small amount of pages, quite impressive, though not surprising considering it is David Farland after all. The type of magic used in the story is one rarely seen in books, at least in America, so drawing from the fantastical in the ancient Chinese culture was definitely a fresh and welcome experience. The characters were interesting, the plot intriguing if simple only due to length constraints, and the world that was created was drawn up in such a way that the reader can really feel like they are there, even if they are miles away. That sounds like something all books do, but it isn’t easy creating that effect in such a short piece and so naturally to boot.

I recommend reading this if you want something fantasy related but that is different from the norm. It’s a quick and easy read that could be enjoyed by any reader. I look forward to reading more of Farland’s work in the future. Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 72 & Waiting on Wednesday!

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #71/365

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Day 70: Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

Day 70

Summary From Goodreads

It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners—and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage—in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.

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There are many words that can be used to describe Etiquette & Espionage. Fabulous. Odd. Hilarious. I don’t know that any combination will adequately describe the book, but I’ll give it a go since reviews are apparently my thing now.

The main reason Etiquette & Espionage is so hard to accurately describe is because it encompasses so many genres. There is the fantastic elements such as werewolves and vampires, both of which are readily accepted by a large portion of society, go figure. Then there are the steampunk elements which go from mechanimals (exactly what they sound like) to floating schools seemingly made out of three dirigibles melded together, to descriptions of machines themselves. There is the urban setting, it is a school after all, even a floating one counts. Oh and the matter of it being in the 1800’s and thus having grand balls, horse-drawn carriages and of course the way of speaking that seems to fit the time. Add that all together and you can see why it is a bit hard to summarize all that Etiquette & Espionage holds in simple terms.

What’s so amazing, or at least in part, about the book is that it combines all of the aforementioned genres seamlessly. The vampires and werewolves? They fit right in with the school setting. The descriptions of different mechanical workings? Doesn’t clash with lessons on a proper curtsy or what size of handkerchief is possible to hide in a given…well, bosom. Even the manner of speech manages to fit in seamlessly with all of the fantastical goings on.

My personal favorite incorporation was the humor. Carriger not only uses standard forms of humor, but with the etiquette involved some specific situations that most books would be unable to take advantage of are used masterfully. Also names, just hilarious and no doubt for the author’s benefit as much as it was for the reader. My favorites were Lord Dingleproops, Mrs. Barnaclegoose and Bumbersnoot. I’m sorry but if you didn’t at least emit a giggle reading those you need to work on your sense of humor!

The characters were excellent too. The main character, Sophronia, is brilliant, funny, and though the school does make her more feminine as it is designed to do, she retains much of her tomboyish qualities as well as her adventurous & reckless tendencies which is always nice to see with a female MC every now and then. She’s pretty but it doesn’t make her act superior, loyal to those she cares about (unless faced with an incoming werewolf) and I can’t wait to see how her character develops. The supporting cast of friends, teachers and even enemies are all done very well. I honestly can’t think of a character I thought was poorly done which is pretty amazing.

Etiquette & Espionage is the first book in a four part series, and I’m definitely looking forward to book two, Curtsies & Conspiracies, which is expected to be released in November of this year. There wasn’t a cliffhanger ending (thank you Gail!) but that hasn’t made my longing any less. There is plenty more “education” left to be had, rules to be broken and hilarity to ensue. I’d recommend this book to anyone, especially since there seems to be a bit about it to appease a fan of any genre type. Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 71!

Genre Variety Reading Challenge #25/30 – Category – Steampunk; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #70/365

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Day 63: Masquerade by Sarah-Jane Lehoux plus a giveaway!

Day 63

Summary From GoodreadsMasquerade

Never Trust a Liar, especially when they’re telling the truth.

Starting over isn’t easy, especially when the world isn’t ready for you to change. Sevy, thief turned assassin turned mercenary, isn’t having any fun adjusting to a normal, law-abiding life. Luckily for her, an old partner in crime arrives with an irresistible proposition: a getaway to a tropical island, an adventure of a lifetime, and an amazing friendship ready to blossom into an even more amazing romance.

Things are looking up for Sevy. That is, until a pack of maniacal fairies with a taste for human flesh arrive on the scene.

Now she must unravel a web of magical intrigue hidden behind the outwardly idyllic atmosphere of the islands of Belakarta. Nothing is as it seems, and no one can be trusted. Trapped under the spell of a handsome and mysterious stranger, Sevy must fight fairies and tricksters to regain her freedom.

Or spend an eternity as a sorcerer’s plaything.

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Masquerade Blog Tour

That’s right, I’m part of a blog tour, huzzah! Even better is that it is for one of my best bookish/twitter friends Sarah-Jane Lehoux. ^.^ I received an eBook copy of Masquerade in exchange for my honest thoughts on the book, as always this in no way affected the following  review.

I’m pretty sure that it is Sarah-Jane’s mission in life to torture her characters, most especially Sevy. However, that doesn’t prevent Masquerade from being an excellent addition to the series. Sevy has to battle a whole host of new enemies, most of all the seemingly all-powerful Kirydan who quickly manages to get her wrapped around his finger.

The characters in Masquerade are, as is par for the course with the Sevy Series, the greatest strength of the book. Revik, the dark elf, takes on a greater role as he attempts to help Sevy escape from Kirydan. We find out more of Revik’s devotion toward his family and delve deeper into who he is as a person, as well as some hard sacrifices he is willing to make for a friend. While Sevy is still the focal point of Masquerade, she’d have it no other way, she isn’t like herself for the vast majority of the book. Under Kirydan’s spell she acts more and more like his pet/love slave, which is truly hard to watch, or in this case read.

The void of a heroine is taken up by Revik’s daughter, Yy’voura. A new character in the series, Yy’voura is a fun loving young dark elf who seems to want nothing more than to play yet another game with her friends, unfortunately those friends include Kirydan who has messed with her mind in a powerful way. As the book progresses we learn more about who Yy’voura truly is and what lengths she will go to in order to help her family.

Kirydan is an excellent villain. He’s got magical powers (always helps), good looks (doesn’t hurt) and even seems to have control over certain magical creatures as well. While he is definitely contemptible there is a vulnerability and a tortured past that gives the reader, as well as the other characters in Masquerade, just enough pause which is just what he wants. He’s corrupted, twisted and pitiable, and while that might seem slightly cliche it works in this case.

The plot is very heavily focused on the back and forth between attempted freeing of Sevy and company and further conquest by Kirydan. It is a balanced battle and will keep the reader anxious to find out which side will come out victorious, and what price they will have to pay in order to do so. For those of you who like a little naughtiness mixed in with your fantasy, Masquerade delivers just the right amount. With romance, daring attempts at rescue, a freakishly powerful yet seductive villain and plenty of magic Masquerade delivers the perfect combination.

As you can clearly tell, I thoroughly enjoyed Masquerade, just as I have with Thief and Shades of War. While they have all been excellent books in my opinion, the elements in Masquerade work even more perfectly than the previous ones and it has quickly become my favorite. Even though Masquerade was just released I already can’t wait for the next book in the series! Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 64 as well as a special interview with Sarah-Jane Lehoux!

Make sure to enter the giveaway for 3 Sevy Series eBook sets here! a Rafflecopter giveaway

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #63/365

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Day 50: The Crossover by Larry Kollar

Day 50

Summary From Goodreads

The warrior-mage Chelinn and his friend Lodrán have visited many strange places. But when a curse goes awry, sending them to a world where mundane devices have supplanted magic, nothing is familiar at first. Then, after rescuing a merchant, they find themselves embroiled in a far more dangerous situation.

As hundreds of lives hang in the balance, two heroes and their new friends must use all their talents to foil an evil plot — and survive until they can catch a rainbow and return home.

The Crossover brings classic fantasy characters into a modern-day setting. Neither Earth nor Termag will ever be the same!

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I received an eBook copy of The Crossover from Larry Kollar in exchange for an honest review, this in no way affected my opinion of the piece.

It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! This is where I write a review in the time I have before I go to work or before I go to bed. Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

The Crossover is a fun-filled novella that explores travelling to a different world, only in this case it is from one called Termag to our own. That reversal of the norm allows for new ideas to come into question such as if there is still magic in a world that is so filled and reliant on technology. If there is what is its purpose, who can use it and to what ends? That is part of what Chelinn and Lodrán have to figure out as they try to become accustomed to the strange ways of Earth.

The main characters are wonderful. The banter between Chelinn and Lodrán is often hilarious and the different things that they are unaware of once transported to Earth make for more humorous displays. The novella does start a bit slow with the talk aboard the ship, and there are some things I didn’t care for at that beginning stage (the song lyric changes most notably felt corny/childish). However, that is all soon forgotten when the battle scenes begin, which I must say were done splendidly, Kollar definitely has a knack for them.

I thought that there were a lot of possibilities for this to continue into another story or two, or even a full length novel if Kollar wants to go that route. The characters are easy to latch onto and enjoy, the plot was fun and the idea of magic in our world is always a crowd pleaser. I recommend this to fantasy fans as well as anyone who likes a quick and enjoyable read. Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 51!

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #50/365

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Day 47: Accidental Sorcerers by Larry Kollar

Day 47

Summary From Goodreads

Invaders just across the river. A powerful spell hidden in a child’s rhyme. When an untrained boy awakens an ice dragon to protect his village, and lives to tell the tale, not even the Conclave of Sorcerers can predict what happens next.

Accidental Sorcerers brings to life an unforgettable tale of love and loyalty in the world of Termag. Feel the magic!

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I received an eBook copy of Accidental Sorcerers by Larry Kollar in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinions or review in any way.

A promising start to a series, Accidental Sorcerers combines magic, dragons and young love in a short and sweet package. While Accidental Sorcerers is novella-length, there is definite room for potential growth of the characters and some solid foundations already in place. More expounding on the dragons themselves, while not a must, would really enrich the series, but we will have to wait and see where Kollar wants to take his young characters.

Mik, the main character, embodies what it is like to be an adventurous young man, lacking reservations of any sort and diving head-first into possible trouble regardless of the consequences. In this case it is his approaching of the ice dragon where he is lucky to be left alive at all. Mik continues to encounter the usual “revelations” about both himself (look mom, I’ve got magic!) and the world. He seems a bit simple minded, but he’s an honest character and easy to get behind and root for. Sura, a sorcerer’s apprentice is a little fireball of a young woman. She’s feisty, devoted and a bit overzealous at times which make her all the more endearing, and as we are continually reminded, she’s quite the pretty one to boot.

Which brings me to the romance of Accidental Sorcerers. I’ve never been one to just go along with insta-love or anything close to it, and sadly this is another case of that irritating tendency. Right when they first meet they’re practically smitten with each other, at minimum on Mik’s part but probably for both, and that’s just grating on the nerves. No development of feelings, no getting to know each other first, just “Oh you’re pretty and magical like me let’s become lovey-dovey”. *sigh* Moving on…

The writing, while simplistic in parts, is solid. The target audience seems to be in the middle-grade to low teens range which would make the style fitting, however if the target is the YA fantasy crowd as a whole then I’m not sure it quite hits the mark. Now that the foundation has been put down the next piece might be more complex and more rich in detail, but we’ll have to wait and see. The story is a nice one, honesty and bravery with a bit of love thrown in can conquer all evils, it’s classic but it works.

I look forward to reading the next piece and to seeing how Kollar approaches it stylistically. The characters are good but if they are fleshed out more and given some edge they could be taken to a new level. Since the insta-love is already in place, maybe giving the lovebirds something to break them apart and test their bond would be a nice touch. Just some thoughts. Anyhow, thanks for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 48!

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #47/365; Seriously Series Reading Challenge #25/51

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Day 36: Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Day 36

Summary From Goodreads:  

The city of Ludlow is gripped by the hottest July on record. The asphalt is melting, the birds are dying, petty crime is on the rise, and someone in Hannah Wagnor’s peaceful suburban community is killing girls.

For Hannah, the summer is a complicated one. Her best friend Lillian died six months ago, and Hannah just wants her life to go back to normal. But how can things be normal when Lillian’s ghost is haunting her bedroom, pushing her to investigate the mysterious string of murders? Hannah’s just trying to understand why her friend self-destructed, and where she fits now that Lillian isn’t there to save her a place among the social elite. And she must stop thinking about Finny Boone, the big, enigmatic delinquent whose main hobbies seem to include petty larceny and surprising acts of kindness.

With the entire city in a panic, Hannah soon finds herself drawn into a world of ghost girls and horrifying secrets. She realizes that only by confronting the Valentine Killer will she be able move on with her life—and it’s up to her to put together the pieces before he strikes again.

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Well Paper Valentine was…a bit all over the place. I liked it, I know that much, but the details well…they’re a little sketchy. In the beginning of the book, the first couple chapters specifically, though I may just have gotten used to it after awhile, Yovanoff was using extra words. What I mean by that is imagine you have a daily word goal (if you participate in NaNoWriMo or are a writer of any sort you know what I mean very well) and you use a few words here and there that don’t really need to be there but help to pad that count. That’s what it felt like was happening. An example, right off of page one so it isn’t a spoiler (since it’d be in any preview) ” On TV, the anchors are looking serious, shuffling their papers, and I get up to go get a glass of lemonade.” Just look at the last part of that sentence for a while and see if you notice what I did. Maybe it’s all in my head. Anyway that was the first thing I noticed. I really need to stop being so overly critical right away, oh well, force of habit when you read & review this many books.

The second thing was the birds dying. I don’t know if there was a disease, I’m not sure that the cause was ever explained (pretty sure that was a no but not 100% positive) but what I do know is this, there doesn’t seem to be a point to them. Is it a metaphor? Some sort of symbolism? I have no clue, but after reading the entire book I’m left with no answers on that front. Weird. Also the birds in fantasy thing really needs to taper off, it’s beyond excessive at this point, especially with covers.

Too many freaking fantasy birds!

I realize this is a tad excessively specific so I’ll try to focus on my overall impression of Paper Valentine. As I said before, I did enjoy the book. I thought the main character, Hannah, was compelling and that she was quite the stoic MC considering she was constantly dealing with the ghost of her dead best friend. I’m not sure most people would be able to deal with that sort of thing as well as she did, so props for a female MC with backbone. She had a bit of a clutz problem going on, but that was alright, even when she was all over Finny after he helped her out time and time again.

Speaking of which, Finny was…well, honestly I’m not sure. The strong and silent type I guess? Outside of a bit of standard background info we don’t really get anything from his perspective. I’m not saying we should have had a POV switch, but no thoughts really whatsoever. It was a little weird but I’m fine with it, the romance was nice, sweet even. Not overdone.

The plot was good, the story interesting, but the jumps/flashbacks were a little on the discombobulated side of things. You really had to pay close attention to know exactly what time frame you were experiencing. Still, overall the twists and turns along the way were done quite well and the ending, well, even if it was pulled out of the “classic mystery ending” hat it still worked like a charm. I didn’t see it coming, so kudos to Yovanoff.

Overall Paper Valentine was a very good book, but maybe not quite a great one. My biggest issue at this point is who would I recommend this book to. There are certainly paranormal elements (ghosts obviously) but not so heavily that I would automatically tell that type of reader to go and get it. The read was certainly YA so I guess that crowd would be the go to even though that’s pretty broad. The style was more contemporary than anything but with the fantasy elements it might not be for the purists of that group. Whatever, regardless I think it is certainly a book worth reading, despite my lack of ability to categorize it. You’ll have to read Paper Valentine for yourself to know where to put it. As always thanks for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 37!

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge # 36/365

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Day 8: The First Dragoneer by M.R. Mathias

Day 8

Summary From Goodreads:  

Two young men, on the cusp of adulthood go on a hunt they want to remember forever. When they cross a ridge and leave the protected boundries of their kingdom, they find themselves a cavern to explore. Inside the cavern they find exactly what they were seeking…..
Lurking inside this hole in the earth is something they will never forget…. If they can live to remember!

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! This is where I write a review in the time I have before I go to work, short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

The First Dragoneer is a short prequel to add some depth to one of the main characters that will appear in the second book in the Dragoneer Saga, March. In Mathias’s usual detail-driven and slow-paced style March and his friend Bren take a hunting trip, the last the pair will take together as March prepares to leave their small village. They encounter a few things they didn’t expect, a beautiful creature, a dark and rather large cave, and even a familiar race of being to those who love these types of tales. The build up is worth the wait as the pair find something lurking inside the cave, will they be able to survive? If they do, will they ever be able to make the journey back across the ridge? You’ll have to read to find out.

I enjoyed the prequel though I felt the ending was quite rushed. It was as if Mathias just couldn’t hold back anymore and had to release a plethora of splendid things at the end in order to convey some of what awaits the reader should they proceed to read the Dragoneer Saga. While I don’t blame him for this approach, it did take away from the tale of the two friends which was interesting in its own right. If you want some extra backstory for March then by all means read this short piece, but otherwise I’d suggest you go straight to the full stories as they are more representative of Mathias’s true style. As always, thanks for reading.

Genre Reading Challenge #7 – Category – Epic Fantasy; Mount TBR Challenge #8/150+; 2013 TBR Pile #8/50; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #8/365; Seriously Series Reading Challenge #1/44

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