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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Book Review: The Storm Runner (The Storm Runner #1) + ARC Giveaway!!!

Release Date: September 18, 2018
Author: J.C. Cervantes
Publisher: Rick Riordan Presents
Length: 448 pages
Source: Review ARC from Publisher

A contemporary adventure based on Maya mythology from Rick Riordan Presents!

Zane has always enjoyed exploring the dormant volcano near his home in New Mexico, even though hiking it is challenging. He'd much rather hang out there with his dog, Rosie, than go to middle school, where kids call him Sir Limps a Lot, McGimpster, or Uno—for his one good leg. What Zane doesn't know is that the volcano is a gateway to another world and he is at the center of a powerful prophecy. A new girl at school, Brooks, informs him that he's destined to release an evil god from the ancient Maya relic he is imprisoned in—unless she can find and remove it first. Together they return to the volcano, where all kinds of crazy happens. Brooks turns into a hawk, a demon attacks them in a cave, and Rosie gives her all while trying to protect Zane. When Zane decides to save his dog no matter the cost, he is thrust into an adventure full of surprising discoveries, dangerous secrets, and an all-out war between the gods, one of whom happens to be his father. To survive, Zane will have to become the Storm Runner. But how can he run when he can't even walk well without a cane?

Feisty heroes, tricky gods, murderous demons, and spirited giants are just some of the pleasures that await in this fresh and funny take on Maya mythology, as rich and delicious as a mug of authentic hot chocolate.

    

Review:

Protagonist: Zane Obispo was born with one leg shorter than the other, thus he has to use a cane and limps around. Still, he likes going hiking on the volcano in his backyard with his three-legged dog Rosie. That is until one day he meets a girl named Brooks who tells him that he's the catalyst for an ancient prophecy that will lead to the release of Ah Puch, the Mayan god of death, darkness, and destruction. From there, Zane is pulled into a world of magic, gods, and secrets as he tries to make sure that Ah Puch doesn't end up destroying the world and those he loves along with it. I really love the character of Zane. He's not your run into danger first, ask questions later kind of protagonist, in fact, he asks quite a lot of questions, even when he probably shouldn't. He's apprehensive to go into danger, but he's kind and loyal and would face down any number of villains to protect those he loves. He can get a bit angsty and broody as the story unfolds, but it never felt unwarranted or forced in any way, it all felt like a natural extension of the story.

World Building: So, I'm just going to level with you, I knew next to nothing about Mayan mythology going into this story. Still, the world built in this story, the mix of modern day with ancient Mayan lore, felt so rich and vibrant. I'm not going to sit here and claim to have learned a great deal of Mayan mythology from this story because at the end of the day that's what it is, a story, and the mythology was used to enhance the story, not the other way around. There's still a lot to learn about Mayan gods, monsters, and magic and I loved every minute of it, but I can still feel there's a lot more to learn. In regards to the pacing of this book, well that's the only place I personally had a problem, and it's not even a big problem, see the pacing and story structure for this book ended up being very different than I had expected and so when things weren't unfolding at the rate I had expected them to, I had to adjust and get used to it, which took a little time, but in the end was completely worth it. Again, that might only have been a problem for me.

Predictability: As I said, since the story structure and pacing were different than expected, well, things didn't exactly go how I thought they would regardless. Looking back on the book as I whole, I can't remember predicting many of the twists that happened, save one or two that weren't that big. There are some mysteries that had a lot of build up, like who Zane's father is, maybe those with more knowledge of Mayan mythology could have guessed it before the reveal, but I certainly didn't know, and those mysteries were a lot of fun because you know a reveal is coming and having those questions finally answered is always so satisfying.

Ending: The ending of this book is pretty evil. The final climax didn't quite go down how I expected it to, but it was a very intense scene brimming with excitement and action, then there's the cooldown period before the epilogue/postscript, which would have included a very, VERY evil cliffhanger if not for the epilogue. The epilogue plays out as a final cooldown, tying up quite a few loose ends while hinting at, and sometimes straight up announcing, how the sequel will be set up without leaving a whole lot of room for that need for the next installment.

Rating:


I love this book so much, even with the pacing/story structure issue I faced, once I got a feel for the story everything was as right as rain and I could barely put this book down. If you're looking for a fun Middle-Grade adventure, a story with a disabled (Differently abled? Seriously, can someone help me out I'm not sure of the correct terminology) protagonist, and a rich and vibrant mythological tale, then look no further!

International Giveaway!!!


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TERMS AND CONDITIONS (PLEASE READ)


  1. THERE WILL BE ONE (1) WINNER, WINNING ONE (1) ARC COPY OF THE STORM RUNNER (THE STORM RUNNER #1) BY J.C. CERVANTES
  1. THIS GIVEAWAY IS OPEN TO INTERNATIONALLY.
  1. THIS GIVEAWAY IS OPEN FROM JULY 18, 2018 AT 12:01 AM PST TO AUGUST 1, 2018 AT 12:01 AM PST
  1. THIS GIVEAWAY IS IN NO WAY SPONSORED  ENDORSED OR ADMINISTERED BY, OR ASSOCIATED WITH, RAFFLECOPTER.
  1. ENTRANTS MAY NOT ENTER MULTIPLE TIMES BY USING DIFFERENT ACCOUNTS WITH THE SAME INFORMATION, DOING SO WILL BE GROUNDS FOR DISQUALIFICATION.
  1. YOU, THE PARTICIPANT/ENTRANT ARE PROVIDING INFORMATION TO ZACH'S YA REVIEWS AND NOT RAFFLECOPTER. THIS INFORMATION WILL NOT BE GIVEN TO THIRD PARTIES OR USED IN ANY WAY OTHER THAN TO ENTER YOU INTO THE GIVEAWAY AND TO LET THE WINNER KNOW THAT THEY HAVE WON.
  1. WINNER WILL BE NOTIFIED BY THE E-MAIL SUPPLIED IN THE ENTRY FORM AND IF APPLICABLE VIA THE TWITTER SUPPLIED AS WELL - THE WINNER NEEDS TO BE IN CONTACT WITH ME IN SOME WAY WITHIN FORTY-EIGHT (48) HOURS OF THE WINNING EMAIL/ANNOUNCEMENT BEING SENT, OR, UNFORTUNATELY, THE PRIZE WILL BE GIVEN TO ANOTHER ENTRANT.

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Monday, July 16, 2018

Omnibus Review: The Bane Chronicles (The Bane Chronicles #1-11)

Release Date: November 11, 2014
Authors: Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, & Maureen Johnson
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Length: 507 pages
Source: Purchased Book/Library Audio Book

Fans of The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices can get to know warlock Magnus Bane like never before in this collection of New York Times bestselling tales, in print for the first time with an exclusive new story and illustrated material.

This collection of eleven short stories illuminates the life of the enigmatic Magnus Bane, whose alluring personality, flamboyant style, and sharp wit populate the pages of the #1 New York Times bestselling series, The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices.

Originally released one-by-one as e-only short stories by Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson, and Sarah Rees Brennan, this compilation presents all ten together in print for the first time and includes a never-before-seen eleventh tale, as well as new illustrated material.

    

Reviews:

What Really Happened In Peru

Fans of the Shdowhunter Chronicles may know that Magnus Bane is banned from Peru, but it's never been explained why. In this story, we see various times that Magnus Bane visits Peru, sometimes with friends like Ragnor Fell and Catarina Loss, and sometimes he's there by himself. Regardless he always seems to get himself into trouble. Each adventure in Peru was so much fun. Even though the group, or Magnus, would always find trouble, their adventures were a delight to read as we see these characters come back to Peru at different times, sometimes they'd find love, sometimes they'd assist in tomb raiding, Since this is a novella made up of various short stories, it's harder to review, not only because it's hard to review multiple stories in one review, but also because due to their length it's hard to talk about them without spoiling anything. Regardless, I found this story to be the perfect start to this collection. We see more of Ragnor Fell and Catarina Loss and I really love their friendship and kinship with Magnus.

Rating:



I mean, there's nothing wrong with this story and only everything right with it. It's fun and exciting with just a touch of seriousness to really round it all out.


The Runaway Queen


In this tale Magnus finds himself helping a rather attractive count try to save the lives of the French royal family during the French Revolution. While this story is enjoyable as we watch Magnus in Paris during the Revolution and see his interactions both in the Mundane World as well as Downworld, there isn't really a lot to connect it with the main series. With the previous story, we got to see more of Catarina Loss and Ragnor Fell and see some of Magnus's misadventures in Peru, a country we know he's banned from in TMI. Here while I enjoyed the story, it didn't really feel necessary.

Rating:



While the story is fun and entertaining, I do wish it felt a bit more grounded with the novels. Overall, I don't regret reading it, I might even read it again someday, but I'm not a huge history buff, and this story seems like it would be enjoyed more by someone who likes to see how history is slightly different in this world, as well as Magnus's role in historical events.


Vampires, Scones, and Edmund Herondale


This story takes place during the negotiations of the Accords between Shadowhunters and Downworlders and not only shows the beginnings of the romance between Camille Belcourt and Magnus Bane, as well as the quick friendship between Edmund Herondale and the warlock. This was such a fascinating story to read, first I loved learning more about Will and Cecily's father Edmund, as well as seeing the beginnings of Edmund's romance with Linette. Edmund is very similar to his children, though has a fairly distinct personality which I greatly enjoyed. Magnus and Edmund's friendship, however brief, was a lot of fun as well. Camille is a character I don't normally like, remembering her more from her time in TMI, but there was a time when Magnus was in love with her and it's pretty easy to see why from this story. As for the negotiations when it came to the Accords, I honestly hated that part, more because of the bigoted Shadowhunters who put forth parts of the Accords that only benefit themselves and not the Downworlders who they're having peace talks with.

Rating:



On the whole, this story is enjoyable, I love Magnus's relationships with important characters and I loved getting to know Edmund even if it was just for a short time. My only complaint is that I didn't care for the Accords stuff, I already know they're going into place and I'm already well aware of how bigoted some, in this case, most, Shadowhunters can be.


The Midnight Heir


This is the story I was most excited to read. I'm obsessed with the Last Hours series and the first novel isn't even out yet. I'm a huge fan of the novel Great Expectations, or rather I'm a fan of the story as I've only seen adaptations, and I'm very intrigued by the characters in this series. In this story we see Magnus have a chance meeting with a rather drunk James Herondale, Tessa and Will's oldest, which was a rather fun part of the story, but also heartbreaking as James is hurting so much in this story that I want to wrap a blanket around him and give him some hot chocolate telling him everything is going to be alright. The second half of this book is dedicated to showing what Tatiana's been up to since the end of The Infernal Devices. I was never a fan of Tatiana, I felt sympathy that she watched her husband be ripped apart by the monster that used to be her father and that she was driven mad because of it, but her actions and words in Clockwork Princess, as well as this story, have proven to me that I should feel very little sympathy for her. This story seems to be a way to introduce the Last Hours to readers, so if you haven't gotten a taste of that series and love the Infernal Devices recommend giving this story a read. I just realized (this is after finishing the review, but before continuing on with the book) that I kind of forgot to talk about Magnus, and well, I love how he interacts with these characters, the patience he has for James, the observance he has for both Tatiana and Will's situations, and as always how, despite most Shadowhunters' thoughts to the contrary, that he has a moral code and won't become what others expect him to be, though that last one might be more indicative of the entire collection than just this story.

Rating:


This story was everything I wanted it to be and more, though I do have to say that I'm even more obsessed with these characters and the long, long wait for the first Last Hours book, Chain of Gold, feels even farther away, even though we only have to wait like a year, give or take a few months.

The Rise of the Hotel Dumort

This story takes place in Prohibition-era New York as Magnus, who of course runs a speakeasy, is warned of calamity imminent, this not only being a hint at the Great Depression but also something supernatural. Much like with The Runaway Queen, this was an enjoyable story and while there is the Hotel Dumort to tie this is some small way with the main series, there wasn't much about this story that kept me hooked or blew me away in any way. I enjoyed reading about the period in which this story is set and as always I love Magnus and his role in this story, but while I wanted to care about the rest of it, I never fully felt like I could. There are aspects of the story that drew me in, I'm very curious about what that ending means, and when the final showdown went down I'm wondering if there was more meaning to that than there appeared to be, but the rest just felt slightly pointless.

Rating:



As I said in the review, this reminded me a lot of The Runaway Queen, I always love reading about Magnus, but this story just fell short, if you're a history buff you may enjoy that aspect of the story and if for some reason you're really obsessed with the Hotel Dumort than I'm sure you'll like this story as well.


Saving Raphael Santiago


This story follows Magnus when a Mundane woman name Guatelupe Santiago comes to him, begging that he save her son who was abducted by a vampire along with some friends. As fans of the Shadowhunter Chronicles may know, Raphael is a vampire in TMI and this tale is his somber origin story. I really enjoyed learning more about Raphael and his first months as a vampire. His cynicism is oddly charming and I absolutely loved his interactions and his odd friendship with Magnus. This story definitely has a more somber tone to it, but nothing ever gets too sad, and that balance felt very key to this story. We also get to see another one of Magnus's loves, a Mundane who knows about Downworld, and I really love what that relationship, even if it isn't critical to the main plot, it adds a nice touch and detail to Magnus's story.

Rating:



I was never a huge fan of Raphael in the Mortal Instruments, so I'm actually really happy that I got to see another side to him and get to know his character and where he comes from better. And of course, I loved the little details like Magnus's love at the time and well as his personal relationship with Raphael.


The Fall of the Hotel Dumort


Taking place in the 70s, Magnus comes home to New York after being away for a while and learns that something is wrong with the vampires. They're crazed and killing conspicuously and the rest of Downworld is getting restless because if the Shadowhunters find out what's happening, they may not discriminate between vampires and other Downworlders. Even though I wasn't a huge fan of The Rise of the Hotel Dumort, I found myself really hooked on this story. I don't know, there's something very energizing reading about the 70s and I really liked seeing how the Downworld handled cases where an entire subset goes rogue, it really instills the Us v. Them idea between Shadowhunters and Downworld. Then there's Camille and her role to play in this whole story. Magnus's complicated feelings for her really added a nice layer to this tale.

Rating:



I'm surprised at how much I really loved this story. It's exciting and fascinating all at the same time. Seriously I'm a little blown away at how much I ended up liking this story, from Camille's arc to the vibrant, and sometimes desolate, setting.


What to Buy the Shadowhunter Who Has Everything (And Who You're Not Technically Dating Anyway)


In this story, Magnus and Alec have just started dating, in secret as Alec isn't out yet. It's Alec's birthday and as he goes about his normal day, taking clients and talking to old friends, he wonders if he should get anything for Alec. In a lot of ways, it feels like many of the past stories were always leading up to this, to the start of Alec and Magnus's romance, and we still have a few stories left. This installment feels the most connected with the main series as it's actually taking place during a series that I've actually read, though I would have read the Last Hours if it was out already XD, and so all of the little flashbacks and reminiscing that Magnus does are made all the more significant as it's seeing another aspect of a familiar story. Then, of course, there is how Magnus sees the main group from TMI, a lot of it's comical but there's also a good chunk where Magnus goes a bit more philosophical and I just ate it all up.

Rating:



This rating didn't surprise me as I do love Magnus and Alec and seeing the beginnings of their romance through Magnus's eyes is incredible, all the little insecurities he has, how he annoys his friends, and put all that in a "typical day" format and I'm sold.

The Last Stand of the New York Institute


So... this story really threw me off kilter. It just seems out of place, as it takes place during the time of the Circle whereas the previous story takes place much later during the time of TMI. It was just trippy to all of a sudden jump back in time, especially since it would have felt better before the previous story, but maybe they just wanted to give readers a palette cleanser between Malec stories. Regardless, in this story, Magnus comes into contact with the Circle during a time when they were slaughtering Downworlders and calling it justice. This story also covers Magnus's thought, though no actual involvement, in the fate of Lucian Greymark and the Uprising, and a little bit after that. It was really interesting reading about the time of the Circle, as it's always talked about in TMI, but I never felt like I fully understood what those times were like, and I really appreciated getting to see how it was, even if it was a bit emotionally draining. There are also a few surprises in here that add a lot of context to the overall story.

Rating:



I know it feels cheap taking off half a star for placement, but it really did interrupt the flow of reading a bit when a story takes place so completely before the previous one. In the end, I still did really enjoy this story and love how it feels like the world is getting filled in so much.

The Course of True Love (and First Dates)

Sooooooo... it turns out that it wasn't The Last Stand of the New Yor Institute that was out of place by the story before that, as this tale takes us on Magnus and Alec's first date. The story starts out with Magnus stressing over said date, even calling his friend Catarina Loss for a back out plan, before showing off the near trainwreck of a date. This is another one of those stories that really bring to light the tense relationship between Shadowhunters and Downworlders during TMI, though it's Magnus and Alec's first date that takes center stage. I really enjoyed how their first date wasn't perfect, that this story showed off a lot of the roadblocks in their relationship, and yet they're both fighters. My only problem with this story is that because it's out of order, it doesn't feel wholly necessary, we already know that their relationship continues, and while it was fun seeing their first date, I feel that the past three stories would have had more impact if they were read in order.

Rating:



Again, I did really enjoy this story, but with me reading it out of order, even though I've already read TMI and I'm aware they didn't stop at one date already, it just threw off the flow of these stories. Still a fun and exciting read for fans of Malec

The Voicemail of Magnus Bane

There isn't a whole lot to say about this one. This bonus "story" takes place after a certain event between Magnus and Alec transpires in City of Lost Souls and is a series of voicemails on Magnus's phone, most of which have to do with that topic. This "story" is hilarious, I mean, it's pretty much all fluff, no actual substance, and doesn't really have an actual storyline, and yet I love it so much, so much so that I may even reread it after, or during I'm not sure yet, my reread of City of Lost Souls. Overall, I had a freaking blast reading these voicemails and Simon's is my favorite.

Rating:


Even though there wasn't much substance to this "story" and the fact that I have to use quotations marks everytime I refer to this as a "story" it's merely a bonus for buying the omnibus and it's hysterical.

Overall Rating:


While I greatly enjoyed this bundle of stories, many of which were impeccable, some of them just didn't resonate with me personally and I really wish they would have been assembled in chronological order, if not for individual release than at least for this omnibus bind up release. Still, this was such a joy to read and more Magnus in the world can only be a good thing. Oh, I also wanted to say though it doesn't affect my rating, I really wish we would have learned more about Magnus's past that was hinted in this collection, like his past with the Silent Brothers and more about his formative years.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Book Review: Mistress of All Evil: A Tale of the Dark Fairy (Villains #4)

Release Date: October 3, 2017
Author: Serena Valentino
Publisher: Disney Press
Length: 309 pages
Source: Library Audio Book

The tale is told as if it's happening once upon a dream: the lovely maiden meets her handsome prince in the woods. The story has been told many times and in many ways. But always the maiden finds out that she is a princess-a princess who has been cursed by a dark fairy to prick her finger on a spindle and fall into an eternal sleep. Though her three good fairies try to protect her, the princess succumbs to the curse. But the power of good endures, as her true love defeats the fire-breathing dragon and awakens the princess with true love's first kiss. The two live happily ever after.

And yet this is only half the story. So what of the dark fairy, Maleficent? Why does she curse the innocent princess? What led to her becoming so filled with malice, anger, and hatred? Many tales have tried to explain her motives. Here is one account, pulled down from the many passed down through the ages. It is a tale of love and betrayal, of magic and reveries. It is a tale of the Mistress of All Evil.

    

Review:

Characters: Ahhhh, that's much better. With the previous installment, Poor Unfortunate Soul, I felt like the Villain the book focused on, Ursula, got sidelined by the original characters of this series, whereas in this book Maleficent very much takes center stage in this book. There's a great deal of focus on Maleficent's past, her interactions with the other fairies, and what led her to eventually curse Aurora to die. Like with the other villains this author writes about, it wasn't hard to be sympathetic to her and feel sad for what she went through. As the novel progresses her story unfolds bit by bit, which I really enjoyed, but Maleficent isn't the only character focus this story had. Like the previous installment, and since this is in many ways a direct sequel to the last, we learn more about Nanny's past as well, where she comes from and her role in Maleficent's story, though I do have to say I wish I understood the whole "One of Legends" nonsense, it feels as if I'm supposed to understand "who" Nanny is, but it's never really confirmed. That may come later, or she may be a completely original character with no ties to Disney movies or fairy tales, but with a title as grand as she has, it feels like you're supposed to know who she is. Lastly, for our main characters, we have Circe, the little sister of the three Odd Sister witches. After being freed from Ursula's imprisonment she hopes to wake her sisters who've fallen under a sleeping spell. Along the way, she teams up with a rather unlikely ally, someone you'll have met before if you've read all the previous installments, and they discover some rather startling secrets about Circe, the sisters, and even Maleficent herself. Of course, Princess Tulip and Prince Popinjay also make appearances, but they felt like minor characters compared to everyone else. They're there, they do things, they aren't annoying, and that's pretty much all I can say for them.

World Building: I almost breathed a sigh of relief while reading this book because after a rather rocky road with the first three installments, all of which are enjoyable but flawed, I finally felt like this series is really coming into its own. Much like with the previous installment, this book is more about the original characters of this series and how they fit into the more "behind the scenes" aspect of the story and their role in the life of the installment's villain. With this series getting as large as it is, I loved seeing the author really having fun with this Disney world and bring in characters that I wasn't expecting to have a larger role in this story as well as Maleficent's life. This story takes a rather large look at the roles of the fairies, since that's what Maleficent is, and their life. I loved getting an expanded look into the world of the fairies and how they work, their schooling, and their own personal aspirations.

Predictability: Given that the previous installments of this series felt rocky, to say the least, I really went into this book with zero expectations. I had no theories as to why Maleficent did the things she does in the movie, and I was more along for the ride than trying to ferret out this book's secrets. Still, even if I was trying to figure out all of the little twists and turns in this book, I highly doubt I'd succeed. There were a few twists that were quite obvious, but they were also rather small twists, the big things, the game-changing things, I didn't see coming a mile away. Eventually, I just rolled with each blow and enjoyed the ride.

Ending: Because there is a continuous plot through these books now, instead of feeling more like companion novels, when, after a final climax that felt familiar (of course) yet had a depth and sadness I wasn't prepared for, the story shifts back to one of the original characters and ends on, well I guess it's a cliffhanger, but it didn't feel like one. The book just sort of ends abruptly, which, considering I was listening to an audio book, felt extremely abrupt and I wish there was something to sort of plateau the ending a little bit more or I wish there was a more startling cliffhanger to agonize over.

Rating:


Between the original characters, their personal storylines, Disney characters popping up all over the place, and a villain backstory that wasn't, "I'm evil because a man I love(d) wronged me or died unnecessarily, " I both loved this installment and am truly excited to see where the story goes from here. Even if I had a couple problems with how this particular installment ended, I love this series more than ever and am so happy that it has found its groove... speaking of which an Yzma book would be amazing!

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Monday, July 9, 2018

Book Review: Poor Unfortunate Soul: A Tale of the Sea Witch (Villains #3)

Release Date: July 26, 2016
Author: Serena Valentino
Publisher: Disney Press
Length: 196 pages
Source: Library Audio Book

The tale of the sea king's daughter Ariel is a beloved one of losing-and then finding-one's own voice. The story has been told many times and in many ways. But always the mergirl wants more than her world can offer, and her father demands that she live within the confines of his domain. Her rebelliousness costs the little mermaid her voice and nearly her soul. But the power of good prevails, and Ariel emerges proud and unchanged.

And yet this is only half the story. So what of Ariel's nemesis, Ursula, the sea witch? What led to her becoming so twisted, scorned, and filled with hatred? Many tales have tried to explain her motives. Here is one account of what might have shaped the sea witch into a detestable and poor unfortunate soul.

    

Review:

Characters: So, obviously this section was supposed to be labeled, "Protagonist" and focus on Ursula and her story arc and character development over the course of the book, however, Ursula isn't really the sole focus of this story, in fact, there are quite a few different perspectives to this story. First of course is Ursula, the Sea Witch sister of King Triton who holds dominion over the Unclaimed Waters. As with other installments in this series, there is an effort made to make Ursula more sympathetic and it did work on me a bit, but that sympathy mostly comes from how harshly she was treated in the past and because this author made a seemingly noble character from the movie into a pretty hands down evil character. We also spend some time with the Odd Sisters, three sister witches who are searching for their missing little sister and come to Ursula for help. Their search for Circe and their love for her do affect them, and while I already find them interesting and mysterious characters, I did find myself enjoying them even more in this installment. Finally, we see from a couple characters I never expected to see again, Princess Tulip and her Nanny from The Beast Within, I mean, I knew Tulip had a small history with Ursula, but I wasn't expecting that she and Nanny would have much, if any role in this story, and yet, here we are. I was surprised by how much I really enjoyed their aspects of the story, particularly Nanny's.

World Building: This has been the hardest section to write because well, there isn't a whole lot of world building that relates directly to Ursula's story. There's so little of this story that's told from Ursula's POV, I mean even the flashbacks we get don't feel as detailed as the ones we see in Fairest of All and The Beast Within, or at least they don't feel as detailed, it's been a while since I read them. There isn't all that much built off of the Little Mermaid movie, other than some adjustments to certain characters and some pretty drive-by exposition relating to Ursula's time in Atlantica and the horrors and prejudices she experienced both on land and in Atlantica. The majority of the world building is spent on the original characters of this series and sort of building out this vast Disney inspired landscapes of kingdoms, which I have to admit it's pretty cool to see Disney's Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and Sleeping Beauty all referenced in the same story and really only connected through the Odd Sisters.

Predictability: Because this story didn't quite go the way I expected, I can't quite say that it's unpredictable. I mean, sure the Disney story being retold, that's more or less predictable, but nearly everything else in this story was practically impossible for me to predict. There are some really good twists in this story and there are a couple that I can't believe I didn't see coming, but I didn't and of course, there were some that completely blew me away.

Ending: I wasn't really sure what to expect when I got to the ending of this book, besides some reflection of the end of the Disney movie, I figured the final climax of the story would be nearly the same, if not completely the same as the Disney movie, which it is, but with some fun little twists. The ending though, I wasn't expecting it to feel less like a standalone and more like a traditional series. Even though the story of The Tale of the Sea Witch is done, the ending of this story makes it very clear that more is coming and while the ending doesn't quite feel like a cliffhanger, I'm still eager to read the next installment!

Rating:


This book was so very hard to review, not only because it's so short, but because there are a few different perspectives that divide up this already short book. Still the story itself is fantastic, but the elements that I came to this book for, such as Ursula's past and her side of the whole Little Mermaid debacle, well that's where, ironically, the story felt weakest, I wish we would have seen her past in more detail, and I wish we would have seen her opposition's not take such a severe 180°. Still, I really enjoyed the rest and cannot wait to read Mistress of All Evil.

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Friday, July 6, 2018

Book Review: The Angel Trap (Dark World: The Angel Trials #3)

Release Date: July 31, 2018
Author: Michelle Madow
Publisher: Dreamscape Publishing
Length: 195 pages
Source: Review Copy from Author

Be careful who you trust, or you might walk into a trap.

After putting her neck on the line to save Noah and Sage’s lives, Raven is on the brink of death. The only thing that might save her? Vampire blood.

The problem is, no one’s supposed to know that vampire blood can heal humans. Anyone who finds out will be silenced. Which means Sage and Noah need to take Raven to a vampire they can trust. But shifters don’t normally trust vampires, so they only know one vampire who fits that category.

Thomas Bettencourt is a vampire prince who rules an elite coven in Chicago. And thanks to his secret history with Sage, he might be willing to save Raven’s life. But only if they agree to his conditions.

Now they have two choices—accept Thomas’s demands, or let Raven die. And after imprinting on Raven, Noah will do anything to ensure she survives.

Even if that means making a deal with a vampire.

Get ready for more romance, adventure, and twists in The Angel Trap, the shocking third installment in The Angel Trials series!

  

Review:

Protagonists: YES!!!! I can finally call this section "Protagonists" again! Seriously though, as much as I love Raven and enjoyed seeing from her POV, her total domination of the books so far did bug me considering that The Vampire Wish series always felt more balanced when it came to other characters' POVs. Anyway, in this installment, a lot of the story is devoted to Sage, and I loved every minute of it. Sage has always been a character that I liked, but I never felt we knew all that well. We know she's a bit rebellious, okay a lot rebellious, and that she comes from the Montgomery pack, but in this story, we learn more about her past and her relationship with a certain vampire named Thomas. I loved getting to know more of Sage's backstory and the hardships she's had to endure in her life. We do finally get a few more chapters from my personal favorite character, Noah, and for those who haven't read The Vampire Wish series, we learn more about who he is and his backstory as well as what Raven may have been doing during the time her memory was most likely erased and replaced. The character development in this book, heck, this series, is fantastic, it's subtle and nothing feels like it's coming out of the blue or that it's out of character.

Romance: I've said before that the romance in this series is probably my favorite part, and that still remains true in this installment, and it's not just because there's twice the romance. While Raven and Noah are still dealing with their seemingly impossible imprint, an imprint that Raven doesn't even know about at the start of this book, Sage has some romantic drama of her own. See she has a romantic past with Thomas, it didn't end well. I wasn't sure if I would like a romance between Thomas and Sage, mainly because I didn't know much about Thomas before this book, and I have to say, even though there's one thing about him, okay maybe a couple of things, that seems sketchy about him, I actually grew to like him as a character and I really like his connection with Sage and learning more about their past together. Of course, there's more Raven/Noah romance and I lapped it up like a parched dog. I don't know why, but I really love the connection between Raven and Noah, probably because she calls him on all his crap and really, what's not to love there?

World Building: So, I've been pretty critical of the plot progression in this series, but that was before two revelations. One, that each installment in this series feels more like an episode of a series, or mini-series to be more precise (this revelation I came to on my own after reading the second installment), and two, that there will be anywhere from seven to nine installments in this series. Because of these revelations, I tempered my expectations going into this installment, and I have to say, not only was I not left disappointed, but I was actually surprised at how much plot progression there actually was in this installment. Like I've mentioned before, a lot of this installment focuses on the past, Sage's past with Thomas, Raven's missing time in "Europe," and even Noah's past. In fact, while we do get to see more of this world, and learn more of its secrets, this installment feels very character focused.

Predictability: Going into this book, as I've said before, my expectations were tempered and I thought I had a good grasp on how this would unfold, and until a certain point I was right. See, after the story moves beyond where I thought it would, I was completely caught off guard and the story just sort of went in a direction I wasn't planning on. I have to say, I love where the author is taking this story and I love how even though I knew something was going to happen, I wasn't prepared for the surprises that awaited in this book.

Ending: So, like I said, until a certain point I knew what would happen and then all hell broke loose. The final climax of this book pretty much makes up everything after where I thought the story would go. The final climax honestly just blew me away, it's not a big action scene, but I was sort of in shock from the twists and turns that were happening, the places that this story is going were shocking the heck out of me, and the tension built up never dissipated, even when the story reached the cliffhanger I'm sure many people know was coming. I mean, this might have been the most crippling cliffhanger I've read from this author yet.

Rating:



I wasn't sure I was going to give this book 5 stars until I wrote the review, because even though the author's writing isn't perfect, she tends to over explain things in the exposition a lot, the story was everything I was hoping for and more and now I'm kicking myself for reading this installment so soon, because even if she writes these books rather quickly, it's going to feel like agony waiting to see what's coming next.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Blog Tour Audio Book Review: Power of Five (Power of Five #1)

Release Date: May 29, 2018
Author: Alex Lidell
Narrator: Victoria Mei
Publisher: Alex Lidell
Length: 226 pages/ 5 hrs. & 27 mins.
Source: Audible Audio Book Provided for Review

Four elite fae warriors. One mortal female. A magical bond they can’t allow—or resist.

Orphaned and sold to a harsh master, Lera’s life is about mucking stalls, avoiding her master’s advances, and steering clear of the mystical forest separating the mortal and fae worlds. Only fools venture into the immortal realms, and only dark rumors come out... Until four powerful fae warriors appear at Lera’s barn.

River, Coal, Tye, and Shade have waited a decade for their new fifth to be chosen, the wounds from their quint brother’s loss still raw. But the magic has played a cruel trick, bonding the four immortal warriors to... a female. A mortal female.

Distractingly beautiful and dangerously frail, Lera can only be one thing—a mistake. Yet as the males bring Lera back to the fae lands to sever the bond, they discover that she holds more power over their souls than is safe for anyone... especially for Lera herself.

Power of Five is a full-length reverse-harem fantasy novel.

    

Content Warning: This is a New Adult book and does contain explicit sexual scenes, read at your own discretion.

Review:

Protagonist: Lera, a mortal girl living as an indentured servant to a harsh and forward master, finds herself somehow linked in a Fae Quint, an elite team of fae warriors, and travels into the Fae lands to sever the obviously mistaken bond. On the whole, I didn't hate Lera, but there was never really anything that set her apart as a protagonist. She's stubborn, like most fantasy female protagonists, she'll do what she wants, damning the consequences, and that's all well and good, but I really wish there was something more to her. If I'm being honest there's nothing special about her, I mean, I'm sure there's something "special" about her, a reason she was bonded to this Quint, but other than the fact that she's the main character, there wasn't really anything about her that made me care for her as a character.

Romance: So, this is my first Harem story, Reverse or otherwise, and going into it I didn't quite know what to expect. Is it a love triangle, just there are more love interests? Is it going to be a polyamorous relationship? I knew if I wanted to experience a Harem story that it should come from an author who I've enjoyed in the past and who I know can write romance. Here's the thing though, I felt like there was very little actual romance in this story. Sure, there's lust, there's a hell of a lot of lust, but I never felt invested in Lera's romantic or sexual bond with any of the fae males, mainly because with either bond there's no development. From near the very start, it's clear that even if one of the guys doesn't act like they want Lera around, that isn't true, they care about her from practically the beginning of the story and of course since she's described as gorgeous they're also all horned up for her too. Any "development" on the "romance" front is more Lera getting said male to admit they want her around.

World Building: Where I felt the romance and Lera's character was lacking quite a bit, I actually really enjoyed the fantasy aspect of this Reverse-Harem Fantasy, and I probably would have enjoyed it more if there was more of it. Most of this book is dedicated to solidifying Lera's bond with certain characters, or at least I believe that was the point, in actuality all it did for me was let me get to know the males who've fallen for Lera, and while that's not a bad thing, there are four of them and this is a rather short book. So, while I was interested in learning more about the Quint bond, the Faerie Lands, and why Lera was drawn into this bond in the first place, there isn't a whole lot of development with any of that. The book is not boring, far from it, in fact, I LOVE all of the main plot progression that we got, even if I did feel there wasn't a whole lot.

Predictability: I was not prepared for the number of tropes this book had. Okay, I'm not totally serious, though there were a few times when something would be revealed and I would mumble to myself an exasperated "of course," but as I said, that only happened a few times. On the whole, there wasn't a whole lot I could predict about this book, mostly because as I acknowledged in the previous section, this is a pretty short book and a good chunk of it is devoted to fleshing out the love interests. That being said, while I wasn't surprised by some of the twists that happened, I didn't exactly call them either.

Ending: So... the ending to this book is a bit weird to talk about. First off there's the final climax... at least where the main story and action are concerned, which was fantastic and how the characters decide to handle the aftermath actually got a chuckle out of me. There was a lot of tension in the final climax and even though I never really grew to care for Lera as more than just the protagonist, I admit, I kind of got swept away with the scene and thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. Then there's everything that comes after that final climax, and after all of the main story bits are taken care of, well the story ends in a place I've never seen a story end before. It's not quite a cliffhanger, but it's not a plateaued ending either.

Audio Book Notes: Obligatory preface: As I've said in past Audio Book Reviews, I'm still getting used to reviewing audio books and I probably won't be able to fully articulate my feelings for this audio book, please bear with me. So, I really enjoyed the performance here, I mean, the narrator does distinct accents for each of the fae males, and a few other characters as well, and she really puts her all into this performance. She doesn't just read the words she'll act them out and those inflections in her voice, really add a whole new layer to this story.

Rating:


So, even though I did give this book a hard time, I did really enjoy it, while I wasn't so happy with the fact that Lera isn't very special, I did like the fae males, River, Coal, Tye, and Shade who do have a good deal of backstory and characterization, I also LOVED the main plot aspects dealing with the Quint Bond and the Fae world, and I'm excited to see what comes next, and even though I wasn't invested in the romance elements that much I am not so secretly hoping that as the series progresses it gets better, since I have read great romance from this author in the past.

About the Author:


Alex Lidell is the author of Amazon bestsellers AIR AND ASH and WAR AND WIND (Danger Bearing Press, 2017) and an Amazon Breakout Novel Awards finalist author of THE CADET OF TILDOR (Penguin, 2013). She is an avid horseback rider, a (bad) hockey player, and an ice-cream addict. Born in Russia, Alex learned English in elementary school, where a thoughtful librarian placed a copy of Tamora Pierce’s ALANNA in Alex’s hands. In addition to becoming the first English book Alex read for fun, ALANNA started Alex’s lifelong love for YA fantasy books.
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Monday, June 18, 2018

Blog Tour Book Review: Cinderella's Inferno (Cinderella, Necromancer #2) + Giveaway!

Click on the Banner below to see more stops along this tour!


Release Date: May 29, 2018
Author: F.M. Boughan
Publisher: Month9Books
Length: 324 pages
Source: Review Copy for Tour

Purity cannot abide the darkness.

It’s been two years since Ellison defeated her stepsisters and sent her evil stepmother back into the Abyss.

Though she’s learning to control her dark magic and has spent time traveling with Prince William and bringing peace to the kingdom, one fact remains. She is a necromancer and he is a paladin of light. And so, the king refuses to give his blessing for them to marry.

To appease his father, William has begun to avoid her. But when even her younger brother Edward grows distant, Ellison learns her mother’s spirit has been visiting Edward in secret, threatening to overwhelm him with her own loneliness and longing. When Ellison accidentally touches her mother’s spirit, her tainted touch condemns her mother’s spirit to eternal damnation.

Ellison resolves to descend into hell to save her mother’s soul and bring her physical body back to the world of the living. William hopes this good deed will bring Ellison into favor and finally allow them to be wed.

But the journey through hell is fraught with peril. Temptations abound and the demons Ellison sent back to the Abyss are thirsty for revenge.

Evil cannot be defeated without sacrifice—but when that sacrifice means choosing between the ones Ellison loves and her very own life, how far is she willing to go to make her family whole again?

    

Review:

Protagonist: After the events of the first book, I wasn't anticipating that this would turn out to be a series, and so Ellison's development at the end of the previous installment felt like a good stopping point, and at the beginning of this book she feels well, very mature for her age. She's been on a few daring quests since we last saw her, in fact, it's been two years, and for a good chunk of this book, I wasn't sure where Ellison's character development was going or even if she is meant to have any here. See, this was because the moments that are meant to tease or nudge the reader into figuring out how she's growing as a person are kind of muddled. It makes sense by the end, but for most of this book, I wasn't sure what lesson Ellison would learn on her journey to hell and back. At first, I was kind of put off by this fact. While character development isn't something that should be blatantly obvious the lessons that the character learns from are supposed to resonate with the reader in some way and for most of this book I was confused. That this until later when everything clicks into place. The thing is though, I don't know if that was intentional or not, and having a lesson that's more blatantly stated after confusing and at times conflicting character building "lessons," even though I really did enjoy how Ellison's personal journey ended up unfolding, did irk me quite a bit throughout the story.

Romance: While there is romance in this book, and some really heartwarming and touching romance at that, there wasn't a whole lot of romantic development. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to see Ellison and William constantly bicker or have serious problems in their relationship and I love that the author shows a really healthy relationship between two people, full of trust and support, it's just that I wish there was a slightly bigger focus on some of the problem(s) in their relationship, not huge one(s,) by the way, that show up, especially when they leak into other aspects of the story and character development, as they kind of just show up, are resolved rather quickly once acknowledged, and move on.

World Building: THIS is where this story truly shines. However, even though I was critical of other elements in this story, I did still enjoy the majority of them, here's where I don't think I have a single problem, in fact, I loved everything in this book that had to do with expanding the world. First off, even though it's never explicitly stated that they're in Germany, I finally figured that part out, or at least I hope that's where Ellison and William's kingdom is, and we hear more about the world surrounding their kingdom, mainly in passing but it does help bring a sense of presence to the story. That's not even the meat of the story though, the bulk of this tale takes place in the Abyss, or the underworld, or, well, Hell. In a very creative retelling of "Dante's Inferno" we see our characters travel through the circles of hell, and while this isn't a very strict adaptation of the first part of The Divine Comedy, the changes that were made make sense to tell this story and honestly some of the changes, or more specifically, one of the combinations of elements from the Inferno, was very creative, and while it didn't affect the overall story, it was still something I marveled at the ingenuity of, even if it does feel fairly obvious, I've never thought of it or really seen it done. The Inferno really added to the horror factor in this book, and while I'm not one to be scared by words on a page (or screen as was the case here) even I got a few shivers at some of the descriptions.

Predictability: This book was hard to read in a lot of ways. Some of it comes from the mixed messages I got when it came to Ellison's character development, but sometimes I almost felt that I was led astray from the truth a lot more than I was nudged, gently or otherwise toward it. While I could pretty much figure everything out before it was (officially) revealed, there wasn't a whole lot of time between my realization and the confirmation. Overall, I really enjoyed the twists and turns in this book, though I do wish there was a tiny bit more foreshadowing, I think it would have helped tie the story together just a little bit better. It's weird asking for more foreshadowing when I felt the first installment had perhaps a tad too much.

Ending: Ah, the ending. Much like with the first installment there were a couple of moments that could fall into the final climax category, though more spaced out than previous. The first, which I understand isn't a part of the ACTUAL ending, but it counts for me, was seriously epic because this is where everything really starts to come together and there's a really nice emotional scene involved and the showdown during this climactic moment was exhilarating. The actual final climax was less exciting but no less entertaining. Then there's a much better cooldown period than the previous installment and we get to see a great many interesting things. That being said though, even though certain aspects of this story, and perhaps even Ellison's personal story come to a close at the end of this book, I still have questions that need to be answered, one in particular, so I really hope that we get another book in this world, whether from Ellison's POV or not, whether it's a sequel or a prequel, I just need answers!

Rating:


So yeah, I didn't love this story as much as the first one, but I did really enjoy what the author did with the story, whether intentional or not, and while I was feeling that this installment was a superfluous and unnecessary installment towards the beginning, by the end I was totally on board and was pretty annoyed when it ended, without a cliffhanger, yet still leaving me with so many questions.

About the Author:



F.M. Boughan is a bibliophile, a writer, and an unabashed parrot enthusiast. She can often be found writing in local coffee shops, namely because it’s hard to concentrate with a cat lying on the keyboard and a small, colorful parrot screaming into her ear. Her work is somewhat dark, somewhat violent, somewhat hopeful, and always contains a hint of magic.

You can follow Faith on Twitter (@FaithBoughan) for plenty of flailing about food (she likes to cook!), TV shows (she watches too many), and world dance (did you know she's been performing & instructing in Bollywood-style dance for over 8 years?).

Or catch her on Facebook where she just might post pictures of her adorable cat & bird... among other things.

F.M. Boughan is represented by Bill Contardi of Brandt & Hochman


Giveaway!


1 winner will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

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