The Dark Stalkers by Henry Bassett

I: The Dark Stalkers (The Dead Chronicles of Martha Railer Book #1)In a town not too dissimilar to yours lived Martha Railer; a solitary individual who lived by herself, yet enjoyed the company of her close friends whom she spent time with on days out. In a realm outside of human perception, something sinister had been put into motion, and inhuman dark figures arrived in her town. They stalked Martha on her day to day activities, but was she chosen or was it chance or, perhaps, even fate? However, a simple choice of a short cut home would change everything for her…& them. (taken from Amazon)

                               Have you ever seen one of those artsy films? You know, the ones where the story-telling is so different, and the camera shots are so distinct, that you know there will never be another movie like that made, no matter how many other people try to mimic the style? This felt a bit like that.

The story itself is a simple one, but the execution is so unique that the story-line in and of itself really doesn’t matter. I’m used to books that attempt to make the reader a part of the world. This one deliberately keeps the reader at arms’ length, allowing a glimpse into what’s happening, but never opening the door all the way. It lent the book a sinister vibe, like there was a secret being held which added a sense of urgency.

The point of view switches back and forth from that of Martha and the stalkers. Martha never really reveals much personality at all. Because of that, certain things that happened in the book didn’t hit me the way I think they were supposed to. This is one of six novellas and I wonder if possibly combining them all into one full-length novel might help the characters come to life a bit more.

I can’t sum up my opinion of this book in a neat “I liked it” or “I didn’t”. I’ll settle for this: the book is intriguing and will stick with me for quite a while.

Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore

Image result for dark and deepest red by anna-marie mclemoreSummer, 1518. A strange sickness sweeps through Strasbourg: women dance in the streets, some until they fall down dead. As rumors of witchcraft spread, suspicion turns toward Lavinia and her family, and Lavinia may have to do the unimaginable to save herself and everyone she loves.

Five centuries later, a pair of red shoes seal to Rosella Oliva’s feet, making her dance uncontrollably. They draw her toward a boy who knows the dancing fever’s history better than anyone: Emil, whose family was blamed for the fever five hundred years ago. But there’s more to what happened in 1518 than even Emil knows, and discovering the truth may decide whether Rosella survives the red shoes. (taken from Amazon)

     Here’s the thing: I love The Red Shoes. The original story that I know, for those who aren’t familiar, goes a little like this: there’s a girl who’s adopted by a rich family. She’s very spoiled and she thinks she’s all that and a bag of chips. She’s given a pair of red shoes, which only adds to her arrogance. After wearing them to church, despite being told not to, she’s cursed by an old man (I think who does the cursing varies). The curse is that, once she starts dancing, she won’t be able to stop (also, the shoes will superglue themselves to her feet). Of course, the inevitable happens. She even chops off her feet- which stay dancing in the shoes and bar her way into the church. Eventually she learns her lesson, prays for forgiveness for her arrogance, and her heart bursts. It’s a real upper. Deliciously morbid.

The Red Shoes  movie is more about an obsession with dance (the ballerina is performing the Red Shoes ballet). Think The Black Swan, but done first, with better acting and no sex stuff. It’s brilliant.

Since I love this fairy tale so much, I had to grab this retelling. However, I wasn’t feeling it. There are several reasons for this, although I’m sure at least a couple of them fall into the “it’s not you, it’s me” category.

First of all, the chapters are incredibly short. Because of this, it feels like small staccato bursts of storytelling and it didn’t give me a chance to connect with the story-line at all. I don’t necessarily want super long chapters in every book I read, but more than a few pages per chapter would have helped, doubly so because there were multiple points of view.

The first point of view was that of Rosella, who makes herself a pair of red shoes using fabric left from her grandparents. The shoes take hold of her and she can’t control herself or stop dancing. There wasn’t really all that much to her personality, however.

Emil was Rosella’s sort-of boyfriend. He knows the history of “the dancing fever” because his ancestors were in Strasbourg in the 1500’s when a mysterious mass hysteria (curse?) caused many people to dance uncontrollably until their hearts gave out. Because of this, he is the only one able to help Rosella.

The third point of view was that of Lavinia, a girl from the 1500’s who is blamed for the “dancing fever” that grips Strasbourg. She’s blamed because she’s different, which is what this book boils down to; accepting and celebrating diversity. It’s an important message, but not one I was wanting in my fairy tale retelling. It eclipsed the actual plot of the book and, because the book focuses so much on Lavinia being “different”, she’s not given much of a personality. She’s a plot device instead of a character and I feel like that was a real missed opportunity.

Anna-Marie Mclemore used colors to great advantage in telling her story, and was able to paint a vivid setting for the dance fever, but the story in and of itself never felt fully realized to me. It turns out I’ve read another book that this author’s written, and that one wasn’t my bag either. I think it’s just one of those things where my reading personality and her writing just don’t mesh.

I have a feeling this book will get good reviews and become very popular, but it most definitely wasn’t for me.

I do highly recommend watching the 1948 movie, however. It’s fantastic.

Mental Health in Literature: a Conversation with Bookish Creation

Today, Bookish Creation has kindly offered to add her thoughts on mental illness in literature. She brought up several points I hadn’t heard before and gave me much to think about. Check it out.

I think that there are several things that need to change within the literary world – and the entertainment world in general – when it comes to mental health. As many have mentioned, misrepresentation of certain mental illnesses is really harmful no matter what, but I think the change needs to go deeper than that. Most books that we see that are accurately describing mental illnesses tend to tackle the illnesses that are thought of as larger illnesses, scary ones, or ones born from tragedy that causes social skill changes in the character. While the ones that accurately look into this are good, I really feel that there needs to be a lot more stories that have characters that face the illnesses that are thought of by most people as less severe. These, after all, tend to be more common and can still cause difficulty for the people facing them.

Every day, people face mental health issues like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, OCD, not too severe personality disorders, social anxiety, hypochondria, and many more. While these mental health concerns don’t always require hospitalization or heavy medications, they still present people who have them with obstacles that can be difficult for them to overcome. This becomes a real issue for patients because it can cause those who care about them to misjudge them or even cause them to lose relationships all together. I honestly feel that discontent and loss of relationship is generally not due to rudeness or deliberate attempts to hurt anyone, but rather is caused by a lack of understanding about the problems the patients face. I really feel that if we start to include these mental health concerns accurately in main characters in fiction, we might start to bridge the gap of that lack of understanding more.
There is another problem that I have noticed when it comes to mental health in fiction: It tends to be the main obstacle or plot point the story focuses on. Fiction tends to take mental health issues and turn them into these almost opponents that the characters need to face. When the story revolves around the health condition it can cause it to become more frightening. This is we tend to look at the focal point of a story as being inherently negative to a point where we reject it as being something we want to deal with in our lives. This only leads to people with mental health conditions to being ostracized more and treated harshly. I truly feel that if the characters in fiction have the condition as just part of their character, much like they may have some acne or poor eyesight, yet they face some other issue that the story focuses on, we will normalize these conditions while bringing awareness to how these conditions can hinder or affect people. Bottom line here is, the main plot point that characters must overcome will almost always be viewed as bad and scary, so we shouldn’t always make mental health the main plot point if we want to remove that fear.
All in all, I feel that mental health needs to be represented more in books as being a normal part of the characters‘ lives. We should be bringing awareness through normalization rather than trying to use real health conditions as villains or problems to be frightened of.

Mental Health in Literature: a Conversation with Author Ricardo Victoria

Me: Thank you so much for joining the conversation! Please tell the reader a little bit about your book.

Well more than talk about a particular book (as you reviewed the first one and I’m still working on the sequel), I would like to talk in general about the series. Tempest Blades is a series of stories where the characters have to learn to deal and work through their personal struggles on par of them going into adventures that put them in the position of saving the world –a world where magic and science coexist-. The three main characters: Fionn, Gaby and Alex, are blessed or cursed –depending on whom you ask- with the Gift, this special source of power that enables them to do superhuman feats, but which process of obtaining it is more than traumatic (as in dying). Supported by a cast of friends, and able to wield the titular Tempest Blades –sentient weapons of great power- they are able to face menaces that border in the eldritch abomination territory. Fionn, -who is the eldest- is a former war hero that retreated from the world due the traumatic experiences that made him lose his family, and his best friend, and is only starting to return. And his return is accelerated by agreeing to help a friend to find a missing person. This is compounded by the fact that along the way he finds himself in the role of mentoring Gaby and Alex, which have the Gift, like him, but lack experience in its use. And Fionn realizes that life does give you second chances. The story progresses in the next book (the one I’m currently working on) along the mentoring process and the ramifications from the events of the previous one.

Me: How does mental health play a role in your book?

In the already published one, Tempest Blades The Withered King, it plays a role through Fionn, who suffers from a degree of PSTD and depression, as result of his past experiences, and that informs his actions on the book. In the current sequel I’m working on, -tentative subtitle: Cursed Titans- I’m trying to explore more about depression, through another of the main characters, Alex. This stems from both the events of the previous book and traumatic events from his past that have gone unresolved and come to head into the present in a self-destructive way, which is pushing him to unhealthy limits while being a hero. Depression and the way it affects a person can take different forms.

Me: I know you mentioned your character deals with depression: was that difficult to portray?

In a way. Since I’m drawing here from my own personal experience and struggles dealing with depression, so I know exactly how the character feels. But it is difficult in two particular aspects: write it in a way that put the reader in a place where they can observe how depression feels, without being triggering or impeding the narrative from telling the overall story. And given that I’m not a therapist, but a sufferer from depression, it makes me wonder how much I should share or how far I should go and still be of help for potential readers that might suffer from depression as well. It is also difficult because I need to be careful of not putting myself into a mindset that backfires on my own mental health. At the end of the day I’m trying to write a hopeful story. Basically, it’s like walking on a tight rope. So I hope I can pull it off in an adequate manner.

Me: What are your thoughts on therapy and if/ when it can be useful?

I think therapy is useful and a good way to determine what kind of mental health issues a person might have, or as preventive health care. We need to learn that taking care of one’s mental health is not a sign or weakness nor that you necessarily have an issue that needs care, but as part of one’s overall well-being maintenance. Therapy is also a good way to help someone to get better when mental health issues are present or work to prevent them if possible. But for therapy to work, the person going to it has to want it to work. And it takes time, as it is a tough process. There is no easy solution so that has to be taken on consideration. Therapy is a process to teach you how to work out things with the help of a friendly, non-judgmental shoulder. At the end of the day, it is always good to have someone to listen to us and help us realize things that on our own might not be possible.

Me: As a writer, how do you feel about mental health portrayal in literature?

I’m not sure I can respond accurately, as I haven’t read all the books that dwell in the issue, so I don’t want to generalize. Something I have noticed though, is that often the mental health of main characters is not even mentioned. We expect our heroes to be strong and resilient and always overcome any kind of trauma derived from their escapades. But rarely it is explored the mental toll from the characters’ actions. We see a character killing another, maybe in self-defense, maybe to save the world, and that action takes a toll in a person’ psyche, in the real world. But in literature it tends to be glossed over (I myself am guilty of this, but I’m trying to improve). Same with a character surviving a war, or another traumatic experience. This, because writers tend to see the characters as objects to be used rather that ‘beings’ that can have feelings and thoughts. Curiously enough, one of the most interesting, if subdued, explorations of mental health and the toll adventure takes on a person that I’ve read, is The Lord of the Rings, in specific with Frodo near the end of the book, when the hobbits return to the Shire. Frodo is a bit despondent. I would dare to say that he suffers from PSTD. Carrying the ring or experiencing Mordor the way he did it wasn’t easy. So when he returns to the Shire you can see that and how it affects his actions to the end. I would dare to say that Tolkien draw a bit from his own experiences as soldier. Another pitfall in media seems to be that there are works were there is a generalization or poor job portraying mental health issues, even stigmatizing them, such as using them as an excuse for the antagonist to be the way they are, rather than understanding that anyone can have them and that they are not to be used as an excuse for trying to conquer over the world, sort to speak. Sadly they have become a crutch for many writers and the way the talk about the topic, really hurt those that suffer from mental health issues. Thus, it is necessary to reframe how, we as writers, use and understand mental health issues, how they can affect anyone and how is good to ask for help, or how a person suffering from them is not automatically a bad person. That heroes, like Frodo, can suffer mental health issues too. That going to therapy or asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but rather of strength as you are acknowledging that you are not fine, but want to be. That depression is not just ‘being sad’ or something to get over it. That it takes time to mourn, to work through PSTD.

Me: Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts! You mentioning that Frodo might have been suffering from PTSD made me see that character in a new light. I loved your point about it taking time to work through mental health issues.

Ricardo Victoria is the author of The Withered King (Tempest Blades #1). You can find it on Amazon, among other places.

Mental Health in Literature: a Conversation

I’ve noticed a trend in fiction when mental health is portrayed: it’s either portrayed completely inaccurately or vilified. I can’t tell you the number of thrillers that I’ve read that describe the villain as “crazy,” “psychotic,” “schizophrenic,” or “bipolar,” as though having a mental illness automatically makes a person an amoral killer. Often, it’s quite obvious that the author has chosen a mental illness simply to avoid having to give a reason for a person’s actions. It made me think: do writers have a responsibility to portray mental illness compassionately and accurately?When it comes right down to it, I think the portrayal of mental illness in literature falls under creative license. How (or if) mental illness is included in a book is the author’s prerogative. However, an author that takes the time to do research and depict mental illness with compassion and understanding automatically becomes an author I’m infinitely more excited to read.Mental illness is much more prevalent in society than I think most people realize. It’s been stigmatized for so long that those who would see a doctor for any other health concern balk at even admitting they might be struggling on a mental or emotional level. I recently read a book in which a character was afraid of someone seeing them walk into a psychologists’ office and it broke my heart. It broke my heart because it’s a completely realistic reaction. I have bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed over twenty years ago, but it’s something I’ve been ashamed of until just a few years ago. It’s only recently that I’ve made an effort to be open and transparent about my struggles with mental illness.You can imagine how it feels to read a mystery or thriller, only to find that the villain’s sole “motivation” for committing a violent act is simply listed as “bipolar.” Or what about those books where someone dies by suicide, but it’s an act of revenge. Really? Shouldn’t we be past that by now?I’ve been fortunate that some authors and bookbloggers have been willing to write their own thoughts on mental illness in literature. I was going to integrate them all into a single post, but what they wrote was so insightful that I’ve decided to make a separate post for each of them. They’ll be published throughout the week. Please feel free to add your own thoughts on mental illness in literature: I want to hear all opinions!

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

Image result for the word is murder

One bright spring morning in London, Diana Cowper – the wealthy mother of a famous actor – enters a funeral parlor. She is there to plan her own service.

Six hours later she is found dead, strangled with a curtain cord in her own home.

Enter disgraced police detective Daniel Hawthorne, a brilliant, eccentric investigator who’s as quick with an insult as he is to crack a case. Hawthorne needs a ghost writer to document his life; a Watson to his Holmes. He chooses Anthony Horowitz.

Drawn in against his will, Horowitz soon finds himself a the center of a story he cannot control. Hawthorne is brusque, temperamental and annoying but even so his latest case with its many twists and turns proves irresistible. The writer and the detective form an unusual partnership. At the same time, it soon becomes clear that Hawthorne is hiding some dark secrets of his own.(taken from Amazon)

Murder, and suspects, and mayhem- oh my! Have you every started a book or movie and thought, “This is so great, I love it,” only to have the ending dim everything? That’s what happened to me.

It started so well. Author Anthony Horowitz wrote himself into this mystery, and it was brilliant. It made for some funny scenes, and allowed the author to explain things without condescending to the reader. Anthony was almost a Watson character. I found it highly enjoyable.

The mystery itself was an interesting one. I thought I’d called whodunnit, but I was wrong. Unfortunately, I was wrong because the culprit came out of left field. I like mysteries where- if you go back through the book after everything has been revealed- you can see the clues cleverly hidden in the writing. This didn’t happen, and it was very disappointing.

Another issue I had was the whole “why I did it” monologue. Because the culprit made so little sense, there was almost half a chapter of exposition. Blah. See why the ending fell flat for me?

If you’re the sort of reader who can ignore a rather lousy ending if the rest of the book is enjoyable, then you might like this one. The characters are interesting, the narrative very well done. The meta aspect added an extra level of enjoyment. However, it wasn’t enough to make up for the ending in my mind. Bummer, man.

Continuing On: Lesser-known sequels to popular books

Sometimes a book is so popular, and functions so well as a standalone, that I don’t realize there’s a sequel. This happened last year when I discovered that Richard Adams had revisited the world of Watership Down. Maybe I’m the only person who doesn’t always check for sequels, but here’s a list of sequels to popular books that may have been skipped over. Let’s give these books some attention!

Tales From Watership Down by Richard Adams: 

Image result for tales from watership downI’m one of those weirdos who actually really likes Watership Down. Yes, it’s odd, and the themes are harsh and rather upsetting, but I would argue that it’s an important book (even though the characters are adorable little rabbits). I have to be honest: I was disappointed by Tales From Watership Down. It felt like an unnecessary tack-on, which might be why it’s never talked about.

 Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott: 
Image result for jo's boys by louisa may alcott
Here’s the thing: I really hate Little Women. Not the movie with Wynona Ryder, I like that one; I hate the book. I tried to reread it not too long ago, but the way the author beats the reader over the head with her life lessons was just flat-out annoying. I love Jo’s Boys, though. The lessons are still there, but they’re less in-your-face, and following Jo as she runs her school for boys is pretty cool. Don’t forget to read Little Men first!

Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card: 

Paperback Speaker for the Dead Book
Without discussing the author’s behavior in any way, I think it’s pretty common knowledge that Ender’s Game is fabulous. The series continues in several more books. The Speaker for the Dead is the sequel and it is brilliant. I highly recommend it. I’d also suggest Ender’s Shadow, which is actually a parallel novel to Ender’s Game. It’s written from Bean’s perspective, and it really fleshes out his character and adds a new dimension to the original book.

Twenty Years After by Alexander Dumas:

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I fell in love with The Three Musketeers when I was pretty young (who doesn’t love buckling swash?) and I reread it a lot. It’s one of those books that’s just fun. Twenty Years After feels a little more serious to me, but it’s still very well-written, and definitely one worth reading.

                                                       Sequels I haven’t yet read

The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
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I haven’t read this one yet. I plan to get to it eventually, but I also plan on traveling the world, and actually having a clean house while my children still live here, neither of which has happened yet. We’ll see what I manage to accomplish first.

Closing Time by Joseph Heller:

Image result for closing time joseph heller
How did I not know about this book? I must be slipping in my old age. I’m actually rather annoyed at myself for not having gotten to it yet. I will definitely have to read this one soon!

Have you read any of these? What are some other sequels to popular books that I’ve missed? Let me know. I love to talk books!

Last Memoria by Rachel Emma Shaw

Image result for last memoria by rachel emma shaw

There’s nothing Sarilla hates more than stealing memories. It robs people of their lives as surely as if she killed them, leaving behind only the husk of who they once were. Since Sarilla is one of the few with the ability to transfer memories, she’s highly prized by the king. He makes her take them from his people to keep them in line. All Sarilla wants is to escape to where nobody knows what she is or what she can do, but her plans go awry when she runs into Falon. He hopes to use Sarilla to help get his stolen memories back, whether she wants to or not. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available on May tenth.

It’s amazing how much is packed into this short book. I was sucked in from the start. So many things were done well!

Sarilla is a memoria, meaning she has the ability to steal memories with just a touch. In this way, she’s sort of stealing identities. A lot of who we are is based on our experiences , so it’s really a dangerous power to have. In the beginning, she and her brother (who is a jerk with a capital ‘j’) are running from the king, who has been using her as a weapon to keep his subjects in line. Honestly, though, the A to B of the book is the least important part.

A good chunk of this book centers simply on Sarilla’s coming to grips with who she is and what she can do. There’s a lot of guilt and regret, as well as fear of who she could become. It’s interesting to see themes of choice vs. nature discussed in such a way. Sarilla was fully-developed, and I enjoyed her inner thoughts more than the rest of the book, although I liked the book as a whole.

The second part of the book takes place from the perspective of Falon, a man whose memories were taken from him. Add to that the fact that there is a bit of a romantic history, and it’s a fascinating combination. He struggles with (justified) anger, which added a cool dynamic. His attitude was horrible a good chunk of the time, but it was completely understandable considering what he was dealing with.

The fantasy world itself wasn’t fully realized, but I think that was done deliberately, leaving the Reader to make inferences based on glimpses seen in stolen memories. It was a risky move, but it worked. I was hooked. I quickly became invested in both the characters, and the feel of the book. It didn’t shy away from the ugly parts of the world, instead bringing them to light in a way that was both jarring and powerful.

It’s amazing how much of a wallop this shorter book packed. If you’re looking for action, this book won’t fill that itch. But if you like a fantasy that makes you think, one that deals with subjects like grief, loss, and the choices we make, this one is for you.

Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella- ARC Review

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Cadence Archer arrives on Harvard’s campus desperate to understand why her brother, Eric, a genius who developed paranoid schizophrenia took his own life there the year before. Losing Eric has left a black hole in Cady’s life, and while her decision to follow in her brother’s footsteps threatens to break her family apart, she is haunted by questions of what she might have missed. And there’s only one place to find answers.
 
As Cady struggles under the enormous pressure at Harvard, she investigates her brother’s final year, armed only with a blue notebook of Eric’s cryptic scribblings. She knew he had been struggling with paranoia, delusions, and illusory enemies—but what tipped him over the edge? With her suspicions mounting, Cady herself begins to hear voices, seemingly belonging to three ghosts who walked the university’s hallowed halls—or huddled in its slave quarters. Among them is a person whose name has been buried for centuries, and another whose name mankind will never forget.
 
Does she share Eric’s illness, or is she tapping into something else? Cady doesn’t know how or why these ghosts are contacting her, but as she is drawn deeper into their worlds, she believes they’re moving her closer to the truth about Eric, even as keeping them secret isolates her further. Will listening to these voices lead her to the one voice she craves—her brother’s—or will she follow them down a path to her own destruction? (taken from Amazon)

                          Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available on May fifth.

Hmm…where to begin with this book? I rarely give trigger warnings, instead describing books as harsh if they discuss heavier subjects, but in this case I think I need to add a trigger warning. Suicide is an ongoing theme throughout this book. It’s mentioned in the blurb, so it’s not hidden or anything, but if that’s something you don’t want to read about, you might want to skip this review.

I actually almost gave up on this book multiple times. Parts of it hit too close to home and brought up feelings from my own mental illness diagnosis (bipolar 1, diagnosed during high school. Fun times). I prefer not to think about that time in my life, so this book was difficult for me.

So, why did I finish it? Because Francesca Serritella is an extremely talented author. If she wasn’t, I would have had no problem reading this book. Instead, she made the characters easy to connect to. I felt for Eric as his illness was spoken about. I was heartbroken on his behalf when people felt “embarrassed” by him. I can’t say I understand fully how schizophrenia works, other than that it has some symptoms that overlap with bipolar, but I can absolutely relate to the feelings of loneliness a mental illness diagnosis can carry with it.

This book is about Cady (Eric’s sister) and her decision to follow in her deceased brother’s footsteps to discover what led to his death by suicide. She learns that things are much more complicated than she originally thought. He was a paranoid schizophrenic (as well as a brilliant young man with tons of potential: a diagnosis is not an identity), and as he came close to the end of his life, he began to think he was being followed and was in danger. As Cady learns more of who her brother was, she begins to wonder: was he right?

At the same time, Cady begins hearing voices that no one else hears. She starts to question whether she might have the same mental illness as her brother. Needless to say, this scares her. What made me sad about this is that she was so afraid to mention her concerns to anyone. Again, the stigma against mental illness rears its ugly head.

This book was very well-written, but I would never be able to reread it. And, honestly, I felt that the ending diminished the rest of the book a bit. It felt out of place and took me me out of the story. However, the author wrote a compelling story, even though it was most definitely a harsher one.

If you struggle with suicidal ideation, I strongly suggest you skip this book. It is a good one, but ultimately it wasn’t for me.

The Summoned Ones: Flight to Bericea by Darryl A. Woods

Image result for the summoned ones by darryl a. woodsFor nine long fighting seasons, General Darnon and his men battled the same foe. Once a mere upstart, Zybaro was now a powerful enemy. He raided village after village in Malabrim, conscripting the most able-bodied into his army. Almost all of the Western Realm was now under Zybaro’s control, his forces ready to challenge Bericea’s army in the Eastern Realm. Darnon faced a difficult decision. Should he listen to the clerics, controllers of magic, and risk more lives? The clerics believed the Summoned Ones of prophecy could save the realms and unite their tribes and kingdoms. Unfortunately, the magic platform the clerics needed to call forth these beings was located deep in Malabrim. The journey to deliver the clerics into enemy territory and bring the Summoned Ones safely back to Bericea would be a dangerous one. And Darnon knew the odds were not in their favor.

Join the Summoned Ones, college-aged friends from a small Kentucky town transported to a chaotic world dominated by magic and war. Their epic journey will push them to the limits of their endurance. This unlikely group will discover truths about themselves and experience another world beyond their imagination. (taken from Amazon)

                         Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available to purchase now.

Ah, the portal to another world kind of story! I’ve always loved that idea. Who wouldn’t want to walk into a wardrobe (or a cave, in this case) and discover a new world? As long as that new world is survivable, that is. In this particular book, four friends are transported to Bericea, a place torn by war. They are the Summoned Ones, part of a prophecy that marks them as saviors.

These friends are college buddies who have come together to carry the ashes of a common friend to his final resting place. Their friend had requested that his ashes be brought to an out-of-the-way cave, one that not many even know about. As the friends arrive at the cave, they find themselves thrust into a war in a strange place.

There were both things I loved about this book, and things that I didn’t. I loved that the Summoned Ones were college-aged, not children. It made it easier to relate to them. I also enjoyed the reason they were in the cave in the first place. A trip taken to honor a deceased friend was a creative idea.

The introduction to the main characters was a bit slow. There was so much information that my attention wandered a bit. It was very obvious that the author had put a ton of time into coming up with, not only the characteristics of each person, but their backstories, habits, likes and dislikes, etc. It made each character very three-dimensional, but I do wish the information had been delivered more throughout the book than all at once. Once they made it to the magical world, however, things quickly picked up.

The battle scenes were incredibly well-done. In fact, the entire world was well-developed and interesting. I’m a big fan of fantasy worlds in general, even more so when it’s in the midst of conflict (I’m kind of a horrible person like that), because it adds a sense of urgency that is fun to read.

I think Kail was my favorite character, a brilliant soldier in General Darnon’s army. He was brave and smart, and a lot of fun to read about. I also liked Pattie, one of the original friends. She was one of two female characters from Kentucky. The other- Gloria- bugged me to no end. She complained a lot and was very entitled. Thankfully, Pattie was pretty much the polar opposite.

This book is the beginning of a series that has definite potential. I’m excited to see what happens next.

Have you read this? What did you think?