Christmasathon- December Readathon

During the month of December, I’m going to be participating in an awesome themed readathon. It’s the brainchild of the talented Bookishtiffany. You can find the details of her Christmasathon here. It runs from December 1st to the 31st, so there’s still time for you to sign up.

While I’m feeling pretty holly and jolly this year, I still chose to be on Team Grinch because I prefer those categories. Let me don a homemade Santa costume, and I’ll tell you my picks!
Steal Someone’s Favorite Book- read a book that was recommended to you: The Jackal of Nar by John Marco

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My husband suggested this one and it looks good. I’ve started it, but I’m only a few chapters in so far.
Coal- read a book that will keep you warm (has fire or red on the cover, or has a fire-form word) : Heart of Flames by Nicki Pau Preto

Heart of Flames|Nicki Pau Preto

This book is the sequel to the fantastic Crown of Feathers. I hope it lives up to the first book!
Bah Humbug- read a book with something wintry on the cover or in the title: Cadaver Swords by Emmett Swan

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There’s snow on the cover, so this counts. Right? Right?
Ebenezer Scrooge- Read a book with a morally gray character or with a villain: Dragons of Winter Night by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman

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Jason from offthetbr (if you aren’t reading his blog, you’re missing out) did a great read-along with the first book in this series during the month of November. I’m continuing with book two in the trilogy. Raistlin is about as morally gray as it gets.

So there you have it. Whether Team Elf or Team Grinch wins this challenge, it’s going to be a blast! Bah humbug, everybody!

Dawn of Dreams by Brownwyn Leroux- Blog Tour

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Lost family heirlooms. Sinister mutants. An ancient book hiding legendary secrets. Such mythical things should not exist in the futuristic world of 2073.

Yet, this reality is forced on two strangers. Jaden and Kayla are blissfully unaware their world is about to be invaded. When a relentless, age-old force casts them together, the shocking truth is revealed. They are hunted by the hideous, malevolent monster prowling their community. Worse, it’s invisible to everyone but them.

Forced down a dark and dangerous path, the pair discover their stalker isn’t the only thing they have in common. As they quest for solutions while trying to survive, their unique abilities surface. They team up with other-worldy allies. After deciphering an enchanted tool, they get their first answer. But knowledge comes at a price.

In a world on the verge of destruction, can Jaden and Kayla solve the puzzles and find a way to save it, all while trying to make sense of this inexplicable connection they feel for each other? (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Also, thank you to Emma at http://www.damppebbles.com for including me in this blog tour.

I can honestly say I haven’t read a book like this one before. It has several disparate parts that shouldn’t work together, but somehow they do. Both Jaden and Kayla are able to see a monstrous beast that others can’t. Both of them have to try to figure out what it means, and if they can use it to save their world.

I have to say, I didn’t have a favorite character. I didn’t dislike either main character, but I also didn’t love them. There was a lot of setup, which made parts of the book move more slowly than I expected, but the concept of the book is really interesting. I think that the characters will become more individualized as the series continues.

I’m a big fan of fantasy in general, and I loved that the angst was kept at a minimum, which let the world Bronwyn Leroux created shine through. Her world was a unique blend of both the fantastical and the futuristic. I think the beast itself was my favorite aspect of this book.

Altogether, I recommend this book, but keep in mind that it’s the first in a series and parts of it move rather slowly.


About Bronwyn Leroux:
Born near the famed gold mines of South Africa (where dwarves are sure to prowl), it was the perfect place for Bronwyn to begin her adventures. They took her to another province, her Prince Charming and finally, half a world away to the dark palace of San Francisco. While the majestic Golden Gate Bridge and its Bay views were spectacular, the magical pull of the Colorado Rockies was irresistible. Bronwyn’s family set off to explore yet again. Finding a sanctuary at last, this is Bronwyn’s perfect place to create alternative universes. Here, her mind can roam and explore and she can conjure up fantastical books for young adults.

Follow her at https://bronwynleroux.com or https://www.facebook.com/AuthorBronwynLeroux/
Social Media:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/bronwyn_leroux
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorBronwynLeroux/
Website: https://bronwynleroux.com/
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/bronwyn.leroux/
Purchase Links:
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0749CF9R9/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i2
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0749CF9R9/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i1
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/dawn-of-dreams
Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dawn-of-dreams-bronwyn-leroux/1126280949?ean=2940154907122

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Middle-Grade Gems: Interview with a Sixth Grader

About six months ago, I interviewed my oldest about books he was loving at the time. He devours books (not literally; that would be cause for concern) and I love hearing his opinions. I figure the time is ripe for round two. So, here are his current favorites:

The Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan

Why he liked it: “It’s a very good adventure and fantasy book with good characters. There’s a ton of books in the series so it doesn’t end super fast. There’s a lot of awesome action and it’s just a really good series.”

The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan

Why he liked it: “It’s awesome that it’s Egyptian: it’s got a good mythology behind it. It’s got some good comedy, but a lot of good action too.”

Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron by Alexander Freed

Why he liked it: “This book is full of great action, great characters, and a great story! My favorite character was Wyl Lark, a determined pilot with a knack for flying.”

Star Wars: Blackspire Outpost by Dlilah S. Dawson

Why he liked it: “This book is full of action, importance, and great, engaging characters that really drew me in. Ten out of ten.”

Loki’s Wolves by K.L. Armstong and M.A. Marr

Why he liked it: The book is about Matt, who is a descendant of Thor; Fen, a descendant of Loki; and Laurie, another descendant of Loki. Together, they must stop Ragnarok! My favorite character is probably Fen. He’s not like the other characters. He’s a bit more wild than the others, but he’s also a good brother, and I like that.”

Fuzzy by Tom Angleberger

Why he liked it: “One of my favorite things about this book was how believable the characters are. I haven’t read any other books like this. It’s really nice to see such a unique book. I really liked it.”

The Night Country (Hazel Wood #2) by Melissa Albert- ARC Review

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                                            ****Spoilers for Hazel Wood below!***

                   In The Night Country, Alice Proserpine dives back into a menacing, mesmerizing world of dark fairy tales and hidden doors. Follow her and Ellery Finch as they learn The Hazel Wood was just the beginning, and that worlds die not with a whimper, but a bang.

With Finch’s help, Alice escaped the Hinterland and her reclusive grandmother’s dark legacy. Now she and the rest of the dregs of the fairy tale world have washed up in New York City, where Alice is trying to make a new, unmagical life. But something is stalking the Hinterland’s survivors―and she suspects their deaths may have a darker purpose. Meanwhile, in the winking out world of the Hinterland, Finch seeks his own adventure, and―if he can find it―a way back home… (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book, in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available on January 7th, 2020.

I wanted to love this book, I really did. Unfortunately, I can only muster a like. The thing that originally drew me to The Hazel Wood was the creepy, dark feel of the fairy tales (I’m still dying to know the story of Twice-Dead Katherine). This book didn’t have that feel for me. The sense of something lurking just outside of view wasn’t there. While there are some messed-up story characters, they were much more straight-forward, which lessened their impact for me.

The plot is interesting, continuing with a new threat to the Hinterland, and the ex-stories who have left the Hinterland behind. Alice is one of the few ex-stories who has managed to eke a normal human life for herself, and many others resent her for that. Also, there’s a small matter of some ritualistic-looking deaths, and no-one knows who is responsible, or who will be next.

If you have read my review of The Hazel Wood (which you can find here), you’ll know that my biggest complaint was that the relationship between Alice and Ellery felt a little one-note. Again, in this book, the relationships fell a little flat. I think that’s just a character development issue that will improve as Melissa Albert continues to write, which I hope she does. Even though I didn’t love this book, Melissa Albert is a creative voice and I look forward to seeing what else she comes up with.

 

Devil’s Deal by Tessa Hastjarjanto- The Write Reads Blog Tour


Today is my stop on this blog tour, put together by the awesome Dave at The Write Reads. I’m excited to join other wonderful bookbloggers in discussing Devil’s Deal!

When two angels break their deal with the devil, he comes for the one thing they’re trying to protect.

All 16-year-old Nora wants is to graduate high school and visit her family in Italy. But when two boys transfer to her class, everything changes.

Danny steals her friends, Ben her first kiss.

When Nora finds out the boys are not who they claim to be, she faces a difficult choice.

Will she give her love or her life? (taken from Amazon)

I’ll be honest: I register a zero on the romance scale. It’s just not my thing. I was a bit hesitant to read this book because of it. However, this book seemed like it might have a bit of a Mortal Instruments vibe, and I have a weakness for that series.

I liked the supernatural aspects of this book. The opening, in particular, was very well written and drew me in. It was a very visual scene, which is always an intriguing start. It didn’t go where I expected, based on the opening, but that’s not a bad thing.

I really loved that the book is set in the Netherlands. The last few supernatural fantasy books I’ve read have taken place in the U.S. and it’s always cool to see a change. Nora did confuse me a bit: sometimes she was calm, reasonable, and mature ahead of her years. At other times, I struggled to understand why she was reacting in a certain way. However, both Dan and Ben were interesting characters, and Tessa Hastjarjanto has a very unique writer’s voice.

If you enjoyed TV’s Vampire Diaries, especially the relationship between the three main characters, you definitely need to pick this book up. It’ll be right up your alley.

Fantasy: A Plethora of Choices

Every now and again, I’ll hear someone say “I don’t like fantasy,” even though they’ve never read any. Of course, everyone has their own preferences in literature, which is totally fine, but I sometimes think that what people mean is that they don’t like a certain type of fantasy. There’s much more than just swords and magic when it comes to fantasy (although I happen to love books that have swords and magic).

Here are a few sub-genres, with explanations, as well as examples of books that fit into each category. Of course, I’m in no way an expert, and some of these books can fit quite comfortably in multiple sub-genres. Talk to me! Tell me what I got right, what I messed up, and what I missed completely. Here goes nothing!

High Fantasy: High fantasy is probably what comes to mind first when people hear “fantasy.” There are some characteristics that separate high fantasy from other kinds of fantasy. First of all, it’s very character-focused. The choices made by a single character, or a few, are most important. High fantasy is set in its own world with its own defined rules of magic. A common theme is good vs. evil.

Examples: The Swans’ War trilogy by Sean Russell; The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman; The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks

Epic Fantasy: Epic fantasy is, well…epic. It usually consists of a threat to the entire world and has a large cast of characters, as opposed to the few that characterize high fantasy. While The Hobbit, for example, is high fantasy, The Lord of the Rings is what I would classify as epic fantasy. There’s a larger cast of characters, and a danger to the entire world.
Examples: Game of Thrones; Wheel of Time; Lord of the Rings

Low Fantasy: Low fantasy is characterized by magical events that intrude on daily life in a normal world.
Examples: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett; American Gods by Neil Gaiman; Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Sword and Sorcery: Well, aside from the obvious (swords and magic), think romance, and adventure. Sword and Sorcery is a bit on the pulpy side (nothing wrong with that). I always picture 80’s era Sylvester Stallone as the movie equivalent of a Sword and Sorcery hero.
Examples: Conan the Barbarian; Legend by David Gemmell. Honestly, I’m on the fence about including Legend here, as it doesn’t seem as pulpy as other Sword and Sorcery books, but I’m drawing a blank on other examples. What would you add to this category?

Military Fantasy: This is pretty much what it sounds like. It’s basically military life in a fantasy setting, often following one solider, or a small company.
Examples: The Codex Alera by Jim Butcher; The Black Company by Glen Cook

Grimdark Fantasy: Don’t expect happily ever after’s or the archetypal heroes. Grimdark is marked with violence, morally gray as well as completely amoral characters. It also doesn’t shy away from violence.
Examples: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff; The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

Dark Fantasy/ Gothic Fantasy: This sub-genre incorporates themes of death, fear, and romance. It has a darker tone, and elements of horror. Think Edgar Allen Poe- goes fantasy, and you’ve got the general idea.
Examples: Black Sun Rising by C.S. Friedman; Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

Urban Fantasy: This is interesting in that there are a few different routes urban fantasy is known to take: either a separate fantasy world with rules that are similar to ours or, conversely, our world with fantasy elements mixed in. Go figure.
Examples: Jackaby by William Ritter; City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Arthurian Fantasy: This is fantasy based directly on the myths and legends of King Arthur.
Examples: The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart; The Once and Future King by T.H. White

Superhero Fantasy: This is fantasy based on the character of a superhero. Easily defined.
Examples: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson; Vicious by V.E. Schwab

RPG Lit: Combining fantasy with role playing games, the main character is generally aware that they are in a game-type world. Stats. are very much a part of the book, and the characters interact and progress through the book as they would an rpg.
Examples: The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini; Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (at least part of the book follows the rules of rpglit.)

Fairy Tales: Starting as children’s stories, lately there have been many re-imaginings of these books that are marked by fantastical elements and magic.
Examples of fairy tale retellings: Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer; Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik; House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

Portal Fantasy: I argue that this is a sub-genre in its own right! This would be books in which the characters leave their own world through a portal/door/etc, and travel to a world with different rules than their own. Often, fantasy elements such as magic are present.
Examples: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.

Well, there you have it. There are so many different types of fantasy that I beg readers to at least give some a go before writing off the entire genre. However, to each their own. This list is in no way comprehensive. I’ll be adding to it over time, and possibly editing based on comments made by you all. So…what do you think? Did I get it right? Or completely mess it up?

The Devil’s Apprentice by Kenneth B. Andersen

 

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Philip is a good boy, a really good boy, who accidentally gets sent to Hell to become the Devil’s heir. The Devil, Lucifer, is dying and desperately in need of a successor, but there’s been a mistake and Philip is the wrong boy. 

Lucifer has no other choice than to begin the difficult task of training Philip in the ways of evil. Philip is terrible at being bad, but when he falls in love with the she-devil Satina and experiences the powerful forces of love and jealousy, the task becomes much easier. 

Philip finds both friends and enemies in this odd, gloomy underworld—but who can he trust, when he discovers an evil-minded plot against the dark throne? (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for giving me this book, in exchange for my honest opinion. It’s available to purchase now.

Um…where do I start? First of all, I really enjoyed it. It felt like a mashup between The Magisterium series and The Screwtape Letters, but for a younger audience. On Amazon it’s listed as being intended for ages 12-18. I can tell you, though, that it would scare the snot out of my sixth grader. Of course, each reader is different.

Due to an unfortunate mistake, an incredibly sweet boy named Phillip finds himself named successor to the Devil’s job. Lucifer is dying, and needs someone who can continue the job, so to speak. Thanks to the mix-up, Phillip is going to have to become a prince of darkness, literally. It’s going to be a more difficult job than the Devil originally thought.

Parts of this book were a lot of fun. The author took the usual hellish things (horns, pits of fire, etc) and made them his own. My favorite character was just a minor one, but I loved him. The gatekeeper to hell was so much fun to read! He was actually pretty polite, for a hellish guardian. He even offered Phillip a drink. It was revolting, but the thought was there.

There were mysteries to solve, and small lessons hidden here and there along the way. I did have a slight quibble with the amount of progress (or regression?) that Phillip made so quickly. Considering what a sweet boy he was, it seemed unlikely that he would go so bad so fast.

It was well-worded, and mentioned some pretty big concepts without assuming that younger readers wouldn’t understand. I really hate when books talk down to younger audiences, so I’m glad that this author understands that kids are a lot more intuitive than they’re often given credit for.

I liked the ending for the most part. I’m not entirely sure how there’s room for a sequel because it wrapped up so nicely, but I enjoyed the book enough that I’m curious to find out.

 

 

Five Dark Fates by Kendare Blake (Spoiler Free)

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It’s incredibly difficult for me to do a quality review of a final book in a series without spoilers, but I’ll do my absolute best. Here we go!

It was amazing. I could honestly stop writing after that sentence, but I don’t have a mic to drop and I’m a bit wordy anyway. For those of you who haven’t read any of Kendare Blake’s books, I suggest you remedy that horrible problem immediately. Quit your job, stop paying bills, don’t bother making dinner. Just immerse yourself in Kendare Blake’s fantastic writing and let everything else take a back seat. Okay, maybe don’t go that far, but seriously put her on the list of authors that need to be read.

I was originally introduced to Kendare Blake’s writing by a book called Anna Dressed in Blood. How cool is that title? It was creeptastic, and drew me to check out the Three Dark Crowns books. I’ve already written about the others in the series ( you can find that post here), so I won’t go into the plot of the books again in this post. Suffice it to say, I was not disappointed in the culmination of all that came before.

The book did not end the way I originally wanted it to, but it ended the way it should, which is even better. I love how different each character is. There are no superfluous red shirts, written in simply to kick the bucket. Each death (and there is definitely death and violence in this book) meant something. Each political move, each twist in the story, was obviously thought out long before it was written.

Raves can be so difficult for me to write, because it’s less than helpful to just write “happy screams” on a blog post. I loved every moment of this series. I can’t wait to see what Kendare Blake comes up with next. She has secured her spot as one of my favorite authors.

Have you read this series? What did you think?