Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye by Tania del Rio

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sometimes, I like to take a break from reading heavy books and switch it up with something lighter. I find that books aimed for little kids are just adorable in the way they portray the classic good-vs-evil story with a whole host of cute characters; they can definitely be appealing if you want something light-hearted. With that, let me start my review:

Warren the 13th comes from a long line of hotel owners. He is the sole bellhop, waiter, valet, and groundskeeper for his family’s ancient hotel. Once, it was a glorious place that was always booming but now it’s more of a shadowy mansion full of crooked corridors and musty rooms. However, the hotel has a secret: it just might be the home for a magical object called the All-Seeing Eye. Can Warren make sense of all of the clues to find the treasure before his evil Aunt Annaconda does?

What a cute book! Warren is such an adorable character, and he is the sweetest kid you will ever read about! The story reminded me a little of The Wolves Chronicles by Joan Aiken (which I’m still in the process of reading) because of its wackiness and weird plot twists. The ebook ARC version that I read had some illustrations in it but they were not always in the best format; I think the final completed version of this book has made the illustrations a lot clearer so that will be another element that kids will enjoy. This is definitely a story I can see middle schoolers enjoying because it’s got great elements, great pictures, and a great theme!

Happy reading ~

Limbo Lodge by Joan Aiken – Wolves Chronicle #5

It may have seemed as if I had forgotten about this book series… but I did not! As I mentioned previously, I have just had zero time for myself and that has led to a decline in my reading time, but I am working fast to make up for it. So without further ado, here I go:

In her latest adventure, Dido Twite is searching for Lord Herodsfoot, who is scouring the globe for new and interesting games. It’s up to Dido to bring him back to London, where an ill King James is in need of a distraction. Dido’s search takes her to a spice island called Aratu, where foreigners seldom venture due to the presence of the deadly pearl snakes and sting monkeys. When Dido lands on this island, she learns of something far more sinister than the poisonous snakes: there is a plot to overthrow the island’s king at his place on the Cliffs of Death. With the help of the Forest People, Dido rushes to the Cliff … but will she make it in time?

I have to admit, this has got to be one of my least favorite books in the series so far. Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely some positives and I still enjoyed the ride. Let me begin with what I liked:

  • the magic elements were super weird and cool. I liked the mysticism and the way in which those who could use magic were able to even convince the skeptics in the story.
  • Talisman and the Forest People were by far my favorite characters in the story. They were so different and I think Aiken did a fantastic job in creating them and giving them the ropes.
  • the plot against the King was typical Aiken and I loved it because it’s everything I expected and love about this series!

So clearly, there were some positives. However, there were some flaws that made this book drop below my expectations.

  • Dido lacked that charm I’ve become so accustomed to seeing. In this novel, she was quite flat and had no real purpose; this novel would have still moved fine without her presence.
  • Lord Herodsfoot and King were really blah characters. I just didn’t like their complete helplessness in every situation. I understand that Aiken created them specifically to be this way, but I just don’t like useless characters.
  • there were a lot of holes in the plot that didn’t make sense (and that’s saying something since most of the books in this series are wacky!) and the introduction into this adventure was very awkward and stilted. The transitions could definitely have been better!

Overall, the novel still maintained its wackiness and had an awesome fantasy element to it. However, it didn’t tie things as well as it could have and Dido really didn’t shine. I’m hoping that the next book in the series will be better; for now, this novel gets a 3.5/5 stars from me!

Happy reading ~

Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

The Tempest is one of my favorite plays by Shakespeare. Something about the story and the magic always captured my interest, and I relish any chance to get back into that world. It’s one of the reasons that I love reading retellings of it, and so I was glad to hear of this one. Here is my review:

Miranda is a lonely child, with only her father, some animals, and a few spirits to keep her company in the abandoned Moorish palace where she lives. Her father’s fascination with a terrible wailing spirit trapped in a pine tree has him constantly practicing his magic, an art that he refuses to explain or teach to Miranda. And then there is the presence of a wild boy, who leaves little gifts for Miranda on their doorstep but never tries to make contact. Miranda knows her father has great plans but his refusal to provide her with explanations means she is left with a great deal of questions about who she is and where she comes from. The wild boy Caliban is a lonely child, too: orphaned at a young age, he has had to fend for himself and has no language that he speaks. When Caliban is summonded and bound into slavery by Miranda’s father, he rages against his shackles…. and yet, he yearns for the the kindness and love he sees in Miranda’s eyes.

This is by far one of my favorite retellings of The Tempest. It is dark, rich in detail, and takes the time to pull apart the characters and show their depth. When Shakespeare first wrote this, it was branded as a comedy. However, after this rendition, it is really better seen as a tragic romance. I love how the author reimagined Caliban, a character that I had always pitied in the original work. I also loved the dark undertones to the story, and how Miranda’s father is shown to have some madness inside of him. I could not put this book down and I felt so drawn to the different characters and their interaction; the author really made the relationships come alive in this story. While the story’s general plot line doesn’t change, the additions in nuance and character building really give the story a different element, and renders this retelling unique. Overall, a wonderfully written novel that tugged at my heartstrings!

Happy reading ~

Elves by Jean-Luc Istin

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

One of my favorite things about graphic novels is how the artwork pulls me into the story. It makes reading a lot faster and allows me to get immersed into the world that the author is creating. I’ve been trying to read a lot more graphic novels nowadays so I was quite happy to have received this novel as an ARC!

This novel consists of 2 stories: The Crystal of the Blue Elves and The Honor of Sylvan Elves.

In The Crystal of the Blue Elves, the Blue Elves of Ennyla are found murdered. When Lanawyn, a Blue Elf, and Turin, her human ally, begin to investigate this crime, their trail leads them to a clan of Yrlans, Northern men who hate Elves. At the same time, Vaalann, a young Blue Elf, is about to go through an initiation test to divine her future under the guidance of Mother Prophetess. It seems that Vaalann’s future is linked to the Sacred Crystal, a powerful artifact that allows the wielder to control the ocean. Is Vaalann the messiah the Blue Elves have been waiting for?

In The Honor of Sylvan Elves, the Sylvan Elves are recluses that stay in their sacred grounds. Anyone who dares enter their territory soon become their prey. Meanwhile, Eysine is a city-state that has always respected the ancient pact between Elf and Man. But when a powerful army of Orks lay siege to the kingdom, Llali, the daughter of the King of Eysine, goes to remind the Elves of the treaty and their pledge to help.

Thus begins Elves, a sprawling saga of mythic proportions!

The art in this graphic novel is definitely beautiful but that’s the only thing I enjoyed about it. There were so many weak areas in this book. One of my major problems was the plot. The pacing was completely off; it was too fast in some places and too slow in others. The story line in the first story was unique but its execution was poor; the characters were sloppy, the writing style was choppy, and I always felt as if I had been thrown into the middle of the story. In terms of the second story, the flow and writing style were better, but the characters still lacked depth and the plot itself was boring. This wasn’t a terrible graphic novel, but it was by no means good. But hey, at least the artwork was impressive!

Happy reading ~

The Stolen Lake by Joan Aiken – Wolves Chronicles #4

What I love about this series is that you never feel like you’ve missed anything when you wait before reading the next book. In the beginning of each book, the reader gets a chance to remember the particulars that led to this current situation, and then the story takes up and you get lost in all the action. With this particular book, the author mentions that it can be read as a standalone and has no bearing on the rest of the series. So if you are intrigued by this author but don’t have the time to read the whole series, this book is a good place to start! Anyways, enough rambling, let me get on with my review:

On her way back to London aboard the Thrush, Dido and the crew are summoned to the aid of the queen of New Cumbria. Her island has been a source of help for Britain in the past, and now she uses that connection to seek justice. When the crew arrives, they find that the island is a very unusual place, full of birds that are big enough to carry off men, and fish that eat human flesh and leave only bones as remains. The queen is greatly distressed because she believes that a neighbouring king has stolen her lake. It is up to Dido and the rest of the crew to face the many dangers that are present on this island in order to get the lake back.

In comparison to the previous books in this series, this one is definitely unique. While this novel continues in the style of alternate history, we also see unique fantasy and mythology elements. Once again, we see Dido as the star of the show. Her humor and quick wit save her time and again. I actually loved the adult characters that were introduced here as Dido’s companions; unlike the other books, most of them were quite ready to follow Dido’s directives and were a great asset to her! The plot, while not related to anything Hanoverian, was still delightfully sinister, and the evil characters were quite well drawn up! There are certain things that I found weren’t addressed fully in the book, but apart from that, this novel was just as fun and amazing as every other book in the series! I think this may be one of my favorite stories about Dido so far, but I’m going to read the next one to see if it can top this!

Happy reading ~

Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is a novel that I have been really excited to read. It’s got that fantasy element along with government conspiracies and that’s all I really needed to peak my interest. Patiently waiting for the release month has been a difficult task, but I did it! So here is my review:

In 1928, the U.S. Government gathered up the people of Innsmouth and kept them in the desert, far from their ocean, their Deep One ancestors, and their sleeping god Cthulhu. The only ones who survived the brutal camps are Aphra and Caleb Marsh, and they are left with nothing. Now, that same government needs Aphra’s help. FBI agent Ron Spector suspects that Communist spies have stolen dangerous magical secrets from Miskatonic University, secrets that threaten the existence of the human race. Aphra must now return to the ruins of her old home and put together the scraps of her stolen history in order to face a deadly enemy – the darkness of human nature.

As I had mentioned, this was a novel that I was very excited to read. But there were 2 things I was unaware of when I first requested this book: 1) it’s based on Lovecraft’s work, and 2) there was a novella that serves as a prequel to this novel. My ignorance on these things hindered my ability to understand and enjoy this novel, resulting in me giving up on this book after about 5 or 6 chapters. I found myself confused by what was happening and the constant jumps in time. The familiarity on certain topics and concepts took me off guard and the explanations weren’t very handy right away…. and I really didn’t want to keep reading in order to find out. I think what really stopped me from continuing to give this book a shot was the fact that it was very slow-paced; it took forever for the story to get going. Between that and my complete bewilderment on the topic, I lost interest and unfortunately did not finish this novel. I hate not completing a story, especially when I’ve received an ARC but I just couldn’t find it in me to push through. Because I didn’t finish, I’m not going to give a rating for this book. Instead, I urge fans of Lovecraft and those who have read the novella that is a companion to this story, to give this novel a chance. I am sure that the story would make way more sense and be a lot more interesting for someone who actually understands the references that are being made in this book!

Happy reading ~

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff – Nevernight Chronicle #1

I didn’t really know what to expect when I got this novel. It seemed interesting enough with its amazing cover art and its blurb about assassins. I love all things dark and anti-heroes are my favorite, especially when they’ve got a pretty kick-ass revenge plot. I was quite excited to read this novel … and it shows because I stayed up until 4am in the morning to finish this book, and I forgot to eat lunch and dinner!

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Mia Corvere barely escaped her father’s failed rebellion with her life. With him executed as a traitor, her mother is sent to a prison with her younger brother, and Mia was sent to her death. She manages to escape and finds herself alone and friendless in a city built from the bones of a dead god. But she finds solace at the doors of a retired killer, who leads her to a future she could never have imagined. Now, Mia is sent to train with the deadliest group of assassins in the entire Republic: the Red Church. If she can beat her classmates in the areas of steel, poison, and the subtle arts, she will be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder – and one step closer to the revenge she seeks. But with a killer loose within the church, Mia may not even survive to initiation.

I find that the more I love a book, the worse I am at articulating what it is I like about the novel. I’m going to try my best to overcome that here.

This is not a novel that is light-hearted. You are reading a story about assassins and as such, this novel is grim and dark and full of complexity. Every person is a cold-blooded killer and you really cannot trust anyone. On top of that, there is a murder plot going on that becomes quite important as the story goes on. What I loved about this story was that it kept its theme throughout; the same intensity and darkness were maintained and the novel was engaging to read. I loved that the characters themselves were so dark and broken and messed-up – it made for such interesting characters. The author did a great job with creating the anti-hero and showing her growth. The story flits between her past and present in such a way that I felt like I knew her and also felt like she was an enigma all at the same time. Every character introduced has a purpose – but whether they are good or bad remains to be seen. This novel was a rollercoaster ride and it was one of the best rollercoasters I have ever been on!

I am not a fan of lengthy descriptions and overusage of metaphors and similes. But it worked for this novel. The first chapter that I encountered was written in alternating paragraph form, depicting 2 distinctly different scenes in a similar manner. It hooked me. It was such a unique and interesting way to write and as soon as I read it, I had to reread it again to make sure of what I had just read. It was one of those woah-epiphany moments for me, and after that, I was captivated by the writing style employed in this novel. I loved that there were footnotes included that gave little funny tidbits from an unknown sarcastic narrator. I enjoyed having glimpses between the past and the present, and the way the author wrote made it a mystery as to who is actually on Mia’s side and who is a potential threat.

Overall, I found this book spellbinding from the start, with its unique (and humorous) prose, its sinister plot, and its amazing characters. I am anxiously waiting to read Godsgrave, the next novel in this series!

Happy reading ~

Medalon by Jennifer Fallon – Hythrun Chronicles: Demon Child #1

The series is called Demon Child. I mean… DEMON CHILD!!! How could I NOT read it with such an insanely cool title?! Initially, I was drawn to this series because of The Lyre Thief, which just recently got released. But when I found out that Lyre Thief wasn’t the first book in the series, I knew that I would have to start from the beginning. Which brought me here to Medalon.

Medalon is a small country bordered by the nation of Karien in the north and the nations of Fardohnya and Hythria in the south. The Sisters of the Blade rule Medalon with an iron fist, with an elite army of Defenders to enforce their rules. The Sisters forbid the worship of all gods, including the Harshini, a magical race that has been long extinct. They quash all signs of heathens with the force of the Defenders. And so, there is an uneasy peace. R’shiel Tenragan and her half-brother Tarja findd themselves caught up in a political battle when their mother takes on the role of the First Sister. In order to escape from her machinations, R’shiel and Tarja flee the Citadel for safer ground. But by fleeing, they incur the wrath of the Sisters and the Defenders, who hunt them as traitors. Meanwhile, in Hythria, Brak, a Harshini outcast, is tasked with finding the demon child, the half-human child of the dead Harshini king. But what does this have to do with R’shiel and Tarja?

I can see how I’m going to get hooked to this series! I really really liked this novel! When you read a lot of teen fantasy novels or standalone fantasy novels, there is a lot of world-building that gets missed. Not the case in this novel! You can tell the author spent a great deal of time envisioning this fantasy world; everything was well thought out and intricately put together. I felt like I was living in the story myself because it was so detailed! The story is interesting from page 1 and every perspective is explored at different intervals so you read about the situation happening in every country. There are some violent parts in the story, and rape does get brought up, so consider this your trigger warning! In general, I love power struggles; it’s one of my favorite things about GoT, so I was really glad to see it expressed strongly in this novel.

I will admit, though, there were 3 things that I wasn’t so happy about:

1) R’shiel is not a very strong protagonist; I wanted her to be more fierce but she was a lot more weak and stayed in the backseat while her brother took the main stage. Not that I didn’t like Tarja, but I wanted to see some more badassery from her.

2) There is a romance element that made me feel really awkward. It should not have happened. Seriously, it just felt really weird and I have no idea why it came about that way and I really hope it somehow…. stops….

3) Brak’s character is pretty much useless. He is supposed to find the demon child and bring them to one of the Gods but he literally does nothing except observe throughout the whole novel. It made me really annoyed because he could have had a more active role.

That being said, I still thought this was a really good novel. There was tons of action and duplicity and conniving characters and intrigue. The author really immerses the reader into this fictional world, and that allowed me to have a great experience while reading this novel. I will definitely be continuing with this series!

Happy reading ~

Chasing Embers by James Bennett

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I really like stories that take mythology and put it in an urban setting. Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors because he’s just such a master of reviving mythology and putting an interesting twist on it. I recently discovered Brom, and he is also fantastic at taking classic characters and reshaping them. I was really excited to read this story, hoping that it would also succeed in this lofty goal.

Ben Garston is your typical guy with an attitude, drowning his sorrows in a bar. At least, that’s what you think. Ben is actually Red Ben, from a world of myth and legend that has been hidden from view. He’s been doing a good job of keeping his identity a secret, but even he isn’t prepared for the hell that is about to break loose. When a centuries-old rivalry resurfaces, it will break the delicate balance between his world and ours.

I really wanted to like this book. And I don’t actually think the story is bad in any way. However, the writing style really put me off. It was far too descriptive and I just couldn’t focus on what was actually happening. The other reason I didn’t like this book is because I didn’t really care about any of the characters. I wasn’t able to form a bond with any of them enough to want to read more about them. Like I mentioned before, this story isn’t a bad one at all. It’s got plenty of action and a fast-moving pace. However, it just didn’t cut it for me, and so I’m going to have to add this to my DNF list. I hope that others who are interested in urban fantasy will still give this novel a shot because there is definitely potential in the overall story!

Happy reading ~

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

When I first read the premise of this novel, I was a little hesitant to read it. It sounded like every other teen fantasy story and I wanted to try something different than the norm. After reading this novel, I’m so glad that I was given the chance to read it because it was definitely unique and intriguing!

Tea never meant to resurrect her brother from the dead, but when she does, it becomes quite obvious that she has a different set of magical skills than the other witches in her family. Her gift of necromancy is not happily accepted by many in her community – or for that matter, anywhere. However, she soon finds solace and guidance in the company of a wiser and older bone witch, who takes Tea and her resurrected brother to a new land for training as a bone witch. Tea must now put all of her energy into becoming an asha, someone who can wield elemental magic using runes. She must also learn to accept her new life as a bone witch, with all its prejudices and difficulties. But dark forces are approaching and Tea doesn’t have much time to master her skills. In this new life, Tea must overcome her obstacles and make a powerful choice, one that will change the future for her – and everyone around her – forever.

Before I read this story, I looked on Goodreads for what others thought about it and I was quite surprised by the amount of negative reviews. Most of them cited that the story was slow and not much happened in it, thus causing readers to lose interest. Bearing that in mind, I started to read.

What I discovered was a story with beautiful prose, rich in detail and character development. The book has been branded as a fantasy Memoirs of a Geisha, and I would have to agree with this description. The asha are very much like geisha in terms of the obligations they have to tea houses, and in the manner in which they dress. What makes the asha different, however, is there power and magical abilities. While I found the concept to be interesting and well-executed for the most part, I wish the asha had been given a more powerful or stronger image; it’s great to hear about their singing and dancing abilities but I’d much rather have the asha also be admired for their fighting skills by their guests.

I really liked Tea’s character. Her voice (not referring to her singing or anything, by the way) for this story was beautiful and spellbinding and I loved to hear all of the descriptions of different aspects of her life. I enjoyed reading about her internal struggles to keep the darkness at bay, and I liked that the love interest angle was not overdone. It was also really cool to have the story told from her present self’s reflections of her past behaviour; it kept me wanting to know more about how she ended up in her present condition. I think the author did a fabulous job on that front!

The magical elements of this novel were fantastic. I loved everything from the runes to the undead demonic beasts to the mind control to the heartglasses. Everything was unique and important and it would always intrigue me enough to keep me wanting more!

Overall, I was quite impressed with this novel. It had a mature and lyrical tone and while it may have plied the readers with a great deal of detail, it allowed for the building of an intricate world and an intriguing story line. I would recommend this to anyone who was a fan of Memoirs of a Geisha (which I adored!) but with a teen fantasy angle. I’m looking forward to the next book in this series!

Happy reading ~