Monday, October 12, 2015

Water Princess, Fire Prince (The Rizkaland Legends)

Title: Water Princess, Fire Prince 

Series: The Rizkaland Legends (Book #1)

Year: 2015

Author: Kendra E. Ardnek

Summary: When the Lady Dragon does come,
Hold fast, do not fear, do not run.
Your Water Princess will fight,
Fire Prince will set all to right.
Each shall come from a Fall,
Their union will save you all.

Despite the fact that she's on track for competing in the Olympics, and he's practically raised his younger brothers since they lost their mom in a car accident, Clara Mandras and Andrew Stevenson are pretty much normal teens. They have normal hopes, normal dreams, and they live in a normal world.

All this is torn away from them when they are thrust into another world and declared Water Princess and Fire Prince. With no experience ruling a country, meeting each other for the first time, and being expected to fight the Lady Dragon – an evil sorceress plaguing the world of Rizkaland – Clara and Andrew are underprepared and inexperienced. Unless they learn to work together despite their standing opposition, Rizkaland's hope will be lost.

What is to come will change their lives forever.
(from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
~ Clara Mandras
~ Andrew Stevenson

Review: When Kendra was looking for advance readers for this book, there was absolutely no question in my mind. I'd already been waiting long enough to read it, so it was imperative to get my hands on it just as soon as possible.

Yes, it was that important.

And honestly, it blew me away. It was everything and yet nothing like what I had imagined. Wonderful. What did I like about it so much? Read on, Lizzy. (P&P reference because of reasons)

First of all, Kendra is fantastic when it comes to world building, and even though she's created so many different worlds for her stories, each one is unique and wonderful, and this one is no exception. Rizkaland and Klarand were just epically penned into being and I loved them. For one thing, it's not round. And the water comes in every color of the rainbow and each color has a different flavor and a different purpose. I'm afraid I had very many rainbow songs stuck in my head as I read this. But it was marvelous.

REALISTIC CHARACTERS! For once, we have two kids thrown into a strange world, and they react like a normal kid would! They don't automatically assume their standing and adapt perfectly. Nope. It takes them a bit of time to figure out what's going on, and even balk at what's expected of them. As much fun as it would be to be thrown into a new world, it would also be terrifying and strange, and Clara and Andrew were true to that impression.

Also -- I LOVED the shameless references to Alice in Wonderland, Narnia, The Prince and the Pauper, Pride and Prejudice, etc. There were probably many more that I didn't catch, but they were wonderful. You'd expect kids from our world to reference things from our world, right? Right! And the inside joke made me laugh out loud:

[Clara] sighed. "But now that you mention it, you're right. I just don't think this is a movie. Probably just a book."

"A book?"

"And, knowing our luck, not even one of the good ones. Probably some self-published work." She shook her head. "I'd hate to know what the cover art looks like. Probably some photoshop fail."

[Andrew] laughed. "That would be just our luck."

No, Kendra, it was most certainly NOT a photoshop fail. Still, this was probably my absolute favorite scene in the book.

 I also wanted to take a moment to say something about Clara. I'd been expecting her to be a warrior princess, but I'll admit I was a little skeptical. Warrior princesses tend to be very feministic, with the I-can-do-what-I-want-because-I'm-better-than-anyone-else attitude, and it really drives me bonkers. I don't enjoy heroines like that. But Clara wasn't. True, she was amazingly skilled at fighting. She has plenty of spunk, but even right from the beginning, she has a vulnerable side. There's no nonsense about her, but she has her own share of fears. Plus, she had some wonderful character development.

To be truthful, though, I will admit I was disappointed with the ending. While everything was monstrously satisfactory, I had anticipated a greater final battle with Amber. It was fine the way it was, but I was hoping for some more action, and I felt it wrapped everything up just a little too fast. 

Advisory: Fantasy violence. But quite suitable for the tone of the novel. I have no further need to elaborate.

Also, some romance -- there is a type of arranged marriage in here, and it takes a while for boy and girl to fall in love. They do share some kisses near the end of the story, after some physical contact (i.e. hand-holding, hugging, sleeping next to each other, etc.), but nothing inappropriate. There were also a few comments that I didn't care much for in regards to girls in bathtubs and in swimsuits, but they weren't very descriptive.  

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Click here to buy Water Princess, Fire Prince on Amazon!

*Please note: I was given an advanced reader's copy of this book by the author in exchange for my honest review.*

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Curiosity Keeper (The Treasures of Surrey)

Title: The Curiosity Keeper

Series: The Treasures of Surrey (Book #1)

Year: 2015

Author: Sarah E. Ladd

Summary: “It is not just a ruby, as you say. It is large as a quail’s egg, still untouched and unpolished. And it is rumored to either bless or curse whomever possesses it.”

Camille Iverness can take care of herself. She’s done so since the day her mother abandoned the family and left Camille to run their shabby curiosity shop on Blinkett Street. But when a violent betrayal leaves her injured with no place to hide, Camille has no choice but to accept help from the mysterious stranger who came to her aid.

Jonathan Gilchrist never wanted to inherit Kettering Hall. As a second son, he was content working as a village apothecary. But when his brother’s death made him heir just as his father’s foolish decisions put the estate at risk, only the sale of a priceless possession—a ruby called the Bevoy—can save the family from ruin. But the gem has disappeared. And all trails lead to Iverness Curiosity Shop—and the beautiful shop girl who may or may not be the answer to his questions.

Curious circumstance throws them together, and an intricate dance of need and suspicion leads the couple from the seedy backwaters of London to the elite neighborhoods of the wealthy to the lush, green Surrey countryside—all in the pursuit of a blood-red gem that collectors will sacrifice anything to possess.

Caught at the intersection of blessings and curses, greed and deceit, two determined souls must unite to protect what they hold dear. But when a passion that shines far brighter than any gem is ignited, each will have to decide how much they are willing to risk for their future, love, and happiness.
(from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
~ Camille Iverness
~ Jonathan Gilchrist

Review: I'm always on the skeptical side of the argument when it comes to picking up books like this. I am looking for a great range of books to fill KiriBeth with, but I don't always enjoying reviewing the so-called "Christian Fiction" or "Christian Romance." Usually, I find those novels full of fluff, cliche, and just awful. When I read the synopsis for this one, though, I thought I'd give it a chance. Truth be told, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. There were times I was reminded greatly of Dickens (Curisoity Shop, anyone?), and that itself made me so happy. 

First of all, the heroine Camille is quite a believable heroine. She's stubborn - but not outlandish - enough of a lady for her time period, brave in her own right, passionate about what she loves, with some common sense on the side. I enjoyed reading about her. Most girls in novels nowadays, when thrown in the same circumstances that Camille faced, would have gone limp, whined, moped, and all manner of other incredibly boring and useless flop. Camille, however, didn't. She was scared, yes, but she also wasn't afraid to take action. She knew her limits, and even though fate seemed against her, she used the brain the good Lord gave her. 

The host of characters was really quite marvelous in all. I have to admit being partial to old Mr. Gilchrist. Even though he was cranky, obstinate, and - let's admit it - a little off his nut, he was one of my favorite characters. I loved his interaction with Camille. The shared love they had of curious items and antiques and the like was just fun to read about. 

The mystery was wonderfully done. Even though the pacing was a little slow for me (there were some scenes that I got a little lost in all the setting descriptions), the author had just enough for me to predict some things that happened and yet still managed to surprise me with certain plot twists. All in all, I wouldn't peg this as an absolute favorite book, but it was most enjoyable to read. 

Advisory: Some violence; Camille comes into contact with some less-than-savory characters at her father's shop. And as Jonathan is an apothecary, you can expect some blood and illness as he tends to different characters in the novel. 

And I did want to take a moment to look at the romance. Yes, there is some of that in here. But I didn't feel that it was overdone, which is why I gave this book 4 stars. There is one kiss, but for the most part, our romantic pair doesn't brood about the majestic physical qualities of their beloved. Their interaction is believable and as proper as can be for the Regency time setting. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Click here to buy a copy of The Curiosity Keeper on Amazon!

*Please note that I received a free copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.*

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Young Visiters

Title: The Young Visiters: Or, Mr. Salteena's Plan

Series: None

Year: 1919

Author: Daisy Ashford

Summary: A short “society novel” written by Miss Daisy Ashford at the age of nine. The notebook containing the novel was rediscovered by her in adult life and sent by a friend to Frank Swinnerton, the English novelist, critic, editor and essayist. Published in 1919 by Chatto and Windus, with its original misspellings and an arch introduction by “Peter Pan” author J. M. Barrie, it was an immediate bestseller. Its child's view of high society (dukes and earls having ‘levies’ and residing in the ‘Crystall Pallace’) and its heavily romantic plot make it an engaging and enduring popular work. (from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
~ Mr. Alfred Salteena
~ Ethel Monticue
~ Bernard Clark  

Review: My family watched the 2003 BBC adaptation of this book a few years ago, and finding it rather fun, I decided one day to read the book. Lo, and behold, Amazon offered it free on Kindle, and so... well, I needn't say, for you can guess the rest.

Daisy Ashford wrote this entire book when she was nine. NINE! Am I the only one in such astonishment? The publishers kept all her original work in the novel, altering nothing. All of her dear little grammar mistakes, spelling errors, and lack of punctuation are exactly as little Daisy herself put them down. When I first heard of that, I was concerned that the book would be difficult to read, but no ma'am! Daisy has a clear and rather comical hand when it comes to giving us the adventures of our hero, Mr. Alfred Salteena.

I love way too many quotes in this book. Right off the bat, we read, "Mr. Salteena was an elderly man of 42 and was fond of asking people to stay with him." His current visitor happens to be the lovely Ethel Monticue, a young girl of 17 who "had a blue velvit frock which had grown rarther short in the sleeves." Things of importance begin to happen when Mr. Salteena's friend, Bernard Clark, invites Mr. Salteena and "one of his young ladies whichever is prettiest in the face" for a grand visit. 

And so our friends go off on the adventure. Another favorite quote, "When the great morning came Mr Salteena did no have an egg for his breakfast in case he should be sick on the journey." *grins* They all have a lovely time with Bernard Clark, until one day Mr. Salteena decides he must marry Ethel because he loves her. And so he pops off to the "Crystall Pallace" to become a gentleman for her. The trouble is our other friend, Bernard Clark, is rather in love with Ethel, too.

As a young girl's view on society and its workings, this book is nothing but a good read. It isn't very long, but I enjoyed myself muchly between the pages.  

Advisory: A child's view of romance leading to a kiss -- but that's about it. Just clean, good fun in all.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Click here to buy a copy of The Young Visiters on Amazon!
And yes, it's free for the Kindle!

Monday, August 10, 2015

A Wish Made of Glass

Title: A Wish Made of Glass

Series: None

Year: 2015

Author: Ashlee Willis

Summary: Deep in a forest glade, the fey folk dance with Isidore, a young human child. Their kinship is the very fabric of her childhood. When her mother dies and her world darkens with sorrow, Isidore finds her belief in the fey folk wavering.

The love of her new step-sister, Blessing, proves an unexpected gift in her time of need. Yet even as their friendship blooms, Isidore begins to see that Blessing is everything she herself has always wanted to be, but is not. Jealousy grips Isidore as she watches this beautiful new sister steal away all she holds dear.

Driven to desperation, Isidore turns to the fey folk once more. She has only one wish to claim from them, one chance to make things right. But she must tread carefully. For wishes, like hearts, are easily broken. And obtaining the one thing she desires could mean destroying the one thing she truly needs.
(from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
~ Isidore
~ Blessing 

Review: After reading Ashlee's The Word Changers, I was truly eager to read more from her. I had the opportunity to be an advanced reader for that novel, and when I saw that she was looking for influence readers for her latest story, I jumped on the chance. BECAUSE in addition to being another book by Ashlee, it was a Cinderella retelling. I just *had* to read this book.

And it didn't disappoint in the least. In fact, it went way above and beyond my expectations. Even from the first chapter, first paragraph, FIRST SENTENCE... I was hooked.

"When I was a child, I danced with the fey folk."

How much more intriguing can you get than that? Isidore takes us immediately into her world, her story, and we're introduced to everything she holds dear. Unlike most Cinderella tales that begin with a beloved mother's death, Isidore's tale begins with a promise of the future. 

The symbolism in this story is just... wow. Strong, to say in the least. When she dances as a child with the fey folk, Isidore learns from her mother that those special people carry their hearts within their shoes. But carrying their hearts within their shoes is dangerous, as the fey folk must take extra care with each step and leap, because with each step and leap they are treading upon their own hearts. This is a lesson that Isidore was meant to learn when she was young, yet after her mother's death, she banishes the fey folk from her mind and must learn it the hard way... treading upon her own heart with each step and leap and stumble that she takes.

What makes it even better is that the symbolic shoes that carry the hearts (for the ladies, at least) are made of glass. Glass slippers. The fey folk wear glass slippers. BING! *cue breathlessness*

As for being a Cinderella retelling, there's a lot in this novella that borrows from the original tale. You've got the death of her mother, a new stepfamily (with only one stepsister), another tragic loss, a ball, a handsome prince.... but it's like Ashlee took the tale of Cinderella and turned it completely upside down! This isn't the quest of a young servant girl finding a fairy godmother and a rich husband. No! This is the story of a bereaved young heroine who must learn to love and how to show that love to those closest to her. It was such a pleasant difference than your typical Cinderella romance, and I quite enjoyed it.

Isidore, herself, made also a pleasant difference. After the first and latest installment in Cinderella cinema, every Cinderella girl is stuck on having courage and being kind. However, Isidore is a far cry from your typical Cinderella. She's stubborn, jealous, bitter - and she has to learn to overcome her faults. She doesn't start off being kind. She learns kindness through the course of the story. 

Blessing, her stepsister, was wonderful. I absolutely loved Hazel. And the ending... *sigh* I will admit I called it, but it still left me feeling wowed. 

Advisory: Some light violence/injury (i.e. cheek slapping, some blood due to a head injury after a fall, etc.), and then also a touch of romance leading to a kiss. But all very light and highly appropriate to the tone of the novella.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

*Please note: I received an advanced copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review.*

Monday, July 27, 2015

Half-Blood (Ilyon Chronicles)

Title: Half-Blood 

Series: Ilyon Chronicles (Prequel Novella)

Year: 2015

Author: Jaye L. Knight

Summary: "The gasps and murmuring grew. Though some were hardly more than whispers, clear words reached Jace’s ears—dangerous, monster, animal, soulless. He tried to back away from their accusing eyes, but the collar pulled hard against his throat and held him in place."

For all his years as a slave, Jace has known nothing but the hatred people hold for his mixed blood—one half human, the other half the blood of a race considered monsters. Always, he is the outsider and quickly learns it is better to keep to himself. But, when his volatile ryrik blood leads him to do the unthinkable, he is thrown into a world of violence and bloodshed.

Forced to become a gladiator, Jace finds more and more of his heart dying as his master works to break down his will and turn him into the monster everyone believes he is. When a stranger interferes with his master’s harsh punishment, Jace’s world is upended again. But with it comes the possibility of hope that has long since died. Could the man possibly hold the key to escaping the hopeless darkness that is Jace’s life? Is there such a thing as life beyond the cruelty of slavery?
(from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
~ Jace

Review: How Jaye knew we needed this book before we even asked for it still amazes me. I absolutely loved Resistance and I've been dying to get my hands on a copy of The King's Scrolls. Jace has proven himself an epic character again and again in my mind, so to get a chance to take a peek into his life before Rayad was truly amazing. If you call yourself any kind of fan of Jaye Knight's work, then you simply must read this book.

First off, it was a lot shorter than Resistance. I really wasn't sure what to expect reading this prequel, but even from my confused thoughts, Jaye blew me quickly away. I had been afraid at first to dive into it, lest by some terrible design the character of Jace that I had grown to respect in Resistance be damaged. Nope. No way. Instead, this novella opened up an entire new world of understanding who he really was. It added so much depth to him. I was dumbstruck. Pretty much.

I love that Jaye starts out with Jace as a younger boy. She takes us through his childhood, how he grows, what he learns from those he comes in contact with. The foreshadowing... the suspense... the desires... the pain. Wow. Instead of just throwing us directly into his gladiator fights with Jasper, Jaye gave us to see Jace before the fights. 

But the fights themselves! *whistles* I was concerned with how Jaye might handle the progress of the fights, as there were many of them over the course of... quite a long time. But she did marvelously. There were times I felt I was at the arena with Jace - fighting with him, or yelling from the sidelines. He lived up to every one of my expectations and hopes... and then of course, Jasper walked on the scene, and my heart just broke for Jace. 

Really, what more can I say than this book is a must for all Ilyon fans, fantasy lovers, and adventure nerds alike? I give five stars whole-heartedly.    

Advisory: Quite a bit of violence as Jace fights different opponents/enemies, so please expect some descriptions of that. Several characters are wounded and, as a result of his fighting, more than one death follows Jace, haunting him. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Click here to buy Half-Blood on Amazon!

*Please note that I was given an advanced reader's copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.* 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Brothers and Betrayal (Tales of Taelis)

Title: Brothers and Betrayal

Series: Tales of Taelis 

Year: 2015

Author: Sarah Holman 

Summary: A boy, running for his life.
A princess, trying to save her people.
And an archer who seeks to defend the defenseless.

Bryon, after witnessing his brother’s murder, takes his sisters and flees into the woods to a mysterious figure known as The Archer who lives there. But though he finds temporary safety, bitterness threatens his heart.

Brianna only wants to help the people of Taelis, but her father, the king, seems bent on making life hard for all of them. She works tirelessly to save the kingdom from war, while secretly helping The Archer.
Join the adventure in… Brothers and Betrayal. (from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
~ Brianna
~ Bryon
~ John

Review: If possible, this book was even better than the first! I don't know how Sarah did it, but she did! If you liked the first book, or if you like medieval stories, or if you just love adventures in general, you have to read this book!

Sarah's writing, I thought, in this book was stronger. The more she writes, the more she's developing her skill, and it's really a blessing to see. Just well done. I'm really looking forward to more tales from Taelis.

Brianna is the young princess, trying to save her father from ruin. Sure, he's the king and all, but his temper and mindset are such that he insults every noble and foreign ambassador coming through his gates. Without Brianna's interference, the kingdom would have long ago fallen with no trade and internal conflict. But trouble lies with more than just in the palace. Outside the town, outcasts gather in the woods to try to scratch out a living for themselves. Led by a man known to many as The Archer, they are aided by an anonymous benefactor inside the city. 

And then we've also got a third main character, a younger boy by the name of Bryon (keeping well within the "b" theme for this book). I liked Bryon a lot more than I thought I would, honestly. After reading the synopsis for this novel, I expected him to be a moody sort of man/hero (usually my least favorite type of character), but instead, Sarah made him real for me. I loved how his character developed. Absolutely amazing. 

The title, too, is so aptly chosen. This book really is all about brothers and betrayal. The brother theme is well woven throughout the entire novel, but the betrayal was a bit more tricky. At first, I was a little disappointed that the only betrayal came in the beginning of the novel, but plot twist! More betrayal in the end! I won't say what it was, of course, but it was awesome. I wanted it, but I didn't exactly expect it. Well done, Sarah.

You know what else I loved about this book? IT WAS ROBIN HOOD! Yes, rob from the rich to give to the poor. And very well done. I usually don't condone Robin Hood for the fact that he steals, but there's none of that in this novel.

Advisory: Just some fighting/injuries/illnesses, but well done for the tone of the book. And then some hints at a romance, but very light and very well done.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Click here to purchase Brothers and Betrayal on Amazon!