Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Adventures and Adversities (Tales of Taelis)

Title: Adventures and Adversities

Series: Tales of Taelis (Book #1)

Year: 2013

Author: Sarah Holman

Summary: One day Alditha is content living with her family, the next she is taking her friend's place to serve at the king’s castle. Her father's final instructions, to keep smiling and to do what is right, will be harder to live out than she ever imagined. She will face a royal nephew who delights in making people miserable, an angry servant girl who will stop at nothing to get what she wants, and noblemen who plot murder. Will she be able to keep the promise she made to her father? Will she find the faith she longs for during all her Adventures and Adversities? (from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
~ Alditha
~ William
~ Eleanor

Review: This is another review I am shamefully just getting to. I think I won a Kindle copy of this book over a year ago, and yet life got so hectic that I forgot to actually read it. Why I took so long, I don't know, but I am so glad I decided to pick this book up. 


Alditha (don't you just love her name?) is a young peasant girl who knows nothing but the simple life she had always led. Tragedy has struck her family on more than one occasion, most recently in the death of Alditha's youngest sister, Tana. Alditha struggles to accept it, praying for a stronger faith. Of course, that's before her best friend is picked out to be sent to the king's castle to work... and Alditha volunteers to take her place. Traveling to the castle, working in the king's kitchens, she finds no small amount of adventures and adversities. Yet throughout it all, she tries to keep a positive outlook and stay faithful. 

Alditha reminded me greatly of Elsie Dinsmore, but set during the Middle Ages. Sarah must have done some research on the time period because the historical references (though set in a fictional world) were well done. It made me see the Middle Ages in a whole new light -- a fantastic difference than the normal prince or fine lady story. The title is spot-on; this is truly a tale of adventures and adversities.

There is a great realm of characters in this book. Alditha was lovable, and I absolutely adored her little friend Eleanor. I can't say for certain that she was my favorite character because I went back and forth between Eleanor and her older brother, William. Ooh, yes, and Maggie. Maggie was amazing. I even started liking the horribly misguided Lady Laila. The way Laila's story tied in so neatly with everything there at the end was... wow. I think I saw it coming, but I was still cheering William on during those last few chapters. But I will say no more on that -- spoilers, ya know.

Sarah's writing style is very easy to read, and oftentimes I got so caught up in what was going on that I forgot I was reading at all. I had thought the book would be all about Alditha's life at the castle, yet Sarah took her plot way beyond the kitchens. I had a hard time putting the book down, so keen I was to discover what happened next. And what kept coming? A great number of plot twists! *grins*

There is one complaint I will make and that is that we don't find out what happens to the king's youngest children after they are rescued. I loved that scene, yet the children kinda disappeared after that. Or will they be making an appearance in one of the future Tales of Taelis? If my memory serves me correctly, Sarah will be writing 26 books in all (26? sound familiar? yeah, there's a reason the first book is "a" words and the second "b" words). I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on those.

Advisory: Some of the usual fighting/danger, but it fit the tone of the novel very well. Also, a very light romance popped up between two characters. Sarah handled it very well, and I actually enjoyed reading about it. Rare for me to actually be able to say that!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Click here to buy Adventures and Adversities on Amazon!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Haphazardly Implausible (Haphazardly Implausible)

Title: Haphazardly Implausible

Series: Haphazardly Implausible (Book #1)

Year: 2012

Author: Jack Lewis Baillot

Summary: Three unlikely heroes. A world teetering on the edge of war. A mad man who will stop at nothing to gain complete power.

Peter Jones, an Aeropilot in the Scottish Royal Air Force, has grown up believing his parents abandoned him. Isidore Thaddeus Reichmann, a famous detective running from his past, is trying to save the last person he cares about. Singur, an inventor who has been forced to hide his real name his whole life or risk being killed, holds an important secret. These three have never met. They live in different countries and have little in common.

Little do they know their lives are about to entwine and that together they have the power to save the world from complete destruction, or destroy everything.

Loyalties are questioned. Friendships are betrayed. Trust is shaken. Who do you turn to when the friends you've always relied upon become your worst enemies? (from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
~ Peter Jones
~ Tony
~ Captain Shamus Steed
~ Darcy Steed
~ Isidore Thaddeus Reichmann
~ Jack
~ Singur

Review: Right from the beginning, this book swept me away. I've really enjoyed each book I've read of Jack's, but she just keeps amazing me. If I have a new-found interest in steampunk and the like, I'm blaming Jack. Yes, this book is that good. If you haven't read it yet, YOU MUST! Honestly, I don't know what took me so long to get around to reading this, but now I'm dying for the next book. 

Set in an alternate Europe, Peter Jones is an aeropilot in the Scottish Royal Air Force. He's been in the army ever since he was seven -- when he was told his parents abandoned him. But life at a military base isn't all bad. He's got his best friend Tony to keep him company. He's basically the best pilot at the base... which means when a night air attack comes with bombs and everything, it's him the general sends up. Aeropilots don't fly at night, so Peter's mission is suicidal, yet he knows he can't back down.

And that's only the beginning! From there, the adventure unfolds, and Peter's life is never the same. Mysteries and secrets long hidden from the world come to light, and suddenly Peter must abandon everything he knows and forget where his old trusts lie. Falling among Air Pirates might not have been the ideal situation, yet that may be the key to saving his own life. 

Besides Peter's adventures, we're also treated to the journey of the famous German detective, Isidore Thaddeus Reichmann, who's been hired to find the elusive Peter Jones. It's no big task for him. He's found many missing persons before, and this will be another easy task to put on his resume... that is, until he picks up a very persistent shadow... and the shadow's dog. THEN we've also got a mysterious Italian genius thrown in the mix. Singur has spent his whole life hiding... in plain sight. Too bad that doesn't work forever.

This book has an amazing cast of characters. I love how Jack incorporated all the different nationalities (i.e. Scottish, British, German, Italian, Russian, etc.) and gave each its own unique personality. Peter was a favorite right from the start, and Tony and Kirk quickly battled each other for place as my favorite. Darcy was also amazing... even when at first I didn't think I'd like that character. *cue Thorin* Never have I been so wrong in my life. Captain Hogan... ahh... too many excellent characters. I shall refrain from gushing. And then we've got airships, guns, swords, Scottish mountains, submarines... all amounting to one of the most epic adventures you can ever live within the pages of a book... or on the eye-numbing screen of your Kindle. For some reason, I don't feel that five stars do this one justice. 

Advisory: Some battle descriptions/fighting/injuries/etc. Nothing overly graphic, and well-suited to the tone of the book. There is also a scene in which a man and a girl share a hotel room because they're pretending to be man and wife, but he very astutely sleeps in the closet, and nothing is ever mentioned about it again. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Click here to buy Haphazardly Implausible on Amazon!

Or click here to buy a copy from Hulu!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Waltz into the Waves: A Cinderella Story

Title: Waltz into the Waves: A Cinderella Story 

Series: None 

Year: 2015 

Author: Sarah Holman

Summary: Amelia has always lived in a manor by the sea with her father, and looks forward every summer to a visit from Alex. However, her perfect life is dashed one summer when tragedy strikes. Will her life ever be happy again? 

A 7,000 word short story of faith, love, and happily ever after. (from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
~ Amelia Ella
~ Alex
~ Cynthia

Review: This novella is just what it claims to be: a short, sweet retelling of the classic fairy tale, Cinderella. This is actually the first book I've read from Sarah Holman, much to my chagrin, as I've heard a lot about her other works. I'm looking forward to reading those as well.

First off, we're introduced to Amelia Ella, a young girl who loves the ocean. Summers are always so much fun as her best friend Alex visits from court, and there are no problems to worry them. However, that's all before her father takes a new bride... a new step-mother for young Ella... with a new step-sister on the side. Ella's not entirely thrilled with the prospect, but she tries to keep a cheerful face up. Of course, that's only before tragedy strikes, and she finds herself scorned in her own house. 

I really like how Sarah incorporated the names in this story. Too many times we've got Cinderella retellings based around a girl named Ella. Not a bad thing, but with everybody and their sister doing it, it gets cliche. Instead, our heroine here is Amelia Ella, and the people close to her call her "Ella" (her middle name) as a pet name. Only, when her step-sister insists they switch identities, her name switches to Cinder-Ella. It was an interesting twist to something that has been slightly overdone.

I will complain about the length, though. I know it's a short story, but it ended much too quickly for me. Things happened quickly, keeping the story moving, but I would have preferred to have some things fleshed out. There were some choppy places that could have been smoothed out, but all in all, a satisfying Cinderella short story. 

Advisory: Light romance. Also, [Highlight for spoilers] one character is scarred severely when she accidentally falls into the fireplace. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Click here to buy Waltz into the Waves on Amazon!

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest (A Medieval Fairy Tale)

Title: The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest

Series: A Medieval Fairy Tale (Book #1)

Year: 2015

Author: Melanie Dickerson

Summary: "Swan Lake" meets Robin Hood when the beautiful daughter of a wealthy merchant by day becomes the region's most notorious poacher by night, and falls in love with the forester.

Jorgen is the forester for the wealthy margrave, and must find and capture the poacher who has been killing and stealing the margrave's game. When he meets the lovely and refined Odette at the festival and shares a connection during a dance, he has no idea she is the one who has been poaching the margrave's game.

Odette justifies her crime of poaching because she thinks the game is going to feed the poor, who are all but starving, both in the city and just outside its walls. But will the discovery of a local poaching ring reveal a terrible secret? Has the meat she thought she was providing for the poor actually been sold on the black market, profiting no one except the ring of black market sellers?

The one person Odette knows can help her could also find out her own secret and turn her over to the margrave, but she has no choice. Jorgen and Odette will band together to stop the dangerous poaching ring . . . and fall in love. But what will the margrave do when he discovers his forester is protecting a notorious poacher?
(from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
~ Odette
~ Jorgen

Review: Just to make this clear right off from the start, this has been my favorite Melanie Dickerson book to date. The only thing that really brought this novel down in my estimation was the amount of romantic fluff. Really, without that, this was fantastic! Not only does Melanie Dickerson incorporate elements of two of my favorite fairy tales, but I thought this cast actually quite decent and not so cliche (as I previously stated in a review of another of her books). A heroine who doesn't melt into a puddle of sappiness, but instead keeps her name as a bow-wielding, big-hearted, courageous lass. AND a hero that brood around all the time. Definitely a big plus, in my opinion.

Odette is the huntress of Thornbeck Forest -- only no one knows because she's a poacher. Why is she poaching? To feed the homeless, starving orphans in her hometown. They have no one else looking after them, and Odette feels it's her duty to care for them. She's also been teaching them how to read and write (another thing that made me love her even more). Jorgen is the margrave's new forester, and the biggest task enveloping him is catching the elusive poacher who dares to hunt forbidden meat. The midsummer's festival provides the perfect setting for the two of them to meet, and things just go from there.

Melanie Dickerson wove the tale of Swan Lake so beautifully into this novel! Given the unique plot/setting/characters of that particular fairy tale, I was skeptical going into this book as getting a retelling that was faithful to the original story AND still stood as a wonderful story in its own right is difficult to accomplish. Yes, I love Swan Lake, so I had big expectations. And they were met. I was truly surprised with how many nods the author gave to the original tale. [Highlight for spoilers] From Jorgen's declaration of love to the wrong girl to his wanting to think Odette a monster and shooting her... just wow. Two thumbs up in that respect. Also, other than Odette being the one to "rob from the rich to feed the poor," there really isn't anything else linking this story to a Robin Hood retelling. Most of it is just Swan Lake. So, on that note, I kinda think the summary off. Personally, the entire Goodreads summary is off, but the one on Amazon is much more accurate. Weird, that. Anyway...

One complaint I would make would be to concern pacing. The beginning I felt was slow, and I had to force myself to keep reading through the first chapter or so. There was a lot of description of the forest and Odette's hunt, which was really cool, but it felt just a little bit lagging. 

Advisory: Like I mentioned before, this book's got a bunch of the romantic in it. If that's up your alley, that's fine, but for me, it was kinda over the top. There wasn't as much of the physical attraction like I've seen in Melanie Dickerson's other novels, but there were quite a few kisses. [Highlight for spoilers] Personally, I was disgusted when Jorgen got tricked into kissing the wrong woman. I can see how that adds to the story, but I would have rather had that not in there. So that's the romance. I'll get off my soapbox now.

Also, I would warn of a certain disreputable establishment known as the Red House. Gambling, women, and the like... it's not a nice place. Nothing is described, but I was uncomfortable with some of the hints some of the less-than-savory characters dropped. For that, I would recommend this book for slightly older readers. 

And then just your typical fantasy adventure/danger stuff. Odette is a huntress, so there are some descriptions of her hunts (i.e. having to clean the deer and all). [Highlight for spoilers] Someone is shot with two arrows, and later the wounds turn septic. But nothing overly graphic. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Related Reviews: The Captive Maiden

                               The Princess Spy

Click here to buy a copy of The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest on Amazon!

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