Friday, May 1, 2015

April Wrap Up 2015

Back with another wrap up already! April seemed to go by really fast, but thankfully I got so much more work done this month than I did last month and finally got back into writing my second Na Fianna novel as well, which I'm aiming to finish by the end of May before summer starts.

This month I read 9 books, which was way more than I was hoping to, so that made me happy :) (also, I'm hoping to start posting more pictures on my blog, since now I have a better phone camera that makes it sooo much easier to upload pics.)


#1: Downfall (Cal Leandros #9) by Rob Thurman (4/5 stars)
#2: Fairest (Lunar Chronicles #.05) by Marissa Meyer (4/5 stars)
#3: The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff (4/5 stars)
#4: K-9 (Knightly and Son #2) by Rohan Gavin (3/5 stars)
#5: Shutter by Courtney Alameda (4/5 stars)
#6: Hounded (Iron Druid Chronicles #1) by Kevin Hearne (3.5/5 stars)
#7: Call of the Wild by Jack London (3/5 stars) This was my classic book club read of the month.
#8: Half Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer (3/5 stars)
#9: The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Reese Brennan (3.5/5 stars)

Favorite Reads of the Month

Downfall
The Replacement
Shutter

I'll have the reviews for these up sometime later this month so keep an eye out!

I was good with my book buying this month, (because next month at BookCon is going to be ridiculous) even though everything were splurge buys, I only bought four. I found another used bookshop where I got two, and then I made a trip to B&N because I bought my brother a giftcard for his bday (tactical) 

#1: Summer Knight (Dresden Files #4) by Jim Butcher
#2: The Navigator by Eoin McNamee
#3: The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Girl of Fire and Thorns #1) by Rae Carson
#4: Penny Dreadfuls This is a B&N anthology of classic horror stories. It has an awesome selection in it!

Also for those of you not following my Twitter, I finally got my baby hedgehog this month! His name is Horatio.



So next month I will be going to BookCon in NY so there will be a special book haul wrap up for that. I really look forward to sharing my experience with you all. If anyone else is going to BookCon, please let me know! 


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Book Review: "A Darker Shade of Magic" by V. E. Schwab

Title/ Author: A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 5/5 stars
Synopsis: Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit. 

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London - but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her 'proper adventure'.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — trickier than they hoped.


Review:

Thoughts on the Overall Book: In short, AMAZING. In fact, it's the best book I have read so far this year, and I've read a lot of good ones.

Cover--Yea or Nay: To be honest, the cover does nothing more me, in fact it's not the kind of thing I would pick up unless I took time to look at it, but it's not eye-grabbing, the title would do more to spark my interest, but the cover is rather bland.

Characters: I loved Kell, he was a great hero, because he's kind of quiet, he takes time to think but he also has a lot of little human quirks and insecurities that make him a relatable character. Sometimes he seemed older than he was and sometimes younger, but he fast became a very likable character to me. I also really liked Lila. Like most of Victoria Schwab's leading ladies, she was smart and practical, without having that 'I'm a kick butt female heroine with an attitude' vibe. She easily fits the profile of my favorite female characters, and her spunk and snark only made it better. I don't always like female thieves, but Lila was awesome and actually reminded me a bit of Parker from the show Leverage which is a huge plus as it's one of my favorite shows. I also liked Rhy, even if he is sort of a playboy, he's also a decent prince; even more I LOVED the brotherly relationship between him and Kell. Even though they are only foster brothers, they acted like real blood brothers, and the brother feels were love in this book. They made me very happy.

As for the villains...amazing. Holland was cold and creepy, but yet, I also ended up feeling sorry for him having to serve the twins, and being pretty much owned by them. He was actually a character I wished we had gotten to see more of in the story, I think he had a lot of layers and I was a bit sad that we didn't spend more time with him. Astrid and Athos on the other hand were just plain creepy. Seriously, they sent shivers up my spine, and that's why I loved them. They were bloody good villains, because you knew they would carry out their threats, and they did, and I was on the edge of my seat by the end of this book, just wondering how it would all turn out.

The Romance: Hardly any to report, though there's a little bit of attraction between Kell and Lila and a couple kisses. Apart from that, nothing.

Writing Style: Okay, so I warn you this will be a long section. Victoria Schwab is one of my favorite authors. I have loved every book of hers a read, and I think I've mostly read them all. Her YA books are really good, but her 'adult' books are amazing. Even now,Vicious is on the list of best books I have read and this one is going there too. There's just something about the way she puts characters you can care about and relate to into these amazing worlds that are so different from anything else that honestly blows my mind, and that doesn't happen a lot at all. Her books are so unique that they will always stand out because you'll probably never find anything like them. The whole multiple dimensions of London thing? Strange on paper, but it works, and it's awesome. My favorite kinds of fantasy novels are the ones that go away from the norm and this one did that very well. It was interesting, it worked, the magic made sense, and on top of that, the writing style itself was beautiful as usual. The characters were great, the storyline was engaging and unpredictable, I honestly wasn't sure how it was going to end for a while and that's what I love most in books.

Accuracy/ Believability: Not applicable.

Problems/What bothered me: Nothing really, it was kind of one of those books you go along for the ride with.

Conclusion: 5 of 5 stars. Loved it! Loved it a lot. And seriously, where can I get a coat like Kell's? I need one.

Recommended Audience: If you have enjoyed Victoria Schwab's books and have not read this one, read it. You're missing out. Gril or guy read, ages 18 and up due to some dark themes.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Review: The Cure For Dreaming by Cat Winters

Title/Author: The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters
Genre: YA, historical, supernatural
Rating: 4/5 stars
Synopsis: Olivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl—a suffragist—in an age that prefers its girls to be docile. It’s 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia’s father, concerned that she’s headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she’s able to see people’s true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud. These supernatural challenges only make Olivia more determined to speak her mind, and so she’s drawn into a dangerous relationship with the hypnotist and his mysterious motives, all while secretly fighting for the rights of women. Winters breathes new life into history once again with an atmospheric, vividly real story, including archival photos and art from the period throughout.

Review:

Thoughts on the Overall Book: I usually avoid suffragist books like the plague, but this one was actually enjoyable, and Cat Winters gives us another interesting supernatural sort of read that was not disappointing in the least.

Cover--Yea or Nay: I love the cover, I think it's really cool, the font is beautiful, and it's just the kind of things that makes me want to pick up a book, as the time period is obvious.

Characters: Olivia is an enjoyable protagonist. Mostly, I liked how she was a strong female character, but even though she's into women's suffrage, she's still not a rampant man-hating harpy like so many of them are. She just wants to make her own way in the world, and I respect that. There were a few times I didn't totally agree with her, but for the most part, I didn't have any complaints on her character. Her father on the other hand, I enjoyed hating. At first I wasn't sure whether he was a more misunderstood character or not, but as the book progressed, I could not forgive him for what he did to his own daughter. There is no excuse for that, it's just disgusting. Then there was Percy, who I saw coming a mile away, but he wasn't so terrible that I spent a whole lot of time hating on him. I loved Henry, as is probably to be expected. He was just the kind of male characters I always fall in love with. And his devotion and the loving relationship he shared with his sister made me like him more. (view spoiler) As for supporting characters, I also liked Frannie and her family, and Percy's other friends were so fun to dislike.

The Romance: There's not a ton of romance here, and no love triangles, thankfully. As is pretty obvious, Olivia and Henry end up forming an attachment to each other, and there's kissing involved, but it never gets so mushy that it's annoying and takes over the plot. I was very invested in their relationship, and I thought it very sweet.

Writing Style: Cat Winters is a very good writer, what I love especially is how she is able to capture a time period so well that it really feels like you're in it. This was not nearly as dark as In the Shadow of Blackbirds but it was just as well written, and still had a strange supernatural twist to it, even though there were sadly no ghosts in this one. I really loved how she described the way Olivia was able to see things after her hypnotism, it was very vivid and it worked for me. You have to know going into this book that it's going to be a little strange, but that's part of the joy.

Accuracy/ Believability: Very accurate as far as the time period. I would have liked an author's or historical note in the back, but from what I know of the time period anyway, it seemed pretty much very well done. Of course the hypnotism stuff isn't exactly real to life, but it gives the story a cool twist.

Problems/What bothered me: I probably never would have read this book had it not been recommended to me by a friend I trust, because I do not read suffragist novels, but this one was the most if not the only, tasteful suffragist novel ever. Yes, there were still a couple parts that had my eyes rolling, but I think it captured the softer side, and through Olivia who just simply wanted to be able to make her own way in the world, it was bearable. It was certainly not a rampant man-hater novel, and I respect Cat Winters for that.

Conclusion: 4/5 stars. Enjoyable book. Not sure whether I liked this one or In the Shadow of Blackbirds better, but I am really looking forward to the next novel Cat Winters comes out with.

Recommended Audience: Girl read 16 and up. Fans of gothic supernatural historical novels would enjoy it. Definitely check this out if you also liked In the Shadow of Blackbirds


(Read this review with spoilers on Goodreads

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

March 2015 Wrap Up

Hey everyone! This came a day late because I wasn't ready for it to be April today haha :P Anyway, here's my March wrap up. This was a super busy and stressful month for me, so I didn't get a whole lot of reading done, and nor have I even finished half of my reviews either. I've been working on other projects and beta-reading for people so I did as much as I could.

I finished six books in March and started a seventh but I did enjoy all the ones I read.

1. A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab (5/5 stars)
2. Mark of the Thief by Jennifer A. Neilson (4/5 stars)
3. The Shadow Cabinet (Shades of London #3) by Maureen Johnson (4/5 stars)
4. Prowlers (Prowlers #1) by Christopher Golden (3.5/5 stars)
5. Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker (4/5 stars)
6. The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver (3/5 stars)

Favorite Reads of the Month

A Darker Shade of Magic
Beware the Wild


I did buy a few books this month because I made one trip to B&N and stumbled upon another used book store. Only acquired six books though so I was good, and one was actually given to me and another my mom bought me because she wanted to read it.

1. Dead Wake by Erik Larson 
2. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (the beautiful B&N hardback addition)
3. Fairest (Lunar Chronicles #1.5) by Marissa Meyer
4. Half Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer
5. Pagan's Crusade (Pagan #1) by Catherine Jinks
6. Stargazer (Land of Elyon #4) by Patrick Carmen

What was everyone else's favorite reads/releases this month? Mine was definitely A Darker Shade of Magic it's the best book I've read this year so far. I'll have the review up before too long, or you can read it on Goodreads. I hope everyone has a good April!

Slainte, Hazel

Monday, March 30, 2015

Review: "Cress" by Marissa Meyer

Title/Author: Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi, fairy tale retelling
Rating: 4/5 stars
Synopsis: In this third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army. 

Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who's only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice. 

When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has

Review:

Thoughts on the Overall Book: I've really enjoyed this series from the beginning, and this book was no exception. I continue to love the cast of characters and the new additions and this one particularly had a very classic adventure flair to it.

Cover--Yea or Nay: I love the covers for this series, so pretty yet simple.

Characters: I still loved all the characters I liked previously, Cinder is still awesome, Iko is adorable (definitely my favorite android character ever) and though Scarlet and Wolf weren't in this one quite as much, I still really love them too. Thorne is fast becoming my favorite character, probably. I can't resist loving the characters who are rogues yet still good men. I also really loved Cress, I felt she was a good edition to the group. Since Cinder and Scarlet are two pretty prominent heroines, I liked how Cress is more shy and sweet but still very skilled in hacking and she's strong enough to step up to the plate when she needs to. Lavina is still evil, and Sybil was fun to hate as well. I was interested with the introduction of Winter in this one, I really have no idea what to think of her yet, but I know she's going to make an awesome character.

The Romance: Okay, yes, there is essentially insta-love between Thorne and Cress, or at least on Cress's end, but it actually works here, because it's more fanciful than anything, and she's kind of naive and hasn't had a lot of human interaction. It didn't bother me. Apart from that, really not much romance to speak of. This one was mostly action packed. But I did really end up enjoying Thorne and Cress's relationship and I think it's cute. (view spoiler)

Writing Style: Same as the other books. Love the world building, and how the story is evenly balanced between characters and their development and storylines and the plotlines. It makes for an engaging read, and even though the book is long, it doesn't seem to drag.

Accuracy/ Believability: Despite being sci-fi, I actually to think that the situations of the story are pretty accurate to how they would really happen. It's a pretty well thought out plot for a sci-fi novel.

Problems/What bothered me: Really didn't have any problems, I enjoyed the book.

Conclusion: 4 of 5 stars. Really enjoyed this one, and am very much looking forward to the next one! Can't wait!

Recommended Audience: Readers of the first two, obviously. I don't read a lot of sci-fi, so I don't know a lot of recs, but if you love fairy tale retellings and want something different, these work. Girl or guy read ages 16 and up

(Read review with spoilers on Goodreads

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Spring Cleaning Giveaway!

Happy Spring everyone! I hope all you northern folks are either getting spring or will soon :-) We've already had 80s here in Florida, and you can have it for all I care. The moment I put my sweaters away, I die a little inside.

But in honor of spring, I am going to clear a little of my shelf space and give away some of my own books which I have several copies laying around of so I can jump start someone's spring reading list!



I will be giving away a copy of Wolfsblood my latest novel a historical paranormal novel, On a Foreign Field my historical novel about William Wallace, and A Case of Poisons my steampunk mystery. So if you like Roman werewolves, Scottish rebels and steampunk and murders by poison, enter the giveaway! All copies will be signed and personalized and I'll throw some extra bookmarks and goodies in as well. You have until next Saturday (the 28th) to enter. Let your friends know too!


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Monday, March 16, 2015

St. Patrick's Day 2015!

Happy St. Patrick's Day to you all! Sásta Lá Fhéile Pádraig

Wear your green and listen to Irish music, try some traditional food. I hope everyone has a grand day :-)

Last year, I introduced what was then my new project Blood Ties a novel set in modern Ireland, but with an ancient and mythical twist. I'm expecting to publish it sometime this summer, but until then, I wanted to give you another teaser to wet your taste buds, so here's an excerpt in honor of St. Patrick's Day.


(R to L: Riordan, Keevan, Caitlin, Ciran, Tierney, Deaglan)

“Goblin patrol!”
            I spun around, sliding my sword from over my shoulder and hearing the answering rasps of my companions’ weapons. Keevan had his shield up and was already in a crouch as I watched the goblins racing up the hill toward us. I did a quick count. There were six. They were missing half their men and a couple of the goblins in this group I recognized from the fight before, having fought them myself, so they couldn’t have just left their wounded. I had a bad feeling the others had gone to intercept Riordan and Deaglan. Maybe they had been watching us the whole time. I could have smacked myself for my incompetence, but there was no time for that.
            “Shoulder to shoulder,” I told them. “There’s only two more than us, we can take them.”
            But the terrain was uneven and wet from the waterfall spray, and as I planted my feet I did not feel the reassuring firmness I liked best in a fight. The goblins charged at us, and thankfully we had the high ground. Keevan took out the first one, just by smashing a shield into his chest and sending him skidding down the damp hillside. Another goblin who had been at the first’s shoulder growled and charged the young Finar with his sword raised above his head. Keevan blocked the blow and staggered back and that was all I saw of that fight, before I was occupied with one of my own.
            A goblin charged me and I recognized him as the one who had tried to shoot Caitlin before. However, this time his bow was slung across his back and he was using a kind of long, deadly looking dagger and carried a small shield. I blocked his first blow with my sword but had to reverse my left arm and take the next on the back of my bracer, feeling a bruise already forming from the force of the blow. I kicked out at him and caught him in the chest, forcing him back several paces as I too leapt backwards, trying to distance myself from the goblin. The movement only caused him to charge me again with even more ferocity and smash his shield into my shoulder, rolling me several paces as I fell with a grunt.
            I nearly lost my sword, but gripped it tighter, and flung myself back onto my feet as he raced toward me again, his blade held ready to stab me.
            I hadn’t realized until then how close I was to the waterfall but only had a moment to let the potential danger of my position register before I was engaged in a life or death struggle again.
            “No where left to run, half blood!” the goblin said with a chuckle, jerking his chin toward the drop off behind me. I grinned and tossed my hair out of my eyes.
            “If I fall, I’m taking you with me,” I told him, swinging my sword in a figure-eight before pointing it at him and motioning him forward with a casual flick of my fingers. “Come on then. What are you waiting for?”
            He smiled tolerantly before he clashed his sword against his shield and leapt off a rock, flying at me through the air and bringing me down. I let his momentum carry him over my head with the help of my boot in his gut but he just rolled when he fell and was on his feet in an instant, even though he was winded, and lunged at me with a growl.
            I grabbed his wrist to keep his blade from my throat and he grabbed my sword arm as well and was pushing me back, closer to the drop—how far down it really was I’d had no time to find out.
            There was a moment when I couldn’t quite believe the fact I was grappling on the brink of a waterfall just like in an overblown action movie, but yet there I was and Keevan wasn’t far behind, still facing off with the same goblin he had been before, who was driving him hard. I couldn’t see where Tierney and Caitlin were because I was a bit too busy for that at the moment, but hoped they were not in as precarious a position as I was or worse.
            There was a sudden yell and, forgoing all training I had ever had, I looked over with concern to see Keevan slipping off his rock and falling down with the rushing water, the goblin he had been fighting going with him.
            I would have screamed for him, even knowing it wouldn’t have done anything, but I was suddenly slammed in the face by the hilt of my opponent’s sword. I teetered back on the precipice but gained my balance just before I received another strike that knocked the sword out of my wet hand. I kicked out at the goblin, but he caught my leg and I knew then, with horror, that this was it. He grinned, knowing as well, and I flailed my arms as he pressed me back. The only thing I could do now was take him with me, but I didn’t even get that chance.
            “Have a nice swim, Finar,” the goblin jeered, before he let me go and I fell backwards. 



Hope you enjoyed the teaser :-) Come back to the blog Friday when I will be posting a Spring giveaway for several of my books! 

Let me know if you're doing anything fun for St. Patrick's Day!

May the road rise up to meet you,

Slainte, Hazel