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

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Review: "Scorpion Mountain" by John Flanagan

Title/Author:  Scorpion Mountain (Brotherband Chronicles #5) by John Flanagan
Genre: YA fantasy
Rating: 3/5 stars
Synopsis: From John Flanagan, author of the worldwide bestselling Ranger's Apprentice -- an all-new adventure featuring the Brotherband crew and one of our favorite Rangers!

Hal, his Brotherband crew, and the Ranger Gilan have freed the twelve Araluens sold into slavery. Returning to Araluen, Gilan is given a new mission by King Duncan: protect his daughter’s life. Princess Cassandra has survived one attempt on her life already, and now whispers of a second attempt have reached the kingdom. A deadly sect known as the Scorpion Cult is thought to be behind the assassination threat.

Not waiting to see if the knife will strike true, the Brotherband again team up with Gilan to track down the would-be killers.

In this fifth book in the Brotherband Chronicles, old friends reemerge to take on new enemies as the worlds of Ranger’s Apprentice and Brotherband join forces in battle!

Review:

Thoughts on the Overall Book: I am still enjoying this series, I'm a huge John Flanagan fan, so I will always read and enjoy his books, but I had hoped this one would exceed the last one, and it didn't really, so I was a bit disappointed, I'll admit.

Cover--Yea or Nay: I'm undecided whether I like the new covers or not. I think I liked the old ones better, but there's nothing wrong with it either. I do like the knotwork on the spines.

Characters: Pretty much, my opinion of all the characters has not changed. I still like Hal, I'm still indifferent about Lydia, I love seeing Gilan again, he was always a favorite character; Thorn is still awesome, I can't help but like him. For the little bit Cassandra/Evanlyn was in this book she still managed to annoy me. I was mostly disappointed with the villains in this book. I always felt that the Ranger's Apprentice series had some awesome villains, even if they were cliche on occasion (the books kind of are, but I love that, classic adventure) but in the Brotherband books, apart from the baddie in the first three (forgot his name) these last two have just been disappointing. Especially since we went through three or four of them in this one. Baddies are important, not to be taken lightly.

The Romance: Still nothing, thankfully, I'm still dreading a love triangle between Lydia, Hal and Stig, but so far nothing.

Writing Style: I'm going to have to be honest here, there's nothing really wrong with John Flanagan's writing style in these books, but I just can't help but feel they're a little less shall we say polished as the first three and especially the Ranger books. I just don't think they have the same quality as the Ranger series, and that makes me sad. I think he needs to try something new. These last two books were huge and yet, nothing really seems to happen, and I never feel like the characters are in danger anymore. Like the Ranger books would actually have me on the edge of my seat; I haven't felt like that reading the last couple Brotherband books. Even The Royal Ranger despite the fact I didn't care overmuch for Maddie had the quality of writing and story crafting that the other books did, but these just don't. In my opinion. I still enjoy these books, but not in the same way I devoured the Ranger series.

Accuracy/ Believability: Not applicable really. Except their escapes are actually getting dull. I would love to see more angst and, yes, if it doesn't sound too mean, wounds and whump. A little more danger would be much appreciated.

Problems/What bothered me: Apart from the things already mentioned, nothing else.

Conclusion: 3 stars. A fun read, though I think it could have been shorter, as it dragged with the same old stuff all the other Brotherband books had. Fun to pass the time though.

Recommended Audience: Girl or guy read 12 and up, fans of John Flanagan. But Start with Ranger Apprentice series if you haven't read any of his yet.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

February 2015 Wrap Up

Another month gone already! I don't know about you guys, but it seemed like February went super fast until the last week, then it dragged. But I've got a head cold too, so that might be why. Oh well. Well, I only read seven books this month, and not all the ones on my list, because I got so tired after my first three that I ended up adding a couple short westerns in between for fun. But four of these books was over 400 pages, a couple quite a bit, so I'm not beating myself up. It was a short month too. Next month, I have a big TBR that I hope I can get through.

I didn't get all my reviews written for this month, so I will be posting them throughout March instead. And no, it actually wasn't me being lazy, I was actually working on my formatting business and trying to do preliminary planning for my trip to NYC in May (BookCon people!) On that note, I got my train ticket! woot! So without further ado, the books I read this month:

1. Scorpion Mountain (Brotherband Chronicles #5) by John Flanagan (3/5 stars)
2. Cress (Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer (4/5 stars)
3. Ruin and Rising (Grisha Trilogy #3) by Leigh Bardugo (4.5/5 stars)
4. Kiowa Trail by Louis L'Amour (3/5)
5. The Man From Skibbereen by Louis L'Amour (3/5)
6. A Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters (4/5 stars)
7. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell (my Classics for Classic Ladies book club read of the month) (5/5 stars)

Favorite Reads of the Month

Cress
Ruin and Rising
Wives and Daughters


And now onto the books I bought this month. Really not many, only three. I didn't go to a book store, because I'm still abstaining in preparation for BookCon so I'm really only buying new releases I really want at the moment.

1. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
2. Mark of the Thief by Jennifer A. Neilson
3. The Shadow Cabinet (Shades of London #3) By Maureen Johnson

Let me know what your favorite reads on the month were. March is going to be so bloody busy, lots of new books to read, stories to finish writing finally, lots of editing to do, hopefully more work, family coming for a week, and hopefully getting my hedgehog! I hope everyone has a great March. I will be seeing you at least my St. Patrick's Day if not before and I'm planning a spring Giveaway so keep an eye out for that during the second part of the month!

Slainte, Hazel

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Review: "The Pennyroyal Academy" by M. A. Larson

Title/Author: The Pennyroyal Academy by M. A. Larson
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Rating: 4/5 stars
Synopsis: Pennyroyal Academy: Seeking bold, courageous youths to become tomorrow's princesses and knights….Come one, come all!

A girl from the forest arrives in a bustling kingdom with no name and no idea why she is there, only to find herself at the center of a world at war.  She enlists at Pennyroyal Academy, where princesses and knights are trained to battle the two great menaces of the day: witches and dragons. There, given the name “Evie,” she must endure a harsh training regimen under the steel glare of her Fairy Drillsergeant, while also navigating an entirely new world of friends and enemies. As Evie learns what it truly means to be a princess, she realizes surprising things about herself and her family, about human compassion and inhuman cruelty. And with the witch forces moving nearer, she discovers that the war between princesses and witches is much more personal than she could ever have imagined.

Set in Grimm’s fairytale world, M.A. Larson’s Pennyroyal Academymasterfully combines adventure, humor, and magical mischief.


Review:

Thoughts on the Overall Book: I had expected to like this book before I read it, but it's also one of those you end up liking more and more as you get into it. Overall, i thought it was a very nice story, and I liked it a lot!

Cover--Yea or Nay: I do like the cover, and it's not even so pink that I feel embarrassed to carry it around haha. It has a very fairytale feel to it, and, hey, I love dragons.

Characters: Evie is a wonderful character. She's just the kind of girl I like to read about in these sorts of stories. She was attitude free, she conquered her fears and did what she had to do, she stood up for her friends, and overcame obstacles that came into her life. I also really liked Remington, he was a sweet guy, funny, and an enjoyable character. Evie's friends were nice too, I liked Maggie and Demetra, and felt particularly sorry for poor Basil. The only complaint I had was that I would have liked to see more of their interactions, it always seemed that Evie was apart from them, and partly that was her character, but I would have liked to see more of them doing things together. Malora was pretty horrible to Evie to, although I did end up feeling sorry for her once you find out what is really going on. The witches were actually more frightening than I expected, and I was not disappointed in that. Overall, a great cast, and characters I liked well enough to return to.

The Romance: There is a little romance between Evie and Remington, which at first I wasn't sure about because I originally thought the characters were younger than they seem to be in actuality. I wasn't against it, and I do like them together, there were just a couple parts where Remington was jealous and acting like a little girl that I didn't particularly care for, but otherwise, I didn't have any complaints.

Writing Style: The style of writing is actually very good, though it did take me a few chapters to get into it for whatever reason. Once I got used to it, I really enjoyed it. It had a very fairy tale quality, especially in the first few chapters, and was quite fast paced, and descriptive and made for easy reading. The world building was really cool, and I loved that there are all kinds of mentions of the old stories, and a lot of the places' names come from Grimm stories and it was really cool, but gave a different take on things. It did sort of have a Harry Potter feel to it with the boarding school and all, but I think that can be forgiven.

Accuracy/ Believability: Not applicable.

Problems/What bothered me: I didn't have any real complaints at all. I enjoyed the story a lot.

Conclusion: 4 stars. I just liked this book more and more as I continued to read it, and I really look forward to continuing the series and seeing very Evie's story goes.

Recommended Audience: Girl read ages 12 and up. I actually kept thinking of Princess Academy by Shannon Hale when I was reading this, and I think if you liked that one, you would enjoy this as well.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Review: "Gathering Darkness" by Morgan Rhodes

Title/Author: Gathering Darkness (Falling Kingdoms #3) by Morgan Rhodes
Genre: YA High Fantasy
Rating: 3/5 stars
Synopsis: In GATHERING DARKNESS, book three of the New York Times bestselling Falling Kingdoms series, the stakes have never been higher as three teams push forward on a race to find the Kindred, the four elemental crystals possessing ancient all-powerful magic, first:

Prince Magnus has just witnessed torture, death, and miracles during the bloody confrontation that decimated the rebel forces. Now he must choose between family and justice as his father, the cruel King Gaius, sets out to conquer all of Mytica. All Gaius needs now are the Kindred - the four elemental crystals that give godlike powers to their owner. But the King of Blood is not the only one hunting for this ancient, storied magic...

• THE KRAESHIANS join the hunt. Ashur and Amara, the royal siblings from the wealthy kingdom across the Silver Sea, charm and manipulate their way to the Kindred, proving to be more ruthless than perhaps even the King of Blood himself.

• THE REBELS forge ahead. Princess Cleo and vengeful Jonas lead them, slaying with sweetness, skill, and a secret that can control Lucia's overpowering magic - all so they can use the Kindred to win back their fallen kingdoms.

• THE WATCHERS follow Melenia out of the Sanctuary. They ally in the flesh with King Gaius, who vows to use Lucia's powers to unveil the Kindred.

The only certainty in the dark times is that whoever finds the magic first will control the fate of Mytica... but fate can be fickle when magic is involved.


Review:

Thoughts on the Overall Book: While I did enjoy reading this book, it's probably my least favorite of the series so far for various reasons. But I do still like to read these, and the next one (the finale?) promises to be really awesome.

Cover--Yea or Nay: I always love the covers for these, I think they're gorgeous. Something about the colors and they work well for the fantasy theme.

Characters: This was partly why I didn't like this book as much as the previous two. I do still like Cleo, she has stayed pretty much the same, still does what she has to do, and doesn't do too badly with it either. I also continue to like Magnus, I really liked his character arc in this book and can't wait to see where it leads in the next. I do still like Jonas as well, and still am kind of annoyed with Lysandra, but whatever, there wasn't a huge amount of them in the book. I really want to say I still feel bad for Lucia, but I'm gonna be honest, while I understand her going "dark side" isn't really her fault, she doesn't seem to really care, even if it does scare her on occasion (though not as much as it probably should). I just seemed like a whole teenage rebellion thing. I just don't really care for her character anymore. King Gaius is still evil, but even then, I wish there was more of him being evil. He's slowly losing his evil king status. And I didn't care for either Ashur or Amara. I honestly didn't really see the whole point of their involvement in the plot. It seemed a little unnecessary, and don't even get me started on Asher and Nic...yeah.

The Romance: This was the main problem I had with this book. There was just too much sleeping around and for what, to make people jealous? I hate that, and it makes it hard for me to respect characters who do that. And the whole thing with Lucia and Alexius sealed the deal with me on how I felt about her character. But I won't say anymore just to be polite.

Writing Style: The writing style is still good. In fact, I have always loved the engaging style the author uses, and the POV jumping. It keeps the story flowing and exciting when fantasies can tend to drag on occasion. I did like how this one went into more about the search for the Kindred which I had been waiting for, and there was a lot of good stuff, more settling on the intrigue than the actual action like the first two. It was still a moderately quick read, only really dragging a bit for me at the last quarter.

Accuracy/ Believability: Not applicable.

Problems/What bothered me: Apart from the problems already mentioned, the book just simply suffered from the 'middle book curse'. I wasn't anticipating this one to be as exciting as the first two considering it's the third and one right before the climax, so I wasn't entirely disappointed either, I just wish there had been a little less romantic angst. It really wore on me after a while.

Conclusion: 3 stars. Not my favorite in the series, but I have very high hopes for the next one, and look forward to it!

Recommended Audience: If you enjoyed the first two, than this one is worth reading. Any fans of high fantasy would enjoy these. Older teens due to content 18 and up.