fantasy

Book Review: The Darkest Bloom (Shadowscent #1)

The Darkest Bloom (Shadowscent #1) by P.M. Freestone – Paperback, 448 pages – Published February 7th 2019 by Scholastic

This was another book I picked up from the library at random. The cover was beautiful, and the idea of scent-based magic was certainly intriguing. While it was a decent book, it didn’t quite live up to my hopes and expectations, sadly.

Most of the book follows Rakel as she tries to make enough money to purchase a cure for her father’s Rot. She has an expert sense of smell, meaning she is a fantastic perfumer, distilling her own creations and experimenting with different methods. But she becomes the suspect for a horrendous crime that leaves the Prince in a coma, and so she flees.

Ash is the Shield of the Prince, and his best friend. He doesn’t believe Rakel is to blame, however, and believes she holds the key to curing him. So he runs away with her, searching for a place that may not exist, and hunting down valuable ingredients for a poison that nobody even knows about.

I found this book quite slow at the start. It just didn’t excite me. There was nothing wrong with it, but it just wasn’t right. However, towards the end there was a far more exciting plotline added, involving Ash. The cliffhanger ending left me actually wanting to read on.

While I didn’t love this, there were definitely some good aspects. It was unique for sure, and I do think there’s a lot of potential for the rest of the series. 3.5 stars!

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Book Review: The First Time Lauren Pailing Died

The First Time Lauren Pailing Died by Alyson Rudd – eBook, Published July 11th 2019 by HQ

Wow. Wow.

I don’t like discussing the plots of books too much because of spoilers, but I don’t think I’d actually be able to describe this one even if I wanted to. There isn’t really a single plot – as there isn’t even a single reality.

At first, Lauren is a young girl who sees strange visions of different realities. Sometimes they include the people she knows, sometimes they’re complete strangers. Sometimes the worlds she sees look so similar to her own that she thinks she may be seeing the future.

As the title suggests, Lauren dies. But then suddenly she awakes in a slightly different world – one where her mother is slightly less pretty, and her accident was damaging but not fatal. She lives a wonderful life, despite feeling slightly out of place. But then she dies again, and wakes up as a mother of two children who she barely recognises. This time, her memories of her past lives slowly begin to make some sense.

I’ve focused on Lauren a lot there, but actually a large portion of this book follows other characters; her mother from one reality, her father from her first, and even her husband from her second life. It’s all rather confusing but there are small ties throughout the book which I found to be wonderfully clever.

It was amazing and surprisingly emotional to see all these different outcomes of everyone’s lives. Lauren’s mother goes on to have a wonderful life, while in another reality she can’t bear the grief and ends up committing suicide.

There is one constant throughout every reality, though; Lauren’s father’s boss, Peter Stanning, is missing. I’m not entirely sure why this became quite so important, why it was tied to Lauren’s strange situation. But I was relieved to find some closure for that particular thread of the story in the end.

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

My two main criticisms of this book are that it is really quite confusing and hard to follow at times, and there are also a lot of mistakes and missing words. As I received an ARC I cannot be sure whether these mistakes will be printed in the final publication or not, though.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this. It was heartbreaking and lovely and unique and strange. 4.5 stars!

Book Review: All The Lonely People

All The Lonely People by David Owen – eBook, 320 pages – Published January 10th 2019 by Atom

This was quite different to how I anticipated it to be. In a good way, I think.

The protagonist is Kat, and young feminist who loves Doctor Backwash and the YouTuber Tinker. As a fan of Tinker, Kat becomes the victim of a lot of online abuse. Slowly, she has to delete her entire online presence, including her YouTube account and her personal, custom-designed website. For so long, the online communities have been the only place she really felt she belonged. Now it was all gone.

And so was she.

The ‘fade’ that Kat experiences is very interesting. Suddenly nobody remembers her. Except one of the boys responsible for her disappearance, Wesley. He’s determined to find out what happened. Even if it’s just to alleviate his own overwhelming guilt.

There are a lot of important messages throughout this book, mostly about feminism and masculinity. The theme of sexism and abuse is huge. I did feel like it was maybe a bit exaggerated in places, but actually it does happen like that, sadly.

Kat also finds herself building a vital relationship during the fade, with another girl who is fading. Safa was one of a group of people, called ‘the lonely people’, who actively tried to fade. Like Kat, she is all but forgotten by the rest of the world.

The magic realism was great. It really felt like this was possible, if rather improbable. It was intriguing and exciting, especially when Kat discovers that a extremely sexist YouTuber is planning something bad. How is she going to stop him when no one can even see her?

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

I really enjoyed this book. It had emotional moments, funny moments, and plenty of endearing moments. Wesley is a problematic character but he learns from his mistakes, and definitely grows more mature throughout the book. I’m giving this 4 to 4.5 stars.

Book Review: Dragon Called

Dragon Called (Deadweed Dragons #1) by Ava Richardson – eBook,

A huge thanks to Hidden Gems for providing me with a copy of this book!

This is the first book in a fantasy series by Ava Richardson called Deadweed Dragons. It follows a young woman called Dayie, who is working for a family of Dragon Traders that purchased her after the death of her foster parents. She finds herself stealing an egg from the Torvald dragon caves for them, which hatches prematurely. Miraculously, Dayie bonds with the dragon immediately, and within weeks it’s grown bigger than a horse.

Dayie travels to Dagfan in hopes of joining the Training Hall, but is disappointed when she sees the reality of it. With the help of her old owner’s son and a rather disgruntled young man named Akeem, Dayie attempts to fix the ways of the Hall, while fighting the deadly spread of deadweed.

This was a very enjoyable book, with an interesting plot and some good characters. There were a lot of mistakes that I noticed, but this may be due to my copy only being an ARC and not the final release copy. I also found some of the language to be awkward and unnatural, and there was some repetition in areas. Dayie and Akeem are both young adults, older than most protagonists of similar novels, but the writing was slightly young in my own opinion. Still, I did enjoy this book and am interested in finding some answers to a few things brought up by this book! So I’m giving this 3.5 stars out of 5.

Book Review: Little Darlings

Little Darlings by Melanie Golding – eBook, 336 pages Published April 30th 2019 by HarperAvenue

I am a huge fan of thriller, detective and suspense novels. I also adore fantasy elements, which this book incorporated fantastically.

Right from the very beginning, this novel creates a sense of unease and suspense. Even when Lauren meets her twin sons, I felt myself waiting for something to happen.

Throughout the novel are excerpts of folk tales, fairy-tales, rhymes and so on relating to changelings. So naturally, you expect something to happen within this area. It made it so much more exciting, like you are always waiting for something bad to happen.

What I especially liked about this novel was that it really blurred the lines between reality and fantasy or even the supernatural. I don’t want to ruin this for anyone who may read it, but the ending is somewhat open. It leaves space for your own interpretation; though certain things are strongly hinted at. All throughout the novel there is an ongoing debate as to whether the ‘case’ of Lauren Tranter is an actual criminal case, or simply a mental health case. I found this super intriguing.

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

Overall, this was a great book. The ending could be seen as somewhat unfulfilling, but I liked how it left some things to the readers’ own imagination. 4 out of 5 stars!

TRILOGY Review: The Firebird Chronicles

The Firebird Chronicles is a children’s/young adult fantasy series following two young Apprentice Adventurers, Scoop and Fletcher.

Rise of the Shadow Stealers (The Firebird Chronicles #1) by Daniel Ingram-Brown – eBook, Published January 25th 2013 by Our Street Books

The first book, Rise of the Shadow Stealers, follows the confused youngsters as they make sense of their surroundings. Neither has any memories of who they are or where they come from, and with the help of their mentor, the Yarnbard, they slowly piece together the story of their past.

Throughout the book, Scoop and Fletcher are held back by Grizelda, an evil old woman who’s determined to take control of the land. They are set monumental tasks by the mysterious Storyteller – the creator and controller of the world they live in. Grizelda desperately tries to prevent them from succeeding at every turn.

My immediate reaction to this book was that I was too old for it. I always emphasise the fact that children’s books can still be good books, enjoyed by any reader. This was, in all honesty, not fantastic. The plot wasn’t bad, and it wasn’t exactly hard to read, but the writing wasn’t particularly outstanding and there were tons of grammatical errors. One recurring mistake I noticed was the misuse of “passed” and “past”. Little things like that really affect how professional a book feels, or how immature the writing comes across.

2.5 stars for this book. The plot was okay, but the characters and speech were overly childish and didn’t feel authentic.

The Nemesis Charm (The Firebird Chronicles #2) by Daniel Ingram-Brown – eBook, Published May 27th 2016 by Our Street Books

The second instalment of this series is The Nemesis Charm. While this book had similar issues with character development, speech and grammar, I found it slightly better than the predecessor.

After rediscovering their identities, Scoop and Fletcher have settled into their lives and begun building a relationship with their parents. But of course, this calm does not remain for long. Soon, citizens are falling ill with a mysterious sleeping disease, the Storyteller’s Princess among them. Yet again, Scoop and Fletcher are tasked with saving everyone.

Grizelda continues to fight them at every step, while raising her own army and attempting to take control of the world (again). Scoop and Fletcher find themselves travelling with a Dark Pirate towards the Threshold, the Uncrossable Boundary to a mysterious world beyond.

There is also a whole other side to their story – the real Storyteller, if you will. A girl in Leeds called Libby, who is continuing the story her missing mother began.

I got strong Inkheart vibes from this series. The main difference was that this seemed a whole lot more immature, and amateurish, honestly. There were still so many mistakes, and Grizelda really felt like a typical children’s villain. I think this is supposed to be ‘cheesy’ and predictable to a certain extent, as it is playing on the idea of stories and heroes and so on, but it was hard to take it seriously at times.

2.5 to 3 stars for the second Firebird Chronicles book. It was alright, clever and exciting, but still had its faults.

Through the Uncrossable Boundary (The Firebird Chronicles #3) by Danial Ingram-Brown – eBook, Published November 30th 2018 by Our Street Books

The final book in this trilogy is called Through the Uncrossable Boundary. I think you can guess what that means.

In my opinion, this was the strongest book of the three. Again, it still had a fair few errors, but it was unpredictable and unique. Everything was finally explained in full, and the ending was tidy and satisfying. There was loss and heartbreak, and massive revelations.

Basically, Fletcher and Scoop end up in our world. While this is a little predictable, and some of the following events may be a little cheesy, I think it was quite good. It was a nice ending to the trilogy.

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

3 stars for the final book.

Book Review: Rivers of the Sky

A huge thanks to Hidden Gems for providing me with the opportunity to access a copy of this book!

This was pretty different from books I normally read, and it took a little getting used to. But once I was into it, I really was immersed in the world created by Liguori. I found myself growing fond of the protagonist (if you can really call him that) as his emotions slowly came out.

It had the feel of a traditional fantasy tale, a story of rogue outlaws travelling through cities and towns and wilderness. Their camaraderie builds throughout their journey, and the relationship between the three men is really quite heartwarming by the end of the novel.

Much of the novel seemed realistic, like an alternative universe somewhere that didn’t differ too much from our own. But then the real fantasy elements came into play – magic, almost. Deities and the River of Transmigration, not to mention Adrian’s ‘curse’. Soon, the original goal of the men is abandoned, and a new focus is attained; curing this curse of Adrian’s. This new journey brings about some unexpected revelations, which somehow even I hadn’t seen coming.

There are faults with this, but nothing that took away from my overall enjoyment. I’m giving this book 4 stars.

Book Review: Dark Fantasy Stories

Dark Fantasy Stories (Illustrated) by S.S. WolffA huge thanks to Hidden Gems for providing me with the opportunity to read this anthology!

I haven’t read a huge amount of anthologies but am becoming increasingly fond of them. I like having a collection of similar but unique stories all in one place. I was under the impression that these would be quite creepy/scary stories, but they were only slightly ‘dark’ in my opinion. They all had fantasy elements, as the title would suggest, and were all rather good.

Of course, as it’s an anthology, I’m not really reviewing the individual authors’ writing. Instead, I’m going to focus on the editing and the selection of the stories included. The chouces are definitely quite unique, all fantasy tales with supernatural elements. There were some that I especially enjoyed, and some I was not quite so fond of. Overall, I think there was a pretty good range of stories.

As for the editing, I did notice some strange mistakes. There was misplaced punctuation, for example, and I saw a few letters replaced by ‘lookalikes’ – such as replaced by rn. As the copy I own is a review copy, it is possible that the mistakes I noticed were edited out in the final publication, though.

It was a rather short book, which can be seen as both a good and bad thing. 3.5 stars.

Book Review: Rebel Song

First of all, thanks so much to the Hidden Gems ARC programme for providing me with the opportunity to read and review this book!

Rogan Elwood is a teenage orphan who owns a vineyard in Arelanda. He’s pretty normal – his most noteworthy trait is being the son of a rebel martyr, who he is inevitably following in the footsteps of. The Cause, as they call themselves, are deeply unsettled. They want change, and were not disheartened by failed previous attempts at uprising.

And then along comes El. She’s beautiful, and definitely from a family with power (and money). Rogan meets her by chance, but the pair agree to meet again, and again, and again… The couple soon become close, and El decides it’s time for Rogan to know who she really is.

The heir to the throne. Princess Elyra Ballantyne.

They know that continuing their affair is dangerous – almost a certain death sentence – but they can’t stay away. And when things don’t seem like they could get any worse, Elyra discovers Rogan’s link with the rebels working against her family.

There’s a lot of politics and strategy, and no shortage of corrupt individuals in powerful positions. Sometimes there were a few too many characters and details to keep track of, but overall it was a thoroughly intriguing story. I felt genuine hatred for some of the characters, and sadness at the loss of others. I was even quite invested in El and Rogan’s relationship, which is rare for me as I don’t tend to like romance.

Elyra was perhaps a bit too naive and headstrong, but she exhibited fantastic character growth. Rogan was probably my favourite character, though he definitely had his flaws.

My main criticism is the grammar and punctuation throughout this novel. There are a lot of mistakes, and it was a bit frustrating at times. Other than that, I really enjoyed this. The writing was good, and I felt real emotion for the characters. 3.5 stars.

Book Review: The Sisters of the Winter Wood

I’m going to avoid discussing the plot too much so I don’t spoil any potential readers (and I do recommend you read this!).

This book is set in Dubossary, narrated alternately by Liba and Laya. Liba is the older of the two, the only children in their family. They are Jews, and while this book was hugely about their faith and discrimination against them, it is not only about that. This book was like a new fairytale. It had magic in every page, and was genuinely exciting to read. There were tragic elements, tons of romance, and even a sense of suspense.

The girls are left in their home alone when their parents rush off to Kupel in a family emergency. But just as they plan to leave, the girls’ Mami decides it’s time to tell her daughters who they really are: a bear and a swan.

As I said, I will not delve into the story too much. But I really loved the story involving Laya and the Hovlin brothers, as well as Liba’s own internal struggles. Laya’s romance at the end of the book was, in my opinion, a little rushed and unexpected, but that’s the only real downside I have.

The writing was lovely – it included Yiddish and Hebrew dialect, which was translated in the Author’s Note at the end. (A quick side note; I actually read the entire Note, which is

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Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

really quite rare for me.) And Laya’s account, in particular, felt so poetic. She was definitely my favourite character, as much as I love Liba, too. And the relationship between the girls is so, so lovely. No matter how much they try to push each other away, they are always there for each other in the end.

As I enjoyed this book so much, I tried to talk about it with my boyfriend. However, I soon discovered that describing this story is really quite a feat. It was full of little details and twists that just made the story.

I really liked this book. As I only received an ARC and not a final edition, I didn’t have the official layout, which I can imagine may add to it also. Even so, I’m easily giving this 4.5 to 5 stars.