Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Circle/The Circle Broken by K.M. Montemayor

The Circle (Book 1)The Circle by K.M. Montemayor

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am a little bit uncertain of how to rate this book. On the one hand, the writing style is a little flat, lacking in dramatic flair, but on the other hand, it did suck me in and keep me reading.

It feels a lot like your regular high school drama - not-particularly-popular, booksy girl is generally overlooked in favour of her curvaceous and flirty best friend, until a boy enters the picture who is, in himself, something of an outsider. Together, they find they share a lot in common, and from these roots of a friendship, something rather more life-defining grows. Fairly standard stuff, pleasant to read, but not exactly life shattering.

However, Charlie is not from Earth - his people are a different strain of humanoids, located in a galaxy somewhere far beyond. He has been sent here, with his family, while his parents do important government-related security-stuff. His people are more-or-less from a dystopian society, with rigid rules and little freedom of movement. As his relationship with Lily develops, the press of his societal constrainsts hardens and it seems fate will drive the two young love-birds apart...

I enjoyed it, it was a fun read. I do feel Lily rushed into some rather foolhardy decisions and she felt somewhat younger than her 18 years (although I am not sure why). The bit when Charlie suddenly became "hot" when he took off his glasses rather bugged me too. Perhaps a little too Clark Kent? Anyway, the writing style felt a little dry, and the prose was not exactly eloquent and flowering, but it was a good, quick read. Although that ending... Grrrr!

Also, the dialogue felt artificial. I cannot pinpoint exactly why, but at times it did feel a little maid-and-butler and forced. Writing convincing dialogue is difficult, and I am sure that as the books proceed, this will improve.

Disclaimer: Free eARC via Netgalley and publisher in exchange for honest review - thank you!


The Circle Broken (Book 2)The Circle Broken by K.M. Montemayor

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This cover is MUCH better than the one on the version I've got - beautiful!

Mine was from Netgalley, in exchange for a fair and honest review.

I'm not sure why I enjoyed this book as much as I did. The writing style is a bit dry (very much "tell", rather than "show") and there is very little conflict driving the plot, merely a series of events that happen over the 10-year span it covers, but there was just something extremely engaging with it. I wanted to read on and completed it within a couple of days.

In fact, the only real tension I experienced towards the end was when Zak had escorted Lillie into her apartment and I thought "oh great, Charlie's going to see them together, freak out and this is going to have another cliff-hanger ending which would have definitely improved the lack-of-tension but made me extremely frustrated (as well as being in almost every sitcom/romcom ever). So, I'm glad that the author broke (lame) conventions there. And, of course, Charlie's treatment and confrontation with Lilly were also quite evocative.

Overall, from a writer/editor's perspective, I can find plenty of nits to pick in this tale, but from a reader's perspective, I enjoyed it.

PS: I can't help but wonder about Abby (sorry, Abigail's) choice of cat name - how is that indicative of the rest of the story, and what role will Abigail play in book three?

View all my reviews

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Wow... paranormal romance taken one step further = awesome!

FANGIRL_15FANGIRL_15 by Aimee Roseland

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I (almost literally) devoured this novel. Something about the narrative, the structure, had me hooked - line and sinker - and the only thing that stopped me reading it in one sitting was that would have meant me finishing it at 2am and I had work the next day... As it was, I got up and finished it before going to work (yay for late starts).

It is hard to pinpoint precisely what made me enjoy this story so much, but I think that personal wish-fulfillment played a small role. I mean, what reader doesn't dream of meeting the characters of their favourite book? Hanging out with them, etc. What this story does differently though, and what stops it coming across as Mary-Sue fanfic (over a non-existent - alas - series) is that in reality the Dark Riders Brotherhood are damned scary. My only complaint here is that we are introduced to all 8 of them at the start, via a sort of light info-dump (since Chloe is familiar with their characters) but only a few get to really feature in the story: Draken the almost-7-foot vampire, Raphish the (fake) Scottish werewolf, and of course the haunted, broken and beautiful Lucien who was denied his chance to shine by the untimely death of the original author (Sojourne) and had the series cut-short by a thriller-hack-writer. Anyway, I have digressed, Chloe finds herself dumped into a world she barely understands, with people she knows intimate details about - including their dark secrets - but whom neither know nor trust her, and not only that, but the one that she is most drawn to is destined to find his true mate within the next five days.

So saying, some parts of the plot are somewhat predictable - but others are utterly and completely unexpected. Chloe is a brilliant heroine - with her various insecurities - yet also her outspoken courage that shines through at unexpected moments, she is delightfully well-rounded as a character. Lucien is just... well, I've always had a bit of a thing for heroes that don't understand their own worth.

Anyway, aside from some odd typos - mainly usages of the wrong words, and a couple of weird spellings - this is an absolutely engrossing read and I really, really loved it. Something in it sang to my soul.

eARC received via Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Celtic Tale of Friendship and Adventure

Scotland's GuardianScotland's Guardian by Katherine Gerlach

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I highly enjoyed this tale of friendship, set in the Celtic Otherworld of Alba.

It follows Bryanna, a young girl who thought everything in life was normal: until the day a stranger turns up and kidnaps her father, and she is suddenly plunged into a mysterious alternate Scotland, populated with monsters from the darkest fables and characters from myth and legend. Some seek to help her, others to hinder her and even her best friend - red-haired Kaylee - could turn against her.

(view spoiler)

I also enjoyed the Celtic aspects, specifically in the forms of the creatures and the characters encountered along the way.

There is plenty of excitement and adventure, with a non-stop plot and more than a few twists.

View all my reviews

Monday, February 24, 2014

A Magical Fantasy Adventure

White Hart (White Hart, #1)White Hart by Sarah Dalton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A beautifully written, well crafted and devised fantasy novel aimed at the 13+ market. The detail is rich, the setting beautifully realised and the characterisation excellent. We are introduced to Mae - a half-wild young woman who lives with her father on the very edges of civilisation. Her past times are climbing trees, riding her stag Anta and basically avoiding the trappings of femininity. But she has a secret - she is Craft-born, having a magical connection with elements and with it, power. Alas, such talent is what the kingdom needs and she finds herself unwittingly caught up in grief and thrown into the horrors of the deadly Waerg wood, where she shall have to face disaster and death at every turn, and something even more dangerous: heartbreak.

The plot takes off early, and never lets go. I loved Mae's personality - so stubborn and single-minded that she was responsible for a number of her own self-injury (physical and emotional) and over-complicated an already complex situation. Several times you wanted to shriek at her "just admit to it!". The character of Cas too was excellent - the pampered prince who, at first glance seemed just that but when one looks deeper, is revealed in his many layers. Likewise, Sasha.

The ending? Well, I would have preferred it without the cliff-hanger, personally. That seemed a little abrupt and sudden as though the author were going "oh, so you think the story is over now. You're WRONG!"

I wish I didn't have to wait to find out what happened next...

View all my reviews

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Faeries with a Twist

Faery SwapFaery Swap by Susan Kaye Quinn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I almost missed the chance to read this book, as the Netgalley invite had somehow found its way into my "spam/trash" folder (thanks gmail - not) but I am so very glad I found it! It was a quick and most entertaining read, devoured within approximately 24 hours and now being happily digested.

The writing style is excellent - rich in detail and strong in characterisation. Finn and Erin, American children suddenly plunged into England (I loved the interjections with English slang etc) and then - just as Finn has started to settle down and see his sister off to school, a faery possesses his body and sends him away to the land of the Fae. But is Finn deterred? Well, slightly, but he is also very determined and will not let his sister be left alone.

Each chapter focuses on one of the two main characters - Finn and Zaneyr (the faery prince who "steals" his body). Together it weaves the story and brings us to a conclusion that is both satisfying but also makes us wish for more.

View all my reviews

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Share the Love: Some of my favourite Indie Authors

Two years ago, we began the Christchurch Writers' Guild with the  intention of supporting local Indie (and non-indie) authors with reviews, critiques and encouragement, thus I would like to take the time to share with you the works from two of our published authors:

Beaulah Pragg

Beaulah is an author and graphic designer devoted to encouraing writing in the community. She runs classes with teenagers, and adult, students as well as giving presentations on digital publishing. Her favoured genre is fantasy.

Her first book: "The Silver Hawk" was published via Amazon's CreateSpace. Here is my GoodReads review:

The Silver Hawk (Chronicles of Tyria, #1)The Silver Hawk by Beaulah Pragg

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 The plot is refreshing, and Pragg has some clever ideas: the concept of the two siblings - Mikael and Maat, watching a civilisation that they had created and in which they had "cast" themselves as gods, is extremely nifty.  It also works well for the narrative, allowing the plot to skip several years in a heartbeat and follow the progress of various characters and their exploits.

The politics are nicely complicated - Pragg has devoted a lot of care and attention to detail in the development of her world. Her characters, also, feel very real, almost tangible.

 There are a couple of interesting twists and an ending that was complete-but-not-quite, it is definitely designed to make you seek out more.

I am eagerly awaiting the next instalment.

You can read all of this novel (the revised version), on Wattpad here.

Kevin Berry

Kevin is a software engineer who devotes a lot of his time to writing and editing. He has co-authored three fantasy novels with his now-ex wife (although they still write together) as well as two "new adult" titles in the Aspie-New-Adult genre.

The fantasy novels - published under "KD Berry" are published via Bluewood.

Dragons AwayDragons Away by K.D. Berry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a light and engaging fantasy novel, with fun characters, clever language and oh-so-many puns. You'll laugh, you'll groan, but you probably won't cry. It's not that kind of book. There are dwarves, there are goblins, there are dragons, there's a half-ogre scholar (who can't read but speaks 16 languages) and a benign king. There's also a mad king and his terrifying wife. The use of language is very clever - even if there are too many puns, and the plot, whilst not entirely new, is fresh and fun. Highly enjoyable.

Growing DisenchantmentsGrowing Disenchantments by K.D. Berry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another entertaining read from this duo. Kevin and Dianne Berry write the most amusing fantasy I have read in a long time. Packed with puns and interesting characters, it keeps you hooked. This novel takes place in the same city as "Dragon's Away" but unlike the former, it remains within the city - no travelling required. Instead we have several wizards  of varying talents and skills, talking furniture, animated statues, a thief, a time traveller and a mischevious imp. Some of the characters don't receive quite as much "screen time" as I might have liked, but overall it proved to be a most entertaining read and I hope to see more from this duo.

Fountain of ForeverFountain of Forever by K.D. Berry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another fun fantasy adventure! With loads of quirky characters, a plot that will keep you bouncing around merrily and a healthy dose of humour that is funny, without being silly. Fans of the earlier novels will delight in the return of CIA time-traveler, Merrivel, and those new to the series will want to read more!
Highly entertaining.

My one complaint with the "Bluewood" titles is that the covers are, frankly, quite terrible. They look like they're self published (when they're actually indie-published) and photoshop cut-n-paste efforts, and as for the shadows on the text... *shudders*. But DO NOT judge a book by it's cover - these are highly entertaining reads and remind me of Diana Wynne Jones with a touch of Pratchett - and you cannot get a higher compliment than that!


His two Aspie-New-Adult titles are a different style entirely being much more serious and feeling more personal, although with a hearty dose of OTT craziness and "I cannot believe they did that". Also, the covers are MUCH better.

StimStim by Kevin Berry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I highly enjoyed the story of Robert, a university student with Aspergers Syndrome. Robert's story is candidly told - his view of the world clearly described and just a little bit different. Some parts will have you gritting your teeth ("I can't believe he just said that!"), and others snorting with laughter. It is also deeply poignant, and very moving, especially as you watch Robert and Chloe's friendship grow, and also experience the understanding of their NS flatmate, Stef.

Berry has captured Robert's voice extremely well - with his precise, slightly formal way of speaking; his straightforward (analytical) way of thinking; his honesty-to-the-point-of-innappropriate; his little quirks - it is the sort of book that could only be written by someone with a deep insight into the aspie mind.

I would highly recommend this to everyone over the age of about 16/17 - NS or aspie: for the former it will offer a deeper insight, and for the latter, open the awareness that you are not alone.

KaleidoscopeKaleidoscope by Kevin Berry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The enjoyable follow-up to Stim, Berry's first Aspie romance novel, and this one certainly proves a worthy sequel. This time we see into the head of Chloe - fellow Aspie, but also possessing of a whole plethora of other diagnoses. Coupled together with the most devastating earthquake the city has ever seen, and a forced break from her medication, madcap craziness must ensure. Chloe's narrative is not dissimilar to Robert's, with her frank honesty and candid narration. This tale will certainly help those of the NS to better understand their Asperbergers peers.

A quick, page-turning read, with a witty narrator who just seems real. Another gem from Kevin Berry.

View all my reviews

Elaborate, Rich and Beautiful

Stolen Songbird (The Malediction Trilogy, #1)Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beautifully written and gloriously evocative. This is an engrossing and epic read, that once started you will never want to put down. Alas, now it is completed I am left feeling bereft and longing for the sequel.

From the beginning you are instantly plunged straight into the world - at over 400 pages long, I thought it would move at a slow pace but within the first few pages the action happens and our heroine is swept away to a life she never asked for.

Whilst as other reviewers noted, it does avoid some of the teen-fantasy tropes: "Mary Sue" protagonist, love triangle, "white knight", loe-at-first-sight and all those cliches, it does have one that I have seen frequently in books: the two main protagonists that hate one another. However, that is no flaw and it just beautifully enhances the characterisation, with the verbal clashes between the two being both amusing and insulting. The little hints at the origins of the "trolls" is quite entertaining too.

I loved the fact that the troll people were (for the most part) broken but beautiful - especially in the case of Marcus whom I hope finds some happiness - or just pure malevolence. Also, that once she heard her arguments for helping them, Cecile then set out to find evidence of her own, to find proof before coming to a conclusion, instead of just allowing herself to become a blind tool.

Overall, it is a brilliantly crafted and rather epic read, but every word is worth it and I savoured it slowly, deliciously. The writing style is wonderful - Jensen has mastered the immersive prose that enlivens all the senses and truly sweeps you away into the beautiful, dark underworld of Trollus.

Allegedly for young adults, it does contain a few darker moments, some quite complicated politics and, is of course, got a strong basis in romance, and I would probably recommend it for the more "mature" teen (in reading level if not in age).

View all my reviews

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Exceptional Fun for the Young (and Young of Heart)

The Last Akaway (Brody Boondoggle, #1)The Last Akaway by Gary Karton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A cute adventure story aimed at young boys - 7-10 at a guess, and designed to encourage them to play outside instead of spending their time in the computer-game world.

This book was a LOT of fun - the characters of Jake and Brody were immediately likeable and immediately realistic. I did find the jumping viewpoint a little confusing at first: the chapters are so short that one minute you're in Jake's head, the next in Brody's, but once I slowed down my reading speed a little it became rather easier. The random conversation topics spattered throughout the text were highly entertaining, and I am wondering if the author garnered them from his own two boys, whom I imagine are a lot like Jake and Brody.

Some of the plot seemed a little forced - the fact that Jake stayed up all night basically reading every single book about the spirit animals that he could find seemed rather a convenient excuse to give him instant knowledge on everything important, but I would very much doubt a teenage boy would read that fast and retain that much. Still, this is not exactly a logical book - it is a tale to entertain and amuse the young fellows, who will not be analysing everything: like how a fish could walk and whether the Crab skittered sideways.

Overall, this was a great romp and would be exceptionally fun to read to a young audience. If I ever find myself in the situation where I have my tablet and are required to amuse a young boy (aged 6-9) then I shall certainly be reading this one! Heck, maybe it might inspire them to put down the game console and go outside, climb a tree or throw a snowball (but not a rock) and get in touch with their own spirit animal.

View all my reviews

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Well Crafted Fantasy Adventure

Journey to Landaran (Spirit Mage Saga #1)Journey to Landaran by Judy Goodwin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was fortunate enough to receive an advance "beta" copy of this from the author, and I am highly impressed. Her characterisation and prose are splendid, with the world and its occupants truly coming to life. She has also put a great deal of thought into the political and magical structure of the world, with some pleasing hints at its origins. The writing style is eloquent, with vivid and dramatic descriptions, and never a dull moment. It has some darker moments too, including a really despicable villain and a goodly amount of emotional upheavel. I whole-heartedly enjoyed entering the realms around Landaran and look forward to venturing there again.

"Journey to Landaran" is the story of two twins, teenagers by our standards. They live a peaceful life in a mountain community, getting up to a fair amount of mischief. The brother, Tavish, has a Talent with fire, but Aidah's Talent is much rarer and much sought after. As the world grows darker, the two children are forced from their village and into a life on the run.

View all my reviews

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Fresh Face in Fantasy

Dream Caster (Dream Cycle, #1)Dream Caster by Najeev Raj Nadarajah

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A beautifully written and eloquently told tale, with the freshness and originality that can only be found within the realms of independently published fiction. The narrative is instantly enticing, the landscape well conceived and developed, described in just enough detail to allow the reader to form their own mental impressions. The protagonist, Weaver, is a young man of unknown heritage - a trope fairly standard in fantasy novels - but he appears to have no special talents or abilities, and has been raised by a man who treats him more like a servant than a son, yet still shows him care and attention. For the most part, the plot is well constructed, the characters diverse and interesting. The ending did leave me feeling a little disappointed though, not because it left too much hanging, but because I wanted the story to go on further, to tie up the remaining loose ends. I look forward to the sequel!

View all my reviews