Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Ivy TreeThe Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Mystery, Suspense


 
Mary Grey had come from Canada to the land of her forebears: Northumberland. As she savored the ordered, spare beauty of England’s northern fells, the silence was shattered by the shout of a single name: “Annabel!”

Another good mystery/romantic suspense story by Mary Stewart; The Ivy Tree wasn't my favorite, but was still good. The secret about Mary was an interesting twist, but I'm not sure how plausible the whole premise was. Stewart's books usually incorporate insta-love, but not this one, which was a good thing. This was written in 1961 so there is an excessive amount of smoking compared to today's books and a couple of sexist lines that dated it as well, but it is a product of it's time and I enjoyed reading it as I pictured the early 60s setting. I think the biggest issue I had with the book is that there is so much description. Stewart has a talent for writing good descriptive surroundings, but in this case it was a bit too much and I felt like it ate into a couple of the suspenseful scenes. The best thing about this book is that Mary Stewart kept me guessing about Mary's identity.



View all my reviews

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Six WakesSix Wakes by Mur Lafferty

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Sci-fi, mystery



It was not common to awaken in a cloning vat streaked with drying blood.

Six Wakes is a mystery in space that reminded me a lot of the TV show Dark Matter and maybe a little of Voice in the Whirlwind by Walter Jon Williams. The crew of a generational space ship wake up in new cloned bodies to find that they have all been murdered. But none of them remember what happened. Really there is more than one mystery here. Who killed them all, why that person killed them, and why they are all on this ship in the first place. As the story progresses we get back stories on each of the characters a piece at a time until all is revealed.

I enjoyed all of the characters, but Maria and Hiro were probably the two that I enjoyed the most. I also enjoyed the A.I. IAN a lot as well. The book poses a lot of questions about cloning itself and how ethical it really would be if a person could clone themselves over and over, plus all of the problems that could arise from it, what rights should that clone have and so on. I really enjoyed pondering all of these things.

In the end I didn't find the mysteries very hard to figure out but I ended up enjoying the story anyway. This book was read for Fantasy Book Club and I think there will be loads of things to discuss.

We made Coquito Acaramelados which is a Cuban dessert featured in the book and Jello clones in cloning vats for the book club treats. I think the clones came out so cute!





View all my reviews

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Black Mage Series

I just finished the last book in this series and now that I have I'm not sure how I feel about it. I mostly had good feelings about it even though the love interest could be a jerk at times, but the last book just raked my emotions over the coals. Here are my reviews for the series:


First Year (The Black Mage, #1)First Year by Rachel E. Carter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy



Magic. Romance. Rivals. 

 
Before the age of seventeen, the young men and women of Jerar are given a choice —pursue a trade or enroll in a trial year in one of the realm’s three war schools to study as a soldier, knight, or mage… 


First Year is a light YA fantasy that's set in a mage school. There isn't much world building, but I loved the mage school setting. It's very reminiscent of The Black Magician by Trudy Canavan in quite a few ways, but despite its lack of world building, I think I enjoyed this book more.

The protagonist, Ryiah is very likable, but she has her flaws that include jealousy and a hot temper at times, which made her more relatable as a character. I developed a love-hate relationship for Darren, the antagonist right along with Ryiah. On the surface he seems like the typical stuck up, rich kid, bad boy, but I liked the glimpses of what could be seen under the surface of his character.

This book was great fun. There is just something about it that makes it so readable and I enjoyed every minute of it. I'm starting the sequel immediately.



Apprentice (The Black Mage, #2)Apprentice by Rachel E. Carter

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy



She survived a trial year at the Academy of Magic, but that was the easy part…

This is the second book in The Black Mage series. I enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed reading the first book. It was really hard to put down and I found myself staying up into the wee hours of the night to finish it.

While First Year spanned only the first year of Ryiah's mage training, Apprentice covers 4 years. This resulted in some parts feeling rushed, and a lot of time jumps. It felt inconsistent with the pace of the first book. There was more time spent on characters and interactions in First Year. This time around we got less of that and more world building. I would have liked to have seen both. I thought the first half of the book was better paced than the second.

While I mostly liked Ryiah in this book, I will say that I hated the way she treated Ian. The back and forth roller coaster romance stuff got annoying at times, and I feel like it took over the second half of the book too much. The love-hate relationship with Darren continued and I loved that I was kept guessing about him, although I did have him figured out eventually.

Overall I'm enjoying this series a lot and am looking forward to the next two books.



Candidate (The Black Mage, #3)Candidate by Rachel E. Carter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy



Welcome to the Candidacy. Where dreams go to die.

The Candidate is the third book in the Black Mage series and the plot definitely got thicker with this one. There were some good twists and turns and I could sympathize with the predicament Ryiah is in at the end of it. I still think she should trust Darren and his love for her enough to tell him what is going on though! And his jealousy over Ian in the first part of the book was ridiculous.

This book was a step up from the last book. Not many time jumps in this one which was good. I enjoyed it just as much as the first book and looking forward to reading book four.




Non-Heir (The Black Mage, #0.5)Non-Heir by Rachel E. Carter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy



Prince. Prodigy. Mage. 

For a free novella Non-Heir sure had a lot packed into it. And I mean that in a good way! This is a prequel to The Black Mage series and it focuses on Darren. We see what it was like to grow up as the second son of the king, or the non-heir. We also see how the rift between Darren and his brother begins, and also how they become emotionally dependent on each other. The story starts out when Darren is 6 years old and ends not long after he has met Ryiah at the academy. It was nice getting into Darren's head, especially when he meets Ryiah and then when his opinion of her starts to change. The back story on Darren and his brother was heart wrenching. Even though I knew what their father was like, it was still heartbreaking to read, but it enabled me to see what shaped both boys into the type of men they eventually become.



Last Stand (The Black Mage, #4)Last Stand by Rachel E. Carter

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy



He’s the Black Mage and she’s the traitor to the Crown.

Ryiah’s world was shattered the night she discovered King Blayne’s nefarious plans. Now, she has to betray the one she loves most in order to save the realm from war.


Last Stand is the final book in The Black Mage series and to be honest it was incredibly hard to read at times even though I was glued to it. This book broke my heart into a million pieces and then attempted to put them back together, but they didn't all fit back together the way they were supposed to. Darren was not a likeable character in the beginning of this series but I grew to like him as I grew to understand him and I believed that he truly loved Ryiah. But the things that Darren did in this book crossed a line for me that even the self-sacrificing acts that they both commit near the end, and that sweet ending could not completely fix for me. I'm just really sad about it.

**Spoiler here so if you don't want spoilers skip down to the next paragraph**
 I did not find it very plausible that Darren would have been so set against believing Ryiah, whom he was supposed to love so much. And the fact that he let her be tortured like that and then participated in some of it himself was more than disappointing, it crossed a line for me. There is no way that a person could do that to someone they truly love. Darren is just not a believable character to me any more. I was convinced that it was over between them. How could it not be after all that? And realistically it would have been.

Ryiah as much as I like her and was rooting for her, did some things here that I thought were very foolish. If you love someone you should trust them. She should have trusted Darren in the beginning and just told him what she had learned. Don't get me wrong, there were things I really loved about this book, but it put me through an emotional roller coaster. For the most part I enjoyed this series. But this is a great example of why I hesitate to finish a series sometimes. I've got a pretty big list of unfinished ones, and I'm always afraid that I'm going to be disappointed with how they end. While I wouldn't say this ending was a complete disappointment, it did put a bit of a damper on how I feel about the series. It's a real bitter-sweet feeling. Even though I was a little disappointed in some things about this book I still will most certainly be looking forward to seeing what this author writes next.


View all my reviews

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Farm (The Farm, #1)The Farm by Emily McKay

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Post Apocalyptic



**There are some minor spoilers in this review.

The Farm started out great. It might have stayed that way if it would have just been what it sounded like it would be. In the beginning Lily and her autistic sister Mel are trying to escape a "farm" where their blood is being harvested to feed vicious vampire-like creatures called ticks. The Farm is a place where teens are taken until they are 18. There is a lot of mystery about what happens after everyone at the farm turns 18. They disappear and Lily is sure nothing good happens to them so she decides she and her twin sister Mel need to escape before their 18th birthday. And along the way they meet a boy named Carter who helps them.

Unfortunately the story takes an unexpected turn. Once we find out why Carter is really there I thought it veered off in the wrong direction. I mean did we really need another book with the girl who is special trope? I also felt like there was no good reason for Carter to have hidden things from Lily in the beginning. Why couldn't he have been upfront with her about what he was doing there, at least about the helping her get out part? And he was so convinced that she was what he thought she was, but the reasoning behind it seemed pretty flimsy to me.

Since it's a vampire apocalypse type story, I was expecting a lot of creepiness, maybe something a lot more like The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle. Now that was a creepy YA book! Unfortunately the creatures in this book weren't creepy at all. They even sounded like Sasquatches the way they were described, which I thought was weird. Also the whole reason for the ticks existing didn't work for me either. A regular vampire decides he wants to rule the world so he ends up creating some sort of virus with his venom in a lab that turns people into these vicious, mindless vampire-like creatures. I would have liked it much better if the regular vampires had been left out and the monstrous vampire-like creatures had been the only ones.

Honestly though, all of those issues were small compared to my main problem with this book. And that is I have a real problem with a book that breaks its own rules, and that's exactly what The Farm does repeatedly. If an author is going to set up rules to their book mythology it's a good idea to stick with them, otherwise why bother with making the rules in the first place? We have the ticks in this book that are supposed to only be active at night, only to suddenly find out they are out in the daytime now too. They are supposed to avoid churches or holy ground, only to find out that there is an exception to that rule as well. And they are supposed to be afraid of fire, but surround an entire burning building! At the end of the book (and yes I did see that little twist concerning the sisters coming a mile away) I already know which rule will probably be broken in the sequel.

Even with all of the problems I had with the book I still found myself kind of wanting to find out what happens next, mainly with Mel, but in the end I decided to just look up spoilers instead of read the next book.


View all my reviews

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Noble ServantThe Noble Servant by Melanie Dickerson

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Category: Adult, Christian
Genre: Fairy Tale, Historical Fiction



She lost everything to an evil conspiracy . . . but that loss may just give her all she ever wanted.

First I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher Thomas Nelson for giving me a copy of this book.

The Noble Servant is the third book in the Medieval Fairy Tale series. I haven't read the first two yet, but this works fine as a stand-alone. The story begins with Lady Magdalen traveling to marry the Duke of Wolfberg in an arranged marriage. Magdalen had met the Duke once two years before and developed a bit of a crush on him, so she is happy about the arrangement, as she is penniless and wasn't expecting anyone to want to marry her without a dowry. However, things do not go as planned while on the way and Magdalen is forced to switch places with her maidservant who steals her identity. Little do they both know that more deception is afoot at the Duke's castle.

This is a retelling of The Goose Girl, a Fairy Tale I am not all that familiar with so I can't say how true to that story this is. I did enjoy reading when she was tending the geese and when she met Steffan who just happened to be tending the sheep. I thought it was a little ridiculous that they didn't just tell each other who they were, especially after a certain point. Of course just like most of these historical romances, there are some misunderstandings and characters who don't tell each other how they really feel because they think the other person doesn't feel the same way. It got a little old after a while, and while nothing new, it was a sweet romance and I still enjoyed the book

This is also Christian fiction and I knew that going into the book. I felt it got a bit heavy handed with the scripture quoting and praying. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind those things in general, but as I've said in other reviews, I usually just prefer them to be added to the story in a more subtle way. I think the thing about it that bothered me a bit was that the religious aspect of the book felt too modern and evangelical for the time period and medieval setting in the way it was presented. This kind of pulled me out of the story a couple of times.

I will probably read the other two books in this series as they are nice to read when I just want something light.


View all my reviews
Cover of SnowCover of Snow by Jenny Milchman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Mystery



Nora Hamilton wakes up one morning and finds her husband dead from an apparent suicide. He was a police officer in the small town they live in and Nora can't help but ask the question of why her husband would take his own life when he had appeared to be happy.

I found Cover of Snow compelling even though I had some issues with it. The writing took getting used to at first. In the beginning, I didn't care for the way the characters broke off their sentences while talking to each other. This primarily happened between Nora and her family and I think it was supposed to illustrate the state of Nora's mind after losing her husband. She was having a hard time putting sentences together, but it was annoying to read. This stopped later on and I enjoyed the writing a lot more.

The problems I had with the overall story were plot threads that were never tied up, and things that didn't really make a whole lot of sense. Also conclusions were jumped to a couple of times that were far-fetched or too easily reached, and the fact that Dugger, the autistic man had everything so conveniently on film or recorded was too much of a coincidence to be believable. How was he there for all of that and no one noticed? The only conclusion I came to was maybe he was there because the police used him as their tracker. It was mentioned several times in the book that he was a good tracker, but never explained. Did they mean he was helping the police track suspects? I also couldn't figure out why the recording of the childbirth was included in the book. As far as I could tell it served no purpose.

I enjoyed this mostly despite the problems I had with it and I found it hard to put down. What I did like about the book was the relationship between Nora and her sister and the way the author described the surroundings and made you feel like you were there in the cold, winter weather right along with Nora.



View all my reviews

Saturday, April 15, 2017

DreamstriderDreamstrider by Lindsay  Smith

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy



Livia is a Dreamstrider. The only one of her kind, she travels through the dream world, Onieros and can leave her body to inhabit the bodies of others as a spy for her kingdom. She can only do this for short periods of time, and it's always risky, because if the person she is inhabiting wakes up, she will be forced out of their body and lost in the dreamworld unless her own body is nearby.

Dreamstrider is an interesting concept, but sadly I didn't feel like it lived up to its potential. I found most of the book to be rather dull. It only became interesting near the end when something big finally happened. More world building would have helped the story and more description of the dream world. Also more background on the world and the three kingdoms in it would have been nice, and it would have been helpful if a lot more on the origin of Nightmare had been added. Where did it come from? Why were its bones left on the mountainside overlooking the city? There is a whole chunk of mythology for this world that seemed to be missing.

One other issue I had about this book was that at times there were some odd words used that I felt didn't really fit what the author was trying to convey. For example there is this sentence: "He follows her gauze-swathed leg up to its terminus and raises a brow at her." It's terminus? This is supposed to be a scene where a character is trying to be seductive to a guard and that word just kind of ruined it.

As for the characters, I thought they were ok, but I never really got too attached to any of them. I found Livia hard to like at times because she lacked so much in confidence. She was constantly berating herself and it got old, although I could see how it fit into the plot of the books once I got to the end. The relationship between Livia and Brandt was nice, and for the most part I liked it, even though I thought it could have been better developed. He was supportive of Livia and he encouraged her, but I thought it should have been obvious to each of them how they felt about each other.

There were several things about the book that I did really like. What I liked most was the whole dreamstriding concept. The dream world was interesting even if there could have been more world building there, and more time spent there. I liked that the people in the dream world didn't always look like people, but could disguise themselves as animals or other things, like the Fox, the lizard, and the wind. And I think the cover for this book is gorgeous. If you look at the details of the cover you will see that it includes things that were in the dream world.

It seems as if this is a stand-alone, and it really should be as everything is wrapped up in the end, which is a plus.


View all my reviews