Review of “Refugees” by R.A. Denny

34853614I love good world-building in Fantasy, and this book is packed with it.  Many elements of the scenery, races, politics, and religions feel familiar but not directly copied from anything in particular, and it was a nice balance between originality and common elements of the genre.  I enjoyed how each of the main characters showed their different peoples and parts of the world (Mud, Rocks, and Trees), and we got deeper into each through their POVs.

The main characters are kids, but they are quickly forced to mature beyond their years. There’s a great sense of urgency throughout the book, a bit of mystery as the kids try to figure everything out, and you grow to care about each of them enough to keep you reading to find out what happens next.  The minor characters are also pretty well fleshed out, and I liked that the families of each were explained – a lot of child heroes seem to spring forth from no significant background.

Like I said, there is a LOT of world-building description in this lengthy read.  At times there’s maybe a little too much that gets in the way of the plot moving forward, but there are good bits of action as well.  Very early on this action gets pretty violent, so I’d be careful about suggesting this to readers that might be a little too young/sensitive for that kind of thing.

My biggest aggravation was that the story just stopped at the end. There was no sense that this was a story complete unto itself that resolved anything.  The book just stopped.  I suspect this is one of those series where the author chopped the series into divided books, so the first book “ended” here.   I guess you could look at this first book as “okay, this is how the adventure starts” and then expect it to pick right up in book 2, but it always bugs me when a book isn’t in at least some way a complete story.

That said, this is a very enjoyable read.  The writing is sharp, the characters are likeable, and it’s a good world to dive into.

4 Stars

See it on Amazon!

Review of “Strange Luck” & “The Nightmare Birds” by Amie Irene Winters PLUS Early Look at “A Darling Secret”

25418989First, beautiful cover.  I feel like it fits the playful, whimsical, slightly mysterious tone of the story.

Second, I loved the complex and unique use of memories.  It was a great way to shape the fantastical world Daisy finds herself in, and it was a neat way to bring so many fantastical elements together – in a world of happy memories and dreams, anything goes!  The danger of Daisy losing memories added a great sense of tension. Her romantic partnership with her best friend Roger was also believable and made me care about the characters.  And, how she gradually learns how to save the day was creative and pulled it all together.

I have to admit that Daisy’s character bugged me a bit.  At times she’s loving and confident and brave.  At other times she flies off the handle and is snippy and doesn’t think before saying or doing something stupid.  This would sometimes all happen in the same scene, and it felt a little unnatural.  Also, towards the middle of the book, the maturity level of the writing shifted weirdly.  The book was plugging away and feeling very YA, and then suddenly it was like the dialogue and action were more fitting for a far younger audience.  I still liked the story during this part, but it was a bit jolting to read.

BUT, I really enjoyed the last half of the book.  I felt like the plot finally had solid direction, and I loved how everything I’d been wondering about came together.  The twist towards the end was pretty cool too – although you worry for a second.  And I really liked the time jump at the end that further showed how everything turned out.

Overall, I’d recommend this for anyone who likes YA fantasies that give you a mystery to figure out.

4 Stars

See it on Amazon!

 


29806696A bit of time goes by between the first book and this one, and the maturity level definitely goes up as well.  It’s nice to see Daisy has moved out of her teens but is still young enough to struggle with questions about life and who she is.  For that reason the book still feels YA, but it’s definitely not as light as the first.  This story is a lot darker.  There’s dark magic, many skeletons, murder, etc., and the Theater of Secrets is definitely a dramatic place full of dangerous characters.

I liked how this plot felt much more straightforward than the first book. While there are still plenty of magical surprises, this world also feels more familiar.  I think that makes the danger to Daisy that much more suspenseful.  She again made decisions that annoyed me, but considering her emotional state, it kind of makes sense.

I loved how the plot thickened and you were never really sure what to believe – and Daisy wasn’t either.  Is her own mind tricking her? Is Mr. Black telling the truth after all and there’s going to be a huge twist on everything we thought we knew as a reader so far?  This story definitely kept me turning the pages as I tried to sort it all out.   I liked how certain things from the first book tied in here, but it’s definitely a new story.  And the end certainly suggests Daisy has more to learn.

5 Stars

 

See it on Amazon!

 


A DARLING SECRET_AMIEIRENEWINTERS_FRONTCOVER

A Darling Secret
Strange Luck series, Book 3
Coming September 22, 2017

 

Learn the fate of your favorite heroes and love-to-hate foes in the thrilling conclusion to Amie Irene Winters’ bestselling Strange Luck series.

Before the Theater of Secrets was formed, before the Nameless was built, before Daisy Darling learned of her magical bloodline, there was the Realm of the Shadow Gods—ruled by the most powerful and wicked creatures known.

For nearly two decades, Daisy’s twin sister, Rose, was held captive by the Shadow Gods and survived. Now Rose has come to find Daisy to stop their impending evil from spreading into the human world. But Rose bears a terrible secret that has the power to destroy everything.

In the devastating Realm of the Shadow Gods, dark magic holds no bounds. Daisy will risk everything to save those she loves, but will the truth finally break her?


Unlock the final book in the Strange Luck series with A Darling Secret.

Pre-order today, read it September 22, 2017.


 

A Darling Secret excerpt:

A slow, creeping fear wound its way around me.

Tiptoeing around the mysterious plain, too afraid to call out, a surprising wisp of music came floating through the air. It was a jingly little melody—like a music box—followed by soft voices.

I paused. Through the violet-stained sky and swirling rainbow mist I saw something moving. My eyes narrowed as I stealthily approached an illuminated cave.

Shadows were gathering there.


A Darling Secret Amazon link:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074JVRWH4?ref_=pe_2427780_160035660


MEET AMIE IRENE WINTERS

Amie Irene Winters Headshot Cropped.jpgAmie Irene Winters was born and raised in California but now lives and writes in western Pennsylvania. She is the author of the bestselling Strange Luck series.

When not writing, she can be found hiking with her dog, baking desserts, or breaking a sweat in kickboxing class.

To learn more about Amie and her books, visit amieirenewinters.com.

 

Sign up for my mailing list here! You’ll only get emails when I have a new release coming up, a sale, or a giveaway.

Social media links:

Website: http://www.amieirenewinters.com

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00XZ88V5A

Blog: https://golden-cricket.blogspot.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aiwinters

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13851542.Amie_Irene_Winters

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Twitter: https://twitter.com/AmieIWinters

 

 

Review of “The Road to Grandeur” by Brandt Trebor

27155940First of all, the blurb for this book doesn’t do it justice.  The story is a full-out adventure in a magical world populated by every fantasy creature you’d hope to find, and there’s plenty of heart and comedy thrown in. I loved all the twists the plot took in bringing together the main characters, and it was wonderfully not predictable.

Jayde is the main character, but Sarah is just as important and  must get close to equal “screen time.” There wasn’t a single character that I found lacking, which is great considering how many minor characters there are. Of course, with this being a “book 1,” I’m sure more will be revealed about some important characters in the future, and that helped to make the story feel even bigger.  Cameron in particular (without being too spoiler-y) seems to have a past I’d like to read more about.  But the pixies John and Lucy and lovable troll Marl are just as interesting.

The writing itself isn’t stuffy or grandiose, and I felt like the writing set the feel for the story – fun and light but serious where it mattered.  The middle of the book wandered a bit, but that tends to happen in long stories.  At no point was I bored, largely because the author does a good job of hinting throughout that something bigger is going on with these two girls.

I highly recommend this as a fun summer read, full of magic and quirky characters.

4 Stars

See it on Amazon!

 

Review of “Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith” by Shaun Hume

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It’s impossible to write a review of this and not mention the similarities to Harry Potter.  A parentless boy is whisked away from the ordinary world and taken to a fantastical school.  He ends up with really only two friends, one of whom has constantly unruly hair.  Each class focuses on a different discipline and has a quirky and/or mean teacher.  The kids will all eventually be sorted into different houses…er cliques.  The boy’s past and parentage obviously are important, with more to the story than we’re told right away.  There are creatures.  There are hovering deathly beings.  There’s an unseen dark-lord-type with evil followers.  Etc.  Etc.

In a lot of ways, this feels like an obvious attempt to appeal to a certain crowd of readers, almost like a kind of fan fiction.  BUT, I soon forgave all that and just went with it because the author does a lot of unique things too.  For example, one of Ewan’s two friends (both girls) is a pirate.   It’s also refreshing that the world-building is not *entirely* based in magic.   There is magic, yes, but we’re told pretty quickly that most people aren’t good at it and instead focus on other talents.  And I really enjoyed what the author did with the true Queen of England.

It’s easy to fall in love with Ewan as a character.  The poor kid just can’t win, and he’s a very believable 11 to 12-year-old boy thrown into new and overwhelming circumstances.  Enid and her pirate family added a much-needed feeling of newness to this story, and I loved that her character was rough around the edges.  Mathilde is great too, with her confidence and loyalty and almost-ever-present smile.  I even enjoyed the adult characters, who are a little flat because the focus is more on the kids.  As the plot thickens, you aren’t supposed to know which adults and older kids to trust, so their elusiveness adds to the suspense.  It usually drives me nuts when there’s some huge danger and kids don’t bother to tell the adults about it, but here it completely makes sense that they try to stop the danger themselves.

As for the author’s writing, there is a LOT of description.  It really is a bit too much, slowing the dialogue especially.  And sometimes a word is used incorrectly so that a sentence might sound flowery but really doesn’t make sense.

Still, I stayed in this book for the three main characters because their friendship dynamic was so lovely and fun.  And, yeah, if you miss Harry Potter in your life, give this a go.

3.5 Stars

See it on Amazon!

Review of “The Elemental” & “The Empath” by Lisa Veldkamp

26786740I’ve read a couple of fantasy/magic-based stories using the elements as the source for magic, and I liked the everyday approach to them in this story. Catherine and her gifted circle of friends lead pretty ordinary lives, but they use their gifts to help others in subtle ways every day. I WOULD say that there’s nothing flashy about the use of elemental magic in this book, but then again, there is the whole climax scene where they have to save the planet.
Catherine, for me, was a very believable and likeable character. She experiences a natural range of emotions in this book, and seeing the story through her eyes (mostly) added some mystery to the book because you’re naturally curious about this mysterious neighbor/love interest and what he really knows.
The first part of the book dragged just a little bit for me because I wasn’t sure where any action would be coming from, but it was a nice look into the fun and magic-quirked lives of these women. The use of the word “Darling” kind of drove me nuts, but once Tristan shows up things take off and the plot gets more direction.
The author’s definite strength is her ability to portray these characters as unique individuals, even if they’re only in small scenes. It felt like a rounded cast of characters. And the danger element was nicely woven in once it was revealed, which gave the book a great build to the end…with hints of something to come.

3.5 Stars

See it on Amazon!

34623300Veldkamp does something really daring with this book, which is basically retell the entire first book, but from a different character’s perspective. This kind of worried me that there’d be no mystery or suspense, but there really was a WHOLE other side plot going that we saw very little of in the first book. I was really impressed how well this worked. For me, this book was even stronger than the first because there was more danger, more intrigue, and more magically gifted people to get to know.
At the same time, it IS the same story. You do see a lot of repeat scenes from the first book, but again this somehow works well because Tristan has such a different take on what’s going on. For me, reading this one only made the pair of books stronger.
If anything, the plot thickens. Not only do we see more behind the scenes all the way through, but there’s quite a different surprise waiting at the end.

4 Stars

See it on Amazon!

Review of “Escape from Witchwood Hollow” by Jordan Elizabeth Mierek

23351890.jpgI usually get sick of teen girl stories, but this one was unique enough that it drew me in. You immediately have sympathy for the main character in that she lost her parents in 9-11, and you get to read her thoughts and emotions so that you know her pretty well. The other members of the family were all likeable too, as were most of the townspeople she encounters. There were of course the ‘mean girls’ type, but even they were given dimensions.

The overall mystery of what’s going on in the Hollow was great. I wanted to find out more with every hint I was given, and so that’s what kept me reading. I loved the way the author used the different timelines/storylines to show the history behind the mystery. The characters in these storylines were also complex and interesting, and the author’s ability to add historical flavor was a nice shift from the modern day feel of the main storyline. How everything came together was a surprise that I greatly enjoyed…but I won’t spoil anything.

One thing that bugged me was the constant mention of name brands. I get that this girl likes fashion. I know the author was trying to show that. But it was too much, in my opinion, and often distracted from the events going on. I also wasn’t crazy about the ending. It seemed a little melodramatic, and it made me a bit uncomfortable that…what happened… was portrayed as the best thing to make her happy again.

All in all, this was an enjoyable YA/mystery/ghost kind of story that you can read pretty quickly and keeps you entertained.

4 Stars See it on Amazon!

A Fairly Fairy Tale

The official page for “A Fairly Fairy Tale” is now live!
See link below. 

Source: A Fairly Fairy Tale

A Fairly Fairy Tale – Cover Reveal!

I’ve been busy, busy, busy finishing up my first Fantasy story (since I decided to get the book out in time to be a Christmas gift to my new nieces.  Shh!  It’s a surprise!).  It’s finally about ready to go, so I wanted to give everyone a first look at the cover!
I’ll also post sneak peeks at chapters and illustrations this week, so watch for those!

AFFT Kindle Cover.jpg

SYNOPSIS:

Once upon a time and with surprising frequency, dragons kidnapped helpless princesses.  As the ultimate romantic gesture, heroic princes fought the dragons and saved the damsels in distress.

At least, that’s the story you’ve been led to believe.  But here’s a little secret:

Sometimes the dragon saved the princess from the princes…

In the kingdom of Marshwood, everybody lives happily ever after – orphans, stepmothers, everybody.   King Wesick is wise and beloved.  Queen Mattea is beautiful and kind.  Prince Nolan is handsome and brave, and his sister Littagale is smart and talented.  But when it comes time for Princess Littagale to marry, suddenly the dragon Tor flies down from Mount Shadow, kidnaps the princess, and flies her to his dark lair.

“Oh, no! The horror! Who will save her?” cry the townspeople.

With great fanfare and the cologne of testosterone, princes from near and far arrive in Marshwood and vow to rescue the princess – in exchange for the honor of becoming her husband and inheriting the kingdom.  The townspeople rejoice, place bets, and everyone waits to see who will defeat Tor and save Princess Littagale.

But what secret is Queen Mattea hiding?  And why does Tor have a spa in his lair?

AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER NOW!
http://bit.ly/AFairlyFairyTale

Release date & Paperback available:   12/20/2016

Review of “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” by Danielle E. Shipley

28595730This book was exactly what I needed.  It’s rare that I wish I could rate a book over 5 stars, but this is one of them.  It’s a perfect blend of action, humor, quirky twists on mythology, and great characterization.  I literally laughed out loud more than once, and this book was a pure pleasure the whole way through.

We all know some other attempts at modernizing the legends of Robin Hood and also Merlin/Arthur, but this one was nothing I expected.  Dropping these characters into our contemporary world is a recipe for hilarity, and how the author had them interact with cars, electric guitars, fast food drive-thru’s, a certain national retail store, etc. was nonstop entertainment.   I also really liked that the author flat-out had them say some of the stories about them were wrong – Guinevere and Lancelot, for example.   Maid Marian was also much different and (for my vote) better than we’re used to seeing her.   Robin Hood, Will Scarlet (my personal favorite source of comedic relief), Little John, and the rest were also recognizable as “themselves” with their common attributes but also portrayed as fuller characters.

Then there’s Allyn-a-Dale himself.  This is where the author got to play around with a bit of originality thrown into the story, and everything with Allyn really adds to the plot and tension of the story.  I loved that he seems to naturally fit with the others and yet holds his own ground.  I loved the use of his dead father as an internal catalyst.  Everything that Allyn brings with him from his world into Avalon added a dimension that kept the book fresh and original, and the twists of how these worlds interacted was great.

If you like a little goofiness in your Fantasy and you’re at all a fan of Robin Hood’s Merry Men, give this a read.  It’s not long at all, but it completely brightened my day and I look forward to more adventures to come.

5 Stars

See it on Amazon!

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