Review: “Windsinger: A Darkhaven Novel” by A.F.E. Smith

Review: “Windsinger: A Darkhaven Novel” by A.F.E. Smith

A review by Vanessa.

Again I would like to thank the author for the opportunity to review this series. This is the third installment of the Darkhaven series, the first of which I reviewed in July 2015, and the second in Jan 2016.

Ayla Nightshade is the overlord of Darkhaven, the ruler of the city of Arkannen and all of Mirrorvale, mother of three small children, and wife to her captain of the Helm, Tomas Caraway. It is a lot to balance, especially when she is the only known Changer left in Mirrorvale, and her enemies are many. But she hopes to have one less enemy, that of the neighboring kingdom who has been the most recent trouble for her, Sol Kardis. After fending off attacks by their assassins a few years earlier, all Ayla really wants is to find a peace treaty with them and move on with living her life and helping her people. She wants to make Arkannen a thriving center for trade and commerce and give all of her people the chance at peaceful and prosperous lives. Indeed, Arkannen will be receiving a marvel of new technology from their neighboring kingdom of Parovia. The Windsinger is a giant airship which Ayla hopes will inspire her people in their own technological advances.

Tomas Caraway is happy to be the father of Ayla’s two small daughters and their adopted son Marlon. Though he still finds doubt in his ability to lead the Helm, he has been successful at recruiting some of the best and most loyal to aid him in protecting Ayla and his family. And he will need them the most when the emissary sent by Sol Kardis dies at the hands of a poison that seems like it could only have come from Ayla herself. Ree, Penn, and Zander have been serving in Arkannen since the events of several years past. Ree is a respected female member of the Helm. Despite his family’s hatred of Captain Caraway, Penn has proven to be a loyal Helmsman as well. But Zander, discovered as the son of a prominent Sol Kardis councilor, didn’t make it into the inner circle of trust or the Helm. But he serves as a fifth ring weapons master, and he has no desire to go home. With the death of the emissary from Sol Kardis, all of these loyal friends will have their own part to play in keeping Ayla and her young family safe, and protecting their home of Mirrorvale. Meanwhile, Tomas has some plans of his own and a spy that might help him along the way. There is treachery within the very halls of Darkhaven, maybe closer than even Tomas realizes. Can they avert war and disaster and find the real culprit in time?

Masterful world building abounds in this third installment to the Darkhaven series. The characters as always are multifaceted and engaging. Ayla’s strength and leadership is not at all hampered by her decision to marry Tomas Caraway. They are as always a team, where he is happy to support her as a ruler and she relies on his support and wisdom as any wise ruler would. Her physical abilities as a Changer make her the bigger, stronger, and more imposing character, but that is not a detriment to Tomas or any other character in the story. Tomas is a wonderfully flawed but lovable strength in Ayla’s life. Ree as the first and best female Helmsman has her struggles. As readers we get to admire her determination and independence as someone who is simply human and makes the best of the life she has made for herself. Even Penn and Zander get their perspective in the story, and we get to learn more about them. Penn is struggling with his separation from his family, and Zander’s experiences as essentially an immigrant in Mirrorvale are as relevant to our own world as any in the book. All of these weave together in a wonderfully fantastic read that does not disappoint.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Review: “One Piece: Skypiea vol. 31-33” by Eiichiro Oda

Review:

A review by Hannah.

One Piece was started in 1997 and is continuing today. There are 81 volumes to date, which is why this series of reviews will be broken up into three volume books. From now on there will be spoilers for what happens in the rest of the series. You have been warned…

Eneru is trying to destroy the Sky Islands, in search of the endless Vearth. Vearth is what the Sky Islanders call earth or as we call “dirt.” There is only one person who can stop him and that is Luffy. Eneru has the power of lightning and mantra. Luffy is made of rubber and is a bit of an air head. Eneru never really had a chance.

There is a flashback about why the Shandians are fighting the Sky Islanders. Basically, they come from the island Jaya. The Knock Up Stream sent the Shandians into the air, ringing a giant golden bell all the way. The bell alerted the Sky Islanders, and they found the biggest collections of Vearth anyone on the Cloud Sea had ever seen. The Kami at the time quickly took over the island, kicked the altitude sickened Shandians out, and turned the former Jaya Island into Upper Yard. There has been war ever since.

The crew leaves Skypeia while running away from the natives in true pirate fashion. They had retrieved a bunch of gold from the ruins and thought that the natives would be angry with them for this. That’s not true, the natives haven’t assigned a worth to gold. It’s just shiny and yellow, apparently.

The Straw Hats land back in the Blue Sea. They meet another pirate crew and take part in the Davy Back Fight. This fight takes place in three rounds. A boat race, a ball game of sorts, and a brawl between the captains. The winner of each round gets to take a crew member of the opposing crew as their new crew. Cheating abounds and the crew lose Chopper in the first round. But they get him back in the second. Volume 33 leaves off with Luffy facing the other captain in a boxing match, declaring that he will win even if it kills him.

Overall I have always found the Skypiea arc to be kind of pointless and too coincidental for my taste. They only show up because Luffy is self centered and wanted to go up there. Then they just so happen to arrive at the same time that Eneru is putting the finishing touches on his “destroy everything” plan, and the civil war that has been raging for 200 years happens to kindof involve this guy they met a few days ago. Most of the other story arcs are entwined with the crew in a way that makes the what happens seem very important. This arc is more about setting things up for the future.

This is my last review of the One Piece arcs. If I haven’t convinced you of the great and wonderful adventure that is One Piece, then you are losing out. If you feel that it is too intimidating (it’s been around for twenty years), all I can say is that the effort is worth it. Watching these characters grow stronger and closer over the years has been a true delight.

A few things that you will miss if you do not continue the story: Robin’s secret and terrible past, Luffy’s family, a cyborg, a living skeleton, zombies,the crew gets separated, Amazons, the biggest war between marines and pirates that the world has ever seen, Zoro cutting a ship in half, Sanji flying, Nami manipulating weather, Ussop using killer plants, Chopper’s monster form, Robin summoning giant legs to crush everything in her path, and Luffy changing gears.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Overall series rating: 5/5 stars.

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Review: “Heartless” by Marissa Meyer

A review by Amanda.

Lady Catherine Pinkerton is the only child of the Marquess and Marchioness of Rock Turtle Cove in the kingdom of Hearts. At seventeen years old, Cath know exactly what she wants to do with her life: open a bakery with her friend Mary Ann, where she can showcase her baking talents and indulge her love of creating delectable desserts. Unfortunately, the Marchioness has a much loftier goal in mind for her daughter. Cath has caught the eye of the king of Hearts and could be the next queen if she plays her cards right…

Strange things are afoot in Hearts, with attacks from a legendary creature frightening the citizens. The king is a short, pleasant fellow, if prone to giggles and lacking decisiveness. The king’s new fool, Jest, is handsome and mysterious and Cath finds herself drawn to him, much to her consternation. Cath must decide if she can risk everything her parents want for her in order to follow her own path.

Heartless was inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland and it absolutely did it justice. The tone was as whimsical as the original, with familiar characters popping up in unexpected ways. It was meant to be an homage to Carroll’s Wonderland and the respect and admiration shine through clearly. Cath was clever, ambitious, and occasionally naive and single-minded. She is both relatable and likable. She was torn between wanting to please her parents and living the life of her dreams. While she was drawn to Jest immediately there wasn’t a feeling of instant love, which can cause some readers to lose interest in a story. The recognizable characters felt true to their original counterparts while adding more depth and history. Fans of fairy tale retellings will enjoy this story, as well as Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Cycle series and short stories. Heartless appears to be a standalone, although there is room for Cath’s story to continue.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Review: “Scrappy Little Nobody” by Anna Kendrick

A review by Amanda.

Scrappy Little Nobody is Anna Kendrick’s first foray as a published author. Readers may recognize Kendrick from her roles in movies such as Pitch Perfect, Up In The Air, Trolls, the Twilight Saga, and so much more. She’s famous for her forthright manner and acerbic wit, in interviews and on social media alike. Her autobiography is a collection of unique experiences, amusing and awkward anecdotes, and sprinkled with pertinent life advice from which many young ladies could benefit. She includes childhood memories, the struggles of an aspiring actress new to Los Angeles, hilarity on film sets (complete with some light name dropping), and everything in between. Her stories are poignant, humorous, and mildly self-deprecating.

Kendrick’s writing highlights her vibrant personality. The stories flow well, beginning in her childhood, introducing us to her family and showing readers what life was like growing up in Portland, Maine. Love and respect for her family, and gratitude for their support and sacrifices are featured throughout. This keeps the book feeling grounded in reality amongst tales of her celebrity encounters and the surreal experience of attending the Oscars. Readers will find Kendrick relatable and open. Her honesty about her faults could easily have felt forced or sanctimonious but is instead completely genuine.

Full disclosure: I was fortunate enough to catch Kendrick’s book tour in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. I received a copy of her book with my paid ticket to the event, as did everyone who attended. While I have been an admirer of her work in film for a few years, I did not know what to expect from her as an author. Her writing drew me in with her humor and approachability. I especially appreciated her candor about her love life and the serious advice that she imparts as a result of one such experience. Her frank talk about her anxiety and insecurities is invigorating and relatable. The timeline flows smoothly, with occasional jumps back to the present or an aside to the reader. She expertly tantalizes readers with a bit of celebrity gossip but handles it with great respect for those she names, and usually places herself in the more embarrassing light. I would recommend this book to anyone who is familiar with Kendrick from her movies or social media, and to those who are looking for an entertaining non-fiction read. Kendrick does not hold back in terms of strong language and does talk about some sexual encounters, although not explicitly. Mature teenagers should handle the content just fine.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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BOOK TOUR Review: “Butterfly Bones” By Rebecca Carpenter

Review: "Butterfly Bones" By Rebecca Carpenter

A review by Domoni.

Bethany was born with a rare bone condition. She wasn’t supposed to live past 6 months, but her scientist father will stop at nothing to save her. Especially since his wife, Bethany’s mother, died of cancer when Bethany was only 2. So he created a treatment and Bethany has been getting injections that strengthen her bones and keep her alive. At the age of 15 she easily passes for an elementary student due to her size and the fact that puberty hasn’t come her way yet. Which makes Bethany a prime target for bullies in high school. The only bright spot is her best friend Jeremiah, who just happens to be the hottest boy in school. Since all the girls want the hot football player, especially the new girl Zoey, this makes an even bigger target on Bethany’s back when jealous girls want her out of the way.  Bethany’s final teenage torment is she is also in love with Jeremiah, but it seems he only sees her as a friend.

Bethany spends most of her free time in her father’s lab at home. This is the only way she seems to have his attention. When they observe the mice he has been treating with the same new treatment he is giving Bethany behaving strangely, that’s when things get really weird. The injections use caterpillar DNA, now suddenly the mice have made cocoons. Is this what is in store for Bethany now too? If she is going to survive the metamorphosis, what will she become?

I loved this book. It had some creepy yet fascinating moments and it brought up many emotions. The author did an amazing job crafting the world around Bethany. The characters had depth and motivation, you could understand who they were and their reasons for their behaviors. I found myself angered over the constant bullying Bethany had to endure and horrified that the adults in the school turned a blind eye or shifted blame to the petite girl. As the story progressed I started to have anxiety waiting to find out what was going to happen. The ending blew me away. I will gladly read more in this series.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Butterfly Bones

by Rebecca L. Carpenter

Genre: YA Sci-fi

Lakewater Press

Summary:

Bethany should be dead, just like the doctors predicted. But along came the butterflies, altering the order of nature.
And now nature is hell bent on revenge.
Because when fate’s path is disrupted, it’s only a matter of time before balance must be restored.

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Rebecca Carpenter

About the Author

Rebecca Carpenter is a native of western Colorado. She is married with two grown children and has been blessed with four amazing grandchildren. She owns and directs a large childcare center where she shares her love for books. In her spare time, she freelances as a copy editor, helping others attain their writing dreams. She finds solace and clarity while spending time with her husband exploring the beautiful mountains of Colorado.

 

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BOOK TOUR Review: “A Bond of Venom and Magic” by Karen Tomlinson

BOOK TOUR Review: "A Bond of Venom and Magic" by Karen Tomlinson

A review by Domoni.

Diamond’s life isn’t easy. She is a half blood, half human and half fae. Unlike many half bloods, she cannot pass as one or the other and so she fits in with neither. In a world where prejudice against half bloods is strong, she has only her father and her friend Tom. Until the night the seekers found her. Sent by the Wraith Lord to kill her and steal her necklace, Diamond’s father is killed trying to save her.  Diamond is saved by Hugo and his troop of warrior Fae.  She is far from safe and far from being accepted.  Why does anyone want her dead, when half bloods matter so little?

This was a great read and an interesting story in the Fae world. The author did a wonderful job creating the characters and the world they lived in. The imagery was beautiful and the personalities distinct. Diamond is one of the more realistic female characters I have read in a long time. She is insecure and flawed with a habit of panicking. Her evolution through the story is not rushed, but flows in a manner that makes her believable and likeable.

Hugo is gruff and stern and a contradiction. He is a soldier of the queen, who hates all half bloods and is obsessed with magic. Currently he is assigned to fight under her ally the prince, to help him battle The Wraith Lord Ragor. Underneath his soldier exterior and the appearance of prejudice, he seems to be kind and loyal. And of course he is gorgeous, so how could Diamond not develop feelings for him?

I loved the evolution of this story; it did not feel like a typical fantasy with a forced love at first sight romance. The depiction of good and evil was complex and the presentation of magic was captivating. I look forward to reading the rest of this series.

I received this book as an ARC copy in exchange for a review.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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A Bond Of Venom and Magic
Karen Tomlinson
(The Goddess and the Guardians #1)
Publication date: October 14th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

The Wraith Lord is hunting; his prize, the key to unleashing darkness and Chaos upon the eight Kingdoms.

For Diamond Gillon the war raging in the south seems a remote danger until her home is brutally attacked. Having lost everything she holds dear, Diamond is catapulted into a terrifying new world in which legendary beasts arise, magic is condemned and half blood fae, like her, have no rights. Despite her growing feelings for her saviour, Commander Hugo Casimir, he remains a paradox – not only is he a heartless killer, he is owned by the cruel immortal fae queen; a queen who will murder her own people for magic.

As Diamond’s circumstances become ever more perilous she is drawn deeper into Hugo’s world and discovers the lengths to which he will go to save what he holds dear. Will Hugo become her friend, her protector, or – an enemy not worthy of her trust?

A Bond of Venom and Magic is a tale of two people bound by magic and secrets, but trapped in the complexities of love and betrayal. It is the beginning of an epic journey, one that will test Diamond’s resolve and determination to battle an evil that threatens not only her world but that of Eternity, the land of The Guardians and The Goddess.

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Author Bio:

Karen Tomlinson is the author of The Goddess and the Guardians series of Young Adult fantasy books. Book one A Bond of Venom and Magic will be released October 14th 2016.

Karen has always been an avid reader. Her taste in books is eclectic but she likes nothing better than an exciting fantasy, set in a new and magical world. She lives in Derbyshire, England, with her husband, twin girls and her dalmatian, Poppy. Karen trained as a nurse and currently works as a resuscitation and clinical skills trainer, this involves training a wide variety of health care professionals and medical students in acute patient care. In addition to writing, and reading whenever she can, Karen likes to keep active. She has been training at Shotokan karate since being thirteen, likes walking, mountain biking and (for something completely different) cake decorating. She is currently working on book two in The Goddess and the Guardians series.

About me!

As soon as I could read I spent hours getting lost in the new worlds books could give me. Spending my pocket money had to be done (obviously) but not on sweets, well, not many…I spent my money on books. Back then it was Enid Blyton’s Famous Five which sparked my young mind. I didn’t rest until I had the whole set, then I migrated to the secret seven…(there was no Harry Potter then) As a teenager I would trawl through all my mum and dad’s discarded books. It was probably highly inappropriate for a thirteen year old to be reading swoony Mills and Boon romances followed by Ian Flemming, Alistair Maclean and Wilbur Smith!
Because I read anything and everything I could get my hands on back then, I now have an eclectic taste in books. I will read anything that catches my eye and absolutely love illustrated book covers! In my late teens I discovered fantasy and that genre has stayed my firm favourite. I am and will always remain a complete sucker for a fantasy with kick ass characters and worlds steeped in magic and romance!

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BOOK TOUR Review: “Wear White to Your Funeral” by Lisa Acerbo

Wear White to Your Funeral by Lisa Acerbo

A review by Domoni.

Rory just moved to Trumbull, a tiny slice of hell. Her mom took a job in Japan and sent her to live with her aunt. Used to a full life in Atlanta, this town with one movie theater and a mall does little to make her excited about her senior year of high school. No friends, no volleyball, no job and no car; what is there to do but be miserable? The first day of school brings Bowen, an attractive boy who convinces thier journalism teacher to pair them up for the big project. Rory and Bowen are going to write an article about the woman in white that haunts the local cemetery. Their first study date (or is it a real date?) has them sitting in the cemetery at night. When the woman in white appears, the teens flee. Unable to believe what they saw, Bowen convinces Rory to return on another night.  When Rory stumbles over a dead body before seeing the ghostly apparition again, things start to get complicated and terrifying.  Now the teens are trying to understand what they saw. Will they solve a murder mystery, a ghost story, or be victims themselves?

This was a great read for me. Well written and interesting, I liked that it wasn’t a classic ghost story. Rory is a rather typical 17 year old girl and Bowen an average 18 year old guy. They dig each other and romance develops. The romance aspect was not the central focus of the story and I liked that. The story mostly followed Rory’s story progression but occasionally we got the aspect of the mystery killer. I enjoyed the progression of the story and getting to know the inside thoughts of this character.  The story took interesting turns that kept things fresh and made the book an easy one-sitting read.

The author does a great job creating the scenes playing out in the story. The characters are fleshed out well and it is fairly easy to grasp who they are and their motivations. I liked the development of the recurring characters that kept this young couple living a normal life amid the unrealistic story that unfolds around them. Many times a book will focus so much on the mystery that you wonder how a couple of teenagers are able to just galavant around focused on being the Scooby Gang and not facing consequences; this story gave a more natural progression to the happenings experienced by Rory and Bowen. I enjoyed this book and would gladly read more by this author.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Wear White to Your Funeral
Lisa Acerbo
Publication date: October 28th 2016
Genres: Mystery, Romance, Young Adult

Rory is your average high school senior. Or she was, until her mother banishes her to hell, also known as Trumbull, Connecticut. The small suburb with only a mall and movie theater, sure feels like the netherworld until Rory’s first day at her new school. That’s the day she meets Bowen, who begs her to join him on a class project. But when Bowen drags her to a graveyard after dark for research purposes, Rory wants to fly back home to Atlanta, or at least return to her aunt’s house unharmed and unmolested.

Nothing could go wrong, right? They talk, they laugh, and they wander among the tombstones looking for information on the local ghostly legend known as the White Lady. Then they have to run, but they cannot outrun a ghost. In addition to the ghostly woman, a half buried dead body leads Rory and Bowen into a deadly game of cat and mouse, but who is the killer? Is it human or something long dead and otherworldly?

The police are of little help, Rory’s aunt just wants her to remain safe, and Bowen, who she can’t stay away from, keeps finding ways to get her into more trouble than she has ever known. Whether breaking into a suspected killer’s house, being followed by a menacing ghost, or being stalked at school, Rory hopes finding the killer will put an end to the supernatural haunting. Before Rory can discover the identity of the killer, she is drawn into the mystery of the White Lady, which opens the door for some very real danger.

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Author Bio:

Lisa Acerbo is a high school teacher and holds an EdD in Educational Leadership. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, daughters, three cats, and horse. She is the author of Apocalipstick and has contributed to local newspapers, news and travel blogs including The Patch and Hollywood Scriptwriter.

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