The Lebrus Stone by Miriam Khan

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Hellllllo readers, a little bit of an emotional review for you today; I’ve spoken to a number of bookish bloggers about this but sometimes it gets a bit too much. I’ve thought for a while about taking a blogging break and step back for a while, create some breathing space, get through my review requests and get back on top of it all. We’ll have to see; sometimes it feels like it’s all a bit too much. The reading, reviewing, writing, the social media, the emails, and all whilst attempting to hold down a full-time job, travel home and see friends/family/Lola & Barbie and trying to build on a new relationship. Gah, I feel like I’m having a blogging midlife crisis. I’ve also struggled with the book used for today’s review; a fantasy book which I found difficult to read, but I’ll let you find out why.

When eighteen-year-old orphan, Crystal Valdez, accepts an invitation to the small town of Blacksville, West Virginia, she hopes to have a summer to remember and a chance to learn more about her parents, to also get to know the family she never knew existed. But the Lockes begin to act strange and erratic; eerie movements in the night fuel her vivid and gruesome nightmares. To complicate her summer further, she becomes attracted to the menacing yet handsome Cray Locke: her none blood related cousin. He seems determined to keep his distance.

The only bonus to her trip seems to be the housekeeper and gardener. And when a local informs Crystal of the secrets buried at Thorncrest Manor, the kind consisting of a forbidden relationship and a war between hidden worlds, and witchcraft, she must decide whom to trust. Even if it means leaving behind those she has come to love.

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As the blurb suggests the book follows Crystal who has a horrible start in life in which both her parents die in a terrible car accident. Sent to live with her Aunt who is then a little shockingly killed in a house fire thing aren’t looking to positive. Alone in the world and spending her remaining childhood in a foster care home, a woman who claims to be her long lost great aunt appears seemingly out of nowhere, Crystal is invited to find out more about her mother and her family. But not is all as it seems, once in Thorncrest Manor, the family appear to turn on Crystal and her destructive relationship with Cray looks soon to burst; as readers we follow Crystal as she seeks to find out more about herself and the family she barely knew.

In terms of positives Crystal is a well-developed although complicated character. She has a lot of emotion and she’s written with passion. Her relationships throughout the book were thorny and although she has a lot of layers to her as a character, I found her difficult to warm to. At times she was prickly and her relationship with Cray is a little odd. They are both distant with each other and at times he treats her horribly whilst she adores him. It didn’t sit well with me as a reader. Their relationship is uncomfortable at best and they don’t interact in an open way at all. Additionally with her mood swinging, from needy to jealous to desperately in love, I was exhausted. Although the writing is quite strong in places, as to the description of characters and the like, the pace is slow and I found myself having to read the first few chapters a number of times to get into the book; saying this it does pick up but it’s a slow burner.

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I also questioned throughout Crystal’s decision to stay at the Manor. From almost the moment she arrives there, it becomes noticeably clear that there is something very wrong with the Locke family. Isobel’s character changes so utterly she’s barely recognisable (whilst she shows no intention of sharing any further information) and Crystal starts to suffer with terrifying nightmares which are suggested to be due to her being tormented by ghosts. Throughout Crystal attempts to rationalise what is happening whilst I was yelling to myself ‘get the hell out of there.’ It didn’t make sense to me that a girl with such intellect would stay there so long in such a unpredictable environment. Additionally towards the end of the book it becomes truly disturbing; there are a number of descriptions of rape and sensitive material that I didn’t find fitted or was needed. It all became a bit too much. Additionally the ending didn’t clear anything up for me. Many questions are left unanswered and although I assume due to the ending a second book is in the making I don’t think I’ll be reading it.

I guess for me this book just didn’t work. I’m not sure what I was supposed to get or enjoy from this book. The writing at times works well it has ebb and flow and although it moves with a slow pace many of the descriptions are spot on. I found however the situation that our main character is in and her personality as a whole jarred and became confused. Additionally as we work our way through the story and realise that we’re not getting the answers we expected it feels like the book was for nothing. It’s frustrating and unrealistic and I found it a difficult to read. Unfortunately one I’m a little saddened to have read.

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Dreamscape by Kirstin Pulioff

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Helllllo readers, today’s review is quite special to me because it was recommended by an author that she contact me. Being recommended by an author that you’re worth the wait for a review is an *over-the-moon* feeling. You want your blog to get to the point where people ask for reviews not only because you review alllll books but because they are good/solid reviews. It just makes it feel all the more special. Before I get too mushy, onto my review of Dreamscape.

Sixteen-year-old Alexis Stone is used to getting away from life’s frustration with Dreamscape, a video game she’s loved since childhood. As her family prepares to move, a sleepy night of gaming pulls her into the world like never before. Trapped in Dreamscape’s realm, Alex is about to learn that being a hero has consequences… and this time, the stakes are deadly. Will helping the rebellion cost her everything she knows and loves? Or will she betray them to save her own life?

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The more fantasy books I read the more I admire the genre as a whole; I don’t fully enjoy the genre yet, and I wouldn’t pick up a fantasy book as a choice in a book store but more books like this one could help me to really start reading this genre but extensively. As the blurb suggests the book follows Alex who is in a bit of a mess. Her family are planning the move from her childhood home and it’s the worse time possible. As she prepares to move her and her best friend decide to play their favourite childhood game, but after dark when she attempts the game again, she is pulled into the world of Dreamscape. Here she must battle the game again but without the cheats; will she succeed? Will she join the rebellion? Can she ever escape the game? In this fantasy story all will finally be revealed.

This isn’t your typical fantasy tale, here we explore a fantastical world but in the sense of the game ‘Dreamscape.’ I thought the descriptions of the games were evocative and rich helping to place us into the narrative background. Alex at the beginning is exasperatingly angry about having to move which I found infuriating but as the book progresses her character truly evolves into a warmer more intriguing character. I must admit I didn’t really fall for her in the way that I do, as in I desperately wanted her to succeed but it’s nice to watch her story and her journey develop. I thought in terms of this when she has to decide whether to face her role as the hero full on or use her ‘cheats’ and ‘shortcuts’ to leave the rebellion was an intriguing way to connect the game, and the difficulties that Alex is dealing with in her real life.

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In terms of the additional characters that we meet along the way I thought they were delightful. Arrow is writing with power as being the leader of the rebellion but he has a warmer kinder side to him whilst I thought that Melody was a deadly power female and wished we had learnt and heard more from her throughout. The writing as I mentioned briefly is strong; Alex seems everything in the game much more vividly and I thought the little changes between the game and reality helped to both connect both realities but also keep them separate. Also if you’re looking for castle, guards, missions, secret-missions, that’s all here too; all the standard game items as well.

In terms of problems the book doesn’t start with a bang, it starts quite slowly and with a lack of pace. It does pick up and for me I would keep reading for enough chapters to really get into the book but it was a little hard going. Although the characters are given interesting character profiles Alex to start with is whiny and irritating. As I’ve mentioned in the main review it’s okay because she changes so much as the novel progresses but at the beginning it does grate. Additionally the ending was, how can I put this? Disappointing? It made me angry as a reader because it just ends. The book works on a romantic storyline which is just dropped.

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Overall a book of two halves for me; writing is strong, starts slow but moves with pace. Characters are well worked but then the ending falls a little flat. I think overall this is a good fantasy reader for YA readers who like the genre. I thought the concept was really clever but a little more explanation with the ending and making Alex a more likeable character would have help me to utterly love this book.

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Mildred’s Resistance (The Network Series #3) by Katie Cross

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*Eeeee* such a truly special review for you today. Katie Cross has been an author that I have treasured working with over the past two years. Her constant jubilance and her flawless way with words is one that is rarely matched in her genre of choice. I say this a lot, fantasy books are not my thing, really. HP = yes, everything else = mainly no, but she is one of the few authors that when she emails me I think gah bloody yes, send it over now goddamn it. I will calm down, but this will be another review whether I sing praises for this stunning author. Hands down brilliance.

Absolute Power Corrupts Even the Best of Friends.

Mildred Graeme is a witch that knows what it’s like to fail. She loathes small talk, struggles with magic, and grew up wretchedly poor. What’s easy for her best friend Evelyn, a wealthy, powerful socialite, is difficult for Mildred.

The two lifelong friends reunite at Chatham Castle where they fight together for the dream of a better world. Mildred wants to save the Network from political elitism, while Evelyn encourages it. When Evelyn gains power and threatens to obliterate the Network, Mildred realizes that she must overcome her fear of failure to save the lives of those she loves, even if it means betraying her best friend.

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I guess the first thing to add is that, Mildred’s Resistance is a prequel to the well-loved Network Series and immediately it is a brilliant, can’t-put-it-down style novel. Prequel’s can sometimes feel a little, shoved in? As though the author suddenly realises that we need some more back-story to create more of a story in the present, but here it honestly feels not only pivotal to the writing of the coming novel(s,) but well thought-out and constructed. I don’t want to give spoilers which is always a little difficult when you get quite far into a series, but the story follows the back-story of High Priestess Mildred Graeme. As readers we get to experience her growing up, the struggles she overcomes, especially her heart-breaking family tale and the difficulties with her friends Evelyn and Stella.

The book in total covers thirty or so years so there is a lot of character profiling, inter-weaving character stories and relationships and the roles of the girls in the Central Network but Cross appears to handle it effortlessly. The book does focus at lot on Mildred, I mean it’s her book and I adored watching her transformation that isn’t so easily seen in the later books. I also thought the change in POV (we switch from first to third) was brilliantly done. It’s not such an easy thing and can sometimes feel a little rocky (I find authors tend to prefer and stick with one) but the new way of writing really suits the toying and froying of the book and the jumps in time a lot better so spot on Katie.

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As always, Katie packs a punch in terms of her characters and manages to bring depth to every single one that we meet. Mildred I thought was given so much complexity and wisdom (as she is in the later books) it often felt like she could step out of the pages and tell me the story herself. Not every author can do that and not every author can hold my attention so deeply. This did and for me it’s a big compliment to Katie. I thought the way that Katie dealt with the relationships between the girls (especially Mildred and Evelyn) was pulled apart and explored really well as to bring the characters to life a little more.

The writing once again is strong and evocative, Katie brings the fantasy world to life easily and with style, this paragraph I thought was particularly poignant.

“The smell of Piccadilly Pub’s famous pumpkin soup wafted from the ovens in the back. She ignored the heady scent and kept her eyes on the close, wintry streets of Chatham City. A queue of witches bundled up against the cold loitered near the little trinket shop across the street, where the slow accumulation of dirt stained the brick, and the cobblestone street had worn smooth. She tilted her head to see the sky, but the close buildings admitted only a grimy light. Still, downtown Chatham City was a charming place.”

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I guess the only critique I can really make is stepping back in time although tells us a lot about the characters the story doesn’t feel like it’s moved forward so for those wanting to know what’s going to happen next. But it needs it, not only to setup the first two books but also to give an inkling as to what is going to happen in the next book ‘The High Priest’s Daughter which will be out in September 2015! *Squeals.* Additionally, for me, the magic involved isn’t too overwhelming, it instead is an addition to the story and it flavours it rather than taking centre stage which I liked because it focuses more on our characters but if you’re looking for punchy magic sequences it’s not so much about that.

Overall, this is a simply wonderful book full of sublime characters, a strong plot and premise, yes a prequel but one that focuses on the points it needs to make to give us the answers we’ve been waiting for. I would 100% recommend this book, and Katie’s entire series of book if I’m completely honest. These reviews sound like broken records but they are truly and honestly worth a read. I promise you.

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Gifted (The Hayven Series Book 1) by J.A. George

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It’s Julllllllllllllly and the month of my birth. I’m already having a little think about how to celebrate turning twenty-two but I think currently burritos with friends would be the perfect way to do that. Moving on from burritos today’s review is another fantasy despite my reprieve of the genre a number of reviews back. I just can’t seem to help myself I always seem to be falling back to this genre and the Amazon reviews were glowing so I settled back, gave this a read and found it rather wonderful. If a new fantasy story is what you’re searching for this may be the ticket.

“Why do birds fly? Why do lions hunt deer? Why does the sun shine and the moon glow? Because it must. I wish I could tell you why, I truly do. It mustn’t be easy, such pressure weighted on such young shoulders, but we do not always choose the lives we must lead.”

Avery Gray had no choice but to be different. She was not born that way; she was chosen.

After having met a special, silver-haired woman, and the handsome and enigmatic Theodore-James Connors, Ava finds herself in Hayven, a city separated from the rest of the world, where only gifters – ordinary people with extra-ordinary gifts – can go. With Theo, his friends, Hayven, her gift, and the ability to ‘travel’ in different colours, Ava must now accept that she can no longer classify herself as normal. As friendships develop, and Theo and Ava become closer than she anticipated, it turns out her new gifted life comes with a catch. With no choice or say on the matter, Ava must save a city she is starting to fall in love with; a city that has almost begun to feel like home.

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I adored this book because it had just the right healthy mix of both fantasy and magic. The problem I have with fantasy is that often it becomes too fantastical or fraudulent for me to truly revel in the writing. Some may find this a little odd knowing my adoration of Harry Potter as a series but there are so many clever quips that thousands of fans on their birthdays still joke, although tinged with a little sadness, about their missing letter to Hogwarts. Here I felt that the amount of fantasy interwoven into the story was measured and calculated as not to throw too much at the reader. We meet Avery who discovers that she has an extraordinary gift; the ability to read and hear minds . As we continue through the story we explore and meet more gifted characters and here we begin an emotional journey as Avery discovers who she is as her and her friends attempt to outrun the Cliders.

I thought that Jessica George’s writing style was so warm and candid. It enveloped me as a reader and pulled me deeper into the story. I found myself reading chapter after chapter barely noticing as my six o’ clock reading start quickly became seven and then eight o’clock. To have a book of this genre put me into a kind of reading stupor is so evocative of how much I enjoyed this book as a narrative. I thought what was really wonderful was the description of the powers; I don’t want to give too much away but this description was just, well, sublime.

‘He showed me his gift by simply holding out his hands, palms facing upwards, and I watched in deep fascination as he hands begun to glow a soft, sunset pink before turning into a crimson red, then a canary yellow, finally turning a molten orange, before his entire hand spontaneously ignited and went aflame. “It doesn’t hurt,” he assured me once he’d caught sight of my panicked expression.’

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I think for me it is the utter attention to detail that is relayed to the reader to help place them into this new exciting setting.  I thought the little details were lovely, the fact that no two ‘gifters’ can have the quite the same gift, I thought the Cliders were a little terrifying and helped to add suspense and danger whilst I really loved seeing Ava grow and the beckoning romance between her and Theo. I thought that every single one of the characters was really well fleshed out, Ava starts a little whimsical but she grows to really throw herself at things and she’s an exciting character throughout. I had a real soft spot for Theo, he’s at times terribly infuriating and then wonderfully sweet. Each of the powers is described with gusto and creativity. It’s really wonderfully done and I loved the intertwining love/friendship stories that carried on in the background. Additionally a little odd comment but I loved the length of this book, it was slightly longer and allowed for so much more description which made the book so much more enjoyable.

Overall I adored this book and I hope I’ve left enough for you to really get your teeth into and explore as a reader. This is a fantasy book with a fantastic set of characters, powers, skills and relationships and one I am very happy to recommend to you wonderful readers

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The Beauty Thief: Rachael Ritchey

Good evening readers, currently settled on the sofa with my cosy jersey top and my sweats, legs crossed and the no makeup ‘au natural’ look. This is my favourite way to blog comfy and restful. This morning I opened up my email inbox and found a barrage of requests and they were still coming; ten, eleven, twelve. My phone was beeping and flashing oddly. It turns out that my request to be published on the book blogger list came true yesterday and according to the emails made top billing. My inbox has been going crazy and it is wonderful so expect lots and lots more reviews over the coming weeks. But today one that has been waiting a little while; without further delay today’s review is of the wonderful ‘The Beauty Thief’ by Rachael Ritchey.

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 In the Twelve Realms there lives a man who covets life. He lurks in the shadows, intent upon stealing that which sustains his perpetual existence: true beauty. Princess Caityn’s loveliness reaches from what the eye sees to the very marrow of her soul. The thief’s covetous heart desires the life her beauty possesses and will stop at nothing to take it all. So a little look at the bare backbones of the book; the narrative ultimately follows Princess Caityn a princess who understandably wants to marry the man of her choice however she ultimately gets paired with Prince Theiander. As the two warm and interact more closely with each other it seems they are destined to be together however as their wedding day nears The Beauty Thief is ultimately determined to steal Caityn’s beauty and ruin everything that she has ever dreamed of.

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 I must admit from the very first page I felt a sense of warmth rise from the pages of this book, it has a real sense of wit and humour created mainly through the beautiful understanding and creation of Caityns character. She’s blunt, honest, witty and a genuinely true character. This is brilliantly contrasted with the turnaround of Caityn’s character after the change; she has an empty soul and the author devises this wonderfully, it feels bare and naked and you can’t help but feel for the main character. The book hangs on this and therefore it is incredibly important that this distinction comes across with skill and understanding. I think what was additionally really well done was that Caityn doesn’t take on the weak or feeble female character profile but instead she still feels real and you can see the true Caityn despite her changing. I really think that Ritchey made this come forward and take centre stage and that takes real ability and dexterity. In terms of writing the book is told in third person past tense and does come from a number of different character perspectives and although the majority of the story comes from Caityn and Theiander there are a number of minor secondary characters who push through and take their place especially a number of the villains.

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What was additionally really carefully built up was the idea of the fictional world and the twelve realms with each known for a different landscape, family or export. It really helps to sink the world into a slot of reality and makes it feel genuine. It’s difficult sometimes with fantasy to get the balance between the two, magical and wonderful but additionally genuine and authentic. The language and the use of bows and arrow against swords and shields really helps to enforce the fantastical genre feel without it feeling to forced and to obvious; it’s a real skill and one that should really be emphasised in this review. The colourful land and the exciting characters kept me enthralled throughout. The dialogue is snappy and witty with colourful exciting language full of quips and comedic anecdotes. In contrast The Beauty Thief is dark and nebulous it’s definitely a thought through concept.

So would I recommend this? Yes, yes, yes. If you love YA fantasy fiction you need to pop this on your TBR straight away. If, like me, you’re not quite as much of a true fan of the genre I think this is a great breakthrough fantasy fiction read. It really made me sit up and think and the beauty thief concept, although I haven’t delved into it too much in the review because I want you to explore it for yourself, I think is really original and in the YA fantasy fiction world that isn’t all to easy to find. I honestly can’t wait to see what this author writes next!

The Water Travelers: Heir of the Unknown: Daniel Waltz

Afternoon wonderful readers, it’s Monday again and the start of a new productive week and hopefully a productive month overall! I’ve got some reviews, a blog tour and a couple of 101 things posts planned for this week, but today a fantasy review to bring to you. I’m going to be attempting to finish a number of 101 things challenges this month and there’s a couple of the bigger goals starting to really progress which I can’t wait to finish. As well as starting my first book, I’m also only five pounds off losing the weight I wanted to at the start of the challenge and although I’m going to set a stretch goal I’m happy and surprised that my target weight loss has happened a lot quicker than I thought it would. But enough of me babbling onto the review.

Adventure finds those who are brave enough to take the first step. Aaron never wanted to pursue kingship, but his care for the lives of his people forced him toward it. When his father, The King of Upitar, sends him on a quest to find a girl who was prophesied long ago to destroy their world, Aaron finds himself fighting the option of running away forever or fulfilling his destiny as the Heir of Upitar. By water traveling, a gift his people have that allows them to go back and forth between their world and Earth through water, Aaron starts this adventure with thousands of thoughts and questions racing around his head.

While on his journey, he inadvertently meets the very girl he’s sent to kill, Madalyne Harper. Without knowing it’s her, an unlikely romance between the sarcastic and daring Madalyne Harper begins to flourish with the rebellious and curious, Prince Aaron Archien. As they grow closer, Aaron begins to learn of secrets within the Harper family regarding water travelers. Wanting to learn more, and wanting an excuse to hang out with Madi, Aaron continues to delay his original mission. As family problems and outside forces press down on them, Aaron and Madi soon find themselves running away together. Everything between them is great until Aaron learns the girl he has connected so well with is the same girl he’s going to have to kill…

Recently fantasy books and I have had a bit of a fall out and it’s been a long time coming. Although I read all genres of books and am very proud of that as a book blogger fantasy is one of my least favourites. However when I stumble upon one that I enjoy I like to let you all know. So as the rather long blurb points out, the book follows Aaron the prince of Upitar, who is sent on a quest by his father to find a girl who is said to be the one that will end the connection between their world and Earth. See, Upitar is an alternate dimension of Earth and the people who reside there are known as water travellers because they travel between their world and earth through, you guessed it, water. With the survival of the connection between the two worlds on Aaron’s shoulders he sets out to complete this dangerous mission. Along the way he meets a wonderful female character who he accidental falls for. Except there’s a small problem she’s the one he’s supposed to kill.

So onto my review; although a little stereotypical and predictable in terms of original storyline I really enjoyed this tale. I think the addition of the Water Travellers gift really helped to make the book feel more exciting and unique. The idea is that any body of water that you can submerge yourself in can be used as a portal which was a really wonderful addition to the book on the whole. The characters are well written and have an engaging and relatable feel despite being a fantasy style book. You don’t feel that they are too removed from our world and I think that this will really appeal to young adults who I see as the main reader base. I think at times the dialogue was a little stilted and their romance does become a little too fanatical but it’s not too much of a negative because it’s rather sweet overall. The plot moves with pace and has hints of real style especially in the description.

I think my main issue with the book was that Aaron doesn’t realise Madi is the girl he’s sent to kill until we are fully submersed in the plot. I assumed that he knew this quite important fact as he grew more and more fond of her but Aaron doesn’t seem to notice. Maybe it’s me having read too many books I’m starting to be able to guess plot lines from a mile off but this one didn’t sit right with me as a reader because it felt a little disjointed. If the reader can spot it but the main character can’t there’s a mismatch there for believability. Saying that when he does (finally) realise it is a little heart breaking and I think readers of the target audience, maybe a little younger than I will really enjoy it. I think this author has a lot to give and I’m not sure whether this is quite the finished product although a strong start. I think the books he produces will only improve because there’s obviously talent there. Overall this is a lovely book with some interesting fantasy themes and original snippets to help bring it right up to date. The romance is a little sticky in terms of writing but overall an interesting book for readers who are fans of the fantasy genre.

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