Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Curse of Ash and Iron by Christine Norris

5 Stars! 

Excellent re-imagining of ‘Cinderella’ with a steampunk twist; a satisfying and magical tale told from dual perspectives, of Ellie and Benjamin.  ‘A Curse of Ash and Iron’ is an old familiar tale set in a new place with some different characters and a refreshing twist on the plot.  The tale touches upon key elements of the traditional ‘Cinderella’ story and provides a much more in depth look at the inner workings of the plot.  Set in Philadelphia in 1876 amidst the introduction of scientific inventions, Benjamin Grimm divides his time between working at the theater and building inventions of his own.  When his childhood friend, Ellie, suddenly appears in the theater one night, his world is forever changed. 

Benjamin is a man of science and invention, with great plans for a career as an illusionist; every aspect of Ellie’s life has been touched by magic.  It was delightful to watch as each tries to convince the other of the validity of what they believe in, and the seamless interweaving of steampunk invention with magic elements was cleverly written.  Norris’ well-developed characters provide the audience with insight to their motivations which makes for a fantastic version of ‘Cinderella’.

Also immensely enjoyable was the not-so-evil stepsister, Rebecca.  Though Ellie bears the brunt of her stepmother’s cruelty, Rebecca is also robbed of certain freedoms and does not add to Ellie’s hardship.  Class division and gender equality in society are mentioned, but not overbearing.  I found it to be a fantastic addition to a timeless fairy tale, as it is rare that one thinks of those things when enjoying ‘Cinderella’.

‘A Curse of Ash and Iron’ sports a strong plot with well-developed characters, a pleasant and G-rated romance and a satisfying ending.  Language and themes are suitable for younger audiences and enjoyable for older YA readers as well.  I highly recommend this enjoyable tale to all YA and fairy tale fans.

received a copy from Curiosity Quills in exchange for an honest review. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Last Knight (Pendragon #1) by Nicola S. Dorrington

Magic! Dreams! Adventure! Merlin! Arthur and his knights!

‘The Last Knight’ begins a bit slowly but picks up when Cara meets Lance, Wyn, and Percy.  Her strange dreams always seem to come true, and with her mother in a mental institution, her father brings her to a therapist when she can no longer sleep through the night. I enjoyed the dialog, the teasing and flirting, between the main characters, as well as homage to Arthur/Merlin legends. I found it refreshing that a romance developed slowly, rather than the all-too-common insta-love in YA novels. 

The best part of this novel was the time travel portion; it was exciting and brought a new level of adventure and exploration to the tale. Cara’s character also matured for having taken this trip.  The ending, however, was the least impressive part of the tale. The ending wasn’t so much a cliffhanger; it plainly many left things unresolved.

Received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

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

5 stars!

Carter’s book about mages is captivating and magical, mostly in character development and vivid descriptions of training and battle scenes.  We follow the main character, Ryiah, through her first year at the realm’s most prestigious magic Academy where she trains hard with her twin brother Alex and friends they have picked up along the way.  Clear your mind of all things Harry Potter; this is a very different depiction of magic school.  Here, magic isn’t taught, it’s an innate ability one either has or does not have.  While there are lessons at the Academy for geography, history, and math; there are training exercises for physical fitness, weapon wielding, and magical casting.  Attendees at the Academy work their minds and bodies incredibly hard their first year in order to secure one of five spots in each category of Combat warriors, Alchemists, and healing Restoration mages.

Though witty, brave, hardworking and dedicated to beating the odds against her, Ryiah starts out insecure in her own abilities, performance, and chances at succeeding.  As two of several low-born first years with enough potential to participate at the Academy, Ryiah and her twin Alex have considerably less schooling and training under their belt than most of their comrades when the year begins.  This only motivates Ryiah to practice harder with weaponry and casting and to study longer hours in the library.  Throughout her first year, we follow her progression of increasing skills and increasing confidence.  This growth feels natural and watching her improve is satisfying.

Also satisfying is watching Ryiah’s usual realistic and sarcastic demeanor turn into fluttered heartbeats and speechlessness as the mysterious Prince’s behavior leaves her confused about both his intentions and her reactions.  There is no insta-love or insta-crush or love triangles in the First Year; a welcome and refreshing change in the realm of magical YA stories.

Some things could have been expanded upon more, and likely will be in the three books to follow.  While several characters had personalities and back stories of their own, the realm in which the school exists is not as well developed.  Nor is the danger Ryiah faces on the road along the way to the Academy in the first chapter.  Still, the book held my attention and I can’t wait to find out what happens next!

I received a review copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Timebound (The Chronos Files #1) by Rysa Walker

5 Stars!

With ‘Timebound,’ Rysa Walker seamlessly integrates a time travel element into an exciting YA novel with well-developed and fun characters while creating an enjoyable pseudo-love-triangle. Details of the clever time travel mechanics are explained clearly as we follow as the main character, Kate, learns of her family’s inherited genetic characteristics that make time travel possible for them, and the unthinkable actions taken by other factions of her family.

‘Timebound’ follows Kate as she copes with a timeline changing out from under her and endeavors to re-establish what once was. Kate is an incredibly likable character with believable emotional and logical reactions to her continually changing circumstances. Issues of altered memories, morality and ‘right or wrong’ are handled extraordinarily well.

A fair and reasonable pseudo-love-triangle exists between Kate and Trey, the guy she falls for prior to the timeline change, and Kate and Kiernan, the guy she meets while traveling through time. Kiernan seems to have the advantage of having built a relationship with Kate in a different timeline prior to his first meeting with the Kate we follow. Kate may end up with the same advantage if she successfully returns the timeline to where it belongs; in that she would remember the relationship she built with Trey, but he would not.

All in all, a thoroughly engaging and enjoyable read for young adults of all ages, as this is not a simple tale of one time travel trip, but rather several adventures through time.

Reviews of other books in this series:

Simon Says (Novella 3)


Amazon - Currently available as part of the Kindle Unlimited program!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Glass Magician (The Paper Magician Trilogy #2) by Charlie N. Holmberg

5 stars!

More varieties of Magic! More Adventure than the first book! More characters and challenges!  The Glass Magician expands on the various types of magic in Holmberg’s reimagined world where magic school and magicians co-exist with the human world that we know today.

The relationship between the heroine, Ceony, and her love interest, has evolved ever so slightly, which will please those readers who enjoy the magic and adventure aspects of this series, but may disappoint readers who wish for the romance to bloom faster.  It reminds me of the slow steps towards an early first love, which is special and irreplaceable.  That Holmberg can remind me of it so vividly is credit to her magical words.

As with the first book, this sequel is fairly action-packed at times, but also delves deeper into the characters and their relationships and friendships with each other.  The book ends with just enough of a cliff hanger to make waiting for The Master Magician a manageable challenge.  Looking forward to reading the conclusion to this unique and creative series!

Thanks to NetGalley for providing a copy of this enchanting tale in exchange for my honest review.


Amazon: Currently available as part of Amazon's Kindle Unlimited program!

The Paper Magician (The Paper Magician Trilogy #1) by Charlie N. Holmberg

5 Stars!

Magic! Adventure! Romance between a strong female heroine and a kind-hearted and worthy man!

The Paper Magician introduces readers to Holmberg’s reimagined world where magic school and magicians co-exist with the human world that we know today.  There are a variety of materials which can serve as a source for magic, and this book primarily concentrates on Folding paper.  Paper, once Folded, that has enough power to beat inside a person’s chest as a temporary heart.  Paper (and words) powerful enough to enchant and warm the hearts of readers of all ages.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing a copy in exchange for my honest review!

Amazon: Currently available as part of Amazon's Kindle Unlimited program!

Prince of Hearts (The Elders and Welders Chronicles #1) by Margaret Foxe

5 stars!

Most of the characters in Foxe’s “Prince of Hearts” are full of surprises, as is the plot. Pleasant surprises, that is. Part mystery (there’s a serial killer), part romance (surprising even the leading lady, Aline Finch), and part adventure (traveling in various steampunk airships), “Prince of Hearts” has captured my heart.


Amazon: Currently available for free with Amazon's Kindle Unlimited program!

Indexing by Seanan McGuire

5 Stars!

Read 'Indexing' all at once, got to follow the Aarne-Thompson Index Management Bureau (ATI) investigate real life fairy tales and prevent the Narrative from wreaking havoc with the unsuspecting human world. Main character Henrietta Marchen is a "709, Snow White" whose story has been averted. Her team includes a Wicked Step Sister, an Elf shoemaker, and a human whose brother died as a result of Narrative interference.

The cases are interesting and exciting for fairy tale fans, including The Little Mermaid, Peter Pan, Pied Piper, Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland, and others.

This is an excellent take on fairy tales, written in first person, enjoyable characters, laughs to be had, and an all around good time through and through.  Excellent work, and highly recommended!


Amazon: Currently available for free with Amazon's Kindle Unlimited program!

Clockwork Dreams by Fan T.C.

4.5 Stars for an excellent spell wielding adventure full of dreamscapes, witches, and a lovely young lady to narrate the tale as she discovers her family's involvement in the centuries long war between witch hunters and the magical beings long since forgotten.

Received Clockwork Dreams in a Goodreads Giveaway.  I thank the author for the opportunity to enjoy such a rich magical world.  Above is my honest and unbiased review.


Amazon: Currently free to read on Amazon's Kindle Unlimited program!

Spelled by Betsy Schow

3 Stars

Spoiled-Brat-Princess Dorthea begins her tale confined inside the Emerald Palace due to a centuries-old curse put on her family. When her selfishness and irresponsibility unleashes a new curse upon her lands, and all of Story, she is forced to adventure out to find the Wizard of Oz for help. With only a sharp tongued servant girl and her betrothed (a magically enchanted chimera) for company, the three find themselves adventuring through the magically altered kingdoms and trading humorous fairy-tale inspired barbs along the way. Though Dorthea is highly unlikable, readers will likely find themselves rooting for her, which is a testament to the author's writing ability.

Schow's creative retelling of "Wizard of Oz" has all the makings of a wonderful fairy-tale; wicked witches, flying monkeys, princesses and a seemingly endless supply of charming prince suitors.  'Spelled' also contains a plethora of fairy-tale and pop culture references.  All in all, a fun read.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.



The Woodcutter by Kate Danley

4 Stars!

Charming re-imagining of various fairy tales.  This book is slow to start, but everything mentioned serves a purpose later on, and the journey through the Wood and the 12 Realms is enchanting, full of faeries, pixies, and humans.