The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse – review

What happens when we die? 

This has been the third question on mankind’s FAQ list since the dawn of time (numbers one and two being: Is this edible? and Excuse me, would you care to breed?). 

I know what happens. Believe me, I’d rather not. But I do. 

There is a lighthouse, and it guides our souls along the narrow path to being reborn as humans. It’s the light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, as my undead granddad and the Tibetan special mission monk in my kitchen have kindly told me, there’s a problem with the lighthouse. And if the world is to be saved, someone needs to fix it.  Which is where I come in: George Larson, eighteen years old. Who could possibly be better suited to save the world? 

Well, almost anyone. Especially as being a teenage guy is nothing at all about question three but all about questions one and two.  And really, that’s complicated enough as it is.

This is the first release from new publisher on the block Steam Press, by Swedish author, Fredrik Brounéus. Firmly set in the landscape of the South Island of New Zealand, it brings together fantasy elements with science fiction, and perhaps what some might consider horror elements – I mean, it has a zombie, though he only seems to be worried about his next coffee fix. Your brains are safe.

From the get-go, this book was making me smile. The main character, George, is very likable, and Brounéus has nailed the late teen, kiwi male perspective. He made for an amusing protagonist, and one that I could get behind. I wanted him to ‘win’ though I wasn’t sure what that might entail, being that there is a great deal of mystery surrounding what it is he’s meant to be doing.

I was drawn right into that mystery, and had to read on to find out what on earth was going on. Eventually all the clues, hints and suggestions become clear in a grand reveal that blew my mind. LOVE the concepts in this book, though I don’t want to say too much as I don’t want to ruin it for you. If you like your humor mixed with some action, some mysticism, philosophy and science, then I think you might really enjoy this book. I adored the footnotes (a really nice change from reading footnotes in research articles!), the drawings and the easy to engage with style that this book is written in.

If you are keen to check it out, head over to Steam Press and read a sample!

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Stone Cold Seduction

When a regular night of Robin Hood-ery results in the manifestation of some, um, unusual paranormal abilities, perfume-maker Elleodora Fredricks realizes the normal world she lives in isn’t quite… normal. And neither is she, thanks to her father, king of the shadow elves. Not only is he evil incarnate and the reason Elle moonlights as a burglar-someone has to take care of all his victims-he’s stolen her memories.

And only reading her fate can fix that.

Good thing she’s got a trio of hotties willing to help her find said fate, but only if she gives them something in return. Saving her oracle BFF’s fiance, falling in love with the gargoyle, and making up for breaking the phoenix’s heart ought to be a piece of cake for the princess of the shadow elves.

If only the king didn’t want his daughter dead…

Author: Jess Macallan
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Release Date: 5th September, 2011

I really wanted to like this novel. I mean, gargoyles! It’s something I haven’t read in urban fantasy before now and I’ve always had a soft spot for them. Not only are there gargoyles, but also phoenix, elves and all other kinds of things going on. For the main character of the novel, this comes as a huge surprise – not only do all these creatures populate the world, but they have many powers, and what’s more, she is a princess of the shadow elves! That’s one hell of a learning curve.

The good things:
The story line is actually pretty good. Lots of mystery, and a bit of action, the story crosses the country and then the ocean. I liked the main character for the most part, and I liked the fact that she has two potential love interests – both of whom have her mentioned as their mate in their fates. It was a twist on your typical romance story line (even if the guys themselves are the stereotypical males), and I liked the fact that while the men were tied to her, she had a say in which she ended up with. I’m not really a fan of ‘destined’ relationships, so it was nice that it wasn’t set in stone.

The baddies in this novel are bad. Luke, Elle’s father’s henchman, is particularly nasty. I felt like the emotional/mental turmoil painted in the novel was quite well done, and it gave Elle something else to struggle with. There was also a good twist towards the end which threw some spanners in the works for the main characters, which I didn’t see coming.

The not so good:
I didn’t find the writing to be as engaging as other books I have read lately, and it seemed as though the story hopped around a little bit. For instance, the opening has the Elle mid theft from her father’s company. She encounters Jax – her employee, in her father’s offices – but it isn’t until much later, way after the fact and after other things have happened, that she stops to ask him what on earth he was doing there. There were a lot of moments like this where I felt like the characters weren’t responding to the circumstances in a realistic manner.

I felt like Elle’s introduction to her new reality was done a little inelegantly. Large portions of the novel are info-dump and back story – that said, I liked the flashbacks Elle had, showing her chunks of her history that she had forgotten, specifically to do with her father, his henchman, Luke, and McLean (the phoenix) – there is a lot for Elle to learn, and for the reader too, but it did feel like it was being told to the reader rather than being integrated into the story smoothly.

The verdict:
Will I read the next book in the series? I’m not hanging out for it, but I will definitely take a look at the blurb and see if I am interested when it’s released.  I think this one will definitely appeal to those who like their urban fantasy/romance novels, and it has plenty of potential for growth. This novel seemed more like an introduction to the world/characters/story than anything else, and I am sure things will kick off with a bang in the second book. I give it three stars.

E-arc courtesy of Entangled Publishing and NetGalley.

Spellbound – Cara Lunn Shultz

What’s a girl to do when meeting The One means she’s cursed to die a horrible death.

Life hasn’t been easy on sixteen-year-old Emma Conner, so a new start in New York may be just the change she needs. But the posh Upper East Side prep school she has to attend? Not so much. Friendly faces are few and far between, except for one that she’s irresistibly drawn to—Brendan Salinger, the guy with the rock-star good looks and the richest kid in school, who might just be her very own white knight.

But even when Brendan inexplicably turns cold, Emma can’t stop staring. Ever since she laid eyes on him, strange things have been happening. Streetlamps go out wherever she walks, and Emma’s been having the oddest dreams. Visions of herself in past lives—visions that warn her to stay away from Brendan. Or else.

My thoughts:

When I read the premise for this book, I just knew that I had to read it. I think that I’m becoming a bit of a sucker for YA Paranormal Romance books.

The theory of reincarnation is not a new one, but with the way that the author has written this book – it’s a great twist on that theory. I was enthralled by both Emma and Brendan, and their unnatural draw towards each other.

Emma has by no means had it easy. In fact, her entire life has been disaster followed by more disasters – each worse than the previous one. Apart from moving to a strange city, and living with her aunt, and going to a strange new school – Emma thinks that life is better than it was previously, until she discovers a past that she has no way of escaping.

Brendan with his sexy bad-boy/rock star looks, has never been attracted to anyone at his school, and he doesn’t intend to start now, either. Then Emma arrives at school, and turns both their lives on its axis. Nothing is what it seems, and nor can it be easily explained.

There is a lot of back story built into this book, that allows the reader to really get a feel for the world building that Cara Lynn Shultz has developed. There are broken relationships, death, myths, bizarre happenings, and of course bonds that are made to be broken. This is a complex storyline for a Young Adult book, and I have the impression that the age it is aimed at is definitely 16+. There are moments in this book that are so riveting, that you can just feel the despair in the characters when contemplating their impossible situation.

Emma has some incredibly amusing thought processes that really made me laugh. They are so typical of any female swooning over someone, or meeting people for the first time. But my favourite line that really made me laugh, is this one: “She was so cold, she probably farted ice cubes.” There is also the typical female teenage catty dialogue that is so prominent within the territory of adolescent world. Cara Lynn Shultz has a natural knack for capturing that, as well as the typical teenage male macho grunting, and conversation avoidance issues.

But if you put all of that aside, you realise that this book becomes a fight for their survival as they try and understand a curse that was laid on them hundreds of years beforehand. I think that all teenagers have a natural curiosity about the unexplained, the paranormal, and the impossible. This is where Cara Lynn Shultz really hits the nail on the head. There is the romance, the unexplainable, and the spookiness that  captures teenage attention, as well as the actions that forces Emma into impossible situations.

I think that in terms of a Young Adult book, I would probably give this a 4 star rating. It was fun, witty, gripping, and the characters were great. With these types of dynamics woven with the myths and unknown, it was a great plotline.

Title:  Spellbound 

Publisher:  Harlequin

Imprint:  HarlequinTEEN 

Pub Date:  06/28/2011 

ISBN:  9780373210305

Two Moon Princess – Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

Publisher:       Tanglewood

Pub Date:        04/15/2010

ISBN:                9781933718279

To Andrea, the life of a princess is not a dream; it’s tedious and stifling. But the certainties of her life, both good and bad, are thrown into chaos when she accidentally travels to an alternative world, from a cave on a forbidden beach in her family’s kingdom to the warm and carefree life of Southern California.

Then a careless visit to the cave results in terrible consequences: a brewing war between kingdoms, her sister’s love for the wrong man, Andrea’s own conflicted feelings for an enemy leader, and dark family secrets exposed.

Andrea needs to act to resolve problems which she helped to create, and she faces many difficult choices, torn between duty and desire on so many levels.

Readers will enjoy the mix of traditional elements of the fantasy genre, with fresh ideas and a look at our culture through the eyes of a stranger.

My thoughts:

Andrea is a very strong willed young woman who doesn’t actually want to live her life as a princess or as a lady in her father’s court. She would prefer to be in the middle of a fight or in her father’s army.

But when her father forbids her fulfilling her dreams as a squire, Andrea discovers a doorway into another world that only legends of old have foretold. When she stumbles through the doorway she finds herself in the unknown lands of modern day California. There she finds family she never knew she had, and friendships that she never dreamt of.

When Andrea finds herself once again accidentally tumbling through the doorway between the two different worlds, not only does she not want to be there, but she also has a native Californian in tow with her. And her fatal actions have consequences for her kingdom, which sends a chain of events snowballing out of her control.

After reading the premise of this novel, I was waiting and waiting for Andrea to find the secret doorway between the worlds. It took a while for this story to build up to that point, and I initially found myself getting frustrated with the opening pace. Once Andrea did get to that point, I found it very hard to put this book down.

I loved how strong willed Andrea was, even though she can be a little childish in her manner sometimes.

Andrea is a strategist, but no matter how whimsical her decisions are at the time, she goes gallivanting off and puts her plans into action without thinking of the detrimental consequences that her decisions will have on her kingdom or the people close to her.

My only criticism would be that the author did jump a little, and I sometimes found myself getting slightly lost, but in the end I just ignored it and went with the flow of the story.

I am going to rate this novel 3 stars out of 5 because while I felt that this book was actually quite a good read, it did take a while to get into it. I even contemplated putting the book down in those first pages, but I am glad that I persisted. I enjoyed the characters and the individualism of all of the sub characters in the story. I also really loved the Spanish history that was woven into the pages.

D is for Davis

Originally post at just-cassie.com on January 14th, 2011

Amy Rose Davis, to be precise. I actually scored a copy of her novella Silver Thaw for free from her blog at the end of last year – she was hoping for reviews, of which I am finally going to deliver!

In a mining town filled with forgotten men and used up women, a handcuffed girl and her deaf guard arrive just as a blizzard descends. Lured by the girl’s singing and driven by an old obsession, one man releases an ancient spirit that threatens to destroy the town and the estate it supports.

I can honestly say that Silver Thaw is a really good read. I think it took me a couple of pages to get into it, but then I was hooked. It’s a delicious fantasy, with a great setting and really vivid characters. I was drawn into the story and powered through it in one day, staying up late to get to the end and see how it all resolved.

The story is told in four parts, marking the four seasons of the year, and the progression of the tale, with four different characters taking the ‘lead’ in each part. It’s a clever way to write a story, and with each part building on the world and plot line, the pressure builds right until the end. I liked a lot of the characters in this novella – even though many of them are in no ways perfect – and appreciated the tropes she employed in her story, and the way she let those unfold.

This is Amy’s first release – she has a novel coming out next month – but even so, it is substantially better than a lot of the indie published stuff I’ve read in the last few years. I wouldn’t say the novella was perfect, but it was a refreshing read and made me hopeful for the rest of this challenge – who knows what else I might come across? I’m definitely planning on getting a copy of her novel,Ravenmarked, when she releases it. I have a feeling she’s going to do well for herself in the indie world, and I wish her the best of luck.

Not sure what’s next on my list. I have a few things to chose from. Hopefully my Kindle arrives today (or tomorrow, please Kindle, show up!) and then I’ll be able to read away from my computer.