Book Review: Vera’s Song by Natalie Erin

Yesterday my blog was hijacked, but I really didn’t mind. I thought the character interview was great. But moving on to today and it’s LAUNCH DAY for Vera’s Song by Natalie Erin. I have to say, I love this cover!

Vera's Song cover

I received an ARC (Advance Review Copy) of the book in exchange for an honest review and this is what I thought of it:

Book Review – Vera’s Song by Natalie Erin

Having read the first book in this series and enjoyed it, I was interested to see what the author would do with this one. Was it going to be the dreaded second book in a series which didn’t live up to the promise of the first? Actually, no. In fact it was quite the opposite.

Erin introduces some new characters in this story and ties them in nicely with those from book one. Vera’s Song takes us forward about four years from where the previous tale leaves off. Kiatana has grown in confidence and taken the mantle of queen of the forest to the next level. Her son is typical for his age: curious, fearless, and a bundle of energy.

Wyntier, a new character, is deliciously evil. He’s hatching a plot and needs Kiatana’s son and his changer to make it work. Wyntier is cruel to the nth degree. He beats his changer, Vera, for the slightest thing and yet she loves him and does whatever he wants, even if she knows it’s wrong. There are no redeeming features in this character. He shows no remorse for anything he does, or the pain he causes. Driven by his need to be powerful and to control everything around him, he will stop at nothing to achieve it. I had to wonder why he was so brutal and driven and this was never addressed. It would have been interesting to know his background a little more, but even the flashbacks to his childhood showed a nasty boy who bullied weaker kids.

Vera’s a conflicted character who has been in love with Ionan, Keota’s changer, since they were young. She yearns to be reunited with him, but despite the harsh treatment she endures, she still won’t leave Wyntier. Vera’s character is well crafted. You feel her frustration, pain, love, and basically she has a good heart. She wants to do the right thing and tries in her own way to make life more comfortable for Wyntier’s victims. I found myself really sympathising with her plight and she’s the one who has stayed with me the most.

The other new characters all added something meaningful to the story. Some of them were written in a stronger voice though. Those from book one had all grown into their skins or pelts. However, I found Keota to be less effective in places and would have liked to see him as formidable as his wife, Kiatana.

The plot itself was exciting and dramatic. There were lulls, but they didn’t diminish the story; there needed to be some less intense moments so the reader could draw breath and take in what had happened in the previous few pages. There were no plot holes and the only part of it which felt contrived was an altercation with some elves. Later in the story, the elves return and the complete 180 didn’t quite sit right with me. However, the rest of the story was so engaging that this small irritation didn’t spoil it for me.

The world Erin built in book one was equally as strong in this one. From forests to icy mountains and beaches, her description was detailed without being overwhelming. She brought each part of the world seamlessly into the story giving good reasons why the characters were there.

For me, the definition of a good, enjoyable book is one you can remember several weeks later, and that’s exactly what’s happened here. I finished reading Vera’s Song about three weeks prior to writing this review and yet I find myself transported back into the pages as if I’d finished it only yesterday. There were enough errors which made me want to shoot the editor or proof reader for missing them, but they didn’t detract from my pleasure in reading it.

In conclusion, this book was better than expected, a good and memorable story with characters that stayed in my heart long after I finished it. If you’re looking for a fairy fantasy read with something a little different, I would certainly recommend Vera’s Song.

My Rating 4/5 stars

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Book Launch & Review for Mountains of the Moon by Connie J Jasperson

As you saw a couple of days ago, I revealed the cover and book trailer for Mountains of the Moon by Connie J Jasperson (in case you missed it, click here). Well, I’m really excited to announce that today is the official launch day and as I was lucky enough to see the manuscript prior to it being available for sale, I decided to write a book review for you.

First though, let’s just have a reminder of the blurb:

Charged by the goddess Aeos, Wynn and his companions bicker and bumble their way through the Mountains of the Moon. Danger, mystery, and dark prophecies chase them through a gauntlet of jagged peaks and deadly traps.

Can they survive the dark secret hidden in Tauron’s crumbling castle before his minotaurs overrun Neveyah?

The Gods are at war, and Neveyah is the battlefield.

And now, here are my thoughts on it.

Book Review – Mountains of the Moon by Connie J Jasperson

MOTM Front Cover Final 6-18-2015

Having read Tower of Bones and Forbidden Road, I was thrilled when I discovered Connie was writing a story set two generations previous.

Wynn Farmer, the grandfather of Edwin (the main character in Tower of Bones), finds himself in what is, for him, unknown territory. He’s met by a mage who takes him to Aeoven, the main city in Neveyah, where he falls in love, marries, then finds out he needs to go on a quest with three others to stop a rogue mage from committing any further dastardly deeds.

I won’t say any more about the intricacies of the plot as I hate reading spoilers in reviews. However, I will discuss it in general terms.

The story begins slowly and gathers momentum as you continue through the pages, reaching an amazing climax just before the end – a bit like good sex really. But all innuendo aside, it has to be that way as the four questers train for a task that will test them to their limits. As the story unfolds, the main character grows into his skin, learning to control his magic along the way. Events affect all the companions prior to leaving for the quest which adds nicely to the story.

Once the quest begins and the four mages are on the outskirts of their destination, having had to deal with various strange creatures on route, the author turns up the heat. She twists and turns the fates of the four in ways which are totally unexpected. I’m not going to reveal whether they all make it out alive or uninjured – you’ll have to read the book for that – but suffice to say, the ending was momentous and satisfying.

Connie crafts her characters in totally relatable ways. None of them are without faults and some are more lovable than others, but all of the main cast are definitely memorable. The dialogue is as realistic as the characters. They have their strengths and weaknesses, fears, loves, and insecurities, just like you or I. My favourite character was Wynn, closely followed by Devyn D’Mal. Those of you who have read Tower of Bones will undoubtedly recognise that surname! Her ‘baddies’ are deliciously heinous, but are also realistic. They have aspirations to climb the proverbial ladder to success, which in their case is being rewarded by Tauron, the Bull God, but they also have their self-doubts, relationships, and varying degrees of arrogance and subservience.

Jasperson is one of the few writers on my bookshelf who can successfully build a world which is so exquisitely detailed, that it seems too real not to be fictional. She doesn’t go overboard with description, but gives just enough for the reader to fill in the gaps, yet does it in such a way that you don’t realise it. She knows the world she’s created as well as her own home town and it shows in her writing; there’s a confidence which runs through the writing as she talks about various places, which is a rare thing to find.

Overall, this book is well-written, gripping in all the right places, and a damn good story. I won’t hesitate to recommend this to fantasy fans, especially those who love epic fantasy, as I know for a fact there are more books being written in this whole series. And I, for one, can’t wait to get my hands on them!

Buy Links – Amazon http://hyperurl.co/MountainsOfTheMoon

http://bit.ly/MOTMKindle

http://bit.ly/MOTMNook

Connie 2014

 

Connie J. Jasperson lives in Olympia, Washington.  A vegan, she and her husband share five children, a love of good food and great music. She is active in local writing groups, an editor for Myrddin Publishing Group, and is a writing coach. She is an active member of the both the Northwest Independent Writers Association and Pacific Northwest Writers Association, and is a founding member of Myrddin Publishing Group.  Music and food dominate her waking moments. When not writing or blogging she can be found with her Kindle, reading avidly. You can find her blogging on her writing life at: http://conniejjasperson.wordpress.com

Connie J. Jasperson’s  body of work includes:

WORLD OF NEVEYAH series by Connie J. Jasperson

Mountains of the Moon – Danger, mystery, and dark prophecies, lie deep in a gauntlet of jagged peaks and deadly traps. Can Wynn survive the dark secret hidden in Tauron’s stolen castle before the Bull God’s minotaurs overrun Neveyah?

TOWER OF BONES, series based in the World of Neveyah

The gods are at war, and Neveyah is the battlefield.

This epic fantasy series opens with Tower of Bones, and follows Edwin Farmer as he journeys deep into the lands claimed by the dreaded Bull God, in an attempt to rescue a girl he has only met in his dreams.

Forbidden Road takes up Edwin’s story six years later. When four mages are sent into the shadowed lands claimed by the mad priest of the Bull God, who will return unscathed? Sorrow, peril, and magic await in the Valley of Mal Evol.

OTHER BOOKS BY CONNIE J. JASPERSON

Huw, the Bard, a novel that takes you to the world of Waldeyn, and a medieval alternate reality. Fleeing a burning city, everything he ever loved in ashes behind him, penniless and hunted, Huw the Bard must somehow survive. Available as an ebook and in paper.

Tales From the Dreamtime – a novella consisting of three modern fairy tales told in a traditional style. Available as an ebook, in paper, and as an Audiobook, narrated by the wonderful voice actor, Craig Allen.

Book Review – Kiatana’s Journey by Natalie Erin

Kiatana's Journey

This book was a little different to what I expected. It contained everything described on the blurb and a bit more besides.

I loved the character of Kiatana. She was feisty, opinionated, and didn’t like people disagreeing with her or answering back. Maybe it was due to her upbringing and the fact she’s a princess with her own realm. However, she cares passionately about all the creatures in her forest kingdom, and has a softer and more playful side to her.

The characters of Lottie and Lilja were an absolute joy and I loved to see their journey from pups into adulthood. At times they had me laughing out loud and in one place I had a lump in my throat. The book was definitely the richer for their inclusion.

Some of the other characters were well crafted, especially Ionan, but others left me wondering &/or rolling my eyes. I felt Keota was a bit of a wimp with not much common sense at times. Although he could be quite assertive with Ionan, when it came to dealing with Kiatana or anyone else, he seemed to be a hapless twit. At the end, he seemed to grow within himself, but for me it was too little, too late. The other character who didn’t seem quite real was Casiff. When he first entered the story, he was a real nasty piece of work and at that point he was well written, but further in he did a complete 180 degree turn and became Mr Nice and Generous. It could be argued that meeting a certain powerful lady had something to do with it and I’m sure she was influential in his change of heart, but for me it was too abrupt a change to be realistic.

Most of the scenery was well described and I could use my imagination to fill in the gaps the author left, which I really liked.

For me, the one let-down in the book was how little space was given to the plague in the forest which sent Kiatana on her journey in the first place. It could have been drawn out a little more to give a real sense of urgency, with more detail of the sickness and how it affected different species.

Despite some of the things I wasn’t so keen on, I did enjoy this book. There was a twist I didn’t see coming and the ending has been left in such a way as to allow for a second book. I hope Natalie Erin will take the foregoing as constructive criticism as she undoubtedly has talent and I look forward to seeing her next offering.

 

Book Review – Alora by Megan Linski

Alora 2

This was an enjoyable read. The main character, Alora, is the last of the Anmortals, a girl during the summer months and a white wolf with wings during the winter. She has grown up in the forest so it’s her playground and her home. Alora loves running around, what she believes is her domain, and looks upon herself as queen of the forest. She’s content with her life until she meets August, a mortal boy, who befriends her.

I don’t like writing spoilers as I think people should make up their own minds about books, so I’ll concentrate on other aspects. In my opinion, Alora has been well crafted. She’s quite a feisty character who is very territorial, brave, and can be stubborn, yet there’s also a softer side to her. The author uses all Alora’s traits well. August was a bit weak. He behaves according to the people he’s with and easily bows to peer pressure. The only time he seems to be natural is when he’s with his adopted sister or Alora. His love for Alora is deep, but there were a few instances where I found myself questioning just how committed he was to her. However, these doubts were laid to rest at the end.

The area Alora inhabits and travels around was well described and I found I could picture most of it quite clearly.

There were places in the book where I felt it could have benefitted from a little more editing, but overall it was a good book to while away a few pleasant hours.

Review: Huw the Bard by Connie J Jasperson

I have to say, this is one of the most unusual fantasy books I’ve read in a long time. Set in an alternate medieval dimension, it is chock full of adventure, treason, rape, murder, and magical creatures the like of which I’ve never before encountered.

HTB New Front Cover copy

The main strength of this book, apart from the wonderful storytelling, is the depth of characterisation given to Huw. He is an eighteen-year-old bard at the height of his craft when disaster strikes and he is forced to flee the city he has called home since before reaching double digits. With nothing but the clothes on his back, Huw, now a wanted man, must make his way to safety if he wants to survive.

As you take every step with Huw, you feel his pain, desolation, joy, and sorrow, and by the end of the book, he’s become a friend to treasure. Jasperson has crafted her main character richly; you see his transformation from a talented, spoilt, and somewhat vain young man who’s used to being fawned over and adored, to a humbled, desperate, penniless one who finds courage and a good heart.

At no time is the emotion overdone; it is layered with sufficient detail for the reader to empathise with each situation Huw finds himself in and, in my opinion, strikes just the right balance.

Each of the supporting cast is given definable personalities and, along with Huw, leap off the page.

The world-building is expertly designed and described in colourful detail. The magical creatures are, in some ways, the stuff from nightmares yet in the author’s skilled hands, they are believable and realistic.

The plot is adventurous and well outlined. There is never a point when a reader will not want to turn the page to see what’s going to happen next, yet it’s not a ‘fun and frolics’ type of adventure (although there are a few amusing bits). There’s plenty of sadness, guilt, anger, and revenge, to accompany the bravery, battles, romance and light-hearted banter.

Already a big fan of Jasperson’s work, Huw the Bard, took me in an unexpected direction, showing what a versatile fantasy author she is. I loved this book and it gets a solid 5 stars from me.

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for an exclusive excerpt from this great book!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Connie 2014

Connie J Jasperson lives and writes in Olympia, Washington. A vegan, she and her husband share five children, eleven grandchildren and a love of good food and great music. She is active in local writing groups, and is the Olympia area municipal liaison for NaNoWriMo. Music and food dominate her waking moments and when not writing or blogging she can be found with her Kindle, reading avidly.

You can find her blogging at: Life in the Realm of Fantasy

http://conniejjasperson.wordpress.com

Tower of Bones Series – Book I, Tower of Bones takes the reader to the world of Neveyah, where the Gods are at war and one man holds the key to winning that battle. Book II, Forbidden Road is the follow-up, and picks up the story six years after the end of Book I, Tower of Bones.

Tales from the Dreamtime, a novella of new fairytales told in a traditional style, consisting of two short stories and one novella.

Billy’s Revenge Series Huw, the Bard takes you to the world of Waldeyn, and a medieval alternate reality. Fleeing a burning city, everything he ever loved in ashes behind him, penniless and hunted, Huw the Bard must somehow survive.

 

Book Launch & Review – Burdens of a Saint by Joan Hazel

One of the coolest things about being with Myrddin Publishing Group (apart from the awesome writers, great friendship, and the support we give each other), is discovering when new books are going to be launched before everyone else. It’s exciting to find  some real gems and having the chance to review them, especially when they’re fantasy or paranormal romance. Such is the case here.

My good friend and Myrddin colleague, Joan Hazel, launched her latest book on Monday – Burdens of a Saint. Check out this fab cover:

Cover BOAS3

This is the blurb on the back:

Your life will change today…

When Janet Beesinger writes the words in red on her calendar, she has no idea what they mean. But, as a psychic, she knows when the Universe gifts you with personal information, you listen.  How was she to know the Universe meant an irritating and sexy shape-shifter who would challenge everything about her life?

Saint Wolfe can feel the gravity of his arrangement with the goddess Hel closing in around him, forcing him to confront his past and the betrayal of the woman he was to marry. Needing to make peace with his past, he returns to New Orleans in search of forgiveness, only to be confronted by his own immortality. His only hope for atonement lies in the hands of a woman claiming to be a psychic. Will she be able to help Saint find salvation before his debt to Hel comes due?

Intrigued yet? Well, if you want to know what I thought of it, read on. Here’s my review:

After reading, and enjoying, the first book in this series – The Last Guardian [What? You haven’t read it yet? Get over to Amazon now and click that buy button! Yes, I’ll wait for you to come back . . .] – I was looking forward to seeing how the story would develop. I was also a little concerned as to whether Burdens of a Saint would live up to my expectations. I’m glad to say I wasn’t disappointed.

I don’t like writing spoilers, although it’s going to be hard with this story running through my head, but I’ll try.

The characterisations in this book grew beautifully and organically from book one. I felt I got to know them in greater depth and found myself longing for Saint to achieve the happiness he’d been denied for so long. Ms Hazel created further nuances to the personalities of the characters which made them more fascinating, although with some, not always more likeable. Saint, the main character in this book, was like an enigma wrapped up in a conundrum – at times puzzling, occasionally a challenge, sometimes uncomplicated yet also with an endearing vulnerability. I love the way he was portrayed – the author did a great job of balancing the different facets of his personality while still making him relatable and believable.

The new cast interacted interestingly with the existing members. I particularly liked Janet and could empathise with her on many levels. I was intrigued by Eric; it was a tad exasperating not finding out from where his powers originated, but hopefully that will be covered in a future book. It was great to see how CJ (the Guardian) had grown into her role – I had to smirk a little when she exerted her authority – but I would have liked to see her do so a bit more often. However, maybe that’s yet to come; CJ wasn’t the main focus of this story.

The plot moved along at a steady pace and kept me turning the pages long after I should have stopped reading and switched off the light! The introduction of clairvoyance in this story was very realistic and the author obviously knows this subject well. The paranormal and magic aspects were believable and natural.

Thus far, this series has left enough cracks and lingering thoughts about what’ll happen to certain characters in the future for there to be more books about the Guardian and her wards. There are also some unanswered questions. There’s certainly plenty of scope for the author to do so, and I really hope she does.

Would I recommend Burdens of a Saint? ABSOLUTELY! I would advise you to read The Last Guardian first though, as it firmly establishes the relationships and hierarchy, and it would make reading Burdens of a Saint even more enjoyable.

My rating: 4.5 / 5

Now I’ve told you how good it is, click on one of these links and get yourself a copy:

Amazon US / Amazon UK

Oh, and check back next week for a character interview (and no, I’m not telling you which of the shapeshifters it is)!

About the author:

Joan Hazel Pic

Joan Hazel has written three novels that range from paranormal fantasy to contemporary to historical fiction. An accomplished actress and vocalist, she has performed with companies across the eastern United States. In her spare time, she plays with a colorful cast of characters who live in her head. She currently resides in DeLand, Fla., with her husband, Ricky, and their two fur kids.

Joan’s contact info:

Website: www.joanhazel.com

Blog: http://joan-hazel.blogspot.com/

Twitter: @guardianwriter

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Joan-Hazel/362411800440684?ref=hl

Book Review: Darkness Rising – Chained (Prism series) by Ross M Kitson

I’ve been meaning to write a review for this book for ages, but you know how it goes – things just get in the way and the good intentions get pushed lower down the pile. Since reading this fantastic book, I’ve devoured the next three in the Prism series (there will be six in total), so I’ve decided to treat you to all four reviews, one after the other. Here is the first one; the rest of them will follow over the next couple of weeks.

Anyway, down to business.

DR1

Click on image to go to Amazon

The Blurb

Wild magic comes at a cost… that of the mind.

Emelia dreams of escape from her life of servitude. She dreams of magical powers; she dreams of dark things. When tragedy awakens the sorcery within her she embarks upon an epic journey in the company of two charming thieves.

In the Dead City an ancient evil awakens. The Lord of the Ghasts covets a magical Prism, the clues to which lie with Emelia. And when he begins to share her dreams, surely it is only a matter of time until she succumbs to his power?

My Review

I’ve always loved fantasy so when this book was recommended to me by a friend, I jumped at the chance to read it. I expected it to be good, but it wasn’t – it was fantastic!

Emelia is an impoverished girl who was sold into servitude by her island-dwelling parents. She works hard, dreams a great deal, and has a sassy side (although she doesn’t dare show it at the beginning). She has a voice in her head (Emebaka), an alter-ego of sorts, who often encourages her to step outside her comfort zone yet is occasionally the voice of reason. When Emelia’s closest friend is murdered by the father of her unborn child, Emelia’s wild magic awakens within her.

I loved Emelia’s growth as a character in the story. When she meets Hunor (a thief), and Jem (a sorcerer and thief), she’s gradually accepted into their ‘team’ and learns survival skills; she becomes proficient in the use of weapons, Hunor teaches her how to steal without getting caught, and Jem guides her in gaining control of her magic.

Emelia is not without flaws, but that makes her more real, and I found myself rooting for her.

The main supporting characters of Hunor and Jem were extremely well-crafted. Hunor comes across as a cocky, cheeky chap with a ‘devil-may-care’ attitude. He’s an accomplished thief who has made quite a few enemies on his many journeys yet he seems, on the surface, to have no fear. Jem’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder adds a twist to his character. He’s obviously gifted in the magical arts, but at the same time, there’s a vulnerability about him that is refreshing.

Vildor, Lord of the Ghasts, is deliciously evil. He and his minions will stop at nothing to get what they want and, as one might expect, are prepared to murder, subvert and possess whomever they choose.

I found all the characters to be totally believable in their respective roles and superbly written. They are complex, riveting and vibrant. I loved the way they grew naturally through the story.

One of the most important things in writing an epic fantasy is the world-building and Kitson has built a memorable, realistic and relatable realm. His description brings each city, each land, to life with colour and clarity. The history and cultures of the different lands and the events which shaped them make an impressive and interesting background which has been cleverly created. It’s richly detailed, diverse and its inhabitants are as atypical as those in our own world.

The plots and sub-plots have many twists and turns, and while some may view the overall premise of the tale as ‘predictable fantasy fodder’, I found it exciting, compelling and unexpected.

This book is incredibly well-written. The author took me on a fantastic journey that I didn’t want to end. Ross Kitson is certainly a name to watch out for – if there’s any justice in the world of publishing, he’ll be bombarded with offers and contracts!

If you love an epic fantasy that grabs you in the first couple of pages and leaves you breathless at the end for more then don’t hesitate – get this book NOW! 5 STARS FROM ME!