Not very original

‘The Gift’ – Alison Croggon

2-star-rating-1

The Gift - Alison Croggon

The Gift – Alison Croggon

Maerad is a slave in a desperate and unforgiving settlement, taken there as a child when her family is destroyed in war. She is unaware that she possesses a powerful gift, a gift that marks her as a member of the School of Pellinor. It is only when she is discovered by Cadvan, one of the great Bards of Lirigon, that her true heritage and extraordinary destiny unfolds. Now she and her teacher, Cadvan, must survive a punishing and uncertain journey through a time and place where the dark forces they battle with stem from the deepest recesses of other-worldly terror.

So, from the blurb, you can expect to think this book is different to many fantasy books already out there. But, I was sadly mistaken. This book is so similar to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, that it just becomes frustrating. It took me ages to read The Gift and each time I picked it up, I was more saddened than the last that Croggon did not seem to write an original idea.

Ok, so let me give some examples. We have a journey that needs to happen, a pilgrimage through a fantastical world where Maerad and Cadvan are attacked by mystical creatures. They are taken to a secret world in the middle of a very large forest, meeting a race of elf-like people living in a beautiful city (sounds like a bit like the Elves in The Lord of the Rings, huh?). The final part of the novel is about Maerad trying to be accepted by the Bard council. And the leader turns out to be a corrupted Bard who has crossed paths with Maerad when she was a child. (Perhaps a bit like Sauruman in The Lord of the Rings?!) The book finishes with Maerad and Cadvan desperately trying to escape whilst chaos ensues, ending with the start of the next phase of their journey…. yeah, you get where I am going with this one.

Croggon began the novel with such promise and I was really excited to read this one; the trilogy has been sitting on my bookshelf for ages. But, as I started to see the links between the two plots, I grew disinterested in the plight of Maerad and Cadvan, and instead kept looking to see how many pages I had left to go. Why did I continue reading, if I was so disappointed? Aaah, because I was so curious to see how it would finish. In fact, the final few chapters started to get more interesting for me as Maerad is initiated and discovers the truth about how her mother died.

I will probably trudge through the next two books, to see how they run and whether Croggon develops more original material. As with any series, I am always keen to see how they pan out and what happens to the characters. However, if you are looking to read a fantasy novel, I would definitely steer clear of this. If you know about The Lord of the Rings trilogy, you will find yourself making comparisons between the two.

Jump around

‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ – Audrey Niffenegger

5-star-rating

The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

This is the extraordinary love story of Clare and Henry who met when Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-two and Henry was thirty. Impossible but true, because Henry suffers from a rare condition where his genetic clock periodically resets and he finds himself pulled suddenly into his past or future. In the face of this force they can neither prevent nor control, Henry and Clare’s struggle to lead normal lives is both intensely moving and entirely unforgettable.

Firstly, I must apologise that I haven’t blogged for a while! Totally shameful, but life has taken a massive and positive turn and I have found my time to read significantly reduced. Hopefully I can get more time in the future (I certainly hope so!) but followers of Mrs Brown’s books, do not despair, I will read as and when I can and blog as soon as possible. Stay tuned!

So, although this did take me a while to read, I was revisiting a previous love. The one thing that always stood out for me was how Niffenegger makes the non-linear narrative work so effortlessly. Normally I would frown upon reading a book that doesn’t flow in chronological order or, in this case, one that switches between time and narrators in such a short space of text. But, once you get used to this and how it is a defining part of the story, it is difficult not to embrace it and enjoy the lack of predictability.

I love the whole concept of someone who can time travel. One of my favourite films is ‘Back to the Future’ but this is in no way similar. Forget the Delorian and a mad scientist, when Henry experiences intense emotion he finds himself transporting to another place, unfortunately ending up butt naked at his new destination. The near-misses he experiences with the law and the confusion he causes with his work colleagues at the library were particularly intriguing, especially the incident with the Cage…

The relationship between Clare and Henry is endearing. Clare is the backbone to the relationship, the steady  rock that progresses through time whilst Henry’s own memories are being jiggled around. As Clare is growing up, you can’t help but wonder how she and Henry will wind up married, especially as it feels as if she is waiting for the next appearance of Henry. Henry’s protectiveness towards Clare is sweet and as the novel reaches its climax, you know he is doing everything in his power to make sure she is strong right towards the end.

What I really enjoyed was how Clare and Henry shared his unique disorder with those around them, from the doctor to their close friends. I was always sceptical about how soon they seemed convinced Henry was telling the truth but then, with his strange behaviour and inexplicable ageing between encounters, I guess it was the only explanation that could really make sense to them. As I was reading this novel, I did wonder whether it would work if Niffenegger included some sections from those closest to Henry, such as Alba, Gomez or Ingrid. It certinaly would add another dimension to the story but I figure it would mean the novel would lose its charm.

If you have seen the film adaptation of this novel, I would still recommend you reading ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’. It is so different to other books out there and has so many plot elements that it will keep you guessing as much as Henry is with where he will next end up!

When a story takes a life of its own

‘Inkdeath’ – Cornelia Funke

1-star-rating (1)

Inkdeath - Cornelia Funke

Inkdeath – Cornelia Funke

The fire-eater Dustfinger is dead, having sacrificed his life for his apprentice Farid’s, and now, under the rule of the evil Adderhead, the fairy-tale land is in bloody chaos, its characters far beyond the control of Fenoglio, their author. Even Elinor, left behind in the real world, believes her family to be lost – lost between the covers of a book.

Facing the threat of eternal winter, Mo inks a dangerous deal with Death itself. There yet remains a faint hope of changing the cursed story – if only he can fill its pages fast enough.

The final book in the trilogy, ‘Inkdeath’ follows in the same threads as the previous novels. Remaining in Inkworld, trouble escalates as it feels as if every man and his dog can write in new material to the living story. As such, it is only until the final showdown that peace is eventually restored.

I found this book equally tedious to the others and really struggled to read it. As such, I ended up dipping in and out of the book and it took me four weeks to get through it. However, this is not a total criticism: each time I revisited the book I found I had not lost touch with the plot and could easily continue where I left off. The character profiles at the back of the book were really helpful in this case, particularly as the cast keeps growing ever bigger! So, if you do find yourself lagging when reading ‘Inkdeath’, take comfort that this is one you can put to one side for a while.

I think I found Meggie and Dustfinger’s stories most enjoyable to follow. They were the most unpredictable and I found myself liking their characters more and more as I disliked Mo at the same rate. I was surprised at how the story concluded (it was wanting to know the ending that made me persevere reading this) but enjoyed the final closing chapter and the perspective Funke offers.

If you liked the other two books in this series then I imagine you would enjoy this one, just not as much. ‘Inkdeath’ is so lengthy, (in my opinion, unnecessarily so,) that it lacks the pace needed to keep you interested. There are some exciting moments in this but I feel Funke would have done better just leaving this story alone after the first novel. I’m glad I have now read this series but I can safely say I won’t be repeating this experience!

Plenty of twists and turns

‘The Faerie Guardian’ – Rachel Morgan

4-star-rating

The Faerie Guardian - Rachel Morgan

The Faerie Guardian – Rachel Morgan

Protecting humans from dangerous magical creatures is all in a day’s work for a faerie training to be a guardian. Seventeen-year-old Violet Fairdale knows this better than anyone—she’s about to become the best guardian the Guild has seen in years. That is, until a cute human boy who can somehow see through her faerie glamor follows her into the Fae realm. Now she’s broken Guild Law, a crime that could lead to her expulsion.

The last thing Vi wants to do is spend any more time with the boy who got her into this mess, but the Guild requires that she return Nate to his home and make him forget everything he’s discovered of the Fae realm. Easy, right? Not when you factor in evil faeries, long-lost family members, and inconvenient feelings of the romantic kind. Vi is about to find herself tangled up in a dangerous plot—and it’ll take all her training to get out alive.

This is a delightful and charming fantasy novel to read. Morgan successfully creates a magical world of faeries and mystical creatures and it was a pleasure to delve into this place. Easy to get in to, the plot had many surprising twists and turns along the way that kept me guessing right until the very end.

The world that Morgan creates is intriguing and I loved the magical elements that came across. Being able to write “doorways” in walls that take the conjuror to where they are thinking of is the method Violet uses when she starts seeing Nate. Her ability to conjure weapons out of thing in air, her tree house home and spells that are woven to protect and create (such as ball gowns, for example!) made ‘The Faerie Guardian’ a pleasure to read and I could really picture the events unfolding. As such, I found myself wishing that a bit more time was spent revealing Creepy Hollow (the fae realm where Violet and the other faeries live) because it was such a magical place. It reminded me a bit of ‘Avatar’ at times, particularly in the scene where Violet and Nate climb the tree and the fact that faes in Creepy Hollow live in the trees.

Character motives were really surprising and throughout I found myself being suspicious of them. Morgan keeps you guessing and reveals little segments at a time but even then there is still more that she holds back (probably in preparation for the second book in the series). I found myself constantly distrusting Ryn throughout, despite his actions towards the end of the novel, whilst at the same time didn’t want to believe the worst of Nate. I really enjoyed how the characters became linked over the course of the story and as more was revealed about them, wanted the author to keep them in the spotlight of the action to understand their personality a bit more.

This book kept me interested throughout. The fast pace and unusual narrative made this a pleasure to read. I think if more time was spent with some of the key characters, such as Angelica, Nate or Zell, then this would have added more depth to the story. That being said, I really liked the bonus chapters at the end as they certainly filled in some of the gaps in the story. The only downside was that it became a little repetitive as the dialogue (obviously) doesn’t change.

‘The Faerie Guardian’ was a great read and I am really keen to learn what happens next in the follow on novel. I loved the magic and spells that Morgan wrote about and really liked Violet and her ways. I really hope that the next story spends more time revealing the ways of Creepy Hollow because it is so different!

This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Tiresome

‘Inkspell’ – Cornelia Funke

1-star-rating (1)

Inkspell - Cornelia Funke

Inkspell – Cornelia Funke

The captivating sequel to ‘Inkheart’, the critically acclaimed, international bestseller by Cornelia Funke, an author who is emerging as a truly modern classic writer for children.

Although a year has passed, not a day goes by without Meggie thinking of Inkheart, the book whose characters became real. But for Dustfinger, the fire-eater brought into being from words, the need to return to the tale has become desperate. When he finds a crooked storyteller with the ability to read him back, Dustfinger leaves behind his young apprentice Farid and plunges into the medieval world of his past. Distraught, Farid goes in search of Meggie, and before long, both are caught inside the book, too. But the story is threatening to evolve in ways neither of them could ever have imagined.

So, despite me not overly enjoying the first book, ‘Inkheart’, I decided to give the second book in the trilogy a go. Unfortunately for me, this book failed to deliver and I found ‘Inkspell’ more tiresome than the first.

The story returns to the magical world of fairies and words. This time it all starts when Meggie reads herself into Ink world and this is where the trouble begins. The story world has gone out of control and I found it predictable when Meggie and Fenoglio realise that the only way to counteract the troubles, is to write new passages into the book and for Meggie to read them aloud. I think it is because I could see where the story was going, that I got bored of ‘Inkheart’ so quickly. Just like the first book, the passages are lengthy and it feels like it takes a while for it to get going. Despite this, I kept going with this read because I was curious to know what happened to characters. So, I guess the writer does well in this sense as Funke encourages us to care about the characters and their fate. Will they ever return to the real world?

There is a very helpful character list of the start of the book. There are so many characters that it does get quite confusing. Regular readers of my blog will know that I find too many characters makes quite onerous reed, so you can understand why perhaps I didn’t appreciate this book as much as other readers. 

I was really disappointed in this story and was hoping it would redeem itself in the second book. Alas,  I had trouble keeping focus on the story and yes, whilst I totally agree that the premise is magical and unique,  I feel that the delivery was poorly executed.  ‘Inkspell’ took me a while to get through but I still believe I will read the concluding story just so I can find out what happens to the characters. I know, however, that I can’t promise a glowing review!

Welcome to the indulgence of Civitas

‘Secrets of the Unaltered’ – Leti Del Mar

5-star-rating

Secrets of the Unaltered - Leti Del Mar

Secrets of the Unaltered – Leti Del Mar

The fate of the entire Confederation rests on their shoulders.

Only they have what it takes to uncover the secrets that have imprisoned their land, but can they survive a truth more disturbing than they ever imagined?

Rose and Flynn have left the Land of the Unaltered on a mission to discover the truth behind who created the genetically engineered super army and stop it before the Rebellion is doomed. Time is ticking, but soon capital life begins to pull them in different directions. Flynn struggles to fit in with the self-indulgent and fashion obsessed populous while the expectations of Rose’s influential family tests their fragile and newly formed relationship. Will they let the capital pull them apart?

Everyone is counting on them, but in this time of discord, can they count on each other?

‘Secrets of the Unaltered’ is a Young Adult Dystopian Romance and is the second instalment of The Confederation Chronicles.

About the author:

Leti Del Mar

Leti Del Mar

Leti Del Mar lives in sunny Southern California with her husband, daughter and abnormally large cat. When she is not writing, reading, or blogging, she teaches Biology and Algebra to teenagers. Leti is also a classic film buff, is passionate about Art History and loves to travel.

Author links:

Facebook / Twitter/ Web / Goodreads

Review:

What a great follow on from ‘Land of the Unaltered’! Continuing straight on from the first book, Leti Del Mar keeps up the pace with the setting moving to the intriguing city of Civitas. This was a read I couldn’t put down and it was very easy to rate it five stars.

In my review of the first book, I noted how easy it was to imagine the craziness of Civitas from Rose’s descriptions. This time the story takes place in this city and the author’s descriptions were so vivid that it brought it alive in my imagination, leaving me hungry to find out more about this indulgent place. The intense desire to follow fashion (in this book it went from tangerine to turquoise and then to black and gold!) is quite believable based on how Del Mar has described the characters. We finally meet Rose’s mother and her friend Constantine and I just loved how different they are in comparison to Flynn and his upfront way of living back in Eureka.

Both Rose and Flynn find themselves being pulled in two directions as they settle in to life in Civitas. Whilst Rose is desperate to please her father, Flynn cannot forget the mission they are supposed to be completing and is keen to get home to a Eureka as soon as possible. The dual narrative once again allows the reader to be privy to both Rose and Flynn’s feelings, particularly as they feel themselves drifting apart because of the distractions that Civitas has to offer. However, what I found surprising was that the author causally does not include information about the characters which we do not follow, for example Flynn racing transportation in the afternoons, and this little extra detail I think would have added even more to the portrayal of life in this city.

The mystery that Rose and Flynn are working on deepens in this story and the romance definitely takes a back seat. The revelations that came throughout were mostly surprising to me and I really enjoyed the final showdowns leading up to the ball and then on to the end. Del Mar has definitely set readers up for an exciting conclusion and I can’t wait to read what happens next.

This is a great read and one I could easily imagine being turned in to a film. I really enjoyed reading about the city of Civitas and we are finally given that extra information about the great virus that caused society to change. There is a lot of scope to cover in the next story and it would appear that the other cities also get involved, so I am keen to see what role they play. I read ‘Secrets of the Unaltered’ in one day because it was so enjoyable and got me hooked so quickly. Bring on the next title!

This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Give-away:

Enter with a chance to win a $10.00 Amazon or B&N gift card and three digital copies of ‘Land of the Unaltered’. Good luck!

Buy links:

Click the links below to get yourself a copy, only $0.99 for the duration of the book tour:

Amazon / Smashwords

Tour Banner

To follow the tour of ‘Secrets of the Unaltered’ by Leti Del Mar, please click here.

A mixed bag

‘RecruitZ’ – Karice Bolton

3-star-rating

RecruitZ - Karice Bolton

RecruitZ – Karice Bolton

Scientists are the new rock stars. The infection has been contained for nearly three months, and the world is celebrating. But humans are still dying. Rebekah Taylor has seen it firsthand. Her husband was killed right in front of her by the very creatures that humans were told they no longer had to fear.

Rebekah is determined to find out who is responsible for the death of her husband and the obvious cover-up. Fueled with revenge, she begins to find answers that lead to one frightening conclusion. The apocalypse might be over, but the battles are just beginning.

Goodreads

About the author:

Karice Bolton

Karice Bolton

Karice Bolton lives in the Pacific Northwest and is a writer of Young Adult and New Adult books. She loves to read anything and everything. She also enjoys baking, skiing, and spending time with her wonderful husband and two English bulldogs.

Books currently available:

‘The Camp’

Beyond Love Series:

‘Beyond Control’ (Book 1)

‘Beyond Control’ (Book 1)

‘Beyond Doubt’ (Book 2)

‘Beyond Reason’ (Book 3) – 28th Feb.

Afterworld Series:

‘RecruitZ’ (Book 1)

The Witch Avenue Series:

‘Lonely Souls’ (Book 1)

‘Altered Souls’ (Book 2)

‘Released Souls’ (Book 3)

‘Shattered Souls’ (Book 4)

The Watchers Trilogy:

‘Awakening’ (Book 1)

‘Legions’ (Book 2)

‘Cataclysm’ (Book 3)

‘Taken Novella’ (Watchers Prequel)

Karice would love if you stopped by her blog or FaGoodreadscebook page to find out the latest news on give-aways and upcoming releases, or you can just send her an email. She loves hearing from her readers and responds as soon as she can.

Author links:

Facebook Twitter Web / Goodreads

Review:

‘RecruitZ’ is a novel that delivers in peaks and troughs of interest. I found it really difficult to rate this one and couldn’t quite decide if this deserved a three or four star rating. In the end I settled for three out of five and hopefully this review will explain why.

The premise of ‘RecruitZ’ really intrigued me. The idea of the world recovering from a serious outbreak that turned the infected into zombies did appeal to me and reminded me of films such as ’28 Days Later’ and the opening chapter of the book certainly did not disappoint. The exciting opening saw our main protagonist, Rebekah (a lovely and unusual spelling for such a popular name!) trapped in a car with her husband, with a crowd of zombies battling to get in. Furthermore, the car they are stuck in is a voice-activated one and only responds to certain commands, and not when it detects pedestrians being at risk. The question of their escaping alive caught my imagination (despite what is hinted at in the blurb) and it was sections like this one that made ‘RecruitZ’ a real page-turner.

But what let this novel down for me was that at times the plot either was lacking in depth or there really wasn’t much going on and I felt like Bolton was trying to “pad out” the story a bit. This was disappointing for me as there were times when I wanted a lot more from the plot, such as more insight into the background of the outbreak, or more details about when Rebekah is trying to escape in the opening scene. Then, on the other hand, scenes such as when Rebekah is in the gym before there are deadly visitors, came across as rather dull. The description of her working the bars in the cage just didn’t appeal to me and this lessened the pace of the story because it seemed so lengthy.

There are a lot of hints made in this story and, being the first in a series, I hope that they are elaborated on in the next novel. This will help maintain reader interest because I think there is a lot of backstory that needs explaining. Now that the scene has been set and the characters established, there is definite potential to crank up the pace in the next instalment.

So, whilst this book does have some exciting and tense scenes to carry you through, there is still opportunity for more plot development. I liked the premise of the story and the mystery surrounding the outbreak and the role of the scientists was certainly intriguing. It will be interesting to see how the characters progress now that they have their first round of answers.

This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Give-away:

To celebrate the blog tour of ‘RecruitZ’ by Karice Bolton,  followers can be in with a chance to win a $50 Amazon card. This competition is open internationally and the enter link is below. Good luck!

Rafflecopter

Click the links below to get yourself a copy of the novel:

Amazon / B&N / Kobo

RecruitzTourBanner2To follow the tour of ‘RecruitZ’ by Karice Bolton, please click here.