Teaser Tuesdays (10)

Teaser-Tuesdays
Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Teasers

Suddenly she felt nervous, like he knew something she didn’t. “How did you know I’m even going to school here?”
Cam sighed. “I know everything, okay?”
“Then you’re here to fight Daniel?”
Cam’s green eyes narrowed. “Why would I – wait, are you saying you’re here to see him?”
“Don’t sound so shoked. We are together.” It was like Cam still hadn’t gotten over that she’d picked Daniel isntead of him.
Cam scratched his forehead, looking concerned.
When he finally spoke, his words were rushed. “Did he send for you? Luce?”
She winced, buckling under the pressure of his gaze.
~p. 127 Torment by Lauren Kate

In My Mailbox (5) / Mailbox Monday (12)

mailbox

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. (Library books don’t count, but eBooks & audiobooks do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia at The Printed Page, who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring meme (details here). This month it is hosted by I’m Booking It.

In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren.

In My Mailbox

Title: Spirit
Author: Graham Masterton
Genre: Thriller, Psychological Horror, Adult
Review copy provided by Dorchester Publishing.

Laura and Elizabeth Buchanan’s lives were changed forever when their little sister Peggy was found dead in the icy water of the family’s pool. But Peggy never left her sisters. As Laura and Elizabeth grow up, a string of inexplicable deaths threatens to shatter their lives. Each corpse shows signs of frostbite–and each victim’s dying moments are tortured by a merciless little girl in a white dress.

Title: Die For Me (Revenants #1)
Author: Amy Plum
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Review copy provided by HarperCollins.

DIE FOR ME is the first of three books about Kate, a sixteen-year-old American who moves to Paris after the death of her parents. It introduces a new version of the undead with revenants, beings who are fated to sacrifice themselves over and over again to save others’ lives. Kate finds herself falling for Vincent, who she discovers is not the typical French teenager he appears: he is something else entirely.
DIE FOR ME presents a new supernatural mythology presented in a city where dreams are sometimes the same as reality.

Title: Starcrossed
Author: Josephine Angelini
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Review copy provided by HarperCollins.

How do you defy destiny?
Helen Hamilton has spent her entire sixteen years trying to hide how different she is—no easy task on an island as small and sheltered as Nantucket. And it’s getting harder. Nightmares of a desperate desert journey have Helen waking parched, only to find her sheets damaged by dirt and dust. At school she’s haunted by hallucinations of three women weeping tears of blood . . . and when Helen first crosses paths with Lucas Delos, she has no way of knowing they’re destined to play the leading roles in a tragedy the Fates insist on repeating throughout history.
As Helen unlocks the secrets of her ancestry, she realizes that some myths are more than just legend. But even demigod powers might not be enough to defy the forces that are both drawing her and Lucas together—and trying to tear them apart.

Title: Hereafter
Author: Tara Hudson
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Ghosts
Review copy provided by HarperCollins.

Can there truly be love after death?
Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she’s dead. With no recollection of her past life—or her actual death—she’s trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but will him to live. Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive.
Amelia and Joshua grow ever closer as they begin to uncover the strange circumstances of her death and the secrets of the dark river that held her captive for so long. But even while they struggle to keep their bond hidden from the living world, a frightening spirit named Eli is doing everything in his power to destroy their newfound happiness and drag Amelia back into the ghost world . . . forever.
Thrilling and evocative, with moments of pure pleasure, Hereafter is a sensation you won’t want to miss.

Title: The Iron Queen (The Iron Fey Series #3)
Author: Julie Kagawa
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Faeries, Iron Fey
I got this book as a present from my boyfriend. Yay!

My name is Meghan Chase.
I thought it was over. That my time with the fey, the impossible choices I had to make, the sacrifices of those I loved, was behind me. But a storm is approaching, an army of Iron fey that will drag me back, kicking and screaming. Drag me away from the banished prince who’s sworn to stand by my side. Drag me into the core of conflict so powerful, I’m not sure anyone can survive it.
This time, there will be no turning back.

Title: A Dragon Forsaken (The Enchanted Island Series #2)
Author: Krystal McLaughlin
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Dragons
Review copy provided by the author. Visit the author’s website.

In a world of mystery and magic, Daphne is unique.
Unlike her friends, who have awakened to the magic inside of them, Daphne was born with it. Daphne was born a Dragon.
When her past begins to resurface, forcing her into a web of lies and deception, she is forced to accept unexpected alliances and risk everything for the sake of love. Something that she swore she would never let into her life.
As the newest installment of The Enchanted Island Series unfolds, she’ll learn that nothing is ever what it seems, and when webs get this tangled, everyone’s fate hangs in the balance, and nothing is coincidence.

Title: The Arrow Chest
Author: Robert Parry
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
I won this novel through a giveaway.

London, 1876. The painter Amos Roselli is in love with his life-long friend and model, the beautiful Daphne – and she with him – until one day she is discovered by another man, a powerful and wealthy industrialist. What will happen when Daphne realises she has sacrificed her happiness to a loveless marriage? What will happen when the artist realises he has lost his most cherished source of inspiration? And how will they negotiate the ever-increasing frequency of strange and bizarre events that seem to be driving them inexorably towards self-destruction. Here, amid the extravagant Neo-Gothic culture of Victorian England, the iconic poem ‘The Lady of Shalott’ blends with mysterious and ghostly glimpses of Tudor history.

Title: The Dark of The Moon
Author: Tracey Barrett
Genre: Historical , Mythology, Fantasy
Review copy provided by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Ariadne is destined to become a goddess of the moon. She leads a lonely life, finding companionship only with her beloved, misshapen brother Asterion, who must be held captive below the palace for his own safety.
Then a ship arrives bearing a tribute of slaves from Athens, and Ariadne meets Theseus, the son of the king of Athens. Ariadne finds herself drawn to the newcomer, and soon they form a friendship—one that could perhaps become something more.

But Theseus is doomed to die as an offering to the minotaur, that monster beneath the palace—unless he can kill the beast first. And that “monster” is Ariadne’s brother…

Book Review: The Poison of A Smile by Steven Jensen

9473237Title: The Poison of a Smile
Author: Steven Jensen
Genre: Supernatural, Gothic Horror, Romance
Publication Date: October 2nd 2010
Review copy provided by Night Publishing. Visit their website.
Rating: 5 stars
Goodreads | Author’s Website

She will take her pleasure in your destruction ….

When Gabriel Holland and David Leigh are lured to the haunted town of Carliton in search of their beloved Helena, they find only mystery and malice. And Christian Salazar, connoisseur of torments, master of Alatiel, the creature that Helena has become, awaits their company…

The Poison of A Smile is a haunting, terrifying and breathtaking trip into the mausoleum of things rotten, undead and vicious; a journey through the asylum of the deranged and mentally disturbed; a one-way ticket to hell. The writing style is pretty disturbing on its own, like you just lost track of reality, like things are slowly falling out of your grip, and your mind is getting detached from your body – or is it the other way around? When I first started reading this novella, I vaguely wondered if I hadn’t somehow dozed asleep and stumbled into my worst nightmare, or if I had unconsciously taking some kind of narcotic that made my thoughts uncomprehensible, strange and deranged, and, since I hadn’t been feeling very well that day, I remember constantly checking my temperature to see if this wasn’t the result of some high fever. It wasn’t any of those three options, I can say. The Poison of A Smile is mesmerising, thrilling, but also gruesome, detached, insane, and uncomprehensible. Truly a masterpiece.

Alatiel, a woman of great beauty but with hideous secrets, becomes the new muse of a group of self-acclaimed artists, who struggle to make a living in the city of Paris in the 19th century. The sister of one of these artists, Helena, soon becomes the new subject of interest for Alatiel. In a desperate search to get their beloved back, Gabriel Holland and David Leigh make a trip to the haunted mansion of all haunted mansions, to the palace of sins and destruction, to a mausoleum of unspeakable crimes and to the home of creatures so vicious and rotten they cannot be anything other than Satan’s spawn. And in that place of sheer darkness, in that house of torture, blood and murder; they must face the master of all evils, the instructor of pain himself: Christian Salazar.

Its sheer beauty lies in the fact that it’s so abstract, macabre, terrifying and at the same time, utterly fascinating. From page one, i had the feeling that The Poison Of A Smile was devouring my own soul to feed its own unholy pages, because each sentence transported me further and further away from my safe and well-known home, to unfamiliar, dreadful and nightmarish surroundings. The descriptions are beautiful, haunting and written in that gorgeous, crafty style that was so popular at the turn of the 19th century. This novel vaguely reminded me of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Woman In Black and Dracula, as the settings are very much the same, and I got the same dreadful feeling with those novels as well. Looking back upon this, I sometimes wonder if nowadays hack and slash horror hasn’t forgotten about the most important aspect, namely the horror that is within oneself. The horror that is one’s soul, when it’s as deranged and bestial by nature like the soul of this story’s antagonist, Christian Salazar.

Although some of the scenes in this novel are particularely gruesome, this isn’t just your average horror story. The scenes may cause you to feel like vomiting, but that isn’t the real horror Steven Jensen is trying to describe. By creating this feeling of otherworldliness, disentachment, confusion, his novel is constantly feeding of your own basic worries, indulging in human’s own wicked nature, and gettings its very own inspiration from the things that haunt the corners of our own minds. I was suffering from the ‘haunted mansion’ disease that is common in older fictional works like Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre from the very start of this novel, as the eerie atmosphere and creepy characters introduced themselves to me. This feeling of uncomfortableness, sometimes even downright fear, continued throughout the entire novel. The words escape me to explain to you how surprised and impressed I was by this masterfully-crafted tale of horrors, this unmistakable piece of art.

What can I compare it with? I have never read any scary novel before that managed to frighten me as much as The Poison of A Smile did, and never before have I been so close to the distortions and monstrosities that hide in human nature. It was an experience both terrifying and enjoyable, as it was truly an entertaining read, even if it was fear rather than good tension that glued me to my chair. If I had to compare this novel with another fictional work, I would choose The Picture of Dorian Gray, for that is the only novel that comes close in comparison, and has the same haunted and disturbing atmosphere.

There is no characterization, or character development. The characters are loose words on paper, as estranged from the reader as they are from themselves and the world they are living in. They have no actual personalities, and the only emotions often portrayed are nothing more than bestial. The need for vengeance, bloodlust, sexual lust…But that is all. Humans are reduced to animals, the good only slightly better than the wicked because they do often fall to prey of the same bestial desires. The story is difficult to follow at times, a plot practically non-existing, and the entire tale seems to be made out of seperate, equally macabre scenes, that work together and form one long, breathtaking, mesmerising and ghastly story of terror.

If you ask me if there’s anything about this novella that I didn’t like, then the answer is yes. In my opinion, it shouldn’t have ended. At about 80 pages long, I wish the author had just continued till the end (write maybe a 20 or 50 pages more or so) and then put a hold to it. I don’t know what it’s with people and sequels or even trilogies nowadays, but they seem to have forgotten that the best novels ever written are all stand-alone novels. As a stand-alone novel, The Poison of A Smile is as good as horror can possibly get; but I fear that it might not retain this statute in the sequels. I’m not sure if it’s even possible to write an equally haunting story without diving more into characterization and plot building – and by doing so, sacrificing the deranged, insane and going-out-of-your-mind feeling that I got when reading this novel.

I’m completely overwhelmed by The Poison of A Smile, and even now I’m still haunted by the writing style, the detached narrator’s voice, the characters’ primate natures, and the eerie, shivers-running-down-your-back atmosphere. In all fairness, I believe I have discovered a masterpiece of gothic horror literature; a work of art that very well might succeed to redefining the horror genre all together. After reading The Poison of A Smile, you’ll never think about gothic stories in the same way again.

Book Review: The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell

7497552Title: The Vespertine
Author: Saundra Mitchell
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Publication Date: March 7th
Review copy provided by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Rating: 4,5 stars
Goodreads | The Vespertine Website

It’s the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset—visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own—still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him.

When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia’s world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if she’s not the seer of dark portents, but the cause.

The first thing that appealed to me about The Vespertine is, although I’m ashamed to admit it, the gorgeous cover. Sure I’m the first person to jump on the boat claiming that a bad cover doesn’t necessarily make a bad book, and I’m pretty sure the first editions of Shakespeare or Homer weren’t all that lovely either, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t often get persuaded by the cover of a novel. When it’s really, really pretty, it often charms me enough to read it, without even glimpsing at the summary or browsing the web searching for reviews of the novel. I’ve let myself get tricked with Lost Voices, I felt the same strange urge with The Vespertine, and I did it all over again with Starcrossed, Hereafter and Die For Me. For Lost Voices, the gorgeous cover art hid something that was partly dissapointing, and partly fun and enjoyable. For The Vespertine, the nice cover doesn’t try to make up for lack of story and potential, because this novel has plenty of both. At first I was sighing, thinking I had let myself get caught in the web of pretty and shiny things again, but it didn’t take me long to realise that The Vespertine is anything but an empty shell. It’s an extraordinary mix of historical fiction and paranormal romance, an interesting story focused on friendship, love, betrayal and superstition in Victorian America.

The story sets off in Baltimore in the 19th century, as we meet up with a young woman called Amelia. Banished from her country home to find a suitable fiancé in the big city, Amelia is forced to spend her summer holiday with one of her distant cousins, Zora; much to her own delight, because Zora and Amelia soon grow to be close friends. During the first couple of days of her stay, Zora introduces her cousin to the boy she has been in love with for a couple of years now – Thomas. Although at first something of a one-sided crush, the relationship between Zora and Thomas soon grows into something more. The first person who knows about this is Amelia herself, who saw the two of them dancing in a vision. Shortly after, Amelia is introduced to Nathaniel, a young artist who barely gets by and gets paid to be the Fourteenth at upper class dinners. Immediately smitten by the “starving artist” who is free to do whatever he wants whenever he wants, and who has a charm and wit about him that is both intoxicating and intimidating, Amelia finds herself falling in love with this mysterious stranger. As her visions grow darker by the day, and her supernatural gifts seem to expand with every week that passed, Amelia is forced to acknowledge the dark side of her gifts, especially when they threaten the lifes of the people she loves. And on top of that, Nathaniel seems to have some dark secrets of his own…

I have to admit that before I actually starting reading The Vespertine, I had no idea this novel was a mix of historical and paranormal fiction; I had guessed the historical part from the cover art, but failed to acknowledge the paranormal part because I was stupid enough not to look at the summary. Oh well, it was a nice surprise. I love paranormal romances and I love historical fiction, and when combined, they sure make a great mix. This is one of the first novels I read in that particular mix-match genre though, and I’m happily surprised. The Vespertine isn’t just any novel though. With a writing style fit for the era, haunting and mesmerising, spellbinding you to every sentence, Saundra Mitchell utterly and completely compelled me to keep reading. When the Victorian streets came to life, and I could vaguely hear the sounds of carriages and horses in the back of my mind, and I heard the soft whisper of those large Victorian dresses; I knew this book was a winner. The descpriptions that Saundra Mitchell uses are very detailed, imaginative and lyric. Her writing style reminded me a lot of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Needless to say, I was hooked.

Amelia is an interesting character with an outstanding and enjoyable personality. A lot of times in these historical novels, I find myself thinking that the thought process of the main character – usually a woman – is too evolved or too rebellious for that time. Sure, a little rebellion is always great, but you have to keep in mind that women in the 17th century wouldn’t want the kind of progress and equality women are striving for today. But not Amelia. No, she really is a child of her era, and although perhaps a bit of a free spirit, just like her love interest Nathaniel, they aren’t exactly extremely progressive. Their love and relationship isn’t appropriate for society, but then again, they simply don’t care for society. They don’t go about and try to change the way society feels about upper and lower class couples, they just go and do their own thing. They made me think about the first time I was in love, about how carefree one is at those moments, and about how less one cares about other human beings, about the rules of how things should go, about the world itself. Amelia and Nathaniel, in their mutual love, innocence and childlike happiness, reminded me of first love, of true love, and it was an amazing feeling, I can assure you.

As I started off by saying, Amelia has a very interesting personality. She isn’t feisty or headstrong, like about 90 percent of the fictional heroines out there, but she isn’t weak and braindead either. She seemed to me like quite a balanced person, with a mix of all sorts of qualities, but with a good balance about them. I liked Zora’s personality as well, a bit brighter and cheerier than Amelia’s, but at the same time capable of worrying and brooding, although I had wished to see more behind the hidden veils that is Zora. I had the feeling we only got to meet her on the surface, and didn’t get to see all of the real her, with her own fears, anxieties and worries. On the other hand, this is understandable, as she only is a supporting character, but I thought her interesting enough to appear in the spotlight more often.

I liked both of the suitors for our two protagonists as well. Thomas is the calm, conservative, reserved gentleman, who is all too eager to play by society’s rules, and who carefully courts the woman he loves. Nathaniel is quite the opposite: endaring, charming, mischevious, carefree, rebellious. Although it would be clear for me who I’d choose from the start, and I completely understand why Amelia is totally enamoured by Nathaniel, I loved how nice Thomas and Zora fit together as well. The dynamics between all the characters, and especially these four, are very intriguing. Another thing about this novel which I really enjoyed, is that we get to meet Zora’s Mom only from the interactions between Zora and Amelia about the woman in question, and yet we manage to form quite an opinion about her. I thought this was an impressive sample of excellent writing skills, just when I thought Saundra Mitchell couldn’t possibly impress me even more.

The storyline itself was innovating, refreshing and very well thought-through. I liked the small plot twists that turned up here and there throughout hte novel, and how Amelia’s gift of seeing the future growed gradually darker. On the downside, I thought that it took quite a while before the action actually started (more than halfway through the novel) and The Vespertine would have scored higher on my ratings had the actual story progressing started a little earlier. In the prologue, we got a view of the Baltimore in 1889, and we see Amelia locked up in her own house. Then we take a trip back in time, and it was like all that tension and excitement that had been building in the prologue, got thrown out of the window page by page, because it took a good while for the suspense to return. However, when it returned, it did so in style. The last chapters of the book are truly brilliant, they’re showcases of excellent writing, plot development and character progression. Those last chapters made me fall in love with this book all over again.

You know that I’m a complete idiot when I tell you that I didn’t stop to think about the meaning of the title, The Vespertine, once throughout this novel, and didn’t even think about it once I finished it. It only occured to me just now, when I started writing this review, what exactly it means, and why it’s the title of this novel. Damn, I’m really quite the idiot. Anyway, don’t let my foolishness fool you (get it? I made a word joke). The Vespertine truly is one of the most impressive works of fiction I have read this entire year: with an interesting mix of historical fiction and paranormal romance, heartwarming characters, a most impressive writing style, and more suspense towards the ending than your average crime novel. Amelia and Nathaniel are my favorite fictional couple of the year, and that’s saying something. I think the best way to end this review would be: what the heck are you waiting for? Go buy your own copy of The Vespertine, and start reading!

Book Review: Cinderella: Ninja Warrior by Maureen McGowan

9305414Title: Cinderella: Ninja Warrior
Author: Maureen McGowan
Genre: Adventure, Retold Fairytale, Fantasy, Young Adult
Publication Date: April 1st 2011
Buy The Novel: Book Depository
Rating: 4 stars
Review copy provided by Baker & Taylor Publishing Group through Netgalley.

In this fast-paced story full of adventure and romance, Cinderella is more than just a servant girl waiting for her prince–she’s a tough, fearless girl who is capable of taking charge of a dangerous situation. Seeking to escape the clutches of her evil stepmother, Cinderella perfects her ninja skills and magic talents in secret, waiting for the day when she can break free and live happily ever after. In a special twist, readers have the opportunity to make key decisions for Cinderella and decide where she goes next–but no matter the choice; the result is a story unlike any fairy tale you’ve ever read!

Prior to reading Cinderella: Ninja Warrior, I already read and reviewed the companion novel, Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer. It’s hard to say which one of these novels I liked most. I enjoyed the part of the vampires trying to take over the kingdom in Sleeping Beauty, whereas I thought Cinderella was slightly better written and the plot less predictable. I also preferred Cinderella’s love interest, Ty. On the other hand, Sleeping Beauty focused on a love triangle, which is by its very nature more interesting. It’s a tough choice to make, especially with my undying love for vampires and the likes, but I have to decide that in the end, I enjoyed Cinderella more.

The story starts like the classic fairytale, with a young but fair maiden called Cinderella, who is forced to work 24/7 by her wicked stepmother. The latter also has a keen preference for black magic, and is even more evil in this novel than I remember her to be in the original fairytale. Cinderella also has two stepsisters, Gwendolyne and Agatha. Whereas Agatha is more of a follower, and often shows acts of kindness towards her servant sister, Gwendolyne is the spitting image of her wicked mother. Cinderella only has one true friend, in the form of her loyal and kind cat, Max. Forced to stay inside of the house by day, and expected to garden at night, the young girl is a lonely prisoner in her own home.

When a messenger called Ty appears one day with a letter to invite Cinderella and her sisters to the ball of the Prince, in which His Majesty will choose a suitable wife to marry, he immediately catches the young girl off-guard and befriends her. Cinderella, glad to finally have a friend who isn’t a four-legged animal, is glad with the attention Ty gives her, and actually develops a crush on him. Expressing her disinterest in the Prince of the Kingdom, and saying she would much rather dance with Ty at the ball, the young boy starts to like this strange servant girl as well.

I loved the wicked stepmother. Really, I did. Don’t blame me, alright, but she’s just so extremely hilarious, and I could practically imagine her stalking around the mansion, yelling things like ‘Bibadibabediboo’ at stuff. Yes, I know that line originally belonged to the Fairy Godmother, but whatever. I also really liked the character of Cinderella. Just like in the original fairytale, she doesn’t back down from a challenge and doesn’t suffer in self-pity simply because her life is a living hell. Instead, she finds courage in her own heart, determination in her ninja warrior training and happiness in her magical abilities, which she inherited from her mother, who was known to be a great and powerful magician before she died. Cinderella has all the qualities that make a person interesting: although strong-minded, intelligent and brave, she also doubts herself a lot of times, and she thinks a lot about her deceased parents, daydreaming about how life would have been if they were still alive. But she’s also capable of putting those thoughts aside, of getting past the way her stepmother is treating her, and finding happiness in the smallest of things. That turns her into a very likable, good-natured and charming protagonist who won my heart from the very start.

Although I was a bit confused at first concerning the whole ‘ninja warrior training program’, I loved the magical elements that were mentioned in the novel, from the protective spells the wicked stepmother had cast on the mansion to keep Cinderella locked up, to the difference between magic with a wand and magic with the power of one’s mind, to the power of love. I thought these elements were original, refreshing and made the story a lot more interesting. I also liked how there was not only a ball, but there were also a beauty pageant and a magical tournament.

I probably should have mentioned earlier that this a choose-your-own-adventure novel. The ending stays the same no matter what you choose, but the middle part of the story evolves a little differently. For instance, in one option Cinderella enters the competition for magicians using wands, and loses, although the Royal Magician does congratulate her on her performance. In the other option however, Cinderella trusts her own abilities and the strength of her own heart, and enters the tournament for magicians using only the power of their minds. In that scenario, she actually performs a lot better than in the previous one. After reading the book for the first time, I went back to read the alternative scenarios, and realised that I liked all of them equally as much. I used to love those choose-your-own-destiny novels back in the day (guess they were popular at the beginning of the 1990s or something) because it left me more choices as a reader, and made me feel like I actually played a part in the way the story unfolds. On the downside, what I most preferred with those novels of old, was that the ending was different when you choose other options, which it wasn’t in this novel. Oh well.

I really enjoyed reading Cinderella: Ninja Warrior, but there were some things in the novel that were a bit too obvious for my liking. The prime example of this, was Ty. I knew from the moment he opened that door and stepped in, that Ty was….*SPOILER ALERT* none other than prince Tiberius. Shocker! And I also knew that he would love Cinderella because she alone appreciated him for who he was, and not for his title, money or kingdom. I also knew right away that Cinderella would do well at the magical tournament, but that’s to be expected from any heroine, isn’t it?

The romance between Cinderella and Ty was sweet, unexpectidly realistic and heartwarming. I loved them both, and I loved them even more when they were together. For some strange reason, I also liked Agatha, although she hardly spoke up and merely followed in her sister’s and mother’s footsteps, but I thought she had some undeniable qualities as well. Atleast she wasn’t cruel or vicious.

In my opinion, the ending was a bit too long. As is to be expected, this story ends with an epic battle between Cinderella, Ty and her wicked stepmother. However, the fight lasts well over forty pages, is often interrupted only to restart again, and lasts too long for my preferences. It was the only time during this novel that I actually felt slightly bored, which is never a good sign. However, the rest of the novel was an extremely funny, enjoyable and entertaining read that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and brings a fabulous twist to a well-known fairytale.

In My Mailbox (4) / Mailbox Monday (11)

mailbox

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. (Library books don’t count, but eBooks & audiobooks do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia at The Printed Page, who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring meme (details here). This month it is hosted by I’m Booking It.

In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren.

In My Mailbox

You may or may not know that I went to this ubercheap book market last week, and that I purchased roughly 35 books. Wow. Insane, right? Well, you’re a book addict, or you’re not. Take a look at my crazyness below.

Yes, that’s right, folks. An entire bed filled with books. Every book lover’s dream. I will discuss the books in little groups of 2-5, depending on their relative relationship with each other 😉

Title: Dreaming The Eagle (Boudica #1)
Author: Manda Scott
Genre: Historical Fiction, Adult

Dreaming the Eagle is the first part of the gloriously imagined epic trilogy of the life of Boudica.
Boudica means Bringer of Victory (from the early Celtic word “boudeg”). She is the last defender of the Celtic culture in Britain; the only woman openly to lead her warriors into battle and to stand successfully against the might of Imperial Rome — and triumph.
It is 33 AD and eleven-year-old Breaca (later named Boudica), the red-haired daughter of one of the leaders of the Eceni tribe, is on the cusp between girl and womanhood. She longs to be a Dreamer, a mystical leader who can foretell the future, but having killed the man who has attacked and killed her mother, she has proven herself a warrior. Dreaming the Eagle is also the story of the two men Boudica loves most: Caradoc, outstanding warrior and inspirational leader; and Bàn, her half-brother, who longs to be a warrior, though he is manifestly a Dreamer, possibly the finest in his tribe’s history. Bàn becomes the Druid whose eventual return to the Celts is Boudica’s salvation.
Dreaming the Eagle is full of brilliantly realised, luminous scenes as the narrative sweeps effortlessly from the epic — where battle scenes are huge, bloody, and action-packed — to the intimate. Manda Scott plunges us into the unforgettable world of tribal Britain in the years before the Roman invasion: a world of druids and dreamers and the magic of the gods where the natural world is as much a character as any of the people who live within it, a world of warriors who fight for honour as much as victory, a world of passion, courage and spectacular heroism pitched against overwhelming odds.
Dreaming the Eagle stunningly recreates the roots of a story so powerful its impact has lasted through the ages.

Title: Dreaming The Bull (Boudica #2)
Author: Manda Scott
Genre: Historical Fiction, Adult

The second part of the stunning fictionalization of the life of Britain’s warrior queen, Boudica, immerses us in a world of druids and dreamers, warriors and lovers, passion and courage. Originally a trilogy, this is now a four-part series.
“Boudica” means “Bringer of Victory” (from the early Celtic word “boudeg”). She was the last defender of the Celtic culture; the only woman openly to lead her warriors into battle and to stand successfully against the might of Imperial Rome — and triumph.
Book one, Dreaming the Eagle, took readers from Boudica’s girlhood with the Eceni tribe to the climax of the two-day battle when she and her lover, Caradoc, faced the invading Romans. Believing her dead, Breaca’s beloved brother, Bán, joined the Roman cause.
Dreaming the Bull, the second book in this compelling series, continues the intertwined stories of Boudica, and Bán, now an officer in the Roman cavalry. They stand on opposite sides in a brutal war of attrition between the occupying army and the defeated tribes, each determined to see the other dead. In a country under occupation, Caradoc, lover to Breaca, is caught and faces the ultimate penalty. Only Bán has the power to save him, and Bán has spent the past ten years denying his past. Treachery divides these two; heroism brings them together again, changed out of all recognition — but it may not be enough to heal the wounds.
Dreaming the Bull is a heart-stopping story of war and of peace; of love, passion and betrayal; of druids and warring gods, where each life is sacred and each death even more so; and where Breaca and Bán learn the terrible distances they must travel to fulfill their own destinies.

Title: Dreaming The Hound (Boudica #3)
Author:
Genre: Historical Fiction, Adult

In a spellbinding novel of gods and men, myth and brutality, acclaimed author Manda Scott returns to her heralded saga of a world under siege. For here is the epic tale of Boudica, the legendary Celtic queen, and her embattled Eceni tribe—a bold new work of imaginative fiction that takes us on a thrilling journey into a clash between magic and mankind.
To the Eceni tribe of Britannia, nature is the ultimate god, and warriors are joined in battle by the voices and spirits of their ancestors. But the proud Eceni are running out of time. Nero’s army, long since out of patience with Britannia’s wild tribes, is becoming increasingly oppressive. And Boudica’s family is at the center of a gathering storm: Cunomar, Boudica’s son, who longs for the mettle to kill as fiercely as his mother… Graine, her young daughter, gifted with the power of dreamers, scarred forever by the horrors of war…and Boudica’s brother, born Bán of the Eceni, turned the traitor Valerius—a man caught between worlds: warrior and dreamer, Roman and Eceni.
As conflict erupts between the tribes and their brutal invaders, Boudica is forced to make a bold sacrifice. Cloaking her identity, she will travel directly into the stronghold of an enemy who longs for her crucifixion. What happens next—in a brutal drama of betrayal, heroism, and sacrifice—will leave Boudica with no options but one: to raise and arm every warrior, every dreamer, every tribe…and push the invader and its legions back into the sea.
From the thundering hooves of the Eceni’s great horses to mystical spirit quests of young warriors, from the politics of an empire to the passions of lovers, Dreaming the Hound takes us on a breathtaking journey of the imagination—at once brutal, fantastical, and utterly unforgettable.

Title: Dreaming The Serpent Spear (Boudica #4)
Author: Manda Scott
Genre: Historical Fiction, Adult

The fourth and final novel in the magnificent saga of Britain’s warrior queen (Boudica – “Bringer of Victory” and the last defender of the Celtic culture) will capture readers’ hearts and minds, as Manda Scott brings the series to a stunning close.
It is AD 60 and the flame of rebellion that has been smouldering for 20 years of Roman occupation has flared into a conflagration that will consume the land and all who live in it. There is no going back. Boudica has been flogged and her daughters raped, and her son has burned a Roman watchtower in an act of blatant insurgency.
This is the time to act: the Roman governor has marched his legions west to destroy the druidic stronghold of Mona, leaving his capital and a vital seaport hopelessly undefended in the face of twenty-thousand warriors aching for vengeance. But to crush the legions for all time, Boudica must do more than lead her army in the greatest rebellion Britain has ever known. She must find healing for herself, for the land, and for Graine, her 8-year-old daughter, who has taken refuge on Mona.
Is revenge worth it under any circumstances, or is the cost more than anyone can bear?
Colchester is burning and London is lost without hope. Amidst fire and bloody revolution – a battle that will change the face and spirituality of a nation for centuries to come – Boudica and those around her must find what matters most, now and for ever.

Title: The Court Of The Air (Jackelian #1)
Author: Stephen Hunt
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
I fell in love with the cover of these novels. Didn’t really hear about them before, but I hope I do enjoy them!

When streetwise Molly Templar witnesses a brutal murder at the brothel she has recently been apprenticed to, her first instinct is to scurry back to the poorhouse where she grew up. But there she finds her fellow orphans butchered, and it slowly dawns on her that she was the real target of the attack.
Oliver Brooks has led a sheltered existence in the backwater home of his merchant uncle. But when he is framed for his only relative’s murder he is forced to flee for his life, accompanied by an agent of the mysterious Court of the Air.
Molly and Oliver each carry secrets in their blood—secrets that will either get them killed or save the world from an ancient terror. Thrown into the company of outlaws, thieves and spies as they flee their ruthless enemies the two orphans are also aided by indomitable friends in this endlessly inventive tale full of drama, intrigue, and adventure.

Title: The Kingdom Beyond The Waves (Jackelian #2)
Author: Stephen Hunt
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure

Professor Amelia Harsh is obsessed with finding the lost civilization of Camlantis, a legendary city from pre-history that is said to have conquered hunger, war, and disease with the creation of the perfect pacifist society. Without official funding, Amelia is forced to accept an offer of patronage from Abraham Quest, the man she blames for her father’s bankruptcy and suicide. She hates him, but he has something that Amelia desperately wants–evidence that proves that Camlantis existed and that the Camlantean ruins are buried under one of the sea-like lakes that dot the murderous jungles of Liongeli.
Amelia will blackmail her old friend Commodore Black into ferrying her along a huge river on his ancient U-boat. With an untrusty crew of freed convicts, Quest’s force of fearsome female mercenaries on board, and a lunatic steamman acting as their guide, Amelia’s luck seems to be going from bad to worse. Her quest for the perfect society has a good chance of bringing her own world to the brink of destruction…
The Kingdom Beyond The Waves is Stephen Hunt’s third novel, set in the same universe as The Court of the Air. Amelia Harsh is a female Indiana Jones if there ever was one, and this novel is a rollicking steampunk adventure that will hook readers for one dynamite ride.

Title: Angelology
Author: Danielle Trussoni
Genre: Thriller, Supernatural
I heard so many good things about Angelology that when I saw it at the book market, I just couldn’t resist.

Sister Evangeline was just a girl when her father entrusted her to the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in upstate New York. Now, at twenty-three, her discovery of a 1943 letter from the famous philanthropist Abigail Rockefeller to the late mother superior of Saint Rose Convent plunges Evangeline into a secret history that stretches back a thousand years: an ancient conflict between the Society of Angelologists and the monstrously beautiful descendants of angels and humans, the Nephilim.
For the secrets these letters guard are desperately coveted by the once-powerful Nephilim, who aim to perpetuate war, subvert the good in humanity, and dominate mankind. Generations of angelologists have devoted their lives to stopping them, and their shared mission, which Evangeline has long been destined to join, reaches from her bucolic abbey on the Hudson to the apex of insular wealth in New York, to the Montparnasse cemetery in Paris and the mountains of Bulgaria.
Rich in history, full of mesmerizing characters, and wondrously conceived, Angelology blends biblical lore, the myth of Orpheus and the Miltonic visions of Paradise Lost into a riveting tale of ordinary people engaged in a battle that will determine the fate of the world.

Title: The Heretic’s Daughter
Author: Kathleen Kent
Genre: Historical Fiction, Based on A True Story, Witches
This is the first book I’ll read, because I’ve been eagerly anticipating reading this one. Witchcraft, Salem Trials, History? I’m one happy bookworm.

Martha Carrier was one of the first women to be accused, tried and hanged as a witch in Salem, Massachusetts. Like her mother, young Sarah Carrier is bright and willful, openly challenging the small, brutal world in which they live. Often at odds with one another, mother and daughter are forced to stand together against the escalating hysteria of the trials and the superstitious tyranny that led to the torture and imprisonment of more than 200 people accused of witchcraft. This is the story of Martha’s courageous defiance and ultimate death, as told by the daughter who survived.
Kathleen Kent is a tenth generation descendent of Martha Carrier. She paints a haunting portrait, not just of Puritan New England, but also of one family’s deep and abiding love in the face of fear and persecution.

Title: Wicked: The Life and Times of The Wicked Witch of The West
Author: Gregory Macguire
Genre: Fantasy, Humor
This one has been on my wishlist since forever and a day. I’m so happy I finally got it!

Years before Dorothy and her dog crash-land, another little girl makes her presence known in Oz. This girl, Elphaba, is born with emerald-green skin — no easy burden in a land as mean and poor as Oz, where superstition and magic are not strong enough to explain or to overcome the natural disasters of flood and famine. But Elphaba is smart, and by the time she enters the university in Shiz, she becomes a member of a charmed circle of Oz’ most promising young citizens.
Elphaba’s Oz is no utopia. The Wizard’s secret police are everywhere. Animals — those creatures with voices, souls and minds — are threatened with exile. Young Elphaba, green and wild and misunderstood, is determined to protect the Animals — even it means combating the mysterious Wizard, even if it means risking her single chance at romance. Even wiser in guilt and sorrow, she can find herself grateful when the world declares her a witch. And she can even make herself glad for that young girl from Kansas.
In Wicked, Gregory Maguire has taken the largely unknown world of Oz and populated it with the power of his own imagination. Fast-paced, fantastically real and supremely entertaining, this is a novel of vision and re-vision. Oz never will be the same again.

Title: Fall of Giants (Century Trilogy #1)
Author: Ken Follett
Genre: Thriller, Drama, Literature
I loved Pillars of The Earth, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be in love with this book as well.

The first novel in The Century Trilogy, this book follows the fates of five interrelated families-American, German, Russian, English, and Welsh-as they move through the world-shaking dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for women’s suffrage. Thirteen-year-old Billy Williams enters a man’s world in the Welsh mining pits…Gus Dewar, an American law student rejected in love, finds a surprising new career in Woodrow Wilson’s White House…two orphaned Russian brothers, Grigori and Lev Peshkov, embark on radically different paths half a world apart when their plan to emigrate to America falls afoul of war, conscription, and revolution…Billy’s sister, Ethel, a housekeeper for the aristocratic Fitzherberts, takes a fateful step above her station, while Lady Maud Fitzherbert herself crosses deep into forbidden territory when she falls in love with Walter von Ulrich, a spy at the German embassy in London…
These characters and many others find their lives inextricably entangled as, in a saga of unfolding drama and intriguing complexity, Fall of Giants moves seamlessly from Washington to St. Petersburg, from the dirt and danger of a coal mine to the glittering chandeliers of a palace, from the corridors of power to the bedrooms of the mighty. As always with Ken Follett, the historical background is brilliantly researched and rendered, the action fast-moving, the characters rich in nuance and emotion. It is destined to be a new classic.
In future volumes of The Century Trilogy, subsequent generations of the same families will travel through the great events of the rest of the twentieth century, changing themselves-and the century itself. With passion and the hand of a master, Follett brings us into a world we thought we knew, but now will never seem the same again.

Title: Sorcerer’s Moon (Boreal Moon #3)
Author: Julian May
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Adult
I have the first 2 books in these series, and I’ve actually been looking for this one quite a while. Imagine my happiness when I finally found it!

For sixteen years, King Conrig Ironcrown has battled to preserve the Sovereignty he imposed over High Blenholme Island and repel the invading Salka monsters. His hopes rest on Prince Orrion, his heir – whose betrothal should bring peace. But Orrion is determined to marry his childhood sweetheart – and would rather forfeit his life than wed the barbarian princess chosen by his heartless father.
In the devastated kingdom of Moss, the Salka are hunkered down – and planning the reconquest of “their” island. A shaky interval of peace has been broken only by skirmishes with these monsters. But the Salka’s audacious new battle plan will keep them undetected until they vanquish the human settlements on Terminal Bay – while their reserves secure a beachhead and their main force seizes the heart of High Blenholme.
With his scheme for his son Orrion in ruins, King Conrig – his magical powers weak – is more vulnerable than he realizes. Years of opposing the Salka and his human enemies have undermined his sanity. With his dreams of extending his Sovereignty beyond this island fading away, he’ll be even harder to control. Once again, he is preparing to use the foulest Beaconfolk sorcery to counter the monsters’ massive invasion.
As battles rage, the only chance for peace lies deep in King Conrig’s past. His former spy, Deveron Austrey, has secret magical powers – and no love for the Beaconfolk. And while the King’s first wife is largely unremembered, she has not forgotten that her son is the true heir to the throne of High Blenholme.

Title: Northern Lights / The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials #1)
Author: Philip Pullman
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Epic Fantasy
I’ve been wanting to read this series for a while, since I totally loved the movie. I even bought the ones with the movie cover, because I loved it so much. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the 2nd book, so I’ll have to order that one online sometime.

When Lyra’s friend Roger disappears, she and her dæmon, (pronounced ‘demon’) Pantalaimon, determine to find him. The ensuing quest leads them to the bleak splendour of the North, where armoured bears rule the ice and witch-queens fly through the frozen skies – and where a team of scientists is conducting experiments too horible to be spoken about.
Lyra overcomes these strange terrors, only to find something yet more perilous waiting for her – something with consequences which may even reach beyond the Northern Lights…

Title: The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials #3)
Author: Philip Pullman
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Epic Fantasy

Lyra and Will, the two ordinary children whose extraordinary adventures began in The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife, are in unspeakable danger. With help from Iorek Byrnison the armored bear and two tiny Gallivespian spies, they must journey to a gray-lit world where no living soul has ever gone. All the while, Dr. Mary Malone builds a magnificent amber spyglass. An assassin hunts her down. And Lord Asriel, with troops of shining angels, fights his mighty rebellion.
As war rages and Dust drains from the sky, the fate of the living — and the dead — finally comes to depend on two children and the simple truth of one simple story. The Amber Spyglass reveals that story, bringing His Dark Materials to an astonishing conclusion.

Title: Firethorn
Author: Sarah Micklem
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy

Introducing a mesmerizing debut in the rich tradition of Marion Zimmer Bradley–a passionate tale of love and war, honor and vengeance, in which the gods grant a common girl uncommon gifts…
Before she was Firethorn, she was Luck, named for her red hair, favored by the goddess of Chance. A lowborn orphan, Luck is destined to a life of servitude. But when her mistress dies, Luck flees to the forest. There she discovers the sacred firethorn tree, whose berries bring her fevered dreams, a new name–and curious talents. Transformed, she emerges from her exile a young woman with powers beyond her ken.
Firethorn has changed, but her world has not…until one chance encounter alters her destiny forever. In the chaos of the UpsideDown Days, when the highborn and the low trade places, Firethorn couples with Sire Galan, a highborn warrior. Emboldened by desire and her own restlessness, she follows fate and Galan to camp with the king’s army. But their unspoken love has no place in a brutal world ruled by caste and violence, and a dark future threatens from the shadows. Living among soldiers, concubines, and wastrels, and faced with a series of tormenting challenges, Firethorn will have to rely on the enigmatic gifts Fate grants her to survive–body and soul.

Title: Sister Teresa
Author: Bárba Mujica
Genre: Historical Fiction, Adult
This novel was only €1.50, and since that’s unmistakingly cheap, I had to buy it.

Spoiled with beauty, riches, and adoration, a young girl from Àvila is sent to a convent by her parents to learn discipline, but discovers instead an unparalleled spiritual fervor– one so powerful as to be condemned as sinful by some. She is Saint Teresa–known as a mystic, reformer and founder of convents, and the author of numerous texts that introduced her radical religious ideas and practices to a society suffering through the repressive throes of the Spanish Inquisition. In Barbara Mujica’s masterful tale, her story–her days of youthful romance, her sensual fits of spiritual rapture, secret heritage as a Jewish convert to Catholicism, cloak-and-dagger political dealings, struggles against sexual blackmail, and mysterious illness–unfolds with a tumultuous urgency. Blending fact with fiction in vivid detail, painstakingly researched and beautifully rendered, Mujica’s tale conjures a brilliant picture of sisterhood, faith, the terror of religious persecution, the miracle of salvation, and to one woman’s challenge to the power of strict orthodoxy, a challenge that consisted of a crime of passion–her own personal relationship with God.

Title: Ravensoul (Legends of the Raven #4)
Author: James Barclay
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
I read The Chronicles of The Raven a couple of years ago and loved it – so I couldn’t really resist when I saw this book.

The unknown warrior thought his days with the Raven were long behind him, until Hirad Coldheart, dead for ten years knocks on his door …The dead are not at rest. Something has travelled from far beyond the dimension which has Balaia and Calaius at its heart. It feeds off Manna. And without Manna all of Balaia and the spirit realms that surround it will collapse into nothing taking the living and the spirits of the dead with it into the void. This new threat cannot be reasoned with, it is heedless to threats or entreaties. Ethereal and so advanced it barely registers its prey as sentient it is bringing doom with it. Balaia, barely recovered from the demon onslaught is thrown into chaos as the dead walk the streets and hope fails. It is left to the Raven, both dead and alive to take their courage and their faith in each other into the spirit realms for one last fight. James Barclay has returned to the landmark series that made his name – this is the book that all his fans will have been waiting for.

Title: Wicked Willow I: The Darkening (Buffy, The Vampire Slayer)
Author: Yvonne Navarro
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Vampires, Witches, Buffy The Vampire Slayer
I absolute love BTVS. Unfortunately, they only translated the first 8 novels in the series in Dutch, so I spent my entire teenage years reading those 8 novels over and over again. I couldn’t resist when I finally came across something else. It’s in English, but my English is fluent enough to read these books now, which it wasn’t back when I was like 12 years old 😉

“Willow, what have you done?”
— Buffy, “Villains”In the woods outside Sunnydale, Willow Rosenberg has exacted a terrible revenge for the murder of her lover Tara Maclay: She has captured Warren, the murderous leader of the Trio, and flayed him alive. Her best friends, Buffy Summers and Xander Harris, arrived too late to stop her.
But the death of Warren isn’t enough for Willow. Now her friends can only watch as the juiced-up witch sets off on a trail of vengeance and magick-gathering to prepare the spell that will bring Tara back to life. And whoever gets in Willow’s way is going to regret it…including one Slayer who is still hoping to save her best friend.

Title: Wicked Willow II: Shattered Twilight
Author: Yvonne Navarro
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Vampires, Witches, Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Even Willow’s own coven has turned against her now. Condemned for saving Buffy from their evil phantom and for not protecting the other coven members fully, as she had promised, Willow must come up with a way to restore herself to them — and to reinforce her position of power, which hangs in the balance.
But the truth — that she battled the phantom because the ghost of Tara told her to — will only lower Willow’s status in the eyes of her coven. It is time for big magic. Infallible magic.
And as Willow turns to the elements for protection, Buffy and the rest of the Scoobies must find a way to fight back without losing Willow forever….

All novels shown in the image above belong to the Charmed Series, and are based on the popular TV Series Charmed. English titles of the novels shown:

  • Spirit of The Wolf
  • Garden of Evil
  • A Date with Death
  • Dark Vengeance
  • Shadow of the Sphinx
  • Mist and Stone
  • Mirror Image
  • Between Two Worlds
  • Something Wiccan This Way Comes
  • Truth and Consequences
  • Luck Be A Lady
  • A Tale of Two Pipers
  • Inherit the Witch
  • The Brewing Storm

Books not shown in this post (because I forgot to take pictures):

  • Betrayed (House of Night #2) by PC and Kristin Cast
  • Untamed (House of Night #4) by PC and Kristin Cast
  • Sweep, Volume 1 (The Book of Shadows, The Coven and Blood Of The Witch) by Cate Tiernan

Book Review: Beyonders: A World Without Heroes by Brandon Mull

8306745Title: Beyonders: A World Without Heroes
Author: Brandon Mull
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Young Adult
Publication Date: March 15th 2011
Buy The Novel:
Rating: 4 stars
Review copy provided by Simon & Schuster.

Jason Walker has often wished his life could be less predictable—until a routine day at the zoo ends with Jason suddenly transporting from the hippo tank into a strange, imperiled world. Lyrian holds dangers and challenges unlike anyplace Jason has ever known. The people all live in fear of their malicious wizard emperor, Maldor. The brave resistors who once opposed the emperor have been bought off or broken, leaving a realm where fear and suspicion prevail.

In his search for a way home, Jason meets Rachel, who was also mysteriously drawn to Lyrian from our world. With the help of a few scattered rebels, Jason and Rachel become entangled in a quest to piece together the word of power that can destroy the emperor and learn that their best hope to find a way home will be to save this world without heroes.

Beyonders: A World Without Heroes is the first in a trilogy of novels set in the magical world of Lyrian. This world is truly without heroes, for everyone who tries to oppose The Emperor, Maldor, is either dead, too scared to speak or locked away by choice in his Eternal Feast. The latter could be compared with a drink-and-eat-all-you-can fest, leaving the former heroes to either get addiction to something as vicious as hunger berries, or become so fat they can no longer leave their bed. A young boy called Jason is thrown into this world by accident or by calling, through the mouth of a hippopetamus. It might not be the most fashionable way to go, but at least he’s original. When Jason first sets foot in the world of Lyrian, he stumbles upon a group of musicians, The Giddy Nine, who are willing to sacrifice their lives in a feeble attempt to summon a hero. Because of his interference, the ritual goes horribly wrong, upon which Jason flees. Eventually, he discovers a cabin in the woods which is inhabited by no other than the Loremaster. It’s been years since anyone stumbled upon the enchanted cabin, and by a chance of good fortune, Jason walks right into the man who can probably tell him more about this strange new world than anyone else on the planet.

But what the loremaster tells him, and what Jason discovers by account of his own wit and curiousity, is highly disturbing. The Emperor, Maldor, rules the land quite unfairly, like a tyrant even. However, no one dares to rebel them, for there was only ever one who succeeded, and even he is now known as The Blind King. A weak excuse for the man he once was. But curiousity killed the cat, and it killed Jason as well: because now he knows one of the syllables of the Word that can destroy the evil monarch. The only downside is that The Emperor is aware of Jason’s knowledge as well, and will now do everything in his power to fight and destroy the young man. Aided by The Blind King, his new-found friend and fellow-Beyonder Rachel, a surviving musician of The Giddy Nine named Tark, a displacer called Feddrin and a lot of other interesting creatures, Jason goes on a quest of his own: to find all syllables of the Word, to destroy Maldor, and to free the kingdom. If he, by some magical fortune or insane amount of luck, survives, that is.

I must say that I haven’t read a lot of epic fantasy aimed at a young adult audience yet, so this novel was a nice change to that. Brandon Mull really brings his characters to life on the very pages of this book, and the world he creates may sound very foreign and strange, but at the same time it sounds oddly familiar. Because in the make-believe fantasy world created by this author, people hold the same fears and perils as they do in our every-day world. It was nice to see ordinary people in a fantasy world once, because some of those world are just overpopulated by heroes, and that gets boring too after a while. The fears that the inhabitants of Lyrian held towards their tyrant Emperor were very real, raw and honest, and practically pulsing from the pages. I was intrigued. Very intrigued.

Let me start by the only two small things I thought were a bit off in this novel, and the two reasons why I didn’t rate it a 5. First of all, the writing style seemed a bit odd to me at first, as if sometimes the author was jumping from sentence to sentence, without actually interlinking it. I got used to this at about page fifty, but it was hard to keep reading at first when I didn’t really enjoy the writing. Truthfully, I enjoyed it more and more towards the middle and end part of the novel, and maybe it was just something I had to get used to. Secondly, this novel very much reads like the old, standard ‘youngsters go on a quest, meet different people, there are perils everywhere which they must face, and then move on’ kind of epic fantasy novel. For instance: after Jason arrives in Lyrian, the first place he comes across is The Loremaster’s House, in which he must find the lock to open a secret door that leads him to a book made of human skin. A book that holds the first syllable of the Word. Later on, Jason learns that he must find the remaining syllables: one of them is hidden in a cave under the sea, another on an island in the middle of an enchanted lake, yet another is on the inside of the vault of the Chancellor, then there’s one that’s hidden in a cursed swamp, and the latter can be found on a guy named Kimp. To find and discover each of these syllables, Jason and his friends must travel somewhere, perform some hideous task – like jumping off a cliff, slaying a giant crab, or running over an enchanted lake – before they can get the syllable. And then it’s hit the road again. Entertaining, but a bit obvious.

It was hard to remember all the names in this book – there are just so many. Each and every person we meet has a name, and some randomly dissapear for 100 pages only to resurface later in the novel. That’s fine, of course, if it weren’t for the fact that when Tark showed up again later on, I had to go back to where our heroes first met Tark to actually remember who exactly he was. At first, I thought he was one of the bad guys, which didn’t make sense, and I only remembered he was the surviving musician when I reread that part of the novel. So the names might be a bit tacky to recoil, and the questline might be a bit straight-forward and predictable, but don’t let this hold you back to read Beyonders: A World Without Heroes, because the characters and the imagination of Brandon Mull make up for a lot of that.

For starters, Lyrian really is an interesting world. It’s inhabited by the strangest of creatures, ranging from Displacers (whose body parts tend to be all over the place) to Manglers, Corrupters and frogs the size of an adult man. The descriptions the author gives of the small towns, underground caves, swamps and other peculiar places visited by our protagonists are truly mesmerizing, and I often felt like I was in the middle of the action as well. Brandon Mull’s imagination really knows no boundaries, as he makes up things as the story goes along, and lets his reader meet up with creatures that sound stranger and stranger. And when he isn’t busy incorporating a giant crab that likes to attack people, or a lake that heats up as you walk over it in this novel, than the author is introducing the reader to places that are equally original. This story is so packed with action, adventure, new places to visit and new friends or enemies to encounter, that it’s incredibly hard to put down.

I liked the characters, although they presented some flaws at first. Their development is incredible. Jason grows from a young man with little self-confidence into a trustworthy and loyal hero of sorts, whereas his fellow Beyonder Rachel starts out as a stubborn, somewhat egocentric and self-absorbed girl, but then develops several qualities that equal Jasons. I only wish we saw more of Rachel in this story, because it gets clear somewhat half-way that this novel is focused on Jason in particular, and we see less and less of Rachel, which I thought was a shame, since I did like her, and I would have liked to see her friendship with Jason evolve – hopefully into something more. I also really like Feddrin, the displacer Jason and Rachel run into on one of their quests. He had a very open, outgoing and social personality, which made it especially easy for me to like him. I wasn’t too fond of Jasher, and I thought it was actually somewhat silly to introduce him, for the few chapters he appeared. It was hard for me to accept yet another person come to rescue our heroes, and the way they trusted him so easily, especially after what happened in the past, I found peculiar and highly unlikely. It just didn’t strike me as a very believable way to act.

The passages I loved most were the ones concerning the syllable in the vault, and Jason who had to outsmart the Chancellor. I thought these chapters were very well-written, tense, suspenseful and very original. Then again, with an author like Brandon Mull, originality and imagination, really isn’t a problem. Beyonders: A World Without Heroes has more twist and turns than a mountain road, more entertaining creatures to come across than even in Alice in Wonderland, and a more fact-pased, original and enjoyable storyline than you can even think possible. If you’re a fan of Young Adult novels, or Epic Fantasy in general, or just want to read a trully enjoyable, breathtakingly exciting and highly adventurous novel, then this book definately is the way to go.

SPOILER ALERT
I must admit that I loved the ending. Throughout the novel, I had often sighed and although releived for my heroes, was somewhat dissapointed that they didn’t fail in at least one quest. However, when the most was at stake, and the Word failed…that was golden. It was a plot twist I had not dreamed to anticipate, and it was novel-crafting at its best.

I’m really looking forward to read the next book in this series now, although I’ll have to wait till Spring 2012.

Author Interview: Kris Sedersten

The Book

9976979Title: Mojo
Author: Kris Sedersten
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Supernatural, Horror
Review copy provided by the author. Visit the author’s website.
Read my review for Mojo.

When Scottie Brown, a New Orleans college student, is aggressively haunted by vivid nightmares and daytime apparitions, he begins a search for answers; unwittingly putting himself and those closest to him in a confrontation with evil. To defeat the energy that torments him, he recruits a team of paranormal investigators, friends from high school, and a psychic medium. Together, they pursue the ghosts of Scottie’s ancestors in a haunted plantation deep in the Louisiana countryside. They uncover dark family secrets and the spiritual energy of a malevolent patriarch who projects an unholy prophecy that has deadly consequenes for all mankind. The power of an elusive mojo amulet becomes central to fighting Scottie’s demons as the journey through the haunted mansion, filled with twists and turns, takes on a life of its own against time. Mojo is a fast-paced paranormal mystery-thriller. Edgy and fun, this book will show the reader how having faith in a power greater than ourselves will lift us through even the most unforseeable obstacles in life.

Author Interview

1) Hello Kris! I really enjoyed reading your novel Mojo. I’ve heard that you’ve written one other novel prior to writing Mojo. Can you tell us something about that novel?

I wrote my first novel, The Spirit Seekers, in 2008. It is the story of Scottie Brown’s first encounter with the paranormal; a prequel to Mojo. It was sort of a goof and I put the story together without ever intending to publish it. But, one thing led to another and I did decide to publish. The Spirit Seekers is a good story but the text is pretty rough and it I now believe I published it too soon. I did not work with an editor then and the manuscript could have used more editing and rewriting throughout. Through the experience of writing that first novel I realized how much I love to write and I decided to take the whole process much more seriously. Over the past three years I have worked toward improving my writing skills and developing a creative style while learning everything I can about the publishing business. I am now working with an editor who constantly challenges me and I think that was a good step for me.

2) Mojo is all about ghosts, haunted mansions, ancient family secrets, devil worshipping, and other scary things that go bump in the night. Why did you choose to write a horror novel, and why focus on these subjects?

I’ve always loved horror stories and I have a passion for the paranormal so I can’t even imagine writing about anything else. Much of the paranormal fiction today focuses on vampires and werewolves. There aren’t too many good old fashioned ghost stories out there and I wanted to write something original that would appeal to those who appreciate a good scare.

3) Now, I really have to ask this question because it’s been haunting me ever since I read Mojo, and fell in love with the description of the haunted mansion that plays a large part in the novel. Is the Bennet family mansion based on an actual house, or just a result of your imagination?

It isn’t based on one specific house but it is a combination of “haunted houses” I have explored at one time or another. Much of the “mojo” in the mansion is how I imagine a haunted southern plantation would look like and feel to a visitor.

4.) What was your favorite scary movie/book/story back when you were a child?

I always love watching The Wizard Of OZ as a child. My sister and I would cuddle together and watch the movie. Then, we’d be too afraid to go to bed. Our Dad would get so disgusted with us! There was a soap opera called Dark Shadows that came on every afternoon when I was in grade school. The main characters were vampires, witches, ghosts, and any combination of paranormal creations. We loved that show too.

5) To stay in the spirit of ghosts, haunting, and other scary things: have you ever seen a ghost? Or just had the feeling that a place was haunted?

I am the founder of Synergy Paranormal Investigations. We are a new group of paranormal investigators from central Nebraska. I have been in places that I absolutely believe are haunted locations but I have never seen a ghost—so far! It’s on my list though! I have experienced “cold spots”, electrical appliances turning on by themselves, and other unexplained phenomena that help to inspire my writing and motivate me! Exploring the unexplained is so fun!

6) Are you currently working on another novel? If so, can you tell us something about it?

I am in the process of rewriting The Spirit Seekers. As I mentioned earlier, it is a good story but it needed some work. I decided to polish the story and later this year I will publish it under the title, Lost Mojo. It is in the editing process at this time. I am also working on the third installment of the Mojo series. The first draft of that story is finished, now comes the tedious task of tweaking the craftsmanship, deciding what to leave in and what to take out! I plan to publish a non-fiction collection of ghost stories I am compiling from my website, the case files of Synergy Paranormal Investigations, and stories from other teams in the area who are willing to share their experiences.

So, yeah, I am crazy busy! I want to thank you so much for inviting me to join you. I’d love to hear from anyone who has read Mojo. All comments are appreciated. Mojo is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. (also in Kindle version) Please feel free to visit my website <a href=”http://www.krissedersten.com”>http://krissedersten.com</a> and leave a comment or share a story.

Thank you so much for the interview, Kris!

The Author

Kris Sedersten is a Registered Nurse with a degree in Human and Social Service Administration. She has held credentialing in both Gerontological and Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing. She is currently employed as a Nursing Home Administrator and RN Consultant in her home town of Harvard NE. where she lives with her husband, Paul and their mini-doxies, Chloe and Bailey.
Kris has three adult daughters, Lyndsi, Ashley, and Sara who continually enlighten her with their inspiration and unconditional love. Her eight grandchildren bring delight and imagination to the empty nest whenever possible to remind her that the world is always more fun when viewed with childlike wonder.
Kris has a passion for the paranormal, writing fiction, and sharing her faith in innovative forums so combining the three has led to a series of books she is working on. If you’ve got Mojo; look for upcoming releases in 2011. . Visit her website.

Book Review: Mojo by Kris Sedersten

9976979Title: Mojo
Author: Kris Sedersten
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Supernatural, Horror
Review copy provided by the author. Visit the author’s website.
Rating: 4 stars

When Scottie Brown, a New Orleans college student, is aggressively haunted by vivid nightmares and daytime apparitions, he begins a search for answers; unwittingly putting himself and those closest to him in a confrontation with evil. To defeat the energy that torments him, he recruits a team of paranormal investigators, friends from high school, and a psychic medium. Together, they pursue the ghosts of Scottie’s ancestors in a haunted plantation deep in the Louisiana countryside. They uncover dark family secrets and the spiritual energy of a malevolent patriarch who projects an unholy prophecy that has deadly consequenes for all mankind. The power of an elusive mojo amulet becomes central to fighting Scottie’s demons as the journey through the haunted mansion, filled with twists and turns, takes on a life of its own against time. Mojo is a fast-paced paranormal mystery-thriller. Edgy and fun, this book will show the reader how having faith in a power greater than ourselves will lift us through even the most unforseeable obstacles in life.

Scottie Brown is haunted by scary apparitions that would manage to scare even Buffy, The Vampire Slayer. It starts with Scottie having nightmares about an event that happened several years ago, but scarred him for life. But then, the nightmares start to follow him in his real life as well. Creepy visions through a mirror, his own truck turning against him, and a half-rotten but still walking corpse trying to kill him; that’s only the beginning of Scottie’s problems. When his girlfriend starts seeing strange things as well, he realises he’s not going insane, but is instead being tormented by real, actual ghosts and apparitions. As he recruits his best friend, and some of his old friends from back in high school to track down whatever it is that’s making Scottie’s life a living hell, he realises he needs all the help that he can get. Because whatever it is that’s haunting him, it has something to do with his heritage, as being the heir of the Bennet legacy. The latter, unfortunately for Scottie, were rather notorious for their ventures to the dark side, satanic rituals and human sacrifices. Like that’s not enough, his grandfather thought of a way to become immortal, and is determined to go through with his plans, even after death. Reluctantly, Scottie is forced to go back to his family’s old mansion, and destroy the root of all this evil once and for all.

I thought Mojo was an enjoyable read. The story is very fast-paced, and it literally pulls you in, like when two giant hands would suddenly appear from the book, grab you by the collar, and actually pull you into the pages – that kind of pulling. I felt like I was in the middle of the action from moment one, and was still in the middle of the action by the end of the novel. The storyline is fresh, original and very rich, it actually covers a lot of ground as it dives into old-world-voodoo-practices, ghosts and apparitions, hauned trucks, century-old family secrets, satanic rituals, devil worship, and the fact that some evil things just won’t stay dead. But there’s more. Kris Sedersten actually puts down a very accurate description of ghost hunters, as she brings Scottie and his friends to the devil’s lair and lets them go ghost hunting. It reminded me a lot of those ghost hunting tapes that were popular back in the 90’s, in which groups of friends entered ‘haunted mansions’ and tried to record ghostly noises, apparitions and those light-bulb-thingies, or orbs. Since it has been one of my aspirations to go ghost hunting one day, ever since I was like thirteen years old, this book brought back some nostalgic moments. Nostalgia = always a bonus.

Unfortunately, the main character of Mojo, Scottie Brown, and I have a lot of differences in opinion. I just didn’t like him, and this reached a climax when he voiced his opinion about Mojo towards the end of the novel. When I read that, I was solemly wishing that the ghosts of all his ancestors would come back from the dead, all attack him at once and shred him to pieces. Or do something else, as long as it was  very bloody. I just had the feeling that Scottie was a childish, immature and egocentric young man, although I must admit he often thought about others as well – but I just couldn’t shake this opinion away. It’s like he doesn’t even realise how lucky he is, especially not when a great group of friends comes to rescue him from the forces of darkness, he just takes it all for granted. I must admit that Scottie goes through a lot of character development throughout this novel, and he comes out at the other end as a changed man, a person I could easily endure. So I’m faintly suspicious that it was the author’s goal to initially portray him as some sort of selfish person, and then put his entire experience on him, which would change him forever. That said, the growth and character development Scottie goes through, is one of the most impressive examples of character building I have seen in quite a while. The Scottie we see at the beginning and at the end of the novel, are practically two different people. But the change is slowly, gradually, and as a reader you get to see it quite well through the pages of Mojo. Impressive.

I also enjoyed the fact that Mojo really is a prime example of all the things Team Spirit can accomplish. Scottie and his friends all have very distinct qualities and personalities, but together, they form a practically unbeatable team. And it’s only through their combined efforts that they can stand a chance at defeating the evil that lurks in the darkness of Scottie’s ancestor’s mansion. Talking about that mansion…I loved it. I loved everything about it, from the faintly lit bedrooms, to the architectural descriptions, to the ghosts that haunted it. The way Kris Sedersten described that mansion, it was like I could really see it in front of me, more even, like I could really walk up to it, open the front door and start exploring. This reminded me a lot of the novel The Witching Hour by Anne Rice, in which the author goes through great lengths to describe the house of the Mayfair family. That novel left me with the exact same feeling, like I could just walk out on the street, and there would that house be, right in front of me, and as real as possible. This might have something to do with the fact that I just love old houses, especially old and abandoned houses, as well, but I would like to give all the credit to the author for making the house actually come to live.

There were some parts I didn’t like as well. For instance, the dialogue wasn’t in plain English all the time, but sometimes it was more like one would actually speak the words than when one would write them. I can’t really explain this properly, but it made the novel a bit more complicated for me to read, as a foreigner, and at first, it actually distracted me from the dialogue a bit. But I got used to it after a few chapters, and then it started to make sense in my head, as well. The dialogue wasn’t always that great, though, and sometimes the characters seemed a bit too young or a bit too old to use certain sentences. But since I enjoyed the story so much, and rushed through the pages to find out what happened in the end, I didn’t mind that much about the dialogue being a little off at times.

The other thing is…I wasn’t all that scared. I would have liked to be genuinely terrfied but I wasn’t. And trust me when I say that usually, all you need to scare me, is a ghost. Or not even a ghost, just an object put on a different place, or a picture falling off the wall, or…Well, you get my drift, and I’m scaring myself as I write this. Well, Mojo does a little too much a little too soon to actually get me in the ‘scared as hell’ modus. For instance, we start with Scottie having a nightmare that still chases him even when he’s awake. Then he gets a visit from a very dead and very rotten apparition, then his own car is behaving weirdly, and eventually he goes to a mansion that is just full of ghosts. I mean, there actually were ghosts everywhere there. Like hundreds of ghosts. And that’s just a bit too much for me to actually be believable. I would have liked it more, had the author taken a slower start – perhaps by entering the nightmares first, then slowly things start happening, like objects being out of place, like weird sounds, etc. – and maybe not go over the top as well, for instance only having a couple of ghosts in the Bennet family mansion. Like maybe just the most prominent ones for the story. I had the feeling that Kris Sedersten wanted her readers to be on a rollercoaster ride of scaryness, but actually forgot to build up the tension by doing so. It’s the little things that scare me when I’m reading a book in the eerie hours of the night, the little things that could actually happen to me, as a reader, as well. Not the big ghost-blast-a-thon.

The character I liked the most in this novel? Mojo. God, I loved Mojo. His childish innocence, his protectiveness over his adoptive parents, the sad story of what happened to him and his mother, and of whom he really is. It made me feel so much for him, and then, well. He didn’t deserve to be treated so badly, and he didn’t deserve everything he had to go through. He seemed so pure, so fragile, so good, kind and friendly, as opposed to all the malice he had witnessed, all the evil that still haunted him, and all the wicked things that had been done to him. It was like the oldest of all contradictions: Mojo, the good, the pure, the innocent vs. The Bennet family, the evil, the hating, the wicked.

Although this novel might not have scared me to death and didn’t give me any sleepless nights, I do have to admit that the whole haunted mansion scene made me feel slightly uncomfortable. And I did enjoy this novel, I certainly did. You know, it might as well just be me. Maybe I’ve grown immune to scary novels because of my occasional ventures into the worlds of Supernatural, The X-Files and various scary movies. Let’s just say it’s me, and that this novel, to the average not-immune person would be frightingly scary as well. Because in all honesty, Mojo has all ingredients you need to make one hell of a frightening story. Hauntings, apparitions, devil worshippers, ancient secrets…Do I really need to say more? Add excellent character development and personalization, a cast of interesting characters, impressive descriptions and a fluent writing style, and you know you’re in for a thrill.

Teaser Tuesdays (9)

Teaser-Tuesdays
Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Teasers

She ran her hand over one of them. It was cool and porous, with its tiny holes filled in with moss, and she could feel the masons’ hands as strong – reaching out to her from another century to offer her the understanding that this very moment was one reason they’d built it to last.
“This must have taken them years,” she said in awe, withdrawing her hand and looking at it; she clenched it closed and then opened it again, lightly shaking the strange thingling feeling out of it.

~p. 189 Bella Maura (Beautiful Justice Series #1) by Dawn Dyson