Book Review: Refraction by Terry Geo

Title: Refraction
Author: Terry Geo
Genre: Science-Fiction / Fantasy
Rating: 4,5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

Most stories start at the beginning; this one begins at the end. At least for Maria. Her sudden death sends shockwaves through her family and pushes her grieving mother to the very brink of insanity. After exhausting every avenue conventional medicine has to offer, Maria’s father, Henry, brings together the world’s greatest minds in the hope of carving out a new path. Months pass, and as Henry watches his beloved Elena slowly drift away, he begins to lose faith. It is only then that a solution presents itself. A discovery so momentous, it saves Elena and reveals the most important scientific and technological breakthrough in modern history.

Silicate is founded; a privately funded facility which delves deeper into the human mind, able to discover answers to questions we are yet to ask. Securing Silicate’s secrets becomes of utmost importance; even after treating hundreds of patients, the public are still unaware of the wonders and terrifying reality Silicate has unearthed . . .

The world you know is only half the story.

Refraction was not at all what I expected. In ways, it went beyond what I had expected, diving into unconventional, unexpected territory, while at the same time dealing with issues that are known to all of us. A family, dealing with the loss of a loved one, for example, is something all of us unfortunately have to deal with at some point in their lives (however, in this story, it’s the worst sorrow of all, that of parents losing a child). Trying to find a way to reach out to those we love, even after death, is something all of us have probably longed for at some point or another as well, and this book deals with exactly that, with grief, with trying to move on, with trying to save the people we love. And it’s by going on this quest, venturing into this unknown territory of the human mind, that miraculous wonders and terrifying truths are uncovered.

The book is quite long (it was 700+ pages in the PDF I read), but it reads lightning-fast, and once you start reading, it’s hard to put down. For a debut novel, it’s especially surprising that the author manages to craft such an original, well-researched story, while keeping up the fast pace and still being able to introduce the reader to myriad characters that each bring their own uniqueness to the table.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but the book had quite a few twists in the storyline that I didn’t see coming, and this doesn’t happen very often!
I’m definitely interested to read more works by this author in the future.
 
 
 

Book Review: Edge of Death (Book #2 Admiralty Archives)

Title: Edge of Death: Book Two of the Admiralty Archives
Author: Joni Parker
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Rating: 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

In this second installment of The Admiralty Archives, the warrior Lady Alexin, the Keeper of the Keys for the Elf realm of Eledon, finds herself exiled to the harsh world of near-future London. Rendered little more than a political pawn by the Elfin Council of Elders to avoid a war with the Rock Elves, she has little choice but to struggle to find her way in this strange new land. Taken under the protection of kindly mentors, Vice Admiral Malcolm Teller of the British Royal Navy and his wife, Alex brings all her skills to the fore as she uncovers a series of deadly plots.

Murder is on everyone’s mind as an underground White Supremacist organization takes aim at Admiral Teller while two wizards, resurrected from death, must kill Alex in order to survive. To make matters worse, the Rock Elves dispatch a hundred assassins from Eledon with their sole mission to bring Lady Alexin to the very… Edge of Death.

I read and reviewed some of Joni Parker’s other books before: The Blue Witch, Gossamer and Noble Magic, all part of the Chronicles of Eledon series. In the Admiralty Archives series, I already read and reviewed the first book, Curse of the Sea, so you can say I’m definitely a fan of this author and the magical worlds she creates, with most of my ratings being either 4 or 4,5 stars. I mean, fantasy, elves, wizards, what’s not to like?

Needless to say I had some pretty high expectations when starting the second book in the Admiralty Archives,  Edge of Death, but the sequel certainly didn’t dissapoint. The reader is once again following Lady Alexin, who by now has really become one of my favorite characters in fantasy books throughout. What I really enjoy about this series is how well it mixes fantasy and reality, and how well-crafted the fantasy world is, reminding me of the worlds created by Raymond E. Feist and Robin Hobb, and that I could spend hour hiding away in during my childhood and early teens. It’s a rare gift to be able to create a world that is so different yet so relatable that people can imagine themselves there, and to be able to come up with characters who despite being relatable, can still surprise the reader – especially after so many books.

In this book, Alexin is forced into exile to the London of the near future, a terrible, sullen place. Not only does she have to get used to this new, strange world, but she also becomes a target in a complicated assassination plot, and she’ll need all her skills, wit and some good old-fashioned luck to survive.

I don’t want to give out too many spoilers for readers new to the series, but this book had me on the edge of my seat again. Memorable characters, a vast, extraordinary setting, excellent writing and a mercilessly fast pace, this is one book no fan of the genre should miss out on.

 

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Book Review Julian Fox: The Dream Guardian by E.J. Miranda

Title: Julian Fox: The Dream Guardian
Author: E.J. Miranda
Genre: YA Fantasy
Age Group: Young Adult
Rating: 4,5 stars
Purchase: Amazon

It is said that dreams are just that: only dreams. But believe me, this is not always true. Some dreams are as real as the dreamer.

Thanks to their dreams, dreamers can receive the special visit of eternal wisdom that has inspired the creativity of great inventors, scientists, musicians, and even writers throughout the ages.

This creative wisdom is not always the type that appears to the eager conscience. Sometimes, a Defiler, a destroyer of dreams, is the one who tries to appear before the dreamer. These creatures were once humans, but they allowed their pain and desire for revenge to take over and seek the same miserable fate for the one who dreams.

You must not fear — Dream Guardians, also known as Kelsdrant, will always protect the one who dreams, even with their own life. They are people of flesh and bone, just like you and me, or at least they are on Earth.

The following story is dedicated to the fun, extravagant, and enlightening life of Julian Fox, the Dream Guardian.

Be prepared, dear reader. It is time to dream, laugh, reflect, and even maybe cry.

Welcome to the Land of the Wise Dreams.

In Julian Fox: The Dream Guardian, Julian Fox is living a seemingly normal life, until suddenly everything he’s ever known changes when he experiences a realistic dream that takes him to the Land of the Wise Dreams. There, he has to fight an evil force and learns the truth about himself and who he really is: a dream guardian, meant to protect dreamers.

On the one hand, the readers get to know Julian in the real world, while in the other, we get to know him in the magical world of dreams, where he battles terrifying creatures and learns about his own true strength. The fantasy world is by far the most intriguing one (duh) but it’s good to be reminded once in a while that Julian has an actual life waiting for him outside of this dream world.

I got pulled into the story right from the start. The characters, in particular Julian but also his brother, were very interesting to read about. The writing was good too, the pacing fast enough to keep me entertained throughout. Fans of YA novels and fantasy novels will love this one, no doubt!

 

Book Review and Giveaway Taking Wing

Title: Taking Wing

Author: Clemency Crow
Genre: Middle Grade Adventure
Rating: 4,5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

12-year-old Freya enjoys karate and is the only one in her class who’s trusted with a part-time job. But everything changes when she meets a boy with yellow eyes. She learns about the guardians, and how an age-old fight has stopped them from fulfilling their purpose. Freya finds new friends in the crow tribe but not everything in the castle is blissful. A destructive shadow lies within her and all she needs to do to summon it is close her eyes. But as the guardian’s war rages on, Freya realises that, although the shadow’s power can be useful, it can’t create peace. Freya and her friends must solve the crime that began the war, but can they bring the guardians together before they destroy each other?

Taking Wing is an intriguing middle grade adventure featuring 12-year-old Freya, a girl who is so much more than she seems at first glance.

The book actually begins with a chapter set in 617 AD, where the reader witnesses the funeral of Edweth, and a man named Raedwald who vows to avenge her death, which he believes was due to her being murdered by someone from the Crow tribe. The book then jumps to the present day, where the reader is introduced to Freya. Despite being only twelve, Freya holds a part-time job in a shop after school. The reader is thrown into the action right away, as Freya feels someone is following her while she’s walking to her aunt’s house–the follower turns out to be a boy with yellow eyes and a long, hooked nose, almost like a bird’s nose.

The boy, Enna, turns out to be much more than he seems at first glance but it’s when his friends turn up that the action really picks up, and they take Freya to the home of the Crow tribe. As she meets the others of the Crow tribe, Freya makes new friends but soon realizes that not everything is at she thought it was, and that the war between the tribes can only be solved with Freya’s help. But can Freya accomplish this task, especially when she discovers that there’s something hidden deep within herself, a shadow, that has tremendous power?

I actually really liked Winnie. She seemed like such a genuine person, and her personality worked rather well. Most of the characters in the book feel like genuine people, with fitting personality traits, and with some little quirks and things that set them apart from others. The author did a really good job portraying all these different characters throughout.

The plot was excellent too, with some unexpected twists and turns that I hadn’t seen coming. There was never a dull moment, and the pacing moved along nicely. The book is clearly aimed at middle graders, but even an older audience will enjoy this book. I look forward to reading the second book in the series, as I suspect there will be a sequel.

 

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Book Review The Sacred Artifact

Title: The Sacred Artifacts
Author: Caldric Blackwell
Genre: Middle Grade
Rating: 4,5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

Determined to uncover the secrets of a mysterious artifact, fourteen-year-old alchemy student Craig Pike and his teacher, Cornelius, journey to the birthplace of alchemy to seek the advice of a wise, ancient alchemist named Quintus. With the help of a witty archer, Audrey Clife, they trek across dangerous lands, compete in a cutthroat tournament, and reunite with old friends. They soon find out the artifact is more powerful than anticipated, and they aren’t the only ones seeking to discover its secrets….

In this adventurous middle grade novel, The Sacred Artifact, Craig Pike and his teacher Cornelius are looking to uncover the secrets of a mysterious artifact. Doing so takes them on a fantastical quest, along with the young but resourceful Audrey Clife, an archer who was actually my favorite character of the entire book!

The quest reminded me a little of Frodo’s journey in Lord of the Rings – while traveling, Craig and his friends encounter enemies at just about every corner, and even though they also meet up with some old friends, there’s an inniment danger lurking at every turn of the page.

I like middle grade books because of the level of imagination that goes into writing them, and this book is no exception. Although I struggled a bit at the start, with the book being the second book in a series, and me not really knowing the characters yet, but after a few chapters, I got the hang of it.

If you enjoy middle grade fantasy books, then I recommend you check out this series.

 
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Book Review: From Frights to Flaws by Sunayna Prasad

Title: From Frights to Flaws
Author: Sunayna Prasad
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Purchase: Amazon

Originally published in 2013, the book has been updated to its full potential with edits, while keeping the storyline the same.

Twelve-year-old Alyssa McCarthy longs for a better life. She lost her parents at age seven and her aunt at nine. Her uncle also enforces unfair rules. But Alyssa discovers something she has never thought existed before… magic. A wicked sorcerer hunts her down. He kidnaps her from her ordinary New Jersey town to Yanowic, an enchanted island in Fiji.
Alyssa is trapped in the country due to a giant shield covering it. She must defeat dangerous creatures and the evil wizard in order to leave. But with sorcerers and enchanted technology getting in her way, can Alyssa succeed?

Let me start by saying that I read and reviewed From Frights to Flaws before. However, the book has been re-edited, and has received a brand new cover when its updated, second edition was released. So, I decided to read and review again!

The book still holds all the magic and mayhem of the first book (for a more detailed review of the plot, check out my first review) but some of the hiccups in the first book have been removed or rewritten, and overall, the book reads smoother. Some grammar/spelling issues I noticed during the first read were fixed in this second edition.

Overall, the updates fixed a lot of minor issues and made the story overall better, although the storyline itself stays the same. I enjoyed this re-visit to this world and these characters, and I recommend this book to middle graders who enjoy fantasy stories and intriguing characters.

Book Review The Monster of Selkirk Book 1: The Duality of Nature

Title: The Monster of Selkirk Book 1: The Duality of Nature
Author: C.E. Clayton
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

Monsters come in many forms, and not everyone knows a monster when they see one. After three hundred years of monstrous, feral elves plaguing the island nation of Selkirk, everyone believes they know what a monster is. Humans have learned to live with their savage neighbors, enacting a Clearing every four years to push the elves back from their borders. The system has worked for centuries, until after one such purge, a babe was found in the forest.

As Tallis grows, she discovers she isn’t like everyone else. There is something a little different that makes people leery in her presence, and she only ever makes a handful of friends. But when the elves gather their forces and emerge from the forests literally hissing Tallis’s name like a battle mantra, making friends is the least of her troubles. Tallis and her companions find themselves on an unwilling journey to not only clear her name, but to stop the elves from ravaging her homeland.

Growing up, I loved books like Robin Hobb’s fantasy works, The Magician series by Raymond E. Feist, The Shannara Chronicles by Terry Brooks… But it’s been a while since I’ve read books that reminded me of these classics. That is, until I read The Monster of Selkirk Book 1: The Duality of Nature. This is the first book I’ve read in years that had a similar epic feel.
The characters are phenomenal. They’re unique, entertaining, they have genuine feelings and emotions, background stories and habits. My favorite one is Tallis, the main character, who struggles with how different she is from everyone else. Luckily she makes some friends who accept her for who she is, and who are willing to put everything on the line to save her.
The writing style pulled me in right from the start, the world-building was top notch, allowing the reader to dive into a fantasy world without feeling overwhelmed by the technicalties or politics of this world, and the plot is so fast-paced, so unpredictable, that once you start reading, you just have to read until the end. Even if that means, like in my case, reading until two in the morning.
I recommend this book to all fans of fantasy novels with elves, kick-ass characters and excellent writing. I can’t wait to read the sequel.
(Also, I’m totally in love with the cover, and it fits the story so well!)

Book Review Curse of the Sea

Title: Curse of the Sea
Author: Joni Parker
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Rating: 4,5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

A NATO training exercise goes terribly wrong when five warships from different countries are mysteriously transported to Eledon, the Realm of the Elves. The warrior, Lady Alexin, is charged to escort the troops back home to London in the year 2031 with the aid of the Wizard Ecstasy and a magic shrinking potion. Yet, when the authorities question her story, Alex is detained and imprisoned under suspicion of terrorism. Caught in a web of politics, betrayal and bungling bureaucracy, the confusing world of the future will push her magical gifts to their limit, and her own future will hang in the balance, caught between “justice” and the place she calls home.

 

I don’t want to give out many spoilers, but Curse of the Sea is really unlike anything you might expect. Even if you’ve read Joni Parker’s other books, it stands out. It’s different. It’s urban fantasy, but also has elements of epic fantasy – we have elves, wizards, shrinking potions, magic, a whole new world next to our own. I’ve read several Joni Parker books before (read my reviews of Gossamer, Noble Magic and The Blue Witch) and I’m always amazed by how the author comes up with so many amazing plots and stories.

And then the characters! Lady Alexin is really one of my favorite characters ever and I was glad she played the main part again in this book, I have to admit that. She’s been through so much already, yet new adventures always loom over the horizon, and no matter what life throws at her, she always stands strong.

The switch and overflow between London and Eledon was well done too, and as usually, I really enjoyed the writing. Joni Parker is an author with an incredible imagination, solid writing skills, and the keen ability to craft a memorable, relatable main character who every reader will root for.

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Book Review: The Emerald Circle by L. Rosenman

Title: The Emerald Circle
Author: L. Rosenman
Genre: Mystery, Suspense
Rating: 4 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Their daughter’s kidnapping plunges the protagonists into a hair-raising calamity

A five-year-old child is kidnapped near her home in a small town in northern Israel. The secret behind her disappearance forces her parents to face a terrible crisis. Mutually suspicious, they embark separately on an emotionally and physically life-changing quest to find their daughter.

Will they ever find her?

Embarking on a physically and emotionally jolting journey to find their lost daughter, they find themselves in a mysterious, far-away, life-threatening place, ruled by a leader who intends to purify the world with genetic engineering. International corporate leaders with dark motives and the Israeli Mossad all feature in the plot.

They must brave a sinister state of altered reality in their search for her

The Emerald Circle is an additional dimension, paralleling our reality, in which occurrences can be more clearly seen. It has vital influence on the protagonists. The solution for the chaos and the turbulent events of the plot can be resolved only on the level of reality itself. In this reality, each passing day increases the danger that the little girl will never be found.

The Emerald Circle definitely fits into the genres of books I like: paranormal mixed with mystery. When a five-year-old goes missing, her parents are willing to do whatever it takes to get her back – although each of them has their own method to do it.

As the clock is racing, the mother infiltrates into a secret organization, and the father tries to help his family from the inside-out. The book skips between both views, giving the reader and over-reaching view over the entire story.

The mix of dystopian elements, the genetic engineering, and the missing-child-narrative is interesting. The book is suspenseful, to say the least, and not the kind of book you can put down halfway through.

Book Review: Sanctuary by Makayla Love

Title: Sanctuary
Author: Makayla Love
Genre: Steampunk / Post-Apocalyptic
Rating: 4 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

Shiloh isn’t adjusting well to her new life in Ironbridge. Life isn’t how she always imagined it would be, and every day is harder than the last. Things only get worse when a small family on their way to a settlement called “Sanctuary” shows up on Shiloh’s doorstep looking for an escort the rest of the way. But Sanctuary isn’t all its supposed to be.

When they find themselves trapped, every second becomes a fight for survival. Can they find a way out before one of them falls to a mad tyrant? Or will their little group be broken up forever?

Sanctuary is the second book in the Titanomachy Series, and it starts off with our protagonist, Shiloh, who has trouble adjusting to her new life in Ironbridge. Shiloh’s past has left her scarred emotionally. The times when she reflects to her early childhood are a bit heartbreaking when you compare them to her current life, and how alone this makes her feel sometimes. She cares deeply for her sister Rilei, and it’s a welcome change to see a sisterly bond represented so predominantly in a book.

The worldbuilding was phenomenal, and I really enjoyed getting to know Shiloh and the other characters. Despite not having read the first book, I didn’t really feel like I was missing out on too much, and I coudl follow the story easily.

An excellent, recommended read for fans of fantasy and steampunk.