Fawkes by Nadine Brandes (Review)

Yes, I’m finally getting around to reviewing this, and I’m afraid it wasn’t my favorite. I’m sorry!

Title: Fawkes

Author: Nadine Brandes

  • Date read: December 29, 2018
  • Rating: 2 stars
  • Genre: Historical Fantasy
  • Age: YA (darker side)
  • Year pub: 2018
  • Pages: 430 (hardcover)
  • Source: The publisher, through Booklook Bloggers

My Review

I finally read FAWKES and, awkwardly, I didn’t love it. *shifty eyes* *stows self away behind fortifications*

Firstly, taste in books varies, and this review is just my personal opinion! FAWKES wasn’t my cup of tea, but if it’s yours, that’s great! I feel like nearly everyone I know loved this, and I’m sad that I didn’t. I enjoy books in general, but this one unfortunately did not click for me.

Negative reviews are not my forte, but this was a review book, and a few people have asked for my opinion, so I’m going to attempt to share a review. I know it’s long overdue. *cough* (It’s also going to be terribly hard to do without spoilers but I will do my best.)

And at the end I’ll list the things I did like, since that’s only fair. 😉

But firstly, reasons why FAWKES and I did not get along, personally.

For one thing, it was rather dark and depressing. That in itself is enough for me to decide it wasn’t my thing. Despite the fantasy aspect, the setting was gritty and unpleasant and actually rather more dystopian than anything, and I just wouldn’t want to live there. The plot itself is pretty dark and violent, if only because of the historical incidents it’s dealing with — which, well, not to get into spoilers but I should have known better than to think things would turn out well, but apparently I didn’t think about that? My mistake! The stone plague was super creepy, too — though I’ll grant it was unique and interesting. XD

But talking of the historical aspect: for some reason I thought that since it was historical FANTASY, history wasn’t set in stone. (No pun intended. XD) I mean, it’s already an alternate history since there’s magic and different factions and stuff, so why can’t that mean that the characters can bring about different outcomes in history and it could be alternate history in THAT way too? Well, apparently it didn’t work that way. Which . . . yeah. It kind of made things seem pointless, to me. Especially when one character didn’t seem to care about this thing that *I* at least thought was awful. And it felt like it was a “well, since it’s history, regardless of the choices they make it’s going to turn out this way, so it doesn’t matter” sort of subtext. That might have worked with time-travel but apparently I just wasn’t suspending my disbelief enough there or something.

Apparently taking a historical time, not improving it, and mixing in magic and a few modern points of view is a thing that happens and that I don’t seem to enjoy much, myself, given that the last two such books I tried I didn’t like. (Maybe I’ll steer clear of historical fantasy in the future . . . That might help.)

Plus, hardly anybody was a nice person, which just sort of depressed me? A lot. If you can’t even LIKE hardly any of the characters in the book, it’s sort of a problem. For me, at any rate. 😛 (Flawed characters, yayyy.) I’ve discussed this about other fiction before, so it’s not this book’s fault, just a trend.

Another trend is what I call telliphobia, where the show-don’t-tell comes out so hard that I was terribly confused about the color powers and the whole magic system for about the first half of the book, since I was never straight-up informed of how the magic worked. Again, not just this book — it’s a trend in current publishing, but it gets a little tiring. All I want is to know what’s going on, you know? Is that too much to ask? (Disclaimer: I did eventually figure it out and do think the idea of the color powers is pretty cool. I just wanted it explained early on so I could get on with the story, instead of stumbling through tiny hints and getting distracted from the plot by trying to understand how things worked.)

But the last three things I complained about are general things I dislike and not the direct fault of this book, necessarily, so I suppose that’s not quite fair — sorry. (This reminds me of something C.S. Lewis said in On Stories. Something along the lines of how he didn’t like detective novels, so if he reviewed one it would be rubbish criticism, since he’d be reviewing/disliking the KIND of book it is, not the actual work, which isn’t totally fair. I’m paraphrasing, but anyway.)

Back to characters. Sometimes I liked Thomas, but other times he really frustrated me. Never knowing who he should be rooting for or who *I* should be rooting for was kind of exhausting. Plus I got pretty mad at him near the end when spoilers happened and he just didn’t seem to CARE at all. UGH. So Thomas and I didn’t get along all the time, for those reasons and also how he was sometimes sort of petulant/unmanly. I can’t really explain it. But I did sometimes really like him or at least feel bad for him and want him to succeed! It’s . . . confusing. I did like Emma most of the time and what little we saw of Norwood and maybe some other people occasionally. But it did seem like nobody else was likable at all. And I could never decide how I felt about Guy Fawkes himself — I felt like he had loads more potential. I also put the book down for several months after, well . . . a spoiler. I’m just saying, if basically the only nice character dies on me, I’m going to be a little put out. *cough* Also, taking such a long break probably didn’t help the book hang together in my mind. 😛

I never rooted for either side of the Keepers/Igniters. They were both being jerks and I didn’t really care. And the allegorical side of things sort of confused my brain. Especially the White Light, which could have been a funny character but felt totally way off, if it was supposed to be what I think it was supposed to be — I was just way too weirded out by its self-centered flippancy. (At one point [page 247] it was like “I could have done that, you know. You just never asked,” but actually, um, no, excuse me, THOMAS DID ASK EARLIER, on page 196, and the White Light conveniently wasn’t listening or didn’t care or SOMETHING. I just. I can’t.) I could be toootally off, but if it was supposed to be an allegory of God it totally missed the mark — for me at least. So that was sort of depressing and I felt like, personally, maybe I would have enjoyed the book more if I didn’t feel like it was trying to do Christian allegory stuff in a weird way.

So yes. Dark, depressing. Felt let down by the historical fantasy element that I was looking forward to. Didn’t find the characters to be ones I could root for on the whole. And in general some of it just . . . didn’t work for me. I feel like there were a couple of other things I didn’t care for, and don’t want to get into now. But essentially I read for enjoyment and this one didn’t hit the mark for me. I simply couldn’t enjoy myself and it wasn’t fun and honestly it totally stressed me out. But I think that’s just me?

Things I did enjoy!

  • The cover is still one of my FAVORITES.
  • The writing was gorgeous and everything was vivid.
  • It was very unique and interesting and exciting.
  • I did like a couple of the characters! Norland and Emma and Thomas sometimes. 😛
  • Emma and Thomas together were precious and squishable.
  • And it was pretty awesome when they saved the day from . . . well . . . something. Near the end but not at the end. No spoilers.
  • The color magic system was really neat once I figured it out.
  • At least it wasn’t a TOTAL tragedy and (aside from all the awfulness) there were one or two good outcomes, so yay!

Overall, the things I did like weren’t enough to override the things I didn’t enjoy, so this one was a bit of a disappointment for me. Personally. I really wanted to like it! (Plus, the author is the SWEETEST HUMAN on her Instagram so it makes me sad I didn’t love this book, though naturally I still love her as a person! And I do have hopes for trying more books from this author.)

So that’s the story of how I accidentally didn’t love FAWKES. My apologies.


I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

I review for BookLook Bloggers


About Fawkes

Thomas Fawkes is turning to stone, and the only cure to the Stone Plague is to join his father’s plot to assassinate the king of England.

Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th-century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death.

But what if death finds him first?

Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did it. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.

The plan: use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Igniter King.

The problem: Doing so will destroy the family of the girl Thomas loves. But backing out of the plot will send his father and the other plotters to the gallows. To save one, Thomas will lose the other.

No matter Thomas’s choice, one thing is clear: once the decision is made and the color masks have been put on, there’s no turning back.

Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, June 26, 2018


Links

Find the book on: Goodreads • Thomas Nelson • Barnes & Noble • Amazon • Author Website


Thanks for reading! 🙂 (Please don’t hate me. XD)

Emma Retold: Emmeline by Sarah Holman (Review)

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Hey, everyone! 🙂 As promised, I’m here today with:

My Review of…

Emmeline by Sarah Holman

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I beta-read this book awhile back, and I’m so delighted that it’s released to the world now! Seriously, if you like Jane Austen or the book Emma (or films!) at all, you’re going to want to try this one out! 🙂

Emmeline is a retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma, set in the 1930s during the Great Depression. This book is the first of a series of such retellings, The Vintage Jane Austen.

Now, as a disclaimer, I’d like to say that I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, that I’ve never (to my knowledge) read a book set in the ’30s, and that before this I hadn’t read any retellings of Jane Austen’s novels… Yet even though it was not my usual reading fare, I enjoyed it immensely!

I read Emma for the first time not long before reading Emmeline, so the original story was fresh in my mind when I read the retelling, which only added to the delight I found in reading it. Retellings have always intrigued me, and I adored this one. 🙂 It was fun connecting the parallels of events and characters in this retelling to the older tale, their similarities and differences and twists, and seeing how well the story translated into the new time period.

It was well written and engaging (possibly Sarah Holman’s best work yet!) and I was impressed with so much about it, including how well put together it was, as a retelling and as a book in general. It’s a fairly short read (I read it in two days), which left me impressed also that it fit in all the important Emma-type things, in far less space than the original book, without feeling condensed.

Fredrick Knight (the Mr. Knightley of this version) is so awesome! His character was pretty much my favorite thing about the book — well, him and his relationship with Emmeline. 😉 He’s like a mix of the original Mr. Knightley, and some sort of Hardy-Boys-type character (thinking of the time period), though more grown up, of course, and so very REAL. Fredrick was just an amazing character — so good and kind and firm, not afraid to tell Emmeline when she’s wrong about something (which is often. XD) but also willing to have fun. HE’S THE BEST.

Another thing I loved was the relationship and banter of Fredrick and Emmeline — their dialog was priceless! And the thing about the hat. XD Their interactions were just SO well written!! BASICALLY THEY’RE THE BEST THING ABOUT THIS BOOK AND I LOVE THEM AND THEIR STORY SO MUCH! ^_^ ❤

The ending was a little quick (but I loved it so much anyway!), and a circumstance about Morgan’s ending surprised me a little, so I’m not sure if I liked that, but otherwise I have no complaints and just really enjoyed it. 🙂

Other fun things:

  • The details like the food they ate (yum!)
  • Literary references (the Rover Boys! <3)
  • All the little feelings of the ’30s which felt authentic and pulled me directly into the time period.
  • A Christian theme runs through the book which I really liked and felt was done well.
  • Humor and drama and banter, which I loved! 🙂

Overall, a very enjoyable read — I loved it! Recommended to any fan of Jane Austen, or Christian historical fiction with a dash of romance, or the ’30s… or just a good clean enjoyable read!

(Also, can we talk about how absolutely GORGEOUS the stunning cover my dear friend Hannah designed? Just. Just. Yes. <3)

I can’t wait for the rest of the Vintage Jane Austen series of retellings in the ’30s (each by different authors) to come out, and I’m very much looking forward to re-reading Emmeline!

About the Book

img_3447What if Jane Austen’s Emma lived in America in the year 1930?

The talk of stock market crashes and depression isn’t going to keep Emmeline Wellington down. Born to wealth and privilege, Emmeline wants nothing more than to help her new friend, Catarina, find a husband. Emmeline sets her sights on one of the town’s most eligible bachelors, but nothing seems to go right. Even her friend and neighbor Fredrick Knight seems to question her at every turn.

Will she help Catarina find the man of her dreams? Why is her father acting so strangely? Will the downturn affect her life, despite her best efforts?

Find the Book

Amazon  Goodreads

You can find out more about the author of Emmeline, Sarah Holman, at her blog, www.thedestinyofone.com, and more about The Vintage Jane Austen series at www.vintagejaneausten.com.

Give me your thoughts, dearest Roadlings! Is or is not Mr. Knightley the best? (The correct answer is YES! ;)) Does Emmeline intrigue you? Have you read any retellings of Austen’s novels that you can recommend to me? Tell me all! 🙂

Epic Modern Irish Warriors + Faeries = An Earthly King Review (Blog Tour)

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I’m super excited to be a part of the blog tour for the release of An Earthly King by Hazel B. West!

You may remember my rave review for book 1, Blood Ties, earlier this year in March… Well, good news! There’s a sequel out now, and if you missed a chance to read book one, Blood Ties is FREE ON KINDLE until November 5th. So get thyself over to Amazon and download Blood Ties ASAP, do you hear?

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November, because that’s the last day Blood Ties is free on Amazon!

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Anyhow, I’m here today as part of the blog tour for the second book in the Modern Tales of Na Fianna series, to review An Earthly King! I’m very excited about this book. ^_^

Head on over HERE to follow the rest of the tour!

And scroll down to the bottom of this post for info on a giveaway of signed paperback copies of both books in this series so far! 🙂

First, a bit about the book and author, and then my review (and even an excerpt)! (All this info AS WELL AS a free ebook and a giveaway for two paperbacks? Yes, I know, I know, all of this is too good to be true. BUT IT IS TRUE, so deal with it and soak up the epicness.)

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Title: An Earthly King (The Modern Tales of Na Fianna #2)

Genre: YA, Urban Fantasy, Alternate History

Synopsis

Six months after Ciran defeated King Lorcan and instigated a peace treaty between the High Court of Ireland and the Goblin realm, things have been slowly getting back to normal in the kingdoms. That is, until the council decides that it’s time for High King Eamon to find a queen.

On top of that, there seem to be stirrings of rebellion in the Faelands, as not all the Fair Folk like the High Court’s treaty with the Goblins. So it’s up to Ciran Mac Cool and his company to stop the rebellion before it goes too far, while also trying to keep Eamon safe from potential assassins. And with all the prospective brides rubbing elbows with the High King, that’s easier said than done.

With the help of their friends and a spunky agent from the Bureau of Protection Against Fair Folk, Ciran’s Company attempts to stop the Faery plots before Ireland is thrown into all out war. Again.

An Earthly King is another action packed book in this Celtic urban fantasy series with lots of friendship, humor, angst, and even traces of the Ballad of Tam Lin.

Find An Earthly King online:

Createspace Paperback | Amazon | Smashwords | Add it on Goodreads

About the Author

Hazel West lives in Purgatory, er, Florida, with her books and her hedgehog Horatio. When she’s not writing, she’s reading other people’s books, studying folklore, or binge-watching something on Netflix—drinking coffee is also a given.

You can find her online in these places:

Blog: http://hazelwest.blogspot.com

Writing blog: http://talesfromamodernbard.blogspot.com

Twitter GoodreadsYoutube | Pinterest

My Review

earthlykingcoverpic2-copyAn Earthly King

(Modern Tales of Na Fianna, #2)

by Hazel B. West

YA / Fantasy / Contemporary / Alternate History / Retelling / Tam Lin / Celtic / Ireland

I received a complimentary e-ARC copy of this book from the author. I was not required to write a positive review, and these opinions are entirely my own.

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There are so many awesome things about this book, I don’t even know where to begin. I loved it even more than book one (Blood Ties) if that’s even possible. These were definitely among my top favorite reads this year — instant classics for me!

This book has everything: Swashbuckling action, suspense (I’m pretty sure I forgot to breathe a few times), mystery, deceit, evil faeries (and less-than-evil ones), cars and leather jackets and swords, kings and warriors, true love, comradely brotherly relationships, characters I adore so so much, witty banter, humor and dry narrative which had me laughing more than once, awesome Celtic/Irish/Fae folklore, even a touch of retelling in the form of the ballad of Tam Lin — all wrapped up in a thoroughly FUN story which was simply a joy to read. When I say everything, I mean everything!

Have I convinced you yet?? Because really, I don’t know what more I need to add to this. (Except I will totally keep talking about it because obviously this is an excuse to babble about one of my favorites books, I never turn that down.)

I thought it would be different than it was (just like the first one was different than I thought it would be). I vaguely expected it to continue mainly with Ciran and his gang, and while his gang was in it, they were more side characters, since it was mostly about Eamon (I was very very excited to get a story from his point of view!) and others who are spoilery. Which isn’t a complaint; I just thought there would be more of the same group dynamics as there were in book 1. I expected something different, but I do love how it turned out. This one is also actually very different than the first book: while much of Blood Ties was out in the Faelands, An Earthly King is centered mostly around the castle and such, by its very nature, because it is largely about High King Eamon.

I say largely, because although it’s primarily Eamon’s story, it’s not entirely. There are also chapters from the point of view of Ciran, hero of Blood Ties, which made me SO happy, because I love Ciran. He has a lot going on, especially in the aftermath of certain — ahem — events in book 1. So it was great to continue with him. There’s also a new point-of-view character: Bree, who is awesome and I love her to bits.

So yes, this book is told in three alternating first-person points of view… and I don’t even mind. It may sound like it wouldn’t work, but trust me, the author pulls this off masterfully. It’s always a pleasure to be in each of their minds, and I was never mixed up who I was reading about (it may help that their names are at each chapter heading). It was BRILLIANT how the story weaved through their different points of view without repeating anything, but always showing exactly what needed to be seen. Now, I’m a writer, and all I can say is, that’s #writergoals right there. This book blew me away in so many ways.

Setting: A+ in my book. An awesome, modern/medieval mashup of Ireland, with some Faerie stuff thrown in for good measure. Medieval stuff mixed with a little Faerie magic in a modern setting — how cool is that? I’m just saying that when an evil fairy calls your cellphone and tells you to come to an address they’ll text you and to come alone… this is just mind-blowingly awesome storytelling. I’m a fan. Can I just live here? This world is fabulous and (aside from the fact that I’d probably be dead within five minutes) I just want to move to this alternate modern-day Ireland please and thank you.

Speaking of which, I felt so at home reading this book! Something about reading the new twists on various Celtic lore, Faerie lore, Ireland, even Tam Lin bits, was just so… FAMILIAR. Which made me incredibly happy. I felt like I knew these things… things about Irish and Fae and such; they were familiar, the way your neighborhood walks or a fairytale you’ve heard a hundred times is familiar. I read along happily, going “oh, she used that little thing I knew about!” or “oh, what a neat extra tidbit I didn’t know about, but it still feels familiar!” It was fabulous. ❤ My Celtic roots and love of Faerie things coming out, I suppose. (Even if you’re not a Celtic, Faerie nut as I am, you’ll still enjoy it, though!)

AND THEN THE CHARACTERS. I love them so much. *group hug* Their interactions, relationships, and dialog are simply PRICELESS, and the characters themselves are so real, lovable and… just the best.

  • Eamon, High King of Ireland, an excellent king but also a down-to-earth, nice, willing-to-joke-around, comradely and good-hearted sort of fellow, a little overwhelmed with plots and suspicious Fae things, not to mention being expected to marry (especially when all the prospects are so dismal; these women, though. o.o). He was so fun to read about (especially paired with Killian) and I so enjoyed getting to read his story and see things through his eyes!
  • Ciran, hero of book 1, and co-hero of this one, is just AWESOME. I love him muchly. He’s trying to deal with problems in his family and protect his king and he’s just wonderful; not to mention still really fun to read his thoughts. 😀
  • Bree is an introverted but down-to-business agent who is here to investigate fishy Fae stuff, and I absolutely loved her! She’s redheaded and wears red boots and has freckles (oh, the freckles. XD) and she loves books and gets insecure and eats chocolate when she’s nervous, and is kind of shy about people (I relate!), but she’s also really capable and knows her stuff, and she and a certain other person in the book are positively ADORABLE together, oh my word. <3333 She’s the main new addition to the cast, and I just loved her! ^_^
  • Killian… Oh my goodness, this guy. XD Eamon’s best friend/captain of the guard, he positively defies description because his relationship with Eamon is hilarious. They have such a brotherly, teasing relationship, and Killian acts all bossy and snarky, always ordering his king around or calling him names and Eamon doesn’t mind and it’s just glorious. I CAN’T WITH THESE TWO. ❤ One of the absolute best parts of the book. 😀 (The snark, though.)
  • A certain Ciran brother who I can’t say much about, but THIS PRECIOUS PERSON. D: Waaah. He and Ciran are great. ❤
  • Daegal is Ciran’s little brother, who has the Second Sight. He’s really beginning to develop as an awesome character in his own right — one of those enigmatic young fellows with more to them than meets the eye. He’s one of my new favorites, actually.
  • Caitlin: Kinda-sorta “Ciran’s girl” (and Killian’s sister… which I always forget, for some reason? o.o) is also awesome. No-nonsense but perfectly warm, friendly, and capable too. Just. All of these characters!! ❤
  • Oberon is… interesting. I will say no more. *zips lips*
  • And then of course (one and all awesome) are the other members of Ciran’s Company (who now have a ballad in their honor about their quest in Book 1 — sung by the rock band Swords and Shamrocks — which is a top hit on the radio. …I just love this story.).

And and and… I COULD GO ON. I loved the idea of BPAFF (The Bureau of Protection Against Fair Folk, an agency who investigate problems with Fae); I loved the sideplot of romance which was adorable but didn’t take the story over and felt totally natural; the BANTER that I just adored so much; there was even some deeper stuff going on with families and relationships and problems to solve; all the relationships and brotherliness; and just… I loved how extremely FUN it was, and I enjoyed myself immensely positively the entire time I was reading. I’m seriously tempted to go back and read both books already… (If only it wasn’t NaNo! *cough*)

Okay, so remember how I said this book has everything? Well I may have been a little economical with the truth there. There’s one thing it doesn’t have, and that is… anything I didn’t like. Did I have any complaints? NOPE, literally none that I can think of right now. (This is rare, okay?)

The author is a genius and I love these books so much. ❤ (Now where’s book 3?? I NEED MORE OF THIS SERIES/WORLD/CHARACTERS IN MY LIFE. And so do you. Go hither and read them at once, do you hear? SHOO.)

Bottom line: An Earthly King is an excellent book and I cannot recommend it highly enough. ❤

Excerpt From An Earthly King

“Maybe it won’t be as bad as you think it will.”

I appreciated my younger brother’s optimism, but didn’t have the heart to tell him that he was far off the mark. I knew without turning to a pessimist’s standpoint that this was going to be every bit as bad as I thought. I had seen Colin O’Rourke shake his head sadly only half an hour before in anticipation of the moment, and when even the cheery redhead could see no silver lining to being surrounded by unmarried women for two weeks, there was something to be very afraid of.

I had been sent to “prepare myself” for the ladies as Killian had put it. It sounded vaguely ominous. I was supposed to be in full kingly attire for guess who else would be arriving with the girls? Their esteemed guardians, the other kings and queen, and many more higher Irish families. The ones who served on my council. Everyone had pitched in with some female relation to offer up to be my bride like they were vestal virgins and I some ancient god demanding sacrifice. I was flattered—almost. The problem was that I knew the reputations of most of these girls and didn’t have a care for any of them—my opinion hadn’t changed since we were forced to meet in our ‘comings out’ when we were twelve or so. And the ones I didn’t know, I didn’t suppose had much more promise. Killian would probably say I was ‘disenchanted’. I just wondered how out of all those girls, there couldn’t be any normal ones.

I cast a sad glance over at my worn leather jacket and jeans tossed into a chair at one side of my room. I wanted nothing more than to don normal clothes and go out to the lists, practice archery or take on the Guard for my own amusement. But that was later this week, as Killian informed me, and it would still be in front of my ‘admirers’.

“If you stay in here too much longer, everyone will just think Airdrígh Eamon is afraid of a bunch of women,” Oran teased with a laugh.

“Then why are you still hiding here yourself?” I asked, grabbing him playfully in a headlock and mussing his hair.

The door opened and Killian came in, casting a longsuffering glance over the proceedings. “You still aren’t dressed? Get your armor on, Eamon! They will be arriving in less than half an hour! Aeden and Ciran just pulled up.”

I released Oran with a pinch to the side as he protested loudly. I took my copper breastplate from its stand and allowed Killian to secure it before he grabbed my long dark green cloak and put that around my shoulders as well, securing it to the breastplate. He then came around to my front, straightening my circlet, and made sure at least part of it was visible in my untamable mass of hair. He scowled at it as he finally yanked my twin braids straight to make sure they showed.

“Don’t ask me what the girls will see in you, because I really don’t know. You look more like a vagabond than a king.”

“I have the black curls and sparkly eyes, what more do I need?”

Killian rolled his eyes. “You’ve got to have a nice set of cheekbones to please the girls these days.”

“But I have dimples!”

“Missed the boat.”

Oran handed me my sword and I buckled it around my hips, checking myself in the mirror. I looked more presentable than was to be expected from Killian’s grousing, and was overall pleased enough that I would at least make a good impression. As much as I didn’t want to do this, I also didn’t want to give the kings any more reason to hate me.

An Earthly King by Hazel B. West

Giveaway

Hazel is giving away signed paperback copies of both books on her blog, so head on over to THIS POST to enter the giveaway! You don’t want to miss this one! 🙂

(An Earthly King is Book 2.) Find Book 1, Blood Ties, here:

bloodtiescoverfront copyCreatespace Paperback

Amazon (free Nov. 1 – 5!)

Smashwords

Goodreads

My Review of Blood Ties

Does this book sound awesome, or does it sound awesome? Do you like the idea of an alternate-history modern/medieval/fantasy blend? And how do you like Ireland and retellings? Thanks for reading and don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog tour! 🙂

Timey-wimey, Robin Hood, & All the Feels (Defying Shadows Review)

My review is below, but first I just wanted to mention something!

Defying Shadows HAS BEEN NOMINATED for the August edition of a thing called Clash of the Titles, which YOU can help with by popping over HERE to vote (through August 31) on one of four featured books — which one sounds most interesting to you.

So shoo! Go vote!! 😀 Hurry! Time’s a-wasting!

(Get it…? Time…? Ahem.)

Then come back here and read this review because you don’t want to miss out on hearing all about a timey-wimey Robin Hood-ish adventure, right? 😉

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My Review

defyingshadowsDefying Shadows

(book #3 in the Rising Shadows Trilogy)

by Ashley Townsend

Age range: YA

Genre: Christian / Romance / Time Travel / Historical Fiction / Contemporary

Bonus: Retelling / Robin Hood

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“I laughed, I cried . . . it moved me, Bob.”*

*(Sorry to go all VeggieTales on you but the quote seemed appropriate. Ahem.)

THIS BOOK, PEOPLE. This review is going to be one of the hardest ones I’ve ever written, because almost all of my favorite things about it are in major spoiler territory… But part of the fun is going on this plot-twisty journey of discovery yourself when you read the book, so I’ll try to keep my review spoiler-free! 🙂

The third book in the Rising Shadows trilogy by Ashley Townsend, Defying Shadows, finally wraps up the adventures of Sarah and her friends in Serimone—and what a wrap-up! *flailing*

This book had EVERYTHING. List, because lists are grand:

  • time travel and everything timey-wimey involved with that
  • historical fiction of a medieval variety
  • contemporary parts
  • sweet adorable romance
  • threads of Christian faith
  • a retelling-of-sorts involving Robin Hood (!!!)
  • mystery and intrigue
  • all sorts of different character arcs
  • PLOT TWISTS AND REVEALS GALORE
  • swashbuckling action
  • heartfelt parts
  • humor/banter/character relationships that are so fun to read
  • even a dash of nautical adventure!

It just has EVERYTHING, I tell you.

(I also feel like this series would make a stunningly gorgeous awesome movie or TV show. XD Somebody get on that.)

I loved the time-travel stuff—it was BRILLIANT and made me happy. 🙂 Just… everything time related was so cool. In the first two, it’s basically a “portal” method to get Sarah into Serimone, and doesn’t do much beyond that, which was fine. BUT IN THIS ONE IT WAS SO INVOLVED. So much timey-wimey going on. And I loved that. 😀

There were so many revelations and plot twists, which I so enjoyed! I guessed a few of them, but if anything that made me love it even MORE, simply because I was so excited to see them unfold the way I wanted them to. 😀 It blew my mind SO. MANY. TIMES. and made me so excited and I just loooooved that.

The romance element was so sweet. Really enjoyed it! It wasn’t the main focus of the plot, so there was a lot of other stuff going on, but it weaved in really well. Will and Sarah are ADORBZ and PERFECT together and I don’t know if I ever shipped anyone so hard. XD …Okay, I was really shipping a certain other spoilery side-couple there too. 😉 SO MUCH SPOILERS BUT SO WONDERFUL. ❤

And the retelling/Robin Hood stuff!!! It made me so happy and it was so unique and awesome, loose but still noticeable, and I just… ksldkjfalsdkjf I CANNOT BE COHERENT UPON THIS SUBJECT. I will try though. 😉 Okay, so I ADORED how the retelling stuff came out in this book. Between that and the characters and the time stuff, those three totally made Defying Shadows AMAZING for me!!! ❤ *hugs book* It was completely brilliant how the Robin Hood things were slipped in, kind of subtly sometimes, recognizable in their way and yet with such NEW twists. AWK IT WAS AMAZING. *flailing around* It’s killing me not to expound upon the subject because I loved SO many particular aspects of it, but I don’t want to give anything away. Needless to say, it’s AWESOME and everyone must read it just for the Robin Hood ish elements. Because Robin Hood things are awesome and that is all that needs to be said upon the subject. *nods* (BUT TWISTS THOUGH.)

Defying Shadows was definitely a feelsy book—the emotions run deep, y’all! It made me laugh and smile and get excited and get angry (in a good way) and feel torn and left me teary-eyed a couple times, which isn’t all that common for this here reader… It made my feels a bit of a mess (who am I kidding—a LARGE MESS AWK) and I normally get annoyed at books for doing that but this one was just right and I didn’t actually mind. ^_^ (For those who don’t know me: this is a MAJOR deal. Props to the author for pulling it off.)

I enjoyed the first two books (Rising Shadows and Chasing Shadows), but this one I really LOVED. I was daunted by its size, but while I was reading it, it didn’t seem long at all—it was just the right size and needed that length because of ALL the things that happen. I would also say the writing is AMAZING in this book. It’s improved a lot since the first two. (They were by no means bad! But with this one, the writing has grown by leaps and bounds!) It’s exciting to watch an author grow from book to book, and I’d say Ashley Townsend has definitely come into her own. This book was so well written. Huge thumbs-up on all of that!

Do I have any complaints? Honestly, hardly any. I had a couple minor nitpicks along the way about characters doing things where I was like “WHYYYY, GUYS??” or coming to odd-seeming conclusions, but otherwise the book held together and was amazing on the whole. 🙂 I am very much on the fence with mixed feelings over the epilogue, though… There’s a part of me that likes it because it was a brilliant epilogue, but there’s another part which would have rather had it end on the simply INCREDIBLE high note of the actual ending of the final chapter! ❤ The epilogue was bittersweet (to me at least) which is not my sort of cup of tea? But I’m probably weird and most people will probably love it, so. 😛

Okay, character time. 😉 I loved being back with these characters in Serimone—it was like coming home. ❤

  • Will is of course AWESOME and my favoritest of all. <333 His story-arc was the best. I so enjoyed reading about him in this book! I think he came really far and he’s just… I HAVEN’T WORDS. He’s just such a great guy, heroic and a little dark/sad sometimes, but still learning things, and he’ll do anything for those he loves, and just… WILL. Will Will Will. That is all. ❤
  • Sarah really grew on me in this one! She actually kind of annoyed me at times in the first two? But this time I liked her! I actually felt a lot of the things she was feeling, which is different for me. XD She’s a good heroine. *thumbs up*
  • Damien is… ACK MY FEELS FOR DAMIEN. In Chasing Shadows, he was funny and charming and all, but I spent so much time while I was reading that one, worrying that Sarah would fall for him instead of Will, so that Damien was very much the unwanted-corner-of-the-love-triangle/villain, for me. I didn’t totally dislike him, because his charm DID get to me and sometimes I felt bad for him, but I didn’t see what Sarah saw in him, because Will was so much more awesome. 😉 But in Defying Shadows, Damien had a lot of focus and character stuff involved, AND THE AUTHOR MADE ME LOVE HIM TOO. I’m super impressed. I went from hating this guy to feeling bad for him to really liking him, and his whole plot in this story just… salskdjldkj. I have many feelings that I can’t sort out. I will say nothing more because oh-so-many-spoilers, but wow. (And the yew tree! UGH MY FEELS. D:) But his story-arc was really well done and I liked how it fit in with the rest of the story, and I’m okay. Really. (FEELS THOUGH.)
  • And then there’s a character whose very NAME is a spoiler, so she shall remain nameless, but her story-arc was AMAZING and I loved it to pieces, which really surprised me. O_O This coming from a character I loathed for awhile but came to really like and just… I’m speechless. The talent from this author just blows me away. Not to mention how many times my mind was blown about revelations concerning this character. Speaking of mind-blowing…
  • Robert and Richard were both awesome, and my favorites. (I keep saying that, I know. WELL THEY’RE ALL MY FAVORITES.) I absolutely LOVED their roles in the story!! *bouncing up and down* You will have to read it, but suffice it to say they are awesome and the best and that is all. 😀
  • And Karen! She’s great. And I LOVED her friendship with Sarah, not to mention Karen and Seth together—just so much yes. Also Will’s friendship with Seth and Robert and Richard—I loved seeing those relationships! So much awesome bonding in this book. ^_^
  • We got new characters too, like Merek, who was cool. He’s one of those instantly  likeable characters, and all wise and everything too. He wasn’t in it for very long but I really liked him. He made me think of a Friar Tuck type character. 😀
  • Obviously I abhor the villains who shall also remain nameless and are all horrible which means they’re doing their job. XD They were just UGH. Really nefarious and well-written.

And just… SO MUCH STUFF GOING ON. I’m so amazed at how many character plot threads managed to fit in this story! So many characters had so much going on and it managed to weave together and just wow. Call me impressed.

ANYWAY. This review has gone on quite long enough (though I didn’t even flail and squeal over all the spoilery parts I loved! AWK! <3) so I shall wrap up now. In my defense, the book is long, so there’s a lot to talk about. 😉

Overall, Defying Shadows is an extremely enjoyable time-travel Christian YA romance with a dash of Robin Hood retelling, marvelous writing, lovable characters with deep story-arcs, many feels, and… overall just a lot of fun. It did a splendid job of tying up the threads of the whole series and just… it made me really happy. ^_^

I highly recommend trying Defying Shadows out! (Though you might want to read the first two books, Rising Shadows and Chasing Shadows, first so that you understand things… But hold out till the end, because Defying Shadows is the absolute BEST! ❤ )

Disclaimer and thanks: I was a beta-reader for this book before its publication, so I received a free copy of it for that, and the opinions in this review are entirely my own. Many thanks to the author, the lovely Ashley Townsend, for the chance to go on this journey through Serimone with Will and Sarah and the gang! I had a blast and I think a part of my heart will remain with them. ^_^

About the Book

defyingshadows

One choice can define your future.

At first, Sarah’s return to twelfth century Serimone is as wonderful as she could have hoped—reconnecting with Will and celebrating the union of her two friends—but things quickly fall to pieces when she uncovers something that could unsettle the new regime. Before she can share this information, Sarah is forcibly whisked away by the one man she thought she’d never see again: Damien Lisandro, the friend who betrayed her and the traitor who was supposed to spend his life behind bars. Even more unsettling is the revelation that the mystery they had solved is far from over as a dead man comes back to life with the intent of corrupting the future.

In Will’s desperate attempts to find Sarah, he uncovers the mystery that she left behind, putting into question the kingdom’s past and the motives of its current king. But the madman whose mission it is to change history will stop at nothing until he succeeds, and a team of ragtag time travelers are the only ones left who can stop him.

As this exciting chapter of her life nears its end, Sarah must finally choose between Serimone and her world–between the easy choice and the right one.

Defying Shadows released July, 2016.

Find it online:

Amazon | Goodreads


Check out the first two books in the series & my reviews for them:

Rising Shadows (#1)

risingshadowscovernew

My Review | Goodreads | Amazon

Chasing Shadows (#2)

chasingshadows

My Review | Goodreads | Amazon

About Ashley Townsend

ashleytownsendAshley is a young twenty-something who has been spinning tales since she discovered that her wild imagination and love of storytelling could make a career. Reading and writing are her way of experiencing grand adventures from home, and she hopes that others will join in her fantastical escapades! She is a native to bookstores, coffee shops, the beach, and San Diego, CA. She hopes that God will use her wild imagination and love of storytelling to further entertain and encourage readers in their walk with God.  She currently lives in Southern California with her parents and three sisters.

Follow her quirkiness at Ashley-Townsend.com.

So, what think ye, readers? Robin Hood + Time Travel = pretty awesome, huh? 😀 Do you enjoy retellings, and what’s the best time travel book you’ve read?

Review: A Dream Not Imagined

My internet is back (for now at least; storms, huzzah…) so I can blog again — yay!

Hmm, I haven’t done a review around here in awhile, so let’s get to it! 🙂

A Dream Not Imagined Cover

A Dream Not Imagined

by Shantelle Mary Hannu

A MAID, a PRINCE, and a DUKE. A GARDENER, a STEPMOTHER, and a SECRET…

Ellie Abbington, a beautiful yet unassuming young woman, quietly longs for her life to change. Too privileged to associate with the servants—too underprivileged to associate with her own family; she dreams a dream of a prince and a happily ever after.

But it could be that her own stepsisters, conniving Dezmarie and easily-influenced Adelaide, are dreaming the same dream…of the same prince.

In the end, are dreams even all they’re made out to be? Especially with deep and long-hidden secrets about to be unearthed?

A Dream Not Imagined is a non-magical fairytale novella based loosely on the classic tale of Cinderella.

My Review

5 stars!

I absolutely love fairytale retellings, so I jumped on the chance to read this one!

A Dream Not Imagined is a lovely retelling that at first feels very like the classic Cinderella… and yet! Those twists! My goodness, I did not see them coming! At first I was so worried and could not see how it could work out all right. But then it surprised me by turning out better than I could have imagined! I was so impressed that it could turn that around and I ended up extremely happy with it. I just loved this book. 🙂

The whole story has an intriguing mystery lurking around the edges, weaving throughout. It was so fun to try to piece together the hints and clues, and then stunning when all the pieces fell into place and the whole picture was made clear–that conclusion! I’ve always said that fairytales and mysteries are my favorite genres for shorter stories–they just seem to fit–and here this is both!

It’s a novella, so it’s a very quick read, but far from making it feel rushed, it felt like just the right size. It was amazing how full of depth and detail it was for its length. The writing has a sweet fairytale-like quality, while at the same time feeling fresh. Miss Hannu is an author to keep an eye on! It’s beautifully written and I could see everything so vividly–I love the “feel” of the setting.

I loved Ellie–she was quite relateable and all I wanted was for everything to turn out well for her, the poor dear! My heart broke with hers, and sang when hers sang… In fact, all of the characters were portrayed with a startling depth and clarity–I felt like they were all quite real, which again was impressive with the brief length of the book. And there is one young man in particular who captured my heart… 😉 He was awesome.

I loved the beautiful romance, which was my favorite part of the story. There is some heartache, but ultimately it was adorable and sigh-worthy. It was sweet and appropriate, so no fears there, and it wasn’t the whole of the plot either, so even if you’re not the biggest fan of romantic plots, I think you’ll still find the rest of the story worth reading.

It’s a non-magical retelling, but it was cute to see how the roles sometimes played by the Fairy Godmother and/or mice in some versions were carried out in this.

There were also some lovely moments about faith and about God writing our stories that were particularly beautiful.

I loved the dancing, and the final scene before the epilogue was awesome. And now I want to eat some apple-tarts… The whole conclusion and ending was perfection itself. ❤

A Dream Not Imagined is a beautiful story with lovable characters, a thrilling air of mystery, a thread of faith, a sweet romance, and some surprising twists. If you like an enjoyable quick read, or a good retold fairytale (and who doesn’t!), do consider giving this lovely one a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed! 🙂

(NOTE: I received a copy of this book from the author in return for my honest review. It was not required to be positive. These opinions are entirely my own.)

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A Dream Not Imagined will be released in June 2015. That’s next month, y’all! Keep an eye out for it! 🙂

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