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Review: Twice Upon a Time — by Aya Ling

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com. 

Title: Twice Upon a Time (Unfinished Fairy Tales, #2)

Author: Aya Ling

Rating:  ★★★★★★ (6 of 5)

Genre/Pages: Fairytale retelling / 319

Summary: “Seven years have passed since Kat left Athelia. Through the intervention of the goblin king’s baby daughter, the book is re-opened and Kat is transported back to Story World. Upon learning she is given a second chance, Edward is determined not to let her go this time. His chance of succeeding, however, seems like nil. Kat doesn’t remember anything of their past, she loathes life at court, and she’s anxious to return to modern world. Not to mention that there’s a price to pay for tampering with the book again…”

Cover Review: Absolutely gorgeous. More self published authors need to follow Aya’s example, because this cover is positively breathtakingly perfect. This is the kind of book that I want to have on my shelf not only because it’s amazing, but also because the cover is just so pretty.

My Review: So I was actually lucky enough to be able to beta read this book in exchange for honest feedback. Honestly, I am SO thrilled that Aya let me be part of her beta reading group because, even though I may not always be the nicest of beta readers, I love getting to see the process of how authors write the books that I love so much. I have always loved Aya’s books. They make me happy. 

Characters: I cannot possibly say enough good about these characters. I absolutely adore every single one of them. This is really where Aya’s incredible skill as an author shines through – her characters. They are all complex and thought out with detailed enough sub-plots that she could write spin-off books about each and every one of them if she so chose (man, I hope she does that. How could would it be to have a spin-off story dedicated entirely to Henry and Ella?). I love her characters so much. I know I gush about books and authors all the time, but I promise you, Aya Ling is one of the very best. 

Plot: I hate amnesia as the catalyst to a romance. It’s so dumb. It makes me incredibly angry. But… Aya Ling pulled it off. She actually wrote a fairy tale with star-crossed lover amnesia that I enjoyed reading. And I really enjoyed it. It was a page-turner, for sure.

Content Advisory: Things got a little bit…erm… heated, at two different points, and there was a sexual assault that almost happened, but it didn’t, and scenes of a sexual nature were almost entirely off-page, so you don’t have to worry about anything explicit. A few swear words here and there, but not much.  

To Sum It Up: Aya Ling is a masterful storyteller who has the ability to make you instantly fall in love with the world and characters that she creates. If you love, or even like, fairy tales, you need to read Aya’s books. I recommend Twice Upon a Time to readers 13+.

Attention: This is a scheduled, pre-written, post. I am serving a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Jan. 2017 through Jul. 2018, and will not be checking my blog email, or updating my blog during that time. (I may have some already written posts scheduled go live during that time, but I will not be active on my blog, and these posts are completely my own opinion and are not representative of the opinions or stances of the church). For more information about Mormon missionaries, go to: lds.org or mormon.org.

Any book requests or other communication received in that time will not be responded to until after July 2018.

Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child — by J.K. ROWLING

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com.

Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Author: J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

Rating:  ★★★★★★★ (7 of 5, which I’ve never actually given any book before.)

Genre/Pages: Fantasy / 343

Summary: “Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places”

Cover Review: I love it. I love it so much. It’s perfect.

My Review: This will be my actual review. My next post will be my defense of Cursed Child, which will be me combatting the most common attacks I get for my public profession of my love of this book. I have now read this book three times, and I love it more each time.

So my friend Analee and I went to the midnight release party of this book at the giant Half-Price Books next to us, and you know what every HP fan was thinking:

 

So, this is a return to the Wizarding World in a play format. As someone who personally LOVES reading plays, that part wasn’t weird for me at all. It brings it’s own kind of special magic (though I absolutely am still hoping that they will do a film recording of the original cast performing it so that we can all watch their beautifullnes, cuz MAN that cast is amazing!). This isn’t Harry’s story, though. It’s the story of Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy. 

Characters: It was like returning home. This is the same Harry Potter that we have all known and loved since 1997. He’s all grown up now, with kids of his own, and how all of these character’s interact is wonderfully faithful to the original series and the original character development. We automatically fall in love with the new characters, especially Scorpius. Oh man, I love Scorpius. He’s the best.

Sometimes, authors of plays have trouble making the heart and soul of character’s come across well in the scriptbook, but Jo & Company did not have that problem. These characters make you scream, they make you cry, they make you laugh, but most of all, they make you love them. They are real. They make dumb mistakes. They have poor judgement sometimes, but at the end of the day, the moral of Cursed Child is the same thing we’ve seen throughout the entire Harry Potter series: Love conquers all. Family and friends are more important than any prejudice or bias. No dark magic can stand against Harry & Friends because they are there “Until the very end.”

Plot: It was about 2 am by the end of part one, and Analee and I were hardcore freaking out. Like, we couldn’t handle this plot. The ending of part one had me torn between two equally strong emotions: 

 

Personally, I loved the plot. I thought it was perfectly faithful to the formula of the Original Series, while still being a story completely of it’s own. It brought new light to aspects of the wizarding world that I had only ever wondered about, and it gave me a greater love and understanding for this series and universe that Jo has so carefully and painstakingly created and allowed us to enter.

Reading this script book with an open mind was like visiting an old friend after a very, very long time — it was like returning home. Read it with an open mind and I promise you will not be disappointed. It’s action packed, it’s heartfelt, it’s poignant, and crazy fun. This is the best book ever. I loved it more than I can possibly put into words. I highly recommend this script book to Harry Potter fans of all ages. I think everyone should read this book. 

P.S. Pro tip: This book is best read aloud with friends, to get the full scope of the play. 

Content Advisory: Some deaths, and intense fantasy violence, but nothing graphic.

To Sum It Up: Me, right after finishing it:

Review: Siren’s Song — by Mary Weber

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com.

Title: Siren’s Song (The Storm Siren Trilogy, #3)

Author: Mary Christine Weber

Rating:  ★★★★★ (5 of 5)

Genre/Pages: Steampunk Fantasy / 384

Summary: Nym and Draewulf prepare to face off in a battle destined to destroy more lives than it saves.

With the loss of Tulla still fresh in mind, Rasha’s fate unknown, and Lord Myles taken over by the dark ability, Nym and the few Bron soldiers rush to warn Cashlin’s queen. Only to discover it may already be too late for the monarch and her eerie kingdom. As the Luminescents are sifting through Nym’s past memories and the queen is reading into her future, Nym is given a choice of how to defeat Draewulf, but the cost may be more than she can bear. And even then there are no guarantees.

With that reality burrowing into her bones—along with the guilt of the lives she will sacrifice—Nym returns to her homeland of Faelen to raise an army of peasants through promises of freedom. But when the few friends she has left, along with the world and citizens she loves, are staring down the face of a monster and his undead army, will Nym summon every element her blood is capable of controlling . . . or surrender to a different strength—one of sacrifice?

Because in the end, death may be more merciful for them all.”

Cover Review: Absolutely stunning. This is serious cover goals. <3 I wish all books would get covers this beautiful, because I could stare at this for hours. ★★★★★ (5 of 5)

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I loved this book. I really loved the first book in the trilogy, and I enjoyed the second, but this one is on a whole other level of awesome. It was a series’ conclusion worthy of all of the heartbreak and emotional trauma that this trilogy has caused me from the time Storm Siren was released. 

Characters: You fall in love with these characters all over again, and you learn to love the newly introduced ones, as well. These character’s are very real in their struggles, and throughout most of the book, I just wanted to reach out and give them a hug. There were also a few times I wanted to talk some sense into them, but, you know… gotta have variety, right? It is such a sad thought that with this book I am leaving this world and these character’s behind forever, but Siren’s Song was a beautiful farewell. 

Plot: I am continually blown away by the world and storyline. The second book lagged a bit, because it’s entire purpose was to build up to this book, but let me tell you this: Siren’s Song was worth every bit of it. The war was depicted with relative realism, and the storyline is intense, but it’s really the character’s that make this plot so fabulous. This book is absolutely amazing! I loved it!

Content Advisory: Lots of death, war, and bloodshed. Graphic, but not explicit. Some kissing. 

To Sum It Up: With story and imagery as breathtaking and captivating  as it’s cover, this is a trilogy finale that you will be unable to put down. It’s heartbreaking, it’s moving, and it’s insanely action packed. I highly recommend this book to readers 12 and up. 

Review: Shadow Eyes — by Dusty Crabtree

 

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com

Title: Shadow Eyes

 

Author: Dusty Crabtree

Rating:  ★★★★☆ (4 of 5)

Genre/Pages: Urban Fantasy / 328

Summary: “Iris thought she could ignore the shadows…until they came after everyone she loved.

Seventeen-year- old Iris Kohl has been able to see both dark and light figures ever since a tragic incident three years ago. The problem is, no one else seems to see them, and even worse…the dark figures terrorize humans, but Iris is powerless to stop them.

Although she’s learned to deal with watching shadows harass everyone around her, Iris is soon forced to question everything she thinks she knows about her world and herself. Her sanity, strength, and will power are tested to the limits by not only the shadows, but also a handsome new teacher whose presence scares away shadows, a new friend with an awe-inspiriting aura, and a mysterious, alluring new student whom Iris has a hard time resisting despite already having a boyfriend. As the shadows invade and terrorize her own life and family, Iris must ultimately accept the guidance of an angel to revisit the most horrific event of her life and become the hero she was meant to be.”

Cover Review: Not a fan of this cover. The font is pretty, and the colors are nice (and important to the plot), but it’s not a very aesthetically pleasing cover, or one that would make me want to pick up / buy the book. It could definitely use a complete revamp. 

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. First of all, Dusty Crabtree’s writing and imagery are absolutely captivating. She has a way with words that makes everything come to life beautifully. The world and premise are really creative — it’s an epic modern battle between angels and demons, it’s a story that embodies Dumbledore’s quote: 

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” – J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Characters: Honestly, the protagonist infuriated me at times, but that’s exactly what made her such a good character. She was so receptive and good at seeing what was wrong with everyone else, except for herself and her immediate circumstances. Then again, I suppose that is exactly what made her so relatable and realistic, because human beings tend to be pretty blind when it comes to themselves and their friends. That’s what enables Iris’ story to teach so many good and important life lessons. Each character exists to teach the reader different things (but not in a preachy way at all), and each character is in a different stage of their personal battle between good and evil. 

Plot: I loved the plot. It told the very real story of a teenage girl in a scary world overcoming her own personal evil. It was heartfelt, it was poignant, and it was meaningful. This is the kind of story that actually stands for something. It’s more than just a fun book to read, it’s genuinely good book, and an important story to tell. It was a fantastic read!

Content Advisory: Wow, this book deals with some really heavy topics. Alcoholism, date rape, drug use, teenage pregnancies, self-harm, suicide, blackmail, manipulation, miscarriages, cheating spouses, and car crashes, if memory serves. These things are always portrayed in a negative light, and is a story contrasting the battle between the light and the dark in the world. When I asked the author about it, she said: “There are some PG-13 things, but nothing major – it’s really more just descriptions of stuff leading up to something bad that never actually happens.  But everything (guy/girl stuff) is shown in a negative light – not condoned.  In fact, I have yet to get negative feedback on that from a Christian or person sensitive to that stuff.”

To Sum It Up: A beautifully written contemporary tale of the eternal battle between good and evil, this book is nearly impossible to put down. It’s engaging, gripping, and realistic. I highly recommend this book to readers 15 and up. 

Review: Lily, the Brave — Katherine Hodges

 

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Title: Lily, the Brave

Author: Katherine Hodges

Rating:  ★★★★★ (5 of 5)

Genre/Pages: Fantasy / 266

Summary: “Lily has a soft spot for helping people, but is it really worth the risk? Her life was already hard enough after the accident. How can she possibly deal with being a superhero too? Seventeen year old Lily Harrison is given an incredible gift. She doesn’t really want it, but she’s stuck with it. Lily’s best friend convinces her it can be used for the good of mankind, but it only seems to bring her trouble and put everyone around her in danger. Using her gift would force her out of her comfort zone and into the realm of top secret assignments, late night stake outs, and constantly looking over her shoulder. All she wants is to be a normal introverted teenager, hang out with her best friend, crush on a gorgeous guy from a distance, and pass algebra at the end of the semester. Lily would give anything for a normal, quiet, life. One thing is for sure, her life will never be the same again.”

Cover Review: Not everyone likes photography on covers, but I think this one was really well done. I LOVE the font of the title, and having some of the thoughts she hears on the cover is a very interesting concept. Overall, I think it’s a beautiful cover.

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. For some reason, I didn’t think I was going to like this book. I’m not exactly sure what made me think that, but I did. However, I was very pleasantly surprised when I was proven totally wrong, because I ended up loving this book. The premise was totally unique, and the story was wonderful! I really wish and hope that there will be a second book coming out, because I would LOVE to read more about these characters and their lives!

Characters: So this was pretty crazy…  I wasn’t sure what to think of the characters at first, but I quickly grew to love them! Each of them underwent a huge amount of character development throughout the book, and they were each a good, well-written character in their own right. When reading this book, I didn’t really feel like any of the characters were relegated to second class roles like “love interest” or “optimistic best friend”, because even though some of them may have had those traits, they were real people, first. Except, obviously, not, you know… real. 

Plot: Now this was the truly crazy bit. This book was a YA spy thriller with a gifted teenager going on top secret missions. There were times I was screaming at the book, laughing out loud, or gasping in shock. And then there was also that time when I got to one of the huge climactic moments of story and just then — my break was over at work and I had to clock back in. Yeah, that wasn’t fun, because then I spent the rest of my ten hour shift anxiously waiting to figure out what happened next. 

Content Advisory: A girl gets pushed down the stairs and is in a coma, scenes of bullying occur, and there is some kissing in the book. There are some relatively intense scenes of stalking and kidnapping that might be too much for some readers. Gunfights and violence occur, but are generally off screen. Overall, it’s a pretty mild and age-appropriate YA novel. 

To Sum It Up: This book was really awesome. Like, I know people (myself definitely included) way over use that word, but I mean it. This book reminded me of the books I used to go to the library, pick off a shelf at random, and then finish by the next morning, back when I was 13 or 14. It’s just one of those genuinely good quality and enjoyable books. I’m really looking forward to the sequel! highly recommend this book to readers 13 and up. 

Review: The Sailweaver’s Son — by Jeff Minerd

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com.

Title: The Sailweaver’s Son (Sky Riders of Etherium, #1)

Author: Jeff Minerd

Rating:  ★★★★★★ (6 of 5 – One of the best books of all time!)

Genre/Pages: Steampunk Fantasy / 310

Summary: “The Sailweaver’s Son combines traditional fantasy with a dash of steampunk and takes readers to the world of Etherium, where mountains rise like islands above a sea of clouds and adventurers travel the sky in sail-driven airships.

When fifteen-year-old Tak rescues the survivor of an airship destroyed by one of the giant flammable gas bubbles mysteriously appearing in the sky of Etherium, the authorities react like a flock of startled grekks.

Admiral Scud accuses Tak of sabotage and treason. Tak’s father grounds him for reckless airmanship. Rumors spread that the bubbles are weapons devised by the Gublins, a race of loathsome but ingenious underground creatures. The King’s advisors call for war, hoping to win much-needed Gublin coal.

To prove his innocence, solve the mystery, and prevent a misguided war, Tak must do what anyone knows is suicide – visit the Gublins and find out what they’re up to. When the wizard’s adopted daughter, an oddly beautiful and irksomely intelligent girl from the Eastern kingdoms, asks Tak to help her do just that, he can’t say no.

The adventure will take Tak from the deepest underground caves to a desperate battle on Etherium’s highest mountaintop. It will force him to face his worst fears, and to grow up faster than he expected.”

Cover Review: Absolutely beautiful. This is the kind of cover I love to see on a book. The artwork is well-done, the colors are aesthetically pleasing, and the scene actually presents a solid idea of what the book is about. 

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I don’t give out six star ratings very often. It takes a very special book to receive my highest of ratings, and Sailweaver’s Son was completely worthy of it! This book automatically ranks among Percy Jackson and the Ranger’s Apprentice/Brotherband series’ as one of the single best MG/YA books ever. 

Plot: The world building was exquisite, and unlike any concept I’d ever read before. I also think this book did a beautiful job handling the after effects of war on Tak. Too often I see MG/YA characters carry on as if nothing of importance had happened after they kill their opponents. I think Jeff Minerd portrayed war with realism, while still respecting the age of his readers.  This is a steampunk fantasy world of teenagers flying airships and going on diplomatic missions for the king. This is a story of friendship, of compromise, and of peace talks. This book is more than just a fun adventure world to escape to — it’s a story people (myself definitely included) will be reading to their children for years to come. 

Characters: These were characters worth cosplaying. They were crazy awesome. They were realistically brave, dedicated, and adventurous. They were characters that I would happily read a dozen more books about. These are characters that I continue to think about and wonder about even after I’ve closed the book. Like Gregor the Overlander.  I loved these characters so much, I could hardly put this book down. 

 

Content Advisory: Death and war. Threats of torture. Lots and lots of death, but not horribly graphic… Just heartbreakingly real. 

To Sum It Up: It’s books like these that made me start this blog — books that don’t have a mainstream publishing agency promoting their book, but are a million times better than almost any book mainstream published. These are books that I need to tell the world about, because The Sailweaver’s Son makes it possible for the reader to Escape Reality — One Book at a Time ;) I highly recommend it to readers 10 and up. 

Side note: Jeff Minerd told me that he is currently working on the second book in the series, The Wizard’s Daughter. I’m super excited!

 

Review: Awakening — by Lauren Ashley

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com.

Title: Awakening (Hope Trilogy, #1)

Author: Lauren Ashley

Rating:  ★★★☆☆ (3 of 5 — I liked it!)

Genre/Pages: Fantasy / 518

Summary: “To everyone, Emma is an ordinary teenager—a forgettable
figure to most. But, little do they know that she
is about to experience an awakening after centuries of
being kept in the dark when fate finally chooses to
call upon her and reveal the secret behind her existence.
A descendent of godlike beings known as the
El-ahren, Emma is both stunned and terrified when she
learns she not only possesses special gifts and extraordinary
powers, but is also destined to save the world.
However, pitted against an evil alliance determined
to destroy her and any good left on this earth, Emma
finds it a struggle just to stay alive. Joined by those
commissioned to protect her, she must search for others
like her in order to fulfill her destiny and prevent
the resurrection of evil.”

Cover Review: This cover is a special kind of bad. It’s not straight-up awful and gross like all the romance novels with half-naked people on them, but this is just a very very low quality cover. The only thing it tells me about the book is that the protagonist is a girl. I get no other information from the cover, and overall it’s not aesthetically pleasing at all. 

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This one took me a very long time to get around to reading, mostly due to the sheer size of the thing. 518 pages is a lot of pages, and my main complaint about the book is that it could have (and should have) easily been cut in half. At least cut out 1/3rd of it, and the story would flow significantly better. I really enjoyed the premise of the story, and it had some amazing  plot points, but at the end of the day, it was too long for the story it had to tell. My family would see me reading it and say: “Are you still reading that Twilight book? You’re not done with it yet?”. There. Now that I have ranted about the length, I can go on to tell you all the awesome things that I truly did enjoy about this book. 

Characters: Man, these characters were epic. But I suppose hundreds of lifetimes of reincarnation will make a group of friends get pretty close. ;) Each of these characters were so unique that they each bring something completely different and original to the team.  Side note: I love character betrayals that I don’t predict ahead of time, and I never saw any of those betrayals coming! I loved getting into the heads of these characters and learning about their different powers, and how they cope with evil and tragedy. The characters were definitely the high point of the book.

Plot: This is where I had a problem with the book. The author herself compares Awakening to Twilight, and she  lives up to the comparison. So if Twilight isn’t your cup of tea, odds are this book isn’t, either… The premise of the book is something we’ve all read a million times — friends of the “Chosen One” reveal themselves to be her protectors and teach her about her “true self”. With this knowledge, hordes of demons and evil people begin to hunt her down, and she and her friends must go on the run to stay alive. But even though this book uses a simple YA fantasy formula, it’s really the details in this book that make it so great. Child seers, fragile alliances between enemies, epic battles, and so much more are what truly make this book worth reading. It feels kinda like the 39 Clues series all grown up, with some magic thrown in, just for fun.

Content Advisory: Lots of death, some of which was very graphic. Also, some really creepy, awkward, and kinda gross instances of a teenage girl hard-core lusting after a guy. I could have happily lived my whole life without ever having read her thoughts in those instances. 

To Sum It Up: Though the book certainly suffers from too many pages, the story is enjoyable, and the characters feel like your best friends. Reading this book would be a really fun way to spend a few summer days! I enjoyed Awakening, and don’t regret reading it at all.  I recommend this book to readers ages 18 and up.