Reading Fanatic Reviews

Paranormal Fantasy

Princess of Sky, Earth, Fire, and Water by Cassandra Finnerty

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Princess of Sky, Earth, Fire, and Water*

Head-Hopping and Odd Prose Hamper Enjoyment

I am not quite sure what to make of this book. I certainly enjoyed elements of the plot. So long as you suspend disbelief and fully buy in to the fantasy/magical aspect, the idea of such an Irish girl of those times being a commander of a fleet of merchant ships that go all over the world won’t rub you the wrong way—though perhaps it would have been better if the author had created a true fantasy world since this one is so different from reality. Aisling is a strong character, though I didn’t feel that her character arc was explored as much as it could have been. What I found more trying in this book included an at times dizzying head-hopping point of view and some rather dense sensory descriptions that I felt slowed down the pace of the action without adding really much to the story. For the latter, the way the author did it felt more like telling than showing, using lots of adjectives and adverbs describe a thing or an action (even rather minor ones, which made it feel like dense prose). For the former, the at-times rapid shifts of point of view were very distracting. Sometimes, the point-of-view character shifted within a paragraph, and I never like that. Interestingly, despite the dense description in the narrative portions, the dialogue was usually written almost in screenwriter format, meaning it was just dialogue line after dialogue line with no attribution or associated actions. Sometimes the lack of attribution made it hard to remember which character was talking. And I do like associated action with dialogue at times so I can visualize the conversation taking place; otherwise, it just feels like talking heads on a blank screen.

Forest of the Fearless by various authors

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Forest of the Fearless*

Delightful Fantasy Collection

If you like tales of mythical creatures—like nymphs, seelies, and the other similar creatures–you will most likely enjoy this anthology containing stories of varying lengths from six different authors. I particularly like the ones by Nikki Landis and Laura Greenwood. I have read both authors before, and I generally like their books. Both authors are able to weave worlds that draw the reader right in and allow us to visualize and be a part of the world. I love that Thumbelina had a retelling of her story. I so enjoy modern redos of fairy tales. There were some issues with grammar, punctuation, and usage; this definitely varied by author and was sometimes distracting. All in all, a wonderful collection if you enjoy a good fantasy or paranormal read.

Manners and Monsters by Tilly Wallace

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Manners and Monsters*

Regency… and Zombies

Mercy, what a completely different read! Think Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies with a little bit of suspense, romance, and gothic and steampunk sensibilities. The women of high-society Britain have suffered from a  nasty, zombie-making affliction since the close of the Napoleonic Wars; some nasty Frenchmen created an expensive face powder that made this happen. I liked the heroine; she is a strong and smart woman in an era when that is not appreciated. The hero feels relatively weak in comparison, but he is still a fascinating character to watch. I didn’t like the information dump at the start of the book. It’s a long enough novel that the author could have started with a nice impactful action scene and dribbled in the backstory of the world little by little. Since this is essentially a zombie novel, at times it gets a little too gory for me. I like the author’s writing style, which was at times quite humorous and quite fitting for the type of book. Even though I am not one who particularly enjoys zombie literature or movies, I found this to be a fun read.

Skarlit is No Fool by Isadora Brown

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Skarlit is No Fool*

Is the Danger from the Big, Bad Wolf?

Skarlit has been chosen as the one from her village to deliver medical supplies to a wealthy realm called Roses. It is said to be an honor, yet no one has ever returned from it alive.  The only way to this realm is through a forest where a wolf lives that is believed to attack and kill the person sent. Skarlit knows all about the dangers because her grandmother was chosen four years ago and never returned. Skarlit does meet the wolf in the forest, but what happens to her there is just one of the surprises in this book.

If you read the first book in this series about Alice, you will be pleased to revisit Robin, Maryanne, and the Merry Men in this book. They provide a safe way station for Skarlit in the middle of the Emerald Forest.

The first part of the book and the underlying backstory did feel a bit derivative of The Hunger Games. It is also a twist on Little Red Riding Hood. I didn’t think that the premise was set up correctly. It just seemed unbelievable that the people in Skarlit’s village would continue to send people on the same path through dangerous woods when these people never came back. The author did state that going via the forest with the only way through, but if you have an understanding of typical geography, this seems unlikely. Or if it had to happen this way depending on topography, why wouldn’t the village set up some more protection than a single person going through the woods? If these supplies are so vital to Roses, why wouldn’t they give protection? Of course, some of this is answered at the very end of the novella, but the shaky setup made it hard for a suspension of disbelief. Some of the secrets that are revealed at the end are shocking, but they aren’t given any real basis in the early part of the story, so they don’t seem inevitable, as shocking moments in literature should be.

This novella is rather short and ends abruptly. I wonder how it actually all does turn out for Skarlit with her new reality and the new person that has become vital to it.

Finding My Lich by Christina Winds

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Finding My Lich*

Beautiful Love Story Cloaked in Morality Play

Eric is the king of Abaddon who has been tasked with figuring out the way that his banished people will be allowed to be brought back to Earth. He has a portal through which he can go between Earth and Abaddon. He had thought this would be a relatively easy task, but centuries have gone by. He learned some lessons early on, like charity and justice, but others took longer to appreciate. Sands in an hourglass mark this immortal’s progress, and he hasn’t seen any in decades. What pieces of the puzzle is he missing?

This book comes across, and not in a bad way, as a mixture of morality tale and paranormal romance. Eric and Tamara are decent, good-hearted, and kind people who want the best for their worlds. They have different strengths and weaknesses, yet their strengths are intensified when they are together and their weaknesses diminished. It was interesting to watch Eric struggle as he was trying to figure out this big puzzle that has been set before him. He wanted to do right was by his own people, getting them back to a world they had been banished from, and by the humans, with whom he wants to coexist peacefully. The lessons that he learns are lessons that would benefit us to fully appreciate, which is why I call this, at least in part, a morality tale. But it is told with such beauty and elegance that it doesn’t feel like the author is preaching or moralizing. The love story between Eric and Tamara is beautifully rendered. You can truly see how each makes the other into a better version of themselves, in ways that are physical, mental, and spiritual.

The book did have some strange issues with grammar, punctuation, and usage. Some punctuation was left off, like an occasional period, and hyphens were not always used appropriately.

That said, I found this book to be an engaging read, both in the gentle moments and in the more harsh ones. Eric and Tamara are a great couple to follow as they learn about each other, each other worlds, and their true roles within them. It’s hard for me to figure out the precise genre for this, as it has elements of science fiction, romance, and the paranormal. There’s even a touch of suspense as Eric tries to figure out precisely what he is supposed to learn. If you like stories that cross genres like that, you might find this book to be as compelling as I did.

Sea of Darkness by Isadora Brown

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Sea of Darkness*

The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend

Kelia’s in the fight of her life against an Infant Sea Shadow, a newly turned vampire of the seas. Back on land with just a few scrapes after the encounter, she meets her father, who asks that she meet him after she is debriefed. Her handler seems surprised at how well she tackled this difficult mission, coming out relatively unscathed. Kelia’s life is upended when her father is found dead, she is told, from suicide. Something is not quite right, and soon Kelly is teaming up with a most unlikely ally, Drew Knight, one of the leaders of the Sea Shadows. She believes that her father did not commit suicide, and he believes that The Society is keeping dark secrets. So it’s the old “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” They team up to figure it all out.

What a complex world of The Society and the Sea Shadows! The author has done an excellent job of world-building—all the details about the Slayers, The Society, social structure, and the Sea Shadows. Yet she was able to do this without making it feel like it was an information dump. Seeing the world from both Kelia’s and Drew’s perspectives help to give a fuller picture of what is going on. There are so many layers of secrets, lies, and intrigue. Their world is definitely not what either of them initially believes. I love stories in which characters exist in a bubble world that gets shattered; these characters assume the world is one way because they have been told it is so, and so they are rocked to their very core when they learn it is different. That’s exactly what’s going on here, and the author has done a good job in slowly revealing the lies and deception. And I know there is much more to come!

I so enjoy the relationship between Kelia and Drew. He has that pirate swagger way about him and a sarcastic, humorous way of looking at things. He loves to bait and challenge her, and it is fun to watch. Their interactions make this book so enjoyable.

While this took did have closure on some points, it left much to be explored, I became immersed in this world, and I can’t wait to move on to the next book to see what’s going to happen next.

Spring’s Dragons: Withered Rose by Eva Brandt

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Spring's Dragons: Withered Rose*

Complexities in The Realm of Eternal Youth . . . and Beyond

In this first book of the Spring’s Vampire portion of the newly renamed Soulmates of the Seasons series, we first meet Queen Eiar—Eranthe (private name), Lady of Spring, and ruler of The Realm of Eternal Youth. This is a land that has unicorns and leprechauns; there is a dreamlike quality to Eranthe’s descriptions. Vampires are forbidden in the Land of Time, which encompasses all the realms of the seasons, because of some past wrong actions by their predecessors. So the queen is surprised to find three show up in her realm. What are there vampires doing there? What are their plans?

This queen comes across as more naïve than her sister Cassia, though—I have to say—the kitten does have some claws. She lives in a charmed world very different from The Realm of Eternal Ice. As in the Winter’s Dragons portion of this series, this book is narrated by both the queen and the men. Eranthe’s sections have a childlike quality to them, which is very different from Cassia’s in the earlier part of the series. The vampires come across much more forcefully and aren’t quite as distinct as I would have hoped. The dragon shifters in the Winter’s Dragons books definitely each had their own voice. We get to meet the queens’ mother for the first time in this book.

Even though I read all previous books in the series, I found this book to be confusing. There are lots of names of places and worlds (and most places and important people have two names), and these don’t use variants of common English spellings; they are unusual names, so they can be a little hard to wrap your mind around. There also seems to be a complicated history between these different worlds that isn’t fully spelled out, so you have a lot to keep straight in your head as you reading this. An added complexity is that many of the magical beings in this book actually come from the myths of different cultures, some of which are familiar and some of which are not. It’s a little taxing to keep track of and detracts from the enjoyment of the story. The author does have a small guide to the realms in the back of the book, listing the queens and the other essential characters and beings in each realm.

I enjoyed the Winter’s Dragon’s portion of the series more than I enjoyed this installment of the new next part of the series. I will still check out the next book and hope that I will get and keep my bearings better in it than I did in this one.

Wolf Blessed by Laura Greenwood

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Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Google Play, Kobo, Scribd, 24 Symbols, Mondadori, and Angus & Robertson

Wolf Blessed*

Fae Princess in Post-Apocalyptic World

Wolf Blessed follows the adventures of a fae princess who ran away from the fae realm only to wind up in a post-apocalyptic world where the fae are blamed for the disaster! A wolf shifter honor guard sent by her mother, the queen, finally tracked her down, but Rhianna does not want their help. Soon, she’s captured by people who believe that having a full-blood Fae like her will help them restore balance and order to the world. Her wolf honor guard retrieves her a few weeks later, but they find something else dark and mysterious going on where she was held.

Will Rhianna stay with her wolves this time and let them protect her? Does the fae have something to do with causing the apocalypse? Will Rhianna and the wolves get back to the fae realm? What strange experiment are the bad guys doing with the witches?

Goodness, this book had a lot going on in it! It’s a relatively short book, so with so much going on, there wasn’t as much space as I would have liked for characterization. I liked the wolf honor guard; they were all that that name suggests. I would have loved to have seen her have more time with the wolves.

If you like fast-paced shifter novels and don’t mind that there’s not much characterization, you might enjoy this relatively quick read.

Disclosure

The asterisks (*) by the book title denote the source of the book copy.

One star = I received it as a free advance/review copy or directly from the author.

Two stars = I borrowed it through my Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Three stars = I purchased the book outright (sometimes for free).

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