The Hidden Queen (Book 1) by Janelle Garrett

Summary

Secrets and betrayal. Fear and courage. Can one woman keep her nation from destruction?

Gwyneth Blacksman was content to live comfortably on her farm, but a long-held secret changed her life forever. Thrust into a role she didn’t want or ask for, Gwen must face the facts. Will she step up and be who her people need her to be? Or will she wilt under the pressure of politics, schemes, and a looming war? The Emperor of Devin offers her a way to avoid the bloodshed that is sure to come, but his offer is disingenuous at best, a lie at worst.

With her countrymen’s lives on the line, Gwen must make a hard choice. Give into the Emperor’s demand, or stand against him and take Rodasia into a war they can’t win? As the problems keep mounting, she turns to the only two people who have stayed by her side through it all. Charles, the conflicted soldier who stirs up all sorts of feelings she would rather ignore, and Jakob, the excommunicated priest who challenges her assumptions about God.

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Characters

Gwen is the main character of this story. She is somewhat awkward, but good natured. Shy, but determined. There are two ‘servants’ the serve her, Lacy (more of a lady’s maid) and Esther. Both have their own stories, good and bad, that come out throughout the book. I’d hope to see more of them in future books. Then there is Charles, Thomas (the Speaker), and Nathaniel that all crop up as ‘love interests’ for a variety of reasons. This is the novels’ strength—its characters. The variety and diverse group of characters has the ability to capture the reader’s heart. I invested in them rather quickly and was impressed by the authors ability to create such variety.

Plot

This was introduced to me as a sweet romance but I wouldn’t categorize it as such. The romance is very secondary to the fantasy plot. Especially considering there is a lot of court politics that drive this story forward, although this has a bit of a ‘origin story’ feel to it. That being said there is a slow burning romance that is sweet. It takes a while to get there (more than half the book) but you’re probably invested by then! I don’t want to ruin any of the plot lines but there are aspects of it that seemed farfetched. For example, I just couldn’t believe that a queen would send her ONLY heir across country with only ONE guard. It felt like a plot device, not something real people would decide, which took away from the authentic feel of the book.

Overall

The writing was engaging the interesting once the story gets flowing. It is a little slow at the start but the back and forth between Gwen’s ‘present’ and the diary entries she is making about her past make it an enjoyable page turner. The setting was complete and you got a feel for the world around Gwen. Fair warning there was really modern dialogue that was jarring at times—especially considering the implication of time—although that may be due to YA nature of the novel. I would have preferred it less often considering it is listed as historical fantasy.

There was also a noticeable religious theme—so be warned if this isn’t your thing. Much of the progression was predictable, but that isn’t abnormal for young adult books. That being said the characters were the best aspect of the novel by far! Overall, I did enjoy it and would be interested in reading future books to see where these characters go.

Rating

3.5 (rounded down)

Not a romance, but great characters that you can’t help but like!

Where did I get it?

Author provided a copy to me in exchange for an honest review. This review is voluntary.

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Stories from the Nation of Wisland by Bryce Paradis and Evan Coupland

Summary

In Wisland, the church is the state and God’s word is law. The nation’s supreme leader, the Diviner, is resting on his deathbed. A secretly atheistic cleric is poised to succeed him and speak for God. A drought is devastating this year’s crops, and the underclass is bracing for a starving winter. Follow five characters as they struggle to survive a pre-industrial nation being torn apart by an onslaught of change.

Amazon

Characters

This jumps around between multiple points of view, most of which are main characters. Each character was well built and unqiue…although most are difficult to like. The authors did a good job of making them feel real. Tam—the gentle giant, Linne—the odd aristocrat, Talos—the ambitious change agent, Etta—the ‘wolf pup,’ and Duncan—the aged believer. There are also snapshots into other stories and entries from journals from other secondary characters. Downside of getting flashes into people’s lives is context. At times an entire chapter was confusing, while others were easy to understand and follow. Once the familiar faces return, it gets easier to get into the story’s flow. That being said I very much enjoyed Linne’s story.

Plot

In this fully immersive world, you are dropped into Wisland. This book doesn’t ease you in, it throws you in, so hold on! It has impressive world building with its own language and feel. It creates an authentic feel to the stories and characters.

That being said the plot never really forms, as it focuses more on the characters. That gave it a story for story sake feel. If you are looking for happy endings, go elsewhere. These felt like real and unforgiving stories that unfolded. They pack a punch. I’m not sure if there was a conclusion or even an overall direction, other then just reading a collection of stories from this unique dytopian world. The themes I picked up on were: People are people and we are our choices. 

Overall

Melodic but pointed prose that have a tenancy to explain in a round about sort of way but mostly still get its point across. At times it felt like a different dialect with no context.  I also noticed many times there was a tendency for long-winded run on in text and dialogue. Not always bad but ones mind did tend to wander when it ran too long. Even though the stories were dark and visceral, they had an authentic feel to our own sorted history with religion. It presented the aspects of religion nicely without being overbearing or swinging harsh in either direction. I believe this was achieved because it was a character driven, rather than a plot driven book. The sort of non-ending conclusion was my least favorite part of the book.

Rating

4 Stars

A literary fiction set in a dystopian time, immerse yourself in the world of Wisland and its sordid characters as you catch a glimpse of their lives.

Where did I get a copy?

The author sent me a copy. This is a voluntary and honest review.

Logres 2 (The Future King, #2) by M.L. Mackworth-Praed

Summary

This was an ARC/Beta Read copy.

Characters

Once more I had a hard time connecting with any of the characters. My favorite was still Gavin, although Arthur was a little easier to like in this book as he was not as self-righteous. Gwen is still a drama queen and Lance is still a jerk. Gah! Actually I think they deserve each other! There is a lot more from Morgan this book, which created an interesting dynamic for this and future books, but not enough Emily, Viola, or Bellviere (especially since what happened to him last book). I also think the author is purposely leaving us in the dark about Lance…which I hope leads us somewhere. Marvin gets a love interest…kinda and there is a new character who was in book 1 and a teacher.

Plot

As they grow up I thought the overall teenage angst would…lessen…it did not. In fact I would say a lot of it grew into mortally ambiguity and a predictable love triangle. However, that melded with very real issues that grounded the book. Gwen tries to save her parents from a dystopian government bent on removing civil liberties in the name of righteousness. She will go to whatever end is necessary—even lying and breaking the ‘law’ to make it happen. It delves deeper into the dark side of what is happening to their nation.

Overall

This book was too long. Mostly the front half was heavy in teenage progression and instead of keeping up the pace from the punch that ended in last book and started this book, it fizzles out. The second half of the book was much more enjoyable and picked up the pace that was lost in the first half. I understand the author was trying to show that Gwen struggled and hit dead ends before hitting pay dirt, but there were better ways to accomplish the same task.

This book also has some graphic love-making scenes that had the right amount of clumsiness expected of teenagers. I would have liked some more world-building but when it was applied it has a powerful impact on the overall storytelling.

Rating

I don’t rate beta reads/ARC.

Snapped by Jacci Turner

Summary

Ari Wren has a great life: Two best friends and a family she loves.

Cade Waters is by far the most popular guy at Sierra High School. Why then has he suddenly noticed Ari, a freshman nobody? Her friends are surprised by his attention and more than a little jealous. As Ari finds herself falling for Cade, his requests become more intimate and personal. Ari feels confused and unsure about what to do.

Follow Ari as she navigates budding romance, tough decisions, betrayal, and a trip to an island in this young adult story of growing up the hard way.

Amazon

Characters

Ari was blah at first. By the end of the book she blossoms and I almost missed her. I rallied behind her as she proved herself to be stronger then she thought. Shyla, her best friend, was a delightful addition. I also liked the relationship with her ‘German exchange sister’ as it developed throughout the book. Thea is thankfully a mostly two dimensional character that helped Ari find who she is in her own way. Clayton is such a gentleman and a catalyst for her but I’m happy to say Ari is eventually able to make her decisions for herself. Cade is exactly what you thought he’d be…or is he?

Plot

I’ll admit, when I started this book I thought “here we go again, another high school story about the ‘shy normal girl’ and the super popular guy.” I mentally rolled my eyes but dug in, sometimes they are still fun. Boy was I way off. The author does a good job lulling you into a state of calm and then throws a curve ball. Then a few more for good show and I was sucked in. This book is NOT at all what you think it is. All I’ll say is it was a delusional teenager in love with the idea of the person or what I like to call ‘The Prince Charming Trap.’ I’m afraid to say more but give this book a chance, it might just surprise you in a good way, too! 

Overall

The writing was enjoyable and straight forward—I read it very quickly. After the initial plot pointed me in one direction I significantly lowered my expectations.The plot could have gone really two ways and this one was very lighthearted and hopeful. Then it hit on themes that young girls are dealing with today and gives them a voice through a fourteen-year-old girl who doesn’t think she’s anyone special. It isn’t perfect but it has the right tone and lots of right messages that I could stand behind. I’d highly recommend picking this up for a teenage girl you know.  My only compliant was everything seemed to come together quickly and in a nice neat bow. Not really realistic but it was a positive message!

Rating

4.5 Stars (rounded up)

Sometimes you want the edgy tragedy, sometimes you want the high school romance, and sometimes you want the Hallmark story with an actual point. This is the teenage equivalent of a Hallmark read with life lessons to be learned.

This is a voluntary review.

 

Justice: A Steward Saga Short Story Collection by Janelle Garrett

Summary

When Captain Trinn and her crew of slavers encounter an unusual mist on the surface of the Passage Sea, Trinn begins to have strange experiences. The lines between reality and nightmare blur, leaving Trinn at the mercy of a dark power.

And there are more mysteries in the mist. For it calls forth something darker, something bigger, something capable of destroying everything Trinn has worked so hard to build. And when everything is stripped away, what will be left? Dive into a series of short stories full of magic, betrayal, monsters, and myths. Contains Part 1 – The Misty Sea, Part 2 – The Palisade Kingdom, Part 3 – The Nomad, Part 4 -The Dreadwood, and Part 5 – The New Name.

From the author of the Rift in the Deep and Rise of the Warlock King comes a Steward Saga epic fantasy tale that will leave you breathless.

It is the story of Justice.

Amazon

Overall

Trinn is a stubborn (almost to epic proportions), powerful woman on the hunt for vengeance.  It would have been nice to have more information on the two power sources (the Deep and the Rift). They were never really explained but it didn’t detract from the story too much. The world building was interesting and the plot fast paced. Many of the themes and lessons felt true—such as grief and the old adage about revenge. There were a few far fetched moments, but they just added to the flavor of the novel. 

Yep. Its a novel. This is marked as a short story collection but it is not a collection of short stories. Short stories are normally not so linked or telling a greater story that started with the first through the last. In the end I’ll say this was a book/novel. The ‘parts’ did have an episodic feel to it but mostly picked up where the last one left off, in chronological order. The writing was enjoyable and easy to follow.

Rating

4 stars

Not a collection of short stories but still an enjoyable fantasy story.

Raavana’s Daughter by Nadishka Aloysius

Summary

Sita Devi, the wife of Lord Rama has been abducted by the Demon King Raavana. Hanuman, the Ape hero, is tasked with building a bridge to facilitate the invasion of Lanka. The expedition is however brought to a halt by the workings of the Mer-People who inhabit the Indian Ocean. Will Hanuman be able to overcome their enchantments and complete his task? Who is the mysterious Mer-Queen? What part has she to play in this epic war? Is all fair in love and war?

Taking inspiration from the Ramakien the Thai version of the Hindu tale this story will take you into the heart of the epic conflict.

Discover the characters of the Ramayana retold as never before.

Amazon

Overall

This follows the story of Hanuman, an Apeman, who is a general of Lord Rama’s army. He has some interesting visions and adventures trying to get across the water to the land in order to defeat the Demon King Raavana. With fantastical scenes and vivid imagery, this story will sweep you up in its tale. From Gods to Mermaids, follow Hanuman on what I hope is the first installment of a serious of Asian Mythology stories. It can be predictable but that doesn’t detract from the overall story. The dialogue can be stilted in places but overall the writing is enjoyable. If only the ending wouldn’t have been so abrupt! It just means there better be more in the future!

Rating

4 Stars

A fantastical tale that feels like a fairy-tale that draws you in to the point that the abrupt ending is disappointing!

This is a voluntary review.

Manic Sonata Movement I by Justin Bohardt

Summary

Gaius Julius Mahler is a thirty year old bipolar pianist who exists in three states: Mania- when he is possessed of enough energy to stay awake for five straight days, playing piano, getting high, and finding unprotected sex in any location he can get it; Depression- where he wallows in his old familiar friend pathos and allows himself to be weighed down by his parents’ suicides, the miseries of his own failings, and the iniquities done unto him; and the Middle- that purgatory known as Des Moines where he is capable enough of function, but is buried under enough phobias and anxieties to leave him socially crippled. His roommate is the ghost of Ludwig van Beethoven, and he is quite aware that it is a hallucination, but he finds Ludwig’s presence rather comforting even though the composer is often quite annoying.

Gaius is currently in the middle, waiting to see which direction the conductor will send him next: an accellerando to mania or a diminuendo to depression, when his few friends give him an odd impetus to head out and socialize. Certain that any societal contact will send him spiraling into a depression (and seeing nothing wrong with that- the middle can be awfully tiresome), he instead meets a girl named Lenore and goes on a manic trip through a night of zombie waiters, sentient hamburgers, stormtroopers in ambulances, shifts in planetary gravity, Papageno from Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and the moon, which he stole from the night sky.

Amazon

Overall

I’d like to start by saying the story surprised me. Mostly because going into I wasn’t sure how all of the pieces were going to fit into the overall puzzle. After a bit of a rocky start, the story picks up pace and goes into overdrive. Gauis is a sort of sad character but he endears himself to you somehow. Especially after he meets Lenore. It is an odd but interesting story. Melding music with mental illness. Not to mention if breaks the fourth wall. It made me laugh out loud a few times. As the first installment of this dark comedy, it finishes with a bit of a non-ending, but I’d be interesting in reading the next one. An intellectual read with a trippy feel.

Rating

4 stars

A dark comedy that after a confusing start evens out and takes you on one wild ride!

Where did I get a copy?

From the author. This is a voluntary review.