Book Review: Santa and the Christmas Dragon

santa-and-the-christmas-dragon

NOTICE: I was given a free copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:

Details:

Title: Santa and the Christmas Dragon

Author: Amanda Roberts

Illustrator: Cherith Vaughan

Translator: Yaqian Gong

Lineart: Ruth Silbermayr-Song

Publisher: Two Americans in China Press

Release Date: September 1st 2016

Genre: Children’s Book

Pages: 32

Synopsis:

Ming the Christmas Dragon
Helped Santa pull his sleigh.
She brought Christmas to China.
Oh, Hip-hip-hoo-ray!

明和圣诞龙
帮圣诞老人拉雪橇
她将圣诞节带到了中国
欧,嘿嘿呼啦啦!

Once upon a time, Santa brought Christmas to China. But how did that happen? Thanks to a little dragon named Ming, Santa, the elves, and all the reindeer are able to learn about Chinese culture and gain the friendship of mighty dragons to help spread Christmas cheer throughout the world!

This beautiful bilingual children’s book – presented in English, Chinese characters, and Chinese pinyin – is sure to delight readers young and old as they learn about spreading holiday cheer and learning about other cultures!

很久很久以前, 圣诞老人将圣诞节带到了中国, 他是怎么做到的呢? 这要感谢一条叫做明的小龙, 圣诞老人, 小精灵, 和驯鹿. 他们学习中国文化, 获取了大龙的友谊, 将圣诞节日的喜悦传播到全世界.

这本美妙的双语儿童书—由英文, 中文汉字, 中文拼音组成. 可以让老少读者一起感受分享节日的喜悦, 并学习到他国的文化!

My First Thoughts:

I’m always looking for children’s books to review just because they brighten up my day and not enough sites review them. But I thought that this story would get me into the Christmas mood and I was curious as to see how this story unfolded.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

The first thing I’m gonna do is geek out a little bit and start out with some trivia. The average human has an easier time learning a second language before their teenage years. After they become a teenager the language centers of their brains start to become more rigid making it harder for them to learn a second language, that’s why it’s difficult to retain any Spanish (or whatever second language you took) after high school or college. However, if a child learned a second language before their teenage years it is easier for them to learn more languages, even after they become an adult. Sure, maybe you’ve retained a few choice words in another language (I myself swear in Italian from time to time after playing Assassin’s Creed) but most people cannot speak the language fluently or even semi-fluently if they learned it after becoming a teenager.

With all that said, I was tickled pink to see the Chinese words and characters written a long side the English words. It was so interesting to see how English translated into Chinese and how different they looked side-by-side. And I could definitely see how useful this book would be if a parent were thinking about teaching their children Chinese, or if they wanted to teach them English. Seeing the translations together and the teaching that could be done with it adds an extra element to this story that not many children’s books have.

The story itself is really cute. It teaches children that not all kids find value in the same things. For example, kids from the Western world might find a lot of enjoyment out of toy trains, robots, stuffed animals and dolls. However, this book shows that Chinese kids might find enjoyment out of completely different toys such as paper kites, oriental dolls, flutes, etc. Overall, it shows that a child’s taste for toys, like anything else, is influenced by their environment and not every child grows up in the same conditions. It also teaches kids a little bit about conflict resolution and comprise. Santa had to find new solutions, such as comprise and adapting to new sets of rules, to the problems that he faced in the story.

The illustrations were rather pleasing to look at. Most of the character drawings were simple, while some of the background drawings were a bit more complex. The coloring was also well done, with nice shading and attention to detail when needed. The illustrator did a fantastic job incorporating traditional Chinese art with their own, though a bit more simplistic than what you would see hanging in an art gallery. The illustrations also followed the mood of the story very well, the images were a darker when the mood was a bit more solemn and they were bright when the mood was cheery.

Final Thoughts:

This book is absolutely fantastic, and I totally recommend buying this, especially if you have children. It’s a fun story to read out loud, it amused my boyfriend and me when I read it aloud to him. The pictures are nice to look at and it’ll bring enjoyment to not only kids, but probably most adults as well.

If you want to teach your kids either English or Chinese, this story is definitely going to help them learn. It does a fantastic job keeping both translations of the story side-by-side, so that you can compare the two. And let’s be honest, it’s pretty nifty to own and read a book that’s also written in another language.

Ratings:

Story: 5/5

If you’re looking for a good Christmas gift for your kids, grandkids, or a friend’s progeny, then look no further! This book will make an excellent book for any child how loves to read, be read to, or wants to learn another language. I highly recommend reading this to your kids or grandkids on Christmas Eve or Day to get them into the holiday spirit, and to provide a laugh or two before the family comes over.

Illustrations: 5/5

I can’t say enough about the illustrations, but the illustrator did a fantastic job bringing this story to life with their art. The colors and styling not only do a wonderful job accenting the story, but they’ll definitely draw the eyes of any child, so be prepared to stare at the same page for more than a few minutes!

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!!!

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Book Review: Testament of Faith

Notice: I was given a free copy of this book by the author to read in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:

testament-of-faithDetails:

Title: Testament of Faith (Pacific Cove #2)

Author: JE Grace

Publisher: Self-published

Release Date: September 7th 2016

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Christian

Pages: 93 (eBook)

Synopsis:

Jason and Naomi’s son, Peter, returns home from college and back to the ranch he loves. A series of devastating events will test their strength, faith, and their hope for the future. Can they endure the hardships?

Through their own personal loss and that of their friends, they learn to lean on one another when all hope seems lost. Out of sorrow will come healing and out of healing great joy.

This is a story of struggle, grief, and loss, but also one of victory.

My First Thoughts:

J.E. Grace gave me both Haunted Visions and Testament of Faith at the same time to read and review. While I had many issues with Haunted Visions I thought that I would give the second one a try, especially since I really did like the idea of the first one. Who knows, maybe the author improved with this sequel.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

Oh, wow. Where do I begin?

First, I have to say that while my reviews are honest, if I know that the authors will read them I try to make their reviews as helpful as possible. I find completely negative reviews, or reviews that do nothing but spit in the author’s face, to be a waste of time and energy. Authors gain nothing is you point out every flaw or just tell them that they suck. They have a better chance at improving if you give them opportunities or ways to improve, by giving them constructive criticism rather than blunt criticism.

I’m not going to lie; this book has some major flaws. Most of them are the same that I found with the previous story. There’s too much scene set up and not enough substance, not enough interactions between the characters, not enough character action. Grace spends a lot of the book telling me what the characters do, how they feel, what they think. She doesn’t show me their happiness, anger, or grief by describing their body language, how their faces change, or even the tone of their voices. She doesn’t show me their personalities through their actions and reactions; instead she has to tell me what kind of people they are, but then I forget soon after. I’ve been told that her characters have grown and changed through the progression of the story, but I don’t see it. I see no evidence that her characters have changed, that they’ve become stronger, better, or closer. Instead I have to be told about their development without evidence to support the claims.

This book is marketed as a sequel to Pacific Cove: Haunted Visions, but honestly you don’t have to read the first book to read Testament of Faith. The former contained ghostly encounters and unsolved mysteries. Testament of Faith, even though it’s supposed to be a sequel, really doesn’t mention anything from the first book. It’s a completely different story than the first, which is fine, but also a bit jarring. There’s no mention of ghosts and only a sentence or two about Naomi’s struggles with her mental health (which magically got better, but I won’t dive into that one). Sure, some passing comments might not make sense to the reader, but the reader honestly doesn’t have to spend the time reading the first book to understand this one. And honestly, that may be a benefit to some readers.

I think my biggest complaint about this book is the reality that it’s in. At time I wondered if Testament of Faith was set in an oddly normal episode of The Twilight Zone, because the events that happened in this story are just too unrealistic. Every character you’re introduced to is perfect, beautiful, well built, and stylish. It’s off putting to imagine these perfect individuals going through crisis and come out still being perfect. And the plot was extremely predictable; I was not shocked by a single tragedy or happy outcome. Characters are super happy and toast to good health, a few pages later tragedy occurs, followed by an unrealistic turn of event that would not happen in the real world, followed by another tragedy at the same time as another happy reveal occurs, and then the book ends on a happy note. I felt nothing with each event except extreme disbelief in how things occurred. I didn’t feel happiness when good things happened to the characters; instead I was angry because the timing felt wrong. I also didn’t feel sadness or sympathy for the characters when tragedy occurred; instead I was stuck thinking about how incompetent everyone was, especially the doctors and I won’t even waste your time explaining how much they angered me. And just like the previous book, time is treated like a plaything, manipulated by the author to make the story progress in unnatural ways.

Despite all the criticism I gave the book, there were some positive notes. In the previous book, I felt that each scene change was too choppy and threw me out of the story, but in Testament of Faith I felt like scene were a bit more fluid and less jarring. There was a bit more loving interactions between the couples to really show that they loved each, but I still believe that needs some more work. And the scene descriptions were a bit more spread out in the scene. Overall, the story read more like a novella than a screenplay.

Final Thoughts:

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in reading Christian fiction. This book has some elements of faith that readers may enjoy reading. And even though I find the sequence of events a bit unrealistic, I believe some people may enjoy reading a story of overcoming tragedy, especially in times like now.

Rating(s):

1/5

Even though there was some improvement between the two stories, I have to give this sequel a lower rating than the other novella. The idea for this story was less compelling to me and it was really hard to read this book. This book was boring for me to read. I couldn’t relate, empathize, or sympathize with the characters. There were times in which I wanted to quit, but I finished this book because I was asked to and I felt like this review would be more beneficial to the author if I finished their book. Obviously this book could entertain some readers, but I couldn’t get past the mistakes or the unrealistic feel of the story to enjoy it.

 

Book Review: Haunted Visions

NOTICE! I was given a free copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review which reads as follows:

haunted-visionsDetails:

Title: Pacific Cover: Haunted Visions

Author: J.E. Grace

Publisher: Self-Published

Published: August 13, 2016

Genre: Mystery, Paranormal

Pages: 90 (eBook)

Synopsis:

Naomi and Jason Sanders move to Pacific Cove Ranch shortly after their wedding. Prior to her graduation from college, Naomi’s younger sister is killed in a hit and run accident. Naomi is having a hard time accepting her loss, and the isolation of her new surroundings bring a new type of terror: haunted visions that keep her on edge, terrifying her.

Is Naomi being tormented by her own inner demons or some new type of ghostly visions that haunt the Pacific Cove Ranch? Can she survive or will they drive her mad?

Can she convince her family that she isn’t just grieving for her sister, but that these ghosts are trying to tell her about a secret she is supposed to discover? Will she figure it out and prove to her family she isn’t imagining things?

What I First Thought:

J.E Grace emailed me asking to review two of her short stories. I accepted her request because I don’t have many short stories and I want to review more of them. And this book Haunted Visions, seemed like it would fit perfectly with the mood and atmosphere October usually brings.

My Overall Opinion:

Overall, I didn’t really care for this story. I really wanted to enjoy it, because the synopsis described a really good idea for a story. However, the flow was so choppy that I felt like I was constantly shoved out of the book between scenes.

The author’s biggest problem was falling victim to the imbalance of show and tell. I understand that it can be a hard concept to grasp, and it really depends on the author and the reader. However, I felt like the author spent 90% of the book telling me what happened, telling me what her characters were like, and telling me how every one and thing felt about every event. I was told about the characteristics of all the characters, but wasn’t given the opportunity to see them for myself in the story. I was told how Naomi felt about everything, but wasn’t given the chance to visualize her reactions. I was told that she was angry and not shown how her faced changed with the emotion, how her voice sounded as she was screaming.

Bottom line, this story read like a play script. There was normally more description at the start of each scene, spending a few paragraphs describing the scenery and set up. Then the author would rely on dialogue to tell her story with a few brief lines of actions between each conversation. For some readers this may be enough for them, but I didn’t really care for it because I couldn’t grasp the concept of time for this story. I was told how long each action took, how long it took to get from point A to B, or how much time passed between two scenes, but it didn’t read like it in the story. I would stop several times in one page to sit and think about how the author was treating time, and it just felt so flimsy to me. I want to read about the path a character takes to get from one place to another, I want to be able to see if I can glean anything of their personalities from that simple action.

Sure the idea, events, and the dialogue are like the bones of the story, but I always felt like descriptions served to be the meat, the muscle. To me, this story was very anorexic. In fact, I believe this story would have been much better as a normal length novel and not a short story. If there was more description, which could help with the flow between the scenes, and not a bunch of random events than this story could have been easily 180 pages or more and much stronger than it was. I’m not saying that short stories aren’t strong, but this book didn’t read like a short story.

Another problem that I had with this story was the dialogue itself. Most of the time it felt rather unnatural or robotic. I wasn’t alive during the setting in the book, 60s-70s I believe, but the dialogue felt out of place and not of the time period. And the characters didn’t seem to have natural conversations, they were too quick but often felt like they were supposed to be longer and more drawn out. Sometimes the characters’ reactions felt out of place as well. For instance, when Naomi’s husband tells her happy birthday her response was “I guess it is”, no thank you or affection, just state up acknowledgement of the statement. Another it he got her an early gift for her birthday, and she had a similar response and showed no love or gratitude for the gift. Little things like this really bug me, especially since I know of several authors who pride themselves in understanding human behavior and making realistic characters.

Final Thoughts:

I would recommend this novella to anyone who wants a short read between longer stories. This story is pretty straight forward, nothing to really confuse the readers, making it a quick read for those who may enjoy it.

I would not recommend this short story to any teen or young adult trying to read more ‘adult’ fiction, because this is vastly different and may be a turn off. The lack of descriptions and choppy flow may not sit well with those used to reading current, popular YA novels. However, if there are readers who want a story that is straight to the point with little details, this story may be up your alley.

This story is written a lot like a play. In fact, I believe that this story would work wonderfully as a play, if the author wanted. Seeing this story on the stage with props and actors would probably be a more enjoyable experience for me than reading it. And it would serve as an interesting play to see around Halloween, getting viewers in the mood for the occasion.

Rating:

2/5

I feel like this story has a lot of promise, but fell a bit short of the desired mark. From experience, I know that writing short stories can be hard; you have to go through all the stages a longer story has but in a fewer pages. However, you have to have an idea that works best for a short story rather than a novel. Grace’s idea for Haunted Visions is best suited as a novel and not a novella, and I believe that’s where this story suffered the most. If she expanded the story with more details, and not just description, but things to connect all the various and seemingly random events together she would have easy had a longer and stronger narrative. Instead, this short story is a string of random events that kind of fit together in the long run but are too choppy to tell in the moment of reading them. The story is driven by unnatural and robotic sounding dialogue, which may put some readers to sleep or make them angry. The characters don’t seem to progress any as individuals, they’re static by appearance but at the end the author tells us of their growth that isn’t actually supported by the reading. The relationship between the characters aren’t really shown, but we’re told how they feel about each other. And the elements to the story (paranormal, romance, mystery, etc.) are barely tapped into, making the tone of the story rather flat and boring.

With all that said, the story concept is still interesting but suffered by the number of pages it was written in. If the author were to go back and expand the novella and turn it into a novel, then the story would be stronger and the narrative would be more compelling and interesting.

Book Review: The Midnight Glass

NOTICE: I was given a free copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:

the-midnight-glass

Details:

Title: The Midnight Glass

Author: D.T. Vaughn

Publisher: Branford Books

Release Date: September 20th 2016

Genre: Middle Reader, Paranormal, Fantasy

Pages: 251 (paperback)

Synopsis:

Every town has a secret… but Davenport has the darkest of them all…
Life is rough for eleven-year-old Wyatt Dumont. He’s too small to fend off his mean older sister, and the school bully picks on him every day. But life changes when his mother is offered a job in the secretive town of Davenport. Wyatt is excited for the move until he notices that some of the townsfolk are more than human. There’s a man with green skin and gills, and a middle school teacher with red eyes and fangs! Even Wyatt s new classmates are a spark elf and a wulfyn–a werewolf, but don t call him that… or else!
Wyatt is panicked. But nothing alarms him more than the darkest secret of all: Davenport hasn’t seen the sun in over four hundred years. Wyatt quickly becomes obsessed with the town’s mysteries, and he begins to uncover the truth–one deadly secret at a time.

My First Thoughts:

I’m always looking for good middle reader books to add to my library, and this story really interested me. The idea behind the story also intrigued me, it sounded rather unique, and something I haven’t read of this genre yet.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

For the most part, this is a pretty solid book. The setting is pretty interesting, though I did spend some time trying to figure out how everything would work with just moonlight. After a while I had to completely turn off the scientific-thinking part of my brain to be able to read through this book at a good pace. For a book like this for a target audience of children, that’s really not a mark against the story but more like an observation. Children won’t sit there and question why the moon is always in the sky instead of a period of total darkness when the sun is supposed to be out. They won’t question how all the plants are growing off of just moonlight, or why only the bugs have strange mutations and not the vegetation or the people too. These were just a few of the things my brain tried to work out while reading. Kids probably won’t notice or care about these things, however the adults reading this to kids or reading it to themselves may find this a bit annoying. For the category, it’s okay for things like this not be explained because it may bore the target audience or go right over their heads.

Wyatt was a rather interesting hero to follow as he fumbled his way through the mystery of the Midnight Glass. For those of you who care, and I know some of you reading this will, he isn’t your typical white male lead. Not much is said about what he look like except that he has a mop of curly hair and dark tanned skin like his father. This didn’t really change anything for me while reading this story, but I do know that there are readers out there that really want popular literature to be more diverse. The story never mentions anything about nationality or race just that Wyatt and his sister look a lot like their father. As a character, Wyatt seemed rather mature for his age even before he moved or solved the mystery. His only true development came when he overcame his negative reactions to the people of the town, accepting and treating them like people. The other characters were pretty flat, staying pretty much the same from start to finish, which was fine really since the story was focused on Wyatt. My only real grievance with the characters came from Wyatt’s sister, Roxanne. Her character changed as well, but it seemed so superficial that it made me a bit sick to read. At first she was completely repulsed by the people in the town but then kind of got over it a bit after finding a hot guy that happened to be a werewolf. The switch was so sudden that I was caught by surprise, but it made me sick because it seemed like the only way a girl could grow to like a place is if she found a hot guy that lives there too. I know that most kids reading this might not pick up on that, but it still bothers me.

Other than that, there really isn’t that much else to say. The story was pretty solid, and it was a mystery that kept me stumped for a while. I wasn’t surprised by the reveal of the villain, but it did take me a good chunk of the book to figure it out. The pacing of the book seemed a little bit off to me and I can’t really place it. While I was enjoying the story, by the time I neared the end I really wanted to get it over with. That isn’t a feeling I normally get with books that I’m enjoying, however, I can’t figure out why.

Final Thoughts:

This is a pretty good book to read, especially if you’re still in the mood for monsters, paranormal, or mystery. I recommend this book for parents to read to their children, or for children that want something new to read. I must advise caution though. There is death in this book and mentions of suicide. One character actually has a bit of a gruesome death, even though the author made light of it, parents might still want to investigate it for themselves before their children read it.

I would also recommend this book to any adult looking for a fun, light read. If you can turn off your brain and not overthink the plot and some of the things that happen in this book, then you’re golden. If you can’t, or like me who had a hard time turning off their brain, this book may frustrate you a bit. So I wouldn’t recommend this book to all adult, but those who really like to read within this genre.

Rating(s):

3/5

Overall, The Midnight Glass has a pretty solid story, one best suited for children in middle school. Wyatt is a hero that I think a good number of kids can identify with nowadays, and he learns a pretty important lesson that I think everyone needs to learn: accept those who are different from you. The setting is rather creative and fun to imagine in your head, especially with the unique townsfolk. Wyatt’s journey is an interesting one, and the narration behind it adds to the mystic nature of the book. D.T. Vaughn has a rather interesting narrative voice, one that I wouldn’t mind reading again in other books.

My biggest complaint was Wyatt’s sister, Roxanne. She was your stereotypical big sister who antagonized her younger brother for no apparent reason most of the time. She was also the second character to have any major development and it was all because she found a hot guy, which is something that made me a bit angry. I saw the need for her character in this story, but I believe that she was the weakest part of this story.

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!!!

Book Review: Trampling in the Land of Woe

NOTICE: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:

trampling-in-the-land-of-woeDetails:

Title: Trampling in the Land of Woe (The Patron Saints of Hell #1)

Author: William L.J. Galaini

Publisher: Scarlet River Press

Release Date: September 14, 2015

Genre(s): Fantasy, Steampunk, Horror, Adventure

Pages: 204 (eBook)

Synopsis:

As World War I rages on Earth, Hephaestion, lauded general and soul mate of Alexander the Great—and now a citizen of Purgatory—embarks on the darkest, most challenging journey of his existence: descending into The Pit of Hell to rescue his king. Chased by Hellbeasts, hunted by Jesuits, and aided by unexpected allies, Hephaestion tests the bounds of loyalty, dedication, and even death as he faces the greatest demon of all: himself. A blend of steampunk and Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy, Trampling in the Land of Woe drives through the cobblestoned streets of New Dis, soars above The Pit in airships, and then stumbles down into the terror-ridden rings themselves. Steam-powered trains, zeppelins, and ornithopters zoom by in a mash-up of literary proportions, all to answer one question: What will one man do to understand the meaning of love and truth?

What I First Thought:

I’m always up for reading any story that deals with historical events and characters, especially ones that I know and love learning about. I have read stories before with queer characters and I’ve read stories that mentions or briefly show the love between two characters of the same sex. However, I have yet to read a story that focuses solely on a queer main character and their love for another. I’ve been interested in a while, and I’ve really wanted to broaden my personal library with queer fiction, especially after reading Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and getting interested in her other book Carry On. However, I have yet to find the latter and I haven’t had the time (or money) really to comb through the shelves for those kinds of books. So I was rather excited when I was offered a chance to read and review Trampling in the Land of Woe. It was an added bonus that it was about Alexander the Great and his famed lover, and dearest friend, Hespaestion!

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

The first thing I want to say is daaaaaaaaaamn! This story is overflowing with creativity and imagination that outshines almost everything that I have ever read. The author’s depiction of Hell and how it changed with the times on Earth was absolutely fascinating. I loved how the author mixed old and new technologies together so effortlessly, creating wonderful images of blimps and old fashion naval ships with steel parts.

Galaini’s depiction of Hell and ascension was fascinating to read and  definitely made me think. It was nice to see that characters from any religion could make it into Heaven, really outlining the idea the importance of people’s good deeds in life and not their core beliefs. It was also refreshing to read of people who ascended to Heaven after they spent time in Purgatory or Hell, that where you end up in death doesn’t have to be the eternal. All of these things, while appearing in a work of fiction, are definitely interesting food for thought.

I believe my favorite part of this story was meeting all the various characters that appeared in Heph’s journey. You meet Vikings, Jews, Celts, old Christian abbots, characters from fallen empires, and characters who predate the Egyptians. The minor characters were always fun to read and interesting to read about, especially the female characters. Out of the entire cast of characters, almost all of the female characters that were mentioned were totally over-powered and badass in their own way, with magic, great weaponry, and fantastical tools. I can’t really tell you who my favorite character was without giving any spoilers, but they’re all pretty fantastic and they each had an interesting role to play in the story and Heph’s overall journey through Hell.

Heph’s journey through the story was rather interesting to read, even though his main goal seems to be doomed to fail, even from the start. It was a rather bumpy ride from start to finish, mostly because our Hero has decided to take on a nearly impossible task and everyone keeps telling him that he won’t succeed. Almost everyone he meets tries to persuade him to move on from his love for Alexander, to dissuade him from descending into Hell to find him, but they always help him out in some way. I find that to be rather interesting, because in most books those kinds of characters only serve one purpose and it’s to distract the Hero from their journey. However, most of these characters in Trampling in the Land of Woe are also Heph’s greatest allies and friends, helping him in whatever way they could. Heph’s journey into the deepest parts of Hell was interesting to read because of the characters he met, the people who helped or opposed him, and the wonderfully imaginative depictions of the Rings of Hell. Heph’s personal odyssey to find Alexander the Great was one that I had mixed feelings about, and I’m still not sure whether I cared for it. His travels were rather exciting and wonderful to read, especially with the author’s unique voice and descriptions. However, there was so much build up, build up, build up that when you think you got to the final conflict and it’s over within a few pages, you’re suffering from whiplash, and there’s still more to read. All of the last twenty pages pretty much left me feeling unsettled, which may or may not have been the author’s purpose.

While the resolution of the story was unsettling and still leaving me to wonder how I actually feel about it, I still liked reading about the progress that Heph’s character made. It was interesting to see how his character transformed from being single-mindedly driven to thinking beyond his love and loyalty to Alexander. And while I couldn’t really connect with Hespaestion, his overall character journey was nice to read about.

Final Thoughts:

As my first queer fiction, I enjoyed it and felt that it was rather tame. Overall there’s no romance in this story, just in the flashbacks that Hespaestion has to when he was alive. Those memories were actually rather sweet, for the most part, and I really enjoyed reading about their loving actions and adventures. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone, who like me, wants to broaden their shelves and read something out of the norm for them. It is rather tame in the queer romance, so I believe can serve as a nice stepping stone into harder queer fiction.

The story is rather gory in some places, and I actually squirmed at some of the descriptions. This may be a turn off for some readers, while other may like it. For those sensitive to gore, I would definitely not try to read this before bed if you decide to give this book a try. For those who love gore, this book probably won’t phase you and may prove to be rather fun.

This book is a fantastic read for anyone who wants to get into the Halloween mood. There’s hideous monsters, torture, and grotesque scenes that all really fit with the Hell scenery.

I would also recommend this book to anyone who wants a good, imaginative story. The author’s imagination is spectacular and his writing ability really helps flesh out that imagination. The characters are very unique and come from all walks of life, lending interesting advise and beautiful quotes. Really, this could be a great read for anyone that isn’t squeamish about gore or queer main characters.

Rating:

4/5

Overall this story was fantastic. I loved reading the book, for the most part, and enjoyed all of the minor characters, and the work and creativity that went with it. Galaini had a wonderful writing style and his descriptions of everything were breath taking, making it easy for my brain to paint the story. I would have given Trampling in the Land of Woe full marks, but the conclusion left me unsettled and I just couldn’t relate to Hespaestion. Some of the minor characters I really liked and I related to them more, but their time in the story was too brief for my taste. However, I feel like this story was still pretty good and was definitely not your typical Hero’s Journey. I think I’ll be sticking around and seeing what other books in this series will bring.

Book Review: Empire of Storms

empire-of-storms

Details:

Title: Empire of Storms

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Previous: Queen of Shadows

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Date Released: September 6, 2016

Genre: NEW ADULT, Fantasy, Romance, Action/Adventure

Pages: 693 (Hardcover)

Synopsis:

The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don’t.

As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

Aelin’s journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will Aelin succeed in keeping her world from splintering, or will it all come crashing down?

What I first Thought:

So I’ve been waiting for this book for almost a year and the wait almost killed me. I made sure that I got this book the day it was released so that I could read it before the spoilers started pouring out all over the internet. I was actually driving back to school that day after a long weekend of packing, and I added an extra hour and a half to my drive time so that I could go to Barnes & Noble. I actually almost didn’t get it that day, because the B&N that I went to didn’t have the books out, even though their computer said it was displayed in the YA section. I was so mad because they’re usually pretty good about getting popular books out on the day of the release, but I ended up finding the book! It was just lying on the help desk, all by itself in a random stack of books, so I grabbed it and bought it. My expectations were pretty high, fueled by the wait and excitement; I absolutely love Maas’s work!

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

WARNING: When reading this book, I suggest you find a seatbelt and strap yourself to whatever surface you’re reading on. And please keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times!

You think I’m kidding, right? No seriously, do yourself a favor and buckle yourself in for the adventure, it is one fantastic thrill ride!

Sarah J. Maas took my expectations and laughed at them as Empire of Storms stomped them into the ground and used them to lift off into space. Translation: the book was bloody fantastic and went way above what I had expected. Typically, I find that when I read long series, normally having more than three books, the later books are much weaker than the first ones. However, Sarah J. Maas has broken that norm for me. I have found that as this series progresses, it gets better and better with each book that Maas rolls out! Her writing, world, and characters improve with each installment and she leaves me craving for more and more.

This book is definitely going onto my favorites’ shelf. There are way too many reasons as to why it belongs there and why you should read this book too. I won’t be able to list everything, but I’ll try to sum things up as best as I can. And I apologize in advance if I ramble and this becomes rather long-winded!

What I love most about Maas’s stories are her characters, whether they’re main characters or minor ones, they’re always well done. This book is no different. The characters from book one are still developing, becoming more and more rounded as their journeys unfold. Her newer characters are developing beautifully as all the character storylines converge. The interactions between the vastly different characters are realistic as well. Maas shows that the stress and death is really putting a strain on the characters and their relationships. The novelty of this grand adventure pretty much disappears as the story progresses, as the characters realize just how impossible everything seems to be and how unlikely their story will end happily.

There were times in which I could see where Maas wanted to go with the story, accurately predicting certain events and character reactions. However, there were still many turns that I didn’t see coming and I enjoyed the good few shocks that I had. I thoroughly enjoyed the details and events that I saw resurface from previous books, riddles and passing words finally taking shape and making sense in this installment. I believe that this really shows how long Maas has been planning this series and that she knew what she wanted to do with it from the beginning.

I’ve also really enjoyed how much Maas has expanded her story. If she wanted to, she could just stick to Aelin’s point of view and the story would still be entertaining. However, she chooses to tell this story from more than one character from different sides of the major conflict, which really helps to round out the story more. She decides to show you what happens on the different sides instead of just telling you why something happened or that it happened. Some stories don’t really need that kind of coverage, but I think it really works out for Maas’s series, especially for Empire of Storms.

The action in Empire of Storms is non-stop, there’s hardly a break between each conflict our characters face. For some people, this may be a deterrent because it doesn’t give them enough time to absorb anything. It’s possible people might find the action too much, wanting a lot more substance between each major action sequence. For myself, I enjoyed the pace of the story and the amount of action written. If Maas added more ‘substance’ between the big sequences then the book would probably be close to 1000 pages. I wouldn’t mind a book of that size, but I’ve heard people complaining about the current books being too long already.

Last thing, I have to rant a little. This book is listed as a Young Adult book, however, I have to severely disagree with that listing. Growing up, YA never really touched on sex. Sure, there were times when it would briefly mention that the characters had sex or the main characters would talk about it. There were even times when the reader would just assume that the characters had sex based on their previous actions. But YA never really had sex scenes, and Empire of Storms definitely has sex scenes that might not be appropriate for some readers. The few sexual scenes aren’t nearly as detailed as erotica or the cheesy romance novels, but it’s more than causal too. I have no problem with these scenes, but I feel as if the marketing category should be changed to New Adult instead.

Final Thoughts:

This book defied all expectations that I had. It was absolutely fantastic and the more I read Maas’s new work, the more impressed I am with how far she’s come.

If you were on the fence about Queen of Shadows read this book! Continue the series, because Empire of Storms answers so many questions and really does a wonderful job of moving the overall story along. You’re emotions will be toyed with, there may be tears of laughter or sadness, or both. It’s an intense read that won’t be easy to put down, I know I had issues getting the motivation to go to class a few times. I don’t suggest people starting this book if they know that they’ll be busy for an extended period of time.

If you really loved Queen of Shadows, then what are you waiting for? Clear your calendar, pick up the book, and dive right in! Don’t be shy! And start reading before the spoilers find their way to you and ruin your experience!

If you’ve never read the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas are have been intrigued by my review, please pick up the series. The first book may be rough for you, but by Empire of Storms you’ll understand where I’m coming from. Also, it’s a good series to dive into if you have a lot of time to kill reading!

Rating:

5/5

I absolutely love Sarah J. Maas’s writing, she’s one of my favorite authors at the moment, and this book is going onto my favorites list. Her characters have grown up so wonderfully, they’ve made me laugh, smile, and cry as I’ve followed their development. The interactions between the various characters were entertaining and very believable, especially as the danger really started to push in on them. I’ve been able to predict specific events, but I’ve still been surprised more often than not, which thrilled me to no end! Again and again I’ve been impressed with Maas, and she has yet to disappoint me!

Book Review: The Jumbee’s Daughter

NOTE: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review!

Details:the-jumbees-daughter

Title: The Jumbee’s Daughter

Author: Jonathan Ross

Publisher: Amazon Create Space

Release Date: June 14th 2016

Genre: Adult, Romance, Suspense,

Pages: 184

Synopsis:

Anika Hegner, of Danish heritage, has Jumbee blood in her veins, straight from the Dark Continent. Since childhood, she has delighted in shape shifting to a black cat and scaring the unwary. Now, as she struggles to reconcile her dual heritage, she discovers the added distraction of a taciturn veteran who insists on camping on her family’s abandoned estate.

Ex-Army Ranger Mike Stiles, haunted by the loss of a comrade in combat, can’t settle into civilian life. When his best friend asks for help to break-up a drug-smuggling ring on St. Thomas, Mike rushes to his aid. Mike figures the danger will do him some good and settle in to catch the smuggler, in spite of a beautiful woman ordering him to leave his post.

Ambitious, young drug lord Santiago Morales is expanding the family business from Puerto Rico to backwater St. Tomas. Smuggling, fast cars, and beautiful women are his passions. To celebrate his arrival on the island, he plans to romance a certain local girl and kill a nosy ex-soldier.

My First Thoughts:

I honestly didn’t know what to expect from this book! I was really interested in the settling, since I have been to St. Thomas before, and I’ve never really read a ‘summer romance’ book. So feel like this will be an interesting book to read!

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

I wasn’t wrong about the book, it really was interesting! At times, it was really hard to put down and the pages just seemed to fly by. Now, that could have also been because the chapter were really short.

I really enjoyed reading from Stiles’s perspective, just because he thought of things a little differently than everyone else. I wish that you could read more of his struggles with the loss of one of his comrades. However, you could argue that once he starts something very little distracts him while he’s on the job. Either way, he didn’t feel as haunted as the synopsis made him out to be. He was still fun to read about, I just felt like the author missed out on some really interesting character development with him.

Anika was also interesting to read about. I’ve read and heard of stories about shape shifting individuals from all over Eurasia, but I’ve heard/read very little from Africa. So it was really neat to read about the Jumbees and their trickster characters, and I wish there was more to read about them in the story. Anika’s character was a little hard to sympathize at first, but as she started opening up she became more and more likable! I really enjoyed the development she had in the story, especially when she had a little bit of an identity crisis because not many books with similar characters think to include such things. And as I think about it, not every character should be likable at first, because a lot of people aren’t really likable when you first meet them. It’s only after they open up to you that you really start to like them.

The one thing I could not stand about this book was when the story was told from Morales’s perspective. I find it really interesting when a novel decides to tell from the villain’s point of view, readers can gain insights on the actions and characteristics that they might not have when reading from the hero’s side. However, it’s really hard for an author to pull it off, especially if they write from the villain’s side for a good chunk of the book. I know you’re not supposed to like the villain, but the novelty of reading about Morales’s story wore off very quickly. He had no redeeming qualities and sometimes it just felt like wasted paper. In fact, I feel like this novel would have done much better if it had less of Morales’s narration and spent more time developing Stiles and Anika. He did have some important scenes that really defined his character, but after a while I felt like Ross was trying way too hard to get the readers to hate the villain and demonize him.

While the characterization of the villain was a bit rough, the world that the book was set in was extremely detailed. I often felt like the book took me out of the school library and teleported me to St. Thomas! There were details in the story that only someone who had lived there for years would have thought to add. The scenery was wonderfully described and painted for the readers. My imagination had no trouble at all translating the author’s words, which were rather concise, into beautiful images or coral beaches and grassy hills.

The last thing that I’ll talk about is the romance. I’ve never been one for love stories that occur over a few days, it seems a little unrealistic to me. I understand that it actually happens to some people, but most of the time it’s a relationship that develops over several months. The romance in this novel isn’t terrible, just not my cup of tea. To me, it would have made more sense for the romance to take several months to grow and bud. However, I understand that for the sack of the novel’s timeline that wasn’t a luxury that the author had. That’s still not a great excuse, but it’s a seeable one. I wish that there was more time spent developing the romantic relationship of the characters, but it wasn’t the main point of the story, so either way it didn’t really have a lot of weight on what was going on. The only thing affected by the romance was the very end of the story, which was a little confusing to begin with. The overall story would not have changed drastically if the romance didn’t exist or was a little heavier than it was.

Final Thoughts:

I would recommend this novel to anyone looking for a free vacation that you can take with your mind! How the author describes St. Thomas and the locals may definitely transport you there. Absolutely beautiful and detailed descriptions, things that only someone who has lived on the island for years could write about.

I would also recommend this book to anyone who wants a quick summer read, something that you can read while on vacation or on the beach. The story reads quickly, but well-paced, and will keep you turning pages until the end. The romance may be a turn off to some people. At times, I got really frustrated with how the characters interacted with each other. I still believe that things developed too quickly, but then again I’m not one for fast romances. If you are, then you’ll really enjoy the book. However, if you’re like me, then you may still enjoy the book because the romance is more of an added flavor and not the main course.

And anyone who is into suspenseful summer stories like Into the Blue will definitely enjoy this story! Readers may find the thrill of the hunt too good to put down and the little sprinkle of magic enticing.

Rating(s):

With Morales’s perspective: 2/5

I honestly did not care for the story told from Morales’s perspective. I’m all for reading from the villain’s side of the story, but only when they are relatable. I could not relate to Morales and his actions made me sick. After a while, I didn’t really care to read from his side of the story. At first it was interesting, but it grew old and sour quick, and I dreaded reading his chapters at times!

Without Morales’s perspective: 3/5

I don’t want one character’s side to taint the rest of the book. So I’ve decided to give this book a second rating, about how the story reads without Morales’s point of view. Overall, the story was a quick read, and it was a good solid story. There was nothing super spectacular about the book, but it was still entertaining to read. It gave me a number of enjoyable hours of reading and was a nice send off to summer. The romance wasn’t something to write home about, but the overall feel, writing, and story made up for it. The Jumbee’s Daughter is a good average book. I enjoyed the author’s writing and I would love to see more from Jonathan Ross in the future, to see where his creative mind takes him!

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!!!