Book Review: The Dream Thieves

|+| Warnings: Drug use, mild torture, violence |+|

“Secrets and cockroaches-that’s what will be left at the end of it all.”  ~The Dream Thieves

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Woots! Fist book review of the year! This is the sequel to The Raven Boys, and while I’ve done my best to make sure there are no spoilers for both books I might have accidentally let something slip. Please consider this your fair warning.

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Genre:  YA paranormal fantasy/mystery, romance

Summary: Ronan Lynch has secrets. Some he keeps from others. Some he keeps from himself.

One secret: Ronan can bring things out of his dreams.

And sometimes he’s not the only one who wants those things.

Ronan is one of the raven boys-a group of friends, practically brothers, searching for a dead king named Glendower, who they think is hidden somewhere in the hills by there elite private school, Aglonby Academy. The path to Glendower has long lived as an undercurrent beneath town. But now, like Ronan’s secrets, it is beginning to rise to the surface-changing everything in its wake.

My Opinion: This book was awesome. What I loved about The Raven Boys was back in full force in the sequel. The fantastic characters and their organic development, the mythology and magic. Once again, things that seemed random fell in place. There were a couple of plot twists, and once again, they had me on the edge of my seat. My biggest issue was the ending. Unlike the first book, this ending felt a bit anti-climatic in a way. Also, I was expecting more about the school because there’s been so much buildup surrounding it. All in all, I gave this book four stars.

While the last book focused mostly on Gansey and Noah, this book focused mostly on Ronan and Adam. While the last book let me down a bit in getting to know Blue, I felt like I really got to know her character a lot better. I loved seeing more magic from Ronan and Adam, and getting more depth into their characters as well. There are new villains and some old ones, but they show their colors in a new way. At first I was a little wary at some of these changes, but they were executed so well that I was behind these changes all the way.

The world building was one of the things that got me hooked on the first books. Thanks to how the characters and the magic of the world are tied together, I got even more of that. But the school really wasn’t a big part of this book. From the summary and the last book, I was thinking that there would be more about the mystery of the school. It’s clear in the set up in The Raven Boys that Aglionby holds plenty of secrets. This book didn’t touch on them. That seemed like it would be such a huge element, yet it just was not addressed here. I get that it was summer in this book, but still…

Then there was the ending. There were two sub plots that really carried this book, and both had a rather anti-climatic endings. The first plot twist that had me on the edge of my seat was resolved in such a way that I just sort of frowned at the book and went “ok?” The second plot had a stronger resolution, but it still felt weak. Even with the well done cliff hanger ending, the whole last 20 pages just fell short for me.

The ending of The Dream Thieves certainly hasn’t stopped me from diving into Blue Lily, Lily Blue, but it did put a damper on the book for me. Despite not seeing certain things and those anti-climatic plot resolutions, this book was a great one. It built on what had been established in The Raven Boys and really moved the saga forward.

TL;DR: No second book syndrome here! While The Dream Thieves didn’t quite live up to The Raven Boys for me, it still was a wonderful read. It built on what happened in the first book, added depth to all previous elements, and really carried the overall story forward beautifully. The more I read, the more I fall in love with this series. If you read the first book and are hesitating to read the second, don’t, it’s well worth it!

 

Book Review: On Writing, and No Plot? No Problem!

Today I’m doing something a little different. I’m reviewing two books in one go. There are certain books that are more difficult to give a longer review to. I find that books on writing are among these.  On Writing by Stephen King is one of my favorite non-fiction books, and it just doesn’t seem right to not review No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo, during November. So while these reviews are shorter, the books are still wonderful writing resources and lovely reads!

On Writing

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Author: Stephen King

Genre: Memoir, reference

Summary: Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

My Opinion: While I don’t agree with everything in this book, Stephen King is a brilliant teacher. I really do love this book and will gladly give it five stars.

The first part of the book is mostly dedicated to King’s writing journey, how he started writing and how he got to where he is today. This is filled with humor and interesting life and writing advice. The second half is more focused on exactly what it takes to be a writer. For example, you must be a reader. You must have an interest in writing in the first place. King goes on to set up the writer’s tool-box. Here he covers everything from tricky grammar rules to how to make the most out of descriptions while staying true to your voice. All the while King makes the book feel personal. His humor shines through and there’s plenty of parts in it that challenge you not only as a writer, but as a person. True, this book is a memoir, but it’s also a guide to the writing life and a friendly pat on the shoulder. If you’re interested in writing or a fan of Stephen King, I strongly recommend this book.

 

No Plot? No Problem!

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Author: Chris Baty

Genre: Non-fiction, reference

Summary: You’ve always wanted to write, but . . . just haven’t gotten around to it. No Plot? No Problem! is the kick in the pants you’ve been waiting for.

Let Chris Baty, founder of the rockin’ literary marathon National Novel Writing Month (a.k.a. NaNoWriMo), guide you through four exciting weeks of hard-core noveling. Baty’s pep talks and essential survival strategies cover the initial momentum and energy of Week One, the critical “plot flashes” of Week Two, the “Can I quit now?” impulses of Week Three, and the champagne and roar of the crowd during Week Four. Whether you’re a first-time novelist who just can’t seem to get pen to paper or a results-oriented writer seeking a creative on-ramp into the world of publishing, this is the adventure for you.

So what are you waiting for? The No Plot? approach worked for the thousands of people who’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo, and it can work for you! Let No Plot? No Problem! help you get fired up and on the right track.

My Opinion: YOU DO NOT NEED TO WRITE YOUR NOVEL IN 30 DAYS TO GET SOMETHING OUT OF THIS BOOK. Ok there, now that we have that out of the way, let’s continue shall we?

The latter part of the book is for if you’re going to go through with the “write a novel in 30 days” challenge. For some people that’s just not their thing, and the advice changes more into encouragement in this section. If you’ve done NaNoWriMo before (as I have), most of the stuff in the later section of the book will be familiar to you. Also Baty’s writing style was a little off for me at times. But that’s just personal preference. Because of that I rated this book four stars.

This book is funny. It’s got silly ideas, funny metaphors, and yet somehow it all comes together to make sense and give some practical writing advice. Some of this advice I wouldn’t have thought of on my own but it makes a great deal of sense. It’s writing advice that you can use for planning out a novel you’ll write over the course of a year or for your history paper due in 3 days. It was those nuggets of advice that really endeared the book to me. It also gave tips on how to keep yourself organized as a writer, how gather ideas, and how to make your dialogue and character interactions sound genuine. This book lacked depth, but it made up for that with a plethora of encouragement and good ideas to get you started on your own writing journey. Even if you know NaNoWriMo isn’t your thing, I think this is still a good book to read simply because of the good ideas. Even the sheets in the back, typically used for NaNoWriMo, can be made useful. This book isn’t about writing yours in 30 days as much as it is about giving yourself a strict timeline, giving yourself motivation to stick to that timeline, and then giving yourself rewards for meeting your goals. It’s a fun and quick read that’s quite handy.

Book Review: Cuckoo Song

|+| Warnings: Unreliable narrator |+|

“Everything on one side or the other, and nothing in between.” ~Shrike (Cuckoo Song)

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Author: Frances Hardinge

Genre: YA Horror, Historical fiction, Paranormal

Summary: When Triss wakes up after an accident, she knows something is very wrong. She is insatiably hungry, her sister seems scared of her, and her parents whisper behind closed doors. She looks through her diary to try to remember, but the pages have been ripped out. Soon Triss discovers that what happened to her is more strange and terrible than she could ever have imagined, and that she is quite literally not herself. In a quest to find the truth she must travel into the terrifying underbelly of the city to meet a twisted architect who has dark designs on her family—before it’s too late . . .

My Opinion: I live for atmospheric books. The stranger the better. Cuckoo Song delivered. I picked it up ages ago, almost finished it, then had to return it to the library (ah, the curse of exams). It was great to finish it this time. Everything I loved was still there and it’s a satisfying story. A historical fiction that couldn’t quite seem to get across to the reader when it was taking place, Cuckoo Song was wonderfully atmospheric, interesting, and creepy. Due to a few lacking things, but plenty of strong elements, I gave the book four stars.

What stood out to me from the start was the atmosphere of the story. It comes in many forms, from the language used to describe things, pacing, and the increasingly strange happenings. In parts it’s so bizarre it’s disturbing. Dolls were terrifying, birds were unusual and not to be trusted, and I will never look at scissors the same way again. And that’s why I think this book really does stand on its own as a horror book, especially in the YA field. While none of the scares lasted off the page, there’s a few household objects I’m still giving the side-eye to.

The characters were unique and for the most part well developed although there was little diversity. Triss was interesting and I enjoyed being in her head. I have a thing for unreliable narrators and this one showed huge growth. Violet and Pen are close seconds in favorite characters. Watching the three of them grow was wonderful. Perhaps my biggest complaint with the book is that the secondary characters don’t get any character development until about 200 pages in. We’re consistently shown that there’s potential but it’s not set into motion until half way through the book. I felt there was way too much hint dropping about what characters could be instead of getting a move on with that development. But Triss’ parents and their characterization was phenomenal. I applaud Hardinge for tackling such an overlooked issue when it comes to bad parenting. Triss’ parents are despicable.  Yet the parents are loving. They want what’s best for their daughter, they’re older and wiser and know best. But the book makes clear that they are stifling not only Triss but the whole family. Their obsession with control is causing cracks in the family and possibly putting them in danger. Sometimes reading about the parents’ choices was more frightening than screaming dolls. Screaming dolls are not real, but parents like Triss’ are. And that’s terrifying.

I also was frustrated with the setting. No doubt of it, Hardinge has a wonderful writing style that reminds me of Stiefvater. Both writers are very whimsical and metaphorical. But with Hardinge, I had no idea when this story was taking place. I knew it was after a war, but which war? It never was clearly established. Turns out that the story takes place after World War I, but with such weak timeline establishment, the book felt like it was trying for something steampunk.

Flaws aside, I really did enjoy this book. It’s perfect for October, especially if you’re going to read under the covers with a flashlight or around a bonfire. Creepy, moody, and filled with uncertainties, Cuckoo Song is a top pick for those looking for something out of the ordinary.

TL;DR: Despite little diversity, sluggish character development, and sometimes veering into formulaic territory, Cuckoo Song has promise and delivers on it. A dark and unsettling atmosphere is established from the start. Mundane items become frightening and the book tackles one of the most challenging family issues. While I wouldn’t recommend this to those who are unsettled by dolls, for those of you looking for a creepy read that puts a new spin on old things, read Cuckoo Song. It’s seriously the perfect October read.

Book Review: KIZUMONOGATARI: Wound Tale

|+| Warnings: Violence, gore, consensual sexual situations, talk of suicide |+|

“Some people ought to die-but people dying can’t ever not matter.” ~ Hanekawa (KIZUMONOGATARI: Wound Tale)

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Author: NISIOSIN (Illustrations by Vofan)

Genre: Mature YA Paranormal; Horror

Summary: Around midnight, under a lonely street lamp in a provincial town in Japan, lies a white woman, a blonde, alone, robbed of all four limbs, yet undead. Indeed, a rumor’s been circulating among the local girls that a vampire has come to their backwater, of all places.

Koyomi Araragi, who prefers to avoid having friends because they’d lower his “intensity as a human,” is naturally skeptical. Yet it is to him that the bloodsucking demon, a concept “dated twice over,” beckons on the first day of spring break as he makes his way home with a fresh loot of morally compromising periodicals.

Always disarmingly candid, often hilariously playful, and sometimes devastatingly moving, KIZUMONOGATARI: Wound Tale is the perfect gateway into the world of author NISIOISIN, the bestselling young novelist in Japan today. The prequel to BAKEMONOGATARI (“Monster Tale”), this is where the legendary MONOGATARI series, whose anime adaptations have enjoyed international popularity and critical acclaim, begins.

My Opinion: This was a fun and interesting read. It turned out differently than what I expected, but in a good way. I really enjoyed the fresh take on vampires and I also wound up learning a lot about Japanese culture. But the writing style was a bit too manga like. Not to mention some parts just went on forever which killed tension. Because of those reasons I gave the book three stars.

I’m a big fan of anime and manga. Now I don’t watch/read them as much as I’d like to, but I love the series that I’m invested in. When I first found this book I had never read anything by this author and I’m pretty sure that I hadn’t seen the manga series around. So when I realized that this was a prequel, and the author said it was totally fine to read it before reading the rest of the series, I was game. I read the book and wound up learning a lot about Japanese culture, and I’m also pretty sure I found a new series to check out.

Now with all that being said, if you’re familiar with manga and animes, you know there is melodrama! It’s just a thing. When it’s done well it’s awesome, fun, and completely loveable. I am a huge fan of melodrama! Here…well there were some hits and misses. In some parts scenes were so dragged out to add to the melodrama. It just didn’t work for me. I didn’t need or want to read 10 pages of our hero monologuing about the current situation when the answer was rather clear. Frankly, a lot of tension could have been added to the book if some of the monologues were cut back. Secondly, the sexual situations. Ok, I get it, spring break, boys and girls meet and even if they don’t fall in love (and in this book they don’t), there’s a high chance for fooling around. But our hero Araragi was just too much of a guy at times. Usually it was done to add humor, and it did consistently work towards character development. So yay for that! But sometimes he was so much of a guy that it just lowered the intensity of the story. Now about that writing style…look, manga is a visual medium, and novelizations of visual things (mangas, animes, movies, what have you) don’t always work. The writing style for this book was so close to reading a manga that honestly it was difficult to read at times. Mangas are very visual based, regular books are not. It’s awesome to blend genres but for this book the blend didn’t work the way it needed to.

One of the saving elements was the interesting characters. We have humans, vampires, half vampires, and humans that might not be humans after all. Each character, no matter the species was fleshed out. By the end of the book, despite the aforementioned issues, I really was invested in everyone. I want to know what happens in the rest of the series and will gladly get my heart ripped out for these fictional characters. I found my heart breaking when multiple characters struggled with suicidal thoughts. This story doesn’t have a happy ending, it’s a tragedy with bursts of comedy more than anything, so while no one commits suicide, the problem isn’t fixed with a perfect bow, which I appreciated-it’s clear that those issues will come into play later in the series and I hope that it’s handled well. While Araragi wasn’t my favorite, I loved his character development. Over all I was impressed with not only the main character’s development, but the development of Hanekawa and Oshino as well. I felt like Kisshot was well layered and fleshed out, but I didn’t feel like she grew as much as the others. Regardless, she made a lovely foil and I was surprised by her depth.

Another thing that made me enjoy this book was the take on vampires. Now as someone who’s spent all their lives in the States I’ve never realized how western vampires are. This book is so cool because it’s a western monster in an East Asian setting and both the monster and the people from a culture that doesn’t have vampires has to adjust. It was a new spin that I had never seen before and made me realize that I have a lot to learn about monsters and the world in general. I also found myself learning a lot about the Japanese culture. Araragi is such a straightforward narrator and is so practical about what he says (for the most part), so I found myself learning a lot about his culture in a really fun way.

With interesting characters, and a unique take on vampires I found myself enjoying this book. True, at times it read like a hot mess due to the odd writing style that just didn’t seem to work, but I can forgive the book for that when it gives me such a unique story.

TL; DR: With a fresh take on vampires and well developed characters KIZUMONOGATARI: Wound Tale is a really cool story. While the writing style is bizarre at times and some of the issues and topics are pretty dark, it’s a good book for fans of anime and manga. If you’re new to the series, this is a fun introduction and will probably leave you wanting more. If you’re already familiar with the series, then this is a must read. Looking for a new take on vampires as well as looking to diversify your shelf? This is a good bet!

The Shattered Seam (Book Tour!)

The Shattered Seam (Book Tour!)

Fan of haunted houses? Looking for an authentic voice? The Shattered Seam is the book for you! Below you can find my review of the book as well as a bit about the author and a giveaway for Kindle Fire (US/CAN only). Be sure to check out the rest of the tour here!

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Giveaway (US/CAN)

Author: Kathleen Groger

Genre: YA Paranormal, Horror

Summary: Spending spring break on an isolated island rumored to be haunted is not sixteen-year-old Sam’s idea of fun. Spending spring break with her uncle and his ghost-hunting film crew on an isolated island is even worse.

Way worse.

Her family’s secrets—and a genetic ability she can no longer deny—surface, along with the ghost of a rich serial killer who left behind a trail of trapped souls.

And he’s not through yet.

With only one chance for escape, Sam must embrace her family’s curse and close the Seam between the living and the dead. Or be lost, forever.

My Opinion: The Shattered Seam is a cool concept with a unique narrator. I immediately fell in love with Sam’s voice and the other characters were fun to read about too. In many ways this book reminded me of an updated version of the horror classic Hell House. Overall I gave this book 3 stars due to a major issue that touched too close to home for me.

When I read the first page of The Shattered Seam I gasped. Sam’s voice was so authentic I had to pause to take it in. It was beautiful. I really enjoyed reading from her view point because it really did feel like I was reading a 16 year old’s thoughts. I also really liked that Sam started out a skeptic and was thrown in with a group of hardcore ghost hunters that fully believed in what they were doing. It added a fresh spin to the old “non-believer” trope. This book reminded me of Hell House, but in a good way. The violence, the mysteriousness, and the numerous creepy going-ons hailed back to that sort of thing. But the story behind the castle is unique and interesting, making The Shattered Seam stand on its own.

But despite the fresh take on a classic (and favorite) horror trope, I can’t overlook the schizophrenia issue this book has. Note, Sam does not have the illness, nor does anyone else in the book. But schizophrenia is a real mental illness that impacts real people and real families. Sam thinking that she had schizophrenia, her mother allowing her to think this, as well as her grandmother allowing this thought, came off almost as insulting to those who are impacted by it to me. From the get-go we know that Sam is going to see ghost at some point or another and her skepticism will turn into belief. We’re here for the fun stuff of seeing how that all pans out. It wasn’t fun reading over and over again, Sam trying to justify what she saw because she was “supposed to be” mentally ill. It didn’t feel like a quest for self discovery. It felt awkward and unrealistic. Mental illness is never something you want to make cool in any form because that mindset can prevent people from getting the help they need. As one of the most demonized of mental illnesses, I worry that people reading the book will misunderstand what schizophrenia is really like. Because it is nothing like what is described in the book. There were some other issues, but they were easily overlooked thanks to the wonderful writing style and characterization.

I think that Uncle Eric was my favorite character. At first he appears to be a ghost obsessed man, trying to get good ratings for his show, but as Sam discovers more about herself, she also discovers more about her uncle and his crew. Her bond with Eric became something I really enjoyed and looked forward to as the book went on (I was not dissapointed). Each of Eric’s crew members have distinct personalities. This mix of characters was so authentic that the book really did feel like a behind the scenes look at a paranormal investigation show.

While there was a stand out issue for me, The Shattered Seam was a fun read. Cool characters, creepy setting and situations, and a nice mystery to go along with it all makes it a good read for anyone who’s a fan of haunted houses or who’s into paranormal investigation shows.

TL;DR: Despite the poor use of mental illnesses, this is a good book. Sam’s voice is completely authentic. Sam is not the only interesting character though and she’s joined by many others who are just as fun and interesting to read about. It’s a solid read that has some great takes on haunted houses.

 

About the Author

kathleen

Author Website, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter

Kathleen wrote her first story in elementary school about a pegasus named Sir Lancelot. It had no plot or conflict, but it sparked a dream. After serving a fifteen-year sentence in retail management, the bulk in big box bookstores, she turned her love of reading into a full-time career writing dark and haunting characters and stories. She writes paranormal, fantasy, suspense, horror YA books. She is a contributing member of READerlicious, writers who love readers. Check out her blogs here.

She lives by the mantra that a day is not complete without tea. Lots of tea. Kathleen lives in Ohio with her husband, two boys, and two attention-demanding dogs. When not writing or editing or revising, you can find her reading, cooking, spending time with her family, or photographing abandoned buildings.

Nine Candles of the Deepest Black (Book Tour!)

Nine Candles of the Deepest Black (Book Tour!)

If you’re looking for a book to read this October, Nine Candles of the Deepest Black is your bet! Below you can find my review of the book as well as a bit about the author and an international giveaway (Amazon gift card as well as a signed copy of the book). Be sure to check out the rest of the tour here!

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Author: Matthew S. Cox

Genre: Mature YA Horror, Paranormal

Summary: She saw it coming. She knew it would happen―but no one believed her.

Almost a year after tragedy shattered her family, sixteen-year-old Paige Thomas can’t break free from her guilt. Her mother ignores her, doting on her annoying little sister, while her father is a barely-functioning shell. He hopes a move to the quiet little town of Shadesboro PA will help them heal, but Paige doesn’t believe in happiness anymore.

On her first day at school, a chance encounter with a bullied eighth grader reawakens a gift Paige had forgotten, and ingratiates her into a pack of local outcasts. For weeks, they’ve been trying to cast a ritual to fulfill their innermost desires, but all they’ve done is waste time. After witnessing Paige touch the Ouija board and trigger a paranormal event, the girls are convinced another try with their new fifth member will finally work.

Once the darkness is unleashed, it’s not long before they learn it will give them exactly what they asked for―whether they want it or not.

My Opinion: There’s something to be said for classic horror. It touches on our base fears the most. Taking the tropes of demons, occult magic, and paranormal events and forming them into something is great fun if done right. Nine Candles of Deepest Black does it right. It’s a lovely homage to classical horror tropes while upgrading it all to something diverse, interesting, and unusual. There were just one or two things that rubbed me the wrong way, but regardless this was a fun read that fully earned 4 stars.

Most of the time in paranormal horror the ghost comes in after an introduction. Not so here. Almost immediately we discover that Paige is haunted by her dead sister. The death of Amber hit the family hard, and it seems like the only person who’s coping in a remotely healthy way is the annoying little sister. This is where the book stands out. We have multiple points of tension throughout. First we have Paige and her family, then the relationships with her new-found friends, and the tension the magic brings. Cox does a wonderful job of having these separate sources of tension feed into each other and move the book forward.

At times though I was taken out of this tension due to a couple of things. Cox has a wonderful writing style and is very descriptive. It’s easy to picture what’s going on, but sometimes things were just a little too metaphorical. Frequently we’re told about Paige’s black cloud and it took me a couple of times reading that to realize it was metaphorical. I think. Considering all the other things going on, it wouldn’t have surprised me if it was actually real. This was never really cleared up, but considering everyone’s non-reaction to it, I’m assuming it was metaphorical. This kind of seemed to be a thing though, some things were just over-described which caused confusion. The descriptions of clothing were great…but sometimes the focus was a bit too heavy on what each girl was wearing which needlessly slowed down things. Also, sometimes the gore felt less necessary and more like the trope where people assume horror has a ton of blood and gore in it. These issues took me out of the book and the reading experience. The book is also incredibly heavy and at times the book felt a little too dark to be full on enjoyable for me. Ultimately  despite having gore, nudity, detailed talk of suicide, and forced sexual situations, for the most part all of it was handled very well.

Now for my favorite part of any review, and my favorite element of Nine Candles of Deepest Black: the characters. The characters are diverse, and the WoC, Santana and Renne, are fleshed out and the focus is not solely on their skin color. They have interests and personality while embracing their culture which is always refreshing. Horror tends to have a lot of tokenism in this area, and I was pleased to find this wasn’t the case for this book. These girls have their own hopes and dreams and are stuck in the same fear boat as Paige our heroine. Overall, all characters were well rounded and believable. There’s a variety of ages as well. We see how the supernatural (and death in general) impacts everyone from 8 years old to adults. I also really enjoyed seeing how Paige grew as a person and how her growth impacted those around her. Again this is another element that makes the book stand out from typical horror.

If the characters weren’t going to win me over the hat-tips to classic horror and weird fiction would have. I loved how Cox alluded to the greats such as Stephen King and Niel Gaiman. Even if this wasn’t intentional, it was there and added a lovely mood to the story.  Classic tropes such as girls trying a ritual, demons running crazy and being unstoppable, nightmare sequences that may or may not be real, were all done superbly. Overused tropes are a grantee to bore the reader, but here they’re reborn with eeriness and tension. True, you can find a ton of books and movies with those elements in it, but the book takes these things and makes them fresh.

Nine Candles of Deepest Black is a great bet if you want dark and creepy. It’s a solid read and does a lovely job weaving the old with the new. If you’re looking for something to creep you out this coming October, here’s your book. It’s darker than night, suspenseful, and fresh.

TL;DR: Despite being incredibly dark, and having a little bit too much focus on descriptions at times, Nine Candles of Deepest Black is a lovely homage to classical horror tropes while upgrading it all to something diverse, interesting, and unusual. If horror is your thing and you’re looking for a fresh spin on classical horror, this is your book.

About the Author:

matthew

Author Website, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter

Born in a little town known as South Amboy NJ in 1973, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Somewhere between fifteen to eighteen of them spent developing the world in which Division Zero, Virtual Immortality, and The Awakened Series take place. He has several other projects in the works as well as a collaborative science fiction endeavor with author Tony Healey.

Hobbies and Interests:

Matthew is an avid gamer, a recovered WoW addict, Gamemaster for two custom systems (Chronicles of Eldrinaath [Fantasy] and Divergent Fates [Sci Fi], and a fan of anime, British humour (<- deliberate), and intellectual science fiction that questions the nature of reality, life, and what happens after it.

He is also fond of cats.

Book Review: Sun and Moon

|+|Warnings: Slavery, mentions of attempted sexual assault, some intense violence|+|

“Fear is a liar. Don’t listen to the venom it spews, for it seeks only to destroy your light.” ~Essie (Sun and Moon)

SunMoon

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Author: Desiree Williams

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult Romance

Summary: There is nothing in life that eighteen year old Zara craves more than her freedom. Stolen from her home in Cadrebia at the age of eight, Zara has spent more years than she cared to admit as a slave to the Tankadesh courts. Her days are filled with protecting the princess, while she spends nights entertaining the king and his officials with her mastery of weapons. Any spare moment in between, she plots escape.

Yet her hopes for freedom come to a crashing halt when a stranger arrives bearing the mark of her assigned lifemate, and he threatens war if she isn’t turned over into his care. But a lifemate is not part of the plan. Her dreams, of choosing her own path and being the master of her own will, weaken as her Moon seeks to claim his Sun.

Is it possible that this stranger, with gentle blue eyes and a ready smile, didn’t come to be her new master? That there could be more to his tale?

Zara soon finds that neither her captivity nor her parents’ deaths were mere random attacks. And by returning to Cadrebia, she may have put the future of the royal line—and her Moon—in jeopardy. While Zara breathes in her first taste of freedom, her enemies move in, seeking to rob Cadrebia of its blessed prophecy.

To keep what she holds dear, Zara must rise above the pain and uncertainty to claim the lifemate assigned to her, or more than her freedom will be stolen this time.

My Opinion: I am a sucker for lifemate/soulmate stories and this seemed like it would cover all the bases with a fair bit of politics in a high fantasy setting. Sign me up. Needless to say, I was thrilled when I was approved for a review copy. Due to the strong start, but weak finish and a few unanswered questions I gave this book 3 stars. 

The romance in this story was exactly as promised. Zara is the sun to her lifemate’s moon, and as someone who has been enslaved for nearly all her life, Zara has some reasonable doubts about this whole lifemate thing. Zara and her lifemate are adorable and the natural progression that Zara goes through in learning to trust is believable. The two of them are my favorite characters in the book. At first their pet-names for one another were cute, but then they were used so often that at times I forgot the character names. But the love was so believable and so natural that it was a joy to read. The book also showed the characters outside of that love, and showed different kinds of love. Love for family, love for friends, and love for self as well as romantic love. I think what I appreciate most about Sun and Moon is the fact that while Zara falls in love she discovers more about herself. She becomes more of an individual through love, and makes the choice of returning the love given to her. There’s not enough of that in YA lit, so that makes Sun and Moon incredibly refreshing.

I felt a bit let down by the lack of politics. It seemed like this world was well thought out overall but some things could have been expanded upon. I would have loved to have more details on politics as that was a key but off screen element. Details about how the lifemating works would have been great too. Why is it just Cadrebia that has this magical blessing? Can you be mated to someone in a different kingdom? What happens if someone converts to following the deity of Cadrebia? Those questions along with the ambiguous PoC (the descriptions said there were PoC but then the descriptions sometimes contradicted each other), left me scratching my head from time to time and took me out of the story.

I also found the plot twist to be predictable. It was a little too easy to see the set up of what was coming making the plot twist satisfying but predictable. Although predictable, the way the heroes handled the problem was well done and quite fun to read. The issue also brought some characters together in unique ways. This added a refreshing and enjoyable element to the story.

While there were some predictable and confusing elements, I really did enjoy reading Zara’s adventure and her discovery of the different kinds of love. Sun and Moon promised to be a warm and fuzzy romantic read, and that’s exactly what I got.

TL; DR: Overall this is was the warm, fuzzy, romantic read it promised to be and I enjoyed it. There were parts that felt a bit lacking, but there was a lot more good than bad in the story which kept me reading. If you’re looking for a quick romantic read this is a good bet.