Book Review: Illumine

|+| Warnings: Violence/gore, ableism, strong language throughout |+|

“Don’t fight it. You were created for this.” ~Kayden

Illumine_Cover

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Author: Alivia Anders

Genre: YA Fantasy (Paranormal)

Synopsis: For the past five months Essallie Hanley has been trying to forget about the frightening murder of her boyfriend. Haunted by vivid nightmares and hallucinations of the event she does anything she can to pretend she’s like every other normal girl in High School.

Only Essallie is far from normal. Able to conjure blue fire and a shimmering silhouette of wings from her body, she seeks the only known solace left to her name; her first home in Belfast, Maine.

But she soon realizes that her return home is only the beginning of a long and twisted road taking her as far from her humanity as possible, with Kayden, the demon originally summoned to slaughter her, leading the way. Unable to touch her but oddly curious, he joins Essallie in her search to find out just what she is. But neither of them were prepared for the secrets they’ve begun to unravel, secrets that will change Essallie and everyone around her forever.

My Opinion: When I first read this book (soon after it came out in 2012) I adored it. I thought that despite the pacing issues and a few too many pop culture references, it was a fun read. I decided to go back and re-read it for old times sake. And I was very disappointed. This time around I found a plethora of ableism that made me extremely uncomfortable or downright offended me. I have no idea how I missed it all the first time. Despite a cool idea and fun characters, due to pacing issues and a shocking amount of ableism I gave this book 1.5 stars.

As I like to end my reviews on a positive note when possible, I’m going to start with the issues that I had with Illumine then move on to what I liked.

While over all I really liked the concept of the book, I had issues with the pacing. The book starts off with a bang and for the most part goes steady. The end of the book though, was extremely rushed. I found myself having to go back and re-read things multiple times because I was sure I had missed something. I hadn’t, the information simply wasn’t there. I would have loved to have seen the ending expanded a bit more. I feel like more information would have added to the overall suspense. Instead, because things were so rushed, I wound up confused, the tension lost on me.

This also ties into the world building. I understand this is the first in a series but there were so many unanswered questions that could have easily been answered then expanded upon later on. Yes this book takes place in our world, but we’re still left with a lot of missing details. For me this contributed to the ending feeling rushed and left me feeling disinterested in the story.

While the majority of the characters were interesting, I was frustrated with how much girl-on-girl hate there was. Essallie and Ursula disliked each other from the get go, and this is never fully explained or resolved. At the beginning, after the murder of her boyfriend, Essallie and her best friend comment on the cheerleaders and the popular girls. They imply that being popular means being loose, fake, and a brat. Ironically, Essillie becomes the exact thing she was looking down upon but excuses her own behavior. I’m so over this mentality and it really did nothing to help move the story forward.

My biggest issue with this book is how mental illnesses were treated, specifically PTSD. I really disliked how closely linked the author made PTSD and as our narrator says, “asylum worthy behavior.” I know many people with PTSD and how it’s portrayed in the book is not at all what it’s like. Once Essillie discovers her abilities, she realizes that she had never been hallucinating in the first place and she essentially no longer has PTSD. Magical cure at its finest. In this book PTSD was a gimmick to make the story more edgy, not a valuable part of the story. Once she accepts her powers, Essellie never struggles with anything PTSD related. I wish I could say that was the only example I had. But the language the narrator uses about herself and her mental state is awful, making her mental illness into a joke. She frequently jokes in anger about how people should just cart her off to a mental institution or how she’s “crazy.” In fact, all of the parts related to mental illness (weather it was in relation to our heroine or her mother) were extremely ablest and I found them to be incredibly offensive.

There is a light here though. Kayden was an interesting character. We don’t have an Edward Cullen here as Kayden never hides what he is or what he wants. He never tries to redeem himself, yet he does have flickers of kindness. While Essillie didn’t interest me, for the most part I didn’t mind the story being narrated by her. Ursula was my favorite though. She had a surprising amount of depth and she really does come into her own. For such a short book and for such a minor character, Ursula does the most growth. She made the book for me.

The over all concept was set up to be a win. Not only do demons and angels exist, but so does everything in between. Ultimately it’s the idea that all faerie tales are true to some point or another. For such a short book there was quite a bit of diversity when it came to mythical creatures.

But not even a hardcore lady like Ursula could redeem everything this book has going on with it. Nor could the interesting concept. A rushed ending, horrible portrayals of mental illnesses, and fake drama in the form of girl hate was simply too much for me to overlook.

TL;DR: Illumine was a let down for me. I was hoping to fall in love with the world again and instead I was offended by the portrayal of PTSD, worn out from petty girl-on-girl fighting, and confused by a rushed ending. Even if the girl hate and ending were fixed, I wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending this book simply because of how harmful the portrayal of PTSD is. If you or loved ones struggle(d) with PTSD, pass on this book. An interesting concept and fun characters couldn’t make me overlook the flaws Illumine has.

Book Review: The Turning

|+| Warnings: Unreliable narrator, emotionally abusive relationships |+|

“The big, dark house was their world and they were letting me in. But only so far.” ~Jack (The Turning)

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Author: Francine Prose

Genre: YA Horror

Synopsis:  Jack is spending the summer on a private island far from modern conveniences. No Wi-Fi, no cell service, no one else on the island but a housekeeper and the two very peculiar children in his care. The first time Jack sees the huge black mansion atop a windswept hill, he senses something cold, something more sinister than even the dark house itself.

Soon, he feels terribly isolated and alone. Yet he is not alone. The house has visitors—peering in the windows, staring from across the shore. But why doesn’t anyone else see them . . . and what do they want? As secrets are revealed and darker truths surface, Jack desperately struggles to maintain a grip on reality. He knows what he sees, and he isn’t crazy. . . . Or is he?

My Opinion: The Turning has all my favorite horror tropes in it and uses them beautifully. Did it scare me? No, but there’s only been one horror book that’s done that, so I won’t hold that against this book. Although it took me a bit to get into the writing style and I wasn’t fully satisfied with the ending, I was in love with the concept, characters, and setting. Overall I gave this book 3 stars.

This book is based off of The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, a book I’ve had on my TBR list for a while, but have yet to read. I’m not sure if I would have enjoyed The Turning more or less if I had read Henry James’ book. Regardless, this book relies a lot on classic horror tropes and uses them flawlessly. The book doesn’t feel bogged down with tropes because from the start, we know exactly what we’re getting. We expect to get a creepy house with creepy kids and paranormal activity and we do.

I love books that are told through letter style, and to see a horror book that does that was super fun. I think the only problem with this narration style was that we ultimately had three letter writers (Jack, Sophie, and Jack’s father) that all sounded the same. I found myself double checking the “Dear ____” part because I was getting confused. This took me out of the story somewhat.

I also had an issue with the predictability and pacing of the story. There’s odd and interesting things that happen at the start, but it’s easy enough to make (accurate) assumptions about them. This changes 100+ pages into the story. Because this is a short book (just over 200 pages), that meant a lot of waiting.

Despite the slow pace and the predictability I think what sold me on this book was the fact that once it picks up, it picks up. Not only that, while we’re seeing tried and true horror tropes we also are seeing some genuinely interesting things. This is done mostly through the setting and how the characters react to it. The way that the characters and supernatural events behave within the setting was extremely well done. This element was what really kept me going.

TL;DR: If you’re looking for something to scare you stiff and a more serious horror book, this might not be your cup of tea. But if you’re looking for a more fun horror read and are a fan of horror tropes, this is the book for you! Although this book is predictable and has a slow start, it’s still a quick and fun read.

 

Book Review: The Hunger Games

|+| Warnings: Detailed depictions of violence (including torture and abuse), death, suicide mention|+|

“It’s to the Capitol’s advantage to have us divided among ourselves.” ~Katniss Everdeen

“I’m not the forgiving type” ~Katniss Everdeen

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Author: Suzanne Collins

Genre: YA Dystopian

Synopsis: The nation of Panem, formed from a post-apocalyptic North America, is a country that consists of a wealthy Capitol region surrounded by 12 poorer districts. Early in its history, a rebellion led by a 13th district against the Capitol resulted in its destruction and the creation of an annual televised event known as the Hunger Games. In punishment, and as a reminder of the power and grace of the Capitol, each district must yield one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 through a lottery system to participate in the games. The ‘tributes’ are chosen during the annual Reaping and are forced to fight to the death, leaving only one survivor to claim victory.

When 16-year-old Katniss’s young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12’s female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives, some of whom have trained for this their whole lives. , she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.

My Opinion: For the record, spellcheck keeps wanting me to change Katniss to Satanists. Strange, funny, but true. Anyway, moving on.

We all know at this point that dystopia and sci-fi are not my things. The Hunger Games is phenomenal and the one dystopian book I will swear by. This book is a hard read but worth it. The honest portrayal of violence, survival and poverty, and the portrayal of human brutality and grace makes this one a must read. That’s not even touching the world building and three dimensional characters. Hands down, five stars. 

Honestly, I don’t know where to start. This book gives me such tangled emotions, and everything in the story is so interconnected it’s hard to know where to begin. But I’ll start with Katniss herself.

Katniss knows she’s different in that she’s one of the few brave enough to sneak out of district boarders to hunt for food. Not only is this dangerous, it’s highly illegal. To add on to this, she has a weapon (her bow)-again highly illegal. Both crimes have the penalty of death. But Katniss knows she’s like everyone else in that she hates the Capitol, she wants her family to survive, and she, like the rest of her district, is dreading the approaching Hunger Games. Despite all this, at the start Katniss is surprisingly self centered. It’s her against the world and through her time as a Tribute, she realizes that it’s not just her against the world. There’s others who share her thoughts, who have her back, who are rooting for her. She and her family are not as alone as she thought. Due to the narration style it’s almost hard to see how Katniss grows until the very end of the book because she doesn’t realize it herself. But the growth is there. This touch of realism is one of the things that really sold me on this book and made me root for Katniss and her friends.

Katniss is also perfect for showing us the new dystopian world because she wants no part of it. She’s not indoctrinated into the way of thinking, and she wants nothing of adventure or of being a hero. In this respect she’s very practical. She’s not blindly in love with the system like we usually see in many YA and Adult dystopian books. Again, this adds a dash of authenticity. Katniss’ world is brutal. Some of it hit a little too close to home for me. But I think that can be eye opening for those who haven’t experienced it. Dystopian fictional world? Yes. Completely unfounded? Absolutely not.

Onto the fabled love triangle. Heads up, it’s not there. Katniss has no time for Peta or Gale. She’s too busy trying to survive and keeping her family alive. She manipulates, kills, and allows her humanity to slip. But what makes this book so vital and fascinating is what she does to try to retain and regain her humanity. Peta plays a key role in this, although not in a romantic way. There are others such as Rue, the true Mockingjay, that help with this too. It’s incredibly refreshing, but more than that, it’s incredibly realistic. Love is not a priority when you’re fighting for your life.

There are so many important things and people in this book, but I think Rue is the most important. Without Rue, Katniss wouldn’t have indirectly rebelled later in the book. Katniss was able to keep her humanity while with Rue and then carries her humanity throughout the rest of the Games. That was the biggest rebellion of all.

TL:DR; This book is not a book you can passively read. It’s not the typical dystopian in the way that it offers no hope or a way out where everyone gets a happily ever after. I think that is why this book is such a turn off for so many. Romance is not the core, nor is the taking down of a corrupt system. But that makes it no less powerful or important. The pacing, character development, and the physical and moral challenges these characters face make the book phenomenal and important. Even if dystopian books aren’t your thing, I strongly encourage you to read this.

Book Birthday! Whispers in the Dark

Book Birthday! Whispers in the Dark

|+| Warnings: Death and mild violence |+|

“Good for you dude;  you’re now officially my favorite zombie.” ~Karen 

Happy Book Birthday to Pam Jernigan’s award winning debut novel, Whispers in the Dark! Zombies and the apocalypse take on a new life (pun not intended) in this clean adult dystopian novel.  I had a lot of fun reading it and you can read my review below. You can check the book out on Goodreads and get your copy on Amazon.

WhispersitDark_Cover

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Author:  Pam Jernigan

Genre: Adult Dystopian; Christian Fiction; Romance

Synopsis: She’s a preschool teacher. He’s kind of a zombie. It would never work…
Karen teaches post-apocalypse preschool, safe inside city walls. She never intended to get caught outside.

Leo is technically alive, but perpetually zoned out: Mindless. He can see emotions as colors now, though, so at least there’s that. Like the other Mindless, he feeds on the emotional energy of humans. Then he meets Karen – her unique energy jolts him to partial awareness, and he’s hooked. He protects her but when she’s rescued, he lands in a cage.

Leo doesn’t expect her to even talk to him, much less help him. But that emotion she has when she looks at him? He doesn’t know what to call it, but it’s not fear.
Karen can go back to her life – if she abandons Leo. She can’t stay with him, she can’t take him home… but without her, he’s dead.

He saved her. Can she save him?

My Opinion: Usually Christian fiction is a hard sell for me but the premise of this book was far too interesting for me to pass up. I wasn’t disappointed! Karen is a lovable heroine, and for the most part all characters are well fleshed out. The world building is well done and the wry humor was spot on. I had a couple of issues with the pacing, but overall this book was a fresh and a delightful read. For these reasons I gave the book four stars.

What I liked most about this book was the new take on zombies. The Mindless, while acting lifeless are actually feeding off people’s energy instead of their flesh. They kill not to eat humans, but so that they can experience the intense fear people feel before death. Once dead, the dead are left alone. For people who aren’t a huge fan of gore, this is great. The Mindless are well explained throughout the book. The more we discover about the Mindless the more we discover about the world Karen and her friends live in.

Speaking of Karen…even in the darkest of times people still love and find humor in things. Karen was the epitome of this. Her humor was fantastic and lead to some of my favorite interactions with Leo (as well as other characters). She needs to be saved true, but she does the saving just as frequently. To see her organic growth was delightful. Leo was surprisingly well fleshed out and honestly I can’t decide if I loved him or Karen more. Each character was well defined even if we didn’t see them frequently. There were a few characters I felt could use some more attention but I’m willing to forgive that thanks to Karen and Leo’s relationship. There’s a lovely Beauty and the Beast vibe within that relationship too. This was a really neat and fun touch.

With all that being said, I did have a slight problem with the pacing. For the most part it was spot on, but at times things felt a little too repetitive. Karen has to come to terms with a lot of things, and frequently we see her struggling with these issues over and over again. Eventually it leads to some fantastic character development, but I felt the repetition slowed the book down somewhat.

I also felt that the Christian themes were overstated in parts. For new Christians this is a wonderful book, exploring the ups and downs of faith. For long term Christians or non-believers parts can feel more like a conversion attempt than a way to build faith and can sometimes distract from the plot.

Even so, I really did enjoy this book. It was a quick read simply because it was so fun to read. The world building, interesting characters, and great concept make this fun and fresh.

TL;DR: Even if you aren’t a huge fan of Christian fiction or dystopian books, you really should give this book a shot. With a focus on all kinds of love, a heroine who can save herself and others, as well as a really interesting concept, this book is a fun read.

P.S….

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If you want to hang out with the author and join me and other fans (as well as some special guests and maybe win some goodies), be sure to check out the book release party on Facebook! It takes place on May 6th (this Saturday) at 8pm EST/5pm PST.

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!

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.