Book Review: Waterwight by Laurel McHargue

waterwightI’ve finished Laurel McHargue’s Waterwight. What a fun read!! I found this gem on Book Club Reading List.

Synopsis

After a catastrophe only known as “the Event”, Celeste escapes from a home for orphans with little to no memory of what happened to her parents. Determined to learn the truth, Celeste embarks on an adventure to save what’s left of the world from an ever-growing ocean of toxic ooze. Guided by a mountain spirit and befriended by a giant, flying frog, Celeste must learn how to live in this changed world devoid of adults where children have started getting supernatural powers. Hunted by a murderous shape-shifter, will Celeste uncover the mystery behind the ooze before the rest of the world is overcome?

Strengths

I thought this was such a creative take on a post-apocalyptic world. I’m not sure I’ve ever read one where the children were the only survivors. Throw in supernatural powers and you’ve got a really interesting story. I think the characters were well-developed; my favorite is Orville, the French, flying frog. Who knew a frog could be so overwhelmingly charming?? I am dying to know how his story continues in the next book!

The supernatural powers that start manifesting in the children are so cool and varied. Mind reading, flying, invisibility, time-stopping, visions, super-strength…I could go on.

A huge strength to this book is the driving mystery. Where did this ooze come from? What exactly happened during the Event and what caused it? There’s a dreamlike quality throughout that makes the book feel very magical.

Weaknesses

There were times when the traveling of various characters got a bit tedious. Celeste has to fly across the ocean a couple of times and I think those parts could have been sped up or condensed further. But otherwise there weren’t many weaknesses!

Conclusion

This is a definite must read! Especially for the YA or middle school audience. Fun characters with superpowers and fast-moving, interesting plot, this is a book you won’t want to miss!

5 stars

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Laurel loves to hear from her readers! Contact her on Book Club Reading List or on Facebook

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Book Review: Downburst by Katie Robison

downburst-coverI just finished reading Katie Robison’s Downburst. Readers, this was an AWESOME book! I can’t wait to tell you more. I found this read on the Cheap eBooks reading list.

Synopsis

Kit is a girl who has run away from home. She is making a meager living by delivering illicit goods (drugs, fake ids, etc) to their buyers. One day, when the cops discover their location, she goes on the run, spending her first night in an empty train car. The next morning, she witnesses the murder of a girl who looks so similar to Kit she could be her twin. As she runs away, she is kidnapped by a man who mistakes her for the girl who was murdered (named Aura) and is taken to a bizarre week-long summer camp. Since staying at camp seems safer than running from the cops, Kit decides to play along and be Aura. Assuming a new identity turns out to be harder than she thought it would be, especially since her fellow campers seem to have supernatural abilities: they can fly–er, windwalk. Can Kit fit in with her surroundings and survive the week? Or will she be discovered as an impostor and tortured as a spy?

Strengths

Wow, this book was awesome! And I don’t say that very often. This book was described as something that “fans of the Hunger Games will love” and I agree. It is fast-paced with a fascinating undercurrent of supernatural, Native American mythology and a plot that keeps the reader guessing. Each time I had a theory on what was going to happen, further reading repeatedly proved me wrong. There wasn’t a single moment in the book where I was bored, which has not happened to me in a very long time.

Kit is a great character who experiences a lot of personal growth throughout her story. It was fun to witness. There were several other supporting characters that I became attached to and emotionally invested in their well-being. I won’t give away any spoilers, but I very nearly cried couple times and my heart definitely broke once.

Weaknesses

The only weakness is that I didn’t have the sequel in my hands when I finished!! I’ve gotta get on that…

Conclusion

I would probably categorize Downburst as a YA action/fantasy. If you like mythology-inspired books like Percy Jackson, you’ll love Downburst. If you like action-packed survivalist books like Hunger Games, you’ll like Downburst. If you like YA, you’ll like Downburst. Why am I still writing?? Do yourself a favor and go read Downburst!! You’ll love it.

An easy 5 stars

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Book Review: The Lost Heir

The Lost HeirI have finally finished reading The Lost Heir by Andi O’Connor! I had planned on finishing and posting this review on Wednesday, but life got in the way. Apologies for the delay! In any case, it was a fun fantasy read that can be found on Book Club Reading List.

Synopsis

“Their situation was hopeless. Darrak closed his eyes. A single tear glided down his muddy cheek as he grieved for the only friends he’d ever known.” (Chapter 32)

Darrak Hunter, a dedicated college student, starts having dreams of a different world: a beautiful place with purple clouds. One day he wakes up to find Earth’s own sun has turned violet and purple clouds fill the sky. A sorcerer appears in his dorm room and tells him he is the lost heir to the kingdom of Mystandia. After traveling to this new world, Darrak must learn how to use his new-found magic and embrace his destiny. He embarks on a quest to try and save the world from a cunning Organization that seeks to take over both Mystandia and Earth. With the help of some new and powerful friends, can Darrak overcome plots of betrayal and save two worlds?

Strengths

This is an action-packed story! Not much opportunity to get bored because there is always something happening. O’Connor paints a vivid and complex tapestry of story lines and characters that gives the reader a realistic sense of what living in Mystandia might feel like. One of the biggest strengths to the story is the depth of the characters. Not only do we get to know Darrak and his struggles, but a myriad of allies and enemies are showcased, adding tremendous depth to the story. I loved getting to know Mionee, arguably the main antagonist. She has a rich and compelling backstory, making me very sympathetic to her situation. I also love that there are a ton of strong female characters to look up to.

I loved all the magic, aspects of which were explained in fascinating detail. The themes of betrayal and family were helpful in moving the story along and keeping everything connected, and there were even bits of a love story strung throughout to keep me happy. 🙂

Weaknesses

There were two primary weaknesses that I found in The Lost Heir: too many loose ends and unrealistic character behavior. First of all, I know that this is only the first installment of the Dragonath Chronicles series, so some loose ends are expected. However, there were so many points that I wish were addressed before the end. Even a Part 1 book should have a sense of conclusion, even if it’s on a small scale. Rather than going into too much detail (or giving away spoilers!), here’s a quick list of questions I had at the end:

  • What happened to Cyrus? (He’s a bad guy.)
  • Who is behind The Organization?
  • Who, specifically, is hunting Darrak and his friends?
  • What happened regarding the binding ceremony between Mionee and Garenth?
  • How did the people on Earth respond to the purple clouds and how did they affect the ecosystem? There were allusions to what Darrak thought might be happening, but no direct information.

Disclaimer: I recognize many of these questions will probably be answered in the next book, and I’m probably just being super impatient, but there ya go.

Next, some of the dialogue and actions between certain characters were…somewhat inappropriate. For example, a servant talking back to a king would probably result in their death, or at least immediate termination of employment, right? There is a scene where a handmaid is arguing extremely disrespectfully with the king, a not-very-nice guy. In another scene, Mionee’s plan requires that a certain servant be moved to work for her, but doesn’t know if the king will approve her transfer. Shouldn’t the king himself have better things to do than approve transfers between the servants?? These things don’t seem believable.

Conclusion

Overall, this was a highly enjoyable fantasy read. Lots of action, cool magic, and an interesting story line featuring some exceptional characters with rich histories. I can sometimes be an impatient reader, and I have a feeling that once I read the next installment all of my questions will be answered. However, I still feel that there could have been a more developed ending so the reader isn’t left in a lurch. If you’re looking for a fantasy read, go find a copy of The Lost Heir and immerse yourself in a world of magic and cool characters, then let me know what you think!!

4 out of 5 stars

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Book Review: Prophase, A Present Tale

prophase-cover-low-resJust finished Prophase, A Present Tale, by Mitchel Street, last night and holy cow! Talk about a killer ending! Those last few chapters were simply amazing. I’m wishing the sequel was written so I could continue the journey. You can find this young adult, science fiction/fantasy novel on Book Club Reading List under the “Action and Adventure” genre.

Synopsis

Piper Walker is a high school senior who plays the bass in a band with her best friends, is on the swim team, and has been responsible for raising her little brother Charlie since their mom died from breast cancer shortly after he was born. One night, not long after being dumped by her boyfriend of two years, Piper is in a car accident with two of her best friends. The near-death experience ignites something inside her, unleashing powers she never knew existed. She now has the ability to move things with her mind, see others’ auras, and manipulate the laws of gravity. She soon learns that she is not alone in her new abilities but that there is a whole world and history of people like her. These people are currently being ruled by an unjust dictator and Piper is the only one with the strength and potential to restore balance to their world.

Strengths

I love the premise of this book: an average girl discovers special powers and realizes her destiny to save the world. It is a theme that has been repeated many times but one that never fails to excite me. Probably because it’s fun to imagine myself as the hero and become immersed in a world of fantasy to distract from the tedium of daily life.

I think M Street’s characters are strong and convincing. I love Piper; she is relatable and able to adapt as her world quickly changes. This quote describes her attitude toward her new life: overwhelmed but still wants more.

“I was adrift without oar or anchor. Even though I was overwhelmed and underwater, I thirsted for more answers.” (Chapter 15)

 

Her best friend, Lisa, is the best friend every high school girl needs. While I didn’t like her ex-boyfriend Chris (though we’re probably not meant to like him much anyway…he IS the ex-boyfriend after all!), he played a strong role in making me care about Piper. If she had a perfect life and everything was great, it would be harder as a reader to care about her. I also loved her pet cat Jazz. It probably seems weird to love the cat, but he’s one special guy!

I don’t want to give away spoilers, but Piper gains a new connection after her breakup with Chris that is fabulous and made my inner teenage girl so, so happy.

Weaknesses

For a story with the potential for a lot of exciting action, the pace felt….strange. Inconsistent. There were parts where I couldn’t read the words fast enough because it was just so good, and there were other parts where I felt my eyes droop and had flash backs to boring high school history lectures. I’ve been thinking, trying to put my finger on what went wrong, and I think I figured it out. When Piper gained her powers, her eyes were opened to a whole new sphere of seeing. She sees colors in absolutely everything. In what I’m sure was an effort to help the reader see what Piper sees, Street was very descriptive and almost poetic in his writing. Parts of the story that should have been leaping from the pages, like Piper learning how to manipulate gravity and jump up toward the stars, were slowed down by over-description. It was just too much.

Conclusion

Overall, Prophase is a highly compelling read. I love the story, characters, and most especially the twist ending. The last 2 or 3 chapters seriously knocked my socks off. I think I’m gonna go back and read them again. I think with a little editing of a few sections in the middle–basically any scene where Esther is telling Piper history or describing how to use her new powers–it would be perfect. Since I can’t give partial stars, I’m going to go ahead and give Prophase 5 stars. If I could it would be more like 4.5, but regardless, I can safely say Prophase is a good tale! Go check it out!

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Guest post: Teresa Richards

EB tour banner

It’s the last day of the Emerald Bound blog tour and it’s been such a fun week. Here’s a final post for you in which I talk about one of Maggie’s quirks. I hope you enjoy it and thanks for following along. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway one last time.

For the love of words—guest post by Teresa Richards

When I was developing my characters for Emerald Bound, I decided that my main character, Maggie, needed to have a quirk. I wanted it to be something loveable, but a little bit nerdy.

I took the GRE (Graduate Records Exam) a year or so before I started seriously writing because I was thinking about going to grad school to get my Speech Pathology certification (obviously taking me down a totally different path than the one I’m on now). The weird thing is, I actually enjoyed studying for the test. I guess I’d been out of school and focused on my babies for so long that my brain was craving stimulation.

My favorite part about studying for the GRE was learning the vocab for the English portion. I love learning new words and all their nuances and shades of meaning. So I decided to give Maggie a love of big words. Kate (her best friend who goes missing) is the one who really has the words down pat and she’s been helping Maggie study. In fact, the book starts because the girls are so burned out on studying that they do something stupid, setting everything else into motion.

Throughout the book, Maggie drops an SAT word in now and then and the words she uses serve various purposes. Sometimes it’s just to lighten the mood, other times she uses the word wrong or second guesses herself, giving those passages an air of uncertainty. That’s when Maggie’s really not sure of what she’s doing in the story. Other times, she’s got the exact right word at the exact right time and it’s a minor victory for her.

Weaving the SAT words in was one of my favorite things about writing this book and I have to admit, the first draft had way too many of them. I did a fair amount of cutting. As I did my read-throughs, I realized that some of the times Maggie dropped a big word in it detracted from the story or lightened the mood where the mood really shouldn’t have been lightened.

So, what’s your favorite big word and why? Mine is serendipitous. First of all, because it’s just such a fun-sounding word and, secondly, because it’s tone matches it’s meaning. It’s a happy, fun, and unexpectedly awesome word.

Are you a word nerd like me and Maggie? When you’re reading Emerald Bound, will you be able to tell when Maggie’s using her words correctly?

Emerald Bound

Teresa Richards

Fantasy, Romance, Suspense

Evernight Teen Publishing ~ 83,000 words

Editor’s Pick

Emerald Bound coverA princess, a pea, and a tower of mattresses. This is the sliver that survives of a story more nightmare than fairytale…

Maggie Rhodes, high school junior and semi-reformed stalker, learns the tale’s true roots after a spying attempt goes awry and her best friend Kate ends up as the victim of an ancient curse. At the center of the curse lies an enchanted emerald that has been residing quietly in a museum for the past fifty years. Admirers of the gem have no idea that it feeds on life. Or that it’s found its next victim in Kate. 

Enter Lindy, a school acquaintance who knows more than she’s letting on, and Garon, a handsome stranger claiming he knows how to help, and Maggie is left wondering who to trust and how to save her best friend before it’s too late.

If only Maggie knew her connection to the fairy tale was rooted far deeper than an endangered best friend. 

Buy Links: Evernight Teen Amazon

Excerpt: 

A part of me died long ago.

It was the part of me that feels, and it was Calista’s fault.

What happened tonight was nothing new—innocent victims welcomed into our home, not knowing they would never leave. I learned long ago I could not help them, so I stopped trying.

But this time something was different. This time I was awake, burning with a gut-wrenching guilt, as the next victims slept downstairs. This time I knew the victims. And they didn’t deserve what was coming.

It had always been hard for me to make friends. I’d been called loner, loser, outcast, and freak. Even still, I remembered Maggie offering to show me around when I first transferred to their school. Through her, I met Kate and Piper. The three of them were always nice to me, while other kids kept their distance and spread rumors behind my back. I told myself I didn’t care—I wasn’t like them.

But being a loner was lonely.

So tonight when I saw Maggie and her friends here, something inside me snapped. Or, perhaps it was the dead piece of me coming back to life. Now I cared desperately about what was happening in the room below mine.

But there was still nothing I could do.

Calista usually lured in victims from out of town to avoid arousing suspicion. Pregnant ones were a particular favorite—easy prey, she called them. But Maggie and her friends came here all on their own. The opportunity was too good for Calista to pass up.

Everyone thought Calista was my mother, but she wasn’t.

Back in my day, almost four centuries ago, Calista had an alternate method of luring in victims. She and her husband, Theodore, advertised for hired help with their inn. The number of parents willing to sell their daughters into a life of servitude in exchange for a forgiven debt or a clean slate was staggering.

My father was one of them.

By the time my mother found out what he’d done, it was too late. There was no escape. I was bound.

My story was well known in this land, whispered as a bedtime tale to ease children into sleep. But, just like any other story passed down through time by rumors and idle gossip, the fragment that survived was woefully incomplete. It began something like this:

There is rumored to have been (once upon a time, of course) a princess, a pea, and a tower of mattresses.

That much was true, though in actuality it was only one mattress, not twenty. The pea was also real, though most would call it a precious stone—an emerald, to be precise.

The gem that sealed my fate was now in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. Calista was furious when she found it missing. She thought I’d stolen it until she remembered my limits. The identity of the true thief remains unknown.

Even though the emerald is no longer in our possession, we are still bound to it, as it is bound to us. Admirers of the opulent necklace where it rests don’t understand it. Like me, the gem is a prisoner, struggling against its fate.

Even now, centuries later, I don’t understand all the details of what happened to me that night. But it began with a troubled slumber on a bed of enchanted emeralds.

Teresa RichardsAbout the Author:

Teresa Richards writes YA, but loves anything that can be given a unique twist. Her zombie stories ‘Are You My Mombie?’ and ‘The Zombie Code’ can be found in Z Tales: Stories from the Zombieverse by The Fairfield Scribes.

When Teresa’s not writing, she can be found either chasing after one of her five kids, or hiding someplace in the house with a treat her children overlooked. Emerald Bound is her debut novel.

You can connect with her on twitter @BYUtm33 or at authorteresarichards.com.

Giveaway: $20 Amazon Gift Card

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Book Review: Clara by Suzanna J Linton

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Just finished reading the exciting fantasy novel Clara, by Suzanna J Linton. This was a book that I desperately wanted to read all in one sitting. Unfortunately, this was a busy week, the kids actually wanted to be fed and cared for (can you believe it??) and every time my reading time was interrupted I turned into a raging psycho. But what a fun page-turner!! You can find it on Book Club Reading List under the fantasy genre. Go check it out!

Synopsis

As a 10-year old, Clara is sold into slavery when her adoptive parents can no longer afford payments on their farm. Exposed to horrific things and drowning in daily fear, she becomes mute. Clara has always had visions of the future but mostly keeps them to herself. 15 years later and working in the kitchens of lord of her city, Clara has a vision of her master being murdered. When she stops this murder from happening, she unwittingly gets herself involved in a civil war between the king and a large group of rebels. Clara is repeatedly forced into situations where she must decide for herself what is right and wrong and how to save herself and the people she loves.

Strengths

Probably the biggest strength in this story is the strength of it’s main character, Clara. This is a girl who endured unimaginable hardships, was beaten down again and again, yet remarkably still has compassion for those around her. Witnessing her transformation from afraid, to angry, to strong and confident is amazing. When someone she loves is killed, her anger outweighs her fear and she regains the ability to speak. When another person she loves is brutally murdered, she almost breaks from the force of her rage. She almost loses her soul to the darkness, but chooses to focus on the light.

“The anger shattered beneath the weight of the memory, slipping through her fingers like wet sand.” (Chapter 42)

I think the theme of fear throughout the novel is very profound and can be applied in our own lives. There are so many atrocities that occur every day in this world, but we can’t let our fear overcome our hope in a better future and love for others. Clara is a beautiful example of this.

“We will die. But I’d much rather die for my freedom than to live as a slave of fear, wondering what could have happened ‘if’.” (Jarrett, chapter 36)

The overall story and conflict were very strong. Clear and vivid descriptions, even in the gory parts (but not too gory!). I loved that I couldn’t predict the ending, even though I thought I had it pegged several times. And I was amazed by how much some of the deaths of significant characters moved me! Even characters who had only been part of the story a short while were mourned.

Weaknesses

Not many significant weaknesses to this story, but I definitely had to struggle to keep up with all of the characters. There are A LOT of people to keep track of. I think it could have helped to add little descriptors as the characters come and go, particularly in the first half of the book while we’re still getting to know everyone. For example, referencing Jarrett as Captain Jarrett, or referring to Erin as the king’s preferred wizard or something. Just a clue to help the reader out.

Also I feel that there were some loose ends, questions that never got answered. Where did Clara come from? Why was she adopted as a child? I wanted to know more about her years as a slave and the experiences that drove her to becoming mute.

Conclusion

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but that ending!! I like happily-ever-after, no loose ends kind of endings and this one definitely leaves room for interpretation. I like to believe that Clara runs off, travels for a bit with a certain guard, then falls madly in love and gets married. She’ll have 8 kids who will love her forever and she’ll be crazy happy the rest of her life, cuz she deserves it.

I love the theme of fear throughout the story. Very relevant to our world today. I wish more of Clara’s history had been fleshed out, but an overall great read for any lover of fantasy, action, or strong heroes! Lots of things to love about Clara!

4 stars

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Cover Reveal: Clara by Suzanna J. Linton

clara-fjm_low_res_500x750Here’s what I’m reading next: Clara, by Suzanna J. Linton, is a fantasy novel featuring a strong heroine. It sounds exciting and I can’t wait to get started on Suzanna’s book!

Sold into slavery as a child, and rendered mute from the horrors she’s seen, Clara lives as just another kitchen drudge. But she carries within herself a gift that, when discovered, makes her valuable and precious in the eyes of nobility and military alike.

Her gift throws her into the chaos of a civil war. A civil war that will bring her from dark kitchens to the camps of soldiers and on into the glittering courts of the capital itself, Bertrand. Clara will have to face the evil behind the chaos and discover that it’s not only the fate of a nation on her shoulders but the fate of her soul.

Look it up on Book Club Reading List under the fantasy genre.