Review: Remember For Me – Diana Tarant Schmidt

***I was very kindly provided with a free copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. All the opinions stated below are my own ***

Fiction is a work of art.

It is a form of writing that can both conform to the norms of reality or alternatively stretch the boundaries as far as they can go. The only limitation is your imagination. Could it be possible to achieve both of these aims at the same time?  Absolutely.

Remember For Me

Goodreads

Clara Eros thought her life was ending with Alzheimer’s. She was mistaken.

A war between good and evil has raged for as long as humanity has existed, and the balance of power between its forces has always remained equal. But that longstanding balance has begun to shift, and the survival of mankind may be at risk. What is the source of this duality, and how do the proponents of light and darkness use humans to further their cause?

When Clara Eros awakens with no memory, her questions are fundamental: who is she; and why is she here? The answer she receives is predetermined and singular: she has been recruited to fight a battle against the reign of darkness. But is Clara just a pawn in a much larger game?

Once her transformation is complete, Clara finds herself, in body and mind, as a younger, stronger version of the person she can no longer remember, and now she must search for the common thread hidden within malevolence and turn the tide in a war where humanity is succumbing to chaos and brutality. Will she be strong enough to bring humanity back into the light?

When Diana kindly approached me with a request to read and review Remember For Me, I was immediately drawn in by each character’s experience of terminal illness – in particular, Cancer, Alzheimer’s and Dementia. As awful as they are, I’m glad that these issues are being talked about. We all think it will never happen to us, and maybe we are right. I know some that have fought their battle with cancer and won. I have also known others that lost, some of them children, and I want to take a minute to reflect on these people.

Alzheimers and Dementia are also conditions familiar to me. Sadly, a family member of mine suffered from the condition for a number of years before she passed away from this world. I never had to see her at her worst, but I can relate to a lot of what happens surrounding our MC, Clara.

The presence of suffering in the world is an important theme throughout the book, but equally important themes are balance, faith, hope and altruism.

Clara is living out her last days on Earth, unable to even recognise her family, never mind her surroundings. Elaina, her daughter, struggles to cope. Is it fair for her children to see their grandma and risk them remembering her as she is now, instead of the great woman she once was? As she slowly slips between the waking world and her alternative life, she is mentored by Elpis, and she begins to learn of the good she is able to do once she is free of her limited physical body.

In her new life, Clara is a supercomputer genius. She is a young and capable version of herself; she can research and memorise information relating to the activities of the Poneros, which Elpis needs in order to save countless human lives. Armed with her knowledge, her new companions go out into the field to prevent the next threat from taking place.

Tommy is an eight-year-old boy who has spent his childhood in and out of hospital. Fighting a losing battle against cancer, he gradually succumbs to the illness. When he “awakens” as a young man on a train platform a commotion breaks out. A woman has fallen onto the tracks. Tom instinctively rescues the woman just before the train screeches to a halt where she lay and becomes an anonymous hero. Leaving the station, he meets Andreas, a member of the Go’El. His new life begins.

Life is all about balance. Good and evil. In order to be ready, our main characters had to suffer immeasurably in their first life in order to achieve great things in the next. After their “rebirth”, Clara and Tom team up with Andreas, Elpis, Banko and others in the fight against the Poneros and their evil escalation of human terror… but will they succeed in stopping the most ambitious plans yet? What sacrifices will have to be made for the lives of thousands?

I felt I was able to relate to each of the characters in their own way. The struggles Clara and her family had to live through is an experience I have had myself. If you have never known anybody with such debilitating conditions, then take my word for it that Diana has written this in a very authentic way.

I thought it was clever using Greek names for the family in her part of the story. Whilst contextually it makes sense, I think it is an ingenious device in helping us relate directly to Clara. Allow me to explain. As an English reader, I read the word grandma in Greek and was told what it meant. Reading on, I was able to recognise the word, but it had no personal meaning. You know the word represents a familial figure, but in a detached way. I would expect this mirrors feelings that may be felt by a person experiencing such memory loss as Clara does.

I think the book blends shocking reality with an encouraging twist of fiction. Who wouldn’t like to believe that there is something better on the other side, after all? There is a respectful balance in honouring both the good and bad that goes on in the world. Faith has it’s part as well, and although I am not a believer in any God myself, it didn’t spoil my experience. Instead, it made me consider where my faith does fall, and after consideration… I decided it lay in humanity. The good, the bad and the ugly.

I have faith in the people that take risks and endanger themselves to save others. I have faith that people will strive to do what they think is best for others when they are empowered to make that decision. Lastly, whilst inevitably our varied opinions will lead to conflict, I have faith that the majority of us can respect our differences and strive to get along as best we can.

Don’t get me wrong…you can read into the messages within Remember For Me as much as you will. It can be read as purely a fictional piece or you can get a little philosophical, as I did. It is up to you entirely, but either way, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

I am grateful for the opportunity to read a great work of fiction, so thank you!

Rebecca mono

Review – Zero Debt: Break the Debt Cycle and Reclaim Your Life – Neeraj Deginal

Hi everyone!

Today I wanted to share my review of the above book, as I think there are a lot of things that can be learned from it. Being of the age and category of both young and financially independent, I think this was the perfect time to read the book and take on the important messages throughout. That being said, I think everyone can benefit from reading this at any age.

***I was very kindly provided with a free copy of this book by the author, via The Book Club, in exchange for an honest review. All the opinions stated below are my own ***

Zero Debt

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The most important thing to highlight is that the author is recounting his experience and therefore it is not a guide to follow religiously. It will not necessarily solve your problems. What it will tell you, however, is that very often following a serious kick up the backside, an attitude change is required. With a lot of hard work, you CAN dig yourself out of the bottom of the trench.

Naturally, the book begins with our author in his childhood. I think it true that as children, we are taught very little about money. He argues a distinct lack of support in the education system in teaching finances or planning for the future, and I totally agree! There is no education about completing your tax form, for example, and one) it isn’t always straightforward; two) there can be serious consequences for doing this incorrectly. I genuinely think this is one of the fundamental areas in which “life skills” are not taught in school. I’m glad the author highlighted this.

Moving away from childhood, the author gets his first salary and spends it all. Having money is exciting, no? I’ll hold my hands up and admit I did this too. It was fun. Mum and Dad still got paid rent, but this is not something that can be done viably every month, as the author does. Instead, he continues to live beyond his means, perhaps succumbing to social pressures including marriage and ends up with several loans and stacks of debt.

I am fortunate that I was taught how to manage money, as my parents, in their own circumstances, scrimped through much as the author did. I think they could have had help, but they didn’t want it. They wanted to go their way whatever the cost. As they have travelled the long road, they would not hesitate to tell me if they thought I was being irresponsible. They wouldn’t let me fall into that trap.

Sometimes though, things happen beyond our control. I moved away from home and left my first job (after a few years experience) about six months into living alone, to earn more than a junior’s limited wage packet. Things were tight. Less than a year later, the Company my Company were subcontracted to provide admin for decided to sell our part of the business, so the admin was no longer required. Suddenly, the threat of redundancy was on my head and being responsible financially for my home, I was worried sick. My parents had the facility to help me if I needed it (though thankfully I didn’t), but not everyone has this available to them.

Neeraj correctly points out that it is for these unexpected circumstances we should prepare ourselves. It would take me a long time to get to the stage of being debt free and having two years wages in cash savings, but I put by at least a little bit every month. That’s both a start and one of the most important things, I feel. Other than having set up a pension, I have thus far made very few plans for the future. I am only in my twenties after all, and I don’t have the means to do this yet. Neeraj discusses investment choices he made when it came to forward planning, which is fine, but I am nowhere near a position to even consider yet.

A lot of the points made in the book are identifiable with, such as the reliance on credit, even if you are yet to experience them. It is written in a very conversational tone and as I said above, it is “advice” that should be taken with a pinch of salt. We all have our own differing circumstances, but there is plenty here to consider.

It must be difficult to recount some of the most stressful times in your life. Thank you to the author for doing so, in order that we may learn from his mistakes and not have to learn the hard way too. His aim of the book is not to profit from it, but to educate people. That is reflected in his book being copyright free.

Rebecca mono

 

Review: The Way of Kings – Brandon Sanderson

Happy Friday!!

I am excited to be bringing a review of this book to you today, purely because I get to have a  rant about how AMAZEBALLS it is!

happy jerry

I was gutted that I didn’t get to finish this book within my deadline of the end of October, but then, I should have been smarter and checked the page count before I committed to reading it straight after IT by Stephen King.

I’m an idiot. That won’t be news to some people… I just hope I’m a loveable idiot…? No? Okay then, I’ll just get on with it.

The Way of Kings 2

Goodreads

According to mythology mankind used to live in The Tranquiline Halls. Heaven. But then the Voidbringers assaulted and captured heaven, casting out God and men. Men took root on Roshar, the world of storms. And the Voidbringers followed . . . They came against man ten thousand times. To help them cope, the Almighty gave men powerful suits of armor and mystical weapons, known as Shardblades. Led by ten angelic Heralds and ten orders of knights known as Radiants, mankind finally won. Or so the legends say. Today, the only remnants of those supposed battles are the Shardblades, the possession of which makes a man nearly invincible on the battlefield. The entire world is at war with itself – and has been for centuries since the Radiants turned against mankind. Kings strive to win more Shardblades, each secretly wishing to be the one who will finally unite all of mankind under a single throne. On a world scoured down to the rock by terrifying hurricanes that blow through every few day a young spearman forced into the army of a Shardbearer, led to war against an enemy he doesn’t understand and doesn’t really want to fight. What happened deep in mankind’s past? Why did the Radiants turn against mankind, and what happened to the magic they used to wield?

What an amazing start to a series. Just wow. I love the covers of these books too!

I think the best part of the book is the characters, in particular, Kaladin, Dalinar and Shallan. Whereas Shallan’s background and motives are outlined almost at the beginning of the book, we learn very little of Kaladin at the start and gradually his backstory is filled in as you progress through the book. I think any avid reader can both relate to and be envious of Shallan as she spends the majority of the book tutoring under one of the most prestigious and intellectual women of Roshar. In that position, she has access to what sounds to be the BIGGEST library ever. I am the green-eyed monster. That being said, I also relate to Kaladin as he is so grounded and humble as a person; he is a doer. Get up and get on with it type, and wants to do the best he can for everyone. I like that in him.

Dalinar, brother of the assassinated King Gavilar is a Lord of one of the main Alethi houses, fighting on the front line in the war against the Parshendi. He has become plagued with visions when each of the Highstorms hit and gradually those around him begin to suspect he is mad. Unite them. Those are the haunting words of his visions, but what do they mean?

Whilst most chapters are written from the perspectives of Dalinar, Kaladin or Shallan, we are given periodic interludes that give us a wider perspective on what is going on in Roshar as a whole. It is through these sections that we can see how a wider plot is developing and I am sure will continue on into future books.

The storyline will definitely make this series, upon completion, epic. The ideas are introduced gradually so as not to overwhelm you, which to my mind is essential when introducing books of a different “world”, with different rules and ideas to our own. The opening chapter shows us catastrophic events, throwing us six years into the past and into the action which defines events happening in the “present” – the assassination of King Gavilar himself.

I also love the system of magic developed in the book. Much like the Mistborn series, magic is drawn from a “real” and finite element; in the Mistborn series it is metal and in this one, it is gemstones infused with Stormlight. I find the idea of magic not being limitless gives the concept more realism, somehow.

There is much plotting and scheming going on as many vie for power – but who will succeed? I have a long wait to find out. Historically Sanderson has been releasing one of these books every three years, and since book three has just been released now… yeah. A LOOOOOOOOONG wait.

I am excited, nonetheless! It’s taking everything I have not to just jump into Words of Radiance, being book two.

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Have you read any books of The Stormlight Archive, or tried any other books by Brandon Sanderson? I would love to know what you make of them so far!

Rebecca mono

Author Interview – David Meredith

Hi everyone!!

Yesterday I shared with you all my review of Aaru, written by David Meredith. Today, I am pleased to be bringing you an interview with the author about the book:-

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First and foremost, please tell us a little about yourself

I’m a writer and educator originally from Knoxville, Tennessee. I received both my Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts from East Tennessee State University, in Johnson City, Tennessee. I also recently received my Doctorate in Educational Leadership (Ed.D.) from Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tennessee. On and off, I spent nearly a decade, from 1999-2010 teaching English in Northern Japan, but I currently live with my wife and three children in the Nashville Area where I continue to write and teach English.

 

What inspired you to create Aaru?

A lot of my own personal questions about faith, life, and death actually. Aaru is first and foremost an entertaining and emotional YA/NA SyFy/Fantasy novel. It is at its core a story about the love of two sisters, and how they struggle to cope as the paradigms of what they’ve always been taught is true and good is challenged and shifted in a monumental way. However, Aaru also explores a number of what I think are fundamentally human questions: What happens when religion and faith conflict with technology and science? Is there a way to reconcile the two? What constitutes a human being or human soul? What would happen to religion and faith if the fear of death was removed from society? How would that change the way individuals choose to live their lives? In a world where people in power can essentially choose who is and is not saved, how should that determination be made? Who should be saved? Is the act of choosing winners and losers, judging who is righteous and worthy vs. who is not in and of itself even moral at all? I suspected that the answers would be a lot messier and more complicated than the utopian realization of John Lennon’s Imagine lyrics and lead to a great deal of conflict as people try to hash it all out. In the end, Aaru doesn’t really answer any of these questions, nor is it intended to, but it does speculate on what the answers of different people from different circumstances and indeed society at large might be. What I want people to get out of Aaru is an intensely emotional experience that stimulates some productive introspection even as they enjoy it as a compelling story about the fierce love of two sisters that transcends even death.

 

Given the issues brought up in the book, do you think a system like Aaru would be a benefit or a hindrance to society?

That is the question, isn’t it? And I don’t think it really gets answered – At least not in the first book. This is to a certain extent intentional. By not tacking out a particular attitude about whether Aaru is the savior of mankind or its destroyer, I try to invite the reader to think a little more deeply about the idea and make their own determination.

 

What has been the most difficult part of publishing the book?

The fact that there are only 24 hours in a day mostly. But seriously, promotion takes A LOT of time. I would much rather be working on volume two than hunting book review blogs and sending out hundreds of book review requests, but it has to be done if you ever want anyone to read your work. The trick I think, is striking a balance among creating new material, promotion, and the hundreds of other things that also have to get done for work and family.

 

What other books have you written? Can you tell us a bit about them?

I have one other book currently available on Amazon: The Reflections of Queen Snow White

What happens when “happily ever after” has come and gone?

On the eve of her only daughter, Princess Raven’s wedding, an aging Snow White finds it impossible to share in the joyous spirit of the occasion. The ceremony itself promises to be the most glamorous social event of the decade. Snow White’s castle has been meticulously scrubbed, polished and opulently decorated for the celebration. It is already nearly bursting with jubilant guests and merry well-wishers. Prince Edel, Raven’s fiancé, is a fine man from a neighboring kingdom and Snow White’s own domain is prosperous and at peace. Things could not be better, in fact, except for one thing:

The king is dead.

The queen has been in a moribund state of hopeless depression for over a year with no end in sight. It is only when, in a fit of bitter despair, she seeks solitude in the vastness of her own sprawling castle and climbs a long disused and forgotten tower stair that she comes face to face with herself in the very same magic mirror used by her stepmother of old.

It promises her respite in its shimmering depths, but can Snow White trust a device that was so precious to a woman who sought to cause her such irreparable harm? Can she confront the demons of her own difficult past to discover a better future for herself and her family? And finally, can she release her soul-crushing grief and suffocating loneliness to once again discover what “happily ever after” really means?

Only time will tell as she wrestles with her past and is forced to confront The Reflections of Queen Snow White.

https://www.amazon.com/Reflections-Queen-Snow-White/dp/0991031113/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1510891939&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=the+refctions+of+queen+snow+white

I also have a mostly finished series I hope to start releasing soon based upon Japanese myth and legend called The Sankei Chronicles:

On the happiest day of the year, Taro’s world ends. His people and his family are slaughtered. His lands are brutally laid to waste by merciless, imperial forces. Taro is certain that neither he nor the ghosts of his lost loved ones can rest until he has visited the same devastation tenfold upon the heads of the vile collaborators. Consumed with grief for the fallen and guilt at his own survival, he gathers his scattered people and solemnly vows bloody revenge on the allies of the Tenshuu in the neighboring barony.

At the same time, young Naomi, cherished daughter of the doting Lord of Numanodai, is blissfully unaware of the chaotic world spinning out of control all around her. She fervently studies the arts of dance, music, and poetry as she dreams of being accepted into the distant imperial court. However, when disaster visits her very doorstep and she loses everything that she holds dear, Naomi must learn what it truly means to be a woman and a ruler. She must come to grips with her own gnawing grief and paralyzing doubt if she is to have any chance of saving her beaten and bedraggled people from Taro’s unreasoning fury.

In the process, both she and her pursuer discover a magical world of vengeful akuma demons, fierce kitsune fox-people, droll tanuki badger-folk, and the mysterious, arcane power of the ikioi. Taro and Naomi must decide whether to use this power for healing or destruction, revenge or redemption. They must choose whether to react to their pain and loss with wrath or with love. In the end, both must come to understand that the only thing that really makes them different is the choices they make and what they are willing to sacrifice in attaining that which they desire.

Finally, of course, I’m about 95,000 words into the Aaru sequal – Aaru: Halls of Hel. I hope to release it some time in 2018.

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Thank you to David for his time! If you haven’t checked out my review of the book and would like to do so, you can find it here!

Rebecca mono

Review: IT – Stephen King

How does anyone even go about reviewing such a mammoth book as this? It is something I have been thinking about for a few days now. After much deliberation, I decided that much like George Denborough, I was just going to get dragged into it somehow…

IT clown

I won’t give up my day job, I promise. I’ll just crack on with the review, shall I…?

 

IT

GoodReads – IT

It was the children who saw – and feel – what made the small town of Derry so horribly different. In the storm drains, in the sewers, IT lurks, taking on the shape of every nightmare, each one’s deepest dread.

Time passes and the children grow up, move away and forget. Until they are called back, once more to confront IT as it stirs and coils in the sullen depths of their memories, reaching up again to make their past nightmares a terrible present reality.

 

The year is 1985. The residents of Derry have lived in peace for the last 27 years. When IT awakes once more, the town slips into quiet unease. IT feeds off fear. Lurking in the shadows and manifesting as the beholders worst nightmare, it manipulates the wild imaginations of children, using it to terrorise and murder them.

After the death of his brother George in late 1957, Bill Denborough and his friends Beverly, Ben, Eddie, Mike, Stan and Richie unite against the monster in the sewers and somehow make it out alive. 27 years later, Mike Hanlon watches the death toll begin to rise once again and tries to reason against the truth. Eventually, he makes good his promise made all those years before: if IT came back, then he and his friends had to go back and kill IT for good.

If there is anyone out there who doesn’t know, this book is incredibly long. The edition I read was precisely 1,376 pages. Not only is this the longest book I have read ever, I also managed to read it in just about two weeks! I was quite impressed I will admit. The next longest book I have read is War & Peace (which I also read this year). This is a few hundred pages shorter but still tops over a thousand. This also took me two weeks to read. Not bad going, in my book.

IT’s length is probably a turn-off for a lot of people, but I genuinely think that the length is necessary. I’d like to explain why. A person’s way of thinking, their experience, history and relationship with fear is very personal. In order for the reader to get under the skin of each of the seven characters of this story, we had to learn an awful lot about them. I absolutely agree that there is a lot of description and back story before we get to any real point of hair-raising action and from what I have read, some people aren’t so fond of that. I don’t think I could truly have invested into the characters without it.

That’s not to say I loved each and every one of the characters all the time; there were moments I liked and disliked them. I loved Beverly when she fought and left her abusive husband to go to Derry and make good on her promise. That isn’t to say I understand why she would have tolerated that in the first place, exactly. Well, I do; she says as much herself that she married her father (not literally, but her father was violent towards her  child-self). I’m saying, having blessedly not grown up with that, I don’t understand because I would never tolerate that behaviour towards me. Just a word of warning, lads.

“You pay for what you get, you own what you pay for… and sooner or later whatever you own comes back home to you.” –

IT – Stephen King

I cannot praise this book highly enough for the way it was written. King really does know how to draw you in as a reader. It is his realistic portrayal of characters that I love best about his writing.

The perspective of the book frequently changes between time periods, especially so at the end, but manages to achieve this seamlessly. Naturally, each of the characters have changed dramatically during a quarter of a century, but the consistency of the characters mind-set and attitudes to the respective timeframe (and to their background) is spot on. The timeline of events for each “period” is also frequently discussed and this also seemingly consistent.

I have already mentioned the manner in which the book splits between the time periods of 1958 and 1985. One of the effective techniques King uses to maintain suspense is by slowly unveiling the events of the first encounter in 1958 by having trigger events in 1985 prompt each character to recover memories of IT. It is entirely possible, when an individual experiences a traumatic event, for the mind to repress these memories as a coping strategy. Therefore, not only does each of these small revelations keep the reader engaged with the story, it also has psychological foundation.

As events unfold in 1985 we simultaneously re-live the first encounter with IT. Whilst we have glimpses of the end of their troubles in 1958, we only learn the detail of their duel with the devil at the same time as when they go back that second (and hopefully last) time. The last few hundred pages flew for me. I also have no nails left. Literally.

I’m going to be honest and say that I didn’t find the book “scary”. Of course, it is unpleasant to read about children being murdered and vulnerable people being manipulated into committing heinous acts. What I am saying is this, I didn’t lose any sleep from reading it. The majority of fears experienced and again re-lived as adults are the fears of children – the dark, clowns, werewolves and the school bully, for instance. Whilst the book absolutely lives up to the genre of horror, I wasn’t uncomfortable reading it.

Despite the genre of the book, I found it had some lovely, positive notes that could be taken away from it; for example, the power of friendship. Here is one of my favourite quotes by way of an example:-

“Maybe there aren’t any such things as good friends or bad friends – maybe there are just friends, people who stand by you when you’re hurt and who help you feel not so lonely. Maybe they’re always worth being scared for, and hoping for, and living for. Maybe worth dying for too, if that’s what has to be. No good friends. No bad friends. Only people you want, need to be with; people who build their houses in your heart.”

IT – Stephen King

Emotions like fear, anguish, anger and despair are what makes us human. But what also make us human is our ability to hope, to dream and to believe.

Would you rather live having never experienced emotion?

I say give me the good, the bad and the ugly – after all, they say that it is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.

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Review: The War Queen – J. M. Robison

Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to conduct an Author Interview with J.M Robison in relation to her first published book, The War Queen. Today I am thrilled to be publishing my review! Before we begin, if you are yet to take a look at the interview, I would recommend you do!

***I was very kindly provided with a free copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. All the opinions stated below are my own ***

 

The War Queen

GoodReads – The War Queen

Altarn is the first woman to hold the position of State Head in Blindvar. When Lord Kaelin, State Head of Ruidenthall, propositions her to merger with their states, Altarn believes it’s his subtle way of taking her state for his own, making himself king. On the cusp of war, she rides in disguise to her last ally, Luthsinia, to ask for help.

During her journey, Altarn is ambushed but rescued by a man called Torren who offers her protection. Quickly they realize they share a mutual attraction. Upon their arrival to Luthsinia, Altarn receives news that an army has invaded Blindvar in her absence and blames Kaelin. Except it’s not Kaelin’s army, because she discovers Kaelin is in Luthsinia for the purpose of spying on her to take her land. And Torren is not who she thought he was.

Taking advantage of the unraveling situation, Kaelin kidnaps Altarn so he can take her state without her in the way and brings her to Ruidenthall. There’s a war ship on the horizon, led by a fallen angel craving mortal worship. Kaelin realizes he needs Altarn’s help to fight this army if he’s to save his state. She’s forced to agree, but how will she react when he’s wounded in battle? If she lets him die, can she fight the enemy on her own? Or if she saves his life, will he still try claiming her state, or try claiming her heart?

Having read a sample of the first chapter I knew that Altarn’s character and her position as State Head was going to be something that interested me a lot. I don’t think I need to go into the many debates about gender equality that are out there at the moment. I’m sure you see it all the time, be it on social media or the news etc. I knew this book was going to intrigue me because I wanted to see how the fictional society of this book adapted to the change of power being in the hands of a female in comparison with what we experience in reality. I was also keen to understand how Altarn coped with the difficulties, prejudice and the challenges to her credibility experienced.

 Altarn believes Kaelin, the Lord of Ruidenthall is set upon taking her land, however her council do not believe her when she brings this matter to their attention. Having had countless letters ignored and fearing the worst for her state, she sets out to neutral Luthsinia to gain the aid necessary to fend off the impending attack. As it happens, Altarn’s concern over Kaelin’s actions are the least of her concerns and ultimately, the two sides join forces to eradicate an unforeseen threat.

I found Altarn to be a remarkably developed character – in a lot of ways, I felt I could relate to her emotionally. In the first chapter we see Altarn arrive at her State Manor, clearly enraged and she quite humourously lashes out at a training target with the name of the man who told her “You have to ride the horse before you buy it. Because if you buy it first, you may find out later it limps”. Her behaviour is entirely relatable to us mere mortals (well, at least to me anyway), however, it is not the behaviour expected of a woman in her position – and especially not in public. This scene really introduces Altarn’s character and sets her development arc for the remainder of the book.

As Altarn travels to Luthsinia undercover to request aid, she ends up travelling with a young man who protects her on the road from a band of men who have less than polite intentions. Altarn perceives herself to be more than capable of defending herself, having served in the army and intends to face the threat single-handedly. As a result of this unknown man leaping to her defence, she feels irritated that she was perceived to have needed help. Despite her obvious resentment, Altarn sees the sense of safety in numbers and continues to travel with the young man, albeit distrustfully.  I cannot help but wonder if this scenario is something JM has drawn on her army experience for. Is Altarn’s circumstance (real or perceived – I’ll allow my lack of experience to keep me sitting on the fence) of feeling or being treated as the inferior sex something experienced in the army?

With the novel written in the first person narrative from the perspective of Altarn, we get to really understand the way she is thinking and feeling. I can speak now, as a woman, when I say that a lot of her emotional struggles are perfectly relatable. As she rebounds from Jessom and begins to “admire” her mysterious co-traveller, this isn’t a spontaneous reaction just for the purpose of plot developing. What I am trying to say is… it’s a perfectly natural reaction. Altarn is forced to mature and reign in these feelings as she comes to terms with the political turmoil she has to endure for the safety of her people, although this is a great struggle for her.

I’m glad now that I have gotten to this point. If there was any element of the book I wasn’t sure I was going to like, it was the relationship between Altarn and Lord Kaelin. As a rule, books with too much emphasis on relationship struggles are a turn off for me. Regardless of my feelings on the matter, allow me to be clear that the tumultuous relationship between these two powers is a quintessential element of both the plot and the development of each of these characters. I was pleasantly surprised that despite the reasonably high dependence the plot has on the relationship, I didn’t feel alienated from the characters involved – if anything it serves a reminder of just how human they are.

I also love how the book concluded. I am not going to spoil it for you, but what I will say is this… It could have been easy for the book to end in a very typical, fairytale manner. Allow me to say I am glad it didn’t. The characters are far more sophisticated than that and I am glad that shows.

I also enjoyed the developed and consistent historical background of the fantastical realm, which is introduced when relevant throughout the book. It is a danger for the reader to be the victim of “info-dumps” when the author has to explain a lot of history and context in fantasy worlds created, but I can honestly say I didn’t feel overwhelmed at any point.

In my opinion, The War Queen is an enjoyable read for all lovers of the fantasy genre. Whilst there are examples of common themes such as war (obviously), religion, (including angels and demons etc), to my mind it has been done in such a way as to set it apart from the common reiterations of the same ideas regularly seen in the genre.

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I hope you have enjoyed reading my review! If you would like to learn any more about JM Robison or The War Queen, please follow any of the below links:-

Website    Facebook     Twitter     Amazon     Goodreads     Pinterest

Also a little reminder that there is a live Facebook event on Saturday in celebration of the book’s first birthday. If you would like to join in, here is the link – hopefully we will see you there.

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Review: The Kitsune in the Lantern – Daniel Curry

I have to get this disclaimer out of the way… so here goes.

***I was very kindly provided with a free copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. All the opinions stated below are my own ***

There – I’m glad that’s over with. I think it is kind of sad that these things are even needed really.

Anyway… on a happier note – if anyone tuned in to my blog yesterday, you’ll know I posted an interview with our author Daniel to give readers the opportunity to get to know a little bit about him, the book itself and his influences in writing. If anybody is yet to check this post out… here’s a cheeky link.

Now without further adieu… the review:-

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GoodReads – The Kitsune in the Lantern

Synopsis from GoodReads:- 

“You were chosen by Yako, the bringer of Darkness.”

Join Argus Todd and his friends as he uncovers a great power exploring an old ruin, that has stood for decades in his town.
Inari, an age-old Kitsune must train Argus in his new gifts, in order to stop the chaotic Yako from bringing the darkness to our world.
But Yako appears a complex character, and all may not be as it seems…

Debut novella from author Daniel Curry, for Children and Teens. Experience the magic of the power of the Kitsune in this first book of a brand new series.
Ideal for confident young readers, and older children searching for an easy read adventure, this book is an exciting introduction to the mind of Daniel Curry

Despite the book being aimed at a younger generation, I can hand on heart say that I enjoyed it. Admittedly, (not to sound conceited), this was an easy read for me but it was a refreshing change! That isn’t to say I didn’t learn a thing or two! The magical beings introduced in the book, known as the Kitsune, stem from Japanese folklore. I love the idea that a Kitsune gains more magical abilities as it learns and ages. I’ll hold my hands up now and say prior to reading this book – I hadn’t even heard of them before! It was a great introduction to folklore from a different culture in a fun way and diversity is definitely something we should be encouraging.

This book is perfectly written for children – whether to challenge young readers to pick up books themselves or even as a story being read aloud. The plot was easy to follow, which I think is essential in a book of this length when bearing in mind the target audience. Even though I read this book all in one day, I read it in three sessions (because life has the amazing ability of disturbing reading!) – but it was so easy to pick up again when I came back to it.

The tale follows the adventures of Argus, Mae and Tom, who venture into the ruins of an old factory. There they discover a lantern and an archaic power is once again released into the world. I loved each of these three protagonists in their own way, and I really believe that everyone will be able to relate to at least one of them. Argus is the brave and outgoing “leader” of the group. He is a role model to Tom and has the respect of Mae. Tom is quite the opposite; he is the smallest of the group, the shyest and predisposed to nervousness. I was never the most outgoing of people so my inner child relates to him. Now, with my twenty-something-year-old head on… I just wanted to mother him! Mae is a great mix of both of these two characters – she even ends up mediating between these two extremes and I truly think she is a vital part in holding the friendship together.

The book is a lovely balance of myth and magic to keep the audience engaged, all the while encouraging attributes like learning and teamwork and discouraging greed. I am in no doubt Daniel knew exactly who his target audience was… but I truly believe this book is approachable to a span of age groups. The Kitsune in the Lantern is the first of a trilogy, and it is one I have every intention of finishing and I am not ashamed of the fact. I would love to learn more about the magic of the Kitsune and what further adventures Argus, Mae and Tom get to have with their new powers.

Lastly, but certainly not least, I wanted to include my favourite passage from the book, because it is absolutely true:-

“We all walk a narrow path between darkness and light. Tiny events can push our lives either way.” Inari began to pace around him. “But there is no unfairness, or path chosen for us, there is only random tastings of both sides”.

~ The Kitsune in the Lantern – Daniel Curry

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So there you have it!

I would like to thank Daniel again for the chance not only to read this book, but to be introduced to what I feel assured is going to be a lovely series! I’ll be keeping up with it too – that’s a promise!!

Just an additional note – I am jealous of the Kitsune power to step out of time. I would so do it to catch people pulling funny faces just for a laugh – I’m not always an adult! I feel sure I’m not the only one either…

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Source: Giphy

I hope you have enjoyed my review! If you would like to find out more about the book or purchase a copy, please find the links below.

Amazon      GoodReads

Also, if you would like to follow Daniel on Twitter and keep up to date with future releases, you can find him at @DCurryAuthor.

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