Sigil in Shadow by Constance Roberts

Sigil in Shadow WEB ONLY

Let’s review a book, shall we? First things first, the important stuff. Sigil in Shadow is a YA fiction novel set in a time period where royal intrigues between princesses and commoners can take place. ¬†At a smidgen over 250 pages, it’s a good length and it definitely doesn’t get boring.

I was given an advanced reader copy in exchange for a fair review. ūüôā

On to the story!

This lovely back cover copy does a lovely job of summing up the story without spoilers –

“Ellary Dane knows she deserves to die¬†– but not for a crime she didn‚Äôt commit.

She believes her 19 year streak of bad luck is over when she accidentally saves the life of a highborn officer and is taken to court to study under the tutelage of the most renowned healer in the kingdom. Suspicions surround her sudden presence, making her more enemies than allies. She soon finds herself ripped from her warm palace sheets and thrown into a dank prison cell.

¬†As nobles vie for their spot on the throne, Ellary learns she is bound to a secret history that could change the kingdom forever. If she is going to break her chains, she must trust the stranger labeled as her accomplice and face the lie that pushed her into the silent warfare of highborn society.”

Ok, now for the good stuff. This book has great prose and it’s a nice read for the imagery alone. The characters are enjoyable and well-rounded. Ellary herself has strength and a good heart, although she is a touch paranoid about her big secret being discovered. In her situation, I would be too.

Is this a perfect story? Nope. But, let’s be honest, perfect stories are predictable and boring. In this story, Ellary has all sorts of challenges to overcome. While she does conquer her biggest challenge which revolves around how to maintain her integrity while being forced into a social position where she doesn’t belong, she fails many smaller but super significant challenges.

 

I would recommend this book to readers who love royal intrigue, Cinderella stories, and a strong female lead.

 

Sigil in Shadow can be found on Amazon. 

Want to see more from this author? Here’s her website.

Fresh Fantasy: Shadows of Angels by L. G. Rollins

There’s nothing better than a book you can sink into, one that grabs your attention and wrestles you for your time until you finish. L. G. Rollins debut fantasy novel does just that.

I have read my fair share of fantasy. I write the stuff, I owe it to myself and my future readers to stay on top of the latest and best there is out there.

When the author, who also happens to be one of my critique buddies, asked me to be a part of her blog tour to announce the release of her first novel, I had to say yes!

I’ve known Laura for several years and can honestly say that she’s got what it takes to spin a riveting story.

Shadows of Angels Cover

My Review: Shadows of Angels is a mix of magic and intrigue. The main character, Aerbrin, faces a life full of new challenges when her father is murdered and leaves her rightful owner of his mysterious and powerful Zaad stone. She must survive against all the forces who would force it from her.

The story has surprises right and left, including people who aren’t who they say, inventive and terrifying ¬†magical creatures, and cursed places that exist to destroy the pure in heart.

If I were to compare it to anything, I’d say it would be like a darker version of the 1986 cult classic movie Labyrinth if it were directed by Guillermo del Toro. There’s no maze, but there is a dream trance place where stolen memories are hidden away. Very cool stuff. And as a bonus, Aerbrin is much¬†stronger and more clever than Labyrinth’s Sarah (Jennifer Connelly).

If you like reading well-written books that have lots of thrilling near death experiences, kings in hiding, noble men, plenty of magic, and unique fantasy settings, this book is perfect for you. Oh, and I should mention that this is a clean read, meaning no profanity or explicit anything. There is a fair amount of tastefully executed violence.

However, if you shy away from characters in pain, need a strong romantic side story to keep you interested, or can’t stand powerful magical characters, you may need to steer clear of this book.

***

Because I love you – check out this exerpt:

Stay calm, her father’s words echoed in her head. When you find yourself in danger, above all, stay calm. Aerbrin took a deep, steady breath and leaned down, reaching for her bow. one of the Forest Dwellers charged. It collided with her and knocked her to the floor. Raising a knotted fist, he bashed her head.

Sparks exploded across her vision. She tried to raise an arm, tried to call out. Her body wouldn’t respond. The Forest Dwellers grunted again. The creature above her raised its fist again. She looked up. This was the end, she knew. When these monsters attacked, they killed everything. Animals, plants, and particularly humans. No one survived.

Closing her eyes, Aerbrin forced her body to relax. This time, there was no pain.”

About the Author:

L. G. Rollins grew up in a far off land fighting dragons, stealing talismans, and traveling with dwarfs and elves. She is especially skilled at bribing giants with sweets. Currently, her husband and four kids live in Utah so that is where she spends most of her time. She may, or may not, have a Zaad Stone. To learn more about L. G. Rollins and her books visit LGRollins.com. Shadows of Angels comes out December 8th and is the beginning of the Zaad Stone trilogy.

 

Shadows of Angels Blog Tour Image.jpg

Book of the Month: Howl’s Moving Castle

71sst0-sdELI’ve had a soft spot for Miyasaki movies ever since I first watched the acclaimed Spirited Away and so reading one of the books that inspired another Miyasaki movie was a treat. There is a bizarreness to these stories that is both refreshing and thought-provoking.

About the book:

Howl’s Moving Castle is the story of Sophie Hatter, the oldest daughter of three, who is destined by birth to be a failure. Or so she thinks. ¬†When she is cursed by the Witch of the Waste to be an old woman she finds it an inconvenience albeit she is somewhat relieved. Being an old woman grants Sophie a much greater freedom in her actions and speech than what she’s felt as an adolescent.

With this new found freedom she leaves the hat shop which has been her prison and heads into the countryside. It is there that she runs across Wizard Howl’s magical castle drifting along. She forces her way inside to get out of the damp and meets Calcifer, a fire demon who powers the castle, and Michael, Howl’s young assistant.

Howl himself is a selfish and vain man who has too much interest in the ladies and not enough in common sense.  Throughout the book we see how Sophie wins her way into his heart by not putting up with his foolishness.  They help each other in turns as they prepare to face the ultimate battle with the Witch of the Waste.

My Review:

There’s a lot to be said about having characters with strong opinions and preferences. In this book we see the importance of speaking up for yourself when we read about Sophie’s life both before and after her transformation. This is contrasted against Howl, who refuses to have any useful discussion with anyone and because of it comes across as cold and uncaring, even though he secretly does care deeply for Sophie.

Then there’s the inventiveness of the story elements themselves. ¬†First, the totally awesome castle that wanders around the countryside and has a magic door that opens into different cities all over the realm. Not only does this provide Howl and Sophie ease of access to different places but it allows for some whimsy as well. ¬†One of the doors is anchored to the very real Wales while the rest are in the magical world. Then you have my favorite character, the fire demon Calcifer who is cursed to live within the confines of chimney and hearth¬†and at times acts like a petulant child, even though he is the most magically powerful of the three main characters.

It’s a fun and lively story and a great read for upper middle grade readers all the way to adults. I’d recommend it to readers of Piers Anthony, David Eddings, and Rick Riordan.

***

Want to recommend a book? Let me know in the comments!

Have you read Howl’s Moving Castle? What was your favorite part? Favorite Character?

***

Next month (February) I will be reading Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, and in March, Everneath by Brodi Ashton. Come join me!

Related posts:

Reading List for 2015

Last year at about this time I announced that I was going to read twelve books from the BBC’s Big Read List of 2003. I had so much fun plowing through these gems that I intend to challenge myself again, but with a much different list.

This year I will read some of the best that speculative fiction has to offer. Some of these books have been around for awhile and I’m ashamed that I haven’t picked them up sooner, and some are still fairly new.

Either way, I’m excited to dive in!

Here’s is this year’s list:

  1. Howl’s Moving Castle – Diana Wynne Jones
  2. Inkheart – Cornelia Funke
  3. Everneath – Brodi Ashton
  4. The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss
  5. Redshirts by John Scalzi
  6. Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch
  7. Under Heaven – Guy Gavriel Kay
  8. The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
  9. Existence – David Brin
  10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman
  11. Going Postal – Terry Pratchett
  12. A Wizard of Earthsea – Ursula K. Le Guin

cover_277

***
What are you planning to read this year? Share in the comments!

***

Also – I’m still taking names for feature posts in the future, this includes writers, artists, cosplayers, and musicians. ¬†If you, or someone you know, would like some shameless self promotion, let me know!

***

Related posts and websites:

4th Quarter Reading, Done!

Here with only a few days left of 2014 I’m proud to report that I finished the last book of the year this morning at 2:45 am. Now I’m not saying that I stayed up reading all night, although I liked the last read enough that I could have – my youngest woke at 1:30 throwing up and I couldn’t turn my brain off afterward. Ahh, the joys of too many ideas and not enough time.

Here are this quarter’s books-

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee: Somehow I escaped reading this in school, and it’s a shame too because I’ve heard references to parts of this book and it’s characters all my life and never realized it. ¬†If I were to pick a favorite element I would chose the character of Atticus Finch, the father of Scout and Jem and also the town attorney. He is a brilliant example of what it means to lead by example. ¬†His high standards and sense of morality are enviable and something that is lacking from much of the world today.

Dune, Frank Herbert: Ok, I’ll admit, I cheated a little here. ¬†Dune is a massive tome of dense writing that even the most seasoned writer needs to pick through carefully. ¬†It’s fascinating and a good read, but time consuming. I read the first section, which still was over 300 pages and intend to read the rest at my leisure later. This is one of those books that has redefined what is possible in the world of science fiction and is a prime example of how to do world building right. I only wish I would have picked it up earlier, this would have been a perfect example when I was creating my own fantasy world.

A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute:¬†At first I wasn’t sure I was going to like this, the story didn’t take off right away and for the first twenty or so pages the reader has to wade through the narrator helping a gentleman settle the articles in his will. Not too exciting. Things pick up when we get into the story of Jean Paget, who inherits the estate. We first learn about her experience as a prisoner of war to the Japanese in Malay where she, and a group of women and children, was forced to travel by foot from town to town because no one wanted to take them in. I love stories of survival against the odds, so this was great. The rest of the story is devoted to how she spends her inheritance by first digging a well and washing house for the town that finally took them in at the end of the war, and then making improvements in a derelict town in Australia where her love interest has a cattle station. It is a story of perseverance and grit and one that I truly enjoyed.

a_town_like_alice_large

I had a great time reading these books off of the BBC Book Challenge and hope to find equally good reads for the coming year.

***

Did you have a favorite read this year? Tell us about it in the comments!

***

Related posts:

Yikes, it’s the Grinch!

I grew up reading Dr. Seuss books and loving them. In fact, one of the first books I remember reading by myself was “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.” The pictures were fanciful and fun and the rhymes whimsical and silly. What was there not to love?

And then it hits me. ¬†They made a live-action, high-budget version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” with Jim Carrey no less, in one of the most horrific movie adaptation decisions of all time.

First of all, Dr. Seuss stories are simple and sweet and in no way adaptable into full-length feature films. The only one that I like, but not love, is “Horton Hears a Who,” and even then the writers went a little nuts bringing out the dark undertones of the story. It survives my cut because at least they had the wisdom not to try to use live actors and animals.

CTC-2911-image4

At least he looks like a Who

The Grinch, however, creeps me out. ¬†It fall squarely into the uncanny valley class of creepy where things are just messed up enough to make them repulsive. Yep, I’m creeped out by the Whos. It’s the same feeling I get when I see circus clowns. The Grinch himself was alright, at least they pushed his makeup effects far enough past the realm of normal that it doesn’t trigger the creeps. He’s just plain strange, and that’s ok. These guys on the other hand are down-right repulsive.

who mayor

Creepy Who Mayor

pretty who

Just two steps left of terrifying

more Whos

Nightmare fuel

I take it back, he's creepy too.

I take it back, he’s creepy too.

The original Whos are adorable and distinctly not human and were never meant to be. Check it out, Cindy Lou Who is so cute that I’d put her on a top ten cute Christmas icons list.

Cindy-lou-who

Squee!

Strange, but still cute.

Strange, but still cute.

I’m biased – I like things that stay true to the original. You can keep your weird and creepy whos. I’ll take my guppy-tailed Cindy Lou any day.

Advance Review: On the Isle of Sound and Wonder

On the Isle of Sound and Wonder by Alyson GrauerI’ll admit, one of the coolest perks of being a writer is having access to books before their official release. ¬†I received a copy of Alyson Grauer’s novel On the Isle of Sound and Wonder in exchange for a fair and honest review here on this blog and on other book review sites.

First and foremost, check out the trailer-

<

On the Isle of Sound and Wonder by Alyson Grauer

On the Isle of Sound and Wonder by Alyson Grauer

On the Isle of Sound and Wonder by Alyson GrauerThis is a book that has something for all audiences. There is action, adventure, peril, magic, love, loss, and a kiss of steampunk – just to keep things interesting. For those students of Shakespeare, this is a delightful romp through the classic story of The Tempest. ¬†The characters have been renamed and reimagined to appeal to today’s¬†readers.

There are very few books that capture my attention where I find them hard to put down, this was one of them.  Grauer has a knack for creating vibrant, well-developed characters that are a treat to read about.  Everyone from the brooding magical Dante to the mechanical man Gonzo has an intriguing history where their motivations and desires feel natural in the development of the story. The story itself is well written with plenty of twists and turns to keep things interesting.

I loved Isle of Sound and Wonder and I look forward to reading more from this author.

On the Isle of Sound and Wonder by Alyson Grauer

Find Grauer on the web: Facebook | Twitter | Amazon | Goodreads | Pinterest

On the Isle of Sound and Wonder by Alyson Grauer

Don’t forget to enter the¬†Rafflecopter giveaway! There’s lots of awesome stuff being given away.