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REVIEW: Raven’s Heart: A tale from the world of Secramore by M.S. Verish

Raven's Heart Cover Best copyAn exiled man wonders if he should forsake his new life and risk returning to his homeland. A troubled girl seeks redemption for a terrible crime she has committed. A solitary tracker breaks an oath in order to communicate with an infamous, supernatural criminal. A vagabond thief chances leaving behind the world he knew for an unknown destiny.

An unlikely cast of characters, they are thrown together by chance, or perhaps by fate, willingly embarking upon an eccentric wizard’s mission to recover a magical stone: Raven’s Heart.

A piece of the “Stone of Undoing”, Raven’s Heart is deadly. Though the stone has the ability to unravel the very essence of magic, it brings Arcturus, Kariayla, Hawkwing, and Jinx together in a mission beyond individual ambition that could determine the fate of the world in which they live.

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Well it took me several months to read but I’m happy to say I finally made it to the end! Raven’s Heart is a humongous undertaking into the extremely well developed world of Secramore. It was slow in the beginning as there are many characters and before really getting to know everyone I found it complicated to keep everything straight. Once, the merry band of travelers all met up (Arcturus, Kariayla, Jinx and Hawkwing) it was easy and fun reading from there, up to a point.

I really got into their journey and rooted for all of them. Arcturus was pretty straightforward, you knew what he wanted and there weren’t really very many surprises. Kariayla’s past was hinted at numerous times throughout the book and left you wondering and intrigued throughout constantly waiting to find out the mystery behind her. Jinx again was a straightforward easy going character with little surprises. Hawkwing was another character built upon by intrigue and a dark past. He was another character that you constantly wanted to know more about and at times thought you knew what was going on with him and were either pleasantly surprised you were right or perhaps mildly shocked that you were wrong and it was something else altogether.

The character’s themselves were extremely well written as was the journey itself from the start until the end of part one. At the end of part one I really felt as though it could have been the end of “Book One” with the rest to follow in a sequel. Part Two was much more disjointed as the band of travelers broke up and most went their separate ways, either by choice or by force, and the rest of the part two, the majority actually followed two new characters whom I didn’t care as much for and just wanted to get past their bit and find out what was happening with the original main characters. Of the original main characters one of them is barely in the second half as he is taken against his will and the rest then commence trying to find him and rescue him, yet he was one of my favorite characters so that was a big disappointment. Another character who plays a large role is the white demon, he comes in during part one and is very mysterious and intriguing yet once you find out more about him you genuinely care for him and wish for him to succeed in his endeavors. Yet, once he goes off on his own way you never hear from him or about him again, there isn’t even any summary of he is alive or perhaps captured at the end of conclusion of the book. I was extremely disappointed by this as I figured maybe there would be a few lines in an epilogue about him or something else small to summarize where he was and what he had been doing during the rest of the characters adventures.

I thoroughly enjoyed part one, I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys epic fantasy, however I cannot say the same for part two of the book. While part two did hold my interest I just did not find it as enjoyable as part one. Also, as far as the writing style goes one thing that drove me crazy while reading this was the author’s use of quotation marks during large speaking parts, and there were many large speaking parts throughout this book. If one character was speaking and they broke it into paragraphs they would not end the first paragraph with quotations marks but they would start the next paragraph with them. I have never seen this before when reading and it drove me nuts! Also, the characters come across elves in part two of their journey. I have nothing against elves or the flowery language the elves used, but if you are going to employ flowery language then use the word “yes” instead of “yea”. The use of “yea” when the elves spoke seemed so out of place and really ruined reading their eloquent way of speaking, in my opinion.

Available on Amazon: Raven’s Heart (A Tale from Secramore – Epic Fantasy)


Book received from author in exchange for an honest review.

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REVIEW: The Immortals of Myrdwyer: A Mages of Bloodmyr Novel: Book #3 by Brian Kittrell

Laedron hasn’t been able to sleep for a week, yet he feels fresh and invigorated. He heals at an extraordinary rate, and finds that his hunger is satisfied by only a few morsels of food each day. Enhanced by the use of a soulstone, a vicar’s restoration spell has done much more than cure Laedron’s wounds, and a book with no name might be the key to discovering why. Unfamiliar with the deep implications of the magic behind his newfound abilities, he feels like his life is spinning out of control, and he must know the truth.

Laedron leads his companions to a land of vast pine forests to learn more of his condition, for the book mentions some of his symptoms and hints at the oldest secrets of mages. When he arrives in Lasoron, a strange old woman points him in the direction of the ancient ruins of Myrdwyer to uncover the answers he so desperately seeks.

An old feud, a host of soul-sucking enemies, and a madman bent on revenge stand between him and the answers he hopes to find, but he soon learns that some secrets are better left unknown to mortals.

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The third installment of the Bloodmyr Trilogy is by far the best and serves as an excellent ending to the story. I had some doubts going into the third book because I only thought the second one was so-so but it was one of the most captivating reads with great character advancement and much more relationship building than the first and second books had to offer. In this book Laedron and his friends venture to another unknown land seeking the Uxidin and the Bloodmyr Tome in hopes of learning if the healing “miracle” cast on him by Jurgen is permanent or if he will die when the spell finally does end.

Laedron finds far more than he bargains for upon finding the Uxidin and instead of a proud people he finds a sorry lot hiding underground from gigantic crystal monsters who suck the essence out of all living things. Laedron and his friends also come upon many moral dilemmas during this adventure, whereas the problems in the other books were more straight forward – this person is evil and must be stopped – no questions and no reservations were had, yet this time they must decide what is right, not just for them but for a race of ancient immortals. I very much enjoyed the moral dilemmas and the conversations had between party members in trying to solve these problems. I thought they were handled much better and much more in character than certain problems brought up in book two. I also really enjoyed the way this book was ended. A separate mini-chapter was written for each character upon returning home so that closure could be given to each chapter and not just to Laedron.

Overall, this was a riveting read and I found the crystal creatures to be fascinating, perhaps one day a short story will be written about them and how they fared after Laedron and his party left Myrdwyer? I’m not sure if I’d recommend reading these books out of order but it certainly seems as though the final installment gives you most of what you would need to know upon just picking up this book.

Available on Amazon:The Immortals of Myrdwyer: A Mages of Bloodmyr Novel: Book #3


Book received from author in exchange for an honest review.

REVIEW: The Consuls of the Vicariate: A Mages of Bloodmyr Novel: Book 2 by Brian Kittrell

Having arrived in the Holy Land, Laedron Telpist continues his journey to halt a war provoked by the Heraldan church. He discovers that the war he so desperately wants to stop is merely a prelude to something much older than he could have imagined. With the aid of his allies, Laedron must uncover hidden plots, bring justice to the rampant corruption, and end a conflict before it claims more victims. Laedron, his friends, and the Shimmering Dawn knights face off against new foes, some willing to trade their loyalty for power and the ancient secrets of spellcraft and others more dangerous than outward appearances would suggest.

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The second book in the Mages of Bloodmyr series starts out very exciting and is a continuation of Laedron and his group’s quest to end the war between Sorbia and the theocracy.  I was happy I had decided to continue with the plot however I was not as happy with the character development in this book. I felt as though most of the characters remained the same and that Marac and Jurgen made huge life changing choices with little thought. They appeared to make choices that go against what their characters had believed in throughout the first book and for most of the second. I felt as though these choices could have been made more believable with extra conversation or thought, for me the change from “I can’t do that” to “fine I’ll do it” just seemed to sudden and without a lot of thought.

The last quarter or so of the book was mainly build up based on this huge decision made by Jurgen and Marac that will continue the last leg of their journey in the third book. I felt the end of the book was rather slow compared to the beginning and probably could have been either summed up faster or left as a prologue for the third book.  However, the characters are left with a gigantic conundrum in which to solve and if the problem cannot be fixed then it leaves huge life changes for Laedron to deal with.

Leaving the third book with the group headed off to a new country and more unchartered territory for them along with a new problem to solve does make the third book a desirable read so one can gain closure for the story.

Available on Amazon:The Consuls of the Vicariate: A Mages of Bloodmyr Novel: Book #2

Book received from author in exchange for an honest review.

REVIEW: The Circle of Sorcerers: A Mages of Bloodmyr Novel: Book 1 by Brian Kittrell

When Laedron Telpist’s sorcery training is interrupted by a knock on the door, what once seemed a proper profession must now be hidden. In a world where priests and mages vie for the limitless power of the elements and a new Grand Vicar has sworn death to all sorcerers, Laedron is tossed into a nightmare which would see his destruction at every turn.

From the home shores in western Sorbia, through the Cael’Brilland heartlands, and even across the seas to the great city of Azura, Laedron finds himself embracing old friends, consorting with unlikely allies, and confronting potent enemies. As he struggles to train himself in spellcraft, Laedron must face that he lives in a time when the utterance of a simple spell could be the signature on his death warrant.

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This book was a little slow to start, beginning with a long introduction of the main character Laedron and his choices on where to attend school to become a mage. The first three chapters or so spend quite a bit of time developing Laedron’s character and depict him as an extremely naïve person ready to trust most people without a moment’s hesitation. As the book progresses Laedron runs in to a bit of trouble and finds out that he must make it on his own and is no longer living in a sheltered world but one soon to be at war. Laedron was known as a “neonate” mage before going off to school and was only at school for about a week before things went south, yet in that time he apparently learned an enormous amount of spells. The longer Laedron is alone the more power hungry, sadistic and vengeful he starts to become yet he never quite loses his naivety. I felt Laedron’s character was the best developed which makes sense seeing as the story is centered around him, however his ability to use spells so effectively with little training and little practice seems out of place – but I’m thinking that might be explained in another book seeing as this is the first of a trilogy.

Once I got about three or four chapters into it the story started to pull me in further. It becomes much faster paced and exciting only slowing down again in few spots. It also ends on a bit of a cliff hanger making the reader want more. Another thing I must give this story credit for is not being overly predictable. Obviously some things need to happen for there to be a story but at several points I assumed one thing would happen only to be fooled with something entirely different and I love stories with good twists.

Overall I would say this was a really good read, but I also would not have been put off with more character development surrounding the characters travelling with Laedron for the majority of the story. Also, I would love to have more background on Ismerelda, but again I feel as though that might pop up in one of the other books, if not I think a short story or novella dedicated to her could be interesting. I found her to be one of the most interesting characters in the book so far, but I am connected enough with Laedron to be rooting for him.

Available on Amazon: The Circle of Sorcerers: A Mages of Bloodmyr Novel: Book #1

Book received from author in exchange for an honest review.

REVIEW: Self-Made Scoundrel by Tristan J. Tarwater

Dershik Cartaskin is the heir to the Cartaskin Barony, a distinguished and ambitious household in the Valley of Ten Crescents. When his father sets his sights higher than the Sword and the Seat, Dershik refuses to take on a legacy of unquestioned power, abandoning those he loves for their benefit and his personal desires.

Taking on the name ‘Derk’ and a life of thievery, he strives to transform his world. The Holy Church, a cunning streetswoman, a peculiar guide, a beautiful priestess and a secret organization; Derk must face them all and forge his own legacy within the Valley of Ten Crescents.

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I went into Self Made Scoundrel with ideas of what it would be about already in my head. Upon reading the blurb and beginning the book I realized it was not going to be a continuation of the first and I would have to wait even longer to find out what would become of Derk and Tavi. I was very excited for this book when I thought it would be an extension of the first and a bit disappointed when I found it was not. Let me not dwell on what I thought it would be and what it really was. . .

This book does a fantastic job at further developing Derk’s character and explaining the background on how he came to be a member of the Cup and even how he acquired Tavi. In this book we learn that Derk chose his life of thievery because he finds it enjoyable and that in reality he could have had a cushy life living as a baron. Even though Derk chose a life many probably would not the author still makes it possible to feel bad for him when things go wrong, instead of saying “well you chose this life, so it’s your fault”.  Overall, this is a very well written book (though it could use a second edit) and provides a lot of insight on Derk making him a character that you care about even more than the first book, or perhaps hate now that you know his history.

If you’ve read the first book, I would recommend this one as it compliments it very well. This still leaves me really wanting to find out what happens after the ending of the first book!

Self-Made Scoundrel is available at Amazon: Self-Made Scoundrel (The Valley of Ten Crescents #2)

Author’s website: www.backthatelfup.com

Book received from author in exchange for an honest review.

REVIEW: Of Ants and Dinosaurs by Cixin Liu

“Of Ants and dinosaurs” is a fascinating fable for young readers; And an extraordinary science fiction story for a mature audience. Millions of years ago, in the remote depths of the Late Cretaceous, two glorious civilization flourished in symbiosis: The dinosaur nations and the coalition of ants. Taking the best from each to complement the other, these two species lived in harmony. With their great intelligence and visionary creativity the dinosaurs constantly advanced both technology and society; While the ants managed all the small things, squeezing into the dinosaurs’ computers to connect their microscopic circuitry. Until one day, on the annual dinosaur and ant summit, the ants insisted that the dinosaurs dismantle all their nuclear weapons…

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I was first drawn to Of Ants and Dinosaurs because of the intriguing cover art and book description. I was not disappointed. For a short story of about fifty-five pages according to Amazon it paints a fascinating description of what life could have been like for Ants and Dinosaurs during the cretaceous period on Earth. The story begins by giving background information on how the Ants and Dinosaurs developed a symbiotic relationship and follows that relationship through both species becoming sentient beings and developing complex and technologically advanced societies.

Due to the brevity of this read the characters do not have a lot of back story but I don’t think it is necessary to gain an appreciation for the characters or to enjoy the story. The characters emotions, especially those of the Ants are well developed through their conversations. The Ants communicate via pheromones and the author does an excellent job of inserting their emotions into the transfer of pheromones which helps give insight into the characters. This is not done for the Dinosaurs but I think their language helps aid the reader in inferring their emotions.

There is quite a bit of technical jargon in this short read but seeing as this is a sci-fi read it works well. The technical bits are also not overly complicated and can easily be understood so it does not detract from the story. The story itself is a back and forth between what is happening in the Ant society versus what is happening in the Dinosaur society, and at times the two coincide. The way the story is written it helps give the reader the full picture of what is going on in both societies.

Overall this was a very interesting read and a really different take on how the world could have been millions of years ago. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a short read and would be interested in reading other works by this author.

Available on Amazon:Of Ants and Dinosaurs

Book received from author in exchange for an honest review.

REVIEW: A Little Magic by Valerie Gillen

A Hidden Power: Stepdancer Siobhan Kelly didn’t believe in magic – until the magic chose her.

A Promise Made: She’s been warned magic is evil, but with her grandmother felled by a deadly curse, she must make a bargain with the local Fairie prince – the return of their sacred Jewel in exchange for her grandmother’s life.

And it just might work too – if only she can escape the dark witch who’s made Siobhan her prey in the hunt for a deadly blood spell.————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Siobhan Kelly as any teenager would be is upset about her parents uprooting her from one side of the country to the other for a grandmother she’s never met who is in a coma. She’s now living in her big creepy house full of things she isn’t allowed to touch with a mother who seems like she’s also never been in the house before despite growing up there. The house has a garden that never seems to die, even in the middle of winter and secret rooms full of who knows what. All Siobhan wants is to move back to California and continue her step dancing until a weird girl at school and a small fluffy cat found in the woods lead to more excitement than she bargained for.

A Little Magic is a great young adult read, possibly even middle grade but it does have some larger vocabulary and a few profanities thrown in. It has a plot that will pull you in and keep you guessing and entertained right from the beginning. I thought Siobhan was a very well-developed character and (even though I found it annoying as an adult, a teen might really appreciate it) I liked how the author used the stereotype of Siobhan being from California and all the kids thinking she was a “valley girl” and bringing in that stereotypical dialogue and carrying it through from the beginning of the book all the way to the end. This was a fun and quick read and I can see the author writing more stories about Siobhan and her family in the future.

I would have loved more background on the rest of the supporting characters in the book, especially Alicia and the background of Siobhan’s mom and Johanna, perhaps a flashback or two of when they were younger. Their stories are told briefly for the most part but I think more background could have added a lot more depth to the story. Also, the book does have some formatting errors that make it somewhat annoying but not bad enough to detract from the story itself.

Available on Amazon:A Little Magic

Book received from author in exchange for an honest review.

REVIEW: Mark of the Dragon Queen by Katie W. Stewart

Kira has led a sheltered life, brought up by her widowed father, whom she adores. When he is arrested and imprisoned for a murder he allegedly committed 18 years before, she is devastated. So when she overhears an ex-student of her father’s planning to visit the prison, Kira decides to go, too. However, the student – Arun – is not who she thinks he is, and she soon learns that her father has not always been the man of integrity she has known for fifteen years.

Caught in a rebellion against the Lord High Councillor who would return the country to Wizard Rule, Kira finds that there is one more lesson she has to learn – about herself. Success depends on her, but is she willing to make the sacrifice it will require?

A book for Young Adults, but suitable for all ages.

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Mark of the Dragon Queen is a highly riveting and original novel. It follows a young girl named Kira as she discovers many hidden secrets her father and others have been keeping over the years. These family secrets drive Kira to embark on a dangerous journey filled with dragons, prophecies and enemies that force these dark family secrets to bubble to the surface.  This book is full of action and a real nail biter. Many twists and turns keep you guessing and fearful for the lives of these characters as they learn more about themselves in the present, their pasts that are not what they seemed and coming to terms with their futures and what they must do.

Katie Stewart develops many original and unique concepts in the book. In this fantastical world a crystal grows for each wizard as they come into their magic. A crystal reader can tell when each person has used magic and what they have done which is how Kira’s father, Ifor gets in trouble many years before this book takes place. I found this idea of wizards having crystals tied to their magic to be highly unique and would have loved to read more about how the concept works. I think this is a standalone book but I feel like more stories could be told centered in this world.

This is a very well written novel. I thoroughly enjoyed it and could hardly put it down, once I picked it up. The excitement starts on page one and doesn’t stop until the last page.

Available on Amazon:Mark of the Dragon Queen

For more about the author visit: www.katiewstewart.com

Book received from author in exchange for an honest review.

REVIEW: The 5th Realm (New Orleans Voodoo Chronicles) by Constance Gillam

Lisette Beaulieu’s private school classmates have always made the 15-year-old Creole orphan feel like a freak. But Lisette never believed them until she accidentally raised the dead in a cemetery late one night. When she discovers that her mother’s family is alive and practicing Voodoo in the bayou, her world spins farther out of control. Her best friend Scooter is about to make his own deal with the devil to keep his brother out of jail; and her classmate, Eric, has a talent with swords and saving her life. That talent will be needed when Lisette learns that an ancestor promised her to a demon overlord in exchange for greater Voodoo power.

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This book was a little bit slow to start but after a few chapters in it was a very exciting read. Some parts of the book were highly predictable but even so it still kept my attention and once I really got into it I didn’t want to put it down until I was finished. The author does a good job of switching between the main characters of Lisette and Eric so you get the full picture of what’s going on, rather than being kept in the dark until certain events take place. I also really enjoyed the authors writing style. It was very easy to read and be involved in the story, allowing for easy attachment and empathy for Lisette and Eric. I also really enjoyed that this book was not actually a romance, while it did have romantic elements that is not what the story revolved around, which seems almost rare to find these days.

The book doesn’t end on a cliffhanger per say but it’s pretty close to one. If the next book in the series was already out, I probably would have been compelled to go buy it and immediately start reading to see how things get wrapped up in the next book. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I did have my reservations since I’ve never read a book centered around voodoo before, but I can safely say even though this book is centered around the idea of voodoo it doesn’t get all technical and wordy with it which is nice.

Available on Amazon:The 5th Realm (New Orleans Voodoo Chronicles)

Available on Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-5th-realm-constance-gillam/1111414521?ean=2940014755481

For more about the author: www.constancegillam.com

Book received from author in exchange for an honest review.