ARC Review – The Broken Heart of Arelium

Plot Summary

Reed starts out guarding the wall of the Pit on what seems to be a quiet night like all the other boring nights that came before. All of a sudden, the warning beacons are lit, and Reed’s life changes in an instant. Swarms of greylings and other vicious monsters from the Pit spew forth in numbers not seen for hundreds of years, which threatens to plunge the lands into ruin. He and a mysterious Knight of the Twelve must rush to warn the city of Arelium about the oncoming hordes before it is too late. Reed, the Knight, and the city’s leaders then fight to keep everything around them safe, but they face unknown obstacles rooted in secrets from the past.

What I Liked

All of the typical fantasy elements were here, and I enjoyed each of them, for the most part. The story had an interesting premise, and I loved learning about the world in which the characters lived. There was a deep sense of mystery surrounding the lore of this world, which was one of the first things that made me want to read more. The author created a history and culture that I continue to want to learn more about.

The character I enjoyed the most was Reed. His story was engaging, and he had the best characterization in the book. I liked seeing him go from being a bored guardian on the wall of the Pit to being a real leader and hero. The exploration of his motives and background was well-done. His last scene of the book was one of the most emotionally charged because of the build-up his character received throughout the story.

The description of the battle scenes was epic. The author did a phenomenal job of making me feel like I was watching the fighting take place. I loved the detail in the descriptions of the greylings and the carnage they wrought. I actually cringed a few times because some of the portrayals of maiming were that vivid. The descriptions of damage to character’s eyes really got to me because I have a weird fear about my own eyes being damaged.

Finally, the ending was intense. I’m still not sure if it was a good or bad intense, overall, but there were things I liked about it. I love a good curve ball, and this one packed some super curvy ones (more on this in a bit). I was shocked at some of the revelations, and they added a great deal of interesting history to this world that I assume will be explored in other books.

What I Didn’t Like

Even though I liked some of the revelations at the end of the book, many of them seemed to come out of nowhere. As I said above, I like curve balls in stories, but I prefer for there to be an aha moment where the clues from earlier in the book come together to show me what I missed. I didn’t get that from this book. The revelations at the end felt tacked on rather than the outcome of earlier story or character development, which is not as satisfying.

Also, the book really could have used at least another round of edits. There were several mistakes, including misnaming characters. The dialogue felt very unnatural, especially in the first half of the book. The way certain things were said just felt off and took me out of the story on several occasions.

The execution of the plot and the pacing of the story were a bit rough. Character monologues with giant info dumps were rampant throughout the text, and it bogged down the story quite a bit. One of the monologues even made no logical sense. A severely wounded character, who was coughing up blood, relayed the entire events of a battle before passing out. No character with wounds like that would make it through a monologue that is a chapter long, especially when a few lines would have been all that was necessary to relay the needed information. The plot seemed to jump from info dump to battle scene and back again without many scenes for good character development. This is probably why I only came away caring about Reed. The rest of the characters fell flat and just seemed like props to dump information or move the plot along.

Final Thoughts

The Broken Heart of Arelium delivered an interesting fantasy tale with fascinating lore, excellent battle depictions, and a wild ride of an ending. The execution of the story was a bit wobbly with stiff dialogue, numerous info dumps, and uneven character development. However, there was enough interesting details and gory battle scenes here to keep me intrigued despite the flaws. Therefore, I rate the book 3 out of 5 stars.

Have you read this book? If so, what did you think?

Stacking the Shelves #1

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks! The meme is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews and Reading Reality.

Weekly Wrap-Up

This week started a bit rough because Monday was my grandmother’s 99th birthday, and I was missing her a lot. Even 11.5 years after her death, it still gets to me. I felt very sad while writing my Why I Read post, but seeing so many people read and like the post made me feel like her legacy is living on. So, thank you all so much. The week got much better as it went on. I’ve read a couple books and got a lot of book mail, which you’ll see a little further down the post. I also participated in my first blog tour, which was exciting and so much fun. I enjoyed seeing everyone else’s reviews and getting to interact with new people! I’m excited to see what this next week brings and am looking forward to the books I have slated to read.

Book Mail

I snapped a photo of the last of the book mail for this week with its packaging. I picked up all of the Heartstopper books that are currently out from Amazon. I checked Volumes 1 & 2 out from the library and loved them so much I wanted to own a copy for myself. Also, the library didn’t have Volume 3 yet…and I didn’t want to wait.

I also received all 20 books of the Star Wars: Jedi Apprentice series in the mail during the past week. Hunting them all down was an expensive endeavor since they are all out of print, but I am excited to re-read them. I loved the series as a kid, and my copies of the books were destroyed in a hurricane. I can’t wait to go on adventures with Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon again…even if they aren’t canon anymore.

Barnes & Noble Purchases

I picked up two books from Barnes & Noble this week. I’m so excited about Star Wars: Doctor Aphra. I loved the comic, and the book is supposedly an expanded version of that story from Doctor Aphra’s perspective. So, I can’t wait to read it again. I also bumped into The Children of D’Hara by Terry Goodkind. I’ve been a fan of the Sword of Truth series for a while even though I haven’t finished it yet. I was happy to run into this collection of previously published stories, and I look forward to getting to them when I finally finish the series.

ARC eBooks

I got a few new ARC eBooks from NetGalley and BookSirens. I got Dark Farm by Dean Raven and The Other Side of Magic by Ester Manzini from NetGalley. I also received the audiobook of Not My Ruckus from NetGalley. I’m looking forward to reading each of them. I got my newest book from BookSirens, as well: The Relic Spell by Jimena Novaro.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I’m satisfied with what I’ve added to my shelves this week, and I’m looking forward to reading it all. Have you read any of the books I picked up? If so, what did you think? Are any of these on your TBR? Let me know in the comments below!

First Lines Fridays #1

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

Today’s First Lines:

“The tallest tower of Tharsis City extended beyond the outer dome like a gleaming monument. Zara Ortega looked out over the city, recalling the first time she had seen Mars, about thirty years ago. She had been just a child, accompanying her father on a business trip.”

Do you know which book this is from? Scroll down to find out!

Title: The Year Before the End

Author: Vidar Hokstad

Publication Date: November 23, 2020

Book Website: https://galaxybound.com/b01

Goodreads Synopsis

Forty years ago humanity found out we were not alone. The Centauri offered us the galaxy. With one year to go before the gate is ready, Captain Zara Ortega learns of a conspiracy between Mars separatists and the Centauri to split the solar system between them. The crew of the ship Black Rain goes on a daring raid from one of the most well-guarded stations in the system to uncover the truth, but an attack on their ship raises more questions. A meeting with their contact near Mars goes badly wrong and leads them into a chase through the asteroid belt in a desperate bid for survival. Deceit and betrayal have put not just their lives on the line, but the future of humanity.

Thoughts & Comments

This is my current read, and, so far, it is pretty good. I haven’t gotten very far yet, but the story setup has been interesting. I will say that these first lines did make me interested in the book. I immediately wanted to know more about Mars and why this person is arriving there again. Does this book sound like something you would like? Why or why not?

BBNYA Ultimate Blog Tour: Book Review – The Lore of Prometheus

Hello! Welcome to my stop on the BBNYA Ultimate Blog Tour for the 2020 BBNYA winner, The Lore of Prometheus by Graham Austin-King. I am excited to share my review of this fantastic book with you all.

Author: Graham Austin-King

Publication Date: 11/30/2018

Length: 287 pages

Read Date(s): 04/07/2021 – 04/09/2021

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Synopsis

John Carver has three rules: Don’t drink in the daytime, don’t gamble when the luck has gone, and don’t talk to the dead people who come to visit.

It has been almost five years since the incident in Kabul. Since the magic stirred within him and the stories began. Fleeing the army, running from the whispers, the guilt, and the fear he was losing his mind, Carver fell into addiction, dragging himself through life one day at a time.

Desperation has pulled him back to Afghanistan, back to the heat, the dust, and the truth he worked so hard to avoid. But there are others, obsessed with power and forbidden magics, who will stop at nothing to learn the truth of his gifts. Abducted and chained, Carver must break more than his own rules if he is to harness this power and survive.

My Review

What I Liked

I can see why this book was the BBNYA winner. It is full of mystery, thrilling action, exciting super powers, and intense psychological themes. The writing was great, with good dialogue that felt natural and pacing that kept me interested throughout the story. I actually lost sleep because of this book because I did not want to put it down to go to bed. The plot was intense, and, throughout the book, I found myself wondering what the author would subject the characters to next.

I liked both of the main characters. Mackenzie’s story was interesting, and I was fascinated by the exploration of how the events of the book affected her psyche. She was portrayed as a strong, capable character rather than a damsel in distress, which I appreciated. However, Carver was my favorite character in the novel, and I greatly enjoyed getting to know him. He was a serious badass but also an absolute mess from being haunted by his past, which was a compelling combination to read.

My favorite thing about this novel was the description of someone living with PTSD. The author did a fantastic job of painting a picture of what goes on inside the head of someone with this disorder. The way he incorporated the flashbacks, hypervigilance, and hallucinations was superb, and Carver’s journey throughout the book dealing with his survivor guilt was very well-written.

I also enjoyed the themes presented in this book. The characters undergo long periods of intense torture, which was difficult to read at times, but allowed for the exploration of many interesting topics. Without going into too much detail because I don’t want to spoil the book, there are critiques of the darker side of human nature paired with examples of how people can overcome extreme adversity and re-purpose trauma into a strength. I immensely enjoyed the analysis of the human condition found throughout the story, which is evident in my favorite quote from the book:

We are each of us insane. Maybe there is no true sanity. All any of us have is the control we cling to, and any one of us can be swept away.

The Lore of Prometheus, loc 5097

The humor in the book is dark, but it works to add some levity to the otherwise morbid situations in which the characters find themselves. Carver’s hallucinations were one of my favorite things about the book because they introduced a great deal of the dark comedy. I also really enjoyed the author’s descriptions of places and environments. I instantly felt transported to each locale by the excellent writing.

What I Didn’t Like

I liked almost everything about this book. However, I had some real problems with the ending. The rest of the book was paced so well, but the ending seemed really abrupt and left quite a few things unanswered. The romance element came out of nowhere and was completely unnecessary to finishing the story. I also felt as if we left behind most of the characters from the first half of the book and never got any resolution to their part of the story. Furthermore, I still don’t understand how the villain did what he did at the end and think at least some explanation of how he reached his goal was necessary. Speaking of the villain, he was the other thing I did not like about the book. There was no information about his motivations, and, while being cruel and creepy, he just came off as one-note with no depth.

Final Thoughts

Overall, The Lore of Prometheus is a thrilling read that I recommend to fans of urban fantasy and/or thrillers. The book’s depictions of PTSD and the execution with which it explores themes related to human nature are some of its biggest strengths. However, the abrupt ending and lack of depth for the villain held the book back from being the best it could be. Therefore, I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.

About the Author

Graham Austin-King was born in the south of England and weaned on broken swords and half-forgotten spells.

A shortage of these forced him to consume fantasy novels at an ever-increasing rate, turning to computers and tabletop gaming between meals.

He experimented with writing at the beginning of an education that meandered through journalism, international relations, and law. To this day he is committed to never allowing those first efforts to reach public eyes.

After spending a decade in Canada learning what ‘cold’ really means, and being horrified by poutine, he settled once again in the UK with a seemingly endless horde of children.

To date he is the author of five novels, drawing on a foundation of literary influences ranging from David Eddings to Clive Barker.

Website: https://grahamaustin-king.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GrayAustin

Blog Tour & BBNYA Info

I received this book to read and review as part of the BBNYA tours organized by the @The_WriteReads tours team. All opinions are my own, unbiased and honest. 

BBNYA is a yearly competition where book bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors. 

If you are an author and wish to learn more about the 2021 BBNYA competition, you can visit the official website (https://www.bbnya.com/) or the Twitter account, @BBNYA_Official. If you would like to sign-up and enter your book, you can find the BBNYA 2021 AUTHOR SIGN UP FORM HERE. Please make sure to carefully read our terms and conditions before entering. 

If you are a book blogger or reviewer, you can apply to be part of BBNYA 2021 by filling out this form (also remember to read the terms and conditions before signing up)! 

BBNYA is brought to you in association with the Folio Society (If you love beautiful books you NEED to check out their website!) And the book blogger support group TheWriteReads.

Book Review – The House in the Cerulean Sea

Summary

Linus Baker is an overworked case worker at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He is also kind of a square who always does everything by the book and lives for his routines. His quiet life gets upturned when he is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management and given a classified assignment. He must spend a month at an orphanage that holds some of the most dangerous magical children in the world to determine if the man running the place is fit to do so. During his time there, Linus struggles to maintain his objectivity while determining what is best for the children and attempting to uncover this orphanage’s secrets.

What I Liked

Everything. Seriously though, I loved everything about this book: the characters, the plot, the pacing, the LGBT+ representation, and, most of all, the message. This book took me through a wide range of emotions as the story unfolded. I was amused, angry, heartbroken, and ecstatically happy all within a span of several hundred pages. I teared up from both sadness and happiness multiple times while reading this book. Although, I won’t admit to crying…much.

The characters in this book were adorable and well-written. There was a great deal of depth to all of them, including the children, and getting to see their distinct personalities and backstories was a treat. Following Linus’s journey was particularly enjoyable. He started out as a stick in the mud who kept himself closed off from everyone, and the plot of the story helped him to expand his world and slowly let the children into his heart. It was a joy to read from start to finish.

This book conveyed several heartwarming messages through the plot of its story. It illustrated the healing that can come from acceptance while highlighting the damage caused by experiences of discrimination. The story of Linus also showed how stepping outside of your box and taking a risk can pay off and help you find exactly what you didn’t know you needed. His growth reminded me that the main thing usually standing in the way of my happiness and success is myself because of the limits I place due to what I think others expect of me. Finally, this story beautifully illustrated how powerful and important a ‘found family’ can be.

The romance in this book was well done. It developed subtly over the course of the book and does not take over the story. It was a believable build-up, which I appreciated.

What I Didn’t Like

Nothing. I enjoyed everything about the book. My only complaint was that there isn’t more of it. I will say, however, that the plot was predictable, but in a way that was cozy and enjoyable.

Final Thoughts

This a great book with a heartwarming story. The characters are fantastic and provide the vehicles for excellent story telling and important life lessons. I cannot recommend this book enough. Therefore, I rate it 5 out of 5 stars.

Why I Read: Part 2

The second thing that comes to mind when I reflect on my motivations and reasons for reading is my family. Both of my parents highlighted the importance of an education and being literate from a very young age. They constantly encouraged my love for books and helped me maintain access to new things to read. My mother often read to me as a child and frequently read for pleasure herself. So, she provided some modeling for this behavior ever since I was very young (My dad read too but only when he was on the toilet. lol).

In addition to my parents modeling reading behavior, I also had another very special person in my life who loved to read: my grandmother. She always had a book going and spent a great deal of time reading when I was younger. We obviously did not read the same things (I think she primarily read romance novels), but I enjoyed just spending time and reading with her. She read so much that her house was one of the bookmobile stops. I loved visiting on bookmobile day every couple weeks and getting to check out some new books from the library. It is safe to say that it is primarily because of her, and these bookmobile visits, that I built a routine schedule of reading into my life.

Without her love for reading, I probably would not be such an avid reader today. I continue to read because it is one of the things that reminds me of her and keeps her presence alive in my life. She would have been 99 years old today, and I am so grateful that the world was graced with her presence. I could not have asked for a more loving and kind person as my grandparent, and I attempt to emulate her love for life, family, and reading in my own life everyday. I miss her more than words could ever express, especially today, but knowing that I carry on her love for books and the written word helps me feel close to her.

My Maw Maw, Adele C. Ogea (April 12, 1922 – September 12, 2009)

Book Review – Doctor Who: Time Lord Victorious: All Flesh Is Grass

Summary

This story picks up where The Knight, The Fool, & The Dead left off, with the 10th Doctor facing off with the Kotturuh to defeat death once and for all. Unexpectedly, two earlier versions of himself, the 8th and 9th Doctors, have teamed up with the Daleks and the vampires to stop him. Major battles ensue, and the Doctors’ alliances become tenuous and fraught with peril. The 10th Doctor struggles to accept that no one should have the power over life and death, including himself, while attempting to prevent his supposed allies from wreaking havoc throughout the Dark Times.

What I Liked

This is a fun adventure with multiple doctors. I enjoyed getting to read them playing off each other, especially the 8th doctor interacting with his two later versions. The story was action-packed with several battles and a lot going on to tie the disparate story threads of Time Lord Victorious together. So, it was never boring. Brian the Ood and Mr. Ball were once again a comical treat, and I hope they show up in more media outside of Time Lord Victorious. I also found the idea of the Doctors fighting each other to be an interesting premise, and seeing the 10th Doctor truly adopt the mantle of Time Lord Victorious as he tries to control time and defeat death was magnificent to read.

What I Didn’t Like

The pacing of this story was strange. It seemed to jump from battle to battle with little breathing room or explanation of what was going on. I figured it all out before the end, but a little more down time in the story would have probably helped keep the story from feeling too jumpy. I also wish more time was devoted to the 10th Doctor when he was the Time Lord Victorious. It is such an interesting idea, and he did not take on that mantle for very long in the book. I would have loved to see him struggle with it a bit more.

I was also disappointed that the Kotturuh were defeated so quickly. I really liked their introduction in the last book and wish they had been a bit more formidable since they were literally death-bringers. Instead, this book was yet another Dalek story. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Daleks. However, I also wanted something fresh from the overall story of this book and multimedia project, and I didn’t get that from this at all. It felt like I was reading about Time War Part 2 by the end of the book.

Final Thoughts

All Flesh Is Grass was a fitting crescendo to the Time Lord Victorious project. It is a short, fast-paced read and a fun multi-doctor story. Just like many of the other Time Lord Victorious works, this book is fun, yet somewhat frustrating, because it does not live up to its full potential. However, despite the weird pacing and rehash of previous story beats and monsters, the interaction between the Doctors and getting to see even a glimpse of the 10th Doctor take on the Time Lord Victorious mantle is worth giving it a read. Therefore, I rate it 3 out of 5 stars.

ARC Review: A Song of Steel

***Thank you to NetGalley and the author for providing a copy of the book for my fair and honest review!***

Goodreads Synopsis

Alternate history – 1116 AD. Three hundred years of cruel Viking raids have finally united Christian Europe against the pagan Northlands. A great crusade has been called to pacify the wild Norse kingdoms. The banner of the cross has been raised against the north, and all the power and fury of the west rides under it.


Ordulf, a talented young German swordsmith, is ripped from his comfortable life and cast into the bloody chaos of the crusade. As fate deals him a cruel blow in the lands of his enemies, he will have to forge a new path through the chaos, or be consumed by it.


In the Northlands, three rival kingdoms must unite to survive the onslaught. But can any man, king or commoner, unite the bickering brotherhood of the Norse? Or is the time of the Vikings finally drawing to a violent end. Heroes will fail, kings will fall, and ordinary people will fight for the right to a future.

What I Liked

I loved this book. It pulled me in from the very start with the mystery surrounding the sword and kept me hooked throughout the story with the great characterization and beautifully written battle sequences. This author definitely has a way with words that constantly left me wanting to read just one more page.

The characters in this book were fantastic. They felt like real people, and it was easy to understand their motivations and emotions because the author did a great job of making me feel like I know these people. The two main protagonists, Ordulf and Ragnvald, were particularly well-crafted. I enjoyed jumping between the two because it gave the perspectives of both sides of the war and provided a window into the unique strengths and weaknesses of each culture. Their stories also complemented each other well, with one character being older and more experienced and the other young and naive. However, I appreciated that they were both on similar journeys that required shedding off some of the ways of their pasts to embrace a new future and ensure their survival.

The prose throughout the story was exquisitely detailed and beautifully written. The battle sequences were especially well-done. They made me feel like I was going into battle with the characters and had just the perfect amount of gore to be realistic without overdoing it. I was also pleasantly surprised with how well the writing pulled me into parts of the story I would have otherwise found boring. A great deal of time in this novel was spent on describing the forging of weapons. This is something I’ve never been very interested in before, but this author’s prose was spell-binding enough to keep me hooked throughout those parts of the book. I feel as though I came away from the story with a better understanding of metallurgy and had fun learning about it, which is something I never expected going into this book.

I also greatly enjoyed the information about Norse culture displayed throughout this book. I didn’t know much about it prior to reading the story, and I am now interested to learn more. The author weaved the information skillfully throughout the narrative, and I never felt like I was being taught anything about history. However, I learned a lot from this book, and it has whetted my appetite to learn more!

Things I Didn’t Like

Nothing. I loved everything about this book, and I cannot wait for the next one to be released.

Final Thoughts

If you enjoy historical fiction or fantasy books, this might just be the book for you. The writing is wonderful, and the characters are realistic and fun to read. The battle sequences are outstanding, and I loved learning about Norse culture and metallurgy because the information is presented in engaging bits throughout the story. Therefore, I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Why I Read: Part 1

Now that I’ve been at this for a month, I’ve decided to take some time to reflect. In my last post, I briefly discussed my motivation for starting and continuing the blog. However, I now want to broaden my perspective and reflect on why, in general, I love to read. Many reasons come to mind, but I have narrowed them down to four. I’ll tackle the first today, and then I plan to write about each of the remaining three motivations weekly until the end of April.

Why do I read? When I asked myself this question, the first answer that came to mind was the simplest and, probably, most boring. I read to learn. I’ve been in school for most of my life. (In case you’re interested, I have earned two bachelor’s degrees and two master’s degrees, and I attempted two doctorate degrees). So, reading has been an essential skill that I’ve honed over the years. It has allowed me to gain a great deal of knowledge about many different subjects (a small fraction of which has actually been retained in long-term memory 😉). I read to gain knowledge to use in my career as a therapist, as well, which allows me to learn things that are useful to pass on to my clients. In addition to what is needed for school or work, I read a variety of nonfiction books just for the joy of gaining information. I particularly enjoy reading about Greek, Roman, and European history. Overall, I just take pleasure in the act of gaining information because I think it enriches my mind and makes me a better, well-rounded individual.

How does this relate to my love for science fiction, fantasy, and the other fiction genres I often review? At first glance, it may seem like it doesn’t. However, I think reading fiction of any sort helps me learn about people. The characters in fictional works often reflect aspects of the author’s personality or the characteristics of people they know. Reading different characters from diverse authors has helped me improve my perspective-taking abilities and build deeper empathy. Additionally, there is a reason that tropes are tropes. They re-occur often in literature because many people experience similar situations in their lives and can relate to them. So, reading about them from different viewpoints helps me to better understand how people may deal with certain situations or themes in their own lives.

Overall, I just enjoy learning new information. Reading has been an excellent avenue for gobbling up as much information as possible and learning more about human nature. Do you read to learn new things? What motivates you to read? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

One Month Blogiversary

I can’t believe it, but it has already been one month since I started this blog! I started blogging because I was interested in recording my reading journey and my thoughts on books. I just wanted to have a place to process my thoughts and feelings about the things I read. I did not set out thinking anyone would actually read or care about what I think.

I am grateful to each person who took the time to look at one of my posts. I still can’t believe my stuff was viewed over 100 times last month. I’ve also gained 20+ followers on WordPress and over 220 followers on Twitter. Other than all the great books I’ve read, my favorite part of this experience so far has been interacting with people. This really is a great community of creative people, and I’ve loved getting to know some of you and your work.

Things are growing, and I’m continuing to learn more and more about how to be a better blogger. My focus is still on picking, reading, and documenting really great books, but I also plan to devote more time to growing my reader base and writing some work of my own, including bookish blog posts, poems, and short stories. This month I’ll be writing a series of blog posts exploring my motivations for reading. The first post will be out tomorrow. So, don’t miss it. Here’s to many more books and many more months!

Thanks for reading!