Saturday, May 28, 2016

Legacy of the Dragonwand, Book 1 by Daniel Peyton

At sixteen, Markus wants to study magic and become a wizard. His parents want him to stay and someday take over the family farm. It's time for him to choose, and choose he does. Slipping out in the middle of the night, Markus strikes out on his own in pursuit of rumors of an wizard in the hope that he will find in him a teacher and mentor. Markus succeeds in finding the wizard, but the old man only lives long enough to pass on his wand and a quest that, if he is successful, will save his world from a growing evil. 

Markus' world is filled with different beings resembling one or another type of non-human life capable of speaking, Lizardkind, Rakki (having tails and fur much like wolves or dogs), and dragons. On his way to find the Dragon Citadel, he comes across a couple of Rakki losing a battle with an imp. Using a spell from his dreams, he manages to save the female, and is invited back to their village to rest and resupply as thanks. While there, Markus learns he has become is country's most wanted by the Guard.

I found this to be a clean, easy read. The story has all the elements a young (or old) reader could want for a fantasy novel. There's the requisite girl his age for Markus to become interested in, the obligatory over-protective father, understanding mother, a quest, forbidden magic, an evil wizard and greedy king.

With a couple of exceptions where I found passages the read like a word was missing, the story is well written and fairly well edited. The biggest exception to this is the difference in the title on the cover of the book versus what is on the inside of the book. An easy enough fix for eBooks, not so for the print copies. This should have been caught before going to press.

Due to the issues mentioned above, I can only give this book three stars. I was gifted this book in exchange for an honest review.

You can pick up your copy at Amazon (US, CA, AU, UK) and Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Andromeda's Reign; Moonrising Book 2 by K.S. Haigwood

In this addition to the Moonrising saga, Mena, now calling herself Andromeda, is in the southwest with her bondmate to learn how to be an Alpha. Committed to thirty days away from Phoenix, she's full of anger and attitude. Not to mention fighting her growing feelings and desire for Ace, the Alpha lion of Las Vegas. All while still wanting to be back with Phoenix.

And of course nothing can be straightforward in any book with Haigwood's name on the cover. Members of his pride are everything from confused to downright hostile about her presence among them. On one page, she's paired with a woman who is definitely out to stir up trouble and does so quite effectively. Next thing I know, the two women have jointly conspired to pull off a sneak attack on Ace that leaves him somewhat, um, over exposed.

Some of my favorite characters from her Eternal Island series make an appearance and have an important role of their own to play. Ace, being the font of brilliant ideas, makes a deal and ends up with a major handicap. (What? Did you really think I'd give that one away? Not on your life.)

Throughout the hilarity, there is a serious side to the story. As in any good story where love is a thread, there is jealousy. And jealousy rears its ugly head at the worst possible time. When Haigwood told us we'd never guess who got the girl, she wasn't joking.

When I got to the end of the book, I found myself in the unusual position of being furiously angry at one of the characters. I don't think I've ever felt that way about any character in any book I've ever read. I told her at the first opportunity that I wanted to drag "so and so" from the book and kill him, bring him back to life and kill him again. She laughed. Hmph. The book has been live and available now for five days. I still want to commit "character-cide." (I may have just coined a new word.)

I've been reading Haigwood's stories for a couple of years now and have yet to get my hands on one that is merely "okay." Seriously now, I want to know how she manages to make each book better than the last one. Because that's what has happened. This book doesn't stop moving from the first page to the last. It's a fast-paced, wild ride. Highly emotive writing, fantastic character development (including one I want to kill), and perfectly edited. What more could a reader ask for? Do yourself a favor and get this book. Heck, get both of them. And the prequel. I guarantee it will be money well-spent.

For all the previously mentioned reasons, I'm giving this one 5 stars. I received an ARC of this book to beta read and review.

You can find this book at Amazon (US, CA, AU, UK) and Barnes & Noble.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Phoenix Rising: A novel of Anne Boleyn by Hunter S. Jones

I've read my fair share of stories about King Henry VIII and thought I had a fairly well developed opinion of the man. As a king I considered him to be a bully that people had to step carefully around. As a man, well, I suppose it's safe to say Henry VIII was a (royal) man of his time.

Hunter Jones presents a different facet to the story of King Henry and Anne Boleyn - one of two people deeply in love that were caught in the machinations of others. The story of the last hour of Anne's life is one that bounces around a bit in time as the characters revisit treasured memories. We are shown precious memories of love when it's new, hope for a different outcome than what history tells us happened, the respect of the populace for a condemned queen, and the grace of a queen as she asks for the crowd to "pray for a good and gracious king."

As the story developed, I found my opinion of King Henry starting to change. Before reading this book, I saw him as just another man in history who used and abused his power to get what he wanted regardless the cost to others. By the end of the book, I felt sorry for both Henry and Anne.

I find it a curious fact of history that mysticism was considered something apart from witchcraft and used fairly frequently by royalty and others. This is included in the book as Henry seeks guidance on an important decision pivotal to Anne's fate. The seer whom Henry consults shows up a few times letting us eavesdrop on certain people and events, a brilliant touch from the author.

Jones provides a bibliography at the end of the book which I appreciated. Her research shows in her writing. She was able to take what she learned and put a fresh and emotionally wrenching spin on an historical event - one that I think most people don't think twice about questioning what we were taught in school. We are shown Henry's thoughts about the decision he felt compelled to make regarding Anne's judgement and sentence. We are there with him as he suffers losing the love of his life. And we are there when the conspirators discuss how well their plans are playing out.

I love history and have a particular fascination with the histories of England, Scotland and Ireland. Time travel not being an option at this point in time, I have to make do with books. Jones did a superb job of presenting an alternate look at the events leading up to the execution of Anne Boleyn. She has made me feel compassion for a person I'd previously looked on with something bordering on disgust. She has reminded me that there are two sides to every story and it is the victor that writes the history.

I'm very glad I had an opportunity to read this book. Jones has a clean style of writing that was a joy to read. The editing was very well done. I found no errors to distract me from her work. History can be a touchy thing to not only write, but write well enough to keep the reader engaged. Hunter has done that.

For the quality of her writing, editing, research, and causing me to reconsider my opinion of King Henry VIII, I am giving this book 5 stars. I was gifted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book is available at Amazon (US, CA, UK, AU), Barnes & Noble.