I received a copy of this book from the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review.
When sitting down to begin this review I found myself reminded of the time my husband was participating in a writer’s forum and a new member had posted a short story for critique. Sadly, the story wasn’t very good but my husband wanted to offer some kind of encouragement, so he told the writer that one of the story’s strengths was that it had a beginning, middle, and end. Copper Witch probably isn’t quite that bad – I know several reviewers have given it high marks – but for me, I found myself reading it in more of that “slowing down to look at a car wreck” kind of way then anything.
The book started off terribly slow, I was fully a quarter into the book before it felt like the plot was actually going somewhere, and much of the writing just felt lazy. There is no world-building to speak of, minimal scene setting, and – aside from Adela’s social climbing – little in the way character development. There really isn’t even any kind of a villain to speak of. Worse, the erstwhile heroine of the story is difficult to like, and once the plot gets underway, it moves so quickly that characters simply drop out of the story and there are almost no consequences for the questionable actions that characters take.
When the story begins we meet 15-year-old Adela Tilton, the future baroness of Penrith, and Antony Fletcher, a local painter who has been hired by her grandmother to paint her portrait. After spending most of the day flirting relentlessly with Antony – pushing all of his buttons, to say nothing of the boundaries of propriety – she decides she would like to learn to paint, and by the next day Antony finds himself installed in the household as her new art tutor. Adela seems to spend more time trying to seduce Antony then she does trying to learn to paint, something her lady’s maid, Lettice, disapproves of highly and keeps trying to thwart – with little success.
Soon, Adela’s grandmother falls ill and Adela in his shipped off to stay with aunt in another town. Coincidentally, her aunt has also invited a Duke and his family – including his son, an Earl in his own right – to stay at the family home for a bit, in the hopes of making a match between her eldest daughter and the Earl. In what is just the first of several iterations of a pattern, the Earl, upon seeing the Adela, becomes instantly enamoured of her and within days is making arrangements so that they can be together. They quickly become engaged, and thus begins Adela’s whirlwind climb to the top of society.
At no time are we ever given a clear explanation for Adela’s constant success in achieving her ambitions, though there are hints that it maybe due to a copper bracelet she wears. She says it was given to her by a fortuneteller who supposedly told her that as long as she wore the bracelet she would get whatever she wants. If that is the case, however, it seems maybe the magic didn’t work as well as it should. Adela certainly does seem to get a great deal of what she wants, but by no means does she get everything she wants and – at times – she gets things that she very much doesn’t want.
The story is filled with a number of twists and turns, but because there’s no villain or force trying to prevent Adela’s success, it never feels like Adela is ever really in any danger. Even the one time she is faced with losing what she’s achieved, there stand yet another enamoured man ready to hand it all right back to her.
“The Copper Witch” is the first book in a trilogy (plus a novella) but even though all we see here is roughly two years from Adela’s life, from what I understand, the other two full novels deal with Adela’s descendants, rather than continuing her own story, though some of that is covered in the novella. This isn’t a series, though, that I plan to follow up on.
I received a copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Have you ever finished reading a book and then had a hard time figuring out which of the books you’ve been so eager to get to you’re going to read next because what you REALLY want to do is spend more time with the characters from that book in which you’ve just turned the last page? Well, that’s the dilemma “Incite” currently has me in.
I’ve sung the praises of the first two installments in Erica Crouch’s “Ignite” series (“Entice” and “Ignite” – and I strongly recommend reading them in that order as “Entice” really sets the stage for the series!) and “Incite” lives up to its predecessors.
In “Ignite” twin demons Azael and Penemuel (but call her Pen) find themselves on opposite sides for the first time, and in this latest installment, we see how the loss is affecting each of them differently. Azael has been promoted to King of Hell, but is finding it difficult to take joy in achieving a level of power he’d only dreamed of. Even the companionship of the wicked Lilith is lessened by his confused feelings over Pen’s departure. But while he swings from being confident all he needs to do is talk to her and she’ll come back to him and raging at her betrayal, Pen is far more saddened than anything.
Michael does what he can to help her, but there are other urgent matters that need attention – such as the fact that both Heaven and Hell have put bounties on their heads, Michael’s heart seems to be weakening, and there’s a feisty little angel who keeps showing up trying to convince the pair that they’ve really started something. She tells them that other angels and demons who have come to believe there had to be something other than the stark black and white of Heaven and Hell have formed a community dubbed New Genesis, and she wants them to join up.
We meet several new characters in this book, and they all fit nicely into the story. Pen and Michael have their new friends, and Azael has a band of assassins and other useful sorts helping him track down his wayward sister and her beau. And even though Azael and his companions definitely represent the evilest of evil, they are not so far out there that they serve only to repulse. Azael is far from being an unsympathetic character, and that helps keep the tension high and the ultimate resolution unclear.
As with the previous books, there’s some intriguing philosophical discussions that elevate the story, which I happen to love, but there’s enough action and romance to satisfy those interests as well.
The next book will be a novella focusing on Ana and Kala, two of the new characters introduced in “Incite.” It will go into more about their history before we meet them. That will be followed by “Infinite,” the (sob!!) final book in the series. They can’t get here soon enough for me!
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The book started a bit slow, and I kind of had a hard time warming up to Madeline, Brandon and Thomas, but I was reading this as a review copy so I wanted to be sure I gave them a fair chance to grow on me. It took me a few days to read the first several chapters of the book, but once everyone got settled in an the story really got going, I read the rest in just a few hours – it hooked me that well.
The three characters have known each other for years: Brandon is Thomas’s younger brother and Madeline’s best friend, while Thomas is her erstwhile boyfriend with a tendency to wander. Madeline suffers from epilepsy and has a history of absence seizures, where she will become non a responsive and stare off into space. Kids at school, of course, treat her differently as a result, something that only gets worse when she begins to have seizures where she shakes violently and collapses unconscious.
When we first meet her, Madeline wakes up in an empty, derelict hospital with no electricity and no clue to what she’s doing there or why it’s in the condition it is. She leaves her room to try to figure out what’s going on when she runs into Thomas who explains that she’s been in a coma and has been since the day her parents were killed. Before she can get too many more answers, though, she experiences her first major seizure and wakes up in her expected classroom, assuming what she’d just seen was a seizure-triggered dream. When it happens again after another major seizure, she starts to become more confused.
In both worlds, Brandon and Thomas are the main forces in her life, and while she’s trying to cope with the confusion of her dual realities, the brothers – though trying to be supportive – cause a whole different level of confusion as they try to define, or maybe redefine, their relationships with her and, to an extent, with each other.
I really liked the mix of apocalyptic-level drama contrasted with the typical teenaged angst boys and girls put each other through. It helped make the more dangerous aspects of the dystopian world stand out from the more mundane issues she had to cope with in the peaceful world. It was also interesting to see how her interactions with the two versions of the brothers impacted how she dealt with them amid the changes they were sometimes unintentionally throwing her way. I also liked seeing how information she’d gain in one reality could be useful in the other.
The book ends on a heck of a cliffhanger, so I’m hoping the next installment will be ready fairly soon! I really am glad I stuck with it – “Altar of Reality” is a nicely told story with several dimensions to it, and a believable heroine just trying to figure out a very strange situation.
I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
I was really eager to read “Crimson Bound” after having read Rosamund Hodge’s “Cruel Beauty” and “Guided Ashes.” There were a number of things in those books that made them really stand out: characters you didn’t expect to empathize with but did (and vice versa), challenges brought on by the unanticipated consequences of deals made with an clever spirit, a tightness to the stories that kept the action moving and a certain kind of intimacy afforded by the use of fairly small casts. And while much of that was present in “Crimson Bound,” it didn’t seem to fare as well this time.
One thing I was surprised to find is that this book does not take place in the “Cruel Beauty” universe in spite of the similarity in the titles and the book cover designs. Instead, “Crimson Bound” takes place in an alternate version of middle-ages France. In this world there exists a Great Forest which seems to exist in a slightly different dimension. It was a concept that in someways I found a bit difficult to grasp because the rules by which it worked seemed unclear. Apparently, if you go far enough into the woods, you may find yourself in this magical Forest, and creatures from the Forest can cross into the real world and interact with humans at any time. There are also areas of the Forest that reach into the areas humans inhabit, but only those who have been Bloodbound or Forestborn can actually see it there. The Bloodbound are people who were marked by one of the Forestborn, after which the must kill someone within 3 days or die. If they do kill someone and become Bloodbound, they will have increased strength, speed, stamina and healing, and will find themselves being pulled to give themselves over completely to the Great Forest. One they do that, they become Forestborn themselves, in essence losing their humanity and becoming wild humanesque creatures.
When we meet Rachelle, our heroine, she is training with her aunt to be her village’s next woodwife – a wise-woman who can make medicines and is able to work charms that help protect the people of the village from the dangers of the Great Forest. When we jump ahead a few years, we find Rachelle has become one of the Bloodbound and has entered the King’s service which protects her from being killed by fearful townsfolk. She seems to have an on-again/off-again thing going with Eric, her superior officer, and is assigned to be the bodyguard to the King’s bastard soon, Armand, who was marked by a Forestborn, but neither killed anyone nor died. As a result, he is viewed by many villagers as something of a saint or miracle-worker. Rachelle has also learned that the Devourer – an evil creature most consider to be a myth – will be returning soon to swallow the sun and moon, plunging the world into darkness, unless someone can find one of the only two swords in the world that can kill it. Of coerce, Rachelle is determined to be that someone.
This is a much more complex story than Hodge’s previous books, and sometimes it almost feels like there’s too much going on. The biggest problem I had, though, was with Rachelle. She is deeply burdened by guilt and lets that guilt determine how she thinks others see her, often leading her to see genuine fondness from someone as mockery and dismissing kind words and actions because she feels unworthy. Unfortunately, this causes her to sometimes trust the wrong people – or worse, mistrust those she should rely on. Her tendency to wallow in her self-disgust also keeps her from noticing things about people around her that – once revealed – are things you’d expect her to have at least suspected, if not intuited, much sooner. And even though she’s a strong, determined young woman who can more than hold her own in a fight, she frequently seems unable to make up her mind or stick to a decision once she’s made it. This leads to a number of scenes feeling repetitive. Had Hodge made her less wishy-washy, much of the apparent repetition could have been avoided and the story would have been much tighter.
In spite of the complaints, however, the book’s not all that bad. While reading the book, it was only the repetitive nature of some of the scenes that I found irritating. The rest of the issues really only surfaced when I was reflecting on it after having finished it. And she did add some interesting touches that I really liked – in particular how she wove the Norse legends of Tyr and Zisa and the Fenris wolf with the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tail. The Fenris wolf in Nordic lore is a very big, very bad wolf, indeed, and having him symbolically represented here by the Devourer is a nifty way to tie the two stories together. We learn about Tyr and Zisa as there story is sprinkled between events in Rachelle’s life, and it all dovetails very nicely into a good conclusion.
I wish I could be more enthusiastic about the book. What it does well it does quite well, and I had no trouble finishing it. In many ways, though, it feels a bit like how someone’s first book might – bursting with ideas that might have worked more smoothly with a bit more restraint. Still, it’s worth reading, and I’m looking forward to what Ms Hodge comes up with next.
I received a copy of this book free in exchange for an honest review
I read the prequel novella – Entice – for this series a couple weeks ago and was blown away – not just by author Erica Crouch’s ability to write stunningly beautiful prose, but also by her ability to weave a new telling of the story of the Fall of Man – including some serious theological concepts – into a paranormal romance that never felt overly heavy or preachy. And even though Entice is technically the second book in the series, it does a great job of setting up the world for the Ignite series, introducing us to the main characters, establishing how this version of the world works, helping us to understand the bond Pen and Azael share – and why she would follow him into Hell, even when she wasn’t sure if that’s where she truly belonged. I wanted to bring this up to encourage you to read Entice before reading Ignite. Even though it was published second, I found that what I had learned from Entice really enhanced the story in Ignite because of how well it set the stage for this truly extraordinary story.
As Ignite opens, we find the Pen and her twin brother, Azael – both demons – finishing up an assignment to collect a soul for Lucifer, when they are shocked to run into a young – and apparently quite new – angel claiming to be the archangel Michael, whose death they had witnessed centuries before during the war between Heaven and Hell.
This new Michael has the silver-feathered wings of an archangel and he carries the archangel sword that belonged to the original Michael – the only archangel sword known to exist. But, as Pen discovers while talking with him, he has no memory whatsoever of his previous life or of the time his soul was held captive and tortured for centuries by his brother, Lucifer. Instead of the arrogant, self-assured Michael of old, who was completely loyal to Heaven and never questioned anything, this new Michael is surprisingly innocent – and even more surprising, he’s asking questions – a lot of questions.
Soon Pen finds herself tasked with either convincing Michael to join the forces of Hell or kill him, while Azael is sent on a mission of his own, and this is where the book
really began to shine. As Pen and Michael interact, the affect each has on the other is profound. We begin to see the vulnerability Pen tries to keep hidden and the strength that this new Michael initially appears to lack.
What I love most about “Ignite”is that it’s an escapist, romantic fantasy that still has the ability to make you think. Pen and Michael are both searching for where they each truly belong. They’ve always been taught that everything is either black or white but are now doubting if that is really how it works.
Their conversations about what – if anything – might lie between those extremes is beautifully handled. Author Crouch provides a lot of good thoughts through Pen and Michael’s dialog while providing room for readers to form their own opinions.
There are many other aspects of the book that I also loved. With one exception, Crouch does a wonderful job of avoiding most of the more annoying cliches of romance books – and even in that case, she doesn’t drag it out overly long. I understand why she did it as it sets our characters up to be where they needed to be for the book’s climax, but I think she could have probably found a more creative way to get to the same place. Her prose continues to be gorgeous. The way she describes locations let me not just see the place in my mind, but to feel the atmosphere, hear the background sounds and sometimes even catch its scent for a moment.
She takes just as much care with her characters. The romance is sweet and the changes Pen and Michael go through as a result of their friendship are well-paced and believable. Likewise, while Azael plays a much more limited role in this book than he does in Entice, the growth he undergoes while working separate from Pen is handled well and helps emphasize just how close the siblings have been.
The book ends on a cliffhanger, which some may find annoying, but in this case, the story has earned the right to leave us hanging for a bit, and I am truly eager to see what’s next for Pen, Azael and Michael.
I received this free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I had just recently finished reading Kady Cross’s “The Strange Case of Finley Jayne when I noticed her new book, “Sisters of Blood and Spirit” was available as an ARC, so I quickly requested it and was quite happy when I was approved for a copy. I’m even happier now that I’ve read the book.
I love the premise: Lark and Wren Noble are twins, and like many twins, they have aa special bond. There’s is a bit unusual, though, because Wren was stillborn, but her ghost has remained connected to – and grown up with – her sister. While Lark loves her sister and loves having her around, it has made life difficult for her in many ways. Because almost no-one else can sense Wren’s presence, when Lark says something to her, looks at her or reacts to something Wren has said, most people think she’s nuts. As a result, Lark has been bullied and ostracized most of her life. Even her parents don’t want to have anything to do with her, so she lives with her grandmother – one of the few who can sense Wren – instead.
Lark soon learns that some of her classmates had trespassed at an old, shut-down asylum with a reputation for being haunted. The reputation is well-deserved, and the teens have attracted the attention of a particularly malevolent ghost. They ask her and Wren for their help in getting free of him and the sisters agree to do what they can, which leads us to the main action in the story.
There are a lot of things I really liked about the book. Ms. Cross is smart by not trying to explain how it is that Lark and Wren have the connection that they do – or why Wren ages wham most ghosts don’t. It feels realistic that the girls would just accept the situation – they’ve been that way since birth – and avoids cluttering up the story with needless metaphysics.
It also feels realistic that – given Lark’s history, she’s skeptical when the other kids tell her they want to be her friends, and it adds a bit of poignancy to their attempts. Another nice touch is that Wren has some familiarity with pop culture, but also has some gaps, especially when it comes to various figures of speech. It makes sense because even though she spends a lot of time with Lark, she does reside in the Shadow Realm and isn’t totally immersed in the culture of the living.
It’s interesting to see how Lark changes as she begins to gain aa bit more confidence – helped along, in part, by some light romance – and how that affects Wren
Unlike “Finley Jayne’ this novel is set in contemporary times, and has no steampunk elements to it. It’s an excellent story, and if Ms. Cross ever feels like checking back in on the sisters, I’ll be happy to tag along.
Sharon Bayliss’ novel “Destruction” is the first book in her new series “The December People.” The series name refers to the Vandergraff family, who are all dark wizards, and the book features one of the more interesting systems of magic I’ve come across.
In Bayliss’ world, magical people don’t choose the shade of their magic, and it doesn’t reflect the moral quality of the mage – though if dark magic is overused, it can allow the darkness in a person to take over. A wizard’s magical color is determined by what “date” on the solar calender their magic represents. There’s no explanation for how that date is determined – it’s not the same as their birthdate – but how it’s determined doesn’t really matter. Magic that represents days in the summer is “light” magic, winter magic is “dark” with spring and fall representing various shades of “neutral.”
The story opens when David Vandergraff gets a call telling him his children – who he’s been searching for for years – have been found. While he’s thrilled to have finally found them, it’s a bit of a mixed blessing. His wife knows nothing about these kids (nor do the there children he’s had with her) and their ages are such that they were obviously born after their marriage. But he goes to pick up the son and daughter he hadn’t seen in years, knowing he’ll have to face the repercussions eventually. What those repercussions involve, however, is something totally unexpected. Because of their return into his life, he finds out that not only they are dark wizards, but his entire family is. The reason he hadn’t known it was because his wife had removed all of his memories having to do with wizardry.
There are several things I really loved about this book. First and foremost, it’s not a book about one unprepared, reluctant hero facing an impossible battle of good and evil. While David may be the main character, the story is very much about the family as a whole and how they deal with all of the changes they’re facing. How do his wife and their children deal with not only having two more kids move in to the house, but also the betrayal those children represent? How does he handle the news that not only is he a wizard, but that his wife had messed with his memories about it? What happens when one of the children seems to be letting his dark side get the better of him? And while he’s trying to deal with all of this, his business falls into serious financial trouble.
Given all of those issues, Bayliss makes the smart decision to not have the family trying to fight against some huge outside force. There’s a brief episode near the end where they have to deal with an outside threat, but otherwise all of the drama is focused on what the family is going through, which gives the story a strong emotional impact.
By the time I finished “Destruction” I really wanted tho see more of the Vandergraff family and find out what happens when they are faced with an unexpected threat. Fortunately, the sequel to “Destruction,” “Watch Me Burn,” it’s available, and while I didn’t found it to be quite as strong, it’s still an excellent book.
After finishing “Destruction,” the first book in Sharon Bayliss’s “The December People” series, I was fortunate enough to get a copy of the follow-up as an Advanced Review Copy (in exchange for an honest review.) I enjoyed the book quite a bit and recommend it, but I have to say it wasn’t quite as good as “Destruction.”
I think much of that was due to the way the first book focused primarily on introducing us to the Vandergraff family and the world they live in. By having the narrower focus of setting the stage for future stories and letting us see how the family interacts with each other and reacts to the changes they face just made for a tighter narrative.
In “Watch Me Burn,” the family have adapted to their new circumstances and are going about living their lives when David hears that a local girl has gone missing. In fact, the news of her disappearance seems to be following him around, as he keeps running into reminders of it. Knowing that when someone casts a spell they can’t always predict how the spell will bring about the desired results, and that sometimes a spell will “decide” that a certain person needs to be part of the process, David comes to believe that the missing girl must also be from a wizard family, and the spell her parents cast has decided it needs his help.
It turns out that his daughter Emily has met the girl previously, and when she discovers the girl’s bracelet in the family car, she decides she needs to help investigate as well. Things quickly get complicated when it seems one of the Vandergraff boys may know more than he’s letting on, another girl disappears, and Emily finds herself falling for a boy who just might be trouble.
There are a few other complications as well, and this is where my only real complaint with the book comes in – there’s just almost TOO much plot for a book of its length. There’s a side story about Amanda Vandergraff trying to help her son Jude get back on the right track, and one about the lengths a wizard will go to in trying to thwart a prophecy. That second side story, had it been fully fleshed out, could have made for a very interesting – and tension-filled – central story in a book of its own. Instead, it almost gets lost mixed in with the other story threads.
Don’t get me wrong, though – “Watch Me Burn” is a very good book and certainly makes me hope for another visit with the Vandergraffs. Bayliss does some very smart and unexpected things in the book that kept me turning the pages even when my brain was telling me it was time for food or sleep. This is a series worth checking out!
Intriguing start to a new series
I have to admit, the reason I initially picked up this book is simply because my husband’s nickname is Nyghtfall, and it made me curious about the book, so I had no real expectations for the story. I ended up liking it quite a bit. I usually have 3 or 4 books I’m working my way through at any given time, but this one was interesting, fast-paced and good enough that I read it almost straight through.
The story is set in an alternate, dystopian reality where society is primarily controlled by the Knights of the Four Orders: Templars, Teutonics, Hospitaliers and Inquisitors. In the not-too-distant past, humanity had fought a war against the Nephelim – a race of half a human / half-angelic beings that essentially function like vampires with wings – which ended with the destruction of the Nephelim. Also in the mix are humans with “parapowers” known as Zeniths. Because their powers are feared, Zeniths are socially ostracized and politically oppressed. Against this backdrop we meet Scarlett Night, her uber-cool parents and her best friend Jax. When her parents are attacked, however, Scarlett learns that not everything is at it seems, and finds that she and Jax are no longer safe. With that our story its off and running.
Though the initial setup follows a well-worn path, once the action befins, the story really starts to come into its own. The world-building is nicely done – and done without any excessive infodumps. Meeting with the heads of the Four Orders gives an idea of what each Order is like, and the general atmosphere is communicated by how people act and what our heroes observe. The history of the war its likewise presented more through dialogue without just tossing a big history lesson into the middle of the action.
I really only had a couple of issues with the book, none of which are major, but they did have an impact on my enjoyment.. I’m not a big fan of vampire stories – in part because there are just so many of them coming out these days. When I realized the Nephelim are, for all intents and purposes, vampires, I felt a bit “tricked” by the authors. I suppose in some ways its not a bad approach, since I might have skipped the book if is known that’s what they were, but it still irked me a bit. I will say, though, that the Nephelim seen to be without some off the typical vampire tropes that have led to my disliking them: They aren’t automatically evil, nor are the overly sexual. Personality-wise, so far, at least, they seem mostly like normal humans, which is rather nice.
There are several references to a Nephelim named Nyx. Most references to Nyx use a male pronoun, but at least once the female pronoun is used. Nyx is also referred to as both a god of the Nephelim and the name is also described as being “used” by their leader, so perhaps the god is one gender (traditionally, Nyx is the Greek goddess of night) and the leader is the other, but it really wasn’t clear.
Lastly, I found myself surprised when the book ended. It felt like like the players had just gotten all of their pieces set and were about to begin the game when the emcee came out, thanked everyone for a lovely evening and invited us all back in a few weeks for more.
As I said, they’re really fairly minor issues and I will certainly be tuning back in when the game continues. Overall is a fun read and I’m very interested to see where the story will be taking us.
I received a copy of this book free in exchange for an honest review.
This is a really nice novella, and is part of Erica Crouch’s “Ignite” series. It’s listed as part 1.5 in the series, but it’s actually a prequel to the events in Ignite, so I read it first. Whether that will have an impact on how I perceive the next book (which is Ignite) I don’t know yet – but I do know that I’m quite eager to keep going with the series.
The story opens with a battle scene from the war between Heaven’s angels and the angels who fell with Lucifer. It is told from the perspective of Penemuel (but don’t call her that – just call her Pen) who choose to fall at the urging of her twin brother Azael, and is somewhat conflicted over her decision. Azael has no problem bowing to and “yes sir”-ing Lucifer – he’s a true believer in Lucifer’s cause, but Pen is more defiant, something that doesn’t go over too well with her new boss. This leads to a retelling of the story of the Fall of Mankind in the Garden of Eden.
Crouch’s version is original, even as it retains all of the traditional elements of the Biblical story, and the rest of the tale is quite well done. Crouch truly has a way with words and I found myself highlighting several phrases just because I really liked the way she put something. Even though this is a novella, she still manages to give us a good look at what the universe the story takes place in looks like as well as some excellent character building. The only thing keeping me from giving the book 5 stars is that there ars couple of apparent tips – one in particular that resulted in my spending about ten minutes trying to figure out what it was supposed to mean. Given that the book took only about 3 hours to read, having to take that kind of time to puzzle out a sentence made it just that much more irritating that a single typo like that would be in a longer book.
All-in-all, though, this is definitely a book worth checking out!