5 of 5 stars to ‘Ascend’ by Amanda Hocking

Ascend

Enchanting end

Wendy thought she still had plenty of time to train and learn the way of the Trylle, but her mother knows she doesn’t. As Elora weakens, she tries to prepare her daughter to become queen. The new queen will not only face the prospect of war, but she will have to choose between her heart and her duty. Can she reconcile the two?

Aahhh! It all makes sense now! I must admit that I wasn’t too thrilled with the turn of events in book two, and the resolution wasn’t quite what I expected in book three, but it was satisfying. I enjoyed that Hocking didn’t go with the expected and she even managed to throw in some relevant societal issues and moral lessons in a fun way.

There was a lot more depth and emotion in this installment. I especially loved seeing the softer side of Elora. Watching Wendy come into her own and realize that she could be self-sufficient, seeing Loki try to be protective and yet understand that Wendy was strong enough to stand alone – these are some of the highlights I particularly enjoyed.

The magic was still there, although with a decidedly darker taint than the first two novels. I struggled with the end a little, but only because of personally preference. I generally like the author to leave a bit to my imagination, but Hocking wrapped up every thread very tightly.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this series and love the author’s writing style. I’ll definitely seek out more of her works. I also have to say that I LOVE the covers of these books – they are enchanting and magical!

4 of 5 stars to ‘Torn’ by Amanda Hocking

Torn

Kidnapping and love triangle

In the space of a few weeks, Wendy’s life has been turned upside down. She’s discovered that the family she grew up with all her life were never really hers, and the one from which she comes has more secrets and politics than she can stand. To top it all off, she’s fallen in love with her tracker, Finn, who’s strictly off limits, and she’s already been in more than one battle with the Vittra, who are determined to kidnap her. Overwhelmed, Wendy flees to her one constant in life, her brother Matt.

Removed from the protection of her tribe, Wendy becomes easy pickings for the Vittra. But she soon discovers that there is more to the story than her queen mother has told her. And then there is Loki, her captor, the Vittra prince. He is nothing like she expects and Wendy finds herself drawn to him.

Will the Trylle be able to rescue Wendy from the hands of the Vittra? Will Wendy finally get to the bottom of this century long feud between the two tribes?

The magical world of the Trylle has captivated me. I love the powers, abilities, and even the messed up politics of this world that Hocking has created. The characters are believable, strong but with just the right amount of teenage vulnerability.

While I enjoyed this installment, I must admit to a little disappointment. Book one set up so much thrilling passion and conflict between Finn and Wendy, and I expected Hocking to take the stakes up in their forbidden relationship. Book 2, however, doesn’t seem to move their conflict any further. Hocking focuses on the introduction and build up of a connection between Loki and Wendy. While I do find Loki’s character charming and funny, the link between him and Wendy doesn’t seem quite as believable or exciting. There were also certain plot points that seemed out of place or out of character. The whole escape scene seems unlikely in the face of the Vittra’s efforts to kidnap Wendy.

Yet…I still admit to being curious and wanting to read more. What is the cause of this feud? What will happen to the queen? Will Wendy harness her power? Will the love triangle resolve itself and result in a happy ending, or will the character’s sense of duty force them into loveless, passionless decisions? I guess there’s only one way to find out!

5 of 5 stars to ‘The Blue Amaryllis’ by Sonia De Leon

The Blue Amaryllis

Truly unique love story

Leia York, grief-stricken after the death of her mother, takes time out from her busy, unsatisfying life to visit a friend, deep in the heart of the Amazon rain-forest. Far away from civilization, the native tribe whom James abides with, live a simple, uncomplicated life, at one with nature and each other. Leia finds herself falling in love with the people and the land more each day. She longs for the peace they share and slowly, begins to discard the trappings of her old life in the dog eat dog westernized world. Somewhere along her journey, Leia finds herself deeply in love with Matis warrior Tanun. The love they share transcends the physical, but the Matis people have strict rules that forbid their own to marry outside of the tribe. Is Leia strong enough to leave her warrior for love?

Once you’ve read as many books as I have, there are very few stories that have truly unique subject matter, but I can honestly say this novel is unlike any I’ve ever read. At the heart of it, this is a love story, but the setting is utterly captivating, adding a richness that is sorely lacking in most modern day romances. The characters, especially Tanun, are beautiful in their honest simplicity. The author has managed to capture the intensity of deep, internal emotions, without resorting to the usual antics of physical desire, and yet there is still passion to motivate and move forward.

I think the reason I love this book so much is because it is something I’ve often thought about myself. Life in this technological century is often hard and stressful. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s dreamed about dropping out of the rat race and ‘going back to the roots’, where family time and nature were more important than money and possessions.

So if you haven’t ready this one yet, be prepared – it will force you to reevaluate your own priorities in life. Any book that forces me to think is a golden bar in my eyes!

5 of 5 stars for ‘The Fiery Cross’ by Diana Gabaldon

The fiery cross

More danger, romance and intrigue

It’s 1771, and Claire and Jamie Fraser know that war is coming. Once, years ago, they had to walk the fine line of politics between the Brits and Scots. Now, they must walk that line again in this new land they have chosen to call home. The stakes are high. Jamie is now responsible for an entire settlement of families, not to mention that of his own blood. Will Jamie and Claire ever find the peace they crave?

Once again, Diana Gabaldon has excelled. Her diverse storytelling skills have enabled her to successfully span months and years in the lives of Claire and Jamie in each novel. Now, Diana slows the story down, focusing on a shorter timespan and delving deeper into the relationships and politics of the characters and times.

The beginning of this novel was funny in a way the other novels haven’t been. Usually, there is so much drama, and very little light-heartedness, so it was a nice change to have a bit of humor in this one. There were two distinct parts where I felt the story had taken a Sherlock Holmes twist and I have to say, that it felt a little forced, unlike Gabaldon’s usually, flowing style. But then I fell into the story again and it didn’t seem to matter. There were the usual, heart-warming moments, some nail-biting twists and dramatic climaxes. I don’t know where Ms Gabaldon finds the inspiration for some of these incidents, but I LOVE reading about them!

This series is possibly one of my favorite of all time. I am addicted to the characters of Claire and Jamie and have loved following them through their adventurous, traumatic lives. Yet I find myself at a crossroads. Carry on the series? It’s never even been a question in my mind – until now. I’m not sure I want to see Jamie Fraser grow old. I think I like the idea of the strong, fierce, Scottish warrior. While I have grown to like Brianna and Roger, I’m not sure I’m invested enough in their story to continue it.

So, I need some good advice from those of you who may have read “A breath of snow and ashes”. Should I continue?

Ten reasons to love Kindle

Love my Kindle

Ten reasons to love Kindle

‘Nothing beats the smell of a crisp new book, or an old one for that matter.’
There are many arguments for and against modern reading devices. Here are a couple reasons why I prefer my Kindle to a traditional print book:

1. Space. There is nothing more beautiful than a room covered in floor to ceiling shelves of leather bound books. Sadly, not many of us live in castles like Belle, and space comes at a premium. With my Kindle, there are no limits to the amount of books I can keep on my virtual shelves.
2. Read wherever you go. Going on holiday? Not sure which book to take along? With my Kindle, I can take them all and I won’t need an entire suitcase for my collection. With the Kindle app downloaded on my phone, I can even read in the doctor’s waiting room and easily sync to my last place on Kindle.
3. Affordable. Before my Kindle, I had a limited budget for my purchases of reading material. With Kindle books retailing anywhere from $2 and up, the sky’s the limit! Authors are also frequently running Kindle promotions, offering their books at half price or even free, so the cost of reading has dropped exponentially, allowing me to read much more for my money.
4. Easy to hold. Many people rave about the feel of a print book in their hands. They love the smell and the crackle of the pages as they turn. I’m a lover of technology. There is nothing better than the feel of a light-weight Kindle that turns pages silently with the slightest movement of your thumb. It fits perfectly into my hand, and my bag!
5. Backed up. The threat of loss is probably not foremost in most people minds, but when you’ve been burgled once or twice, it gets you thinking. Granted, very few burglars will likely be interested in a copy of ‘Pride and prejudice’, but there are others ways to lose things too. Fire, borrowing to friends who don’t return or simply misplacing things are common reasons for the loss of print books. Thankfully, with my Kindle, every purchase is backed up on Amazon’s servers and I can delete and download onto my device as I please.
6. Personalized text size. Ever bought a book and then opened to the first page and discovered you need a magnifying glass to read it? With Kindle, I can change the size of the text at a touch to match and manage my eyesight and desired pace.
7. Sample before you buy. Most Amazon ebooks have a ‘sample before you buy’ feature. I’ve found that you can often tell by reading the first few pages of a book whether or not you’re going to like it. Amazon allows you to read the first few chapters and even download it before you fork out the purchase price.
8. Non-glare screen. With the advent of the tablet and the Kindle reading app, many people are switching to one device only. I like the idea, and have tried it out myself, but found the back-lit screen of an iPad is hard on the eyes, especially late at night when I do most of my reading. The Kindle also has a backlight for reading in the dark, but the quality of the screen is probably the closest thing you’ll ever get to a traditional print book.
9. Save the trees. Resources are precious and it’s our responsibility to preserve them for future generations. Cutting and processing millions of trees for the paper we use and waste is not helping matters much, so I’m doing my little bit to save the planet by using my Kindle instead!
10. Battery life. At the rate I use them, very few of my devices have a battery life that lasts even a day. Kindle boasts upwards of a week of battery life, even with me reading a few hours every day.
I may sound like an Amazon saleswoman, but take my word for it – any product that gets me excited enough to write about it is pretty awesome. You can drop me off on an island with just my Kindle any day!

Indie vs Traditionally published books?

Support Indie

Is one better than the other?

eBooks have exploded the world of publishing. With the push of a button, nearly anyone can publish their own book. Not surprisingly, this has led to a multitude of fears surrounding the quality of Indie published works.

Prior to 2014, most of my bookshelves contained only traditionally published novels. Looking back, I put the reason for the lack of Indie books down to simple awareness. Back then, I bought what the marketers were selling. Back then, I had no idea there was a goldmine hiding just out of sight in the Amazon bookstore.

The publishing of my novel, ‘Five’, plunged me into the world of Indie. I found myself interacting with ‘Indie writers’ on forums such as The Book review Depot and Goodreads, and my bookshelves slowly began to even out. What I found, was surprisingly contrary to what many articles have claimed:

I had expected to find a lower quality of writing. What I found was a community of people who are passionate about what they do and have mastered story-telling skills I found sorely lacking in some of the bestselling novels I’ve read. These people are constantly striving to improve their skills and their work was often in my mind, superior to those on the bestseller lists.

I had expected to find novels riddled with grammatical errors. What I found was a thriving industry of editors that exist because Indie authors believe in giving their best to the paying public. These pedantic authors have written, rewritten, edited and re-edited their works to ensure that the reader gets the best possible bang for their buck.

I had expected to find every Indie author clawing and stepping over one another in the process of trying to get their books into the hands of readers. What I found was a tight-knit, incredibly supportive group of authors, bloggers and readers, who are willing to go out of their way to help one another. They offer honest, positive feedback, suggestions and advice in numerous online forums.

I had expected to find stingy authors, trying to make whatever money they could off their work. What I found was a group of writers who work by day, create masterpieces at night, and then still give away the fruits of their hard labors. Simply put, they write for love, not money.

So for 2015, I’ve made a pact with myself. I’m going to read much more Indie books, and I’ll share my reviews with all of you. I promise to keep them fairly brief and always honest. Because I want to entice you to dip into this mine of gold, diamonds, emeralds and rubies hiding just beneath the Amazon bestseller list.