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Six Crimson Cranes, Elizabeth Lim

Six Crimson Cranes, Elizabeth Lim

Six Crimson Cranes by [Elizabeth Lim]

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy, teens and YA.

Well, re-tellings are a bit hit and miss for me, some I’ve adored and others…well, lets just say I didn’t. This story though, based on the old Grimms fairy tale, pulled at me. I adored Grimms as a kid, any fairy stories but especially those, and I’d read them over and over.( Mum used to say “Jeannie, you’re too old for fairy tales.” I’d have been maybe 9 or 10….) I’m much, much older now – frankly, you’re Never too old for fairy tales 😉
I remember this one so well, the poor sister spinning and knitting sweaters out of nettles…

Elizabeth makes the sister a princess, and the brothers princes. Sets them in a beautiful Eastern setting, with woods that stretch for miles, huge snow covered mountains, harsh dusty roads. There’s a very pronounced master/servant divide that works so well for the story.
The closeness of Shiori and her brothers grows, she’s always been loyal to them, loves them, but they’ve grown apart over the years. Now though, forced into each others company, depending on each other to break the curse, they grow back as one unit.

I loved this book, loved the addition of dragons, loved the fantasy elements that were still true to the original story but changed to fit this new one. I enjoyed the way Eastern beliefs and myths were woven into an essentially European fairy tale. It all added to that overall roundness of the story, made it feel believable.
I really liked seeing the day to day life, the little things like Shiori struggling to work for the lady she tried to steal the boat from. There were some great characters, harsh ones, kind ones, and of course my favourite, the cruel but clever, wicked ones.
Shiori grew so much in this book, from a sweet but selfish princess, into a much more rounded and understanding character. I enjoyed the gentle romance that grew towards the end, loved the way poor Shiori and her brothers seemed to take one step forward and two back. Those setbacks all added to the story, pushed her and her brothers into devising even more ways to try to break the curse. Kiki though, Kiki really was the star for me. I loved her, and can’t wait to see where Elizabeth takes her and Shiori on the next adventure.
This story is complete but…there are seeds sown for a follow-up that I’d love to read.

Stars: Five, a fun read for all ages, not just teens and YA.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

The Midnight Bargain, C.L.Polk.

The Midnight Bargain, C.L.Polk.
Magic meets Bridgerton in the Regency fantasy everyone is talking about…

The Midnight Bargain: Magic meets Bridgerton in the Regency fantasy everyone is talking about... by [C. L. Polk]
Romance
Genre: Sci-fi and fantasy

I wasn’t sure about this book at first, but quickly became hooked and I loved it.
Its a mix, a magical world, but historical in the sense that women are property, and horrors, no matter how talented magically once married they lose that. As spirits can enter unborn children and take over women have to wear a collar to lock out their magic and therefore lock out any harmful spirits. Not just while they are pregnant, but from their wedding day to the end of their childbearing years. Beatrice is horrified, she is talented, thinks the system unfair and would fair rather keep her magic and remain unmarried. However her families future depends on her making a good marriage, thanks to some poor investments by her father, a fact she’s only just become aware of.
Poor Beatrice, stuck between a rock and a hard place. Her only hope is to continue her magical education in secret and get good enough to convince her father she can help mend the families fortunes that way…
There are some great characters here, a lovely mix of friendship and the usual Mean Girls, as Beatrice isn’t quite from the top drawer. I was surprised how things with Ysabeta developed, loved it, it wasn’t what I expected. Ianthe, who couldn’t love him. One of the few forward thinking men of the time, who was prepared to try to understand what Beatrice had issues with. Like most of us, whats accepted as norm isn’t questioned, and though he knew Ysabeta has problems with it he hadn’t really though about it from a woman’s view. Of course he’s in the minority, and his mother certainly doesn’t share his views.
The star for me was Nadi, the luck spirit. I adored her, she made the book really special, her relationship with Beatrice. They both cared about the other, where convention said spirits needed to be kept in place, and didn’t have those sort of feelings.
Its a gentle romance, beset with society problems and a really fun read. I loved the magic, loved the problems that cropped up, loved the gentle mean girls stuff. It ends neatly, everything wraps up with a neat epilogue, and I’d love to read more from this world, see how the things develop with these characters and maybe others a couple of years down the line.

Stars: Five, a really magical read and I love this world. C L Polk, please write more!

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

Learning to Live, (Infinite Love 1), Kira Adams

Learning to Live, (Infinite Love 1), Kira Adams

Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews

Genre: YA/NA Romance,

I rarely read YA novels, I find it hard to relate the the characters but this had the underog theme that does appeal to me so as its on KU I decided I’d try it.
I was pleasantly surprised, the characters weren’t juvenile and silly, the thing that puts me off many YA reads ( though I’ve read books were people in their 30’s act like YA). Older teens I guess, that makes a difference, these are mostly either side of 18 and that extra maturity shows.
The mean girls – I love those charactes, and they were creatively mean to poor Ciera. I loved her, she was head down and ignore, and of course having been bullied much the same many, many years ago I could relate. Report them as everyone says? OK, then who’s going to be around when they come at you even harder? So we just keep heads down and do our best to avoid bullies. Its wrong, they win that way, but in practical terms it needs adults to be watching, to take action.

Ciera has home problems too, her widowed mum and two much younger siblings don’t have much money, and she works after school to help out. Not only that but later we learn she has her own issues to deal with.
Topher was one of those who didn’t outwardly join in the bullying, but didn’t see what was wrong with it, and didn’t do anything to stop it. Apart from her friend Mack Ciera is alone at school, until an incident with the bulles prompts someone to step in.
From there things change, not always for the better, but it makes Topher look at his own actions, and I thought, finally, he can see whats in front of him. Of course that means standing up against his friends, the top group, the alpha predators, and what will happen then?

Its a sweet and moving love story, and has a huge surprise I didn’t see, but with hindsight there were clues. It did make me cry, Ciera was so brave and I so felt for her and her family. I was luckier than her when faced with similar, but could empathise with the scary side and what she was facing. You’d think fate had put the family through enough without this.
The story covers some heavy issues, not just the bullying. It was well done, well handled, not just a simple bullying school love story, and had surprising depth to it.
I won’t suddenly beome a YA lover, but it proves some well written YA books can have a wider target.

Stars: Four, surprised me how much I enjoyed it. I’m actually going to borrow the next book from KU just to see where things go, although this book is a stand alone and complete.

 

The Iron Raven, Julie Kagawa

The Iron Raven, Julie Kagawa

The Iron Raven (The Iron Fey: Evenfall, Book 1) by [Julie Kagawa]

Genre: Teens & YA, Sci-Fi & Fantasy

Oh how I wanted to like this story. I’ve not read any of Julie’s work, but have recently read several excellent YA books.
Sadly this didn’t work for me. Its very well written, and I can see that others love it, but I just couldn’t connect with it. I put it aside a few times and came back to it as I thought maybe it was this strange time we’re living in, that has affected my concentration and reading, but unfortunately it still wasn’t a good fit for me. 😦
I stopped about a third of the way through, knowing it just wasn’t going to suit me. I’m gutted, I was so looking forward to getting my teeth into a new trilogy, but that’s the way it goes.
Not all stories appeal, however well written.

Stars: Two, a story others love but which didn’t connect with me. NB: I only read to just past 30%.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

A Deadly Education, Naomi Novik

link to amazon


Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy

I loved Naomi’s Uprooted, and was so hoping this book would be along those lines. It sounded fun and exciting but….from the start I really disliked El, she’s rude, arrogant, stand offish. When we know more about her I understood much of why she was that way, but I never really got to like her.
The school is just weird and I didn’t understand why parents were so desperate to send kids there, given so many of them died. I’m not sure what they gained from being in all that constant danger that they couldn’t have been taught in safety.
I just found it hard to connect, with the story or the participants and eventually gave up halfway through. A shame as I so loved Uprooted and was certain I’d enjoy this. Still, it won’t put me off trying Naomi’s next book.


Stars: Two, One to miss for me, a shame as I love a fantasy series and this sounded so promising. As always though it works for others, that’s the subjective side of reading.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

Something Like Perfect, S.C. Stephens

Something Like Perfect, S.C. Stephens

Something Like Perfect by [S.C. Stephens]

Genre: | General Fiction (Adult), Romance

Well, Thoughtless, S.C.Stephens debut book was one of my earliest kindle reads, and I loved it. Even then though the cheating aspect made me a little uncomfortable, I know its fiction, but I’m pretty strong on cheating – don’t do it. In real life that is 😉 In a novel I can excuse it if the characters at least try to avoid it, make some real effort. So, seeing this book included it made me pause, but I decided she’s such a great writer it was worth trying. After all I loved Thoughtless and the other stories that followed.
Its a quick easy read, sweeping the reader along with a host of emotions. I could feel the connection between Valerie and Jake from that first coffee shop meeting, and could imagine her shock at that family dinner. What a nightmare.
It puts them both in a difficult position but wisely they both decide to do the right thing and really do make a solid effort. And then….something huge happens that changes things. I wasn’t expecting that, and I can see that its got its lovers and haters. Yes, it is a little far fetched, but things like this do happen in reality, life can be far fetched at times and I just went with the flow and enjoyed it. I understood what happened and why, I think in those circumstances most folk would have acted the same.
Then of course comes the later part of the story where they’re both struggling in their lives, Val loves her sister, Jake feels guilty and doesn’t want to hurt his girlfriend and it looks like a story where no-one will be happy. I feel this was one of the best parts of the novel, drama abounds, emotions and tensions are high and I felt for all three of them. They were all heartbroken, and it looked like none would get a happy ending. I liked that this took some time to resolve, I hate reads where characters are heartbroken one page and all over it by the next page. I want the characters to hit bottom, I want to wallow in their pain….and then when it comes right I am so happy.

Stars: Five, its a quick, light read, a wash of emotion. Its not one I’m likely to re-read but I really enjoyed it.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

Intended Bondmates, D. Lieber

Intended Bondmates, D. Lieber

Intended Bondmates by [D. Lieber]

Genre: Sci-fi and fantasy, Romance.

I love paranormal romance, and this sounded intriguing, with some serious conflict happening. Sadly the conflict only lasted a short while before everyone was happy and friends 😦 From there it became a fairly simple story of friendship that quickly turned to more, a few vampire clashes, meeting others in the extended family, and a neat twist towards the end, throwing everything Luna believes into confusion.
Its a sweet romance, I’d have liked to know a little more about how the different types of paranormals interacted, and their history but it was easy enough to follow on. There’s no overall story arc that suggests a series, so I assume this is a stand alone read. It is a pretty basic story, low on drama and high on cute, which makes it feel to me a YA type read. I’ve read some great YA reads, even though I’m long past that, but this is one that I think YA readers will enjoy more. I’m looking for something with a bit more depth and drama, more twists and turmoil, more story and less simplicity.

Stars: Two and a half, its a good read, well done but the story-line just feels too YA for me.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

The Night Girl by James Bow

The Night Girl by James Bow

The Night Girl by [James Bow]

Genre: New Adult, Sci Fi & Fantasy

I love quirky, unusual reads and this book promised that. I’m not the target demographic, but I often enjoy YA reads, good ones appeal to all ages. While I enjoyed this I found it wasn’t one of those IMA, its one that’s a great read for YA/NA I think, but for we folk past that age its a little too simplistic.
Its got some fun characters, a bit of mystery, a lot of whimsy, and a kind of moral theme about acceptance and rights of minority groups. That’s particularly interesting given I’m writing this while the world is seeing the impact of BLM. Being in a minority group myself I understood some of the fears the supernatural folk had, and of course the frustration. I found the Amnesia Reset particularly sad, to have life wiped away like that, all knowledge of your past gone.
Its a quirky read, some fun moments and subtle humour, and though I don’t know Toronto it was easy to visualise from the descriptions given. Overall I felt it was a great reader for the target age group, but just a little too YA simplistic for me to really enjoy.

Stars: Three, its a strange read at times, some quirky events and good but weird characters, and a theme of acceptance that’s particularly poignant right now.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

A Throne of Swans, Katharine Corr, Elizabeth Corr

A Throne of Swans, Katharine Corr, Elizabeth Corr

A Throne of Swans by [Corr, Katharine, Corr, Elizabeth]

Genre: Sci Fi & Fantasy, Teens & YA

Well…Wow, what an amazing read. It’s classed as teen and YA, but one of those rare few that really appeal to all ages, not just the younger generation. Like Vic James Dark Gifts, or Sarah J Maas a court of ….reads, they are reads to treasure, to reread no matter what age you are.
I’ve never actually read/seen Swan Lake but I guess everyone knows the basics, and I was hoping this wasn’t just going to be a retelling of the story. That doesn’t work so well for me, but I was happy that its Swan Lake inspired but has a story of its own. There were magical scenes, interspersed with some pretty horrific stuff. The Corr sisters don’t shy away from some solid hard facts in the world they’ve created, where those With get to do pretty much whatever they want to those Without ( flighted and flightless in the main). There’s some harsh rules in this world, some that feel almost arbitrary and yet for decades, centuries they’ve been uncontested.
I loved the world created, with its mix of characters, with its people that can transform into birds, with the sheer political intrigues, when grew almost faster than I could read them. Just as I was thinking one thing something happened that threw that chain of thought into disarray.
There were some fantastic characters. Aderyn’s clerk Lucien, tells her “trust no-one” but its hard for her. Lucien has been used to the cut and thrust of royal politics, of the machinations and intriguing that take place constantly, but Aderyn hasn’t spent time at court, hasn’t actually been anywhere since her mother was killed years ago and the injuries and shock left her unable to transform into her Swan shape. In this world that’s something that would get her removed as protector and could even threaten her life if it gets out.
When they first go to the Royal Castle Aderyn is just determined to find out who killed her mother, who was behind it, but the first day isn’t over before she discovers she’s treading on very thin ice, that she needs her wits constantly. Lucien had warned her but she doesn’t like him, and hadn’t realised just what danger she was in. She’s good hearted but at first had been so sheltered she’d never realised just what else was going on in her world, how the flightless were treated in other dominions. She assumed all were like her father, that they were treated fairly, but soon sees unhappiness and cruelty surround her. She grows up very fast, from that naive 17 year old we first meet, to the girl at the end of the story who’s had a sharp shock about the world she inhabits, who now realises just what it means to be a Protector.
And speaking of the end, what an incredible bounce of surprises those last chapters brought. They kept coming, one after another, after another! I hope book two is around soon, I am desperate to know just whats going to happen, how things are going to come through, and suspect its going to get worse before it gets better.

Stars: Five, an amazing read, full of a magical world, intrigue, politics, interesting characters, and one to reread when part two is out.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Second novel by indie author E L Croucher. Horned Winged Blessed

 Indie authors need readers support, and if youre a lover of dystopian type fiction this may be for you. Its out now at £3.99 and also available on KU.

Horned Winged Blessed

Horned Winged Blessed by [Croucher, E L]

Horned Winged Blessed opens in a post-world war three world,with an all-female, all-wiccan government in charge. They are known as theSilver Party, and have led Broken Britain through the war. Now, they are pavingthe way to a utopia in which hate crime and sexual assault are things of thepast.

One of their biggest and most profound laws is the law of 3×3. Three genders,and three sexual orientations. Men are now called Horned ones. Women are called Winged ones. Lastly, every other gender is grouped together as the Blessed ones.
The story follows the protagonist Joan Wood’s journey tounderstand the issues within this society and eventually finds her taking itdown. She is the daughter of the founder that started the Silver Party, and shestarts the novel under the illusion that this is indeed a utopia. However,after various attacks on her home from the rebel party the Grounded, as well asvarious friends warning her that life isn’t a rose-tinted as she thinks, she becomes aware that the Silver Party, and her mother, have indeed taken things too far, and many of the non-binary folk in society feel oppressed and labelled.
In the later half of the book, Joan actually finds her way to the rebel faction, and joins them in their aim to take down her mother and bring a true version of gender equality and LGBT liberation – rather than the erroneous attempts at such by her mother.The book ends with a showdown between her and her mother, eventually with her prevailing to crack her way through the Silver Party, with the help of her Grounded comrades.
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