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review 2016-09-15 07:01
Got Better in the End: The Treasure of Isian | Review
The Treasure of Isian - Serena Clarke,Carolyn Kashner,Red Mountain Shadows Publishing

A YA Fantasy that took a while to really capture my attention

 

Prince Garin is a brave, proud, adventure-seeking prince. Elani is his most trusted servant, and she would do anything for him - even die for him. Their quest to find the mystical Treasure of Isian is immediately interrupted, and they find themselves confronted by angry giants, soul-stealing elves, bewitched dragons, a vengeful water-witch, battling foes, and a mysterious kingdom.

 

Elani must face her greatest fears to save her prince and her kingdom. Garin must decide what the most important things are in his life. Will they be able to make a great sacrifice to save the kingdom? And will Elani find true love?

 

Buy Now | +Goodreads

Disclosure: GMB uses affiliate links, clicking and making a purchase may result in a small commission for me.


Source: I received this book free in return for an honest review. It is available exclusively from Audible

 

BOOK DETAILS:

The Treasure of Isian by Serena Clarke, read by Carolyn Kashner, published 2016 / Length: 5 hrs 43 min

 

SERIES INFO:

This is Book #1 of 3, so far, in the Isian series. The first two are currently available on audio.

 

SUMMARY:

I really wasn't liking this book that much. If I hadn't received it for review, I probably would have skipped ahead to check out the end. But having done that, I would most likely have gone back and finished it after all. I liked the second half (or maybe the final third) much better.

 

Nothing about this book is outstanding. I had issues with everything: the characters -  Garin seemed contemptible, Elani a pathetic doormat, and everyone else irrelevant / the worldbuilding - elves who are really more like vampires?? / the plot - her situation, the quest, and the final revelations (which weren't even a tiny bit surprising) / and the writing style - especially the dialogue, which was clunky and contemporary (not historical) sounding.

 

So why in the world did I give it a 3.5*? Because, in the end, "I liked it" which is my criteria for that rating. I liked the changes in their relationship and in the characters.

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review 2016-09-10 17:13
A Fast Paced Adventure: Into the Land of the Unicorns | Review
Into the Land of the Unicorns: The Unicorn Chronicles, Book 1 - Bruce Coville,Bruce Coville,Full Cast Audio

A fun little MG Fantasy with some very nice details.

 

On a snowy night, Cara and her grandmother are pursued into St. Christopher's church by an unknown man. Clutching her grandmother's mysterious amulet, and following the old woman's instructions, Cara escapes their pursuer and falls into Luster, the world of the unicorns. Attacked by a monstrous little creature called a "delver," Cara is rescued by a shambling, manlike beast known only as "the Dimblethum".

 

Soon Cara has also met a rebellious young unicorn named Lightfoot, and a ridiculous little creature called "the Squijum." With their help, Cara embarks on a journey across Luster to deliver a message from her grandmother to the queen of the unicorns. But to survive the trip, Cara must come face to face with her greatest hope, and her greatest fear.

 

Buy Now | +Goodreads

 

Disclosure: GMB uses affiliate links, clicking and making a purchase may result in a small commission for me.


Source: I purchased this book myself from Audible.

 

BOOK DETAILS:

Into the Land of the Unicorns by Bruce Coville, read and published by Full Cast Audio (2009) / Length: 3 hrs 37 min

 

SERIES INFO:

This is Book #1 of 4 in "The Unicorn Chronicles," all four are available on audio.

 

SUMMARY:

Many of the elements of this story are straight out of the fantasy playbook, but Bruce Coville's style of writing almost always manages to suck me in and keep my attention. This book is definitely more on the plot driven side, rather than my preferred character driven tales; yet the glimpses we get into what is going on with the characters is intriguing.

 

CHARACTERS:

Cara: In such a short book, we don't get a lot of character development for her but it was enough. She is loyal, brave & compassionate, but not unbelievably so. Note: She always wanted to live in a library, which is an excellent life goal.

 

We don't learn a lot about anybody besides her, but my favorite side character so far is Thomas (the Tinker and philsopher).

 

WORLDBUILDING:

The world seems to be a standard fantasy setting (forests & caves, unicorns, dwarves called Delvers, dragons, etc), but also includes a couple of unique creature people who aren't fully explained in this volume. There are good descriptions of the colors, sights, sounds, and smells of the world. The history of the unicorns & hunters is quite interesting.

 

PLOT:

The book starts right in with a couple of action scenes that do a good job of setting up the mystery & danger Cara will be dealing with. We then meet the main individuals who will be going on our quest. The book is very short, but doesn't feel under developed. It moves along at a good pace with a mix of action and talk. There is an ending to this quest, but the overall plots regarding Cara's family and the danger to the unicorns remains open.

 

HIGHLIGHTS / CAUTIONS:

  • The home & library of the Keeper of the Chronicles - Just like Cara, I want to live there.
  • Thomas' cart/wagon
  • Cara's interactions with the dragon

 

CAUTIONSCaution: Cara believes that her parents abandoned her and suffers a great deal of emotional trauma as a result.

 

NARRATION:

Full Cast Audio uses different actors for all the main roles, and casts actual children as the younger characters. I am particularly fond of Bruce Coville's voice, and he is very good at emoting. In this one, he serves as the narrator. I also especially liked the voice of the dragon. I did NOT like the voice of the Squijum though, and am very grateful that it didn't appear much. I am also not very fond of music in my audiobooks, although it wasn't as bad in this one as some others. I did have to bump it up to 1.5 speed (rather than my usual 1.25) since it was a bit slow.

 

BOOK DETAILS:

Into the Land of the Unicorns (Unicorn Chronicles #1) by Bruce Coville, read and published by Full Cast Audio (2009) / Length: 3 hrs 37 min Buy Now | +Goodreads

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review 2016-09-08 07:01
Zombies in Edwardian England: Ella, the Slayer | Review
Ella, the Slayer: Serenity House, Book 1 - A. W. Exley,Gabrielle de Cuir,Skyboat Media

While I enjoyed some parts quite well, in the end this YA Historical Fantasy was disappointing.

 

The flu pandemic of 1918 took millions of souls within a few short weeks. Except it wasn't flu, and death gave them back.

 

Seventeen-year-old Ella copes the best she can by caring for her war-injured father, scrubbing the floors, and slaying the undead that attack the locals. Like rats, these vermin spread pestilence with every bite. Ella's world collides with another when she nearly decapitates a handsome stranger - one who is very much alive.

 

Buy Now | +Goodreads

Whispersync Deal Alert*: Kindle + Audible = $6.98 (must purchase Kindle first, prices may change)

Disclosure: GMB uses affiliate links, clicking and making a purchase may result in a small commission for me.


Source: I received this book free in return for an honest review, courtesy of Audiobook Jukebox.

 

BOOK DETAILS:

Ella, the Slayer by AW Exley, read by Gabrielle de Cuir, published by Skyboat Media (2016) / Length: 8 hrs 21 min

 

SERIES INFO:

This is Book #1 of 2 (so far), in the "Serenity House" series. Both book are available on audio. Book #3, Alice, the Player, is currently scheduled to be released in November 2016.

 

SUMMARY:

I am giving this book a 3.5 star rating because, while I had some issues with the earlier parts of the book, for the most part I was enjoying it until her actions and choices in the end completely ruined it for me. If you don't like characters who do completely illogical things that endanger themselves and others, just to set up conflict in the next book (?), then you probably won't like the ending either.

 

CHARACTERS:

Ella: I am conflicted about her. I liked who she was as a person - the way she interacted with the other servants, wanted to tell the truth, and took care of her invalid father; but I had problems with the decisions she made (and not just at the end).

 

Seth: I like him and feel that the book would have benefited from more of his POV and background. I feel that some of his actions towards Ella weren't appropriate for a gentleman of his era.

 

Ella & Seth: Although I think they are a good match, I also had problems with the way this relationship developed especially considering the time period.

 

PLOT:

It started well and did a good job of establishing both the characters and the history. It was paced more as a romance than a zombie thriller until towards the end. As I said, I really disliked pretty much everything after the action climax.

 

HIGHLIGHTS / CAUTIONS:

  • Henry
  • Ella & Seth working together
  • Ella and her father

 

I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: A bit gory for me (but not unexpected, and probably not gory enough for true zombie fans) / The younger stepsister being almost nice (that is just too derivative of other recent Cinderella retellings) / Ella's choice to continue a relationship with Seth when she thinks he's probably engaged to someone else.

 

NARRATION:

While it wasn't bad, I didn't love the narration despite liking the sound of her voice. It felt a bit over enunciated and over emoted to me at times. It's possible that I'm just not used to the way they spoke in that place & time. The English accents sounded good to me, an American, and the speed was typical (I listened on my usual 1.25)

 

BOOK DETAILS:

Ella, the Slayer (Serenity House #1) by AW Exley, read by Gabrielle de Cuir, published by Skyboat Media (2016) / Length: 8 hrs 21 min Buy Now | +Goodreads

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  • How do you rate a book you enjoyed when you hate the ending?

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review 2016-09-03 07:01
Just His Name Makes Me Laugh: Nurk | Review
Nurk: The Strange, Surprising Adventures of a (Somewhat) Brave Shrew - Ursula Vernon,Bill Knowlton,Full Cast Audio

A simple but very funny MG Fantasy.

 

 

Nurk is a quiet homebody of a shrew. But when a mysterious plea for help arrives in the mail, he invokes the spirit of his fearless warrior-shrew grandmother, Surka, and sets off to find the sender. It seems the prince of the dragonflies has been kidnapped, and Nurk is his last hope for rescue. Such a mission would be daunting for even the biggest, baddest, and bravest of shrews, and Nurk is neither big nor bad, and only a little brave. But he does his very best--and hopes his grandmother would be proud.

 

Buy Now | +Goodreads

Disclosure: GMB uses affiliate links, clicking and making a purchase may result in a small commission for me.


Source: I purchased this book myself Audible.

 

BOOK DETAILS:

Nurk by Ursula Vernon, read & published by Full Cast Audio (2009) / Length: 3 hrs 6 min

 

SERIES INFO: This is standalone

 

SUMMARY:

Whenever I just need to listen to something a bit silly & sweet, I think of this one. 

 

CHARACTERS:

Nurk: An orphaned shrew who mostly lives a sensible & comfortable life taking care of himself and conversing with his friend the salamander. He nevertheless admires his adventurous grandmother and thinks that he to might to travel someday.

 

This book sort of reminds me of The Hobbit (since a clean socks loving shrew goes on an adventure and meets up with a giant vicious creature); but, unlike Bilbo, Nurk goes on his travels alone. He does however meet with various interesting characters, including some dragonfly royalty.

 

Plus we get tiny glimpses of Surka through her journal entries. These are sometimes snort-your-drink hilarious, but I'm not sure I would want any child to consider her a role model.

 

WORLDBUILDING:

This is a world that immediately feels familiar. A comfortable home, animals you've likely heard of, and a stream/river to travel. Things get stranger as they go along however. There are things such as troll mentioned or fish growing on trees encountered. Although there is magic in the world, Nurk's problems are always resolved with thought & help from others.

 

HIGHLIGHTS / CAUTIONS:

  • Nurk takes a towel with him on his adventure (along with his clean socks)
  • When he was younger, he thought the fact that "travel broadens the mind" meant you had to buy bigger hats
  • Nurk's full name: Nurkus Aurelius Alonzo Electron Maximilian Shrew

 

I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: Slime (yuck)

 

OTHER CAUTIONSCaution: We are told early on that Nurk's parents were eaten by an Owl in the past / a picture with Surka holding a severed head is mentioned / Surka may have run away from home to beginning adventuring (it isn't made clear how old she was)

 

NARRATION:

This is a full cast production, with different individuals reading different characters. The main narrator is quite nice. I wasn't very fond of the voice for Surka.

 

BOOK DETAILS:

Nurk by Ursula Vernon, read & published by Full Cast Audio (2009) / Length: 3 hrs 6 min Buy Now | +Goodreads

Talk to Me (pretty please)

  • Can you recommend any other MG books with sensible main characters?
  • Does it ever bother you when you read a book where animals talk but still eat each other?

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review 2016-07-16 16:31
Now SF Also: The Disappearance of Ember Crow | Review
The Disappearance of Ember Crow (The Tribe) - Ambelin Kwaymullina,Cara Gee

The previous book was a YA Post-Apocalyptic Paranormal Dystopia. This one has something for the SF lover as well.

 

After a daring raid on Detention Center 3 to rescue their trapped peers, Ashala Wolf and her Tribe of fellow Illegals - children with powerful and inexplicable abilities - are once again entrenched in their safe haven, the Firstwood. Existing in alliance with the ancient trees and the giant intelligent lizards known as saurs, the young people of the Tribe do their best to survive and hide. But the new peace is fractured when Ashala's friend Ember Crow goes missing, leaving only a cryptic message behind. Ember claims to be harboring terrible secrets about her past that could be a threat to the Tribe and all Illegals. Ashala and her boyfriend, Connor, spring into action, but with Ashala's Sleepwalking ability functioning erratically and unknown enemies lying in wait, leaving the Firstwood is a dangerous proposition. Can Ashala and Connor protect the Tribe and bring Ember home, or must they abandon one to save the other?

 

Buy Now | +Goodreads

Whispersync Deal Alert*: Audible = $3.99.

Disclosure: GMB uses affiliate links, clicking and making a purchase may result in a small commission for me.


BOOK DETAILS:

The Disappearance of Ember Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina, read by Cara Gee, published by Candlewick on Brilliance Audio (2016) / Length: 9 hrs 35 min

 

SERIES INFO:

This is Book #2 of 3 in "The Tribe" trilogy. Book #3, The Foretelling of Georgie Spider, has already been published in Australia, but no U.S. publication date has yet been announced.

 

**This review contains spoilers for the previous book.**

 

SUMMARY:

I didn't rate this one as high as the previous one (which got 4.5*) because I felt like it took a while to get started. (And possibly because I was a bit sad to see conflict between Ashala & Connor, although I believe it was realistic and well handled.)

 

I liked the cover of this one better than the last one, although the just showing one eye theme means we don't get to see Ember's mismatched eyes.

 

This is another instance in which Audible placed a YA books in the 11-13 age category. I'm not sure what's up with that.

 

I tagged this one with Diversity, since it features an Australian Aboriginal character & beliefs and is written by an #ownvoices author.

 

 

CHARACTERS:

Ashala & Connor: There were so many things I wanted to say about this relationship in my review of the first book, but couldn't since they were all spoilers. One of those things was the fact that this was a case of semi-Instalove that I didn't mind. I believe that Connor was already half in love with Ashala before they ever met, due to having carefully studied her file. Then when Ashala actually shared his memories, she developed feelings for him. Her acceptance of him into the Tribe in such an intimate way (being willing to share a memory of her own), sealed it for him. (Going back and finding the evidence of their true relationship is a joy.)

 

In this book, Connor is growing and changing; and like any good partner, he helps Ashala do so as well. Although I hate to see conflict, I love the way Connor stands up for what he needs and for equality of expectations & risk. (I'm not one of those people who thinks that true love means doing anything for and taking anything from the other person. A healthy relationship requires communication and boundaries, and we get to see that here.)

 

Ember Crow: The fact that Ember has secrets is a central point of the book, so I don't think it is a spoiler to say I could never have seen this twist coming when I started, wow. Yet it all remains consistent with what has come before.

 

Georgie & Daniel - I am guessing that they are going to become a couple in the next book. It will be nice to learn more about 2 people who have been so important to the survival of the Tribe. / Jules - I am anticipating seeing more of him and how he might change & grow in the next book.

 

WORLDBUILDING:

We get to see more of the world in this one. Ember visits Fern City, which is a city constantly battling being taken over by the jungle. And a good portion of the book takes place in Spinifex City, where everyone is obsessed with a local drink but otherwise very laid back for this world. We also learn some very important things about about how the current dystopian state of their society developed.

 

PLOT:

As I said in the Summary, I felt like this one got off to a bit of a slow start. It wasn't until Ashala got a message that there was finally news from Ember that things started to take off.

 

Flashbacks through shared memories continue to be an important part of the narrative, and so this book isn't straightforward or chronological.

 

The previous book ended with the feeling that, although they hadn't changed the world, they had reached a stopping point. This one has a cliffhanger. The ending is nice, and some personal stuff is resolved, but there is a lot hanging over their head.

 

HIGHLIGHTS / CAUTIONS:

  • Nicky
  • Although it isn't pointed out directly, there were a couple of instances where I felt like Ember was emulating Ashala's best qualities
  • Jeremy Duoro (a normal human fighting for Illegals' rights) - I didn't get much of a feel for him in the last book, but the scenes related to him in this one were some of the best.

 

OTHER CAUTIONSCaution: There are some hints of intimacy between certain characters. / One character is still mourning his deceased male lover.

 

NARRATION:

Note: I am not sure how fair a review of the narrator this is. I really liked Candice Moll's narration of the first book, especially the Australian accent. Plus I very rarely like it when they change narrators mid-way. It would have been different if the majority of the book had been from Ember's POV, thus making it logical to have a different reader. But the central character is still Ashala.

 

Character voices differentiated = Only "sort of" / Opposite sex voices acceptable = just barely, I wasn't fond of Connor's voice at all / Accents good = Not applicable / Phrasing, Pacing & Pronunciation = Good / Emoting = Good / Speed = Slow; I listened on 1.5 instead of my usual 1.25

 

BOOK DETAILS:

The Disappearance of Ember Crow (The Tribe trilogy #2) by Ambelin Kwaymullina, read by Cara Gee, published by Candlewick (2016) / Length: 9 hrs 35 min Buy Now | +Goodreads

Talk to Me (pretty please)

  • Can you recommend any other books that mix paranormal and scifi?
  • Do you think Instalove is ever justified?

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