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review 2020-05-02 22:29
What's better than dragons? Why steampunk dragons of course...
Mages & Mechanisms - Devin Harnois

 I have a weakness for dragons and for steampunk but when the two are combined...well, saying no isn't really an option for me. however, I am also a wee bit fussy when it comes to these things...so, more often than not I can be disappointed.

 

However, while I wouldn't label "Mages & Mechanisms" as disappointing I have to admit that for me there just seemed to be something missing and I'm not even sure I can put my finger on what that something is...so, let's talk about what wasn't missing...

 

Characters...of course we have our MCs, Jak and Leander. Two very different men. Leander is quiet and he lives by the rules. He wants to secure a better station in society for his family, to be able to provide for them. Jak is bold and brash, not only does he not live by the rules, he lives to break, skirt the edges of and bend every one that he can. Yet these two men are inexplicably drawn to each other and for better or worse they form a business partnership that could be the making or breaking of all that they want and hold dear.

 

Leander's a machinist of the highest skill...his workmanship is exquisite and Jak's a mage who's powers are very possibly the answer to Leander's prayers.

 

In a time when mechanical pets are all the rage Leander's creations are possibly without parallel or at least they would be if he could just find a mage to enchant them and give them life...enter Jak and thus a business partnership is born.

 

So we've got characters, we've got the start of an intriguing storyline, we've got some seriously interesting world building going on...so where did things fall short for me...well..

 

Let's start with Jak...Jak just didn't seem to have any sense of self preservation. For someone who was suppose to be flying under the radar so to speak, he was just a bit to out there. On one hand we're given to understand that Jak needs to not garner attention and yet, nearly every action he takes screams 'look at me' and for the most part it's not something he's doing accidentally or without intent. He frequently felt like the matador waving his red cape at a very angry bull. For the most part this seemed more deliberate than accidental, which left me wondering  just how much danger he was really in?

 

The only other thing about this story that really niggled at me was that when it came to Jak and Leander as a couple...well...I just wasn't quite feeling it. That's not to say that I won't but at the moment it's hasn't happened for me, but I'm not feeling like the match is unrealistic either so there's always a chance that something will click into place for me, but in the meantime, I am liking the story and what's happening and really there's steampunk and a dragon so for me there's always hope and so many possibilities...

 

*************************

A copy of 'Mages & Mechanisms' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2020-03-07 07:05
Review: The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood
The Unspoken Name - A. K. Larkwood

I must say it has been a long time since I was as disappointed in a book as I am in this one. My expectations for this book were sky high. I had seen a lot of good buzz about it and the premise sounded amazing. A high fantasy with orcs and elves, mages and assassins? And brought to me by Tor Books? Sign me up! Here just have my money!! Then, in the end, it was just a giant feeling of “whomp whomp”. That makes me sad. Especially because this book had a ton of potential.

 

Csorwe had the potential to be an amazing character. She was raised her entire life to know that she will be sacrificed to her god on a specific day and that is her only purpose. And then, at the last moment, she is offered an alternate destiny. A chance to become an assassin, a sword hand for a wronged wizard who wants his power back. And she just so happens to be an orc priestess too. Unfortunately, she was also incredibly boring. I had no emotional connection to her at all. Probably because we only see her in action packed moments. We only see her in the moments preceding battle, the midst of battle and the immediate aftermath of battle. Characters are created in the little moments. The moments that the character spends training, planning, preparing, and theorizing about what is to come. There was absolutely none of that in this book. We go from Csorwe leaving behind her destiny to several years later when she’s already largely trained. We are told that she really enjoyed training with a mercenary group, but we never actually see that happen. We are told that she is a remarkable fighter and assassin. Except she only does this actual task one or two times, neither of which could be considered wildly successful. Mostly she gets her ass kicked. To the brink of death. Seemingly every day.

 

Tal’s character was slightly more fleshed out but I got the feeling that he was there purely as an adversary for Csorwe and occasional comic relief. That was a shame because I felt like there was untapped potential there. Shuthmili was a good character and I found myself connecting with her at times, but since she isn’t a major factor in a lot of the book it was hard to develop any lasting feelings about her.  And her romance with Csorwe was very sweet.

 

The most memorable character was Oranna. I had some deep feelings about her and thought she was the best character as a whole. She actually felt like a real person instead of a cardboard stand-in for a real person. She was wonderful although I don’t think that I ever completely grasped her motivation behind everything that she did. I know what she told us her motivation was but it seemed hollow and shallow. I suspect it wasn’t entirely the truth.

 

The writing was technically solid and I found myself reading large swathes of pages at a time without realizing the time was going by. That was the good part. The problem was the disjointed nature of the narrative. We start with Csorwe at 14, then we jumped a few years to about 17 or 18, then jump again to her at around 22. Every time we arrive in a new time period, things are already figured out and a plan is already well underway for what needs to happen. It was confusing. I never got a chance to get invested in a particular narrative before it was over and we moved on to the next thing. There was also absolutely no showing in this book, just telling. We are told that people felt a certain way. We are told that things work a certain way. We are told that this is the answer to the entire thing. We are told that this is what will happen next. It made things very boring and without a connection to the story.

 

I am not sure why the author tried to make different races of beings. I forgot that Csorwe was an orc for most of the book because it is never mentioned and it doesn’t influence how she behaves, speaks or her interactions with others. Similarly, I completely forgot that Tal was an elf until I was writing this review and remembered some tidbit about his ears and skin color. I don’t need Tolkien levels of race building here. Frankly I am glad it wasn’t because Tolkien’s 4 page narratives about a tree bore the bejesus out of me (I know, I pronounced myself a heretic on that one, haha!). But you need to give me something because these characters were painfully human.

 

Because of all this showing and not telling, I also have no idea how this world looks or how it works. I got some vague stuff about gates that remind me of Stargate and some kind of ship. It is alternately described as a wooden ship or a barge, and has an “alchemical engine” which gives me steampunk airship vibes. But I have no idea if any of these interpretations are correct. The world itself was not fleshed out well. So as interesting as a Maze that eats dead worlds is, unless you can describe it for me then it’s just an interesting idea and nothing else.

 

One aspect that I loved was the pantheon of gods, how they are worshipped and the magic system of this world. That was all completely stellar. I am always on board with some good ole fashioned god worship, complete with sacrifices. I also really enjoyed the rules for using magic in this world. Magic comes with a price, exacting a physical toll on the user. So there is a delicate balance that must be struck and maintained. That was all fabulous and one of the big things that kept me going on this book.

 

My final issue is that I have no idea why this book was called The Unspoken Name. We have the Unspoken One, Csorwe’s patron god. But they are only referred to as the Unspoken One. Never as anything else. The term unspoken name weren’t actually in the book until page 435 and it seemed to be mostly used as an exasperated expletive. “We need to think. We need to – Oh, by the twelve hundred Unspeakable names, what in hell is that?” This probably shouldn’t get on my nerves but it did.

 

In the end, this book was okay. It shows some signs of brilliance and I can see that the author is very talented. But that brilliance was not curated properly and so the final result ends up being messy and disappointing.

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review 2020-01-03 21:09
Review ~ Entertaining!
Three Mages and a Margarita - Annette Marie

Book source ~ Kindle Lending Library

 

Tori Dawson has lost yet another waitressing job due to her quick temper. To make matters worse, her reputation has spread so that she’s unlikely to find a job anywhere downtown. As she’s leaving a café after being turned away, a sheet of paper with three job listings blows right into her face. The first two jobs aren’t appealing, but the third job is for a bartender. Not something she’s ever done, but at least she’s familiar with how to do it. It’s in a not so great part of town, but no too deeply into the bad side so she goes to apply. And is hired. Unfortunately, she has no idea that the Crow and Hammer isn’t just a bar. It’s a guild. For magic users. And that’s when Tori’s life gets very interesting.

 

Omg, what fun this book is! Tori is a great character and the people she meets are just as interesting. The world is fascinating, the plot decent, and there’s humor, too. I totally enjoyed myself with this one. So much so that I went and gorged myself on all the books in the series as well as the two off-shoots connected to it. So be prepared for many more reviews for this new-to-me author and this world of magic, humor, and danger.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2019-12-31 06:56
Review: Asperfell by Jamie Thomas
Asperfell - Mark Smith;Jamie Thomas Asperfell - Mark Smith;Jamie Thomas

***I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Uproar Books!***

 

I wanted to like this book. I really really wanted to like this book. It is exactly the type of book that I normally enjoy. A young, spunky female lead character. Magic. Society that seems to be based on a Victorian standard. Mysteries. Prisons. Other planes of existence. But I just couldn’t like it.

 

The writing is very good and thus why I gave this a two star rating over a one star. The dialogue is engaging, the plot moves at a fairly good pace, and the narrative flows beautifully. The first half of the book seemed a bit on the slow side while the second half was very rushed but that is my only complaint about the writing.

 

WARNING: From this point on there will be lots of spoilers, consider yourself warned.

 

This book has never met a young adult trope that it didn’t like….and utilize…..frequently. Let me preface where my opinion is coming from on this novel. The very first sentence, before I even hit the first chapter is that the author wants to “smash the patriarchy one novel at a time!”. Now, I will also explain that I am rather tired of reading militantly feminist literature, it seems to be everywhere these days. Normally I can overlook an author’s personal views or opinions about the book and just take the book for the story it presents. But not when that’s what you open with. The very first thing you told me about your story is that it’s smashing patriarchy with its strong female characters so you need to live up to that. You have now infused that idea into your novel and need to deliver.

 

This did not deliver. Instead I got the same old tired tropes of the young adult genre that feminist readers complain about constantly. How exactly are you smashing patriarchy? By presenting me tropes that I’ve been reading since I was 13 years old?

 

Briony is just like every young adult female lead character. She is spunky, sassy, strong willed, and bucks the patriarchal system that she was born into. Her older sister is the perfect lady of the court. This isn’t a new dynamic and it can be a good one when used correctly. I didn’t actually mind this because it set up Briony as a character who is questing to be knowledgeable. Knowledge and wisdom will be her weapon in the fight against what society has said her place is. That’s all well and good.

 

My problems start when Briony gets to Asperfell. Naturally she instantly dislikes Prince Elyan. He is dour, brooding, and wants nothing to do with her and largely he is exactly what one expects from the young adult male lead. I assumed Briony would be on a mission to find the answer to take him home whether he protested or not. But…..she doesn’t. Within the space of a chapter she seems to have completely forgotten about her mission and just goes along with working in the gardens and learning magic all while throwing a glare at Elyan when he deigns to make an appearance. He, of course, is primarily there to ridicule her efforts before disappearing again.

 

It wasn’t until about the last forty pages that Briony suddenly remembers that she is supposed to be getting Elyan back to their homeland. And only because someone whacked her across the head with the information that would lead her to that goal. She was far too busy trading gossip, learning magic, gardening, and making sarcastic remarks at Elyan to actually discover the answer on her own.

 

Another trope, instalove. Authors think that they are avoiding this if their characters start off hating each other. But Briony and Elyan go from coldly tolerating each other to gazing at each other affectionately literally in the space of a single dance. So not quite instalove but maybe 3 1/2 minute love? Microwave love? Be sure to wait for the ding!

 

Briony was also revealed to not be that strong or much of a feminist either. The most offensive example of this is when another character attempts to sexually assault her. Okay, we kind of have to assume that’s what he’s doing because it doesn’t get very far but I’m fairly confident that’s where this was headed. Briony courageously defends herself. She fights off her attacker and escapes to safety before the situation escalates into anything much worse. I was cheering for her! I was so proud of her for reacting in her own defense so decisively and swiftly. But then she decides to have a whole inner monologue about how she feels shame about the situation. Why exactly? Surely you would be feeling scared but also proud of yourself? She even says to herself that she has nothing to feel ashamed about…..but then concludes that thought with “but I do” and moves on. Is this really an example of a strong woman? Feeling shame about something that you recognize should not be causing you shame and during which you admirably protected yourself? I was highly disappointed.

 

Next we have the other young adult trope that I despise so much. Briony does something very stupid and reckless. She recognizes internally that it was reckless and stupid. But when Elyan points out that it was reckless and stupid then she yells at him about it. Because, how dare he think that he can control her! He doesn’t own her! She can do what she likes without him! Does anyone actually think that this is the makings of a strong woman? Actual thoughts that she had. No one was trying to control her or prevent her from doing anything on her own. She made a reckless and foolish decision, but because a male confronts her about it then he’s controlling. Then later he, naturally, apologizes for daring to question her reckless, foolish behavior because he was just so scared of losing her. And she gets to walk away feeling smug. Strong women rejoice! Patriarchy smashed!

 

Finally, the ending. We spent a very long time getting to Asperfell. We spent an equally long time gardening and learning magic in Asperfell. That left about 60 pages for the conclusion. I thought the conclusion was supposed to be the rescue of Elyan from Asperfell and delivering him back home. Except that didn’t happen. The book ends with them in the woods. On their way to a potential way to get home, but they aren’t actually sure it will work yet. And of course, it ends with a kiss. Frankly, it left me wondering what exactly the point was? We couldn’t spare another 30 pages to actually get back to Tiralaen? And then end it once they have successfully left Asperfell? I recognize that we’re setting up a sequel here, but the sequel works just as well starting with the moments after they escape Asperfell as the moments before.

 

Overall, this story reminded me of every single bad young adult novel I’ve ever read. Exactly the same characters. Exactly the same plot devices. Exactly the same tropes.

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review 2019-11-20 10:55
New Release Review! Embracing Reality (Branches of Emrys #6 / Others Universe) Brandy L. Rivers!

 

 

I am visiting Australia where Jay Walker and his mate Skylar McNamara have unleashed an ancient evil! Enjoy and don't forget to add EMBRACING REALITY -the 6th book in the Branches of Emrys series by Brandy L. Rivers to your shelves!

 

 

 

 

A month of exploring Australia, and Skylar McNamara doesn’t realize her mate Jay Walker has brought her back to his hometown. Morrisey is long gone but Skylar wanted to know where he’s from.

 

A lightning strike grants Jay new magic and unleashes an ancient evil. Skylar urges him to follow his instinct up the north coast. What they find changes everything Jay knew about his family and fate, tying him closer to the Branches of Emrys than ever.

 

The shadow mystic now freed will stop at nothing to control the magic residing within Jay. Skylar’s ability may be the key to keeping him safe.

 

 

 

While exploring Australia, Skylar McNamara and Jay Walker visit Jay’s hometown, Morissey even though it is long gone. During the visit, lightning strikes Jay, granting him new magic and unleashing an ancient evil. They must learn everything about the ties between the past, his family and the Branches of Emrys if they want to survive the shadow mystic that will stop at nothing to control the magic residing within Jay. 

 

Another thrilling story from the world of Others. Jay and Skylar are two strong characters whose world is about to be changed is a major way as the past and the present collide. The mating between Jay and Skylar is a strong, unbreakable bond that readers can practically see as it holds them together and helps them fight the ancient evil. Their passion burns hot and the emotional turbulence that stems from the unexpected situation that they find themselves flows from the pages.

 

The suspense and excitement builds throughout this fast paced story as the enemy’s draw closer and all the secrets and events of the past unfold. This story takes place over centuries and the author portrays it such a way that the readers can practically feel the span of time and the magic buzzing in the air. The readers can’t take their eyes from the pages as twists and turns ensures that there is always something happening, especially as the danger turns out to be a more complicated and long set in motion than anyone knew. 

 

 

 

 

 

Goodreads   *   BookLikes   *   BookBub   *   Riffle   *   GBooks 

 

 

 

 

EMBRACING REALITY is the 6th book in the BRANCHES OF EMRYS series.

 

 

Author   

 

 

 

Sleepwalker   *   Dreams of Change   *   Finding Hawk

 

Chasing Dove   *   Shattered Reality   *   Embracing Reality

 

 

 

Branches of Emrys is part of the Others Universe which includes: 

 

Others of Edenton   *   Others of Seattle   *   Branches of Emrys

 

Reading Order for Universe

 

 

 

AVAILABLE in ebook

 

Amazon   *   B&N   *   Kobo  *   iBooks   *   GPlay

 

 

 

 

I've always loved books, especially about monsters and magic, so I started writing. I'm working on a prequel and the next few books in the Others of Edenton series, and I have a head full of stories to share.

 

I'm a stay at home mother with a wonderful husband who lets me write and write to my hearts content.

 

 

Website   *   Goodreads   *   Facebook   *   Twitter   *   InstaGram   *   Tumblr

 

BookBub   *   Amazon

 

 

 

 

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