Review: Ice Kissed

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Ice Kissed by Amanda Hocking
My rating: 54.5 of 5 stars

*** Advanced Reader Copy provided by the publisher ***

Ice Kissed is the second book in the Kanin Chronicles by Amanda Hocking and is a worthy successor to the first novel Frostfire. The world of the trolls is fascinating, with the exception that Canada seems to be a world locked in snow and ice. As I write this I am in Banff National Park in March staring at … green. Perhaps this is a world without global warming?

The writing is crisp and precise and the story moves along at a quick pace. When you can empathize with the character the author has done a good job of portraying the characters strengths and faults and presents them a situation that seems all too real. That is what Amanda Hocking has done in Ice Kissed as Bryn seems truly tortured by the events transpiring around her. Trapped in a world where her desire for justice, for doing what her heart tells her, causes a rippling effect throughout the community, Bryn is forced to follow a path that she doesn’t enjoy, but that she must follow..

For me, at least, the ending of Frostfire seemed incomplete while Ice Kissed seems to be just right. Bryn is faced with a number of choices and behaves exactly how I would expect her to behave and while the overall story arc still continues the storyline in Ice Kissed seems complete. This is not labelled as a mystery, however, so don’t expect the plot to be complex and convoluted. The plot is somewhat see-through and mystery lovers will find it somewhat weak. As a Young Adult fantasy, however, the mystery is used as a character development tool and in that the novel does what needs to be done.

Believable characters combined with an excellent adventure. What more do you need?

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Review: The Darkest Minds

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The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wasn’t sure that I was going to like The Darkest Minds as the book started off slowly, at least for me. However, in a very short period of time I became emotionally invested in ensuring that Ruby survived. Invested in ensuring that Liam, Chubbs and Suzume all escaped the shackles they found themselves under and not just lived, but thrived.

Safety, however, is not something that can easily be found. And being able to care about those around you? Harder still. The Darkest Minds follows Ruby as she struggles to make sense of the world around her and the powers that she possesses.

I must admit that I was initially not a big fan of the ending. I mean, girl-meets-boy, girl-loses-boy, girl-gets-boy, is the normal swing of a book. Not for [a:Alexandra Bracken|2973783|Alexandra Bracken|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1411581389p2/2973783.jpg] as she decides that she wants to play with you and your emotions. While it makes sense what happened, it is most definitely not what I was expecting nor what I wanted.

The Darkest Minds is an excellent book by a woman whose career looks very bright.

Review: You Are Mine

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You Are Mine by Janeal Falor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You Are Mine by Janeal Falor provides us with a very stylized world in which the “ownership” of women is a well established fact and our protagonist feels compelled to break the rules in an attempt at preventing herself from falling victim to this policy.

The book was interesting, but the callousness of the warlocks and their rituals seemed “over the top” and added more as one more thing that the civilized reader would hold against the warlocks. And the barbarians? From the readers perspective the barbarians are actually the more civilized, causing our heroine, Serena, to wonder whether or not the stories she has heard are true.

While the book does a good job of helping us understand how decades of institutionlized abuse and wholesale ownership of women, well, people in general, can do a good job of warping one’s perspective, the sudden realization that there is an underground in place to help people like her seems to lack standing within the novel. A few more hints, earlier on, of trouble in society would have gone a long way towards setting a better base upon which to build the finale.

Overall, however, the book was a good read and kept me entertained throughout.

Review: Claimed

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Claimed
by Sarah Fine
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

*** Advance Reader Copy provided by the publisher ***
*** Goodreads rating: 4.5/5 star ***

Claimed is the sequel to Marked, but unlike many sequels this novel focuses it’s attention on two different characters than those emphasized in the first book. And I think it worked. While Eli and Cacy were good characters for the first book, Galena Margolis and Declan Ferry are more complex, nuanced characters that allow the psychologist in Sarah Fine to come out.

The backstory behind Galena is tragic and something that no one should have to go through, but it fits so well within the world created by Marked that the details of its appearance in Claimed seem natural. While the storyline around the Ferrys and the Keres and the Keepers of the Afterlife continue, it is Galena and Declan upon whom we focus our attention. The universe being built, novel by novel, is complex and frightening to envision and throughout all of the pain and sorrow that we witness in the novel, there is still a shining thread of hope that binds us all together.

Claimed is a worthy successor to Marked and I look forward to the next novel in the series.

Review: Aquila

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Aquila by Sue-Ellen Pashley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

*** Advanced Reader Copy provided by the Publisher ***

It has been a long time since a novel captivated me so completely that I finished it in a single sitting. Aquila is the first to do so in ten years or more and every second I spent with the novel was worth it.

The characters were complex and yet so believable that I could envision them being friends when I was growing up or as friends of my daughters. And while the novel was written in the traditional three act style, the author did not let that her stop her from creating a world that grabbed me from the start and would not let me go. The alternating of the perspective between the two main characters kept the story moving and made you more fully understand the anguish that each of them felt about the situation.

It is, ultimately, a novel that tries to show you that who you fall in love with is a decision that you need to make for yourself. Whether that love is based on years of gradually getting to know each other or through “love at first sight”, the decision is yours.

While this may be the debut novel of Sue-Ellen Pashley it is impossible to tell. Weaving story and emotions into an elegant tapestry of character development, this is a novel that I am very happy that I got to know.

 

Foundation of Love

Based upon the writing prompt located at A Writing Prompt a Day

He stepped up to the pulpit, his normally steady hands shaking as he set his notes down. While his mouth was dry, he didn’t dare pick up the glass of water that sat waiting for him for fear that he would spill the contents. He looked out at the crowd, standing room only today, and waited for them to quiet down on their own accord before he started. When they had done so he scanned the church one more time and found the eyes of Miranda Hutchins. Her eyes were filled with sorrow and pain, fear and sympathy, but most of all, filled with love. He straightened up, wiped the sweat from his brow, cleared his throat, and began his last sermon.

“Thank you for coming out today.  The Lord has blessed us with a beautiful spring morning so I won’t keep you long as I am sure that you have gardening and barbecues to work on today.”  A few chuckles came from the congregation as he knew a number of them had standing afternoon beer parties on Sundays after church having been at a few of them himself.

“I wanted to talk to you about something that exists within each of us and drives us to do strange and miraculous things.  I wanted to talk about love.  I’m sure that you’ve heard me talk about 1 Corinthians before, but let me repeat myself one last time.”

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

“Love endures.”  He moved away from the podium, his voice becoming louder, carrying to the far corners of the church as the emotion took over.

“Love is what keeps us going from day to day.  It is the driving force for some of mankind’s greatest acheivements and it is the glue that holds families together.  Love is the greatest of gifts that God has given us.  The ability to love.  The experience of love.  As 1 Corinthians states, if you have not loved you are nothing and have gained nothing.  All of your faith and hope mean nothing if you don’t have love.”

“I want you to look around at your family and friends and know that there is love in this church.  There is a deep and abiding love from the other members of this church for you and from God, for you.  You are not unloved.  Each and every one of you are part of the reason why this church is so strong.  Your love is the foundation upon which this church sits and that foundation will never be broken!”

“Amen,” said many of the parishioners, their excitement building with his oration.

“I have seen this love in action.  I have seen you care for each other in times of need and sorrow and raise each other on your shoulders in times of happiness. I have seen acts of devotion that have brought me to tears and have seen commitment and love that has taken me to my knees.  I have prayed with you and for you.”

He paused as his throat closed up.  He went back to the podium, reached for the water and was pleasantly surprised that his hand was steady.  He took a sip of water and looked towards heaven.  “Thank you,” he whispered, confident that his newfound strength was a sign from above.

He stepped away from the podium and sat down on the top step leading to the altar.  He was still higher than the congregation so they could still see him.  He was noticeably quieter as he continued, forcing the parishioners to concentrate on what he was saying.

“In the midst of prayer I came to the realization that there was something missing from my life.  Something so core that my life, so full of meaning and duty and love for my fellow man, felt empty.  While I felt love, it was an empty love.  The love one feels for a good book or a good beer.”

“So I prayed.  I prayed for God to show me what to do.  I prayed for an answer to my question of whether or not I will truly find love. He answered my prayers.”

He stood back up, walked back to the podium and faced his congregation.  Faced his friends.  Faced his love.

“I have come here today to tender my resignation as your spiritual leader.”  The crowd gasped and started talking, but he continued and they quieted down quickly. “I am tendering my resignation because God has answered my prayers and he sent me someone that I could love and who loves me in return.  Not for what I am, but for who I am.  I am tendering my resignation while I discover what lies in store for my future. What lies in store for me … and my wife.”

The congregation erupted but he merely looked at Miranda, saw the tears of joy, smiled and then left the altar.

Review: Marked

21805566Marked by Sarah Fine

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

*** Reader copy provided by the Publisher ***
*** Goodreads rating 4.5 / 5 stars. Rounded up ***

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading [b:Marked|21805566|Marked (Servants of Fate, #1)|Sarah Fine|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1408475509s/21805566.jpg|41068478], but what I got was a surprisingly engaging novel that had a number of plot twists and thoroughly engaging characters. Cacy and her extended family are part of the Ferrys and the head of the family is the Charon. Those familiar with Greek Mythology will see where the genesis of the novel began as Charon guided the souls over the river Styx. Cacy and her family perform a similar function, shepherding souls into Heaven or Hell.

Into Cacy’s life comes Eli, her paramedic partner and the first person to penetrate the “no man allowed” wall that she put up after she escorted the soul of her last lover into the Afterlife. At this point things start to get complicated.

Sarah Fine does an excellent job at combining mythology and a futuristic world after an ecological collapse brings most of the nation to its knees. Add into this world a plot where no one is really what they seem and you have the makings of an excellent story. Sarah Fine delivers a fun romp that captured my attention from the first page.