Inked Brownies

Inked Brownies

Where books meet brownies

Review
3 Stars
Timothy Other: The Boy Who Climbed Marzipan Mountain
Timothy Other: The Boy Who Climbed Marzipan Mountain - L. Sydney Abel
Unlike the typical MG book I expected this to be, it is quite the mix of genres. As I’ve said before, this can be a good thing or a meh thing, totally depending on how believable the genres are mixed together. This one fell somewhere in between good and meh.

The first 10-15% of the book or so (what’s up with those first 10%’s recently?!) wanted me to retreat to my parents’ attic with a tin box nicely filled with Milky Ways (I never knew the US version is the same as a Mars bar *shakes head* crazy Americans). One of the first notes I made was “Woop, woop! It’s like a new Roald Dahl book!“. And those first couple of chapters really had the same level of quality incorporated in them. There is silliness, adventure, and magic. Not the ‘waving-a-wand-‘ or ‘shooting-fireballs-out-of-your-hands’ kind of magic, but real magic, children’s magic.

Then, at around 20%, the story lost me a little. The dialogues were too childish for my taste and reminded me of stories I’ve written myself when I was still in primary school. When one character was literally trying to strangle another character over a couple of harmless words, I was like…mkay.

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Just when I started to feel like I could make heads nor tails anymore of the story, it all slowly started to click together. In the end, it makes sense and almost every loose thread is resolved. But before we reach the end, there’s a scary asylum, a child murderer, a housekeeper with a severe mental disorder, and ghosts! Oh, and we finally get an answer to how the Smurfs came to be, sort of (that one was pretty cool actually).
So yes, when you’re expecting MG Fantasy, these kinds of things can be pretty confusing. I came across a few scenes where I felt this book shouldn’t be read by children in the first place.

“After his strife
he’ll use his knife
And slit their throats wide open“


I’m not saying you can’t mention throat-slitting in a children’s book, but this part was simply too darn sinister for one.

A little more about the story: it all starts with the orphanage of Dreams and Hopes, which is run by the gentle Mr.Penny. When the orphanage gets into financial trouble and a new owner, plus a new staff in the form of the horrible Ms.Finn, is installed, the place turns into a nightmare. When Timothy (unknowingly) runs off to Marzipan Mountain, he encounters a giant mouse called Leopold, and his friend Edwin, a giant caterpillar, there. This part of the story feels like a nice trip to Alice in Wonderland. Except for the childish dialogues and emo behaviour…

Meanwhile, we also read about what’s taking place at the orphanage ever since Timothy left, until both storylines intertwine again.

For a main character, I hardly felt any sympathy for Timothy. He often seemed like a bit of a cruel boy with temper issues. The characters I liked the most are Mr.Penny, whom, for some reason, I can’t help but imagine looking like this

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, and Borgerov, a wonderful earthly version of Chewbacca with a name to be envious of if you’re a grumpy person like me.

If you think that I didn’t like this book, you’re wrong. It’s a wonderful mystery with lots of different elements and layers to it. There’s humour (with the occasional fart joke), adventure and fantastical creatures. Also, it’s not about Timothy climbing a mountain, it’s about celebrating life and freeing yourself from limited thinking. I loved a quote at the end of the book about New Year and the madness of saying goodbye to a number while at the same time saying hello to another one.

“After all, time is time, it doesn’t materially change. People change, fashions change and seasons change. But time keeps the same, simply passing. Besides, you don’t go to bed every night celebrating tomorrow. How can you celebrate something that doesn’t come around for everyone?“

I think I’ll translate this bit into Dutch and shove it into my neighbours’ mailbox in the hope they won’t throw heavy fireworks in my yard until 10am next time. Bah humbug!

I’m giving this book three brownies, meaning I liked it.

A big thank you to L. Sydney Abel for providing me with a copy of his book in exchange for an honest opinion!
Review
2 Stars
The Dolorous Adventure of Brother Banenose
The Dolorous Adventure of Brother Banenose - Matthew Catania
I finished this book weeks ago, but couldn’t motivate myself to write a review until now. Partly due to being behind on schedule and life being a demanding dildo, but also because I had no idea what to write about it? This book was such a struggle to get through and honestly; I can’t put my finger on the exact reasons. I love absurd humour, I love fantasy, I love medieval stories, and it’s only 232 pages for crying out loud. Yet it still felt like a total drag to me.

“Hey, O emaciated one! Quit standing in mine path or mine voluminous axe shall cleave thy moustachioed countenance in twain!”…”Thy very stench offends mine august nostrils!”

I would like to say that this is how the story starts. It doesn’t, though. It’s a quote I found at around six percent into the book, and it is very depicting when it comes to the rest of the story. I don’t know about those of you who happen to have English as their first language, but as a non-native English speaker, I have to say the semi-medieval style doesn’t make this an easy read!

The synopsis up here describes the story better than I ever could have done myself, but I’m going to try to add a little more to it anyways.

So brother Banenose is a monk who leaves his precious abbey of The Hidden Pox to go and visit his cousin who lives in The Idyllic Land of Bliss. On his journey, he encounters several obstacles which really delay the whole trip yonder. There’s an evil gold stealing gnome, tiny fairies having sexy time in a bush, a pig specialist, a Bear-Boy, and a female demon named Fairuza who likes to fornicate with pretty much everything that moves (including an antlered unicornish beast) but loves Stephfi, a Marauderatrix, the most. Somewhere along the way, a reliquary in the form of the hangnail of Christ (or even better: the foreskin of Christ) is stolen by a monkey. Brother Banenose and some of the strange people/creatures he encounters on the road become travel buddies and go after the monkey to retrieve the reliquary.

Heck of a story isn’t it?

For some reason, Stephfi speaks German most of the time. I happen to understand German very well, but if you don’t, I can only imagine how bothersome this must be because there are no translations in the book. And then there’s the missing out on some funny stuff like Stephfi saying:

“Warum muss es immer Manticores sein?”
(Why does it always have to be manticores?)

which is a cool reference to Indiana Jones.

There are some Monty Python references as well and, let’s face it, this entire book is inspired by Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I believe it’s trying a bit too hard at times even when it comes to the humour. I did laugh a few times and I truly think the idea behind The Dolorous Adventure of Brother Banenose has some promise to it, but…try less hard and, for the love of the Holy Hangnail of Christ, make it more readable.

TL; DR:

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I’m giving it two brownies, meaning it was an ‘okay’ read. If you’re into silly Monty Python humour and don’t mind not understanding German or Old English, you should definitely give this book a go (be quick about it though because it won’t be for sale anymore after tomorrow!*)

A copy was generously provided by Booktrope via Netgalley in exchange for an honest opinion.

*Due to Booktrope shutting down at the end of this month, you can only get a new copy of this book until tomorrow (a.k.a. May 31, 2016, will be your final opportunity to acquire it). After that, it’ll most likely turn into a reliquary. Without a publisher, the eBooks &paperbacks will go out of production.
Review
4 Stars
The Flood
The Flood - Steven Scaffardi
The story picks up about 6 months after The Drought took place (I can't tell you all too much about Dan's life here because it would spoil the heck out of the first book): Dan is foolish enough to make a bet with his three friends: Rob, Jack, and Ollie. I'm saying foolish because these are the exact rules for it:

1) Within six weeks, you must be dating four girls simultaneously. No online dating or apps allowed.
2) One of those girls must be [insert female character from the first book]
3) The moment you start dating the fourth girl, you have two weeks to juggle all four girls to prove you are a true player.
4) You must arrange to meet all four girls at least once during the same week.
5) Complete this challenge and you complete The Flood and win the bet. 


*Cue Mission Impossible theme*

Of course, this can only become a great disaster! Unlike in the previous book, though, the situations are somewhat less predictable. Heck, there were a few that kept my eyes glued to my Kindle screen because I wanted to find out what was behind door #3!

We meet some lovely socially awkward and/or disturbing characters. Ieuan (apparently pronounced as YIGH-un, who knew?) is a rather geeky Welsh guy who's new at Dan's office. There's some great chemistry between him and Jack, who insistently keeps calling him 'Iron'.
However, my favourite new character must be Dan's autistic new roommate...

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I found this book to be written slightly better than the first one. I also had to laugh out loud quite a few times. Some of my favourite quotes:

"Probably not the best time for a wank, but it could have been my last!"

"I once kissed a girl that looked like Ruud van Nistelrooy. Does that count?"

Then there was a Carlton Banks dance reference and a Craig David reference, which makes me get to the following: amongst Dan and his friends, everything can be turned into a popular (preferably '80's or '90's) song, albeit with slightly different lyrics. It's pretty embarrassing to tell you guys about this, but that's what's going on in this house quite a few hours of the day. Every day....
So "Blue Moob, I saw you wearing a bra" could've been sung in my house easily and will probably be added to the repertoire from now on. Popular ones are also "It's the final cuntdown", "You're my heart, you're my boob", and "I wanna know what boobs are (I want you to show me)". Reading about other people doing this as well, made me feel a lot more normal. *twitches eye*

The Flood has awkwardness, a little bit of suspense, romance and comedy packed up neatly together. If you want to read something fun, I can highly recommend picking up this series. And yes, I'm calling it a series because the ending is hinting very unsubtly at a third book. I was hoping to read more about Dan and his friends, so I'm really looking forward to part 3, whenever it may be published. If you don't feel like reading several books for whatever reason, you can just jump into this one without having to read The Drought first. The characters are properly re-introduced in the beginning with a little recap here and there of the previous story, so you can just pretend this is a standalone novel. However, why would you want to do that??

I'm giving it four brownies with a generous amount of ice- and whipped cream on top!

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A big thank you to Steven Scaffardi for providing me with a copy of his book in exchange for an honest opinion!

There's a hilarious Character Q&A I did with Steven Dan, Rob, Ollie and Jack on my blog here as part of the Lad Lit blog tour!
Review
4 Stars
The Drought
The Drought - Steven Scaffardi
This was a welcome light-hearted read after having read some pretty sinister ones lately. British down to earth humour when it comes to understanding the opposite sex (this applies to both men and women)!

When I was just checking out the cover again while pasting it in here, I immediately had to think of the following video clip. If you think this is even remotely funny, you're going to love this book. If not, oh well, tough luck, you should still try this book.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbtI8zBxqyc

So we're basically following Dan and his three-friended posse. Dan's just like the synopsis describes him: a nice guy. With an overdeveloped sense for the dramatic, if you will.

“Eight months without sex. People had committed crimes and been given lesser sentences.“

His friends are quite the gems as well:

First of all, we’ve got Rob, Dan’s best friend since primary school, who’s the good looking, smart mannered, stylishly clothed, big-hearted guy who gets all the women. I thought I was going to hate his guts for being such a player, but honestly, I can’t help but truly liking him (see the words 'big-hearted' up here), He’s such a great friend to Dan, helping him whenever he can, and treats all his ‘trophies’ with respect, sort of? Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a first class wanker, but…a likable one? *brain freeze*

Then there’s Jack, who reminds me a bit of a foul-mouthed leprechaun due to his endless stream of NSFW-remarks together with being of a modest height. Even if he’s a cheating, disrespectful, chlamydia-spreading donkey arse, again, I can’t help but like him? Okay, so what the flying fuck’s going on here Scaffardi?! Is there some brainwashing hypnotic element hidden in the Kindle text version? Should I try the paperback to see if it makes any difference?

Erm, yes, and then, last but not least, there’s Ollie. I’ve met quite a few Ollies in real life actually, but can always laugh at the level of stupidity they incorporate. Ollie’s an active member of the local gym but seriously lacks some brain capacity. This makes him a laid back, not too picky kind of guy to be around with and he definitely adds some hilarity to the story with his idiotic comments.

If you want to know more about the characters, there’s a detailed ‘Meet the Characters’ section on Steven’s website here. Love it!

Ah yes, there’s an author involved here, so I guess I have to say something about the writing style as well eh? Since I forgot there was even an author due to the characters coming alive brilliantly, I think this says enough doesn’t it? Okay, okay, maybe I should just drop a few more notes on the matter. It was great, but sometimes it reminded me a bit more of a movie script instead of a book. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if someone ever decides to turn it into a movie; the visual scenes are already there! Do you think Benedict Cumberbatch might be too old to play Rob? Jack O’Connell would probably make a great Jack if he can drop the Derby accent…but I’m digressing here!

I didn’t laugh all throughout the book, but I did giggle out loud a few times which is good enough for me and my [insert resting bitch face]. What I also did was poke my hubby in the shoulder while reading and going “Omg, so this is MAN LOGIC?!“

“I would tell her that anything that happened over six months ago is inadmissible in an argument.“

Something about not calling your mother when you need to tell her something important, and:

“She was smart, funny, and easy going. It was a huge bonus that she had big boobs.“

These things have been done/mentioned literally by said hubby several times. I need to read more Lad Lit in the hope of deciphering some more of this odd behaviour…

The story in itself was quite predictable most of the time, but I didn’t mind all too much. I’m giving it 4 brownies and can highly recommend it whenever you’re in need of a read to lift your spirits. Don’t shy away from the Lad Lit tag as a woman, it’ll be just as funny and even might be insightful to how unbelievably irrational we can get at times. I recognised myself in Dan’s ex-girlfriend Stacey for a bit and immediately made a note to self to never pull off any of that emotional extortion shit ever again. Or at least until my next cycle comes up.

A big thank you to Steven Scaffardi for providing me with a copy of his book in exchange for an honest opinion! Be sure to check out the #LadLitBlogTour as well, in which I will take part myself with a review of the sequel to The Drought: The Flood, and a Character Q&A on the 16th of May!
Review
3 Stars
Rat Queens Volume 3: Demons
Rat Queens Volume 3: Demons - Kurtis J. Wiebe
Okay, call me Mrs Fusspot, but what's up with this cover?! Dat ass. Those boobs. Did they get stung by some bees from hell??

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Let me explain my main annoyances with the new artwork by simply showing you the differences. The mystery of what happened to Dee's ass:



What did happen to Dee's ass? Seriously...Maybe she grew up a little but that wouldn't make any sense when it comes to the chronology. It's not like years have passed between the before and after picture. Luckily, this only mainly effects the cover, so it's not that of a big deal. Just something that caught my eye. In a very unsubtle way.

What frustrated me more was the way Violet has been drawn this time (I'm not referring to the beard, she had it before as well, I just like this image better than the ones I could find of her with a beard)



She just looks so much more masculine (apart from the massive rack she's displaying on the front cover). I guess the people who do like this change will come up with the argument that she's a dwarf and she definitely looks more like one now. However, I really don't think it's an improvement. I want the old Violet back! And the old art style, really...

It's obviously not just the main characters; you can see it in all of the other characters and surroundings as well. Tizzie, a side character from the other volumes, was totally unrecognizable for me up until the point where her name was mentioned. And then I still wasn't entirely sure if this was the same girl we were talking about...



The Tizzie from the previous books was a scrawny girl with ash blonde hair. The Tizzie from this book has saddlebags and golden blonde hair. I don't have anything against looking at saddlebags, by the way, I have them myself as well, but it's just an entirely different girl! I think some weight was added to all of the characters, come to think of it, which isn't a bad thing either. It just would've been nicer if they started off the series with that in the first place instead of changing it halfway in.

Anyhow, yes, the new artwork: apart from the colour palette, I'm not a big fan of it.

The story is alright, but feels a bit clunky and...different. The Mage University looks pretty awesome, but we hardly get to see any of the actual insides of it. The different types of scenarios and sceneries rocked, but the transfer from one to the other was done rather messily.

We finally get to see a bit more of Betty's history. It's not much, but hey, it's something! I also loved that this volume was even thicker than the previous one: more to read! There was a lot of action, in-depth storylines (maybe a little too in-depth because they confused me from time to time), and some raw emotions. I mean, the previous two books didn't really cover up much, but this one goes deep...

At the same time, it's fast paced and thank fuck, the humour is still in there!

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There's still a lot of swearing (though less than in the previous books) and some nudity again. No sex scenes this time, though. Just bewbs.

I already mentioned the book was lusciously thick right? This is partly due to a Braga special in the end. Braga is a one-eyed female orc warrior who's...oh, just look at her will ya...

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She's my favourite side character and this little special left me gasping and hoping there will be a sequel to it because...I need to know what the hell just happened there!
Review
3 Stars
For King and Country: The Saga of Thistles and Roses (The Warrior Queen, #1)
For King and Country: The Saga of Thistles and Roses (The Warrior Queen, #1) - Karen  Gray
Maybe you should just read the synopsis first...go on, I'll be back when you're done *taps foot*.

See, the mistake I made was not reading this synopsis first and diving straight into the book based on the cover and the description of the author (don't judge me, I know there are a lot of cover whores out there just like me). Speaking of the cover, Karen designed all the covers of her books herself and I think she did a GREAT job at it! They're original, artsy and nothing like: hey, look, here's a background of a random forest with an even more random picture of a frowning gorgeous girl in front of it. So yes, fabulous!

Back to the synopsis. When I started reading this book, I was totally convinced I was reading Dark Age Fantasy. Mythical creatures in the Scottish highlands...yum! The first 15% was amazing. I even shouted it out on Twitter because I couldn't contain my excitement. Then, all of a sudden, I read:

"The largest of them was lifting a set of defibrillator paddles."

To which my reaction was:

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*runs to synopsis* AA-HA! Twenty-seventh century post-apocalyptic Scotland!! This was totally my bad because I just wasn't prepared for it, and it took me quite a while to switch my mindset to "Okay, this is taking place in the future".

However, no matter how hard I tried to do this, it still kept confusing me. The combination of medieval equipment and high tech just kept throwing me off. I mean, they're living in a castle and sleeping in stone cells with a chamber pot, yet when they get out of bed, they switch on the (electric!) lights and take a modern shower. I just could not wrap my head around that, and it distracted the heck out of me during the second part of the story (roughly from 15-50%).
After that, either I got better at finally putting things into perspective, or the story just got better again *shrugs*. You'll have to read it yourself to become the judge of that.

Besides there being a lot of horses or horselike creatures in this book, most of the characters also have a familiar, usually in the form of a mythical beast. I absolutely loved those, especially Rannoch, Mòrag's half unicorn/half lion (well, maybe not exactly because it's a bit more complicated when it comes to their gene pools, but at least you'll get some sort of image of what he looks like). I certainly hope to see more of him in the second book!

When it comes to the other characters, the female ones are definitely the most interesting. When Karen told me her female characters are literally strong, instead of the metaphorically 'strong', I was fascinated right away, and the elaboration of the characters did not disappoint.
There's Mòrag, the protagonist of the story, of course, whom I can really appreciate for not being a wuss and doing what she thinks is right while disregarding any form of authority over her. Yet my favourite character would be General Rozzen. She reminded me a little of How To Train Your Dragon's 'Big Boobied Bertha' even though her physique was nothing like it. Just a strong woman in all ways who won't take shit from anyone, yet always remains fair and good-natured at the same time.

Somewhere around 85% of the book, the romantic part unfolds. This was very predictable in the Cinderella sense of romance, and not my cup of tea, which was too bad because I just felt like I was back on track again. Thankfully, the ending was less predictable, even though I had to read it a few times to fully makes sense of what on earth was happening there.

So all in all, there were some pretty awesome things and some not-so-awesome things in this book for me. I was really fascinated by the mind link system which is used to communicate telepathically, but can also be used for other things. I guess if I have to describe it, it's a bit like the Force in Star Wars. You can heal, help and fight with it, but if you cross over to the dark side, you can also totally destroy someone just by using your mind. Very cool!

The story entails some beautiful pieces to a puzzle, yet I feel like they've been smashed together with a hammer sometimes just to make them fit. Scenes merging without a natural flow to it is something which I felt occurred quite a few times as well. I still enjoyed reading this book, though, and will rate it with 3 brownies accordingly. I'm very curious about book two now and hoping the pieces to a beautiful puzzle will make for a better fit!

Highly recommended for horse lovers: if you love horses, you're most likely going to love this book!

A big thank you to Karen Gray for providing me with a copy of her book in exchange for an honest review!
Review
5 Stars
Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children)
Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children) - Seanan McGuire
Do you ever have the feeling you don't really belong here?
Ask yourself: "Is this it?".
Do you feel like there's some adventurous side of you which can't come out due to the restrictions of the world we live in?
If so, imagine that one day, instead of opening the door to your good ol' (ever so boring) bedroom, you open that same door, yet there's an entirely different world behind it. Not like the Narnia kind of experience, though, if you're thinking about that now.

"That's because Narnia was a Christian allegory pretending to be a fantasy series, you asshole"

...is what the book has to say about that. So, nope, no tumbling out of a wardrobe into some snowy landscape. Unless that's exactly what you're into, of course. See, all the doors  in this book are actually portals with a deeper connection to the person who's opening one. The world behind it is a reflection of what's hidden deep within your soul. Straight from the heart, if you will.

If you're secretly a bit of a badass, you'll most definitely stumble upon a world in which you will thrive as one, and enjoy the hell out of it while doing so. You'd be perfectly happy there; this new world providing all the mental and physical stimulation you always needed to become this perfectly happy.
For Nancy, the protagonist of Every Heart A Doorway, this world happens to be the Hall of the Dead. Hey, it wouldn't be my kind of thing either, but whatever floats her boat.

Now imagine being happy there, riding a horse with a monkey on your shoulder (I think my door would lead me to a Pippi Longstocking themed world with playing, baking cookies and fighting pirates) or, you know, being a happy corpse bride or something, and another door (or the same one) opens up again. This time back to where you came from: this world. There's the option where you can choose to walk into it and return to your old family and friends (the other worlds' times are entirely different from ours, meaning you would only have been gone for a couple of months or so here, after spending years in the other world). Then there's also the option of not having an option, really, and just plainly being kicked out of the other world into your old one. Want to go back to living the fullest life possible? Too bad, the portal's closed again.

This is where Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children comes in. It's a bit of a mixture between a boarding school and an asylum. With the exception that the people who live there aren't batshit crazy necessarily. They're just really, really homesick.

This first book takes place in the institution entirely and so we get to meet lots of (mostly) teenagers who each already lived for years in one of the fantasy worlds. Some of them have already practically started a family there, yet ended back up into their old child's body over here. Frustrating? Yes.

So while some of them can never return to this:

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(God, I'd be heartbroken!)

Others cry themselves to sleep each night because they can't return to this:

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This makes this book a bric–a–brac  of genres, really, while still remaining within the YA Fantasy one as well. I've got two words for this: fucking awesome.

The characters are so unique and wonderful, with such a variety of backgrounds. Each and every one of their stories could fill up a book in itself. Which is what makes this even more of a writing accomplishment because the characters, the concept; the entire story, is being told in only 176 pages!

I loved the gothic theme, the rainbow theme, the candy kingdom theme...all of the themes, really! It felt like Roald Dahl, Tim Burton, and Agatha Christie (with a bit of a potty mouth), all sat together and wrote this book. There are crazy worlds, quirky characters and a mystery that will make you beg for more

Which makes me get to the only thing I didn't like about this book: the ending. Let's just say that the story keeps you guessing about something but it turned out I guessed right the first time straight away? Hence, a little disappointment there, but nothing too major. The book also has a bit of an open ending to it but this isn't called #1 for naught; there will be 2 more books as far as I can tell. Do I want to read them? Bloody hell, yeah! Do you want to read them? Yes, yes you do. But just start with this one. Recommended to everyone who still believes in a little bit of magic.

4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 here on GR.

An ARC of this book was provided by Tor via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Review
3 Stars
The Story of Lucius Cane: Book One
The Story of Lucius Cane: Book One - Vanya Ferreira
As you can see, this is only a very short story, so, luckily for you, this review will also be rather short.

I was pleasantly surprised after reading the first couple of pages. The writing quality is really good. I could see it all happening very vividly. The characters, the surroundings: really well done!

I think Lucius Cane could be in my top 20 of favourite antiheroes. I truly liked his character and he reminds me a little of the Marquis from Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. Except Lucius is a vampire, obviously.

Because this book is so short and ends with a cliffhanger, there’s not really much left for me to say about it. I can highly recommend reading it as an in-between kind of thing; it’s entertaining enough, especially if you’re into paranormal stories.

I would love to see a book two, three and four. Then, turned into a volume, I could most likely give it 4 brownies or even more. For now, I’m settling on a steady 3 brownies. A solid entertaining quick read.

A big thank you to Vanya Ferreira for providing me with a copy of his book in exchange for an honest review!
Review
2 Stars
Witchyman
Witchyman - K.B. Hill
This is, hands down, the most disturbing book I've ever read. I honestly didn't know if I would be able to finish it due to its content. I finished it anyway because the tension kept me on the edge of my seat, but now it's just really hard to rate it. Let's see what happens while writing the review!

When I first read about the book, I thought this would be sweet because I truly love me some urban legend. Ghost stories about men with hooks for hands sprang to mind and I was thrilled when I could finally start reading Witchyman.

After one or two chapters, I realised that this is far more disturbing than any of the stories I had in mind. A few pages in, a very young girl was already being beaten and raped. The being beaten and raped part turned out to be one of the main threads in the book.

As I have mentioned in some of my previous reviews, I have a really hard time reading about rape, especially when it's being told in a raw and explicit kind of way. This was raw and explicit alright. The fact that during the first part of the book, the victims are exclusively little children made my stomach turn and I seriously had to put the book down a couple of times because I felt so upset about it. How on earth was I going to rate and review this? Let alone finish it?! Let me tell you this, if it wasn't for the writing in itself and the building of the tension, I would've DNF'd it right then and there.

If I have to describe what this book is about (forget about the synopsis, I'm talking about what the book is really about, and the feels of it), I'd say imagine a more talkative version of Michael Myers without the mask, who's raping his victims before, during, and after he kills them.

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I once started a book by Karen Slaughter about a guy who liked to cut a hole into women's stomachs, and then rape them straight into their intestines. I did not finish that book, no matter how many people kept telling me how good it was.

'Luckily' for me, this didn't involve that kind of rape, but it was still just incredibly fucked up (no pun intended). We're talking about a psychopath who can only get sexually aroused when his victim is physically and mentally suffering. And just thinking about that kind of stuff gives him a hard on. Yes, he gets hard. A LOT. Remember the cock diagram I drew a while ago? If not, you can find it here. There's a similar formula to all the rape scenes as well, yet here we can replace cock with 'hard on'/ 'getting hard'. And the rest is just punching and pain.

The murders were a bit more versatile: suffocating, stabbing, strangling someone with a fish line...lovely. Yet that kind of stuff (which is obviously also very disturbing), I can take. I love horror flicks and gore, and even if I'm somewhat scared of knives in real life, I don't 'mind' seeing a person getting stabbed in a horror movie. Heck, I watched all Halloween movies/sequels plus countless of other horror fests.

Getting back to the Michael Myers overlap, I think this still shot of him (up) and the creepy clown from American Horror Story: Freak Show (below) really depicts the kind of tension you can expect in Witchman.

UpfZYER.jpg

I don't know how these guys do it, but they can always find you. Always. And, of course, there's the therapist who never believes the victim, which is the case in this book as well.

So how was I able to finish it if I had such issues with the sexual content? I already mentioned the writing and the tension. There's hardly any criticism from my side when it comes to the general writing style, apart from the switching of POV's in the middle of a paragraph; that was pretty confusing. Other than that, I wasn't able to tell that this is the author's first novel. The story is disgusting, disturbing and sometimes, quite repetitive, yet you just keep turning them pages! I really wanted a happy ending and let the serial killer/rapist get a taste of his own medicine (a.k.a. DIE BITCH, DIE!!). If you want to know if that particular ending was granted to me, I suggest you read the book yourself *zips lips*.

The story takes place alternately in the fancy suburbs of Los Angeles and the cold harsh climate in Winnipeg. Even though the Winnipeg murders and eery atmosphere there were creepy as fuck, I still loved reading about the forest, the trees in it and the meandering paths inside of the forest. The author did a great job describing the beauty of it all, that's for sure. She was inspired by the Wildwood Park (also in Winnipeg) where she actually grew up and where some similar events took place when she was a little girl.

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I absolutely love the forest and this picture of Wildwood Park looks beautiful. However, play some creepy music in the background while looking at it, and imagine it's dark and cold...anything could be lurking around that corner. Witchyman is still pure fiction, though, but...yikes!

The characters: don't get too attached to them. You never know who might die all of a sudden! My favourite character was probably Sheila, though, because she's just such a calm and friendly person. Kris, the main character, didn't leave that much of an impression on me. The big bad guy: yeah, he had a rough childhood. So did a lot of people. None of the people that I know of have turned into a psychopath. Unless they're hiding it really well *looks over shoulder in complete paranoia*

All and all, I can honestly say this was not my cup of tea because of the massive amounts of rape. I know there are some sick people out there in the real world who really are like the Witchyman, and this gives us a brilliant look into their minds, but still, I personally don’t like to read about it. If the sexual part would've been more subtle, though, I most likely would've found it awesome because I dig all the other shit in the story. Sadly, I can't overlook this issue and that's why I'm giving it 2.5 brownies. This is my personal opinion, though, and if you have a stronger gut/less 'crying over killed puppies in fiction'-sensitivity than I do, you're going to love this story.

A big thank you to K.B.Hill for sending me a (physical!) copy in exchange for an honest review!

For a chance at trying out your own ethical boundaries: I'm honoured to be able to give away one signed copy of the book @ my blog.
It's open internationally and ends on the 5th of May, 12:00AM, Amsterdam time (CEST).

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Review
4 Stars
Give It Back
Give It Back - Danielle Esplin
I don't know 'bout you, but one of my favourite things is discovering a great read out of the blue. I went into this one rather blank, expecting to get a mediocre kind of read. You know, nothing bad, but nothing mind-blowing either. I believe I was two chapters in and already thought...

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...dis shit is geeeewd!

~Goodreads Synopsis~

Okay, fuck the Goodreads synopsis. It doesn't do the book any justice (Liis wrote a great post about blurbs yesterday you should totally check out) because it's too long and it contains a few minor spoilers that will be much nicer to discover on your own. Let's see if I can describe the story myself without giving too much away.

~My thoughts~

We follow the lives of three women: Lorraine, Lexy, and Ella. Lorraine and Ella are sisters living in Seattle and San Diego respectively. Lexy is Lorraine's au pair from London. The women's stories are told by using alternating point of views.

Two people go missing and every chapter drops one or more clues about what happened to them. Or does it? The story keeps you guessing throughout the entire book and nothing gets revealed too soon.

So now you still don't know Jack shit. Which is good!
"How am I supposed to know if I will like it?", you might wonder. I can only tell you my personal experience with the book and you can base your decision on that *drops mic*.

*picks up mic again* The writing. The writing is great! As I said before, it keeps you guessing about what the hell happened, turning this into a fast-paced read because ONLY ONE MORE PAGE! Right, this book kept me up way past my bedtime and I might've even slapped myself awake at some point because I was dozing off while at the same time, my brain was telling me "MUST...KNOW...what happens next...".
It didn't help that the build-up intensified with each chapter. Just when I thought I knew it all, something like this would happen:

sam-jackson-who-the-fuck-is-this-asshole

Pardon all the French, by the way. Danielle told me I could swear all I want in my review so, as you can see, I'm taking full advantage of it. When it comes to the language being used in the book..

"It smells like someone took a shit on lavender flowers, with a dead rodent not far away."

...you can see why she doesn't have a problem with it. It's raw yet oddly poetic at times, plus has a nice vocabulary.

Give it Back is not all mystery and suspense; it also touches some of the most painful subjects of life in a beautifully realistic way. One of the quotes I loved and highlighted:

If you know what love is -parental, spousal, or any type for that matter - it's the worst punishment because you won't be able to live the same life you did after it's gone."

So why am I not giving it 5 brownies? There are a couple of reasons for that, actually. The most important one is the ending. Just when everything is tied up nicely, there are a few more pages (like an epilogue to an epilogue) which could've been taken out in my opinion. Maybe they're hinting at a sequel, which I honestly hope not because this book is perfect as a standalone novel.

Then, there's a case of meandering tense sometimes. I'm not talking about the going back and forth in time, that was done brilliantly. I'm talking about the actual text itself. Everything is written in the present tense, yet sometimes it gets a bit confusing when it's mixed with a past tense.

Lexie's British. I feel like her POV could've been more British as well. I'm pretty sure they use the word 'lift' there instead of 'elevator', for example.

And then a final thing which got me worked up a little is one of the characters mentioning antidepressants can't be taken during pregnancy. It's a common misconception, and an understandable one, but to all the women who think they need to quit taking their SSRI's when pregnant/trying to get pregnant: you don't have to. As far as I know, only Prozac can be harmful and then also only when taken in a certain (higher) dosage.
How the hell do I know this? I love studying medical things (I didn't choose my current studies for naught) and read a considerable amount of scientific literature on this topic. Without getting into it too deeply, just another word of advice to these women: talk to a specialist, your regular physician might not be up to date with this either.

Back to the book. Because of the reasons above, I'm deducting only half a brownie from my rating, because guys, this book is awesome! Highly recommended stuff. If you're a fragile butterfly, however, I suggest skipping it and going for something a little less dark.

4.5 stars

Baie dankie to Danielle Esplin for providing me with a copy of her book in exchange for an honest opinion!
Review
2 Stars
Iron Inheritance (The Blood Artifacts, #1)
Iron Inheritance (The Blood Artifacts, #1) - G.R. Fillinger
Today's review is going to be extra spesjul because I joined forces with Cindy from My Book File. We both wanted to read this book and after a bit of brainstorming, we decided to turn this into a buddy read with a double review. What the heck is a double review?! Yeah, we didn't really know that either but, in this case, it means that we (well, Cindy did all the work when it comes to the questions because I'm a slowpoke) created some questions which we will answer alternately. Jetzt geht's los! (that's German for BOO-YAH!)

~What was your view on the book before you started reading?~

Anne: The author told me it had a lot of things in common with the Mortal Instruments series. I haven't read a single one of the books in that series (or subseries) yet, so I didn't really know what to expect, apart from it being YA and Fantasy involving angels and demons. Oh, and cheesy jokes. I love cheesy jokes. So you can say my expectations were undefined, yet also highish? The cover looks very professional and cool, which definitely made me curious as soon as I saw it!

Cindy: I was told the same thing by the author but unlike Anne I’ve read the first two books of The Mortal Instruments and (only recently) I started to watch the series (thanks Netflix). So I had some idea of what I could expect. I was really looking forward to the jokes and curious about the rest and like Anne already mentioned, the cover was appealing, so you can definitely say that my expectation were above average.

After reading the book:
~What was your impression of the novel (concept and setting)?~

Cindy: The setting is Urban Fantasy and so it is not hard to imagine what everything looks like since it is set in our contemporary society. The concept of the Nephilim is not unfamiliar because it is comparable to the series of The Mortal Instruments written by Cassandra Clare. First of all, I want to say that I really did like the idea of essence. Everyone (human or non-human) has essence and it is decided by their actions if the essence is light or dark. This novel touches many Biblical events and I would have liked it if the subjects were not just slightly touched but had been described with more detail and with more interaction concerning the event and the characters involved. Don’t get me wrong, there were some interactions between events and characters but these things were simply to mention something about the main character (see my opinion on her below).

I felt like this series is going to be a combination of other YA series that were written in the last couple of years, series as Percy Jackson, Black Magician and The Mortal Instruments. Once every few pages, there was an aspect that seemed to come from one series or another, it was just too much. I am aware that it’s difficult to write something out of the ordinary these days since fantasy is a hype, but because of the similarity between this series and many others the original aspects of the novel (like the essence part and features concerning the Nephilim) are not that visible.

There was also a promise of action, witty jokes and romance but to be quite honest, I didn’t perceive it in a good way. Perhaps I am no longer the right audience for YA novels, though, I can lose myself in one if it’s amusing/good enough. When there was action it was weak and unclear because of the lack of detail on the fight itself. I didn’t really laugh at any of the jokes... could be me but I wasn’t at all that amused and the romance was just... there. Romance I can live with, I actually love chick lit once in a while and I’m always in for a good love story but this was just not it for me. It was the usual see and fall in love and then get betrayed scenario. This point leads to my last comment in this section: everything was too predictable. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with clichés or being predictable but only when it occurs sometimes. In this case, I could see it all coming from miles away without trying. There was no suspense, no moment when I wondered; how is this going to end?! Omg can’t handle this?!... it simply wasn’t there.

Anne: I only knew about the Nephilim due to playing Diablo 3 and I think the idea of the Fallen Angels I had pretty much corresponded to the ones described in this book. The good Angel-offspring , however, was totally different than I expected. I guess I assumed they were able to fly or something instead of being able to lift a Volkswagen.They just seemed rather weak compared to the dark side, but I notice that in every good vs. bad storyline, so that's nothing new here.

I also liked the idea of Essence and not just the light or dark aspects, but colourful Essence everywhere. Imagine looking around and seeing the world as if oxygen can poop rainbows. I'd say yes to that!

I haven't read many popular YA Fantasy during the past 10 years or so, so I can't draw the same comparisons as Cindy, yet I saw correlations with Legend of Korra, Battlestar Galactica, Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials and many more. This didn't bother me all too much (I mean, hey, it shows that the author is a fellow member of the geekosphere), except for the yellow-eyed Mr.Nasty which could've stepped right out of Supernatural...

Cheesy jokes, yes! I didn't laugh at them either...and this is the second time this year where I was rubbing my hands in anticipation of some chuckles and didn't so much as twitch a nostril because of it. Maybe we Dutch folk are too influenced by the British or something *shrugs*.

The romance part was instalove basically and not something I enjoyed either. And predictability? Yes, definitely a lot of that. When Cindy was a couple of chapters ahead of me and asked me "Guess what just got revealed?", I could pretty much guess it in one go. Except for the ending...I mean, I knew something fishy was up, but I didn't expect it to be that fishy. Tu dun dun!

~Who was the protagonist and what did you think of him/her?~

Anne: Evelyn Brooks, a.k.a. Eve is the 18-year-old protagonist of the story. After her mother died (and father sort of took off), she was raised by her grandfather, together with her best friend Ria.  I honestly don't know what to think of Evelyn a.k.a. Eve (speaking of biblical things eh?). During the first half of the book, I found her to be a bit whiny and basically kind of worshipping her grandfather (I'll come back to that later). On the other hand, she can kick some serious butt and loses control of herself occasionally, which can be refreshing. The instant drooling over Josh, though....pfff.

Cindy: I agree with Anne on this one. There is nothing else to say for me really, Anne has said it all ( the force is strong in this one).

~How were the other characters formed?~

Cindy: The rest of the characters were just empty. No real background, not even a good enough description except for some minor description of Evelyn’s guardian Nate and some physical features of some characters. Usually, it is just the explanation of a skill and if the person is nice, yes or no. Those things are not even close to being characters... they are just filling.

Anne: I agree that a lot of the characters were a bit stereotypical: Badboy/hunk Josh, sassy finger-snapping teenage friend Ria , whom I disliked from the start...there isn't a lot of depth to their personalities. I did like Freddy and Miranda, though!

~Did the author create an accessible novel or was it hard to get through it?~

Anne: I think the writing in itself was quite good. The sentences were very well constructed, there were no typos and the use of language was intelligent (I'd expect nothing less from an English teacher). However, I did notice that some of the scenes' descriptions didn't make any sense to me. A note I made somewhere: "WTF, they were way up high out of view??" illustrates this nicely. I just often couldn't get a clear picture of the surroundings. And then there's a bit of repetitiveness in the first 50% or so, specifically when it comes to the word 'Grandpa': 201 times...that's pretty excessive. Another one of my notes says "WE KNOW NOW!". Nuf said. I finished the book within 4-5 days, though, while hardly having the time to read properly, so it wasn't that hard to get through.

Cindy: We really need to disagree more, Anne, that would make a way more interesting double review hahaha. Still, I have to agree with you. The overall flow was nice, there was no random sidetracking or scene of which I thought could have been left out and there was no use of complex language. Quite straightforward. I finished the book in about 4 days or so. It would have been nice if there had been some more detail but this is a part of what I mentioned in my overall impression so I will not say more about this. Anne, don’t even get me started with ‘grandpa’ (or other versions of the word) or peachy… really… just don’t.

~Does this book have an: 'Omfg, I didn't see this coming at all!?!'-moment?~

Cindy: No, not really.

Anne: I can't say that I didn't see things coming at ALL, but like I said before, there were a few things (like the ending) that did surprise me a little.

~*drum ruffle* The final verdict?~

Anne: I find this one really hard to rate because it really isn't a bad book, but I can't say I truly enjoyed it to bits either. That being said, like Cindy, I think I might have outgrown these kinds of stories as well. A.k.a.:

im-getting-too-old-for-this-shit

I still think a lot of young people will really like this book, though, and I do wonder about what will happen in the sequel myself as well. So I'm going to give it 2.5 brownies. It was an okay read, but I hope the sequel will have some more depth to it.

Cindy: I had just expected so much more but instead it left me empty and not really interested in what would happen next. Like Anne, I think that this book will definitely do well with a young audience for 14-18 year-olds. The text in itself was alright, but the story was not really what I had hoped and maybe even expected it to be. For my rating, I used Goodreads in this case, so I give this book 2 stars because I think it is okay but it was lacking some things for me.

~Overall score~

2.5 stars and recommended to a younger audience. There's still some creepy violence in it, so we'd say this is very suitable for 14-18-year-olds.

A big thank you to G.R.Fillinger for providing us with a copy of his book in exchange for an honest review!
Review
5 Stars
After Life
After Life - Daniel Ionson
Holy shit. Holy shit. Holy shit. I'm going to quote WoW's Illidan Stormrage here by saying you are NOT prepared. And I need to make sure you still won't be after reading this review. Actually, if you have any possible plans to read this book, you probably shouldn't even read the synopsis of it. Trust me, it will be totally worth it to go into it blind, with the exception of knowing it falls into the Dark Age Fantasy category. Sorta.

Did you skip the synopsis? If so, it means you're going to read this book (*whispers* there's a giveaway for it going on here, so you totally can by signing up).

After Life starts off in a medieval fantasy kind of setting. There are kings, warriors, farmers, and magic! I guess if you want something to compare it to, I'll pick a popular tag and say Game of Thrones. Except, this is nothing like Game of Thrones.

The world building is su-fucking-perb (I honestly hope Perb isn't an existing first name [maybe a Swedish Per B., though, but I'm digressing horribly now]). I actually couldn't read this before going to bed because the scenery was depicted so vividly that I was bound to having some bad nightmares about it.

The characters initially had a bit of a rough startup but, in the end, they were exactly what Fantasy characters are supposed to be, except way more brutal and raw. I think I loved Breoch the most because he's a bit of a rebel when it comes to behaving the way he's supposed to behave.

Now, I will keep this review fairly short because I really don't want to risk giving away any spoilers. I will tell you this: it's dark, it's heartbreaking and utterly scary at times. There are a few plot twists that will leave you on the edge of your seat. I already used this one in one of my Goodreads' statuses, but it sums it up the feeling perfectly:

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Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore...

This was done brilliantly and gives you a high WTF-state of mind for quite a while (I'm still pondering over certain things as I'm typing this). Everything will be explained in the end, though. No loose threads or crappy cliffhangers.

The writing was great, the grammar was good, and thank the gods, there were no typos! You can definitely see that this was professionally edited. There were some deeper philosophical thoughts behind this story as well, which isn't strange regarding the fact that the author is a philosopher as well. A few of the sentences I highlighted:

"All evil men were once innocent babes, once lovable children. Men make choices, some consistently bad. But those who choose the worst kinds of evil were typically guided into it."

"It is hard to explain," her daughter answered gently. "We are within your soul. My soul is residing in yours for a time, in the same way that I reside in your body. I am dwelling within you, and so may communicate with you while we yet live."

(the last one being said by an unborn child)

The reason why it's not getting the full 5 brownies on my blog is that this book involves a lot of rape. Thankfully, it's not depicted in a detailed kind of way, but still, it was just a bit too much for me to take. I do understand the purpose of it being in there, though. I mean, what kind of überevil beings would make an exception for women and treat them with respect? They have an evil reputation to uphold!

Another minor point of critique is that there were so many names in the first part of the book, that I sometimes lost track of who was who again, partly also due to those characters largely feeling like one and the same person. Later on in the story, this is totally not an issue anymore. It's why After Life will get 5 stars from me on Goodreads and retailer sites. This is truly a book I want to reread again and pester people with when it comes to recommending it. Starting now: READ THIS BOOK! Except when you're under 18 and or don't have a strong stomach cause I'm telling ya, it can get pretty gross and intense...

A big thank you to Daniel Ionson for providing me with a copy of his book in exchange for an honest review!
Review
4 Stars
Fearne Fairy and the Dandelion Clocks - Book 8 in the Whimsy Wood Series (Paperback)
Fearne Fairy and the Dandelion Clocks - Book 8 in the Whimsy Wood Series (Paperback) - Sarah  Hill, Sarah Mauchline
Let me start by saying that I love, love, LOVE stories that involve woodland animals, so I'm already biased just by looking at the cover. I still can't walk through a forest without imagining there are little fairies, gnomes and cozy animal houses. The Wind in the Willows is probably my all time favourite book mainly because of this. It won't come as a surprise that I fell in love with the Whimsy Wood right away either. This is one of the first illustrations:


whimsywood


I'm feeling so much love for this!


Ahum, then there's the story itself of course. Fearne is an adorable little fairy. After landing rather unfortunately from a short (literal) flight down the stairs, she's in desperate need for some of her sorehead-fixing dandelion drink. When Fearne discovers she's all out of the special brew, she goes on a search for dandelions to make some more.


This is one great book to read to your children while they can be in awe of the illustrations. The font is big and the text simple enough for  5-8-year-olds (and up) to read by themselves. If I had any children or if I was working with children, these books would be a great asset to getting them excited about reading while learning the importance of a few social skills as well. I'm even contemplating on ordering the entire series in hardback format, just for myself, and to admire them on and off a bookshelf.

The only downside I could find is that the book info promises 66 pages, yet only delivers about 45 of them, storywise. There are quite a few blank pages or entire pages dedicated to a one of the previous books in the series, as well as internet links. If it were up to me, I'd trim it down a little, pagewise, by putting more information on one page instead of spreading it out so extensively. And/or add a few more pages of storyline, of course. The more, the better!


There's a bunny wearing flip-flops in here. I probably would've given these 4 brownies for that alone already.

Review
4 Stars
A Rose in the Desert
A Rose in the Desert - Louis Piechota
When I started this book, I was definitely not convinced. It reminded me of a story assignment for middle school I could've written myself when I was 11. However, if you've seen the number of brownies I gave it, you'll already know this turned out to be something far from that. Yay!

I believe it was around 20% into the book when things started to get better and better. Seriously, the author was on a roll! Normally, when a fantasy novel contains a quest and encounters different scenarios on the way to the end goal, I tend to get a bit frustrated because that type of story has been told numerous times by now. I like a fresh approach to things. This story is all about a quest. And encounters different scenarios on the way to the end goal...but...I fucking loved it! The encounters felt fresh and exciting. They weren't drawn out too much but neatly told, and then moving on to the next one in a nice pace.

The world building is great. It made me want to sit around a campfire with Louis Piechota telling stories all the time; the guy's a true storyteller! I don't know if he has any kids, but if he does or plans on having them someday, they're going to be lucky little creatures for sure with a dad who can fabricate such captivating stories.

A big part of A Rose in the Desert takes place in, d'oh, the desert. The Jeddein and their land are like the Arabs from 1001 nights. The wealth, the rustling of silk, the camels, the scorching heat; it's all in here. Then, just when you start to think that the rest of the story will only be taking place under the hot sun or cold moon, the main characters, Ethyrin and Nuara, enter a different kind of landscape/scenery. There are rocky cliffs, grassy plains, and silent forests filled with little springs and pine trees.

As some of you already know, I used to be a big fan of World of Warcraft. One of the reasons for this was that the quests in the game would take you from one scenery to the next. I haven't been playing for years now, but this book brought back some fond memories of the game and its environments.

The characters are great. While in the first 15%, I was still afraid they'd turn out to be quite standard and stereotypical, in the end, they didn't. The only points of criticism I have for both Ethyrin and Nuara is that A. they cry an awful lot, and B. they stutter an even more awful lot:

not-sure-if-song-lyrics-or-stuttering-problem

They start their sentences with "I...I" so often that I started wondering if this wasn't a Mexican soap opera instead.

Fantasy has been my favourite genre for a long time, but since last year, I became so fed up with the standard elves' and gnomes' characters, that I just can't enjoy it as much anymore as I did before. A note I made at one point in this book: "Elves...wai u do dis 2 me?!" (typing on a Kindle doesn't go along with great grammar). So just when I thought I could put on my grumpy cat face again, it turned out these were different kinds of elves: desert nomad elves! If anyone has ever encountered these before, please tell me about it in the comments. It was new to me, and therefore, awesome?

One of my favourite characters was Hadan (not an elf, though).

"For one alone, boy or girl, it would be certain death. For two it is also certain death, though maybe less certain."



A great fighter for justice and a genius with words as you can see here.

I only made two notes during the entire book because it really wasn't necessary to go off on a rant or anything. I just kept on reading and reading instead. The second note (apart from the elves' one) I made, though, was about something so simple, yet so important in making the reader flow easily from one sentence to the other: "For the love of God, add some commas!!". It's not like there aren't any commas at all (as you can obviously see in Hadan's line up here), it's just that there are none in places where they really should be.



"Two days before it would have infuriated him to been excluded thus, like a small child, and not a prince."



I had to read this one three times or so to be able to understand what was being said.

As far as I know, this book is not part of a series. It has a clean, rounded up ending, which I could appreciate so much. If the author wanted to, he could easily pick up where he left off in the story, but he doesn't need to, which is great! That being said, I would still be very interested to read more about Ethyrin's destiny. Which actually says a lot because I can be quite the grumpy pants when it comes to turning everything into a series these days. A Rose in the Desert gets 4 brownies from me, based on my level of enjoyment. Highly recommended for everyone who likes some good storytelling and/or high fantasy. It's mostly a great children's book, though; I would've sucked this up when I was 12.

Edit: there will be a sequel! Squeee!

A big thank you to Louis Piechota for providing me with a copy of his book in exchange for an honest review!
Review
3 Stars
Dreamwalking
Dreamwalking - C.J. Burry
I started reading two books at around the same time, both belonging to the Middle-Grade Fantasy genre. At first, I was positively sure I was going to like this one more, but the further I read, the less convinced I became...

The concept of the Dreamscape is quite interesting. It shows a lot of imaginative skills from the author, and making it all add up in the end, which I think it did when it comes to the world building part, is quite an achievement. It requires you to think, which I can highly appreciate.

Imagine your dreams are real, just not in this world/conscience. Every time you dream, your mind enters a whole different world, an existing one, created by other beings. These beings can be compared to some kind of godlike entity when it comes to creating the universe and weaving things like planets and realities by bending spacetime. Like one of those giant soap bubbles you can pull up around you. Except these are very sturdy soap bubbles with entire worlds in it. The building of those worlds happens simply by using building blocks. Kind of like you're playing Minecraft.

Now this is my personal (and probably very flawed) understanding of the world the author created in this book. Very interesting! The fact that he added actual people to it who can influence these worlds (and still create new ones as well) gives it a whole extra layer of depth. If I have to describe the 'feels' by comparing it to something else, I'd say this is Inception meets Alice in Wonderland.

The characters start off alright. Alex seems like an interesting boy with a distinct personality. I probably felt connected to him right away because he's suffering from insomnia, something I'm all too familiar with myself.

Ashlyn's character was one you come across in a lot of YA/MG books: the stubborn teenage girl who is being fed up with some aspect of her life. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. It didn't annoy me or anything. What did, though, were her parents. They were some of the blandest characters I've come across in a long time. Mom's hardly around but only comes in to check on her daughter's homework from time to time. Dad's hardly around as well and shows even less interest in his family. I certainly hope this whole static relationship serves a purpose which gets revealed later on in the series. This includes the odd focus on flies in Ashlyn's house. If they don't serve a purpose in the end, then why the heck include them?

At around 40-50% into the story, things started to go downhill. The characters fell short of having any kind of consistent personality (Leopold,  one of the head Philosophers, Alex, and Ashlyn being the exceptions here). Black, the main character of the 'dark side', if you will, seemed interesting in the beginning, yet turned into an indecisive, menopausal weird kid the further I read. My suspicions, that he's actually Alex's lost twin brother, are never confirmed, yet seemed pretty obvious to me (if I'm wrong here, I'll eat a strawberry jam sandwich [barf] or post an embarrassing flute video of myself as my way of apologizing for any wrongful accusations).

It wasn't just the characters who were dull; there were also some pretty bad clichés/platitudes in the story. Examples? When Alex has already made a decision about something important in the morning, then somebody comes up and says "You have to make your decision tonight." This one is kind of hard to explain without giving away any spoilers, but my note here was "Of fucking course", so I hope you get my gist.

Another example, which is easier to explain, would be giving an evil tiger a British accent just for the sake of making him sound more evil. It's like SWTOR's Imperials all over again. For those of you who have no clue what I'm talking about:

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Now, I don't know if this was just my ARC-version of the book, but my goodness, there were numerous typos and grammatical errors in here. Together with the lack of some sort of dividers in between scenes (jumping from one to the other scene simply by starting a new paragraph instead of a couple of enters and/or markings), it often made it hard for me to follow the story properly. A few simple adjustments could make it flow so much better.

I struggled a bit with rating this book. It could use a lot more improvement when it comes to the storyline and characters in general. On the other hand, I still think the world building was excellent and not something I read about before. Together with the fact that I did enjoy reading it, I'm going to give it 3 brownies and recommend it mostly to a younger audience who don't care about the things I tend to get annoyed about ;).

A big thank you to C.J. Burry for providing me with a copy of his book in exchange for an honest review.
Review
3 Stars
Princeless: Get Over Yourself
Princeless: Get Over Yourself -  Emily Martin (Illustrator), Jeremy Whitley
I was recently made aware of the importance of getting enough of me-time. For me, reading has always been one of the best ways for that. Book blogging, however, has been shifting more and more towards free time and often even feels like work time (in a good way, though, don't get me wrong). Reading this book with a cup of tea and a nice piece of Portland's infamous Almond&Salt chocolate truly felt like solid me-time again; huzzah!

We pick up where Volume one left off: on the quest of rescuing Princess Adrienne's sisters who are all locked up in separate towers spread across their father's kingdom. The graphics are nice and colourful, the text witty and clean again (a.k.a. no swearing whatsoever).

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To describe this story in three words: fairytale, fantasy and feminism. I'm a big sucker for all three of those, but, like in the first volume, the feminism part is being way too obvious again. I'm all for girls who can kick a grown man's butt if they have to (which you will encounter in this book a few times, POWPOW!), but the underlying meaning of feminism isn't so underlying...

princeless 2

I generally don't like the portrayal of women in most comics either, but geez. If the message was just a bit more subtle, it wouldn't be annoying at all.
What I do like, is that the main characters in this book, Adrienne and Bedelia, are just regular looking girls instead of some busty unnatural looking 16-year-olds you come across sometimes.

A new character that's being introduced here is the mysterious Black Knight.
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"The Black Knight is fierce, he's strong, he's the best swordfighter there is…and no one has ever heard his voice or seen his face."

I don't know if it's just me, but again, there's lack of subtlety when it comes to hinting at the secret identity of the Knight. It's not revealed in this book yet, but I can already see it coming from a mile away. If I turn out to be wrong, though, I will shamefully admit it when I find out, but until then, I'm sticking with "way too predictable!".

All in all, this is still a great graphic novel for Disney fans and especially for kids ages 9 and up. If you have a young daughter, granddaughter, niece, cousin etc., I can promise you that they are going to LOVE this series. With colourful art and an entertaining story, I'm rating it 3.5 brownies. I'll be happy to read the next volume as part of my highly needed, relaxing me-time.