Book Review: For the Wolf

Title: For the Wolf
Author: Hannah Whitten
Genre: Fantasy, Grimdark
Year Published: June 2021

Date finished: May 12, 2021

For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten is a dark fantasy about a forest that takes from the living. The main character is a nineteen-year-old girl named Red who has a special power within her and she’s afraid to hurt family with this power she doesn’t think she can contain. The forest is where she thinks she could do more to help her family and the town’s people. Secondary characters are her sister and the Wolf.

At first, I thought this was going to be a retell about Red Riding Hood, but it is far from it. The only thing similar to that story is pretty much Red’s crimson cape. However, there are other fairytales that are depicted in this story in a sort of retell, such as Beauty and the Beast. It’s done well with its own unique twist, so it keeps you curious.

Overall, I thought it was a good read. It’s slightly on the fast-paced side with some excellent world building. At times I felt Red appeared a little younger than her age, so I wasn’t super clear if this was going to be a young adult novel or not. About halfway through, it was clear it wasn’t young adult just by the writing style and the grimdarkness of it.

Who should read this book: If you’re into fairytale retells or just fairytale style stories, this is for you. There is magic, romance, friendship, family. There is also a love triangle but it’s subtle and done very well, I’d have to say.

Note: This book was sent to me for free to review, but the opinion is purely my own.

Book Review: Exile

Title: Exile
Author: Martin Owton
Genre: Fantasy
Year Published: 2019

Date finished: April 20, 2021

Exile by Martin Owton is a fantasy novel about a man named Aron who was exiled from his home and ends up being asked to protect an earl’s son. Things seem to go smoothly until a brawl ensues and suddenly nothing is going as planned.

This was a good read. I enjoyed the world building. It felt dark and dreary and medieval. No one could be trusted which I felt really made this story exciting. The main character was likeable. He came across almost perfect until danger hit and then his faults appeared. I thought that was well done. Some of the other characters were also nicely developed.

This is one of those stories where the pacing is consistent, and the actions aren’t so overly exciting all the time. There are exciting and action-packed scenes that are thrown in at the right time to create that tension and rush, but it’s kept to a minimal. I found that nicely done.

The only thing that bothered me, and it might not be an issue for you, was that I received an ebook copy from the author and for some reason the spacing was off. At times, the book was double-spaced, and other times, it was single-spaced. I also found a lot of grammatical errors. Often, if there are between one and three, I’ll let it go because that’s not enough to need to mention, but when there’s about six plus, it can get annoying. Normally, when I come across this many errors, I won’t continue reading, but the errors were found later in the story and I’d already invested time into the characters. This was so unfortunate because it impeded a smooth read. Other than that, the story itself was excellent.

Who should read this book: Anyone who enjoys a good story with a hero and magic. It’s rare to find a simple fantasy these days without too much gore or too much romance and whatnot. I find that sometimes stories get too complex or there are too many subplots, and the end doesn’t really tie everything together. This book is your clean-cut, simple fantasy with a touch of grimdark magic, and with an ending that leaves you satisfied.

Book Review: The Phantom of Faerie Mountain

Title: The Phantom of Faerie Mountain
Author: E.M. McIntyre
Genre: Fantasy, YA, Middle-grade
Year Published: 2015

Date finished: April 9, 2021

The Phantom of Faerie Mountain, by E.M. McIntyre is a young adult/middle-grade fantasy story about a fourteen-year-old girl named Abby who finds herself in a world of magic and mystery.

This was a really fun read! Abby is a curious girl with a big heart. She’s not afraid of danger and will do whatever it takes to find out the truth. She also learns some secrets about her own family and herself.

This is a great story for young readers. It would also be a great bed-time story to read to the little ones. The dangers, the friendships, the talking dog, etc. all play an important role in Abby’s journey. I really liked Rory’s character. I loved his accent.  

Who should read this: Everyone. It’s the kind of book that takes you away from reality and into a fun magical world. There’s no gore or deadly violence so all can enjoy it.

Book Review: Gideon the Ninth

Title: Gideon the Ninth
Author: Tamsyn Muir
Genre: Fantasy, Dystopian, Grimdark
Year Published: 2019

Date finished: March 25, 2021

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir is a dark fantasy about a sort of princess, known as the Reverend Daughter, and her guard/soldier/protector. They were invited to an event where the game was about who wins and who dies. The soldier, Gideon, initially had no interest in being a part of this. She had her own plans to escape the House, but the Reverend Daughter found a way to keep her from leaving. The event was super brutal and extremely gory.

A couple of things I really enjoyed about this book:

  1. The writing is beautiful. The prose is very unique and left me completely amazed.
  2. The relationship between Gideon and the Reverend Daughter was superb. It starts out with both women detesting each other. One would not give in to the other. With the Reverend Daughter having most of the control, she was able to force Gideon to do as she says. The two eventually began to understand each other and eventually got on good terms. I thought this was nicely done.

One thing I want to point out is that the style of writing can be difficult to understand. I found myself looking up quite a few words. The story style reminds me of Dune by Frank Herbert. It’s a very complex storyline with layers and a lot of characters to remember. The world was fascinating. It’s got swords, magic, skeletons, trains, futuristic things.

I really enjoyed this book. I believe the relationship leaned toward LGBT, but it wasn’t in-your-face. I didn’t get that impression at all. It was subtle. You knew, but it wasn’t forced.

Who should read this: All lovers of fantasy, magic, future worlds, and horror and gore. The worldbuilding is extravagant. It’s a really amazing book.

Book Review: Dark Lover

Title: Dark Lover      
Author: J.R. Ward
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Erotica
Year Published: 2018

Date finished: March 10, 2021

Dark Lover by J.R. Ward is an urban fantasy erotica romance about a vampire named Wrath who was asked to turn a half human half vampire woman into full vampire. Before he even considered doing the job, he’d already fallen in love with her. There’s more to the story but this is basically what I got out of it.

The romance came on quickly. There was no doubt between Wrath and the woman. The erotica was subtle. I’ve read erotica where the erotica was the focal point. Not so in this story. There’s a relationship.

Overall, I enjoyed it. This was my first urban fantasy vampire romance novel. The only other vampire story I read was I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, but it was in a totally different genre (sci-fi apocalyptic dystopian) so the two can’t be compared. Dark Lover was a fun and fast paced read. What I liked most about it was the relationship. It was refreshing to read something in the romance area where the couple didn’t fight with each other. Wrath was very protective and a gentleman—something I haven’t read in a long time where romance is part of the plot.

Who should read this: If you’re into romance/erotica romance, hot and steamy guy, and a world where vampires are the norm, this is for you. The writing is excellent and easy to read. It’s the kind of book you want to escape into.

Book Review: The Lost Queen

Title: The Lost Queen
Author: Signe Pike
Genre: Fantasy
Year Published: 2018

The Lost Queen by Signe Pike is a novel written through the eyes of Languoreth, the daughter of Morken, a high chieftain in the Kingdom of Strathclyde. We follow Languoreth from ten-years-old until her mid-thirties.

The story takes place in 550 AD (6th century) in what is now Scotland. It is basically a different version and angle of the legend of King Arthur (Uther Pendragon). The focus isn’t on the legend that we are familiar with, instead it is about the family who took in the young Uther. In the book Uther is known as Gwenddolau and we only get glimpses of him. The focus is on Languoreth and her struggle between desperately wanting to help her brother, Lailoken (who is a warrior as well as the spiritual advisor to Gwenddalau out in the Borderlands), and her family in Strathclyde.

I found the first half of the story a little slow. It didn’t pick up until halfway, but when it did pick up, it was amazing. I loved it. I’m a die-hard King Arthur/Merlin fan and anything having to do with this legend, I pretty much eat it up. I really enjoyed this angle from a queen who played a huge part in the lives of those warriors.

To me, Languoreth is a little bit of Catelyn Stark from A Song of Ice and Fire and Aelswith from The Last Kingdom. What makes her different is that she’s not so strong mentally when it comes to relationships. She has a hard time letting go. She has this ideal image of what love is and for some reason it creates unnecessary conflict. I can’t relate to her in that sense, but I do love her character.

The book is well written with flowy and beautifully orchestrated words. It’s like a magical piece of artwork. It’s just brilliant.

Book Review: The Alchemyst’s Mirror

Title: The Alchemyst’s Mirror
Author: Liz Delton
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Year Published: October 27, 2020

The Alchemyst’s Mirror by Liz Delton is a fantasy story about two sisters who are on a quest to find their kidnapped brother. At the same time, there is a missing object/item that’s very dangerous and needs to be found before the wrong person gets to it. 

Petra and Maisie own a bakery and are very happy in their lives. The only thing that worries them is their missing brother. They both want to find him, so they set a plan to find him. Maisie gets kidnapped before they began the search leaving Petra to go without her. While Maisie is gone, Petra and an explorer named Evan commence the mission to find the brother. During their search, they find clues to a dangerous secret society, and before they know it, they get tangled in a trap. Maisie, while kidnapped on a ship outsmarts the person who kidnapped her and finds her way back to save her sister and Evan.

This was a really fun read. The two sisters were strong and knew what kind of life they wanted to live. Even though they had lost their parents and their brother was kidnapped, they kept it together. They were very protective of each other and you can feel the love between them. The action was wonderful, and the villain was well done. This story was a little fast-paced and there were lots of telling/describing things (that were unnecessary), but otherwise, it was a great read.

There was one thing I found a little annoying and I hope this changes in the following books, but I found Petra somewhat unlikable in the sense that she was often verbally abusive to Evan, who happened to really like her. She bossed him around and yelled at him when he made mistakes. I’m not sure why he stuck around or why he’d like someone like that. I was confused. I think that’s the only issue I had. I secretly wanted Evan to stand up to her.

I’d say this book would be great for those who enjoy a middle grade level of reading. It reminds me a little of Harry Potter in writing style.

NOTE: This book was given to me to read and review, but the opinion is purely my own.

Book Review: Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick

Title: Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick
Author: Philip K. Dick
Genre: Fiction, Sci-fi, Fantasy
Year Published: 2013

Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick is a collection of short stories in sci-fi and fantasy by Philip K. Dick. I would say it’s some of his best works. There are 21 stories and they were all enjoyable, but my favorites were:

“Beyond Lies the Wub”

“Second Variety”

“The King of the Elves”

“Adjustment Team”

“Autofac”

“The Minority Report”

“The Days of Perky Pat”

“We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”

“Faith of Our Fathers”

“The Exit Door Leads in”

“I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon”

PKD has had quite a few of his short stories and novels made into movies and TV series/episodes. Since this post is about his short stories from Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick, I’ll only be mentioning the movie adaptations from these stories. I should also mention that if you have time, read the stories first. However, if you don’t have time because you have a long list of TBRs like I do, then watch the movies.

Adaptations (those marked in red are what I’ve seen):

“Second Variety” – Screamers (1995); Screamers: The Hunting (2009)

“Paycheck” – Paycheck (2003)

“Adjustment Team” – The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

“Autofac” – Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams episode (2017)

“The Minority Report” – Minority Report (2002); Minority Report TV sequel adaptation (2015)

“We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” – Total Recall (1990); Total Recall (2012); Total Recall 2070 TV series (1999)

Looks like I have a lot of watching to do. If you’ve seen any of these shows, let me know what you thought and if they are worth watching. I didn’t realize PKD had so many of his stories adapted. I think it’s crazy awesome because now I don’t have any excuse not watch TV when I have nothing else to do (non-existent, really) or need a break.

Book Review: The Burning White

Title: The Burning White
Author: Brent Weeks
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Year Published: 2019

The Burning White by Brent Weeks is the fifth and final book in the Lightbringer series. I’m not sure how to review this book because it was a whole lot of everything. The plot basically was to defeat the enemy but there were assassins and spies and people you don’t know if you should trust that it created this huge organized mess of a story. In this story, we learn a little more about Gavin Guile’s father, Andross. We also learn that this story is pretty much all about the Guiles, including Kip and Zymun.

I’m not the man you think I am,’ he’d told Ironfist. Ironfist had replied, ‘Are you not the man I’ve served these past ten years?’ ‘I am.’ ‘Then perhaps, my lord, you’re not the man you think you are.’

Gavin himself overcomes the struggles he’s had with himself since the first book, The Black Prism. In The Burning White, he spends pretty much all his time finding himself. That wasn’t what he had set out to do, but it became so.

Kip, always being the hero, continued to do what he knew best: save the people; save his friends. He is so much like his father, Gavin.

Andross in this book was interesting. Throughout the first four books, he came across sort of like the enemy. You couldn’t tell whose side he was on. He never favored the White King (Koios, aka the Color Prince), but he never gave the impression that he was good. This made for a really intriguing ending.

“We keep secret what we fear makes us weak, not realizing in our fear that it is the keeping of secrets itself that weakens us.”

And Zymun. He was a very obvious character.

There were minor main characters such as Teia who showed what she was truly capable of; Liv who stood her ground. She really broke my heart; and Karris, who never seemed to give up. I loved how she finally showed her love toward Kip.

The fight/war scenes are always impeccable. They are semi-gory but they are my favorite action scenes. I was beyond happy to finally see black Luxin at work.

There was one thing I wanted more and that was Liv’s pov. I felt she had a lot to give and deserved more story time. She sacrificed so much to save her friends and nothing became of her. Near the end when she crossed path with her father, I bawled. I loved what she did for him, but I was sad for her. I so wanted her to see Kip face-to-face (it was mostly Kip whom she protected by surrendering herself to the White King), to see how he would react (from the damage of drafting superviolet to the extreme), or what he would say to her. Maybe it was left out because it would have been too sad?

Overall, it was a great read.

A hug didn’t fix everything. Perhaps it didn’t fix anything at all. But it did feel good.

Book Review: Caraval

Title: Caraval
Author: Stephanie Garber
Genre: YA Fantasy

I first read Caraval in 2017. Last month, my 13-year-old daughter wanted to read this together so we read it at bedtime. She loved it! I really enjoyed it the first time I read it and enjoyed it again this time. The great thing with rereading is you always find new stuff about the characters or the story and that’s exactly what happened. We are now reading the second book in the trilogy, Legendary, and it’s turning out pretty exciting.

Here’s the review from 2017:

The story is about a girl who’s been trying for years for a chance at watching a magical performance. She gets the opportunity eventually and learns that it’s not what she had expected. It was no secret that the performance was a game and you either choose to watch or choose to play but there are real consequences if you play.

This was a very fun read with humor and some serious issues that made it realistic. The author did great at fooling even the reader as to what was real and what wasn’t. It was written very simply but done well. I really enjoyed the relationship between the MC (Scarlett) and Julian…it was cute. The only thing I wasn’t too fond of was how unintelligent Scarlett was. I get that these are YA, but I think I would love a YA story where the girl is at least as intelligent as her age and had more depth to her.

The second time around, I liked Scarlett a lot more. I may have been a little harsh with my review of her because there were parts where she just wasn’t smart enough, but I can see now why it felt that way. She was only concerned about finding her sister and protecting her sister and seemed “klutzy” in that sense. I also didn’t see how powerful the magic was. Scarlett was completely under a spell and found it very hard to break. Knowing that now, she was a pretty well-developed character. Sometimes, it takes a reread to really understand a character, and I’m so glad I did.