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Fantasy Book Review: Valkyrie

Valkyrie by Kate O’Hearn

Synopsis:
Valkyrie: Norse Goddess. Reaper of Souls. Defender of the Weak. Not someone you want to mess with…

Freya is dreading her upcoming birthday when she’ll officially have to take up her duties as a Valkyrie. She doesn’t want to follow in the footsteps of the legends before her—legends including her mother and sisters. And she certainly doesn’t want anything to do with humans!

Freya thinks humans are cruel, hate-filled creatures, but as she observes their world, she begins to wonder what it would be like to make friends with the girls or laugh with the boys she sees. And what would it be like to live without the fear that she could cause someone’s death with a single touch?

Then when she’s sent on her first mission, she reaps the soul of a fallen soldier with unfinished business…business that sends her on an epic quest to the mortal world. Will Freya find the true meaning of being a human, or will she finally accept the legend she is destined to become?

Review:
Freya is a troubled young girl. She isn’t content with her job as a valkyrie and risks her life to do and experience more. She’s a very sympathetic character, even if most readers wouldn’t take the same big risk. But she’s young and impetuous and puts other’s needs before her own.

Valkyrie is an exciting and dramatic fantasy novel for young readers. Full of vibrant characters and a heart-warming story, this was a hard book to put down. The author even modeled her Loki after Tom Hiddleston’s character. The book works well as a standalone novel, but I’d love to see it as a series. I really enjoyed this take on Norse mythology in modern day.

Fantasy Book Review: Bright Blaze of Magic

Bright Blaze of Magic by Jennifer Estep

Synopsis:
As a thief, I’m good at three things: hiding in the shadows, getting in and out unseen, and uncovering secrets. I put these skills to work for the Sinclair Family, one of the magical mobs that run the tourist town of Cloudburst Falls.

Everyone knows Victor Draconi wants to take over all the other Families–and kill every last Sinclair. What they don’t know is that I’m on to him, and no way will I let the man who murdered my mom get away with hurting all the other people I care about. Especially when I’ve got places to break into, stuff to steal, and Devon Sinclair fighting right by my side…

Review:
Bright Blaze of Magic is the final installment in the Black Blade trilogy. The events in the first two novels have built to the big showdown with Victor Draconi and his lust for power and control.

Lila is a strong, fun character. She has grown a lot, yet is still a thief at heart. This is a fantastic conclusion to this exciting, YA fantasy series. With plenty of magic, colorful characters, humor, and a bit of romance – this is a fast-paced read that doesn’t disappoint. I thoroughly enjoyed this story from a talented author who knows how to write strong female heroines with an edge.

Fantasy Book Review: The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle

The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

Synopsis:
How do you punish an immortal?

By making him human.

After angering his father Zeus, the god Apollo is cast down from Olympus. Weak and disoriented, he lands in New York City as a regular teenage boy. Now, without his godly powers, the four-thousand-year-old deity must learn to survive in the modern world until he can somehow find a way to regain Zeus’s favor.

But Apollo has many enemies-gods, monsters, and mortals who would love to see the former Olympian permanently destroyed. Apollo needs help, and he can think of only one place to go . . . an enclave of modern demigods known as Camp Half-Blood.

Review:
The ambitious Rick Riordan has begun yet another new series, set in the same world as the Percy Jackson series. Apollo has become a normal, human boy – acne and all. Since this isn’t the first time Zeus has punished him, Apollo assumes all he needs to do is find a demigod to help out for a while to get back in his father’s good graces. Of course, it can’t be that simple.

This new series focuses on a great character. Apollo is very complex – arrogant yet humiliated, powerful now weak, ancient yet losing some memories. Since this is set in the same world as the other series, we get to see several familiar characters. Though, this is about Apollo, so the story focuses on him. And his quest will be about him and his new friends. The story is fun and full of mystery, danger, and suspense. There were a couple major plot twists I didn’t see coming. And the ending came too soon and left me wanting more. I can’t wait for the next in this fantastic new series.

DVD Review: The Shannara Chronicles Season 1

The Shannara Chronicles: Season 1

Synopsis:
Set thousands of years in the future, “The Shannara Chronicles” follows three heroes, Elf-Human hybrid Wil (Austin Butler, “Arrow”), Elvin Princess Amberle (Poppy Drayton, “Downton Abbey”), and Human Rover Eretria (Ivana Baquero, Pan’s Labryinth), as they embark on a quest to stop an evil Demon army from destroying the world. The show also features Manu Bennett (The Hobbit), John Rhys-Davies (The Lord of the Rings), and James Remar (“Dexter”).

Review:
The Shannara Chronicles is loosely based on novel The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks. And I do mean “loosely.” While the first episode does feel very reminiscent of the book, it doesn’t take long before the story veers off with different characters and new story lines. And even some of the main characters meet different fates.

Hardcore fans of the novels may not be happy with the path this this series takes. But the story does still loosely follow, with many similar characters, stretching a book into 10 1-hour episodes. This series is on MTV, so not-surprisingly there is plenty of angst and it’s more sexualized compared to the book. To the point of ridiculousness at times. But overall, it’s an action-packed, dark, and dramatic series full of bold characters, grotesque creatures, and arcane magic. Some of the episodes drag a bit, but for the most part I did enjoy most this season. The end leaves off where the book did. So I’m guessing next season would be a fresh new story not found in the books, and that may be a good idea if they stray so far from the source material anyway.

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES:
– Behind-the-scenes
– Meet the Characters
– Exploring New Zealand
– Terry Brooks interview
– Making of the Dagda Mor

DVD Release Date: 6/7/16
U.S. Rating: NR
Running Time: 411 min
Format: Widescreen
Price: $29.99 US/ $32.99 Canada

Book Giveaway: Exile for Dreamers

Courtesy of Tor Teen, I have a copy of Exile for Dreamers by Kathleen Baldwin for one (1) lucky winner!

Contest is open to US residents only. No PO Boxes please. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends July 8. I’ll draw a name on July 9, and notify winner via email.

ENTER DAILY TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING!

Good luck!

Continue reading Book Giveaway: Exile for Dreamers

Fantasy Book Review: Ruined

Ruined by Amy Tintera

Synopsis:
Emelina Flores has nothing. Her home in Ruina has been ravaged by war; her parents were killed and her sister was kidnapped. Even though Em is only a useless Ruined—completely lacking any magic—she is determined to get revenge.

Her plan is simple: She will infiltrate the enemy’s kingdom, posing as the crown prince’s betrothed. She will lead an ambush. She will kill the king and everything he holds dear, including his son.

The closer Em gets to the prince, though, the more she questions her mission. Her rage-filled heart begins to soften. But with her life—and her family—on the line, love could be Em’s deadliest mistake.

Review:
Em comes from a race of powerful people who have been overthrown and hunted down. Though Em is without the powers of her Ruined people, she decides to get revenge for the murder of her parents and hopes to rescue her sister from the royal family. Em pretends to be Mary, the fiance of the prince and take them all out from within. It’s a genius plan – until she starts to form feelings for the prince.

Ruined is the first in a new young adult, fantasy series. I was hooked from the first exciting chapter. The characters, especially Em, are engaging. And the plot is full of incredible suspense and intrigue. My only hangup was the land of Olso (which is too much like Oslo, Norway). For several chapters, I wondered why an actual land was in a part of a story where everywhere else was mythical – until I noticed the actual spelling. It’s not a big deal, but I imagined Viking warriors up to that point. Since it’s just the first in a trilogy, the story builds to an big climax and leaves off in a minor cliffhanger that left me wanting more. I highly recommend this fantastic new fantasy.

Received in May

The following are the books, movies, television shows, etc. I received in May for review and/or giveaways:

Blu Ray/DVD:
The Shannara Chronicles: Season 1

Mystery Box:
1Up Box
Bam Box

Del Rey / Ballantine Books:
The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin
Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan
Infernal by Mark de Jager

Disney Hyperion:
Return to the Isle of the Lost by Melissa De la Cruz
The Trials of Apollo: Book One The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan
Serafina and the Twisted Staff by Robert Beatty
Munchem Academy: The Boy Who Knew Too Much by Commander S. T. Bolivar III
Race the Night by Kirsten Hubbard
Forever, Again by Victoria Laurie
Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia
Shutter by Laurie Faria Stolarz
Spindle by E. K. Johnston
The Killer in Me by Margot Harrison
This is Our Story by Ashley Elston
Waterfire Saga: Sea Spell by Jennifer Donnelly
The Drake Equation by Bart King
Gabby Duran: Troll Control by Elise Allen

Harper Voyager:
Urban Allies by Joseph Nassise
Breath of Earth by Beth Cato
The Perdition Score by Richard Kadrey

KTeen:
Bright Blaze of Magic by Jennifer Estep

Macmillan Teen / Henry Holt / Feiwel and Friends / Roaring Brook Press / Imprint:
The Ones by Daniel Sweren-Becker
Rebel Genius by Michael Dante DiMartino
Flashfall by Jenny Moyer
Nemesis by Anna Banks
A Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay Smith

Penguin Teen / Putnam:
Lotus and Thorn by Sara Wilson Etienne

Pocket Books:
Star Trek: The Original Series: Elusive Salvation by Dayton Ward

Roc:
The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

Scholastic:
Harry Potter Artifacts Coloring Book by Scholastic
Wings of Fire: Darkstalker by Tui T. Sutherland

Subterranean Press:
Resume Speed by Lawrence Block
The Four Thousand, the Eight Hundred by Greg Egan

Titan Books:
Warcraft: Durotan: The Official Movie Prequel by Christie Golden
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: The Art of the Film by Peter Aperlo

Tor/Forge:
Chapel of Ease by Alex Bledsoe
Awakenings by Edward Lazellari
Eternity’s Mind by Kevin J. Anderson

Tor Teen:
Exile for Dreamers by Kathleen Baldwin

SciFi Book Review: Lois Lane: Double Down

Lois Lane: Double Down by Gwenda Bond

Synopsis:
Lois Lane is starting a new life in Metropolis. An Army brat, Lois has lived all over–and seen all kinds of things. (Some of them defy explanation, like the near-disaster she witnessed in Kansas in the middle of one night.) But now her family is putting down roots in the big city, and Lois is determined to fit in. Stay quiet. Fly straight. As soon as she steps into her new high school, though, she can see it won’t be that easy. A group known as the Warheads is making life miserable for another girl at school. They’re messing with her mind, somehow, via the high-tech immersive videogame they all play. Not cool. Armed with her wit and her new snazzy job as a reporter, Lois has her sights set on solving this mystery. But sometimes it’s all a bit much. Thank goodness for her maybe-more-than-a friend, a guy she knows only by his screenname, SmallvilleGuy.

Review:
Double Down is the second installment in this Lois Lane series for young readers. Lois is a high school student who works part time as a student reporter for the Daily Planet. She is the same young woman from the comics – loyal, smart, fearless, with plenty of gumption.

This story involves her friend’s twin sister and a mysterious medical experiment that happens to tie into a conspiracy involving another friend’s father. The story is fun, fast-paced, and a great mystery with a science fiction twist. It’s loaded with suspense, drama, humor, and a bit of romance (even if it is online with a certain “SmallvilleGuy). I love reading about strong, female leads; and Lois Lane is one of my top favorites (my dog is her namesake). This series is a great reinvention of the character in her early years in a slightly futuristic setting.