Category Archives: Book Reviews

Fantasy Book Review: World of Warcraft: Before the Storm

World of Warcraft: Before the Storm by Christie Golden

Synopsis:
Azeroth is dying.

The Horde and the Alliance defeated the demonic Burning Legion, but a dire catastrophe is unfolding deep below the surface of the world. There is a mortal wound in the heart of Azeroth, struck by the sword of the fallen titan Sargeras in a final act of cruelty.

For Anduin Wrynn, king of Stormwind, and Sylvanas Windrunner, warchief of the Horde and queen of the Forsaken, there is little time to rebuild what remains and even less to mourn what was lost. Azeroth’s devastating wound has revealed a mysterious material known as Azerite. In the right hands, this strange golden substance is capable of incredible feats of creation; in the wrong ones, it could bring forth unthinkable destruction.

As Alliance and Horde forces race to uncover the secrets of Azerite and heal the wounded world, Anduin enacts a desperate plan aimed at forging a lasting peace between the factions. Azerite jeopardizes the balance of power, and so Anduin must gain the trust of Sylvanas. But, as ever, the Dark Lady has her own machinations.

For peace to be possible, generations of bloodshed and hatred must be brought to an end. But there are truths that neither side is willing to accept and ambitions they are loath to relinquish. As Alliance and Horde alike grasp for the Azerite’s power, their simmering conflict threatens to reignite all-out war—a war that would spell doom for Azeroth.

Review:
King Anduin’s number one goal is peace, though many think he’s young and naive. Meanwhile, Sylvanas Windrunner is approached with something that may give her the edge to defeat the Alliance. Anduin presents Sylvanas with an ambitious plan – one that could mean the first steps of peace or the start of another war.

I am a fan of the World of Warcraft novels and movie. Though, I am not familiar with these particular characters, as I don’t play the game. But knowing the world, this was an easy enough story to jump into. This installment has a lot of colorful individuals. Christie Golden is a pro at creating intriguing characters who pull readers into the story. The story is full of political intrigue, suspense, and drama. And the climactic ending left me wanting more. This is a prequel to a new game, that I’m now curious to know what happens next.

Fantasy Book Review: City of Bastards

City of Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

Synopsis:
Tilla, bastard of House Kent, has it made. Safe from her murderous father in the dazzling capital of Lightspire, she lives a life of luxury under the protection of the Volaris King, alongside her boyfriend, Zell, and best friend, Princess Lyriana.

So why isn’t she happy? Maybe it’s the whispers and stares that follow her wherever she goes, as the daughter of the traitor waging war against Lightspire. Or maybe it’s the memories of her beloved brother, Jax, who lies cold in his grave even as she tries to settle into a life in the city’s prestigious University.

Then Tilla stumbles upon the body of a classmate-a friend. The authorities are quick to rule it a suicide and sweep it under the rug, but when Tilla herself is attacked by a mysterious man with terrifying powers, she’s convinced of a conspiracy. Her friends beg her to stay silent; what she’s suggesting is impossible . . . and treasonous.

But Tilla can’t-won’t-let it go. And the deeper she digs, the more questions she uncovers. How is the West beating the supposedly invincible Lightspire mages in battle? Is it connected to the shadowy cult wreaking havoc in Lightspire? Nothing is as it seems in the glorious capital, and Tilla’s presence might just be the spark that sets the Kingdom aflame.

Review:
City of Bastards is the second installment in the Royal Bastards series. Tilla, Lyriana, and Zell are safe in Lightspire at the University. But Tilla doesn’t have many other friends other than her roommate, who is suddenly murdered – though no one seems to believe her. There is a conspiracy brewing, and Tilla is determined uncover the answers.

This sequel is a fast-paced mystery, with an impressive, complex plot. The characters are engaging; and Tilla is especially relatable. The story is full of suspense, drama, and romance. And I enjoyed this even more than the first in the series. I love the unique spin on the unlikely heroes as well ask the magic aspect. This is a surprising and exciting young adult, fantasy series that ends too soon. I’ll be impatiently waiting for the next installment.

SciFi Book Review: Defy the Worlds

Defy the Worlds by Claudia Gray

Synopsis:
An outcast from her home – Shunned after a trip through the galaxy with Abel, the most advanced cybernetic man ever created, Noemi Vidal dreams of traveling through the stars one more time. And when a deadly plague arrives on Genesis, Noemi gets her chance. As the only soldier to have ever left the planet, it will be up to her to save its people… if only she wasn’t flying straight into a trap.

A fugitive from his fate – On the run to avoid his depraved creator’s clutches, Abel believes he’s said good-bye to Noemi for the last time. After all, the entire universe stands between them… or so he thinks. When word reaches him of Noemi’s capture by the very person he’s trying to escape, Abel knows he must go to her, no matter the cost.

But capturing Noemi was only part of Burton Mansfield’s master plan. In a race against time, Abel and Noemi will come together once more to discover a secret that could save the known worlds, or destroy them all.

Review:
Noemi has returned to Genesis and tries getting back to her old life. But a deadly virus has begun to spread, and Noemi is entrusted to travel to Earth to negotiate for the cure. Meanwhile, Mansfield decides to capture Noemi in order to get Abel to trade himself for the woman he loves. With a whole planet in mortal danger, time is running out to save Genesis and Noemi without Abel losing himself.

Defy the Worlds is the direct sequel to Defy the Stars. Noemi and Abel are literally star-crossed lovers. They are from different worlds at war, and Abel isn’t human. This is an exciting and dramatic series for young adults and older. I enjoyed this installment even more than the previous. With more on the line, events build to an intense and suspenseful finale. Gray is a favorite author of mine with several series with strong characters and complex, dramatic stories. And I look forward to the next in this impressive series.

Fantasy Book Review: The Mermaid

The Mermaid by Christina Henry

Synopsis:
Once there was a mermaid called Amelia who could never be content in the sea, a mermaid who longed to know all the world and all its wonders, and so she came to live on land.

Once there was a man called P. T. Barnum, a man who longed to make his fortune by selling the wondrous and miraculous, and there is nothing more miraculous than a real mermaid.

Amelia agrees to play the mermaid for Barnum and walk among men in their world, believing she can leave anytime she likes. But Barnum has never given up a money-making scheme in his life, and he’s determined to hold on to his mermaid.

Review:
The Mermaid is a stunning, historical, fairy tale. Amelia is a mermaid with more humanity than the fictionalized PT Barnum. Henry doesn’t gloss over Barnum’s circus and exploitation of his exhibits. And despite working for Barnum, Amelia is a smart, and confident woman who doesn’t bow to his demands. This isn’t a retelling of the Little Mermaid, despite the feel of it at first. But this is a beautiful fairy tale with plenty of heart, suspense, and romance. Henry has created another impressive, strong, female character that readers will love. I thoroughly enjoyed this fast-paced read that was over too soon.

Book Review: Children of Exile

Children of Exile by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Synopsis:
For the past twelve years, adults called “Freds” have raised Rosi, her younger brother Bobo, and the other children of their town, saying it is too dangerous for them to stay with their parents, but now they are all being sent back. Since Rosi is the oldest, all the younger kids are looking to her with questions she doesn’t have the answers to. She’d always trusted the Freds completely, but now she’s not so sure.

And their home is nothing like she’d expected, like nothing the Freds had prepared them for. Will Rosi and the other kids be able to adjust to their new reality?

Review:
Rosi and all of the kids in Fredtown have been raised by loving, nurturing adults. But now they have to go back to their parents and the real world. And they are completely unprepared for the reality of their biological families and what life will be like going forward.

Children of Exile is the first in a science fiction trilogy for middle readers. Rosi is a sweet, likable girl who has been taught only good things from the Freds. However, since the kids were so sheltered, life is culture shock for them back in their real home – full of secrets and danger. I thoroughly enjoyed the suspenseful pacing and surprising final reveal. Though, there is plenty left unanswered. It feels like we’ve barely scratched the surface of the dark, intense world. And it’s a quick, easy read. Fans of post-apocalyptic series should check out this unique series debut.

Fantasy Review: The Trials of Apollo: The Burning Maze

The Trials of Apollo: Book Three: The Burning Maze by Rick Riordan

Synopsis:
The formerly glorious god Apollo, cast down to earth in punishment by Zeus, is now an awkward mortal teenager named Lester Papadopoulos. In order to regain his place on Mount Olympus, Lester must restore five Oracles that have gone dark. But he has to achieve this impossible task without having any godly powers and while being duty-bound to a confounding young daughter of Demeter named Meg. Thanks a lot, Dad.

With the help of some demigod friends, Lester managed to survive his first two trials, one at Camp Half-Blood, and one in Indianapolis, where Meg received the Dark Prophecy. The words she uttered while seated on the Throne of Memory revealed that an evil triumvirate of Roman emperors plans to attack Camp Jupiter. While Leo flies ahead on Festus to warn the Roman camp, Lester and Meg must go through the Labyrinth to find the third emperor–and an Oracle who speaks in word puzzles–somewhere in the American Southwest. There is one glimmer of hope in the gloom-filled prophecy: The cloven guide alone the way does know. They will have a satyr companion, and Meg knows just who to call upon.

Review:
Apollo (currently in the mortal body of Lester) and Meg team up with more familiar characters in this third installment in the Trials of Apollo series. Apollo has to brave the Labyrinth and discovers the 3rd evil emperor – who happens to want to steal his godly powers as well.

This latest installment had plenty of humor, adventure, drama, and heart. The story dragged a bit in the middle – it felt like it was purposefully made to stretch to a certain book length. There’s something to be said that my favorite books were the original Percy Jackson stories that were half of this length with all of the action and adventure, but a tighter (and more memorable) story. That being said, I love this incarnation of Apollo. He’s become humble, but still a bit of a coward, expecting others to fight for him. I still love the mystery, adventure, suspense, heartbreak, and humor. I look forward to the next in this inspired series.

Fantasy Book Review: Potion Masters

Potion Masters: The Eternity Elixir by Frank L. Cole

Synopsis:
Twelve-year-old Gordy Stitser is one of the few people who knows the truth about the secret society of potion masters, because not only is Gordy’s mom on the Board of Ruling Elixirists Worldwide (B.R.E.W.), but she has also been training Gordy in the art of potion-making.

Gordy is a natural, and every day he sneaks down to the basement lab to invent new potions using exotic ingredients like fire ant eggs, porcupine quills, and Bosnian tickling juice.

One afternoon, Gordy receives a mysterious package containing an extremely rare potion known as ”The Eternity Elixir.” In the right hands, the Elixir continues to protect society. But in the wrong hands, it could destroy the world as we know it.

Now, sinister potion masters are on the hunt to steal the Eternity Elixir. It’s up to Gordy, his parents, and his best friends, Max and Adeline, to prevent an all-out potion war.

Review:
Gordy is an apprentice of potion-making. He’s fascinated with his mother’s work. So, when he received a package meant for his mother when she’s out of town, Gordy decides to do his own experiments. But the Elixer is very dangerous. And his mother has been keeping secrets.

The Eternity Elixir is first in a new middle reader, fantasy series. The story is fast-paced and full of mystery, suspense, and humor. The characters are engaging and kept me guessing – from Gordy’s mother’s side of the family to his friends. And I loved the unique idea and clever use of magic through potions and the backstory of B.R.E.W. Events build to an exiting finale that doesn’t disappoint. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and look forward to the next installment.

Fantasy Book Review: The Stone Girl’s Story

The Stone Girl’s Story by Sarah Beth Durst

Synopsis:
Mayka and her stone family were brought to life by the stories etched into their bodies. Now time is eroding these vital marks, and Mayka must find a stonemason to recarve them. But the search is more complex than she had imagined, and Mayka uncovers a scheme endangering all stone creatures. Only someone who casts stories into stone can help—but whom can Mayka trust? Where is the stonemason who will save them?

Review:
The Stone Girl’s Story is a sweet story with the feel of a fairy tale. Mayka and her friends are living stone creations. Their creator has long passed, and now the stone creations need fixing to go on living. So, Mayka and her friends go on a quest to find a gifted stonemason. The characters are likable and engaging. And while a bit predictable, the story has plenty of adventure, suspense, humor, and heart. This coming-of-age, middle reader novel is fun for all ages. Durst’s novels are always unique and must-reads for me. And this novel is one of her more feel-good, light-hearted stories.