Monday, 21 November 2016

Songs of Everealm #3 - Song of Sorrow




Nothing has gone according to Princess Sarita's plan. From near drowning to almost plummeting off the side of a mountain, she has had to face many obstacles that have dared to come between her and her quest for magic. Unfortunately, the challenge she must face now is the desires of her own heart.

A crazy scheme could be the answer to everyone's dreams or the end of them...




Two disclaimers to get out the way before I start this review.

First up, I was given a free copy of Song of Sorrow by author J D Wright in exchange for an honest review.

Second, I recently started watching Atlanta on FX, reawakening my obsession with Donald Glover that I thought I'd got over when I stopped binge-watching Community. But now it's back with a venegeance, so this review's GIFs are all Donald Glover, all the time. Enjoy!


It's no secret that I love the Everealm series (you can check out my various reviews of the seven books in the series here).

After a failed expedition to gain magic, Princess Sarita has returned home to Junacave, resigned to the idea that she will never have magic. It's not all bad though. Because in Everealm people with magic can't be a king or queen, Sarita's now free to pursue her relationship with King Cassidy without having to consciously abandon her dream. Except it isn't that simple. Cassidy's still determined to make her follow through on her plan, even if it costs him the girl he loves. It's a plot that could be resolved with a five minute conversation. But it isn't. And that's not a bad thing, because it means we get another Everealm book.

That said, the characters need their heads banging together! Honestly, it's a little infuriating to read another book of aguing between Sarita and Cassidy (and to a lesser extent, Gabby and Oliver), when it's not entirely clear what they're fighting about. Everyone's acknowledged their feelings to themselves, but they're still holding out. And just when you think the characters are on the verge of confronting their emotions and having a conversation, they immediately begin arguing again. Why aren't these guys coupled up? What's the problem?

 
Song of Sorrow is one of those journey books, where the purpose of the trip takes a backseat to the trip itself, and that's totally fine with me. Bickering aside, I really do enjoy reading road trips, where the plot sees characters out exploring their world rather than confined to a castle, and this book has plenty. Granted, there's more than a hint of repetition from earlier books in the series (this is now the third magical stone that Princess Sarita has gone on a quest for in as many books), but J D Wright mixes it up a bit this time out and I was glad to get the first sea voyage of the series and start moving into new kingdoms and realms rather than revisiting old ones. Not a bad thing necessarily, but at book #3 (or #8 if you count the 5 Everealm books), some new blood is definitely needed. I love the sense of boundless possibility in this series, even if realism - if there is such a thing in realm of magic and fantasy - takes a backseat at times. I mean, Cassidy is supposed to be a king, but yet frequently disappears out of his kingdom for weeks on end, usually without so much as a single personal guard with apparently no consequence. You think he'd be busy doing ... I don't know ... royal stuff.


I got on board with the new couplings in this book. Yes I saw them coming a mile off, but yes I still really liked these ones. Despite a sprawling cast of characters, there are none whose chapters/paragraphs I skim read, and there's only one I actively dislike. I said in my last review about my issue with the character of Calista, and these are still very much present and correct in Sorrow. I've come around to the pairing of her and Jake, even if the two people who hate each other are forced together and fall in love cliche isn't my cup of tea, but she's just such an ungrateful moaner. After running away from Jake and being rejected by her mother, Calista - somehow - finds a man to take her in, letting her stay at his house for free while he feeds and clothes her, and rather than showing any gratitude, she buggers off with Jake at the first opportunity without so much as a thank you to the guy, then makes all sorts of spiteful comments about how boring and dull the man was. I'm sure you weren't exactly a picnic to live with either, sweetheart!


It would be nice to see Calista embrace her magic and discover some sort of inner strength and independance, but alas this doesn't happen here. Luckily, there's relatively new - at least to the narrative - character Jo around to up the independent women quota. Her sort of relationship with Gabby's ex-fiance Garrison was incredibly sweet. It even managed to win me over after a few early eye rolls and pursed lips. The contrarian in me finds the tidy pairings in this series a little bit too convenient at times, but these guys were cute.

It was great to see the story starting to expand out into new parts of Everealm, with new kingdoms and families and creatures starting to make an appearance - although I wish most of them hadn't appeared so near the end of the book! The story ends so abruptly that I thought my copy was missing a chapter or two. Come on J D Wright, you can't leave me hanging like this until book #4/#9!


I really enjoyed this book, much like Song of Sovereign and Sparrows, it's a fantastically enjoyable read. After a spate of violent and somewhat mean-spirited fantasy reads recently, it's nice to read a lighthearted story that doesn't wallow in tragic backstory or pile misery onto the protagonist. But there is an undeniable feeling of deja vu in this book from the previous ones. The quest, the arguing, the pairings, I loved reading them the first time around and I certainly don't object to reading them again, but it does feel a bit like the story's going around in circles rather than moving forward. I'm hoping for a bit of backlash to the events at the end. Without giving too much away, a relatively small and seemingly sweet event could have huge implications for the relations between kingdoms and the potential for new enemies and obstacles to come into play (I've said it before and I'll say it again, no one's come close to matching Silas for menace and epic villainy!), so bring on Song of Shadows!

 

It's a thumbs up from me and Donald Glover!

Friday, 23 September 2016

Feature & Follow #12

I've been neglecting my blog a bit lately thanks to being up to my eyes in work and studying. But I'm hoping to get back into the swing of it - and actually read a book again since I haven't picked one up for weeks - with Feature & Follow Friday!

The Feature & Follow is hosted by TWO hosts, Parajunkee of Parajunkee's View and Alison of Alison Can Read. It's a really cool way to find out what people are reading and connect with other bloggers. Added bonus, the aim of a blog hop is to follow others. You follow me, I follow you. Wins all round! I'm happy for followers on GFC, Twitter, Bloglovin', Goodreads, whatever works for you. I guess I'd prefer Bloglovin' follows if I had to pick one. Make sure you leave me a comment so I know you're a new followers, I'm kind of scatty with keeping track of new followers!

The post prompt:
What's Your Book Betrayal Story? (Someone borrowed a book and destroyed it? Waited for a book for forever and it was terrible?)
 

Hmmm, a tricky one this week! 

In terms of a destroyed book, most people know better than to touch my books, much less destroy them. But I did once lend a copy of A Man Called Ove to someone in my book club and they returned it with dog-earred pages, highlights and annotations, much to my annoyance. 

There have been a few books that I was super excited for, only to find them to be a colossal letdown. Assassin's Heart by Sarah Ahiers is the most recent one I can think of. Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch (hmmm, maybe I should just stay away from authors called Sara!) was another. I didn't hate either of them as such, I just had really high hopes and they both turned out to be sort of ... meh. 

But my biggest book betrayal is probably Allegiant by Veronica Roth. I try to refrain from bitching about books, even if I didn't really enjoy them, but I HATED THIS BOOK SO MUCH! From the terrible pacing, the lack of story, the personality transplants the characters seemed to have undergoing and THAT ending, that book was the closest I've come to actually feeling betrayed by an inanimate object. And after I enjoyed Divergent and Insurgent so much, it seemed like an extra kick in the teeth.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Into The Light - Blog Tour















A big thank you to author Caroline T.Patti for answering my Q&A as part of the Into The Light blog tour!

1. What inspired you to write Into The Light?
Into the Light is the follow-up to Into the Dark. I wanted Mercy’s story to come to a satisfying end because I knew this would be the last in the “series.” I’m not sure if you can consider two books an entire series, but for lack of a better word, that’s what I’ll call it. At the close of Into the Dark Mercy made a pact with Isadora, aka the villain, in an effort to protect her family and friends. Into the Light certainly had to address this conflict, but I also wanted a great deal of the story to be about Nathaniel. To me, he became the most interesting and complex character. He’s certain not very likable in Into the Dark, though he is quite delicious at times. I wanted the readers to be able to fully understand his motivation, to know the reasons for why he is the way he is. I focused on that while writing Into the Light and Mercy’s story came together and, in a way, overlapped with Nathaniel’s.

2. Have any elements of your life made it in to the story?
I don’t include huge aspects of my life into my writing. What I do like to include are Easter eggs, if you will, for those who know me personally. Lyla’s last name is McCrimons, which is the same last name of one of my closest friends. When I was a kid and my dad made pancakes, he always cut it into little squares and then ate the middle piece himself. I included this in Into the Dark when Jay and Mercy in Lyla’s body make pancakes. When picturing Mercy’s high school, I did picture my own, which I’ve never done before, so the layout is exactly the same.

3. If you could go back in time and give yourself one bit of advice before you started writing Into The Light, what would it be?
Relax.
There is so much pressure for sequels. Way more pressure than a first book! Readers are engaged, they have expectations, and the idea that I could somehow fall short of those expectations is really scary. What happens, though, when I let those thoughts into my head is I start thinking too much about the reader and I question every single word. I made things way too difficult for myself in the early stages of writing. At some point I had to resign myself to the fact that it’s impossible to make everyone happy. Readers of Into the Dark will end up #TeamGage or #TeamNathaniel, and they might never be okay with the choice Mercy makes in Into the Light. I have to be okay with that. When an author publishes a book there’s this odd change of ownership and the characters belong to the readers and therefore they feel they should control the outcome. Of course their outcome might not match up with mine, and for that they may end up disappointed. And while I feel for them, I have to remember that this is my story with my characters and so long as I’m proud of my craft, that’s all that really matters.

4. Which books/authors inspired you to start writing?
I wanted to be a writer before I truly understood what an author is. I knew I wanted to write books, to tell stories from the time I was five, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t quite grasp the concept of authors just yet. Once I did, however, Lois Duncan had a huge influence on me. I gobbled up her books when I was young, and when I set out to be a “real writer” I sent her an email. She was so kind to reply and to wish me well on my journey.

5. Who's in the fantasy movie cast for Into The Light?
I hope you don’t hate my answer. The truth is, I’ve given it no thought. This is not to say that I don’t want my books turned into film. I would be honored. But I’ve never thought of who might play the characters because right now they only exist in my imagination and no one is going to resemble them enough. I’d much rather have someone else’s vision when it comes to casting because I think their argument could persuade me. I’d love to know who readers would want to cast, and then I’m sure I
could get behind their choice.

6. Sum Into The Light up in five words.
The real enemy is revealed.

7. Do you have any writing rituals?
I’m kind of a neat freak, so I try to make sure my house is clean first. Of course, if I’m on deadline, I have to forgo this ritual because I simply don’t have time. But for the most part, I like to know things are taken care of around the house so that I can devote all of my attention to the story. I will listen to the same two or three CDs on repeat until I’m finished with a book. It’s amazing that I don’t get sick of the music, but I honestly don’t. As soon as I’m plugged in, and the notes are playing, I’m transported right into the story and the rest of the world melts away. When I’m in the thick of it, I write every day, and I try to get out at least 1700 words. I do not write every day. I’m a wife and a mom to teenage daughters—there’s just no way to write every day. While editing Into the Light I watched a lot of That 70s Show. I don’t know why; it sort of became like a soundtrack. It was awesome.

8. Who was your favourite character to write?
Nathaniel. By far. I love a good complex character. I love the idea that it’s possible to love someone and hate someone at the same time. He’s tortured and he’s very hardened when we first meet him in Into the Dark. Originally, he was going to be the villain, but then his story unfolded and my heart went out to him. All he wanted was to be in love, and when he was denied that opportunity because loving a human was against the rules, he changed completely. I wanted to give him the chance to change back. I can’t promise that he does, but I at least wanted him to make the effort. And I wanted him to think of someone else besides himself.

9. How different is this version to the one you sat down to write?
Night and day. Seriously. The first version only moderately resembles the completed version. This happens to me a lot. I tend to dump a first draft knowing that I’m going to go back and revise. Maybe some writers think of this as a waste of time, but it’s part of my process. I get it all out, sort of verbal vomit style, and then I hone and tighten the story until it’s the way I want it. In early drafts I tend to make things too complicated. So during revisions I try to find the simplest, most direct way to tell the story. And I always keep Quentin Tarantino with me when I’m revising. I like to follow his format of jumping right into the action, and going back and explaining later. This means that during the revision process I might flip the entire book if necessary. I’m better at the back half then I am the start, so sometimes I’ll make the back part the beginning part and go back in time if necessary. Now that I’ve typed this all out, I realize it sounds a bit nuts, but what can I do? It is what it is.

10. How did Into The Light make the journey from your head to print?
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I had an agent. And I pitched that agent the idea of Into the Dark, which was then called Seven Days. She loved the idea, but my writing wasn’t where it needed to be. We ended up going round and round for years. YEARS. And then I “met” Georgia McBride through Twitter. She ran #yalitchat, and she did freelance editing. I begged her to please help me pull Seven Days out of the depths of despair. And she did. But not without listening to a lot of whining from me about how I should just give up the whole thing and write something else first. Eventually, my agent dropped me, as happens to lots of folks and Georgia founded Month9Books. I remember being so nervous to ask her if she might consider publishing what was now called Into the Dark. She gave me the green light to submit, and Into the Dark went through the same process as any other submission. Into the Dark was published in August 2015, and I finished writing Into the Light by December 2015.

Into The Light
Mercy’s family is back together and the threat of danger appears to have passed. But any relief she feels is short lived as she is ripped from her body and thrown in jail. Gage and Nathaniel’s plans to break Mercy out won’t exactly be easy. Stuffed full of a chemical binding agent, Mercy is trapped inside the body of a convict without the ability to breach and set herself free. Unfortunately for Mercy, being trapped in jail becomes the least of her problems when she meets her evil twin, Justice.

BAM | Chapters | Amazon | B&N | TBD


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Friday, 26 August 2016

Nevernight

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family. Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.

Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?


Where to start with Nevernight?

The blurb for this book is slightly deceptive. It sells it as something of a cliched "teenage assassin seeks revenge for the death of her family", but it's so much more than that! It actually follows through on its talk of death and murder, rather than glossing over it or, worse in my opinion, romanticising assassination. It certainly delivers on the gory goods, and isn't afraid to show the consequences of its violence.

I don't think this book is correctly categorised as YA (although I'm not precious about labels, so call it what you will). There's plenty of gore, no sunshines and rainbows, and a couple of pretty graphic sex scenes with a good few pages devoted to both male and female oral sex - although props to Jay Kristoff for some incredibly well-written heat and a refreshingly healthy and realistic attitude towards sex.



Mia's introduction to the Red Church and the lessons and tests that she and the other acolytes face are suitably cruel and lethal. Think Hogwarts if the Potions teacher actually poisoned the class and whatever Defence Against The Dark Arts professor Harry had that year actually chopped off limbs. The line between bloodlust and the regular kind is blurred, the powerful intimacy of both sex and death intertwined . Many an F-bomb is dropped, and a few C-bombs too (although Mia and Tric's discussion on why she'd rather be called said C-bomb than an insult named for the male anatomy is absolute writing gold!). This book certainly isn't one for the faint-hearted.

Mia was a bit of an odd one as a character. She alternates between ruthless killer and scared little girl (albeit not very often!), a little bit of who she was occasionally bleeding through into who she is. There's a lot left to be explored with her backstory, and I loved her creepy power over shadows (think Ephemera from Bloodrayne 2 for my fellow gaming nerds). I was a little bit disappointed that the author went down the route of having her beautified as part of her indoctrination into the Red Church. It made sense in the grand scheme of the story, but it was a bit of a shame that our unique and badass protagonist veered a little bit towards cookie-cutter. I'm not sure how I felt about her admiring her new boobs either, it had a little bit of a "taking off the bandages after plastic surgery" vibe to it which I wasn't feeling. The supporting characters were brilliant too, so well written that I could read another book just telling their backstories! Mia's father-figure/trainer Mercurio was great, his attacks of conscience over the path he was setting her on betraying how much he cared about his little Crow. The sadistic teachers, from the poison-weilding Spiderkiller to the limb-chopping Solis, were Harry Potter turned up to 11, and the fellow students vying for a place as Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder were wonderful - if a little thinly sketched. Ash was my favourite, her banter with Mia was fantastic and the dialogue crackled with energy whenever they were together!

Oh Tric! My poor, beloved Tric! His peversely sweet relationship with Mia was one of my favourite parts of the book. I'm not entirely sure Mia deserved him, but whether they were cursing each other, slicing each other up, having sex or having a rare but very sweet cute moment, I adored this pair. Although it's pretty obvious there's no future for them, and Jay Kristoff never attempts to hide this for a single second, I kind of hoped they'd get a happily ever after. I mean, come on man! Way to rip out my heart and stomp on it!



I've heard a few people say they couldn't click with the writing style and found the book too hard to get into. It's certainly not a light read, but my god, it's so worth it! The asterisks found on most pages that offer supplementary info on the world and characters can be skipped without harming the story itself, but I urge you to read them! The history lessons and narrator interludes alternate between incredible attention to detail and being incredibly funny. Kristoff's brutal takedowns of the standard teenage assassin tropes had me laughing out loud! My personal favourite was the mentions of a man who went by the name "Pigfiddler" or something similar. The asterisk beside his name led to a note from the narrator to tell me to grow up and stopp giggling.

At the risk of paraphrasing Kanye West, this book is a beautiful, dark, twisted fantasy. From the lyrical writing to the lush descriptions and not one, but two gorgeous world maps, Nevernight was a joy to read from start to finish. Jay Kristoff's writing is wonderful and be TBR list now includes everything he's ever written. 

Nevernight is easily one of the best books I've read this year. It's a gripping, captivating, ambitious read. It's as dark as it is beautiful, and as brutal as it is heart-wrenching. It's as quotable as a Tarantino film, with world building to die for and a cast of absolutely magnificent bastards. If you're looking for clean-cut "assassins" who don't spill a drop of blood throughout the entire book, happy endings or a light, easy read, then you should probably look elsewhere. But otherwise, for the love of all things bookish, read Nevernight!

Sunday, 14 August 2016

How far will a book take you?



My big loves are books and travel. But short of reading abroad or reading travel book, the two have remained separate entities in my life. Most of the books I read are set in fantasy lands, which is great and makes for some beautiful world maps, but it's not like you can pack your bags and pay them a visit (as much as you sometimes want to).

I loved Kate Mosse’s Languedoc trilogy; Labyrinth, Sepulchre and Citadel. They’re worldwide bestsellers, and with good reason. Set in Carcassonne, the mix of fiction and history, along with engaging heroines and a sprinkling of the supernatural, this series is an instant win in for me, and I’ve read them time and again over the last ten years or so. And when I was browsing SkyScanner the other day, I suddenly had an idea. Why not go to Carcassone?
So when it came to choosing the next destination for the next Gray mother-daughter trip abroad, I actually came to the table with a suggestion as opposed to our usual method of selection – putting a bunch of ideas in a jar and picking one at random. My suggestion was Carcassonne.

Mosse’s books have been such an inspiration, that I felt I owed it to the stories I've loved so much to see the place where they were born. That, plus the fact that France is a mere hop, skip and a jump from the UK and there are an abundance of cheap flights (thanks Easyjet!) and Air B&B deals made this one a no brainer. Plus, after the UK's questionnable decision to leave the EU, I feel like I should get all the hassle-free eurotravel in while I can still swan through immigration under the European freedom of movement law.

This is one of those wonderful times in my life where I can actually use the phrase "the book made me do it". Handily, Mosse’s books also come with a mini tour guide in the back of them, highlighting the spots where key scenes take place.

You're a better woman than me if you can resist this!
I'm so excited to finally see this beauty in real life! It's going to be a patchwork of flights, train transfers and remembering to drive on the right-hand side of the road whilst trying to not crash the hire car, but I can't wait! How I will fit three large, hardback books in my backpack remains to be seen...

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Songs of Everealm blog tour












It's no secret; I loved the original Everealm series! I've devoured all five books in the series in under a year and when I finished Dynasty a few month's ago, I was on the lookout for my next bookish obsession. Turns out I didn't have long to wait, as author J.D.Wright announced her new spin-off "Songs" series shortly after. So when the blog tour came up, I didn't miss the opportunity to jump on a spot (thanks to YA Bound Book Tours!) and the chance to dive back in to the world of Everealm.

I was only down for a promo post for this tour, but I got review copies of each and wasted zero time in blasting through them. This blog post is already kind of long, so you can check out the reviews for Sovereign and Sparrow in their own posts.

I have so much love for this series! Magic, castles, lands far far away, knights, faeries, sex, romance and princesses who take no shit ... suffice to say, I'm hooked

Song of Sovereign (Songs of Everealm #1)

Princess Sarita has everything. Loving parents, a castle fit for royalty, fine clothes, loyal friends, and an exciting job as a scholar of magic. At eighteen years of age, one might think that she would be content with her position. But one thing has always been missing from her life... full magic, itself.

When a strange old woman gave Sarita a secret spellbook as a child, her entire life was changed. The book contains spells, songs, and stories. But most of all, it provides a path to gaining full magic, the only thing that Sarita still needs to feel complete. And now, she has finally prepared to leave her home in search of the Stones of the Divine, the final ingredient she needs to gain magic.

Gabrielle has been known as the sister of a knight and best friend of the princess for as long as she can remember. Now an experienced healer's assistant, she is desperate to find her place and purpose in Junacave. An adventurous mission to help Sarita locate a mystical stone may be just the change in her life that she is looking for.

King Cassidy is still alone, but not for a lack of trying. His attempts to convince the Princess of Junacave to marry him over the past ten years have been for naught. And being twenty years old, with no heir, he is running out of time. If he can't win the heart of the princess, he may have to face a future without the love of his life.

Adventure, romance, and magic await as we travel through Everealm with royalty, wizards, fairies, and more, in the fantasy-romance Songs of Everealm, a five book series by J.D. Wright, author of the Everealm Series. Songs of Everealm Series is the second series set in the fantasy-filled Everealm. It begins 8 years after the conclusion of the first series, the Everealm Series.

Excerpt
Cassidy smiled, walking toward her. He leaned against the table closest to her desk and studied her. She was so beautiful. He thought she looked a lot like her mother, but she had Rowan’s soft brown eyes. Her long and slightly curly hair was still blonde, though. It hadn’t turned auburn like Bree’s or brown like Rowan’s. It stayed blonde all through her childhood and to now. And it suited her other soft features. To most, the princess might appear delicate. He had angered her enough to know that she wasn’t. And she was just remarkable when she was angry.
Her gown was plainer than the ones he usually saw her wearing, but he rarely entered her space when she was working during his visits. He figured she would probably change into something more formal before supper. And she would be just as striking in an elaborate gown as she was in her riding clothes. Which reminded him…
“I wanted to know if you were up for finishing our race. I brought Stallion with me, this time. So think carefully before you accept. I would hate to make my princess cry when I leave her in my dust.”
Sarita narrowed her eyes at him, then stepped closer.
“I am not your princess and Stallion will never win against Dragonfly. My horse practically flies, hence the name.”
Cassidy snickered. “Does she fly like a dragon or like a fly? Because one doesn’t exist and the other is a giant nuisance.”
She smirked at him. Well played, Your Majesty. “Either one would be faster than your precious Stallion.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes. I think we both know that you will be the one in my dust. I hope you choke on it.”
“I love it when you wish harm to come to me.”
“Then you should be the happiest king in the realm because I wish harm on you almost every day.”
“Oh, I am insanely happy. Especially, right now.”
Sarita’s eyes widened. She suddenly realized just how close she had gotten to him. She wasn’t sure how long she had been standing there or when he had put his hands on her waist. Yet, looking down, almost her entire body was pressed against him. She quickly backed away and turned toward her desk.
“I will take that as your agreement to my challenge,” he said, turning to go.
She stared at him as he walked out of the room. When she was alone, again, she sank into her chair and dropped her head onto the desk. This was going to be a disaster. Sneaking away before the tournament was over would be nearly impossible. She wouldn’t get far before Cassidy would realize she was gone.

Song of Sparrows (Songs of Everealm #2)

The journey across Everealm to find the magical stones has not come without its challenges. After being plagued by unwanted guests, disagreements, and accidents, Princess Sarita is beginning to wonder if her dream of gaining magic is a fantasy that can't come true.

Along the way, new friends and rekindled sparks between old flames have caused quite a stir within the group. As a new wizard joins the effort and gives the princess a reason to continue, the quest for the next stone ensues...

As the sun rises over the ridge, our story continues into the Song of Sparrows!


About the Author
Writing has always been a hobby of mine, beginning as a young child. It was a way to cope with losing my father at seven years of age. I started with poetry and was featured several times on the amazing poetry blog, Autumn Leaves, by Sondra Ball. My love for poetry soon led to writing songs in middle school and beyond, which I still do occasionally. Music has always been an important part of my existence, so writing songs came naturally to me. In high school, I started my own novel, however, life got in the way and I never finished it.

Fast forward many years later and I find myself married with three children, absorbed in my busy life with commitments to my family, work, school, church, and charities, among other things. One day I came across my old binder, with notes from my first novel, and it was with those notes that I conjured up the elusive Everealm.

I write to please readers such as myself, who have a love for fantasy and romance, but like a little danger and sex in their reading. I wrote the book with a mature audience in mind, who can appreciate a hearty imaginary world with magic and the unknown, but want more than fluffy love stories with wizards in them. They want the romance, magic, and danger, all wrapped into one.


Giveaway

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Book tour organised by
 

Songs of Everealm #1 and #2

So, I was pretty excited when I heard about this series! I've loved the Everealm series from book one. Well, book two actually, but only because I read them the wrong way around. So just as I was starting to get the shakes as book five, Dynasty, was coming to a close, out came the announcement for J.D.Wright's spin-off series, Songs of Everealm, and all was right in my bookish world once again.

Set some eight years after the last Everealm book, it follows Princess Sarita in her quest across the realm to gain magic. It's definitely time to follow the new generation of characters, but it's still nice to see a few mentions of the guys and girls of Everealm mark 1. Sarita was one of my favourites from the "old" series, so it was wonderful to follow her adventures. Yes, the idea of getting magic from some vaguely named stones scattered across the realm is pretty straight-forward, and there's a lot of walking around without actually finding anything, but it's refreshing to read a simple story that's well told. Sovereign is less about the destination than the journey, and the "road-trip" makes for an enjoyable, easy read.

Joining Sarita is best friend Gabby, her ex Oliver and Sarita's admirer/borderline stalker King Cassidy. Their chemistry and believable banter were a joy to read, although Cassidy's insistence on calling Sarita "his princess" when she repeatedly (and I mean repeatedly) told him not to wore thin. There's a fine line between the act of flirtation and the act of being a sex pest, and that line was crossed on occasion. Gabby and Oliver's respective partners, Garrison and Calista, were along for part of the ride, although they seemed a bit surplus, and Calista in particular grated on my nerves. But one of the great things about this series is that it's so sprawling that if you don't like a character, you don't have to wait too long to be back with one you do like. I've always loved author J.D.Wright's ability to write life into characters and interactions that could be incredibly boring. And not once was I bored even though there was a lot of riding and camping and bedding down for the night. Seriously, how many authors would put their manliest male characters in nightgowns for a couple of scenes?



This boundless world and character building is one of my favourite things about this series and this adventure does have the same feeling of liberated freedom.

J.D's books tend to err on the adult side of things, so I was a bit concerned about how I'd deal with reading sex scenes between characters who were ten years old in the book I was reading just a few months ago. But thankfully this is one of the tamer entires to the series, the only one who really gets any action is Sarita's horse (which to be honest, I could have done without reading!) so it's not a horribly jarring transition.

I wasn't a huge fan of the introduction of faery Emery, just because it felt a little bit rushed. She's a cute character, but her magical mate bond with wizard Asher seemed a little bit contrived. When Sidonie and Dagan were matched up despite their personal circumstances in the first series, it was a love-hate relationship that worked out, but here it just feels like we're going over old ground. It was nice to find out a bit more about Everealm and the lingering animosity between certain magical beings, but it felt a bit like more of the same.

An absolute must read for fans of the Everealm series, but a definite recommendation if you're looking for a fun, easy read in a world set far far away!



And then it was on to book two!

I got both books as part of the tour, and dived right into Sparrows the instant I was finished with Sovereign. Did I enjoy it as much? Not quite.

At three stars, this is the lowest rating I've given any book in this series - even though I still really enjoyed reading it and in no way has it put me off reading the rest - for two reasons.

One; repetition. We had the "magical mates who hate each other but are fused together by magic" plot in Sovereign with Asher and Emery. Okay, they didn't hate each other per se, but him being a wizard and her being a fairy meant that it was a coupling that neither were happy with. And we get another dose of that in Sparrow with wizard Jake and magic-hating Calista. Which brings me to my next issue.

Calista. Urgh . . . just . . . urgh! This foot-stomping, slut-shaming, pain in the ass was a problem I encountered in Sovereign, but she wasn't too prominent so I could deal with her character. I wasn't entirely sure why she was there, but she was pretty inoffensive. Not so in Sparrows. She's front and centre for a big chunk of the book and is just, so, annoying! Just when the story should be dealing with Sarita and the princess losing her fire for something she's been searching for and dreaming of most of her life, it switches to this shining beacon of human idiocy for a loooong time. Sometimes authors do such a good job of writing a character that you find insufferable that they become a pro and a con at the same time and that's definitely the case here. Well written, believable character? Check. Walking annoyance that you'd cross the street to avoid? Check.


Calista's relationship with Jake was a sticking point for me too. Them getting together wasn't the issue, it was obvious from the end of book one, but I'm not sure I'm a fan of these magical pairings that stick people who hate each other together and there's nothing they can do about it. Gabby and Oliver's relationship is lovely because you believe they want to be together. I'd much rather read about characters who are together because they want to be, rather than two people arguing then having sex because magic dictates that they sort of have to. Everything's very neat, with pairs of heterosexual couples and no odd numbers so someone is sleeping alone or same-sex couplings, which is a little bit disappointing given the lack of diversity in YA and the potential for some in this enormous world that J.D.Wright has created. Fair enough, some stories don't have scope for that kind of thing and sometimes it's just not the author's bag - forcing diversity for the sake of it can sometimes be worse than lacking it - but at book seven, I was kind of hoping for something to break the mould.

Skimming over the Calista stuff - it's good news everywhere else. Cassidy has dialled down his stalker-ish tendancies, and is now a much better character, quietly accepting that Sarita doesn't love him and isn't going to marry him (although, do any of us believe that?), retreating to his castle after assigning his mage to guard her. Gabby and Oliver finally, sort of get it back together. It's still a long road, but the pieces are falling into place. Bless my beloved Sarita though! After trekking all over the realm in search of a magic-bearing stone (which doesn't quite work as she intended. I won't go into spoilers, but that plot point had me like . . .)

she ends up defeated and skulking home. She's such a great character that it's sad to see her fire go out, although I'm sure it won't be long before it's back! Her "will they-won't they" (although obviously they definitely will!) relationship with Cassidy is so cute. Neither quite know what they're doing, and sometimes do things that any sane person could see are a bad idea, but it's sweet and believable. I'm quite glad that J.D.Wright left the sex scenes for book two. Jumping straight into them from Dynasty where Sarita and Gabby were ten years old would have been a little too weird, but by saving them for book two of the new series, you've had time to accept that everyone's now much older before anything gets too hot and heavy. I was a bit worried about how this would translate when I first read about this series on J.D's blog, but she conveys the passage of time nicely.

Song of Sparrows is a great read, and dreamily titled, although I did get a little bit of deja vu in terms of the plot. Perhaps it's just because I leapt from book one to book two so quickly that I didn't have time to decompress. And if I hadn't been so averse to one of the characters I'd probably have given it four stars. It's magical and uninhibited and more than a little bit spicy, my kind of read!