Category Archives: 1_Ratings

Magic Carpet Ride by Laurence MacNaughton

When shop-assistant Opal brings one of her father’s old rugs into The Crystal Connection to cover a burn spot in the floor, she and store owner, Dru, discover just why the rug was hidden away in the first place.

Title: Magic Carpet Ride
Author: Laurence MacNaughton
Series: Dru Jasper, Book 0.0
Publish Date:  November 19, 2016
Genre: Humorous Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased

Available on Amazon for $.99 or free when you subscribe to Laurence McNaughton’s newsletter

Publisher’s DescriptionDru Jasper scrapes by selling potions, charms, and enchanted crystals to help sorcerers fight the forces of darkness. But when Dru’s latest customer shows up on fire, things get magical (and funny) fast. This prequel story includes the first chapter of IT HAPPENED ONE DOOMSDAY. Available FREE exclusively on the author’s website at www.LaurenceMacNaughton.com/free/


Invested Ivana says…

Magic Carpet Ride is a short, but fun introduction to the world of Dru Jasper. Readers get a sense of:
*Dru’s shop, The Crystal Connection, and the kinds of magical problems Dru deals with there.
*Dru herself, her addiction to lattes, and her magical power.
*Dru’s shop assistant, Opal, and her quirky sense of humor and style.
*Dru’s friend, Rane, a kick-ass monster hunter with a magical ability of her own.
*McNaughton’s funny writing style, which puts me in mind of MaryJanice Davidson, but without the “Sex in the City” vibe.
The Dru Jasper series is a fun, quirky read, perfect when you’re you’re in the mood for light-hearted, magic adventure. Check out my review of the first book, It Happened One Doomsday, and stay tuned for the second book, A Kiss Before Doomsday, which comes out in July of this year.

Other recommendations…

For more urban fantasy with a light-hearted side, check out the Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom series by Julie Kenner, the Queen Betsy (sometimes called the Undead) series by MaryJanice Davidson, or the Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones

 

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Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

In this stunning companion to The Star-Touched Queen, we reunite with Guari as she finds herself faced with a choice: stay prisoner to the city of Ujain and let her older brother Skanda rule over her country with cruelty, or join a stranger in a competition through a magical world full of dangerous creatures and even darker desires.

Title: Crown of Wishes
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Series: Star-Touched Queen
Publish Date: March 28, 2017
Genre: YA Fantasy
Source: Provided by Good Reads courtesy of a giveaway

Publisher’s Description: Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes—a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.

Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels.

Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.

Dual review from Kat Mandu and Luna Lovebooks!


Kat Mandu says…

Kat_Mandu_100I absolutely loved this. For me it was all about that gorgeous imagery, hilarious dialogue, and the dual-narration of both Guari and Vikram. Though I didn’t dislike A Star-Touched Queen, A Crown of Wishes just really tickled my fancy more than its prequel. I almost couldn’t put it down and even then when I was forced to, I had serious withdrawals. It’s just so fascinating from beginning to end.

The continual banter between Guari and Vikram is the best. They’re bickering from start to finish, even as they grow fonder of one another. They really made this book for me because they each learn that they both have secrets and pasts, and learn to understand each other. I had a feeling they might fall in love but I was glad it wasn’t the focus of the story. It was more about them discovering who they really had to be in life, getting past their fears and showing their true identities.

There were a few scenes that kind of threw me for a loop, ones I either just don’t get or have been corrected in the final version. I didn’t really understand all that was happening in the courtesan tent – with the mirrors – and I wish I would have understood all that was happeningbadge5v5 when Vikram and Guari both “died.” Like I said, not sure at this point if those have been cleared up with editing or if I am just confused in general.

However, that writing is still there, succulent and mesmerizing with every page. It makes you really want to read more Indian fairy tales. It’s really gorgeous and I adore Roshani’s writing style.

All of this made it a five for me!

 Luna Lovebooks says…

Likes: As much as I loved the beautiful writing of The Star-Touched Queen, I think I love Luna_Lovebooks_100Crown of Wishes even more! The writing is still beautiful and lyrical. The characters Guari and Vikram are beautifully written and I enjoyed their playful banter. This novel is a bit more fantastical features even more of the beings from Indian mythology.

badge5v5Dislikes: Once again there isn’t much I didn’t like about this novel. There were a few instances where I was confused during a scene or by what a character did but it didn’t distract from the story.
Other recommendations…

…you might try Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer, Given to the Sea by Mindy McGinnis, Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

 

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The Girl and the Bomb by Jari Jarvela

Today’s book is one of a few translated works I’ve been reading lately. While good, it’s obvious this book may challenge US readers with its cultural and societal differences. However, it’s good for us, especially now, to broaden our minds and horizons.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

TitleThe Girl and the Bomb
AuthorJari Järvelä, Kristian London (translator)
SeriesMetro-trilogia, Book 01
Publish Date: October 1, 2015 by Amazon Crossing
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: provided by the author/publisher

Publisher’s Description: Rust and Metro live life to the fullest in the small Finnish city of Kotka. The lovers work together by day and write graffiti by night, always staying one step ahead of the law. But their luck runs out after an ambush by rogue security guards causes Rust to fall to his death. Having literally left their marks all over the city, Metro cannot help but be reminded of Rust everywhere she goes, making it impossible for her to move past the tragedy. Heartbroken and alone, she becomes determined to get to the bottom of her partner’s death and to exact revenge on those responsible by using the tool she knows best: spray paint. As she fights to bomb the system, she is constantly—and harshly—reminded of how unfair life can be. Up against lies, betrayal, and corruption, Metro musters the strength and inspiration to persevere in the name of truth and by adding beauty to an ugly world.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Agent Annie says…

Good book. Really enjoyed the two points of view of the graffiti artist and the security officer as they told their side of the story. I thought the ending was weak because it didn’t have a sense of completeness. How did either person’s life change? Were they affected by their own or other’s actions? Did either of them have a change of mind or grow as a person? Without the events in the book, would there be a difference in the future?

However, what the thoughts were of the two as they battled discovering and being discovered was excellent. I think the translator did a great job of using appropriate American slang but kept true to the Finnish names and landmarks, which added to the flavor of the story. I also wanted to know more about the character “Baron.” It seemed like he was ignored for the last several chapters, but leading up to them, he could have played an integral part in the betrayal or even as a setup at the end. I expected something like the graffiti artists turning the tables on the investigators and taping the mistreatment during the investigation, which would be released to the press.

This is very much a book written for an audience different than US readers. There were too many cultural anomalies with difference in economies, education after high school, governance, taxes and privatization of social services and even law enforcement. I give it a 3.

Other recommendations…

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millenium, Book 01).

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Dealing With Dragons by Patricia Wrede

Cimorene longs to be more than just the ordinary princess – so when she runs away from her kingdom and volunteers to be a dragon’s “captive” princess, all new adventures unfold.

 

Title: Dealing With Dragons
Author: Patricia Wrede
Series: Enchanted Forrest Chronicles Book 1
Publish Date:  November 1st 2002
Genre: Middle Grade
Cover:  Peter de Sève
Source: Purchased

 

Publisher’s Description: Cimorene is everything a princess is not supposed to be: headstrong, tomboyish, smart – and bored. So bored that she runs away to live with a dragon – and finds the family and excitement she’s been looking for.


Kat Mandu says…

I used to read this series a lot when I was growing up and like Harry Potter, it still calls to me no matter what age I am. This isn’t your typical middle-grade story, though sometimes it reads like one. Cimorene is technically a teenage princess, she even has that streak of defiance in her that often leads her into trouble – but she embraces it. However, this reads so different from books today that I find its simplicity and innocence the best part about it.

Cimorene sneaks off from her family’s kingdom and discovers a group of dragons. She offers her services – cooking and cleaning mostly – to one of them and finds a companion in Kazul, a female dragon with a feisty spirit. As the two become friends and Cimorene becomes accustomed to her new home, she meets a couple new friends, including another princess named Alianora, a witch named Morwen, and a stone prince who had an unlucky adventure himself and is now looking to redeem himself.

But she also uncovers a plot between the wizards and a shifty dragon that includes killing off the king of the dragons and putting a specific dragon in his place. When she teams up with her friends and Kazul, Cimorene manages to defeat the wizards and save the day.

This is really an enjoyable, funny read that people of all ages should enjoy. I’m eager to read the next in the series.

Other recommendations…

You’ll also love authors like Rick Riordan, Marissa Meyer, and Katherine Roberts.

 

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The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom

Though The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom might be a great book for young adults new to the spy/espionage genre, it wasn’t unique enough to capture the interest of our spy-loving adult reviewers.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

TitleThe Cruelty
Author: Scott Bergstrom
SeriesThe Cruelty, Book 01
Publish Date: February 7, 2017 by Fiewel & Friends
Genre: YA Thriller
Source: Provided by the publisher

Publisher’s Description: When her diplomat father is kidnapped and the U.S. Government is unable to help, 17-year-old Gwendolyn Bloom sets off across the sordid underbelly of Europe to rescue him. Following the only lead she has—the name of a Palestinian informer living in France—she plunges into a brutal world of arms smuggling and human trafficking. As she journeys from the slums of Paris, to the nightclubs of Berlin, to the heart of the most feared crime family in Prague, Gwendolyn discovers that to survive in this new world she must become every bit as cruel as the men she’s hunting.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Agent Annie says…

The best line in the book The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom is in the very first chapter when the main character, Gwendolyn, pulls a book out of her backpack and tells us, the reader,

“It’s a novel with a teenage heroine set in a dystopian future. Which novel in particular doesn’t matter because they are all the same. Poor teenage heroine, having to march off to war when all she really wants to do is run away with that beautiful boy and live off wild berries and love. Paper worlds where heroes are real.”

This is echoed two hundred some odd pages later when Gwen, now called Sophia, who is in real danger from the Czech mafia, says “Damn my luck, having to go off to war when all I want to do is run away with that beautiful boy and live off wild berries and love.”

That about sums up what’s wrong with this book: it pretends not to be formulaic but follows the same pattern as all spy/espionage novels. This could have been written by James Patterson, Lee Child or Robert Ludlum and I really wouldn’t have noticed the difference. The author simply puts a 17-year-old girl in the role of the main character and, unfortunately, this doesn’t lend itself to believability. The only training this teenager gets is about a month from an Israeli spy, and she totally eludes and ultimately defeats criminals in several European countries included the “dreaded” Czech mafia and kills several of their number through a variety of methods?

I also really didn’t think that The “Cruelty” itself, which the author tries to describe as an internal “thing” rising up in Gwendolyn and taking over her more sane (regular) self, was well defined. He mentions it a few times as “wanting to get out” or “taking over” but I don’t think he spent enough time on her internal struggle. It felt really ho-hum when Gwen had to make difficult choices, like murdering someone in cold blood!

I give this book a 3 for being too much like other books I’ve read in this genre and not having enough of what the title featured.

Percy Procrastinator says…

For me, as a forty-four-year-old long interested in thriller/spy/espionage novels, this was a tough read. I didn’t read it all, either. At about the halfway point, I realized that I had read this story before by some other author. It’s not that it was bad; it just wasn’t good enough to pull me in. I don’t know if it was because it’s geared toward young adults or if I have just read and seen too much of this kind of story.

The setup is quite good. It was easy for me to believe that Gwendolyn could become a spy. She knows languages and had gymnastics, so had some of the rudimentary skills needed. It wasn’t luck that had her know several ex-spies, people who could set her on the path to find her father. I was happy that she got a month of training and even a test so she knew if she could do it.

Reading about her training was interesting to me to see which way the author would have Gwendolyn go. And once she made her choice, I knew how the rest of the story would go, again from decades of reading these kinds of novels. I just wasn’t interested enough in reading this particular story. I skimmed through several chapters of her meeting people, going up the chain and following the leads. I can easily see how this would be a great introduction for someone to these kinds of novels. It’s just not for me.

Finally, I will say that the ending left me a bit disappointed. I read the final ten percent of the book and I don’t think I got the payoff I wanted. The twist didn’t surprise me and the ending left me with a sour taste in my mouth.

I give the book a three. It might deserve a four because it handles the subject matter well, but I can’t be the one to give it that rating.

Other recommendations…

Advanced teen readers could probably jump right into the Alex Cross, Jason Bourne, and Jack Reacher thrillers, or go with the classics and give the original James Bond novels a try. Unfortunately, those all have male protagonists. For female protagonists, here is a list of 9 Best Thrillers with Strong Female Protagonists.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.