From what I understand, Belle of Eden is the debut novel of Sofia B. Ashford.
I received an ebook copy of this story in exchange for my honest review, and I have to say that I was disappointed in the story.
The book blurb states that Belle is rescued from the noose by Commodore Craven and his son, Benjamin, and asked to assist them in their search for the Garden of Eden and the salvation it promises.
Therefore, I expected a story about finding the Garden of Eden and salvation.
However, the book is quite depressing as the majority of the story is about the life bleeding out of Benjamin, and his life seems to ebb and flow throughout the story.
In addition, Belle is a pirate and has a lot of pirate enemies, and everywhere they go, some of her enemies show up and there are battles. In the beginning, most of the battles end quite quickly, but late in the story, the battles take longer and become bloodier.
Ms. Ashford also writes of the Garden of Eden and one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, as one and the same thing, which they are not.
And, for those who like happy endings, I will warn you that you may be disappointed in the ending of this book.
As a Book Reviewer, I received a free copy of Festival of the Azure Moon by Larnce Hicks for my honest review.
Festival of the Azure Moon by Larnce Hicks is a fantasy story that is nonstop action, adventure, and battles. This book is well written, has fascinating characters, and includes lots of magic. It is the first book of “The Portal Mage” saga and has a striking cover.
The first two main characters introduced in the pages of Festival of the Azure Moon are referred to as the “bad guys” as they are breaking laws and being hunted down for their crimes. However, the way that Mr. Hicks chose to portray them endeared them to this reader and had me cheering for them. As the story progresses, battles ensue between these outlaws and their hunters. The stakes get higher and more sinister characters are revealed as the plot thickens.
The wonderfully created variety of characters, the adventure, explanations of the magic performed, and the battles held my attention from the very first page to the last. An occasional twist surprised me and one or two had me biting my knuckles.
I recommend Festival of the Azure Moon to all fans of fantasy stories that take place in well-developed worlds and that are packed with magic and all of the other exciting items I’ve already mentioned, as well as some unexpected twists and turns.
Though this is the first book of a series, the ending resolves enough and leaves a hint of more to come in a way that leaves the reader satisfied yet eager for the next book
Festival of the Azure Moon, in my opinion, is written for teen to adults due to some inappropriate language and crude comments scattered throughout, as well as some very descriptive and gory fight scenes. There is also mild reference to LGBTQ, but it is a very minor part of the story that never becomes a central focus and is tastefully written, and I did not find it offensive.
The children loved to sit in the story circle across the fire from Marta, the storyteller, just after dark and listen as she wove stories—scary stories, funny stories, stories of the history of Pattock, their village, and sometimes, stories of things to come. Tonight as the children gathered round, the night air was cool and the moon was full. Many adults from the village—those with children and those without children—gathered outside the story circle.
Dobbin sat on the left side of the circle, close to Marta’s spot, so he could watch her face as she spoke without having to look through the fire’s dancing flames. His heart pounded in anticipation as he wondered what type of story she would tell tonight.
The door of her cottage opened and Tetra carried Marta’s worn wooden chair out. Marta followed, the hem of her black skirt dragging on the ground, her soft leather moccasins making a shuffling sound as she sloughed along. She flopped onto her chair and drew her tattered gray wool shawl up over her shoulders as her silver hair and black eyes glimmered in the firelight.
When Marta spoke, her voice crackled like the sticks that first caught flame when Tetra started the fire, “Good evening children. Tonight’s story is a special one. One of great importance.”
Her eyes met Dobbin’s as she spoke the words ‘of great importance’ and Dobbin’s heart skipped a beat. Could tonight’s story be one of things to come? Could it have something to do with him? He sat up straight, eyes glued to Marta, ears straining so as not to miss a single word.
“From our brave young men, a great leader will arise and several will follow him. He will lead this group to seek help from those willing to come from Sektur, the village to the east.
Several children gasped. Marta’s story held Dobbin in rapt attention. Marta swung her head and locked eyes with him. “Dobbin, you will be the one to lead Olan, Gad, Bartok, Jinya, Prayjes, and Zeficleez. You must be quick as the trouble will come from the southeast, swift on your heels during your return journey.”
The six young men Marta had named stood and moved to sit around Dobbin. The six each reached a hand to touch one of Dobbin’s shoulders—their pledge to follow him. Dobbin nodded, the weight of responsibility settling on his shoulders.
That night, Dobbin tossed and turned. This was his chance to prove he could be a good leader, and for those going with him, to show they were now truly men.
The next day residents of Pattock busied themselves preparing for the upcoming war as Dobbin and his followers sharpened their weapons, packed food and other supplies for their journey. They must be prepared for the possibility of the Hestanauts ambushing them as they journeyed back to Pattock. When all was ready, they gathered in the center of the village and Dobbin led them out.
As Dobbin and his men entered Sektur two days later, heads turned and people stepped out of doors to see the group. Soon many were gathered, and a white-haired old man wearing a white robe, stepped forward. “Who are you and why are you here?”
Dobbin answered, “Sir, we are from Pattock. Marta has seen a vision that the Hestanauts will attack and sent us to seek aid from you, our allies. We need willing Sekturians to travel back to Pattock with us to help defend our village. Marta says the Hestanauts will be swift on our heels during our return journey.”
Rumblings rose from the crowd around the old man. He raised his hand and the people fell silent. “Prepare the evening meal. After we eat, I will ask for volunteers to help our neighbors in Pattock.” He turned back to Dobbin and his men. “Come. You will sit with me in my hut until the food is prepared. I am Kerrick, leader of this village. You can share your plans with me.”
About an hour later, they followed Kerrick to a long house where they dined on roasted meat and vegetables. When their plates were empty, Kerrick rose. He spoke to a young man, “Go and bring the rest of the village men here.”
A few minutes later, a large number of strong, fit looking men filled the long house. The old man raised his hand and the room grew quiet. “Sektur and Pattock have been allies for many years. Some of our sons have married their daughters and some of their sons have married our daughters. If the Hestanauts were to attack us, the men of Pattock would come to our aid.” He paused, allowing his words to sink in. “How many of you will help defend Pattock against the evil Hestanauts?”
Dobbin held his breath and the muscles in his neck and shoulders tightened with tension as they waited. Two men stepped forward, then three more, then five. Soon, there were two hundred men standing in a line before Kerrick.
Kerrick smiled. “Good. This is good.” He waved his hand, drawing Dobbin to him. Dobbin quickly stepped up beside Kerrick, who placed a hand on Dobbin’s shoulder and faced the Sekturians standing before them. “This is Dobbin. He will lead you to Pattock. Prepare and get some sleep.” He turned to Dobbin and his men. “You can bed down in here.”
* * * * *
In the gray light of early morning 200 Sekturian warriors entered the long house. Dobbin called Bartok to him and approached the man who seemed to be in charge. He said, “My name is Roedan. I am a Sekturian leader.”
Dobbin charged Bartok and Roedan with leading the party, while he, Jinya and Olan formed the rear guard, watching for Hestanauts.
As they began ascending a rise, Bartok and Roedan heard Dobbin cry, “Hestanauts!”
The front half of the group hastened their pace, while the rear half fell back to battle the Hestanauts.
The Hestanauts–large meaty men–hit hard with clubs. But as Dobbin, Jinya, Olan, and several Sekturians shot arrows, numerous Hestanauts fell. When they fell, the Hestanauts began to retreat.
Dobbin and his men turned and raced to catch up with the group Bartok and Roedan led. But the Hestanauts weren’t finished yet. They ran toward Dobbin and the others, axes in their hands. With their long, muscular legs, they gained on Dobbin and the others quickly. Dobbin’s heart leapt into his throat as several Sekturians and Gad fell around him. The battle yells of the Hestanauts combined with the screams of pain from the injured were deafening.
The Hestanauts began losing steam. “Run!” Dobbin ordered his men as he began to run with all his might.
Soon Dobbin’s group had widened the gap, and Dobbin looked back over his shoulder to see the Hestanauts halted. Many were bent with hands on their knees, sucking in deep breaths.
When Dobbin led the group of men into Pattock, the village cheered. With the announcement of losses, the village grew solemn. Tetra clapped Dobbin on the shoulder. “Well done.”
Ranger of Kings is the debut novel of C. J. R. Isely and is the first book in the “William of Alamore” series.
About the Book
Will, a common village boy, has always dreamed of becoming a knight. When he is suddenly, and unexpectedly, called to train as a squire in the castle of Alamore, he cannot believe it is real. He faces the challenge with the great determination to succeed, but soon finds out there is more to becoming a knight than he ever imagined.
Even at the beginning level as a squire, Will is suddenly thrust into action, danger, and battles he isn’t ready for but meets with determination and perseverance. He makes friends among the squires and finds that one of his friends has a knack for finding trouble.
Then one night, Will discovers something disturbing about his father, and the more he learns the more danger Will faces. Not only is Will suddenly thrust into a war, but is faced with mysteries about his father, about the Ranger, and about what lies beneath the castle of Alamore.
C. J. R. Isely is a talented writer. She has woven a tale filled with mystery and intrigue, action, danger, and adventure.
I was drawn into the story from the very first page and stayed up late several nights turning the pages because I just couldn’t put the book down.
C. J. R. Isely created delightful characters, each with his very own personality, character qualities, and unique voice. I found it to be fun to read the interactions between Will and his two closest friends. Their courage was inspiring and their banter made me laugh.
It was also quite clear that C. J. R. Isely possesses a lot of horse knowledge, as horses play a major role in this story as well. Each horse was also unique, and it was clear that C. J. R. knows what it takes to properly care for horses, how to ride horses, and how to train horses.
There were some small technical mistakes scattered throughout the books as far as wording is concerned, which I always find to be a distraction. However, in this book, as I was fully engaged in the action, mystery, and battles, they were more easily overlooked and less of a distraction.
Another thing I really liked about the story is that C. J. R. Isely gave me a satisfying ending. Though Ranger of Kings is the first book in a series, Ms. Isely wrapped up the ending with just enough resolution and a change that gave the story the feel of an ending even though I know there is more to come.
I really enjoyed Ranger of Kings by C. J. R. Isely and highly recommend it to those who enjoy action, adventure, mystery, danger, and fantasy. There are a few profane words within the story, but they are few and far between. There are also some bloody descriptions of those who were in battle, but I didn’t feel that they were gory or overdone. I would recommend this book for YA and adult readers, and, possibly, some middle grade readers.
I look forward to the next book in the “William of Alamore” series.
Crystal Shadows: Gripping New Blood by R. J. Parker is a middle grade fantasy story. Sarah Field lives alone with her father, until she and her friends make a shocking discovery in Sarah’s attic — her grandfather, whom she thought was dead! He reveals an amulet — the Tellum Deos. He wants to know if Sarah can give it life so that they can use it to fight the powers of darkness.
R. J. Parker did an excellent job creating interesting middle grade characters. Sarah and her friends are fun to read about, even though sometimes the things they say are quite random and don’t seem to fit what is going on in the story. Their curiosity helps them to discover Sarah’s grandfather, but also gets them into some interesting predicaments. The four friends have a close relationship.
Sarah also has a close relationship with her father, until she and her friends discover her grandfather. This causes her father to come a bit unhinged and creates stress, tension, and conflict between Sarah and her father.
The characters and the story line kept me turning pages. I kept waiting to see what the powers of darkness were going to unleash and what Sarah and her friends might have to fight against.
There were some disappointing things in the book: first, R. J. Parker used a lot of pronouns, especially when characters spoke, and sometimes the pronouns were mixed up or it was confusing as to which character the pronoun was being used for; second, the powers of darkness only unleashed one problem near the end of the book, but Sarah and her friends never used the Tellum Deos against it and the ending didn’t feel complete and didn’t offer a resolution to any part of the story. Therefore, it seems like this may be the first book of a series, though that isn’t mentioned anywhere; and finally, there are one or two characters introduced as “Sarah’s friends” at the end of the book that were never part of the story up until that point.
Despite these disappointments, I must say that I enjoyed the story and it kept me turning pages. I finished this book in just four days. The characters are definitely what kept me turning pages, even though the story line was also intriguing. I don’t think most adults would enjoy this story, but I would highly recommend it for middle grade children and even some YA. I hope that R. J. Parker does write, at least, a sequel to this book. I would like to read more about Sarah and her friends and actually see them use the Tellum Deos against the powers of darkness.
It was a difficult decision for me to come to a star rating for this book. But, based on how well it kept my attention, how quickly I read through it, and how much I liked the characters, I have decided to give it four stars.
The Falcon and the Stag by C.J.R. Isley is a short story that introduces her “William of Alamore” series. It is a story of kingdoms and knights, and two brothers, the oldest who had been prepared to take the throne, and the youngest who wanted it.
This short story is filled with tension, suspense, conspiracy, and sibling rivalry. C.J.R. Isley does a fine job introducing the characters and showing their personalities and character, drawing the reader into the story and encouraging them to choose sides.
C.J.R. Isley captures and holds the reader’s attention from the first to last page, writing strong dialogue and tense scenes of confrontation and sword-fighting. C.J.R. even manages to throw in an unexpected twist or two.
This story is acceptable for young adults and adults. It may also be acceptable for middle grade readers, though there is some violence — nothing too graphic.
This short story is well worth the read, but be warned — after reading it, you’ll want to pick up the first book in the series, Ranger of Kings, which is exactly what I plan to do.
I give The Falcon and the Stag by C.J.R. Isley 5 stars.
When Pop-pop Ian dies, Lander is left alone, not fully understanding the unusual powers he has. He quickly realizes that he is being pursued and he needs to find Castor Elm, the only person Pop-pop said he could trust. To find Castor, Lander has to outsmart his pursuers to travel to Castor’s home.
On his way to Castor’s home, Lander finds friends in a city who help out at a mission. As any normal teen, Lander feels out of place in his unusual clothes and he wants to impress Becky. Becky and one of the other teen boys take Lander shopping. He feels comfortable with these teens and enjoys helping at the mission. He wishes he could stay here indefinitely. However, an unexpected and unfortunate event makes it clear that Lander needs to continue on the quest for which Pop-pop Ian has instructed him.
Upon arriving at Castor’s home, Lander is not welcomed with the open arms he expected. Frustration fills Lander because he has no where else to turn. When he accidentally reveals his ability to cause certain stones to glow, Castor suddenly becomes interested in Lander. When Lander explains what Pop-pop Ian has told him and that Pop-pop is dead, Castor informs his family that Lander will be staying.
“Lander’s Legacy” by C.S. Wachter is the first book in a new series from a writer who has already proven she can deliver good fantasy stories with her 4-book series and sequel, “The Seven Words” series.
Once again, she holds her readers’ attention as she spins a tale of suspense and adventure as Lander must learn more about his special powers. “Lander’s Legacy” is an enjoyable, easy read. Lander and the other teen characters are well written and it’s obvious C.S. Wachter knows some teenagers, as her characters are very much like the teenagers I know.
“Lander’s Legacy” is a coming-of-age fantasy novel that follows Lander on his journey to find his place in this world or maybe in another. It is a story that is fitting for middle grade readers as well as Young Adults and Adults.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a fantasy story of suspense and adventure. I look forward to the next book in this series.
A Step Through the Empty by H. E. Salian is a debut novel. It is a fantasy story.
King Brynte has not been king very long and he faces many challenges, one of which is gaining the trust of his people. He is also faced with an arranged marriage he is unsure of.
Princess Istoria leaves her home to marry a king she is certain will make her life miserable, and soon finds herself thrust into a position where she must determine whom she can trust and whom she cannot trust.
In another world, an assassin has no loyalty to his master, which puts his life in danger, and could jeopardize other secrets he keeps.
Also, on earth, someone has sent information to a man who works in cyber security, information that is important for those in another world.
I found A Step Through the Empty a very unique story, in that it is a fantasy story that includes a king and princess in a castle that, at first, seems to be set in medieval times, but quickly proves otherwise as computer type technological devices are used. This led my mind to consider the possibility of “steampunk”. However, that idea was also put to rest as one very interesting character was introduced — a fantastical character. Then there are the different worlds, not to mention the Empty.
The most unique thing I found was how the author incorporated earth and some humans, like me, into the story, and how most of the characters from the other worlds were also normal humans.
Most of the characters in this story are endearing and I found myself rooting for quite a few of them and hoping they would survive until the end of the book. Many of the characters have become favorites, and their relationships with one another varied from delightful, witty, fun, and endearing.
Then there were the few characters I disliked and couldn’t wait to see them get what I thought they deserved.
A Step Through the Empty kept me turning pages from start to finish, and now I cannot wait for the next book in the series. I cannot wait to reconnect with these characters and see what happens to those I have come to dearly love.
This is definitely a book deserving of 5 stars and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy or any great story.
I received an ARC of this story. I was not obligated to write a review, and this review is my honest personal opinion of this book.
A Weight of Reckoning by C.S. Wachter is the sequel to “The Seven Words” series. This series and sequel are a fantasy series that follows the life of Prince Rayne through many difficulties and hardships even as he serves as the Chosen Light Bringer of the One.
A Weight of Reckoning, as all of the books in this series, is very much a good vs. evil story. In A Weight of Reckoning, Rayne must face evil before his long-awaited wedding can take place. The question is, “will he survive this time?”
As in all of “The Seven Words” series, A Weight of Reckoning grabbed my attention right from the start and held my attention until the very end. The characters have become like friends as I have read this series. When you follow a group of characters through five books, if the author has done their job, you feel like you really know these people and they will have become people you care about. That is what C.S. Wachter has accomplished.
A Weight of Reckoning is also full of adventure and suspense, along with a touch of romance. There are unexpected twists that will surprise you. C.S. Wachter even manages to find a way to include some humor and wit, a welcome reprieve from the struggles Prince Rayne endures.
C.S. Wachter has a way of painting pictures with words, so that the worlds in A Weight of Reckoning, and “The Seven Words” series seem real, and the character descriptions bring the characters to life, not just physically, but their personalities are all distinct as well, making them leap off the page.
I have written reviews for the previous books in the series as well. To find them simply click on the “Categories” arrow in the side bar, select “Book Reviews” and scroll until you find them.
If you enjoy Fantasy stories, good vs. evil stories, and stories with adventure and a bit of romance, you’re sure to enjoy A Weight of Reckoning and the entire “Seven Words” series by C.S. Wachter. This was C.S. Wachter’s debut series and I look forward to more to come.
Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater is a very unique story. It is Fantasy. It is a Regency Faerie Tale with a bit of satire. I have never read another book quite like it. This book was released on March 29, 2020 and is Olivia Atwater’s debut novel.
The story’s main character is Dora, who has been cursed by a faerie and cannot feel fear, embarrassment, or even happiness. This condition gets her into trouble more often than not until she meets Lord Elias Wilder an outspoken magician, whom most people detest but still invite him to their elegant parties and balls.
This book is very well written. The characters and plot line are well developed and interesting. The story held my interest from start to finish. I thoroughly enjoyed Dora’s verbal interactions with the other characters, and her interactions with Lord Wilder were unique and delightful.
I fully enjoyed watching Dora discover things about herself that brought her comfort. It was also touching to watch the effect she had upon the other characters throughout the story. The other character’s reactions to Dora evoked many different feelings as I read as well.
The story had some interesting twists and surprises. At times, I found the story reminiscent of a Charles Dickens tale. The story isn’t just an enjoyable, entertaining read. It made me think about people and the way they think, act, react, and treat each other.
After finishing my reading of Half a Soul, I found and read an interview that Ms. Atwater gave to a blogger. In that interview, Ms. Atwater said, “I think a good story either makes you think or else makes you feel. I think a truly fantastic story makes you do both.”
Based on that statement, I have to say that Half a Soul is a truly fantastic story.
This story will be one of my favorites for a long time to come and I look forward to reading more from Olivia Atwater. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a good story, as well as to Fantasy fans, Regency fans, and Dickens’ fans. I rarely take time to reread books because there are always so many new books that keep my To Be Read List always growing, but I think that I should like to revisit this book in the future.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This review is my honest opinion of the book.