#Book #Review: Analiese Rising #YALit #Fantasy

Confession time, I requested this title on NetGalley before I realized that Entangled Teen specializes in YA romance. As a result, I put off reading Analiese Rising a lot longer than I should have, but the cover was so beautiful and the blurb so captivating that I eventually gave in. And guess what? Once again I got my hand slapped for judging a book by it’s genre and ended up really enjoying it. Youthful, spunky, and full of the questionable decision making that marks the transition to adulthood Analiese Rising has as much humour as it does adventure which make for a fun and fanciful read.


analieseTitle: Analiese Rising

Author: Brenda Drake

Publisher: Entangled Publishing

Publication Date: January 8, 2019

Genre: Fiction, YA, Fantasy, Mystery

Themes: Survival, Magic, Murder, Adventure, Romance

Features: N/A


My Rating: 4/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads

Half-Blood meets Antigoddess in a thrilling, romantic new series from New York Times bestselling author Brenda Drake.

When a stranger gives Analiese Jordan a list of names before he dies, the last thing she expects to see is her own on it. Not. Cool. Her search for answers leads to the man’s grandson, Marek, who has dangerous secrets of his own. Both are determined to unlock the mystery of the list.

But the truth is deadly. Analiese is a descendant of the God of Death, known as a Riser, with the power to raise the dead and control them. Finding out she has hidden powers? Cool. Finding out she turns corpses into killers? No, thank you.

Now the trail plants her and Marek in the middle of a war between gods who apparently want to raise an army of the Risen, and Analiese must figure out how to save the world—from herself.


My Review

Okay, so the first strong thought that I had about this book was that it’s kind of like the DaVinci Code meets Mortal Instruments. We have a couple of teenagers running around Europe with an obscure set of clues, trying to locate a mysterious and mythical objects with a some demigods, revenants, and magic thrown in the mix. Granted, I like Drake’s writing a lot more than Dan Brown’s, so if you share similar opinions don’t let the DaVinci Code reference scare you away! It’s light on the romance, heavy on the adventure, and has just enough hope and humour to keep the big-bad from feeling overwhelming.

The next thought was ‘what in the hell is Analiese doing, getting on an airplane to Italy with a boy she barely knows? I’d never do that!’ In fact, I was foolish enough to voice this opinion out loud when describing the book to some family, and was promptly reminded ‘no Jessica, you’d just go by yourself’. So, once I was put back in my place and reminded of my own love for adventure in my teen years, Analiese suddenly became a very relatable protagonist. Of course, I didn’t have any magical powers to work my way through when I hit Rome at 18, but I found the geography and atmosphere strikingly nostalgic and incredibly well described. It made me want to go through all my old pictures of the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps and the Roman Forum.

I loved the dynamic between Ana and Marek and genuinely thought that they made a good team. I appreciated Ana’s insecurities and moments of defiance, as well as Marek’s inherent need to protect and insatiable curiosity. Their personalities were well balanced, and actually represented one of the healthier relationships I’ve read in YA recently. Sure, Ana is a bit immature and impulsive, but I have no illusions of people (especially teens) being fully rational in the wake of major traumas. Now add in the fact that Drake has written a relatable character battling with some anxiety issues – which not only brings to light some important discussions surrounding mental health, but also some important lessons in empathy.

It was touching how close Analiese was with her family, especially her cousin Dalton and her maternal grandparents. I didn’t really relate to the dynamic experienced between Ana and her aunt, but it made for a good story and a character that you can love to hate. I was completely shocked by some of the twists and turns in the plot, especially when it came to digging up the family past, and I would have loved to know a little more about Ana’s parents.

And let’s not forget the artful inclusion of multiple mythologies as a basis for the fantastical elements. Heavy on the Greek mythology, I was pleased to see that Drake included mythologies from around the world including some of the Norse, Malaysian, Chinese, and Hindu gods. Throw in the Risers, the Risen, and an a secret society and you’re in for a mighty fun read.

Would I recommend this book? Heck yes! It might not be for everyone, with all the mention of Marek being sooooo hot, but it’s fun, playful, and incredibly well written. If you’re ready to get your flirt on with a touch of myth and magic in the mix, I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed.

 

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#BlogTour #GuestPost: Mask of the Gods by Karen Furk @rararesources @karenfurkauthor

thumbnail_mask of the gods Today I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Karen Furk’s fabulous work of fantasy The Mask of the Gods. I hope you enjoy the guest post as much as I did, as it’s always intriguing to catch a glimpse of the creative process!

 

Synopsis

Soul Demons live off the souls of the living.

When Haydan’s home world is invaded by a soul demon seeking an item shrouded in myth and legend, his father evicts him and sends him to safety. His chosen one and warrior should provide reassurance and sanctuary, but neither appears to be working very well. Just when he thinks matters cannot get any worse his scheming grandmother arrives. She has her own plans that appear to involve him, none of which bodes well.

Diego feels confident he has the soul demon under control. Overlooking his devious mother’s involvement, he fails to appreciate that he is not only storm rider elder, but also an elven prince and certain debts are about to become due.

Lavinia worries about her grandson, but also who she left behind in the elven realm a long time ago. Tallin thinks she abandoned him and he is livid. She has everything under control, including Tallin…at least that is what she thinks.

They all need to learn afresh who to trust. With a soul demon on the rampage, an unleashed, angry and betrayed elven king and a long-forgotten mask surfacing, what could possibly go wrong?

The past is about to catch up with all of them. Nothing is going to go as planned because the mask and the gods have other ideas.

Purchase Link

US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07M6L45Y8

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07M6L45Y8


Guest Post

Everything you Need to Know About Masks

The History of Masks

thumbnail_mask - mog_tallin_concept_art_aveyamaraA mask is an object that is usually worn to cover or conceal the face for entertainment, protection, performance or disguise. They have connections to ceremonial, tribal, ritual and practical purposes and have been around for centuries.

A quick Google search suggests that masks originate from medieval latin, Italian, French and even Arabic languages. In Asia masks have been common place for centuries. The oldest mask in the world is a stone mask dating from Neolithic times to approx. 7000 BC. Masks from the Carnival of Venice date back to 1162AD. The word only reached the English language in the 1530’s.

Masks can also hold sinister connotations. Obscuring the face adds to the anonymity of wearing them and gives an ominous, menacing quality to their use. Films like Scream and V for Vendetta used masks for this purpose. Even superheroes hide behind them, Batman, Spiderman and Deadpool being the first that immediately spring to mind.

A mask can be symbolic or protective and sometimes it’s merely figurative. In modern culture, we often talk about the mask coming off, or removing the mask. In other words, unveiling our true meaning, purpose or desires.

So, what was the inspiration for Mask of the Gods?

thumbnail_minimac reviews - mask-on-tree-for_about_masks_article_lowresIt started with a few ideas. The story of Haydan’s grandparents. An off world adventure. A search for a powerful object.

I’ve always found masks to be fascinating. I actually have two venetian looking masks decorating my Christmas tree each year. Everyone comments on them and says how pretty and unusual they are. I’m not sure at which point the powerful object became a mask, but once the thought was there to use a mask, it stuck. As the story unfolds you get a sense of the power of the Mask of the Gods which has never worked as it’s supposed to. It possesses those who wear it, learning about them and their vulnerabilities. This proves a real challenge for some of my characters to come to terms with. I liked the idea of that adding to the power the mask holds over those who try to wield it for their own gain.

I also liked the idea of concealed identities and hidden agendas and this comes out over the course of the book as well. In the second book, Mask of Deception, due out later in 2019, I had some fun with this concept. Tallin, my elven king enjoys games. Nothing in his realm really behaves itself, so he is constantly challenged. The mask is very much at home in Tallin’s realm because of that.

The Mask of the Gods book cover design process

thumbnail_mask - mog_concept_art_aveyamara_elven_city_1024x768The design of the book cover started with a Pinterest search for masks. I picked my favourites and passed them to my illustrator, along with a couple of descriptions of the mask and its appearance from the book. Since my illustrator is also my brother-in-law (yes, I know, how lucky am I?) we also had a good chat about it over a brew and I talked him through the parts of the masks I had selected that I really liked. This included the shape of the eyes and the design covering the mask itself.

The first pencil drawings arrived back and looked amazing. My illustrator freestyled the initial sketches and designed them in sections that could be built up to create the full mask. This leant itself to the creation of an animated gif of the mask which you can see here [https://www.karenfurk.co.uk/books/mask-of-the-gods/].

Once that phase was complete and agreed, the effects, layers, colours and shading were added. I ended up with two or three different colour variations of the mask and chose the one you now see on the cover, the blue, silver and turquoise design with the blue stone sparkling prominently on the forehead. It’s a real show stopper in pride of place on the front cover and immediately gives a visual reference as to what the mask looks like.

thumbnail_mask-of-the-gods--e-cover highresThe glow around the mask is significant as well. It’s a powerful object. In the book, there are frequently plumes of green mist cascading from the back of it, but for the cover the white glowing light illuminates it and lifts it up from the cover, making it look 3D.

The mask remains a key part of the Mask of the Gods book which will continue throughout the Mask book series. Book two in the series, Mask of Deception will be releasing later in 2019. In the meantime, welcome to the first book in the series, Mask of the Gods…


Author Information 

thumbnail_mask - karen furk author headshotKaren Furk loves fantasy stories. She has done ever since she was a small, lonely child with an over active imagination. She’s particularly fond of stories that are crammed full of magic, mayhem and magical creatures. Karen’s background in marketing laid the foundations for her writing career which began after a serious bout of depression. No longer able to contain her over active imagination, the stories finally flowed onto a page. She aims to surprise and delight with the characters and worlds she creates. She lives in the North West of the UK with her husband, two boys and a hamster called Rufus (Yes, a girl hamster with a boy’s name. Don’t ask, she just embraces the crazy!). Visit her at karenfurk.co.uk or find her on social media and say hello – she’s on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest under the user name karenfurkauthor.

Social Media Links

https://www.facebook.com/KarenFurkAuthor/

https://twitter.com/karenfurkauthor/

https://www.instagram.com/karenfurkauthor/

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/karenfurkauthor/


thumbnail_mask of the gods full tour banner

Many thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to join in this blog tour.

#BlogTour #Review: 10-33 Assist PC by Desmond P. Ryan

thumbnail_14th by the letter book review books in paradise 15th i love reading uk rachel read it 16th chelle_s book reviews what emma read next 17th zooloos books minimac reviews

For my first blog tour of 2019 I am delighted to showcase Canadian crime fiction author Desmond P. Ryan and his debut novel 10-33 Assist PC. Giving a dark and gritty glimpse into Canada’s underbelly and the heartbreaking world’s of human trafficking and child prostitution. Canadian contest aside, this is some damn good crime fiction, and I couldn’t be happier to have 10-33 Assist PC as the kick start to my touring year.


thumbnail_1033covernewlarge copy (2)Title: 10-33 Assist PC

Author: Desmond P. Ryan

Publisher: Self Published

Publication Date: September 15, 2018

Genre: Fiction, Crime Fiction, Police Procedural

Themes: Friendship, Relationships, Human Trafficking, Crime

Features: N/A


My Rating: 4.5/ 5


Synopsis

D/C Mike O’Shea, a young cop with a knack for working hard and following hunches, is on the verge of cracking a prostitution ring when an undercover from another unit burns him. With only days left before their pimps shuttle the girls out of the country, Mike pushes his team into overdrive. Hours later, with too little information, sleep, or luck, the unthinkable happens.

And now, the chase is personal.

In the first of the Mike O’Shea Crime Fiction Series, 10-33 Assist PC draws us into the dirty world of human trafficking through the eyes of the cops who put their lives on the line every day to shut it down. Written by a Real Detective, 10-33 Assist PC is the story of a cop who must decide how to move forward without forgetting the past.


My Review

Oh. My. Giddy. Goodness.

It has been a while since I picked up a book that demanded to be read in a single sitting, and that’s exactly what 10-33 PC Assist did. I started my day with dreams of being productive, started reading with morning coffee, and the next thing I knew I’d missed lunch, hadn’t done a single load of laundry, and ended up serving leftovers for dinner because I had decided that finishing the last chapter was more important than cooking a meal.

Yep. It was that kind of read.

One of the main things that I loved about this book is that it isn’t a behemoth. On the smaller side, this is the type of high impact read that can be devoured in one sitting without any (excessive) guilt. But don’t let it’s small size scare you away, 10-33 PC Assist carriers a heavy punch. Filled with solid characters, intriguing dynamics, a captivating case, and the kind of crimes you can’t make up, I was completely lost in every moment.

I love that Mike and Sal challenged many of the cop stereotypes while simultaneously embodying others. What I loved the most though, was Mike’s inclination not to shoot, even when it would have been the easier and more instinctual option. However, it was the fact that the JPTF saw each and every one of the children that they encountered as both human and as a victim, rather than as the inconvenient collateral damage of a dirty business that really had me hooked. Too often we see sex workers and trafficked individuals in the same way as the Morality unit in this book does – inconvenient, dangerous, dirty, and as more trouble than they’re worth. The human touch of the JPTF was not only needed, but grounding, especially as it became clear how the types of cases that the JPTF handled can quickly wear down the officers that work them.

I appreciated too, how Julia also defied convention, with her designer touch and immaculate presentation. She was a wonderfully strong character who showcased how career, fashion, and family ambition can all coexist in a single being – that it doesn’t always have to be an either-or decision. I loved her Italian heritage, the constant colloquialism and expressions, and her endearing hot-headedness. Combine that with Mike’s Irish family, Sal’s stoically independent personality, Hoagie’s dedication to his wife and children (thank you for tackling supportive husbands and post partum depression head on!) and you have the quintessential Canadian melting pot in a single unit.

Also, freaking Barb. I have never encountered a supporting character that made me laugh so much. Hello To-ron-to! Ballsy, indignant, and cooperative in the most stubborn way possible. Her bitterness and eccentricity had me in stitches, and I was desperately wishing that Mike and Sal would pay her another visit.

I enjoyed the familiarity of Toronto, and though it makes me profoundly uncomfortable at times when reading, genuinely appreciated the head-on way in Ryan addresses problems rarely associated with the Party in the Attic. It was both horrifying and engrossing to see how young girls were targeted, groomed, and pressed ‘into the game’. I found myself laughing, crying, and even having to take breaks when situations became too intense to handle. And to think, this is only the start of the series.

Beautifully written and powerfully real, 10-33 PC Assist is an absolutely incredible book! For lovers of crime fiction and police procedurals this is an absolute must read.


About The Author

thumbnail_img_1467Very few books give you the real crime experience because even fewer authors have it.

Desmond P. Ryan has it.

For almost thirty years, he worked the back alleys, poorly-lit laneways, and forgotten neighbourhoods in the city where he grew up. Murder often most unkind, assaults on a level that defied humanity, and sexual violations intended to demean, shame, and haunt the victims were all in a day’s work. Days, evenings, midnights–all the same. Crime knows no time.

Exhilarating. Exhausting. Often heartbreaking.

Whether as a beat cop or a plainclothes detective, Desmond Ryan dealt with good people who did bad things and bad people who followed their instincts. He wrote thousands of reports describing their lives, the places they lived, and the things they did. He investigated their crimes and wrote detailed accounts of the activities that brought him into their world. Detective Ryan also held victims as they wept, talked desperate people off of ledges, and sat beside the decomposing bodies of men and women who, in life, had been discarded and long-forgotten by society.

Now, as a retired detective with three decades of research opportunities under his belt, Desmond Ryan write crime fiction.

Why?

Because he wants to tell you a story like no other. Because he wants to bring you inside a world that will both fascinate you and challenge what you thought you knew about human nature. Because he wants to seamlessly weave truth and fiction together to create a place for you where the Good Guys ultimately win.

And because you deserve to have the most authentic crime fiction experience every time you pick up one of Desmond Ryan’s books.


Many thanks to Shell Baker at Baker’s Blog Tours and Promos for inviting me to join in this tour and for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.

#Book #Review: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton #YALit #Fantasy

I’m thrilled to be starting off my blogging year with a cracking review for my most anticipated read of 2018, The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton. And because I am a turd that bites off more than she can chew, this baby has languished on the TBR for far too long! Beautifully written, intensely imaginative, and chalk full of action I adored every moment I spent transported to the world of Orleans and simply can’t wait for the sequel!


belles.jpgTitle: The Belles

Author: Dhonielle Clayton

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Publication Date: February 6, 2018

Genre: Fiction, YA, Fantasy, Mystery

Themes: Survival, Magic, Murder, Adventure, Romance

Features: N/A


My Rating: 4.5/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.


My Review

Okay, let’s get the bad bits out of the way first. This was an absolutely incredible story with tons of action, intrigues, and a hella twisty plot, but for some reason I felt that the romantic threads came across as completely forced. I get it, when you have a character that has been told her entire life that she can never love, that when she’s presented with charming men that swoon all over her, she’s going to want the things she can’t have. But Camellia’s chemistry with both her suave young sailor and her stoic guard simply wasn’t there.

Yet, despite my belief that The Belles would have been better without the romantic interest, it was still an absolutely amazing read. The idea of a world without colour and only a select few being able to bring beauty into it was rather intriguing. What a great way o challenge societal norms, beauty practices, and the ways in which we see ourselves and others. If this makes even one person think about the painful sacrifices we make, both physically and emotionally, in the name of beauty and unattainable ideals it’s totally worth it.

I think one of the most painful passage to read had to be Camellia’s first client in the tea house, a young girl whose mother sought to alter every natural aspect of her daughter’s features, despite her obvious pain. Even though the world of Orleans is sumptuous, vibrant, and highly superficial Clayton spreads some serious messages about self love – and I am a firm believer that we can never get enough of that!

But that princess though… what a steaming piece of nasty! Kudos to Camellia, and all those who came before her, for trying to alter her demeanour even if it never worked. Her unpredictable moods, outrageous demands, and the practice of treating her courtiers like playing pieces made her a perfectly hateable villain. The result was that the tension in the palace was incredibly intense, and more than once I found myself having to stretch out my neck and shoulders because the drama had me on tenterhooks.

I absolutely adored the uniqueness of Orleans magic and the amount of time that was dedicated to detailed world building. My favourite elements by far were the ballon systems for everything from mail to spying to news, and the sumptuousness of the fashion described. While the land, people and history of Orleans were carefully crafted and presented as a complete picture, it was done in such as way as to never feel cumbersome. Admittedly, there were a few elements that I would have liked to see more flushed out – such as the unofficial Belles and why the Belle population has been steadily dropping – but I can’t hold it against the author for keeping a few goodies for the other books in the series.

I should say though, while The Belles is magical and enthralling, it is not for the very young nor the faint of heart. There are many moments that could easily be considered triggering – such as an attempted sexual assault, a moment where a trans character has to battle with their self-identification in contrast to societal expectation, and some pretty horrific scenes which depict intense bullying, mental manipulation, and flat out torture. They will undoubtedly make many uncomfortable, and may even make some angry, but I appreciated the way in which these behaviours were always questioned and never condoned. Clayton forces introspection on some pretty serious issues, and I for one, and happy that she never shies away from the important stuff as it made The Belles that much better.

Edgy, imaginative, and packed full of paradox The Belles is a smashing start in what is sure to be an epic series. I can’t wait to see where Camellia and her gang go next, and am seriously thirsting for the sequel to be out, like, yesterday….

If you ever crave a touch of magic and adventure in your reads, I can’t recommend The Belles highly enough!