Dec 29, 2015

Serafina and the Black Cloak

Serafina and the Black Cloak book cover

by Robert Beatty
book review rating 4 out of 5

“NEVER GO INTO the deep parts of the forest, for there are many dangers there, and they will ensnare your soul.”

Step into the wonderfully whimsical world of Serafina and the Black Cloak, by Robert Beatty, and chances are, you'll be completely enchanted by its magical setting, valiant young heroes, and dark mysteries.

Mr. Beatty deftly builds a unique world full of beautiful details that effortlessly drew me in. Nestled in a forested valley by the French Broad River in Asheville, North Carolina, is Biltmore Estate (there really is such a place). Within the basement of this vast mansion, Serafina, the Chief Rat Catcher (C.R.C.), and her father, the estate’s maintenance man, have secretly lived down there for as long as she can remember.

With the entire estate to roam, she must take care never to be seen by the rich folks upstairs, and never to leave the estate grounds to venture into the forbidden forest nearby. But, when the children of the estate begin to vanish, only Serafina knows the truth. Her life is thrown into turmoil on the night that she witnessed the Man in the Black Cloak vaporized a child into thin air. And now, he wants her. With the help of Braeden Vanderbilt, the young master of Biltmore Estate, they must stop him before he strikes again. Serafina’s hunt leads her into the very forest she is taught to fear. There, she discovers a forgotten magic that is tied to her mysterious identity.

Brave and young characters have always held a special place in my heart. Personally, I believe children should nap and eat cookies, not fight the evils of the world. So, I absolutely love Serafina and Braeden. Serafina is unique—eccentric even. But more than that, she possesses a sweet and kind nature with an adorable spunky and fiery personality to match. In contrast, Braeden, is quiet and highly revered. Even born into privilege, he is the pillar of compassion and understanding. I admire how Mr. Beatty explores the uniqueness of individuals like Serafina and Braeden, reminds us to embrace such differences, and that sometimes what makes us different is also what makes us special.

Despite being a middle grade book, there was an aura of death and darkness that was unexpected, yet alluring. I was thrown off tangent many times as to the identity of the Man in the Black Cloak. Oh you are good Mr. Beatty! I underestimated its complexity. The innuendos were just perfect where no one was obviously bad or good. Unlike Serafina, C.R.C., I could not smell the “rat.” The story moves forward with new and unexpected revelations that kept me guessing and wanting more.

I also got a kick out of the fun vocabulary. It was so amusing to come across these words: skullduggery, caterwauled, chickadees, skedaddle, and many more. The diction was quite entertaining.

I’m so glad I read this book. I’ve also purchased a copy for my Goddaughter. As a mom scouring the vast collection of books, Serafina and the Black Cloak will be a permanent collection in our library. I enjoyed it very much.

DISCUSSION: Name a fun word you’ve come across?

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Dec 21, 2015

Holiday Giveaway Hop ($20 Amazon Gift Card)

This giveaway is now closed.

The prize winner is listed below. Thank you everyone for your entry. Follow FLYLeF for more giveaway announcements.

FLYLeF Holiday Giveaway Hop

HO-HO-HO, HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

The season of giving is among us, and I'd like to thank all of YOU—friends who I've made along the way through our shared passion for books—by giving you The Gift of Anything. That's right! Two of you will be the lucky winners of a $20 Amazon gift card for you to use however you'd like.

From my family to yours...Have a Happy Christmas and a Merry New Year!

The Nitty Gritty Grinchy Details:

  1. Giveaway begins December 21st through January 4th.
  2. Open internationally.
  3. Two lucky winners will be selected at random, and notified by e-mail.
  4. Prize will be fulfilled within 2 weeks.

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Dec 20, 2015

Holiday Giveaway Hop (One Book Up to $25)

This giveaway is now closed.

The prize winner is listed below. Thank you everyone for your entry. Follow FLYLeF for more giveaway announcements.

FLYLeF Holiday Giveaway Hop

SEASONS OF GREETINGS!

This is my blog's first Christmas, and I'm excited to share this special time with you. As a token of my appreciation for YOU—friends who I've made along the way through our shared love of books—I'd like to give you a gift of any book up to $25. Don't just wish for a book. Enter now for a chance to win it.

From my family to yours...Have a Jolly Christmas and a Sparkling New Year!

The Nitty Gritty Grinchy Details:

  1. Giveaway begins December 21st through January 4th.
  2. Open internationally, so long the Book Depository ships to your country.
  3. One lucky winner will be selected at random, and notified by e-mail.
  4. Prize will be fulfilled within 2-3 weeks.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

We've got even more gifts for you! Hop on over to these other fabulous giveaways in the Holiday Giveaway Hop! Good luck!

BOOK WORMIE SPOT
Fields of Elysium (e-book) and more

OTAKUTWINS REVIEWS
One book worth up to $20

READERS IN WONDERLAND
Any book worth up to $10 from the Book Depository (two winners will be selected)

A TREE GROWS IN BOOKLAND
One book from Amazon worth up to $20

FLYLeF
Any book from Amazon Book Depository worth up to $25 (Open Internationally)
$20 Amazon Gift Card for two winners (Open Internationally)

Dec 15, 2015

Sweetest Scoundrel (Maiden Lane 9)

Sweetest Scoundrel book cover

by Elizabeth Hoyt
book review rating 3 out of 5

WELL, MS. HOYT, we meet at last. I finally get why my historical junkie friends (you know who you are) praise this author to the heavens. Admittedly, I really didn’t enjoy the Sweetest Scoundrel at first, but like a good bottle of red wine, it needed time to age before it developed into a most delicious treat.

Eve Dinwoody is certainly not your typical historical beauty. She is too stiff, too prim, and has a nose that’s too long. At least this is what Asa Makepeace, the owner of London's premier pleasure garden, Harte's Folly, thinks of her when she takes control of his finances. The harder she tries to manage the stubborn rake, the harder it is to ignore his seductive charms.

It’s quite refreshing to read a love story that doesn’t begin with instant attraction, which is exactly the case with Eve and Asa. Eve finds Asa to be an infuriating scoundrel whom she constantly butts head with. And, Asa has no time for a penny-pinching prude like Eve. But when near-death accidents begin occurring at Harte's Folly, Eve and Asa will have to learn to play nice in order to catch the killer. But, can they?

I enjoyed Asa from the start. He’s perfectly insufferable. However, I had to be patient with Eve. I wasn’t quite sure I liked her at first but the more I got to know her, the more I warmed up to her rigid and prudent personality. She’s not your typical charismatic romantic lead. There’s very little flirtatious bantering, which was a little disappointing. Her naiveté and reticence toward men would have made for a frustrating read, except somehow Ms. Hoyt makes it work because Eve also exhibits a bold and daring side.

I will definitely continue The Maiden Lane series because Ms. Hoyt has thoroughly piqued my interest with Eve’s brother—Val, the Duke of Montgomery. He’s a bit wicked (but in a good way), and he’s up to nothing good that I think will be really good.

I received this title from NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion. Thank you, especially to the author and publisher, for giving me an opportunity to review this title.

I LOVE COMMENTS! I will try my best to respond to everyone, as well as visit your site to sprinkle some of my own comment love.

Dec 11, 2015

In Celebration of 1958

2016 Goodreads Challenge

I DID IT! I don't know what possessed me to join the 2015 Goodreads Challenge, especially so late in the year (summer, I believe). The hardest part was to have the reading meter constantly reminding me that I'm (some number) books behind schedule. But, I would not be deterred. I know that perhaps 25 books is an abysmally low number compared to my blogging peers. I admire their tenacity, and am in no way envious of their accomplishments. Because…

This challenge was never about how much I could read; rather, it was a personally challenge to remind myself to step back from the rat race, slow down, and savor life in the moment with the simple joy of loosing myself in a new book—a new world.

So, what will my 2016 Goodreads Challenge entail? Well, I was thinking of dedicating it to my beautiful mother. She was born in 1958, and she will be celebrating her 58th birthday in 2016. Oh, the serendipity! Which would make 58 a pprreettyy good looking number, wouldn't you agree? I couldn't have planned this even if I tried.

My 2015 Challenge links to Goodreads. View Lonna | FLYLeF's profile.

Lonna's 2015-challenge book montage

A Monster Calls
The Runaway King
The Scribe
The Singer
The Secret
A Discovery of Witches
Chase the Dark
The Girl on the Train
The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
Silver Linings
Bind the Soul
Yield the Night
Reap the Shadows
Silent in the Grave
Court of Nightfall
House of Ravens
Rarity from the Hollow
Witness Through Time
ProtoStar
Heart of Iron
 

DISCUSSION: What challenges do you plan to participate in 2016? How many books do you plan to read?

I LOVE COMMENTS! I will try my best to respond to everyone, as well as visit your site to sprinkle some of my own comment love.

Dec 8, 2015

Feed the Flames (Steel and Stone 3.5)

Feed the Flames book cover

by Annette Marie
book review rating 3 out of 5

FEED THE FLAMES, by Annette Marie, is an itty bitty novella that explains the fate of Seiya and Lyre following the conclusion of Yield the Night (Steel and Stone 3). For a short story, I was pleasantly surprised that it was still emotionally dense and highly entertaining.

This novella has completely changed my impression of Lyre and improved my perception of Seiya. I've always enjoyed Lyre, but I never saw him as anything more than Ash's dear friend and hopeless flirt. As for Seiya, I've always just tolerated her impetuous character. I have misunderstood these characters.

Lyre is an incubus—a very sexy incubus. But, hidden behind a “constant stream of jokes and inappropriate humor that [keeps] anyone from looking at him too closely” is a man with carefully guarded secrets. His past is shrouded in mystery and he carries with him a story laden with untold pain and scars that are highly intriguing. If you happen to read this Ms. Annette, I’m officially petitioning a new series with Lyre as the starring role. Please, and thank you.

I’ve always found Seiya to be a little immature and hotheaded. She lacks depth and blames all of her and Ash’s troubles on poor Piper. So, I shelved her away as the temperamental, yet protective younger sister. Feed the Flames shows a different side of Seiya. I really enjoyed the dialogues between Seiya and Lyre while they were imprisoned by their captors. Through the tête-à-tête, it gave me a glimpse of her internal struggles. It was nice to see that underneath the angry exterior, there is a compassionate and fierce woman waiting to emerge.

The story ends with a thrilling, heart-pounding escape attempt that left me wanting more. I do like this novella. Though, it's really too short for me to develop a deep fondness for it. I do appreciate the supporting characters much more. I look forward to seeing them in Reap the Shadows (Steel and Stone 4) and Unleash the Storm (Steel and Stone 5).

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Dec 4, 2015

Holiday Giveaway Hop

This giveaway is now closed.

The winners for the $25 Book and two $20 Amazon gift cards have been announced. Visit those pages to view winner details. Thank you everyone for your entry. Follow on FLYLeF for more giveaway announcements.

THE PARTY ELVES at Book Wormie Spot, OtakuTwins Reviews, Readers in Wonderland, A Tree Grows in Bookland, and FLYLeF have been hard at work tinkering away to bring you our special Holiday Giveaway Hop. Please mark your calendar for our giveaway beginning December 21st through January 4th.

BOOK WORMIE SPOT
Fields of Elysium (e-book) and more

OTAKUTWINS REVIEWS
One book worth up to $20

READERS IN WONDERLAND
Any book worth up to $10 from the Book Depository (two winners will be selected)

A TREE GROWS IN BOOKLAND
One book from Amazon worth up to $20

FLYLeF
Any book from Amazon Book Depository worth up to $25 (Open Internationally)
$20 Amazon Gift Card for two winners (Open Internationally)

Dec 1, 2015

The Banished of Muirwood (Covenant of Muirwood 1)

The Banished of Muirwood book cover

by Jeff Wheeler
book review rating 2.5 out of 5

“NONE OF THE girls of the seven realms were allowed to learn the secret art of reading and engraving. That was a privilege only allowed to boys and men.”

For whatever reason, reading this disturbs me to no end. Of all the possible things to damper a female’s magic, why choose illiteracy? The story tries to explain the logic behind this. It failed. With great power, even boys and men are just as easily corruptible.

But, I digress.

In the kingdom of Comoros, chaos spreads after the king expelled the magical order known as the Dochte Mandar. Exiled by her father, Princess Marciana, or Maia, embarks on a dangerous journey to save her realm. To survive, she must use a forbidden magic she can barely control. Can she save her people before the forces of evil consume her?

I am quite surprise that The Banished of Muirwood, left me so unsatisfied—frustrated even. This has many elements that I generally enjoy in a fantasy novel: a new and imaginative world; ancient powers and forbidden magic; a bit of romance; and perils at every turn. Yet, these variables are underdeveloped and not married well. Perhaps, this is because the story is told out of chronological order. Unless I’m reading about time travel, this technique is probably one of my least favorites. The story alternates ceaselessly between Maia’s present and past. I get that Mr. Wheeler is showing us her painful history. Yet, it is an unoriginal backstory that borderlines dangerously close to the classic Cinderella story of poverty, servitude, an evil stepmother, and two cruel stepsisters.

I kept pushing forward nonetheless because the characters were somewhat magnetic, even though I didn't find them particularly rich or complex. Maia's companions included a kishion—a killer; Tayt—her guide—and his adorable bearhound; and Collier—her eccentric lover. They each have their own hidden agenda; however, their devotion to Maia was admirable. Maia’s character was also enjoyable until she turned her back on one of her companions because “the Medium willed it”—an action that was selfish, mindless, and too deeply rooted in religious beliefs. I don’t think she will stay with me beyond the scope of this review.

I mean no respect to Mr. Wheeler but I didn’t enjoy the story as much as I thought I would. However, it has a lot of good elements, and I’m sure it will find favor with many other fans.

{I received this title from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.}

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