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Renewing the Blog

March 27, 2014

Hello all!

It’s great to be back on the blog again! I’ve really missed blogging and interacting with everyone. I apologize for my sudden and long absence from Fantastical Reads. Short story: Life just got in the way and it sucked.

Long story: My day job picked up speed and soon I was working (very) long hours and spending a lot of energy on my work. I just didn’t have the time or energy to blog, much less read books. There was a span of about two months in which I literally did nothing but work, eat, and sleep (and not much in the sleep department). I wish that were an exaggeration, but it’s not.

Now that I’m rested and recovered, I plan on picking up the blogging again. I’ve read a couple of books this year, but none really that I want to review for the blog. Well, OK, maybe one . . . or two . . . I’ll get back to you on that!

Anyway, my main point is, I’m sorry for leaving and I’m now on my way back to the world of book blogging!

Also, if any authors out there are looking for beta reading, I have room in my schedule for April. See this page for details.

Review: ‘Through the Door’ by Jodi McIsaac

July 16, 2013

Through the Door coverSummary: Cedar McLeod believes she lives an ordinary and uneventful life.  She works hard to balance her family and work life and meet the demands of her job while raising her six-year-old daughter, Eden.  As a single mother, Cedar struggles more than she would like to, and relies on her mother, Maeve, for help.  Eden’s father, Finn, disappeared from her life before Eden was born and cedar has been unable to find him ever since.

But Cedar’s uneventful world is about to be turned on its ear.  One day, Eden suddenly opens the door to her bedroom only to find her bedroom is now a desert–she opened her door to another place entirely.  Eden wants to walk through the doors and find out where else she can go.  Afraid and confused, Cedar forbids Eden to open any doors without her present.

Except Eden disappears a few days later.  Knowing what Eden can do with the doors, Cedar realizes that her daughter could be anywhere in the world.  Even more scared and beginning to panic when Eden doesn’t come home, Cedar begins a journey to track down Finn and get some answers.  On the hunt for Eden, Cedar discovers far more than she could ever have imagined, and plunges herself into more danger than she might be able to survive.

My Thoughts: What a fantastic read!  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this book when I first picked it up, but I ended up being really enthralled by it.  The characters are well-rounded and their growth is steady through the novel.  The plot is interesting and engrossing.  The pacing is excellent, I never felt bored or like I wanted to stop reading.

Cedar McLeod is the main character and the mother of Eden, a very special young girl.  Eden’s father left suddenly one day and Cedar has been unable to find him or move on since then.  Cedar does her best to work and support herself and Eden as a graphic designer, with some babysitting help from her mother, Maeve.  Cedar is a strong character who is probably best defined as a fierce mother.  She would do anything for Eden, and fights to protect her from harm.  However, that very quality is also her greatest flaw, as her desire to protect and save Eden ends up causing some havoc and unfortunate incidents in the long run.  She can end up being stubborn and pig-headed when it comes to protecting Eden, to the point of not listening to anyone else.  This is something she attempts to overcome throughout the book, but she struggles with her desire to protect Eden at all costs.

There are a number of characters who really pull those sympathetic heart-strings later on, most notably Finn and Maeve.  Maeve has a mysterious past and backstory that isn’t fully appreciated until the end.  Finn’s secret is huge, and sadly I can’t say too much about it or him here without giving something away.  At first, Finn doesn’t seem like a very likeable character, but he becomes more interesting later on.  Maeve is the one I feel the most sorry for in all the machinations of the families.  She had so much happen to her, and lost so much, but she chose to (largely) rise above it and turn her situation into a positive rather than a negative.  But when I found out her true background, I was flabbergasted.  I didn’t guess that that’s what happened to her, and it worked so well for the characters and the plot.

There are three rather huge twists in the plot, with the biggest one coming at the end.  The end was extremely satisfying and even though it left me feeling as if the book had reached a valid and satisfying end, I still wanted more to follow.  So I was relieved to find that there is a second book planned for release this year!  The twist at the end was not one I had guessed at or even saw coming, so as twists go, it was brilliant.

Other characters include Finn’s family and Cedar’s best friend, Jane.  Jane was funny and provided a bit of comic relief at points, though mostly in the beginning.  Finn’s family is a large and diverse cast of characters.  I don’t want to say too much about them as I have to avoid mentioned their origins in order to avoid any spoilers.  I will say that they are unusual.  And their weirdness explains Eden’s sudden and initially inexplicable ability to create doors that can open to other places.  They do behave very poorly toward Cedar for a long time, and this makes them very unlikable.  They claim to have reasons for their mistreatment of Cedar and for withholding information from her, but these reasons don’t become clear until much later–which makes the family, and even Cedar’s mother (who knows more than she says), come off as jerks.  While this makes them unlikable to begin with, the reasons later on make sense and, while it may not have been the wisest or the best decision to keep Cedar in the dark for so long, their reasons had logic behind them.

All in all, I have nothing negative to say about this book.  OK, one or two typos, but even good books can have a few typos here and there.  I have nothing negative to say about the plot, the characters, the pacing, or the ideas.  It’s well written and contains maybe two typos in the entire thing and nothing else wrong in the typo/grammar department.  This book takes Celtic lore and brings a freshness to it that is invigorating.  I will definitely read this book again and I will absolutely be checking out the sequel.

5 stars

Buy on Amazon * Author Website * Goodreads* Shelfari
Book info: published 2013, 294 pages, ISBN 978-1612183077
Copy is a free ebook copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: ‘Heroes’ Reward’, Book 7 of the Hero Series, by Moira J. Moore

July 10, 2013

Heroes' Reward cover artSummary: Source Shintaro Karish and Shield Dunleavy Mallorough have lived in Taro’s childhood home of Flown Raven for five years. They have created a home with Taro’s cousin, the duchess, and with the villagers. But when they are summoned to Shidonee’s Gap by the Triple S Council, their lives are shaken up in unexpected ways.  Taro and Lee leave their family and the comfort of Flown Raven and once again travel out into the world.

What they find is an rude awakening.  Regular people no longer treat the Pairs with respect, or at least with politeness.  Attacks on Pairs are frequent, which leaves Taro and Lee bewildered and confused.  And there are rumors about the Emperor becoming unbalanced and Pairs disappearing.

At Shidonee’s Gap, more changes await Taro and Lee.  Their relationship is treated like a shameful, hideous abomination, and the Triple S itself has changed in ways Taro and Lee find unsettling.  When they are called into the Council, they are asked to account for all of the lies and half-truths they told the Council over the years–and must decide if they should continue to keep their secrets, or finally confess.

On top of their Triple S problems, Taro is once again summoned to the Emperor’s side, despite the illegality of the Emperor’s action.  With the rumors about the ruler’s crumbling sanity, does Taro dare refuse?

My Thoughts: What a fitting end to the series!  I could not have imagined a better ending to wrap things up.  There was drama, there was action, there was adventure and intrigue–and, most importantly, a very satisfying ending.  I have to say, the ending wasn’t quite what I had suspected or entirely hoped for, but it was so much better than I could have thought.  I can’t believe the publisher wouldn’t publish the final book and Ms. Moore had to do it herself.  True, the previous book did end well and could have worked as an ending for the series–except there were many unanswered questions, and that wouldn’t have gone over very well if it was the end of the series (I know it wouldn’t have with me).  So thank you, Ms. Moore, for releasing the final book!!

One thing I can mention but can’t go into too much detail about without giving away some twists: Aryne is back.  And she’s awesome.  I’ll give you a little hint: she’s just as unusual as the Pair who found her and she causes just as much trouble.  Now, that’s all I’m saying about Aryne. Any more and I’ll give away too much!

By now, Taro and Lee are comfortable and in sync with each other.  They work together seamlessly and accomplish a great deal.  Their 8-year-old relationship has matured into something less contentious and much deeper.  It’s obvious that these two care about each other a great deal.

I wish we had seen more of a few other favorite characters, like Fiona and Stacin (I would have loved to see how Stacin had grown up, but it probably didn’t fit in well with the story). Healer Browne is featured and she’s lovely.  We do see some old faces come back into the picture, such as Aryne, but also the Emperor, Ogawa and Tennyson, and Risa.

The humor from the previous novels is still present in this one, despite the more serious and warlike nature of this book’s plot.  One of the things I liked most about this series as a whole was that it entertained.  It made me laugh.  That’s no small thing!  This book continues that humor even with its subject matter and I so appreciate that.  The humor also helped to lighten some of the more serious moment that otherwise might have come across as heavy-handed.

The plot is engrossing and kept me turning the pages well into the night.  In fact, I stayed up much too late trying to finish the book before work the next morning, and ended up reading until about 3am (oops!).  But it kept me hooked to the pages, and that’s what matters.  The plot isn’t exactly unusual–royalty sticks its nose where it doesn’t belong–but given that royalty isn’t supposed to interfere in Triple S affairs at all, it’s enough to set up a lot of tension, intrigue, and unanswered questions.  Luckily for the reader, all of the questions are answered by the end.

I can’t find anything wrong with this one.  The characters developed well, the plot kept me reading, and the end was satisfying.  This book leads itself well to re-readability.  Yes, the cover art isn’t as good as the rest of the series, but given the circumstances (that the publisher decided not to publish the final book and Ms. Moore did it herself), I’m not fussed about it.  I give this book 5 stars.

5 stars

Buy on Amazon * Author’s Website * GoodReads * Shelfari

Book info: published 2013, 332 pages, ISBN B00BAVQD6S

Copy is an e-book copy.

Review: ‘Heroes At Odds’, Book 6 in the Heroes Series, by Moira J. Moore

July 9, 2013

Heroes At Odds cover artSummary: Shield Dunleavy Mallorough and Source Shintaro Karish have now gotten comfortable in Westsea and have figured out how to protect the area.  But Lee’s past has a surprise in store for her that she never expected: she was betrothed at birth!  Lee’s mother and brothers arrive for a visit and share the news with Lee and Taro, who are predictably not happy with the news.  Since Lee was accepted into the Shield academy, the betrothal contract was made null and void.  There’s just one problem–the intended fiancé is determined to have Lee fulfill her end of the bargain and marry him.  And there may be no way for Lee to escape when she discovers the contract may have been made with a spell–to not fulfill the contract now would cause serious damage to Lee and her family.  To make matters worse, Taro is determined to help, but his involvement only makes matters worse.

On top of her family woes, Westsea’s duchess, Taro’s cousin Fiona, is threatened from outside forces who want to remove Fiona from her seat.  Spellcasting, which is much more prevalent in Westsea than anywhere else on the continent, has a dramatic place in the conflict.  Taro and Lee find themselves inextricably involved in protecting Westsea from more than natural disasters as the attacks continue to worsen and threaten the duchess and her people.

Can Lee find a solution to her family troubles while still keep Westsea safe and her relationship with Taro intact?

My Thoughts: This might be my favorite book in the series.  It’s so full of humor and well-intentioned but misguided attempts to make things better but which really make things worse.  Plus, the escalating use of spells and casting catapults this novel into the magic arena in a way the previous ones did not.  It picks up where the previous book left off with Lee learning about casting and how it works.

Lee seems almost overwhelmed through much of the book, but who could blame her?  There’s a lot going on in her life all of a sudden, and her Shield training doesn’t help much in how to deal with the issues.  She still tries to do the right thing, as always, but increasingly there are gray areas and even more opportunities to bend the rules or cross the lines.

The book, to me, heavily focuses on Lee this time around.  Yes, she’s the main character through the series and we are reading through her thoughts, but this time the events are much more centered around her.  This leaves Taro much more off to the side.  He is still heavily involved, but this plot and the events within are centered around Lee and how they affect her.  Before, many of the events centered around Taro or around the both of them, but few really focused solely on Lee.  In this installment, the problems that arise are heavily focused on Lee, which means Taro becomes more like a supporting character.  I think he doesn’t develop very much in this book because the development and narrative are focused around Lee.  And Lee does develop quite a bit here.  She grows more comfortable with casting, and is able to be more assertive.  She also recognizes that family is more important than she ever considered it to be before–this is a huge development for her.

Fiona is one of my favorite supporting characters.  She has a strong presence in this book, and while I liked her better in the previous book, I still like her a great deal in this one.  She becomes more surly at places, and at times I thought she came across too noble and lofty, but her personality and how she adapts to her role as duchess is part of what makes her a great character.

The humor, as always, is in full force in this installment.  One of the things I like best about this series is the humor in Lee’s voice.  It’s a wonderful thing, and I can’t get enough of it.

The plot is better than some of the previous books.  I was pretty engrossed through much of it.  The parts having to do with the betrothal sometimes felt a little too long to me, but I could deal with that because the rest of the plot dealt with the intrigue and danger of Westsea’s endangerment.  That made up for any slow points for me.  With the two very different plot lines, the book could have fractured and become unfocused, but I never felt that it became that way.  I always felt like I knew what was going in in that scene, and answers to the questions would follow eventually.  One thing I do like about Ms. Moore’s stories: the questions always get answered, if not in that particular book, then in one of the following ones.  We still don’t know why the Emperor did what he did in messing with Taro and Lee’s appointment to Westsea, but I have confidence we’ll find out in the next one.

I’m giving this book 5 stars for being interesting and exciting, satisfying, plot, characterization, and for high rereadability.

5 stars

Buy on Amazon * Author’s Website * GoodReads * Shelfari

Book info: published 2011, 352 pages, ISBN 978-0441020645

Copy is from personal library.

Booking Through Thursday 6/20/2013

June 20, 2013

btt button Booking Through Thursday is a weekly meme that focuses (mostly) on books and reading.

And, the reverse–which actors have been particularly badly cast in roles of characters you first met in the pages of a book? Do you blame the actors or the writers and other film-people for the failure? Who would you have cast instead?

I’m having trouble thinking of an answer to this one!  All the actors I can think of have done either a decent, good, great, or outstanding job at portraying their book characters. The only one I can think of right now is maybe Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man. (I know that’s a comic book character and not a book character, but close enough.) I liked that movie though–but then, I have a weird fascination with bad movies, soooooo . . . yeah.  I can’t even single out Kristen Stewart in Twilight for her Bella Swan because Bella was supposed to be an awkward teenager, and Kristen’s portrayal was definitely awkward.

I wouldn’t necessarily blame the actors for a bad performance as much as I would the director or the script writer.  An actor can only rise to the level of the material given, in my opinion. If the script is bad, there’s little an actor can do to save it, even with a great performance.  Twilight comes to mind.  Some of those lines were absolutely terrible, and the actors delivered their lines perfectly, but the material was so bad (in my opinion) that no amount of good acting could save it.  It’s a different situation, though, if the material is good and the actor isn’t living up to it.  So I guess my real answer for this part of the question is that it depends on the situation.

Question of the Week: Weather and Books

June 17, 2013

We have all had some crazy and frightening weather pass through lately (if you’re in the US, that is… I don’t know about outside the US). These weather events have spawned floods, tornadoes, hail storms, damaging winds, etc. and caused lots of damage, but (as far as I’ve heard) no deaths, thank goodness!  So, a question scenario in keeping with current events:

Let’s say there’s a hurricane or flood or some other severe weather event coming along. You have some advance warning and enough time to gather a few essential things.

You only have time to grab one book before you must leave.

What do you do? Which do you choose? Could you choose or would you abandon without trying to choose?

Answer in the comments!

Booking Through Thursday 6/13/2013

June 13, 2013

btt button Booking Through Thursday is a weekly meme that focuses (mostly) on books and reading.

Do you ever sit and wonder who could be cast as your favorite characters? What actors do you think have done particularly excellent jobs with some of your favorite characters?

Yes!  Sometimes I wonder that very thing!  I can’t think of any good examples off the top of my head.  Somewhere along the way I had thought Kate Winslet would be a good choice, but I forget which character it was for.  It is fun, though, to wonder who would be cast if a book were turned into a movie.  As for actors who already played my fav characters, I think the casting in the Harry Potter movies was stellar and spot-on.  It’s like they found the actors who not only looked the part of the characters, but absolutely became those characters so that there is no separation between the two, if that makes any sense.  Hermione/Emma was particularly good casting.  I thought the casting in Lord of the Rings was also very good and liked the way those actors played their characters.

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