The Novice, by Taran Matharu

 

The Novice

 

Title: The Novice: Summoner: Book One

Author: Taran Matharu

Publisher: Square Fish

Release Date: May 10, 2016

Genre: YA, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Fantasy & Magic

Format: ebook, Paperback, Audio, Hardcover

Rating: 5 Lattes

Heat Level: Light Roast

Blurb

Fletcher is working as a blacksmith’s apprentice when he discovers he has the rare ability to summon demons from another world. Chased from his village for a crime he did not commit, Fletcher must travel with his demon, Ignatius, to an academy for adepts, where the gifted are taught the art of summoning.

Along with nobles and commoners, Fletcher endures grueling lessons that will prepare him to serve as a Battlemage in the Empire’s war against the savage Orcs. But sinister forces infect new friendships and rivalries grow. With no one but Ignatius by his side, Fletcher must decide where his loyalties lie. The fate of the Empire is in his hands. . . .

Review

First impression.

My first impression of this series came from the covers. I LOVE a beautiful cover and these caught my eye every time I walked through a book store. I snagged a sample of the ebook, and was hooked immediately.

What kept me reading (or didn’t).

Though this book is completely absent (for now) of anything romantic, I adore all the characters and the world building is fantastic. I resonated with Fletcher’s apathy for others and his anger at the social injustices in his world. That undercurrent alone kept me reading.

Fletcher quickly earns the respect of the underdogs when he stands with them, and he manages to befriend them even when they would rather have nothing to do with him. He is smart, quick thinking, and adaptable. I had trouble keeping all the other apprentices’ names straight. There were a lot of them introduced all at once, but it didn’t really slow down the story once the two or three main characters became clear.

The elves, dwarves, humans, and orcs all felt very familiar, as did the struggles to figure out alliances, but the author managed to give each race a fresh presentation so it didn’t seem like re-reading Tolkien or the like.

After taste.

The story moves at a good pace, and there is enough action to balance out the obvious social and political themes. I LOVE a good romance, but a story with a deeper meaning – especially one that points out the flaws of racial prejudice and bigotry – makes my heart sing. I enjoyed this first book in the series very much and will be picking up the next.

Overall impression.

The story is clean, and not overly violent in a gory sort of way. It is a great book for younger YA readers, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys an epic fantasy that is a little lighter. (Though not much.)

About the Author:

 Matharu, Taran

Taran Matharu is a New York Times bestselling author. He was born in London in 1990 and found a passion for reading at a very early age. His love for stories developed into a desire to create his own during early adolescence, beginning his first book at 9 years old.

Straight after graduating with a First Class degree in Business Administration, Taran was keen to explore a new avenue and get inside the publishing world, landing an internship in Digital Sales at Penguin Random House, from June to September 2013.

Thereafter, while taking time off to travel, Taran began to write ‘Summoner’ in November 2013 at the age of 22, taking part in ‘Nanowrimo 2013’.

Thanks to Wattpad.com and updating daily, its popularity dramatically increased, reaching over 3 million reads in less than six months.

After being featured by NBC News, Taran decided to launch his professional writing career and has never looked back.

 

 

Purchase links

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks

Shroud of Lies, by Nancy Straight

 

Shroud of Lies

 

Title: Shroud of Lies

Author: Nancy Straight

Publisher: Nancy Straight

Release Date: March 4, 2016

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Format: Ebook, Audio, Paperback

Rating: 4 Lattes

Heat Level: Light Roast

Blurb:

Mark believes he has finally shed his destructive past. Reunited with the brother he had believed to be dead for most of his life, Mark’s life detours again when he learns of a younger sister also abandoned by their parents. Desperate to find her, Mark and Davey travel thousands of miles turning over the rocks of their past. Discovering the truth veiled behind layers of lies is daunting, but the Brewer brothers vow to leave no stone unturned. As Mark begins to peel back the layers of his past to locate his sister, he is jerked back into his criminal life and risks losing Libby and everyone he loves forever.

Old friends and enemies insert themselves in Mark’s new life; he must choose between the life luring him back and the future he desperately wants. Mark attempts to keep those he loves from being caught in the cross fire of old enemies vying for position.

Review:

Shroud of Lies is the third and final (WHAAAH!) book of The Brewer Brothers series.

I loved Davey and his quirky ways, but from the moment he was introduced, it was Mark who kept me reading.

First impression.
I was really nervous at the beginning of Shroud of Lies, and even set it aside for a long time because the Mark at the beginning of book three is NOT the same Mark I had grown to…like. A LOT.

But, I love Nancy’s books, and finally convinced myself she wouldn’t have gutted such an incredible character. I was right.

The reason I didn’t give the book five stars is because I wish the entire book had been written from Mark’s POV. At the beginning of the book, Chad stood out the most. His character felt real and strong, then sort of vanished. Though Chad’s discovery sent Mark on the right path for his own, Chad’s story feels a little like an unfinished plot point. It doesn’t diminish Mark’s story, but I think I wanted more for and from Chad.

What kept me reading (or didn’t).
From page one (literally), Felix is a slimeball. Again, well written, but he sort of fell off the map as a real character with a story. His presence or absence doesn’t take away from Mark, and he does give valuable data to start the story. *shrug* I didn’t like him. But, that’s probably the point.

So, have I mentioned Mark?

If you don’t know Mark, read Fractured Karma. That was the Mark I was expecting when I started reading. Like I said, he was so different at the beginning of the book, I almost didn’t finish, but I knew Nancy had a reason for writing him the way she did and convinced myself to trust her.

Then, it happened. What happened, you ask? THIS:

As I strolled past the clothes which had been my wardrobe for the last six months, I entered the dusty area of my closet.
Selecting a pair of dark blue jeans, and off white dress shirt without a collar, and a sports jacket – a feeling of anticipation began to take root. What was I, a girl? My body was acting like it had missed the clothing, but closer inspection told me – it was who I was when I wore the clothes.
Adrenalin coursed through my veins, strangers respectfully nodded their heads as I strode by, and no one, not one person, would confuse me for someone to be taken lightly.

****SIGH*****
From here to the end of the book, Mark is able to find the balance – after many startling revelations – between who he was, who he became, and who he needed to be going forward. And it is a beautiful thing.
After taste.
I am truly sad this is the end of the story, but the Brewer’s find their answers, and without manufacturing some other trouble, Nancy has done a fantastic job of bringing this series full circle.

Overall impression.

Clean, and much more adventure/drama than romance which is unusual for my taste.

But…Mark.

I would recommend this book to 16+ due to adult topics like drugs, mafia, and murder. All tastefully handled but situations might be emotionally intense for younger readers.

About the Author:

Straight, Nancy

Nancy was born in Sioux City Iowa, left the cold of the Midwest in 1991 and only returns to see family in the summer time. She spent ten years traveling the world as a US Marine and settled in rural SC with her husband and two children.

She has written ten novels (3 x Paranormal Romance, 4 x Mythological Romance and 3 x Suspenseful Romance). Nancy enjoys reading all types of Paranormal and Young Adult literature.

Purchase links:

Amazon, Barnes and Noble

The Conduit, by Stacey Rourke

 

The Counduit COVER

Title: The Conduit

Author: Stacey Rourke

Publisher: Anchor Group

Release Date: November 15, 2013

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy

Format: Ebook, Paperback, Audio

Rating: 4 Lattes

Heat Level: Light Roast

Blurb

All 18-year-old Celeste Garrett wants is to head off to college and make those fun, yet ill-advised, choices college kids are known for. And maybe to spend some time with the hot cameraman she just met. Instead, because of a pact her ancestors made in the 17th century with a mythical creature, she has to save the world.

While normal kids are slamming energy drinks and cramming for exams, Celeste will get her adrenaline rush fighting a fire breathing dragon. She wants to meet friends in the quad to exchange lecture notes, but first she must exchange blows with a shapeshifting demon on the rooftop. Life isn’t always fair for a superhero, but at least she doesn’t have to do it alone. With her brother and sister as sidekicks, they alternate between saving lives and getting on each others’ nerves. Together the trio encounters unspeakable odds, mystical forces and comes face-to-face with an image that will haunt them forever—their grandmother in a leopard print bikini.

Review

This one took me a few stops and starts to get into, mostly because of the other types of books I had been reading before picking this one up. Genre hopping is all fun and games until you jump a little farther than you intended.

First impression:

This is a fun light hearted read for a young YA audience. I am not in this target audience, but I enjoyed the story.

Celeste and her siblings are adjusting to moving in with their quirky grandmother, when a random encounter with a wooden figurine changes everything. The banter and style of writing reminded me a lot of Quinn Loftis Gray Wolves series.

What kept me reading (or didn’t).

As I mentioned, it took me a minute to get into the book, but once I did, I wanted to know what the siblings would ultimately be capable of. I wanted more of Celeste’s ‘emotional control’ abilities to be more in play, but maybe that comes out in later books.

Gabe and his playfulness made me smile more than once, and the teasing between the siblings was fun.

After taste.

It’s not really my style, but that doesn’t take away from the book.

Overall impression.

I would definitely recommend this book to younger YA readers and those who are looking for a light read with a bit of the supernatural.

About the Author

Stacey Rourke

Stacey Rourke is the award winning author of works that span genres, but possess the same flare for action and snarky humor. She lives in Michigan with her husband, two beautiful daughters, and two giant dogs. Stacey loves to travel, has an unhealthy shoe addiction, and considers herself blessed to make a career out of talking to the imaginary people that live in her head.

  • RONE Award Winner for Best YA Paranormal Work of 2012
  • Young Adult and Teen Reader voted Author of the Year 2012
  • Turning Pages Magazine Winner for Best YA book of 2013 & Best Teen Book of 2013
  • Readers’ Favorite Fantasy Silver Medal Winner for 2015
  • Readers’ Favorite YA Fantasy Bronze Medal Winner 2017

 

Purchase links

Amazon, iBooks, Barnes and Noble

The Vexing, by Tamara Leigh

 

The Vexing

Title: The Vexing (Age of Faith #6)

Author: Tamara Leigh

Publisher: Tamara Leigh

Release Date: May 12, 2017

Genre: Christian Medieval Romance

Format: Paperback, Audio, Kindle

Rating: 5 Lattes

Heat Level: Light Roast

Purchase links

Amazon, AudibleiTunes

 

Blurb

A VEXING LADY
Answering her father’s summons to return home, Lady Beata Fauvel must evade capture by noblemen who seek to wed a great heiress. But when she falls into the hands of Queen Eleanor of England, she discovers her sovereign has plans of her own for the lady known France over as The Vestal Widow. Now Beata must not only escape the knight entrusted with ensuring she does not wed without permission, but survive a storm-tossed sea and revelation of a long-buried secret that could destroy her family. And what of a heart that wants what it cannot have? Will it only ever beat for the queen’s man?

A REPENTANT KNIGHT
For years, Sir Durand Marshal has faithfully served his queen as penance for betrayal of the Wulfrith family. When he rescues a woman pursued by vassals of the French king, he is charged with delivering to England the nearly scandalous lady who has only a name in common with the one he once loved. Though he never expects to feel anything beyond annoyance for the outspoken Lady Beata, he finds himself drawn to yet another woman denied him. Can he fulfill his duty to his liege? Or will he forsake his redemption and forever ruin his reputation—more, the lady’s?

 

Review

I absolutely ADORE this series and have listened to the audio version multiple times.

In the previous Age of Faith books, Durand Marshal is the man you love to hate, yet despite everything, you end up rooting for him to gain his redemption after so many bad decisions.

First impression.

LOOK AT THE COVER! It is absolutely gorgeous.

I don’t know why, but in the previous books, I didn’t visualize him to be as young as he is, so at first I had a difficult time matching his character with the story. It took getting past the LOOOOONG shipwreck scene before I really felt like I had a good connection with him.
I loved Beata from the beginning and knew immediately she was the perfect match for wayward Durand. She, like the other ladies in the Age of Faith series, was incredibly strong in spite of all that had happened to her, yet her vulnerability made her extremely relateable.

What kept me reading. (Or didn’t.)
It was wonderful to get glimpses of the Wulfrith’s and their families as the story progressed and I will confess, I cried when it appeared we may have lost one of them. Big, fat, ugly tears. Life in the middle ages was very hard, and while I trust this author as one who doesn’t often kill off major characters, it would have been very believable.

I will note that the emphasis on faith and the church was significantly less in this book than it was in the others, and I kind of missed it. It was there, but their faith did not play a huge role in either of their character arcs.

I will also shamelessly admit I have listened to the final chapter at LEAST four times. The ending is so wonderfully written it loses none of the impact even though I know word for word what will happen.

After Taste
Baron Marshal has a great ring to it.

Overall Impression

While I felt like the shipwreck scene dragged on for me, over all this book ranks second on my list of the 6 so far in the series. Garr and Annyn from “The Unveiling” will always be my favorite because…Garr.
I would recommend this book to all ages, and if you love historical romance, you do not want to miss this series. And I absolutely can NOT recommend the audio version enough. I could honestly listen to the narrator read a phone book.

About the Author

Tamara Leigh

Tamara Leigh holds a Master’s Degree in Speech and Language Pathology. In 1993, she signed a 4-book contract with Bantam Books. Her first medieval romance, Warrior Bride, was released in 1994 and nominated for a RITA award. Continuing to write for the general market, she was published with HarperCollins and Dorchester and earned awards and spots on national bestseller lists.

In 2006, Tamara’s first inspirational contemporary romance, Stealing Adda, was released. In 2008, Perfecting Kate was optioned for a movie and Splitting Harriet won an ACFW Book of the Year award. The following year, Faking Grace was nominated for a RITA award. In 2011, Tamara wrapped up her Southern Discomfort series with the release of Restless in Carolina.

When not in the middle of being a wife and mother, Tamara dips her writer’s pen in ink and nose in a good book. In 2012, she returned to the historical romance genre with Dreamspell: A Medieval Time Travel Romance, followed by the Age of Faith series, which now includes the seventh book, The Awakening. Tamara’s #1 Bestsellers—Lady at Arms, Lady Of Eve, Lady Of Conquest, and Lady Betrayed—are among her general market romances to be rewritten as clean reads. Baron Of Blackwood, the third book in the #1 bestselling series, The Feud, is now available.

Tamara lives near Nashville with her husband, a German Shepherd who has never met a squeaky toy she can’t destroy, and a feisty Morkie who keeps her company during long writing stints. And then there’s Boog, her grandpuppy…

Connect with Tamara at her website http://www.tamaraleigh.com, her blog The Kitchen Novelist, her email tamaraleightenn@gmail.com, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

For new releases and special promotions, subscribe to Tamara Leigh’s mailing list: http://www.tamaraleigh.com

 

The Masterpiece, By Francine Rivers

The Masterpiece COVER

 

Title: The Masterpiece

Author: Rivers, Francine

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: February 6, 2018

Genre: Religious and Inspirational Romance

Format: Hardback, EBook, and Audio

Rating: 4 Lattes*

Heat Level: Light Roast*

Buy Links: AMAZON, BARNES AND NOBLE, BOOKSAMILLION, or LIFEWAY CHRISTIAN STORES

Blurb:

New York Times bestselling author Francine Rivers returns to her romance roots with this unexpected and redemptive love story, a probing tale that reminds us that mercy can shape even the most broken among us into an imperfect yet stunning masterpiece.

A successful LA artist, Roman Velasco appears to have everything he could possibly want—money, women, fame. Only Grace Moore, his reluctant, newly hired personal assistant, knows how little he truly has. The demons of Roman’s past seem to echo through the halls of his empty mansion and out across his breathtaking Topanga Canyon view. But Grace doesn’t know how her boss secretly wrestles with those demons: by tagging buildings as the Bird, a notorious but unidentified graffiti artist—an alter ego that could destroy his career and land him in prison.

Like Roman, Grace is wrestling with ghosts and secrets of her own. After a disastrous marriage threw her life completely off course, she vowed never to let love steal her dreams again. But as she gets to know the enigmatic man behind the reputation, it’s as if the jagged pieces of both of their pasts slowly begin to fit together . . . until something so unexpected happens that it changes the course of their relationship—and both their lives—forever.

Review:

It is no secret that Francine Rivers tops the list of my favorite authors, so when it was announced she was releasing a new romance, I immediately pre-ordered it.

First impression.
The book opens with Roman Velasco in the midst of his dangerous graffiti habit. He climbs a building, completes his art, and runs from the cops. It feels gritty and exciting. A super rich, high profile artist hiding a shady habit.

Then we meet Grace Moore, a single Christian mom in a tough situation who is looking for a job that will enable her and her young son to finally make it on their own.

When the temp agency sends her to Roman’s estate to work as his personal assistant, the stakes of the story are set almost immediately.

What kept me reading (or didn’t).

Honestly, the main thread of the story fell very flat for me. The danger introduced in the first chapter never really materialized, though it was (weaky) hinted at several times.

What kept me reading were the back stories. Mrs. Rivers did an amazing job of painting the layers of trials from Roman and Grace’s early lives and showing how those experiences shaped both of them. The flashbacks were woven into the present time story at moments when I probably would have stopped reading otherwise. I just never really connected emotionally with either of their adult selves.

After taste.

The book has an exciting beginning, a dramatic mid-point turn for both Roman and Grace, and the ending was satisfying, but, for me at least, it lacked the emotional punch I was hoping for.

Overall impression.

The Masterpiece is a great read, and definitely showcases Ms. Rivers’ ability to wind the redemptive story of the gospel into a contemporary romance. It was a satisfying read with a storybook romance. My only wish is that I had closed the book feeling more of a connection to at least one of the characters.

About the Author:

 Rivers, Francine 

New York Times bestselling author Francine Rivers continues to win both industry acclaim and reader loyalty around the globe. Her numerous bestsellers include Redeeming Love, A Voice in the Wind, and Bridge to Haven, and her work has been translated into more than thirty different languages. She is a member of Romance Writers of America’s coveted Hall of Fame as well as a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). Visit Francine online at www.francinerivers.com and connect with her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/FrancineRivers) and Twitter (@FrancineRivers)

*For definitions of my ratings and heat levels, please read my ABOUT THIS BLOG page.