Saturday, January 13, 2018

Review - Pottermore presents 3-1

Original Titles: Pottermore presents
Series: -
Author: J. K. Rowling 
Published: September 6th, 2016

Publisher: Pottermore from J. K. Rowling

I should probably warn you that this will contain spoilers, but they aren’t the usual ones, because the story itself is the one told in the Harry Potter series. This collection tells us about characters we already know from it, expanding their personal stories, both before and after what we could already read. If you have read the series, then go ahead, although it’s not any fun if I tell you what there is in this small collection from Pottermore. You should go and see for yourself, because the Queen of Magic has done it again. Here, I’ll discuss a lot from what I’ve read in the three little books, so if you want the surprise, you shouldn’t keep reading. Stop right here.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Now let’s dive in.

I don’t have enough words to express my happiness and excitement when I discovered these three little books, nor to express how much I loved them. This is pure perfection. More of my hero J. K. Rowling doing what she does best, filling the few pages that form this articles with her clever lines, her unique sense of humor, a wide amount of details, and of course, the magic that only she can create. What could possibly go wrong? 

I already tried to put my love for Harry Potter 
into words, and the huge role it has in my life, in my article A Witch’s Life for Me, that I wrote in tears, and it wasn’t enough, because I don’t think I’ll ever be able to explain how much I own to this story. Once again, upon meeting all these beloved characters (yes, even the villains), it’s like finding my friends, people I’ve shared a big part of my life with, and that will always have an especial place in my heart. I’ll go book by book from now, so I can tell you all about my favorite parts, that had me laughing out loud, and mostly wanting to hug each and every one of these characters, and wander the places that took me in when I most needed a refuge. There’s true magic in this world, a uniqueness that it is just captivating, and keeps growing and growing, and coming to life in new ways with each word our so beloved Joan puts down. No one builds characters as she does, so realistic and relatable in a world so different from our own. And no one made me love a fictional world as much as she did, because the feelings it created (and still creates) are the furthest thing from fiction.

Let’s go.

In Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies, we get to know about Minerva McGonagall, long before we knew her as the Transfiguration teacher and head of the Gryffindor house, and also after the Second Wizarding War. The Sorting Hat had the same doubt with both her and Hermione: Ravenclaw or Gryffindor?Curious, very curious, don’t you think? But her story starts long before that. Here, we get to know about her parents, her family, her first love, her husband, her passion for Quidditch and her strong wish to see Slytherin smashed. It’s a side of her we never get to see in the books, and she’s as fascinating as every single character Joan has ever created within the Wizarding World. Also, we get to know more about our dearest Remus Lupin, and it had me almost in tears. I miss him so much, and I was delighted to have the chance to deepen into his story, his childhood and the sad start of his lycanthropy. But, more than anything, we can know the side of the story that isn’t in the books, around his relationship with Tonks and how much he loved her, even when in the series they don’t get much page time. Reading that he “was married to the woman of his dreams” just made my heart swell. They are definitely two of the people I love the most in this world, and they will forever live in my heart. 

On the other hand, we get to know a lot more about werewolves, and also about the whole process to become an Animagi, which is incredibly interesting and difficult, and I admire James, Sirius, and Peter 
even more (yes, Peter too), for the lengths they went to be there for their friend, turning his nightmare into the best moments of his life. They risked everything to make someone else’s life a little better. Those are true friends. And of course, I once again admire what a genius Rowling is, for having detailed the process step by step. Bravo!

Also, Sybill Trelawney’s backstory! We all knew she was a fraud as a seer, I always say that there’s no need to be a seer to know Neville would break a teacup, like she told him in Gryffindor’s first Divination class. But still, she, as all the other characters, has more depth and complexity than it is let on in the novels, and I truly cracked up as I read about her. I couldn’t stop laughing! But, as I could have helped it! After all, she didn’t get married because “she refused to adopt the surname ‘Higglebottom’”, and one of her hobbies is “practising making doom-laden prophecies in front of the mirror”. I just couldn’t, I couldn’t. J. K. Rowling is a genius. Oh, and Sybill was a Ravenclaw in school, I never thought about that. 

And finally, there’s a small section dedicated to Silvanus Kettleburn, professor of Care of Magical Creatures, before Hagrid, a true passionate about the subject, who also appears briefly in Dumbledore’s notes, in Tales of Beedle the Bard. You should read them if you haven’t yet!

My favorite line from this book? “After all, you don’t have to be a sword-wielding Gryffindor to be a hero; sometimes, all it takes is having your heart in the right place”.

*wiping a tear away*

In Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists once again I was surprised of how many layers and details lay hidden in this world, and it’s amazing to get to know them. I will never get tired of the Wizarding War, and here we get a deep look into its politics, the successive Ministers of Magic, and both the creation of Azkaban and its fate after the Second Wizarding World, when Dementors stopped being the guards (thanks to the great Kingsley Shacklebot) and were replaced by Aurors. It was both funny and surprising to find known names among the list of Ministers, that may or may not be related to other characters we know from the novels, like Diggory, Parkinson, Rowle and Lestrange (*gasp*).

Getting to know Dolores Umbridge was interesting, but I hate her so much, that I’m glad she paid for what she did in the end. She was always ashamed about her muggle part of the family, and hated and denied she was a half-blood, she even lied about her family to convince everyone she was a pure blood (like she does in Deathly Hallows). Oh, my, Rowling’s genius subtleties! I was not surprised to know she used to be a Slytherin, but her wand, being made of a birch tree, among all the other types of wood in the world? I just couldn’t, I absolutely love Rowling! No one does this better. Obviously, I was not surprised at all that her status says “unmarried” (her true love was power), right next to her hobbies including “adding flounces to fabric and frills to stationary objects” and “inventing instruments of torture” in the same sentence. I mean… *laughing so hard I may fall from my chair*

As for Slughorn, he was never a favorite of mine, and it surprised me that such a good-natured man could be a Slytherin. Though not all of them are evil, I think that arrogance was key in sorting him into that House. He always boasted about being in contact with the best of the best, of discovering the talents of those who later became successful Quidditch players, or teachers, or Ministers of Magic. He’s one of the characters I’m less interested in, but even so, the best part of his story was to read his attitude during the Second Wizarding War, trying to look after his students instead of listening to the Carrows, and fighting in the Battle of Hogwarts, redeeming the Slytherin house from the unpopular fame it gained over the centuries. Poor man, he always thought Harry was an eminence in Potions… And it is funny to think that one of his names is Flaccus, because, even when I know Rowling named him after a Roman poet, in Spanish, “flaco” means “thin”, which is exactly what Slughorn isn’t (I don’t think Joan picked it because of that, but still).

The Polyjuice Potion’s creation is absolutely amazing, it is everything so well thought, that I just have to applaud Rowling. She thought about EVERYTHING, gave every component a meaning related to transformation and duality, even when they weren’t mentioned in the novel. Same with Quirrel, whose name, Quirinus, comes from the two-faced Roman god, also known as Janus. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I always wanted to know more about him, as he only appears in the first book, and there’s nothing about his past, so this comes to shed some light into his story. He was a Ravenclaw! I always imagined him to be a Slytherin, don’t know why, though I believe it has to do with his special guest living in the back of his head. *thinking* Yeah, that must be it.

As for Peeves, I believe we all wanted to know more about him, after all the chaos he caused as practically the master of disaster in Hogwarts. I remember laughing to tears as I read Filch and Peeves constantly butting heads, and especially after Fred and George Weasley asked him to make Umbridge’s life a living hell, something that, for the first time, the entire school agreed with, teachers included. It was a great insight into its origins.

As for the third book Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide, it is the school’s turn to reveal some of its infinite secrets. “But if Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore says even he doesn’t know all of Hogwarts’ secrets, well, neither do we.

Hogwarts is home for me. It is the place I went where I needed a rest from the world and meet my friends, where I knew magic existed and it could make me feel like anything was possible. That feeling will never die. This world is alive, and it is like not even Rowling herself knows every secret Hogwarts keeps. As for the stories told in this book, I admit I never thought about why a train from King’s Cross, that is, a muggle transport, was chosen to take kids to school, when there’s tons of magical means to get there. But again, Rowling comes and answers every question, telling us why nor portkeys, nor apparition, nor broomsticks were useful to go to Hogwarts. She has an answer to any question we could come up with!

Oh, the Sorting Hat! I can’t even start to tell you about how many times, when I was a kid, I imagined myself with the hat on my head (and I know ALL OF YOU did it too, Potterheads). I’m a proud Ravenclaw, by the way. It is definitely one of my favorite parts of the school, and I didn’t think it could made mistakes, though it is true that people change through their lives, and perhaps they deviate from the path they were going through at eleven (like Pettigrew’s case, he should have been a Slytherin, because courage wasn’t really his thing). But I do believe that the Hat sees the potential of each student. Look at Neville! He didn’t believe himself to be a Gryffindor, and honestly, we didn’t believe how someone like him could be in that house. But that the person doesn’t know his/her own bravery yet doesn’t mean that they aren’t brave, and that’s what the Hat saw: Neville’s true courage even before he himself discovered it.

And I also have a theory around why Hermione ended up in Gryffindor instead of Ravenclaw. I mean, her brain would have been a good reason for the Hat to place her in, literally, the House of intelligence. But I think that, even for a witch with muggle parents, Hermione can be very skeptical and not very open minded. Compared to Luna Lovegood, and her crazy theories and beliefs, I believe Hermione not only is a Gryffindor because her courage is bigger than her intelligence, but because she’s not willing to learn things that can’t be found in the pages of a book and proved with cold hard proofs. And in my opinion, that is essential to be a Ravenclaw. The real question is why Cho Chang was a Ravenclaw, don't you think?

The Hufflepuff common room FINALLY!!!! I always wanted to know it, even when Harry never went there. Although my favorite is Ravenclaw’s (duh), I was always curious about where the Hufflepuffs spent their spare time, and what better place than a simile badger’s set? Perfect. Just perfect. I always liked Hufflepuffs, they seem to be nice guys, and of course, I love Professor Sprout. 

As for the Marauder’s Map, I always wanted to know more about the generation that created it. Only James, Sirius, Remus and Peter, of all people, could have invented an artifact especially designed to insult Severus Snape *laughing out loud*. Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite book, although I love every single one of them. For some reason the third one stands out to me, and I love it. It’s important to say that the Marauders never meant any real harm when they created it, only mischief and rule breaking, which is something I’m sure James would be proud to see in his son. Long live Moony, Padfoot, Wormtail and Prongs! (well, Wormtail not so much).

Oh and the lake! You know, my favorite of the three tasks in the Triwizard Tournament has always been the second, around rescuing someone from the merpeople. If Hogwarts is a world in itself, the lake is another completely different, but as fantastic and fascinating as the one above the surface. 

As I said, this collection is perfect. This third book also explores the Philosopher’s Stone, the Mirror of Erised, the Chamber of Secrets, the Hogwarts portraits, the Sword of Gryffindor, and the mysterious world of time magic, inside the Department of Mysteries, and around the creation of Time-Turners. I can’t cover every detail here, so I just went for my favorite parts, which is already a lot. As you read you will keep repeating “Rowling is a genius”. Not only because of the Wizarding World, but because she is the one who sat an entire generation to read, and I’m proud to be a part of it. I could never, ever thank her enough for letting me into this world, to roam the halls of Hogwarts in the company of Harry, Ron and Hermione, my best friends (and for a long time, the only ones that I had) who took me with them in countless adventures. Through magic portals, and time, to the depths of the lake and Hogwarts itself, to the Room of Requirements and down the Whomping Willow… And they will keep being my best friends. Always.

I’ll stop here with my favorite line. 

We leave you with these small pieces of advice: tread carefully when using a Time-Turner, stop searching for the Chamber of Secrets –unless you’re a Parselmouth– and don’t linger too long before the Mirror of Erised.

You are warned, Potterheads. Tread carefully.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Review - Breathe In

Original Title: Breathe In
Series: Threats of Sky and Sea, #0.7
Author: Jennifer Ellision
Published: December 29th, 2015

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

What a wonderful novella! As I read this I couldn’t help some mixed feelings about it, because, on one hand, I really loved Lady Corrine, but in the other, knowing what happened to her from Threats of Sky and Sea broke my heart, because she deserved all the happiness in the world. I was surprised because of how relatable I felt she is, because I’ve been there too, in situations similar to hers, like, for example, when she’s so very passionate about things like architecture, she can’t help her fascination and talent, but that is considered “unladylike”, as she moves among nobles, and has a ton of expectations over her, mostly around her marriage prospects. But Ardin –whom I love from the first book of the saga– encourages her and loves exactly for that, for all those things that make her unique. More than once I thought she could actually be Bree’s true mother, because much of her character is visible in her. 

Most of the events in this novella develop at the same time than the ones in Sisters of Wind and Flame, even Lady Katerine shows up at some point, and I just knew things could never go well with her around (and I wasn’t wrong). The story refers to Duke Ardin’s work as the King’s assassin, which isn’t specifically said, because Corrine doesn’t know where her husband goes every winter (but we do), but at least we get to know when he comes back from some mission to Nereidium –that she knows of–, bringing baby Bree with him, and they both flee to save her. I loved how made for each other Ardin and Corrine are, because they have a loving, healthy relationship, they have each other’s back, they are not afraid of doing what’s right, and stay together, even when they find out that Corrine is barren, and won’t be able to bear any children. I loved her also because she’s this tough, unafraid woman, willing to do anything for her loved ones, and I feel bad when I think Bree, who is so like her, grew up without her, and Ardin lost her when he loved her so much.

I’m glad I read this, but now, it’s kind of sad to say goodbye to this world, as I’ve already read everything there is on it. But I hope Jennifer Ellision writes more fantasy, and I will definitely be there to read it!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Review - Defining Justice

Original Title: Defining Justice
Series: Threats of Sky and Sea, #0.6
Author: Jennifer Ellision
Published: May 4th, 2015

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

This is a very short novella, I read it in little more than half an hour, and it was very good. It made me love Prince Caden even more, because, here, we can see how his rebellion against his father quietly started, and how he realized that what was happening in Egria wasn’t quite right. Through this little insight, and his effort to right his wrong, freeing the Shaker he accidentally revealed as such in front of his father, he proves he has what it takes to be king, because he didn’t just bring justice to a matter that had been judged according to an outdated law, but also saw, as the Shaker Walden spoke, the opportunity to improve the lives of his people and create well-being, using Elemental powers to produce food, give new life to the Earth, and hence, sustain the kingdom. I love him for that, because he’s perfectly capable of ensuring Egria’s safety and future through Elementals, seeing them as a blessing, instead of just considering his kingdom an Adept recruitment field. He saw that they needed more than just getting ready for the next war, unlike his father, and that, in my opinion, is a true king, a leader worth the title.

As for Aleta’s brief appearance, she’s still my favorite character, and I love her defiance, how she’s brave enough to stand up to the king, fearless, even when she’s still very young. From the start she assumes her role as future queen, strong and with that attitude of “I’m unbreakable” she mentions in Threats of Sky and Sea. I just didn’t imagine Caden had been somewhat attracted to her at some point of his life, because they practically grew up as brother and sister, and their betrothal was purely political, arranged by his father in order to conquer Nereidium. But I guess that so much pressure and insistence on his marriage to the princess made him believe, if shortly, that eventually they could like each other enough as to make their relationship work. Although both their hearts were destined for other people, they didn’t know it just yet.

So, in short, loved this, and I will definitely be on the lookout for new fantasy novels by Jennifer Ellision! 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Review - Sisters of Wind and Flame

Original Title: Sisters of Wind and Flame
Series: Threats of Sky and Sea, #0.5
Author: Jennifer Ellision
Published: June 28th, 2014

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

I loved this one! Finally, we can have some backstory on Lady Kat and Elena! This story takes place long before the events on Threats of Sky and Sea, but it is better to read it after reading that one, and Riot of Storm and Sea, to get acquainted both sisters, and only then, delve into the past. This novella let us understand how and why Ekaterina turned into Lady Kat, King Langdon’s famous and feared assassin, power hungry, afraid of nothing, but also bearing an ever present hidden pain: the absence of her sister. Also, this gives an idea of the reason behind Elementals being able to wield two elements at the same time (air and fire), based on the fact that they are identical twins, and thus, they both possess both elements, but the one that is strong in one of them, is weak in the other. Or at least, that’s the way I understood it.

One of the things I value the most in fantasy is to show the human side of villains. No one is born evil, and it was good to know the true story behind Katerine’s attitude and character, born from pain. She had to grow up really fast, taking care of both a sick mother and sister, and dealing with the absence of her father, and after discovering her powers, she just wanted to be unique, and big enough not to be trampled on again. This book shows the lengths she goes to do just that, after being dismissed as the only Rider in training, and not wanting to be a healer, which seems to be the only role for them in the army. She wanted more, and had the temper to go for it, which is the start of the person she will later become, but her separation from Elena marked her forever, and learning of her death destroyed a part of her that still tied her to her family and made her feel some love in her life filled with her search for power. It was a sad story, but, as I read the rest of the trilogy, I know it’s not where it ends.

I was glad to meet, if briefly, Duke Ardin, during his noble days. I was fond of him as Bree’s father, but at this stage, he was at the service of King Langdon as a Rider, and Kat’s teacher. But he was already married, so now I want to read the story about how he met his wife.

Overall, it was a very good insight into the sisters’ past and Reveal as Elementals, and I just wish it had been longer, letting us know, for example, the moment in which Kat lost Bree as a baby, and managed to get the other girl that later would be Princess Aleta. But I’m not complaining. This world is amazing, and it deserves a read. Jennifer Ellision is definitely a good author, and I will be happy to read more by her in the future!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Review - Fall of Thrones and Thorns

Original Title: Fall of Thrones and Thorns
Series: Threats of Sky and Sea, #3
Author: Jennifer Ellision
Published: September 27th, 2016

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

I have mixed feelings with this book. It was good, but, as it was the last on the series, it was also my last chance to get all the answers I craved for, and in the end, most of them didn’t come. It was good, don’t get me wrong, but, just like with the previous book, it lacked something. It’s impossible to read this series and not notice that there’s a lot of potential in certain aspects that, in the end, don’t get fully developed. I was left with many unanswered questions here.

The characters, throughout the entire series, are great. Bree is still this girl with a frank attitude and curt responses, whose practicality, and the way her da raised her, don’t let her become the princess she’s supposed to be. I loved her, and I liked that, in this book, she could find her own leadership skills, and recognize the Nereids as her people. Also, I’m glad she and Aleta were able to deepen their friendship and overcome the obstacles, finding forgiveness in despite of everything that happened between them. As for the romance with Caden, it doesn’t get much development here. They clearly like and respect each other, and have feelings for one another, and there’s a suggestion of what they can become in the future, but right then, at the end of the story, duty has to come first. And that’s a good thing, because the author didn’t fall into the platitudes that normally rule fantasy novels. It’s not the typical ending. As much as I liked Caden, if they had ended up happily ever after, I, as a reader, would have had something to complain about, because I would have never understood why, as there wasn’t much between them as to build such a relationship.

Also, I liked that Bree didn’t take the crown as Queen of Nereidium. It wouldn’t have been very believable if she suddenly was fit for that role, but she knew that, even being the rightful heir to the throne, she wasn’t meant for it. It was not her fate, but at least she didn’t abandon her people, leaving them in good hands, and assuming her duty as Kyrene’s descendant, which is an honorable destiny for someone of her lineage. She made the right choice, giving the power to Aleta and placing her as governor; after all, she was raised for it, and with her temper, she had everything that’s needed to be a monarch.

Something I like about Jennifer Ellision’s writing is the way she gave every character a distinct voice, especially in books two and three, as she switches the characters’ POV. As I read, it was very clear when Bree, Caden or Aleta were talking, especially with Aleta, given her elegant choice of words that reflected the way she grew up. I liked how much she grew as a person, after suddenly finding herself stripped from her title, and losing her purpose in life upon knowing she would never be queen, because she decided to take the reins of her life, instead of playing the damsel in distress. She has a temper, and that’s great. She was destined to be a heroine after all, in despite of everything.

Just like in the previous book, this one doesn’t delve into the past. I was really hoping to read more about both Aleta’s past, and Tregle’s, but the story revolves more around their present circumstances, and their Torching. I really, really wanted to know more about Aleta, because, just think about it, her story could have been totally different, if Katerine hadn’t taken her to the palace. I mean, wouldn’t she have questions after finding out that she wasn’t Nereidium’s true princess? If I were her, I would be wondering about my parents, my birthplace, my family... I would look for them, or at least try to figure out what happened to them. Is she not even a little curious about those things? But, sadly there’s nothing about it. Also, there’s not another mention of Elena’s past or her history at the service of the king. Although there’s a novella for that, Sisters of Wind and Flame, that I will read, and I hope, will give some insight into the sisters’ general story.

About the Elemental powers, a good thing is that, in this book, we could know more about the four of them (if only a little), and also, Shakers were more important, which is something I really wanted to read about, given the lengths of their power, with the very Earth at their command. We could learn that Elemental powers are not always what they are meant to be, like in Everett’s case, whose Shaker abilities brought only destruction, dead plants, and earthquakes. And also, we could know about how far an Elemental can go if willing to truly be one with his/her Element, which was a great surprise. Reading about Aleta turning into a fire menace, after her loved ones were threatened, showed how much she’s fire, both literally and metaphorically. No one messes with Aleta. No one. And I loved her for that, she was my favorite character. Just one thing: what happened with Ruin’s Reaping? After having such disastrous effects on the previous books, being out of the Torchers’ control, and the king’s secret, lethal weapon, it didn’t have the importance I thought it would have.

Again, there was nothing about those Elementals capable of handling more than one element at the same time, like Katerine and Elena. But around the final battle, we know that the king has conquered the Elements without being an Elemental himself, and that was something I definitely didn’t see coming. It was a great final showdown, gripping and exciting, and I couldn’t put it down, thinking “finally the Makers showed up to clean some of the mess!”. But the questions, again. How did Langdon do it? How did he master the elements? He only says that his Tutors figured out a method, but there’s no further details. There’s just one chapter between them discovering this, and then defeating the king, with no explanation about how things happened. Not that there’s much time to explain, but still. I think that something that big deserves more than just a few words about it.

The battle with Everett in Abeline was breathtaking and had me at the edge of my seat. That was truly a moment in which I felt I was there with them, in the middle of the fight. It was pure intensity and action, and when one of Everett’s branches practically stabbed the Shaker Olivia, it was so sudden, that I literally gasped. Same as with Tregle and Caden, but especially with Tregle. My mind just rejected the idea of him being gone, and I realized how much I grew to like him. I didn’t want to say goodbye to him, especially when things had started to work out with Aleta, the barriers separating them finally down. I was like “No. No. No! That didn’t happen!”. Complete denial. But all that lead to finally learn more about the true reach of what it means to have Elemental powers in this world. 

As I mentioned before, I was left with many questions around the story. For example, I was glad to be able to know Nereidium, its people and their traditions, faith, architecture, training in Water Wielding… but I would have liked to know if, once Egria’s threat over Nereidium was over and Caden was king, could they, somehow, unblock all those poor Water Throwers that could never get in contact with their Element after what Langdon did to the Nereids? It was possible to undo what they did out of revenge? I really, really wanted to know. Also, what about the Underground? Clift only appeared briefly, and there wasn’t much about this rebel organization. In my opinion, giving some details about it would have added complexity and layers to the story. We know they are rebels, but that’s it. We never get to know who they are, or what they do to undermine the king’s iron rule. They barely participate on the final battle, even when Lilia and Elena gathered many of them in Clavins. They are just kind of there, if you know what I mean.

Also, what about all those romances playing out in the background? I was rooting for Liam and Meddie, they clearly were in love, or at least they liked each other, but the epilogue –that is, our very last chance to know what happened to this people we’ve been following for quite some time–, doesn’t say much. According to Caden, they were in Egria “seeing to the dismantling of Elemental conscription in my stead.”, and that may be enough for some readers, but not for me. I really, really wanted them together. Also, about Elena and Lilia, were they in love? Yes, in my opinion, but also, there’s not another mention of what happened with them, save that “they have the training camp well in hand”. Seriously, that’s it? Not even a hint about if they got together or not?

Finally, a word on both the names and the books’ covers. In this saga, names confuse me from time to time, because, on one hand, we have names like Bree, Caden, Aleta, Everett, and Helen, which are real names, from our own world, but on the other hand, we have names like Tregle, Jospuhr, Medalyn, Izador and Orlova, which are completely made up names. I know each author can do as he/she pleases, but in my opinion, if we are talking about a fantasy world unlike our own, it has to be one of two things: or you make all of them up, or you don’t. But, I repeat, that’s just MY OPINION. And I’m not complaining nor criticizing, just stating a fact about something I noticed. As for the covers, it puzzles me that Bree appears wearing those elegant dresses, because they are not her at all. It may be plausible in the first book’s cover, because she was being trained in the manners of a royal, but after that, there’s not even a moment for her to wear such dresses, between them fleeing Egria, and the war. And Nereidium has a lot of Ancient Greece on it, including the clothes, so that big purple dress on this book’s cover feels out of place. Bree is more of a breeches type of girl, and perhaps that would have to be shown on the covers to truly reflect her. But again –and as many times it’s necessary to mention it–, this is just my opinion.

I will definitely read the three novellas that accompany this saga, and I’m especially eager to read Breathe In, because it offers a short story about Duke Ardin and Lady Corrine, and I’m really curious about it. So, in short, it is a very good fantasy saga, but it had all those things that left me with questions, and that’s not what the final book in a series should do. Overall, I liked Jennifer Ellision’s style, she was a great discovery, and I will gladly read more of her stories in the future!

Monday, December 25, 2017

A Christmas Gift


First of all, I would like to thank each and every one of you, readers and followers, who every day stop by my little corner of the web to read me. When I started this blog, I honestly didn't think it would be as it is today. Let’s keep sharing our passion for books and stories, and discovering new literary gems! A giant THANK YOU for your interest and your support. It means the world to me!

So, today is Christmas, and that means that we have a reason for great joy. 

"Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord." (Luke 2:11).

We remember the day hope was born to all of us, in the form of our Lord Jesus Christ, who came to give us the most precious gift of all. An eternity with Him. I know not all of you out there celebrate Christmas, but I also know about struggle, pain, disappointment, sadness, and every situation out there that makes us want to give up every single day. Sometimes it seems that it is never going to end, isn't it? Well, today, in this day of joy, I want to tell you what God has put in my heart. He's bigger than any situation that you are going through, and wants to help you and be with you. That's why He came to the Earth as a human being. To give His life for you, to SAVE you, and after that, He won't ever abandon you, because you were (and are) worth the ultimate sacrifice. That's His promise.

If you were hoping for a sign this Christmas, let it be this one. Today, God is telling you that you matter. You are worthy of love. If you are in desperate need of hope, and are going through a difficult time, when only a miracle will do, I sincerely encourage you to open your heart to the Lord, be honest about how you feel, and give Him your burdens, so He can work His miracle in your life. 

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

He's looking for you. He’s waiting for you. He has a plan for you, a unique contribution to this world only you can bring, a reason why you were born in this century, in your corner of the world, with your body type, your talents, and around the people you have met, and will meet. He’s seen your pain, it didn’t take Him by surprise, and He wants to help you. He has the perfect outcome for it, and can work a miracle in your life to turn it upside down, in ways you couldn’t even imagine. He sees the bigger picture, and knows you better than anyone. Let go of your anger, your fear, and your worries, because He has already won, and is GREATER than any situation you are going through. And He wants you to walk holding His hand and accepting Him as your guide, your Light through any darkness. 

We always feel that we can’t handle our problems. They feel like a giant stepping on a bug, right? At least, that’s how I feel it every time I’m overwhelmed by obstacles and difficulties. But we need to know and remember, every single day, that He is bigger than those giants. For Him, they are the bugs He can step on, and that’s hope for us. If you feel ignored, frustrated and abandoned, alone in a growing blackness, let me tell you, He hasn’t forgotten about you. He LOVES you. No matter where you are, both physically and spiritually, it is always the right time to say yes to Him, and accept Him as Savior and Father. And no, I’m not talking about a religion, but a friendship. A deep, meaningful relationship that will transform you, fulfill you and nourish you in the best possible way.

Thank you for stopping by to read, and mostly, for your respect. I know that not all of you out there celebrate Christmas, so I appreciate it, it is the most precious gift you can give me, today, and every day. I sincerely hope the Lord can talk to you through this, and help you become your best possible version. We, as Christians, believe the Lord is always a necessity, and I just hope you can experience His love and power, to change your life for the better. Because, no matter how it is now, it can always be better in the Lord. 

Merry Christmas, and may the Lord’s blessing rain over you!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Review - Riot of Storm and Smoke

Original Title: Riot of Storm and Smoke
Series: Threats of Sky and Sea, #2
Author: Jennifer Ellision
Published: August 17th, 2015

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

I liked this book very much. It has action, romance, fantasy worldbuilding, and everything I love about a good story. But, I’m afraid, I felt it lacked something. Let me explain myself.

This book picks up exactly where the previous one left it, right after Kat and Bree’s da’s deaths, and we meet our characters on the run for their lives, from the terrible King Langdon. Bree is still a great character, stranded in the middle between the barmaid and the royal. I love her practicality, her quick wit, and her curt, no-nonsense responses. She’s definitely not perfect, nor a princess, and she’s not to be trifled with. I love her attitude, her spunky manners, and the fact that she’s never a false person, having no qualms about saying what she thinks. I like her as a person, and in this book, I’m glad she could deepen her relationship with her friends and discover her powers as a Water Thrower. But after the first book, I ended up with a lot of questions that, sadly, weren’t answered. The plot centers mainly on the escape from Egria and the king’s clutches, and that’s pretty much all there is. There’s no new hints of Bree’s past, or her da’s, nor about her true parents, or Nereidium… And I really wanted to know more. Also, there’s little to no presence of Elementals in this book, we don’t get to know many new things about them, save Aleta and Tregle’s torching, and that Bree, as a Thrower, is able to breath underwater, because the Elements don’t harm their wielders. Shakers barely appear, and I’m sure they are more powerful than what can be read in the scene with the bandits. And, sadly, neither there’s anything about people like Kat, able to wield two elements at the same time. With that I’m not saying that the book is bad, I speak for myself saying that I would have liked to know all those things.

As I said, with Bree and her friends’ journey, and Caden’s quest to gather a rebel army and defy his father’s tyrannical reign, there’s practically no time to delve into the past, nor into the special characteristics of some places, like Clavins. But neither about the present, apparently, because we get to know characters like Meddie, Clifts and Liam, as a part of the Underground movement to dethrone Langdon, and there’s not even much about it. How many of them are they, what they do, where they are, how they work… It’s a rebellion, after all! I just hope we get to know more about it in the next book.

I liked all the new characters, especially the sisters from Masonstone, Elsbeth, Dorna and Lilia, and mostly Lilia, because she’s a royal, but also a natural warrior, and I felt really bad about what happened to her family, they didn’t deserved that. I also liked that we could know more –if only a little– about Kat, both through her ghost and her twin sister, Elena. And just like in the previous book, I loved Aleta, she’s still that strong, smart, stubborn girl, fit to be a queen, and I want to know more about her, like who her parents are, where she was born, how Kat found her… I like her relationship with Tregle, and I only grew a little tired of her bickering with Meddie, although even they knew when to stop and work together. The way Aleta is and was raised, surely she was going to find something to criticize in someone else’s leadership skills. Only a word on them after they were captured by the bandits and imprisoned: finding them felt a little too… simple? I mean, an overheard conversation revealed they were all together in the same prison, but I think it would have added complexity to their adventure if one of them was already sold as a slave, or something, and the master was a staunch supporter of the king, for example. But I’m not complaining, just stating the fact.

Again, and just like in the previous book, the love story isn’t well developed. I simply can’t see the chemistry between Caden and Bree, I don’t see where that irresistible pull to each other lies, if they barely interact in this book, and all the sudden they can’t live without each other. I, as a reader, just can’t root for a couple I don’t throughout understand. It’s not clear why they like each other, and their attraction doesn’t make much sense, at least for me. I do hope, however, that it gets better in the next book. As for Caden’s part of the story, I felt it lacked a big part that we deserved to know. He manages to escape the battle after the disaster caused by Ruin’s Reaping, but after that, we don’t get to know anything else about him, except the assumption of his death after the letter Liam reads (that I never believed, sorry). And suddenly, a couple of chapters later, he and Lilia appear alive in Clavins, and never say how they made it, or how they escaped after being defeated, and that would have been an interesting story, especially after the vicious attack and the new weapon they faced.

A word on the villain. It’s amazing how, even when King Langdon only has one scene in the entire book, is a constant presence that infuses permanent terror, mostly based on the force of his army. As a reader, I couldn’t help feeling how terrible he is and the lengths he’s ready to reach in the pursuit of his goals. Even when he’s out of the picture, I felt like he was everywhere, and that’s the best way to create a villain, in my opinion: scary, even when he’s not even there. But also as Caden’s father, a man he knew since forever, and now has become this twisted version of himself he needs to overthrow for the sake of his people.

The last part was just awesome, the sea battle was amazing, and it had me at the edge of my seat. Bree could finally let loose her Throwing abilities to save her loved ones and reach Nereidium, and perhaps it is me, that I read too many fantasy stories, but she finally did what it is always needed to wield any kind of power, and that I knew before her: feel it as a part of her, running through her veins, an indivisible part of her essence… Like she is water and water is her. Although as nobody explained that to her, is understandable. As for that cliffhanger in the end, it was mean, and it just makes me need to know more. How Aleta will react, how the people in the island will treat their princess after so many years… It makes me want to read the next book right now. And that’s what I’m going to do, for certain.

So, in short, it was a good book, but it had these moments, like the romance, that I wish, were more developed, and I definitely wanted to know more about the past, to care a little more about the present. It was, however, a really interesting adventure, and I’ll be reading the next installment as soon as I can!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

An apology & a recommendation

Hello, my dear followers and readers!

First of all, I would like to apologize for this so very long absence. The last part of the year is always the toughest, and I was overwhelmed by projects and exams in school, in addition to some health issues I’ve been dealing with, so I practically didn’t have time to read. I do miss it, of course, my to-read pile kept growing before my eyes, but I just couldn’t do it justice for a very long time. But now that I’m free, I’ll be heading on to the next fantasy world as soon as I can. I’m just taking a few days off after the last week of school to catch my breath, have some rest, and disconnect from the hurries and research, and everything that happens when you deliver two or three projects on the same week.

With that said, I would love to introduce you to someone today. As you know (or maybe not), I have a very active presence on Pinterest, and I’m constantly sharing new books and recommendations from all genres, as I would like everyone to be able to find characters, and worlds, and all this stories that speak to them, as it has happened to me so many times, and still does. I do this through my own boards, but mostly, I can get it even further thanks to my friend, the author Josephine Blake.

She let me in her group boards, Clean Romance and What’s EVERYONE reading?, and even when she knows that I never respect the pin limit, because I get a little bit too excited with all the new books I find every day, she still hasn’t kicked me out, which for me, it’s pretty amazing, and practically a hug. 

That is why today I want to introduce you to this wonderful person, through her beautiful work. Josephine Blake is an insanely talented historical fiction and romance writer from Portland, whose first novel, Dianna, appeared on the shelves in 2016, and since then she has written many sweet and clean books that have received an amazing response from the reading community. As a thank you for her generosity, her patience, her writing advice, and overall her great predisposition, I’d love to share with you some of her novels, so you can get to know her, meet her wonderful characters and love stories, and live a unique experience. Don’t forget to visit her as Josephine Blake in Pinterest, and of course, in her blog, A Word From Josephine Blake, where she shares all kind of content, from news about her work, to free samples of her writing, and, of course, you can find her novels, in paperback or Kindle format, available in Amazon, the Book Depository, AbeBooks and Kobo.

Don’t worry, I will list some of the links below, you will be able to access them directly by just clicking on the book title, and voilá! So you know, in the spirit of the next Christmas, a book is always the best present for someone you love (and if you don’t, a deodorant will be just fine – believe me, I know).

With that said, here we go. Great books from a great person!

A pull here. A tug there. Something is calling out to Dianna from a distance. 

While her younger sister begins planning her marriage to the son of a wealthy business man, Dianna discovers a yearning within her soul the likes of which she has never known. Having brushed aside the many suitors presented to her over the course of her adolescence, Dianna refuses to fall quietly into spinsterhood. 

Her cravings for adventure and change overpower her strong sense of logic and she journeys forth to marry a man she knows only from a handful of letters. 

This change is good.This is the life for her. Isn't it?

Charlotte Brittler is content. Unlike her elder sister, Dianna, who headed west in search of a life of adventure, Charlotte thrives in the bustling, overcrowded Manhattan streets. If she could only find a husband, her life would be complete.

When the son of a local oil baron captures Charlotte’s hard-won interest, her most basic instincts come into play, and Charlotte is swept away down a path full of secrets and intrigue, in a twisting game that threatens her very heart. 

Logan Drexel is the son of a professional con man. Nothing more and nothing less. His father has gambled away his grandfather’s company, wasting any funds they bring in on maintaining an appearance of exuberant wealth to the Manhattan society. 
Charlotte Brittler is his only chance. 

Logan knows that if he is to recover his dignity—and his family’s good name—he needs money, and a lot of it. So, he promises himself one more con. One last time, he will seek to deceive someone for monetary gain. If he can marry Charlotte, every debt collector can be safely swept under the rug, and he can escape the clutches of a father that has used him time and time again. 

But Charlotte is not a prize to be won. She’s a furious, flame-driven storm that will stop at nothing to get what she wants, and Logan quickly realizes that the tables have turned. When he set out to steal Charlotte Brittler’s heart, he never banked on losing his own. 

Noelle Brittler’s task is simple. Marry and marry well. 

And yet…. 

Emboldened by the successful marriages of her four elder sisters, Noelle is determined that she will have nothing but perfection in a suitor. She lives her day-to-day life, planning parties, organizing charity events and taking slow, wistful turns around the garden, burdened with dreams of a future that she feels is slipping away from her. 

Kenneth Black is anything but perfect. Destitute from a young age, Kenneth has managed to make a name for himself. His Bakery, La Petite Paradis, is frequented by adverse clientele. He feels that even the wealthiest of lives can be made a little richer with the taste of something sweet. 

When Kenneth rescues a young, attractive woman from a terrifying encounter, he never expects to find himself presented with an invitation to one of the most coveted events of the year— a 50th birthday celebration for the girl’s mother, one Samantha Brittler. 

The Brittlers are notorious amongst the lower class for their wealth and standing. While Thomas Brittler, the owner of Brittler Steel, is a self-made man, just as Kenneth is, Kenneth is under the impression that he would not be welcomed at this event as himself, the lowly town baker. 

Aided by the intoxicating Miss Noelle Brittler, he adopts the character of a well-known architect. Their plan seems to be working well, that is, until certain costly items begin disappearing beneath the noses of the many wealthy guests in attendance. There are cries of theft and everyone is looking for someone to blame… 

As tensions rise and passions come to fruition, the pressure is on to find the thief and clear his name. He can’t have Noelle, but he’d sooner be tossed out on his ear than let her think him a thief.

In 1888 London, Isabel Vanderton is facing down the society gossips with defiance and indifference. As the only child of Marcus Vanderton, she is the rightful heir to the Vanderton fortune, and whomever dares to marry her would inherit the lot, winner take all.

As rumors of her ill-health circulate, Isabel finds herself encountering suitor after suitor, no doubt hoping to win her hand—and her inheritance—before she passes to an early grave. 

An endless wave of greedy suitors is not the only thing Isabel has to contend with. Her legs are failing her, her body is weak, and she is being haunted by a man of such breath-taking beauty that he cannot possibly exist. 

But exist he does. Terrified of slipping into madness, Isabel tries to ignore the pull he has over her mind and her body as she suffers through encounter after encounter with a man no one but she can see.

Death is impatient. 

Since Isabel’s mother died thirteen years ago, he has watched her. He has haunted her for years, and now he has come to claim what is rightfully his. He will have Isabel at any cost.

Determined, Death sets out on a careful game of seduction that threatens Isabel’s very sanity. She will succumb to him, or she will suffer the consequences.

As Isabel bargains desperately for her soul, Jack the Ripper stalks the London streets, endangering everything and everyone Isabel holds dear. 

Clara Cartwright is not beautiful. She is small of stature and childlike in appearance. She is also nearly eighteen years of age. A fact that never fails to amaze the ladies of Firbranch, Montanna, the small town at the base of Mount Blackmore, where her family has lived for as long as Clara can remember. Resigned to the fact that her elder sister, Greta, can catch the eye of any boy she fancies, while Clara herself is often still mistaken as a schoolgirl, she hides from the people of the town. Rarely venturing out for social functions and finding solace in the pages of her many books. Each beautifully bound edition, a gift from her father. 

A tough and intelligent man, Clara’s father, Patrick Cartwright, works as a lapidary, collecting precious gems and selling them to the highest bidder. Although—in Clara’s mind—he is an adventurer. 

He excels at his chosen profession, traveling far and wide across the country, but always home for Christmas. 

Then comes the telegram. From far across the snow-covered Mount Blackmore, Clara’s father has sent word that the mountain pass has been snowed shut. He’s staying with a friend until the pass clears, but he will miss Christmas.  Heartbroken at the news, Clara resolves to do anything she can to help bring her father back home in time for the Holidays. Even if that means enlisting the help of the deplorable local fur-trapper, Charles Donahue.

Charles isn’t interested in guiding persistent little Clara over Mount Blackmore in the dead of winter, but when the stubborn young woman ventures out on her own, he is forced to follow. Reckless, irritating, and sarcastic, Charles can understand why Clara Cartwright has not yet found a husband. She has a spark of defiance and stubbornness that most men would find off-putting. Charles, however, sees it as a challenge. An attractive little challenge indeed.

This is just a sneak peek, I promise Josephine has a lot of ther titles, among novels and novellas, that I didn't feature here for a question of spoilers, and space. I really hope you like it, and  give her a chance. If historical fiction and romance are your thing, then Josephine Blake is your author! I promise you will love her!