Saturday, 27 July 2013

Review: Into the Mists by Serene Conneeley

Into the Mists
5 /5 STARS
Enter the swirling mists of an enchanted land, and open your heart to the mystery... Carlie has the perfect life. A wonderful family and a best friend she adores. A house by the beach so she can go surfing after school. A clever, rational mind and big dreams of becoming a lawyer. A future she's excited about and can't wait to begin. But in a split second her perfect life shatters, and she is sent to the other side of the world to live with a stranger. In this mystical, mist-drenched new land, she is faced with a mystery that will make her question everything she's ever known about her parents, her life and her very self. A dark secret that made her mother run away from home as a teenager. An old family friend who is not what he seems. A woman in blue who she's not convinced is real. A shadowy black cat that she'd swear is reading her mind. A deserted old cottage she can't always find. And a circle of wild-haired witches who want her to join their ranks. Will she have the courage to journey into the mists, and into her own heart, to discover the truth? And can she somehow weave together a life that she'll want to live - or will she give up and allow despair to sweep her away from the world forever?
This is a beautifully-written tale of personal growth and redemption. I immediately linked with the main character Carlie. She is strong and believable, and her character arc is a joy to behold. She begins the story depressed and full of self-loathing: a teenager uprooted from her home and bitter about everything in life. But by rediscovering the truth about her own past and that of a family she never knew she had, she begins an inspiring journey to be free of her tragedies.
The backdrop of rural England is like walking into an old painting, full of mystery and beauty. I really liked how Carlie often draws parallels between her new home in England and her old life in Australia, comparing and contrasting them to drive the story along. And the mystical parts add a great depth to the book, which kept me guessing and thinking back on their significance even after I’d finished it. The depiction of paganism is wonderfully done: enchanting and truthful, showing that there is no ‘fantasy-style magic’ here – only the magic Carlie finds inside herself to better her life.
Into the Mists is a beautiful story. The plot, setting, characters, twists and turns all work so well and play off each other brilliantly. It demonstrates the power of human resilience through hard times; opening up to love and leaving destructive pain behind. There are some real kernels of wisdom in these pages, which can speak to all ages, but it’s all threaded in gently and doesn’t destroy the story. For as specific as Carlie’s tale is, there are a lot of details which anyone can relate to: shifting friendships, loss of loved ones, embracing change.
This is one of those stories which I didn’t want to end, but I couldn’t help but devour it in just a few sittings. It’s definitely one I would read again, and would highly recommend checking out!

Saturday, 13 July 2013

A visit to Bronte Country...

Jane Eyre is one of my all-time favourite books, and Wuthering Heights ranks quite high as well - it was one of the first classics that I read in my early teens. Ever since then, I've wanted to visit the village of Howarth, where the family lived, in what's now known as Bronte Country. A few days ago, I went there.

The journey was incredible, taking us miles into the heart of the wild Yorkshire moors. It was so easy to imagine Jane Eyre wandering, or Cathy and Heathcliff sitting together. We even drove past a pub called Wuthering Heights!

When we finally made it to Howarth, the first stop was the Parsonage Museum. We weren't allowed to take any photographs inside, but it was incredible to explore the Bronte's old home; see their belongings, clothes and shoes (which were TINY!) up close; and learn more about their lives. My favourite room in the entire Parsonage was the dining room, where Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre were written. Anne Bronte's portable writing desk was on the table, along with all the original contents, and I was craning my neck to see every single detail!

After working through the Museum, we headed to the Church of St Michael and All Angels, where the family patriarch Patrick Bronte served as Revered to the village. It was beautiful inside, with a special Bronte chapel, and memorial stones above the Bronte family vault.

Our next stop was Howarth itself, turning onto the main street, which was lined with shops and tea rooms named after the Brontes, their characters and books. All the roads are the original cobbled ones from the 19th century, and it was amazing to walk the same streets as some of my favourite authors. After a quick lunch at Villette Coffee Shop, we explored the little shops, and tried not to trip on the road! It is SO STEEP. None of the photos I took really showed the angle very well, but how horses used to be able to climb up the street, especially pulling carriages, is incredible.

Finally, we went into the Parsons Field, which backs out onto the moors which inspired so much of the writing. It's such a desolate and beautiful place - I can easily see how they were inspired by the landscape. It was a brilliant end to a brilliant day. Needless to say, my inner bookworm was VERY HAPPY!


Thursday, 11 July 2013

Review: Empath (The Empath Trilogy #1) by HK Savage

Empath (The Empath Trilogy, #1)
5 / 5 STARS
Claire is an empath living a life of self-imposed exile. Off to college, all she wants is to disappear. But a chance encounter with Stephen, a boy with his own secrets, leads Claire to understand that her curse is a gift. And when Claire meets James, a vampire, their gifts connect and form a bond the vampire world has not seen for three hundred years. No one can guess where it will take them or how it will change them both.
What more can I say other than this is a great book? It had me hooked from the first page and I could barely put it down. The characters are endearing and real, and I really like Stephen in particular: one of the werecats that make up the Andrews clan. Claire is a really likeable character – her empathetic powers really pull the reader into her struggles to lead a life as close to normality as possible. I really sympathised with her attempts to blend in, just for some quietness in a world that is always full of emotional noise. But the arc that she goes through as she’s introduced to others who understand her, is wonderful to behold. She grows from being a rather introverted and shy character to a stronger more confident and person.
There are some really nasty villains in here too which I loved to hate, and the locations are brilliant, adding well to the depth of the story. The chapters set in Scotland were some of my favourites, especially when it came to the vampire court and the mysterious grandeur that surrounds it. As well as that, the titbit mentions of the huge vampire war really help to set the scene for the rest of the series. I really can’t wait to read the next two books! Empath is easily one of my favourite reads so far this year.

Review: The Book of Deacon (The Book of Deacon Trilogy #1) by Joseph R. Lallo

The Book of Deacon (The Book of Deacon, #1)
4 / 5 STARS
The tale of Myranda Celeste, a young woman orphaned by a century long war, and her chance discovery of a fallen soldier's priceless cargo. The find will change her life, sending her on an adventure of soldiers and rebels, wizards and warriors, and beasts both noble and monstrous. Each step will bring her closer to the truth of her potential, of the war, and of the fate of her world.
I really enjoyed this book on the whole. The world and its locations are beautiful and have a good amount of depth that makes them believable. I was immediately drawn to the main character Myranda, and respected not just her ‘sympathising’ views in a land torn by war, but also her courage to remain so independent and unique among so much prejudice and oppression. She is resourceful and strong-willed, and just a very likeable character on the whole. In the first third of the book I was a little disappointed by the amount of times she seemed to fall unconscious, but most of that was explained well later on so I won’t let that cloud this review.
There were quite a few other characters in this book’s cast which I liked as well, Myn the dragon in particular. She had me laughing so many times, and the scene where she is learning to fly had me smiling the whole way through. The titular Deacon is another great character; his enthusiasm and awkwardness offered brilliant dashes of comic relief where it was needed, but could still hold the story and add to it. But I loved the character Leo too. His persona and character arc is so twisting and turning, all the scenes including him sucked me into every word; and even in the parts where he’s not there, I kept wondering about him in the back of my mind.
The main thing that bugged me about this book was the fact that there were no chapters. On the one hand, it was a sort-of refreshing change from most books. But I felt sometimes it was easy to get lost because there were very few ‘natural breaks’ between the story, except for the occasional hash-tag, and even they weren’t spaced evenly. I did enjoy the scenes with General Trigorah and the other villains, but I felt some of them were a bit bland and didn’t really show the capacity of her threat to Myranda. There were no sizeable battles either; the conflicts that do occur are few and far between, and the lack of them sometimes make the story seem a bit slow as we follow Myranda through her trials and tribulations. The amount of twists and great descriptions make up for that though, and I’m also bearing in mind that this is the first of a trilogy, so hopefully my questions will be answered in the next books.
I’ve definitely become a fan of Joseph Lallo, and I’ll definitely be reading the rest of the series as soon as I can!

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Lady Amber's Reviews - July 2013 Author Blog Hop

Time for some hopping of the blogging variety! Thanks so much to Lady Amber's Reviews for hosting the event for me and so many other authors to get on board!

Below is a list of every single author who's participating in the hop. Go on, click a few names or a hundred! Check them out! There are some great giveaways on offer too, lasting until Wednesday 10th July! Don't miss out, and have fun!

Join the party on Facebook HERE - and on Goodreads HERE!

CLICK HERE to go to Lady Amber's blog, and enter her HUGE giveaway: full of tons of goodies from loads of great authors. There are paperbacks, ebooks, swag packs - and also three signed Blindsighted Wanderer bookmarks up for grabs from me!