Book Review: Borrowed Magic by @shari_lambert

Borrowed Magic

Author: Shari Lambert
Publisher: Shari Lambert
Published: January 30th, 2016
Pages: 287
Audience: YA
Genre: Fantasy, Sword & Sorcery

Source: I received a copy of this book from Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.


Blurb:

After a three-year siege, Lord Kern, the dark mage, is dead. Magic has left Tredare, and life is almost back to normal. 

For everyone except Maren, that is.

Before the siege, an attack by Lord Kern left Maren near death and with a sliver of magic buried deep inside her. Now, for reasons Maren doesn’t understand, that magic has been triggered, giving her the ability to “see” the truth: that her world is nothing more than a magical façade; and that the kingdom’s hero may not be a hero at all.

But this gift of sight comes at a high cost. Maren is in constant pain, and fears her own death is imminent. Plus, no one believes her suspicions that another Dark Mage has risen, and that Tredare may be in just as much danger as it was when Kern was alive. 

With the country’s future in the hands of a man who’s vowed revenge on its king, Maren must convince someone else of the truth. Unfortunately, the only person powerful enough to help is also the one man she can’t trust; the man she almost married; the man who abandoned her and disappeared for three years: Kern’s son.

As Tredare crumbles around them, Maren must persuade him to help - before the king is murdered by the very hero he reveres; and before the same magic that gives Maren the gift of sight also takes her life.


My Review:

Not many books keep me on the edge of my seat, but Borrowed Magic’s nerve-wracking plot and unrelenting heroine was the perfect recipe for just that.

The story starts after a three-year war against the dark mage Kern. Maren, our heroine, is the King and Queen’s closest friend and is nervously awaiting the return of her childhood friend, Phillip, whom she hasn’t seen since he left Maren confused and broken-hearted. When Phillip returns with fellow war hero and mystery-man Teige, who makes Maren uncomfortable – in more than one way. She discovers that not everything is what it seems and becomes a pawn in a deadly game.

“Respect, over time, could transform into love and sincere devotion. It would make people follow a leader without questions, trusting in him not to lead them astray.” – Borrowed Magic, Shari Lambert

I’ll tell the truth. The story started off kind of weird. You were thrown into a conversation between the Queen and Maren without context and I don’t think anything said was explained later. However, once Phillip and Teige arrived, the plot moved along at a steady, building pace that put my emotions through the ringer.

Lamberts prose was on point – it was polished and vivid.

“That’s what poetry is,” she said, running her hand over the well-worn cover. “Truth in beautiful words.” – Borrowed Magic, Shari Lambert

One of my biggest pet-peeves in literature is a weak heroine. I want the girls I read about to be flawed, but strong of character and Lambert delivered when she wrote Maren. Maren is a different type of heroine – she a lady, grew up in a castle, and lives in a society where woman do not have leadership roles. She’s not a warrior/ bad-ass. HOWEVER, that doesn’t negate her strength. Maren is intelligent – the King’s friend and trusted adviser (although in a non-official capacity). She is sweet, kind, and gracious to all those around her even Lady Kira – the castle mean girl – and even those she find’s unsavory.

Maren’s struggles throughout the story are hard and although she succumbs to A LOT, she doesn’t go down without a fight. Sometimes her self-preservation is non-existent and I wanted to scream at her, but even though I felt that there were times she could have saved herself pain, I don’t feel her character would allow even an ounce of selfishness when her loved ones are involved. I simply adored how Maren - who isn’t your typical heroine -was integral to saving the kingdom.

Phillip is a brooding Lord with an interesting history that you discover well into the story. He was the one who found the soldiers and trained them in order to finish the war against Kern – although Phillip was the one to put a sword in his heart. Phillip and Maren have a long history – they loved each other since childhood. Yet, when Phillip discovers a secret that he thinks Maren kept from him, they part after a series of hurtful words were spoken.

“She’d always wondered about girls who cried over a broken heart. Now she understood. It was something intangible that she couldn’t explain. But it brought with it a physical pain that shot through her chest and robbed her of breath.” – Borrowed Magic, Shari Lambert

I won’t lie and say that didn’t bother me because it soooooo did and Maren’s continuous declarations of wanting Phillip to trust her were echoes of what I was thinking. Yet, I completely understood both sides and their reactions. They were young and when they meet again after 3 years and a devastating war, they were both changed. Their love story is beautifully woven throughout a gristly tale. Both characters growth is immense and they have plenty of hardship, but love is never an easy road.

“She recognized the feel of his arms and the sound of his voice, but is was more than that. She recognized him.” – Borrowed Magic, Shari Lambert

Lambert is a master at building your anticipation and tearing your heart out to where you felt there was no happy ending in sight. Although I adored this book, the ending felt rushed. There were a few emotional points that I felt were skipped over that didn’t rise to the standard Lambert started the book with.

If you are a fan of medieval fantasy with mages, a monarchy that you would be happy to live under, a heroine that is selfless and brave, and a deep plot that demands your attention then look no further than Borrowed Magic. 


Book Review: On the Verge by @GarenGlazier

Just look at this GORGEOUS cover!

Just look at this GORGEOUS cover!

On the Verge

Author: Garen Glazier
Publisher: Only Child Press
Published: September 16th, 2015
Pages: 224
Audience: NA/ Adult
Genre: Fantasy, Mythology

Source: I received a copy of this book from Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.


Blurb:

Freya is just a student at the University of Washington worried about grades and making her next tuition payment until a gorgeous succubus interrupts her post-exam latte with a proposition: come work for her boss, Seattle’s reclusive heiress and antiquities collector Imogen Beldame. Eagerly agreeing despite a nagging feeling in the pit of her stomach, Freya finds herself swept up in a deadly quest at the behest of her psychopathic new employer. Beldame has given her until Halloween to collect three magical pigments that hold the key to crafting mesmerizing portraits that can access the Verge, an undiscovered borderland on the edge of human reality, and the powerful beings that call it home. 

Freya’s reluctant journey takes her to a goblin stronghold in the Cascades for the color blue, to the Seattle Underground to request the color red from Baba Yaga, and to the Fremont home of a beautifully gruesome Cambodian ahp, or spirit of the night, for the color yellow. Working together with Rusty, an enigmatically disfigured man intimately connected with the Verge, and a motley crew of mercurial demons and loyal friends, Freya must come up with a plan to stop Beldame and preserve the fragile balance between fantasy and reality that is at its most vulnerable on Halloween.


My Review:

On the Verge is a supernatural adventure filled with macabre thrills and a dark, sensual energy that will leave you turning the page well into the night. How do I know this? Because I lived it.

Prepare yourself for a lot of quotes because if there was any book deserving of a million quotes in its review it’s On the Verge.

“The best art is a spiritual experience that unites us once again with our true selves, and often what we see on the canvas is raw, unsettling, and even disturbing, because it’s true. Art reveals to us the divine and the damned in all of us.” – On The Verge, Garen Glazier

Freya is a senior in art history who drifts between school and sleep without much regard to anything separate of Seattle’s art scene. Enter, Ophidia, a representative for a popular, albeit eccentric art dealer with an offer of a part-time job that although against her instincts, Freya accepts. This job leads Freya to the Verge:

"The Verge is a borderland that surrounds your world. It's an undiscovered frontier on the edge of human reality wherein exist all the creatures and beings of myth and legend. We[...]are the dreams and nightmares, gods and devils of the human imagination." – On The Verge, Garen Glazier

The Verge is an alternative dimension where beings of human imagination and passion are brought to life before they emerge into our world. Every creature known to mankind. Glazier is a genius to create this world with the Verge because there is no limit to what can happen or what creatures from mankind’s legends she could bring to life. Within the world of the Verge, beings can be either bound to physical objects in our realm and they can be sent back to the darkness of the Verge if something vital is taken, making them lose their identity.

“Freya couldn’t help but note the strangeness of the scene, a grown woman in mourning clothes cradling an enchanted little dolly in the middle of a meat-eating plant menagerie.” – On The Verge, Garen Glazier

Glazier's prose is exquisite, sinuous, and poetic. Making the complex, prodigious plot sing with perfection. Within the unique and vast universe Glazier created, she keeps within her own boundaries and laws – both of which are realistic and interesting. There is plenty of external and internal conflict for the protagonist, as well as, a complex centralized conflict – due to demonic alliances and lack thereof - that affects mankind. From start to finish, this plot – it sucks you in to where putting the book down is akin to climbing Mt. Everest. Not many could pull it off.

“For a bookish girl with artistic sensibilities and a naiveté born from spending too much time alone with her daydreams, she actually felt a bit excited about what might be in store for her.” – On The Verge, Garen Glazier

Freya is an amazing heroine for this fantastical world that Glazier created not only because she has a type of dark sophistication mixed with some skepticism, but because she isn’t like most fantasy heroines that fall into the lost hero or the warrior hero. She’s just some art hipster who finds herself in a life threatening situation that leads to a wild journey through Seattle and the Verge. Freya is a very real, grounded character in a world of fantastic beings. She laments her situations:

“Oh, man, I cannot believe I am here to see a witch about bugs,” Freya said. “How is this my life now?” – On The Verge, Garen Glazier

Her emotions are complex and diverse:

“She woke from these disconcerting visions feeling the excitement of a lover tempted and the mortification of a transgressor caught in the act.” – On The Verge, Garen Glazier

All these things grounding her character and making her relatable.

“The man was tall and imposing with a lugubriousness that pervaded the atmosphere around him. Freya always envisioned him as a kind of Teutonic angel, full of latent wrath and self-righteous superiority.” – On The Verge, Garen Glazier

Other characters, both from the Verge and from our world, fill this book with so much depth. Glazier plays with the notion that nobody – human or creature – is truly evil or good. Both have propensity for either. I don’t want to go into much detail about the characters because I want to leave them as a surprise for you, but I will say that those who fall on the side of evil are wondrously creepy and take a sick pleasure from the results of their actions.

Then there is Rusty, he is not your typical love interest. He’s a meaty, mountain man with a disfigured face – not exactly the muscular man-models seen in almost any novel with a romantic subplot. At the beginning, I was actually expecting for Freya and the sexy-but-moody professor to get together because that is was usually happens. I was pleasantly surprised for Freya and Rusty.

“She had found that the truth was sometimes hard but always real…” – On The Verge, Garen Glazier

My only and I mean ONLY complaint - because this novel is in itself a work of art - is Glazer’s tendencies to overuse her descriptions. I understand that the characters are all intellectuals, the scene is set in the art community of Seattle, and the main character is a deep-thinking hipster. But there’s no need for an excess of words such as “lugubriousness” and “crepuscular” to be thrown into the narrative. It makes the passages seem longer – probably because I had to use the dictionary function on my Kindle often.

Garen Glazer is a mistress of written word and I am so thrilled to have had the pleasure of reading her work. Fans of fantasy and adventure will love this tale of an art student’s incredible journey through an extraordinary world. It’s a story that has been told a million times, but Glaziers refreshingly modern retelling will capture and engage readers from start to finish. Although the book ends solidly, with all major plot lines tied up nicely, due to the complex world and the nature of the Verge itself there is room for a sequel. One I hope to see.

Book Review: Gyre by Jessica Gunn


Title: Gyre

Series: Book One of the Atlas Link Series

Author: Jessica Gunn

Published Date: February 1st, 2016

Audience: New Adult

Genre: Science Fiction, Action Adventure


Blurb from Good Reads:

Chelsea didn’t try to teleport. All she wanted was to play the Battle of the Bands show. But after accidentally teleporting onto classified Navy vessel SeaSatellite5, all she’s rocking is the boat. 

Once it’s sorted out that Chelsea’s not a threat, SeaSat5’s top scientist offers Chelsea a position on the crew as an archaeology intern. Dr. Saint studies people with powers, believing them to be descendants of Atlantean refugees, except Chelsea’s powers are beyond anything on previous record. 

While great for everyone else onboard, the miracle of Chelsea is Trevor’s worst nightmare. The same girl who’d given him a brief lifeline to sanity three months ago literally fell from the sky, under a mile of ocean, and onto the very station where he’s employed. Making matters worse, Trevor’s family are Lemurians, Atlantis’s enemy, and Chelsea’s presence is unpredicted—a wrench in an already unstable situation. But Trevor wants no part of his family’s war. The only thing he wants is Chelsea, Atlantean or not. 

Days into Chelsea’s sudden appearance, SeaSatellite5 uncovers Atlantean ruins and a massive artifact cache, placing its entire, hundred-man crew in the crosshairs of an ancient war. There are those who want the Atlantean relics inside the ruins destroyed, and only Trevor knows the treasures for what they really are: Link Pieces, tools used by the ancient civilizations for their time-travel war. 

With lies and shifting alliances abound, Chelsea and Trevor will have to think fast in order to save the station. If they don’t, the Lemurians will seize the artifacts and Atlantis will be destroyed forever


My Review:

Gyre is a science/ archaeological fiction with a New Adult twist. The blurb really drew me in. A love story – Teleporting –  Atlantis –Ancient Wars – Mystery…

First of all, one of the main characters - Chelsea. Oh Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea… I’ll admit that I really didn’t like her at the beginning and it was all because of her inner musings about her ex-boyfriend.

“But who was really at fault? Lexi for convincing my boyfriend to cheat on me, or me letting it happen?” – Gyre, Jessica Gunn

Really? REALLY? We’re going to let this female lead, who is supposed to be a badass sit there and let the misogynic oppression of “it’s always the girls fault” when it comes to sexual deviance. Give me a break. She had one more inner breakdown of her awesomeness regarding his bully-of-a-ex-best-friend, but thankfully it was written more as a turnaround moment versus an “I’m going to blame myself” mentality.

Once things started to happen, I could see in Chelsea what I always want to see in a female lead – strength through perseverance. My absolutely favorite moment, which made her such a real and earnest character to me, was when she was faced with a choice of her life or others and for once, the hero struggled. She honest to God, couldn’t decide if she wanted to throw her life away. It was blissfully real and amazing.

Trevor, who shares narration with Chelsea in alternating chapter point of views, is really not my type of hero/love interest and it has NOTHING to do with his geek status. I fly my geek flag high and even married a computer nerd, so… yeah. Honestly, he was just a wishy-washy big ball of corn puffs.

“Because Valerie didn’t know the very enemy we’d been warned about just waltzed aboard the SeSatellite5… and into my heart.” – Gyre, Jessica Gunn.

Awwww… barf. And when he’s not a corny bleeding heart, he really isn’t a good scientist either and it seems like he’s just oblivious to everything and everyone around him – even his love interest. That doesn’t make him a swoon-worthy guy in my opinion.

The two things that saved this book for me was the plot and Gunn’s writing.

First of all, I haven’t read such a solid story in a long time. According to Gunn’s acknowledgement page, she put three years into this story and it shows. I really enjoyed her take on the Atlantian/ time travel with the addition of super powers. It was really flawless story telling.

And her writing (although quite a bit of Trevor’s was just clichéd) is beautiful. Her descriptions are fluid and vivid enough I felt like I was feeling what the characters were feeling.

“Her cheeks grew brighter. I loved that blush, craved it as a kind of twisted reminder of the night we met. Her face, a lighthouse guiding me to sanity, flushed from cold and adrenaline. It was the night my life changed course.” – Gyre, Jessica Gunn.

Gunn’s writing verges on the poetic.

“The butterflies in my stomach evolved into fireflies, lit with a low buzz. Swarming. Igniting.” – Gyre, Jessica Gunn.

Overall, Gyre is a book I would recommend with a disclaimer. Personally, I didn’t feel like I couldn’t get enough or so wrapped up that I dreaded putting my Kindle down which is why it gets three stars instead of four. Maybe if I were in a different mood when I read Gyre, I would love it more than I did.


Net Galley provided a copy of The Spaceship Next Door in exchange for an honest review.