Beautiful Demons (The Shadow Demons Saga #1) – Sarra Cannon [BOOK REVIEW]

Book Review

★★★★

I used to read a lot of Young Adult, Fiction and Fantasy books before. My little sister mentioned to me a few weeks ago that she started reading this genre. I decided that it would be a good thing to join her in this adventure, and to read some of the books she’s reading.

I have also asked for recommendations on the bookshelf that I made especially for this, and received so many responses. Thank you to all of you who contributed, and this is the list that we have now – (Tea’s Wishlist).

Beautiful Demons is the first book of the Shadow Demons series!

It is a story about Harper Madison, an orphan, that went from one family to another, causing troubles all her life and on one occasion, unintentionally made fire and burned people to death. With no family willing to take her now, she has to go to Shadowford, a place for troubled orphan girls.

But what if everything happens for a reason? And why is this whole town so mysterious? Why, for the first time, she actually belongs somewhere?

Everyone in this town seems to be hiding something? And that is just the beginning…

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Even though this book is quite short, I was actually amused as to how much it was able to cover. I was pulled in from the first chapter, and this kept me going until the last.

We have all seen the new girl, new town, new school, being bullied type of scenario, and the cheerleaders owning the school and dating the jocks. This is the same, except it isn’t. It is spiced up with mystery and magic, and cheerleaders are just a metaphor of all that lies behind it. I will only reveal this much – the moment you get accepted to become a cheerleader, your life changes. But that is also the moment you realise it’s only the beginning.

I liked Harper’s character, and how she was presented. Sometimes she was too naïve and vulnerable for her own good, sometimes a bit too reckless when she didn’t have enough information and clues. She was though, a nice young girl example of making brave decisions, but also a bad example of making stupid decisions…

The plot twist in the end was amazing, and I could never see that coming.
I think the purpose of this book was to make a nice scene building for the next books in the series, and to raise our curiosity. A lot of questions were raised, and not many were answered, which proves my point.

I really enjoyed the beginning of this series, and will definitely be reading the next books.

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The Song Of Achilles – Madeline Miller [BOOK REVIEW]

Book Review

★★★

The Song Of Achilles became a part of my TBR list right after I finished reading Circe. I loved Circe and it is one of my favorite books of 2018. I also enjoyed The Song of Achilles, but not nearly as much.

For the ones out there who love greek mythology, this is a book that covers Achilles’s life told from Patroclus’s point of view. It is more or less accurate, and covers a lot of details from the early lives of these two princes. This is a story about one great friendship that turns into something more, a lot of challenges, a lot of doubts, and a lot of choices to be made during a time of war.

The story is very fast paced, and I was skipping through the pages as fast as Achilles was killing Trojan warriors. From their childhood, to their growing up, to their adventures and the war, this book will never keep you calm, because every chapter something unexpected happens. Well, sometimes not too much, as I know the story, but even still, I was surprised a lot.

Book Cover

A thing that bothered me a lot throughout the whole book was the inaccuracy at some points, and hiding information.

Now, we all know that Achilles was immortal. And we all know the story that his mother Thetis, a goddess of water dipped his body into the water in the river Styx. However, she was holding him by the heel, so his heel was the only place where he was vulnerable. This will be the reason of his death, when Apollo would direct Paris’s spear into Achilles’ heel.

Now – if this is such a common fact, and everybody who heard about Achilles knows it – why wouldn’t the author include it in the book. It wasn’t mentioned once.. Not once… I found this really upsetting.

Moving forward to the characters, we have Patroclus presented as the weaker one, the coward, the person that is mocked by everyone, not loved even by his parents and unworthy. ( Another point that bothered me is that this is not entirely true – according to Homer, Patroclus was apparently wiser than Achilles)

On the other hand, we have the opposite – a wise, brave, strong and handsome man, loved by everyone, immortal and a son of a goddess. We have a perfect example for a leader.

While fate connect these two to meet from their very early years, they also build a love relationship which they try to hide it at first. This relationship will cause them hatred from Thetis (Achilles’ mom) and will prompt them to make choices that might not be necessarily good ones. Now, Homer never mentioned a pederasty in his works between these two, but Miller does. And I am not sure how I feel about it. Not about the fact that they are gay, but the fact that this is Achilles.

All in all, I enjoyed this book. It is a great retelling of the story and a great time capture of the past. It wasn’t anything special, and I didn’t feel heartbroken in the end, but it was definitely worth reading it. I give it three stars – ★★★ . 

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Beast: A Tale of Love and Revenge – Lisa Jensen [BOOK REVIEW]

book review blog diary of difference

One of my favorite books while I was growing up was the Beauty and the Beast. I usually love retellings,as they show me a different side of the story that might be, that I have never considered before. This book, however, almost ruined it all for me. The only reason it didn’t was because I wouldn’t let one bad retelling to ruin my childhood favorite!

The story is about Lucie, who is a servant in Jean Leup’s palace. Through Lucie’s story, we see Jean Leup as a horrible person who only cares about money and the respect he received from his aristocratic community. He treats the servants badly and doesn’t even bother to look at them.

Lucie likes the thought of him. He is a very handsome man, and all she dreams about is for him to notice her. And one day, he does. And something really bad happens. Jean Leup does something horrible to Lucie.

[SPOILER – PLEASE CONTINUE CAUTIOUSLY]

He rapes her. And not only that this scene was very disturbing, it was also three pages long, with broad descriptions and it made be cringe badly. It made me hate everything and this was the part where I almost quit on reading this book]

[SPOILER FINISHED – YOU CAN CONTINUE READING]

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After this big spoiler scene, the first reaction Lucie has is to kill herself. I am aware that this was a huge trauma for her, and people react differently, but if the author gives me this as a solution to her problem, do I want to continue reading? Is this really the lesson she learns?

With a bit of help of magic and wisdom words, she decides that now she wants for Jean Leup to suffer, and she wants to be able to see this happen. Suddenly, wish becomes a reality and the next thing we know, she is a candle that can’t move, and Jean Leup has turned into a Beast.

Do you get the Beauty and the Beast reference now? We see the story from the candle’s point of view, who is Lucie.

Well – not really!

Because here’s the twist – the Beast doesn’t remember what happened before. He doesn’t know he was Jean Leup. He doesn’t know he was bad in the past. The Beast is good by default, and a bit sad that he’s alone in a big castle. So I have to ask again – Where is the lesson? Where is the punishment? If he can’t remember he was bad, he’ll never learn why he is a Beast.

To continue and shorten the story – Lucie (the candle) can talk to the Beast through her mind. The Beauty (Rose) comes to the castle and the story goes on. Lucie decides that she is in love with the Beast, and I won’t reveal the rest, in case you want to read the book and see for yourself.

Now – I know that the author’s point wasn’t the lesson that the Beast learns as in the original story. Her point was to tell the story of the Beast, and Lucie, and how this tale can have a different plot, and ending, and back story. But I really believe that this was the wrong way of saying it, and it didn’t leave a clear message.

The writing was poor, and it went from one moment to another, leaving me there in the middle, wondering what happened. One scene begins, and another starts before anything is finished. It was disorientated, and I felt lost in the first 40 pages.

This is a no from me, and I will give it 2 stars because I managed to finish it.

Thanks to Candlewick Press for providing me with an ARC e-copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Interview With Author – Michael Kott

 Hello All!

I had the honor and opportunity to have an interview with Michael Kott – the author of Piasa, Cryptid and LifeShift. I have had the chance to read Piasa (read my review) and Cryptid (read my review)  so far, and LifeShift is on my TBR list.

When did you realise that you wanted to become a writer?

   I considered it at times but got serious when writing with my daughter.  After going to the Naval Academy  and serving her retired time in the Navy, she was attempting to pursue an acting career in Hollywood. She needed something to fill her time there and asked if I wanted to help her write a book about what it was like for a girl to go to the Naval Academy. This was in the early 2000s. She quit Hollywood because she could not see that lifestyle but as she followed her husband from station to station, we continued, via the internet, to continue write. While she was in Memphis, Tennessee, she had the idea of us getting together somewhere in between where I live (Chicago area) and Memphis. Looking at a map we decided on Alton, Illinois, where we found a nice Bread & Breakfast House to rent.  There I was introduced to the Piasa legend and I began writing about that.  Finally, Krystee, tired of the inability of agents to place her novel and finding herself about to have her first child, told me she was giving up writing. I continued.

 

Where do you get your ideas from?

   Our stay in Alton sparked the Piasa novel and an interest in Cryptozoology. That led to Cryptid.  Those stories are in my website blog. Cryptid contains a setup for a third novel but at present I don’t know if I want to continue them.  Most of my ideas of stories originate in the form of dreams, Usually I try to write based on the dream but it leads somewhere else. Both LifeShift and Moonglimmer started that way, as separate novels, but later merged into one idea. Many scenes are based on personal experiences, especially those in LifeShift and the currently being written, Shadow Lake.

 

Where did you get your idea for Piasa?

    I covered this above, but failed to mention that I was actually aware of this obscure legend even  before and it was instrumental in my suggesting Alton as our meeting place. I was looking up something else on the early internet and somehow came across the early pictograph which is said to be the Piasa. That sparked an interest and I gathered many stories of it, many which seemed to have now disappeared off the internet.  I was aware of a museum in Alton which had featured the Piasa myth in an exhibit, and when I found it was very close to a bed & breakfast, I suggested that as a place to stay. I have pictures of the trip (everything in Alton has changed) if you want to see them. The story started with just the Mike and Pamela characters until someone suggested it would be a good YA tale. Enter Sara Marshall.

How do you deal with a writer’s block?

   I’ve never had writer’s block, I more get Writer’s Interference. That is other things interfering with the process.  With those I let them run their course.

 

What does your writing process look like?

     I usually write in the morning’s, but sometime’s it runs all day. If Something changes, I go back and rewrite immediately. Everyone says to finish first but I can’t do that. Sometimes I switch stories when changes have put my intended outline in jeopardy.  When a story is well on its way I’ll seek someone to read it and give me feedback. Lately that’s been my editor. Being self-published, I don’t have some army of people at some publishers to fall back on. I seek out readers and I have a trusted editor in California. She is very honest with me and gives me critical feedback. When we agree a story is finished, I hire a cover creator and at the same time send it off to my formatter to create a print ready version and e-book. From there it goes to both CreateSpace and Ingram Spark.

 

How do you select the names for your characters?

   I thumb through a Baby names book I got when Krystee was having her first child. When I get an inspiration there, I use it. Sometimes I come across names I like and use them. This is for first names. For last names, I keep old graduation ceremony handouts and look for a last name that goes well with the selected first name. Real scientific, Huh?

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

   I love this question.  My secrets are that some scenes of my fictional stories are in actuality based on facts or beliefs. Sometimes they come out in the news and I worry people will think I put them in because i saw them on the news.  In LifeShift, Alex has a dream where he is living  on Mars and meets with a girl at the shore of and ocean. This was originally written about 2004-5. Two years ago, about 2015, an article appeared saying that science now believes that Mars was one day home to oceans of water. My story was based on a personal dream.  Way back when I first wrote Piasa, I included the entire scene with an escaped tiger. Several years after that scene was written a news story appeared out of Texas about an escaped tiger.

If you had to choose, Piasa or Cryptid, and why?

     Piasa because it was my first. The story line of Cryptid was a substitute as it was originally supposed to be about the Tasmanian Tiger. However, some stupid movie came out with like, killer Tasmanian Tigers, so I abandoned that as a Cryptid I would write about. There continue to be stories out of Tasmania and mainland Australia regarding sightings of thylacines, so maybe I’ll reconsider. I would need to go to Tasmania though so I can write about it.

Mike, thank you very much for taking the time to do this with me! I greatly appreciate it!

Postcard Haul

postcard haul blog diary of difference

Hello Lovelies!

This is my week’s postcard haul! I hope that you’ll like it!

 

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Keep Calm and Read Harry Potter postcard – which I love so much! It came from Postcrossing – RU-6594139. Special thank you to Sasha from Russia. And Sasha – congrats on passing all of your exams. That’s amazing! Harry Potter fans – how do you like this?

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Postcrossing postcard again, this time coming from Turkey. TR-376480. Thank you Eda, I really loved this postcard! The writing says Happy Ramadan, which is the biggest Muslim celebrations in the world. The building behind is the blue mosque and it’s very famous and beautiful!

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This amazing postcard comes from the Goodreads Postcard Exchange Group that I am into. Each month, we send a postcard to one person from the group, and the June theme was: Where do you usually read?

Thank you Manisha, for sending me this amazing postcard!

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Postcrossing again – this time from Wei from Taiwan (TW-2550963). I think this postcard is amazingly cute, and there are also lovely drawings at the back. So cool!

Do you like sending postcards? If you like the idea – it’s never to late to start. Check out Postcrossing, or send me a message. It’s an amazing hobby that I have apart from reading, and I love it!

Fawkes – Nadine Brandes [BOOK REVIEW]

fawkes - nadine brandes - book review blog goodreads

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes is one of those books that draws you into a world, enlightens you with its magic, and then sends you back to reality, so you can enlighten others while you glow!

Nadine used the history of Guy Fawkes and the failed attempt to blow the parliament as a base to her story, that follows Guy Fawkes’s son, Thomas, into an incredible magical journey.

‘’A foundation of truth represents what life was intended to be.’’

Thomas is about to get his mask, that is supposed to make him control one colour. He also happens to be affected with the plague, that turns his face into stone. His family are all Keepers, and he, by default is a keeper too. But things are never that simple. What will happen when he might not get his mask, and the plague is about to kill him?

We follow the journey of Thomas through a first – person perspective. He feels incomplete when he has the plague, and all his life he is waiting to get his mask, and to be able to control a colour. Any colour, even though he prefers Grey.

Only with my mask could I bond with a color.

But on the day when he is about to receive his mask from his dad, he learns that his father is in London, and is not willing to come.

Scared for his life, and angry at his father, he goes into an adventure to find him. His father is Guy Fawkes, a Keeper that is involved in a Gunpowder plot, which will kill the whole parliament, and most importantly, the king of England, who is the cause of the plague!

Thomas joins the plot, knowing that this is the last chance for him to survive the plague! If the king is dead, the plague would be gone. But will it?

I never imagined a single moment of acceptance could reverse a year of bitterness and prejudice.

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Through Thomas’s eyes, we see a war between the Keepers and the Igniters. It might be a metaphor for the Catholics and Protestants, but I won’t go into this now. The Keepers were loyal to one color only, and Igniters wanted to control all colors. Igniters used the White Colour as a source to control all power. But White Color doesn’t obey like other colours do – the White Color makes people go crazy for power and glory. Something similar to the ring in Lord of The Rings.

‘’Igniters believe that for each Keeper that dies, one person is cured of the plague’’.

We see Thomas caught between two sides – the keepers want to be free of oppression, and the Igniters want to be free to use color speech as they wanted. On such a crossroad, Thomas wants to find the truth for himself. But there is no time, and not many people that he can trust.

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‘’You’ve given me your truth. I have to find it for myself for it to become mine. And curiosity is the first step’’.

On his journey, his relationship with Emma becomes stronger. She is an Igniter, and they share  different beliefs, and she also knows he has the plague. But she is still around, and she accepts his as he is. And Thomas, taught to always hide his face, because otherwise he would be killed by the Igniters, is able to relax around Emma. This will teach him to accept Emma as she is, once she tells him her secret.

I loved the character of Emma. She is a strong person, but unable to show her true self due to the fact that she is not like the others, that she is not the same. In this book it is also shown quite well how women were underestimated in the 17th century. How they were thought to be unworthy. The only bit I didn’t like about Emma is that, even though such strong character, she would have never fought for herself if Thomas wasn’t there to ‘’save’’ her.

This book is a lovely story about Thomas, and how he finds his true self, how he is not afraid to stand up for the things he believes in, how he learns that he shouldn’t be hiding his true self anymore and embrace his fears, as they might turn out to be the best things that ever happened in his life.

‘’Take a breath, Thomas. There has always been fear. There will always be fear. It’s up to us to stand tall, even when the fear demands we bow to it.’’

So yes, my lovely readers, I loved this book so much! I loved the magical moments, I loved how it turned out to be an amazing plot, based on real history events. I loved Thomas’s character, and I loved Emma. I loved Guy Fawkes as well, especially in the end of the book.

If you happen to love these types of books, please get your copy as soon as you can. You won’t regret it at all!

I have received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

The Dead Sagas: Volume I, Part I – Lee Conley [BOOK REVIEW]

The Dead Sagas: Volume I, Part I by Lee Conley is a dark fantasy novel, a horror saga unlike any other. This is not a book for the weak. This is the book for the bravest, the ones who dare to read it, and the ones who can handle to continue living with what they now know.

Book description:

In a land called Arnar, where brave warriors fight for glory, a great evil comes alive.

The secrets of which the scholars were writing about in the past years, the scary stories that were being told in families throughout the generations are becoming true.

Creatures we thought were dead are now walking through the streets, spreading their disease, killing innocent people, and are about to take over Arnar.

The brave warriors are prepared to die defending their lands, but how can you fight creatures that barely feel pain? Are the warriors strong enough?

 

the dead sagas lee conley book review blog

 

My Thoughts:

A story that will leave you breathless until the very end, a story that will push you into anxiety and make you bite your nails. A story that speaks about evil, and good, love, bravery and survival, a book that will sit on your shelf after reading it, and you’ll give it a look once in a while, and say: Ahh.. that was good!

In The Dead Sagas we have the chance to follow the stories of many characters. We will meet scholars and apprentices, we meet warriors and lords, we meet people from the street, doing everything they can to survive, we meet survivors that have seen things and we will meet sailors that are dying.

From chapter to chapter, the story goes from one character to another, and we slowly see the progression of the evil creatures, the spreading pace by pace. While it starts with sailors getting sick and dying afterwards on a ship, it slowly continues to become more and more intense, as we see people literally transforming into dead walkers right after they die, right in front of our eyes.

You will meet Bjorn, who escaped a tribe that cooks and eats people, you will meet Arnulf, who sees unimaginable things will being a lord of the watch. You will see him go through the greatest pain in life, you will see him afraid and brave, you will see him fighting, even though he wants to go and cry in the corner and die.

You will meet a girl that sells her body, so she can buy food for her and her little brother. You will meet a woman warrior, and learn about her amazing and brave story, you will watch how people see their loved ones die right in front of their eyes, and sometimes, they even have to be the ones to kill them in order to survive.

Even though we learn so much about the characters and their stories, it was hard for me to really connect with any of them, as the chapters moved fast from one character to another. This is probably the reason to why I also found the beginning quite slow. It took me around 90 pages, to start realising what is happening.  

There will be a lot of violence in this book, a lot of swearing, and scenes that might upset or offend you. This book is not for the weak ones, that is for sure. And while for some of you this might put you off this book, I do have to say that if the book didn’t have a strong language and violent scenes like it does, it wouldn’t have been the same.

The biggest ‘’flaw’’ I had was the ending. I won’t say anything spoiler-ish , as I don’t want to ruin the book for you, but let’s just say that I didn’t expect it to end the way it did.

Even though this is a story about the dead people walking around and killing everything in front of them, this is actually a book about the survivors, the ones that managed to retell this story – the ones that lost anything and everything to be where they are now. This is for the lives of the brave souls, the mighty warriors, that were noble and tried to protect their lands.

A massive thanks to the author, Lee Conley, who managed to find me in the deep waters of Twitter, and who agreed to send me a paperback copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.