Book Review: The City of Ice (The Gates of the World, #2) by K.M. McKinley

An ancient city. A wondrous invention. A perilous journey.

The epic sequel to the incredible debut novel The Iron Ship.

Deep in the polar south stands a city like no other, a city built aeons ago by a civilisation mighty and wise.

The City of Ice promises the secrets of the ancients to whomever can reach it first. It may prove too little knowledge too late, for the closest approach of the Twin in 4000 years draws near, an event that has heralded terrible destruction in past ages.

As the Kressind siblings pursue their fortunes, the world stands upon the dawn of a new era, but it may yet be consumed by a darkness from the past.

Industry and magic, gods and steampower collide in the captivating sequel to The Iron Ship.

I have to start this review by saying I have not read the first book in the series. When I saw this book on Netgalley I got so excited by the description I overlooked that it was book #2. So some of my thoughts on this book spring from that which is my own fault. Now with that said, on to the review.

This is an absorbing book that takes place in a world that is complex, rich and absorbing. It did take me a little longer to get into this book than I would have liked, but I suspect that comes from not reading the first book. I was a little confused as to everything going on in this world, but eventually I did get settled in and I enjoyed the book a great deal. I plan on going back and reading the Iron Ship and then revisiting this story so see more things in context.

This book is simply one of those kind of books that seems to sprawl out before you in one grand adventure. It is the kind of book that allows you to feel as if you are in the pages, in that world with the characters and not just an outside reader. I feel that this fantasy world ranks right up there with the likes of Middle Earth and Narnia. I couldn’t personally develop any “feelings” towards the characters in this book, but I feel that might change as I delve deeper into the series. This book is simply a very enjoyable read and the land in which it takes place is so well described it feels like a place I could go to.

There is a huge cast of characters within the book and they all seem to be getting ready to have some kind of convergence when the series comes to an end. While the large cast of characters makes it interesting, I feel it is also the reason I couldn’t connect with anyone. At the end of the day, this is a book worth reading and a series worth getting excited about. If you like fantasy I think you will enjoy this book, it made me want to make like Bilbo Baggins and yell that I was going on an adventure!

My Gemstone Rating:

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Book Review: Witch Song (Witch Song #1) by Amber Argyle

The world is changing.

For thousands of years, witch song has controlled everything from the winds to the shifting of the seasons. But not anymore. All the Witches are gone, taken captive by the dark Witch, Espen.

As the last echoes of witch song fade, Espen grows stronger as winter and summer come within the space of a day. Now she’s coming for the one she missed—a shy, untrained girl of fifteen named Brusenna.

Somehow, Brusenna has to succeed where every other Witch has failed. Find Espen. Fight her. Defeat her.

Or there won’t be anything left to save.

I had such high hopes for this book. I love powerful books where women go on a journey to find themselves, witchcraft is always a plus for me and just the genre in general. The cover was interesting and yes, I know not to judge a book by its cover, but I was judging it in a positive way. Perhaps I went in having hopes that were too high, because for the most part they fell flat. The first red flag for me should have been on the books good read page where the author herself posted a 5 star review that literally just says, “Well, I think it’s fabulous. But I wrote it . . . ;)”. I know it seems petty to mention that, but it is one of my peeves, but I really was excited about the book so I just chalked it up to a very excited author which is understandable and dug into the book.

The main character of the story, the lovely heroine witch Brusenna is pretty 2 dimensional to me. She has everything you expect to see in a book heroine, all the right basics, but beyond that I myself just did not see much depth. I don’t mind having characters that are built on a template base, it is pretty common after all in the different genres. However, what truly makes a character for me is what comes after that template all the good things you pour into the simple base. Brusenna was just kind of there, the base and with that basic base I just really could not find a connection which never bodes well in my opinion for a book I am reading. When the main male character also comes up to be a bit of a basic base without depth like I felt Joshen was, I know I am going to end up sighing. Honestly, there were a few times even though it is a shorter book I thought I would set it down as a DNF but I try not to do that so once more into the breach my friends once more I soldiered on.

There is a lot of action and obstacles and lots of things that have to be overcome through this story. Some of the witch spells, or songs as they are presented were creative and interesting. Some of them weren’t anything new to me, but they still seemed to be built solidly. The fact that they all had to rhyme, well, I have never been a fan of that kind of spell craft, but since it was about songs it got a little bit of a pass. Did I mention that they then throw seeds with the song? Yes, seeds like the things that grow tree’s and flowers and what have you. There were points where I wondered what would happen to a bird if they came along and ate one of those seeds. That might have been amusing.

So before I ramble on anymore about this, the bottom line is while the book did have some bright spots, I really didn’t enjoy it that much. There are a lot of readers who did enjoy it though according to Goodreads. So I will put this one in the try it if you want, but honestly, you might be better off taking a look for a different witch story. This is, as noted by the title, having a #1 in it a series and I know sometimes it can take a little time to get a series rolling. Unfortunately, I myself am not going to be giving any of the other books in this series a read, unless someone forces me to. Another end of 2016 book, another meh feeling.

Glad I only have one more 2016 books to finish the write up for, people are going to start thinking all I read is books that make me go meh.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Book Review: A Drop of Ink by Megan Chance

Penniless and disgraced, Adelaide Wentworth is feeling rather desperate. With nothing left to lose, she and her sister, Louisa, flee to Lake Geneva with Adelaide’s lover, the infamous poet Julian Estes. There, Louisa hopes to persuade Bayard Sonnier—celebrated writer and her former lover—to advance Julian’s career. He is their last hope for salvation.

At the Villa Diodati—the place that inspired the writing of Frankenstein sixty years earlier—Louisa plots to rekindle her affair with Bayard, while Adelaide hopes to restore her fading love for Julian by being the muse he needs.

But soon, secrets are revealed, passions ignited, and hidden talents discovered. Adelaide begins to imagine a different life. Confused, she turns to Giovanni Calina—Bayard’s assistant and a man with his own secrets and deep resentments—and the two form a dangerous alliance. No one leaves unscathed in this richly imagined, emotionally nuanced tale of passion, ambition, inspiration, and redemption.

I want to thank Net Galley and the publisher for allowing me to get an ARC of this book. I will admit that it was the cover which drew me in first, but the description kept me interested and the book and the book itself that made me keep reading.

This is one of the most unique books I have had a chance to read in a while and the tapestry of characters is rich and interesting. If you are a reader who is also very interested in writing and the entire process it has you are really going to enjoy a drop of ink because it is all about the process of writing and the characters who are writers while of course also giving you a nice dash of history and romance too. If you are looking for a happily ever after kind of romance this is not the book for you, I am just going to say that now without giving away any major spoilers.

The year is 1876 the place is Lake Geneva in Switzerland, at a Villa where famous writers Lord Byron and Mary & Percy Shelly stayed some 60 years ago. It was this Villa where Frankenstein and his Monster were born. There is a curious collection of characters gathered here this time as well, Bayard the famous writer, Giovanni his assistant who is trying to claw his way up the social ladder, Estes, who is, well, in my opinion a useless poet who likes his drug flask way t0o much and the Sisters Adelaide and the rather insane Louisa.

You get plotting and scheming and controversy and sometimes of course scandal. Overall, I really enjoyed the book it was fun and entertaining and the historical backdrop was nice. Other times I could not help but roll my eyes a little and sigh, some of the drama that Louisa caused was just over the top and Adelaide well she was not much less crazy at times then her sister. The fact that so many people didn’t really seem to notice all the drama was also a bit curious and yet those people had no problem showing up and surrounding the famous writer. The trope of the grumpy ole writer who hated being surrounded like that was probably my least favorite of the bunch. However, when it comes to complaints that is really a small one as far as things go.

This book really was one that I enjoyed a great deal. It had supernatural theories and fun playing along as well as humor, romance and history. I have always adored the idea of writing a book in the old way with a dip or fountain pen on parchment paper. So this one was bound to be a fun, enjoyment for me. The ending really was not overly satisfying for me, but it was realistic and I understand that sometimes realism has to win over the happily ever after.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Book Review: Blur (Night Roamers #1) by Kristen Middleton

There ARE creatures lurking in the dead of night… Seventeen year old Nikki and her twin brother, Nathan, move to the small town of Shore Lake to start over after their mother is brutally attacked. When a missing teenager washes up on shore during their first night at the cabin and there are whispers of vampires in Shore Lake, Nikki begins to realize that there are things roaming in the darkness that are far more sinister than what they left behind in the big city.

This book contains some graphic language, violence, and mild sexual situations.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Another book where I cannot help but giggle that they had to put a little warning disclaimer in the description of the book about adult content. Maybe this is a new trend that I am not aware of? Just last time I checked when you were choosing an Erotica or romance. Now with that said again (sorry about the broken record), time to sink into the review.

This is not the worst book I have ever read, but again like many of the last books I read in 2016 this book just really fell short of what I hoped it would be. This book was so rushed it really felt like perhaps the author was frantic just to get words typed out and shoved into a book. Yes short books are always going to be a little rushed, but with a skilled hand, you can still manage to make them feel less so (I think anyways) and you can deepen the plot and characters.

Nikki is just a one dimensional cut out of hormones that I simply could not connect with. At times I even got flashes of Anita Blake once she started being a bit hyper sexual too (I hope I can bring myself to continue the series after Cerulean Sins), and well that just boded badly. The monsters and other characters of the book all fell pretty flat for me. I rolled my eyes so much when I was reading this one that I was sure they were going to get stuck up there.

The book gets a 2 rating instead of anything lower because there were a few little points that I did enjoy. The idea could be better if it was fleshed out better, if it had not been so rushed awkward and cheesy. Nathan was the character for me that had the most promise, he was a bit better fleshed out for me.

So the short of it is, if you want a fast read that won’t bore you to tears, but is not fully fleshed out you might like this one more then I did. I also find myself once again pleading with Indie/Self published authors, please for the love of all the Gods please stop rushing things. Take the time to make the story longer, to give the characters more life and the plot a bit of time to simmer and truly come together. Instead of making a long series of really short stories just make one or two longer ones. Please. You might take a little bit longer to get it done, but if you spend that extra time on it there is a much bigger chance that you will get loyal readers! That makes the extra time worth it, really it does. Oh, and for the love of Gaia please at least give the story a brief proofread! Please! I beg this on behalf of all readers out there who really do try and support smaller authors. Totally random and not really something that matters this one hurt a little bit extra because the Author is from/in my hometown.

Book Review: Bewitching the Werewolf (Megan Stephens #1) by Caroline Hanson

When witch for hire, Megan Stephens, is assigned to help the local werewolf pack leader find a mate, she thinks the job will be easy. Get in, get him up and get gone. But when she meets Zack Connor, she realizes her future might have a lot more dog jokes in it than she ever imagined.

This is a short story– approximately 40 pages in length– and includes an excerpt from Love is Darkness, the first book in the Valerie Dearborn series.

**Please be aware that this book contains sex. And not in a fade-to-black-sort-of-way but an-OMG-that’s-in-public-sort-of-way**

Okay, first I have to say I can’t help but giggle a little bit at the fact that I am finding more and more erotica/romance books with the beware of sex in this book listed on the description. Okay, that is just a personal little giggle of mine.

On to the review, I got this as a free book and honestly I am glad that it was free. The premise of this book is good, the idea and the basic components of something that should be a riveting read is all here. It just seems to have all gone sideways somehow. Like a perfectly prepared souffle that then just falls flat. The book is extremely short and all very slap dash put together honestly. You get no depth to the characters of the book, no real plot development and what little plot there is felt very convoluted. It felt like the author just did not know where to put ideas and thought they all needed to be shoved into the smallest shortest group of chapters possible.

I gave a two gem/star rating because the heroine was sassy and what development of her was there was enjoyable. I also gave it that extra star because I really did want to like it. I really wanted everything to come together in a fun fast read. You can of course try it for yourself and perhaps you will like it a bit better then I did.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Book Review: The Princess Bride by William Goldman

What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince of all time and he turns out to be…well…a lot less than the man of her dreams?

As a boy, William Goldman claims, he loved to hear his father read the S. Morgenstern classic, The Princess Bride. But as a grown-up he discovered that the boring parts were left out of good old Dad’s recitation, and only the “good parts” reached his ears.

Now Goldman does Dad one better. He’s reconstructed the “Good Parts Version” to delight wise kids and wide-eyed grownups everywhere.

What’s it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, Miracles, and a Little Sex.

In short, it’s about everything

What is there to day about this classic? I have always loved the Princess Bride both the book and the film. The characters come alive and seem to leap off the page when you read this book. I for one make a point to come back every few years and re-read this favorite. I feel a little silly making such a short review, but really what is there to say about such a classic? It is wonderful, there is everything you could want in a book so it has a wonderful pace. You have action, romance and of course a great deal of humor. Bottom line if you are a rare person who has not read this book yet, well what are you waiting for?

My Gemstone Rating:

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Book Review: Bah, Humbug! (Christmas Street #1) by Heather Horrocks

Lexi Anderson is an up-and-coming, Martha Stewart-type TV hostess whose two kids love the Jared Strong adventure novels, which happen to be written by their new neighbor, Kyle Miller.

For the first time in his writing career, Kyle has writer’s block – until he sees the snowman on his lawn and realizes this is the perfect place for his villain to hide the weapon. He digs into the snowman to discover two things: the weapon fits int he body just under the head, and the snowman was supposed to be the back drop for Lexi’s next show.

From this improbable beginning comes friendship. Can there be more for a woman who is afraid to get close again and a man who has shadows from his childhood?

Families join together and hearts are healed as this couple goes walking in a winter wonderland.

I do not usually get into Christmas or Holiday books in general, but this year I was making an effort to be a little bit more Holiday feeling and I had Bah humbug on my TBR so why not? The editing work on this book was not done very well and in all honesty, I am getting a little tired of so many books with typos and issues. I know small indie authors do not make huge sums, but I feel if you are going to publish a book you should proof read very well! Ask a friend! No ones perfect I know that, I know I am not perfect when I post my reviews but GAH! Okay little rant over and moving on.

This book is a fast cute little read overall and it was a fairly quick one as well. Lexi Anderson our female character reminded me a lot of Brie from Desperate Housewives and I am not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. The best way she thinks to get new neighbor and author to get over being a Christmas Grinch is to essentially present to him Christmas on steroids. That may not work in the real world with most people (would not work on me!) but who knows in books things happen. I don’t want to give away the plot, of course, but what would Chic lit/Romance be without a little bit of rivalry in it as well right? Enter Author Kyle’s brother. Of course he shows up as Kyle is falling in love with Lexi.

The long and short of this review (many pardon’s if I am a little jumpy with this, post holiday cold requires lots of nyquil!) is that while it isn’t a particularly deep book it is fun. If you want something easy, cute and fitting for the holidays next time they come around you would probably be happy by picking up this little Novella.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Book Review: The Big, Not-So-Small, Curvy Girls Dating Agency (Plush Daisies #1) by Ava Catori

Becky Holgate’s lost her focus. It’s complicated…she didn’t mean to fall in love with another woman’s guy. How could she be a matchmaker for other people if all she could think about was her own heart? Determined to ignore her growing infatuation, she set her sight on building her career. Only Reed Amwell was making it hard to concentrate; every encounter left her breathless.

Reed didn’t mean to fall for the curvy girl, but she was carefree, silly, and fresh. Her soft curves and playful heart had him questioning his current relationship. Could he be with the wrong girl? He needed to figure it out fast, because his wedding day was getting closer by the minute.

With a laugh-out-loud best friend, an insane cat, and a business to run, Becky Holgate didn’t have time for guys like Reed Amwell…until time was running out.

This was a fun read, short but very fun. I can’t say that it was a super deep book but cute fast reads generally aren’t all that deep. There are a fair amount of grammar errors in this one and that made it a little tough, but overall it was just a little enjoyable read. Sometimes you just have to enjoy what is going on around you and accept its just something simple.

The heroine is not very deep but I like that she is different from the traditions. Sadly our heroine was not confident at all. She was rather insecure at every turn. That happens and real life can be that way of course, but sometimes you just would rather dive in away from the world. The long and short of things this is an alright book to read but it might not be for everyone.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Book Review: A Shade of Vampire (A Shade of Vampire #1) by Bella Forrest


On the evening of Sofia Claremont’s seventeenth birthday, she is sucked into a nightmare from which she cannot wake.

A quiet evening walk along a beach brings her face to face with a dangerous pale creature that craves much more than her blood.

She is kidnapped to an island where the sun is eternally forbidden to shine.
An island uncharted by any map and ruled by the most powerful vampire coven on the planet. She wakes here as a slave, a captive in chains.

Sofia’s life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn when she is the one selected out of hundreds of girls to join the harem of Derek Novak, the dark royal Prince.

Despite his addiction to power and obsessive thirst for her blood, Sofia soon realizes that the safest place on the island is within his quarters, and she must do all within her power to win him over if she is to survive even one more night.

Will she succeed? …or is she destined to the same fate that all other girls have met at the hands of the Novaks

I wish I could say this was the first book of the new year right on New years day, alas it isn’t. I am going to post the rest of my reviews from 2016 before diving in and hopefully keeping up on my reviews as I read the books this year!

Ah a new vampire story to sink my teeth into (pun fully intended) and I have to say, although this one has been on my TBR for a long time once I did pull it up I was very excited about it. Sadly. I should not have gotten my hopes up about it. I should have been wary when I heard some of the buzz around it (when I first got it as a freebie), and those who liked it were calling it better then Twilight. Honestly, it is not that hard to be better than Twilight and I say that as someone who actually LIKES Twilight.

While at first look the idea of this book looks very different and unique, once you actually start reading you will end up seeing most of the typical tropes. Maybe if you like that sort of thing you will enjoy it more than I did. Alas, as I went through this fairly short read I just sighed a little. Honestly, I got bored enough at one point I nearly decided to mark it down as a DNF, and I try very hard never to do that.

Now, with all of those complaints stated it is not the worst book I have ever read. There is some potential in the characters and if they were a little more fleshed out the book might actually hold my interest more. It is a YA book so some of those tropes should be expected. My biggest issue with the story is that within only a second of seeing our heroine, Derek the old vampire who just woke up falls in love. Yeah, you read that right, and yes, I know YA has a lot of nearly instant love stories, but this truly was instantaneous and frankly, I thought a vampire who is older than 400 years (he has been asleep for 400) would have more sense than that. The girl I would expect it from but him? Come on now. Of course, his instant love means he won’t feed from her and all of that.

Maybe it gets better, there are a lot more books in the series. Alas, I don’t think I will be reading them, it is very short and the POV switches without warning which just kinda makes for a headache. So I am going to end this review with a GIF I took off another review from good reads. I tried, I really did I wanted to like this book I wanted another Vampire series I could love. Alas, back to the drawing board I will go with that.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Book Review: The Secret Healer (Die heimliche Heilerin #1) by Ellin Carsta, Terry Laster (Translator)

In the fourteenth century, opportunities for women are limited to the home. But spirited young Madlen finds her calling as assistant to the city’s trusted midwife, Clara. Working alongside Clara, Madlen develops a surprisingly soothing technique and quickly becomes a talented healer.

After Clara’s tragic death, Madlen alone rushes to assist the birth of a local nobleman’s child. But rather than the joy of birth, Madlen walks into an accusation of murder and witchcraft because of her extraordinary gifts. Forced to flee her own town, she establishes a new identity in the home of her aunt. Yet even though it endangers her life, she cannot resist the urge to help the sick patients who seek out her miraculous treatment. When she meets handsome Johannes—an investigator hired by the Church to bring her to justice for sacrilegious acts—she becomes drawn to the very man who could destroy her.

Will Madlen’s gifts bring about her downfall? Or can love and reason prevail in a time of fearful superstition?

I love a good historical fiction that has a healer in it. This was a fun and fast paced read. The only thing that kept it from being a full 5 gemstone rating for me was that a few of the characters could have used a little more rounding, they were a little bit flat. Overall, however, this was a great read and that flatness could just be something lost in translation.

You can’t help but feel sorry for a wonderful woman like Madlen, especially as things like this did actually happen often back in these times. A woman who knew how herbal medicines worked, how to help calm people while sick and bring them through a bad fever among other things. They were the ones who could help the most and yet they were treated the worst, so many of them killed purely for having knowledge. I don’t want to give too much of the story away, but Madlen certainly goes through the ringer. Each and every time that she thinks she has finally found a way she can enjoy life, be happy for a while things turn terrible for her. I know not everyone will agree with me, but I think this book is certainly worth your time to read it.

My Gemstone Rating:

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