Sunday, 24 July 2016
It's no secret; I loved the original Everealm series! I've devoured all five books in the series in under a year and when I finished Dynasty a few month's ago, I was on the lookout for my next bookish obsession. Turns out I didn't have long to wait, as author J.D.Wright announced her new spin-off "Songs" series shortly after. So when the blog tour came up, I didn't miss the opportunity to jump on a spot (thanks to YA Bound Book Tours!) and the chance to dive back in to the world of Everealm.
I was only down for a promo post for this tour, but I got review copies of each and wasted zero time in blasting through them. This blog post is already kind of long, so you can check out the reviews for Sovereign and Sparrow in their own posts.
I have so much love for this series! Magic, castles, lands far far away, knights, faeries, sex, romance and princesses who take no shit ... suffice to say, I'm hooked
Song of Sovereign (Songs of Everealm #1)
Princess Sarita has everything. Loving parents, a castle fit for royalty, fine clothes, loyal friends, and an exciting job as a scholar of magic. At eighteen years of age, one might think that she would be content with her position. But one thing has always been missing from her life... full magic, itself.
When a strange old woman gave Sarita a secret spellbook as a child, her entire life was changed. The book contains spells, songs, and stories. But most of all, it provides a path to gaining full magic, the only thing that Sarita still needs to feel complete. And now, she has finally prepared to leave her home in search of the Stones of the Divine, the final ingredient she needs to gain magic.
Gabrielle has been known as the sister of a knight and best friend of the princess for as long as she can remember. Now an experienced healer's assistant, she is desperate to find her place and purpose in Junacave. An adventurous mission to help Sarita locate a mystical stone may be just the change in her life that she is looking for.
King Cassidy is still alone, but not for a lack of trying. His attempts to convince the Princess of Junacave to marry him over the past ten years have been for naught. And being twenty years old, with no heir, he is running out of time. If he can't win the heart of the princess, he may have to face a future without the love of his life.
Adventure, romance, and magic await as we travel through Everealm with royalty, wizards, fairies, and more, in the fantasy-romance Songs of Everealm, a five book series by J.D. Wright, author of the Everealm Series. Songs of Everealm Series is the second series set in the fantasy-filled Everealm. It begins 8 years after the conclusion of the first series, the Everealm Series.
Cassidy smiled, walking toward her. He leaned against the table closest to her desk and studied her. She was so beautiful. He thought she looked a lot like her mother, but she had Rowan’s soft brown eyes. Her long and slightly curly hair was still blonde, though. It hadn’t turned auburn like Bree’s or brown like Rowan’s. It stayed blonde all through her childhood and to now. And it suited her other soft features. To most, the princess might appear delicate. He had angered her enough to know that she wasn’t. And she was just remarkable when she was angry.
Her gown was plainer than the ones he usually saw her wearing, but he rarely entered her space when she was working during his visits. He figured she would probably change into something more formal before supper. And she would be just as striking in an elaborate gown as she was in her riding clothes. Which reminded him…
“I wanted to know if you were up for finishing our race. I brought Stallion with me, this time. So think carefully before you accept. I would hate to make my princess cry when I leave her in my dust.”
Sarita narrowed her eyes at him, then stepped closer.
“I am not your princess and Stallion will never win against Dragonfly. My horse practically flies, hence the name.”
Cassidy snickered. “Does she fly like a dragon or like a fly? Because one doesn’t exist and the other is a giant nuisance.”
She smirked at him. Well played, Your Majesty. “Either one would be faster than your precious Stallion.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes. I think we both know that you will be the one in my dust. I hope you choke on it.”
“I love it when you wish harm to come to me.”
“Then you should be the happiest king in the realm because I wish harm on you almost every day.”
“Oh, I am insanely happy. Especially, right now.”
Sarita’s eyes widened. She suddenly realized just how close she had gotten to him. She wasn’t sure how long she had been standing there or when he had put his hands on her waist. Yet, looking down, almost her entire body was pressed against him. She quickly backed away and turned toward her desk.
“I will take that as your agreement to my challenge,” he said, turning to go.
She stared at him as he walked out of the room. When she was alone, again, she sank into her chair and dropped her head onto the desk. This was going to be a disaster. Sneaking away before the tournament was over would be nearly impossible. She wouldn’t get far before Cassidy would realize she was gone.
Song of Sparrows (Songs of Everealm #2)
The journey across Everealm to find the magical stones has not come without its challenges. After being plagued by unwanted guests, disagreements, and accidents, Princess Sarita is beginning to wonder if her dream of gaining magic is a fantasy that can't come true.
Along the way, new friends and rekindled sparks between old flames have caused quite a stir within the group. As a new wizard joins the effort and gives the princess a reason to continue, the quest for the next stone ensues...
As the sun rises over the ridge, our story continues into the Song of Sparrows!
About the Author
Writing has always been a hobby of mine, beginning as a young child. It was a way to cope with losing my father at seven years of age. I started with poetry and was featured several times on the amazing poetry blog, Autumn Leaves, by Sondra Ball. My love for poetry soon led to writing songs in middle school and beyond, which I still do occasionally. Music has always been an important part of my existence, so writing songs came naturally to me. In high school, I started my own novel, however, life got in the way and I never finished it.
Fast forward many years later and I find myself married with three children, absorbed in my busy life with commitments to my family, work, school, church, and charities, among other things. One day I came across my old binder, with notes from my first novel, and it was with those notes that I conjured up the elusive Everealm.
I write to please readers such as myself, who have a love for fantasy and romance, but like a little danger and sex in their reading. I wrote the book with a mature audience in mind, who can appreciate a hearty imaginary world with magic and the unknown, but want more than fluffy love stories with wizards in them. They want the romance, magic, and danger, all wrapped into one.
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Book tour organised by
Set some eight years after the last Everealm book, it follows Princess Sarita in her quest across the realm to gain magic. It's definitely time to follow the new generation of characters, but it's still nice to see a few mentions of the guys and girls of Everealm mark 1. Sarita was one of my favourites from the "old" series, so it was wonderful to follow her adventures. Yes, the idea of getting magic from some vaguely named stones scattered across the realm is pretty straight-forward, and there's a lot of walking around without actually finding anything, but it's refreshing to read a simple story that's well told. Sovereign is less about the destination than the journey, and the "road-trip" makes for an enjoyable, easy read.
Joining Sarita is best friend Gabby, her ex Oliver and Sarita's admirer/borderline stalker King Cassidy. Their chemistry and believable banter were a joy to read, although Cassidy's insistence on calling Sarita "his princess" when she repeatedly (and I mean repeatedly) told him not to wore thin. There's a fine line between the act of flirtation and the act of being a sex pest, and that line was crossed on occasion. Gabby and Oliver's respective partners, Garrison and Calista, were along for part of the ride, although they seemed a bit surplus, and Calista in particular grated on my nerves. But one of the great things about this series is that it's so sprawling that if you don't like a character, you don't have to wait too long to be back with one you do like. I've always loved author J.D.Wright's ability to write life into characters and interactions that could be incredibly boring. And not once was I bored even though there was a lot of riding and camping and bedding down for the night. Seriously, how many authors would put their manliest male characters in nightgowns for a couple of scenes?
This boundless world and character building is one of my favourite things about this series and this adventure does have the same feeling of liberated freedom.
J.D's books tend to err on the adult side of things, so I was a bit concerned about how I'd deal with reading sex scenes between characters who were ten years old in the book I was reading just a few months ago. But thankfully this is one of the tamer entires to the series, the only one who really gets any action is Sarita's horse (which to be honest, I could have done without reading!) so it's not a horribly jarring transition.
I wasn't a huge fan of the introduction of faery Emery, just because it felt a little bit rushed. She's a cute character, but her magical mate bond with wizard Asher seemed a little bit contrived. When Sidonie and Dagan were matched up despite their personal circumstances in the first series, it was a love-hate relationship that worked out, but here it just feels like we're going over old ground. It was nice to find out a bit more about Everealm and the lingering animosity between certain magical beings, but it felt a bit like more of the same.
An absolute must read for fans of the Everealm series, but a definite recommendation if you're looking for a fun, easy read in a world set far far away!
And then it was on to book two!
I got both books as part of the tour, and dived right into Sparrows the instant I was finished with Sovereign. Did I enjoy it as much? Not quite.
At three stars, this is the lowest rating I've given any book in this series - even though I still really enjoyed reading it and in no way has it put me off reading the rest - for two reasons.
One; repetition. We had the "magical mates who hate each other but are fused together by magic" plot in Sovereign with Asher and Emery. Okay, they didn't hate each other per se, but him being a wizard and her being a fairy meant that it was a coupling that neither were happy with. And we get another dose of that in Sparrow with wizard Jake and magic-hating Calista. Which brings me to my next issue.
Calista. Urgh . . . just . . . urgh! This foot-stomping, slut-shaming, pain in the ass was a problem I encountered in Sovereign, but she wasn't too prominent so I could deal with her character. I wasn't entirely sure why she was there, but she was pretty inoffensive. Not so in Sparrows. She's front and centre for a big chunk of the book and is just, so, annoying! Just when the story should be dealing with Sarita and the princess losing her fire for something she's been searching for and dreaming of most of her life, it switches to this shining beacon of human idiocy for a loooong time. Sometimes authors do such a good job of writing a character that you find insufferable that they become a pro and a con at the same time and that's definitely the case here. Well written, believable character? Check. Walking annoyance that you'd cross the street to avoid? Check.
Calista's relationship with Jake was a sticking point for me too. Them getting together wasn't the issue, it was obvious from the end of book one, but I'm not sure I'm a fan of these magical pairings that stick people who hate each other together and there's nothing they can do about it. Gabby and Oliver's relationship is lovely because you believe they want to be together. I'd much rather read about characters who are together because they want to be, rather than two people arguing then having sex because magic dictates that they sort of have to. Everything's very neat, with pairs of heterosexual couples and no odd numbers so someone is sleeping alone or same-sex couplings, which is a little bit disappointing given the lack of diversity in YA and the potential for some in this enormous world that J.D.Wright has created. Fair enough, some stories don't have scope for that kind of thing and sometimes it's just not the author's bag - forcing diversity for the sake of it can sometimes be worse than lacking it - but at book seven, I was kind of hoping for something to break the mould.
Skimming over the Calista stuff - it's good news everywhere else. Cassidy has dialled down his stalker-ish tendancies, and is now a much better character, quietly accepting that Sarita doesn't love him and isn't going to marry him (although, do any of us believe that?), retreating to his castle after assigning his mage to guard her. Gabby and Oliver finally, sort of get it back together. It's still a long road, but the pieces are falling into place. Bless my beloved Sarita though! After trekking all over the realm in search of a magic-bearing stone (which doesn't quite work as she intended. I won't go into spoilers, but that plot point had me like . . .)
Song of Sparrows is a great read, and dreamily titled, although I did get a little bit of deja vu in terms of the plot. Perhaps it's just because I leapt from book one to book two so quickly that I didn't have time to decompress. And if I hadn't been so averse to one of the characters I'd probably have given it four stars. It's magical and uninhibited and more than a little bit spicy, my kind of read!
Wednesday, 13 July 2016
Time flies when you're having fun!
In a typical Mikayla-esque instance of being so disorganised that I'm actually organised, I thought that I began my blog in May 2015 and started organising by first blogoversary wrap up. Turns out I actually released it into the wild on 13 July 2015, which makes today my first ever blogoversary! To celebrate, I've got a bookish bundle to give away (open internationally) below and a chance to get all mushy and gush about what a fun year it's been!
Books read: 77
Beta reads: 14
Blogger weekly features: 21
Blog tours: 7
GIFs used: Who knows. Probably too many.
Some of the awesome people I've virtually met: Ally (founder and very lovely host of UK YA in the rain book club) @ Reading In The Rain, Lucy (founder and host of #ukyachat) @ Queen Of Contemporary, Anna @ Enchanted By YA, Jess @ Curioser and Curioser, Lydia @ Something Like Lydia, Carrie @ The Book Goddess, JD Wright @ Everealm, Kiara @ A Nerd And Her Books, Lily @ Sweet Love Books, Claire @ Claire Luana, Jessica @ A Great Read, Ardis @ Pondering The Prose, Emma @ Emma's Bookery. I feel like I'm forgetting more people than I'm remembering, but if I've taken away only one thing from this year, it's that book bloggers are some of the most wonderful and welcoming people you'll ever find! If you've followed me, tweeted me, skyped with me, e-mailed me, sent me a book rec, commented on a post or anything; you are awesome, and you've made this blogging year for me!
Three Storm Siren-inspired bookmarks (thank you Anna @ Enchanted By YA!),
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Tuesday, 12 July 2016
Avery Gray is a size twelve university student with a penchant for dry humour, and she’s as normal as they come. Up until now, the biggest choice she’s had to make was glasses or contacts? At the moment, it’s stay and save, or leave and be saved.
One rainy afternoon, Avery had to make a choice: go through the alleyway or around it. Two possible options. One would have had her future continue on as planned, the other would ensure that her future never remained the same again. She unknowingly went with the latter.
But change is not always bad. Avery meets Theodore-James Connors, an enigmatic young man who takes her to Hayven, a city separated from the rest of the world, where only gifters – ordinary people with extra-ordinary gifts – can go. She soon finds herself in a close-knit group of friends she’d never have imagined herself in; friends who are diverse in every possible way, from their ethnic backgrounds, to their personalities, from their gifts, to their life stories. Friends who make her laugh, who make her cry, who make her think and who make her…her.
However, change is not always good. The beautiful, golden city of Hayven has its dark side - Cliders. Gifters turned rogue, aka, Cliders are determined to aid fallen Clider, Madrina, return to rule Hayven. They will stop at nothing to make that happen, including harming those Ava has grown to love. Again, Ava is faced with a choice: spend her days finding a way to inhibit Madrina’s return, or walk away. After all, she isn’t the chosen one. Yet, there exists a third option - rig the future itself and make it work for her.
First off, thank you to J A George for providing me with a free e-copy of Gifted in exchange for an honest review. She was also kind enough to do an author interview, which is one of my favourite things about blogging! I'm always fascinated by the story behind the story, and combined with a free book, I've been looking forward to doing this post. That said, I try and be completely honest in my reviews, so there are no five stars for freebies.
Now that's all out of the way, on to the fun stuff!
The story starts off well, after taking a shortcut home, ordinary girl Avery stumbles upon a dying old woman and learns that she is "Gifted"; someone with a magic power and the ability to flit between the real world and the magical world of Hayven. In Avery's case, her gift is the ability to read minds, as well as the ability given to her by the dying woman of being able to see the future. The opening is intriguing and well-written and Avery is a wonderful character, even if she does feel a little like she's trying to hard to be "relatable" (I don't really need to be told her dress size so many times, if at all to be honest!) and the seeds of the story are sown nicely.
Things get better once Theo (finally!) introduces Avery to her gift and the pair head to Hayven. Hayven is a beautifully described world. There's something magical about the idea of another land hidden beneath the surface, it's very much a Harry Potter vibe which I adore! The idea of people flitting in and out of this world in a flurry of coloured dots, unique to their personality, is vividly imaginative. Avery's "new" friends are a little one-dimensional. Each seems to have one defining characteristics; the mean girl, the womaniser, the standoffish one with a heart of gold, the guide, the one that's just there. Their powers are mentioned and demonstrated, but don't come into play much in the story. With so many characters to juggle though, it's hard to give page time to all of them. I hope they'll come into play more in the rest of the series.
The story did suffer from some pacing issues, and the first half drags a little bit. It's lovely to read about the world of Hayven and meet the characters but, plot-wise, not a lot happens besides some uneccesary conflict between Avery, love interest Theo and his mean-girl girlfriend Summer. There's a definite sense here that the author tried to get away from the insta-love cliche, but unfortunately, Avery and Theo's relationship does read very much insta-love. I just didn't see why she was so interested in him, especially with everything else going on around her, or why Theo didn't just come out with the truth about his relationshp with Summer. It's the kind of plot device that doesn't feel genuine, just of a way of generating conflict.
The crux of the story, the introduction of big bad Madrina and her followers, Cliders, happens very late in the book. As a result, they never come across as a credible threat. It's a really intriguing prospect, and the stories of Madrina's near takeover of Hayven sets her up as a great villain! So I was surprised to see that I was almost 60% through the book and hadn't seen much evidence of the plot the blurb above promises. It's a tricky one, because the first half of the book is so well-written and sets the world and characters so well, it's almost to the detriment of the actual plot.
I had to knock a star of my rating right off the bat for the simple fact that this book doesn't stand alone. It's the first in a series, so by all means end on a hook, but the story just sort of ... stops. It has a beginning, a middle, and - just when I was glancing nervously at the remaining page percentage on my kindle - no real end. It just stops. Just as it was getting going! It's a frustrating trend these days for YA books to end on not so much a cliffhanger as a dead end.
I'll definitely be reading the next book in the series, The Silver Orb, but I can't shake the feeling that this book feels like the set up for a story, not a story in itself. It's a shame, because this leaves a bad taste in my mouth right at the end of what had been a great read. I'll probably round this review up to 4 on Goodreads and Amazon, but since I can half star on my blog, I have to go with my gut and give it 3.5. I really did enjoy the story, and I'd recommend it to contemporary and fantasy YA fans alike, but I just felt that I didn't get the entirety of what I was promised by the blurb. And I'll have to read the next book in the series for that.
All in though, Gifted is a well written book with some fantastic world building and colourful characters, and if it had followed through a little bit further, dropping some early exposition and ramping up to a not too rushed climax, this review would have been raves. Still, this book has me hooked. Bring on the next!
And now, the interview!
1. What inspired you to write Gifted?
I wanted to read it. I wanted to read a contemporary YA fantasy novel that didn’t feature instant-love, that didn’t feature a chosen one and didn’t centre on a girl born into a dystopian society. I just wanted to read about someone normal, someone I could relate to. Someone who worries about the way she looks, but never says it out loud, has a sense of humour, thinks about the small stuff. Then I wanted to take her and place her in a world she never thought existed before adding a dystopian element. I wanted to explore real young adult relationships, friendships and modern-day topics such as, body weight issues and cheating in relationships. Hmm, GIFTED is a lot less sombre than it sounds. It’s actually a fun read, I promise!
2. Have any elements of your life made it in to the story?
Unfortunately not. I don’t have any “supernatural” gifts…yet. I’m patiently waiting on it, though.
3. If you could go back in time and give yourself one bit of advice before you started writing Gifted, what would it be?
Write for yourself. Definitely, without doubt! I spent the first two years of Gifted trying to write a book I thought readers would like. It ended up being a book I wouldn’t read, even if it was given to me for free! And that’s saying something. However, two years later, I decided to write for myself and that decision resulted in the second edition of Gifted, which I can honestly say contains maybe 5% of edition one of Gifted. I’m sure that speaks volumes. It was a lot of time wasted, but at least I now have a book that I would not only read, but pay for. However, I am biased.
4. Is there a place or time that most closely represents Hayven in your mind?
I don’t believe so. Perhaps there is a city in the world that resembles Hayven, but I haven’t visited it yet!
5. Which books/authors inspired you to start writing?
Roald Dahl! I never knew how much Roald Dahl influenced me until I realised his theme of extraordinary things happening to ordinary people is something I’ve been mentally carrying around with me for a long time now.
6. Who would play Avery in the movie version?
Oh, I’m not sure… If I could cast Avery, I’d love the opportunity to give someone new a chance to have their acting dream come true, so most likely someone you haven’t heard of.
7. Sum Gifted up in five words.
Ordinary people with extraordinary gifts.
8. Do you have any writing rituals?
I like to write with a bar of chocolate by my side. Yet, I also like to read with a bar of chocolate by my side. And watch a movie, hang out with friends, bake and study with a bar of chocolate by my side.
9. When did you start writing Gifted?
Late 2013. I was sitting cross-legged on my bed when I suddenly decided to write this novel.
10. How different is this version to the one you sat down to write?
Unrecognisably different. Like I said above, this edition contains about 5% of the edition I sat down to write. But the dramatic change has been for the better!
11. How did Gifted make the journey from your head to print?
It took a lot of notebooks, a lot of computer time and a lot of chocolate. I really appreciate authors now, any author, because writing a book really isn’t easy. When you read a good book, you think it must come effortlessly to the author – I don’t believe it does! It takes a lot of hard work, a lot of effort and a lot of determination.
Friday, 8 July 2016
The other day I went to the movies with a couple of friends. I really wanted to see The Shallows, but I was outvoted. The reason? The verdict from the group was "because it's rubbish!"
When I asked if anyone had seen it, they all said no. So I had to ask how they knew it was rubbish. No one really had an answer, and we ended up seeing Independence Day instead (which really was rubbish), but no one seemed to have a problem passing judgement on something they'd never even seen. That bothers me. It's like everyone announcing online that the new Ghostbusters movie sucks, months ahead of it being wrapped, promoted or viewed. I had no idea there were so many crystal balls in existence!
And it's the same with books. On Goodreads yesterday, I found a book (I'm not saying which one, that's a can of worms I'm not going to open right now!) that had hundreds of five star ratings so I had a little look, thinking that it might be a read for me. But it quickly became clear that a lot of reviewers hadn't read the book. Hell, many of them had left five star reviews before the damn thing was even published!
Which brings me, finally, to my point. Why do people leave reviews, whether it be five stars or one star, for a book they haven't even read? Sure, you could argue that they're expressing their anticipation for something they're dying to read, but what if they hate it? That five start review suddenly looks a bit silly. When I tweeted my puzzlement, Goodread responded - which I appreciated, and this rant is in no way aimed at them! - that they allow pre-rating so people can show that they'd looking forward to a book. But that's what the "want to read" shelf is for.
It would be cool to have a pre-read excitement rating option seperate to the review rating option (I'd love to see some hype ratings vs review ratings), but reviewing books you haven't read can be quite damaging. Nobody - except the publishers perhaps - benefits from a swath of five stars reviews for a product that might not be five stars, even by the standards of those who've left them. It doesn't give constructive feedback to authors just starting out, sets unfair reader expectations and sets the bar unreachably high.
I don't make up my mind about what to read on other people's reviews, but I won't lie, they definitely help sway me if I'm on the fence about a book. A few great reviews can push me off onto the buying side, the same way an incredibly well-written scathing review, delving into some of the plot of the book (and there are plenty of those on Goodreads!) can make me laugh and then realise that perhaps the book isn't for me.
Sometimes it's easy to tell which reviewers haven't read the book, whether it's excessive exclamation points or a simple statement like "I can't wait to read this book", but digging through the reviews for this particular one, it became clear that many of the five stars were left before release. Those posted after seemed to be much lower. It gives a completely skewed view of how people recieved the book and makes me question every good review left for it, many of which may well be legit.
I don't read reviews to know how excited people were when the book was announced or the cover was revealed, I read them to know what people thought of the story and characters. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing at all wrong with looking forward to an upcoming release and raving about how much you can't wait to read it (we've all done it), but reviewing it?
Giving it a five stars, stated on Goodreads as meaning "it was amazing", defeats the entire point of a book rating site.
It seems a little unfair on the authors too. I'm sure most would love a ton of glowing reviews, but if you've got a million ratings at five stars, people are going to expect a lot from your book. Anticipation is one thing, unrealistic expectations are another. A good book seems worse than it really is when you're expecting something completely and utterly fantastic. I'm constantly told in my job about managing expectations; don't promise what you can't deliver and make sure people have a realistic picture of what you can and can't do for them. It's the same with reviews, be it books, movies or anything else that relies on word of mouth and recommendation. It benefits the few but not the many to promise the world and talk a big game, only to fall short of the bar you set. Even if you still did a good job, your promised a great job, and you didn't come through with it.
What does everyone else think about pre-reviewing books? Do you do it yourself?