Cephrael’s Hand by Melissa McPhail ~ review & competition

ch3Two weeks ago a kickass package arrived for me and I happily unwrapped it to find the gorgeousness that is Melissa McPhail’s latest book: Cephrael’s Hand. There’s nothing better than getting a book straight from the author herself and knowing that they took a little time out to thank you personally for offering to give it a read. The cover is beautiful, it comes with a lovely map (I love books that come with maps!) and I got a hand-written note and a great inscription inside my copy.

What a great start!

Unfortunately, because the book took so long to get to me (I live in South Africa) I will be honest and admit that I haven’t finished reading this book yet (it is long!) but I decided to post my current thoughts anyway (please don’t be mad!) because I promised to have this review up on this specific date so that it would coincide with the rest of the Cephrael’s Hand blog tour.


First, the blurb (as usual: stolen from Goodreads):

“All things are composed of patterns…” And within the pattern of the realm of Alorin, three strands must cross: In Alorin three hundred years after the genocidal Adept Wars, the realm is dying, and the blessed Adept race dies with it. One man holds the secret to reverting this decline: Bjorn van Gelderan, a dangerous and enigmatic man whose shocking betrayal three centuries past earned him a traitor’s brand. It is the Adept Vestal Raine D’Lacourte’s mission to learn what Bjorn knows in the hope of salvaging his race. But first he’ll have to find him. 

In the kingdom of Dannym the young Prince Ean val Lorian faces a tenuous future as the last living heir to the coveted Eagle Throne. When his blood-brother is slain during a failed assassination, Ean embarks on a desperate hunt for the man responsible. Yet his advisors have their own agendas, and his quest for vengeance leads him ever deeper into a sinuous plot masterminded by a mysterious and powerful man, the one they call First Lord. 

In the Nadori desert tormented by the missing pieces of his life, a soldier named Trell heads off to uncover the truth of his shadowed past. But when disaster places him in the debt of Wildlings sworn to the First Lord, Trell begins to suspect a deadlier, darker secret motivating them. Honor-bound to serve the First Lord in return for his life, Trell continues on his appointed path, yet each day unveils new and stranger secrets that eventually call into question everything he knows.

I cannot even begin to imagine the amount of work that must have gone in to this book. In fact, if I think about it, I get quite anxious – which I suppose is ridiculous, but there you have it! I can’t even begin to process what it must take to come up with all of the names, realms, types of people, etc that are in the pages of this book. Kudos for that alone, Melissa. You are definitely a rockstar. Continue reading

Shadow Swarm by D. Robert Pease ~ review & competition

shadowIt’s been a crazy hectic couple of weeks but I’ve somehow still managed to delve into a couple of review books. I must admit that it seems that whenever I commit to reviewing one of these books by a specific date, The Universe starts to giggle and then throws a whole bunch of things at me. I mention this only because it might do you well to take my slight “harriedness” into account.

First – the blurb (shamelessly stolen from Goodreads):

Aberthol Nauile doesn’t know that he once led legions in a war that had raged since the dawn of time, against an enemy that could not be killed. He doesn’t know that he rode on a dragon with his father, or that his mother died while giving birth to him. He doesn’t know that he once saved his great, great, great grandfather by defeating the black enemy on the slopes of a volcano.

Aberthol doesn’t know that he beheld the creation of the world, as his grandfather eight generations before took the planet, ravaged by a war of the gods, and began anew.

All he knows is that he awoke in a coffin deep within a tomb, and now the whole world thinks he is their savior. All he really wants to know is his name, and why he keeps hearing voices in his head.

From the very first page of this book I could detect a very strong Christian undertone, which I admit annoyed me a bit at first. Why I didn’t pick it up when I read the excerpt I don’t know, but I wasn’t expecting something Christian. Now I suppose there isn’t anything wrong with that, but I might not have chosen to review the book if I had known. Luckily it isn’t too “preachy” (kind of in the same way that the Narnia novels are kind of Christian but not preachy) and it’s actually quite interesting to see how it develops. From the beginning the story drags you forward in that you can’t help but be curious about what exactly is going on. This “pulling” happens throughout the book. From time to time the author employs flashbacks which kind of make you question your own sanity, but that’s kind of clever because it kind of ties in with the fact that those same flashbacks make Aberthol feel the same way.

Check out this awesome book trailer:

Personally I am not the biggest fantasy fan. I keep trying to be, and the synopses of fantasy books always sound fantastic to me, but I struggle to find a nice rhythm when reading most fantasy books. I struggle with the language, though admittedly the only “frilly” language in this book is found in the dialogue and not in the narrative so that was at least a bit better than what I usually experience. I also struggle to find common ground with the characters as they always seem to be motivated by things that I can’t quite wrap my head around. This is, however, my failing and not the failing of the author.

Even though this wasn’t 100% my cup of tea, I have to give it a 3 star rating because it is well-written, well thought out, and quite original. The only “gripe” I can think of to point out is that the setting itself might have been explained a little more. But honestly? The only reason I noticed that was most probably because I am TERRIBLE at writing settings so I tend to observe that a little more than could be considered normal.


About the Book – About the Author – Prizes!!!

About the prizes: Who doesn’t love prizes? You could win one of two $50 Amazon gift cards or an autographed copy of Shadow Swarm! Here’s what you need to do…

  1. Enter the Rafflecopter contest
  2. Leave a comment on my blog

That’s it! One random commenter during this tour will win the first gift card. Visit more blogs for more chances to win–the full list of participating bloggers can be found HERE. The other two prizes will be given out via Rafflecopter. You can find the contest entry form linked below or on the official Shadow Swarm tour page via Novel Publicity. Good luck!

About the book: Aberthol Nauile doesn’t know that he once led legions in a war that raged since the dawn of time, against an enemy that cannot be killed. He doesn’t know that he rode on a dragon with his father, and saw his mother die while giving birth to him. He doesn’t know that he once saved his great, great, great grandfather by defeating the black enemy on the slopes of a volcano. Aberthol doesn’t know that he beheld the creation of the world, as his grandfather eight generations before took the planet ravaged by a war of the gods and began anew. All he knows is that he awoke in a coffin in a tomb, and now the whole world thinks he is their savior. All he really wants to know is his name, and why he keeps hearing voices in his head.Get Shadow Swarm through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About the author: D. Robert Pease has been interested in creating worlds since childhood. From building in the sandbox behind his house, to drawing fantastical worlds with paper and pencil, there has hardly been a time he hasn’t been off on some adventure in his mind, to the dismay of parents and teachers alike. Also, since the moment he could read, books have consumed vast swaths of his life. From The Mouse and the Motorcycle, to The Lord of the Rings, worlds just beyond reality have called to him like Homer’s Sirens. It’s not surprising then he chose to write stories of his own. Each filled with worlds just beyond reach, but close enough we can all catch a glimpse of ourselves in the characters he brings to life.

Connect with D. Robert on his website, Facebook, Twitter,or GoodReads..


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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter, #5)Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This time around I “read” this book by listening to the audiobook. I must admit I enjoyed it one hell of a lot more than I expected. Yes, audiobooks are kind of “different”. You can’t skim through any boring parts and you can’t speed read or re-read parts that you really love. But – you can “read” while you cook and do all sorts of other things and in my book that is friggen awesome. Stephen Fry was my reader of choice (I imagine there are possibly others) and he was brilliant of course. Sometimes his “voices” got to be a bit much (wowee!) but all-in-all I really loved it.


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire ~ JK Rowling

20140118_174610I have pretty much failed at my attempt to read all the Harry Potter books in one month. I blame January for this. So far 2014 sucks. A lot. Like a proper lot. Yesterday at the suckiest point, however, I kind of decided “fuck it – I’m taking a reading day” which is the only reason I actually managed to get through the fourth book at all. If I have a “worst” of the Harry Potter novels it’s this one. Perhaps because I am hardly one for organized sport? And perhaps because this one is a little long. Of course the “worst” of the Potter novels still surpasses the best of many others, so it is hardly a complaint when I call it so. What I did particularly like about this one is that life-angst kind of starts to come through on a very real level. Relatable humanity if you can call it that. All three of our young heroes start to experience the real frustrations of growing up. The dynamics between the two sexes start to shift. The agony of self consciousness. Jealousy. Self doubt. All those things which plague us as children and then intensify as we grow up. Hermione starts to become concerned with the livelihood of house elves – a concern that no one seems to share. This is where Hermione can truly be admired as a heroine worth looking up to. She holds on to her convictions despite not only the indifference of her closest friends but often despite their active annoyance. She is not only clever in a book-smart sort of way but she is wise as well.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban ~JK Rowling

20140118_145702-1Time travel stresses me out. This is ridiculous I know, but it always has. It is one of those things that I have never felt capable of grasping. Funny enough, Doctor Who has recently become my All Time  favourite thing, but for some reason The Doctor doesn’t mess with my head quite like most time travel stuff does. I think after reading this book and watching the movie again I am starting to feel more confident about it. That whole “the present makes room for time travel” thing kind of fits for me now (maybe Doctor Who helped?) although I am sure I couldn’t explain it to my grandmother….which according to Einstein means I don’t really understand it enough.  But yeah whatever.  I devoured this book ages ago and am only getting around to reviewing it now. A grave mistake on my part because all I can remember from the experience is the whole time travel clicking thing. I did, once again, find myself thinking that despite my unending adoration for Emma Thompson, she was badly cast as Professor Trelawney (excuse the spelling if it is incorrect, I can’t be bothered to check right now but I am almost positive that it’s right). Usually I am not bothered by things such as casting. That is someone else’s job. But when it comes to the divinations teacher I cannot get my own picture of her out of my head. She never arrives in my mind as the frizzy haired Ms. Thompson. She is more understated. Barmy, of course. But not ridiculous. I feel exactly the same way about Mad-Eye Moody in The Goblet of Fire. Perhaps I take all of this a little too seriously?

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: The Book vs The Movie

20140118_123757Hmmm feeling a little daft right now because I am already halfway through the 4th Harry Potter book and I no longer feel confident to review this one. Typical perhaps. Well obviously it is wonderful, I just can’t remember any of the particular observations I made while I was reading it anymore. Oh well…

I can say that weirdly enough I take the books very seriously. They strike me as serious books. I read on the back of one of our tatty paperback copies of The Philosopher’s Stone that some big newspaper compared Rowling’s humour to Dahl and I couldn’t agree less. I know there are fun and amusing parts in the books, but I never ever ever received them as silly or ridiculous…which is possibly why I thought that Trelawny and Moody were portrayed, not badly, but certainly not in a way that I expected them to be – I sort of feel like the movies made fun of them which doesn’t seem right to me…anyway I digress. What was I saying? Oh yes… I take the Harry Potter series seriously, and while there is obviously a lot of “ridiculousness” that goes on I never ever feel that the books themselves are ridiculous when I am reading them. I find them very “true”. In fact the only time that I have every felt “oh don’t be ridiculous” is in the first book where Hermione talks a load of rubbish about how the boys tried to stop her from going after the troll. Why did she do that? The truth was far more acceptable than the lie was… It was weird….


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: The Book vs the Movie

Photo on 2014-01-15 at 6.53 PMAfter an annoying day of getting nowhere with work or school for the kids, I decided “screw life, I’m going to Hogwarts”. Why? Because I can… Or at least I’m trying to convince myself that I can. I will regret it later in the week when I have to catch up on work I should have been doing already…

I’m not sure why I chose to start re-reading the Potter series again. I have done so three times already I think. I suppose it is just something that I’ve been wanting to do for a while, and so i finally sort of got around to it.

I do, however, think it’s quite funny how many more inconsistencies I discovered while reading the book this time. Now, I must say that I am not one of those who blindly states that all books are better than their movies. For one – the first Hunger Games movie sucked significantly less than the book did. And The Notebook movie was better. Shoot me if you must, but it does happen.

I rather believe that books and movies are different, and therefore it is no big thing for a movie to be tweaked in whichever way necessary to make it more viewable than the story would be if you just blindly copied everything word for word. I am quite ok with story changes and like to judge each on their own merit.

I am rambling.

Anyway – I was a little bit disappointed to discover that my two favourite lines from the first Harry Potter movie were not actually in the book. The first being when Hermione says “What an idiot!” in that glorious way of hers (when Harry goes after Malfoy on his broom to get Neville’s remembral back) and the second being when Ron goes “She needs to sort out her priorities!” after Hermione suggests that getting expelled would be worse than getting killed.

I think I might go and watch the first movie again now. I started it the other day and fell asleep…


Prince Caspian ~ C.S. Lewis

downloadI forced myself to finish this last week while I was away and was a bit bored. Meh. I think I need to put a bit of space between the Narnia books. The problem is possibly that since reading The Magicians, Narnia kind of just looks a bit bland. It feels blasphemous to even suggest that… But if I have to choose between honesty and avoiding blasphemy…I shall choose honesty every time. Possibly this is why my father has taken to calling me “too liberal” lately. Aw bless 😉


The Horse and His Boy ~ C.S. Lewis

2013-09-09 14.02.47*SPOILERS*

While I didn’t mind most of this story it does get to a part where it is a little preachy and it kind of makes me want to cry out “bullshit!” I imagine that might be the reason that this particular book of the series was not made into a movie with the others (although if I’m not mistaken I think there are some BBC movies of all the books out there somewhere anyway). But yes – that’s why I have given it such a low rating. For one, Aslan represents God and he punishes Aravis for something she does in the beginning of the book. It also suggests that he “protected” Shasta throughout his journey. Personally I do not believe that God “punishes” – punishment is a trait of man (and no – it is not up for discussion – I am quite honestly not interested in what you have to say on the subject in your effort to get me to change my mind…thanks anyway) and I also do not believe that God secretly protects those who have no connection to him. You can’t look back on a situation where you have absolutely no relationship with God and go “oh he must have been there”. No dude. He wasn’t there. You didn’t invite him. While I don’t believe that salvation is in any way dependant on you – I do believe that you need to take a step towards God before he can take a step towards you. Now I don’t usually get too self-righteous about stuff like this because how can I get all huffy about what others believe and then still expect that what I believe should be respected? I do however think that there is not much point to God if we continuously compare him to earthly fathers in an attempt to understand something that is quite honestly beyond cerebral understanding. If I’m going to believe in God I kind of need him to not be an asshole. As in – don’t friggen chase my horse and then leave deep gashes in my back to “teach me a lesson” – that is not grace. I think a lot of people are damaged when they are taught to believe that God likes to “Teach lessons”. Fuck that. God likes to love you. End of story.


The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe ~ C.S. Lewis

2013-09-09 14.02.55I love that the religious thread that runs through this book is kind of unasuming and doesn’t pander to doctrinal extremes. I imagine a more zealous writer may have been tempted to become preachy and push a very certain agenda, but Lewis doesn’t. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if you didn’t know that the Narnia series had a Christian undertone that you might not even notice that it was there. He keeps it as simple as the battle between good and evil without trying to throw in any greys.