#BookReview : Esme's Gift (Esme Series #2) by Elizabeth Foster @e_foster3 @OdysseyBooks

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Esme’s Gift (Esme Series #2) by Elizabeth Foster
Publication Date: November 30th 2019
Publisher: Odyssey Books
Genre: Middle Grade / Fantasy
Pages: 266
Stars: ★★★★★

In the enchanted world of Aeolia, fifteen-year-old Esme Silver is faced with her hardest task yet. She must master her unruly Gift – the power to observe the past – and uncover the secrets she needs to save her mother, Ariane.

In between attending school in the beguiling canal city of Esperance, Esme and her friends – old and new – travel far and wide across Aeolia, gathering the ingredients for a potent magical elixir.

Their journey takes them to volcanic isles, sunken ruins and snowy eyries, spectacular places fraught with danger, where they must confront their deepest fears and find hope in the darkest of places. Esme’s Gift, the second instalment in the Esme trilogy, is an enthralling fantasy adventure for readers 12 years and over.

*** Note: I received this book from the author, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Elizabeth Foster. ***

Previous Book in Series:

Esme’s Gift was fantastic middle grade fantasy, set in the parallel magical world and revolved around Esme’s efforts in saving her mother. It was about resilience, righteousness, good vs evil, friendship, greed of power, and using gift wisely.

I loved this book more than first one. Writing was better, fabulous, gripping and as magical as its setting. Book was written in third person narrative from Esme’s perspective. It felt so good to read Esme and her adventure in Aeolia once again.

Book started with Esme returning back to her home in Picton Island to let her dad know about her mom and convince him to come with her to Aeolia. But that didn’t turn out well, he didn’t believe a word she said and forced her to run off to Aeolia once again. She wanted to be beside her mother who needed her more. Meanwhile she joined school at Aeolia, made new friends, met mysterious boy and found a lot about Aeolian history and myth.

Through her history project she found out important thing related to her mother. She knew what could save her and rouse her from her comma, a magical elixir. But its recipe was incomplete and ingredients were rare and illegal. For that she needed to master her gift first and travel far and dangerous places to get ingredients.

It was interesting to find out if Esme will succeed in helping her mother or get in trouble once again, what will happen to her and her mother if she failed and if her father will try to believe her and come to Aeolia.

Esme was great throughout the book. Her enthusiasm, optimism and curiosity was infectious. She dug deep to get all the answers, to find out the truth with her history project and her mother’s condition. She was developed character, kind, and compassionate with conscience mind. She knew how to fight unfairness and voice her opinion whenever necessary. What I like about her most was she wasn’t week, or reckless or grumpy teenage. She cared for her friends, helped them when needed and understood the gravity of danger.

Both Daniel and Lillian were amazing friends. They never retreated or hesitated from danger or left Esme alone. Their gift were amazing. This time Lillian’s gift surfaced and she could sing song-spell well. One time it did went wrong and it was fun to read.

New characters Vince, Meera and Seth were interesting and so were their gifts. Seth was mysterious one. I had my doubts like Esme but I couldn’t be sure. I couldn’t guess who he was and what he did in the book.

What I loved most about the book was world and adventure. There was hell lot of things in this world. Aeolia and its history was well described. Its origin, some history, and people of Aeolia was covered in first book but here there was a small part of it that helped to get the idea as there was 2 years gap between this and first book. I loved the history part and stories of ghosts.

Most of the people in this picturesque world had gift- fire breather and fire repellent, Songstress (like sirens), enchanters, healing, muting (I love that one, I wish I could mute people), Ice animation, and water walker, creating portals through painting, passing though solid objects… you name it. Esme’s gift was rare and fascinating. She could time travel in history by touch of water. I liked the concept behind it which was well explained. I usually don’t like time travel but in here with a touch of magic and gift, it sounded good and interesting. Adventure was exciting and dangerous. There were dragons and all sort of creatures, oracle and her cruel truth, annoying ghost, and deadly curse.

I loved Esme’s experience in school of Aeolia, ongoing political campaign and the part when Esme interacted with dragon. I liked the way author represented horrors human can create and its consequences through political scheming, abusive parents, madness of scientist, greed for power and misuse of gifts.

Mystery was well written. I couldn’t guess how Esme will save her mother or find ingredients and what was to come next. Climax was uncertain and nail biting. I was holding my breath in that scene at hospital after the climax. End was great. I still wanted to know the result of political campaign. But I’m sure it will be revealed in next book. There might be a love story or love triangle in next book, I hope not love triangle.

Overall, it was fun and wonderful fantasy with lots of adventure and magical gifts, interesting characters and broad world. I definitely recommend this book to all middle grade readers and fantasy lovers, but read it in order.

Book Links: Goodreads
Affiliate Link: Amazon.in | Amazon.com | Book Depository

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Have you read this books or any book by the same author?
Are you going to add it to TBR?
Which is your favorite book that was set in parallel world?

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#BookReview : The Celestial Assignment by Theresa Braun @tbraun_author

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The Celestial Assignment by Theresa Braun
Publication Date:  February 14th 2020
Publisher: Gorgon Blood Press
Genre: Fantasy / Supernatural
Pages: 28
Stars: ★★★★★

After a sudden death, Will, a misguided angel, is tasked with protecting a baby girl. Watching over her as she grows up and navigates the world appears a harsh punishment for his past failings. Can he redeem himself, or will he fall further from grace?

*** Note: I received this book from the author, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Theresa Braun. ***

The Celestial Assignment was a supernatural fantasy short, only 28 pages story. It was about understanding what true love is, respecting the love you find in life, not treating it selfishly but mainly it was about redemption.

Writing great, enjoyable and was filled with humor. Story was written from Will’s perspective. His voice was witty and refreshing. Book started with Will was given assignment to watch over Celeste as a guardian angel. If he read and followed manual, learned what true love is from this assignment, he would be promoted to be an angel. At first he didn’t care about any of it, not manual nor Celeste and even less love. I was curious to know how watching over Celeste throughout her life can change his perspective towards love and women.

Will was selfish worthless person, not someone I would like to watch over me. He cared nothing in life he lived or any of his incarnated life and not even after his death as a guardian angel. He didn’t even had a clue why he was given the assignment not until Celeste tasted betrayal and when he met fellow guardian angel. Dawn of realization was fantastic part in the book. I loved how he gradually developed throughout the book, the way he understood to respect love and women and what he lost by being selfish and running away from commitments. At the end yes, I rooted for him. He was not perfect but definitely interesting and entertaining angel.

I even enjoyed reading Celeste’s life through his eyes. It made me wonder if there’s my own guardian angel or if I could get the message he/she said that helped me in life. (I hope there is! I can hold that guardian angel accountable for things going wrong.)

Loved the message of redemption. End was great. I wouldn’t want to do anything wrong in this life and then was assigned to any such crazy assignments.

Overall, it was quick, interesting and intriguing short story.

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Have you read this books or any book by the same author?
Are you going to add it to TBR?
Which is your favorite book featuring angels?

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#BookReview: The Queen's Assassin (Queen's Secret #1) by Melissa de la Cruz

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The Queen’s Assassin (Queen’s Secret #1) by Melissa de la Cruz
Publication Date: February 4th 2020
Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons
Genre: Fantasy / YA
Pages: 384
★★★★☆

Perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Red Queen, this is the first novel in a sweeping YA fantasy-romance duet about a deadly assassin, his mysterious apprentice, and the country they are sworn to protect from #1 NYT bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz.

Caledon Holt is the Kingdom of Renovia’s deadliest weapon. No one alive can best him in brawn or brains, which is why he’s the Guild’s most dangerous member and the Queen’s one and only assassin. He’s also bound to the Queen by an impossible vow–to find the missing Deian Scrolls, the fount of all magical history and knowledge, stolen years ago by a nefarious sect called the Aphrasians.

Shadow has been training all her life to follow in the footsteps of her mother and aunts–to become skilled enough to join the ranks of the Guild. Though magic has been forbidden since the Aphrasian uprising, Shadow has been learning to control her powers in secret, hoping that one day she’ll become an assassin as feared and revered as Caledon Holt.

When a surprise attack brings Shadow and Cal together, they’re forced to team up as assassin and apprentice to hunt down a new sinister threat to Renovia. But as Cal and Shadow grow closer, they’ll uncover a shocking web of lies and secrets that may destroy everything they hold dear. With war on the horizon and true love at risk, they’ll stop at nothing to protect each other and their kingdom in this stunning first novel in the Queen’s Secret series.

*** Note: I received this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to @PRHGlobal for free copy. ***

The Queen’s Assassin was YA Fantasy that revolved around Queen’s secret and her assassin. It was about forbidden magic, romance, royal politics and saving kingdom from incursion and evil mages.

First of all that cover is awesome and so apt. Writing was gripping and addictive from the very beginning. I finished this book in 2 sitting and couldn’t put it down until the end. I loved author’s storytelling ability. World, characters and plot was great. It was narrated from Shadow and Calendon’s perspective. That synopsis says it all.

Worldbuilding was fantastic. Initial chapter gave the overview of world. It told about the history of kingdom Avantine, its rulers, how it was broken into four kingdoms, Renovia, how the sect of evil mages called Aphrasians and secret guild who fought against Aphrasians beside Renovian throne was formed, what was Deian scroll and how it was lost to Aphrasians, how all this lead to the current situation of Renovia, and how important it was to get the Deian scroll to save the kingdom and restore the magic and peace.

I thought it was all I would need to know about the world but as I read more I got to know more about political unrest, rise of Aphrasians, and rumors of incursion by assault on princess Lilac- the sole heir of Renovia. I loved excerpts from the Diean Scroll before beginning of all three sections. It that told the history and origin of magic, how magic came to Avantine and story of Queen Lilliana, regent queen of Renovia. Those were the best characters in the book.

Story was divided in three parts- Renovia, Montrice (Renovia’s neighbouring kingdom) and Assassin and Queen.

First part introduced characters. Queen Lilliana, her assassin- Calendon Holt and Shadow. As soon as I read epilogue I knew who Shadow was. Now that is not really strong for book but I tell you, the scenes were well written it mislead me and made me question what I was so sure about. I was curious to see how much she knew or if she doesn’t when and how she will know.

Shadow was a farm girl living with her aunts who were part of guild and trained her well to be part of guild. It was her dream to be part of guild and to be Caledon’s apprentice. But her mother who was courtier and on higher rank in guild had other plans. When a sudden attack brought her and Caledon together, she was adamant to thwart her mother’s plan, impress Caledon by rescuing him and convince him to take her on his mission. The way she carried out her plan was both reckless and impressive. Most of the time she was headstrong girl who acted like she knew more, eager to prove herself but that put her and Caledon in lot of danger. She wanted to be his apprentice but always took lead defied and argued whatever he said. That made me both laugh and irritated. It’s not like she wasn’t skilled or smart but what’s the meaning of apprentice if you don’t listen to a person you’re supposed to work under? Anyway, her development was good. As she worked with Caledon, she knew being assassin and part of guild is not easy, it required sacrifices and understood its seriousness.

Caledon was great. He was my favorite in the book. Now that might be unpopular as all reviews I read, reader didn’t like Cal and loved Shadow more. He was ruthless, merciless assassin. He obviously was not used to work with somebody and it made him look like arrogant but at the same time he was gentleman, man of word and restraint. Even though he was frustrated by working with Shadow and her suggestion he went along with her whims. I loved his story about his father and mother. He faced lot of pain and grief. His work left him alone and loveless but working with Shadow he experienced friendship, love and companionship.

Second part was about Montrice, its people and tradition, finding out if the nation was involved with Aphrasians. It also showed growing friendship and chemistry between Shadow and Caledon. I loved narration of aristocratic life style, gown and balls in this part.

I liked romance between Shadow and Caledon. They didn’t get along well initially but as they got to know each other, it blossomed into a beautiful flower. I was curious to see how they were going to voice their feelings and if they could commit to a relationship.

This unexpected love and all the feeling came along with it distracted them from their main plan. I was so glad for the turning point and what a turn it was. Many things happened from here till the end of this part. When they finally found about the evil Aphrasian, there was little action and some unexpected revelation.

I knew Shadow was hiding things from Caledon but oh boy, what was revealed in third part was a bit more than what I guessed. Queen’s play and secret was shocking. I liked Shadow’s confession and the way story ended. I definitely sided with Caledon and admired him for his decision but at the same time loved Shadow and how she grew with her responsibility. I can’t wait to see what is to come next in this series.

Why 4 Stars-

Now I haven’t read Sarah J Maas books but I have read stories that have somewhat similar outline. The world was original. I love mages and magic and blood vow, but rest of things was not fresh. Characters, queen’s secret and the end was a tad too predictable.

Overall, it was fast paced, interesting fantasy with addictive writing and refreshing world. It gave same vibes as Children of Blood and Bone while reading this, so if you liked that book, you’ll enjoy this.

Book Links: Goodreads
Affiliate Link: Book Depository | Amazon.in | Amazon.com

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Have you read this books or any book by the same author?
Is there a character or book that most readers disliked but you liked/loved?

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#BookReview: Lullaby of Flames by Candace Robinson @literarydust

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Lullaby of Flames by Candace Robinson
Publication Date: December 20th 2019
Genre: YA / Fantasy
Pages: 40
Stars: ★★★★★

A novelette:

Cori has always been a bit on the strange side, but when a gate to Hell—literally—pops up in her backyard, she tumbles down, down, down in to a place filled with beasts waiting to reap her soul for the Devil himself.

Lucky for Cori, she meets Rigel and his gang of misfits who have been trapped for quite a bit. Together, they must formulate a plan to escape, or risk remaining down below for all eternity and burning forevermore.

*** Note: I received e-copy this book from the author, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to author. ***

Other Books i read by the same author:

Lullaby of Flames was another twisted tale by Candace Robinson. It was a short story, Cori’s journey down the hell hole, about unlikely friendship and surviving the darkness and evils of hell. Yup, a twisted Alice in the wonderland.

The writing was vivid and engaging. It plunged me right into its pit. The book was third person narrative that started with introduction of Cori, a typical teenager, having trouble fitting in at school, making friends and getting followers on social media because of her love for the nineties. When she felt tremor in ground and saw a strange glow coming out of her backyard, she went to check it out and next thing she tumbled down and found herself in hell, a place full of flames, dangerous creature where the Devil rules. Thank goodness, she found Rigel and his friends who saved her and helped to survive but she had to find a way out, the question was how.

In just few pages world was wonderfully introduced and described. The biblical story of Adam, Eve and snake fit here so well. I liked the concept of people tumbling in pit and loved the way author formed gang of misfits. Characters were realistic and refreshing. Main character Cori was my most favorite. She was fun, brave and witty. There was smidgen of drama and romance and abundance of suspense, action, and humor.

Climax was exciting and surprising. One part of end was as I expected but the other turned out a shocker.

Overall, it was intriguing, entertaining, and very devilish dark fantasy. I highly recommend this book. Stay away from pits.

Book Links: Goodreads
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#BookReview: Dreams of Fire by Christian Cura

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Dreams of Fire (#1) by Christian Cura
Publication Date: December 5th 2019
Genre: Urban Fantasy / Paranormal
pages: 265
Stars:★★★☆☆

Meet Kara Hartman, a young painter living and working in D.C. She would love to let you believe she is just an ordinary young woman with a dream of sharing her art with the world. But she is hiding an astonishing secret: Kara can wield magic, the most powerful force in the universe. Traumatized by the loss of her brother, she wants nothing more to do with magic. But when an old foe resurfaces, hellbent on destroying all that she loves, Kara has no choice but to embrace the only power that can stop her.

*** Note: I received e-copy this book from the author, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to author. ***

Dreams of Fire was interesting paranormal, urban fantasy that revolved around Kara Hartman who forsaken her magic after tragedy. It was bout loss, vengeance, friendship, love and magic.

I have mixed feeling for this. Some things were good while some I didn’t like. But first let me tell you what was in the book and what I liked.

The book started with Kara visiting her ex-best friend, Charlotte, at Canadian prison stronghold for rogue mystic looking for closure after the tragedy too painful to bear. But Charlotte was drowned in rage, threatened Kara and vowed to exert vengeance by killing her and all her loved ones. After a year, Kara was living a normal non-magical life living her dream of famous painter. Life was peaceful and filled with love after she met a charming demon hunter- Selene. But when premeditated plan freed all rogue mystics and Charlotte along with them from Canadian prison, she found herself forced back to life of magic and Selene and her loved ones’ life was at stake.

What happened between charlotte and Kara all those years ago, why Charlotte wanted to destroy her, would Kara embrace her power and magic to save her loved one and world from the madness of Charlotte?

It was interesting to find answers. Book was third person narrative. Long chapters were broken by multiple POV and scenes alternating from Kara’s life at DC and Canadian Prison.

Kara’s life at DC told about her routine, her paints and how world and people inspired her, how she met Selene and how their relationship evolved. While John (Kara’s elder brother who was warden at prison) and narration by different characters at Canadian prison told about how prison worked, how they trained new enforcers (mystic police) and how prism stripping rouge mystics’ magic worked. This also narrated how the plan that freed prisoners was executed, by who and why.

I liked the introduction to characters. Kara was smart and developed character. She had her inner conflict due to loss and tragedy but on meeting Selene she saw the magic from her view and started to come out of the shell she formed around her. Selene was my most favorite character in the book. She was fiery, fierce and kick-ass demon hunter. She too had hard life and past but it was not revealed much in this book.

I loved bond and relationship between this two. This was my first book with F/F romance. I liked it and would love to read books featuring F/F relationship. This duo was fantastic in battle. I wouldn’t mess with them. Their getting-to-know-each-other conversations was not that extraordinary but it revealed more about their family, childhood and their past.

John was interesting character. I wish I could know him better. We get to know him and his friends Amelia, Rachel, and Marcus in pieces but not that much detail.

The world was filled with necromancers, magic wielders, demons, spells, and demon slayers. Magic was no secret, both paranormal and non-paranormal lived together. Action scenes were well written. I liked all of them and quite enjoyed them. I liked the turns in the story but I could see most of them quite early. I was just waiting for when and how. What I loved most was magic, and powers of characters, magical technology at prison and Kara and Charlotte’s back story.

Climax was filled with tension and action. End was also good. Despite some issues that needed improvement, I found myself wanting to know what happens next.

Why 3 Stars-

First, I don’t like unnecessary sentences and there were many here, like, “They finished their lunch with full stomach and collected their plates.” You get what I’m talking about. 2 or 3 sentences can be cut short to 1. It just dragged the story.

There are two kind of fantasy descriptive world and get to know the world as you read the story. Here we are just plunged into the story and figure the world yourself with surface information. It was not deep or described and because of that I kept questioning ‘Am I reading first book in series or second!’

Around 50% writing and plot got little better but then there came another issue. After the prison break, Selene was telling about her demon hunting adventure to Kara over dinner that she said happened ‘today’, but that scene actually happened and was described in detail before prison break. So I got confused here. All the events were titled under ‘present’ so the timeline was not aligning nicely and this chat and repeated adventure just confused me and kept me thinking what was happening when. It would have make sense, if the day or date were mentioned in the titled.

Concept was really good and promising, no doubt there, but I didn’t like the execution.

Overall, it was interesting, enjoyable and really promising urban fantasy but I had some issue that kept me from enjoying it completely.

Book Links: Gooreads
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