Book Review: Ending Fear by Deanna Fugett

Guys, I am back with a new YA series that you might just become obsessed with.

Ending Fear by Deanna Fugett brings readers to a new world. Fear is a 14-year-old girl who learns she was a parachute baby, dumped over the edge of the Gliding Lands as an infant. Since then, Fear has lived a hard life under the hands of her adopted “family”. Just as she is about to find happiness for the second time, her life is thrown into turmoil again when 8-year-old Happy is kidnapped by the Uppers and Fear vows to rescue her.

Even though it immediately opens with tension and hatred, this is overwhelmingly a story of hope. This is mostly presented through the strong presence of religion. Although religion is forbidden by the Uppers, many Downers still continue to believe in Abba and practice his ways. I have to admit that there is a lot of religious reference in this story and at times it feels like the author is laying it on a bit too think. However, it also made me reflect on my own Catholic upbringing and reminded me to embrace more the positive sides of religion, like forgiveness and kindness, and I guess that can’t be a bad thing.

The inclusion of religion will certainly be a breath of fresh air for younger readers who may have lived a similar life to Fear. We learn early on in the story that Fear was physically, mentally and sexually abused by her adopted family, which led her to believe she was worthless and any kindness must be repaid by unsavoury acts. But as the story goes on, we see her accepting genuine love and friendships and she is able to live her life more as the child she is than an adult and this is wonderful.

The theme of oppression also features in Ending Fear, with the Downers just living to serve the Uppers and becoming more and more void of any individuality or independent thought. Yet, we meet characters who rise above this in non-violent ways and win; another good message set forward by Fugett.

In the next books, I would like to learn more about the Uppers; I am quite curious to see how they will be developed. I would also like to have a more steadily paced read as I felt nothing happened in the first 60% of the book and then the story was just rushed. Anyway, I do recommend this book to anyone in search of hope – Ending Fear will certainly give it to you.

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Ending Fear by Deanna Fugett

PS. For all of you on the scavenger hunt, here is your last clue!

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14.fear

Book Review: The Virgin of the Wind Rose by Glen Craney

I always struggle to find something witty and fascinating to say when writing the introduction for a book review. So, I am going to open this review with just one sentence: if you like Dan Brown, you are going to love Glen Craney.

The Virgin of the Wind Rose is a Christopher Columbus mystery-thriller which tells the story of State Department lawyer Jaqueline Quartermane who must unlock the infamous Templar Word Square to thwart a global conspiracy that reaches across five centuries. In parallel, it also recounts Portugal’s Order of Christ back in the 15th century and the conspiracy theory of the real identity and mission of Christopher Columbus.

I was completely drawn in as the book opens in Ethiopia and I was introduced to various religious elements which were new and interesting to me. By the time the themes of Christianity and Judaism were brought into play, I was hooked. Religious mystery and the Templar Word Square are slowly unravelled to the reader through each chapter, as the story jumps back and forth between Portugal and the present day. Now, I have to admit that this complicated things for me as I really couldn’t distinguish very well what the connection was and how the two stories would combine until the very end. However, upon reading other reviews, I realise that I was probably the only person who didn’t know that the story in Portugal was the story of Christopher Columbus and his voyages to the New World. If that light bulb was switched on earlier I might have enjoyed this book a lot more.

Nevertheless, excluding whatever information I did and didn’t know from the beginning, I do think that this book dragged out a bit. While reading the last chapters, I found myself skimming a lot, just wanting to come an end and find out what happened. The ending did bring clarity and one shocking event I did not expect to happen.

Returning again to the positive, I do have to praise Craney’s writing. Whether or not the story was too long for me, he has a good way of presenting detail to the reader which allows them to paint a wonderful picture in their head,. There is also a superb knack for unravelling a story. Additionally, one cannot fault just how well-researched this book was. I absolutely love secrets from the past!

While certainly not a quick read, I have to put my personal preferences aside and recommend this book to you all. Delve into The Virgin of the Wind Rose when you have the time to read it slowly and carefully and savour every well-thought out element of the story. Like I already said, if you love Dan Brown, then this really is one for you.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Virgin of the Wind Rose by Glen Craney

The Virgin of the Wind Rose by Glen Craney

Book Review: Every Secret Thing by Rachel Crowther

You might think this to be a running theme on Joyful Antidotes if you are a newcomer: “this is a great holiday read”. But many of my recent reads have been – and Every Secret Thing by Rachel Crowther is no different.

Every Secret Thing tells the story of 5 choral scholars and their strong friendship over 3 years of studying at Cambridge. Just before graduation, they travel to the Lake District for a weekend, where everything changes forever. Twenty years later, the friends are brought together again, summoned by a mysterious bequest. What follows is an unravelling of the past and emotions they thought were buried forever.

This book is full of mystery. The story is a complete mystery and the characters are a mystery. Let’s start with the story. Be prepared for lots of detail throughout this book. Crowther certainly knows how to describe places and events. I have read previous reviews which stated there was too much detail but I disagree. There can never be too much detail when everything the author writes seems essential on your journey through the book. Plus, Crowther has a great way of writing which keeps you turning pages, keeps you wondering about the characters and what could be the conclusion of the story.

The conclusion. Hmm. That wasn’t the strongest part of the story, for me. I was actually  left with an unsatisfactory feeling that there was no conclusion. Yes, some answers were provided but for my inquisitive mind, they were not enough. Especially when it came to answers and explanations about characters which felt like they were just thrown in in passing.

Finally, we have the characters. We find out a lot about each character throughout the 384 pages but, like I just mentioned, their story didn’t feel like it was concluded. Nevertheless, I have to admire Crowther’s ability to develop completely individual characters and bring them together in a way that the reader can believe in the relationship they had. And this was important as the main premise of Every Secret Thing was not the mystery element, but the theme of friendship and complex relationships.

Overall, I have to admit it was not the best book I have read, but it was by no means the worst either. I would recommend this as a story to pick up every now and again, or while on holiday, and as a book for aspiring writers who want to learn more about character development.

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Every Secret Thing by Rachel Crowther

Every Secret Thing by Rachel Crowther

 

Book Review: Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

Despite the fact that there are millions (probably even billions) of books in this world, an absolute page turner does not lie between the every cover. Therefore, when I find a rare gem, I just have to share it.

Although I am relatively late to the bandwagon on this one, I have been pushing Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent down the throats of everyone since I read it a few weeks ago. Unravelling Oliver tells the story of charming, successful author Oliver Ryan who is admired by everyone, that is until he viciously beats his wife Alice into a coma. The book tells Oliver’s story from his point of view, but also from the point of view of several other characters who try to make sense of what has happened.

I absolutely loved how Oliver’s character unfolded, but it also left me with a plethora of mixed feelings. The opening sentence – “I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.” – just screams monster. And for a lot of the book, Oliver does appear to be just that, a monster. However, as the story progresses and we learn more and more of his back story, a certain softening happens, an almost understanding. This makes our opinion of Oliver less harsh than it was in the beginning and, to be honest, I didn’t like feeling this way. It was an insight to the real world when we see people forgiven, and even supported, following terrible acts as they are usually a “person of good standing”. 

The other characters are not as interesting. Although we do catch a glimpse of their personalities, I do believe that their main purpose is for us to learn more about Oliver. Nevertheless, while they don’t stand solidly on their own, having the different characters really gives the reader a rounded perspective of Oliver.

What I most liked about this book was that it was a crime story with a difference. Admittedly, since I read Gone Girl, very few books have stood up against it in terms of originality and surprise. Beyond this being a unique story, I believe Nugent’s writing style made it stand out. It is simplistic but informative and captive. There is no big build up, I feel, which makes the twists come as an even bigger surprise. 

Overall, I absolutely loved this book and can’t recommend it enough. I have already laid my hands on Nugent’s Lying in Wait and hope to be back with another glowing review soon.

Book Review: Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

Book Review: Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

Book Review: The Courage of a Samurai: Seven Sword-Sharp Principles for Success by Lori Tsugawa

I am an advocate of the self-help book. They might seem cheesy, and they won’t change your entire life, but you always finish up one having learned a thing or two. You may also think that they are all the same, but you are wrong.

The Courage of a Samurai: Seven Sword-Sharp Principles for Success by Lori Tsugawa Whaley is a self-help book with a difference. It is broken into several chapters which focus on the samurai’s code of ethics, and each chapter tells the stories Japanese and Japanese Americans who applied the principles of courage, integrity, benevolence, respect, honesty, honour, and loyalty to their own lives.

Why did I like this book? Maybe because it wasn’t condescending. Every piece of advice was offered as a suggestion rather than something considered a “must-do” and forced down your throat. I wasn’t left feeling overwhelmed. This was helped by the examples given, the stories of people who stuck to one or more of these ethics and made a positive change in life. Therefore, Tsugawa offered more so approaches to life rather than a hard set of guidelines which just had to be followed. I was able to take from the information of the page and interpret it to fit my own needs. The recollection of these stories left me really believing in this ethics and making a conscious effort to live by them more.

I babble a lot about learning about points of history from books and this review will be no different. Even without the self-help aspects, I enjoyed the information this book offered me from a new culture. My samurai knowledge was zero before this book; I hadn’t even seen The Last Samurai! But now I feel compelled to learn more about their culture, as well as that of Japanese Americans, especially their treatment during WWII. If I book leaves you wanting to learn more, then I think it is a winner.

So, if you want a self-help book with a difference, The Courage of a Samurai is for you.

I was sent a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Samurai

Book Review: The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice by Katarina West

I’ve been a fan of Katarina West ever since I reviewed Witchcraft Couture way back when. So, when I was approached to give my thoughts on The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice, refusing was never going to be an option.

The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice tells the story of Irene Nylander, a frumpy Finnish woman who is ignored by her husband and constantly undermined by her mother-in-law, who she has given up everything to take care of. On her 50th birthday, Irene finds out her husband is having an affair and, absolutely distraught, she decides she wants to die. Prank-loving angel Aaron hears these thoughts and decides that Irene will swap bodies with Hollywood superstar, Mimi Kavanough.

Ok, I know what you are thinking. The body swap story has been overdone and yes, I would agree. But I think West takes a new angle in this book with the intervention of angels. So, the book tells the story of three people instead of two: Irene, Mimi and Aaron. And that makes it all the more interesting.

Aaron is the instigator of the body swap and so the story needs him, even if he wasn’t my favourite character. It was Irene who was my favourite character and I was cheering her on from the very first page. Immediately, I felt sympathy for her and I knew almost instantly I was going to like her. She brought an intense start to the book but that didn’t turn me off. I liked that she made me feel emotional, and, later on, she also brings some very warm moments to the story.

Mimi, on the other hand, is not likeable at all, staying true to the role of celebrity spoiled brat throughout. But she was needed to balance Irene and I think West used this relationship of sorts to come to a good conclusion for both characters (although there will be a second book, so the story is not finished yet!).

Overall, I liked this book. I was eager to find out what was going to happen next, just as eager as I am to read the next book. Even more so, I like West as a writer and I am happy to be on her creative journey as each book is better than the last. Pick this up for your next weekend read – it will leave you with a smile on your face.

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Katarina West

Book Review: Penny White and the Temptation of Dragons by Chrys Cymri

If you are a fan of parallel worlds, dragons and mythical creatures, then Penny White and the Temptation of Dragons by Chrys Cymri is the book for you!

Penny White is an everyday kinda vicar in rural England whose life changes soon after she finds herself giving a dragon the last rites. She proceeds to become a part-time vicar in Lloegyr, a parallel world populated by many fantastical creatures who also share the Christian faith.

When I was asked to review this book, I was at first expecting the story to be a lot darker. But, as soon as Lloegyr and its wonderful creatures were introduced, I was immediately reminded of J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and I knew Penny White was going to be a winner.

Cymri grips the reader from the beginning as the first few pages tell the death of a dragon on an English motorway. From there, we are brought on Penny’s journey in discovering Lloegyr. It was nice to discover this new world and its creatures at the same time as Penny; I felt her bewilderment and excitement at the same time. Nothing is presumed of the reader by the author so I didn’t feel left behind when it came to information.

Penny was a great character and very likeable, which I guess one wouldn’t often expect from a character who is a vicar. The book showed aspects of Penny’s faith and her commitment to it and I liked the theme of religion binding our world and that of Lloegyr together. It gave the message that we are all the same when it come down to it. But Penny also liked to drink whisky, was an avid Dr Who fan and grumbled about some of the tasks she had to perform as part of her daily duties and this makes her down to earth and relatable to the reader. I actually think that the character of Penny is based on Cymri herself and that made Penny all the more real to me.

I also enjoyed the theme of friendship in this book, especially between Penny and Morey, a gryphon who is Penny’s associate. Although Morey’s sarcasm and his tendency to be judgemental had Penny believing that they would not get along, they eventually become good friends, loyal to each other through tough times. We also see an unlikely bond form between Morey and snail shark Clyde, again showcasing the message of us all being equal and not judging a book by its cover (like I did before reading this. Oops).

I can’t really do anything but recommend this book, especially if you are the kind who loves getting lost in an alternate reality. And, if you feel cold turkey after finishing the last page, be comforted in the fact that there is more to come in this series.

I was given a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

 

Penny White

Book Review: A Little Bit of Chantelle Rose by Cristina Hodgson

If you mention the word ‘thriller’ to me in relation to a book, I will snap it up straight away. This eagerness led me to review A Little Bit of Chantelle Rose by Cristina Hodgson.

A Little Bit of Chantelle Rose tells the story of its namesake, Chantelle Rose, who, desperate for change, finds herself an extra in a seedy film. The part leads her to a million-dollar role in an American film, and into the path of film star Lionel and the sultry Robbie. Besides the problem of falling in love with two men, Chantelle has to deal with someone who seems intent on scaring her – but who and why?

The story begins in a fun and lighthearted manner – and continues that way throughout. This bothered me. It is not until halfway through the book that it takes a sinister turn, one which, unfortunately, was not sinister enough for me. What I was met with was more curiosity than suspense. Admittedly, some bits of the story threw me off but, overall, the outcome was more on the obvious side for me. This placed A Little Bit of Chantelle Rose in the “holiday read” genre rather than the “alone at night in stormy weather” genre I had been expecting.

That is not to say that I didn’t like the book because I did. It just wasn’t what I was expecting. By the end I was looking forward to what will come next for Chantelle. A character who started out irritating me in the beginning eventually found a place in my heart ( I really didn’t like how few questions she asked about what she was getting herself into regarding the mysterious Hollywood role). It also took me a while to warm to her because of the fact that Chantelle isn’t a complex character; it was pretty obvious what her desires and intentions were. Robbie, Lionel and Gabby, on the other hand, had more of a hidden depth, which is what bought my curiosity (nosiness) out while reading.

Overall, I would recommend A Little Bit of Chantelle Rose to anyone looking for a romantic poolside story with a bit of an edge. Don’t expect a major thriller and you will enjoy this book just fine.

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Chantelle

Book Review: The Heart of the Hydra by A. Mangina

When I was approached to review The Heart of the Hydra by A. Mangina, this is how it was sold to me:

“I will come right out and say that a reader should be open-minded when reading this book. It is a blend of satire, romance, and comedy. There are elements of erotica in it, too. This is a romance novel unlike any I’ve read, which is why I simply had to publish it for the author.”

With my constant longing to try all things new, how could I refuse?

The Heart of the Hydra tells the story of the two main characters, Nick and Harper; their own personal issues, how they meet and how their relationship evolves. Nick is an introvert, an extremely good-looking one, who is unable to form relationships due to a terrible secret he keeps hidden. Harper is an overly sarcastic girl who covers everything with a joke. She has moved to South Harbor to get away from the tragic loss of her boyfriend.

Let me start with the writing style of the author. The book opens with a friendly tone and each chapter alternates between Harper and Nick. This friendly tone continues for the entire book and is infused with laid back language, blunt honesty and lots of comedic speech. This, for me, made anything that could be deemed as shocking in the book, well, less shocking. It felt like two friends telling me their story and like I would be like real-life friends, I was accepting of both Nick and Harper.

Both characters are relatable in some ways even if they aren’t your typical romance novel characters. All of us have hidden our true feelings with jokes and laughter at some point, we have felt the nerves at the beginning of a new relationship, and we certainly have had many insecurities. So, we feel for and we route for Nick and Harper and we eventually learn that The Heart of the Hydra is more about acceptance than it is about romance. And we learn this, feeling every emotion along the way, by reading the wonderfully descriptive language of the author.

One thing that I didn’t like so much about the book was that the ending was a bit obvious, but I don’t think it is the ending which is the most important piece of this story, it is the journey.

Overall, I would certainly recommend The Heart of the Hydra if you are looking for a romance story which is not your usual Nicholas Sparks kinda thing. This book didn’t shock me but I would repeat the advice I was given about going into it with an open mind. And if you don’t have an open mind but still decide to read, you will probably finish the last page of the book with one.

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Heart of the Hydra by A. Mangina

Book Review: The Heart of the Hydra by A. Mangina

Book Review: City of Ghosts by J.H. Moncrieff

It frightens the life out of me but I absolutely love anything from the horror genre. That’s why I couldn’t resist the opportunity to review City of Ghosts.

City of Ghosts by J.H. Moncrieff centres around Jackson Stone, an American tourist in China who breaks away from his group to spend the night in the abandoned city of Hensu. When residents were forced to flee Hensu, not everybody got out alive and Jackson is determined to get the paranormal recording which will turn him into a best-selling author. But he gains so much more when he meets soft-spoken Chinese woman Yuèhai.

I read this book in two days – I couldn’t put it down – so you know it was a good one. For me, it had everything I wanted in a horror story. It was fast-paced, intriguing and chilling and Moncrieff has a way of writing which has the reader feeling tense throughout the story. What I really liked was that it wasn’t just about Jackson and his experiences with Yuèhai. Yuèhai’s story was a fascinating story in itself and would have made for a novel in its own right. She wasn’t the most likeable character, but she did bring tears to my eyes in the end.

In fact, most of the characters in this book weren’t particularly likeable – but that doesn’t mean they weren’t interesting. Especially those you would call the ‘main characters’: Jackson, Kate, Harold and Yuèhai – very different people formed as three-dimensional characters, thanks to the skill of Moncreiff. Kate, a medium was probably my favourite character (always a bonus to have a strong female character), but it was Harold, the tour guide, who intrigued me the most. It was obvious from the start there was something shifty about him and his character brought a lot of mystery to the story.

This is my first book by J.H. Moncrieff and I am hooked! I really can’t wait to see what comes next in this series ( I hear it centres around Kate, which I am thrilled about!).

A copy of this book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

City of Ghosts by J.H. Moncrieff

City of Ghosts by J.H. Moncrieff