ARC REVIEW: Bentwhistle The Dragon: A Threat From The Past – by Paul Cude

Title: Bentwhistle The Dragon: A Threat From The Past
Author: Paul Cude

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Adventure
First published: October 19th 2011
Finished reading: September 29th 2017
Pages: 486
DNF at 49% (238 pages)

“The valuable lesson you should have learned, was that evil comes in many guises, not always visible to everyone.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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It’s easy to say I have a weak spot for any story involving dragons as they are my favorite of mythical creatures. This story had me at the title, because how could I resist a new fantasy series where dragons play such a big role? I was really looking forward to start reading Bentwhistle The Dragon, and even though it took me longer than planned to actually pick it up my initial excitement was still there. That’s why it’s such a shock I had to make the hard decision to DNF this story. Because let’s face it: that almost never happens… But honestly, I’ve tried. Really tried. I’m not saying the writing is bad and it truly shows just how much time is put into the detailed and extensive descriptions and worldbuilding in general. This attention to detail is what stands out in this story and I can always appreciate when this much time is dedicated to creating a believable and well developed fantasy world. BUT. The thing is, the pace is supersuperSUPER slow and I just couldn’t get myself to keep interest. I don’t mind a slower pace if I get detailed descriptions in return, but I think in the case of Bentwhistle The Dragon it was kind of a description overdose. One superlong and extensive description after the other kind of had the reverse effect on me and instead of finding myself intrigued by a story about my favorite mythical creature, I was actually rather bored by it all. Because I have to be honest and say that nothing much really happens during the first half of the story especially considering it has over 200 pages. I definitely would have expected a lot more action or at least some suspense… I don’t think the age group would be happy with so many descriptions or the lack of action either, and I felt the tone was off for a YA story (too ‘formal’?). All in all Bentwhistle The Dragon definitely wasn’t for me, and unfortunately I just couldn’t bring myself to keep reading all those extensive descriptions hoping something exciting would happen in the second half. Especially since I found the mystery and ‘dangerous’ situation not suspenseful at all and to be honest rather lacking for what is labeled as a fantasy adventure story… I’m sad to see this dragon story on my very short list of DNF reads.

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Dragons have walked among humans for a long time, and nobody seems to be aware of them… Because the dragons are disguised as humans and live among them, infiltrating the human world in key positions to guide and protect them. They can change forms at will, although dragons are always careful to not reveal their secrets. But something is off, and it might be up to three young dragons to put a stop to it before it’s too late… Will they be able to?

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I had really high hopes for Bentwhistle The Dragon, and that’s why it makes me extra sad I had to make the though decision to DNF it. This almost never happens, but I struggled so much with the endless descriptions and superslow pace that I just couldn’t get myself to read the second part as well. I was really surprised by the lack of action as well, especially since it’s labeled as a fantasy adventure story… The worldbuilding is excellent and extensive, but in this case it might have been too much detail and the balance between plot/action and description was lost. Such a shame! I really wanted to enjoy this one.


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ARC REVIEW: The Secret Of Heaven – by Felix Alexander @ReadingAlley

Title: The Secret Of Heaven
(Aiden Leonardo #1)
Author: Felix Alexander

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Adventure
First published: 2016
Publisher: ForeverPoetic
Finished reading: August 22nd 2017
Pages: 311

“The truth must be understood. Not solely for the purpose of being accepted, but for humanity as a whole to achieve enlightenment.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Reading Alley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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Every once in a while I like to change up genres and read something different. And while The Secret Of Heaven is partly a thriller, it was the promise of adventure and ancient mysteries that closed the deal for me. I love reading about conspiracy theories and secret societies so it is easy to say I was looking forward to this one, especially since I had previously enjoyed one of the author’s stories. Unfortunately things didn’t work out that way. I’m not sure if it just was me reading The Secret Of Heaven at the wrong time, but I really struggled to get a proper feel for this story. There are a lot of different characters involved and this makes it hard to keep up wih the what and who and how everything connects. More than once I had to stop reading and try to remember what the role of a certain character was and this slowed down the pace considerably. The plot also felt pretty chaotic and kept jumping back and forth between characters… Which took a while to get used to. I have to be honest here and say it took me a lot longer than expected to finish The Secret Of Heaven. The writing wasn’t bad and it really shows that the author has taken the time to investigate the historical details thoroughly. The (historical) descriptions are extensive and show just how important the so-called Lost Bible is… That said, those descriptions did also slow down the pace and while I normally love historical elements in a story, they didn’t manage to convince me in The Secret Of Heaven. As for the characters and their actions… I wasn’t really able to connect to them as there are simply too many characters in play in the first place; also, I’m not sure everything that happens in the plot is exactly credible. And while it kind of has that Dan Brown feel and sounds really promising, The Secret Of Heaven unfortunately didn’t manage to blow me away. Such a shame, because the story has a lot of potential!

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Professor of Biblical Studies Aiden Leonardo was the last person to see Lazzaro de Medici before he was murdered, so of course he instantly becomes the main suspect. The thing is: he cannot remember what happened the night before… Although he is certain he would never harm the man that took him in when his mother died. Something more complicated than just a simple murder seems to be at play though and Aiden soon finds himself right in the middle of a conspiracy, a hunt for a Lost Bible and a secret organization known as The Group. What will happen to Aiden and will they be able to find what they are looking for before it’s too late?

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I really thought I was going to enjoy this one and I’m still wondering if I picked it up at the wrong time, but the fact is that The Secret Of Heaven didn’t manage to convince me in the end. The writing isn’t bad and it shows that the historical elements are very well researched, but there were too many characters involved and the pace wasn’t as fast as I thought it would be with the extensive descriptions slowing it down. I normally love historical details so I was really surprised I wasn’t able to enjoy this story more!


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BOOK REVIEW: Stardust – by Neil Gaiman

Title: Stardust
Author: Neil Gaiman

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: February 1st 1999
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Finished reading: May 15th 2017
Pages: 266

“You have to believe. Otherwise, it will never happen.”

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It’s basically a miracle I could even see the cover of this one with all the dust it has been collecting for years… I guess it was about time I picked it up! Now I’ve read it, I can say Stardust is without doubt another well written and entertaining fantasy read, but it reads a bit slow and all in all I didn’t find it as good as some of my Neil Gaiman favorites. Stardust is one of those exceptions where I have actually seen the movie first, something I prefer not happening because it tends to alter the reading experience. It’s probably what happened here as well, because I kept thinking of the movie as I were reading Stardust… And this is one of the rare cases where I actually enjoyed the movie better than the book. I still can’t put my finger exactly on the why, but I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that the pace was more enjoyable in the movie and I liked the dynamics between Tristran and Yvaine better. And the Robert De Niro scenes are just priceless. 😉 Back to the book, the slower pace used to tell this story made the whole journey feel a bit less adventurous and exciting and Stardust didn’t manage to blow me away like other books I’ve read by this author. The characters were interesting enough and I really liked the worldbuilding, but I also felt the so-called ‘spark’ was missing from this one. It’s without doubt an entertaining fairytale-like fantasy read, but I’ll stick with the movie for this once.

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Like many men of the small village of Wall, Tristran Thorn is in love with the beautiful Victoria and will do anything to win over her cold heart. This even includes finding the star they watch fall from the sky one day and bringing it back to her. Tristran is determined to do so, even if he must go to the other side of the ancient wall that gives the village its name. Normally people aren’t allow to cross to the other side, but an exception is made for him because of his past… And he soon finds out all about what’s on the other side: Faerie, where nothing is what he could ever have imagined.

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I’m a fan of Neil Gaiman‘s work and I have read various of his novels, but this one was somehow always pushed back down the TBR pile. I can’t explain why, especially since I really enjoyed the movie and have seen it various times over the years… But I’m without doubt glad I finally read the original story. Stardust turned out to be one of those rare exceptions were I liked the movie better, but the book is still a quite entertaining and enjoyable read. It reads a bit slow and wasn’t as good as I thought it would be, but then again it’s hard to live up to books like Neverwhere and The Ocean At The End Of The Lane in the first place.


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ARC REVIEW: Enchanters – by K.F. Bradshaw @ReadingAlley

Title: Enchanters
(Enchanters #1)
Author: K.F. Bradshaw

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magic
First published: March 1st 2017
Publisher: Wishbox Press
Finished reading: May 9th 2017
Pages: 590

“We don’t get to decide what we bring into this world with us. But you have a gift, Andrea, and you should consider using it for something useful.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Reading Alley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I enjoy reading a proper high fantasy read every once in a while and the cover and blurb of Enchanters managed to catch my attention immediately. It somehow took me longer than expected to finally pick it up, mostly because I wasn’t in the mood for the genre and I didn’t want that to be a bad influence on my experience with this story. I’m glad I finally decided to give it a go though and I have to say I really like the idea behind the worldbuilding and plot in Enchanters. The worldbuilding of the fictional Damea is extensive and I like the clash with the ‘real’ world that represents Cassie’s character. This without doubt adds a whole different dimension to the story and I like how K.F. Bradshaw portrays this difference in worlds and customs in the characters. That said, I do think the story itself is overlong and I feel it would have been more enjoyable with more focus on the action and less on the ‘insignificant’ details and dialogue. These elements slowed down the pace considerably and sometimes even distracted from the plot itself. I also wasn’t completely convinced by the characters and some of them even started to annoy me; especially the bantering between Cassie and Andrea. I did appreciate that it’s a YA high fantasy read with a proper glbt angle though; it’s something you don’t see every day. In short, I ended up having mixed thoughts about Enchanters. The worldbuilding and plot is without doubt interesting, but I did feel the story was overlong and I had some problems with the (sometimes) forced dialogue and characters.

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The people of Damea have had access to magic for centuries, using it to improve their everyday lives. The so-called enchanters have the power to wield it and magic has been woven into their societies for a long time, but now everything has changed. The magic is dying, and Damea is slowly dying with it… Nobody seems to know how to reverse this, but Andrea is determined to find a way to bring it back. She is an enchanter’s apprentice and has been helping another enchanter for years… But it might take a stranger from another world to actually try and restore the magic. Will they be able to?

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I was looking forward to read Enchanters, but I ended up having mixed thoughts instead. While I liked the worldbuilding, plot and general idea behind this story, I still think it was also overlong and even dragged at points. That might just be because the dialogue didn’t feel all that natural and I didn’t really like some of the characters in the first place though. The pace did pick up in the second half and there was a lot more action… All in all an interesting read, although I did have my problems with it.


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ARC (AUDIO) REVIEW: Secondhand Smoke – by M. Louis

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Title: Secondhand Smoke
(Jake Brand, PI #2)
Author: M. Louis

Genre: Mystery, Thriller
First published: October 15th 2015
Publisher: Palasides Publishing
Finished reading: November 24th 2016
Pages: 322
Rating 3,5qqq

*** A copy of this audiobook was kindly provided to me by Mindbuck Media Book Publicity in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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It’s just about time I finally had my very first audiobook experience! I’ve tried my hands at audiobooks in the past, but could never actually get into the voices that narrated the stories. When Mindbuck Media Book Publicity offered me a copy of Secondhand Smoke in exchange for a review, I thought it would be the perfect excuse to give audiobooks another chance. This book by M. Louis is actually the second book of a PI series, but can also be read as a stand-alone without missing out on too many details. The story itself is action-packed, full of plot twists and the characters are without doubt interesting. I have to admit it took a little while to adjust to the whole idea of listening instead of reading the story myself, but I ended up enjoying the whole experience a lot better than I thought I would. Secondhand Smoke has a fast pace and is mainly focused on the action, making it almost sound as if you were listening to the script of an action movie. Sure, it could have done without the romance and wasn’t sure about the ending, but overall it is without doubt a very entertaining story. It also worked perfectly as an audiobook and I was able to multitask while listening to it. I’m not sure I will switch to audiobooks any time soon, but one or two every once in a while have become way more tempting. And I can definitely recommend Secondhand Smoke to any detective/thriller fan.

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When a beautiful woman shows up at PI Jake Brand’s office pleading him to find her missing boyfriend, he would have never guessed the mess he would soon find himself in along with a few select persons close to him. Jake and his best friend and assistant Sara discover the couple is connected to a shady hacker, a corrupt copy and a few other potentially dangerous people. And as they try to find out what is really going on, it turns out they might actually already know too much… And their lives are in danger.

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If you are looking for a fast-paced and action-packed detective thriller that reads/sounds like a proper action movie, Secondhand Smoke is definitely a great choice. The story is mainly focused on the actions instead of the characters and it shows in the many many action scenes. The character development isn’t that extensive, but they are easy to connect to in general. The ending was a bit corny, but I liked the title reference and overall I had a great time listening to this story. Recommended!

BOOK REVIEW: Furthermore – by Tahereh Mafi

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Title: Furthermore
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Magic
First published: August 30th 2016
Publisher: Dutton Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: November 16th 2016
Pages: 416
Rating 3,5qqq

“Why must you look like the rest of us? Why do you have to be the one to change? Change the way we see. Don’t change the way you are.”

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I have been wanting to read Furthermore ever since I first heard about it. I admit I haven’t read Tahereh Mafi‘s popular Shatter Me series yet (mostly because of the mixed reviews I’ve seen out there), but this new story seems to be totally unrelated to it. Furthermore is a typical middle grade story that reads like a fairy tale and is full of adventures and a worldbuilding that is both creative and well executed. In fact, both the new world Tahereh Mafi created where color is currency and the plot itself are probably the strongest features of this book. The main characters are ok, although they did feel a bit underdeveloped at points. I loved the symbolism behind Alice though. As for the pace of the story: the beginning was quite slow and didn’t grab my attention right away, while the ending felt quite rushed. In other words, Furthermore lacked the right balance in pace and I would have liked to see a better ending. The story is well written though and I can see why middle graders would enjoy reading this story full of magical adventures. The chapters are not too long either, which makes it a great read to read out loud as well.

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Ferenwood is a world where color is currency and the sign of magic as well. The more colorful the inhabitants are, the more powerful they seem to be… And that’s why Alice Alexis Queensmeadow doesn’t seem to be popular at all. She was born all white from top to bottom, and even though she desperately wants to fit in, everybody seems to treat her indifferently. Well, everyone except for Father, but he disappeared three years ago and nobody knows where he went. Alice is determined to find Father, and one day she gets help from an unexpected source. It turns out she will have to travel through the mythical and dangerous Furthermore to find him, and it will take all her wits to fulfill her quest.

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Maybe my expectations were set too high, but while Furthermore was a very entertaining read I did have some minor problems with it. The biggest flaw might be the pace, which was too slow in the beginning and felt way too rushed in the end. The adventures itself were cute enough and I simply loved the worldbuilding and the idea of color as magic. I would have liked to see a bit more character development, but I liked Alice and I have no doubt it would be a big success in the target group.

BOOK REVIEW: The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer – by Mark Twain

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Title: The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer
Author: Mark Twain

Genre: Classics, Fiction, Middle Grade
First published: 1876
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Finished reading: October 20th 2016
Pages: 225
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“Can’t learn an old dog new tricks, as the saying is. But my goodness, he never plays them alike, two days, and how is a body to know what’s coming?”

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Like most people, I already knew most of the details around the life of Tom Sawyer and I think I might have seen a TV series at some point, but I’m ashamed to admit I had never actually read the original story as it was written by Mark Twain all that time ago. And since I needed to read more classics in the first place, I thought it was a great excuse to finally pick up my copy of The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer. Unfortunately I can’t say I fell in love with this classic. I’m not saying it is a bad read, but I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. Part of the problem might be that I read it too late; I would probably have enjoyed this story a lot better fifteen to twenty years ago. That said, I did think there were too many religious references to my taste, although that can probably be explained by the fact that it was written back in 1876. But classic or not, I did have a hard time to get a proper feel for the story and it only started to get more exciting after their ‘graveyard adventure’.  Slow start and stronger ending; I guess it would still make a great middle grade, especially for boys.

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Tom Sawyer is not like most of the boys in the Mississippi River town where his lives. He doesn’t really feel like behaving and doing as it is told by the adults around him, and is always looking for a way to escape his tasks. Tom is without doubt very clever, and is able to convince the other boys of just about everything. From the fun in whitewashing a fence to the games they play and the things that happen at school, Tom Sawyer is always a busy boy that normally means he will ends up in trouble. Trouble that might be turning into a really dangerous situation after what happened at the graveyard… But even trouble and danger cannot make Tom to stay away from his adventures and the creativity of his own mind.

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I guess I either read this story at the wrong time or it just wasn’t for me, because I can’t say I was convinced by especially the first part of The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer. It’s not a bad read and I can see why especially younger readers would love this story, but I had a hard time getting into the story. The last part is a lot more exciting though, and the story is quite readable even though it’s written back in the 19th century.