Category Archives: Magic

How Beauty Saved the Beast

How Beauty Saved the Beast

How Beauty Saved the Beast by Jax Garren

Series: Tales of the Underlight #2

Genre: Urban-Fantasy, Magic, Romance, Adult

Publication: February 11th 2013 by Carina Press

*mild spoilers for book one

The Plot

Jolie Benoit left her old life behind to become an agent of the Underlight. Training under Sergeant Wesley Haukon, she’s honing her combat skills, all the while coping with the intense sexual attraction she feels for Hauk. She keeps their friendship casual, but when his high school sweetheart transfers into their division, Jolie finds herself grappling with jealousy.

The Underlight gave Hauk a purpose, but he can’t escape his past completely. The physical and emotional scars from the fire that killed seven fellow Army Rangers will mark him forever. Jolie sends his protective instincts into overdrive, but he’s convinced he’ll never be worthy of her love.

Hauk is determined to keep Jolie from harm. But when the Order of Ananke ambushes them with a new weapon that neutralizes Hauk, making him vulnerable, it’s Jolie who must tap into her hidden strengths to rescue him—or risk losing him forever…

My Review

How Beauty Saved the Beast picks up seamlessly from the end of How Beauty Met the Beast. There is a short time gap between the two, but one that enables the plot to be driven on without being hindered by confusion of recapping the events in between. Again, How Beauty Saved the Beast has a very pacey plot line that continues to engage my attention as the reader and build upon the events of the last novel, bringing in more information about the world and the characters and serving to heighten my all around experience of the Underlight.

Admittedly my first thoughts are to the cover which I enjoy so much more than the previous one. The Beast on the front appears to have no visible scarring on his face which is a little annoying, he does seem to fit the kind of figure I would imagine and Beauty’s presence in the back fits much more with the ideal I imagined than the first appearance. The dark blue and light blue fit the mood of the text and bring out the vivid red of Beauty’s hair, so I think Garren really captured the essence of the characters in this cover.

In terms of character development, we’d already gained a good grasp of both Beauty (Jolie) and the Beast (Hauk) in the previous novel, and Garren continued to build on these as both individuals exploring themselves and who they were, but together. She helped to build their relationship based upon communication and things they did together. This displayed the foundations of an emotional connection that whilst didn’t push through directly to lead the novel, had a strong enough presence to see that friendship came as part of the building. I liked that these two valued each other and regarded each other in terms of friends, because in terms of character growth it allowed themselves to look a little deeper at their own characteristics and attitudes. I think this was seen in Jolie’s acceptance of Hauk’s appearance more than anything else, which is probably to be expected, but it wasn’t cliché, it was more natural which I liked.

He had no hair at all and marked where his eyebrows should be with four curved barbells on each side. He had no tattoos on his face, but his skull had her favourite one, a phoenix rising from a fire at the top of his spin, her colourful wings encircling his head and her beak touching his forehead, right where a priest would place a blessing. It was an incredible piece of art, and must have hurt like a mother to have been done entirely on bone like that.

Now when I say that the romance doesn’t overshadow the plot, there are definitely still some very sweet and tension filled moments between the pair that only added to my enjoyment of the overall plotline. So for romance lovers out there, don’t worry because Garren knows how to deliver in the romance department!

Her lips were soft enough, fascinating enough to keep him happy for hours. Jolie wasn’t some quick hook-up. Touching her wasn’t some itch that just needed scratching. She was the real thing. She needed to know that. He needed to treat her like that. They had time to learn each other right.

The plot depth only gets more complicated and even more unexpected since the first book which I really liked because I never knew what to actually expect. Garren makes some really unique ideas, legends and political wars to bring together a novel of some great originality that also manages to be action-filled with fight scenes, rescues (which is pretty obvious given the title) and bomb-shells that I’m finding less and less in modern fiction. I certainly thing How Beauty Saved the Beast hypes up the plot another gear from where we first began and Garren only demonstrates how fabulous she is as an author.

In addition to this, we do get some new characters in this that certainly add more complexities to the novel. I liked how we didn’t weigh to heavily on the past events and Garren drove the novel forward with more action and characters and whilst many of the secondary characters that were in the previous book return, there seems to be something still new and refreshing about the second book that makes it as easy to read as the introduction was to the world.

I would mention that I didn’t quite feel the steampunk element as strongly in this one, however in replace we did get some magic that blends much more strongly into How Beauty Saved the Beast than the first novel. So I wouldn’t expect too much steampunk from these novels, but do regard that Garren has the power to blend, action, romance and magic and so much more into these books that she continues to build upon with new layers that make them so enjoyable.
Another good point, is whilst How Beauty Saved the Beast is urban-fantasy and not a book that looks deep into humanity and pondering the issues of society like contemporary fiction generally does; it certainly proves effective in looking at judgements upon appearance and the conspiracy theories of politics that make it more relatable and realistic for an urban-fantasy novel.

Ultimately for me, Garren has done what so many authors seem to fail when writing a sequel, she has managed to step up the game and only have me eager for more! So pick up the Tales of the Underlight series now as I promise you won’t regret it.

4 Books / 5 Books

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under 2013 Publication, 4 Books, Adult, Carina Press, E-book, Jax Garren, Magic, Romance

How Beauty Met the Beast

How Beauty Met The Beast

How Beauty Met the Beast by Jax Garren

Series: Tales of the Underlight

Genre: Urban-Fantasy, Magic, Romance, Adult

Publication: November 19th 2012 by Carina Press

The Plot

The Beast – Scarred. Damaged. Living with a terrible secret. Agent of the Underlight Wesley “Hauk” Haukon has nothing left but the fight for liberty against the oppressive Order of Ananke. He’s starting to lose hope…and then he sees her.

The Beauty – Despite her night job as a burlesque dancer, grad student Jolie Benoit has always played the mostly good girl. That all changes following a scorching sexual encounter with a stranger whose face she doesn’t see. After she’s kidnapped by thugs and rescued by a man with a very familiar voice, Jolie becomes a pawn in a struggle she never knew existed.

Hauk knows he cannot have her, and resolves to protect his heart and his secrets. But as they work together and grow closer, he finds new reason to keep fighting. Dare he risk hope in a new life, one where Jolie can see past his ravaged face and where their friendship can grow into something more?

My Review

How Beauty Met The Beast is a book I saw quite a while ago and dismissed it thinking it wasn’t for me. It is safe to say, I am so glad that I returned and picked it up. It may only be a short novella at around 100 and something pages, but every inch of it is action-packed and hooking. Urban-fantasy isn’t usually my primary reading material, but blending this in with a little bit of steampunk and teasing us with romance served to encapsulate my attention for the whole time. And it served to motivate me to read the second book straight after, a very rare occurrence for me, since I much prefer to procrastinate for months and forget the plot lines of previous books before returning to the series. Admittedly, the book isn’t perfect, but it’s enjoyable and entertaining.

I think one of my favourite aspects has to be the ‘Beast’ of the story or Hauk. He may be a man troubled, emotionally reserved and with low expectations of people but he doesn’t allow that to define and infiltrate his actions and morals. He might not be on the right side of the law, but there was definitely the feel of a good man. After his accident in the war, he has been left horrifically scarred and this definitely affects the way he views himself, but I enjoyed how he met ‘Beauty’ a.k.a Jolie and things changed. It wasn’t so blatantly obvious, but the subtly really worked into the storyline to not overpower the plotline.

The world was definitely one to be admired and the complexity of the underground movement, the Underlight and all the political conspiracy that surrounds this certainly entertained me. The aspects of steampunk enter in the Underlight which has removed itself from the world of technology and it moving away from the modern world that is full of corruption. It wasn’t entirely developed to tell every detail, but sufficient enough to gain a good idea and I enjoyed the concept. It definitely served to add excitement with the warning factions and the underground secrecy of everything.

“It’s like I went back in time,” she muttered in awe.
There wasn’t a single piece of plastic anywhere. No electronics, either. No computer. No phone. No television or radio. The desk held paper and a fountain pen. Candlelight gave the room a living glow. Damask browns and burnished hold made up the main palette, with hints of burnt orange and forest green filling the room with a masculine warmth.

Jolie was definitely a character I admired. Despite her bourgeois background, she didn’t allow this to define her or constrain her relationships with others like Hauk. She was down to earth and kind and caring. She also happened to be sassy, smart and brave. Without a doubt Jolie is a kick-ass heroine that runs into things with the best of intentions and usually succeeds because she does think too. I liked everything about Jolie and whilst at times she was a little obtuse, I think that was more a reflection of human nature than anything. Her choice of job is certainly interesting, but I don’t think the judgement should come on first impressions because there is a lot beneath the surface with Jolie.

“Oh. Weird. Well, I guess being a classy stripper is pretty different.”

One of my favourite characters had a very small part, but it was Jolie’s niece and her witty insight to situations certainly added to the humour of the book. It also rounded that novel that there was touches on humour throughout not just from Whitney but other characters too. It certainly showed that the secondary characters could also be fleshed out despite the short length of the novel and this served to impress me because I really felt that I had a handle on the other characters and their positions in the novel.

Whitney sighed. “I told you not to kiss him while he was asleep.”
Was she getting chastised by a twelve-year-old?
“I didn’t!”

Overall, How Beauty Met the Beast was enjoyable, action-packed and thrilling from start to finish. This is most definitely the start to a fantastic series that has some well-fleshed out characters and ideas that have me eager to read more. I definitely recommend this one without reserve!

~ 3.5 Books / 5 Books ~

8 Comments

Filed under 2012 Publication, 3.5 Books, Adult, Carina Press, E-book, Jax Garren, Magic, Romance, Urban-Fantasy

The Holders

The Holders

The Holders by Julianna Scott

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Magic, Young-Adult

Series: Holders #1

Publication: March 5th 2013 by Strange Chemistry

The Plot

Becca is a girl who is the female lioness. She is fiercely protective of her cub, a.k.a her brother. He has these voices in his head and she’s positive that he’s not deluded. She had defended him against all the men in white coats. In addition to this, she has to deal with the fact that her father abandoned her as a child and her brother and mother still idolise this man.

When two people come from a school, St. Brigid’s to promise a happily-ever-after and safe place, Becca is still the paranoid sceptical.

However this leads to moving all the way over to Ireland, but in the process a whole host of history is unveiled and there is Alex. The swoony, heart-throb who is utterly endearing, slightly frustrating, but a very loveable guy.

We get some shocks, some action and lots of quick page turning throughout this book that makes up a fabulous exciting fantasy novel that starts a series that promises to be thrilling!

The Review

The Holders is a book that has come about with plenty of praise for a debut novel, so I had fairly high expectations going into reading, and trust me, it did not disappoint. I was riveted from the very first moment of picking it up and turning the page. I just couldn’t stop reading this book and there was plenty of action delivered. It was exactly the book I needed to drag me into reading again and I think I’ve missed out on some of the intense action that comes with a short book. The Holders is not perfect, and the arc was surprisingly riddled with spelling errors, but it does make a very enjoyable book that made me smile and skipped it’s way into my heart.

Firstly I’m going to start with my favourite element of the whole novel, Alex. Now, I am not usually one for guys who’d I’d necessarily term “cute” like Zeke from ‘The Immortal Rules’, but Alex swept in and easily stole my heart. He was thoughtful, caring and an utterly faulty character which made him realistic. He blushed and was easily hurt, but I feel that literature is full of the “look at me” male heroes and in being so unlike these he captured my heart. I didn’t feel like he was trying to dominate the novel or control Becca like so many guys appear to go, he allowed her independence and actively encouraged it. Alex has undoubtedly made it onto my favourite love interests and the good  news there is only him to see and explore so I thought that Scott really embellished and rounded his character to show the good sides to him.

Then, without seeming conscious of the action, his hand came up and slowly brushed the stray hairs away from my face, softly grazing my cheek. My heart lurched and sputtered, and I prayed he couldn’t feel my hands shake against his shoulders. Holding my eyes with a look that made my stomach tight, he continued, “Don’t ever apologize for saying how you feel.”

Becca on the other hand, I didn’t love as much. She was a great strong, kick-ass protagonist, but her slight tendency to overreact annoyed me ever so slightly. Other than that, I really liked her. She was smart, caring and she clearly had a good relation with her brother and mother. However, I do feel there is more of her to uncover and that we didn’t get to know her character as much as we could have done and that more development is needed to really strengthen her.

The focus on the school and the world building was really good and whilst the school element may not be wholly original, I thought Scott built up a fantastic world of ‘The Holders’ and all the history that surrounded them. I felt that the magic of the really novel really captured the reader and drew me in so I had all my sense bombarded with the powers and talents of the characters. Scott handled the transition from America to Ireland exceptionally well and the rural landscape and greenery of Ireland was captured in the setting of the school with the woods and wildness. I really felt the greenness of the land creeping into the text and a love for the wild.

The main issue of this novel is, it’s pretty predictable on most levels this novel. The events that follow don’t come of much as a surprise, but honestly that didn’t detract all that much from my enjoyment and I happily turned the pages to unveil the next round of action.

Overall, I think The Holders is a really strong debut novel from Scott and I’m looking to future instalments for this series to see where Scott will take us. I definitely think everybody should take a chance with this one as it is lots of fun, an easy read and a whirlwind of action, cute romance and enjoyment.

~ 3.5 Books / 5 Books ~

6 Comments

Filed under 2013 Publication, 3.5 Books, Fantasy, Julianna Scott, Magic, Romance, Strange Chemistry, Young Adult

Reviews from the Realm of Magic

Magic StudyFire Study

Magic Study and Fire Study  by Maria V. Snyder

Series: Study #2 & #3

Genre: Fantasy, Magic, Romance, Young-Adult

Published: October 1st 2006 and January 16th 2009 by Mira Books

*mild spoilers for book one, Poison Study.

A Brief Summary of the Magic Stories

Once upon a time, lived a girl named Yelena Zaltana. Well… actually you might just know her as Yelena and she found out that she had magic, so she must flee her home and the one she loved.

She went on a journey of self-discovery battling the villains and other magicians that tried to stop her whilst she developed her magic and grew as a person. She made some new friends, kept some old friends, made some enemies. She also met her family and began to develop her past identity whilst trying to balance the old and the new in her life of magic and non-magic worlds.

During all this, her fabulous man-candy appeared in her life at frequent intervals to seduce her and spice up the story with some swoony romance. Through all of this she found a trusty steed that called her Lavender Lady and made the story oodles of fun.

There were lots of twists and turns, fun and emotional moments that brought a little tear to the eye. The stories kept you turning the pages with the multiple plots and tonnes of action.

Finally, Yelena realizes she is super-awesome all on her own, but she does need the help, support and guidance of others and she becomes less frustrating so you don’t want to bash her head against the wall and we get an interesting happily ever after.

The Review

Magic Study and Fire Study retained lots of the fun and enjoyable elements that made me fall head over heels in love with Poison Study and I think they make a good series together. I’m breaking it down into some elements to summarise the progression of specific elements.

Yelena

Yelena was a character that wormed her way easily into my heart in Poison Study and she still retained the fire and tenacity that she held when we first met her. However I feel that at times she was a little head-strong and that she just threw herself into things which annoyed me, but that was her character and you had to appreciate her stubbornness and loyalty. She was still the smart and defiant Yelena who fought for what she believed in.

Although I did feel that at a couple of moments she wasn’t quite as witty as she had been previously and smart. She seemed like she’d lost a few brain cells when she didn’t get everything that was going off, but in her defence she was being dragged all over the place to make things exciting so she couldn’t do everything.

Valek

Is it quite manageable to fall in love with this man even more? Something about him with his secret allure and charm that slipped and slide through these two stories as more elusive got me all excited about Valek’s character. My only problem was we didn’t see nearly enough of him and I don’t think as an individual character we saw enough of his personality. He seemed to become Yelena’s love interest rather than an individual that we had gotten to know in the previous novel.

Although Snyder did give me a scare when I briefly thought Valek would be replaced as love interest for another. However fear nor, no love triangle develops nor does Valek disappear. He is very much around for the cute, swoony moments that maintains the magic for their relationship throughout both books!

Two steps and I was wrapped in his arms.

“That’s the best welcome I’ve had all day.”

World Building

I think it’s safe to say that Snyder immerses you in the world of magic and magicians along with the clans whether they were Zaltana or Sandseed or one of the many others. She delves into the politics of Ixia and Sitia and the tensions between the two.

We learn to understand the history of magic, not nearly enough for my own thirst for knowledge, but enough that you really start to understand the dynamics of the world.

Fantasy is a genre that really depends upon believing the world and understanding it, and I could picture every grain of strand, every jungle vine that Snyder depicted and this made the journey so much more enjoyable.

The Secondary Characters

Wow. Snyder excelled on all fronts here. This is what totally sells me her novels. Not only do we draw in everyone we met in the first novel, but in these two we meet a whole new cast of characters. She really built up a world of characters and individuals that moulded so many different elements to this story from the magicians to simple street beggar children who become friends of Yelena or the soldiers.

Snyder also managed to build up Yelena’s family and we developed some real relationships of her past that we hadn’t seen before. Things were certainly rocky and full of ups and downs, but I think that reflects a true family dynamic and how nothing is smooth and perfect. Her brother, Leif was certainly an interesting character of multi-dimensions and I had lots of changing emotions which I really liked.

Lief pretended to be shocked. “But our fearless leader. You have it all planned out. Right?”

I shrugged. “I’m going to take a long hot bath. How’s that?”

Overall, everybody in this novel had a story and a time to shine in the plot and I really liked how Snyder managed to interweave them all. If you like secondary characters, Snyder really excels here!

Ari and Janco

Ari and Janco are still present as my two favourite characters from Poison Study with their camaraderie. I’m sooo glad to see that Snyder brought this two back to be present in both books because I don’t think it would be quite the same without them. They brought humour to the books that could lighten up the more intense and action filled moments to just draw you back down to earth.

“Janco,” Ari warned. “We’re not supposed to be fraternising with the Sitians.”

“But she’s not Sitian. Right, Yelena? You haven’t gone south on us, have you?” Janco’s voice held mock horror.

Moon Man

He brought lots of cryptic wisdom, fun, adventure and emotional moments. Moon Man reminded me a lot of Finnick from The Hunger Games who weaselled his way into my heart entirely too easy as well. He had an aura about him that was hard not to like and from the moment of his first introductions, despite lots of ambiguous characters to whether they were truly good or not, the vibe from him was full of fun and mystery.

Not only that but he helped Yelena and strengthened her character growth and I liked how Snyder used him to do that as well as interlinking the clans and the plot lines that really helped the two novels to flourish.

I studied his colored skin. “Why indigo?”

A slow grin spread over his lips. “A cooling color to help soothe the fire between you and your brother.”

Then, a sheepish look. “It is my favourite.”

Kiki

Kiki is Yelena’s horse. This sounds entirely bizarre, but I think animals if used well are increasingly fantastic characters that authors can make use of. Buckbeak, Nero, Burru to name a few. She has intelligence and insight that the characters don’t and I liked her ability to rebuke Yelena when others couldn’t.

I also loved her nicknames for everybody which represented their identity of personality really by the smell and I think in most cases they fitted really well.

Yes. I’m sorry to take you out on such a horrible day, I said.

Not bad with Lavender Lady. Lavender Lady was the name the horses had given me. They named the people around them just like we would name a pet.

Villains

I’m never really sure how you can assess a villain. In terms of evilness, cruelty, ingenuity. They tend to be slippery characters that are hard to define and Magic Study and Fire Study are filled galore with them. Snyder gets a real mix of rather irrelevant villains that you can skip without much consequence and real two-faced characters and mysterious enemies that creates lots of plot twists and excitements in her novel.

I think the balance of villains done bad and villains done good makes the two novels work really well. I felt the villain in Magic Study was a lot stronger, the plot unravelled more in Fire Study to undermine it and make it a little more predictable in an element that I just knew it had to be that from the start. However, I don’t think it’s entirely obvious, but Snyder drops some fairly big hints throughout the novel looking back that makes it hard for you to ignore.

Overall, she creates some wicked villains and lots of bombshells with characters chopping and changing sides to show that human nature really isn’t set straight.

Favourite Moment

Undoubtedly Snyder packs the novels full of adventure and action which makes it so easy to like them when you can constantly turn a page and find something new happening. I find that I prefer novels with lots of action that transport me to an entire new world rather than something slow and thought-provoking. However one of my favourite moments from the two books was more humorous moments that captures Snyder’s sense of humour that appealed to much to me.

I spotted my mother’s green cloak near the top. I called to Perl, telling her I was fine. “You can come down now,” I said.

“Yelena! Thank fate! come up here where it’s safe,” she said.

Overall

Honestly, I thought these two held great strengths that made them enjoyable, but they didn’t shine as much as the original book, Poison Study. I felt that Magic Study held the edge over Fire Study too and that this series weakened a little by the end. I just felt Fire Study was a little more predictable and rushed than the other two. Still, that does not take away that I would happily label this as one of my favourite fantasy series and recommend it to everybody out there because there is something a little special about Yelena Zaltana and this series. I  cannot wait to get my hands on more Snyder books as she’s undoubtedly one of my favourite authors now!

Magic Study: ~ 4 / 5 Books ~

Fire Study: ~ 3.5 / 5 Books ~

32 Comments

Filed under 2006 Publication, 2009 Publication, 3.5 Books, 4 Books, Fantasy, Magic, Maria V. Snyder, Mira Books, Paperback, Romance, Young Adult