Review: Live & Learn by Vance Pumphrey

Disclosure: A copy of this book was given by the author for an honest review.

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Age: Teen-Adult

Pages: 368

Book Blurb:

Defense of the Land Series

Book One

In the age old struggle of good v. evil, who gets to decide who—or what—is good?

Can a beautiful, goody-two-shoes paladin knowingly consort with an assassin? Depends on how desperate the assassin is….

Jaramiile throws her sword in with five others to stop the scourge of evil that has been reborn in The Land. Yet can she face her god when one of her companions admits to being hired to slay another? What if the target is her sworn enemy? To further confuse the matter, the assassin has skills their party needs—and he is very handsome….

Come along on yet another magical ride as Vance Pumphrey weaves The Valdaar’s Fist tale from another perspective—those who would stop the raising of the dark god.

Discussion: Vance Pumphrey has created an Epic Fantasy chocked full of orc battles, paladins, magicusers, rogues, narrow escapes and earth-shattering secrets. While able to stand-alone, I recommend reading Dragma’s Keep first as Live & Learn takes place simultaneously, coming from a different perspective.

As a brilliant example of hunter turned prey, Vance Pumphrey pens a magical page turner with this newest woeful band of misfits. Tracking Sordaak and his crew through the underground maze toward the elusive Dragma’s Keep, this group of characters sometimes bites off more than they can handle. While struggling to gain ground on Sordaak, they face monumental battles, a devious demon, and hidden agendas that strain the tenuous relationships forged on their journey.

Coupled with an interesting plot, I appreciate the parallels that Mr. Pumphrey includes in this latest installment. Since I have read Dragma’s Keep, I enjoyed reliving the hazards that befell Sordaak’s crew, and it added a sense of urgency and dread to the novel. After growing attached to Sordaak and his companions and hoping for their success in raising Valdaar, I began Live & Learn with a bit of trepidation. Not wanting to root for this new set of warriors, devoted to Praxaar, I held a grudge for a time. However, Vance Pumphrey writes in a way to compel those with the strongest of wills to hold the newest cast of characters of Live & Learn in high esteem. By the end, I respected their grit and determination, even though my alliance remained with Sordaak.

In the same fashion, similarities abound between the groups, each with a paladin, magicuser, healer, and jack-of-all-trades. Their devotion to a cause speaks volumes, and in any other circumstance, both sides would probably get along rather well. I can imagine them sitting around an open fire, drinking ale, and rehashing past battles and proudly displaying war wounds. Of course, the only obstacle that pits them against one another is who they serve which encompasses an age-old conflict in a thoughtful and vibrant way.

Vance Pumphrey breathes likability into each character, giving them notable, but believable, flaws that propel the story on and keeps the reader’s attention throughout the book. A likable mix of intensity and humor, Live & Learn gets 5/5 stars. I look forward to the next in the series!

For information about the author, his books, and updates, please check out vancepumphrey.com.

Happy reading,

KD

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Review: Ronaldo: The Reindeer Flying Academy

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Cover via Amazon.com

 

Genre: Children’s eBooks

Age: 5-10 years

Pages: 98

“IMAGINE! See it, feet it, believe it! You can do anything, if you truly believe in yourself.” Ronaldo’s Grandad

Book blurb: “Ronaldo is the top flying cadet at the prestigious Reindeer Flying Academy. He dreams of getting his flying license and becoming one of Santa’s reindeer, just like his hero, Vixen.

In the first adventure in the Ronaldo series, the second year flying cadets face their toughest ever flying test — The Endurance challenge. Will Ronaldo be victorious and lift the silver cup? Or will mean brothers Dasher, met and Prancer ruin his chance for success?”

Disclosure: A copy of this book was given in exchange for an honest review.

Discussion: A wonderful spin on a Christmas favorite, Ronaldo: The Reindeer Flying Academy emphasizes the importance of believing in yourself. Funny and captivating, kids will get a kick out of carrot pancakes (can’t wait to make my own!), the ultimate parental stare down, and the obligatory embarrassments kids suffer during childhood.

Of course, the real gems of this story, apart from the message, are the colorful illustrations. They not only enhance the engaging text but take on a life of their own. Well designed and entertaining, this book would be wonderful to read any time of the year.

As for drawbacks, I would love to see this ebook offered in print! For little minds, the tactile stimulation and vibrant illustrations would be stupendous. It is for this reason that I’ll give Ronaldo: The Reindeer Flying Academy by Maxine Sylvester a 4/5 stars.

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Picture via Amazon

An enjoyable read, a great message, and another book to continue the tale! Please visit Maxine Sylvester on her Amazon page, connect with her on Facebook and Twitter,visit her website, and don’t forget to leave a review if you purchase.

Happy reading!

KD

 

 

Reviews: The Accidental Empress & Flyte

This year is flying by, and I’m churning away at the TBR list like there is no tomorrow. My days consist of writing, reading, editing, reviewing, and researching on a repeat loop, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sure, I throw in an occasional exercise routine. Weights here, a little cardio there, a recovery cookie for dragging myself through the mental prep it takes to force each pained step through the above “recommended” exercises.

Now, hear me out, I’m a healthcare professional, in addition to penning books, who values keeping the body healthy. Having stated the obvious, I don’t have to say I “love” it, or even “like” it, but all in all, I appreciate what exercise can do for my mind, body and writing.

What I do “love” is a great book, and boy do I have two I’m raving about today: The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki, and Flyte by Angie Sage. Yep, they are from different genres, the first is historical fiction and the later from fantasy fiction, but I do love reading various genres. I find that it enhances my writing in a number of ways. But, I digress. These masterful written and entertaining pieces of art command attention from the get go, and I’m excited to review them for you today.

Here goes!

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Cover via Amazon.com

The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki

Genre: Historical Fiction

Ages: Teen to Adult

Pages: 512

Book Blurb via Amazon:  “A  New York Times bestseller, The Accidental Empress is the “captivating, absorbing, and beautifully told” (Kathleen Grissom).love story of “Sisi” the Austro-Hungarian empress and wife of Emperor Franz Joseph.

The year is 1853, and the Habsburgs are Europe’s most powerful ruling family. With his empire stretching from Austria to Russia, from Germany to Italy, Emperor Franz Joseph is young, rich, and ready to marry.

Fifteen-year-old Elisabeth, “Sisi,” Duchess of Bavaria, travels to the Habsburg Court with her older sister, who is betrothed to the young emperor. But shortly after her arrival at court, Sisi finds herself in an unexpected dilemma: she has inadvertently fallen for and won the heart of her sister’s groom. Franz Joseph reneges on his earlier proposal and declares his intention to marry Sisi instead.

Thrust onto the throne of Europe’s most treacherous imperial court, Sisi upsets political and familial loyalties in her quest to win, and keep, the love of her emperor, her people, and of the world.

With Pataki’s rich period detail and cast of complex, bewitching characters, The Accidental Empress offers “another absolutely compelling story” (Mary Higgins Clark) with this glimpse into one of history’s most intriguing royal families, shedding new light on the glittering Hapsburg Empire and its most mesmerizing, most beloved “Fairy Queen.”

Discussion: Okay, as most historical fiction’s go, the 512 pages may seem overwhelming at first glance, and if you’re new to historical fiction, then this may be the absolute turning point in the decision to pick up the book or not. However, Pataki’s superior grasp on weaving an extraordinary tale gleaned from true life accounts of a young empress, plucked too soon from the protective confines of her childhood home, will leave you yearning for a sequel. And not to disappoint her fans, Allison Pataki hints at a possible continuation as the life of Sisi is too luminous and compelling to contain in one formidable book.

So, for those wondering about the length, don’t worry. The pages fly by, turning faster than a fan blade on high power. As a matter of fact, I was quite disappointed to have only touched the tippy top of this compelling, vivacious, resilient young Sisi, who after a long and arduous road, finds strength after heartbreak and despair on multiple occasions. Yes, I too swore indecent accusations at her mother-in-law (MIL) and spouse. I flung the book in haste onto the bed at the intrusion of Mother Sophie and relished in how her pompous attitude was hacked down a tier or two as I neared the close of the book. Don’t worry, the book was unharmed in the events of disdain. Although my psyche took a hit, dreaming about Sophie’s snooty grins and pudgy fingers grasping yet another delicate treat only the Hapsburg Court could afford to eat. Yes, the frustration and loathing was palpable in my household, and I can thank the exquisite Allison Pataki for that;-)

As far as the historical significance of the book, Pataki rarely strayed from actual accounts of Empress Sisi, and I owe a monstrous “Thank you” to her for that. It’s disappointing to read a historical fiction book that strays too far from the truth, and Ms. Pataki doesn’t disappoint. Her genius lies in the way she embodies Sisi’s imagined thoughts during her lifespan that keep the reader glued to the pages and wanting for more. I found myself wondering how it would feel to be plunged into the depths of the Hapsburg family without a life raft or boat, some kind of anchor to hold near. Not even her mother, who lived days away, could soften the blows of an overbearing MIL or the estrangement of her husband.

If you haven’t been introduced to Allison Pataki’s books, I’d advise you to take a look. She pens a book better than most, and she’s a credit to the historical fiction genre.

5/5 Stars

Flyte by Angie Sage

Genre: Children’s Fantasy/Magic

Ages: 8-12, but Adult’s love it too!

Pages: 532

Book Blurb via Amazon:

“It’s been a year since Septimus Heap discovered his real family and true calling to be a wizard. As Apprentice to ExtraOrdinary Wizard Marcia Overstrand, he is learning the fine arts of Conjurations, Charms, and other Magyk, while Jenna is adapting to life as the Princess and enjoying the freedom of the Castle.

But there is something sinister at work. Marcia is constantly trailed by a menacing Darke Shadow, and Septimus’s brother Simon seems bent on a revenge no one understands. Why is the Darke Magyk still lingering?

Bringing fantasy to new heights, Angie Sage continues the journey of Septimus Heap with her trademark humor and all of the clever details readers have come to love.”

Discussion:  The second book in the Septimus Heap series, Ms. Angie Sage continues the fascinating and nail-biting adventures of Septimus Heap, Princess Jenna, Nicko, their dragon boat, and a mystical world of magic waiting for the reader who dares to turn it’s pages. The castle, in disarray, anxiously awaits the return of Septimus amongst the chaos of the Extraordinary Wizard, Marcia, whose sinister dark shadow grows ever more tangible with each passing day, threatening the demise of her charge over the castle and those seeking to keep the wizarding world from falling into evil hands.

Ms. Sage uses vibrant descriptions, placing the reader directly into the surroundings, which I find difficult to write, but it’s effortless for her. The terminology, spells, and background stories all compel me down the rabbit hole of Flyte. What an adventure! Likable for all ages, Flyte touches on the nuances of parental struggles, sibling rivalry, and the typical angst of growing up all compiled into one. A quick and easy read, I’m grabbing the next in the series, “Physik,” faster than a toddler throwing spaghetti onto a wall.

While the series targets an audience between the ages of 8-12, I recommend teens and adults grab a copy, too. It’s a fabulous book to drain away trials of the day. Although, it may contribute to some sleepless nights with a never ending internal dialogue of, “Just one more chapter!” Honestly, I’ve tried in vain to find something about this book that I could critique, but I’m at a loss. And, no, I don’t always give 5/5 reviews;-)

For lovers of magical fantasy, please check out Angie Sage.

5/5 Stars

So, what’s next on my TBR list? Well, I’ve got quite a few, but I’m always interested in your thoughts! Please, comment below on books or series that make your list of favorites. I love Indie authors, too! As a matter of fact, I’m reading an indie book right now in the midst of a plethora of books I’m using for research. A author’s work is never done!

Happy reading!

KD

Review: The Platinum Dragon by Vance Pumphrey

Disclosure: The author sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Genre: Epic Fantasy

Age: YA to Adult

The final installment of The Valdaar’s Fist series, The Platinum Dragon leaves no stone unturned. What was once a crew of misfits has now turned into a well oiled machine with deep friendships forged. The final book finds our crew undergoing weeks of training with their respective masters, honing and fine-tuning their skills. They plan to reunite on the Isle of Grief with the Storm Giants in tow.

Construction of Sordaak’s Keep, thanks to the dwarves of the Dragger Clan, prosper and the temple for Valdaar’s resurrection is well under way. However, when Vorgaath never turns up, a successful excursion ensues to rescue Vorgaath from the clutches of feudal clans. Once reunited, the crew head back toward the Isle of Grief only to come under attack by none other than servants of Praxaar, including Sordaak’s half-sister. After narrowly escaping death, Sordaak forms a sketchy plan to obtain Valdaar’s Fist from Bahamut, the king of all the mighty dragons.

Each team member is pushed to the ultimate limit of skill and power. The epic showdown leaves a jaw-dropping and unexpected conclusion, impacting each in different and profound ways.

Like the other books in the series, The Platinum Dragon is an entertaining page turner. The author’s words flow effortlessly, creating 3-dimensional characters, vivid imagery and a flawless plot. The downside of any epic fantasy is the length, but with the final turn of the page, I found myself wanting more.

Vance Pumphrey astounds, mesmerizes and fascinates in The Valdaar’s Fist series. I anticipate his future endeavors to work magic of their own.

For more information on Vance Pumphrey and to buy his books/merchandise, please visit www.vancepumphrey.com.

Happy reading,

KD

Review: Ice Homme by Vance Pumphrey

Disclosure: The author presented a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Each book of Vance Pumphrey’s exceeds the previous in anticipation, plot twists, and character development. As readers learn more of the dangers lurking around the next adventure, a growing fervor persuades us to keep turning the page. Ice Homme, the third in the Valdaar’s Fist series, sends our band of brothers on another unforgettable path towards death and destruction.

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The book begins with our tried and trusted crew outside the Library of Antiquities fully rested and loaded with supplies. Having obtained tidbits of information on Valdaar’s infamous sword and Cyrillis’ lineage, the crew sets off for Ice Homme, stronghold of the Minions of Set.

On their journey, a detour takes them on a dangerous path towards the Isle of Grief, Sordaak’s primary spot for his own Keep, an important destination and revelation for all included.  While on the way, the team must conquer the town of Ardaagh, full of ghosts, ghouls, and zombies, including a nasty Lich Lord that would like nothing better than to annihilate each one of them.

As if that is not enough, unforeseen events propel them onwards, attempting to best Storm Giants, Troglodytes and Minions, only to encounter alliances in the most unlikely of places. However, ancestral secrets abound, threatening a halt to their quest.

The ritual to raise Valdaar from the dead is futile without the possession of Pendromar, Dragma’s staff, and Valdaar’s sword. The hunt is on, the stakes are higher, and our trusted team is set to encounter their toughest challenge to date.

With subplots of infidelity and magical cloaks, Vance Pumphrey elevates his writing to another level in this third installment titled Ice Homme.

For more information on the author and to purchase books/merchandise, please visit vancepumphrey.com.

Next week, I’ll review the last in this series, The Platinum Dragon. Stay tuned!

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Happy reading,

KD

Review: The Library of Antiquity by Vance Pumphrey

Disclosure: Author provided a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Stumbling across a series of books that set tongues wagging and imaginations soaring is rather difficult. A fan of Epic Fantasy for decades, I can say that I am more than picky. Books, in general, must not only hook a reader from the opening sentence, but it must hold our attention throughout hundreds of pages. A rather formidable task in this day and age of publications. So, it was with great pleasure to have been introduced to the Valdaar’s Fist series which took me on a ride of unimaginable proportions.

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The Library of Antiquity is the second installment of the series. It picks up with our band of misfits trained, rested and chomping on the bit to continue their quest. The cast must bring their A-Game as they enter a living library ready to thwart any entrant from solving it’s plethora of challenges. Magic, spells and potions are no match for this library as the cast soon realizes. The culmination of staggering events lead our tried and weary group on an exasperating maze towards either triumph or death.

A wicked tale Vance Pumphrey weaves on this fabulous second installment. I look forward to posting my review on the mischief and mayhem this cast of characters entertain in the third book titled Ice Homme.

Happy reading!

KD

A Short Story Review: Orange Slices by H. Eugene

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

Authors who write fabulous short stories are to be admired. Not only do they need well developed characters, but the plot must be spot on. Any discrepancies or lack of skill become glaringly apparent, but it’s more than that. Within a short number of pages, the reader must be caught in the web of the story and flown through intricacies that the best of authors wrestle with in full length novels and/or series. So, authors able to achieve the impossible should be applauded, and H. Eugene’s Orange Slices is one such treasure.

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From well developed characters to an immersive storyline, Orange Slices took me by surprise. Do yourself a favor and take an hour or afternoon to read H. Eugene’s short story. Oh, and by the way, grab a bag of orange slices to enjoy while you read. You’ll be happy you did!

Happy reading and eating!

KD