Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Review: Salt & Storm

Kendall Kulper
Young Adult/Historical Fantasy
416 pages
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Available September 23rd
Source: BEA

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island's whalers safe at sea, but her mother has forced her into a magic-free world of proper manners and respectability. When Avery dreams she's to be murdered, she knows time is running out to unlock her magic and save herself.

Avery finds an unexpected ally in a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane--a sailor with magic of his own, who moves Avery in ways she never expected. Becoming a witch might stop her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers her magic requires a sacrifice she never prepared for.

Salt & Storm is a heavier read, death and darkness weighing us down with each chapter as we slowly uncover the price Avery must pay to access the birthright of her magic. The beauty of love exists solely in the shadow of Death’s hooded figure, and no matter how Avery tries to escape it, that shadow dogs her heels from page one to four hundred. While the heaviness of this story can be attributed in large part to the subject matter itself, the writing is another contributing factor, this story favoring both descriptive details and tangential anecdotes, sending us on brief jaunts to the past as Avery recalls specific moments in order to introduce us to particular people or places in the present. This style, though helpful in creating a vivid picture of Avery’s small whaling town, does slow the overall pace of her story down quite a bit, combining with the pain and sacrifice required to become the Roe witch to leave us in need of light and happy reads for the weeks following our closing of the back cover.

From the beginning, Avery erects a number of roadblocks that keep us from settling in beside her as she fights to prevent her death dream from becoming a reality, her behavior that of someone exceedingly selfish whose sole focus is the harm done unto her without once looking outward to see what harm her words or actions have on others. With Tane in particular she is at times extraordinarily argumentative, screaming at him for his inability to help her (despite his best efforts) while refusing to acknowledge that she too has failed in her own promise to help him interpret his dreams. She does at least recognize when her anger gets the better of her, but is almost never able to stop it from spilling past her lips and finding its target in either Tane or her mother, and while we’ve all been there many a time when stress levels get to be more than we can handle, the repetitive nature of her actions keeps our capacity for forgiveness frighteningly low.

Avery is in no way all bad however, once she resigns herself to the fact that she won’t be able to escape her dream’s prediction, she puts all her considerable focus into finally aiding Tane. His needs suddenly outweigh her own desires, and she oh-so slowly in the latter half of this book becomes a young woman we actually want to see find her happiness even though we know the chances of her reaching the last chapter without a body or heart riddled with scars is highly unlikely. Tane, for his part, is infinitely patient with Avery, enduring her impressive mood swings with lopsided smiles and calming assurances, and never once stooping to her level to fire back at her with insults of his own.

Overall, Salt & Storm is not an easy read for a number of reasons, a tricky heroine and a story steeped in tragedy and heartbreak making this a book more easily digested in smaller pieces rather than consumed all at once. Despite those issues however, Ms. Kulper is undeniably a talented writer and storyteller, and most certainly someone I would read again.

Rating: 3.5/5

Find Kendall:

This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Vault of Dreamers Blog Tour: Review + Giveaway

Vault of Dreamers #1
Caragh M. O'Brien
Young Adult/Sci-Fi-ish
432 pages
Roaring Book Press/Macmillan
Available September 16th
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
The Forge School is the most prestigious arts school in the country. The secret to its success:  every moment of the students' lives is televised as part of the insanely popular Forge Show, and the students' schedule includes twelve hours of induced sleep meant to enhance creativity. But when first year student Rosie Sinclair skips her sleeping pill, she discovers there is something off about Forge. In fact, she suspects that there are sinister things going on deep below the reaches of the cameras in the school. What's worse is, she starts to notice that the edges of her consciousness do not feel quite right. And soon, she unearths the ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding—and what it truly means to dream there.

The Vault of Dreamers is an exceedingly unique story, one that moves forward slowly but purposefully in order to give our minds time to ask questions, theorize, and generally wonder about the darkness hiding behind the watchful eye of The Forge Show. It’s not until nearly a third of the way through this story that the history of The Forge Show is revealed to us, a quick and believable explanation for how a school for the arts transitioned into the highest rated show in the country allowing us to link this piece of fiction to our reality in such a way that we can easily put ourselves in Rosie’s shoes. Once our questions regarding the show are answered, our focus then shifts to the strange nightly activities of those responsible for the students’ welfare, and from there we’re taken on an intriguing journey that tests our ability to detect what is real and what is illusion.

Rosie is a young woman who doesn’t necessarily leap off the first page in a blaze of fiery personality, instead she’s fairly quiet and unassuming, somewhat resigned to the fact that her time on The Forge Show is quickly coming to an end. Once she figures she has nothing to lose, we start to see her character emerge, her passion for filmmaking and her desire to show the public how she sees the world through the lens of her camera something we can relate to on a fundamental level even if filmmaking is not one of our strengths. Her inquisitive nature is a trait that should be considered a flaw–her tendency to disobey the school’s rules something that normally would have us rolling our eyes–but it just so happens that her curiosity is only surpassed by our own, and we can’t help but want her to learn as much as she possibly can.

Rosie’s ranking on The Forge Show is improved over time with the help of the unfortunately-named Linus, a romance between the two of them starting up quickly but staying well clear of the insta-love label. They are friends first before becoming allies as Rosie slowly becomes comfortable enough with him to share her fears over what’s happening during the students’ mandatory 12 hour sleep schedule, and while their relationship isn’t one to be categorized as epic, it’s gorgeously free of all the common YA romance pitfalls.

As we near the end of The Vault of Dreamers, the more unusual aspects of the story are brought to the forefront, our understanding of what those in charge are trying to accomplish with the assistance of the unwitting student body a bit hazy and only getting hazier as we reach the last chapter. Those readers who love to be left unsure and off balance, minds racing with implications, will thoroughly appreciate the final pages of The Vault of Dreamers, but those who like their endings to come with a bit of clarity will likely struggle with the tail end of this first leg to Rosie’s journey. Overall, Ms. O’Brien succeeds with the unusualness of the premise and the fascinating nature of the science relating to the students' dreams, and I for one find myself insanely curious to see where this series is headed.

Rating: 4/5

Find Caragh:

Meet her in person on the Fierce Reads tour!

• • • • • • • • • • •


Thanks to the hugely generous team at Macmillan, I have a copy of Vault of Dreamers to give away on the blog today. Giveaway is open to US addresses only. 

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Don't forget to check out the remaining stops on the tour for more reviews and chances to win!

·         September 9 | Ex Libris Kate & The Book Monsters
·         September 10 | Book Hounds & Candace's Book Blog
·         September 11 | Mundie Moms & Word Spelunking
·         September 12 | My Bookish Ways & Working for the Mandroid
·         September 13 | Fiction Fare
·         September 14 | Icey Books & My 5 Monkeys
·         September 15 | SciFi Chick & Supernatural Snark
·         September 16 | YA Interrobang & I’d So Rather be Reading
·         September 17 | Fiktshun & Book Briefs
·         September 18 | Michelle & Leslie’s Book Picks & The Irish Banana Review
·         September 19 | Alice Marvels & Forever Young Adult
·         September 20 | Good Choice Reading & Step into Fiction

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Queen of Zombie Hearts Blog Tour: Interview + Giveaway


I'm beyond excited today to be a part of the promotional tour for the third and final installment of Gena Showalter's fantastic White Rabbit Chronicles, The Queen of Zombie Hearts. I couldn't love this series more if I tried, Gena has a gift for writing incredibly strong female characters and to-die-for male characters, so if you haven't had the chance to pick this series up yet, I hope this interview sends you running to your nearest bookstore!

Speaking of to-die-for male characters, I have the pleasure of welcoming River to the blog to answer a few questions about his involvement in Ali and Cole's fight against Anima. It's possible I hit on him a little too. Don't judge me ;-)

You and Cole don’t always see eye to eye given the fact you’re both very much the take-charge type, but what’s one thing about him you can’t help but grudgingly admire? Your answer will, of course, never make its way to Cole’s ears ;-)

I admire the way he admires me. Feel free to tell him I said that.

Let’s say I was suddenly, and unfortunately, made aware of the zombie’s existence and wanted to join your crew to learn how to fight them. What’s the first thing you would teach me?

To obey my every command. Did your mind just go to the gutter, sweet? Well, get it out. Failure to obey me can get you killed. Not to mention me and my crew. So, if you can’t follow a simple set of orders, there’s no reason to teach you anything else.

Cole has found his perfect girl in Ali. What are a few personality traits the girl of your dreams would possess? If your answer happens to include snarky and paranormal book-loving, then all the better ;-)

I like my women with big…brains. And the snarky booklover. Yep. It’s like you were created in a catalogue just for me. Come over later?

*Jenny dies*

If Gena had written this book series from your point of view rather than Ali’s, what would the titles of all three books have been? 

Book one—See Zombies Die
Book two—See A Lot More Zombies Die
Book three—See Zombies Die BAD

Like Cole, Ali and all of your closest friends, you take some physical and emotional hits in the final battle with Anima. Once all the dust settles, what will you most look forward to with regard to your future and that of your crew’s?

A little R and R. Rest and Romance. See you at eight.

*YES YOU WILL, RIVER* *Beats all the rest of you away with a stick*

• • • • • • • • • • • 


I have a plan.

We'll either destroy them for good, or they'll destroy us.

Either way, only one of us is walking away.

Alice 'Ali' Bell thinks the worst is behind her. She's ready to take the next step with boyfriend Cole Holland, the leader of the zombie slayers; until Anima Industries, the agency controlling the zombies, launches a sneak attack, killing four of her friends. It's then she realizes that humans can be more dangerous than monsters; and the worst has only begun.

As the surviving slayers prepare for war, Ali discovers she, too, can control the zombies and she isn't the girl she thought she was. She's connected to the woman responsible for killing and turning Cole's mother. How can their relationship endure? As secrets come to light, and more slayers are taken or killed, Ali will fight harder than ever to bring down Anima even sacrificing her own life for those she loves.


Find Through the Zombie Glass:

Find Alice in Zombieland:

• • • • • • • • • • • 


GENA SHOWALTER is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of the Intertwined novels and several other popular YA and adult series. Her stories have been featured on MTV and in Seventeen magazine and have been praised as unputdownable.” Growing up, she always had her nose buried in a book. When it came time to buckle down and get a job, she knew writing was it for her. Gena lives in Oklahoma with her family and three slobbery bulldogs. Become a fan on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @GenaShowalter and visit her at genashowalter.com/young-adult/ and at HarlequinTEEN.com.

• • • • • • • • • • •


Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the white rabbit will appear on a different blog and stay there for 48hrs. Once you have found the rabbit, click on it and you will be directed to a Rafflecopter entry form for the Grand Prize Giveaway! To enter, you must answer the daily question found at the tour stop (see below)!!!

Where could the rabbit appear? On all book blogger tour hosts and The Harlequin Paranormal Blog, so go now and hunt the rabbit. Will you find it?

And what do you win if you track this bad boy down you ask? A prize package of AWESOME:

One lucky grand prize winner will receive a $100 gift card and a complete set of the White Rabbit Chronicles. To enter for the grand prize, you MUST follow the tour each day, hunt down the white rabbit, and answer the daily question.

Want to win? Then find that rabbit!

TODAY'S QUESTION: If you could ask River one question, what would it be?

• • • • • • • • • • •


In addition to the fabulous grand prize giveaway featured above for the White Rabbit Contest, I also have a copy of either Alice in Zombieland, Through the Zombie Glass OR The Queen of Zombie Hearts (winner's choice) to give away on the blog today! To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter form, and don't forget to check out all the participating blogs below for more unique content, interviews and chances to win!

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Monday, September 8th – Two Chicks on Books & Harlequin Paranormal Blog 
Wednesday, September 10th – The Book Swarm
Friday, September 12th – Supernatural Snark 

Monday, September 15th – Such a Novel Idea
Wednesday, September 17th – Bewitched Bookworms
Friday, September 19th – Katie’s Book Blog

Monday, September 22nd – The Y.A. Bookworm Blogger
Wednesday, September 24th – Adventures of a Book Junkie
Friday, September 26th – Book Rock Betty

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Feral Blog Tour: Guest Post + Giveaway

I'm really excited today to be a part of the tour for the newest YA release from Holly Schindler, Feral. I always love getting behind the scenes information from authors, so when I had the opportunity to ask Holly about one aspect of this book in particular, I had to pick her brain a bit about the significance of cats to the overall storyline. I hope Holly's response piques everyone's interest, and those of you who haven't had a chance to pick this one up yet add it to your lists!

It’s actually odd that my book features such a wild, almost ferocious depiction of cats. I grew up with two cats I completely adored: Tuffy and Peter. Tuffy was, as her name suggests, born feral. She was adopted by my parents shortly after they got married—a litter of kittens wasn’t far behind. Mom found good homes for three of the kittens and kept Peter. I was adopted by Peter—he was part of the family before I was, and I think he decided I’d been brought home for him. 
I was born in the winter, and Peter spent those first few months staying inside and keeping an eye on me. We were pretty much inseparable as I grew up. Though I have a completely spoiled Pekingese right now, I absolutely love cats—and have incredibly fond memories of the two cats I grew up with.

As I sat down to write FERAL, I didn’t initially intend to include feral cats. Actually, the book started out as an MG mystery. The book got increasingly darker during revision, though, and I knew the book needed to be bumped up to YA—which meant brainstorming a new, older protagonist. 

As I brainstormed, I discovered Claire’s backstory: that she survived a brutal gang beating in Chicago. At that point, I knew I wanted the book to become a psychological thriller, rather than a straight mystery, or even straight horror (as I’d thought about doing when I bumped it up to YA).

Like classic psychological thrillers, FERAL features elements of mystery, horror, and paranormal genres, but the emphasis is on the “psychological” rather than thriller / action. The novel features a Hitchcockian pace and focus on character development…Actually, every aspect of FERAL is used to explore Claire’s inner workings—that even includes the wintry Ozarks setting. The water metaphor is employed frequently in psychological thrillers to represent the subconscious, and here is incorporated in the form of a brutal ice storm (that represents Claire’s “frozen” inner state). The attempt to untangle what is real from what is unreal (another frequently-used aspect of the psychological thriller) also begins to highlight the extent to which Claire was hurt in that Chicago alley.  Even the explanation of the odd occurrences in the town of Peculiar offers an exploration into and portrait of Claire’s psyche. Ultimately, FERAL is a book about recovering from violence—that’s not just a lengthy or hard process; it’s a terrifying process, too. The classic psychological thriller allowed me to explore that frightening process in detail. 

To a large extent, we find out about where Claire is mentally through her reaction to and attempt to deal with the similarities between Chicago and Peculiar. The ice storm, the fact that the schools in both cities require uniforms, even the news of a missing girl all make Claire feel as though Peculiar is no escape at all, as she’d initially hoped it would be. I knew I wanted a gang to stalk Claire throughout Peculiar—and, as a lifelong Missouri resident, I also knew how quickly the feral cat population can explode in rural areas. The feral cat aspect also allowed me to explore another mirror-image: I’m getting close to being a bit spoilery here, but I’ll just say that the gnarled old feral cat I brought in allowed me to depict, in a visual way, how Claire feels about herself, post-beating.

…The only things that the feral cats DON’T mirror are my feelings about cats.  Especially the once-feral cat who used to curl up in my lap and purr contentedly…

• • • • • • • • • • •


The Lovely Bones meets Black Swan in this haunting psychological thriller with twists and turns that will make you question everything you think you know.

It’s too late for you. You’re dead. Those words continue to haunt Claire Cain months after she barely survived a brutal beating in Chicago. So when her father is offered a job in another state, Claire is hopeful that getting out will offer her a way to start anew.

But when she arrives in Peculiar, Missouri, Claire feels an overwhelming sense of danger, and her fears are confirmed when she discovers the body of a popular high school student in the icy woods behind the school, surrounded by the town’s feral cats. While everyone is quick to say it was an accident, Claire knows there’s more to it, and vows to learn the truth about what happened.

But the closer she gets to uncovering the mystery, the closer she also gets to realizing a frightening reality about herself and the damage she truly sustained in that Chicago alley….

Holly Schindler’s gripping story is filled with heart-stopping twists and turns that will keep readers guessing until the very last page.

• • • • • • • • • • •


Holly Schindler is the author of the critically acclaimed A BLUE SO DARK (Booklist starred review, ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year silver medal recipient, IPPY Awards gold medal recipient) as well as PLAYING HURT (both YAs). 

Her debut MG, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, also released in ’14, and became a favorite of teachers and librarians, who used the book as a read-aloud.  Kirkus Reviews called THE JUNCTION “...a heartwarming and uplifting story...[that] shines...with vibrant themes of community, self-empowerment and artistic vision delivered with a satisfying verve.” 

FERAL is Schindler’s third YA and first psychological thriller.  Publishers Weekly gave FERAL a starred review, stating, “Opening with back-to-back scenes of exquisitely imagined yet very real horror, Schindler’s third YA novel hearkens to the uncompromising demands of her debut, A BLUE SO DARK…This time, the focus is on women’s voices and the consequences they suffer for speaking…This is a story about reclaiming and healing, a process that is scary, imperfect, and carries no guarantees.”

Schindler encourages readers to get in touch.  Booksellers, teen librarians, and teachers can also contact her directly regarding Skype visits.

• • • • • • • • • • • •


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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wonderfully Wicked Blog Tour: Interview + Giveaway

Today I'm pleased to welcome author C.J. Burright to the blog as part of the promotional tour for her paranormal romance novel, Wonderfully Wicked. C.J. was nice enough to answer a few questions for me as well as offer up some really fun swag as a tour-wide giveaway, so be sure and check the bottom of the post for all the details. I hope you guys enjoy the interview!

Lydon has the rather fascinating ability to invade dreams. If you possessed the same ability, what would be one or two of your worst-case scenarios when you entered someone’s dreamscape?

Drowning in a stormy ocean would pretty much suck. It happens to be my own particular nightmare—I dream of tidal waves all the time. Landing on stage naked, where I’m expected to give a speech. Nothing better than those naked dreams, but adding in my public speaking phobia? Shudder.

Freedigitalphotos.net/Victor Habbick

Lydon is more the literal man of Kalila’s dreams rather than the romantic, figurative one, but they embark on a dark journey toward love just the same. What is the number one quality the “man of your dreams” would need to have in order to win you over?

Devotion. If he’s going to be mine, he better be all in.

As a dreamcaster, Kalila is able to channel the creatures from her nightmares. If you were in her shoes facing the dangers Lydon brings into her life, what creature would you most like to have by your side to help you when you needed it?

Love this question—and it’s super-hard! I’d need a creature that could fight anything, that couldn’t die, and could whisk me away in a second…um…Jerricho Barrons from Karen Moning’s Fever Series! He’s a creature of unknown origins, and yeah, I could live with Jerricho Barrons as my constant sidekick.

*BARRONS!!!!!! YES!!!! Sorry, I couldn't help but interject with a little Barrons enthusiasm ;-)*

Lydon is the cold, unemotional type. What do you think it is about a man like him that piques our romantic interest when we should probably instead run far, far away?

Sometimes running away doesn’t help! Snort. I think for a lot of us, there’s something inside that yearns to belong to that one person who truly needs his other half, who can’t be complete otherwise. Who feels awakened only by his soul mate. To be the one and only who affects another person to the extent they want to be an improved version of themselves is a powerful draw. Of course, if you’re not their soul mate, you’ll get screwed over. Love is a risk!

freedigitalphotos.net/photographic 1980

What is, hands-down, the most romantic book you’ve ever read?

That is a totally unfair question. I can’t name one particular book that is THE most romantic book, but Where Dreams Begin by Lisa Kleypas is one of the few romances I’ve read several times. And the Outlander series…Jamie Fraser…sigh.

If Lydon could create a dreamscape–rather than simply invade the dreams of others–just for him and Kalila to spend time together free of the enemies and dangers awaiting them in their reality, what would his dream landscape for her consist of?

Oh. My. There’d definitely be some surf going on, a murmur of waves for the backdrop. Blue grass instead of sand (cushier and less itch in crevices, if you get my drift). A midnight sky with brilliant stars and a full moon. A mocha cup that magically refills. The scent of roses drifting on the air. He’d probably prefer a convenient naked dream right about here. :-)

freedigitalphotos.net/Victor Habbick

If roles were reversed and Kalila was to pen a story with you as the main character. What would the title of that book be and what challenges would she have you face?

Crap. Another hard one. Weird and Warped. She’d probably have it be one of those fix-me-up kind of stories, you know the ones where the nerd learns how to be a princess or something. She’d torture me with parties and speeches and social activities until I realize…gasp! I was meant to be debutante of the country club! Definitely a paranormal fantasy.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions C.J.!

• • • • • • • • • • • 


He haunts her dreams and embodies her nightmares…

A dreamcaster with the ability to channel creatures from her nightmares, headstrong and cynical Kalila Montgomery longs for a peaceful, picket-fence life…until the man literally of her dreams kidnaps her.  Survival quickly becomes her number one goal, yet a growing attraction to the man featured in her nightmares is impossible to ignore. While she fears he will kill her, other, more terrifying enemies surround her, and Kalila succumbs to his scheme to escape.

She may be his one hope for freedom…

A deadly combination of power, cunning, and cold-hearted charm, Lydon v’al Endrian fears nothing.  Feels nothing.  Chained to a brotherhood of men with the supernatural ability to invade dreams, he hunts dreamcasters to be harvested for their dreams and killed.  His target:  Kalila Montgomery.  But Kalila awakens an undeniable dark desire and a longing for a freedom long-lost.  To gain everything he craves, Lydon must seduce Kalila before his plot is discovered…a hopeless challenge which, if failed, will earn him a death-sentence.

Caught up in a dangerous world of secrets and obsession, doubt and betrayal, Kalila and Lydon face the nightmare of their lives, where love will either deliver them—or destroy them both.


• • • • • • • • • • •


C. J. Burright was born and raised in Oregon and loved it so much she never left. While she has worked for years in a law office, she chooses to avoid writing legal thrillers and instead leans toward urban fantasy, paranormal romance, or—since all things medieval and magic fascinate her—fantasy romance. A member of Romance Writers of America and Secretary for the Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal special interest chapter, C. J. also has her 4th Dan Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do and believes stories should always include a gratuitous fight scene. In what spare time she has, she enjoys working out, reading, gardening, and rooting on the Seattle Mariners with a nice glass of wine. She shares a house with her husband, daughter, and a devoted herd of cats.

• • • • • • • • • • •


Each tour stop is offering up some fun WONDERFULLY WICKED swag, and one lucky grand prize winner will receive a complete swag package along with a $50 gift card from Amazon, iTunes or B&N. Please enter via the Rafflecopter form. Giveaway is open to US only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Monday, September 8th – A Bookish Escape
Tuesday, September 9th – Curling Up with a Good Book
Wednesday, September 10th – Supernatural Snark
Thursday, September 11th – Krista’s Dust Jacket
Friday, September 12th – Parajunkee

Monday, September 15th – Nocturne Reads
Tuesday, September 16th – Seeing Night Book Reviews
Wednesday, September 17th – Mother, Gamer, Writer
Thursday, September 18th – Her Book Thoughts
Friday, September 19th – The Book Swarm

Monday, September 22nd – Bewitched Bookworms
Tuesday, September 23th – A Dream within a Dream
Wednesday, September 24th – A Thousand Words, A Million Books
Thursday, September 25th – Alison Can Read
Friday, September 26th – What’s Beyond Forks

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Review: Lark Rising

Guardians of Tarnec #1
Sandra Waugh
Young Adult/Fantasy
384 pages
Random House Books for Young Readers
Available September 23rd
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Lark has foreseen two things—she will fall for a young man with sage green eyes,and he will kill her.

Sixteen-year-old Lark Carew is happiest close to home, tending her garden and gathering herbs for medicines. But when her Sight warns her that monsters called Troths will soon invade her village, Lark is summoned on a journey to seek help from the legendary Riders of Tarnec. Little does she suspect that one of the Riders, Gharain, is the very man who has haunted her visions. Or that the people of Tarnec have called her there for another reason: Lark is the Guardian of Life, the first of four Guardians who must awaken their powers to recover four stolen amulets. Together, the amulets—Life, Death, Dark, and Light—keep the world in Balance. To take back the Life amulet, Lark will have to discover her true inner strength and give in to a love that she swears will be her downfall.

Lark Rising contains all the desired elements for an epic fantasy story, Lark uncovering a previously unknown magical responsibility and embarking on a journey that will restore balance to her increasingly chaotic world, but though magic, friendship, romance and more are present, we still find ourselves flipping chapter after chapter without the enthusiasm we hoped for upon cracking the spine. There's nothing definitively wrong with Lark's tale, no specific flaws or drawbacks we can easily identify as causing our lack of excitement, instead it's simply one of those stories that seems to be missing an indescribable spark that would have otherwise seen us up way past our bedtimes reading had it been present.

Lark is the type of young woman who would typically draw us in, her quieter nature and complete inability to wield a weapon with any level of skill characteristics that should allow us to easily see ourselves in her shoes, our own general lack of badassery thereby creating an instant kinship. With characters like Lark, what is lacking in physical strength is usually made up in a strength of will and determination of spirit, but what we find instead is a woman quick to believe in her own inadequacies who interprets the comments and actions of others through a distorted filter of self-recrimination. Whenever something dark befalls those around her, in her eyes the fault and blame lie entirely at her feet, forcing her to then make rash decisions involving noble and selfless sacrifice in order to remedy the situation.

It's of course extremely hard to criticize a willingness to throw oneself on one's sword in order to save the lives of others, but Lark's self-sacrifice seems to come not only from the desire to spare those around her, but also from the aforementioned absence of any feelings of self-worth. She's not as physically strong as some, not as fierce as others, so she therefore should go it alone or lead the danger away so that they might thrive. Though the final chapters see a shift in that attitude to some degree, it comes a touch too late and isn't quite dramatic enough for us to really fall in love with Lark, making her a heroine we enjoy well enough but who doesn't necessarily exude the strength–physical, emotional or mental–to inspire us to want to stand beside her and fight the good fight.

Overall, Lark Rising is a fantasy that has a solid premise, a well-developed world, and nicely sets up the series as a whole while giving us a complete story in this first installment, it just lacks a touch of the emotional connection between character and reader that would catapult it out of the realm of “nice” and into that of “fantastic”.

Rating: 3.5/5

Find Sandra:

This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.