eBook review: Esme’s Gift

Esme’s Gift by Elizabeth Foster

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The blurb: Terror was within. Terror was without. Like her mother, she was at the water’s mercy.

In the enchanted world of Aeolia, fifteen-year-old Esme Silver is faced with her hardest task yet. She must master her unruly Gift – the power to observe the past – and uncover the secrets she needs to save her mother, Ariane.

In between attending school in the beguiling canal city of Esperance, Esme and her friends – old and new – travel far and wide across Aeolia, gathering the ingredients for a potent magical elixir.

Their journey takes them to volcanic isles, sunken ruins and snowy eyries, spectacular places fraught with danger, where they must confront their deepest fears and find hope in the darkest of places.

Esme’s Gift, the second instalment in the Esme trilogy, is an enthralling fantasy adventure for readers 12 years and over.

My review: I enjoyed Esme’s Wish (Book 1), but Esme’s Gift (Book 2) wasn’t as good. The first half of the story dragged its feet a bit, but the second half picked up the pace and was more interesting. The pages turned swiftly then.

I liked the fact that the mysteries were not left hanging until book 3. It was great to know how, when, where and why everything up to now had happened. And it was even better that these facts went together well. In fact, the book was written like a cozy mystery, but without a murder. I found that interesting and well-plotted. I appreciated and enjoyed the arrival of certain other characters as well.

I didn’t like the school scenes. There may have been a reason for them, and I guess as the main characters are school age, it made sense to have Esme return to school, but it didn’t work for me. I’m not saying the scenes were poorly written, they just lacked interest, for me. However, younger readers will probably relate to those scenes much better than I did and enjoy them immensely.

Regardless of all this, I still loved the fresh, new world that the author has created. I look forward to reading more adventures set in Aeolia and finding out more about Seth’s motivations.

I received a review copy of this book, and this is an honest review.

Resources for Writing a Mystery

I’ve been researching mystery writing for the Cat and Mouse Adventure series (mainly because I am totally unhappy and unimpressed with the draft of Ghost at the Cemetery that I’ve written). I’ve discovered three websites that I want to add to my website. For two reasons, I want to be able to find the websites again, in the future, and because visitors to my website might benefit from them.

Frank Gruber’s “Fool-proof” 11 Point Formula for Mystery Short Stories

Classic 12-Chapter Murder Mystery Formula

Motives for Murder

Audiobook: The Wizards of Once

The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The blurb: This is the story of a young boy Wizard and a young girl Warrior who have been taught to hate each other like poison; and the thrilling tale of what happens when their two worlds collide.

Perfect for boys and girls who love fantasy adventure …

Once there was Magic, and the Magic lived in the dark forests.

Wizard boy, Xar, should have come in to his magic by now, but he hasn’t, so he wants to find a witch and steal its magic for himself. But if he’s got any chance of finding one, he will have to travel into the forbidden Badwoods.

Xar doesn’t realise he is about to capture an entirely different kind of enemy. A Warrior girl called Wish.

And inside this book, at this very moment, two worlds collide and the fate of the land is changed forever.

Xar and Wish must visit the dungeons at Warrior fort, and face the evil Queen.

But something that has been sleeping for hundreds of years is stirring …

My review: WOW. This is such a good story. From the first page, I was totally in. In fact, I was so taken by the plot and the characters, that I simply couldn’t stay away from the book for long periods. That doesn’t happen often, and is certainly a positive sign that I loved the book.

The world the two main character’s live in is dark. Wish is a warrior girl with a secret. Xar is a wizard boy with attitude. They come from different sides in a world where they are taught from birth to hate the other side. But these two are thrown together and must conquer all. (I know that’s a pretty general comment, but you’ll have to read the book to find out what they have to conquer.)

I love the two main character. And I have to say that Squeeze Juice is also a favourite of mine. The characters are so different, but so likeable. The story is so action-packed. Honestly, I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying this book.

I listened to the audiobook and I feel compelled to mention the narrator, David Tennant. He gave life to the characters and storyline. His reading was fantastic and I believe that added to my enjoyment of the book ten-fold.

This is the first of three books, I believe. I definitely will be listening to the rest of the series.

Highly recommended.

Ebook review: Windrider

Windrider by Pamela Freeman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The blurb: This story centres on Princess Betony, half human , half dryad. When the great dragon Windrider bewitches her father, King Max, she journeys to the high country to obtain his release. With the help of her friends, Basil and Clover, she tries to achieve her aim without changing into a wood-nymph.

My review: Book 2 in the Floramonde series for young readers (or the young at heart, like me).

The first book had a magical feel to it, that didn’t cross over to this book. However, that doesn’t mean the book wasn’t any good, because it is. This time, instead of the chapters telling many stories to make a whole, the entire book told a single story. Betony sets off to save her father, while her two best friends set off to save Betony from making a bargain she may regret.

In this book there is a dragon, magic, dealing with relationships (good and bad), and love. But the most important thing, in my opinion, is the theme that deals with the lengths we will go to to save those we cherish.

Recommended.

Ebook review: The Willow Tree’s Daughter

The Willow Tree’s Daughter by Pamela Freeman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The blurb: With a king for a father and a tree spirit for a mother, Betony is a reluctant princess who prefers the simple, outdoor life. This is the story of her life at the palace, her adventures with wizards, hobgoblins, unicorns and dragons, and her love for the gardener’s apprentice.

My review: A delightful story told in a fairy tale way, but with a twist. Each chapter felt like a stand alone story, but all the chapters together told the full story. The book is funny, moving and easy to read. There was a bit of everything, and something was always happening. It drew me in, and held me captive.

The characters are charming. I especially liked the main character’s strength. It’s good to find a princess who doesn’t need saving, and has a genuine connection with the people around her.

And there was even a bit of romance.

I’m glad I took a risk with this book. I’ll be reading more in the series. No doubt about that.

Recommended.

July 2020 Summer Winter Sale

If you are stuck at home, bored, because of the COVID-19 situation or if you just want ebooks at a discounted price, then head over to Smashwords. They are currently holding their Summer Winter Sale for 2020 and you can grab ebooks at super lower prices.

All my books are on special at 50% off, and Land of Miu and House on the Hill are 100% free. Go to my Smashwords profile found at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/karenleefield, scroll down the page and select the ones you’d like to purchase.

For the price of a coffee, you can buy all of my books. This offer is valid between now and the end of July. Treat yourself. 😀

I Survived COVID-19 (so far)

For me, COVID-19 started when I noticed mayhem in the toilet paper aisle of the supermarket, and I wondered what was happening. I didn’t need toilet rolls, so didn’t buy any. More fool me because I didn’t see any more for six weeks. And then, I had to leave home at 6.45 am to ensure I got some (happily, I did), but it was another four weeks or so before I managed to get any more. During that time, my husband struck gold when he managed to get his hands on an industrial roll, but that got us through those tough weeks.

By the time we got used to seeing no toilet paper anywhere, other items had started to become rare commodities. Things like soap, sanitizer, flour, pasta, rice, long-life milk, cereal, oats, canned goods, and then fresh meat disappeared from the shelves as people started to stockpile. The hoarders left nothing for anyone else. Mass panic seemed to take hold. Suddenly store owners imposed limits to these sort after products. Some people turned nasty and actually threw punches over toilet rolls. Can you believe it? It was a scary time, yet my husband and I managed to eat proper meals every day. We improvised. We tried new products. But above all else, we continued to only buy what we needed.

For the world, we are told that COVID-19 started at a wet market in China. Something about cross-contamination of animals that should never be near each other and are not in the real world.

And the conspiracists believe something about worldwide population control. But I won’t go into that.

COVID-19 has changed the world. In general terms, the whole world went into lockdown. And within countries, some of its people were forced to stay within their district. While in other countries, people were confined to their own homes.

Suddenly we could not travel overseas. We were not allowed to congregate in large numbers. Family members could not visit each other, let alone their elderly relatives in nursing homes or care facilities, or hospitals. Weddings had to be postponed, while only ten people could attend funerals. Businesses closed their doors, leaving thousands of people jobless or stood down until further notice (actually, I think I could say millions here). If we went for a walk and found ourselves standing admiring the view, we were at risk of receiving a fine for loitering.

Due to an emergency eye test, I visited a shopping centre in the middle of a weekday. A majority of the shops were closed, and it felt dark and eerie walking through the deserted complex alone.

Everywhere we went (and still go) we were expected to stay one and a half metres from the people around us. And sanitizer was (and still is) thrust at us before we could step into a shop, a business, or anywhere else we want to go.

Governments asked us to do these things to stop the spread of the virus and to stop the death toll from rising.

To date, there have been over 7M confirmed cases worldwide, with over 400,000 deaths.

In Australia, where I live, we’ve been lucky. We acted quickly. One day everything was normal, the next we were working from home. We were asked only to leave our homes for essential purposes only, such as buying food and for medical reasons, and to go to work if we couldn’t work from home. Believe me, most people quickly found a way to convert an area in their home to a workspace. Children sat on one side of the room, doing their school work digitally. Meanwhile, their parents sat on the other side of the room, conducting Skype meetings and performing work duties electronically. We adapted. Fast.

To date, there have been just over 7,000 confirmed cases in Australia and 102 deaths.

For some, working from home has been a challenge, especially for those living alone. They report feeling isolated and lonely. For me, I loved working from home and would be happy to continue doing it indefinitely. I work harder, and I’m more focused. There’s less stress. But we’re all different.

In Australia, the restrictions are slowly lifting. On Saturday, I went to a shopping centre again and, this time, I found the number of people to be confronting. I felt the social distancing requirement was not adhered to and, to be honest, I couldn’t wait to leave the complex and get away from the mass of people. I worry that we’ll become complacent and end up with a second way of the virus that is more devastating than the first.

I believe we have had other harmful viruses. I also think there has been a toilet roll shortage once before in our history. But regardless of that, 2020 has been a year like no other. Part of me feels as if we are transitioning between what we know (the old) and something totally new. Part of me worries that life will never entirely be like it was. That may not be a bad thing, but it will depend on how the future shapes up. I suppose we’ll find out soon enough.

For now, I find myself hoping that the coronavirus disease or COVID-19 soon disappears from the world, never to return. Only then will we be able to start living our new normal. Fingers crossed that the new normal isn’t a bad one.