Book Review: Betrayal in the Highlands

Book – Betrayal in the Highlands (Riddle in Stone #2)

Author – Robert Evert

Star rating – ★★★★★

Plot – great – very intriguing and unpredictable

Characters – just as good as book 1

Movie Potential – ★★★★★

Ease of reading – very easy to read

Cover – Perfect

Suitable Title – Yes

Would I read it again – Yes

After being gifted book 1 by the author, in Nov 2013. At the time, I loved it, but books 2 and 3 weren’t available. Then, when they were, I didn’t have the time to read them.

I re-read book 1 last week, just finished book 2 and I’m ready to delve straight into book 3 tonight.

First off, I love that the story picks up straight from the end of book 1. Riddle of Stone left us wondering where the story could go, what would happen and who would survive into the next book.

CHARACTER

I absolutely love Edmund, but that’s nothing new. He and Pond are incredible characters and there’s such a bromance going on between them that is adorable, but also shows their character even more. They’re stronger together, always have each other’s back and I love the fact that they’re still together, after everything they’d been through in the pits.

As for the new characters, Abby is a great addition. Feisty and independent, I really like that she’s strong, but has moments of vulnerability and a hidden past that will be interesting to explore in book 3. I just know there’s more to the story of her relationship with her father than she’s letting on. But that’s the genius of Robert Evert’s writing. You know there’s more to come, but you don’t mind waiting for it, because you know it’s going to be exciting and incredible.

I sadly miss Thorax, who was a great character, even though she was a dog. But I always knew there was something special about her and that’s only proven true, when Becky comes into Edmund’s life, as her replacement. Becky, however, is crazy! Wild, uncontrollable and she’s like Thorax on steroids.

I also really appreciate that Ed hasn’t moved on from Molly too easily. His feelings for her still haunt him, which is wonderful. So many stories move from one love interest to another, with each new book, but Evert hasn’t done this. He’s stuck with his guns; Molly as the love interest in book 1, Molly as the main love interest in book 2, though there’s a new addition of a possible love interest, too.

I LOVE that Kravel and Gurding are included, too, because they’re great baddies.

I think that Fatty Moron has to be my favourite new character, although I do love the smaller characters that appear when they reach Rood. The beauty of Fatty is that he doesn’t speak, but he has soooo much to say. He’s like a mirror into Edmund’s past and a vision of what he could have become, had he not left Rood for his adventure. He’s everything that Edmund doesn’t want to be reminded of, but he still goes out of his way to save him and gives up a precious item that he dreamed of giving to Molly. The sacrifice is huge, inspired by Abby, but it’s also a symbol of his compassion. Fatty’s situation is so abhorrent to Edmund, that even sacrificing the precious gift is worth saving Fatty’s life.

The way that Fatty interacts with the other characters is incredible. Though he doesn’t speak, he communicates in his own way. He adores Abby, takes instant control of Becky, training her the way that neither Ed or Pond could, and finds his bravery from the way Ed, Pond and Abby treat him.

I’m a little sad that Edith turned out to be something I never expected, but at the same time, it’s a really great twist. I had hoped, with her being a librarian, that she would be a great love interest for Edmund, but I think I love the new twist better.

PLOT

As I said, I love that we came straight into the action. The story takes place shortly after book 1, with the same trouble and fight facing Edmund and Pond. We’re straight back into the action from page one and there’s none of this false ‘comfort zone’ that some action books offer. The enemy is still hot on their trail, still out for blood and determined to catch their prey. There’s no relief from the chase or false sense of security.

It’s the same story, the same fight, with a new twist and recurring characters that make book 2 feel like it’s simply an extension of book 1. It’s more like a new chapter than a brand new book, which I love.

I also really like the way that Edmund uses his knowledge of literature and history, to save their skins, again and again. He always comes up with a new plan, a new attempt to save them. Although it doesn’t always seem easy or feasible, he always pulls it off in the end. And although his stutter has improved from book 1, it’s not been cured and I love that. The stutter and his missing eye, make Edmund real and individual. He’s changed, but he’s still fundamentally the same person on the inside.

Without giving too much away, I’m really happy that the troll was brought back into the story and that Ed and Pond got back into his cave, to see that book again. I was waiting to find out if that would be important or just a tool for Ed to recognise the importance of the second book with the same runes, that he used in book 1, to find the tower after being in Eryn Mas.

The entire development of the plot is exciting. Not only do we know that the past is going to clash with Ed’s present and possibly haunt him to the very last page, but it’s made clear that he’d got new struggles to face, too. He and Pond stick together through it all, fighting every fight, facing every foe and discussing each adventure together, as equal partners.

The adventure is riveting and so different to book 1. While I loved Edmund’s experience in the pits, the experiences of this book – travelling, Dardenello, Long Ravine and Rood – are so well plotted and experienced, that it felt almost as if I was there. I love the detail of the world, further explored by Edmund’s adventures and the danger of each adventure.

I also love the events that happen in Rood, near the end of the book. I love the way that everything seems to come together and it becomes really exciting to see how that’s going to lead into book 3. The cliffhanger of the last few pages was just incredible and exciting. I didn’t see it coming.

There were so many moments where I whooped and giggled, cringed and fist-pumped my way through the story. And, sadly, I can’t tell you why. I won’t ruin the surprise for you. But trust me, read the book and you won’t regret it. I couldn’t put it down!

Favourite Quotes:

You know,” Pond said, yawning. “It’s amazing what I can tolerate now. Before I found my way into the goblins’ loving care, I was afraid of mice and rats. Couldn’t stand to be dirty, either. Now look at me.”

You’re a pillar of courage and filth,” Edmund said.

In every book and in every tale, people trying to escape from someplace always leave before dawn.”

Song Appreciation: Changed the Way You Kissed Me by Example

Example – Changed The Way You Kissed Me Lyrics
Artist: Example
Album: Playing In The Shadows
Genre: Hip Hop/Rap

Listen while you read!
I’ve never been afraid of the highest heights
Or afraid of flying high
I’ve never been afraid of the wildest fights
Not afraid of dying

But now I want off this ride ’cause she’s scaring me
And I don’t like where we’re going
I need a new funfair, ’cause she’s scaring me
And I don’t like where we’re going

And now you’re gonna miss me
I know you’re gonna miss me
I guarantee you miss m
‘Cause you changed the way you kiss me
‘Cause you changed the way you kiss me

We used to be so so useful
Out green on the background vocals
Tea-total, on the next high
We get by with our so-called soul mate
Made for each other chit-chat

But that dried up white socks
With the cutting edge facts
Now I’m chilling on my Jack Jones
Looking for a way back home but I can’t get back

Our love feels wrong, please wind me back
Our love feels wrong can’t hide the cracks
I guarantee you miss me
‘Cause you changed the way you kiss me

I’ve never been afraid of the highest heights
Or afraid of flying high
I’ve never been afraid of the wildest fights
Not afraid of dying

I need a new funfair
‘Cause she’s scaring and I don’t like where we’re going
I guarantee you’ll miss me
‘Cause you changed the way you kiss me
‘Cause you changed the way you kiss me

Our love feels wrong, please wind me back
Our love feels wrong can’t hide the cracks
I guarantee you miss me
‘Cause you changed the way you kiss me

I guarantee you miss me
‘Cause you changed the way you kiss me

Writer(s): Christopher Bridges
Copyright: Ludacris Worldwide Publishing Inc.
Lyrics powered by http://www.musiXmatch.com

via EXAMPLE – CHANGED THE WAY YOU KISSED ME LYRICS.

Songs That Will Make You Cry

These are just a selection of songs that I’ve been listening to lately, that make me tear up every time.

Enjoy…and have some tissues handy!

~

Carrie Underwood: Just A Dream

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLntFKtR66g

~

Tim McGraw: Don’t Take the Girl

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vn6QdqxK3g

~

Savage Garden: Crash and Burn

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W60IPexop30

~

Bon Jovi: Lie to Me

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtHtKOgwFcc

~

Julienne Taylor: I Don’t Wanna Talk About It

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BRUhQ82y78

~

Meat Loaf: Cry Over Me

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKtfijmJFwc

~

Jana Kramer: Weeds and Wildflowers

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVM3aKR2n6s

~

Nancy Sinatra: Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)

~

Richard Marx: Hazard

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1y5Qq-a6Pw

~

Nickelback: Far Away

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4y-RzVGrHg

~

Sam Smith: Lay Me Down

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HaMq2nn5ac0

~

Clare Bowen: Black Roses

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=is08DnxiE5Q

 

~

A Love of Reading

You know what I love about reading? A million things.

I love getting lost in the story, so much so that the only time I notice a chapter heading passing by is when a big blank space appears, where words should be.

I love the sense of being a character, a fly on the wall, a part of something new and different, that comes from the various POV styles that writers adapt. I don’t do well with 1st person, though it’s supposed to take you into the character’s head and make you feel like them. I much prefer the 3rd person POV, where you can see all sides of the story; how one character feels, in one chapter, then how another character feels later.

I love seeing both sides of a romance, knowing the characters deepest fears and fighting for them to make it through, to get their happily ever after. I love that we, as readers, can know secrets that other characters don’t know, and love the anticipation of waiting, wondering when they’re going to find out and how they’re going to react. I love that kicking of the feet feeling of excitement, when a conversation or action *almost* spills the secret, but a character is too oblivious, not looking in the right direction, or distracted, before they can notice.

I read for the pleasure of reading. Reading, to me, is relaxing, exciting, entrancing and hypnotic. I read to get away from life, to be someone else, to try new things, to pretend that all the chaos of my real life isn’t important for a few hours.

I’ll admit, I’m a read-in-one-sitting kind of girl. If I can read a book in one go, even if it means staying up until 3am, that’s what I’ll do. But it has to be a REALLY good book. There are some books that are good, but not brilliant, that you can read a few chapters and be happy to put it down at night, to get some sleep, then you might not pick it up for a day or two. But I love the books that hook you from line/page one. The books where you start reading and don’t remember where you are or what time it is. The books where you put off going to get a drink, food, go to the bathroom, because you just want to finish this one chapter. Then three chapters later, you really have to run, because you lost track of time. I love the books where you reach the last page and are consumed with sadness and shock, because it just CAN’T be finished yet! It’s not possible; surely there’s more; why did it have to end?

Truthfully, I don’t care how logical or believable the story is. Yes, there are some books where that’s important, but if I can get all of these great, endorphine-surging feelings from a book, I don’t need believability. I need that sense of hunger, that craving for more, the loss and withdrawal of finding finishing. If a book doesn’t have that, then it won’t get 5 stars from me. But, honestly, I’m easily pleased.

As long as a book can suck me into the world, into the character’s minds and make me root for them, to the point of talking to myself, kicking my feet, giggling and grinning to myself, then I’ll give it a 5. The only exception is if there’s a theme/event/scene that I really don’t agree with, or if there were some issues with the flow of the story.

Those are few and far between.

Book Blast: Firedragon Rising

Add on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25643956-firedragon-rising

Publisher: Glass House Press

Sinister plots. An underground rebellion. And a treacherous road filled with monsters and enemies unknown.

It’s been three months since Aurelia survived the International Challenge—an elite monster-fighting competition. And the Triumvirate has been keeping a close eye on her ever since … as if they expect her to cause them more trouble.

They’re right.

Now that she knows about the underground revolution—and the dark secrets of her own past—Aurelia is hell-bent on escaping the government’s watchful gaze and joining the rebels. Finally, she’s found a cause worth fighting for. A way for her kind, the Norms, to take back their freedom.

Then, when she overhears a Triumvirate official’s conversation, she learns that it’s even worse than she realized. The government knows about the rebels, and the rebellion. They’re searching for people who sympathize with the cause. And they’re coming after her next.

Suddenly the time for dreaming about the rebellion is over. Aurelia must make contact with the rebels and plot a quick escape … before the Triumvirate has a chance to capture her. But government forces and miles of monster-filled wilderness stand between her and the rebel headquarters, and dangers she never imagined lurk in the shadows.

Before she can fight for the freedom of her people, she must achieve her own—or die trying.

~

Excerpt

He knows. Aurelia’s pulse pounded as the realization hit her. Somehow, he knows I want to join the Rising, but he has no proof. He’s trying to flush me out. But he’d just been talking about graduating her early—why had he brought that up if he was after her? Is he trying to scare me into being loyal?

She could never be the brainless monster-killing machine Everett wanted, no matter how he tried to bully her. But she could hear his ultimatum as if her interrogation had already come, and she’d already been discovered: Obey the Triumvirate, or be arrested for treason. She couldn’t stand the thought of spending the rest of her life serving people she hated, terrified that one wrong move would get her locked in a cell, sent to a labor camp for the rest of her life … or executed.

She had to get out, now more than ever. Not only because she couldn’t stand the Triumvirate’s evil ways anymore, but because staying would mean capture … and possibly death. Her whole body burned with fury. She’d done nothing but obey the Triumvirate her whole life, and yet they wanted to kill her—again. They’d already tried once with the competition, just to prove a point, but she’d survived. Now it appeared that they were looking for an excuse to murder her and call it “getting rid of a threat” if she didn’t bow down to their wishes.

They won’t get me. She’d already killed more monsters than most of the Triumvirate’s goons would see in a lifetime. And if they attacked her, that made them monsters. She’d never lost to a monster before, and she didn’t intend to start now.

~

Character Interview: Aurelia

Why do people call you “the Firedragon”?

Because in this world, monsters are given straightforward names that are mishmashes of words, like bloodwolf or fleshsnake. And I’m so good at fighting that to them, I’m the monster. I don’t know exactly who came up with the nickname, since by the time I heard about it, everyone was already saying it behind my back. Best I can guess is that it’s because I fight like I’m on fire, and I’m scary like a dragon. But also one of the good guys. I like to think that dragons aren’t like regular monsters—they’re good monsters. But no one’s ever seen one, so I don’t know. I think they’re actually myths.

What’s going on in your life?

School, of course. But it’s not a regular school. I’m a Cadet at the Academy of Supernatural Defense, which means I study how to fight monsters. You know, what kinds there are, what their weaknesses are, what weapons work on them, and where they like to hang out. But only half my day is spent on the classroom stuff. The rest is for training. Except when there’s a monster near the Capital—then I’m sent to gank it.

What kind of training do you do?

What do you think? How to kill monsters! Since there are so many kinds out there, you’ve gotta be good at a lot of different types of combat. You can shoot some of the monsters with a gun, but most have super-healing powers and will just regenerate. Arrows work on some of them, since the monster can’t heal around the shaft. Personally, I like stabbing weapons the best, because all monsters are vulnerable to silver blades. Double swords are my favorite.

What’s the most dangerous monster out there?

Ugh, fangbeast. When you first look at one, it doesn’t seem so bad. Just teeth and claws like any old wolf. What makes it scary is its ability to multiply. And it’s pretty much invulnerable, even if you have magic. Spells, bullets, and everything else just bounce right off. To even have a chance, you’d have to chop off its head—then chop off the head of the next clone, then the next one, then the next … until they’re all gone. If you can survive that long, yourself.

What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?

I dunno… Well, here’s something: I’ve never worn a dress. Can’t fight if you’re worried about tripping over your skirt. Maybe someone put me in one against my will when I was a baby—I wouldn’t know, since Triumvirate-run orphanages don’t exactly take sentimental pictures—but I don’t remember ever putting one on. And I wouldn’t be caught dead in one. Not my thing.

Tell us about your friends. Who do you hang out with?

I don’t really have time to “hang out,” but when I do, it’s with Connor. He’s been my friend for ages, which is kind of weird because he’s pretty much the opposite of me. Like, I have zero magic, and he’s a whiz with a wand. I’m awesome at fighting but not so good at the frou-frou book stuff, and he’s awesome at the book stuff but kind of sucks at fighting. Plus I’m an orphan, and he’s the Gold Triumvir’s son. Basically a prince around here. I never expected him to be my friend—more of a brother, if I’m being honest—but I’m glad he found me. If he didn’t, I’d be a loner.

Connor sounds like a nice guy. If you could give him any one thing—an object, a skill, a power—what would it be?

Can I take something away instead? Because then I’d take away the fact that his dad is a freaking scumbag who thinks he owns everything. Technically, we’re ruled by three Triumvirs, but everyone knows the Gold Triumvir—Connor’s dad—is the one with the real power. And he uses it to keep Connor on a leash. That pisses me off, because I know Connor hates being part of the system that treats everyone without magic like garbage. The old guy’s got a dozen other kids—why can’t he just let his youngest go? I hate him. I hate the Triumvirate. Wish I could do something about them. Wait … they’re not going to see this, are they?

Let’s change the subject. What do you do for fun?

Don’t have much time for fun, but when I do, I usually mess with Connor. Make fun of him and stuff. I’ve always wanted to pull a practical joke on him, but he catches me every time I even think about it. He’s gotten me a few times, though. Once, he replaced my bow with a dud that couldn’t shoot an arrow more than ten feet. Made me think I was losing my edge for a whole five minutes before I realized something was up. Stupid magic.

What do you hope to be doing in ten years?

You’re sure the Triumvirate won’t see this, right? Well, to be honest, I hope to be living in a world where they’re no longer a thing. Where people like me and people like Connor will be treated as equals. There might still be monsters that need ganking of course, and I still want to be the one to do it, but I hope to be doing it on my own terms. Not because the government ordered me to.

If you could cross over into another reality, where would you go, and why?

A lot of people would say they want to go to a version of this world where there are no monsters, but I don’t know if I agree. I’ve spent my whole life fighting. In a world without monsters, I don’t know what I’d do. So I guess I’d want to cross over into a world that’s just like mine, except not run by the Triumvirate. Which is kind of what we’re fighting to create.

What are you planning on doing next?

Kick some monster butt. And maybe find a way to join the rebellion. Hey, you’re sure-sure that the Triumvirate’s not gonna see this interview, right?

~

About Mary Fan

Mary Fan is a hopeless dreamer, whose mind insists on spinning tales of “what if.” As a music major in college, she told those stories through compositions. Now she tells them through books—a habit she began as soon as she could pick up a pencil. Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil follows a well-received debut novel, a space opera titled Artificial Absolutes (2013), and is the first in the Flynn Nightsider series. Mary would like to think that there are many other novels in her bag, and hopes to prove that to the world as well.

Mary lives in New Jersey and has a B.A. from Princeton University. When she’s not scheming to create new worlds, she enjoys kickboxing, opera singing, and blogging about everything having to do with books.

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Parental Figures in Literature

If you read a lot of my stories, there’s generally one parent missing. This isn’t because I’ve lost either of my parents, but because I know how lucky I am not to. Losing a family member can be one of the hardest things that a teenager can deal with and yes, I have dealt with that risk. My dad had cancer when I was a teenager and I struggled to cope with the uncertainty, I couldn’t focus on my school work and I didn’t tell anyone about it, because I didn’t know what to say or what the outcome would be.

In my stories, I try to tackle issues that a lot of teenagers have to deal with, even if I don’t have personal experience with them. For example, in one of my stories, the MC chooses not to have an experimental treatment for a brain tumour, because the chances of survival are in the single percentile and he wants to live what he’s got left of his life, healthy and able to live those days to the fullest. In Evander, I have three boys who are in a love triangle, who end up in a relationship together. I’ve never had a relationship with two people at the same time.

But, as a writer, if you only wrote what you knew, you’d run out of material really quickly.

~

Personally, I like to challenge my characters. I like to put them into uncomfortable, awkward situations and have them fight their way out, finding their strength and courage during the journey.

I also use the ‘missing parent’ option, as a way of cutting down on characters and limiting the support system of my characters. If a girl doesn’t have a mother to turn to, when in the midst of a high school drama, who will she turn to instead? Where is she going to get advice and who is going to help her through it? If a guy grows up without a father, what effect is that going to have on his psyche, on the way he interacts with friends, school kids or other adults?

If you can limit the options for your characters, you put them into a corner that they have to fight out of. That’s how I want my characters to operate. There will be the occasional ‘control’ character, who has the perfect life and realises how lucky they are, in contrast to the other characters, who have less than perfect lives. But, in reality, most people don’t have perfect lives. Even if they say they do.

Because I write MM romances, as well, there’s often a situation where my character has been thrown out by their family and lives with a friend, has moved in with one parent while the other hates them, or is lucky enough to be appreciated and accepted by both parents.

Mostly, I remember being in high school and everyone having a different story. That’s what my characters have; no two are the same and no two have the same home life. Some are lucky, some are really unlucky, while some coast along in the middle.

Life is never stable. Things happen, people get sick, go away, are deployed or have been gone for so long that there’s no memory of them. It’s the same in my stories. Realism is important to me and if there was no loss, grief, love, longing or need in my characters, the story would lose heart.

~

Check out a few different situations I’ve covered so far:

Decadent – Lachlan has both parents, one accepting and the other reluctant

The Other Side – Konnor’s parents disown him

Right Kind of Wrong – Tam’s parents are the perfect loving couple, who have always openly accepted him

The Cellist – Ben’s parents are there, but he’s not close to them. Roman’s mother is negligent at best, while his father is a violent bully.

The Alpha and the Oracle – Katarina lost her mother at an early age, but her father is very close to her. Milo has both parents, but isn’t particularly close to either. He ends up hating his father.

~

In my upcoming stories, I challenge a few more parental related issues. In one particularly hard-hitting YA novel, one character, Tate, is homeless, after his mother was arrested for drug dealing. He isn’t close to her and doesn’t know who his father is. When he’s sent into foster care, two dads treat him in two different horrible ways, so he chooses to live on the street. His love interest, Romeo, is in foster care, after running away from his father, who got sole custody of him when he turned 8 and his mother died. From then on, Romeo was sold to multiple men and has to live with the consequences of his father’s brutality.

Life isn’t fair, for my characters, but it’s not fair in real life, either. How many times do you open a newspaper and read an article about a criminal or someone who joined a gang or terrorist organisation, because their home life was unstable? I’ve seen the documentaries and read about the theory that the loss of one parent during the first 5 years of life can be a contributing factor in creating a serial killer. It doesn’t have to be true, because there are plenty of people who have lost a parent at that age and turned out fine, but it’s a risk.

How often do you read a report of a man or woman who was killed or died in a tragic accident, natural event, mass murder, terrorist plot and left kids behind? The first thing I wonder is – how will the kids cope?

~

So what do we do with our characters? We make them as real as possible. Use the news, use psychological evidence, use whatever is at your disposal, to make your characters as real as they can be.

No matter what you do to them, there will be someone out there who can relate to it.

~

This sums up everything I want my characters to experience.