ARC vs Final Copy

Have you ever wondered about the difference between an ARC and the final published copy? One of the differences may be the cover.

I received an ARC of Crier’s War by Nina Varela at the last Frenzy Presents event that I attended. I loved the start to this series so much that I knew I would want to continue reading it. When I picked up a copy of the book this weekend, I fell in love with its beautiful cover.

The ARC shows the sketched outline of the proposed cover but does not do true justice to its final lines and the embossing on the book’s dust jacket.

Have you noticed any other differences between ARCs and final published copies?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This post is linked to Becky’s Square Challenge for which we will be posting square photos featuring lines during the month of October)


Book Review: A Treason of Thorns by Laura E. Weymouth

At the Frenzy Presents event at the end of August, I was lucky enough to receive one of the books that interested me: A Treason of Thorns by Laura E. Weymouth. This is her second novel and I wanted to compare the second novel with her debut.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy


Violet Sterling has spent the last seven years in exile, longing to return to Burleigh House. One of the six great houses of England, Burleigh’s magic always kept the countryside well. And as a child, this magic kept Violet happy, draping her in flowers while she slept, fashioning secret hiding places for her, and lighting fires on the coldest nights to keep her warm.

Everything shattered, though, when her father committed high treason trying to free Burleigh from the king’s oppressive control. He was killed, and Vi was forced into hiding.

When she’s given a chance to go back, she discovers Burleigh has run wild with grief. Vines and briars are crumbling the walls. Magic that once enriched the surrounding countryside has turned dark and deadly, twisting lush blooms into thorns, poisoning livestock and destroying crops. Burleigh’s very soul is crying out in pain.

Vi would do anything to help, and soon she finds herself walking the same deadly path as her father all those years before. Vi must decide how far she’s willing to go to save her house—before her house destroys everything she’s ever known.

My thoughts:

As I began reading A Treason of Thorns, I was pulled right into the story. I loved the magical thread running through the story; and the fact that a house was imbued with a magic of its own. So much happens in a house and so many secrets occur within it walls. I love that this fact is transformed into magic in this story. While reading it, I could imagine the large houses in England of centuries past and the power that they used to have within society.

I felt a connection with the characters in Weymouth’s second novel much more than I did with the characters of her first. The reason could be that I enjoyed the inner strength of Violet – as well as the fact that she is loyal both to her House, Burleigh, and to her childhood friend, Wyn. In the novel, Violet has a series of choices to make and it is not always obvious what it is that she will choose. In order to make her choice, she comes to a few realisations about herself and what is important to her. I am tempted to say that Weymouth’s character development of her heroine is far stronger in A Treason of Thorns than it was in her first novel.

I enjoyed the magical quality of this novel and it is a perfect story for fans of fantasy fiction. The fantasy, however, is not too far removed from human history: readers can make a connection to the not too distant past (or even the present) when thinking of the influences of the Great Houses in society. It is a story that reminds us of the magic of the Great Houses in England. I enjoyed Weymouth’s storytelling and I look forward to reading her next offering.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 89th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Crier’s War by Nina Varela

At the Frenzy Presents event at the end of August, I was lucky enough to receive one of the books that interested me: Crier’s War by Nina Varela.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction, LGBT


After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, designed to be the playthings of royals, usurped their owners’ estates and bent the human race to their will.

Now Ayla, a human servant rising in the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging her family’s death…by killing the sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier.

Crier was Made to be beautiful, flawless, and to carry on her father’s legacy. But that was before her betrothal to the enigmatic Scyre Kinok, before she discovered her father isn’t the benevolent king she once admired, and most importantly, before she met Ayla.

Now, with growing human unrest across the land, pressures from a foreign queen, and an evil new leader on the rise, Crier and Ayla find there may be only one path to love: war.

My thoughts:

Goodreads describes Crier’s War by Nina Varela as a Fantasy novel. While reading it, however, it had more of a science-fiction feel to me as it describes a world that is overtaken by human-made creations. The novel describes a possibility in a far distant era on Earth, and not on a mythical land.

The story describes a contrast between the Human and the Automae: two creatures that are at odds with one another and who both want their freedom – the Humans from enslavement of the creatures they created; and the Automae from their dependence on the humans. The politics of the Automae reflects the ideology followed by many humans in today’s world; a worldview that centres on keeping one’s culture and race separate from others.

Crier’s War is not just a story set in a possible future. It is a story that deals with separatism, as well as with being different. It is a story that reflects a realisation – and then acknowledgement – of difference within one’s self. It is a story that hints at the possibility of living in harmony (a possibility that I guess will be explored more in the second novel of the series). And it is a story that explores humanity and what it is to be human.

The two main characters in the story – Ayla and Crier – experience a growth throughout the novel. I enjoyed seeing their own self-realisation unfold as I turned the pages. The more I read about them, the more I grew to understand them and to like them as characters. It is a beautiful thing to see a young person come into their own and Varela describes their unfurling subtly and gently.

I enjoyed the world created by Varela as well as the characters that people her world. The novel ended on a cliffhanger and at that perfect moment. Now I need to wait for the release of the next in the series – and I am hoping that it is not a long wait. I need to know what happens next!

If you enjoy fantasy and science fiction stories, you will enjoy this one. In addition, it is a queer story with beautiful character development of young people. This is a series that I have every intention of completing.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 88th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

This year I plan to re-read The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling and during February I read the second book in the series: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. This novel is available in a beautiful illustrated edition and this is the edition I read for my revisit into the Hogwarts world of magic.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy


The Dursleys were so mean and hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he’s packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike

And strike it does. For in Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockhart, a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls’ bathroom, and the unwanted attentions of Ron Weasley’s younger sister, Ginny.

But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble begins, and someone — or something — starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects . . . Harry Potter himself?

My thoughts:

I loved Harry Potter’s world the first time I read the series and my enjoyment was not diminished with a second reading. I smiled at the mischief Harry and his friend Ron got up to, and enjoyed reading about their stealthy adventures in the corridors of Hogwarts.

My enjoyment of this book was amplified by the paintings by Jim Kay in the illustrated edition. The paintings are beautiful renditions of favourite characters and he does them great justice. Like a young child, I ‘read’ the images in the book and admired the detail in Kay’s work.

I am reminded again of why children love this story so much: it is full of magic, adventure, as well as relatable characters. I look forward to reading the next installment in the story.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 15th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

I was lucky to receive an ARC for Julie Kagawa’s novel Shadow of the Fox. I had heard from someone who had read the novel that it was an excellent example of fantasy fiction and I could not wait to begin reading it.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult


One thousand years ago, the great Kami Dragon was summoned to grant a single terrible wish—and the land of Iwagoto was plunged into an age of darkness and chaos.

Now, for whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, a new wish will be granted. A new age is about to dawn.

Raised by monks in the isolated Silent Winds temple, Yumeko has trained all her life to hide her yokai nature. Half kitsune, half human, her skill with illusion is matched only by her penchant for mischief. Until the day her home is burned to the ground, her adoptive family is brutally slain and she is forced to flee for her life with the temple’s greatest treasure—one part of the ancient scroll.

There are many who would claim the dragon’s wish for their own. Kage Tatsumi, a mysterious samurai of the Shadow Clan, is one such hunter, under orders to retrieve the scroll…at any cost. Fate brings Kage and Yumeko together. With a promise to lead him to the scroll, an uneasy alliance is formed, offering Yumeko her best hope for survival. But he seeks what she has hidden away, and her deception could ultimately tear them both apart.

With an army of demons at her heels and the unlikeliest of allies at her side, Yumeko’s secrets are more than a matter of life or death. They are the key to the fate of the world itself.

My thoughts: 

I love reading fantasy novels and opened this one with glee. Within the first few pages, I was entranced by the Japanese lore that is intricately woven into Yumeko and Tatsumi’s story. Even though I do not know much of Japanese culture and myths, my enjoyment of this story was not hampered. The unknown is subtly explained to me; and the cultural practices Are shown to me by the actions and words of the characters.

While reading the first novel in this series, I grew to love the characters: the innocent Yumeko, the battle-hardened Tatsumi, the humorous Okame, the noble Daisuke. I thrilled at the battle scenes and smiled at a budding romance. The intrigues captured my interest, and the descriptions of the world described in the novel absorbed my imagination. I enjoyed reading Shadow of the Fox and was happy that I had chosen to read it over the weekend – I would have had difficulty putting it down to go to work! I look forward to reading the next installment in the series – and I am sure to go and purchase myself a final print copy.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 69th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: The Iron Flower by Laurie Forest

At the Frenzy Presents Event hosted by Harper Collins Canada to which I was invited, I received not only a copy of The Black Witch by Laurie Forest, but also an ARC of the second book in the fantasy tale – The Iron Flower. After reading the first volume of The Black Witch Chronicles, I was eager to read the second and dove right in. I had quickly become a fan of Laurie Forest and was eager to read more on the world she had created, and read the stories of the characters I had come to love.

Genre: young adult, fantasy

Release Date: 18 September 2018


Elloren Gardner and her friends were only seeking to right a few wrongs, but their actions have propelled them straight into the ranks of the realm-wide Resistance against Gardnerian encroachment. As the Resistance struggles against the harsh rulings of High Priest Marcus Vogel and the Mage Council, Elloren begins to realize that none of the people she cares about will be safe if Gardneria seizes control of the Western Realm.

With tensions heating up in Verpacia, more and more Gardnerian soldiers continue to descend upon the university…led by none other than Lukas Grey, now commander of the newly rebuilt Fourth Division base. Though Elloren tries to keep him at arm’s length, Lukas is determined to wandfast to her, convinced that she has inherited her grandmother’s magic—the prophesied power of the Black Witch. As his very nearness seems to awaken a darkness inside her, Elloren finds it more and more difficult to believe that she’s truly powerless, as her uncle always claimed.

Caught between her growing feelings for the rebellious Yvan Guriel and the seductive power offered by Lukas Grey, Elloren must find a way to stay true to what she knows is right and protect everyone she loves…even if that means protecting them from herself.

My Thoughts: 

I absolutely loved the first volume in this epic saga (The Black Witch)  and hoped that Forest would continue with all that I loved of her first novel in the second. I was not disappointed. The representations of the characters I had grown to love were just as rich; the attacks on society just as subtle. The germinating seeds of the Resistance in Elloren as described in the first novel in this series, begin to flower in the second. Our protagonist grows even more as a person in this volume in spite of – or because of – events out of her control.

I do not want to tell you too much of the story as I would not want to spoil it for you. What I will tell you is that Forest’s descriptions of those peopling Gardenia once again entranced me. I could see the detail in my mind as I was reading: the hair and colour of skin, the dress, the beauty enhancements. While reading, I held my breath with Elloren; and my heart raced for her as she worked towards the safety of her friends. I was invested in the story and hoped that the outcome for her and her friends would be a positive one.

I read book 2 of The Black Witch Chronicles in two days over the Labour Day weekend (and the tome is not short). I could not put the book down and immersed myself willingly in a fantasy world filled with dragons, selkies, and fae people. The grandeur of this world is an epic one and one which – when I turned the last page – left me wanting more.

The Iron Flower  by Laurie Forest is an excellent read and a perfect sequel to the first. If you are looking to start a new series, or you are looking for an epic read, I do suggest reading The Black Witch Chronicles – you will not be disappointed.

Review of Book 1: The Black Witch  by Laurie Forest

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 5 stars with no hesitation.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 60th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: The Black Witch by Laurie Forest

I was lucky enough to receive an invitation to the Frenzy Presents event organised by Harper Collins Canada publishing house. This is an event to which book bloggers are invited to be introduced to upcoming young adult fiction.

The guest author at the event was Laurie Forest, the writer of The Black Witch. I had not read her debut novel and was interested to hear her speak as she wrote my favourite genre, fantasy fiction. When she told us that social injustice had inspired her novel, I was eager to begin reading.

Genre: young adult fiction, fantasy


Elloren Gardner is the splitting image of her famous grandmother, Carnissa Gardner, who drove back the enemy forces in the last Realm War. But while her people, the Gardnerians, believe she will follow Carnissa as the next Black Witch of the prophesy, Elloren is utterly devoid of power in a society that prizes magical ability above all else.

When she is granted the opportunity to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an apothecary, Elloren joins her brothers at the prestigious Verpax University to embrace a destiny of her own, free from the shadow of her grandmother’s legacy. But she soon realizes that the university, which admits all manner of people—including the fire-wielding, winged Icarals, the sworn enemies of all Gardnerians—is a treacherous place for the granddaughter of the Black Witch.

As evil looms on the horizon and the pressure to live up to her heritage builds, everything Elloren thought she knew will be challenged and torn away. Her best hope of survival may be among the most unlikely band of misfits…if only she can find the courage to trust those she’s been taught to hate and fear.

My thoughts: 

From the first page, I knew I would enjoy this fantasy tale. My introduction to Elloren, the protagonist, is immediate. Her relationships with other characters are described through authentic dialogue; and her environment is introduced to us not only through description but also through her reaction to it. The world of Gardenia is introduced to us slowly as we read the text. Not only are we introduced to the physical world, but the social world as well. We slowly come to understand the social hierarchy of Laurie Forest’s created world; as well as the customs (such as wandfasting).

The attention to detail in this novel is amazing and takes on an epic quality. The various characters are neatly interwoven within the story – everything connecting to Elloren, the lead of the story. As Elloren experiences a new life at the University, we see her grow in understanding of her environment and of the social injustices that exist in her world. The Black Witch is not only the story of a young girl experiencing education at a university – it is a story highlighting the prejudice and the injustices that are found in society. Forest refers to the subjugation of women, the inequality between races, the prejudice that exists against those who are homosexual.

I enjoyed reading The Black Witch  for so many reasons. It is well written. The story takes me into a fantasy land that allows me to use my imagination. The novel is a reflection of what we see in our present modern world and, while reading, my mind was constantly making connections and reflecting on what I was reading and what exists in the world. I felt I was an active reader. Lastly, I love stories that are epic tales – and The Black Witch is of this ilk

If you enjoy fantasy fiction and detailed sagas, The Black Witch by Laurie Forest is a must-read!

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 5 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 59th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

For a while I saw the cover of How to Stop Time by Matt Haig quite often on social media so when I saw a copy of the book on the library’s bookshelf, I decided to pick it up and take it home with me.

The story centres on Tom Hazard, a man who looks forty-one years old but, because of a rare condition, has been alive for centuries. From performing with Shakespeare, to exploring the high seas with Captain Cook, to sharing cocktails with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tom has seen and experienced a lot. But after over 400 years, he yearns for something in his life.

The moment he catches the eye of a captivating woman named Camille, Tom feels his life unravelling. Caught between the danger of discovery and the desire to live a real life, Tom learns that the thing he can’t have might just be thing that saves him.

How to Stop Time is a story about love but told with a difference. It is a bittersweet time-travelling story that is about finding yourself and discovering who you are – even if it does take centuries. It is a story about the certainty of change, and about the perils of love. It is a story about love for a child, and love for another person. It is about how love can change you – and save you.

The story is heartbreaking and I felt a deep sympathy for Tom and his experience. His story is told with sensitivity and compassion. The tale spans through the centuries as we are told Tom’s story. I really enjoyed the little tidbits about well-known personalities that were woven into the tale – the bits about Shakespeare and F. Scott Fitzgerald, for example.

How to Stop Time is a perfect tale for lovers of Fantasy fiction. It is an unusual tale that you can’t help but fall in love with.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars.

Have you read any of Matt Haig’s books?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 37th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: Weave A Circle Round by Kari Maaren

I had neglected my TBR pile that I received from the OLA super conference in January so decided to pick up one of the YA novels that I had received. Kari Maaren was one of the first authors I met at the conference and I enjoyed speaking to her for a few minutes before I moved on so that the next person in line could receive her signed copy.

Weave a Circle Round is a debut fantasy adventure novel. The main character is Freddy, and she doesn’t want people to think that she is weird. Her family makes that difficult though: her deaf stepbrother is a geek, and her genius little sister is training to be the next Sherlock Holmes. All Freddy wants to do is survive high school without being noticed.

Freddy’s life changes when two odd neighbours move in next door. Cuerva Lachance and Josiah are definitely not normal. Neither is their house, which defies the law of physics. The presence of Josiah turns Freddy’s carefully crafted life upside down. Especially when she finds herself on an adventure thousands of years in the past with her very weird neighbours.

While on her adventures, Freddy comes to some realisations about her life, the way she is living it, and the choices that she makes. In the story, the characters Cuerva Lachance and Josiah represent this choice:

“If Josiah represented order, Cuerva Lachance had to represent chaos. That was the choice, then:order or chaos. Stability or change, predictability or mystery, the possible or the impossible. Pick one, and the world got a tiny bit more predictable; pick the other, and the world got a tiny bit less.” (p185, TOR – Macmillan Publishing Group, 2017)

As Freddy comes to realisations like these, we see a change in her character. Even though the reader is asked to suspend belief in the physical world and accept that travelling backwards in time does exist, we believe in the development of the main character. The emotional changes that Freddy experiences, her realisations and growth are reflected in what we see in developing teenagers in today’s world.

I enjoyed reading this well-written tale (after all, I enjoy reading fantasy novels). As I was reading it, I knew that my teenage daughter would enjoy it too. The characters would captivate her, and the adventure they experience enthrall her. I have set aside this novel for her to read once the school year is over. This novel is well worth the read if you enjoy reading YA fantasy fiction. It would make a perfect read for young teens as well – both boys and girls.

Do you enjoy reading stories in which the characters time travel?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 16th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Meeting the Queen

I follow my guides with high expectations; and look around me in eagerness. I had heard the stories of this magical forest that contained trees that whispered and moved with unseen forces. The leaves were dense and the pathway overgrown with foliage. Yes, the trees whispered, and eyes seem to follow our progress. I notice that before us the path seems to clear magically: fronds move out of the way, and ground cover seems to slither aside. No obstacle can be seen in our way. And behind me? The forest floor is covered again and no trace is left of our footsteps.

We rest awhile and I ease my tired limbs onto the trunk of a fallen tree. My companions are silent; and they do not encourage any communication.

“What is the Queen like? Are we far from her residence?” I ask.

No response. I slide down onto the forest floor and rest my head against the fallen tree. I close my eyes. I feel exhausted; and yet I am unable to completely trust the men I am following. I cannot slide into the sleep I so desperately crave.

After twenty minutes, we are on the move again. I am keen to meet the Queen; but my steps are slower as exhaustion drags on me. I concentrate on one step at a time, placing one foot in front of the other. I feel myself falling into an hypnotic trance: left, right, left, right…

The forest ends and I look back with no regret. I see a dense thicket of green and know that there will be a time when I shall enter it again. For now, I look at the expanse of blue water in front of me: blue and calm, with a boat afloat on it. My guides indicate that I enter. Aboard I meet two young women who show me to a room containing a basin of water.

“You may prepare yourself here for your meeting with the Queen,” the fairer one tells me. “Here is water, soap and fresh garments for you to wear.”

They leave, closing the door softly behind them. I wash, enjoying the cool water against my skin. It has been days since I last bathed in the stream with Roan. I think sadly on my companion: how I wish he were right here with me. His exuberance would have made me forget the slight trepidation I felt at meeting the Queen. Would she accept me, and my desire to learn under her tutelage? I  am ready and sink to the floor. Just five minutes. I lay my head on the ground, and close my eyes. Surely I am safe? The Queen would not have brought me thus far if she did not want to meet me.

Consciousness returns and I feel the movement of the boat has slowed. I get up and make sure I am ready to leave. The two young women return and guide me to the shore. Once there, I am met by a man and a woman: both of whom are dressed as guards carrying swords.

“Good evening traveller. Welcome to our Kingdom. The Queen awaits you.” I bow in response.

“Take our hands,” the woman instructs. “We will transport you.”

Taking their hands, I feel a tingle in my body. I see blurred movement, and then I am in another place. In a building with windows placed high.

“Follow me,” the woman indicates with her hand. She walks silently on slippered feet, the man falling in behind me. I sense that they are both ready to react should I do anything to endanger them or their Queen. We arrive at a ornate set of doors: heavy ones that have been designed to protect the one who resides inside. Two guards open the door, and I enter with my heart beating.

“Come in child, let me see you. Let me see the one who was strong enough to withstand the mind control on our bridge.”

I look for the speaker, and then realise the words had resonated in my head.

“Yes. No need to speak when our minds are able to communicate quite adequately. When our world is not filled with the ceaseless chatter of human voices, we are better able to hear what the natural say. Come forward, there is no need to be afraid.”

I step forward with hesitation, looking around to see where I should go. I see a group to the side of the room where there are no windows. A man beckons me, indicating the direction in which I should go. I approach the group and see, in the centre, the Queen.

The body of the Queen is small, covered in white and gold robes. She lies, unmoving, on a bed-like piece of furniture that is also covered in white and gold. Her head is too large in proportion to her body, her cranium over-sized. I look on in astonishment. This is the Queen? I had expected someone of grand stature who instilled fear into those who followed her.

“Quite a surprise, aren’t I? My body is the result of someone who no longer has the need to move. I cannot remember the last time I walked, or even fed myself. The great power of the mind has its sacrifices. I may not look attractive, but I am able to control the minds of many from a great distance. I can manipulate the natural earth to benefit myself and my followers. My power is far reaching; and my subjects bow before me in fear as well as in gratitude. They know that without me they would be like others: starving, and without the knowledge and command of our natural earth.”

“I, too, wish to bow before you and call you my Queen.”

“And what would you wish in return, weary traveller?”

What do you think the traveller wishes for?

(This post is the forth in a series describing the experiences of this traveller; the beginning of which was inspired by Kellie Elmore’s prompt . The first, second and third post all centre on the bridge that the traveller has crossed.)

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2012