Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Middle Grade Young Adult

Spotlight & Interview with Crisanta Knight Author Geanna Culbertson!

Hi everyone! As promised this week, I have a special interview to bring to you guys! Have you read the Crisanta Knight books?? If not, I guarantee you will want to after reading this amazing interview!

I want to take a quick second to thank Geanna Culbertson for taking the time to answer a few questions about her writing, content, content in general, and plans going forward!  I originally became a fan of her clean content and writing style after winning a giveaway that introduced me to the books, and even more so once we incidentally got to chatting about inappropriate content! (See Question 3)!

Alright I’m done talking, here she is!


Meet the author!

Image: Author Geanna Culbertson

Geanna Culbertson is the award-winning author of The Crisanta Knight Series. The series follows the kids and siblings of fairytale characters, all of whom live in a magical world called “Book,” where citizens train to be the next generation of main characters in stories. The majority of this coming-of-age series is told from the empowering, sassy perspective of Cinderella’s daughter—Crisanta Knight. 

Image: the Crisanta Knight book covers

Her full biography can be found on her website, here:

https://crisantaknight.com/bio-by-me/book-bio/


1) How did the Crisanta Knight books take shape for you? Did you know from the start it would be a fairytale re-imagining?

When I was a sophomore in school I took a course devoted to classic and contemporary fairytale analysis. It was a fabulous experience that I loved. Having all that exposure to the classic tales filled me with so much wonder and inspiration, and one day on my way to class the name for the school in my book series: Lady Agnue’s School for Princesses & Other Female Protagonists popped into my head. Later that week I drew out a map of the world, aka the realm of Book and I wrote the prologue and first chapter to go along with it. So that’s how it all started!

In terms of the “reimagining” aspect—I am a girl who is a big believer in the power of change and moving forward. People remake stories all the time; I want to know what happens next. Furthermore, I am someone who is extremely passionate about heroic female characters and living a life where you are always challenging yourself to be better, stronger, wiser, etc. Those qualities helped my main character of Crisanta Knight take shape. 

As the plot formed, fairytales were the main backdrop, but my love of superheroes, princesses, action-packed comedy, and elaborate world-building fused with that and started to grow. The idea for the story simmered in my mind for a little while and then eventually I came to a point where I had to explore it. And so the adventure began . . .  

2) I like the focus on character, identity, and friendship in the books so far! What are some of the topics and themes you think are important for girls and young women to see on-page?

At the beginning of my author journey, I set out to write a story that would inspire others the way my favorite tales have inspired me, featuring characters who balance heart, humor, and a genuine sense of honor. I always thought it was important that a great story not just be about an exciting external plot—magic, adventure, larger-than-life stakes—the true power of story has to be in the internal arc. Some themes I explore throughout my series that I think are very important for girls, young women, and all people are: self-acceptance, trust, taking fate into your own hands, making proactive choices, fighting for what matters to you, understanding, respect, perseverance, and more. However, the overarching theme of my series is CHANGE. To paraphrase a line in Book One, change is a beautiful thing because within it is the opportunity to do anything and become anyone. I hope that as my readers experience the series, they are inspired by all these themes to try and live as fiercely, wisely, kindly, and optimistically as possible. 

3) We talked a bit about “clean reads” and your philosophy on content, could you talk about that a bit?

There is a word I came up with in college: “scandalosity.” It’s a term that encompasses inappropriate, intimate things that take a movie from PG-13 to R, if you catch my drift. I tried to put that word into one of my college English papers lol, but the TA said she’d dock me a letter grade. Anyway, my books are scandalosity free. It’s not my thing, neither is extreme violence or gore—basically anything that would cause adults to want to cover the eyes of their under 18 children. 

I think that there is a lot of unnecessary violence and scandalosity in stories these days. You don’t need to rely on that to create something compelling or intrigue an audience. Strong storylines should always take the lead and if you are going to have romantic moments, action, death, etc. it needs to serve a greater purpose and push the story forward. If it’s just being used for shock and awe, it has no point there and it is lazy writing—storytellers trying to make an impact through cheap shots. 

Action and drama can be handled with style and class, and should genuinely matter to plot/character development. I once heard director David Leitch say something akin to: “You should learn as much about a character from a good action scene as from dialogue.” I agree with that. Death (the killing of characters) can also be a valid event in a story if it truly is integral to plot/character development. But again, there is no need to make it overly graphic. Like, maybe a death needs to happen, but there are many ways that it can be portrayed. No need to scar someone traumatically. 

Also, if utilized in a story that targets younger audiences, death should be eased into. Take Harry Potter for example. You don’t start in Book One with characters dramatically dying left and right. The story progressively explores the themes of loss and death—each book getting more intense so audiences of different ages are eased into some of the harder moments as they grow with the characters and the scope of the story.

Romantic encounters are also fine if they meet the same criteria of being integral to plot/character development (though it’s important to note that you can get the feel of intimacy across without random boobs or whatever flying in your face). I come back to the idea of handling things with style and class i.e. the choices of how intense moments are portrayed.

I’m often quite surprised by the types of content targeting the YA and middle grade markets. I feel like every other TV channel is showing something with murder or scandalosity. However, I firmly believe that audiences of all ages want more than that. People watch those darker things because that’s what’s on; that’s what the media is putting out there the most. But there is plenty of cleaner, goodhearted programming out there that is beloved, proving my point. There just needs to be more of it.

That is what I have brought, and intend to keep bringing to the world. My stories will have action, romance, drama, and deal with intense topics—morality, loss, anger, and so forth—but they will always be handled with care, finesse, and consideration of all the above factors. Any book I ever write can be equally and appropriately enjoyed by an eleven-year-old, a twenty-five-year-old, and a seventy-two-year-old.

4) I wish I had read all the books to know where this is going, but so far (The end of book 3) you have Crisa worrying about herself before she starts worrying too much about boys! Is there hidden advice in that? 

Growing up, most of my favorite stories have had male main characters. I think part of the reason for this is that while a male main character may have a love interest, that love interest/romantic relationship is never the point of his story; it is just another factor. Meanwhile, in most female-led fiction, the love interest/romantic relationship is of equal value and importance to that female protagonist’s individual journey. It shouldn’t be that way. She should come first. Most girls have more on their mind than boys. They just do. The complexities of growing up, taking ownership of your choices and goals, accepting yourself, and learning who you are and who you want to be is way more pivotal to a person than deciding which hot guy you want to end up with. So while there are romantic, shippable elements to my series, I do not belittle my female characters and their potential by limiting the scope of what they focus on to romantic entanglements.

5) What is your favorite fairytale? Do you have a favorite fairytale twist that you’ve written so far? (Mine is definitely everything you did with Aladdin, from the sarcastic cave to the flying furniture!)

In terms of my favorite fairytales—Cinderella has been close to my heart since I was very little. That’s why I made my main character Cinderella’s daughter. If we’re talking strictly about Disney interpretations of fairytales, The Princes & the Frog is one of my favorites. Then in terms of the classic, old-timey tales I have a lot of respect for Snow White because that story created the roots of the fairytale-loving culture we have today.

In terms of the twists I’ve written, that’s such a hard question!!

I have highlighted so many fairytales and classic tales in my series now—diving really deep into quite a few. For example, the majority of Book Five takes place in Camelot, so there are a lot of characters, myths, and settings I work with there. In that space, developing Merlin as a character has been really interesting, specifically regarding his relationship to Crisanta. However, as Book Eight is freshest to me, I would have to say that diving into Mulan and Alice in Wonderland lore in that novel has definitely been one of my most challenging and rewarding fairytale exploration experiences thus far. All of Book Eight really was an intense adventure to write—Toyland, Swan Lake, Rumpelstiltskin, there’s just so much!

6) Many books in the series have been nominated for and received Feathered Quill book awards (yay -congrats)!!! Can you talk about that a bit?

I feel very grateful for the many awards that different books in my series have won. In terms of Feathered Quill, I have won six awards so far. Winning such an array of awards in the last two years has been awesome—two awards for Best in Teen Fiction (13-18 years), two awards for Science Fiction/Fantasy, Best of Backlist, and The Write Companion Award for Best Overall TOP PICK (Adult, Children’s and Young Adult categories included).

Winning these awards, combined with the wide array of other awards that my series has won, is quite flattering. I think what makes me the happiest about this range though, is that it shows the huge scope of audiences that my series appeals to. I have always believed that one of the strongest elements of my series is how many different kinds of people it can connect with. If in one week I can get fan mail from a nine-year-old girl, a twenty-year-old college student, a forty-year-old woman, and a fifty-year-old father, then it means I have done my job right. Because, at the end of the day, this isn’t a story about a princess, or even fairytales. This is a story about a good-hearted, honorable person trying to figure out how to best live her life, live up to her potential, and do right by the world, the people she cares for, and herself. That’s a story anyone should be able to relate to theoretically.

7) As an author looking for feedback from reviewers and readers, what do you hope to see from those people?

I love positive reviews; I mean who doesn’t? But I particularly love it when people go into specific details about their favorite parts or moments in a book. Getting five stars is awesome, but knowing how specific jokes landed, or how twists affected my readers, what they connected with most, etc.—it is great feedback for me.

Also, I like to use a “Mario Cart” comparison when it comes to how reviews affect me (you know, the video game). So in that videogame, as you’re driving your racecar along, players can throw exploding mushrooms or other brickabrack at you. When that hits you, your car spins or you crash temporarily or slow down. That’s what negative reviews are; they don’t take you out of the game, but they can still hit you hard. Positive reviews are like the magical stars or rainbows or bonus coins that you pick up as you’re driving along. You could still keep going on fine without them, but they give you extra power and supercharge you. ☺

8) Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed! Is there anything else you’d like to talk about or add?

The Crisanta Knight Series is my beginning. I have so many other wonderful series and standalone novels coming down the line. For example, in addition to working on the Crisanta Knight finale right now, I am working on the first novel in my new “guardian angels” series that releases next year. Also, my magical, heartwarming Christmas standalone novel releases November 3, 2021—official book announcement and book trailer launching in June. 

***Audiobook Two for The Crisanta Knight Series releases this summer as well.

For more information, you can visit: www.CrisantaKnight.com

To stay updated on my latest book news, sign up to be a part of my email list through the website.

And go ahead and follow me on social media too, if you like:

Instagram/Twitter/Pinterest: @gculbert14

Facebook: @CrisantaKnightSeries

#crisantaknight #crisantaknightseries #geannaculbertson

Categories
Fantasy

Book Review: The Day Star by W.N. Cleckler

Thank you so much to W.N. Cleckler for sending me the second book in The Wisprian World series, The Day Star! This is an epic fantasy series that is unapologetically Christian in nature, perfect for the Easter time of year. I am totally delighted by this book filled with cunning and gore, hope and hopelessness, war and betrayal, as well as found family, faith, friendship, and sacrifice.

Click here for my review for Book 1, Tears of Alphega

Quick Facts: 

  • Title: The Day Star
  • Series: The Wisprian World, #2
  • Author: W.N. Cleckler
  • Publisher & Release; Whisper Press,  12/25/20
  • Length: 402 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes for those who like a healthy dollop of faith with their fantasy!

Here is the Synopsis from GoodReads:

Perfect love.
Ancient rebellion.
Overwhelming redemption.

The shattered heavens empower unlikely heroes to overcome the origin of darkness.

Before the spoken earth, Alphega treasured His whispered world, Wispria, from the heavenly realm of Agapia. Yet, after destruction of the Agapian Gate, by the Archeon leader, Lure, and his legions, Alphega wept tears of power over seven Wisprian companions. These survivors must discern when to use them, journey to find magical shards of agapate, and use their elemental abilities against the evil that seeks the stones. As the darkened world grows colder ushering in an age of ice, can these unlikely heroes overcome Lure before he reaches Agapia and enslaves The Wisprian World?

With a cast of fantastical characters, new adventures in undiscovered lands, ancient rebellion, overwhelming redemption, and perfect love, W.N. Cleckler’s fantasy series will have you unearthing a new world of possibilities in our ultimate origin story.

The Plot and Story:  I find it endlessly difficult to summarize these books!  Basically now that Lure has formed his armies, he is ready to march across Wispria to the main city and this book encompasses what I would call the first open conflicts.

The seven adventurers from book one also reunite and learn more about their destinies.  Vague prophecies don’t help so much, but they must discover how to use their gifts and agapate to survive, and fight back against Lure.

I felt some of the same disjointedness from book one in this novel as well, except it made more sense as we learn a lot more about each hero and Lure’s history on Wispria. I think the author realized where the holes in the World Build were and really shored it all up so the books can move forward!

I was certainly never bored though, there is just so much going on in the different storylines, and the battles were so exciting!

The Characters: The original seven tear bearers from book one are back, and we learn a lot more about their back stories.  Duolos became an unexpected leader, Pales and Animus became real people, and each character really has to accept their role as an uncelebrated ‘hero’ in this war.

I liked spending more time with each character and how they embraced each other as newfound family.

There is one new character, Kit, who deserves mention – Telle the unicorn took him under his wing to go accomplish side tasks, and I am extremely interested in his role moving forward.  There is so much juxtaposition of good vs evil in this book and Kit (a nephilim) vs the various depravities of the Dephilim are in as much contrast as the Archeon (angels) vs Archestokos (essentially fallen angels).

Themes: Really if you haven’t guessed yet, good vs evil is the main theme in these novels.  This splits beautifully into faith in the creator, trusting Him, free will and choice, identity, personal sacrifice, and obviously a soul crushing war as well.

Animus’ speech about heroes and family was absolutely everything

The World:  I’ve already described how intricate and well fleshed this world is, in both reviews.  The Day Star expands on individual kingdoms, weather, customs and highlights in individual regions, and some of the utter atrocities that Lure is committing. 

I liked Tears of Alphega quite a bit, but The Day Star truly takes the time to invest the reader in the world and characters.

Where did I dock a star? I hate to do it but this book honestly needed one more proof read.  Nothing too glaring but there were typos, inconsistencies in the narrator’s voice (most of the time when Alphega spoke to the reader directly, it was italicized – but not always. This was confusing). Additionally towards the start there were just a ton of commas, and intermittently words that I think were left when edits were made.

This is a beautiful book with gorgeous artwork, rich development, and so many intricacies.  I think it’s an absolute must for epic fantasy fans and Christian readers!

 

Categories
Fantasy Science Fiction

In the Orbit of Sirens : Book Tour Review & Giveaway!

Thank you so much to Storytellers On Tour for having me on the book tour for In the Orbit of Sirens by T.A. Bruno! This is a sci-fi adventure novel with excellent plot and world building, plenty of action, and a classic sci-fi feel. 

Quick Facts:

  • Title: In the Orbit of Sirens
  • Series: The Song of Kamaria, #1
  • Author: T.A. Bruno
  • Publisher & Release: Indie, October, 2020
  • Length: 502 pg
  • Rate & Recommend:  5 ^ and yes to anyone with even the vaguest interest in sci-fi! 

Here is the synopsis:

THE LAST FRAGMENTS OF THE HUMAN RACE ARE FORCED TO ADAPT TO A DANGEROUS NEW WORLD OR FACE EXTINCTION.
 
When starship mechanic Denton Castus is caught in the destructive path of a devastating war, he abandons his home and seeks refuge on a distant planet. However, this new safe haven has undiscovered threats of its own.
 
Eliana Veston, a scout preparing the planet for the refugees, struggles with a deadly pandemic that is killing off colonists. The hunt for a cure unleashes a new threat to humanity-the Sirens-mysterious beings with incredible powers and a deep hatred for invaders.

This is one of those independently published gems that I think deserves all the exposure in the world! From the cover to the internal illustrations, section titles, dual timelines, and storylines for days, this is definitely one to check out

The Plot & Story: There is a lot going on in this book, causing the pages to just fly by. One storyline is happening on the new planet, where the scientists and settlers are trying to ready the settlement for the rest of the refugees from our current solar system. An invading race is chasing humanity away from Sol, and the second storyline picks up at the end of this war where the very last humans are making their escape.

The new planet is not all fun and game; the air is breathable but causes humans; lungs to lock up, and not all of the planetary natives are friendly. These two plot lines marge fairly quickly and a third develops, but you’ll just have to read it to learn why an army veteran wreaks havoc and then disappears

First contact, exploration, tons of danger, plus a romantic subplot as well….. for a 500 page novel it’s an achievement to say that I was never once bored!

The World Building & Setting: This is a world build that I could truly get lost in. There is just enough history given of the expansion and war in Sol to know what is going on, and then that element was closed in a most satisfying way. The settlers’ new planet, Kamaria, is so rich in wildlife and fauna and Bruno’s descriptions made me feel like I was there! The descriptions of the white trees, purple grass, lazily grazing animals, and the bird-like natives, gave everything a lovely alien feel. Other regions have different fauna and it always made me want to see what the scouts and scientists would discover next. There is slang and local tradition and everything you need to make a solidly immersive world.

There is lots of lore and storytelling from the two main native species. The story of the sirens and the Auk’nai are kind of heart breaking. I did have a few questions about the choice of planet and spaceship technology, and funny enough the Author then said he had written these answers into an earlier draft but cut it out for length, so I felt better knowing that he had thought the holes through!

The Characters: Lets just say the characters are real people with tons of resilience. There is death and murder, an inhospitable new world, and a war against a crazed Siren, but Eliana and Denton and the others just keep striding forward. I enjoyed watching them overcome so many obstacles and discover where they really fit into life in the colony. Sometimes I find a lot of character building boring, but absolutely not here. It helped to know everyones strengths, weaknesses, and personalities before the battles at the end of the book. These people have suffered and I think Bruno really makes a statement about the resilience of humanity. There are tons of good and funny side characters as well, some with surprising character arcs of their own! Maybe don’t get too attached to anyone though *wink*

Overall: This is one of those reviews where I could talk about a book forever and point out so many cool things, but I think it’s best to just read the book yourself. Go hike through those forests, meet those natives, and fly into battle with the characters. Go be a part of their banter, sit in on the memorial services. This is an immersive, page flying sci-fi adventure that you won’t regret picking up! I mean honestly it’s one of my favorite modern scifi reads!

If you are more of an audiobook fan, this was recently released as well! Check it out at


So yes first off, here is the link to the giveaway! Click here!

Next up, I really enjoyed reading what everyone else thought of the book, so make sure to check out the rest of the tour!

Tour page link here!


Meet the author!

T. A. BRUNO grew up in Chicago and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the film industry. Since then, he has brought stories to life for over a decade as a previsualization artist. At home, he is a proud father of two boys and a husband to a wonderful wife. IN THE ORBIT OF SIRENS is his debut science fiction novel

Author Links:
Website: http://tabruno.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TABrunoAuthor
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/TABrunoAuthor/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TABrunoAuthor
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/T.-A.-Bruno/e/B08FW4T3VF
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/tabrunoauthor

Categories
Fantasy Paranormal

Cover Reveal Blitz & Feature: Windborn by Alex S. Bradshaw!

Hi friends! I am breaking my short run of blog silence with a Cover Reveal and book feature today!  Thank you so much to Storytellers On Tour for having me in the group!

Norse, viking, and dark fantasy fans, listen up! I was hooked at dark viking superheroes and had to jump on this one!

Look at this freaking cover!

photo: Windborn by Alex S. Bradshaw

One more time: look at this cover!!!

photo: Windborn cover

Here is the synopsis for Windborn:

Drowning is only the beginning…

Edda Gretasdottir is a raider, a fell-handed shield-maiden, feared along every coast. Hers is a life woven in battle scars.

But she never wanted to walk the warrior’s path. All she wanted was freedom, to earn enough gold to buy her family their own remote farm, and to escape their oppressive chieftain. Now, she has enough plunder so that she can finally hang up her shield and live in peace.

That peace is stolen from Edda, however, when raiders burn her home, destroy all that she loves, and toss her, wounded and bleeding, into the ravenous ocean.

But the fates are cruel and this is not the end for Edda: she rises from the bloody surf as a Windborn, a cursed warrior whose supernatural gifts are a poor exchange for everything she has lost.

Fuelled by rage and armed with strange new powers Edda will hunt for whoever sent the raiders, for whoever is responsible for taking everything from her. She will show them the sharp edge of her axe… or die trying.

Windborn is a dark, character-driven Norse fantasy packed with emotion, deadly foes, and vicious battles.

Get your copy of Windborn now to hear Edda’s epic tale!

So yeah, how about that cover and synopsis!! Plus Benedict Patrick plugged the book and I have a huge soft spot for his Yarnsworld books!


Photo: face down paperback showing front and rear cover of Windborn

You’ve seen the book, now meet the author!

photo: Alex S. Bradshaw, Author

Bio: Alex S. Bradshaw grew up in Kent in the UK and spent much of his childhood hiding (sometimes under tables) and reading a book.

He has always been a fan of epic stories (as well as dinosaurs and cake) so it came as no surprise to anyone that he went on to study Classics and Ancient History at university.

Now Alex works in publishing and has turned his hand to making epic stories of his own.


I see dinosaurs on his bookshelf!

I hope this post has garnered your interest in Windborn! The book releases on 4/28/21! I know I can’t wait to read it! Here are all the book and author links. Thank you again to Storytellers On Tour for having me on the cover reveal blitz!


Book & Author links:

Goodreads:https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57353928-windborn

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08YDTKZ5K

Cover Art: Raph Herrera Lomotan (https://www.artstation.com/raphlomotan)

Cover Design: Shawn T King at STK Kreations (http://stkkreations.com/)

Website: www.alexsbradshaw.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AlexSBradshaw 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/alexsbradshaw/  

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AlexSBradshawGoodreads:https://www.goodreads.com/alexsbradshaw

Categories
Fantasy Middle Grade Young Adult

ARC Review: Anders Reality by Adam Roach

Thank you so much to the author for the early copy of Anders Reality! This one published on March 5th and is a great low/urban fantasy pick for Middle Grade March, from an indie author!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Anders Reality
  • Series: n/a
  • Author: Adam Roach
  • Publisher & Release: Indie, 3/5/21
  • Length: 288
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ for the target age group!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

WHAT IF FOR SOME, WHEN THEY SLEEP, THEY DON’T SIMPLY DREAM, BUT FALL INTO ANOTHER WORLD?

As “Dreamers”, they’re sworn to protect a world called Luceria and that duty has never been needed more than now. There was a time when Luceria was a beautiful magical place, but has become dark and dangerous because of The Taker.

The Taker is a Dreamer who wants the magic of Luceria for himself and wants the ability to stay there forever and rule with those Lucerians he’s turned into his own army.

For the past six months, Ander has been having nightmare like daydreams that he can’t seem to stop or get away from. He doesn’t know where to turn or who to trust and its beginning to affect every aspect of his life. On the night of his 14th birthday after spending the day being tortured by the school bully, Ander goes to bed and shortly after falling asleep, he feels like he’s falling and lands in the abandoned looking, terror filled world of Luceria.

Is this the same place as his daydreams?
Why is this happening to him?
Are there others like him on Earth who can fall into this other world?
Where has everyone gone?

Ander has more questions than answers as he begins to try and navigate not only the notion of another reality, but who he really is meant to be.

ANDERS REALITY is a YA Low-Fantasy Novel and is written for ages 10 and up.

Screenshot_20210309-164901

I am reviewing this one through the lens of “appropriate for age 10+”, not so much as an adult critique!  It is definitely appropriate content wise for the target age range and I think they will enjoy the story. The main character just turned 14 and in general the book does read to the young side!

When Ander is asleep, and sometimes when he is awake, he travels to an alternate land called Luceria. Eventually we learn that it used to be a wonderful and magical place, until the Taker started corrupting the world searching for a key that unlocks a strong power.

Ander and his two friends are all freshmen and he has a bully. He seems to get along with everyone else but is super sensitive and does seem to cry easily. It was fun watching that storyline resolve. He has to choose to be brave in both realms, both to defend himself at school and to choose to save Luceria.

I liked the idea overall, just had a lot of questions as an adult about the world and the inhabitants, but I think these will go over the target age range’s head.

My questions were: why cats? Why did the tether takers have to maim themselves, or were they just humans dressed like cats while the Lucerians were real cat-people? Whose heads were on stakes? Where did that whole VR Gaming thing with the tethers and available items come from?  Why keep all the dreamers in pods? Oh…. What the heck, THAT guy was the bad guy? And so forth.  I don’t think kids will question these things and it was appropriate length, with fast paced action for middle grade.

Overall? A good story, with high school friendships and being at odds with parents, and bully problems.  A lot of kids will relate.  I liked the low fantasy elements.  Recommend for kids who like contemporary/urban scifi/fantasy!!

Categories
Fantasy Middle Grade Young Adult

Book Review: The Severance Game by Geanna Culbertson

It’s Middle Grade March! So back in 2019 I won Crisanta Knight, book #2 – The Severance Game – in a giveaway, then never read it because I kept forgetting to get book one! So I finally read book one (click to see review here) and now I am digging into the series in earnest! I promise no spoilers!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Severance Game
  • Series: Crisanta Knight, #2
  • Author: Geanna Culbertson
  • Publisher & Release: BQB Publishing, December 2016
  • Length: 460pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ yes for fans of book one, middlegrade/YA, and people looking for clean content!

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

A lot of questions ran through my head as I desperately clung to the roof of a magic train crossing over a gaping canyon. Like: How did I get here? What could I have done to avoid this fate? And, did I remember to shave my underarms before coming on this quest?

But even after taking on a witch in a gingerbread house, bloodthirsty actors, and a whole mess of magic hunters and other fairytale shenanigans, the biggest, most pressing question pulsing through my brain as my fingers started to slip and my enemy bore down on me was this: Could I really trust the person whose life I’d ruined to keep me from falling?

With antagonists closing in, inner demons threatening to consume me, and vivid nightmares chewing up my soul every time I shut my eyes, I was running out of options. I knew the moment to decide whether or not I could truly trust any of my friends was fast approaching. But my head and heart were stuck. For just like the precarious position I now found myself in, the pain of holding onto the path I’d chosen thus far was outmatched only by the worry I had over (gulp) letting it go…

The Plot/ story: per the end of book one, Crisa and friends are now on their quest to find the Author and change their fates. They escaped Century City, and book two starts the search for the lost mermaid princess of Adelaide’s heart. Travelling through the Forbidden Forest first, and eventually coming back to Adelaide, we see them confront all sorts of magic, beasts, and dangers.

Crisa’s dreams start to make a little more sense too as we learn about her spark of magic.  Despite the action and quest, dangers, antagonists, and more, this book took on a more personal nature for the characters and it’s mostly about Crisa coming into herself as a responsible protagonist.  

The main theme is that she wants to break the princess archetype of a damsel in distress, and be a hero. 

The World: unlike book one, now we are out in the world.  The woods of Red Riding hood, the grove of Hansel & Gretel’s witch, and even Earth of all places.  The sheer number of fairytale characters pulled into this book is amazing, and especially in the forbidden forest I liked how the world expands in both scope and magic.

The Characters: I hate to say but Crisa was such an insufferable brat in this book, it was hard watching her push her friends away.  She gets it into her head that she can’t trust them and has to do everything by herself in order to be strong… but is that how heroes work?

SJ and her potions keep the journey afloat, and she is patient while Crisa wraps her head around her problems.  Blue and Jason mostly sideline but reinforce the notion that the group should be working as a trusty unit. Daniel… Is just Daniel, he’s as bad as Crisa and… Dyhfgdhfvj no spoilers

The Antagonists omg I want more antagonists.  Arian and Tara and Nadia seem like a nasty lot, but we still don’t find out the motives in this book.

Overall: A+ for another clean, middlegrade / YA appropriate read with practically nonexistent content. I have to say I liked book one better, but definitely plan to read book three sometime soon. Crisa’s internal monologue was just too repetitive and, similar to the thorough nature of the Far Forest Scrolls books – it takes a LOT of pages to advance the plot. Book one was a faster read and I hope that three picks up the pace again now that we have established the group as a unit!

What are you reading for Middle Grade March!?

Categories
Fantasy Fiction Paranormal

ARC Review: All the Murmuring Bones by A.G. Slatter

Thank you so much to Titan Books via NetGalley for the early digital copy of All the Murmuring Bones! This is a hugely atmospheric, dark fairy tale from A.G Slatter that I think most fans of lore and legends will love

Quick Facts:

  • Title: All the Murmuring Bones
  • Series: N/A, but some of the authors short stories “live” in this world
  • Author: A.G. Slatter
  • Publisher & Release: Titan Books, 3/9/21
  • Length: 368 or
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for genre fans!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

For fans of Naomi Novik and Katharine Arden, a dark gothic fairy tale from award-winning author Angela Slatter.

Long ago Miren O’Malley’s family prospered due to a deal struck with the mer: safety for their ships in return for a child of each generation. But for many years the family have been unable to keep their side of the bargain and have fallen into decline. Miren’s grandmother is determined to restore their glory, even at the price of Miren’s freedom.

A spellbinding tale of dark family secrets, magic and witches, and creatures of myth and the sea; of strong women and the men who seek to control them.

Oh man, so far I think Slatter deserves every single of those literary awards, and I am extremely interested in her short fiction tales.

All the Murmuring Bones is all of the things in the description and more. Miren is the last of the O’Malleys and is absolutely not going to be controlled by any man, nor give children up to the sea. Reeling from the decisions made by her grandmother before her death, including an arranged marriage, Miren takes off to find her (presumably deceased, but not) parents.

Her journey is met with ghosts, wights, kelpies, Merfolk, and all other sorts of legend. All obstacles aside, Miren is Aoife’s granddaughter and has a basic knowledge of witchcraft, and she is of an absolutely fierce line of women. I liked the theme of the men having a semblance of control throughout the family history, while the women truly and obviously ran things.

The story is addicting, with little short stories intertwined as Miren recalls or learns more family lore. There is murder and mystery and bargains to be made.

The book starts at Hob’s Head, the family ancestral home, a sea side estate falling into disrepair. With wights on the main road and a family crypt, the setting and atmosphere are set. Her parents home of Blackwater is equally mysterious, but it’s hard to go there without spoilers on the mystery so I won’t. Lets say that just about nothing at Blackwater is as it appears, and I was just shocked at .. All of it.

Let’s just say that the setting and atmosphere is absolutely first rate.

I love Slatter’s writing style too, I tell you this woman is putting her PHD in creative writing to good use.

Bonus content: how to pronounce these Irish names:

  • Aoife: EE-fuh
  • Oisin: OH-sheen (Rhymes with clean)
  • These according to my Irish friend

If you like fierce women, witchcraft, lore, myths, murder and mystery and more, all drowning in dark fairy tale atmosphere, please check this one out!

Categories
Adventure Fantasy Young Adult

ARC Review: Namesake by Adrienne Young

Thank you so much to Wednesday Books via NetGalley for the early digital copy of Namesake by Adrienne Young! It is always hard to review sequels and such without spoilers so I will just share my general feelings about the book! To recap, here is the review for Fable

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Namesake
  • Series: Fable, #2
  • Author: Adrienne Young
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, 3/16/21
  • Length: 368
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ if you liked the first book

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Trader. Fighter. Survivor.

With the Marigold ship free of her father, Fable and its crew were set to start over. That freedom is short-lived when she becomes a pawn in a notorious thug’s scheme. In order to get to her intended destination she must help him to secure a partnership with Holland, a powerful gem trader who is more than she seems.

As Fable descends deeper into a world of betrayal and deception, she learns that the secrets her mother took to her grave are now putting the people Fable cares about in danger. If Fable is going to save them then she must risk everything, including the boy she loves and the home she has finally found.

Namesake is the second book in the Fable duology.  Due to the continuation of the storyline, this can absolutely not be read as a standalone.  If you skim my review for book one, you can find most of what I have to say about the world building and characters in general.  

There is more action than in Fable. This one was a much quicker read, although at the end of the day, the action fell into anti climax before drifting off to the ending. A few times during the action, Fable would think something like “ok *THIS* is the only way out,” and then she would never explain what *THIS* is and it drove me nuts.  Something else would just happen.  There is a chance that this will be clamped down in the final book though.

The title? Do you want to know where Namesake fits into the book? Hahahah probably the best storyline, you have to read to find out.  The only magic in the whole duology and it’s a great plot line.

Holland is the only new character worth mentioning, and we see a bit more from Zola and Saint as well.  I really liked this trio of adversaries.  Talking about any more characters may spoil book one. Learning more about West was also good for the story. The Fable and Saint storyline resolved a little bit cleanly for my tastes, and I swear that Fable and West never actually resolved any of the issues they were having.  These were big, real, practically unforgivable issues and they just *poof* went away in the next chapter, the same with the issues the crew were having with the situations. *Poof*.  The magic of the 7-9 grade level books.

Overall, I do enjoy the story and world Young has built here.  It’s a fun, high seas world with a tidy resolution and despite my gripes, they are good for that 12-18 ish age range.  Would I recommend the duology? Sure, if you like characters and romantic inklings more than constant action. 

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

ARC Review: The Stolen Kingdom by Jillian Boehme

Thank you so much to Tor Teen for the digital ARC of The Stolen Kingdom via NetGalley!  This is a great standalone YA fantasy, with everything from a king killer plot to just a twist of romance!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Stolen Kingdom
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Jillian Boehme
  • Publisher & Release: Tor Teen, March 2nd 2021
  • Length: 332
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 sure for fans of YA fantasy!

Here is the description from GoodReads:

For a hundred years, the once-prosperous kingdom of Perin Faye has suffered under the rule of the greedy and power-hungry Thungrave kings. Maralyth Graylaern, a vintner’s daughter, has no idea her hidden magical power is proof of a secret bloodline and claim to the throne. Alac Thungrave, the king’s second son, has always been uncomfortable with his position as the spare heir—and the dark, stolen magic that comes with ruling.

When Maralyth becomes embroiled in a plot to murder the royal family and seize the throne, a cat-and-mouse chase ensues in an adventure of dark magic, court intrigue, and forbidden love

This book to me is exceptionally well done as a stand alone fantasy.

The Magic: My favorite magic systems are the ones tied to the land, tied to a Kingdom, because they not only make sense to me but add so much to the richness of the world building.

A pure, healing magic, was given to the original King of Perin Faye by the land’s deity. Corrupted into dark and destructive magic when it was stolen, it twisted a king killer into something terrifying.  This is the legacy passed down through generations to the current king.

The plot/story: the plot ran at breakneck pace, again making it a great standalone.  A rebel lord has decided to replace a true descendent of the first king on the throne to seize power.  He finds a magic wielder and a plot to murder the ruling family is put into action.  Will the corrupted magic even allow this?  The current king is away while his sons entertain the heir’s wedding party.  The first son/heir is incredibly important as the stolen magic requires a vessel at all times.

Maybe a better question is, will Maralyth play along with this scheme of murder or will she fall for the prince?

The Characters: I liked the characters! A vintner’s daughter, Maralyth, has hidden her magic but doesn’t really know why it is considered illicit. The second prince, Alac,  who doesn’t want the throne OR the dark magic of his father, is the other point of view.  They are both drawn unwillingly into this insane queen maker plot.  There is instant attraction between them, but then it buds slowly over months.  I liked this tiny bit of romance.  Both characters had full arcs as they realized how tied to the kingdom they are, and the side characters were great too.  Why not throw in an insane and terrifying king, and funny guard? There is banter for days between them all.

The World: so much magic and lore. I wish she had discussed the religion more, although it only played a side role it would have added to the lore. There was more than enough world building for a standalone for sure. Food, wealth distribution, bit of history, economy, political structure, plus two sides of the same magic. Betrayal and a tiny bit of intrigue too.

Very low content as well, just a FEW kisses and a bit of poison and swordfighting.

I just can’t get over how the magic was tied to everything in the plot, I kind of feel like this is how fantasy magic should be! Plus strong, brave, funny characters, and plenty of action, this book was a huge win for me!

Check it out, again it publishes March 2nd!

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Fiction Mysteries Science Fiction

Audio/Book Review: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter

In an effort to read more books that are already on my shelves this year, I finally picked up The Strange Case of the Alchemists Daughter by Theodora Goss! I read a short fairytale retellings collection of hers last year, and between that and the book featuring an Athena Club, (added bonus because I like things with my name in it), this seemed like a good pick right now!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s daughter
  • Series: The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club, #1
  • Author: Theodora Goss
  • Publisher & Release: Gallery / Saga Press, June 2017
  • Length: 417 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 for fans of mysteries and retellings!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Mary Jekyll, alone and penniless following her parents’ death, is curious about the secrets of her father’s mysterious past. One clue in particular hints that Edward Hyde, her father’s former friend and a murderer, may be nearby, and there is a reward for information leading to his capture…a reward that would solve all of her immediate financial woes.

But her hunt leads her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, a feral child left to be raised by nuns. With the assistance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary continues her search for the elusive Hyde, and soon befriends more women, all of whom have been created through terrifying experimentation: Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherin Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein.

When their investigations lead them to the discovery of a secret society of immoral and power-crazed scientists, the horrors of their past return. Now it is up to the monsters to finally triumph over the monstrous.

Audio:  I did listen to some of this on audio, and omg.  From Simon & Schuster audio, narrated by Kate Reading, she won an Audie in 2018 for best fantasy. Kate was just perfect. Every character has a unique voice, she speaks clearly and enunciates everything beautifully. I would absolutely 100% recommend this as an audiobook

The Story/Plot:  I think the synopsis tells you everything that you need to know about the plot!  This is a fantastically fast-paced book, starting with Mary Jekyll and gradually expanding to the full cast of characters as the women find each other. Along with each woman’s individual story, each of which were some of my favorite parts of the book, the crew is attempting to solve the Whitechapel murders.  These murders are re-written and worked in as part of the mad scientist plot!

The Characters: most of these characters are either completely new or Rewritten with their own personalities, but any fan of classic literature will hopefully appreciate them.  Characters worked from Jekyll & Hyde, Frankenstein, The Island of Dr. Moreau, Dracula, Jane Eyre, and more are here, but it’s not necessary to know the original stories to read this at all.

The characters really are an interesting group, from poisonous Beatrice to super strong Justine to catwoman Catherine, and Hyde’s daughter is absolutely hilarious.   They refuse to be limited by being women in Victorian London.  Holmes and Watson take on new personalities too!

The Mystery:  no spoilers, but since I’ve never been a big Sherlock Holmes reader it was interesting to see how his murder investigation unfolded. The women were also running investigations and although the why shortly became apparent, the who and big picture- not so much. I just think it’s really cool how Goes pulled all of these characters into one coherent novel

Content: I got nothing for ya here.  Someone pees in holy water and they inspect a few dead bodies

Overall:  I can definitely recommend this one for fans of classical retellings and Mysteries!