Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Contemporary Paranormal Romance

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring M.A. Philips!

Another week, another awesome interview! Episode 13 of the Sunday Brunch Series features local author M.A. Philips, writer of the Rituals of Rock Bay trilogy!
I found M.A. totally by accident while looking at Shadow Spark publishing titles, and thought it was absolutely incredible to find someone writing books in and about NNY & the Thousand Islands area. What a thrill to have worked at the hospital mentioned in the book, picture the waters of the St Lawrence, and learn a bit about Irish Legends!
Come to find that M.A. is also an absolutely lovely person to chat with, and I was floored when she agreed to come onto the SBS!
Read on to learn about the author, book, writing process, some resources to explore druidry, and much more!

🍁Welcome to the SBAIS! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your books!

🎤Thank you for having me! I’m a writer and teacher from Upstate NY (near the Thousand Island Region).  When I’m not writing, I enjoy gardening, reading, sewing, cooking, watching anime, and spending time with my husband and daughter. Much of my writing involves modern Pagans because I’m part of that spiritual community. I want to portray our beliefs realistically while also weaving in lots of magical realism and romance. Next year, one of my short stories will be published in an anthology called Brigid’s Light: Tending the Ancestral Flame of the Beloved Celtic Goddess edited by Cairelle Crow and Laura Louella. As for WIPs, I’m currently writing a new novel about a witch who primarily works with plants.
🍁 I was so excited to find a local author! Your love for the St Lawrence is clear in your writing, did you always know you wanted to base the setting locally too?
🎤 I didn’t! The earliest iterations of River Magic, before it was centered in a village on the St. Lawrence River, was originally going to take place in Utica, NY! I grew up in that area and was writing what I knew at the time. After moving up here, I fell in love with the Thousand Islands. Over the last decade, I came to know the land and waters more intimately, and once the mermaid entered the picture, switching to a North Country-based story was right.

Now my current WIP takes place in Utica, though it’s more urban than my previous series. It’s been fun to explore and reconnect with that part of my life again.

🍁River Magic sparked a huge interest in magical realism for me, a genre that I have hardly read. How did the book change the most from your original idea or draft?
🎤I’m so glad you became interested in magical realism! The genre really captured my attention after reading some of Alice Hoffman’s books like Practical Magic and Indigo (especially the latter due to the inclusion of mermaids). In my original drafts, Lacey and Cian were part of a more fantastical world. I suppose it would have started as urban fantasy but become increasingly more of an epic supernatural romance. The characters were so drastically different back then, and it never felt right. The conflict was too global, and I decided I wanted to tone it way down and think about what messages I really wanted to send.
🍁I had no idea that druidry was a modern practice, or that we had a local chapter! Can you recommend some reading material or a website for anyone else who might be interested in learning more.
🎤Sure! If anyone who reads my books is interested in what Lacey, Cian, and Fiona do, I would suggest reading books by Morgan Daimler or Lora O’Brien. Irish Pagan School is a great online resource with many reasonable classes and teachers from Ireland. There are some wonderful intro classes for example. I’m also a part of a grove of Druids in the Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF) tradition, so that’s another option as well. Read or listen to the lore, take heed of what Irish (or Scottish, Welsh, Cornish) authors and scholars have to say, and listen to your own intuition.  Like my characters, I’m just a student who is trying to respect the living Irish culture.
🍁Did the rituals and practices described in Rituals of Rock Bay come from your own experiences? 

🎤They did, though not always verbatim, and I often simplified so as to not gum up the pace. When characters continually attend or perform rituals and magic in a similar manner, I ran the risk of those scenes becoming repetitive. I focused on the seasonal changes, how life events intertwined with these celebrations, and the characters’ development in regards to familiarity with the traditions, skill, and confidence. Some magical practices shown in the series are activities I’ve only witnessed or read about, though, but everything is based on authentic practice within the Pagan community.
🍁I loved the ongoing theme of holding to one’s convictions and doing what’s right! What would you like the new adult audience to take away from the Rituals of Rock Bay?
🎤I’m so glad you enjoyed that theme! I hope readers can relate to Lacey and Cian in their efforts to find their place in life and be true to themselves and their intuition. I also explore the importance of community throughout the series. You don’t have to be alone. Find your people!
🍁How do you feel about brunch? Any favorite items?
🎤I don’t get to enjoy brunch nearly enough! I’m always down for mid-day waffles and mimosas. 
🍁The Irish mythology elements in the series were cool too, do you have a favorite story from that lore?
🎤I’m very drawn to stories about the Tuath Dé Danann, the gods of Ireland. I also adore anything about selkies and other legendary creatures. I actually reference one of my favorite myths in River Magic: the story about the god Angus and his lover, Caer. As it involved dreams and romance, it was fitting for Lacey.
🍁One of the magical elements in River Magic included a river spirit in the shape of a Sturgeon! {{There are rumored to be some up the Oswegatchee and maybe Black River too but I’ve never seen one}}. I was wondering why you chose a sturgeon?
🎤The decision to move the setting to the St. Lawrence River and incorporate a mermaid happened around the same time, and I decided that she would be a sturgeon spirit shortly after that. In the book, there’s a scene where Lacey is standing in a hotel balcony looking down at the river, and she sees a creature who looks like a shark, but Cian explains it’s actually a sturgeon. That’s based on an experience I had in Alexandria Bay. I was blown away by the creature’s size. The more I read about them, the more I admired these beautiful swimming fossils. They quickly became my favorite fish, and incorporating sturgeon was central to the environmental elements of the story.
🍁Here is the easy round of rapid fire bookish questions! Do you have a favorite book or series that you always recommend? Favorite character? Any wonderful or strange bookish habits?
🎤Oh no, these are the hardest! Haha! The first favorite series I really obsessed over were the Redwall books by Brian Jacques. I devoured them and, for many years, emulated his style of writing. As a teen, I loved the concept of a medieval world of anthropomorphic animals. As I grew, I enjoyed the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and I will always admire Samwise. I’m also a fan of the Outlander series, and love the enduring relationship between Claire and Jamie. For more magical realism, I highly recommend Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen.  As for strange bookish habits…um…this is really divisive, but I dogear pages (only if they belong to me). Don’t judge me!
{{This is a judgement free zone!!}}

🍁Thank you so much for taking the time to interview! If there is anything else you’d like to say about anything at all, please do so here!

 
 🎤 Thank you for chatting! I’m delighted you found my novels and enjoyed the first one enough to share your thoughts and interview me. Experiences like this keep me writing. 
 
Your readers can find my books through Shadow Spark Publishing in e-book and paperback format. https://shadowsparkpub.com/ma-phillip

Meet the author!

“M. A. Phillips lives in Northern NY with her husband, daughter, and three cats. She is a writer, English teacher, & practicing Druid. Some of her short stories have been published in Stone, Root, and Bone magazine. Her debut, River Magic, is an adult magical realism novel featuring a friends to lovers romance, contemporary Pagans, & a vengeful mermaid.

When she isn’t writing, you can find her in the garden, sewing, or enjoying a book with a side of tea. You can read more about her spiritual and creative journey on her blog ditzydruid.com, or on Twitter & Instagram @ditzydruid

Categories
Contemporary Fantasy General Posts, Non Reviews Paranormal Thrillers Young Adult

September Unblogged Book Thoughts

I normally don’t do wrap up posts but I read quite a few books in September that I don’t plan on reviewing in depth, so here is a super quick summary of my reading month! If anyone searches for the titles at least it will show up somewhere now 😂

September:

1) Dreams of the Dying ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐- I took the time to read the appendices and extras and therefore counted it as a September read.  Review here. Also the author is doing an extra special Sunday Brunch Series this month 😍

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2) Loves of Shadow and Power – ⭐⭐⭐⭐ review here. A good adult Asian mythology. Author Edith Pawlicki also did a wonderful SBAIS interview here!

3.  The Diviners by Libba Bray – ⭐⭐⭐⭐ loved it.  A fantastic audiobook. Review here

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4. Ringlander: The Path and the Way by Michael S. Jackson – ⭐⭐⚡ so I was part of a book tour for this one and truly just didn’t understand more than the bare bones of what was happening due to lack of background, plus the editing really ruined it for me. The book was a good idea though and did have some high points. I interviewed him for my tour stop and never posted a review.

5. Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – I really wanted to review each of these individually but it became too hard without spoilers.  Plus I binge read them so they all melded into one another.  Book 3 finally brought things together and I have a lot more respect for each of the queens.  Katharine is actually not a bad queen crowned and the others are each pulling their weight now.  Love all the plotting and sub plots and more plotting, plus lore and legends

6. On the Winds of Quasars by T.A. Bruno – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ this series is definitely my top sci-fi pick of the past two years. Only good things to say

7. The First Christmas by Steohen Mitchell ⭐⭐⭐⚡ – a different perspective on the nativity, stripped away the Christian lens to present a real/magic realism. Review here

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8. Speechless by Ava Cates ⭐⭐⭐- the author hates me for this one but I just can’t read books where high school kids go from class to class anymore. The editing on the Kindle version made it hard for me too, it was hard to tell chapter breaks and such. I think a little more supernatural background might have carried it for me but the details were slow coming. Either way this is a quick, high school age appropriate read with deaf rep. I think younger readers will love it!

9. The Job by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg ⭐⭐⭐ I know I have been writing up reviews for the rest of the books in this series but this third installment was my least favorite so far. The chemistry and banter totally carried the book since I really didn’t think the case and con were as interesting as the others. They lost me on the fake sunken treasure scheme and trying to understand how it worked. They had a point about men and shiny beepy consoles though 😂 I just love O’Hara’s dad and his fixation with weaponry, but overall this one fell flat

10. The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ I am actually going to blog this one next so hold my thoughts. It’s a beautifully wonderfully dark YA debut that made me so sad but it’s perfect for fall

11. Five Dark Fates by Kendare Blake ⭐⭐⭐⭐ haha ok I really liked what she did with the ending. Each queen finally bucked up and put their big girl pants on and did what they had to do for the island and the people.  We finally got some main character deaths and I am more or less onboard with who Blake chose to off vs. keep alive! She commented on my Instagram post too so that’s amazing!

 11.5 The Young Queens by Kendare Blake – I liked the novella a lot! It was good to get more background into the raising and separations and early lives of the queens.  Mirabella and Luca stole the show in this one, I would have seen them in a totally new light having read this novella before the books. I would either read it after the second or third if it were me again

Categories
Contemporary Fiction General Fiction

Pulse by Judy G. Walters (Book Tour & Review)

Thank you so much to Kate Rock Book Tours and Judy Gaman for having me on the book tour for Pulse! I received a wonderful signed paperback in exchange for an honest review and feature, all opinions are my own!

This is a fast paced medical drama that reminds me of Scrubs mixed with Life in the ER.  I couldn’t put it down and ended up reading it in two sittings!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Pulse
  • Series: Vital Signs, #1
  • Author: Judy G. Walters
  • Publisher & Release: 64 Squares Publishing, 06/4/21
  • Length: 291pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡for fans of medical and family dramas!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

The world has no shortage of moral ambiguity, especially in the emergency room. Dr. Jackson is the emergency room physician who seems to have the big house, beautiful wife, and an impeccable reputation as one of the most respected emergency physicians in Dallas. As the author peels back the layers, Dr. Jackson’s life isn’t so perfect after all. Filled with unique twists, complex medical cases and personal issues, Pulse proves that there is always more to the story! Pulse is the first book in the Vital Signs Series

Coming to you in between shifts to say that I totally flew through this book. I loved the bond that the ER staff have, whether they are joking about Dr Elohssa (😂😂😂) or kicking butt saving lives. Most of the patients and case studies are pretty realistic, the characters feel real, and there is more than a little moral ambiguity to go around.  

I could totally plug myself into that team and go to work with them any day!  The drama and teamwork, friendship and friendly rivalries, joking and tears, people just needing ten damn minutes to ourselves after a code … it’s real!

Dr Jackson is a leading emergency medicine physician but his home life is a mess. His wife is absolutely crazy and I loved his daughter.  The main characters are pretty complex, as in Dr Jackson and his daughter, while the rest are pretty shallow.  They’re nice, smart, a great team, and I’m rooting for them, but we don’t get too much into the rest of the team.  In future books maybe! I definitely want to see more of the other characters based off the glimpses in Pulse.

The home life vs work balance is the other thread in the book. No one is perfect but no one deserves a life of torture either, and there is little room for error and distraction in medicine.  I was really hoping Dr Jackson and BJ ( daughter) would be able to get away from the abusive wife. BJ is a strong young lady and I loved the father daughter parts.

I just love medical dramas. I was at 1000 stars until the big event – and in the vein of honestly I’m going to bluntly say that the big event didn’t work. It just did. Not. Work. Seriously ***** the terrorist, at a mall in Texas? Why? I found it hilarious but I guarantee someone is going to call it offensive.  I want a different catastrophe (Jacqueline could have caused a car accident trying to run Elizabeth off the road? Yeah? Literally anything else)!! so badly, but the results were the same, and I loved the ending anyway. I still totally recommend the book though! Thank you again for having me on the tour, all opinions are my own ❤

Categories
Contemporary Fiction Young Adult

The Sea Is Salt and So am I (Book Review) – by Cassandra Hartt

Thank you so much to Roaring Book Press via Bookish First for the finished copy of The Sea Is Salt and So am I! Book received in exchange for an honest review – all opinions are mine!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Sea Is Salt and So am I
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Cassandra Hartt
  • Publisher & Release: Roaring Book Press, June 8th 2021
  • Length: 374pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟✨ for fans of YA contemporary

Here is the Synopsis from Amazon:

I’ll Give You the Sun meets Normal People in Cassandra Hartt’s The Sea Is Salt and So Am I, a stunning YA contemporary debut that asks if the secrets we keep and the people we love can change who we are.

West Finch is one hurricane away from falling into the sea.

Yet sixteen-year-old Harlow Prout is determined to save her small Maine hometown. If only she could stop getting in her own way and find someone, anyone, willing to help. But her best friend Ellis MacQueen “fixes” problems by running away from them—including his broken relationship with his twin brother, Tommy. And Tommy’s depression has hit a new low, so he’s not up for fixing anything.

In the wake of the town’s latest devastating storm, Tommy goes out for a swim that he doesn’t intend to survive. It’s his unexpected return that sets into motion a sea change between these three teens. One that tests old loyalties, sparks new romance, and uncovers painful secrets. And nothing stays secret in West Finch for long.

Exquisitely honest and shimmering with emotion, The Sea is Salt and So Am I is a captivating multi-POV story that probes the depths of what it means to love and trust—both ourselves and others.

I’m going to open this with one of my infamous OneReadingNurse medical rants: Don’t stop taking your psych meds or antidepressants (or any other medication) just because you feel better!! I wish Tommy had gotten lectured a LOT harder on page for this.  Also parents: for f*cks sake don’t trust that your teenager is taking their meds, the lack of parental oversight in this book had me so frustrated as a medical person!

Anyway! It’s really a decent book though and takes a good look at mental health and why teens shouldn’t think everything is their fault. It explores how our actions affect those around us. There is great description and scenery, a small town atmosphere, and a silly dog named Goose sho is only 6 but everyone seems to write off as ancient. Why do they keep saying a 6 year old dog is ready to drop dead of old age!?  They are all environmentally conscious too and have to consider both sides of an issue surrounding a protected bird species.

This book focuses on three teens in a Maine town that is one storm short of being lost to sea, and the lifelong attention-seeking competition between them. There are twin brothers and a then a girl that entered the picture about 5-6 years prior to the start of the book, and they just constantly swing attention seeking behaviors back and forth through poor life decisions, making each other’s lives miserable, and refusing to be happy for each other. Like typical teenagers, they have no concept of “the big picture” and believe that the entire world, and all of the others’ life decisions just revolve around them, are caused by them, etc.

This is what the competition looks like: One brother lost a leg, and the parents spent a fortune on a running blade…so the other brother probably started feeling bad, and said well I’ll eventually bottom out and kill myself. Fast forward to now and I swear it’s a competition. “Oh yeah? Well I’m going to crash a car”. “I’ll top you by going off my meds again.” “Well I’m going to ruin your relationship and engage in risky sexual behaviors like picking up a random person at Friendly’s” … (These are not actual quotes from the book). The two brothers just. never. quit. Then Harlow is trying to fix everyone and everything but is so self absorbed, and each one thinks it’s their fault that the others are behaving as such. The other part is that their parents all seem too wrapped up in other things to be paying half enough attention and its one big confusing  summer in West Finch.  That said though, I think Harlow is probably the most likeable of the three.

The real issue though? None of these kids should be, or feel, responsible for each other.

There is a lot of vague writing concerning the teens’ back story, which is why i dropped so many stars – I don’t like when authors vaguely hint at things and expect us to make significant connections.  The connection I made was that all three teens are terrible people, secretly in love, and in competition for both parental and friendly attention. I never figured out the animosity between Harlow and Tommy that led up to the Ruby thing, but it seems like they’ve been picking at each other for years until it ended in outright sabotage.

One other huge issue was that God should be capitalized in text, even when *cringe* used in the slang. I think it appeared 2-3 times and I’ve never seen it lowercased like that. I don’t know if the author meant is as a slight but it comes across as such.

Ultimately: this is a good and probably important YA read, I know a lot of people are focusing on mental health these days so it’s a well timed book.  I can recommend it as an honest look at mental health, keeping secrets, and trying to come of age.

Categories
Contemporary Fiction General Fiction Literary Fiction Suspense

ARC Review: The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz (and a word on bullying)

Thank you so much to Celadon Books for the ARC of The Plot in exchange for an honest review! I participated in the Little Free Library drive and then requested on #NetGalley so I could finish reading! Here is my review, a little meet the author blurb at the bottom, and then my Real Talk on author bullying!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Plot
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Jean Hanff Korelitz
  • Publisher & Release: Celadon Books, May 11th 2021
  • Length: 336 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 sure for fans of suspense, fiction, publishing!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Hailed as “breathtakingly suspenseful,” Jean Hanff Korelitz’s The Plot is a propulsive read about a story too good not to steal, and the writer who steals it.

Jacob Finch Bonner was once a promising young novelist with a respectably published first book. Today, he’s teaching in a third-rate MFA program and struggling to maintain what’s left of his self-respect; he hasn’t written―let alone published―anything decent in years. When Evan Parker, his most arrogant student, announces he doesn’t need Jake’s help because the plot of his book in progress is a sure thing, Jake is prepared to dismiss the boast as typical amateur narcissism. But then . . . he hears the plot.

Jake returns to the downward trajectory of his own career and braces himself for the supernova publication of Evan Parker’s first novel: but it never comes. When he discovers that his former student has died, presumably without ever completing his book, Jake does what any self-respecting writer would do with a story like that―a story that absolutely needs to be told.

In a few short years, all of Evan Parker’s predictions have come true, but Jake is the author enjoying the wave. He is wealthy, famous, praised and read all over the world. But at the height of his glorious new life, an e-mail arrives, the first salvo in a terrifying, anonymous campaign: You are a thief, it says.

As Jake struggles to understand his antagonist and hide the truth from his readers and his publishers, he begins to learn more about his late student, and what he discovers both amazes and terrifies him. Who was Evan Parker, and how did he get the idea for his “sure thing” of a novel? What is the real story behind the plot, and who stole it from whom?

My Thoughts:

This is a slow burning story that starts out detailing Jacob Finch Bonner’s sad writing career, and his cynicism towards it. I think his ranting about student writers was hilarious and probably pretty accurate, I can’t even imagine.  Jake is a great character, a bit of a troll himself but he felt so real to me.

One cool thing I will say first is that as a Plattsburgh native who spent some time in the Cooperstown/Oneonta/Cobleskill area, I freaking love the setting in these towns 😂 Why Yes, I *have* been to the Price Chopper in that town, thank you!

As we start learning about “The Plot”, the mystery develops when Jacob loosely steals an idea from a now deceased former student. The book then took on a bit of a tribute aspect to the greatest plot ever written (cue Tenacious D music) *THIS IS JUST A TRIBUTE* heh heh.

But…then… An internet troll attacks Jacob. It seems pretty benign at first then gets more serious. Thus begins my favorite aspect of The Plot which is a mocking but also kind of true conversation about the publishing industry, reviewer culture, and people trolling authors. The damage it can do (even though it really shouldn’t), and how Jacob and the legal team handle the issue. I dropped the book and clapped when his publicist was ranting about GoodReads trolls and author morale, because someone finally said it.  What is the industry coming to??

Seriously though, who could possibly be this upset about the book? Who has access to Jacob’s house to leave threatening letters? What … Really … Happened… In the “fictional” plot? Read to find out, it’s a slow burn but I promise it’s worth it as Jacob starts tracking down the truth


Meet the Author: (from Amazon)

Jean Hanff Korelitz is the author of the novels YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOWN (adapted for HBO as “The Undoing” by David E. Kelley, and starring Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant and Donald Sutherland), ADMISSION (adapted as the 2013 film starring Tina Fey), THE DEVIL AND WEBSTER, THE WHITE ROSE, THE SABBATHDAY RIVER and A JURY OF HER PEERS. A new novel, THE PLOT, will be published on May 11th 2021. Her company BOOKTHEWRITER hosts “Pop-Up Book Groups” in NYC, where small groups of readers can discuss new books with their authors. http://www.bookthewriter.com


I also wanted to just touch on GoodReads trolling and the bullying of authors.  This is fully and solely my opinion and does not reflect that of the author or publisher in any way.

I think the main thing I want to say here is that Korelitz is pretty timely in satirizing this issue. It is out of hand.  Jacob (in the book) did the right thing at first by “not feeding the trolls”, not engaging, and hoping the troll would peter itself out – then the publisher’s legal team got involved.  Honestly I encourage authors going through these things to first  consider letting it go away on it,s own without feeding the fuel, and if it doesn’t, consider  seeking cease and desist letters from a lawyer against people slandering and bullying on social media. I also encourage reviewers to … Well.. Just stop this mob behavior and state your opinion, then let others form their own.  What happened to literary criticism?  Everyone is entitled to an opinion but that doesn’t entitle anyone to bully or attack.  I also would go a step further and put out there that publicists, publishers, merch companies, and other businesses should stop working with these bullies and stop seeking them as reviewers, and we can all try to bring the book world back to an appropriate level of civility and conversation. 

That’s my Real Talk for the night, what do you think??

Categories
Contemporary Paranormal Science Fiction Young Adult

Book Review: Mortal Remains by Mary Ann Fraser

Thank you so much to Sterling Teen for the giveaway win! I won a finished copy of Mortal Remains and found it to be a quick and entertaining YA contemporary / paranormal read.

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Mortal Remains
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Mary Ann Fraser
  • Publisher & Release: Sterling Teen, 2/2/20
  • Length: 360pg
  • Rate & Recommend:  🌟🌟🌟🌟⚡ for Young Adult Readers and fans of YA

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Morticia. Ghoul Girl. Freak. Eighteen-year-old Lily McCrae has heard it all. But despite what the bullies say, she loves her job doing makeup for the dead for her family’s failing funeral home business. Lately, though, Lily’s best friend Mallory is too busy reinventing herself to hang out, her stepbrother Evan is preoccupied with college applications, and her father is pushing her into taking over the family business without even asking her opinion, so she feels lonelier than ever. She finds herself spending all her time in the prep room talking to her “clients.” After all, the dead are the only ones who really listen.

Then the neighboring house is leveled in an explosion, dredging up memories of Adam, the boy who lived there and saved her life the day of the accident that left her scarred and disabled, and of the things she saw there that she just wanted to forget. When she, Mallory, and Evan go exploring and find a mysterious hatch in the rubble, they discover that someone’s been trapped inside. Someone who says his name is Adam. Trouble is, Adam has been missing for four years. And this Adam doesn’t have any memory of her and seems to be keeping a lot of secrets. As she spends more time with him, she can’t help her growing feelings even as his unwillingness to be open leaves her troubled.

Lily is forced to reconcile her feelings for Adam as together they delve into his mysterious past while she also struggles to figure out what she wants out of life and tries to fix her rocky relationships with Mallory and her parents. Will Lily ever decide who she wants to be? And is love enough to overcome truth?

Wow, for once I am actually in the minority of favorable opinions on this one.  GoodReads seems split but hey, I enjoyed it.

Lily works in her family’s funeral home.  She is extremely talented at the makeup and fixing required to make bodies presentable for open casket funerals, although this profession earns her quite a bit of bullying and teasing from peers.  Lily had an accident as a child as well that left her slightly crippled, and now she finds her solace talking to bodies and honoring their lives.

Measure twice, box once

Adam was the neighbor kid that Lily used to hang out with until his father chased her off.  Did she see a body one night??  When Adam’s house is blown up and he is found weeks later in an underground laboratory, with none of his old memories, all weirdness breaks loose.

Tread lightly on hallowed ground

I think the relationship arcs in this book are great.  Finding Adam starts to slowly bring  out the self confidence and self acceptance that Lily needs to find her own path.  The father wants her to take over the mortuary  business, the step mom is kind of just mean, actually they both are.  Lily needed an external source to start seeing her actual worth.  Watching her gain the confidence to deal with the bullies AND her family was nice. Both teens have a great character arc.

Each death helps us to become more human

The supernatural part includes Adam and whatever his father was doing down in that underground lab.  No spoilers here but the mystery involved kept the story moving as they searched for answers about his life.

Don’t lose yourself in the narrative of death and dying

There was a bit of teen partying too, Lily had one friend that still tried to bring her out into the social world of her peers, with mixed results.  There are not so subtle hints at party safety and drunk driving included.  These parts were good to round out the lives of the characters and give them that real teenager aspect.

Leather has no place in a mortician’s wardrobe

So yes – a cute budding romance (only to kissing, nothing more), a paranormal mystery, also a murder mystery, mortuary science, a girl overcoming her fears and her bullies, and friends sticking together.  No language or sex or anything else that kids really don’t need to be seeing either.

I would happily recommend this one to teens and fans of YA!

Categories
Contemporary Fiction Middle Grade Mysteries

Book Tour And Giveaway! The Wild Path by Sarah R. Baughman

Thank you so much to TBR and Beyond Tours for having me on the tour for The Wild path!! I will share the synopsis, a quick review, and my favorite quotes from the book mixed in!. I will start by saying that this book has a huge 5 star 🐴🐴🐴🐴🐴❤❤❤❤❤🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 rating from me as a horse person with questionable mental health at times, just so timely and perfect.

Categories
Contemporary Fiction Paranormal Young Adult

Book Review: Watch Over Me by Nina LaCour

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Watch Over Me
  • Author: Nina LaCour
  • Publisher & Release: Dutton Books for Young Readers, Sept 15th 2020
  • Length: 272 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 for fans of contemporary!

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Mila is used to being alone. Maybe that’s why she said yes to the opportunity: living in this remote place, among the flowers and the fog and the crash of waves far below.

But she hadn’t known about the ghosts.

Newly graduated from high school, Mila has aged out of the foster care system. So when she’s offered a job and a place to stay at a farm on an isolated part of the Northern California Coast, she immediately accepts. Maybe she will finally find a new home, a real home. The farm is a refuge, but also haunted by the past traumas its young residents have come to escape. And Mila’s own terrible memories are starting to rise to the surface.

My Thoughts:

Thank you so much to the publisher via Bookish First for the finished copy in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

Watch Over Me is a deeeeeply atmospheric young adult contemporary read, with a paranormal/magical realism twist involving ghosts and residual hauntings related to trauma.

Mila becomes too old to remain in foster care, and goes to teach on a farm in northern California where the owners have fostered 40+ children. The interns cook, clean, teach, tend to the farm and children, and everyone lives in a structured environment and seem like one big amazing family.

Then there are the ghosts. Ghosts of children playing in the yard. A dancing ghost that plays the piano. A ghost that re-enacts Mila’s past traumas?

The less I think about the ghost element, the more I enjoy the book. It doesn’t make a ton of sense to me to bring residual hauntings to actual life, but I understand it in a symbolic sense. The theme of residual hauntings due to trauma is deep and difficult and handled so well by LaCour, and these resilient kids who have been through so much. There is a literal but symbolic gesture of embracing the lost and detached part of oneself that still deserves love and belonging and healing.

I loved the little kids, especially Lee, the farm family, and the whole found family theme in general. The farm atmosphere was so real that I always felt like I was walking in the chilly air next to the characters, or joining them at dinner or in the family room.

It’s a shorter and quick book that kept me rapt the entire time, and if I had more time it could have easily been read in a day.  A similar book that I read this year, and the review is here somewhere, was Echoes Between Us by Katie McCarty.

Content for gas lighting, housefires, parental abandonment, child abuse, sex overheard and then imagined in no explicit detail, two naked girls in a bath tub with nothing sexual occurring, one usage of the word f**k, near drowning, personal injury, ghosts, and pain related to ghostly encounters

Categories
Contemporary Fantasy Middle Grade Young Adult

ARC Review: Dwarf Story by Professor W.W. Marplot

  • Title: Dwarf Story
  • Series: no – stand alone
  • Author: W.W. Marplot (G.D. Marplot)
  • Publisher & Release: Waxing Gibbous Books – June 30, 2020
  • Length: 404 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ for younger readers!

“I found a dwarf, and there is something funny growing in my yard”

So begins the story of Arty & Co! Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

First, Arty finds a sweaty, bearded ax-swinging warrior Dwarf scaring his dogs. Soon enough, Emma, Cry, and other middle-school friends also find fairy creature—Elves, Spriggans, Pixies, and a hoped-for Dragon—crashing into their normal homework-doing, backpack-carrying, phone-charging schooldays

Why are these magical beings here? What should be done? Is that ax sharp? Can Pixies be given aspirin? Arty, with his friends—and spying jerks and questionable strangers with long names—follow the clues and try to find out, even as things turn dark and dangerous. The mythical beings take sides.

The Gwyllion, that legendary Old Woman of the Mountains, has a sinister plan that will turn the neighborhood into a fantasy battleground.

Thank you so much to Books Forward for my copy of Dwarf Story! Arty woke up one morning and found a dwarf, thus starting a scientific adventure. Or an artistic adventure if you ask Emma. An awesome adventure if you ask Cry. The three friends each find their own fairy and have to navigate a war as an ancient force returns to reclaim Long Island!

This is a super cute middle grade fantasy, mixing modern with fantastic. There are dwarves, pixies, libraries, old books, giants, cell phones and a bit of everything for every reader.  The advertised age range is 9-14 and definitely qualifies as a “clean read” – AKA something I would personally hand a Catholic 10 year old.  There is also a good amount of basic learning in the story, an intro to some of  the Irish legends and fairy folklore in general.

Arty and Emma are the two main characters.  Arty is more scientific, and Emma artistic.  The book includes a lot of learning and more informational bits that are well tuned to younger readers.  Arty spends a lot of time reading books as he is putting the pieces together to learn about what’s happening with the fairy folk.  Some parts of this honestly might drag for some kids, and there are whole chapters where literally nothing happens, and the characters are complaining of being bored.  Generally with younger kids I would say axe all of this “boring” content, but it still reads quickly with short chapters, even at over 400 pages.  This is where I knocked the stars off the rating – a slightly older kid would be more tolerant of this where I can see a 9 year old maybe flipping until something exciting happens.

Despite the lulls in action, the pace and exciting bits are pretty well even throughout the book.  The end was a bit anticlimactic, with the biggest battle occurring mostly off-page, and the ultimate fight almost entirely glazed over in another characters recap of the action.  I understood how we were mostly just following Arty’s role, and the puzzle involved, but I would have liked to be in on more of the battle action even as a bystander, or another “Mary” chapter.

The characters split the chapters to tell what happened throughout, and I did like them all.  It was told in a 1st person POV but they were talking directly to the reader at times.  This is a great format for engaging kids too.  The other thing I liked is that the kids really did seem to act their ages (around 13) and I would recommend most for that middle-school aged group.

Overall I think kids will enjoy this, and it is entirely age-appropriate for any reader.  A great intro to fantasy and fantastical creatures that could really encourage kids to keep reading in the genre.

Thank you again to Books Forward for my advanced copy!! The book releases on June 30th and I would preorder now if I had kids!!

Categories
Contemporary Paranormal Young Adult

Echoes Between Us by Katie McGarry

Thank you so much to BookishFirst and Tor/Forge Books for my advanced copy of Echoes Between Us by Katie McGarry! Synopsis from GoodReads:

Veronica sees ghosts. More specifically, her mother’s ghost. The afterimages of blinding migraines caused by the brain tumor that keeps her on the fringes and consumes her whole life haunt her, even as she wonders if it’s something more… Golden boy Sawyer is handsome and popular, a state champion swimmer, but his adrenaline addiction draws him to Veronica. A girl with nothing to live for and a boy with everything to lose–can they conquer their demons together?

I do not read a lot of young adult contemporary because as a 30 something year old, I can never identify with the characters or stories, and I am SO HAPPY to say that this is not the case with this amazing book.

First I just want to comment on the location: I originally thought that the book took place in Saranac Lake because of the TB hospital and note up front, but there is a portion of a real diary included in the novel from a patient at the hospital. The book actually takes place somewhere in Kentucky, but I still was jumping at home being mentioned in a book at all.

I loved the characters and the lessons they learned. Veronica is dealing with a brain tumor and believes that she is living life to the fullest… or is she just waiting to die? Sawyer is a popular kid who has a whole houseful of his own issues, and the unlikely couple end up empowering each other to confront their fears.

The book revolves around a school project that Veronica and Sawyer are doing together, to prove or disprove that ghosts exist. The themes about residual hauntings are absolutely beautiful, concluding that these are caused by emotions and events too powerful to leave the mortal world, and they can haunt a person in their day to day decisions. There may or may not be evidence of other ghosts in the story, but those are part of the fun of reading.

It is not a ghost story though, I thought it was shaping up to turn into one but it really isn’t, it is SO much more. The book deals with delicate and important themes like depression, alcoholism, enablers, addiction in general, and mortal illness. Poor little Lucy, Sawyer’s younger sister, seems to be the wildcard in the story and I just felt so bad for that little girl.

The one part that I wasn’t quite thrilled with was Sawyer’s voice when we first met him, I don’t really like cryptic language that usually means a poor attempt at foreshadowing. Stick with him though because it ends up making sense, and he ended up being my favorite of the dual points of view.

I think Veronica and Sawyer have a great relationship though and their groups of friends are really, truly good friends, which is shown towards the end of the book. Their dad’s are also great characters, V’s dad is a big amazing papa bear and I loved him, then Sawyer’s dad at the end stepping up and taking care of his kids was a good message as well. I think this is a great book for young adults and teens (and even adults) to read. It made me really think about some of the aforementioned themes … I can’t get this residual haunting concept out of my head.

I would totally recommend this book to ANYONE, which is rare for me. It publishes January 14th so check it out if it sounds up your alley!