Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Horror Paranormal

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Beronika Keres!

Thank you for joining us on the Sunday Brunch Series this week!

Episode 18 features fantasy and horror author Beronika Keres! We originally ‘met’ when her debut novel Cracked Coffins was considered too thematically intense for a book tour! Luckily I was able to have a read anyway because dark vampire thrillers are everything and it was definitely a thriller!

The second novel Binding Blood released on December 7th. There are purchase links below if anyone has not checked these books out yet!

That said – I am glad that we finally got to chat about challenging content, favorite vampires, obviously brunch, and more!

Here it is!


🥞Welcome to the SBAIS! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your literary life?

🎤Hello! I’m Beronika, and I’ve been writing stories since I was old enough to read and write. So far, I’ve published Cracked Coffins and Binding Blood, the first two books in The Cracked Coffins Series. I have a bunch of stories in various stages of production and am so antsy to get them out.

When I’m not writing, I’m usually studying for university, consuming copious amounts of caffeine, and listening to my favorite gothic rock or punk songs on repeat.

🥞Could you tell everyone a bit about your publishing journey?

🎤My publishing journey has been long, so it’s a dream that I was able to release my first book in 2020. I think I was eight or nine when I first tried to get something published. I wrote a little story, found a major publishing house’s address on the copyright page of some book, and sent it in. It came back with a return to sender stamp—of course—but I didn’t let that deter me. I tried many times to write a full book and did so successfully at twelve. I had some success with short stories over the years, but I was really focused on being a published novelist. This was way back when many viewed indie publishing in a negative light, so I was convinced traditional publishing was the only way. Yet when that view shifted, and I realized the control indie publishing would grant me, I pursued that instead. Two books in and I’m happy with that decision.

🥞Congratulations on the second novel! What do you think was the biggest point of growth for you as an author between the two books?

🎤Thank you! My biggest point of growth is probably my writing. I worked with an awesome editor for Cracked Coffins who taught me so much!

🥞Seeing as we just got through the holiday season, what would Marianna’s favorite holiday be? What about Denendrius?

🎤Holidays would be a sore spot for Marianna, given her situation, but she’d yearn to experience a normal Christmas the most. I can see Denendrius periodically liking Valentine’s Day under certain conditions. He also would have celebrated Saturnalia when he was a human during his time, so I imagine he would shift to celebrating a non-religious version of Christmas, providing he has a reason (like Marianna) to care about celebrating.

🥞Cracked Coffins is a perfectly dark story so far! Did you start off knowing that it was going to be a dark fantasy? Did it get less or more dark as you started writing?

🎤I actually first wrote Cracked Coffins as a young teen during the last vampire craze. Denendrius as a character existed before I completely knew the plot for the novels, so I knew any story including him would be grim. The first apartment scene and the following forest scene were the first parts written and were based off dreams, and I’ve been told the latter is one of the darker scenes in the book. Some parts of the series are darker than other parts, though there are lighter areas. Yet overall, the dark themes are fairly consistent.

🥞I love that vampires are making a comeback! Do you have any favorite fictional vampires or vampire related literature?  

🎤I love that they’re making a comeback too! Yes, of course! I love Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice. I just absolutely adore Lestat, Louis, and Claudia for so many different reasons. I also really liked Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde. I think about that book from time to time, though the ending was bittersweet to me. 

🥞How do you feel about brunch? Any favorite brunch foods?

🎤I love brunch even though I don’t eat it very often. Bacon, waffles, and cinnamon rolls are my favorite!

🥞Marianna went through the ringer in Cracked Coffins, (drugs, death, domestic abuse, etc), is it emotionally difficult or otherwise challenging to put your characters through hell?

🎤It can be hard sometimes. Some themes and topics in Cracked Coffins are personal to me, so it can be interesting to wade through those feelings again to write. I always feel equipped to handle the topics, at least. Doing research can be difficult as well, especially stumbling upon real-life stories of people’s personal experiences (whether it be from those suffering from addiction or recovering, abuse survivors, or from those who were in the foster care system), or articles about abusive victims who weren’t able to escape.

But I also find it therapeutic to visit these sorts of situations with a fictionalized and supernatural approach. Including vampirism in a kidnapping/domestic violence story adds a whole new dynamic to explore. I thought the mortal/immortal power imbalance was a good way to portray some of the helplessness and hopelessness that can be felt in that sort of entrapment. Of course, adding violent creatures makes everything darker, but the supernatural also creates different avenues for hope that don’t exist in the real world.

🥞After two books, what’s the most valuable thing you have learned going forward into the next?

🎤How to adapt, be flexible, and try new techniques! Indie publishing makes this easy, which is why I love it so much.

🥞Here is the quick round of rapid-fire bookish questions! Do you have a favorite literary character of all time? Favorite book that your always recommend? Favorite author?

🎤It’s so hard to pick a favorite author since there’s so many that I love. John Saul, R.L. Stine, Stephen King, and Scott Westerfeld, to name a few.

One of my favorite literary characters is Janie Johnson from The Face on the Milk Carton (one of my favorite books since childhood) by Caroline B. Cooney. I always recommend that book and the subsequent ones.

A couple more of my favorite books that I’m always quick to recommend are Lighthouse Nights by Jake Vander Ark and Room by Emma Donoghue!

🥞Thank you so much for taking the time to interview! If there’s anything else you’d like to add, say, or feature, add it here!

🎤Thank you! It’s been a pleasure. I’m currently hard at work on the third book in the series and can’t wait to share more information about it!


Meet the author – from  https://www.beronikakeres.com/

Beronika Keres is a fantasy, thriller, and horror writer. After deciding in the second grade that she was destined to be an author, she has spent her life honing her craft and pursuing her dream. Fueled by coffee, she can often be found chasing plot bunnies and writing books.

When she isn’t writing, she can be found spending time with her family and enjoying the forests, mountains, and lakes of where she resides in British Columbia, Canada.

Cracked Coffins is her debut novel


Social Media and Book Links!

https://www.beronikakeres.com/

https://www.instagram.com/beronikakeres/

https://books2read.com/CrackedCoffins

https://books2read.com/Binding-Blood-2

Categories
Contemporary Fantasy Fiction Horror Literary Fiction Paranormal Young Adult

Wake the bones (ARC Review) by Eilizabeth Kilcoyne

Thank you so much to Wednesday Books for the free early read of Wake the Bones in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.

Honestly I liked this one quite a bit but struggled with it’s age group appropriateness, so it was hard for me to rate.  I would push it on the 18-25 age group and keep it off the YA imprint.

With walking bones, rising evil, death, abuse, and a terribly disillusioned drowned ghost among other eldritch things, this is definitely one to have on board for spooky season. It’s much more lyrical than a typical horror novel though and encompasses magical realism and literary fiction too.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Wake the Bones
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Elizabeth Kilcoyne
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, July 12, 2022
  • Length: 320 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: *scratches head* I just don’t think it’s a YA, 16+ if I were really stretching it

Here’s the synopsis:

The sleepy little farm that Laurel Early grew up on has awakened. The woods are shifting, the soil is dead under her hands, and her bone pile just stood up and walked away.

After dropping out of college, all she wanted was to resume her life as a tobacco hand and taxidermist and try not to think about the boy she can’t help but love. Instead, a devil from her past has returned to court her, as he did her late mother years earlier. Now, Laurel must unravel her mother’s terrifying legacy and tap into her own innate magic before her future and the fate of everyone she loves is doomed.

Elizabeth Kilcoyne’s Wake the Bones is a dark, atmospheric debut about the complicated feelings that arise when the place you call home becomes hostile.

Ok here are my quick thoughts on the age thing: it’s marketed as YA (13-18) but I really truly strongly feel it should target an 18-20something age group. The characters are 18+, one was in college and dropped out, and all were struggling with loyalty to home, their  future, and generational bonds vs their own fate. Is their home down on the holler or where does fate lead them? Many of the conflicts and issues were not ones that 13-17 yr olds are going to face, although some will, plus the language includes at least one f*co per chapter, s*x scene at the penultimate moment AGAIN (please, YA authors, stop doing this – we assume a second couple shacked up that night too) … I just have a hard time with this on the YA imprint.

That said: let’s talk about this contemporary fantasy / horror / literary fiction

It takes place mostly on Kentucky farmland, where Laurel’s family tobacco farm has sat for generations.  The atmosphere it set from the start with a hunt for bones and trip to the graveyard, where we learn that Laurel has a penchant for death.  From there, things slowly start getting spookier and spookier.  It never gets to the splattering stage but there are dead animals, blood trails, dreams of the dead, her mother’s drowned ghost, lots of blood, someone is hanged, and the devil is downright creepy .. among other things.

The spooky parts are interspersed with a number of important themes to the New Adult (18- ?) age group, like generational chains.  Laurel’s family has been rooted on Kentucky for generations, and she tried leaving, failed, and came home to the farm and friends that needs her.  Another character is abused by his father, and wants to leave, but also struggles with loyalty to his friends and the area.  One doesn’t want to leave at all and is happy as is, and, the fourth has no idea what he wants.

So we see these scary parts mixed with chapters about love and mixed feelings.  Two male characters (Isaac and Garrett) have feelings for each other and that is a constant storyline, plus Laurel and Ricky feel fated towards each other but recognize fear and obligation as obstacles.

All this taking place in a muggy, hot summer, in the middle of a pretty severe haunting.  Each character, even a fifth that is brought in as a guide to Laurel, has different parental and generational issues that has shaped their experience growing up in this small town.

Can they all be friends like they were before, what needs to change, what will their futures hold? Will they even be alive to find out?

Coming home and self acceptance are huge themes.  I loved how the magic worked, as Laurel’s mother was tied to the land and so is she.  Land based magic is my favorite but I’ve never seen it in a contemporary fantasy before so that was interesting

I wish I could share quotes … I normally am not a fan of purple prose but Kilcoyne manages to write about death, life, and survival in such a way that I had SO many quote tabs on the pages.

OH, yeah, survival is a HUGE theme too.  Everyone has to survive their upbringing, life situation, and all the self destruction of those around them while taking hold of their own futures.

The real question is … Does everyone survive? Heh heh I actually did like what the author did at the end, but no spoilers

For me, 🌟🌟🌟🌟, but I’m 33 and would hold this one til my kid was at least 17.  I will not rate it for YA

Categories
audiobooks Paranormal Suspense Thrillers

End of Watch (book & audio thoughts) by Stephen King

I know there’s not much that I can add to the King review canon, but here are my thoughts on End of Watch! I fully recommend this series and book to anyone looking for unlikely heroes, great character arcs, and low-key creepy vibes that increase in this final book.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: End of Watch
  • Series: Bill Hodges Trilogy, #3
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: Scribner, June 2016
  • Pages: 448
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ yess for thriller and mystery, paranormal fans

Here’s the synopsis:

The spectacular finale to the New York Times best-selling trilogy that began with Mr. Mercedes (winner of the Edgar Award) and Finders Keepers

2017 Audie Award Finalist for Fiction and Best Male Narrator

In End of Watch, the diabolical “Mercedes Killer” drives his enemies to suicide, and if Bill Hodges and Holly Gibney don’t figure out a way to stop him, they’ll be victims themselves.

In Room 217 of the Lakes Region Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic, something has awakened. Something evil. Brady Hartsfield, perpetrator of the Mercedes Massacre, where eight people were killed and many more were badly injured, has been in the clinic for five years, in a vegetative state. According to his doctors, anything approaching a complete recovery is unlikely. But behind the drool and stare, Brady is awake and in possession of deadly new powers that allow him to wreak unimaginable havoc without ever leaving his hospital room.

Retired police detective Bill Hodges, the unlikely hero of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers, now runs an investigation agency with his partner, Holly Gibney – the woman who delivered the blow to Hartsfield’s head that put him in the brain injury ward. When Bill and Holly are called to a suicide scene with ties to the Mercedes Massacre, they find themselves pulled into their most dangerous case yet, one that will put their lives at risk as well as those of Bill’s heroic young friend, Jerome Robinson, and his teenage sister, Barbara. Brady Hartsfield is back and planning revenge not just on Hodges and his friends but on an entire city.

In End of Watch, Stephen King brings the Hodges trilogy to a sublimely terrifying conclusion, combining the detective fiction of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers with the heart-pounding supernatural suspense that has been his best-selling trademark. The result is an unnerving look at human vulnerability and chilling suspense. No one does it better than King.

This is a really satisfying end to the trilogy.  It can stand on it’s own but I highly recommend reading them all, and in order, or the audio books are absolutely phenomenal as well (but you all know I just LOVE Will Patton).

Brady Hartsfield is back, and King finally found a way to weave the supernatural / paranormal into this one.  He does so in an utterly creepy way too, with Brady developing telekinesis due to experimental drugs and using it to orchestrate mayhem and suicide through handheld game consuls.  Brady really isn’t as smart as he thinks he is though, some of his mishaps had me laughing.

The title tells the reader what’s coming at the end, and it’s revealed pretty early on. That storyline is definitely sad as hell but it also lets Holly and Jerome shine on a new level.  One of my favorite aspects of the trilogy has been these unlikely heroes with their unlikely friendship, and Bill Hodges being the elderly, unlikely hero that holds them together.  All three had the chance to shine in this King left us no doubt that Holly’s gonna be ok.

Exciting, tense, sad, hopeful, fast paced – are all good describing words for this one.  I liked the pacing and how it kept connecting back to prior books.  King wrote a lovely authors note at the end about suicide prevention too that would lift anyone’s spirits after the ending.  I have also enjoyed the picnic scenes at the end of each book and was glad that End of Watch included one as well.  It gave the characters some final emotional closure

What I really want is a Holly and Pete spinoff book or series – I know that If It Bleeds is at least a short story but I hope he writes more.

Here are a handful of my favorite quotes: 

Things can get better, and if you give them a chance, they usually do.

One foot in the grave, the other on a banana peel

It’s about how some people carelessly squander what others would sell their souls to have: a healthy, pain-free body. And why? Because they’re too blind, too emotionally scarred, or too self-involved to see past the earth’s dark curve to the next sunrise. Which always comes, if one continues to draw breath

And the funniest one …. “Darker than a woodchuck’s asshole”

I definitely highly recommend this series on both book or audio format if you are looking for a great detective, suspense, thriller series.  Will Patton, as always, adds something special to the narration and will creep you out even harder singing the fishing hole song!

Categories
Fantasy Paranormal

Forging A Nightmare (Book Review) by Patricia A Jackson

Thank you so much to Angry Robot for the finished copy of Forging a Nightmare, and for the opportunity to interview the author for the book’s tour! All thoughts are my own

This is my book review post though and I want to focus on the book itself, although the interview can be found at https://onereadingnurse.com/2021/11/28/4884/ for those interested!!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Forging a Nightmare
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Patricia A. Jackson
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot, November 2021
  • Length: 400 pages
  • Rate & Recommend:  ⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes for fans of horse centric and urban fantasy, those interested in supporting BiPoc authors!

Here is the synopsis: 

FBI agent Michael Childs is tasked with tracking down a serial killer with an obsession for victims born with twelve fingers and toes. But he discovers something much more startling about himself…

The only link between a series of grisly murders in New York City is that the victims were all born with twelve fingers and twelve toes. These people are known in occult circles as the Nephilim, a forsaken people, descendants of fallen angels.

After a break in the case leads to supposedly killed-in-action Marine sniper Anaba Raines, Michael finds the soldier alive and well, but shockingly no longer human. Michael then discovers that he is also a Nephilim, and next on the killer’s list.

Everything Michael once thought of as myth and magic starts to blur the lines of his reality, forcing him to accept a new fate to save the innocent, or die trying.

There is a lot to unpack in this book! Let’s start with the lore and world building.  Jackson begins in modern day Earth, where a body is found desecrated by symbols and the FBI is called in to investigate.  From there she spins a story of angels both risen and fallen, biblical lore, tieing in other mythology, that takes the reader on a literal horseback ride from Hell to Heaven and everywhere in between.

I felt like I missed some of the significance of the lore since it had a very academic feel to it at times but I did truly enjoy the journey.  The four horsemen of the apocalypse’s story was brought to life and they were definitely my favorite characters as well.

You want snark, strong women, diverse casts, a little romance and a little heartbreak, and more snark to boot, these are good characters for you.  I think I liked Wyrmwood the most, also it was cool to meet the other angels of lore.

Let’s talk about the horses – Anaba is a marine, and from what I can tell human souls are taken and tortured, forged to become Nightmares.  These demonic mounts will do anything for their riders and had a quite interesting storyline too.  I think I might have been sobbing when Anaba rode a character to heaven, then turned around and ran back to hell.  I liked the Marine character too, it translated well into tbe role she played.  There was a lot of other horse centric material too that I enjoyed, including Michael (the main character) as a jouster.

There are a few things worth mentioning though about why I docked a star.  It was hard to tell how much time was passing as events unfolded.  There were so many major battles, life and death scrapes, and I lost track of how many times Michael died or nearly died. It lessened the punch and for a book that felt like it spanned years… I think it was a few weeks, max.  It took a bit to get the story rolling too and was pretty disjointed at first, although it definitely smoothed out.

I should talk a little more about the magic and other characters too! I liked the abilities of the horsemen and their nightmares.  The book was also seriously funny at times, like when Michael tamed the Leviathan and named it Harvey.  Tiamat, Loki, Lilith, and others make appearances too.  Additionally, the author isn’t afraid to make you cry!  I think my favorite part, other than the lore and horses, was the wide emotional range of the book.

Pardon my jumbled thoughts but as I said, a lot to unpack.  I hope you guys will check out the book if it sounds up your alley!  All Angry Robot books can be purchased directly from their website now too!

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
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Horror Paranormal

The Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring A.J. Vrana!

Welcome to the special Halloween edition of the Sunday Brunch Series!! I was so excited to see Halloween falling on a Sunday this year.  After an absolutely incredible month of GrimDarkTober interviews, it is coming to an end with an amazing feature… Presenting my first traditionally published author – dark fantasy & horror writer A.J. Vrana!!

I “met” A.J. on bookstagram after participating in a tour for her first book, The Hollow Gods, and at this point am honored to say I consider her a booksta friend!

Happy Halloween everyone, here she is!


🎃Welcome and thank you so much for coming onto the Halloween edition of the SBAIS! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your literary life?

🎤Hello! I feel like my online bio is more eloquent than I am, but here it goes: My name is A. J. Vrana, and I’m the author of The Chaos Cycle Duology, which is comprised of The Hollow Gods and The Echoed Realm. They’re folklore-infused, contemporary dark fantasy with horror undertones and a romantic subplot. I also penned the short supernatural horror story, These Silent Walls, which is published in Three Crows Magazine. Outside of my literary life, I’m also a PhD candidate researching the supernatural in literature and its relationship to violence, and I have two magical rescue cats, Moonstone and Peanut Butter. 

🎃That’s a fascinating topic for research! Especially in book one, the interest in violence, legends, and sociological/group aspects was evident. How did that research translate into or influence The Chaos Cycle?

🎤I actually think that it might be the other way around: my fiction influences my academic writing more than my academic writing influences my fiction. That said, they are mutually reinforcing, and I think that ultimately, they might just be part of the same project.

To be a little more specific, my research focuses on Japan and former-Yugoslavia, with my personal background being with the latter. I was always interested in the supernatural, and through my research, I’ve found that it functions as an excellent metaphor for trauma, violence, and all the horrible things that we maybe can’t do justice to through plain, clinical expression. Further to that, the relationship between truth and fact is something that I have always been intrigued by. I research a lot of folklore, and folklore has always been a way of approaching and understanding the world. It’s a system of knowledge, and it can be very useful! There is truth to it even when it is just a story, because often, those stories are produced from generations of lived experience.  

I also think a LOT of my own experiences are in the novels, but they’re all written in through metaphor and allegory. I really struggle with explicit #ownvoices stories because it feels like there is no barrier between the reader and the writer. It’s too vulnerable. However, using the supernatural to talk about communal violence is a productive way to explore themes in my own life. I’ve never been kidnapped by spirits or anything, but I do think there is a relationship between Miya’s existential ruminations, Kai’s alienation from society, and my diasporic experience. Also, having grown up being adjacent to civil war, there is something about the way Black Hollow functions that echoes that experience of mine as well. Violence against the outsider is such a common theme, but I wanted to give it the kind of intimacy that can really unsettle. And what could be more intimate and unsettling than having a folkloric creature invade your dreams and become the reason your whole community turns against you?

🎃I was sometimes a little confused during book one, and then book two was just incredible and I loved how you brought the legend to life via the history.  What do you think was the biggest growth factor for you as an author between the two books?

🎤There was about a five-year gap between the writing of the first draft of each book, so I definitely grew as a person and as an author, though I don’t think that’s what impacted the clarity of the story so much as it impacted the way I delivered my themes. When I wrote the first book, I was in a phase in my life where I was grappling with a lot of intellectual ambiguity, and so ambiguity became a huge theme that permeated the story. I actually intended the first book to be rather hazy, because one of the central points is that there are no simple truths and that we can’t always get clear cut answers to our bigger questions. Was the town’s violence the result of groupthink and repressed generational guilt, or was it due to the influence of a malevolent entity? The story doesn’t give you an answer; both possibilities are true and inseparable from one another. Likewise, the way we weave social narratives is diffuse and confusing; you can’t always locate the logical progression that led to a belief system or social truth. The fabric of real-world narratives is often incoherent and full of contradictions, and I wanted to capture some of that incoherence in the structure and narrative style of the book. That said, I was also far less confident when I wrote The Hollow Gods; I shied away from being direct about my themes, and when you are a new writer trying to get traditionally published, it can be difficult to feel assured in your approach. I also had no idea how to outline! To a large extent, I was flying by the seat of my pants, and I had to do a lot of editing and rewriting as a result. 

However, The Echoed Realm was a very different process. It took me much longer to write the first draft, but it was such a strong first draft that the editorial process only took several months (THG’s editorial process took years, hence the five year gap!). I went into The Echoed Realm with a much firmer idea of what I wanted to do, and so I think the book is much more confident and direct about some of its themes. I feel like it also reflects my personality better; there is, I think, an intensity to The Echoed Realm that wasn’t present in The Hollow Gods, and that has a lot to do with me feeling like I have laid the groundwork to really be myself as a writer. This also reflects the characters’ growth between books; they are not the same people they were in The Hollow Gods. They’re not experiencing their world for the first time! I also did lean into commercial fiction a lot more for the second book, whereas the first book veers a bit towards the obscure. All that said, I think the success of The Echoed Realm largely hinges on the work The Hollow Gods did to establish a strong foundation. The first book does a lot of heavy lifting with world building, lore, and characterization so that the second book can really showcase what the duology had been building up to all along.  

🎃What do you think is the most important part of capturing a consistent atmosphere?

🎤This might sound weird, but I think the most important thing is to actually decide on what kind of atmosphere you want and to pay very close attention to word choice and language. Atmosphere (for me anyway) is a matter of focus. It’s kind of like maintaining a character’s voice throughout the book; you need be consistent not just with imagery and descriptions, but with the specific word choices that make up each image, because word choice can help evoke a particular tone or emotion. Atmosphere suffers when writers reach for the easiest or most obvious word. Readers don’t consciously pick up on word choice, but it does impact them because we all make subconscious associations without even realizing it. So, if I say, “Thunder rolled through the grey sky,” it sounds quite plain compared to, “The sky churned with a menacing rumble.” Both sentences are almost the same length, but the second one uses a stronger verb (one that evokes sickness or unease) and transforms something commonplace (thunder) into something with character (a menacing rumble). Ultimately, these are the things that make up atmosphere. 

🎃What makes a good morally gray character?

🎤I think this is a really interesting question, because in reality, we are all morally grey. No one has a rigid or unchanging moral compass; we are all reacting to our circumstances and trying to navigate the world in all its complexity. The world is morally grey at best (or completely bankrupt at worst), and so we are all inevitably morally grey. But, to answer your question, I think that good morally grey characters are the ones that invite us to reflect on the moral ambiguity in ourselves. Their reactions, attitudes, and choices have to make sense for their character regardless of our moral expectations, and even if we recognize that their actions are morally questionable, we an approach those reactions with a degree of compassion. 

So, for example, it’s not that Kai lacks a conscience or acts out of wanton malice. He is simply responding to his circumstances in the only ways to know how to, and that is all informed by his personal history and his position as a socially marginalized person. But I think most people who read the books don’t judge him to be a bad person, so that particular confluence of indictable behaviour and compassion help us produce a more nuanced understanding of ourselves and others. Morally grey characters may do something that is morally reprehensible, but in context, that behaviour might seem reasonable, and that forces us to reckon with the expectations we have for moral behaviour. I also think this is why Mason is the character I personally find the most frustrating. He’s someone who fancies himself to be morally upright, but he behaves in ways that are subtly quite selfish, and ultimately, it’s his confrontation with Kai and Miya that brings all that to the fore.

🎃Is it hard to write your characters into those tough, destructive, near deadly scenes that Grimdark requires?  Are you a true lady of chaos or does it take an emotional toll?

🎤Full disclosure: when I first wrote The Echoed Realm, Kai lost an arm. My editor made me change it, though, and in hindsight, I’m happy he got to keep it. I think when I’m writing it, I’m not really impacted by these tough scenes, but sometimes I’ll come away, like, “Wow, that was kind of intense.” I wouldn’t say it takes an emotional toll, though. On the contrary, I think it can be quite cathartic and invigorating to write out a very intense scene in which all the characters’ emotions are running at eleven and a half. In some instances, the whole book is culminating to that moment, so it’s exciting to finally let shit hit the fan, you know? I guess that makes me a true lady of chaos…

🎃Seeing as it’s halloween! If you’ve ever worn a Halloween costume, what was your favorite? Bonus points if you have a picture!

🎤Oh gosh, I don’t remember the last time I dressed up—I’m so lazy! As a kid, though, my two favourite costumes were a witch and a ninja. I don’t have any photos from that era, but I have this monstrosity

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🎃How do you feel about brunch? Do you have a favorite brunch food?

🎤I adore brunch, and it’s one thing Canada sucks at. When my partner took me to his hometown in the US, I nearly died eating biscuits and gravy every day. That said, I do love just a basic brunch of fried eggs, sausage, hash browns, and toast. If I can get a single banana pancake on the side, then we’re golden.

🎃Ama – I am just dying for any tidbit that hints at Ama’s story. I think I missed who she was in the original story.  Can you tell us anything extra about her??

🎤I actually have a whole book planned for Ama! Her backstory is still definitely a mystery. All you really know is that she’s been with Gavran for a long time and that he more or less raised her. She’s obviously very dedicated to anything Gavran cares about, and she is strongly attached to Miya both because of Gavran but also because she genuinely cares for her. Regarding the first book, **spoiler here** Ama is the wolf that Miya originally sees as a child, and this encounter becomes the thing Miya latches on to and hopes for throughout her youth and into had adulthood. Of course, the next time she encounters a wolf, it’s not Ama, but Kai. 

What I can tell you is that Ama’s becoming a wolf is not quite the same as Kai’s, though there are similarities too. Neither of them are werewolves in the contemporary sense; their condition follows the wonky rules of folklore rather than what we get in genres like urban fantasy. In Kai’s case, it’s “spiritually inherited” from Sendoa, though his parents were also like him. Kai’s history is also a bit of a shadowy thing, so there is a lot about his past left unexplored by the end of the duology. Ama, however, was not actually born a wolf as Kai was, and if you go to my website, click on Vignettes, and then on “The Weaver,” you’ll find some short stories exploring bits of Ama’s past ;). 

{{Done!! Can’t wait for that book!!}}

Now that The Chaos Cycle duology is completed, can you give us any hints as to what’s coming next? A WIP?

🎤I am currently working on a supernatural horror novel! I can’t say much about the project right now, but it does feature a small Appalachian town in rural Pennsylvania, an unreliable narrator, creepy, supernatural melodies, and murder. It’s been slow going, but I’m just about 40-50% through the first draft. I also have been fleshing out the world of The Chaos Cycle on my Patreon and plan on writing a standalone that takes place after the duology. It will focus on Miya, Kai, Ama, and Crowbar, and it will not be related to the major plot of the duology, though I do plan on exploring Kai’s history quite extensively in that book!

🎃Here is the round of easy rapid fire bookish questions – do you have a favorite book or series that you always recommend? Favorite literary character? Strange and wonderful bookish habits?

🎤Uhh, here goes:

  • The Winternight Trilogy by Catherine Arden!
  • I am blanking so hard on this. Let’s say Dorian Grey. 
  • I’m pretty boring, but I need to read in complete silence, or I get very crabby. 

Thank you so much for taking the time to interview!! A.J. wanted to tell you guys that the special hardcover editions of The Chaos Cycle duology just released, so definitely check those out!!

Here is an Instagram post with all the info, plus you can find her website at

https://thechaoscycle.com/

There are additional links here!

https://direct.me/ajvrana

Categories
Fantasy Paranormal Young Adult

The Keeper of Night (ARC Review) by Kylie Lee Baker

Bring on the morally grey characters and complicated endings, it’s fall! Thank you so much to Inkyard Press for my proof of The Keeper of Night! This is a YA fantasy with Japanese mythology, and I still enjoyed it quite a bit as an adult

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Keeper of Night
  • Series: The Keeper of Night #1
  • Author: Kylie Lee Baker
  • Publisher & Release: Inkyard Press, 10/12/21
  • Length: 400 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ all the stars for this dark fantasy

Here is the book blurb:

A girl of two worlds, accepted by none… A half Reaper, half Shinigami soul collector seeks her destiny in this haunting and compulsively readable dark fantasy duology set in 1890s Japan.

Death is her destiny.

Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami, Ren Scarborough has been collecting souls in the London streets for centuries. Expected to obey the harsh hierarchy of the Reapers who despise her, Ren conceals her emotions and avoids her tormentors as best she can.

When her failure to control her Shinigami abilities drives Ren out of London, she flees to Japan to seek the acceptance she’s never gotten from her fellow Reapers. Accompanied by her younger brother, the only being on earth to care for her, Ren enters the Japanese underworld to serve the Goddess of Death…only to learn that here, too, she must prove herself worthy. Determined to earn respect, Ren accepts an impossible task—find and eliminate three dangerous Yokai demons—and learns how far she’ll go to claim her place at Death’s side.

I liked the premise here, a young British Reaper is also half Japanese Shinigami, and she is bullied by the other Reapers. They don’t treat her much better in Japan and she just goes into this totally selfish spiral of darkness after being forced out of London. Her brother, Neven, would have followed her to the ends of the world and I was surprised by Ren’s lack of empathy towards him, how brutal!

I guess that’s what makes a good morally gray character, their self serving attitude and willingness to do whatever it takes to reach their goals.

It was cool to get a look at Japanese mythology and legends too, especially the underworld.  Baker does a great job with descriptive language, world building, and setting.  I felt like I was there, seeing the sights and smells, being crushed by darkness, wondering what would come next.  A very immersive read.

The magic system was pretty low key, the Reapers had a very cool time turning ability and a lot of the Japanese folklore involved abilities as well.  It was well described and once again I liked the concept of magic/legends/beings only being susceptible to the fatal influences of their own culture.

This is a great October read. I’m shocked that it’s a debut. Minus a few wordy forays into similes and purple prose that I thought hurt the flow – it was beautifully descriptive enough without going over the top those few times!  I thought overall it was a mature enough novel to enjoy as an adult.

There was some humor and good dialogue too, as well as a darker romance, but my favorite part was definitely the legends and stories.

Overall? This is an interesting, fast paced novel with good themes, morally questionable main characters, lovely language, and fresh mythology. You might cry though! A big ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ from me as an adult or for YA

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
audiobooks Historical Fiction Horror Paranormal Young Adult

The Diviners (Book/Audiobook thoughts) by Libba Bray

Lo and behold I finally read a book this month! The Diviners by Libba Bray is a great fall or Halloween time of the year pick.  The frights and gore and level of creepiness probably make this YA paranormal read appropriate for age 16+, but would not recommend for younger kids!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Diviners
  • Series: The Diviners, #1
  • Author: Libba Bray
  • Publisher & Release: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – September 2012
  • Length: 578 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for fans of paranormal, 1920s, creepy vibes and darker themes

Here is the book blurb:

A young woman discovers her mysterious powers could help catch a killer in the first book of The Diviners series–a stunning supernatural historical mystery set in 1920s New York City, from Printz Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Libba Bray.

Evangeline O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and sent off to the bustling streets of New York City–and she is ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult. Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far.

When the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer. As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfurl in the city that never sleeps. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened…

Audiobook note: it is slightly over 18 hours of listening time, narrated by January LaVoy. Published by Listening Library in 2012.  LaVoy is a freaking amazing narrator, she has to cover everything from flappers to demons to jazz musicians and totally nails it

“Your mother and I do not approve of drinking. Have you not heard of the Eighteenth Amendment?”

“Prohibition? I drink to it’s health whenever I can”

Ok so this book, AND the audio, both have truly creepy vibes at times.  It is a chonker but for the most part extremely quick paced and a lot of fun to both read and listen to. I felt the danger while they were investigating the murders and dealing with the spirit!

There is a lot of 1920s slang that was a little annoying, and I don’t know if it’s authentic or not.  Evie and Sam, Jericho, Theta, Memphis, Will, they were all great characters with their own arcs of trauma, self acceptance, and skills to bring to the table. Their back stories were interesting, sad and dark.  There were a lot of characters but no one was wasted. I just docked a star because I was not buying the romance at the end, at all, it happened pretty  quick and just didn’t feel real

“People will believe anything if it means they can go on with their lives and not have to think too hard about it.”

The mystery itself seemed dark for YA, but unique and I loved it.  A demon? Spirit? Ghost? Is acting out the 12 offerings in a sacred text to become the prophesied beast, reign hellfire, reshape the Earth.  It results in bloody murders across NYC that Evie is in a unique position to help solve

How do you invent a religion?” Evie asked.

Will looked over the top of his spectacles. “You say, ‘God told me the following,’ and then wait for people to sign up.”

I was thinking about the concept of having to banish/kill the spirit on his own terms, as in the legend/religion/prophecy becomes true because it’s believed, or is fuelled by beliefs. I see that theme in paranormal and mythology texts lot, and then got to laughing because in a Christmas eve homily about 10 years ago the priest said something like “it’s true because we believe it” — and we all looked at each other saying “no, we believe it because it’s true, not vice versa” lol.

Now I am stuck on this whole belief vs truth thing.  It is a huge theme in the book and an interesting one for that YA age to ponder

“People tend to think that hate is the most dangerous emotion. But love is equally dangerous,” Will said. “There are many stories of spirits haunting the places and people who meant the most to them. In fact, there are more of those than there are revenge stories.

So yeah, this is a book/audio that I’d definitely  recommend for those who like sassy female leads, paranormal, mysteries, life in the 20s, and all that.  Some tough themes are handled like death, violence, corpse and live body mutilation, confronting dead parents, religious zealotry, a kitty is killed for a ritual 😭 and implied sexual thoughts, but 16+ should be fine!

Are you reading any spooky books yet this fall!?

Categories
Paranormal

Shadow Stained (Book Review) by Rachel Hobbs

Thank you so much to Rachel Hobbs for reaching out to respond to an open interview call for my blog! While that feature will be coming later this month, I also read and reviewed her debut novel Shadow Stained!

At least as we speak, the novel is available on Kindle Unlimited and I found it to be a well formatted and compatible copy!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Shadow Stained
  • Series: Stones of Power, #1
  • Author: Rachel Hobbs
  • Publisher & Release: Nielsen, 03/05/20
  • Length: 360 pages
  • Rate & recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of paranormal, demons, etc!

Here is the book blurb from Amazon:

For her, it’s her late grandma’s legacy. For him, the mother of all black arts spoils, granting one demon the power of a God. Immortality.

When occult-magnet Ruby falls victim to Demon Lord Drayvex’s viperous allure, she loses a sentient dark relic to his light fingers and appetite for power. Like calls to like. But when Drayvex himself loses the relic to a traitor to the throne, Ruby coerces him – the tyrant king with a soft spot for humanity – into helping her save her pokey old world village from becoming a ground zero of mass demonic carnage.

Both invested in reclaiming the relic, the one thing Ruby and Drayvex agree on is that it’s in the wrong hands. Co-existing in a precarious arrangement between predator and prey, to save the planet they both love for different reasons, they must become a formidable double-team in the face of an apocalyptic takeover. Now, the fate of both human and demon alike rests with a killer that walks between worlds, and a woman with a curse in her bloodline.

The Plot & Story: This is a paranormal adventure for adult readers, where a young woman and her stone of power inadvertently draw the attention of a demon lord. This escalates into a fullscale invasion of Earth and exciting battle of the most powerful demons in the realm. There is also this ongoing back and forth of whether or not the demon lord and girl will ever just get together already. I still am not sure on that point, I honestly thought it was going to be a paranormal romance (but it isn’t thankfully).

It’s an interesting and quickly moving story. I don’t read very much in this genre so it’s pretty new to me in general.

The characters: the demon, Drayvex, is everything. He is such a sociopath and total egomaniac but has a small amount of cinnamon-roll filling inside, and man does he HATE it! His dialogue and monologue, alongside the plot itself, carried the book for me.  It helps that he has a darkly attractive human form.

Ruby is not a bad character but she has no fighting prowess at all, no clue what’s going on, and can’t defend herself. She wants to stay and fight demons even though she’s almost died multiple times and Drayvex has to keep rescuing her.  I think I would have liked her more if she wasn’t so entirely helpless.  Ruby is some kind of witch or cursed, or something, but the most paranormal thing that happened to her before Drayvex is that she is drawn to occult objects at garage sales? I would have liked to know what this is all hinting at, since it is known to other characters that she is special but the reader gets no indication as to why.  Which means I’m reading book 2.

I really just want more Drayvex.

The side character demons created some funny moments as well. The lower level ones are not very smart, and sometimes created a three stooges feel.  I loved the little chef demon 😍

The Worldbuilding: The descriptions of the demon world were very well done. I loved the twinkling red stars and red sands, as well as the description of the throne.   With a new world like that I want to know what it sounds, smells, feels like.  I want to be standing at the foot of those black mountains! I got small European village vibes from the time on Earth, with plenty of rain.  

Misc: With a tad more to make me care for Ruby and one more round of edits, I would really enjoy this snarky duo.  One thing I want to say is that Drayvex reminded me of the Monty Python skit “The Many Uses of the Word Fuck” – it’s a noun, an adverb, lol.  In an adult novel this is fine and I did love his personality.

Overall I think it’s a solid debut, and I plan on reading the next in the series! Would recommend for fans of paranormal, demons, and snarky bad boy characters