Categories
Fantasy Romance Young Adult

A Far Wilder Magic (ARC Review) by Allison Saft

Thank you so much Wednesday Books for the free early digital read of A Far Wilder Magic by Allison Saft!  All opinions are my own!

This is a solid and enjoyable follow up to Down Comes the Night, Saft’s debut, although I had pretty similar issues with the two books as far as repetitive inner monologue and content for teens. I mostly enjoyed this read and would say yes for … Heck, 16+ with parental guidance probably

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: A Far Wilder Magic
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Allison Saft
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, 03/08/22
  • Pages: 384
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ yes for fans of slow burning, romantic books with low fantasy elements

Here is the synopsis:

A romantic YA fantasy perfect for fans of Erin A. Craig and Margaret Rogerson, about two people who find themselves competing for glory – and each other’s hearts – in a magical fox hunt.

When Margaret Welty spots the legendary hala, the last living mythical creature, she knows the Halfmoon Hunt will soon follow. Whoever is able to kill the hala will earn fame and riches, and unlock an ancient magical secret. While Margaret is the best sharpshooter in town, only teams of two can register, and she needs an alchemist.

Weston Winters isn’t an alchemist―yet. He’s been fired from every apprenticeship he’s landed, and his last chance hinges on Master Welty taking him in. But when Wes arrives at Welty Manor, he finds only Margaret. She begrudgingly allows him to stay, but on one condition: he must join the hunt with her.

Although they make an unlikely team, they soon find themselves drawn to each other. As the hunt looms closer and tensions rise, Margaret and Wes uncover dark magic that could be the key to winning the hunt―if they survive that long.

In A Far Wilder Magic, Allison Saft has written an achingly tender love story set against a deadly hunt in an atmospheric, rich fantasy world that will sweep you away.

A Far Wilder Magic is a solid, atmospheric story, set in a world with an interesting mix of modern and old fashioned elements. There is mystery, alchemy and magic, sexual tension out the wazoo, and a deadly fox hunt.

The time period confused me a bit, it wasn’t steampunk but the rich had cars.  There was alchemy but also electricity.  Guns were the weapon of choice while there were tenements and factories in the cities.  An age of immigration and innovation maybe, where old and new tended to mix was what I pictured, in a place like Dublin.  It was clear that the racial and religious lines drawn were Catholic, vs Irish and Jewish (I’m 99% sure), although they had other names and different religious objectives

There was not a ton of actual magic, although the Hala causing destruction and mayhem was interesting.  I liked that the Hala didn’t shy away from people.  The other magic involved the alchemy, but more as a natural talent that could be honed through study.  An alchemist and sharpshooter had to enter the hunt together – and I again think she could have done more with the magic, but I liked what was there.

The characters are sweet and I liked them.  Wes was my favorite because he stood up to the bullies and found it within himself to become a great alchemists, despite his multiple failures and implied dyslexia.  He hid all his vulnerability behind a wall of good looks, and I liked his character arc.

Margaret took a bit longer to crack, and I questioned quite a few of her choices like to let a strange teenage boy live in the manor, despite how much she needed help.  Margaret also crumbled or stood down in the face of religious and racial bullying, where Wes stood up and was more fed up with taking it.  Both are fierce characters in their own way, and I guess when you put the opposite sides of a coin together … You get a coin.

The book had good themes like overcoming prejudice, standing up to bullies, as well as believing in yourself, trusting others, not giving up, found family, and living your own life vs. staying in a parent’s expectations or shadow.

**I really liked the book, I just wish that the author wouldn’t interrupt action scenes for two pages of inner monologue that we know already. Let the action end first or it’s a very jarring shift in momentum**.

She did it at one crucial point where an animal was injured – you’re telling me the characters paused assisting the animal to sit and share monologue for so long? Then at the end of the fox hunt she broke a critical scene for … more monologue.  I will be honest that it took some skimming to get through those more repetitive parts.  I would have liked to see more from the fox hunt itself too.

There was quite a bit of action though, from sabotage to run ins with the Hala and training for the hunt.  There was also a snarky horse, which I can always appreciate!

Content wise: again this is young adult, and I will die on the hill that characters don’t need to go from first kiss to no clothes in one scene, ever. I mean hello the mom was right, I would have skinned them both alive had I walked in on that.  Please stop this trend of characters shacking up before the big end scene, it’s neither necessary nor something that all teens want to read in every single fantasy.  There is some other content regarding touching oneself, a teen girl reading smut, condoms.  I already touched on the religious and racial bullying, which is a good theme to confront and seems well handled, and a bit of gore. Amazon says age 14-18 but I would STRONGLY say 16+ for parents, regarding sexual content.

All in all, again, I truly mostly enjoyed this one. It’s a good book for fans of atmospheric, slow burn romances with low fantasy elements.  I would recommend for 16+ and new adult readers 

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Romance Young Adult

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Mary Beesley

Hi everyone, welcome back to the Sunday Brunch Series!  Episode 15 this week features one of my newer favorite authors and bookstagrammer, Mary Beesley!
 
It started with a review for Monster Ivy, and  became quickly apparent that Mary is a lovely person to chat with too.  With four books out now and at least two more in progress, she’s a busy lady!   That said, I’m so thrilled that she agreed to interview!
 
Here she is!

 
🥞Welcome to the SBAIS! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your literary life!
 
🎤Hello! It is so fun for me to connect and get real about writing and share my love of books. I started writing eight years ago. When I found out I was going to have a fourth child, I got discouraged and overwhelmed. God inspired me to start writing stories. At first it was a place for me to be creative and decompress, then I fell in love with it. I took classes and worked hard to practice and improve. The first moment when I was reading my manuscript and I realized it was good, really good, it hit me that I’d finally found what I want to do with my talents and time. That sense of rightness and belonging has filled me up and fueled me through hard writing sessions and painful rejections. Seven years after starting to write, I had my first book published! Now I have four books out. DRAGON BLOOD and WOLF PACK are book 1 and 2 in the Draco Sang Trilogy, a YA fantasy series. TO UNITE A REALM is my adult fantasy. BETTING ON LOVE, is my romantic comedy.
 
🥞I think it’s amazing that you’ve published a young adult fantasy, an adult fantasy romance, and a contemporary romance – what keeps the ideas flowing through the different genres?
 
🎤I love reading in a wide variety of genres and I think that’s part of it, but I also am growing and changing as a writer and trying out different genres and voices. I’ve always been a daydreamer and have lots of different ideas and stories going on up there in my wild brain so it’s fun not to limit myself but to explore it all. No matter what genre, my goal is to tell a great story.
 
🥞I saw that you posted NaNoWriMo goals, can you share anything about the work in progress?
 
🎤Oh man. NaNoWriMo has been tricky! It’s been fun to connect with other writers, but I am struggling with feeling like I have to force big numbers. November is a busy month too. But, I’m still determined to get it done. I’m working on a new MS and hope to complete the first draft. It’s an adult contemporary fiction from a male first person POV. It’s been an interesting challenge to try and really get into a man’s head.
 
{{Sometimes I really wonder what men are thinking, their brains are a mystery to me. Can’t wait to read it!}}
 
🥞Can you compare and contrast writing for YA with writing for adults? Do you prefer writing for one age group or the othe
 
🎤I have had a great time with my YA Draco Sang series, but as I’ve written more and developed as a writer, I am feeling more excited about the adult stories. The adult voices feel more natural to me. The humor seems to come easier for me as well. And right now I’m more interested in writing about adult subjects. I feel like I have more freedom in an adult novel. In YA, I have to be more careful about content and language. It’s harder for me to navigate the teenage brain right now.
 
🥞With the sad news that Monster Ivy is closing down, is the third Draco Sang Trilogy book going to be affected?  (I’m not necessarily dying for the conclusion, but I’m dying for the conclusion!) 
 
🎤 I’m very excited about the final book in the Draco Sang trilogy. It’s got some great scenes, and I hope y’all with love the way it wraps up. I’ve worked hard on it, and it’s important for me to get it out to everyone! I’m in the process of figuring it out now, so I don’t have an answer yet on dates, but I’m going to do all I can to get book three out there as soon as I can! I’ll post updates as they come on my social media.
 
🥞 I really love the Dragon Blood and Wolf Pack characters – can you talk about what message you’d like young readers to take away from the books and characters?
 
🎤Thank you. I love them too. It was important for me to create characters that were dynamic and relatable. People are flawed. Humanity is beautiful. We all have our own “demons” we’re dealing with and I think having my characters be honest about their battles makes them compelling. I also wanted to give them inner strength and courage. They feel deep, love deep, and fight hard. And of course, I throw them into tough situations and then give them a chance to shine (or fail spectacularly). I want everyone who reads the Draco Sang books to take away HOPE. Everyone has power and influence. We can’t always control our situation, but we can choose our reaction and our attitude.
 
🖤There is a lot of moral ambiguity in your fantasy books so far, what do you think makes a good morally gray character?? 
 
🎤I touch on this a bit in the question above, but I’ll add that I think intent is important. We relate to people who are striving toward what they think is “good.” It’s hard to love a character that is purposefully, willfully being immoral or cruel. But if the reader can see from a flawed characters POV and feel sympathy for them, that is powerful. I love giving characters a chance at redemption and change. Honesty is also endearing and can make up for a lot of other moral missteps.
 
🥞How do you feel about brunch?  Any favorite brunch foods?
 
🎤I love brunch. I don’t get to brunch often so it feels like such a luxury. My mouth is watering just thinking about hot chocolate and tea, buttermilk biscuits and jam, waffles with real maple syrup, egg sandwiches, quiche, croissants, I love croissants! And hash browns!
 
🥞 If you could have drinks (or brunch) with any author in the world, who would you choose?
 
🎤Oliver Jeffers is the first one who comes to mind so I’m going with it. I know how weird that makes me sound, but I love him. I think he is so creative and humorous. He seems so approachable on social media and friendly. I love his accent. I love his books. I want to be friends!
 
🥞Here is the easy round of rapidfire bookish questions! Favorite book or series that you always recommend? Favorite book character? Any strange or wonderful bookish habits?
 
 🎤 It feels impossible to recommend a favorite book. I have so many loves (you can check out my five star ratings on goodreads), but these are a few autobuy authors for me: Naomi Novik, Leigh Bardugo, Liane Moriarty, Neil Gaiman, Brent Weeks, Madeline Miller, Brandon Sanderson, Sarah Maas, David Sedaris.
I always have a book with me. Always. Even if it’s a download on my phone. I like to know that anywhere, anytime, I can read while waiting.
 
🥞Thank you so much for taking the time to interview! If there’s anything else you’d like to say or talk about, the floor is open!
 
🎤Thank you so much! Thanks for reading my book. It means the world. xo, Mary Beesley

Meet the author:

Mary believes humans are born to create and promotes creativity in all its beautiful forms. She loves exploring our magnificent planet and finding all the best places to eat around the world. But nothing beats coming home and sharing a pot of slow-simmered soup and homemade sourdough with friends and family. She’s been a daydreamer since childhood, but after having profound difficulty learning to read, she couldn’t be more surprised to have fallen in love with books. If she’s not in her writing chair, you’ll probably find her painting or hiking in the Utah mountains with her husband and four children.

from marybeesley.com

Find Mary and her books online!

https://linktr.ee/MaryBeesley

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
Fiction General Fiction Paranormal Romance

Book Review: River Magic by M.A. Philips (local author alert)!

I am glad this month to have some to read books from my own backlogged TBR!  One book that I have been meaning to get to is River Magic, because I try hard to support local authors!

The book is a new adult coming of age/romance, and takes place in the area my mom’s side of the family is from. The tippy top corner of Northern NY, St Lawrence / Alexandria Bay / Watertown region.  It was so cool to read a book featuring places I’ve been, a hospital I’ve worked at, etc! I’m just picturing the highway scenery as the characters drive along!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: River Magic
  • Series: Rituals of Rock Bay, #1
  • Author: M.A. Philips
  • Publisher & Release: Shadow Spark Publishing, October 2020
  • Length: 366 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ yes but be aware of mature romantic content

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Budding clairvoyant Lacey Moran seeks to understand her dreams and find her life’s purpose along the St. Lawrence River. If only her visions of silver arms and Cian O’Connor’s blue eyes were easier to understand! The pieces begin coming together when she encounters a mermaid in the river, joins a group of Druids, and opens herself to romance with an old friend.

Can Lacey overcome her doubts, or is she in over her head?

I was so thrilled to see a book set in the Alexandria Bay and Watertown area!  A story of finding oneself as an adult, embracing life choices, finding one’s faith, and reconciling adult friendships. I loved how everyone worked together and supported one another.

This is a romance (low steam level but it’s there), and coming of age story. I wasn’t expecting bedroom content so it threw me a bit, but it’s easily skimmable without missing storyline.

The main character, Lacey, is a sort of pagan who discovers Druidism and feels like she found a new home. It was interesting to learn about the rituals as Lacey did, and some of the Irish Mythology attached. Her eventual boyfriend, Cian, is trying to find his own way as well. His family is traditionally Catholic but it doesn’t seem like the right road for him. Man the struggle was real for his parents too, I felt for them. The relationships were level headed and real, with the characters talking through things instead of losing their minds.  Very refreshing to not have conflict without undue drama. The other characters were supportive and interesting as well.

One other theme I appreciated was how hard it can be to change and accept new viewpoints and changing culture, especially from a religious standpoint. The Catholicism vs Pagan interactions were handled realistically, I think, and a lot of the novel is about embracing instinct and one’s own path in life.  Trust me that Catholics know it’s 2020, they don’t need to be reminded in argument.  Changing times are a little bit much sometimes but I think Cian’s parents handled things well for how much was thrown at them at once.

It was interesting to learn a little about Druidism and rituals too, and all the other mystic elements in the book. I thought the mermaid was going to be one of the lost island residents but that storyline surprised me! A twist of mystery and danger was fun to read as someone is threatening a local endangered species.

All in all, a great new adult aged novel about finding your own paths, adult friendships and relationships, community and conservation. All set along the gorgeous St Lawrence River!

Will be reading book two!