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 Science Fiction Young Adult

Winter (book thoughts) by Marissa Meyer

The Lunar Chronicles was a refreshing and binge worthy reading experience.  I am getting so sick of YA books with terrible language, dumb characters, s*x scenes that aren’t at all appropriate for the advertised age range…

Then I read this series! Whew. I binged all 5 books and also checked out the short story collection.  Zero swears that I recall, innocent romance that’s appropriate for both age and situation, and, even the gore was pretty well contained.  The battle scenes and fighting were exciting and delivered shocks without going to extreme.

So yes I 100% confidently recommend The Lunar Chronicles for both teens and adults looking for a fun, futuristic battle for Earth and beyond.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the final book in the series – Winter

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Winter
  • Series: The Lunar Chronicles, #4
  • Author: Marissa Meyer
  • Publisher & Release: Feiwel & Friends, November 2015
  • Length: 832 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Here is the summary:

Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend–the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?

We got a glimpse of the title character, Princess Winter, at the end of Cress, and also got some of her back story in Fairest. At first I wasn’t sure about her, since she is frankly nuts, but once we start learning more about the lunar sickness and how Winter refused to be like the rest of the lunar court, aka fake and using their glamours for ill, she becomes a much more likeable character.  Yes she is flaky but also strong enough to defy Levana for so long, and she is definitely not stupid.  Her strength comes out pretty evenly with the crazy and it’s an endearing combination.

Winter was a well loved princess who was prettier than a bouquet of roses and crazier than a headless chicken.

Also for some reason I thought that, due to the pets and the palace guard, that this would be an Aladdin theme … but it was definitely, very loosely, Snow White.

But anyway, the gang is back and there is more banter, more adventure, more kidnappings of Kai, and thankfully some hard won victories for the Rampion crew.

I like that the war and occupation of Luna wasn’t easy.  There were tons of civilian casualties, injuries and near deaths for the crew, trauma and everything else you’d expect from a war.   Parts of it felt a little Hunger Games ish with the gang going to different sectors to recruit people to overwhelm the Capitol.  Also reminiscent were the questions of sanity and PTSD after the conflicts and terrible things that were both done and witnessed.

I also liked how the main points of Fairest were recapped incase anyone hadn’t read it, although I still think that book enhanced the overall reading experience.

Best side character award definitely goes to Konn Torin in this one.  He turned the tide and came through in huge but subtle ways.  Everything would have been lost without him.  Bonus points to Alpha Strom too, that whole sequence with the wolf soldiers was something else.

I still think Scarlet is the most useless of the group.  It was great to see Cress really come out of her shell (pun intended) and be a hero! I have had some Cress coasters forever and it’s good to know what they mean finally.  Iko was another superstar throughout this one.

Meyer didn’t shy away from emphasizing either how brutal the Lunar regime was in itself.  As she really showed how the elite kept the outer sectors in poverty and submission it was the perfect grounds for a revolution.  There were those individual instances too like with Maha Kesley.  Everyone in the crew lost someone precious to them during the series.

One last thing to hit on the setting – I thought it was great to finally see all of Luna.  A lot of the history was finally given too, or at least enough to provide a background without bogging the story down.

The spot where the setting hit me the hardest was when Cinder hit the edge of the dome in the middle of the lake – and the crater was hundreds of feet below on the other side.  From that imagery to that of the Lunar palace I think Winter really tied things together well.

In a nutshell: four (five because honestly, let’s count Iko) unique main characters.  Banter and snark for days.  Adventure, plotting, war, rebellion. Heroes and villains. Dashing captains (haha had to mention Thorne somewhere). Happy endings.  Age appropriate content!  What’s not to love about this series?

Quick notes on the audio: this is obviously a pretty long audio, around 24hours.  Rebecca Soler made her first obvious OOPS in this one but considering it was the first noticeable one in 5 books, I was very impressed overall!  I think she added a lot to the book by voicing and interpreting Winter and the others how she did.  Definitely 100% recommend

Categories
audiobooks Science Fiction Young Adult

Fairest (book & audio review) by Marissa Meyer

It’s been a rough week here, I keep looking around for or reaching over to pet the dog and she’s not there. The absolute worst

I haven’t gotten much reading done but have been listening to an audio while I can’t sleep. Eventually I will finish Winter. 

Fairest is the first book I read in 2022, the shorter Lunar Chronicles book that falls in between Cress and Winter.  I absolutely 100% recommend reading Fairest in that order with the rest of the series, as it gives a lot of background into Levana’s story, what happened to Cinder, the story with Winter and Jacin, the plague origins, and so many other things.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Fairest
  • Series: The Lunar Chronicles 3.5
  • Author: Marissa Meyer
  • Publisher & Release: Feiwel & Friends, January 2015
  • Length: 226 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for anyone reading the series

Here is the synopsis:

Mirror, mirror, on the wall.
Who is the Fairest of them all?

Pure evil has a name, hides behind a mask of deceit, and uses her “glamour” to gain power. But who is Queen Levana? Long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress in The Lunar Chronicles, Levana lived a very different story―a story that has never been told . . . until now.

New York Times –bestselling author Marissa Meyer reveals the story behind her fascinating villain in Fairest, an unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death

I think this provided a lot of the insight I was looking for into the Lunar world.  What is life like for the royalty, what are their expectations, what is society like, etc.

Levana iss more than a bit crazy as an adult and I liked her backstory. Sbe was influenced by early mind control and torture by her older sister, Cinder’s mother, which damages the mind of young children.  At least it was written that mind control is bad for the toddlers.  Also she was probably a little psychotic to begin with, AND just had terrible influence from Channary all along

That said – I don’t think this book was written to garner sympathy so much as tell the back story.  Other than the initial incident and bullying from her sister, Levana made her own choices and did a lot of really sick and questionable things

She’s a heck of a villain, kind of reminds of Joker in that she is just completely criminally insane by the time Winter occurs

Meyer also answered questions I had – like – how does the queen have a black step daughter? What was under the glamour? Who was Cinder’s mom? What about the plague origins? Heck even about Sybil Meara and the Lunar court.

I would love to know why Channary was as rotten as she was, but there were a few allusions to how the girls grew up fairly unsupervised and all of the Lunar royalty and their children tend to be absolutely terrible. As evidenced by the 8 year old boy torturing Scarlet at the end of Cinder

I definitely think this is good to read in between Cress and Winter, because now we know about the queen and even Jacin, and everything makes a little more sense to me

It’s definitely enhancing the reading experience for me in book 4.

Quick notes on the audio: Rebecca Soler definitely gives another awesome performance here.  She hasn’t missed a beat through 4 books now. From Macmillan audio, including the hour ish long preview of Winter, the length is 6h and 32 minutes.  I loved how creepy and murderous she made Channary sound saying “Come heeeeere baby sister” and in contrast, how Levana had to deal with things.  Definitely highly recommend as both a book or audio

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 found pretty similar issues in the two books. It makes me think that *breaking the action for yet MORE fairly repetitive inner monologue* is simply the author’s writing style and while I have thoroughly enjoyed both of her books, I don’t love being thrown out of the action as such. I also have a few content issues to be discussed below – although don’t worry, I’ll also mention all the good parts!

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, and there were tenements and factories in the cities.  One age of immigration and innovation maybe, where old and new tended to mix was what I pictured, in s 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 debate monologue for so long? Or 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. It’s not what I would want my kids reading.  Also 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 fantasy.  There is some other content regarding touching oneself, a teen girl reading smut, condoms (I imagined the book takes place in the time when only the rich had cars, and modern technology was newer).  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
Fantasy Young Adult

Winterlight (Book Ramblings) by Kristain Britain

Hi guys! This post is something that I am just writing for me, myself, and I, and for anyone that wants to talk love and spoilers! When I reread the series prior to the final installment I would like to go through and write about my love for each book

If anyone doesn’t know, Green Rider is truly my favorite book series ever and I am beyond honored that Kristen Britain soft-yes’d me on joining the Sunday Brunch series! She shouted me out on Facebook and I literally died a little bit!

Anyway – feel free to read the quick facts and synopsis, but then I would probably stave off unless you have read Winterlight and want to talk theories with me!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Winterlight
  • Series: Green Rider #7
  • Author: Kristen Britain
  • Publisher & Release: DAW, September 2021
  • Length: 848
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 😭

Here is the synopsis:

This seventh novel of the Green Rider series follows the adventures of messenger, magic wielder, and knight Karigan G’ladheon as she fights to save king and country from dark magic and a looming war.

After her capture at the hands of Grandmother and the Second Empire, Karigan G’ladheon is making halting progress towards recovery. Karigan takes on increasingly dangerous missions, haunted by the specter of her torturer, Nyssa, and sinking ever further into the mire of her recollections of the past and the losses she’s sustained.

Meanwhile, the forces of the Second Empire are moving on Sacoridia and their primary target is a vulnerable garrison that guards a crucial mountain pass. Faced with new fatherhood and a country on the verge of war, King Zachary sends a contingent of soldiers and Green Riders to the pass–but his own recovery from the events of the north is not yet complete either.

Reunited with her fellow Riders at the pass, Karigan takes on a leadership role, but quickly finds that the Riders are not as she last left them. As tension mounts and war draws ever closer to the heart of Sacoridia, Karigan must discover what it truly means to be a Rider and a hero of the realm–and what sacrifices must be made to truly heal from her past.

Overall, after a disappointing read in Mirror Sight and Firebrand, Winterlight was a throwback to the earlier Green Rider books and just blew the past few efforts straight away.

Let’s start with the cover: that scene had me in TEARS, she is just a hero in every sense of the word and that she finally reunited with Condor was everything.  Even better was Fastion leaking a tear out on the hill when he saw what was happening!

The title – where it fit into the story – omg, Firebrand and Winterlight – I think the two titles are foreshadowing since Karigan is now royalty and obviously Firebrand is what the Eletians call King Zachary

“…my name is .. Sad Ice Light?”

– The real question is obviously, why did Jametari do that? What did he see? In an earlier scene where various future scenarios were playing out (p.247), the only future displayed for Karigan was that she would become a sleeper …

Skipping to the end, what suffering did the gods speak of? That ties into the sleeper theory, or the burning witch idea that that horrible priest threatened Karigan with.  I wanted more from the priest and Estora storyline too.

We still don’t know what Estora saw in Karigan’s Mirror Eye either, I wonder if it tied into her pushing them together towards the end?  I miss the Estora of the earlier books where she was just a girl in mourning, although she won me over as the Rose queen in this book.  I think she has redeemed herself and shown she is capable of being a great leader and queen on her own right.  P.S. that scene with them riding out and Karigan wearing the Rider Princess armor! Lol she named the horse Pumpkin!

More crazy things was the history of the Weapons, that magic free room in the castle depths.  I couldn’t believe that the Weapons WERE the scourge, how dark.  I also found myself supremely sad when many of our favorite Weapons (Ellen 😭) fell to the Lions at the battle.  It was uplifting to have Karigan and Zachary fighting back to back though.

Another overall favorite aspect was how Winterlight brought home so much Green Rider history and favorite, memorable moments, while still introducing plenty of new history and lore as well.  Remember the nightgown clad ride when Karigan was called? Hey, so do the soldiers.  When she first went through the tombs? Even bringing Tegan through the tombs this time felt special, as the horses were bobbing their heads to Lil and we experienced a rider without the ghostly connection’s reaction to the tombs.

I feel like I love the tombs, poor Agemon dealing with the horses walking through!

What else … Oh yes, all the new riders and their abilities!

Connly was being a dick but I get it, I think Karigan will be promoted again when they get Laren back.

OH YEAH WHAT THE HECK, WHERE DID STEVIC GET ALL THESE SPECIAL “SKILLS” from?? Is our favorite dad going to become a hero in this one as we discover his secret past?  Was all the silence and backing away from Karigan’s raising some secret wartime PTSD? I need to know!!

The end killed me too, the Beryl and Alton scene finally had me absolutely sobbing.  I always wondered what Alton’s end game was going to be, and now I think he’s going to become a fallen hero in the final installment.

Other than the history being brought back, my other favorite thing about the book was how it emphasized that no matter what she’s been through, Karigan at her core is still a strong, funny, relatable person.  Those scenes after the battle towards the end where everyone was regaining their strength and the Green Rider family was catching up again, I liked that lull to show their resilience.  It didn’t last long but it was meaningful.

Oh lord, Ghost Kitty eating the guy’s head *barf*

Anyway – anyway – anyway – these are the things I want to remember going forward –

  1. Gods – karigan’s endgame/suffering?
  2. Estora + priest – what happens with both of them? Do they turn evil together maybe?
  3. Alton lives?
  4. Zachary and Karigan – maybe we finally get resolution
  5. The Eletians – where does K as royalty come in?

I can NOT wait for the end, I never want it to come but I can’t wait 😭😥😍😢😕❤🐴

Categories
audiobooks Science Fiction Young Adult

Cinder (Book & Audiobook) by Marissa Meyers

I have been mostly mood reading this month, and I ended up finally grabbing Cinder by Marissa Meyers.  I am so late to the party with these older books. I have been seeing them everywhere for years and I guess late is better than never?

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Cinder
  • Series: The Lunar Chronicles
  • Author: Marissa Meyer
  • Publisher & Release:  Feiwel & Friends, January 2012
  • Length: 400 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Yes for fans of fairy tale retellings, YA, sci-fi, fast paced books, snarky princes, and villains 

Here is the synopsis:

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

So I finally, finally started The Lunar Chronicles. I saw a lot of criticism for the poor world building but honestly, I don’t come to fairy tales and fairy tale retellings for world building and I think it would have slowed the book down immensely had Meyer taken the time to explain how Earth got to cyborgs, spaceships, and magical terrorists from the moon.

That said, oh my god, Cinderella with cyborgs

This book was fun! Don’t read into it too much – Cinder is a cyborg with a vicious step mother and one out of two step sisters is also a jerk. She loses a foot instead of a slipper. The handsome prince, Kai, is snarky and funny.  The book really does stay fairly true to Cinderella too but there are enough twists and turns and terrible things, as well as a vastly different ending, that I never felt too bored or too able to predict the story.  Minus the big twist – that one I got straightaway.

There are darker themes of oppression and war, plague, medical testing and death too.  In 2021 I don’t really want to read about death plagues and quarantine, but in 2012 I think this would have been an amazing book for me.  I liked that the Meyer took those darker turns too though, she’s not shy, and I just LOVED who ended up being the silent hero at the end. 

Happily ever after? No, not quite, Cinder is going to have to work for it

I liked Cinder, Iko, and Kai as characters, and the doctor too.  There is plenty of banter and snark for days.  The series villains are introduced – the Lunar Queen has mind control capabilities and is hellbent on war with Earthz whether or not she caves prince Kai into marriage.  I assume we are done with the stepmother but gosh did I want to smack that woman.

I docked one star because a tad bit more micro world building wouldn’t have hurt the plot.

What I really don’t like are the new cartoon covers, but I love the old ones.

For fans of: YA sci-fi, romance, retellings, fast paced books, and everything above.

A brief note on the audio: at slightly over 10 hours, narrated by one of my favorites, Rebecca Soler – this is a highly recommended audio from me. Rebecca is great at the robotic voices. Soler is probably a name recognized by most since her repertoire is insane, may be recognize her from the narration of the Caraval series, Seafire, Ashlords, some James Patterson books, and so many more including Renegades and Heartless, also by Meyer. By Macmillan audio

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

This Vicious Grace (ARC Review) by Emily Thiede

Thank you so much to Wednesday Books for the super early digital ARC of This Vicious Grace! My first selling point was that Tamora Pierce plugged it, and then I thought the synopsis was grabbing so I *ahem* definitely didn’t put down my TBR to read it.  A YA fantasy with a battle between the gods, a snarky bodyguard romance, and banter for days? Heck yes

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: This Vicious Grace
  • Series: The Last Finestra, #1
  • Author: Emily Thiede
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, 6/28/22
  • Length: 448 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Yes with a caution to my religious readers,  for religious interpretation and premarital relations

Here is the synopsis:

Three weddings. Three funerals. Alessa’s gift from the gods is supposed to magnify a partner’s magic, not kill every suitor she touches.

Now, with only weeks left until a hungry swarm of demons devours everything on her island home, Alessa is running out of time to find a partner and stop the invasion. When a powerful priest convinces the faithful that killing Alessa is the island’s only hope, her own soldiers try to assassinate her.

Desperate to survive, Alessa hires Dante, a cynical outcast marked as a killer, to become her personal bodyguard. But as rebellion explodes outside the gates, Dante’s dark secrets may be the biggest betrayal. He holds the key to her survival and her heart, but is he the one person who can help her master her gift or destroy her once and for all?

Considering how disenchanted I have become with YA fantasy recently, I did enjoy this one.

The population of the country has settled onto islands where the Goddess uses a pair of warriors to keep swarms of demons at bay.  This happens maybe once every 20 or so years, which gives the islands plenty of time to identify the next Finestra and Fonte, train them, and have them battle ready.

I thought the Italian inspired lore and names were cool.  Each chapter holds a proverb in the old language, and I made a game out of guessing the English translation before reading it.

The plot is fairly straightforward and fast paced.   We get some lore and history of Dea vs Crollo, the two deities engaged in this battle, and I honestly thought the religious lore and customs that developed as a result were extremely well done.  The populace lives the way they do as a result of the world they live in, namely extremely devout, hierarchal, and ready to save the wealthy when the demons come.

The worldbuilding is there on a micro level as well! We know the mood of the fortress, the city, the figures in power.  The weather and the hidden beaches.  What they eat and drink, the local customs, and how social structure is accomplished.

The magic? Pretty standard, it works on an energy type of system but becomes magnified and more powerful when combined with other people’s.

The characters were awesome.  Alessa is the Finestra, sheltered into solitude and waiting to find a Fonts, a battle partner, that she won’t kill by accident.  Dante is the bodyguard that she hires and he is just … ha ha way too much.  A bad boy with a bookish side.  The other fontes were funny and also good characters.  The banter for days is real.

Now let’s get into the stronger stuff: I think it’s awesome and important to explore the theme of interpreting your religion and making it work for you, and I think it’s something that many Catholic teenagers struggle with.  I think the author brought this into the book and also stressed the importance of friendship, community, working together, and not going life alone, all of which are A+++ themes.  THAT SAID, this is a YA book and I would have stopped the theme before throwing celibacy out the window, especially since it was with someone other than her intended (even though it was an arranged marriage).  I know that self realization through sex is like the cool topic in YA right now but I just hate the trope, and if I’m analyzing this from a Catholic standpoint the author definitely took a FANTASTIC theme … too far.

Also I would have liked to see one or two major character deaths since the ending is a huge and hugely devastating battle.  I never find it realistic when everyone ends up living.  The author copped out of one huge plot twist with a good save, a very good save, but I think I wanted more death.

Lastly: this is small details but the cover does not scream “fantasy”. I would not cover buy it as is, although I hope that doesn’t deter people

All in all: great plot, great pace, great world building on both a micro and macro level, and good themes even if one went beyond propriety. I would totally recommend it and definitely plan on owning a copy of both This Vicious Grace and it’s sequels

Thanks again to Wednesday Books 🖤 all opinions are my own

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 Young Adult

The Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Ava Cates

Happy Sunday everyone! I had to check my calendar twice to ensure that another week had actually gone by already 😂

This week on the SBS, episode 14 features young adult author Ava Cates. Ava reached out about participating and gave a short and sweet interview about her books, some good life advice, and what to look for next!

So glad she offered – here she is!


🖤 Welcome to the SBS! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your books!

🎤I’m Ava Cates, a young adult writer. I’ve been creating stories for over a decade. I draw inspiration for my stories from my life. I have two dogs, Skippy Jon Jones and Captain Jack Sparrow. I’m also close to my sister, Megan. She helps edit my books. I’m a Christian. I like to cook. I like photography. I like to dance. I paint. I like to drink eggnog coffee all year round. Christmas is my favorite holiday. And I’m super grateful for the friendships I have made on Instagram.

🖤How do you feel about brunch? Any favorites?

🎤I say bring it on! I particularly like Waffle House! That’s what you mean by brunch right? 😂 

{{Can’t go wrong with Waffle House, I miss it!}}

🖤 In Speechless, the main character is deaf and attending public high school for the first time.  She manages to attract a bully after becoming friends with a hot guy, and I thought she handled the bully pretty well. What advice would you give to someone in that situation?

🎤Don’t give up in the face of adversity.  God will bring you through. This is only going to make you stronger.

🖤Have you written your faith and beliefs into the books at all, or do you plan to in the future?

🎤Yes! I’m currently working on a Christian fiction now. It’s a story about how a girl gets saved and gains Holy Spirit powers like becoming a healer. I’m super excited about it! Thanks for asking:)

🖤Seeing as the holidays are coming, what is your main character’s favorite holiday and why? Is yours the same??

🎤I imagine Julia’s favorite holiday would be Christmas. Her mom is a bit of a cook so there would be good food. Plus Xavier and Jeremy/Luke can shower her with gifts! I love my birthdays. It’s the one holiday we go big.

🖤What would you like teen readers to take away from the Speechless books?

🎤You can go through challenges and still thrive.

🖤What’s your relationship like with bookish social media?  

🎤I love making book pictures for Instagram and I really enjoy the friendships I have made on the site. I make book graphics, so anyone can DM me and I can make them one for free! I especially like to help Indie authors!

🖤 Since book 4 seems like the end of your Speechless series – can you share what’s next??

🎤There’s actually a fifth book in the series! The gang grows up a little and **edited out huge  spoiler alert.** It’s my favorite book in the series this far! 

🖤Here is the rapid-fire round of bookish questions!  Do you have a favorite book or series you always recommend? Favorite character? Wonderful or strange bookish habits?

🎤I love the Stephanie Plum Series. 

My favorite character is Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice. I type my books on my phone. It’s just easier to drink my morning coffee that way and snuggle in with my dogs. But I only write in the morning. If not I would type all day and never have a life!

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

🎤Thank you for having me! You’ve been super supportive. I can’t wait to share my Christian book with the world!


Find Ava and her books online at:

https://www.instagram.com/ava.cates.books/

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Wolf Pack (ARC Review) by Mary Beesley!

Thank you so much to Monster Ivy Publishing for the ARC of Wolf Pack by Mary Beesley! The merch is lovely too!

This author has written four books now, and each one has had me hooked whether she is writing YA fantasy, romance, or adult fantasy.  Something about the themes that Beesley explores and her writing style has made her a favorite of mine, and Wolf Pack definitely reinforces that

My review of Book 1, Dragon Blood, can be found here 

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Wolf Pack
  • Series: Draco Sang #2
  • Author: Mary Beesley
  • Publisher & Release: Monster Ivy Publishing, 11/02/21 
  • Length: 312 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🐺🐺🐺🐺🐺 oh yes

Here is the synopsis:

Ferth has lost his only brother. Gone are his fur and claws. Hunted by his father, he seeks protection among his former enemies. Even with his familiar face, it’s a struggle to hide his wolves and his Draco sympathies from the humans.

Shale finds more than freedom in Elysium. She finds family. She has great hope for a bright future, but the Draco Sang army across the river is determined to take it all away. And the humans don’t have the power to stop them.

Thirro, a Draco Sang eagle, is desperate to prove his worth to his army chief. He’ll do anything for recognition, including hunt Ferth, his old best friend turned abomination, or take down Jade, his competition.

Jade has succeeded in life by striking first and fast. Show no weakness. She rises quickly through the ranks of the Draco Sang, but when she’s sent to hunt humans with Thirro, including a mission to kill Ferth, it isn’t so easy to let her arrow fly. And she isn’t so sure she has the right target in sight.


This lovely sequel to Dragon Blood takes place right where it left off. Where many trilogies suffer a second book slump, I think Wolf Pack was actually more engaging, easier to relate to, and at least as good, if not better than Dragon Blood.

Cultures clash, instincts are fought, and loyalties blur in this exciting sequel! 

Watching Ferth learn how to be human and find his new family was a stark contrast to the bloody battle scenes and Thirro’s madness. The two characters carried on the series’ theme of how much one’s blood and upbringing is responsible for their true selves. It was interesting to see what dark roads and moral ambiguities most of the characters navigated as they had to weigh their loyalties and choices. One other thing I have to mention are the wolves – their banter is EVERYTHING!

I mean really, it was so heartbreaking to see Cal and Lyko separated, and watching him start to rebound and form a bond with Rom was a highlight of the book.  Their banter was pretty epic, as was the family reunion.

I was floored by all the action as well. Wolf Pack containes more politicking and maneuvering and planning, which makes sense leading up to the conclusion, but the action and danger was there too.

A few new characters were introduced as well and they are providing an interesting base for book three.  Imanna could go in many directions and I loved her tiny and deadly self.

Beesley is never afraid to make our hearts hurt either, both books have ended in deaths and cliffhangers that had me wishing the next book was ready.

I 100% recommend the Draco Sang trilogy for any fantasy fans, fans of found families, clean fiction, and anyone looking for an exciting read!