Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Earth On Fire, Ocean of Blood (book thoughts) by A4

I was so excited when the fourth Far Forest Scrolls book released! I read it this October and figured that since I’ve been diligently reading from the start, I would post my spoiler free book thoughts.

There may be series spoilers – I think and hope not but it’s hard after four books to remember 😂

Series recap and reviews:

Na Cearcaill – 🗡🗡🗡🗡

Hourglass of Destruction – 🗡🗡🗡🗡

Rise Above the Storm – 🗡🗡🗡🗡🗡

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Earth on Fire, Ocean of Blood
  • Series: Far Forest Scrolls, #4
  • Author: A4 – Alpha Four
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 09/07/21
  • Length: 481 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟✨ I’m in for the series at this point, I do think it’s good for advanced young readers 

Here is the book blurb:

Pushed into civil war, the nations of Verngaurd descend into a series of devastating and fatal battles that leave the ground bloodied and in flames. Will Friar Pallium’s years of planning be enough to overcome the considerably larger army of nations arrayed against them? With an elaborate series of feints and ambushes planned, the only assured outcome is substantial death on both sides. With the Allies and the Confederacy focused on fighting each other, the Dark Warriors are all too happy to move in and conquer territory.

When the trials of their odyssey are finally revealed the League quickly discovers it will be longer, more strenuous, and infinitely more dangerous than they could have imaged. Bellae will have to face eccentric guardians of uncertain motives while struggling with the devastating loss of one of her companions—and her part to play in his tragic death.  

I like the concept, storyline, presentation, and artwork of these books so much.  What I’m struggling with is who to recommend them to, and also the pacing of the series as a whole.

The best line of this fourth installment was Bellae and the League of Truth – they finally started their quest and got so far as to find two sets of crystals.  The issue: it took four books to get here.  I get that it’s a slow burning series and epic quest, but I’m struggling with how long it took to get them here.

The guardians and the quest itself is awesome though.  Bellae is starting to crack a bit under the tragedy and pressure.  It’s truly unfortunate that she had to do this at her age since the quest was never intended for a child.  The other squires are such a good team and I like the other league members too.

Oh Crann, why though 😭

The other storyline was the beginning of the civil war – it was brilliantly thought out, including maps, but I honestly just tuned out at the length of the battle scenes.  The traps and prestidigitation were amazing and incredibly well thought out – but again, half of the entire book only covered the start of the war, and only a few encounters.  The cliffhanger though 😭

J think Luchar stole the whole book at the end with his diatribe prior to the final battle.  I think he secretly became my favorite knight and I’m just blown away by the depth he has hidden the whole time.  Half crushed or not, he’s joining that final battle.

Speaking of depth: I think this fourth book had the broadest emotional spectrum yet.  Oh I have both cracked up laughing and been absolutely bawling at points throughout the other books, but this one went straight to the dark pit of the Eaglian’s souls with black humor about Tallcon, death, and religious fanaticism, to the point that I found some of the exchanges truly terrifying.

So what do I think overall? These books are more about the journey than the speed. About the pearls of wisdom and range of emotions, and the author taking his time to get the story where he wants it to be.  It’s truly an indie project and I bet a labor of love, including the continuation of all the wonderful artwork in the book. 

This one still stays clear of language and romance, but continues with gore gore and gore in the war scenes.  It’s almost cartoonist at times but I still would strictly say 14+ with these and probably try them for boys trying to find fantasy books.

Lastly: I am just going to throw some of my favorite quotes here at the end!

Dreams, which can seem so hardy, even sturdy, within the fortified confines of our skull, acutely become fragile and vulnerable when exposed to the outside world. Each time we fight to achieve a dream, we uncover part of our heart. It takes courage to reveal a dream and diligent fortitude to achieve it

– Veneficus

 

At the end of the day, even those of us who have never fought in a war have battle scars, visible and invisible, repressed and haunting, external and internal, public and confidential. Regrets can cling to our souls like invasive dew

– a scroll

 

“When you’re fighting the wrong war, there can be no victory, no matter the outcome.”

-Friar

 

“In life, and on this quest, do not lose sight of the importance of the journey itself. Concentrate on your heart and dedicated effort. Those are the things you can control. Isn’t your best all that you, and the world, can ask?”

– Patuljak

 

“Just because I don’t worship your god does not mean that I have a lesser conviction, or right, to victory”

– Friar

And … Lastly:

“Even as the clouds of confusion rumble and turn black, I stand. I stand in front of uncertainty and scream, ‘I will know you.’ I will fight to know you. As long as I have breath, I will never let doubt or fear win. As long as I can move even one part of my body, I will fight, tear, and claw for Knight victory. When I heave my last breath, I leave no regrets.”

– someone I really hope survives 


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 😍

IMG_20210901_140157_532

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

9780449808740

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

IMG_20210923_162218_177

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
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Young Adult

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Edith Pawlicki!

Helllllo once again, I can’t believe we are on episode 7 of the Sunday Brunch Series!  Today features Edith Pawlicki, an author that I “met” through Bookstagram and now have read and reviewed three of her books!  All three of those are searchable on the blog. The most recent released this past Tuesday so congratulations on that!

Here she talks about her publishing journey, compares writing for YA vs Adult audiences,  shares a co-op food story, and even shouts out Rochester too 😁

This is a bit of a longer interview so I won’t hold it up, here she is!


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

Thank you for hosting; I love brunch! 

I write science fiction and fantasy books with a big dash of romance and family. My books are character-driven. 

I am a stay-at-home mom and my family shares a duplex with my sisters (there were five children under five here for a while), so my time is split between little people and fictional worlds. Which means I’m a little quirky but very happy!

2)What was your publishing journey like? Do you have any advice for hopeful authors trying to write or publish a book?

I queried for two different books in 2013 and got a lot of rejections.The plots were neither fresh nor compelling, but I didn’t know how to fix them. I did write sporadically over the next five years, around my sons’ second birthday, I found the time to get back into it and audited David Farland’s writing courses online. If you’re aware of a weakness in your writing (characters, setting, plotting, or the writing itself), I highly recommend Farland (https://mystorydoctor.com/). If you can’t afford some version of his course (though he always offers an audit bundle of all of them during NaNoWriMo), his newsletter is free and covers pretty much everything in his lectures in bite-sized chunks. His courses took my writing to a new level. 

I started querying agents for Minerva in 2019. I didn’t query as many as I had been advised to (I’ve heard 50-100 agents), but the process is slow and put me in a negative headspace for writing. Since writing is my main hobby/stress-reliever, my husband persuaded me to self-publish. Even though promotion is very difficult for me, I am so glad that I did because having books in the world, holding the hard copies in my hands, and getting positive reviews from strangers has been joyous and motivating.

As a self-published author, I have not followed the majority of advice. I did not hire an editor (I know all my beta readers personally – none of them had ever beta read before, but just as I got better at revisions, their feedback has improved massively over just three books), and I did my book design and covers myself. I did commission art: maps for Minerva (by Michael Engard:  https://www.kaelri.com/projects/ ) and the cover and interior artwork for the Immortal Beings series (by Goldfinch1 of Fiverr: https://www.fiverr.com/goldfinch01 ).

After publishing Vows, I realized that there are options between traditional publishing and doing it completely alone (like me). You can look for indie presses; sometimes these presses expect you to invest financially in the publishing but manage cover art, editing, etc. Alternatively, you can find editors and book designers online. I have no desire right now to hire a book designer because I really enjoy doing the layout (I use Word) and creating the covers (which I do in Google Drawings), but I have some regrets about not having an editor. Most of the self-published authors I’ve talked to do have editors, and I would really like to at least try it. I think one thing to keep in mind if you self-publish is you will have to spend some money. At absolute minimum, you need to be prepared to print and mail free copies to reviewers, but expect to pay for covers, editing, and advertising. I’ve been told that you should expect it to take at least six books before you have a base audience. As for promotion, a few things that were effective for me were book tours on Instagram and running a paperback giveaway on Goodreads. Be wary of scammers – there are lots of people who will reach out to talk about your book who just want to make a quick buck. Also, talk to libraries and local bookstores – most are very friendly and supportive of local authors.

3) There was a pretty big jump between your first novel, Minerva, a Young Adult post-apocalyptic, and the second, an adult epic fantasy series!  Do you find that you prefer writing to one target audience vs. the other?

I don’t prefer one audience over the other, but I find it more relaxing writing for an adult audience because of my standards for YA. For example, in my latest book, Loves of Shadow and Power, a main character says “One way of loving isn’t better than any other. There are as many right ways to love as there are beings in this world.” When my husband read that, he turned to me and asked if I agreed. And while I do think there are as many right ways to love as people, there are definitely bad ways to love – many controlling/abusive relationships are in fact twisted expressions of love. When my target audience is adult, I feel I don’t have to qualify all the character’s beliefs though – I am trusting readers to assess the statements for themselves. But if that line had been in Minerva, I would have felt compelled to offer a counter opinion, which would necessitate a listening character with a contradictory opinion who was determined to express it, and having the response/argument be relevant to the plot. Anyway, that’s why I find it challenging – and why Minerva was outlined while the Immortal Beings series was discovery-written. 

4) What do you look for when finding readers to contact about your books? Are you looking for any specific style or content for your reviewers?

This question is giving me way too much credit! When I started the publishing process, I signed up for Inkers Con 2020 and one of its lectures suggested using Instagram for promotion. I stumbled into Bookstagram, and messaged ten Bookstagrammers who posted regularly, wrote coherent reviews, had at least 100 followers, and had followed me (I had probably 30 followers at that point). I was super nervous, and I remember I freaked out when you accepted a copy because you had about five thousand followers, which was mind-boggling to me! Anyway, only two of the Bookstagrammers who accepted copies actually posted, so I felt I had to do something different for the Immortal Beings. I ended up discovering book tour organizers, and decided to try that – it was far more effective in getting follow-through than when I was messaging bookstagrammers directly. As for who got ARC offers for the Immortal Beings sequel – I contacted people from the original tour that had posted their reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, had written more than just a synopsis, and had liked the first book. I’m not planning any tours for the sequel because I don’t think it would read well on its own; instead, I am focusing on promoting the first book and relying on read-through.

{{pssst: hey people, especially if you take a physical review copy from an author, write a review!  It doesn’t have to be long or even necessarily right on time – most authors are understanding – but write something!!

As a fun fact I actually took Minerva because she mentioned doing Uni in Rochester, and I am totally 100% glad that happened}}

5) What brunch item would you pair with your books so far??

For Minerva, I would do Christmas Tree bread! It’s a family tradition: sweet bread with whatever dried fruits you fancy, spread with cinnamon, sugar, and butter before it’s cut and twisted to resemble an evergreen tree and baked. Then you drizzle with frosting and M&M/gumdrops. My grandmother invented it as a Christmas present for her many in-laws (my mom’s side is a prolific New England farm family), and I can’t remember a Christmas brunch without it! Minerva always feels like a holiday book for me, maybe because Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years are such pivotal days in the story.

For the Immortal Beings series, I would say chawanmushi, which is a savory Japanese egg custard that might feature fish and any number of veggies. When it comes out perfectly, it’s like silk, but all of my attempts have been scrambled eggs…

6) I actually misread Edith’s bio and thought she moved around frequently – so this question turned into “How have your travels and experiences influence your writing”?

I was surprised by this question because I’ve spent at least three quarters of my life in the same rural Connecticut town, but I was exposed to a lot of different cultures because my grandfather grew up in India and my father spent large portions of his childhood in Japan and Germany. We ate lots of “foreign” food as well as read stories from around the world. Yes, the places I’ve been shape my writing. The tunnels in Minerva have roots in the tunnels at the University of Rochester, which let students walk between buildings without going out in snowstorms. And of course, Japanese culture, aesthetic, and mythology obviously influenced the Immortal Beings. It isn’t just places though –  everything (and everyone!) that I know creeps into the books one way or another. For as long as I can remember, I have always read author bios when I finished a book, and it struck me early on that my favorite authors had collected many life experiences – different jobs, different homes, widely read. And so I have tried to collect experiences too – I am always trying to log the atmosphere, the essence of my surroundings so that I can pull them out for my stories! 

{{I love those tunnels!}}

7) Wayyy back in the day you mentioned that you lived in a vegan co-op, and that some of the food fails were inspirations for your army’s cuisine in Minerva! I am calling in that promised story if you can remember any particularly epic fails!

So most of the meals I ate there really were delicious spreads that I still try to mimic in my own cooking, but I had one housemate who believed that he could toss any fresh produce from the farmer’s market into a frying pan, some tofu or nuts, add the spices we used for granola (cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg) along with some generous shakes of yeast flakes (a savory topping that often replaces grated cheese in vegan dishes), and it would work. The first time he did this, I think it was with apples and potatoes and it was tasty, but multiple people tried to convince him to explore other recipes. The worst one I remember had swiss chard and peanut butter – the flavors didn’t mesh well, but the biggest problem was that he didn’t properly clean the chard, so there was a generous seasoning of dirt and small stones. Anyway, all of these “stir-fries” tended to become mushy stews that looked really unappetizing, even when they tasted good, and he sometimes pureed them (why?), which you probably recall from Minerva!

8) Here is the easy round of rapid fire bookish questions – do you have a favorite book or series you always recommend? Favorite literary character? Any wonderful or strange bookish habits?

My favorite author is Mary Balogh. Her books are a delightful blend of life lessons and happy-ever-afters. I know the regency romance wrapping isn’t for everyone, but her books have made me a better person. My favorite character would be Kel from the Protector of the Small series by Tamora Pierce, partially because I grew up with her. She always relentlessly chose to do the right thing, regardless of how hard it was. She demanded so much of herself, while always granting the benefit of the doubt to others. She has always inspired me, and I think that Minerva is a little like Kel. As for strange habits – when I was younger (not a mother) I pretty much either read a book straight through (if a book was really long, like the Wheel of Time, I would carry it with me constantly, reading during school passing periods and every free moment until it was done) or DNF – if I put the book down, it usually meant I was either finding it boring or disliked the characters and once that happened, I almost never would pick it back up.  (I do read quite quickly, which is probably why I like to reread because I often miss details on the first read through). Now I usually have to set books aside for even days at a time (because children can’t wait while fiction can), but I never feel guilty about stopping a book – honestly, I was shocked to realize how many people seem to after joining Bookstagram. Usually my DNF happens within the first chapter because I’m not enjoying the writing, but I’ve stopped 75% through if I realized I didn’t care what happened next. I guess I feel I have too many things I want to or have to do to waste time doing something that’s neither!

9) 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 so much for the interview! It was fun. I will end by sharing my writing goals: to write stories that take people on adventures, leave them happy and encouraged, while provoking them to think about themselves or the world. Life lessons through fantasy!


Find Edith online at:

https://edithpawlicki.com/about.html

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
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Young Adult

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring V. Romas Burton!

Hi everyone! Thank you so much for tuning in to the 5th episode of the SBAIS! I screwed up and am posting this as a super late edition because I miiiiight have thought that today was Saturday.  I swear I am getting way too old for these night shifts.

Today I’m here with a very special guest, the author of the YA epic fantasy series Heartmender! I found her books through the Monster Ivy Publishing Instagram page, and was really honored to read two out of three of her books as ARCs!! The last novel in the trilogy, Heartrender, releases on September 7th and you can find all of my reviews here on the blog for those books!

IMG_20210824_160512_621

Without further ado, here is V. Romas Burton!!

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

Thank you so much for having me! My name is Vanessa and I write under the pen name V. Romas Burton. I write YA Fantasy for Monster Ivy Publishing. The third book in my debut series, Heartrender, comes out this fall! I’m so excited for this series to be complete!


2)What was your publishing journey like? Do you have any advice for hopeful authors trying to write or publish a book? 

I actually spent a while searching for a publisher/agent the traditional way: through querying. However, one day I heard about a Twitter pitch party named Faith Pitch. I decided to participate for fun and ended up with a contract with my publisher

3) The Heartmender books are YA epic fantasy with a strong allegorical theme. What main takeaways would you like Christian youth, vs non Christian youth to take away from the series?

I would like all youth to understand the same message: there will always be trials and temptations in life. But through  your perseverance and God’s guidance, you will get through the hard times.

4) Is there a character that you wrote yourself into more than the others?  I won’t ask who your favorite is 😅

Although there’s a little of me in each character, I would definitely say I’m a lot more like Claire than any of the others. ☺️


5) Content has been a huge debate recently, especially in YA novels. What content and themes do you think are important to present to young readers? I try really hard to spotlight “clean reads” whenever possible, and your books definitely fall into that category

I definitely think YA books should focus more on standing up for what’s right and including good morals. Now, I enjoy a good love story and an epic battle. But sometimes the scenes in YA books, I believe, are extremely erotic or gorey for young readers. I believe it’s possible to write an exciting story without adding all those extra things.

6) I found the video on your Instagram where you mentioned the Verse that sparked the idea for the series! Essentially the thought was: what would it be like if people physically traded their heart to the creator, vs only doing so in spirit? What would you have traded your heart for at the Heart Reign?

Oh I probably would’ve traded it for power or unlimited clothes 😁


7) I can’t imagine how busy you’ve been with the two boys and a book coming out soon!  What do you do for fun/relaxation/selfcare?

Life is definitely busy right now! I’m so thankful that I have had my family’s help! Most nights I’m just ready to crash into bed 🤣 But when I have a little more energy, I love reading webtoons at night to decompress from the day.


8) Here is the easy round of rapid fire bookish questions! Do you have a favorite book or series that you always recommend? Favorite literary character? Any wonderful or strange bookish habits?

I always recommend The Lunar Chronicles to anyone interested in YA. It’s one of my favorite series and was the series that got me hooked on YA Fantasy.

I love the March sisters from Little Women. I enjoyed reading the series as a child, teenager, and adult and was able to identify with a different one at each stage in my life.

I love to binge read genres. If I read a fairytale retelling I love then I will proceed to read all the fairytale retellings! Then, once I’m tired of that, I’ll move on to something else like dystopian and then read all the dystopian! 

{{I’m just adding here that on her website, she has a list of books that she recommends and it’s organized by genre and age group! We have really similar tastes! I was psyched to see Ted Dekker on someone’s recommendation list, and I definitely bookmarked that incase I ever need more book recs!}} 

9  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 so much for having me! I’ve enjoyed the fun questions! Heartrender, the epic conclusion to the Heartmender trilogy releases Sept. 7! Be sure to read books 1 & 2 before it comes out!


Meet the Author!

V. Romas Burton grew up bouncing up and down the East Coast where she wrote her first story about magical ponies at age seven. Years later, after studying government and earning an M.A. in Theological Studies, V. Romas Burton realized something even bigger was calling out to her–stories that contained great adventures and encouraging messages. Her debut novel, Heartmender, has won several awards including: First Place in Young Adult for the 2020 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Second Place in Juvenile/ Young Adult for the 2021 Illumination Book Awards and tied for Third Place for Young Adult Fiction- Fantasy/ Sci- Fi in the 2020 Moonbeam Children’s Awards.


Find Vanessa and the Heartmender series online!

On facebook: https://m.facebook.com/vromasburton/

On Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/vromasburton/

Author Website: https://vromasburton.com/

Purchase the Heartmender books on Amazon:

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Heartrender (Book Review) by V. Romas Burton

Thank you so much to Monster Ivy Publishing for the ARC of Heartrender! This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year and I was so beyond thrilled to receive an ARC box in exchange for a feature and honest review!

Due to the nature of this being a review for the conclusion of a trilogy, I am going to try really hard to avoid spoilers but a series spoiler may be inevitable. What I would say is that if you read the first two books definitely read the third.  If you are seeking YA appropriate epic fantasy or allegorical fiction , clean content, this is definitely a good series for you ❤

Review of book 1: https://onereadingnurse.com/2020/12/14/book-review-heartmender-by-v-romas-burton/

Review of book 2: https://onereadingnurse.com/2021/06/30/heartbreaker-by-v-romas-burton-book-review/

IMG_20210824_160512_646

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Heartrender
  • Series: Heartmender #3
  • Author: V. Romas Burton
  • Publisher & Release: Monster Ivy Publishing, 09/07/21
  • Length: 388
  • Rate & Recommend : 🌟🌟🌟 yes because at this point you probably read the first two books! This is a lovely series

Here is the synopsis:

Eman is gone. Silas is gone. Claire is gone.

When Addie returns to Ramni after her devastating encounter with Ophidian, she finds her heart broken from her recent losses. Yet, even though she is grieving, Addie continues her journey through the Twelve Lands of Decim to unite the Twelve Magisters. With the aid of Romen and Lyle, she travels to each Northern Land to find that Ophidian is no longer harvesting Decim’s hearts, but their souls. With this new power, Ophidian will be almost impossible to defeat.

Will Addie be able to complete her promise to Eman before darkness rules?

I think this was a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, although unfortunately by far the weakest of the three books in my mind.

One of my favorite parts was the character arcs, especially Addie finally trusting in Eman and the others enough to ask for help. The boys completely stole the show in this one though. Seeing Silas’ history put a lot of the rest of the series into context and it was the most interesting to me. His trials provided a lot of necessary background to understand various character’s actions and also explained the whole Rexus thing.

Lyle just took control of everything with his newfound powers and I think he’s going to make a great Elder.  It was also great to see Claire get some validation.  Addie’s ending bugged me a little bit, I kind of feel like she should be a magister or something too but it looks like she’s going to be relegated to… Well… Yeah no spoilers 😂

IMG_20210706_163502_673

A lot of the imagery, especially in Silas’  chapters, was excellent again in this book. The castle in the tree and the imagery of the Elders was very well done.

Something about the allegory has been bugging me though. The resurrection is a tricky thing to represent and I feel like where the allegory was broader before, the author just tried to get too specific here and missed.  Then again it is entirely possible that I could just be missing something. Not to say it’s not still a good read though. Jeff Wheeler did something similar at the end of a few of his trilogies where he just seems to get lost in his Theology.

I know that I’ve talked about the pacing of certain events in the prior two books, and the absolute frantic pace of the ending confused me here as well. I would have read a longer book to find out more about the missing magisters and Romen’s role, the time travelling, and a few other things.  Characters were popping in and out all over the place in the second half of this book in order to get everything ready for the conclusion, and it was just happening so quickly that I got confused.

This is a lovely series though and I would totally recommend this to anyone seeking light fantasy, clean content, allegorical fiction / fantasy!
❤❤❤

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Three Dark Crowns (book review) by Kendare Blake

I finally participated in another Openly Booked Book Club read this summer! Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake was the pick for July, and I had off-handedly said that it would make a good book club series … So not sure but I might have sparked this suggestion, and I was super thrilled when it won the vote😂

Bookish Quick Facts: 

  • Title: Three Dark Crowns
  • Series: Three Dark Crowns, #1
  • Author: Kendare Blake
  • Publisher & Release: Quill Tree Books, September 2016
  • Length: 416 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ yes for YA fantasy fans

Here is the Book Blurb:

Fans of acclaimed author Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood will devour Three Dark Crowns, the first book in a dark and inventive fantasy series about three sisters who must fight to the death to become queen.

In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

This is definitely a YA fantasy, I know it’s only book one but no one has fought to the death yet!  With my biggest disappointment out of the way first, let’s chat about the rest of the book!

Strengths

1) History and lore as part of the world building.  Fennbirn is steeped in Queenly traditions and lore, some bloody and some … Well, bloodier.  I liked learning about all the cultural facets such as the Gave Noir (poisoner’s feast), traditional hunts, and clashing belief systems. Each of the three regions has their own foods, styles of living, ways of life, and magic, so there were a lot of pages spent building the island. I’m on board.

The lore also ties into the magic system, and if you know me you know that I LOVE LOVE LOVE land and Kingdom based magic.  When magic is part of the world itself and rulers can draw on it, that’s a good magic system.  The magic is all over the place here but it’s kind of cool

2) Political plotting.  I love a good political plot, and the poisoners in power plot just as much as the priestesses trying to put the Elemental Queen in power.  If you love assassinations, power plays, and duplicity., this is a great book for you.

3) The plot itself: I love the sibling rivalry trope.  Each sister’s strengths and weaknesses were tied into the storyline, and I think a queendom steeped in bloody history is a great idea at heart.

Weaknesses:

1) too many characters and places at first.  Trying to establish three sisters, in three different households, with all different characters surrounding them, including place names was way too much for me to remember.  Eventually it worked out in my mind but I found this name overload distracting at first

2) Death – I know it’s only book one, but no major characters have died yet.  I would expect one major death to set the tone for the series, but alas, this *is* YA.  I had a similar complaint about The Night Circus

Important themes: battling misconceptions seems to be a huge theme here. So does the valuing of family, both blood and found, and the power of friendships.  Additionally that all actions have consequences.  I do like the themes presented and find them suitable for a YA audience

Random notes, thoughts, and points:

  • The women had cool names like Arsinoe, Mirabella, Julienne, while the men’s names were Matt, Joseph, etc
  • I now know how to pronounce Kendare
  • The animal familiars were really cool, i love animal familiars
  • The book presents a ton of potential routes forward and theories, which makes it a great book club read
  • The audiobook failed for me because the narrator can absolutely not do male voices
  • I docked a star for presenting two characters hooking up randomly, and it was out of character for both of them.  I get it as a plot point going forward but this doesn’t need to be presented to a YA audience

This is a more scatterbrained review format than I normally take with fantasy books, but my brain hurts!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Bonded Fate (Book Tour + ARC Review) by Beck Michaels!

Bonded Fate by Beck Michaels

Thank you so much to Literary Bound Tours and Beck Michaels for the digital ARC of Bonded Fate! I liked book one, Divine Blood, quite a bit and was so happy to join the tour for the sequel!

Let me give you the link to the tour so you can check out what everyone else is saying too! Found here!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Bonded Fate
  • Series: Guardians of the Maiden #2
  • Author: Beck Michaels
  • Publisher & Release: Pluma Press, 8/3/21
  • Length: 516 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes if you enjoyed book one!

Here is the book blurb:

JOINED BY BLOOD.

BOUND BY DESTINY.

Reeling from Cassiel’s confession, Dyna struggles to understand what the Blood Bond means for them both, all the while trying to stay one step ahead of a newfound enemy. When reuniting with a familiar sorceress, she realizes the only way to defeat Tarn is to find her Guardians—all of them.

Cassiel never meant to tie himself to a human, especially one that inexplicably draws him. But then the bond develops a startling change, and it puts into question everything he thought he knew.

Zev straddles the line between human and wolf, unsure if his dark thoughts truly belong to the Madness. It’s growing stronger, determined to take over—and he may just let it.

The journey to get the answers they each need will test them all. But what Dyna doesn’t know is that it comes with a price, and it may cost more than she bargained for

This installment picks up where book one left off, with Dyna and the Guardians making their slow way towards Mt. Ida to find the Sol Medallion. 

The new characters are great additions.  Lucenna was the key to Dyna and everyone in the group finally facing their past traumas and setting the journey on the right path.  I liked watching the two women learn how to trust, while Dyna learned some hard lessons including how to fight.  We learn more about the others and its fun watching the group come together.

The author brought a lot more magic into this book, with images of suspended waterfall terraces over a palace, azure trees and animals, a fae revel, and even a mage fight.  The history, lore, and expanding local flavors of Azure all helped the worldbuilding.

I liked learning more about the various types of magic.  Since the mages and elves and celestials all have different inherent abilities I think it was good to expand upon this.  

Dyna and co. only have a little over a year I think to make it back to North Star when the Shadow demon will return, but they have only covered a tiny fraction of the map.  With two books covering only one island…I know i mentioned this is my book one review but the scale of the map must be enormous, so much that I wonder about consistency in distances and speeds of travel. Either way I am excited to see how in the next book they will cover so much ground so quickly.

Content wise – there was a little more intercourse than seems necessary for YA, but it was between a husband and wife and fairly non-detailed.  There is death and fighting, a little bit of gore, and one character is ready to die, if not quite actively seeking it at times.  She recommends 16+ which seems appropriate.  

Lastly just let me say that the “cliffhanger” in book one didn’t bother me much because I could care less about romance – but HOLY COW this one was just mean! When do we get the next book!!

I totally recommend for fans of epic fantasy, solid world building, engaging characters, and a ton of magic crammed into such a small space

Meet the author:

BECK MICHAELS is the bestselling author of the enchanting YA epic fantasy series The Guardians of the Maiden. She has been working on the Guardians series for over fifteen years, so she’d like to believe her characters exist in some tangible dimension, even if it’s only in her imagination.

At seventeen, she won a scholarship to the Herron School of Art to further pursue graphic design. She now runs her own imprint, Pluma Press, and works part-time as a graphic designer through her business, Whimsy Book Cover Graphics, designing book covers for fellow authors.

Beck lives in Indiana with her husband and two children, where she spends her time reading and daydreaming of adventures in faraway lands.

She is on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/beckmichaels_writes/

and on Facebook at https://m.facebook.com/BeckMichaelsWrites/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/guardiansofthemaiden/?ref=share

Her website is https://beckmichaels.com/

Find the book on her website or purchase on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B08RYPCXF9/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1628181874&sr=1-1

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

A Dragonbird in the Fern (ARC Review) by Laura Rueckert

Thank you so much to North Star Editions via NetGalley for the digital early copy in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

A Dragonbird in the Fern  is a debut YA fantasy, fast paced and full of magic. I think we can all agree that the cover is absolutely stunning as well.  Check out the book and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: A Dragonbird in the Fern
  • Series: N/A
  • AuthorL Laura Rueckert
  • Publisher & Release: North Star Editions, 08/03[2021
  • Length: 392 Pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of the genre!

Here is the book blurb:

When an assassin kills Princess Jiara’s older sister Scilla, her vengeful ghost is doomed to walk their city of glittering canals, tormenting loved ones until the murderer is brought to justice.
While the entire kingdom mourns, Scilla’s betrothed arrives and requests that seventeen-year-old Jiara take her sister’s place as his bride to confirm the alliance between their countries.Marrying the young king intended for her sister and traveling to his distant home is distressing enough, but with dyslexia and years of scholarly struggles, Jiara abandoned any hope of learning other languages long ago. She’s terrified of life in a foreign land where she’ll be unable to communicate.

Then Jiara discovers evidence that her sister’s assassin comes from the king’s own country. If she marries the king, Jiara can hunt the murderer and release her family from Scilla’s ghost, whose thirst for blood mounts every day. To save her family, Jiara must find her sister’s killer . . . before he murders her too.

The Plot&Story: the book blurb does a great job of summarizing the book.  Jiara is betrothed in her older sister’s place, and must overcome her dyslexia in a strange land while learning the language, winning over the people as a good queen, and solving a murder mystery.  I loved the who-dunnit aspect and it was a true race against the clock as Scilla’s ghost got more and more violent, going as far as killing someone.  The book is very fast paced as well, not repetitive, and there is blessedly little inner monologue so I was able to read it quickly and rate it 5 stars with no issues.

Themes: The book was a little heavier than some YA plots, as Jiara is married at the start of the book and juggling issues that many older characters generally face.  She is overcoming a disability while investigating and avenging her sister’s death.  There is betrayal on a massive level, lots of plotting, and she must adjust to married life as a 17 turning 18 year old.  I liked the themes of family ties, found family, double dealing, international relations, and learning about new cultures and religions while still hanging on to what made Jiara who she is.

Bravo too for Rueckert showing the male in the marriage being the one hanging onto honor and personal beliefs in the marital relations department.  In King Raffar’s country, adults are considered age 18 and he was absolutely not going to touch Jiara before then, and I just loved that.  There was also a lovely found family aspect but let’s do that when we talk about the …

Characters: Jiara is a strong young lady, absolutely determined to succeed in establishing international relations, peace, as well as finding her sister’s murderer.  On top of that heavy load she is severely dyslexic, so learning a new language is nearly impossible but she perseveres.  I feel like she should have just explained to people that she had a real issue, instead of letting them all assume that she just didn’t like to read, but it was Rueckert’s way of showing how people treat those with learning disabilities I guess

King Raffar didn’t have a huge role but I loved his boyish charm and awe for magic despite his originally gruff appearance.  He is a truly kind and honorable person, and I liked that he was there to support Jiara.  He seemed to be the only one NOT getting in her way.  The guards seemed to adopt Jiara after a while too, like Freyad and the other soldiers, and it was really nice to watch them come around to her.  Most of the side characters did something or another that was special and they are a great lot

The Magic and Worldbuilding: For a standalone novel there was an immensely satisfying amount of world building and magic.  The magic was in the form of vengeful ghosts, as well as Watchers and deities that had a small but critical role in the book.  The giant ferns, playful mounts, and magically lit up lake were small touches in a well described world including scenery descriptions, wildlife, food, weather, architecture to some degree, and cultural things.  I loved that everyone had tattoos too.

Overall: I can definitely recommend this one for young adults, and it easily crosses over into that new adult phase too I think since she is out on her own and missing home, and adjusting to married life.  My favorite parts were the magical touches, Raffar’s personality, the fact that Jiara just NEVER gave up, and trying to figure out who committed the murder.  This is an extremely fast-paced standalone and I loved it enough to preorder a signed copy!