Thank you so much to DartFrog Books for the review copy of Supplant by Shane M. Toman in exchange for a paid feature and review! All opinions are my own!
Bookish Quick Facts:
Author: Shane M. Toman
Publisher & Release: Dart Frog Books, June 2021
Length: 292 pgs
Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ yes if it sounds up your alley
Here is the book blurb:
Chicago, 2071: a city divided by corporate and government districting.
Supplantation, the insertion of animal genes into human DNA, was once the most sought-after elective procedure in the nation. However, due to its horrible side effects, it was quickly banned and vilified, relegated to the black markets of the underground.
Now, the city is beset by a serial killer who uses his supplanted genes to commit his crimes, and supplantation is once again thrust to the forefront of everyone’s consciousness. Meanwhile, amidst the media and political firestorm, corporations have begun pushing new genetic research, setting off a chain reaction that could threaten the lives of unsuspecting citizens.
Zen, a legal executive for a private security firm, and Mik, an Army veteran turned butcher’s apprentice, must face a hidden world and fight a powerful enemy that will stop at nothing in pursuit of scientific progress.
This is a fast paced, futuristic thriller. I think at it’s heart the book is about government corruption, freedom of speech and control over our bodies. How out of control will things get in another fifty years? “Supplantation” is the insertion of an animal gene into the human body. It was outlawed due to horrible birth defects caused by the process, but remained on the black market. With the presence of a serial killer with poison dart frog genes, the city of Chicago is going crazy and calling for the outright criminalization of supplanted humans, even though most of the supplants are benign. Heck I would love to have the vision of a hawk!
This book portrays a pretty interesting social statement through news segments as well, that reflects how polarized America is right now. An entire group of (mostly harmless) people can be completely condemned, hunted, and marginalized due to the actions of a few. The newscaster was a real piece of work; like so with any liberal news source. I liked the serial killer aspect even though it was never a major plot point, it served to add enough gratuitous violence to polarize the city and also show how deep the government corruption ran.
The characters are a likeable bunch. Mik is a retired Army veteran who was supplanted for military reasons, then spit out by the system. Zen is a strong Chicago born lawyer who gets past an abusive husband and recognizes the wrongness happening in the prison system. The prisoners… honestly I really liked Jose and Sean. Jose could have done anything but he decided to try to be a hero in his own right. There are so many characters but honestly I liked them all, and the switching view points made the book feel very fast-paced. I always harp on multiple view points if the voices aren’t distinct – but these really are. Even without the names I would be able to tell who the chapter was about.
So – fact paced, thriller aspect, a heist, futuristic medical experiments, fun character banter and strong characters, and one of those excellently open endings that let me imagine how things ended for various characters. I’m in! All in all – I would recommend for fans of X-men type medical thrillers, and stories where characters fight corruption. There are fairly graphic references to drugging, rape, a human body part scarecrow, and military flashbacks, so maybe be wary of those things. I enjoyed this one and once again thank the publisher for the review copy!
Hi everyone! In an effort to bring more interviews and author content to OneReadingNurse, I put out an open call a few weeks ago! As a result I can now bring you this awesome interview with Shadow Stained author Rachel Hobbs, where she talks about her publishing journey, morally gray characters, social media, and more!
1. Thank you for taking the time to chat! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your novel!
My name’s Rachel Hobbs and I’m the author of the dark fantasy novel Shadow-Stained. Love and hate, good and evil, I write about morally grey monsters and opposites that both attract and violently polarize. I’m a dental nurse for a small local practice, and when I’m not working with teeth, I’m summoning demons at my keyboard.
My characters don’t always deserve your affection, but just maybe they’ll steal your heart anyway.
2. What was the Indie publishing journey like for you? Do you have any tips for fellow indie authors trying to publish a book?
I actually queried Shadow-Stained for a good nine months before making the decision to self-publish. I had this dream of seeing my book on the shelves of a physical book store, and having done my research on both avenues of publishing, I knew that you could fall back on self publishing after querying, but not the other way around. I went into the querying trenches with realistic expectations and came out on the other side with the kind of thick skin and determination only one hundred plus agent rejections could get you! When I made the decision to go it alone and publish Shadow-Stained anyway, I was nervous of getting it wrong. In hindsight, self-publishing my debut novel was the best decision I could have made. I was in full control of every aspect of my launch – final content, cover design, marketing – and my books still made it into my local indie book shop. I couldn’t be happier with the way things panned out.
If I had one tip, it would be don’t skimp on the cost of your cover. A good cover will sell your book time and time again, so a good cover designer is an investment that you won’t be sorry you made. There are so many amazing book covers out there already. Why set yourself at a disadvantage from the get go?
3. How do you feel about social media? I am seeing a lot of love towards indie authors these days and it’s amazing
I know some authors tend to find social media a chore. Personally, I’ve been made to feel very welcome on Twitter, especially in the writing community. I’ve made a lot of solid friends on that platform and in some ways, it’s almost like having one big online family! Everyone is so supportive of each other and cheering for your success. In a similar way, social media is a goldmine of undiscovered gems. I’ve found a few of my current favourite reads this way, books by extremely talented indie authors that deserve all the love and attention. I don’t enjoy Facebook, but maintain one anyway. It really is each to their own, when it comes to social media.
4. There is also a lot of “noise” out there and I have seen authors on Twitter lamenting about ratings and having their work seen, has that been a challenge?
Ratings are everything when you’re first starting out. When your name means nothing to anyone, a reader is relying solely on existing reviews, the book blurb, the cover. It can be disheartening to put yourself so wholly out there and get very little back, but writing is marathon, not a sprint. There isn’t really such a thing as an overnight success, because the chances are, that successful person worked really hard in the shadows for a long time before being discovered. All you can do is show up and put the work in. It can be a challenge to get your work in front of the right eyeballs, especially when there are so many amazing books already out there. But it’s important to remember that the other authors are not your competitors, they are your community. And the chances are that by supporting and lifting others, you yourself will eventually be lifted in kind.
5. One of the main characters in Shadow Stained is a morally gray, “destruction and mayhem vs saving a girl” kind of guy. What do you think makes up a good “Gray” character?
Morally grey characters are so deliciously complex. Thorny and often only looking out for number one, one of the best things about a good ‘grey’ character is that they’re unpredictable. One moment they’re saving your life, the next you’re facing off as enemies. They have the potential to be both the hero and the villain at any given moment, depending on what most suits their needs at any given time. They’re not boxed into any one category, and because of this, you never quite know which way they’re going to turn.
With Drayvex, my morally grey Demon Lord from Shadow-Stained, I know I really pushed the boundaries of grey. He’s about as wicked as a character can be without actually being the villain! But to me, this makes it all the more compelling when he finds himself stumbling towards the hero side of antihero, clueless as to how he even got there, but fully committed for his own personal reasons. I think another thing that can have us so attached to a great morally grey character is their unflinching drive, their tunnel vision commitment to what they consider to be the only rational way forward. We don’t always agree with them, but by damn we want them to win.
6. In your bio you wrote that narcolepsy and parasomnia inspired some of your writing, are you comfortable elaborating on that?
When I was in my early teens, I had a hard time staying awake. Sometimes it felt like I was dragging a physical weight around with me all day long, and I would fall asleep at inconvenient moments at school. What I didn’t know at the time was that this was a neurological condition called narcolepsy, but it was the parasomnia at night on top of this that really pushed me to the edge. To summarize, we’re talking sleepwalking, hallucinations and periods of paralysis upon waking and falling asleep, so I really had my hands full! As a sort of coping mechanism, and a way to explain what I didn’t understand, I made each of these conditions into a demon that was personally responsible for my suffering. It’s for this reason that demons feature so heavily in Shadow-Stained. Turning to creative therapy, when I eventually started to pour my demons onto the blank page, it sparked a wildfire idea for the darkest little monster story. That creative fire has been burning ever since.
7. What else inspires your writing?
I’ve always thought of ideas as being like sand. Inspiration can come from anywhere and everywhere; the secret smile of a stranger, a snippet of conversation you overheard on the train, a vivid memory, a really good film. By themselves, they’re just grains of sand. But meld them all together and they become something else entirely. I suppose that’s quite vague, but I know that a lot of my inspiration is subconscious. It’s a really strange feeling when you read back something you’ve wrote, and only after you’ve wrote it and it’s on the page do you start to pinpoint the origins of such an idea. When I’m looking for inspiration, I can turn to a good book, a curated playlist, or even Pinterest.
8. Alright let’s end this with some easy rapid fire general bookishquestions: Do you have a favorite book that you always recommend? Favorite literary character? What genre do you usually read? Do you have any strange and wonderful bookish habits?
One of my favourite authors is Darren Shan. He has quite the extensive back catalogue at this point, and I often change my mind on which of his books is my favourite. But Lady of the Shades is a cracker, and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes a dark twisty thriller that will keep you on your toes. If I had to pick a favourite literary character, I’d have to go with August Flynn from V E Schwab’s Monsters of Verity duology. August is effectively the one monster with a conscience in an entire city of savages. His heart and his melancholy, along with this chink of light inside him that makes him want to show up and fight his true nature again and again, is what makes him such an interesting character. I like dark, gritty fantasy, and love to read the kind of things I love to write. Monsters and rogues, enemies to lovers, villains that are the heroes of their own story. I’m sure by now you’re seeing a pattern forming! I don’t really have any strange and wonderful bookish habits that I know of, but maybe it’s time I adopted one. 😉
9. Thank you so much again for offering to interview! If there is anything else you want to say about yourself, your novels, your life, or anything at all, please do so here!
I get overly attached to book characters. I’ve lost count of how many times over the space of a book or a series that I’ve made a character the latest object of my obsession –ahem, I mean affection– and then had my heart ripped out when there are no more pages left. I love it, I dread it. It’s like losing a friend. And then of course, there’s the void to fill in their absence. But the best characters stay with you, and some even live on in little pieces of my own characters. All in all, the book hangovers are a small price to pay. We really are suckers for punishment!
Meet the author (from Google Books)
Rachel Hobbs lives in soggy South West Wales, where she hibernates with with her bearded dragon and her husband. By day she is a dental nurse at a small local practice. By night, she writes. Her debut novel SHADOW-STAINED is the first in a dark fantasy series for adults, inspired by her dark and peculiar experiences with narcolepsy and parasomnia. She’s since subjugated her demons, and writes under the tenuous guise that they work for her. Fuelled by an unhealthy amount of coffee, she writes about hard-boiled monsters with soft centres and things that go bump in the night
Here are Rachel’s author links and links to view and purchase the book!
I am endlessly grateful to St. Martin’s Press for the finished hardcover of The Therapist by B.A. Paris! All opinions are my own!
I know I started this month strong with review content but I broke my brain with overtime and barely sleeping, and backed off on additional screen time for a bit. I posted this book to Instagram almost two weeks ago near it’s release date and I am catching up on full reviews now!
Bookish Quick Facts:
Title: The Therapist
Author: B.A. Paris
Release: St Martin’s Press, 7/13/21
Length: 304 pages
Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 for fans of psychological suspense!
Here is the book blurb:
The multimillion-copy New York Times bestselling author B.A. Paris returns to her heartland of gripping psychological suspense in The Therapist―a powerful tale of a house that holds a shocking secret.
When Alice and Leo move into a newly renovated house in The Circle, a gated community of exclusive houses, it is everything they’ve dreamed of. But appearances can be deceptive…
As Alice is getting to know her neighbours, she discovers a devastating secret about her new home, and begins to feel a strong connection with Nina, the therapist who lived there before.
Alice becomes obsessed with trying to piece together what happened two years before. But no one wants to talk about it. Her neighbors are keeping secrets and things are not as perfect as they seem…
So I read Bring Me Back recently by the same author, and The Therapist absolutely blew that book out of the water. Alice and Leo move into a wealthy gated community called The Circle, and soon enough Alice gets mixed up in a murder investigation. There are noises in the house at night, little strange things happening, and all the neighbors are suspects.
I really enjoyed trying to figure out what was going on, and how the killings were linked. I got the Who but not the How or Why, and still thoroughly enjoyed the journey to get there. There was also a little bonus twist of trying to figure out who the actual therapist was, and discovering Alice’s biggest, darkest secret.
The characters do play a huge role in this one too. I didn’t dislike Alice but she isn’t the most likeable character, and she really could stand to see a therapist herself after the death of her sister. Leo is Alice’s fiancee and seems to almost immediately start messing with her. The neighbors are a clique already and you’ll just have to meet them as you read.
I docked one star for the he-said-she-said getting a bit repetitive, and I would have liked to see a little more of the psychology throughout the book. There was some though, and what I really liked was the pervading sense of danger I felt for Alice once the book got going. This is generally a fast paced book that I can recommend for fans of psychological thrillers and suspense books.
Thank you so much to Minotaur Books for the advanced readers copy and press box for The Photographer by Mary Dixie Carter! I believe that I won this in a Shelf Awareness giveaway and am duly grateful and read it as soon as I could!
My favorite thing about ARCs is when there is an author or editor letter! In this case, even before reading the book, the executive editor had me excited for it! Her letter to the readers exuded genuine excitement and I really believe that every book deserves an editor to gush like so!
My main takeaway from the book is this question: in the theme of creating the images and digital content that we want to see, versus what we want others to see … What are we actually creating?
Mary Dixie Carter’s The Photographer is a slyly observed, suspenseful story of envy and obsession, told in the mesmerizing, irresistible voice of a character who will make you doubt that seeing is ever believing.
WHEN PERFECT IMAGES
As a photographer, Delta Dawn observes the seemingly perfect lives of New York City’s elite: snapping photos of their children’s birthday parties, transforming images of stiff hugs and tearstained faces into visions of pure joy, and creating moments these parents long for.
ARE MADE OF BEAUTIFUL LIES
But when Delta is hired for Natalie Straub’s eleventh birthday, she finds herself wishing she wasn’t behind the lens but a part of the scene―in the Straub family’s gorgeous home and elegant life.
THE TRUTH WILL BE EXPOSED
That’s when Delta puts her plan in place, by babysitting for Natalie; befriending her mother, Amelia; finding chances to listen to her father, Fritz. Soon she’s bathing in the master bathtub, drinking their expensive wine, and eyeing the beautifully finished garden apartment in their townhouse. It seems she can never get close enough, until she discovers that photos aren’t all she can manipulate.
^ And oh WOW can Delta manipulate photos I would definitely not want anyone with those skills taking pictures of me or my family!! It was so interesting to read about the programs and ways that light and photography can be manipulated. I am not sure how much is real but I’m sure there is similar technology out there.
This is just such a delightfully strange book. It reminded me immensely of One Hour Photo – remember Robin Williams creeping out those parents but he was just a sort of creepy, really lonely old dude who was probably harmless?
In contrast, Delta Dawn is the high profile photographer of the elite and wealthy in this novel. I don’t think she is intending harm but she is one of those memorable, strange, “just why” type of characters that makes me wonder what deep-rooted issues she has from her childhood. There are hints about it, such as growing up in Disney housing with busy parents and living a very fictitious childhood, bur I really just wanted to know WHY!
A character remarks that Delta could in fact have a very wonderful and normal life, but that’s not what she wants. (P.S. what actually happened to that character)?? She is pretty and smart and an absolutely elite photographer, but that wouldn’t make a good suspense novel now would it?
The complicated dynamic of the Straub family was interesting to see as well, there was a lot of dysfunction that allowed Delta to come in and start manipulating. I liked how much detail was paid to the old dog in the house too, I just wanted to hug the poor dude.
Anyway- definitely recommend this one to lovers of psychological suspense, suspense in general, and anyone looking for a quick moving summer read. The twist wasn’t huge but it did the trick for me to come to a solid 4!
Thank you so much to Rachel Hobbs for reaching out to respond to an open interview call for my blog! While that feature will be coming later this month, I also read and reviewed her debut novel Shadow Stained!
At least as we speak, the novel is available on Kindle Unlimited and I found it to be a well formatted and compatible copy!
Bookish Quick Facts:
Title: Shadow Stained
Series: Stones of Power, #1
Author: Rachel Hobbs
Publisher & Release: Nielsen, 03/05/20
Length: 360 pages
Rate & recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of paranormal, demons, etc!
Here is the book blurb from Amazon:
For her, it’s her late grandma’s legacy. For him, the mother of all black arts spoils, granting one demon the power of a God. Immortality.
When occult-magnet Ruby falls victim to Demon Lord Drayvex’s viperous allure, she loses a sentient dark relic to his light fingers and appetite for power. Like calls to like. But when Drayvex himself loses the relic to a traitor to the throne, Ruby coerces him – the tyrant king with a soft spot for humanity – into helping her save her pokey old world village from becoming a ground zero of mass demonic carnage.
Both invested in reclaiming the relic, the one thing Ruby and Drayvex agree on is that it’s in the wrong hands. Co-existing in a precarious arrangement between predator and prey, to save the planet they both love for different reasons, they must become a formidable double-team in the face of an apocalyptic takeover. Now, the fate of both human and demon alike rests with a killer that walks between worlds, and a woman with a curse in her bloodline.
The Plot & Story: This is a paranormal adventure for adult readers, where a young woman and her stone of power inadvertently draw the attention of a demon lord. This escalates into a fullscale invasion of Earth and exciting battle of the most powerful demons in the realm. There is also this ongoing back and forth of whether or not the demon lord and girl will ever just get together already. I still am not sure on that point, I honestly thought it was going to be a paranormal romance (but it isn’t thankfully).
It’s an interesting and quickly moving story. I don’t read very much in this genre so it’s pretty new to me in general.
The characters: the demon, Drayvex, is everything. He is such a sociopath and total egomaniac but has a small amount of cinnamon-roll filling inside, and man does he HATE it! His dialogue and monologue, alongside the plot itself, carried the book for me. It helps that he has a darkly attractive human form.
Ruby is not a bad character but she has no fighting prowess at all, no clue what’s going on, and can’t defend herself. She wants to stay and fight demons even though she’s almost died multiple times and Drayvex has to keep rescuing her. I think I would have liked her more if she wasn’t so entirely helpless. Ruby is some kind of witch or cursed, or something, but the most paranormal thing that happened to her before Drayvex is that she is drawn to occult objects at garage sales? I would have liked to know what this is all hinting at, since it is known to other characters that she is special but the reader gets no indication as to why. Which means I’m reading book 2.
I really just want more Drayvex.
The side character demons created some funny moments as well. The lower level ones are not very smart, and sometimes created a three stooges feel. I loved the little chef demon 😍
The Worldbuilding: The descriptions of the demon world were very well done. I loved the twinkling red stars and red sands, as well as the description of the throne. With a new world like that I want to know what it sounds, smells, feels like. I want to be standing at the foot of those black mountains! I got small European village vibes from the time on Earth, with plenty of rain.
Misc: With a tad more to make me care for Ruby and one more round of edits, I would really enjoy this snarky duo. One thing I want to say is that Drayvex reminded me of the Monty Python skit “The Many Uses of the Word Fuck” – it’s a noun, an adverb, lol. In an adult novel this is fine and I did love his personality.
Overall I think it’s a solid debut, and I plan on reading the next in the series! Would recommend for fans of paranormal, demons, and snarky bad boy characters
Thank you so much to my partner Celadon Books for the advanced copy of We Are the Brennans! This is a complicated family drama that explores life in a large Irish family, the effects of shame and secrets, poor decisions, and how much love holds everyone together at the end of the day.
Bookish Quick Facts:
Title: We Are the Brennans
Author: Tracey Lange
Publisher & Release: Celadon Books, 08/03/21
Length: 271 pgs
Rate & Recommend: 🍀🍀🍀🍀 Sure for fans of family dramas
Here is the Book Blurb from Amazon:
In the vein of Mary Beth Keane’s Ask Again, Yes and Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest, Tracey Lange’s We Are the Brennans explores the staying power of shame—and the redemptive power of love—in an Irish Catholic family torn apart by secrets.
When twenty-nine-year-old Sunday Brennan wakes up in a Los Angeles hospital, bruised and battered after a drunk driving accident she caused, she swallows her pride and goes home to her family in New York. But it’s not easy. She deserted them all—and her high school sweetheart—five years before with little explanation, and they’ve got questions.
Sunday is determined to rebuild her life back on the east coast, even if it does mean tiptoeing around resentful brothers and an ex-fiancé. The longer she stays, however, the more she realizes they need her just as much as she needs them. When a dangerous man from her past brings her family’s pub business to the brink of financial ruin, the only way to protect them is to upend all their secrets—secrets that have damaged the family for generations and will threaten everything they know about their lives. In the aftermath, the Brennan family is forced to confront painful mistakes—and ultimately find a way forward, together
The synopsis does a fantastic job of summarizing the story. What happens after one generation’s morals and misgivings seeps down into the lives of their children? Is running away the answer to a terrible event, and what will it take to bring everyone back together? I think the author drew a lot on her own family experiences to make this story work, I don’t feel like it’s something that can be well written without growing up in a large Irish family yourself.
The characters are really everything in this novel. Mickey is the father, suffering from early dementia, and it was always his job to take care of the family. The mom is now deceased but I got the impression that she made up a lot of medical ailments for attention, to the point where it nearly ruined Sunday, the daughter’s, life. Shane is the youngest child and has some kind of developmental disorder that took up even more of the siblings’ time and attention, but they all rallied around him as kids.
Now as adults, Sunday took off to California in a hurry, and the two remaining middle brothers (5 siblings total) as well as Sunday’s ex, an adopted family member more or less, are left to shoulder the family responsibility. They are also managing near financial ruin while expanding their pub business. Enter Sunday coming home in the midst of all of this after a drunk driving crash …. and you have the beginning of We Are the Brennans.
I think the staples of Irish family drama are secrets – check. Shame – check. Irish Catholics covering up bad decisions – check. Maybe some undercover or shady business – check. What set this one apart to me was the strength of the characters, the sibling bonds, the size of the hearts capable of forgiving and moving forward together after the secrets are aired… and who inadvertently saves the day at the end. The writing is also very smooth and flows well from chapter to chapter despite the different view points, and I do like how each character’s voice is so distinct.
The ending left a lot of things open to interpretation but the main storylines were wrapped up – and this may be added in the final copy but I think it could have used an epilogue. Give us a glimpse of how everything settled 10 years down the road. Did true love or duty win out? Did everything work out for better or for worse? How did the one little boy make out with the family changes? I don’t mind having these questions at the end but I would have 5 starred it with an epilogue.
Celadon puts out some very distinctive literary fiction, I would recommend for fans of family dramas, general fiction, and literary fiction!
Thank you so much to By the Book VBP for having me on the bookstagram tour for Vows of Gold and Laughter! I recently read Edith Pawlicki’s debut novel called Minerva, and was extremely excited to see this second novel! I received a lovely finished paperback in exchange for a bookish feature and honest review!
This is an adult fantasy set in a rich world that focuses on Asian mythology, a whole lot of magic, and realizing one’s self worth despite what fate seems to have to store.
Bookish Quick Facts:
Title: Vows of Gold and Laughter
Series: The Immortal Beings, #1
Author: Edith Pawlicki
Publisher & Release: Indie, 04/02/21
Length: 442 pages
Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for adult fans of the genre!
Here is the book blurb from Amazon:
The meeting of four lonely immortals will change them – and the world.
High in the Heavens, an immortal court celebrates the betrothal of Jin, Goddess of Beauty, and Xiao, God of Pleasure. But as soon as the vows are made, the Sun Emperor collapses from a death curse.
Raised away from the Sun Court after her mother’s murder, Jin is called a useless goddess, but she is now the emperor’s only hope. The curse’s cure is locked in the Underworld, and even though the court dismisses him as a hopeless alcoholic, Xiao vows to help his betrothed find the lost key.
They hire a thief who is more interested in stealing the groom than recovering the key, and begin their search at the legendary grave of the Great Warrior – only it turns out he never died. Tens of millennia old, he is a master of everything but his own heart.
Their journey takes them from the icy peaks of the White Mountain and the lush banks of the Kuanbai River to the palace of the Sea Dragon and the halls of the Moon Deer, through court intrigue and bloody battles, power struggles and magical traps. Heaven, Earth, and the Underworld will forever celebrate their triumphs – and mourn their mistakes.
This is an indie novel that really deserves all the hype of a traditionally published piece of work. Pawlicki takes us all over the fictional world, into various palaces and homes of the immortals from the Heavens to the Underworld, on a quest to save a despicable ruler, through two love stories and complicated friendships, as well as on a journey of self-discovery than can only be achieved through learning the truth about the past.
The Worldbuilding is richly described, with colorful palaces and equally colorful immortals. Quite literally because the most powerful gods are colors. We learn the physical lay of the land, the fauna, weather, food, music, and many local and court customs that help flesh out the world. It was definitely a little overwhelming at times but there are diagrams to help remember what is where and who is who.
The Characters: The characters are very much part of the world, as Pawlicki realizes and brings to life a full pantheon of Gods and Goddesses, deities, and immortal beings. There are four main characters who each have their own major flaws to work through, and it is a joy to watch them interact and learn how to work together. The banter is pretty entertaining at times, and other times quite serious. The thief, the warrior, the beauty, and…. well I guess the alcoholic, but he’s really a giant cinnamon roll and pretty powerful in his own right.
I did get absolutely lost in the characters at times though, like without the diagram I would have been lost. This is where I docked a star – I love all four of the main characters but it was kind of hard to figure out who else was going to be important and who to pay attention to. The author absolutely did a stunning job bringing so many characters to life though.
The Magic: Is based on colors, and what colors or essences will respond to each deity. This is pretty cool because it creates a lot of Earth-based magic, building, and transformative abilities which were cool too. There is also darker and shadow magic which I imagine we will see a lot more of in book two.
Themes: I touched on themes up top, but the main one seemed to be realizing your own self value and embracing who you are. Each character had to learn what they were capable of, and even the most accomplished ones still had lots of learning to do. I also docked some points for a recurring ongoing of sexual repression vs expression, and I get it since Xiao was the god of pleasure but don’t really come to fantasy for that discussion. I believe, as well as because of the ages of the characters, that this is why the book was targeted for adult readers. There are also themes of found family, family ties, sacrifice, justice, betrayal, civil war, and everything else you would expect from bickering Gods and Goddesses that are full of personality.
Overall: I definitely recommend this one for anyone interested in mythology, fantasy, asian themes, and anyone that loves a gorgeous cover. Thanks again to By the Book VBP and the author for my copy, all opinions are my own!
Hi friends! Today is the Release Day Blitz for Blood Red Sand! I am thankful to partner with Storytellers On Tour to bring you the synopsis and giveaway for this exciting sounding new book!!
Bookish Quick Facts:
Title: Blood Red Sand
Author: Damien Larkin
Publisher & Release: July 6, 2021 by Dancing Lemur Press L.L.C.
Genre: Military Science Fiction, Alternative History
Here is the book blurb:
Mars will run red with Nazi blood…
After World War Two, Sergeant McCabe knew the British army could send him anywhere. He never imagined facing down another Nazi threat on Mars.
In New Berlin colony, rivalry between Generalfeldmarschall Seidel’s Wehrmacht and Reichsführer Wagner’s SS threatens bloodshed. The Reichsführer will sacrifice everything to initiate the secretive Hollow Programme and realise his nightmarish future for humanity.
McCabe, Private Jenkins, and the Mars Expeditionary Force must overcome bullet, bomb, and bayonet to destroy the Third Reich. While Jenkins fights to stay alive, McCabe forms an uneasy alliance with MAJESTIC-12 operatives known as the Black Visors. Will this be the final battle of World War Two or the first confrontation in an interstellar war?
**GIVEAWAY** There is an event-wide giveaway, so do check that out if you are Ireland/UK!!
Damien Larkin is an Irish science fiction author and co-founder of the British and Irish Writing Community. His debut novel Big Red was published by Dancing Lemur Press and went on to be longlisted for the BSFA Award for Best Novel. His next novel in the series Blood Red Sand will be released on 6th July 2021. He currently lives in Dublin, Ireland and is working on his current writing project The Truceless War.
Happy 4th of July! Thank you ENDLESSLY to my partner St. Martin’s Press for the finished copy of Valcour: The 1776 Campaign That Saved the Cause of Liberty by Jack Kelly!
I grew up about 20 minutes from Valcour (town of Schuyler Falls) and am a sucker for both revolutionary and Lake Champlain history. It was taught so extensively in our schools as kids, but is it funny that I care more as an adult? I have never jumped on a title faster than this one, and although I have mentioned the book multiple times…. it’s time for this!
Bookish Quick Facts:
Title: Valcour: The 1776 Campaign That Saved the Cause of Liberty
Author: Jack Kelly
Publisher & Release: St. Martin’s Press, 04/06/21
Length: 304 pgs
Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ for history and revolutionary readers!
The synopsis from Amazon:
The wild and suspenseful story of one of the most crucial and least known campaigns of the Revolutionary War when America’s scrappy navy took on the full might of Britain’s sea power.
During the summer of 1776, a British incursion from Canada loomed. In response, citizen soldiers of the newly independent nation mounted a heroic defense. Patriots constructed a small fleet of gunboats on Lake Champlain in northern New York and confronted the Royal Navy in a desperate three-day battle near Valcour Island. Their effort surprised the arrogant British and forced the enemy to call off their invasion.
Jack Kelly’s Valcour is a story of people. The northern campaign of 1776 was led by the underrated general Philip Schuyler (Hamilton’s father-in-law), the ambitious former British officer Horatio Gates, and the notorious Benedict Arnold. An experienced sea captain, Arnold devised a brilliant strategy that confounded his slow-witted opponents.
America’s independence hung in the balance during 1776. Patriots endured one defeat after another. But two events turned the tide: Washington’s bold attack on Trenton and the equally audacious fight at Valcour Island. Together, they stunned the enemy and helped preserve the cause of liberty.
This is a great history of the early revolutionary conflict im the Champlain Valley. It adequately describes and vividly depicts the hardships that were faced trying to build the American fleet in order to delay the British from coming down Lake Champlain. The book begins at the American retreat from Montreal, touches on the smallpox epidemic, and goes on to describe the people involved, the building of the American fleet, Benedict Arnold’s struggles with various idiotic military and government personnel, and finally the battle and aftermath, ending before Washington crosses the Delaware. A fascinating but not necessarily widely known time period and I think the book is interesting, informative, and readable for history buffs and those with casual interest alike.
I think a super broad overview of prior events would have been helpful at the beginning, but Kelly drops us right into the story with Arnold leaving Canada. The book got off to a tad of a rough start for me without that broader context. The smallpox epidemic and the American retreat were terrible in terms of casualties and defeated morale, and it would have been a perfect starting point within a broader context.
Once the Americans regrouped and fielded their sick, building a fleet was the next challenge. Finding sailors. Food and hygiene. Native American relations. Court tribunals and Arnold’s famous temper. There is so much to consider!
Arnold is a fascinating historical figure and I liked how both he and Carleton, the British general, were shown. Ever wonder what led up to Arnold turning sides? Ever wonder how men on the ships relieved themselves? I have to say I never thought of rags on a rope but Kelly really brings the soldiers and ships to life. A good history book makes me feel submerged in the events!
((Personal opinion: It always shocks me how Arnold is mostly only taught as a traitor, he is really so freaking interesting and got shafted))
Other than the beginning, I also felt like the maps left out a few necessary landmarks, like île Aux Noix. The island was a horror show during the American retreat and totally deserves to be on the map, but I don’t have many other qualms about this book. One is that if Kelly is going to call Canada Canada in 1776, why not mention Plattsburgh since pretty much anyone can put Plattsburgh on a map? Small things.
Generally I found this to be a very readable account of the early revolutionary struggles in the Champlain Valley. It briefly ties in the Declaration of Independence, naming of the states, and some of George Washington’s struggles too, so that is fun, but there isn’t a ton of revolutionary information not related to the lake.
If you like nonfiction, read Valcour. If you prefer fiction with a lot more detail and intrigue – read Rabble in Arms and in larger part, The Arundel Chronicles by Kenneth Roberts. I felt like Kelly took the outline straight out of Arundel #3, and the historical accuracy of either is pretty legit.
Now I’m sad because I hope I wrote a coherent sounding review without dragging too much of my own knowledge and prior reading into it!
Two things prompted me to re-read Heartbreaker this month! The first is that I realized I never really adequately featured the book on bookish social media, the second is because I am SO SUPER LUCKY to have been chosen for an ARC box for book three, which will be out on September 7th!!
First off you should check out my review for book one, Heartmender, here, then proceed with this review if you’re interested! I loved Heartmender for it’s lyrical mix of fantasy, adventure, clean content, and religious allegories that were not overpowering. Heartbreaker sees the characters begin their journey in earnest, with all the growing pains of becoming a young hero.
Bookish Quick Facts:
Series: Heartmender, #2
Author: V Romas Burton
Publisher & Release: Monster Ivy Publishing, September 2020
Length: 338 pgs
Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ yes for YA, fans of Christian fantasy/fiction, clean content seekers!
Here is the description from Amazon:
After finding out she is the Bellata–the prophesized warrior meant to save Decim–Addie, along with James, returns to Barracks to unite the Twelve Magisters. But as she discovers her old home in ruin, Addie stumbles upon Silas and Nana, the only people left in Barracks.
As Silas explains what happened, Addie remembers the special gift Eman entrusted to her. She gives the gift to Silas, only to learn that he’s the young blacksmith who fought through the Seven Choices, making Addie unsure of how to react to her old friend.
Dodging an attack from Schism, and another deadly ally to Ophidian, the group finally makes their way to Ramni, where a familiar face joins them–one Addie never wanted to see again.
If Addie can’t learn to balance her new power, successfully unite the Twelve Magisters, and figure out what’s going on with a new voice in her head, Ophidian will destroy all the twelve lands …
And she’ll never know who is capable of betrayal amongst her friends.
The Plot/Story: this second novel sees Addie and company out on a quest to unite the Magisters of Decim, gain their allegiance in the fight against Ophidian. The plot is once again fast moving, with obstacles being overcome fairly quickly in order to advance the storyline. Now that Addie has newfound confidence, responsibility, and a crew of friends & family to fight alongside her, what will happen? There is plenty of action, lessons learned, good along with the bad, but man – this one ends on a cliffhanger!
Themes: While Heartmender was about choices and the seven sins, Heartbreaker is about sacrifice and trusting in Eman’s plan. He isn’t with Addie but his voice is still heard, his plan is known, and there is a super cool magical book that I am pretty sure is an allegory for biblical guidance, although I am not positive. Other wholesome themes include friendship, trust, finding family, self worth, and trusting that one is never alone.
Continuing worldbuilding: One of my favorite parts was learning the back story of the antagonist, and how all of this evil came to be! A lot of questions from book one were answered in this, including questions about Addie’s family. The author did a great job expanding on the world of Decim to include the other realms, inhabitants, issues, and even geography to make the world richer.
The Characters: Addie has some serious “coming of age” challenges to overcome. She is the Bellata, so she should be independent, in charge, and unruffleable – right? It was nice watching her learn to work with a team, test out her feelings for Silas, and start to come into her responsibility. She also drove me nuts sometimes jumping to conclusions and blaming others, but it’s part of learning to socialize
Silas is a good character in this one too but I can’t really say why. He is a great protector to Addie and tests the group. James and Nana and Claire ❤ also Damien … It is a good group.
I think the reason I scored this one a little lower is because of how easily the answers to the puzzles come to Addie. She races through the first few magisters and while it works to further the allegories and storyline, I think I would have liked her to be tripped up a little more. The book makes up for that at the end though, how in the world are they ever going to get out of that situation??
At heart this is a complex story and I think it would make a great buddy read for readers of any age. That targeted 13-18 range is totally 100% appropriate too. In the coming weeks I will be posting about book 3 so stay tuned for that!!
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. You can find future updates and news on her website: http://www.vromasburton.com