Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

This Vicious Grace (ARC Review) by Emily Thiede

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

Bookish Quick Facts:

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

Here is the synopsis:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks again to Wednesday Books 🖤 all opinions are my own

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Wolf Pack (ARC Review) by Mary Beesley!

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

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

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

Bookish Quick Facts:

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

Here is the synopsis:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Adventure Fantasy Young Adult

Crossbones (ARC Review) by Kimberly Vale

Thank you so much to Bookish First for the digital ARC of Crossbones! I claimed this one using my points, and all thoughts are my own.

I have not read a Wattpad book before. I own White Stag by Kara Barbieri but never got there – I’m curious to see if the quality of writing is similar, aka decent but falling a bit flat from what I’d expect. I’ll call this ‘the Wattpad stigma’ because it seems to be a real thing

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Crossbones
  • Series: Kingdom of Bones Trilogy, #1
  • Author: Kimberly Vale
  • Publisher & Release: 10/05/21, Wattpad Books
  • Length: 376 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🗡🗡🗡 Idk probably for Cinderella vs Pirate fans

Here is the synopsis:

Never trust a pirate.

The Blood Bell tolls, marking the death of the pirate king and the start of the Trials―a heart-stopping competition where the reward is the Bone Crown. Only one contender can claim the coveted island throne; each will gamble life and limb to win.

Captain. Sister. Maiden.
Csilla Abado yearns to prove her strength to the seasoned pirates who balk at her youth and to her elder sister who has always craved Csilla’s captainship. She will risk everything to become the first pirate queen, no matter the cost.

Dealer. Son. Legacy.
Kane Blackwater wants to leave behind the dirty gold and shady trades he’s made to keep his father’s ship, the Iron Jewel, alive. The Trials represent a new beginning―yet rumors of a secret heir are swirling, threatening his hopes of becoming the pirate king.

Stowaway. Daughter. Storm.
Lorelei Penny longs for nothing more than to avenge her mother’s death. Stowing away on the Iron Jewel was supposed to get her closer to the killer, but instead she finds herself caught up in the deadly battle where loyalty and desire collide.

Csilla. Kane. Lorelei. Each on a mission. The sea, however, has other plans. Dark tides are rising, and if they aren’t careful, they’ll surely drown.

You guys know that I will do anything for a good pirate story.   Now that I’m aware that this is supposed to be the first in a trilogy, I’m much more confident in my 🌟🌟🌟 rating

If it’s going to kick off a trilogy, I would expect much more in-depth world and character building, more lore, more everything.   The characters don’t need to rush from thing to thing and the author can take time to build relationships and such

The characters are a good lot but they don’t make great pirates.  They do say time and time again that they are meant to protect their homeland more than be ruthless brigands, but they seem more like YA cinnamon rolls than pirates.

Yes they have their ruthless streaks but they came together fairly easily in an alliance.  Are we just going to drop all of the terrible things that Kane has done?  What about Rove?  I want details!

There was a good foundation to the world building, but I want more on the entire Incendia vs Cerulia conflict.  More lore too, the gods and goddesses are an interesting basis but it all just wasn’t quite enough for me.

The trials seemed a bit anticlimactic too, plus for all of the times that it was said there were only 4 map pieces and each captain would get a piece – there were 5 captains.  

There were definitely positive aspects like the magic, I love when innate magic is attached to bloodlines or kingdoms.  I just felt like the whole book was skimming over the surface when, again for the start of a trilogy, there should be more depth.

The Scilla vs Rhoda thing was the most real relationship in the whole book for me, what a terrible betrayal by her sister.  The other relationships seemed fluffed together quickly.

I don’t know how to describe it either, but I just didn’t think the characters… Felt like pirates.  Rove and Kane did at least at the start, but Flynn definitely didn’t.  Neither did Scilla really, I needed more time at sea to show … pirating. 

I might give it one more book but I don’t know.  The ending felt more like Cinderella than pirates, and there are a ton of phenomenal pirate books out there right now

Once again thank you to Bookish First and Wattpad Books for the digital ARC!

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
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

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

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!
Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Heartbreaker by V. Romas Burton (Book Review)

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:

  • Title: Heartbreaker
  • 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

from Amazon