Title: Bonded Fate (The Guardians of the Maiden #2)
Author: Beck Michaels
Publisher: Pluma Press
Release Date: August 3rd, 2021
Genre: YA Fantasy
JOINED BY BLOOD.
BOUND BY DESTINY.
Reeling from Cassiel's confession, Dyna struggles to understand what the Blood Bond means for them both. When she meets a familiar sorceress, Dyna realizes the only way to defeat Tarn is to find her Guardians—all of them.
Cassiel never meant to tie himself to a human, especially one that inexplicably draws him. But then the bond develops a startling change, and it puts into question everything he thought he knew.
Zev straddles the line between human and wolf, unsure if his dark thoughts truly belong to the Madness. It’s growing stronger, determined to take over—and he may just let it.
The journey to get the answers they each need will test them all. But what Dyna doesn't know is that it comes with a price, and it may cost more than she bargained for.
BECK MICHAELS is the bestselling author of the enchanting young adult novel Divine Blood, the first book in the YA epic fantasy series The Guardians of the Maiden, Bonded Fate, and the novella King’s Oath. She has been working on the Guardians series for over fifteen years, so she’d like to believe her characters exist in some tangible dimension, even if it's only in her imagination.
At seventeen, she won a scholarship to the Herron School of Art to further pursue graphic design. She now runs her own imprint, Pluma Press, and works part-time as a graphic designer through her business, Whimsy Book Cover Graphics, designing book covers for fellow authors.
Beck lives in Indiana with her husband and two children, where she spends her time reading and daydreaming of stories in faraway lands.
Continue below for more information on the book and be sure to follow this link - [TOUR SCHEDULE] to check out the rest of the stops on the 'GLIMPSE OF TIME' cover reveal tour brought to you by LITERARY BOUND TOURS, GRATUS PUBLISHING, and JM BUCKLER!
Title: Glimpse of Time
Author: JM Buckler
Publisher: Gratus Publishing
Release Date: Early 2022
Genre: New Adult Fantasy
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, and Ebook
How far would you go for the ones you love?
GLIMPSE OF TIME is the first book in the CAPTURING TIME SAGA. A new adult fantasy fiction series that follows a lost soul, a feisty princess, a determined prisoner, a loose cannon, a humble heir, and a few familiar faces from the SEEKER OF TIME SERIES. It's a story about taking risks, sacrifices, and betrayal.
JM Buckler has been featured in top media including ABC, NBC, and Fox. She is the award-winning author of Seeker of Time, Stillness of Time, and Passage of Time, young adult fantasy-fiction books which have received praise from the likes of Kirkus Reviews and which have been best-selling young adult books on Amazon. Game-changers in the young adult marketplace, Buckler’s novels combine electric storytelling with deep spiritual lessons and meaningful takeaway on how to cope with life’s hardships – addressing everything from betrayal and heartbreak, to violence and death.
Buckler offers writing-based programs to diverse audiences – teaching how to use the power of the pen to reshape and reclaim one’s life, as Buckler did when she began her own writing journey: After years of drifting through life, feeling insecure and lacking a sense of meaning or purpose – always trying to be the image and fill role that others held out for her – Buckler took a leap of faith and walked out on the person she was supposed to be, instead diving into the world of her imaginary characters. Through developing their lives, Buckler discovered that she cultivated her own – ultimately finding her calling and passion, transforming her reality, and emerging a grounded and confident young woman. Buckler lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and Havanese dog.
'The Lady Jewel Diviner' by Rosalie Oaks is a rather light tale that follows the path of one Miss Elinor Avely, her burgeoning friendship with a tiny vampiri named Aldreda, and their search for a cache of missing jewels.
Already having fallen into scandal in London because of her gift of divination, having only tried to be helpful, Elinor and her family escape to the county of Devon. Tucking themselves away in the home of a friend's father, she's seemingly pursued by a most determined Lord Treffler.. who wants her help finding the cache which is supposed to be hidden somewhere along the coastline.
Aided by her brother, Perry and Miss Zooth, the vampiri lady.. Elinor grows more and more intent on locating the jewels herself after coming across a pair of French refugees who tell her the story of their own lost jewels.. taken by the very same people who smuggled them into the country. Desperately wanting to assist her new friends, Elinor finds herself running afoul of the Earl of Beresford.. a nobleman who'd tried to save her from the situation in London previously and a cast of unsavory characters thought to be involved in the smuggling at hand.
The story is quite charming, as is the cast. Oaks has some skill, the strongest of which seems to be that of misdirection. She's careful not to telegraph the most important facts and displays an ability to create characters with interesting potential for backstories of their own.
That being said, the book is only slightly above average overall for me because the aforementioned potential doesn't really come to fruition. We're really only given bare bones about the characters and so I never felt any real investment in most of their situations.
As we're allowed to get to know Aldreda a little more than the others, I found myself moderately concerned for her well-being.. but the rest, no matter how dire their situations.. just couldn't summon a care within me. Likewise, the story is much more 'tell' than 'show.' The only character we get a pretty good description of is Jaq, who certainly sounds handsome enough.. but then when faced with the opportunity to really give him some depth of history.. it's just not delivered.
Most expanded details on the characters are presented briefly toward the end of the book. In fact, the novel is so devoid of description in many cases.. that I didn't realize I had no idea what Elinor looked like until something mentioned as the story wound to a close.. yet there was a tendency to almost waste words on overdoing greetings each time people came together. While I know there's a formality she was trying to achieve to reflect the societal ways of the period, it simply wasn't necessary for each person to greet each other in nearly every meeting.
Regardless of those small constructive criticisms, I still DID enjoy the story. It was told with a sort of levity that isn't overly common in modern releases, where being edgier is viewed as being more 'interesting.' There's a small, but creative mix of fantastical beings and what could certainly be a creative magic system.. if only it were developed and presented more thoroughly.
If you're looking for an easy read at the end of a rough day, this might be for you. Kick back.. relax.. and explore what Oaks' world has to share..
'Lore' by Alexandra Bracken is an extremely creative born of the classic Greek pantheon of gods. Beginning with a theme of civil war which in traditional text included all but Hestia trying to challenge Zeus, Bracken's story is a little more centralized and results in much harsher punishments by the god king.
The main character, Melora or 'Lore,' is the last surviving member of her House.. the House of Perseus. The Persedes as they're known.. are one of 9 descended Houses of legendary heroes.. who after the uprising of the gods and goddesses, are essentially tasked with their punishments.
What is their punishment? The Agon. A hunt, basically.. that occurs every seven years.. when the 9 rebellious gods are forced to walk the earth as mortals while the legendary Houses try to run them into the ground, kill them, and take their power. As it turns out, whomever kills the previous god.. becomes the new one. At least, for another seven years until the next Agon when they have to join the hunt as prey.
I genuinely love mythology and I'm always eager to get my hands on new stories that are inspired or developed from the fascinating ancient stories, but 'Lore' is just exceptional. The origin of events is certainly rooted in a believable premise that sounds as if it could have come from the same beliefs, but the modern twist is smoothly merged with the classic theme.
The dynamics, both between the old gods and new, gods in general and those heroic descendents, and all of the above and any humans they come across are each distinctive and well-suited to what one would expect. In fact, while most of the new gods are egotistical.. it feels almost performative, like a youth who knows they were raised in wealth.. rather than someone working for it and overcompensating for that fact. The old gods are just casually arrogant and it's clear they simply don't think or understand beyond their experience.
Actually, I love Athena.. she's hilarious and in that unintentional, dry wit sort of way. Also, I enjoyed that Bracken gave the old gods a very formal speech pattern and a disassociated perspective of the world and those around them. Castor is another favorite, though the characters in general all have depth to them, individuality, and distinctively clear 'voices' making the read as comfortable as any every day conversation. The dialogue is fantastic and that's the thing I find is weakest in most works from literature to tv to film.
I'm predicting already that 'Lore' is going to be in my top reads list of 2021.. but we'll see what the year has to offer. It's a definite page turner, whereas there's either some kind of tense fight or unveiled drama going on at most times. I love it so much, I have three copies coming.. and I highly recommend this title for anyone with a love of mythology and modern urban fantasy.
5 Self-Published Authors to Watch
As most of you know, I love 'undiscovered talent.' Be it in literature, film, music, any kind of creative arena.. one of my favorite things is stumbling across those gems that haven't quite caught the light yet. Though I'm sure these authors are getting plenty of love, being self-pubbed is no easy task and certainly doesn't afford them the same widespread public notice that they might get with a professional team dedicated to promoting them.
In no particular order, I present you with my top 5 self-published reads of the year.. and 5 authors you really should be watching going forward. Each of these authors is well-rounded. Some develop elaborate magic systems or extremely creative retellings, but all offer deep back story, strong character development, and a unique storytelling voice.
Isabella August - Crown of Whispers (Faerie Lords series)
Benedict Patrick - To Dream and Die as a Taniwha Girl (Yarnsworld series)
On the Isle of Sound and Wonder - Alyson Grauer
Olivia Atwater - Ten-Thousand Stitches (Regency Faerie Tales)
Jesse Nolan Bailey - The Jealousy of Jalice (A Disaster of Dokojin series)
5 Indie Press Authors to Watch
Truth be told, though 2020 was rough in a lot of ways.. it was a great year for quality indie titles. I know the health crisis has made it really difficult for indie authors to get their books noticed and to ramp up their releases with physical appearances.. so I wanted to share my top 5 indie reads.
If you aren't familiar with them yet, there's still plenty of time to check out their work. Again, this list is filled with unique talents, wildly creative worlds to explore, and in one case.. an intriguing almost circular storytelling style.. the likes of which I've only seen in film.
Wren Handman - Wire Wings
Sean Gibson - The Part About the Dragon was (Mostly) True
Ryan La Sala - Reverie
A.J. Vrana - The Hollow Gods (Chaos Cycle Duology)
Marie Brennan - Driftwood
Honorable mentions go out to Lillah Lawson (Dead Rockstar), Daven McQueen (The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones), A.E. Ross (To The Flame), Sarah Burton (The Strange Adventures of H), and Maggie Tokuda-Hall (The Mermaid, The Witch, and the Sea.)
Top 10 Big Press Favorites
I read a ton of big press titles this year and enjoyed so many of them that it wasn't easy narrowing this down to just the top ten. Though some of these authors have been around for some time, these were also my first experiences with them and I really loved their stories.. even when they broke my heart. Especially so..
The result of that is a top ten, followed by a handful of honorable mentions as in the indie group.
If you'd like to know more about any of the titles in my 2020 Year in Review lists, you can find complete reviews for them in the Index above.
Aiden Thomas - Cemetery Boys
Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff - Aurora Burning (Aurora Cycle series)
Alice Oseman - Loveless
Sarah J. Maas - House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City series)
Silvia Moreno-Garcia - Mexican Gothic
Erica Waters - Ghost Wood Song
Dylan Farrow - Hush
Noelle Harrison - The Island Girls
Janella Angeles - Where Dreams Descend
Ivy Pochoda - These Women
Though they didn't make my Big Press top ten, the following authors and titles were also standouts for me this year - Robert Jackson Bennett (Shorefall), Andrew Eliopulos (The Fascinators), and April Genevieve Tucholke (Seven Endless Forests.)
Continue below to read my review of the book brought to you by Xpresso Book Tours and Julie Gilbert!
'Cemetery Songs' by Julie Gilbert is the story of Apollonia Stone.. a girl who can hear the final thoughts of the dead. Struggling with her circumstances, a biracial teenager adopted into a transracial family who lives in one of those small towns with minimal diversity, her path to self-acceptance is littered with challenges.
When she finds out her birthmother has died, she starts to slip. In an emotional spiral, she accidentally sets fire to the high school, falls way behind in her classes, drives away her friends, and gets suspended from her job. To make things even worse, a former classmate witnesses the fire incident and blackmails her into helping him break the law.
Despite the way things begin between them, Polly has mixed feelings for her extortionist.. Billy Meyer. She's a compassionate girl and things aren't great for him either. So, naturally the more she comes to know of his story, the more conflicted she finds herself.
Volunteering for the city archive, amidst a research trip to a local cemetery.. Polly discovers a ghost she can actually communicate with. Harrison Card.. a kind, charming teenager who died mysteriously in the 1920's.. spurs her curiosity and her determination to find out more about what happened to him.
I was really intrigued by the premise of the book, which I felt sounded creative and would deal with some serious real world issues. The first half though.. is both incredibly slow and quite dull. I understand about slow building backstories and developing characters. That wasn't the problem. It was just monotone story telling. Though there were multiple people in scenes, initially.. none of them had any real distinction. No unique voices to separate them.
Around the midway point there was a definitive shift in the narration and dialogue. As Billy and Harrison emerged more openly across the pages, those personalities finally began to unfold. The voices of both boys and Polly becoming clearer.. brighter. From that point on, I was hooked. Though my main investment was in Billy and Polly.. I was eager to see how Harrison's story played out as well.
As for those important topics.. I just didn't think they were done as well as they could have been. Despite the author's personal background, the prose didn't feel as if it connected with the important issues that the story addressed. Likewise, aspects of Harrison's story were interesting. The author did touch on some culturally significant history, but seemed to skim over much of the emotional and psychological affects of the despicable behavior experienced by the characters.. which left it feeling kind of thin.
That being said, Gilbert is still a solid writer. The story is concise and well-told. After the midway point, which I just feel was a little too long to wait to get things moving.. I eagerly poured through the rest of the text.. and she did have me blinking back tears a couple of times. Just, not necessarily where I think she should have.
All-in-all, regardless of the few constructive criticisms above.. it's a worthwhile read. If for no other reason than to open eyes to some of the horrors of the past.. present.. and probably still the future ahead, to encourage the reader to learn more about these types of incidents on their own, and to raise awareness of the world around us.. to the real things others are still struggling with every day.. give this book a chance.
'The Part About the Dragon was (Mostly) True' by Sean Gibson.. could just be called.. 'Well.. There WAS a Dragon, but More Importantly, There's was a Bard with a Fantastic Can.' And honestly, I'd be perfectly fine with that title too.
Basically the story follows a handsome (Mostly.. see what I did there?) group of adventurers who have minimal experience, but a lot of heart as they set out to aid the village/town.. er.. townage of Skendrick in their time of need. It seems they've been set upon by a vicious dragon that periodically lays waste to.. well, read the book and you'll see. The point is.. they're desperate for help and our fair heroes see an opportunity to grow their reputation while maybe pocketing some treasure.. thanks in no small part to Heloise.
Who's Heloise, you say? Only one of the most amusing voices to grace the pages of fantasy fiction.. who also happens to be our first-person fourth-wall-breaking narrator.. and to hear her tell it, an incomparable beauty with an unequaled gift for storytelling. Heloise, the Bard.
Being as my favorite bard is Jaskier from the Witcher series, my expectations are set pretty high. That said, no character has ever reached a pinnacle worth mentioning in connection.. until now.
Even if this story had been uninteresting, I would have loved it through Heloise's eyes. I mean, clearly.. and you'll see why if you give it a chance. There's nothing she can't dress up and make more appealing, other than maybe Whiska. (But she CAN be made more exciting, and that's something our bard excels at.) And she does dress up pretty much everything for public consumption.
Truly, our narrator is hilarious and charismatic, brags casually without being annoying (I mean.. AT ALL), and both versions of the story she tells (the TRUTH and the MYTH) are entertaining.
Nadi, the fearless elven leader of the adventuring group, is a true warrior. She's a little too serious, which makes her a perfect contrast to.. well.. everyone else in the group. She's also probably the most competent overall, but well.. ditto on my last comment. Rounding out our collection of adventurers are Rummy.. the interminably good-humored half-dwarf/half-elfling and the butt of most of the size jokes, Borg.. the sweet, slow.. rock man of huge physical proportions, and Whiska.. the Ratarian wizard with one seriously bad attitude.
They go together a bit like fire and gasoline, which makes for plenty of tense times that are guaranteed to leave you laughing. As a group, they're uniquely gifted at making their lives more complicated than they need to be and getting themselves into more than they can handle, which makes it all the more interesting to see if they can get out of it.
I can't praise the story enough. If you want something light-hearted and fun to read, that will zip by quickly.. but still want to feel like you got the content you hoped for, this is definitely the book you should pick up.
'Ruinsong' by Julia Ember is the story of a girl with the magic of spellsong. A birth trait that can be a gift or a curse under the ruthless Queen Elene of Cavalia, it earns our main character.. Cadence.. the spot of Principal singer in her Court.
As an orphan, Cadence has no real attachments outside the queen's court. She has a fondness for her old tutor, Madam.. warm, distant memories of a girl named Remi.. and love for her little dog, Nip.. the only being she feels is family. That love is a weakness to be exploited though and she's a powerful spellsinger, which makes for a uniquely dangerous tug-of-war with her emotions.
Having been forced to torture Cavalia's disgraced nobles over the queen's personal grudge against their kind, she does what she can to atone along the way. Either insisting on being allowed to include healing spells or giving her time and her voice to the point of her own suffering to those most heavily in need.
When she and Remi are united, all is not well between them. Remi's view of Cadence has been colored by the queen's hand and the two couldn't be on more opposing sides of an issue. Their chance meeting is a crossroads of sorts.. leading to decisions that can affect everyone in their country for a long time to come.
This book is a very dark lgbtq+ fantasy full of richly textured characters and world-building. Though the magic induced torture isn't frequent, it's certainly grisly.. but it's also only done with purpose within the plot. It's not gratuitous, but it impacted the story and myself as the reader, quite strongly. If graphic scenes regarding people or pets bother you, be wary.. but it's a wonderfully told tale of forbidden romance and the horrors of a totalitarian queen obsessed with vengeance.
I became deeply invested in this story rather quickly. Cadence is a sweet girl, despite the things she's forced to do. Sweet enough, that even understanding how the suffering affects the citizens.. it's still difficult to see her treated unkindly for it.
The magic can be beautiful or brutal, but is fascinating in it's structure.. and in the perseverance of those who wield it, or perhaps the stubbornness of the goddess who bestows it.
Of the broad cast of supporting characters, I found Remi's suitor.. Nolan to be quite a surprise. He could have been a far more typical male role, but he thought of others first.. sometimes at great risk to himself. Likewise, the queen's right-hand man is a wonderfully vicious villain. In fact, I both dreaded and eagerly waited each of his appearances throughout the book.
It seems to be a nice standalone story, as the conflict all wraps up nicely by the end.. so no concerns here about cliffhangers or anything of the like. I'm definitely eager to see what else Ember might have up her proverbial sleeve. I'm extremely impressed with her style and structure, but especially her willingness to push the envelope with the darkness of her content. I loved this book.
I allow Lacerde to dress me without turning to examine myself in the mirror. I don’t want to see how I look, how they’ve fashioned me. In my mind, I already see stains of blood on the muslin fabric of my skirt, dotting the white leather of my gloves. Lacerde adjusts my skirt and smooths my hair. Then, with a grunt, she bends down and buffs my new shoes to a gleam.
She opens the door for me so I don’t get my gloves dirty and leads me down the dark corridor. My dressing room is the only one in use. All the others are boarded up, so that no one will use them to hide.
I imagine what the Opera Hall must have been like years ago, when so many singers performed here together for more willing audiences. The corridors would have been filled with the sounds of laughter, rustling taffeta costumes, and a chorus of warm-up scales. Above, the audience would be straining to get inside the house, clinking glasses together at the theatre bar, speculating on the wonders to come.
If I strain my ear, I can still hear the echo of their merriment in the walls, obscured by the more recent cacophony of despair and pain. The smell of thousands of spellsongs, layered atop one another for centuries, lingers in the musty air. It’s been eight years since this place functioned as a real theatre, but the Opera Hall remembers.
We climb the stairs up onto the stage. Elene and Lord Durand, her newly elevated pet footman, stand together on the edge, shouting instructions down to the conductor in the orchestra pit.
Elene glances up and nods to Lacerde, who positions me at center stage without releasing me. It’s as if they think I will run, even though there is no where to go.
No one has dimmed the gas lamps that line the theatre’s aisles yet, so I have a full view. The theatre is much grander than our replica at the academy. The ceiling bears a centuries-old mural of Adela gifting the first mage with magic. The singer kneels beside the sacred pool, and the goddess rises from the water, her mouth open with song and her arms spread wide. Musical notes surround them, each flecked with real gold leaf.
Portraits of the three other goddesses border the mural. Odetta, the goddess of spring and renewal, wearing a silver mask that covers her eyes and cheeks, and holding a sparrow’s skeleton in her cupped hands. Karina, goddess of justice and winter, thin and draped in a linen sheath, with her arms wide. Marena, the autumn goddess of war, chin lifted proudly, staring down with her hypnotic purple eyes, bejeweled with human teeth.
Beneath, row upon row of tightly packed red velvet seats stretch back to the imposing black doors at the rear of the theatre. They’re made from mageglass, a material designed by the elementals: sand spun, dyed and hardened so that not even diamond bullets could shatter it. Hundreds of people will fill the house tonight. Dame Ava, the queen’s former principal, told me that sometimes there are so many that folk have to stand along the walls.
My knees start to shake at the sight. My mouth goes dry.
All these seats. All these people. My unshed tears blur the rows of red seats together, like a smear of blood.
"They believed Daeios would be a safe haven.
They were wrong."
With a tagline that grabs the eye rather aggressively, 'Daeios: 140 Feet Down' by Colleen Eccles Penor is a dystopian thriller I couldn't pass up.
Apocalyptic weather conditions have reached a peak and the 'Elite' at a million dollars per spot minimum, are fleeing the Earth's surface. After a harried search for her drug-addicted brother Jace, Shea and her family barrel along the roadways in an RV trying to reach shelter before the storm is out of control.
Arriving at the underground stronghold moments before lockdown, they expect to survive only about a year with the supply levels.. and that year will be spent in a cave-like vault as protection from the climate above.
Soon after settling in, they start to realize everything is not as it seemed. Though Shea and her dad visited many times leading up to the lockdown so they'd easily remember the drive and have an idea how things worked within the community, once everyone is trapped inside.. things change and not for the better.
Daeios Elders who run the community claim direct instructions from God and roll out a forced 'repopulation' program for all fertile females amongst them. Little by little, the men who aren't Elders are beginning to disappear, and soon.. others start to go missing as well.
Heavy handed punishments such as light deprivation and music torture are just the beginning.
This is really more of a dystopian survival/revenge story, like a sci-fi 'The Handmaid's Tale' version of 'I Spit On Your Grave.' So, beware.. lots of triggers here for anyone susceptible to violent assault, torture, rape, murder, gaslighting, sexual manipulation, suicide, and probably a few other things I'm not even thinking of. Mostly it's mentioned in passing as dreamed memories or after situation observations, but it still might be a bit much for some readers.
For me, despite all the relatively wild elements of the story, it was still incredibly dull. A lot of what was happening was very obvious and the strange style the author chose to use.. almost felt closer to stream of consciousness than standard storytelling.
Though everyone's in pretty dire straits, most characters slip in and out of their trauma with such ease it's like they're playing pretend with their emotions. While there were backstories present, with that manner of just shrugging them off, there was no investment for me and I really didn't care much about anyone which made the book feel like it was just filled with violence without reason. Instead of utilizing what happened along the way to connect to the reader, it was just so much background noise.
Pretty disappointing, overall.