Continue below to read my review of the book and be sure to follow this link - [TOUR SCHEDULE] to check out the rest of the stops on the 'HEART OF THE IMPALER' blog tour brought to you by XPRESSO BOOK TOURS and ALEXANDER DELACROIX!
Heart of the Impaler
rating: ★ ★ ★ (3 / 5 stars)
I'm a huge fan of stories with dark natures, so I was drawn to Heart of the Impaler from the start. I found the premise especially interesting as it was written without the guise of the usual vampiric themes (though I love those too) and I felt a pre-throne story of Vlad would be interesting.
There's a lot of potential here.. conceptually. Though it reads a bit more like an extended beginning of an idea than a complete one, despite the progress that is made. Rather, it feels like the bulk of the story could take place in about 30% of the pages written.. without all the fluff.
Normally, in a story like this.. which is basically dark, young adult/historical romance.. I enjoy the fluff too. And it's fine here. The book moves at a reasonable pace and spends time building relationships and backstories. It's just got a lot of growing to do.
As it's Delacroix's debut novel, like his story.. the author has a lot of room to evolve. I feel like he has a clear understanding of story structure, likely do to his language arts background.. but like most with 'teaching' as a day job.. it's left very little room for developing that craft. The result is a light, quick read with no real issues.. but also, no real passion for the story or the characters within.
Vlad and Andrei have some great backstory details that could make them swoonworthy candidates for Ilona's heart, but I find a lot of authors mistake 'young adult' for 'immature'.. and the two just aren't the same.
Worth the read for a rainy day.. or if you've got to wait somewhere and want something easy to keep up with even with interruptions. Definitely keep an eye on Delacroix though. Like I said, there's a lot of possibility here.. the ideas are great.
Continue below to read my review of the book and be sure to follow this link - [TOUR SCHEDULE] to check out the rest of the stops on the 'SKIN OF THE SEA' book tour brought to you by TBR & BEYOND TOURS and NATASHA BOWEN!
Skin of the Sea
November 2nd, 2021
Young Adult Fantasy
Random House Books for Young Readers
An unforgettable fantasy debut inspired by West African mythology, this is Children of Blood and Bone meets The Little Mermaid, in which a mermaid takes on the gods themselves.
A way to survive.
A way to serve.
A way to save.
Simi prayed to the gods, once. Now she serves them as Mami Wata–a mermaid–collecting the souls of those who die at sea and blessing their journeys back home.
But when a living boy is thrown overboard, Simi does the unthinkable–she saves his life, going against an ancient decree. And punishment awaits those who dare to defy it.
To protect the other Mami Wata, Simi must journey to the Supreme Creator to make amends. But all is not as it seems. There’s the boy she rescued, who knows more than he should. And something is shadowing Simi, something that would rather see her fail. . . .
Danger lurks at every turn, and as Simi draws closer, she must brave vengeful gods, treacherous lands, and legendary creatures. Because if she doesn’t, then she risks not only the fate of all Mami Wata, but also the world as she knows it.
rating: ★ ★ ★ (3 / 5 stars)
'Skin of the Sea' by Natasha Bowen is one of those books I was obsessed with reading from the moment I saw it announced. The cover is beautiful, the topic is a favorite of mine, and it boasts inspiration from West African mythology.
From a technical side, everything is where it should be. Major plot points, reveals, and dramatic moments are spread along at a solid pace.
Simi is kind and likable. She tries hard to do the right thing and has a lot of potential to be a deeply interesting character, as does Kola and the small found family he's surrounded himself with.
The gods we get to see her interact with, have intriguing origins and I would have loved to see a bit more of them in particular. In fact, I feel that's the book's biggest strength.. great elements.. be they mythological, magical, or otherwise. What each of these things really lack is depth. There's so much room to develop them for the reader and that never really happens. The author attempts it here and there, but ultimately those forays are a handful of pages buried within many more that feel unnecessarily long.
It's definitely a quick read, as I made my way through it in about 3 hours.. but I feel in part this is due to the book being largely filled with fluff. Little things like using the characters names seemingly every sentence or two at times, the drawn out semi-formal sentence structure more likely to be found in high school essays than novels, and scenes that are a bit of a waste dragging through multiple pages as characters engage in repetitive conversations or too much focus is put on peripheral events like the traveling or meals, rather than using those moments to really build connections.
As debut's go, this one is decent. Bowen has the pieces, she just needs the experience using them to build a robust story.. and I do think she could have a bright future in the genre of her choice if she shifts her attention to the meatier parts.
About the Author:
Natasha Bowen is a writer, a teacher, and a mother of three children. She is of Nigerian and Welsh descent and lives in Cambridge, England, where she grew up.
Natasha studied English and creative writing at Bath Spa University before moving to East London, where she taught for nearly ten years. Her debut book Skin of the Sea was inspired by her passion for mermaids and African history.
She is obsessed with Japanese and German stationery and spends stupid amounts on notebooks, which she then features on her secret Instagram. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, watched over carefully by Milk and Honey, her cat and dog.
Bright Ruined Things
February 15th, 2022
Young Adult Fantasy
Forbidden magic, a family secret, and a night to reveal it all...
The only life Mae has ever known is on the island, living on the charity of the wealthy Prosper family who control the island’s magic and its spirits. Mae longs for magic of her own and to have a place among the Prosper family, where her best friend, Coco, will see her as an equal, and her crush, Miles, will finally see her.
But tonight is First Night, when the Prospers and their high-society friends celebrate the night Lord Prosper first harnessed the island’s magic and started producing aether – a magical fuel source that has revolutionized the world. With everyone returning to the island, Mae finally has the chance to go after what she’s always wanted.
When the spirits start inexplicably dying, Mae realizes that things aren’t what they seem. And Ivo, the reclusive, mysterious heir to the Prosper magic, may hold all the answers – including a secret about Mae’s past. As Mae and her friends unravel the mysteries of the island, and the Prospers’ magic, Mae starts to question the truth of what her world was built on.
In this YA fantasy, Samantha Cohoe wonderfully mixes magic and an atmospheric setting into a fantastically immersive world, with characters you won’t be able to forget.
Though I've said it before, The Tempest is my favorite Shakespeare work.. so it should come as no surprise that when I spotted a new retelling in 'Bright Ruined Things' by Samantha Cohoe.. I was quick to want to read it.
While the original story is rife with those signature dramatic swings, Cohoe managed to put me through the emotional wringer with her take on the classic. I found myself in tears at times I didn't expect to be, wondering how I got there.. and by the end my eyes were just an aching, swollen mess.
Cohoe does a beautiful job of developing the reader's feelings toward her characters, both for better and worse. The relationships amongst the family and our protagonist.. Mae Wilson.. are all extremely complicated. Each character is richly layered in their own right and while we're learning about them, many of them are still learning about themselves as well.
There's no stated era, but somehow the story feels like it takes place in the Forties. Everything centered around the family has a glamorous sheen to it, in no small part I'm sure due to the abundance of Prosper wealth.. with anything beyond them seeming to be just a distant echo in the background.
I really enjoyed Mae and her struggle to carve out a better place for herself. She's a likable character even when she's self-pitying a bit and I wanted to cheer her on. Likewise, I love the depth reverberating within Ivo, Miles, and Coco. Almost no one is really what they seem to be and their truth is so much more interesting than their image.
The themes of betrayal were harnessed expertly, the magical elements were creative and distinctively rendered in the mind's eye of the reader, and there is such a feeling of loss that just builds throughout the story. There are lessons here to be learned.. perhaps about right and wrong, the many shades of unkindness, and most definitely about the pain of hindsight.
Sitting here now in the silent aftermath of this read, I am deeply moved by all of them. It's a beautiful book and I'd highly recommend it for anyone who might enjoy the story of power.. in its many forms.. that comes at a cost. If you enjoyed The Chosen and the Beautiful, These Violent Delights, or Where Dreams Descend.. this is probably the one for you.
Continue below to read my review of the book and be sure to follow this link - [TOUR SCHEDULE] to check out the rest of the stops on the 'LITTLE THIEVES' book tour brought to you by TBR & BEYOND TOURS and MARGARET OWEN!
October 19th, 2021
Young Adult Fantasy
Once upon a time, there was a horrible girl…
Vanja Schmidt knows that no gift is freely given, not even a mother’s love–and she’s on the hook for one hell of a debt. Vanja, the adopted goddaughter of Death and Fortune, was Princess Gisele’s dutiful servant up until a year ago. That was when Vanja’s otherworldly mothers demanded a terrible price for their care, and Vanja decided to steal her future back… by stealing Gisele’s life for herself.
The real Gisele is left a penniless nobody while Vanja uses an enchanted string of pearls to take her place. Now, Vanja leads a lonely but lucrative double life as princess and jewel thief, charming nobility while emptying their coffers to fund her great escape. Then, one heist away from freedom, Vanja crosses the wrong god and is cursed to an untimely end: turning into jewels, stone by stone, for her greed.
Vanja has just two weeks to figure out how to break her curse and make her getaway. And with a feral guardian half-god, Gisele’s sinister fiancé, and an overeager junior detective on Vanja’s tail, she’ll have to pull the biggest grift yet to save her own life.
Margaret Owen, author of The Merciful Crow series, crafts a delightfully irreverent retelling of “The Goose Girl” about stolen lives, thorny truths, and the wicked girls at the heart of both.
rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ (4 / 5 stars)
I wasn't prepared for how much this book was going to hurt me.. nor the ways it would choose to do so. My emotions didn't start out particularly raw, in fact.. people have often felt I don't seem sensitive enough.
Like anyone, I can get invested in a specific character or relationship.. sure. I can become moved by their losses and their struggles. But this story hurt me in a very personal way. Vanja's pain is old and carefully tucked away, so when it gets dragged out.. it's not healed up quite like one might think.. having left it behind as she did. It's still a poison eating at the way she views everything.
In part, I blame unfamiliarity. I had never actually read The Goose Girl prior to picking up this book, which is the original fairy tale penned by The Brothers Grimm and I haven't read anything from Margaret Owen before, author of the acclaimed Merciful Crow series. If I had, perhaps I'd have been ready, but I have my doubts.
Though the story of The Goose Girl is troubling, Owen's touch takes it from a mere warning to a visceral experience. While Vanja's behavior may be unsavory, I certainly couldn't fault her for her reasoning. Watching her process, not just the things that had been done to her.. but also the lack of aid and the feelings of betrayal she developed was heartwrenching. The very way she subconsciously approached situations where she had been hurt, so telling of exactly why she would arm herself emotionally in the ways she had.
Death and Fortune enamored me. I loved the fact that though they were moved to attempt kindness, as gods.. their actions were disassociative. The lack of true understanding for human feelings was the perfect frame for Vanja's already battered childhood.
The world-building is rich and if not always beautiful.. at least beautifully textured. With a villain the likes of which I rarely come across, an intriguing magic system, and just the right evolutions between characters.. at just the right times.. Little Thieves manages to be both achingly dark and surprisingly hopeful.
If you like stories that dig in their claws and don't let go, characters that are more grey than black or white, and moral choices that leave you questioning your own principles.. this is the book for you.
About the Author:
Born and raised at the end of the Oregon Trail, Margaret Owen first encountered an author in the wild in fourth grade. Roughly twenty seconds later, she decided she too would be an author, the first of many well-thought-out life decisions.
The career plan shifted frequently as Margaret spent her childhood haunting the halls of Powell’s Books. After earning her degree in Japanese, her love of espresso called her north to Seattle, where she worked in everything from thrift stores to presidential campaigns. The common thread between every job can be summed up as: lessons were learned.
Fortunately, it turned out that fourth-grade Margaret was onto something. She now spends her days wrestling disgruntled characters onto the page, and negotiating a long-term hostage situation with her two monstrous cats. (There is surprisingly little difference between the two.) In her free time, she enjoys exploring ill-advised travel destinations, and raising money for social justice nonprofits through her illustrations.
Continue below to read my review of the book and be sure to follow this link - [TOUR SCHEDULE] to check out the rest of the stops on the 'TIDES AND RUIN' blog tour brought to you by LITERARY BOUND TOURS and MIRANDA LYN!
Tides and Ruin
(Fae Rising Series)
October 12th, 2021
New Adult/Upper YA
You heard her scream when he fell on that battlefield.
Stealing a prized jewel is nothing compared to a heart. Raised to be the perfect thief, Lyra was not above using her body or her siren’s song to take exactly what she wanted, when she wanted it.
But when she is attacked and her song is stolen, she must find a way to win over the commander of the Flame Court while on the brink of war, even if it means sacrificing everything she’d ever learned about being a siren. She thought she could fool him, fool them all. But really she was only fooling herself.
This standalone spin-off will sweep you under the sea with star-crossed lovers, stow you away on pirate ships, and destroy you all over again.
rating: ★ ★ ★ (3/5 stars)
'Tides and Ruin' is the fourth book and a spin-off of the Fae Rising series by Miranda Lyn.
Over the last year, I've heard a ton about this author and series from my friends.. even those who don't read a lot of indie work.. and so I've been meaning to give it a try for awhile. This book has all the elements that I couldn't resist.. sirens/mermaids, pirates, fae, and the sea.
Star-crossed love is always a fun trope, especially when there's innate distrust involved.. and Lyra has plenty of that. She's a bit of a jaded character, written to come across as an edgy, tough-talking female.. but it reads more like posturing by someone who thinks that's how it sounds. The result being she's a bit of a cliche, however likable.
The author has an elegant writing style and paints dramatic scenes vividly, but the more personal encounters are often just more of a glancing blow. It's really kind of interesting to see how different the two are at times.
All-in-all, it's a quick, fun read. While there's a lot of room to expand on character and story depth here, it's enjoyable for what it is. Somewhat steamy, mythical fun with a bit of 'eye candy' along the way.
Blood and Promise is the debut novel for Miranda Lyn.
She grew up smack dab in the middle of the United States with nothing to do but dream up stories of fantastical creatures and powerful heroines. Now married with three children of her own, an idea sparked a buried passion within her to follow a dream and teach her children that anything is possible if you’re willing to work hard for it.
Check out our website for extras, character art, and exclusive content. www.faerising.com. Also, click here to sign up for the mailing list and get access to more exclusive content and giveaways!: https://www.faerising.com/subscribe
Continue below to read my review of the book and be sure to follow this link - [TOUR SCHEDULE] to check out the rest of the stops on the 'STORM TO SPRING' blog tour brought to you by LITERARY BOUND TOURS and ATIMA KIM!
Storm to Spring (Matrons of Miang, Book 2)
October 5th, 2021
Young Adult Fantasy
Brave the Storm.
Yeena’s time to choose her consort is nearing, but she has her doubts both about her Nakoyan lover and her own abilities as the future matron. When she is compelled to help free an Andan prisoner, she gives the young spring witch an offer he can’t refuse and in return he reveals a secret that will change everything. Now Yeena must face down her own demons in order to claim her birthright and to protect the people she cares about most.
The second standalone installment in the Matrons of Miang series about overcoming trauma, finding your strength, and learning to love after losing it all. Featuring an elemental magic adventure, fierce romance, and an adorable baby dragon. Legend of Korra meets How to Train Your Dragon in this Asian-Inspired, OWN Voices fantasy romance sure to enchant and captivate YA readers.
rating: ★ ★ ★ (3/5 stars)
The story is casually paced and at first glance, seems to give off Avatar: The Last Airbender vibes through its clan and magic system design. Once beyond that initial impression however, it develops into a broader topic.
Carefully curated through layers of Asian inspired fantasy, is a gentle discussion about generational obligation and what it means to try to balance such ingrained beliefs with the personal need for individuality and actual happiness. In Yeena's case, the cost could be high, but that's something she has to figure out for herself.
I feel like the prose is a little stiff. It's clear that Kim is still developing her skills, as it reads a little like someone just out of a creative writing class in regards to sentence structure.. not quite fluid or comfortable yet. But the plot moves forward steadily and all of the basics are in place.
While the relationships contained within the book could be given a bit more depth.. again, I chalk that up to an author just on the cusp of blossoming. Kim obviously has lovely stories to tell and a lot of potential in the future.
As traditional as the setting was laid out, the dialogue language did pull me out of immersion a bit.. but I still enjoyed the journey. If you're looking for a quick read with some interesting texture and strong female representation, give this one a try.
Atima Kim is an Asian American author from Seattle, Washington. In addition to writing books she is a small business owner, dog walker, chicken owner, and a perfectly average mother.
Her books draw lots of inspiration from her real life and she hopes to achieve more representation and diversity in literature and especially the world of self-publishing.
Her debut novel “Spark to Shadow” is set to be the first in a series of standalones.
The Soul of Love
She lay still in his arms, allowing the heat from his body to lull her back into a semi-relaxed state. When he made no move to resume the intimacy of their wedding night, she turned slightly toward him.
Burying his head in her hair, he breathed in her scent as if committing it to memory. “I will leave you alone if that is your wish. We can wait until you are ready to consummate our marriage.” Feeling a heavy sorrow at the thought of leaving her, he nonetheless did not want to cause her any more turmoil. He would wait, even as it threatened to dim the joy he felt at finally having her back in his life.
He pressed a kiss against her temple and released her. As he turned away and made his way out of the bed, Psyche was gripped with fear at the thought of him leaving her. It was so strong it overwhelmed her with a desire to keep him by her side in spite of her reservations.
Not understanding her reaction to his departure, she cried out, “Wait!” Reaching out to stop him, she was shocked to discover what her hand was gripping. “You have wings,” she said in startled amazement.
Eros stopped and shuddered at the touch of her hand on his wing. It was the first touch she initiated between them of her own volition, and it devastated him. Holding still, for he did not trust himself, he waited to see what she would do.
Psyche was too stunned to do anything but hold on to his wing for several moments. When he did nothing to repudiate her touch, she slowly slid her hand down his wing, marveling at the soft texture and heat. Repeating the caress, she inched closer and brought her other hand to press against his other wing. Feeling emboldened by his continued silence, she pressed against his back and continued to stroke his wings.
Then Psyche laid her cheek against the center of his shoulder blades, where his wings grew out of his back. She continued her slow caress. The feel of his wings seemed strangely familiar, as if she had run her hands over them hundreds of times. Frowning, she tried to remember, the memory teasing along the edges of her mind, but no matter how hard she tried, the knowledge danced away from her. Before she could chase the phantom memory, she was distracted by the hiss of pleasure that her new husband released at her touch.
Eros could barely restrain himself from turning around and pinning her to the bed as lust consumed him. The feel of her bare breasts pressed against his lower back sent shards of pleasure directly to his groin, where he tightened painfully as she continued to pet him. But it was her breath teasing the sensitive nerve endings of where his wings emerged from his back that was his undoing. When she started to nuzzle him, Eros knew he had to warn her before he lost total control. “Psyche, make your choice now. I only have so much control, and I have waited so long for you that I cannot continue to let you touch me without taking you. So choose, do I stay or do I go?”
Psyche stilled at his words. Faced with the power to control even a small part of her destiny gave her courage. Feeling that something fragile and precious would be lost if she allowed him to leave this night, she made her decision. “Stay.”
A New Queen
Amanda lives in Alabama, with her husband and cat. She enjoys IKEA cinnamon rolls and trying new recipes of macaroni and cheese.
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The Sound of Violet
June 21st, 2021
Desperate to find a soulmate, Shawn goes on one awkward date after another until he encounters the alluring Violet. He starts dating her, but his autism keeps him from realizing that she's actually a prostitute.
Shawn thinks he's found a potential wife while Violet thinks she's found her ticket to a brand new life. This hilarious and dramatic award-winning story has been adapted into a major motion picture.
About the Author:
Allen Wolf has won multiple awards as an author, filmmaker, and game creator. He is also the host of the Navigating Hollywood podcast where he interviews film and TV professionals about what it takes to thrive in entertainment.
He married his Persian princess, and they are raising their kids in Los Angeles. Allen loves traveling around the world and hearing people’s life stories. He is an avid fan of Disneyland where he has visited over 500 times. Allen wrote, directed, and produced the feature film adaption of The Sound of Violet which will debut in late 2021.
'Empire of the Vampire' by Jay Kristoff is Book 1 in the trilogy by the same name. A story which finds our narrator imprisoned and waiting to die for the crime of killing the Forever King.
With the last proper sunrise twenty-seven years past, vampires have spread their eternal empire far and wide. Destroying the human civilization bit by bit, they've rained death and destruction everywhere they've gone.
Silversaint, sworn brother of the holy Ordo Argent (Silver Order).. half-human and half-vampire, Gabriel de Leon has dedicated himself to defense of the realm. Not that it's necessarily stood beside him in return. Still.. he's the last line of defense between our world and theirs.
Forced to tell the tales of his legendary battles, forbidden love, loss of faith and self.. his captors press for more. Demanding everything of him.. intimate details of relationships, the Wars of the Blood, and the quest for hope.. The Holy Grail, he has little choice but to give them what they want.
If I'm being entirely honest, I'd been waiting for this book for well over a year. It's easily my most highly anticipated 2021 release and I'm happy to say, Kristoff absolutely delivers.
Not only is this story right up my proverbial alley, gritty and bloody.. with plenty of suffering to go around, Kristoff's writing skill also seems to reach a pinnacle here. While managing to maintain the rough edges his stories and characters are known for, there's a dark refinement at work within the pages.. a pristine alchemy.. a masterwork.. if you please.
I saw someone mention once that this book.. to paraphrase.. makes The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice look like an opening act. While I don't know that I agree with that, it isn't because the writing in Empire isn't superb. There's no doubt this book is a masterpiece of fiction, but rather because it's a wholly different kind of monster. Frankly, I don't think it's fair to either author's story to try to draw the comparison. I will say that for me, my love of the two are neck-and-neck, and that's high praise considering my admiration of Rice's prose.
Empire definitely put me through the wringer emotionally. It's funny really, I felt like I was doing very well.. as I'd gotten over halfway through the book dry-eyed, but it wasn't long after that point when the first gut-punch came.. leaving me a little more wary. I have to give Kristoff credit. Now matter how far ahead he sometimes chooses to let you know the gist of what's coming, he doesn't fail to crush you with the details all the same in the moment you get to experience it. In the hands of any less gifted author, that knowledge takes some of the impact out of the blow.. but with him.. it only seems to hurt all the more. I'm not sure I've ever wanted to be more mistaken during a read before.
Despite being over seven-hundred pages long, this book never becomes a slog. Whether he's character building or developing backstory, providing visual references or expanding relationships, I never wanted to put the book down and by the end.. he left me wanting more. Needing more.
The battle scenes are visceral explosions of violence and pain, scripted like a well-choreographed dance.. and in the Kristoff fashion we've all come to expect.. no one is safe. Not from death nor turns of darkness.
I'm thoroughly invested in the series and cannot wait to see where it goes.. what else will be unearthed in Gabe's tales.. and what he might yet get up to. I know there seems to be a certain end at the road, but The Last Silversaint is nothing.. if not stubborn and resourceful.. and I wouldn't bet against him taking a whole lot of coldbloods with him somehow.
If you haven't yet picked up this book, surely there's someone.. somewhere who hasn't.. even if I don't know them, do yourself a favor and remedy that. You're missing out.