Continue below to read my interview with Liselle Sambury, review of the book, and be sure to follow this link - [TOUR SCHEDULE] to check out the rest of the stops on the 'BLOOD LIKE MAGIC' blog tour brought to you by TBR AND BEYOND TOURS, MARGARET K MCELDERRY BOOKS, and LISELLE SAMBURY!
Blood Like Magic
Publication Date: June 15th 2021
Genre: Dark Urban Young Adult Fantasy
Content Warnings: Whipping scene within the context of slavery, gun/police violence, discussion of and character with an eating disorder, blood/gore/violence, death, substance abuse/addiction, mentions of child neglect.
A rich, dark urban fantasy debut following a teen witch who is given a horrifying task: sacrificing her first love to save her family’s magic. The problem is, she’s never been in love—she’ll have to find the perfect guy before she can kill him.
After years of waiting for her Calling—a trial every witch must pass in order to come into their powers—the one thing Voya Thomas didn’t expect was to fail. When Voya’s ancestor gives her an unprecedented second chance to complete her Calling, she agrees—and then is horrified when her task is to kill her first love. And this time, failure means every Thomas witch will be stripped of their magic.
Voya is determined to save her family’s magic no matter the cost. The problem is, Voya has never been in love, so for her to succeed, she’ll first have to find the perfect guy—and fast. Fortunately, a genetic matchmaking program has just hit the market. Her plan is to join the program, fall in love, and complete her task before the deadline. What she doesn’t count on is being paired with the infuriating Luc—how can she fall in love with a guy who seemingly wants nothing to do with her?
With mounting pressure from her family, Voya is caught between her morality and her duty to her bloodline. If she wants to save their heritage and Luc, she’ll have to find something her ancestor wants more than blood. And in witchcraft, blood is everything.
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r e v i e w
'Blood Like Magic' by Liselle Sambury follows the story of a young witch named Voya Thomas, who after years of waiting for her coming of age ritual.. a trial referred to as her Calling, ends up failing it.. and failing it spectacularly. When her ancestor gives her an unprecedented second chance.. she accepts.. only to find out it means she has to kill her first love or every Thomas witch will lose their magic.
Determined, not only to secure her own future, but more importantly.. to save her family's magic.. Voya has to quickly find the perfect guy to be her first love. Her plan? Sign up for the brand new genetic matchmaking program, fall in love, and complete her task before the big deadline.
Unfortunately, she's paired with Luc.. an infuriating guy she does not hit it off with. Caught between her personal morals and her blood obligation, if she is going to save both her heritage and Luc, she has to find something her ancestor wants more than blood.
Honestly, I really wanted to love this book. I was excited for it the moment I saw it. The premise is full of potential conflict and witchy happenings, what's not to love?
For me though, Voya is incredibly annoying. No, not just Voya.. the characters in general lack any real sense of depth, but since she's the protagonist.. most of our attention is obviously centered on her. What seems meant to be simple insecurity and indecision is presented in the whiniest, most self-involved package imaginable.
The Calling itself is an interesting concept, if a bit cringey in spots.. though that's only my personal discomfort. Regardless, it is refreshingly original and it's nice to see coming of age tied to physiological changes that are inherently feminine energy.
Though modern society has gotten really obsessed with masculine virility (and there's nothing wrong with that either or any other option), it's important to note that many ancient civilizations worshipped heavily feminine gods. Therefore, in a story throwing back even a hundred years or so and focused on an age old theory like blood magic, it adds that extra something that seems to give the story a bit more kick.
There are definitely some things that are hard to read, but that's made more so because of the root of historical truth in them. Though the specific scene is fictional, obviously there are plenty of horrible actualities it could be drawn from.. and if possible that makes it even more difficult.
Anyway, this book wasn't for me, but the writing is solid and the story is interesting. If you're sensitive to cruelty and violence, you might want to skip a couple of pages though. Otherwise, though I wasn't a fan.. if you like urban fantasy and stories about witches, give it a try.
Liselle Sambury is a Trinidadian-Canadian author who grew up in Toronto, and her brand of writing can be described as “messy Black girls in fantasy situations.”
In her free time, she shares helpful tips for upcoming writers and details of her publishing journey through a YouTube channel dedicated to helping demystify the sometimes complicated business of being an author.
She is represented by Kristy Hunter at The Knight Agency.
AUTHOR LINKS: LISELLESAMBURY.CA | GOODREADS | INSTAGRAM | TWITTER | YOUTUBE
What's the most surprising thing you discovered about Voya while writing this book?
I had an interesting experience where during edits with my publisher, I realized that I had her internal motivation wrong. I thought she wanted one thing from her life but came to understand that she wanted something very different. It was surprising because I had done so many edits by then, you would think I would have her down, but that was something new I discovered and am happy I was able to correct.
How did writing Blood Like Magic change you?
I definitely learned a lot about my personal history during the creation of the novel. Ancestry is such a core theme, and I finally pushed myself to find out some of the story of where I came from. I think I have more appreciation for asking family members those sorts of questions now.
Where did your love of storytelling come from?
Since as long as I can remember, I have always told myself stories in my head well before I was ever reading them. I feel like that mostly came from being an only child, to be honest. You really have to rely on yourself for entertainment and that was how I entertained myself. Once I started writing them down, I really enjoyed the escapism of it and being able to see a physical representation of my stories that I could look back on.
How does your life inform your writing?
I do very naturally incorporate things that occur in my life into my writing. If I’ve had an impactful experience, I tend to want to discuss and explore that in prose. I also find that it tends to work out better if I put some of myself into the work, even if it’s just constantly setting my stories in Canada.
What's your favorite under-appreciated novel?
I think every novel I’ve read and loved has had some sort of acclaim, but one that I thought was wonderful and wish people would talk about more is Watch Over Me by Nina Lacour. It’s just so beautifully written and emotional, and such an interesting twist on a ghost story. I think it also really speaks to a longing desperation to belong, which I loved.
If this story had a playlist, what would be on it?
I did actually make a playlist! Some songs I have on it are Togetherness by Alison Hinds, which is a song that I remember fondly from when I went to Caribana as a child and is kind of perfectly fitted to the book. I also included Past Lives by BORNS because of the way that the past and those who come before us affects the characters.
What do you hope readers take away from this book?
I hope more than anything that they enjoy it as an urban fantasy. I think there are messages like feeling that you have the power to control your future that I would love readers to marinate on. But I would also truly love for them to see it as a fun addition to the genre.
'Star Eater' by Kerstin Hall
'Star Eater' by Kerstin Hall, takes place in Aytrium, a dystopian fantasy land where an order of women called the Sisterhood wield all the power. Males and those from non-magical bloodlines are second class citizens, but being a sister isn't necessarily optimal either.
Elfreda Raughn is just an acolyte. Her best friends are both non-magical, Millie and Finn.. they're also the only family she's got. She wants out of the Sisterhood and all the ritualistic activities they center their lives around.
When a shadowy faction offers her an opportunity to avoid some of the most trying day-to-day duties, she agrees to spy for them. Her tasks give her access to a world she's never seen before. The elegant parties, twisted games, and dangerous interactions that only the leaders amongst her order engage in.. but surviving them may be another story.
Conceptually it's an intriguing story with incredibly dark elements. Not only do the Sisters engage in blood magic, it's quite frankly a brutal existence. Even those at the top have to sacrifice heavily, having more power only enables them to choose between those sacrifices a bit more aggressively and in Aytrium, none of the choices are good.
Hall manages to take some truly horrific acts and make them so palatable that they seem almost acceptable within the structure of the story. Which, isn't to say there isn't an occurrence here and there that's methodically too much even under the expectations she sets.
I enjoyed the multi-tiered conflict. The characters have plenty of internal struggles, but there are also waves and waves of conflicts overlapping and crashing into each other amongst the citizens of Aytrium. Though I did feel the ending was a little anti-climactic for me, the path from about the midway point of the book up to that conclusion hits pretty hard and fast. In fact, there's a moment it the city that is really rough emotionally.
While overall the story was pretty enjoyable, the beginning was a big of a slog. Somehow the author both over-describes and under-describes.. and I've genuinely never seen that before. Meaning, she'll give an eye-view of nearly everything the character comes across, but she doesn't actually describe any of it in enough detail so as to be easily visualized or memorable. The overuse of group names within the order is also a bit out of hand.
Fortunately, after the first third or so of the novel, that clears up as the plot itself becomes more dense. The book is definitely still worth a read, as it improves considerably from that point on and by the halfway mark or so, I didn't want to put it down anymore. If you're sensitive to graphic scenes, blood, gore, or death.. this book might not be for you.
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Be sure to follow this link - [SCHEDULE] to check out the other hosts of the 'Empire of Dragons' cover reveal brought to you by LITERARY BOUND TOURS and RACHEL L. SCHADE!
I'm pleased to be participating in the cover reveal for 'Empire of Dragons' by Rachel L. Schade!
Save the empire...or let it burn.
Revenge failed her...
Three years ago, Lo’laeni Nolanhou did the unthinkable, slaying the empress of the cruel Alrenian Empire and freeing her people, the Forwyn slaves. But the price of revenge wasn’t freedom, only guilt. Vowing to never kill again, Lo dedicated her life to the god Elhani, serving as a nun within the Circle of Serenity to fight against the injustices still wrought against her people in the torn capital of Alrenor.
Then Caesiem, a handsome and mysterious Teramese boy aligned with an underground Forwyn vigilante group, flips her world upside down. The unrest growing within Alrenor is worse than Lo realized. Corruption is everywhere...and the Forwyn vigilantes want an empress slayer.
Revenge fuels her...
For years, Empress Jaliana, Daughter of Karye, has been a captive in her own palace. A prisoner to her mother’s killers. A powerless pawn, alone and unable to take back her throne, her dragons, or her kingdom.
Until one night a never-before-seen gift manifests itself within Jalie. It’s terrifying. Brutal. Everything she has ever needed. But the Forwyn won’t give in easily. They task Kovi, a young soldier, to watch over her, and he challenges everything she’s ever believed about her enemies...
One empire. An age-old hatred. Two girls who will risk anything—even their souls—for their people.
Rachel L. Schade was born on the first day of summer in a small town in Michigan. She attended The Ohio State University to learn how to write obnoxiously long papers, cite people who use big words, and discuss her passion: books. She has a great love for the color blue, sunshine, chocolate, and not folding her laundry. Currently she lives in Ohio with her husband and surrounds herself with books, coffee, and furry creatures on a regular basis.
'The Maidens' by Alex Michaelides
'The Maidens' is the newest release from Alex Michaelides, bestselling author of the debut sensation 'The Silent Patient.' A psychological thriller housed within St. Christopher's College, Cambridge, the author binds mystery and murder to themes of classic Greek mythology.
Told primarily through the narrative of Mariana, a group psychotherapist who's a year into mourning for her late husband, the woman is drawn back to the place where their love story began by what is quite likely the only thing that could motivate her to set foot there. A call for help from her niece, Zoe, regarding her best friend's murder.
Drifting between the memories of their courtship haunting her still and the secrets stacking up around her that seem to be held tightly by both the students and faculty members, Mariana struggles to put the pieces together. Strangeness is afoot amongst a select group of students referred to as The Maidens and their darkly charismatic professor, Edward Fosca.
From the opening pages, Michaelides captures grief exquisitely, affixing it to the page with the expertise of a collector.. as if it's a butterfly pinned neatly under glass for the rest of us to study. Above all else, it's the ability to convey those emotions.. so richly textured, that inextricably bound me to this story through its end.
It certainly doesn't hurt that the author himself seems to be well-read. More than once, though I was loathe to put the book down, I found myself pausing in search of referenced writings that I'd never cared enough to read prior. His romantic description behind Tennyson's grief drove me to read the 3,000 line masterpiece, 'In Memoriam.' I researched theses for Antigone, dissertations on Euripides, and though Aristotle is one of my favorites.. this book had me viewing 'The Poetics' through a different lens entirely.
Periodically, snippets of another narrative appear throughout the book. Snippets of what could be diary entries from an individual who has known great suffering and may in fact be inflicting the same on others. Interestingly enough, there are so many choices presented by the author, that it's difficult to even stick with a guess as to who it might be.
Eloquently penned, the story moves at a steady pace, weaving.. labyrinthine through the lives affected by the murder. Those ripples reaching in some cases much farther than we might anticipate, creating more difficult situations on top of the first.
Though Michaelides did keep me guessing to the end, my only complaint is that I felt almost cheated. I felt robbed of the moment where I might look back and say to myself, "I should have seen that," because it wasn't there. It wasn't just subterfuge and misdirection, it was a blank canvas. I like to call it the 'Saw' treatment.. and never have I been so infuriated by a film.
Don't get me wrong, I loved the book. In a lesser writer's hands that feeling would have won out, but it's just so beautifully crafted and so emotionally driven.. that I forgive him for taking a path that just personally displeases me. I'm truly grateful for having read this story, I haven't been so immersed in a long time.
If you like tense thrillers with a psychological bent and an elegant, artistic approach.. this is the book for you.
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[TOUR SCHEDULE] to check out the rest of the stops on the 'CONSTELLATIONS OF SCARS' blog tour brought to you by MIDNIGHT TIDE PUBLISHING, MELISSA ESKUE OUSLEY, and XPRESSO BOOK TOURS!
'Constellations of Scars' by Melissa Eskue Ousley had such an unusual premise, I just couldn't pass it up. The story follows Amelia, a girl in her early twenties with one incredibly unique attribute. Her body grows pearls.
Every month, a crop of valuable pearls breaks through the skin along her back. Her mother considers it a blessing, but to Amelia it's the opposite. It's painful and humiliating. Each harvest offers a brief respite from the agony of the crop, but the scars left behind are almost as embarrassing as the cause.
Kept hidden, home-schooled, and even locked away at times in the attic to 'keep her safe,' Amelia just dreams of freedom. Having been told since the pearls began growing that if anyone finds out about her gift, she'll be held captive out of greed, she soon realizes she's already in that situation at home.
This is such a strange little story and I mean that in the nicest way. Amelia is not a weak girl, she really suffers with the crops of pearls and she has been through an awful experience with her mother. She's been isolated and controlled for almost half her life, stripped of any semblance of privacy, berated and abused.
Determined to achieve a better existence for herself, she sets goals and pushes hard toward them. She doesn't give up at the first sign of difficulty. Amelia is probably one of the strongest female protagonists I've ever read, without becoming overbearing or being turned into a tough stereotype. She shows moments of vulnerability, but perseveres.. even in the worst of them.
Along the way, she finds a new family.. a group of human oddities that help run a museum on the coast. While she discovers what it's like to be on her own, experiences a lot of firsts, and even begins to form deep, long-lasting relationships.. not everything is sunny in the beachside town. There are dangers lurking that she isn't equipped to recognize.
While I did see part of the twist coming, it still went a completely different direction than I expected and I really enjoyed that. The supporting cast is a bit stereotyped, but they were lovely characters.. especially Gabriel.
If you're looking for something a bit strange, this one is a quick read. There is quite a bit of darkness here, but that just added to the atmosphere. It's not complex storytelling, but I think you'll find it's so intriguing that you won't mind.
Constellations of Scars
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"..he had a dreaminess to his eyes as well, as if he were somehow fundamentally unmoored from the world, perpetually startled by its sharp edges and small cruelties."
'The Chosen and the Beautiful' by Nghi Vo is a faithful re-telling of The Great Gatsby, wrapped lovingly.. and perhaps a little obsessively, within the cool contours of magical realism.
Though I normally like my re-tellings to vary enough that they can be difficult to recognize at first glance, this one is so full of interesting, creative magical elements and interpersonal nuances that I think varying from the original tale too much would have done it a disservice.
Told from the perspective of Jordan Baker, a queer adoptee originally from Tonkin/Vietnam by a wealthy white family, she has access to social tiers others would not have in the 1920's. She's free-spirited and has the money to pretty much do whatever she likes with her time and that just so happens to mean lots of exclusive parties. While it seems she has everything, she's still treated as an almost collectible oddity by her peers and the most important things remain behind sealed doors for her.
"..soul gone and some terrible engine he called love driving him now, I could see that for him, the world was always ending. For him, it was all a wreck and a ruin, and he had no idea why the rest of us weren't screaming."
Gatsby and Daisy, Nick and Tom, even the Wilsons are all still present here. Yet some of the dynamics have changed, modernizing the feel of the atmosphere. I enjoyed the way the reveal at the end was tucked away, marked only by character reactions and small side comments.. never directly addressed. At first pass, the scene just feels a bit off.. like there's something that doesn't quite make sense.. and then it does.
Tinged with Faustian themes, the author gives us a much more visually vibrant world, however. The magic is otherworldly.. life seemingly made of paper, ghosts sharing space with the living, and all sorts of other intrigues.
I loved the infernal twist on the bootlegging business and really enjoyed the way obsession was explored. It went far beyond just two people in this telling and became more of a spiral of obsession instead.. with one always drawn inexorably toward another until all were essentially connected. At times, the book reads like a fever dream.. and disoriented, you wonder if that's real or if it's the character being affected.
"She was half out of her robe like a snowdrop unsheathed after the winter, fragile and more than a little raw."
Vo is a beautifully lyrical writer who does an excellent job of creating an underlying premonition of dread while dazzling the reader with exuberant scenes and imaginative illusions. If you like a bit of mystery or a sense of fatalism in your stories, read this book. I promise you will not make it all the way through without finding at least one surprise waiting.
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Continue below to read my revew of the book and be sure to follow this link - [TOUR SCHEDULE] to check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour for 'THE IMMORTAL GAME' brought to you by TBR & BEYOND TOURS, SWOON READS/MACMILLAN, TALIA ROTHSCHILD and A.C. HARVEY!
The Immortal Game
May 25th, 2021
Swoon Reads / Macmillan Children's Publishing Group
Content Warning: Emotional abuse, battle scenes, up-close death
An exiled goddess goes on a quest to clear her name and save Mount Olympus in Talia Rothschild & A. C. Harvey’s action-packed young adult debut, The Immortal Game!
Galene, daughter of Poseidon, desperately wants to earn her place among the gods. But when a violent attack leaves Mount Olympus in chaos and ruins, she is accused of the crime. Banished from Olympus, Galene sets out to prove her innocence and discovers a more deadly plot—one that threatens even the oldest of Immortals.
Fortunately, she has allies who willingly join her in exile:
A lifelong friend who commands the wind.
A defiant warrior with deadly skill.
A fire-wielder with a hero’s heart.
A mastermind who plays life like a game.
All-out war is knocking at the gates. Galene and her friends are the only ones who can tip the scales toward justice, but their choices could save Olympus from total annihilation, or be the doom of them all.
rating: ★ ★ ★ (3/5 stars)
'The Immortal Game' by Talia Rothschild and A.C. Harvey tells the story of Galene, a daughter of Poseidon. When unexpected violence brings death to Mount Olympus, she is exiled for the crime. Separated from the home she loves, Galene's only hope of vindication lies in proving she's not to blame.
On a self-imposed mission to clear her name, the goddess discovers a far more sinister plot that threatens all she holds dear and could see even the most powerful Olympians lost. With a group of friends who follow her willingly into exile, she just might stand a chance.
This story is basically a classic mythology quest in the vein of the Labours of Hercules. The goddess and her group face a long journey with many trials along the way and it's questionable if all will survive through the end. Somewhat less traditional, it moves a bit more like an Indiana Jones film, whereas it's pretty fast-paced and something is always happening. If they're not trying to escape death or capture, they're trying to work their way through some other challenge.
With the possibility of war looming, there are others moving around on the proverbial board as well and that turns the journey into a bit of a race against time. The book was actually a quick read because it was so easy to get invested in the hopeful outcome for the characters and there's always so much going on.. I didn't really want to put it down.
Complicated relationships between some of the party members made for some intriguing dynamics. There's so much tension at times it seems the group might just implode and never see the quest to its completion.
Galene is a likeable character and a strong, female protagonist. It was nice to see a truly supportive female friendship, rather than having to watch them try to rise above one another amongst the others. Overall, I was a big fan of Kostas and Braxtus, but the latter especially has a lot of layers to him and I always appreciate a good substory.
I will say, the storytelling itself is a little choppy at times, but I feel like that's because the authors were trying to accomplish so much in a relatively short novel. It also suffers a little from conveniences allowing characters to easily know or learn what they need to in every moment and I felt like I got a bit too much of Kostas main ability, but ultimately these are minor criticisms.
Some of the elements employed, particularly within the magic system were very interesting. I absolutely loved the concept of the Decks of Fates, but I won't go into detail.
There's a ton of adventure and betrayal to be had here, so if you're looking for something that will keep your interest and you have a fondness for the Greek pantheon, this will probably do it. If on the other hand, even something like 'Lore' had too much mythology for your liking, you're going to want to pass. This book is very mythology heavy and that worked great for me.
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Talia Rothschild, Italian American, is passionate about stories in many forms—music, dance, photography, film and, of course, great novels. She believes in thick hot chocolate and creamer in your tea.
When she’s not happily writing, she’s mothering the sweetest baby girl and making memories with her husband.
AUTHOR LINKS: TALIAROTHSCHILD.COM | GOODREADS | INSTAGRAM | TWITTER
Ashleigh Harvey is teaching high school physics and bringing her writing dreams to life. English-born and world-traveled, she loves filling her life with new adventures, such as visiting a new country or exploring the Wild West with her husband.
She also finds escape in movies, music, literature, and yearly comic conventions.
AUTHOR LINKS: ACHARVEYAUTHOR.COM | GOODREADS | INSTAGRAM | TWITTER
Giveaway (US Only): One winner will receive a finished copy of The Immortal Game. The giveaway starts on May 31st and ends June 7th . Embedded Link: a Rafflecopter giveaway