Hi. Hello. It’s me, the person who has gone MIA the last few years aside from sporadic Tweets and even more sporadic book reviews.
I guess this post is meant to serve as a graduation announcement/return to the land of the living. After three years, numerous emotional breakdowns reminiscent of those displayed by the small children I live with, far too many Trader Joe’s frozen meals, and mental health treatment, I’m finally done with my MLIS.
I’m trying to figure out what to do with myself now that I’ve graduated AND I’m on summer vacation. Applying for jobs, obviously. Playing with the Legos that have taken over our living room with the soon-to-be kindergarteners in my life. Caring for the numerous plants I have somehow acquired in the last few months. Eating real food. Figuring out how this whole writing thing works again.
I guess the only real answer I have to what comes next is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. And that’s okay.
Currently Reading: Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding by Rhys Bowen Currently Listening To: Vitamin String Quartet — “Get Lucky”
Full disclosure: I’m friends with the author and read multiple drafts of the book prior to its publication. This hasn’t impacted my review at all.
Title: EMBER Author: Anna Holmes Series: Ember of Elyssia, #1 Publication Information: Self-Published, 2017 Format: Paperback Pages: 341 Source: Purchased Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy Warnings: Light violence (swordplay, magic), maiming Rating: 5 stars Recommended For: Fans of the enemies to lovers romance trope (told in dual POV!) and witty banter; fans of The Princess Bride.
The war is over. The island of Elyssia has been freed from the clutches of the Rosalian Empire, power restored to the island’s monarchy. However, after leading the Resurgence from the front, Princess Caelin now finds herself sitting and waiting more often than not. When magical prodigy Alain Flynn breaks into her palace to kidnap her, she hears of a secret slave camp—and forms a plan. Under the guise of a kidnapping, she will investigate the camp, expose the secrets, and take control of the fate of her kingdom.
So, I’ve read this book like three or four times and I’m still not sick of it, so it’s already got that going for it.
So many fantasy books are about defeating the bad guy, and then everyone goes to war to take down the aforementioned bad guy, and everyone is happy when the bad guy goes down, but we don’t get to see very often what happens after the war. What sort of rebuilding goes on? How do the new people in charge gain the trust of the people who fought against them? EMBER, refreshingly, is set during this time of rebuilding. The war has ended, and that’s where the story begins. Caelin has to figure out how to rebuild Elyssia, and how to gain the trust of the people who were on the other side in the war – since a lot of people actually supported the Rosalians. Then, there’s also the fact that, as a teenage girl, a lot of people don’t think she’s up to the task of ruling, so she has enemies inside the palace as well as outside. And, inwardly, Caelin is unsure she has what it takes to be a good ruler. SO MUCH CONFLICT.
Our other POV is Alain, a former Rosalian commander (or Prince, as they’re called) who is put into slavery – a thing Caelin’s advisers are doing behind her back – and, upon escaping his slave camp, decides to kidnap Caelin. He is one of the previously mentioned supporters of Rosalia who hates Caelin and doesn’t want to see her rule. But, all he knows is the propaganda fed to him by the Empire, and when he actually meets Caelin, he starts having conflicted feelings about her as he realizes she’s not the evil person he was always told. MORE CONFLICT.
And then, of course, there is a cast of delightful secondary characters. There’s Riley, my precious brooding child, a palace guard and Caelin’s best friend since childhood; Tressa, a centaur bounty hunter who’s got the best attitude in the world; August, who I just want to hug every time he shows up; and Gavroth, who is The Best. Even the villains are a delight to read, even though they’re terrible people.
I saw John and Hank Green (for the second time!) when they stopped by my alma mater, Western Washington University, on John Green’s book tour for TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN. Which I haven’t actually read yet, because I’ve been reading library books and also things for class. But SOON.
Anyway, one thing to know about their tours – which they also did jointly for the release of TFiOS – is that it’s really a variety show. John talks about his book and reads from it, but then we also get Hank singing songs about science, and they do things together. This time, they answered pre-submitted questions in a sort of podcast format. (Which – it was news to me they have a podcast now? I’m out of the loop.)
The evening as a whole was really fun. They both do a great job getting the audience excited and involved, despite hating audience participation, according to John. Thinking about it, I guess there really wasn’t any audience participation involved. They just did a great job making it SEEM like we were participating, simply because they made sure we had fun. And I will say, while I felt a little weird being a lone adult attendee, it was cool seeing how many teenagers convinced their parents to take them, and how many of them were singing along with Hank’s science songs, and generally being excited about nerd stuff.
John also took some time to talk about his OCD, and how it made him less creative because not taking care of it made it harder for him to write, and he urged the audience to get help if they, like him, felt like their brains were spinning out of control and were feeling scared. Given how many people in the audience were teenagers, I’m glad he spoke about his experience so honestly, because a lot of those kids who were there really look up to him, so his words have the potential to have a really big impact on them.
Title: OF SCARS AND STARDUST Author: Andrea Hannah Publication Information: Flux, 2014 Genre: Young Adult – Mystery Rating: 4 Stars Recommended For: People who love them some plot twists with a heaping side of guilt.
After her little sister mysteriously vanishes, seventeen-year-old Claire Graham has a choice to make: stay snug in her little corner of Manhattan with her dropout boyfriend, or go back to Ohio to face the hometown tragedy she’s been dying to leave behind.
But the memories of that night still haunt her in the city, and as hard as she tries to forget what her psychiatrist calls her “delusions,” Claire can’t seem to escape the wolf’s eyes or the blood-speckled snow. Delusion or reality, Claire knows she has to hold true to the most important promise she’s ever made: to keep Ella safe. She must return to her sleepy hometown in order to find Ella and keep her hallucinations at bay before they strike again. But time is quickly running out, and as Ella’s trail grows fainter, the wolves are becoming startlingly real.
Now Claire must deal with her attraction to Grant, the soft-spoken boy from her past that may hold the secret to solving her sister’s disappearance, while following the clues that Ella left for only her to find. Through a series of cryptic diary entries, Claire must unlock the keys to Ella’s past—and her own—in order to stop another tragedy in the making, while realizing that not all things that are lost are meant to be found.
Why I Picked It: I follow Andrea on Twitter and Instagram (which didn’t influence my review at all). Also, the cover is gorgeous.
First of all, I want to talk about how well the cover ties into the book. We’ve got the two girls clutching each other, which accurately speaks to the fact that this is a story about two sisters. Then, the sisters are standing in the middle of some really creepy looking trees, which I think accurately reflects the feel of the book since it definitely had me on edge the entire time I was reading it.
The book started off pretty slow for me. The entire first section of the book shows up what happens before the main story – the part where the main character, Claire, is trying to find her missing sister, Ella. I understand that the information we get from that part is important to understanding Claire’s mental state and Ella’s motivations later on in the book, but I have to wonder if it needed to be presented that way since I felt like it slowed the pace down a bit toward the beginning.
Once I got through Part One, though, and the mystery really kicked into gear, I was in. OF SCARS AND STARDUST is full of twists and turns that had me saying “NO WAY!” in multiple places. As soon as Ella goes missing and Claire and Graham start looking for clues and start uncovering the truth about certain past events, the book is fast-paced and never slows down.
I also loved how well Hannah presented Claire, whose sanity is in question throughout the entire book. The entire time I was reading, I had to question if certain things were actually happening, but at the same time, I really wanted to believe Claire because it was so clear how much she cares about Ella and feels responsible for what happened to her. Claire may or may not be experiencing delusions, but she always felt fully formed, which I feel is important when dealing with a character like this.
Another thing I really loved is the setting. OF SCARS AND STARDUST takes place mostly in a small town in Ohio, and captured that small town feel. But at the same time, it was really atmospheric and because of that – as well as how Claire perceives her surroundings – it added a lot of tension to the book.
TL;DR: OF SCARS AND STARDUST starts off slow, but once the mystery element of the story comes into play, it’s a fast-paced story full of twists and turns that’s hard to put down.
Today I’m super excited to be helping reveal the cover for Mara Valderran‘s HEIRS OF WAR, CROWN OF FLAMES, the sequel to the awesome HEIRS OF WAR.
I’ll let Mara take it from here!
Book two of the Heirs of War series is right around the corner! Heirs of War, Crown of Flames is set to be released this summer, and we have the first look at the cover for the book today! If you haven’t already read Heirs of War, it is on sale this week for $0.99 cents from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and other retailers. Here’s what you have to look forward to in book two:
Weeks have passed since Ariana and Alec escaped from Kellen’s dungeon, but danger isn’t far behind them. As they travel through unknown lands and encounter multiple threats, their biggest challenge might be trusting one another.
Despite the danger and the war closing in around them, all of Anscombe seems to be more interested in the upcoming Imbolc festival than rescuing Ariana. Well, not everyone.
Tired of waiting for the Duillaine to help her twin, Zelene starts plotting on her own and finds a surprising ally in Rhaya, even as the Cynewards prepare to make a move of their own. But Zelene’s plans go awry when she finds herself with a new ability, a mysterious new friend, and more enemies within the walls of Anscombe than she thought.
Mara Valderran is not just an author of young adult and new adult novels. She has dabbled in screenwriting, retired from acting, and drawn some pretty mean stick figures in her time. She is an avid reader and loves all things fantasy. She contributes to the fantasy blog There and Draft Again: A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers.
Her debut novel, HEIRS OF WAR, has been met with great reviews and was featured on Wattpad in 2013, raking in over 600k reads. The series continues with the second book, HEIRS OF WAR, CROWN OF FLAMES to be released in Summer 2014. Her short story “The Austenation” will be included in the Borderlands Anthology and she is looking forward to publishing her young adult dystopian ALTAR OF REALITY with Curiosity Quills Winter 2014.
Mara is more than just a madwoman with a writing box. She loves roller skating and movies, though typically not together. She lives in Las Vegas with her husband and demanding cat. She hopes to one day meet Daniel Jackson from SG1, or at least the actor who played him. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, playing video games, or spending time at her favorite local coffee shop.
For more on Mara or her latest projects, check out her website.
Don’t forget to enter the Fan Favorites and Shipping Warscontests running on her website! By choosing your favorite character or you favorite relationship in the Heirs of War series, you can win a chance to star in a brand new scene with those characters or help bring them to life in a new scene. Just fill out the forms and you will be entered to win!
And if all of that wasn’t enough, here’s the book trailer:
Note: This review is based on an ARC I received from the author. I also read part of an earlier version of the manuscript. Neither of these swayed my review.
One of the things I was most excited about with Heirs of War is the fact that all five of the main characters are women, which is always something I love to find in epic fantasy novels like this. I also love how even though we see all five of their points of view, it’s never confusing, and each character has her own personality. They were all fully fleshed out, instead of just being token female fantasy characters.
I also liked how the world the girls find themselves in comes to life, with a hint of political tensions under the surface that I hope explode in the next book. It might feel sometimes like there’s not much happening, but that’s because we’re getting immersed in the world – there’s so much going on under the surface, and we’re discovering it through the eyes of the main characters. With such a central role, I could sense that everything was just building to something and I can’t wait to find out what happens!
The only thing I wanted to see more of was a little more activeness from the characters. Sometimes it felt like they were letting things happen, as opposed to making things happen. Like I said, though, I got the sense we were being set up for some big things to happen in the next book, so I’m sure there will be more making things happen soon.
There were some really interesting things going on in Heirs of War, and I’m sure they’re only going to get more interesting from here. I can’t wait for the next book!
I’ve referenced it only briefly on the blog, but I finished revising SHARDS a week ago. While I’ve been playing around with the sequel, OPAQUE, I’ve also redoubled my efforts to finish a draft of FIRE because I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket.
As it turns out, working on something that’s not SHARDS is terrifying.
I’ve been in the same world with the same characters for the past five years. Nilea is home and Calanthe, Vantandal, Ethan, and the rest are all my friends by now. I know these characters. I know how Nilea works. And now I’m starting something completely different with completely different characters I don’t know anything about, in an entirely different world I’m discovering alongside the characters. I guess the best way to describe it is it’s like my first day at a new school and everyone’s staring at me like I’m the new girl.
But all of the things that are terrifying about writing something completely new? Those are also the things that make it exciting.
Full disclosure: this was only the second New Adult book I’ve read, like, ever. But I can tell you I will most certainly be reading many more after Broken at Love.
At first Broken at Love seems like just a fun read, and it is a really fun read. In fact, I read most of it in one sitting, staying up past my bedtime to finish it – one of the highest compliments a book can get from me. It had everything I love – pretty rich people, brooding (and hot) men, and enough drama to fuel a whole fleet of soap operas. But what really made me love it was the genuine chemistry Quinn and Emilie had – it didn’t feel forced at all, to the point where no matter how despicable some of the things Quinn did were, I was still rooting for them because separating them would just be cruel.
So. Originally, I gave the book 4 stars. But then I let myself sit on that, as I do before I write a review. And now here are the reasons I ultimately bumped it up to a 5:
First of all, Emilie’s confidence. One thing that has turned me off of romance novels is the fact that most of the women are delicate little virginal flowers who wait around for their One True Love and a whole host of other things that make me roll my eyes. Emilie, on the other hand, knows what she wants, she’s not ashamed of it, and she goes for it, even knowing there’s a good chance it’ll be a one time thing. In addition to that, even though she insists there’s something good in Quinn under all the angst and horrible things he’s done, she doesn’t try to turn him into something he’s not. If more romance heroines were like Emilie, I’d probably read more romance novels.
And Quinn. Ohh, Quinn. At the beginning of the story, he’s a really easy guy to hate. He actively does everything he can to reinforce that he is, in fact, a terrible person. But by the end of the story…you’ll love him. Not because he turns into a Prince Charming (yawn), but because – not unlike Sawyer from Lost – we come to realize that under that whole act Quinn puts on, there is a decent guy in there. Somewhere.
Also, have I mentioned how much I love Quinn and Emilie together? I did? Oh. Still do.
Broken at Love is available now. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy!
Thank you to the author for providing an ARC for review.
While I’m probably still not going to be seeking recs for books with aliens, I did end up loving Whispers in Autumn, primarily for two reasons: the characters and the world building.
I felt like this book started really slow, but what I didn’t realize until later was that this really helped us get inside Thea’s head, and ultimately feel sorry for her. Thea has the typical teenage worries about fitting in, and she feels like she’s different and that’s Not A Good Thing. I feel like my teenage self would’ve really been able to relate to her. My not teenage self mostly wanted to give her a hug and tell her everything will be okay, eventually.
Except, you know, I can’t really guarantee that to poor Thea, because in her world, she really is different, and that’s definitely Not A Good Thing. The reason I’m willing to forgive the whole aliens thing is the dystopian element there is to this world. The world reminded me of The Giver, in that everyone is brainwashed into believing their happy, with the result that they blissfully accept everything the Others hand to them. Except, of course, there’s way more to it than the whole Giver-ish brainwashing thing, which I can’t get into because spoilers.
There was one Big Twist at the end that I called, because that’s sort of my thing. But there were some others related to it that I had suspicions about that I was ultimately wrong about, and I think the whole slow beginning thing I mentioned earlier helped to build the tension before we learned Important Information. This in no way diminished my love for this book, which I’m sure you’ve already started reading by now.