Death Warden by C. J. Stilling (Review)

Today’s review is for a suspenseful fantasy novel called Death Warden!

Title: Death Warden

Author: C. J. Stilling

Fantasy • upper YA • 2019 • 434 pages (e-book)

Read May 8, 2022 • 3 stars • Favorite character: Bastien • I received a free e-copy of this book from the author. I was under no obligation to write a review. All opinions are my own.

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This was such an edge-of-your seat read! I. Could. Not. Stop. Reading! Wow. It was a bit too dark for me, personally, but it was super suspenseful and exciting. The worldbuilding, setting, and magic systems were very cool, especially the shadows! It was neat being immersed in this world that’s magical but with a slight steampunk edge (although it was also pretty gritty, and sometimes hard to figure out goodguys versus villains). Also, it had cool tropes like found-family and assassin-girl and academy-type stories!

It was told in a really unique way in alternating present-and-past timelines, so it was neat piecing together Reen’s story from the flashbacks and the present, while second-guessing along the way. I’m not sure I BREATHED during the entire ending! Whew! *collapses* *thumbs-up*

Shoutout to Bastien for being an amazing cinnamon roll character. He was great! (I almost . . . wish . . . well, there’s a certain other amethyst-eyed character I want him to be! *cough*) All the other characters were very vivid and there were a lot of shifting motives going on, so I couldn’t always root for anyone besides Reen and Bastien (I feel like I was supposed to like Cron but I just never did; I think that’s just me, though).

Unfortunately, zombies and plagues are a no-go for me, and the book is also just . . . dark. Kind of too dark for my personal taste, but that’s just me! (I could have done without the nightmares it gave me. *nervous laugh*) I almost put it down a couple of times because of the disturbingness, but I was hooked and had to know what happened, so I am glad I finished!

Although it wasn’t a personal favorite of mine, it was definitely well-written and gripping, a solid read. I’m sure many other readers of YA would not find it too dark and would enjoy it! It’s perfect for fans of Six of Crows (with less content) and Vespertine (what I’ve heard of it).

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Beyond Her Calling by Kellyn Roth (Review)

I’m excited to be reviewing this beautiful book by Kellyn Roth today!

Title: Beyond Her Calling

Author: Kellyn Roth

Series: The Chronicles of Alice and Ivy, #4 (but stands alone)

Historical Fiction / Christian Fiction / Scotland (I DON’T CARE, IT’S A GENRE) • Adult • 2022 • 255 pages (paperback)

Read May 9, 2022 • 4 stars • Favorite character: Jordy • I received a free ARC of this book from the author and was not obligated to leave a review. All opinions are my own. (And I actually finished “reading” it by getting myself the audiobook off Audible because Scottish accents!)

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I enjoyed reading this historical fiction novel set in the 1880s in Scotland. Scotland! That had to be the best part of it, and I really enjoyed the setting and especially the accents!

Ivy Knight from England heads up to Scotland for a visit. Drama, friends new and old, relationships, and soul-searching ensue. I liked Ivy’s point of view and her thoughts, and especially the way she compares everything to music, which made me happy. She’s a dear, and her sweetness and occasional awkwardness but determination to do right made her a lovely character.

Jordy McAllen is great too! He’s my favorite. *grinning* A passionate but sometimes endearingly boyish young doctor, with a delightful accent and also a sense of fun, trying to find his way. Ivy and Jordy are also adorable together. *cackles* They’re both such cinnamon rolls!

There were one or two things I felt I was missing due to jumping in on book four, but only in a very mild way, but in general it was a good standalone too. It’s adult fiction but clean other than some mature issues discussed from someone’s past. Everything’s tied in to the characters’ faith throughout the book and there were some inspiring lines at times.

Also, this is random, but I enjoyed that there were letters throughout the book between several different characters (epistolary bits in books make me happy for some reason), and references to other books, like Jane Austen’s.

It wrapped up satisfactorily (like I said, stands alone pretty well), but I’m definitely hoping to check out the next book about these characters because I’d love to spend more time with Ivy and Jordy! (I think the next one featuring them is After Our Castle. I can’t wait!)

Best for fans of Christian historical romance, and, of course, Scotland! (I also recommend the audiobook!)

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World Diver by Haylie Hanson (Review)

A review today for a fun urban fantasy with a dash of sci-fi!

Title: World Diver

Author: Haylie Hanson

Series: The Luminaut Trilogy, #1

Urban Fantasy • YA • 2021 • 352 pages (paperback)

Read May 8, 2022 • 4 stars • Favorite character: Nemo! • I received a free ARC copy from the publisher as part of an Instagram book tour. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions are my own.

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This was a gripping YA Urban Fantasy novel! It’s well-written and I loved the humor—that and the voice/style was a blast! I just really enjoyed that aspect of it. The robots, the kinda-magic, the modern setting, and a hint at multiple worlds, all made this book super unique and fun, and was a winning combination!

The characters were all interesting, even the ones I didn’t click with, and it was an enjoyable story with a vivid setting, like getting sucked right into a movie. (Anyone who’s into surfing or robotics will enjoy this one, even if those parts went over my head. XD) The plot and growing mysteries, the emerging Luminaut backstory, the engaging writing style, and the wide range of challenges Callie faces on all sides kept me flipping pages. I HAD to know what happened next!

Then we have NEMOOOOO! I adored Nemo the tiny robot! He is SUPER CUTE and has such a great personality and is so fun. He’s the absolute best and I adore him! Nemo made the book so incredibly fun in every scene he was in. 😀 The way Callie was trying to train him to pretend to be a “real” robot instead of the sentient one he is was hilarious and I loved it so much! XD (Nemo forever, okay!)

And Diver! I loved Diver too. Super cool, and such a neat concept! Almost like a giant Baymax but with telepathy and you can, like, drive him, and I DON’T KNOW IT WAS REALLY COOL.

Basically, I’m absolutely here for the robot characters and they make me happy! XD Especially Nemo. 😉 hugs him forever

Any less-favorite things were personal preference things. Like I don’t tend to generally enjoy modern drama (like family/school issues), and some types of YA drama (like love triangles…but also not!), or the MC being (I thought) slightly unfair to another character or deceiving others (with a purpose, but still), or the fact I was right about a spoilery character—but I didn’t want to be! (Feels. XD) So a few things frustrated me slightly or at least weren’t my favorite, but that was certainly a me-thing of not clicking with contemporary high-school type stories, not anything “wrong” with the book itself, which was extremely well done!

I’m very excited to read the next book because THAT CLIFFHANGER, THOUGH! :O I’m so glad the next book is on my shelf and I will definitely continue this series because I must know what happens next! Plus, you know, that fun writing. And Nemo… 😀

Overall, a compelling, unique book that pulled me in and kept me reading late into the night. If you love modern YA fantasy you should enjoy this one!

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Wraithwood by Alyssa Roat (Review)

A review today for a very fun book that I enjoyed so much!

Title: Wraithwood

Author: Alyssa Roat

Series: The Wraithwood Trilogy, #1

Modern Fantasy • YA • 2021 • 340 pages (Kindle)

Read April 27, 2022 • 5 stars • Favorite character: Merlin • I received a free e-ARC of this book from the author and was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own. (And I also ended up mostly listening to the audiobook which I picked up on Audible anyway. XD)

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This was such a delight! I wasn’t sure what to expect but I had a blast experiencing this modern fantasy adventure mostly set at a mysterious mansion, the Wraithwood Estate. It gave me such a nostalgic summer-holidays-book vibe like some books I loved reading when I was younger (like The Dark Hills Divide meets Over Sea, Under Stone), but it was unique too! I loved disappearing into this lovely setting.

It was fun following Brinnie around and seeing her discover this greater fantastical world around her. I’m curious to see what she’ll do with some of it in the future! Her uncle Merlin was fabulous too and I wish he’d have been in it even more, but I loved him and his mysteriousness. The other characters made for an excellent cast, particularly Ms. Tynsdale and Quentin, who were great! Loved these characters!

The plot was exciting and kept me invested and curious at turns, guessing and second-guessing. And the setting was so cool! I especially loved the maze! No spoilers but there were so many great moments involving the maze and just—yesss. So cool. More books should have magical mazes, TBH. It made me so happy. *grinning* Definitely my favorite part of the book! Oh, and the flying chairs were cool . . . 😉

A note, too, that listening to the audiobook was a blast and I highly recommend it! The narrator did an amazing job of bringing each character to life and making a thoroughly enjoyable book all the more delightful. I highly recommend both the book and the audiobook!

It was simply a blast and I ended it going WAIT! COME BACK! Especially with that not-quite-a-cliffhanger-buuuut . . . So I’m super looking forward to checking out the sequel, Mordizan, soon. I need more! I can’t wait to go back to this series!

Definitely recommended if you enjoy light YA modern fantasy, a dash of peril and suspense, and Arthurian vibes. It was a blast!

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Timely: A Phoenix Fiction Anthology (Review)

Today I’m excited to share a review for an excellent spec-fic anthology featuring short stories dealing with . . . time! By some really stellar authors. Read on for my mini reviews of each story!

Title: Timely: A Phoenix Fiction Writers Anthology

Author: The Phoenix Fiction Writers

Grace Crandall • E. B. Dawson • Deck Matthews

Nate Philbrick • J. E. Purrazzi • Beth Wangler

And featuring: Katelyn Buxton • Olivia Cornwell • Kyle Robert Shultz

Series: Stands alone but is the 4th PFW anthology. See my reviews for Of Myth and Monster (#3) and Strange Waters (#2)

Different genres across the different stories but they include steampunk, sci-fi, and epic fantasy • Should be enjoyed by most ages • 2021 • 295 pages

Read May 4, 2022 • 5 stars • I originally received an e-ARC from the publisher but I mostly read a paperback copy I snagged off of Amazon. *nervous laugh*

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  1. Clockwork Toymaker by Olivia Cornwell — What a lovely steampunk tale! A toymaker who makes clockwork toys, his friendship with a little girl, and coming to grips with grief and change. Touching moments, family, friendship, and feels. I may have nearly teared up at one point. The clockwork bird was so cute. ^_^ Really enjoyed this one!
  2. Bermuda’s Belly by J.E. Purrazzi — Aaahh! What a heart-pounding, suspenseful short story. :O Featuring orphans in a pirate submarine and a slowly emerging series of surprises. Pretty sure I forgot to breathe for some of that, especially at the end there! Wow. So intense and well done. Excellent!
  3. The Timekeeper’s Daughter by Katelyn Buxton — OH MY WORD. This was so whimsical and delightful and I absolutely loved the heroine’s time abilities and everything about the Clock and the kingdom! I just LOVED the setting! (Also, bonus for the winged characters! And I’ve been reading/watching lots of things that feature postal carriers so that was fun on the side. XD) Love!
  4. The Weight of Dust by Grace Crandall — *muffled shrieking* I was blown away by the creativity in this one with a robot butler character. The story was so unexpected and yet so absolutely gripping! I loved the twists, the way the past was slowly revealed, and the outcome. And just the ATMOSPHERE of it. I felt for each of the butler’s goals and it was honestly super inspiring. This one kept me on the edge of my seat and then made me smile so hard by the end!
  5. Adamant by Beth Wangler — Oh my goodness! This was a sci-fi retelling of Persuasion and it was absolutely brilliant! I never would have thought of Persuasion in a space setting, but it worked SO well. I loved Fred as an ex-member of the Human Sky Fleet (so fitting!), and how some of the side characters were unique aliens. Things were recognizably Persuasion-ish yet completely unexpected, and very much its own story, and I loved that!
  6. Daughter by E.B. Dawson — I’M HAVING A FEELING. Actually several, but that’s to be expected whenever I read an E.B. Dawson story, and this one was no exception. I’m almost stressed out about something at the end but at the same time all of the story was just so EPIC and so unexpected that I can’t really be mad. XD I don’t want to spoil this one but WOW, it was so immersive and the characters stepped right off the page and like I said I’M HAVING A FEELING. Intense but magnificent. (Also, sliiight Violet Evergarden vibe. *zips lips*)
  7. The Hundred Acre War by Kyle Robert Shultz — This is one of only a few non-Afterlands-related stories I’ve read by this author but it was SO immersive! I’m not sure I can say much about this one either, due to not wanting to spoil it (and also, disclaimer: I was a copyeditor for this short story. XD), but it’s one of those stories where you think you know what’s going on and then — BOOM! Every page or so there are new explosive reveals and twistiness and I just adored it! (There may be Winnie-the-Pooh feels but, like, epic. *zips lips again*)
  8. Into the Crimson Deep by Deck Matthews — A lot of these were steampunk or sci-fi so this one was different as a high-fantasy story, but I loved it just as much! There’s a definite richness to the world and characters, like this is just a window onto so much more. It was suspenseful and exciting and I enjoyed this one a lot, especially the characters! It was vibrant and unique!
  9. Little Lost Heart Sing by Nate Philbrick — My heart! I hardly even have words for this one, as seems to happen a lot with this author’s stories which wrap around my heart and tug me right into the story. Powerful. Mysterious. Heartfelt. And just so, so beautiful, even as it leaves you going WAIT WHAT. I guess twists are just a theme in this collection! But yeah, this one was amazing too and I’m just speechless!

They’re all just SO GOOD, oh my word! Collections can be so hit-or-miss for me, but I enjoyed each and every one of these stories so much, and would give them all five stars, and they’re all so DIFFERENT while still exploring themes of time. Excellent stories and a great way to try out the styles of these wonderful authors. I just so enjoyed reading these. ^_^ This collection is phenomenal!

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Stephen R. Lawhead’s Eirlandia Trilogy (Review of In the Land of the Everliving + In the Kingdom of All Tomorrows)

Today, I’m sharing a sort of merged-double-review with my thoughts on the last two books in the Eirlandia trilogy, also known as one of my favorite series in a long time.

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ALSO! If you’re reading this before 9/15/22 and have a US address, you can enter a GIVEAWAY for book one in this series! Drop by my other blog where I’m celebrating my nine-year blogiversary (as of 9/9/22) with a giveaway of a hardcover copy of In the Region of the Summer Stars!

And now, read on for my thoughts on book two and three!

Title: In the Land of the Everliving + In the Kingdom of All Tomorrows

Author: Stephen R. Lawhead

Series: Eirlandia trilogy, book 2 and 3 (Book 1: In the Region of the Summer Stars; read my review here.)

Fantasy / Celtic Fantasy • Adult (but teens would enjoy too) • published 2019 and 2020 by Tor Books • 316 pages and 286 pages (hardcovers)

Date read: 2021 and 2022 • 5 stars (would give 6 stars if I could!) • Favorite character: Conor mac Ardan • Source: Barnes & Noble

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Note: This is a review for the second and third Eirlandia novels.

This series set in ancient Ireland has been a massive homecoming for me, and when I say these books mean a lot to me, that’s quite an understatement. Mr. Lawhead’s writing, characters, and world together form a magnificent tale across three novels, and I wanted to LIVE in these books. After reading each one, and ever since, they echo in my mind—“We’re your home,” they say. Each of these wondrous Celtic fantasy books has made it onto my top-favorite-books-of-the-year lists for the last few years. I simply adore Conor mac Ardan’s adventures in this green and magical land my heart aches for.

The setting of Eirlandia made me feel SO AT HOME. I want to live there. The green hills, the raths, the noble characters… The Irish language, the names, the words… The writing sings across the page and drew me fully into this land of wonders and that indescribable feeling of being home at last. *hugs it*

And then the people who inhabit Eirlandia and nearby shores! I love their hospitality and how there are good-hearted people—a breath of fresh air in fiction these days. (And the comeuppance of certain devious characters… OH YES.) The De Danann—just loved them. I loved the bards and druids and wise councilors. So much. I loved the faery people and their mysterious feel—perfectly Fae and Elven (in a Tolkien way) and Welsh and I loved how they feel a perfect part of the land.

I adore Conor mac Ardan and his friends so much! I also love how noble and heroic they are, despite their struggles and the war they find themselves entangled in. Conor is a hero I’d follow to the end and I love how much he’s grown from the first book, all the way to…well, no spoilers. 😉 But he’s magnificent! Also, the dialogue and the HUMOR of the banter between certain characters—it makes me so happy! It’s dry and Irish humor and I’m HERE for it. *grin* I have to mention Fergal, Donal, and Aoife specifically, because they’re all fabulous.

This is mostly a general review of the last two books as a whole, but I have a couple of specific things to mention for each of them.

  • BOOK 2: IN THE LAND OF THE EVERLIVING — I loved seeing more of the faery people! They were fabulous. I already touched on that, but had to mention it again. The other most favorite thing in book two…has to be the lightning scene. OH MY WORD. It was the most epic thing. 😀 *beaming* I won’t say more because spoilers, but I just had to comment on it because it was absolutely awesome.
  • BOOK 3: IN THE KINGDOM OF ALL TOMORROWS — Firstly, there are a couple of ABSOLUTELY MAGNIFICENT legal proceedings which . . . sounds boring . . . but Y’ALL. It was so good! So, so good. Especially the second one which absolutely made my day. *grinning so hard* The other thing that especially stood out to me about book three was the ending. The epilogue, the final chapter before that, and the last couple of paragraphs of the chapter before that…they were incredible, and gave me feels (in the case of the final chapter, which I don’t want to say much about for fear of spoilers but it was a timely chapter for me when I read it), and there’s so much intriguing about especially the epilogue that I probably need to re-read to unpack properly, but…anyway, I loved all of it so much. I’m not saying all readers will feel the same way I did, but those last few chapters meant a lot to me. I absolutely adored them.

Overall, these books meant so much to me, and the writing, Irishness, epicness, and characters all combined to absolutely steal my heart and make me feel completely at home. I felt seen. It’s a very “me” series. I connected with it so hard. I will love it forever! I, for one, found it to be incredibly enjoyable and meaningful all at once.

I 100% recommend this series! It’s just really good! Go read it!

(I also highly recommend the audiobooks.)

Don’t forget to drop by my other blog to enter the giveaway for the first book!

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You may also enjoy my reviews for other Celtic fantasy . . .

My reviews for Lawhead’s Bright Empires series . . .

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