Book Ishness! (July 2019)

Hey, dear Pagelings!

Time for a new roundup of some awesome book releases I’M TERRIBLY EXCITED ABOUT, and what I’m reading these days!


JULY BOOK RELEASES

*shrieks at all the gorgeous covers* ❤ (Titles link to Goodreads pages.)

  • Beast in the Machine – E. B. Dawson — I so enjoyed this short sci-fi Beauty and the Beast retelling, and it’s releasing July 19! Woot! Check out my review in this post of mini-reviews for short sci-fi tales from this talented author!
  • Curse and Consequence – Savannah Jezowski — I squealed about this a couple of days ago and will do so again later in this post (not sorry. XD) but it’s hilarious and so delightful! ❤
  • Oath of the Outcast – C. M. Banschbach — THIS BOOK. ❤ ❤ ❤ So, it used to be known as The Mountain Baron (which I beta-read and was one of my top-top favorite reads last year!!) and then got chopped into two books and this is the first of them and it’s being published this month and BE STILL MY HEART. I really, really, REALLY loved this book and I can’t wait to read my ARC of the soon-to-release version! But it has brothers and outlaws and a Celtic flavor and it’s somewhat gritty and dark but it’s so good, and full of tough things and redemption and so much fabulous snark. And of course my favorite smol floof of anger management issues, Rhys, the Mountain Baron himself. IT’S SO GOOD. Okay, okay, I’ll stop, since I’m going to be reviewing it for real during the blog tour later this month, but YOU NEED IT IN YOUR LIFE. 😀 (The preorder is up, and there will also be copies at Realm Makers for any who are attending that!)
  • The Story Raider – Lindsay A. Franklin — I enjoyed The Story Peddler last year and am curious to find out where this story goes next!
  • Midnight on the River Grey – Abigail Wilson — Another Regency mystery tale from the author of In the Shadow of Croft Towers!
  • Sounds of Deceit – Hannah Heath — The third in a series of fantasy short stories, which I hope to read soon, from one of the Phoenix Fiction Writers!

But wait! There’s more! (I just had to say it. XD)

A couple of books that released at the end of June:

Deadwood officially released! Go check it out if you need your Fantasy Western, hilarious book, feelsy read, or Afterverse fix. XD (Yes, I edited it. It’s really good. ❤ I should totally review it someday. :P)

Another thing I edited! This is a lovely little collection of short stories which I really enjoyed, and you should totally check out! And you can read all about it in the author’s own words (author of Masters and Beginners, another book I love!), but the stories totally touched my heart and were gorgeous — and, in the case of the zombie one (debut of Daley’s teen son as an author!), freaked me out, in a good way. XD

And two more exciting things!

Havok Publishing is releasing their first anthology of flash-fiction later this month on July 20! And I’m really really excited because my good blogging buddy and talented writer Christine Smith has a delightful story in it, which I absolutely LOVED when I read it on Havok’s website awhile back! (I mean, it’s hilarious and features a fancy dinner party and a cat-fae and yessss.) AAHH! And other stories, some of which I’ve read and others I haven’t — but I’m really excited for this one, guys! ^_^

Another thing I’m super enthused about (get it? Super?) is a new serial story about superheroes, which just started on a place called Tapas (similar to Wattpad), by Calley Jones who is another awesome writer pal, who is finally sharing some of her work with the world! I’m SO excited! I love it so far and I’m super (I’m sorry about the puns; I will show myself out. *cough*) curious to find out what happens. 😀 Check it out!


OTHER JULY BOOK NEWS

Everyone seems to be holding kickstarters etc. for audiobooks these days and I’m just all “whyyy does it have to be right during Realm Makers season when I’m trying to save money?” XD Anyway, Jamie Foley is raising funds to turn her incredible Sentinel series (which I adore!) into audiobooks, so check it out!

Realm Makers + Blogging Absense

So, I’m going to be going to the Realm Makers speculative fiction writers conference in St. Louis NEXT WEEK! Which means I’ll be rather absent from blogging for awhile. (Let me know if I’ll see you there!) I’M SO EXCITED. (And not ready. *disappears to go back to panicking and prepping in equal measure*)

St. Louis Book Festival at Realm Makers

Speaking of which, anyone in the St. Louis area? Be sure to check out the Book Festival that will be open to the public (at the Realm Makers conference) on July 20! You can check out all the details here but tons of authors will be there signing books, including Terry Brooks, C.J. Redwine, Morgan Busse, and Bryan Davis!


MY READING NEWS

MY JULY NIGHTSTAND

My mostly-Realmies TBR for July!

So far this month I’ve read Divine Summons,The Girl Who Could See, and Twisted Dreams, and finished my re-read of Charmed Life (because Chrestomanci!). All enjoyable!

I’m partway through Magic Kingdom for Sale/Sold! and Renegade Skyfarer, and I’m looking forward to starting The Shadow Queen!

I’m also listening to Cress by Marissa Meyer on audio — almost done and LOVING it — and I have ARC ebooks to read, including Oath of the Outcast by C.M. Banschbach (yaaas!!), The Story Raider by Lindsay A. Franklin, and Mechanical Heart by Sarah Pennington (aahh!)! *all of the shrieking*


JUNE READS

  • Irresistable Worldbuilding – Janeen Ippolito — *GASP* Nonfiction! A handy, short writing book.
  • Hertz to Be a Hero – Bryan Davis — Delightful superhero story! Such fun. This series makes me happy. ^_^
  • The Wolf Prince – Claire M. Banschbach — Oh my goodness! I absolutely loved this epic story of brothers and faeries and Rangers and snark and wolves! SO good!
  • Stars Descend – Kara Jaynes — This was a bookclub read and probably the strangest book I’ve read all year, but kind of fascinating. O_O Featuring space-elves in dystopian, futuristic Seattle, with a slight twist on paranormal romance, this was totally weird but rather addicting. XD
  • Curse and Consequence – Savannah Jezowski — One of my favorite reads of the year, I loved this little Regency-fantasy novella so much that I read it twice this month. XD (The second time, I read it aloud, and there was much laughter at all the hilarious shenanigans.) It’s releasing July 4 and it’s hilarious and perfect and YOU NEED IT IN YOUR LIFE. ❤
  • Deadwood – Kyle Robert Shultz — The long-awaited sequel to Horseman just came out! It’s a fantasy Western with a creepy twist on Pinocchio, featuring my favorites Todd Crane (part-time centaur) and Julio the dragon-shifter, and it’s so, so good! 😀 (I mean, I edited it, but that doesn’t mean I’m biased. :P)
  • Heart of the Curiosity – H. L. Burke — Steampunk and secrets and a mechanic with a metal arm and a mysterious old theater and a treasure hunt and blackmail and love and family and so many pastries!
  • Conrad’s Fate – Diana Wynne Jones — I re-read this and had SO much fun! It’s one of my favorites of the Chrestomanci books, and I love how it stands alone and is a buddy story and has a unique look from the POV of the servantas at a fancy house. And CHRISTOPHER. He’s the best. XD
  • Shadowkeeper – Hope Ann — Vivid, intense, fascinating, though a little melancholy and dark for me and sort of sad, so I don’t really know how I feel about it. I have so many feels. o.o So I’m not sure I like it, but I keep thinking about it, and I bet I should have known more about the mythology it’s based on so that I would know what to expect. XD ANYWAY. I have mixed feelings about it but a lot of it was really, really good, and I do love the characters. 😀

(If you’re curious to read more about any of those, you can find them all here.)


So there we are! So many exciting bookish things! Are you looking forward to any of these? I hope you’re having a good and bookish July! Thanks for reading. ^_^

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Curse & Consequence by Savannah Jezowski

Let me tell you about a funny, delightful, Regency-ish fantasy story that you simply must read! 😀

(Photo featuring Other Regency, Regency Fantasy, or humorous/whimsical fantastical books which remind me of Curse and Consequence!)

Title: Curse and Consequence (The Whitby Tales, #1)

Author: Savannah Jezowski

  • Date read: June 15, 2019
  • Rating: 5 stars!
  • Genre: Regency / Fantasy / Novella
  • Age: Any
  • Year pub: 2019
  • Pages: 97 (paperback)
  • Series: Tales of Whitby, #1
  • Fave character: Sedgwick AND Hugh AND Rea, and especially all of them together
  • Source: The author
  • Notes: Read twice!
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonAuthor’s Website

You need this hilarious Regency-esque fantasy novella in your life! It recently released and I loved it SO much I read it twice in the same week! (The second time, I read it aloud to my younger brother and sister so I could do the voices, which was so. much. fun! Especially Hugh. XD We laughed a ton! And now we quote it all the time. :P)

This whimsical tale, though in a fantasy setting, has a Georgette Heyer/Jane Austen Regency vibe, with a dash of Diana Wynne Jones (anyone remember Twinkle? I WILL SAY NO MORE!) and Tales of Ambia.

It starts out looking like a Regency romance, and while it’s partly that, things quickly escalate into a hilarious romp of magical misfortunes which I will not spoil by explaining. Just go read the book!!

It’s absolute perfection and I couldn’t stop laughing! There’s a rollicking humor vibe going on, and faery curses and piglets and an adorable dragon and a sprinkle of romance and so many mishaps and shenanigans! XDDD IT’S SO MUCH FUN. I CAN’T. I adore it!

CURSE AND CONSEQUENCE is one of the most delightful tales I’ve read in a long time, and I stayed up until midnight to finish it and regret nothing. *grins* Highly recommend! (And now I need the sequel — aaahh!)

(Thanks to the author for the review copy! All opinions are 100% my own.)

Doesn’t it sound like fun? What’s a humorous fantasy or a Regency tale you love?

Heart of the Curiosity by H.L. Burke: Tour/Review!

H.L. Burke’s latest book — another steampunk one, hurrah! — is releasing today and I’m excited to be a part of the blog tour and share my review for Heart of the Curiosity!

Title: Heart of the Curiosity

Author: H. L. Burke

  • Date read: June 26, 2019
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Steampunk / Fantasy
  • Age: YA
  • Year pub: 2019
  • Pages: 240
  • Fave character: Paxton and Reid
  • Source: The publisher

Heart of the Curiosity is a delightful new steampunk novel from H.L. Burke, full of mystery and . . . well . . . heart (no pun intended).

Reading this book, I stepped right into a gorgeous setting with a steampunk flair. I absolutely loved the “feel”—it was almost black and white and red and bronze, on the edge of winter, a slightly Victorian but different setting, with a pinch of a reminder of Paris or London, but unique. Steampunk gadgetry and inventions pepper the story in a fun way, and the entire setting—theater, hidden passages, cobblestone streets, pastry shop, etc.—was so vivid.

The dash of fantasy was absolutely fascinating! I loved how everyone in this world has a “knack,” some slight magical skill that is specific to them. Leo, our heroine, has a knack for manipulating people’s emotions, and it was very interesting how that came into play in the story and how she struggles with it. Others have inventing knacks, or levitation, or a knack for baking, etc. I loved discovering those, and some of them were really intriguing talents! 😀

The characters are the heart of the story, though, and I got really invested in their stories. ^_^ Leo is sturdy and loyal and surprisingly relatable, and her story felt unique. I loved her devotion to her little sister, Muse—who was a fun character in her own right. And then there’s Paxton, who is the NICEST CHARACTER OF EVER, more or less, the mechanic with a metal arm and a heart of gold. Paxton was basically the best, and he and Leo are so great together. I love the banter and the going-out-for-pastries (those pastries!), but also the deep friendships and being there for each other despite their secrets, and the spark of romance in a totally different way. Basically, I love them! And all of the side characters were vivid too; I especially liked Reid and he was in it far too little—he was fabulous. XD

The story had so many twists, and just when I thought I knew where it was going, there would be a new and delightful reveal. I loved it! Everything came together by the end. It’s a tale of secrets and a treasure hunt of sorts, with blackmail and hidden passages and puzzles and clues—all of which were so neat and fit together so well—and all on a quest to save the old theater, The Curiosity. It really is sort of like Sherlock Holmes meets National Treasure meets The Greatest Showman, like the blurb says.

I liked how although there are fascinating bits about the actual plays and dances (I particularly love how their fairy tales are close to ours but just a little tweaked—and aaahh, the lamppost story! I understood that reference. XD), the show business isn’t actually the main plot—it’s more about the mystery and about family and values and saving their home and way of life, and how art is important. I just loved that. And there’s the snail circus, of course. 😉 Peril and mystery and shady characters, and friendship and love and humor, all blend together—and quite a few feels by the end.

At first it took me a little while to get into it but as it went on it drew me more and more in, especially the later parts—wow! I don’t know, it just makes me happy. ^_^

Also, pastries. SO many pastries! I need them in my life. This book made me so hungry. XD And I loved the library and wished we could have seen more of it, but it was also unique, in a sense, that it actually wasn’t about the library and that Muse was the bookish one instead of Leo.

A couple of grittier parts/tougher subjects (though well handled) might make it a better read for more mature readers, and I had one or two not-sure moments with the plot, but overall I loved it and it’s a great YA novel!

Definitely pick this one up if you need some mystery, love, steampunk, treasure hunts, delightful characters, and pastries in your life! 😉

I received a complimentary e-ARC of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.


Favorite Quote

“Yes, people need food and shelter and goods and services, even buttons, but they need art as well. They need to smile and laugh and cry and see ideas expressed in ways that make them think and feel. They need The Curiosity, or at least what it stands for.”


About the Book

The secret lies with the Heart.

Born with a magical knack for manipulating emotions, Leodora’s only dream is to ensure her talented little sister dances on the biggest, brightest stage in the Republic: The Curiosity, a grand old theater of tradition and innovation. After escaping a cruel carnival, Leo secures her sister a place in the Curiosity’s chorus line, and herself a job as a professional audience member, swaying the crowd’s mood with her magic. The girls have a home for the first time in their lives.

Then a tragic accident darkens the theater. A greedy businessman begins blackmailing Leo, and financial woes threaten to close the show forever. The Curiosity’s sole hope lies in a mythical power source hidden beneath the maze-like passages and trapdoors of the theater—the Heart. And Leo’s only friend Paxton, nephew of the theater’s stagemistress, is the key to finding it.

While Leo and Paxton hunt for the Heart, the blackmailer’s threats loom larger. Mysterious figures, cryptic clues, and deadly traps hinder the search at every turn. If the friends cannot recover the Heart in time, Leo and her sister will be cast out of the only home they’ve ever known, and the final curtain will fall on The Curiosity.

Enter a world reminiscent of The Greatest Showman, with a puzzle worthy of Sherlock Holmes and National Treasure, in this new Steampunk Fantasy from H. L. Burke.

AmazonBarnes & NobleAppleKoboAutographed paperbackGoodreads


About the Author

Born in a small town in north central Oregon, H. L. Burke spent most of her childhood around trees and farm animals and was always accompanied by a book. Growing up with epic heroes from Middle Earth and Narnia keeping her company, she also became an incurable romantic. 

An addictive personality, she jumped from one fandom to another, being at times completely obsessed with various books, movies, or television series (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Star Trek all took their turns), but she has grown to be what she considers a well-rounded connoisseur of geek culture. 

Married to her high school crush who is now a US Marine, she has moved multiple times in her adult life but believes that home is wherever her husband, two daughters, and pets are.

Social Media Links

Facebook PageFacebook Reader GroupTwitterInstagramWebsite


Doesn’t it sound so neat? Let me know what you think, or share your favorite steampunk book in the comments! I could always use recommendations. 😉

5 Thoughts on Battle for the Throne by E. J. Willis

Title: Battle for the Throne

Author: E. J. Willis

  • Date read: May 23, 2019
  • Rating: 3.5 stars, rounding up to 4 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy / Christian Fantasy
  • Age: Young Adult
  • Year pub: 2015
  • Pages: 248 (Kindle)
  • Series: Tales from Falyncia, #1 (followed by Into the Wildlands)
  • Fave character: Hugo
  • Source: The author
  • Notes: I received a free ebook copy of this book from the author. All opinions are my own.
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonAuthor’s Website

5 Thoughts on Battle for the Throne

  1. I’m always up for a Christian Fantasy novel! This one didn’t quite hit all the marks for me, personally, but I still enjoyed it for the most part. 🙂 It was fast-paced and exciting—sometimes almost too fast-paced, but made for a fairly quick and mostly enjoyable read! There was a lot of action, which was well-written and kept me absorbed. I definitely didn’t want to put the book down! And the romance was really sweet and I loved it. 🙂
  2. I was quickly drawn into the fantasy setting, with castles and forests and mountains and kingdoms. The “feel” of it was one that I thought was really neat. I especially loved the winged wolf spirit guardians! Sort of like guardian angels, though it’s mainly the heroine who can see them. There’s a bit of a spiritual battle going on between the wolf guardians and the demons. Malachi, the main wolf, was awesome. 😀 I also thought it was cool that there are giants in the book! Somehow giants don’t seem to be in fantasy as much anymore and I loved seeing them in this, particularly their enigmatic role in which sides they’re on (if anyone’s). And there are mentions of others like dwarves and goblins, and a griffin appeared right at the very end (yesss!), so I’m curious to continue reading this series and see more of this world!
  3. And then there are the characters. I liked our heroine Alaina and her spirit of determination, and wanted her to succeed, though I’m not as much of a warrior-princess-trope fan as some—but anyone who is will love this! I also loved our energetic prince Thaddeus! He was a great character, and I loved his relationship with Alaina. 😀 Other side characters were interesting (particularly Malachi, as I mentioned), and there was an awesome gladiator character who was my favorite! (Yes, Hugo, you’re awesome.) Also, a couple of the side-villain characters had really interesting arcs, so that was well-done.
  4. The book at times felt like younger-YA in a sense (particularly since it started with a ten-year-old and then skipped to when she was seventeen), but in another sense it . . . wasn’t. It was kind of dark and gruesome, a bit more on the gritty side than I personally enjoy, which seemed slightly at odds with the rest of the fantasy-adventure type feel of the book, but that could just be me. Just be aware the heroine goes through a lot and there’s torture and fantasy-demons and some disturbing scenes. But otherwise it’s great fun.
  5. Overall, for some reason it wasn’t one of my top favorites, but it definitely kept my interest and I loved the world and characters, and I’m definitely curious to read more in this world!

I received a free ebook copy of this book from the author (thank you!). All opinions are my own.

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Thanks for reading!

Mini Reviews! Sci-Fi Short Stories (by E.B. Dawson)

You guys. I recently read the most INCREDIBLE short stories by E.B. Dawson. Part of what’s incredible? Most of them are genres like dystopian or sci-fi that aren’t “my” genres and yet these kept me utterly transfixed. I ADORED THEM.

So here are mini reviews for six short stories, ranging from a Beauty and the Beast retelling to dystopian thrillers to Moby Dick in space to a beautiful tale on another planet.

Whether or not you are a sci-fi fan, you need to check these out!

  • Author: E.B. Dawson (WebsiteAmazonGoodreadsFacebookTwitterInstagram)
  • Genre: Sci-fi / short stories
  • Date read: April 8, 2019 (except for Beast in the Machine, January 28, 2019)
  • Source: I received free ebook copies of these stories either for review or free on the author’s newsletter, except for Nomad of the Emirates which I purchased on Amazon.
  • Note: Thanks to the author for free copies of some of these. I was under no obligation to write positive reviews and all opinions are my own.

Voyage of the Pequod

5 stars • Science Fiction / Retelling (Moby Dick) • AmazonGoodreads

This is Moby Dick in space. That idea is as perfect as it sounds and YOU NEED IT IN YOUR LIFE. *collapses* I’m not even as familiar with the original Moby Dick story as I could be, and sci-fi isn’t my usual genre, but I absolutely adored this short story! I suppose I knew enough to appreciate it as a retelling (though others might appreciate it more), but either way it was a brilliant story and totally captured me. I was instantly absorbed in this unique and fascinating tale. Electronic space whales! The remains of a war between man and machines (scary AI machines are soooo creepy! And the hints of backstory are absolutely fascinating). A battered space ship going out into the unknown. And the character interactions with the little crew, which I loved — there’s the new boy, and the old sailors, and of course the enigmatic captain Ahab and steady first mate Starbuck. They have a sort of buddy relationship going which is fantastic. It’s also one of my favorite things: a ship story (whether that’s nautical, piratical, space-ships, or airships. There’s just something classic about that and it was brilliant in this). It was just all so good, in such a short space! (No pun intended.) It was so intense I totally forgot to breathe! (Also I need a sequel! O_O) HELP. So, SO good! I don’t even know why but I loved it so very much I can’t put words to it! This is truly magnificent science-fiction.


Nomad of the Emirates

5 stars • Science Fiction • AmazonGoodreads

This story was so incredibly beautiful, help. What even are words? How can I describe it? It was intriguing from the start, and it’s very strange if you think about it (like sci-fi can be). But somewhere along the way, before I really knew what had happened, it stole my heart. This first-person story of a misfit girl from Earth who finds her place on another planet where she’s technically not supposed to be, and yet it’s where she’s most supposed to be of all places. The way she made a way in this foreign place and made it her home, how she’s a nomad, how she touches the strange cultures of the alien beings and makes a place there because of her openness and her heart for others and her willingness to understand those who are other, and what comes of it. That there is a place for those who haven’t found it yet — that it’s out there. I just love this story so much. It makes my heart ache and just — I don’t even know. It touched my soul. I don’t really know exactly how but it totally captivated me and I’m so glad I picked up a copy! And I laughed a couple of times, like with the hammock scene. Thinking of this story always makes me smile. I’m not sure, but I think this may be what sci-fi is supposed to be, a window to new worlds and a way to look outside to where the heart can reach — which can go even beyond things we know. Beautiful, beautiful!


Government Man

5 stars • Dystopian / Science Fiction • AmazonGoodreads

That was SO INTENSE. Oh my goodness! So, I’m not a big fan of dystopian type stories, but this one was super fascinating and kept me very intrigued the whole time. ACK. It was so well-written and fascinating (I know I keep using that word for this author’s stories, but I can’t help it because it’s true). I loved Caleb, our point of view undercover character. It’s set in a dystopian society with some of the usual things, but somehow unique too, and I loved some of the new spins on it. Especially Caleb’s personal story and what he does about it after . . . things happen. He’s absolutely the most epic person. 😀 Sometimes it felt like a cozy contemporary, like the bits in the coffee shop with Sarah, and other times like a mystery thriller, and then a dash of sci-fi with certain . . . er . . . developments (spoilers!), and all in a vaguely dystopian society. I just — I really loved it! Even though it was scary and super intense. I couldn’t stop reading, and loved it, and I was so happy to discover there was a sequel short story, which I promptly devoured too. It’s such a delightful mix of genres that I can’t quite pinpoint it, but whatever it is, it’s an excellent short story which I really enjoyed and couldn’t put down!

Note: You can currently read a free copy of Government Man and three other cool short stories if you sign up for the Phoenix Fiction Writers newsletter. PFW is an epic group of speculative fiction authors and you can check it out HERE.


Shadow Figure

5 stars • Dystopian / Science Fiction • AmazonGoodreads

This is a direct sequel to Government Man (I love that idea! Sequel short stories!) and I can’t talk too much about it because of spoilers for the first one, but it was another fascinating story. It delves further into the dystopian world introduced in the first, but from a new perspective, a certain heroine this time. It was intense too and I especially loved the “Shadow Figure” and all the things related to it. It’s heartwrenching in a sense, but full of possibility too (that I’m really excited about), and I somehow loved it. I definitely want to read more about these characters!


Gifted

4 stars • Urban Fantasy / Superpowers / Sci-Fi • AmazonGoodreads

What a fascinating story! I wasn’t always sure what was going on, but I knew I was hooked and couldn’t stop reading. This story had layers and it was so interesting to find each one behind the other. It’s some sort of Urban Fantasy mixed with superpowers and fist fighting in a ring, but it’s much more than that, somehow. I was so intrigued by Spencer and his story, and these other interesting people he meets. It was very vivid and I never wanted to stop reading, even if I didn’t necessarily “get” everything. It went in an unexpected direction, and definitely left me curious to know more.


Beast in the Machine

5 stars • Science Fiction / Retelling (Beauty and the Beast) • Goodreads • (This is part of a collection called Once Upon a Future Time, so if you’re interested in it, go check out the Kickstarter project, through June 22!)

Beauty and the Beast is my second-favorite fairytale, so the idea of a sci-fi version fascinated me, and I wasn’t sure what to expect going in. What I found was an enchanting blend of an old-world-feeling setting, in a charming sea-village where I could almost taste the salty breeze, with just a dash of futuristic technology to spice it up. I absolutely loved the writing and the feel of this one! Isabelle was a great heroine and brought such a strong personality to the story, drawing the reader into the story. Throw in a mysterious and occasionally unhinged young man named Sebastian Prince with a dark past, a mansion with a lab and a library, dream experiments gone wrong, and an adorable little robot named Cog (I loved Cog!) and you have the perfect recipe for a fresh take on a classic tale as old as time. I absolutely adored this retelling! It was my first E.B. Dawson story and from the very first page, I knew I had to read more from this author. It felt so COZY, though with a dash of peril and excitement, of course. Even if you’re not a sci-fi person, the sci-fi flavors are subtle in this, and any fans of Beauty and the Beast will find it as enchanting as I did!


So, I binge-read five sci-fi-ish short stories from this author and my overall impression was one of complete awesomeness. If I don’t watch out, E.B. Dawson is going to make me addicted to sci-fi! 😉

Are you a short story or a sci-fi person, or like me do you rarely dip your toes into those waters? I’m definitely planning on trying this genre more often — I used to a bit more when I was younger, and I clearly need to revisit it.

Do these stories intrigue you? Let me know in the comments — or if you have a top sci-fi book to recommend to me!

Free Afterverse Book! (+ Beaumont and Beasley Series: What’s Up)

Hey, so for those of you out there who are fans of The Beast of Talesend and Kyle Robert Shultz’s other delightful works of hilarious fantasy fiction, I just want to share a sale with you! Because FREE BOOK!

(And to explain what’s up with the Beaumont and Beasley series, in case you’re confused by what this book actually is. XD)

Free: The Hound of Duville and Other Stories (Beaumont and Beasley, #4)

First, link: heeere it is. Free through June 16. Go download it! (Got it? Excellent.)

As the Editor of the Afterverse, I just wanted to give a shout-out!

Another free book

(Oh, and Kyle’s nonfiction book on writing, titled Not Write Now, is free too! It’s perfect if you’re into writing and hilarity and reverse-psychology, because it’s going to totally inspire you in your writing, while telling you NOT to write. It totally works. And chapter 2 even has Nick and Cordelia in it. Just so you know.)

Now, what is this Hound of Duville and Other Stories, you ask?

Once upon a time . . . there was The Beast of Talesend, The Tomb of the Sea Witch, and The Stroke of Eleven. (Click titles for my reviews.) These make up the first three books in the Beaumont and Beasley series, about Beast detective Nick Beasley, his awesome/funny brother Crispin, and the inimitable and eccentric young enchantress Cordelia Beaumont. 1920s magical fairytale retellings. Hilarious. Awesome. And so forth. (There’s a new omnibus edition of the first three if you need to catch up.)

And then there were a smattering of other, smaller stories, released over the last year or two, on various platforms, which are combined as book 4, which is the book that is free this weekend.

The Janus Elixir — a prequel novella of sorts, following fan-favorite archaeologist dragon Malcolm Blackfire (who’s going to have his own series), taking place in the 1800s, with some Jekyll-and-Hyde shenanigans.

The Hound of Duville — occurs a few months after The Stroke of Eleven (book 3), and is a novella featuring Nick and Crispin and a doggy curse.

These were published individually, then combined into The Return of Beaumont and Beasley, labeled book 4.

This has now been re-released under the title The Hound of Duville and Other Stories (as Beaumont and Beasley, #4), with these two novellas and the new addition of three other short stories, to make it more of an anthology.

All three short stories feature the Beaumont and Beasley characters, take place after book 3, and are:

  1. A Spoonful of Aether — Short story with a Mary Poppins vibes. Features Cordelia being awesome. (Was released as a newsletter exclusive.)
  2. My Man Beasley — Basically a P.G. Wodehouse/Bertie Wooster mashup with Tam Lin. (Was only available to Patreon readers before now.)
  3. One Flew Over the Gryphon’s Nest — Told in the form of transcripts from interview sessions with the Beaumont and Beasley characters at an insane asylum (and yes, it’s as hilarious and intense as it sounds. XD). Also a Patreon story.

Got it? Two novellas, three short stories, all awesome, all in one collection, which is free through June 16. You MAY have read some of them in various forms over time, so I just wanted y’all to know about all this! You can read Kyle’s post here, but he wanted to put it up for free for a few days due to some people perhaps already having other versions. (And the new paperback is also discounted.)

Also, book 5 is coming, promise! It’s called The Geppetto Codex and will be out later this year.

In the meantime, the next Afterverse book is Deadwood (magical wild-west spinoff series Crockett and Crane, #2), releasing June 30 and up for pre-order!

OKAY. I think that’s all you need to know. I hope you found this Afterverse recap/update helpful — or at least the freebie sales. XD Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I edited these books, which might mean I’m slightly biased when I say that they’re totally awesome, but I assure you this is not the case. … It’s not the case that I’m biased, I mean. They ARE totally awesome.

Mardan’s Mark Fantasy Series! (by Kathrese McKee)

Today I’ve got some small reviews of two books and two novellas in an exciting fantasy series I’ve been enjoying lately!

Mini Reviews:

The Mardan’s Mark series by Kathrese McKee

(Find Kathrese McKee online: WebsiteAmazonGoodreadsFacebookTwitterInstagram)

Mardan’s Mark (#1)

  • Date read: May 29, 2019
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy / Christian Fantasy
  • Age: YA
  • Year pub: 2014
  • Pages: 384 (paperback)
  • Source: Won in a giveaway
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazon

An exciting tale of pirates and princesses, friendship and siblings and romance, survival and adventure! I thoroughly enjoyed myself reading this book. 🙂

I feel like there’s a lack of sibling stories out there, and it was neat that our heroine, Princess Srilani, ends up on this adventure with two sisters and a brother. I also particularly loved the friendships—really good, believable ones which start out rocky sometimes. There are so many relationships in this, which I loved seeing develop over the course of the story of these young people on a journey of survival together, from a pirate ship through the wilderness. Just—FRIENDSHIPS.

Aldan is my favorite character—he’s the absolute best—and I loved him and his “brothers,” Sam and Linus. I also really liked how Srilani and Aldan both take charge in their ways and are such strong main characters, but also have to learn to work together and lean on each other’s strengths. And the tension between Srilani and Sam was so well done, too! I just love aaaall the relationships in this—siblings, friendships, buddy-stories, and of course an adorable romance in there somewhere. My favorite thing is definitely the characters and dynamics—and how there’s a bit of humor slipped in there sometimes!

I also loved the journey and survival and just what a solidly good adventure it was. There’s always some bit of tension or excitement or danger, drawing the reader breathlessly along through the story. Whether it’s pirates or the villainous “temple guardians” in pursuit, or simply the question of what the characters will eat next, it kept me on the edge of my seat throughout.

A Christian Fantasy story, the world feels nearly like Kingdom Adventure, without any usual fantasy elements (though there is miraculous healing, a vision of an angel-type being, and a couple things like that). So if non-magical fantasy or adventure stories with a dash of Christian allegory are your thing, you need to check this one out. The world had such a unique feel to it, too; a little more tropical than usual fantasy stories, with pirate ships and rivers, swamps and alligators, prairies and forests and dusty towns and castles! With just a dash of politics and an almost-18th century feel, at least to me. It was neat and felt fresh.

It’s a bit long, which is the main reason I put off starting it for longer than I’d care to admit, but I was totally pulled in once I did start. The continued over-stressing of being “proper” for a princess, not being allowed to be around guys (but I mean, it’s a survival story, so hello?), and all of that, got a little tiresome, just because it was such a big deal in the story. And I had one or two other quibbles (like a bit of grittiness and my problem with healer-stories and being squeamish. XD), but these were very minor.

On the whole, I had a blast reading this! I finished it in just a few days and as soon as I read the end, I started book 2! I’m definitely hooked on this series!


Mardan’s Heir (#2)

Date read: May 29, 2019
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy / Christian Fantasy
Age: YA
Year pub: 2018
Pages: 207 (ebook)
Source: I received a free advance reader copy from the author; all opinions are my own.
Links: GoodreadsAmazon

As soon as I finished book 1 (Mardan’s Mark), I immediately started reading this book, and read the whole thing in one sitting because I couldn’t stop. I finished it the same day as the first, and ended up staying up until midnight to do so, and I have zero regrets! (Okay. I have one. Which is that I don’t have the next book yet and I got smacked with a delicious cliffhanger! Aahh!)

This one is much shorter than the first one, but so, SO good! No spoilers, buuut I love missing-heir type stories and fantasy-type political maneuvering around palaces and all the sort of delightful stuff. 😀 I loved the first book, featuring surviving in the wild and a journey as the characters got to know each other. But I really love the setting of this second book, being back at the palace and all of the intricate plots going on there. It was fascinating!

Aldan is still my FAVORITE, and I adore all the other characters too—Srilani and her sisters and Prince Jamson (he had such a vivid role in this), and Aldan’s brothers Linus and especially Sam. There’s also a lot about characters introduced in the companion novella, Healer’s Curse, which made me super happy! I loved seeing Lady Elilan and Captain Raymon, as well as Judge Elison and Queen Yolani, etc. (I recommend reading Mardan’s Mark and Healer’s Curse before this one, but of course it still works well if you haven’t read Healer’s Curse.)

Srilani seemed a lot different than in the first book, and while I don’t think I minded, exactly, it was different to have her more of a usual princess than her tougher self. It was unique to address the question of how life would be different after the adventurous danger of the first one once the heroine is home again! Like. Whoa.

I have mixed feelings about a few of the happenings like all the complicated mess of the king and queen etc., so I haven’t totally decided how I feel about those, and it ends on a cliffhanger, but those are my only complaints, and both might be fixed with a third book—who knows! 😉 Speaking of which, the plot is gearing up for exciting things! :O And adorbz romance things and continued friendships and just ALL THE YES. I loved getting to continue following these characters I’ve come to like so much, in this new setting.

So, did I mention there’s a cliffhanger? BECAUSE OH BOY. I need the next book yesterday! *grabby hands* I can’t WAIT for the next book (Mardan’s Anointed, I believe) to release so I can devour it!

If you like non-magical Christian Fantasy, or Kingdom Adventure (which this almost feels like), I totally recommend these! I love this series and I need to find out what happens with Aldan and co.—I love them all so much and they feel like my friends! *hugs them all*


Healer’s Curse (novella)

  • Date read: May 8, 2019
  • Rating: 4 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy / Novella
  • Age: YA
  • Year pub: 2015
  • Pages: 118 (paperback)
  • Source: Won in a giveaway
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazon

I loved this novella! It’s a sort of classic story of a healer and an enemy captain, but it had its own twists. It features first-person narration by Lady Elilan, a widowed 18-year-old healer with a sometimes-miraculous healing gift from El. Having lost her husband to a plague, she has turned away from her gift, other than normal healing, and she is somewhat apart and alone since many people shun her and think she’s cursed. But I love her quiet strength in the face of all this, and her heart to help others—and her sassy side. XD I loved her story!

Captain Raymon is an interesting character, who at first seems to be simply a soldier who risked his life to save the queens of two kingdoms and comes under Elilan’s care. But aside from his loyalty, he has unexpected depths—including a secret in his past and a new path for his future. And of course I loved a certain blossoming romance. 😉 It was sweet and lovely! Raymon is the best. 😀

Several other characters who feature in the other Mardan’s Mark books featured in this, which I loved, and the secrets and political things going on were so interesting. It completely pulled me in, and I loved the exciting ending and satisfying conclusion!

I’m slightly squeamish about healer-related books in general (personally), just because, I mean, I don’t want to know the details. But otherwise it’s a delight!

I think this one might work best if read between Mardan’s Mark and Mardan’s Heir (book 1 and 2), but I read it before either and that worked fine too. Lady Elilan and Captain Raymon, as well as Elilan’s grandfather, Judge Elison, feature strongly in Mardan’s Heir (which made me so happy!), so it might be most fun to read this one before book 2, at least.

All in all, this was a delightful novella which I enjoyed immensely! The perfect way to pass a couple of hours one evening, and a delightful more-or-less-introduction to the Mardan’s Mark series!


Pirate’s Wager (novella)

  • Date read: February 19, 2018/May 30, 2019
  • Rating: 4 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy / Novella
  • Age: YA
  • Year pub: 2018
  • Pages: 107 (ebook)
  • Source: I read a free advance copy of this story through the author’s newsletter. All opinions are my own.
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazon

This was my first introduction to the Mardan’s Mark series, and I ended up reading it again after I read the first two books and the other companion novella, because now that I’d met the characters elsewhere, I wanted to re-experience this as their backstory.

It was a fascinating introduction to some of the main characters of Mardan’s Mark, in this case Sam, Aldan, and Linus, as well as the pirates of the ship “Cathartid.”

A very quick read, Pirate’s Wager is a novella that introduced me to the world of Marst and Norland and definitely left me intrigued to read more. It follows young Samazor (“Sam”), as he ends up a slave on a pirate ship and forms a friendship with fellow slave lads Aldan and Linus. I loved getting to meet them (my first read) and get to remember where they started out (my second read)!

The good writing drew me in, and the detail totally immersed me in the story. I loved the characters and almost-Caribbean-esque fantasy port/ship setting, though it was a little gritty and stressful at times, because nautical story with pirates enslaving our hero. (There actually were no fantasy elements in this particular one, so it felt more like Kingdom Adventure!)

If you want a small taste of this world, it’s a good place to start, and if you’re already a Mardan’s Mark fan, it’s delightful to have the backstory on how these unlikely friends become a band of brothers! (I lurve them. Especially Aldan. That is all. ❤ )


So there you are! I need the third book NOW! *flails around* Do they sound intriguing to you? Let me know in a comment below!