Archive | February 2020

Beyond the Shadowed Earth by Joanna Ruth Meyer (Review)

I’ve got a review for you today! A review for a book by one of my favorite authors — and I can definitely say the book wasn’t quite like anything I’ve read before!

Title: Beyond the Shadowed Earth

Author: Joanna Ruth Meyer

  • Date read: January 31, 2020
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy / Epic Fantasy
  • Age: YA/NA
  • Year pub: 2020
  • Pages: 400
  • Series: Companion novel to Beneath the Haunting Sea, but stands alone
  • Source: The publisher
  • Notes: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher and was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonAuthor’s WebsiteBarnes & Noble

About Beyond the Shadowed Earth

It has always been Eda’s dream to become empress, no matter the cost. Haunted by her ambition and selfishness, she’s convinced that the only way to achieve her goal is to barter with the gods. But all requests come with a price and Eda bargains away the soul of her best friend in exchange for the crown.

Years later, her hold on the empire begins to crumble and her best friend unexpectedly grows sick and dies. Gnawed by guilt and betrayal, Eda embarks on a harrowing journey to confront the very god who gave her the kingdom in the first place. However, she soon discovers that he’s trapped at the center of an otherworldly labyrinth and that her bargain with him is more complex than she ever could have imagined.

Set in the same universe as Joanna’s debut, Beneath the Haunting Sea, Beyond the Shadowed Earth combines her incredible world building and lush prose with a new, villainous lead.


What a stunning, mythic, gripping fantasy tale! This again affirms that I want to read everything this author writes. AWK! There are so many twists and it was so unique that it’s going to be hard to write a spoiler-free review, but I’ll give it a shot. I had SO MANY FEELS after reading it that it took me awhile to sort them out enough to write this review. I’m not sure I’ve quite recovered, even now. XD

Beyond the Shadowed Earth was rich and vivid, gritty, raw, but also gorgeous. It’s darker than I usually like but I still loved it! The writing utterly captivated me, completely reeling me in to this world. Golden deserts and lush palaces (perfect for climbing on the roofs! ;)), rugged mountains and sea and travel, and so much imaginative fantasy effortlessly threaded through the whole.

I was a little nervous about the main character, Eda, having been a villain in the companion book. I loathed her in that. XD But, as I should have guessed (given this author’s talent), Eda totally grew on me and had a fascinating journey in this book. No spoilers but I’m extremely impressed with the writing and her story and have a lot feels! What a spitfire. It’s been quite a journey, that’s for sure!

The characters were all very well drawn and intriguing, and it’s fitting that you could never be quite sure where their schemes lay, given that Eda herself is somewhat of a scheming character—eheheh. I was kept very much on my toes with all the deceptions and twists! The characters were all very real, and I don’t want to give any spoilers but their stories were fascinating. I particularly loved the mapmaker, Morin! Also his sister. Actually, sisters in general played a big part and seemed like a theme in the book, which I loved!

I will mention that it’s very dark. There’s a looot of blood and death and betrayal, and mild swearing, and some quite creepy, disturbing parts—which comes with the territory, I suppose. XD I’d recommend it for more mature teens and up.

Moving back to more things I loved! One of my favorite things about this world is their mythology and how we get bits of stories within this story. I absolutely loved that! It gave it so much depth and richness and was just so interesting. Also, the eagles!! I loved them so much! (You’ll see what I mean when you read it. ;)) One of my favorite parts was the second half, with the mountains and the journeying. (Also! Snow leopard!! *squeaking*)

This book is a companion novel to Beneath the Haunting Sea, which I also loved. Both can stand alone, and are very different, but I loved the nods, references, and parallels between the two!

It’s like nothing I’ve read before! Although, having said that, I suppose it does remind me some of The Silmarillion, for the scope and the “gods” in this (who seem to be spirits much like the Valar in The Silmarillion), though created by the One. And I hear that it’s rather like Megan Whalen Turner’s books too, which makes me curious to try those! And the deserty bits reminded me a little of King’s Folly by Jill Williamson. Okay, so it did remind me of other things, but still felt utterly unique and new. If you enjoyed any of those three, or are already a Joanna Ruth Meyer fan, you need to give this a shot.

The themes were really interesting and left me thinking about this story for days afterward—as did all of my poor tangled feels which took me awhile to untangle enough to write this review! XD So many feels! I just—awk! How do I even explain this book and all the thiiings and feels! *collapses* It was just really good, and in a sense I’m surprised at myself for liking it as much as I did, because some of it just isn’t my cup of tea, but I still just . . . really enjoyed it!

Overall, it’s darker than I usually enjoy reading, but it was so breathtaking I didn’t mind as much, and despite the shadows and death and rawness, there’s a beautiful tale of redemption here, with excellent twists and gorgeous writing. If you love fantasy and can handle a darker tale, this one is well worth checking out!


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kingswarriorcover Coiled Songkeeper AWishMadeofGlassFinal


Have you read any of this author’s books? I totally recommend them! Echo North and Beneath the Haunting Sea are both lovely as well! Thanks for reading! 🙂

Fairest Son by H.S.J. Williams: Review

(LOOK AT THAT ADORABLE CHIBI ART STICKER BY THE AUTHOR! IS IT NOT THE MOST PRECIOUS THING OF ALL TIME??)

Title: Fairest Son

Author: H.S.J. Williams

GoodreadsAmazonAuthor’s Website

I just read this delightful reverse retelling and I loved it! A retelling where “Snow White” is a fae prince and there’s a huntress instead of a huntsman? Sign me up!

I was so intrigued by the idea of the roles being reversed and having a hero as the Snow White character and a fairy, and I was not disappointed!

I looooved the faerie elements and how they fit into the story. The nods to folklore and traditional faeries (changelings, iron, etc.) PLEASED ME SO MUCH. It felt a smidge Celtic in some bits, which also made me happy.

The retelling parts were sooo intriguing and well done and unexpected but totally worked! I don’t want to spoil any of it, because part of the fun is discovering it yourself, but wow.

Prince Idris is A PRECIOUS CINNAMON ROLL WHO MUST BE PROTECTED. He is just the absolute nicest person to ever live, despite all he’s been through. *sobs and protects him from evil villains and authors* Although he is also epic from time to time, so there’s that. IDRIS IS FABULOUS.

I loved Keeva and was verrry intrigued by her storyline.

The writing was gorgeous and reminds me of Goldstone Wood and I’m super impressed with how well the point of view of a blind character was written, because skills!

There were several twists that took me by surprise and made me go OH! (No spoilers, but hoo boy. *rubs hands together gleefully*)

ALSO. THE CROWN BIT AT THE END! :O *chills* So. Epic. And the fox and animals! So precious!

All of that and more, packed into a mere novella which I was able to devour in a couple of hours. Such a delightful read! Perfect for those looking for a quick read with fabulous twists on Snow White.

(Warning: there are definitely gruesome parts involving a character being severely maimed, and other creepy parts, so if you’re squeamish, beware. That and hanging out in the villain’s point of view at times were the only things I didn’t love about this. XD)


Have you read this one? Do you love retellings?

I’m so excited to read this author’s upcoming novel Moonscript!

Also, February is Fantasy Month so be sure to check out more fantasy fun at Jenelle Leanne Schmidt’s blog!

Thank for reading!

No Chance Meeting Blog Tour!

Today I’m thrilled to join in on the blogtour for No Chance Meeting! I don’t read a lot of contemporary romance but I love this author’s writing and I’m super excited to try this one out — it sounds fabulous!

Looking for a clean romantic read? Check Jaye Elliot’s newly released book, No Chance Meeting. You can read all about it below, and don’t forget to enter the giveaways!

About the Book
Alex Jennings is done with life. After losing her brother in Afghanistan, everything has collapsed around her. Getting laid off from her day job and failing in her art career, she has nowhere left to turn. She once had faith to believe that all things would work together for good, but that faith died with her brother. Now she just wants the pain to end.
Riley Conrad served thirteen years in the military until three bullets sent him home. After a year and a half of physical therapy and scraping together a living, all he wants is to live a simple life and perhaps even open the coffee shop he dreams about. However, the weight of failing his parents’ expectations doesn’t make it easy, and working as a bartender isn’t getting him anywhere fast.
Could a “chance” meeting between Alex and Riley set them both on the path God always intended?
Available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and more!
20% of all February sales will go to the Mighty Oaks Warrior Programs.

About the Author

Jaye Elliot is an award-winning author, country girl, and hopeless romantic at heart. She loves a good hero and will always sigh happily during the lights scene in Tangled. She writes from her home in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, which she shares with three cats she considers her kids. When not writing romance novels, she pens fantasy and adventure stories as Jaye L. Knight.

Giveaway #1
To celebrate the release of No Chance Meeting, Jaye is giving away a reader bundle that includes a signed copy of NCM, a hand-painted watercolor bookmark, a coffee mug, and a bag of Dove chocolates! Enter using the form below. U.S. entries only. Not open internationally.
Giveaway #2
For her second giveaway, Jaye is offering 3 ebook copies of No Chance Meeting. Open internationally!
 
 
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Tour Stops
 
Friday, February 14
·
Tour Intro at Jaye Elliot
·
Review &
Author Post at
Reading
Anyone
·
Review at Losing the Busyness
Saturday, February 15
·
Author Interview at Angela R. Watts
·
Review & Author Interview at Resting Life
·
Author Post & Excerpt at Lady Grace: A Quiet and Gentle
Spirit
Sunday, February 16
·
Spotlight at The Music of a Story
Monday, February 17
·
Author Post at Morgan Elizabeth Huneke
·
Author Post & Excerpt
at
A Day In The Life
Tuesday, February 18
·
Review at Tricia Mingerink
·
Review and Excerpt at Read Review Rejoice
Wednesday, February
19
·
Review & Author Post at Leah’s Bookshelf
·
Book Spotlight at The Page Dreamer
Thursday, February 20
·
Review at Stories by Firefly
·
Review &
Author Post at
God’s
Peculiar Treasure Rae
·
Author Interview & Post
at
Read Review Rejoice
Friday, February 21
·
Author Post at Backing Books
·
Review at Poetree
Saturday, February 22
·
Tour Wrap Up at Jaye Elliot

What do you think? Thanks for reading!

Review: Strange Waters Anthology (Phoenix Fiction Writers)

I’m excited to share with y’all a review for this anthology of sci-fi and fantasy stories from the Phoenix Fiction Writers!

Title: Strange Waters

Authors: the Phoenix Fiction Writers

(E.B. Dawson, C. Scott Frank, Janelle Garrett, Hannah Heath, Nate Philbrick, K.L. + Pierce, J.E. Purrazzi, Kyle Robert Shultz, Beth Wangler)

  • Date read: January 30, 2020
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Sci-fi / Fantasy / Short Stories / Anthology
  • Year pub: 2019
  • Pages: 302
  • Source: The publisher
  • Notes: I received a free e-copy of this anthology from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonAuthor’s Website

(5 stars to the collection overall! The stories might have different ratings, but most of them are 4’s or 5’s, definitely!)

STRANGE WATERS features nine sci-fi and fantasy stories from nine different authors. These tales range from intense to all the feels to hilarious and they’re all original and well-written!

A couple of them were too scary for me personally, but kudos to all these authors for writing such captivating stories in such a short space, all incredibly different even though they all feature the image on the cover! I had a blast reading this!

Here are some brief thoughts on each story. 🙂


Backpack Boy – by Nate Philbrick

Wow, talk about good writing. O_O I haven’t read a story like this before but it was sooo interesting and well-written. I loved the backpack boy and how things weren’t as they seemed and the sheer imagination of it. There were definitely feels, and I love how everything slowly got revealed. So original and yet classic-seeming, and like a definition of childhood.


Finer Things – by C. Scott Frank

Whoa! I loved this one! It’s very sci-fi, and sci-fi has to work hard to make me like it, but I was intrigued the entire time, on the edge of my seat, and I really liked the characters and their lively banter! Soren is my fave. They’re adorable. I love it! Fabulous and one of my favorites. ^_^


Roanoke – by J.E. Purrazzi

This one is set on an icy planet and I felt sooo cold reading it, so I guess it succeeded. XD Intense and exciting and unique! I liked the time element, and I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, rooting for our heroine Ketera! I’ve found myself thinking of this one several times since I read it and sometimes feel like I watched a movie of it instead of reading a short story.


Kamynosa’s Labyrinth – by Beth Wangler

I absolutely loved the islands and nautical feel of this one! Princess Kamynosa was a fierce part of this competition. XD I especially loved Jadairos! He was my favorite. 🙂 It’s told like a history, which meant it took me a minute to get into it, since we feel a little removed from the story at first, but was also a really cool touch in another way. And everything was so vivid!


Barnaby Brown and the Glass Sea – by E.B. Dawson

THIS ONE! Oh my word. XD I’ve adored every E.B. Dawson short story I’ve read so far, and this one was so, so much fun! This unorthodox archaeology professor and his snark, though! I love Barnaby Brown so much. XD I kept wanting to quote the whole thing. Throw in unlucky Oliver and some shenanigans and problems and it’s just a riot. I love it so much! The idea of an archaeologist on another world/planet is so cool, by the way. And the ending was suuuper intriguing! Aaahh! Plus, fabulous banter. I love banter and humor and this one totally has a ton of both. 😀 One of my favorites!


Through the Lens – by K.L.+Pierce

This one was really fascinating, if a little scary, and I really liked the mind elements to it. It felt sort of quest-like and I was really curious to see what was going to happen, because I had no idea! I was confused a couple of times, but got straightened out, and a couple of the twists I did not see coming at all. o.o So yes, great suspense, and intriguing!


Ric Vayne and the Curse of Ghoul Nebula – by Kyle Robert Shultz

Disclaimer: I edited this one. But it’s absolutely hilarious and I love it so much. XD Ric Vayne, a space wizard, gets turned into a space ship, and shenanigans ensue. His dry narration, the humor, and the hilarious way that Ovo (the bird-like alien character) speaks totally made this story. I kept laughing. XD Another favorite!


The Underground – by Janelle Garrett

This one was SUPER INTENSE and I’m pretty sure I didn’t breathe the entire time I was reading it! *nervous laughter* It was terrifying, dystopian-ish story, with a good blend of fantasy and sci-fi feel. Oh, and I really liked Kef! It was just a bit too creepy for me, personally (I don’t do well with scariness or dystopian feels!), but certainly super well-written, and I never knew where it was going to go next. I’m sure many readers will enjoy it. ^_^


This Pain Inside – by Hannah Heath

This one was super fascinating and intriguing! I had similar problems with it as with the previous one, because, again, I’m just not a dystopian/post-apocalyptic person — sorry! It was really intense and scary and full of feels. But the writing was awesome, and the message, and the ending, and everything was very vivid. The under-the-sea stuff was intriguing, and I loved the mermaid tails. So, too scary for me, but that’s just me. XD But I definitely couldn’t put it down! Wow. Oh, and I liked how music was a part of it!


Overall, my favorites were Barnaby Brown and the Glass Sea and Ric Vayne and the Mystery of Ghoul Nebula, because I love funny stories, and they were both just so much fun. XD But all of the others were super good too (even the scary ones!) and I really enjoyed the collection as a whole! Definitely check this one out! 🙂


A Few Favorite Quotes

“You don’t think they’ll come looking for us down here? They never come down here. They’ve never had a good enough reason.”

Soren smiles mischievously. “I’m afraid I may have given them one.”

— Finer Things (C. Scott Frank)


“But you haven’t told me much about this expedition,” Oliver said. “Maybe we could talk about that. What’s this exciting find?”

“Well, you remember when Folger discovered the ancient city of Telia Cross?”

Oliver’s face brightened a shade. “Yes.”

“Well, it won’t be like that,” Barnaby muttered.

Oliver’s face fell. “Probably just as well. I’m allergic to dust.”

“We’re investigating the origin of a strange marking on a two-inch piece of potsherd,” Barnaby said.

“That sounds a little more likely.”

***

“I had no idea archaeology was so dangerous,” Oliver said.

— Barnaby Brown and the Glass Sea (E.B. Dawson)


Everything was worse in the middle of the night, including sarcasm.

— The Underground (Janelle Garrett)


I also want to quote the entire Ric Vayne story (it’s by Kyle Robert Shultz; of course it’s quotable and hilarious), and more Barnaby Brown, but I will leave readers to discover them instead. XD


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Thanks for reading! 🙂

The Fairy Tale Tag #FantasyMonth

Today I’m excited to join in on the Fairy Tale Tag created by The Fairy Tale Central! They’re having a month-long celebration of fairy tales this February, and Jenelle Schmidt is hosting February is Fantasy Month, so I’m all here for all the fairy tale and fantasy goodness. *grins* Be sure to check both of them out!

THE QUESTIONS

– What’s an obscure fairy tale you love?

Can I get away with calling The Twelve Dancing Princesses obscure? No? *cough* Maybe the Six Swans. 🙂 Or East of the Sun, West of the Moon? Or Tam Lin?

– If you got to choose Disney’s next animated princess movie, what fairy tale would you choose to be adapted?

Twelve Dancing Princesses because it needs to be a movie and it would be super fun! Although it would have to be more like Tangled than like most of Disney’s princess movies. 😉

– What is the first fairy tale you remember hearing when you were a child?

Wow, what an excellent question. I don’t really know?? I do remember a neat Cinderella picture book we had . . . so maybe that? Or Beauty and the Beast? Or Snow White and Rose Red? Or The Twelve Dancing Princesses . . . I just kind of don’t remember a time BEFORE I knew fairy tales. XD

– If you were to embark on a fairy tale quest, what necessities would you pack in your bag?

*rubs hands together* Okay. I would definitely bring some kind of magically re-filling water jug (especially if I ended up in a desert). And one of those table-cloths that provides you with food when you put it out. Next up, certainly a journal and several pens, so I could make sure to record everything that happens. A hairbrush or comb (though I would make sure I didn’t get it from Snow White’s stepmother). A pair of seven-league boots (because obviously). A map (of course!). A pouch of gold and silver coins (probably hidden so that bandits won’t find them). A knife or two. And a small dragon who can ride in my bag and stick his head out and keep me company. There. I think those are the necessities…

– What’s your favorite fairy tale trope?

Not sure if it’s necessarily fairy tale specific, but I do love me a good missing-heir or return-of-the-rightful-king trope.

– If you could be any fairy tale character archetype (the princess, the soldier, fairy godmother, talking animal, mischievous imp, wise old woman, evil stepmother/sister, etc.), who would you want to be and why?

Again, not sure if this is fairy tale specific, or more fantasy-in-general, but I would love to be the librarian or bard (or both!) — or maybe scribe — so that I can hang out in the libraries or tell stories or record things.

– What animal/mythical creature would be your sidekick for fairy tale adventures?

A gryphon! Because they are underappreciated (even though dragons are cool) and have feathers, and are AWESOME, and I could ride it. I named my cat after a gryphon (from Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones), so yes.

– What is your favorite historical era, and what fairy tale would you love to see in that setting?

1700s because of the pistols and costumes and things. I was going to fall back on my usual answer of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, but it seems that many of the retellings I’ve read DO have some sort of pistols-era as the setting . . . So I’m not sure.

Oh! Cinderella.

I am totally planning to do one with Cinderella either in a steampunk or fictional 18th-century-esque setting, where there’s a sort of revolution, and pistols and things, and Cinderella is a spy sent to gather intel on the prince. *grins*

– If you could change a fairy tale’s villain into a hero, who would you choose and why?

I’m usually content to leave the heroes and villains in their proper place . . . Does the Huntsman from Snow White count? I know he’s more of a minion/anti-hero, and people often turn him into a good character, but he has a lot of potential for that. 😛

– Do you prefer fairy tales with happy endings or sad/tragic endings? why or why not?

HAPPY ALL THE WAY. I associate happy endings with fairy tales and while not all of them are, I think it’s an important part of them. See also J. R. R. Tolkien’s essay On Fairy Stories, which includes important thoughts on Eucatastrophe and myth and so forth. But I think that we need happy endings, to remind us that good wins in the end and that we can keep going, instead of despairing because there’s no hope left. Life is sad enough without having to have tragedy in our fiction too, which should show us the potential of heroism and happy endings and all good things we can strive toward, and lift a burden from our shoulders as we read, instead of heaping another one on. That’s why I loathe sad/tragic endings, and why, while everyone is obviously entitled to their own opinions, I don’t intend to change my stance on them. Happy endings forever! 🙂


There you are! I hope you enjoyed this, and feel free to join in on the tag and share your link in the linkup (open through February) at this post!

February 2020 Book Ishness

It’s time to share some bookish releases this month, and what I’ve been reading so far this year!

FEBRUARY RELEASES

There are some AMAZING books releasing in February which I’m super excited about! *muffled shrieking* (Titles link to Amazon or Goodreads.)

  • Winter Spell – Claire M. Banschbach — This one isn’t on Goodreads yet (hence no picture) but I’M SO EXCITED FOR IT TO RELEASE! It’s the final Faeries of Myrnius book (but it stands alone) and I copyedited it and it’s my favorite book by this author yet (aside from Oath of the Outcast which just topped my favorite reads of last year). Y’all. This book has absolutely everything that I love, and it’s wintry, and has faeries, and all of the relationships and snark, and just AAHHH. It’s amazing and you need it in your life! I think it’s releasing in March or late Feb. Soon!
  • Cry of the Raven – Morgan L. Busse (Feb. 4) — Final book in the Ravenwood Saga, and I’m SO excited that this one is out! *shrieking* IT WAS AMAZING! (Read my review here.)
  • No Chance Meeting – Jaye Elliot (Feb. 14) — Jaye L. Knight is publishing a contemporary romance under a pen-name, and I’m super looking forward to reading it! I’ll be sharing a bit about it for the blog tour later this month. 🙂
  • Freeze Thaw – Selina J. Eckert (Feb. 14) — This novelette is a breathtaking take on Sleeping Beauty, featuring an archaeologist student and an Ice Age princess! Pretty sure I didn’t remember to breathe the entire time I read it. Wow. (I copyedited this, so I got an early look at it!) This was a Top Ten Finalist in the Five Magic Spindles contest held by Rooglewood Press.
  • Clockwork Magician – W. R. Gingell (Feb. 28) — I’m very behind on the Two Monarchies series (I’ve still only read Masque and Spindle) but this is another one and it’s releasing soon and I can’t wait to catch up on these delightful books!
  • The New Emperor’s Concerto – Hazel B. West — I beta-read this and it’s totally another favorite! Set in futuristic London, with two chaps on opposite sides who may be the only ones who can stop another world war. It has one of my new favorite buddy stories and the characters and snark and Britishness is all MY FAVORITE. It’s brilliant and I love it so much! I’m so excited for it to release!

In other news . . .

February is Fantasy Month

If you haven’t heard, Jenelle Schmidt is hosting the Fifth Annual February is Fantasy Month blog event! There are giveaways, fantasy blog posts, and an Instagram challenge! Feel free to check out all the info here, and join in with fantasy posts of your own (there’s a linkup and everything)!


MY READING NEWS

January Reads

2020 is off to a great start for reading! Here’s what I read this last month. (If you want to read more about them, you can find them on Goodreads here.)

  • The Geppetto Codex – Kyle Robert Shultz — Aaah! The fifth Beaumont and Beasley book is finally here and it’s so good! Faun and dryad MCs, the Afterverse version of Venice, creepy puppets, awesome epilogues…!
  • The New Emperor’s Concerto – Hazel B. West — I just flailed about this so I’ll spare you. 😉 (But I love it!)
  • Unexpected Magic – Diana Wynne Jones — This one’s an anthology of fantasy or sci-fi short stories, although I read the short stories at the end of 2019 and only read the novella at the end (Everard’s Ride—terribly interesting) this year… Some of them weren’t my favorite but they were all interesting, and I enjoyed a bunch of them. I’ve been meaning to read this collection for ages, so I’m pleased I finally did!
  • Winter Spell – Claire M. Banschbach — I just talked about this one too but AAAAHHH IT’S SO GOOD!!
  • Freeze Thaw – Selina J. Eckert — Likewise!
  • The Butler’s Story – Hazel B. West — What a fun prequel short story that introduces the hero of The New Emperor’s Concerto, and the butler character, Sinclair. (Everyone needs a Sinclair!) If you’re curious about my squawking, you can meet these characters in the prequel short story which just came out!
  • 5,000 Words Per Hour – Chris Fox — I’m trying to read a few nonfiction books I’ve collected. This one was interesting and hopefully some of the ideas will be helpful.
  • Brown-Ears at Sea – Stephen Lawhead — I finally read this! I love Lawhead’s books for children, which are not very well known but delightful! I just loved this adventure of a stuffed rabbit being swept out to sea and having adventures, while trying to get home to his little boy.
  • Defined – Sarah Holman — An intriguing short story in the Tales of Taelis Kingdom Adventure series!
  • Writing Magic – Gail Carson Levine — I have a stack of a dozen books on writing which I’m hoping to get through, one month at a time, this year. I quite enjoyed this author’s thoughts about writing and it inspired me and made me smile. 🙂
  • The Honorary Agents and the Mystery of the Stolen Artifacts – Lindsay Helm — Fun mystery for younger readers. 🙂
  • The Honorary Agents and the Mystery of the Rare Coin – Lindsay Helm — And this is the sequel to that one and I loved it so much! It’s a fun mystery/treasure hunt and I really enjoyed it! ^_^
  • Elapse – Sarah Holman — I listened to this on audiobook and really enjoyed it! Also in the Tales of Taelis series, it made me excited to read the next book.
  • Strange Waters – Phoenix Fiction Writers — What a delightful collection of fantasy and sci-fi short stories! I need to get together a review for these. Some of them were a liiiittle too scary for me, but most were amazing! (And they’re all super well-written!)
  • Beyond the Shadowed Earth – Joanna Ruth Meyer — I’m getting my thoughts together for a review but WOW, that was gorgeous and mythic and intense! :O I don’t think I’ve ever read anything like it!

February: Currently Reading (Ish)

The closest I have to a nightstand stack right now. ARCs and review books, which I’m hoping to focus on and catch up on reading and reviewing in the next month or so! I’ve actually read the top two now, and I’m looking forward to getting into the others. 🙂

I’m also re-reading aloud Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn (fun Han Solo heist novel!), and I’m still in Green Dolphin Country by Elizabeth Goudge which is GORGEOUS but is taking me an embarrassingly long time because it’s so long and I keep having reading deadlines on other things. XD I WILL finish it soon! I’m determined!

January Book Haul

My January bookhaul! So many exciting books! (The top three were given to me.) Also, how about the adorable art by H.S.J. Williams! IT’S SO ADORABLE. I’ve read/loved Cry of the Raven, Hollow, Kate’s Christmas, and the Honorary Agents book. Looking forward to Emberhawk (it’s releasing March 10!!) and reading the Hero’s Guide series so I can read this third book!


That’s all the updates I have for now. Are there any books you’re excited about? I hope you have an amazing, bookish month! Thanks for reading!

Top 15 Favorite Reads of 2019!

Yes, I’m finally here with my favorite books I read last year! (A wizard is never late. *cough*)

Out of all the 140 books (yes, many of those were short stories or novellas) that I read in 2019 (according to my Goodreads list if you’d like to see all of them! My personal spreadsheet has 175, but anyway. XD), there were MANY amazing stories, but here are some of the ones that stood out!

But first, stats! Because stats are fun.

  • 37 new-to-me novels
  • 48 smaller reads (short stories or novellas etc.)
  • 28 rereads (some were short stories)
  • 6 anthologies
  • 9 nonfiction
  • 13 picture books
  • 10 beta-reads
  • 2 graphic novels
  • 3 misc.
  • 4 audiobook
  • 14 libraried

Oh, and here is a picture of the books I read in 2019 of which I have physical copies. 😀 (54. Last year there were 52. XD)

The pretties! Top: New reads. Middle left: Nonfiction, children’s, anthologies. Middle right: Re-reads (yes, half of it IS by Diana Wynne Jones; why do you ask?). Bottom: bookmarks to represent some books that I don’t own or read in ebook form. Plus a picture book and novella.

Now on with the main post!

In no particular order, other than that the top few are my top favorites, I present…

My Top 15 Favorite Books I Read In 2019

1. Oath of the Outcast (C.M. Banschbach)

Hands-down my favorite book of the year! I had a massive book hangover after reading this and I’m not sure I’ve recovered. It’s just so good! You’ve got a Celtic flavor, epic brothers-by-blood-and-by-bond, much stabbiness, rivers of snark (oh, man, the snark. XD), and of course my smol floof of anger management issues, the Mountain Baron a.k.a. Rhys, outcast and leader of the outlaw Cairns, most epic character of ever, who’s just setting foot on the start of a long road to redemption. I JUST LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH.

[MY REVIEW]

2. Flight of the Raven (Morgan L. Busse)

I adored the first book, and each one gets even more amazing! Flight of the Raven was just SO good (and, spoiler alert, I just read and loved book 3, and I think each one of them is going to end up on the top-reads-of-the-year posts in the years I read them!). Dreamwalking, water powers, growing peril in the land, wonderful worldbuilding and fascinating fantasy “gifts”/powrs, and characters I’ve fallen head-over-heels for! I loved this one so much! ^_^ And getting to dress up as Lady Selene Ravenwood when I went to Realm Makers (and the author also, surprise, dressing as Selene!) was definitely a highlight!

[MY REVIEW]

3. Cress (Marissa Meyer)

I liked Cinder, enjoyed Scarlet, and absolutely fell in love with Cress! I can’t wait to read Winter! Audiobooking Cress was definitely a highlight. I got to live the adventure alongside Cress and Thorne (my faves!) and all the other characters I’d grown to love in the previous book, and all while exercising this summer! (The parts in the Sahara coincided with dead-of-Texas-summer heat, so that made it an interesting exercise companion. XD) IT’S JUST SO MUCH FUN! I’m so glad I finally tried this series. 🙂

4. Curse and Consequence (Savannah Jezowski)

I loved this so much that I read it twice in the same week, because I simply HAD to share the delightful and hilarious story aloud. My siblings and I now quote these characters, particularly Hugh. XD (“Wicky, how could you!”) It’s a Regency-esque fantasy novella, with magical curses and shenanigans, a dragon, and a very Twinkle-like character. IT’S HILARIOUS and I need book two yesterday.

[MY REVIEW]

5. Head in the Heavens (E.B. Dawson)

*screaming* I don’t know WHY I adore this collection so much, other than that the author is apparently a genius. Anyway, E.B. Dawson made me fall in love with sci-fi short stories enough that they’re in my top reads of the year! I binge-read them separately and was THRILLED when they were collected in this handy volume. Sci-fi Moby Dick and Beauty and the Beast, GORGEOUS writing, and edge-of-your-seat dystopian (I don’t even like dystopian but this was just SO GOOD??), are only some of the delights that await you in this anthology!

[MY REVIEW]

6. Deadwood + Hollow (Kyle Robert Shultz)

I simply HAVE to mention these new Afterverse books, Crockett & Crane book 2 and 2.5! (I did edit them, since I am, after all, the Editor of the Afterverse. But they are totally going on this list of simply as a books this fangirling reader loves.)

In Deadwood, Todd and his friends face off against a creepy sentient town in the magical wild west. Also, I love how we get more of Julio, everyone’s favorite (second-favorite?) dragon! There is plenty of signature banter and humor and magical fun, but everything has a more serious side too, as well as creepy Pinocchio elements, and there are plenty of feels! But Todd and Julio are just THE BEST, OKAY? OKAY.

Speaking of feels, HOLLOW! It’s Sleepy Hollow meets Wonderland with a dash of time travel and WOW. It’s so delicious. And, again, feelsy. But with Ichabod Crane (Todd’s ancestor) as the main character, and important characters from both the Crockett & Crane and Beaumont & Beasley series . . . it’s ABSOLUTELY AWESOME and mind-blowing. It packs quite a punch for a novella! (Plus, that cover! *heart eyes*)

[MY REVIEW OF HOLLOW]

7. Dark is the Night (Mirriam Neal)

A new book from Mirriam Neal released and some of my favorite characters, Skata and Angel, have been published — THIS IS NOT A DRILL. I adored this book years ago when I beta-read it, and having it finally on my shelf is A DREAM. I’m so happy to have read the final version in all its vampire-hunter, urban fantasy, southern gothic, snarky-hilarious-banter-buddy-story glory! Buddy stories are my fave, and Skata and Angel are THE BEST. XD

[MY REVIEW]

8. Magic Kingdom for Sale (Terry Brooks)

This one was sheer fun, and I’m so pleased that I finally picked it up on the recommendation of Jenelle Schmidt. I was determined to read one book by Terry Brooks before going to Realm Makers 2019, where I got to meet him (!!!), and this one fit the bill perfectly. It’s a delightful portal fantasy from back when that wasn’t really a thing, and I loved the down-to-earth-ness of the main character, and the quirkiness of the world and other characters! A blast.

9. Mechanical Heart (Sarah Pennington)

Aaahh, this book! I had been dying to read it for years, and I was so excited to get to devour this author’s first full-length novel! Steampunk Rapunzel in a clocktower, with solid characters, politics, mysteries, and inventions? YES PLEASE! I still have not read enough Steampunk, but this is another one to add to the slowly growing list of ones I’ve read and loved. Fabulous!

[MY REVIEW]

10. The Fall of Gondolin (J.R.R. Tolkien & Christopher Tolkien)

Bittersweet as the last book Christopher Tolkien released, made more so by his recent passing, but so, so gorgeous, and a fitting end. I’m so grateful that he got to share so many stories and drafts his father wrote with us fortunate readers! This one was different than The Children of Hurin and Beren and Luthien, but as the third of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Great Tales of the Silmarillion, it was an absolute delight to get a closer look at those drafts and I was surprised how much detail there was, if sad that it wasn’t finished. I absolutely loved it, and the illustrations by Alan Lee are AMAZING!

11. The Wee Free Men (Terry Pratchett)

*laughing* The Nac Mac Feegle, though. XD They’re hilarious and totally the reason why I loved this. I had a blast reading it, and really enjoyed the gorgeous illustrated edition I managed to find at a library. It had a more Celtic feel than the other Discworld books I’ve read, and feels somehow different than them, and rather a lot more like a Diana Wynne Jones for some reason. Maybe it’s because of the young main character, who’s great! I can’t wait to read more about the Feegles and their Scottish accents and ridiculous, hilarious shenanigans. XD

12. Flower of the Underworld (Hazel B. West)

At this point, Hazel West is probably my favorite Urban Fantasy author. I absolutely LOVE her Modern Tales of Na Fianna series (the best UF everrrr), so I was curious to try this modern retelling of Hades and Persephone. IT WAS SUCH A BLAST. The normalized setting of Greek mythology in contemporary times was perfect and hilarious, and there were so many shenanigans, as well as much humor. And Hades (who’s like the only nice guy in his powerhungry family) and Persephone (who works at a landscaping business) are so much fun. And she gives him a plant named George so OBVIOUSLY this book is just the best. I just had way too much fun reading it. XD

13. Strayborn (E.E. Rawls)

This just made me happy, okay? It’s a middle-grade Christian Fantasy magical-academy type story and it felt so fresh and delightful! The characters were fabulous and unique and I loved so many of them — particularly the mentor character, Master Nephryte, who reminded me a little of Chrestomanci! Also, that cover! ❤

[MY REVIEW]

14. The Boggart Fights Back (Susan Cooper)

Aaahh! So, the first two Boggart books were on my top reads of the year lists when I read them, and I suddenly found out that years and years later there was a sequel that just came out?? I immediately snagged it from the library and devoured it. Modern fantasy set in Scotland, this time about the children of the characters from the first two. And I love the mischievous Boggart and Nessie! Delightful. 🙂

15. Compass South + Knife’s Edge (Hope Larson & Rebecca Mock)

I haven’t really read graphic novels before, so this was a first for me, and I’m surprised to see these creeping in at the end of my list, but I just HAD to include them! It’s a duology, and I’ve talked about them before, but they’re just SO MUCH FUN . Swashbuckling MG/YA graphic novels, 99% clean historical fiction, with fun characters (and twins!), unexpected twists, and just… These little books made me happy! I’m so glad I randomly picked them up at the library! 🙂


Aaand here’s a picture of all the ones I own in physical form so far!


So there are my “official” top fifteen (ish) favorites . . . but we’re not done yet!

Now I need to share some runners-up and favorites in other categories.

RUNNERS-UP THAT MAKE ME HAPPY

1. Beneath the Haunting Sea (Joanna Ruth Meyer)

This is by the author of Echo North (one of my top five favorite books I read in 2018), so naturally it’s excellent! Sea and island vibes, original mythology and fabulous characters, and all gorgeous and wild. The Silmarillion meets Jane Eyre is how it was pitched to me, which I find rather accurate. Aside from a love triangle, simply fabulous!

2. Ghostlight (Rabia Gale)

BECAUSE TREY. Trey is the hero of this book and singlehandedly gains it a spot on my favorites. A little spooky for me, but it gave me a slight book hangover, and it’s a delightful regency-esque fantasy with fabulous banter, and did I mention Trey?

3. Jeeves and the Wedding Bells (Sebastian Faulks)

It may not quite be Wodehouse, but it gets jolly close. What a hilarious set of shenanigans! Bertie Wooster and Jeeves and the usual hijinks, in a fabulous homage to P.G. Wodehouse’s classic tales.

4. Ewan Pendle and the Castle of Nightmares (Shaun Hume)

Academy story. Modern-day London. Scotland. Ewan and his misfit friends are my favorite. A dragon. A mysterious castle. It’s just a wonderful romp and it makes me happy! (Sequel to Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith.)

5. Fortunately, the Milk . . . (Neil Gaiman)

Well, firstly, that title, which I quote all the time. Secondly, this is absolutely hilarious and it makes me smile and it just wanted to be on this list! (Even if there are obviously other books I read this year which I liked more in general. But it’s just so funny and I had to mention it. XD) I particularly love re-reading the beginning. XD This currently joins Make Good Art as one of my favorite books from this author.


And then a few other categories…


FAVORITE SHORT STORIES

Arbrook Huxley and the Miraculous Confection (Mollie E. Reeder)

A new short story about Huxley from The Electrical Menagerie! *screaming* This story was an absolute delight, and so well-written. It gave me all of the feels! And the ending was perfect. I laughed so hard and then I had to read it to my siblings. XD I just love it! Absolutely delicious.

The Grift of the Magi (Ally Carter)

I loved the Heist Society books when I read them ages ago, and this might be my favorite one! It’s a short story (or maybe novella?), set after book 3, at Christmas-time, and it’s. so. good. HALE and feels and Christmas and a snowstorm and a Scottish castle and so many cons and things and a great twist at the end. I love it so much!

(There’s not a “cover” for the Jayden and Dana stories, but the one I first read was collected in this anthology awhile back, so I’m using this picture. Also, it’s just a really excellent anthology, even if I didn’t read it this year. XD)

Jayden and Dana stories (Arthur Daigle)

These don’t have covers or anything, and I mentioned them in my favorites last year, but they’re a continuing sort of short story serial over on Booksie. I just LOVE reading about these two characters, Dana Illwind and Sorcerer Lord Jayden. I “met” them in some of the Fellowship of Fantasy anthologies, and went on to read more stories of their adventures as they’re posted from time to time. There’s over a dozen of these now and I highly recommend checking them out! Jayden is the best, and so is Dana, and I love their banter and the fantastical adventures they get up to!


FAVORITE PICTURE BOOKS

‘Twas an Evening in Bethlehem (Jenelle Leanne Schmidt)

I love this so much! The art is so soft and charming and the story and poem are lovely, with elegant borders and a great cover, and the whole is just a gorgeous picture book that I love! ^_^

King Arthur’s Very Great Grandson (Kenneth Kraegel)

I ADORE THIS. I found it at the library and it’s one of the best picture books I’ve read. It’s about the great-great-great-etc. grandson of King Arthur, a little boy, who goes looking for monsters to fight, with the absolute BEST outcomes. XD I just love it!


FAVORITE NONFICTION

I think I read about ten nonfiction books this year, most of them about writing in one way or another, and these were my top favorites.

Not Write Now (Kyle Robert Shultz)

I actually copyedited this one, but it’s a marvelous reverse-psychology writer self-help book. I’ve never read anything like it before, but it’s actually really helpful and also absolutely hilarious. XD

Sometimes the Magic Works (Terry Brooks)

I had the delight of meeting Terry Brooks at the Realm Makers 2019 conference, and picked this up while I was there. I’m new to his work this year, but this collection of essays about his experiences as a writer was fabulous, and really encouraged me in a difficult time. Plus, it was just really fun. 🙂


I know that was a lot! *hides face* I just want to share all the books. XD Have you read any of these? Any going on your TBR? What was YOUR favorite book(s) of 2019? Thanks for reading!