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Dark is the Night by Mirriam Neal: Tour/Review!

(image credit: Morgan Farris)

GUYS. A NEW MIRRIAM NEAL NOVEL IS RELEASING THIS WEEK AND I. CAN’T. STOP. SCREAMING! 😀 I’m super excited to be sharing my review for it as part of the blog tour! (Also, is it not GORGEOUS?)


Title: Dark is the Night

Author: Mirriam Neal

  • Date read: October 12, 2019
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy / Southern Gothic / Christian Fiction
  • Age: Adult
  • Year pub: 2019
  • Series: Salvation, #1
  • Fave character: Skata and Angel!
  • Source: the author
  • Notes: I received a free e-ARC of this book from the author as part of the blog tour. I was not required to write a positive review. (No vampires, werewolves, hunters, or shifters threatened me into saying nice things about them. XD) All opinions are my own.

Attention, world! Author Mirriam Neal has a new book out and it. is. spectacular. (Of COURSE.) I love this author’s writing so much (Paper Crowns being one of my top-ten favorite books ever), so I was ecstatic when I heard she had a new book releasing! *muffled screaming*

I don’t exactly read vampire books so imagine my surprise when I read this one and genuinely enjoyed it. I actually beta-read an earlier version of it several years ago, so I’m DOUBLY excited about this book being released to the world, because now I get to shriek about some of my favorite characters and y’all get to read about them—finally! 😀

So, this one is what you might call a Christian vampire-novel.

(I just reeeally wanted to use this gif. XD)

That may seem odd, but this author did a stellar job weaving themes and deep discussions through a paranormal adventure/mystery set against the Southern Gothic setting of modern-day South Carolina. And it’s delightful Urban Fantasy (small town . . . rural fantasy?), too. It features the small town called Salvation, inhabited by vampires, werewolves, shifters, and other people/creatures, fantastical or otherwise.

This is a story about PEOPLE. The multi-faceted characters totally make this book. I LOVE THEM SO. It features a fairly large cast, and every one of them has their own story, some merely hinted at but all totally real. Trying to wrestle out everyone’s motives and secrets and relationships was the best.

For the main characters, we have Skata (vampire-hunter), Angel (vampire house-mate; ooh, awkward), Colton (epic-est preacher of all time), and Easton (who I can’t really describe but she’s the best, okay). They are MY FAVORITE, especially all their interactions/relationships/banter/pasts.

Okay, but ANGEL AND SKATA, THOUGH. Skata is a tough, no-nonsense vampire-hunter on the path of revenge, who ends up stuck in this little dead-end town. Enter Angel, who is the sassiest, snarkiest vampire ever, and happens to have a huge mansion that Skata ends up staying at.

THEY ARE HILARIOUS TOGETHER. I love buddy stories so much, and this is like the ULTIMATE one. (No, I will not stop screaming in caps about them. You can’t make me.) Their snark-offs are my absolute favorite. Angel is so full of himself and his favorite thing is baiting Skata or simply Not Caring. It’s so hilarious.

Meanwhile, Skata is Totally Done with Angel and it’s a miracle neither of them kills each other the minute they meet, let along through the plot. XD I JUST LOVE THEM, OKAY. They are the best thing in this book. 😀

(Skata being Totally Done with Angel 110% of the time)

I love how Easton is sometimes confused about stuff, sometimes tolerates their shenanigans, and at other times is Total No-Nonsense. Simultaneously sweet and also watch-out. Everyone needs an Easton. And a Colton! He’s the most fascinating preacher character ever and I love how he has words of wisdom one moment and a shotgun or a stake to help out with, the next, and he’s not afraid to tell it like it is. He’s unassuming and helpful, but can snark alongside Skata with the best of them, and may have a bit of an anger problem occasionally, but he’s the solid one in the middle of the uncertainty, and let’s just say the bad guys better watch out for this man of God.

There are also FASCINATING side characters, who you spend some of the book not knowing whose side they’re on or if they even have a side, which makes it terribly interesting. But they’re all such vivid characters! A certain… erm… well, Skinner, who’s spoilery but OH BOY; Gideon and Jackson (hothead), vampire brothers (Gideon being the Most Refined But Can Totally Snap Your Neck If He Feels Like It gentleman-vampire of all time); Rukiel, who is mysterious; Cassis, gentle part-vampire who is Too Precious For This Earth; Shannon, the sheriff’s shotgun-wielding daughter; Spencer, techno-genius kid and energy-drink-aholic (energolic)… The list goes on. Seriously though, I love these characters so much! I mean, even the scary ones are fascinating. They are SO ALIVE. (Even the dead ones. *cough*)

Angel and Skata and their banter are my number one favorite thing about this book. (Shhh, I know that’s three things.)

There is so much snark and banter in this thing (I’m pretty sure I highlighted half of the book in my Kindle app because it is SO QUOTABLE) and if there’s one thing I love, it’s hilarious books. XD The snark and sarcasm in this book is A+ and MAKES MY DAY. Everyone just has the best lines and it’s great. 😀

The plot itself is full of twists and mysteries (including murder-mysteries) and totally keeps you on your toes. The shadowy, mysterious “feel” of the book, just a bit gothic and spooky, but not too over-the-top, is pretty cool. Also, the different classifications/levels of vampire was really interesting. Things get kind of gruesome occasionally and there’s a very real, gritty feel, but it never gets to be too much, because of the humor balancing it out, and all intertwined with themes of faith or redemption that fit together perfectly.

I never would have thought that a book could be so dark but funny but inspiring all at once, with a good dose of feels thrown in on top. Even if I wasn’t sure about a thing or two, and want to know what happens with some loose threads, I still absolutely loved it! It left me with a feeling of “I just read a really good book” and that’s all I can ask of any story—aside from laugh-aloud humor, and characters I just want to HUG. Which this book definitely delivered!

Content warning: lots of blood/violence, a smattering of recent-Marvel-movie-level language, and general scariness.

Conclusion: This is a dark book (I mean, it has it in the title. ;)) but there’s humor and redemption and other good stuff to set that off. Nothing felt there “just” to be creepy—it all fit well into the plot and the feel and the impact. And, I mean, SKATA AND ANGEL. I had a total blast reading this and couldn’t put it down. Even if you’re not into vampire stories, this is a genuinely good, if gritty, book, which is tons of fun. Now WHERE is the next one? I have some suspiciously loose strings that need to be explored and I NEED more with these characters! *grabby hands*


About Dark is the Night

Skata only has one goal in life—to seek out the vampire who turned his wife and kill it. When he finally tracks the vampire to the small nowhere town of Salvation, South Carolina, he realizes he has stepped foot into something bigger than himself.

He’s going to need help—and that help may come in many forms. Between the vampires, werewolves, shape-shifters, and an unusual preacher, Skata may be in over his head.


Book Links

Don’t forget to head on by Mirriam’s blog for all the tour stops!


About the Author

MIRRIAM NEAL is an author frequently masquerading as an artist. When she’s not scrubbing paint off her hands, she’s thinking about writing (actually, if she’s being honest, she’s always thinking about writing). A discovery writer, she tends to start novels and figure them out as she goes along and likes to work on several books at the same time—while drinking black coffee. She’s a sucker for monsters, unlikely friendships, redemption arcs, and underdog protagonists. When not painting fantasy art or writing genre-bending novels, she likes to argue the existence of Bigfoot, rave about Guillermo del Toro, and write passionate defenses of misunderstood characters.

To learn more about her fiction and art, visit her website: https://mirriamneal.com/, where you can find a full list of all her social medias, or join the Citadel Fiction newsletter: https://www.subscribepage.com/b1h5v9


Well, what do you think? Let me know in a comment below! Thanks for reading! 🙂

Strayborn by E. E. Rawls: Review/Giveaway/Tour!

I’m so excited to be on the blog tour for this gorgeous fantasy debut from E. E. Rawls today!

Read on for my review of this delightful book, and make sure to scroll to the end of the post for more info about the book and a giveaway!


(Isn’t it GORGEOUS?? *dies*)

Title: Strayborn

Author: E. E. Rawls

  • Date read: October 17, 2019
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Christian Fantasy
  • Age: Middle Grade and up
  • Year pub: 2019
  • Pages: 349 (Kindle)
  • Series: Draev Guardians, #1
  • Fave character: Nephryte
  • Source: the author
  • Notes: I received a complimentary e-ARC of this book from the author for the blog tour and was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.

That was delightful! A unique and thrilling MG adventure, which I enjoyed very much despite being older than the target audience. I think readers of all ages will find this Christian Fantasy story a delight, especially if you like academy stories! (Think Harry Potter, Knightly Academy, Ewan Pendle, etc.) It’s exciting and not without its bouts of tragedy, but it’s also full of heart and fun and it makes me happy. I keep smiling just thinking about it! 🙂

I loved getting to know Cyrus (our quiet heroine who has hidden strength) and the other misfit students at the Draev academy, a school for those with Ability. Their different Abilities/powers were so intriguing, though I don’t want to give anything away about them. 😉 The characters also struggle with very real issues, like Cyrus’s weak wrists, the prejudice against the people who are different, or the issues between the different races—humans, vempars, faeryns, etc. And there is a Christian element at the center, providing a moral compass and direction for the characters.

Speaking of characters . . . Master Nephryte is THE COOLEST. I love the young magical mentor type character. He gives me slight Chrestomanci vibes and I love how he puts up with his students despite their shenanigans and is such a wise, sturdy character, but still with a sense of fun. Plus, I mean, wind powers. He’s so epic and just the absolute best!

The characters were all so real and such a delightful misfit bunch. Cyrus, of course, and Aken, the other main character—who sometimes could be annoying but other times I loved. But he’s a troublemaker, so. 😉 I especially loved Mamoru who is so fascinating and mysterious. And others who would take too long to list here. I love all the character-growth going on! Character arcs are my favorite. Even some of the side characters I didn’t think I liked ended up becoming very intriguing. I can’t wait to read more in the series and find out more about all the characters and their secrets and backstories! Aaahh! I’m sooo curious. 😀

This world is Eartha, a sort of alternate fantasy world that’s somewhat like Earth but different. The blend of modern times and old-fashioned feel, with fantasy and a dash of almost-steampunk-but-not-quite, was so unique, as were the twists on things such as the “vempars” who are like vampires but . . . not. The worldbuilding was a delight and I was utterly drawn in and fascinated to spend time in this world. I can’t wait to come back to it someday!

The plot kept me on my toes and even while mixing familiar elements—like a magical-ish academy, a contest to determine who would enter the Duel, and a heroine pretending to be a boy—I never suspected what was going to happen next and it was all delightfully fresh and so much fun. It stole my heart. An excellent beginning to a new series, and a splendid debut novel!

If you’re on the lookout for a unique Christian Fantasy tale, perfect for middle-graders or any lovers of fantasy, full of twists and mysteries and a cast of characters who quickly grow on you, STRAYBORN is your book. 🙂 I enjoyed it so much and I need more!


About Strayborn

Elemental Manipulation is a tricky business. Only those with the power can train to become a Draev Guardian.

Cyrus Sole hates life. She’s only half-human, with weak wrists, and not a day goes by when someone doesn’t say something mean about it—especially her step-mom. But when the forbidden power to manipulate metal awakens inside her, she finds herself on the run as the Argos Corps is sent to kill her…

Aken is a Scourgeblood, the last in a line of monsters. But all he really wants is to gain wings and be free. Until a new power suddenly awakens, changing the course of his life…

The Draev Guardian Academy is their only sanctuary. But training to become a Draev won’t be easy. Cyrus has to hide her human side, as she gets placed in Floor Harlow with the outcast students, and nightmares of her deceased mother keep returning.

With creepy Corpsed on the prowl, and whispers of Cyrus possibly being a reborn Hero, both she and Aken find themselves caught up in a web of secrets, racial tension, and an old legend with enemies that could spell their untimely demise…

—This book is a good fit for those who’ve enjoyed the Percy Jackson series, Brandon Sanderson’s fantasy world-building, and the fun of J.K. Rowling.


Book Links

AMAZON | KINDLE | BARNES & NOBLE | GOODREADS

FREE prequel story


Author Bio

E.E. Rawls is the product of a traveling family, who even lived in Italy for 6 years. She loves exploring the unknown, whether it be in a forest, inside a forgotten castle, or within the pages of a book.

She runs on coffee, cuddly cats and the beauty of nature to keep the story wheels of her mind running, as she writes tales that will both entertain and inspire others, giving them worlds they can explore and become lost within.

WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM


Giveaway!

Prizes are:

First place: One hardback copy of Strayborn, and one Percy Jackson soy/vegan homemade candle by A Court Of Candles.

Second and Third place: One ebook copy of Strayborn.

Ends on Monday, October 21.

ENTER HERE!


Free Prequel Ebook!

Also, be sure to check out STORM & CHOICE, a free prequel short story before Strayborn, which gives a quick taste of this world and these characters!

Cyrus Sole, a girl who can manipulate metal, and Aken-Shou the last Scourgeblood, must learn to survive in a world that is determined to either destroy them, or use them…

This ebook is available FREE at Rawls’s newsletter: eerawls.com


What do you think? Make sure you check out the rest of the tour! Thanks for reading! 🙂

The Story Raider: Review + Realm Makers Launch Party

I’m here with my review for this book, but first I want to share a little about attending the launch party for The Story Raider at the 2019 Realm Makers writers conference! (And of course some pictures. ;))

So, the weekend before the book released, I was at Realm Makers and there was a launch party and I was so excited to get to attend! The rooms where the party was held were so packed that it was actually really hard to see/hear what was going on for a long time. XD But it was still super fun!

Some pictures I took at the launch party!

Edging past people through doorways and hearing choruses of laughter, so much hanging out and chatting with friends, and tasting delicious donuts! Eventually most people trickled out so that there was enough room for me to get closer and hear Lindsay reading part of the story aloud, and there was a fun guessing-game about whether lines were from the Marvel universe or the Weaver universe. XD

I also won an amazing Corsyth candle in a raffle, which made my day!

And I got my book signed by Lindsay (who is just the SWEETEST HUMAN).

And yeah. It was a really fun night. ^_^

(Also, I feel slightly pleased that I “get” the tea and kittens joke in the acknowledgments of the book, because I heard a story about it from Steve Laube at the costume night during the conference. XD)

Anyway, it was a lovely experience (as was the rest of Realm Makers)!

On to the review!


Title: The Story Raider (The Weaver Trilogy, #2)

Author: Lindsay A. Franklin

  • Date read: August 12, 2019
  • Rating: 4 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Age: YA (on the darker side)
  • Year pub: 2019
  • Pages: 358 (paperback)
  • Series: The Weaver Trilogy, #2 (Book 1: The Story Peddler)
  • Fave character: Mor and Kharn. 😀
  • Source: Advance Reader Copy ebook from the author, and paperback I bought at Realm Makers 2019.
  • Notes: This is my honest review. All opinions are my own.
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonAuthor’s Website

 

Ten Thoughts on The Story Raider

That was a wild ride! I feel like this book is better than the first one but at the same time this one had more plot things that I was . . . less than pleased about? XD So I’m just a little mixed on it.

But I definitely enjoyed reading it, and I need the next book yesterday because CLIFFHANGER. *dies* I can’t wait to find out what happens!

It’s going to be sooo hard to review this without spoilers but I’ll give it a shot.

The Awesome

  • It was definitely a really good book. It was so well written, and gorgeous and exciting and (usually) fun and epic. It kind of felt like a movie and really pulled me along. And there were some awesome twists that got me really excited! 😀 Overall, despite having some quibbles (which I’ll get into later) it was a really enjoyable read!
  • THE SETTING. It. Was. Absolutely. Breathtaking. I loved getting to see all the different places they sailed to! And all of the different cultures and peoples and scenery and lands. This world is so gorgeous and vivid—and so are the story weaving parts! *flails around* SO PRETTY. I always love the story parts. There was so much epicness going down and it’s just so visual and stunning, both in setting and with all the weaving scenes. (Like the scene in the white-blossomed grove. You know what I’m talking about.)
  • There’s just so much going ON in this book. I was super impressed at how everything managed to weave together (no pun intended) and fit in this fairly ordinary-sized book when it had such sweeping scales of epic things going down all over the place. It was tight and well-paced, I guess is what I’m trying to say, and had a lot going on which made it super exciting!
  • The banter and snatches of humor made me so happy! That added a lot of fun and is one of the reasons I had such a good time reading it. I also love many of the characters (even if they frustrate me sometimes. XD) and loved getting to continue reading their story! And we got new characters too, which was awesome, and I’m really liking them. Basically, hanging out with these people mostly made me really happy. ^_^
  • Also, I love Braith! Her chapters and the “feel” of them were some of my absolute favorites! I actually kind of wish the whole book was about her and a certain new character who showed up halfway and did plot-twist things to my mind. XD (A new favorite! :O Joining Mor. Cool, now I have too favorites. XD) I would read a whole book about Braith and her problems at the palace and this spoiler person, please and thank you. 😀 Seriously.

The Less-Than-Awesome (For Me)

(Please note that everything in this category is subjective and totally a “me” thing! I’m not saying it’s a bad book, at all, just that these things were less enjoyable for me, personally—but they might be another reader’s favorites! :))

  • Love triangles. Not my thing and kind of frustrating. 😛 In a way it’s better than in the first book, and in a way . . . really not. XD
  • Darker, sad stories—also not my favorite. I appreciate that tackling tougher subjects is important in fiction, and I know characters die, but that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it getting really sad, especially in the second half. (*cue Theoden voice-over* “So much death . . .”) Related, I know spending time with the villains’ POV to see what’s going on is important but I wish we didn’t have to so much because ugh. 😛
  • Sometimes things confused me, especially not really knowing what different weaver powers could or couldn’t do. Maybe it’s just the usual nothing-is-explained (especially not magic systems) in fiction these days. Or maybe (entirely possible) it’s the fact that I read the first book over a year ago and forgot details and characters and plot points. 😛
  • Mixed feelings about some of the characters, and how some of them did idiotic things. XD Everything about Brac’s plot—meh. I didn’t really care for him in the first place, but REALLY? And I love Mor but I don’t know if I toootally ship him with Tanwen because I dunno if she deserves him. 😛 Sometimes I love Tannie and other times she’s irrational and self-centered and felt fourteen and kinda frustrated me. XD (At this point I’m mostly shipping side characters, because YES. There are two side ships I absolutely love. :D)
  • There were just a lot of turns that things took in the plot that I wasn’t enthused about. Some are covered above and some are spoilers, but anyway. I’m curious how things will finish up in the final book, though!

Conclusion

It’s a good book, just with some things that I personally didn’t love, but I still really enjoyed reading it and it was GORGEOUS. And Braith etc.! And that world! And the fun banter! Plus, that cliffhanger! I’m anxiously awaiting The Story Hunter! I need it! What’s going to happennnn?

(Note: I received a free e-ARC from the author, and ended up buying and reading a paperback instead. XD All opinions are my own.)


A Favorite Quote

“Why does everyone keep trying to feed me today?”

“Because you look sad.”

“And food helps?”

“Aye.” He unwrapped a cake and popped it in his mouth. “It does when the food tastes like this.”


You may also enjoy . . .

Seahorse Kindle Cover copy


Whew! Have you read this one yet? Thanks for reading! 🙂

Mechanical Heart by Sarah Pennington

It’s release day for Mechanical Heart and GUYS I’M SO, SO STOKED THAT THIS BOOK IS OUT IN THE WORLD! 😀

Read on for my review, or just, you know, go get the book RIGHT NOW because it’s Steampunk Rapunzel set in a clocktower, written by one of my favorite authors, and you just need it in your life!

First, a bit about the book, the author, and the Golden Braids blog tour!


Mechanical Heart

Can you save someone who doesn’t know if she’s alive?

Breen lives locked away, separated from the world by the walls of her clock tower and the machine of gems, gears, and magic that replaces her heart. That is, until an unexpected visitor appears in her tower, offering a dangerous gift: freedom. His promises awaken hope for a life unbound by the tower walls — but she knows that if he learns about her heart, it’s only a matter of time before he turns on her.

Josiah is powerless. Though he’s the crown prince of the mighty Chanian empire, he feels stifled by his inability to protect his people from the schemes of corrupt nobles. When he discovers a girl trapped in a locked clock tower, he thinks he’s finally found a problem he can solve . . . but more than just walls keep her captive.

From the royal palace to the streets of Rivenford to the tops of clock towers, secrets hide around every corner in this steampunk retelling of Rapunzel. Breen and Josiah hold the keys to each other’s struggles — if they can break down the barriers that divide them.


About the Author

Sarah Pennington has been writing stories since before she actually knew how to write, and she has no intention of stopping anytime soon. She is perpetually in the middle of writing at least one or two novels, most of which are in the fantasy and fairy tale retelling genres. Sarah’s first published work, Blood in the Snow, received a perfect score and Special Unicorn status in Rooglewood Press’s Five Poisoned Apples contest. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys knitting, photography, and trying to conquer her massive to-be-read list.

Find her online at: Website || Blog || Second Blog || Goodreads || Facebook || Amazon


Tour Info

The Golden Braids are five retellings of Rapunzel by five different authors, each unique in tone, setting, and moral. This collection has something in it for every reader.

Check out the full tour schedule and the (US) giveaway for three of the books in paperback, HERE!


(*dies because the cover is SO AMAZING*)

Title: Mechanical Heart

Author: Sarah Pennington

  • Date read: August 6, 2019
  • Rating: 5 stars!
  • Genre: Steampunk / Fairy tale retelling / Rapunzel / Fantasy
  • Age: YA
  • Year pub: 2019
  • Pages: 398 (ebook)
  • Source: I received a free e-ARC of this book for the blog tour and was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.

THIS BOOK! I’ve been so excited for it and anxiously awaiting its release FOREVER and now it’s finally here and aaahhh! I. loved. it. The premise is the coolest ever: Steampunk Rapunzel in a clock tower. By one of my favorite authors. Um, yes please!

I was utterly hooked from the first chapter and I absolutely love this world, these characters, and the writing style!

The characters! I adored them. The story is really about friendships (instead of the expected romance—though to be honest, I will admit I was totally shipping people for some future time after the book. XD *cough*) which was pretty awesome! This little group of friends—I just love them! Especially the dynamics of the relationships, and how different they were.

Deaf characters and signing were an integral part of the story, which was fascinating! I loved how all of that played out—it was brilliant.

Also, the characters were so rational and actually thought things through instead of just dashing around being idiots, which was also different. XD (I mean, a few times I was all “I don’t care if that’s the rational choice—what about such-and-such a character and what if they diiiie? Noooo!” and I was on pins-and-needles wanting to know how it would turn out, but eheheh I never said I was a rational, just that they are. XD)

I . . . may have gotten super emotionally invested in these people and their story. 😛

I got so WORRIED and it was kind of intense! O_O Even though a lot of it wasn’t exciting all the time, it was still so GRIPPING and and just absolutely fascinating and I couldn’t stop reading.

It was brilliantly written and I have no idea how the author did it, especially with all the politics. It was all so cool and mysterious and the plot worked together and just—I don’t know! It was awesome! Like clockwork fitting together effortlessly, all the little gear-pieces turning and bringing you leaping across between each plot element and threading through the different storylines. I loved the writing, and the story kept being unexpected, and it was just SO GOOD.

Josiah and his notebook! Okay, so Prince Josiah’s awesome and I love how he keeps track of everything in his notebook. It’s the best! 😀 And I have no clue how he makes speeches and navigates politics and also runs around being awesome investigating stuff and still has time to be a stellar friend and brother. (I honestly got mad at Breen for pushing him away because he’s just trying to help and he’s the best, okay!) Love him.

Breen is a broken cinnamon roll of awesome and I was sooo invested in her story and just wanted her to have a happy ending! *flails around* She was so great and unique and well-written and relatable and yeah, I loved her. Also, her inventing skills are fabulous, which makes me happy. 😀

Grace is Josiah’s sister and you totally forget she’s a princess sometimes because she’s just so nice and outgoing and it’s awesome. 😀 She makes a fabulous friend and I also appreciated how, since she was deaf, that explained why Josiah is so good at signing and could therefore communicate with Breen. Because plot!

And there’s also Luis who fixes clocks and is the best-friend character and I LOVED him! He kept making me laugh but he wasn’t silly or anything, and his friendship with Josiah, and the girls, is the bessst. Everyone needs a Luis! And there were other characters (like Peter) who were also awesome.

THIS WORLD. I absolutely lived and breathed this world and felt so caught up in it! The steampunkery was awesome, and the dash of alchemy/magic/power-crystals that was a perfect blend of sciency/fantasy. And just the settings were so well-drawn, and the world and culture. The worldbuilding was absolutely fabulous and everything felt so incredibly well-thought-out and just WORKED. I totally want to come back to this world someday!

It’s so gorgeous but also has its shady, darker side, and the story doesn’t shy away from the tricky questions about life. The book is very full of secret plots and politics (sooo much debating and stuff, but it was fascinating) and moral dilemmas and all of that. Occasionally I had quibbles or just wanted everything to be okayyyy because my emotions did not sign up for this, but on the whole it was awesome. 😛

The Rapunzel elements were fabulous but also didn’t take over the story, which was cool—it’s very much its own book, just built around the trappings of the Rapunzel story. (Also, the villains. UGH. Madame Gottling and co. are so chilling!)

I haven’t read nearly enough steampunk, and I was so thrilled to get to read this one! It reminds me a little of some others in the genre (like by H.L. Burke, though a large percentage of my steampunk reads have been from that author so far. XD) but is entirely its own thing as well. I loved-loved-loved the clocktowers and the clocks and inventions and gears and just all of the steampunk-ness! (Also, check out the clock images in the chapter headers. It took me awhile to notice, but LOOK AT THEM. You’ll see what I mean. *grins*)

I can’t stop thinking about this book! I’ve hardly finished it and it already feels like I’ve known this book forever—it just feels so classic and awesome and has already settled in on my steampunky-favorites mental list!

I’m definitely going to want this one on my shelf—and you need it there too!

Mechanical Heart is a stellar steampunk Rapunzel tale, full of politics and friendships and clocks and the most epic worldbuilding. I can’t wait to go back and visit!


Favorite Quotes

There, he sat down in a most un-royal fashion. “We’ve found it, Luis!”

“Found what, Your Highness?” Luis raised an eyebrow. “Your common sense? I thought that was gone for good.”


You may also enjoy . . .

Beggar Magic Spellsmith and Carver: Magicians' Trial Illusionarium


Doesn’t it sound AMAZING?? And what’s the best steampunk you’ve read? I need more recommendations! Thanks for reading! 🙂

Molly Storm by Annie Louise Twitchell

It’s Golden Braids release week! *cheering*

The Golden Braids are a collaborative release of five Rapunzel retellings by five different authors. Each book is very different, and I’m here to review one of them today (and I’ll be back tomorrow to review another one)!

You can enter a US giveaway for paperbacks of three of the books, and find the full tour schedule, HERE!

Today I’m reviewing Molly Storm, a Rapunzel short story by Annie Louise Twitchell!

First, a bit about the tale and the author . . .


About the Book

A witch, a pirate, a lighthouse, and… seaweed? Molly Storm is a short story inspired by the tale of Rapunzel.

“You and I, lass, we’re both sides of the same coin. We’re both the heart of the ocean, but you’re more the kindness and goodness. I’m the storms that crush ships. Don’t cross me, Molly. I’ll crush all the sweetness out of you.”

Find the book: Goodreads || Amazon


About the Author

Annie Louise Twitchell is a homeschool graduate who is obsessed with dragons and fairy tales. She enjoys reading, writing, poetry, and many forms of art. When she’s not writing, she can often be found reading out loud to her cat, rabbit, and houseplants, or wandering barefoot in the area around her Western Maine home.

Find her online: Blogspot || Facebook || Instagram || Twitter || Author site


Title: Molly Storm

Author: Annie Louise Twitchell

  • Date read: July 27, 2019
  • Rating: 4 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy / Short Story
  • Year pub: 2019
  • Pages: 35 (ebook)
  • Source: I received a free e-ARC of this story for the blog tour and all opinions are my own.

(I love this cover!)

This was such a unique, fascinating take on Rapunzel, set in a lighthouse — which is perfect! I loved that it was such a quick and easy read, since it’s a short story, but still manages to really grab hold of you and keep you thinking about it. It’s a little bit haunting and super atmospheric and feels totally like a cloudy day above a rocky coast, which I loved!

It could also get a little dark here and there, and there were one or two things I didn’t care for, but on the whole I really enjoyed it. 🙂 I think I expected something a bit different, and almost can’t decide if I was disappointed some of the things I wanted to happen didn’t happen, or that it’s awesome because I couldn’t predict it. XD But what I did get was a very intriguing and different story, populated with memorable characters.

They were sooo interesting — and it was especially unique how it was told from the point of view of the witch from Rapunzel, the titular Molly Storm (love that name!), which made it so different. The pirate captain was so well written and chilling and I kind of loved reading his dialog even while I was shivering. XD The Rapunzel character was sweet, and I really liked Matteo, even if I wanted him to be in it more. XD

The stormy sea-side “feel” was my favorite part and I liked how well-knit-together it was, how several years was depicted so well in such a short space. If you want a short, slightly dark but with some hope, fantasy tale in a lighthouse by the sea with scary pirates and an unexpected twist or two, with more of a mother-daughter feel, this Rapunzel story is for you. 🙂


Do you like nautical stories? And what’s your favorite Rapunzel retelling? — besides Tangled! 😉 Thanks for reading! 🙂

Oath of the Outcast by C.M. Banschbach (+ Giveaway!)

Guys! It’s heeeere! I’m ridiculously excited to get to share with you my most-anticipated book of the year!

I had the chance to beta-read an early version of this book last year and I’ve been dying for it to be published ever since — and it’s now out (well, book 1 is, since what used to be one novel called The Mountain Baron was cut in half and Oath of the Outcast is the first half of what is now called The Dragon Keep Chronicles) and I just read the final version and ASDFGHJKJLKDJFKLSJ I CAN’T. You need this epic book in your life!

IT’S.

SO.

GOOD.

Read on for my review and a giveaway and the rest of the info and blog tour stops!

But first, here’s a little about the book . . .


Oath of the Outcast

A lost brother.
An unwilling outlaw.
A rising enemy.
An unusual alliance.

Years ago, Rhys MacDuffy was brutally cut off from his clan, stripped of his name and inheritance, and banished to the remote Dragon Keep. Perched high above the Shang Pass in the land of Alsaya, he assumed the mantle of the Mountain Baron, serving out his sentence as the overseer of the worst outlaws and outcasts.

But one day he receives a desperate message from the clan who disowned him: MacDuffy’s Seer—his beloved brother—has been taken by their enemies.

With his band of Mountain Brigands and an unwelcome sidekick, Rhys leaves his mountain stronghold to find and rescue his brother. The tide of war is rising amongst the Clans of Alsaya, fueled by the magic-wielding sect of Druids who seek to unleash a dark force the world has long forgotten.

Can the bond of blood run deeper than banishment?


(On the author’s mantelpiece…)

Links


(The beautiful paperback I bought at Realm Makers; my tiny new dragon — Snufkin Keevan MacDuffy — who I named partially after this book; and the epic prize pack themed for Oath of the Outcast which I won in a raffle at the conference! *shrieking*)

Title: Oath of the Outcast

Author: C.M. Banschbach

  • Date read: July 25, 2019
  • Rating: 5 stars!
  • Genre: Celtic Fantasy (Am I coining this genre name? Yes, yes I am.)
  • Age: NA
  • Year pub: 2019
  • Pages: 338 (paperback)
  • Series: The Dragon Keep Chronicles, #1
  • Fave character: Rhys/the Baron (my smol floof of anger management issues)
  • Source: I received an e-ARC from the author, and also bought a paperback at Realm Makers 2019. All opinions are my own.

I’m sitting here not sure how to form words to adequately express how much I love this absolutely awesome book. I just love it so, so much! OATH OF THE OUTCAST is, hands-down, one of the best books I’ve read all year. I have an addiction to this author’s books, and this the most absolutely brilliant one yet!

I was utterly drawn in from page one, pulled into this delightfully-Celtic-esque world (can I just go live there?) full of so many awesome things. This is a story of clans and brothers, snark and stabbing, pines and mist and mountains and rugged hills and a castle by the booming sea. It’s a story of the bonds of brothers—both by blood and by friendship deeper than blood (so it’s basically my favorite thing: a buddy story, of epic proportions)—and of an outcast banished from his clan, haunted by his past and so totally done with everyone. XD

The characters and their banter and snark and stabbiness are my absolute favorite! Particularly Rhys MacDuffy/the Baron, a.k.a. my smol floof of anger management issues. I just love him so much! He says that Rhys is dead, that he has no family, that he’s just the Mountain Baron now (and has built up something of a reputation where the very name makes people turn pale), but somewhere deep inside he’s still got a little of that old Rhys buried away behind the icy exterior of the Baron. Rhys/the Baron is a deeply scarred man, too betrayed to trust again, who has given up on redemption (but I’m holding out for it!), and yet somewhere he’s got a little bit of a heart of gold left—he just won’t admit it. And he will stab you as soon as snark at you, but if you’re one of his men or his brother (who he says he doesn’t have) he’ll do anything for you. Rhys/the Baron is just one of my favorite characters of all time and so well written and just gaaah. He gives me all the feels! I kind of relate to him and love this gruff epic character so much! HE’S THE BEST. He totally makes this book!

The rest of the characters are so fabulous as well, and I found myself deeply invested in all of these totally-real people—including one of the villains who totally surprised me by making me start to get invested in him. (Not the other villains. They are still the creepiest of ever! O_O You’ll know what I mean when you finish the book. XD) They’re just all so real and enigmatic and just can I please grow up to write like this someday?

The Baron’s band of outlaws are the Cairns and they are so scary but I also love them to death. I love their loyalty to the Baron and also how they freak everyone out. XD None of Robin Hood’s “merry” men here; they’re deadly but also have hidden slivers of gold in their hearts (totally stealing that from an interview about the book because it’s SO TRUE). Bryn and Rorie and Jes and Fulke are so amazing! They’ll do anything for their Baron and it’s the absolute best.

(Oath of the Outcast at Realm Makers 2019, complete with Reese’s. Because Rhys. XD)

And then we have Alan, who used to be best friends with Rhys and is trying to get that back a little and the Baron is so done with him (but also secretly not) and just I CAN’T. THEY’RE THE BEST. I love how Alan is so fun and full of energy and then you’ll almost forget he can totally be as deadly as the other characters. And Sean, Rhys’s younger brother, who is a cinnamon roll and a Seer and Rhys will literally do anything for him, and Sean will too but Rhys won’t let him. XD And there’s a huge-spoiler character but his name starts with a D and he’s involved with one of my most-favorite tropes and alksdjflksjd I LOVE HIM. I need more with this character and I can’t wait for the next book!

It’s a spectacular story and so epic! I love it so much. It feels like a movie. A really epic, sweeping, thrilling, AMAZING movie. With just a bit of an almost-cliffhanger. XD I need the second book to be out NOW! *flails around*

This is one of only a handful of books I’ve been anxiously awaiting this year, and I’m SO thrilled it’s finally out! I was an early reader and was blown away when I read the original version, so when I say that it has only gotten better, I want you to realize how much I mean that. And I also can’t decide if this means I need the second book more because I actually know what happens . . . XD

(Realm Makers roadtrip w/ the author)

I also keep staring at it because I love the cover and I’m so happy to be holding this gorgeous book in my hands, so there’s that. *hugs it forever* (It’s so prettyyyyy. My preciousssss.)

It’s a bit dark and raw and real, so if, in the immortal words of The Princess Bride, you’re bothered by “fighting, torture, revenge” (but no true love—like, there’s no romance in this and it’s basically an awesome buddy story x10000. XD), and creepy druids with evil magic, and invented-swearing, etc., just be aware that it’s a darker story. But it’s so, so good!

I honestly have a bit of a book-hangover after reading this and I don’t know how anything I read is going to feel this awesome (until the sequel comes out next year). Ack!

I simply can’t do this book justice in a review. I could talk about it all day long! You just need to go read it, right now.

OATH OF THE OUTCAST is truly fantastic and you need it and Rhys/the Baron/smol floof of anger management issues in your life! YOU JUST DO.

(Also. Y’all. From what I know of the second book, Blood of the Seer, it’s going to be EVEN MORE amazing than this one, if that’s even possible. So. Yeah. I can’t wait for the conclusion!!)


Giveaway!

We’re giving away books! Open internationally!

  • 2 ebooks,
  • 1 paperback,
  • 1 combo pack of a bookmark and a map postcard!

Enter to win HERE!


Author Info

C.M. Banschbach is a native Texan and would make an excellent Hobbit if she weren’t so tall. She’s a pizza addict, a multi-faceted fangirl, and a firm believer in being authentic—even if it means acting like a dork sometimes! When not writing fantasy stories packed full of adventure and snark, she works as a pediatric physical therapist where she happily embraces the fact that she never actually has to grow up.

She also writes YA/MG fantasy-adventure as Claire M. Banschbach.


Tour Schedule

July 22

July 23 – Release Day!

July 24

July 25

July 26

July 27


Does or does it not sound ABSOLUTELY EPIC?? You need this book in your life! 😀 And make sure you enter the giveaway. ^_^ Let me know what you think in a comment!

Thanks for reading! 🙂

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?