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Top 15 Favorite Reads of 2018!

It’s time for the top reads of 2018! My favorite books I read, plus some runners-up, and for fun, my top couple of nonfiction and re-reads. So let’s get to it!

But first, a few stats, because stats are fun. 😉

Goodreads claims that I read 123 books in 2018.

“Panic ye not, Grant,” in the words of my favorite Chrestomanci; many of those were short. 😉

(Brought to you by my love of spreadsheets) I read:

  • 42 new-to-me novels
  • 12 new novellas/novelettes
  • 14 re-reads
  • 30+ individual short stories
  • 4 anthologies
  • 10 nonfiction books
  • 11 picture books
  • 3 beta-reads (which don’t count on the Goodreads total . . .)

If you’re curious to see them all, you can find them here on Goodreads.

Oh, and . . . visual representation of lots of the books I read last year. 😉

Books I read in 2018 (exactly 52 physical books! Perfect) which aren’t ebooks or borrowed from libraries/friends.

TOP 15 BOOKS OF 2018

I’m terribly indecisive about actually listing favorite books in order of favorite-ness, so these are not precisely in order, although the top-ish ones are slightly more beloved. But all of these top-15 are the most splendid books I read all year and they’re all delightful. (The top 4-ish kept wanting to trade places so . . . they’re probably my favorites overall?)

1. The Electrical Menagerie (Mollie E. Reeder)

Carthage and Huxley! ❤ An introverted illusionist and his smooth-talking young manager. Floating Isles and trains run by stardust. A murder mystery, sabotage, and a plot against the throne. An electrical butler. And most of all, some of the best banter and writing I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading! It’s so absolutely magnificent and Carthage and Huxley are my favorites! ❤ ACK. I JUST LOVE IT.

[Review]

2. Echo North (Joanna Ruth Meyer)

East of the Sun, West of the Moon. A white wolf. A scarred girl. An exuberant young man. A house with mirrors which are like books that you can step into and live their stories. Hal and the Wolf and Echo are such delightful characters and the imagination and writing left me positively pen-slain. A dash of Beauty and the Beast and Tam Lin only made it more perfect. ❤ I LOVE IT SO MUCH.

[Review]

3. Lady Moon (Rachel Starr Thomson)

I loved Lady Moon so much that I immediately re-read it aloud to my siblings. A whimsical original fairytale. A princess who we first meet languishing beautifully on the moon. A nefarious uncle. An absolutely un-pigeon-hole-able Immortal by the name of Tomas who is procrastinating his destiny (I need his clocktower to live in). And other delightful characters such as the Revolution (XD) and Winnie the wombat. I JUST CAN’T. This book is so, so fantastic and I adore it. ❤

4. Masque (W.R. Gingell)

Beauty and the Beast. A murder mystery. A delightful, funny style perfect for fans of Wodehouse, Heyer, or Diana Wynne Jones. I loved Isabella — she had such spirit! — and of course mysterous Lord Pecus. And I also loved the Horse Lords. XD Also, the book that answered questions was like a character itself, and the magical communication and hand-mirror and so on were so cool. And it was just so GORGEOUS. So many shenanigans and such humor and fun! ❤ (There’s a bit of gore due to the murders so it’s not for the squeamish but otherwise it’s perfectly delightful!)

5. Falling Snow (Skye Hoffert) — in Five Poisoned Apples

Snow White. A twist on the Huntsman and Prince characters that you’ll never see coming. A dark Faerie circus. Peril and darkness and beauty. Fire and snow. Deception and innocence. Chayse was such an awesome character and I loved him! Cynfael was so fascinating. And the writing is incredible. ❤

[Review]

6. Minstrel’s Call (Jenelle Leanne Schmidt)

The epic conclusion to the Minstrel’s Song series that began with King’s Warrior! Quests and favorite characters galore, twists and adventure, dragons, prophecies . . . It has everything. Brant and Kiernan Kane are the absolute BEST. I JUST LOVE THEM SO MUCH. And there were some twists and just — my mind was blown by all the epicness and it was a perfectly satisfactory conclusion. ❤

[Review]

7. Sage (Jamie Foley)

HELP. I can’t talk much about this because of the absolute stacks of spoilers involved . . . But there’s arena fights and characters on wings, fantastical super-powers and futuristic technology in a fantasy world, and it’s all so absolutely INTENSE. Jet is my favorite. So is another character who shall remain nameless but WOW. I was so impressed by said character’s story-arc! Just so, so good. It’s like a fantasy thriller and I probably didn’t breathe for all 300+ pages. XD

[Review]

8. Song of Leira (Gillian Bronte Adams)

Wow. Just — wow. A griffin. A small girl with a big Song. The saif which is on the cover (I need one to ride!). Beloved characters including plucky Ky, gruff Amos, and Cade who I particularly like. All the characters come SO far and go through SO much but there’s beauty too. The ending stuff was so absolutely epic that I simply can’t even. ❤

[Review]

9. The Return of Beaumont and Beasley (Kyle Robert Shultz)

Two novellas. Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Dragon archaelogist Malcolm Blackfire and reformed jewel-thief Melody Nightingale make a perfect (and hilarious) pair! (But seriously though, Malcolm!) A canine curse. Beast-ly Nick Beasley and our favorite Crispin Beasley pair up as detectives in alternate 1920s London, and their banter and brotherly interactions and all the humor and shenanigans make my day! Absolutely hilarious. XD (Crispiiiin!)

(Originally published as The Janus Elixir and The Hound of Duville. They were then bundled together and now make Beaumont and Beasley book 4, right after The Stroke of Eleven.)

10. Horseman (Kyle Robert Shultz)

Yes, I’m putting both of these on the list because I wanted to put one on and then couldn’t pick which. *cough*

The magical wild west. Part-time centaur con-man, Todd Crane. The Legend of Sleepy-Hollow like you’ve never seen it before. No-nonsense Marshall Amy Crocket. Plus Julio the Spanish dragon and Meg the sweet Gorgon teenager. And a dash of time-travel. So many shenanigans and adventures! It’s hilarious, and Todd is my favorite.

(Also, I edited this book, which means I read it . . . three times . . . so I got rather fond of it. Plus it’s sort of dedicated to me, so it’s kinda special.)

11. Blood in the Snow (Sarah Pennington)

Snow White. The Goose Girl. Asian-inspired fantasy. Gorgeously told. Awesome and super-fascinating magical system featuring wind and water. A great heroine and prince, and fantastic side-characters who I simply loved! (Like, talk about great “seven dwarves.”) Because Gan and Chouko are fabulous. And so are Baili and Xiang. SO complex and well-written, and fits everything together so well. I just love it! ❤

[Review]

12. The Last Motley (DJ Edwardson)

A simple tailor. A many-colored boy. Mysterious magic. Sinister shadows. A quest to a far-off island. I LOVED how this felt like an instant fantasy classic. It reminded me of Lloyd Alexander or Tolkien. Roderick the tailor is such a simply good hero, Jacob the Motley is precious, and Nagan is absolutely hilarious and my favorite. XD The Gitanos are so intriguing too, and we can’t forget Portia. I loved this colorful, rich fantasy. ❤

[Review]

13. Mark of the Raven (Morgan L. Busse)

A dreamwalking heroine. Assassins. Fantastic abilities like manipulating water. Wyverns. A young woman trapped by the darkness of her mother and her people’s past. A young visiting nobleman — who she’s supposed to kill. It’s all VERY EXCITING. Selene and especially Damien make great characters. ❤ (And Lady Bryren and the wyvern riders!) It was really gorgeous and gripping and just a solid epic fantasy.

[Review]

14. A Matter of Magic (Patricia C. Wrede)

This is ever-so-slightly cheating . . . because it’s actually two books in one and I’m kind of taking them as a whole, even though I read the second one first, and that was on my favorite list last year, but I’m sort of using it again? The first one was fun but I loved the second one more and . . . anyway, I’m mostly just calling the whole collection my “favorite” of this year. Regency fantasy. A young magician gentleman. A street thief girl who becomes his ward. Shenanigans and humor and magical adventures. I just really enjoyed it. 🙂 And it works best as one book.

[Review of the second half, which I read first.]

15. The Ruins of Gorlan (John Flanagan)

The first Ranger’s Apprentice book unexpectedly stole my heart. Total classic fantasy but fresh, too. Halt the Ranger is my FAVE. He’s the best and I love his dry humor. XD And of course we like Will. I just really identified with this book and Will’s journey and wanted to be a Ranger, naturally. 😉 It was just really refreshing and plain fun! (And Halt!)

[Review]


9 RUNNERS UP THAT MAKE ME HAPPY

The above list was SO hard to make because I read so many spectacular books this year! But those were the most absolutely spectacular ones.

But I still wanted to talk about some others! So off the top of my head I’m tossing in a runner-up list of a few that were just so much fun — even if they don’t quite fit on the list, or there was something about them that made them not quite a favorite, I still really loved some element of them, so I have to mention them too. 😉

I know there’s only 5 in this picture. I can count, I promise . . .

  1. Common by Laurie Lucking — I loved the FEEL of this one and just . . . it’s so absolutely sweet (but also exciting at times) and it makes me so happy! ❤
  2. Healers and Warriors by Daley Downing — This modern fantasy series just kinda makes me happy and there was a lot of epicness and fun and fabulous characters and so many thiiings going down.
  3. The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen — I thoroughly enjoyed myself reading this. All the snark that is Sage. XD I did guess the twist but I don’t mind because it’s awesome.
  4. Lightporter by C.B. Cook — Because BLAZE. He’s my fave. Anvil, too. 😉 It’s just such a fun YA superhero book and I adored it.
  5. Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn — Sci-fi isn’t usually my genre, but this was such a fun book! It’s a heist story featuring Han Solo, Chewie, Lando, and others, by the best Star Wars author, and I just loved it. XD

Not pictured above because I don’t own physical copies but still make me happy:

  1. A Royal Masquerade by Allison Tebo — Because Burndee and Prince Colin bickering are HILARIOUS and the absolute best. (And the skunk. XD)
  2. The Worth of a King by Kendra E. Ardnek — Because Delaney and Granite and the winged horses and the Zovordians.
  3. The Game by Diana Wynne Jones — The whole idea and the mythosphere and all the story bits were brilliant. I wish it had been longer than a novella because it was so fascinating.
  4. The Stealthmaster’s Shadow by Hope Ann — Just because I can’t stop thinking about how fabulous Verus and his snark is. XD

(So . . . that’s sort of 24 books? I REGRET NOTHING.)


OTHER STUFF: Non-Fiction + Re-Reads

Top 2 Non-Fiction Reads

  • Tolkien: A Celebration — This one is here because of a stellar essay by Stephen R. Lawhead. I read the entire collection this year, but this essay is still one of my favorites of all time, and anyone who is a writer (particularly of fantasy) needs to read it!
  • Punctuation 101 by Jill Williamson — Speaking of writers . . . Everyone needs this one, too! 😉 I had the chance to help beta-read/proofread this little book and I absolutely loved it! PUNCTUATION 101 is practical, succinct, fun, and easy to read. I zoomed right through it! I learned a few things, and I think it will be a very helpful book to refer to in the future. 🙂

Top 2 Re-Reads

  • The Beast of Talesend by Kyle Robert Shultz — I’ve now read this four times and I still absolutely adore it and want to re-read it again. XD It’s hilarious and brilliant, and the characters, fairytale things, and humor, just . . . they get me every time! (Nick and Crispin and Cordelia are the absolute best!) You can read my original review here.
  • The Crown of Dalemark by Diana Wynne Jones — The absolute brilliance of time-travel in a fantasy world and all the characters I love and the twists and EVERYTHING. (Mitt and Navis, though!) I even forgot some of the twists from the first time I read it, so I got to re-experience some of them, which was awesome. DWJ is the only author who can do this to me. XD SO glad I finally re-read this series! (This is book 4, and it’s totally worth making it through the first three for this one. ❤ )

(Missing Masque and Five Poisoned Apples for Falling Snow in this pic because I tragically don’t own paperbacks of those two.)

So there you are! Various of the best books I read in 2018! (You can also check out my top 15 (ish) short stories of last year if you missed that, and my 2018 End-of-Year Book-Freakout Tag.)

What was your favorite book (or several) you read last year? And have you read any of these? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Also! Expect an epic recap of my writing news of 2018 along with goals ‘n’ stuff, over on my other blog, very soon!

Thanks for reading! 🙂

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Top 15(ish) Favorite Short Stories of 2018 + Winner

While working on my top-favorite-books-of-2018 post, I realized that I read a ton of awesome short stories this last year!

So while I’m working on that post (which I’ll share later this week), here — have a list of some fabulous short stories! Because short stories don’t get enough love.

Also, the winner of the ARC paperback of Echo North iiiiiis . . .

*drumroll*

Amanda Torr!

Congrats! I’ll be in touch with you about getting your info so I can get your prize sent off to you ASAP. 🙂

Dearest readers who did not win (as there can sadly be only one winner), thank you so much for entering and celebrating my blogiversary with me! I hope to do more giveaways soon. 😉

Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer is releasing next week on January 15, so there’s still time to preorder a gorgeous hardcover! (And I think there’s some preorder goodies [!!!] if you do, so check that out . . .) Or ask your local library to get it. Or put it on your birthday wishlist. Or something! Because you must read it and it’s awesome. ❤

Okay! Onward to my favorite short stories I read in 2018!

Top 15 (ish) FAVORITE SHORT STORIES

(Titles link to Goodreads. I also link to my reviews on here if I have them.)

Mythical Doorways

Goodreads / Free on Amazon

I loved SO many of the short stories in Mythical Doorways, so overall I’m just calling it my favorite anthology I’ve read in a long time. ^_^ (I’m taking the mini-reviews from my full review on Goodreads.)

Favorites:

  1. Everwild (J.M. Hackman) — This one was awesome! A boy about to grow out of the foster system is given a choice between two worlds… Fascinating and vivid, and I liked how it ended. Lovely portal fantasy with a few twists. It was great. ^_^ Makes me want to try more by this author—and I fortunately have a novel (Spark) which can help me do just that. 😉
  2. Well of Fate (Savannah Jezowski) — Tosk the squirrel was so adorable! What a super-cute—and funny—little tale. Having a squirrel main character who’s a little bit nervous but determined to be a hero, in a mythology setting, was so much fun! And there was an awesome twist near the end! 😉 I’m looking forward to checking out the author’s When Ravens Fall novella…
  3. Jericho and the Magician’s Daughter (H.L. Burke) — AWK. Featuring Jericho and Rill a few years before the first Spellsmith and Carver book. They’re adorable! And they didn’t know they were in love… quite… yet… Super cute and exciting. It was also neat seeing a little more of Hedward Spellsmith. And of course there was Jaspyr the mechanical fox! It’s a great story and I loved this look at a sort of mini-prequel about Jericho and Rill. ^_^
  4. Threshold (Laurie Lucking) — AWK. THIS STORY. ❤ *hugs it* I don’t want to give anything away about it, but it had a couple of twists on the usual portal fantasy thing, and I was SO WORRIED about how things would turn out, but I absolutely LOVED IT. Shawn was my favorite. He’s the best. 😀 I got kind of a Peter Pan sort of feel with this one and I loved that. ^_^
  5. Idiot’s Graveyard (Arthur Daigle) — One word (name?): Jayden. Jayden is one of my new favorite characters and I’m not even sure WHY, but he’s quite unpigeonholeable and fantastic and giving me Howl/Doctor Strange sorts of vibes. I could easily read a whole novel (or series) about Dana Illwind and Sorcerer Lord Jayden (they remind me a little of things like Skulduggery Pleasant or Jackaby). I learned there was another short story featuring them (in Hall of Heroes, another Fellowship of Fantasy anthology) and instantly read/devoured/loved it. The world is kind of spooky, and yet a little elegant. And it’s so FUNNY. Like… I just love the style. I kept wanting to quote it. All the snark and polite cutting dialog! Anyway, it was a glorious short story and I loved it muchly. ❤ Just excuse me while I wish for more tales of Jayden and co. and am tempted to re-read the ones there are so far…
  6. Dragon Ward (Jenelle Leanne Schmidt) — How fascinating! I won’t spoil anything, but as a fan of this author’s Minstrel’s Call series, I loved how this had two or three different backstory references, when I only expected one! LOVED LOVED LOVED. It was delicious and unexpected. Anyone who hasn’t read the series will enjoy it too. The story of a girl and a dragon, and a strange experience they have… and meeting a certain character, who I love! 😀 An absolutely delightful tale. ^_^

Tales of Ever After

Goodreads / Free on Amazon

(I need to finish this anthology, but these two stories are my favorite so far.)

  1. Cinders (Kendra E. Ardnek) — Charming, and Cinderella’s a kitten! (Review.)
  2. At the Corner of Elm and Main (H.L. Burke) — Melted my heart away, a story about a sentinent lamp-post! Petition for this to be a Pixar animated short, please. (Review.)

Dana Illwind and Sorcerer Lord Jayden — stories by Arthur Daigle

If this were a novel, it would totally be on my top five books of the year. 😀 As it is, I simply have to mention these episodic short stories that I’m lumping together as “one” continuing story which I really hope will one day be published together as a collection about two of my new favorite characters of all time, Dana and Jayden. ^_^

The first two stories are free in two different Fellowship of Fantasy anthologies. They’re available also on a free website called Booksie (which is sort of like Wattpad) so you really have no excuse not to go read them right now. 😉 (I mean, unless you don’t like slightly spooky, sarcastic, hilarious, epic, fantastical short stories featuring two of my fave characters. :P)

  1. Not Quite a Hero (Hall of Heroes and Booksie)
  2. Idiot’s Graveyard (Mythical Doorways and Booksie) — I already mentioned this one above. 😉
  3. Surviving Fairytales (Booksie)
  4. A Fair Deal (Booksie)
  5. A Friend in Need (Booksie)

(They make me so happyyyy! ❤ )

Afterverse Stories

I read several of Kyle Robert Shultz’s new short stories this year (as his editor), and enjoyed all of them, but of particular note are these three personal favorites of mine:

 

  1. My Man Beasley (on Kyle’s Patreon) — Featuring three of my FAVORITE things, this one is basically Tam Lin meets Wodehouse meets Beaumont and Beasley. Enough said. XD (What would happen if Nick Beasley met someone like Bertie Wooster and had to help fix his magical problems?)
  2. The Centaur Express (free on Kyle’s newsletter) — Todd Crane, part-time centaur in the magical wild-west, has to fill in for their version of the Pony Express, and the mailbag will literally eat him if he stops. XD
  3. Someday at Christmas — This one gave me ALL THE FEELS and it’s a Beaumont and Beasley/Crockett and Crane crossover and it’s perfect. ❤

Mollie E. Reeder short stories

Sooo, maybe these are novelettes. I DON’T CARE. I have to talk about them because I ADORE THEM BOTH.

  1. Arbrook Huxley and the Star-Crossed Lovers (free on Mollie E. Reeder’s newsletter) — This is actually how I “met” Huxley, so of course I was super excited to read The Electrical Menagerie (which is somewhere near the top of my top-15-books-of-2018, spoiler alert. ;)). It’s hilarious and great fun and I recently re-read it after reading TEM, which only made it better. XD
  2. The Sixth ChristmasAaahh! How is this author so amazing?? 😭 😍 *hugs story* Fantastic Christmas short story! A Christmas Carol sort of vibe but original and awesome. I loved it so much. I just meant to read the first page and then couldn’t put it down. ^_^

Others

The Villain Who Saved Christmas (C.B. Cook) — Utterly charming. ❤ Supervillain! Christmas! What more do you need? (Review.)

Windswept (Sarah Delena White) — A gorgeous fantasy original-fairytale-esque short story. ^_^ Tiding me over while I wait for the sequel to Halayda. ❤


(Oh, look, three of these are Christmas short stories. Apparently I love those. XD)

Do you read shorter fiction much? I don’t always, but seem to have devoured quite a few in the past year (possibly why Goodreads claims I read 123 books in 2018?), and I just had to give a shout-out to some of these gorgeous, charming, or funny ones!

I’ll be back in a couple of days with my top 15 novels I read last year, so stay tuned! Have you read any of these? Thanks for reading! 🙂

ECHO NORTH by Joanna Ruth Meyer + Blogiversary!

Happy New Year!

And happy third blogiversary to the Page Dreamer! Thanks for following along on my li’l blog, my dear pagelings!

To celebrate, I’m giving away a paperback ARC of an awesome retelling of “East of the Sun, West of the Moon”! (Giveaway closed.)

It’s called Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer, who is a fabulous writer I met through Twitter and our mutual love of Diana Wynne Jones. ❤

Echo North was the last book I read in 2018 and it blew me away and made it onto my list of the best books I read all year! (Which I’ll be sharing soon.) Meanwhile, I’m here to review it today, and to tell you why you simply MUST read this gorgeousness!

Make sure to scroll all the way to the end to enter the giveaway for an ARC paperback copy! (Giveaway closed.)


Title: Echo North

Author: Joanna Ruth Meyer

  • Date read: December 29, 2018
  • Rating: 5 stars! (I’d totally give it 6 if I could…)
  • Genre: Fantasy / Fairytale Retelling / East of the Sun, West of the Moon (with a hint of Beauty and the Beast and Tam Lin)
  • Age: YA
  • Year pub: 2019
  • Pages: 389 (ARC paperback)
  • Series: Standalone
  • Fave character: Hal, of course!
  • Source: Page Street Publishing
  • Notes: Thanks to the publisher for providing a free ARC of this book. A positive review was not required. All opinions are entirely my own.

My favorite books are the ones I find most difficult to review. AAHH. How can I explain my love for this book? IT’S SO, SO GOOD.

Echo North is so beautiful it hurts. I found myself utterly enchanted by this story of the girl Echo and the white wolf and Hal and the Winds, and I’m so sad it’s over because I wanted to just LIVE in it for ages and ages. ❤

Don’t you love those retellings that feel like they’re the REAL story? This one felt that way. A retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon, I loved how it seemed like this was the real history behind it. More than seemed, it WAS and—well, you’ll have to read it. 😉 There’s also a hint of Beauty and the Beast, and just a dash of Tam Lin. All the retelling bits were brilliant and I loved them!

This is the story of Echo, our heroine, trapped by her scars, who tells the story in words so heartfelt and gorgeous that I wanted to melt into them. It’s the story of the white wolf in the house under the mountain, of his sorrow and secrets, trapped by a curse. It’s the story of Hal, the . . . I don’t have a word for him, because all of them fall short of his irrepressible personality! The indescribable young man Echo meets, who is trapped in the worlds of the book-mirrors and by a shadow of his own past. They’re my FAVORITE. I love them all. Their stories intertwine flawlessly and paint a stunning picture I happily lost myself in.

I sometimes almost forgot I was reading a retelling, because there was just so much MORE to this book. I think of it in three parts—the part where Echo is at home, the part in the House under the mountain, and the quest. They’re all fantastic (although the beginning part is kind of sad, but I somehow didn’t mind because it’s just what HAPPENED, you know?), but the middle bit is my absolute favorite. 😀

The book-mirrors were one of my favorite things—how cool is the idea of stepping into a mirror which is actually a book, and experiencing that? There were other awesome things about the book-mirrors but I don’t want to spoil them—you must read it for yourself! 🙂 Another thing I loved was the House! It almost has its own personality, and all the different unique rooms, full of fantasy and wonder and peril and bound together like patches on a quilt, were incredible. It was like having separate pockets of Faerie all tied together.

The sheer imagination left me speechless. This is what fantasy was made for. I was spellbound by all the many different imaginative worlds and stories and fantastical elements woven together by this author’s skillful pen. How did she come up with them all? It’s like the full potential of fantasy has been explored in these pages. There are a thousand unique things in this tale, all perilous and beautiful like frozen starlight.

It’s a story full of echoing joy and heart-rending sorrow, of stars and wind and snow, of a magical house and books explored through mirrors, of love and fire and woods and thorns, of music and wonder and mystery and adventure. None of it’s safe, exactly, but it’s all stunning. It was so vivid I absolutely BREATHED this story, both thrilling and quiet, on the edge of my seat but cozy at the same time, and got to know each of these dear characters so well. ❤

Because these CHARACTERS. Hal is the absolute BEST. I have a new favorite character, guys. 😉 He’s so full of LIFE and his dialog and exuberance are just—the best. But I love how there’s something deeper back there, with several layers of mystery. He’s like all my most favorite character types! I love Hal and Echo together—they are my favorite! ❤ The wolf was also awesome and also mysterious. He and Echo have a great dynamic as well! And I love Echo. And the romance was the best.

All the dialog and interactions in this book . . . SO GOOD. And there were side characters I loved as well! Everyone was so alive. Echo’s brother Rodya—there need to be more good brother characters in fiction!—is not in it terribly much but he was fantastic. And I absolutely loved Ivan the storyteller and his wife and just . . . this whole book, guys. I want to hug it forever!

Also, there are PLOT TWISTS. One of them I guessed and was totally hoping would be a thing. Another was hinted at and I vaguely suspected something was up, but oh, the glorious reveal of this mind-blowing twist! :O And some of the side characters had stories that were twisty as well. Did I mention how breathtaking the writing was? I just want to eat it! And I loved the music in the story and its descriptions. 🙂 It was all so masterfully done!

Some books simply enchant you, you know? This one stole a part of my heart and crept in as the last book I read in 2018 but one of my top favorites. I’m going to treasure my memories of reading this late at night near the cold end of the year, when I didn’t mean to read so late but couldn’t stop. ^_^

I could probably talk about this book for ages but I’m going to stop now and simply say: If you love fairytales and the fantastic and characters who will steal your heart, you absolutely must read this gorgeous tale, full of the wild echoes of Faerie, of piercing starlight and wind and ice and fierce love.

Just read it.


Quotes

“What is your name?” I asked.
“I do not have a name.”
“Then what am I to call you?”
“Whatever you like.”

***

“If I’d thought this story wouldn’t have a happy ending, I would have read something else.”
His blue eyes locked on mine, suddenly serious. “Must you always know a story ends happily before you feel equal to beginning it?

***

We dined with the Winds in a hall looking out over the world, and the colors tasted bright and the wine smelt of music.

***

“It’s all very exciting, if rather ridiculous.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “You are rather ridiculous.”
He winked at me again. “Are you ready to run?”
“What?”
That’s when one of the soldiers spotted us, his blade flashing toward our hiding spot.
“Run, Echo!” cried Hal. He grabbed my hand and we dashed into the wood.


About Echo North

She dreamed of the wood, and the wolf who was trapped there.

Echo Alkaev’s safe and carefully structured world falls apart when her father leaves for the city and mysteriously disappears. Believing he is lost forever, Echo is shocked to find him half-frozen in the winter forest six months later, guarded by a strange talking wolf―the same creature who attacked her as a child. The wolf presents Echo with an ultimatum: if she lives with him for one year, he will ensure her father makes it home safely. But there is more to the wolf than Echo realizes.

In his enchanted house beneath a mountain, each room must be sewn together to keep the home from unraveling, and something new and dark and strange lies behind every door. When centuries-old secrets unfold, Echo discovers a magical library full of books- turned-mirrors, and a young man named Hal who is trapped inside of them. As the year ticks by, the rooms begin to disappear and Echo must solve the mystery of the wolf’s enchantment before her time is up otherwise Echo, the wolf, and Hal will be lost forever.

Echo North will release January 15, 2019

Add on GoodreadsPreorder on Barnes & Noble • Preorder on Amazon


Visit the author, Joanna Ruth Meyer, online!

WebsiteTwitter: @gamwynInstagram: @gamwyn


GIVEAWAY!

The publisher (Page Street Publishing) was kind enough to send me an extra ARC, which I am giving away here on my blog today!

To enter to win a paperback ARC of Echo North, click on this link to enter via the rafflecopter!

(US entries only. Open from Tuesday, January 1, 2019, through Sunday, January 6, 2019, midnight CST. Winner will be contacted by email and announced on this blog shortly thereafter.)

Giveaway is closed. The winner is Amanda, who has been contacted. Thanks for entering, everyone!


Doesn’t it just sound like THE BEST? *collapses* I loved it so much! (I have quite a book-hangover after this, which is a bad way to start a new year of reading — how will anything be this good again? — but perfect at the same time, and I don’t regret it one little bit. ❤ )

I hope you enjoyed my review, and be sure to enter the giveaway!

Thanks for celebrating my li’l blogoversary with me, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Thanks for reading! 🙂

Retrieve by Sarah Addison-Fox

I’m joining in on the blog-tour for Sarah Addison-Fox’s latest book, the first in her new Stormers series!

Title: Retrieve (The Stormers Trilogy, #1)

Author: Sarah Addison-Fox

  • Date read: December 23, 2018
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy / Kingdom Adventure?
  • Age: YA (slightly gritty)
  • Year pub: 2018
  • Pages: 170 (Kindle)
  • Series: The Stormers Trilogy, #1
  • Fave character: Kade!
  • Source: The author
  • Notes: I received an e-ARC from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.

WHAT. AAHH. There was a HUGE plot-twist near the end that had me gobsmacked, staring at my screen, and then that cliffhanger! I need to know what’s going oooon! Book 2, I need you ASAP. *collapses*

Ahem. I’m getting ahead of myself. 😛

This is a super enjoyable fantasy/kingdom-adventure type story, with a hint of Mulan and just a smidge of Prince of Persia. Our heroine, Hadley, pretends to be a boy and joins up with our hero, Kade, who has been sent as one of the Stormers—a sort of secret special missions group—to rescue a princess from a hostile nation.

I liked Hadley and how the POV switched back and forth between her and Kade so we could see how they were reacting all the time. She’s tough and determined at times, which I loved, but I also appreciated how she was still very much a young woman lost in this rough world, and how it’s okay if she needs to cry or wish for a bath or want to wear a dress and be feminine, without in any way detracting from her grit and determination. It was just cool, okay?

Kade was pretty awesome and you can’t help but like his stubbornness and how he just keeps going, and how he doesn’t let anything stop him—and sometimes his thick shell cracks a little and he’s nice to Hadley in his brusque way and she doesn’t realize it. XD He’s so dedicated to his mission and always looking out for those he loves, in his own way. Kade’s the best!

These two were so fun to read about on their journey together, and their relationship from not trusting each other and arguing all the time turns into something more and they learn to work with each other—ish. I love them and totally ship them and need to see where their story goes. 😀

It’s very exciting and there’s a lot of traveling in deserts and through either ghost-towns (plague, yay) or a colorful market town in enemy territory, with ambushes and fights and arrows and knives and sneaking around and climbing walls and ALL the survival. The writing sometimes made me wish it had been edited one more time (though I did read an ARC, which means it wasn’t the final version) but it’s very punchy writing and could just be the style—and like I said, was very exciting!

The world was cool and I’m curious to learn more about the countries and what’s going on. The semi-desert-y setting for a lot of it was unique and neat, and I loved how the mysterious Numachi people and their culture kept us on our toes. So intense!

It could get a little brutal sometimes and there’s a little language and the usual awkwardness connected with a gal trying to pretend to be a boy for part of the book. So if any of that bothers you, it might not be your cup of tea. But it’s much tamer than, say, Six of Crows, and it’s a really good book and so exciting and I enjoyed it a ton! ^_^

And like I said, there was this enormous plot twist that I totally didn’t see coming and turned everything on its head and just alkdljk! That was pretty awesome. 😀 It was a solid four-star read but that twist totally made me bump it up to a five-star because I was impressed. XD (Plus I just love Kade and Hadley. *cough*)

Butbutbut I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS. It’s not, like, a horrible cliffhanger, but it definitely left me wondering what on earth is going on and where things are going to go next! :O

If you need me I’ll just be over here watching the calendar until the release date of the sequel, because I love these characters and need to know what happenssss. O_O


About Retrieve

Retrieve (The Stormers Trilogy #1)

By Sarah Addison-Fox

What if the job you took to stay alive might be what kills you?

Kade knows what it is to suffer. He knows what it’s like to lose everything and everyone around him.

His job in a Stormer Unit guarantees not just his survival in the decimated country of Azetaria, but his sister Meg’s. Even if it means facing the Numachi warriors baying for his blood, he’ll do what it takes to keep her safe.

Hadley is alone and surviving the only way she knows how. By hiding where predators won’t find her and scavenging enough just to keep her alive.

When desperation drives Hadley to search for her missing brother, she mistakenly accepts the offer of recruitment into the Stormer’s camp, only to be partnered with Kade and sent as a scout into Numachi territory.

The intimidating young Stormer may just know where her brother has gone. But can they stay alive long enough to find him?


Find the book:

Goodreads

Amazon


Find the Author Online:

Facebook

Instagram

Website

Twitter: @saddisonfox

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Blog:


Blog Tour

You can check out all the stops on the blog tour HERE!


GIVEAWAY

The author is giving away this FANTASTIC pack of epic things, so make sure you go enter HERE!


You may also enjoy:

    wolftower kingswarriorcover

Thanks for reading! 🙂

The Villain Who Saved Christmas by C.B. Cook (Short Story Review)

Merry Christmas Eve, my pagelings!

I’m so excited to share about a short story releasing TODAY about a supervillain and Christmas. What is not to love? (It’s also only 99 cents, so. ;))

Review below!

FREE BOOK: Also, Twinepathy, the first book in C.B.’s superhero series, is free on Kindle December 24-28, so make sure to get yourself a copy if you haven’t yet! (It’s super fun, no pun intended — you can read my review here.)


Title: The Villain Who Saved Christmas

Author: C.B. Cook

  • Date read: December 19, 2018
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Superhero / Short Story / Christmas
  • Age: Any
  • Year pub: 2018
  • Pages: 15 (ebook)
  • Series: No
  • Fave character: Scott
  • Source: The author
  • Notes: I was given a free e-ARC of this short story by the author and was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are entirely my own.
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonAuthor’s Website

Aww! That was so much fun! ^_^ The Villain Who Saved Christmas is an utterly charming Christmas short story featuring superheroes. IT’S PRECIOUS AND I LOVE IT SO MUCH. ❤ *hugs story forever*

Two children hoping for a white Christmas for their little sister who thinks it will be her last Christmas decide to track down a supervillain with ice powers to see if he can help.

I loved the Christmas setting and the superhero, Reflex, and supervillain, Hypothermia—and how they have their own histories and stories going on that we get a glimpse of in this little tale. I liked both of them a lot, which made it interesting to read because you’re kind of rooting for both sides. 😀

My favorite character was Scott—what a great name for a supervillain. XD His parts were so fun and cool—no pun intended. Okay, fine, pun intended. 😛 (The ice cream!) You’ll just have to read it to find out if an (admittedly minor) supervillain’s heart can melt enough to help some kids. 😉

It’s really hard to talk much about such a short story without giving anything away, but it was well-written and funny and there were also feels. I loved the conclusion and the unexpected wrapup bit at the end!

It’s an adorable, super quick read, and just the thing for superhero fans to read for Christmas!


About

This may be Becca’s last Christmas, and all she wants is a white Christmas. But with no snow in the forecast, her brother and sister know that might not happen… until they get the idea to track down supervillain Hypothermia for help. With his ice powers, he could create a white Christmas for their sister. There’s only one problem—they have to find him first. Can they discover where Hypothermia is hiding and convince him to make it snow?


Thanks for reading! 🙂 MERRY CHRISTMAS! ❤


You may also enjoy:

twinepathycoverKINDLE  

King’s War by Jill Williamson (Review)

Time for a long-overdue review of King’s War — and be sure to check out an awesome Blood of Kings paperback sale going on through December 15th! (Details at the end of the post.)

Title: King’s War (Kinsman Chronicles, #3)

Author: Jill Williamson

  • Date read: June 21, 2018
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Epic Fantasy
  • Age: Adult
  • Year pub: 2018
  • Pages: 659 (paperback) (Yes, it’s nearly a doorstop. XD)
  • Series: The Kinsman Chronicles, #3
  • Fave character: Kalenek, Trevn, Oli, and Grayson and Hinck
  • Source: The publisher
  • Notes: Thanks to the author and Bethany House Publishers for the free copy of this book. I was not required to write a positive review, and these opinions are entirely my own.
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonAuthor’s Website

KING’S WAR by Jill Williamson is the conclusion to the Kinsman Chronicles—which is a prequel series to one of my favorite fantasy series! This sweeping epic fantasy novel takes place in the land of Er’Rets (which made me super happy, because I love the Blood of Kings Trilogy. ;)).

The first book in the Kinsman Chronicles, KING’S FOLLY, was good—if rather dark for my taste; but I adored some of the characters and it was exciting.

The second book, KING’S BLOOD (man, I should have known from that title…), got way too dark for me and left me utterly devastated over a character death I still haven’t recovered from over a year later. *cough* I was kiiinda disappointed—and therefore worried about the next one.

However, I’m thrilled to say that KING’S WAR, book 3, was the best of the trilogy, and I really enjoyed it!

I particularly loved how it took place in the same land as the Achan books (as I call them), and how it started linking up to so many things that I knew from that world! Names, places, history, cultures, magic, etc. And the “feel” was much more like the epic fantasy that I enjoy, and less of the darkness and grittiness of the first two books. (There’s still grittiness in this one, but it’s just much more enjoyable otherwise, somehow. XD)

There were several months between my reading the second book and this one, so it did take me a little while to pick up all the threads and characters—I’m pretty sure there are still a few things that I never quite remembered. XD But once I got back into it, I was sucked completely into this fantasy world and its wonders and politics and characters’ adventures.

I loved the writing. Some of it was funny. The characters were enjoyable (other than the ones we properly loathe. :P). I was surprised by new and different things, and felt at home with familiar ones. It was huge, but pretty worth it in the end. ^_^

Particularly those characters I mentioned. 😉 A certain happening from book two is still very much Not Okay. But I was able to get over it and enjoy the story all the same. 😛

I still love Kalenek, and Trevn—usually. XD Oli as well, and his character arc, which was fantastic. I started liking Grayson more—he really does a lot in this one. And Hinck—who I never really cared as much about as I might have for some reason—I finally decided was pretty cool! One of my absolute favorite scenes featured him and Princess Saria (also a cool character) in a library and just YES. I loved it! 😀

I also loved all the veil stuff and the bloodvoicing and doing all the excitement around the castle. ^_^ So exciting! I remember being a little unsure about some of the conclusions, and it still is a little more gritty/adult at times, but not as much as the previous two books. On the whole, it was a great book, and they fight giants and against evil, and there’s epic battles and basically it’s a thrilling adventure. 😀

Overall, it’s rather long, and you have to get through a lot of long, dark pages to get to it, what with the two previous books (though they had their good moments too!). But if you do, it’s well worth reading this one—especially if you’re a fan of Blood of Kings. Another excellent read from Jill Williamson!

Now excuse me while I go put BY DARKNESS HID and its two sequels on my TBR for a long-overdue re-read…

(Also, THAT COVER. ❤ )

[A note on the “books” in the Kinsman Chronicles. The paperbacks are three books: King’s Folly, King’s Blood, and King’s War. The ebooks are nine ebooks, and three of each of those are collected in each of the paperback volumes. I know, it’s kinda confusing. XD If you’re curious about the series, you can pick up the first of those nine ebooks (Darkness Reigns, the first third of King’s Folly) for free on Kindle to try it out.]


SALE!

I’m pretty excited about this one because I love these books so much!

The Blood of Kings trilogy by Jill Williamson currently has a special sale going on Amazon, but only until the 15th, so check it out if you haven’t! 🙂

(If it says temporarily out of stock, that seems to just be because it’s not printed through Amazon, so go ahead and order anyway. ;))

Here’s what Jill said about it:

It’s a book sale! My publisher has put the Blood of Kings paperback books on a special sale. On Amazon only, By Darkness Hid, To Darkness Fled, and From Darkness Won are each only $9.99 for a limited time. That’s a little over 40% off the cover price!

There is a bit of a trick to this. Right now, a third party seller has the “buy” box on Amazon, so I’ve made special links so that you can find the seller with the $9.99 new price (who is oddly Amazon itself).

This sale runs through Saturday, December 15.

Here are the links:

By Darkness Hid: https://amzn.to/2QDceRt

To Darkness Fled: https://amzn.to/2QlOWjV

From Darkness Won: https://amzn.to/2L4LJzd


Check out my reviews of the first two books in this series:

kingswarriorcover

Have you read any of Jill’s books yet? Do you have a favorite? Thanks for reading! 🙂

Five Poisoned Apples: Falling Snow by Skye Hoffert (Review!)

*emerges from my post-NaNo coma to bring you a review for an INCREDIBLE book which YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST READ*

It’s here, guys! Five Poisoned Apples released December 1st, and I’m incredibly excited about it — particularly because of one specific story that I just read and is by my talented friend Skye Hoffert.

Y’ALL. I’M SO EXCITED. I’m excited for her debut novella, Falling Snow, being out now — go Skye!

I’m also excited because this story was genuinely amazing. I expected to enjoy it but I was not prepared AT ALL for how much it blew me away!

I can’t wait to tell you about. 😀

Title: Falling Snow (in Five Poisoned Apples)

Author: Skye Hoffert

  • Date read: November 29, 2018
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy / Fairytale / Retelling / Novella
  • Year pub: 2018
  • Fave character: Chayse
  • Source: The publisher
  • Notes: I received a free e-ARC of this anthology from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions are my own.
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonSkye Hoffert’s Blog

Gorgeous interior cover artwork by Hannah S. J. Williams which totally captures it!

FALLING SNOW is a truly spectacular read. I’m utterly enchanted!

This review is going to be difficult to write, because how do I recover from something so amazing? MY FEELS. WHAT ARE WORDS. I’M PEN-SLAIN. I don’t know how to express how much I absolutely adored this story and how striking and thrilling it was and how it blew me away. But I’m going to give it a shot.

This tale is both mesmerizing and perilous, as a story about a circus run by fae should be. A deadly dance of deception and illusion and shadows. The first thing that comes to mind about this story is the feel, the atmosphere, the colors of it—the stark whites and blacks and reds and golds. It’s so vivid! There are so many contrasts—the grungy half of the circus performers versus the opulence of the queen’s side of things; the fire versus the cold (my favorite!); the calculated deception of the fae characters versus the pure innocence of Snow herself.

I love how you get this feeling where you hardly know where the magic ends and begins. I loved the fire-manipulating (and the character who does it!) but that’s the most obvious fantastical part—at least at first—and you’re sometimes left wondering about what is mere illusion and what is actual fantasy, which is just how a fae circus should be.

I really appreciated how perilous the fae characters were! Obviously, the evil queen character (this is, after all, a Snow White tale) who runs the circus was chilling and creepy. But the fae characters we like also had their edge of danger, which was fascinating, and I felt was totally true, somehow, to what a fae story should be. It was a natural part of what they’re like, but we, and Snow (the one human character), can see that it’s off a bit. But for the fae characters it’s part of their lives, a ruthless, deadly dance they live in—even if some of them wish for a way out.

The complete originality of a Snow White story set in a circus, and then the brilliant way that it wove in the different Snow White elements in unexpected ways, was so awesome! I can’t talk much about that here because of spoilers, but guys, it was genius. I love it so much. 😀

The writing was also incredible. Aaahh! I kept wanting to quote things and hoping to one day be able to write like that. Every word is sharp and in just the right place to absolutely drag you completely into the story and into the minds and lives of these characters I fell in love with. It immerses the reader completely into this circus world. I’m pretty sure I forgot to breathe for the last half of the story. O_O It’s super intense, and a bit bloody at times, so younger readers might find it a bit dark, but I absolutely loved it and couldn’t stop reading—the story was so thrilling and I had no idea how things were going to turn out!

Speaking of writing, I loved the alternating viewpoints of our main characters, Snow and Chayse, and getting to see everything (including each other) from different perspectives, and all the raw emotion from both, tucked down under the illusions. Which brings me to the last but opposite of least aspect: the characters!

I loved Snow and how precious she was, and how as the only human she was something kind of nice in the middle of the scary deceptions. But she wasn’t helpless either, and her goals and dreams and determination—not to mention her stubbornness and commitment to learning to walk the wire—really had me rooting for her, and sometimes breathless on the edge of my seat.

Chayse was my favorite, and part of that was learning about him throughout the story bit by bit, so I almost don’t want to say much about him! But he’s got a couple of unexpected roles thrown together, which was great, and his interactions with Snow are my favorite. ^_^ His interactions with the queen… O_O I felt really bad for this guy—my poor precious Chayse! He’s super dangerous but he also wants out. I loved him so much. And the fire… Needless to say, Chayse is absolutely awesome. 😀

And I can’t quite finish without mentioning Cynfael. This guy. O_O One of the most truly enigmatic characters I’ve read, ever. I kept changing my mind about his roles in the story, changing my feelings about him, and he kept me guessing. I can usually guess a character’s role but Cynfael defied conventions—the sneaky fae!—and I was genuinely blown away. (This writing, guys!) I’ll let you discover him yourself, because spoilers, but wow. Chayse and Cynfael also had some excellent scenes which I loved.

Oh, and (talking of Chayse and Cynfael) one final thing is the dialog. I LOVED IT SO MUCH. It’s so sharp. These characters are almost constantly exchanging either verbal duels or loads of snark or hidden meanings, and sometimes all three at once. It was absolutely fantastic. 😀

If I keep writing, my review will get as long as this novella, but FALLING SNOW is an absolutely stunning, breath-taking, edge-of-your-seat read. I positively adored it and plan to re-read it sometime!

I have yet to read the other tales in the FIVE POISONED APPLES collection because this one left me with a major book-hangover. I do look forward to trying them out, but even if you only get it for FALLING SNOW, it’s totally worth it.

You need Snow and Chayse and Cynfael and this gorgeous writing and super-aesthetic black-white-red-gold perilous-fae Snow White circus story in your life. YOU JUST DO. ❤

~ ~ ~

Whew. Sound like something you need? Because… GUYS. You do!

Also, do you have any favorite fae stories you can recommend to me??

How about circuses? (Thinking of The Electrical Menagerie, The Greatest Showman, and The Night Circus…)

*pretends I’m totally not eating a (totally-not-poisoned) apple while I write this post*

Talk to me! Thanks for reading! 🙂