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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

COMING SOON — Dark is the Night will release in ebook and paperback over at the ‘Zon, on October 25, 2019!

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! 🙂

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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! 🙂

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! 🙂

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?

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

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

Title: Heart of the Curiosity

Author: H. L. Burke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Favorite Quote

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


About the Book

The secret lies with the Heart.

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

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

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

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

AmazonBarnes & NobleAppleKoboAutographed paperbackGoodreads


About the Author

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

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

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

Social Media Links

Facebook PageFacebook Reader GroupTwitterInstagramWebsite


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

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

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

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

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

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

Voyage of the Pequod

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

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


Nomad of the Emirates

5 stars • Science Fiction • AmazonGoodreads

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


Government Man

5 stars • Dystopian / Science Fiction • AmazonGoodreads

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

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


Shadow Figure

5 stars • Dystopian / Science Fiction • AmazonGoodreads

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


Gifted

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

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


Beast in the Machine

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

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


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

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

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