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Into the Heartless Wood by Joanna Ruth Meyer (Review)

I’m so excited to be reviewing this new release from Joanna Ruth Meyer! *flails around* Read on for all my thoughts!

And shoutout to this huge tree for being a part of my photoshoot. *grins*

(The scheduling didn’t work properly for this post, and I don’t have internet right now, so I’m trying to fix it from my phone. Hopefully there’s no weird formatting or anything due to this, but please forgive any wonkiness if there is!)

Title: Into the Heartless Wood

Author: Joanna Ruth Meyer

  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Age: YA
  • Publication date: January 12, 2021
  • Pages: 368 (e-book)
  • Series: No
  • Fave character: Owen!
  • Source: The author
  • Notes: I received an e-ARC of this book from the author and was under no obligation to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonAuthor’s Website

Whenever I dive into a Joanna Ruth Meyer novel, I prepare to be enchanted, but somehow I never prepare quite enough!

INTO THE HEARTLESS WOOD is a stunning and unique tale, with touches of The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast (both of which I got so happy about when I noticed nods to them) but simultaneously its own story. I stayed on the edge of my seat the whole time, never knowing what was going to happen next, and utterly enthralled the whole time. I couldn’t put it down! With brilliant twists, expertly-woven threads criss-crossing in a dazzling pattern through this skillful tapestry of story, this book enchanted me.

Can we talk about Owen? OWEN. This cinnamon roll character is amazing and must be protected at all costs. ‘Scuse me while I steal him from his author and wrap him in bubblewrap. His heart and stargazing and rashness and love and heartbreak. He’s just awesome, I can’t! And Seren too! I feel like I can’t talk much about her without spoilers but her arc was incredible and I love her too. Awk! I adore them and their story so, so much, and they give me all of the feels. They go through so much and grow so much and the way they improve each other and just — ! I’m blown away. Go meet them!

The world is amazing and I love it — the woods and castle mixed with slight technology like trains was perfection. (And for some reason I really loved the bits at the palace.) The writing was superb and so immersive, and the way Seren’s chapters were almost like poetry was so unique! Oh, and the side characters were awesome, and I especially like Owen’s two buddies later in the book. 😀

I love how this was a story about people — Owen and Seren and Owen’s little sister (aaahh she’s adorable!) and aaall the people they meet — but at the same time there’s this vast mass of plot building behind them with far-reaching tendrils until it explodes into the forefront at the end. It just felt so well-done, being a story about two people but also what they come up against on both sides (which was…also unique). Sooo fascinating and mythic and amazing!

Quick warning, for anyone who’s squeamish, that there’s quite a bit of blood and death and darkness here and there, but that’s literally the only downside and the book is just amazing. I adore this author’s writing and I love how… at home… I felt reading this book. I loved the Welsh-like names and the Maleficent-ish feel.

It’s a quintessential fairytale of dark beauty and love and sorrow and redemption. A story of a boy and a tree siren girl who meet against a backdrop of trees and stars. A story that’s grown tight around my heart and that I recommend to anyone who needs a dark fairytale and amazing writing in their life. A blazing star against the dark woods. Magnificent.


Also by this author:


Thanks for reading! 🙂

Sword of Soter by Ralene Burke (Review)

Back again with a review for a Christian fantasy adventure! I’ve been meaning to read this one for ages, so hurray for finally doing so!

Title: Sword of Soter

Author: Ralene Burke

  • Date read: October 26, 2020
  • Rating: 3.5, rounding up to 4
  • Genre: Fantasy / Christian Fantasy
  • Age: YA
  • Year pub: 2019
  • Pages: 295 (paperback)
  • Series: Sacred Armor Trilogy, #2 (Book 1 is Armor of Aletheia — read my review)
  • Fave character: Tristan
  • Source: the author
  • Notes: I received an e-ARC of this book for an honest review, and later won a paperback copy. All opinions are my own.
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonAuthor’s Website

(3.5 stars, rounding up to 4)

I’ve been so curious to continue this series since reading Armor of Aletheia and I’m excited that I finally read this one. Following the continuing adventures of queen/prophetess Karina, former bounty hunter Tristan, and their companions, was another wild ride!

Tristan is my favorite—I wish he’d been in it more!—and I loved seeing more of Rashka, who is a super cool elf Guardian; she definitely has some tricks up her sleeves. 😉 We also meet new characters who keep the reader guessing. And if you want to read about a chilling villainess, this is the right book, ack! Plus, I mean, we’ve got scary wolf-like lupens, a griffin (!), and a fun talking horse, a.k.a. Dom (everyone needs a horse like Dom).

I’m afraid I . . . disliked pretty much the entire subplot involving Sam, particularly how it ended up; it just kind of stressed me out, personally. *cough* Maybe that’s just me. But the rest of the book was very interesting and an enjoyable read!

The classic fantasy quest feel, but with new things too, was neat. I loved the castles and caves and tests and escapes. (Mazes, though!) So much adventure! The world was so vivid, and the twists kept me on my toes so I was never quite sure what was going to happen next.

Since it had been quite awhile since I’d read the first book, I didn’t remember as many details about that as I should have . . . So I suspect I may have liked this one more if my memory was better or if I’d reread book one first. And like I said, I wasn’t a fan of the Sam subplot. But for the most part I enjoyed it. 🙂

I’m so excited to read the next book, especially with that unexpected ending twist that’s leaving me very curious about how things will be affected . . . Meep! I can’t wait to find out what’s in store for Karina and Tristan and friends!


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Thanks for reading! 🙂

The Midnight Show by Sarah Pennington (Review)

Where are my fellow fans of the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairytale? I’m here today with a review for a delightful retelling of that story, with a jazz-age twist, by one of my favorite up-and-coming fairytale authors!

Title: The Midnight Show

Author: Sarah Pennington

  • Date read: September 27, 2020
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy / Fairy Tale Retelling / Twelve Dancing Princesses
  • Age: YA
  • Year pub: 2020
  • Pages: 152 (paperback)
  • Fave character: Bastian
  • Source: Amazon
  • Notes: I received a free e-ARC of this book but ended up purchasing a paperback and reading that instead. XD All opinions are my own.
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonAuthor’s Website

Sinister fey plots. The stage. Dreams. A clever detective. An exasperated singer. And a fabulous twist on my favorite fairytale.

I’ve loved this author’s previous fairytale retellings, so I was ecstatic to hear of a Twelve Dancing Princesses one! I loved this retelling! I love how it keeps to so many of the original tale’s features, but also makes it entirely its own thing. Making it a fantasy mystery was brilliant and I loved that take on it, with the detective and everything, so very much! It makes perfect sense. That was one of the neatest things about this story—how everything just made sense and fit so well together! (Always a fun thing when retellings do that.) Also, now I need more magical mysteries.

Set in a jazz-age setting, THE MIDNIGHT SHOW feels like the 1920s but in an invented world, which was so unique! I loved the “feel” so much. (There were also so many delicious foods and it made me hungry, so thanks for that. XD) I loved the mix of a ’20s-ish feel but also adding in magicalness and fey, all taken for granted as part of the world. So, so cool! I love somewhat-more-modern books where the magical part is just a part of the world.

No spoilers, but I also really loved the twist on the old woman and the invisibility cloak—Bastian’s helpfully magical items were awesome!

The mystery was deliciously creepy—again, hard to talk about without spoilers, but . . . *shivers* I almost didn’t want the book to end because I was afraid for my character friends and what might happen to them. XD Meep. The ending was fabulous, though! So many threads wrapping around to meet up and finish it off. Yesss. It was also sooo neat how dreams factored into the story! That was another thing, which I can’t get into much, that was super cool.

Dayo was a bit snappish (understandably) but she grew on me—one of my favorite scenes was her umbrella poking bit. XD (And I totally relate to her feeling of being at odds with Bastian’s morning self. XD) Bastian was fabulous and I loved his character. A great detective and a great guy, I loved his stick-to-it-ness (probably a real word for that, but anyhoo) and his ingenuity, and the occasional banter! They were both great leads.

I imagine people who are more into music, theater, jazz, etc., than I am, would probably enjoy it even more. ^_^

Since it was a short read, I almost wish there was more to this ’20s-ish world with its clubs and dashes of fey and barest hint of gangster-like stuff (and I would totally read more), but at the same time, this short book was like a perfect bite-sized window onto a rich world and it felt just right.

I totally recommend this as a quick, fun, intriguing read, with relatable characters and a delicious mystery, especially for anyone who loves the ’20s or the Twelve Dancing Princesses. Go read it! Go read it now!


More fairytale retellings by this author . . .

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Have you read any fantasy mysteries or Twelve Dancing Princesses retellings? Doesn’t this one sound intriguing? Let me know in a comment! Thanks for reading! 🙂

Five Thoughts on Mardan’s Anointed by Kathrese McKee (Review)

Hey, my fellow pagelings! At long last I return to this little blog to attempt to catch up on some reviews I’m wayyy behind on—so let’s dive right in with a review of a fantasy novel I really enjoyed!

Title: Mardan’s Anointed (Mardan’s Mark, #3)

Author: Kathrese McKee

  • Date read: September 25, 2020
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy / Christian Fantasy / Kingdom Adventure
  • Age: YA
  • Year pub: 2019
  • Pages: 287 (paperback)
  • Series: Mardan’s Mark, #3 (Read my reviews of the other books in the series here.)
  • Fave character: Aldan
  • Source: the author
  • Notes: I received a free e-ARC of this book as part of the street team, and later won a paperback copy. I was under no obligation to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonAuthor’s Website

 Five thoughts on Mardan’s Anointed

1. Another fabulous book in the Mardan’s Mark series! Book one (Mardan’s Mark) was an adventure quest/survival story, while book two (Mardan’s Heir) was much more of a political-intrigue-around-the-palace sort of story. Mardan’s Anointed (book three) skillfully blends the feel of both books, picking up directly where Mardan’s Heir left off and following the separate paths of Princess Srilani and Aldan. Although I missed having them together, I so enjoyed reading their alternating chapters as they both face challenges in who they’re meant to be, and I loved-loved-loved how it ended up for both of them! (The parallels near the end particularly were stunning.)

2. I’m going to try to talk about this without sharing spoilers if you haven’t read the first two. XD Aldan’s quest in the southern kingdom was epic, and there were some unexpected happenings that left me on the edge of my seat! Exciting quests (for thrones and other things), castle infiltrating, woodland ambushes . . . So much awesomeness going down in this book! Aldan is growing SO much in trying to be worthy, and he’s already awesome, so. 😀 (Also, I remember loving his speech on the beach.) Also, all his loyal guys just make my heart happy.

3. Princess Srilani is stuck kind of trying to temporarily run the northern kingdom and being met with all kinds of opposition, but I love that she keeps going despite all that. I enjoyed reading about her (figurative) journey as she navigates politics etc. And where her story goes at the end! Wow, wow! So cool, though I’m looking forward to where it goes after her, too. (Trying to talk about this without spoilers is so hard. XD) Also, I loved how there were some parallels to certain biblical stories, and that whole mountain bit at the end! Yessss. So very cool!

4. I also liked the other side characters and how their stories are developing—like Prince Jamson coming so far, Princess Maelan getting to do stuff, Aldan’s brothers being epic as per usual, etc. I also have Feelings about Judge Elison. And I kinda feel bad for Greyson so I want more of him in the next book, haha! Plus, Raymon is super awesome, and I love him and Lady Elilan together! And I’m totally still shipping Srilani and Aldan and need book four because of it. XD

5. Like I said, there were some fabulous unexpected twists that are leaving me grinning, and I can’t wait for the fourth (and I believe final) book! (Fortunately, this one didn’t cliffhanger like book two did. Still with things awaiting in the fourth book, though! Eep!) It also reminded me a little of Jill Williamson’s excellent Blood of Kings Trilogy . . . So if you enjoy those or are a fan of Christian Fantasy, you’ll enjoy these! (Essentially Kingdom Adventure since there isn’t really anything magical or fantastical aside from one or two miraculous things?) Overall, I had a marvelous time reading this and just felt happy to be back in this world in the Marst kingdoms with Aldan and Srilani and everyone! So enjoyable!


Read my reviews for the other books in the series so far . . .

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Does this series sound intriguing? And let me know what you’re reading lately in a comment. Thanks for reading! 🙂

An Echo of the Fae by Jenelle Schmidt (Blog Tour + Review)

Hey everyone! I’m thrilled to be a part of the blog tour for this fabulous new novel by one of my favorite authors! Read on for my review!

Title: An Echo of the Fae

Author: Jenelle Leanne Schmidt

  • Date read: March 27, 2020
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Age: Anyone / Children’s to YA
  • Year pub: 2020
  • Pages: 262
  • Series: Stands alone
  • Notes: I was a copyeditor for this, but as an unbiased reader I genuinely loved this book and all opinions are completely my own.
  • Links: GoodreadsBarnes & NobleAmazonAuthor’s Website

An Echo of the Fae is a stunning new fantasy adventure, featuring selkie and fae mythology deliciously woven together, with a dash of Rapunzel!

I LOVED how this book was full of familiar folklore and fairytale goodness, but with its own twist on all of it. I’ve always felt that selkies should feature in more books, and I loved how that element showed up in this, in surprising ways. Fae stories are also some of my favorites, and the way that features in the book was also delightful — with a dash of the Summer and Winter Courts and all of it! And then we have just a hint of a Rapunzel thread near the middle, which I loved. This mingling of familiar things with new twists made me SO happy!

The characters. THE CHARACTERS! We have a splendid cast in this adventure, all of them so vividly real! I love how nobility still shines through despite their struggles — and I love how they are all true to how they should be, like the array of fae characters are unpredictable and sometimes capricious or terrifying. Just. I can’t describe it but they were all exactly right! Echo is a fabulous heroine, this twelve-year-old girl who’s introverted but has such a steady courageous determination. Malilia the elf is sooo intriguing. Echo’s parents, Gareth and Runa, are fabulous and I adored how they were a big part of the story. And we meet so many others along the way, who I will let you meet yourself, but . . . Eirloch (one of my faves)! Princess Jana! Little Drayeth! The Winter King! (Whoa. He was one of THE most fascinating characters! :O I CAN’T!)

The setting was another favorite thing. I adore this world and I want to go live there! I felt like I walked right through the pages, and I simply loved the gorgeous descriptions — you can FEEL the sea and the mysterious woods and enchanted paths and towers and magical lanterns etc. And delightful fantasy elements, like fae and selkies and dragons and other really cool creatures and characters! The feeling and atmosphere of this book (almost a Celtic feel) and the different lands and the feel of different seasons throughout was just perfect!

The story itself felt like a solid adventurous quest, with a coziness alternating with peril that felt simply perfect for the book — and a smidge of fae court intrigue lurking at the edges. I LOVED the writing, which had this fairytale quality to it and pulled me right into the story. The book stands alone well — though I almost want a sequel simply because there were one or two threads I’d LOVE to follow more, and I want to go back to this world again for more fae and selkie goodness and Eirloch and the owl and the Winter King and all of it!

Overall, An Echo of the Fae captivated me and is definitely a new favorite! I loved being pulled into this enchanting world full of such a striking cast of delightful characters, fantastic beings, heroism, finding light and courage in the darkness, sisters and family and friendship, and dashes of folklore and fairytale that absolutely made my day. It’s a perfectly magnificent new adventure for readers of any age. Don’t miss it!


Some Favorite Quotes

“But I’m not a heroine,” Echo muttered. “I’m just… me.”

***

If the past few days had taught her anything, it was that she much preferred going on adventures when they were contained within the pages of a book.


Tour Schedule

June 21

When the Story Chooses the Author @James Quinlan Meservy

Character Interview with Echo and Jana @Live.Love.Read

June 22

Author interview @Dreams and Dragons

Myths and Folklore that Inspired An Echo of the Fae @Author E.E. Rawls

June 23

How I’ve Been Influenced by Fairy Tales @DJ Edwardson

Review and Author Interview @Smudged Thoughts

June 24

Author Interview @An Independent Will

Book Spotlight @Kyle Robert Shultz

Book Review @Live.Love.Read

Building the Fae Realm @JL Mbewe

June 25

A Peek Into My Writing Process @Lands Uncharted

Book Review/Spotlight @Cathrin Bonham

June 26

Friday 5s @Light and Shadows

Book Spotlight @Caroline Puerto

June 27

Character Interview with Jana @AMReynwood

Book Spotlight @NJWalker

Author Interview @Adventure Awaits

June 28

The Building of Ennis Rosliath @Live.Love.Read

Does the Author Matter? @An Independent Will

June 29

Book Review @ThePageDreamer

Interview with Jana @Dreams and Dragons

Book Review @Christine Smith Author

June 30

Character Interview with the Winter King @Beka Gremikova

Author Interview @Live.Love.Read.


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Beast of the Night by E.E. Rawls (Blog Tour + Review)

Hey everyone! I’m so excited to be spotlighting this fairy tale retelling I had the joy of beta-reading — and I’m sharing my mini review for it!

Read on for all the info! 🙂

Also, drop by the author’s blog post that kicked off the tour, to check out an excerpt of the book and the other stops/tour schedule!

About the Book

A one-armed, practical girl. A rude lord hiding a curse. A dark secret with the town’s fate hanging in the balance.

A Beauty and the Beast retelling with an Austrian twist and a new breed of curse.

When Rosen moves to Freudendorf—a secluded town in the Alps—with her dad, he vanishes on her and the debt collectors come to call: taking her into slave labor. As if that wasn’t bad enough, just when all her hopes and dreams for a normal life are ruined, a frail zombie-like butler purchases her: taking her to serve Lord Varick, who currently resides in the forbidden castle near the salt mines, where the Beast of the Night is said to roam.

Varick is handsome, with an attitude that’s the exact opposite. The servants aren’t human, and the castle itself is an ugly wreck. But if Rosen cannot solve the dark secret spreading beneath Freudendorf, and the curse holding Varick’s cold heart, then both they and the town will fall prey to a waiting evil—and worse, even lose their memory of it.

Book Purchase Links

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | GOODREADS

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


Title: Beast of the Night

Author: E.E. Rawls

  • Date read: March 28, 2020
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy / Fairy Tale Retelling
  • Age: YA
  • Year pub: 2020
  • Pages: 138 (ebook)
  • Source: the author
  • Notes: I beta-read this novella and then received a free e-ARC as part of the blog tour. All opinions are my own.

Beauty and the Beast being one of my favorite fairy tales, I quite enjoyed this unique retelling!

I adored the setting and feeling of this one! It was delightfully autumnal and atmospheric and a smidge gothic/spooky but not in a bad way. The Austrian/Alps (but fantasy!) feeling was delicious, as was the old castle.

I loved the characters! Rosenrot and Lord Varick were wonderful, and the side characters were also intriguing and grew on me throughout the story.

Rosen is a fabulous heroine — I loved her spunk and her lavender hair and how she doesn’t let having only one hand get in the way of her go-get-’em lookout on life.

Lord Varick is the best — so dramatic and sniffy and self-centered at times, but with a great character arc. I loved how he grew in the story — and the twists on the curse and him himself. He was such a different “Beast” character, but I loved that!

I also like that, being a novella, it was a very quick read. Perfect for devouring all at once, as you’ll want to in order to discover the secrets behind the mysteries in this! So many plot twists! :O

I loved the humorous bits and banter (which sometimes made me laugh) and budding romance (awk!). And, again, Varick’s drama was hilarious. XD

It’s a delightful, fun, quirky, quick read. If a twist on Beauty and the Beast and a deliciously autumnal Austrian fairy tale story sounds up your alley, definitely give this one a try!


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Any Beauty and the Beast fans out there? Thanks for reading! 🙂