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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

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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. 😉

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5 Thoughts on Battle for the Throne by E. J. Willis

Title: Battle for the Throne

Author: E. J. Willis

  • Date read: May 23, 2019
  • Rating: 3.5 stars, rounding up to 4 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy / Christian Fantasy
  • Age: Young Adult
  • Year pub: 2015
  • Pages: 248 (Kindle)
  • Series: Tales from Falyncia, #1 (followed by Into the Wildlands)
  • Fave character: Hugo
  • Source: The author
  • Notes: I received a free ebook copy of this book from the author. All opinions are my own.
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonAuthor’s Website

5 Thoughts on Battle for the Throne

  1. I’m always up for a Christian Fantasy novel! This one didn’t quite hit all the marks for me, personally, but I still enjoyed it for the most part. 🙂 It was fast-paced and exciting—sometimes almost too fast-paced, but made for a fairly quick and mostly enjoyable read! There was a lot of action, which was well-written and kept me absorbed. I definitely didn’t want to put the book down! And the romance was really sweet and I loved it. 🙂
  2. I was quickly drawn into the fantasy setting, with castles and forests and mountains and kingdoms. The “feel” of it was one that I thought was really neat. I especially loved the winged wolf spirit guardians! Sort of like guardian angels, though it’s mainly the heroine who can see them. There’s a bit of a spiritual battle going on between the wolf guardians and the demons. Malachi, the main wolf, was awesome. 😀 I also thought it was cool that there are giants in the book! Somehow giants don’t seem to be in fantasy as much anymore and I loved seeing them in this, particularly their enigmatic role in which sides they’re on (if anyone’s). And there are mentions of others like dwarves and goblins, and a griffin appeared right at the very end (yesss!), so I’m curious to continue reading this series and see more of this world!
  3. And then there are the characters. I liked our heroine Alaina and her spirit of determination, and wanted her to succeed, though I’m not as much of a warrior-princess-trope fan as some—but anyone who is will love this! I also loved our energetic prince Thaddeus! He was a great character, and I loved his relationship with Alaina. 😀 Other side characters were interesting (particularly Malachi, as I mentioned), and there was an awesome gladiator character who was my favorite! (Yes, Hugo, you’re awesome.) Also, a couple of the side-villain characters had really interesting arcs, so that was well-done.
  4. The book at times felt like younger-YA in a sense (particularly since it started with a ten-year-old and then skipped to when she was seventeen), but in another sense it . . . wasn’t. It was kind of dark and gruesome, a bit more on the gritty side than I personally enjoy, which seemed slightly at odds with the rest of the fantasy-adventure type feel of the book, but that could just be me. Just be aware the heroine goes through a lot and there’s torture and fantasy-demons and some disturbing scenes. But otherwise it’s great fun.
  5. Overall, for some reason it wasn’t one of my top favorites, but it definitely kept my interest and I loved the world and characters, and I’m definitely curious to read more in this world!

I received a free ebook copy of this book from the author (thank you!). All opinions are my own.

You May Also Enjoy . . .

Orphan's Song

Thanks for reading!

The Electrical Menagerie Audiobook Review!

I finished this only this morning and it was INCREDIBLE! ❤

I just had the most delightful experience!

It’s somehow fitting that a story largely involved with theatrical performance should be brought to life in this way by a talented audio performer. It was wonderfully theatrical to listen to—the next best thing to seeing it on a screen. I LOVED it!

It’s a wild ride of adventure, imagination, flying trains and islands in the sky, electrical robots, a stardust-powered steampunk-feel, show-business and illusions, mystery and sabotage and insidious plots, an 1800s-feel, and one of my favorite things: a “buddy story.”

Mollie Reeder’s skillful tale is a story to touch the heart of any creative and anyone who’s ever dreamed of doing something MORE. It’s one of the most sheerly enjoyable books I’ve ever read, but it also has a depth to it that makes you re-examine life and learn new things about life and ourselves, through the adventures of these delightful characters who are wholly human—both making mistakes and committing feats of imagination and heroism. It inspires me to reach for the stars. And it makes me laugh, which is always important. 😉

I read The Electrical Menagerie when it first came out, and it joined the select ranks of one of my favorite books of all time. So to say I was excited for the chance to re-experience it, as an audiobook, is an understatement.

I started the audio version with caution, however. Would any rendition of this beloved book be able to do it justice?

But I needn’t have worried. While I still may prefer reading physical books, this audiobook was a sheer delight! I had SUCH a blast listening to it! It was like revisiting an old friend and it came alive anew. ^_^

Travis Baldree’s rendition of these larger-than-life characters was wonderful and I 100% enjoyed hearing them all come to life! The different accents were great fun (I particularly liked Miss Skyhawk’s voice) and Carthage and Huxley re-delighted me all over again! I was constantly smiling or laughing, even on this second reading. The other characters are incredible too, and the dramatic or exciting scenes soared.

I LOVE this book and Carthage and Huxley, who are both absolutely AWESOME characters in their totally different ways, and the sheer rich imagination of everything about The Electrical Menagerie.

This book gives me ALL THE FEELS. It made me laugh and it made me cry, in both its book and audiobook forms. (Now THAT is a feat.) I love the humor and the heart of it, how authentic and real it is—despite, or perhaps because of, the otherwordliness of it—touching the soul, but not in any artificial way, while making one smile.

I didn’t used to listen to many audiobooks but I’ve slowly been drawn into that world, and now I love them. It was fabulous to get to re-live this magnificent story while going about daily life.

I can only say that The Electrical Menagerie is an EXPERIENCE. “I’m Arbrook Huxley”—(er . . . Deborah O’Carroll)—“and you can quote me!” (All I need now is a sequel. ;))

I love that this book is now available in a new format to delight new readers—or should I say listeners? I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who needs a touch of stardust and wonder in their lives!

(Thanks to the author for the complimentary audiobook code. All opinions are 100% my own.)

Book Information & Links

Title: The Electrical Menagerie

Author: Mollie E. Reeder

Narrator: Travis Baldree

You may also enjoy my original review (including some favorite snarky quotes), 10 Reasons You Should Read The Electrical Menagerie by Mollie E. Reeder!

Audiobooks: yea or nay? And have you read this incredible book yet? I totally recommend it in ANY form! YOU NEED CARTHAGE AND HUXLEY IN YOUR LIFE.

Keep imagining! ❤

The Fatal Tree by Stephen R. Lawhead (Bright Empires Series)

I’ve got a long-overdue review to share with you, and a giveaway!

Title: The Fatal Tree (Bright Empires, #5)

Author: Stephen R. Lawhead

  • Date read: May 18, 2017
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Historical Fiction / Fantasy / Sci-Fi / Time / Christian / Contemporary
  • Age: YA and up
  • Year pub: 2014
  • Pages: 340 (hardcover)
  • Series: The Bright Empires, #5 (final one!)
  • Fave character: All of them. ❤
  • Source: Amazon
  • Notes: Definitely be sure to start with book 1, The Skin Map.
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonBarnes & NobleAuthor’s Website

Review of The Fatal Tree

review

5starrating

In the immortal words of Bilbo Baggins (at least in a certain film), “I’ve put this off for far too long.”

I was waiting for the right words, but I’ve realized that there’s simply no way to do justice to this book in a review, and so instead of waiting for a time that will never come, I’m simply going to say something about it, even if it’s not enough.

You see, the Bright Empire series (of which The Fatal Tree is the fifth and final book) meant so much to me that I can’t quite put it into words.

I enjoyed it, loved it, and it had a profound influence and effect on me. The series worked its way into a deep part of me that makes it hard to get at to explain. I’m not sure if you’ve had this experience, but sometimes you read something that becomes a part of you. It changes you. And so you can’t really talk about it—not really, not in a way that could explain to anyone why it happened to reach you at that soul level, because if it didn’t do the same for them, then they just won’t understand. And that’s all right, because every book affects people differently, if at all. It just makes it difficult to explain.

So it’s seems silly to attempt it, and I won’t try, but I will say that this series is a part of me, like several other book milestones along the way through my younger life—I won’t go through those here. It’s enough a part of me that I don’t really think about it, but it is and it’s there.

So here are a few things about the series that made it something special, at least for this literary traveler.

For one thing, there’s Mina. She was the first female role-model I’d met in a book since I was very young. I want to be her. (More on that in My Tower of Fantasy.) Heroines never interest me in fiction much; I don’t know why, but I’m usually more drawn to the heroes. So Mina was something new and different. She showed me it was possible to do oh-so-many things. She’s the bravest character I’ve ever read about, but she started as a stressed, tired young woman from our modern days. Literally plucked out of her life and thrust into another one, she refuses to give in and transforms her situation into something incredible. She is clever and heroic and rather more brave than I think I’d ever be, but she is so incredibly loving and steady too, and she shines. She makes a way in the world, and is loyal to her friends, and capable, and an entrepreneur, ready to try new things whether in a bakery or fearlessly treading the roads between worlds, but she’s still human and shows that it’s okay to wish you could be home taking a hot shower to avoid the world at times. And, I mean, who wouldn’t want to go visit her and Etzel’s joint Kaffeehaus in 1600s Prague? It’s the most amazing place! I think what I’m trying to say is that I didn’t really have role-models in fiction, and that we need those. I’ve had plenty of fictional heroes, and I needed those too, and I had Eilonwy and Princess Irene and Eowyn and others, but I hadn’t met a modern heroine I could look up to, and I think in a rush to write “realistic” characters (read: dull and flawed, or fake and artificially “strong”), people just don’t write truly heroic characters anymore. Not the ones who can actually be looked up to, and show a blueprint of what might be, and meet me where I am and inspire me and show me that I can be something more and do things. I won’t ramble on about her more than that, but Mina is one of the best things that ever happened to me.

The series also firmly embedded into my mind that whole “there are no coincidences” thing, which as much as I always knew in theory I didn’t really believe if you know what I mean, until reading this fascinating series. If there’s one thing I took away from these books, it was that, and I adore it.

O’er earth we see Thee, and Thy footsteps trace / Through the Bright Empires of unbounded Space

Then there’s how I’ll run across things in life, or in other literature, or in a song, or history, and I’ll see it echoing back to this series—whether it’s a name, or a place, or something else—and I’ll go “Aha! It’s like Bright Empires!” and I’ll do a little dance of intrigued joy. (For example, I stumbled across a translation of a Welsh song called Adra (Home) by Gwyneth Glyn and it so strongly fit this series I thought “What a coincidence! Oh, that can’t be right . . .” ;)) Aside from simply being great fun to find things in life that remind me of a beloved series, it opened up a whole new world to me—and how could it not, with such a broad canvas of times, places, people, and thoughts painted together with such intricacy and skill?

And also with beloved characters and humor and enjoyment, because that’s the important bit that makes the rest stick in your mind. Because there’s the thing: you can have the most interesting or enlightening book in the world, but if it’s not fun, it’s not going to stick with you—or with me, at any rate. And you can have an enjoyable story, but how much more enjoyable is it if, amidst the fun, it stretches your mind far afield and shows you a whole new world and makes you think? I love how this series did all of those things for me, and all in a mind-bending, genre-defying, completely new sort of way.

But aren’t you going to talk about this book, not just the series, then? you ask.

Oh, very well.

I see the series as a whole and so I don’t have terribly much to say specifically about the final book, other than as the end of a saga. (Especially not without massive spoilers, which nobody wants because you must discover them on your own when you read the books; and you ARE GOING TO, right? *stern but loving look*) But there are a few things, so I’ll mention them.

I don’t know how I feel about a few things that happened, and at least at one point I wished that some of the characters could have come in at the end with the others and they didn’t—but then I realized that they were perfect where they are. Several pairs of people are THE MOST ADORABLE THING. (I’m sorry, I’m a romantic. XD)

Familiar places (like Black Mixen Tump) swirl back into the story, and continue to be fascinating. Desert sand in Egypt to frozen ice and the Stone Age, with Prague and Constantinople and all the rest in between. I love the richness of all the different countries and times we get to visit in this series, and how vivid they are (even if some can get downright frightening!), and especially the good hearts of many of the people we meet. Everything’s so genuine, laced with a thread of nobleness and light.

I still adore all of the characters, fiercely. Mina, Kit, Etzel, Cass, Giles, Tony, Haven, Gianni, the members of the Zetetic Society, and all the rest. They’re my friends now. ^_^ I was so delighted to get to finally complete their story in this book, and I absolutely love how all of their tales intertwine and fit into the book so neatly but with threads trailing afterward to the future. And I love all of their interactions SO MUCH. They make the book. 😀

Even the villains are interesting, and far from straightforward. Burleigh’s plotline is one of the two most skillful ones of its kind I’ve read in my life.

And, of course, there’s a time-related thing or two that finally happen in this book, which I’ve been waiting for since the first one. One in particular made me SO HAPPY. (Looking at you, chapter 11.) Speaking of timey-wimey things, that sort of thing always makes my head spin (in a good way) and I think I filled a couple of pieces of paper with diagrams of different people’s timelines and where and when they crossed and it was still dreadfully confusing and I love it so much. XD Someday I’m going to carve out the time to read the whole series again, and I’m looking forward to that with relish. (And maybe then I’ll finally fully understand the ending, which tied my mind in knots. :D)

Then there’s that whole having-to-save-the-world thing, what with the whole universe about to end and everything, which is as serious as it sounds and just as exciting—and there may or may not be some death in there, and I’m not saying I totally understood how everything turned out (I like a good goes-slightly-over-my-head-and-requires-a-rereading ending—just look at Diana Wynne Jones), especially with science-y things going over my head, but everything came together from the previous books and on the whole I was terribly pleased with how The Fatal Tree wrapped up the series. (I’m also so glad we got a what-happens-next bit at the end too! *collapses*)

It was an experience, and one it’s taken me nearly two years to get around to finally externalizing and typing up in the form of a “review” (or shall we call it an essay?), but I can safely say that the Bright Empires is one of the most delightful series I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Even if only as an enjoyable adventure, I recommend them highly to anyone who cares to try their luck. Or, since there is no such thing as coincidence, let’s say that luck is the wrong word and leave it at that. 😉

I’m deeply indebted to Mr. Lawhead for penning such a—well, brilliant is the only word for it, in so many ways—series, and I look forward to delving into more of his books very soon.

(Also . . . THE SPOON. :O WHAT. DOES. IT. MEAN. I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS.)

Read my reviews for the previous books in the series:

10SkinMap 2bonehouse 3spiritwell

GIVEAWAY!

I happen to have a spare paperback copy of the first book in the series, The Skin Map, and I want to share the love!

Visit the Rafflecopter HERE for a chance to win it!

(USA addresses only. Runs 4/11/19 through 4/17/19. Winner will be contacted by email and announced here shortly after.)

[Edit: Giveaway is closed! The winner is Grace T! Thanks for entering, everyone! :)]

Have you read any of these? And do you have a favorite Lawhead book? Thanks for reading! 🙂

I have feelings (Healer’s Bane by Hope Ann: Review)

Look what came out today! A delightful new novella from Hope Ann. 😀 Read on for my confused feels which I’m throwing together and calling a review. XD

Title: Healer’s Bane

Author: Hope Ann

  • Date read: March 28, 2019
  • Rating: 4 stars?
  • Genre: Gaslamp Fantasy / Novella
  • Age: YA
  • Year pub: 2019
  • Pages: 178 (Kindle)
  • Series: No
  • Fave character: Lael
  • Source: The author
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonAuthor’s Website

5 thoughts on Healer’s Bane

I have MANY FEELINGS about this novella and I don’t know quite what they amount to so . . . I’m just going to throw them at you. XD

1. It was sooo mysterious and spooky, with an intriguing gaslight sort of feel, mixed in with a smidge of dystopian-type feel, with the rebellion and so on. The fantasy bits were woven in well, with the mysterious healing powers and the Poisoner (URGH) and the star-mists and everything. It’s sort of a shadowy, gritty setting but felt EXTREMELY vivid. Everything was quick and punchy and made it work in the small space.

2. We have a small but vivid cast of characters. Kynet, our no-nonsense but compassionate heroine. Her hot-headed brother Nayn, who runs the revolution. Street-orphan Ean with the Scottish accent. And a certain mysterious character who is all spoilers but is AWESOME and my fave! (Definitely my favorite part of the story.) And of course a villain or two. 😉 Villains aside, I loved them all! They definitely sprang to life in the course of this small story. And their snark and banter was fun, naturally.

3. It’s terribly interesting and edge-of-your-seat, and you never really know exactly where it’s going, but it’s fun too. So I really enjoyed it in one sense, while in another sense it was a smidge more dark/creepy than I generally like to read (though I didn’t mind as much as I thought I might?) and then there’s an . . . er . . . awkward fact. I kept being constantly afraid that this or that—no, THAT—character was going to die any second, so I wasn’t exactly SURPRISED buuut there was a death that was Not Okay and I’m sort of upset. BUT ALSO it was almost beautiful/okay—almost—and I’m not sure why I’m not MORE upset and giving out two-stars all over the place? It’s more like I’m mildly sad so maybe it worked well? So I’m essentially rather confused about my reactions because that death and the darker aspects would normally mean I’m a disappointed bean, but I still think it was really fascinating and rather fun most of the time. SO. I think it might be because it’s a novella.

4. ANYWAY, I have all these confused feeliiiings and I don’t know what I think. But yes, it’s a fascinating and exciting and fun and spooky story, and I loved the feel and the atmosphere even if it was creepy sometimes, and I liked the characters even if I’m rather upset about the thing that happened. I am all confusion. XD

5. But if it sounds like an intriguing story to you, and you like a gaslight sort of setting and a rebellion against the corrupt government, fabulous sibling relationships, an adorable orphan boy, a mysterious courtly awesome chap, and healers and poisoners and secrets and plots and aaall the feelz, do give this little novella a try! 😀

Thanks to the author for the Advance Reader Copy! All opinions are my own.

What do you think? Sound intriguing? And what do you do when you read something and can’t disentangle your feelings?? XD

Valentine Giveaway! Common by Laurie Lucking

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I’m celebrating by offering a giveaway for a copy of COMMON by Laurie Lucking!

I ended up with an extra copy signed by the author, and I want to share the love! I read it as the Fellowship of Fantasy book of the month for May last year. It was a runner-up for my favorite reads of 2018, and it just makes me happy. ^_^ Plus it has an adorbz romance, so it seemed like just the right book to give away today. ❤

Scroll to the end for the giveaway, and for a Jane-Austen-inspired sale and an Amazon gift-card giveaway the Vintage Jane Austen authors and some others are offering!

First, here are five thoughts on Common and why should read it!


5 Thoughts on Common

1. The world/setting: You feel like you’re home. At first I thought it might be a Kingdom Adventure book until fantasy elements showed up later in the story. But I just loved the cozy fantasy kingdom setting and it felt so — I don’t know! I felt so at home and I just want to hug this book. ❤ (It made me think a little of books by Gail Carson Levine.)

2. Leah — She tells the story, which is a fact I keep forgetting (I don’t always love first-person, but the ones I most enjoy are the ones where I’m so sucked in that I forget!), and I just loved this red-haired servant girl. She has this sort of . . . I don’t know . . . quiet strength. She’s lovely.

3. Rafe — You have to love the prince character! Rafe is so absolutely sweet and I love him. He also feels sort of stuck in all these political schemes, and wishes he could just stay in the closet he and Leah meet in and just read with her forever. Rafe is just SO PRECIOUS. And kind of epic too.

4. The nuns — They’re quite unexpected but such neat characters! I loved how distinct they all were, each with their own personalities and temperaments, and they were unexpectedly lovable side characters. You’ll have to read it to see how they join in on the plot, but it’s really cool. 😉

5. The plot: a mix of secrets and court intrigue and politics and plots, mixed with quiet character moments and journeys, with a smidge of magic and the barest hint of an almost-Cinderella tale, and all wrapped up in an absolutely precious romance thread. Leah and Rafe are just SO ADORABLE, okay? I adore them. But I also loved reading about Leah’s adventures. 😀 This book stands alone, but I’m still so looking forward to the sequel!


Add to Goodreads • Find on Amazon • Visit the Author


GIVEAWAY

To win this gorgeous paperback copy of Common, signed by the author, enter via the Rafflecopter form HERE! (Open to US residents only, due to shipping costs. Begins Feb. 14, 2019, and ends Feb. 20, 2019, at midnight Central Time.)

EDIT: The giveaway is now CLOSED. The winner has been contacted. Thanks for entering, everyone!


A Sale + Another Giveaway

P.S. Check out this Jane-Austen-Inspired Valentine  ebook sale and $45 Amazon gift-card giveaway! Check out the details HERE or click the image below!


If you want to read my reviews of some of the Vintage Jane Austen books, you can see those here:

 

If you like Common, you may also enjoy:

 Beggar Magic  


Now let me know in the comments: Do you have a favorite fictional couple?

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! 🙂