Tag Archive | #AmReading

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! 🙂

Ahab by E.B. Dawson (Book Review)

Sooo, I’ve got a review for a scifi Moby Dick retelling today! (I also posted it on my Instagram so this post is about the same as that, if you’ve already seen that, just with other info. :))

Title: Ahab

Author: E.B. Dawson

  • Date read: November 14, 2020
  • Rating: 4 stars? I don’t even know how to star this because most of it’s, like, 6 out of 5 stars. XD And then the ending is not okay. T_T So. ???
  • Genre: Sci-fi / Space Opera / Retelling
  • Age: YA/NA?
  • Year pub: 2020
  • Pages: 191 (ebook)
  • Series: No
  • Fave character: Don’t make me choose between Ahab and Starbuck. They are both amazing in different ways and are the best working together.
  • Source: The author (e-ARC) and Amazon (finished ebook I preordered)
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonAuthor’s Website

I physically can’t properly review this. I couldn’t handle that ending but otherwise AHAB was amazing and until then I loved every second of it!

E.B. Dawson’s scifi is my favorite, and this one blended old and new, a wonderful Moby Dick retelling set in space, chilling and charming at turns. And Ahab and Starbuck are everything. Buddy stories are the BEST. This came SO close to being one of my top fave books of the year. 1800s-ish feeling but IN SPACE?? So amazing. 💚

I need happy endings, though. I NEED them.

I saw this sad ending coming but foolishly held out hope. Heh. So yeah, while I hated the ending and will not apologize for that (#happyendingsadvocate because #hope), the rest of the book was AMAZING and if you like buddy stories and don’t mind some feels/tragic-to-bittersweet endings, you will LOVE this.

(It also says something about the sheer quality of this book that I don’t hate the book, only the ending–which often makes me write a book off completely. It was utterly entrancing, overall.)

So yes. Good book. Sad ending. Like, couldn’t fall asleep, type sad. 😭 (If you need even MORE feels while reading, you can listen to In the Embers by Sleeping At Last, Brother by Kodaline, and Burn the Ships by For King and Country, which is what I did accidentally. Um. Yeah. Some awesome songs I’ve been listening to lately and a very feelzy combination with this book. It felt quite…ironic.)

The book was amazing while I was reading it, though. Just. Wow. Every word was just–on point. And, again, that 1800s feel? But scifi at the same time? It was perfection. How often do you get a buddy story with intense space voyages but also a gorgeous ball/party and walking 1800s-type streets. I could read this foreverrrr. All of it was incredible until the last chapter or so.

Now excuse me while I go lowkey imagine a (non-heartrending) alternate ending and also flail about how spectacular the rest of the book was.

Aaand I’ll just go cry now, thx. 😭

(Confession: I’ve never actually read the original, and the Moby Dick “book” in this picture is actually a wooden bookend. 😂 Maybe the original prepares you for the ending? 😬 I wouldn’t know. 😅 Also, I adored getting to the part near the end which is basically the Voyage of the Pequod short story, just a little different. I reread it along with the book and enjoyed it immensely. And hey, if AHAB sounds amazing but like me you can’t handle tragicness, do pick up VOYAGE OF THE PEQUOD.)

Thanks to the author for the e-ARC even though I ended up reading the final ebook I ordered since I read it after release because I’m so behind on my reading. 😂


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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! 🙂

Audiobook Review: The Road to Bremen by Kelsey Bryant

A little something different today — I’m reviewing a fun audiobook!

Title: The Road to Bremen

Author: Kelsey Bryant

  • Date read: October 23, 2020
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Retelling
  • Age: Anyone
  • Year pub: 2019 (book), 2020 (audiobook)
  • Length: 2 hours, 27 minutes (122 pages)
  • Source: the author
  • Notes: I received a code for a free Audible download from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.
  • Links: AudibleAmazon (book format)GoodreadsAuthor’s Website

Listening to this audiobook was delightful! The narrator, B. E. Berhow, brought the characters to life—I particularly loved his voices for Rudiger the rooster (my favorite!), and Katarina the cat (she felt so marvelously cat-like!).

All of the voices he did were splendid (solid, clever Etzel the donkey, and loyal, mournful dog Jager), and I love how the characters leapt from the page—er, headphones?

I had read the book before, so it was wonderful to re-discover in this audio form, especially with the foreshadowing that came with knowing what was in store. 😀 I can only imagine that discovering it the first time would be fun as well!

It was such a fun and soothing listen! ^_^ Highly recommend!

***

(As for the story itself, here are my — slightly updated — thoughts I’d shared in my previous review when the book first released.)

I’ve always loved the folktale of the Bremen Town Musicians, the old donkey, dog, cat, and rooster on the road to become musicians in Bremen. Kelsey Bryant skillfully retold this fun tale and the audio version brings a whole new charm to it!

I loved how the retelling felt true to the original tale but brought out new and unexpected things too, with some excellent twists and turns! It has its own share of excitement and adventure and, yes, peril at times! But it still feels so absolutely cozy at the same time, which made me happy. 🙂

The Road to Bremen is like a golden sunbeam across a field of wheat on a quiet summer day. It just FEELS lovely. You want to bask in it as you read. It’s rich and well-written and draws you along like a breeze calling you to the shade of the forest. You can feel the dust of the road and you’ll smile or laugh at the quiet humor or the banter between these larger-than-life (but so REAL!) animal characters as they go on their adventure.

The characters are so loveable! Etzel the donkey, from whose perspective the story is told, absolutely stole my heart. I just love this donkey and his voice! He has so much character. Jager the dog is sort of mournful but funny. XD Katarina is so CAT-like and prim, and I loved the dog-vs.-cat references. And then Rudiger is so extremely vain and always quoting Aesop and it’s great. XD I just love them all! You have to read this to meet them!

Also, I love that it’s set in Germany and how there are German words thrown in here and there. I felt so immersed in the forest and town and roads and setting. It made me feel at home. 🙂

I totally recommend this if you enjoy retellings and need a quick listen, or if you have children in your life. It’s a wonderful listen (or read, if you get the illustrated version!) and made folding laundry and so on much more enjoyable. Just— *hugs book* It feels totally classic and makes me happy! ^_^

Utterly charming! A tale full of heart. ❤


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Any audiobook fans out there? 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! 🙂