Meet The Patch: A Brand New Halloween Story

Looking for a spooky new read? Look no further!

Can you believe Halloween is only a few short days away? It feels like fall just started! But I have a special treat for you (no tricks!) today, something I have been working on since the end of summer.

But just in case you missed it, if you’re looking for something super cozy, you can check out some ways to have a cozy bookish fall, or how about some suggestions for a fun Halloween at home?

(Image: cover for Pumpkin Spice Pie-Jinks on a background of red leaves with the tagline “When fate comes knocking, feed it pie!” and the words “Available Now.”)

However you plan to celebrate, I have a brand new release to get you in the spirit! You may remember that last year I released a sugary sweet fantasy romance inspired by Hansel & Gretel (Pumpkin Spice Pie-Jinks), but this year I went in a different direction.

The inspiration for this year’s autumn release was Jack and the Beanstalk… but with a haunted pumpkin patch and ghosts and witches! I wanted to really get the spooky feel of the season this time, rather than the cozy sweetness I had with Seasons of Magic: Pumpkins & Shades book 1.

Yup, that’s right! I channeled all my spooky feels (and a few of my own fears) to create… THE PATCH!

So how about three fun facts about The Patch before I give you the blurb?

  1. I planted some of my own fears in this book. One is based on a story from my sister, who is super into true crime podcasts (I am not.). But basically it was about a murdered woman who turned out to have been killed by… owls. Yup. So, thanks for that, sister dear. I now have a fear of owls.
  2. I centered it around friendship. I really wanted this story to focus on the ways friends take care of each other and how we learn to be better friends. In the story, my main character Jack learns how she can be brave for her best friend, Lucy, who has watched over her for as long as they’ve been friends.
  3. I threw in some unexpected twists. Of course I can’t give them away, but Jack has to save her family’s farm. But she doesn’t do it the way she expects she would. She also encounters what she thinks is a banshee. But there is so, so much more to that story!

So there you have it: three behind-the-scenes looks at The Patch.

And now that you know those little treats, let me tell you a little more about the story.

(An image: the cover for Selina J. Eckert’s The Patch on a background of decorative pumpkins and an orange square that says “Out now!” There is a ghost border on the bottom and a black cat above the text.)

Jack just gambled her family’s future on seeds. Too bad they only bring her a cursed pumpkin patch full of ghosts.

Jack, a shy and sensitive high schooler, is desperate to do whatever she can to save her family’s farm. Unfortunately for her, the pawn shop cons her into trading her family’s heirlooms for three old pumpkin seeds on the promise they will solve all Jack’s problems. But when the seeds sprout overnight into a haunted pumpkin patch, they bring more problems than they solve—like a hundred-year-old witch’s curse.

Hopeful she will uncover the secrets of the patch, and maybe solve the farm’s financial problems, Jack enlists her best friend Lucy’s help to investigate. But then a malevolent ghost kidnaps Lucy, and Jack learns the dark history of her home, a history steeped in betrayal and revenge. With Lucy’s life on the line, can Jack confront the spirit, break the curse, and save her friend?

Or will the witch kill them both and reign for another hundred years?

The Patch is part of a collection of standalone fairy tale novellas, Seasons of Magic, and is a retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk. If you like spooky stories, autumn magic, and pumpkins, you will love Selina J. Eckert’s bone-chilling tale!

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Interested?

To dive into this haunted tale, you can purchase it on Amazon.com or at many of your favorite retailers! (If your favorite retailer isn’t there, please be patient with me. I submitted them all a week ago, but many of the retailers are slow to approve new listings right now.)

And if you have some favorite ghost stories, share them with me in the comments! Just not too scary… I am a scaredy-cat!

~~~

Want to read my books for free? You can join my reader group to get a chance at review copies! Simply join the group and request an ARC through the units page.

Alternatively, you may occasionally get free stories by subscribing to my newsletter. Right now you can get This Cursed Light (the prequel to the This Curse series) and Queen of Mist and Fog. And don’t worry; even if you sign up just for the freebies, you are absolutely free to unsubscribe at any time for any reason!

Hope to see you online!

3 Ways You Can Have a Fun Halloween In This Year

Planning on staying in for Halloween but not sure how to celebrate? I got you covered!

This year is weird. You know that, I know that, the whole world knows that. And Halloween is a bit different. Trick-or-treating may be affected in your area. You may not have the normal costume parties you’re used to this time of year. You may be wondering how you can enjoy the season if you plan to stay in for the holiday.

And that’s why it’s time to figure out how we can have a fun, safe, bookish Halloween. So today, let’s look at three ways you can embrace the season without leaving your house – and do it in a way that celebrates books! I know I plan on enjoying some good media, setting my mood up, and dressing the part!

So let’s dive right on in!

(As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made through the purchase links on this page. However, the things I have chosen to share either I have tried and enjoyed myself or it’s something I would buy for myself!)

Set the Mood

The easiest way to get into the spirit of the season is to surround yourself with things that put you in that spooky frame of mind.

Personally, I think the biggest thing you can do to set the mood is find a smelly thing. Before I met my husband, my favorite fall candle was Warm Caramel Cider from Bath and Body. But it turns out he doesn’t like that scent so much, so I’ve been burning my last one in bits and pieces when he’s not around.

Ultimately, that led me to seek out some new scents. High on my list are Yankee Candles – they have good burn times, and they’re super fragrant, so the scent fills the room really well. They have a couple that are on my list to replace my Warm Caramel Cider: Mulled Cider and Apple Cider. I’m hoping one of those will be agreeable to both hubs and me!

But more than smelly things, you need some good decorations. Last year, my sister got married in the fall. That meant I had the chance to get about a million (this is an exaggeration) pumpkins for her shower. I highly recommend checking out your local dollar store for pumpkins to display around your house. Or, if you don’t want to get out of the house for decorations, you can find some options on Amazon.

Another of my favorite things is placing battery-operated candles everywhere. When you have a lot of them, you can turn off all the lights and still have enough to wander in the spooky atmosphere without keeping your lights on. Though, if you get to the entertainment section and need a lamp to read… well, that’s ok, too.

Dress the Part

Once the mood is set, I like to dress for the season. Last post, I shared a cozy cardigan that I absolutely love. You can certainly wear that here, too!

But I’m also thinking things like jewelry and shirts (unless you want to wear a costume, in which case, GO FOR IT.). Personally, I love the shirts at Tee Turtle, and this year I finally got myself a couple of fall ones. Both with foxes, because foxes.

But besides that, I LOVE accessorizing, particularly with earrings. And if I don’t feel like wearing a costume to celebrate Halloween, I definitely wear earrings. Here are a couple sets that look like fun to me (unfortunately my current sets don’t have great options on Amazon, but they are simple clear orange fall maple leaves!).

Find your Entertainment

I know we’re all here because we love to read (and I’ll get to some book recs soon!), but I also know that some of us have overwhelming TBRs or need a break from reading. That’s why I say to find your entertainment, whether it’s a game with a housemate or close friend/family, a movie night, or books.

Games!

So let’s start with a game. I have the game Unstable Unicorns, a silly, fun card game all about building a unicorn army. And it has so many expansion packs, including some that would work great for Halloween! I have only played the base game, though, so I can only personally vouch for that one. But my family loves the game, and I bring it to family gatherings often.

Another great option (with a ton of versions) is Munchkin. My family also loves to play this one, which is a card version of role-playing games that goes to ridiculous lengths. Basically, you explore a dungeon, kill monsters, get better equipment, and try to be the first to make it to level 10.

Or, if you want something a little scarier, there’s Betrayal at House on the Hill. I only watched this one being played, but IT IS SCARY. Def a good Halloween game.

And/or Watch a Movie!

But, if games aren’t your thing (or if, like me, you like things on in the background), there are a ton of Halloween movies. But today I will share my own favorite: The Little Vampire, all about a little boy who moves to Scotland with his family, only to find an entire family of vampires and an ancient curse. It’s so cute and so seasonal, and every year I want to watch it.

I also have a dear place in my heart for Disney’s Coco. It’s a great watch and has such an important, positive view on death. It’s so great for Halloween night or your own celebration with friends and/or family.

And, finally, BOOKS!

First, check out last year’s picks for spooky reads here (note: none of links in last year’s post are affiliate links; they link only to Goodreads. However, all the links on this page with the exception of The Patch at the bottom, are affiliate links. Be aware I NEVER use an affiliate link to my own books).

And here are my new recommendations!

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

I read this over the summer, and I have two words: murder mermaids. If you’re looking for something horror-y, this is a great pick! It’s so spooky and scary and exciting! It also has a lot of good representation, including neurodiverse and LGBT+ characters. It’s a long one, though, so if you plan to read this, you may need to block off a few days of binging!

Ghost Academy by E.C. Farrell

This is, just as it sounds, academy fiction, but with ghosts. There’s a lot to take in here, but if you want a little less spook with your spirits, grab this one! It’s got a lot of good characters, strong storylines, and an interesting take on the afterlife.

Dead Girls Don’t Dance by h.g. Lynch

If you’re looking for something quicker to read, how about a short story based in Day of the Dead mythology? Follow the main character as she wakes up dead and has a mystery to solve and her own death to come to terms with before she can move on.

Are you ready yet?

Those are my biggest recommendations for celebrating a safe, fun Halloween IN. I hope you’ve found some entertainment, decorations, and/or attire to put you in the mood and let you enjoy the season, no matter what is going on in your community right now.

I know I don’t talk about the outside world often, but holidays are hard. I know. I understand. I’ve lost events and celebrations, too. But keep strong, keep safe, and take care of each other. And, just maybe, these little tips I’m sharing with you can give you some bright lights, some joy, in the midst of whatever you’re facing. I want you to know that I sincerely care about you guys. I know how rough it’s been; I’m in it with you.

So let’s enjoy October, do things that make us smile, and celebrate, safely, together. ❤

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PS! I just submitted the final version of The Patch (this is not an affiliate link) to all retailers today! If you want to know when it’s up for purchase (hopefully within 3 days), subscribe to the newsletter! (You’ll also get two free short stories just for signing up, and you’re free to unsubscribe at any time).

The Patch (this is not an affiliate link) is my spooky Halloween novella all about a girl desperate to save her family’s farm… and a mysterious magical pumpkin patch filled with ghosts and a hundred-year-old curse.

Don’t forget to subscribe for updates!

5 Ways You Can Have a Cozy Bookish Fall

Wondering how to max out your cozy factor with reading this fall? I got you.

So. I have this thing about being cozy. The first thing I did whenever I moved into a new place was hang things on the walls and pile blankets and pillows all over the place. And then light a nice, warm-smelling candle. It was all about the cozy.

In fact, that was one thing my now-husband loved about my apartment when we met: I had made it a place to be comfortable and at peace. And, of course, I applied my own personal rules of cozy to his house!

So now that fall is in full swing and spooky season is upon us, why not discuss five things you can do right now to have a cozy bookish fall?

(As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made through the purchase links on this page. However, the things I have chosen to share either I have tried and enjoyed myself or it’s something I would buy for myself!)

1. Choose a cozy book.

I mean, this is the first requirement of a bookish fall, right? You have to find yourself the right book! Ideally, this book should evoke all the warm fuzzies you could imagine and take you on an adventure of your choice.

Not sure where to start? No problem. I can get you started with 3 recommendations.

Pumpkin Everything by Beth Labonte

I’m currently reading this on my ereader, and it is so full of everything autumn! The fall foliage, the chill in the air, and, of course, everything pumpkin. This is great if you’re looking for a sweet adult romance, and even better, it’s the first book in a series set in Autumnboro, the self-proclaimed capital of the New England fall season!

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

This is one of my all-time favorite books! It’s young adult, but college-age, and it follows the story of Cath as she navigates her first year of college, new separation from her twin sister, the finale of her super-popular fanfic, and her first real relationship. This book has such a rollercoaster of emotion, and it always leaves me with warm, happy feelings when I finish it! (yes, I’ve read it 3+ times) Also, it’s coming out in manga form! (for those of you who don’t like sex or swearing in your fiction, maybe pass on this one)

Pumpkinheads by rainbow rowell

And even though I haven’t read this one, it’s been on my list for ages! Same author as Fangirl, but it’s a graphic novel format and of course is set during the fall! It follows two teen seasonal workers in their last year… the year they say goodbye. I love Rainbow Rowell, and I’m so excited to read this one!

2. Set the mood.

Once I got my own apartment and didn’t have dorm restrictions anymore, I developed a love for candles and wax/oil burners. Scent is so deeply tied to memory (neuroscientist here) that it can be easy to set a mood with smells, relive old memories of fall, or create new associations.

This year, my husband bought me a candle I love so much that I’ve been savoring it. It’s especially great if you don’t have a fireplace, like us, because it’s campfire scented and has a wood wick, so crackles. I also love the shiny, charcoal-like appearance of the wax. Seriously, I love this candle, and wood smoke is one of the scents I always link to fall! You can check it out here.

But if candles aren’t your thing, I also recently came across a few different autumn oil blends. In particular, this maple one! Like, how cool is that? I haven’t gotten to try this one, but it sounds fantastic.

Whatever you decide to use, just make sure it is a scent you find warm and welcoming!

3. Get a drink!

I love picking out special things to drink while I’m reading or relaxing at home. There are a few good choices, depending on your tastes. For example, I switch between coffee, tea, and super sweet Duplin wines, like their Toil and Trouble mulled wine for fall…which they sadly don’t have this year 😥 . But especially when it gets colder, warm drinks are a must to cozy up!

Last winter I had gotten the Victor Allen mix of winter coffee K-cups, and this fall I found their autumn version! There are so many warm, autumn flavors that I’m super excited about. Or, if tea is more your thing, how about a cinnamon, orange, and clove black tea? It sounds spicy and warm, all good flavors for the season!

And since we have a wood fire going with the candle already, how about a camp-style mug to drink out of? I’m so happy these are on trend right now. When I was in undergrad, I won a camp-style mug from the school, and I got another when I went to grad school to stick with the theme. They just remind me of the camping trips I went on with my family when I was a kid. Simpler times… and one of those trips especially was super cold!

4. Find some snacks.

I don’t know about you, but I am a snacker. It may be a bit of a problem. But this is a great season for snacks! I particularly like sweet snacks, like little cakes, or savory like special cheeses or simple chips and popcorn.

One good option is the Pepperidge Farm pumpkin cheesecake cookies. I’ve had these, and they’re such a sweet twist on autumn cookies! I love the cheesecake bites in them and the spiciness of the season.

Another favorite of mine is Cake Bites, though I’ve had them in the Italian Rainbow cake flavor (husband comes from an Italian family and introduced me to them). But now they have their own pumpkin spice version! These cakes are sweet, moist, and delicious! Great for whenever you have a sweet tooth but don’t have a whole cake.

Whatever snack you go with, I highly recommend preparing it together with your drink before you move on to the next step…

5. Snuggle up!

Yesss, my favorite part! First, you have to find the perfect place to nest. For me, I prefer to snuggle into my spot on the couch. I have enough surfaces around it to hold my drink and snacks, and there’s our fluffy Costco blankets and the heated blanket (another luxury my husband introduced to me). The Sunbeam washable versions are the kind we have, and they have 3 settings for you to adjust your level of toast. And if your feet also get cold, I like to wear my thick socks. I can’t find the ones I have, but I love the pattern of these wool socks!

I also bought myself a super cozy, bulky, sweater cardigan for around the house. It was so handy when I was working from home and quarantined back in May, and I’m so happy I have it now. It’s so comfortable and warm! I got it in antique violet because I’m a fiend for all things purple, but it comes in a bunch of different colors.

Final Thoughts

With the weather getting colder up here in Pennsylvania, I’m so excited for cozy season! Today I shared some of my favorite ways to have a cozy, bookish fall. Once you’ve performed all five steps, you’ll find yourself snuggled and ready for a super cozy, warm, and peaceful reading session! Whatever choices you make for your own bookish fall, just make sure they’re right for you! And I’d love to hear your suggestions, too. 🙂

What do you do to snuggle up? What are your favorite cozy reads?

Also, you may notice that the format of this post is a little different. That’s because I’m trying a new thing. Instead of just throwing a list of books at your likely already monstrous TBR, I wanted to help you curate an experience. Feel free to let me know your thoughts on this as well!

Talk to you in the comments, and until next time, stay cozy!

Ashen Blog Tour: Book Food!

Iceland and a food-worldbuilding post?! Count me in!

Today I have the distinct pleasure of introducing author H.L. Burke and her brand new release, Ashen! Ashen is a fantasy Cinderella retelling inspired by Iceland, and, well… I’m sure you can see how I would be interested in that!

But if you’re new here, I write some fairy tale retellings of my own, and about two and a half years ago, my husband and I took our honeymoon in Iceland!

I fell in love with it then, and I honestly cannot get enough of it (we may or may not be slowly planning our next trip there… once it’s safe to travel again). At the time, I was dying for fiction set in Iceland, and now I finally have something!

(BTW, if you have other suggestions for fiction-preferably fantasy!-set in Iceland, please send them my way in the comments!)

And in other Selina catnip, today’s guest post by the author herself talks all about the role rood played in the worldbuilding! You may recall I even talked about food in worldbuilding a while back.

So without further ado and such, let’s get right on with this awesome glimpse into the world of Ashen!

Guest Post by H.L. Burke

Lizbete, the main character of Ashen, wouldn’t describe herself as artistic or creative. However, whenever I put her in a scene when she had to cook something, she was REALLY into it. Like, really, really, really into it. Food is Lizbete’s calling, and it plays a major part in the story and world of Ashen.

Lizbete’s home is an isolated fishing village in a cold northern country which I based on Iceland. The green interior is home to many shepherds, but the majority of commerce in town is from fishing. They eat berries they gather and vegetables they grow in their gardens and cliff pigeons … which are a bird I made up because traditionally people in Iceland sometimes eat puffins, but … I couldn’t stand to put one of those adorable things on a plate, even for authenticity.

Image of puffins on a rock by skeeze from Pixabay

Lizbete is a foundling with a strange secret curse. Unable to create her own body heat, she has to draw warmth from external sources. Unfortunately, this means whenever she touches another human being, she pulls heat from them, and if their contact is lengthy, her uncontrollable heat-draw can injure or even kill.

Because of this she needs to stay near heat sources, which usually means you can find her hiding in the kitchen of her adopted guardian’s tavern. Auntie Katryn taught Lizbete everything she knows about how to feed a crowd. Lizbete can make delightful soups out of scraps and bones. She roasts savory potatoes. Her sweet squash pie is fantastic, and her fish fry second only to Auntie’s.

In designing the food that I had Lizbete cook in the book I drew from three sources:

  1. What was native to the country and climate I had chosen as a template (Iceland).
  2. What would suit an isolated fishing village in a culture where most people have to work hard in the cold.
  3. Wish fulfilment.

First off, I spent a lot of time looking into Icelandic food … by which I mean I found out that they had licorice flavored spirits that sounded amazing and looked seriously into whether I could get them imported before I realized that this was  YA book and cocktails probably weren’t the research route I should go … and then I read up a bit on Icelandic cuisine. As I kind of expected, there was a decent amount of fish involved as well as lamb.

This also fit with my idea of an isolated village that had to be self-sufficient, fishing for most of their protein while shepherds treasured their flocks. I wanted the food to be hearty for people putting in a hard day’s work, and warm to chase away the cold wind coming off the frozen seas.

And finally, wish fulfilment.

From what I can tell apples are not historically a big part of Icelandic cuisine, but I had a great scene in mind where Lizbete and Brynar (her love interest and my prince stand in for this Cinderella tale) bond over peeling apples … so yeah, those are in there. Also something called “firewine” because it goes with my hot and cold theming.

So yeah, food is a big part of how Lizbete relates to the world around her, and I hope the descriptions of it help draw you into her world a little deeper.

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(As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made through the purchase link on this page. However, I am sharing this book because I have enjoyed her work before, and I am truly excited for this release!)

You can purchase Ashen here or add it to Goodreads here.

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Thank you so much, Heidi, for giving us a behind-the-scenes look at this world! I can’t wait to dive in (it’s already loaded on my ereader!).

Also, be sure to keep an eye on the blog for my upcoming review. It may be another month or so, but I plan to write a full review of the book as soon as I finish it!

And in one more bit of news, this month I released a prequel novella to my This Curse series! I’ve been trying to price match it everywhere free, but that’s taking a while. But you can get it for free just by signing up to my newsletter! (Don’t worry, you’re free to unsubscribe at any time.)

Sign up to get a free copy of This Cursed Light, This Curse #0.5!

Until next time, happy reading, my friends!

5 Fantastic Books to Welcome Fall

Need some fall reading? I got you covered.

Hello, readers! This weekend has felt more like fall than any other day yet! And I am so happy about it. ❤ In fact, hubs and I have been burning fall candles (Pumpkin Apple Chai and Smoked Pumpkin Apple) nonstop all weekend, and I pulled out the leggings, maple leaf earrings, and fall leaves t-shirt, too. AND I decorated the main floor of the house and am sipping a pumpkin spice coffee.

So yeah. I love fall.

I also love to read things that put me in a fall mood. So today I’m going to share a few of those books! And don’t worry; I’m not going to be overlapping with last year’s books for Halloween post… though there may be an update on that next month!

And now: 5 Fantastic Books to Welcome Fall.

(As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made through the links on this page. However, I have selected these books because I personally read and enjoyed them or am looking forward to reading them. Please note that NO associate links are ever linked to my own books.)

Ghosted by H.L. Burke

I beta read this little story just last week, and it was delightful! Imagine a world where ghosts must haunt to have energy to exist. Now imagine that you’re a ghost assigned to someone un-scare-able! And you have Ghosted. 🙂

Ghost Academy by E.C. Farrell

I read this one over the summer, but there’s a couple reasons it’s a good fall book: 1) it’s an academy story, and 2) all ghosts! Not bad to start welcoming spooky seasons with some ghosts! The story was fun and engaging and there’s a fox shifter ghost… I have such a weakness for foxes!

Bones of the Witch by A.L. Knorr

This is part of the Earth Magic Rises trilogy, an extended series related to A.L. Knorr’s Elementals book, and follows Georjie, our Earth Wise. She has some really cool powers linked to plants, healing, and, of course, earth, and in this series she accidentally awakens an evil witch bent on consuming the power of all Wises. I won’t say more to avoid spoilers, but if you want something atmospheric (set in Scotland with all the cozy fires and cold weather of fall) and spooky, this is a great read!

The Raven Cycle Series by Maggie Stiefvater

Ok, I cheated here. This is 4 books. And they fit in a lot of seasons. But we’ve got some fascinating magic realism here and four academy boys who become friends with the daughter of a clairvoyant. And they’re searching for a lost Welsh king who, according to legend, is buried somewhere nearby and full of magic. I would also describe this as atmospheric, and the whimsy and exploration of nature and bits of school sprinkled in here feel like fall to me!

Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

And speaking of spooky, how about a dark carnival story? The main character of this story has magic of illusions and is part of a traveling dark carnival. There’s so much more to it than that, including mystery, danger, and maybe romance, but I can’t give away too much. You’ll have to read it yourself!

Bonus unread story!

Pumpkin Everything by Beth Labonte

So, I came across this one just this week in one of the free book newsletters I get. It’s set in New Hampshire, the main character is a horror novelist, there’s a failed fall wedding… yeah, I’m all over this one. I can’t wait to get to it after finishing the ebook I’m currently reading and wanted to pass this romance along to you as well!

Bonus: Seasons of Magic!

(This section DOES NOT contain affiliate links)

Pumpkin Spice Pie-Jinks by Selina J. Eckert

How could I talk about welcoming fall without talking about Pie-Jinks??? There’s a baking contest at a harvest festival, the Autumn Court of Fae, some sweet, cute romance, and mischievous sprites! And of course, all things pumpkin spice.

Here’s a special hint from me to you: I may or may not be working on a full urban fantasy series to start coming out next fall…

The Patch by Selina J. Eckert

And guess what else is on its way??? The next Seasons of Magic is coming in October! For now, be sure to add it to your Goodreads, but if you sign up for the newsletter, I’ll be able to send you the cover reveal and announce when it comes out (I also just shared a brand new short story prequel for the This Curse series… free to my subscribers! You can still get it for signing up!).

For now, The Patch is a retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk and involves a haunted pumpkin patch and a ghost cat…

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I hope you guys find some new favorites in today’s list of books, and if you have any other suggestions for books for me to read, let me know in the comments! Until next time, happy reading! ❤

Wrought of Silver and Ravens: Full Review

I just finished Wrought of Silver & Ravens! TL;DR: You should read this book!

Hey all! If you recall, last month I had interviewed Author E.J. Kitchens about her new fantasy release inspired by the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairytale, Wrought of Silver and Ravens. Well, today, I have the full review FINALLY ready for you.

(As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made through the link at the bottom of this review. Additionally, I received an advanced copy of the book for review. However, this review contains my honest opinions of the book.)

Wrought of Silver & Ravens by E.J. Kitchens

Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Christian High Fantasy

Recommend? YES

Wrought of Silver and Ravens by fantasy author and microbiology E.J. Kitchens is a captivating story of secrets, intrigue, and, of course, MAGIC.

Athdar Owain Leonidas is part of a once-hidden group of magical people, hidden away for their own protection until they learned how to control their magic. But now, their hiding place is vanishing, forcing them to reintegrate with the rest of the world. As the grandson of one of the most prominent elders, he is entrusted with the secret of his people as well as the care of four very special magical lions. But when he encounters the prince of Giliosthay, attacked by bandits and gravely wounded (cursed), he finds himself drawn into the affairs of another kingdom and recruited as apprentice to their most elite force soldiers, the Silver Guard.

Princess Thea of Giliosthay is the oldest of the seven princesses of the kingdom, a woman gifted with the rare magic of Realm Walking and a special magic artifact made for Realm Walkers. However, the princesses have secrets of their own: they’ve been cursed by the prince of the kingdom of Rusceon, Prince Cerav, who forces them to join him in the Realm of Caves every night for a magical dance with dragons. The meaning of the dance is unclear, yet they are unable to tell anyone about the curse, leaving them to fight back alone.

This story follows the journey of both these individuals as they discover secrets about their world and magic and forge new relationships needed to save Giliosthay from conquest by Rusceon. That’s all I can say to avoid the spoilers. 😉

Overall, I really enjoyed this beast of a book! The intrigue was well-crafted, and the relationships were entertaining, heartfelt, and engaging. I found myself rooting for Athdar to accept new friendships and trust the other guards. And Thea… I am so impressed by how strong a character she is, both with her power and as a female fantasy character with true agency. She fights so hard to protect her sisters and free them of the curse while also protecting her kingdom from Cerav.

The kingdom was meant to be inspired by Greece, but I do have to say I often forgot that until the mention of sandals or the bright blue water. I believe once the kingdom was described, but personally I could have used a few more clues to hammer home the inspiration for the setting.

As far as the magic, I really loved the idea of half-magics (like Athdar) and enchanters. And those lion cubs! *swoon* However, this is also my biggest complaint of the story. There was a page at the beginning explaining the differences in the magic peoples, but it was difficult for me to digest. I feel like there could have been more explanation in the book itself to make it easier to understand and remember. Also, the raven-eaters, some bandits off in the mountains who are Athdar’s people’s enemy, didn’t have much role in this book. But! It seems like they’ll have more role in the next book…

Despite my difficulty with the learning curve of the world, I was able to thoroughly enjoy this book. It was so beautifully written and I absolutely connected to the characters and their lives. I loved the descriptions of the magic use, the excitement in the different encounters, the touch of romance.

If you love fantasy with deep worldbuilding and engaging characters, this is definitely the book for you! Personally, I can’t wait for book 2 to come out, and I’m so looking forward to meeting back up with Athdar and Thea as well as learning more about the world outside Giliosthay!

If you’re interested, you can purchase the book here. Thanks for reading!

Tattered Slippers Blog Tour: Mini Interview with Author E.J. Kitchens

Happy August, friends!

Today I get the pleasure of introducing E.J. Kitchens, author of a number of books including a special Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling today, Wrought of Silver and Ravens. In just a little bit, I’ll be sharing my own review of the book right here on the blog, but for today we’ll focus on a mini interview with some fun questions for the author.

But first, about the book:

(Image: the cover for author E.J. Kitchens’ book, Wrought of Silver and Ravens, next to a text description. The cover is blue with gray filigree and three black feathers falling. The text reads: “Releasing August 25th. Wrought of Silver and Ravens. E.J. Kitchens. Ancient Fantasy. Wanderer-turned-guard, Athdar Owain has two secrets to keep and one to solve. Each could cost a life.”)

The rarest magic is the most dangerous.

Athdar Owain is a hunted wanderer, one determined to keep his secrets and the treasure he carries safe at all costs. When he rescues the Kingdom of Giliosthay’s prince from raiders, he’s rewarded by being forced into the king’s elite Silver Guard. While this gives Athdar a temporary home and some protection from those hunting him, it also makes him responsible for the young prince, who still bears curses from the raiders, and seven enchantress princesses with curses as mysterious and dangerous as their brother’s.

Princess Thea of Giliosthay is a Realm Walker. Betrayed by a trusted guard, her rare gift of enchantment is used to curse her brother and trap herself and her six sisters into a nightly dance with dragons in a secret Realm. The Realm’s prince has the ability to take and twist her magic for his own purposes, and Thea fears what those might be. For when one dances with a prince, a kingdom might be at stake.

Athdar alone can save them, but to trust enchanters is to risk exposure. And Athdar isn’t sure where his loyalties lie.

Wrought of Silver and Ravens is a clean adventure-romance retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses set in The Magic Collectors story world.

You can purchase it here or add it to Goodreads here. Also, you can buy this book on other retailers. The author had some issues with the first link, but it should be available here as well.

Chatting with E.J. Kitchens

Welcome Elizabeth! I’m so happy to have you here today to celebrate the release of your newest book! It really sounds fascinating, and ancient fantasy? Awesome!

Let’s just get right into it. The idea of an ancient fantasy is so cool, and my readers know how much I love a good retelling. Can you tell us what exactly, besides the fairy tale itself, inspired the book?

Oh, lots of things! It’s a long book with lots of fun things.

The biggest two influences, however, are places (Ancient Greece and Crete and the deserts of the Middle East) and stories of lady Biblical manuscript hunters (the fictional Where We Belong by Lynn Austin and the true The Sisters of Sinai by Janet Soskice). Wrought of Silver and Ravens is set in my Magic Collectors story world but in the distant past, so I decided to set it in a land similar to ancient Greece, with a gorgeous walled city overlooking the sea.

I later discovered the heroine’s mother is from a desert kingdom, so I managed a trip to an oasis. I once listened to a textual criticism course, and I loved learning about the ancient manuscripts and the monasteries where some of the early copies of the Bible were found—including one monastery in the Sinai desert that, at one time, you could only get into by being pulled up and over the wall in a basket!—and wanted to include a bit of hunting for old manuscripts (magic-related ones, however) in desert monasteries (this will be in the next book though).

Several movies—Five Weeks in a Balloon, King Solomon’s Mines, and The Moon Spinners—helped inspire me and helped me envision some of the lands for this and future books in the series.

That’s really fascinating! It’s really something how so many things can inspire a single piece of work. And I love the desert angle!

Now that we have the inspiration out of the way, what was your favorite part of writing it? Did anything surprise you?

I was surprised by the characters and how the story turned out! I quickly fell in love with the hero and the group of special guards (the Silver Guards) he joins. The ‘bromance’ between the men, especially the father-son relationship that slowly develops between the loner Athdar and the Captain of the Silver Guard, Galen, is a big part of why I love the book.

Originally, I was focused on getting Athdar, a wanderer, to the castle to meet Princess Thea. The story starts when Athdar is found by Galen near the kingdom’s borders after Athdar rescues the prince from raiders. Originally, I had only a few paragraphs between that and Athdar reaching the city. But, fortunately, I decided to delve into that journey a bit, and I’m so glad I did! I got to meet some of the other Silver Guard in that journey in a way I couldn’t have if they were safe at the castle. Those few boring paragraphs I originally had turned into a couple of my favorite chapters, with characters I love showing and having adventure and doing brave, difficult things.

Also, I was surprised that the story ended up being grittier and the characters, as a critique partner described them, “more real” than in my other, more lighthearted books. It’s not dark, but it is grittier, yet with humor as well.

It’s definitely fun when we, as they authors, get to dive into things we hadn’t initially thought to explore. It opens up so many possibilities!

Okay, I have one more question.

If you could bring one thing from our book into the real world, what (or who) would it be and why?

Oooh. Tough one! I would love to meet some of the characters, Galen especially, but putting them in a modern world, and one without magic, that just wouldn’t seem right somehow. Maybe Athdar’s very special breed of lion? The cubs are pretty cute. Thea’s medallion that lets her travel wherever she’s been before would be pretty handy, however.

Ooo, who doesn’t love cute animals? And I have to say… having a medallion like that would certainly cut down on my commute time!

Thank you, Elizabeth, for joining me today, and best of luck on your release!

Readers, if any of this has piqued your interest, you can grab your copy here or add it to Goodreads here! Don’t forget, you can buy this book on other retailers, too. The author had some issues with the first link, but it should be available here as well.

About E.J. Kitchens

E.J. Kitchens loves tales of romance, adventure, and happily-ever-afters and strives to write such tales herself. When she’s not thinking about dashing heroes or how awesome bacteria are—she is a microbiologist after all—she’s taking photos, reading, or talking about classic books and black-and-white movies. She is the author of the historical fantasy series THE MAGIC COLLECTORS and of several fairytale retellings. She is a member of Realm Makers and lives in Alabama.

Find her online at: Website || Blog || Goodreads || Facebook || Newsletter || Amazon

Continue the tour!

Tattered Slippers is a joint release of Twelve Dancing Princess retellings. You can find out more about this release or the other books in the collection here.

You can also participate in the Tattered Slippers Challenge! Just use the Instagram post hashtag below and post your pictures.

Happy Release Day, Carnival of Curses!

Last week I shared some end of summer favorite books, and today I’m sharing my very own summer story! Since we’ve been sorely lacking on fair season this year, I’ve written a dark carnival novella for the next Seasons of Magic installment, Carnival of Curses! It came out yesterday, but I wanted to take this week’s blog post to really spotlight it. I’m so proud of this story, and I think you will enjoy it as well!

Here’s a little more about it:

  1. It’s a frog prince retelling set in contemporary times.
  2. I fell in love with the characters and hope you will, too.
  3. My favorite character is a vampire acrobat named Marisol. She has a pegasus circus pony named Ferdinand, and she was inspired by Avatar’s Ty Lee.

Nell should have known better: kissing frogs will only get you cursed.

High school senior Nell is a pro at hiding what she wants, from her college plans to her feelings. She’s so used to her own lies that she thinks nothing of the one she tells the green boy at the county fair’s kissing booth. But a lie to the green boy is meant to ensnare humans just like her—and trap them in the Fae circus master’s carnival forever.

Alone and forgotten by everyone she knew, Nell has no choice but to find her place in this dangerous, magical new world. But the carnival is more than it seems, and the curse has ensnared many more than just Nell. With time running out before the carnival moves on, can Nell bring them all together to fight back against the dark magic of the Fae?

Or will Nell and her new friends serve the Fae forever?

Carnival of Curses is part of a standalone series of novellas, Seasons of Magic. If you like found family, dark carnivals, and seasonal tales, then you’ll love Selina J. Eckert’s mysterious frog prince retelling. Grab your copy to leap into dangerous performances and fatal secrets today!

You can get a copy on Amazon or other major retailers!

And since you’re here… how about an excerpt???

~~~

Nell clapped and cheered from her place in the bleachers as a line of high school students leading goats paraded through the arena. Kirsty was near the middle, holding a shining silver collar around the neck of a Nubian goat. It was black with white spots, and its long ears flopped with every step.

The line of students stretched from one end of the arena to the other, coming to a stop as they spread out evenly, and each handler raised their goat to a table for the judges to observe. The three judges, ribbons that identified them pinned to their chests, began evaluating the entrants on clipboards.

Mid-clap, Nell froze, and the applause faded from around her. She turned her left hand over and stared at the back. Was her skin… green?

“Hey, Nell!” Sam flopped down on the bleachers next to her. “What did I miss?”

She quickly covered the green spot with her right hand, heart pounding. “They just started. You only missed the parade.”

Sam nodded and started cheering as the judges approached Kirsty, but Nell couldn’t focus. The green was so similar to the color of the green boy’s skin… could he have had something to do with it? Was whatever he had contagious?

The rest of the competition passed in a blur, and she barely even noticed when Kirsty took second place, even when she stood with Sam and cheered along with him.

They met with Kirsty afterwards, and Nell forced herself to smile at her friend. “Congrats, girl! Though you totally should have taken first.”

“Definitely,” Sam agreed.

“Thanks!” Kirsty beamed at them, holding up her red ribbon. Her smile faded, and she cocked her head at Nell. “Everything okay?”

Nell shoved her hands in her pockets, forcing a stiff, wooden smile. “Yeah, of course! Just happy for you.”

“Hmm.”

Sam leaned closer to her. “Are you sure? You look a little… green. Are you feeling sick?”

A wave of cold washed over her. She looked green? Like, not just her hand?

“I’m fine. Listen, I’m gonna run to the bathroom. Meet you guys by the Ferris wheel?”

She ran off before either of them could answer, imagining their bewildered faces behind her. She rushed past the line of women waiting to get into the fancy, air-conditioned restroom, ignoring the disgruntled grumbles and shouts after her. She slid to a stop in front of a mirror, peering at her reflection.

Green. She was turning green.

It had to be the green boy’s fault. What else could it be? He realized she wasn’t going to help him, whatever it was that was wrong, and he cursed her. It was the only explanation.

She had to get him to remove it.

She whirled from the mirror and shoved past the line again, amid more shouts and angry shoves. But there was no time for them, no time for muttered apologies. There was a week left in the fair, and if she couldn’t get the boy to fix her now, she didn’t have much time to find a solution. How many stories had she heard? Wasn’t it true that most curses needed to be broken by the curse-maker? Or a true love’s kiss. But she wasn’t sure she even had one of those.

She pushed her way through the crowd in the direction of the kissing booth, ignoring the spinning lights and tinny music that only seemed to be mocking her now, telling her she was turning into a carnival freak.

She burst through the last line of laughing faces and stumbled to a stop in front of the kissing booth. The boy had been slumped behind the counter, hand propping up his chin, but he straightened when she appeared, smiling coldly.

“Well, well,” he said. “Back to reconsider?” She slammed her hands on the counter and leaned forward. “What did you do to me?”

~~~

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy Carnival of Curses!

Get your copy: Amazon ~ Other retailers

5 Awesome Books for the End of Summer

Wow, where did summer go???

It seems we’re already halfway through August, and I’m a couple weeks behind in getting you a new blog post. My apologies! I could give you all kinds of excuses… or I could give you five fresh book recommendations?

Since we’re wrapping up the summer, let’s take a look at some good summer and end-of-summer stories. I have a mix of different genres here, so hopefully there’s a little something for everyone.

Without further ado, here are 5 great books to close out your summer!

(As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made through these links. However, I have chosen these books because I read and enjoyed them by purchasing them myself or borrowing through the local library.)

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

This is a great summer contemporary! Meet Andie, a politician’s daughter who suddenly finds her summer wide open. So what should she do? How about start a dog walking business? And maybe meet someone new…

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

Sticking with the contemporary theme for a minute, how about prankster Clara and her rival, Rose? When Clara takes things too far at their senior prom, both of them are sentenced to summer working her dad’s food truck. Together. Or else.

This was a delightful story of unexpected friendships and summer jobs.

One S’more Summer by Beth Merlin

Okay, so I may be light on fantasy this week. But we’re switching from YA to adult here.

Gigi is about to lose her crush to her best friend… and she has to be part of the wedding. So to get herself a little distance and perspective, she decides to sign up as a camp counselor at the place where she always felt she belonged: Camp Chinooka. But there’s more there than just an escape there, and Gigi has to find herself and come to terms with her feelings before her whole life unravels.

Of all the books I’m recommending today, this one gives me the biggest end-of-summer vibes. And I can almost smell campfires!

Laid Back Camp

Okay, completely switching gears here, I have a manga I just started. Laid Back Camp is exactly what it sounds like: all about camping, no drama, no stress. But a cute story and characters you can fall in love with.

Honestly, this is one of the most relaxing things I’ve read in a while. If you find you need a break, this may be the book you’re looking for.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

This one is a nonfiction story following Cheryl as she hikes the Pacific Crest Trail alone. She talks about her life, what led her to the trail, the trail itself, and how she found herself again by hiking it. It’s a really fascinating story steeped in nature.

And if you like stories like this, I have a bonus story: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. Like Wild, this book is all about a hiking trip, but it’s along the Appalachian trail and gives you some history of that trail as well. I really enjoyed this story, and it has a VERY unexpected ending… at least to me!

And Remember…

The second Seasons of Magic: Fireflies & Faeries book comes out on August 20th! (Any links to my own books, like Carnival of Curses below, are not affiliate links)

You can pick up your copy of Carnival of Curses on Amazon or these other retailers. If you want some summer fair fun (since all my local fairs were canceled this year), a vampire acrobat, a pegasus circus pony, and a frog-boy, you’ll adore this contemporary fantasy retelling of the Frog Prince!

I had a ton of fun writing it, so I hope you all enjoy reading it.

Until next time, happy reading! 😀

5 Great Beach Reads (and 5 Honorable Mentions)

Dreaming of the sand and waves? Take a step closer with some beach reads!

This has surely been a summer like no other, but somehow I still managed to make it to the beach (socially distanced, of course). But for anyone who’s dreaming of the beach and can’t get there, whether you’re landlocked or don’t want to take the risk heading out, I figured now would be a good time to share some books that will give you that beach feel!

So without further ado, let’s dive into some beachy reads.

(As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made through these links. However, I have chosen these books because I read and enjoyed them by purchasing them myself or borrowing through the local library.)

Top Picks

The Mermaid’s Sister by Carrie Anne Noble

If you like a bit more literary fantasy, this is perfect! In this story, you follow Clara on her epic quest to save her mermaid sister’s life. It’s full of adventure, magic, peril, and found family. Lots of fun and very lyrical!

Meet the Sky by McCall Hoyle

This is a YA contemporary that takes place in the Outer Banks, NC (if you saw my survival recommendations post, this book was on it). The main characters, Sophie and Finn, are stranded on the islands and must survive a hurricane and reunite with their families. A great tale of missed connections, survival, and the beach!

The Siren by Kiera Cass

This is absolutely one of my favorite mermaid books! Follow Kahlen and her siren sisters as they struggle with their call to kill humans. I’ve never read a book with a better ocean character – and yes, the ocean itself is a character – and such a deep moral struggle. Fantastic writing and such a strong set of characters.

Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser

This is basically a river pirate book (and there is a second book out now; it’s a duology!). Caro sets off to rescue her father, who has a booming river trade and is favored by the god of the river, and finds herself embroiled in political intrigue and deep questions of her own destiny and desires. Also, the hardcover of this book has a really pretty cover: it’s soft and has streaks of GLITTER!!!

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

This is what I’d call a science fantasy (and it is a long, scientific one!). If you like science and sirens, like I do, this is the perfect read for you! Imagine that a ship goes to the middle of the Mariana Trench and all hands disappear. Then imagine you’re part of the expedition that sets out to find out what happened. Just be ready for some mermaid horror.

Honorable Mentions

Say It’s the Sea by Kristina Mahr

This one is an awesome poetry collection by a very prolific poet. I put this one in honorable mentions because while it does include some oceanic vibes, those poems don’t make up the entire collection. But there are some real gems in here!

Tears of the Sea by Savannah Jezowski

This is yet another mermaid story (I’m sensing a theme), honorable mention because of the length. It’s only a short story, but the writing is so clear and beautiful, and it evokes such strong emotion as we watch LeRae yearn for humanity from her place in the water.

Lake Silence by Anne Bishop

This one isn’t the ocean, but it is a resort on the edge of a lake…in a world run by terrifying supernatural creatures. It’s book 6 in The Others series, but it absolutely stands on its own. I fell in love with these characters so much, and it was such an amazing read, just like all the other books in this series.

A Chance for Sunny Skies by Eryn Scott

This one is honorable mention because it also doesn’t actually have ocean. What it DOES have is an adorable romance, lots of weather talk, and such a lovable, feels-filled story! I love the What’s in a Name series by this author – it’s full of adorableness, humor, and feels!

The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean by Susan Casey

This is the only nonfiction selection on this particular list, but it’s a good one. If you’re interested in surfers looking for the wave of a lifetime or learning how waves (and rogue waves) work, this is a fantastic read! There’s lots of science and human interest in this, and it was a super fun read.

Closing Thoughts

There are plenty more books I could put on this list (like more mermaid stories because mermaids), but I think this list covers it pretty well! I hope I’ve provided a good variety of reading material, with nonfiction, poetry, contemporary, and, of course, fantasy.

There’s also that book actually titled Beach Read…def on my list, but I have not yet acquired it. Has anyone read it yet?

Do you have other suggested beach reads? What stories make you think of the ocean? Share them in the comments, I’d love to build my list and help you build yours as well!

Until next time, happy reading! ❤