As I mentioned last month in my update post, the blog is here for updates and discussions rather than regular posts, though I will still be sharing some book lists and thoughts on occasion. Here is the first, and I’m super excited for this one!
After the last few years of chaos in the world and the time I spent writing Pie-Jinks, I’ve really been getting into the cozy fantasy genre. And I’m finding that I’m not alone! People have been craving lighter and warmer fiction, and this genre really delivers! A lot of people are also new to it, but Legends & Lattes is a great example. Though that book is a high fantasy, there are plenty of contemporary settings as well.
And what I’m realizing is that there are a lot of us who want more in this warm subgenre, and many of us are hungry for community!
Because of all that, I recently started a new community on Facebook as a way to find more people who share my love for all things magical and cozy. I post 6 times per week to facilitate discussion and share new authors or books, and members are also welcomed and encouraged to share their own cozy fantasy posts. Author promotions are controlled, so everyone is there for the same reason: to gush over the books and all things warm and cozy!
If this sounds like something you would enjoy, I encourage you to come on over and join! Please take a moment to answer the questions – this helps me learn more about you guys, pick up some new authors for the list, and keep our group as safe as can be from the bots.
I’m so excited for this chapter moving forward. I hope you will come embrace cozy fantasy with me!
If you haven’t noticed, it’s been a while since I last posted. That’s because things change, and the blog has not been at the top of my priorities, I’m sorry to say. I enjoyed it while I posted, but lately, my focus has shifted to my fiction. With a full-time job and writing in all my free moments, I find myself short on time. If you’ve never run a business while trying to be creative and working at the same time, I can assure you, it takes a lot!
So, now, I’m going to make this place into what I imagined and build it from there. I will be centering it around real interactions and the stories I tell. I want to embrace the cozy stories I started with Pie-Jinks that have given me, and so many of you, so much joy during some really difficult times. I want to make my stories more inclusive, including members from more diverse communities as I write, such as the LGBT+ communities (just in case you couldn’t tell they are present in some of my books already). I want to be able to produce audiobooks so I can include members of the hard-of-hearing communities. I want my books to be safe, home, warm, and accessible for everyone.
And to do that, I need to change the way I do things.
Thus, I am working on changing how I run this writing part of my life, and blogging is something I will be backing away from. I will still post from time to time, mostly with updates or things I want to share, but I will not be posting weekly like I used to.
I do strongly encourage you to follow me elsewhere (you can find me at the social media links in the sidebar) or subscribe to my newsletter to keep up to date on everything.
A bunch of things are going to be changing. So far, all I’ve discussed is the blog. But if you also follow me on Facebook, you’ll likely have seen my post about ARC and street teams. Those will be dissolving, at least for now, as well.
Here’s what all this means for you: more focused messages and more meaningful interactions. Focused book releases. Even better stories.
You see, with working full time and with the release schedule I had set for myself, it was hard to really celebrate each book and interact with you all about it. But I want to. I couldn’t even build my street team and ARC team in a meaningful way.
So moving forward, here’s what you can expect: more about each upcoming book, not just drop-and-run releases. Celebrations around releases.
And even better books.
Friends, I have so much planned for us. So I ask you to stick by with these changes. Watch for the new posts. Interact when you want to.
Above all, I want all of you to look at my books, to come to my social site and websites, and feel like you are welcome, you are included, and you are home.
Love you all, and happy reading!
PS: have you noticed my new banner logo yet? I am fully embracing the cozy!
Hello and welcome to the reading wrap-up for this year! I know in previous years I separated books by category, but this time I will simply list off all my favorites from this year. It is largely fantasy, but there are also some graphic novels, manga, and a nonfiction thrown in there.
And as always, a reminder that just because I didn’t mention a book on this list, it does not mean I didn’t enjoy it. If I listed every book I enjoyed, we’d be here for another year!
This year, I set 90 books as my Goodreads goal. I managed to sneak over that line a couple weeks ago, and then I went on a bit of a graphic novel spurt, so I have since pumped that number up to 99. I will probably get another 1 or 2 by the end of the year, based on what I have going right now, but I’m pretty happy with this number.
One final note for anyone interested in reading these books: if you are sensitive to certain kinds of content (language, sexual situations, or triggers), please do look up whether these books have it. I do not shy away from most topics, so the books I read and share may contain these elements, and I read widely and diversely.
I found Body of Stars through a TikTok video by Ace Dad (you should be able to find him if you’re interested in following him), and I was immediately intrigued. This book uses a magic system in which women are born with patterns of freckles on their bodies that foretell their futures – and those of the men in their lives – that appears when they hit puberty. Once the patterns are there, they are permanent. So naturally a whole system of reading the patterns developed, and then there’s the element of how irresistible girls become when they develop the patterns. Which of course influences their futures. The main character takes on these systems as her own life is turned upside down. It was a really fascinating magic system (of sorts) and a great look at how women are treated based on what they can do for me and based on what happens to them during their lives. I could not put this down.
This is a graphic novel I borrowed from my local library and I was honestly so absorbed by it from the first page. It begins in a small community that is fenced off from the rest of the world – where zombie-like creatures roam free to attack those who are left. The main character must confront her past and what she did in the past with an unexpected friend as they unwittingly leave their safe community together.
I like that this story had some unique elements rather than simply being a zombie story and also had a good art style I could appreciate. Underrated book, in my opinion!
This is a shorter book that begins a new series in which children (usually young girls) find doorways to alternate worlds, but are then returned to our world. The story deals with the aftermath at a school where they learn to understand what happened to them while they cope with the horrors they endured or await their chance to return. And in this first book, someone starts killing students, putting not only everyone’s lives at risk but also their ability to keep their school open. This is a highly diverse book with a large cast, including some identities that are not often used in books. And even more than that, the worlds the kids went to are all so interesting, and the world building is so complex. Can’t wait for the next one!
This is one of those books that haunts me long after I finish reading it. It coincidentally also deals with doorways, but this one is so much more on the horror side, which I usually don’t read. But it was so captivating and the story telling was so good, I couldn’t put it down even when I was absolutely horrified by what was happening. 10/10 I would definitely read this again.
And speaking of favorite authors, Rin Chupeco never fails me with their fantasy worlds and story telling. This particular story I just finished late last night, and it was another that kept my attention with its world and intrigue – a world that suddenly stops spinning in an event called the breaking, throwing everything into chaos, because the goddesses who were supposed to keep everything running failed at their task twenty years ago. And for those of you interested, it has LGBT+ representation as well.
This is a duology, and I will definitely be reading the next one very soon!
This is a feel-good autumn graphic novel that really put me in the mood for Pie-Jinks! It features a young witch and her friend, who recently moved back to town and is dealing with some pretty intense magical issues.
The world is cozy and atmospheric, and it is everything I never knew I wanted. Plus, as many of my reads this year turned out to be, it is full to bursting with representation!
This was a really thought-provoking collection of essays by a model made famous through the Blurred Lines music video. It was such an interesting lens through which she sees the world and it really provokes a lot of consideration of female agency and how women in model tend to be treated.
I never would have known this book existed were it not for another list of books earlier this year, but I am so glad I read it. This is a smart lady who is unapologetic about what she does for a living while still acknowledging how difficult a world it is.
I read this while I was on vacation over the summer, and it did not hold back from the intensity! I was on the edge of my seat reading about this expedition gone wrong, about the rumors and stories – and the truth.
It’s a survival tale, one of my favorite kinds of stories, but also works in elements of forgiveness and finding your feet and growing up. I was blown away by it.
I found this new manga/light novel series toward the end of the year, but I’ve already devoured the first three!
This series follows Elaina, a young prodigy witch who travels around her world, meeting new people and helping those in need. I was drawn in by the story and the way the world was set up, but this series also does not shy away from the tough topics. She encounters some whimsical places and cool people, but she also finds lands consumed by darkness, people destroyed by their circumstances.
I rarely find manga with such a mix of the hopeful and whimsical with the serious. It’s very well done!
I was very pleasantly surprised by this YA summer camp story! Rather than the cliche love story at camp, this book goes into a different kind of relationship: sisters who just found out they had a sister.
The two girls find out behind their parents’ backs and arrange to meet at a summer camp to get to know each other better, uncovering family secrets and old, destroyed relationships.
And if they want to keep talking to each other, they need to get their parents to make up.
Seriously, this was so good!
I read a lot of stories this year, and the ones I highlighted here really immersed me in the world and kept me turning pages (or listening). I am so excited for some of the books on my list for next year, and I can’t wait to dig in!
Now it’s your turn: what did you read this year? What blew you away? Or, if you couldn’t find the right stories, what is it you hope to read next year?
Just where did Selina go and what has she been doing all these months???
Hi everyone! I know it has been literally MONTHS since I posted here. I’m so sorry about that, but hopefully this small post and my plans for the next few will make up for some lost time.
The last time I posted was mid-August… just 2 weeks before the launch of the Pie-Jinks series! I probably should have kept you all more informed with those goings-on, but to be perfectly truthful and transparent, I was just so overwhelmed with things that the blog kind of fell by the wayside for a bit. It wasn’t my first choice, and I didn’t want that to happen, which is why I’m back now!
So what went on over these last few months?
Well, in my personal life, my day job was crazy. I work as a scientific writer in biology industry, and we had a major project going on that was keeping me locked in a conference room all day, every day, for about 3 months. That’s a lot of time where my brain was pumping out critical thought, writing, and critical discussion in collaboration with other people. As an introvert, that is tough, too. I loved working with the coworkers I was assigned with, and the project has so far been really rewarding, but it definitely took up a lot of mental energy.
Then of course I was working on Pie-Jinks with my spare time! So let’s take another look at that, for those of you who aren’t part of the newsletter (you can get regular updates there, in case I ever go silent on the blog again).
TL;DR version: It. Was. Amazing.
And now the long version.
Pie-Jinks was my most ambitious project ever. It was born out of that second novella I ever released, Pumpkin Spice Pie-Jinks. You know, the one inspired by Hansel & Gretel, but from the witch’s perspective?
Turns out, I loved the cozy world I’d built, my sweet and anxious, magic-mood-hair (read the books to know what I mean) pie witch, her bubbly, bubblegum BFF, and the sweet, gentlemanly love interest I’d created.
And so did A LOT of you. That novella did better than everything I ever put out. So of course, I wanted more and so did many of you.
But Pie-Jinks is at its heart a love letter to autumn, which meant I would have to release in the autumn. And I have learned by now that my previous methods were not working to find the right readers and engage them. I knew I would need to work hard and bring a nice chunk of stories pretty close together.
But this? I could do this.
So I made a plan: write the first 3 books in a 6 book series and release them during the fall. Postpone the other projects and focus solely on this project that gives me (and many others) so much joy. (Don’t worry: if you love This Curse and the Seasons of Magic, I will be concluding all of those in 2022)
I started in January. I drafted 3 novels in a row, sent them to the editors, got GORGEOUS covers by Savannah at Dragonpen Designs (as always), and completed the ebooks and paperbacks.
I hosted a launch party where I gave out some treats and we played some games.
I even gave away preorder goodies! (If you missed those, there will be more chances at the swag another time)
And you know what? I found my people. I found my niche. Pie-Jinks became what is known as cozy paranormal, a genre I found myself in love with. It filled a need in me for things that are soft and warm while still being fun and adventurous. It gave me sweet romance and close friendships to read. It brought me comfort during a crazy, stressful time in the world.
And it brought me so, so many readers who loved Reese’s tales, wanted more, and most importantly, were touched by the words I wrote. I had a bunch of readers tell me how Pie-Jinks was exactly what they needed, either to get through a personal tough time or to deal with the chaos of life in our world right now.
And that was exactly what I always wanted.
If you haven’t gotten to read these books yet, the first three are all available now in both ebook and paperback! They are definitely my favorites, and I hope they become special to you, too.
Food in books paired with snacks. Could it be better?
Hey everyone! I’ve been hard at work on the Pie-Jinks series launch, so I’ve been thinking A LOT about pie. If you haven’t read the prequel yet (Pumpkin Spice Pie-Jinks, which is currently on sale for $0.99!), basically the main character Reese bakes magical pies that are infused with emotions and feelings and memories.
So now that I’m less than 2 weeks away from the launch of the series, I figured it’s a good time to do something a little different: suggest some of my favorite books with food central to the themes and recommend something to snack on while reading!
But before that, a little bit of an update about the Pie-Jinks events:
So I literally JUST read this one. It’s a sweet, magical middle grade story about a town with a curse that pulled all but a snicker of magic away. The main character returns with her wandering, free-spirit mother, desperate to finally find some roots, and falls right into the way the town operates. And one of the best parts of this book? Magical ice cream! Seriously, there’s magic food in here and sweet magic realism and some really cool plotting and world building. One of my favorite books all summer!
Recommended snacking: Ice cream… your favorite flavor! Mine are teaberry (Leiby’s brand) and chocolate marshmallow (Turkey Hill brand)
Ok, here is another one I read this year, and honestly it gave me so many warm feelings. It reminded me a lot of the Pie-Jinks books, but with a more spring/summer feel!
This book is all about a girl looking to figure out where she came from and who her family is, and to do that, she learns how to bake and gets onto a show being filmed at the location of the only clue she has to her family. But then someone starts sabotaging the contestants, there’s some weird ghosties floating around, witches hosting the show, and… MURDER!
Super cute, super cozy, all the food, all the magic. Definitely recommend! And, there’s a whole series of these, and yes, I plan to keep reading one of these days!
Recommended snacking: Cake! There is a lot of cake in here, among other baked goods like tarts. My favorite kind of cake is vanilla with chocolate icing (whipped if possible), but I also love angel food.
This one is a contemporary young adult with the enemies to friends trope. Two girls with an intense rivalry and hatred for each other take things a little too far and almost destroy their school on prom night. Their punishment? Work together on a food truck for the summer… or else.
And as these things usually go, the girls learn more about each other and that maybe they aren’t so different after all. And maybe they could actually work together and make this the best food truck ever! Cute, lots of drama, and lots of emotions!
Recommended snacking: This one makes me think of my favorite restaurant apps. So I will recommend boneless wings (I don’t like bone-in, I know, terrible), jalapeño poppers (the cream cheese ones), and blooming onions!
Okay. So this is another contemporary, but adult. Women’s fiction. This book stars Sunshine, a celebrity YouTube chef who suddenly falls from grace. There’s lots of drama, cooking, celebrity life, and heartfelt plot and characters in here. It was such a good, entertaining, thought-provoking read, and the cover just makes me keep coming back to it to think about it all over again.
Recommended snacking: Obviously this one has heavy citrus vibes, so I’m going with lemonade and ambrosia!
I’ve mentioned this one before, and I’ll mention it again! I love this story about a tech lady who rediscovers her passions through a singing sourdough started she inherits out of the blue. It’s silly and light and a little fantasy/sci-fi, and it remains near the top of the list of my favorite books of all time!
Recommended snacking: Again this may be obvious, but… bread and butter! Maybe a little sharp cheese. My favorites are yeast rolls, warm Italian bread, and white bread. And for cheese? Cooper sharp American or wine cheese.
I love food in stories, and in particular magical food. While the books I shared here aren’t ALL magic food, they do all have elements that I love in each one. And, of course, thinking about magical food just makes me think about Pie-Jinks all over again!
I know I’ve been talking about these books a lot, but I’m just so excited to share them with everyone. During the pandemic, these books brought me joy. They’re light, fluffy, and magical. They’re exactly what I needed to escape from the darkness in our world. I had a blast writing them, and I want to share the whimsy and the deliciousness with everyone else. So I truly hope you’ll celebrate these books with me and maybe give them a chance. ♥
But even if not, I hope my list of recommendations sparks some interest in you and brings you some joy as summer winds down. Please feel free to share your favorite food stories with me in the comments… especially if there’s magic!
Hi everyone! I’m sorry for the delay in posting lately, but I have been so busy with preparing for the Pie-Jinks launch! Every day we get closer, and I’m getting more and more excited to share Vanilla Bean Vampire with you.
Just to give you a quick rundown before I get into this week’s book recommendations, here is all the stuff I’ve been setting up for your enjoyment:
Preorder goodies for Vanilla Bean Vampire (be sure to sign up for the newsletter if you don’t want to miss out on this one, since I don’t have a link ready for you yet… you will also be able to get a copy of Pumpkin Spice Pie-Jinks for free, just for signing up)
Yeah, quite busy. As I said, I’m seriously excited for this launch, so please feel free to join in wherever you are and however you feel comfortable! Even if you can’t purchase the first book, just attending the launch event or sharing it with your friends is greatly appreciated. ♥
And now, the reason you’re here: BEACH READS!
I’m going to be visiting the beach soon, so it feels like the perfect time to share some books I’ve read that feel just perfect for a trip to the beach (and yes, there may be some mermaids in here… I can’t help myself, I love those creatures!).
Okay, so yes there is a mermaid here. But the story centers on her sister, who arrived at their adoptive family’s doorstep from a stork. One day, her sister begins transforming into a mermaid, and they must return her to the sea before she dies.
And so the adventure begins.
This tale is told in such a warm, familiar way of storytelling that it feels like you’re sitting around a campfire. Even better, to me it has the same kind of feel as Stardust… a bit of whimsy and fantasy mixed in with a road trip adventure.
I definitely recommend this fantasy for your next beach trip!
Now that that’s out of the way, this is something a little different. It’s a book of poetry that I actually did read at the beach (I think last year), and it was honestly so fitting. Many of Mahr’s poems focus on heartbreak, but her imagery and senses in her works are so evocative and emotional.
What better place to absorb words like these then with the sounds of the ocean waves and gulls?
Of course I have to include something with a touch of romance! This book occurs during summer break after the main character’s father, a political figure, is swamped by scandal. She’s home for the summer and decides to start walking dogs… and meets someone incredibly intriguing.
This feels like the perfect summer break book to me; it’s sweet and wholesome and entertaining all in one.
This is one of my all-time favorite books. It’s kind of fluffy, but it’s also very big on the self-discovery scale. This story follows a tech gal who is overwhelmed by the demands of her job and still searching for her place in the world.
And then, she is gifted a magical sourdough starter and everything begins to change.
Seriously, if you’re looking for something a little silly and a lot heartfelt, this is it.
This is a Printz award winning graphic novel, and for good reason. Like The Unexpected Everything, this book is a summer break book. But it has a lot of growing up feels and coming of age. It’s a little heartbreaking but also provides a lot of hope and may just make you reminisce about your own childhood.
Of course I have to include this one. Cold Snap is one of my favorites… partly because I FINALLY got to write some mermaids and partly because it is one of my own coming-of-age stories. Those kinds of stories always make me think and wish and dream. They evoke so much emotion.
Plus… Snow White is a mermaid? So there’s that.
I think I end up making a post like this every year, and you know what? It’s a lot of fun! I love thinking of beach reads, especially when I’m preparing for my own trips. All of the books above were ones that I love and highly recommend.
But there are so many more! And that is why I make this post every summer.
So how about you? What are your favorite beach reads? What do you recommend? Tell me in the comments below!
Hello and happy June! I hope everyone is having a good summer (or winter, for the southern hemisphere).
In case you didn’t know, June is Pride Month in the US. This means that it is a month of visibility, acceptance, support, and protesting for the LGBTQIAP+ community and their rights. I know I haven’t previously shared a list like this, but I have been trying to be wider in my reading and inclusivity this year, finding books with different experiences that teach while being a great story.
If the idea of this kind of wide reading is new to you, that’s ok! I hope this post can be a jumping off point for you and that you find some new stories you love.
This book is a fantasy set in (you guessed it) a desert! I don’t know what it is about desert fantasies, but I’m on quite a kick for them lately. This book follows two women – one a magical storyteller and one the daughter of a bandit terrorizing the other’s village – as they navigate a terrifying world that really wants to kill them in an effort to find themselves and follow a buried line of poetry. It’s so exciting and moving and well-written. It is a sapphic story and has strong Latin-American inspiration and weaves lots of Spanish into its telling.
This was one of my favorites this year! It’s written by a Lipan Apache geoscientist and author and is from the perspective of Indigenous people in a world just a little different from our own – one in which the main character, Elatsoe, can summon the ghosts of dead animals (including ancient trilobytes) and is set on a path to figure out who murdered her brother. This book features an asexual main character (a person who does not experience sexual attraction or only experiences it under specific circumstances), which is explicitly stated in the text, and is an identity that is a bit harder to find in traditionally published work.
This one is a middle grade that deals with SO MANY difficult things. Hazel is a girl with 2 moms, and one of them is pregnant again after suffering pretty devastating miscarriages in the past. She’s also trying to get through her last year of middle school while drifting apart from her best friend and finding new ones. It is a simple book that packs a powerful emotional punch that really had me by the heart by the time I finished reading it.
This book has a ton of representation, too: lesbian parents, a trans friend, and a main character portrayed as asexual and aromantic (someone who does not experience romantic attraction or only experiences it under specific circumstances). It’s a really wonderful array of experiences written in a heartfelt, emotional way.
If you want a tremendously cute graphic novel with all the fall feels (in fact, I read this to put me in the mood for Pie-Jinks!), then this is it. It follows a young witch with hearing loss and her childhood crush, a werewolf named Tam, as they confront an evil together to save each other and the town. I loved the art and the story, and it really has all the cozy autumn feels to it!
The representation in this book is awesome, too. The main character, as I said, has hearing loss, and Tam is non-binary, there is a romantic relationship between them, and they are both Chinese-American characters. The young witch also lives with her two grandmas, a lesbian couple.
Last but certainly not least is this body horror, nature horror, young adult sapphic book that was *chef’s kiss*. I don’t know what it was exactly: the atmosphere, the mystery, or the characters, but this book grabbed me and didn’t let go. It was another I could not put down, and it gave me ALL the feelings. It’s just a touch creepy and a touch disturbing, but I just loved every bit of it!
I hope this list has intrigued you for some new fantasy reads. I can’t stress enough how much I loved each and every one of the books I shared with you today.
And if you are hesitant to pick something like this up, I urge you even more. Books are so important for helping us understand and empathize with the people around us. They can open so many doors to so many hearts, and they can teach us how to be better, more accepting, more loving people.
To close out this week’s post, here’s my question for you:
Have you read any of these? Do you have other suggestions? Let’s chat in the comments!
I haven’t posted in a couple weeks, but guys. I have 2 books up for preorder!
Seasons of Magic
The first Seasons of Magic anthology is coming at the end of July in both ebook and paperback. It includes all four of the first Seasons of Magic stories (you can see them here) PLUS the previously paperback-exclusive bonus content for Of the Clouds. It’s going to be a beauty of a paperback, and I can’t wait to share it with you!
Next is book 1 in Pie-Jinks, a brand new series based on my novella, Pumpkin Spice Pie-Jinks. It’s not necessary to read the novella to appreciate the books, but it will definitely prepare you! The first 3 will be coming this fall, and the pre0rder for book 1 is up for August 27! These will also be in both ebook and paperback.
Hey everyone! Happy Memorial Day weekend to my US friends, and for everyone else, happy end of May!
Today is the post I’ve been putting together for Mental Health Awareness month, and as I was reviewing the books on my list, I realized two things: 1) I have shared many of these books multiple times before, and 2) I need to read some new ones! So if you have new favorites you’d like to share with me, drop them below and I will add them to my list!
Anyway, here are 5 books I loved that deal with mental health topics (plus one of my own with mental health themes).
Sophia Elaine Hansen is one of my favorite contemporary poets. Every one of her poetry books has just gotten better, and it was her book soul like thunder that got me into reading poetry for fun!
Valkyrie, of course, does not disappoint. In my opinion, it is her best work. It deals with a lot of heavy topics, so be sure to read the content warnings if you need to, but they are such powerful, empowering words about difficult times, depression, and overcoming circumstances and past trauma. Highly, highly recommend!
This is one that I have shared over and over again. It’s one of those books that readers seem to either love or hate, but I connected to Cath so hard that I felt every peak and valley of the book. It’s got themes ranging from mental illness in a parent to social anxiety to coming of age, and all of them are handled masterfully, in my opinion. I will never stop loving this book!
This is another book I loved that gave me many of the same feelings as Fangirl did. It also deals with a creative person who suffers from anxiety, but it adds in a character with past trauma to be explored in the story as well. I also recently learned that the author sees Eliza as an asexual character, though not everyone agrees with the way she is presented and how it is not explicitly stated in the book.
Regardless, this is a delightful read full of emotional highs and lows, good relationships, and a solid discussion on mental health.
I’ve talked about this one before, too, as well as several other books by this author. This is, I believe, one of her best. It deals heavily with themes of PTSD and family with PTSD, and how deeply it can affect life. It was a heartfelt and intense read, and it is very much worth the time.
Finally, one of my favorite mental health books is this one, and not just for its gorgeous cover. This is a very real, very moving look at the aftermath of a suicide attempt and the path toward healing. It doesn’t sugarcoat it; Stork does a good job of showing how it actually is, how difficult, how painful. There is no idealizing here. But it also leaves the reader with such a sense of hope and peace at the end.
And of course I want to discuss how Cursed Flame fits into mental health awareness month. Mental health is a hugely important topic to me, very close to my heart. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety throughout my life, and so it often makes its way into my writing.
In Cursed Flame, Janan struggles with some PTSD symptoms as well as intense anxiety that her friend, Safiyya, helps her to cope with… because Safiyya herself has been through similar. It shows how we can use our own pain and struggle to connect with and encourage other people, which is one reason I write.
Your turn! Tell me what books you read this month with mental health themes or what books are you favorites. Did you read any of these? What did you think of them? Let’s chat in the comments!
Around this time last year, I released my first spring fairy tale retelling, and it was a story I didn’t really intend to tell. It centered all around a young woman who was dealing with the loss of a close friend and how it affected the relationships she had around her. It became a story of grief and rebirth, renewal and acceptance, a theme that I think was appropriate both for the season and for the state of the world.
So this year, for part of mental health awareness month, let’s talk about grief books. Next week, we’ll close out the month by talking about my favorite mental health novels.
Yes, I know I’m cheating with this one. But honestly, ATG is one of my favorite grief stories. It made me cry when I was writing it and editing it, it made my betas cry, and it still makes me cry when I hit a certain scene.
Plus, when a beta reader says they hope lots of people read it, not for my sake but for theirs, that means something.
I’ve mentioned this book before, and I will keep shouting about it. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read dealing with the aftermath of a close death, in this case the main character’s mother, who died by suicide (so, content warning there). It is a real and raw exploration of the people left behind and coming to terms with the world as it is after that person is gone.
This one is grief of a different kind, and another book I absolutely love. It deals with the sister of a person who seriously injured a boy when driving drunk and her feelings of guilt around the situation. It’s grief for the change that occurred in her family following this incident – and the incarceration of her brother – and the process she took toward healing and finding herself. A truly beautiful story!
If you want to talk about powerful books, this is it. This book deals with a LOT of difficult topics, but it is also a story of grief and rising to do something to make the world better because of it. It can be hard to listen to at times, but grief isn’t easy. Pain isn’t easy. And this book certainly does not take the easy way out.
And finally, to round out the list a little (I shared a lot of young adult novels today), here is a nonfiction memoir of a hike along the Pacific Crest Trail following the death of the author’s mother. It’s a deeply introspective story of family, grief, and rebirth, and especially as a person who loves these kind of nature stories (I also loved Antarctic Tears and A Walk in the Wild…but we’ll save those for another day), this was a really fascinating and thoughtful read.
So there you have it! I have more books I love that deal with different aspects of grief in different ways, but these are a few of the ones that moved me the most. They are all powerful stories of pain, growth, and self-discovery, and I love that about them.
But I’m interested to know your thoughts. Have you read any of these? Do you have other recommendations? Tell me your favorites in the comments!
First of all, happy mental health awareness month! I will be sharing more content this month related to that, and you can also check out my Instagram for related posts.
But today I have something that is loooong overdue: a review of my friend Ann Dayleview’s debut YA fantasy book, A Tale of Ashes.
Guys, I’ve been privileged to read this a few times at various stages. I’ve fallen in love with characters and worldbuilding. And I’ve gone along on Freddie’s wild ride. It was so worth it. But because I have been so involved, I’m not going to give it a star rating. Instead, I’m just going to talk about it.
So let me tell you a little about this book.
A Tale of Ashes takes place in a modern town that is situated right on the border between the human world and Faerie, and so it sees immigration from Faerie as the magical folk are at war. But the humans aren’t all so welcoming. (Heavy themes here… immigration, racism, prejudice…)
In the middle of this setting sits Freddie, a girl with a love for journalism and a passion for justice (and a controlling ex-boyfriend who also happens to be the Faerie Prince of Summer). So when students start disappearing and the police begin blaming the Fae, she of course has to dig her nose in, where she finds nothing but trouble.
So now that you have the gist of it, let me tell you some things. Let’s start with the characters. Dayleview has built such a cast that grabs the reader and makes them fall in love, starting with the two main characters and spreading out to all the secondary and minor characters. Each of them truly feels like they have their own story.
Freddie is one of those characters who I love but who gives me intense anxiety. Like a true protagonist, she gets herself caught up in all sorts of trouble and does not let anyone tell her what to do. Cue the anxiety.
Aiden, the second point of view in the story, is a lovable, damaged cinnamon roll that I just want to hug and love forever. He does horrible things, but he doesn’t want to. And he also is adorkable, as they say.
And then there are the secondary characters: Jefferson the friendly vampire and his girlfriend (Freddie’s best friend), Ginnith the tiny but terrifying bodyguard who ex-boyfriend assigns to Freddie, and a wide range of magical and non-magical people who either make your heart swell or your skin crawl. Dayleview does that really well.
And then there’s the worldbuilding. The way Faerie overlaps with the human world is so well done and thought-provoking, and the magic system is well-developed and interesting. There’s plenty that the reader may find familiar, but this series (yes, this is the start of a series) does a good job with twisting it just enough to make it brand new.
Finally, let me talk emotions, since a good part of how much I like a book has to do with the emotions it evokes. Freddie will call for the adventurous at heart, but I connected so much to Aiden. He struggles so much to connect with Freddie and wants to do things right, and it is adorable and heartbreaking to watch his journey. There are such ups and downs throughout, from rage at certain characters and their behavior to heartbreak to those d’aww moments we all love.
So overall, do I recommend this book? Absolutely I do. It’s a fun adventure, and it made me feel things. If you love urban fantasy, Fae, and some romance, I’m sure you will enjoy this as well.
If this has intrigued you to want more, you can check it out here.
Until next time, happy reading!
NEWS! I have finished the paperbacks for all my backlist books! I just submitted the last four today, so as long as the vendor has no issues with the files, they should be available this week. If you want to see which ones are submitted, check it out on my TikTok!