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.

~~~

(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…

~~~

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! ❤

Survival Part 3: 5 Survival Story Recs

It’s time for some book recommendations.

Hey there, word nerds! I know I missed last week, but I’m back now with those promised book recommendations.

Last month, I shared reasons why I love a good survival story as well as what makes for good survival story writing. We discussed the perseverance of the human spirit, ingenuity, and hope as successful elements of the story, as well as the need for tension and layers of conflict. All the stories I’m sharing with you today have bits and pieces of those things, and they range across genres…including a nonfiction selection that’s light on the tension but high on the page-turning!

Let’s dig in. 🙂

Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

I just recently read this, as it only just came out this year. It was a bit shorter than I expected, but that just meant I could consume it in a sitting…and honestly, I wasn’t able to put it down once I started. It’s got the self-discovery, the high stakes, and the ingenuity. Seriously, I couldn’t believe some of the things this girl thought to do in order to survive! And it ended on such an interesting note, including some crushed dreams while rerouting to new ones. It was a story with real consequences and had me questioning the whole time if she’d make it or not.

Ashfall by Mike Mullin

This is by far one of the best trilogies I’ve ever read (and if you’ve been around a while, you’ve definitely heard me talking about it!). Set just after the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano, it follows the journey of a kid named Alex, separated from his family just before the eruption and trying to survive and find them again in a world devastated by volcanic winter. There are intense highs and lows in this trilogy, following the best and the worst that humanity has to offer, and it has one of the best, most hopeful and inspiring endings I’ve ever read in a trilogy.

The Martian by Andy Weir

This book, if you haven’t heard about it or seen the movie yet, is a near-future sci fi adventure following astronaut Mark Watney after an unfortunate series of events leaves him stranded on Mars, alone. Much like Be Not Far From Me, it showcases both ingenuity and the perseverance of the human spirit, but in a new setting on another planet. The voice is entertaining and full of gallows humor, and ultimately, this book left me with such a warm fuzzy at the end that makes me fall in love with it every time I think about it.

Meet the Sky by McCall Hoyle

This one is probably a lesser-known book, but it is a young adult novel following Sophie and Finn, a couple of teens reconnecting after years in different schools and thrust together after Sophie is separated from her family and stranded during an evacuation. Together, they must survive a hurricane in the Outer Banks and get Sophie back to her mom.

If there’s one thing that can make me love a survival story even more, it’s throwing in a nice, big storm. 🙂

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

And for the nonfiction pick, though I could pick a few (see the lightning round!), nothing quite compares to Bill Bryson’s tale of his attempt at the Appalachian Trail. It’s got his own experiences on the trail, good and bad, as well as a bunch of the history and science of the trail and everything along the way. I also enjoyed that one of his stops was Palmerton, PA…just a stone’s throw away from my own hometown! I won’t give away any spoilers, but I also appreciated the thoughtful ending with unexpected events.

Lightning Round!

Finally, I’ll give you a few more bonus picks that I personally enjoyed, but with less info (I will give you the genre, though).

Antarctic Tears by Aaron Linsdau (nonfiction)

Wild by Cheryl Strayed (nonfiction)

Stormsurge by Shawna Lynn Brooks (Romance novella)

No Safe Haven by Kyla Stone (Post-apocalyptic)

Labyrinth of Shadows by Kyla Stone (fantasy Minotaur retelling)

Final Thoughts

Thanks so much for coming with me on my survival story kick! If you love or hate these kinds of stories, I’d love to know why. And if you have any more recommendations for me, please let me know! I’m hungry for them.

Let’s chat in the comments or over on Twitter!

PS: I have a new reader group just for you guys! Head on over to Facebook if you’re interested in talking about all things fantasy or my books specifically. Also, this is where I’ll be sharing links to eARCs, so if you’d like a chance to read one of my books for free, you’ll need to be part of this community!

Let’s chat in Readers of the Realms!

Survival Part 1: Why I Love Survival Stories

Let’s talk books!

This week I’m going to start a 3-part series on survival stories. Why? Well, I’ll get into that this week. But the background is three-fold: I am a longtime lover of the survival story, the novel I’m querying right now is a fantasy survival story, and I just finished reading a new one (which I loved!).

Now, I don’t know about you guys, but right now is not the time I’d necessarily expect I’d want to read survival stories. We’re in the middle of weird times (yes, I am also getting tired of people calling it “unprecedented times”) that feel a little too post-apocalyptic. Personally, I’ve noticed a split between those who want to read ALL the post-apoc and those who want nothing but fluffy. At first, I did want those post-apoc books. Then I wanted fluffy. And now, as things are starting to stabilize again, I’m good with reading slightly more survivally stories.

There are several things that really appeal to me about this kind of story.

First, these stories showcase ingenuity in a way nothing else does. There’s something to be said for dropping a person in a seemingly impossible situation only to see them come up with solutions like MacGyver with nothing more than a shoelace or their own hair. Yes, that really did happen in the book I just finished. As someone who’s never had to fight for my life in a life-or-death struggle, I never would have come up with that. Amazing to see the things a person can come up with when the situation arises.

Next, these stories make us think, but in good ways. They remind us that we really don’t have it that bad, but beyond that, they make us think what we would do if thrown into a situation like that. They are books for critical thinking wrapped up in a pretty package of drama and edge-of-your-seat excitement. They show the raw sides of humanity and let us consider both the good and the bad.

Finally, there is nothing like a triumphant survival story to showcase the human spirit. It can show us the lengths we can go to in order to make it through a difficult situation. And they show us the pure determination and grit, the hope. They show us how people come together in impossible situations to take care of each other, like in The Martian (we’ll go through some specific recommendations in a couple weeks). They show us how people can rise above the terrible things that could happen.

And honestly, that’s the biggest draw of the survival story: the triumph of the human spirit.

Next week we’ll discuss five important elements to writing a survival story, and the week after that I have some good recommendations, but for now, tell me what you think. Do you enjoy this kind of story? Why or why not? What is it about them that make you feel that way? Let’s chat in the comments, or tweet me @selinajeckert!

Fae Bargains and New Beginnings

Spring stories! Yay!

I don’t know about you, but I kind of feel like we all missed spring this year.

Today, I went out to the grocery store after being on full quarantine for two weeks. It was sunny…and very, very hot. And all the trees are in full summer leaves.

I missed all the gentle spring air and flowers.

But in a way, today felt like a fresh start after weeks of working from home and a completely destroyed sleep schedule. I got sunshine, ate some vegetables, and have renewed energy for my writing, no matter the other things going on in my life and the world around me. It’s a great feeling.

And another new thing happened yesterday: All That Glimmers released! AND I now have a BookBub!

This novella is the first spring installment of Seasons of Magic, and though it deals with the heavier topics of grief and guilt, it’s also a contemporary fantasy set in the same world as Pumpkin Spice Pie-Jinks. So if you liked Fae in that story, this is the next one for you. 🙂

Three things you’ll find inside:

  1. A deer Fae, complete with antlers.
  2. Friendship.
  3. New beginnings.

Here’s a little more about it (and keep reading for a sneak peek!):

Hallie just made the stupidest mistake of her life. Twice.

After the loss of her longtime friend, college student Hallie just needed a win. Too bad she got rejected from the only graduate program she applied to. But when a mysterious Fae appears offering to change that rejection to an acceptance, her choice seems clear. And all she has to give him is her first discovery—her academic firstborn.

But when the time comes to pay up, Hallie can’t go through with it. She never counted on a discovery that could bring her friend back to life. So she offers a new bargain: she keeps the knowledge, but she must figure out who this mysterious Fae is…or stay in the Spring Court forever. Now she must race the clock to investigate the Court, solve this mystery, and find out how to bring her friend back. Otherwise, she can forget about fixing her mistakes and say goodbye to her human life for good.

This retelling of Rumplestiltskin is a powerful story of loss, acceptance, and new beginnings. How far would you go to fix your worst mistakes?

You can get it on Amazon here or anywhere else here!

And now…a sneak peek!

Hallie crumpled the paper between her fists as the first tear hit her desk.

Of course she didn’t get in. Sabine University’s folklore program was only the most competitive in the country. And of course she didn’t apply anywhere else. And of course she had already told her parents—who already told everyone they knew—that she was a shoo-in.

And of course Kat had tried to tell her.

Stupid. She should have listened to Wyn. To Kat. But Kat was gone now, and it seemed she’d taken every good thing along with her.

Hallie rubbed at the fresh red scar across her collarbone. Even if she wanted to forget it all, she couldn’t.

After the accident, she had nearly failed her last literature class, missing the deadline for the biggest paper of the semester. Luckily, the professor had been understanding and let her turn it in late. Even a C was better than a 0.

And she got nothing done the entire week of the funeral.

And now this. Hallie sincerely hoped it was true that bad things came in threes. Maybe this meant the bad was finally past, like the spring shower pelting her windowpane.

How was she ever going to explain to her parents?

She tossed the crumpled paper onto her crowded desk where it was lost amidst her notes and books for finals. None of it seemed to matter now. She might as well skip her last final tomorrow and start packing up her dorm room. She stretched her arms over her head and leaned back in the chair, taking a shaky breath.

“You could always ask for help,” came a voice from behind her.

A male voice.

Hallie’s chair hit the cement floor with a thunk, and she spun to face the intruder without standing. A boy about her age stood in the door, his hair shaggy and storm-tossed from the wind outside. His black frames almost hid his eyes behind the glint of the fluorescent light, and behind him, her dorm’s door was definitely still closed. And locked.

“How did you get in here?” She swiped at the tears on her cheeks.

“The more important point is that I’m here,” he responded with a toothy smile. “After all, this is what you wanted, isn’t it? Don’t you want to know how I can help you?”

The air seemed to shimmer around the young man. There was more to him than what she could see, she knew that. Yet, in this moment, it didn’t seem important that she remember why she should care. Why she might worry. Wyn, as a Fae, had taught her something, but Hallie’s brain was fuzzy, like this boy radiated something to make her forget.

Her locked door was concerning. But she had summoned a Fae, any Fae, in the hopes that she could still fix at least one thing in her life. She just never thought one would actually appear.

And then she was speaking before she even realized it. “How can you help me?”

His grin grew even wider, were that possible. He took another few steps into the room. The crumpled rejection letter rolled from the pile of notes and smoothed itself in front of her. She snatched it up and held it to her chest as if she could hide the painful words from him.

“I can make that rejection…” He thought for a moment, looking up into a distant corner. A sharp tooth glinted in the artificial light of the dorm. “Transform.”

“Transform?”

“You want to get in, right? To be a student at Sabine? Well, I can make that happen.”

Hallie’s breath caught in her throat. He could get her in? How?

“I have ways,” he said, as if reading her thoughts. “But it won’t be for free.”

Her heart dropped. Of course. No magic was ever free.

“What do you want?” she forced from her wooden lips.

He smiled again. “Not much. I just want your first discovery. Your academic firstborn, if you will.”

“What?”

“I get the credit for your first discovery, my dear. That’s all.”

That was it? Her first paper would belong to him, whoever he was? That didn’t seem so bad. Her mind scrambled furiously, trying to see a downside to the offer, but nothing came to mind.

She should stop here. Think on it. Sleep on it. Wasn’t that what Wyn had always told her? Don’t trust the Fae too easily?

But why? She could change her fate. And all it would cost was a single piece of research. Didn’t she have a whole lifetime ahead of her, anyway? Her entire life to learn folklore, to find out where story and truth intersected?

She nodded slowly. “Okay.”

“Wonderful!” he said.

The boy stepped forward, extending a hand. She rose from her desk chair and took it. Vines of golden-green magic wrapped around both their arms, and the air hummed with energy. She could feel it sinking into her skin, a warmth like the first breath of spring air.

He released her hand and gestured at the letter, still clutched against her chest. “Look.”

She pulled it away, her eyes scanning the page quickly.

Congratulations, it said in place of We are sorry to inform you

Hallie caught her breath. So easily? Could it really be that simple? She looked back up at the boy.

“It is done,” the boy said. And then he was gone.

ONe more time…here are those links: YOU CAN GET IT ON AMAZON HERE OR ANYWHERE ELSE HERE!

~~~

News!

As I mentioned briefly above, if you’re on BookBub, I’m there now! You can find me and my recommended reads here. See you there! 😀