Princess of Beasts Blog Tour!

First book feature of the new year!

Hello everyone, and welcome to the first post of 2020! Next week I’ll get into my traditional goal-setting post, so you know what you can expect from me this year, but today I have a special treat to start the year off right: a brand new fantasy release from author Joanna White!

This is a Christian fantasy with a story that sounds absolutely amazing: a girl who can talk to animals, forbidden love, and an entire world to save!

(As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made through the purchase links on this page.)

Let’s take a closer look:

In the entire kingdom of Ahri, Princess Sahri is the only person who can talk to animals and heal them. She’s beloved by the people, but she’s living a lie. Deep inside, she wants a man who she’s not just forbidden to be with, but he’s also a criminal, part of the Ahri Reformation—using the Rune of Obedience to force criminals who fight well to put their talents to better use. What’s worse, is the man—her bodyguard, Jekre—hates her and the entire royal family for what they’ve done.

But those are the least of Sahri’s worries.

The Anati are creatures who bring life and springtime to Ahri every time they return from their long migration across the Sea. But when someone murders them, the kingdom faces a famine that will destroy them all.

Not all hope is lost—yet.

Two of the Anati had eggs. If Sahri can use her powers to keep the eggs long enough to help them get to the nesting grounds, the Anati will live. As the young ones grow, they can heal the land and save the kingdom and Sahri’s people.

The only problem is that her parents ordered her bodyguard to keep her inside the palace. The Rune of Obedience forces Jekre to comply—which means he’ll do whatever it takes to keep Sahri inside.

Who killed the Anati? The threat to the kingdom is a mystery, unknown by everyone except Jekre. And he’s been sworn to silence.

Can Sahri escape, and if she does, will she be able to get the eggs to the nesting ground in time?

Or will a famine bring Ahri to its knees?

Wow! That certainly sounds intense!

If this has captured your interest, you can grab your copy now over on Amazon!

And be sure to come back next week to discuss what’s coming in 2021!

About the author

Joanna White is a Christian Author and fangirl. Hunter and Shifter are the first two books in her debut series, called the Valiant Series, published by Christian publisher Ambassador International and there are more to come. In December 2019, one of her short stories was featured in Once Upon A Yuletide, a Christmas fairy tale anthology by Divination Publishing. Dark Magi, Book One of the Republic Chronicles came out in November 2019. Glimpses of Time and Magic, a historical fantasy anthology, also featured one of her stories. The Crystal Heist was her most recent release, in August 2020.

She graduated from Full Sail University with a BFA in Creative Writing For Entertainment. Ever since she was ten years old, she’s been writing stories and has a deep passion for writing and creating stories, worlds, characters, and plots that readers can immerse themselves in. In 2020, she reached her personal goal of writing a million words in a year. Most of all, Joanna loves God, her family, staying at home, and being a total nerd.

To stay updated and find out more about her novels, where her inspiration comes from, games, giveaways, and more, visit her website at: authorjoannawhite.com.

The Best Books I Read This Year (2020 Edition)

It’s been a good reading year!

It’s that time of year again! Time to look back on everything I read this year and pick out my favorites. I’m not going to limit myself on numbers in this post, but I will make sure to divide it into categories to make things easier on you. 🙂

To recap, this year I read 90 books (and I anticipate finished at least 2 or 3 more by December 31). Of those, 8 were my own (I count them for the year I write, since I read them so many times, and I re-read Pie-Jinks to prepare for an upcoming full series next year). Finally, I beta read one of those books.

I also read in a variety of formats and genres including (but not limited to) audio, ebooks, and physical books. For genres, I read a lot of fantasy and young adult, but I also read some nonfiction, adult fantasy, manga, and general fiction.

If you want to see the breakdown of everything I read, you can find it over on my Goodreads page.

And now, let me highlight my favorites!

Just so you know, as an Amazon Associate, I earn on qualifying purchases made through the purchase links on this page. However, the things I have chosen to share I enjoyed myself and either purchased or received through my library or as an ARC!

Fantasy (Adult)

Labyrinth of Shadows by Kyla Stone

This was one of the first books I read this year as part of an online book club I’m in, the Fellowship of Fantasy (you can find them on Facebook by that name). This book is an amazing retelling of the minotaur and the labyrinth, and it had the BEST ending (in my personal opinion). It was unique, exciting, and deeply engaging. I highly recommend this to anyone who loves unique fantasy and Greek mythology!

Throne of Sand by Elm Vince & Helena Rookwood

I’m not sure if this one was meant to be an Aladdin retelling, but it definitely gave me that feeling! It’s full of a cast of unforgettable characters and so much drama and emotion! Also, Zadie gives me so much anxiety. So yeah. I will be finishing this series for sure!

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemison

I love Jemison’s writing, and this was certainly no exception. Fifth Season is a fantastic high fantasy with a unique magic system and a world ravaged by nature. It’s intense and exciting and this is another series I will be continuing!

Ashen by H.L. Burke

I previously reviewed this one, but in case you missed it, this is a fantastic fantasy inspired by Iceland. It was so much fun with good characters and unique magic! I also loved how unique it was as a retelling of Cinderella. Definitely worth getting (I even got myself an autographed copy because I loved it so much!).

Wrought of Silver & Ravens by E.J. Kitchens

This is another one I reviewed this year, and it is such a good, solid high fantasy! It it set in a place reminiscent of Greece (I think), and it has an intricate magic and history system! It was another one that I highly recommend and enjoyed SO MUCH.

Shadow Hunter by B.R. Kingslover

This is one of the urban fantasies I read this year, but I share this one because it’s the first in a new (to me) series and is very good! The protagonist is a cinnamon roll assassin, the magic is cool, and it has all the elements of found family that I adore!

Young Adult

Each of Us a Desert by Mark Oshiro

I read this one just last month after a long library hold. It is so worth it! It is a unique fantasy with a Mexican-inspired desert setting that takes a critical look at traditions and beliefs. It’s haunting and captivating all at once. It is also an LGBT+ read, if you are looking to expand your diversity in reading!

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

This is a contemporary starring a girl who loves the… well, the stars. She gets conned into a glamping trip with her ex-best friend, and then they are abandoned by their companions in the wilderness. There’s also some SERIOUS family drama and stuff for the main character to deal with and a discussion of step parents (in a good way). Also good for your diversity, the ex-best friend has lesbian parents. Warning for those of you looking for clean reading: this book contains sex.

Wicked Fox by Kat Cho

This is such a ride of a book. Inspired by K-dramas, this is a tale of a gumiho, or fox spirit, who must eat men’s souls to survive. But when she loses her fox bead, which could let someone else control her, she must rely on her new friend and her own wit to recover it without giving away what she is to the world. Book 2, Vicious Spirits, is also out now!

Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon

I fell in love with this one as soon as I started reading! It reads like a historical fantasy, but I’m not quite sure what inspired it. It follows two sisters, one chosen, and excited, to be buried with the king (who is near death) and the other determined to save the king’s life – and therefore also her sister. It’s such an interesting dynamic and an intense mystery within the palace walls. Bonus: book 2 just came out this month! I am reading it now. 🙂

Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

Similar to Ashen, this is a Norse-inspired book. It follows a Viking shieldmaiden who goes into battle to come face-to-face with her brother – who was supposedly killed years ago. She sneaks away to find him and lands herself in a whole lot of trouble. It is so well-written and vivid. Warning: this book is very violent and gory.

Obsidian and Stars by Julie Eshbaugh

This is the conclusion to an Ice Age fantasy duology I started a couple years ago. It is truly a unique read. I can’t quite explain the feelings it gives me, but it is like nothing I’ve ever read before. This particular book (book 2) focuses on what people will do for their family and deciding how to navigate family and romantic relationships – particularly when both you and your betrothed are suddenly meant to inherit your own clans. So, so good! I am so happy with both of these books, and these are some truly beautiful covers. (Book 1: Ivory and Bone)

Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

This book still haunts me. Like, seriously. I’d call it a psychological thriller. Basically, it involves the main character realizing her best friend just… disappeared. And no one seems to notice or care. It follows her searching for the truth and the unexpected answer to all her questions. Just be prepared. Like I said. Still haunted over here.

Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

Oh my goodness, I read this in a single sitting. If you love survival stories, THIS IS IT. It follows a girl with dreams of college track who goes to a party in the woods. When she comes across her cheating boyfriend (not a spoiler… this literally happens at the opening), her anger drives her to run away. But then she can’t find her way back and must both survive and find her way out of the wilderness. It is intense and powerful!

Between Jobs by W.R. Gingell

This is another found family sort of story, and an urban fantasy. It combines so many Selina-catnip items! But seriously, it’s so good. It’s set in Australia (or New Zealand… sorry, I can’t quite remember) and involves some fae and vampires, as well as an orphan girl hiding in walls until she can buy her murdered parents’ house. Recently, I won the rest of the series in a contest, so you can bet I will be continuing this one!

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

This is a contemporary fantasy, but more importantly, it is a powerful story of grief, suicide, and those left behind. It is beautifully written, set outside of the US for most of the story, and is one of those works that just stays with you.

Manga and Graphic Novels or Collections

Seven Little Sons of the Dragon by Ryoko Kui

My husband bought me this collection of 7 stories for Christmas because it’s by the same person who made one of my favorite manga (Delicious in Dungeon). Overall, I loved all the stories! They are full of humor, unexpected twists, and fascinating thought experiments. I am so happy to own this, and I’m sure I will read it again!

Fangirl Vol. 1 by Rainbow Rowell & Sam Maggs

Fangirl is undoubtedly one of my favorite books of all time, and they are turning it into a manga! The first volume came out this year, and I loved every minute of it. Can’t wait for the next one!

Laid Back Camp by Afro

I have been searching for camp/camping stories for about a year and a half, and my husband randomly stumbled across this. It is slice of life, it’s calm, and it’s all about camping and friendship! I ADORE this series, and I’m up to 5 volumes already! (Still need to read the last 3 though, as I just got them)

Made in Abyss by Akihito Tsukushi

This is another one my husband bought for me (he likes to get me different ones to try out). It’s a really cool fantasy world where people dungeon dive in this pit of monsters and treasures to make a living. But, the deeper you go, the harder it is to come back. And trying to come back from the very bottom kills people. It’s really a cool concept!

General Fiction

Beach Read by Emily Henry

This was another family drama/secrets story, but also a really unique romance between two competing writers. I deeply enjoyed this, as a writer and a person, but this is another one that’s got some sex, so beware if that bothers you.

Pumpkin Everything by Beth Labonte

This is also a romance, but it’s EVERYTHING fall. And… coincidentally stars another author? Weird. But it’s all about a woman who travels back to her hometown to keep her grandfather out of a home. The twist? Her bestselling series trashes the residents of the town, and she abandoned her high school sweetheart there after he broke her heart.

Nonfiction

Romance Your Brand by Zoe York

This is a good book for indies looking to build a marketable, profitable brand. It’s a step by step guide to building your next series in a way that readers (and you) will love. I highly recommend this to every indie author!

Dear Author by Laura A. Grace

Finally, this is a cute, sweet, heartfelt little collection of hypothetical letters to you, this reader’s favorite author. It’s full of encouragement, joy, and heart, and if you need a pick-me-up for your writing, give this a read! (also, the ebook is so cheap, there’s no reason not to get yourself a copy!)

Final Thoughts

I read so many good books this year! And there are so many others I can’t wait to read on my list!

Personally, I love doing these posts at the end of the year to really reflect on the joy I got this year from what I read and remember my favorites. Do you do anything like this?

I also would love to hear about your favorite reads of 2020. Did you find anything good? Any new books or series you love? Share them with me down below, and let’s talk books!

And until next time, happy reading! ❤

Book Review: Ashen

I recently finished H.L. Burke’s Ashen. Here’s what I think of it.

So if you’ve been around for at least a month, you may already know I have a slight obsession with Iceland. I discussed it a bit back when I helped with the release tour for H.L. Burke’s Ashen, but let me just give you a quick overview. 😉

Hubs and I went to Iceland for our honeymoon back in April of 2018. And I fell in love with it. The ecosystem is so different from anything I’ve ever been familiar with here in Pennsylvania (hello, volcanoes, glaciers, and lava fields!). The whole country is quiet and peaceful. Sheep outnumber the population of people. The country is filled with fascinating folklore, particularly tied to trolls and elves (who are said to live in the lava fields). There’s a fermented shark delicacy (I did not eat it, but hubs did… he says it was as horrible as they hyped it up to be).

And it is absolutely gorgeous. When they say it’s the land of waterfalls, they’re not kidding! In fact, if you take a look at the picture in today’s blog image (the one with Ashen’s book cover), you may see a waterfall. That’s a picture I took in Barnafoss and Hraunfossar (Hraunfossar is the one/many in the picture), and it was one of my favorite waterfalls. It travels from the Langjökull glacier over 25 years under the lava fields, where it is filtered by the lava rock before emptying into this river (or so our tour guide told us).

But I digress.

In the literature world, I’ve been looking for books to remind me of my trip ever since we returned. I recently read Sky in the Deep, which did a pretty good job, but it was very Vikings and less fantasy (I am ALL ABOUT that fantasy!). I’ve even been planning two separate books/series inspired by Iceland and its lore (you’ll find out eventually) and have been reading the folk tale books I bought there (that’s what I collect whenever I go somewhere out of my normal experiences).

So I was absolutely THRILLED when H.L. Burke announced the release of Ashen! It’s a fantasy set in a world inspired by Iceland! And while she did admit to taking a few liberties, I could not wait to get my hands on it!

Friends, I was not disappointed.

So let’s just dive right on in.

(As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made through the purchase links on this page. However, I purchased this book and am sharing it out of my own love, not any personal gain!)

Ashen by H.L. Burke

Ashen is a fun, exciting, heartrending standalone featuring Lizbete, a young woman who has never quite fit in with her hometown of Brumehome. Her peers call her Ash Lizard, as she likes to spend her time in Auntie’s kitchen where she can stay warm because she cannot produce her own heat and steals it from anyone she touches. Auntie seems to be the only person who truly loves her, other than the little, and wonderfully snarky, Elin, the sickly younger sister of her once-best-friend, Brynar – the town’s next mayor.

Yet everything changes with one great quake that rocks tiny Brumehome, and Liz suddenly finds herself in danger from the villagers. She runs away, learning some very, very dangerous things that are putting the entire town at risk – and a lot about who (and what) she is. Don’t worry, this is spoiler-free! But suffice it to say, the stakes build fast!

So now that you have a little background, let’s talk details.

First off, I absolutely LOVED Liz. Her condition of heat-stealing was so unique to me and so interesting that I was drawn right in to sympathizing with her and wanting to know as much as possible about what was going on.

I also bonded a little bit with her experience of her first pair of glasses. I remember well that feeling: putting on your first ever pair of glasses and having the world suddenly snap into focus. You really can’t stop looking at everything! It was delightful to see that in a story. (Side love: I LOVED the character that gave her the glasses, Widow Gri the Scholar. I would have loved to see more of her at the end, but alas, ’twas not to be.)

I also really enjoyed the way the plot came together. It was so easy to get lost in this world of cold and magic. Once I started, it was hard to put the book down. The pacing was fantastic, keeping me engaged throughout, and the revelations all came at the right places. It was awesome seeing Liz come into her own and stand up for herself, as well as seeing justice served by the end (I love a good, satisfying ending!).

And the feels! Very few books can bring me to tears, but this one? Burke seems very good at making her readers cry. Let me put it that way. But I truly felt everything the characters did, and boy was it an emotional roller coaster.

There were very few things that detracted from the experience. There were a few places where I found typos or similar issues, but overall I found them to be minor; it wasn’t enough to take away from enjoying the story.

My biggest complaint was that I had been promised Iceland, but this felt much more like a general Norse-inspired setting than Iceland to me. I kept waiting for trolls, and while there may be a version of trolls in this story, it wasn’t similar enough to the tales I’d heard and read to be clear. And there were steam vents in the story, but that didn’t really track with my personal experience there. There were no lava fields, though Brumehome seems to be next to an active volcano, but I think the steam vents were almost lava tubes. And I can live with that. But honestly, if I hadn’t been as invested in Iceland itself, I would never have noticed. So my biggest complaint will also probably not bother any other readers.

Short version: you need to read this book! Overall rating is 4.5 stars, and if you’re looking for unique magic, engaging story, and consuming worlds, this is the book you need.

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If this piqued your interest, you can grab a copy of H.L. Burke’s Ashen here.

Also, if you are interested in other things Icelandic-feeling, you can get a copy of Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young or a classic Icelandic sweater (these were too expensive during our honeymoon, but I am DEFINITELY getting one when we go back!). But definitely make sure to pick up Ashen.

Anyway, that’s all for now! I hope if you read this book you love it as much as I did, but until next time, have a wonderful Halloween and November!

Happy reading! ❤

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!

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! ❤

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!

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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! 😀

The Best Books I Read This Winter (2020)

Read any good books lately? I have!

I don’t know about you, but my e-reader is filled to overflowing from the generosity of so many authors out there! And so far this year, I’ve managed to complete 29 books ranging from contemporary to nonfiction to fantasy. So I figured why not have a recap of which books I’ve really enjoyed so far?

And by the way, I am offering my Rapunzel novella, “Of the Clouds,” free to newsletter subscribers, along with a contemporary fantasy short story titled “Queen of Mist and Fog.” You can pick those up here, and don’t worry…you can unsubscribe at any time.

Now on to the books! (And you can see EVERYTHING I finished this year here!)

Fantasy

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

This is a young adult contemporary magic realism that takes place largely in Taiwan and follows the aftermath of the main character’s mother committing suicide. It’s a beautiful exploration of depression, suicide, and the people left behind . One of the most beautiful books I read this year for sure. You can learn more here.

Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon

This is another young adult fantasy, and it is also beautifully written. It’s a debut for a duology that’s finishing in October 2020, and it’s a unique world where two sisters are torn apart by the customs of their people: one who is desperate to redeem her healer father’s reputation, and one who was chosen to die with their leader and accompany him into the afterlife. It’s amazing lore, great intrigue, and fascinating worldbuilding…and the author is also pretty nice and will chat with you on social media. 🙂 You can pick up a copy here (and take note of the AMAZING cover).

The Earth Magic Rises Trilogy by A.L. Knorr

I finished this trilogy this year, though I read book one last year. It’s a fantastic expansion of the Elementals world starring Georgie and the beautiful Scottish landscape, and it’s a nail-biting adventure of magic and discovery. Scary, atmospheric, and intense…I loved every minute!

Contemporary Young Adult

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

This was such an amazing book of friendship and PIZZA. Sydney is learning who she wants to be after her golden-boy brother is incarcerated for hitting someone when driving drunk one night. Now her parents’ attention is all on her as she copes with the guilt over what her brother did. A beautiful coming-of-age story. You can check out more here.

Sadie by Courtney Summers

This was a really well-done story…and might I just add that it’s worth listening to the audiobook? This book bounces back and forth between Sadie searching for her missing sister and tracking down the man she KNOWS is responsible for her disappearance and the podcast exploring the disappearance. And the audiobook really does this justice. You can learn more here.

Manga

Hakumei & Mikochi by Takuto Kashiki

This year, hubs bought me a new manga to try for my birthday. And he picked so well! Hakumei & Mikochi is an adorable story of two forest-dwelling spirits. It has everything I love: cute things, food, and all things tiny! You can learn more here.

Children’s

Floral Frolic by Cari Corene and Amanda Coronado

I don’t read too many children’s books, but I’m on the lookout for good ones now that I have a nephew and hubs and I are thinking about starting our family. This is a gorgeous book with watercolor art and foxes (two of my favorite things) and tells a really cute story involving flowers. Definitely a pretty, pleasant read for the young ones AND you. You can learn more here.

Nonfiction

Dear Author by Laura A. Grace (Illustrated by Hannah S.J. Williams)

I read a few different nonfiction already this year, but this one is definitely the best! It’s an encouraging and inspiring collection of letters written to their favorite author in a way that any writer can relate to. I found it to be so motivational, heartwarming, and inspiring for my own writing. Every author needs a copy of this book! You can find out more here.

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So what about you? How are you doing on your reading goals? Do you have any standout favorites for the year yet? Share below! 😀

Urban Fantasy: A Closer Look

Let’s talk urban fantasy!

Welcome back to Fantasy Month! As a reminder, you can find out all about this event over on Jenelle Schmidt’s blog.

Previously, we’ve discussed some of the subgenres of fantasy, but today I want to delve more into urban fantasy, its own subgenre of fantasy. Why? Because urban fantasy has a lot of subtle nuances that tend to be used interchangeably, and there can be a lot of disagreement about what exactly urban fantasy is.

But first, a note. Even though this is how I define urban fantasy, you don’t have to agree with me. Not everyone does! But I encourage you to share your ideas in the comments so we can chat. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Urban fantasy is not contemporary fantasy

I feel like this is a common misconception. Many people equate urban fantasy with anything set in modern time. However, it’s a bit more nuanced than that.

By definition, urban fantasy (UF) must take place in a city setting (urban). It could be historical urban fantasy, but the most likely, and the most recognized, is modern day city settings.

Contemporary fantasy, on the other hand, isn’t restricted to a city setting. It can be rural, under the ocean, on the moon…though there may be other overlapping genres there. 😉 But the key is that it takes place in current times without specifying location.

Contemporary and low fantasy aren’t the same

Low fantasy, similar to contemporary fantasy, takes place in our world. However, similar to urban fantasy, it does not have to be modern time. Contemporary, by definition, does take place during modern times.

Urban fantasy and paranormal romance are similar…but not the same

This one is still fuzzier to me. Urban fantasy is similar to paranormal romance (PNR), but it tends to focus much less on romantic elements. PNR centers on romantic relationships, though it shares many other characteristics with UF. As I had mentioned last year in the fantasy subgenres breakdown, paranormal itself tends to center on another specific characteristic, so I’d say that PNR is just paranormal with a romantic twist.

Do you have a good definition of PNR? Do you love it? Hate it? Tell me in the comments!

So what are some hallmarks of urban fantasy?

Many people will overlap urban and contemporary fantasy, and there are a lot of book series that fall into this category in bookstores and online. Many of them tend to share some of the same features (but these are by no means inclusive and UF doesn’t have to contain all of them):

  • Brandon Sanderson once described urban fantasy as “chicks in leather fighting demons”. This can be accurate for some.
  • Many main characters (not all) are female.
  • Main characters may be human or not. But they become deeply immersed in supernatural culture.
  • There are often slow-burn romantic elements, but it is not the focus of the story, and romance isn’t a requirement.
  • Books are often long-running series.
  • Each book in a series is self-contained, but overall character arcs continue to develop from book to book.
  • UF may contain the following (or more!): shifters, fae, werewolves, vampires, ghosts, mages, demons, angels, any magical creature you can think of.

Do you have other characteristics you’ve seen in urban fantasy? What are they? Tell me in the comments!

Final thoughts

Personally, I LOVE urban fantasy, but I know it isn’t for everyone. For me, I love that idea that magic could be just around the corner, that we just don’t see it around us. It’s an idea I became almost obsessed with over the past several years, starting with when I read the Mercy Thompson books in grad school. And because of my love for it, I tend to write quite a bit of it.

This Cursed Flame is a YA contemporary/portal fantasy. It doesn’t take place in a city, but it is set in modern times. It includes many, many djinn. And a genie.

Pumpkin Spice Pie-Jinks is also contemporary fantasy, but it doesn’t take place in a city, so again, just contemporary. It does, however, have fae all over it.

And my newest release (out today!), Freeze Thaw, is a blend of contemporary and historical fantasy, as it combines magic in the Ice Age with magic in the modern world. But it’s set at an archaeological dig rather than a city, so I say, again, contemporary.

I’d love to tell you of all my upcoming projects, but it would simply take too long. So instead, do you have any favorite UF (or similar) reads? What are they? Why do you love them? Let’s chat!

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New Release Announcement!

As I mentioned, Freeze Thaw is out today! It is novelette length and a Sleeping Beauty retelling…in fact, it’s the same story that started all the Seasons of Magic stories! It was a Top Ten finalist in the Rooglewood Press Five Magic Spindles contest, and I am still in love with my story.

Click on the picture or the link above to find out more!