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.

~~~

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! ❤

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! 😀

Awesome Books for Writers

Looking for some great books for writers? Look no further!

If you’re anything like me, you’re always on the lookout for a good craft or business book to grow your knowledge. This week I took a look over all the writing and art books I’ve consumed since I started seriously writing, and I figured why not share my up-to-date favorites list with all of you?

So without further ado, let’s dive in!

Writing Craft, Business, and Life

The first category is my favorite books on writing craft, books that teach elements of writing itself or what’s involved in the writing life and business. And boy do I have some excellent (and classic) favorites!

On Writing by Stephen King

This one is, of course, one of the biggest classics! King tells it like it is, in a relateable, down-to-earth voice. In fact, I might be due for a reread!

Bird by Bird by Anne lamott

This is an encouraging and entertaining look at how to write a book. Definitely one of my favorites, and it’s so quotable!

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

This is another classic, a collection of essays by classic writer Ray Bradbury. Definitely some interesting food for thought here!

Wired for STory by Lisa Cron

As a neuroscientist and a writer, I’ve loved this particular book. It delves into the neuroscience and psychology behind elements of a story and why certain things work so well…and how to improve your own writing with those ideas in mind!

THe Business of Being a Writer by Jane Friedman

This is an excellent overview and must-read for any author looking to make a career from their writing. Friedman goes through things like how publishing works, your publishing and career options, platforms, and more resources for delving deeper.

For Christian Writers

This section is specific to Christian writers, but the books are packed with so much to think about regarding spirituality, mental health, and art and creativity.

Walking on Water by Madeline L’Engle

This is another collection of essays by a classic author. It discusses what it means to be a Christian artist and how faith and art are related.

Unlocking the Heart of the Artist by Matt Tommey

This is an incredible look at how to deal with your issues to become the artist God created and to help you create as best you can. It also does some work to dispel the myth of the starving artist. It’s such a powerful read!

For Encouragement

There are also a couple short reads that do such an uplifting job of encouraging writers to keep going and dream about how what they do affects readers. If you need a lift, pick one (or both) of these up! It won’t take long, and you’ll end up feeling validated, appreciated, and, hopefully, excited to keep writing!

Dear Author: Letters from a Bookish Fangirl by Laura A. Grace

This book is a collection of letters from a hypothetical fan to you, the author. It covers a range of scenarios and is so heartwarming!

For the love of a word Ed. by Annie Louise Twitchell

Disclaimer: I have a couple pieces in this anthology. But it’s such an encouraging and motivating collection of essays, poetry, and art. Definitely give this one a read if you need a bit of a pick-me-up.

My Upcoming Reads

Finally, I can’t complete this list without addressing a bunch of books on my list that I’m either currently reading or excited to dive into next. I won’t have too much info here, but feel free to follow the links to learn more!

Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction

Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making

Romance Your Brand: Building a Marketable Genre Fiction Series

Become a Successful Indie Author: Work Toward Your Writing Dream

Writing the Other

The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults

The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write with Emotional Power, Develop Achingly Real Characters, Move Your Readers, and Create Riveting Moral Stakes

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel

Closing Thoughts

There are so many good resources out there for craft, business, and life of a writer! I’m always on the hunt for new, good titles to consume. If you know of some not on my list, feel free to drop them in the comments.

Or, if you’ve read any of these, what are your own thoughts? Did you find them helpful? Let’s chat about it!

See you in the comments. 🙂