For the authors: thank you


I’ll start this post by saying the now overused phrase, it’s been a tough year. I kind of think that’s the unspoken assumption at this point: “I’m doing well” (considering it’s a tough year), or “It’s been a bad day” (in the middle of a tough year). The book community isn’t exempt from the “tough year” unfortunately. I could go into the nitty gritty, but smarter minds than mine have already done that. So, this one is for the authors: you are appreciated.

I know it must be a discouraging time for so many of you, either with news you might have received, or just with life in general. Being an author is not for the faint of heart. You do not have it easy. To take the words in your mind and share them with others requires a massive amount of bravery. It also requires being willing to relinquish a little bit of your vision, knowing that the reader will picture your characters differently in their mind than you do. That takes guts.

This year has been full of changes in schedules, jobs, and lifestyle. There has been worry, and there has been loss. I cannot tell you what a godsend it has been to be able to curl up with a book – either an old friend, or a new discovery – and leave it all behind for a bit. From familiar favorites such as Dragonlance and The Night Circus, to more recent favorites, like The Ventifact Colossus and The Devil and the Dark Water, these books have kept me calm(ish).

Authors, what you do is important. So, so important. You aren’t just writing words on a page. Rather, you are building an escape pod. Your words are reminding us that even though we’re all stuck in our homes bunker-style, we aren’t alone. Good still exists and so does hope, laughter, creativity, new worlds, and mystery.

So, THANK YOU. Thank you for all you do. Keep writing. We’ll keep reading.

With Love,

A Voracious Reader

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

Thank you to Angela Mann at Orbit Books for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.

Filled with intricate plotlines and political intrigue, The Bone Shard Daughter was enthralling, but still problematic. The high stakes (and high body count) drew me in; the constant switching between points of view took me out of the narrative.

Emperor Shiyen rules the Phoenix Islands through a network of constructs controlled by his bone shard magic. This magic comes at a high price to the empire’s citizens, a price that many are unhappy paying. The emperor is ostensibly using this magic to protect his people from the Alangua, an ancient enemy that most feel does not still exist. Are his motives truly altruistic, or is there something else happening beneath the surface?

There are several points of view found throughout the book. Lin’s storyline is arguably the most important. She is the daughter of the Emperor, desperate to prove her worth to her father and earn his trust. Only by discovering his secrets can she hope to someday succeed him and lead his empire. However, the more she tries to learn, the more dangerous those secrets become. The lies build up, and he has eyes everywhere. He is a dangerous man to cross, and Lin needs to find a way to survive his machinations and figure out what he is hiding. I have to say, I was absolutely stunned by where Lin’s storyline ended up. However, while Lin was technically the main character in the book, I found myself only sort-of invested in her character until about halfway through. Once her plotline got going, it raced along at a breakneck pace, but it took longer to get there than I would have liked.

There are a couple of other characters of note, but my favorite was Jovis, a smuggler turned accidental hero. I loved his storyline so very much! At the time of the book, he has spent seven long years searching for the ship that carried off his kidnapped wife. He has also managed to find himself on the wrong side of both the emperor and the Ioph Carn, a brutal crime syndicate. While trying to avoid both a bounty and assassins, he rescues a child. He does it for purely monetary reasons, but that is not what people see. It reminds me a bit of a certain hat-wearing hero of Canton…but I digress. As his reputation spreads, his legend grows. I loved watching the internal battle between Jovis’ desire to find his missing love, and his strong – if odd – moral compass. I am also incredibly curious about Jovis’ found companion and who – or what – he is.

The way the narratives eventually bled together was brilliant. Along the way, the reader is introduced to a truly fascinating world, with a history both complex and unique. The mythology was fully developed, and I felt like I had merely dipped my toes in, with much more to come.

Despite the many things I loved about The Bone Shard Daughter, I did have a couple things niggle at me. First, I did not care about Sand’s or Phalue’s storylines. At all. I was always tempted to skip the chapters told from their points of view (I never did, though). They did end up being useful in furthering the story, but I still was not a fan.

My other complaint is the way the chapters ended. Each chapter ended on a cliff hanger, whether it really needed to or not. Often, the next chapter in a particular character’s viewpoint would jump a bit ahead, not really explaining how the character got out of whatever scrape their previous chapter had ended on. It became confusing at times. I am not entirely sure why the author felt the need to end every chapter that way, but after a while I found myself sighing.

Despite my slight annoyances, I enjoyed the book. The last half ramped up quickly, and I am anxious to see what happens next. The turning point that took the book from setup to the meat of the story was brutal and unexpected. I loved it. I recommend this book to those who do not mind a slower buildup and appreciate a complicated storyline with political leanings and a fair bit of magic.

*This review originally printed in Grimdark Magazine.

Hallotober Book Tag

Image credit: unknown

Thank you to Leah at Leah’s Books for inviting me to do this fun tag! If you don’t follow her blog, you really should: it’s fantastic.

Hallotober Rules

  1. Thank the person who tagged you and link to their post 
  2. Put the rules at the beginning or after introduction
  3. Answer the 13 questions 
  4. Tag 13 people to do the tag 
  5. Delete Question 13, add a new number one question of your own
  6. You are free to use the tag image somewhere in the post

Questions:

1.What is your favorite horror novel or short story?

I am not sure if this even falls on the “horror” spectrum anymore, or if it’s just gothic fiction, but I love The Vampire Lestat. Interview With the Vampire, The Queen of the Damned, and The Vampire Lestat are all fabulous, actually, but Lestat is my favorite of the three books.

2.What was the last Halloween costume you wore?

I went as a rêveur from The Night Circus a few years back. It was a last-minute costume, but it worked out okay.

3. What is your favorite fall snack?

I don’t have a favorite snack (I do like candy corn, though). In fall, I like to drink chai with an espresso shot added. Yum!

Do you carve pumpkins?

Ohhh, no. I have a toddler tornado, and there is no way he should be allowed anywhere near any sharp object. Plus, my oldest would loathe the feel of pumpkin guts, so we choose to paint pumpkins instead. When my oldest was a little guy, he said he wanted to paint his orange.

Do you prefer horror movies or stories?

I don’t really have a preference. I like eerie over gory, so I tend to stick to the more gothic ghostly side of things. If it’s creepy, I don’t really care what the medium is.

What is your favorite Halloween memory?

I dressed up as my husband one year. It was really last minute. I actually drew a beard on with eyeliner in the car. People loved it. Huzzah for last minute costumes!

Do you prefer to give our candy or get candy?

Neither. I like taking my kids out to get the candy.

Do you decorate for Halloween or Fall?

I’ve been a homeschool mom for years, so there’s usually a kid-created seasonal decoration up somewhere. We’ve dropped the ball this year, but seriously: it’s 2020.

Do you have a favorite urban legend? If so, what is it?


I’m partial to the legend of the mombie. You know, the scary, sleep-deprived mother who stumbles around moaning, searching for coffee. You can find her hiding in any home with young children.

Would you rather spend a night in a grave yard or a haunted house?

Hmm…that depends. Is the grave yard haunted?

What is your favorite spooky movie?


This isn’t a horror, but I absolutely love Fallen, starring Denzel Washington. It definitely needs more appreciation. Give it a watch (rated R, so do your homework first).

What is your favorite character from a horror movie or book?


If Bunnicula doesn’t count (ha!), I’ll have to go with Lestat. I like how he’s a bundle of contradictions.

What kinds of books always put you in the Halloween/Fall mood?


Ghost stories or mysteries make me feel Halloweeny (is that a word?) and I reread Dragons of Autumn Twilight every Fall.

This was fun! Here are my questions:

1.What is your favorite horror novel or short story?

2.What was the last Halloween costume you wore?

3. What is your favorite fall snack?

4.Do you carve pumpkins?

5.Do you prefer horror movies or stories?

6.What is your favorite Halloween memory?

7.Do you prefer to give out candy or get candy?

8.Do you decorate for Halloween or fall?

9.Do you have a favorite urban legend? If so what is it?

10.Would you rather spend a night in a grave yard or a haunted house?

11.What is your favorite spooky movie?

12.Who is your favorite character from a horror movie or book?

13.Which is your favorite Universal Monster?


I’m not tagging anyone, but feel free to join the fun! Please link me, so I don’t miss your answers. Happy Halloween!

The Marriage of Innis Wilkinson by Lauren H. Brandenburg- Blog Tour

It is said that something magical happens during the festival season in Coraloo, something unexplainable. People tend to be a little crazier, reckless. Maybe it’s because it coincides the full moon, but Coraloo’s constable, Roy Blackwell, is beginning to think it’s something else. That said, Roy has other things on his mind, like marrying Margarette Toft. A controversial decision as the Toft and the Blackwell families have a hatred for one another that is older than the town itself. Tradition collides with superstition as the feuding families compete to organize the events surrounding the most talked about wedding in the history of Coraloo. Despite the array of minor catastrophes that ensue, and the timings clashing with a four-week long festival celebrating a legendary beaver, Roy and Margarette hold fast and declare they will do whatever it takes to wed. That is until Roy unearths a town secret – a murder involving a pair of scissors, an actor with a severe case of kleptomania, and the mysterious marriage of Innis Wilkinson. Can good come out of unearthing the past – or will only heartbreak follow? (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Lion Hudson for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. I must say, I’m incredibly excited to be a part of this blog tour. This book will be available on October twenty third.

The Marriage of Innis Wilkinson is heartwarming, funny, and delightful. Imagine scooping up the zany background characters from the show Gilmore Girls, along with an adorable and kooky town, and making them the main focus of a book, and you’ve got this sweet and funny romp.

Margarette is engaged to marry Roy. However, there’s a big problem: she’s a Toft and he’s a Blackwell. These families have been at each other’s throats for as long as anyone can remember and no wedding is going to change that. This is a feud of Shakespearean proportions, and if Margarette and Roy aren’t careful, it could end just as badly. Meanwhile, the town might have seen its first murder in memory, someone has stolen the recipe to the incredibly potent communion wine and is spiking drinks left and right, and a little elementary school student is predicting doom at every turn. Can Margarette and Roy manage to survive all the feud-related nonsense, or will their wedding go the way of the dodo?

I don’t think there’s a single thing that I didn’t love about this book! The setting- a small town with a weeks’ long festival- is a perfect backdrop for the hijinks the characters get into. Everyone knows everyone, which makes the small town seem even smaller. The two feuding families couldn’t be more different, with everyone on one side or the other. The only thing they agree on is that Tofts and Blackwells shouldn’t marry.

And the characters! The Marriage of Innis Wilkinson is chock-full of wonderful, zany people. From Sylvia, the hairdresser whose clients have to get their hair fixed by someone else afterward, to Earl, who always has a colander on his head, each one of them is a fun addition to the book. The way their personalities play off each other and add to the general zaniness of the story is utterly fantastic.

While there are mysterious goings-on that need to be solved, the main charm of this book is in the character development and the sweetness that shines through each page. This is a perfect cozy read. Cuddle up with your favorite warm beverage and get ready to laugh, smile, and leave the stresses of the real world behind for a bit. The Marriage of Innis Wilkinson is a hug in book form and I loved every moment of it.

Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky

As soon as I started this book, I was presented with a problem: do I read it as quickly as possible to see what happens next? Or do I drag it out as long as I can, enjoying Stephen Chbosky’s fantastic writing? Ultimately, the choice was made for me; I couldn’t put it down.


I’ll start with the characters. They were wonderfully three-dimensional, every one of them. Christopher was such a sweet little boy and I absolutely loved his mom. She was a fighter in every sense of the world. With the many characters this book had, the fact that they were all well developed and had distinct personalities was impressive, to say the least.

In this book, Christopher goes missing for several days. He shows up again, thanks to the “nice man”, whom no-one else has seen. He’s not the same, though. He has a friend that no one else can see. Thanks to this friendship, Christopher learns that he has a very important job that only he can complete. It he doesn’t finish by Christmas, all hell will break loose.

Normally at this point in a horror review, an excellent writer will be called “the next Stephen King”, or some such thing. I can’t do that, though. Chbosky’s writing is so unique that there’s no comparing it to anyone else. His book was very cerebral. To be honest, it got under my skin. He has a knack for knowing exactly what wigs me out. There are layers upon layers in this book, and it kept me fascinated from start to finish.

I won’t give any spoilers, but I will say this: this is a horror book and some people do horrific things. There might be things that would trigger some, so be aware of that as you read. Normally, some of the things touched upon would really bother me, but it was written in a way that I was able to handle.

For those who haven’t recognized the name, Stephen Chbosky is the author of the absolutely incredible The Perks of Being a Wallflower (if you haven’t read it yet, you really need to rectify that problem. I’ll wait). The fact that he is able to write such disparate genres speaks highly of his ability to weave a tale. He also somehow managed to make me tear up at parts, then scare the living daylights out of me a chapter later. Chbosky is a master in his craft.

Read this book.








Knight’s Ransom by Jeff Wheeler- ARC Review

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. A brutal war of succession has plunged the court of Kingfountain into a power struggle between a charitable king who took the crown unlawfully and his ambitious rival, Devon Argentine. The balance of power between the two men hinges on the fate of a young boy ensnared in this courtly intrigue. A boy befittingly nicknamed Ransom.

When the Argentine family finally rules, Ransom must make his own way in the world. Opportunities open and shut before him as he journeys along the path to knighthood, blind to a shadowy conspiracy of jealousy and revenge. Securing his place will not be easy, nor will winning the affection of Lady Claire de Murrow, a fiery young heiress from an unpredictably mad kingdom.

Ransom interrupts an abduction plot targeting the Queen of Ceredigion and earns a position in service to her son, the firstborn of the new Argentine dynasty. But conflict and treachery threaten the family, and Ransom must also come to understand and hone his burgeoning powers—abilities that involve more than his mastery with a blade and that make him as much a target as his lord. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available on January 26th.

Reminiscent of Tad Williams’ The Dragonbone Chair, this book is obviously the work of a master. Every sentence, every word, is placed with care and precision. The story woven is a fantastic one, and I couldn’t put the book down.

This book follows Ransom- once a king’s hostage, now a knight hopeful- as he navigates the dangers involved in becoming a knight and in growing up. He finds himself in a very precarious position, in-between warring kingdoms. Threats, both from without the court and within, abound on all sides. One false step and Ransom could lose his sense of honor-or his life.

I loved absolutely everything about this book. The characters were fully developed, complex individuals, each with their own motivations and personalities. The book was told from Ransom’s point of view, interspersed with diary entries from Claire, the recipient of his affection. I loved Ransom, of course. He was often caught between his own sense of morality and the code of honor he swore to follow. It was fascinating and heartbreaking to see him realize that a knightly code of honor does not apply in every situation. His internal battles were just as interesting as his physical battles.

And what battles! They were so vividly painted, it was like being right in the middle of them. They all felt incredibly real. The adrenaline and bloodlust versus fear and even sadness at taking a life- it was all conveyed brilliantly. I often had my heart in my throat (a rather uncomfortable sensation, I might add), reading the fight scenes.

The secret deals and cutthroat politics were engrossing to say the least. Every time I thought I had a character pegged, they would do something completely unexpected. One particular person had me totally fooled. When they made their move, I was absolutely stunned. Even the smallest move can turn a chess game, I guess.

I was fully immersed in the world from page one. It was vast and so well described, I could picture everything perfectly. Honestly, from plot, to characters, to world development, there is nothing that wasn’t done wonderfully. This is an author I’ll be reading more from, I can tell you that.

If you like high fantasy, if you enjoy writers such as Tolkien, Tad Williams, and Sean Russell, if you like stories with a hint of Arthurian themes, you’ll love this book.

Venators: Legends Rise by Devri Walls- Write Reads Blog Tour

The path will be forged in sweat and blood.
Rune, Grey, the shape-shifter Beltran, and willful vampire, Verida, set out to rescue their friend and mentor, Tate, from the gladiator games. But first they must navigate the perils of Eon and its warring factions. Each of this band of four carries with them a secret that threatens to tear their group apart from within. Rune now bears the mark of the promise she made to save Grey’s life – a nixie bubble lodged in her arm that could call her away to do their bidding or spell her death.
Even as their loyalty to their cause and to one another faces its greatest test, Rune’s twin brother Ryker is forging an alliance with their mortal enemy, the powerful sorceress Zio, who has plans of her own for the Venators and Eon.
Hearts will be bared, secrets unveiled, and relationships made and destroyed in this stunning new installment of the Venators series.

Thank you to The Write Reads for providing me with this book and the opportunity to join in on this book tour!

For those who have been taking notes, I’ve found this series to be a lot of fun thus far. These books have been full of action and intrigue, and packed with more fantastical creatures than I usually find in one fantasy world. Venators: Legends Rise carries on in this enjoyable vein and is a perfect continuation of the story.

Wow, no one knows how to get themselves into a mess quite like the characters in this story. They can’t seem to catch a break and I love it. I really enjoyed Grey in particular, although I think most of the characters are fun to read (Rune kind of annoys me, I will admit). This book focuses quite a bit more on getting to really understand what makes each of them tick, although there is no shortage of action. There isn’t always a ton of character growth in a series such as this, so I am incredibly impressed by the amount of development each character has.

The direction this particular book went in was a blast. As with the previous books, I quite liked the political maneuvering and the machinations that were half-hidden out of sight. I think there is a lot that is yet to be revealed and I’m curious where certain characters will go in future books (no spoilers here).

This is a fast read, and an incredibly entertaining one. Pick this series up if you enjoy creative worlds filled with fantastical creatures, strong character development, and plenty of action.

The Serpent Slayer: And Other Stories of Strong Women by Katrin Tchana, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

This volume is an anthology of 18 stories about heroines with as much courage, wit and intelligence as their more familiar male counterparts. It includes Li Chi, the serpent slayer, and the old woman sly enough to outsmart the devil. (taken from Amazon)

I love a good fairy tale collection, and The Serpent Slayer delivers! As the title suggests, this book highlights female heroes. There are no heroic knights or true love’s kisses. Rather, these women kick butt all on their own.

One of the many things I love about this collection is that the stories come from all over the world. There are tales from Indonesia, China, and India, to name a few. Each one is so original, and very different from the average fairy tale fare. Let me tell you-this book has it all! There are dragons, devils, fey folk, and more.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the illustrations. Trina Schart Hyman is one of my favorite illustrators anyway, and she outdoes herself in this book. Everything comes to life and a beautiful and fantastical way. The colors are bright and beautiful, and each illustration strives to capture the place of the story’s origin. The pictures elevate the book from good to freaking amazing!

Obviously, I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves fairy tales, especially lesser-known ones. Go ahead and buy it; you’ll want to be able to read this one again and again.

Hush by Dylan Farrow- ARC Review

They use magic to silence the world. Who will break the hush?

Seventeen-year-old Shae has led a seemingly quiet life, joking with her best friend Fiona, and chatting with Mads, the neighborhood boy who always knows how to make her smile. All while secretly keeping her fears at bay… Of the disease that took her brother’s life. Of how her dreams seem to bleed into reality around her. Of a group of justice seekers called the Bards who claim to use the magic of Telling to keep her community safe.

When her mother is murdered, she can no longer pretend.

Not knowing who to trust, Shae journeys to unlock the truth, instead finding a new enemy keen to destroy her, a brooding boy with dark secrets, and an untold power she never thought possible.

From Dylan Farrow comes Hush, a powerful fantasy where one girl is determined to remake the world. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this review. This book is available now.

I was intrigued by the rather vague mention to dreams bleeding into reality, so I just had to pick Hush up. I have to be honest: this felt rather generic to me in many ways. Dylan Farrow is a skilled author, there’s no denying that, but the story itself felt like an idea that hadn’t been fully fleshed out yet.

Shae is the main character. When she was younger, her brother died of the Blot, a mysterious plague thought to be spread by ink. After her mother is murdered, Shae decides to track down the Bards, the only people who are now allowed to read and write. There is a reason for her choice, but it doesn’t really make a ton of sense if you think about it for too long. A good chunk of Shae’s decision to find the Bards is for knowledge. If anyone can help her, it would be them. This book is a lot of “don’t notice, don’t question”, with Shae needing to overcome her blind acceptance of things to discover the truth.

Unfortunately, Shae was a rather forgettable character. I never really got a feel on who she was. Again, I got the feel of a half fleshed-out idea. She was stubborn when it didn’t make sense to be, had the dreaded insta-attraction that I hate, and I just felt like she was more a stereotype of what people say all YA female characters are like, as opposed to being a full character. I don’t need to love a character to like reading about them, but feeling apathy regarding the main character definitely detracts from my enjoyment of a book.

The world itself is a fascinating one, full of little details that make it more three-dimensional, and it’s apparent that the author has a vision and is capable of realizing it. Even bare bones of the plot are pretty stinking cool. It just needs to be a little more developed.

I have a feeling that this series will grow and evolve into something great as it continues on. Unfortunately, I won’t be reading any subsequent books. Hush was just not for me.

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

A murder on the high seas. A remarkable detective duo. A demon who may or may not exist.

It’s 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, is being transported to Amsterdam to be executed for a crime he may, or may not, have committed. Travelling with him is his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes, who is determined to prove his friend innocent.

But no sooner are they out to sea than devilry begins to blight the voyage. A twice-dead leper stalks the decks. Strange symbols appear on the sails. Livestock is slaughtered. Anyone could be to blame. Even a demon.

And then three passengers are marked for death, including Samuel.

With Pipps imprisoned, only Arent can solve a mystery that connects every passenger. A mystery that stretches back into their past and now threatens to sink the ship, killing everybody on board. (taken from Amazon)

I loved Stuart Turton’s first book so much, that I had ridiculously high expectations for The Devil and the Dark Water. This book didn’t meet my expectations. It far surpassed them. In fact, this might very well be the best mystery I’ve read since The Seven and a Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, which was also written by Stuart Turton (we got an extra half death in the U.S., which never ceases to amuse me). The Devil and the Dark Water has everything I want in a book and then some.

To say it is a mystery is to simplify this book almost too much. It’s a mystery. It’s a thriller. It’s a supernatural whodunnit (or is it?), and it’s a genius trip into the evil lurking in the Dark Water.

So, what made this so incredibly engrossing? Well, first I need to start with the setting. Both the time and place were fascinating. It takes place in the early 1600’s aboard the Saardam, a ship bound for Amsterdam. Normally, the expectation would be of a voyage filled with boredom, possible plague, and bad weather. Instead, the Saardam gets violence, mysterious symbols pointing to a possible possession, and danger from someone or something on board the ship. It became a locked-room mystery, with the entire ship being the locked room. It was fascinating, to say the least.

Now for the characters. There is a small cast of characters, and every single one of them is hiding something. First and foremost, I have to mention Sammy Pip. He has the mind of Sherlock Holmes and is quite possibly the only one on the ship who could easily decipher what is going on. Unfortunately, he is a prisoner, locked in a cell. Instead, it falls to Arent, Sammy’s bodyguard and friend, to try to either exorcise a demon, or catch a villain. Arent is a fantastic character. He’s smart, but doubts himself. He’s also gigantic and is used to his brawn being what others need him for. As with everyone on the ship, the reader gets to decide: is he what he seems?

There are several other amazing characters on board, including a cutthroat captain, a Governor General who also happens to be a jerk of epic proportions, his wife Sara, and his mistress. There are other noteworthy characters, but I’ll leave it to the book to introduce them all. Suffice it to say, every single one of them has the potential to be a devil-or maybe summon one.

The story itself was superb! The mysteries had mysteries and every time I thought I had figured something out, the plot would twist again, leaving me delightfully confounded. I spent the entire book attempting to sleuth along with Arent, and had a blast doing so. The book had a kick of an ending, although I would have happily continued reading for another several hundred pages. Stuart Turton’s writing is just that good.

If you only read one book this year, make it The Devil and the Dark Water. It is utterly brilliant.