Feel-Good Fiction: Books to Read in Difficult Times

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You’d have to be living under a rock to not be at least a little stressed-out lately. With everything that’s going on, I’ve been thinking of the books I read when things are difficult. I tend to reread books I like (I wrote a post about it, which you can find here). Here are a few that I go to when I need a little literary cheering up:

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien: There’s something so calming about following a hobbit on his journey. Smaug is fantastic, of course, and those dwarfs are a delight to read.

The Amelia Peabody mysteries by Elizabeth Peters: I know that “cadaver” and “comfort” aren’t usually associated with each other, but these mysteries are so much fun! Amelia Peabody is a spunky, indomitable heroine, and the setting (Egypt in the late 1800s – early 1900s) allows for some incredibly entertaining mysteries.

Redwall by Brian Jaques: This book is charming. I love reading about little mice and squirrel warriors fighting against an evil army full of stoats and rats.

The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman: This trilogy was my jumping-off point into adult fantasy. I credit my ongoing love of fantasy, my dragon collection, and my enjoyment of D&D to these.

One for the Money by Janet Evanovich: Another mystery (weird), this series follows an accidental bounty-hunter (she just needed a job) named Stephanie Plum. She is such a disaster, it’s like watching a train wreck: you can’t look away. All the characters in this series are quirky and funny. This series always succeeds in distracting me from stress.

Have you read any of these? What books are your go-to comfort reads?

The Age of Witches by Louisa Morgan- ARC Review

Amazon.com: The Age of Witches: A Novel (9780316419512): Morgan ...

In Gilded Age New York, a centuries-long clash between two magical families ignites when a young witch must choose between love and loyalty, power and ambition, in this magical novel by Louisa Morgan.
In 1692, Bridget Bishop was hanged as a witch. Two hundred years later, her legacy lives on in the scions of two very different lines: one dedicated to using their powers to heal and help women in need; the other, determined to grasp power for themselves by whatever means necessary.
This clash will play out in the fate of Annis, a young woman in Gilded Age New York who finds herself a pawn in the family struggle for supremacy. She’ll need to claim her own power to save herself-and resist succumbing to the darkness that threatens to overcome them all. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Orbit Books and Angela Man for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available on April seventh, 2020.

Reading this book, I found myself in a “it’s not you, it’s me” situation. It was well written, but I just really didn’t care for it. Possibly, it was because the book didn’t seem to match its blurb. When I read the description, I expected a lot more action than there is in the book. I guess I failed to take into account the time in which this book takes place.

Annis comes from a long line of witches, but she is unaware of it. Her stepmother, Frances, is also imbued with powers. She decides to use them selfishly, in an attempt to gain herself notoriety. Here’s the first thing in the book that I wasn’t a huge fan of: the whole “evil plot” consists of making Annis marry someone with station so that Frances can be a part of the upper class. That’s a reason that just isn’t all that interesting to me, personally.

I also didn’t really connect with the characters at all. Annis only cared about her horses and, when she thought about marrying rich, it was with an eye toward the horses she’d own and be able to breed. James, the other part of the duo, was a prude who didn’t think women capable of anything. It made it difficult for me to care about either of them. The slow-building possible-romance just didn’t work for me.

The world was well-realized, however, and the writing was top-notch. Louisa Morgan wrote with an eye to detail that made it incredibly easy to visualize the settings. She told the story using four different points of view, but the switch-off was smooth and easy to follow.

Despite the author’s obvious skill, this book just didn’t butter my biscuit.

Books That I Think Will Be Future Classics

I saw this post on both Fictionophile’s and Orang-Utan Librarian’s fantastic blogs and I just had to take part. Credit for this fun post goes to Orangutan Librarian.

I like thinking about the books that will be considered ‘classics’ for future generations, and the reasons why. Here are a few that I think will fill that role in the coming years:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor. This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

This is the story of what it’s like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie’s letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.

Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting coming-of-age story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as growing up. (taken from Amazon)

Aside from the fact that this is an incredibly moving book (it’s one of my top five favorites of all time), it’s an important book. Written solely through letters, this book covers subjects that are often considered taboo in the YA genre and it does it realistically and with grace. The simplicity of the writing makes it hit home all the more. I definitely see this one being considered a “classic” in the future.

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life. (taken from Amazon)

Admission: I haven’t read this book. However, it think it fits the criteria: it discusses an important subject, is relevant to the time (sadly), and -from what I’ve heard- it’s well-written.

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The Harry Potter series

Okay, hear me out: I’m not adding this series because it’s immensely popular. I’m adding it because of the changes it inspired in children’s literature, the first being that this series crosses from being kid lit., to being middle grade about halfway through the series. This is the first series that I can think of that was written with the goal of having the audience get older in conjunction with the characters. It also spawned a change in children’s literature: the discussion of difficult subjects without shying away or “dumbing it down” to meet the reader. Plus, there are the numerous books that have been quite obviously inspired by the changes Harry Potter affected in literature.

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.

This improbable story of Christopher’s quest to investigate the suspicious death of a neighborhood dog makes for one of the most captivating, unusual, and widely heralded novels in recent years. (taken from Amazon)

While it’s never actually confirmed in the book, most people agree that Christopher is on the spectrum. The way the author explored this is astounding. While it changes how Christopher handles things, it in no way shows him as being incapable or “lesser than.” It’s amazing how well-written this book is. It really made me think and I would be very surprised if this isn’t considered a classic in the future.

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Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.

This improbable story of Christopher’s quest to investigate the suspicious death of a neighborhood dog makes for one of the most captivating, unusual, and widely heralded novels in recent years.

This seems like one of those books that intimidates a lot of people. I highly recommend giving it a go. I believe that- aside from the themes explored in the book- its odd writing style ( the endnotes! Endless endnotes!) will both fascinate and confuse for many generations to come.

If some of these are already considered classics, then yay and my bad. It’s been longer than I care to admit since I’ve had required reading of “classics.”

What do you think? What would you add?

Parasites by Matthew Samuels

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At the end of the universe, the very fabric of reality is beginning to contract, winding up to the Big Crunch. Alone and isolated on the planet Lyra, humans evolved late on a resource-poor world. Doomed to die out as food and minerals dwindle, a scientist makes a chance discovery allowing people and vehicles to travel through ‘thinnings’ – patches of space linking universes.Kael and Alessia are explorers charting where the thinnings go and more importantly, bringing back valuable resources to Lyra, trying desperately to extend the lifespan of their home world. Alessia’s father, Ben, set out two years ago to uncover another species’ reference to a ‘solution’ to the big crunch problem – but never returned. A chance discovery leads Kael and Alessia to a clue, prompting another expedition to see if they can avoid the mistakes of the past and help to unravel the mystery.Kael, Alessia and their gruff bodyguard Basteel retrace Ben’s steps, seeking closure for Alessia, a solution for Lyra and together begin a voyage through wild, weird and wonderful planets. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.

When it comes to sci-fi writing, I’m pretty picky. It’s very easy for me to lose interest, or just give up because I get confused by the “sciencey stuff” (don’t mind me, I’m just over here making up new phrases). There was never any danger of that with Parasites, however. It was a unique book and kept me entertained from beginning to end.

I think the biggest strength the author displayed in this book was the world (worlds) building. It was excellent. He managed to somehow make things utterly alien, while keeping it believable and with enough of a grounding in reality that it made sense. I was never bored by overly-complicated scientific mumbo-jumbo: even the explanations were easy to understand, without speaking down to the reader.

All of the characters were enjoyable, although Basteel (the bodyguard/father figure) was by far my favorite. If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know that I can’t stand overly dramatic love stories, and this book didn’t have any. It was fabulous. The relationships were important, but they were never over the top, or melodramatic. The interactions between the characters was based more on friendship and respect, than on the gushy stuff (ha!).

Matthew Samuels wrote with confidence and skill. Parasites is an excellent addition to the science fiction genre, and one I suggest picking up.

 

 

Feathertide by Beth Cartwright

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Marea was born to be different – a girl born covered in the feathers of a bird, and kept hidden in a crumbling house full of secrets. When her new tutor, the Professor, arrives with his books, maps and magical stories, he reveals a world waiting outside the window and her curiosity is woken. Caught in the desire to discover her identity and find out why she has feathers fluttering down her back like golden thistledown, she leaves everything she has ever known and goes in search of the father she has never met.

This hunt leads her to the City of Murmurs, a place of mermaids and mystery, where jars of swirling mist are carried through the streets by the broken-hearted. It is here that she learns about love, identity and how to accept being that little bit different. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Ebery Publishing for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. It will be available on July thirtieth.

This is a rare book. It’s the kind of quiet beautiful that reminds me why I like to read so very much. I was blown away by how a story with only a few characters could manage to feel so big. I loved every moment of it.

This book is about Marea, a girl born with feathers. She spends much of her young life watching the birds out her window and wondering if she’s more girl or more bird. As she gets older, she decides to leave the safety of her childhood and venture to the City of Murmurs, in search of her father and of answers.

One of the things I loved about this book is that, while ostensibly looking for her father, what Marea is really searching for is herself. At its core, this lovely book is about discovering who we are, embracing our uniqueness, and being courageous enough to share our differences with the world.

Marea herself was a wonderful main character. She was very unsure of herself, but also very believable. She was also extremely easy to relate to. I think all of us have our insecurities. The side characters were also fantastic: there was Sybel, who ultimately became like a mother to Marea; Leo, who offered to help Marea find her father; the Keeper of the Hours (oh my goodness, I loved that idea!); and Elver, who I refuse to spoil by saying anything about.

The City of Murmurs itself is really a character. I love books where the setting comes to life and Beth Cartwright crafted such a creative and beautiful world that I was immediately engrossed.

This is not a book with action scenes. You won’t find daring fights, or dastardly villains. What you will find, however, is an unassuming masterpiece, a book that will stay with you. I know I’ll find myself returning to the City of Murmurs again before too long.

I recommend this book very highly.

Giveaway- The Rome of Fall by Chad Alan Gibbs

The Rome of Fall by [Gibbs, Chad Alan]
              After leaving mysteriously two decades ago, financial ruin and his dying mother have brought Marcus Brinks back to his hometown of Rome, Alabama. Brinks, the former lead singer of ’90s indie-rock band Dear Brutus, takes a job teaching at his old school, where years ago, he and his friend Jackson conspired to get Deacon, the starting quarterback, and resident school jerk, kicked off the football team. Now it’s Jackson, head coach of Rome, who rules the school like Caesar, while Deacon plots his demise. This time Brinks refuses to get involved, opting instead for a quiet life with his high school crush, Becca. But will dreams of domestic bliss go up in flames when repercussions from the past meet the lying, cheating, and blackmail of the present? (taken from Amazon)

I’m so excited to announce my first giveaway on my blog: The Rome of Fall by Chad Alan Gibbs ( find my review here). As I remarked to a fellow blogger, at this point Chad Alan Gibbs could write a book about the color beige, and I’d be excited to read it. The Rome of Fall is an incredibly enjoyable nostalgia-filled book, and is easily one of the best books I’ve read in quite a while.

Chad Alan Gibbs has generously offered five physical copies as prizes! However, if you aren’t one of the lucky winners, you can pick up your own copy on March 17th.

So, now to the rules:
1. U.S. residents only for this particular giveaway
2. Comment below so I can add you to the drawing. Something as simple as “Yo” or “Wazzup!”  works great, but I’d love to hear a memory/song/etc that makes you nostalgic for the 90’s.
3. The contest ends Friday, March 20th. I’ll list winners here, as well as on a separate post, so keep your eyes out.

That’s it. You’re in. While I’ve got you here, I also highly recommend Chad Alan Gibbs’ debut novel, Two Like Me and You.

A Smuggler’s Path by I.L Cruz

Image result for a smuggler's pathIn Canto, magic is a commodity, outlawed by the elites after losing a devastating war and brokered by smugglers on the hidden market. But some know it’s more–a weapon for change.

Inez Garza moves through two worlds. She’s a member of the noble class who works as a magical arms dealer–a fact either group would gladly use against her. Neither know her true purpose–funding Birthright, an underground group determined to return magic to all at any cost.
But the discovery of a powerful relic from before the Rending threatens her delicate balance.
Inez’s inherent magic, which lies dormant in all the Canti, has been awakened. Now the Duchess’s daughter, radical and smuggler must assume another forbidden title–mage, a capital crime. This will bring her to the attention of factions at home–fanatical rebels bent on revolution, a royal family determined to avoid another magical war, her mercenary colleagues at the hidden market willing to sell her abilities to the highest bidder–and in Mythos, victors of the war and architects of the Rending.
Evasion has become Inez’s specialty, but even she isn’t skilled enough to hide from everyone–and deny the powers drawing her down a new path. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Rachel Poli at Bosky Flame Press for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available for purchase now.

This is the sort of fantasy that is a joy to read. It’s fun, fast-paced, and full of unique characters and a great history. I loved the way the author gave a bunch of history in the prologue, and managed to tell it simply and in a way that made the story seem even more intriguing.

Inez was an enjoyable main character. Her need to survive was often at odds with who she was, and I loved watching her character grow and evolve. While she was a strong character, she was strong in an atypical way. She’s not unfeeling, she doesn’t think she’s an island, and she doesn’t have a “chosen one” complex. It was refreshing.

The other characters in this book were equally enjoyable. I loved that Rowley is a talking dog. That just tickled me. I also liked the little nods I saw throughout the book: seeing “Jabberwocky” written is always fun.

It does take a bit of time to get going, but that setup is far from boring. The slower build-up gave me a chance to really get acquainted with I.L. Cruz’s world and showcased her excellent writing abilities. If my interest is kept during a slower beginning, I know the writer is talented.

This is the sort of fantasy that works well for pretty much any age group. It’s creative and fun. I recommend giving it a read!

Queens of Fennbirn by Kendare Blake

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Together in print for the first time in this paperback bind-up, the dazzling prequels to the Three Dark Crowns series are finally available for fans to have and to (literally) hold. Uncover the sisters’ origins, dive deep into the catastrophic reign of the Oracle Queen, and reveal layers of Fennbirn’s past, hidden until now.

The Young Queens

Get a glimpse of triplet queens Mirabella, Arsinoe, and Katharine during a short period of time when they protected and loved one another. From birth until their claiming ceremonies, this is the story of the three sisters’ lives…before they were at stake.

The Oracle Queen

Everyone knows the legend of Elsabet, the Oracle Queen. The one who went mad. The one who orchestrated a senseless, horrific slaying of three entire houses. But what really happened? Discover the true story behind the queen who could foresee the future…just not her own downfall. (taken from Amazon)

I love Kendare Blake’s writing. The darker tones present throughout her Three Dark Crowns series adds a glorious sense of the gothic. This book of two novellas was no different.

Both of these stories take place in Fennbirn, the world of the Three Dark Crowns. I would suggest reading at least the first few books in the actual series before picking these novellas up, because you’ll get spoilers otherwise. There are also things in this book that won’t make as much sense if you haven’t already read the others.

In The Young Queens, we get a bigger view of the queens’ lives before they were pitted against each other and the events of the Three Dark Crowns series unfolded. While I can see why this novella is so well-liked, I honestly didn’t feel that it added anything to the original story. In fact (and this is a weird opinion), I preferred getting only glimpses of the queens’ time together prior to their fight for the crown. This book was sweet in many ways, but it just didn’t do it for me. From a technical standpoint, the writing was as strong as ever, but this novella just felt…unnecessary.

The Oracle Queen, though! Holy Hannah, that packed a punch! Kendare Blake’s ability to keep me on the edge of my seat is once again made apparent. The story of the last oracle queen is full of intrigue, betrayal, and more than a bit of violence. I loved every moment of it. Kendare Blake has never shied away from being mean to her characters, a trait that makes her books unpredictable and compelling. I suggest picking up this book of novellas for this story alone.

This was a good book, even though I didn’t love The Young Queens, and it’s definitely worth adding to your shelf.

Cover Reveal- Prophecy: Eve of Darkness by D. Ellis Overttun




There’s something very exciting happening this March. What is it, you ask ?(Well, maybe you’re asking ‘What’s for dinner’, but I can’t hear you, so I’m making assumptions). I’ll tell you: the third installment of the Tera Nova series is releasing! Mark your calendars for March 16th. In the meantime, I get to show you the amazing cover. Here ’tis:



20191212 Prophecy Cover (300 x 480 72 DPI) (2)

That’s epic! Book one and two are already out, and I recommend you give them a read. They’re fantastic! (You can find my review of book 1, titled Universe Awakening (Redux Edition) here). 



Auberon and Natasha, now two of the most wanted criminals on Arkos, have fled to the Westside. They have taken temporary refuge in Edenoud with Dion, son of Heron, as they contemplate their future. However, a dream has prompted them to return to the Eastside to warn First Minister Odessa. What could be so disturbing that would cause them to jeopardize their own safety? Will the First Minister listen or sound the alarm?
The investigation of the incident that took place in the Chamber of Prayers is reaching its conclusion. Tendai Theodor has a sense the report will cast blame on him. Can the power of his office protect him? To balance the forces he feels are aligned against him, he journeys to the underearth to seek out an ancient and, some say, mythical enemy, the Nephilim. Are they real or just the stuff of legend?
Meanwhile, First Minister Odessa has not lost sight of the inexorable destruction of the universe. While she has continued to support efforts to locate a new home, she has genetically engineered a new servile class and a method to seed them on a planet in advance of the Celesti arrival. But where is this place? The answer lies in a curious conversation that Director Jo’el has with a surrogate for his longmissing brother, Davin. It leads to a series of star maps recorded hundreds of thousands of years ago on clay tablets.
The Celesti face another problem. They are dying. However, something is happening to Auberon and Natasha that holds promise for the continuation of their species. If it is successful, can it be replicated, or is it an isolated incident?
Prophecy: Eve of Darkness weaves a compelling tale that is a blend of human nature, science, theology and philosophy. It spans the vastness of space from one universe to another and the underground world of Arkos to a distant planet called “Terra Nova”. It holds up a mirror to the human soul, but it will require thought and contemplation to decipher what lies below the surface.