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.

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.

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!

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.

A Girl Called Ari by P.J. Sky- ARC Review

Ari Ebook Cover Hi Res
How would you survive beyond the comfortable walls of your world?

For Starla, a struggle for power becomes a struggle for survival when she finds herself on the wrong side of the wall. Fleeing her abductors and lost in the wasteland, she faces starvation, warring factions, bloodthirsty creatures, and the endless burning sun.

And then there’s Ari… who is she really? And can she really trust this girl from the wasteland to lead her back to the city gates?

One thing’s for sure, Starla’s once privileged life will never be the same… (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. It will be available on March 20th.

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve read a book that fits so well into the dystopian genre. The book starts behind the walls of a city. Starla, the mayor’s daughter, is warned that she is in danger. She ignores the warning and finds herself kidnapped and left on the other side of the wall, where there is nothing but wasteland and hardship. There, she meets Ari. Ari is a girl living outside the wall who reluctantly agrees to help Starla get safely back to the city.

It took me a while to get into this book. Starla annoyed the snot out of me. She felt very naive and spoiled. It made sense for her character arc, but it was difficult to read at first. Ari, on the other hand, was a fascinating character. She was tough and self-sufficient, but she also had deep compassion for others, a trait she tried to hide. She brought the story to life.

The journey back to the city covers the majority of the book, although Starla also needs to find out who kidnapped her and why. While there is action, this book focused more on themes of trust, friendship, and having the emotional strength to survive the things life throws at you.

If you enjoy dystopian fiction that focuses more on story development than on non-stop action, you’ll enjoy this book. It was an interesting and unique take on the genre, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for further books written by this author.

Mental Health in Literature: a Conversation with Bookish Creation

Today, Bookish Creation has kindly offered to add her thoughts on mental illness in literature. She brought up several points I hadn’t heard before and gave me much to think about. Check it out.

I think that there are several things that need to change within the literary world – and the entertainment world in general – when it comes to mental health. As many have mentioned, misrepresentation of certain mental illnesses is really harmful no matter what, but I think the change needs to go deeper than that. Most books that we see that are accurately describing mental illnesses tend to tackle the illnesses that are thought of as larger illnesses, scary ones, or ones born from tragedy that causes social skill changes in the character. While the ones that accurately look into this are good, I really feel that there needs to be a lot more stories that have characters that face the illnesses that are thought of by most people as less severe. These, after all, tend to be more common and can still cause difficulty for the people facing them.

Every day, people face mental health issues like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, OCD, not too severe personality disorders, social anxiety, hypochondria, and many more. While these mental health concerns don’t always require hospitalization or heavy medications, they still present people who have them with obstacles that can be difficult for them to overcome. This becomes a real issue for patients because it can cause those who care about them to misjudge them or even cause them to lose relationships all together. I honestly feel that discontent and loss of relationship is generally not due to rudeness or deliberate attempts to hurt anyone, but rather is caused by a lack of understanding about the problems the patients face. I really feel that if we start to include these mental health concerns accurately in main characters in fiction, we might start to bridge the gap of that lack of understanding more.
There is another problem that I have noticed when it comes to mental health in fiction: It tends to be the main obstacle or plot point the story focuses on. Fiction tends to take mental health issues and turn them into these almost opponents that the characters need to face. When the story revolves around the health condition it can cause it to become more frightening. This is we tend to look at the focal point of a story as being inherently negative to a point where we reject it as being something we want to deal with in our lives. This only leads to people with mental health conditions to being ostracized more and treated harshly. I truly feel that if the characters in fiction have the condition as just part of their character, much like they may have some acne or poor eyesight, yet they face some other issue that the story focuses on, we will normalize these conditions while bringing awareness to how these conditions can hinder or affect people. Bottom line here is, the main plot point that characters must overcome will almost always be viewed as bad and scary, so we shouldn’t always make mental health the main plot point if we want to remove that fear.
All in all, I feel that mental health needs to be represented more in books as being a normal part of the characters‘ lives. We should be bringing awareness through normalization rather than trying to use real health conditions as villains or problems to be frightened of.

Last Memoria by Rachel Emma Shaw

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There’s nothing Sarilla hates more than stealing memories. It robs people of their lives as surely as if she killed them, leaving behind only the husk of who they once were. Since Sarilla is one of the few with the ability to transfer memories, she’s highly prized by the king. He makes her take them from his people to keep them in line. All Sarilla wants is to escape to where nobody knows what she is or what she can do, but her plans go awry when she runs into Falon. He hopes to use Sarilla to help get his stolen memories back, whether she wants to or not. (taken from Amazon)

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

It’s amazing how much is packed into this short book. I was sucked in from the start. So many things were done well!

Sarilla is a memoria, meaning she has the ability to steal memories with just a touch. In this way, she’s sort of stealing identities. A lot of who we are is based on our experiences , so it’s really a dangerous power to have. In the beginning, she and her brother (who is a jerk with a capital ‘j’) are running from the king, who has been using her as a weapon to keep his subjects in line. Honestly, though, the A to B of the book is the least important part.

A good chunk of this book centers simply on Sarilla’s coming to grips with who she is and what she can do. There’s a lot of guilt and regret, as well as fear of who she could become. It’s interesting to see themes of choice vs. nature discussed in such a way. Sarilla was fully-developed, and I enjoyed her inner thoughts more than the rest of the book, although I liked the book as a whole.

The second part of the book takes place from the perspective of Falon, a man whose memories were taken from him. Add to that the fact that there is a bit of a romantic history, and it’s a fascinating combination. He struggles with (justified) anger, which added a cool dynamic. His attitude was horrible a good chunk of the time, but it was completely understandable considering what he was dealing with.

The fantasy world itself wasn’t fully realized, but I think that was done deliberately, leaving the Reader to make inferences based on glimpses seen in stolen memories. It was a risky move, but it worked. I was hooked. I quickly became invested in both the characters, and the feel of the book. It didn’t shy away from the ugly parts of the world, instead bringing them to light in a way that was both jarring and powerful.

It’s amazing how much of a wallop this shorter book packed. If you’re looking for action, this book won’t fill that itch. But if you like a fantasy that makes you think, one that deals with subjects like grief, loss, and the choices we make, this one is for you.

Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella- ARC Review

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Cadence Archer arrives on Harvard’s campus desperate to understand why her brother, Eric, a genius who developed paranoid schizophrenia took his own life there the year before. Losing Eric has left a black hole in Cady’s life, and while her decision to follow in her brother’s footsteps threatens to break her family apart, she is haunted by questions of what she might have missed. And there’s only one place to find answers.
 
As Cady struggles under the enormous pressure at Harvard, she investigates her brother’s final year, armed only with a blue notebook of Eric’s cryptic scribblings. She knew he had been struggling with paranoia, delusions, and illusory enemies—but what tipped him over the edge? With her suspicions mounting, Cady herself begins to hear voices, seemingly belonging to three ghosts who walked the university’s hallowed halls—or huddled in its slave quarters. Among them is a person whose name has been buried for centuries, and another whose name mankind will never forget.
 
Does she share Eric’s illness, or is she tapping into something else? Cady doesn’t know how or why these ghosts are contacting her, but as she is drawn deeper into their worlds, she believes they’re moving her closer to the truth about Eric, even as keeping them secret isolates her further. Will listening to these voices lead her to the one voice she craves—her brother’s—or will she follow them down a path to her own destruction? (taken from Amazon)

                          Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available on May fifth.

Hmm…where to begin with this book? I rarely give trigger warnings, instead describing books as harsh if they discuss heavier subjects, but in this case I think I need to add a trigger warning. Suicide is an ongoing theme throughout this book. It’s mentioned in the blurb, so it’s not hidden or anything, but if that’s something you don’t want to read about, you might want to skip this review.

I actually almost gave up on this book multiple times. Parts of it hit too close to home and brought up feelings from my own mental illness diagnosis (bipolar 1, diagnosed during high school. Fun times). I prefer not to think about that time in my life, so this book was difficult for me.

So, why did I finish it? Because Francesca Serritella is an extremely talented author. If she wasn’t, I would have had no problem reading this book. Instead, she made the characters easy to connect to. I felt for Eric as his illness was spoken about. I was heartbroken on his behalf when people felt “embarrassed” by him. I can’t say I understand fully how schizophrenia works, other than that it has some symptoms that overlap with bipolar, but I can absolutely relate to the feelings of loneliness a mental illness diagnosis can carry with it.

This book is about Cady (Eric’s sister) and her decision to follow in her deceased brother’s footsteps to discover what led to his death by suicide. She learns that things are much more complicated than she originally thought. He was a paranoid schizophrenic (as well as a brilliant young man with tons of potential: a diagnosis is not an identity), and as he came close to the end of his life, he began to think he was being followed and was in danger. As Cady learns more of who her brother was, she begins to wonder: was he right?

At the same time, Cady begins hearing voices that no one else hears. She starts to question whether she might have the same mental illness as her brother. Needless to say, this scares her. What made me sad about this is that she was so afraid to mention her concerns to anyone. Again, the stigma against mental illness rears its ugly head.

This book was very well-written, but I would never be able to reread it. And, honestly, I felt that the ending diminished the rest of the book a bit. It felt out of place and took me me out of the story. However, the author wrote a compelling story, even though it was most definitely a harsher one.

If you struggle with suicidal ideation, I strongly suggest you skip this book. It is a good one, but ultimately it wasn’t for me.