BOOK REVIEW: SMALL FAVORS BY ERIN A. CRAIG

Enter not the forest deep. Beyond the bells, the dark fiends keep.

Summer is slowly winding down. The changing of the seasons brings with it the chill of autumn, ripe with spooky tales and creepy crawlies. Who doesn’t like a twisted tale that makes you glance over your shoulder?

Small Favors is the perfect book to read during the tail-end of summer, when nights are starting to become longer and colder. This is author Erin A. Craig’s second novel. Her first book, House of Salt and Sorrows, was a NYT bestseller and one of my personal favorite reads this year. You can check out that review here.

Here’s the synopsis for Small Favors:

Ellerie Downing lives in the quiet town of Amity Falls in the Blackspire Mountain range–five narrow peaks stretching into the sky like a grasping hand, bordered by a nearly impenetrable forest from which the early townsfolk fought off the devils in the woods. To this day, visitors are few and rare. But when a supply party goes missing, some worry that the monsters that once stalked the region have returned.

As fall turns to winter, more strange activities plague the town. They point to a tribe of devilish and mystical creatures who promise to fulfill the residents’ deepest desires, however grand and impossible, for just a small favor. But their true intentions are much more sinister, and Ellerie finds herself in a race against time before all of Amity Falls, her family, and the boy she loves go up in flames.

Craig draws upon the same elements in Small Favors that made House of Salt and Sorrows such a riveting success: creepy vibes, strangers with dark secrets, and a young girl trying to save her family from destruction.

One of the main themes in the book is the sense of community, of family, and how painful it can be when the bonds that hold us all together begin to fray. It also touches on the chaos that inevitably comes after a community implodes into itself, when people who were once viewed as friends are suddenly regarded upon as strangers, or worse: enemies with a familiar face.

The pace of the storytelling and drama increases gradually throughout the book, the tension mounting and building up until the very last page. There is mystery upon mystery, and the town seems to be the epicenter of it all. The tension in the story slowly becomes more taut as the narrative progresses, until everything becomes so tightly woven that something has to give. Which, of course, it eventually does. The last arc of the book, where everything gets resolved, are complete page-turners. I don’t recommend starting the final few chapters just before bed, unless you don’t have to wake up early the next day!

What I also appreciated about Small Favors is that not all of the characters are redeemable. I genuinely believe this is a strength to Craig’s storytelling. Not everyone can have a happily ever after. And frankly, not everyone deserves to be forgiven for their terrible sins and choices.

Overall, the book has just the right amount of claustrophobia that is reminiscent of stories with spooky vibes and undercurrents of mystery and horror. As things begin to crumble around Ellerie and her family, the feeling of being stuck with nowhere to go becomes stronger.

If you enjoy stories with a single point-of-view, that are slow-burning and heavily lean into unsolved mysteries and family secrets, then I highly recommend this book. Hopefully Craig writes another one soon!

Book Review: The Gilded Ones

What if your blood ran gold?

In The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna, girls who are found to have golden blood are sentenced to death for being impure. Except, as sixteen-year old Deka will find out, there’s more to her golden blood than has been shared with her.

This is Forna’s debut novel. Initially, it was supposed to be published last year, but due to the pandemic the publishing house opted to wait. The Gilded Ones is a good debut novel, but it felt clunky and clumsy at times. I wanted to like this book, I really did. It had some strong aspects to it that I found particularly interesting, but ultimately, there were some aspects that I couldn’t move past.

Here’s a quick synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs. But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.

THE WORLDBUILDING

One of the strongest aspects of The Gilded Ones was the worldbuilding. Forna built a beautifully diverse world with creatures that are both fantastical and terrifying, with an intricate culture and belief system that guides the character’s actions in their everyday lives.

Forna clearly spent a lot of time delving into the culture and fleshing out what this world would look like. It is rich, and complicated, and interesting, with all the hallmarks of high fantasy writing. However, it happened a few times where things were mentioned and spoken about, only to never be mentioned again. As a reader, this made it difficult to decipher what information was important to the plot, and what was only a passing element that we wouldn’t see again.

The world of The Gilded Ones is an intensely patriarchal society that is unabashedly misogynist. Girls are tested for their purity, and are forced to always be accompanied by a male relative after reaching adult age. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with including this in a story. However, what is odd is that The Gilded Ones is often touted as a feminist work. Although a case can be made as such, seeing as there are quite a few strong female characters, the story reads more as a dystopia akin to the Handmaid’s tale.

CHARACTERS

Whereas the worldbuilding was one of the strong suites of the book, I found that the characters were one of the story’s weaknesses.

The main character, Deka, was very two-dimensional, which is interesting considering the story was entirely told from her perspective. I found Deka’s character arc was not nearly as pronounced as it could have been. For a long time she remained stagnant as the narrative moved forward. It’s really only in the very few last pages that suddenly, her character flourishes in a surprising way that would have been nice to see earlier in the story. Ultimately though, I found it difficult to care for her, and never really got the impression that the reader got to actually know her very well. Her struggles through training were only glanced upon, which is a shame.

The book also bounced around between being so slow and introspective that it didn’t feel like anything was happening, to so fast that it was difficult to understand what was going on.

AIMED FOR THE RIGHT AUDIENCE?

The Gilded Ones was a very brutal and violent book. Although violence isn’t outside of the scope of YA literature, the violence in The Gilded Ones was often of a sexual nature that seems at odds with the YA genre.

Frankly, with a few changes to the quality of the dialogue, and with slightly older protagonists, this would have made a really great New Adult book. And with an older, more mature audience in mind, the dark themes of this work could have been thoroughly explored without the constraints of the YA genre.

Ultimately, I’m so far divided on this book. On the one hand it was refreshing and interesting to read a book with so many cultures and diverse characters. But then again, it also fell into many of the pitfalls that YA is critiqued for, and clumsily at that.

It’s a book worth reading, and I’m not giving up on the series just yet. But I think there are other books who deal with these very serious issues in a better manner.

Book review: Project Hail Mary

With a title like ‘Project Hail Mary’, you figure that whatever stakes there are in the story, they must be high. And for this story in particular, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Our sun is dying. Energy – the literal light is being leeched by an interstellar bacteria dubbed astrophage, feeding off of our star’s light. The sun dims at the same rate as astrophage brightens. No one knows anything about this new threat. How does it feed? How does it breed, and most importantly: where did it come from?

Only one thing is certain: the consequences of the sun’s dimming will be devastating. Global collapse of the world’s agricultural systems. Ecological devastation. War. Civil unrest. Pestilence.

The only way to have a fighting chance at saving Earth is to follow the astrophage back to their home planet, study it, and see what its weakness is. It’s a one-way journey. Here’s the synopsis:

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission–and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish. Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, he realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Alone on this tiny ship that’s been cobbled together by every government and space agency on the planet and hurled into the depths of space, it’s up to him to conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.

And thanks to an unexpected ally, he just might have a chance.

Part scientific mystery, part dazzling interstellar journey, Project Hail Mary is a tale of discovery, speculation, and survival to rival The Martian–while taking us to places it never dreamed of going.

THE PROS

One of the (many) successes of this book is that regardless of what is going on in the story, there is a constant sense of dread. Weir is particularly gifted at making it very clear how many ways this mission will likely go sideways, either on Earth or out in space. Every second that Grace takes to determine his surroundings means one more second of potential chaos on Earth. And time is running out quickly.

Project Hail Mary was very difficult to put down, as there was always something new and exciting that made me want to read more. The stakes were unbelievably high (saving the Earth and all human kind? No biggie). And reading about the science was really interesting.

Now, as a non-science person myself, I really appreciated how Weir explained very difficult concepts (well, difficult to me at least) in a really approachable way. Weir is a devout space nerd and hobbyist, and it shows in the quality of the writing that he indeed did a lot of research to make this book seems as fluid as it is. It made the story that much more realistic, and even if I didn’t grasp every scientific concept brushed upon in the book, I understood enough to follow along with the story and see the impact.

This book was an automatic five-star read for me. The story is told in two timelines: the present, where Grace is on the Hail Mary, and the past, which come in the form of burst of his memories. These memories also happen to contextualize what is happening in the present, and I found it a brilliant way to show the reader what happened, without telling them outright. The back and forth also did a great job in cranking up the tension, especially as it becomes clear that Earth’s position is even more dire than initially thought.

And, without giving any spoilers…the ending of the book was one of the most beautiful I’ve read in a long time. I teared up a bit reading those last few pages, and was completely taken by surprise.

THE CONS

Now, ‘cons’ is a strong word for me being really nitpicky about a few things in an otherwise fantastic book. But every work has parts that aren’t as strong as the whole.

Ryland Grace is a multi-dimensional character, and the flashbacks peel away aspects of his personality in a really elegant and thoughtfully executed way. One of Weir’s strengths as a writer is creating main characters that are easy to relate to.

Now, on to the ‘but’: For all of Ryland Grace’s personality traits, he reads very much like Mark Watney, the main character of Weir’s debut science fiction novel The Martian. They share near identical types of humour and react very similarly to different situations. Personally, I didn’t care much, since I enjoyed reading The Martian and liked the humor injected into the story. But I do concede that it might annoy readers.

Another nitpicky thing with some of the tertiary characters from Earth in the story is that they sometimes come across as a little one-dimensional according to their nationality. For example, Russians enjoying vodka, or Canadians being unabashedly positive. These are characters who do not appear for very long, and for whom it wouldn’t make sense to delve into their backstories for longer than necessary. But, it’s something important to mention.

If you enjoy science fiction stories, dystopias, or epic adventures, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Project Hail Mary ASAP. You won’t regret it!

Book review: House of Salt and Sorrows

Oh, I liked this book.

House of Salt and Sorrows (HoSS) is a Young Adult fantasy novel written by Erin A. Craig. It is a dark and twisted fairy tale retelling, with elements of mystery and horror woven through that keep you wondering what’s really going on the whole time.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next.

HoSS is one of the best standalone YA Fantasy books I’ve read, and is one of my top picks so far for this year. Unsurprisingly, I was first drawn to the book because of the title and the beautiful cover. The blurb also had me hooked – it seemed full of mystery and intrigue, and I immediately wanted to know more.

I had high expectations for this story for a few reasons, mainly because of the amount of positive reviews on Goodreads, but also because I’d heard so much about it from other fans in the genre. I’m very happy to say I was not disappointed. HoSS is a beautiful read that incorporates elements of magic effortlessly. These elements become so infused with the story as your progress that it’s easy to miss when this book goes from a creepy thriller to a full-on low fantasy novel, with mischievous forces hovering nearby, wreaking havoc.

Even if the novel is aimed at a YA audience, it deals with very real and very raw issues, such as the loss of a sibling (or rather, several siblings), the death of a parent, and what to do when the remaining parent remarries.

Craig masterfully created tension, friction and emotion through the character of Morella, new wife of Orton Thaumas and now stepmother to his collection of daughters. Morella instantly ignites frustration within the reader, after co-opting the funeral of one of Annaleigh’s recently deceased sisters to announce the happy news that she is pregnant with Orton’s child. She then continues to spark ire when she assumes that her son – as she is positive she is pregnant with a boy – will inherit the Thaumas fortune and estate.

Morella becomes an early target of dislike, however, as tragedy strikes the Thaumas household over and over again, it becomes apparent that there is more to this tale than just an evil stepmother. Soon, Annaleigh finds herself at the center of a high-stakes game played by mischievous divinities, where the veil between what is real and what is imagined wears thinner and thinner.

And as Annaleighs comes closer to solving the mystery of what evil is beseeching her family, her grip on reality also begins to loosen, leaving the reader confused as to what is actually happening. This is emphasized by the fact that Annaleigh is the only character through which we see the story – meaning her perceived reality, be it true or false, is the only one we are subjected to.

As mentioned, HoSS is a wonderfully crafted story with a plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat. One note, however, is that is can sometimes be confusing to remember which sister is which, and distinguish between their personalities. But even with this confusion, it isn’t terribly difficult to keep the characters separate from one another.

What would you do if you lost your imagination?

Have you pre-ordered your copy of The Imagination Machine yet? The Imagination Machine is a tale of friendship, adventure, and creativity. 

Sam thinks he has lost his imagination. When his friend Ophelia finds out, she offers to help him find it using the Imagination Machine! The machine has the power to bring you anywhere you can imagine. All you need to do is draw where you want to go.

I had so much fun putting this story together. As a young girl, I often worked on elaborate drawings and thinking up stories that went along with them. That creative streak is still with me today, and fuels my writing.

You can now pre-order your digital or hardcover copy of The Imagination Machine via kickstarter

By backing us, not only will you help in bringing this project to life, but you’ll also have the opportunity to get your copy of The Imagination Machine before anyone else. And to sweeten the deal, you’ll also have access to exclusive goodies like activity pages, a coloring book, and stickers!

Review: A Lair of Bones by Helen Scheuerer

How far would you go to follow your ambitions, regardless of how grand?

That’s the question that Roh, a cyren in Saddoriel, must ask herself after hearing that there will be another Queen’s Tournament, the first in 50 years. The tournaments are deadly, ruthless. But the winner – should anyone survive – will be crowned the next ruler.

A Lair of Bones (YA fantasy) by Helen Scheuerer is the first story in the upcoming Curse of the Cyren Queen Quartet. I had the absolute pleasure of reading an ARC in exchange for an honest review of the story. Here’s the synopsis:

A deadly contest. A vaulting ambition. How far will one cyren go to win?

Mighty cyrens have ruled the ancient lair of Saddoriel for centuries. A cavernous fortress, a subterranean labyrinth of tunnels and levels, powered by magic and music…

From the moment she was born, Roh, the daughter of an infamous criminal, has been despised by her own kind. Restricted to the Lower Sector and forced to work as a common bone cleaner, she has always believed she belongs above: where lies adventure… and power.

Opportunity arises in the form of the Queen’s Tournament, a treacherous set of trials that could see the victor crowned ruler of the entire lair. Up against the most cunning, dangerous cyrens in all the realms, does Roh stand a chance?

THE REVIEW

I absolutely loved this story, and had a hard time putting it down. It is dark, delicious, and filled with intricate culture and lore. One of the aspects that I enjoyed the most was that sirens (referred to as cyrens in the book) were the focus of the story. The beginning of the book was a tad slow, as there was a lot of information that needed to be conveyed to readers on the hierarchy, culture and society of the cyren characters portrayed. But the story quickly picked up, and as soon as the action ramped up, I raced through the rest.

These creatures, portrayed in Greek mythology as being half human and half bird, would lure sailors to their deaths through their song. The cyrens in A Lair of Bones are equally as ruthless, except that instead of being half bird they have more aquatic traits, such as the ability to breathe underwater and scales that appear on their skin. I’d never read a story featuring cyrens as the main characters before, and so it was very interesting to have them be the focus of the story.

Roh and her cyren folk are cunning and ambitious, with a deep appreciation for music and melody. They also have a healthy distaste of humans. Their lust for music and song often send members of Talon’s Reach up to the surface, to kidnap humans that display particularly gifted musical ability so they can play for them.

A Lair of Bones focuses on Roh and her ambition to win in the Queen’s Tournament. Roh wants nothing more than to don the coral crown and lead her people. She is the lowest of the low – the daughter of one of the worst criminals in history. Roh hopes that winning the crown will bring her the respect and appreciation she wants so badly. But to win the crown, Roh will need to be more cunning, ruthless, and brutal than all of the other competitors, who want the crown just as much as she does. The trials are designed to test participants in the most brutal ways possible, both physically and mentally. And for this edition, the designers of the trial have thrown in an extra twist by giving each cyren a human to take care of. Should the human die or become injured, then that means expulsion for the cyren.

At first, Roh is loath to take care of Odi, her designated human. She, as all cyrens, views humans as weak. Inferior. Easily dupped by the magic that surrounds the Lair. She grudgingly protects Odi from the wrath of other contestants. But with time, Roh comes to appreciate Odi’s presence – and his surprising insight.

One of the aspects that I appreciated the most about A Lair of Bones was the intricate culture and world that author Helen Scheuerer created. The cyrens have an intricate class system, a rich and vibrant culture, and an appreciation for music that runs so deep that it heavily impacts how cyrens live their lives and form their societies.

I highly recommend this story to readers who enjoy stories with fantastical creatures, dark storylines, and strong female characters. Roh is a well-rounded protagonist who is cunning, ambitious, and willing to do anything to achieve her goal. But she is also empathetic and kind, even though she doesn’t necessarily want to be.

A Lair of Bones will be available on Amazon as of July 20. You won’t want to miss the epic Dark Fantasy story!

Review: Throne of Glass series

There’s no rulebook for what to do once you finish a series that’s so epic that you question your abilities as a writer. At least, that’s how I felt earlier this week after finishing Kingdom of Ash, and therefore, finishing the entire Throne of Glass series for the first time. And let me tell you, it has been a wild ride.

Warning: this series review has spoilers. So if you haven’t read every book, from The Assassin’s Blade to Kingdom of Ash, I strongly recommend you stop reading this review, and instead read the series. Then make sure to tell me once you did, so I can talk to someone about it!

I’ve been very open about the fact that I had a ten-year long reading slump while I was finishing school, and that finally, mercifully, ended last year once I dove head-first into the publishing world and saw the wonderful books, especially in young adult fantasy, that had come out while I wasn’t paying attention.

Throne of Glass was one of the fantasy series that immediately caught my eye, for many reasons. The covers were neat. I heard good things about a strong female lead, whispers of a romantic interest, and a very good friend of mine confirmed it was one of the best series she’d ever read. And that for me was the final push I needed. Plus, the hardcover set was on deep discount, so…

The memory of reading the first book brings back a chuckle, because although I was fairly confident the story would be good, based on the hype I’d noticed for the series, I really had no idea of what to expect. An assassin? A king’s tournament? Alright, fine.

Now here’s an important point I want to clarify. As much as the series was amazing, it wasn’t perfect. But I truly believe that the merits of this series far outweigh any negative points. And the progression of Maas’s writing was something that was also really interesting to see.

It would be impossible to write a fully comprehensible review of the entire series while only having read it once. But there are several aspects that I really enjoyed that I want to focus on, so let’s do that.

The first is a little obvious, but let’s talk about the story for a minute.

THE STORY

The series begins with Celeana Sardothien imprisoned in Endovier, where she undergoes forced labor and whippings for bad behaviour – which is often. It ends with Aelin Galathynius Whitethorn Ashryver, in her palace in Orynth, overlooking a field of Kingsflame flowers – a divine approval of her as ruler of Terrasen.

And there’s a lot that happens in between.

The story, from start to finish, was always engaging and interesting. And it was really refreshing that the series had an ever-evolving goal, that changed with the information that was made available to the reader. It made sense for the goal to change, because our understanding of the world of Erilea changed. And while the goals themselves were lofty and grand (killing the king, bringing magic back, wiping Erawan out of existence), the obstacles that were in the way of the goals were equally just as insurmountable.

One thing I also appreciated about the series is how everything tied in together. Characters that we met in passing in The Assassin’s Blade suddenly became really important in Empire of Storms. Conversations and threads that were spun in Throne of Glass kept re-appearing throughout the series, such as the Wyrdmarks, Wyrdstone, or tales of great shadows and evils of the past.  

So yes, the story remained fresh over the course of eight books, which is a huge undertaking. And each book was its own self-contained narrative, while also fitting into the broader series ecosystem. The planning that author Sarah J. Maas had to do before even laying pen to paper must have been incredible to see.

Now on to the second part of what made this series so awesome: the characters.

THE CHARACTERS

As with most fantasy stories, there are a ton of characters in the Throne of Glass series. Some are part of each book, some only make a brief appearance. And then some come to play a much larger role than anyone would have thought. But there are two particular strengths that applies to all of these characters that I was to draw attention to.

For one, each of these characters is vastly different. Aelin is a much different person than Sorscha or Elide, for example. And Chaol is different from Aedion and Rowan. This is really a testament to Maas’s character-building skills. It’s difficult to write so many characters and have each one feel like a real person with goals and aspirations. And in a world with as many characters as the Throne of Glass series, it can be difficult to remember each of their names. But if each of these characters feels like its own unique person, then it’s easier to distinguish them.

For example: I cannot remember each name of the Khagan’s children. But I recognize their personalities enough to know who the Ruk-rider one is versus the horse-rider one. And that in itself is an important accomplishment, because it is difficult to make an entire cast of characters all feel different from one another. Some characters are deeply flawed, but those flaws make them who they are and help in turn to advance the narrative.

Secondly, nearly every single important character goes through a change. If characters did not change over the course of eight books, then the series would have been stagnant. But miraculously, every single character goes through a drastic arc, some even going through multiple changes over the course of the series.

This development, to me, was crucial in keeping me glued to the series and reading as fast as I could. Character arcs like Manon’s, for example, made me feel invested in the series. And her redemption arc, if you will, was one of the strongest. Even Aelin goes through a host of changes, some brought about by internal goals, some by external circumstances. These character arcs kept the reading fresh and went hand in hand with what they were experiencing around them in the story.

So what does one do, after reading an epic series of this magnitude?

I’m asking for myself, because I’m not sure what the answer is. As a reader, the series was incredible in ways I never could have anticipated. But as a writer, a not insignificant part of me is jealous. Jealous of how this series came together, and concerned that I might never be able to tell as good a story.

Oh well. Brooding on that point won’t accomplish anything. I’m better off honing my craft and sharpening my skills.

On to the next read, right?

If you’re curious, I did find that Maas’s writing style, and mine, are similar. So if you’re looking for a high fantasy read, consider giving the Sapeiro Chronicles: A Forgotten Past a try!

Pre-Order your copy of The Imagination Machine today!

What would you do if you lost your imagination?

Today is a very exciting day. After months and months of hard work planning, writing, and illustrating, my latest illustrated children’s book is finally open to pre-orders!

The Imagination Machine is a tale of friendship, adventure, and creativity. 

Sam thinks he has lost his imagination. When his friend Ophelia finds out, she offers to help him find it using the Imagination Machine! The machine has the power to bring you anywhere you can imagine. All you need to do is draw where you want to go.

You can now pre-order your digital or hardcover copy of The Imagination Machine via kickstarter

By backing us, not only will you help in bringing this project to life, but you’ll also have the opportunity to get your copy of The Imagination Machine before anyone else. And to sweeten the deal, you’ll also have access to exclusive goodies like activity pages, a coloring book, and stickers!

Must-read indie books for Spring

Do you read books by indie authors? The blockbuster hits are, of course, incredible. Who can forget A Song of Achilles, or Throne of Glass?

But recently, I’ve gained a huge appreciation for indie books, and by extension indie authors. There are so many good stories published by small presses, or self-published by authors themselves. As a small-press author myself, I know how even just a little recognition can go a long way.

Here are some indie reads that you should absolutely check out:

The Soft Fall, by Marissa Byfield

Genre: YA Fantasy / Roman Myth retelling

Demon wolves roam the forest, the villagers all said. Dianna had been warned to stay away.
She didn’t listen. Now every full moon Dianna slinks into the cellar beneath the barn. Into the cage made by her brother to protect her secret. One that would get her burned at the stake by the village leaders if discovered.

The heirs to the throne disappear just as their enemies lay siege to the empire. Famine hits the village as it struggles to survive. Dianna does what she can to hunt and help. But her secret is discovered when she transforms during an attack. Captured and imprisoned, Dianna must find a way to escape. If she does, she has only one direction to go. Into the heart of the forest where she was cursed.

The Soft Fall is a refreshingly new take on the werewolf genre that mixes classic tenets with new ideas. In Byfield’s world, the wolves are prisoners of their own bodies. They are not inherently evil, just cursed.

The plot to the book is well-paced, and the features a diverse set of characters. Byfield writes with a poetic eloquence that makes it hard to put the story aside. It’s incredibly well-written, and an absolute must-read for any fantasy or Roman mythology fans! Dianna is a strong, independent young woman who will not bend to the expectations that others have for her. She is her own person who fights for those she loves while desperately trying to understand her place in the world.


Check out The Soft Fall on Amazon!

Clockwork Detective, by R. A. McCandless

Genre: Steampunk / Fantasy

Aubrey Hartmann left the Imperial battlefields with a pocketful of medals, a fearsome reputation, and a clockwork leg. The Imperium diverts her trip home to investigate the murder of a young druwyd in a strange town. She is ordered to not only find the killer but prevent a full-scale war with the dreaded Fae.

Meanwhile, the arrival of a sinister secret policeman threatens to dig up Aubrey’s own secrets – ones that could ruin her career. It soon becomes clear that Aubrey has powerful enemies with plans to stop her before she gets started. Determined to solve the mystery, Aubrey must survive centaurs, thugs and a monster of pure destruction. 

The Clockwork Detective was the first Steampunk novel that I read, and I loved it! I have the highest praise for McCandless’s book. Aubrey is a nuanced protagonist, who is both strong yet vulnerable, with flaws that make her human and relatable. The story itself kept me on my toes, as political interests weave in with the magical. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, and anything in between.


Steampunk and fantasy come together in this heart-stopping detective novel that hits all the right tones. There’s mystery, hints of romance, and controversy afoot. Aubrey must solve the mystery of the murdered Druwyd, and fast, before the Imperium decide to go to war with the fae roaming the ancient woods near Aquilinne.

Check out The Clockwork Detective on Amazon!

The Sapeiro Chronicles: A Forgotten Past, by Tiffany Lafleur

Genre: YA Fantasy

Beast Whisperer – that was Lily’s special talent. Useful, but not as flashy as some. Or so she thought. When she was a child, Lily had washed up on the riverbank near Basolt, with no memory of who she was. Taken in by the couple who found her, she was raised as their own, alongside their new baby. Years later she does something extraordinary. And word spreads of a new Spirit Hopper, someone who can enter into and control not only beasts, but people.

Someone who can change the land of Sapeiro. Someone who supposedly died years before. The rumors catch the attention of those who would control her power. Those who would use Lily for their own purposes, no matter how many lives it costs. They set their plots to capture her in motion. But Lily discovers there is at least one group who might hold the key to her real identity. One group who would protect her. But trust does not come easily for Lily. And her would-be saviors have secrets of their own. 

A Forgotten Past is the first book in The Sapeiro Chronicles trilogy. Lily is a complex character who finds herself in the middle of a years-long secret conflict, a conflict she wants nothing to do with. But Lily will need to weigh her resistance to adventure with the consequences of not partaking. A whole kingdom hangs in the balance while she decides which side to take.

Sapeio is a grand land, where everyone has inherited a touch of magic. A Forgotten Past is a fast-paced novel that is at heart uplifting, at times heart-wrenching.

Check out A Forgotten Past on Amazon.

Republic of Ruin, by L. Blaise Hues

Genre: YA Dystopia / Post-apocalyptic

Forget life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness… Surviving is a feat in and of itself.

Seventeen-year-old Ellie Hudson immerses herself in the few things the Supply Wars haven’t destroyed—her ranch work and secret baseball games with her best friend. But her power-hungry stepmother is leading a group of domestic terrorists in an effort to start another Civil War and frame Ellie as the instigator.

Ellie’s lost her father, her home, and her country, but nothing can rob her of her need to preserve the American dream…or what’s left of it.

I had the absolute pleasure of being an ARC reader for L. Blaise Hues’ Legacy of Debris series, which includes three books, the first of which is Republic of Ruin.

An EMP attack has completely obliterated what we know the modern world to be. No more power, no more technology, only you and your skills. In the power vacuum left in the dust, some want to rise from the ashes and elect themselves as rulers. What I found most enthralling about the Legacy of Debris series was how realistic it was. This is not a story where you need to suspend your understanding of reality. The circumstances that led to the apocalypse are unfortunately not that far-fetched.

Republic of Ruin has all the makings of a classic in the genre: a heroic heroine, a nation holding itself together by a thread, a budding romance. But it also has elements that make it unique. Each book in the series is also a fairy-tale retelling. And let me tell you, it works surprisingly well!

Check out Republic of Ruin on Amazon.


The Wise One, by K. T. Anglehart

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy / Witches

Mckenna’s never thought much of her nightmares, but on her seventeenth birthday, a vivid dream of burning at the stake awakens her dormant abilities, thrusting her into a world where faeries are real, spirits hold a grudge, and a High Priestess obsessed with a 16th-century prophecy is tracking her every move.

​Now, her overprotective dads, Seán and Andre, are forced to tell her the truth—they know who her birth mother is, and her life is not the surrogate story she’s ​always ​been told. Abigail, Mckenna’s mom, is some sort of mystic, and Mckenna a Wise One. ​Whatever the hell that means.

​With the help of a persistent little wren and company of a newfound friend, Mckenna journeys to Ireland in search of her mother and real answers. Along the way, she learns to harness her innate magic and trust her intuition, as best she can anyway—Cillian, a kind and passionate delegate ​who crosses her path, is proving much harder to read. ​Only her mother could truly help her halt her ill fate and prepare her for what’s to come…before she gives in to the darkness she knows is buried deep within. 

The Wise one was a wonderfully witchy read, with strong elements of friendship and powerful family bonds that span oceans. Oh, and the best part? It’s set in the 90s!

The Wise One is a beautifully written book that takes us cross North America all the way to Ireland, where McKenna was born. As she embarks on her adventure of self-discovery, she makes friends along the way that help her in her search for her mother. But their motives might not be as genuine as they appear to be.

I read the whole book in like, two days. I had a very hard time putting it down, and I loved all the 90s references! An absolute must-read for anyone who enjoys reading about witches, friendship, magic and prophecies.

Get your copy of The Wise One on Amazon!

Time to Live, Jordan Elizabeth

Genre: NA Urban Fantasy

A witch’s magical orbs. Clan Wars that have lasted centuries. A heritage shrouded in secrecy.
Welcome to seventeen-year-old Banon Andreeta’s world.

Banon is a child of Clan Genae and can do things most people can’t. Which might account for her rebellious behavior. Or maybe she’s just a magnet for trouble. Either way, she’s in hot water more often than the average teen. When she rejects Fred, a random creep at the mall, she makes an enemy who will bring unwanted attention from Clan Julae, her own clan’s mortal enemy.

She also makes a friend in Clan Julae – the intriguing Hadley. Drawn to each other, neither understands the forces behind the attraction. Or that they are from opposing clans. Hadley only knows Banon is in danger and he must protect her. But the long-standing Clan War is not as much in the past as the Genae thought. Their very existence is threatened by enemies known and unknown. And the only thing between them and death is Banon. A secret weapon even they don’t know they have.

Time to Live is a beautiful story of love that spans hundreds of years. But it’s also a story of betrayal and the power that lies have when they become perceived truths. The characters were well developed and I found myself unable to put the book down as I rooted for them to achieve their goals!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and was impressed with how the author was able to jump between timelines seamlessly. I look forward to the sequel! Highly recommend to anyone who enjoys reading urban fantasy. 

Check Time to Live on Amazon!

Win a FREE copy of A Forgotten Past!

Question: do you set yourself a reading goal for the year?

This year, my goal is to read 25 books. I’m currently making my way through my 11th book, and I’m super stoked that I’m way ahead of the goal I set for myself!

In other fun news: I’m super thrilled to be hosting a giveaway on Instagram! This week I reached 3000 followers, and to celebrate I’m giving away one free eBook version of The Sapeiro Chronicles: A Forgotten Past!

Check out the rules here. Entering is super easy. Make sure to tag all of your bookish friends!

And hey, if you did happen to read the Sapeiro Chronicles, consider leaving a review on Goodreads and Amazon. Each review helps get my book in the hands of someone else who enjoys reading YA Fantasy!

Hurry up! Giveaway ends on April 16th!