Tag Archives: ya fantasy

Bravely by Maggie Stiefvater Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young woman responsible for the protection of her kingdom and family must find a way of changing her family’s ways and saving her world from utter destruction in author Maggie Stiefvater’s “Bravely”. 

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The Synopsis

Merida goes on an all-new, life-changing adventure in this original YA novel set several years after the close of Brave!

What if you had one year to save everything you loved?

ONE PRINCESS. Merida of DunBroch needs a change. She loves her family—jovial King Fergus, proper Queen Elinor, the mischievous triplets— and her peaceful kingdom. But she’s frustrated by its sluggishness; each day, the same. Merida longs for adventure, purpose, challenge – maybe even, someday, love.

TWO GODS. But the fiery Princess never expects her disquiet to manifest by way of Feradach, an uncanny supernatural being tasked with rooting out rot and stagnation, who appears in DunBroch on Christmas Eve with the intent to demolish the realm – and everyone within. Only the intervention of the Cailleach, an ancient entity of creation, gives Merida a shred of hope: convince her family to change within the year – or suffer the eternal consequences.

THREE VOYAGES. Under the watchful eyes of the gods, Merida leads a series of epic journeys to kingdoms near and far in an attempt to inspire revolution within her family. But in her efforts to save those she loves from ruin, has Merida lost sight of the Clan member grown most stagnant of all – herself?

FOUR SEASONS TO SAVE DUNBROCH – OR SEE IT DESTROYED, FOREVER. 

The Review

This was a great read. The author excelled at continuously building an atmosphere and tone that reflected both the magic and historic nature of the narrative. The world-building was excellent here, as the author built upon the storied setting of Castle Dunbroch and the kingdom that Disney established in the film Brave and managed to craft enough new narrative to make the world feel even bigger and more alive. 

The mythos, history, and imagery are all that really drove this narrative forward and elevated the characters to the heights that they reached. The way Scottish mythology and mythological figures played into the story, as well as the emotional storyline that was brought to life through Merida and her family, made for a brilliant story overall. Yet despite instances of magical action and adventure featuring ancient gods and mythological figures, the real emphasis on history that this story brought to life allowed for a really well-balanced novel that kept readers invested in this world.

The Verdict

Rich in world-building, heartfelt character growth, and entertaining mythology, author Maggie Stiefvater’s “Bravely” is a must-read YA Historical Fiction and Fantasy novel of 2022. The deep dive into Scottish mythology and history blended so well with the established Disney storylines and characters that Brave introduced, and yet the author’s unique twist on the character’s new story and the atmospheric world that the author brought to life through imagery and tone made this one of the year’s best YA reads. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

New York Times bestselling author of The Shiver Trilogy, The Raven Cycle, and The Scorpio Races. Artist. Driver of things with wheels. Avid reader.

Maggie Stiefvater plays several musical instruments (most infamously, the bagpipes) and makes art in several media (most generally, colored pencils).

She lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with her husband, their two children, many dogs, a bunch of fainting goats, and a mating pair of growly tuner cars.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09D8RJX93/ref=x_gr_w_glide_sin?caller=Goodreads&callerLink=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.goodreads.com%2Fbook%2Fshow%2F58854953-bravely&tag=x_gr_w_glide_sin-20

Screamcatcher: Sa’be Most Wanted (Screamcatcher Book 4) by Christy J. Breedlove Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Four teens and a seemingly frail old man travel into the heart of the Shasta Forest to help a woman whose husband has disappeared hunting the invaders who killed their dogs and attacked their home in author Christy J. Breedlove’s “Screamcatcher: Sa’be Most Wanted”, the fourth book in the Screamcatcher series.

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The Synopsis

Jory Pike and the Badlands Paranormal Society get a strange and frantic call from a woman who claims her property has been invaded by unknown trespassers who have terrorized her and her husband and killed their two dogs. She says her husband has gone hunting for the culprits and disappeared. The Sherriff’s office performed a routine investigation and mysteriously quit. The woman also called a first nations tribe tracker to help her, but after a short investigation, he claimed she had something more dangerous than a bear and wanted nothing to do with it.

Jory’s 91 year-old grandfather, a full blood Ojibwe, believes he knows what this mystery is all about and demands to go on the hunt.

Four teenagers and a seemingly fragile old man find out, too late, in the deep Shasta forest, that they are the ones being hunted.

The Review

I absolutely loved this novel. As a longtime fan of this series, I was thrilled to be able to jump back into this world of paranormal and high strangeness for YA readers. The way the author was able to further the narrative for the cast of characters was brilliant, as longtime fans and newcomers alike were able to connect to the characters on an emotional level, especially the protagonist and her grandfather. 

Yet it was the world-building and mythos that really stood out to me. The in-depth way the author blended and utilized Native American mythology, in particular the Ojibwa Tribe’s mythos, with the paranormal aspects of the narrative was an inspired and creative choice that kept the story feeling fresh and unique amongst other YA novels. However for me, as someone who absolutely loves the study and looking into real-life paranormal and high strangeness cases, I am well versed in the lore of both the particular creature used in this narrative and the area known as Mt. Shasta. The author’s use of this setting was so fun and captured my attention clearly. 

The Verdict

Haunting, rich, and entertaining, author Christy J. Breedlove’s “Screamcatcher: Sa’be Most Wanted” is a must-read YA paranormal thriller and fantasy read. The perfect next chapter in Jory Pike’s journey into the Screamcatcher universe, the shocking twists and turns in the narrative, as well as the identity of the true culprits behind this investigation, will leave readers hanging off of the author’s every word. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Chris H. Stevenson, (aka Christy J. Breedlove), originally born in California, moved to Sylvania, Alabama in 2009. His occupations have included newspaper reporter, front-line mechanic and federal police officer. He has been writing off and on for 36 years, having officially published books beginning in 1988. Today he writes science fiction, fantasy, paranormal romance, young adult, thrillers and horror. He has a total of 19 titles appearing on Amazon. He was a finalist in the L. Ron. Hubbard Writers of the Future contest, and just recently took the bronze medal for YA Horror in the Reader’s Choice Awards. He writes the popular blog, Guerrilla Warfare for Writers (special weapons and tactics), hoping to inform and educate writers all over the world about the high points and pitfalls of publishing.

https://christysyoungadultimagineers.com/

http://guerrillawarfareforwriters.blogspot.com/

Breaking Time by Sasha Alsberg Review 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young woman finds her world turned upside down when a handsome stranger enters her life from another time, and together they discover fate’s plans for them when a rogue threat targets her for a power she never knew she had in author Sasha Alsberg’s “Breaking Time”.

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The Synopsis

Romance, Celtic mythology, and adventure swirl together in this time travel fantasy by #1 New York Times bestselling author, booktuber, and popular Outlander social media influencer Sasha Alsberg.

Fate brought them together. Time will tear them apart.

When a mysterious Scotsman suddenly appears in the middle of the road, Klara thinks the biggest problem is whether she hit him with her car. But, as impossible as it sounds, Callum has stepped out of another time, and his arrival marks the beginning of a deadly adventure.

Klara soon learns she is the last Pillar of Time—an anchor point in the timeline of the world. After being unable to protect the previous Pillar, Callum believes he’s fated to protect her. But now a dark force is hunting the Pillars—and Klara and Callum are the only two standing in the way. They’ll have to learn to trust each other and work together…but they’ll need to protect their hearts from one another if they’re going to survive

The Review

This was such a powerful and entertaining new read! The author did such an incredible job of world-building in this narrative. Each scene felt vibrant and alive on the page, thanks to the author’s incredible handle on imagery in her writing and the atmosphere she builds as the narrative progresses. The striking balance the author struck between the rich mythology of the world she created and the intimate and emotional character growth was superb. As a huge fan of mythology in general, I was immediately drawn into this narrative, but what was really fun was being introduced to new mythological figures and stories, and the intricacies of Celtic mythology definitely drew me into the story so much that I’ll be researching the mythos myself, really adding to the author’s ability to draw readers in. 

Yet it was the rich character development that really drew me in further and further into the story. The multiple POVs were great to have, as they added depth to both Callum’s and Klara’s stories. Their backstories and the eras from which they hail and the instant chemistry and discoveries they make about themselves along the way were truly inviting to behold on the page. Even the antagonist, who emerges from the shadows and strikes into the heart of these two protagonists, was chilling and haunting to behold and did a great job of becoming the hero’s foil in the narrative. 

The Verdict

Captivating, engaging, and brilliantly written, author Sasha Alsberg’s “Breaking Time” is a must-read YA Historical Fantasy meets Time Travel story and one of my top picks for best reads of 2022. The author does a great job of traversing the influences of other series such as Outlander and The Mortal Instruments, and yet feels so original and authentic on its own at the same time, bringing magic back into the Historical Fantasy meets Highland genre. With a twist ending that left this reader eager to read more, you guys won’t want to miss out on this spectacular story. Be sure to pick up your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Sasha Alsberg is the #1 New York Times bestselling coauthor of Zenith, the first book in The Androma Saga. When Sasha is not writing or obsessing over Scotland, she is galavanting across social media with her two dogs, Fraser & Fiona. Sasha lives in London, England.

Social Links:

Author website: https://www.sashaalsberg.com/ 

Twitter: @sashaalsberg

Instagram: @sashaalsberg

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sasha.alsberg 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15100575.Sasha_Alsberg 

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Breaking-Time-Sasha-Alsberg/dp/1335284893 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/breaking-

time-sasha-alsberg/1140332910 

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335284891 

Books-A-Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/Breaking-Time/Sasha-Alsberg/9781335284891 

AppleBooks: https://books.apple.com/ch/audiobook/breaking-time/id1591477301 

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Sasha_Alsberg_Breaking_Time?id=5TlHEAAAQBAJ 

Please enjoy this excerpt from Author Sasha Alsberg’s “Breaking Time”

Excerpted from BREAKING TIME by Sasha Alsberg, © 2022 by Sasha Alsberg, used with permission from Inkyard Press/HarperCollins.

Callum

1568

“Thomas!” Callum yelled as he left the pub. The wall of crisp night air dizzied him, causing him to stumble over cobblestones that seemed to shift beneath his feet. Drunken laughter muff led as the door slammed shut behind him. 

“Where the hell are ye?” he shouted. His voice echoed through the deserted streets. 

No answer came. 

Lanterns flickered along the main road, setting the heavy fog aglow. In a wee town like Rosemere, the slightest whispers could be heard a mile away. They carried farther than that, Callum knew; the windows around him were shuttered, but candles burned low just inside. How many prying eyes watched from behind the slats? How many would speak of his friend, the disgraced fighter, in hushed voices at tomorrow’s market, over bread bought with the coin they’d won betting on him mere weeks earlier?

Callum clenched his fists. The whole pub had shouted and jeered while Thomas got pummeled that night. Sounds still rang in Callum’s ears: the thud of fist and flesh, the sickening crunch of bone. It was the third time this month that Thomas had lost—only the third time, in two years of fighting.

Brice would be angry.

Master, keeper, devil, father. Brice MacDonald was all of these things to Callum and Thomas. Whatever Brice’s wrath tonight, Callum could not let Thomas face it alone. Not when Thomas had looked after Callum for so long, raised him up from a nipper as well as a real older brother would.

But he would not abandon Thomas like his mother had abandoned him.

The thought sobered Callum. He called again, lowering his voice to a taunt.

“Thomas! You owe me three shillings!” Thomas could usually be drawn out with a jab.

Callum paused, straining his ears for a response but was met with unease instead. An owl watched from its perch atop the baker’s roof, golden eyes unblinking against the dark night sky. The shining orbs fixed on him.

He tore his gaze from the bird and walked on, moving away from the firelight and into shadow.

Even more worrisome than Brice was the fact that Thomas had given Callum his most treasured item earlier that night: his notebook, small sheaths of vellum bound in leather. When he first began carrying it around, Thomas claimed to have stolen it from the apothecary when he went in for a poultice. 

He had kept it on him, always, and had never let Callum lay eyes on what was inside. Yet he had pressed it into Callum’s hand, just before the match tonight. He said something to Callum when he did, but his words were inaudible within the roar of the pub. Then after, he disappeared from the pub without even a goodbye.

Now Callum was wandering the streets, alone.

It was unlike Thomas to behave so strangely, to lose so badly. The Thomas he knew—boyish and rowdy, tough as leather but never mean—had fallen away with the autumn leaves these past months. Instead of spending evenings at The Black Hart Inn, weaving stories he’d learned as a child of selkies and sailors for red-cheeked barmaids until the sun rose, Thomas began to disappear for days, weeks at a time—stretches too long for Callum to explain to Brice. He took a beating or two for it, too. When Thomas returned, he was sullen, sometimes violent, and consumed by a strangeness Callum had no words to describe. His eyes stared but did not see, as distant as stars burning in his skull. If he spoke at all, he told tales of the demons that terrified them as children: like the Sluagh, spirits of the dead who wandered in flocks, flying around the sky like soaring reapers and stealing souls, flesh hanging off them like blackened rags. Or the bean-nighe, banshees, messengers from the Otherworld and omens of death, who lingered in lonely streams, washing the clothes of doomed men. Normally Callum heard of such dark creatures within the stories of heroes, but Thomas’s stories didn’t end in life…but death. He fixated on that fact, as if it were coming for him.

I saw her, he’d said of the bean-nighe. I refuse to die. 

It worried Callum, but just as his worry morphed into confrontation, Thomas would come back to himself. This was enough to comfort Callum as he watched Thomas return to tales of ancient heroes and kings. Maybe he accepted his relief too soon since the nights of those stories were fewer these days, and more often Thomas’s speech would turn dark again. He would speak of strange visions, of men who leaped from one world to the next.

They’re coming, Cal, you’ll see. It’s as simple as stepping through a veil.

Who’s coming, Thomas? What veil? Callum asked, and Thomas would laugh.

It was no tale that Callum knew. He’d warned Thomas not to tell it. He didn’t like the wary looks it earned him. It was one thing to be a bard who told these stories for a living, but it was another thing to speak like a madman of evil spirits and fairies as if they were tangible things away from the lyrics of a song or the pages of a book.

Callum reached the end of the main road—the turn for Kelpie’s Close. If you wanted trouble, you found it in Kelpie’s. The narrow backstreet edged Rosemere like a blade pressed against the town’s throat.

A chill clung to his skin. Here, there were no lanterns to light the way, his only guide sparse slivers of moonlight. The wind picked up suddenly, lifting his hair and reaching under his woolen cloak. He tried to shake off visions of the Sluagh hovering above him, raking their cold fingers down his neck.

“It’s as dark as the Earl of Hell’s waistcoat,” he mumbled.

Callum reached for the dirk tucked under his arm and found the carved handle concealed under layers of wool, feeling a sting of guilt. It was Thomas’s knife. Callum had slipped it away from him before the match, worried about what his friend might do in the crowded pub if he got enough drink in him. He tapped it, drawing enough strength to plunge into the darkness.

“Scunner!” he cursed, meaning it. “Where are you?”

A cry pierced the quiet.

Callum’s heart pounded as he followed the sound farther down the alley. He pulled the dirk from under his arm, certain now that he’d need to use it.

“Thomas?”

Unease, cold and metallic, crept up his spine. The alley appeared empty—strange, for this time of night—but the silence was thick, alive with a feeling Callum couldn’t name. He pushed on, deeper into the gloom. “Thomas?”

Another strangled cry, ahead.

Callum broke into a run.

A single lantern flickered a short distance away, casting a wan glow over a lone figure slumped against the wall. A sweep of red hair, bright even in the dim alley.

“Thomas, ye bastard, do ye ken what—”

The insult lodged in his throat. Thomas lay on the ground, his legs splayed at sickening angles. Blood seeped through his shirt, blooming like ink on paper. Callum rushed to his friend and knelt beside him. He dropped the dirk and pressed his hands against the deep slice that marred his friend’s torso. A knife wound.

“Dinnae fash, Thomas, dinnae fash,” Callum repeated, voice tight and panicked. He glanced up, searching for friend or foe, and found no one. “We’ll be back to the pub before Anderson kens we havna paid our tab.” 

Thomas stared up at him with glassy blue eyes. With each shuddering breath, more blood spilled through Callum’s fingers. He ripped the cloth stock from his neck and pressed the fabric onto the wound. It did little to stem the flow of blood. Within a few heartbeats, the cloth was soaked through, red and dripping.

If he pressed any harder, would it be doing more harm than good? Should he call for help, though it might draw the attacker? Callum hadn’t a clue. He wished suddenly, ferociously, that he’d had a proper mother, one whose wisdom he could call upon to calmly guide his hands. However, Thomas was the only family he had.

His only family was dying.

Thomas opened his mouth, but instead of words, a wet cough came out, splattering red across his pale face.

“Dinnae move, Thomas,” Callum shushed him. His uncertainty gave way to desperation, burst from his throat. “Help! Help us!”

His words dissolved into the night air, leaving behind only a tightness at the center of his chest. If he hadn’t taken Thomas’s dirk, he would have been able to defend himself, he wouldn’t be dying in Callum’s arms—

Thomas gasped, but it seemed as if no air reached his lungs.

Lowering his head, Callum gripped Thomas’s hands, though his own were shaking. “I will find the man who did this, I swear—”

Then the world flipped sideways. A blow had hit Callum like a runaway carriage, throwing him against the alley wall opposite Thomas.

Pain exploded along his ribs. Grasping the mossy wall for purchase, he struggled to his feet and wiped blood from his eyes, scouring the darkness for his attacker—and found no one.

“Show your face,” he growled.

A cruel whisper cut through the quiet. “Are you certain?”

The man emerged from the shadows as if he had been one with them. He wore a dark black cloak, in stark contrast to his unkempt, pale hair. Deep set in his face, a pair of amber eyes seemed to emit their own light. Callum’s gaze was drawn to a glinting shape in the man’s hand.

A dagger, dripping with blood.

Thomas’s blood.

Callum’s heart pounded like a war drum in his ears.

The man sighed. “Move along. Unless you’d like to meet the same fate as your compani—”

Callum lunged forward, cutting off the man’s speech with a guttural cry, striking with the speed of a viper.

The man ducked. He whirled around as Callum charged again. He overreached with the arc of his knife, and Callum used the moment to surge upward with a punch. His fist took the assailant in the chin—

And the force knocked Callum back.

He stared. A blow like that would have laid out the toughest fighter, yet the man stood and smiled, rubbing his chin with a gloved hand.

“I’m going to have fun with you,” the stranger whispered. “I like a man with a bit of fight in him. It’s more fun to play with your prey, don’t you think?”

Callum didn’t see the blow coming, only felt the pain searing across his temple as he was thrown to the ground again. 

He lifted his head, vision blurring. He blinked it clear, took in his friend’s ashen face. The sight flooded Callum with rage.

Whoever said to never fight with anger fueling your fists was a fool. Thomas’s best fights had been powered by emotion. Callum wasn’t fighting for money now. Or for Brice. He was fighting for Thomas. Because Thomas was—

“Stay down, little man,” the attacker’s voice hissed.

Callum dragged himself to his feet. His body, corded with muscle from a lifetime of training, screamed for him to stop. Instead he stood, swaying.

“I dinnae believe I’m going to Heaven,” Callum said, raising his fists once more, drawing strength from the familiar ache that radiated through his arms. “But I cannae wait to bring you to Hell with me.”

Lunging forward again, Callum poured everything he had into a single strike. He swung, landing the punch more out of luck than skill, half blinded by blood and dirt.

The man merely flinched, then caught Callum easily by the throat. A grin curled over his face.

How could that be possible?

“My, my, you are a feisty one,” he hissed.

The man lashed out, and pain flared along Callum’s torso. He released Callum and stepped back, red-tinged silver shining in his fist.

Callum touched his side, and his fingers came away wet with blood. He watched as crimson spread across his shirt. He tried to take a step, only to crumple to the ground beside Thomas, whose head rested limp against his chest.

Callum had never feared death, but now as he looked into its eyes, terror seized him. 

“Many thanks for the entertainment,” the man said.

To Callum’s horror, he bent low, holding a vial to the spreading pool of Thomas’s blood. He was gathering it.

“If you’ll excuse me, there’s one last Pillar I must find.”

Pillar?

The unearthly amber eyes melted into darkness as his opponent backed away and turned, disappearing into the shadows once more. Softly hissed words echoed in the alley. Àiteachan dìomhair, fosgailte dhomh, Àiteachan dìomhair, fosgailte dhomh…

The words the man spoke were Gaelic, but Callum’s fading mind couldn’t make out their meaning. A dark, mist-like substance rose from the ground and curled around the man’s feet, nearly indistinguishable from the dim of night. Like a sudden fog had rolled in.

Callum sputtered a curse, lacking the strength to spit. He tried to lift himself, but with each breath, pain flared in his side like a web of fire.

“I’m sorry, Thomas,” he croaked. Tears fell freely down his face, mingling with blood and sweat. He pressed his forehead against his friend’s. Grief washed over him at the still-warm press of his skin.

Thomas was gone, and Callum would soon follow.

A shiver raked his body. His eyes drifted shut.

Take me already, he pleaded to the darkness.

And the darkness answered.

No, not the darkness—Thomas’s voice, a memory now, though it was solid as stone.

“Get up, scunner.”

The warmth of the words turned electric, spreading through Callum’s body like wildfire. His eyes shot open and he gasped, breathing in a shock of cold air still sharp with the smell of blood. His fingers found the dirk he’d dropped earlier.

Grief and agony and pain and rage lifted Callum onto his feet, thrumming in him as he charged after Thomas’s murderer, knife raised and eager for flesh. He grabbed blindly, finally grasping a handful of fabric—the man’s cloak. Turning, the man’s eyes widened, making two white rings of surprise in the dark. Callum’s hand grabbed the man’s neck and aimed his dirk at the pale slash of his throat.

Suddenly, they froze. Callum could not move. His hand remained around the man’s neck, the tip of the dirk pressed against his vein. Light flowed around them. It’s not time for sunrise, he thought. Dimly, he noticed markings along the man’s collarbone. Knots carved into his skin.

The man cried out—not in pain, but in anger—but then, the cry was stifled by a rush of silence, so thick Callum thought he might drown in it. His stomach turned violently as the ground seemed to drop out from under him, forcing him to squeeze his eyes shut. He was falling, flying, falling.

I must be dead in the alley. The man must have killed me. This must be death.

A bright glow burned against his lids. He closed his eyes tighter and welcomed whatever might follow, only hoping he’d find Thomas there. A wall of light had formed above, descending as if the sun were pulling him through the sky. His body rose into its searing embrace.

He waited for the long drop to the ground, but it never came.

Callum kept soaring.

Not just through the street.

Not to death’s embrace. 

But somewhere else.

Leaping to another world, like the man in Thomas’s story, Callum thought.

So he leaped. 

Lost Daughters of Avalon (Awakenings Book 2) by J. Lynn Else Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Four young women return to the magical land they helped save months earlier, finding it in total chaos as the fate of the lands rests in discovering their ancient lineage in author J. Lynn Else’s “Lost Daughters of Avalon”, the second book in the Awakenings series.

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The Synopsis

After not hearing anything from their knights in Avalon for weeks, the horrible Questing Beast breaks through into the world and attacks Genie, Beth, Mei, and Whit. Their magic stirs to stop the monster, but Beth’s attempts fail. Help from Avalon arrives just in time to remove the curse and reveal a woman inside the beast who claims to be Genie’s biological mother.

The four friends learn their knights had gone missing, along with one of Avalon’s queens, Viviane. An ancient evil runs amok in Avalon and the people blame the four friends, claiming they released Merlin to destroy their world. To clear their name and rescue their knights, the four friends must once again risk the dangers of Avalon.

Genie, Beth, Mei, and Whit must pull together and learn to combine their powers of air, water, earth, and fire to rebalance the world they might have thrown into chaos. If they fail, the worlds of Avalon and Earth could destabilize and end life as they know it.

The Review

This was a powerful and captivating read. The author did such an incredible job of finding new and creative ways of weaving classic Arthurian legends and mythology into the unique world of Avalon and finding a brilliant twist in how these four young women fit into the fantasy world so unlike their own. The balance of the iconic legends they know and love with the YA/children’s style storytelling devices made this story so engaging to read, and both the action and otherworldly settings really crafted some brilliant imagery in the reader’s mind.

The twists and turns this narrative took really elevated the cast of characters in this read. Getting to understand the women of the Arthurian legends and see them in a new light made this so memorable, and how it reflected the four young heroes who were learning about this world was so perfect to read and watch unfold on the pages. The theme of identity and lineage played such an important role here in this narrative, and readers are going to absolutely be shocked and in awe of the answers that come from this journey the women find themselves on.

The Verdict

Haunting, entertaining, and emotionally gripping, author J. Lynn Else’s “Lost Daughters of Avalon” is the perfect YA/Children’s mythology and fantasy read and the perfect second novel in a growing fantasy series. The heartbreaking revelations and shocking moments as the final moments play out in this read will have readers hanging on the author’s every word, and the need to read more of this captivating narrative will be so strong in the reader’s heart. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

J. LYNN ELSE is an award-winning author from Minnesota who’s self-published two historical fiction novels set in ancient Egypt, “The Forgotten: Aten’s Last Queen (2013),” which was named an Indie Editor’s Choice book for 2016 by the Historical Novel Society, and “The Forgotten: Heir of the Heretic (2016)” as well as a sci fi novella “Strangely Constructed Souls (2018).” Through Inklings Publishing, she’s authored an Arthurian-influenced, female-driven fantasy trilogy, “Descendants of Avalon” (2018), “Lost Daughters of Avalon” (2019), and “Destiny of Avalon” (2021).” Her short story “The Girl from the Haunted Woods,” won 2nd place in the “Journey into the Fantastical” Anthology contest. In 2021, she became the Indie Reviews Editor for the Historical Novel Society. She believes in unicorns and practicing random acts of awesome.

http://www.teasippinnerdymom.com/

Amethyst (Ambrosia Hill Book 1) by Rebecca Henry Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young girl struggling with her identity and her parents impending divorce finds her birthright and power with the help of her aunts in author Rebecca Henry’s “Amethyst”, the first book in the Ambrosia Hill YA series. 

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The Synopsis

She was sent away because of her feelings for another girl. But what she discovered at her aunts’ lake house was a birthright of magic.

Thirteen-year-old Zinnia is about to turn fourteen when her life is flipped upside down. With her parents on the brink of a divorce, Zinnia is sent to spend the summer with her eccentric great-aunts at their lake house away from her home in Manhattan. Zinnia arrives at her aunts’ massive Victorian house with a heavy heart after a recent falling out with her best friend Charlotte, who betrayed her trust by showing the meanest and most popular girl in school a letter Zinnia wrote confessing her feelings for Charlotte. The aunts rely on practical magic, acceptance and old family friends to help heal their great-niece in more ways than one.

What Zinnia discovers on Ambrosia Hill is more than just her birthright to magic—she meets Billie, a girl who conjures feelings inside Zinnia that she can no longer deny.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of homophobia and mild peril.

The Review

I instantly fell in love with this story. The author did such an incredible job of crafting a unique and beautiful world that felt real and yet held incredible magic that kept the paranormal and fantasy elements of this narrative alive. The sheer volume of backstory and narrative the author was able to pour into this fairly quick read was breathtaking to behold, as were the little bits of mystery and suspense that the author peppered throughout the read, especially with a tease of future storylines in the next book in this series.

Yet it was the heartfelt character development that really played well in this story. The magic and wonder of the world the author crafted only elevated the emotional story of these characters, from the backstory and history of Billie, who brings a sense of edge and pain to her meeting with Zinnia. Then there is Zinnia herself, who not only struggles with the pain of her family falling apart due to her parents impending divorce but the struggles to feel accepted for her LGBTQ status. 

What I love about the story is that the author doesn’t portray Zinnia as someone in doubt necessarily of who they are, but struggling because she does know who she is and who she loves, and wants the world and those around her to accept her as she is. I feel there are so many people, especially teens, in this world who feel the same who could use an inspirational protagonist like Zinnia to connect with and follow, and I applaud the author for this amazing story development for the character.

The Verdict

Heartfelt, emotional, and magical, author Rebecca Henry’s “Amethyst” is a must-read novel of 2022 and the perfect first entry into this brilliant paranormal and fantasy YA series. The balance of realism and magic, along with the positive outlook on witchcraft and magic that is often overlooked in the world, made this world stand out, and the positive exploration of LGBTQ themes made this a home run in my book. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy on April 26th, 2022, or preorder your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Rebecca Henry is an American author living abroad in England. She is a devoted vegan who gardens, practices yoga, crafts, travels the world, and bakes. Rebecca’s favorite holiday is Halloween, and she is obsessed with anything and everything witchy! Besides writing fiction, Rebecca is also the author of her vegan holiday cookbook collection and green living lifestyle book. Her love for animals, baking with her family, having a plant-based diet, and cruelty-free, green lifestyle inspired her nonfiction novels. You can find all Rebecca’s books on Amazon.

https://www.rebeccahenryauthor.com/

Descendants of Avalon (Awakenings Volume 1) by J. Lynn Else Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young girl reeling from the news that her parents are separating absent-mindedly partakes in a grand wish to bring her family back together, and inadvertently unleashes a portal for a powerful wizard in the process in author J. Lynn Else’s “Descendants of Avalon”, the first volume in the Awakenings series. 

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The Synopsis

Genie’s parents are divorcing. Her friends convince her they should all wish for them to stay together at the town’s fountain. Genie thinks it’s ridiculous, but what could it hurt, right?

Turns out it could hurt a lot.

The power of the united wish opens a portal to the long forgotten land of Avalon. An evil sorcerer traps one of Genie’s friends and seeks to use the girls’ coins to retake Earth. Now Genie and her friends must venture into this magical world in hopes of saving both lands and themselves.

Join the adventure in this first installment of the Awakening Series.

The Review

This was a fantastic and magical YA fantasy read! The author’s ability to naturally weave in elements and mythological aspects of the Arthurian legend into a more modernized YA spin with a cast of strong female protagonists was absolutely incredible to read. The exploration of themes such as friendship, the journey towards adulthood, and the dangers that sometimes come with trying to change fate are all so well represented here and are highlighted beautifully with chilling mythological figures and intense action and adventure.

The way the author is able to hone in and focus on the core cast of characters and develop them in such a natural way in this larger-than-life, fantasy-driven narrative was so fun to see. Delving into the heartbreak and hardship of teenage life, including the issues they face like the crumbling of the only family they ever knew through a divorce, was a fantastic way to give the young women’s adventure and epic journey more heart and humanity, while the fantasy elements and this otherworldly environment was so well represented by the history and culture of Arthurian legends while also capturing the author’s voice and creativity perfectly. 

The Verdict

Mesmerizing, entertaining, and brilliantly written, author J. Lynn Else’s “Descendants of Avalon” is a must-read YA Fantasy novel! The brilliant sense of adventure and wonderment that any young person would feel being thrust into this magical world, as well as the fear and worry when danger arrives, is felt in the tone and atmosphere the author has crafted, and the way the setting and characters seem to balance out one another makes the story flourish until the final pages, where readers will be eager to devour the next book in this series. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Award-winning author J. LYNN ELSE loves reading and writing about awesome women from antiquity. Besides history, she also gets nerdy with Star Wars, Star Trek, and MST3K. She’s self-published two historical fiction novels set in ancient Egypt, The Forgotten: Aten’s Last Queen and The Forgotten: Heir of the Heretic. Descendants of Avalon, Awakenings book 1 a YA Fantasy with interwoven elements of the legends and people of King Arthur’s time, was released through Inklings Publishing in May 2018. Book 2, The Lost Daughters of Avalon was released in 2019, and Book 3 Destiny of Avalon in July of 2021. Additionally, in July of 2018, she self-published a sci fi novella, Strangely Constructed Souls, which asks ‘what the price of revenge and how far would you go to right a wrong?’ Her short story The Girl from the Haunted Woods, about friendships, secrets, and witchy curses, won 2nd place in the Journey into the Fantastical anthology contest. Besides writing, J. Lynn recently became the Indie Reviews Editors for the Historical Novel Society (historicalnovelsociety.org).

J. Lynn’s always had a flare for the dramatic, graduating college with a theater major and a dance minor. She lives in Minnesota with her husband and two kids where her shelves are overrun with books, her kitchen is overrun with loose-leaf tea, and her workroom is overrun with Funko Pop figures. She enjoys sketching, reliving her 1990s by watching the latest X-Files episodes, honing her Fruit Ninja skills, and randomly busting out into song and dance. She believes in unicorns and practicing random acts of awesome.

http://www.teasippinnerdymom.com/

Interview with Clarissa Pattern

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing? 

As a kid I was in and out of hospital a fair bit, reading and writing were my escapes from the long hours of loneliness. My first stories were about dead things that came back to life; maybe one day I will have to revisit those early ideas, because I truly think what the world is missing is tales about reanimated egg shells! 

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2) What inspired you to write your book? 

Because it took me many years to write, lots of different people and events have influenced the final published novel. My initial inspiration though, was a simple scene of a young pickpocket at Shakespeare’s Globe theatre being so enchanted by the actors on stage that a yearning for a different life sparkles in his heart. 

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book? 

Something I’m always drawn to is the power of friendship and the importance of finding the right place in life. In essence it’s such a simple message that is contained in one of the best-known childhood stories we’re told: the ugly duckling needs to find his swan family instead of trying to fit in with the ducks who bully him. But it’s so easy, especially in this brave new world of social media, to be constantly comparing and contrasting yourself to the wrong people and feeling inadequate when you should be concentrating on what makes you as a unique and wonderful person shine.  

4) What drew you into this particular genre? 

The coming-of-age genre is so powerful and relatable as everything is felt so intensely in both its freshness and its rawness. I don’t know how true it is, but I read somewhere that because of how the brain develops and the random shooting off of hormones, that the love you experience as a teenager is the strongest love you’ll feel in your life.  

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5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why? 

My characters are constantly chattering away in my mind, but it’s actually really strange thinking of having an actual conversation with them, they ignore me and just talk to each other all the time!  

A sneaky little voice in my head is saying that as William Shakespeare appears in my novel, I could choose him to yank into reality and ask him any number of literary conundrums. But I think it’s more in the spirit of the question to choose one of my purely fictional characters, so I will ask Black Jack if he believes that John can truly see faerie folk? Black Jack is a very practical person surviving in the dirt of Renaissance London, but I wonder if living and loving someone who is literally away with the faeries half the time, how his view of the universe would change. 

6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership? 

I am not sure if it counts as social media, but my publisher likes Booksirens, I personally have been exploring readersfavorite.com and have found some wonderful people there. I have to mention the Historical Fiction Company too as they gave me a 5-star medal and a silver award in their book of the year competition, so I obviously love them. A couple of readers have found me on Facebook and that has made me smile a lot, people from different countries liking my book enough to reach out to me is so validating for an insecure, self-doubting, introverted blob like me. 

7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there? 

Writing can be lonely and fraught with doubt, so find yourself some great beta readers, people who can give you honest feedback that you respect.  

There are a lot of places online to share your writing and to meet other authors, so spend the time to find the place where you feel like you fit and make those connections. I’ve heard from friends that a lot of writers in writing groups can be pretty selfish, they only want to share their stuff, but aren’t willing to give the time to other people’s work. Although we’re naturally deeply involved in our own creativity, make sure you are not one of those people, always be kind and attentive to what other writers are doing and you will attract the awesome people who will nourish your books.

8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon? 

Everything being well(ish) in these crazy times, I should have a novella coming out with tRaumbooks later this year.  It is a contemporary story about the mental torment of being a teenager. Beyond that, there may be some more stories in the Airy world. Or there might be a story about robots keeping humans as pets. My imagination is a weird place of glittery rainbows and murky half emerged krakens, I am never certain what will grab and take my muse hostage next.

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About the Author

Clarissa Pattern studied English language and literature at the University of Oxford and has lived in the Oxfordshire area ever since. She has been writing ever since she could hold crayons and scribble across the wallpaper. Aside from writing, she spends as much time with her kids as they’ll put up with, ignores almost all the housework, and has an ever-increasing list of books she’s frantic to read. Her stories have been published in various anthologies over the years, and in August 2021, she released her first novel, a magical, historical YA called Airy Nothing.

Feather and Flame (The Queen’s Council Book 2) by Livia Blackburne Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A renowned war hero who saved Imperial China and became an icon for women warriors everywhere finds herself in new circumstances when she is crowned the heir to the throne of China and must contend with threats within and outside of her new kingdom in author Livia Blackburne’s “Feather and Flame”, the second book in the Queen’s Council series.

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The Synopsis

She brought honor on the battlefield. Now comes a new kind of war…

The war is over. Now a renowned hero, Mulan spends her days in her home village, training a militia of female warriors. The peace is a welcome one, and she knows it must be protected.

When Shang arrives with an invitation to the Imperial City, Mulan’s relatively peaceful life is upended once more. The aging emperor decrees that Mulan will be his heir to the throne. Such unimagined power and responsibility terrifies her, but who can say no to the Emperor?

As Mulan ascends into the halls of power, it becomes clear that not everyone is on her side. Her ministers undermine her, and the Huns sense a weakness in the throne. When hints of treachery appear even amongst those she considers friends, Mulan has no idea whom she can trust.

But the Queen’s Council helps Mulan uncover her true destiny. With renewed strength and the wisdom of those that came before her, Mulan will own her power, save her country, and prove once again that, crown or helmet, she was always meant to lead. This fierce reimagining of the girl who became a warrior blends fairy-tale lore and real history with a Disney twist.

The Review

As a longtime fan of mythology, history, and Disney, I was absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to review another great book from Disney Hyperion. The author did such a beautiful job of bringing ancient China to life in such a vivid and magical way. The balance the author struck between the Disney story we know and the historical accuracy and mythology of the novel’s backstory within this series was superb. The setting of the narrative felt so alive and the author’s style of writing took on a very cinematic tone, allowing readers to read and bring to life this adventure in their mind’s eye. 

The character development was outstanding in this novel. The way the author delved into Mulan as a person when confronted with her new reality was amazing, as was her relationship with Shang. Not only did the narrative do a great job of tackling the issues of equality amongst the women warriors and showing the balance one must find between showing strength and courage in the face of adversity without losing who they are inside, but the author also did an amazing job of showing politics and power struggles within ancient China, giving Mulan’s story more depth and intrigue this time around.

The Verdict

Action-packed, entertaining, and brilliant written, author Livia Blackburne’s “Feather and Flame” is a must-read historical fiction/fantasy book and the next great addition to the Queen’s Council series. A fantastic series of twists and turns in Mulan’s saga and her battle both with another invading Hun army and her own political rivals will keep readers hanging on the author’s every word. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy of this amazing read on June 14th, 2022, or preorder your copy today! 

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

New York Times bestselling author Livia Blackburne wrote her first novel while researching the neuroscience of reading at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Since then, she’s switched to full-time writing, which also involves getting into people’s heads but without the help of a 3 Tesla MRI scanner.

She is also the author of MIDNIGHT THIEF (an Indies Introduce New Voices selection), DAUGHTER OF DUSK, and ROSEMARKED (an Amazon best book of the month and YALSA Teens Top Ten Nominee).

Visit her online at www.liviablackburne.com

Erift’s Journeys: Secrets of The Sealed Forest by J.T. Tenera Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A young man and his best friend find themselves tasked with stopping another young man from unleashing an ancient power on the earth while discovering that magic and fantasy worlds are very real in author J.T. Tenera’s “Efrit’s Journeys: Secrets of the Sealed Forest”. 

The Synopsis

What would you do if you were given the chance to embark on a real life adventure? Would you take the plunge, or let it pass on to the next person?

After being lured halfway across the globe with the promise of an exclusive video game event, Joseph Erift is pushed on a journey by a coffee-addicted professor that will forever change his life. He never thought magic could be real. That it was just an element found in fantasy stories and games. Airships and magic spells that create fire and slow time don’t exist in our real world.

However, if that were the case, then why is he seeing these things, and why are him and his best friend being sent on a quest to stop a misguided young man from awakening an ancient power?

Erift’s Journeys is a contemporary fantasy for ages 12+ with very mild language and fantasy violence. It features action and adventure, magic, and coming of age themes and is heavily inspired by RPG video games and anime. It follows a young protagonist overcoming incredible odds while meeting new friends during an unexpected trip that leads to a long road of self-discovery. 

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The Review

This was the perfect way to capture the heart and passion of Fantasy-driven projects, including animated series and video games. The author perfectly captured the voice and atmosphere of the YA Fantasy genre, while redefining the genre by bringing fantasy elements into a modern-day setting. The action and mythos the author builds here feel fresh and put a fresh twist on long-standing fantasy tropes. 

The character growth and development of the protagonist and his allies were fun and exhilarating to read. Not only is Joseph a great protagonist to help readers feel represented and connected to the growing fantasy world the author draws readers into, but his friendship with Eric is engaging, as is his rivalry with newcomer Ryan. The character’s ability to connect with their hero’s journey through video games will really connect modern YA readers with this genre, while the iconic theme of the hero’s journey feels well represented in this narrative.

The Verdict

A brilliant, entertaining, and grand journey of self-discovery, adventure, and heroism, author J.T. Tenera’s “Efrit’s Journeys: Secrets of the Sealed Forest” is a must-read novel of 2021! A story that balances humor, iconic fantasy mythos, and modern-day character growth, the twists and turns this narrative takes will not only be engaging for readers but will leave them wanting more from this very cinematic writing from the author. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

J.T. Tenera will fully admit that he never wanted to become an author when he was a child. Born March 10th, 1987, his dreams consisted of one thing; making video games when he grew up. However, a project in the 8th grade changed his mind. His class was tasked with writing and illustrating their own children’s book. After receiving 110% on the project, and being told by his teacher that he was talented in story telling, he started down a more creative path. Especially since he later learned that making video games was a lot more complicated than he thought as a child.

Tenera originally published Erift’s Journeys when he was a senior in high school. It was a proud moment seeing the story he dreamed about finished as a real book. However, it was all just for fun. He wouldn’t realize his desire to take his writing to a professional level until 2019. Mostly self-taught, Tenera now works to bring his world to life for readers of all ages, all while doing his best to find time to game in between.