BOOK REVIEW: TRICK by Natalia Jaster

TrickTrick by Natalia Jaster

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When we read, do we do it to devour a story, or for it to devour us?

I lost myself in this story. When I found Trick, I was so sick with a cold that I could do nothing but lie under the covers with hot tea and DayQuil, but when I read it, my cold was quickly forgotten and the story devoured me completely.

This is one of my favorite books of all time. Allow me to explain, sweetings…

TRICK is a story that contains the essence of some of our favorite and familiar tropes, but instead of force-feeding us the usual bag ‘o tricks (no pun intended), a new twist is created, a new hero is born, and a new type of love interest is unveiled. TRICK follows our MC, Briar, who is the princess of the Autumn kingdom, through a self-transformation process that is ignited through meeting a very special court jester named Poet. Poet is not everything you assume at first. Poet is so many things, and may represent a different shade in everyone who reads him. My reaction to him was visceral—I fell in love with him, his quick wit…his brooding, layered heart, and I fell even more so when I learned about his secret. We never quite find out his real name…and my god it somehow made me want him more. Well played, Natalia.

The Characters 5/5: The character development in TRICK is astounding. None of the characters are the same by the time you reach the end. Multiple character arcs are extremely difficult to write, and Natalia has achieved it beautifully.

The Plot 5/5: A certain central plot (biting my lip trying to stay spoiler-free!) becomes extremely important (especially to Poet) and emotionally very heavy. I found this plot was a very brave move as I do not think I have encountered such a theme before in fiction writing. It’s uncomfortable to see some of the characters react the way they do, and I think Natalia uses this discomfort to illustrate exactly why it needs to be addressed. It is a very real issue that I believe is relatable to modern society.

The Romance 5/5: *Fans self*…Someone turn on the AC, this one gets steamy, guys. Tastefully written, the romance alone would keep a reader entangled in the pages. I will never think of a man in tights the same.

 

Adult content: I would advise adult discretion before allowing anyone under 18 to read this story. Adult themes including sexuality, masturbation, violence, and ableism are all encountered (albeit beautifully written!)

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BOOK REVIEW: FURYBORN by Claire Legrand

Furyborn (Empirium, #1)Furyborn by Claire Legrand

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An enormous thank-you is owed to the publisher for this ARC of FURYBORN and to NetGalley. I feel a kinship to Rielle and Eliana in trying to obtain a copy. It is with profound gratitude and excitement that I write this review.

Soon to be published in May 2018, you won’t want to miss this masterpiece!

I’m sitting on the floor, breathless, my ears ringing. Have you ever finished a book, then don’t even know where to go from there?

Reading this book was like free falling off of a mountain and…oh wait, that gives too much away.

Action-packed with non-stop adventure and intrigue, Furyborn had me hooked from beginning to end. Legrand captivates reader’s minds with language that flows from scene to scene with perfect imagery. This story hits the ground running and it doesn’t stop.

The story opens with a long but fascinating prologue. It explains the ending more then the beginning, as most prologues do. As the story unfolded, I found myself flipping back to the prologue and gaining a new perspective each time. Most prologues are vague and easy to forget. This one digs its nails in.

A dual narrative from two POV’s ping-pongs back and forth, hundreds of years apart in FURYBORN. Two strong female leads, Rielle and Eliana, embark on their own journey of self discovery, each finding out that (of course) not all is as it seems. Engaging the familiar tournament trope, Rielle’s narrative is a fresh take and keeps readers engaged and cheering her on for success. Eliana takes an anti-hero narrative, slashing her way through morally gray areas. Over time, I fell for them both as I presume so many readers will.

The world building was incredible. The religion, geography, and magic was detailed and was used impeccably to push the story forward. The character’s personal growth, relationships, and decisions all were deeply infused with their character arc. I feel like I know these characters as actual people. Not many books achieve that.

I cannot wait for the next two books in the trilogy!

Characters 5/5: First person POV always gets us into a character’s head. Legrand captures this beautifully.
Readability 5/5: Make sure you’re well-hydrated. It’s hard to tear yourself away.
World Building 5/5: Amazing detail. I want to visit!
Romance 5/5: Is it hot in here? Ok there is definitely a romance thread in this story within both POV narratives. I won’t say more than that. That being said, don’t read chapter 41 around your grandmother…

 

Parents and adult guardians should use their judgement for younger readers as there are scenes that include violence and abuse, masturbation, and explicit scenes of sexuality.

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BOOK SIGNING: Erin Summerill & Tricia Levenseller

Erin and Tricia

One of my favorite parts of reading and writing is getting to connect with others who have been traditionally published in the field. It is so fun to see how excited authors are about writing novels and telling the story behind their books.

Last month in Boise at my favorite independent bookstore, The Rediscovered Bookshop, I attended a book signing by Erin Summerill and Tricia Levenseller.  They interviewed each other about their books, then they opened the floor for guest questions.

They answered some great questions about their writing process, plot-building, other books they are inspired by, and my favorite: world building. Tricia recommends playing video games for world building as well as excellent practice for fight-scene writing.

I was fortunate to ask a few questions about each author’s writing process. I was curious about how Erin gets into “writing mode”.  Her favorite setting in which to write? A single room in her house, candles alight, instrumental music playing, where nothing but writing is allowed. There is always Cherry Coke and some Hot Tamales present as well. Her mascots include her cats, which make perfect writing buddies.

She guessed I was a writer when I got to speak to her one-on-one at the signing. Erin signed my copy of EVER THE BRAVE and I took home a cute mash-up pin from both authors, made by the team at The Rediscovered Bookshop.

Her advice to me for writing was simple: Keep going.

Photo Feb 28, 8 24 16 PM

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air, #1)The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book stole the breath straight from my lungs. It is rare that I fall so hard for a book that I feel somewhat lost after it is over.

This is one of those stories.

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black follows the story of our MC, Jude, who is taken to live in Faerie with her twin sister, Taryn, and older sister, Vivi, after some…um…family drama. She is mortal, while her….family…is not. While she is raised in Faerie, she is constantly reminded of her mortal status. She is belittled by classmates and bullied. At first, I thought this story would be just any old ‘bullying’ story, showing an MC overcoming their fears to stand up and fight for their dignity.

Boy, was I wrong.

Jude is CRAZY. I LOVE HER. She is so complex (as are all of the characters), that Black manages to knock the old tropes out of the park and completely re-invent character development. There are no “good guys” vs “bad guys” here. Everyone is a little bit grey…and that is what makes them all so interesting. You fall far into Jude’s head, her motivations, and her desires. You feel her heartbeat. My hat, truly, is tipped to Black for her amazing character development.

“Before, I never knew how far I would go. Now I believe I have the answer. I will go as far as there is to go. I will go way too far.” -Jude

The world building is also excellent. I was hoping for a little more geographical expansion as there are places only described to make the world feel bigger, however, most of the action actually takes place in 3-4 settings. I am hoping by Book 2 the world maybe opens up a little more.

The plot is deep, twisty, and dark. Some twists I expected and others were a complete surprise. The politics and drama of the fae world do not seem like ones I would want to get involved with!

Fans of fae fantasy stories, strong female leads, anti-hero tropes, drama/politics, and spies will love this one!

This book is appropriate for younger readers as you will not find explicit sexuality or inappropriate themes. Triggers include violence and bullying.

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AUTHOR INTERVIEW: R.M. Schultz

R.M. Schultz

Ryan M Schultz takes us on a fast-paced adventure to ancient Egypt in his novel, “Eve of the Pharaoh”, which recently hit #1 on an Amazon best-seller list!

Check out my review HERE and grab your copy today! I had the opportunity to ask a few questions about his writing process and inspiration for this historic adventure:

When did you first start writing? Do you remember the first piece you wrote? 

In high school, I wrote a full-length, terrible fantasy novel after reading the classics and great works in the genre. But I still enjoyed creating a story and characters, and wanted to become a writer.

My grandfather once told me: If you love it enough, you will find it.

No, actually he never said that…he mostly told the same stories over and over again, but I wanted to come up with something inspiring.

How do you get into writing-mode? Do you do anything specific to warm up? Where do you write?

Spending time outdoors: watching the ocean, lake, mountains, fog, rain, trees, or snow. Those things put my mind in a special place, and I see things I otherwise wouldn’t. When I haven’t spent enough time outside, I have to force myself to sit and start writing. What comes out, in the beginning, is garbage this way, but I eventually find myself immersed in the story again and can get back into the groove. Editing the material hundreds of times afterward is then part of that process.

I’d like to write while viewing that outdoor scenery, but so far I’m in my office, typically late at night after the family has gone to bed. Maybe one day, if I sell enough books, I’ll write during the day, in a room overlooking water or the mountains.

What brought you to the idea for “Eve of the Pharaoh”? 

When I entered the tombs of the deceased, and read the writing that spoke to others long before you and I walked the earth. To feel that same stone, breathe the same air, and read the same stories within images upon the walls…

There’s probably no better way to tell a story than to experience and feel it internally and externally—to tread the same ground and sail the same river.

Through that experience, I believed a modern thread would help the story connect with people today.

What did you find most difficult while writing it? 

The past story flowed out of me. The present was more difficult, but weaving the two threads together and making sure the timelines of events fit with the actual past, as well as the discoveries in the present (and in the story) was very difficult.

When writing the storylines of Gavin and Horemheb, did you write them simultaneously, or did you write their stories separately before weaving the chapters together? 

In the first book of the series, I wrote them simultaneously and wound up creating the most difficult aspect mentioned above when going back through and editing the storyline of both threads.

For the second book, I wrote them separately and then wove the threads together. We’ll see if it is any easier once I attempt my editor’s and beta readers’ suggestions this time around.

How did you conduct research for this book?

Traveling, exhibits, classes, and reading about 15 books about ancient Egypt. The books included textbooks, travel guides, art, hieroglyphic translations, literature, and architecture from ancient Egyptian stories.

When you’re not writing, what are you doing?

Attempting to raise my daughter and working as a veterinary radiologist, which takes a combination of art, imagination, medicine, and science. I tried to incorporate all of these aspects into Eve of the Pharaoh.

Name three things you can’t live without:

Wow, this is a hard one. So many…family (including pets), adventure, and creating/experiencing other’s stories.

What was the best money you’ve spent as a writer? 

Cover design. I loved making the movie trailer, writing the script, and how it all turned out. Editors have been hit or miss.

In six words, write down your personal narrative story:

Small town kid turned inquisitive adventurer.

What else are you working on?

I’ve completed book 2 in the first draft form and am starting to go through the outline for the third and final book while putting words on paper.

And, for years, trying to come up with a completely original storyline and premise that millions of people will love—one that will make them feel the way I do when experiencing a great story. Does the opportunity exist? I hope one day to find it.

EOTPCOver

 

 

You can catch up with Ryan on his website at www.rmschultzauthor.com to check out the official book trailer, reviews, and more!

Lovers of adventure, history, and travel will love “Eve of the Pharaoh”, available now!

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill

Ever the Hunted (Clash of Kingdoms, #1)Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Actual rating: 4.5/5 stars

SPOILERS AHEAD

Who do you trust when all you want is to seek the truth?

In Ever the Hunted, Britta, a recently orphaned huntress, is called to find her father’s killer—and the suspect is the last person she’d expect.

Written in the first-person narrative, the story follows Britta on a journey of not only the truth, but an odyssey of self-discovery as she navigates secrets uncovering her past, the slow burn of an old flame rekindling, and the mystery of her father’s murder.

Although the story has some familiar YA tropes (The brooding, dark, sexy, muscular love interest that somehow is always keeping snippets of truth from being known from the person he knows and loves the most because he was trying to ‘protect’ her…), they were twisted in a fresh way. I absolutely LOVED this story and it was a fun adventure to tag along with. I will definitely check out the second book.

Readability: I received this as an audiobook, therefore translating readability to “listenability”, I feel that this book was very easy to keep running while driving or getting chores done. The voice acting was a little difficult to settle into as the main character’s tone was always laced with anxiety when engaging in dialogue or inner monologue. She does, however, do a phenomenal job of performing different accents and male voices.

Characters: The characters are believable and there is palpable tension between the main love interest and MC, but I just couldn’t quite dive as deep as I’d hoped into some of the relationships and growth. I did not feel the depth between Britta and one of the secondary characters who suddenly becomes very significant in her life (I won’t spoil it!). I am interested in seeing these characters develop more in the second story.

Overall Feel: A fun, quick story that hits some of the major YA targets with a bow on horseback. Fans of travel, adventure, rekindling romances, and magic will love this one!

No explicit sexual content except for several scenes with consensual kissing, appropriate for younger readers.

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AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Tuesday Cross

Tuesday Cross

I had the serendipitous circumstance to meet the talented Tuesday Cross last year on a community writing-critique site, where I had the chance to read her upcoming novel. When Tuesday writes fiction, you just can’t tear yourself away from the pages she writes. From her recent novel debut, “Of Flesh and Fire”, to her story on Episode Interactive that just hit the #1 spot in Fantasy, “Recently Royal”, Tuesday is sweeping the fantasy genre by storm.

I recently had the opportunity to ask her some questions about her novel, writing style, and inspiration. She wrote to me from her current location in Australia:

When did you first start writing? 

During an archeological excavation of my father’s closet, he and I discovered a short story I wrote when I was nine years old—it detailed how my little brother was a pirate from outer space. My earliest memories are of reading, and a love for writing followed shortly after. “Finished, full-length stories”, however, are a recent phenomenon in my life, kicking off with the first version of “Of Flesh and Fire” two years ago.

What brought you the idea for “Of Flesh and Fire”?

Since I can remember, my dreams have been vivid, insane stories. At least twice a week, I wake up exhausted because of some quest I endured or battle I fought during the night. I spent one such dream walking through a village where the occupants were plagued by a vicious dragon. I worked alongside the village hero, a woman with white hair, to track the dragon—only to discover the dragon wasn’t at all what, or who, we thought it was. When I woke up, I jotted down the first few notes that would later become “Of Flesh and Fire”!

If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Little Tuesday, you are definitely not afraid to be different. You’re rocking that silly hat and fox tail—so just keep doing what makes you happy. My advice to you from the future is, “Don’t be afraid to be yourself on the inside as much as you are on the outside.” Don’t be afraid to disagree with people, speak up, and share your ideas. Take it from me, future-you:

The day you find the courage to be “you” through and through is the day you become unstoppable. -T. Cross

How do you get yourself into Writing-Mode? Do you do any creative “warm-ups”? How long do you typically write for in a day?

Writing “happens” to me in two ways. The first will occur while I’m working on a project for a client, and an idea strikes, unexpected, from a corner of my brain. Later, I’ll glance at the clock, shocked that it’s dark outside, and realize I’ve typed four thousand words but haven’t gotten any of the work I was supposed to get done, done. The second is when I sit down specifically to write. I prefer to be alone in a quiet space. If I need some help getting the inspo flowing, I jot out a loose outline for the chapter or scene in handwriting.

What was the best money you’ve ever spent as a writer? 

By far, my subscription to Scribophile.com. Hands down. I’ve met the most amazing people (Hello Laura!) and their eyes and thoughts on my drafts have been more valuable than gold.

What is the most difficult thing you find about writing characters? What about a character of the opposite sex? 

The most difficult, and coincidentally my favourite thing, about writing characters is the dialogue. When I write dialogue, I essentially become the character “speaking”, so when the characters are speaking to each other, I have to be in all of their mindsets and personalities simultaneously. It can set my head spinning, but it’s as fun as it is challenging!

Personally, I don’t believe that women are from Venus and men are from Mars—we’re all just people who have had experiences which have moulded us into different people. That being said, the most difficult thing for me when creating a male character is imagining their past experiences and the effect they had on him. For example: The first time his father took him fishing, how did he feel? When his mother left, how did that subconsciously colour his view of all women? I haven’t had these experiences myself, so it takes a fair amount of creative thinking to come up with what I think is a plausible male character.

What kind of research do you perform during writing? 

Because I write primarily fantasy, almost everything comes out of my imagination. However, I do keep a list of amusing things I’ve Googled for a writing project. Some of my favourites are vampire-related: “What is a plastic blood-bag called specifically?” and “How long would it take to drink 5.5 liters of blood?” If anyone looked into my web history without context, a few eyebrows would be raised!

Do you believe in Writer’s Block? If so, what do you do to battle it?

Words fall right out of me. They leak out my fingers and onto the page—until they don’t. Call it Writer’s Block or a lack of inspiration—but there are times where, try as I might, it’s as if I’ve used up all my words for that day.

Typically, I’ll just wander away and work on my “real work” for a while. If I’m working to a deadline and I need to get typing, I take a quick break and then read the chapter previous to the one I’m working on. Re-reading something already finished usually sparks me to continue.

What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

I love love love to read. I don’t allow myself enough time to read as much as I’d like, but hopefully 2018 is the year of the book!

Have you read anything recently that has inspired change in the way you write? 

Ahh yes. I’ve just finished reading an “epic” high-fantasy novel called “Lord Foul’s Bane”. It’s not as fancy as “Lord of the Rings” or some other high-fantasy I’ve read, but the author’s masterful use of metaphor and simile is life-changing. He’s able to paint a vivid visual scene and rip your heart out at the same time—it’s inspired me to dig deeper into my own imagination and try my hand at a different sort of prose.

What are you currently working on?

Currently, I’m working on “Of Flesh and Fire: Book II” as well as a story called “Recently” Royal” for the interactive storytelling app called “Episode”. I’m also working on a cheeky side-project (novel) that has no business taking up my time, but I can’t help it!

For more about Tuesday and her fantastic stories, catch up with her on her website, Instagram, and Twitter: 

Tuesday Cross

www.tuesdaycross.com

Tuesday’s Instagram Page and Twitter

 

BOOK REVIEW: Of Flesh and Fire, By Tuesday Cross

Of Flesh and Fire (Everything Will Burn #1)Of Flesh and Fire by Tuesday Cross

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Spoiler-Free Review

Actual rating: 5/5 stars

Characters: 5/5
Adventure/Romance: 5/5
Readability: 5/5
Overall Impression: 5/5

What happens when you wake up in a hospital bed after a brutal fire, only to discover that you survived because you possessed a rare power? What if that power made you a target? In Tuesday Cross’s breathtaking debut novel, Of Flesh and Fire, Nyminia finds herself asking that exact question. Running from her past, her new circumstances bring her to a life at Rowling-Burroughs University. While trying to learn about the power she possesses, Nyminia navigates her way through friendship, love, and faces dangerous challenges from unexpected foes.

Characters: Each of them possess their own secrets, inner-conflict, fears, desires/goals and are easy to empathize with.

Nyminia: Poor Nyminia has really had a rough start in life. I won’t reveal much about her history, however, very early in the book, she discovers that she has special powers which make her a target. It is easy to empathize with her as she is our MC and her first-person perspective allows us inside her mind, hearing her frequent internal monologue. She experiences a spectrum of emotions as she discovers more and more about the mysteries surrounding her powers and the danger she frequently finds herself in.

Marcus Saarinen: My absolute favorite vampire. I want to look that good when I’m a few thousand years old. I mean, the guy’s introduced to us as a hot librarian, what’s not to love? Marcus is an excellent example of how a partner should act within a relationship. He’s not your typical brooding, distant YA male character. He is supportive of Nyminia and protects her while giving her space to grow and make her own discoveries. I think he is an excellent role-model for younger individuals gaining perspective on what a love-relationship should be like.

Rowan: I’ll have what she’s having. I don’t know how that girl has so much pep and energy, but I really wish I could find a decent coffee that did the same. “Ro” is Nyminia’s best pal she meets early in the story. She is a phenomenal example of a true friend, and readers will enjoy watching their bond grow. She also has a special, um, power…one involving fur and fangs. Her brothers, Cash and Kit, share a similar power and I am excited to see them again in the next book.

Headmistress Midwood and the professors: I won’t give away too much. They are also developing well and play into the story’s dynamics and growth of Nyminia.

Ryanna: Secondary character. Being a mermaid…you can guess why I love her so much.

“Of course, mermaids are real too. That’s so awesome.”-Nyminia, Chapter 22 OFAF

GUYS, THERE’S DRAGONS.

All in all, I am excited to see how these characters continue to develop over book II. I think they have a great foundation. They feel “real”, which is what we all want in a fictional character, and Tuesday made me fall in love with them.

Romance: Thankfully, OFAF does not have your typical YA insta-love, but rather an interesting twist of magic from the universe called “Fate-Pairing”. The fate-paired characters are essentially strangers when they find out that they are destined to be together, which creates an interesting dynamic for two people who have just recently met. They both choose to take it slow, at their own pace, allowing intimacy set in naturally as they get to know each other throughout the story. The romance is age-appropriate for slightly younger readers as there are no explicit/sexual scenes, only innocent kissing. Just enough for some spice and intrigue, but everyone keeps their clothing on.

Readability: Well obviously I can’t put this book down because I have now read it three times. For full disclosure, I assisted with a beta-read of the first draft, and have read a physical published copy twice. Each time I read it, I can picture everything very clearly in my mind, much like a movie. This book is excellent for fans of film and those who consider themselves highly visual. Chapters are shorter and end on a cliff-hanger, which pulls you in to keep reading and continue on with the adventure.

Tuesday has a penchant for dialogue. Most chapters have excellent forward motion because of the engaging dialogue. You get swept into a conversation between characters and can actually feel a palpable tension, fear, happiness, embarrassment etc. She is truly a talented weaver of words, and I am thrilled to read the second book.

For fun, read the chapter names in the table of contents at the very beginning of the book. It reads a little bit like a poem, beginning with “My First Death” and ending with “My Final Death”.

Check out my upcoming author interview with Tuesday on 1/23/18 for more insight into her writing process and upcoming projects!

This book is highly recommended for anyone in love with YA fantasy, but especially individuals age 14-18.

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