Feature: December TBR!

It’s December already! How has it come around so quickly? With Christmas on it’s way my to be read this month is pretty ambitious. I’m hoping that with a break from University and work I might get through some more lovely books.

1. The Witch Finder’s Sister – Beth Underdown31378911
Release Date: March 2nd 2017

The number of women my brother Matthew killed, so far as I can reckon it, is one hundred and six…

1645. When Alice Hopkins’ husband dies in a tragic accident, she has no choice but to return to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives.

But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witches, and of a great book, in which her brother is gathering women’s names.

To what lengths will her brother’s obsession drive him?
And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?

This book came from the publisher with a beautifully fragrant lavender flower and a letter from Alice. I can’t wait to read this one. It sounds like it’s going to be one intense ride.

2. The Book of Mirrors  30755095– E. O. Chirovici
Release Date: February 21st 2017

When literary agent Peter Katz receives a partial book submission entitled The Book of Mirrors, he is intrigued by its promise and original voice. The author, Richard Flynn, has written a memoir about his time as an English student at Princeton in the late 1980s, documenting his relationship with the protégée of the famous Professor Joseph Wieder. One night just before Christmas 1987, Wieder was brutally murdered in his home. The case was never solved. Now, twenty-five years later, Katz suspects that Richard Flynn is either using his book to confess to the murder, or to finally reveal who committed the violent crime.

But the manuscript ends abruptly—and its author is dying in the hospital with the missing pages nowhere to be found. Hell-bent on getting to the bottom of the story, Katz hires investigative journalist John Keller to research the murder and reconstruct the events for a true crime version of the memoir. Keller tracks down several of the mysterious key players, including retired police detective Roy Freeman, one of the original investigators assigned to the murder case, but he has just been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Inspired by John Keller’s investigation, he decides to try and solve the case once and for all, before he starts losing control of his mind. A trip to the Potosi Correctional Centre in Missouri, several interviews, and some ingenious police work finally lead him to a truth that has been buried for over two decades…or has it?

This book just sounds so fabulous! I feel like I might fly through this one, because it will be just so gripping. Definitely going to be looking around my shoulder when reading this one.

278272033. Frost Blood – Elly Blake
Release Date: 10th January 2017

Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a fireblood who must hide her powers of heat and flame from the cruel frostblood ruling class that wants to destroy all that are left of her kind. So when her mother is killed for protecting her and rebel frostbloods demand her help to kill their rampaging king, she agrees. But Ruby’s powers are unpredictable, and she’s not sure she’s willing to let the rebels and an infuriating (yet irresistible) young man called Arcus use her as their weapon.

All she wants is revenge, but before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to take part in the king’s tournaments that pit fireblood prisoners against frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her and from the icy young man she has come to love.

Nothing like some fast paced YA fantasy for this wintery season! Can’t wait to dive into this – I think it might be my first read this month.

4. This Is30809345 How It Always Is – Laurie Frankel
Release Date: 9th February 2017

Rosie and Penn always wanted a daughter. Four sons later, they decide to try one last time – and their beautiful little boy Claude is born. Life continues happily for this big, loving family until the day when Claude says that, when he grows up, he wants to be a girl.

As far as Rosie and Penn are concerned, bright, funny and wonderful Claude can be whoever he or she wants. But as problems begin at school and in the community, the family faces a seemingly impossible dilemma: should Claude change, or should they and Claude try to change the world?

Warm, touching and bitter sweet, THIS IS HOW IT ALWAYS IS is a novel about families, love and how we choose to define ourselves. It will make you laugh and cry – and see the world differently.

I keep hearing such wonderful things about this book. Think it will be the perfect warm and touching book for the Christmas season. ~

So that’s my round up of December TBR list! Have you read any of these yet? What did you think? And what lovely books are you reading over the Christmas holidays?


Book Review: Grief is the Thing with Feathers – Max Porter

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Author: Max Porter
Release Date: 25th August 2016
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Pages: 114
Find It On: Goodreads. Amazon.

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Synopsis:

In a London flat, two young boys face the unbearable sadness of their mother’s sudden death. Their father, a Ted Hughes scholar and scruffy romantic, imagines a future of well-meaning visitors and emptiness.

In this moment of despair they are visited by Crow – antagonist, trickster, healer, babysitter. This self-described sentimental bird is attracted to the grieving family and threatens to stay until they no longer need him. As weeks turn to months and physical pain of loss gives way to memories, this little unit of three begin to heal.

Review:

This is probably the most unusual book I’ve read in 2016. Even after finishing it days ago I’m still not sure how I feel about it. Part fiction, part poetry and a few other things in between, this story is one that definitely sticks with you. The story surrounds a young family after the sudden death of their mother and wife. They cannot function without her and are overcome with grief. As a result of this a crow enters, becoming their counsellor and helper to piece the family back together.

The story is told from different perspectives – sometimes the dad, sometimes the kids and of course the crow. It is a fascinating look at how grief can affect people differently. The crow ultimately helps them to being to piece themselves back together before flying off and leaving them to continue on with their lives. This book is a short one, only one hundred and fourteen pages, but it feels like there is so much contained in such a short book. It’s difficult to even explain a little bit what this book is like. It’s wonderfully written, unique and beautiful.

This review will not remotely do this book justice. It’s dark and compelling, the crow is particularly fascinating – how he finds human’s dull except when they are grieving – and is such an interesting and poignant look at how grief can affect someone. Taken from the Emily Dickinson poem “Hope is a thing with feathers” this book is experimental, and doesn’t sugar coat the harsh realities of dealing with the loss of a loved one.


ARC Review: The Visitor – Christopher Chase Walker

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Release Date: November 25th 2016
Publisher: Cosmic Egg Books
Pages: 88
Find It On: Goodreads. Amazon. 

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*I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review*

The strange and mysterious story of what happens when a stranger comes to town…

Synopsis:

Satan, in the form of a bewildered and naked old man, arrives in Brighton one dark and snowy December morning. That night a gull kills itself trying to get at Lucy Cuthman, a charity worker in her early 30s, through her bedroom window. A thick fog descends over the city – and lingers. The Old Man is twice attacked on the streets, before finding the squat where Geoffrey Cantor, our cultured and Byron-quoting narrator, lives. The Old Man discovers he has a mesmeric singing voice, and starts to busk around Brighton. He attracts the attention of Lucy, who is so diabolically enchanted that she can only see him as a beautiful young boy in need of help. In this guise, the Old Man visits her at work one evening – and promptly disappears. Hopelessly beguiled, Lucy searches everywhere for him. Meanwhile, mysterious bundles of money start turning up at her charity.

Review:

I found this short little book a quick and interesting read, full of dark and unsettling imagery. It is very beautifully written – the prose is really outstanding, conjuring up some really powerful scenes. In the beginning  I struggled a little to understand what was going on, it is made entirely clear who the narrator is, or who he is telling the story to. I feel if this had been more clearly outlined, I would have enjoyed the story more. The story is in many ways is a modern day take on the fall of Eve, and the seductive nature of Satan.

Interestingly the book is set in Brighton, and having been there a few times, it makes for an interesting read with the familiar location and the tense and unusual story. I did find it a little difficult to connect with the characters, though I found Lucy to be the most interesting. The story has some really wonderful tense scenes – the one where a seagull attempts to break through the skylight window in attempt to reach Lucy, and her first encounter with the Old Man were two particularly fantastic scenes, the writing and pace of the story being absolutely excellent. The style of writing fits extremely well with the story, and flows very easily.

This was a really unique little read, and with it being only around eighty pages, it’s certainly a quick read and one you will easily be absorbed into on a dark winter night like tonight.

 

 


ARC Review: Caraval – Stephanie Garber

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Series: Untitled – Book One
Release Date: January 31st 2017
Pages: 401
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Find It On: Goodreads. Amazon.

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A gorgeously written story of magic and mystery that I absolutely adored.

*I received this book in exchange for an honest review*

Synopsis:

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

Review:

This has got to be one of my favourite books that I’ve read in 2016. It’s a fantastic story and one that sucks you from the outset. I spent a long time reading Caraval, not because it was a hard read but because the story is written so beautifully, the settings so richly depicted that I wanted to savour it, to take time over such a wonderful book.

The plot is fantastic and has so many layers to it, Scarlett and her upcoming nuptials, the game of Caraval, who Master Legend is, what Julian wants. There were so many things going on, it’s a complex and intense ride, and one that grips you right until the very last page.

I loved the way everything was described with colours, the prose is so beautiful and well done. This is the kind of book that once you’ve finished reading, you want to return to page one and start all over again. I feel like I could read it again and notice things I missed the first time round, because it’s just such a wonderful and complex story.  The magic is electric, it lures you in, and I found myself sitting down to read a chapter or two and still being there, completely absorbed hours later.

The world building is excellent, the story feels real and exciting, the characters are likewise all interesting and well built. Our main character Scarlett is a really interesting one. She isn’t just the simply pretty young heroine of many books, she’s complex and damaged and makes for a really wonderful protagonist.

I’m not sure there’s much more I can say about this book, it was truly superb and I loved reading it. I think it will definitely be a big hit when it is released in 2017, and I am fiercely looking forward to a second book in the series.


Book Review: Sleepers – Megg Jensen

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Series: The Swarm Trilogy – Book One
Release Date: July 20th 2011
Publisher: DarkSide Publishing
Pages: 227
Find it: Goodreads. Amazon.

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An interesting fantasy series full of magic and politics.

Synopsis:

An adoptee raised in a foreign land, sixteen-year-old Lianne was content with her life as handmaiden to the queen, until a spell cast on her at birth activated. Now she’s filled with uncontrollable rage and access to magic she thought had been bled from her people years ago. Even her years of secret training in elite hand-to-hand combat and meditation can’t calm the fires raging inside her.

Her heart is torn between two boys, the one she’s always loved and the one who always ignored her. But when the kingdom threatens to tear itself apart due to rumors surrounding the queen’s alleged affair, who will Lianne protect and who will she destroy?
Review

*I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.*

This is the first book in a three part series entitled The Swarm. Sleepers follows the story of a young girl named Lianne, taken from her homeland at birth to be a servant to the queen. On her birthday she becomes ‘activated’ meaning she can access her magic, and the rage she feels to the conquering kingdom.

This was a quick and interesting little tale full of magic and drama. I really enjoyed a lot of the political aspects of the novel, how the adopted children are made to belief that their home country is thankful for the invasion that came upon them. The idea of magic being bled from the country, to stop them rising up again. There are quite a few surprising twists and turns that keep the story going, although personally I felt it was a little too fast paced for my liking. At only just over two hundred pages, I would have liked to slow the story down a bit, and get to know the characters a bit more.

Lianne is a good protagonist, she’s likeable and being inside her head means we get an in depth view of what life is like as a stranger in a new kingdom. Her love interests are two completely different, although somewhat predictable characters, the quiet and shy Bryden  versus the more angry and outspoken Kellan.

I struggled a little with the world building in this story. It might be because it is so fast paced, but I felt very little got explained, and no resolutions came by the end of the book. More might be explained in book two,  but I found this a little off putting. It is an enjoyable fantasy story, with plenty of romance if you’re looking for that kind of thing, but for me it was a fairly bog standard story.

The Swarm trilogy does seem to have lots of potential, I think only a very small part of this world and story has been revealed in Sleepers, and I’m looking forward to reading book two and three, to see what happens to Lianne and her friends.


Book Review: A Thousand Nights – E. K. Johnston

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Release Date: October 6th 2015
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Find It On: Goodreads. Amazon.

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A beautiful and engrossing story that I absolutely would read again!

Synopsis:

Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next.

And so she is taken in her sister’s place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin’s court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time. But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong.

Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air.

Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster

Review:

A Thousand Nights is a retelling of One Thousand and One Nights, a book which I didn’t know very much about. This is not the only retelling that has been released in the last year, with The Wrath & the Dawn also following a similar storyline. One of the things that initally caught my eye was the stunning cover, it immediately drew me in, and the synopsis made me incredibly eager to read the book. I whizzed through it in a couple of days, and it’s a particularly enjoyable story.

The descriptions of the desert and the city are excellent within the novel. I loved the water garden which the main protagonist spends a lot of time in, I really felt that it came alive. One issue I had with the story is the lack of character names – we never learn the protagonist’s name, and her family are just referred to as her sister or her mother etc. which became a little frustrating. Despite that I absolutely loved the main character, she’s fascinating and brave, and sacrifices herself for the good of her family.

The plot was a bit slower paced that I expected it to be, but I think that fit the story very well and made for a much more effective ending. I loved the magic in the story, which was just so fascinating and made the story particularly gripping. There isn’t much in the way of romance in the story, which I found quite refreshing as so many young adult tales focus so much on the romance element. The story certainly highlights female empowerment, something that isn’t often the case for this kind of story. If you’ve read One thousand and One Nights or are looking for a fairy tale with a bit of a twist, A Thousand Nights should definitely be on your reading list.

 

 


Blog Tour: Crush – Eve Ainsworth

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Release Date: March 3rd 2016
Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 288
Find It On: Goodreads. Amazon.

A dark and compelling novel about what it means to be in control…

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Synopsis:

Love hurts … but should it hurt this much? Reeling from her mum’s sudden departure, Anna finds the comfort she needs in her blossoming relationship with Will. He’s handsome and loving, everything Anna has always dreamt of. He’s also moody and unpredictable, pushing her away from her friends, her music. He wants her to be his and his alone. He wants her to be perfect. Anna’s world is closing in. But threatening CRUSH-BLOG-TOUR-03everything is a dark secret that not even Will can control… Eve Ainsworth’s gripping second novel is a pitch-perfect exploration of love at its most powerful, addictive and destructive.

Review:

Welcome to the blog tour for Crush by Eve Ainsworth, run by the lovely Faye Rogers PR! This novel is a dark and gripping one, and is something that I enjoyed immensely. Recently I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy fiction so it was nice to take a step back from dragons and magic, and read about something real. Because that’s exactly what this story is about, people living in the real world, coping with life’s problems –  Anna’s mum has walked out on her family – and what happens in an abusive relationship. This is by no means a light and fun read, but it’s engaging, moving and a well thought out story.

The whole novel is paced very well, the relationship between Anna and Will unfolds very naturally, and it doesn’t feel rushed like many novels which focus on the relationship between two people. The book is very well written and makes a subject which people would find uncomfortable to read about, one that is much more approachable. I  think that one of the most interesting things about this book is that it highlights that not everything is black and white. Your perspective of a relationship is only one side of the coin, and what motives a person to do what they do isn’t always what you think it will be. It’s a fascinating look into humanity and relationships.

If you’re looking for some realist fiction –  something that feels so genuine that I wouldn’t be surprised to find Will and Anna were real people – then Crush could be exactly what you’re looking for. It’s not the easiest subject choice, but it’s an addictive read that’s well worth the time it takes to read it.

Thanks for checking out my post on the Crush tour, and be sure to check out the rest of the stops on the banner!


Blog Tour: The Sleeping Prince – Melinda Sailsbury

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Series: The Sin Eater’s Daughter- Book Two
Release Date: 4th February 2016
Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 336
Find It On: Goodreads. Amazon.

Book two of The Sin Eater’s Daughter is even more intense and exciting than the first!

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Synopsis:

Ever since her brother Lief disappeared, Errin’s life has gone from bad to worse. Not only must she care for her sick mother, she has to scrape together rent money by selling illegal herbal cures. But none of that compares to the threat of the vengeful Sleeping Prince whom the Queen just awoke from his enchanted sleep.

When her village is evacuated as part of the war against the Sleeping Prince, Errin is left desperate and homeless. The only person she can turn to is the mysterious Silas, a young man who buys deadly poisons from Errin, but won’t reveal why he needs them. Silas promises to help her, but when he vanishes, Errin must journey across a kingdom on the brink of war to seek another way to save
her mother and herself. But what she finds shatters everything she believed about her world, and with the Sleeping Prince drawing nearer, Errin must make a heartbreaking choice that could affect the whole kingdom.
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Review:

Welcome to the blog tour for The Sleeping Prince, run by the lovely Faye Rogers PR! This series is gearing up to be one of my absolute favourites. If you loved The Sin Eater’s Daughter, you’re definitely going to want to read this. Just as dark and exciting as the previous book, The Sleeping Prince will leave you hungry for more. Just like the previous book in the series, it grips you from page one, and absolutely does not let you go
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This helping features a new set of characters, but still has all the fantastic plot vehicles that we’ve come to expect. Full of surprising twists and turns, the cliff hanger a the end of the novel is going to leave you desperate for the next book in the series. The new protagonist Errin is a fascinating one, and one that I think is much more likeable that Twylla. I really enjoyed being inside her head and looking at things from her perspective. The Sleeping Prince is also a fantastic character, he’s twisted and dark and everything a villain should be. Can I also point out how much I love the covers for this series? They’re absolutely beautiful and so eye catching, love them!

The simple way to sum up The Sleeping Prince is just that it’s a pleasure to read. It has everything you could possibly ask for – and so much more. It’s well written, has plenty of murder, mystery and excitement. I absolutely love all the folklore and world building in this series. It’s dark, gripping and just a wonderful wonderful story. If you’re looking for an addictive fantasy series, The Sin Eater’s Daughter is just what you’ve been looking for. Once you’ve raced through The Sleeping Prince – which you absolutely will, I devoured it in a few sittings – your only problem will be waiting for the final instalment!

Thanks for checking out my stop on the tour, be sure to check out the rest of the schedule too!


Blog Tour: The Memory of Light – Francisco X. Stork

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Release Date: January 26, 2016
Pages: 336
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Formats: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook
Find it: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks

When Vicky Cruz wakes up in the Lakeview Hospital Mental Disorders ward, she knows one thing: She can’t even commit suicide right. But for once, a mistake works out well for her, as she meets Mona, the live wire; Gabriel, the saint; E.M., always angry; and Dr. Desai, a quiet force. With stories and honesty, kindness and hard work, they push her to reconsider her life before Lakeview, and offer her an acceptance she’s never had.

But Vicky’s newfound peace is as fragile as the roses that grow around the hospital. And when a crisis forces the group to split up, sending her back to the life that drove her to suicide, Vicky must try to find the strength to carry on. She may not have it. She doesn’t know.

Inspired in part by the author’s own experience with depression, The Memory of Light is the rare young adult novel that focuses not on the events leading up to a suicide attempt, but the recovery from one — about living when life doesn’t seem worth it, and how we go on anyway.

Doesn’t it sound fantastic? Now read Francisco’s guest post about the difficulties with writing about mental health!

The hardest thing about writing fiction with characters that have a mental illness is the craftsmanship necessary to make the story interesting and hopeful. Mental illness, when it is realistically portrayed, is not a pretty thing to watch and persons with mental illness are not very attractive. So it takes a lot of very careful thinking, imagining and writing to create characters that are engaging and that inspire the reader to get to know them and even to care for them and love them.

The writing of The Memory of Light took a long time (four years) because I had to make sure that Vicky (the main character) had the right voice and that her thoughts and feelings and actions were an accurate reflection of her illness but also energetic and upbeat and even funny at times. It was also important to show that in some way the issues that mentally ill people deal with are issues that affect all of us in some way. The lack of meaning and purpose in life that affect a person with depression can affect all of us.


About Francisco:1-Francisco-X-Stork1


Francisco X. Stork is the author of the acclaimed Marcelo in the Real World which received five starred reviews and won the Schneider Family Book Award for Teens; The Last Summer of the Death Warriors, named a New York Times Editors’ Choice selection; and Irises. He was born in Monterrey, Mexico, spent his teenage years in El Paso, Texas, and now lives outside Boston, Massachusetts, with his family. Visit him online at www.FranciscoStork.com.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads


Thank you for checking out my stop on The Memory of Light blog tour, run by the lovely Rock Star Book Tours! Make sure you check out the rest of the stops (you can see the schedule by clicking the banner below.) As part of this tour there’s also a fantastic give away of five finished copies of the book, click here to enter!

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Blog Tour: Night Study – Maria V. Snyder 4

16130759Series: Soulfinders – Book Two
Release Date: January 26th 2016
Publisher: Mira
Pages: 448
Find It On: Goodreads. Amazon.

Maria V. Snyder’s newest novel will leave you on the edge of your seat.

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Synopsis:

Ever since being kidnapped from the Illiais Jungle as a child, Yelena Zaltana’s life has been fraught with peril. But the recent loss of her Soulfinding abilities has endangered her more than ever before. As she desperately searches for a way to reclaim her magic, her enemies are closing in, and neither Ixia nor Sitia is safe for her any more. Especially since the growing discord between the two countries and the possibility of a war threatens everything Yelena holds dear.  

Valek is determined to protect Yelena, but he’s quickly running out of options. The Commander suspects that his loyalties are divided, and he’s been keeping secrets from Valek…secrets that put him, Yelena and all their friends in terrible danger. As they uncover the various layers of the Commander’s mysterious plans, they realize it’s far more sinister than they could have ever imagined.

Review:

Welcome to the blog tour for Night Study, run by the wonderful Rock Star Book Tours! I think I must be beginning to sound like a broken record, but Maria V. Snyder’s novels are completely astounding. Picking up right where Shadow Study finishes, the latest helping in the Soulfinders series is gripping, intense and everything Yelena Zaltana fans could possibly wish for.

The story is intense, full of the magic and adventure that we’ve come to associate with the Study series. I love the different points of view in the novel. Not only do we get Yelena’s perspective, but Valek’s and Janco’s as well. It’s great to enter the heads of characters I’ve loved for so long. Yelena as always is stubborn, determined and an absolutely wonderful character.

There’s a rich amount of magic in Night Study, and something I absolutely adore about this series is the amount of detail Snyder puts into the magic as well as the detailed history of both Ixia and Sitia. After waiting so many months for the release of the novel. it’s wonderful to catch up with all the wonderful characters in Snyder’s series.

There’s lots of romance in this helping from the series. The relationship between Valek and Yelena is such a fascinating one, and they are one hell of a power couple. It’s great to see them working together in Night Study, which doesn’t happen all that often in previous novels.  I don’t want to say too much about the plot – it’s definitely a book you want to enjoy spoiler free – I’ll just say that it’s exciting and wonderfully written. There’s a few surprises, plenty of drama and action as well as a lot more in between.  If you enjoyed Shadow Study, you are not going to be disappointed.

About Maria:

Maria V. Snyder changed from being a meteorologist to a novelist in 1995, when she began writing to keep her sanity while raising two children. Since then, she has published numerous freelance articles in magazines and newspapers, and teaches fiction-writing classes atMaria the local college and area libraries. The classes give her the wonderful opportunity to encourage fellow writers, and to keep improving her craft.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Maria always had a fascination with big storms. Dreaming of chasing tornados, Maria earned a bachelors of science degree in meteorology at Penn State University. But she discovered, much to her chagrin, that forecasting the weather wasn’t one of her skills. In order to chase tornados you had to predict where they might form. Creating fantasy worlds where she has complete control of the weather was more agreeable to her.

Maria’s research on food-tasting methods with an expert chocolate taster, her husband, turned out to be a delicious bonus while writing Poison Study.

Maria has a brown belt in Isshinryu Karate, and enjoys playing volleyball and the cello. Traveling in general and via cruise ship in particular are her biggest distractions from writing. Maria has traveled to Belize, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Europe, Mexico, the Caribbean and through the Panama Canal.

Maria lives with her husband, son, daughter and yellow lab, Hazelnut, in Pennsylvania where she is at work on more LUNA novels. She is also pursuing a master’s degree in writing popular fiction from Seton Hill University.

Readers are welcome to contact Maria at the following email address: maria@mariavsnyder.com.

Where you can find Maria:

Website | Blog | Facebook | Goodreads

Thank you for checking out my stop on the Night Study blog tour, make sure you check out the other stops on the tour for interviews and loads of other great posts. (Just click the banner below to find the schedule!) As part of this fantastic tour there is also a give away of the novel: six US winners with receive a copy as well as four international winners, good luck! Enter here!

Night Study


Book Review: Fire Study – Maria V. Snyder

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Series: Study Series – Book Three (To see my review of the other books in the series, click here)
Release Date: March 2008
Publisher: Mira
Pages: 441
Find It On: Goodreads. Amazon.

Yelena is about to face her hardest test yet.

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Synopsis:

The apprenticeship is over—now the real test has begun.

When word that Yelena is a Soulfinder—able to capture and release souls—spreads like wildfire, people grow uneasy. Already Yelena’s unusual abilities and past have set her apart. As the Council debates Yelena’s fate, she receives a disturbing message: a plot is rising against her homeland, led by a murderous sorcerer she has defeated before…

Honor sets Yelena on a path that will test the limits of her skills, and the hope of reuniting with her beloved spurs her onward. Her journey is fraught with allies, enemies, lovers and would-be assassins, each of questionable loyalty. Yelena will have but one chance to prove herself—and save the land she holds dear.

Review:

I absolutely adore this series. Even though I’ve reread it a number of times, it just never gets old. It’s such a superb and exciting story. It’s well crafted and everything you could possibly look for. This is Yelena’s toughest battle yet. She has to make some tough decisions and handle some really difficult situations, but she remains strong throughout. She’s such an easy character to fall in love with. I’ve been rooting for her since the first few pages of Poison Study, and I definitely still feel that way by the end of book three.

As with the previous books the plot as well as the history of both Ixia and Sitia are well crafted and rich in detail. It’s some I particularly love about Snyder’s novels. This outing in the Study series features many of the characters from both Ixia and Sitia, which is nice to find out about what they’ve been up to since we last saw them.

The romance element is a bit more prevalent in this novel than it has been in others, but it’s not over the top or in your face, and it works well within the novel. Particularly as Valek and Yelena begin to understand each other a bit more, it’s fascinating to see both characters develop both together and separately.

As always with Snyder’s novels its well written and there’s many funny and witty moments in the story, garunteed to bring a smile to your face. Probably one of my favourite is:

“The others had taken Valek’s return in stride, although Janco made a comment about Valek’s lack of hair. ‘You ever notice how couples start to look alike?’ he asked.

In a deadpan, Valek replied, ‘Yes. In fact I was just thinking how much you and Topaz resemble each other. It’s uncanny.”

If you’ve read the other novels  in the series, this is definitely one to sink your teeth into. If you’re looking for a new series to fall in love with, one that’s full of magic and mystery the Study series is just what you need.


Book Review: Spook Lights – Eden Royce

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Release Date: May 15th 2015
Pages: 145
Publisher: Lulu
Find It On: Goodreads. Amazon.

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This short story collection, full of magic and southern Gothic horror, will leave you on the end of your seat.

Synopsis:

Pull up a rocking chair and sit a spell. Soak in these tales of Southern Gothic horror:

Sinister shopkeepers whose goods hold the highest price, a woman’s search for her mother drags her into the binding embrace of a monster, a witchdoctor’s young niece tells him a life-altering secret, an investigator who knows how to keep a 100% confession rate….

These are stories where the setting itself becomes a character—fog laced cemeteries, sulfur rich salt marshes—places housing creatures that defy understanding and where the grotesque and macabre are celebrated.

Review:

This is one of those books that I absolutely flew through. It’s gripping, dark and incredibly addictive. The book is made up of a number of different short stories, all with the vein of Gothic horror running through them. There are lots of different ones and each one holds an interesting sinister take on the Gothic genre.

Short stories isn’t something that I read often, but it was nice to be able to read a full story in one chapter, go away and come back to another little interesting story. Each one is well thought out, with a whole range of interesting characters. The  Southern Gothic horror is perfectly portrayed in the stories, the heat, mystery and magic all roll into a perfectly intense atmosphere. If you’re a fan of this type of story, Eden Royce’s novel is a perfect outing.

There is an air of female wisdom, of stories told around the camp fire, a mystical and exciting history handed down to the characters in Royce’s stories. My favourite story was probably Doc Buzzard’s Coffin, in which a family are caught trying to bury their grandfather – but all is not what it seems. Most of the stories have that sort of idea running through them – what you see is not always what you get. The stories are well written, well paced and easy to fall into. There’s witches, folklore, crimes of passion and everything else in between. If you’re looking for something quick and enjoyable to read, at a little under a hundred and fifty pages, Eden Royce’s Spook Lights, with might I add, an absolutely stunning cover, might be just what you need during the cold winter months.


Book Review: Magic Study – Maria V. Snyder

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Series: Study Series – Book Two (For a review of book one, click here)
Release Date: September 1st 2007
Publisher: Mira
Pages: 419
Find It On: Goodreads. Amazon.  

Yelena learns all about her past and the family she left behind in this fantastic sequel to Poison Study

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Synopsis:

A lesson in loyalty – A master class in intrigue.

Yelena is a survivor. Kidnapped as a child, held prisoner as a teen, then released to act as a poison taster, she is now a student of magic. But these magic skills place her in imminent danger, and with an execution order on her head, she has no choice but to escape to Sitia, the land of birth.

But nothing in Sitia is familiar. As she struggles to understand where she belongs and how to control her powers, a rogue magician emerges – and Yelena catches his eye. Suddenly she is embroiled in a situation not of her making. And once again her magical abilities will either save her life… or be her downfall.

Review:

If I could give this book six stars I would. I always find when you read the next book in a series, especially if its one you really love, then you hold very very high expectations. For me, that was certainly the case with Magic Study. I absolutely adored Poison Study, and couldn’t wait to find out what was next in store for Yelena and her friends. I must admit I was nervous it wouldn’t deliver, but it absolutely does and is just as exciting and enjoyable as Poison Study.

While some of the characters that we love don’t feature as often in Magic Study, there’s a whole host of new characters that I absolutely fell in love with. Leif, Nutty, Zitoria and Cahil are just a few of the characters that you’re going to be fascinated by. Yelena grows a lot in this novel, and its wonderful to see the amount of depth Snyder puts into the character, she really comes alive and is still one of my most favourite characters of all time. She’s stubborn, determined, reckless and is always getting into trouble.

The one thing I loved about this novel is the amount of magic. While magic is a major aspect of Poison Study, we get so much more information in this novel, a rich history of information about how the magic works within the novel. It makes the store more exciting, and more believable as well.

The other thing I really love about this novel, and in fact all of Snyder’s novels, is the amount of detail she gives the reader. Yelena travels to Sitia and here we get a whole wealth of knowledge about the different clans, the Sitian traditions and way of life, as well as more of a back story about characters like Irys. It makes for a fun and exhilarating ride, one that makes you hungry for the next book in the series.

Just like the previous novel, this one is action packed, and full of drama and mystery. You’re going to want to free up plenty of time to read this one, because it hooks you from the very first page and doesn’t let you go right till the very last word.


Book Review: The Chosen of Anthros – Travis Simmons

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Series:  The Harbingers of Light – Book Four (Click here to see my reviews of the other books in the series)
Pages: 147
Publisher: Wryding Ways Press
Release Date: September 5th 2015
Find It On: Goodreads. Amazon.

Things are really starting to heat up for Abigail and the gang.

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Synopsis:
The darklings come at night carrying their plague of shadows to the nine worlds. They corrupt all they touch and there’s no cure except burning in the sacred fires.

And Abagail Bauer has been infected with their baneful magic.

Finally rescued by the harbingers of light from the legion of darklings, Abagail thinks danger is behind her…she’s wrong.

As tensions mount between Abagail and her friend, Rorick, a darkness is building in the harbinger settlement of Haven. Darkness that could spell the end for the last bastion of good in the realms: a secret army of darklings determined to destroy the nine worlds.The last battle of gods and man is coming.

Review:

Travis Simmons’s The Harbinger’s of Light is killing me. Every time I get to the end of an instalment, I am desperate for the next one. By the time you get to book four in any series, you become incredibly invested in the characters. I definitely feel that way for Abigail, Leona and the other characters in The Chosen of Anthros. The story is dark, exciting, riveting and I can’t wait to see what’s next in store for the group.

Simmons  has an incredible way of blind siding you with a twist or a surprise you really don’t see coming. I’ve come to expect these twists in each book, and although I never guess what’s going to happen, he definitely delivers on the surprise front this time around. The Chosen of Anthros ends on such a big cliff hanger you’re going to be scrambling to get the next book in the series.

The story is well written and flows really well. There’s plenty of fabulous characters that are all really fascinating. I especially love Leona, Abi’s younger and very very determined little sister, Skye the mysterious twins Huginn and Muninn. If you’re looking for something with a great interesting mix of characters – humans, gods, darklings and elves are just a few – then this is definitely a series to read.

I love the Norse mythology that Simmons weaves into the story. It’s seamlessly added in and helps to create a world that is just so easy to delve into and spend hours reading about. This instalment contains plenty of action, mystery and intrigue, but also the beginning of a possible romance element which I really enjoyed. It brought a new level to the characters and makes me wish for the next instalment even more, because I’m desperate to know if it works out!


Book Review: Poison Study – Maria V. Snyder

60510Series: Study Series – Book One
Pages: 409
Publisher: Mira
Find It On: Goodreads. Amazon.

Magic, murder and mystery all feature in this stunning novel from Maria V. Snyder.

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Synopsis:

Choose: A quick death…Or slow poison…

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She’ll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly’s Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can’t control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren’t so clear…

Review:

Maria V. Snyder’s study series is one of my favourite series’s of all time. I have read it multiple times and I never get bored reading it. It’s an extremely well crafted story and it is a series by which I judge so many other fantasy series. I could rant for hours about how perfect the book is, but that’s not going to give you any reason to read the book. So here’s a few:

The fantastic characters. Snyder’s series revolves around young Yelena, an orphan with a dark past. She’s always getting herself into trouble, but she’s curious, quick to learn, and immensely likeable. Coming back to reading Poison Study after a year or so is like returning to an old friend, it’s so easy to fall into reading about such a great character. Coupling her with master assassin Valek, the two have some very witty exchanges and they go so well together. You immediately root for them both to succeed. Add in a whole host of fantastic secondary characters – Ari and Janco to briefly name but a few – you begin to see what an interesting mix of characters Snyder displays in the novel.

So many fantasy books revolve around a medieval setting, but Poison Study does this with a new twist. Instead of a King and a monarchy, a military uprising has occurred, meaning the villages become districts, the overseers of each district are Generals, and managing all is Commander Ambrose. It adds a different twist to the fantasy tale and one that I absolutely love. Not only is there a strict military code of behaviour that will not be deviated from – which sort of reminds me of a sinister big brother is watching you – but women who are so often secondary characters in fantasy novels, can advance to military positions, become leaders and leave their old jobs of washerwoman and servant.

The story is also well paced, plenty of action, murder, mystery and magic – pretty much everything you could look for in a fantasy novel. If you haven’t had the chance to immerse yourself in Ixia and it’s fascinating host of characters, I suggest you make this one top of your to be read list, because it’s absolutely wonderful.