Book Promo · Book Reviews · Books · New Releases · Reviews · Simon and Schuster

Book Review: Songs from the Deep by Kelly Powell

Songs from the Deep.jpg

 

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Simon and Schuster, for an honest review. 

Genre: YA/Historical Fiction/Fantasy/Mystery

Plot: A girl searches for a killer on an island where deadly sirens lurk just beneath the waves in this gripping, atmospheric debut novel.

The sea holds many secrets.

Moira Alexander has always been fascinated by the deadly sirens who lurk along the shores of her island town. Even though their haunting songs can lure anyone to a swift and watery grave, she gets as close to them as she can, playing her violin on the edge of the enchanted sea. When a young boy is found dead on the beach, the islanders assume that he’s one of the sirens’ victims. Moira isn’t so sure.

Certain that someone has framed the boy’s death as a siren attack, Moira convinces her childhood friend, the lighthouse keeper Jude Osric, to help her find the real killer, rekindling their friendship in the process. With townspeople itching to hunt the sirens down, and their own secrets threatening to unravel their fragile new alliance, Moira and Jude must race against time to stop the killer before it’s too late—for humans and sirens alike.

Opinion:

“A flash of silver under sea, when siren song hath taken me.

Absent of color, absent of light, absent of all that I knew in life.

Bolt the latch and watch the waves, pray sirens do not take me tonight.”

The inhabitants of Twillengyle island know the dangers that lurk below the surface of the waters. They are taught as children to be fearful of the harbor, to wear iron at all times, and to never go into the ocean. But the fascination of sirens brings yearly tourists to the island, which always ends in a death or three. But this year, an islander is found dead on the shore. A young boy with his throat slit clean. The police deem the cause to be an attack from the sirens, but Moira Alexander disagrees. Moira has always been enraptured by the sirens, just like her father, and believes the death of this boy is due to foul play. She enlists the help of the light keeper, Jude Osric to help track down the true killer. But Moira has no leads, and is finding it difficult to trust anyone. But she must act quickly, before the bodies start piling up.

Allow me to introduce to you, my newest eerie fantasy of 2019.

Move over The Wicked Deep!

There’s a new creepy island in town with deadly beings in the water, and a meddlesome female lead to make you swoon!

 

“Playing for the sirens fills a dark and hollow yearning, a cavernous desire I’ve no other way to appease.”

The setting for this enchanting read is an island called Twillengyle, and my oh my, am I obsessed with it! It is oddly alluring island masked in fog and mystery, beckoning outsiders forward with a chilled bony finger. It whispers secrets on the wind, rains fear on its sandy beaches and coaxes sailors to the docks and out into the blue.

It gives me Sleepy Hollow tingles and caresses of Sparrow curses, but these waters aren’t filled with ghostly spirits enacting revenge. In this tale, songs flutter through the waves from the dark depths of the unknown, luring the souls foolish enough to walk unprotected. The sirens keep an alertness about the island and apprehension in the air, but it is the islanders who keep the darkest secrets.

“Twillengyle is a place to be embraced with one arm, with a dagger ready in the other hand. To be charmed by its magic is not the same as becoming its fool, Moira. Remember that.”

As soon as I began reading Songs from the Deep, I was hooked. I devoured this beauty in five hours, and all I can think is I need more. The writing was beautiful and eerie, and the historical fiction of the tale brought the creep factor up a notch. Each character was introduced in a manor where you can’t tell if they are good or evil, sincere or manipulative, like something straight out of a Stephen King novel. Who to trust, who to fear? Honestly, I’m not even sure I could tell you! The old-fashioned dialogue brings about an air of propriety and polite interactions, but mix that with a couple slit throats and you’ve got blood coating the sandy shores.

“Now I’ll have his blood on the soles of my boots.”

If you, like me, love a meddlesome girl, then you will surely adore our Moira Alexander. She is strength in a petticoat, authority in stockings, and a fiercely skillful young lady. Moira is a character who knows exactly who she is and what she believes in, and wouldn’t think twice about apologizing for either. She has strong morals and opinions, which she has no shame in voicing, but she does so in a regal and sophisticated way. As a child, Moira followed in her father’s footsteps of having a keen interest and love for the sirens. So much so, that she spends her days sitting on the cliffs playing songs on her violin to the creatures below.

 “When she disappears beneath the waves, I feel pinned to the moment. I replay it like a song, over and over, until it’s familiar as a heartbeat.”

But like all the islanders of Twillengyle, Moira has secrets of her own, and this one involves her former best friend and the love-interest of this haunting story: Jude Osric.

“On one dark bough, I curse my efforts to drain our friendship bloodless, when neither of us desired the ax.”

Jude is the epitome of good-natured and sweetness! So many times in YA Fantasy we have a bad boy character with secrets, regrets, a mournful past of death and dark hair with gray eyes. Well…the secrets and mournful past of death is still there, but you see where I’m going with this. Jude is kind and honest. He has an innocence etched into his bones that even the loneliness of his lighthouse can’t extinguish. He is an upstanding gent, an endearing friend and he’s just… pure goodness. This is one male love interest I could jump into the ocean for.

But obviously, the real treat of this story is the plot.

This siren story is one you need to buy now and devour. I know so many of you have been in an endless hangover from The Wicked Deep, and this is the cure! Not only is it a fantastic mystery full of twists and turns that keep you guessing until the end, but it ends on a note that makes you feel eerily complete. If a book was ever written for my soul, it would be this. This world, these characters, and the mysteries of the waters speak to my very being. If I could crawl into these pages, my heart would have finally reached bliss.

“Disquiet makes a home inside my heart.”

5-stars

 

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Book Promo · Book Reviews · Books · Netgalley · New Releases · Reviews

Book Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

The Ten Thousand Doors of january

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Redhook Books, via Netgalley for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Historical Fiction/Fantasy

Plot: In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

Opinion:

“…the Door seemed to be murmuring in a soft, clattering language made of wood rot and peeling paint. I reached toward it again, hesitated, and then-

I opened the Door, and stepped through.”

January Scaller has been under the care of Mr. Locke, a wealthy and highly prominent figure, for as long as she can remember. With her father under his employment and traveling all over the world in order to track down hidden and rare artifacts, January is left in the mansion where is expected to be a good girl. But with only strict nursemaids and colleagues of Mr. Locke to keep January company, she finds solace in her books and her vivid imagination. As January grows, confined to the walls of her wealthy yet lonely lifestyle, she searchs anyhwere she can for something or someone to fill her empty void. It isn’t until she stumbles upon a strange book about magical doors and a lost love that January finally begins to find new meaning in her life, while also learning how far from mundane her history truly is.

“Sometimes I was so lonely I thought I might wither into ash and drift away on the next errant breeze.

Sometimes I felt like an item in Mr. Locke’s collection labeledJanuary Scaller, 57 inches, bronze; purpose unknown.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January is a YA Historical Fantasy about a girl searching for a way out of the life that has been forced upon her. At a young age she is put into the care of Mr. Locke, a man with insurmountable wealth and a love for rare artifacts. He employs her father to travel around the world in search of these items for him, while he houses and cares for January from child to teenager. Set in the early 1900s, January is expected to act like a proper lady. To have proper etiquette, learn the necessary studies and skills that make up an accomplished woman, and to remain silent. To be a good girl.

“Be a good girl.

To hell with being good.”

While we watch January grow from a young girl to a young woman, the loneliness and isolation that she feels is deafening. She is mostly ignored by the men and women that come and go from Mr. Locke’s house for parties, her nursemaid is strict and unrelenting, and the only semi-friend she has is a delivery boy by the name of Samuel. Though January has a deep love for books and and vivid imagination, she is taught from a young age to not waste her time and energy on such silly ideas. It was so tragic to watch her spirit be broken by these people who seem to care for her, but you’re never really sure if they actually do. But maybe the most tragic aspects of this story, is January’s relationship with her father.

…there was just something about the shape of him in the doorway that made me dizzy with anger. Maybe because he smelled like jungles and steamships and adventures, like shadowed caves and unseen wonders, and my world was so ferociously mundane. Or maybe just because I’d been locked away and he hadn’t been there to open the door.”

For a good portion of the book, I was unsure of the relationship they had and when her father had the time to spend with his only daughter. It turns out, he didn’t spend much time with her at all. He completely left her in the care of Mr. Locke while he flounced around the world, forgetting birthdays and barely writing to her. Naturally, Mr Locke becomes her stand-in father figure, and at first he seems to be a stern and cold man, but someone who cares for January and who has a witty yet dry sense of humor.

That is until he locks her in her room for weeks on end, in order to rid her of her imagination.

You don’t really know how fragile and fleeting your own voice is until you watch a rich man take it away as easily as signing a bank loan.”

So this story took a little while to get going, because there is a TON of buildup and backstory that needs to take place before the actual fantasy can begin. I was having some trouble staying focused during the first 20% of this read, but once January starts to figure things out and begins…unlocking things, it really gets going. And when I say it gets going, it REALLY gets going! The amount of creativity and imagination it took to write this book is on full display, and the author does a fantastic job of making you feel as if anything is possible. The writing is elegant and descriptive, the characters well-developed and alluring, and the plot is…breathtaking!

I dreamed in gold and indigo.”

For a time in this story, the reader is taken back and forth between the present with January, and the past that is written in her mysterious book that she finds in the bottom of a chest. It is the beautiful and tragic story of a man and a woman, from two different worlds, who search for years trying to find a way back to one another. They travel around the world searching for thousands of doors that lead to various places of beauty and treachery, all to find a door of sea that will bring them back together. It is romantic and bleak, hopeful and gentle. This author has a way of opening little doors in your heart, while simultaneously setting them all on fire and burning them to the ground.

But another wonderful aspect of this intricate story, are the lovable and brave characters that are littered throughout its pages. Samuel, a young man who is a constant in January’s life who is always there when she needs someone the most. Bad, a scrappy and devilish dog who is fiercely loyal to January, and only January. And Jane, her new nursemaid that begins as stoic and reserved, but turns out to be a TRULY fierce and badass woman. These characters bring out the best in January, and show her another side to humans that she didn’t see a lot of growing up. They fight to protect her and keep her safe, and volunteer without question to follow her into danger.

I closed my eyes against the weight of guilt settling on my shoulders, heard the clock of claws and the scuff of worn shoes as Samuel and Bad approached. They settled on either side of me, warm and constant as a pair of suns.”

As a whole, I really liked this story and thought it was unique and a book I could truly get lost in. It felt exciting and sparked the notion in me that seems to be so easily forgotten – that anything is possible. Though I struggled a little at the beginning to stay focused, once I got about 20-30% in, I was hooked and loving every aspect of it. I cannot wait to see what else this author writes, and if it’s as good as this, I will be a lifelong fan!

4-stars

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Book Promo · Book Reviews · Books · Edelweiss+ · New Releases · Reviews

Book Review: Serpent & Dove (Book 1) by Shelby Mahurin

Serpent and Dove

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Harper Teen, via Edelweiss+ for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Fantasy/Romance/Historical Fiction

Plot: Bound as one to love, honor, or burn.

Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.

Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.

The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.

And love makes fools of us all.

Opinion:

 

My throat is weeping.

Not tears. Something thicker, darker. Something that bathes my skin in scarlet, streams down my chest and soaks my hair, my dress, my hands. My hands. They scrabble at the source, fingers probing, searching, choking-desperate to stem the flow, desperate to make it stop, stop stop-”

Oh.

My.

Cauldron.

Boil me down to sludge and shove me in a bottle, for I think I just died.

My soul is lifeless in this vessel I call a body.

The blood along with every trace of fluid, tissue and muscle has left my carcass.

My heart has been ripped from my chest out through my throat, leaving a trail of murmured affection and promises of protection that dissipated into the wind as soon as it unwillingly passed my lips.

My rib cage has contracted, folding in on itself due to the empty void that now echoes through it.

I am crumbling.

Decaying into ash.

I’ve never hated reality more.

Serpent & Dove is a book my battered and bruised being has been waiting for since the romance of ACOTAR and TOG decimated the last of my hope in humanity. It slowly glued my sorrowful glass heart back together, lighting my face with smiles and my eyes with mischief. For the first day reading, I was a fiend gripped by the characters and world that Shelby Mahurin enchanted into words. On the second day I was leaking tears and whimpers of love, promises, hope and wistfulness. But now, on the third day…

I was positively enraged by this cliffhanger and the agonizing realization that I will have to wait until SOMETIME in 2020 to know WTF happens!!!


*deep breath*

I am die-hard obsessed with this book. I love it. I breathe it. If possible, I would sew myself into it and never leave. It is FANTASTIC! Sure, maybe it’s the fact that is centers on a feud between church and witches. And yeah, maybe I am biased to my witch sisters. But if you even just read the first chapter of this RIDICULOUS book, you will understand why I am so willing to lay my tortured existence down for these characters and this story.

The church is lead by the Archbishop who is loved among the people and preaches an intolerance of witches, insisting their deaths at the stake is Gods will. The witches, who are hunted down for their abilities and supposed abomination, fight back against the church in random attacks to bring down their royalty. The Chasseurs are sworn to the church and act as witch hunters who are as equally skilled as they are brutal. Any witch, Maiden, Mother or Crone, are put to death. The issues between the church and the witches are DEEPLY rooted, and quite honestly, shocking as hell! There is action, murder, magic, romance and blindsides DRIPPING from the seams of this book.

The premise and roller-coaster ride the author takes you on will be exhausting, so take a deep breath.

Because apart from a FANTASTIC plot, there are INCREDIBLE characters.

And firstly, Louise le Blanc is THE s**t.

She is sassy, crude, sarcastic, arrogant, and devious. She curses up a storm, lives to play tricks on unsuspecting people and screams filthy pub songs like “Big Tiddy Liddy” at the top of her lungs. She is selfish. She is loud and obnoxious. And…I love her. I feel like she COULD be compared to Celaena Sardothien, but that would be a piss-poor comparison and honestly a little offensive. Don’t get me wrong, I love that sadistic assassin. But where Celaena’s arrogance is so strong and practically a turnoff, Lou’s is flawless and incredibly just. She is witty and SO sharp. The retorts and insults that dance off her tongue are enchanting, and her ability to deflect is uncanny. She is gentle yet hardened. Sorrowful yet joyous. She is a BADASS witch who can take down men twice and thrice her size with a few easy movements, and I am beyond impressed. She is a woman who has walked the depths of darkness, but still allows a smirk and grin to dance across her face. She fills me with both unending joy and heartbreaking misery.

“Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from you.”

Where you go, I will go. Where you stay, I will stay.”

But with Lou, comes Reid. He is Captain of the Chasseurs, and the church and word of the Archbishop is all he has ever known. For him, the word of God is law, and witches are vile inhuman creatures that must be eradicated. So when his life is suddenly bound to Lou’s by holy (or unholy) matrimony, he feels as if his world has shattered. But just when I thought I had Reid pinpointed…he surprised me. He is gentle, kind, sweet, caring and honorable…especially when it comes to this new wife he refers to as a heathen. He isn’t the swaggering, cocky and douchey male lead that we have become accustomed to in YA Fantasy. He is innocent and unsure, but not in a way that makes him weak. He is POSITIVELY swoon-worthy, and you will have such a hard time not comparing every man in real life to him from now on.

“Every aspect of Reid was precise, certain, every color in its proper place. Undiluted by indecision, he saw the world in black and white, suffering non of the messy, charcoal colors in between. The colors of ash and smoke. Of fear and doubt.

The colors of me.”

I have SO much to say about this book, but none of it can be said without be revealing every WONDERFUL piece of information. I felt so many emotions during this read. You know it’s an amazing book when you are constantly yelling out and making strangled noises or cackling into the air of your home. Serpent & Dove had me laughing, crying, yelling obscenities and smiling like an idiot. This book is fantastic.

My only issue is this:

I just want to know the last two verses to “Big Tiddy Liddy”.

5-stars

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Book Promo · Book Reviews · Books · New Releases · Reviews · Simon and Schuster

Book Review: The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett

The Lady Rogue

 

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Simon & Schuster – Simon Pulse, for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Fantasy/Historical Fiction

Plot: Some legends never die…

Traveling with her treasure-hunting father has always been a dream for Theodora. She’s read every book in his library, has an impressive knowledge of the world’s most sought-after relics, and has all the ambition in the world. What she doesn’t have is her father’s permission. That honor goes to her father’s nineteen-year-old protégé—and once-upon-a-time love of Theodora’s life—Huck Gallagher, while Theodora is left to sit alone in her hotel in Istanbul.

Until Huck arrives from an expedition without her father and enlists Theodora’s help in rescuing him. Armed with her father’s travel journal, the reluctant duo learns that her father had been digging up information on a legendary and magical ring that once belonged to Vlad the Impaler—more widely known as Dracula—and that it just might be the key to finding him.

Journeying into Romania, Theodora and Huck embark on a captivating adventure through Gothic villages and dark castles in the misty Carpathian Mountains to recover the notorious ring. But they aren’t the only ones who are searching for it. A secretive and dangerous occult society with a powerful link to Vlad the Impaler himself is hunting for it, too. And they will go to any lengths—including murder—to possess it.

Opinion:

A historical adventure fantasy about treasure hunters searching for a lost ring, that belonged to Vlad the Impaler.

a.k.a.

Count Dracula

a.k.a.

Mass murderer of THOUSANDS

a.k.a.

Romania’s crowned jewel and the world’s nightmare.

Oh, you KNOW it’s going to be good.

Theodora Fox is used to her father abandoning her in five star hotels around the world, while he slinks off to uncover hidden treasures and unearth rich history. So when he disappears again, leaving her in yet another ritzy establishment in Istanbul, she is forced to stay behind with only her crossword puzzles and obsession for history to keep her company. That is until Huxley Gallagher turns up in her hotel room, handing over her father’s journal and claiming that he is missing. What Theodora assumed was a typical expedition, turns swiftly into a hunt for her father and the truth behind his current hunt – to find the long lost ring of Vlad the Impaler for a wealthy client. Nobody said this adventure would be easy, especially when traveling with the boy who broke her heart and never spoke to her again. But what Theodora is about to uncover will change her and her family’s life forever.

The Lady Rogue is dripping in adventure, mystery, intrigue, wit and a TON of history! The author has artistically woven historical events with fantastical elements to bring a legendary story fit for any thrill seeker. Perfect for fans of Tomb Raider, National Treasure, Count Dracula, the Occult, dragons, fantasy…and, really everything.

This book is PHENOMENAL.

Set in the late 1930’s, this historical fantasy takes main characters Theodora and Huck to Romania in search of Theo’s missing father who is chasing after a much sought-after ring. The only clues of his whereabouts come from Huck, her father’s protege and a young man that her father took in at a young age. At an excavation in Hungary, Huck and Theo’s father, Fox, uncover a metal box with strange symbols encasing it that warned of the dangers kept inside. What they hoped was the resting place of Vlad’s long lost ring, turned out to be an empty box. Dismayed, they travel back to their hotel, where Fox suddenly disappears, leaving behind strict instructions for Huck to find Theo in Istanbul, where he is to give her Fox’s travel journal, and escape to Hudson Valley.

And so begins the WILD adventure that Theo and Huck embark on in search of Fox and Vlad’s infamous ring. While the two travel to Romania, Fox’s last known whereabouts, they are chased by dangerous men hellbent on taking them out.

And I don’t mean for dinner and a movie.

I’m talking murder, ladies and gents.

Because this book is PACKED with action! These characters are CONSTANTLY tiptoeing the lines of death and swing-dancing with fate. Both Theo and Huck are talented treasure hunters with extensive experience and passion for what they were raised around, and it shows. Theo is obsessed with history and any ancient topic that might involve a haunting or some form of magical element. She is proficient in multiple languages, has an uncanny ability to decipher codes, and above all else…this girl is witty as hell! Her sharp comments and sarcastic remarks had me nodding my approval during my entire read. She’s a saucy little minx who curses, throws obscene gestures in the air and has an epic drunken outburst where she dubs herself Lady Rogue – a lady of independent and royal standing!

Huck is also quite sarcastic and playful, but has a different set of skills and hates anything to do with spirits and magic. He is a pilot, a great lock-picker, and oh yeah…Theo’s ex. Once inseparable best friends as children and teens who began to have feelings for each other, now we meet them at a time when they haven’t spoken in over a year – due to events that later become revealed. This is the obvious romance of the story, but DON’T WORRY. This isn’t one of those books that has a killer premise and then becomes overshadowed by mushy teen love.

This book focuses SOLELY on the premise, and you will be so incredibly thankful for it. Because it is spectacular, exciting and downright addicting. The author did an outstanding job implementing actual historical events and facts into the story, which in turn lead me to researching different historical figures so I could learn more about them. There are countless elements that make up this gripping tale, and there is a little something in there for every type of reader. But I think what really struck me while reading, was Jenn Bennet’s uncanny ability to create a flawless book. It is detailed, well-constructed, comical, suspenseful and a TON of fun!

The book ends with everything wrapped up nice and tight, no cliffhangers in sight. BUT I am curious if Jenn plans on writing a sequel, because how everything is left, she definitely set it up to be a possibility. If so, you know I am going to be at the front of that line demanding a copy!

With that said, I’ll leave on this note:

5-stars

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Book Promo · Book Reviews · Books · Netgalley · New Releases · Reviews

Book Review: The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon

The First gIrl Child

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, 47North, via Netgalley for an honest review.

Genre: Fantasy

Plot: Bayr of Saylok, bastard son of a powerful and jealous chieftain, is haunted by the curse once leveled by his dying mother. Bartered, abandoned, and rarely loved, she plagued the land with her words: From this day forward, there will be no daughters in Saylok.

Raised among the Keepers at Temple Hill, Bayr is gifted with inhuman strength. But he’s also blessed with an all-too-human heart that beats with one purpose: to protect Alba, the first girl child born in nearly two decades and the salvation for a country at risk.

Now the fate of Saylok lies with Alba and Bayr, whose bond grows deeper with every whisper of coming chaos. Charged with battling the enemies of their people, both within and without, Bayr is fueled further by the love of a girl who has defied the scourge of Saylok.

What Bayr and Alba don’t know is that they each threaten the king, a greedy man who built his throne on lies, murder, and betrayal. There is only one way to defend their land from the corruption that has overtaken it. By breaking the curse, they could defeat the king…but they could also destroy themselves.

Opinion:

‘I cannot see, my tongue is a traitor.

My flesh is a foe, my heart a betrayer.

My eyes will I blacken, my lips will I close.

And let the runes lead me down paths I must go.

No man can follow.

No man can lead.

No man can save me, no man can free.”’

This book is PHENOMENAL!

Desdemona of Dolphys spent her last day alive giving birth to the bastard son of a cruel chieftain, and cursing the kingdom of Saylok: If man can so easily turn his back on his child and the woman who carries him, then man will know what it means to live without woman.

We are abused. We are used. We are bartered and abandoned. But rarely are we loved. So be it. From this day forward, there will be no daughters in Saylok for any of you to love.”

The First Girl Child is about a curse over a kingdom that ensures only males are born. It is about the life of a temple boy named Bayr who is gifted with inhuman strength, and the first girl child born during the curse, Princess Alba. The book is one of love, sacrifice, deceit, honor, faith, hope and brutality. Women are taken by force from territories and surrounding Kingdoms, in the hopes that women outside of Saylok are exempt from the curse and can break the drought. There is adventure and war, but also compassion and loyalty dripping from these remarkable pages. It is a story of oppression and doing what is expected of you, rather than what you choose.

This is not a world where a man or woman gets much choice in their happiness. We are born into war and each day is a battle.”

This is an EPIC historical fantasy that I don’t think I could have lived without! It centers on Saylok, a kingdom made up of six territories, with each territory being ruled by it’s own chieftain and Saylok being ruled by a King. The territories of Adyar, Berne, Dolphys, Ebba, Joran and Leok live in peace with the role of King being rotated between the tribes each time one dies. At the center of Saylok resides Temple Hill, where the Keepers live in isolation, protecting the knowledge of the blood runes and communicating with the Gods.

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The story is set over a number of years as the reader watches Bayr grow within the temple walls under the care of his uncle and the Keepers. As he becomes a toddler, it becomes known that Bayr is unlike other children. Within 6 months of his birth he is walking and running, and by the age of 5 he has already taken down a bear with only his hands. But with his inhuman strength and speed also comes his unflinching heart and need to protect. So when the first girl child is finally born, Bayr feels an instant connection to the her and swears an oath to become her protector. We watch as Bayr and Alba grow together, becoming a formidable and inseparable pair, and how their relationship begins to shift as the years pass.

The relationship they share is positively adorable and beautiful. Bayr is the solid figure in Alba’s life as she grows into a small child. He acts as her confidant, brother, guard and bestfriend. His days center on Alba, and hers center on him. I found so many small smiles blossoming my cheeks as I read about these two growing together, having adventures and learning. Alba being a fierce and outspoken little girl, and Bayr being a quiet and observant boy who treats her with such care and love. They are the true heart of this book, and the romance that is…EVERYTHING you could ask for.

There is no Alba without Bayr.”

But two other characters that really steal the show are Dagmar, Bayr’s uncle, and Ghost, the biological mother of Alba.. These two play HUGE roles in the development and lives of Bayr and Alba. They are kindhearted, compassionate and AMAZING people who live their lives in the shadows. A love between Dagmar and Ghost blossoms, but it is a relationship that is forbidden due to Dagmar being a Keeper. But the resilience, strength and selfless love that these two exude is the touch of hope and innocence that envelopes this book.

I think what really blew me away about this book, besides the incredible world-building, overall plot and complete badassery, was the writing. This is my first read from Amy Harmon, and I am SHOCKED and a little outraged that I have never come across her before! Her writing is detailed, exciting and addicting. I don’t normally go for fantasy books that have that Game of Thrones/Lord of the Rings style, but I am SO happy I decided to request this. I was fearful that it would be slow, that I would have trouble with the names and places, but NONE of that happened. I was ADDICTED!

If there is one bad thing I can say about this book, it’s that it isn’t the first in a series.

But, I’m secretly hoping it magically becomes one.

5-stars

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Book Promo · Book Reviews · Books · Reviews

Book Review: My Real Name is Hanna by Tara Lynn Masih

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Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author, Tara Lynn Masih, for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Historical Fiction/WWII-Holocaust

Plot: Inspired by real Holocaust events, this poignant, award-winning debut novel is a powerful coming-of-age story that will resonate with fans of The Book Thief and Between Shades of Gray.

Hanna Slivka is on the cusp of fourteen when Hitler’s army crosses the border into Soviet-occupied Ukraine. Soon, the Gestapo closes in, determined to make the shtetele she lives in “free of Jews.” Until the German occupation, Hanna spent her time exploring Kwasova with her younger siblings, admiring the drawings of the handsome Leon Stadnick, and helping her neighbor dye decorative pysanky eggs. But now she, Leon, and their families are forced to flee and hide in the forest outside their shtetele—and then in the dark caves beneath the rolling meadows, rumored to harbor evil spirits. Underground, they battle sickness and starvation, while the hunt continues above. When Hanna’s father disappears, suddenly it’s up to Hanna to find him—and to find a way to keep the rest of her family, and friends, alive.

Sparse, resonant, and lyrical, weaving in tales of Jewish and Ukrainian folklore, My Real Name Is Hanna celebrates the sustaining bonds of family, the beauty of a helping hand, and the tenacity of the human spirit.

Opinion:

“My last thought, before I say the Shema, is of the young mother Jacob told us about, while he choked on his own tears-a mother who smothered her own child in her winter coat before the shot came, so the child would not feel the bullet”

A book hasn’t left me speechless in a while…

But here I am…

speechless.

This book will ignite a fire in your bones and put an ache in your heart.

It is a beautiful, devastating and horrific story, but a story of one light that is incapable of being extinguished.  

A light that burns so fiercely with conviction, resilience, hope and determination.

That light is the Slivka family.

My Real Name is Hanna is set in a small Ukrainian village called Kwasova where the reader is introduced to fourteen-year-old Hanna in May of 1941 at the height of Adolf Hitler’s reign. She describes the drastic changes to her town, the way neighbors and villagers begin to shun her family, and the non-Jewish children who throw stones at her siblings. How countless signs paint the Jewish people to be disease ridden with lice and infection, and that they should be eradicated from the Earth. As the Germans attempt to make Ukraine “Jew Free”, Hanna and her family are forced to flee their home into the forest. For two years they hide with other families in first a small shelter, and then underground caves for thirteen months.

 “We leave on the first cloudy night, so the moon won’t betray our fleeing figures.”

It is never easy reading the terrifying experiences that millions were subjected to during WWII. But it is especially difficult living those moments with a character you cherish so deeply, as they experience each second of terror, confusion and fear. Hanna is everything I could ever hope to become in life. She is brave, unyielding, and hopeful. She is a force that sees the beauty and kindness in the world, even when the same world seems so set on ripping her to pieces.

She exudes a strength that is almost unfathomable for a girl so young. She is impossible not to love as she portrays such compassion and care to her family members, and the families that run with them. But reading about Hanna was exhausting. It put a cloud over my already blue head, cut my air supply in half, and made my stomach flutter with anxiousness.

Reading this book is like holding Hanna’s hand as she is forced to live in darkness; starving and scared. All you can do is sit in silence, and hope that she lives.

“For she was in a black dungeon…for she was in a cage…She had been in that cage a long time now, but now long enough to break her spirit.”

Where reality really set in for me, is when the families arrive at the caves. Their plan is to live underground, in the hopes that they won’t be found and that they can survive until the war ends. Though this story was incredibly sad up until this point, my stomach didn’t actually drop to the floor until Hanna began crawling inside. To say this moment is heavy, would be a completely inappropriate and horrid description of the situation.

It isn’t heavy.

It’s devastation.

But with each moment of bleakness and suffering, there are tokens of brightness littering this story as well. Countless people assist the families in finding shelter and food, there are meaningful stories shared during their days in hiding, and a tree that is a symbol of their hope and salvation. The writing is superbly done, and the voice of Hanna is captured beautifully by the author. She is youthful and views her surroundings with a tint of innocence, but knows the seriousness of the situation she and her family are in. She is an old soul full of wisdom and strength, and you can’t help but look up to her.

Though these characters are fictional and created by the author, the Slivka family is based on real-life survivor Esther Stermer, her extended family and four other families who survived WWII by hiding in caves for over 500 days. My Name is Hanna is an incredibly important story that NEEDS to be shared with all ages. In a world where there is so much hate and lack of communication and listening, this book will will serve as a reminder that we are all human and deserve the same amount of decency.

Please read this. It’s important.

“I am jealous of how quickly they forget”.

5-stars

 

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Book Promo · Book Reviews · Books · New Releases · Reviews

Book Review: Smoke and Key by Kelsey Sutton

Smoke and Key

 

Genre: Young Adult/Historical Fiction/Fantasy/Romance

Plot: A sound awakens her. There’s darkness all around. And then she’s falling…

She has no idea who or where she is. Or why she’s dead. The only clue to her identity hangs around her neck: a single rusted key. This is how she and the others receive their names—from whatever belongings they had when they fell out of their graves. Under is a place of dirt and secrets, and Key is determined to discover the truth of her past in order to escape it.

She needs help, but who can she trust? Ribbon seems content in Under, uninterested in finding answers. Doll’s silence hints at deep sorrow, which could be why she doesn’t utter a word. There’s Smoke, the boy with a fierceness that rivals even the living. And Journal, who stays apart from everyone else. Key’s instincts tell her there is something remarkable about each of them, even if she can’t remember why.

Then the murders start; bodies that are burnt to a crisp. After being burned, the dead stay dead. Key is running out of time to discover who she was—and what secret someone is willing to kill to keep hidden—before she becomes the next victim…

Opinion:  

Death, lost love, walking corpses, corsets, propriety, falling from graves, curious momentous and magic.

Finally.

The spooky Historical Romance that your Gothic little heart was searching for.

Smoke and Key was just as beautiful, dark, sorrowful and mysterious as I’d hoped it would be.

Kelsey Sutton is Queen when it comes to ingenious and creatively mind-bending YA plots. She brings fantasy to life and completely astounds me with her imaginative ideas for books. Countdown clocks to death in Gardenia, a book of poetry about a girl living a life of imagination in The Lonely Ones, and a world where emotions take human form in the Some Quiet Place series?!

*Swoon*

But my newest Kelsey Sutton obsession centers on Smoke and Key. It’s an eerie Gothic mystery dripping in fog and Tim Burton tendencies. The story takes place in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, and moves between Key’s memories of her life and her time in Under. It is a time when young ladies are thrust into corsets and skirts, where propriety is everything, and when being caught with a member of the opposite sex in public, without a chaperone, is downright scandalous! It is a YA Crimson Peak (without the weirdness) and Corpse Bride mashup, stuffed with romance, murder and magic.

Under is neither heaven nor hell, it is a place in between, or so its inhabitants think. The place is downright creepy, and I was enamored with every moment of it. There is only dirt, cold and corpses in this depressing place and each person who walks its floor possesses the names of the objects they came with: Key, Smoke, Ribbon, Journal, Pocket Watch, Doll. The characters and the world of Under is like a funhouse for the dead. It’s filled with charismatic characters whose flesh and organs are literally decomposing before the readers eyes, and they’re tipping over the Looney Tunes side of the sanity spectrum.

Though there is no clear indication of what age characters like Key, Smoke and Journal are, I would have to guess that they are in their late teens or very early twenties. I found Key to be an absolute dream and am so grateful the author didn’t turn her into an immature wailing female. Key is the picture of poise and manners, even in death, and she comes off as an incredibly strong-willed lady of the dead. Match her up with the brooding, curious and dashingly Gothic Smoke, and we’ve got ourselves the match-up for every bleak black heart out there!

But obviously, the real addiction here is the thrilling ride the reader takes as they begin to uncover what Under is, and how these people got there. As Key’s memories begin to surface, she gets snippets and clues of her life when she was alive. A big house with a girl who calls her sister, a boy in a library, and American with an infectious grin and a knack for fighting. Each memory brings Key closer to learning about herself and how she died, but it also brings her closer to the dark side of her life.

This book brought out so many emotions in me while I was reading. Sadness, longing, excitement, disgust, curiosity. I LOVE the world this author created and the characters that fill its pages. It was so different from every YA Fantasy story currently out right now, and it is bound to be a favorite if you love a Gothic tale with magic. I devoured every page and am still hopelessly looking for more…*sigh*.

I’m going to be looking at cemeteries with longing in my eyes now.

 

5-stars

 

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