Book Reviews · New Releases

Book Review: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Girl Serpent

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

Genre: YA/Fantasy/Retelling

Plot: There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.

Opinion:

“I am both the Sleeping Beauty and the enchanted castle; the princess drowses in the castle of flesh.”

-Angela Carter, Vampirella

Girl, Serpent, Thorn is a heavily Persian influenced mythology retelling with elements from classic fairy tales like “Sleeping Beauty“, “Rapunzel” and “Rappaccini’s Daughter.” It tells the story of a young Princess who was cursed with the touch of poison after her birth, and has since been hidden away in one of her family’s castles to keep her ailment secret. But when the royal family returns to her castle for the season, they bring with them a captured div – a demon who tried to kill the princess’s brother – whom they are keeping locked in the dungeons. For Princess Soraya, this is her only chance to find a way out of the curse that has caused her to live a life without human contact. But Soraya quickly learns that nothing is given for free, and consequences weigh heavily.

“There was and there was not.”

 

This unique retelling has been at the top of my TBR list for months. I originally found it on Goodreads while in one of a 3-hour book pit of browsing and knew it was going to be a top read of 2020. And though this story started out great, with rich culture spilling through the pages and a luscious world wrought with magic and danger, I felt myself begin to drift about 25% in.

It was an enjoyable read, but I was expecting an extra emotional punch and a little more excitement.

I hate to say it, but I was a bit bored for the middle and end of this book. I have been having trouble with YA Fantasy lately, so maybe it’s just me, but I just wasn’t as invested in the story as I wanted to be. I think a big part of this could be that the story went in a direction I wasn’t initially expecting it to. I guess I was expecting a “Throne of Glass” meets “Ash Princess“, and got more of a “Damsel” vibe that I wasn’t really feeling.

Soraya was an intriguing character at first, but her ‘doe in headlights‘ act started to get old pretty quickly. It bothered me how fine she was with her family practically shunning her and shoving her into a castle like Quasimodo, barely visiting her or even trying to communicate with her. I wanted her to show some semblance of anger or a grudge for her treatment, but it seemed innocence and being too trusting were her only major driving traits.

I also wanted her poisonous curse to be portrayed a bit darker.

Obviously this story is going to be written how the author wants and with their own preference to overall lightness or darkness in terms of overall theme, but I was hoping this was going to be a grittier and more raw tale. I wanted to really dive into the way this curse made Soraya feel. How the solitude and isolation has contributed to her personality and thoughts, and what flaws it causes her to develop. Yes, the girl is naive. But this book left her feeling like a Disney princess, rather than a relatable female who has been thrust into horrible circumstances.

The romance is a love triangle, and it was sweet and exciting in parts, but the original start between Soraya and Azad was…odd. I have a really hard time with insta-love and insta-intimacy. Upon their first actual meeting Azad basically professes his love and is shockingly not at all freaked out that one touch from Soraya will kill him instantly. He starts touching her hair (how did you know that her hair wasn’t also poisonous?!) and basically tells her how he’s always imaged being/rescuing/marrying her…? And Soraya instantly meets him halfway. What? This just felt so unbelievable for me.

I think the best part of this book is the world building and nod to Persian culture. Though this world isn’t as crazy outlandish and complex as some other YA Fantasies, it is perfectly detailed and the Arabian styled setting is described beautifully. Though of course more would have been so appreciated, the amount given is perfect for the reader to visualize and enjoy the tale.

By the end of Girl, Serpent, Thorn I was pleased with what happened, but I did find it a bit boring and somewhat predictable. I think I was just expecting a different story than what I got. It seems the majority of readers really loved this, so I would definitely read it and come to your own conclusion.

3 Stars

 

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Book Promo · Book Reviews

Book Review: Aetherstorm (Songs of Sarin, Book 1) by Alexander Ferrick

Aetherstorm

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author, Alexander Ferrick, for an honest review. 

Genre: High Fantasy

Plot: What is the Aetherstorm?

They said it was a tournament to discover the mightiest warrior in the land, but it is far more…

To the Demons, it is a chance to reclaim their former glory…

To a Prince, it is a chance to prove himself worthy of the crown…

To a Rebel, it is a chance at freedom…

To an Orphan, it is a chance at justice… or vengeance…

…What is the Aetherstorm?

The Aetherstorm is a trap.

When demons disguised as elves begin inviting the citizens of Sarin to a fighting tournament, Prince Maronir takes it upon himself to go there in secret and discover what the demons are up to.

Along the way, a botched assassination attempt forces Maronir to join Luca and Garron, two human orphans who are also going to the tournament to find the man who killed their adoptive father and mentor.

As the prince and his new friends journey across Sarin, he finds himself confronted by the harsh reality of his kingdom, and learns that the greatest tests of kingship happen far from the battlefield.

Will those lessons matter after the demons true plans are revealed? Time will tell…

Opinion:

“Come and prove yourself…”

“…join the Aetherstorm.”

A world where humans are practically extinct and subject of tales told to elven children in order to keep them in line?

Demons, Dwarves, Cyclopes, Magic?

An epic battle arena that’s like The Gladiator on mage crack?

Aetherstorm is my second read by Alex Ferrick, and color me completely unsurprised – this kicked ass. It’s the first in the Songs of Sarin series set in a fantastical world where magic is called Aether, demons have been unleashed upon the planes, and elves and dwarves are the dominant species. This is PACKED with detail and world-building so exquisite, I can hardly fathom how on earth so much epicness could possibly be shoved into just 123 pages.

It must be

This book, like any true fantasy should, has a cast of wonderfully diverse and badass characters who carry the reader to the end on a tidal wave of slick remarks and deadly battling. There is an Elven Prince whose bloodline is tied deeply into Aether magic in order to control the demons that have spilled into their world, two humans – one a mage, and another just simply a badass, a dwarf blacksmith, and a *gasp* could it be?! A HYBRID elf/dawrf female who puts them all to shame?!

“In time you will learn, my friend, that the worst monsters are beautiful.”

I usually get a bit daunted by High Fantasy stories. With the confusing names, types of magical systems, countless species and conflict…it can be hard to keep up. But with Aetherstorm, you will NOT have that problem. This author is an expert at flawlessly expressing a really in-depth and creative world in a form that anyone can follow. It is straight-forward and addicting, but has layers of truly creative content screaming from its pages.

But what never ceases to amaze me about Alex, is how his mind seeps into endless nooks and crannies of creativity and pulls out truly unique, original ideas for stories. In less than 150 pages the reader is blessed with SO MUCH. Like each generation of royalty being eternally imprisoned on thrones for harnessing the Aetheroot magic to contain the demonic presence. Or a world where Evles and Dwarves are superior, and humans are practically extinct and woven into scary stories told to misbehaving magical children.

There are battles. There is bloodshed. There are acts of revenge, trickery, ruthless killings and vile creatures. But there are also moments of justice and compassion. It’s a thrilling adventure story that has no time for pausing and will make it impossible for you to put it down. This was a fantastic fantasy tale that had me hooked and wishing for more. I cannot wait for the next installment in this series!

5 Stars

 

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Binding of Bindings · Book Promo

Binding of Bindings : 10 YA Books with Unique Concepts

Wanna get weird?

 

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~* 10 YA Books with Unique Concepts *~

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1. Bone Crier’s Moon (Bone Grace, Book 1) by Kathryn Purdie
Genre: YA/Fantasy

Bone Criers Moon

Bone Crier’s Moon is the perfect way to kick off this ‘Unique Concepts‘ post, especially because it’s about a tribe of women who kill their soulmates so they can ferry souls across the gates of Heaven and Hell.

The women are called Leurress and their purpose is to guide the Chained and Unchained to the gates they belong to. In order to become a ferrier, each Leurress has to acquire three Grace Bones from animals they hunt and kill themselves. The “Graces” they receive from the animal – like the speed of a rabbit, the sight of a hawk, the stamina of…something – become abilities they then posses as long as they wear the bones.

Once they acquire all three bones, they must complete the final ritual. Using the sacred Bone Flute that opens the gates on ferrying night, the Leurress must play the flute and lure her soulmate to a bridge…and kill him.

(See my review here)

 

2. Last Girls by Demetra Brodsky
Genre: YA/Contemporary/Dooms Day Preppers (I told you it was a genre now)

Last girls

I just read Last Girls last week, and it was fantastic. It’s a story of three sisters who live on a compound with other Dooms Day Preppers, where they train in hand to hand combat, hunting, survival skills, making bombs…you name it.

But there’s a story within this story, and it is epic.

The Juniper sisters are the “weird sisters” wherever they go. Honey is the responsible older sister whose job is to keep her sisters in line and together. Birdie is the middle sister who does what she wants, when she wants. She is the brash and fiery sister. Blue, the youngest, has cobalt blue hair and is the calm that holds the girls together. She also has a tendency to say odd little prophetic sentences at all times of the day and night.

(See my review here)

 

3. All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban
Genre: YA/Contemporary/Mystery/Thriller

All your Twisted Secrets

All Your Twisted Secrets:

SAW meets THE BREAKFAST CLUB.

Six seniors are locked in a room with a bomb, a syringe and a note instructing them to pick one person to kill. Before time is up, they must choose one person to inject with the lethal liquid, or they all die.

And Oh. My. Shit. is that ending going to blow your mind.

(See my review here)

 

4. The Hazel Wood series by Melissa Albert
Genre: YA/Fantasy

I personally thought the first book in this series was better, but the concept is still kickass.

It has all the twisted Grimm’s Brothers vibes you could want, and instead of it being a book of bubbly fairy tales and happy endings, it’s very much like a Once Upon a Time version where everything is actually quite fucked up.

The Hazel Wood is an estate where writer Althea Proserpine lives, and where she writes the haunting stories set in an eerie world called The Hinterland. Alice has never read the stories her grandmother wrote, and instead has been outrunning bad luck with her mother for years. But when her mother suddenly disappears, Alice is forced to find her grandmother, becomes it seems that her mother has been taken to a place that wasn’t supposed to be real – The Hinterland.

The world building is so cool, and the fairy tales are jacked up, so naturally I loved it. The Night Country was meh because it turns into more of an Urban Fantasy, but the world building was still amazing.

(See my reviews for The Hazel Wood here and The Night Country here)

 

5. A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Genre: YA/Contemporary/Mental Health

A Danger to Herself and Others

THIS book.

What a psychological whirlwind this was.

It’s about a girl who is institutionalized for something that happened at school with one of her friends. She claims she didn’t do it and knows that she just has to prove that she is sane so they will let her go home.

But the truth of what happened is so unexpected and so heart-clenching...

…it was immediately one of my new favorite books, and still is.

READ THIS.

(See my review here)

 

6. Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold
Genre: YA/Fantasy/Retelling

Red Hood

Red Hood is a Little Red Riding Hood retelling, but so different and bizarre that you’ll be saying “wtf” while grinning from ear to ear.

This is a straight-up feminist retelling. And when I say feminist, I mean

FEMINIST.

It dives deep into those womanly hardships of feeling unclean, unimportant, unsafe and unworthy. It is unhinging how gritty and purely raw this story is, and the author doesn’t hold back at all.

In this story, men and boys who wish to hurt women are the wolves. But our main character Bisou, and her grandmother, are bestowed with a special gift that allows them to sense the wolves and kill them. But the real magic about this book, is that the shining star of it is PERIODS.

Yeah. I’m not kidding.

(See my review here)

 

7. The Door to January by Gillian French
Genre: YA/Fantasy/Paranormal/Mystery

The Door to January

The Door to January is a really interesting YA Paranormal/Mystery combo in that it has elements of spirits, murder, a fantasy door to the past, and very serious trauma.

It is about a girl named Natalie who went through a very traumatic experience in the woods two years prior to the reader meeting her. Now, after her family had moved away, Natalie keeps experiencing dreams of a door in a house she thinks is from back home. So when she ventures back to her hometown, and she and her cousin investigate the old house, spirits start to communicate with her.

 

This book is bursting with multiple plots and is completely unique.

(See my review here)

 

8. The Life of Death by Lucy Booth
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy

The Life of Death

Ugh. What a whirlwind this story was!

The Life of Death is just like it sounds, it’s about the life of death – or the “Grim Reaper“.

As a woman is about to be hung for accusations of being a witch, she is visited in her cell by HIM. He offers her a deal, a chance at a life after death as death itself. And so she accepts.

And so for the next 500 years Elizabeth acts as death, guiding souls across the threshold. But in their dying moments, Elizabeth takes on the face and memories of a loved one that the dying most desires to see. She guides them along with love and compassion.

But when Elizabeth comes across a man whose wife she just helped cross over, she is suddenly struck by love and wants out. So HE gives her a task: HE will assign her five lives that she must take, and then she will be free.

And this is where things get fucked up and sad.

(See my review here)

 

9. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
Genre: YA/Historical Fiction/Fantasy

The Ten Thousand Doors of january

What a lovely and fantastical story this is!

The Ten Thousand Doors of January is all about doors to other worlds, bad men trying to destroy the doors and keep the beautiful secrets inside for themselves, and a young woman trying to get to her father. It’s a tale of EPIC romance, and a coming-of-age fantasy period-piece that NEEDS to be a movie NOW!

Probably one of the best stories I have read in my lifetime, for its exquisite writing and amazing plot.

Just go buy it.

(See my review here)

 

10. Wilder Girls by Rory Power
Genre: YA/Horror/Mystery/LGBT

Wilder Girls

I know a lot of you have seen this one and read it already, but it deserves a spot on this list for it’s astounding yet horrific uniqueness.

Wilder Girls is the feminist Lord of the Flies that you didn’t know you needed. And as I said in my review:

This book will make your skin shift.

Though this is in the Horror category, and is definitely creepy, it isn’t a scary story. It’s creepy in the sense of science fiction in that a school for girls has been infected with a virus they call The Tox. And the Tox effects each girl differently when the flare-ups hit them – from seconds spines and hearts, scales growing on the hands or face to lesions or skin bubbling. The story tracks how the girls live among one another trying to survive, and then figuring out how to escape once the government stops sending them aid.

But the best part of this book is the unflinching unity between these girls who look like monstrous creatures, but have respect towards one another and don’t even bat an eye to one another over physical abnormalities.

Now THAT is an enviable world to live in.

(See my review here)

 

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Stay Witchy

 

 

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Book Promo · Cover Reveal

Lyrics & Curses (Cursed Hearts, Book 1) by Candace Robinson

Book Title: Lyrics & Curses
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Series: Cursed Hearts
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Authors: Candace Robinson
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Release Date: November 10, 2020
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~.:* Cover Reveal *:.~

I have paired up with author Candace Robinson to reveal the cover of the first book in her newest series!

THIS is the gorgeous cover for the upcoming release of Book 1 in the Cursed Hearts series – Lyrics and Curses! It is an YA Fantasy brimming with fantastical creatures and 1980 nostalgia.

It’s Stranger Things meets Pretty in Pink, set in the vibrant 80s and bursting with bright colors and secret curses. It’s a perfect blend of music and fantasy, and it is sure to be epic!

~Click here to add it to your Goodreads shelf!~

~Synopsis below~

Lyrics and Curses

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Book Synopsis

Lark Espinoza could get lost in her music—and she’s not so sure anyone in her family would even care to find her. Her trendy, party-loving twin sister and her mother-come-lately Beth, who’s suddenly sworn off men and onto homemaking, don’t understand her love of cassette tapes, her loathing of the pop scene, or her standoffish personality. For outcast Lark, nothing feels as much like a real home as working at Bubble’s Oddities store and trying to attract the attention of the cute guy who works at the Vinyl shop next door—the same one she traded lyrical notes with in class.

Auden Ellis silences the incessant questions in his own head with a steady stream of beats. Despite the unconditional love of his aunt-turned-mother, he can’t quit thinking about the loss of his parents—or the possibility he might end up afflicted with his father’s issues. Despite his connection with lyric-loving Lark, Auden keeps her at arm’s length because letting her in might mean giving her a peek into something dangerous.

When two strangers arrive in town, one carrying a mysterious, dark object and the other playing an eerie flute tune, Lark and Auden find that their painful pasts have enmeshed them in a cursed future. Now, they must come to terms with their budding attraction while helping each other challenge the reflection they see in the mirror. If they fail, they’ll be trapped for eternity in a place beyond reality.

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Social Media Tags:
Instagram: @literarydust
Website: https://authorcandacerobinson.wordpress.com/
Twitter: @literarydust
Goodreads: Candace Robinson

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Binding of Bindings · Book Promo · Upcoming Releases

Binding of Bindings #45: My Top 10 Anticipated May 2020 Book Releases

Yeah, I know it’s May 9th already and I know some of these have already released.

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~* My Top 10 Anticipated May 2020 Book Releases *~

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1. Last Girls by Demetra Brodsky
Release Date: May 5, 2020
Genre: YA/Contemporary/Doomsday Preppers

Last girls

Is ‘Doomsday Preppers‘ even a genre?

I’m a liiiiiiittle late to starting this, considering I got an ARC, but I was moving across state lines okay?

Give a lady a break!

Last Girls centers on three sisters who live on a secret compound in the woods of Washington, working and training along fellow doomsday preppers. They grow their own food, train in tactical combat, learn survival skills and always look out for one another. But when a threat from inside the compound threatens their safety, their prepping suddenly becomes reality.

2. The Betrothed (Book 1) by Kiera Cass
Release Date: May 5, 2020
Genre: YA/Fantasy/Romance

The Betrothed

Our girl Kiera Cass is BACK with another whimsical, royalty romance!!

If you guys loved The Selection series like I did, then reading this is obviously going to be a no-brainer for us, right?!

The Betrothed is the opposite of the classic trope of:

Commoner meets Prince-It’s love at first sight!-Commoner becomes PrincessYAY, Happily Ever After”

This tale is about a young woman named Lady Hollis Brite (so fancy) who has been vying for the King’s attention, like all other courtiers, for years. So when the King declares his love for Hollis, she is surprised but thrilled.

But her new life as Queen isn’t all ballgowns, tall wigs and cake.

And when she meets a commoner that can see into her soul…well, you know where this is going.

3. The Iron King (The Iron Fey, Book 1) by Julie Kagawa
Original Release Date: January 19, 2010
Rerelease Date: May 5, 2020
Genre: YA/Fantasy – Fae/Romance

The Iron King

The Iron King has been on my TBR for SO LONG, so I’m using this 10th Anniversary rerelease as an excuse to actually read it.

And I just read the synopsis again and…can you say Cruel Prince vibes?

*cough* uhh…Holly Black?

Meghan Chase is almost sixteen and she has never felt quite right. When she was just six, her father disappeared without a trace, and now ten years later, her brother also vanishes. After learning that she is the secret daughter of a faery king who is in the midst of a brutal war, and with a young and cold prince catching her eye, Meghan fights to get her brother back.

4. The Sky is Mine by Amy Beashel
Release Date: …??? UHHHHH????
Genre: YA/Contemporary/Abuse-Sexual and Domestic

The Sky is Mins

Uhm…What the actual release date?

Explain me this:

Netgalley Release Date as of October 2019: May 12, 2020

Goodreads Release Date: February 2020

Netgalley updated Release Date: July 14, 2021

Oh, okay.

The Sky is Mine is going to be a painful one, so buckle in but don’t act surprised.

You know I love heart lacerations.

This is a story about a daughter and a mother who are quietly fighting their own issues of abuse. Seventeen-year-old Lizzie has been abandoned by her bestfriend and a boy is threatening to release pictures of her. But while she quietly suffers, her mother is also fighting battles with Lizzie’s abusive stepfather.

This is a book about two women who are silenced and learn to find their voices, and I am 100% here for it.

5. Storm & Fury (Harbinger, Book 1) by Jennifer Armentrout
Release Date: May 12, 2020
Genre: YA/Romance/Fantasy-Demons & Shapeshifters/Paranormal-Ghosts

Storm and Fury

My bookstagram friend Chivon@C_Booksncoffee is downright obsessed with Jennifer Armentrout.

I can’t even begin to explain the lengthy, detailed, passionate and hilarious Bookstagram stories this girl posts, ranting and raving about Jennifer Armentrout and her AMAZING characters and AMAZING books. So naturally, this is all over my radar.

Storm and Fury has gargoyles, demons, spirits and a badass female lead. Trinity Marrow is going blind but she has the ability to communicate with spirits from beyond the veil. But since her power is enshrouded in a dangerous and mysterious secret, she lives on a compound that is guarded by gargoyles called Wardens in order to be protected by demons that hunt her.

Then a guy comes along, and I’m sure he’s hot, and I’m sure he helps her slay some shit, but we all know she is the one that will be doing the epic demon murking and Hell ass kicking.

6. A Light in the Dusk (Charlie Travesty, Book 2) by Jessi Elliot and K.J. Sutton
Release Date: May 12, 2020
Genre: Fantasy/Paranormal-Vampires

A Light in the Dark

A Light in the Dusk is book 2 in the Charlie Travesty series, and you can thank the all-holy blood suckers and these two authors for releasing these books back, to back, to BACK!

Since book 1, A Whisper in the Dark, JUST came out last week, I’m not going to give away the synopsis for book 2. I’m just going to give a synopsis of book 1 so that you can come be addicted with me, and then we can walk off into the misty cemetery dusk-set together. ❤

As a Princess of the royal family of Vampires that rules over a city where humans are enslaved to the hierarchy that is the immortal, Charlotte Travesty is about to embark on the Awakening – where a vampire wakes and their eye color decides which cast they will move to. But when Charlie awakens, she is banished from her home and slapped with slavery tattoos – for she is half human.

HELLO Underworld vibes.

7. What Lies Between Us by John Marrs
Release Date: May 15, 2020
Genre: Mystery/Thriller/Suspense

What Lies Between Us

I came across What Lies Between Us on a whim, and though I am completely concerned and worried about reading it, I have to have it.

It’s a Suspense/Mystery/Thriller that has been reviewed with such phrases like “What the fuck did I just read?” and “Never going to look at a mother/daughter relationship the same again” or “Considered me damaged“.

Did somebody say…damaged?

In this twisted tale, every other night Nina and Maggie have dinner together…but when dinner is over, Nina helps Maggie back to her room in the attic and CHAINS her BACK UP. Because apparently, the things that Maggie inflicted on Nina are unforgivable.

8. The Ballad of Songsbirds and Snakes (The Hunger Games, Book 0) by Suzanne Collins
Release Date: May 19, 2020
Genre: YA/Science Fiction/Dystopia

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Oh…

So this is about…President Snow

…as a young boy…?

9. A Memory in the Flame (Charlie Travesty, Book 3) by Jessi Elliot and K.J. Sutton
Release Date: May 26, 2020
Genre: Fantasy/Paranormal-Vampires

Memory in the Flame

Ahhhhhhhh shiiiiiit!

Yes! You read that correctly.

Jessi Elliot and Kelsey Sutton are releasing two installments of the same series in the SAME MONTH! A Memory in the Flame is book three in the Charlie Travesty series, and don’t worry. I’m still not giving away spoilers.

But here’s another Underworld gif to put you back in the mood.

10. Of Silver and Shadow by Jennifer Gruenke
Release Date: May 26, 2020
Genre: YA/Fantasy

Of Silver and Shadow

Of Silver and Shadow is a my favorite kind of Fantasy tale.

One of royalty, magic wielders, rebellion and murderous female leads.

Set in a city where magic is outlawed, Ren makes a living as a petty thief and pit fighting while also trying to cover up the fact that she is a silver wielder. But when a rebel leader discovers her secret, he convinces her to join his cause to overthrow the King.

But while Ren and the rebels try to make their way across the castle walls, a group of brutal warriors who fight in the name of the King have a bet going to find the rebel leader in order to become the King’s right hand.

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Stay Witchy

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