ARCs I’m Excited to Read in February 2021 | Thoughts and Rambles

I must really thank the ARC gods because somehow I’ve been approved to read and review some of my highly anticipated reads this year. Here’s a few: 

 

Title: Hall of Smoke
Author: H.M. Long
Genre: Adult, Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
Pub date: 19 Jan 2021

GOODREADS LINK HERE

Why I wanted to read this:
• Gorgeous cover.
• Intriguing premise.
• A warrior main character on a mission for redemption? YES, I WANT IN.


An epic fantasy featuring warrior priestesses and fickle gods at war

Hessa is an Eangi: a warrior priestess of the Goddess of War, with the power to turn an enemy’s bones to dust with a scream. Banished for disobeying her goddess’s command to murder a traveller, she prays for forgiveness alone on a mountainside.

While she is gone, raiders raze her village and obliterate the Eangi priesthood. Grieving and alone, Hessa – the last Eangi – must find the traveller, atone for her weakness and secure her place with her loved ones in the High Halls. As clans from the north and legionaries from the south tear through her homeland, slaughtering everyone in their path, Hessa strives to win back her goddess’ favour.

Beset by zealot soldiers, deceitful gods, and newly-awakened demons at every turn, Hessa burns her path towards redemption and revenge. But her journey reveals a harrowing truth: the gods are dying and the High Halls of the afterlife are fading. Soon Hessa’s trust in her goddess weakens with every unheeded prayer.

Thrust into a battle between the gods of the Old World and the New, Hessa realizes there is far more on the line than securing a life beyond her own death. Bigger, older powers slumber beneath the surface of her world. And they’re about to wake up.


Title: Spellmaker 
Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical
Pub date: 9 March 2021

GOODREADS LINK HERE

Why I wanted to read this:
• Love the premise.
• MARRIAGE OF CONVENIENCE TROPE YES!
• Okay, time for a confession: I didn’t realise this was a sequel so I binge read the first book and LOVED it.


Dead wizards, stolen enchantments, and broken promises force a young spellbreaker out of the shadows in the next thrilling installment of the Spellbreaker series by the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Paper Magician.

England, 1895. An unsolved series of magician murders and opus thefts isn’t a puzzle to Elsie Camden. But to reveal a master spellcaster as the culprit means incriminating herself as an unregistered spellbreaker. When Elsie refuses to join forces with the charming assassin, her secret is exposed, she’s thrown in jail, and the murderer disappears. But Elsie’s hope hasn’t vanished.

Through a twist of luck, the elite magic user Bacchus Kelsey helps Elsie join the lawful, but with a caveat: they must marry to prove their cover story. Forced beneath a magical tutor while her bond with Bacchus grows, Elsie seeks to thwart the plans of England’s most devious criminal—if she can find them.

With hundreds of stolen spells at their disposal, the villain has a plan—and it involves seducing Elsie to the dark side. But even now that her secret is out, Elsie must be careful how she uses the new abilities she’s discovering, or she may play right into the criminal’s hands.


Title: The Shadow in the Glass
Author: J.J.A. Harwood
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retellings
Pub date: 18 March 2021

GOODREADS LINK HERE

Why I wanted to read this:
• Because I haven’t read any Cinderella retellings, okay?
• I’m so intrigued with the wishes and the price to pay!
• Look at the cover. I would love that on my shelf.


Once upon a time Ella had wished for more than her life as a lowly maid.

Now forced to work hard under the unforgiving, lecherous gaze of the man she once called stepfather, Ella’s only refuge is in the books she reads by candlelight, secreted away in the library she isn’t permitted to enter.

One night, among her beloved books of far-off lands, Ella’s wishes are answered. At the stroke of midnight, a fairy godmother makes her an offer that will change her life: seven wishes, hers to make as she pleases. But each wish comes at a price and Ella must to decide whether it’s one she’s willing to pay it.

A smouldering, terrifying new spin on Cinderella – perfect for fans of Laura Purcell and Erin Morgenstern. 


Title: Ace of Spades
Author: Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller, Contemporary
Pub date: 10 June 2021

GOODREADS LINK HERE

Why I wanted to read this:
• A Thriller!! Based in school.
• LOVE the cover.
• The premise, the themes… I need it all.


An incendiary and utterly compelling thriller with a shocking twist that delves deep into the heart of institutionalized racism, from an exceptional new YA voice. Welcome to Niveus Private Academy, where money paves the hallways, and the students are never less than perfect. Until now. Because anonymous texter, Aces, is bringing two students’ dark secrets to light. Talented musician Devon buries himself in rehearsals, but he can’t escape the spotlight when his private photos go public. Head girl Chiamaka isn’t afraid to get what she wants, but soon everyone will know the price she has paid for power. Someone is out to get them both. Someone who holds all the aces. And they’re planning much more than a high-school game… 


Title: Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder 
Author: T.A. Willberg
Genre: Adult, Historical Fiction, Mystery
Pub date: 10 June 2021

GOODREADS LINK HERE

Why I want to read this:
• Love the premise.
• MYSTERY! MURDER! MAYHEM!
• Have I pointed out the cover? Because it is so beautiful.


The letter was short. A name, a time, a place.

Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder plunges readers into the heart of London, to the secret tunnels that exist far beneath the city streets. There, a mysterious group of detectives recruited for Miss Brickett’s Investigations & Inquiries use their cunning and gadgets to solve crimes that have stumped Scotland Yard.

Late one night in April 1958, a filing assistant for Miss Brickett’s named Michelle White receives a letter warning her that a heinous act is about to occur. She goes to investigate but finds the room empty. At the stroke of midnight, she is murdered by a killer she can’t see—her death the only sign she wasn’t alone. It becomes chillingly clear that the person responsible must also work for Miss Brickett’s, making everyone a suspect.

Almost unwillingly, Marion Lane, a first-year Inquirer-in-training, finds herself being drawn ever deeper into the investigation. When her friend and mentor is framed for the crime, to clear his name she must sort through the hidden alliances at Miss Brickett’s and secrets dating back to WWII. Masterful, clever and deliciously suspenseful, Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder is a fresh take on the Agatha Christie—style locked-room mystery with an exciting new heroine detective at the helm.


Title: She Who Became the Sun
Author: Shelley Parker-Chan
Genre: Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fantasy
Pub date: 22 July 2021

GOODREADS LINK HERE

Why I want to read this:
• Okay, let’s first establish the cover is gorgeous.
• A reimagining of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty? NEED.
• AHHH the synopsis is giving me Red River vibes and I need it.


Mulan meets The Song of Achilles in Shelley Parker-Chan’s She Who Became the Sun, a bold, queer, and lyrical reimagining of the rise of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty from an amazing new voice in literary fantasy.

To possess the Mandate of Heaven, the female monk Zhu will do anything

“I refuse to be nothing…”

In a famine-stricken village on a dusty yellow plain, two children are given two fates. A boy, greatness. A girl, nothingness…

In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected.

When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, propelled by her burning desire to survive, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate.

After her sanctuary is destroyed for supporting the rebellion against Mongol rule, Zhu takes the chance to claim another future altogether: her brother’s abandoned greatness.


Have you noticed a similar pattern with how I pick my books? Why am I so drawn to pretty covers?

What entices you to pick up a book?

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Library Haul | Book Haul

Growing up, my family always utilised the library. There’s something special about the library and I love them so much. The other day, I decided to ignore my unread books on my shelves and acquire more books without my wallet cursing and crying at me. As a result, I went to my local library.

One thing I love about my library is how it allows you to borrow ten books at a time. I tried to be realistic and borrow the maximum books I think I can read within two weeks, so I managed to pick five books. Here are my pics:

• 𝗢𝗽𝗽𝗼𝘀𝗶𝘁𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝗔𝗹𝘄𝗮𝘆𝘀 by Justin A Reynolds

• 𝗪𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝗿𝗲 𝗼𝗻 𝗛𝗶𝗴𝗵 by Elizabeth Acevedo

• 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗣𝗼𝗲𝘁 𝗫 by Elizabeth Acevedo

• 𝗗𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗱 𝗡𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 by Justina Ireland

• 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗕𝗼𝗻𝗲 𝗦𝗲𝗮𝘀𝗼𝗻 by Samantha Shannon

A few of these books have book on my tbr for a while and now I can devour them to my hearts content 😁 I’ve already started Dread Nation and omgggg I stayed up so late and now I’m hating/loving myself right now 😅😭😂

(Ps please ignore how I forgot to showcase The Bone Season 🙈)

𝐐𝐨𝐭𝐃: Have you read any of these books? Do you use the library? What’s the last book you borrowed? Otherwise, what’s the last book you bought?

𝐀𝐨𝐭𝐃: Finally!!! There was some free Elizabeth Acevedo books at my library and you bet I swiped the books and ran out 😂🏃🏻‍♀️💨💨💨

I originally made this as a reel for Bookstagram, however, I can’t play the music I added with this so let’s just pretend I’m singing in the background *Cue off-pitch singing and cats crying*

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FairyLoot August 2020 | Unboxing

FairyLoot August 2020: Let the Games Begin

Featured Book: Star Daughter by Shveta Thakar

Monthly Character Cards: Nevernight inspired characters illustrated by Katherine Britt

An Ember in the Ashes inspired Book Sleeve (Laia & Elias): designed by @monolimeart

Hunting Prince Dracula inspired Hardcover Notebook: by @noverantale with artwork by @taratjah

Aurora Rising Enamel Pin: designed by @ironandinkdesigns

Nevernight (Mia & Mr Kindly) Metal Bookmark: designed by @taratjah

Golden Egg Bath Bomb: created by @littleheartgifts

Scythe inspired Magnet: by @tararjah

Upon opening my box I actually gasped. This box left me speechless. I’m so in love with everything 😭🤩 FairyLoot definitely spoiled us with this book. One could say everything here was out of this world 😁✨

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The Midnight Bargain | Book Review

Title: The Midnight Bargain
Standalone
Author: C. L. Polk
Publisher: Erewhon Books
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Where can I get this? GoodReads | Book Depository | Booktopia | Barnes and Noble
Recommended for: fans of historical fiction set in Regency era, themes of politically arranged marriages, and feminism
CW: themes of misogyny (women wearing collars after marriage to subdue their magic and protect potential children)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Check out the synopsis below!

Beatrice Clayborn is a sorceress who practices magic in secret, terrified of the day she will be locked into a marital collar that will cut off her powers to protect her unborn children. She dreams of becoming a full-fledged Magus and pursuing magic as her calling as men do, but her family has staked everything to equip her for Bargaining Season, when young men and women of means descend upon the city to negotiate the best marriages. The Clayborns are in severe debt, and only she can save them, by securing an advantageous match before their creditors come calling.

In a stroke of luck, Beatrice finds a grimoire that contains the key to becoming a Magus, but before she can purchase it, a rival sorceress swindles the book right out of her hands. Beatrice summons a spirit to help her get it back, but her new ally exacts a price: Beatrice’s first kiss . . . with her adversary’s brother, the handsome, compassionate, and fabulously wealthy Ianthe Lavan.

The more Beatrice is entangled with the Lavan siblings, the harder her decision becomes: If she casts the spell to become a Magus, she will devastate her family and lose the only man to ever see her for who she is; but if she marries—even for love—she will sacrifice her magic, her identity, and her dreams. But how can she choose just one, knowing she will forever regret the path not taken?

“You will dance. You will eat cake. You will see starlight. You will have a kiss by midnight, and then our bargain is done.”

I liked how this book explores and woven the themes of gender equality, women’s freedom, and independence into the novel. However, I felt like this novel lacked nuance in some areas. I appreciated the rhetoric regarding equality, however, at times it felt too heavy-handed and on the nose, thereby affecting my reading experience towards the 80% mark of the story. In saying that, I do agree that the discussion regarding equality and independence is crucial, and whilst I may find it a bit on the nose at times others may not find it so.

Also, I liked how driven and determined the protagonist (Beatrice) was throughout the story. My two favourite characters were Beatrice, Nadi, and Ysbeta. I particularly liked Beatrice and Nadi’s dynamic. And I liked how Beatrice and Ysbeta grew together, fostering a great friendship.

However, unfortunately, I could not come to love the love interest (Ianthe). I felt like the romantic interest was too perfect in the sense that he was consistently understanding, open-minded despite living in and taking part in a world that constantly benefited him. It felt unrealistic. From the top of my head, I can’t think of any flaws. I mean, the love interest is even good looking and rich.

Despite the constant focus on the romance, the romance felt underdeveloped and rushed. I didn’t feel emotionally invested nor understood the romantic connection between the characters. I feel that there was no romantic build-up for me to really cheer for the two characters.

In terms of the world-building and magic system, I liked how intriguing the magic system was. However, this could be due to my lack of understanding, but I found the magic system vague. Despite that, I did find the magic system fascinating and enjoyed it.

Without getting spoiler-y, I both liked and not-so-liked the ending. I found it unrewarding in the sense of how it opposes certain themes presented throughout the novel regarding marriage, children, and Beatrice pursuing her passion. I felt the ending felt too convenient to be believable. Despite that, I did like how Beatrice chose and paved her own path for both career and family (I’m trying to be as vague as possible here).

GUSH:

  •  Gripping, I devoured this book in one sitting –
  • Interesting world and magic 
  • Determined protagonist wanting to pursue their passion and a strong sense of women empowerment

GRIPE:

  • I didn’t feel too invested in the romance
  • Not enough information regarding the world-building and magic –
  • The ending felt too convenient

 

𝘗𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘴𝘦 𝘯𝘰𝘵𝘦: 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘲𝘶𝘰𝘵𝘦 𝘭𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘤𝘪𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘢𝘯 𝘈𝘥𝘷𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦 𝘙𝘦𝘢𝘥𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘊𝘰𝘱𝘺 (𝘈𝘙𝘊) 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘮𝘢𝘺 𝘣𝘦 𝘴𝘶𝘣𝘫𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘦 𝘶𝘱𝘰𝘯 𝘱𝘶𝘣𝘭𝘪𝘤𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher (Erewhon Books) for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


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How to Break and Evil Curse | Review

Title: How to Break an Evil Curse
Series: Chronicles of Fritillary #1
Author: Laura Morrison
Publisher: Black Spot Books
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Where can I get this? Goodreads | Booktopia | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Recommended for: people looking for a different take on fairy-tales, fans of satire, fantasy parodies, and snarky narrators

If you’re looking for a fairy-tale parody, this may be for you.


In ‘How to Break an Evil Curse’, the King’s firstborn is cursed to die if touched by sunlight. Princess Julianna, the unfortunate firstborn to the King of Fritillary is confined in darkness and dreams of a life of freedom. Disgruntled but also determined, Julianna decides to fight fate and live her life by escaping the somewhat nicely redecorated dungeon.

But first, how does one break an evil curse? Simple, really. The evil Wizard Farland admits there is a cure. All Julianna needs is to fall in love with a person that:
1. spent their whole life at sea,
2. whose parents are part of a travelling theatre troupe,
3. said person can play the banjo, accordion, and harpsichord, and
4. is allergic to asparagus.

“It is not impossible for such a person to exist, only improbable.”

Writing:
Firstly, I must state this: approach this with a light-hearted mind. The narration style may not be for everyone. Rather, it may come across as sarcastic to some, with fourth wall breaks, witty comments, and interesting footnotes. However, I feel the narration is a stylistic choice to add to the humorous tone and I find that it works well with the story.

Characters:
There is a large cast of characters in this book, however, they add to the story and it’s quite easy to follow. Although one may find certain characters to be shallow and two-dimensional, I feel like this story doesn’t take itself too seriously for you to do so.  Although I must say, I appreciate how Julianna has initiative. Once she wants something, she goes after it.

Enjoyment:
I can appreciate this book for what it offers—a unique take on classic fairy tales. The humour may not be for everyone as it’s sarcastic and sometimes nonsensical. However, if you enjoy such humour, you may thoroughly enjoy this.

This book may serve well as a ‘palate-cleanser’—when you’re looking for a book that is light-hearted, entertaining, and easy to read. I’d recommend those who pick this up to not take it seriously, and enjoy for what it is. Overall, I find this book to be a quirky and amusing read.

Recommended for: people looking for a different take on fairy-tales, fans of satire, fantasy parodies, and snarky narrators

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Kingdom of Sea and Stone | Book Tour | Review

Hello and welcome to my stop. This stop includes a book review with favourite quotes.

You can check out the Tour Schedule here.

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BOOK INFO:

Title: Kingdom of Sea and Stone
Series: Crown of Coral and Pearl #2
Author: Mara Rutherford
Publisher:
Release Date: October 6th 2020
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Where can I get this? Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble | Indigo

Check out the synopsis below!

Ever since Nor was forced to go to a nearby kingdom in her sister’s place, she’s wanted nothing more than to return to the place and people she loves. But when her wish comes true, she soon finds herself cast out from both worlds, with a war on the horizon.
As an old enemy resurfaces more powerful than ever, Nor will have to keep the kingdom from falling apart with the help of Prince Talin and Nor’s twin sister, Zadie. There are forces within the world more mysterious than any of them ever guessed—and they’ll need to stay alive long enough to conquer them…

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Review

Rating: ★★★★☆
Recommended for: fans of YA Fantasy, sea settings,

Writing:
Like the first novel, Kingdom of Sea and Stone was a delight to read. I found the writing style straightforward and engaging. Rutherford describes scenes well without weighing the narrative down with too many descriptions. I liked how I could read both books in a single sitting.

Characters:
First and foremost, this novel is solely told in first POV of Nor and I appreciated Nor’s character growth depicted here. As we journey through the story we witness as she takes action and courage whilst remaining the same empathetic and kind-hearted she was in the first book. This book takes a shift and explores themes such as freedom, purpose, and love.

However, akin to the first book I found Nor’s internal struggle to take centre stage (romance in the first book and self-discovery in the second). I appreciate it when books explore a characters internal struggle, however, I found the increased focus on that aspect to downplay other aspects (such as the war, etc.) in the book thereby affecting the pacing. Despite it being slower paced, I appreciate how this book went into great length into Nor’s journey both physically and mentally.

Also, one major aspect I loved in the first book was the twin’s relationship. I adored their strong love for each other and I rejoiced to see them reunite here. Luckily, we get to witness more of Zadie and her interactions with Nor (as well as Zadie/Nor/Sami but the three best friend dynamic wasn’t as depicted as I would’ve liked it). I liked how

There were few recurring characters and some new faces. I quickly grew fond to a few of the new characters and liked how they spiced the story up. There were hidden agendas, unclear motivations, and unexpected twists and I was here for all of them.

Romance:
Whilst some may disagree with me, stating the romance was lacking in comparison to the predecessor, I preferred the romantic resolution presented in this novel. Perhaps I wasn’t as invested in the romance due to it being a little too convenient for me in the first book. However, I did get frustrated at some parts of the book where I feel that a simple straightforward conversation would’ve prevented certain situations but hey, I did enjoy the drama of it all so… 😂😂 Anyway, I can’t complain with how the romance ended (but mind you some may find it lacking).

Setting & World-Building:
I liked how this book explores further than Varenia and Ilara, journeying to a land named Galeth. Rutherford described the scenery well, incorporating little details of the land and culture throughout the story which helped grounded me into this fantastical world. Galeth was refreshingly different to Varenia in various ways (ruling, customs, expectations, etc.). I initially fell in love with how Rutherford depicted Varenia so exploring different lands was quite fun (though I missed the sea).

Overall, this was a pleasant conclusion to the highly anticipated sequel. There is a different shift in terms of pacing and themes compared to the previous book and I did enjoy the thoughtfulness and depth that went behind it all. Be prepared to meet new faces, see new places, and a fun ride!

Recommend for: fans of YA fantasy with political intrigue, character growth depicted in first POV

CW: violence, death


Some of my favourite quotes:

Please note: the quotes listed here are cited from an Advance Reading Copy (ARC) and may be subjected to change upon publication.

Father kissed my forehead. “My girl, take heart. No journey worth taking was ever easy.”

I loved this. I’m a sucker for a good parent/child dynamic and this interaction highlighted a tender moment between Nor and her father. Little do we know how much this quote really sets our story!

“Hope is like a kite. Hold on to it tight enough, and even the fiercest storm can’t claim it.”

A great nod to book one! I adored this!

“Because that was what it meant to be free: I could choose.”

“Ceren had said love was my weakness, once. But I knew now that love was the strength that would sustain me out there in the world, and it was the bond that would ensure I always came back.”

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MARA RUTHERFORD

Mara Rutherford began her writing career as a journalist but quickly discovered she far preferred fantasy to reality. Originally from California, Mara has since lived all over the world along with her Marine-turned-diplomat husband. A triplet born on Leap Day, Mara holds a Master’s degree in Cultural Studies from the University of London. When she’s not writing or chasing after her two sons, she can usually be found pushing the boundaries of her comfort zone, whether at a traditional Russian banya or an Incan archaeological site. She is the author of CROWN OF CORAL AND PEARL (2019), its sequel, KINGDOM OF SEA AND STONE (2020), and LUMINOUS (2021).

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

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Okay, the fun bit… the giveaway!

Prize: Finished copy of Kingdom of Sea and Stone (US Only)

Check out the giveaway here and GOOD LUCK! 

Again, please feel free to follow the next tour stops. The Tour Schedule can be found here.

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The Faithless Hawk | Blog Tour | Author Interview

Faithless Hawk tour banner

Hello Everyone and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Faithless Hawk by Margaret Owen hosted by TBR and Beyond. This stop includes an exclusive Q&A with the author and I am so excited to share it with you.

You can check out the Tour Schedule here.

ABTB-MO

The Faithless Hawk cover

BOOK INFO:

Title: The Faithless Hawk
Series: The Merciful Crow #2
Author: Margaret Owen
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Release Date: August 18th 2020
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Where can I get this? Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble |Indigo

Check out the synopsis below!

Kings become outcasts and lovers become foes in the thrilling sequel to Margaret Owen’s The Merciful Crow.
As the new chieftain of the Crows, Fie knows better than to expect a royal to keep his word. Still she’s hopeful that Prince Jasimir will fulfill his oath to protect her fellow Crows. But then black smoke fills the sky, signaling the death of King Surimir and the beginning of Queen Rhusana’s merciless bid for the throne.
With the witch queen using the deadly plague to unite the nation of Sabor against Crows—and add numbers to her monstrous army—Fie and her band are forced to go into hiding, leaving the country to be ravaged by the plague. However, they’re all running out of time before the Crows starve in exile and Sabor is lost forever.
A desperate Fie calls on old allies to help take Rhusana down from within her own walls. But inside the royal palace, the only difference between a conqueror and a thief is an army. To survive, Fie must unravel not only Rhusana’s plot, but ancient secrets of the Crows—secrets that could save her people, or set the world ablaze.

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Can you share with us something about The Faithless Hawk that isn’t in the blurb?

Margaret: There is a DRASTIC increase in the number of cats involved!

Without revealing too much, what was your favourite scene or moment to write in The Faithless Hawk, and why?

Margaret: I always enjoy writing the endings, the big final clashes and the dust settling. It’s when all the dominos you’ve set up get to fall, and the pattern you’ve been building finally reveals itself!

What song would you choose as the theme song for The Faithless Hawk?

Margaret: “The Bleeding of Mercy” by the Telepathic Teddy Bears! The first time I listened to it, I was really captivated by the mournful yet hopeful tone. In particular, the line, “Don’t mourn the setting sun, for it will rise again” struck me as particularly close to home for this book.

I adored your characters—especially how Fie is so unapologetic, unafraid, and full of grit and determination. How did you choose the names for your characters?

Margaret: Thank you so much! For Fie, I wanted her name to evoke a sense of both spite and mischief, and the word “fie” seemed perfect. I wound up compiling a list of old-timey insults for the other Crow names, according to their customs, and I tried to match them up with their personalities the best. The rest of the names I made up, though there’s a bit of a naming convention for the ruling families to adhere to, where the firstborn child’s name is based on the name of one of their parents. (For example, Jasimir’s mother was named Jasindra, and we learn Rhusana’s son is named Rhusomir.)

Looking back, what was the most difficult and what was the most enjoyable part of the whole process of writing and publishing your books?

Margaret: There was a period of time last year when I felt like if I wasn’t making everyone happy, I was failing. That meant if people didn’t like my book, or if I wasn’t able to deliver things on time, or if I wasn’t able to provide cool incentives to preorder my book, I was going to fail as an author, and my career would be over. Needless to say, I was struggling quite a bit to write at that point. There’s a phrase I wound up writing on masking tape and pasting on my desk, which is “The only way out is through,” which was true but a little bleak, so underneath I added, “but you can make it.” And I did!

I’d say the most enjoyable part has been seeing how The Merciful Crow and The Faithless Hawk have touched people, especially when it inspires them to create something themselves. When people reach out to me to say “I loved this part!” or “those monsters were so gross!” or “I HATE this character so much!”, it’s a similar feeling as when your friend texts you as they watch a movie you really love, and they’re super into it. But it’s even better, because I made that movie! (Kind of.)

The Merciful Crow was such an intense and enthralling read. What can fans expect from you in the future? Can you tell us about any future projects?

Margaret: Thank you so much! The Faithless Hawk wraps up the duology, so there aren’t any plans for more books in that universe at the moment, but I never say never. However, I do have a third book due out, likely sometime next year. It’s a loose retelling of The Goose Girl, from the perspective of the fairytale’s villain, a wicked maidservant who stole the princess heroine’s identity. When we meet our narrator, she’s spent the last year or so using the princess’s identity to make it into high society parties and pull off a string of jewelry heists. Then she steals from the wrong family, crosses a local deity, and winds up cursed to turn into jewels herself… unless she can make up for everything she’s taken. It’s a lot of weird magic, scammers scamming scammers, and unorthodox uses of breakfast foods, so all in all a good time! Well, for everyone but our narrator.

Quick-fire questions:

There’s a zombie apocalypse! Which four YA protagonists would be on your team and why?

  1. Katniss from The Hunger Games, she’s got all the outdoor survival knowledge of a Girl Scout on steroids, plus she’s killed before and will kill again.
  2. Jane McKeene from Dread Nation, she is literally trained to kill zombies.
  3. Amaya from Scavenge the Stars, because she can sail a boat, and honestly zombies are less of a problem at sea, I feel.
  4. Nina Zenik, so someone can help me hold down the waffle situation. (And heal the wounded, and possibly control the zombies? But waffles first.)

What would be your supervillain name and powers?

Margaret: Margaret Owen, and making people cry, probably.

Okay, okay, it would probably be something like Her Majesty, because I would 100% be down to do a hivemind-type situation and make people do things like recycle and wear masks and, if we can rope Bezos into this, donate their massive amounts of money to charity.

And finally, whilst there is an endless amount of writing resources online, if you could share one unique piece of advice to aspiring writers, what would it be?

Margaret: I would say a lot of the time you hear “eyes on your own paper”, and to a certain extent, that’s solid advice—everyone’s publishing journey is different, and you really can only control your own work. That said, I would say don’t be afraid to look around the room, actually. Don’t be afraid to compare notes with people you trust. I can guarantee that the discrepancies revealed by #PublishingPaidMe are neither the first nor the last, and that opacity is not for your benefit, but for that of the publishing industry. The only way that changes is by making informed decisions, so don’t be afraid to seek out that information yourself.

A huge thank you to Margaret for your time!

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ATA-MO

Margaret Owen

Born and raised at the end of the Oregon Trail, Margaret Owen first encountered an author in the wild in fourth grade. Roughly twenty seconds later, she decided she too would be an author, the first of many well-thought-out life decisions.

The career plan shifted frequently as Margaret spent her childhood haunting the halls of Powell’s Books. After earning her degree in Japanese, her love of espresso called her north to Seattle, where she worked in everything from thrift stores to presidential campaigns. The common thread between every job can be summed up as: lessons were learned.

Fortunately, it turned out that fourth-grade Margaret was onto something. She now spends her days wrestling disgruntled characters onto the page, and negotiating a long-term hostage situation with her two monstrous cats. (There is surprisingly little difference between the two.) In her free time, she enjoys exploring ill-advised travel destinations, and raising money for social justice nonprofits through her illustrations.

MARGARET OWEN

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr

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Okay, the fun bit… the giveaway!

Prize: Finished copies of The Merciful Crow and The Faithless Hawk (US and Canada Only)

Start date: August 23rd, 2020

End date: August 29th, 2020

Check out the giveaway here and GOOD LUCK! 

Again, please feel free to follow the next tour stops. The Tour Schedule can be found here.

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Waterstones Mail | Book Hauls

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Hope everyone has been well. Given this whole situation, I’m fully aware of how we (okay, I mean myself) have taken full advantage of online shopping.

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Anyway, props to the postal workers because I’ve received some book mail today. (I may or may not have obsessively checked the tracking every day since ordering but that’s not the focus here haha). Thankfully, I’ve managed to fight off temptation and reduce my original total of eight books down to four. Progress. Now, I’ve never worked in Waterstones, but I’ve ordered four books, paid for postage for one package and have been receiving each book one. By. One. (Insert privileged crying here). As of today, I’ve received two books. I’ve received the last book of a series (haha) and a standalone.

My anticipated book haul:

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (1/3 of Winternight series)

The Winter and the Witch by Katherine Arden (3/3 of Winternight series)

Pocketful of Crows by Joanne M. Harris (standalone)

The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave (standalone)

Okay, I’ll be honest. I usually prefer UK covers over the US version and that definitely was the case for The Bear and the Nightingale. AND! Because vain Joy just had to purchase the UK versions, I disregarded the fact that the middle of the series was out of print. LOL. I usually prefer to have one type and one copy of a book/series but that usually isn’t the case. Have a gander of my The Folk In The Air trilogy: two copies of two of the books (first and last book) but!!! Again I’m missing the second book??!! I am noticing this reoccurring pattern here…

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Okay. Let’s ignore my terrible shopping habits and marvel at the two gorgeous books!

 

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Lobizona | Review

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Title: Lobizona

Author: Romina Garber

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Where can I find this? Goodreads | Book Depository | Booktopia | Google Play | Apple

“You’re saying if no one’s told my story before… I get to tell it the way I want?” ~ Romina Garber, Lobizona

Behold! Marvel at this cover art! Read the synopsis! Isn’t this promising? Doesn’t this make you wish you had a copy? Because, yes—after seeing the cover art and the synopsis, I desperately wanted to read this book. I needed this book. And the bookish gods of Netgalley smiled graciously on me and granted my earnest wish.

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my face @ netgalley. yes, I’m aware I’m probably annoying lol

In Lobizona, we follow Manuela (Manu) as she navigates life without detection. Hiding from both the US government and from the people of her father’s past, Manu is undocumented and unprotected. Isolated due to hiding, secrecy is Manu’s constant companion besides Perla and Ma. But hiding Manu isn’t the only secret that gets discovered. When Manu’s mother is taken by ICE, Manu discovers a magical world that is eerily familiar… Now in a magical world, Manu wages forward to uncover the secrets that gnawed on her since childhood. And just like the secrets that fought so hard to remain hidden, Manu must fight harder to uncover the truth.

Plot
The book weaves Argentinean folklore surrounding lobizon and bruja into Manu’s world which presents an interesting aspect into the novel. I liked how Argentinean culture was incorporated into the storytelling. Garber naturally incorporates Spanish into the dialogue. I appreciate how flawless and natural it was. However, the Spanish can make the reading experience disjointed if you’re not familiar with the language. There were times where the narrator (Manu) will translate, and other times where one can gauge the meaning from context and times where you won’t get it. I’ll be honest, I’ve never formally learnt Spanish nor learnt how to read it but can only understand and pick it up from sound (because 1. I’m uneducated hahah and 2. that’s how I learnt—when a family member spoke). Often, I’d have to pause and read passages aloud for my two brain cells to figure out the translation. Yes, I’m a child of immigrant parents and as a result, lost my mother’s tongue to assimilating to the culture I lived in… I’m like the meme:

‘Me? Bilingual? More like, bye-lingual’

Therefore, pausing and rereading some phrases often impacted my reading experience. I’m already a slow reader haha… ANYWAY! I like how Garber unapologetically and fluidly weaves Spanish into her novel.

Lobizona is broken down into four phases. I won’t say much to spoil the story; however, the story really picks up in phase two for me. In phase two, we discover more about this magical world. The world-building felt a little thin and due to that, the story felt more of magical realism rather than fantasy.

This book takes a while to get into the promised action. After the 40%, that’s where all the action began and it was great. Although, the pacing felt disjointed at times. For example, the first 40-50% of the book we are dragging our feet to this magical world. And then, at the last 15-20% action happens! All! At! Once! I’d appreciate if there were moments for the audience to process all that is going on.

Despite the pacing, I did appreciate Garber’s writing style. Garber weaves emotions well into her characters without weighing down the narrative with too many descriptions. The read was compelling and I read this novel in one sitting.

Characters
I love an underdog character. With everything going on, you can’t help but root for Manu! I was invested in her and her dreams. Yeah, she has her insecurities and doubts, but Manu is determined despite all odds. She dreams and yearns for more and when an opportunity shows itself, she’ll take it. I liked that about her. However, the chosen one trope is strong in this one. If you’re not a fan, you may not enjoy the incessant specialness of Manu. I’m a fan of the chosen trope so I’m never really bothered by such things—in fact, I relish in it.

Other than Manu, there is a large cast in this book (I can’t remember all their names but I remember Cata and Sasya—the two other girls). I enjoyed Manu’s and Sasya’s interactions. Sasya is a kind and gentle soul, the welcoming friend to Manu. Whereas, Cata is perceived to be the ‘mean girl’ who is ruthless to Manu. I wasn’t a fan of how that part was portrayed like the typical ‘popular girl mean to the new girl’ trope.

Another aspect I didn’t enjoy was the romance. long sigh yes, the romance. I didn’t like how the romance gave a forbidden vibe to it (spoiler-y: more like almost cheating vibes). And when the truth came out it felt convenient and cheap. Also, I couldn’t understand why the love interest and Manu had feelings for each other? It felt superficial. I would rather focus on other pressing matters, such as Manu’s mother and Manu’s discoveries.

Enjoyment
Aside from the romance, there were many aspects I liked. I liked how alienation and challenging the norm was a major factor in this book. I liked how the themes of alienation and immigration were woven in the story. Manu’s fear of discovery rings true to too many people. Garber writes well, enveloping the reader into Manu’s world that you feel the constant fear and even the threat in living. But despite the fear, there’s the unyielding hope. It was hope in the characters that I loved in this book. Lobizon grapples with and comments on various themes such as misogyny, privilege, undocumented immigrants, amongst many more and I deeply appreciated it did so.

I, myself am a child of immigrants and I have experienced cultural assimilation so on one side, parts of this book resonated with me. I liked how powerful Garber wrote various aspects (especially the first phase). Again, I liked how she wove another language into her book so naturally and how this book was an easy and compelling read. I just wished there were more. In actuality, I think I had higher expectations due to wanting to really love this book. (Why do I do this to myself?) Despite that, I’m very curious to see where this tale (or… tail) will go.

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Recommended for: fans of fantasy schools with magical creatures, fans of YA fantasy, latinx readers looking for latinx authors, people looking for diverse books

Content warning: xenophobia, sexism, bullying, trauma, misogyny, homophobia

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

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