Tag: eARC

eARC Review: The Bone Roses by Kathryn Lee Martin

eARC Review: The Bone Roses by Kathryn Lee Martin

Sixteen-year-old Rags is the most feared Rustler in the world, and for good reason. When she’s not raiding the post-Yellowstone Kingdom’s established settlements for supplies to keep her frontier, Rondo, alive another day, she’s fending off witch hunt-happy villagers who want her rare blue eyes […]

May ARCs

May ARCs

I feel like my ARC pile gets bigger each month instead of smaller… It’s funny how the opposite tends to happen of what my intentions are. I keep pledging that I’ll request NO MORE ARCs for a while, yet, I keep receiving them. Anyways, May […]

eARC Review: No Less Days by Amanda G. Stevens

eARC Review: No Less Days by Amanda G. Stevens

David Galloway can’t die.

Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads.

No Less Days

Author: Amanda G. Stevens
Publication Date: May 1, 2018
Publisher: Shiloh Run Press
Page Count: 320
Format: eARC
Genre: Christian Fiction, Speculative Fiction
Cover Artist: ---
My Rating: ★★★

What happens to a person when they can’t die? Is immortality really such a wonderful thing? For David Galloway, it’s a curse. 

Although he may appear to be thirty-five, he’s much older. Living through several lifetimes, David has grown accustom to loss, illness, and death. Knowing he can’t have a life as others, he recedes into himself and hides behind books. It isn’t until he meets some unique persons that he realizes maintaining relationships with other is a critical element to having a quality life—even if fear accompanies it.  

When David hears about a dare-devil named Zachary Wilson who falls into the Grand Canyon while attempting a stunt and survives, he decides that he must go and meet this man. There is more to Zachary Wilson than meets the eye—just like himself. 

His trip to Arizona opens David’s eyes, and the horizon looks a little lighter. Knowing that he’s not the only one on earth cursed with immortality and agelessness, David begins to open up and even trust again. But when a terrifying secret surfaces within the close-knit group, David must reevaluate his faith in God, and how his relationship with God plays into the situation. 

No Less DaysNo Less Days by Amanda G. Stevens
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

All included quotes have been taken from an ARC and may not match the finished publication.

description

“He was one hundred sixty-seven years old. And he would always be thirty-five.”

It’s been a while since I’ve read a Christian Fiction. Young Adult continues to become staler, so I welcomed the change in genre.

My desire to like this book ended up outweighing how much I actually liked it. While the writing style, premise, and character development were great, I felt that the plot tended to be disjointed and without direction. Rather, the plot happened, and the characters had to catch up to it. Instead of the characters actively moving forward, events kept happening to prevent them from doing so. These were drastic events, that often took me by surprise—but not necessarily in a good way.

World Building

Set in a small town in Northern Michigan, the plot also moves around to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, and a few other places along the way. In general, there isn’t much world building to speak of, because the setting already exists in real life. The characters’ lives are the center focus and don’t rely much on the location or world-building to function as such.

Pacing & Readability

As stated before, I thoroughly enjoyed the first quarter of this book immensely. It hooked me in, and wouldn’t let me go even when the going became rough. That’s probably the most disappointing thing with a book that has such a fantastic start and a mediocre climax—I’ll read through the back cover, looking for more to happen, because the given ending doesn’t suffice.

With saying that, the pacing remained rather consistent throughout, except for a few areas where it was caught up in some certain events for too long.

The further on the plot moves, the less “readable” it becomes. The content discussed nothing close to light-hearted, as major topics related to dealing out justice are visited in very real, and very unsettling ways.

Point-Of-View & Characters

The point-of-view follows the main character, David Galloway. A thirty-five-year-old by appearance, David has lived many more years than that. Because of his unique experience with life, David’s character is more complex than most. His longevity has challenged him in every possible way, especially his faith. Immortality is a major factor that separates humans from God. What happens when that veil is torn away?

“The death of the body is a mercy of God, Tiana. The soul can’t bear endless years in this realm. In this evil.”

David faces a dilemma far more tragic than most. He’s lived, loved, and mourned, as the ones he’s loved have come and gone—as they were meant to. David, stuck in an everlasting state of the present, tries to find meaning in his life. Still a God-fearing man, he deeply struggles with why God would allow him to live on, while everyone else around him fades away.

David doesn’t necessarily blame God, but deeply questions the reasons behind his own existence and purpose. It isn’t until David comes across Zachary Wilson that he starts to learn more about his condition.

Tiana, a coworker and female counterpart with David, serves as a definite mediator for him. She’s sassy and smart, but not overbearingly so. (view spoiler) the immediate attraction between David and Tiana isn’t intrusive. I appreciated that their relationship had time to develop, as well as being realistic and not over the top.

The remaining characters Zac, Colm, Moira, and Simon, all serve a definite purpose in the plot. They each have their own personalities, and some play pivotal roles. I didn’t find myself as drawn to their stories, however, even when David discovered that Zac had survived an eight-thousand-foot drop into the Grand Canyon. I found myself caring mostly about David and wanting to see what would happen to him directly.

Major Themes

⇒ Death

“Dear Lord, I pray don’t make me bear agelessness forever. Is Thy grace sufficient for me? Or is Thy grace withheld, therefore I linger.”

This may be an obvious theme, seeing how David cannot die. However, I can’t say that I’ve ever deeply considered the implications immortality would hold for a Christian. Considering how our faith points us towards the future—the moment when we are reunited with God in heaven is what we aim for. What do we do when that is taken away?

“The death of the body is a mercy of God, Tiana. The soul can’t bear endless years in this realm. In this evil.”

The entire point of believing that Jesus Christ died for our sins is to enter heaven to be with him and escape the evil that sin brought upon the earth. Initially, humans were created to dwell with God on earth. But when sin was introduced, and everything tainted, it made that coexistence impossible. It truly is a relief knowing that this life is short-lived when compared to eternity. It is also a relief that we must deal with sin for a short period of time because it truly is a terrible thing. What does one do when that reprieve is taken away?

⇒ Isolation vs. Friendship

“Lord, these people—are they gifts? Did You bring them? Dare I hold on to them?”

An interesting theme that I didn’t think about before heading into this topic was how many way immortality would affect a person. Perhaps it’s obvious to most—for myself, I honed in on the promise that immortality would take away from a believer. I didn’t think about not being able to make connections with others, simply because they’d think you crazy, cursed, or even evil.

“You think God doesn’t care that you’ve isolated yourself from His church? I promise you He does.”

David’s story includes a strong message about how isolation from the church and Christian community can literally devastate a person. We are created as social creatures—isolation is the opposite of the human intention.

⇒ Purpose

Personally, I find it easy to think about how meaningless life would be if I simply existed. The fact that David remained a Christian after all of his time on earth (was fantastic) showed how steadfast his character is. In this scenario, he’s compared and deeply contrasted to Colm, who took a very different approach to immortal life. Having the gift of immortality can ruin a person in many ways. Both David and Colm experienced this in similar and also very different ways by the choices they made.

⇒ Justice

This portion may include some spoilers!

“And all the while, watching (view spoiler) in the mirror, he tried to see a true killer. And failed.”

This is by far the hardest and most sensitive themes presented in No Less Days. What does one do with a person who is a killer, and happens to be immortal? Stevens did not spare the reader from facing harsh scenarios. I can’t say that I’m happy with what the conclusion that this question led to, however, I can see how it’s justifiable. If a person thinks themselves a “god” of some sort due to their immortality, and above “mortals,” what would motivate them to stop ritual killings? Not only that, what do you do with a person who can live forever and is a murderer?

“The sin I’ve learned about tonight, it’s not mine. But the man who’s done this—he’s not so different from me. He’s felt the same things. The years, the…the losses, they twisted his soul as I’ve felt mine twist at times, and who can say I won’t become…?”

This topic really made me search myself. I’d like to think that I’d be more gracious, and allow the person another chance. But when the guilty openly admits that he won’t stop what he’s doing…then what?

“‘Don’t make me bear it forever.’ David’s breath scraped his lungs. Such familiar words. From him, a prayer. Almost a psalm.”

Colm clearly has some deep-seeded issues. Allowing his “gift” to manifest into something twisted, it really pushes the reader to consider how one would handle a situation such as this. His desperation shows just how corrupt he’s become by his station. When everyone discovers the secrets he’s been hiding for years, it becomes a situation that simply cannot be ignored and cast aside. Addressing his crimes head-on is by far the most difficult element in this plot.

Overall Feelings

Things that I liked:

⇒ The writing style.
⇒ I can’t say that I’ve encountered Speculative Fiction often. However, this book has convinced me that it’s a genre I should be looking out more for.
⇒ Several of the major themes discussed in this book, and the creative way they were pulled into the plot.
⇒ The setting (because I’m from Michigan and I can!)

Things that I didn’t like:

⇒ The way Colm’s situation is handled. Is someone truly deserving of his fate according to Biblical teachings? Would have grace and mercy been sufficient and turned him around? I feel as though it should have been explored and entertained much more.
⇒ Events in the plot felt random and sometimes forced.
⇒ Certain events were drawn out too long and pulled the reader’s focus away from the entire picture being portrayed.

Overall, I really enjoyed this read. However, I felt that some of the content was drawn out and not always addressed in the correct way. Also, while the story is clearly plot-driven, it felt forced at times and events just happened to keep the reader engaged. I would have liked to learn more about David, his past experiences/lives, and so much more! I think that this is a solid piece of work but needed more character focus in order to be great.

Vulgarity: None.
Sexual content: None.
Violence: Unrelated stabbing and shooting scenes, along with some details of fatal injuries.

View all my reviews

State of the ARC: April

State of the ARC: April

Wow, May is already here. Does anyone else feel like 2018 is absolutely flying? Maybe it’s because I’m counting down to June. Either way, I really can’t believe it’s already May! Before I get into this, let’s recap what State of the ARC is all […]

eARC Mini Review: Song of Blood & Stone by L. Penelope

eARC Mini Review: Song of Blood & Stone by L. Penelope

Release Day, May 1, 2018! In the beginning, there was silence. Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads. Song of Blood & Stone Series: Earthsinger Chronicles #1Author: L. PenelopePublication Date: May 1, 2018Publisher: St. Martin’s PressPage Count: 384Format: eARCGenre: Young Adult, Fantasy, RomanceCover Artist: —My Rating: Since […]

eARC Review: Sky In The Deep by Adrienne Young

eARC Review: Sky In The Deep by Adrienne Young

Release Day April 24, 2018!

OND ELDR. BREATHE FIRE.

Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads.

Sky In The Deep

Author: Adrienne Young
Publication Date: April 24, 2018
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Page Count: 352
Format: eARC
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Cover Artist: ---
My Rating: ★★★½

Eeyln is no stranger to battle. She’s been trained her entire life to defend herself, her family, and her clan against their rivals; the Riki. The Riki and Aska clans meet in battle every five years–a bloody tradition which began with the gods Thora and Sigr themselves. Each time, the battle claims many lives–including Eelyn’s brother, Iri. 

Or so she thought.

In the midst of yet another skirmish with the RIki, Eelyn happens upon her deceased brother. Thinking the Aska god, Sigr, sent her his spirit to defend her, everyone concludes that Eelyn was in Sigr’s favor. Eelyn, however, thinks otherwise. Unable to let the thought go that her long-lost brother may actually still be alive, Eelyn stalks the Riki, only to discover a painful truth. Not only that, but she is captured and taken as a slave by the Riki.

Unable to cope with the newfound knowledge that Iri still lives, but lives and fights with the enemy, Eelyn must discover empathy within herself in order to understand how her brother could end up across enemy lines. Through her own trials, Eelyn realizes that life isn’t always as it seems, and life can change within the blink of an eye.

Sky in the DeepSky in the Deep by Adrienne Young
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

All included quotes have been taken from an ARC and may not match the finished publication.

For a story with such a simple plot, Sky In The Deep still had a way of grabbing my attention. When I say simple, I mean that there aren’t numerous elements to remember, info dumps of world-building, or a multitude of characters to get to know. I also mean “simple” in a sense that there really is only one or two main focuses for the characters throughout the entire story. Because Sky In The Deep wasn’t overwhelmingly complex, it was easy to follow, direct, and made for a quick, yet engaging read.

I will say that I had hoped for more of the fantasy aspect to kick in (because this is considered to be a fantasy and not historical fiction) but it still had an interesting plot. The characters are the key and central focus and are what drives the story forward.

World Building

Not a large amount of detail is given on the actual location that this story takes place. The landscape shifts from a common battlefield between the fjords and the hills/mountains where the two warring tribes of the Aska and Riki reside. The climate resembles that of Northern European territory. A heavy winter season is present for the majority, if not all, of the story, and works against the main character at times. Basic political systems rule the tribes present in Sky In The Deep. Resembling an “eye for an eye” mentality, if someone wrongs another, it’s up to the people involved to settle the matter–as shone with Fiske and Thorpe.

This is supposed to be a Viking-influenced story. Considering that fact and historical evidence, the Viking age was between 800 – 1066 AD, so this is probably around the time frame that this plot is set. The lifestyles of the people are primitive and resemble that of earlier societal establishments. Comparing this book to actual Viking history is a bit of a stretch. While yes, there are definite parallels, its not like a historical fiction, where the lifestyles are described in depth and widely developed.

Three tribes or people groups are identified: the Aska, Riki, and Herja. Little information is given about the Herja, where they live, their motivations, etc., except for their cruel practices and human sacrifices they perform to their god (which remains unnamed.)

“What had started as a quarrel between the gods turned into the hunger for revenge–a blood feud. Every five years, we lost those we loved. And we spent the next five years counting the days to the moment we could make the Riki pay for our pain.”

The Aska and Riki both worship a different god. Sigr, the god of the Aska, is known as the god of the fjord. In Old Norse translations, Sigr means “victory” but shares no resemblance to any actual Norse gods.

“She’d tell the story of the Riki god Thora, who erupted from the mountain in fire and the flames that had come down to the fjord. Sigr had risen up from the sea to protect his people and every five years, we went back to battle to defend his honor, bound by the blood feud between us.”

Likewise, Thora, the god of the Riki, isn’t well defined. While it’s said that she “erupted from a mountain in fire,” it is unclear whether she is god of volcanoes, mountains, or even thunder? Thora is the female counterpart to Thor, the god of thunder in Norse mythology. However, it’s unclear what she is supposed to represent here. More information on these details would have really helped with boosting the fantasy aspect of the story, as it remained rather lacking in the department.

Both the Aska and the Riki have the same structural beliefs. When they die, they believe they travel to a heaven-like realm, referred to as Hylli (meaning “favor” in Old Norse), or Solbjørg (meaning “house of salvation” in Old Norse) depending on which tribe one was a part of. Once there, the dead are reunited with loved ones that had passed on before them. I’m mentioning this because it too, plays a large role in the plot. Eelyn, believing her brother Iri to be dead along with their mother, looks towards the day when they will be reunited. She and her father pray to idols of the two so that their souls may find their way in the afterlife. Death, in general, is a common occurrence within these tribes, as they are pit against one another every five years.

Pacing & Readability

I found Sky in the Deep easy to read. Moderately paced, the characters guide the reader through a shorter text, making the passage of time seem fluid and effortless.

Point-Of-View & Characters

The story is told from the perspective of Eelyn, the main character. This strong seventeen-year-old has grown up training for, and knowing battle. Understanding at a young age that life is tough, she’s adapted to understand and accept tragedy when it befalls her. Though, it doesn’t make it any less easy. After losing both her mother and older brother in clan wars and raids, she holds dear to her father and best friend Myra. However, when confronted by the ghost of her dead brother, she begins to second guess herself and everything that she believes she knows.

“I tried to remember who I was. Strong. Brave. Fierce. Sure. I tried to summon her to me–that Eelyn who would choose her people over anything else. I searched for her within myself, but she was different now. I was different. And it was something that was already done. Something I couldn’t change.”

Myra, Eelyn’s best friend and “sister” lost majority of her family at a young age. Because of that, her and Eelyn understand each other well. The two share a strong bond, and exemplify a beautiful image of friendship with how they support one another.

Both Iri and Fiske felt like similar characters. While they obviously played different roles, they didn’t feel as significant as they should have. I felt that their characters were underwhelming and underdeveloped. Similar to Eelyn and Myra’s friendship, I did appreciate how they too, represented a deep friendship and “brotherhood” together.

The main antagonists are the Riki (towards the beginning) and Herja clans to the Askas. To Eelyn, her own perspective and discriminations are also antagonists.

Major Themes

⇒ Betrayal

“Feeling that lighting strike in my soul. That Iri was alive. And not just alive. He’d betrayed us. All of us. The boy I’d shared my childhood with. The boy I’d fought side by side with. He was worse than any enemy. And the blood we shared was now poison in my veins.”

Betrayal is by far the biggest theme throughout Sky in the Deep. Believing her brother dead, Eelyn is dumbfounded when she comes across what she thought was her deceased brother on the battlefield. When she realizes that he’s fighting for the enemy tribe, the Riki, she follows him, but is captured and taken to be a slave with the Riki.

Not knowing how to handle his betrayal, Eelyn works through a series of emotions, trying to understand how he could do such a thing. Which leads into the next theme.

⇒ Survival/Death

Survival is the primary focus of everyone in this story. Life is harsh, battles are frequent, and the threat of the ruthless Herja constantly plague the minds of the characters.

Five years prior, Iri was thought to have been killed on the battlefield by the Riki. His body was found, but left. When the Riki returned to bring one of their own home for burial, they found both he and Iri were still alive. The Riki insisted that he be brought back and cared for, and he eventually was adopted into the clan. There, he found love, which became his reason for not returning to the Aska. Love, and the fact that his family probably wouldn’t take him back if he has returned after converting to following the foreign God, Thora, kept him with the Riki. Learning how accept where Iri now is, as well as her shameful status as a slave to the Riki, leads directly into the next theme.

⇒ Redemption

”We find things, just as we lose things, Eelyn. If you’ve lost your honor, you’ll find it again.”

For the Aska, it’s literally damning to become a slave. Once one assumed the title, they were no longer able to traverse the afterlife to be with their family after they pass away. When the Riki made Eelyn into one, she became immensely ashamed of her position. Also fearful to return to the Aska to expose the shame onto her father, Eelyn contemplated on returned at all.

It was during this time that she realized why Iri never returned to the Aska. His position, too, would bring shame to his family. It took Eelyn to experience a similar situation herself before she could understand her brother’s “betrayal” and the truth behind it. Not only that, she had to confront her own prejudices against the Riki in order to convince them and the Aska to fight together against the Herja.

⇒ Equality

While there is some credit to give in this area, I also want to point out a few things. Sky in the Deep has been highly esteemed among Young Adult readers for its strong female lead and the “equality” shown between men and women. However, slavery is very much a part of daily life in these tribes, and the fact that Eelyn is nearly raped, I fail to see this equality. If everyone wants to get caught up only in the fact that women fight alongside men in battle instead of being sheltered from it, I think they are missing the bigger picture.

While Viking women were known for their grit, life for a women during that period was also very difficult. Just because they were active warriors for their people didn’t eliminate all threats from others. Again, Eelyn is nearly raped…what does that say about “equality?” It shows that not everyone had the same definition of the word. I also think that because of Eelyn’s position–being the sister to Iri, and a love interest to Fiske–saved her from subjugation to treatment that otherwise would have been dealt to her when she was enslaved. Personally, I don’t think the theme of equality between men and women is actually portrayed as strongly in this story as people may think.

Overall Feelings

Things that I liked:

⇒ The themes and messages.
⇒ The origins for the tale.
⇒ There’s no swearing!
⇒ Even though it wasn’t well defined, I liked the setting and atmosphere that this story took place in.
⇒ Again, although it wasn’t focused deeply upon, I liked the culture this was set in. It stood out as its rather unique in this aspect.

Things that I didn’t like:

⇒ The overall lack of the appearance of fantasy. It read as a historical fiction with a few twists. But personally, I didn’t think it fit well into the fantasy genre.
⇒ The gore and torture scenes.
⇒ Incompleteness in some aspects of the world-building.

Overall, I thought this was a good read. While I had some issues with the world-building feeling incomplete, I appreciated Eelyn’s character and watching the transformation she went through. Sky In The Dark has strong messages about redemption, and setting aside differences in order to work together.

Vulgarity: None!
Sexual content: Mainly kissing. There is a scene where a Riki character nearly tries to rape Eelyn. There is also reference towards Eelyn and another character having sexual relations.
Violence: Quite a bit, including some gore and torture scenes.

View all my reviews

1. What inspired SKY IN THE DEEP? How did the idea and Eelyn come to you? Do you have any
favorite Viking stories?

The sibling betrayal was definitely the first inspiration for this story. I was driving in the pouring rain on
this country road and that first scene just hit me – Eelyn, seeing her brother on the battlefield after
thinking that he was dead for five years. I pulled over on the side of the road and scribbled a million
notes on an old envelope. I was immediately hooked to the idea and I wanted to know what had
happened. I started writing that first chapter and I just never stopped.

2. What type of research did you do for your characters and world-building? What languages did
you study to implement the languages that the Aska and the Riki speak? What was the strangest
thing you had to research for this book?

I did a ton of research for this story. I actually really love to research things so it was a lot of fun. A lot of
it was stuff like clothing, landscape, weapons, food, etc. But I did a lot of research into Norse mythology
as well to build a foundation for this world. The language used is Old Norse, but it’s a dead language so
studying it was really difficult. There is a lot of controversy about it among scholars and there’s no real
way to fully understand it, so I just did my best based on my own investigation. I’m definitely not an
expert! The weirdest thing I had to research was how to tear out someone’s eyeball. Yuck.

3. What was your writing process like for SKY IN THE DEEP?

Complete and utter obsession. When I draft, I get really buried in the world and I don’t really come up
for air until I get to the end. I write as much as I can and limit my intake of other influencers that could
mess with my mindset. I don’t watch TV or movies or listen to music that’s not on my playlist, and I kind
of don’t have a social life until it’s done.

4. What was your hardest scene to write? What was the easiest?

I really didn’t struggle to get this story on the page the way I have with other books so I really don’t
know what the hardest scene to write was. But the easiest was the first chapter. I wrote it so fast and it
just clicked in so perfectly.

5. Which of your characters are you the most like? Who was your favorite to write?

Eelyn! We have so much in common and she really inspires me. But I think Halvard was the most fun to
write. I really, really love him.

6. Do you have a soundtrack for SKY IN THE DEEP? Can you share a couple songs? What would
Eelyn’s favorite song be?

Yes! Music plays a HUGE role in my writing process and I have a playlist for every project. The ones I
probably listened to the most while drafting SKY are To the Hills by Laurel, Bare by Wildes, and Rise Up –
Reprise by Foxes. But a link to the whole playlist is on my site!

7. What books have inspired you to write? What books are you looking forward to reading this
year?

The ones that inspired me to write are nothing like my books. One of the most influential ones for me was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, because the human element is so beautiful and the author explores so many things in that book that really took my breath away. I wanted to write stories that went deep like that, but I love fantasy so I try to it within that realm.

8. Any advice on querying? Or writing advice for aspiring writers?

Querying – do not just sign with any agent who will take you. Make a dream agent list of qualified agents
who have good reputations and make consistent sales. Query them. If they don’t bite, then write
another book that they might want. Believe me when I say it is worth waiting for the right agent!


9. Any details about the companion novel?


I can’t say anything about the companion novel yet! But I’m hoping that we can start talking about it
soon because I am really excited about it!

Adrienne Young

Adrienne Young is a born and bred Texan turned California girl. She is a foodie with a deep love of history and travel and a shameless addiction to coffee. When she’s not writing, you can find her on her yoga mat, scouring antique fairs for old books, sipping wine over long dinners, or disappearing into her favorite art museums. She lives with her documentary filmmaker husband and their four little wildlings beneath the West Coast sun.

April ARCs

April ARCs

Yeah, it’s almost May… But I thought I’d still share which ARCs I have to read and review for this month! I’ve read most of them and have been pretty impressed with the releases this month. However, since this post is quite late, I’ll keep […]

eARC Review: Ace Of Shades by Amanda Foody

eARC Review: Ace Of Shades by Amanda Foody

Welcome to the City of Sin, where casino families reign, gangs infest the streets… and secrets hide in every shadow. Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads. Ace Of Shades Series: The Shadow Game #1Author: Amanda FoodyPublication Date: April 10, 2018Publisher: Harlequin TeenPage Count: 416Format: eARCGenre: Young […]

eARC Review: Bacon Pie by Candace Robinson & Gerardo Delgadillo and Author Interview with Candace Robinson!

eARC Review: Bacon Pie by Candace Robinson & Gerardo Delgadillo and Author Interview with Candace Robinson!

Release day April 13, 2018!

When a showdown between Lia and Kiev lands them in the principal's office, they're forced into volunteer work at the cringe-worthy Piggy Palooza Festival, or risk being suspended. Lia and Kiev aren’t thrilled about the situation, especially when it interferes with Lia's relaxed life and Kiev's theater role. But by working together, they may find more than just bacon—possibly a little love in the air.

Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads.

Bacon Pie

Authors: Candace Robinson & Gerardo Delgadillo
Publication Date: April 13, 2018
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Page Count: 241
Format: eARC
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Cover Artist: Jay Aheer
My Rating: ★★★

High school is a defining time for teens. Studying, extra-curricular activities, and love interests, are all large focal points in the lives of students. For Kiev, Lia, Cole, and Barnabas, this all holds true. Kiev, a theater-lover aspires to be cast for the role of Horatio in the Shakespeare play school is putting on. Lia, an old-school video gamer, spends much of her time hanging out with her best friend Barnabas. Cole, a girl-hungry teen, constantly seeks out his next love interest. Each is on his or her quest for individuality.

These differences, however, cause issues between the characters. Kiev tends to be a know-it-all, even if he doesn’t mean to be. He gets a bad rapport with Lia after answering her questions in class. She assumes that he is trying to show her up, and it infuriates her. One day, when confronted by Kiev about why she doesn’t like him, she punches him in the nose. The two are sent to the principle’s office and punished for the altercation.

Kiev and Lia are force to set their differences aside when they are both mandated to work community service at the local Piggy Palooza event. After spending some time with one another, they begin to realize that their opinions of one another were jaded. As true feelings begin to surface, the two must work out their feelings about one another, and help one another through trials to come. 

Bacon PieBacon Pie by Candace Robinson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

All included quotes have been taken from an ARC and may not match the finished publication.

When I first heard the title of this book, I couldn’t help be curious about it. While the Young Adult contemporary genre isn’t really my style, I still wanted to check this book out because I’ve been following (one of) the author(s) since her first book was published. As always, the writing style and quirkiness throughout this book do not disappoint. The reader is able to quickly immerse themselves in the story without much obstructing their path.

World Building

Bacon Pie is set in a small town in Texas, where the hot and dry climate is palpable. Because the setting takes place in a realistic present-tense, not a lot of world building is necessary to immerse the reader in the plot. Notably, the region is important, as its population has a lot of diversity.

Pacing & Readability

I find that contemporary books do not require much prompting in order to get the plot moving. The same is true here, as Bacon Pie, from the opening scene to finale feels as though I’ve stepped into the character’s lives and understand exactly where they are at. The pacing remains consistent, with few valleys of slowness here and there.

Point-Of-View & Characters

The point-of-view alternates between Kiev and Lia. I felt that Kiev was definitely the main character between the two, but they both were well-developed for the plot.

Kiev Jimenez comes from Latino origins. At home, he, his father, and sister only speak English, while at school he speaks English. Kiev’s mother left a few years ago, and they haven’t seen her since. Her leaving caused a fissure between him and his sister Vi. Amidst juggling his strained homelife, Kiev has a deep passion for theater and is rather knowledgeable. His goal is to become Horatio in his school’s play.

Lia (Ophelia) Abbie has grown up with two dads. Spending most of her time with her close friend Barnabas, she immediately reveals her feelings about Kiev and his close friend Cole.

Cole Novotny serves as the comic-relief throughout the story. Constantly stalking the school halls for his next love interest, he relies on Kiev to reign him in. While he is comical (at times), his immaturity is apparent in the way that he handles each and every situation.

Monica Serrano serves as a partial antagonist. Interested in Kiev, she causes jealousy to blossom between Cole and Kiev’s relationship. Later on, when a certain young woman changes her perspective of Kiev, Monica becomes the “competition.”

Major Themes

⇒ Diversity

Diversity is represented racially and sexually. Majority of the more prominent characters come from families with diverse traits. Kiev and Monica are both Latino/a, and Barnabas comes from a culturally diverse family as well. Lia has two fathers (along with a mother who isn’t in the picture much).

⇒ Depression

While this isn’t as big of a theme, I thought it mentionable. Kiev’s mother left his family a few years back, causing a big change to take place in his daily life. His sister Vi was deeply affected and retreated within herself. Struggling to cope with the loss of her mother, Vi spirals into her own bought of depression and harmful coping methods. The repercussions of her methods estrange her from others and make her difficult to interact with. In the end, she was able to reach out to her mother in order to tell her how she felt about the fact that she left them behind. I think the way the affected characters handled this aspect ended in a positive light.

⇒ Assuming

Assumptions between characters are constantly causing issues. Because no one directly confronts others, assumptions are made. This is most apparent in Lia’s opinion of Kiev. However, when she learns the truth behind what she thought was true, she realized that what she had made to be a big issue, was nothing at all.

Overall Feelings

Things that I liked:

⇒ The writing is seamless and there isn’t an obvious gap between each writer’s voice.
⇒ It was an easy and quick read.
⇒ The diversity.
⇒ The incorporation of Shakespeare.

Things that I didn’t like:

⇒ The language.
⇒ While I liked the comic relief that Cole’s character brought to the story, I didn’t care for his “mouth.” He reminded me too much of those kids back in high school that got away with murder because they were “smooth talkers” even though they weren’t (if that makes sense.)
⇒ At times the plot would lag a bit and wasn’t constantly engaging me. However, I think this is preferential on my end, rather than it being the fault of the book.
⇒ The underaged drinking.

Overall, I thought this was a likable read. While I don’t normally read Young Adult Contemporary, I find that when I do, they serve as great palette cleansers between dense and lengthy books. It’s nice to be able to pick up a book and finish it in nearly one sitting, due to its likable characters and dash of quirkiness. While I didn’t care for the amount of language used, and Cole’s (sometimes obnoxious) personality, it didn’t sway me from appreciating the easy flow of conversation and plotline.

Vulgarity: Quite a lot. 113 words total.
Sexual content: Kissing and some references to more. Cole is in general quite sexual with his speech.
Violence: There are two punching scenes.

View all my reviews

This Q&A features author Candace Robinson!

1) How was it co-authoring this book? Do you have any pointers for writers who hope to co-author a book in the future?
 
It actually wasn’t bad! We’d pretty much take turns writing chapters, send it to the other person to edit and look over, and then begin the next chapter. A big pointer for people that want to co-write is to do a test run and bounce ideas back and forth first. I had been asked to co-write a book before, and the problem was the writing styles were completely different. The bouncing of ideas was going no where! I think that’s why most people choose to not co-write lol. But after Bacon Pie, I would definitely do it again in the future if the story felt right.
 
2) Bacon is a large theme throughout this book. What was the inspiration behind it?
 
So we had an idea to do a small-town type of festival feel, and I wanted different events like butter carving. Somehow that led to the festival being centered around bacon and pig related things! 
 
3) What is your favorite part of Bacon Pie?
 
I’d have to go with the butter carving scene between Lia and Kiev!
 
4) You write in a few different genres. Which is your favorite to write in? To read?
 
I actually find writing darker elements the most satisfactory, but with all my books, I tend to go quirky in areas and that’s my favorite aspect. As for reading, I read mostly YA—Sarah J. Maas for fantasy, Tahereh Mafi for dystopia, and Jenn Bennett for contemporary. I also love the Under the Never Sky series, The Bear and the Nightingale, Trick by Natalia Jaster. Too many to name!
 
5) Which character do you like most in this book?
 
Oh, that’s a toughy. I’d have to go with Lia, though. Mainly because she is one of the funnest characters I have ever written. As for Gerardo’s character’s, I have to go with Cole, just because he’s so ridiculous yet awesome.

 

About Candace Robinson

Candace Robinson spends her days consumed by words. When she’s not writing stories, she maintains a book review blog. Her life consists of avoiding migraines, admiring Bonsai trees, and living with her husband and daughter in Texas—where it can be forty degrees one day and eighty the next.

eARC Review: Children of Daedala by Caighlan Smith

eARC Review: Children of Daedala by Caighlan Smith

Six months alone in the labyrinth has made her strong. But the search for the exit means gambling on an old ‘friend’ and going against everything she’s been taught to survive. Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads. Children of Daedala Series: Children of Icarus #2 Author: […]

State of the ARC: March

State of the ARC: March

The time has come for another State of the ARC monthly wrap up… Lately, I’ve been dreading these posts, and for good reason too. I’ve just not been as motivated to read lately as I normally am. That, and I’m caught in a tug-of-war with […]

eARC Review: Dragons of Dark by Ava Richardson

eARC Review: Dragons of Dark by Ava Richardson

As both dragons and Riders struggle to return to the ways of old, from before the land fell into darkness, the evil king undermines their every move with spies and sabotage. Bower knows their efforts are doomed without a final assault against the palace, but Saffron has doubts. Risking everything in a single attack isn’t what concerns her—it’s what victory may mean.

Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads.

Dragons of Dark

Series: Upon Dragon's Breath #3
Author:
Ava Richardson
Publication Date:
February 27, 2017
Publisher:
Relay Publishing Ltd.
Page Count:
254
Format:
eARC
Genre:
Young Adult, Fantasy
Cover Artist:
Joemel Requeza
My Rating:
★★★

”They fear me and my power, even as their hearts were so recently shaken by the sight of so many dragons. But their fear of me is the key. I will show them that dragons are just beasts. Monsters. Things which eat flesh, and drink the life from them, and then these people will hate the dragons much more than they can ever hate me. They think me a monster, but all of that is going to change.”

King Enric Maddox has been the feared rule of Torvald for a long time. Lately, however, that rule has been threatened by the reappearance of dragons and dragon sympathizers. Using the energy from his advisors, he strikes fear into the hearts of the citizens by using dark magic, making sure they see dragons as the enemy.

Since the recent battle between King Enric and the dragons, Saffron has had difficulty sleeping. Losing Rylan during the battle haunts her dreams. The threat of her magic and the connection it could have to Enric’s, ensnares her thoughts. Bower’s trust in Saffron wanes, as he is leary of the Maddox magic she possesses, and what it is capable of.

As the rightful heir to the throne, Bower must make amends with the Three Rivers Clan in order to get their help to pursue King Enric. Mother Gorlas, the wise woman of the clan, instructs him that he must seek out the Stone Tooth clan—the natural rivals of the Three Rivers. Likewise, the dragon queen Ysix—Jaydra’s sister—consults with Saffron and tells her that she must work to change the perspective of the humans towards the dragons. Still fearful of them, the new dragon riders have difficulty trusting the dragons, and seeing them more than just beasts.

As battles between the king’s merciless Iron Guard and the clans ensues, Saffron and Bower must work with the clans, dragons, and each other in order to overthrow the tyrant King Enric.

Dragons of Dark (Upon Dragon's Breath, #3)Dragons of Dark by Ava Richardson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

1) Dragons of Wild: ★★★½
2) Dragons of Kings: ★★★

All included quotes have been taken from an ARC and may not match the finished publication.

”This isn’t a rebellion,” Bower was suddenly passionate. “We are ousting a dictator. Not overthrowing a rightful king.”

This is one of those times when writing a review is truly difficult. While I didn’t necessarily dislike this book, I didn’t fall in love with it either. I felt throughout the entire Upon Dragon’s Breath that I was searching more depth overall—but never really got it. Character development still occurs, but it is accompanied by a feeling of vagueness and without much drive.

Dragons of Dark adds some new elements throughout which helps to spice up the read. Steampunk vibes, along with numerous action/battle scenes pepper the pages which makes the reading engaging.

World Building

Set mainly in the surrounding lands of Torvald, Dragons of Dark has a little more variety in scenery. The group travels into treacherous areas in order to reach the Stone Tooth clan. However, the land itself still lacked much description, making it difficult to get a sense of where the characters were at and giving scene changes a confusing and “rushed” sensation.

Pacing & Readability

The pacing is consistently faster than that in the previous two installments. There is a lot more happening on all fronts, making the plot flow from one scene to the next without much contemplation or hesitation in between.

Point-Of-View & Characters

The point-of-view follows suite with the previous two books and continues to change from Saffron to Bower’s perspective. I liked how this remained the same because it helped me continue to see the character growth with both of the main characters.

While there isn’t a large shift in her character overall, Saffron does encounter the majority of the challenges throughout this book. Coping with the evil Maddox magic, Saffron drinks a medicinal remedy to dull her ability to call upon the magic. The side effects, however, cause her to lose her ability to communicate with the dragons. Not only does she need to deal with that, but she must also face the reality of her origins, relations, and role.

”No, Saffron. I am not your mother. I am Queen Zenema, and you are the one who will unite the old and the young, the dragons and the humans again. You will rule them from the air above and the land below. There is no shame in it. You are not King Enric, and he is not you. You are your own.”

Saffron discovers that her anger fuels the magic within her, making it uncontrollable at times. Luckily, the ties she had to her dragon hoard and to Bower were strong enough to help her through the toughest of challenges. Their guidance helped her face King Enric, but to also face the threat within herself.

Bower serves as the secondary protagonist throughout this series. I felt that his character made some progression throughout Dragons of Kings but plateaued in Dragons of Dark. In fact, I remained rather indifferent towards him. Still gaining the trust of the dragons and the clans he leads into battle, he constantly plays (a rather easy game of) “tug-of-war” with his self-confidence and ability to lead as the future king. Despite his efforts, I found everything too easy for him and didn’t feel that he really encountered adversity along the way. It made his main issue too simple, solvable and not really an issue. His main opposition was himself, as he doubted himself more than anyone else.

”These people put their faith in me, and I failed.”
“It was you who figured out a way to escape the trap, Bower. It was you who managed to destroy those Iron Guard. Why are you doing this to yourself? Why are you so convinced that you are going to fail?”

King Enric Maddox, the elusive antagonist, and dictator-king of Torvald remains rather underdeveloped. I was really hoping to see more of him in this installment, seeing how he is so utterly terrible, but he sits on the back-burner most of the book until the culmination in the end.

Jaydra, Zenema, and Ysix all played important roles particularly in this installment as mentors to both Saffron and Bower. Without their guidance (and random knowledge at times) Saffron and Bower never would have made it as far as they did. While they weren’t the main characters of this series, they remain to be my favorites, as their personalities are well-developed and interesting (I mean, they’re dragons!)

Major Themes

⇒ Good vs. Evil

The battle between good vs. evil is always at the forefront of this series. King Enric, the dictator king who stole the throne, uses his evil magic to do as he pleases. Saffron and Bower must gain the trust of two different races in order to dethrone him, and place the rightful king on the throne.

⇒ Emotions

Anger was a key emotion focused on throughout this series. While it wasn’t realized at first, anger was the fuel to the fire that made Saffron’s magic uncontrollable.

”This anger seemed to come with the power, and the more I used magic, the worse I felt. My anger always there, under the surface, and I was terrified that once I let it spill out, it would wash away the person that I had been, and I would become just like Enric.”

Saffron had to learn how to address and control her anger in order to harness the magic in her blood.

⇒ Friendship

”They’ve rallied to you because of what happened to Kingswood. Life can’t get worse for them, the evil king has already burned down their homes, and they have already lost loved ones. They’ve come to you to try and start again. To find some hope after the horror that has been visited upon them.”

Time after time, friendship shows up between these characters. Without help and support from one another, they never would have made it very far.

Overall Feelings

Things that I liked:

⇒ The main characters, Saffron and Bower, also Jaydra, are easy to like and relate to.
⇒ The theme of friendship and how it’s demonstrated. That’s right—Bower and Saffron remain friends only. This is a romance-free series!
⇒ It’s a relatively clean read.

Things that I didn’t like:

⇒ World building and sense-of-location still lacked greatly.
⇒ The climax of this book, along with the climax of the entire series just wasn’t enough.
⇒ The “major” plot twists were too predictable.
⇒ I found the prologue told from King Enric’s perspective to be confusing. Perhaps this was because I may have forgotten some details from Dragons of Wild.
⇒ Bower’s character and his insistence on how he wasn’t “good enough” to rule.

While I really did enjoy this series, I felt that it lacked personable traits to pull me in. Instead of being fully immersed in this world, I always felt like I was reading this story. I want to experience it, too. It’s a bummer because I think that this series has some great potential, but I had difficulty with really connecting to it in the end. The plot is creative in its own way but is also similar in several ways to other books in the same genre. To put my feelings into one world, this book felt “familiar” on many fronts, and needed more specification to stand out from the rest.

Vulgarity: Minimal – 4 words total.
Sexual content: None!
Violence: Moderate – there are several battle scenes throughout that include some gore.

View all my reviews

eARC Review: Reign The Earth by A.C. Gaughen

eARC Review: Reign The Earth by A.C. Gaughen

Shalia is a proud daughter of the desert, but after years of devastating war with the adjoining kingdom, her people are desperate for peace. Willing to trade her freedom to ensure the safety of her family, Shalia becomes Queen of the Bonelands. Partial synopsis provided […]

eARC Review: Our Dark Stars by Audrey Grey & Krystal Wade

eARC Review: Our Dark Stars by Audrey Grey & Krystal Wade

Both Talia and Will would rather get space-tossed than trust one another, but with the queen’s forces chasing them across the galaxy and the fate of both worlds hanging in the balance, they’ll forge the unlikeliest of alliances to survive. Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads. […]

March ARCs

March ARCs

Oh hey, March.

Seeing how we are already a week in, I should probably get my post up for what ARCs I have for this month! I’ll be playing some catch-up from February as well, because I overloaded with ARCs for such a short month. So, let’s get caught up! In order to get started, here are ARCs I will for certain be reading and reviewing in March!

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…

Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town.

Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into.

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.

But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.

Our Dark Stars by Audrey Grey & Krystal Wade

While she sleeps, the whole universe changes.

Princess Talia Starchaser has it all. Wealth. Status. Adoring citizens. But on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, she’s forced to publicly betray her best friend, a companion mock she’s had since birth, setting events into motion that lead to the destruction of the humans, and the princess floating through space, a remnant of a time when humans ruled over droids.

One hundred years later, half-mock captain Will Perrault and his ragtag crew discover a device floating in space. When a very human Talia emerges from its depths, Will suspects she’s the key to buying his way back into the regiment he once commanded against the last remaining rebel humans—and the ruling mock queen’s good graces.

Both Talia and Will would rather get space-tossed than trust one another, but with the queen’s forces chasing them across the galaxy and the fate of both worlds hanging in the balance, they’ll forge the unlikeliest of alliances to survive.

Dwarves of Calcus by Katie Hamstead

When she was thirteen, Snow Sabbia crash landed on the dwarves' home planet of Calcus. After fleeing from her step-mother's huntsman, seven brother dwarves took her in to hide and protect her. She has hidden for years on the peaceful planet, tinkering with old automobiles and pushing papers in the mine office.

Then, Timothy White shows up.

The shy, nervous, nerdy heir captivates Snow before she even knows who he is, and quickly she falls in love. But his high profile in society draws unwanted attention from her vengeful stepmother, who wants Snow dead.
Geneva believed Snow died years earlier and she had consumed her innocent heart. With her late husband's wealth, Snow's inheritance, in tow, she married a young lord, Conrad. Both are using each other--Geneva for his title and to have a child, Conrad for her money and beauty. But when Conrad lays eyes on his boyhood rival's lovely fiance, Snow, his overwhelming desire for her reveals the truth to Geneva, that Snow lives.
Desperate to hold onto her wealth and power, Geneva seeks to kill Snow properly this time. Snow has the power to wield the one thing that can destroy her, so she cannot let the girl claim possession of the family heirloom, the Nevollo Sword. 

Snow soon learns her step-mother knows she is alive. But she is a pacifist, so she must outwit Geneva and remain hidden... until Geneva, disguised as a child, presents her with an apple.

That's it! I'm so curious what ARCs and/or books you'll be reading this month! What is your most-anticipated read being published this month? Let me know in the comments below!


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