Tag: Netgalley

eARC/Book Review: The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

eARC/Book Review: The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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Blog Tour and Author Interview: Song of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope

Blog Tour and Author Interview: Song of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope

Song of Blood & Stone

Earthsinger Chronicles: Book One

By L. Penelope

Synopsis

From the very first pages of her debut, L. Penelope delivers as a new force in the fantasy genre. The first book in the historical fantasy Earthsinger series was originally self-published, earning a quick fan base, the Black Caucus of the American Library Association Self-Publishing Award and a starred Publishers Weekly review calling it a “fantastic opening to a promising series”. Now traditionally published to kick off the new series, SONG OF BLOOD & STONE (St. Martin’s Press; May 1, 2018) is a treacherous, thrilling, epic fantasy about an outcast drawn into a war between two powerful rulers. With the world building of Brandon Sanderson, the romance of Ilona Andrews, the epic quest of Lord of the Rings, and the doomed star-crossed love of Romeo & Juliet, the start of the Earthsinger series has something to keep any reader entranced for books to come.
Orphaned and alone, Jasminda lives in a land where cold whispers of invasion and war linger on the wind. Jasminda herself is an outcast in her homeland of Elsira, where her gift of Earthsong is feared. When ruthless soldiers seek refuge in her isolated cabin, they bring with them a captive--an injured spy who threatens to steal her heart.

Jack's mission behind enemy lines to prove that the Mantle between Elsira and Lagamiri is about to fall nearly cost him his life, but he is saved by the healing Song of a mysterious young woman. Now he must do whatever it takes to save Elsira and it's people from the True Father and he needs Jasminda's Earthsong to do it. They escape their ruthless captors and together they embark on a perilous journey to save Elsira and to uncover the secrets of The Queen Who Sleeps.

Thrust into a hostile society, Jasminda and Jack must rely on one another even as secrets jeopardize their bond. As an ancient evil gains power, Jasminda races to unlock a mystery that promises salvation. The fates of two nations hang in the balance as Jasminda and Jack must choose between love and duty to fulfill their destinies and end the war.

As a reader, it’s not common to come across a truly original world, but Penelope manages to do just that in SONG OF BLOOD & STONE. In the vein of Brandon Sanderson’s Way of Kings, Penelope “shines a bright light into epic fantasy” (Booklist) and bridges the gap between the world of romance and fantasy. Inspired by religion and folklore, Penelope develops the start to what will be a series that will take readers by a storm.

SONG OF BLOOD & STONE
Earthsinger Chronicles, Book One
By L. Penelope
Published by St. Martin’s Press
**On Sale May 1, 2018**
Hardcover | $26.99

ISBN: 9781250148070| Ebook ISBN: 9781250148087
For more information or to set up an interview with the author, contact:
Brittani Hilles at brittani.hilles@stmartins.com or 646-307-5558

“This debut, which won the Black Caucus of the American Library Association Self-Publishing Award, shines a bright light
into epic fantasy. Battle-scarred lands and peoples, ancient powers at war, star-crossed loves and hints of racial and

refugee themes gives this a solid place on library shelves.”
—Library Journal, STARRED review

“Penelope parallels our own world, exploring a refugee crisis and race relations with emotion and nuance…Fresh,
suspenseful, and perceptive, Penelope’s first in a new series will appeal to historical-fantasy readers, especially fans of

N. K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.”

—Booklist

“”Penelope delivers an engrossing story with delightful characters in this fantastic opening to a promising series.”

—Publishers Weekly, STARRED review

“L. Penelope’s page-turning apocalyptic epic SONG OF BLOOD & STONE does what fantasy does best: provide epic plots,

epic world-building and epic myth. A rewarding, carefully crafted read.”

—The Root

1. What inspired you to write this series? What came first: The characters or the world? What was your inspiration for the magic of Earthsong? Were you inspired by other books? Movies?

 

When I first wrote this book, up until the time I gave it to my first editor, I thought it was going to be a
novella. It was always meant to be a fairytale-esque story of a girl’s journey from the margins of society
straight to its upper echelons. The characters Jack and Jasminda were there before the world was ever
clear in my mind. The first scene I wrote was the one where they meet in front of her cabin. I knew they
were from different, warring countries and they came from very different sorts of lives, but that was all.
Through the magic of revision (lots and lots of revision) I discovered the journey that the characters
would go on and all the conflicts they would face.

I love fantasy and there were so many inspiring series that I soaked in prior to writing the book, from
Graceling by Kristin Cashore to Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. But I think this book owes its biggest
inspiration to the Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta. Her fantasy world felt well realized and
complex, filled with incredibly detailed characters, groups, nations, and settings. But I also wanted to
write a kinder, gentler fantasy novel that wouldn’t double as a doorstopper. And mix in a really strong
romance like some of my favorites Nalini Singh or Kresley Cole.

 

2. What were your favorite scenes to write for SONG OF BLOOD AND STONE? What was the
hardest scene to write? Is there a scene or moment that really sticks with you?

 

Though Usher, Jack’s valet, spends relatively little time on the page, I loved writing the scenes with him
and Jack. When two characters have known each other for a long time, it can be really fun to play with
how to show their relationship. Usher has known Jack his entire life and so the way they interact is
unique. I also loved writing the visions that Jasminda gets from the stone. They were in a different voice,
from a totally different perspective and the peeked in on a vibrant, fully formed world that’s different to
the one of the main story. Hardest to write were the ones where Jasminda is confronted with the racism
and bias of Elsirans.

The scene that sticks with me is when Jack and Jasminda are in the army base and he sleeps on the
ground beside her, holding her hand. I find it really sweet and romantic.

 

3. What advice would you give aspiring authors, especially authors or color, striving to have their
stories and truths shared?

 

I would tell aspiring authors to really investigate your goals and be frank with yourself about why you
want to do this. It’s a difficult path emotionally, creatively, and professionally and what will get you
through the low points is being very clear about your “why”. It can also be incredibly rewarding, but
knowing what you’re getting yourself into is key.

Writing and publishing are two different disciplines. Your “why” will inform whether you pursue
traditional publishing or seek to self-publish. It will keep you going through rejections, delays, bad
reviews, disappointment, and the imposter syndrome that we all go through.

The other very important thing is to have a community to fall back on. Whether that’s a chapter of a
professional organization like RWA, SFWA, SCWBI, and others, or a Facebook group, critique group, or
writer’s circle, having others to commiserate and celebrate with you makes the journey much easier.

 

4. Is there a character in SONG OF BLOOD & STONE that you most relate to? How do you select
names of your characters?

 

I think Jasminda represents various aspects of myself both as I am and as I’d like to be. She’s definitely
bolder than I am, but her struggle to feel a part of things is one that I understand.

As for naming my characters, for each nation, I asked questions about how the names should generally
work. Things like: which prefixes and suffixes are common? Which letters and sounds are prevalent?
Which letters or sounds either don’t exist or are more rare? So the Elsirans have a lot of double vowels
in their names. Qs, Vs, and Zs are prominent, but there are no hard Cs.

Lagrimari names generally don’t use Js. I set up which suffixes were for men and women and the types
of sounds the names would have. There are only 9 last names in Lagrimar, corresponding with the
Houses. Jasminda as a name is an exception. Her parents didn’t follow the naming conventions of either
country for her or her brothers. Because their interracial relationship was unique, they wanted their
children’s names to be distinctive as well.

5. What do you most hope that readers take away from SONG OF BLOOD AND STONE?

I really just hope readers enjoy the story and the characters. Jasminda is a heroine that I had been
longing to see, so I hope people get as much joy and heartache from her story as I did when I wrote it.

6. Can you tell us more about the next books in the series? What are you working on now?

Book 2, WHISPERS OF SHADOW & FLAME, follows a parallel timeline to SONG. It’s about Darvyn, a character we hear about in SONG who was the Earthsinger responsible for disguising Jack. The disguise’s failure gets Jack captured and he wonders what happened to Darvyn. So in WHISPERS, we find out. But it also pushes the story forward, showing what’s going on in Lagrimar in the days before the Mantle comes down and setting up the next challenge that Jack, Jasminda, and Darvyn will face. Book 3, CRY OF METAL & BONE picks up the story of how Elsira and Lagrimar deal with the fall of the
Mantle and the new threat facing the nations.

I’m also working on a brand-new series with dragons.

7. What are your favorite books you would recommend to readers?

Among my favorites of all time are Wild Seed by Octavia Butler, The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay,
Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover, Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor and Sheltered by Charlotte Stein. I could go on and on, but I’ll leave it there.

L. Penelope

Leslye Penelope has been writing since she could hold a pen and loves getting lost in the worlds in her head. She is an award-winning author of new adult, fantasy, and paranormal romance. She lives in Maryland with her husband and their furry dependents: an eighty-pound lap dog and an aspiring feral cat.

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 […]

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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 […]

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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: Caighlan Smith
Publication Date: April 1, 2018
Publisher: Capstone
Page Count: 336
Format: eARC
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Horror, Dystopia
Cover Artist: ---
My Rating: ★★

Finding one’s way through a maze can feel like an eternity. For the Icarii, eternity is a probability with their trek through the labyrinth surrounding Daedala. 

“Fey Bell” as the nameless main character has been nicknamed, has existed on her own in the labyrinth for six months now. Now that she has the journal explaining how to get out of the dismal place, she needs only one thing: to translate it into her language. In order to do so, she must seek out help from her former group, the Fates. 

However, she left Fates on bad terms. Collin, the group’s leader, has had it out for her since he discovered that she was faking to be his little sister, Clara. With her best friend gone, the Executioner no longer around to teacher her, and no one to help her, she much depend on herself for everything–and for getting the answers she needs to unravel the journal’s secrets. Little does she know that Fates are the least of her worries. 

Children of DaedalaChildren of Daedala by Caighlan Smith
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

1) Children of Icarus: ★★

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

”Six months is a long time in the labyrinth.”

There’s always a lot riding on sequels in a series. If certain aspects aren’t delivered in the first installment of a series, I hope that the sequel will shed some light on those areas that I think are important to touch on as the reader. Unfortunately, Children of Daedala simply didn’t deliver as much as I had hoped for. While some aspects were much more tolerable, the plot did not develop as much as it needed to the really engage the reader.

World Building

The entire plot of Children of Daedala takes place in the labyrinth. Little information of the labyrinth itself is given and it is difficult to get a good sense of where the characters are. I constantly felt lost, which is ideally the point (since everyone is lost), but it’s also difficult to tell a story not really understanding the surroundings.

The society within the labyrinth itself takes on a different form. The Icarii literally enter a new world when they entered the labyrinth and they must learn how to survive. The best way to survive is by strength in numbers. Several pods of Icarii are developed, where the groups’ members look after and protect one another.

But where there are people, there is treachery. Supplies are limited in the labyrinth, including hunting grounds, freshwater, medical supplies, and weapons. It isn’t uncommon for fighting to happen between the groups for these resources. These fights, however, aren’t always provision-related. Bad blood exists between Kleos and Harmonia, two groups with a long and dark history. When the main character finds herself being shoved between the two groups after Fates is ransacked, she must dig to the bottom of the mystery in order to discover who is at fault.

Within these groups exists hierarchy. Being out on her own for six months had made “nameless” a sought out legend among the other Icarii. Nicknamed “Fey Bell” (after the silent bell she wears around her neck) she tries to remain elusive as she searches for the labyrinth’s exit. However, she can only make it so far without help. She must take measures into her own hands to have the mysterious journal the Executioner left her translated. The leaders of the groups have their own agendas and are constantly taunting her when they cross paths. Wanting to remain out of the drama, she tries to limit her interactions with them, but can only succeed for so long.

Pacing & Readability

The pacing mimics Children of Icarus. It is slow, slow, slow. In three hundred plus pages, not a lot happens. Even during the climax in the final pages, nothing grabbed me. Without having many variations in the pacing, it made this a difficult read to get through because it was slow and unengaging.

Point-Of-View & Characters

The point of view is again from the perspective of the main character, who again remains nameless throughout the entire story. “Nameless'”–I’ll refer to by her nickname of Fey Bell–character grows tremendously from Children of Icarus–but only in her capabilities. In many ways, she still acts quite immature for her age, which becomes tiresome to read. Honestly, I think I stuck it out through this book just because I want to find out what her name is! Otherwise, I don’t think I would have made it this far.

There are several characters in this series, and it is difficult to keep them all straight. With little distinction between them physically, many of these minor characters blended together.

For me, Ryan was one of the more interesting characters in this series. Sadly, his character became rather flat in this sequel. I felt he could have been utilized in more effective ways to keep that initial intrigue going, but that simply didn’t happen.

Theo becomes a more prominent character in this sequel. Becoming a “sort of” love interest, he’s constantly riding the fence of being trustworthy. Because his character also suffers from flatness, I found him and his motivations to be transparent and without surprise.

Elle’s character blossomed before my very eyes. I think I didn’t recognize her in Children of Icarus because I was so distracted with all of the gore and overall treachery. While she doesn’t have a massive role in the plot, what she represents makes her all-the-more important to bring up.

The main antagonist against is the labyrinth itself, but later on shifts to other characters as well.

Major Themes

⇒ Survival

It’s easy not to take chances when the price is someone else’s secrets.

Survival is the entire point of this series. Survival in the labyrinth, survival from one another, and survival from oneself in specific instances is constantly on the characters’ and readers minds.

⇒ Mental illness

”Elle is the beautiful one. I always knew it, but at first I thought it was just her exterior. I thought what was inside Elle was cruel. And it is. Elle has a cruel side, an inhumane side, a manipulative side, but that like her physical beauty, is just something else in the way of the beauty inside. A part of Elle, deep down, is still the child she was when she entered the labyrinth. That child is inside all Icarii, but most Icarii kill that child to survive. Instead, Elle killed her sanity, and used its corpse to shelter the child. Because of that, a part of Elle will always have her innocence. A part of her will always have Prosper.”

Represented by Elle’s character, mental illness becomes a large theme throughout this installment. This theme also exists in the first book, but I think I was too distracted by everything else to really notice it. While I believe this adds an interesting addition to the plot, I’m not sure if I actually like the way Elle’s character is represented. Perhaps it is because I feel that her (and everyone else’s) character is left incomplete. In a positive way, however, I feel that Elle’s able to bring opponents together.

“But thank you. For looking out for Elle.”
“It’s easy to look out for Elle,” Risa says, then gestures to the gauze in my hand. Maybe not always easy, but it’s easy to want to, you know?”

Overall Feelings

Things that I liked:
⇒ The main character’s growth from the first book.
⇒ We finally get a little more explanation behind the Icarii.

Things that I didn’t like:
⇒ Still not having a good sense of the world or where the characters are at. Scenes blend into one another.
⇒ The slow pacing and anticlimactic end which was supposed to be a massive “cliffhanger” for the next book.
⇒ While we get a better idea as to how the Icarii started, the entire backstory needed a lot more explanation.

Overall, I wasn’t thrilled with this sequel, and found it to be without much purpose. I really was hoping for more progression, but this entire book felt like a “time filler” until the next book in the series is published.

Vulgarity: Minimal. Only five words were counted.
Sexual content: Minimal – kissing scenes only. However, there are some references to more going on between some characters.
Violence: Quite a lot. While this installment isn’t as gory as it’s predecessor, there’s still a decent amount.

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 by Goodreads.

Reign the Earth

Series: The Elementae #1
Author: A.C. Gaughen
Publication Date: January 30, 2018
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Page Count: 438
Format: eARC
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Cover Artist: Kimi Weart
My Rating: ★★★★★

Shalia, a daughter of the desert, grew up daughter to the clan chief. Her people have known war for many years. It wasn’t long ago that one of her brothers was burned in the desert by their enemy, the people of the Bone Lands. Desperate for peace, Shalia agrees to join the warring clans through marriage.

Without having ever met her soon-to-be-husband, Shalia’s anxiety is high. Yet, she only hopes for the best in her future union. Her close friend Kata, one of the few remaining Elementae, has lived with Shalia’s clan for years after her people were nearly wiped out by others who thought their abilities intimidating. Believing her to also have an ability with the elements, Kata teaches Shalia about these unique powers and how to utilize them–but also to keep them secret.

The day comes for Shalia to prepare and meet her husband. She anticipates the moment, and girlish fantasies accompany her thoughts. But when the two clans converge, everything according to custom is overlooked. Supposed to be unveiled by her husband, his brother instead proceeds with the ritual, and something deep within Shalia’s core comes to life. When she realizes that he is not her betrothed, and is introduced to his fair brother Calix, a seed of doubt sprouts within her.

”You–watching you today, dancing with our family, you can become those things to me, Shalia. A king…a king has little place in his life for emotion, for weakness. But I believe that you will make me stronger. I believe that you will save my people.”

Now married to Calix, Shalia realizes that his thirst for power may be her clan, the remaining elementae, and her own undoing. With a secret of her own to protect, her people to keep the peace for, and trust to earn from the Bone Landers, Shalia has a huge amount responsibility resting on her shoulders. 

Reign the Earth (The Elementae, #1)Reign the Earth by A.C. Gaughen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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

”A wedding is not about lust. It’s about partnership. Alliance. Faith and faithfulness.”

It’s so ironic that this book started out with such a strong sense of pure intentions and girlish hopes then turned out the way it did. I’m not sure what it is with tough books like this, but they completely draw me in. I’ll start out by saying that this book will not be for everyone, and will either be loved or hated for the topics it discusses. It is a hard read, and not the typical happy-go-lucky fantasy novel. Sometimes, a book is worthy of praise simply for the realness that it captures in its characters, and the trials they go through, comfortable or not. The characters here are real, raw, and rememberable.


World Building

The world in Reign the Earth is vast and diverse. No matter where the reader is taken, however, there is an aridness about the atmosphere, even if by the sea or in lusher regions. I believe the world itself aided in setting the tone of the entire book–the aridness it portrayed not only mirrored the relationship between Shalia and Calix, but also emphasized the harsh realities that were taking place on all fronts.

The religious system was an interesting one. The “god” position was shared by Calix, Galen, and Danae of the Bone Lands. Each sibling had their own role to play.

”My father said the Three-Faced God had told him that his three children were the God Made Human. That we would be the most powerful rulers the Bone Lands had ever seen.” She held out her hands in a triangle, pointing one of the ends at me. “With three faces, you can only ever see two, at the very most,” she told me. “The third will always be hidden. Calix, he is the face of truth and justice. Galen is the face of honor and strength. And I am the hidden face, the piece that separates honor and truth, and also binds them together always.”

While I’m not sure if it was supposed to reflect either positively or negatively (or if at all) on the Holy Trinity in the Bible, I personally feel that it stood apart from it. The fact that a man declared his children the god-made-flesh was a ploy for power. None of the three had actual powers, they were simply powerful in specific characteristics.


Pacing & Readability

The pacing of this book is consistently moderate and increases the closer it gets to the end. Due to the nature of its content, I could see how it could affect its overall readability, as the tone is dark and heavy at times. Personally, that aspect did not bring me pause and actually made me more eager to know what would happen next. The beautiful writing and description also made this read very enjoyable.


Point-Of-View & Characters

Shalia serves as the main character and protagonist, and the story is told from her perspective. Shalia’s character is rather complex–so complex in fact, that it was aggravating at some periods. While she starts out with the mentality of a young girl, her maturity rapidly shows, as she learns through difficult situations how to handle herself, and to make the right decisions. In order to do so, Shalia’s character goes through immense stages of change.

“You’re a daughter of the desert, Shalia. You have always had the ability to pierce and sting.”

The biggest struggle Shalia faces is standing up for herself. For the majority of the story, she seems rather passive, especially in regards to her husband’s character. She does try to influence Calix by her meekness, but in the end, it simply isn’t enough to turn his focus inward on the parts in himself that he needed to address.

“My hands rested over my stomach. I couldn’t feel her in there yet, but I knew in that moment she would never be raised by Calix.”

The biggest event which took place that changed Shalia’s perspective and tactics was when she discovered that she was pregnant. During this time, Calix became more erratic and abusive towards her.

“I went from being a sister and a daughter to a wife, a guarded queen. I have little idea what my life will be like if I’m free from Calix, but I don’t want to be something you protect. I won’t teach my daughter that her only choice is to be sheltered by the men around her. I want to stand beside you…I want to learn to fight with you.”

I think Shalia’s character is an unusual one in YA today. Instead of being the “all guns blazing” superwoman trope, her meekness is what made her stand out to me. Her words and actions spoke louder than her physical capabilities. While she did have bouts of passiveness, she took action when necessary, and when she was able.

Calix is a piece of work. He is the manipulative and power-hungry antagonist, who thinks he is superior to all. I’m not sure if I can blame him entirely for his character, seeing how he was conditioned his entire life to believe himself to be above others. But it doesn’t excuse his actions and reactions towards Shalia and the other people he torments.

“Your heart is soft, and that is good and right, wife. But mine cannot be. More important than love, than grief, more important than anything is power.”

Discussing his relationship with Shalia in particular, he is one of the worst types of villains. He uses emotional manipulation to get what he wants and damages Shalia tremendously in doing so.

Galen, Calix’s brother remains quite a mystery. While small chunks of his personality are revealed, I never got a good sense of him or is true nature. I wasn’t a fan of the way his and Shalia’s relationship played out in the end. (view spoiler) Despite that fact, I’d like to know more about him in the sequel(s) to come.

Danae, Calix’s sister, also serves as a partial antagonist. While her character is the least-developed of the three siblings, she becomes an encourager to Shalia during though periods in her marriage to Calix. Without the sisterly love of Danae, I think Shalia really would have struggled.

There are many other characters throughout this book, but I thought these were the main ones to discuss in more detail.


Major Themes

⇒ Face-value vs. Reality

In the opening of this story, when Shalia is on her way to meet her husband for the first time, she inwardly hopes that he is attractive. Despite the vanity of the thought, she gets what she hopes for, only to realize that beauty on the outside doesn’t mean beauty exists within. It’s a valuable theme to focus on as beauty is monotonized on in today’s culture. It teaches everyone that beauty is better, and the internal parts of ourselves can be covered up and ignored if beauty is present externally.

⇒ Steadfastness

Represented specifically by Shalia, steadfastness is a key quality in her character. While she was seemingly passive at times when she could have stepped forward, I think she actually made the more difficult choice with not stopping what was going on (specifically with Calix). She tried so very hard and sacrificed everything to keep the peace between the clansmen and her husband’s people. However, it costs her. This is the ugly truth about sacrifice sometimes–it’s painful, and it doesn’t always end in the way we hope or envision. But it’s necessary in order to try and make a situation better for others. This was what made me appreciate Shalia’s character so much. Too often are characters met with “challenges” that aren’t really challenges. They have simple solutions and take little effort to overcome. Shalia’s situation reflects what many people go through in real life, and I think she could be an encouraging figure to have in this genre.

⇒ Power

Power was a massive theme. It existed on multiple fronts; men over women (no matter the connection), leader over civilian, a people group over another. It is this desire for power on Calix’s part that transforms him into a being capable of doing anything to another person in order to get what he wants.

”Ruling cannot be about emotion, my sweet. It has to be about power and control. Always.”
“True power does not force others to make themselves smaller,”I told him. Anger simmered in his eyes.
“No, wife. You’re wrong.”

This theme is represented well, as it shows how dangerous and degenerative seeking power can be.

⇒ Abuse

While it’s not a nice topic to discuss, abuse is very real. Several forms of abuse are represented throughout Reign the Earth and show how terrible of a thing it is.


Overall Feelings

Things that I liked:

⇒ Shalia’s depth of character, especially her steadfastness.
⇒ The world building, and how well it reflected everything else developing throughout the story.
⇒ The use of elementals.

Things that I didn’t like:

⇒ Calix. Pure and simple. He was a “perfect” antagonist.
⇒ The pacing towards the middle slowed down a bit, but I didn’t notice it too much. The beginning and end made up for this deviation in my opinion.
⇒ I felt that the Trifectate needed a lot more explanation surrounding it. While the general idea was explained, I wanted to dig deeper into their role in society.
⇒ The fantasy element of this book takes a backseat to the main story. I would have liked to see more representation of the elementals throughout.

Due to the nature of this book, I would definitely caution young adult readers before picking it up. I personally believe this to be better suited for the New Adult genre, as the topics discussed don’t really reflect that of the life of an average teen. Overall, I believe this book has a lot to offer the reader. It’s real, it’s emotionally charged, it’s challenging, and it’s beautifully written. I’m thoroughly looking forward to the next installment in this series.

Vulgarity: 26 words total (based on the eARC I read – this may differ from the published book.)
Sexual content: Moderate to a lot. While nothing is graphically explained, there are a lot of “bedroom scenes.” This also was an area where a lot of content could trigger some uncomfortable feelings for the reader.
Violence: Moderate to quite a bit. There are scenes of torture and some graphic material here and there.

View all my reviews

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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. […]

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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. […]

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State of the ARC: February

State of the ARC: February

Well, there goes February...

I’m going to come right out and say it. I’m not happy with my progress this past month. While I did a LOT of work on improving my posts, Bookstagram account, Pinterest boards, and so on, my blogging and book reviews suffered. Luckily, I only have three books that I must read this month as they are to be published. I plan to use this longer month to get caught up on some reviews that have been sitting, and get a bit ahead in my ARC reading. 

Just a note in case you haven’t heard of this; the State of the ARC Meme is hosted by AvalinahsBooks. Go check out her website for further information if you’d like to join! It’s a great way to get some motivation to tackle those old ARCs that have been weighing down your TBR stacks.

Are you ready to see the ugly truth? I don’t think I am…

I'm hoping you all know what this gif is from...

If not, then you may be missing out 😛 Anyways, before I share my stats, I wanted to note my ratios and overdue numbers. My Netgalley feedback ration took a few steps up. Last month I was sitting at 53% because I was approval-dumped. This month, it climbed a few rungs up to 55%. My overdue numbers increased by 2 which–it is what it is. 

My Edelweiss feedback ratio went down 1% to 39%. Luckily, I didn’t accrue anymore overdues!

Requests I’ve received from authors haven’t changed much. I haven’t been accepting requests for a bit, hoping I’d be able to tackle more of these, but I’ve been a bit behind in general, so I’m just trying to maintain on all platforms. I did end up accepting a new request for an author that I have reviewed for a few times before so I just couldn’t turn her down! My feedback ratio is sitting at 43% and dropped 2% since I took on another ARC. My total overdues have stayed the same.

Lastly, publisher requests have changed a bit. I’m sitting at a 50% feedback ratio, and my overdues have stayed the same.

Upon seeing all of that chaos, my stats don’t look so bad. It’s mainly when I put them all together when the nasty shows. Either way, I’m really hoping that March will prove to be a better month for me. I despise getting behind on things, and that’s all that I’ve felt lately! 

At least I was able to get through seven ARCs. I was also reading a lot of other books for the Beat the Backlist Challenge. So, that hasn’t always been helping my stats. But sometimes, it does with older ARCs. 

How did your month go for State of the ARC?
Let me know in the comments below!


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