Forest of Souls (Shamanborn, #1) by Lori M. Lee – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Page Street Kids

Publication Date: June 23, 2020

Genre: YA Fantasy

Adventure Rating: 3 Stars

Goodreads | Amazon

Sirscha Ashwyn comes from nothing, but she’s intent on becoming something. After years of training to become the queen’s next royal spy, her plans are derailed when shamans attack and kill her best friend Saengo.

And then Sirscha, somehow, restores Saengo to life.

Unveiled as the first soulguide in living memory, Sirscha is summoned to the domain of the Spider King. For centuries, he has used his influence over the Dead Wood—an ancient forest possessed by souls—to enforce peace between the kingdoms. Now, with the trees growing wild and untamed, only a soulguide can restrain them. As war looms, Sirscha must master her newly awakened abilities before the trees shatter the brittle peace, or worse, claim Saengo, the friend she would die for.

Danger lurks within the roots of Forest of Souls, an epic, unrelenting tale of destiny and sisterhood, perfect for fans of Naomi Novik and Susan Dennard. 

*Thank you to the publisher for sending me an e-arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

I LOVE me some Asian Fantasy, so I was really excited to read this one!

It started off with a really strong start. It started off with Sirscha getting back from a mission and talking with her mentor about being this really cool shadow assassin then meeting up with her best friend then you come to find out they ride drakes. So freaking cool. I was so invested from the beginning! Sirscha has a mysterious past, she’s has crazy fighting skills, and she’s sassy. I liked her.

However, the story just didn’t get really far after that. It felt like being on a roller coaster and anticipating the drop but it never comes. She had plenty of adventure but they were all short trips where nothing actually happened. Until the very end. Like the last 5% of the book. Then it ends on a cliffhanger. I liked that part but the majority of the book was a bit lackluster. The beginning and the end were intense but the whole middle was just not.

Things I liked. There is no romance in this book. And that’s totally fine! It stands completely on it’s own! However, I am totally shipping Sirscha and Theyen. Theyen was my favorite. He is mysterious and brooding and sassy. More of him please! I also really liked the magic system. It was very Avatar-y except add in shadow magic and soul magic. It was so cool!

I do want to read book 2. I think this series has a lot of promise so I am excited about that. I also liked the authors writing!

The Court of Miracles (The Court of Miracles, #1) by Kester Grant – Blog Tour Review + Giveaway

Publisher: Knopf Children’s

Publication Date: June 02, 2020

Genre: YA Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Retellings

Adventure Rating: 4 Stars

Buy Links:

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Book Depository | Kobo | Google Books

Les Misérables meets Six of Crows in this page-turning adventure as a young thief finds herself going head to head with leaders of Paris’s criminal underground in the wake of the French Revolution.

In the violent urban jungle of an alternate 1828 Paris, the French Revolution has failed and the city is divided between merciless royalty and nine underworld criminal guilds, known as the Court of Miracles. Eponine (Nina) Thénardier is a talented cat burglar and member of the Thieves Guild. Nina’s life is midnight robberies, avoiding her father’s fists, and watching over her naïve adopted sister, Cosette (Ettie). When Ettie attracts the eye of the Tiger–the ruthless lord of the Guild of Flesh–Nina is caught in a desperate race to keep the younger girl safe. Her vow takes her from the city’s dark underbelly to the glittering court of Louis XVII. And it also forces Nina to make a terrible choice–protect Ettie and set off a brutal war between the guilds,or forever lose her sister to the Tiger.

*Thank you to the publisher and Fantastic Flying Book Club for the e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review!*

This book actually got me out of a reading slump, so doubly thank you!

I was really excited to read a Les Mis / Jungle Book retelling and this did not dissapoint! Like, what a freaking cool mash up!! I have always loved Eponine. She is my favorite character, so when I heard this book was also about her, I jumped at the chance to review it!

Eponine is a spit fire. She is on a mission to save her sister (then sisters), from an evil man. I loved her personality. She is fiercely protective but she also knows her own limits. I really liked that she wasn’t a can-do-it-all girl. She was humble enough to ask for help. BUT she also knew she was the best tactician. I loved her story and am nervous it still might end up like in the real Les Mis! Dear Grant, please don’t! Please give Eponine the ending she deserves!

I really enjoyed the world building as well. I loved there were 9 different guilds all with their own purpose. There are definitely some gray areas morally and I loved it. I did however want to see a bit more of the thieves guild where Nina (Eponine) is from. She was mostly on the streets or staying with another guild.

I liked the side characters. Montparnasse of the Guild of Assassins was my favorite. He was soooo mysterious and I totally ship him and Nina. In fact, I would love more on his story! And Ettie was so sweet! I loved how her and Nina interacted together.

What I didn’t like: this would have been a 5 star read for me, HOWEVER, I struggled with the flow of the book. It was choppy. It would be something like this: I did this. Then I did this. *Time Skip*. I am doing this now. Let me put it this way, the actual writing was quite good, descriptive, I could imagine everything, it was the execution that was choppy. And I couldn’t figure out the love quad going on. Nina had 3 boys after her? And she seemed like she couldn’t make up her mind. Like I said, I am hoping for Montparnasse!

This book was still very entertaining, y’all know I love to be entertained, and I can’t wait for book 2!

“Do not cry for me, I am already dead.”
“No, not dead, the dead at least are free.”

———–

“Our mother the City is not a merciful mother,’ she says as she gathers my hair in one hand.”

————

“Let us go,” says Monteparnasse. “The Dead are calling.”

———–

She takes my hand, and the gesture is a powerful declaration of sorrow, of forgiveness, of love, threads of silver and gold wrapping around us…

———-

Something inside her draws people to her. Innocence, a kindness that could swallow the city whole if she let it.

Kester Grant is a British-Mauritian writer of color. She was born in London, grew up between the UK, Democratic Republic of Congo, and the tropical island paradise of Mauritius. As a wanton nomad she and her husband are unsure which country they currently reside in but they can generally be found surrounded by their fiendish pack of cats and dogs.

Author Links:

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Pinterest

Click the photo to go to Random House for the excerpt!

Check out the other tour hosts/ tour schedule HERE for more chances to win!

Prize: Win a copy of THE COURT OF MIRACLES by Kester Grant (US Only)

Starts: June 2nd, 2020

Ends: June 16th, 2020

Click HERE for the Rafflecopter giveaway!

House of Dragons (House of Dragons, #1) by Jessica Cluess – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: May 12, 2020

Genre: YA Fantasy, Dragons

Adventure Rating: 4 Stars

Goodreads | Amazon

Five royal houses will hear the call to compete in the Trial for the dragon throne. A liar, a soldier, a servant, a thief, and a murderer will answer it. Who will win?

When the Emperor dies, the five royal houses of Etrusia attend the Call, where one of their own will be selected to compete for the throne. It is always the oldest child, the one who has been preparing for years to compete in the Trial. But this year is different. This year, these five outcasts will answer the call….

THE LIAR: Emilia must hide her dark magic or be put to death.

THE SOLDIER: Lucian is a warrior who has sworn to never lift a sword again.

THE SERVANT: Vespir is a dragon trainer whose skills alone will keep her in the game.

THE THIEF: Ajax knows that nothing is free–he must take what he wants.

THE MURDERER: Hyperia was born to rule and will stop at nothing to take her throne.

I am starting to learn something about myself, I think I review books based on how entertaining they are to me vs. intricacies. If I am super entertained, I don’t care if such and such didn’t add up. Or if characters are boring or whatnot.

Anyways, I say that because this book was really entertaining but it had some slight problems. Just not enough for me to dock another star.

I always like to start with the problem areas so then we can end on a good note! And really, I only had one problem. The characters.

The characters were boring. It’s hard to explain because they didn’t have a lot of personality, while still having 5 very different people.

Hyperia: She is the “mean girl” with a past of abuse

Lucien: The good looking, goody-goody boy scout

Emilia: The smart girl who doesn’t know she’s pretty

Vespir: The shy, quiet, gay girl

Ajax: The class clown

I liked them, they were just a bit bland. They get better the last half of the book when they start to use what they are good at to shine during the trials.

WITH THAT BEING SAID: I ENJOYED THIS BOOK!

There were dragons galore! There was adventure, a mysterious plot, and plenty of action. THOSE are the things that make me love a book! I was entertained! Dog, Ajax’s dragons, was my favorite! He acts like a puppy! Cluess knows how to write dragons! And I loved it! Each dragon had it’s own personality that sort of matched their riders! It was so cool!

The trials to become emperor were sooooo much fun to read about! The Hunt, The Game, The Race, and The Truth. In The Hunt, they had to hunt a basilisk and that was my favorite! They were all on an island hunting it and it was so intense! LOTs of adventure going on. Each character tried to use their skills to win (or not to win in Lucien’s case), and it was interesting to see how they would use those skills. Emilia was probably my favorite to read about, just because she had the added element of dark magic she had to try to control and keep secret, while trying to compete.

Maybe 70% of the way through, the book changes gears. Meaning, there was a huge twist that I am here for! I won’t spoil it, but it’s so good! I definitely can’t wait for book 2!

I am going to try something new. Novel Heartbeat (follow her, she’s amazing!) has star ratings for each aspect of the book. I would love to try my own hand at that! Here are mine:

Characters: 2 🌟

Entertainment: 5 🌟

Plot: 5 🌟

Adventure: 5 🌟

Writing: 4 🌟

Let’s talk DRAGONS! Tell me your favorite book that has dragons in it!

*Amazon link is my affiliate link*

Fake It Till You Make It by Anne Harper – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Entangled

Publication Date: April 20, 2020

Genre: Contemporary, Romance

Adventure Rating: 4.5 Stars

Goodreads | Amazon

“Sloane De Carlo is going to have to move to Antarctica.

As if it wasn’t bad enough that she accidentally made her private blog very public, and all her innermost secrets and embarrassing moments are trending, now the entirety of the Internet is dying to know who her all-consuming, never-get-over-him crush “Guy” really is. She’s even got a literary agent dangling a book deal in front of her nose—but there’s a catch. She’ll have to get closure with “Guy” and give her story that pitch-perfect ending.

Too bad the real “Guy” is engaged to someone else. #Blessed

The only person in her teeny hometown of Arbor Bay who knows the truth is local bartender Brady Knox. And he’s not telling…for a price. He’ll pretend to be Sloane’s “Guy” if she’ll use her newfound Internet fame to bring more business to his struggling local bar. Brady’s always been a lone wolf, but there’s something about the pint-sized, supremely awkward, yet beautiful Sloane that charms him.

But keeping secrets in a small town like Arbor Bay isn’t easy. And Brady was never meant to be the guy for a pitch-perfect ending…”

*I received an e-arc from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review*

THIS WAS SO CUTE! Okay, I just had to say that right off the bat. I loved this book. This is one of my favorite contemporaries ever which is saying something because I’m very picky about them!

I don’t know if it was the southern setting or just the general cute vibes I got but I loved it. Sloane and Brady were so perfect. I love a good fake dating trope and this did not disappoint. They were on fire! She was quirky and cute and he was stoic and grumpy. They made a hilarious balance.

I think I just identified with Sloane a lot. She blushed a lot and always wore her emotions. That’s me! People can always tell what I am thinking based on my facial expressions! Sloane was so enjoyable to read about. She got herself into some hilarious hi jinks where I found my self laughing aloud. And it was so sweet each time how Brady came to her rescue! I loved her growth. She took an extremely embarrassing situation and turned it around for good. She always wore her heart on her sleeve. Plus she had great relationships all around her! From her brother to her best friend, she is just someone I would totally want to be friends with!

Anne Harper writes romantic comedy that embodies the shenanigans of an I Love Lucy episode and the awkwardness of saying “you too” after the waiter tells you to enjoy your meal.” So. True. That’s exactly what this book was! I can’t say enough good things about it!

Let’s discuss! What is your favorite contemporary?

*Amazon link is my affiliate link

House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1) by Sarah J. Maas – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Publication Date: March 03, 2020

Genre: Adult Fantasy

Adventure Rating: 4 Stars

Goodreads | Amazon

Bound by blood.
Tempted by desire.
Unleashed by destiny.


Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.

Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.

As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.

With unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom—and the power of love.”

Oooooh boy I have a lot to say. So, buckle up and hold on tight because there is a thought bomb coming at ya.

Here’s the thing, I really liked this book. BUT I also had a lot of issues with it. Let’s start there.

Issue #1: This is an ADULT fantasy and yet Bryce, who is in her 20’s, acted like a spoiled brat of a teenager. She drank and did drugs like no one’s business. She swears ALL THE FRIGGIN TIME. Y’all the f-bomb is on every page. Swearing doesn’t usually bother me, but GIRL GET ANOTHER WORD. So annoying. Bryce was freaking annoying. Get over yourself, Bryce.

Issue #2: This one is a double sided coin. The Plot. It was predictable. It was VERY SJM which is hard because I at once loved it and was like oh, it’s the same plot line as the other of her books.

Issue #3: Usually SJM handles depression/ mental illness pretty well… Bryce just totally ignored hers and didn’t get the help she needed.

Whew, still with me? Let’s talk nicely now because I did, in fact, really enjoy this book.

Here’s what I loved:

Loved #1: The Plot. See? Told you it was double sided. It was intense with A LOT of elements to keep me entertained. There were deaths, destruction, and mysterious characters and plot lines.

Loved #2: RUHN. Oh my gosh I loved him. He was way more responsible than Bryce and tried to be the best brother ever. He is adorable. And I love his POV and the romance plot line SJM is clearly setting him up fore.

Loved #3: The Romance. Hunt and Bryce fit each other perfectly! They had great chemistry and were both messed up but helped each other rather than bring each other down.

Loved #4: The World. Oh my gosh! It was SO cool to see a “modern” world mixed with magic, witches, fae, werewolves, mer people (Tharion!! More of him please!), angles, demons, shifters, and more (like cute little messenger otters)! It was perfect and made for lots of story telling!

Loved #5: The Writing. SJM does have really good writing, just like, stop using the f-bomb. We get it. It’s an adult fantasy. Congrats, you can use the word, now STOP.

See? I had way more loves than issues! It was a behemoth book so I just had a lot to say.

Let discuss! If you have read it, what did you think?!

*Book sleeve from Love You More Studio, Code: Storied10 to save 10%

*Amazon link is my affiliate link

An Unsuitable Lady for a Lord (Scottish Lords and Ladies #1) by Cathleen Ross – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Entangled

Publication Date: April 13, 2020

Genre: Historical Romance

Adventure Rating: 3.5 Stars

Goodreads | Amazon

“Lord Aaron Lyle has one hell of a choice: a bankrupt dukedom, or marriage to some simpering society miss so his spendthrift father can get his hands on her huge dowry. He won’t do it. He has a reputation to maintain, and besides, he’d rather run naked through the streets of London than marry anyone at all. Surely, there must be a third option.

Then Lady Crystal Wilding walks into his life, a bluestocking, full of subversive thoughts, who hates the notion of marriage even more than he does. He is intrigued…and, suddenly, he has an idea. He invites the totally unsuitable lady home on the pretext of presenting her as a possible match…but in truth, Aaron has something far more pleasurable in mind. For her part, Lady Crystal has her own reasons for going along with his harebrained scheme.

Imagine their shock when his highly proper family loves her and starts planning the wedding. Good lord. Now what?”

*Thank you so much to Entangled for the e-arc!*

This was a fast paced, fun read! I love historical romance so I was super happy to receive the e-arc for this book!

I really loved Lady Crystal’s personality. She was feisty while still being a Lady. I loved her passion for teaching young girls! I also liked Lord Aaron, he was very kind. They had perfect chemistry, and clearly belonged together.

While I enjoyed the Scottish scenery, I think I wanted a bit more of that and a bit less of the sex scenes. It was A LOT of scenes for a short book. I think I would have liked it a bit better if the book was longer and had more of the intense drama of Lady Crystal and Lord Aaron not being able/ not wanting to marry.

It was still a fun read though!

Night of the Dragon (Shadow of the Fox, #3) by Julie Kagawa – Spoiler Free Review, Q&A, Excerpt

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Publication Date: March 31, 2020

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Adventure Rating: 4 Stars

Buy Links:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble |IndieBound | Books-A-Million | AppleBooks | Google Play

“Kitsune shapeshifter Yumeko has given up the final piece of the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers in order to save everyone she loves from imminent death. Now she and her ragtag band of companions must journey to the wild sea cliffs of Iwagoto in a desperate last-chance effort to stop the Master of Demons from calling upon the Great Kami dragon and making the wish that will plunge the empire into destruction and darkness.

Shadow clan assassin Kage Tatsumi has regained control of his body and agreed to a true deal with the devil — the demon inside him, Hakaimono. They will share his body and work with Yumeko and their companions to stop a madman and separate Hakaimono from Tatsumi and the cursed sword that had trapped the demon for nearly a millennium.

But even with their combined skills and powers, this most unlikely team of heroes knows the forces of evil may be impossible to overcome. And there is another player in the battle for the scroll, a player who has been watching, waiting for the right moment to pull strings that no one even realized existed… until now.

Master storyteller Julie Kagawa concludes the enthralling journey into the heart of the fantastical Empire of Iwagoto in the third book of the Shadow of the Fox trilogy. As darkness rises and chaos reigns, a fierce kitsune and her shadowy protector will face down the greatest evil of all. A captivating fantasy for fans of Sabaa Tahir, Sarah J. Maas and Marie Lu.

*Thank you so much to Netgalley and Inkyardpress for the e-arc and for having me on the tour!*

Did you notice the dead flowers in my photo? Yes? Because that’s how my heart is after reading the end of this book. Dead. It hurt and then it died. What. An. Ending. Kagawa. Wow. This was my reaction to the ending of this series:

Anyways, moving on from the shocking ending, I loved this book! It held the same magic that book one did so I am one happy reader. This was my first Kagawa series, so I will DEFINITELY be reading everything by her. This series reads like an anime.

Yumeko becomes soooooo freaking cool, y’all. She really grows into her own leader. She faces some TOUGH decisions. She also finally finds out answers to many mysteries of her life. And they are some big answers! I do not envy her. She goes through some stuff, man.

I LOVED Tatsumi/ Hakaimono. Their mashup still makes me chuckle sometimes. They do well together. Their evolution is probably my favorite to read about. It was super interesting to see how they share a body and feelings and memories.

The other side characters were great to read about too. How they all functioned as a unit was fun to see. They all worked well together.

The premise of the book was EPIC. It went from like, a cute, fun story in the first book to this huge climax in the last book. It was crazy! And of course, I loved the adventure going on.

I thought this was a perfect end to an amazing series! I literally tell everyone to go read this. Especially if you love anime. It just gives me those vibes!

Excerpted from Night of the Dragon by Julie Kagawa. © 2020 by Julie Kagawa, used with permission by Inkyard Press.

One thousand years ago

In the long years of his existence, the number of times he had been summoned from Jigoku could be counted on one claw.

Other demon lords had been summoned before. Yaburama. Akumu. The oni lords were too powerful not to have some en-terprising blood mage attempt a contract with them, though such rituals often ended badly for the arrogant human who thought they could enslave an oni lord. The four of them were, admit-tedly, a proud bunch, and did not take kindly to an insignificant mortal attempting to bend them to their will. They humored the blood mage long enough to hear what the human was offering, and if it did not interest them, or if the mage foolishly tried to assert dominance, they would rip him apart and do what they pleased in the mortal realm until they were sent back to Jigoku.
It had always amused Hakaimono when a mortal tried to summon him. Especially that moment when they gazed upon him for the first time and fully realized what they had done.

Narrowing his eyes, he gazed around, peering through smoke and ignoring the brief feeling of vertigo that always accompanied being dragged from Jigoku into the mortal realm. A growl of murderous annoyance rumbled in his throat. Already, he was not in the best of moods. Akumu had been scheming again, trying to weaken Hakaimono’s forces behind his back, and he had been on his way to deal with the devious Third General when black fire had erupted over his skin, words of blood magic echoing in his head as he abruptly found himself in the mortal realm. Now he stood in the center of a ruin, broken walls and shattered pillars surrounding him, the scent of death thick on the air, and contemplated squeezing the head of the mage responsible until it popped like an egg in his claws.

The stones under his feet were sticky and had a sweet, coppery smell he recognized instantly. Lines of blood had been painted over the ground in a familiar circle, with words and sigils of power woven in a complex pattern. A summoning circle, and a powerful one at that. Whomever the blood mage was, they had done their research. Though it wouldn’t save them in the end.

“Hakaimono.”

The First Oni looked down. A woman stood at the edge of the blood circle, black robes and long hair seeming to blend into the shadows. She clutched a knife in slender fingers, her pale arm covered in red to the elbow.

A chuckle escaped him. “Well, don’t I feel important,” he said, crouching down to better see the woman. She gazed coolly back. “Summoned by the immortal shadow herself. I am curious, however.” He raised a talon, watching the human over curved black claws the length of her arm. “If you rip off an immortal’s head, do you think it will die?”

“You will not kill me, First Oni.” The woman’s voice was neither amused nor afraid, though the certainty in it made him smirk. “I am not so foolish as to attempt a binding, nor will I ask much of you. I have but a single request, and after that, you are free to do what you like.”

“Oh?” Hakaimono chuckled, but admittedly, he was curi-ous. Only the very desperate, foolish or powerful called on one of the four oni generals, and only for the most ambitious of re-quests. Like destroying a castle, or wiping out an entire gen-eration. The risk was too great for anything less. “Let’s hear it then, human,” he prompted. “What is this one task you would have me undertake?”

“I need you to bring me the Dragon scroll.”

Hakaimono sighed. Of course. He had forgotten it was that time again in the mortal world. When the great scaly one him-self would rise to grant a wish to an insignificant, short-lived human. “You disappoint me, mortal,” he growled. “I am not a hound that fetches upon command. You could have gotten the amanjaku to retrieve the scroll for you, or one of your own human warrior pets. I have been called on to slaughter armies and tear strongholds to dust. Fetching the Dragon’s Prayer is not worth my time.”

“This is different.” The woman’s voice was as unruffled as ever. If she knew she was in danger of being ripped apart and devoured by an annoyed First Oni, she did not show it. “I have already sent my strongest champion to retrieve the scroll, but I fear he has betrayed me. He wants the power of the Dragon scroll for himself, and I cannot let the Wish slip away now. You must find him and take back the scroll.”

“One human?” Hakaimono curled a lip. “Not much of a challenge.”

“You do not know Kage Hirotaka,” the woman said quietly. “He is the greatest warrior the Empire of Iwagoto has seen in a thousand years. He is kami-touched, but also trained in the way of the samurai. His talents with both blade and magic are so great, the emperor himself praised his achievements. He has killed men, yokai and demons in waves, and will be perhaps the single greatest opponent you have ever faced, Hakaimono.” “I very seriously doubt that.” The First Oni felt a smirk cross his face as he breathed in the blood-scented air. “But now, I’m intrigued. Let’s see if this champion of shadow is as good as you say. Where can I find this demonslaying human?” “Hirotaka’s estate lies outside a village called Koyama, ten miles from the eastern border of Kage territory,” the woman re-plied. “It’s not hard to find, but it is rather isolated. Aside from Hirotaka’s men and servants, you won’t be opposed. Find Hi-rotaka, kill him and bring the scroll to me. Oh, and one more thing.” She raised the knife, observing the bloody, glittering edge. “I cannot have anyone suspecting me of blood magic. Not now, when the night of the Wish is so close.” Her black eyes rose to his, narrowing sharply. “There can be no witnesses, Hakaimono. No survivors. Kill everyone there.”

“I can do that.” A slow grin spread across the oni’s face, and his eyes gleamed red with bloodlust. “This will be fun.”

He would come to regret those words more than any other in his existence.”
Q&A with Julie Kagawa
Q: What were your biggest influences when creating this world in story, whether they be legends, folklore, anime, manga or other novels?
A:  Anime, Manga and video games have been my biggest influences when writing the world of Shadow of the Fox, but also the works of Akira Kurosawa like The Seven Samurai, Yojimbo and Rashomon.   

Q: Would you ever consider using this world and/or some of the characters in future stories that you write?
A:  I love Japanese legends and folklore, so I might very well return to this world someday.  Maybe not through the eyes of a kitsune, but there is always the possibility of future books set in the land of Iwagoto.  

Q: Did Night of the Dragon have a certain soundtrack you listened to while writing?
A: I listen to a lot of movie and anime soundtracks while writing, but nothing specific.  
 
Q: What was the hardest scene to write? What was the easiest?
A:  The hardest scene was the last battle with the Final Boss at the end.  Without giving away spoilers, there was a lot of kitsune magic, illusion and misdirection, and trying to show everything that was going on without making it too confusing was a challenge.  I don’t remember an easy scene to write, but I did enjoy writing one of the final chapters (where I hope everyone cries).  
Q: Did you hide any secrets in your book? (names of friends, little jokes, references to things only some people will get)
A: There are a few references that only those very familiar with Japanese folklore would get.  For example, the names of the Reika’s two dogs, Chu and Ko, come from a Japanese novel called The Eight Dog Chronicles, which has been adapted into manga, anime, and even video games.  In Soul of the Sword, Yumeko and her friends are on their way to the home of the tengu, when they encounter a pair of magical stone guardians called Yoshitsune and Benkei, two real life historical figures that inspired countless legends and stories.  In folklore, Minamoto no Yoshitsune was a near mythical swordsman who had been trained by the king of the tengu, and Benki was a warrior monk who was his stalwart companion. 
 
Q: What do you hope people remember about Night of the Dragon?
A: I hope people come away with a new appreciation of Japanese myth and folklore, particularly all the wonderfully bizarre yokai, yurei and bakemono that populate these stories.  From kitsune and tanuki to oni and kirin, I hope it inspires readers to learn more about the world of Japanese myth and legend. And I hope people remember how much they cried at the end of the story. 
 
Q: What is your dream cast for Night of the Dragon?
A:  I am so bad at this question.  I really can’t answer it because one: I am terrible at keeping up with current actors/actresses.  And two: I see everyone in Shadow of the Fox as anime characters.



Q: Is there a character that you found challenging to write? Why?

A:  Taiyo Daisuke was probably the most challenging, because it was a balancing act of making him a noble and making him likable.  Nobles in fantasy stories tend to be arrogant, snooty, mocking, and manipulatieve. More often than not they are the villains, or at least an unpleasant obstacle the heroes must get around.  Daisuke was very clearly an aristocrat, so I made very certain to give him qualities atypical of a noble. Kindness, humility, and viewing everyone, even the ronin, as an equal was certainly not the mindset of a typical samurai, but it was necessary to make Daisuke a well loved member of the team and not a person the reader, and the other characters, hated.   


Q: How does a typical writing day look like for you?

A: I work from home, so times vary, but I try to head into my office and start writing around 9am everyday.  I have a quota of 1,000 words a day, except when I’m close to deadline, then the word count jumps by a few hundred words.  Sometimes I reach my quota in a few hours, sometimes it takes me all day, but I try not to stop writing until my word quota is reached.



Q: What is your current read?

A: At the moment, the words on my computer screen, lol.  Its deadline crunch time, so my current WIP is the only thing I have time for now. Hopefully I can get back to pleasure reading when I’m finished.


Q: What part of the Shadow of the Fox series was the most fun to write?


A: I really enjoyed writing the parts with Yumeko’s kitsune illusion magic.  One of my favorite scenes was when Yumeko and the others attended a formal tea ceremony with a snooty noble of the Shadow Clan.  I won’t give away spoilers, but what Yumeko does at the tea ceremony still makes me smile, and remains one of my favorite parts of the series.


Q: Was there a scene or backstory about a favorite character that didn’t make it into the final version of NIGHT OF THE DRAGON that you can share with us?

A: There was an earlier draft where Taka, Lord Seigetsu’s servant, was a human boy instead of a small, one-eyed yokai who could see the future.  But it seemed more interesting to have him be a yokai instead. Also in an earlier draft, Yumeko was not a half kitsune but a full fox who lived in a den with her grandmother fox and two brothers.  That also, got cut, as a half-human Yumeko was more sympathetic and relatable than one who was full kitsune.



Q: The Iron Fey series was your first large published success. How did you feel as a writer when you reflect upon those books? How did/do you feel as a reader when you read or re-read those books?

A: The Iron Fey series holds a very special place in my heart as my first published series. I know I’ve grown since then, and when I re-read the Iron Fey I know I’ve come a long way as an author. But I also know that I wrote the best books I could at the time, so even though I wouldn’t write them the same way now, I’m happy with them.


Q: What is it about fantasy that draws you to it?

A: Is everything a good answer? I love myths and legends, other worlds, magic, swords, wizards, dragons, evil gods, epic quests, and the battle between good and evil.  I read to escape, but also to travel to far away places and encounter creatures and beings I would never meet in real life. Who hasn’t daydreamed about flying on the back of a dragon?  I read fantasy for the same reason.  


Q: How much research goes into your books and at what point do you stop using research and build off it?

A: It depends on how much I already know about certain aspects of the book.  For example, from the amount of anime and manga I’d consumed over the years, I knew a lot about kitsune, oni, tanuki, and various other Japanese monsters.  I still did a fair amount of research, though it was more about the samurai and the Sengoku Jidai, the era I was basing the book off of. I never really stop researching, though most of it goes into book one, which is where much of the world building takes place.




Q: Would you ever write adult fantasy? If so, what would it look like?

A: I certainly have considered it, though it would look a lot like my YA books, just with older protagonists.   When I write, I don’t think “This is for teens,” I just write how I would always write. Really, the only thing that differentiates YA from adult is the age of the heroes and the lack of graphic sex in YA.  And even that is changing.


Q: Finally, out of all the books you have written, which has your favorite world and why?

A:  Probably the Iron Fey series, though Shadow of the Fox is a close second.  I love fantasy and all the fantastic creatures that populate it, so the Nevernever is my favorite world for that alone.  Even though I wouldn’t last a day there without getting eaten by an ogre, a redcap or a kelpie. Maybe if I could find a big gray cat…    

Julie Kagawa, the New York Times bestselling author of the Iron Fey, Blood of Eden, Talon, and Shadow of the Fox series was born in Sacramento, California. But nothing exciting really happened to her there. So, at the age of nine she and her family moved to Hawaii, which she soon discovered was inhabited by large carnivorous insects, colonies of house geckos, and frequent hurricanes. She spent much of her time in the ocean, when she wasn’t getting chased out of it by reef sharks, jellyfish, and the odd eel.

When not swimming for her life, Julie immersed herself in books, often to the chagrin of her schoolteachers, who would find she hid novels behind her Math textbooks during class. Her love of reading led her to pen some very dark and gruesome stories, complete with colored illustrations, to shock her hapless teachers. The gory tales faded with time, but the passion for writing remained, long after she graduated and was supposed to get a real job.

To pay the rent, Julie worked in different bookstores over the years, but discovered the managers frowned upon her reading the books she was supposed to be shelving. So she turned to her other passion: training animals. She worked as a professional dogtrainer for several years, dodging Chihuahua bites and overly enthusiastic Labradors, until her first book sold and she stopped training to write full time.

Julie now lives in North Carolina with her husband, two obnoxious cats, and a pair of Australian Shepherds that have more Instagram followers than she does.

Social Links:

Author website | Facebook | Twitter: @jkagawa | Instagram: @juliekagawaauthor | Goodreads

The Traitor Queen (The Bridge Kingdom, #2) by Danielle L. Jensen – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Audible Originals

Publication Date: February 27, 2020

Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Adventure Rating: 4 Stars

Goodreads | Amazon

“Lara has only one thought when her husband is taken prisoner: I will do whatever it takes to set you free.

A queen now in exile as a traitor, Lara has watched Ithicana be conquered by her own father, helpless to do anything to stop the destruction. But when she learns her husband, Aren, has been captured in battle, Lara knows there is only one reason her father is keeping him alive: as bait for his traitorous daughter.

And it is bait she fully intends to take.

Risking her life to the Tempest Seas, Lara returns to Ithicana with a plan not only to free its king, but for liberating the Bridge Kingdom from her father’s clutches using his own weapons: the sisters whose lives she spared.

But as Lara and her companions formulate a plan to free Aren from her father’s palace, they soon discover that while it is easy to get in, it will be quite another thing to get Aren, and themselves, back out. Not only is the palace inescapable, there are more players in the game than Lara ever realized, enemies and allies switching sides in the fight for crowns, kingdoms, and bridges. But her greatest adversary of all might be the very man she’s trying to free – the husband she betrayed.

With everything she loves in jeopardy, Lara must decide who – and what – she is fighting for: her kingdom, her husband, or for herself.”

*This will be a short review since this is the second book in the series! Also, this is an audible original, I just photoshopped the cover onto a book for the sake of the photo.

I really enjoyed this book. It was full of intense scenes one after another. And of course, I LOVE the world that Jensen has created. It’s beautiful and definitely one of the worlds I want to visit.

Let’s do a quick likes list: Keris and Zara ( I can’t wait for book #3 which is their book!!), Lara and her sisters relationship, the world, Ahanna (my favorite character), Jensen’s writing

Dislikes: It took a bit longer than I wanted for Lara and Aren to reconnect, the sex scene… it was just a questionable place to put it in the book…, character development was not as strong, and the ending felt really rushed.

So, I DO love this series and I did overall really like the book, just not as much as the first one. I can’t wait until book 3 about Keris and Zara! I will forever buy/ love Jensen’s books!

The Moonglow Sisters by Lori Wilde – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: William Morrow

Publication Date: March 03, 2020

Genre: Romance, Fiction

Adventure Rating: 4 Stars

Goodreads

Purchase Links:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

It’s Jill Shalvis meets Susan Mallery in this gorgeous novel by New York Times bestselling author Lori Wilde about three sisters, one small town, a wedding, and the summer that changes everything.


Welcome to Moonglow Cove, Texas, a place where your neighbors know your name and the gentle waves of the Gulf of Mexico lap lazily against the sands. It’s a magical spot, especially in the summertime…

Once the town was the home of the Clark sisters—brought up by their grandmother at the Moonglow Inn. Nicknamed “The Moonglow Sisters”, as children they were inseparable.  Then, a wedding-day betrayal tore them apart and they scattered across the globe and away from each other.  But the sisters have at last come home…

There’s Maddie: smart, sensible, and stubborn. Shelley, who ran off to find her bliss. And Gia, a free-spirit determined to keep the peace. It’s her impending wedding that keeps them together…but Gia has a secret, and when her sisters find out all heck is going to break loose!

The Moonglow Sisters continues Lori Wilde’s trademark storytelling to create an unforgettable novel of family, betrayal, love, and second chances.”

*Thank you to TLC Book Tours and William Morrow books for the free book in exchange for an honest review!*

I know, not my normal genre I review, BUT I am trying to branch out into the wild unknown! And guess what, I loved it. So happy I decided to give this one a try!

This one is pretty character driven so let’s talk about them first! I love Gia. I am actually an oldest of three myself and even though Gia is the youngest, I actually related to her the most. She is an extreme people pleaser like I am! She just wants her family together again. Plus she has an amazing skill of professional kite making?! So cool! She is the sweetest and I love her fake dating/ friends to lovers/ romance going on in this book!

Shelley. Oh, Shelley. She and Madison probably have the most character growth. Shelley is the wild child of the three sisters. She is crazy and impulsive. She has made some bad decisions that have led her to where she is. But her willingness to put aside her pride is also what gets her to where she belongs.

Madison is a control freak. She has to have everything her way or the highway. She tried to shelter and take over the “mother” roll for her sisters when she didn’t have to. She is an extreme perfectionist with a huge pride issue. Which, I can also relate to. I do mostly feel bad for her BUT she could have opened her eyes to some things going on that she had been doing!

Each character has a secret. Including their grandmother! I loved the romance, and the plot line where they have to come together and save their beloved Inn. The ONLY thing that caught me by surprise (although looking back I should have seen it.) is the secondary romance in the book. Just saying, I thought a strong friendship was really sweet and nice to see without there being a romance involved… Guess I was wrong. I didn’t really like the secondary romance. But that’s just me.

I ended up really enjoying this overall! It was sweet and I loved that it was set in Texas! Because that’s where I live! I would definitely want to read more of Wilde’s books! And I would love a sequel to this one!

Lori Wilde is the New York TimesUSA Today and Publishers’ Weekly bestselling author of 87 works of romantic fiction. She’s a three-time Romance Writers’ of America RITA finalist and has four times been nominated for Romantic Times Readers’ Choice Award. She has won numerous other awards as well. Her books have been translated into 26 languages, with more than four million copies of her books sold worldwide. Her breakout novel, The First Love Cookie Club, has been optioned for a TV movie.

Lori is a registered nurse with a BSN from Texas Christian University. She holds a certificate in forensics and is also a certified yoga instructor.

A fifth-generation Texan, Lori lives with her husband, Bill, in the Cutting Horse Capital of the World; where they run Epiphany Orchards, a writing/creativity retreat for the care and enrichment of the artistic soul.

Find out more about Lori on her website, connect with her on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Is there a book set in your state that you love?

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication Date: March 06, 2018

Genre: YA, Paranormal

Adventure Rating: 4 Stars

Goodreads | Amazon

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. “

This one surprised me! I normally don’t like darker books but this was beautifully dark. And that’s not something I normally say. I loved the atmospheric writing and plot. I could really picture the town, the lighthouse, the drownings, everything. I liked the glimpses of the drowned sisters history we get every so often.

Penny was a likable MC to read about. She seemed careful, sad, sweet, and willing to protect those she loves. Bo also seemed sweet. But both had some major truth bombs! Their romance was quick but they are teenagers stuck on an island together. It’s bound to happen fast. It didn’t actually bother me either. It just made sense and fit with the plot.

So. The. Plot. Talk about twists! Although, I saw a major one coming, it was a tad predictable, but I still loved the way it played out. And I was sad. But it was a bittersweet sad. In fact, the whole book was bittersweet. The sisters stories where they just wanted a normal life, Penny and Bo, the town, Penny’s mom, it was all sad with some rays poking through.

This really would be the perfect book to read at Halloween. Especially if you are like me and a scaredy cat. I don’t do Horror. This was creepy because of the vicious drownings but it wasn’t horror. It was a unique combination of Sirens and witches mashed together. I am definitely a fan of Ernshaw’s writing now. I want to read Winterwood!

Let’s talk! What are your favorite witchy reads?