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

A Love Hate Thing by Whitney D. Grandison – Blog Tour – Spoiler Free Review – Excerpt

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Publication Date: January 07, 2020

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

Adventure Rating: 4 Stars

Buy Links: Harlequin |Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indie Bound|Kobo|Books-a-Million|Google Play

When they’re stuck under one roof, the house may not be big enough for their hate…or their love.

When Tyson Trice finds himself tossed into the wealthy coastal community of Pacific Hills, he’s ready for the questions, the stares and the feeling of not belonging. Not that he cares. After recovering from being shot and surviving the rough streets of Lindenwood, he doesn’t care about anyone or anything, much less how the rest of his life will play out.

Golden girl Nandy Smith has spent most of her life building the pristine image that it takes to fit in when it comes to her hometown Pacific Hills where image is everything. After learning that her parents are taking in a troubled teen boy, Nandy fears her summer plans, as well as her reputation, will go up in flames.

Now with Trice living under the same roof, the wall between their bedrooms feels as thin as the line between love and hate. Beneath the angst, their growing attraction won’t be denied. Through time, Trice brings Nandy out of her shell, and Nandy attempts to melt the ice that’s taken Trice’s heart and being. Only, with the ever-present pull back to the Lindenwood streets, it’ll be a wonder if Trice makes it through this summer at all.”

Thank you so much to NetGalley for the e-arc and to Inkyard Press for having me on the tour!

This book surprised me with how much I loved it. I honestly thought it was going to be a cute, fun read, which it was BUT there was a lot more depth than I was expecting. And some really good quotes! I have a lot to say about this book so hang on to your horses.

Grandison covered a lot of issues. Race, feminism, community, stereotypes to name a few. I actually thought she did a really good job of it. The way she didn’t go super into each topic but enough to get young readers interested in the seriousness of what is going on.

Tyson, that sweet boy, is amazing. He comes from a neighborhood and home life that wasn’t good. He made the choice to not become a product of his environment. It’s a HARD choice. My husband comes from a similar home life as Tyson (minus the good mom and minus the shooting), so I know it is hard to leave everything you know and were raised to be, to be a better person. The courage Trice had to walk a better path is something to be commended.

Another issue Grandison brought up was how boys are not taught emotions growing up, resulting in them acting out in inappropriate ways. And them thinking they don’t need help/ therapy. This is a HUGE problem with our society.

Nandy was a bit stand offish in the beginning but I liked her character development. She judged Trice (Tyson) to be someone bad, just because where he came from. And she quickly found out she was wrong about him. She then turned quite likable and a great character to read about. I loved how she saw the good in everyone.

And lastly, the lerrrrve. Okay, it was cute. They met and were friends as kids then reconnected as teens. It sort of reminded me of Sweet Home Alabama in that sense. Absolutely adorable. And they went from friends, to enemies, to lovers. It’s my favorite trope.

I honestly could write a lot more about this book but I don’t want to give away spoilers and what the characters have to go through! And I don’t want this to take a million years to read.

1 | TRICE

Getting shot isn’t the worst part. It’s the aftermath that really fucks you up.

Six months ago, on a dark December night, I was lying in a pool of my own blood on the living room floor. Six months later, I was sitting in a car on the way to a new town to start fresh. In some ways, yeah, the wound had healed. In others, it never would. I didn’t care, though. The last thing I’d cared about got me where I was.

“You’ll like it there, Tyson. The Smiths have prepared a new home for you,” Misty from social services was saying as she drove the long stretch of highway toward Pacific Hills. It was only an hour away from where I used to live in Lindenwood, California.

I didn’t respond. Home was a meaningless word to me now.

Misty peeked at me. “Aren’t you going to say anything?”

“I can leave as soon as I turn eighteen, right?” That was all that mattered. Fuck the rest. Five months, aka one hundred and sixty days, to go. On November twelfth, I’d be free.

Misty sighed. “Look, I know what you’re going through—”

“Word? You’ve been shot too and all’at?” I glanced her way. This lady was going home to a million-thread-count sheet-and-pillowcase set, resting easy once I was off her hands.

Fuck outta here.

“Well, no, but—”

“Then shut up.” I faced the road ahead, done talking. 

Misty let out a breath, her light tan skin no doubt holding a blush upon her cheeks. “Do you kiss your—” She caught herself, as if realizing where she was about to go. “I—I’m sorry. You just shouldn’t speak that way.”

I felt an ache in my chest, but I let it go.

I didn’t care.

Half a beat later Misty was rambling on about food. “Do you wanna stop and get something to eat, you must be starving.”

“I told you I wasn’t hungry.”

“Oh, well, are you nervous?”

I hadn’t thought about being nervous or the fact that I would never return home again and lead a normal life. Not like I’d ever led one to begin with.

“No.”

“Well, good. Think of it as going to a sleepover at an old friend’s house.”

One thing was true, the Smiths were old friends, but this setup was for the next five months.

“It’s been ten years since I last saw them,” I spoke up. “This ain’t no damn sleepover, and it’s not about to be all kumbaya, neither.”

At least they were black. Moving into the uppity setting of Pacific Hills was sure to be hell, but at least I would be with a black family. Even if I wouldn’t exactly fit in.

I didn’t look the same. I didn’t act the same. I wasn’t the same. And I didn’t care.

“Tyson—”

“It’s Trice.” I had asked her to call me that from jump street. No one called me Tyson.

I didn’t want to think about that. I didn’t want to think about anything. I didn’t care.

“Trice, please, try? I know it’s been rough these past few months, but you have a chance at something fresh. The Smiths are good people, and Pacific Hills is a lovely town. I’m sure soon you’ll be close to your old self.”

Misty had no clue what she was talking about. My old self? She obviously hadn’t paid attention to my file, or she would’ve been smart enough to leave it at fresh and not bring up my past.

Tyson Trice was dead.

He died on the f loor in the living room that day, and he was never coming back.

When I didn’t respond, Misty let up, probably getting that I didn’t give a shit either way.

I didn’t care.

2 | Nandy

I told myself I didn’t care about the juvenile delinquent my parents were moving into our home. I told myself it was no big deal an ex-con would be sleeping right next door to me. I told myself that my parents hadn’t made the worst decision in everdom.

It was just an everyday occurrence in the Smith household.

Still, it wasn’t fair.

As I paced around the pool in my backyard and complained to my best friend, Erica Yee, over the phone, I expected her to be on my side and console me.

“This was supposed to be a great summer and they pull this?” I whined.

“You can still have a good summer,” Erica responded. “This doesn’t have to be the end.”

But it was the end. My parents hadn’t gone into detail about the boy’s situation, just that he was in a “rough spot” and would be living with us for now. And that he was from Lindenwood, otherwise known as the ghetto.

I’d never gone there, but I’d heard enough stories to know to be cautious. When my parents watched the news, there was always a segment on some tragedy that had happened in Lindenwood. Some high-speed chase, or little kids killed during a drive-by, or a robbery gone wrong among the usual clutter of crime that kept the LPD busy. Lindenwood was notorious for its drugs, thefts, assaults, and murders.

I shivered.

It probably hadn’t been the best idea to stay up lurking on the local news feeds right before the delinquent moved in.

Everything would be ruined.

“It is the end,” I insisted. “I mean, they spent all this time whispering and having these hushed conversations behind closed doors, and they barely revealed last night that he’s from Lindenwood!”

Maybe I was acting childishly, but I felt like a kid with the way my parents had shut me out on the biggest detail of all when it came to the boy coming to stay with us out of nowhere. For two weeks, they’d been scarce on the topic and evaded any and all questions. Now it felt like they’d dropped a bomb on me.

For all I knew, this kid was a total ex-gangbanger and my parents were intent on opening our home to wayward souls.

Dramatic? Sure.

Precautions? I was definitely taking them.

“Right now, you’re probably pacing around your pool in a Gucci bikini while your happily-in-love parents are inside preparing dinner together. God, Nan, your life is incredibly boring. You could use this delinquent to spice things up.”

Well, it was a Sunday evening, and the sun was beginning to set. My parents always made dinner together on Sundays, because they were both off work and able to do so.

I stopped pacing and glanced down at my white Gucci bikini. “Yee, you try new hobbies to spice things up, not invite ex-cons to move in with you. Look, whatever, let’s just get away for a few hours. The longer I put a halt on this, the better.”

“When is he supposed to show up?”

“Sometime today. I just wanna blow it off. Maybe you, me, and Chad could grab a bite at the club or something.”

My boyfriend’s family had a reserved table at the local country club. Anything would be better than dinner with the delinquent. I wasn’t 100 percent sure he was a criminal, but I wasn’t taking any chances. When it came to Lindenwood, you couldn’t be too sure.

“You in?” I asked.

“If we must.” Erica pretended to sound exasperated. “Call me with the details in twenty, okay?”

“Deal.” I hung up and sighed, tilting my head back toward the darkening sky and questioning what I had done to deserve this.

It was the first week of June, and school had ended last week. I intended to spend this summer before senior year going to beach bonfires and parties with my friends, lounging around, preparing for cotillion, and just staying as far away from home as possible.

With a plan in motion, I went around my pool and stepped into our family room through the patio doors.

“Shit!” I jumped back, dropping my phone and barely registering the sound of its rough slap against the hardwood floor.

My parents were standing in the room with an Asian woman who was dressed in a violet-red pantsuit. But it was the boy beside her that startled me. He towered over my father, with broad shoulders and a wide chest, and arms that let me know he worked out, even though he seemed drenched in black with his long-sleeved shirt and matching pants. He had deep, dark brown skin with a clean complexion. But what really stood out was his hair. The boy had cornrows braided to the back of his head—well-aged cornrows.

Ugh, he looked so unpolished.

Suddenly I remembered my fallen phone and looked down to discover the screen was cracked. Because things aren’t messed up enough already.

“And you remember our daughter, Nandy.” My mother played it cool, gesturing toward where I’d frozen near the patio doors.

Everyone faced me, looking just as uncomfortable as I felt.

Great, I was making my first impression completely inappropriate in a bikini.

Awkwardly, I waved and forced a smile onto my face, showing off the result of two years of braces.

“Nandy, this may be a little bit of a surprise, but you remember Tyson Trice, don’t you?” my father asked, looking between the two of us. 

At first, the name vaguely rang a bell, but then it hit me. Tyson, the boy I’d played with when I was younger. He used to come by in the summers when his grandfather would do lawn work around our subdivision. There’d been a few times during the school year when he’d come by too, but it was mostly a summer thing. Until he stopped coming altogether.

The revelation brought a sense of relief followed quickly by a foreign anger that I couldn’t explain.

That was then; this is now.

Now Tyson Trice had hit a mega growth spurt and stood before me nearly a man, appearing not at all like the seventeen years young that we both were.

“Right.” I nodded my head. “Tyson, hey.”

Tyson didn’t shift focus to my body. He stared straight into my eyes and bore no friendly expression or a tell of what he was thinking. He was far across the room, but I didn’t need to be right up on him to know that he had the angriest eyes I’d ever seen. Dark, soulless abysses stared at me, making me shiver.

Right on, Dad. Thanks for inviting a possible murderer into our home.

“And this is our son, Jordy.” My mother didn’t miss a beat as she went on, downplaying how awkward everything was.

Jordy, my eleven-year-old little brother, was sitting against the ottoman, playing a video game on his handheld.

Tyson glanced at Jordy, and I felt protective, seeing curiosity briefly cross his face as he laid eyes on my Thai brother.

Jordy looked up from his game. “Hey.”

Tyson lifted a brow and turned to face my parents in that familiar way most outsiders looked at my family once they realized a black family was raising a Thai son.

Jordy smirked, shaking his head. “They wish they could’ve spawned a kid as good-looking as me.”

My father chuckled. “We spoke about adopting for years after having Nandy, and right around the time she was eight, we got approved and Jordy came into our lives.”

“He was just two years old,” my mother gushed. “He was so adorable, we fell in love with him instantly.”

I came more into the room, wanting to shield my brother from Tyson. Someone had to think of the kids.

“Nandy, why don’t you go put some clothes on.” It wasn’t a question. My mother was ordering me to cover up and look more presentable for our guests.

“I was actually on my way out to meet up with Erica, we’ve got this—”

“Right now?” she asked. “We’ve got company.”

I glanced at Tyson, hating him again for spoiling my summer. I’d seen him, and I’d spoken to him. What more did she want?

“Yeah, but Erica and I had plans to go to the country club and talk about cotillion.”

My mother pursed her lips. “Nandy—”

“You know what,” my father stepped in, “that’s a great idea. Nandy could take Tyson and the two could get reacquainted, and that’ll give us time to talk to Ms. Tran here.”

My eyes practically shot out of their sockets. There was no way in hell I’d share a car with Tyson.

After thinking it over, my mother seemed to agree. “That is a great idea. We can all sit down together later.”

My jaw hit the ground.

I shook my head. “You know, never mind, suddenly I’m not as hungry as I thought. In fact, I feel sick to my stomach. I think I’ll go lie down.”

By the way my mother narrowed her eyes, I knew she’d be giving me hell later about my behavior. I didn’t care. It wasn’t fair to me to force some scary-looking guy into my hands to be babysat.

With one final look at the newest arrival to the Smith household, I picked up my phone from the floor and made my way up to my room.

Long after Ms. Tran had left and my mother had scolded me in our family office, I sat in my room, maneuvering with a broken phone as I texted my boyfriend. Going on a hunger strike didn’t last long for me. After having refused to go down for dinner, I was starving.

My cell phone chirped as Chad texted me back.

Chad: Outside

Me: Thank God

My parents were probably still up, no doubt discussing either my punishment or how we were going to work Tyson into the family.

With their bedroom being in a different wing of our house, sneaking out was always an easy feat. Still, I made sure to keep extra quiet as I crept out of my room and slipped down the staircase.

Chad was waiting for me out front. He’d been pacing back and forth in front of our walk as he waited, and as I stepped outside I was elated to see him.

“I’m thinking sushi, you in?” I asked as I walked past him, heading for his car.

“Yeah, sure. What’s going on?” Chad asked as he caught up to me and fell into step.

I peered up into his blue eyes. “You don’t want to know.”

Chad ran a hand through his auburn hair, appearing confused but conceding. “O-kay, let’s go get some sushi.”

At the feeling of being watched, I glanced back at my house. On the second floor, through one of the large bay windows, I caught sight of a silhouetted figure.

It was him.

Creep.

I turned back to Chad and reached out and caught his hand. “Yeah, let’s get out of here.”

This was my summer, and no one was getting in the way of that.

Excerpted from A Love Hate Thing by Whitney D. Grandison. Copyright © 2020 by Whitney Grandison. Published by Inkyard Press. 

Whitney D. Grandison was born and raised in Akron, Ohio, where she currently resides. A lover of stories since she first picked up a book, it’s no surprise she’s taken to writing her own. Some of her works can be found on Wattpad, one of the largest online story sharing platforms, where she has acquired over 30,000 followers and an audience of over fifteen million dedicated readers.

Soul of the Sword (Shadow of the Fox, #2) by Julie Kagawa – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Publication Date: June 25, 2019

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Adventure Rating: 3.5 Stars

Amazon

One thousand years ago, a wish was made to the Harbinger of Change and a sword of rage and lightning was forged. Kamigoroshi. The Godslayer. It had one task: to seal away the powerful demon Hakaimono.

Now he has broken free.


Kitsune shapeshifter Yumeko has one task: to take her piece of the ancient and powerful scroll to the Steel Feather temple in order to prevent the summoning of the Harbinger of Change, the great Kami Dragon who will grant one wish to whomever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. But she has a new enemy now. The demon Hakaimono, who for centuries was trapped in a cursed sword, has escaped and possessed the boy she thought would protect her, Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan.

Hakaimono has done the unthinkable and joined forces with the Master of Demons in order to break the curse of the sword and set himself free. To overthrow the empire and cover the land in darkness, they need one thing: the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. As the paths of Yumeko and the possessed Tatsumi cross once again, the entire empire will be thrown into chaos. “

This is going to be a bit short because I don’t want to say any spoilers.

I was actually a bit disappointed in this one. It fell a little flat. It definitely hit the second book slump for me. I LOVED the first book, Shadow of the Fox. Pretty sure I gave that one 5 stars. This one really didn’t pick up until maybe the last 100 pages or so.

Characters. I really liked that you got four POV. That one of the POV was Hakaimono himself! He was very interesting to read about. I enjoyed the changes in him as well as his snark. He was my favorite to read about! Tatsumi was tortured before being trapped and now it’s on a whole other level. Yumeko is always fun to read about. She’s quite funny in a goofy way and I love it. She also has a lot of character growth, which I enjoyed. There is also a mysterious fourth POV in the form of a ghost who watches a VERY ineresting side character.

Plot. This is the area I’m having problems. The first book was all adventure and mysterious. This one had adventure but it wasn’t quite fun. I actually got mad at Yumeko in the end for a second. I had to really think about why she made the decisions she did. I’m trying not to give too much away here. It just wasn’t as fun as the first book.

Final Thoughts. I still love this series. The writing is super well done. The world building is incredible. And I can’t wait for the last book in the series! I’m hoping that one will blow me away!

Have you read any of Kagawa’s books? Which is your favorite?

* Book Sleeve is from my favorite sleeve shop, Love You More Studio! Use my code, Storied10 to save! I can’t stop using them in my review posts. I love it.

*Normal disclaimer that content warning isn’t necessarily my personal thoughts. It’s for parents. *

CONTENT WARNING: Kissing, violence, M/M, death, torture, ghosts, demons, blood

OTHER CONTENT: Standing up for what you believe in, sacrificing for your friends/ family, healthy friendships, not giving up

*Amazon link is my affiliate link!*

Crown of Coral and Pearl (Crown of Coral and Pearl, #1) by Mara Rutherford – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Publication Date: August 27, 2019

Genre: YA Fantasy

Adventure Rating: 3.5 Stars

Amazon

For generations, the princes of Ilara have married the most beautiful maidens from the ocean village of Varenia. But though every girl longs to be chosen as the next princess, the cost of becoming royalty is higher than any of them could ever imagine…

Nor once dreamed of seeing the wondrous wealth and beauty of Ilara, the kingdom that’s ruled her village for as long as anyone can remember. But when a childhood accident left her with a permanent scar, it became clear that her identical twin sister, Zadie, would likely be chosen to marry the Crown Prince—while Nor remained behind, unable to ever set foot on land.

Then Zadie is gravely injured, and Nor is sent to Ilara in her place. To Nor’s dismay, her future husband, Prince Ceren, is as forbidding and cold as his home—a castle carved into a mountain and devoid of sunlight. And as she grows closer to Ceren’s brother, the charming Prince Talin, Nor uncovers startling truths about a failing royal bloodline, a murdered queen… and a plot to destroy the home she was once so eager to leave.

In order to save her people, Nor must learn to negotiate the treacherous protocols of a court where lies reign and obsession rules. But discovering her own formidable strength may be the one move that costs her everything: the crown, Varenia and Zadie. “

I have things I liked and things I didn’t really like, however the things I liked outweighed the things I didn’t like (How’s that for a sentence). The things I didn’t like are more plot points than anything else, so I will talk about it there.

Characters. I actually found all of the characters really enjoyable to read about! Nor was headstrong and loves her sister fiercely. I don’t have sisters, but I know I would do anything for my brothers. Nor also has some awesome healing abilities that I so wish were real! She also stood up to what was wrong in her society and what was wrong in the larger kingdom. Talin was also likable. He has some hard core secrets of his own that shapes how he lives his life. Ceren. Oh boy. It’s very clear that something is wrong in his mind. He honestly doesn’t understand that most of the things he does is extremely creepy. Like baking bats in a pie. Gross. He is a pretty messed up prince/ bad guy.

Writing. Loved the writing. Pretty straight forward. I never got lost or anything.

World Building. Rutherford’s world seems really interesting! I would love to get more details on the other kingdoms! The geography makes sense and of course I love the whole little village world in the ocean.

Plot. Here are the things I loved: The water! I am part Polynesian and my love for water knows no bounds. Where Nor and Zadie live is my dream. In a small house, on stilts, in the ocean. And they swim or take their boat to their neighbors house or the market. I also loved the author’s take on healing properties of water. I don’t personally believe water itself can heal you, but I honestly feel better when I am in water. I also liked the plot line of how their village was being threatened by the kingdom that “owns” them. And Nor sets out to fix things.

Didn’t like: There were no plot twists. What you see is what you get. Also, the romance. While I like those two characters together, it was too insta-lovey for my tastes.

Final Thoughts. Again, the things I liked outweighed the things I didn’t like! My water loving soul loved this take on the ocean! It was a really FUN read. And it looks like there is a sequel so I will definitely be reading that!

* *Normal disclaimer that content warning isn’t necessarily my personal thoughts. It’s for parents. *

CONTENT WARNING: Kissing, sexual situations, violence, self harm (even if the character does it for “a good reason”), some disturbing situations (one character drinks blood and he siphons blood), death

OTHER CONTENT: Strong sibling bond, strong female POV, dealing with a harsh parent, beauty is not all that matters (and doesn’t have to matter)

*Amazon link is my affiliate link!*

*Book sleeve is from Love You More Studio! Code: Storied10 to save!*