Review: The Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras

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unnamed-75The Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: March 6th, 2018

Publisher: Kathy Dawson Books

Pages: 288 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: A Scottish medieval adventure about the youngest in a war-band who must free her family from a castle prison after knights attack her home.

One dark night, Drest’s sheltered life on a remote Scottish headland is shattered when invading knights capture her family, but leave Drest behind. Her father, the Mad Wolf of the North, and her beloved brothers are a fearsome war-band, but now Drest is the only one who can save them. So she starts off on a wild rescue attempt, taking a wounded invader along as a hostage. 

Hunted by a bandit with a dark link to her family’s past, aided by a witch whom she rescues from the stake, Drest travels through unwelcoming villages, desolate forests, and haunted towns. Every time she faces a challenge, her five brothers speak to her in her mind about courage and her role in the war-band. But on her journey, Drest learns that the war-band is legendary for terrorizing the land. If she frees them, they’ll not hesitate to hurt the gentle knight who’s become her friend.

Drest thought that all she wanted was her family back; now she has to wonder what their freedom would really mean. Is she her father’s daughter or is it time to become her own legend?

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

This turned out to be quite a charming and enjoyable read. The general concept of the novel is very traditional, but it is spiced up by many unique elements and plot twists that Magras employs throughout. I had such a fun time following the journey of this brave young warrior and her friends. The story mixes danger, mystery, and intrigue with warmth, love, and friendship to create a highly immersive read. With solid characters, a well-written narrative, and plenty of action and adventure, it is incredibly easy to fall in love with this tale.

In this novel, we follow a young Scottish girl named Drest, who’s life is turned upside-down when her father and brothers are captured and taken to the prison at the nearby Faintree Castle. After these knights invade her home, Drest barely escapes the hostility brought upon her family, be she is the only one to do so. Therefore, she is thrown into an unexpected adventure, and must find the courage deep within herself in order to save the ones she loves the most.

Trusting one of the wounded knights to lead her to the castle, she draws strength from the encouraging voices of her five brothers that she hears in her head. Joined early on by a young boy named Tig, the unlikely trio soon become comrades, as they fight through the many perils that lie ahead of them.

However, not everything is as it seems, and the indiscretions of the war-band—her family—are beginning to come to light. This leaves Drest questioning not only who she should put her trust in and whether her family should actually be freed, but also who she is. Despite the obstacles she fights through along the way, the most challenging part of her journey might in fact be at the very end.

I found this to be a very captivating and fast-paced story, and I fell into it very easily. It hooked me right from the start, as we are thrown directly into the action. And the characters were a very high point of the novel. Drest is an incredibly strong heroine and a fantastic model of bravery, both physically and mentally. She develops very realistically throughout the course of the narrative, starting off much more timid and unsure of her abilities and steadily blossoming into a true warrior. A multi-dimensional and dynamic character, Drest is truly the driving force in this novel.

I would have liked to have seen the relationships between the characters developed a bit more than they were, particularly the war-band. We get a fairly good idea of their personalities as the story unfolds, but I think that area could have been focused on slightly more. This was by no means a huge detriment to the story, but I feel as though that would connect the reader even more to the characters, their relationships, and how those elements are tested throughout the narrative.

As far as the writing itself goes, I thought this novel was beautifully written. Magras really has a way with words—everything flowed perfectly and carried me quickly and smoothly through the story. Her writing suits the target age range for this novel so well. She words things very intelligently and clearly. The text is not pared down so far that it comes across as too basic or simple, but it never feels as if it would be too difficult for young readers to understand. She expertly wrote in a style that challenges but would not confuse a middle grade audience.

Magras also does a fantastic job of accurately building the setting of this Scottish headland and beyond. Every detail is not only clearly depicted, everything is very realistic. The backdrop of this story is full of depth and history. In the same vein, the language used feels spot-on for both the time and location, and you can tell the effort and research she put into this aspect of the narrative. The slang used, the way all the characters address one another, it all feels authentic and immerses you deeply in the story. I had no trouble both transporting myself into the world and hearing every line of dialogue with the accompanying Scottish accent.

The Mad Wolf’s Daughter is a very well-crafted and enchanting story of the strength and courage one can find within oneself in the face of adversity. Though it is targeted at a younger audience, I believe that readers of any age will be able to take an interest in this novel. The messages that radiate from this story are very positive and enlightening. It is sure to teach a middle grade reader important lessons about the warrior we all have inside of us. This is full of heart, and is a wonderfully wholesome and exciting fantasy that young readers will surely eat up.

5.0 TARDISes

Author Bio:

15572575Diane Magras grew up on Mount Desert Island in Maine. The Mad Wolf’s Daughter is her debut novel. She is the editor, writer, and chief fund raiser for the Maine Humanities Council.

She volunteers at her son’s school library, and is addicted to tea, toast, castles, legends, and most things medieval. Diane lives in Maine with her husband and son and thinks often of Scotland, where her books are set.

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An Interview with Author Sarah Glenn Marsh

Today’s post is an interview with the extremely lovely and talented author, Sarah Glenn Marsh. I am incredibly honored and excited to have had this chance to talk with her and get to know her, as well as to work with her to promote her wonderful books! Please make sure to check out Sarah on her website, Twitter, and Goodreads

Reign of the Fallen | Fear the Drowning Deep | Selfie Sebastian | A Campfire Tail 

Tell us a bit about yourself!

Hey! I’m Sarah: currently blond (but sometimes pink-haired!) lover of animals; mother to four rescued greyhounds, three birds, and tons of fish; eater of sweets; always anxious; sometimes funny; someone who loves writing books for kids and teens.

How did you get into writing, and when did you decide to pursue it as a career?

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I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember (we’re talking little stories when I was five years old about why my parents should get me a dog…!), and I’ve always been a voracious reader. I started loving trips to the library in preschool!

I didn’t take my writing seriously until I was out of college, however; it was actually my husband who pushed me to follow my writing dream and supported me every step of the way, however he could, because he believes in my talent (even when I don’t)—I hope everyone who’s seeking a partner in life finds one who supports their dreams like that! 

What is your writing process usually like?

Quiet, full of looking up dog memes, and consuming copious amounts of kit kat bars 😉

In all seriousness, I’m one of those people who edits as I draft, so what I usually do is spend the day getting down a bunch of new words, the evening going over them to edit, and then the next morning before writing any more, I’ll read over what I edited the previous day to refresh my memory!

Where do you usually go to write, and is there anything in particular you do to get yourself in the right mindset?

I like to write in my dining room, because it’s quiet, sunny, and there’s a big table in there! Plus, whenever I get stuck on a scene, I can stare at my awesome fish tank on the opposite wall 😉

As for getting in the writing mindset, what helps me most is routine. I write in the same spot every day, during the same general hours, and so when I go sit down in the dining room, my brain switches into ‘work mode’ with little effort!

Sometimes, to set the mood for a certain scene, I’ll also listen to music first 🙂

What do you find to be the most challenging part of the writing process?

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Credit: Penguin Teen

The most challenging part of the process for me has changed over time. It used to be revisions that I found daunting, though after plenty of experience, I now love them.

Now that I have a publisher and write under contract, I usually have to think up a synopsis for a story ahead of drafting. And since the most magical part of creating a new book used to be discovering things about the world and characters as I wrote, I’d say that currently, the toughest part of the process for me is plotting in advance. However, I figured out a way to help myself plan ahead while working on the sequel to Reign—the index card method.

I write out every scene I can think of on individual index cards—and not just scenes, but character building moments, pivotal moments in relationships, and so on—and then lay out all the index cards and try to put them into the order in which I think they belong. This allows me to see what’s missing from certain sections of the plot (ie: if I have three action scenes in a row, I’m clearly in need of a quiet, character-building moment in there somewhere), where I need to tie certain plot threads together better, and so on. Sometimes, my husband will take a peek and help me rearrange them. Having another pair of eyes is helpful even at that early stage!

Your characters are incredibly well-crafted, realistic, and easy to connect with. How do you typically approach the task of creating their personalities and bringing them to life within a setting and narrative?

My biggest tip for characters is to give each one a fully realized character arc (yes, even for the most minor of characters named in the book!) before starting to write the story. I found this really helped me make everyone in Reign distinct and more real. Before writing the book, I also spent time giving each character detailed backstory- even stuff that didn’t make it into the story in the end!

While reading Reign of the Fallen, I was really struck by how refreshing and unique every aspect of the story felt. How did you come up with the world, the magic system, and the overall role that necromancy played in Karthia? 

 

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Credit: @BeautifullyBookishBethany

Thank you! When I began world building for this story, I knew I needed a unique take on death and necromancers, since they’re a part of so many fantasy novels and I didn’t want mine to feel cliché! To do this, I went back to one of the earliest stories of necromancy– the Greek myth of Orpheus, a man who attempts to rescue his wife from the underworld and is told by Hades that he can take her back to the living world as long as he doesn’t look at her until they’re both out of his realm. Spoiler alert: he takes a peek and loses her forever. Drawing from that mythology, as well as researching rituals surrounding death from around the world, helped me to start building the culture in Reign of the Fallen, where the Dead must wear shrouds in the living world or else become monsters; where change of even the smallest sort is outlawed because the Dead fear it; where entering the spirit world demands a painful sacrifice of any living person who dares to go there. The spirit world in the book, known as the Deadlands, was also inspired by the Greek underworld! I took some of the themes from that world and put my own spin on it by having my Deadlands be a landscape that’s ever-shifting, ever-changing, unlike the spirits themselves. It seemed fitting, somehow. Same with my spirit world being full of flowers and beauty, things that grow the way the spirits long to still.

 

Since we are on the topic, Reign of the Fallen is such an emotionally intense story, and it’s clear that you put your heart and soul into every word. In what ways did that emotional intensity affect you while working on it?

Writing from Odessa’s POV, being so close to her thoughts throughout the tragedies that befall her during the novel was definitely a challenge at times! But the emotional intensity was actually…freeing, and healing, in a way. My grandmother was really sick while I was writing this book, and I was frustrated at some of my circumstances—getting to channel that negative energy into something positive through writing this story helped me tremendously. 

How does it feel to know your stories are published and out in the world for people to read, and what has been your favorite part of the experience so far?

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I won’t lie; it’s a little nerve-wracking knowing your work is out there to be judged, loved, hated, discussed, etc.! But the coolness factor completely outweighs that. It’s a joy to be able to share stories with the world. I feel very fortunate.

My favorite part of the experience is when people contact me and say that after reading Reign, they were inspired to work on their own book. Knowing I’ve inspired someone else to make their own art is the best feeling! I also love hearing from readers who identify with one or more of my characters, because they are such a part of me.

What books and/or authors have inspired you the most?

Patricia McKillip is probably my biggest influence. Her writing is the strongest and most beautiful I’ve ever read, and I wish I had a style as elegant and mysterious as hers. If you’re not familiar with her work, here are some titles I love: Ombria in Shadow, Winter Rose, and The Forgotten Beasts of Eld.

I also have to give a shout-out here to the most recent book I read and loved to pieces: MAMMOTH by Jill Baguchinsky. It comes out this November (2018) from Turner Publishing, and just…do yourselves a favor, friends, and read this book!

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Here’s my best advice for aspiring authors, broken into three parts:

  • Get others to critique your work, but more importantly, offer to critique for others! Critique as much and often as you can. There’s nothing like finding the strengths and weaknesses in a variety of different authors’ work to teach you about how to edit your own stories.
  • Read voraciously in the genre/category in which you want to publish. When you’re doing that, and you have a strong response to something- love it, or not so much- try to identify what it is you’re enjoying, or what’s not working for you about the story you’re reading. You’ll pick up things you might like to try in your own writing this way (for instance, maybe you’ll be inspired to try a new POV!), and will also identify things you may want to avoid (the things that don’t work for you as a reader).
  • Seek community. In the online writing community, I’ve found like-minded people, learned more than I ever would have imagined possible, and made life-changing connections with wonderful authors and bloggers who I’m so happy to call friends. You have everything to gain by interacting with other book lovers online!

Thank you so much, Sarah! If you guys would like to check out my review of Reign of the Fallen, click the teacup below! And for all of you out there who haven’t yet, in the words of Sarah…do yourselves a favor and read Reign of the Fallen! 😀

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Top Ten Tuesday – December 19th, 2017

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Happy Tuesday, everyone! It’s time for another Top 10 Tuesday list. This is an original weekly blog meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, there is a new bookish topic for bloggers to create a list about. If you want to know more about Top 10 Tuesday, click here!

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday topic is the top ten books you hope Santa brings! This is, by far, the easiest possible list that I can ever put together. These days, I never really want much when it comes time for a gift giving occasion—I much prefer giving gifts, and having people donate to charities in my name instead of giving me something. But when Christmas or my birthday comes around and I am forced to decide on at least a few things I want, I only ever have one answer—BOOKS! Um…do you want something other than books? …MORE BOOKS!

The Adventurers Guild by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos

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Few ever asked to join the Adventurers Guild. . . . Their members often died young.
In one of the last cities standing after the world fell to monsters, best friends Zed Kagari and Brock Dunderfel have high hopes for the future. Zed desperately wishes to join the ranks of the Mages Guild, where his status as Freestone’s only half elf might finally be an asset. Brock, the roguishly handsome son of merchants, is confident he’ll be welcomed into the ranks of the Merchants Guild.
But just as it seems the boys’ dreams have come true, their lives take a startling turn . . . and they find themselves members of the perilous Adventurers Guild.
Led by the fearsome Alabasel Frond, the guild acts as the last line of defense against the Dangers-hungry, unnatural beasts from otherworldly planes. And when the boys uncover a conspiracy that threatens all of Freestone, Zed, Brock, and their new allies-Liza, a fierce noble, and Jett, a brave dwarf-must prove their worth once and for all.
This start of a thrilling new series is sure to be a hit with readers who like their fantasies clever and action-packed, with tons of humor and heart.

A List of Cages by Robin Roe

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When Adam Blake lands the best elective ever in his senior year, serving as an aide to the school psychologist, he thinks he’s got it made. Sure, it means a lot of sitting around, which isn’t easy for a guy with ADHD, but he can’t complain, since he gets to spend the period texting all his friends. Then the doctor asks him to track down the troubled freshman who keeps dodging her, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian—the foster brother he hasn’t seen in five years.
Adam is ecstatic to be reunited. At first, Julian seems like the boy he once knew. He’s still kindhearted. He still writes stories and loves picture books meant for little kids. But as they spend more time together, Adam realizes that Julian is keeping secrets, like where he hides during the middle of the day, and what’s really going on inside his house. Adam is determined to help him, but his involvement could cost both boys their lives…

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

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A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel.
Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.
Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas

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The Darkest Corners is a psychological thriller about the lies little girls tell, and the deadly truths those lies become.
There are ghosts around every corner in Fayette, Pennsylvania. Tessa left when she was nine and has been trying ever since not to think about it after what happened there that last summer. Memories of things so dark will burn themselves into your mind if you let them. 
Callie never left. She moved to another house, so she doesn’t have to walk those same halls, but then Callie always was the stronger one. She can handle staring into the faces of her demons—and if she parties hard enough, maybe one day they’ll disappear for good.
Tessa and Callie have never talked about what they saw that night. After the trial, Callie drifted and Tessa moved, and childhood friends just have a way of losing touch.
But ever since she left, Tessa has had questions. Things have never quite added up. And now she has to go back to Fayette—to Wyatt Stokes, sitting on death row; to Lori Cawley, Callie’s dead cousin; and to the one other person who may be hiding the truth.
Only the closer Tessa gets to the truth, the closer she gets to a killer—and this time, it won’t be so easy to run away.

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

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A breathtaking, enchanting new series by debut author Jessica Townsend, about a cursed girl who escapes death and finds herself in a magical world–but is then tested beyond her wildest imagination
Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she’s blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks–and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday.
But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.
It’s then that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city’s most prestigious organization: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart–an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have. To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests–or she’ll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate.

The Nethergrim by Matthew Jobin

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According to legend, the knight Tristan and the wizard Vithric had once defeated an ancient evil in an epic battle. Yet now something dark has crept over the village. First animals disappear, then children. 
Edmund’s brother is among the missing. Now Edmund, with his mediocre skills in spellcraft, must find a way to save his brother’s life. He and his friends set out to battle the monstrous evil and discover their destinies. But what happens when the dark secrets of the past are unveiled?

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

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THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS. AGAIN.
Three terrible things happen in a single day. 
Essun, masquerading as an ordinary schoolteacher in a quiet small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Mighty Sanze, the empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years, collapses as its greatest city is destroyed by a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heartland of the world’s sole continent, a great red rift has been been torn which spews ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.
But this is the Stillness, a land long familiar with struggle, and where orogenes — those who wield the power of the earth as a weapon — are feared far more than the long cold night. Essun has remembered herself, and she will have her daughter back.
She does not care if the world falls apart around her. Essun will break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

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An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.
One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time-from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains – this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.  
Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor

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Alyss of Wonderland?
When Alyss Heart, heir to the Wonderland throne, must flee through the Pool of Tears to escape the murderous aunt Redd, she finds herself lost and alone in Victorian London. Befriended by an aspiring author named Lewis Carrol, Alyss tells the violent, heartbreaking story of her young life. Alyss trusts this author to tell the truth so that someone, somewhere will find her and bring her home. But he gets the story all wrong. He even spells her name incorrectly!
Fortunately, Royal Bodyguard Hatter Madigan knows all too well the awful truth of Alyss’ story and he is searching every corner of our world to find the lost princess and return her to Wonderland so she may eventually battle Redd for her rightful place as the Queen of Hearts.
The Looking Glass Wars unabashedly challenges our Wonderland assumptions surrounding mad tea parties, grinning Cheshire cats, and a curious little blond girl to reveal an epic battle in the endless war for Imagination.

The Chaos of Standing Still by Jessica Brody

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Over the course of one chaotic night stranded at the Denver airport, Ryn confronts her shattered past thanks to the charm of romance, the uniqueness of strangers, and the magic of ordinary places in this stunning novel from the author of Boys of Summer.
Ryn has one unread text message on her phone. And it’s been there for almost a year.
She hasn’t tried to read it. She can’t. She won’t. Because that one message is the last thing her best friend ever said to her before she died. 
But as Ryn finds herself trapped in the Denver International Airport on New Year’s Eve thanks to a never-ending blizzard on the one-year anniversary of her best friend’s death, fate literally runs into her.
And his name is Xander.
When the two accidentally swap phones, Ryn and Xander are thrust into the chaos of an unforgettable all-night adventure, filled with charming and mysterious strangers, a secret New Year’s Eve bash, and a possible Illuminati conspiracy hidden within the Denver airport. But as the bizarre night continues, all Ryn can think about is that one unread text message. It follows her wherever she goes, because Ryn can’t get her brialliantly wild and free-spirited best friend out of her head.
Ryn can’t move on. 
But tonight, for the first time ever, she’s trying. And maybe that’s a start.
As moving as it is funny, The Chaos of Standing Still is a heartwarming story about the earth-shattering challenges life throws at us—and the unexpected strangers who help us along the way.

Bonus: Any of the Harry Potter Illustrated Editions!

What books are you guys hoping to get for the holidays, or what books are currently on your general wishlist? Let me know in the comments!

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Review: Sea of Doubt by Jeremy D. Holden

seaofdoubtSea of Doubt: The Greatest Story Ever Sold by Jeremy D. Holden

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Mal Thomas Mystery Series #1

Date Published: October 2nd, 2016

Publisher: Clean Publishing

Pages: 252 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: After leaving behind a brilliant, but emotionally exhausting career in advertising, Mal Thomas wants nothing more than to enjoy the peace and serenity of the home he and his wife share in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. That serenity is interrupted when, seemingly out of nowhere, Mal gets a call that pulls him back into his old world, and on a path to undertaking an extraordinary assignment: Alfredo Baptiste, the world’s most powerful and mysterious industrialist wants Mal to promote the alleged second coming of the Messiah.  

As Mal and his team of cynical “Mad” men and women confront their own doubts about the validity of Baptiste’s seemingly ridiculous claim that his adopted son Sebastian is this new Messiah, they can’t resist the challenge, and find themselves thrust into a world of greed and revenge.

In a fast moving and often sardonic narrative that crisscrosses New York, North Carolina, Miami, and Buenos Aires, Sea of Doubt has its roots in our endless obsession with fame and pop-culture. As Mal’s team develops an unstoppable global campaign, a worldwide media feeding frenzy ensues, causing people to set aside all logic and reason, leading to tragic consequences.

Baptiste’s motivation is ultimately revealed in a twisted and unexpected ending as parallel worlds and a seismic conspiracy explode in an ending that will make you wonder how you didn’t see it coming earlier.

Sea of Doubt provides a window into human nature and media driven mass persuasion, forcing us to look at consequences of the choices we make. You will laugh out loud at the absurdity of the challenges that Mal and his team find themselves confronted with, while at the same time being forced to examine the role we all play in enabling the media to shape our thinking, and dictate our lives.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

I had some hesitations going into this novel, as I was not sure it was quite the type of story that would really interest me. The idea of looking at advertising from a psychological perspective very much piqued my curiosity—I find it fascinating to see how certain media tactics are designed to affect us all both individually and as a society. On the other side of things, I am not typically a huge fan of novels that delve too deeply into the topic of religion, and I didn’t know what to expect in that area. It’s not that I am disinterested and much more that I feel religion is a very private subject, so I hoped it would not put me off.

However, I absolutely could not have predicted how much I would end up truly enjoying this novel. The synopsis does not even begin to cover all the unique aspects of this engrossing and fast-paced narrative. And with an incredibly unexpected twist in the final chapters, even though it felt a bit rushed into the plot, I was kept on the edge of my seat all the way through.

In this novel, we follow Mal Thomas—a retired advertising agent who gets roped back in to work on his craziest assignment yet. He is called in to collaborate with his former advertising company, CREATIF, by one of the world’s most powerful men, Alfredo Baptiste. Baptiste claims that his adopted son, Sebastian, is the Messiah, and requests Mal and his former CREATIF team’s help in introducing this topic to the world. Despite his personal doubts, Mal is taken by Baptiste’s sincerity and agrees to assist him, but not all is as it seems. Some people’s true motives are not clear, and this entire process leads to shocking and devastating consequences that no one saw coming.

Following a short initial hook, the novel starts out at a bit of a slow pace as Holden introduces us to the main characters and their backstories. This could have easily made it a bit harder to get into, but I felt he did a good job of not only carefully constructing and acquainting us with the characters, but also of immediately bringing them to life. And very briefly, after the introduction of the main plot line, the speed ramps up exponentially.

We are quickly swept up into the life of Mal Thomas and his colleagues as they tackle this controversial and seemingly impossible task of convincing the world that the second coming of the Messiah is indeed happening. Figuring out the psychology of marketing something as stunning as this is going to be the biggest challenge they have ever faced. Not only do they have to contend with the resistance and backlash that is sure to come from the public, they have to wrestle with their own personal doubts and skepticism.

I really enjoyed this peek at the behind-the-scenes workings of mass media and advertising, and the planning that goes into campaigns that are effective on the public. We get to see the sort of power these images have over all of us—whether we realize it or not—as well as the underlying purposes that these promotions and movements can have. As shown here in this story, there are both good and bad intentions floating around in this aspect of society. Sometimes, these movements can spark wonderful things, bringing people together as a community. At other times however, there are darker schemes at work, many times revolving around greed.

The best part of this novel, by far, are the characters—Holden does an absolutely brilliant job of creating interesting, three-dimensional characters that carry the story to new levels. As I mentioned before, he takes a good amount of time crafting the personalities and backstories of every single person, not allowing any of them to come across as insignificant or not fully fleshed out. And Mal is the most fantastic narrator—one of my new favorites. He is humorous, intelligent, and kind-hearted, such an easy character to fall in love with. Reading from his perspective is a joy.

As for the writing itself, I found Holden’s work to be very easy to fall into, and it flowed nicely from beginning to end. His talent in every aspect of storytelling is abundantly clear, as well as his background knowledge of advertising and the persuasiveness of media. He manages to produce an entertaining and at many times hilarious narrative, while also inserting information and serious circumstances that are very relevant in today’s world.

It is a quick and extremely fun read, while also having quite a surprising amount of depth to it. The only real complaint that I had was that there was far more telling than showing, which was not a huge detriment, but definitely slowed down the pace just a bit.

Overall, I am so glad that I took the chance and decided to give this book a try—it ended up being even better than I had hoped. Though it wasn’t absolutely perfect, it was certainly a page-turner, and one of the most unique plotlines I’ve come across recently. Skillfully plotted and unraveled at a fitting pace, Mal Thomas and his quirky personality will captivate readers from page one. I enjoyed experiencing all the twists and turns this story took, as well as spending time with some of my new favorite literary characters. I’ve already gone on and read the sequel, and I am looking forward to talking about that one soon as well.

4.0 TARDISes

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Top 10 Tuesday – December 12th, 2017

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Happy Tuesday, everyone! It’s time for another Top 10 Tuesday list. This is an original weekly blog meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, there is a new bookish topic for bloggers to create a list about. If you want to know more about Top 10 Tuesday, click here!

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday topic is your top ten favorite books of 2017. Though I’ve definitely been struggling quite a bit with many things (mainly health-wise) through the course of this year and I haven’t been posting as much as I would like to, I’m fairly pleased with how much I actually ended up reading (64 books, hopefully 70 or so by the end of the month!). I have also had the opportunity to meet and work with some absolutely amazing authors this year, which has been a complete joy!

I’ve had quite a wide range of ratings—however, there are a few books that really stood out and stuck with me. These books, as well as their authors, have certainly become new favorites of mine!

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

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For the most part, this list is in no particular order. However, I have to admit that this was definitely my absolute favorite read of the entire year! I can’t believe it has taken me so long to get around to reading this book. Victoria Schwab is already one of my favorite authors, and after only one book of this series, I am already completely obsessed. It’s filled with amazingly vivid worlds, expertly portrayed characters, an incredibly interesting magic system, and such a fun and captivating storyline. I can’t wait to read the rest of these books!

Click here to check out my full review!

The Wingsnatchers by Sarah Jean Horwitz

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Sarah Jean Horwitz definitely makes it onto my list of new favorite authors! This is Sarah’s debut novel—the first in a series—and it was one of the most lovely and enchanting books I’ve ever read. It had this wonderful nostalgic feel to it, as it reminded me of the types of stories I grew up reading. This is the story of a young boy and a one-winged fairy who team up to save the fae realm and the city of Skemantis from a mad scientist. Mixing together magic, mystery, and steampunk-type technology means that this books was meant for me! I would recommend this modern fairytale to readers of absolutely any age—there is so much enjoyment to be found in it!

Click here to check out my full review!

Pillow Thoughts by Courtney Peppernell

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Courtney Peppernell is another new favorite author of mine, and someone who I was lucky enough to have the chance to work with a few months back! She is a beautiful writer and an equally beautiful person. I read both of her poetry collections (Pillow Thoughts and The Road Between) and absolutely adored them. Her work is stunning and her poetry touched me in so many ways—it brought me some light during a very dark time. She has such talent not only in writing, but in packing so much depth and meaning into her words. I’m just about to start one of her full novels and I am really looking forward to it!

Click here to check out my full review! Click here to read Courtney’s guest post!

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

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The second I saw this novel for the first time, I purchased a copy immediately. This book was so beautifully written and crafted. I love anything that feels like a modern fairytale, and this definitely fits that category. It is an extremely unique take on fantasy and alternate worlds, dealing with how visitors to these worlds acclimate to reality once they return. It is a unique and haunting tale that I fell in love with right from the start.

Click here to check out my full review!

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

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This is the sequel (or technically the prequel) to Every Heart a Doorway, and I loved this novel even more! It addresses the lives of two characters from the first novel and their experiences in the other world they ended up in. The world was so dark and intriguing, vividly created, and I was completely wrapped up in this story from start to finish. I also loved getting to know these characters a bit better, and learning about where they came from. Another incredible read!

Click here to check out my full review!

Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles by J.M. Sullivan

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Retellings are some of my favorite types of novels to read, and Alice in Wonderland retellings have a particularly fond place in my heart. So of course, when I discovered this novel earlier in the year, I knew I had to give it a read. I was then presented with the opportunity to meet and work with the wonderful J.M. Sullivan, which made the whole experience even more amazing! I’ve loved getting to know her, and it was so interesting to learn about her writing process and the conception of this novel. Another new favorite book and new favorite author added to the list!

Click here to check out my full review! Click here to read J.M.’s guest post!

Paper Wishes by Spencer Hoshino

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Paper Wishes is a novel that I am so incredibly glad I took a chance on! Those of you who have been around here for a while know that my reading tastes lean more toward sci-fi and fantasy rather than contemporary/contemporary romance. But when Spencer contacted me over the summer, she really hooked me, and I knew I had to check this story out—and I ended up loving it! It was such a fun, light, and enjoyable read, absolutely perfect for the summer. It is one of those novels that just fills you with so much positive energy and puts a smile on your face. That’s another incredibly talented writer added to my favorites list, as well as a wonderful new (Whovian) friend in my life!

Click here to check out my full review! Click here to read Spencer’s guest post!

Lost Boy by Christina Henry

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I discovered Christina Henry’s novels through my wonderful friend Heather from The Sassy Book Geek, and I’ve been completely obsessed with her work ever since! As we already know, I’m a huge fan of retellings in general, but I particularly love dark retellings—and oh boy, are her novels dark. This one focuses on the story of Peter Pan, except from Captain Hook’s (Jamie’s) perspective, taking place much earlier than the tale we all know. I read this as a buddy read with Heather, and I would highly, highly recommend this one!

Full review to come! Click here to check out Heather’s review!

If I Run by Terri Blackstock

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This was such an enjoyable, action-packed, and fast-paced read that was a perfect start to my reading year. I also read the second book in this trilogy as well and absolutely loved it. This novel follows an incredibly strong and intelligent young woman as she goes on the run from corrupt law enforcement agents, all while trying to prove her innocence in a crime she didn’t commit. It is such an easy story to get sucked into, and each chapter will leave you wanting more.

Click here to check out my full review!

Pretend We Are Lovely by Noley Reid

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When I started out on this novel, I had absolutely no idea I would end up loving it as much as I did. This is one of those books that pulls you in quite slowly, but by the end, you find yourself heavily invested and interested in the lives of all the characters. It was also a story that grew on me the more I thought about it after I had finished. This is a beautiful and heartbreaking tale of a family of four’s mutual and individual journeys to find themselves, where they belong in the world, and how they fit together.

Click here to check out my full review!

What were some of the best books you read in 2017? Did you find any new favorite authors? Let me know in the comments!

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Top 5 Most Anticipated Releases of Winter 2017-2018

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Hey Everyone!

I don’t know about you guys, but I am SO excited for 2018 to begin! One of the main reasons for this is the fantastic collection of new releases that will be hitting shelves throughout the year. It was difficult narrowing down my most anticipated releases for these first few months, but I’ve finally managed to choose the ones I am dying to get my hands on! 🙂

Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu (January 2nd, 2018)

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Before he was Batman, he was Bruce Wayne. A reckless boy willing to break the rules for a girl who may be his worst enemy. 
The Nightwalkers are terrorizing Gotham City, and Bruce Wayne is next on their list. 
One by one, the city’s elites are being executed as their mansions’ security systems turn against them, trapping them like prey. Meanwhile, Bruce is turning eighteen and about to inherit his family’s fortune, not to mention the keys to Wayne Enterprises and all the tech gadgetry his heart could ever desire. But after a run-in with the police, he’s forced to do community service at Arkham Asylum, the infamous prison that holds the city’s most brutal criminals.
Madeleine Wallace is a brilliant killer . . . and Bruce’s only hope.
In Arkham, Bruce meets Madeleine, a brilliant girl with ties to the Nightwalkers. What is she hiding? And why will she speak only to Bruce? Madeleine is the mystery Bruce must unravel. But is he getting her to divulge her secrets, or is he feeding her the information she needs to bring Gotham City to its knees? Bruce will walk the dark line between trust and betrayal as the Nightwalkers circle closer.

Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire (January 9th, 2018)

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Beneath the Sugar Sky returns to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. At this magical boarding school, children who have experienced fantasy adventures are reintroduced to the “real” world.
Sumi died years before her prophesied daughter Rini could be born. Rini was born anyway, and now she’s trying to bring her mother back from a world without magic.

Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh (January 23rd, 2018)

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Odessa is one of Karthia’s master necromancers, catering to the kingdom’s ruling Dead. Whenever a noble dies, it’s Odessa’s job to raise them by retrieving their souls from a dreamy and dangerous shadow world called the Deadlands. But there is a cost to being raised–the Dead must remain shrouded, or risk transforming into zombie-like monsters known as Shades. If even a hint of flesh is exposed, the grotesque transformation will begin.
A dramatic uptick in Shade attacks raises suspicions and fears among Odessa’s necromancer community. Soon a crushing loss of one of their own reveals a disturbing conspiracy: someone is intentionally creating Shades by tearing shrouds from the Dead–and training them to attack. Odessa is faced with a terrifying question: What if her necromancer’s magic is the weapon that brings Karthia to its knees?

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (February 8th, 2018)

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A brilliantly original high concept murder mystery from a fantastic new talent: Gosford Park meets Inception, by way of Agatha Christie
‘Somebody’s going to be murdered at the ball tonight. It won’t appear to be a murder and so the murderer won’t be caught. Rectify that injustice and I’ll show you the way out.’
It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed.
But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot. 
The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath…

People Like Us by Dana Mele (February 27th, 2018)

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Kay Donovan may have skeletons in her closet, but the past is past, and she’s reinvented herself entirely. Now she’s a star soccer player whose group of gorgeous friends run their private school with effortless popularity and acerbic wit. But when a girl’s body is found in the lake, Kay’s carefully constructed life begins to topple.
The dead girl has left Kay a computer-coded scavenger hunt, which, as it unravels, begins to implicate suspect after suspect, until Kay herself is in the crosshairs of a murder investigation. But if Kay’s finally backed into a corner, she’ll do what it takes to survive. Because at Bates Academy, the truth is something you make…not something that happened.

What new releases are you guys looking forward to this winter? Let me know in the comments!

 

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Top 10 Tuesday – November 28th, 2017

toptentuesday

Happy Tuesday, everyone! It’s time for another Top 10 Tuesday list. This is an original weekly blog meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, there is a new bookish topic for bloggers to create a list about. If you want to know more about Top 10 Tuesday, click here!

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday topic is the top ten books on your winter TBR. Boy, was this a hard list to narrow down! I am feeling quite self-conscious about the size of my TBR pile! There are so many books on my list that I’m eager to read but I didn’t manage to get to this year, as well as plenty of 2018 ARCs to get started on. So here is a bit of my game plan for winter and the new year!

Keeping Long Island by Courtney Peppernell

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Kayden is about to start her final year at college. And while she’s always been a good listener, she’s never been good at sharing. At the suggestion of her therapist, she finds a safe place for her secrets between the pages of a daily journal. Just when Kayden thinks things are finally back on track, her life takes an unexpected turn – a mysterious letter from someone named Alex.
Courtney Peppernell, the best-selling author of Pillow Thoughts, brings a world of intrigue, exploration, and the struggle for identity to life in Keeping Long Island. Kayden must make a choice – is she brave enough to share her secrets with Alex, or will the weight of her fears destroy everything she has been fighting for?

The Crooked Castle by Sarah Jean Horwitz

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Shortly after saving the faeries of Skemantis, magician’s apprentice Felix Carmer III and his faerie companion, Grit, head out to see the world. They soon come across a mysteriously magical flying circus. As they get to know the outlandish world of Rinka Tinka’s Roving Wonder Show, it becomes clear there’s something not quite normal about this circus or its inventor—and that recent airship disasters plaguing nearby Driftside City may have a sinister explanation. 
Fans of the Wildwood trilogy and Lockwood & Co. series will love the thrills and chills of The Crooked Castle as it takes readers up in the air with a flying circus, under the sea to the evil Unseelie kingdom, through a terrifying magical snowstorm, and on a chase with the menacing Wild Hunt.

The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary by NoNieqa Ramos

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Macy’s school officially classifies her as “disturbed,” but Macy isn’t interested in how others define her. She’s got more pressing problems: her mom can’t move off the couch, her dad’s in prison, her brother’s been kidnapped by Child Protective Services, and now her best friend isn’t speaking to her. Writing in a dictionary format, Macy explains the world in her own terms—complete with gritty characters and outrageous endeavors. With an honesty that’s both hilarious and fearsome, slowly Macy reveals why she acts out, why she can’t tell her incarcerated father that her mom’s cheating on him, and why her best friend needs protection . . . the kind of protection that involves Macy’s machete.

Elizabeth and Zenobia by Jessica Miller

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Abandoned by her mother and neglected by her scientist father, timid Elizabeth Murmur has only her fearless friend, Zenobia, for company. And Zenobia’s company can be very trying! When Elizabeth’s father takes them to live in his family home, Witheringe House, Zenobia becomes obsessed with finding a ghost in the creepy old mansion and forces Elizabeth to hold séances and wander the rooms at night. With Zenobia’s constant pushing, Elizabeth investigates the history of the house and learns that it does hold a terrible secret: Her father’s younger sister disappeared from the grounds without a trace years ago. 
Elizabeth and Zenobia is a wonderfully compelling middle-grade story about friendship, courage, and the power of the imagination.

The Merciless by Danielle Vega

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Forgive us, Father, for we have sinned
Brooklyn Stevens sits in a pool of her own blood, tied up and gagged. No one outside of these dank basement walls knows she’s here. No one can hear her scream.
Sofia Flores knows she shouldn’t have gotten involved. When she befriended Riley, Grace, and Alexis on her first day at school, she admired them, with their perfect hair and their good-girl ways. They said they wanted to save Brooklyn. They wanted to help her. Sofia didn’t realize they believed Brooklyn was possessed.
Now, Riley and the girls are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn—but their idea of an exorcism is closer to torture than salvation. All Sofia wants is to get out of this house. But there is no way out. Sofia can’t go against the other girls . . . unless she wants to be next. . . .
In this chilling debut, Danielle Vega delivers blood-curdling suspense and terror on every page. By the shockingly twisted end, readers will be faced with the most haunting question of all: Is there evil in all of us?

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

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In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned — from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren — an enigmatic artist and single mother — who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.  
When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw

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Meet Greta Helsing, fast-talking doctor to the undead. Keeping the supernatural community not-alive and well in London has been her family’s specialty for generations.
Greta Helsing inherited the family’s highly specialized, and highly peculiar, medical practice. In her consulting rooms, Dr. Helsing treats the undead for a host of ills – vocal strain in banshees, arthritis in barrow-wights, and entropy in mummies. Although barely making ends meet, this is just the quiet, supernatural-adjacent life Greta’s been groomed for since childhood. 
Until a sect of murderous monks emerges, killing human and undead Londoners alike. As terror takes hold of the city, Greta must use her unusual skills to stop the cult if she hopes to save her practice, and her life.

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

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Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”
Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

The Elizas by Sara Shepard

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When debut novelist Eliza Fontaine is found at the bottom of a hotel pool, her family at first assumes that it’s just another failed suicide attempt. But Eliza swears she was pushed, and her rescuer is the only witness. 
Desperate to find out who attacked her, Eliza takes it upon herself to investigate. But as the publication date for her novel draws closer, Eliza finds more questions than answers. Like why are her editor, agent, and family mixing up events from her novel with events from her life? Her novel is completely fictional, isn’t it?
The deeper Eliza goes into her investigation while struggling with memory loss, the closer her life starts to resemble her novel until the line between reality and fiction starts to blur and she can no longer tell where her protagonist’s life ends and hers begins.

Blink by Sasha Dawn

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When Chatham begins to understand more about a crime she witnessed a decade ago, she disappears . . . in a blink. Finding her means more than simply saving her. It could also be the key to the town’s longest unsolved mystery. Joshua’s in love with Chatham and he’s determined to find her and untangle the web of lies and mystery surrounding her. But who is Chatham really and what is her connection to the crime that was committed so long ago?

What books are on your winter TBR? What 2018 books are you most looking forward to picking up? Let me know in the comments!

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