Review: Second Lives by P.D. Cacek

secondlivesSecond Lives by P.D. Cacek

My Rating: 2.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: April 11th, 2019

Publisher: Flame Tree Press

Pages: 256 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: When four patients unexpectedly wake after being declared dead, their families are ecstatic and the word “miracle” begins to be whispered throughout the hospital. But the jubilation is short lived when the patients don’t respond to their names and insist they are different people. It is suggested all four are suffering from fugue states until one of the doctors recognizes a name and verifies that he not only knew the girl but was there when she died in 1992. It soon becomes obvious that the bodies of the four patients are now inhabited by the souls of people long dead.

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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 very mixed feelings about Second Lives. I also feel like it is going to be a little on the tricky side to explain as there is a lot of jumping around between various storylines. It is not particularly challenging to follow when reading it by any means. But having such a variety of perspectives has made it hard for me to pin down all of my thoughts about the novel as a whole. This was incredibly different from what I had expected going in. It is a very character driven novel and focuses less on the sort of sci-fi aspects—the explanations for why these unbelievably strange events are occurring. And though I do like when the development of the characters takes the lead, it felt like there was a lot missing from the plot.

In this novel, we follow eight different people’s stories, which technically pares down to four after the first part of the book. To set up the story, we get a brief view of every main character’s background and how they get into the situations they end up in. Four of these characters have died at some point in the past and the other four, in the present, have fallen into comas or are in some way very near death. However, something extraordinary happens when each of these patients suddenly wakes up after they have been declared dead. But what seems like a miracle soon becomes a nightmare for their loved ones when it is determined that the souls of others who have passed away many years before have taken up residence in these four peoples’ bodies.

Of course, this is a very fictional story, so it does seem a bit silly to comment too much on the plausibility of what occurs. To some extent though, having some amount of believability is crucial in order to allow readers to connect with and become immersed in the narrative. For me personally, there is a huge absence of this here. It is not the idea of other’s souls inhabiting the bodies of the recently deceased—that is a completely common and very interesting theme in science fiction. My issue is with both the lack of focus on how these events occur, as well as the way the characters’ loved ones handle their unique situations.

The portrayal of the main characters is, for the most part, the strongest aspect of this novel. Nora was, by far, my favorite of the bunch. I connected with her immediately and her storyline felt the most realistic. Her actions throughout the narrative—particularly the difficult decisions she has to make—were the most understandable. She is the most fleshed out of all the characters and Cacek puts a lot of detail and time into forming her and her life. The main themes dealt with in Nora’s part are actually ones that I tend to avoid due to personal experiences that make it too painful to read about. However, this is one of the very few exceptions I have come across in my life and, though it was still incredibly emotional, I really did like how things were handled.

On the opposite side of this, the other three perspectives are less detailed and go in directions that are pretty unbelievable. I never felt like I could picture these people as clearly—it is hard to get a handle on their personalities and relationships with others. Because of this, I could not connect with any of them particularly well. The choices they make in the end are odd and, honestly, a few are a bit uncomfortable. One huge plus though is that Cacek does a wonderful job of making each person very distinct. Having so many separate perspectives can oftentimes lead to a lack of definition between the various voices and behaviors of the individual characters. She avoids this pitfall very well.

As far as the actual text itself, Cacek’s writing is very good. She is clearly a talented and imaginative writer. I think the biggest issue is that she just took on way too many topics in too short a novel. Under these circumstances, it is impossible to fully address and expand on the most important areas. A lot of problems might have been solved if she had stretched the narrative out a little more. Also, the science fiction aspect of it could have transformed into something clearer and very captivating instead of feeling like a loose end. Despite the issues I had with it though, this was still an interesting read overall, and I would recommend giving it a try.

2.5 TARDISes

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Review: Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

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wickedsaintsWicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

My Rating: 3.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Something Dark and Holy #1

Date Published: April 2nd, 2019

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Pages: 400 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.

A prince in danger must decide who to trust.

A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.

Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy.

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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.

Wicked Saints was one of my most anticipated novels of the year, though I was a combination of excited and wary to read it. This seemed like one of those plots that I would really get into or just not enjoy at all. And while I didn’t absolutely love it, it still ended up falling into that first category and I had a pretty good time with it. From the vivid characterization to the unique and intriguing magic systems, I was sucked into this novel very quickly. A dark tale full of diverse characters and a vividly depicted setting, this proved to be an interesting read.

The countries of Kalyazin and Tranavia have been locked in a war that has spanned nearly a century and there still seems to be no end in sight. Nadya, an orphan who has lived within a monastery all her life, is not only there for training but also for her own protection. She is the first Kalyazin in many years to possess magic—a magic that allows her to communicate with the gods and goddesses and receive powers from them. If she were to fall into the hands of the Tranavians it would mean the downfall of Kalyazin. As she runs from the Tranavians, desperate to survive and determined to keep the religion of Kalyazin alive, she must draw on her great bravery to try and end the war while accepting the help of some people she is hesitant to trust.

The narrative starts off extremely fast-paced—perhaps a bit too fast-paced. We are thrown into the action immediately and while I do like books that really get into things quickly, I felt that it would have been nice to have a just little bit more exposition in the first few pages. There is not a whole lot that lets us know who the characters are, their relationships, nor what their situation is. Also, we know very little about the initial setting before we are thrown out of it. This made it a little hard to form my first connections with the characters and I felt that the scene that ensues definitely needed that.

That being said, when Duncan begins to reveal more information and backstory throughout the following chapters, she does a good job of working it into the narrative. I found things to be a bit confusing for a little too long at the beginning, but I felt that everything was cleared up at some point. There are no major info dumps or any slowing of the pace as she reveals these facts, which is a trap that is quite easy to fall into.

Each piece of description about the characters and the magic system fits into the moment—they are relevant to what is taking place in the main narrative and are seamlessly sewn throughout the plot. Formatting the story this way also allows Duncan to show rather than tell while building the world. She does a great job of giving the reader knowledge of an aspect such as the characters’ personalities through showing their exchanges with each other and how they interact with the environment.

Speaking of the characters, they were a very strong element of this novel. She does a good job of not only creating three-dimensional characters but also depicting how they change and evolve over the course of the narrative. The good guys were easy to love and the villains were fun to hate. I particularly liked the portrayal of the gods and goddesses and how Nadya interacts with them. I also really liked Serefin and how Duncan built his character (at this point, I’m fairly sure I just have a thing for bad boys). I found him to be a particularly interesting and complex character who captured my attention right from the start. My only complaint character-wise was the romance. To be fair, I am extremely hard to please when it comes to romance in novels and this was one I was just not sold on.

Duncan builds the world in which this story unfolds very well. Her descriptions are very vivid and detailed—they truly pull the reader in. She has a wonderful talent for writing. Her words flowed beautifully and easily carried me all the way through to the final page. Very lyrical and captivating, her words were so enjoyable to read. I absolutely loved the Russian and Polish influences in all aspects of this book. Duncan clearly put a huge amount of time and effort into incorporating these cultures into the creation of everything from the setting to the magic systems.

The magic was one of my absolute favorite parts of the plot. Nadya’s magic as a cleric particularly caught my attention. As I said early, I found it to be extremely unique as it was completely based around the gods and goddesses of the world in this novel. I loved learning about each of the gods and goddess and what sort of powers they each bestowed on Nadya. I did feel that she fell a bit into the “special-snowflake” category, but that did not bother me as much as it can in some stories. And though she was not as strong a lead as I hoped she would be, I still liked hearing her story. Overall, I quite enjoyed this novel. I am definitely interested enough to continue on with this series as the next installments come out.

3.5 TARDISes

Author Bio:

Emily A. DuncanEMILY A. DUNCAN works as a youth services librarian. She received a Master’s degree in library science from Kent State University, which mostly taught her how to find obscure Slavic folklore texts through interlibrary loan systems. When not reading or writing, she enjoys playing copious amounts of video games and dungeons and dragons. Wicked Saints is her first book. She lives in Ohio.

Social Links:

Website: https://eaduncan.com/
Twitter: @glitzandshadows
Instagram: @glitzandshadows
Tumblr: http://glitzandshadows.tumblr.com/

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Review: The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras

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thehuntforthemadwolfsdaughterThe Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras

My Rating: 4.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Mad Wolf’s Daughter #2

Date Published: March 5th, 2019

Publisher: Kathy Dawson Books

Pages: 288 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: In this Scottish medieval adventure, after attempting a daring rescue of her war-band family, Drest learns that Lord Faintree’s traitorous uncle has claimed the castle for his own and convinced the knights that the lord has been slain . . . by her hand. Now with a hefty price on her head, Drest must find a way to escape treacherous knights, all the while proving to her father, the “Mad Wolf of the North,” and her irrepressible band of brothers that she is destined for more than a life of running and hiding. Even if that takes redefining what it means to be a warrior.

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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, but does contain some spoilers for the previous novel, The Mad Wolf’s Daughter.

I read and absolutely adored the first novel in this series, The Mad Wolf’s Daughter but, at the time, I believed it would be a standalone. So a few months ago, when I discovered there would be a sequel, I was ecstatic. And this novel absolutely did not disappoint. It is impossible to not be pulled into this story and become wrapped up in the lives of these vivid characters. The plot is exciting and action-packed, filled with heart-pounding moments and intriguing twists that add further depth into this world Magras has created. It takes readers on an incredibly fun journey with a remarkably brave young girl and a tale of love and friendship at its center.

This novel picks up exactly where the last one left off, as Drest, her family, and her newfound friends are on the run from the traitorous Lord Oswyn and his knights. With her brothers free from Faintree Castle’s prison and Emerick rescued from his uncle, the group finds themselves facing a dangerous and powerful enemy. Their situation is made even worse as Drest finds out Sir Oswyn has put a large price on her head, which means finding trustworthy allies is all the more difficult. As they fight to take back the castle and restore the rightful ruler, Drest is determined to prove to her family that they deserve more than a life of running and fighting and, in the process, learn what it truly means to be a warrior.

This story is equally as captivating as its predecessor. As in the previous novel, Magras’ writing is absolutely beautiful. Between the strength of her narrative and the vibrancy of her world and characters, she creates a truly immersive experience. She clearly depicts the Scottish headland and gives the reader a good idea of the type of environment and terrain the characters are dealing with. The language and slang used further adds to the realism and allows the reader to easily imagine both the time period the story takes place in and the voices of each individual character.

Her writing style has this sort of classic fantasy novel feel to it, which personally transports me back to my childhood as I grew up devouring everything in this genre. It is a story that is very warm and inviting. Magras weaves the setting, the characters’ lives, and the political intrigue of the plot together in a way that enraptures the reader. The themes of love, strength, and courage—of loyalty to those you love the most—are depicted extremely well. Becoming wrapped up in this story is such an enjoyable experience, one that I never want to end.

Drest is a strong female lead—truly living up to her role as a warrior and a legend. I absolutely loved getting the chance to see more of her story and how she has and continues to grow and change. She is tough, feisty, and not about to be underestimated. Yet she is also not unrealistically powerful or without faults. There are times when she learns she still needs the help of her friends and family and that they are all at their best when they work together.

I really enjoyed getting to see more of Drest’s relationships with the other characters, particularly between her and her family. Her father and brothers are a huge part of the first novel, but their actual physical presence in the narrative is very short. In this one, we are given an even clearer view of their individual personalities and how they all interact with each other. And of course, it was wonderful to see more of Emerick and Tig. I absolutely adore the friendship between the three of them and how they support each other every step of the way. They are definitely one of my favorite character trios ever.

The only, very minor, problem I had with the plotline was the repetitiveness of some of the scenes. There were many instances of Drest arguing her point of not needing to be taken care of—that women can be strong enough to defend themselves, not always requiring protection. This is one of the key aspects of the plot and something that Drest’s father and brothers, as well as other male characters, come to learn through her actions, and it was a huge part of the first novel as well. She consistently shows that she is completely capable of fighting alongside them.

However, it felt like there were a few too many scenes where they stood around debating this instead of escaping their pursuers or working to fight back. All-in-all, it was not a huge issue and did not stray from the main message of the novel in any way. It was very realistic to see the difficulty the male characters had understanding the strength of a woman, particularly in a time where women are seen as maidens who need to be rescued. There were just times where I felt everyone became a bit too hung up on it when there was really no reason for it in those situations.

This series is definitely one that readers of any age will love. It is a wholesome, well-crafted story depicting the bravery and strength one can find within themselves in the toughest circumstances. Drest is a fantastic and inspiring heroine that not only fights for those she loves but also her ideas and confidence in her own abilities. I am unsure whether there are going to be any further novels in this series but, if there are, that would be absolutely wonderful. I would love to spend more time in this world with these beautiful characters. If you have not checked out these novels yet, I would highly recommend giving them a read.

4.5 TARDISes

Author Bio:

15572575Diane Magras is author of The New York Times Editors’ Choice, The Mad Wolf’s Daughter, as well as its companion novel, The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter. She’s addicted to tea, castles, legends, and most things medieval. She lives in Maine with her husband and son and thinks often of Scotland, where her books are set.

Blog Tour Schedule

Week One: The Mad Wolf’s Daughter

February 25 – Teachers Who Read – Interactive Classroom Activity

February 26 – Little Reader – Moodboard

February 27 – RhythmicBooktrovert – Listicle: Top Five Favorite

February 28 – The Quirky Book Nerd – Listicle: Top Favorite Quotes

March 1 – Some the Wiser – Character Recommendations

Week Two: The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter

March 4 – Teachers Who Read – Review

March 5 – Little Reader – Review + Creative Instagram Picture

March 6 – RhythmicBooktrovert – Review

March 7 – The Quirky Booknerd – Review

March 8 – Some the Wiser – Review + Favorite Quotes

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Kate Marshall’s Top 5 Must-Haves in an Author Survival Kit

IAmStillAliveBlogTour

Huge thanks to Kate Marshall for putting together this fantastic post for us today! Her forthcoming novel, I Am Still Alive, is a captivating survival thriller that comes out on July 24th. In anticipation of its release, Kate is here to share the top five must-haves in an author survival kit! Please make sure to check Kate out on her website, Twitter, and Goodreads! I will be posting a full review of I Am Still Alive very soon!

Top 5 Must-Haves in an Author Survival Kit

You might think that an author, set adrift in the wilderness, has the same survival needs as any other person. You would be wrong. Authors are peculiar creatures, and need specialized gear even for short excursions into the wild. Before handing your author a compass and dropping them in the deep woods, make sure you’ve packed their bag with these essentials.

Sunscreen & Sunglasses

Authors become less tolerant of sunlight the closer they come to deadlines. The mid-draft author may, in fact, become confused when exposed to bright light, and attempt to find the keyboard shortcut to dim the sky. Liberal application of sunscreen will allow the off-roading author to slowly acclimate to the presence of the daystar without suffering sunburn.

Notebook & Pens

Ask any park ranger, and they will have a harrowing tale to share of encountering a lost writer in the woods, searching beneath bushes for an outlet to charge their dying laptop, having failed to secure shelter, water, or food in favor of this fruitless quest. To prevent such tragedy, replace the laptop with high-quality, water-resistant notebooks and pens.

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Books

It may seem as if books are an impractical choice for wilderness survival—unless you’re talking about survival guides. But while manuals on plant identification, hunting, and other survival skills are useful, for the author it is particularly important to pack some of their favorite reads. This is because a bored author is a dangerous author. The key to survival is caution. The bored author gets “creative.” You don’t want to discover that instead of gathering firewood, your author has turned the kindling into a stick-person society complete with lushly detailed culture, rituals, and myth. Keep your author entertained, and you’ll keep your author alive.

Caffeine

Many a hiker has come across a listless author on the trail. Most wilderness first aid courses now teach how to nurse the author back into consciousness through the gradual introduction of coffee or other caffeinated substances, first by waving the thermos under their nose, and then allowing small sips. But the best treatment is prevention, which you can accomplish by supplying your author with a ready source of caffeine. Coffee may be impractical; “the coffee gap,” the well-known phenomenon in which mistakes are made in the acquisition of coffee due to not having had your coffee yet, is exacerbated in a wilderness situation. We suggest chocolate-covered espresso beans as an easy substitute.

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Simulated Companion Object

While authors are often solitary animals, they frequently require moral support, brainstorming, and appreciation for their wit. To prevent a repeat of the “stick-person culture” scenario, consider identifying an object (any object will do, really) as their “companion.” Draw a face or heart on the object if your author seems reluctant to bond. Encourage your author to “just bounce some ideas off of it” to get things rolling. You will know you have succeeded when your author creates social media accounts for the companion object. You have gone too far if the author begins laughing at the companion object’s jokes.

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As you can see, there are special responsibilities in outfitting an author for a wilderness excursion. Nonetheless, I highly encourage exposing your author to a variety of such experiences, as (if they survive) the benefit they provide to the author’s descriptive abilities will prove rewarding to author and readers alike. 

Author Bio

KateMarshallPhotoKate Alice Marshall started writing before she could hold a pen properly, and never stopped. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with a chaotic menagerie of pets and family members, and ventures out in the summer to kayak and camp along the Puget Sound. Visit her online at katemarshallbooks.com and follow her on Twitter @kmarshallarts.

Check Out The Book:

iamstillaliveI Am Still Alive by Kate Alice Marshall

Synopsis: After
Jess is alone. Her cabin has burned to the ground. She knows if she doesn’t act fast, the cold will kill her before she has time to worry about food. But she is still alive—for now.

Before
Jess hadn’t seen her survivalist, off-the-grid dad in over a decade. But after a car crash killed her mother and left her injured, she was forced to move to his cabin in the remote Canadian wilderness. Just as Jess was beginning to get to know him, a secret from his past paid them a visit, leaving her father dead and Jess stranded.

After
With only her father’s dog for company, Jess must forage and hunt for food, build shelter, and keep herself warm. Some days it feels like the wild is out to destroy her, but she’s stronger than she ever imagined.

Jess will survive. She has to. She knows who killed her father… and she wants revenge.

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An Interview with Author Candace Robinson

Today’s post is an interview with the lovely and talented author, Candace Robinson. Two of her novels, Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault and The Bride of Glass, have recently been picked up by a publishing house and are set to release this year. I am incredibly honored to have had not only the chance to get to know her, but also to read and review her work, and help her to promote her amazing stories as well! Please make sure to check out Candace on her website, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault | The Bride of Glass | Hearts Are Like Balloons
Clouded by Envy | Bacon Pie

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Tell us a bit about yourself!

This one is always such a toughie! I pretty much read and write during the day, mostly YA stuff. I love old horror movies, those are the best kind! I’m also a huge fan of the eighties and nineties!

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

I started staying at home because I get really bad migraines, hemiplegic sometimes. When my daughter started school and my dad passed away, I decided to finally start writing. I would put it off because I always found myself busy with something else and said I would do it another time. When my dad passed, I knew I needed to do it now because you never know what’s going to happen.

What is your writing process usually like?

So I don’t outline. I’ll tell you that right now lol. I have a general idea of my story, write down some scenes, and get cracking. Even if I were to outline, the story usually changes for me as I get to know my characters and their journey. Plus, I develop writer’s block if I try to do a complete outline!

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

I have a small office connected to my bedroom. It has to be pretty quiet in order for me to get the job done. I can’t go to coffee shops or the park or anywhere because I need the silence!

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

Getting the first draft done. When I do something I want it done then and there. That’s the problem with draft number one, because there is no finishing it in one day. It takes time and patience, so I give myself a pat on the back each day and tell myself I can do it!

How do you typically approach the task of creating the personalities of your characters and bringing them to life within a setting and narrative?

So the character aspect is always the easiest for me because almost everything I write is character driven. I try to give my characters particular qualities and run with it, hoping it works!

While reading Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault, I was struck by how inventive and unique every aspect of each of the worlds within the Vault felt. How did you come up with the ideas for the exhibits and the stories within them?

To list a few: Sleepy Hollow, I’ve always been a fan of the Headless Horseman character. Jack the Ripper because I really did do a research paper on his whole story back in high school. Three Billy Goat’s Gruff is my favorite nursery rhyme. Snow White because that story has always been awesome.

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On the topic of the Vault, which exhibit and story was your favorite to create?

Snow White, only because that is a pretty important chapter for the MC, Perrie. But I also really like the Sleepy Hollow one!

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?

It’s actually more scary to me, but that’s the closest to being inside my head that people are going to get. And my head may not always be the nicest part to be in, but I try to make it entertaining.

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

I wish I could say Shakespeare or someone classic. But I actually mainly read newer YA. I love Sarah J. Maas, Tahereh Mafi, and A.G. Howard.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Writing is the easy part, everything after that is hard. But you have to stay with it, no matter how many rejections or rewrites you have to do. Also, not everyone is going to love your book. There will be hate and love, but always remember there’s a reason you wrote your story. Stick with your guns and cherish what you write and always believe in it.

Thank you so much for talking with us, Candace! If you guys would like to check out my review for the original version of Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault, click the teacup below! I will also have reviews of the re-released versions of both novels in the series, as well as Hearts Are Like Balloons, very soon. And for all of you out there who haven’t yet, please do yourselves a favor and check out her novels! 😀

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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: Mad Wolf’s Daughter #1

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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