N.E.W.T.s Magical Readathon 2019 Wrap-Up

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Wow, August was an absolutely insane month! Between my Hogwarts studies and my real life university studies, I can’t believe I’m still standing at this point. But, I successfully completed my first-ever readathon! And for it to be a Harry Potter-themed readathon makes it even more awesome. I had so much fun taking (and passing!) my N.E.W.T.s. I’m so happy I gave this a try. In total, I ended up reading twelve books which is more than I’ve read in a month in a while. So, without further ado, here is a look at my readathon results. I’m planning on having full reviews up for all of these at some point this month, so keep an eye out!

Profession:

Mind Medic

Grades Required:

O in Charms
O in Defense Against the Dark Arts
E in Muggle Studies
E in Potions
E in Transfiguration

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A: Read a book that you think has a gorgeous cover

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House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig (Full Review Coming 9/26)

5.0 TARDISes

E: Read a comic/graphic novel/manga (or book under 150 pages)

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Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker (Full Review)

4.0 TARDISes

O: Spongeify (softening charm) – Read a paperback book

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Your Heart Is The Sea by Nikita Gill (Full Review Coming 9/20)

4.0 TARDISes

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A: Book that’s black under the dust jacket

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Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young (Full Review Coming 10/5)

3.5 TARDISes

E: Gilderoy’s memory charm – first book that you remembered just now from your TBR

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His Hideous Heart edited by Dahlia Adler (Full Review)

4.0 TARDISes

O: Cornish Pixie! Swat it away with a book written by an English author or set in England

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The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal (Full Review Coming 9/22)

2.5 TARDISes

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A: Cover that includes an actual photo element (person, item, place, etc.)

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The Perfect Wife by J.P. Delaney (Full Review)

4.5 TARDISes

E: Book set in our real world

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The Escape Room by Megan Goldin (Full Review Coming 10/3)

3.0 TARDISes

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A: Polyjuice Potion – Read your friend’s favorite book

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Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

4.0 TARDISes

E: House ingredient – book with a cover in your Hogwarts house color (Ravenclaw)

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Doctor Who: Myths and Legends by Richard Dinnick

3.0 TARDISes

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A: Read a book with LGBTQA+ representation

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Ziggy, Stardust and Me by James Brandon (Full Review Coming 9/18)

4.5 TARDISes

E: Read a book that’s not a first in the series

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Restricted Section Swap: Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell

4.0 TARDISes

And now I’m a Mind Medic! I’m so pleased with how this readathon went and it’s made me really eager to do another one soon. I’m thinking of maybe doing the O.W.L.s readathon before the end of the year since I missed it, just so I can feel my studies are complete! How about you guys? Did any of you do the N.E.W.T.s Magical Readathon this past month? If so, let me know how you did, or if not, let me know what your favorite books of the month were!

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Review: Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu

mooncakesMooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: October 15th, 2019

Publisher: Lion Forge

Pages: 256 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: A story of love and demons, family and witchcraft.

Nova Huang knows more about magic than your average teen witch. She works at her grandmothers’ bookshop, where she helps them loan out spell books and investigate any supernatural occurrences in their New England town.

One fateful night, she follows reports of a white wolf into the woods, and she comes across the unexpected: her childhood crush, Tam Lang, battling a horse demon in the woods. As a werewolf, Tam has been wandering from place to place for years, unable to call any town home.

Pursued by dark forces eager to claim the magic of wolves and out of options, Tam turns to Nova for help. Their latent feelings are rekindled against the backdrop of witchcraft, untested magic, occult rituals, and family ties both new and old in this enchanting tale of self-discovery.

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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 was such an adorable and heartwarming graphic novel. It’s packed with witchy vibes, a sweet young romance, werewolf magic, and the strength and pure love that a family—both biological and found—can give. Between the art and the story itself, it really captures the feeling of Fall—cooler weather, cozy nights, spooky feels, changing leaves. I found myself easily transported into this world, the atmosphere almost tangible. It is an absolutely beautiful read on so many levels.

In this story, we follow two best friends. Nova Huang is a brilliant, Chinese-American teenage witch who works with her two grandmothers in their bookshop. She helps them loan out books on spells while also going out and investigating any odd, supernatural happenings around their town in New England. Tam Lang, Nova’s childhood best friend, is a Chinese-American, nonbinary werewolf…and also Nova’s long-time crush.

The pair have lived apart for a few years with Tam having to constantly wander to escape those who wish to harness her power for evil. Then, one night, Nova stumbles across Tam battling a horse demon in the woods outside town. Soon, Tam, Nova, and the grandmothers team up to fight the forces pursuing Tam and defend the magic of the wolves. And something even more powerful is being rekindled between Nova and Tam.

My favorite part of this novel is the illustrations. They are absolutely perfect for the story and portray the tone of it incredibly well. Just the color scheme alone—deep, rich tones with a somewhat muted look—immediately sets the atmosphere of the novel. The colors Xu uses capture the mysterious and dangerous undertones of the text while also creating a feeling of warmth and welcoming to match the themes of family and love. And the style of the illustrations themselves is one of my favorites out of all the graphic novels I’ve ever read.

The story is also written so well and it is fantastic to see so much diversity being put into this novel. It is a perfect addition to the ever-growing library of LGBT+ young adult books. The characters are brought to life and developed extremely well in such a short amount of time. Walker does a great job forming the relationships between the characters and the close ties they share. Nova is a strong, intelligent, and brave young witch who will drop everything to help her loved ones and community. And Tam, equally strong but lost and hurting, finds love, comfort, and a sense of belonging that, as a whole, help her fight for herself and those she cares about.

The only thing I wish is that the novel was longer. There were a few parts of the story that I felt were just a bit underdeveloped. I would have loved to see more back story for both of the main characters, particularly Nova and her family. I would also have loved to see more of Nova and Tam’s relationship progress as well as learn in more depth about the magical aspects of the story—both good and evil. Also…I just need more of this!

Mooncakes is a beautifully-crafted and magical graphic novel. I can’t think of any better way to describe my experience with this novel than by saying that it made my heart happy. It has everything I love—queer romance, the unconditional love of found family, witches, werewolves, magical animals, and libraries of spells. What more could you want?! I very highly recommend picking it up this fall to read during a cozy night in with a warm drink (and maybe a snack cause, oh boy, was I craving mooncakes after this). This is truly an enchanting story that readers of any age will love.

4.0 TARDISes

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Top 10 Most Anticipated Releases of Fall 2019

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Hey everyone!

I’m already getting the Fall feels! 😀 I absolutely can’t wait for the cool weather to begin. Snuggly sweaters, changing leaves, pumpkin spice (yes, a little cliché, but I’m an addict!), and getting cuddled up with a good book. And there are so many great books coming out over the next few months and I am so pumped! A bunch of my most anticipated releases of the year are coming out during the fall and winter months so I absolutely cannot wait! Anyway, enough of the rambles. Here are just a few of the books that I am most excited to get my hands on this season!

The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones (September 24th, 2019)

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Seventeen-year-old Aderyn (“Ryn”) only cares about two things: her family, and her family’s graveyard. And right now, both are in dire straits. Since the death of their parents, Ryn and her siblings have been scraping together a meager existence as gravediggers in the remote village of Colbren, which sits at the foot of a harsh and deadly mountain range that was once home to the fae. The problem with being a gravedigger in Colbren, though, is that the dead don’t always stay dead.
The risen corpses are known as “bone houses,” and legend says that they’re the result of a decades-old curse. When Ellis, an apprentice mapmaker with a mysterious past, arrives in town, the bone houses attack with new ferocity. What is it about Ellis that draws them near? And more importantly, how can they be stopped for good?
Together, Ellis and Ryn embark on a journey that will take them deep into the heart of the mountains, where they will have to face both the curse and the long-hidden truths about themselves. 

The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht (September 24th, 2019)

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Debut author Jennifer Giesbrecht paints a darkly compelling fantasy of revenge in The Monster of Elendhaven, a dark fantasy about murder, a monster, and the magician who love both.
The city of Elendhaven sulks on the edge of the ocean. Wracked by plague, abandoned by the South, stripped of industry and left to die. But not everything dies so easily. A thing without a name stalks the city, a thing shaped like a man, with a dark heart and long pale fingers yearning to wrap around throats. A monster who cannot die. His frail master sends him out on errands, twisting him with magic, crafting a plan too cruel to name, while the monster’s heart grows fonder and colder and more cunning.
These monsters of Elendhaven will have their revenge on everyone who wronged the city, even if they have to burn the world to do it.

The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith (October 1st, 2019)

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In the first book in a brilliant new fantasy series, books that aren’t finished by their authors reside in the Library of the Unwritten in Hell, and it is up to the Librarian to track down any restless characters who emerge from those unfinished stories.
Many years ago, Claire was named Head Librarian of the Unwritten Wing– a neutral space in Hell where all the stories unfinished by their authors reside. Her job consists mainly of repairing and organizing books, but also of keeping an eye on restless stories that risk materializing as characters and escaping the library. When a Hero escapes from his book and goes in search of his author, Claire must track and capture him with the help of former muse and current assistant Brevity and nervous demon courier Leto.
But what should have been a simple retrieval goes horrifyingly wrong when the terrifyingly angelic Ramiel attacks them, convinced that they hold the Devil’s Bible. The text of the Devil’s Bible is a powerful weapon in the power struggle between Heaven and Hell, so it falls to the librarians to find a book with the power to reshape the boundaries between Heaven, Hell….and Earth.

Thirteen Doors, Wolves Behind Them All by Laura Ruby (October 1st, 2019)

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When Frankie’s mother died and her father left her and her siblings at an orphanage in Chicago, it was supposed to be only temporary—just long enough for him to get back on his feet and be able to provide for them once again. That’s why Frankie’s not prepared for the day that he arrives for his weekend visit with a new woman on his arm and out-of-state train tickets in his pocket.
Now Frankie and her sister, Toni, are abandoned alongside so many other orphans—two young, unwanted women doing everything they can to survive.
And as the embers of the Great Depression are kindled into the fires of World War II, and the shadows of injustice, poverty, and death walk the streets in broad daylight, it will be up to Frankie to find something worth holding on to in the ruins of this shattered America—every minute of every day spent wondering if the life she’s able to carve out will be enough.
I will admit I do not know the answer. But I will be watching, waiting to find out. 
That’s what ghosts do.

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo (October 8th, 2019)

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Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?
Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

Into the Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo (October 8th, 2019)

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The streets of Creije are for the deadly and the dreamers, and four crooks in particular know just how much magic they need up their sleeve to survive.
Tavia, a busker ready to pack up her dark-magic wares and turn her back on Creije for good. She’ll do anything to put her crimes behind her.
Wesley, the closest thing Creije has to a gangster. After growing up on streets hungry enough to swallow the weak whole, he won’t stop until he has brought the entire realm to kneel before him.
Karam, a warrior who spends her days watching over the city’s worst criminals and her nights in the fighting rings, making a deadly name for herself.
And Saxony, a resistance fighter hiding from the very people who destroyed her family, and willing to do whatever it takes to get her revenge.
Everything in their lives is going to plan, until Tavia makes a crucial mistake: she delivers a vial of dark magic—a weapon she didn’t know she had—to someone she cares about, sparking the greatest conflict in decades. Now these four magical outsiders must come together to save their home and the world, before it’s too late. But with enemies at all sides, they can trust nobody. Least of all each other.

The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco (October 15th, 2019)

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Generations of twin goddesses have long ruled Aeon. But seventeen years ago, one sister’s betrayal defied an ancient prophecy and split their world in two. The planet ceased to spin, and a Great Abyss now divides two realms: one cloaked in perpetual night, the other scorched by an unrelenting sun.
While one sister rules Aranth—a frozen city surrounded by a storm-wracked sea —her twin inhabits the sand-locked Golden City. Each goddess has raised a daughter, and each keeps her own secrets about her sister’s betrayal.
But when shadowy forces begin to call their daughters, Odessa and Haidee, back to the site of the Breaking, the two young goddesses —along with a powerful healer from Aranth, and a mouthy desert scavenger —set out on separate journeys across treacherous wastelands, desperate to heal their broken world. No matter the sacrifice it demands.

Beyond the Black Door by A.M. Strickland (October 29th, 2019)

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Kamai was warned never to open the black door, but she didn’t listen …
Everyone has a soul. Some are beautiful gardens, others are frightening dungeons. Soulwalkers―like Kamai and her mother―can journey into other people’s souls while they sleep.
But no matter where Kamai visits, she sees the black door. It follows her into every soul, and her mother has told her to never, ever open it.
When Kamai touches the door, it is warm and beating, like it has a pulse. When she puts her ear to it, she hears her own name whispered from the other side. And when tragedy strikes, Kamai does the unthinkable: she opens the door.
A.M. Strickland’s imaginative dark fantasy features court intrigue and romance, a main character coming to terms with her asexuality, and twists and turns as a seductive mystery unfolds that endangers not just Kamai’s own soul, but the entire kingdom …

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern (November 5th, 2019)

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From the New York Times bestselling author of The Night Circus, a timeless love story set in a secret underground world–a place of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a starless sea.
Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues–a bee, a key, and a sword–that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library, hidden far below the surface of the earth.
What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians–it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also those who are intent on its destruction.
Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly-soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose–in both the mysterious book and in his own life. 

Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw (November 5th, 2019)

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From New York Times bestselling author of The Wicked Deep comes a haunting romance perfect for fans of Practical Magic, where dark fairy tales and enchanted folklore collide after a boy, believed to be missing, emerges from the magical woods—and falls in love with the witch determined to unravel his secrets.
Be careful of the dark, dark wood…
Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even.
Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing.
But Nora can feel an uneasy shift in the woods at Oliver’s presence. And it’s not too long after that Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind how the boy she has come to care so deeply about survived his time in the forest, and what led him there in the first place. What Nora doesn’t know, though, is that Oliver has secrets of his own—secrets he’ll do anything to keep buried, because as it turns out, he wasn’t the only one to have gone missing on that fateful night all those weeks ago.
For as long as there have been fairy tales, we have been warned to fear what lies within the dark, dark woods and in Winterwood, New York Times bestselling author Shea Ernshaw, shows us why.

What new releases are you guys looking forward to these next few months? Let me know in the comments!

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September 2019 TBR

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Hi everyone!

I’m trying to continue posting more of my monthly TBRs because I absolutely love sharing what I’m reading with you guys. I managed to stick to my whole N.E.W.T.s Readathon TBR last month (wrap-up coming soon!) and I want to try to keep up the momentum with my reading. Also, I love hearing what you’ve all been reading this year and if you have any recommendations! As always, my TBR is insanely ambitious for just one month and I’m not pressuring myself to read all of them, but I’m hoping to get through a decent amount.

I’m so eager to read these books and I’m so excited to share them with you so, without further ado, here is my reading list for September!

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The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

Mother Knows Best by Kira Peikoff

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

The Dark Lord Clementine by Sarah Jean Horwitz

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Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones

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The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster by Cary Fagan

As Many Nows as I Can Get by Shana Youngdahl

Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte

Shadow Frost by Coco Ma

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The Girl in Red by Christina Henry

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (Re-read)

The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

What are you guys reading this month? What have been some of your favorite reads so far this year? Let me know in the comments!

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Review: The Perfect Wife by J.P. Delaney

theperfectwifeThe Perfect Wife by J.P. Delaney

My Rating: 4.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: August 6th, 2019

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Pages: 413 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: The perfect life. The perfect love. The perfect lie. From the bestselling author of The Girl Before comes a gripping new psychological thriller. . . 

Abbie awakens in a daze with no memory of who she is or how she landed in this unsettling condition. The man by her side claims to be her husband. He’s a titan of the tech world, the founder of one of Silicon Valley’s most innovative start-ups. He tells Abbie that she is a gifted artist, an avid surfer, a loving mother to their young son, and the perfect wife. He says she had a terrible accident five years ago and that, through a huge technological breakthrough, she has been brought back from the abyss.

She is a miracle of science.

But as Abbie pieces together memories of her marriage, she begins questioning her husband’s motives–and his version of events. Can she trust him when he says he wants them to be together forever? And what really happened to Abbie half a decade ago?

Beware the man who calls you . . . 

THE PERFECT WIFE

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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.

Going in, I definitely expected to like this book, but I did not expect to love it quite as much as I did. I got so wrapped up in the story that I flew through it in two sittings. Unfortunately, given the genre of the book, a spoiler-free review is going to be a challenge. In fact, there is a twist that happens in the first few pages of the novel that completely shocked me and took the story in a delightfully unexpected direction. Now, this twist and not knowing it was coming made this book so exciting that I absolutely do not want to say what it is—going into it blind was fantastic. All this being said, I will try to tell you about this novel as best as I can.

In this story, we follow our main character, Abbie, as she is recovering from an accident that has caused a great loss of memory. As she gathers and puts together the pieces of the life she forgot and the time she has missed, she finds that nothing is as it seems—her past is a blur and her future may not be under her control.

From page one, I was absolutely hooked. This is a unique and fast-paced story with plenty of twists and turns that you will not see coming. The original synopsis I read was actually a lot vaguer than the finalized one, but either way, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting in to. This had everything I love about psychological thriller novels and more—a twist that made my nerdy little heart sing even louder. And more…nerd-ily.

This is not only a gripping and twisty psychological thriller, but it also deals with several thought-provoking and timely topics. It is very informative, particularly on the topic of parenting a child with autism, which Delaney is writing on from personal experience. I have a very basic knowledge of autism and absolutely no knowledge about what the parent of an autistic child goes through and I learned a great deal through this story. It truly opened my eyes to what incredibly strong and beautiful human beings these children and parents are. I loved the depth that these topics added to the novel as a whole.

The characters are fantastically well-crafted and multi-dimensional. Our main character is very easy to connect with and I enjoyed following her. Many characters are quite ambiguous and leave you questioning their true intentions. I feel that Delaney does a wonderful job of bringing them to life and weaving their roles seamlessly into the main plotline.

Interestingly, this novel is written mostly in the second-person perspective. I have never read a story told in this way and, though I was a bit wary at first, I ended up getting into the style pretty easily. And the reasoning behind using this perspective is yet another mystery you will have to solve by picking up this book.

There were portions toward the middle of the novel—slight lulls between moments of action or shocking revelations—that at first I felt slowed things down. And while, admittedly, there were a few things I felt could have been skipped over, these slower moments actually added depth to one of the main themes in the novel. These sections allow the reader to connect further with the protagonist, putting them in her shoes as she attempts to put the pieces of her life back together. These seemingly mundane tasks she goes about that are described in great detail highlight what her life has become—slowly placing one foot in front of the other, occupying her time by focusing on each individual moment, however small.

The only minor issue I had with the plot was with a portion of the ending. It is a very surprising and intense conclusion, and for the most part, I felt things were resolved well. It is not a perfect, happy ending—which I enjoy a lot—and I was still left feeling very satisfied. There is one moment in the final pages that seemed a bit rushed and unplanned though. It is actually a positive note and one that I am quite happy about, but the logistics of it were confusing. It felt like it was squeezed in simply to resolve a plotline without much exposition to help the reader understand how and why it happened. However, the overall ending was great and I will say that this moment has definitely given me even more to think over after finishing the book.

Wow. This story. It was so unexpected in all the best ways and had me completely enthralled. I never wanted it to end and it totally kicked off a mystery/thriller reading binge for me. This was one of those books that had me making both facial and audible reactions while sitting in a room by myself. I also may or may not have talked to myself for half an hour or more trying to sort out all of my thoughts after finishing it. I have been wanting to read J.P. Delaney’s novels for a while now and this was a wonderful start. I very highly recommend giving this novel a try.

4.5 TARDISes

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An Interview with Author Shannon Schuren

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Huge thanks to Shannon Schuren for putting together this post for us today! Her novel, The Virtue of Sin (June 25th, 2019), is a fascinating story about two teenagers who have spent their entire lives in a cult and how they deal with their newfound clarity about their situation as they are thrown into adulthood in the community. It is a novel that portrays the importance of not always taking what people in power say at face value, fighting for equality, and learning to accept others—and oneself—for who they are. 
I read The Virtue of Sin a few months ago and it is one of my favorite books of 2019! Shannon has graciously agreed to join me for a Q&A about the novel and her career as a writer. Please make sure to check Shannon out on her websiteTwitter, and Goodreads. If you are interested in reading my full, spoiler-free review of The Virtue of Sin, you can find it here!

What inspired you to write The Virtue of Sin?

I’ve always been fascinated by cults and fringe groups, by this idea that someone might give up their freedom and autonomy in their search for meaning and belonging. But the initial spark for this story, specifically, came from a visit to Koreshan State Park in Estero, FL, which was the site of a ‘utopian community’ back in the late 1800’s. So, basically a cult. It was so interesting to wander around their old buildings and read about their belief system. It didn’t seem wise or safe to try and infiltrate a cult for research purposes, so this was the next best thing. I recommend a visit if you’re ever in the area!

You portrayed the psychological aspects of the cult mindset incredibly well and your characters were very realistic and well-crafted. How did you approach the task of creating their personalities and bringing them to life within the setting and narrative?

Thank you! Honestly, this was mostly trial and error. The very first version of the story began with a four-person narrative, but I realized very quickly that wasn’t going to work. For one thing, Aaron knows things about New Jerusalem that I didn’t necessarily want the reading learning right out of the gate. After I pared the POV down to just Miriam and Caleb, it took some work to develop their distinct voices and personalities. They both have very different experiences in the novel, much of that based on gender and their roles within the community. As for the secondary characters, a lot of their personalities developed organically as I was drafting. Especially in early drafts, I like to put different characters together and write random scenes to see what they say and how they interact.

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

The ending! I rewrote it so many times, I’ve lost count. Without giving away any spoilers, I had a really difficult time figuring out whether or not Miriam and Caleb’s paths were going to meet up or diverge. And I really had to push myself to find the right ending for both of them—one that felt realistic, yet earned. Hopefully, I managed it. 

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

It is definitely a surreal experience to know that it’s out in the world! I am so grateful for everyone who has picked it up, and everyone who has reached out to tell me about it. I absolutely love hearing from readers. That is my favorite part, by far.

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

This is a tough question, because I have been touched by so many books and inspired by so many authors. I really love stories about strong, fierce young women who aren’t afraid to stand up for themselves and others. Or maybe they are afraid, but they do it anyway. Some of my favorites include “The Female of the Species” by Mindy McGinnis, “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson, “Sadie” by Courtney Summers, and “Blood Water Paint” by Joy McCullough.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

  1. Read—anything and everything. Genres you love and genres outside your comfort zone. For fun and for research and with avid curiosity.
  2. Write the book you want to read.
  3. Don’t give up. I was very close to throwing in the towel on THE VIRTUE OF SIN. I cringe whenever I think about how close I came. You’re going to hear a lot of ‘no’s’ but it only takes one yes, and it could be on that next manuscript you write, or the next query you send out. So keep going!

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Book Info:

thevirtueofsinThe Virtue of Sin by Shannon Schuren

Date Published: June 25th, 2019

Publisher: Philomel Books

Pages: 432 pages

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

A compelling novel about speaking out, standing up, and breaking free perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale and Tara Westover’s Educated.

Miriam lives in New Jerusalem, a haven in the desert far away from the sins and depravity of the outside world. Within the gates of New Jerusalem, and under the eye of its founder and leader, Daniel, Miriam knows she is safe. Cared for. Even if she’s forced, as a girl, to quiet her tongue when she has thoughts she wants to share, Miriam knows that New Jerusalem is a far better life than any alternative. So when God calls for a Matrimony, she’s thrilled; she knows that Caleb, the boy she loves, will choose her to be his wife and they can finally start their life together. 

But when the ceremony goes wrong and Miriam winds up with someone else, she can no longer keep quiet. For the first time, Miriam begins to question not only the rules that Daniel has set in place, but also what it is she believes in, and where she truly belongs.

Alongside unexpected allies, Miriam fights to learn–and challenge–the truth behind the only way of life she’s ever known, even if it means straying from the path of Righteousness.

A compelling debut novel about speaking out, standing up, and breaking free.

Author Bio:

5190994Shannon Schuren (shannon.schuren.org) works as a children’s librarian at a public library and writes from a cozy she-shed in her backyard. Her short stories have appeared in various journals such as Toasted Cheese Literary JournalBig Pulp, and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Shannon lives in Sheboygan Falls, WI, with her husband and three children. Follow her on Twitter @shannonschuren.

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Guest Post: Author J.L. Mbewe

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Today’s post is a guest post written by the very lovely and talented author, J.L. Mbewe. J.L. is the writer of The Hidden Dagger trilogy, an exciting fantasy series set in a beautifully crafted and rich world. I am incredibly honored to have this chance to feature her on my blog and to work with her to promote her wonderful books! Please make sure to check out J.L. on her social medias which are listed down below. You can also find all the information about and links to the novels in this trilogy there as well. You can check out my spoiler-free review of the full trilogy here!

Thank you so much for having me!

Where to start, eh? I’ve been writing since I was eight years old. From little children’s stories to poetry to journaling. Writing has always been a way of processing things and expressing myself. I even attempted a few novels when I was a teenager, although, those will never see the light of day. I burnt them. Long story. But it wasn’t until 2003 that I decided to seriously sit down and write a novel. The Sorceress’s Curse. Printed out, the first draft could fit in a plastic folder with brads, which eventually grew into The Hidden Dagger Trilogy. Sixteen years later!

I had no clue what I was doing. Once I had finished that first draft, I started looking for the next step. I read magazines, books, and blogs on improving my writing and how to get published. I was told newbies should not begin with epic fantasy and a large host of characters. Oops. Too late! I broke every rule in the industry or what the experts would suggest. I learned a lot of stuff the hard way. It was like chasing unicorns. Actually, it still feels that way. Ha!

While I was rewriting and learning the ropes with my first book, I discovered National Novel Writing Month. *Cue angelic voices* Each year when NaNoWriMo rolled around, I would take a break and write something new. I’d figure out the basic plot aspects, the main characters, and sketch a map of the world ahead of time, and then I’d dive in. I was always a big proponent of write fast and fix it later. It helped get the basic idea of the story down for me, which led to several novels in various stages and drafts. But now I’m not so sure. My latest project has me world-building and outlining a whole lot more than my previous novels. Of course, this latest series is a different beast than The Hidden Dagger Trilogy and all my other unfinished novels. It’s a murder mystery fantasy, but we’ll see. I’m sure the fate of their world will hang in the balance eventually.

And that brings us up to current day, 2019. I’m not sure where I will go from here and I suspect that my writing process will continue to evolve and that no two book journeys are alike. My plan is to continue writing, learning, growing, and not just in writing, but in my other creative endeavors. I love creating, but I also want to encourage others. Writing can be such a lonely journey. The directions are muddled, the map is sketchy, and one’s journey is never quite the same as another. I have learned so much, yet I have so much more to learn. I hope to one day be able to help other writers through their own journey.

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Author Bio:

JL MbeweWriting as J. L. Mbewe, Jennette is an author, artist, mother, wife, but not always in that order. Born and raised in Minnesota, she now braves the heat of Texas, but pines for the Northern Lights and the lakes of home every autumn. She loves trying to capture the abstract and make it concrete. She is currently living her second childhood with her wonderful husband and two precious children who don’t seem to mind her eclectic collections of rocks, shells, and swords, among other things. Here, between reality and dreams, you will find her busily creating worlds inhabited by all sorts of fantasy creatures and characters, all questing about and discovering true love amid lots of peril.

Her debut novel, Secrets Kept, was nominated for the 2014 Clive Staples Award. Her second novel, Darkened Hope was a semi-finalist for the 2017 Alliance Award.

Website  Facebook  Instagram  Twitter  Goodreads — Pinterest

Book Details:

secretskeptSecrets Kept by J.L. Mbewe

Series: Hidden Dagger #1

Date Published: May 14th, 2015

Publisher: BrokenSeed Books

Pages: 400 pages

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis: With a curse, she will build an army. With the dagger, she will undo the last sacrifice. But first the sorceress must find the secret keeper. 

Torn from her homeland and thrust into a betrothal against her wishes, Ayianna learns her family has a deadly secret that now has her on the run. She joins forces with Kael, an embittered half-elf, and Saeed, an elderly High Guardian, to seek answers to her father’s death, the destruction of Dagmar, and the plains people’s bizarre behavior.

Ayianna discovers there is more at stake here than just her mother’s disappearance and her familial duty to her betrothed. The sorceress has cursed the plains people, and it is a race against time to release them before the sorceress resurrects an ancient evil.

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darkenedhopeDarkened Hope by J.L. Mbewe

Series: Hidden Dagger #2

Date Published: May 7th, 2016

Publisher: BrokenSeed Books

Pages: 392 pages

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis: The Secret Keeper is on the run, but does she know the secret she keeps? 

Ayianna is a cursed half-elf betrothed to Desmond, but her heart belongs Kael. After discovering the cure for the Sorceress’s curse, she and her companions embark on a dangerous quest to retrieve the ingredients.

When dragons descend upon their party, Ayianna realizes the Sorceress is searching not just for the corrupted dagger, but a human sacrifice that will open a portal to the underworld. Battling deadly creatures and natural disasters, Ayianna is forced to confront her insecurities and conflicted heart. She must decide whether to be true to her family or true to herself.

As the nations rally for war, betrayal threatens to destroy them all, and it’s a race against time to return before the curse destroys the plains people.

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curseboundCurse Bound by J.L. Mbewe

Series: Hidden Dagger #3

Date Published: June 27th, 2019

Publisher: BrokenSeed Books

Pages: 326 pages

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis: Kael’s worse fears have come true. Betrayal has shaken the Guardian Circle, the High Guardian is dead, and Ayianna and Prince Vian are in the hands of the Sorceress, but he and his companions must finish their quest, before they can attempt a rescue mission. Unfortunately, Desmond’s parting gift left them stranded on the western cliffs of Nälu.

Jathil, once heir to the throne of Arashel, believes her father will aid them, but first she must face the crimes of her past. When she does, she could never believe the outcome, nor the rippling effect it would have on the nations. Meanwhile the Alliance braces for war, but division threatens to undermine their efforts. When Nerissa returns from Ganya with the dragon regiment, she discovers a bigger problem. The curse bound are waking up.

As the quest nears completion, Kael is forced to choose between his heart and duty, and neither choice bodes well with him. Either way, he will face the Sorceress and her armies sooner or later. The battle for Nälu has begun and there can be only one victor. 

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