Blog Tour: Excerpt of “To Kiss a Wallflower”

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Book: “To Kiss a Wallflower” by Jen Geigle Johnson, Heather B. Moore, & Anneka R. Walker

Publishing Info: Mirror Press, June 2022

Where Did I Get this Book: from the publicist!

Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat

Book Description: THE WALLFLOWER’S DANCE by Jen Geigle Johnson

Lottie Hughes likes people, as long as they aren’t too close. Does it bother her that no one asks her to dance? Yes, but she’s not sure how to drum up dance partners when she has almost no dowry, no title, and freezes up when anyone tries to talk to her. When she suddenly inherits a huge amount and is the new center of attention all over London, her secret dreams might come true but also her worst nightmares. Suddenly everyone wants to talk to her. Men ask her to dance. And she is inundated with interested suitors. She fights to stay close to the few friends she knows are true. One man saw her before her life changed forever. But does she want to accept his help when he, too, might be insincere?

LETTERS TO A WALLFLOWER by Heather B. Moore

Ellen might be beautiful and considered a diamond of the first water by Society, but she is so very tired of the pressure to marry a titled gentleman so that her beauty won’t go to waste. When her cousin Dinah dares Ellen to attend a ball with no frills and to stand with the wallflowers, Ellen takes on the dare. What’s in the wager for her? The prize cuttings of her aunt’s extraordinary roses. But what Ellen isn’t expecting is Lord Ravenshire to engage her in the most interesting conversation. When she confesses to him of her opposition in marrying for a title, he confesses his distaste of the London scene. They strike a bargain together, one which will either push them apart or lead to a future sweeter than either of them could have imagined.

TO MARRY A WALLFLOWER by Anneka R. Walker

Charlotte Winters is destined to spinsterhood until she turns down an unwanted proposal and everything changes. With gossip rampant, her father attempts to salvage her reputation by betrothing her to another. Soon she is sent off to her aunt’s to meet Lord Templeton, her intended. Anxiety-ridden, Charlotte begs her aunt to let her observe Lord Templeton from afar before their introduction. She never planned to pretend to be her fictional cousin to learn more about him, or to fall in love with Lord Templeton’s friend in the process. Lord Templeton dreads returning to the empty halls of Newcliff Manor. When his father’s old friend, Mr. Winters reaches out for assistance, Lord Templeton finds himself returning home engaged to a woman he has never met. Desperate to learn more about Miss Winters, he befriends her cousin. He wouldn’t have spoken to her, or lied about his identity, if he’d known the quiet woman would sneak into his heart.

Note: Thank you so much to Laurel Ann for reaching out to me with the opportunity to participate in this blog tour! I love working with other bloggers to help promote books that may not get as much attention on their own. It’s also a great way of meeting other bloggers out there who are doing some excellent work! Today, I’m going to feature an excerpt from this book. I’ll likely post a full review at a later date. Enjoy!

Excerpt:

The Wallflower’s Dance

by Jen Geigle Johnson

Chapter One

Despite Lottie’s mother, who wished to know and be known by all and sundry, Lottie was still of the opinion that few people were required for happiness. Three things were needed: her closest friends, a good book, and lovely walks in the park. 

And perhaps a husband. 

Someday. 

If he too preferred little company, books, and walks in the park. 

She brought her brush, thick with paint, over the wood of a new table. She’d found a particular shade of lavender and knew it would go well in her sitting room. The lovely rich color covered the white beneath it completely. 

Lottie smiled. Once this coat dried, she could add embellishments, flowers, a trailing vine of green, whatever she liked.

Her mother peeked her head in the door to her art room. “Lottie.” The higher-pitched energy that exuded from her mother any time of day only felt companionable when Lottie too was full of energy. Which was usually reserved for the late hours of a ball. Something about the middle of the night filled Lottie with adventure. By then, her mother was typically nodding off in a corner somewhere.

“I’m painting, Mother. Come see this shade of purple. It’s like nothing I’ve ever used before.”

To her credit, she stepped into the room and glanced at the painting. “Very nice. Now. If you could take a break, we need to be stunning, absolutely beautiful for a walk in the park.”

Lottie perked up at walk, but when the gleam in her mother’s eyes sharpened and Lottie paid attention to stunning and beautiful as requirements, she knew this was going to be less about walking and more about being seen. “Perhaps you and your friends could go without me this morning? I’m hoping to finish up this coat.” She knew her excuse sounded weak and her mother did too, judging by the dismissive wave of her fingers.

“Oh come, word has it that Prinny will make an appearance, which suddenly turns a casual walk in the park into a major event of the Season. This is your chance for more introductions, more doors opened to you. Who knows, you may even meet a duke!” The wide, hopeful eyes at the doorway were evidence that Lottie was not going to be able to avoid the park. She left her brush in water and stood, wiping fingers on her apron.

“Should I wear the violet?” 

Mother was about to give Lottie’s maid very detailed instructions as to her appearance anyway, so she might as well ask her before choosing a dress herself.

“No, too dark and bold for a walk in the park. Wear a pastel. But a colorful bonnet. Don’t worry, I’ve instructed Dorothea in all the particulars.”

Dorothea, Lottie’s maid, very obviously worked for her mother. She could never be convinced to alter the prearranged instructions on Lottie’s presentation. But no matter. Lottie moved obediently to her bedroom and the preparations began, starting with an intricate hairstyle that would be hidden underneath her bonnet. But Lottie knew better than to discuss her opinion on the particulars. She watched Dorothea in the mirror. Perhaps they would be able to have some entertainment to enliven them both. Entertainment in the form of another maid, reading aloud their latest favorite novel. Lottie’s eyes met Dorothea’s. “Will Penny be able to slip away?”

“I believe so, miss.” Dorothea smiled. She enjoyed the books as much as Lottie, and if Lottie was to be sitting in this chair for hours, they may as well be entertained.

Lottie had discovered the rare occurrence of a servant who knew how to read. Even though she sometimes stumbled, she did less so now that she’d been tasked with the very important assignment of reading to Lottie while she prepared for the day. Penny slipped in through the servants’ entrance. “I’ve just come from the kitchen.” Her mischievous smile made Lottie laugh.

“Are they missing you?”

She waved a hand. “Not at all. Cook has an army of people in there, helping. I’ve finished all my other chores.”

“Excellent and, of course, I called for you. That should help.”

Both servants shared a look, which she took to mean that she had little clout in the servants’ eyes. Well, no matter. “Please start at the beginning.”

Penny nodded, her eyes gleaming with the same hopeful expectation Lottie herself felt. And then she began to read. 

“The Family of Dashwood had long been settled in Sussex.”

Blog Tour, Review, and Giveaway: “Hidden Pictures”


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Read the full disclosure here.

Book: “Hidden Pictures” by Jason Rekulak

Publishing Info: Flatiron Books, May 2022

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an ARC from the publisher.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: From Jason Rekulak, Edgar-nominated author of The Impossible Fortress, comes a wildly inventive spin on the classic horror story in Hidden Pictures, a creepy and warm-hearted mystery about a woman working as a nanny for a young boy with strange and disturbing secrets.

Fresh out of rehab, Mallory Quinn takes a job in the affluent suburb of Spring Brook, New Jersey as a babysitter for Ted and Caroline Maxwell. She is to look after their five-year-old son, Teddy.

Mallory immediately loves this new job. She lives in the Maxwell’s pool house, goes out for nightly runs, and has the stability she craves. And she sincerely bonds with Teddy, a sweet, shy boy who is never without his sketchbook and pencil. His drawings are the usual fare: trees, rabbits, balloons. But one day, he draws something different: a man in a forest, dragging a woman’s lifeless body.

As the days pass, Teddy’s artwork becomes more and more sinister, and his stick figures steadily evolve into more detailed, complex, and lifelike sketches well beyond the ability of any five-year-old. Mallory begins to suspect these are glimpses of an unsolved murder from long ago, perhaps relayed by a supernatural force lingering in the forest behind the Maxwell’s house. With help from a handsome landscaper and an eccentric neighbor, Mallory sets out to decipher the images and save Teddy—while coming to terms with a tragedy in her own past—before it’s too late.

Review: Thank you so much to Maris Tasaka of Macmillan for sending me an ARC of this book and for including our blog on the Blog Tour of this book!

I’m the person on here who reads and reviews the graphic novels for the blog, so books with visual components are pretty common in terms of me coming across them. But I always like seeing novels that use the occasional visual component to add to the story. I think of books like “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”, or the more recent (and recently reviewed on here) “Secret Identity”, which use photos or illustrations in regards to what a character may be seeing in the story. Which is why when Flatiron Press reached out to me asking if I’d be interested in participating in a Blog Tour of “Hidden Pictures” by Jason Rekulak I jumped at the chance. I already love a ghost story. But I’m even more interested by a ghost story that has creepy drawings that tie into the ghost story!

In terms of plot, “Hidden Pictures” is straight forward and moves at a fast clip. It’s a relatively long book (almost four hundred pages) but I was basically able to devour it in two evening’s time because it is such a quick read. It’s told through Mallory’s eyes, a new babysitter to a precocious little boy named Teddy who is newly clean off hard drugs and desperate for a second chance. Teddy’s parents have very high standards for his care, and while they are seemingly supportive Mallory feels a little judged by them due to her past and their very elite lifestyle. So when Teddy starts drawing strange pictures and talking about his imaginary friend Anya, and things start to escalate, Mallory has to worry about keeping Teddy safe from a potential unseen force, and not overstepping boundaries that could destroy the progress of a new life she’s made. I liked how Rekulak sets up many good reasons for Mallory to be feeling pretty alone in this as she worries more and more about Teddy, and I liked how she slowly starts to investigate and uncover clues about who could potentially be haunting her charge. The puzzle pieces aren’t overly complicated and they are familiar themes, but they are well placed and timed out. There were a lot of good twists and turns on the way to the ultimate solution, with a lot of really creepy and sometimes downright frightening moments involving a presence whose intentions are not clear. The pacing works really well and I just couldn’t put it down.

In terms of characters, it’s a little bit of a mixed bag. Mallory is probably the most interesting, which isn’t super surprising as she’s our narrator, but Rekulak brings out her layers and her background in ways that made her easy to like and empathize with. I appreciated that Rekulak took care (as far as I could tell? Tell me if I’m wrong please!) to portray her past addiction and the fallouts of that as she rebuilds in a sympathetic light, avoiding stereotypical pitfalls or trying to make a potential relapse a side plot. Her backstory is also treated with care, and it all made sense in how she makes decisions and the actions she takes as the story goes on. In terms of other characters, they were hit or miss. I liked her friend and love interest Adrian, as it was nice having someone in her corner and I liked their chemistry. Teddy was your typical precocious kid who communicates with ghosts, and his parents Caroline and Ted were a right mix of saccharine supportive and perhaps a little untrustworthy (the way they treated Mallory was another well done unease to the story; supportive but conditionally only is one way I’d describe it). Other supporting characters like Mallory’s sponsor, or the ‘eccentric’ (read belligerent and racist, but not really called out enough about it) neighbor next door didn’t work as well. But hey, the strength was Mallory and that’s what you need in this kind of mystery horror story.

And oh boy, let’s talk about the pictures. I loved that Rekulak decided to use both words and images for this book, as while I appreciate using my imagination to create images when I read, I also REALLY love a visual medium that enhances a reading experience. And the pictures in “Hidden Pictures” are awesome, running a full range of realistically five year old aesthetic, to creepy unsettling, to genuinely beautiful and moving. They really added to my enjoyment of the story overall.

With summer just around the corner, you may be looking for a fast and fun read to take on a trip or just to read while hanging around the house. “Hidden Pictures” would be a great choice for such occasions!

Rating 8: A fast and compelling plot, a creepy ghost story, and some truly unsettling artwork make “Hidden Pictures” a fun horror tale just in time for Summer!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Hidden Pictures” is included on the Goodreads lists “Anticipated 2022 Horror/Thriller Releases”, and “52 Book Club 2022: A Book With Photographs Inside”.

And as mentioned in the title of this post, I am running a giveaway of the ARC of this novel! So if you think this sounds right up your alley, enter a chance to win! The giveaway is open to U.S. Residents only and will end on May 24th.

Enter The Giveaway HERE!

Blog Tour: “The Murder of Mr. Wickham”

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Book: “The Murder of Mr. Wickham” by Claudia Gray

Publishing Info: Vintage, May 2022

Where Did I Get this Book: ARC from the publisher!

Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat

Book Description: The happily married Mr. Knightley and Emma are throwing a house party, bringing together distant relatives and new acquaintances—characters beloved by Jane Austen fans. Definitely not invited is Mr. Wickham, whose latest financial scheme has netted him an even broader array of enemies. As tempers flare and secrets are revealed, it’s clear that everyone would be happier if Mr. Wickham got his comeuppance. Yet they’re all shocked when Wickham turns up murdered—except, of course, for the killer hidden in their midst.

Nearly everyone at the house party is a suspect, so it falls to the party’s two youngest guests to solve the mystery: Juliet Tilney, the smart and resourceful daughter of Catherine and Henry, eager for adventure beyond Northanger Abbey; and Jonathan Darcy, the Darcys’ eldest son, whose adherence to propriety makes his father seem almost relaxed. In a tantalizing fusion of Austen and Christie, the unlikely pair must put aside their own poor first impressions and uncover the guilty party—before an innocent person is sentenced to hang.

Review: There is a truth universally acknowledged: the more ardent a fan of Jane Austen a reader is, the more critical that fan will be of any and every Jane Austen adaptation/sequel. I feel fairly confident making a generalization like that, and I would easily include myself in it. There have been times when my snobbery has reached levels not seen in any other favorite genre or beloved series of books. But I’m glad that I didn’t let this lesser self dictate whether or not I picked up this book, cuz, man, other than “Death Comes to Pemberley,” this is probably my favorite Jane Austen continuation yet!

In Emma’s view, a house party is always just the thing to cheer matters up! So she and her husband, Mr. Knightley, gather a large group of friends, acquaintances, and family members to share in a visit at their home. This cheerful event is made much less so, however, when the disreputable Mr. Wickham shows up one dark and stormy night. And what’s worse than an unwelcome guest? One that is rude enough to get themselves murdered on the premises, thus leaving all the remaining guests left as suspects. With so many members of the group having motives for thinking the world would be better off without Mr. Wickham, the Darcy’s oldest son, Jonathan, and the young Juliet Tilney decide to tackle the mystery themselves. But as they get closer and closer to discovering the murderer, the more horrifying the truth becomes, because it must have been one of their dear friends!

It’s immediately obvious that the author is herself a huge fan of Jane Austen. This book is so clearly a love letter to all of these characters and to all of the fans that it’s impossible to miss. This also makes the reading experience entirely dependent on one’s familiarity with these characters and stories. There are so many small nods and inside jokes that will only be appreciated by ardent fans, that the reading experience will likely be vastly different for those familiar with these stories and those who have been less-exposed. And because the story includes characters from all of the books, the reader pretty much has to have all six novels well under the belt to appreciate the work the author has put into creating in this story.

As fun as all of these Easter egg clues were to spot, what really made this book stand out was how well the author understood the characters she was working with, in all of their strengths and weaknesses. Most especially, she envisioned how these personalities would play off one another, both between each other and within their own marriages (since, due to the nature of Austen’s books, we see very little of what these characters’ lives are like in the marital state). Gray doesn’t shy away from pointing out some of the flaws in these characters that could drive wedges into their marriages. However, everything is handled with such care that you never feel like any of these choices or actions are out of character with the originals. Instead, we see how many of them grow even further once some of these characteristics are exposed to the harsh light of day.

From a purely preferential state, I was glad to see that Emma and Knightley were by far the most stable of the couples. Not only do they know each other much better than anyone else (Emma having grown up with Knightley as a good friend from the very beginning), but the original book does a good job dealing with each of their flaws to begin with. Fans of “Mansfield Park,” however, may be dismayed to see that Fanny and Edmund, on the other hand, probably have the most work to do. Again, this never feels like an overt critique of the original story, but instead seems perfectly in line with these two characters and the way their romance played out (honestly, one of the more weird ones when you think about it). It’s satisfying to see Fanny come more into her own and Edmund be forced to reckon with some of the ways that he didn’t do his best with regards to Fanny and their relationship.

All of this written and I haven’t even touched on the mystery! I honestly can’t say enough good thing about this as well. It’s truly impressive how well Gray managed to work Wickham into all of these characters’ lives in ways that felt completely natural and inline with their stories. Not once did his relationship with these characters feel forced or shoe-horned in to fit the narrative. Instead, it felt completely organic and believable. Thus making the entire thing so stressful! It starts to become truly horrifying wondering how this mystery is going to be resolved without vilifying one of our beloved main characters!

I also really enjoyed the original characters of Jonathan and Juliet. It’s tough work to create new characters and stand them up against classics like Elizabeth Bennet and Emma Woodhouse, but Gray manages it! For one thing, the book features so many viewpoints that Jonathan and Juliet are by no means the sole focus. We get plenty of time with our other favorites, but I also began to appreciate both Jonathan and Juliet in their own right. I was also pleased to see that while there are hints of a potential romance between these two, the story didn’t commit to anything in this arena. There simply wasn’t enough time in this book to not do a disserve to the mystery by trying to force in a fully-fledged romance as well.

All of this to say, I highly recommend this book to any Jane Austen fan out there! The more familiar you are with the originals, the more you’re likely to enjoy this!

Rating 9: Simply excellent and sure to please even the most picky Jane Austen fan!

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Murder of Mr. Wickham” isn’t on any Goodreads lists yet, but it should be on Jane Austen Sequels and Pastiches.

Blog Tour and Review: “Secret Identity”

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Book: “Secret Identity” by Alex Segura

Publishing Info: Flatiron Books, March 2022

Where Did I Get this Book: I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley as part of this Blog Tour.

Where Can You Get this Book: WorldCat | Amazon | IndieBound |

Book Description: From Anthony Award-winning writer Alex Segura comes Secret Identity, a rollicking literary mystery set in the world of comic books.

It’s 1975 and the comic book industry is struggling, but Carmen Valdez doesn’t care. She’s an assistant at Triumph Comics, which doesn’t have the creative zeal of Marvel nor the buttoned-up efficiency of DC, but it doesn’t matter. Carmen is tantalizingly close to fulfilling her dream of writing a superhero book.

That dream is nearly a reality when one of the Triumph writers enlists her help to create a new character, which they call “The Lethal Lynx,” Triumph’s first female hero. But her colleague is acting strangely and asking to keep her involvement a secret. And then he’s found dead, with all of their scripts turned into the publisher without her name. Carmen is desperate to piece together what happened to him, to hang on to her piece of the Lynx, which turns out to be a runaway hit. But that’s complicated by a surprise visitor from her home in Miami, a tenacious cop who is piecing everything together too quickly for Carmen, and the tangled web of secrets and resentments among the passionate eccentrics who write comics for a living.

Alex Segura uses his expertise as a comics creator as well as his unabashed love of noir fiction to create a truly one-of-a-kind novel–hard-edged and bright-eyed, gritty and dangerous, and utterly absorbing.

Review: Thank you so much to Maris Tasaka of Macmillan for sending me an eARC of this book via NetGalley and for including our blog on the Blog Tour of this book!

My enjoyment of comic books and therein graphic novels was solidly influenced by my mother, who was an avid DC fan as a child. During a childhood trip to visit my grandparents in Iowa, my mother managed to find a huge box of her old comics, and I had a grand old time reading through them and familiarizing myself with Superman, The Flash, Green Lantern, and Batman (I feel like this was her favorite title; SO MANY BATMAN COMICS). I definitely spent some time thinking about this as I read “Secret Identity”, a new literary mystery from Alex Segura, that has its main thrust and story in the comics industry during the 1970s (about ten years after my Mom was reading the various heroes of DC), and starring a young woman named Carmen who loves comics and is working with them, though not at the capacity she’d like. Because misogyny and racism, of course! That alone is compelling as hell, but when you add some ghost writing, an unstable ex, and a murder to boot? That’s even more tantalizing.

“Secret Identity” is fast paced, suspenseful, and it sends the reader back to 1970s New York City with ease. As I was reading I felt deeply immersed in the time and place, able to picture everything that was being described. The setting makes for a great mystery, given that 1970s New York City was gritty and grim in many ways, and Segura gives us a solid whodunnit with a fantastic detective at the forefront. I really loved Carmen as our protagonist, as she is determined and ambitious, as well as very relatable and likable while trying to balance her gender, ethnicity, and sexuality in a very patriarchal vocation and society. I was righteously indignant for her given the fact that she is a Latin woman working in a boys club industry during a time of changing gender dynamics, and her experiences very much reflect that. Be it being dismissed by her boss, being seen as a secretary and not much more, being hit on by men and having to fend them off while hiding the fact she’s into women, or being excluded from her coworkers, even in inadvertent ways, Carmen has to deal with a lot of shit. And she does it because she loves comics, she lives and breathes comics, and that makes her tolerate it all…. Until a coworker named Harvey approaches her for creative help on a new character they call The Lynx, a female superhero that subverts the norms. Carmen is the force behind the best parts of her, but Harvey takes the full credit because of course he does. Carmen’s anger about this is kind of short lived, however, as before she can confront him he is murdered. And the reason for that may be because of the Lynx. Combining this violation of her creative property with a murder mystery makes for a very complicated journey for Carmen, as while she has to frame it as wanting to find justice for her friend, there is the deeper component of wanting to reclaim her character, but also being in danger BECAUSE of the character. The mystery is very well crafted, and Segura lays out the clues and has a number of well placed red herrings to boot.

And this entire story is a true Valentine to superhero comics and the way they can sweep a reader up and influence them, while being realistic about what the comics industry was like during the time period. Carmen is not only a great noir-esque amateur detective, but I loved how Segura made her love and passion for comics so evident and believable, and how honest he is about the highs and lows of the comics industry. Carmen’s enthusiasm and knowledge is really fun on the page, and we even get to see some of the pages of the comics of The Lynx as the story goes on and when the themes are relevant (given that Segura is also a comics writer, these moments were extra awesome and felt really authentic). And while this takes place in the 1970s, my guess is that some of the issues are timeless, and Segura takes on mediocre writers who get promotions based on sex and race, misogyny, idea theft, and other toxic realities of being a woman and POC in the comics industry. It adds another layer to the mystery, given that Harvey was more than happy to steal the credit from Carmen and figured that there wouldn’t be anything she could do about it. It all comes together nicely and in a way that adds to the plot and makes it all the more complex and interesting.

I definitely enjoyed “Secret Identity”, and already have a wide swath of people in mind as to who I would recommend it to (my Mom, for instance)! The buzz around this book is absolutely spot on. Anyone into superhero comics from the era, or just comics in general, should pick it up!

Rating 9: A solid mystery, a love letter to comics, and a stirring character study, “Secret Identity” is a must read for comics fans and mystery fans alike!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Secret Identity” is included on the Goodreads lists “Books for Geeky Girls”, and “About Comics”.

Other Stops on the Blog Tour:

Jessicamap Reviews (March 10)

Blog Tour: “Song of the Crimson Flower”

Blog Tour Banner

32605126._sy475_Book: “Song of the Crimson Flower” by Julie C. Dao

Publishing Info: Philomel, November 2019

Where Did I Get this Book: ARC from the publisher!

Book Description: Will love break the spell? After cruelly rejecting Bao, the poor physician’s apprentice who loves her, Lan, a wealthy nobleman’s daughter, regrets her actions. So when she finds Bao’s prized flute floating in his boat near her house, she takes it into her care, not knowing that his soul has been trapped inside it by an evil witch, who cursed Bao, telling him that only love will set him free. Though Bao now despises her, Lan vows to make amends and help break the spell.

Together, the two travel across the continent, finding themselves in the presence of greatness in the forms of the Great Forest’s Empress Jade and Commander Wei. They journey with Wei, getting tangled in the webs of war, blood magic, and romance along the way. Will Lan and Bao begin to break the spell that’s been placed upon them? Or will they be doomed to live out their lives with black magic running through their veins?

In this fantastical tale of darkness and love, some magical bonds are stronger than blood.

Review: First off, I would like to send out a big thanks for being included in the blog tour for this book! It’s always great to be included in a collaboration between between authors, publishers, and bloggers. I hadn’t read any other books by this author, but “Forest of a Thousand Lanterns” has been on my TBR pile for a long time (this is more a reflection of how out of control my TBR pile is than anything about the book itself). But this recent release seemed like a great time to jump on the bandwagon, and here I am! Fully on board!

Lan’s future is simple: marry the man she loves who just so happens to love her back and to be a perfectly appropriate match, thank you very much. Problem is, that man is not who she thinks and when Bao, a lowly apprentice, makes this known to her, the exchange doesn’t go well for either. When a witch’s curse binds the two together once more, Bao and Lan find themselves on an adventure that involves not only Bao’s mysterious origins but catches them up in the maneuverings of rulers and countries, bringing with it a few familiar faces from previous books.

There were many things to love about this book. For me, one of the best part was the fairytale-like nature of the story. It’s well-documented that this type of fantasy is one of my favorites, and it’s all the more exciting when I stumble across one that is unique, rather than just a re-telling of the ever popular “Beauty and the Beast” and “Cinderella.” While I do wish the rules of the curse itself had been fleshed out a bit more, I did like the fact that, while new, much of it was based on familiar staples of fairytales: a curse involving a witch, some type of magical object, family ties, and, of course, love as a cure. But while these elements on their own were wholly original, I think the way the author incorporated them into her original world lent them a feeling of freshness.

I think this was especially clear in the way the cure played out and the romance at the heart of the story. While the two characters have known each other since childhood, the beginning of the book makes it clear that they each saw this friendship very differently. And when the truth of the original romance is revealed, each behave poorly (most especially Lan). From there, the romance really begins to build as each has to get to know the real version of the other, metaphorical “warts” and all. I really enjoyed the slow burn of this love story. Aside from the lovely romance at the heart of it, the way their story developed allowed for each character to go through a lot of self discovery, exploring themes of forgiveness, patience, and understanding.

As I haven’t read the other stories by this author, I wasn’t familiar with some of the characters who showed up here but had clearly been the main characters in previous books. Readers familiar with those books will likely get a lot more out of these appearances than I did. But I can say that this book is also fully capable of standing alone and introducing these characters and this world on its own. While I may not have had any previous attachment, I was never confused or felt like more reading was necessary to understand the players at the table.

The world-building was also very interesting. And for being such a short book, I was impressed by how fully fleshed out this world was. To top that off, the secondary plot of the story (I would argue that the romance is mostly the main plot) was interesting and had many twists and turns. A mysterious illness, an illegal plant/drug, and, of course, how Bao is connected to it all. Even if I was there mostly for the relationship drama, there were enough other things going on to keep me on my toes.

I really enjoyed this story. It’s a fresh, fairytale fantasy with a sweet romance at its heart. Fans of the author’s other books will likely be happy with this one and pleased to see familiar faces. However, readers new to the story will have an easy introduction to the world and characters. Those looking for a lovely, standalone fairytale are sure to be happy with this one!

Rating 8: Sweet and unique, this story was lovely from start to finish.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Song of the Crimson Flower” is on these Goodreads lists: “Apprentices” and “Fairy tales & Retellings.”

Find “Song of the Crimson Flower” at your library using Worldcat!

Check out these other stops on the blog tour!

Week One

November 4 – Velarisreads – Review + Creative Instagram Picture

November 5 – A Gingerly Review – Dream Cast

November 6 – Love.books.and.coffee – Creative Instagram Picture

November 7 – Lovely Loveday – Review

Week Two

November 11 – Old.enough.for.fairytales – Creative Instagram Picture

November 12 – Confessions of a YA Reader – Author Q&A

November 13 – Library Ladies – Review

November 14 – The Paige-Turner – Creative Instagram Picture + Tumblr post

Blog Tour: “The Demon Within”

We at the Library Ladies are excited to participate in the “The Demon Within” Blog Tour! For fans of supernatural and dark fantasy, this new series by author Josh Gagnier may be up your alley. We are also lucky enough to have Josh provide us with a special post for our blog that may give a taste of what to expect from this series! 

Demon Within by Josh Gagnier

Book: “The Demon Within” by Josh Gagnier

Publishing Info: PorterMouth, Dec. 18, 2016

Category: Dark Fantasy, Paranormal/Urban Fantasy

Book Description: Joe grew up listening to the voice in his head. It helped him through school, helped him gain wealth in his career.

The final temptation of power was too much. He hadn’t considered the cost.

Now he must find a way to defeat The Demon Within.

Little does he know, his every move is being recorded. Every misstep is being judged. As he gets ever closer to winning over his demon, heavenly eyes watch from above. Some root for his success while others hope he’ll fail.

While Joe fights his demon on the battlefront, the angel Michael fights for his Soul.

Will Joe win out? Will Michael be able to save Joe’s soul?

Or will the Demon win and thrust Joe into the Abyss.

Excerpt from “The Demon Within”

Sometime between the Prologue and Chapter 1…

“Belath?  Are you here?”  Sahiva asks as she opens Belath’s office door. “Grand Master has changed his mind.  You don’t have to go.”

She walks to his desk to check his schedule.  His desk is clear except for an empty bottle of spirits and a rolled up parchment.  Her eyes well with tears as she reads.

“Oh, Belath, What have you done?”

—-

Grand Master,

I have been loyal since the beginning.  I was a general in the Great War and I helped remove The Betrayer from Paradise.  I have lived hundreds of lifetimes, each harder than the previous.  With each of these lives I’ve been sent with a different Diabolus Entos each many lives stronger than my Soul.

I understand you say this is to prepare me for a great battle you see on the horizon.  I am writing this letter in hopes to impress upon you the damage done to my Soul.  I have become more powerful than all in our realm with, of course, the exception of you.  My Soul’s aura engulfs everything around me and has even instantly destroyed lesser Diabolus who ventured to close.  But the scars…

I will continue this path if you require it of me. I need you to know I feel a strain growing within.  I have pushed through lives in which greater Souls have failed.  My Soul has been scarred so many times I’ve lost count.  Then, when these scars finally dissipate, you send me back through a trial that makes The Abyss seem like a vacation.

I feel something growing inside.  Something I do not believe I’ll be able to control. Almost as if each of the Diabolus Entos I’ve encountered left a piece inside me.  These pieces have begun to flow into one another.  It’s as an angry spot in an otherwise perfect cloud, and it’s fighting against me.

Regarding this task you ask of me.  If it is possible, I ask it be assigned to another. Helping this Soul through his trial is needed, but, this darkness growing inside me…

I understand this young Soul’s Diabolus Entos is stronger than any I’ve faced.  I also understand if we fail we will be thrust back to the time of The Betrayer.

Even as I write this, I know, there is no other way.  

I will give everything I have to this task; even if that means sacrificing my Soul to save his.  I know you wouldn’t send me unless it was imperative to our existence.

Your Loyal Servant,
Belath

Praise For “The Demon Within” by Josh Gagnier

“The Demon Within is an outstanding read. It is a dark fantasy that will take you through twists and turns and keep you guess the whole way. The writer did a fantastic job with the creativity and complexity of the story line as well with the characters. You will not be disappointed!”- Nick Barth, Reviewer

“This book is amazing. The author has a way with words, his twists and turns keep you hooked. I couldn’t put it down. Waiting for part two, I see this as the door way into the fantasy realm!”- Andy Burk, Reviewer

About Josh GagnierDemon Within by Josh Gagnier

Josh has had a knack for writing from a young age; mostly poetry. The Demon Within is his debut novel and, according to Josh, nearly wrote itself. He is a US Army veteran and has been deployed to the Balkans and Middle East. He has been an IT professional for about a decade. Many of the events in The Demon Within were taken from Josh’s life and “put through the fiction blender” as he puts it. When pressed for more details, he said he couldn’t give specifics for fear of “giving spoilers,” but, he did say the book includes fictional spins on things ranging from childhood bullying to being placed in the Las Vegas foster care system. He currently lives in Columbus OH with his family and is working on book two of his ‘The Last War’ series.

Giveaway of “The Demon Within” by Josh Gagnier

This giveaway is for one print copy of the book and a $50 gift card to a U.S. winner. The ebook with $50 gift card is open worldwide. This giveaway ends on April 27, 2018.

Click Here To Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway!

Buy “The Demon Within” by Josh Gagnier on Amazon  or Demon Within

For all stops on the blog tour, take a look below the cut:

Continue reading “Blog Tour: “The Demon Within””

“Rebel of the Sands” Blog Tour & Review

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24934065Book: “Rebel of the Sands” by Alwyn Hamiton

Publishing Info: Viking Books for Young Readers, March 2016

Where Did I Get this Book: from the publisher!

Book Description: Arabian Nights” meets “Mockingjay” in a world unlike any you’ve ever seen before!

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and remote areas, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still perform their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from. When the gunslinging girl meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she sees him as the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving Dustwalk, she never imagined she’d gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan’s army, with a fugitive who’s part of the secret rebel movement plotting to overthrow the Sultan. And she’d never have predicted she’d fall in love with him . . . or that he’d help her unlock the truth about who–and what–she is. Debut author Alwyn Hamilton weaves this spellbinding story of treason, passion, and magic.
unnamed-authorAuthor’s Bio: Alwyn Hamilton was born in Toronto and lived between Canada, France, and Italy until the was three, when her family settled in the small French town of Beaune. She studied History of Art at King’s College, Cambridge, graduated in 2009, and lives in London.

Review: I am so excited to participate in this blog tour! Not only because I simply love blog tours (following them, being in them, whatever!), but because of the book that I got to read for this one. “Rebel of Sands” is one of those stories that has been on my TBR pile forrrevveer. And I really have no excuse as to why I haven’t gotten to it before. But now I can just smugly feel that my procrastination was just divine providence for my being able to review it now with fellow bloggers.

There was a lot to love about this book, and the story wastes no time in laying it all out before you. If there is one word that I would use to describe this book it would be “fast-paced” (hyphens make it one word!). The story starts out with us quickly meeting our heroine, Amani, and getting a brief overview of the life she’s been leading, one that has been restricted by her gender, her status as an orphan, and her complete lack of funds to get herself the heck out of dodge. Wham, bam, a few pages later, Amani has gotten herself caught up in things over her head and found herself in the company of the roguish, Jin, who is now her best bet out into the wide world. From there, the adventure is just getting started, with mythical beasts and action around every corner.

I very much enjoyed Amani as a leading character. Her narration is witty, but believable, never falling into any of the too-easy cliches for smart-mouthed heroines. Further, her banter with Jin also walked this line well. Their romance was a nice addition to the story, but didn’t overwhelm the action or Amani’s character arc on her own.

I also loved the Persian setting for this story. I’ve been on a bit of a kick of this kind (along with the rest of the YA community it seems), and have enjoyed other books with a similar setting to this (“Wrath of Dawn” & “City of Brass” come to mind). The desert setting and the mythology of the region are always appealing, and I enjoyed them just as much in this version as I have in others. This story was also more action packed than some of the others, which I thought played well laid upon this desert setting.

My one critique comes in the middle of two positive aspects. I liked the setting, as I’ve said, and I like Amani’s special skill of being a sharp shooter. My only problem was the combination of the two sometimes lead the book towards feeling more like a Western than anything else, which I felt like took away from the Persian culture and setting. It almost managed to re-focus the story back to the more common Euro-centric fantasy books that are so predominant. This was a bit unfortunate as it ended up shooting (ha!) itself in the foot, taking out one of its own creative strengths a bit.

But, other than that, I very much enjoyed reading “Rebel of the Sands!” It was a quick read, full of action and adventure, and featuring a relatable heroine whose story I’m eager to continue following.

Rating 8: A action-packed romp with strong country Western themes and a witty heroine!

Next Stop on the Blog Tour: I Fangirl About Books

HERO AT THE FALL TOUR SCHEDULE
REBEL OF THE SANDS SCHEDULE
WEEK ONE
1/30 – Spinatale Reviews – Review
1/31 – Library Ladies – Review
2/1 – I Fangirl about books – Review
2/2 – Aimee, Always – Quote Wallpaper
WEEK TWO
2/5 – Opalsbookjems – Review
2/6 – Mundie Moms – Review
2/7 – As Told By Michelle – Review
TRAITOR OF THE THRONE SCHEDULE
WEEK THREE
2/12 – YA and Wine – Review
2/13 – Adventures of a Book Junkie – “5 Reasons to Read the Series”
2/14 – ReadingAnyone – Review
2/15 – The Clockwork Bibliophile – Booklook + Photo Feature
WEEK FOUR
2/20 – The Lovely Books – Review
2/21 – Never Too Many To Read – Creative
2/22 – Sisters Who Read – Creative Post
HERO AT THE FALL SCHEDULE
WEEK FIVE
2/26 – Writing is Hard – Review + Social Media Promo
2/27 – Mike the Fanboy – Fun Recap of Series
2/28 – My Friends are Fiction – Review
3/1 – The Young Folks – Review
3/2 – Lisa’s Lost in Lit – Creative
WEEK SIX
3/5 – The Reader Bee – Review + Bookstagram Post
3/6 – Seeing Double in Neverland – Review + Creative Insta Post
3/7 – A  Book and A Cup of Coffee – Playlist
3/8 – Fiction Fare – Moodboard
WEEK SEVEN
3/12 – The Eater of Books – Moodboard
3/13 – Love Is Not a Triangle – Review + Bookstagram Picture
3/14 – Tales of the Ravenous Reader – Creative Content
3/15 – Forever Young Adult – Review

Guest Post: Danica Davidson and The Minecrafters Blog Tour!

adventure-against-the-endermen 600We at the Library Ladies are excited and honored to participate in the Minecrafters Blog Tour along with author Danica Davidson! For those unfamiliar, the Overworld Adventures books take place within the “Minecraft” Universe, and have proven to be a popular series for kids of all ages. Kate can personally attest that she sees a lot of these books being checked out her her library. We are very excited to have a guest post from Danica Davidson, the author of the upcoming “Adventure Against the Endermen”, the first in a whole new series of books! Today she is going to talk about what libraries and literacy mean to her, and we are very thankful for her perspective. Thanks, Danica!

danica3I don’t know what I would do without libraries. I was the kid who went into the library and walked out with a pile (wait, that’s still true). I love the smell, feel and experience of holding a book. I love how books will open up new worlds and new perspectives to me in a way that nothing else does. I love all the options libraries supply, where there are so many books on different subjects, and that they’ve been there for me when there was no money to spare for buying books. When everything else is gone, there’s still the library.

It’s not a big surprise that has someone who had an interest in storytelling from an early age would end up a voracious reader. (According to my mom, when she would tell me bedtime stories and I was three, I would take over the stories and tell her what happened.) I always appreciated that my parents encouraged me to read and let me read what I wanted, and after initially dictating stories to my parents, I started writing down my own stories in early elementary school. I was making picture books for myself in first grade and by sixth grade I was writing short novels. My dream was always to be a professional author. I started working as a journalist in high school and got my first book contract three years ago. None of this would have happened if I hadn’t been a reader and had access to books.

Since then, I’ve written kids’s books and YA books. My book Manga Art for Beginners will soon have a sequel, Manga Art for Intermediates, and my Minecrafter books (middle grade novels for ages 7-12 that take place as if Minecraft is real) have turned into two series. The first series, Escape from the Overworld, Attack on the Overworld, The Rise of Herobrine, Down into the Nether, The Armies of Herobrine and Battle with the Wither, are coming out as a box set November 7, the same day the first book in my spinoff series, Adventure Against the Endermen, comes out. The new series will have the same main characters, but different villains and adventures. I have also written a Barbie graphic novel, where Barbie and her sisters throw a puppy party to get all the local shelter pets adopted, and a Tales from the Crypt comic where a fight in the high school locker room leads to a deadly act. Just as I like reading in all different sorts of genres, I love writing in all different sorts of genres. This is how I experience the world and I want to write more books for different ages, including books for adults.

I believe that literacy is one of the most important issues out there, because so much stems from being able to read and from reading on different topics. I’ve been told by librarians that my books are hard to keep on the shelves, and that’s what I want. I want to write stories that keep the pages turning, that readers up later to see what happens, to have characters that people find involving. I find very few people don’t actually like to read; most of the time when I hear kids say they don’t like to read, it’s because they could use more help in their reading, or because they haven’t been introduced to books that interest them. Often the books I was assigned to read in class didn’t interest me much; I liked the books I could pick out for myself at the library better. If kids know “Yes, there are books about [plug in your interest]” I think that would make a world of difference for some young readers. I believe in encouraging kids to follow their interests when it comes to reading and their own creativity. Oftentimes when kids find books they like and learn that reading can be fun, they’ll expand into reading about other subjects as well and become more well-read on different topics.

Many librarians use Minecraft in their libraries these days, especially for STEM reasons. I hope they can also like their Minecraft-obsessed patrons know there are also books for Minecrafters! In my books, 11-year-old Stevie lives in the Minecraft world, but they he finds a portal to Earth, making Earth friends and paving way for adventures that take place in the Overworld, the Nether, the End . . . and, yes, on Earth as Minecraft infiltrates it! The books also talk about real world things, like friendship, cyberbullying, insecurity, stuff like that. I want to mix the fantastic and the realistic, so kids can read about issues they have . . . while being right there with my characters as they fight zombies and save the worlds from the villainous Herobrine. Hey, anything can happen in books!

For more information about this fun blog tour, please visit  https://littleredreviewer.wordpress.com. Thanks again, Danica! And happy reading, everyone! 

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