The Flight of Swans & Stinging Nettles (or how I came to love Benadryl) by Sarah McGuire | Author Guest Post (+ Giveaway)

Posted September 24, 2018 by Jana in Guest Post / 0 Comments

Magic, Myth, & Mischief, hosted by me and Bonnie, is a month-long event that celebrates fairy tales and mythological retellings, as well as retellings of favorite classic novels and books featuring mythical beasts such as mermaids, dragons, and fae! Find the schedule of events and other information here.

Today I’m welcoming Sarah McGuire, author of The Flight of Swans, to the blog to talk about her new book and a crazy run-in she had with some stinging nettles while she was doing some research for it!


The Flight of Swans & Stinging Nettles
(or how I came to love Benadryl)

by Sarah McGuire

For me, writing a novel-length fairy tale retelling involves exploring what I love about the tale and what I want to change. In Grimm’s “Six Swans,” I’d loved that a girl did the saving. The young princess single-handedly saves her older brothers by remaining silent for six years and making them shirts out of stinging nettles.

Stinging nettles are the centerpiece of the original tale and there’s just something about the name. They sound like such sinister plants! It was easy to imagine a girl with blistered, perhaps even bleeding, hands weeping as she made six shirts.

And yet…

… it felt like the narrator sat there, saying, “You’re not going to talk? Well, what if you have to live alone? Okay, still won’t talk? What about if I make you work with stinging nettles that destroy your hands? Still won’t talk? You should marry this guy and have two babies–all while you can’t speak.”

“Six Swans” was all about the heroine’s endurance. But in The Flight of Swans, I wanted Andaryn to have agency. I wanted to show all the ways she sought to communicate even when she couldn’t speak, and how hard she worked to save her brothers.

That’s when I realized just what I wanted to change about my retelling. (Well, that and the romantic interest. That man was a mess! But that’s another blog post…) Andaryn wouldn’t just survive the nettles–she’d outwit them. And the more I researched nettles, the more I realized that was possible.

Here’s what I discovered:

  • Nettles were a primary source of fabric in Europe before linen. That may be why the Grimms’ version of the tale (gathered as folklore) is fairly matter-of-fact about nettles, while Hans Christian Anderson’s “Wild Swans” involves so much suffering. I doubt Anderson had much experience with stinging nettles except for occasionally being stung by some.
  • There’s a way you can touch nettles so that you don’t get stung. Thank you, YouTube! There were even folks who tore leaves off the nettle plants and ATE them.
  • Stinging nettles are incredibly nutritious.

But research isn’t anything without trying it yourself, right? So I met with Krista, a local farmer whocultivated and harvested stinging nettles. She told me how people with arthritis would use the nettles to sting the affected areas– and that it helped. She told me that you got used to the stings. The first stings of the season hurt, but you’d hardly notice them by the end of the season.

Then she asked if I wanted to try it. And–this was probably me–it seemed like she wondered if I would actually do it.

Oh, I wanted to harvest them. (Because research. Also ego.) I rolled up my sleeves, grabbed a handful of nettles (the wrong way- because research!) and started hacking away. When I had an entire grocery bag of nettles, Krista looked at my welt-covered arms and told me that I had the strongest reaction to nettles she’d seen in a while.

I nodded bravely (because, ego) but to be honest, my arms looked worse than they felt.

By the time I’d driven home, the welts had disappeared. My hands and arms looked normal, and the pain was definitely manageable. Perhaps the fairy tale had been overestimating how much stinging nettles hurt.

A few hours later, I’d changed my mind. Every bit of skin that had been stung burned, and even the slight pressure of typing on laptop hurt. The pain was prickly from the inside–the way it feels when you lose circulation in your foot and then stand up. Except it didn’t stop. A few hours later, it still hadn’t stopped.

I chickened out by bedtime and took an antihistamine. Even so, I still felt triumphant. Because while I’d definitely harvested the nettles the wrong way, I’d also realized that I could strip an entire nettle stalk of its leaves without getting stung. I won’t lie–I was proud of that.

Here’s what stinging nettles taught me. Yes, awful things happen, and we writers do awful things to our characters. But it’s also important to concentrate on the way that we (and they!) fight back.

I love that.

The Flight of Swans wasn’t an easy book to write. Andaryn is mute for most of it. I had to cover six years of her life without bogging down the story. And while I’d loved researching nettles, the story needed to be about so much more than the nettles.

But for me the research on nettles allowed me to create the sort of heroine that I love. Yes, Ryn endures a great deal, but she doesn’t just endure this curse. She fights it. And for me, that is always, always, the kind of story I want to read.


The Flight of Swans by Sarah McGuire
Published October 1, 2018 by Carolrhoda Books
Genres: Middle Grade — Fantasy, Retelling
Add to Goodreads • Amazon

Based on the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tale Six Swans, The Flight of Swans follows Ryn’s journey to save her family and their kingdom.

Princess Andaryn’s six older brothers have always been her protectors–until her father takes a new Queen, a frightening, mysterious woman who enchants the men in the royal family. When Ryn’s attempt to break the enchantment fails, she makes a bitter bargain: the Queen will spare her brothers’ lives if Ryn remains silent for six years.

Ryn thinks she freed her brothers, but she never thought the Queen would turn her brothers into swans. She never thought she’d have to discover the secret to undoing the Queen’s spell while eluding the Otherworldly forces that hunt her. And she never thought she’d have to do it alone, without speaking a single word.

As months as years go by, Ryn learns there is more to courage than speech . . . and that she is stronger than the Queen could have ever imagined.


About Sarah McGuire

Sarah McGuire is a nomadic math teacher who sailed around the world aboard a floating college campus. She writes fairy tales and would be just fine if one day she opened a wardrobe and stumbled into another world. Coffee and chocolate are her rocket fuel. She wishes Florida had mountains, but she lives there anyways with her husband (who wrote this bio in less than three minutes!) and their family.

Website | Twitter

 

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Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton | Book Review

Posted September 24, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 1 Comment

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton | Book ReviewRebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Series: Rebel of the Sands #1
Published by Viking Children's Books on March 8, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
Amazon Add to Goodreads
5 Stars
She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there's nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can't wait to escape from.

Destined to wind up "wed or dead," Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she'd gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan's army, with a fugitive who's wanted for treason. And she'd never have predicted she'd fall in love with him...or that he'd help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.

Simply put, I loved everything about Rebel of the Sands, from the beautiful cover to the amazingly fitting title to the words inside. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. THE COVER. Moving on.

2. The story is this awesome middle eastern, wild west, Aladdin, mystic conglomeration with magic and mythical horses and sand and a sultan and a secret world of magical and powerful beings. It’s just so unique and exciting. It grabbed me from the first page.

3. The world feels both modern and historic. There’s djinni and ghouls and traversing the desert by horse, but there’s also modern technology like gun factories and trains. This hybrid of various world building elements felt very fresh. So often we see fantasies pulling elements from fairytales or other tried and true fantasy novels, but Rebel of the Sands feels very original and authentic.

4. Amani is a wonderful heroine. She’s smart, sassy, and filled with quick wit and the perfect amount of paranoia to make her someone you can really get behind, rather than a dumb damsel in distress. There’s no Bella complex going on here. I really love heroines that start out at rock bottom because they have nothing to lose and make quick decisions that have the power to change their lives. That’s Amani. When we meet her, her life is the epitome of misery. She’s an orphan living with her uncle who might force her to marry him, and she’s scrimping and saving so she can escape before it’s too late. You’d think she’d be submissive and quiet living under these circumstances, but she has this fire and will not be forced to do anything she doesn’t want to do.

5. Jin is so perfect. He’s so mysterious and caring and he gave me the swoons. I loved the chemistry between him and Amani because there’s this intrigue underneath a strongly developing friendship. They look out for each other and have some of the sweetest moments.

6. This book isn’t really romancey, and I liked that a lot. So often the world and the important details sit in the back seat while the romance drives the entire story. There are hints of romance, and those hang out in the trunk. Or the luggage rack. This story is about so much more than a possible romance. However, that’s not to say things won’t get swoonier in the next book.

7. The secondary characters are just as perfect. Alwyn’s debut taught me that if she’s going to write in a detail she’s going to flesh it out. Every thing, person, and event is in this book for an important reason. There’s no filler here.

8. I can’t say anything bad about this book. I loved the writing, the details, the imagery. everything. I can’t wait for book 2!

Basically, you should read this. I mean, you have to at least be a LITTLE curious to see how an author can successfully combine the Wild West and the Middle East right? I highly recommend Rebel of the Sands.

This review was originally posted on May 13, 2016.

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Firelight by Sophie Jordan | Book Review

Posted September 21, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 7 Comments

Firelight by Sophie Jordan | Book ReviewFirelight by Sophie Jordan
Series: Firelight #1
Also in this series: Hidden
Published by HarperTEEN on September 7, 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 323
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought it!
Amazon Add to Goodreads
4 Stars
A hidden truth.
Mortal enemies.
Doomed love.


Marked as special at an early age, Jacinda knows her every move is watched. But she longs for freedom to make her own choices. When she breaks the most sacred tenet among her kind, she nearly pays with her life. Until a beautiful stranger saves her. A stranger who was sent to hunt those like her. For Jacinda is a draki, a descendant of dragons whose greatest defense is her secret ability to shift into human form.

Forced to flee into the mortal world with her family, Jacinda struggles to adapt to her new surroundings. The only bright light is Will. Gorgeous, elusive Will who stirs her inner draki to life. Although she is irresistibly drawn to him, Jacinda knows Will's dark secret: He and his family are hunters. She should avoid him at all costs. But her inner draki is slowly slipping away;if it dies she will be left as a human forever. She'll do anything to prevent that. Even if it means getting closer to her most dangerous enemy.

The story of Jacinda and Will grabbed me from page one and had me reading long into a night I should have spent sleeping instead of reading. I’ve often wondered if my bookishness is detrimental to my health and personal well-being, but I digress! Back to the subject at hand… I’m having a hard time reviewing this book, and I’m not sure why. I’ve written a review probably 5 times already, and I’m still not happy with it. Maybe it’s because the story has a lot in common with other YA Paranormal romances out there. I’m not saying it’s not worth the read, I’m just not sure what I can say about it that’s new, other than the fact that we’re dealing with dragons. I’ll try!

Jacinda’s glowing orange skin and intricate wings are not all she has going for her. All Draki have a special talent. Some can breathe underwater, some can control human minds, and some can fly extremely fast. Jacinda breathes fire—a talent that was thought to have died out long ago before she was discovered. Thus, she is extremely valuable to pride. Things were planned out and set in motion for her to marry the Draki prince, Cassian, and create a ton of little fire-breathers just like herself. This unappealing future, mixed with her rebellious nature, mixed with the fact that she barely came home alive after being tracked and shot by a group of hunters prompted her mother to sneak Jacinda and her non-draki twin sister, Tamra, out of the pride and move to Arizona. Her mother chose Arizona because drakis can’t survive in such dry and barren conditions. Jacinda’s draki would eventually die off just like her mother’s, and they could live normal, safe lives as humans. Jacinda was not ok with this and did everything she could to keep her withering draki alive. Then, she saw Will—one of the hunters she encountered the night her mother forced them to flee. He was the one who stared into her draki eyes that night and let her go, leading his family of hunters away from her. They lock eyes in the hall at school, and an instant connection is made. He ignites the draki within her, and she captivates him for a reason he can’t quite figure out. Even though he’s the one who keeps her draki alive, she has to constantly fight her attraction to him (and resist his to her) and keep her distance. She can never let him know what she is without risking the lives of all those she holds dear. The hunters can never find out their best-kept secret—that draki can take on human form.

I really enjoyed this book! First off, how refreshing is it to finally have the girl be the paranormal one? Yes, there are a few mythical heroines out there, but we all know it’s usually the guy. It was fun to read how a girl deals with being different. Jacinda is SO driven by her emotions. She goes through highs and lows, and she’s always freaking out about everything. She’s not calm, cool, and collected like our mainstream paranormal heroes in other novels. I’m not saying she’s spastic and annoying. She certainly handled things better than I would have. I just enjoyed reading about her inner struggle rather than a guy’s, like I usually do.

This book moved really quickly! The tension built up fast, and I found myself trying to read faster than my brain could handle. There was no lollygagging in this book, and I really enjoyed that about it. I never got bored.

The romance between Will and Jacinda was believable, but maybe not for their age group. I never thought of them as high school juniors. They have a very mature relationship, which I was happy about, as I have a hard time enjoying the whiny teenage romances. Even though the romance did not seem realistic for their ages, the high school life was pretty real to me. I remember when I moved to a new high school, I struggled with fitting in. I was picked on. Jacinda went through the same motions I did, and I felt for her and could relate to how she was feeling. She was a total fish out of water, with only one friend who wasn’t even really a friend—more like a person to sit with and talk to. High school’s really hard, and Jacinda dealt with it.

Unfortunately, there were not a lot of characters to like in this book. There was an overabundance of villains: the alpha of her pride (who wanted her for selfish reasons), her mom (who lied to her frequently, and tried to kill off an important part of Jacinda), her sister (who should have tried to be more supportive of Jacinda’s situation), Will’s family (who were complete and total jerks to Will, and almost perverts towards Jacinda), the school bullies (who tried to make her life a living hell, and even attacked her). I’m not used to only liking the two main people. I guess the author chose to do this in order to emphasize the odds against Will and Jacinda, but I really wanted to like more people!

I loved that Jacinda was so true to herself, against all these odds. She didn’t just sit back and let her mother get what she wanted (a draki-free Jacinda). They argued and fought all the time. Her mom kept so many secrets from her, and then when she finally told Jacinda the truth, she wasn’t even nice about it. This woman is just not a good mother figure—and I found her character to be a bit hard to believe sometimes. I know she was trying to protect Jacinda, but she rarely ever showed any compassion, empathy, or even love.

For the most part, I enjoyed the writing style. Several reviewers have mentioned that the book was laced consistently with sentence fragments, which got rather annoying. I totally agree. This is definitely not a book for people looking for pristine literary writing. I had to re-read and re-think some of the passages, just because my mind was not following the choppy writing style. It helped to add to the suspense, but it detracted a bit from everything else. Other than that, the action scenes were done very well and the author’s descriptions left little to be desired. She gave me enough information to be able to picture everything in my mind, but not so much that my mind couldn’t take a few liberties and allow my creative juices to fill in the gaps.

Regardless of a few complaints, I loved the premise, the story, the character development of both Jacinda and Will, the fact that Jacinda is such a likeable heroine, the descriptive passages that painted pictures in my mind, the fast-paced storyline that kept my eyes glued to the pages into the wee hours of the morning, and the fact that now I think dragons are sexy.

This review was originally posted on February 22, 2012, and was re-posted for some extra love.

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The Dragons of the Fallen Isles by Jodi Meadows | Author Guest Post

Posted September 20, 2018 by Jana in Uncategorized / 0 Comments

Magic, Myth, & Mischief, hosted by me and Bonnie, is a month-long event that celebrates fairy tales and mythological retellings, as well as retellings of favorite classic novels and books featuring mythical beasts such as mermaids, dragons, and fae! Find the schedule of events and other information here.

I’m so excited to Jodi Meadows, author of the the Fallen Isles trilogy (Before She Ignites and As She Ascends), to the blog today to talk about the magical and wonderful dragons that live in the Fallen Isles! As She Ascends just entered the world on September 11, 2018, and it’s filled with action and excitement and so many dragons!


The Dragons of the Fallen Isles

by Jodi Meadows

For the Fallen Isles series, I wanted to share a world filled with lots of different kinds of dragons, because I — like lots of other kids — had a fascination with dinosaurs. It faded over time, but I remember being completely awed by them, and storing a ton of random facts about them in my head, and as the little kids in my life get to the age where they first learn about dinosaurs, I see it in them too. I wanted to capture that feeling for my main character, Mira, but I wanted it to be about dragons, and I wanted it to be something that never left her, even as she got older.

So when building the Fallen Isles, I thought about what kind of dragons might be interesting to learn about as a reader, and what someone like Mira would know about each of them.

I came up with several different species, but a few of the ones that make it into the story:

Drakontos raptus: A small ferret-sized dragon that can be trained to hunt, like a bird of prey. They come in many different colors, but the two who show up on the page often are gold and silver — LaLa and her wingsister Crystal.

Drakontos ignitus: These are medium-sized dragons that are dull brown as juveniles, but turn fire-colored with age. They can ignite the air around them, as well as breathe fire.

Drakontos mimikus: Dragons that can change the color of their scales and the timbre of their voices as protection.

Drakontos rex: Impressively large dragons, often jewel-tone colors. In the past, warriors rode them into battle, as they had long jets of fire and could destroy cities from far above.

Drakontos titanus: The largest species of dragon, with a roar like thunder and wings that can black out the sun.

There are several other species of dragons in the world, many who pop up throughout the series, and it’s always fun to describe them through Mira’s filter of love and wonder.

Before She Ignites had mostly Mira’s memories of dragons, plus a few real-time interactions with them, but As She Ascends is all dragons all the time. It was a little complicated to figure out how characters would go about their plot with an armful of dragons, but in the end it was worth it. Because dragons.


As She Ascends by Jodi Meadows
Series: Fallen Isles #2
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on September 11, 2018
Add to Goodreads 
Amazon • B&N • Book Depository 

MIRA, THE HOPEBEARER
Mira Minkoba is on the run with her friends after a fiery escape from the Pit, where she’d been imprisoned for defending the dragons she loves. And she wants answers. Where have all the dragons been taken? Why are powerful noorestones being shipped to the mainland? And did the treaty she’s been defending her whole life truly sell out the Fallen Isles to their enemies?

MIRA, THE DRAGONHEARTED
As her connection to the dragons—and their power—grows stronger, so does Mira’s fear that she might lose control and hurt someone she loves. But the only way to find the truth is to go home again, to Damina, to face the people who betrayed her and the parents she’s not sure she can trust.

Home, where she must rise above her fears. Or be consumed.

The second page-turning novel in Jodi Meadows’ Fallen Isles trilogy scorches with mysterious magic and riveting romance as one girl kindles a spark into a flame.


About Jodi Meadows

Jodi Meadows wants to be a ferret when she grows up and she has no self-control when it comes to yarn, ink, or outer space. Still, she manages to write books. She is the author of the INCARNATE Trilogy, the ORPHAN QUEEN Duology, and the FALLEN ISLES Trilogy (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen), and a coauthor of MY LADY JANE (HarperTeen). Visit her at Website: www.jodimeadows.com

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Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown | Book Review

Posted September 19, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 9 Comments

Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown | Book ReviewLies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown
Series: Lies Beneath #1
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on June 12, 2012
Genres: Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Romance
Pages: 303
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
Amazon Add to Goodreads
4.5 Stars
Calder White lives in the cold, clear waters of Lake Superior, the only brother in a family of murderous mermaids. To survive, Calder and his sisters prey on humans and absorb their positive energy. Usually, they select their victims at random, but this time around, the underwater clan chooses its target for a reason: revenge. They want to kill Jason Hancock, the man they blame for their mother's death.

It's going to take a concerted effort to lure the aquaphobic Hancock onto the water. Calder's job is to gain Hancock's trust by getting close to his family. Relying on his irresistible good looks and charm, Calder sets out to seduce Hancock's daughter Lily. Easy enough, but Calder screws everything up by falling in love--just as Lily starts to suspect there's more to the monster-in-the-lake legends than she ever imagined, and just as the mermaids threaten to take matters into their own hands, forcing Calder to choose between them and the girl he loves.

One thing's for sure: whatever Calder decides, the outcome won't be pretty.

I’d been really worried about Lies Beneath, as a lot of the reviews have been mixed, but I really, really enjoyed this book. I loved so much about it. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. We have a male narrator! YES! This was so refreshing. Calder is a merman from a family of human-killing mermaids. He was not born this way, but was changed to a merman after falling off a boat and drowning as a young child. Maybe that’s why he’s a bit reformed, and hopes to escape the “school of fish” loyalty and just be his own person. I loved reading his thoughts as he struggled between being who he wanted to be and being who he was created to be. I think Brown did an amazing job writing a male’s thoughts. I’ve always thought that would be a tricky thing to do.

2. This story takes place in an awesome location: Lake Superior. That lake is so mysterious and deep and freezing, and I LOVE that the story took place here rather than in the cliche tropical location. Rather than hearing about rainbow fish and sea turtles, you get to read about sunken ships and the unexplored depths of the lake. We even get a mention of an ancient road down there.

3. I really liked the evil mermaid spin. I was getting tired of the “I wish I were human, but I have this tail, so I’m going to swim around and hope I can fake being human well enough to make you love me” storyline. These mermaids love being who they are. Even Calder does not want to quit being a merman, he just does not want to suck the life out of humans. They all have their own personalities, and don’t sit around suppressing what they are. And the evil thing? It was awesome! Mermaids are made out to be monsters and not humans. It created some suspense and intrigue. I dunno, I guess I’ve always been a bit rebellious myself, so I enjoyed the more gritty and dangerous spin.

4. I really enjoyed the need for revenge that the mermaids had. It consumed their thoughts as they tried to seek revenge on the man they blamed their mother’s death on. Even though these mermaids are considered evil, you have to give them credit for never breaking a promise, and for being extremely loyal to each other. I mean, even though Calder began to change his mind regarding this revenge, his mind was so linked with his sisters’ that he really struggled with an inner turmoil that pulled him in two very different directions.

5. I appreciated Lily’s common sense and vivaciousness. I can’t stand a dumb, quivering-in-her-boots kind of heroine. Lily has a sharp mind and she knows things without having someone beat it into her head with a hammer. And I loved her little sister, Sophie. She is adorable.

6. The Hancock family’s past is vast and dynamic. I loved getting more insight into what happened to make these mermaids so mad, and what mysteries are hidden beneath the surface.

7. The romance was sweet. It was not obsessive or silly. It seemed legit to me. Calder and Lily look out for one another, and have a healthy give and take relationship. Calder is not controlling or stalkery. I mean yes, he lurks in the water outside her home to protect her, but he’s not sneaking in her room to watch her sleep. Lily is not helpless and naive. She can hold her own, and does not frighten easily. I believed this one.

8. I wish the book had spent a little more time on Calder’s sisters. Those girls were so much fun to read about, and they were really what made the book so unique. Hopefully the rest of the trilogy will give us more information on them. They could have their own spin-off series.

All in all, this book is now one of my new favorite mermaid romances. I loved the unique spin, the believable romance, and the interesting characters. I would definitely recommend this for lovers of mermaid books, and it’s also a great one to start on if you’re just dipping your toe into the genre.

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Top Ten Books On My Fall 2018 To-Read List

Posted September 18, 2018 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 42 Comments

Fall officially begins on Friday, and I am so happy! I love fall. It’s probably my favorite season of the year (although I do love winter, too). During the fall season I love reading atmospheric, creepy, gothic kinds of stories. I also love mysteries and romantic suspense. This fall I’ve got a few of these kinds of books that I’d really love to get to, plus a few rich fantasies that sound amazing as well!

Girl At the Grave by Teri Bailey Black
Gothic YA! I am here for it!

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
Gothic retelling of Jane Eyre. YES.

Maulever Hall by Jane Aiken Hodge
A creepy, gothic romantic suspense novel that’s been republished recently from its original 1960’s version. There’s amnesia and paranoia and a large country home. Sounds very intriguing!

Tailspin by Sandra Brown
A romantic suspense novel about a pilot and a mysterious delivery.

The Last Woman in the Forest by Diane Les Becquets
Researching a serial killer in the Rocky Mountain wilderness.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
I’ll devour any Beauty and the Beast retelling, and this one sounds perfect!

A Study In Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas
I’ve been really excited to read the Lady Sherlock historical mystery books, and this would be the perfect time to do it!

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
This kind of sounds like the book version of that movie Disturbia with Shia LaBeouf. I love that movie!

Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker
Another gothic YA romance/mystery/horror that I’ve heard great things about! It takes place in the swamps on Louisiana, and having lived there, I can see how creepy and horrifying this book has the potential to be.

The House at Midnight by Lucie Whitehouse
This one sounds so creepy! I love creepy English manors that seem to have their own personalities.

Which books are you hoping to read this fall?
Are you a mood reader who is inspired by the seasons?
What kinds of books do you like to read this time of year?
Have you read any of my picks?

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Interview With Seventh Born Author Monica Sanz

Posted September 18, 2018 by Jana in Uncategorized / 0 Comments

Magic, Myth, & Mischief, hosted by me and Bonnie, is a month-long event that celebrates fairy tales and mythological retellings, as well as retellings of favorite classic novels and books featuring mythical beasts such as mermaids, dragons, and fae! Find the schedule of events and other information here.

Today I’m welcoming Monica Sanz, author of Seventh Born, the the first book in the The Witchling Academy series, to the blog to participate in our fun interview series!


Interview with Monica Sanz

1. What makes your book(s) magical, mythical, or mischievous?
What makes my books magical, mythical, and mischievous is that they feature, well, magic, myth, and mischief! Seventh Born is about an outcast witch learning to control her powers while solving murders with her professor. Not only is her working relationship (and any relationship at all!) with the brooding and handsome professor considered taboo, but Sera has a quick temper and sets things in fire when enraged. If that’s not mischief, then I don’t know what is!

Finvarra’s Circus is based on the Irish folktales of King Finvarra Ethna the Bride, and the Leanan Sidhe. It’s about a girl who sneaks into a magical circus and finds out it’s cursed and she’s the only one who can save them. This leads to a whole lot of trouble for everyone.

2. Which mythical character do you see yourself in the most, or do you relate to most and why?
I have to say faeries, though I don’t think I’m wicked enough to be one. I love nature and magic and feel this oneness with the universe, so I think a faerie is quite fitting.

3. Dragons or unicorns?
Unicorns! Dragons are cool with the fire breathing and all, but unicorns have this untamed beauty and silent strength I’m drawn to. Plus, they have countless magical abilities.

4. Would you rather be a hero or a villain?
I would rather be a hero. I’m a generally happy person and it takes so much energy to remain angry and bitter and filled with the need for revenge all the time. I’d rather go about my life and help people when I can than focus on how I can bring death and devastation. It’s too much work.

5. Would you rather be locked up in a tower or a dungeon?
A tower, for sure! At least in a tower I can see the sun and feel the breeze or enjoy the sound of rain and birds and nature. When I think of a dungeon, I imagine rats and dark and damp cells. It’s all so dreary. Plus, whenever towers are used in stories, it’s one person in a tower versus a dungeon with other prisoners bemoaning their imprisonment. Yes, I think I’d be much happier in a tower.

6. What elements of the tale did you use when incorporating the tale into your own novel?
With Finvarra’s Circus, I incorporated the original tale of King Finvarra and Ethna the Bride quite extensively. I don’t want to say how, but it’s the foundation of the circus and Finvarra’s character. The same goes for the Leanan Sidhe. She’s a beautiful fairy who takes on a human lover and becomes their muse. Lovers of the Leanan Sidhe, however, are said to live brief but highly inspired lives. These two folktales are woven together to create the backstory to Finvarra’s Circus, and the story takes off from there.

7. Which magical/mythical creatures exist in your books?
My newest release, Seventh Born features witches and wizards and a Barghest, which is a mythical dog with enormous teeth and claws. It’s such a fitting creature to include, especially with someone like Sera as a main character. I’m working on book two now, and that will feature a mythological creature, I just can’t say what yet or it’ll spoil the surprise. Finvarra’s Circus is a troupe of mythological creatures so there are faeries, sprites, merrows, centaurs, a unicorn, a fire dragon, and so much more. I loved using their magical identities in their performances, it made everything so much more magical.

8. What made you want to incorporate a myth or folk tale into something brand-new?
It’s fun to take known myths and breathe new life into them, as well as see how our characters interact with whatever tale we choose. With Seventh Born I ended up making up my own lore, but book two is heavily based on a few myths and it’s made for a very atmospheric and creepy story which I’m super excited about. With Finvarra’s Circus, it just happened that the book was based on these folktales so I had no say in the matter. If the mythology wasn’t included, the book wouldn’t exist.

9. Have you seen any recent fairy tale/myth movie/television adaptations? If yes, which ones and what do you like most about it/them?
One of my favorites is not recent but I have to gush about it because it’s so romantic. Ever After: A Cinderella Story is such a gorgeous and heart-warming movie. I remember watching it when I was younger and falling in love with the fairy tale all over again. Drew Barrymore is fantastic as Cinderella and I felt her frustration at how she was treated but at the same time she had this desire to belong and be loved and to have a family with these people that hated her. Dougray Scott was such a handsome and believable prince and loved how his character grew humble throughout the movie. I would totally recommend watching it. I think I may watch it again soon.


Seventh Born by Monica Sanz
Published by Entangled TEEN on September 4, 2018
Genres: Young Adult — Paranormal, Romance
Add to Goodreads • Amazon

Abomination. Curse. Murderer. All names hurled at eighteen-year-old Seraphina Dovetail. As the seventh-born daughter to a witch, she’s the cause of her mother losing her powers and, in turn, her life.

Abandoned as a child, Sera dreams of becoming an inspector and finding her family. To do that, she must be referred into the Advanced Studies Program at the Aetherium’s Witchling Academy. Her birth order, quick temper, and tendency to set things on fire, however, have left her an outcast with failing marks…and just what Professor Nikolai Barrington is looking for.

The tall, brooding, yet exceedingly handsome young professor makes her a proposition: become his assistant and he’ll give her the referral she needs. Sera is quickly thrust into a world where witches are being kidnapped, bodies are raised from the dead, and someone is burning seventhborns alive. As Sera and Barrington grow ever closer, she’ll discover that some secrets are best left buried…and fire isn’t the only thing that makes a witch burn.


About Monica Sanz

Monica Sanz has been writing from the moment she could string together a sentence. Her stories have come a long way from mysterious portals opening in the school cafeteria, transporting classmates to distant worlds. A classic by the name Wuthering Heights is responsible for that. She’s been lost to dark romances and brooding fictional men ever since. Now she writes about grumpy professors, cursed ringmaster, tortured soul collectors, and the girls they fall in love with.

Monica’s books have received many accolades on the social writing website Wattpad. She’s accumulated over six million reads, eighty thousand votes, and fifteen thousand comments since posting her books on the website. She is also a member of the Wattpad4, a group of writers who host weekly Twitter chats on the subjects of writing and publishing.

When not lost in one of her made-up worlds, she can be found on the sunny beaches of South Florida where she resides with her husband and their three children or scouring YouTube for new bands to feed her music addiction.

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An Entreaty for Under-Represented Mythological Creatures In Recent Fantasy | Blogger Guest Post

Posted September 17, 2018 by Jana in Guest Post / 3 Comments

Magic, Myth, & Mischief, hosted by me and Bonnie, is a month-long event that celebrates fairy tales and mythological retellings, as well as retellings of favorite classic novels and books featuring mythical beasts such as mermaids, dragons, and fae! Find the schedule of events and other information here.

I’m so excited to welcome Amber of The Literary Phoenix to the blog today to share with us her strong feelings on the subject of lesser-used mythological creatures in recent fantasy novels!


An Entreaty for Under-Represented Mythological
Creatures In Recent Fantasy

If you would humor me, I would like to open this post with a bit of a game. I will list a series of names, and Dear Reader, I challenge you to find what they have in common.

Edward Cullen
Barnabas Collins
Jean-Claude
Eric Northman
Dracula
Spike
Lestat de Lioncourt
Adrian Ivashkov
Kurt Barlow
Marceline

If you are thinking, “They’re all vampires!” then you would be correct! The ten names listed above are a mere handful of famous vampires, one of the most popular creatures to grace fantasy novels since their invention in 1887 with Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

There was a time when it was almost impossible to pick up a new YA fantasy and not find a vampire lurking inside. There is a list on Goodreads with 385 teen vampire books and 1594 adult vampire books. I could start reading right now and it would take me about 20 years to read all the books on these lists.

While vampires are fun, there are a lot of other mythological beasts out there begging for some attention in fiction. Today, I’m going to introduce you to three underused magical creatures with a lot of potential.

The Phoenix

The phoenix is grossly underused in fantasy. As a creature, it is a symbol of renewal and rebirth. In Egypt, it was called “Bennu” and sacred to Heliopolis (god of the sun). In Greek myth, the phoenix lived several centuries before burning up in a nest of myrrh and other finery, and being reborn from the ashes. Chinese legend recognizes it as “Feng Huang” – it was part of the union of yin and yang, representing the Empress.

Despite its majesty and the respect it held in ancient culture, the firebird is oft forgotten in fantasy novels. You can find the phoenix in a variety of supernatural romance novels, but I believe the most famous example is Fawkes, Dumbledore’s pet and companion in the Harry Potter series.

Goodreads has a list of 43 books tagged “phoenix”.

The Gorgon

Gorgons are a bit less common than phoenixes, as they are exclusively found in Greek Mythology. The most famous gorgon is Medusa, who was slain by Hercules, but she also had two sisters just as vain as herself who were transformed into hideous monsters by the gods. As far as the mythos goes, there’s no in-depth mention of them… what are their stories?

Goodreads has a list of 23 books tagged “medusa”.

The Selkie

Finally, the selkie is a form of shapeshifter. I first learned about selkies a couple years ago when I was listening to S.J. Tucker’s “For the Girl in the Garden“, a companion album to In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente. The selkie comes from Scottish legend, and is a creature capable of shedding its seal skin and becoming human. Unlike your traditional shapeshifter, selkies require their seal skin in order to return to their original form.

This is asking for an epic quest of a selkie girl trying to retrieve her stolen skin from a hunter! It would fit really well into YA fantasy, so someone please get on top of this.

Goodreads has a list of 153 books tagged “selkie”.

These three are but the tip of the iceberg as to the opportunities available to in the world of underused fantasy creatures. Many of the creatures J.K. Rowling features in her Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them have a mythological background, and that book is a good starting point if you’re interested in learning a little more about magical creatures.

I would like to beseech you, dear readers and writers: before picking up a pen or your next great read and seeking out a vampire, witch, or werewolf… try something a little different! Take a chance on a minotaur. Try your luck with a banshee. You never know what stories these other creatures have to tell.

About Amber

Author of half a dozen unpublished fantasy tales, book blogger, Ravenclaw, cat lover, and dreamer. Historian. Seeking first class tickets to Oz or Neverland.
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Fairytale Retellings In the Real World: Melanie Dickerson’s Medieval Fairy Tale Series | Blogger Guest Post

Posted September 14, 2018 by Jana in Guest Post / 5 Comments

Magic, Myth, & Mischief, hosted by me and Bonnie, is a month-long event that celebrates fairy tales and mythological retellings, as well as retellings of favorite classic novels and books featuring mythical beasts such as mermaids, dragons, and fae! Find the schedule of events and other information here.

I’m so excited to welcome Rachel of Bookworm Mama to the blog today to share her love of Melanie Dickerson’s fairytale retellings, set in medieval times!


Fairytale Retellings In the Real World:
Melanie Dickerson’s Medieval Fairy Tale Series

by Rachel of Bookworm Mama

Fairy tales have always held a special place in my heart. The romance, the charming prince, rescues, fights, daring adventures…And let’s not forget the gorgeous dresses. Please tell me, I am not the only one who still can’t decide if the blue or the pink “Sleeping Beauty” dress is the prettiest…

There is just something magical about getting lost in a fairy tale. Singing mermaids and flying carpets however, aren’t real. What if…these fairy tales were told in a REAL world setting? Sure, they may not be any glowing hair that heals people, but THIS Rapunzel, could have actually been a real person…in fact, I’m convinced she is real.

Enter Melanie Dickerson’s books. The first book I read by Melanie Dickerson was The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest, part of her three book A Medieval Fairy Tale series, which my husband surprised me with for my birthday a few years ago. In each of the Medieval Fairy Tale books, we see a combination of fairy tales. Swan Lake and Robin Hood for example is what you will find in The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest. I was instantly hooked and desperately needed to get my hands on more of her stories. From Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, and Aladdin….Melanie’s stories take you to the era of knights and dukes through Medieval Fiction. The Hagenheim series currently has 8 books with the 9th (a Mulan retelling) releasing soon. I still have a few of these stories to catch up on myself, for they are worth savoring.

Written as Young Adult books, I believe fairytale fans of all ages will enjoy Melanie’s books.

Be prepared to fall in love when you pick up one of these stories. Whether you start from the beginning of the series or dive into your favorite fairy tale story first, you are sure to want more. You can find all of Melanie’s books listed on her website.

What is your favorite fairytale?


About Rachel

Rachel enjoys reading, reviewing books, and sharing her passion for literature at www.bookwormmama.org. She’s a virtual assistant and shares the small-town life with her husband and children.

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Heartless by Marissa Meyer | Book Review

Posted September 13, 2018 by Jana in Blog Tour, Book Review, Young Adult / 5 Comments

Heartless by Marissa Meyer | Book ReviewHeartless by Marissa Meyer
Published by Feiwel and Friends on November 8, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling, Romance
Pages: 464
Format: ARC
Source: From the Publisher
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3.5 Stars
Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king's marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship.

Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Well… that was pretty insane. lol. Let me preface this review by saying that I am not a fan of Alice in Wonderland. I did not like the movie as a kid, and I’ve never read a retelling (or even been interested in reading one). I read this book based solely on my love for Marissa Meyer and The Lunar Chronicles, which is one of my very favorite series ever in life. We saw how she wrote Queen Levana’s backstory in Fairest, and I was super intrigued to see her write another villain’s story. Marissa did a wonderful job with the Queen of Hearts, and even though I’ve never been a fan of the Wonderland world I really enjoyed reading about it in Heartless. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. Since when do I love a villain? Maris

sa is so good at making you fall in love with the characters who you know will end up doing nothing but breaking your heart in the end. Catherine is sweet and spunky and so full of innocence and hope. I just loved her personality and

her quirky love of baking and her sarcasm. We all know how she turns out, but boy was I hoping for a different outcome.

2. Jest. *swoon* Oh my goodness. I love that court joker so much. He’s so witty and charming in a broody, nerdy, adorkable kind of way. Right at the beginning of the story the King of Hearts (who is the grossest, slimiest, giggliest, creepiest guy I’ve read about in a long while) throws a ball that Catherine attends. Partway through Jest makes a grand appearance, mesmerizing everyone there. He captured Catherine’s heart immediately, and he captured mine right along with it.

3. The supporting characters are all so much fun. I really liked the Hatter, and he was one of my least favorite characters from the old Disney movie. I also loved Cheshire and the turtle and the lion and Raven. What a fun little band of whimsical characters.

4. Speaking of whimsy, ho boy. Marissa is

a wonderful writer, and I got so caught up in some of her scenes. Such beautiful storytelling. At the same time, though, the whimsy got to be a little much for me at times. We’re in Wonderland, though, right? When in Wonderland, expect over the top.

5. So many yummy treats adorn the pages of Heartless. I got so hungry reading about all of Catherine’s dessert creations!

6. The story is about so much more than the origin of the Queen of Hearts. We’ve got all these other characters (like Peter Peter the Pumpkin Eater) and characters from other kingdoms and a Jabberwock and we really get to see wha

t all of Wonderland was like before Lewis Carroll’s story.

7. This story is SO heartbreaking. We all know that Catherine becomes the Queen of Hearts. How can anyone go into this not knowing that, right? Well… I knew, and I still kept hoping things would go my way. I wanted my perfect ending. Her decline to queendom and the reasons behind that decline just completely broke my heart. All the characters broke my heart in some way, but it had to happen. I don’t even know why I thought this wouldn’t happen. Haha.

All in all, this was a fun vacation from my comfort zone! Marissa Meyer was able to get me to enjoy a story that I was convinced I would not like. I’m not familiar enough with Alice In Wonderland and the other companion stories to really understand everyone’s role in Heartless, but I got the general idea and think Marissa did an awesome job of making a timeless classic her own. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves Alice, Wonderland, Marissa Meyer, great fantasy, and stellar writing. I can’t wait to see what Marissa does next!

heartless promo

This review was originally posted on October 15, 2016 as part of Macmillan’s Countdown to Heartless blog campaign. It was been re-posted for some extra love.

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