Guest Post & Giveaway: Venturess by Betsy Cornwell

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synYoung inventor Nicolette Lampton is living her own fairy tale happy ending. She’s free of her horrible step-family, running a successful business, and is uninterested in marrying the handsome prince, Fin. Instead, she, Fin, and their friend Caro venture to the lush land of Faerie, where they seek to put an end to the bloody war their kingdom is waging. Mechanical armies and dark magic await them as they uncover devastating secrets about the past and fight for a real, lasting happily-ever-after for two troubled countries—and for themselves.

guestYABM: From the blurb, Venturess seems a little less steampunk and a lot more fantasy driven. What inspired you to first write this steampunk twist on the classic Cinderella fairytale?

BETSY: I suppose Venturess is technically gaslight fantasy because it includes magical elements, while pure steampunk is strictly science fiction. But this book actually includes more ‘typical’ steampunk elements than its prequel Mechanica did: there are airships, steampunk-style submarines, and automaton soldiers all over the place in Venturess.

As for inspiration, I learned about steampunk while I was studying fairy tales as an English major in college. I thought that Cinderella was a perfect example of how strict and machine-like the progression to a happy ending is in fairy tales: tortured young girl + dream + magic = marry the prince. I wanted to write a steampunk Cinderella who was an inventor, who could reach into her own story like the chassis of a car and pull it apart and reinvent her own kind of happy ending.

YABM: What is Nicolette’s biggest challenge in the story?

BETSY: Nicolette has achieved her dream of becoming a successful inventor, so one of the central challenges of Venturess is how she’s going to use her success, both personally and ethically. At the beginning of the book, she’s asked to use her position to help the Fey, who the people of her own country are oppressing. Once she’s actually in Faerie, she and her friends meet with several bigger challenges, but I’m afraid most of them are spoilers!

YABM: Mechanica had a strong focus on friendship and discovery, what themes are central in this sequel?

BETSY: Friends making a family together is even more central to Venturess: Nick, Fin, and Caro love each other and face the challenges of changing relationships and priorities together, and you’ll see them becoming even closer and more intimate with each other’s lives. Discovery comes into play again too, especially when they travel to Faerie, and I try to work with themes of colonialism and human rights to the best of my ability.

YABM: If Venturess were set in modern times, what music would Nicolette be listening to during her free time?

BETSY: Ooh, that’s a great question! I think she’d really like Ingrid Michaelson and The Decemberists.

YABM: Tell me about your writing process.

BETSY: I drafted my first novel in the high-output/low-expectations environment of National Novel Writing Month (a program that I recommend to anyone dreaming of writing or finishing their first book). I still use a lot of the skills I learned from NaNoWriMo: mostly to push any perfectionism aside as aggressively as possible in order to get that horrible first draft finished. I try to write at least 1,000 to 1,500 words per day when I’m drafting, and to work as early in the day as possible. I enjoy editing much more, so it’s really getting to that complete first draft that’s the biggest challenge.

authorWebsite|Twitter|Facebook|Goodreads|Tumblr

Hi! I’m Betsy Cornwell, an American writer and teacher living in a stove-heated cottage in west Ireland, together with my horse trainer spouse, a small herd of dairy goats, and an increasing number of other animals. I write fiction and nonfiction and blog about Irish folklore, travel, wild food, goats (of course!), homesteading, and growing up.

giveaway3 winners will receive a finished copy of VENTURESS. US Only.

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

the-bear-and-the-nightGoodreads/Amazon/B&N/iBooks

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At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

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review4/5 Stars 

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley and  Del Rey

The Bear and the Nightingale is a love letter to old Rus’. 

The other day I found myself missing the Motherland. Once you’ve been to Russia, the spirit of the country latches on to you and you’ll never be able to forget it, even if it forgets you. The Bear and the Nightingale was the perfect answer to my melancholic nostalgia. That being said, rating this book was tricky for me because I love Russian culture so much, so deeply, that it hypnotized and transported me back to those dark and beautiful nights in Moscow and Suzdal and Vladimir and Tolstoy’s estate. I digress, but the point is if you have even the tiniest interest in Russian folklore, the old culture, and adore fairy tales, you’ll be swept up into this rustic and romantic tale of a girl kissed by magic and determined to save her people. 

Side note: Throughout the story I yelled at the book in Russian. Like full on what is this??? yelling. The transliteration irked me to no end and then I got to the end of the book and I laughed so hard. That author’s note made my day. She explained her choices and described how she though Russian speakers/students would react to the transliteration-with disdain and hands pretty much clenched in fists. Somehow, the fact that she knew it made it okay. 

The Bear and the Nightingale is whimsical, haunting, and twisted like any good fairytale. A blend of many stories known, loved, and feared in Russia still today, The Bear and the Nightingale is one epic journey that spans years. From the house-spirits, to the gods of the elements, to the celebrated figures of Baba Yaga and the Firebird, everything that is inherently Russian is present and accounted for. I loved that the focus was not on these known figures, but on the everyday ones that live in the household and receive offerings, that protect the hearth and livelihood of the family. 

This is a love story. Not in the traditional sense, but one of love for the land, for heritage, for culture, and in beings that others believe are myth. There’s not romance in the usual fashion, but there is a hint. 

The atmosphere and world building is strong. You’ll become fully immersed in the countryside, the power of the forest and all the magical beings that inhabit it. 

I loved Vasya. She’s known for being unattractive, frog-like, and weird, but her spirit makes her beautiful. She’s fierce, determined, sure of herself. She believes when others are filled with doubts. She throws herself into danger, she risks her life, she loves hard and barters for her people. She’s small, but she’s crafty and wild and bold. She does what everyone else in the story wouldn’t dare and that’s what makes her compelling. 

On a more somber note, there is some conversion that goes on in the story. Religious crusade of a sort that makes the reader question what happens when people story believing in their folklore, in their old gods, and all the stories that come with them. There’s something heartbreaking and sobering about this war within the people. 

The pacing may be slow for some, but it builds as it goes and Vasya becomes more adventurous. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Magical reading, 

Jordan

Release Day Blitz: The Queen by C.J. Abedi

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In the stunning conclusion to the Fae trilogy, Caroline and Devilyn fight to preserve their love despite dark forces threatening to tear them apart.

“An epic end to a phenomenal series.” —Margaret Stohl, #1 New York Times bestselling coauthor of Beautiful Creatures

As Caroline struggles to accept her rightful place as Queen of the Light Fae, her relationship with Devilyn, son of the Dark King, seems not only doomed, but dangerous. They know their connection is undeniable, but for others, their love is an insidious threat.


Trapped in a plot concocted by the Dark King Alderon and his evil associate, Puck, Caroline must search her history and develop her own powers in order to survive. And as Devilyn’s father appeals to the Dark inside his son, Caroline fears Devilyn will succumb to those Dark instincts before they can defeat Alderon.


Weaving together narratives from Caroline and Devilyn’s pasts as well as their present, The Queen finishes the fight between Light and Dark. Will Caroline and Devilyn’s love outlast the war? And will Caroline live to rule as the Queen of the Light?

 Other Books in this Series

In this YA bestseller, optioned for film by Ridley Scott, the battle between Light and Dark is about to begin.
Caroline Ellis’ sixteenth birthday sets into motion a series of events that have been fated for centuries. A descendant of Virginia Dare, the first child born in the lost colony of Roanoke, and unaware of her birthright as the heir to the throne of the Light Fae, it isn’t until Caroline begins a tumultuous relationship with Devilyn Reilly that the truth of her heritage is revealed.
 
Devilyn is the only Fae who is both of the Light and of the Dark, and struggles to maintain that precarious balance to avoid succumbing to the power of the Dark within him. He is the only one who can save Caroline from those who would destroy her and destroy all hope for unity among the Fae. He promises Caroline that he will protect her at all costs, even when it means protecting her from himself. Told from the alternating perspectives of Caroline and Devilyn, FAE draws on mysteries, myths and legends to create a world, and a romance, dangerously poised between Light and Dark.

BOOK TWO 

author

Colet Abedi has been an entertainment industry executive for over ten years. In addition to working on many television programs for NBC, ABC, FOX, and most cable networks, she is best known for her work as head writer for the telenovela serials American Heiress and Fashion House, the latter of which starred Bo Derek and Morgan Fairchild, on the FOX-owned MyNetworkTV. Abedi currently has a series in television syndication, Unsealed: Alien Files and has completed Five Souls, her first feature film. She is also the author of romance novel, MAD LOVE. Colet is a native of California, graduated with a B.A. in English literature from the University of California at Irvine, and currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three dogs. 

Jasmine Abedi is an entertainment attorney, and has worked with entertainment powerhouses such as Fox, NBCUniversal, ABC, MTV and E! for the past 14 years. She has also worn many different hats in the entertainment industry, with Executive Producer credits for the television programs Posh Tots and the pilots Club Bounce (TruTV), Divas (VH-1), and Life With The Clarks (CMT). In addition to writing, she has also partnered with a law school friend to create the natural cosmetic company Generation Klean, Inc. Their products can be found online at www.generationklean.com and at major retailers (Whole Foods, Fred Segal etc.) nationwide.

 Magical reading, 
Jordan

 

 

 

 

 

 

ARC Review: Fates Entwined by Jules Barnard

syn
They can never be together. The notion is laughable. Humans are inferior, a scourge on the Fae and on the magic passed down to them by angels millennia ago. And if Keen finds himself drawn to the tiny human female,
he keeps it to himself. He won’t add to the half-breed problem that threatens his people’s existence.
 
Reese can’t stand Keen. He criticizes her clothing, won’t answer a straight question, and is too handsome for her peace of mind.
 
Her entire life, people have pegged Reese for a shallow, ditzy blond. She won’t accept the stereotype from the large, arrogant Fae too. But after Keen saves her life, she begins to question what truly lies beneath his stoic demeanor.
 
Forced together, Keen and Reese fight to survive among enemies, and Keen makes choices Reese couldn’t have predicted. She glimpses a side of him that is protective and dangerously seductive.
 
But Keen refuses to acknowledge their connection.
 
Until he’s faced with the decision to betray his people, or lose Reese forever.
 
*This mature YA series is intended for readers 17 years and older.
 
**Each Halven Rising novel features a different couple and may be read as a standalone, but an overreaching story arc connects the series, so it’s fun to read them in order.**
teaser
 

review

3.5/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review

+++This is listed as Mature YA, but I would definitely put it in the New Adult range. Explict scenes.

Reese is hardcore. She’s confident, bold, a fighter, and not afraid to speak her mind. She challenges and gives back and much as she gets. She’ll never let anyone force her to do something she doesn’t want to. Her bravery is intense. She is clever and happy with herself despite her past hurts. Reese has sass for days. Her dialogue is funny, emotionally charged, and she’s a master at those fighting words. 

Keen is set in his ways. He has biased views of Halven and solid ideas about a woman’s place, but Reese throws him off-center. From the minute he meets her, she changes his world and he opens his eyes past his prejudice. Keen is sexy, flirty, and completely commanding. He brings the heat and together with Reese, it’s explosive.

The love hate is strong. No matter how hard they try to deny themselves, the stronger the attraction grows. They nag and badger each other. They say horrible things. They fight, sometimes physically, but the chemistry is insane. Their romance is a battle they’re happy to lose. 

I would have liked stronger back story for both of the main characters. Keen’s story is particularly intriguing, sad, and super dark and yet, it’s pretty much glossed over. The politics of Halven and each of the kingdoms would have been better defined had Keen’s relationship been more clear. The drama between kingdoms, their unique features, the kind of fae who reside in each realm, all of that was tucked into the story offhand and barely elaborated on. A little more world building would have added to the severity of each threat and explained the animosity between groups. 

The pacing was staggered. After the initial adrenaline rush and uncertainty of the first scene, it takes a while for things to develop. The time Reese spends training and whatnot goes by so slow, despite the budding chemistry between her and Keen.

Other Books in the Series

 author
RITA-nominated author Jules Barnard began her publishing career in 2014 with Deep Blue, the first book in the contemporary Blue Series, hitting bestseller lists on Amazon, iBooks, and All Romance. In 2015, she launched Fates Divided, the first of a romantic fantasy series Library Journal calls “…an exciting new fantasy adventure.” Whether she’s writing about beautiful Lake Tahoe or a Fae world embedded in a college campus, Jules spins suspenseful stories filled with realistic characters who have heart and humor.

When Jules isn’t in her sweatpants writing and rewarding herself with chocolate, she spends her time with her husband and two children in their small hometown on the California coast. She credits herself with the ability to read while running on the treadmill or burning dinner.
 
Fantastic reading, 
Jordan
 
 
 
 
 

 

Cover Reveal: West by Stacey Marie Brown

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Goodreads/iBooks/Amazon

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Sexy, alluring, ruthless, and oh so complicated.

West is the known as “charming” dark dweller with a slow southern accent that can charm any woman. But after being held prisoner and tortured by a cruel seelie queen, West’s past comes back to haunt him. The truth of what happened on the light side, goes deeper than anyone knows.

Struggling with his demons, he battles the very essence of what he is. A Dark Dweller. When the unseelie king sends him to Ireland to uncover an object, his entire world takes a dangerous turn.

The one thing you don’t do is steal from a demon king… not if you want to live.

authorstcaey

Website/Facebook/Twitter

Stacey Marie Brown is a lover of hot fictional bad boys and sarcastic heroines who kick butt. She also enjoys books, travel, TV shows, hiking, writing, design, and archery. Stacey swears she is part gypsy, being lucky enough to live and travel all over the world.

She grew up in Northern California, where she ran around on her family’s farm, raising animals, riding horses, playing flashlight tag, and turning hay bales into cool forts. She volunteers helping animals and is eco-friendly. She feels all animals, people, and environment should be treated kindly.

Fantastic reading, 

Jordan

Theme Reviews: What We’ll Do For Blood by C.L. Mannarino and Descent by Sloane Murphy

THE THEME IS VAMPIRES. THE FIRST IS A YA SORT OF SUBURBAN FANTASY, THE SECOND IS A YA PARANORMAL DYSTOPIAN. 

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In the sleepy town of Northam, Massachusetts, not everyone is who they seem to be. 



Take Scott Whitney, for example. A struggling high school senior, Scott wants nothing more than to have his much-divided, social-climbing family believe him when he comes to them with something important, no matter how often he disregards their rules. 



One night, Scott catches his father’s beautiful colleague, Maria, drinking his father’s blood in their office parking lot. When his father has no recollection of this event, and gets weaker the more he spends time with Maria, Scott turns to his mother and sister for help. When he realizes that Maria has captured their hearts and minds, as well, Scott has to find a way to believe in himself, and become more than anyone thought he was capable of, in order to stop her.

But what will it cost him?

What We’ll Do for Blood is the first book in a series of young adult supernatural novels. If you like heart-racing action, highly-driven characters, and strong family ties, then you’ll love C.L. Mannarino’s visceral vision of a world where the supernatural is very much alive.

review

***I received this ebook as a gift in exchange for an honest review via the author 

Let me preface this review by saying that I think someone who is looking for a more adult vampire story minus the hyper sexualization that’s found in many adult vampire urban fantasies would like this a lot. Unfortunately, I was not a fan and DNF’d this at 30% or so. 

What We’ll Do For Blood features a diverse cast of characters of many ethnic groups and social classes. There’s a strongly defined line between the upper suburban and those who are more middle class. The world is thoroughly outlined, though occasionally I questioned the time period. 

The pacing drove me crazy. Some points were unbearably slow and so full of description that I skimmed. Nothing happened for nearly 100 pages. The things that did happen, that caused me to throw up my guard and question Maria, were TOO subtle and really not enough to heighten the anticipation. Had they been amped up a little more, it would have increased the anxiety and foreboding. The story got lost as it lagged. 

Some things made hardly any sense at all. There are references to how nice Maria is from Scott and she’s a terrible person, like a serious jerk to him. There’s one scene that was so repulsive and rude that I have no clue how Scott went from that to Maria is so nice again. Sure, Maria has some sort of hypnotic gaze or something that puts people under a spell, but like I said above, so subtle that comments and reactions like this are frustrating. 

I couldn’t connect with Scott or any of the characters really. I sympathized with Scott because he is under a lot of pressure to conform to a specific image for his family, but he does nothing to help his cause. Like he knows he needs to do certain things and he’s like nope and then wonders why people get annoyed. The references to his weight really bothered me and then I laughed pretty hard because 150 pounds is massive I guess. I just…the development was hindered by the slow pace. There wasn’t much room for growth or really forming a solid connection with any of the characters. Scott’s girlfriend was there in glimpses, you couldn’t really get a solid read on her, but she seems like a nice person. It was like looking at her from far, far away. 

EBOOK

Goodreads/Amazon

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Six hundred years after The Outbreak, the human population stand side by side with the Fae & the Vampyrs to stop the Demon King from starting a second Dark War.

Seventeen year old Adelaide Tate is in her last year of the Academy, with her eyes set on becoming part of the Red Guard.

Who cares that no female has ever joined?

When a dark force develops an unhealthy liking for her, Adelaide needs to fight for her life and figure out what makes her so different from the others.

Betrayal. Fear. Anger.

She must overcome it all in order to turn her world the right way around again.
Adelaide has one choice. Accept the help offered to her by Xander Bane, or face the Demon Hoard alone.

One thing is for sure. The descent will be bloody.

review

2.5/5 Stars 

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via the author 

Descent is super short. Not novella length, but I’d say about 100 pages less than the average YA paranormal. That being said, I think that had the book been longer, it would have been far more developed. This reads like a rough draft in terms of connecting the different story arcs and relationship building. The first half of the story feels like a wholly different book than the second half. There’s an abundance of telling and leaping from one scene to the next, abruptly cutting off before the scene actually builds. It almost feels like a summary. 

The world building is complex and intriguing. I love the darkness and the role of the academy. The battle scenes are INTENSE. The gore, the weapons, the feels. If the focus, as the blurb suggests, had been more on Adelaide’s quest to join the guard it would have added to this world building, but that kind of fell to the wayside with everything else going on. 

I really wish that first section had been further developed because it would have been so much more special. Don’t get me wrong, the feels are pretty strong, but not sucker punch level. This heartwarming and bittersweet friendship between Adelaide and her best friend was potent and one of the best parts of the story. They’re there for each other to balance and offset, to hold each other when they’re depressed or insecure, to give each other encouragement and soothe old wounds. The friendship is powerful. For me, there wasn’t enough of it. I would have liked more of just the girls hanging out, talking about their past, their love interests, really digging in so that the emotional connection would have been 10x stronger. 

There’s a serious case of instalove on one side, and on the other side is an over a decade long build lusting. That was pretty cool. This offsets the whole instalove aspect and shows something deeper and long-lasting. The chemistry is there and it’s HOT. Switching between two POVs you see the romance develop and grow into something profound. They way he cares for Adelaide is beautiful and oh so sexy. Sometimes it’s a little crude, a little blushworthy, but the sweetness makes up for it. 

Some plot points didn’t make sense. I kept asking myself why certain things were happening, like a specific abduction. What was the point of the whole ordeal with minimal danger only to return the character later, no harm done? It just didn’t add up. 

There are so many clues that the plot twist is expected and when it gets to the reveal, while it may be shocking for Adelaide, it certainly wasn’t for me. 

I adored the bad guys. They were layered, sympathetic, multidimensional, and full of character, life, and just all around great lines. They really livened up the story and made me want to read more…even more so than the good guys. 

Quite a few typos. 

Overall, Descent is an engaging and enjoyable dystopian with all your favorite sorts of paranormal creatures. 

If you like any of the following you’ll enjoy this:

Interesting reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: The Masked Maiden by H.D. Gordon

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HERO OR VILLAIN? YOU DECIDE.

When she decided to become a vigilante, no one told 17-year-old Aria Fae about the possibility of public backlash, or the attention the media would garner by dubbing her The Masked Maiden of Grant City.

On top of this added heat, a rogue supernatural known as The Scarecrow has escaped his prison, and his history with Aria makes her the crazed warlock’s obvious target.

Now, she must face her past and defeat The Scarecrow once and for all, or die trying.
When things reach their worst, will The Masked Maiden be the hero Grant City needs, or the villain they’ve made her out to be?

review

4/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via the author

I was hesitant to pick this book up because I wasn’t completely sold on the first book in the series. So I put it off for a while and rediscovered it in the process of catching up on back reviews. I’m absolutely floored. I really don’t know where to start because this is such a drastic change from book 1. I am now 100%, completely, and totally invested in this series. 

Aria Fae has always been a badass, but she’s grown so much as the story progressed, not only in maturity, but in heart and understanding. Aria’s past is highlighted. There are flashbacks and agony over her horrible childhood. The cruel way the Brokers rob the Halflings from their homes and the tasks they put them through are truly horrific. Aria as a child is just as feisty as she is now and outspoken. She doesn’t take anything from anyone, she’s a fighter from the get-go. There are moments of fear, and uncertainty, and heartbreak as seen through her young eyes and the emotions are on full chaotic display. 

The story arc is fantastic. A perfect blend of teen angst, superheroes, and serial killers. The suspense is heart stopping, the dangers will keep you on edge. Serious adrenaline rush. There were many moments where I held my breath, hoping that Aria would get there in time or make it out alive. 

The scenes with the Scarecrow are straight out of your deepest fears and worst nightmares. From the way he talks to Aria, the grotesque form of his body, the blunt descriptions of his psychotic murders. Chills. These flashbacks are particularly disturbing and sickening. Every ounce of terror rolls off the pages. 

Romance. Forget triangles. This is definitely a love rhombus. And (un)fortunately they’re all perfect. Dreamy sigh. Aria has the best luck romantically, everything else not so much. The struggle is real. Choosing between a blast from the past childhood love, a super sweet and gentle millionaire heir, and an older ex-military protector, no wonder she’s so spastic and jumps at every opportunity to escape the awkward. The feels are strong. There are many cute, passionate scenes that are both romantic and gasp-out-loud sexy. The way they look at her, happy sigh, the way they make her feel. Break out your Keats poems and put on a romantic comedy post book to recover. 

Secondary characters are as lively as ever. Each has a unique and developed story. It’s not ALL about Aria. She’s there for her friends, she’s kind, she’s awesome and epic and better than before. Her humanity is coming out and it’s glorious. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Epic reading, 

Jordan