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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Book review of Shadows of Nightshade, Plus an Interview with the Author, Lyla Oweds

Shadows of Nightshade (The Garden of Eternal Flowers #1) by Lyla Oweds
Genre: New Adult Fiction (Paranormal/Fantasy Romance)
Date Published: March 8, 2023
Publisher: Self

I dream of a time where I was warm, safe, and loved.

But my waking reality is starkly different.

Anxiety plagues me and spirits haunt the shadows. No matter how fast I run, I can’t seem to escape my past.

The only solace and steady force in my life is my best friend, Finn.

And now… there’s a ghost haunting me. And I’m not certain if it wants help or if it wants to kill me. There’s only one person who can understand: Finn’s brother, Damen.

However, in reaching out, I’m betraying Finn and setting things into motion that cannot be undone.

But nobody ever said that doing the right thing was easy.

The Garden of Eternal Flowers is a re-envisioning of my Grimm Cases series. Eternal Flowers has taken my original vision of Bianca's story and transformed it into something new and beautiful. Some chapters are similar, and some dialogue is the same, as The Grimm Cases, Origins, but overall, about 75% of the book has been entirely revisioned with new plot points, mystery, and interpersonal relationships. Also, unlike Origins (originally a Wattpad release), there is now a clear beginning, climax, and conclusion in each individual novel, which allows them to be read alone or as part of the ongoing series.

I hope that you will enjoy Shadows of Nightshade as much as I enjoyed writing it. Truly, it is an honor to write about Bianca and her boys, and all of these characters are near and dear to my heart.

Trigger Warning: This series deals with the aftermath of severe childhood trauma.

Shadows of Nightshade is the first book in The Garden of Eternal Flowers series by Lyla Oweds. This is a re-envisioning of the author’s Grimm Cases series. I haven’t read the original, but this was a fun introduction to the series. My only fault with it would be the ending. The blurb says each book would have a clear ending, and I didn’t find that to be the case. I felt like it ended right when it was really starting to get going. Maybe that’s because I didn't read the original. So, I still don’t really know what’s going on. Was I supposed to read those books first? Anyway, I loved the characters. Each one has an individual personality, and they are set apart from one another. I feel like that’s hard to do when you introduce so many characters in a small amount of time, but the author pulled it off well! They were a fun group!

Shadows of Nightshade by Lyla Oweds was kindly provided to me by Lola's Blog Tours for review. The opinions are my own.

I wasn’t sure why he thought he deserved any special rights to my time, but it was obvious that he believed he could do whatever he wanted. How did he become so arrogant?
I opened my mouth to respond—which would probably have ended with me embarrassing myself—but nothing escaped. I stared at him, my heart racing, as I stood speechless. Then laughter—close enough for me to pick up—drifted over from the next row.
The sound shattered the enchantment cast over me—how could I have forgotten our position—and my face burst with heat. How would this scene appear to anyone passing by?
Damen’s eyes glinted mischievously. He must have had the same realization.
“Let me go,” I hissed. But my whispered venom only encouraged him, and he smiled. My traitorous heart began to beat faster. “Someone might see us!”
“Really?” His grin grew wider. This was the expression he’d had when we first met. “Then it’s fine if we don’t get caught? Consider it noted.”
“No!” I was internally screaming, even though my words were a weak protest. “You can’t play around with students anyway.” Not that it mattered there’d be no games between us—ever. “You’re basically a professor.”
“Ah.” He ran his finger down my cheek and I shivered. “But you’re not my student. I can’t help it.” His lips dipped slightly, and he tilted his head as his gaze continued to hold mine. “You’ve taken root in my mind.”
How idiotic. I would bet my shoes that he said that to everyone.
“Why are you so annoying?” I gritted out. Plus, what even was that line? It sounded like something from a cheesy romance novel. I’d be shocked if that ever worked for him in the past.
Finn’s stupid, horny brother. He could go flirt with someone else. I didn’t even remember why I wanted his help anymore, because no matter how much I wanted to lean into his touch or melt under his scorching gaze, I wanted to poke him in the eyes that much more.
What a quandary.

How long have you been writing? I've been writing since I was in high school, but nothing serious until after my oldest daughter was born.

What inspired the re-imagining of The Grimm Cases? Healing! The revamp was all about healing and moving on from my own past.

What was the weirdest thing you had to google while doing research? Probably stuff about how to kill people and different poisons. 

What book have you read too many times to count? My own! I have a million easter eggs in my books, so I keep re-reading to make sure I remember them all.

What is the best piece of writing advice you ever received? If you're bored writing the thing, people will get bored reading the thing.

If you could hop into the life of any fictional character, who would it be and why? None! I don't read particularly happy things! 

What was one of the most surprising things you learned while creating your books? How hard it is to write! You can create perfect characters and worlds in your head, but writing it all out is a completely different beast.

What do you like to do when you're not writing? Watch TV and sleep! I also spend a lot of time working and studying for my graduate program.

Are any of the things in your books based on real life experiences or purely all imagination? Half and half! Emotions and some events are based on real-life situations but set in fictional scenarios.
Lyla Oweds is a paranormal / urban fantasy author who resides in the beautiful Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania with her husband, children, and animals. While she enjoys all genres of fiction, she has a deep appreciation for fantasy, romance, mystery, crime, and horror. Lyla has a bachelor’s in anthropology and will be completing her master’s in information technology in 2023.

Writing is her moonlighting passion, and she loves having the opportunity to share her perspective as a disabled (profoundly hard of hearing) woman. During the daylight hours, Lyla works as a principal / lead design and development specialist focusing on user experience and accessibility. When not working, Lyla is usually indulging in one of her many hobbies such as amusing her children, gardening, crocheting, interior decorating, baking, cooking, or playing video games.

To learn more about Lyla Oweds and her books, visit her website. You can also find her on Goodreads.

There is a tour wide giveaway for the blog tour of Shadows of Nightshade. One winner wins a paperback copy of Shadows of Nightshade.

For a chance to win, enter the rafflecopter below:
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Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Release Day Review! Selkie by Sydney Winward

Selkie (Mortar & Pestle #1) by Sydney Winward
Genre: Adult Fiction (Historical Fantasy Romance)
Date Published: March 7, 2023
Publisher: Silver Forge Books

No one has ever managed to capture a selkie. Until now…

On their wedding day, Klaus Lovik’s bride is stolen by an enemy chieftain. He will travel to the ends of the earth to find her, and in desperation, he captures a selkie and uses her as a bartering piece. But the selkie’s magic is powerful enough to drown entire islands, and if he’s not careful, he might find himself in a watery grave.

Mayla Brior is gifted with the power to shed her seal skin, enabling her to walk on land. But when a man robs her of the pelt, she is forced to follow his commands, endangering her skin, and preventing her return to the sea.

Venturing into enemy territory, Klaus and Mayla bond, escalating their relationship into more than adversaries. He realizes his pending nuptials are a dreadful mistake. But it might be too late to choose another path, especially when he knows he has to eventually let her go.

Selkie by Sydney Winward is a standalone romance in the Mortar & Pestle. Each book in this series is written by a different author with different characters, but within the same World. I'm definitely curious about these other books too. Selkies interest me. They’re a creature you don’t see too often in fiction, and I’d really love to learn more about them. This story built upon itself nicely , and you got to know the main characters and the inner wars they were fighting as it progressed. I’d say there was a quick attraction, but it definitely wasn’t instalove as they hated each other in the beginning… and rightly so. I completely enjoyed getting lost in their world, and I’d like to check out some of this author’s other work as well. 

The ARC of Selkie by Sydney Winward was kindly provided to me by the author through BookSprout for review. The opinions are my own.

Sydney Winward is an award-winning fantasy and paranormal romance author who dabbles in the occasional historical fiction. She loves building complex worlds filled with magic, strong characters, and emotional stories that can make you laugh and cry.

Sydney is the author of The Bloodborn Series and the Sunlight and Shadows Series. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, thinking about stories, or going on adventures with her children. She lives in Utah with her husband and three amazing kids.

To learn more about Sydney Winward and her books, visit her website. You can also find her on Goodreads, Facebook, InstagramTikTok, Pinterest, and Twitter.

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Monday, February 20, 2023

Book Review: The Defiant by Lesley Livingston

The Defiant (The Valiant #2) by Lesley Livingston
Genre: Young Adult Fiction (Historical Fiction)
Date Published: January 23, 2018
Publisher: Razorbill

Gladiator Fallon and her warrior sisters must face off against a rival gladiator academy in this lush sequel to the highly anticipated historical fantasy The Valiant.

They call her "Victrix" now. Victory.

But winning the highest honor ever bestowed upon a gladiatrix in Rome has earned Fallon more deadly enemies outside the arena than she ever faced within it. And it is those dearest to Fallon who will pay the price for her success.

Now, Fallon and her warrior sisters are thrust into a vicious conflict with a rival gladiator academy, one that will threaten not only Fallon's heart - and her love for Roman soldier Cai - but the very heart of the Roman Empire.

The Defiant is the second book in the Valiant Trilogy by Lesley Livingston. I loved Valiant! So, I went into this one with some pretty high expectations. But, for some reason I just couldn’t stay focused. The pacing was a bit slow. I didn’t feel the chemistry in the romance. And, it just didn’t grab me like the first book. There was still a whole lotta girl power, which was fun, and the action scenes are pretty entertaining. I was just waiting for it too pull me in like the first book, and that never happened. Maybe it was just me, as I just couldn’t stay focused this time around.

Check out my review of the first book!

Check out my review of another book by this author!

Lesley Livingston  is the author of Once Every Never, winner of the inaugural Copper Cylinder Award and shortlisted for the CLA Young Adult Book Award and the BC Stellar Book Award. She is also the author of the Wondrous Strange and Starling trilogies. She lives in Toronto.

To learn more about Lesley Livingston and her books, visit her website.You can also find her on Goodreads and Twitter.

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Thursday, February 2, 2023

Book Review: The Ballad of Never After by Stephanie Garber

The Ballad of Never After (Once Upon a Broken Heart #2) by Stephanie Garber
Genre: Young Adult Fiction (Paranormal/Fantasy Romance)
Date Published: September 13, 2022
Publisher: Flatiron Books

Not every love is meant to be.

After Jacks, the Prince of Hearts, betrays her, Evangeline Fox swears she'll never trust him again. Now that she’s discovered her own magic, Evangeline believes she can use it to restore the chance at happily ever after that Jacks stole away.

But when a new terrifying curse is revealed, Evangeline finds herself entering into a tenuous partnership with the Prince of Hearts again. Only this time, the rules have changed. Jacks isn’t the only force Evangeline needs to be wary of. In fact, he might be the only one she can trust, despite her desire to despise him.

Instead of a love spell wreaking havoc on Evangeline’s life, a murderous spell has been cast. To break it, Evangeline and Jacks will have to do battle with old friends, new foes, and a magic that plays with heads and hearts. Evangeline has always trusted her heart, but this time she’s not sure she can...

The Ballad of Never After is the second book in the  Once Upon a Broken Heart trilogy by Stephanie Garber. This story is keeping that dark fairytale feel, and I am loving it beyond words. I don't know if this is a world I want to live in necessarily, but I sure do love reading about it. I got to know Evangeline and Jacks so much better. I'm so addicted to the banthering and chemistry between Evangeline and Jacks. It's amped up so much more this time around. Everything is pretty amped up actually. We find out so much and so much is happening, and while things are happening, other things are happening behind the scenes. It's fantastic! Now, I just need the next one to be released yesterday!!

Have you read the first book?

Check out my reviews of the Caraval trilogy!

My favorite place in the world is Disneyland because it’s the one place on earth where I feel as if the fantastical stories I love to write about could actually come to life.

When I’m not writing, I teach creative writing at a private college in Northern California, where I’ve been known to turn assignments into games and take students on field trips that involve book signings. I’m also a blogger on PUB(LISHING) CRAWL. But I probably spend most of my time on Twitter where I tend to overuse exclamation points and emojis.

To help pay my bills during college, grad school, and the breaks in between, I worked as a barista, a waitress, a bartender, a customer service representative for an energy consulting company, and as a sales girl at Bath and Bodyworks. I also spent years working with youth; I worked as a counselor at space themed summer camp, volunteered at a school for deaf children in Mexico, and I took multiple groups of college students overseas to spend their winter vacations serving at youth hostels in Amsterdam. But out of everything that I’ve done, writing young adult novels has been my favorite job.

My debut YA fantasy novel, Caraval will be published January 2017 (Flatiron Books/Macmillan—US and Hodder & Stoughton—UK). Caraval has sold in twenty-five foriegn territories and the movie rights were pre-empted by Twentieth Century Fox.

To learn more about Stephanie Garber  and her books, visit her website. You can also find her on GoodreadsFacebookInstagramPinterest, and Twitter.

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Thursday, January 19, 2023

Book Review: The Wehrwolf by Alma Katsu

The Wehrwolf by Alma Katsu
Genre: Adult Fiction (Historical Fiction)
Date Published: September 29, 2022
Publisher: Self

Alma Katsu, the visionary author of The Fervor, The Hunger, and The Deep, brings readers a terrifying short story about monsters among men—and the thin lines that divide them.

Germany, 1945. In the waning days of World War II, the Nazis have been all but defeated. Uwe Fuchs, never a fighter, feels fortunate to have avoided the front lines as he cared for his widowed mother.

But Uwe’s fortune changes when Hans Sauer, the village bully, recruits him to join a guerilla resistance unit preparing for the arrival of Allied soldiers. At first, Uwe is wary. The war is lost, and rumor has it that Hans is a deserter. But Hans entices him with talk of power, brutality, and their village’s ancestral lore: werewolves.

With some reluctance, Uwe joins up with the pack and soon witnesses their startling transformation. But when the men’s violent rampage against enemy soldiers takes a devastatingly personal turn, Uwe must grapple not only with his role in their evil acts but with his own humanity. Can he reclaim what this group of predatory men has stolen from him?

Or has he been a monster all along?

The Wehrwolf by Alma Katsu had a very interesting premise, but this was a story that needed to be full length rather than told as a short story. For such a short story, I feel like the little bit of time we had wasn't utilized as well as it could have been. We're automatically invested in the characters' lives, because we know the horrible history behind what is going on, but as individual characters, I didn't really get to know much about them. They are still strangers. I feel like this could have made an excellent full length story. The author's note at the end took a lot away for me too. I was glad to read that other reviewers felt the same. Sometimes I wonder if it's just me. I will give her props for leaving the politics (other than what was needed) out of her story though. I'd much prefer it in an author's note at the end rather than woven into the story like so many other authors are doing these days. I still want to read more of this author's work, because I enjoyed The Hunger so much.

Check out my review of another book by this author!

Alma Katsu’s books have received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal, been featured in the NY Times and Washington Post, been nominated and won multiple prestigous awards, and appeared on numerous Best Books lists including NPR, the Observer, Barnes and Noble, Apple Books, Goodreads, and Amazon.

RED WIDOW is her first spy novel, the logical marriage of her love of storytelling with her 30+ year career in intelligence. As an intelligence officer, Ms. Katsu worked at several federal agencies as a senior analyst where she advised policymakers and military commanders on issues of national security. The last third of her government career was spent in emerging technologies and technology forecasting. She was also a senior technology policy analyst for the RAND Corporation and continues as an independent consultant and technology futurist, advising clients in government and private industry.

Ms. Katsu also writes novels that combine historical fiction with supernatural and horror elements. THE HUNGER (2018), a reimagining of the story of the Donner Party, was named one of NPR’s 100 favorite horror stories, was on numerous Best Books of the Year lists, and continues to be honored as a new classic in horror. Her first book, THE TAKER (2011), was named one of the top ten debut novels of 2011 by Booklist.

Ms. Katsu has relocated from the Washington, DC area to the mountains of West Virginia, where she lives with her musician husband Bruce and their two dogs, Nick and Ash.

To learn more about Alma Katsu and her books, visit her website. You can also find her on GoodreadsFacebookInstagramPinterest, and Twitter.

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