Masque (A Two Monarchies Novel) by W.R. Gingell @WRGingell

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Beauty met the Beast and there was . . . Bloody murder?

It’s the Annual Ambassadorial Ball in Glause, and Lady Isabella Farrah, the daughter of New Civet’s Ambassador, is feeling pleasantly scintillated.

In the library is Lord Pecus, a charming gentleman whose double mask hides a beastly face, and who has decided that Isabella is the very person to break the Pecus curse.

In the ball-room is young Lord Topher, who is rapidly falling in love with an older woman.

And in the card-room, lying in a pool of his own blood, is the body of one of Isabella’s oldest friends: Raoul, Civet’s Head Guardsman. The papers sewn into his sash seem to suggest espionage gone wrong, but Isabella is not so certain.

Lord Pecus, as Commander of the Watch, is of the opinion that Isabella should keep out of the investigation and out of danger. Isabella is of the opinion that it is her murder to investigate, and that what a certain Beast-Lord doesn’t know won’t hurt him. . . .

Will Isabella find the murderer before Lord Pecus does, or will she end her investigation as a bloody spatter on the parlour floor?

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

My rating: 5/5

If Agatha Christie and Jane Austen had a brain baby that was raised by fairies, it would be this book. Gingell manages to take the old fairytale we know and love while tossing in societal scandal, politics, magic, and a healthy dose of snarky humor. I laughed one moment, was on the edge of my seat the next, and was making serious *heart eyes* at my Kindle paragraphs later.

The plot:

This story mixes the intrigue of a murder-mystery thriller and the high society setting of a historical romance with the magic and sorcery of a fantasy novel. I absolutely loved it. This was a bit longer work than the novellas that initially got me to read Gingell’s work, but it moves at a steady clip and I was never sure quite what to expect.

The characters:

It’s nice to finally have a heroine in a “girly” society that likes the “girly” things while still taking names and running the show. Isabella is feminine with the graces of the most proficient socialite, but hardcore and kind-hearted. I low-key want to be her. I also loved that she didn’t take it easy on Pecus…AT ALL. Their banter and constantly trying to outmaneuver each other made this story all the better.

Lord Pecus is Mr. Darcy, Colonel Brandon, and Aragorn rolled into one. If WHEN you read it, you’ll see what I mean. ALL THE HEART EYES TO THIS MAN, OKAY?

Also, we have a story with a heroine who has actual friends! Female friends and more than one. They talk girl talk and political talk and actually matter to the storyline! It’s revolutionary, people!

I honestly have no idea what order these books are supposed to be read, but this one makes sense on its own. I’m preordering the upcoming one and have downloaded the others. I love how this author writes and 100% recommend pretty much anything she’s written.

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A while back, W.R. Gingell guest posted on fairytale retellings! Be sure to check that out. 

REVIEW: Conquering Fate (The Order of the Krigers #3) by Jennifer Anne Davis @AuthorJennifer

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With no choice but to face her destiny straight on, Kaia is determined to end the curse—no matter the personal cost. Sacrificing her own wants and desires, she turns herself over to the evil king, Morlet. Together, they seek to discover the catalyst for the events that started it all over a hundred years ago.

The path she embarks on tests her skills, her willpower, and her heart. Facing the darkest truth inside of her, she makes a choice that not only has unspeakable consequences, but also changes her life and the future of the kingdom forever.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

My rating: 4/5

I really wasn’t sure what to expect after the cliffhanger of the last book. I had some mixed feelings and torn emotions. Knowing this was the last book of the trilogy upped the ante considerably. I was excited to read this book and it did not let me down.

The plot:

Ever had the “there’s 15% left and how could it possibly end happy” scenarios? Well. That’s what you get here. I was low key panicking yesterday, trying to figure out if a happy ending was even possible and HOW was Davis going to wrap it up and HOLY CRAP.

I did feel the “knocked unconscious” plot device was used too often in this book (which was about half of why it’s not a full five stars). There was also a lot of back and forth from this location to that location and back again. I didn’t keep track, but Kaia kept making the decision to escape/leave where she was and then went straight back. It felt awkward.

All the same, a lot happens in this book, A LOT, and it happens quick. It has that breakneck pacing I’ve come to know and love from Davis’s books and did not disappoint at all.

The characters:

Kaia’s emotions do a lot of yo-yoing as do those of some of the other characters. Her internal conflicts were a bit more complex than some of the other heroines Davis has written and her struggles with destiny, choice, and her own feelings were layered. As far as storytelling, I think Kaia was written the best in this book.

Morlet/Espen’s portrayal in this book was fascinating as it delved deeper into the man/black magic conflict in our main villain.

Their interactions with the other Krigers, Vidar, the Heks, and the minor characters were well written, I thought. Everything there drove the plot forward and though there were points certain characters’ reactions confused me, I may have simply misunderstood.

And there is Anders <3. I got mad at him for the last part of book #2 and the first part of this one. Then it got better and I just clearly have a thing for assassins, okay?

Minor spoiler, it does end happy. So there is that. This story did feel less polished than some of her others, but Jennifer Anne Davis remains one of my few auto-read authors and I can’t wait for her next release!

NOTE: Allyssa of Cage of Deceit remains my favorite Davis heroine. FYI.

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Read my reviews of the previous books:

Rise (Order of the Krigers, #1)

Burning Shadows (Order of the Krigers, #2)

TAMER OF HORSES: A Historical Romance Short Story

Hector has the emptiness in his eyes, that dead light that shines after he has taken lives, seen lives taken. Yet tonight it is worse. Neither he nor his men have breathed a word of what happened on the field, but it could only be something wretched.

He used to smile freely. On the day of our betrothal, it seemed as if the very sun hid beneath his face, but too many cares have clouded it since.

Even with the storm in those eyes, there is a tenderness and reverence that beguiles my soul. Since the Spartan queen came to our city, I and all others have felt homely beside her. Yet how can I feel plain when he stares as if I am Aphrodite herself?

I reach out and he pulls me to him, resting his forehead against mine, exhaling a weary breath. I want to ask him what could burden him thus, but if he wishes to speak of it, he shall.

With my fingertips I trace his battle scars, the tale of this endless war written upon his body. Each one is a testament to thwarted fate, a time when men sought to take him, but he still found his way back to me.

Hector lightly caresses the edge of my peplos dress, finding the ties at the back of my neck. He fingers it slowly, half with me and half somewhere else. “What would you do if I were to fall?”

The thought is never far from my mind every time he rides out the city gates. I fear for him with a terror that words cannot express—Troy’s firstborn prince, the leader of her armies, the cornerstone of her defense, the other half of me, my husband…

The depth of my fear fills me with shame. I cannot look at him.

“Andromache…” He whispers my name softly, as he did when I came as his bride, when he reassured this fearful daughter of a distant king that she need not dread his touch.

“Why would you ask such a thing?” It is all that I can say.

“I have done something…” He has never been a man of many words, but he has seldom been at a loss for them, either. “I have incurred the wrath of Achilles.”

The name strikes equal measures of horror and revulsion. The Shining One of Greece, the King of the Myrmidons, the Greatest Warrior—all names given to the son of Pelleus who has plagued our armies for these long years.

“What has happened?” I clasp his forearms, willing him to tell me, but he only shakes his head.

“If Achilles comes for retribution, I do not know if I can slay him. Some say that he cannot be slain.”

“You shall,” I whisper, willing myself to believe it. “You are the undefeated prince of Troy.”

Hector’s features soften, but he shakes his head, as if to tell me that the battle is already lost. If this is a matter of men, I needn’t know more. If honor demands it, Hector will fight and nothing shall sway him otherwise.

I have not seen this Achilles, but I know the tales the soldiers tell of him. They claim he is the scion of a god, that his veins throb with the ichor of Ares himself.

He is one of many who have come for the Spartan queen, that Helen. With hair red as the saffron that scents her chambers and skin like fresh milk, it is she who has brought this unending war upon our city. It is she who will bring doom to us all.

Hector kisses me, trying to ease away my cares. After all that he has suffered and all the burdens that he carries, it is he who seeks to comfort me.

“My princess,” his lips murmur against mine. “My love.”

Hector presses me to his chest and I close my eyes, imagining the day when this war shall end and the Greeks shall leave our shores. When I can again see Hector smile and not live in terror of every time he rides out onto the plain.

*Unedited draft. Subject to change.

COVER REVEAL: Windswept (Wildwood, #2) by Jadie Jones @JadieJones1

Today I’m excited to help unveil the cover for the second book in an amazing series by an amazing author! Add Windswept on Goodreads, stop by the author’s links, and check out my review of the first book here!

Windswept

An Unseen World believes Tanzy Hightower is the key to an ancient prophecy. They’ve waited a thousand years for her soul to return. Now, a war is waged between those who will stop at nothing to fulfill the prophecy, and those who’ve sworn an oath to end Tanzy’s existence, permanently. 

Tanzy’s allies insist she seek refuge in a remote safe house in the Outer Banks. But the blood of a savage, wild horse runs in Tanzy’s veins, and its instincts are becoming impossible to control. She’s determined to rescue Lucas, an Unseen creature who has loved her since her first life, and to rescue the stolen Wildwood horses from a catastrophic end in the world beyond the veil.

While her fellow candidates beg her to stay in hiding, new enemies work to draw her out, making it clear Lucas and the horses are hers for the taking. Tanzy quickly learns that when your loved ones are used as bait, finding them is only the beginning…

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Excerpt

I have lost myself.

My blood is no longer my own. What now pumps through my body is a thousand years old and not human. My soul has memories of another life neither my mind nor my body experienced.  If blood and soul and memories are what make a person, I no longer belong to myself. If they aren’t, then what else is there?

I once heard our bonds are what make us. I hope that’s not true. I don’t have any left. My father’s body was swallowed by the river. My mother’s spirit was smothered by whiskey. My friends are not my friends, and I am not even myself – not really. A thousand year old soul has made a home inside this body. They say she’s me, that we are one in the same – not two souls fighting for territory. One. So why does that girl – her life, her loss, her love, her sacrifice – feel more like a bedtime story recalled from childhood, and nothing like something I once lived through – something I once died for?

I used to think having something to fight for made a person strong. So I fought. I fought against the belief that my father was dead – the dive team never found him, after all, and even magic couldn’t recover his body from the water. I fought for my mother, forfeited Wildwood and college, the world beyond the walls of our house, and every ounce of my happiness for her, and she still abandoned me. I fought for Vanessa. I trusted her. Trusted Dana and Lucas, and all of them betrayed me. Over and over I fought and fought, and I didn’t gain strength. I didn’t win. I broke.

All this time, I’ve been wrong. Dead wrong. Having something to fight for doesn’t make a person strong. Our bonds, our empathy, our very humanity… they’re vulnerabilities. Weaknesses.

We become most dangerous when we have nothing left to lose.

Sounds pretty awesome, right?!

About the Author

6903911Author. Equine professional. Southern gal. Especially fond of family, sunlight, and cookie dough.​​ Learn more on my website: www.jadiejones.com

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I interviewed Jadie a few years back and she recently wrote a guest post on what books get wrong about horses. Don’t forget to take a gander at those, too!

NEW SERIES, NEW YEAR, NEW PLANS

If you’re a newsletter subscriber, you know I just had my wisdom teeth carved out. (MUCH better now, but still sore.)

As I was coming out of anesthesia, I kept saying 2018 is going to be just so great.

I must really believe it.

2017 was difficult for me as it was for many others. I lost my grandfather, lost a few friends, had a break up, and more than a few breakdowns.

But you know what? 2017 wasn’t all bad.

This year saw me publish three books, read 52+, and go through so much healing it’s hard to believe. I have faith and hope that 2018 will be even better.

Speaking of 2018, I have a new series coming in January! Loosely inspired by Robert E. Howard’s original Conan stories and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars, I can’t wait to introduce you all to the Sandsea.

Check out the cover and blurb to the first book below and sign up to be an early reviewer!*

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In the endless dunes of the Sandsea, strength is the only virtue and weakness is the only sin.

Ensaadi Talitha of Ilios is the warlord’s heir who dreams of peace. Finally, she has the chance to broker a marriage between two feuding tribes, but her efforts are shattered when her besotted sister claims the bridegroom.

The treachery forces Talitha and her warriors to flee back to Ilios. Only through an uneasy alliance with a band of mercenary Dunedrifters and their enigmatic leader can her people hope to make it home.

With the lives of her warriors and the safety of her city at stake, Talitha will be forced to make the hardest decisions of her life. As an ensaadi, no matter what Talitha may want, a heart is a luxury and a conscience is a curse.

Ensaadi is a 30,000 word story and first in the all-new Warlords of the Sandsea series.

Sign up to receive a FREE early review copy once it’s ready!

*This is an unedited blurb. Subject to change.

New Year Resolutions: 2018 Edition

Guys. GUYS.

I was just looking at my resolutions post for 2017 and as far as reading/writing goals, I TOTALLY KILLED IT.

(No, I didn’t meet the drawing or socializing goals, but we don’t talk about those. At all. Shut up.)

So proud of myself and it makes me all the more excited going into 2018. I had a lot of big achievements and you know what that means?

I now get to chase BIGGER achievements! HELL YES!

So here we go…

Release 5 books

I am coming out with a new series on January 18. The newsletter subscribers have gotten a sneak peak, but look for the reveal post Wednesday! It is a 100% new, six novella fantasy series. I plan to release one every 49 days until all six are out.

Exciting? Yes. Insane? Absolutely.

On top of that, I mean to get out the last Fanged novella in time for next October. And I will hopefully be releasing the last two Argetallam Saga books for next Christmas. Hopefully.

You can now sign up to be an early reader for any/all my series here!

Read 52 Books

I had only expected to read 35 last year, if you look at my 2017 goals. But I exceeded that with 55 books, so I have faith I can average a book a week for 2018.

Some of my favorite reads were from W.R. GingellT.L. Shreffler, Jennifer Anne Davis, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Tenaya Jayne.

Check them all out if you haven’t already!

And Intisar Khanani got herself a BOOK DEAL with Harper Teen! How badass is that? Couldn’t have happened to a better person and I’m so happy for her!

Meet up with other bookish folks once a month

I WILL meet people every month. Yes, nerds tend to be solitary creatures. But no man is an island and no bookworm is, either.

Basically, I just need to go “peopling.”

I am making it my goal to DO STUFF besides drink tea and write stuff. Even if that is sort of my whole life.

Anyway. Moving on.

Let’s do this 2018 thing!

What are some of your 2018 goals? Anything you’re proud of from 2017? Let me know in the comments!

 

Kylo Ren: My Favorite Star Wars Villain

I consider Kylo Ren the most original, well-written villain in the Star Wars universe.*

Kylo Ren had no one traumatic event that turned him dark. He didn’t set out to save some woman. He’s not on a quest for power. He isn’t trying to get rich or collect a bounty. He didn’t become evil because he was genetically programmed on Camino.

He became evil because, despite every advantage, he was broken inside.

He was attacked in his mind and it’s his mind that is wounded.

Kylo Ren/Ben Solo has no independent identity. He sought one in carrying on Vader’s legacy and when that was taken away, lost his sense of self with it.

His motivation is self-actualization, self-discovery. He’s trying to find his place in the world at any cost. There’s a vulnerability to him that no Star Wars villain has ever had.

He’s not “badass,” he’s broken. He’s raw. He’s real.

In reality, the true war between good and evil is fought in the human mind, the human heart. Kylo Ren is the perfect example of this.

It was his heart and mind that were corrupted.

Inside was where the battle was fought and lost. 

He was tortured internally by Snoke despite everything he had going for him: a family, a supportive mentor, a stable society. It’s something thousands of people experience every day.

That’s is what it’s like to have a mental illness.

Kylo Ren is the Star Wars character I relate to most.

In Ben Solo’s character, I see my own struggles with mental illness. There’s that question of why there’s something wrong with you when other people who have been through worse seem alright.

Lots of people are saying Kylo Ren is obviously weak if he turned Dark Side while Rey turned out good with the much more standard “difficult life.” Perhaps that’s true.

But the thing is, some of us get attacked inside our own heads.

The writers of this new era have chosen to make a lead villain that is cracked and frayed at the edges. His explosive anger covers up the agony inside.

Many people are disappointed Kylo Ren isn’t a supernaturally evil antagonist like Palpatine or Darth Maul.

But that’s exactly what makes him such a good character. 

We have here a villain that shows how much a person’s mind can torment them even when the outside world is peachy.

There are no expiration dates on the hurts from childhood.

And there is no way to know what a person is going through. 

*I’m keeping this debate limited to the movies. Though I mean my statement to apply regardless, decades of video games, comic books, TV series, and novelizations by hundreds of authors, plus the recent ownership shift have resulted in too much conflicting material and debates over what is now canon and what is not.

TEASER: Ensaak (Warlords of the Sandsea, #1)

“Ensaadi?” The Dunedrifter, Ashek, held his sword loose at his side. The light caught the scuffs and gashes in his armor, worn from years of hard use. “Are you the ensaadi, woman?”

Talitha adjusted her grip on her own weapon. “I am Talitha of Ilios, eldest heir of the Ensaak of Ilios.”

“How…inconvenient.” The Dunedrifter let off a slow exhale, glancing to where the sand still writhed and roiled in the doomworm burrow.

“My lord?”

“She saved my life.” Ashek said the words almost like a curse. “Me and Eudoras.”

“You sound disappointed.”

Coming January 16, 2018

*Pre-edited excerpt. Subject to change.

Shouting at the Sky

I think most people feel unheard.

Writers certainly do, I think that’s one of the big things that drives us to write in the first place.

If you’re feeling unheard, I want you to know that you still matter.

Loneliness makes it worse. You can get to the point you think you could step off the edge of the earth and no one would bat an eye.

It’s easy to feel stuffed between the cracks, like no one is looking, no one cares.

Books were and are my escape. I still need people, though.

As much as I would love to substitute my paper friends for my flesh and blood ones, that’s neither practical nor possible.

Besides, it’s not always about me. Sometimes, it’s about letting the people who care about you know you care about them, too.

If you have the chance to help someone feel heard, do it, please. 

I realized how easy it is to give someone a fabulous time at parties just by listening. Hearing their stories, genuinely caring about them.

It’s so simple, yet so powerful.

Making someone just a little happier is only one question away: How was your day?

Since I started doing this, people have told me I was a good friend, that I helped them figure things out, all just by listening.

There’s no easy solution to feeling unheard. But for me, helping other people feel heard has been the best cure yet.