Top Ten Tuesday | Settings I’d Like to See More Of

Happy Tuesday, bloggers!

Who’s ready for this prompt? It’s Tuesday already, and I need a break or a long nap. Or potentially both. I can’t be alone in that sentiment. 😂

Top Ten Tuesday, originally created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, is a weekly meme. The latest topic is settings I’d like to see more of. We readers live through thousands of worlds, but some settings we don’t get a lot of. So I wanted to pick my top seven settings I need to read.

I hope you love my choices!

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Beyond the Blurb | Genres I Hope to Read More Of

Happy Friday!

This topic has floated around in my mind for some time. I’m more of a predictable reader when it comes to genres though. But I want to change things up. I want to explore more I usually don’t read and take a risk. I typically stay with fantasy, then venture into sub-genres from there. However, I want to find more authors, stories, and fandoms. But I’m always wary over new series I’m not sure I’ll love or am worried to waste my time and my money on. But no more.

So do you feel the way as I do? I don’t blame you for not taking the plunge. There are so many genres out there, so what ones are you looking to venture into? Which ones are you still not sure of? Stick to the tried-and-true ones. See which ones fellow bloggers love the most. And from there, find a book that interests you.

So here are some of the few genres I want to read more of eventually:

 

Science Fiction

I haven’t always enjoyed reading sci-fi. I’m more of a sci-fi movie lover (oddly enough). For me, I feel it has typically been an iffy genre to love. I can’t remember the reason why I fell out of love with it but have been seeing more sci-fi books come out lately, and I can’t help but gravitate toward them. I love how they’ve evolved over the last few years.

 

Romance (Particularly the Sub-Genres)

I’m starting to love romance, even though, for a long time, I’ve avoided it at all costs. I enjoy reading romance in other genres, especially paranormal. But until this year, I never took the big leap into it. However, I’ve just been too judgemental over it for no reason. Or perhaps, my tastes in books have changed.

I find romance overwhelming, and I don’t blame readers who aren’t sure where to start.

 

High Fantasy

Yes, I caught the TOG bug (god help my credit card with all the KOA book boxes I’ve just bought 😭). And I need to find more high fantasy books, stat! I never stuck with high fantasy. For years, I’ve stayed with urban fantasy and just fantasy. But I’ve been loving the detail and the complex plots and characters. I know I need to catch up.

 

Thriller

I sometimes find thrillers to be predictable. I don’t like when the bad guys go off ranting about the reasons why they commit these heinous acts. I. Don’t. Care. That’s sloppy storytelling. And it just kills the entire atmospheric tone to the book. But I hope I can find books that don’t do this.

So find a series that stands out from the rest, then go from there.

 

Historical

I rarely read this genre, and yet it’s one of my favourites. But I rarely find a great story I want to jump into. However, more authors are exploring it and making it into their own.

 

I’d love to find more series, so let’s chat! Do you have a recommendation I might like? Which genres are your go-to books? And what ones do you not like?

Review: A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab

A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab

Published by: Tor Books

Publication Date: February 23, 2017

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Adult

Page Count: 512

Rating: 4/5

Source: Purchase

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It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift–back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games–an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries–a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.


 

“Magic and magician must between them balance. Magic itself is chaos. The magician must be calm. The fractured self must be a pure vessel for power, spilling power without focus measure from every crack.”

I never thought I’d love this series this much when I first picked up A Darker Shade of Magic. But as I write this review, I know Shades of Magic will be one series I’ll cherish over others. The magic, the thrill, and the friendship will always bring me back. And I want more time to revel in Red London.

Victoria is an author to marvel at. She creates these complex and highly detailed magical worlds and systems. She unravels an intricate and layered story that makes you love storytelling all over again. And her characters stand on their own yet complement each other beautifully. I adore how each character has developed from the aftermath of the first book.

Kell must live with the actions of saving his brother, Rhy, and bringing a deadly magic to their world. Both the king and queen have lost their trust in Kell, and he feels that loss and resentment when they force more restrictions on him. Rhy and Kell’s bond though is what anchors the both of them, and I loved their interactions together. I also enjoyed how Kell’s entire perspective of his life changes. He struggles with his choices that bound his life with Rhy’s. And that internal battle builds depth to his character.

Lila, the stab-happy and would-be pirate, adapts well to Red London. She is one character who I loved reading in the ADSOM. And even though I want to rant about how her stubbornness gets in the way of growth, I can’t help but admire her badassery. Alucard Emery, the captain of Night Spire, just adds a little flare to everyone’s life. I thought I’d hate him, but he’s such an exciting addition.

The worldbuilding expands in this sequel. As the Essen Tacsh begins, magicians compete against each other. Over five days, thirty-six contenders must battle each other out until a competitor is crowned the winner. I absolutely loved seeing different magicians from other regions of Red London. You see how each country wields magic. But while people are enchanted by the Element Games, an old threat reappears.

What stands out the most is Victoria’s writing. She ensares your love of magic and shows you how beautiful yet dangerous it is. I was entranced the entire time, and I knew I need more from this world. Victoria doesn’t rely on romance to tell her story. She allows the magic to envelop her readers, and I’ll forever respect her series.

Review | Smoke in the Sun by Renée Ahdieh

Smoke in the Sun by Renée Ahdieh

Published by: G. P Putnam’s Son

Publication Date: June 5, 2018

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Historical

Page Count: 415

Rating: 4/5

Source: Purchase

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The highly anticipated sequel to Flame in the Mist—an addictive, sumptuous finale that will leave readers breathless from the bestselling author of The Wrath and the Dawn.

After Okami is captured in the Jukai forest, Mariko has no choice—to rescue him, she must return to Inako and face the dangers that have been waiting for her in the Heian Castle. She tricks her brother, Kenshin, and betrothed, Raiden, into thinking she was being held by the Black Clan against her will, playing the part of the dutiful bride-to-be to infiltrate the emperor’s ranks and uncover the truth behind the betrayal that almost left her dead.

With the wedding plans already underway, Mariko pretends to be consumed with her upcoming nuptials, all the while using her royal standing to peel back the layers of lies and deception surrounding the imperial court. But each secret she unfurls gives way to the next, ensnaring Mariko and Okami in a political scheme that threatens their honor, their love and very the safety of the empire.


“Ours is a love stronger than fear and deeper than the sea”

I’ve been waiting to come back to this beautiful, rich, and detailed series. Renée combines fantasy, historical touches, and romance that will make her readers swoon. Smoke in the Sun doesn’t disappoint.

I’ve been putting off this review for awhile. Now, I’m still not sure if I can express the thoughts I feel about this book. When I started reading it, I was anticipating high action and deadly battles. And while we do see that more toward the end, Renée offers a story that creeps up on you, draws your attention, then attacks your every emotion. By the final book, I’m invested in these well fleshed out characters who I adore and who bring a different perspective to the novel.

Women who seem to play more of a background role are truly the hidden force and the backbone of the series. I’ve been craving a book where women will risk everything, even their own lives, to fight for a better world. And Renée beautifully illustrates that the power they have to offer.

The worldbuilding relies much more on court politics. And that is where Renée’s writing shines. Betrayals, deceptions, an unstable leader, and familial bonds intertwine to make a complex and layered storytelling. I wasn’t sure what to expect from one chapter to the next. And I loved living in the thrill of finding out. And I enjoyed how she spines her intricate tale. But her characters may just surpass her writing though. Each one adds to the depth of the story itself, and I can’t help but rave about them.

Mariko—who survived an assassination attempt, fell in love with the enemy, and outwitted even the Black Clan—is a well-developed main character. Along with persuading her betrothed and her brother, she must protect Okami and discover who wants her dead. I adore her development in Smoke. Sometimes, you need to read of a quiet yet forceful character who surprises you.

Okami, oh my heart, suffers so much. And yet his strength and determination are what make him an outstanding character. He doesn’t let the empire or the emperor break him. I thought I loved him in Flame, but I was wrong. I don’t always comment on secondary characters, yet I feel that they deserve at least a mention. Each one brings a new dynamic to the story.

I knew coming into this duology that I would want more sequels, more storylines, and frankly more everything. Yet Renée offers a satisfying conclusion to an already thrilling series. You need to read it.

“Our deepest truths are usually the hardest to conceal.”

Review | Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

Published by: St. Martin’s Press

Publication Date: April 24, 2018

Genre: Young Adult, Historical

Page Count: 352

Rating: 4.5/5

Source: Purchase

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Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient, rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield-her brother, fighting with the enemy-the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.


“Ǫnd eldr. Breathe fire.”

Not many books put me in a slump. But after reading this book, I cannot stop thinking about it. Brutal yet beautiful, Sky in the Deep is rich and vivid. This character-driven novel will stay with me long after I slide it back on my shelf.

Adrienne blends together hatred and forbidden love, loyalty and forgiveness, and betrayal and acceptance. I’ve fallen in love with her storytelling. Even though I’d rather stay away from standalone stories, her debut novel makes me forget that fact. This coming-of-age storyline whisks you away to a lush landscape and unforgettable characters. And I wish I could travel back there more than one time.

Eelyn, a fearless Aska warrior, knows only survival, war, pain, and loss. She’s a relatable character who is fiercely loyal to her family and clan. She discovers her brother, who she thought has died, is alive. And the revelation that he would rather stay with the Riki, the rival clan, than find his way back to her just rocks her even more. This betrayal makes her vulnerable, and I wasn’t expecting this kind of character arc in a Vikings-inspired story. But that’s why it makes the story captivating. And I enjoyed it all the more though.

Don’t be fooled by this author. She effortlessly takes world building up another notch. Aska and Riki have long since battled each other. The clanspeople prepare for their day on the battlefield of Aurvanger. But they find a common ground when their people are threatened by the Herja.

The characters in this novel are what makes it stellar. They are more than just multi-dimensional. They feel tangible. Fiske, Eelyn’s love interest, will grow on you. At first, I wasn’t sure if I should trust him as a character, but this love-to-hate relationship is just what I needed. He challenges and forces her to see who he is and what her brother has become. The secondary characters are exceptional, which I don’t usually find in a historical novel.

Sky in the Deep mends the heart as fast as it can break it. It is one of the rare debut stories that will make you fear the battlefield but also give a reason to want to be on it. Filled with adrenaline and fast-paced scenes, this book is one of my favourite reads of 2018.

Review: Now I Rise by Kiersten White

Now I Rise by Kiersten White

Published by: Delacorte Press

Publication Date: June 27, 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Romance

Page Count: 471

Rating: 4/5

Source: Purchase

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Lada Dracul has no allies. No throne. All she has is what she’s always had: herself. After failing to secure the Wallachian throne, Lada is out to punish anyone who dares to cross her blood-strewn path. Filled with a white-hot rage, she storms the countryside with her men, accompanied by her childhood friend Bogdan, terrorizing the land. But brute force isn’t getting Lada what she wants. And thinking of Mehmed brings little comfort to her thorny heart. There’s no time to wonder whether he still thinks about her, even loves her. She left him before he could leave her.

What Lada needs is her younger brother Radu’s subtlety and skill. But Mehmed has sent him to Constantinople—and it’s no diplomatic mission. Mehmed wants control of the city, and Radu has earned an unwanted place as a double-crossing spy behind enemy lines Radu longs for his sister’s fierce confidence—but for the first time in his life, he rejects her unexpected plea for help. Torn between loyalties to faith, to the Ottomans, and to Mehmed, he knows he owes Lada nothing. If she dies, he could never forgive himself—but if he fails in Constantinople, will Mehmed ever forgive him?

As nations fall around them, the Dracul siblings must decide: what will they sacrifice to fulfill their destinies? Empires will topple, thrones will be won . . . and souls will be lost.


“She was a dragon. She was a prince. She was the only hope Wallachia had of ever prospering.”

And she would do whatever it took too get there.”

If you want a richly intense and savage story that shows women, too, are just as ruthless and dangerous as men, then put down your book and pick up this one.

Lada Dracul has given up the love she holds for her brother, Radu, and Mehmed, the sultan who claims her heart. With only her soldiers, she tears her way through the countryside so she can claim her birthright: the Wallachian throne. But her brother chooses Mehmed, who tasks him the perilous duty to infiltrate Constantinople. As empires fall, and faiths are pitted against each other, Lada and Radu test not only their loyalty but also their souls.

I haven’t heard of Kiersten or her books, but I fell in love with this series when I first picked up And I Darken. She creates a realistic portrayal of what life was, how religion clashed and even destroyed civilizations and countries, and how war moulded people into their own enemies. Her writing envelops and delivers you to a savage world where women and children are often used as currency, and religion has shaped this harsh backdrop. Now I Rise is an eloquently crafted sequel that will break your heart, disgust you, yet demand your attention. This book wants to be heard, and you cannot help but hear its call.

The characters drive the storyline, and I love Lada’s and Radu’s character progression. Kiersten cleverly reverses the gender roles. At first, I couldn’t stand Radu because he was often the weak child, but he transforms into a man who is tormented by his true desires and is shaped by his morals and faith. When he allows Mehmed to send him to Constantinople, my heart broke. Radu’s pain and unbreakable loyalty he possesses for Mehmed splash across each page, and this heartache is simply haunting. I wanted to shield him from this suffering because this spy game conflicts with who he is as a person. I haven’t sympathized over a character this much.

I find Lada challenging. I love her tenacity, her drive, her passion, her fire, and her strength. Yet sometimes those qualities are all you see in her. However, while the story progresses, Kiersten gives readers a glance into Lada’s vulnerabilities, which I mentioned in my review of the first book. Now they’re few and far between. And I was hoping to see more of them so that Lada can develop into a character who is more tangible. Anger will only get you so far, and unfortunately, Lada may figure out that problem sooner than she thinks.

I give credit to Kiersten for respectfully representing the Muslim faith, which just seems to be attacked by all sides lately. You see, faith plays a strong part in this series. And I thought it might turn me off, but she depicts the conflict between the Muslim and Christian faiths beautifully. She doesn’t pick a side though, and I appreciate her decision not to.

The Conquerer’s Sage keeps on surprising me. And while I showed up late to this series, I keep loving it more. It’s brutal, harsh, dangerous, and deadly, yet it shows you the human strength. I absolutely adore these books. Now I Rise rightfully deserves its spot on my favourites list!

Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

And I Darken by Kiersten White

Published by: Delacorte Press

Publication Date: June 28, 2016

Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Romance

Page Count:

Rating: 4/5

Source: Purchase

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No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.


“So the question becomes, Daughter of the Dragon, what will you sacrifice? What will you let be taken away so that you, too, can have power?”

Powerfully captivating, richly dark, emotionally disturbing, and utterly gut-wrenching, And I Darken captures readers from the opening sentence. Don’t expect this world to be kind, and certainly don’t hope for the characters to be either. This princess will not only slit your throat but also revel in doing so.

Lada Dragwlya, the princess of Wallachia, thrives in brutality. She lives in a world where women do not rule and are the possession of men. When her father uses her and her young brother, Radu, as political pawns and sends them to their enemy, the Ottomans, she must play a deadly game in order to survive. When they meet Mehmed, the son of the sultan, their lives change. While they band together, their troubled and poisonous relationship may test even the strongest bond.

Historical fiction is somewhat difficult to work with since the author must not only make it believable and factual but also make it entertaining. Kiersten takes this part of history and claims it as her. Yes, she does stay true to important events, but she brings a new twist to this written past. And I Darken is dark, rich, engrossing, and richly detailed. It compels you to turn the page.

While I found this world Kiersten builds sinister and haunting, I wanted to find out how these characters survive in such a brutal world. I enjoy reading twisted stories, but sometimes I needed some time to process what just occurred and separate myself from the book.

And I Darken may be the difficult yet rewarding book I’ve read this year. It is a story about survival. Sometimes, people simply survive or die, and in this world, the odds are stacked against everyone, especially women. Kiersten explores the way life existed back in the 15th century. What she achieves is a beautifully written and plot-driven story. I haven’t read any of her previous work, but her attention to detail and richly layered and complex character arcs set the bar for other historical fiction novels.

 

“Her spine was steel. Her heart was armor. Her eyes were fire.”

The characters are at the centre of this piece, and Lada, Radu, and Mehmed captivate me beyond what I thought they would. Lada, my spirit animal and queen, will burn this world down and walk through its ashes. Her cruelty hides her weaknesses and her love she holds for Radu and Mehmed. Sometimes I thought that she was too vicious, but look at who she is. She’s the female Vlad the Impaler. The scenes where she shows her vulnerabilities overshadow her savagery. I love her progression throughout the story. And her scorn for the treatment of women enrichens the story.

Radu, my little cinnamon bun, breaks my heart. He faces constant beatings and torture at the hand of his brother and other children. But he transforms into a complex character. I welcome more gay characters, and Kiersten elegantly handles his secret part of his life, and I have to thank her for doing so. Mehmed, the sultan’s son, is iffy for me. The relationship among the three are more complicated than the synopsis portrays. Half the time I wanted to throttle him, and the next I sympathized with him.

If you’re looking for a YA story that breaks the mould and strikes its own path, pick up And I Darken. But understand that this book demands more than just your attention. Take a chance on it. This well-woven novel surprises even me. And I cannot wait how Lada, Radu, and Mehmed survive the next journey.

 

“Fire burned in her heart, and her wounded soul spread out, casting a shadow like wings across her country.”

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

Published by: Tor Books

Publication Date: February 24, 2015

Genre: Science Fiction, Adult, Fantasy

Page Count: 400

Rating: 4.5/5

Source: Purchase

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Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.


“I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.”

You know, not often do I find a book that reminds me why I love reading. And now I’m in this dilemma where I have no clue how I’ll get back to normal life. A Darker Shade of Magic is a rare treat for readers who hope to go back to their roots and find a book that truly surprises them.

Kell is a dying breed of Antari, a magician who travels through parallel Londons. He’s currently a messenger for Red London, one of four Londons, and a smuggler. Smuggling is forbidden though. Now it may come back to haunt him. When a deal goes amiss, he flees to Grey London where he meets Delilah Bard, a cross-dressing, aspiring pirate, and inadvertently sets off a deadly ripple effect that that may just threaten not only their lives but all the worlds.

I let a glorious book just sit on my TBR and not read it until the series ends. Why? I don’t know. Maybe life got in the way, and I underestimated my growing list. I regret not reading this book until now. I just want to pass this book onto the next reader and say, “Stop what you’re doing and read it. Now.”

I’ve only read Victoria’s Monsters of Verity series but have heard a lot of this one. And it is unlike any other book I’ve read. There were times where I had to convince myself not to burst out laughing, only to fail and scare my cat. I’m a full-fledged fan of her work now. ADSOM is a beautifully executed story that shows another side to magic.

 

“I’m not going to die,” she said. “Not till I’ve seen it.”
“Seen what?”
Her smile widened. “Everything.”

I cannot gush more about these characters. Kell is stubbornly loyal and protective to the end. That boy with those powers has a story to tell. He’s squeezed his way into my favourites list. The one character who sticks out is Delilah, or Lila. The quirky, clever, and dangerous pirate will capture anyone’s heart, then break it within a second. Her backstory intrigues me the most, and I was rooting for her from the start. I adore her. Both Kell and Lila blend seamlessly together, and I love how their chemistry carries the story. And finally an author writes a bisexual character who is realistic. I love Rhy, the devious prince from Red London and brother to Kell. You sense how much he cherishes Kell.

The four Londons take a life of their own. Victoria makes them into characters in their own right. Grey London possesses no magic. Red London strikes the right balance of it. White London is overrun with it. And Black London no longer exists because of it. She take world building to a new extreme, and I appreciate that she took the time to develop them. Don’t expect this book to be fast paced. It’s a slow burn, which she excels well in. I want the story to open up in an organic way, not rushed.

Don’t do yourself a disservice. Read this book, then proceed with the sequels. I know I will. I want to travel back to the Londons and see what these worlds have to offer.

Review: Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh

23308087Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh

Published by: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Publication Date: May 16, 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Page Count: 416

Rating: 4.5/5

Source: Purchase

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The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor’s favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family’s standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she’s quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she’s ever known.


“I’ve never been angry to have been born a woman. There have been times I’ve been angry at how the world treats us, but I see being a woman as a challenge I must fight.”

Wow. Plot twists don’t always surprise me or catch me off guard, but Flame in the Mist has taken me for a magic-filled journey that I wasn’t expecting. Renée creates a culturally rich story I don’t want to leave. And I’m not sure how to express my love I have for this book.

After surviving a botched attack, Mariko, daughter of a samuri who seeks a higher station in life, infiltrates the Black Clan, a ruthless gang hired to kill her on her way to meet her betrothed. A hidden alchemist and inventor dressing as a peasant boy, she is determined to discover why she was almost murdered and who paid the Black Clan to go forth with her death. But when her plan goes awry, the clan takes her prisoner. There she meets the leader of the clan, Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, Okami, and realizes that secrets and lies enshroud these two and the life she has always known isn’t what she thought it was.

 

“Sometimes we must fall forward to keep moving. Remain motionless—remain unyielding—and you are as good as dead. Death follows indecision, like a twisted shadow. Fall forward. Keep moving. Even if you must pick yourself up first.”

Renée throws in touches of Tahir’s Ember in the Ashes and a dash of Robinhood. I’m not convinced of the Mulan connection though. But I easily fell in to her book and couldn’t get out. The only things keeping me from it were sleep and, well, life. I’m not always a fan of fast-paced fantasy novels. Sometimes some scenes are lacking what I crave. But she paces this book beautifully. She captures the setting in such a way that I could immediately imagine what I was reading and adds just enough magic to spark my interest. I love her writing. It isn’t grandiose. It is straightforward, but it also takes you a magical adventure. Hidden agendas, political deception, secrets, lies, plot twists, and slow burning romance will captivate readers who look for a story that stands out from the rest.

Do you know what I look for in the literary world? More women empowerment. But more importantly, I look for male characters who aren’t afraid of women who fight back and are willing to support them. In some stories, you get women tearing down others. Why? Tell me how women shaming helps us. It doesn’t. Now that we have that issue behind us, Flame in the Mist exudes women empowerment. Renée’s book had me dancing in my chair and quietly yelling, “Yes!” Bless Renée for incorporating it into her book.

No, I cannot say I am an expert on Japanese mythology, culture, or traditions. I feel that Renée has honoured them though, and she certainly brings them to the forefront of her writing. You see the attention to detail she weaves in, and I enjoy how this culture stands on its own. She also puts in Japan-inspired creatures that kept my fangirl screaming. The jubokko, a vampire tree, may just be my favourite. A VAMPIRE TREE, people. Have some respect for an author who writes that in.

But what shines above all else are her characters. I rarely say that I enjoy all characters. I usually find a flaw I can’t stand or a character development that doesn’t make sense, but I love hers. No characters were needlessly added for a filler. Each one adds to the story. Mariko’s quiet demeanour and resolve allow her talents to be through life. But don’t let them fool you. Behind them, Mariko‘s a force no one should go up against. Her family members underestimate this alchemist, and in doing so, they set her on a track to prove her worth. I adore her. The odd calls to odd, I say. She refuses to let the world bend her and to change her to what she family wants her to be.

Okami, the Wolf of the Black Clan, creeps up on you. Authors will always grab my attention when they write a tortured, silent, yet argumentative man who likes nothing more than to test the main character. Lord help me if I find this kind of man. I’ll be done for. He moves the story along and adds intrigue to it as well. You get glimpses of Takeda Ranmaru. But what you see interests me. Both men—hell, all these men live by a code—are connected by their father’s past. They have untold stories, and I hope Renée explores them further in the sequel.

Flame in the Mist may be my first story I’ve read from Renée’s repertoire, but I hope to read her previous work and truly hope to read more from her. She has developed a beautiful craft that will take her far. I cannot wait to see what she will do for the sequel!

Book Haul: November 2016

My poor and already full bookshelf. But I need more books. Scratch that thought. I need a bookshelf, not books. Uh, nope, that thought didn’t last three seconds. I’ll eventually get a new one. I think the suspense of reading these gorgeous books might kill me. Might?! Will. Definitely will.

22299763Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

I’M NOT READY. I don’t want this series to end so quickly. Why? Why?! I need more people who feel the same way I do for this series so, at least, I can gush, cry over the characters, and not feel like such a possessive and crazily obsessed fan, or hopefully I can find more who think like me (thankfully I have Dana). The first book is just perfection mixed in six masterful POVs.

I can only hope for more stories of my perfect heist gang.

Goodreads | Indigo | Amazon CAN | Amazon US | Book Depository

20053031.jpgThe Witches of New York by Ami McKay

I will buy any book Ami publishes. I’m still waiting for the sequel of The Birth House. But seeing Moth again is such a great surprise! Moth, now named Adelaide Thom, has grown up.

When I found out Ami was publishing a new book, I wasn’t expecting to see Moth again. Now this book has a touch of supernatural, and  I’m always glad to get into that genre. Ami has a way to write an endearing, powerful female characters.

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rex-epub-cov2_origRex by Cody B. Stewart, Adam Rocke, and Mark Rogers

Oh look at it. I’m in love. It’s in my hands. FINALLY. I’ve seen some of the book’s birth through my friend Ellie, who is the publisher of Common Deer Press. And I’m so happy to see this book in the flesh.

You get a taste of E.T., Jurassic Park, and 90s scientific flare. I love how Rex gave me a little piece of my childhood back. You can find my review here.

Please, and I mean please, buy from small, indie publishers. The money made through direct sales will go to the publisher and authors, not a third-party seller!

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7ea7ea_e3a172eb0b7a42618cde0fc328529d09~mv2_d_1800_2475_s_2The Oddity by Kat Hawthorne

It’s so much prettier in person. So much. The Internet and the ARC don’t do it justice.

Kat takes you on a cleverly twisted journey told through eloquent prose. She injects the consequences of right or wrong, fate, and genetic engineering. And just to keep you guessing, she then intertwines tarot card and its lure into the mix.

Check out my review!

Again, buy from indie publishers!

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25143847.jpgThe Boatman by Kat Hawthorne

I’ve been wanting to read this book since the first I heard of it in my Book Design course. So when Common Deer Press sent it with my Rex copy, along with The Oddity (which I wasn’t expecting either), I freaked.

Isabel is a girl after my own heart. This odd child not only sees dead things  but also has a cast of interesting friends: a talking ventriloquist’s dummy and a gentleman in the form of a spider named Monty, who wears a top hat. You had me at dead things, but you sealed the deal with a top hat-wearing spider. But to make things even more creepy, she creates The Boatman, who lures children to a sleeping illness.

I can’t wait to sink my teeth into this book! Thank you, Ellie! ❤️

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