Destroyed

The Untamed Series #4
By Madeline Dyer

If you haven’t read the Untamed series yet, you’re really missing out. This dystopian set in Africa pitting sci-fi against spirits is one of my all-time favorite series and one which I recommend left and right. So when I got the opportunity to Beta read for the author, I was more than thrilled. Dyer’s epic conclusion to the Untamed series will leave the reader trembling and shaking. What an adrenaline rush, what a roller coaster of a book!

(Spoilers for the first books from here on out)

32828471Summary

LOVE. DEATH. SACRIFICE.
THE LAST NIGHT HAS BEGUN.

Seven Sarr, the most powerful human in the world, is alive—and she’s on the run from her enemy. With the Dream Land gone, the Gods and Goddesses dead, and the Untamed’s number of Seers at a record low, Seven knows her people must attempt to work with the Lost Souls—including the most volatile and dangerous spirits—if they’re to have a chance of beating the Enhanced Ones once and for all.

But when the Enhanced impose a new threat and Corin’s life is at stake, Seven must make her hardest choice: save the man she loves and let her people perish, or allow Corin’s death so the Untamed can survive.

Locked into a tight countdown to her own demise and solitary entrapment within a torturous realm, Seven must make her decision quickly. Her Seer powers are the strongest, and her death will end the War of Humanity once and for all. When the new morning dawns, the world as she knew it will be gone. What—and who—will be left behind is up to Seven.

Will her love shape the future of the world?

Musings

After the jaw-dropping ending to Divided, a lot of questions lingered about the new shape of the world. And it looks grim: the gods are all dead, the dreamland, destroyed, and the survivors of the massive seer battle are few and far between. Seven must lead them all to safety, knowing that the end is near, for better or for worse.

It’s impossible to put down this book. So much happens, and so quickly: Seven must try to rally the remaining Untamed while learning to balance her new incredible power, but it seems to hopeless. You can feel the oppressiveness of a dying world, and the feeling that the end times are really here. Time itself seems to be unraveling. We meet new characters, pockets of Untamed surviving the only way they know how. Seven is faced with tough decision after tough decision, trying to lead her people through the worst possible times.

Seven has grown so much since we first met her, all those books ago, learning her mother had just died at the hands of the Enhanced. She’s stronger now, and incredibly powerful, but at the same time, she’s just as scared and uncertain as any teenager. She struggles with the weight placed upon her but does what she must, showing true bravery – while not always being the wisest. Her relationship with Corin has also grown, though it’s tough to maintain an air of romance when the world is ending.

There are some truly mind-blowing moments. Certain characters reveal secrets I never saw coming, and per usual Rayleigh is up to his mind tricks, but more intense than ever. We never know who to believe –  if even Seven’s own mind can be trusted. An incredible price must be paid to save the Untamed, if only she’s willing to pay it.

And the ending… that ending… I had to read it over three times to be sure I saw what I saw really did just happen. I need more people to read it so I can freak out with them about it!

Destroyed is the epic conclusion to one of the most exceptional dystopian series of the decade. Brilliantly plotted and complex, it is a powerful finale that will break many a reader’s heart.

All I can say is: bring tissues. You’ll need them.  But not for what you think!

Expected publication: November 20th 2018 by Ineja Press

 

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Biocide

Biocide (Adaline #2)
by Denise Kawaii

I probably shouldn’t have waited a week to write this review: I have Curie, book #3, swimming in my head as well and I have so much to say! But Biocide is a turning point in the series and I just have to tell you about it. If this review had a subtitle, it would be “why you should be reading the Adaline series and why I won’t shut up about it.” Here we go for book number two, Biocide!

Summary

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Will 62 use his abilities to protect himself, or save his friends? He can’t do both.

1124562 has found a way to blend in. When he gets an upgraded data chip, giving Adaline the statistics it expects, he’s rewarded with more freedom than he’s ever had before.

But 62 soon discovers he’s not the only one enjoying the relaxed atmosphere. Hiding in a secret passageway is a Boy with blue eyes, no number, and the keys to a conspiracy that can never be brought to the surface.

When 62’s life is threatened by his keepers, he’s forced to make a fatal decision. Use his abilities to help Adaline purify its ranks, or sacrifice himself to save his new friend. Just when it seems his choice has been made for him, a secret comes to light that makes him question everything he’s ever known.

Musings

While Adaline, the first book, focused on 62’s awakening (ironically, as his revelations come to him in his sleep), Biocide focuses on his disillusionment. 62 is still the adorable, innocent little kid we know and love: he lives to please, is desperate to fit in. His ability to dream might free him of the boredom of his monotonous life, but it also sets him apart in a way that the very regulated system of Adaline is not equipped to deal with. Well, they do have one final way to deal with anomalies like him: biocide. The act of eliminating that which does not conform. Permanently.

62, however, in his pure innocence, can’t imagine something like that in his world. He’s now moved to the physical training portion of his childhood, where they make sure the boys are physically fit and ready to integrate the workforce. But physical exercise will change the readings on his chip, the ones monitored by the machines: the secret patch he and 42 put in place will no longer hold. 62 is in danger again.

But this time, instead of keeping his head down, 62 is learning a new skill: that of saying no. That of talking back. That of thinking for himself. But this, of course, puts not only him, but his friends in danger as well: his teacher, the doctor, and a new, fresh face with bright blue eyes that shouldn’t exist. 62 is beginning to question his existence. Unlike in the first book where he believed fitting in would solve everything, his beginning to ask why he needs to be the same as everyone else.

Many questions are finally addressed, though the answers are cryptic: is there an outside world still out there? Are other people in Adaline capable of dreaming, and if so, where are they all? Is Adaline really all there is out there?

At times I found this book a little slower than the first, but it was still an incredibly fast read. It took me a day to finish it, the same way I have been devouring this entire series. It’s simply brilliant. What is a familiar scifi trope becomes an exploration of what makes us human, and is relatable on so many levels. The author displays incredible skill in crafting her characters, making Blue lovable from the first time we meet him.

I love these boys. I was on the edge of my seat during the entire last chapter, and I really can’t tell you how thrilled I was to be able to pick Curie up immediately after finishing Biocide! I don’t think I could have waited with a cliffhanger like that!

Adaline

Adaline (Adaline #1)
by Denise Kawaii

You may have noticed I haven’t written much on this blog lately. Well, with everything going on – new job, a surprise trip to Asia, a book spilling out of me – I’ve also hit a reading slump. Well, that slump came to an end two days ago when I picked up Adaline and couldn’t put it down. I’m hooked on this series and I can’t wait to tell you about it!

Summary 33618848.jpg

He may look identical to the hundreds of other Boys that surround him, but there is something different about Boy 1124562. When he closes his eyes in the quiet of his sensor-filled cube his mind doesn’t go blank like the rest of his brothers. Instead, 1124562 dreams.

With the help of a rogue teacher, 1124562 discovers that there is more to Adaline than brushed steel and robotic Nurses. When a Boy suddenly escapes the secure pod, it seems that all of Adaline is on a hunt for anyone with an anomaly. When 1124562 finds himself strapped to a table, the threat of an electric current pressed against his temples to erase his mind, he realizes just how dangerous being different can be.

Musings

Adaline is a society of identical clones, living like bees in a hive. Everyone is numbered according to when they were born. They are birthed, raised, and cared for by machines,  who weed out any ‘anomalies or signs of individuality that would somehow threaten Adaline – which is anything that exists outside their parameters, be it eye color or even the ability to dream.

The plot might sound familiar, as it’s the premise of quite a few scifi series: what happens if the human race was grown and raised in a pristine environment? But there’s something special about Adaline that I can’t quite put my finger on, something that makes it impossible to put down. And while I’m not sure exactly what it was that made this book so addictive, what I do know is that I picked it up while my computer was rebooting and ended up forgetting about my responsibilities entirely for the two hours it took me to read it cover to cover. Yes, it’s that addictive.

Adaline is an incredibly easy read. By that, I don’t mean it’s a simple story, no: it’s just so easy to get sucked into it. It’s a book you can enjoy as a pre-teen as well as an adult, because the fundamental story is something that we all need to read.

Boy 1124562 – 62 to his friends – is a sweetheart and a joy to follow even in his rigid society: him, and the other Boys he befriends, are each so vibrant and loveable. I loved getting to learn about the confines of Adaline through his eyes, and discovering what it is to dream. It’s so interesting to see the power of dreaming in a world as totalitarian as his.

62 is only a nine year old when the story begins. All he wants to be is a Good Boy, like he’s been told for the entirety of his life. Unlike so many books where the character actively rebels against a rigid system, 62 is a child, wanting only to please, terrified when he can’t. When he starts standing out, he’s both excited and terrified. He’s such an innocent and pure child, and like everyone, is afraid of being different – though in his world, he’s not quite sure how dangerous different can be.

So when everyone is born the same, can people still have their own personality? Is everyone identical in every single way? The novel is short, but it covers so much. It explores friendships and mentorships, like the beautiful relationship 62 grows with his teacher, 71, and reminded me how much I owe to the teachers in my life. Or between 62 and 99, two identical children, born so close to each other, struggling with standing out.

All in all, I don’t know why it grabbed me as tightly as it did, but I needed the sequel right away. I flew through Biocide and Curie, and I cannot wait for book 4. What an amazing book! If you liked Logan’s Run, Brave New World, and the Giver, you’re going to love Adaline. Trust me, you’re going to fly through it too.

Note: Reading some reviews of Adaline, people commented on how it needed editing, that the language was too ‘heavy’ and a little stale. Since I’m reading the most recent version, I think the author took all of these comments to heart and fixed all these issues, even going beyond and making it lyrical and fun to read. I didn’t find a single grammatical issue or missing word. 

Veznek + An Interview with Andrew Gates

The Color of Water and Sky #3
by Andrew Gates

Get ready, science fiction fans: The third book in the Color of Water and Sky series is out, and it’s more epic than ever! After the outstanding ending of Kholvaria, I didn’t think I could last this long not knowing what happens next. And yet, Veznek somehow manages to blast any expectation I had out of the water.  Now, fair warning: Veznek is a lot more violent (a LOT more violent) than the first two books. Quite a few scenes are unsettling, to say the least, so it’s not for everyone. But those who love hardcore sci-fi are are going to be blown away.

Summary51eccqhdeil

Kholvaria has been attacked. Its greatest city destroyed. A cloud of debris now covers the void once filled by Vigilant Behemoth. In the wake of this unexpected assault, the Chiefdom’s leadership is promptly evacuated to a fallback shelter beneath the surface. But the horrors of the Behemoth’s destruction cannot be forgotten. Here in the grimy confines beneath the Earth, Kho Veznek, second-in-command of the Chiefdom, will stop at nothing to claim vengeance on those responsible for his city’s destruction… even if that means going through his own people to do it. As tensions mount between the ranks of humans and Kholvari alike, the fate of the world comes to its ultimate tipping point. 

Musings

Definite spoilers from here on out if you haven’t read the first two books. Spoiler free for Veznek itself. 

It’s so exciting to finally be getting answers to the world Gates has created. Veznek answers everything you’ve been wondering since book one, introducing hints of new, formidable villains for the books to come. The revelations are incredible! From the very first page of the prologue, we discover new details on the zombie-like humans Iris and the team discovered in book 2, and it throws everything we thought we knew out the window.

About half the book is told from the perspective of Kholvari characters, one of them the titular Veznek himself. The current Under-Chieftain, second in the entire Kholvari empire, he won’t stop at anything to get what he wants – and thinks he deserves. The author once again proves his writing skill as he expertly weaves the perspectives, showing a fundamentally different mentality when it comes to these insect-like creatures’ way of life. It’s fascinating being so engrossed in such an alien culture, I almost wanted more of their perspective.

It feels so odd not following the original survivors as much as we used to! After losing Iris in the last book, every relationship has changed. Dan leads the team of teenagers through the wilderness, discovering the truth about the zombies as he struggles with the loss of his love and unborn child. Grey tries to survive in the ruins of the Pentagon with his family, living through the aftermath of the missile strike. The last humans – divided.

Meanwhile, below the surface, Sanja is suffering the consequences of her nuclear launch. Basically going mad, alone in her cell. Plotting, planning, remembering. We get to see the steps that made her into the ruthless psycho she is today, leading to ‘scenes of graphic sexual trauma and physical torture’ (to put it lightly). She’s a villain I love to hate, one of my favorites in literature.

And the ending – that ending! Gates has always left us with powerful finales, but this one takes the cake. It’s possibly the strongest and most terrifying one in the series so far. I just can’t wait to know what happens next!


Interview with Andrew Gates, Author of The Color of Water and Sky series

33992926_1765995060113642_4107841158665732096_nR: Veznek takes everything from the previous books and raises the stakes higher than ever before. Did you find it more difficult writing Veznek?

AG: Great question! The stakes are certainly higher in Veznek, but along with that comes the fact that all our characters are split up. Rather than a group of characters going on one adventure together, like we had in the last two books, each POV character is on their own and doing their separate thing. Because of these separate storylines, it heavily influenced the way I went about writing the story. Instead of writing all of the chapters in order, this time I wrote each character story in it’s entirety and then went back and put the chapters in their proper chronological positions. So instead of writing character A, B, C, B, A, D, A… I wrote it A, A, A, A, then B, B, B, B and reordered them later.

R: What would say has been your biggest challenge and achievement in writing Veznek? What have you learned about yourself as a writer through writing?

AG: There’s a chapter in this book – Chapter 14. It gets pretty dark. It’s definitely the darkest content I’ve ever written and I really wanted to make sure I handled that serious content appropriately. I consulted several people for help on it. In the end, I think that chapter turned out very well, but it took a lot of work to get right.

R: The ending left us on the edge of our seats. How long do we have to wait until book 4? And is there any hint you can give us about what we can expect?

AG: Hard to say when Book 4 will be out. I know some authors are great at setting hard dates, but I’m not one of those guys, at least not yet. There were a few months between the release of books 1 and 2 but nearly a year between 2 and 3, so who knows? Hopefully it won’t be too long. Over 1/4 is already written. As for what to expect, I’ll say the story is heavily influenced from sources like Star Trek Beyond and Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game series. You can form your own conclusions from there.

R: Any plans to write outside the Color of Water and Sky series? What’s new from author Andrew Gates?

AG: Yes! I’ve been playing with an idea in my head for a gladiator-style series that I’m tentatively calling Battle Planet. Think gladiators in space. Right now I’m just toying with the concept. I’m not sure if anything will ever come of it. But if you’re looking for non-Water and Sky content that’s already out, I have two stories in the Pew! Pew! Science fiction collections already released.

R: Now that you’ve gotten ‘settled’ into the author life, do you have a writing routine or process that you adhere to?

AG: The routine comes on and off. I hit a nice groove for awhile where I had a certain number of hours I devoted to writing, but lately I’ve fallen out of practice. For me, my other hobby is running so I usually have to choose which thing I want to do that day before work. Either I fully commit to running that morning, or fully commit to writing. There are some days when I half-commit to each, which I suppose is better than nothing, but I’m still figuring it out.

R: Do you have a favourite amongst all your characters, old or new?

AG: If we’re talking old characters, I still think one of my favourites is still Tracey Saljov. I’m also a big fan of Sanja Parnel and Kho Ikharus. Those are the most fun to write for me. 

R: Are there any authors or specific books you aspire to? Who inspires you?

AG: When it comes to writing, the popular thing to do is “Write to Market”. You hear about it all the time. Basically the philosophy is to take themes and genres and storytelling devices that are popular and that prove to sell well and write that. For example, if you follow Chris Fox’s writing blog at all, he’s big on writing to market. And I think for people who write to market, it’s easier for them to have authors or specific books to pull from. But for me, I have a different philosophy. Instead of looking at what sells in the genre and adhering to those themes and tropes, I try to write things that I want to read. That’s my only criteria. I say, “Do I want to read this?” and I go from there. So the result is, I pull a lot from tons of different genres and sub-genres and authors and concepts. My stuff doesn’t necessarily fit into clean boxes. There’s no established audience for Post-Apocalyptic Dystopian Zombie Survival Giant-Crab-People Sea Stories, so there’s really no specific author or person to pull from in my case.

R: And finally, do you have any advice for other aspiring authors?

AG: My advice for new authors would be to play around with stuff and try new things. There’s no right or wrong answer to anything. The first book you write will take the longest, but once you get one out of the way, you’ll hit your groove. Everyone finds success differently.

Andrew Gates’s last book, Veznek, was just released on Amazon. The first book in the Color of Water and Skies series is Iris, which you can read here. And don’t forget to check out his website for exclusive content!

Are you a fan of Gates’s work? Let us know in the comments below!

Hero In a Halfling

By William Tyler Davis
Epik Fantasy #1

Gosh, I missed fantasy reading books like this one. A highly entertaining story which reads like a DnD campaign with your best friends. Like Lord of The Rings, but with hints of Terry Pratchett, with subtle humor and pop culture jokes thrown in so creatively that they don’t take the reader out of the story.

Summary35621955

Not all halflings dream of magic…

But Epik isn’t like the rest. Adventure. Excitement. He craves those things. He would rather learn magic, not follow a wizard on some fool’s adventure…. Or so he thinks.

The problem: magic is outlawed. After setting out for the city, what Epik finds in Dune All-En isn’t at all what he’d hoped. No magic. And few wizards.

Luck, or something more sinister, is on the halfling’s side. He meets Gabby, a wizard who is kind enough to rent him a room, or rather, a closet, at his now-defunct magical supply store. And as a group of mountain trolls threatens the city, Epik sees the opportunity to do something, well, epic.

If only the halfling inside him would stop peeking out.

Musings

While most of the story is told from Epik’s perspective, we get a healthy dose of flashbacks and a few other fun characters get to tell their side of the story. The villainous hand of the king plotting his ruler’s demise; the hilarious mountain trolls who just want to feast on human flesh; the soldier who’s never seen real action before… the reader gets to see the wide scope of the action and feel invested in the plot, which has a rather quick pace that accelerates towards the end.

The real strength of this book lies in the amazing characters, who could be doing absolutely anything and I would still read them. Gabby the Wizard had such personality; Epik was so likable; Todder too relatable. I would pick up the second book in an instant just to hang out with them again!

The No Ordinary Star book trailer is here, and it’s everything

For those of you who have followed this blog since the beginning, you have seen the evolution of my obsession with the No Ordinary Star series. From my first review to my eager anticipation of the last release, you’ve seen my excitement, my pain, my sadness, as I fell in love with Astra and Felix and grew terrified of the year 2525.

Today something extraordinary has happened. The author, M.C. Frank, has released the book trailer for the series, and it’s… out of this world. I am stunned!

See for yourself:

What did you think? Wasn’t it beautiful? Wasn’t it epic? Let’s take a closer look at some of the stills together (because I can’t handle it on my own)!

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First the snowy expanse of the north pole, where the heart of the story takes place. Up north, you wouldn’t be able to tell if we were in the 21st century or the 26th. Is that the clockmaker’s cabin in the distance?

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The matches being lit – for the Match Girl, Astra’s nickname in the series. The flame that starts a revolution.

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The match girl herself, Astra, hair blowing in the wind. She’s gorgeous, she’s brilliant. It’s amazing how much she looks like how I had always imagined her.

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The city on fire, wracked with explosions and struck by lightning. The terrifying end our world could meet. I was on the edge of my seat the entirety of No Vain Loss, it was so thrilling!

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The three books of the trilogy: don’t they look beautiful together? Look closely at the cover of NVL, and you can see my own cry of excitement about this series.

have you read the books? If so, what did you think? Does the trailer look like how you imagined the series? And if you haven’t read it yet, then you sorely need to.


A soldier is summoned to the North Pole, days before the year changes, told to fix the great Clock for a celebration. He has no idea what to do. A girl, hunted for the crime of being born, almost dies out on the ice. She is rescued by the last polar bear left alive. A library waits for them both, a library built over a span of a hundred years, forgotten in the basement of an ice shack. The world hasn’t known hunger or sickness in hundreds of years. It has also forgotten love and beauty. The year is 2525.

Inspired by the short stories of Ray Bradbury, this futuristic novel is set in a world where Christmas -among other things- is obsolete and a Clock is what keeps the fragile balance of peace. Written in three installments, this is the breathtaking and sensual story of how two unlikely people change the world, and each other, one book at a time.

Immerse yourself into the icy cold world of this scorching hot new novel. Read it now: http://amzn.to/2nLHfld

Find all of M.C. Frank’s books on her website: mcfrankauthor.com
Twitter: @mcfrank_author
Instagram: mcfrank_author
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Facebook: M.C. Frank
Goodreads: M.C. Frank

Ruined Aesthetic + Awesome Giveaway by M. C. Frank!

Last week I brought you my review of Ruined, another fantastic book by author M.C. Frank. And today I get to announce more awesome news: the author is having a giveaway, and you can be part of the fun!

February is here, and we have only 4 more nights until Valentine’s Day. Gasp! Do you have a special someone to celebrate the day with you? I’m a really lucky duck: my city of Marseille is the European Capital of Romance this Valentine’s (apparently it’s a thing) so my Valentine’s evening will be full of literal fireworks.

M.C. Frank’s books have beautiful couples. Romance is in the air! Such fantastic couples that I actually decided to give Aesthetic creation a whirl:

B E A T R I C E + D O M I N I C  from  R U I N E D

 

I loved this couple – and this is coming from a girl who doesn’t usually go for romance. Beatrice and Dominic bring out the best in each other, and grow to be better people because of their relationship. Absolutely fantastic romance – especially for lovers of Historical Retellings.

A R I   +   W E S   from   LOSE   ME .

33859529a New Adult novel about an actor and a stunt girl, who film a modern P&P adaptation on a Greek island.

I reviewed this novel some time back, and here were my thoughts about this love story:

There’s just so much to love about the characters. Wes is the perfect book boyfriend (allow me to swoon a little?) once the asshole playboy facade fades away. The perfect gentleman, smart, a book lover (that’s where he gets me!) and handsome to a fault. It makes you feel for him, knowing Ari has no choice but to break his heart. And Ari herself is such a complex girl, her struggles so vivid and honestly quite traumatic.

And then there’s their relationship. I was put off a little at first, with how toxic it seemed at first glance. There’s quite a lot of saving, knights in shining armor, and then squabbling about life-saving (at first). I just couldn’t see a healthy way for Ari and Wes to be together, with all their baggage, secrets, and basically life-debts. But then I realized that was the entire point! And the character growth from that point on? Stunning.

I’m not a romance reader, but this New Adult contemporary really struck a cord. Basically – ALL THE FEELS.  I haven’t even gotten to talking about the amazing supporting characters and the subplots. And while the story isn’t a direct retelling of Pride and prejudice, it’s definitely something fans of Austen will adore.

Sublime. Read at your own risk, your heart will probably break.

A S T R A + F E L I X  from NO  ORDINARY  STAR

a scifi series of 3 books, set in an icy-cold world where books, Christmas, clocks and kisses are forbidden.

This is by far my favorite couple from M.C. Frank’s body of work. No Ordinary Star is Scifi, so readers of this blog will probably throw their hands up in the air and go ‘well, that explains it.’ I’m nothing if not predictable when it comes to Scifi.

From my review of NO VAIN LOSS, the last book of the series: The No Ordinary Star series has to be one of the most perfect series I have ever read, because it gave me everything I wanted out of my reading time. Character to adore, to root for, to ship, to watch grow. A plot that never felt contrived, always unpredictable and that makes you want more. And a lyrical style full of love for the human race.

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Alright, enough about me rambling. I promised a giveaway, now, didn’t I? CLICK HERE to visit M.C. Frank’s blog and see all the ways you can win! There’s $15 from book depository for the winner, and there may be more than just one.

Happy Valentine’s day to all the lovers out there – you book lovers especially! Go on a date night with your favorite book. Curl up in bed together. Now that’s a Valentine’s day that will make your heart flutter.


P.S. Did you know M.C. Frank has created a resource for authors and reviewers to find each other? It’s called the Book Robin Hoods and I love it! I’ve been involved as an author and have met fantastic bloggers through the site. Check it out if you want to be a part of the fun!

Ruined

A Regency Retelling of Jane Eyre
M.C. Frank

Once again, I have dove into a genre I rarely read because of a book written by an author I admire, and once again I’m thoroughly impressed and glad I gave it a chance.  Ruined is a perfect book for all the lovers of Regency era, or historical romance, or romance in general – not usually my cup of tea but thanks to M.C. Frank, I think they’re growing on me.

32181020Summary

The Duke of Ashton sits at the Opera at Vauxhall Gardens, bored out of his mind, and plans murder.

He curses the day that brought the little governess, destitute and sad, at his door eight months ago, to upset his careless if a bit meaningless existence. 
How could he have guessed the terrible, evil secrets she was hiding? And now that he knows all, the truth appears wilder, even more despicable than even he could have imagined. He hadn’t counted on losing his heart to her, of course, but he did.

What he doesn’t know is that a tendril of the shadows of madness and sin that followed Beatrice to his door is still out there, looking for something to devour.
The only one who can save him from the darkness is the girl herself, but he knows he’ll never see her again. He who once prided himself on his indifference to other human beings, feels his chest constrict with pain every time he even thinks of her.

Musings

After his cousin’s death, Dominic Halifax suddenly inherits the title of the Duke of Ashton, and by a shocking move in the former’s will, is now in charge of the man’s daughter, Adelina. Headstrong and stubborn, she is impossible to control, and is ruining Dominic’s bachelor lifestyle – he needs help. She has rejected every candidate he has found suitable to be her governess, until, that is, he finds Beatrice Devon. Only three years older than Adelina herself, Beatrice somehow manages to bring her under control.

But Beatrice caries a heavy secret: a history of mental and physical abuse. But as Dominic begins falling in love with her, more is revealed about her past – can she ever move forward?

I haven’t read Jane Eyre in quite a long time so I might not be a good judge of how good of a retelling Ruined is, but the plot itself is very different from what I remember – this book is definitely not a linear retelling! The relationship between Dom and Beatrice seems to be the main similar element, and it’s adorable how he uses the same imagery to describe her as what I remember from studying the book in high school – frequently calling her bewitching or accusing him of casting a spell on her, for example. Highly creative!

We alternate between the points of view of Dominic and Beatrice, telling the story with secrets kept hidden. The plot was neither slow nor fast, a nice gentle evolution of the relationship with a handful of mystery thrown in. The author also carefully mimics the writing style of the era, while not losing the style her readers love. It’s easy to see M.C. Frank in the pages, even while she’s using a regency era turn of phrase. This might put off some readers, but I found it easy to get into and very fitting for the novel.

Beatrice shows amazing growth through the novel: I love a strong female character who has her flaws. She’s smart, persistent, and somehow hasn’t lost a love for humanity through all she’s been through. Now I must war some readers that the flashback scenes are troubling at times, and very unsettling, but how Beatrice deals with them is masterfully done. I did get a little tired of her crying/fainting, but it was a really minor qualm I had with the book.

Dominic’s evolution is a fantastic one. I loved his broodiness at the beginning, his real stubbornness he can’t see in himself. But Beatrice brings the best out of him, and he out of her. I enjoyed watching their relationship grow and wishing that they end up together. Underneath that bachelor-life-loving exterior beats the heart of a true and caring gentleman.

I found the ending a little confusing, somehow – a few jumps in time that weren’t clear, moving forward and back but without any guidance. I’m not sure if this is just me, and it threw me off a little, but the action picked up and I was drawn right back in.

All in all, this isn’t your everyday retelling of Jane Eyre: it’s a beautiful homage to the book, with a story about abuse and growth, love and strength. The author creates a beautiful story with so much to love. If you like historical romance, then you’ll strike gold with Ruined!

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I have kindly received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

“It takes true courage, integrity and selflessness to turn yourself into a person that the world would be the wealthier for possessing.” 

Woman With A Thousand Hats

By Denise Kawaii
A memoir

One of my new year’s reading resolutions was to read more non-fiction: so when I won this book in a giveaway, I knew it was the perfect place to start. I had been following author Denise Kawaii for some time on Instagram, constantly impressed by the sheer amount and variety of her projects: her newly released memoir promised to dive into how she managed to juggle it all and let me tell you, it’s insanely captivating!

Summary51ef2w0cb3l

This is the story of a farm girl, an insurance agent, a chronic insomniac, a therapy patient, a serial dieter, an entrepreneur, an office manager, a housewife, a financial adviser, an overtaxed mom, and a published author. Spoiler: they’re all the same person.

You’ll want to laugh and cry as you read, but you won’t want to put this memoir down. Woman With a Thousand Hats is a candid glimpse behind the scenes of a do-it-all woman’s everyday life. Not only does Kawaii get honest about the emotional turmoil behind her personal drive to work, but she also tackles bigger social issues like body shaming, chronic illness, family dysfunction and social pressure to be “normal”. 

The perfect read for anyone who has ever felt like they weren’t good enough.

Musings

The memoir is set up in an interesting way, with each chapter following a thread of the author’s life as she explores a new path, or hat in this case. From 911 dispatcher to custom paintball business owner, it seems like her life is a jumble of mismatched lives somehow all jammed into one person. This is probably what makes the book such a compelling read: you simply cannot put it down, one hat flowing into another somehow naturally when it seems absurd in retrospect.

What struck me most was how relatable the author is: for the first time in a long time, maybe even ever, I’ve had insight into a mind like mine. I too juggle mismatched jobs, my life seeming like chaos from the outside but completely natural from my perspective. Reading about how the author describes her energy, her lack of sleep, all was like seeing a reflection of myself. yet another reason I couldn’t put this book down.

Not to mention that the author’s style makes it feel like you’re catching up with an old friend, who’s filling you in on decades of your life, and you just have to keep buying coffees so you can keep chatting. Her voice is honest, true, so even in the most absurd of moments you know she’s being completely transparent with you. Sometimes maybe too much (there are some details I was surprised to see shared with such candor!).

Overall, the memoir feels like a love letter to life itself. The author’s reflection on her life so far obviously therapeutic for her, and it’s almost intimate being on this journey with her. She is living proof that the universe offers possibilities every day, and you just need to be brave enough to take them. Even if sometimes the universe can be cruel: my heart broke for her and her family multiple times, and I was in awe that she would share these personal moments with us.

This memoir is an eye-opener to anyone who believes that life is lived along a straight line. The author offers such insight into exploring the opportunities life throws at you, and shares the wisdom she has gained so far, sometimes with hilarious results.

I finished the book feeling like I knew this author so much better, and with a new resolve to finish my projects. Highly recommended for anyone who is unsure of what path to take in life, and who need reassurance that wearing many hats doesn’t make you weird, it makes you a fashionista.

On a personal note… there was a fantastic section on learning how to say ‘no’ to projects; a discussion with a therapist on what constitutes ‘resting’, and a lot of discussion about energy and burnout. I found this particularly relevant and will be trying to take that advice… if I can handle it!

A New Book by M.C. Frank – The Robin Hood WIP a e s t h e t i c

It’s no secret that I’m a massive fan of M.C. Frank (if you need proof, just look at the cover of the last book in her No Ordinary Star trilogy – my obsession is printed for all to see), so I’ve been following her Robin Hood WIP diaries for quite some time. The brilliant young author is working on a retelling of Robin Hood, and if it’s anything like her other retellings, it’s going to be amazing.

When she revealed the aesthetic she has in mind for the book, my jaw hit the floor. I can’t be more excited for this book to come out, so of course, I had to share it with you! With permission from the author, I’d love for you to see the aesthetic of her Robin Hood work in progress, along with a short extract from what she’s working on.

So now, without any further ado: M.C. Frank presents THE ROBIN HOOD WIP AESTHETIC.

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Robin looked at the glittering torches far ahead. The castle loomed before him, banners flying, lute music wafting in the evening air.

He crouched in the shadows, fingering the sharp edge of his arrow. For a second he allowed himself to think of what was happening inside the walls; after all, Tuck must be in by now, along with the “women”. Were they being served platters of pungent fruit and roasted meat? Were they watching the tricks of a garrishly-dressed jouster and listening to the music for the dancers? He knew everything that would be going on in the Sheriff’s Great Hall on this important day of celebration and revels.

He’d once been a nobleman, too, he’d once been served by kitchen maids and clothed in silks and colors.

A cold drop landed on his cheek; it had started to rain. He glanced behind him and motioned to Alis and John to follow him as they padded from tree to tree, until they were close enough to the walls of the castle.

“Robin,” John’s voice boomed in the gathering darkness. He always tried to whisper, but alas, never succeeded. For such a large man, even making his voice small seemed impossible. That, or he was like a five year-old, who is unable of grasping the concept of “be quiet.”

“Hush,” Robin mumbled. “What is it now?”

“Well, nothing,” John said, his blonde braids catching a ray of the torch fire. They were so close, the light of the flames was illuminating the darkness; they were right outside the castle walls. “Except thisQ when are you going to do it, already?” Robin realized with a pang of surprise that John was angry. “I don’t know if you noticed, but we’re practically in the castle, all right? At this pace you’ll have us at Sir Roderick’s table as if we were his damned invited guests.”

Robin didn’t reply, he just hung his head. It was true, they had moved closer than he needed. He could have done what he came to do from a hundred yards away, even farther.

“Now, stop moving and do what you have to do so we can leave!” John said, and then his voice dropped -so he could whisper, after all. “Look, I know what you’re thinking, Rob, so stop it. Stop it, you hear me?”

“You deserve to be in there, John,” Robin whispered back, unable to stop himself. He could hear his own voice hoarse and hated himself for sounding so broken. For being so broken. “Alis and Will and little Ru… Even you and Tuck, you all deserve to be in there and celebrate like princes, instead of hiding and trying to keep our heads attached to our necks. You deserve to be in there.”

“Well, we’re not,” John said roundly. “We’re outlaws, which to be honest, is far healthier in this political climate. I’d rather be wet, empty-bellied and sleepless than deign to eat the stolen food that graces the Sheriff’s table, while children die and starve under his watch. I’d rather be a beggar than a prince, if the Prince is plotting to take the rightful King’s throne. Do you understand?”

Robin nodded.

“I don’t think you do. I bet you keep thinking that it’s your fault that we’re not up there, celebrating. You always were a fool, you know,” John added tenderly.

And that was it. Robin snapped out of his trance. He turned around and punched John in the arm, and then drew back his bowstring, looking straight and true towards his aim.

Christmas is not for you, he told himself, just as a reminder. Celebrations and feasts, food and riches aren’t for you. For you is not to make merry and keep your belly filled. For you is to fight; for you is to live.

He took his eyes off his aim for a split second and glanced back towards John, who looked on at his readied arrow unimpressed, pretending to rub the spot where Robin had punched him, as if it hurt terribly. Robin turned back his attention to his target.

For you is to be loved by outlaws.

For you is to be an outlaw.

For now.

Robin let go. For you is to hope.

-from the Robin Hood WIP,  ©2017 M.C. Frank

Read more on the author’s blog, here.

It’s just… breathtaking.  Gosh I hope this book comes out SOON! I have a need!