When I picked up An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson,I was under the assumption this would be another story with a arrogant sandalwood-smelling faerie warrior who is here to sweep our naive protagonist off their feet.
But it’s not.
It’s really not.
I was truly enchanted from the first page to the last.
It has been a while since I have read women’s fiction or anything in the literary fiction genre, but These Violent Delights by Victoria Namkung intrigued me. While the title, from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, was interesting, it was the novel’s exploration of the struggles of women, the pressures of society and how women are treated in the face of adversity that really made me pick this up.
These Violent Delights is a compelling read, packed with information and thorough research on sexual assault victims and trauma. The story is narrated by four women, one being a prominent journalist and the other three are victims of assault by an English high school teacher at Windemere School for Girls. Through these multiple perspectives, the novel offers a greater exploration of sexuality, victimisation and what it means to be a woman in modern day society.
31st of October marks Halloween, an old Celtic tradition where fires were lit and people dressed in costumes to ward away ghosts and supernatural creatures. The boundary between life and death was blurred.
Now, it’s an annual holiday with trick-or-treating, pumpkins carved into jack o’lanterns and much more adventurous outfits. But whether you’re a believer in the supernatural or not, there are things out there that will scare you.
So to keep you in the spooky mood of Halloween, here are the top 5 books that will make your skin crawl:
Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King
Like father, like son. In this collaborative novel, Sleeping Beauties asks one question: what would the world be like if the women disappeared? Set in a small town, the women fall asleep and become encased in a cocoon. If the gauze around their bodies is disturbed, the women wake up, feral and violent; if undisturbed, they sleep and go to another place. The men become primal, and among all this is a woman named Evie who has not fallen asleep yet. What is most horrifying about this book is it could potentially happen – the future is filled with possibilities.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
This classic Gothic novel defined the sci-fi genre, and Shelley utilises horror conventions like a master. A cautionary tale about playing God and the power of science, Victor Frankenstein assembles a creature with stolen human body parts and animates it. The hideous creature, rejected by his creator, sets about exacting revenge. Asking questions about the nature of humanity, bio-terrorism and responsibility, this novel will thrill you.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
This is a children’s tale, but don’t let it fool you, it is downright scary. The protagonist, Coraline, moves into a new home with thirteen doors and twenty-one windows. However, there is a fourteenth door, and it is locked. On the other side is a brick wall. But when Coraline unlocks the door, she finds a passage to an apartment just like hers, but things are different. In fact, they’re better. But everything has a price, and Coraline realises the cost of living in the new apartment comes with changing herself completely. The film is also amazing, so check it out if you can.
The Passage by Justin Cronin
This apocalyptic story features a desolate world overrun by vampire-like creatures enhanced by a virus, one that was created and unleashed by a secret U.S military department. With a handful of survivors left, it’s a constant struggle between predator and prey. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is haunted by his past, and encounters a six-year-old orphan named Amy Harper Bellafonte, a refugee from the military project that started the end of the world. Fighting to keep her safe, and unaware of Amy’s role in the new world, this novel will take you on a suspensful and chilling journey that documents the endurance of humanity in the face of extinction.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
This supernatural thriller is a part of the works that defined the horror genre. Truly terrifying, the story follows four people who arrive at Hill House looking to encounter a scary phenomena: Eleanor, a woman who is well informed about poltergeists; Dr. Montague, an occult scholar searching for evidence of a haunting; Theodora, his assistant; and Luke, the heir to Hill House. But the house has its own agenda, and looks like one of the four will have to stay in Hill House.
Disclaimer: I received a e-ARC of this book from Netgallery for an honest review.
Drawn in by the allure of dragons, old stories and a sweeping romance, The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli felt like my kind of book. I mean, it has dragons. Do I need to say more? But while it was an enjoyable read, I did have some gripes with it.
Here are my thoughts on The Last Namsara.
Asha is a flawed and feared protagonist.
Asha is feared, loathed, and yet respected to the highest degree. Her history is intriguing. Her fascination with old stories is relatable (because why not like the one thing that attract dragons). It’s her attraction to old stories that drives the plot, as well as her own development. In this world, stories have the power to destroy – she’s playing with fire every time she tells one. I personally liked that she wears her disfigurement with pride. She knows her strengths and weaknesses. So as Asha grows throughout the story, she grows on you too.
The mythology and old stories were so rich and incredible.
I loved the immersion of mythology and dragons and old tales throughout the book. It added that layer that kept me hooked. The book jumps between Asha’s perspective and the past, which read like a fairy tale. There are many stories: creation stories, ones about Namsara and Iskari, about forbidden romance and grief, about defying death and corruption. They are weaved into the book like a parallel story line, gorgeous in detail and lore. They were definitely one of the best aspects of the book.
The imbalance in the romance was not my cup of tea.
The romance in The Last Namsara was not appealing to me because of personal taste. I’m not a massive fan of imbalanced relationships, so I didn’t find myself interested in Torwin and Asha’s relationship. The master/slave trope didn’t win me over, and I found the romance moved too quickly to be realistic to both the characters and their personalities.
The supporting characters were great to read about. Safire and her story was intriguing, and I liked the exploration behind Asha’s relationship with her brother.
The theme of slavery left me a little uncomfortable, especially considering it was from an oppressor’s POV.
Jarek = tool. The end.
The Last Namsara is a fiery debut with a lot of ambition and gorgeous stories. If you’re into dragons, a rich fantasy landscape and a pretty interesting protagonist, get on this.
In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be dark—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death bringer.
These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up hearing in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.
Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.
I hardly wear a watch. It’s never been a part of my day-to-day wardrobe because smartphones tend to cover that ground for me. But I am a sucker for a vintage and elegant aesthetic, especially considering a lot of my clothing fits into that era. So once I received my JORD Frankie 35 watch in dark sandalwood and slate, I was in love.
The Frankie 35 is perfect for people with smaller wrists like myself. The face isn’t too wide, the width of the band is just right, and it sits comfortably on the skin.
It’s also great for tying together your entire look. I don’t even have to say anything and someone will make a comment about how nice I’m looking with a side eye on my watch. While I’m not someone who usually notices accessories, I’m starting to see why people splurge on them. And JORD watches is definitely worth the splurge.
JORD has a variety of original and stunning designs! My personal favourite is the Frankie 35. It is made of 100% natural, hand-finished woods with sapphire crystal glass. Their slim design is perfect for day-to-day wear, and the wood is treated to be splash-proof. Just be careful if you’re going swimming cause water immersion is a definite no.
Since receiving it, I wear my JORD watch every day. It’s lightweight, easy to put on, and is so versatile with my wardrobe, I don’t have to think about whether it will match my outfit or not. It also helps me keep track of time when I’m reading and forget to feed myself (it’s happened before).
I would highly recommend checking out their fabulous array of styles and designs. You won’t regret having a JORD watch on your person.
My giveaway is still happening! Enter hereand you’ll have the chance to win a $100 e-gift code towards JORD watches. You will also received a $25 e-gift code just for entering!
Disclaimer: I received a e-ARC of this book from Netgallery for an honest review.
This is a haunting tale of power, of bewitchment, of the capabilities of humans against the supernatural forces of Bellwater. It’s quite possibly the first contemporary book I have read with goblins, and that makes it unique in itself. The novel takes inspiration Christina Rossetti’s eerie, sensual poem, “Goblin Market”, and it definitely translated as a dark and beautiful faerie tale on the pages. Molly Ringle is a fantastic storyteller, and The Goblins of Bellwater delivers on showcasing a town living in unison with magic, fables, and an ancient curse that haunts our four protagonists.
From the very beginning, the atmosphere of the novel is set as Ringle effortlessly slips Washington into the picture. I imagined clouded skies, enchanted forests, things that go bump in the night (it lowkey gave me Twilight vibes, but let’s pretend I didn’t say that). There’s a vibrancy in the setting that will easily immerse you in the story.
Then we meet Kit, forced into a curse following his great grandmother, appeasing the goblins until he slips up and they retaliate, dragging local artist Skye and her environmentalist sister Livy into the story. Upon reading the first few pages, Kit’s encounter with the goblins bore all signs of the classic warnings against dealing with faeries and creatures of the forest. It’s cleverly done and sets the tone for the tale.
From there, it’s a tough balance between bewitched and reality, but through the perspective of Skye – the victim of the goblin curse – you become intrigued as Skye slowly unravels, goblin magic taking over her body. As Livy attempts to bring Skye back to her normal self, Kit’s visiting cousin, Grady, is dragged into the conflict through an enchanted kiss from Skye.
Considering the novel is split between four perspectives, the character development is realistic for such a short novel. I personally enjoyed Livy’s perspective and journey much more than the others; her rational thinking keeps us grounded, and it’s even more compelling to read her side as she develops the courage to overcome an ancient curse she thought only existed in fairy tales.
With that said and done, why didn’t I love it as much as I wanted to?
The pace of the novel started to slow down. Encounters between Grady and Skye were repetitive, and despite their situation, a bit frustrating. While they were cursed, it was ambiguous whether they were both on the same page or were simply rolling with it because, you know, they’re both bewitched. In all honesty, it was an uncomfortable scenario and I felt that some scenes between them didn’t impact their relationship at all. On the other hand, Kit and Livy’s relationship, while much more normal, also stagnated and there didn’t feel like there was much progress in the story until the last third when everything suddenly became more thrilling.
Overall, The Goblins of Bellwater is an enjoyable tale, filled with dark forest encounters, magic, and folklore reminiscent of the classic, gritty feeling of the Grimm Brothers.
A contemporary romance inspired by Christina Rossetti’s eerie, sensual poem, “Goblin Market.” Four neighbors encounter sinister enchantments and a magical path to love in a small, modern-day Puget Sound town, where a fae realm hides in the woods and waters…
Most people have no idea goblins live in the woods around the small town of Bellwater, Washington. But some are about to find out.
Skye, a young barista and artist, falls victim to a goblin curse in the forest one winter night, rendering her depressed and silenced, unable to speak of what happened. Her older sister, Livy, is at wit’s end trying to understand what’s wrong with her. Local mechanic Kit would know, but he doesn’t talk of such things: he’s the human liaison for the goblin tribe, a job he keeps secret and never wanted, thrust on him by an ancient family contract.
Unaware of what’s happened to Skye, Kit starts dating Livy, trying to keep it casual to protect her from the attention of the goblins. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Kit, Skye draws his cousin Grady into the spell through an enchanted kiss in the woods, dooming Grady and Skye both to become goblins and disappear from humankind forever.
It’s a midwinter night’s enchantment as Livy, the only one untainted by a spell, sets out to save them on a dangerous magical path of her own.
Helen Scheuerer is the founding editor of Writer’s Edit and the author of Heart of Mist, out now! Heart of Mist is the first book in The Oremere Chronicles, an epic fantasy series from new imprint, Talem Press. You can find Heart of Mist on Amazon and Goodreads.
First off, a big congratulations to Helen on her debut! Heart of Mist is a fantastic book (you can read my starred review here) and I had the honour of interviewing Helen about her writing. We discuss the nitty gritty of her strong female characters, her inspiration for Heart of Mist, and what it means to be a YA author.
Where did you find inspiration for strong female characters?
Before Heart of Mist, I had a contract with a small publisher for a literary fiction novel. I think that novel was very much shaped by my creative writing degree where we were reading a lot of “serious” literature. The common theme in this literature was it was written by men about men from men’s perspectives.
From that, I fell into a rabbit hole where I thought “serious” literature had to be about men and if it was from a women’s perspective, it would be perceived as “chick-lit” or it wouldn’t be taken seriously. Which is why this literary fiction novel had parallel perspectives of a young boy and a man.
It was during the structural edits of this book that I started reading YA fantasy again, books like Throne of Glass, The Winner’s Curse, and TheQueen of the Tearling. What they all had in common was a main strong female protagonist who was kicking butt and being awesome. I loved reading these stories. I started asking myself, “Why aren’t I writing what I love reading?” I was sick of writing about men for men. I want to have fun while I was writing. I wanted to reach an audience I was invested in – young adult women. I wanted to be taken seriously, especially as a female author.
Who are your top 5 favourite female characters?
While these ladies are not all the stereotype of strong, they are all unique and brilliant in their own way. I believe that you shouldn’t want or have to strip away femininity in order to be ‘strong’. You can have both.
Delilah Bard from A Darker Shade of Magic
Laia from Ember in the Ashes
Aelin Ashryver Galathynius/Celaena Sardothien from Throne of Glass
Claire Fraser from Outlander
Molly Weasley from Harry Potter
I’d like to do a comparison between Bleak and Henrietta. With consideration on the word ‘strong’, how did you craft these two very different women?
When it came to Henri and Bleak, I was wary of the female warrior trope being associated with masculinity, and I didn’t want to have a strong female character who was masculine. Bleak isn’t particularly feminine, but she’s not your typical idea of strong. One of her strengths is her battle with her alcohol addiction.
Initially, these characters came to me with certain traits and blurry faces. It was during the revisions of my first draft that they started to form into more wholesome characters. I created mood and character boards for them on Pinterest, and while I wrote one perspective, I’d have their board up on a second monitor. Their boards had physical attributes, as well as aesthetics to give me a feel of them.
I had this really strong feeling about Henri, like she was abrasive. She’s hard around the edges. In contrast, Bleak was murky. With my visual aids, it really helped in developing them. Her alcohol addiction is a big part of her, and it’s a huge thing for a young character to deal with. I had to consider the consequences and withdrawal symptoms, diving into research on alcoholism. It was really interesting, and I used a particular case to shape how Bleak handled her withdrawal.
I wanted them to be independent and not be seeking out the ‘other half’ to themselves. Each of them is a whole person, and while they’re both so different, they’re similar in their inner strengths.
What was your inspiration for the Valian?
When I was in year 12, we studied the Spartan society and one thing that always stood out to me was the fact that if a child wasn’t strong enough it got left out to die. The whole point of this was to try and weed out the weak, but what they didn’t realise was strength came in different ways.
Of course, the Amazons also inspired the Valian, so in essence, the Valian are a mash-up of the Amazons and the Spartans. It’s a society of women, run by women, with an attitude of ‘take no prisoners’. But I didn’t want to put it on a pedestal and say ‘this is a perfect society’.
Was the feminist tone throughout Heart of Mist intentional?
Heart of Mist was a reaction of mine to a lot of conversations I was having when I was writing it, particularly with my girlfriends about how being a woman affects your everyday life differently to men. When you think about the subtle misogynistic things that women face on a daily basis, it’s incredibly difficult. So I suppose rather than intentional, it was just something that came naturally to the book.
What’s your opinion on sex in YA?
I don’t believe in glossing over stuff for young adults. It’s a time when young adults have a lot of firsts, so to have a book aimed at young adults about young adults for the most part and not include any sex, romance or feelings doesn’t do anybody any justice. I’m very much all for including those aspects in my writing. If a character presents those kinds of feelings then I’ll happily write about it.
Why do you want to write YA?
All the books I’ve fallen head over heels for are in that genre. I also find the community to be so wonderful and great to be a part of. Everybody is supportive, everyone is talking and exploring. I’m 27 and I still love YA. Even though Heart of Mist is marketed as YA, everybody is welcome to enjoy the story.
Heart of Mist is the first book published from Talem Press, a fantasy imprint of Writer’s Edit. What’s really cool is Talem is latin for empower, which I think encompasses what I want a lot of our stories to be like. We want to be publishing works that empower young women. Give me more books about empowering young women. Reading about female experiences and talking about it with other people is what it’s about.
Helen is a YA fantasy author based in Sydney and has her own website here. She can also be found on Twitter and Instagram. You can purchase Heart of Mist from Talem Press or Amazon.
I picked up Our Dark Duet knowing I was in for a roller coaster. This Savage Song was so exceptional and well-crafted that the sequel simply had to be equal, if not better. And I was not disappointed.
Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab is a stunning and masterfully crafted narrative that left me breathless and gripping for the edge. This dark and brilliant tale has devastated me. I don’t know when I’ll be able to read another book.
Here’s how Victoria Schwab broke me.
The premise of monsters, both physical and mental, was incredible.
In a divided city ravaged by Corsai, Malachi and Sunai, it’s not just the monsters we are able to see that plague us. It’s the ones in our head as well, and I love how Schwab eloquently weaved the two together. The introduction of a new monster was thrilling and I loved how the creatures interacted with the world.
August Flynn and Kate Harker are my precious babies.
I won’t lie, I grew so attached to these two in This Savage Song and those fond feelings returned when I picked up Our Dark Duet. Six months isn’t a long time, but it drastically changes these two characters for different reasons and I enjoyed experiencing their growth. There are responsibilities and not enough time to contemplate how they will impact the humanity within them. I loved reading about these two equally: August and his struggle with embracing his dark self while questioning the human aspect of himself, and Kate growing stronger and deadlier with each monster she kills. They really are two amazing characters and it’s heartbreaking that this seems to be the last we’ll see of them.
The writing is dark, gritty and stunning.
There is a complexity to the world that Schwab has created, and while it’s never stated, it sits below the surface bubbling away. The monsters, the humans, the actions they take; it’s all wonderfully tied together and I did not imagine I would swept away so easily. Our Dark Duet makes you think about the line between monster and human, right and wrong, sinner and innocent, and what it truly means to be evil. The depth, the dark beauty and gritty details of Schwab’s writing simply needs to be experienced.
Basically, read this and feel the pain I am in now.
THE WORLD IS BREAKING. AND SO ARE THEY.
KATE HARKER isn’t afraid of monsters. She hunts them. And she’s good at it.
AUGUST FLYNN once yearned to be human. He has a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.
THE WAR HAS BEGUN.
THE MONSTERS ARE WINNING.
Kate will have to return to Verity. August will have to let her back in. And a new monster is waiting—one that feeds on chaos and brings out its victims’ inner demons.
Which will be harder to conquer: the monsters they face, or the monsters within?
I am a goddamn sucker for YA fantasy. It’s so much easier to read than epic fantasies and I can actually relax rather than crease the space between my brows for eternity. So when I picked up Heart of Mist by Helen Scheuerer, I didn’t put it down. There is a genuine magical quality that flutters from the pages and I was enchanted from the very beginning.
Here is why Heart of Mist is a must-read.
The characters are so realistic and incredibly written.
I absolutely hate it in fantasy when a hero/heroine seems to be unable to do no wrong. It’s different in Heart of Mist;they have flaws, problems, internal struggles and ambitions. While I adored Bleak and Henrietta’s sections, I found Dimitri’s perspective to be intriguing and unique to the story line. It’s also hard to pull off multiple perspectives, yet each character was given enough time to unravel themselves before us.
Also, I love how Bleak and Henrietta are strong female characters but with different versions of strong. What makes these characters so realistic is the fact their feminity is not stripped away to make way for their strength; it’s a part of them and they bring a new perspective to strong on the table.
The world-building is simply brilliant.
Despite not having a map when I read this (the map will be included in the official release), I wasn’t lost in regards to where the book was taking me. In terms of lore, history and magic, it’s clearly communicated how this world works with a little bit of mystery to keep your interest. The intricacy of the magic and political system was also fascinating.
You know it’s a good book when magic feels real.
I don’t know what it is about Helen’s writing, but everything felt immersive and magical. From the Valian keep to the castle to the sea, there is a quality to her writing that will have you hooked from the very beginning. The magic in this world is unqiue and I love how it plays a part in the protagonists’ lives in a multitude of ways.
Overall, Heart of Mist is captivating in its world-building and brilliant character development. Helen is a true master at weaving together magic, mystery, passion and politics in her standout debut.
Hi everyone! I am so freaking excited because I’m signing up for #TheReadingQuest! This is a video-game based reading challenge created by Aentee @Read at Midnight and oh my lord, isn’t this just the best thing ever? The lovely graphics are done by the one and only CW @Read, Think, Ponder and what a fantastic job she’s done. I’m in love with her work.
The quest is running from August 13th to September 10th, which in all honesty isn’t a lot of time considering I’ve been reading at the pace of a sloth. But hey, I believe in myself.
So without further ado, because I love to procrastinate, here is my TBR for #TheReadingQuest.
1. A book that has a TV/movie adaption
For this I’m going with The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. After watching the TV series, I figured it’d be appropriate to read the book considering it’s so well regarded.
2. A fairy tale retelling
I’ll be reading Scarlet by Marissa Meyer. This is the second book in the Lunar Chronicles and after reading Cinder last year, I feel like I need to give the series a chance and continue it.
3. A book with striking typography
I mean, I have to read A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab. Just look at that typography.
4. A book translated from another language
Since I don’t own too many, I’ll be reading The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. I never finished it when I started it a few years ago, so it’ll be good to get back into it.
5. A banned book
For this category I’ll be reading Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut.
Side Quest: Grind
I hope to read Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. The cover is stunning and I’ve heard such amazing things about it.