Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Mini Review: Light Mage by Laurie Forest

Posted by Jenn Christensen at 9:00 AM 0 comments
Title: Light Mage
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Author: Laurie Forest
Synopsis: 
Journey to the magical world of Erthia in this exciting prequel to The Black Witch by critically acclaimed author Laurie Forest.


Before Elloren Gardner came to possess the White Wand of myth, the Wand was drawn to another bearer: Sagellyn Gaffney. 



Sage’s affinity for light magery, a rare skill among Gardnerians, makes her the perfect protector for the one tool that can combat the shadows spreading across Erthia. But in order to keep the Wand safe from the dark forces hunting for it, Sage must abandon everything she once knew and forge a new path for herself…a dangerous course that could lead to either triumph or utter ruin.

Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication: August 1st 2018
Cover Rating: 5/5

Light Mage by Laurie Forest is a novella in The Black Witch Chronicles. This story is about Sagellyn Gaffney, the person who gave Elloren the White Wand at the beginning of The Black Witch. The girl who broke her Wandfasting vows and did some apparently unnamely things. This book is about her and her power and how she ended up with the White Wand before she passed it on.

Alright, so with this review it won't actually be much of a review only because this is a prequel book and it has a lot of spoilery information in it. I have tried to write and rework this review a few times now and each time I catch myself giving stuff away. Just know that this was a fantastic addition to The Black Witch Chronicles and it was extremely informative and gave a lot of backstory from before Elloren was given the wand. If you are reading The Black Witch or you have read it already I highly suggest picking this e-Book or Audiobook up directly after and before you start The Iron Flower. 

In the end, I found this to be a very informative novella. Most novellas, I find, tend to just be about side characters but the novella's Laurie Forest writes also have a lot of backstory that is completely relevant to the main storyline. 

Overall, I gave the book 4.5/5 stars

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Re-Review: The Black Witch by Laurie Forest

Posted by Jenn Christensen at 9:00 AM 0 comments
Title: The Black Witch
Genre: YA Fantasy
Author: Laurie Forest
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication: May 2nd 2017
Cover Rating: 5/5

You know those blurbs on the back of some books that say "Blah meets blah in this epic adventure from debut author blah?" It's meant to sell more copies of books to people who loved 'blah and blah'. Yeah, those. I hate those. Not only are they inherently wrong, but trying to capitalize on another authors success is kind of shady. I understand it's a business pitch but I'm actually less likely to pick those books up. So, yeah, me hating those means I would never use one in my reviews, correct? Nah. The Black Witch is one of the first books to make me a hypocrite on this topic. This book was really good. And believe me when I say it is an older version of Harry Potter, the ACOTAR books and a bit of Shadowhunters thrown in for good measure. That, dear readers, took a lot for me to say it. I never compare books. But this one, this one couldn't be helped. Oh, did I mention dragons? 

Plot:
Elloren is the granddaughter of the powerful Black Witch, Carnissa, who fought back enemy forces during the Realm War and ultimately saved her people. This is the war that killed Elloren's parents and thus she ended up living with her uncle and two brothers. Her uncle is trying to protect her from something so he raises her very differently than most other women are raised. Elloren' s aunt comes for her one day and that begins a whole mess of Prophecy crap and weird relationships and it leads Elloren to realize that she is nothing like her grandmother and never will be. But what can she does when she has none of these amazing powers everyone thought she would have? 

You are not allowed to intermingle with other species. Or, at least, that's how the humans feel. But there is a lot of racism in each race/species. If you are a Fairy mixed with a winged Icaral, or anything dealing with Icaral, you will be despised by most races. 

So the overall plot of the book pretty much ends up being a group of teens at the prestigious Verpax University form an unlikely group that is out to end the injustices of the humans/witches of their world. And at the head of this group is the granddaughter of the very woman who made the world the way it is today. 

One thing that has been going around the book community lately is the displeasure of there being no diverse characters or diverse characters are portrayed as bad people in fantasy books. I don't understand why people would get upset about this in a FANTASY book but I took the time to note that there are diverse characters in both race and sexuality. Along with species. 

Characters:
Tons and tons and tons of characters make up this book. Hardly any of them are just plain side characters. They all have a story to tell.

There is Elloren, the focal point of the book. Then we have:

Brother 1
Brother 2
A very caring Uncle
An Aunt that needs to go in the trash
Some handsy level 5 fire mage
Some horrible level 5 ice mage
Some angry boy the MC still falls for
The ice mages cousin
Twin Lupine brother and sister
Some fairy people(lots of kinds)
Some flying demon people
Rude people
A Selkie(use google if you are confused)
Dragons(1 nice one)
Some icky army of human mage people
And a few chickens

Together, all of these characters make up a very unique world of unfairness. 

World building:
I really loved the world the author placed her characters in. It complemented them perfectly and added so much to the plot of the book. I kind of pictured the school grounds as Hogwarts meets The Shadowhunter's Institute. 

In the end, I am so glad I requested this book to review. It was 600 pages and there is no way I would waste my time on a 600 page book if I didn't enjoy it. I won't lie and say when I saw the book, reading it didn't become daunting. It's massive and size sometimes intimidates people. -cough cough- Anyways, I truly cannot wait for the next book. I need to know where this rebellion type situation is heading. But I have to wait a year and that hurts. The Black Witch now has a place on my favorites shelf and I will be eagerly anticipating the next book!

Overall I gave the book 4.5/5 stars.

EDIT: After reading this book for the second time not much has changed in the way of my opinion. But, having now read Wandfasted, a lot of things in The Black Witch have become a bit more clear. This world is so elaborate and intricate that each time I read this book I find something that I missed the first time. I love then that happens. Especially when it's a book as long as this one. I love the world the author built even though it is a very cruel and unfair world. She put so much work into creating this beautiful world for us readers and I want to thank her so much for all her hard work! THANK YOU LAURIE FOREST!


Monday, September 17, 2018

Mini Review: Wandfasted by Laurie Forest

Posted by Jenn Christensen at 9:00 AM 0 comments
Title: Wandfasted
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Author: Laurie Forest
Synopsis: 
Magic, romance and adventure collide in WANDFASTED, the irresistible ebook prequel to THE BLACK WITCH 

"When they painted "Heretics" on our barn and set fire to it, I thought that was the worst it could get.

Until they sent the dragons.

But they didn't count on us having dragons of our own. And they certainly didn't count on Her. Our Great Mage. The Bringer of Fire. The Storm of Death. The Crow Sorceress. Our Deliverance.

The Black Witch."
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication: July 1st 2017
Cover Rating: 5/5

Wandfasted by Laurie Forest is a prequel novella for The Black Witch Chronicles. This novella tells the story of Elloren's parents. Elloren is the main character in The Black Witch. In this story, we get to see how her parents met and the circumstances surrounding how Elloren and her brothers came to exist(kind of).

The characters in this novella were so amazing. We are introduced to Tessla, Elloren's mother, right when her village turns against her people. She has to fight to keep her family and friends alive. Luckily, help comes and her life is flipped upside down, in good and bad ways.

We also get to meet Vale, Elloren's father. He is a level 5 fire mage and his mother is The Black Witch. Tessla and Vale are forced into a bond that ends up turning into something more. Together, they are extremely powerful both with magic and with love.

One of my favorite characters of all was Fain. I will let you read the book to find out about Fain yourself. Just know that he is FABULOUS.

This novella shows the start of the war but not really the start because it seems like the war has been going on for a long time but it does show us where things start to get really heavy and you can definitely see it leading up to a BIG conflict. 

I really adored Vale! The things he said and did were so swoon-worthy and when he was with Tessla they were so perfect! It hurts knowing what happened to them between this story and The Black Witch book.

In the end, this book, sadly, made me think of WWII. It is so disgusting what people will do to someone just because they are different because, obviously(sarcasm), 'different' means dangerous. Because 'different' somehow always causes a war or violence. It's so sad how small minded people are. And it's not just the people who are afraid of the mages, it's people INSIDE the mages community as well that are sad and pathetic. 

Overall, I gave the book 4.5/5 stars.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Author Spotlight: A Room Away From the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma + Interview

Posted by Jenn Christensen at 9:00 AM 0 comments

Nova Ren Suma is the author of the YA novels THE WALLS AROUND US as well as the YA novels IMAGINARY GIRLS and 17 & GONE, which were both named 2014 Outstanding Books for the College Bound by YALSA. Her middle-grade novel, DANI NOIR, was reissued for a YA audience under the title FADE OUT. She has a BA in writing & photography from Antioch College and an MFA in fiction from Columbia University and has been awarded fiction fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, the Millay Colony, and an NEA fellowship for a residency at the Hambidge Center. She worked for years behind the scenes in publishing, at places such as HarperCollins, Penguin, Marvel Comics, and RAW Books, and now she teaches writing workshops. She is from various small towns across the Hudson Valley and lives and writes in New York City.

Find Nova online at novaren.com and on her blog distraction99.com


Title: A Room Away From the Wolves
Genre: Young Adult Magical Realism
Author: Nova Ren Suma
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Publication: September 4th 2018
Cover Rating: 5/5

A Room Away from the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma is a deliciously lyrical story about Sabina, Bina for short, and the mystery that surrounds her and her mother's life because of this place called Catherine's House.

The book starts out sort of like a Cinderella story. Bina and her mother ran away from her crazy, abusive father and were trying to hitchhike to NYC when a Jesus fish van pulled up to offer them a ride. What was supposed to be a one night stay before they continued on to NYC turned into a new family situation where Bina got herself a brand new stepfather and two really awful stepsisters. Bina was no angel but her stepsisters were worse and we begin the book with Bina's mother telling her she had to go stay with someone else for a while because of some event's that took place. Bina was being kicked out of her stepfathers home and her mother was letting it happen. It might have started out like a Cinderella story but it definitely doesn't end like one.

Bina never let the idea of going to NYC die in her mind. Her mother had told her stories of this women's safe house she stayed in while she was pursuing her acting career and ever since Bina has wanted to go there. So instead of going to stay with the religious friends her mother picked out, Bina decides to take matters into her own hands and hitchhikes to NYC to go to Catherine's House. A place that was established in the 1920's by a woman who wanted to offer other women a safe place to escape from the world. A place where 14 girls can each have their own room, a room that comes with a lot of rules, but a safe room nonetheless. A place where Bina goes and starts to realize that there is more to this house and Catherine's story than people are telling here. A place where the girls eerily look like girls in photos from previous years. 

Now, if you know me or you have been reading my reviews for a while you will know how much of an aversion I have towards Magical Realism in books. I have read many in hopes that I will find just one book that will change my mind. There is just something about these books that I can never wrap my head around. Things just seem very confusing and they never add up to much by the time I make it to the end of the book. So here I am with yet another Magical Realism book. I actually didn't know that's what it was when I requested Ms. Suma to be on my Author Spotlight. After finding out that the book was MR I got a little bit worried. I have read Imaginary Girls and 17 and Gone by this author and really enjoyed them so I just let my hopes that I would enjoy this book as well carry me through the reading process. And guess what? I actually really liked this book. Maybe because it was spooky? Maybe because the author is a brilliant writer and wove together a story that I actually could follow? Either way, thank you Nova Ren Suma for writing a MR book that I actually enjoyed.

In the end, I am so glad I read this book, not once, but twice. I will definitely be suggesting this to people in the future. Also, I would advise against stealing silver combs from a dead woman! Oh, and never get in the Jesus fish van!

Overall, I gave the book 4.5/5 stars.



1) What was your inspiration for A Room Away From the Wolves?
So many things that fascinate me ended up in A Room Away from the Wolves: ghost stories and creaky old houses. City dreams and age-old fantasies about running away. Girls who are fascinating enigmas, who pretend to be one thing all the while hiding their true selves. How you can search and search your whole life trying to find a place to belong… and sometimes it ends up not being a place at all, but a person. And finally, how it turns out the one thing you can’t run away from is yourself. That’s a thing I keep living, and it’s also a thing my narrator Bina comes face-to-face within this book.

2) Out of all of your books which one is your personal favorite?
What an evil question! I love every one of my books, and it’s always my most favorite when I’m holding it in my arms, months after finishing it, reeling at the fact that I ever actually did. So the answer is: Right now A Room Away from the Wolves has a fast hold on my heart and is taking up so much of my affection. But I see another book on the horizon… the one I’m working on next. And it’s very, very pretty.

3) If you could bring any of your characters to life who would it be and why?
Monet in A Room Away from the Wolves is a fascinating mystery to me, a puzzle to figure out. I’d love to make her a flesh-and-blood girl and sit her down and ask her a whole bunch of questions. Maybe a new novel would come from the conversation!

4) Do you have any hobbies you can tell us about?
I’m one of those boring writer creatures who thinks about writing all the time, and teaches writing workshops for other writers, and reads books and talks about books and wishes she could take a vacation away from the world just to read more books. I would like to have a different hobby that did not involve words, and I’m searching for what it could be.

5) Are you currently working on any other books?
Always. But I can’t talk about it right now! The next book is a secret I’m keeping cocooned in the dark for a while more… just the two of us. We’re only just getting to know each other.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Author Spotlight: Ten After Closing by Jessica Bayliss + Interview

Posted by Jenn Christensen at 9:00 AM 0 comments

Jessica Bayliss is a fiction author with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology who loves all things reading and writing. Author of the young adult horror novella, BROKEN CHORDS, and her upcoming YA thriller, TEN AFTER CLOSING (Sky Pony Press, September 2018), she has been a lover thrillers and ghost tales since her days scanning VHS rental shelves—admittedly with eyes half-averted from the gory covers. She also loves to eat, cook, and exercise—in that order—and is a firm believer that coffee makes the world a better place.

In the psychology world, she has more than fifteen years of experience and training in the cognitive-behavioral model. She’s a psychotherapist, a teacher, and a researcher. One day it hit her: Why not combine writing and psychology? Just like that, PsychWRITE, her series of lectures, workshops, and coaching services for writers was born. Her blog features motivational posts for writers that combine her passion for writing with her love of psychology.

She has authored thirteen novels and several short stories that appear in anthologies such as BEWARE THE LITTLE WHITE RABBIT, FRIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, and ZOMBIE CHUNKS and in such literary magazines as Sanitarium Magazine. Jessica is a Senior Editor for Allegory Magazine. Member: ITW, HWA, SCBWI, RWA.

Jessica is available for Skype Visits, Workshops, and talks about her books, writing, and related to her PsychWRITE workshops and webinars. For media kits, see the individual pages for each book. For more information, visit http://www.jessicabaylisswrites.com

Title: Ten After Closing
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Author: Jessica Bayliss
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Publication: September 4th 2018
Cover Rating: 4/5

Ten After Closing by Jessica Bayliss is a fantastic young adult book about a hostage situation and all the different demons each person could possibly be fighting each day. This book was such an interesting story. Not only do we get the hostage/shooting situation but we also get to see each character go through their own problems and some of their backstory. You get to watch Winny and Scott grow in the span of a few hours just because of an extremely tragic event.

Scott shouldn't have even been working at Cafe Flores that night. He was supposed to be going to a party with his girlfriend and finding a place to stay after because his dad was on one of his tirades. Instead of all that, Scott takes a shift from someone and ends up working that night. Winny should have been there either. Her friend dropped her off at Cafe Flores in a makeshift attempt at matchmaking Winny with Scott. But they are all there when three gunmen come into the cafe and turn their lives upside down.

It was just supposed to be a simple robbery-type situation but because of people still being in the cafe and certain events that had taken place earlier in the day, things aren't going as planned for the gunmen. Then.... someone gets shot and their plans are entirely ruined and they have to figure out what to do to get money within a short period of time before something even worse happens.

There were a few parts of the book that made me angry(aside from the whole hostages with guns situation) and most of them had to do with Sylvia, the owner of the cafe. I can understand loving and wanting to protect your family but when your family isn't giving you that same courtesy then what's the point? I know she felt guilty about some stuff she did in the past but she let her brother get away with way too much stuff and she angered me so greatly. 

I think watching the character development in a short period of time was the part I really enjoyed the most about this book. By the end, I was so proud of how two of the characters had grown and decided to take control of their lives. 

In the end, this book taught me a few things. One, you never know what you will do or be capable of in the face of actual danger. Two, life is too damn short to waste is trying to please everyone around you. And three, trying to wedge a giant canvas painting into the trunk of your car may result in the trunk lining being torn. 

Overall, I gave the book 4.5/5 stars.


1) TEN AFTER CLOSING is a very unique view on shootings. Most YA shooting books are about school shootings. What was your inspiration for this plot?
It’s interesting that you refer to it as a YA shooting book, because that’s not how I see TAC at all. For me, it’s really a hostage thriller that happens to contain a shooting. That said, it’s so easy to see how it would come across that way, especially after the numerous tragedies we’ve seen in the recent years. They entered into my mind during revisions of this book, but not during the drafting. 

When I initially wrote TEN AFTER CLOSING, I was thinking about stories I loved when I was a YA reader. One of those was the movie TOY SOLDIERS, which was also a book, though I didn’t know it at that time. I watched the movie back before I started writing TEN AFTER, and OMG, it was still so good—so many fabulous tense scenes and fast pacing. The thing that was always missing for me, though, was female characters. It took place at a boarding school for boys. So, I decided to write a book that contained all those deliciously tense moments I loved in TOY SOLDIERS that also added the swoony romance I felt was missing. 

Later, when I revised the book, I thought about some of the recent shootings, and that definitely influenced how Scott’s story played out. I wanted to show a teen character who is in pain and has a chance to use violence as his means of revenge but who opts for a different route. This plays out in one very specific scene in the book. 

2) My favorite character in TEN AFTER CLOSING was probably Winny. Who is your favorite character?
I don’t think I can decide between Winny and Scott (but a LOT of people love Winny the most, just like you). As I mentioned, TEN AFTER CLOSING is definitely, first and foremost, a hostage thriller. But it is also something of a coming-of-age story about two teens navigating the challenges of those first steps to independence. Winny and Scott come from different backgrounds, but both are in a similar situation at the start of the book—both have really big decisions in front of them, and they’re struggling to feel empowered to make those decisions and take action. Winny is stuck in a passive place—she’s let her parents decide much of her path thus far, going with the flow for so long, she isn’t sure how to shift out of that mode. Scott’s been quite active in trying to change his situation, but he’s struggling to see that the way he’s going about it isn’t working. Both are thinking about how others will respond if they put their needs first and are fearful of being assertive. Of course, the life-changing hostage situation at CafĂ© Flores impacts how they see things. I really wanted to show them using all their strengths, gaining insights about themselves, and thereby coming to new decisions by the end of TAC (but I can’t say any more without spoilers! Hehe!).

3) If you had the choice of writing really amazing books but getting paid very little or writing very crappy books but getting paid a lot, which would you pick and why?
OMG, I need to know how other people answer this one. For me, I would pick both! If the “crappy” books are making money, then people must be enjoying them, and if people are enjoying them, can they truly be crappy? All that money would help me be able to write the amazing books that are in my heart. Best of both worlds. (How’s that for a cheeky answer?)

4) I know that authors barely have time to breathe, but when do you get time to breathe, what are some of your hobbies?
I’m lucky because writing IS my hobby. I work full time as a clinical psychologist, and I specifically started writing as a way of destressing. It was something just for me, something I didn’t even tell people about for years. And it turned out that I love it, and here we are, eight years later. I’m very lucky, because even when it’s something in the writing world that’s stressing me out, my stories are the way I cope with that. It is a gift because there are two things that writers MUST do: we must write and get our work out there. As long as writing remains my stress-release, my hobby, I know I’ll stay on this often-difficult road.

5) Are you currently working on any other books?
AHH! I’m SO excited about my next books. Well, there are a couple that are drafted. One YA thriller is currently in the hands of my critique partners, and I’ll be sending it on to my agent. And I have another YA, more of a time-twisty detective story. AND, the one I’m about to start writing is an adult thriller. I actually started out NOT writing YA, and so it’s nice to switch it up and get back to adult books. I’m actively plotting that one. All I can say is that it’s going to involve the dark web. 

Thank you so much, Jenn, for interviewing me and reading my book! I’ve had so much fun talking with you.


Saturday, September 1, 2018

Jenny's Wrap-Up - August 2018

Posted by Jenn Christensen at 9:00 AM 0 comments
Books Read: 21
Graphic Novels Read: 0
Pages Read: 6,096
Rating: 
Date Read: 08/01/18
Goodreads | Amazon

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Thursday, August 23, 2018

REVIEW: Ozland by Wendy Spinale - Paige

Posted by Jenn Christensen at 9:00 AM 0 comments
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book through KidLitExchange from the publishing company Scholastic Press in exchange for review and promotion. Thanks! All opinions are my own.
Rating: 
Genre: YA Dystopian/Fantasy/Retelling
Recommended Age: 14+ (violence, slight gore, murder, and poison)
Pages: 288

Synopsis: 
With Everland and Umberland both destroyed, the survivors have taken refuge in a small village tucked within the shadows of the Bloodred Queen’s castle. Doc has found an actual cure for the Horologia virus, while Gwen, Pete, and Alyssa begin plotting the assassination of the queen with the help of Gail, an excellent huntress. But killing the queen won’t be enough. The world has been destroyed and its needs a ruler to set things right again. A ruler who is good, kind, and fair. Someone like the former king of Germany. But he’s dead … or is he?

There’s a rumor that the king has been hidden away in a secret land, where only the worthiest can find him. Desperate to end the war, a plan is hatched that could put everything right again, only before it’s set in motion, the village is burned to the ground, all survivors taken prisoner to the castle. Except Gail.

But is one girl enough to find a long-dead king, kill the wicked queen, and save the world?


While I was heavily disappointed with how Umberland turned out I wanted to complete the series, thus I started this book. This book takes place a few months (weeks? Unsure) after the events in Umberland. The book does really well at drawing in your interest immediately with all the death and destruction of this world and it’s amazing to see how twisted a retelling can be. The plot overall was also good and well thought-out as was the steampunk elements of the book.

However, I did feel that there wasn’t any character development and that the book was incredibly fast paced. Dystopians are usually slower paced then what we see in this read and the pacing of this book really makes the reader rush through all the elements of this world. The world building in this book was almost non-existent and the writing was a bit confusing to read. I’m not sure if the fault in that was from the multiple POV or because the writing flew by a lot of important items and retelling portions in the book. The book is good overall, but I feel that if this entire series was expanded in terms of world building and character development then I think the series would be better overall.

Verdict: Good, but not as good as the original.


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