Thursday, July 20, 2023

Song of the Selkies COVER REVEAL + Preorder Info!


Hello, everyone! Some of you may have seen this on Facebook yesterday evening, but if you're not on Facebook (which is probably a wise choice, to be honest), I have some exciting news. That news, of course, is of my upcoming book release: Song of the Selkies, a roleswap Little Mermaid retelling. I've been working on this book for a good while now, and I'm super excited to get to show it off.

So, without further ado, let's give it a chance to shine . . .

Undercover in a foreign land, a princess discovers the secrets behind a generations-old enmity.

The youngest princess of Atìrse, Ceana always planned to marry for the good of her people and let love come later. With her sisters' marriages ensuring peace with the nearby human kingdoms, Ceana sets her sights on their last unallied neighbor: the magical and reclusive selkies. The two peoples have experienced a wary peace for generations, and the time seems ripe for a deeper alliance that will benefit both kingdoms. The last thing Ceana expects is for Fionntan, king of the selkies, to take the proposal as a grave insult.

With relations between the two peoples suddenly precarious, Ceana is determined to set things right. Aided by her grandmother, she disguises herself as a selkie and travels to their hidden home of Emain Ablach, where she hopes to discover the reason behind King Fionntan's reaction. But the more she learns about the selkies, the more she uncovers long-kept secrets of her people — and her heritage — that shake the foundations of how she viewed the world. Her growing friendships with and affection for some of the selkie nobility, including King Fionntan himself, further complicate matters, especially as her admiration for the selkie king begins to blossom into something more. No relationship built on a lie can survive, but revealing her true identity as an Atìrsen princess will doom her efforts towards peace.

In order to bridge the divide between selkies and humans, Ceana will have to overcome generations of selkies' suspicion and reveal the insidious evil that's taken root in her homeland. But the greatest obstacle to her success may be her own heart.

Discover a magical new world in this Little Mermaid retelling from the author of Through a Shattered Glass and the Bastian Dennel, PI mysteries

Releasing September 19, 2023

Preorder on Amazon || Add to your Goodreads shelf

For those who read that blurb and now have questions . . .  yes, this is a kissing book. (Technically, it's a romantic epic fantasy, but that's a technicality.) Don't worry; I'll still be writing plenty of nomance and low-romance books in the future! But I wanted to do something with the idea of a princess who wants to get married, and who wants the arranged marriage that so many young adult heroines spend a lot of time and energy running away from, and that meant that there had to be a love story in here alongside everything else. It's very much a slowburn, though, and it's super sweet. I had fun writing it, and I think y'all will like reading it just as much.

Also, in a turn of events that will surprise absolutely no one who's been following me, Song of the Selkies is releasing as part of the Stolen Songs Arista Challenge collection! One of the other covers for that release has already been revealed, and the rest will be uncovered on Saturday. Check out the Facebook party to learn more! Additionally, all the Stolen Songs books are on a special $0.99 ebook preorder special for just a little while longer, so make sure you place your preorder soon!

So, what do you think of the cover? How excited are you about Song of the Selkies? Please tell me in the comments!

Friday, July 7, 2023

Mid-Year Book Celebration 2023

Hey'a, all! We're halfway through the year, and that means it's time for my annual Mid-Year Book Celebration, a roundup of my favorite (and least favorite, and other most notable) reads from the first six months of 2023! This post mostly exists because, if it didn't, my End-of-Year Book Celebration would send me into an indecision-induced spiral of procrastination and panic. But also, it's fun to check in with my goals and review what I've been reading, and it means I get to spotlight twice as many books as I otherwise would! As usual, I'll post a short-and-sweet Best Books of 2023 (So Far) list over on Light and Shadows, but for the full rundown, read on!

2023 Mid-Year Book Celebration

But, of course, before we get to the specific books, I want to share some statistics. So far this year, I've read 74 books and 20,343 pages, which is roughly 20% more than what I'd read around this time last year. That also puts me well over 75% of my way to my goal of reading 101 books this year. Most of the books I've read have been in the 200-400 page range, with an average length of 274 pages, which isn't surprising — it's a nice, approachable length that I can get through in about three days. And, of course, I've been rereading several series this year, and all of them fall into that length category. And my average rating this year has been 4.4. stars, the same as last year, so I'm definitely enjoying most of what I read.

As for my specific reading goals:

  • Out of the 12 books published (or written) before 1975 that I'm aiming for, I've read ten, which sounds great . . . except when you remember my stipulation that  only three should be children's books. Of the ten pre-1975 books I've read, only four (Frankenstein and the Lord of the Rings trilogy) were written for adults. The other six (two Oz books, The Wind in the Willows, The Secret Garden, The Last Battle, The 13 Clocks, and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh) are all at least partially aimed at children. There is still hope, though, as I'm in the middle of several pre-1975 adult books that I'm reading via email subscription, so that will bolster the numbers some as the year goes on.
  • How about my goal of reading 15 non-speculative fiction books? So far this year, I have read five books that are not some form of speculative fiction, which is a bit behind where I should be, but not as far behind as I worried I was. Entries in this category include an animal-focused memoir, a Donald Maass writing craft book, a book of poetry, and a couple classics. (Note: if you're looking at the results of my reading tracker, you may notice that the "Non Spec-Fic" graph shows six books in that category, but one of them was miscategorized.) I do need to focus a little more on this category — maybe via some Brother Cadfael mysteries — but for now, I'm not stressing about it.
  • As for my recommended reads list . . . I have read one (1) book off of it, Miss Percy's Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons. I am going to get to at least some of the others. I just . . . haven't yet. (I've also had a time and a half trying to find some of them, so I have that as my defense.)

If you want more statistics or you want to see the full list of everything I've read, you can check out my Goodreads Year in Books or my tracking form results. But right now, let's take a look at some specific books I'm highlighting . . .

1. Best book you've read in the first half of 2023:

This is such a tough choice, but I have to go with Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer. This retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon was absolutely incredible in every way, from the characters to the writing style to the storyline to the ending (oh, the ending!). It's hard to find an East of the Sun retelling I dislike, but this was one of the best I've ever read. (I only wish I'd picked it up sooner so I could have reread it a few times by now!)

That said, I read a lot of excellent books this year, so we have a couple runners-up:

The Orb and the Airship by Jenelle Leanne Schmidt is a magnificent adventure story that's one part steampunk shenanigans (featuring a crew of airship pirates) and one part epic fantasy quest story (featuring lovable farm boys venturing off into the unknown, accompanied by a mysterious stranger). I love pretty much everything about this book, but I'm especially fond of Captain Marik and his crew. This probably would've taken the first spot were it not for the fact that I love the style and ending of Echo North so very much.

The Lord of Dreams by C.J. Brightly is, like Echo North, a book I should have read ages ago, but didn't get to until just this year. While the beginning was rough, the rest of the book was utterly amazing in world and characters and the way in which the story is woven. Brightley does a wonderful job of showing the weirdness and wonder of her fairyland, complete with a mad and marvelous faery king, and I especially like how she decided to handle the idea of magic that runs partially on belief.

Finally, Wraithwood by Alyssa Roat gave me the same vibes as a lot of the portal-fantasy-adjacent, unwilling-kid-ends-in-weird-house-and-magical-shenanigans stories that made up much of my preteen and early teen book diet, but it's much better than most of those stories were. I enjoyed getting to know Brinnie and her uncle Merlin, and I also liked how the author handled the magical world — especially the way she sidestepped some of my least favorite tropes and instead used those spots as opportunities to do cool stuff.

2. Best sequel you've read in the first half of 2023:

The results of this category should surprise absolutely no one — these days, it's hard to find any best-of list of mine that doesn't include either W.R. Gingell or Suzannah Rowntree. While I've enjoyed both of Gingell's Worlds Behind books, Behind Closed Doors was especially good. The scheming, the character dynamics, the glimpses into various characters' backstories . . . it's all very good, as is the reappearance of a few characters from the City Between series. Equally as delightful is Rowntree's Dark Clouds, book two in Miss Dark's Apparitions. I hardly know where to start with all the things I love about this Leverage-esque heist story, save to say that the crew's dynamics, the daring schemes and escapades, the excellent villain, and the relationship between Molly and Vasily are all top-notch, and they combine to form a story that's so good, it's a wonder I managed to put it down long enough to get some sleep.

And, of course, we have a runner up for this category: Kendra E. Ardnek's Thornrose Estate. While it can't quite compete with any book involving either Athelas or Grand Duke Vasily, this blend of Northhanger Abbey with Beauty and the Beast (and a little bit of Sleeping Beauty) is still a delight. I loved Calla — she's definitely the most relatable of the Austen Fairy Tale protagonists, at least to me. Additionally, Hansel is an excellent love interest, and I loved that we finally got answers to so many of the questions that the last book left us with. I think it's safe to say that this is (and probably will remain) my favorite of the Austen Fairy Tale stories.

3. Best book you've reread first half of 2023:

I've had a lot of really great rereads this year, but the City Between series (unsurprisingly) takes the top spot. I would honestly categorize this series as one that, like much of Brandon Sanderson's, work, you have to reread to fully enjoy. You read it the first time around to discover the story — you read it the second time to discover all the little hints and clues that you missed the first time because they were so neatly woven in that they seemed insignificant. (You also read it the second time because you love the characters and want to go back and spend time with them again, but that should go without saying.)

Speaking of characters you want to spend time with: I also reread the Lockwood & Co series this year because so many people were talking about the show that it made me miss Lockwood, Lucy, George, and the rest. I'm happy to say that, while you don't have to reread this series, it certainly doesn't suffer on a second read-through, and some of the hard spots in the series are a lot easier to get through when you know what's coming in the end.

 4. New release you haven't read yet but want to:

I am so behind on Brandon Sanderson's secret projects that it has ceased to be funny. At this point, three of the books are out in some fashion, and I haven't read any of them. At first, I was holding off because I wanted to wait to read the Tress in physical — then I was waiting until I thought I'd have the time and energy to properly enjoy the books — and I suppose that last excuse is mostly what I've been using since, along with the fact that any time I have been in a place and time when I thought I could have started one of these, I've also been in the middle of reading through a series. Oh well. Maybe after Realm Makers . . .

5. Most anticipated release for the second half of 2023

I can't actually properly answer this question for, oh, eleven days or so (and I will leave you to speculate about why that might be), but The Olympian Affair by Jim Butcher might take the top spot anyway. This is the long-awaited sequel to The Aeronaut's Windlass, one of my favorite books and a steampunk adventure of epic proportions. I'm so excited to return to this world and these characters — Captain Grimm and his crew especially. And I do think this release will necessitate a reread of book 1, which I'm also looking forward to very much.

And, of course, we have to mention the next book from W.R. Gingell, Worlds Behind #3, Wet Behind the Ears. I am always excited for more of Athelas, especially given where the last book left off. (Gingell knows how to do endings that simultaneously satisfy and make you ravenous for the next book, I have to tell you!) And from what I've seen on the author's social media, I am very much looking forward to what we might discover in this installment . . .

6. Biggest disappointment:

I read the sci-fi/horror classic Frankenstein via email subscription from February to May, and I was . . . not impressed. I had very high hopes for it, having enjoyed Dracula so much, but the book just didn't do it for me. I recognize why it's a classic, but it is not fun to read — and to be clear, that's not because of old-fashioned writing style or because it's an old book or anything like that. It's entirely because the main character is an annoying little snot. Possibly that's the point, but in the end, I think that if I want a tale of hubris, I'd rather just read Greek mythology.

7. Biggest surprise:

I read Cruel Beauty exclusively because the author was going to be at a signing with W.R. Gingell and Suzannah Rowntree, and I didn't actually expect to particularly like it — after all, I'd had mixed feelings about Crimson Bound, and most people seemed to think that one was the better of the two. But Cruel Beauty turned out to be lovely indeed — dark and mysterious, with an ending that more than made up for the few flaws I'd encountered in the rest of the book.

8. A book that made you cry:

I didn't cry, but Into the Heartless Wood by Joanna Ruth Meyers does have the distinction of being a book with a decidedly bittersweet ending and a lot of sadness in the middle that I nonetheless liked enough to buy.

9. A book that made you happy:

While it's not quite making the best books of the year, Miss Percy's Pocket Guide to the Care & Feeding of British Dragons by Quenby Olson was an absolute delight — it's dragons and snark and humor and scheming in an Austen-esque Regency setting. I also appreciated that the romance was present and sweet without being overdone. I haven't gotten my hands on the sequel yet, but I hope to later this year.

10. Favorite post you've done this half of the year:

Most of my posts this year have been reviews, Doings!, or Taleweaver's Desk updates, but I did write a post back in January, "What Ideas Are Worth Writing," about how I decide what story ideas I'm going to pursue and prioritize. I really like how that one turned out, and I think it's a good read. I also wrote a post for my grad school program about how I research for worldbuilding . . . but that one isn't up on my blog yet, so I can't link it.

11. Most beautiful book you've bought/received this half of the year:

I may not have read them yet, but that does not stop me from appreciating just how pretty my Kickstarter copies of Tress of the Emerald Sea and The Frugal Wizard's Handbook are. (The downside of the prettiness is that I'm terrified to actually read them in physical form lest I mess them up . . .)

How's your reading been these last six months? What are the best books you've read so far? Any that surprised you with how much you enjoyed them? Also, have you ever had the experience of owning a book that you feel is too pretty to actually read? Tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!