Friday, April 29, 2022

Weekend Reads: The Elven Spymaster's Thief by Elisa Rae (Kimberly)

Spend your weekend with a light fantasy romance between an elven spymaster and a human thief! A brand new clean and sweet fantasy romance series takes off with The Elven Spymaster's Thief and it's the perfect relaxing and fun weekend read!

The Elven Spymaster's Thief (Elves of Eldarlan Book 1)


My Rating - 4.5 Stars


Oh I love a good fantasy romance between an elf and a human! Especially when it's opposites attract and just enough culture clash to keep things interesting. And this new series by our own Rachel Rossano hits all the right spots. While Rossano's series usually fall into the no magic kingdom fantasy category, her new pen name Elisa Rae brings all the fantasy into play in her new series. This wonderful new world has elves (both light and shadow elves), brownies, evil sorcerers, and even gargoyles. 

I adore Illeron and Avril's back and forth, which starts from their first meeting. Illeron is very much a Sherlock Holmes type of character, which is especially fitting for the elf king's spymaster. While Avril is determined to pry him from his work focused shell per their bargain. A bargain Illeron suggests primarily to make his brother stop pestering him about "being an ornery hermit." I love the overall playfulness and sparks to Illeron and Avril's relationship as well as the hints of more to come revealed by the side characters. I could go on for hours about all my favorite things with Illeron and Avril, but that would involve far too many spoilers.

As the first book in the world, The Elven Spymaster's Thief gives us an introductory glimpse into the tantalizing mix of fantasy species and humans. And I cannot wait for more! Casimir who is a shadow elf (and even more logic driven than his brother...think Spock) will be the lead in book two, The Shadow Elf's Rescuer. I've had the privilege of being an early reader for this series of novellas and y'all are going to love Casimir and Veta! Their book releases this coming Tuesday, May 3rd, so you can grab the preorder now or wait to read it via KU. Either way now is the perfect time to dive into Illeron and Avril's story!

This series of interconnected standalone novellas is such a fun edition to the world of elf/human fantasy romances. I highly recommend adding Elves of Eldaran to your reading list today!

Happy Reading!

Kimberly A. Rogers

Friday, April 22, 2022

Weekend Reads: My Top Picks for Next-to-Read (Lauricia)

Greetings, all, and happy spring. I hope you and yours are well!

I'm taking a bit of a different angle on my contribution to the blog today. As you know from my last post in February, I'm super crunched for reading time in the spring. I've also had some pretty intense health problems, but rather than back out of this month's post, I've decided to share a few books from my Want to Read pile and to tell you why. I'm familiar with these authors from Realm Makers, an international organization of Christian authors of speculative fiction, so I can promise that all of these recommendations are appropriate for audiences who read only clean fiction.



My first pick for you is Curio by Evangeline Denmark. Here's the blurb:

Grey Haward has always detested the Chemists, the magicians-come-scientists who rule her small western town. But she has always followed the rules, taking the potion the Chemists ration out that helps the town’s people survive. A potion that Grey suspects she—like her grandfather and father—may not actually need.

By working at her grandfather’s repair shop, sorting the small gears and dusting the curio cabinet inside, Grey has tried to stay unnoticed—or as unnoticed as a tall, strong girl can in a town of diminutive, underdeveloped citizens. Then her best friend, Whit, is caught by the Chemists’ enforcers after trying to protect Grey one night, and after seeing the extent of his punishment, suddenly taking risks seems the only decision she can make.

But with the risk comes the reality that the Chemists know her family’s secret, and the Chemists soon decide to use her for their own purposes. Panicked, Grey retreats to the only safe place she knows—her grandfather’s shop. There, however, a larger secret confronts her when her touch unlocks the old curio cabinet in the corner and reveals a world where porcelain and clockwork people are real. There, she could find the key that may save Whit’s life and also end the Chemists’ dark rule forever.”


I”ll be honest with you, The first thing that drew me to this book is its cover. I mean, the colors are gorgeous and the image promises steampunk fantasy – what's not to love? Also, Grey's conflict is realistic and personal while coinciding with the epic nature of saving the world, so I'm super intrigued.



My next pick is Kitsune-Tsuki by Laura VanArendonk Baugh. The blurb for this one reads:

How does one find a shapeshifter who may not even exist?

The onmyouji Tsurugu no Kiyomori, a practitioner of the mystic arts, has been engaged to protect the warlord's new bride from the fox spirit rumored to be near. Tsurugu and the shadow-warrior Shishio Hitoshi face an impossible challenge in teasing out a kitsune shapeshifter from the samurai and servants – if such a creature is even present at all.

The handsome mute twin servants belonging to Lady Kaede are certainly suspicious, but it is the beautiful and strong-willed lady herself who draws Shishio’s mistrust. Tsurugu and Shishio must move carefully, for accusing the warlord’s bride falsely would be death. But failing to identify the kitsune to the warlord is equally perilous, and there is more to discover. For an onmyouji knows secrets even the shadows do not….

Kitsune-Tsuki is a historical fiction novelette, the introduction to the series KITSUNE TALES. By reader request it includes a full glossary as well.”


I can't wait to dive into this one because I LOVE Japanese fairy tales and absolutely adore kitsune. Yes, I know they're traditionally demonic, soul-sucking man-devourers, but I'm enamored with the non-evil renditions: the woman-to-fox shape-shifting, the mystique, and the cunning beauty. Add that to the concept of this story, and I'm all in.



My third recommendation for you today is Havok Magazine. The blurb for the first edition says:

Enjoy the debut issue of Havok Magazine, your source for the highest quality speculative flash fiction. New York Times bestselling author Tosca Lee headlines this issue with the beautiful story of a young woman who faces incredible odds when a murderous horde attacks her people.

Staff member Lindsay Franklin enlightens our audiences with "Hardwired," a story of a cyborg who falls in love. Plus, read six other speculative fiction stories ranging from a steampunk Pinocchio to a woman who literally married a monster.”


Full disclosure: I'm cheating a little bit with this one. I follow Havok on their Instagram page and subscribe to the magazine already, and I very much enjoy it. I'm not including it in this list because it's in my to-be-read pile, I'm including it because it should be in yours. You can get a taste for what's inside this magazine by reading the free story of the day on their website at https://gohavok.com/.

Do it. Do it now.


If you read any of these recommendations, I'd love to know what you think. Leave a comment or connect with me on Facebook or Instagram.

Until next time, happy reading!

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Weekend Reads: Pack of Dawn and Destiny Trilogy by K. M. Shea (Rachel)


The third novel in the Pack of Dawn and Destiny trilogy dropped about a month ago and I snatched it up as a treat after a very hard week of challenges. K. M. Shea did not disappoint in the least. Her urban fantasy Magiford series (Hall of Blood and Mercy, Court of Midnight and Deception, and now Pack of Dawn and Destiny) have been bright lights in the urban fantasy landscape in recent years. Taking tropes classic to the genre, she has added her own spin and plenty of humor. The combination makes them healthier and much more enjoyable for her readers.

The heroine, Pip, doesn’t feel like she fits in with the pack despite growing up with them. As a hunter, her skills are traditionally focused on hunting and bringing down werewolves. But as an adopted member of the pack, she does the exact opposite of this, except for during training sessions when she takes the role of adversary and prey. I love how Pip holds her own without being vicious or vindictive. And the way she grows gradually into the role she eventually takes is so beautifully done that I can’t help appreciating the journey.

Unlike the trend in this genre, Greyson’s role as the alpha does not involve fighting for preeminence in his pack. Instead, his role as alpha involves mostly taking care of the pack, training them, providing for them, and defending them. Which also affects how he approaches his fated mate bond with Pip. He is respectful of the fact she needs to make her own choice about whether to accept the bond not. Working hard not to pressure her, he gives her space while still seeking her out and supporting her needs.

I love Shea’s books because they are frequently about finding belonging. Working through our roles in life is a vital process that we can all relate to. The journey to find a sense of belonging that almost all of us traverse is integral to many of her books. The Pack of Dawn and Destiny trilogy beautifully presents that theme. It also focuses on Pip’s found family, how finding one’s place and role can lead to personal growth. And all of that is in addition to a sweet romance as Greyson finds his fated mate and she learns to accept his trust and care. Throw in action, plots against the pack, and plenty of humor, and this series becomes one of K. M. Shea’s best works. I can’t wait for the next one.

Do you know of any other healthy fated mate books?


Friday, March 4, 2022

Weekend Reads: Kingdom of Dance by Deborah Grace White (Kimberly)

Spring into March with a charming fairytale retelling! Kingdom of Dance by Deborah Grace White retells  The Twelve Dancing Princesses and finishes up her series, The Kingdom Tales. This tale of a princess, a reluctant soldier mage, and dragons make for perfect weekend reading!

Kingdom of Dance: A Retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses (The Kingdom Tales Book 6)


My Rating - 4.5 Stars

This was a fun and charming spin on the classic fairytale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses! Zinnia, the eldest princess (and sister to the new king who we were introduced to in book four, Kingdom of Feathers), stumbles into trouble one night when she follows a dragon. Unfortunately, her eleven younger sisters tagged along and were swept up into the curse as well. A year and a half later, her brother has been alerted to something being not quite right with his younger sisters by their destroyed dancing slippers. Which is where our reluctant mage comes into play.

I really enjoyed this take on the Twelve Dancing Princesses. While many of the signature elements of the original fairytale were kept, White does a great job of twisting when, where, and how they show up. I particularly enjoyed the twist with trees of silver, gold, and diamond. Obsidian is a such a fun conflicted hero who must learn to accept his own magic before he can succeed in his new mission - saving Zinnia and helping her save their entire continent.

I liked Zinnia's own conflicting feelings about her place as princess and bearing the burden of her very large family. I also loved her courage in the face of hardship and unexpected challenges. Silencing curses are very effective but they won't keep this princess from doing her best to stop the schemes of an evil dragon.

My favorite thing about this story was the ending. It was totally and completely worth the slow buildup over the series with all the little hints about what is truly going on with the continent of Solstice. Not to mention the sudden rash of curses plaguing the royal families. It ended on a high note and a happy ending but also left room for us to wonder if we might see a familiar face or two in a future series.

I've enjoyed all six books in this series. They're full of adventure, dragons whose superior senses miss human manners at times, and clean romance fit for the whole family. White's next series is all about mermaids and I cannot wait to see what she has in store with that one! In the meantime, I recommend Kingdom of Dance and its series for anyone who loves a good fairytale retelling. The books are technically standalone but the overarching series arc is best appreciated when read in order.

Happy Reading!

Kimberly


Friday, February 25, 2022

Weekend Reads: Blood Rose Rebellion (Lauricia)

 I have a huge reading problem this time of year – I don't do a lot of reading for fun. I'm usually hip-deep in analytically reading a classic or two for one of the classes I'm teaching. On top of that, I like to help judge a few novel competitions, and I can't really talk about the stories I'm judging because of non-disclosure agreements. It's a happy problem, really, but sometimes it makes it difficult to find books to recommend. It's times like this when I reach into the past, to a time before I blogged for Lands Uncharted, looking for books I've read but haven't recommended yet on this blog. With that in mind, my recommendation for you this weekend is one such novel: The Blood Rose Rebellion (Blood Rose Rebellion, Book One) by Rosalyn Eves. [A third round of research revealed that I did, in fact, mention this book as part of a post in 2019, but that was forever ago in terms of internet time, and this book deserves it's own blog post, so here you go.]



Anna Arden has a problem: she's magic-less in a world where social rank is determined by magical ability. More than that, she's known for the uncanny way spells go wrong when she's around. After this ability ruins the social debut of Anna's sister, their mother sends Anna away, hiding her in Hungary until her sister is safely married. But there's more to Anna's lack of magic than anyone in her family could understand. So much more that Anna gets caught up in a rebellion set to change her world forever.

Set in Victorian England, Blood Rose Rebellion is an alternate history fantasy filled with the nuances and social critique of a Jane Austen novel. I enjoyed it for its detailed world building and realistic character development. Anna is easy to relate to and to identify with, as are the major support characters, and the decisions she makes, as well as the twists in the plot, are believable and satisfying. Blood Rose Rebellion is a great read for fans of Pride and Prejudice and Les Miserables, as well as those who would enjoy Victorian England with a magical flare.

I hope you enjoy this story. If you read it, I'd love to know what you think. Tell me your thoughts below.

Until next time, happy reading!

Friday, February 11, 2022

Weekend Reads: The Unselected Journals of Emma M. Lion by Beth Brower (Sarah)


 

“I’ve arrived in London without incident. There are few triumphs in my recent life, but I count this as one. My existence of the last three years has been nothing but incident.”


Young Emma M. Lion, wholly without sympathetic relatives (but with an unfortunate number of unsympathetic or downright trying ones), at last nears her majority and makes a successful return to London. Yet she soon finds her plans for reclaiming her familial home and becoming an academic thwarted by the dreadful Cousin Archibald and looming financial woes.

The series chronicles her maturation as well as how she processes grief and loss, but it maintains a charming, humorous tone even while dealing with deeper issues. As the name suggests, The Unselected Journals of Emma M. Lion are diary-style novels, and the intimacy of this perspective suits the journey into the trials and triumphs Emma experiences.

While set in 1883 London, little touches of the fantastic are neatly woven into the fabric of the setting. Emma lives in Lapis Lazuli House, in the neighborhood of St. Crispian’s which is “almost perfectly normal” save for peculiarities like The Roman and objects that disappear and reappear at will. The eccentric inhabitants of St. Crispian’s accept these as part of regular life, and indeed, they perfectly fit the tone of the book.

The interactions between Emma and the rest of quirky cast of characters make these delightful stories, and I look forward to seeing Emma’s adventures continue in volume 6. Short and engaging, these novellas would make an ideal “weekend read.”

Do you enjoy novels told in journal form?

Friday, January 28, 2022

Weekend Reads: Beholden by Jody Hedlund (Desiree)

Happy Weekend, everyone!!

It's frigid and snowing in my little slice of the world, which makes for the perfect setting to stay indoors snuggled up by the fire reading a good book.

Although most of us don't have the dreamy, Instagram worthy fireplaces--or the time in our crazy schedules for indulging in an all-day read-a-thon. But we can still give ourselves an hour or two--or three ;-)--to relax after the busy work week.

So be sure to treat yourself with some well earned downtime!


Do you have a go-to "comfort" author?

Lately I've been enjoying more "comfort reads" than anything deep and heavy, not that I don't also enjoy a good nail-biter from time to time. 

And, for me, Jody Hedlund's books sing just the right note for my overworked mind. LOL. 

Although, please hear my heart in this. I'm not meaning anything disrespectful to her writing style. In fact, I love how the stories flow in a softer way and I can enjoy the adventures without getting emotionally involved. 

Yes, I know how contradictory that sounds. LOL! It's the exact opposite of what authors want to hear from readers--again, I mean no disrespect, Jody! But this is honestly the main reason why I go back to her stories, and why I pick up more books from her. 

I work several jobs engaging with and helping people, and by the end of the week I'm often mentally and emotionally drained (although I still love what I do!). And so comfort reads are the perfect way for me to unwind and give myself a nice break.

Which makes me appreciate the diverse flavors each author brings to the world. Readers interact with books in various ways, and we need all the stories tucked away inside writer's hearts. 

So if you're like me right now, searching for low pressure reads to simply enjoy the pastime of reading, then I definitely recommend checking out Beholden by Jody Hedlund. 


clean fantasy book


In a land where being the fairest maiden is a curse . . .

A beautiful noblewoman with a terrible secret, and a prince subjected to slavery.

Upon the death of her wealthy father, Lady Gabriella is condemned to work in Warwick’s gem mine. As she struggles to survive the dangerous conditions, her kindness and beauty shine as brightly as the jewels the slaves excavate. While laboring, Gabriella plots how to avenge her father’s death and stop Queen Margery’s cruelty.

Prince Vilmar of Scania enslaves himself in Warwick’s gem mine as part of a royal test to prove himself the most worthy of three brothers to become the king’s successor. Amidst the hardships, he doesn’t anticipate his growing compassion for the other slaves, especially tenderhearted Gabriella.

As the annual summer ball looms nearer, Gabriella sets into motion her plan to end Queen Margery’s evil. When Vilmar learns of Gabriella’s intentions, he resolves to come to her aid and fight against Warwick’s queen. But doing so may require him to give up his chance of becoming Scania’s next king, perhaps even cost him his life.

The real Cinderella story.

The Fairest Maidens
Book 1: Beholden
Book 2: Beguiled
Book 3: Besotted