Friday, June 17, 2022

Weekend Reads: Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

 Greetings, all, and happy summer! I hope you and yours are well and enjoying some sort of much needed rest.

I apologize profusely for the tardiness of this post. If you're an avid or regular follower, you'll notice that this post wasn't released at the usual time. This is because I hyper-extended my elbow last week and have had a bit of trouble doing life, so my schedule got pushed back significantly. However, they say better late than never, so here I am at last to share my latest recommendation, which is Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson.

For those of you who don't know, Sanderson is a renown author of fantasy with quite a long list of titles. I've known of him for a while, and I listen to his writing podcast, but I hadn't read anything by him until now because, well... you know what To Be Read piles are like!




Vin is one lucky street rat, which is good because an orphan in the underground needs all the luck she can get. Her luck is so strong that it rubs off on others. As long as it holds, Vin gets to stay alive.

Kelsier is the most renown thief in Luthadel. The only survivor of the mines of Hathsin, Kelsier is about to hatch the most audacious plan ever considered in the Final Empire. He can't possibly succeed, but there's a small chance things may go his way, nonetheless. All he needs is a little bit of luck, which he sees in Vin.

As a fan of epic fantasy, I enjoyed Mistborn very much. It is a heist-style story (Think Ocean's Eleven) with a magic system that is unique and very well though out. Vin is likable and relatable, and is reluctant in a realistic way without overdoing it. She even challenges what the reader comes to accept as the norm for the world of the story, questioning the views of everyone on both sides of the main issues in a refreshing way. The romantic interest is a clueless bookworm I was totally drawn to because of the people in my life that he reminds me of, and the plot twists were unpredictable yet right. I haven't read the rest of the series yet, but I very much enjoyed this one and recommend it highly.


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!

Friday, June 3, 2022

Weekend Reads: The Lily Gate by Hanna Sandvig (Sarah Sawyer)


 

 If you ever meet a talking frog—any chatty amphibian, really—my advice would be to ignore it. That’s what I should have done, anyway.

Born part human and part fae, Tuala received a christening gift from her faerie godmother—that of true love. Her godmother foretells that a competition for her hand in marriage will reveal her destined mate, and now that she’s eighteen, it’s time for the games to begin. Her mortal father isn’t too keen on this idea, so he’s added some stipulations of his own.

What follows this introduction to Tuala and her fate is a short, sweet retelling of The Frog Prince with hints of a broader and more expansive world of inhabited by all sorts of faerie creatures. Characters that appear in Sandvig’s full-length novel retelling of Beauty and the Beast make a cameo appearance here also, but you can easily enjoy the story without having read any of the other books in the series. So if you're looking for a lighthearted tale well-suited for a quick summer read, then check out The Lily Gate

An an aside, Sandvig is also an illustrator and has lovely character art you can check on her website. Are you a fan of being able to see illustrations from the characters and worlds of the books you read? I definitely am!

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!