Author Interview: Melissa Bashardoust

Last week, I shared my review of the fairy tale inspired YA fantasy Girl, Serpent, Thorn. This week, I have the privilege of sharing a short Q&A with the author Melissa Bashardoust!

Q) You are a lifelong lover of fairy tales and their retellings. Your first novel, Girls Made of Snow and Glass, was a feminist retelling of “Snow White,” and in Girl, Serpent, Thorn, you reference fairy tales such as “Sleeping Beauty” and the Persian epic The Shahnameh. What about fairy tales makes them so ripe for retellings, and how do you go about updating classic tales for 21st century readers?

A) In terms of retellings, what makes fairy tales so appealing to me is that they have such great bones but also a lot of room for exploration. The basic story structure is there for you to use or change as you wish, but the psychology of the characters is only hinted at, which allows you as the author to dig deep and try to ground fantastical events in relatable human instincts and emotions that are still relevant to modern readers. Fairy tales deal with a lot of universal themes and hopes and fears that translate well to almost
any setting, so I like to find those themes and bring them more to the forefront.

Q) Can you talk a bit about the stories and fairy tales that influenced Girl, Serpent, Thorn and why you wanted to draw inspiration from the myths and legends of your own cultural background?

A) In the beginning, I was very interested in doing something that combined “Sleeping Beauty” with “Rappaccini’s Daughter.” I had been thinking about both of these stories for a while and realized that part of what drew me to them was the juxtaposition between a seemingly powerless or harmless young woman and something dangerous surrounding her. “Rappaccini’s Daughter” initially presents the unassuming image of a girl in a garden until you find out that both the girl and the garden are poisonous. “Sleeping Beauty” has a sleeping princess whose castle is surrounded by deadly thorns and briars. In both cases, I love that contrast of a character who seems passive or docile but is actually deadly. At that point, I had already started to read a little about Persian mythology and folklore and explore some of the stories in the Shahnameh. Growing up Persian in the US, you’re bombarded with so much negative news and media coverage, and so I wanted to remind myself that there is actually much to be proud of in that heritage. Stories have always been how I connect and relate to anything, so when I knew I wanted to dig deeper into my cultural background, my first instinct was to look into myth and folklore, which led me to the Shahnameh. I think writing this book—combining my cultural background with the Western fairy tales I grew up with—was my way of bringing together these two influences that have played such important roles in my life.

Q) All her life, Soraya has been told that her poisonous touch is a curse, something to be ashamed of and something to keep hidden away in the shadows. Throughout Girl, Serpent, Thorn, she wrestles with the question of whether she is, in fact, more monster than princess, and part of her journey involves discovering that what she’s always thought was her greatest weakness may, in fact, be a source of empowerment. Where did the idea of a princess who may be a monster come from, and why did you want to explore the tension between the way the world sees Soraya and her struggle to determine her own sense of self?

A) The initial idea of a princess with monstrous qualities came from that contrast in “Sleeping Beauty” and in “Rappaccini’s Daughter” between apparent passivity and actual danger—between a sleeping princess and the thorns that surround her. There’s an interplay there between power and vulnerability, isolation and protection, and autonomy and the loss of it, that fascinates me. I love playing with archetypes, and so was drawn to the idea of taking an archetype that we usually associate with being more docile or defenseless, like the fairy tale princess, and giving her something that makes her dangerous—in Soraya’s case, not only literally but also in the sense of giving her destructive emotions that she struggles with because they go against the idea of the kind of girl she feels she’s supposed to be. Soraya finds it isolating and painful to be outside the role made for her, but she also starts to question whether it can be liberating to exist and define herself outside of that structure altogether—and whether these needs for both belonging and self-determination can be reconciled without losing a piece of herself. Is it acceptable to have the qualities of both a princess and a monster—and what do you gain or lose by having to choose one over the other?

Q) Without giving too much away, there are two characters in the novel who seem to see and celebrate Soraya for who she truly is, and Soraya, for her part, is drawn to each of them for different reasons. Was it fun to play with those dynamics, and why did you want to have two very different characters potentially vying for Soraya’s heart?

A) I love some drama, so it was definitely fun to play with those different dynamics, especially as they change and shift over the course of the novel. Soraya sees herself in both of those characters, and so it becomes a choice of which parts of herself she wants to protect and cultivate. But at the same time, she still has to acknowledge and come to terms with the parts of herself she doesn’t like. Being confronted with both of those characters—the choices they’ve made and the resulting consequences—allows her to
ultimately get a more complete picture of herself.

Q) Within all the thrills and magical adventure of Girl, Serpent, Thorn, there is a very human story about a teenaged girl who is fighting with her mother and feels misunderstood by her family—a girl who wants nothing more than to spread her wings and leave the nest, so to speak. Can you talk about the role of family in Girl, Serpent, Thorn and why you wanted to ground such a sweeping narrative in something so real and relatable

A) This is something that became present more and more with each draft, exactly because it’s real and relatable and so allows the more fantastical elements of the story an emotional grounding. I think figuring out your role in your family—however you choose to define it—is a fairly universal journey. Soraya is often presented with an all-or-nothing choice—to be swallowed up by her family’s needs or to reject them completely—and part of her journey is trying to figure out if there’s a middle ground, a space for herself among her family and her people where she can exist freely. The book also contrasts the stories we are told by our families with the way those stories come undone—and what we learn about ourselves and our families in the process.

Q) We have to ask—what are you working on next? Are there any more fairy tale retellings that readers can look forward to, or will your next book take you in a new direction?

A) Coming out next year, I have a short story based on The Winter’s Tale in Dahlia Adler’s anthology of Shakespeare retellings, That Way Madness Lies. (And while Shakespeare’s play isn’t a fairy tale, it’s definitely in the same neighborhood!)

 

Order your own copy of Girl, Serpent, Thorn here!

Follow Melissa Bashardoust on Amazon here and check out her website here!

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*Special thanks to Claire McLaughlin of Flatiron Books for providing this Q&A.

 

Book Tour: Amethyst by Jesse Nolan Bailey

Thank you Storytellers on Tour for giving me the opportunity to read and highlight this phenomenal recently released adult new weird fantasy, Amethyst by Jesse Nolan Bailey! Readers, be sure to check out SOT and the rest of the book tour!

Amethyst opens with Rashell stopping the village leader Keer from potentially murdering an outsider through a process known as purging in an attempt to “cleanse” him of the outside. The outsider, though a stranger to Rashell, has arrived after receiving her request for help – her brother is missing and no one in the village will help her, including Keer.

The outsider, Derrick, soon reveals that he is there for more than to investigate Rashell’s brother’s disappearance. He was sent to learn more about the village itself and rumors of a cult. He is quickly thrown into the midst of the people’s worship of a great Amethyst and mummified entity known as the Oracle. While investigating, he discovers a strange grave robber and other oddities that Rashell can’t fathom fitting together – but everything does.

Bailey has created a fascinating novella that turns fantasy on its head – the scenes with the Oracle? The visions it gives? The glowing giant Amethyst? The creature? Y’ALL. This paired with themes of the dangers of ignorance, the dangers of isolation, and the power of nature create an enthralling read.

I also admire Bailey’s choice to create a transgendered character, but being transgendered does not drive the plot – it is simply part of the character’s identity.

I will admit to guessing a twist in the story early on, but it did not ruin the read as Bailey has strong, descriptive world building and character development. I highly recommend this book to lovers of weird and strange fantasy with elements of horror – it is a creepily captivating read. Overall, I give Amethyst 4 stars, and I hope to read more by Bailey in the future!

Get your copy of Amethyst today here, and remember to follow Jesse Nolan Bailey on social media!

https://www.jessenolanbailey.com/

https://www.goodreads.com/jessenbailey

https://www.instagram.com/jesse.nolan.bailey/

https://www.facebook.com/jesseNbailey/

Book Review: Silence and Shadow by Nicole Adamz and Brooke Chastain

The second installment of the Iron Lotus Series, Silence and Shadow, will be available November 23 – go ahead and set a reminder on your calendar, because you don’t want to miss it!

Silence & Shadow is a YA novella suitable for all ages and anyone who is:

✓ Looking to explore a new world

✓ Craves a sweet sibling relationship

✓ Hungry to read but crunched on time

If you liked Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, then you will ♥love♥ this exciting twist on the classic tale!

After reading the first novella of the series, A Queen’s Throne, see my review here, I was beyond ready for book two. Each book centers around one of the Meili sisters, with Silence and Shadow centered on Shiyan. I quickly fell in love with Shiyan, inspired by Alcott’s Beth, and her good nature and loving heart.

Shiyan has never looked past the present, but begins dreaming of a future after falling for the kind-hearted Dr. Bakari at Qi Infirmary where she works. However, will she be able to fulfill her dreams of the future? Her quiet demeanor makes her an easy target for an evil plotter against the Meili family, and Shiyan faces a great battle in which she struggles to survive.

If you enjoy books that lead to tears, then you will enjoy this book – I cried for a majority of this novella. The ending was expected, but still it broke my heart. I’m still reeling, and have a major book hangover – signs of a good book, in my humble opinion.

Christian undertones and themes of God’s will, family bonds, responsibility to family, forgiveness, and purpose all create a thought provoking story. The evil plotter, introduced in book one, becomes even more loathsome, and I find myself struggling with wanting to see a redemption arc while also wanting to see them suffer greatly for the pain they cause.

Overall, Adamz and Chastain have created a wonderful world that I can’t wait to continue to immerse myself in – I give this book 5/5 stars, and I anxiously await book three.

Link to purchase A Queen’s Throne is here.

Link to purchase Silence and Shadow is here.

I received a free copy of this book, but all opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

“Sometimes the princess is the monster.”

Whew, life kept getting in the way and I didn’t think I would finish this book, but I’m so glad I finally did – it is SO GOOD! If you love twisted fairy tale inspired stories, then Girl, Serpent, Thorn (ISBN: 978-1250196149) is the book is for you!

Soraya grows up listening to stories – “There was and there was not” – including the story of a girl who was cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But that isn’t some fairy tale – that’s Soraya’s life. Cursed before her birth, or so the story goes, Soraya has never known another’s touch. She hides away, using secret passageways to maneuver around her palace home.

Upon learning of the shah’s, her twin brother’s, upcoming wedding to her former best, and only, friend Laleh, Soraya is overcome with emotion. That paired with years of longing, loneliness, and desperation, lead her to attempt to break out of the shadows she has long been confined to. She ventures to the dungeon below to speak to a demon for answers to questions she has long bottled up. Urged on by a handsome soldier, Soraya does all that she can to find answers and lift her curse – but she finds her choices have consequences she could have never imagined.

Who is she and who is she becoming? Is she who she wants to be? Is she powerless or powerful?

Bashardoust writes eloquently, and her words captivate the reader with every paragraph. And Soraya’s problems, though fantastical, are very much relatable. Problems with accepting yourself flaws and all? Struggles for finding your purpose and your place in the world? Issues with understanding and accepting your feelings? I think we’ve all been there. Soraya’s overall character arc is spellbinding, and the twists and turns keep you wanting more until the very end.

I also love the love story – it isn’t who you expect Soraya to fall for initially, but it is beautiful.

Overall, this is a fabulous book that blurs the line between princess and monster – in truth, aren’t we all a little bit of both? I give this book 5/5 stars. Readers of YA fantasy, fairy tale inspired stories, and unexpected romances will fall in love with Girl, Serpent, Thorn.

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Order your copy of Girl, Serpent, Thorn here!

Book Review: Mexican Gothic

The future, she thought, could not be predicted, and the shape of things could not be divined. To think otherwise was absurd. But they were young that morning, and they could cling to hope. Hope that the world could be remade, kinder and sweeter.  — Mexican Gothic

Happy Halloween, friends!

What better way to celebrate Halloween than with a Gothic horror story? Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (978-0525620785) is a tale reminiscent of Emily Bronte and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, with a fantastical horrific twist.

Noemi Taboada is a highly social debutante in 1950 Mexico City. She is cast for the role of unlikely hero when her father sends her to the Mexican countryside to check on the well being and mental state of her cousin, Catalina, after he received a disturbing letter — a letter discussing poison, death, and ghosts.

Strong-willed Noemi arrives to Catalina’s new home, and finds that there is not much she can do for Catalina in the inhospitable house that is High Place, home of the Doyles. Catalina’s husband, Virgil, is, for lack of a better word, a bully, and refuses to seek psychiatric help for his ill wife who speaks of voices and ghosts. Virgil’s father, Howard, the family’s patriarch, finds Noemi beautiful, but inferior because of her race, and does not think highly of her opinion. Virgil’s cousin, Florence, is condescending and overbearing, and finds fault in all that Noemi does, declaring she is reckless. The only ally Noemi finds is through the meek and timid Frances, Virgil’s cousin — but he, too, has secrets.

But the unwelcoming atmosphere is not the most disturbing thing — at night, the house comes to life, invading Noemi’s subconscious and filling her head with awful visions and nightmares. Through a woman in town at the base of the mountain, Noemi learns violent and murderous secrets from the Doyles’ family history. And through her time at High Place, Noemi learns the why behind the madness. But Noemi also learns that one simply does not leave the Doyle family home.

Will Noemi be able to save her cousin and escape High Place?

Y’ALL. The last forty pages had me sitting on the edge of my seat glued to every word! There were some times in the first portion of the novel I felt the pacing was a bit slow, but the latter portion of the book really made up for it. In addition, I was very satisfied with the ending, something I honestly didn’t expect before starting the book.

The themes of family, loyalty, race, and feminism make this book an excellent book club read.

Overall, I give Mexican Gothic 4/5 stars. A wonderfully executed novel, I highly recommend this book to lovers of Gothic horror and exciting thrills. This is the perfect read for lovers of classic Gothic literature and spooky and creepy things.

Grab yourself a cup of Slyther and Sage tea, and tell me what are you reading in honor of Halloween? I would love to know — comment below!

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Order Mexican Gothic here!

Author Interview: Samantha Shaw

Happy Spooky season, friends! Last week, I shared my review of the delightfully scary short story “Gethen Manor.” This week, I am honored to share an interview with the author Samantha Shaw. Shaw is a resident of eastern Ohio, and has two jobs: one being an author and running a bookstagram and two being an accounts payable manager of a golf course. Shaw hopes to one day become a full time author (and with her gift, I fully believe she will make that a reality!).

Living every day like it is Halloween, Shaw loves October because now everyone is in the same boat. Shaw enjoys reading, writing, playing video games, watching YouTube with her husband, and riding roller coasters – she says she is obsessed with them! She told me, “I’m well-versed in [roller coaster] mechanics, stats, and history in general. If I didn’t want to be a full-time author, I’d pursue a career in the amusement industry.”

Read our full interview below to learn more about Shaw and her writing!

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Q) How long have you been writing?

A) I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve been writing short stories, poetry, and song lyrics since I learned how to write full sentences. However, I started taking writing seriously when I signed up for a creative writing class in my sophomore year of high school. I began professionally writing in college.

Q) Why do you write?

A) I feel like I need to. My mind is always full of words and ideas that fascinate me, and I want to get them down on paper to see where they take me. Additionally, if I don’t get them out, they get compacted in my brain, and there are already too many thoughts up there. When I think about my life, I’m often reminded of the Paramore lyrics “Keep your feet on the ground while your head’s in the clouds.” I’m always drifting off into my own little world, and writing is the best way for me to stay grounded.

Q) What is your favorite genre to read? To write?

A) I’ll read anything that interests me, but my favorite to write and read is horror, thriller, supernatural, etc.

Q) What is your favorite book and why?

A) So, I have two. I can’t pick one over the other because I love them for very different reasons.

One is ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ by Stephen Chbosky. Not only do I love Charlie’s story, but I fully believe I am the person I am today because of this book. It made me feel like I wasn’t alone in a very vulnerable time in my life. It helped me understand and grapple with my anxiety disorders as I grew up. Perks is SO important to me.

The other is ‘The Elementals’ by Michael McDowell. I could gush about this book for hours, but to keep things short, I think it’s the best horror novel I’ve ever read. It checks off all my boxes for the perfect haunted house story. If I achieve anything with my bookstagram, I hope I can help build the fan-base Mr. McDowell deserved in life.

Q) Who is your favorite author and why?

A) I absolutely cannot pick just one, so I’ll list a few: Edgar Allan Poe, Michael McDowell, Dawn Kurtagich, Stephen Chbosky, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Adam Vine… I’ll cut myself off here.

Q) What is your favorite horror movie?

A) The Shining. I know it’s a far stretch from King’s original work, but Kubrick’s vision is brilliant.

Midsommar has recently become a close second.

Q) Who is someone that inspires you?

A) I’d probably say Edgar Allan Poe. Reading “The Tell-Tale Heart” in 7th grade kicked my love of horror into gear. And made me even more of a weird kid, haha.

Q) What inspired “Gethen Manor? What was your purpose for writing the story?

A) The idea came to me after a bad bout of writer’s block. While I was working on a different piece of fiction, I had a dream about a Gothic mansion and a couple trying desperately to escape its horrors. I won’t include spoilers, but I also dreamt about the twist. I woke up and immediately wrote down everything I could remember. And I built the backstory and setting around the events of my dream.

In terms of media that influenced “Gethen Manor,” I’d say I drew inspiration from the film “Crimson Peak,” “The Elementals,” and just about every supernatural YA romance I’ve ever read.

Q) Can you tell us about your current WIP?

A) My current WIP is a novel I started writing 8 years ago. It’s a mystery thriller [releasing this winter].

“Micah Gray knows what it’s like to die.

For the past year, she’s grappled with her new, unexplainable gift: she can experience other people’s deaths. Any encounter with a dead body, even a picture of one, will send Micah into an all-encompassing hallucination, giving her a first-person perspective of the deceased’s last moments.

Luckily, she’s not alone. She’s found refuge in her childhood home of Sapphire Lake, living with her long-estranged grandmother that happens to have the same bizarre gift Micah does. With her grandmother’s guidance and wisdom, Micah is learning how to manage her life with her new power (and slowly accepting that she might not be completely crazy.)

But not all is peaceful in the small, lakeside town. A tourist’s body has washed ashore and only Micah knows that her death was not an accident. Someone, unidentifiable in the darkness of night, drowned her, and Micah, her grandmother, and Benjamin Root (Micah’s ex-boyfriend and the only cop in Sapphire Lake that might believe her), may be the only ones to catch the murderer.”

Sapphire Lake will be released this Winter.

Q) Can you tell us about your hope and vision for your writing?

A) I hope that I’ll continue to grow my skills as a writer, impress my readers, and eventually, dedicate even more of my life to writing.

Q) What advice do you have for other authors?

A) You’re going to get stuck at times. It’s inevitable. I had a delusion throughout college that if I could just get published, my writer’s block would just stop. I can assure you this is not the case. But don’t stop writing. Always look for inspiration. Write down any ideas you have, even if it’s only a few words. And please, don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t get as much done as you wanted in the day/week/month. Even if you stumble or take a break, you’re still headed towards the finish line.

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Get your copy of “Gethen Manor” today here, and be sure to follow Samantha Shaw on social media!

Instagram: https://instagram.com/sshawauthor 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Samantha-Shaw-Author-111599027030989/

Short Story Review: Gethen Manor by Samantha Shaw

Happy Spooky Season, friends! In honor of October, and all things spectacularly scary, I read the short story “Gethen Manor” by Samantha Shaw. “Gethen Manor” is a quick and delightfully horrific tale of a Halloween party gone wrong. I highly recommend this story to fans of horror, demons, and writing that keeps you sitting on the edge of your seat.

The story opens with a group of college students in an SUV. Aiden gets angry upon learning that his brother Ezra, the driver, is taking everyone to their home, Gethen Manor. Anna, who has a crush on Aiden, is unsure why Aiden is so upset. Despite Aiden’s protests, the group goes to the manor anyway. Upon arriving, the young adults begin playing Halloween music and drinking – celebrating and partying. However, a game of hide and seek will show that things are not what they seem. Who will die and who will survive?

Eek! Shaw’s descriptions allowed me to perfectly visualize what was happening. The story has great tension, and I love the background on Gethen Manor. At one point, I thought the story was going to be about vampires, but was pleasantly surprised with the demonic twist Shaw spins. However, there are questions left unanswered at the end of the story – I wish there had been a bit more.

Overall, I give this short story 4.5/5 stars. I think it is a great story for adults who want to get spooked, this season or any time of the year!

Order “Gethen Manor” on Amazon here.

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Author Interview: Rosalyn Briar

Last week, I shared my 5 star review of the dark fantasy The Crown of Bones. This week I had the privilege to interview the author Rosalyn Briar. In addition to being a gifted writer, Briar is a stay-at-home mom. Living in Illinois, Briar enjoys reading, swimming, and spending time with her family. Fun fact: Briar used to teach Latin and social studies. Read our full interview below to learn more about Briar and her writing!

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Q) How long have you been writing?
A) About 2 1/2 years.
Q) Why do you write?
A) It is a wonderful creative outlet for me.
Q) What is your favorite genre to read? To write?
A) I love reading dark fantasy, mystery, and thrillers. I prefer to write dark fantasy that borders on horror.
Q) What is your favorite book and why?
A) Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. It sparked a lifelong love of all things whimsical and creepy.
Q) Who is your favorite author and why?
A) I will read anything by Gillian Flynn. I love thrillers and her twists, and turns are amazing.
Q) What inspired The Crown of Bones? What was your purpose for writing the book?
A) I’ve always been a fan of the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales and, for a long time, I had been thinking of a way to incorporate them into a dark fantasy horror. Then one day, my husband’s Oma was telling me about how, in her old hometown in Germany, they not only posted obituaries in the paper, but sent out death notices to those who knew the deceased. I thought about how creepy it would be to receive death notices before someone died. That sparked the idea for the Black Letter in the story and it all fell into place from there.
Q) Did anyone or anything influence the romance between Gisela and Brahm?
A) I wanted their romance to be sweet and “friends-to-lovers.” Some of Brahm’s personality was definitely inspired by my husband’s flirtatious nature.
Q) What was your favorite fairy tale to weave into your book and why?
A) I really loved weaving in the story of Iron Heinrich, which is more popularly known as The Frog Prince — but most people completely leave out the main character of that story and focus only on the prince. I wanted to give Heinrich his due and make him a character in my story.
Q) I’m so excited that there is going to be a sequel! Can you tell us about it?
A) The Bone Needle will be a dual-POV novel split between Brahm and Gisela. Brahm, Bergot, and a team of brave helpers must find a way to defeat Hexegot from the outside without harming Gisela. All the while, Gisela’s consciousness weaves between the Otherworld and Hexegot’s own mind — a sick and twisted place. Can she escape the darkness and still be the Gisela we know and love when she wakes?
Q) Can you tell us about your hope and vision for your writing?
A) I hope to find readers who enjoy dark fantasy and all things whimsically creepy. I want to inspire others to become writers as well.
Q) What are some of your writing goals?
A) My near-future goals are to publish the audiobook of The Crown of Bones and to publish my second novel this fall. A Sea of Pearls & Leaves is a gothic retelling of the Grimm’s Fairy Tale “The Three Snake-Leaves” about an eccentric princess who wishes to avoid marriage. I then hope to complete and publish The Bone Needle next spring.
Q) What advice do you have for other authors?
A) Read as much as you can and never give up! For more specific advice, I would say to seek feedback from beta readers for your writing so you can improve.
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Remember to order your copy of The Crown of Bones here, and be sure to follow Rosalyn Briar on social media to stay up to date with her and her writing!

Book Review: The Crown of Bones by Rosalyn Briar

The Crown of Bones by Rosalyn Briar (ISBN: 978-1655164422) is an incredible piece of adult fiction that combines “The Lottery” and Grimms’ Fairy Tales. Adult readers who enjoy dark fantasy, a splash of horror, and an exceptional romance trope, will fall in love with The Crown of Bones.

The main character, Gisela, is a fiery and stubborn young woman. While leaving the market one day, she is accosted by the wealthy Albert, nephew of the High Priest. Albert has been pursuing Gisela for months to be his wife, but Gisela continues to refuse his advances. Things turn ugly in the alley leaving the market, and Gisela’s former love interest, Brahm, intervenes. Albert tells Gisela and Brahm that they will regret their actions, but no one guessed exactly what he would do.

The next day, Gisela receives her Black Letter – a letter identifying her as one of eight chosen to be an Offering to the goddess Bergot. The beautifully heartbreaking scene of Gisela saying goodbye to her family, especially her younger sister Thora, brought tears to my eyes – Briar is talented like that.

Gisela and the other Offerings are released into an ashen forest in which they must find the Crown of Bergot. However, every step they take they are faced with trials and tribulations, that are eerie echoes of the fairy tales Gisela once read. Can the Offerings outrun death? Can Gisela survive in order to return to take care of her family?

Briar does an excellent job creating tension within every page of her writing, and she provides a few twists that I didn’t see coming. The romance trope is tantalizing and keeps you engrossed in every word. The fantasy world is excellently crafted, and I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The only thing I didn’t enjoy was the ending. It ends with a cliffhanger, and I’m not a fan of cliffhangers. . . BUT there is a sequel in the works!

Even with feelings of frustration and disappointment with not having closure in the end, I still have to give this book 5 stars. Why? Because the world building is phenomenal, the characters have depth, the romance trope is well-done, and the overall writing is wonderful! This book is delightfully creepy, and I enjoyed the e-version so much I do plan on ordering myself the paperback!

I will say this book is for ADULTS, and contains violence, cursing, and sexual situations. If any of these make you uncomfortable, this book may not be for you. HOWEVER, if these are not triggers for you, and you enjoy dark fantasy, this book is for you!

Link to purchase on Amazon. 

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Book Review: Able Soul: Empowering God’s Spirit Within by Lucy Goncalves

A few weeks ago I was the lucky winner of a giveaway on Instagram where I received a copy of Able Soul: Empowering God’s Spirit Within (ISBN: 978-1-9990326-1-6) by Lucy Goncalves. Goncalves shares her personal testimony of how trusting God has lead to opportunities that otherwise would have been impossible. Living with Cerebal Palsey (CP), Goncalves has struggled not only with a physical disability, but of being pre-judged by others, and often feeling like she had no voice. Yet, through listening to God’s guidance, Goncalves has created an uplifting and encouraging book that will aid readers no matter what season of life they are in. Praise be to God for Goncalves and her testimony – this book has truly been a blessing in my life.

The book contains twenty-one anecdotal stories complete with a spiritual lesson, inspirational Bible verses, and a prayer. “Prayer is the Breath of Life for Our Souls,” spoke to me right at the beginning of me delving into the book. Goncalves writes, “Prayer is essential to our well-being and to the goodness of God that we need to access in order to serve humanity.” In a later story, “Hunger to Serve,” Goncalves explains how serving, loving, and supporting others allows us one to become a vessel of the Holy Spirit. I loved Goncalves lessons, and I took time to reflect on my own acts of service. I want to do more in my daily life to serve and empower others.

Reading through the stories, I was inspired by Goncalves’ positive attitude and her relationship with God. She has overcome so much (aside from her physical disability), and her words encouraged me to reflect on my own personal relationship with God. In addition to wanting to do more acts of service in my daily life, I want to take more time to pray and ensure I watch my weekly church sermons (my congregation is still not meeting face-to-face because of COVID-19). I also want to be more positive, more forgiving, and more open to acknowledging God’s blessings in my life.

Overall, Able Soul encourages one to grow their relationship with God, and teaches the reader that with God all things are possible. I rate this book 5/5 stars, and I recommend everyone, no matter where you are in your spiritual journey with Christ, to pick up this book today!

Order here from Amazon.

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“Go ahead and make all the plans you want, but it’s the Lord who will ultimately direct your steps. . .Before you do anything, put your trust totally in God and not in yourself. Then every plan you make will succeed.” – Proverbs 16:1-3 (TPT)