Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Blog Tour | JIDDY VARDY by Ruth Estevez

About the Book:

by Ruth Estevez
Publication: ZunTold Publishing
Genre: Historical Fiction for Young Adults


On tumultuous waters a girl is born as pirates board the ship . . .

Jiddy Vardy is a survivor.

Rescued at birth, she grows up in Robin Hood’s Bay, a community which harbours a dangerous secret that could get you killed.

Always the outsider, with her dark skin and hair, at sixteen Jiddy is clever, brave and headstrong, soon risking her life and freedom to play her part in the Bay’s clandestine activities.

Then, just as romance blossoms and Jiddy finally feels like she belongs, figures from the past threaten to tear her world apart, and she has to decide where her loyalties truly lie.

A thrilling tale of one girl’s search for identity and love, set against a backdrop of wild seas, smuggling and violence.

"Captivating, highly descriptive, and unflinching,
this is a book you will not want to put down."

-Bonnie Reads and Writes
"The author has a good way with words and a nice writing style."

*Start reading the series now, before the series finale 'Jiddy Vardy Full Sail' comes out on December 2nd!


About the Author:

Ruth Estevez was born in Yorkshire. Often the much-loved landscape is a third character in her novels. A career in theatre, TV and a subscription library have influenced her work. Script writing for Bob the Builder morphed into novel writing. Very much a Northern writer with Latin touches. Interested in social differences, the outsider and finding our place in the world.

*Content sent by @TheWriteReads for this blog's publication. This is a free ad.

Blog Tour | Arvia: Wings of the Wild (Tales of Arvia #4) by D. H. Willison

About the Book:

Arvia: Wings of the Wild (Tales of Arvia #4)
by D. H. Willison
Publication: 22nd November 2023
Genre: Fantasy

It’s easy to stand up for your friends. What about anonymous creatures nobody else cares about?

With their homes apparently safe from the magical storms, Darin and Rinloh venture to an isolated elven village and another ancient mystery: ruins of an imperial city whose entire population vanished centuries ago.

The duo befriend a host of eccentric new characters, from a chipper ogress and hipster troll to a deadpan griffin. Yet the Forest of Nightmares challenges them as never before. Merciless carnivorous trees, subterranean horrors, ethereal creatures no mortal weapon can slay… and most sinister of all, the greed and ambition lurking within the human heart.

Darin and Rinloh’s empathic connection grows stronger the deeper into the wilderness they go, but will it be enough to stop a dark conspiracy from ravaging the land?

Arvia: Wings of the Wild challenges the harpy-human duo with their grandest adventure yet. They must balance their deepening relationship as they sharpen their skills and work together as never before to unravel a deadly new plot.

"Willison populates Arvia with quirky creatures
that do not follow the standard monster tropes."
"The humour also kept me laughing and entertained."
-Just Book Talk


About the Author:

D.H. Willison is a reader, writer, game enthusiast and developer, engineer, and history buff. He’s lived or worked in over a dozen countries, learning different cultures, viewpoints, and attitudes, which have influenced his writing, contributing to one of his major themes: alternate and creative conflict resolution. The same situations can be viewed by different cultures quite differently. Sometimes it leads to conflict, sometimes to hilarity. Both make for a great story.

He’s also never missed a chance to visit historic sites, from castle dungeons, to catacombs, to the holds of tall ships, to the tunnels of the Maginot Line. It might be considered research, except for the minor fact that his tales are all set on the whimsical and terrifying world of Arvia. Where giant mythic monsters are often more easily overcome with empathy than explosions.

Subscribe to his newsletter for art, stories, and humorous articles (some of which are actually intended to be humorous).

You may get his new book here.

*Content sent by @TheWriteReads for this blog's publication. This is a free ad.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Book Review | BINDLE PUNK BRUJA by Desideria Mesa

Bindle Punk Bruja
by Desideria Mesa
Publication: September 13, 2022
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Rating: ★★

A part-time reporter and club owner takes on crooked city councilmen, mysterious and deadly mobsters, and society's deeply rooted sexism and racism, all while keeping her true identity and magical abilities hidden --inspired by an ancient Mexican folktale.

Yo soy quien soy. I am who I am.

Luna--or depending on who's asking, Rose--is the white-passing daughter of an immigrant mother who has seen what happens to people from her culture. This world is prejudicial, and she must hide her identity in pursuit of owning an illegal jazz club. Using her cunning powers, Rose negotiates with dangerous criminals as she climbs up Kansas City's bootlegging ladder. Luna, however, runs the risk of losing everything if the crooked city councilmen and ruthless mobsters discover her ties to an immigrant boxcar community that secretly houses witches. Last thing she wants is to put her entire family in danger.

But this bruja with ever-growing magical abilities can never resist a good fight. With her new identity, Rose, an unabashed flapper, defies societal expectations all the while struggling to keep her true self and witchcraft in check. However, the harder she tries to avoid scrutiny, the more her efforts eventually capture unwanted attention. Soon, she finds herself surrounded by greed and every brand of bigotry--from local gangsters who want a piece of the action and businessmen who hate her diverse staff to the Ku Klux Klan and Al Capone. Will her earth magic be enough to save her friends and family? As much as she hates to admit it, she may need to learn to have faith in others--and learning to trust may prove to be her biggest ambition yet.

I was excited to read BINDLE PUNK BRUJA, a book that promised to combine 1920s glamour, gangsters, politics, and magic with a Latina heroine. Unfortunately, the book didn't live up to my expectations to deliver a coherent and engaging story. The book follows Rose/Luna, a bruja who runs a speakeasy in 1920s New York and must deal with racism, sexism, and probably everything else in between.

The premise sounded amazing, but the execution was lacking. The book felt like a mess of different plot threads that never came together or made sense. The pacing was uneven, the characters were underdeveloped, and the magic system was vague and inconsistent. It took me several starts and stops, with weeks apart, to finish the book.

The only thing I liked about the book was the representation of a woman of color in a historical fantasy setting. I enjoyed the historical setting and the atmosphere of the 1920s, with its jazz, speakeasies, and social changes. I appreciated the author's attempt to portray the struggles and challenges that Rose/Luna faced as a biracial woman in a hostile society. I appreciated the representation of her culture and heritage, and how it influenced her choices and actions. I also liked the idea of her having two identities: Rose, the glamorous and successful club owner who passes as white, and Luna, the powerful and rebellious bruja who embraces her heritage. However, I felt that this aspect was not explored enough or explained well. I was confused about how Rose/Luna's magic worked and what it meant for her personality and relationships. I wanted to know more about her family, her culture, and her history.

Overall, I think this book wasted a great opportunity to tell a compelling and original story. It had a lot of potential, but it failed to deliver on its promises.


About the Author:

Desideria Mesa is often found getting lost in a historical, sci-fi, or high fantasy novel or crafting her own stories, of course. Aside from churning out novels, she enjoys writing songs, poetry, and short stories. Follow @DesideriaMesa on Twitter for writing discussion, slightly inappropriate jokes, and more information on her historical fantasy debut, Bindle Punk Bruja.

*Thanks to Harper Voyager for the printed ARC in exchange for this unbiased review.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Blog Tour | WILD COURT by Matthew Samuels

About the Book:

Wild Court
by Matthew Samuels
Publication: March 12th 2023
Genre: Fantasy

A secret organisation is losing the battle to maintain the empathy levels that sustain our planet’s barriers against the nightmare worlds."

Meanwhile, a young aristocrat safeguards a terrible secret, sponsoring an archaeology graduate obsessed with biblical artefacts. An all-knowing orphan worshiped by a cult joins a textbook exemplar of toxic masculinity and an introverted librarian. Together with a retired demon hunter, they’ll face the apocalypse.

"It's really fast-paced, well written, and full of tension. Highly recommended."
"It's a really unique concept that I have not only not seen anywhere before..."
-The Book Dude


About the Author:

I’m Matthew Samuels, a science fiction and fantasy writer based in London, UK. I’m the author of the Sci-Fi Hopepunk adventure books Parasites and Dusk, the first two books in the Navigator Series, which you can buy on Amazon or read more about on Goodreads (Parasites, Dusk), and urban fantasy titles, Small Places, which you can buy and read about here, and Wild Court, which you can read and buy here.

*Content sent by @TheWriteReads for this blog's publication. This is a free ad.

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Book Review | NORTH WOODS by Daniel Mason

North Woods
by Daniel Mason
Publication: September 19, 2023
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: ★★★★

A sweeping novel about a single house in the woods of New England, told through the lives of those who inhabit it across the centuries—a daring, moving tale of memory and fate from the Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of The Piano Tuner and The Winter Soldier.

When a pair of young lovers abscond from a Puritan colony, little do they know that their humble cabin in the woods will become home to an extraordinary succession of inhabitants . An English soldier, destined for glory, abandons the battlefields of the New World to devote himself to apples. A pair of spinster twins survive war and famine, only to succumb to envy and desire. A crime reporter unearths a mass grave, but finds the ancient trees refuse to give up their secrets. A lovelorn painter, a conman, a stalking panther, a lusty as each one confronts the mysteries of the north woods, they come to realize that the dark, raucous, beautiful past is very much alive.

Traversing cycles of history, nature, and even literature, North Woods shows the myriad, magical ways in which we’re connected to our environment and to one another, across time, language and space. Written along with the seasons and divided into the twelve months of the year, it is an unforgettable novel about secrets and fates that asks the timeless how do we live on, even after we’re gone? - PRH

North Woods is not your typical historical fiction, but rather a brilliant collection of interrelated stories that take place in the same patch of land in Massachusetts, from centuries ago to the present day. Each story introduces a new set of characters, each with their own voice and perspective, and each facing their own challenges and dilemmas. Some stories are told in prose, some in verse, some in dialogue, some in reportage. Some stories are realistic, some are fantastical, some are mysterious, some are tragic. But they all share a common thread: the presence and influence of the North Woods, a place that seems to have a life and a will of its own.

Mason is a master storyteller who can switch from one style and tone to another with ease and skill. He creates memorable characters that you can empathize with, even if you only spend a few pages with them. He also weaves subtle connections and clues between the stories, making you want to go back and reread them to find the hidden links. He explores themes such as love, death, freedom, justice, faith, and nature, showing how they change and endure over time. And he does it all with beautiful language and imagery that transport you to the different eras and atmospheres of the North Woods.

NORTH WOODS is a novel that will make you think and feel deeply about the human condition and our relationship with the natural world. It's a novel that may surprise you, perhaps. It's a novel that deserves to be read.


About the Author:
Daniel Mason was born and raised in Northern California. He studied biology at Harvard, and medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. His first novel, The Piano Tuner, published in 2002, was a national bestseller and has since been published in 27 countries. His other works include A Far Country, The Winter Soldier, and A Registry of My Passage Upon Earth, and his writing has appeared in Harper's Magazine and Lapham's Quarterly. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

*Thanks to Penguin Random House and Netgalley for the digital ARC in exchange for this unbiased review.

Sunday, November 5, 2023

Book Review | THE BREAKAWAY by Jennifer Weiner

The Breakaway
by Jennifer Weiner
Publication: August 29, 2023
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Romance
Rating: ★★★★

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Weiner comes a warmhearted and empowering new novel about love, family, friendship, secrets, and a life-changing journey.

Thirty-three-year-old Abby Stern has made it to a happy place. True, she still has gig jobs instead of a career, and the apartment where she’s lived since college still looks like she’s just moved in. But she’s got good friends, her bike, and her bicycling club in Philadelphia. She’s at peace with her plus-size body—at least, most of the time—and she’s on track to marry Mark Medoff, her childhood sweetheart, a man she met at the weight-loss camp that her perpetually dieting mother forced her to attend. Fifteen years after her final summer at Camp Golden Hills, when Abby reconnects with a half-his-size Mark, it feels like the happy ending she’s always wanted.

Yet Abby can’t escape the feeling that something isn’t right...or the memories of one thrilling night she spent with a man named Sebastian two years previously. When Abby gets a last-minute invitation to lead a cycling trip from NYC to Niagara Falls, she’s happy to have time away from Mark, a chance to reflect and make up her mind.

But things get complicated fast. First, Abby spots a familiar face in the group—Sebastian, the one-night stand she thought she’d never see again. Sebastian is a serial dater who lives a hundred miles away. In spite of their undeniable chemistry, Abby is determined to keep her distance. Then there’s a surprise last-minute addition to the trip: her mother, Eileen, the woman Abby blames for a lifetime of body shaming and insecurities she’s still trying to undo.

Over two weeks and more than seven hundred miles, strangers become friends, hidden truths come to light, a teenage girl with a secret unites the riders in unexpected ways...and Abby is forced to reconsider everything she believes about herself, her mother, and the nature of love.

I read my first book by Jennifer Weiner, The Breakaway, and I have to say I am not disappointed.

Weiner has a knack for writing engaging and realistic characters. The Breakaway is about a woman who leads a group bike trip from New York City to Niagara Falls, and has to deal with some unexpected guests along the way: her mother, who has always criticized her weight, and her former one-night stand, who might be more than just a fling.

Abby Stern credits cycling for helping her overcome her childhood trauma of being sent to weight-loss camp every summer by her mother, who never accepted her as she was. Now, as an adult, Abby is in a stable relationship with Mark, a fellow former camper who has lost half his weight and supports Abby unconditionally. He seemed set on spending forever with Abby, but she feels something is missing in their relationship. Maybe it's the fact that he won't touch sugar or learn to ride a bike with her. Maybe it's the fact that she still struggles with her self-esteem and body image.

When Abby gets the opportunity to lead a 12-day bike tour through New York, she jumps at it. It's a chance to do what she loves most, and to clear her head away from Mark. But she doesn't expect two surprise riders to join her: Sebastian, a charming and handsome man she had a one-night stand with before meeting Mark, and Eileen, her mother, who claims she wants to reconnect with Abby after years of estrangement. As Abby and Sebastian get closer on the road, Abby starts to question her feelings for Mark and wonder if Sebastian is the one for her. But can she trust him, especially after learning that he became famous on TikTok for sleeping around Brooklyn? And can she forgive her mother, who still triggers Abby's insecurities?

This is a delightful and heartwarming novel that explores themes of body acceptance, self-love, family, friendship, and romance. Abby is a relatable and likable protagonist, who grows as a person throughout the story. Weiner does a great job of portraying the complexities of Abby's relationship with her mother, as well as the chemistry between Abby and Sebastian. The secondary characters are also well-developed and add humor and depth to the story. Weiner also switches perspectives occasionally to give us a glimpse into their thoughts and feelings.

THE BREAKAWAY is a perfect book for anyone who enjoys a good romantic comedy with a dose of realism and social commentary.


About The Author:
Jennifer Weiner is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of twenty-one books, including The Summer Place, That Summer, Big Summer, Mrs. Everything, In Her Shoes, Good in Bed, and a memoir in essays, Hungry Heart. She has appeared on many national television programs, including Today and Good Morning America, and her work has been published in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, among other newspapers and magazines. Jennifer lives with her family in Philadelphia. Visit her online at Photo by Andrea Cipriani Mecchi

*Thanks to Simon & Schuster and Netgalley for the digital ARC in exchange for this unbiased review.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Book Review | TIME OUT by Sean Hayes, Todd Milliner, Carlyn Greenwald

by Sean Hayes, Todd Milliner, Carlyn Greenwald
Publication: May 30, 2023
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Teen Fiction / Coming-of-Age
Rating: ★★★★

Heartstopper meets Friday Night Lights in this “seamless, engrossing” (Publishers Weekly) coming-of-age story about a teen hometown hero who must find out who he is outside of basketball when his coming out as gay costs him his popularity and place on the team.

In his small Georgia town, Barclay Elliot is basically a legend. Here basketball is all that matters, and no one has a bigger spotlight than Barclay. Until he decides to use the biggest pep rally in the town’s history to come out to his school. And things change. Quickly.

Barclay is faced with hostility he never expected. Suddenly he is at odds with his own team, and he doesn’t even have his grandfather to turn to the way he used to. But who is Barclay if he doesn’t have basketball?

His best friend, Amy, thinks she knows. She drags him to her voting rights group, believing Barclay can find a bigger purpose. And he does, but he also finds Christopher. Aggravating, fearless, undeniably handsome Christopher. He and Barclay have never been each other’s biggest fans, but as Barclay starts to explore parts of himself he’s been hiding away, they find they might have much more in common than they originally thought.

As sparks turn into something more, though, Barclay has to decide if he’s ready to confront the privilege and popularity that have shielded him his entire life. Can he take a real shot at the love he was fighting for in the first place? -Simon & Schuster

I was pleasantly surprised by Time Out, a YA novel about a gay basketball star who faces homophobia and corruption in his small town. I was even more delighted when I learned that one of the authors is Sean Hayes, the actor who played Jack in Will & Grace. He and his co-authors did a great job of creating a realistic and engaging story that tackles some serious issues.

Time Out grabs your attention from the first page, when Barclay comes out as gay in front of his whole school. This sets the stage for a story full of drama, romance, and activism. I loved how Barclay's character grew throughout the book, as he faced the challenges of being out in a homophobic town. He made some mistakes, he struggles with his own ego and insecurities, which lead him to make some bad decisions that hurt the people who care about him. Along the way, he learned to be more confident and supportive of his friends and family. He had a great arc that made me root for him.

The book also did a great job of creating a realistic small-town vibe, with Barclay knowing everyone and everything that was going on. The plot was fast-paced and engaging, with short chapters that made me want to keep reading. The romance between Barclay and Christopher was slow but sweet, and I enjoyed seeing them get closer over time. They had a lot of chemistry and cute moments. I also enjoyed the friendship between Barclay, Amy, and Christopher, who form a loyal and fun trio. The book had a strong political theme, as Barclay and his friends campaigned for their town's elections and encouraged people to vote. I liked how the book showed the importance of civic engagement and standing up for what you believe in.

TIME OUT is a book that balances humor, heart, and hope. It is a book that celebrates diversity, courage, and acceptance. It shows the importance of being true to yourself and standing up for what is right. It also shows that being gay does not define you or limit you in any way. It's a great read for anyone who likes books with diverse characters, social justice, and adorable love stories.


About the Authors:

Sean Hayes
Sean Hayes is an Emmy Award–winning actor, best known for his role as Jack McFarland on the NBC sitcom Will & Grace. He is also a writer, comedian, and producer. In addition to his credits in television and film, he has also found success on Broadway. He lives with his husband, Scott Icenogle, in Los Angeles. Sean is the author of picture book Plum and young adult novel Time Out. 

Todd Milliner
Todd Milliner is an Emmy Award–winning producer and writer who cofounded Hazy Mills Productions with Sean Hayes in 2004. He has produced over 400 episodes of television, including hit NBC drama Grimm and the TV Land sitcom Hot in Cleveland. He lives with his husband, Michael Matthews, in Los Angeles. 

Carlyn Greenwald
Carlyn Greenwald writes romantic and thrilling page-turners for teens and adults. A film school graduate and former Hollywood lackey, she now works in publishing. She resides in Los Angeles, mourning the loss of ArcLight Cinemas and soaking in the sun with her dogs. Find her online on X (previously known as Twitter) @CarlynGreenwald and Instagram @Carlyn_Gee.

*Thanks to Simon & Schuster and Netgalley for the digital ARC in exchange for this unbiased review.