📚The book: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black 🍵The tea: Dragon Fruit Dream by Adagio Teas
📚 The Cruel Prince is an exceptional story that draws you in just like getting tricked into a bargain to go into the land of Faerie! I could not put it down, and I have really been meaning to get the rest of the series.
I hadn’t read anything by Holly Black since reading Tithe as a teenager. I remember it being one of my favorite books.
I was fortunate enough to meet Ms. Black at a convention in February (one of the last public things I’ve gotten to go to! So glad I went) at Boskone in Boston.
The characters of The Cruel Prince are complex and I really enjoy that a lot of them are morally grey. The fae characters are very grey, and though they can be dark sometimes, I think it’s “realistic”, as realistic as writing fae can be.
I can’t wait to read the next one and see where all the scheming goes!
It pairs nicely with Dragonfruit Dream tea, an intoxicating fruit herbal tea from Adagio Teas.
I picked it because it has these cute little apple pieces which reminded me of the sweet fruit of the realm of faerie. It makes a great iced tea, and I used my Teavana Teamaker to steep it in.
🍵 The tea: green tea sachets (from Costco!) 📚 The book: Wicked by Gregory Maguire
It’s far too hot for hot tea. These green tea sachets are pretty much the only “teabag” tea I willingly drink. They’re sold by Costco, but the tea itself is actually from Ito En, a Japanese beverage company that specializes in tea, and produces some excellent green tea.
If you’ve ever been to Japan, you can get cans of green tea (hot, right out of the vending machine), and they’re from Ito En. So it’s a nice throwback to our trips there.
The tea sachets can be brewed either hot or cold. For hot, I steep for under a minute. (Steeping long is how you get bitter tea!) For cold, you can just put a tea sachet in some cold water. I brewed mine for about half an hour to get this nice green hue. Cold water won’t make your tea bitter. Then throw some ice cubes in, and you’re good!
I don’t generally sweeten green tea. It’s such a mild flavor to begin with, I feel like any sweetener would overpower it. But you could always throw in just a smidge of your favorite sweetener–I like stevia the best.
I thought it would pair nicely with one of my All Time Favorite Books: WICKED.
I remember writing a book report on this book in high school, I’ve loved it that long. Getting inside Elphaba’s head and exploring Oz though a whole new lens was fascinating. In fact, I think it’s about time for a re-read of this particular book. Though I have to say, I didn’t quite enjoy the rest of the books in the Wicked Times Series, but I did read them to find out what happened.
Wicked the book is very different from the musical. I’ll admit I’ve never seen it, but I did go to college for theatre, and so have listened to the soundtrack once or twice. The book is dark. It has some very dark themes and adult situations that might be inappropriate for younger readers, so be warned. It’s not all defying gravity.
But the political, social and human elements fascinated me even as a highschooler. And the most fascinating aspect: How did the witch become wicked?
So in honor of miss green herself, let’s sip a glass of some green tea and think wicked thoughts. 😉🍵
This book is charming middle-grade fantasy novel about a young sparrow named Sheer. Sheer reminds us that even when there is no hope, and all is dark, there is still light to be found, still something good in the world.
“Everything was desolate empty, hollow.
Except for one tree. One strong, persevering tree. Just ahead I could see it through the mist. It had a few leaves, still green despite the fact that it was mid-winter. How had it survived?”
-Lydia Deyes, A Song in the Rain
The book starts off with Sheer waking up in a terrible fire, with no idea where he is, and his hearing gone. Deaf and confused, he seeks help, but a dark force follows him and ruins every place he tries to call home, until he meets the animals of the thirteenth floor.
This was an unexpected and fun twist. Samuel, the lynx leading the animals who call the thirteenth floor of a building in the human city home, grants Sheer protection with special magic. And he isn’t the only one with magic. Sheer has begun to realize he has a certain magic too, one that he doesn’t understand. Samuel helps Sheer learn how to cope with his newfound deafness, while also helping him to come to understand that he is the catalyst in a prophecy–one that concerns the dark force that Sheer encountered.
Sheer must confront several creatures who have been taken in by the dark force. These animals are featured on the gorgeous cover: Nyoka the snake, Finsternis the wolf, and Spike the crow.
Sheer finds himself uniting the animals of the forest and the thirteenth floor, to prepare them–so they can save themselves from the coming darkness, helped to spread by the snake, the wolf, and the crow. Sheer is thrust into leadership, and suffers many losses and even betrayal, but most interestingly, he wages a war with himself.
The inner turmoil Sheer experiences is what is special about this book. He experiences greed and then guilt, desire for power coupled with self doubt, loyalty and loneliness. The feelings of this little sparrow are big. It’s sectioned into four parts, each part having a particular challenge Sheer faces. Overall a great middle-grade read.
The only question I was left wondering, was how the thirteenth floor came to be. Samuel and the other animals have been there for a while, and they have an established and lively community that Sheer comes to join. Maybe a short story or a prequel is in the author’s head somewhere?
What a small world this is! I got a chance to review an advanced copy of author Elsa Kurt’s new book, Mae’s Cafe. Why is it a small world? Let’s see. I first met Elsa at a writer’s group here in Connecticut about a year and a half ago. So we’re both from Connecticut!
Mae’s Cafe is set in fictional Chance, Connecticut. But it’s not fictional, or at least, it doesn’t read fictional. The small town life Elsa writes is spot on. It’s like you grew up in Chance yourself, reading all about the different histories between the characters; the drama, the connections.
I’ve never read any of Elsa’s books before, but I slipped into this book really easily. It’s a fast read. I also only just started reading romance, and I’ll blame Outlander for that ;) I enjoyed the romance and the tension and build and everything with Mae and William. William thought he was just “passing through” but he is very quickly sucked in to the cafe and Chance–Mae, the small town drama, Mae, and–what else?–Mae, draw him in.
I also really liked the “cafe” itself, it’s like its own character. It has a lot of history and detail that speaking of Outlander, is reminiscent of Diana Gabaldon’s incredibly detailed writing.
Happy Monday all, it’s wet and snow-covered here in New England, but my current read is a thrillingly dark adventure and today’s stop on the Whispers from the Depths blog tour!
Joyful and blessed are Voice-bearers, for
the Heavens have set them apart.
gifted with the Voice, Betka and her people are enslaved. Only they can control
the dangerous spirits that haunt the waters, but they are forced to serve under
cruel taskmasters. Betka has little hope of freedom from her service or her own
They toil for the goodness of others.
A powerful water
spirit terrorizes the castle where Betka’s sister is serving. Betka is assigned
to the crew sailing to face the foe, and she fears for the only family she has
Rage is found nowhere in them.
beleaguered, flooded castle, a new threat awaits—a magic more powerful and
horrifying than anything they have ever seen. Loyalties will be tested, and
enemies will become desperate allies.
Betka is their
only hope of escape—if she can subdue the wrath that endangers them all.
She who wields the waters for revenge drowns herself tenfold.
C.W. Briar writes fantasy that’s dark but hopeful, filled with wonder
and humor along with the suspense and creepiness. His favorite stories
are the ones that make him both smile and perch on the edge of his seat.
By day, he works as a systems engineer, testing or even riding on
trains, airplanes, and helicopters. At night, when not writing, he
prepares fancy dinners and shows off his awesome corgis. He’s a graduate
of Binghamton University and lives in Upstate NY with his wife, three
kids, and secret stashes of chocolate.
Let CW tell you more about Whispers from the Depths and his process in this interview we did for his blog tour!
How did you come up with the idea for Whispers From The Depths?
I wanted a story where water is a sentient threat that invades a castle. I paired that with the exploration of how love can overcome evil, and the story grew from there.
Which books or authors have influenced you the most?
Beowulf was a huge influence on this story. Anyone familiar with that poem will see it in the conflict, the warrior culture, and the gritty tone. Beyond that, I drew inspirations from Michael Crichton and a variety of horror authors in portraying the suspense and action. I don’t know if I can say Brandon Sanderson is an inspiration for the magic, but his portrayal of magic is something I consider a benchmark to measure up to.
What is your writing process like?
(slower than I like)
I’m not a 100% plotter, but I do have to know the themes and major moments in the story before I write. Once that’s settled, I write toward whatever major moment is ahead of me. I have to squeeze in writing time around other demands in life, so my time is heavily broken up.
Part of the reason I’m slow is that I’m a sculptor rather than a painter. I can’t slap words on a page, see what comes up, and overhaul it later. I prefer to explore and plan away from the computer, then make real progress once writing. That’s why I don’t make a lot of major story changes once a first draft done (but I do polish the prose quite a bit).
What gave you the most difficulty when writing Whispers From The Depths?
The story grew after initial edits came in. I expanded a few scenes and character arcs. That required me to reassess everything to make sure it flowed smoothly. That was probably the biggest headache.
What is your favorite writing fuel?
Physically, coffee, even though I’m not a big fan of it. I drink caffeine, including tea and energy drinks, but mostly coffee.
Mentally, I’m fueled by topics that make me think. Articles, sermons, heavy discussions: those things inspire the themes.
I keep mentioning themes because they really are the bones on which I build story. I have something I want to explore and discuss, and I weave a narrative that represents it. When someone says something that makes me think, by brain starts recreating it in story form.
What is one thing you hope readers take away from this book?
I like to write stories with subtext, but it’s not critical to pick up on it. It’s okay if someone reads the book at a surface level and simply has a fun time. I hope I leave them breathless. Beyond that, I hope the story makes them think. I hope they reconsider how they interact with other people, especially those they don’t get along with.
What’s your next project?
I have two short stories coming out in anthologies this year and a couple more out for consideration. As for novels, I have two underway. One is a gothic horror/comedy/mystery. The other is a very different kind of project, but I’m keeping it under wraps for now.
Whispers from the Depths just released on February 19th; check out Briar’s tale for yourself, and look for my review coming soon!
Occasionally I try to reach outside my normal reading genres and try something different. My comfort genres are of course Fantasy, Sci-Fi and YA. My favorite local bookstore recommended this book, Jack be Quick, by fellow Connecticut author Benjamin Thomas. I will be completely honest, I think it is the first thriller I have ever read, and I really enjoyed it! Now if it just had some vampires or something, it’d be perfect…just kidding!
Thomas writes a fast-paced thriller that just keeps you hooked from the beginning. I couldn’t stop reading it. The main character Noah is fascinating. A paramedic trudging through his own pain and addiction; meanwhile trying to decipher and stop the murderous Jack-the-Ripper style killings happening around him. It all starts with a message scrawled in blood when Noah responds to a paramedic call. And while Noah tries to figure out the pattern of the killings, the murderer also seems to stalk Noah.
The murders follow the pattern the original Jack-the-Ripper held, in Noah’s small Connecticut town. Noah knows finding the killer will prevent more murders, but he needs to battle through his own mental and physical wounds to stop the killings.
What a magical book! I was really excited to read this book, because it’s a retelling of a Greek myth–but it’s entirely unique, and very well-told.
I recently interviewed H.L. Burke on my blog as part of her Coiled release blog tour, and the book will be available on June 15, 2017.
A twist on Eros and Psyche, the story of Laidra and Calen is at times heartbreaking, heartwarming, and full of intrigue, adventure, and even an Olympian-style quest.
Laidra is cursed with hideousness that worsens whenever she heals someone, while Calen is cursed with the incredibly debilitating–and rather inconvenient to say the least–problem of turning into a giant snake when he is seen by another person.
There’s beautiful symmetry with the two curses, and ugly humanity rears its head in different ways when their respective families are confronted with just how to handle their cursed children.
I enjoyed this read from beginning to end, and though I thought I could see where it was going one moment, was pleasantly surprised by each turn of events. I thought the tale was expertly woven, and–importantly for me–no cringe-worthy romance: I loved watching Laidra and Calen’s relationship develop right from the start.
Burke’s characters always have real depth to them, especially in this book. Even the gods and demi-gods, though by definition are stuck within a certain role, each has quite a personality and lends their voice to the story. I always love the humanization of mythological gods. On the side of a vase the gods look all perfect and pristine, but when they get involved with mortals, they’re squabbling and plotting right down in there.
I would highly recommend for a pleasant YA read that will give you a good adventure, love, curses, intrigue, and even a magical beast or two!
The world behind it is just as intriguing and mysterious as the cover will lead you to believe. Ri just wants to cure her adoptive father Samuel, but two chance encounters in the woods lead her on a wild journey through worlds she never knew–and Samuel and his sickness are part of a much bigger tale. And to top it off, a strange phenomenon called the Culling is wreaking fatal havoc wherever they go.
The characters immediately grow on you. Ri herself had an element to her that I couldn’t quite place–but, no spoilers, you’ll actually find out why that is later in this book. And, to leave us wanting more, that element is revealed in full in the epilogue, no doubt to be explored in the sequel.
Ri encounters and picks up a band of characters throughout her journey, and some very unlikely ones at that–which is probably why the journey is so “fun” as a reader. The chemistry is really fun to explore, and most of them are driven by love, which generally redeems their sometimes darker sides.
I did have a bit of trouble with the pacing in the beginning, but it picks up speed as it goes along. The places Ri and the team travel through, and what they find there will keep you itching to know more about the Culling, what it may or may not have to do with Ri, and what the gods have in store for them all.
This book is fresh off the presses, and you won’t be disappointed with A.J. Flowers‘ first book in the Celestial Downfall series. I received a free copy in exchange for my honest opinion. I must say, I am looking forward to the rest of the series and finding out what becomes of Azrael! And until 12/18/16 you can enter to win your own free copy on Goodreads!
Azrael is Windborn, and a hybrid, setting herself apart from all the other Windborn at Manor Saffron, where the not-quite-angels train for a life in the real world. Her hybrid status makes her able to see not only light (like all other Windborn), but dark. The unjust death of another hybrid in the Manor sparks Azrael into action–into making a deal with a demon. Smartly, she only asks it to change her fate–anything more specific and she’d be dancing too near the possibility of the demon overtaking the deal.
Her fate changes immediately. The Manor is in need of a new Queen, and Azrael has been chosen by divine power. But Azrael quickly learns that being Queen is a life full of new secrets, new friends (real angels with agendas of their own) and new powers. Flowers paints a realistic picture of a world where angels remain an open secret (special chairs for wings, anyone?), and I was impressed with the imaginative version of light and dark magic.
The juxtaposition of angels with normal flaws just makes sense, too. Angels are always depicted as perfect beings, and as a human reader myself, the angel characters clicked perfectly. Not to mention the swoon-worthy descriptions of wings and other celestial details. I’m a sucker for description.
I did find myself craving an ordinary day in the life in the Manor, though–but Azrael has no trouble keeping up with one turn after another. We end the book with a seriously motivated Azrael, and plenty of intrigue to have you looking for the release date of the next book.
Over the past few days I have had the pleasure of listening to H.L. Burke’s Beggar Magic through Audible. I’ve listened to lots of audiobooks over the past few months (Lord of the Rings, Outlander, Dune, The Martian…) and this one didn’t disappoint.
Burke’s imaginative world of Gelia City is a city of magic–a magic that resides in the very air and fills the city with its ever-changing sounds: the Strains. But not everyone is fortunate to hear the Strains and use their magic as well as others. The Highmost are born with seemingly unlimited control over the Strains, but the Common are only able to weakly wield them, with beggar magic.
Leilani, a Common, no-nonsense girl, crosses paths with a high-strung Highmost called Zebedy, and her world takes an unusual turn as she is swept into the manic life of the Highmost. One of the things I admired about Leilani’s character is that she never settled for anything she didn’t want, and never let anyone walk over her. Gotta love a strong female lead! The two friends are drawn into a serious mystery concerning the Strains, leading them through Highmost intrigue, breaking class barriers, and there’s even a bit of romance.
The writing (and narration) flow quite naturally, and I loved all of the tiny details placed throughout the book by Burke. Even before the main conflict was presented, I was drawn in to the unique setting and the two girls’ strong characters. Seriously, the Strains were a whole new type of magic, the idea of which kept me thinking about this book even when I wasn’t reading it.
This is an audiobook that you can gobble up really easily. I would definitely recommend it for fantasy lovers of any age.
I received a complementary copy of the audiobook in exchange for this honest review.