WWW Wednesday: What Am I Reading? #amreading

WWW Wednesday is a meme from Sam at Taking On A World Of Words

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

With a book promotion and extra reviews to post, it’s been more than a minute since I’ve done a WWW Wednesday post. All three of these books were released yesterday – that should tell you how behind I am on my NetGalley shelf. I always try to post reviews before the release date, but with fourteen in the month of May, it just wasn’t happening. Anyhoo, this week features a YA supernatural thriller/suspense and two very different YA fantasies,

I’m always a dragon fan, and the description of a fantasy inspired by medieval Spain called to me. The main character hasn’t grabbed me like I’d expected, but other characters have. And with the scrumptious food descriptions, I’m also drooling through the story!

Isabel Ibañez’s Together We Burn is a lush, enchanting standalone fantasy inspired by medieval Spain, filled with romance, adventure and just the right amount of danger.

An ancient city plagued by dragons

Eighteen-year-old Zarela Zalvidar is a talented flamenco dancer and daughter of the most famous Dragonador in Hispalia. People come for miles to see him fight in their arena, which will one day be hers. But disaster strikes during one celebratory show, and in the carnage, Zarela’s life changes in an instant.

A flamenco dancer who must become a dragon hunter to save her family legacy

With the Dragon Guild trying to wrest control of her inheritance from her, Zarela has no choice but to train to become a Dragonador. But when the most talented dragon hunter left in the land — the infuriatingly handsome Arturo Díaz de Montserrat — withholds his help, Zarela cannot take no for an answer. Without him, her world will burn.

Over the holiday weekend I finished Summer’s Edge. While reading it I kept noticing inconsistencies and wondered what was going on. It made total sense by the end when things fell into place – the twist was brilliant.

I Know What You Did Last Summer meets The Haunting of Hill House in this atmospheric, eerie teen thriller following an estranged group of friends being haunted by their friend who died last summer.

Emily Joiner was once part of an inseparable group—she was a sister, a best friend, a lover, and a rival. Summers without Emily were unthinkable. Until the fire burned the lake house to ashes with her inside.

A year later, it’s in Emily’s honor that Chelsea and her four friends decide to return. The house awaits them, meticulously rebuilt. Only, Chelsea is haunted by ghostly visions. Loner Ryan stirs up old hurts and forces golden boy Chase to play peacemaker. Which has perfect hostess Kennedy on edge as eerie events culminate in a stunning accusation: Emily’s death wasn’t an accident. And all the clues needed to find the person responsible are right here.

As old betrayals rise to the surface, Chelsea and her friends have one night to unravel a mystery spanning three summers before a killer among them exacts their revenge.

Up next is the sequel to one of my favorite reads last year. The world-building in this series is fantastic, and the magical system original. I’m excited to see where this story leads these characters.

The epic, hotly anticipated sequel to the instant New York Times bestseller The Gilded Ones about a girl with the power to remake her world—or destroy it.

“Fans of Children of Blood and BoneMulan, and the Dora Milaje from Black Panther are going to adore [The Gilded Ones].”—BuzzFeed

It’s been six months since Deka freed the goddesses in the ancient kingdom of Otera and discovered who she really is… but war is waging across the kingdom, and the real battle has only just begun. For there is a dark force growing in Otera—a merciless power that Deka and her army must stop.

Yet hidden secrets threaten to destroy everything Deka has known. And with her own gifts changing, Deka must discover if she holds the key to saving Otera… or if she might be its greatest threat.

The Merciless Ones is the second thrilling installment of the epic fantasy series in which a young heroine fights against a world that would dare tame her.

Hide by Kiersten White #bookreview #horror #supernatural #TuesdayBookBlog

The challenge: spend a week hiding in an abandoned amusement park and don’t get caught.

The prize: enough money to change everything.

Even though everyone is desperate to win–to seize their dream futures or escape their haunting pasts–Mack feels sure that she can beat her competitors. All she has to do is hide, and she’s an expert at that.

It’s the reason she’s alive, and her family isn’t.

But as the people around her begin disappearing one by one, Mack realizes this competition is more sinister than even she imagined, and that together might be the only way to survive.
Fourteen competitors. Seven days. Everywhere to hide, but nowhere to run.

Come out, come out, wherever you are.

The ferris wheel on the cover immediately caught my attention. Then I saw it was written by a YA author I’ve read before, and this was her adult debut. Once I read the description I was sold.

A week in an abandoned amusement park with a tragic history playing a warped game of hide and go seek. If you’re not found, a significant amount of cash is the prize. Mack, who bounces between homeless shelters, has a distinct advantage over the other thirteen contestants – she was the only survivor in her family when her father went on a killing spree and murdered her mother and sister. Mack knew where to hide.

Mack is the main focus of the story, but POV alternates between several characters. They come from all walks of life, but each has a reason for wanting to win the game varying from fame to making friends. After the first couple of days, it becomes clear this isn’t your average reality show. Once you’re found, you’re not just out of the game – you’re dead.

The aging, abandoned rides lend a macabre atmosphere to the story – a haunted house, decrepit roller coaster, and a sinister tunnel of love just to name a few. I actually snickered when one contestant shelved his fear of clowns to hide inside the mouth of one in a bizarre display. I rooted for several characters to make it to the end – some survived, others didn’t. Besides being hunted, the contestants also learned to be wary of each other. Some play dirty.

The description gives no indication of the direction this story takes. It’s unexpected, but I was completely on board with it. There’s a reason these contestants are chosen. I admit the multiple POVs confused me at times. There’s a good bit of head-hopping going on, with multiple changes on the same page sometimes. I had to backtrack more than once to figure it out.

Hide has an imaginative premise that immediately intrigued me and kept me glued to the pages. It isn’t heavy on the horror, so it would also appeal to supernatural thriller fans.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

The Colony Series Giveaway Winner!

Thanks to everyone who entered to win signed copies (US only) or ebooks (international) of The Colony Series! Between all my social media I counted the number of comments and entered the total into a random number generator and the winner is – Leslie from Books Are The New Black!

Leslie, please email me at tpolen6@gmail.com – and congratulations!

If you’re looking for something to read over the long holiday weekend, this is the last day to purchase Subject A36 (The Colony #1) for $0.99 at Amazon HERE It’s a great time to dive into the series if you haven’t yet!

Dark Stars Edited by John F.D. Taff #bookreview #anthology #horror

Created as an homage to the 1980 classic horror anthology, Dark Forces, edited by Kirby McCauley, this collection contains 12 original novelettes showcasing today’s top horror talent. Dark Stars features all-new stories from award-winning authors and up-and-coming voices like Stephen Graham Jones, Priya Sharma, Usman T. Malik, Caroline Kepnes, and Alma Katsu, with seasoned author John F.D. Taff at the helm. An afterword from original Dark Forces contributor Ramsey Campbell is a poignant finale to this bone-chilling collection.

Within these pages you’ll find tales of dead men walking, an insidious secret summer fling, an island harboring unspeakable power, and a dark hallway that beckons. You’ll encounter terrible monsters—both human and supernatural—and be forever changed. The stories in Dark Stars run the gamut from traditional to modern, from dark fantasy to neo-noir, from explorations of beloved horror tropes to the unknown—possibly unknowable—threats.

It’s all in here because it’s all out there, now, in horror.

I was so excited to see this anthology – I’m a fan of several of the featured authors. Having their short stories bundled together was such a treat.

As with any collection, I liked some of these stories better than others. My favorites included the following: All the Things He Called Memories by Stephen Graham Jones. This is a horror story set during Covid when a couple are quarantined together. It has a creepy, slow madness that gradually seeps into your bones.

The Familiar’s Assistant by Alma Katsu – I’m always a vampire fan, but this was more about the new familiar (as it’s adequately titled) and his relationship with the current familiar. Let’s just say he has aspirations.

Mrs. Addison’s Nest by Josh Malerman – The line between dreams, reality, and the past are blurred as four friends try to determine the difference. I enjoyed the nod to Christopher Nolan’s Memento.

I admit some of the stories I didn’t get. They were confusing or ended abruptly, and I shrugged and moved on to the next one. Maybe they were just over my head.

This is an eclectic mix of horror and thriller authors that is sure to appeal to fans of those genres. I settled in with some favorites as well as discovered some new ones.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Subject A36 Only $0.99! #booksale #dystopian #scifi #giveaway

For the next three days Subject A36 (The Colony #1) ebook is available for only $0.99! With The Insurgent (The Colony #2) releasing last week, this is a great opportunity to get started with the series. To buy your copy go HERE.

As a reminder, I’m also giving away signed copies of both books (US only) or ebooks (international). For a chance to win, go HERE and leave a comment. The winner will be announced Friday, May 27th – good luck!

If genetic engineering could guarantee you and your family perfect health and unparalleled beauty, would you pay top dollar for it? Would you kill for it?

Residents of the Colony would. And do.

Only the Insurgents can stop them.

Seventeen-year-old Asher Solomon is a premier operative with the Insurgents. He and his team have rescued countless hostages, saving them from painful deaths in Colony labs as desirable genetic traits are stripped from their bodies.

He’s also suffered more losses than anyone should have to.

Then Asher gets intel that might give his people the upper hand. The Colony is searching for Subject A36. If the Insurgents determine the subject’s identity first, they might be able to turn the tide of the war.

Asher and his team embark on their riskiest mission ever, and the stakes have never been higher. But even if he survives the physical dangers, the devastating secrets he uncovers might destroy him.

Interview with Shelley Wilson @ShelleyWilson72, Author of The Last Princess #YA #TheLastPrincess #Vikings #NewRelease #BHCPress #TuesdayBookBlog

Welcome author Shelley Wilson to the blog! Her latest novel, The Last Princess, releases today, but it’s not only her book’s birthday – it’s also Shelley’s 50th birthday, so it’s a double celebration! Just take a look at that stunning cover. And who doesn’t like a good Viking tale?

Shelley is an English multi-genre author. She has written nine young adult/middle-grade supernatural, fantasy, and historical novels, a children’s meditation book, and six motivational self-help titles for adults.

She is a proud single mum of three and lives in the West Midlands, UK. Shelley loves travelling in her VW camper searching for stories. She also enjoys paddle boarding, Tudor and Viking history, supporting Leeds United, and obsessing over to-do lists!

Her latest book, The Last Princess, is out on 24th May 2022, published by BHC Press Books.

What is your writing process like? Are you more of a plotter or a pantser?

I’m a plotter! For years I operated in the pantser zone and wondered why I never finished anything I started, and then I took part in my first NaNoWriMo and read how outlining helped other writers.

I thoroughly enjoy the process of plotting and planning while still leaving plenty of wiggle room for those unexpected plot twists, and my writing output has increased. Instead of filling notebooks with ideas that never see the light of day, I now write and finish my books. The Last Princess is my sixteenth published title and I have a duology waiting in the wings for release dates.

Plotting has been instrumental in my productivity.

Have you ever travelled as research for your books?

Since buying my camper van I’ve been all over England, Scotland, and Wales searching for stories and researching for my books. It’s one of my favourite perks of being an author.

The Last Princess is set in Northumberland in the UK, so I took a couple of trips up to Bamburgh, Lindisfarne, and Alnmouth to get a feel for the area. It’s a beautiful part of the country and I loved using this setting in my book. It’s also partly set in Hedeby (now part of Germany), but due to a global pandemic, I had to do that research online!

The duology I recently completed is set in Whitby, North Yorkshire and I had a fun week exploring the area as part of that research.

Standing in the same spot your character stands is a special moment and I love reading back over specific scenes as I can almost smell the sea air and hear the waves.

Are any of your characters similar to you or anyone you know?

All my main characters are young girls who lack confidence but learn to believe in themselves and find inner strength. Yes, I guess they are similar to me. They are what I wished I’d been like at sixteen or seventeen. I was well into my forties before I found my courage!

I watch my daughter and her friends and marvel at how switched on they are. These girls know their own minds, support and empower one another, and don’t stand any nonsense. I want my characters to be like them. They also navigate worry, anxiety, and the usual coming-of-age pitfalls, but they deal with it much better than I ever did at their age.

The antagonists are a culmination of all the playground and office bullies I’ve had the misfortune of meeting over the years. The saying ‘be careful or you’ll end up in my novel’ is so true!

I think all authors are influenced by the people they meet in life whether the experiences were good or bad.

If you could spend a day with one of your characters who would it be?

Solveig! She is a shield maiden who trains Edith to fight in a Viking army. I had a clear image of what she looked like in my mind and found myself smiling whenever I wrote her scenes. Solveig has an ‘I don’t care’ attitude but deep down she is fiercely loyal to her friends.

There is a back story that shows the reader why Solveig is so closed off, but you do get to see her true warmth and humour. She would be a fascinating character to spend the day with.

Do you celebrate when your books are published?

I am a nightmare when it comes to celebrating. A few years ago I was on a radio show where the host asked me what I’d done on publication day and my answer was ‘a big grocery shop!’ We giggled about it off the air and she made me promise to at least buy myself a bunch of flowers.

Publication day of The Last Princess is going to be very different though as it’s also my 50th birthday. I’m not sure which I’m most excited about, to be honest, but there will definitely be cake!

I am getting better at celebrating my successes these days and look forward to holding a copy of my book in one hand and a mocktail in the other. I’ll be sure to share a photo on social media as proof.

The Last Princess, is out on 24th May 2022, published by BHC Press Books.

The Last Princess Blurb

Northumbria, 866 AD

Edith still has much to learn about the art of ruling a kingdom, but when her family is murdered, she’s faced with the challenge of staying alive. 

As a young woman in Anglo-Saxon England, Edith finds it hard to be heard above the Eldermen who are ripping the kingdom to pieces, but nothing can prepare her for the arrival of the pirates and the Vikings. Torn from her homeland and sold into slavery, she’s determined to survive at any cost. 

Finding allies in the unexpected and enemies closer to home, Edith clings to her dream of returning home one day to reclaim her throne and to exact revenge on those who harmed her family.

BUY your copy of The Last Princess

BHC Press – https://www.bhcpress.com/Books_Wilson_The_Last_Princess.html

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Barnes & Noble

Waterstones

Google Play

Kobo

Apple Books

Connect with Shelley:

Author website: https://shelleywilsonauthor.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FantasyAuthorSLWilson/

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/ShelleyWilson72

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/authorslwilson/

Publisher: https://www.bhcpress.com/Author_SL_Wilson.html

Early Praise for The Last Princess:

This fast-paced historical novel builds on an obscure Anglo-Saxon king’s life to tell an empowering tale of a girl’s journey to fully embrace a new world, a new culture…as she grows into her own as a warrior. Edith’s fierce and often violent quest for revenge is juxtaposed with lovely, life-affirming moments of friendship and love in an engaging first-person narrative.” – Kirkus Reviews

I LOVED this quick fantasy read. I can’t wait to share with my students once I get a copy.” – Dawn, Teacher & Goodreads Reviewer

WOW! I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but this wasn’t it! This story is absolutely amazing.” – Rebecca, Goodreads Reviewer

Hugs of Thanks, Moving, and #Giveaway

Deep appreciation to everyone who helped share the news about the release of The Insurgent last week! Getting up that morning at 4 am, driving to the airport, being on a plane for two hours, then loading a UHaul didn’t leave me much time to do a lot of publicizing, so a big hug of thanks to all of you! It’s always nice knowing others have your back when you can’t be there.

Speaking of moving, it’s done. Again. Once everything was loaded, there were only inches to spare in the UHaul. How did Son #2 accumulate that much stuff in one year? Anyhoo, we spread out a thirteen hour drive over two days, hubby drove the UHaul, and our son and I took turns driving his car. I came to the conclusion a person could drive for days and never make it out of TX. Seemed like it went on forever! But we all made it home safely, and that’s what’s important. Hubby and I counted – this is the ninth consecutive summer we’ve moved one or both boys. May be we need to start charging?

To celebrate the release of The Insurgent (The Colony #2), I’m offering a giveaway! Signed copies (US only) or ebooks (international) of the duology to one lucky winner! All you have to do is comment on any of my social media (here, Twitter or Instagram @tpolen6 or Facebook at Teri Polen, Author) and a random commenter will be chosen Friday, May 27th. Good luck and have a great week!

#ReleaseDay The Insurgent (The Colony #2) #YA #dystopian #scifi #Giveaway #freebook

It’s finally here! A little over two years after the release of the first book in this duology, Subject A36, the sequel is now out in the world. These characters and I fought during the pandemic, but finally mended our ways, found common ground and finished their story. Some days I wasn’t so sure we’d make it, but despite all the strife, I sure am going to miss them.

If you haven’t read Subject A36 (The Colony #1), next week is the perfect opportunity to get caught up – it will be on sale for $0.99 May 25th through May 27th!

I’m also giving away signed copies (US only) or ebooks (international) of the duology to one lucky winner! All you have to do is comment on any of my social media (here, Twitter or Instagram @tpolen6 or Facebook at Teri Polen, Author) and a random commenter will be chosen next Friday, May 27th!

I’ll be slow getting to comments over the next couple days due to moving my son (flying to Austin, loading a UHaul, then driving back to KY – woohoo!), but I’ll get to everyone as soon as I can.

Sharing is appreciated!

Purchase Links
Amazon (print, ebook, and Kindle Unlimited)

Barnes & Noble (print only)

Black Rose Writing (print only)

If a megalomaniac threatened your family, would you give up your freedom for them? Would you give up your soul?

Asher Solomon is faced with that choice. And makes the ultimate sacrifice.

Exactly as Director Silas Reeves expected him to.

Unable to live as the Colony’s premier assassin, Ash retreats to a corner of his mind, ceding control of his body to the alter-ego he was engineered to be—Subject A36. As he’s unleashed to battle the Insurgents, the only family he ever knew, the tide of war shifts in Silas’s favor.

Combined with his expansion into new territories, the director is poised to take over the world.

But the Insurgents don’t give up easily. Not on their cause, and not on their people. With the help of a few double agents deep in the Colony, they stand a fighting chance at ending Silas’s reign.

In order to shut down the program, they face almost insurmountable odds. And their most dangerous foe—their former champion turned killing machine, A36. 

Bravely by Maggie Stiefvater and Café Con Lychee by Emery Lee #bookreview #YA #fairytale #LGBTQ

Merida goes on an all-new, life-changing adventure in this original YA novel set several years after the close of Brave!

What if you had one year to save everything you loved?

ONE PRINCESS. Merida of DunBroch needs a change. She loves her family—jovial King Fergus, proper Queen Elinor, the mischievous triplets— and her peaceful kingdom. But she’s frustrated by its sluggishness; each day, the same. Merida longs for adventure, purpose, challenge – maybe even, someday, love.

TWO GODS. But the fiery Princess never expects her disquiet to manifest by way of Feradach, an uncanny supernatural being tasked with rooting out rot and stagnation, who appears in DunBroch on Christmas Eve with the intent to demolish the realm – and everyone within. Only the intervention of the Cailleach, an ancient entity of creation, gives Merida a shred of hope: convince her family to change within the year – or suffer the eternal consequences.

THREE VOYAGES. Under the watchful eyes of the gods, Merida leads a series of epic journeys to kingdoms near and far in an attempt to inspire revolution within her family. But in her efforts to save those she loves from ruin, has Merida lost sight of the Clan member grown most stagnant of all – herself?

FOUR SEASONS TO SAVE DUNBROCH – OR SEE IT DESTROYED, FOREVER. 

If you’re wondering if this is Princess Merida from the Disney movie, you’d be correct. I requested this book from NetGalley because Stiefvater is one of my favorite authors – I’d never seen the movie Brave. Knowing I needed the gist of the story before starting the novel, I spent an entertaining couple of hours laughing and snorting my way through the movie. I adored these characters and couldn’t wait to dive into this new story.

I’ve never been one for many fairy tales, but Merida is my kind of princess – mainly because she’s pretty much the opposite of what you’d expect from someone with that title. She can best nearly any opponent in archery, she informed her parents being married off and producing heirs isn’t something she’ll be forced into, and she’s constantly reminded of royal etiquette by her mother, the queen. How can you not love this girl? This story is set several years later when not much has changed – Merida is still adventurous and stubborn, the King Fergus boisterous, the Queen Elinor very royal, and the triplets still mischievous at ten years old.

Merida’s Christmas Eve doesn’t go as expected when she finds herself in the company of two gods – one of creation, Cailleach, and one of destruction, Feradach. The Kingdom of DunBroch has become sluggish and stagnant and is high on Feradach’s list of places to demolish. Naturally, Merida is distraught but, because she’s Merida and very clever, refuses to accept this. Instead, she makes a bargain with Cailleach – if she can get her family to change over the next year, DunBroch will be spared. If she fails, she’ll lose her home and family. Talk about high stakes and pressure.

Don’t expect this to be a cookie cutter Disney story. Bravely is darker and focuses on growth, survival, and reflection, along with epic journeys and and some grisly scenes. Merida learns life is about balance and realizes what’s most important – it’s a kind of coming of age story for her. Not everything is serious – I also laughed out loud several times over the antics of the triplets, Merida’s unfiltered comments, and the lively family dynamics.

After watching Brave, Merida immediately became my favorite Disney princess, and I fell in love with her family. Catching up with them in this novel set several years later was a real treat.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Sometimes bitter rivalries can brew something sweet.

Theo Mori wants to escape. Leaving Vermont for college means getting away from working at his parents’ Asian American café and dealing with their archrivals’ hopeless son Gabi who’s lost the soccer team more games than Theo can count.

Gabi Moreno is miserably stuck in the closet. Forced to play soccer to hide his love for dance and iced out by Theo, the only openly gay guy at school, Gabi’s only reprieve is his parents’ Puerto Rican bakery and his plans to take over after graduation.

But the town’s new fusion café changes everything. Between the Mori’s struggling shop and the Moreno’s plan to sell their bakery in the face of the competition, both boys find their dreams in jeopardy. Then Theo has an idea—sell photo-worthy food covertly at school to offset their losses. When he sprains his wrist and Gabi gets roped in to help, they realize they need to work together to save their parents’ shops but will the new feelings rising between them be enough to send their future plans up in smoke?

A light enemies to lovers story – but with scrumptious food. The description of competing restaurants – and boys – lured me in. And look at that cover!

The chapters alternate POVs between Theo and Gabi, both with very different and distinct personalities. Theo is openly gay, self confident, and a natural athlete. Gabi is closeted, lacks self esteeem, and is far more talented on the dance floor than a soccer field. Theo can’t stand to be near Gabi, and while Gabi admires Theo, he’s also a little intimidated by him. Their parents’ restaurants are long time competitors, which causes further conflict. When a new fusion café moves into town and steals customers, joining forces happens kind of accidentally and everything changes.

In the first several chapters, Theo isn’t very likeable. He carries anger around like a boulder weighing him down and lashes out at his family, Gabi, and anyone else who gets in his way. It soon becomes clear why, and his self realizations and the changes that result from them are admirable. Gabi has spent his life trying to make his parents proud of him and fulfill their expectations, all while hiding his love of dancing and his sexuality. His parents (especially his father) make several derogatory comments about being gay, and he’s terrified of what might happen if he comes out. His character arc is just as uplifting as Theo’s.

Every character in this novel is flawed, some more than others, and it’s an honest portrayal of just how messy humans and their relationships can be. There are also very poignant, honest conversations about difficult topics between some characters that are done so well, and I hope they inspire readers who might be dealing with similar issues in their lives.

Besides the serious moments, this story also contains plenty of humor, delicious descriptions of food, strong friendships, and a sweet enemies to lovers romance. The ending comes about a little quickly and wraps up loose ends in a tidy bow, but it didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the novel.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.