Lying with Lions (2021)

by Annabel Fielding
ASIN/ISBN: B095J8D5XC
Publication: June 21, 2021

Goodreads | Amazon


DESCRIPTiON

Edwardian England. Agnes Ashford knows that her duty is threefold: she needs to work on cataloguing the archive of the titled Bryant family, she needs to keep the wounds of her past tightly under wraps, and she needs to be quietly grateful to her employers for taking her up in her hour of need. However, a dark secret she uncovers due to her work thrusts her into the Bryants’ brilliant orbit – and into the clutch of their ambitions.

They are prepared to take the new century head-on and fight for their preeminent position and political survival tooth and nail – and not just to the first blood. With a mix of loyalty, competence, and well-judged silence Agnes rises to the position of a right-hand woman to the family matriarch – the cunning and glamorous Lady Helen. But Lady Helen’s plans to hold on to power through her son are as bold as they are cynical, and one day Agnes is going to face an impossible choice…


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Annabel Fielding, having graduated from the University of Arts London with an MA in Public Relations, is a PR assistant by day and a novelist by night. Being a self-professed history geek, she dedicates her free time to obscure biographies, solo travel and tea. Her special areas of interest are Edwardian age and Late Middle Agnes/Renaissance, but sometimes veers into other directions, too, when distracted by a shiny thing.  She is the author of A Pearl for My Mistress (2017).

Website | Twitter | Goodreads


REViEW

**I was provided a copy of the book by the author through NetGalley as a Tour Participant. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Lying with Lions is not the typical book I read but on occasion I am willing to venture out and try new genres.  I found an intricate character-driven plot and knew immediately this was my type of movie as opposed to my type of book. As I read, the thought that I would enjoy this on the big screen accompanied was often on my mind.

The story is written in present tense, which was a bit jarring at first.  Eventually I settled into it along with the feeling that I was watching the events unfold as an omniscient narrator allowed me a glimpse into the machinations of high society through Agnes.  From a humble background, Agnes is hired by the Bryant family to serve as their archivist to compile and organize the family history.  Eventually she becomes more than just a bystander, becoming Lady Bryant’s secretary.  Rather than an observer, she becomes a willing participant in the political maneuvers of those she comes to be associated with.

Agnes was often an enigma to me, making it hard to figure out her motives. Is she being genuine? Does she have something planned? Is she a “good” person? Part of me wanted to skip to the end because I wanted to know the why behind Agnes’s actions. My urge to spoil the ending was further spurred on by the novel’s slow build.  It was not until about a fifth of the way when the pieces started to fall into place, and I recognized with some amount of certainty where the book was heading. The pace was slow, but it was the deliberate kind that encourages readers to be immersed in the plot and observe as well as question the decisions of characters, what will those in power do to remain in power? I had to exercise a fair amount of self-control but the ending was worth it as revelations are made. 

The Firebird Song (2021)

by Arnée Flores
ASIN/ISBN: 9781547605125
Publication: June 1, 2021


Goodreads
Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indigo | Indiebound


DESCRIPTiON

Debut author Arnée Flores spins an exciting and original tale about hope in even the darkest of places, perfect for fans of Shannon Hale.

The Kingdom of Lyrica was once warm and thriving, kept safe by the Firebird, whose feather and song was a blessing of peace and prosperity. But the Firebird disappeared, and Lyrica is now terrorized by the evil Spectress who wields her powers from within a volcano. All that remains is a mysterious message scrawled on the castle wall in the Queen’s own hand: Wind. Woman. Thief.

Young Prewitt has only known time without the Firebird, a life of constant cold, as his village is afraid to tempt the volcano monsters with even the feeblest fire. But he has heard whispers that the kingdom’s princess survived the attack . . . and he is certain that if he can find her, together they can save Lyrica.

Princess Calliope has no memories beyond living on her barge on the underground lake. But as she nears her twelfth birthday, she is certain there is more to life than the walls of a cave. When Prewitt finds her, he realizes that she is the missing princess: the only hope for Lyrica. Determined to decipher the meaning of her mother’s strange message and find the Firebird, Calliope and Prewitt set off on a quest that puts them in more danger than either of them ever anticipated.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Arnée Flores author picArnée Flores spent her childhood shifting across rural Washington towns, lugging along boxes of books, and switching schools nine times before her family finally settled down on a wheat farm in the tiny town of Reardan, Washington.​

Arnée identifies as Vietnamese American, but as a transracial adoptee raised by a Caucasian family in small-town America, she grew up feeling displaced.

It took a long while and a winding path for her to find herself. She spent a few nomadic years exploring, working odd jobs, and studying subjects from Piano Performance at Washington State University to Pre-Law and Political Science at Gonzaga before she finally understood that all she really wanted was to stay in one place and write the kinds of stories that had helped her feel safe during her chaotic childhood. 

Today, she can be found collecting rocks, shells, and other curiosities on the beach near her Seattle apartment, all the while dreaming up wild and magical tales, her little white dog splashing along behind her through the tide pools.

Website | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads


REViEW

**I was provided a copy of the book through TBR and Beyond as a Tour Participant . I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

I was immediately hooked as soon as I started reading because the book begins with the legend of the Firebird and hope so true that sprang forth from a small girl to save the world. The story revolves around the legend as Calliope, the Lost Princess is no longer lost but trying to bring back the Firebird to defeat the Demon that has taken all the light from the world. Prewitt, the Bargeboy, accompanies her so they can restore the world to what it once was. The Firebird Song is a wondrous adventure, filled with courage but most of all hope. There is so much packed into the story and so many elements to enjoy about the book but I liked the sense of hope it inspires all because a boy and a girl believed anything was possible.

Prewitt is stubborn, but it works in his favor because his stubbornness leads him to the Princess. It also helps him find the courage to do something about the present situation he is in and to not accept defeat. Had he been less determined, things might have turned out differently. Calliope, despite not having much experience on the outside, takes on her duty in strides and is intent on fulfilling her destiny. At times she seems naive, Prewitt as well, but it’s this belief and this sense of wanting to do what is right that allows her to do what adults may have deemed impossible. Where the adults had so many fears and doubts, Prewitt and Calliope are still able to see beyond their present, they are at the age of hope where anything is still possible.

The story moved at a fast pace, and there were times I wished it would slow down just a bit so I could enjoy the magic of the adventure. A lot is going on but I enjoyed it immensely. With one of its themes that being “just a girl” actually means being able to do anything, I know my nieces will enjoy it as much as I did.

Hurricane Summer (2021)

By Asha Bromfield
ASN/ISBN: 9781250622235
Publication: May 4, 2021

GOODREADS | PURCHASE

Welcome to my leg of the blog tour for Hurricane Summer by Asha Bromfield (April 26 – May 10). Thank you to Wednesday Books for allowing me to be part of this tour. Links to different sections are below, but also feel free to scroll on through.


DESCRIPTiON

Publisher: Wednesday Books
Age group: YA
Genres: Contemporary

In this sweeping debut, Asha Bromfield takes readers to the heart of Jamaica, and into the soul of a girl coming to terms with her family, and herself, set against the backdrop of a hurricane.

Tilla has spent her entire life trying to make her father love her. But every six months, he leaves their family and returns to his true home: the island of Jamaica.

When Tilla’s mother tells her she’ll be spending the summer on the island, Tilla dreads the idea of seeing him again, but longs to discover what life in Jamaica has always held for him.

In an unexpected turn of events, Tilla is forced to face the storm that unravels in her own life as she learns about the dark secrets that lie beyond the veil of paradise―all in the midst of an impending hurricane.

Hurricane Summer is a powerful coming of age story that deals with colorism, classism, young love, the father-daughter dynamic―and what it means to discover your own voice in the center of complete destruction.

Content Warnings (For a more comprehensive list please see Book Trigger Warnings):
abuse (physical/emotional), cheating, colorism, death, incest, sexual assault


ABOUT THe AUTHOR

Asha Bromfield - Author Photo, Copyright Felice Trinidad

Asha Bromfield is an actress, singer, and writer of Afro-Jamaican descent. She is known for her role as Melody Jones, drummer of Josie and the Pussycats in CW’s Riverdale. She also stars as Zadie Wells in Netflix’s hit show, Locke and Key. Asha is a proud ambassador for the Dove Self-Esteem Project, and she currently lives in Toronto where she is pursuing a degree in Communications. In her spare time, she loves studying astrology, wearing crystals, burning sage, and baking vegan desserts. Hurricane Summer is her debut novel.

Instagram | Twitter


REViEW

**I received a copy of the book from the publisher through NetGalley as part of my participation in the blog tour. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Hurricane Summer is an appropriate title for the experience Tilla has in Jamaica while visiting her father for two months. Her hopes of reuniting with her dad and spending time with him over the summer go astray as soon as she gets there, proving once again why she feels the way she does about him. It hurt my heart to know that both she and her sister Mia waited so long to see their father only to hardly spend time with him. The father-daughter relationship was the heart of the novel but so many additional issues, including classism and colorism, piled on top of it that there was never time to fully explore each issue. The conversation Tilla has with her cousin about colorism is an especially poignant one though. This was one of my favorite moments in the book. I liked their relationship.

I’m a fan of emotional reads. The book tugged at me right away with Tilla longing for her dad’s love, secretly hoping to repair her broken image of him. As things slowly begin to spiral downward, with hurricane warnings abound, my anxiety level increased along with Tilla’s confusion about what exactly was going on around her. Just about everything that happens, except for moments of respite with her cousin Andre who might be the only character I liked in the book, is heart breaking. I kept wondering when it would stop. The answer? Like a hurricane, it’s unrelenting. However, as it neared the end, the final few chapters didn’t have the same impact. One event in particular did not add much to the story, and I felt it was unnecessary. Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed by the ending.

One of the weaker parts of the novel is the romance. I couldn’t buy into it, and I was constantly questioning Tilla’s decisions regarding her love interest. The connection felt superficial at best, and when the word love is mentioned, I was taken aback. I couldn’t see how their limited interactions suddenly turned into love. But, the most difficult part for me was Tilla knowing the complications that would ensue from continuing the relationship yet still choosing to pursue it.

I was immersed in the book because of the writing. It’s poetic and the descriptions kept me reading–one of the most memorable being when Mia and Tilla bite into mangoes. Tilla feels a lot, and Bromfield was able to place me in Tilla’s emotional state of mind. It’s also well-paced. The plot moves along, never feeling disjointed or abrupt, despite the multitude of things that happen. I never felt the urge to jump pages or chapters to get to the end, with the exception of some of the heavier components of the book.

Hurricane Summer‘s beautiful cover hides a devastating coming of age novel about a young woman trying to come to terms with her relationship with her father while on vacation in what looks like paradise. It’s a heart wrenching novel filled with multiple events meant to break Tilly, culminating in what she decides to do: will she break, or will she overcome them? It’s a departure from the books I normally read, with a slew of triggers that pile on one after the other; it’s a heavy read. Despite the this, I did like the book even though it might not have hit all the marks for me. If you decide to read it, please be aware of the content warnings. I’ve listed them above in the book description, but I’ll include it here too: abuse (physical/emotional), cheating, colorism, death, incest, and sexual assault. Again, for a more comprehensive list, please see Book Trigger Warnings.

In the Jaded Grove (2021)

By Anela Deen
ASN/ISBN: B08YTGPGZS
Publication: April 15, 2021
Series: Kindred Realms #1

GOODREADS | AMAZON

Welcome to my leg of the tour for In the Jaded Grove by Anela Deen through Caffeine Book Tours (April 26 – April 30). I was elated to be selected to help promote such a beautifully written novel. Links to different sections are below, but also feel free to scroll on through.


DESCRIPTiON

Goodreads | Amazon

Cover Artist: Jenny Zemanek
Publisher: Fine Fables Press
Age group: New Adult
Genres: Fantasy

Simith of Drifthorn is tired of war. After years of conflict between the Thistle court and the troll kingdom, even a pixie knight known for his bloodlust longs for peace. Hoping to secure a ceasefire, Simith arranges a meeting with the troll king—and is ambushed instead. Escape lies in the Jaded Grove, but the trees of the ancient Fae woodland aren’t what they seem, and in place of sanctuary, Simith tumbles through a doorway to another world.

Cutting through her neighbor’s sunflower farm in Skylark, Michigan, Jessa runs into a battle between creatures straight out of a fantasy novel. Only the blood is very real. When a lone fighter falls to his attackers, Jessa intervenes. She’s known too much death to stand idly by, but an act of kindness leads to consequences even a poet like her couldn’t imagine.

With their fates bound by magic, Simith and Jessa must keep the strife of his world from spilling into hers—except the war isn’t what it appears and neither are their enemies. Countless lives depend on whether they can face the truths of their pasts and untangle the web of lies around them. But grief casts long shadows, and even their deepening bond may not be enough to save them from its reach.

On-page Representation:
Filipino (main character); secondary sapphic characters

Trigger and Content Warnings:
violence; trauma; grief; death of a loved one (in the past – not on page)


ABOUT THe AUTHOR

Author (Anela Deen)A child of two cultures, this hapa haole Hawaiian girl is currently landlocked in the Midwest. After exploring the world for a chunk of years, she hunkered down in Minnesota and now fills her days with family, fiction, and the occasional snowstorm. With a house full of lovable toddlers, a three-legged cat, and one handsome Dutchman, she prowls the keyboard late at night while the minions sleep. Coffee? Nah, she prefers tea with a generous spoonful of sarcasm. 

Website | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter


REViEW

**I received a copy of the book from the publisher and Caffeine Book Tours as part of my participation in the tour. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

In the Jaded Grove is a beautifully written fantasy. It’s fast-paced, sometimes a bit too quick for me, especially when I wanted to ruminate over certain scenes to decipher their meanings. One of the characters spoke my thoughts out loud about the brewing feelings between the leads, but I’m mostly convinced that the mechanism used to create the connection between the leads is a believable one. It’s either that or I’m just a sap, allowing myself to fall for anything that reasonably explains an instant connection.

Simith is our pixie hero from the fairy realm and Jessa is the human protagonist. Simith is jaded with a war that had no end in sight while Jessa’s grief has overtaken her. As the pieces of their lives are revealed through memories and their interactions with each other, a connection quickly begins forming. For someone quite ruthless in war, he’s gentle with her. Despite being so incredibly hard on herself, she’s understanding of his actions. The connection is so quick that there is hardly an emotional build-up, which made me hesitate about how authentic or real the connection was.

I liked the world created. Information is given about the fairy realm in pieces and at opportune times. While the fairy realm feels a bit under developed, there’s enough world-building to understand the current situation as well as to at least visualize the landscape. The magic system is not explained in-depth, but it doesn’t appear to be overly complicated. The apparent hierarchy among the creatures of the fairy realm is an interesting one, and I hope it gets further explored in additional books. I’m also interested in gaining a better understanding of the governing system that fully explains the fairy triad that is mentioned. (Why is there a triad? Did I maybe miss an explanation?) The book only just scratches the surface of a fascinating world and its connection to the human realm, possibly even other realms, so I am excited this is only the first book of a series.

I loved that I couldn’t guess what would happen at every turn, and there were unexpected moments that made me laugh. To top it off, Deen kept me turning the pages with her vivid descriptions.  For instance, referring to the night sky as the “cloak of souls” resonated with me and is now one of my favorites references for a sky awash with stars. Despite the quick pace and second-guessing whether I liked the relationship formed, it was these unexpected moments and the writing that helped to solidify why I ultimately enjoyed the book. While In the Jaded Grove doesn’t have nearly as much laughs, I think there are some parallels with G.A. Aiken’s Dragon Kin series and her newer series The Scarred Earth Saga. Individuals who have read and enjoyed either series may also enjoy In the Jaded Grove.

Firekeeper’s Daughter (2021)

by Angeline Boulley
ASN/ISBN: 978150766564
Publication: March 16, 2021

Thank you for joining me on the last day of the blog tour for Firekeeper’s Daughter! If you’re interested in hopping over to check out what other reviewers had to say about the book, I’ve included the tour list below. Also, Firekeeper’s Daughter is a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick, so that’s exciting!


Now, let’s take a moment to appreciate the teasers for the book.

Teaser #1
Teaser #2
Teaser #3

REVIEW


**I was provided a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Firekeeper’s Daughter is the story of a young biracial Ojibwe woman who must carry the weight of protecting her community after being asked to become an informant in a federal investigation that has the potential to tear it apart. I was left with a mix of feelings after finishing the novel, ranging from heartbreak to empowerment to grief, and even more committed to why we need more books from authors of color like Angeline Boulley.

I don’t normally read thrillers or crime-solving novels, but I like watching them. With its focus on solving crime, I was reminded of Veronica Mars–a show I loved and thought was cut short. Daunis is a smart and savvy 18-year old trying to solve crimes associated with a murder in her community; she wants to protect the people she loves. Daunis’s crime solving prowess is centered around the scientific method approach–drawing conclusions from the world to form a theory, which will then inform hypotheses that can be tested to provide evidence to support or not support the theory? Uh, yeah, I am all for this! There is a lot to digest in the beginning, with a few instances when the story becomes a bit convoluted, but it evens out a bit as the story continues. While it was slow to start, I eventually became fully immersed in the novel and Daunis’s life. Granny June was hilarious and quickly became one of my favorite characters. I loved the relationship Daunis had with many of her elders–it even made me teary. I enjoyed the richness of the culture, the respectful way in which it was presented, and the inclusion of so many stories, words, and phrases. Boulley seamlessly incorporates all these elements into the novel.

The general “whodunit” plot is as straightforward as it can be with just about anyone’s guess about who is involved, but there are so many more layers to the novel. Ultimately, it was these layers I liked reading the most. I connected with multiple themes in the book, which helped me to easily identify with Daunis’s character despite not identifying as either biracial or indigenous.  Many of her struggles are culturally cross-cutting, and I found parallels to my own life and my relationship with my cultures, including the need to keep worlds separate from one another and trying to find a sense of belonging in both places. I especially liked how unabashedly Boulley touched on the internal conflict Daunis faced in trying to determine what it meant to protect her community and how much to reveal to people who are not part of it. Boulley concludes that members of the community have the right to decide how much to share. You have the power to protect your story and your culture from those who might try to exploit it, twisting it for their purposes, and those with seemingly good intentions must especially try to understand the implications of their actions before doing anything. As Daunis states, “I’m the only one thinking seven generations ahead.”

Firekeeper’s Daughter is an example of why we need more diverse books, especially by authors of color, why we need people from our communities telling our stories. While I do not identify as biracial or indigenous, I connected to the story on multiple levels, as if many of my similar struggles were being laid bare. Authors of color understand the complexities, the intricacies that cannot be easily captured through the lens of someone just looking in. Boulley deftly explored multiple themes, including culture, acceptance, grief, and trauma, as only someone who identifies with the community she writes might be able to–I also highly recommend reading reviews by indigenous individuals who will be able to provide insight into whether this is the case or not. Individuals who enjoy crime-solving mysteries like Nancy Drew and Veronica Mars will find pleasure in reading Firekeeper’s Daughter. BIPOC readers will especially appreciate the representation in the book.

A huge thank you to the publisher for also providing a finished copy.