Heart of Cinders review

A Review of Heart of Cinders, by J. Darlene Everly

Note: I received an ARC and am leaving an honest, voluntary review

I picked up this book looking for a fun, exciting Cinderella retelling with a kick-butt heroine, and that is exactly what I got–plus a pair of touchingly loyal friends and modern Red Carpet-worthy gowns. Heart of Cinders is the story of a steely assassin who finds her heart softening and starts to question what she’s been taught.

Once MC Cinder headed to the palace, this book really picked up and was hard to put down. And what is a fairy tale retelling without a cheeky nod? Cinder’s ladies-in-waiting are Gus and Jacquetta, and it was so fun and lovely to see the friendships developing and see Cinder kick butt in a whole new way, this time as the lady she was meant to be (with knife skills and archery lessons on the side). I rooted for Cinder and her friends at every turn.

Heart of Cinders Book Cover

But the ending of this book! Heart of Cinders ended on the bad kind of cliffhanger, the kind that left me exclaiming “What do you mean it’s done?!” I actually enjoy a well-executed cliffhanger ending, but this one ended in mid-scene. The worst part is it worked and I wish I could grab book two right away. There were enough breadcrumbs along the way to make me extremely curious about where this series will go next, too.

My rating:
4/5

To learn more about this author, visit jdarleneeverly.com.

Tessonja Odette’s The Fair Isle Trilogy has a new look!

I’ve been reading book one of the Fair Isle Trilogy until the wee hours, and I can’t get enough! The fae king may have antlers, but he definitely has that steely charisma readers of fae romantic fantasy love so much (including this gal!) This YA/NA fae trilogy by Tessonja Odette is also getting a new look (including pretty new hardcovers, all designed by the author herself!).

I’m on the rebrand tour through Book of Matches Media, which is particularly awesome since I’ve had my eye on To Carve a Fae Heart for a while. I’m now wondering what took me so long! But there is a contest that goes with this tour…

For details on the giveaway contest, where you can win signed hardcovers of To Carve a Fae Heart, To Wear a Fae Crown, and To Spark a Fae War as part of the Book of Matches Media tour, head over to my Instagram page.

Here’s the synopsis for book one, To Carve a Fae Heart:

Every young woman dreams of marrying a king.
Everyone except for me.
Because the king I am to wed has razor sharp fangs and a thirst for blood.

All my life I knew I’d come of age during the Hundred Year Reaping. According to the ridiculous treaty, two human girls are sent to the faelands as brides for the fearsome fae king and his devilish younger brother.

Not me. I was supposed to be safe. Two girls were chosen from my village already. But when they are executed for offending the king, my sister and I are sent in their place.

What a mess. Then again, maybe it’s not so bad. The younger brother I’m paired with doesn’t seem as monstrous as I’d expected. He’s delightfully handsome too. But nothing compares to the chilling, dangerous beauty of the fae king. And when my sister flees the castle and her terrifying husband-to-be, I’m left to marry him instead.

If I go through with this, I might not survive my wedding night. If I don’t, no one is safe, neither human nor fae. An ancient war will return, bringing devastation we haven’t seen in a thousand years. Can I sacrifice myself for the good of my people? Or will a dangerous desire be the death of me first?

If I don’t lose my heart, the king will certainly lose his. I’ll carve it out with an iron blade if I have to.

…And now for those beautiful covers!

The Fair Isle Trilogy, by Tessonja Odette
The Fair Isle Trilogy, by Tessonja Odette
Fair Isle Trilogy
Naked hardbacks, designed by the author!

That’s all for now! Review of To Carve a Fae Heart coming soon.

Cheers!

CKB

Ask an Indie Author with Ashley Evercott: How do I make my book covers shine on social media?

In this inaugural post of the Ask an Indie Author feature, indie fantasy author Ashley Evercott (Enchanting Fate) takes over the blog to solve a question every indie author deals with. Take it away, Ashley!

Ask an Indie Author with Ashley Evercott

Ask an Indie Author with Ashley Evercott: How do I make my book covers shine on social media?

The new age of technology has allowed authors to market their books through social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok. These platforms can benefit authors and provide free advertising. However, as a newbie author with no graphic design, photography, or video background, it’s difficult to know where to begin.

I have also struggled with learning about this topic, but over time I have learned a few tips and found apps that have helped me make my cover and books shine on social media. Some of these tips/apps might seem obvious to those who excel in creating posts and videos already, but hopefully, they will help the new authors who don’t know where to start.

Canva

1. Canva

The first website/app that will be your best friend with creating beautiful Instagram posts is Canva. There are lots of different functions you can use to change a photo’s saturation, brightness, size, etc. You can add animation to your text and images to make your post stand out even more. There are video features you can use if you want to make a reel/TikTtok as well. You can use the free version or pay a monthly subscription for the full access to all their images, fonts, and other features. I personally have gotten by without having to pay the
subscription.

Tip #1: Download the app on your phone

If you are making a Canva post on your computer, I would advise you to download the app on your phone and look at your design from your phone. The colors will appear different on each device, but the way it’ll appear on your phone will be more important because most people will look at Instagram/Twitter/Facebook from their phones as well.

Tip #2: Study popular author posts

This may seem self-explanatory but you should look up posts other
people have made and study them, especially if they’ve had a lot of likes.
If you’re thinking of a book reveal, or book cover teaser, look up the
hashtags and study what other successful authors did. You can learn a lot about how they compose pictures, use colors, and fonts to attract their audience. Of course, you should never outright copy someone’s post.

Collage maker

2. Collage Maker: Photo Editor

This is the specific app I used to create mood board posts on Instagram. There
are other collage making apps available but this is the one I prefer, and it’s free.
You can collect photos and create an image like the one I made for Instagram:

Moodboard by Ashley Evercott
Moodboard by Ashley Evercott

Mood boards are an excellent way to show your book’s aesthetic and draw an audience in.

Reels and TikTok logos

3. TikTok and Reels

TikTok and Reels have become great ways to post about your book for free. Many authors have found success with making videos on each platform. You can make an account for both and post the same video to reach a wider audience. Although I do not
have a large following, I have found that I have a spike in reads when I post a video about my book and so I highly recommend every author to post on these platforms.

 Tip #1: Learn from the trends

As with the picture post advice, the same goes for TikTok and Reels. Study what other authors are doing and pay attention to what sounds/songs are trending. Use those to your advantage.

Tip #2: You don’t need to show your face

If you are uncomfortable with showing your face on camera and talking, you don’t have to. There are many successful videos that showcase the book alone. For example:

1. Flip through your book’s pages, post quotes from the story and end the video by revealing the cover

2. Show a variety of pretty pictures that show your book’s aesthetic, providing quotes, or draw your audience in with a hook, and top it off with a trendy song.

Tip #3: Lip sync to make relatable content

If you are comfortable showing your face but you still don’t want to use your own voice, use someone else’s! Use a sound and make it about how writing is difficult, or how your characters have a mind of their own. Get creative and make it fun.

Tip #4: Don’t always make it about marketing

An audience will appreciate your videos more if you don’t shove your
book in their faces all the time. You can make videos about your favorite
books, your favorite or least favorite tropes, or, as mentioned in tip #3,
make it about the writing process.

CapCut logo

4. Capcut

Capcut is a video app you can download on your phone and my favorite way to make special effects I cannot create on TikTok or Instagram. There are many free features and fonts available, but if you want access to all the features, there’s a monthly subscription.

Tip #1: Use the 3D zoom effect

For my cover reveal for Enchanting Fate, I used Capcut’s 3D zoom effect on my video. Here is how I achieved that:

1. Insert your cover photo. Click on the photo until a white highlight appears around the photo. Under, scroll right until you find the style box. Click it.

2. Scroll Right and you will find two zoom options. Either will give you a cool effect and you can choose which one you like best.

Capcut with the cover of Enchanting Fate
1. Click the style box
Capcut with the Cover of Enchanting Fate
2. Choose from the two zoom options

Overall, there are many apps to help you with your marketing journey. These are the free tools I found most helpful to me and I hope they will help you make your cover shine, too.

Ashley Evercott

Ashley Evercott was born and raised where it’s mostly sunny and there’s always traffic on the 91. From a young age, she has dreamed of far-off worlds and star-crossed lovers. She is proud to pen these stories to life and combine fantasy and tension-filled, clean romance. When she is not writing, she is consuming as many books as she can and daydreaming at home with her cat and supportive husband.

Ashley’s next book, Enchanting Gold: A Rumpelstiltskin Retelling, will be published either this fall of 2022, or January 2023. Follow her @ashleyevercott on Instagram for more updates.

To learn more about this author, visit ashleyevercott.com.

Frozen Hearts and Death Magic review

A Review of Frozen Hearts and Death Magic

Note: I received an ARC and am leaving an honest, voluntary review. Parts of this book depict a violent, abusive situation.

This book was so much fun! Though Frozen Hearts and Death Magic is inspired by telanovelas, I didn’t find it overly dramatic. The characters, each a royal of kingdoms living in fear of a fae invasion or, in River’s case, an actual fae, were so lovely to get to know, and the intrigues were all interesting and absorbing (better still, readers are on the side of the one kingdom that suspects the bad guys). Because of the modern language and characters, this was a great book to read after Ashley Shuttleworth’s A Dark and Hollow Star.

I really enjoyed the magic system, which is hereditary and usually limited to one ability per character. Ironworkers can manipulate metal (Fel is so accomplished, he can fly; he also was born without hands and has learned to use metal ones seamlessly; he deals with ableism in a bit of fantasy representation). Leah is a necromancer grappling with fascinating dream magic. Naia is just beginning to discover her magic, and her relationship with mysterious fae River gave me the tingles from chapter one.

I would easily rate this book higher, but the writing changed in one of the storylines and there were flashbacks inserted late in the plot, interrupting all the exciting things that were happening. Combined with a lot of copy editing issues there that got distracting for me, I found myself getting a bit frustrated.

Frozen Hearts and Death Magic

A controlling, abusive situation that another character found themselves in was an extremely stressful surprise that others may also find hard to read. (Thankfully, the characters are awesomely magical enough that it doesn’t last long and they otherwise have plenty of agency.) It was well worth reading through these parts for me because I enjoyed everything else so much.

If you are the kind of reader who minds modern language in a high fantasy setting, this may not be for you (I did find it particularly well-suited to the teenage characters, and bristled a bit when the adults slipped into it at times). All that being said, I will happily pick up book two and see what happens to these wonderful characters and their developing magic.

Overall, I thought Frozen Hearts and Death Magic was un-put-downable.

My rating:
4/5

To learn more about this author, visit dayleitao.com.

A Darkness at the Door review

ReviewADarkness

Note: I received an ARC and am voluntarily leaving an honest review. Triggers for this book include child abduction, violence, execution and torture.

What a ride this book takes you on, and what an amazing arc for Rae! Better still, the outstanding plot points from Thorn return in A Darkness at the Door, in a way that isn’t forced and that I found very satisfying.

I didn’t get the whole “book boyfriends” thing until I read this book and Bren came along. In the early chapters of The Theft of Sunlight, we’re assured Rae will never get a match because of her turned foot and mobility issues. In A Darkness at the Door, Bren frequently laments that Rae is hard to keep up with. She’s a force for sure, because of both her determination and her goodness, and it is fantastic to see a person who sees that falling for her, and vice versa.

Slowly, Rae recaptures every scrap of dignity she lost in The Theft of Sunlight, redefining what it means to be a country girl in the city (hint: it means being more capable and grounded, now that she’s free from the pretenses of palace life). We also see her practice self-acceptance and body positivity, and coming to terms with the benefits of using a cane. In one scene, Rae thanks her body for how far it carries her, including the foot so often referred to as a limitation. She even uses opponents’ ableism against them. The disability representation is exceptional here.

This is an action-packed book with plenty of heart to balance its darkness. I can’t help but rave about the entire series, and the wonderful heights its heroine reaches in this last installment. Because I have the sense of there being so many more stories to tell in Rae’s world, I can only hope we’ll return to Menaiya again someday–or at the very least to wherever Bean is.

My rating:
5/5

To learn more about this author, visit booksbyintisar.com.

8 fantasy books with delicious cliffhangers

8 fantasy books with delicious cliffhanger endings

Whether it’s a plot twist that blows a story wide open or an arc that leads to a wider plot, cliffhangers get a reaction. Whether you hate them or love the torture, cliffhangers appear in many popular books. Personally, I love them–if they’re done right.

Here’s a list of some of my favorites.

Warning: This list contains spoilers (though I’ve tried to keep them vague).

Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1), by Leigh Bardugo – They’ve done it! Or have they? Things go south real quick as book one in the Duology comes to a pretty abrupt halt. This one left me worried for my favorite characters and needing Crooked Kingdom fast.

Bride of the Shadow King, by Sylvia Mercedes – The two would-be lovers could not be more star-crossed in this brilliant romantic fantasy. Just when you think they’ll catch a break, a single chapter changes the game completely. (Find my review here.)

The Wicked King, by Holly Black – Will Jude and Cardan work things out, or will the boy king go the way of King Joffrey? After a mega plot twist, you’ll learn…that you need to read book three!

Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3), by Sarah J. Maas – Celaena Sardothien has an emotional breakthrough, and a lot goes wrong or outright fizzles. But as the plot is about to move her back to the primary setting as this lengthy book ends. Come on! (My review.)

An Enchantment of Thorns (A Court of Fairy Tales #1), by Helena Rookwood and Elm Vince – In this Beauty and the Beast retelling, there’s no relief in sight for heroine Aster and prickly fae beast Thorne. With their tale now complete at three books, at least you won’t have to shout at words like I did. (My review here.)

For the Wolf (Wilderwood #1), by Hannah Whitten – We’re far from done with Wilderwood guardian Eamon and the unlucky Red by the time For the Wolf is finished. Thankfully, the book’s sweet and swoony romance provides a /bit/ of closure. (My review.)

The Theft of Sunlight (Dauntless Path #2), by Intisar Khanani – As a country girl turned princess’s lady-in-waiting with mobility challenges, it takes time for heroine Rae to find her place. Not long after she does, a wicked plot twist pushes the plot into another book due this summer. Such delicious torture! (Find my review here.)

Skin of the Sea (Skin of the Sea #1), by Natasha Bowen – This Yoruba legends-based mermaid’s odyssey manages to end in a satisfying way, despite the greater adventure only beginning. (My review here.)

Trivia: How well do you know the Six of Crows duology characters?

How well do you know the Six of Crows characters?

Love Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows duology? (Of course you do! You’re here!) Test your knowledge of the unforgettable characters below!

  1. What kind of Grisha is Kuwei Yul-Bo?

    A. Heartrender
    B. Fabrikator
    C. Inferni
    D. Tailor

    2. Which of these Grisha skills does Nina have at the beginning of Six of Crows?

    A. Tailor
    B. Heartrender
    C. Healer
    D. All of the above

    3. Where does Pekka Rollins keep his office?

    A. The Kaelish Prince
    B. The Emerald Palace
    C. The Black Veil
    D. Sweet Reef

    4. Which of these characters is NOT a Grisha?

    A. Zoya
    B. Genya
    C. Jesper
    D. Colm

    5. Which one of these characters join a consortium of jurda traders according to Kaz’s plan?

    A. Jarl Brum
    B. Karl Dryden
    C. Mister Crimson
    D. Cornelius Smeet

    6. Which of these roles or disguises does Jesper NOT assume as part of a plan?

    A. Zemeni delegate
    B. Mister Crimson
    C. Jurda farmer
    D. Gambler

  1. C. Inferni

  2. D. All of the above (these are all Corporalki skills)
  3. B. The Emerald Palace
  4. D. Colm (Fahey)
  5. B. Karl Dryden
  6. C. Jurda farmer

Less than 4 questions right: You’re a Six of Crows novice! Maybe it’s time for a re-read!

4 questions right: You’re familiar with the duology, but the details have gotten fuzzy!

5 questions right: You’re almost an expert!

6 questions right: Are you Leigh Bardugo? No? Just a really huge fan? My friend, you are in the right place!

So how did you do?

9 Fantastic Quotes from the Six of Crows Duology

9 Fantastic Quotes from the Six of Crows Duology

Crooked Kingdom is my favorite of the two books in Leigh Bardugo’s brilliant Six of Crows Duology. I had so many highlights! In all fairness to Six of Crows, I’ve plucked out some of my favorites from that book to include in this list, too.

Here they are: Nine fantastic quotes from the Six of Crows Duology.

  1. What about the nobodies and the nothings, the invisible girls? We learn to ring magic from the ordinary. – Crooked Kingdom

2. She’d laughed, and if he could have bottled the sound and gotten drunk on it every night, he would have. It terrified him. – Six of Crows

3. He felt free, dangerous, like lightning rolling over the prairie. – Crooked Kingdom

4. “I would come for you. And if I couldn’t walk, I’d crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we’d fight our way out together–knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that’s what we do. We never stop fighting.” – Crooked Kingdom

5. I’m a business man,” he’d told her. “No more, no less.”
“You’re a thief, Kaz.”
“Isn’t that what I just said?” – Six of Crows

6. “That was how you survived when you weren’t chosen, when there was no royal blood in your veins. When the world owed you nothing, you demanded something of it anyway.” – Crooked Kingdom

The Six of Crows Duology

7. “Nina glanced from Inej to Kaz and saw they both wore the same expression. Nina knew that look. It came after the shipwreck, when the tide moved against you and the sky had gone dark. It was the first sight of land, the hope of shelter and even salvation that might await you on a distant shore.” – Crooked Kingdom

8. He needed to tell her…what? That she was lovely and brave and better than anything he deserved. That he was twisted, crooked, wrong, but not so broken that he couldn’t pull himself together into some semblance of a man for her. That without meaning to, he’d begun to lean on her, to look for her, to need her near. – Six of Crows

9. “Stop treating your pain like it’s something you imagined. If you see the wound is real, then you can heal it.” – Crooked Kingdom

Kaz Brekker and my Fjerdan heist level character hangover

Caution: This post contains spoilers for Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom.

Ever had a book hangover? How about a character hangover?

I’ve got one, and it’s because of Kaz Brekker.

Kaz Brekker and my Fjerda heist-level character hangover

Six of Crows introduces readers to the gritty underworld of Ketterdam, from scheming merchants to the gambling empires of the Barrel. As a top underling in a gang called the Dregs, Kaz Brekker is a half mythical figure–which is exactly how he designed his image. There aren’t many anti-heroes that intentional.

Throughout the Six of Crows duology, the story slowly prizes up Kaz’s carefully crafted mask. He’s only a marginally likeable character, his intellectual feats pulling off impossible victories like magic. He’s vicious, living up to his nicknames: Dirtyhands and the Bastard of the Barrel.

So why am I so weirdly obsessed with this character?

Kaz Brekker has a leg injury that leaves him with mobility issues. It’s a little odd in terms of representation because 1) it causes pain but doesn’t seem to hinder him in critical moments and 2) he actually could rid himself of it with a skilled Grisha tailor’s help. He considers it such a part of himself, though, that he doesn’t think of it when he has the chance.

Stock photo of an alley at night
A stock photo by Nicolas Postiglioni with serious Ketterdam vibes

There’s also something fiercely endearing about the moments he fails: when he finally reveals some of his feelings to Inej and when he passes out in the truck in Fjerda. Kaz has his painful backstory to be sure, but I don’t think that’s what makes him an unforgettable character.

It’s the way others view him that does it. From Inej’s challenge that makes him face his flaws, to the way they brighten when they spot his “scheming face.” He’s loyal to those loyal to him, the dark knight sweeping in for the rescue in a merciless city. He’s a super hero with a soft spot, clever and not at all charming, especially with a character like Jesper on the scene. Kaz even gives out second chances.

At the same time, he’s not all that complex: Kaz is totally driven by revenge and ambition. His most lovable moments come when he tries to do normal human things. For all his faults and miraculous heists, it’s this quality I love most about his character: the boy who knows he isn’t ordinary, but for others’ sake, makes the attempt anyway.

And that’s why I won’t forget Kaz Brekker anytime soon.

Do you know Kaz Brekker?

Do You KNow Kaz Brekker?

So, you think you know Kaz Brekker…! Find out below whether you’re a tried and true Crow who knows Kaz cover to cover–or if you’re just visiting the Crow Club for kicks.

via GIPHY

1.What item of Saskia’s does Kaz Brekker keep?

A. A toy lion
B. A pin
C. A ribbon
D. A crow stuffed animal

2. Which of these businesses does Kaz Brekker sabotage?

A. The Rose Garden
B. The Kaelish Prince
C. The Crow Club
D. Club Cumulus

3. What everday item does Kaz keep up his sleeve as a weapon?

A. A shucking knife
B. A paring knife
C. A seam ripper
D. A boning knife

4. True or false: Kaz Brekker has never left Ketterdam until the Fjerdan heist.

5. What real plague does Kaz Brekker orchestrate a fake outbreak of?

A. The King’s Pox Plague
B. The Queen’s Lady Plague
C. The Water Pox Plague
D. The Lady’s Lace Plague

6. Which of these characters does Kaz slip up and call Jordie?

A. Inej
B. Matthias
C. Wylan
D. Jesper

1 C. A ribbon
2. B. The Kaelish Prince
3. A. A (oyster) shucking knife
4. False: Kaz is from the countryside
5. B. The Queen’s Lady Plague
6. D. Jesper

Less than four questions right: Have you been watching Netflix again?

Four questions right: Ok, so you’ve see Kaz Brekker around.

Five questions right: You know Kaz Brekker–but I wouldn’t let him hear you saying that!

Six questions right: Kaz will admit to knowing you. Heck, he may even set up a rescue when you’re in need. But can anyone REALLY know Kaz Brekker?