Posted on April 9th 2021 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category:
Today’s review is for The Frost Eater by Carol Beth Anderson. Spoiler (for the review, not the book) I absolutely loved this book. I feel like the last few reviews are making a liar out of me when I say I don’t give out five teaspoon reviews often.
About the Author
Carol Beth Anderson lives in Texas with her husband, two kids, a dog and a bunch of fish. She has some hobbies I can definitely appreciate, such as making sourdough bread and knitting. Like many of the other authors I’ve feature on the blog she is extremely active on Twitter. And now TikTok, apparently, haha. You can find her on Twitter here.
The book is available in eBook and Paperback from Amazon, as well as in audio from Audible. The eBook is $2.99 or free with Kindle Unlimited. The paperback is $15.99 USD, which is what I paid.
The paperback is roughly 385 pages of actual story (there’s a sneak peek of book 2 at the end I’m not counting). It’s a pretty large trim size book, so there’s a lot there.
External design first. I really like the cover on this book. I do think it’s maybe a little busy for my tastes, but it is genre appropriate and the text is easy to read. I might have clicked on this on Amazon. However, I got sucked in by snippets and tweets about the 3rd book of the series, so that’s hard to say. I give the cover 4 teaspoons.
Interior design. The book is nicely formatted. I did not notice any issues. The scenes are well delineated in both print and eBook. All around a professional looking interior. There’s really nothing special, no extra charm or fluff. 4 teasppons.
I find the premise of this interesting. Two young people from very different backgrounds form an uneasy partnership to find a third missing teenager. It has a quest-y sort of aspect to it and fits some tropes. Searching for a lost love, for example. However, just reading the blurb it doesn’t feel like an overly rehashed story.
Anderson’s characters are wonderfully imperfect creations. Krey is an arrogant hot-head, but underneath that beats a heart of gold. Nora is naive and more than a little socially awkward, but she genuinely cares for her friends and her people. Ovrun, who has no special gifts or station, is arguably the best of them all.
I really appreciated how Nora and Ovrun actually had practical reasons to deny their budding relationship, rather than just a vague “duty” sort of argument you often see in monarch type fantasy books.
The genuine friendship and affection that develops between the main trio is very well written. It develops over time and in a believable manner. There’s a slow opening up as Krey learns to trust Nora.
5 teaspoons for characters.
There is a lot of plot here. I was starting to get suspicious of the direction it was eventually going to go pretty quickly, but Anderson really kept me second-guessing my own instincts. Everything is well paced. I was never bored. Once the story really got going I had a hard time putting the book down to do other things. Nothing stood out to me as being a crutch or out of place.
5 teaspoons for plot.
There is so much to unpack in the world-building here. From the magic system, to the history, to the biology.
It’s not really explained outright how humans came to be on the planet the story takes place on (after all, it’s in the past and a lot of records are toast), but to me it felt like the hints pointed to space travel, perhaps? Definitely a sci-fi flavor. There are of course plenty of alien speices that are now perfectly normal to the humans living on the planet that drive home how this is not Earth.
However, something apocalyptic happened that knocked out half the population and the tech. That event is referred to as “The Day.” Definitely gives the book a sort of post-apocalyptic vibe, although many generations have passed. The little snippets of Nora’s ancestor’s memoir really bring what it was like to live right after “The Day” into perspective and deepen this aspect of the worldbuilding.
The fallout from “The Day” results in some interesting things besides death and mayhem, including the onset of magical abilities in the humans who survived. I really enjoyed the magic system. The only other magic system I’ve read about that is even remotely similar was from Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series. This combined with dragons really amped up the fantasy vibe.
Anyway, I could go on and on about all the cool details in the worldbuilding, but I might end up giving away spoilers. 5 teaspoons.
I really enjoyed Anderson’s overall style and tone. The prose is engaging and the dialogue is both dynamic and believable. It really suits the genre without feeling forced on overly juvenile, which is something I’ve noticed in some “YA” books.
This is a new section for me. The Frost Eater is the first book I’ve reviewed on the blog to actually have an audio edition available at the time of reviewing.
I listened to portions of the book in audio, alternating between listening and reading the paperback copy. The sections I listened to were really well done. Anderson is an excellent narrator, and I didn’t notice any real difference from professional audio production. Maybe an audio snob would, but this casual listener did not.
The Frost Eater is hands down the best YA book I have read in a long time. Maybe ever. Someone give this woman a movie deal and then don’t botch the adaptation, please.
Although the genre is slightly different, this really put me in the mind of YA bombshells like Divergent and Hunger Games. I think it’s that partly post-apocalyptic flavor. Yet, it had that fantasy/sci-fi edge that I personally really crave.
All in all, excellent book. I’m really looking forward to diving into the next two in the trilogy.
Posted on April 8th 2021 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category:
Since I didn’t have a blog post on Monday and I just got some fun book mail today, I thought I’d do a quick follow-up to my ARC review of The Shield Road by Dewi Hargreaves. I specifically want to address the physical book since I didn’t have that available when I did the review.
I think my appreciation of the cover design went up seeing it in print. Little details I didn’t really notice looking at it on the computer screen pop out to me more on the print cover. (For example, the tiny moon on the banner over the castle and the embossed look of the lettering).
The inside pretty much looks just like the PDF I had for the ARC. I haven’t read the whole thing over again carefully (obviously, since I just got it today), but flipping through, I didn’t notice any issues—overall just a nice, readable book.
Side note for American readers, this is formatted in the British style for quotation marks. I didn’t mention that in my initial review.
Anyway, I’m really excited to add this to the shelf with all the books I’ve reviewed on the blog so far.
Posted on April 2nd 2021 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category:
Apologies for being late on the posting today. What’s 12 hours, right?
This is just a quick update post, nothing super fancy. Today is Day 2 of the April Camp NaNoWriMo. So far I have managed to keep up the meager word goals I have set for myself. I think it’s a wee bit early yet to say that things are coming together, but I am feeling good about the draft so far.
My goals for April are fairly modest. I’m shooting for 23,000 words of Finding the Dragon. I was roughly 4,000 words in at the end of March and I haven’t written yet today, so April 1st was surprisingly productive.
My total target word goal for the book is 80,000, so even after camp is over I’m going to have a long way to go. Still, I think this is a nice start.
Anyways, I will be back to my regular time and content on Monday with another indie book review.
Posted on March 29th 2021 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category:
Today’s review is of Queen of the Wild by E.M. Howell. It is the first book in the Wildflowers and Evertrees series. I don’t remember exactly how I found this book. It may have been a Facebook ad (I fall prey to those a lot) or a Twitter promo thread.
Disclaimer: If you do not enjoy a moderate amount steam in your stories, this one is not for you. Additionally, this book does have some themes surrounding rape and sexual abuse. If you feel that may be triggering for you, I suggest you skip this one.
About the Author
E.M. Howell is a Canadian author hailing from Calgary, Alberta. She lives with her husband, their son, and two escape-artist felines.
She does some great Facebook livestreams (which is how I know the cats are escape artists). Like her page here.
About the Book
Queen of the Wild is available in for Kindle and in print from Amazon. At the time of this writing it is priced at $16.32 for print and $2.99 for Kindle. It is enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, which is how I accessed the Kindle edition.
My print copy is around 460 pages, and Kindle lists the typical time to read at 7 hours at the time of this writing.
I am not aware of any plans for translation or audio at this time.
I like the exterior design. I vaguely recall that the cover was one of the things that caught my attention when I decided to download the book. Fun fact, the cover was created by the author’s husband. They seem to be quite the talented duo.
I will say that the style of the cover art feels more like a contemporary fantasy to me than the high fantasy romance the book actually delivers. And if I had to nitpick, the back cover is quite crowded. It’s a bit of a wall of text.
Still, I would give the exterior design 4 teaspoons.
The interior design is quite nice. The little flower art at the chapter headers and scene dividers is cute in both the print and the eBook versions. The decorative drop caps at the beginning of each chapter in the print edition are a nice touch of whimsy. There is a lovely map that very much suits the style of the book.
The interior design is a perfect 5 teaspoons.
Now. That being said, there is something to consider if you’re buying the print edition. Currently, a whole paragraph is missing at the end of Chapter Twenty-Eight. The chapter cuts off mid-sentence and Chapter Twenty-Nine starts on the same page, breaking the formatting pattern in the rest of the book. I was able to read the missing paragraph in the Kindle edition, and I will say it’s not exactly vital, but it was definitely something that took me out of my flow as a reader.
I of course reached out to the author. She let me know that they are aware and in the process of updating the print edition. For this reason, I am opting not to deduct from my score for the interior design. Likely by the time you are reading this any print copies going out will already be fixed.
Overall for design is 4 teaspoons.
Queen of the Wild plays on some classic romance tropes. We have the marriage alliance trope, the childhood friends trope, and the forbidden love trope. There’s nothing unique here that blows me away or intrigues me. As far the premise goes for a fantasy romance, it does the job.
Let’s get the negative out of the way first. The names of the majority of the characters in this book drove me crazy almost to the point of distracting. I found many of the nicknames to be like nails on a chalkboard.
There is a generous side cast, including the king and all of his siblings. I found the different friendships and sibling relationships to be well written, but if I go into each in detail we’ll be here all day. Since this is a romance, I am going to focus specifically on the romantic leads.
I went back and forth with being annoyed and smitten with Andrew Oakes. Given the type of book I was reading, I suspect that was the author’s intent. In a lot of ways he really is the typical romantic hero. Obnoxiously tall, well muscled, etc, etc. A bit thick headed where women are concerned. Still, other than the first chapter, I found him to be well written, and his emotional unraveling was great to read.
Zenobia is another story. She definitely does not fall into the same annoying thought patterns I’ve seen in a lot of other romance. She doesn’t prolong the conflict by being obtuse and whiny to get a few more pages into the book. She very much sees Andrew’s BS and calls him on it. Which I appreciated.
This one had a slow start for me. I had a little bit of trouble getting into it, for some reason. I’m not sure that the choice to open with Andrew pondering his distaste for Peoples’ Court was the best. If like me you have a hard time getting into this scene, please, keep going and give it a chance.
Once you get past the initial set-up, things really start to pick up quickly. Once I got into the meat of the story, I was enthralled and finished the book in a day.
I didn’t have a lot of trouble guessing the plot twist. However, I still think it was well done and the author did a good job sowing some doubts in me before the big reveal.
I really enjoyed the depth of the world in Queen of the Wild. There were aspects I could have done without; the Evertrees nearly broke my suspension of disbelief, for example. On the other hand, the intricacies of Vayreland’s society and religion were fascinating. The way the church tied in with the political and socio-economic conflicts of the book was great.
I also enjoyed that Howell had some consequences for Zenobia’s mixed heritage. I haven’t seen that a lot in fantasy with half elves. Usually the consequences of mixed heritage are some sort of ostracization and social commentary. Howell, on the other hand, gives us real genetic consequences besides the usual perks. It was a very nice touch.
One critique I have is that the use nicknames outside of dialogue was sometimes not consistent with the intimacy of the POV character. Cassopia being called “Opi” outside of dialogue in a scene from Zenobia’s POV didn’t feel right.
On the positive side, there are three things that I think Howell does very well in this book. The first is writing steamy love scenes that sizzle without going too far into cringe territory. No awful flowery euphemisms here.
Second, she really gives the reader some great laugh-out-loud moments. My husband had to come upstairs to see what all the noise was about.
And finally, I felt that once the story really got into the swing of things Howell built tension and suspense beautifully.
I ended up enjoying this book immensely once it really got into the story. I laughed a lot, and even cried a little. There was plenty of plot and deep worldbuilding to enjoy, and just the right amount of heat. I’m really looking forward to picking up sequel, Queen of the Sea in the near future.
Posted on March 26th 2021 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category:
This month was a busy, busy month. A lot got done.
Courting the Dragon is officially with the copy editor, and temporarily out of my hands. It will be back soon for the final polish and formatting for eBook and print. I will be putting out the official call for ARC reviewers soon. If you’re interested, please reach out through contact form on my website, or DM me via Facebook or Twitter.
Against my better judgement, I have started drafting Finding the Dragon. It will be my project for Camp NaNoWriMo next month. I’ve joined a fun group of campers from my Twitter social circle, so I’m looking forward to some digital writing camp shenanigans. Writing is always more fun with friends.
I also have a very full line-up for the blog in terms of reviews for April and May. There’s some really great books I can’t wait to share with you all. Here’s a picture of my TBR (to-be-read) pile, just to give you a sneak peek.
In non-writing news, Matt and I have made great progress on my office. It’s still very much a work in progress, but hopefully I’ll be able to do a full sort of “office tour” type post sometime in April. Assuming IKEA ever gets the bookshelves I so desperately want back in stock.
And last but not least, I also have an update on when Courting the Dragon will be available for those who prefer an audio format. I do not have a release date yet, but I have decided to do the narration for this one myself. The plan is to begin recording chapters as they come back from the copy editor. I’m a total noob at this stuff, so recording and editing will likely take me a lot longer than someone who knows what they’re doing. I’m sure I will have some interesting adventures in audio land to share with you all, along with links to some great resources for those who may be interested in audiobook narration.
And that’s it for March. I’d love to hear what y’all have been up to in the comments!