No Review November & Other Thoughts

Posted on November 12th 2021 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category: Uncategorized

I probably should have posted this last week but, well, I think y’all know how I am about stuff like this by now. Anyway, there will be no book reviews through the end of November. I am doing some reading, but with NaNoWriMo, a book release, a holiday, and my birthday all wrapped up in this month well… I just don’t have the time I need to devote to the in-depth reviews that I normall post. Reviews will be back in December. You can expect the first one to drop on the 6th. I don’t yet know what next year’s blog schedule is going to look like, but you can expect at least two reviews during the month of December.

On the bright side, my NaNoWriMo project is going very well. As of the time of this writing, my NaNoWriMo word count is just over 21K. This puts me at over 31% of the minimum length for the books I have planned in this series. If you missed my project announcement on Twitter or Instagram, I am currently working on Cursed Magic, which is Book 2 of the Woodland Curses series. Book 1, Bared Magic, will be released on November 26th.

So far, I’m really enjoying Cursed Magic. The characters have been taking me for a wild ride. I do think revision on this one is going to be a little rough, but I’m excited to see where all these random plot threads are going.

Now, you may be wondering. “Sara, weren’t you supposed to be working on Finding the Dragon?” You are… not wrong. It was originally my intention to get down most of the first draft for FtD during this year’s NaNoWriMo. However, with the interest that Bared Magic has been garnering and the drive I’m feeling on the Woodland Curses series in general, I felt that it made more sense for me to keep riding that momentum rather than essentially starting over with FtD. I do plan on writing FtD and finishing Penelope’s Dragon as a trilogy. So, if you’re one of the people waiting for that, don’t worry, it’s coming.

And, if you are a fan of Penelope’s Dragon, then you should definitely sign up for my newsletter, because this year’s winter holiday subscriber freebie is going to be a short story featuring characters from that series. The plan as of right now is to have some sort of freebie each December for my newsletter subscribers. If my production schedule for 2022 works out the way I planned, then the 2022 freebie just might be a whole novella set in the world of the Woodland Curses books.

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Faerie Fallen

Posted on October 26th 2021 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category: Reviews

This was supposed to go up yesterday (Monday) but I was so exhausted when I got home from the day job that I totally forgot! Sorry about that everyone. So enjoy this off-cycle review!


Today’s review is for Faerie Fallen, the new YA Fantasy Romance from Carol Beth Anderson, author of the Magic Eaters Trilogy. This review is based on a digital ARC which was gifted to me by the author. As always, this does influence my review. The following are my honest thoughts and opinions. So let’s get to it!

About the Author

Carol Beth Anderson is a YA author from Texas. In addition to Faerie Fallen, she has published 2 complete trilogies, a micro fiction collection, and an awesome how-to guide for authors looking to learn how to work with early readers. She’s also a thespian, recently starring in a few local theatre productions!

(So many of these authors are multi-talented, it’s incredible. Anyway…)

About the Book

Faerie Fallen is the first in a new series from Carol Beth Anderson titled Feathered Fae. It is due for release on December 14, 2021. It is priced at $3.99 for the eBook and estimated at around 350 pages. There will be both paperback and hardcover editions, but I do not have the pricing at the time of this review. The Kindle edition will be available in the Kindle Unlimited program.

4 teaspoons of tea leaves

Design

Exterior

I have mixed feelings about the cover for Faerie Fallen. It is a gorgeous piece of art that depicts a particular scene from the book. However, I feel like the cover lacks contrast, and the lettering of the title and author name just sort of… blend in. I haven’t seen the paperback yet, but I think — much like another book I reviewed recently — that this is going to be one of those covers that I love a lot more in print than I do digitally.

Interior

It’s hard to judge interior formatting on an ARC, but there are a few cool things I want to point out that I really enjoyed. First, there’s a full-color map in my ePub version of the book. I love that. Second, Anderson has included a cool little flourish at the beginning of each chapter that resembles a pair of angel wings. It’s a nice little touch that I appreciate.

I’m going to give the book 4 teaspoons for design. I will try to remember to do a follow-up on the print cover. 

5 teaspoons of tea leaves

Premise

You can read the full blurb here, but here’s my summary: When rebellious young faerie Sela finds herself on the wrong side of the king’s displeasure, she is given a chance to earn back her place in the Seelie Court. To do this, she must infiltrate the household of a human family suspected of plotting against the faeries. She has two months to find out something useful, or face banishment. The mission turns out to be more than Sela bargained for when she meets Kovian, the oldest son of the Darro family.

Oh, also, this is all happening on another planet in the distant future after both faeries and human separately fled earth and colonized it.

I really enjoy this undercover sort of enemies to lovers (but unknown to one side of the equation) premise. Anderson works in a lot of our favorite romance tropes in fun, refreshing ways. 

Premise is 5 teaspoons.

5 teaspoons of tea leaves

Characters

As usual, Anderson does a fantastic job writing young adult characters who are relatable and realistic—even when they have angel wings sprouting from their backs. Sela and Kovian are each a unique blend of intelligent, innocent, and broken.

The supporting cast are developed enough. Their relationships with the main characters are well defined, but morph and grow realistically as the story progresses. We grow to hate, love, and forgive them right along with Sela and Kovian.

5 teaspoons for characters.

5 teaspoons of tea leaves

Plot

The plot is engaging and twisty. Anderson reveals surprises for the reader with expert timing.

5 teaspoons.

5 teaspoons of tea leaves

Worldbuilding

The worldbuilding for Faerie Fallen is fascinating. It shows a human world frozen in a quasi early-1900s state of technological development. They have analog clocks, for example, and drive carts pulled by native beasts of burden. Yet birth control is readily available. Human society is mostly kept content in this state. The magic of the Seelie Court brings them health and relative ease of life. The beautiful faeries also protect them from the terrifying Unseelie. 

Anderson also drops little hints in her worldbuilding. For example, it seems that Transa — the planet where the story takes place — seems to be in the same story universe as Anderson’s Magic Eaters books. Additional depth is added by the teasing of more revelations to come. Such as how the faeries came to exist, and… well, I’m not going to spoil anything.

5 teaspoons for solid worldbuilding.

5 teaspoons of tea leaves

Writing

I just plain enjoy the way Anderson writes. I find her authorial voice to be pleasant and engaging. In particular, I enjoy her use of the different senses in her descriptions and imagery.

5 teaspoons.

5 teaspoons of tea leaves

Final Thoughts

I’m so mad about the cliffhanger ending. I wanted more of the book and I plan to pout just a little bit until I get the next one in my grubby little mitts. Anderson did a masterful job of building up a world in the early chapters and then proceeding to dismantle and warp it bit by bit through the rest of the book. Everyone in this book is wearing a mask at the start, and it is so much fun to watch those masks fall away.

5 teaspoons. Give me the next book please.

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The Horseman of Sleepy Hollow

Posted on October 18th 2021 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category: Reviews

Today’s review is of The Horseman of Sleepy Hollow by Rebecca F. Kenney. I thought with it being spooky season and all, that I should give y’all something vaguely in that realm before we transition into the season of elves and candy canes. Since I’m not really much of one for horror, Kenney’s Sleepy Hollow retelling seemed to fit the bill perfectly. I’m going to skip the About the Author section since I’ve already reviewed Kenney’s The Teeth in the Tide.

As always, my opinions are my own. Let’s get into it.

About the Book

The Horseman of Sleepy Hollow is billed as a novella with an estimated page length of 123 pages. You can pick up the Kindle copy for $1.99 or read it for free with Kindle Unlimited. The paperback copy is $12.99, which is what I paid for it. It was released on October 15, 2021.

4 teaspoons of tea leaves

Design

Exterior

As with all of Kenney’s books, The Horseman of Sleepy Hollow has a gorgeous cover. I really love the color choices — very autumn and mildly spooky. It invokes the creepy factor juxtaposed with elegance, and I dig it.

The font on the back has good contrast and is a reasonable size. However, I’m not entirely jazzed by big blocks of small caps text. I find that just a little bit difficult to read.

4.5 teaspoons for the exterior design.

Interior

There are a few things I’m not super crazy about with the interior. The left-alignment of the text feels awkward to me. The Teeth in the Tide was also left-aligned and unjustified, but it didn’t seem as pronounced and off-putting, possibly due to a difference in font family and point. The first chapter starting on the left-hand page also feels weird and non-standard. I couldn’t find another example of it other than The Teeth in the Tide in a quick skim through comprable titles.

I don’t think this makes the book more difficult to read, it just really bugs me personally. However, it was only distracting for a few pages until I got sucked into the story.

The paperback interior does feature some pretty little graphic details at the start of the chapters and near the page numbers, which I greatly enjoyed.

4 teaspoons for the interior design.

5 teaspoons of tea leaves

Premise

The premise of The Horseman of Sleepy Hollow is of course that it is a retelling of Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Admittedly, I’m not super familiar with the source material beyond some pop culture references. I’ve never even seen the Disney adaptation. I think I might have seen part of 1999’s Sleepy Hollow? Maybe. Anyway, as I (and Wikipedia) understand it, much of the elements of the story remain the same: the lovely Katrina is caught in the rivalry of her two suitors–Ichabod Crane, the Schoolteacher and Brom. Where the stories diverge, well… what if Katrina was given a third option?

I generally like the premise of the story. I’m not sure if my lack of familiarity made me more or less disposed towards it. I’ll let you be the judges, dear readers.

5 teaspoons for the premise.

4 teaspoons of tea leaves

Characters

First up is Katrina Van Tassel, our lovely heroine. I honestly have mixed feelings about Katrina. On one hand, I understand her frustrations. She chaffs under the expectations placed on her by the good Dutch wives of Sleep Hollow and the injustices of society in Colonial America. On the other hand, toying with the affections of not one, but two men is very not-cool, Katrina. Still, Kenney’s Katrina has much more life and character than in the original short story. Still her head isn’t the worst place to be, which is a good thing, because the story is told from her perspective.

Brom Van Brunt is given a proper surname (he’s Brom Bones in the Irving original). He’s just as awful as the original implied (maybe worse), I’m really glad he doesn’t get the girl in this one.

Ichabod Crane is an interesting character. Kenney gives him a complexity that I appreciate. You can both feel sympathy for him and simultaneously wish he was a better person. Perhaps if he were, Katrina wouldn’t have been so torn. Kenney at least doesn’t leave us wondering as to the schoolmaster’s fate as Irving does.

I don’t want to spoil too much about the Horseman himself. This take is very much inspired by Irish mythology and gives us a much… sexier character than one might expect. His relationship with Katrina and the goings-on is interesting and kept me guessing for a little while. Leave it to Kenney to turn the Headless Horseman into a swoon-worthy romantic hero.

My only regret with the characters is that the relationship between Katrina and the man she ultimately chooses is a bit rushed. It makes sense, given the length of the story.

4 teaspoons for characters.

5 teaspoons of tea leaves

Worldbuilding

The primary job of the worldbuilding in this case was to 1) ground us in Colonial America in Sleepy Hollow and 2) give us a reasonable explanation for how The Headless Horseman could be a romantic hero. Overall, I think Kenney did an excellent job at both of these objectives.

5 teaspoons for worldbuilding.

3 teaspoons of tea leaves

Plot

As this is a novella and a retelling of a short story, the plot is rather straightforward. There’s an incident with a tree branch that almost broke my suspension of disbelief, but I was able to roll with it and enjoy the story. Honestly though, part of me wishes that there had been more story, fleshing this out to a full-blown novel. I would have liked some more romance and some more intrigue with the real evil of Sleepy Hollow. Still, the plot was sensical and enjoyable.

3 teaspoons for plot.

5 teaspoons of tea leaves

Writing

As has thus far always been my experience, Kenney’s writing is just enjoyable.

5 teaspoons for writing.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed The Horseman of Sleepy Hollow. It was a fun Halloween-time read that didn’t leave me hiding under the covers. It was just the right about of spook and steam for a chilly autumn night.

My overall rating is 4.5 teaspoons.

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No Review Today/Life Update

Posted on October 11th 2021 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category: News

*Warning, if you can’t stand even obviously fake blood, do NOT click through the pictures in this post*

I wanted to have a review up today, but it just wasn’t in the cards this week. All of Saturday was spent participating in a 48 Hour Film Horror Project with my husband and his friends. If you live in NE Ohio and want to see our ~5 minute ball of cheese, the premire details can be found here. We are in group A.

The premise of our little film is that an actor, Freddie, is lured in with a fake casting call by Dr. John Shelley, who wants to use him for illicit experimentation. But the miracle drug Dr. Shelley is trying to create has an unintended consequence…

Honestly, filming it was a lot of fun. I got my first (questionable) screenwriting credit, and got to play with SFX make-up. I’ll let y’all be the judge of how I did on both counts. We are not pros and had no idea what we were doing 99% of the time. Would we do it again? I think the jury is still out on that, haha.

After filming on Saturday, my second covid shot hit me like a ton of bricks and absolutely nothing got done that night. Kind of it to wait till we were done, no? Anyway, I spent Sunday taking it easy on myself and (again) didn’t get a whole lot done. However, I intend to get through a couple of books this week and should have new reviews coming soon. Bared Magic is now with the editor, so I will have more time to focus on reading for the next week or two.

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The Chrysillium Tree

Posted on September 21st 2021 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category: Uncategorized

It took me way longer to post this review than it probably should have. I had a hard time organizing my thoughts. If this still seems a little scattered, know that it is despite my best efforts. So, here are the customary and obligatory disclaimers and disclosures. I did receive a free, advanced copy of this book for the purposes of review. This does not impact my opinion in any way. As always, my thoughts are my own.

I’m also going to get back into the habit of providing all the information I used to provide about the price, availability, etc. I’ve been slacking a little on my research lately.


This week’s review is for The Chrysillium Tree by Laken Honeycutt. It is releasing September 22, 2021 (yes, I really cut it to the last minute on this ARC review). It is not Amazon exclusive and will be available digitally for Kindle, Nook, Apple, Kobo, etc for $2.99. Paperback is also available for $15.99. It weighs in at 268 pages. It is written in English, and I am not aware of any plans for translation or audio at this time.

About the Author

Laken Honeycutt is an indie author from New England. She is fond of forests and enjoys activities that bring her close to nature, such as hiking and kayaking. She’s quite active on Twitter, where she motivates and supports fellow indie authors.

3 teaspoons of tea leaves

Design

As I’m sure you all know by now, I can be a fan of both the simplistic and the ornate when it comes to cover design.

I have mixed feelings about this one. The font is gorgeous and well contrasted with the background, making it very legible. The tree in the center is interesting. However, with its white backdrop, I cannot help but feel that it lacks some oomph for a digital cover. If I wasn’t aware of the book and anticipating its release I think I’d be liable to skip over it in my Kindle scrolling.

It’s a really pretty cover, it just doesn’t have a lot of visual punch. I’m looking forward to seeing how it looks in paperback though. I may update my rating at that point.

3 teaspoons for exterior design.

Since I received a digital ARC, I won’t be giving a rating for the interior. However, I didn’t notice any major issues with my copy, so I’m sure the final release copies will be just fine.

4 teaspoons of tea leaves

Premise

The book starts with an interesting premise. The main character, Mæve, has been taken as a slave by a cruel, expansionist empire. Her slavery puts her in the right place to learn some of the terrible secrets and plunge her into a whirlwind of rebellion and romance.

4 teaspoons.

4 teaspoons of tea leaves

Characters

I enjoyed Mæve as a protagonist. She didn’t do a lot of hand-wringing, instead taking action to save herself and others when the need arose.

Without spoiling too much, there is a bit of a love triangle. I will also admit that I was on Team <Redacted> the entire time, despite what some other ARC readers were saying on Twitter.

By far I think the most interesting character in the book was Isaac. He had the most depth and dimension of any of the characters, more so than either Mæve or Aramaiti in my opinion. It seems like he’s been set up for some interesting things in a sequel, and I’m looking forward to exploring that.

Some of the characters did fall a little flat for me at times. While there were injuries and deaths, they weren’t particularly impactful because we weren’t really given enough time with those characters to feel a lot of attachment to them.

4 teaspoons.

5 teaspoons of tea leaves

Worldbuilding

This. This is where Honeycutt shines. Holy moly can she world build. It just feels like there’s a ton of history, myth, and lore hiding behind every door in this book. I suspect we only got a small taste of everything there is. Further, each world element that was introduced seemed to have a direct impact on the story while still giving the world depth and breadth. Bravo.

5 teaspoons.

4 teaspoons of tea leaves

Plot

I did have some issues with the plot. There were some great twists I was not expecting and the characters did suffer some serious injuries and losses. However. There were times when it felt like certain things were just too easy and it lost some tension for me. The romance that ended up being end-game also felt a bit underdeveloped to me, which may be why some people were Team <Redacted>.

You thought I was going to spoiler on you, didn’t you?

4 teaspoons.

4 teaspoons of tea leaves

Writing

Overall I really enjoyed Honeycutt’s style. It was easy to read and times lyrical. The overall pacing was good, despite the points I noted above about the plot.

4 teaspoons.

4 teaspoons of tea leaves

 Final Thoughts

The Chrysillium Tree was a great read with a world that felt deep and full of interesting cultures and conflicts. Its greatest strengths are in its world-building and the interesting stage in which the characters tell their story. I’m really looking forward to a follow-up!

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