Author Interview: Dea Poirier

Author of: The Next Girl to Die (coming May 1, 2019)

Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing?

It was a piece for a creative writing class in 9th grade, about a man who was turned into a potted plant (mistakenly) by a witch.  

When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession?

I wouldn’t say I’m pursing it as a profession, I have a day job that I love immensely and need a challenge both in writing and in my non-writing career. I try to look at them as different beasts that don’t overlap. One is never going to replace the other. That being said, I started writing my first “novel” in my early twenties. I wrote the beginning of that novel around 437,000 times. Then, probably around 2006, I told myself it was either time to do it or stop thinking about it. I sat down, spent around a year writing the first (AWFUL) draft. The second book I wrote was much easier, and faster (though if you ask me, not much better). Though I did sort-of query the first two books, I wasn’t serious about it. My third project, a YA Paranormal Romance, was the first book I realized I wanted to seriously pursue. It wasn’t until I finished my fifth MS, and queried that, that I ended up signing with an agent.

Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author?

There have been so many amazing people in my life that have helped me on this journey, and of course I can’t name them all here. My critique partner (and one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met), Elesha Teskey, for one – I don’t know where I’d be without her. A writing group I had while I lived in Connecticut helped me immensely understanding the market, shaping my query, and realizing how much work marketing a book really is. And then my agent, Laura Bradford, has been fabulous and helped me in so many ways on this journey, giving me the advice I need to improve my work, and of course finding a place for it in the world.

Do you exclusively write thrillers or have you written in other genres?

I write thrillers, fantasy, and romantic suspense for the adult market. I also write paranormal romance, historical fantasy, and thrillers for the young adult market.

What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance?

When I’m writing a draft, I write during my lunch break at work (if I can), and then I write once my son goes to sleep for the night. Typically my writing time is 8pm to 11pm (or midnight, depending on how long the coffee keeps me up). It can be very difficult to maintain work/life balance with writing, especially in the draft stage, because I tend to become completely immersed in the story.

How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions?

It really varies by project. But my fastest draft (40k words) was two weeks. My most recent draft (60k words) was 17 days, I think. Something like that. On average though, I’d say a first draft takes me 4-6 weeks. Edits are a completely different beast. I usually set something aside to think about it after the draft. So, it can take me anywhere from six months to a year to get through revisions, readers, etc.

Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book?

It depends on which market I’m writing. Most projects, at the very least, I start out with a very detailed outline, and a character spreadsheet. For my historical projects, I look at the general time period/location I want to write about – then I fill in more of the historical details during the revision period. I have one exception to this, which is a novel that I spent over a month researching because it was very important to me to capture the location/history of the setting – as I saw the setting as its own character in a way.  

Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)?

That I’d never want anyone to know? Nah, not really. I’m a pretty open book about being peak-weird. I do find that I do my best writing during thunderstorms. I write all of my drafts/edits on paper. Though I can write on the computer, and I have challenged myself to do one entire MS on the computer instead of long hand, I find it doesn’t flow as well or as easily for me that way. I also have to write with the window open. And when I’m writing/editing a project, I fully immerse myself in similar genres/time periods for all the books, TV shows, and movies I’m watching/reading at the time. The one exception to this is SVU, because SVU transcends all.

Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list?

I haven’t done a literary pilgrimage, though I would LOVE TO. I’m currently editing a project about a sanatorium, and I cannot tell you how badly I want to go traipse around some abandoned sanatoriums. I have gone to walk through an orange grove for inspiration for one particular character. There is also a creepy mansion I’ve visited a few times that appears in one of my novels.

Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects?

For some, yes. For others, it was more than likely a spark of inspiration while driving. My current project actually came upon in a stranger way than usual. This character was meant to be connected to another book, and while writing some of her origin story, I ended up falling down a plotting rabbit hole and writing an entirely different book.

Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites?

I love thrillers, historical, romantic suspense, anything with kilts, fantasy – and anything creepy or weird.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for?

I haven’t yet – but now I might 😉

Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life?

I don’t base any characters on people I know. I have some characters that have historical influences, but I think that’s the closest I’ll ever get to having a character based on a real person. Usually I start with a base idea for what I think a character is going to be, and halfway through the draft I really know them.

Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated.

Diary by Chuck Palahniuk – Fight Club gets so much attention, but Diary is my favorite book.

Name one book that was a guilty pleasure.

I don’t feel guilty about reading books, so I can’t think of one that I would consider to be a guilty pleasure.

Be honest: Do you Google yourself?

Nope, I let Google do that for me. Google Alerts 😉

As a writer, which animal would you choose as your mascot/avatar/patronus?

Godzilla

Is there one thing you think you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with?

Spelling. I am AWFUL at spelling. It was something I always had trouble with in school.

What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?

Be patient, keep going no matter what. And don’t edit as you write, edit AFTER your first draft is complete.

What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author?

Try to find a balance between promo for your book, and the other things you love. It’s important to remember that the whole world isn’t the book release. And – if you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask for help. Don’t feel like you’re alone with your release. Ask other authors, friends, betas, family members, there are so many people that would love to help.  

In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers?

Every month on my blog I do critique giveaways, some are for queries, some for queries and pages. I will also do flash query giveaways on twitter sometimes. The writing community was so integral to keeping me writing and helping me find an agent, it’s super important to me to give back.

Want to know more about Dea?

Solving the case will avenge her sister—unless the killer finds her first.

It’s been fifteen years since Claire Calderwood’s sister, Rachel, was brutally murdered in their small hometown in Maine. Claire has finally carved out a life for herself as a homicide detective in Detroit, but the past comes calling when the local police back home ask for her help with a murder eerily similar to Rachel’s.

Still haunted by Rachel’s cold case, Claire returns home, hoping to solve the crime and finally put her grief to rest. As she starts investigating, the last thing she needs is tenacious journalist Noah Washington asking questions she’s not ready to answer. But like her, Noah won’t give up until he finds the truth—and Claire reluctantly finds herself relying on him more and more when disturbing new details about Rachel’s death come to light.

When the killer strikes once again, Claire knows he’s not done. Now he’s set his sights on Claire, who will have to find the courage she needs to survive a deadly confrontation years in the making.

Get your copy of Next Girl to Die on Amazon or Barnes & Noble

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Book Review: The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister

   My plan this morning was to skim the first chapter of The Scent Keeper, by Erica Bauermeister, just to get a feel for it. Five hours later, I’ve finished the book and I’m still spell-bound.

   Emmaline and her father live alone on island, surrounded by all the wonders of nature. In their cabin, her father stores small vials, the smells of a thousand memories bottled and sealed in an effort to preserve them forever. But as the scents begin to fade, and Emmaline’s curiosity pushes her farther from her father’s rules, everything she’s known is at risk.

   Through a series of tragic events Emmaline finds herself in the harsh, noisy “real world” where her understanding of smells is the only thing she has to help navigate the new town, school, and relationships she lacked on the island. And beyond it all is the lingering mystery of who Emmaline really is and where she came from.

   The Scent Keeper is a beautifully written, lyrical story that pulls at your heart and engages your senses. The emotions and descriptions are so vivid that you will feel the heartache and smell the scents. It’s a mesmerizing and enchanting journey of self-discovery and self-awareness. All I can say is, just wow. Great writing and a great book.

*I received a copy of The Scent Keeper from NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.  

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March 2019 Book List

March was a busy month in my reading and listening habits (which might be why I haven’t gotten much writing done?).

Anyway, the books I enjoyed in March–some more than others, but none of which I detested–are as follows:

Seige and Storm (Shadow and Bone Book 2) by Leigh Bardugo

Soldier. Summoner. Saint. Alina Starkov’s power has grown, but not without a price. She is the Sun Summoner―hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Shadow Fold. But she and Mal can’t outrun their enemies for long.

The Darkling is more determined than ever to claim Alina’s magic and use it to take the Ravkan throne. With nowhere else to turn, Alina enlists the help of an infamous privateer and sets out to lead the Grisha army.

But as the truth of Alina’s destiny unfolds, she slips deeper into the Darkling’s deadly game of forbidden magic, and further away from her humanity. To save her country, Alina will have to choose between her power and the love she thought would always be her shelter. No victory can come without sacrifice―and only she can face the oncoming storm.

The Winter Queen (Stolen Empire, Book 4) by Sherry Ficklin

Far from the shores of England, another Elizabeth was born to rule a nation…

The daughter of Peter the Great, Elizabeth is a princess by birth, yet a warrior by blood. Never content to be a pawn in the game of men, Elizabeth is destined to sit upon a throne. But when her father’s sudden death leaves her mother and sister at the mercy of the scheming Privy Council, she will have to abandon her beloved Russia in order for her family to survive.

This is not a fairy tale.

And Elizabeth is not an average princess.

She is a Romanov—one woman in a line of powerful female rulers who will change the fate of Russia forever.

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris


David Sedaris’ move to Paris from New York inspired these hilarious pieces, including the title essay, about his attempts to learn French from a sadistic teacher who declares that every day spent with you is like having a caesarean section. His family is another inspiration. You Can’t Kill the Rooster is a portrait of his brother, who talks incessant hip-hop slang to his bewildered father. And no one hones a finer fury in response to such modern annoyances as restaurant meals presented in ludicrous towers of food and cashiers with six-inch fingernails.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter’s life is miserable. His parents are dead and he’s stuck with his heartless relatives, who force him to live in a tiny closet under the stairs. But his fortune changes when he receives a letter that tells him the truth about himself: he’s a wizard. A mysterious visitor rescues him from his relatives and takes him to his new home, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

After a lifetime of bottling up his magical powers, Harry finally feels like a normal kid. But even within the Wizarding community, he is special. He is the boy who lived: the only person to have ever survived a killing curse inflicted by the evil Lord Voldemort, who launched a brutal takeover of the Wizarding world, only to vanish after failing to kill Harry.

Though Harry’s first year at Hogwarts is the best of his life, not everything is perfect. There is a dangerous secret object hidden within the castle walls, and Harry believes it’s his responsibility to prevent it from falling into evil hands. But doing so will bring him into contact with forces more terrifying than he ever could have imagined.

Full of sympathetic characters, wildly imaginative situations, and countless exciting details, the first installment in the series assembles an unforgettable magical world and sets the stage for many high-stakes adventures to come.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

The Dursleys were so mean and hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he’s packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike

And strike it does. For in Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockhart, a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls’ bathroom, and the unwanted attentions of Ron Weasley’s younger sister, Ginny.

But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble begins, and someone — or something — starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects . . . Harry Potter himself?

Baby of the Family by Maura Roosevelt

The money is old, the problems are new.

A wry and addictive debut about a modern-day American dynasty and its unexpected upheaval when the patriarch wills his dwindling fortune to his youngest, adopted son–setting off a chain of events that unearth family secrets and test long-held definitions of love and family.

The Whitbys: a dynasty akin to the Astors, once enormously wealthy real-estate magnates who were considered “the landlords of New York.”

There was a time when the death of a Whitby would have made national news, but when the family patriarch, Roger, dies, he is alone. Word of his death travels from the longtime family lawyer to his clan of children (from four separate marriages) and the news isn’t good. Roger has left everything to his twenty-one-year-old son Nick, a Whitby only in name, including the houses currently occupied by Shelley and Brooke–two of Roger’s daughters from different marriages. And Nick is nowhere to be found.

Brooke, the oldest of the children, who is unexpectedly pregnant, leads the search for Nick, hoping to convince him to let her keep her Boston home and her fragile composure. Shelley hasn’t told anyone she’s dropped out of college just months before graduating, and is living in her childhood apartment while working as an amanuensis for a blind writer named Anandaroop Gupta, with whom she develops a rather complicated relationship. And when Nick, on the run from the law after a misguided and dramatic act of political activism, finally shows up at Shelley’s New York home, worlds officially collide as Nick and Mr. Gupta’s daughter fall in love. Soon, all three siblings are faced with the question they have been running from their whole lives: What do they want their future to look like, if they can finally escape their past?

Weaving together multiple perspectives to create a portrait of an American family, and an American dream gone awry, Baby of the Family is a book about family secrets–how they define us, bind us together, and threaten to blow us (and more) apart–as well as an amusing and heartwarming look at the various ways in which a family can be created.

The Gathering by Anne

Anne Enright is a dazzling writer of international stature and one of Ireland’s most singular voices. Now she delivers The Gathering, a moving, evocative portrait of a large Irish family and a shot of fresh blood into the Irish literary tradition, combining the lyricism of the old with the shock of the new. The nine surviving children of the Hegarty clan are gathering in Dublin for the wake of their wayward brother, Liam, drowned in the sea. His sister, Veronica, collects the body and keeps the dead man company, guarding the secret she shares with him—something that happened in their grandmother’s house in the winter of 1968. As Enright traces the line of betrayal and redemption through three generations her distinctive intelligence twists the world a fraction and gives it back to us in a new and unforgettable light. The Gathering is a daring, witty, and insightful family epic, clarified through Anne Enright’s unblinking eye. It is a novel about love and disappointment, about how memories warp and secrets fester, and how fate is written in the body, not in the stars. 

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the stunningly beautiful instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. 

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Twenty years ago Claire Scott’s eldest sister, Julia, went missing. No one knew where she went – no note, no body. It was a mystery that was never solved and it tore her family apart.

Now another girl has disappeared, with chilling echoes of the past. And it seems that she might not be the only one.

Claire is convinced Julia’s disappearance is linked.

But when she begins to learn the truth about her sister, she is confronted with a shocking discovery, and nothing will ever be the same…

Mr. Mercedes (Bill Hodges, #1) by Stephen King

In a high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands. “Mr. Mercedes is a rich, resonant, exceptionally readable accomplishment by a man who can write in whatever genre he chooses” (The Washington Post).

In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.

In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.

Brady Hartsfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again. Only Bill Hodges, with two new, unusual allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.

Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable. 

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999 — and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it — fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

Romanov by Nadine Brandes

The history books say I died.

They don’t know the half of it.

Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them . . . and he’s hunted Romanov before.

Nastya’s only chances of survival are to either release the spell, and deal with the consequences, or enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya’s never dabbled in magic before, but it doesn’t frighten her as much as her growing attraction for Zash. She likes him. She thinks he might even like her . . .

That is, until she’s on one side of a firing squad . . . and he’s on the other.

Within and Without by Deborah Maroulis

Some girls will go to great lengths to fit in. But how far is too far?

A stunning YA debut that touches on a teenage girl’s emotionally haunting journey to self acceptance.

When sixteen-year-old Wren Newmann is forced to move from her small California town to her grandmother’s vineyard after her parent’s divorce, she’s convinced she’ll die a shriveled, wine-country virgin.

Her dating life improves when Jay, the son of Granny’s vintner and her long-time country crush, notices her. She tries to be the girl Jay would want—social, skinny, and sexy. But as their relationship heats up, so does her anxiety and the need for her secret purging sessions. Still, she insists Jay is the perfect boyfriend in spite of everyone’s warnings.

When Panayis, the cute Greek farmhand, insists on being her friend, Wren finds someone who truly sees her—trouble is she can’t bring herself to look at her own reflection, let alone allow anyone else to see her as she is.

When personal tragedy strikes the night of the Spring Break party, Wren is left to pick up the pieces of her broken relationships. Now, she must step up to the plate and decide if the illusion of being loved is worth sacrificing her health, and maybe even her life.

A Spark of Light by Jodi Piccoult

The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.

After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.

But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester disguised as a patient, who now stands in the cross hairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard.

Told in a daring and enthralling narrative structure that counts backward through the hours of the standoff, this is a story that traces its way back to what brought each of these very different individuals to the same place on this fateful day.

Jodi Picoult—one of the most fearless writers of our time—tackles a complicated issue in this gripping and nuanced novel. How do we balance the rights of pregnant women with the rights of the unborn they carry? What does it mean to be a good parent? A Spark of Light will inspire debate, conversation . . . and, hopefully, understanding.

Sunburn by Laura Lippman

One is playing a long game. But which one?

They meet at a local tavern in the small town of Belleville, Delaware. Polly is set on heading west. Adam says he’s also passing through.

Yet she stays and he stays—drawn to this mysterious redhead whose quiet stillness both unnerves and excites him. Over the course of a punishing summer, Polly and Adam abandon themselves to a steamy, inexorable affair. Still, each holds something back from the other—dangerous, even lethal, secrets that begin to accumulate as autumn approaches, feeding the growing doubts they conceal.

Then someone dies. Was it an accident, or part of a plan? By now, Adam and Polly are so ensnared in each other’s lives and lies that neither one knows how to get away—or even if they want to. Is their love strong enough to withstand the truth, or will it ultimately destroy them?

Something—or someone—has to give.

Which one will it be?

All The Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

From bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater, a gripping tale of darkness, miracles, and family. Saints. Miracles. Family. Romance. Death. Redemption.

Here is a thing everyone wants: A miracle.

Here is a thing everyone fears:
What it takes to get one.

Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.

At the heart of this place you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, who wants only to be free to examine her thoughts; Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station under the name Diablo Diablo.

They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect.

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Book Review: The Summer House by Jenny Hale

Callie and her best friend Olivia are looking for a new start in an old place. They’ve purchased a North Carolina beach home that they’ve admired since childhood and are fixing it up. When they’ve finished renovating it, their new B&B should be ready for guests.

The next door neighbor is the rich, handsome Luke, who also happens to be a bit of a playboy. Despite the fact that Callie has little time or energy for a relationship, she finds herself drawn to her enticing neighbor.

When Callie and Olivia unearth a locked and long-forgotten diary that’s filled with town secrets, what they find out might just destroy Callie’s chances at happiness. And before the summer is over, a brewing storm will strike (literally and figuratively!).

The Summer House has all the elements of a perfect summer romance: ocean air, sunny skies, handsome neighbors, and secret pasts. The descriptions are vivid and the essence of summer is palpable as you read. They electricity between Callie and Luke is strong. There are some character development issues that felt left out, but it didn’t interfere with my ability to get lost in the story. The Summer House is a sweet, heartwarming summer read.

I received a copy of The Summer House from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1) by Emily Duncan

Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy, Book 1) by Emily Duncan

For a century Tranavia and Kalyazia have been at war.

Hidden in a mountain-top monastery, Nadya—a Kalyazi cleric with the ability to communicate with the gods, all the gods—has been living and training. When the Travanian forces breach the walls of the monastery, she is forced to flee into the snow covered lands that have—until now—kept invaders at bay. After fleeing, Nadya encounters a small band of rebels with plans to infiltrate the Travanian palace and kill the king in an effort to end the war. One of the rebels is Malachiasz, an escaped Travanian Vulture with a treasonous plan and a dark secret of his own.  

Serefin, the High Prince of Tranavia and a blood mage, has accomplished a victory that no other military leader has, he’s conquered the mountain monastery that hides the Kalyazi cleric. Even though she’s just barely slipped from his grasp, he can feel that her power is far greater than anyone had guessed. And now, with her so close to capture, he’s been called back to Tranavia by his father—for a betrothal ceremony. But Serefin will find that his betrothal isn’t the only danger that lies in waiting.  

Wicked Saints is a dark and tantalizing fantasy that balances politics, magic and religion. Everything about the setting and characters seems to exist in the gray area between good and evil. The descriptions are vivid and the monstrous creatures are so well-described that they are easily visualized and horrific to imagine.  Although I wasn’t as compelled by the romance as I’d hoped, and felt some of the secondary characters could have been better represented, I still found Wicked Saints to be an enjoyable read and look forward to the sequel.  

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Book Review: The Winter Queen (Stolen Empire #4) by Sherry Ficklin

I’m a fan of historical fiction and I LOVE the Stolen Empire series—I can’t get enough of it. I was thrilled when I found out there was going to be another book in the series, and again when I receive a copy of Sherry Ficklin’s latest novella in the series.

The Winter Queen is a prequel to the Stolen Empire series and focuses on the life of Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great and future Empress of Russia. This novella is a quick read, and thrusts us right into the upheaval of the Russian elite. We get to meet the Princess Elizabeth and her sister Petra, witness the death of the heir presumptive to the Romanov line, and then the death of Peter the Great.

With their mother in Russia, trying to maintain a hold on Russia and others trying to secure the power for themselves, Elizabeth and Petra are suddenly in a very tenuous position. They are sent to the “safety” of arranged marriages, but Elizabeth was born a Romanov, and the throne is only just out of her grasp…for now.

I can’t wait for the next installment of what’s sure to continue to be an exciting series full of political maneuvering and intrigue.

*I received a copy of The Winter Queen in exchange for an honest review

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Book Review: Romanov by Nadine Brandes

     One of the stories from history that has always intrigued me (and so many other people) is that of the Romanov family, particularly Anastasia. So much mystery still surrounds the last hours and minutes of her life, as well as her death. And so many theories have been entertained. In Romanov author Nadine Brandes offers her own creative imaginings about the life and death of young Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov. This novel is historical fiction, but with an imaginative bit of magic thrown into the mix.

   The strongest part of the novel, in my opinion, was the relationship between Nastya and her family. It was the one aspect in which I felt a strong emotional connection with the storyline. The family relationship felt loving, intense and authentic. Unfortunately, the rest of the novel felt emotionally distant to me, I didn’t feel a connection to the characters or action outside of that.

   There were some historical inaccuracies (perhaps creative stretching of facts to meet a storytelling goal?) and some things that were glossed over that could have used more attention and flushing out for a stronger storyline.  The inconsistencies in the novel as well as the historical inconsistencies were a bit distracting.

   Another thing that could have used more details was the world-building—especially the magic. It felt unformed and underwhelming.

   All-in-all Romanov was a decent read, an entertaining re-imaging of history, but it wasn’t as great as I’d hoped.

*I received a copy of Romanov from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review

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Book Review: Baby of the Family by Maura Roosevelt


Baby of the Family is a novel about the once influential Whitby family.

Roger Whitby, the four times married family patriarch, has died after squandering a majority of his wealth. He’s left what remains of his estate to his youngest (adopted) son, Nick, the son of his fourth wife. Nick is a young man who has been struggling to find a purpose in his life. As his father is dying, Nick becomes involved in an act of political activism, and then goes missing.

Brooke, Roger’s daughter from his second marriage, is dealing with her own issues. She’s pregnant by a man she doesn’t love, afraid to admit to the love she has for Allie, and her house—the one thing she has from her dad—has just become part of Nick’s inheritance. Brooke doesn’t even really know Nick and has no idea if she’ll be forced out of the house. She’s barely able to get by on her nursing job, and the thought of having to add rent or a mortgage to her financial plan—in addition to the cost of having a baby—has left her unsure of the right decisions.

Roger’s daughter Shelley is living with her mother in the New York apartment Roger walked out of years ago. Her mom has left after descending into a years-long cycle of depression. Desperate for income, Shelley takes a job with a very peculiar man, and ends up in a complex relationship with him.

Told from the point of view of these three Whitby children, each abandoned and let down by their father, it explores the complex relationships between children and their parents. It’s really about finding and being yourself, despite your familial relations.

It was hard to identify with the characters (for obvious reasons—the lack of my own family fortune), but they were interesting enough to keep me reading. Baby of the Family wasn’t a novel that drew me in and kept me on the edge of my seat, but I was passively interested enough to continue reading to find out what happens to each of the characters.

*I received an ARC of Baby of the Family from Netgalley and Dutton Books in exchange for an honest review

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Jan & Feb ’19 Book List

I love to share some of the great books I’ve read (and listened to!) every month. I’ve been doing this via my newsletter, but haven’t shared anything yet this year, so forgive this list, it may be a bit long!

The bestselling landmark account of the first emergence of the Ebola virus. A highly infectious, deadly virus from the central African rain forest suddenly appears in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. There is no cure. In a few days 90 percent of its victims are dead. A secret military SWAT team of soldiers and scientists is mobilized to stop the outbreak of this exotic “hot” virus. The Hot Zone tells this dramatic story, giving a hair-raising account of the appearance of rare and lethal viruses and their “crashes” into the human race. Shocking, frightening, and impossible to ignore, The Hot Zone proves that truth really is scarier than fiction.

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha)

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.
Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.


HE LOVES YOU: Adam adores Emily. Emily thinks Adam’s perfect, the man she thought she’d never meet.
BUT SHE LOVES YOU NOT: Lurking in the shadows is a rival, a woman who shares a deep bond with the man she loves.
AND SHE’LL STOP AT NOTHING: Emily chose Adam, but she didn’t choose his mother Pammie. There’s nothing a mother wouldn’t do for her son, and now Emily is about to find out just how far Pammie will go to get what she wants: Emily gone forever.


Agreeing to go to a wedding with a guy she gets stuck with in an elevator is something Alexa Monroe wouldn’t normally do. But there’s something about Drew Nichols that’s too hard to resist.

On the eve of his ex’s wedding festivities, Drew is minus a plus one. Until a power outage strands him with the perfect candidate for a fake girlfriend…

After Alexa and Drew have more fun than they ever thought possible, Drew has to fly back to Los Angeles and his job as a pediatric surgeon, and Alexa heads home to Berkeley, where she’s the mayor’s chief of staff. Too bad they can’t stop thinking about the other… 

They’re just two high-powered professionals on a collision course toward the long distance dating disaster of the century–or closing the gap between what they think they need and what they truly want…

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

In Furiously Happy, a humor memoir tinged with just enough tragedy and pathos to make it worthwhile, Jenny Lawson examines her own experience with severe depression and a host of other conditions, and explains how it has led her to live life to the fullest:
“I’ve often thought that people with severe depression have developed such a well for experiencing extreme emotion that they might be able to experience extreme joy in a way that ‘normal people’ also might never understand. And that’s what Furiously Happy is all about.”
Jenny’s readings are standing room only, with fans lining up to have Jenny sign their bottles of Xanax or Prozac as often as they are to have her sign their books. Furiously Happy appeals to Jenny’s core fan base but also transcends it. There are so many people out there struggling with depression and mental illness, either themselves or someone in their family―and in Furiously Happy they will find a member of their tribe offering up an uplifting message (via a taxidermied roadkill raccoon). Let’s Pretend This Never Happened ostensibly was about embracing your own weirdness, but deep down it was about family. Furiously Happy is about depression and mental illness, but deep down it’s about joy―and who doesn’t want a bit more of that?

Soldier. Summoner. Saint. Orphaned and expendable, Alina Starkov is a soldier who knows she may not survive her first trek across the Shadow Fold―a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. But when her regiment is attacked, Alina unleashes dormant magic not even she knew she possessed.
Now Alina will enter a lavish world of royalty and intrigue as she trains with the Grisha, her country’s magical military elite―and falls under the spell of their notorious leader, the Darkling. He believes Alina can summon a force capable of destroying the Shadow Fold and reuniting their war-ravaged country, but only if she can master her untamed gift.
As the threat to the kingdom mounts and Alina unlocks the secrets of her past, she will make a dangerous discovery that could threaten all she loves and the very future of a nation.
Welcome to Ravka . . . a world of science and superstition where nothing is what it seems.

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price―and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone. . . .
A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums. 

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.
Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction―if they don’t kill each other first.
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Book Review: Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

I was mesmerized by the description of Gilded Wolves and thrilled when I received a copy. The promise of secret societies and art heists in Paris during the late 1800’s were all the temptation I needed.

Gilded Wolves is a YA fantasy about an ancient order with a drastically diminishing number of houses. Severin is an exiled member of his house—and an antiquities thief–, trying to earn his way back by finding an ancient artefact. In order to do so, he enlists the help of a group of colleagues and friends, each as unique and varied in skill as well as personality.

This book is rich in magic and artistry, as well as multi-cultural mythologies and beliefs. I found it very difficult to get in to, the first several chapters were slow to grab me in all honesty. But once I was finally drawn in to the story line, I was pulled along on a magnificent journey.

I adore how intricately the mythos was woven into the storyline and the subtle undercurrent of history and science that happens throughout this novel. Of course there are comparisons to Six of Crows, but I think Gilded Wolves has set itself apart as it’s own unique world and Roshani Chokshi has developed it beautifully.

*I received a copy of Gilded Wolves from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

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