Friday, May 12, 2023

The Friday Face-Off: Currently Reading–Author Edition

 Friday Face Off New

 Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme at Books by Proxy. Join us every Friday as we pit cover against cover, and publisher against publisher, to find the best artwork in our literary universe.  You can find a list of upcoming topics at Lynn's Books.

This week's topic is:
Currently Reading–Author Edition

Since none of the four books I"m currently reading seem to have more than one edition of the cover out there so far, I decided to get a little creative and see if any of the authors of the books I'm reading have other books with more cover editions (and they do!). I'm currently reading M.R. Carey's Infinity Gate, so I figured I'd share some covers for another book from M.R. Carey that I really enjoyed, The Book of Koli! This one has some great covers to compare, so let's take a look.

2020 US Paperback | 2020 French 

2021 Bulgarian | 2021 German

My choice(s):
These covers are all so cool! I'm partial to the US edition, but I also think the French, Bulgarian, and German editions are all incredible as well. I'm not sure I could even pick just one for this. I actually think the US and German editions fit the story the best, but I still love the illustration for the Bulgarian edition and love what's going on with the French one. What do you think?

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Gods of the Wyrdwood by R.J. Barker & The Grimoire of Grave Fates edited by Hanna Alkaf, Margaret Owen


 Can't-Wait is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released! This meme is based off of Jill @ Breaking the Spine's Waiting on Wednesday meme.

This week's upcoming book spotlights are: 

Gods of the Wyrdwood by R.J. Barker
Publication: June 13th, 2023
Paperback. 640 pages.
Pre-order: Amazon |

From Goodreads:
"In a world locked in eternal winter and haunted by prophecy, a young boy trains for years to become the Chosen One, only for another to rise and claim his place in the start of an unmissable epic from a rising star in fantasy.

The northlands of Crua are locked in eternal winter, but prophecy tells of the chosen child – who will rule in the name of their God, and take warmth back from the South. Cahal du Nahere was raised to be this person: the Cowl-Rai, the saviour. Taken from his parents and prepared for his destiny.

But his time never came.

When he was fifteen he ceased to matter. Another Cowl-Rai had risen, another chosen one, raised in the name of a different God. The years of vicious physical and mental training he had endured, the sacrifice, all for nothing. He became nothing.

Twenty years later, and Cahal lives a life of secrecy on the edges of Crua’s giant forests – hiding what he is, running from what he can do. But when he is forced to reveal his true nature, he sets off a sequence of events that will reveal secrets that will shake the bedrock of his entire world, and expose lies that have persisted for generations

I am always excited to see new work from R.J. Barker and I love the premise and setting for this one. This sounds so interesting, and I'm loving the way it sounds like it'll place with a prophecy/chosen one trope.

The Grimoire of Grave Fates edited by Hanna Alkaf & Margaret Owen
Publication: June 6th, 2023
Delacorte Press
Hardcover. 464 pages.
Pre-order: Amazon |

From Goodreads:
Crack open your spell book and enter the world of the illustrious Galileo Academy for the Extraordinary. There's been a murder on campus, and it's up to the students of Galileo to solve it. Follow 18 authors and 18 students as they puzzle out the clues and find the guilty party.

Professor of Magical History Septimius Dropwort has just been murdered, and now everyone at the Galileo Academy for the Extraordinary is a suspect.

A prestigious school for young magicians, the Galileo Academy has recently undergone a comprehensive overhaul, reinventing itself as a roaming academy in which students of all cultures and identities are celebrated. In this new Galileo, every pupil is welcome--but there are some who aren't so happy with the recent changes. That includes everyone's least favorite professor, Septimius Dropwort, a stodgy old man known for his harsh rules and harsher punishments. But when the professor's body is discovered on school grounds with a mysterious note clenched in his lifeless hand, the Academy's students must solve the murder themselves, because everyone's a suspect.

Told from more than a dozen alternating and diverse perspectives, The Grimoire of Grave Fates follows Galileo's best and brightest young magicians as they race to discover the truth behind Dropwort's mysterious death. Each one of them is confident that only they have the skills needed to unravel the web of secrets hidden within Galileo's halls. But they're about to discover that even for straight-A students, magic doesn't always play by the rules. . . .

Contributors include: Cam Montgomery, Darcie Little Badger, Hafsah Faizal, Jessica Lewis, Julian Winters, Karuna Riazi, Kat Cho, Kayla Whaley, Kwame Mbalia, L. L. McKinney, Marieke Nijkamp, Mason Deaver, Natasha Diaz, Preeti Chhibber, Randy Ribay, Tehlor Kay Mejia, Victoria Lee, and Yamile Saied Mendez.

I have no idea if the execution of this will work and I haven't been loving YA for a while now, but I am really intrigued by this whole premise of different authors each tackling a different character for this mystery. I can't wait to check it out!

What books are you looking forward to?

Monday, May 8, 2023

Review: The Sword Defiant (Lands of the Firstborn #1) by Gareth Hanrahan


The Sword Defiant by Gareth Hanrahan
Publication Date: May 2nd, 2023
Paperback. 608 pages.

About The Sword Defiant:

"Set in a world of dark myth and dangerous prophecy, this thrilling fantasy launches an epic tale of daring warriors, living weapons, and bloodthirsty vengeance.​

Many years ago, Sir Aelfric and his nine companions saved the world, seizing the Dark Lord's cursed weapons, along with his dread city of Necrad. That was the easy part.

Now, when Aelfric - keeper of the cursed sword Spellbreaker - learns of a new and terrifying threat, he seeks the nine heroes once again. But they are wandering adventurers no longer. Yesterday's eager heroes are today's weary leaders - and some have turned to the darkness, becoming monsters themselves.

If there's one thing Aelfric knows, it's slaying monsters. Even if they used to be his friends.

The Sword Defiant is a memorable start to a new fantasy story from Gareth Hanrahan, author of the incredible The Black Iron Legacy trilogy, brimming with a richly detailed world and complex characters. It's grittiness and magic really makes it stand out from other books in the genre and I was so excited to have a new Hanrahan book in my hands again. 

The Sword Defiant centers around Sir Aelfric, part of the famed Nine who once saved the world from the Dark Lord Bone. Now, the Nine are spread out throughout the world doing their own things while also maintaining threats of evil and the city of Necrad from any new threats that may pop up. Alf is dragged back into things when he is told of a new prophecy that hints at a new darkness rising up and he is forced to return to Necrad to find out what's going on.

This book is filled to the brim with intricate, immersive world-building that seemed to have endless opportunities for expansion in future books. This world has so many different sides to it, from the dark city of Necrad to the more countryside-like areas of Mulladale to the beautiful lands of the elves. I really loved how gritty and almost creepy this world felt on the whole, and I think Hanrahan really excelled in building up this world that is bold and interesting while maintaining a strong, ever-present sense of dread and disturbances in the air. Let's just say that 'necromiasma' exists in the air of Necrad and leave it there. I also really loved spending some time in the land with the elves and seeing what their life was like–fantasy books always make me want to just live with the elves in their beautiful lands. 

I really liked our main POV characters of Alf and Olva and how real they felt. Alf is like any hero of the past who sort of just wants a quieter life away from those who worship him for his deeds in the past, but he also doesn't really know how to do that and still wants to be fairly useful dealing with threats. Olva is also just like any mom who is desperate to find her child who has embarked upon some ill-advised journey and now is nowhere to be found. And let's not forget the cursed demon sword Spellbreaker who, dare I say, almost stole the show in every scene in which it was present (for me, anyway). Spellbreaker can speak to Alf and is somewhat half the epitome of evil and also half the snarkiest sidekick you'll ever meet who has no problem causing trouble or calling trouble to you so that you can kill it–with no remorse. Spellbreaker added an extra layer of intrigue to the story. 

The pacing is a little up and down throughout the book, but overall I'd consider it a little on the slower paced side and a bit of a slow burn with regard to uncovering new plot points and following along after our characters as they discover things. I will admit that the latter middle half of the story did feel like it lagged ever so slightly and there didn't seem to be quite as much going on. There was a perceived sense of urgency in relation to some new, rather large and immediate threats, but the characters seemed to be getting distracted and having long conversations and explorations that made me question just how urgent things were. I didn't necessarily mind them as someone who prefers a slower pace to rushed action, but it did sort of feel at odds with the general pacing and plotting at times.

The magic is definitely on the softer side because I didn't really notice too much in the way of consistency and rules just yet, but I do think that there is a lot more to learn about the magic in this world. I do have the sense that future books will dive deeper in the magic due to one of the characters in this book's desire to actually study magic. Still, I loved the magical elements, from the dark magical creatures that existed to the healing cordials to the curses and everything in between. I can't wait to see more of this world and the magic that exists within it. 

One thing that I really loved about Hanrahan's previous trilogy and that holds true in this one is his sort of casual yet epic prose style. This one's a bit hard to explain, so bear with me. The Sword Defiant feels like an epic fantasy in scope. There's a huge world with tons of world-building, legendary characters and evils, and so much more, yet the story doesn't feel like it takes itself too seriously. Our characters are not necessarily all noble heroes with perfectly epic battles and events, but rather are all fairly messy people with messy lives and battles and obstacles. Much in the way that the world itself is gritty, the general writing and atmosphere feels gritty and here to be honest, and I really love that about Hanrahan's writing. 

Overall, I've given The Sword Defiant 4.75 stars!

*I received a copy of The Sword Defiant courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon |

Friday, May 5, 2023

Month in Review: April 2023


It's been another weird, busy month. My reading slowed down a bit once again, but I'm really just trying to go with the flow these days. I am also flabbergasted that we are somehow already in May and it's stressing me out because there are things my husband and I planned to do at the beginning of the year that have been continuously delayed and now we are almost into summer (!?) and it's just baffling and I've given up on any semblance of control in my life lately. I don't really have much to share from the month of March, which is honestly probably a good thing, haha, because I don't know if my brain can really handle any more stress or anxiety these days. Books and aerial are the two things keeping me sane these days, and I have to say I am so grateful to have two hobbies that bring me so much joy and comfort. :)

Although I didn't get through as many books as I'd hoped to, I still read some great books in April. I finally managed a re-read of Master of Sorrows, a book I read a number of years ago and loved, as well as caught up with eh sequel, Master Artificer, and both books were fantastic. I am not ready for the third book in this trilogy and cannot wait for it! If you haven't checked out this fantasy series and like something pretty epic in scope, then you should definitely give it a read. I also really liked Justin Lee Anderson's The Lost War and am thrilled to have another new series to get excited about. As always, I've shared what books I read in April and all my blog posts as well below, so feel free to check those out. I didn't get as many reviews up as I'd hoped to, but I still got some reviews up for some pretty exciting releases that I had fun with. I've been behind on everything lately and I'm really trying to catch up. 

All that being said––how was your April? What books did you read? Let me know in the comments, and I hope you all have a wonderful May!

# books read: 8

Master of Sorrows (The Silent Gods #1) by Justin Call (re-read)
Source: Library | Format: Audiobook
Thoughts: This was a re-read and it reminded me just how much I loved this book! Definitely a top fantasy series for me.

Master Artificer (The Silent Gods #2) by Justin Call
Source: Library | Format: Audiobook
Thoughts: This is the sequel to Master of Sorrows and wow does it get intense. It's hard to believe sometimes how far this book comes just from the first page to the last page, and it's a journey well worth adventuring on.

The Lost War (The Eidyn Saga #1) by Justin Lee Anderson
Source: Publisher | Format: Physical ARC
Thoughts: This was such a fun start to a new fantasy! I'll have a review up later in May probably closer to its release, but put it on your TBRs if you're looking for an awesome new fantasy.

Paradise-1 by David Wellington
Source: Publisher | Format: Physical ARC
Thoughts: This was a crazy action-packed sci-fi horror/thriller that I had a fun time. I always love a good 'virus' in space premise.

The Thick and the Lean by Chana Porter
Source: NetGalley | Format: eARC
Thoughts: I had some mixed feelings about this one. I thought the general premise was really interesting and I definitely have my interest piqued most of the time, but it's that I had to sort of make myself read and I didn't really feel that invested in the story or the characters that much.

In the Lives of Puppets by T.J. Klune
Source: NetGalley | Format: eARC
Thoughts: This was a bit disappointing, if I'm being honest. I already posted a review where I shared my thoughts, but this one just didn't click with me like some of Klune's previous books did. 

Small Game by Blair Braverman
Source: Library | Format: Audiobook
Thoughts: This had an awesome premise, but I don't think it had the best execution and it was kinda weird, but it absolutely kept my attention and I had a good time, so.. not bad?

Wildblood by Lauren Blackwood
Source: NetGalley | Format: eARC
Thoughts: This book was all over the place. I loved certain aspects and thought it tackled some pretty intense topics, but it also really struggled with others. 

Lost Boy by Sassafrass Lowry
I might go back and finish this Peter Pan-inspired story one one day, but not anytime soon. This isn't quite what I expected it to be and the writing was just a little off for me to really be able to get into the story. I felt like there wasn't much explanation or things and it was all supposed to be inferred, which is fine as a general storytelling device, but I'm not sure it was really working in this case. 

Original Posts:
(other than reviews)

Blog Memes:
Top Ten Tuesday:
Self-Published Fantasy

Can't-Wait Wednesday:

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The First Bright Thing by J.R. Dawson & Everything the Darkness Eats by Eric LaRocca


 Can't-Wait is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released! This meme is based off of Jill @ Breaking the Spine's Waiting on Wednesday meme.

This week's upcoming book spotlights are: 

The First Bright Thing by J.R. Dawson
Publication: June 13th, 2023
Tor Books
Hardcover. 352 pages.
Pre-order: Amazon |

From Goodreads:
"If you knew how dark tomorrow would be, what would you do with today?

Ringmaster — Rin, to those who know her best — can jump to different moments in time as easily as her wife, Odette, soars from bar to bar on the trapeze. And the circus they lead is a rare home and safe haven for magical misfits and outcasts, known as Sparks.

With the world still reeling from World War I, Rin and her troupe — the Circus of the Fantasticals — travel the midwest, offering a single night of enchantment and respite to all who step into their Big Top.

But threats come at Rin from all sides. The future holds an impending war that the Sparks can see barrelling toward their show and everyone in it. And Rin's past creeps closer every day, a malevolent shadow she can’t fully escape.

It takes the form of another circus, with tents as black as midnight and a ringmaster who rules over his troupe with a dangerous power. Rin's circus has something he wants, and he won't stop until it's his."

I received an ARC of this one a couple months ago and I've been trying not to read it too early, but it's been so tempting because it sounds incredible. I sneaked a peek at the first couple chapters and it sounds so promising. I really can't wait to read this one and see it's official release in June!

Everything the Darkness Eats by Eric LaRocca
Publication: June 6th, 2023
Hardcover. 202 pages.
Pre-order: Amazon |

From Goodreads:
An insidious darkness threatens to devastate a rural New England village when occult forces are conjured and when bigotry is left unrestrained.

After a recent string of disappearances in a small Connecticut town, a grieving widower with a grim secret is drawn into a dangerous ritual of dark magic by a powerful and mysterious older gentleman named Heart Crowley. Meanwhile, a member of local law enforcement tasked with uncovering the culprit responsible for the bizarre disappearances soon begins to learn of a current of unbridled hatred simmering beneath the guise of the town’s idyllic community—a hatred that will eventually burst and forever change the lives of those who once found peace in the quiet town of Henley’s Edge.

I've really enjoyed most of the Eric LaRocca books I've read so far, so I have high hopes for this one and I can't wait to read even more horror from LaRocca.

What books are you looking forward to?

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Review: The Tyranny of Faith (Empire of the Wolf #2) by Richard Swan


The Tyranny of Faith (Empire of the Wolf #2) by Richard Swan
Publication Date: February 14th, 2023
Hardcover. 560 pages.

About The Tyranny of Faith:

"A Justice’s work is never done.

The Battle of Galen’s Vale is over, but the war for the Empire’s future has just begun. Concerned by rumous that the Magistratum’s authority is waning, Sir Konrad Vonvalt returns to Sova to find the capital city gripped by intrigue and whispers of rebellion. In the Senate, patricians speak openly against the Emperor, while fanatics preach holy vengeance on the streets.

Yet facing down these threats to the throne will have to wait, for the Emperor’s grandson has been kidnapped - and Vonvalt is charged with rescuing the missing prince. His quest will lead him – and his allies Helena, Bressinger and Sir Radomir – to the southern frontier, where they will once again face the puritanical fury of Bartholomew Claver and his templar knights – and a dark power far more terrifying than they could have imagined."

The Tyranny of Faith is an absorbing sequel in a distinct and compulsive fantasy trilogy that is quickly becoming a favorite. This book was exactly what I needed to read at the time I read it, and I was entirely riveted the entire time. There is a extensive recap for the first book provided on Richard Swan's website (and I genuinely cannot thank him enough) and it was exactly what I needed to refresh my memory on important events and details from the first book. 

The Tyranny of Faith picks up pretty much right after the events of The Justice of Kings. The crew–Sir Konrad Vonvalt, Helena, Bressinger, and Sir Radomir–are on their way back to the capital city of Sova after the Battle of Galen's Vale, where they find that things are rather tenuous in the city and it is not the same at it was when Sir Konrad left it several years ago. Things only continue to heat up as Sir Konrad returns and resumes his position, only for him to be met with some rather shocking surprises and new duties. 

I loved reentering this world. Helena is the perfect narrator for this story, and her voice captures the atmosphere of this series perfectly. She remains just as sharp, witty, astute, and unfailingly real in her display of emotions and reactions to the many different situations she finds herself in, including some incredibly intense events that would surely shake anyone's foundation. Helena's journey from the first book through this sequel has been transfixing, and I've thoroughly enjoyed watching her transformation even over this course of time. She has gone from general protégé of Vonvalt to having to deal with things that are far more complex, difficult, and leagues darker than most justices even have to deal with. She goes through many ups and downs while trying to figure everything out, and I've liked following her along on this tumultuous journey immensely.

Vonvalt has a very rough time in this book and it was interesting to see him in different lights and circumstances, especially while watching him deal with things that could potentially take his life. Vonvalt hits some low points I never really expected to see him hit, and I think this really struck home just how serious some fo the things happening in this book were. Watching a strong leader such as Vonvalt struggle to the point that those supporting him have to take on roles they never should have had to made for an intense and riveting storyline that I couldn't look away from.

I was a little disappointed that Bressinger seemed be in such bad spirits and circumstances in this book because I feel like we missed out on seeing some other aspects of his personality that we saw in the first book that I loved, but I wouldn't really complain about this because his actions in this book were much more fitting with what was going on. Bressinger has a lot of struggles in the present, but also has undergone some tough times in the past and still has to deal with these past traumas that are only exacerbated by many things that have happened more recently. His characterization felt incredibly authentic and I think Swan captured him really well in these two books. 

The Justice of Kings was already a book with plenty of political intrigue, but the political intrigue stakes and scope have majorly upped the ante in The Tyranny of Faith. There is so much complexity to the politics of this world and all the different factions that exist and are allied or pitted against one another. There's a constant sense of not knowing who you can trust, and because of that nothing ever really feels safe or certain–we can only rely on the gut instincts of our main characters. In particular, I felt as though there was a lot of grey area at play with some of the politics and especially with a set of rather horrific tasks that Vonvalt undertakes in the first half of the book. Some of it even felt a bit difficult or shocking to reading, especially when, as a reader, you aren't sure if he's even doing the "right" thing. Swan captured all this complexity and uncertainty excellently through his thoughtful prose and ability to create a strong atmosphere and convey characters' actions and thoughts throughout.

If you enjoyed any of the magical elements in the first book, such as Vonvalt's use of the Voice, his necromancy, or really anything else, then you will be thrilled to find out that the magic becomes even more developed in this book. We explore much more in relation to necromancy and other 'worlds' associated with said necromancy (think 'dreamwalking' of sorts), and I found myself re-reading different parts with these elements over and over to try to make sure I fully understood it, as it's really a very clever and intricate system that requires many explanations and a simultaneous awareness of unknowns that exist. There's something incredibly unnerving and creepy about much of what happens to Helena and Vonvalt in this book as well, and I loved the near-constant sense of dread and despair that permeated the story. 

There's plenty of action, but at the same time it's not an overly action-heavy story, and I appreciated the steadier pace of having our characters go about to different places and do some investigating and discussing. Because of the slower paced nature of The Tyranny of Faith, I really appreciated how thoughtful the story is about themes and ideas and honestly I feel everything that comes up has good thought and nuance put into it. The characterizations are involved, complex, and I feel like all of these characters are truly fleshed out to the point that I can easily I find myself fully invested in all of them. I would also say that this is a rather dark book. Much of the time our characters feel almost nothing but dread and despair–as previously mentioned–and a severe lack of hope, but they do keep trying and have a great determination to figure out everything that's going on, which is something I found incredibly commendable and equally gripping to watch. It's that sort of gritted teeth gusto that keeps you going in times when you feel like you might fall apart if you don't keep going, and I found it very relatable and compelling.

Overall, I've given The Tyranny of Faith 4.75 stars! I will be very eagerly awaiting the final installment to this series because I have a feeling it's going to be amazing and intense. 

*I received a copy of Tyranny of Faith courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon |

Friday, April 28, 2023

The Friday Face-Off: Current Read #5

Friday Face Off New
 Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme at Books by Proxy. Join us every Friday as we pit cover against cover, and publisher against publisher, to find the best artwork in our literary universe.  You can find a list of upcoming topics at Lynn's Books.

This week's topic is:
Current Read #5

I'm reading four books right now and only one of them has more than one cover edition to compare, and that is Small Game by Blair Braverman! There's only one other edition currently out so I thought it'd make for a good one-on-one comparison. 

2022 US Hardcover

2023 US Large Print Release

My choice(s):
I love that we have a similar theme going on and include the three circles with fires (?) in them in both for continuity. I'm not entirely sure why those are the design choice, but I think they work. I'm definitely partial to the 2022 US edition because I feel like it flows a bit better and I like the overall design more, but I do also think the larger amount of gorgeous green forest in the large print edition looks beautiful as well. What do you think?