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Review: Once Upon a Curse by Yasmine Galenorn, Alethea Kontis, Annie Bellet, and 8 Others (Anthology)

“Seventeen magical stories from NY Times and USA Todaybestsellers and award-winning authors that will entice you to the darker side of faerie tales. More Grimm than Disney, in this collection you’ll find twists on Snow White, Hansel & Gretel, Rumplestilstskin, The Snow Queen, Cinderella, The Pied Piper, Alice in Wonderland, and Red Riding Hood, plus new tales paying homage to the old traditions.
Shadows cannot exist without light, however, and you’ll find enough happily-ever-afters to lift your spirits in this anthology full of adventure, dark powers, and ultimately the enduring power of true love.

YARROW, STURDY AND BRIGHT by Devon Monk – Sweet music cannot hide a wicked heart…

FAE HORSE by Anthea Sharp – Faerie bargains can grant any desire, but be careful what you wish for.

THE QUEEN OF FROST AND DARKNESS by Christine Pope – Her heart is the only thing colder than a Russian winter….

BONES by Yasmine Galenorn – Sometimes, your most cherished dream can turn out to be a nightmare.

MAGIC AFTER MIDNIGHT by C. Gockel – The Wicked Stepmother is about to meet her match…

DANCE WITH THE DEVIL by Donna Augustine – When the devil makes a deal with a dancer, he gets more than he bargained for.

NO GIFT OF WORDS by Annie Bellet – Never steal from a witch…

THE GRIM BROTHER by Audrey Faye – Not all walks in the wood end well…

BEAUTY INSIDE BEAST by Danielle Monsch – Happily Ever After ain’t guaranteed when Once Upon a Time is here.

FAESCORNED by Jenna Elizabeth Johnson – The Morrigan, Celtic goddess of war and strife, must relive a painful memory that reminds her of what she can never have.

DRAWN TO THE BRINK by Tara Maya – Sajiana’s job is to hunt down monsters brought alive from paintings. She never expected to meet one so handsome… or to need his help.

THE VARIANCE COURT by Alexia Purdy – Anna, a struggling college student, discovers a mysterious ring that turns her quiet life chaotic when the ring’s magic doesn’t do what it’s told.

THE MORRIGAN by Phaedra Weldon – A young man discovers he has leprechaun blood – and is wanted by dark faerie forces.

ALICE by Julia Crane – A twisted tale of Alice and Wonderland. Facing madness and an ominous prophecy, Alice chooses to follow her heart despite knowing her world is about to change forever.

STILL RED by Sabrina Locke – When the Hunters come, can there be any escape?

THE FINAL STRAW by Jennifer Blackstream – To banish a gold-spinning demon, first you must guess his name…

THE UNICORN HUNTER by Alethea Kontis – Only Snow White knows what really happened in the forest…”

What I thought:

Woop woop, friends and familiars! It’s time for the first review of the year! 😀

I wish my bookish year was off to a better start than the three stars I gave this on Goodreads. As is often the case with anthologies, I liked some of these shorts a lot more than others. I don’t know how this is usually handled with anthologies, but it didn’t feel like the whole book was edited by one editor. I’d really enjoy one story, and then the next one would have spelling mistakes, missing words, and other grammar issues. Given that the whole book was advertised as having been written by bestselling authors, I was disappointed with the quality.

Some shorts ended in surprising ways, while others didn’t feel finished. There were a couple which ended so abruptly it felt more like the author had contributed a couple of chapters from her book but hadn’t adjusted them to work as a short story, while others only felt partly concluded with the main enemy still undefeated. And then two were so much longer than the others I almost forgot I was reading an anthology.

The thing most humans didn’t understand was that desperation had to age like a fine wine. If it were served too soon, it wouldn’t yield nearly the same full-bodied taste. But now she was ready.

I recognised most of the originals behind the short stories which I always love, especially when new twists are introduced. I grew up with fairy tales and didn’t realise until last year how much I enjoy a good retelling!

My favourites were Yarrow, Sturdy and Bright; Dance with the Devil; No Gift of Words; The Grim Brother; and Still Red. The rest fell flat for me unfortunately.

I’d recommend this if you’re curious about anthologies or love dark fairy tale re-tellings. And if you find your new favourite author in this book, you’ll be thrilled to find details of other releases at the end of each story.


Have you read Once Upon a Curse? Get some cookies, drop me a comment and let’s get this book club going!

I don’t review books professionally. These reviews are mainly a small summary and my opinion on books I’ve loved, they are not intended to be anything more. All ‘reviews’ include a picture, title and name of author linking to the book’s Goodreads listing, the blurb from the back of the book and my non-professional verdict.

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WWW Wednesday 17th January 2018

This meme is hosted by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words. A similar meme, This Week in Books is hosted by Lipsyy Lost and Found.

Why not join in? Just answer the following three questions in a post and then put a link to that post in the comments over at Taking on a World of Words.

WWW Wednesday

HAPPY NEW YEAR! A little late, perhaps, but I had nothing to report two weeks ago. Hope you all had a good start to the year 🙂

This meme is no longer categorised with my book reviews! You can now find all WWW Wednesday posts in their own category 🙂

***

What I’m currently reading

Vancouver (Lovers and Liars #2)

Planning ahead a bit again here as I’m preparing this post on Tuesday and still finishing The Light Over Broken Tide!

Originally, I was going to read Court of the Phantom Queen next but I read Book 1 of this series last year and want to finish it before I start a new one, short as they all may be <3

After one disappointing read, one mediocre one, and one brilliant one, I wanted a book I knew I’d love, and Meldon’s novellas are sure bets for me. Plus, they buff out my reviews a little while I read longer books 😛

I usually get through her novellas in a day, sometimes two, so will start and finish this before Friday!

Blurb:

Aphrodite, goddess of love and lust, is not impressed. After giving up her penthouse suite in trendy Manhattan to go monster hunting around the world, she finds herself in a sad hotel room in Vancouver with a decidedly distracted Loki. She hadn’t expected this job to be so serious, and her Norse partner isn’t exactly bowing to her whims these days. What was the point in coming with him if they weren’t beneath the sheets all hours of the day? It seems like such a waste of sexual compatibility. Humph.

Meanwhile, Loki, Norse trickster, is equally unimpressed. He hadn’t thought taking on a beautiful partner would make his work so difficult. Her unfocused energy grates on his nerves, and his lust for her is only surpassed by his desire for more godly power. He will complete this job, whether she likes it or not, and he’ll walk away one step closer to regaining his old abilities. Now, if only he can get his partner to focus on the task at hand, not seduction. Ridiculous woman.

Aphrodite and Loki, an unlikely team if there ever was one, find themselves in the City of Vancouver hunting vampires. The job is pretty straightforward: rescue the damsel, kill the monster. Unfortunately, even the easiest of jobs hardly ever go according to plan.

***

What I recently finished reading

The Light Over Broken Tide

Now this is how you self-publish! <3 This was an excellent emotional rollercoaster of a book. I still have roughly 13% left as I’m preparing this post but it’s a quick read and right now, I’m a little bit broken.

It’s my first read by Ducarte and I love her melodic, sometimes poetic, always clear writing style. Normally I read two books before putting an author on my insta-buy list, but in this case it only took the one <3

My full review will follow next week. You should definitely get this in the meantime.

Blurb:

Out of the blue, Rebecca Stafford’s Father arrives to parent her after years of absence. He then extracts her last bit of normalcy by moving them to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. The shocking news plunges Rebecca into a despair that brings about an otherworldly encounter; she begins to have visions of her deceased Mom.
Uncertain whether what she sees is reality or the product of a troubled mind, Rebecca searches for an anchor to keep her from drifting in the new coastal town. She clings to Shawn, the eccentric, spritely boy-next-door promising adventures…with surprises of his own, involving an Irish legend and a hidden lighthouse. This brings on a whole new dimension to Rebecca’s visions, and sparks feverish romance between her and Shawn. A bond eventually threatened by forces beyond her control, sending her spiralling into dark, stormy places, leaving her to wonder how broken a mind can get.

Once Upon a Curse

My review for this will be up tomorrow, so I won’t go into detail now. I really enjoyed some of the stories while others felt unfinished and didn’t actually conclude their story. The editing wasn’t even, so some stories were edited a lot better than others which I found quite off-putting–I’d read one story and enjoy it, and then the next would be riddled with mistakes.

I really did enjoy some of them (maybe half?) and loved that I recognised the original fairy tales in most. Overall, I was a little disappointed with the quality since it advertises itself as having been written by bestselling authors.

Blurb:

Seventeen magical stories from NY Times and USA Todaybestsellers and award-winning authors that will entice you to the darker side of faerie tales. More Grimm than Disney, in this collection you’ll find twists on Snow White, Hansel & Gretel, Rumplestilstskin, The Snow Queen, Cinderella, The Pied Piper, Alice in Wonderland, and Red Riding Hood, plus new tales paying homage to the old traditions.
Shadows cannot exist without light, however, and you’ll find enough happily-ever-afters to lift your spirits in this anthology full of adventure, dark powers, and ultimately the enduring power of true love.

Visions of Zarua

Unfortunately, I didn’t actually finish this. I hate giving up on any book, but I just wasn’t looking forward to coming back to it. Most of the chapters felt like filler and as a result I didn’t enjoy the story. The world-building was good (no map, though, even though several important maps were mentioned in the story) and the chapters written in the past intrigued me a lot more, but there weren’t many of them and it took almost half the book before it was clear why they were there at all.

So I’m sorry I didn’t finish this, but it just didn’t work for me.

Blurb:

Two wizards, 350 years apart. Can they save the realm of Paltria from Zarua’s dark past? 

An ancient darkness haunts the realm of Paltria. 
Apprentice wizard Paddren is plagued by visions of a city on the brink of annihilation. When his master Kalesh dies in mysterious circumstances, the Royal Order of Wizards refuses to investigate. 
Helped by his childhood friend, the skilled tracker Varnia, and her lover Leyoch, Paddren vows to find the killer. 
The investigation leads Paddren down a sinister path of assassins, secret sects and creatures conjured by blood magic. But he is guided by a connection with a wizard from centuries ago – a wizard whose history holds the key to the horror at the heart of the abandoned city of Zarua. Can Paddren decipher his visions in time to save the Paltrian people from the dark menace of Zarua’s past? 

 

***

What I think I’ll read next

Insignia

I drew this at random from my tbr-jar, but to be honest I don’t have high hopes for it. The cover doesn’t make it look promising and the edition I have wasn’t on Goodreads, where it has one review despite having been out since late 2014.

I fear this author isn’t taking this self-publishing thing overly serious, but I want it to surprise me with great writing so bad. It’s not a long book, so unless it’s unreadable I’m determined to finish it.

After all, looks aren’t everything and I really shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. I really want this to surprise me.

Blurb:

Living on Earth in the year 2026 is supposed to be great. Electric cars, clean air, advanced computer technology. Holograms even. The world has come far from where it was decades ago. 

For Riy “Rai” Veilheart, it’s the opposite. It couldn’t be fun being the target of cruel jokes and pranks on a daily basis. Despite being a good student, all people know him as is “Albino Kid”. 

So getting a tattoo on his arm couldn’t make things, worse, right? It couldn’t become worse than it already is, was his thought at the time. But it did get worse. Just not in the way he would have expected. Now the high school junior has a sword wielding assassin after him, “monsters” biting at his ankles at every turn. Yet that’s not the strangest part. 

No that would be the girl with blue hair approaching him, claiming to come from another world. Anyone would be crazy to believe such a thing, but upon following her closely he discovers not only is this “other world” real, it’s dangerous. 

And for some strange reason, Riy feels like he’s changing. Subtly, into something he never knew existed. Welcome to a world of Magic, Demons and Spirits. 

Welcome to Arlaum.

***

Have you read any of these and would like to chat about it? I look forward to hearing from you if you do – just leave a comment below and we can get this book club started!

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A-Z Name Prompts – Y

Good morning, friends and familiars!

It’s time for the final two writing prompts!Not gonna lie, I’m ready for this to end. Who knew writing 24 original prompts would take so long or be so tiring**?

Today’s prompt carries on from the last one I published, way back in December. I recommend you read Prompt X first to avoid confusion today. Also, I cheated a little and used the name as a surname *ahem* For a woman *double ahem*

And today’s winner is:

Thank you again to everyone who voted <3 If the prompt speaks to you feel free to use it. If you do, please link back here so I can be nosy <3

*Not both today, though. One today and one in two weeks, as always.
**I had an inkling, to be honest, but it seemed like a good idea a year ago, you know?

***

Yates

(m.; the gates)

Commander Emily Yates’  head was throbbing from the minutes she’d spent unconscious. She was glad Xenia had found her; from her mission brief, she knew the Varyan military didn’t take well to aliens landing on their planet.

Someone had shot down her shuttle. She needed to find the rest of her crew before the military did.

“Lead the way.”

Xenia nodded. Commander Yates recognised that look on the girl’s face–hopeful, excited, and unsure. The Commander had looked just like her when she’d met her first alien. She’d never thought the Vaan would recruit her and become her captain shortly after.

“We need to be careful,” Xenia said. “I don’t know how the others will–”

Commander Yates froze. The unmistakable clicking of a gun’s safety being taken off was loud over the deliberately quiet crunch of leaves.

Ten Varyans stepped out all around them. Ten armed Varyans.

The military.

Fuck.

Their leader–the Varyan with the biggest gun–said something to Xenia who paled under her purple skin.

“What’s going on?”

“They think I led them to you. Zuth. This is bad, commander.”

The leader laughed.

“Xenia, look at me.” This wasn’t ideal, but Commander Yates could work with it. “They’ll need you. You understand me, you can translate.”

“I don’t think they want to talk, commander.”

Commander Yates raised her hands in surrender. Sometimes, pretending to give up was the only way out, and she had to remember who was the alien on this planet.

“They want you to drop your gun.”

“Not happening.”

Xenia translated, and ten rifles pointed at Yates.

“Fine, fine. Here.” She placed her weapon on the ground. “I mean you no harm.”

The leader nodded to another soldier, and Commander Yates didn’t resist as she was handcuffed and searched.

Her handgun.

The knife by her waist.

Even the knife in her right boot.

Everything fell to the ground around her.

The leader gave an order, and she was shoved ahead. Xenia looked terrified.

First contact on Varya had just got a lot more interesting.


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All writing belongs to the author, Sarina Langer

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The Basics of Blogging – Why Interaction with Your Readers is oh-so-Important

I created my first blog–goodness, I don’t know–five years ago. I had no idea how any of this worked, so I posted away, more or less regularly, and was thrilled every time someone followed my humble little blog.

I think by the time I accepted that it was dead and I needed to move on, it had just over 50 followers. Nothing to brag about, to be sure!

There were many things I did wrong with my first blog, but one of the reasons that really punched the last nail into its coffin was my silence.

You see, I didn’t visit other blogs. I didn’t follow other blogs. I didn’t talk to people. My responses to the few comments I got were short and didn’t really invite conversation.

If you’ve been blogging for any length of time, you’ll know how frustrating and discouraging it can be when no one visits your blog or leaves comments. You’ll also know how nice it feels when someone does, and that’s what I’d like to talk to you about today!

The moment you reply to a comment, your blog becomes YOUR blog rather than just some other site they thought they’d try. It gives your readers a face to put with your name.*

It’s the difference between passing a stranger in the street and not wasting another glance on each other, and saying hi and meeting up for a tea to get to know each other. It creates a connection.

Your readers will enjoy their experience on your blog more** and so will you. Comments are proof that someone has read and liked your content, and your reply is proof that you appreciate your readers.

It’s such an easy way to show you care!

*unless your profile picture is your dog or your car, in which case I recommend you change it. Unless your blog is about dogs or cars, I guess, but maybe still consider it.
**and be more likely to come back, too, which is nice

Gather around, my dears, and let me tell you a story.

Many moons ago, before I ever considered setting up my own blog, I didn’t comment. I didn’t see the point–the sites I was visiting were either run by people who obviously knew what they were doing, or intimidated me with their amazing confidence*.

Either way, they had no time for someone like me. Someone small and insignificant they didn’t even know.

Right?

Well, friends and familiars, one day I gathered all the courage I had and emailed my favourite author**. I was just getting into writing again then, and her books were the reason for that. I thanked her for being the inspiration I’d needed to realise what I wanted to do with my life.

I didn’t think she’d reply. I didn’t think she’d care about someone small and insignificant like me.

But she replied. And I still carry her words close to my heart today.

It was nice to be acknowledged. The blogs you follow might not be written by your favourite authors, but it’ll still feel nice when the blogger gets back to you. Maybe all you said was ‘haha, yeah, I totally do that, too’, and maybe all they replied was ‘it’s the best, isn’t it? :3’, but sometimes small things can be pretty big.

*You couldn’t have found me and confidence in the same room back then. In fact, it’s still kinda a rare occasion but I’m told I fake it well.
**I don’t start small, clearly.

Your readers don’t have to comment. There’s no obligation whatsoever. If they did it anyway, that should mean something to you.

It takes time to catch up on all the blogs we like*, so when someone takes the time to tell you that your post was awesome, the least you can do is say ‘thank you’. It’s basic manners.

Once you’re a famous blogger and get a hundred responses to every post, no one will be cross if you can’t reply to every single one. But when your blog is young and you’re lucky to get five comments with each new post, a reply won’t kill you**.

*withers under size of own catch-up list*
**I’m good at jinxing things, though, so maybe don’t trust that

They are what keeps your blog going*. The whole point to your blog is to share information (like a book review) and maybe even help people in a similar situation to you (like figuring out what’s important when you self-publish), and there’s no better way to do this than to actually talk to your readers.

It gives them a chance to ask questions you may not have answered in your post**, and it gives you a chance to show that you really do know what you’re talking about.

*I mean, technically it’s you since you write all the posts and fret over finding the perfect gif, but when no one ever comments it feels lonely and pointless fast.
**Don’t worry about it, it’s easy to miss things.

I’m one hell of an introvert. I don’t do parties, I don’t go clubbing, and I can’t fake a friendly hello to people I don’t like, but even I managed to comment on other authors’ sites when I first started CookieBreak.

I still talk to some of these bloggers today. Some have become friends. We’re each other’s tribe now. We support each other’s writing careers and blogs and share each other’s content.

None of that would have happened if one of us hadn’t made that first step of leaving a comment, and if the other then hadn’t responded.

Some people you’ll respond to once and then you never see them again, but others? Others can become friends who encourage you when you need it, share your new posts, and answer any questions you might have*.

But that won’t happen if you don’t reply or leave the first comment, so be friendly and wave back!

*And come to you for answers in return. Don’t be a monster, repay the kindness.

Blogging can be lonely, especially at first when no one but your parents and closest friends know your blog exists. It’s difficult to be noticed when millions of new posts get published every month all around the fudging world. Talk about stiff competition!

The best way to find new readers is to find blogs you like, stalk them religiously follow them, and leave comments whenever the author publishes a new post. They’ll soon notice your name pop up on their site over and over again.

It doesn’t need to be a small essay–just a quick ‘This is really helpful, thank you so much!’ is enough.

Please remember, though, that no one has an obligation to visit or even like your blog. Your blog might be fantastic in just about every way, but if it’s about make-up trends I won’t be following it. It’s nothing personal, I just couldn’t care less about make-up trends.

When your catch-up list is difficult to stay on top off as it is, you get a little picky, you know?

Don’t be shy*! Say hi and I promise I’ll get back to you <3

*Or be and just pretend you’re not–we’re on the internet, nobody knows.

Do you find it easy to stay caught up with the comments on your side? Do you feel bad when you know you missed something but can’t remember where (I definitely do)? Do you appreciate comments on your posts, or have you disabled them entirely? Get a cookie, make a tea, and talk to me.


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2018 Goals AND January Goals!

HELLO, EVERYONE!

COOKIEBREAK LIVES!

How are you? I hope you had a wonderful break and a chance to relax and recover* from the rather long year that’s now behind us.** Because, friends and familiars, this year is going to be busy! I’m going to break this up a little more than usually so you can skip the parts you don’t care about, if any.

*And cake. I hope you had cake.
**Thank God that’s over, am I right? I don’t know about you, but a small part of me is still traumatised tired.

Darkened Light is my priority. My critique partners have sent their feedback to me and it’s looking good! My editor is now doing the developmental edit and I’ve started reading over it again, too, so the countdown is on!*

Critique Partner feedback on Darkened Light <3

Blood of the Dragon and the trilogy prequel will be published later this year close to each other. I’m not sure what’s best – should I publish Book 3 first, or the prequel novella? It makes sense to publish Blood of the Dragon first, especially because the novella will work as a standalone, too. BUT the prequel novella MIGHT** add an extra sense of dark foreboding.

What would you prefer? Book 3 first, or novella first? They will likely be published within a month of each other, so you won’t have long to wait either way 😉

*Not really, though, since I haven’t set a date.
**Not committing to anything since I haven’t even outlined the thing *ahem*

I’ll write as much as I can of Blood of the Dragon since NaNo didn’t really happen for me*, and then I’ll just need to type the last words next month and the first draft will be done! And then I’ll have written an entire trilogy!

Once that’s done, I can focus on writing the prequel novella. There’s a lot of history I can’t explain in the trilogy without creating paradoxes, so a prequel it is! More on that in a month or two 😉

So, what else is in the works? Quite a bit, actually. Once the draft for the prequel is resting and I’ve begun edits on Blood of the Dragon, there’s a trilogy of novellas I want to write, a sort-of-prequel to Darkened Light, and then there’s NaNo. And the anthology I’m part of. AND the weekly serial coming to this blog in March. Oh, right, and NaNo**. Mustn’t forget about NaNo.

Here’s a bit more info, in case you were wondering:

Trilogy of novellas – These will be set in Midoka and possibly Krymistis, because I don’t know when to say goodbye apparently. I thought it was a shame that I’d created this world and my favourite corners were largely unexplored by my characters, so I’m writing three dark very dark novellas. Which probably won’t have a happy ending, but we’ll see.

They will be set after the events of the trilogy and explore dark areas of magic.

Darkened Light prequel-anthology-thing – I’m still kinda undecided about this one, to be honest. It’s not a prequel as much as it’s an anthology of stories from the world Darkened Light is set in. I’ve done more world building on Darkened Light than I’ve done before, and naturally most of that work doesn’t find its way into the duology. ’tis the way of things, my dears.

It will work as a standalone and tell magical stories from the different countries in Darkened Light. Some of these will be influenced by myths and urban legends, while others will be completely made up.

New Year, New Desk, New Workspace

Anthology – I’m part of an actual co-authored anthology, too! There are 14 of us, and we’ll all be contributing re-tellings of dark fairy tales, urban legends, and myths. It’s all extremely exciting 😉 No name has been chosen yet, but you can already take a look at my Pinterest board 😉

I’ll talk more about it later this year so I don’t overwhelm this post with info. It’s long enough as it is (my apologies).

All that I Can Be – I’ve already mentioned this a few times here and there, but this small weekly fictional series is going to take over from my bi-weekly writing prompts on Monday. You can peek at the Pinterest board for this one, too 😉

I’ll go into more detail soon, but for now let’s just say it’s about a girl who struggles with her confidence and love and makes a deal with the devil to be better at life.

NaNoWriMo – I know this is early, but I’m hoping if I start thinking about it now I’ll know what I’m doing by the time NaNo comes around. The logical thing to do would be to write Book 2 of the Darkened Light duology (which I named in the same breath as Darkened Light, by the way, and the tension is breaking me), BUT I barely withstood temptation last year and set The End of Stars*** aside AGAIN to write Blood of the Dragon. So, I’m torn this year. And wondering whether I can make it through NaNo with two WIPs on the go. Has anyone done this? Or did you try it and die and are talking to me as a zombie now? Because that seems more probable to me.

As I said, I need time to decide which one to write, if not both. Also, this is a post about my publishing and writing goals this year and NaNo happens this year, so here we are.

Now, let’s move on to–Oh, wait… There’s one more…

Just, you’d bring me tea because you know I don’t like coffee.

Super Secret WIP**** – This SSWIP snuck up on me over Christmas. I’d promised myself and my SO that I wouldn’t do any work, and technically I didn’t. I didn’t do any actual writing. I just drew a map, and then the info started filling itself in and wow, suddenly I had a blurb AND a possible title and both just kinda happened and when the muse sings this loud, friends, you have to listen. Do you have any idea how terrible I am at writing blurbs and naming things? IT’S A SIGN.

I’m sad that Paperchase can’t deliver my notebook and refunded me, so I guess I’ll have to go notebook hunting at some point.*****

There, now we’re done.

*cries into ice cream cake*
**The November one, so that’s ages away and I probably don’t need to panic about this already but I like to have a plan.
*** For those of you who are new here or didn’t realise I changed the name – this used to be Immortals (temp. title), my sci-fi WIP which I started a while ago and hit a wall pretty much right away. It’s based on this little short of mine.
****except I just told all of you it’s happening… *fails at secrecy*
*****Oh woe is me

There are a few tiny changes coming to Cookie Break this year. Nothing like that last monster list, though, so no worries.

The Welcome page – my static front page will undergo a small makeover to better reflect everything I do here. Right now, it’s got the cover, buy links, and Goodreads reviews of my latest release, but I do a lot more on this blog than publish books*. Like reviews. And talking about books. And writing. And admiring other authors’ books.

Monthly updates – On the first Friday of every month, I’ll share my goals for the month ahead with you. Don’t worry, they won’t all be as long as this one. It’s just that it’s January so my goals for the whole year are here, too. Also, on the last Friday of every month, I’ll share progress updates with you so you can all see how I’m struggling along doing.

CookieBreak Copy – Late last year, I founded CookieBreak Copy. You can now hire me as a freelance creative writer for your blog and/or business, or as your editor (and thank you to those of you who have. I love you.) Since both sides of the business deal with copy, the title fits both beautifully. My wonderful author buddy Anna B. Madrise is also a designer and has agreed to design my new shiny logo, so keep an eye out for that next month <3

*This is a big shock to all of us, I’m sure. My apologies. I’ve said on many occasions that I shouldn’t be allowed out unless I’ve had tea but Larry, God of Mischief and Biscuits, had other ideas, clearly. Blame Larry. Definitely his fault.

I’ve set the quite possibly mad goal of 45 books as my Goodreads reading challenge. I read a little more than that last year, but a couple of things are different this year. In December, I took a new position at my library, so while I’m not changing the place of my day job and while the role itself doesn’t change an awful lot, either, the hours have changed. I normally read on my lunch breaks and, as you’re about to see, I won’t have as many of those.

BRING IT ON

My new role is term-time only, meaning I have Easter, the summer, and Christmas off to work on my WIPs and grow my businesses. While I’ll do both the rest of the year, too, that extra free time is going to be a massive help. It also means that I get paid a fair chunk less, so business growth is going to be a priority because not having any money (and being the girl who pays the bills right now) is no fun. It’ll also be a good indicator of whether I can work as an author, writer, and editor full-time or whether it’ll drive me insane, so send tea and cookies. Or let’s meet for lunch. I’m definitely up for a catch-up over lunch.

It’s going to be stressful, but the new day job/author ratio is exciting and I couldn’t say no. I’m definitely not ready to quit the day job altogether, but I feel like I’ve taken a step in the right direction.

On that note, if you need an editor or someone to write posts about the beautiful craft of writing for you, get in touch <3

But that’s enough from me*! What are your goals for this year? Any new books on the horizon with your name on them I should know about? Make a tea, get a cookie, and tell me your plans!

*I can hear your relieved sighs…

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Happy New Year, Friends and Sparrows!

(Is anyone else way too excited that this year starts on a Monday? It’s gonna be great, I can tell already)

I’m just popping in briefly to wish you all a Happy New Year <3

I hope you’ve had a relaxing break, actually took a break instead of working through the holidays, and are feeling energised and up for whatever this year may bring <3

I’ll be back on Friday with my goals for this year, my goals for this month, my proposed publishing plans, and a few changes I’m going to make to CookieBreak. Right now, enjoy your first few days in 2018 🙂

A wonderful start to you, friends, familiars, and Sparrows!

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Bookish Progress Updates, End-of-Year Giveaway, & Cheap Books

Goodness me, it’s been a year, friends! I always feel like I’m not doing enough–like I‘m not good enough–and I’m sure many of you know what that feels like.

I also know it’s nonsense. I’ve done and achieved loads this year, and I’m grateful to have a chance to reflect on what I’ve done. It’s hard to see how well you’re really doing when you’re still in the chaotic middle of things! Taking better care of myself, physically and mentally, is one of my new year’s resolutions, but why not start today?

So, what have I achieved this year?*

I published Wardens of Archos.

I edited Darkened Light and sent it to critique partners and my editor.

I took a course on editing and proofreading, and became a qualified editor.

I registered as self-employed.

I started a business and have happy editing clients.

I started a freelance writing business last month which I intend to grow next year.

I got a new part-time job.

I set up my newsletter and my Sparrow Review Team.

I moved CookieBreak from WordPress to a self-hosted server and gave it a huge make-over.

Definitely no reason to feel like I haven’t done enough, right? Chances are, you’re feeling the same thing. It’s common among creative freelancers, like indie authors or freelance writers. So, let me tell you now:

You’re doing enough. You’re doing great. You’ve earned a break this Christmas.

Look after yourself, my dears. Burn-out is a bitch.

You don’t need to tell me in the comments below, but make that list for yourself and take a look at how much you’ve achieved this year. Shut up that critical part of you that’s constantly nagging you to do better even though you’re exhausted!

* I’m not doing this to show off. I’m doing it to shut up the super critical part of me that’s never happy with my efforts. Take that, super critical part of me! *shakes fist*

Due to me rushing around these past two weeks to set everything up so I can actually enjoy my break (17 days of lazy bliss, friends! *sighs*), I haven’t made much more progress on Blood of the Dragon. Here’s where things have been happening:

Darkened Light is with my editor and critique partners, and their feedback is good! If you want a little more than that, take a look at the Author Hop Giveaway below 😉

I’ve been starting to write All that I Can Be, the weekly fiction serial that’s going to take over from the bi-weekly A-Z Name Prompts. I’ll give you all the details next year so you know what’s coming, but if you’re curious now feel free to check out its Pinterest board 🙂

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m fortunate to be one of the authors in an anthology of fairy tale retellings, urban legends, and myths. I’ve been plotting my short contribution and things are coming together. It’s early days for all of us, but if you’re curious, there’s a Pinterest board for that, too 😉

And that’s just two weeks’ worth, and not including the work I’ve done on my businesses!Soooo, next year is going to be busy 🙂

But let’s move on to cheap books and giveaways, yes? 😉 You know that’s why you’re really here *ahem*

*Take that, super critical voice in my head!

This giveaway is on Instagram only. Be sure you follow me on Instagram so you don’t miss it!

I will pick THREE winners because I’m feeling generous this season 🙂 I’ll be giving away e-copies of Rise of the Sparrows AND Wardens of Archos, as well as an early first-ten-chapters preview of Darkened Light. Normally, you’d need to be on my Review Team to get the latter, but it’s Christmas so I’m giving up the goodies 😉

Moreover, I’m not the only author giving away her books. There are 17 of us, so there’s a good chance you’ll win something 🙂 Do pop over and have a look!

I’m really excited about this promotion. The last one I did was free books, and it’s grown my review team as well as my readership more than anything else I’ve tried to date. I can’t wait to see how this promo with cheap books rather than free books is going to compare.

Next year, I’ll share my results with you so you can see if this might work for you and your books, too 🙂 I’ve been meaning to write a post about marketing, anyway.

If you haven’t bought your copy of Rise of the Sparrows yet, here are the links:

If you like what you’re seeing in this promo, feel free to share it and spread the word! Last time I checked, over 70 authors were included, so there’s plenty of choice 🙂

I might have a third promotion to share with you as well (for Wardens of Archos this time), but I won’t know whether I’ve been approved for it or not until the 20th. I won’t blog over the holidays but I’ll share it on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter if I’m in, so be sure to keep an eye on my accounts 🙂 There’ll also be a newsletter if Wardens is included, so feel free to sign up for that instead 🙂

What have you been up to this year? Have you achieved your goals? Don’t worry if you haven’t. Life happens. Other things come up. You’ve done beautifully even with one or two failed goals <3

Since this is my last post of 2017, allow me to wish you a Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and a great start to 2018 <3

You’re welcome to join me for a bit of annual reflection and a chat over tea and cookies in the comments 🙂 Make yourself comfortable and let’s talk!


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All content belongs to the author, Sarina Langer.

For all previous updates on my books’ progress, click me!

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Review: Origins of the Never by C. J. Rutherford (Tales of the Neverwar, #0.5)

“A prequel to The Tales of the Neverwar series, with dragons, elves and faeries.

Set thousands of years before the Tales of the Neverwar, an epic fantasy through space, time, and reality.
Teralia. A world of light and beauty, holding the core of magic that infuses the universe. A land of Faerie magic and Ancient Dragons.
Here, two friends, closer than brothers, are destined to become the mightiest among the immortal Elven race.
One will fall, ensnared by an ancient evil thought destroyed eons ago.
The other will face a desperate choice to save a doomed world.
Ultimately, only one can prevail.”

What I thought:

This is my last review for 2017, but it’s a good one, friends.

I could have sworn I read once that authors should never combine sci-fi and high fantasy in one book. Something about asking your readers to believe in too much at once? Well, friends, Origins of the Never has magic and fairies and alternate realities and dragons and distant planets and let me tell ya, it works! Whoever said they can’t co-exist peacefully (or not so peacefully–this is about a war) didn’t read this novella.

The Glade held the magic. In the mountains to the north of the Citadel lay the source, the spring of magical energy that infused this world; and through the Never, the void which linked all reality, it passed into the universe.

(Personal note: YAAASSS!)

If we strip it right down, this novella is a love story turned dark. One man loves his best friend’s girl, and seeing them together slowly drives him mad until he raises a zombie army and enslaves all dragons. There were some parts I would have liked Rutherford to expand a little more, but this is only a novella, and it sets up one epic battle of light against dark! I’m hoping to learn more about those parts in Book 1, Souls of the Never.

There was a tiny amount of POV switching and as I already pointed out, I’d have loved more info a few times, but other than that? Yeah, this was good.

Honestly, friends, I usually cut indie books some slack. I’m not a monster. It’s hard publishing your first book yourself without the expertise of an agent and big publishing house behind you telling you what to do and making some decisions for you. I don’t think this needs any slack-cutting, though. I’m expecting big things from the rest of this series. Don’t disappoint me, Rutherford! Fan in the making here!

Gawd, I need more books like this. I can see, maybe, why having both genres in one book might be too much for some readers, but I loved it and have already added the first book in this series to my reading list. If you can think of any others, recommend away. This girl’s ready for more epic sci-fi! <3


Have you read Origins of the Never? Get some cookies, drop me a comment and let’s get this book club going!

I don’t review books professionally. These reviews are mainly a small summary and my opinion on books I’ve loved, they are not intended to be anything more. All ‘reviews’ include a picture, title and name of author linking to the book’s Goodreads listing, the blurb from the back of the book and my non-professional verdict.

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My Favourite Books of 2017

Welcome to another round of favourite reads!

Last week, I looked back on my favourite indie books of 2017, but today I’m showing off the awesome traditionally published books I devoured these past eleven months <3 Get ready for the goodness!*  And, of course, the last review of the year is still scheduled for later, too 🙂

I was originally going to select 10 very special books for this list but it was impossible to cut seven, so here are my favourite 17 😀

* much of it is magical goodness, too, which makes this list even better

The Night Circus

I can’t imagine a better start to my year <3 This was magical, and perfect for December/January. If you haven’t read this yet, it’s an easy recommendation for the cold months ahead! I don’t usually re-read books for time reasons*, but this might be a yearly winter read <3

* and, yes, my tbr list threatening to crush me might have something to do with it, too

Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, & Ruin and Rising

How could I not read these after Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom? This trilogy was my reward for finishing NaNo last year, and they were my first reads this year (since I technically started The Night Circus in December 2016*). I loved them for so many reasons, but the Russian mythology was my personal highlight <3

* Wow, that seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it?

The Slow Regard of Silent Things

I loved how whimsical and magical and different this was. Auri is one of my favourite characters in Rothfuss’s books, so having this little novella entirely from her POV was amazing. If you can forget for a moment what a book is supposed to be* and embrace Auri’s mind, this is perfection. The illustrations** were a lovely touch, too.

* like filled with dialogue and character development
** It’s just occurred to me that I’ve read a few books with pwetty illustrations this year… Read on and see 😉

The Caves of Steel

This was so much better than expected, and I can’t wait to read more sci-fi now. I’m holding off until I start writing my own sci-fi WIP*, but this was a fantastic introduction for me.

* this may just be next year’s NaNo project… I was so tempted this year, guys! SO TEMPTED

Equal Rites

I didn’t read anywhere near as many Discworld novels this year as I wanted to*, but out of the few I did manage to read Equal Rites is my favourite. I love Granny Weatherwax and hope to see her around in future novels. I thought Mort would take the lead but now I think it’ll be difficult for another one to come close.

We’ll see, 2018. We’ll see.

* my goal was ten and I read *counts down on her fingers* three. #fail

An Ember in the Ashes & A Torch Against the Night

Oddly enough, I’m not sure what to say other than that I really enjoyed these and am looking forward to Book 3! They’d been on my tbr list for a while and were just as good as I hoped they’d be.

Although, I’m a little annoyed that Book 2 is larger than Book 1. It looks weird on my shelf. #bookwormproblems

Our Dark Duet

I’m always torn about Schwab’s books. I like them and definitely get the hype, but at the same time they just don’t excite me. I liked this, but I also didn’t struggle to put it aside for the day. But, as I said, I definitely get the hype, which is why it’s on this list despite me being torn 🙂 And I did love the opening and those little chapters where Kate tried to control her sanity. Those won it for me.

The Final Empire

Originally, I was going to treat myself to the other books in this series as a reward for winning NaNo this year, but then I failed miserably *awkward cough* They’re on the list for my next book haul, whenever that’ll be. It’s a masterclass of fantasy writing and I feel like I should read it again, notebook and pen by my side so I can take notes.

Illuminae & Gemina

I don’t know what to say other than ouch, my feelings, and DAMN, these looked pretty on the inside! Illuminae and Gemina re-defined what a book is with their one-word pages, stunning illustrations of space ships and explosions and blood soaking through pages and letters and emails and final goodbyes and gah, just read them yourself!

Dracula

I’d never read this before October, but am so happy I’ve done it now <3 It’s not often you read a book that invented a genre! And I’ve got the stunning cloth-bound edition, so it’s pretty on my shelf, too*.

* It’s important to have priorities, friends and familiars.

Nevernight & Godsgrave

If it wasn’t for Illuminae, Nevernight would easily be my favourite book this year. But then Illuminae came and made decisions hard.

I feel like this series is the most grown-up epic fantasy I’ll ever read, but that might just be all the bloody details, sex, and heavy swearing talking. Definitely my kind of book 😛

The Language of Thorns

This is the most beautiful book I’ve bought all year. If you haven’t seen my review for it yet I recommend you take a look since I showed off the illustrations which grow with the short stories. It was beautiful inside and out, and the short stories made me feel nostalgic. If you love dark fairy tales, this is a must-read!

You can find the reviews for all of these on this blog, too, if you’d like to know more 🙂

Tomorrow, I’ll have one last post before I go on my Christmas break, but then that’s it for 2017! Can you believe how fast it’s gone? I’m excited to see what amazing reads are waiting for me in 2018*. If you’re here for my bookish posts like this one, and don’t care for my general updates, I wish you a merry Christmas, lovely holidays, and a happy new year now <3 I’ll see you in 2018, friends and familiars!

* BRING IT ON, OBSIDIO

What were your favourite reads this year? Did you love any of these as much as I did? Make a tea, take some cookies, and talk books to me!


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WWW 13th December 2017

This meme is hosted by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words. A similar meme, This Week in Books is hosted by Lipsyy Lost and Found.

Why not join in? Just answer the following three questions in a post and then put a link to that post in the comments over at Taking on a World of Words.

WWW Wednesday

This meme will be categorised together with my book reviews. All links will get you to the book’s Goodreads listing, as always 🙂

***

What I’m currently reading

Visions of Zarua

I’ve been meaning to read this for ages and am thrilled that my random book draw coughed this one up. I’ve heard many good things, so expectations are high!

Blurb:

Two wizards, 350 years apart. Can they save the realm of Paltria from Zarua’s dark past? 

An ancient darkness haunts the realm of Paltria. 
Apprentice wizard Paddren is plagued by visions of a city on the brink of annihilation. When his master Kalesh dies in mysterious circumstances, the Royal Order of Wizards refuses to investigate. 
Helped by his childhood friend, the skilled tracker Varnia, and her lover Leyoch, Paddren vows to find the killer. 
The investigation leads Paddren down a sinister path of assassins, secret sects and creatures conjured by blood magic. But he is guided by a connection with a wizard from centuries ago – a wizard whose history holds the key to the horror at the heart of the abandoned city of Zarua. Can Paddren decipher his visions in time to save the Paltrian people from the dark menace of Zarua’s past?

Once Upon a Curse

I meant to start Visions of Zarua yesterday but left my kindle at home and for some reason, my kindle app didn’t list it even though I’d started it (read: I opened the first page), so I started reading this one 🙂 It looks so Christmas-y with the red and the snow and the sparkle, and since I’ll be in an anthology myself I figured I can count it as research, too 😛

I love dark fairy tale retellings, so expectations are high for this one, too!

Blurb:

Seventeen magical stories from NY Times and USA Todaybestsellers and award-winning authors that will entice you to the darker side of faerie tales. More Grimm than Disney, in this collection you’ll find twists on Snow White, Hansel & Gretel, Rumplestilstskin, The Snow Queen, Cinderella, The Pied Piper, Alice in Wonderland, and Red Riding Hood, plus new tales paying homage to the old traditions. 
Shadows cannot exist without light, however, and you’ll find enough happily-ever-afters to lift your spirits in this anthology full of adventure, dark powers, and ultimately the enduring power of true love.

***

What I recently finished reading

Origins of the Never

This was a pleasant surprise in several ways: I didn’t remember that this was a novella, so I got through it much quicker than I thought I would, and wow, this was good! I won’t say any more now because my review is up tomorrow afternoon, but yes, this was good.

Blurb:

A prequel to The Tales of the Neverwar series, with dragons, elves and faeries.

Set thousands of years before the Tales of the Neverwar, an epic fantasy through space, time, and reality. 
Teralia. A world of light and beauty, holding the core of magic that infuses the universe. A land of Faerie magic and Ancient Dragons. 
Here, two friends, closer than brothers, are destined to become the mightiest among the immortal Elven race. 
One will fall, ensnared by an ancient evil thought destroyed eons ago. 
The other will face a desperate choice to save a doomed world. 
Ultimately, only one can prevail. 

Free Science Fiction and Fantasy, Origins of the Never is perfect for dragon lovers everywhere.YA series about an awakening evil and the battle to save all reality.

Reborn

I hate not finishing a book, but this wasn’t for me. I got to 30% and had no idea what the plot was, and my inner editor kept chirping up, too, so I decided to move on. I think the main plot was the MC determined to continue her bloodline and trying to find a baby daddy for her great-great-great-granddaughter, but it felt more like a side-plot to me. I was waiting for something important to happen, but it didn’t.

Blurb:

Marie Josette d’Orgemont, cousin to Louis XVI, watched in horror as a rogue creature took her husband’s life before turning on her. A powerful vampire swept in and spared her life, but she never suspected surviving meant immortality or the price she’d have to pay to protect her surviving son.

Centuries later, in Miami, with her family on the verge of extinction, Marie is preoccupied with the continuation of her human bloodline. When she meets sexy and persistent Odin Ulfsson, his icy-blue gaze and burning touch are hard to resist. Will a forbidden romance with the Nordic werewolf be the key to her happiness, or will it set in motion a wrath that endangers not only her last human heir but her entire existence?

Heralding

My thanks again to the author for my ARC <3 I reviewed this last week so I won’t go into detail now, but if you’re a fan of Buffy and kick-ass heroines wielding dual daggers, I recommend it 🙂

Blurb:

Life was simple for Eléonore when her biggest concerns were hunting demons, stacking shelves, and pulling off the single mother gig.

But that was before the night at the Citadelle two months ago. The night when she killed an Elder sorcerer. The night she discovered her own destructive powers.

Now Eléonore’s life is defined by questions of will…

Will her dangerous powers and Iníonaofa heritage ever be explained to her?
Will her son’s father make a reappearance in her life?
Will her son discover the terrible truth of her nighttime hunts?
Will the demon who offered her protection come for her due?

With chaos brewing in Daemoniar—the demon realm—and a tyrannical group on the rise, one thing is for certain…

Eléonore’s about to stumble into a whole new hellhole of trouble.

***

What I think I’ll read next

My next read will be sometime in January, so this’ll have to wait 🙂 I only just started my current reads and will be on my Christmas break after Friday, so chances are I’ll be on them for a while.

I’ll come back to it in January 🙂

This was my last WWW for 2017, so have a Merry Christmas/happy holidays, everyone, and a good start to 2018! I’ll see you in January <3

***

Have you read any of these and would like to chat about it? I look forward to hearing from you if you do – just leave a comment below and we can get this book club started!

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