Allegiance (Deity Rising, #2) by Kilian Grey

Pride must be swallowed.

Duty shall be honored.

Loyalty shall be tested.

Warriors must rise to the challenge.

Faust escaped Lathil’s cruelty, but an even greater weight awaited him when Aris, the Deity of Azure, announced Faust as the High King—the being all deities must follow. Lathil’s Blessed, Relan, recaptured Faust and wants to use Faust’s newfound lineage to his advantage.

High King Faust refuses to give into Relan’s demands for information and is faced with a tough decision—talk or die. Faust uses his magic to bring help to him, only to later realize he’s made a deadly mistake. Many in Windilum hold Faust in contempt for his war against them, forcing him to rely on Ignas’s strict orders for the Guild of Smithery to protect and cover for him.

The Kingdoms of Windilum and Roltan need a trustworthy and strong High King to lead them to victory. But a dark secret looms in the past and Faust feels the line between the past and present have begun to meld. Faust must restore the kingdoms to their rightful rulers while keeping Vasil, the Deity of Carnage, at a distance. He is ready to unite the kingdoms and discard his role as the puppet king, but is Faust willing to die for it?

REVIEW

Action, magic, and gay romance

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Faust’s adventure continues in this new installment, not only physically but sexually and magically as well. This was a fun read, full of action and revelations. It also has loads of characters and their various titles, which confuse the hell out of me, but it’s nothing new from the first book and somehow I’ve gotten used to that. Aside from the intriguing world-building, the character dynamics are totally different from my own life as a straight female, given that almost all the characters here are gay (and those that aren’t are probably bi). Here, Faust starts off injured and meets a new acquaintance in the form of Vas, who has a secret identity and a knowledge of Faust’s past life. Overall, it was an enjoyable read despite the confusion.

*This book was read and reviewed (in Amazon & Goodreads) in December 2019 as part of my participation in the 2019 Indiecember Challenge. Sorry for the late post.

Calico Thunder Rides Again by T. A. Hernandez

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to the Most Fantastic Show on Earth…

Three years ago, the Ban changed everything, outlawing certain forms of magic and bringing about the rise of powerful crime syndicates. Now, speakeasies in every city sell illegal charms and jinxes, and bootleggers traffic restricted potion ingredients across the country. But even in this changing world, the magic of the circus still acts as a wondrous escape and provides entertainment for all.​

Jake Strickland owns one such circus, inherited after an accident ended his career as a rodeo dragon rider. He also inherited the circus’ financial troubles, but since the show became his, he’s slowly managed to turn it into a profitable business once more. Or at least, that’s what he thought.

When a dangerous mobster comes to collect an old debt, Jake resorts to desperate measures to get the money before a strict deadline. With lives and livelihoods at stake, he battles the clock, his responsibilities to the circus, and a longstanding personal grudge that has festered for years. Can he pay back the mob before it’s too late?

REVIEW

A charming read!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Despite our main character Jake Strickland finding himself in an ugly predicament with the mob, I found this book to be cozy and charming, with likeable characters, wonderful creatures, and fascinating magic. My only gripe is that the title talks about Calico, but is actually mainly about Jake. Jake is not a bad character to follow, though, and I really felt for him struggling to do his best given an impossible situation. Aside from Jake, I also liked Grace Hawkins and the Bruno especially in their support for Jake. The world building is also interesting, and if there were more stories from this world, I would definitely be willing to read them. Overall, Calico Thunder rides again, is quite an enjoyable read!

*This book was read and reviewed (in Amazon & Goodreads) in December 2019 as part of my participation in the 2019 Indiecember Challenge. Sorry for the late post.

Before I start sharing my goals for 2021, let me briefly talk about 2020: it was a bad year for everyone including myself and I found myself dealing with certain personal things and became somewhat overwhelmed and tried to cope. In any case, I lost interest in writing, blogging, and social media for the most part. Now that it’s 2021, have I regained my interest in them? Who knows. But I  was doing okay before, so I kinda want to (regain interest). To facilitate that, here I am setting goals for 2021…

1. New Year, New Name.

Starting 2021, the name I’ll be using for my writerly self shall be Steph Arven. I’ve decided to separate my writing stuff from my Sathepine pseudonym and channel it all to the Steph Arven persona. In case I haven’t mentioned before, Sathepine is an anagram for Stephanie, which is my real name. I’ve used it for other things, not just writing stuff. As for the Steph Arven name, we know where the “Steph” comes from, but not the Arven. Arven is a combination of my grandfathers’ names (Ar = Arceo, ven = Venancio). I hope to use this name from now on, especially in social media, even if it means I’ll lose all my previous followers now (at least, in Twitter and Instagram). But I’m not counting anyway, so it’s all good.

2. Read and review the top ten books in the 2020 Goodreads Choice Awards for: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Poetry, and Young Adult Fantasy/Sci-Fi. 

Not all these books may be to my taste but the challenge is to read what is popular, what is mainstream, what readers in general enjoyed (or at least got hyped up enough to vote for). Then we’ll see if I enjoyed them just as much. 

For books that are part of a series, I’ll only commit to reading and reviewing the first book of that series, although, of course, it would be great if I manage to read up to that book itself.

3. Read and review at least five indie novels.

I do have plans to self-publish in the future (though I’m not in a hurry as my work is a priority right now), and would like to support self-published authors. I have a condition, though, and that is I will not be posting my review of self-published books that I didn’t enjoy. So, for self-published books, at least, I’ll only be posting my review of those that I rate to be 3-stars or more. (My 3-stars rating means I enjoyed it enough to say it’s worth the time and money I spent on the book.)

4. Write at least one poem per month.

By doing this, I could hopefully ensure there’s at least one post in this blog per month. I’d really like to keep my blog active from month to month, and not just have a ton of posts at the end of the year or something (which I fear might happen). I also have some past poems that are not posted (or are privated) but I’m not sure yet if I want to post (or un-private) them. (Also, can “private” be used as a verb? lol)

5. Watch and review at least one movie or show based on a fantasy or science fiction novel.

I was planning to do this for The Witcher last year, but, well, I didn’t. This year, I could still do The Witcher (before the new season), or I can do The Expanse (I’ve been wanting to read the books and watch the show for some time now), or Dune (I’m not sure how much of the first book I’ve read but I haven’t finished it that time and hoping to read from the beginning before the movie), or Shadow and Bone (I’m excited! I didn’t really like the main character but I love the world building in this series and I hope the upcoming Netflix show does it justice!)

6. Post at least one instagram photo, and one tweet per week.

I’m gonna populate my Steph Arven social media slowly but surely… with nice things of course! And for sure I’ll be following a bunch of nice accounts too. 

7. Complete plotting the outline for my next NaNoWriMo project before November.

As I’m going the plotting (rather than pantsing) route, an outline is a must. My pantsing gets me everywhere but the ending so I feel that plotting — with a little bit of pantsing — would provide much better results for me. Ideally, I would like to finish the outline early so I can send it to someone for feedback (like I did in 2019 — thank you for the helpful feedback, Jennifer Jarrett!)

8. Win NaNoWriMo 2021.

It’s been a while since I wrote 50,000 words in one month. I’d like to do that this year. I haven’t lost in Nano yet! (Unless you consider 2020, which I didn’t even participate in — though I’m sure I would have lost it if I did — I was quite busy at work and dealing with personal issues…)

8. Turn my zero draft of COTC into a first draft.

COTC stands for “Claire of the Corpses”, which is a temporary title so I’m simply gonna label it COTC from now on. This was my project for NaNoWriMo 2019 so I have roughly 50,000 words on it. There are missing scenes, descriptions, worldbuilding elements, etc. so my goal is to fill in all of those to complete the draft. (Of course, once I have a complete first draft, I’d still have to revise that.) I plan to use Camp Nano in April for this activity.

9. Rework my TMM outline.

TMM was my project for NaNoWriMo 2018 and it stands for “The Moonseeker’s Medallion”, which is a temporary title, so, like COTC, I’m just using it as a label. It’s a huge mess. Well, it’s a bit less messy now… but still a mess! So it’s not really a priority, but I still enjoy this world so I’ll try to get it a bit more organized for Camp Nano in July. 

10. Go on a one-week “writing retreat” by myself. 

Most likely, it will be a staycation at some hotel, where my activities will only be writing, eating, and sleeping. (And some other stuff for hygiene.) We are anticipating that work will be busier this year so I probably won’t have that much energy or mood to work on my writing on normal days. So this “writing retreat” shall be my answer to that.

To be frank, I have no idea right now if these goals are modest or ambitious. In theory, I feel like they’re totally doable, but then again, I had planned to do some of them last year… yet I didn’t (grr, 2020!) What I am sure of, though, is that I’m definitely feeling hopeful and have a much brighter outlook for 2021. 

Happy New Year!

I mentioned my 2019 goals in this post and it’s now time to check if I achieved them.

Reading Goals in 2019:

Why did I not read those 4 other books? It probably was because the other indie books from the Indiecember prize pack arrived and… I got distracted by them 😅

Writing Goals

  • Participate in Camp NaNoWriMo – ACHIEVED
  • Participate in NaNoWriMo – ACHIEVED
  • 12 Poems – PARTIALLY ACHIEVED 😓 I only did 10 new poems in 2019:

Blogging Goals for 2019:

  • Although, I said in the post that I don’t have any blogging goals, but I did say in this other post that I will be blogging on Sundays starting in September. However, I did not do that consistently so this one will have to be a FAIL. Sigh.

I’m hoping to finalize my 2020 goals this weekend and will be posting them soon.

Did you also have reading, writing, and blogging goals in 2019? Did you achieve any of them?

Legacy (Deity Rising, #1) by Kilian Grey

A fractured hierarchy. A buried past. The wind tells all, to those who listen.

Tension is high among the kingdoms of Alimphis and information about the past is prohibited. The Kingsley royal line has lived under restrictive rules from the deities, Emoris and Lathil, but the royal family also holds a great secret.

Prince Faust has kept his affinity for magic hidden by the order of his brother, King Konrad. His life is thrown into chaos when Emoris discovers he can wield all four magic stones and tries to kill him. King Konrad sends Faust away under the guise of a prestigious court merchant. Outrunning the deities isn’t easy, and Faust is exposed to the corruption and lies that have settled in the kingdoms.

With the help of a rather amorous mercenary and King Konrad’s allies, Faust embarks on a path to restore order to Alimphis’s kingdoms. Emoris and Lathil will stop at nothing to ensure he fails, even pitting him against his own family. Faust isn’t alone in his fight as those with power gather to assist him. But is he ready to shoulder the weight of war?

REVIEW: A somewhat confusing but enjoyable adventure | ★★★☆☆

I can see the anime and video game influences in this story, even from the way the characters react and behave… or it could be just my imagination. The world-building and magic-wielding are quite amazing here, however, I can’t seem to fully grasp the ranking system in terms of the deities, kings, *and* a high king, not to mention volants, servants of power, blessed, etc. – which, I believe, are over-powered high-ranking soldiers with fancy titles. The concept of having several kings when there are leaving breathing deities who can physically stand next to them, are more powerful than them, and rule over them makes me wonder: why bother having kings at all? I’d say anime is to blame for this. Also, the way “the wind” is always referred to is almost like it’s own character, which is half intriguing but half distracting. But regardless of all of the above, Faust is definitely a character I enjoyed following and I especially like his power set. Ignas is not bad either as the overprotective merc, despite my dislike with him constantly referring to Faust as “gorgeous”. Aris arrives a bit later but is just as intriguing and I find myself shipping him with Faust more than Ignas. The book is also full of action, which is something I quite enjoyed. It’s animated in my head. The steamy m/m sexiness definitely adds some spice, if you’re into that. Overall, this was a fun albeit confusing read and hope the sequel will be just as fun as well.

It’s officially Preptober and I am going to be working on prepping for my NaNoWriMo 2019 project for the whole month of October.

I have a fantasy WIP that I’ve been working on, the same project I did for last year’s NaNoWriMo, but that one’s massive. It has multiple characters, multiple POVs, dragons, sorcerers, war(s), fictional language(s), lore… definitely requires me to create a world map, and I don’t even know how to begin with that… Let’s just say the very thorough outline I’ve been (re)working on for that will definitely not be ready by November.

So, therefore, I’ve decided to revisit an idea that I’ve never drafted before and use that for NaNoWriMo. It’s dark supernatural fantasy with — and this is key — only one main character (YAY!).

I’ve started doing some prep work right at the beginning of October, and here’s a couple of screenshots of my synopsis and outline (using Scrivener):

Those are not final at all and I don’t even have a title or any character names. However, I’m excited to plot it for the whole month of October and draft it when November comes.

Can I get 50K words? Even though I was able to accomplish that last year, I’m not as confident this year because my personal circumstances were different. However, I have learned from last year so I guess this year may be smoother and I might actually accomplish it.

Here are the things that I will be preparing based on what I learned from last year:

  1. Chapter Outline
  2. Character Descriptions
  3. Aesthetics/Moodboard
  4. Writing Music Playlist
  5. Milestone Rewards

I feel that drafting will definitely be easier if these things are prepared beforehand. I have a tendency to get off-tangent, thereby ending up with subplots that don’t advance the story. A chapter outline will keep me on track, hopefully. I also spend a lot of time fussing over character names, descriptions, personalities, etc, so preparing them in advance will definitely save me time. The rest are just to help motivate me when the time comes, so they’re not really priority.

Are you planning to join this year’s NaNoWriMo? Will you be preparing for it this month? Do you think my prep list is good enough?

I’ll be sure to give an update on my next post. Thank you for reading!

Now that I’m back in the work force, I don’t always have time to read books. But with audiobooks, I get to listen to the story told to me by excellent narrators while I’m commuting, doing chores, doing errands, etc. Unfortunately, most of the books in my TBR are indie books and they don’t have Audible versions. So listening audiobooks is actually my opportunity to listen to popular books I’ve been curious about. I started with the first books of four series that piqued my interest:

  • Red Rising (starts the Red Rising series) by Pierce Brown
  • Caraval (starts the Caraval series) by Stephanie Garber

(Click on the links for the GoodReads page where you can read the synopses, if by some chance you haven’t heard of one or more of these books and are curious.)

I’m happy to say I enjoyed all of them and are continuing with their sequels. I have yet to actually sit down and write a proper review for each of them and I’m sure it’ll be daunting. I have so much to say, especially for Mistborn and Red Rising, I don’t even know where to begin. Just wow.

I’ve included below some snippets of my instagram stories when I was listening to these for last June.  

The Helm of Darkness (War on the Gods, #1) by A. P. Mobley

41ykgfebyylAndy and Zoey are two normal teenagers living in the modern day—that is, until they’re knocked unconscious in a freak storm sweeping the United States. 

When they wake up, the world they know has been tossed away. Their city is in ruins, strange creatures walk the earth, and worst of all, everyone is gone. They stumble across Diana and Spencer, two kids around their age who possess incredible magical abilities, and who claim to be the demigod children of Greek gods. Not only that, they also claim the year is 500 AS, five hundred years after the gods conjured a massive storm that destroyed most of humanity and helped them take the world as their own once again. 

Andy and Zoey are soon handed an impossible task: To save humanity. To lead a war on the gods. 

They’ll have to battle monsters, death, and their own inner demons to survive and to protect the people they love.

REVIEW: A sweet dive into the world of greek mythology | ★★★☆☆

A sweet dive into the world of greek mythology in the eyes of young adult humans and demigods. As a fan of greek mythology, this is definitely a fun read for me, although it caters to much younger readers than myself. Maybe apart from Spencer, I couldn’t find myself that much invested in the main characters, but the adventure and the world-building makes for a wonderful ride. A solid start to a series and will definitely check out the sequel!

Only Words (Shane Ashby Trilogy #1) by Summer Kiska

419ky6iv5blIf magick defines me, who am I without it?

Has your boyfriend been turned into a bunny?  Does your creepy stalker need a time-out as a toad? Or maybe you want a little more oomph in your spells? Shane Ashby—Celtic witch with three times the power of your average magick-user—has you covered.

Or, well, at least I used to.

I’ve been cursed. That’s bad enough, but now I have to defend against a sister I never thought I’d see again. And with the worst timing ever, a desperate, if irritatingly attractive warlock shows up at my door in need of a tutor. Apparently, I’m his “last hope.”

Somehow, I have to figure out how to keep breathing, not have an emotional breakdown, and make sure no one around me gets caught in the crossfire. All while having one proverbial hand tied behind my back.

Sure, I’ve got this…

 

REVIEW: A fun read with a refreshing perspective | ★★★★☆

It’s such a refreshing perspective for a story to be told from a witch whose speech is limited due to a curse. I had a lot of fun reading this book, and from Shane Ashby’s interesting point of view. It was incredibly easy to like her, and the love interest Jeremy Reeves as well. Though to be honest, I am rooting for the other guy, only because he’s a P.I. and a teleporter! There are few other characters in the story but none of them are bland, including Freya, the cat! Overall, this is definitely a good read and a great start to a trilogy.

Unknown Element by Brittani S. Avery

518i87uvc7lIn fifteen-year-old Rex Marshall’s mystical world, beings are classified by and can harness the powers of Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Light, and Darkness. When Rex, the rebellious son of an abolitionist councilman, impulsively purchases the freedom of Meenal, a peculiar blue slave, they discover a deep connection over one commonality: both don’t know who—or what—they are.

Rex and Meenal’s journey of self-discovery and Rex’s need to defend his birthright and inheritance takes them to the Saldur Empire, the country from which Rex’s homeland, Maventa, won its independence—the same place his missing mother hails from. As Rex acts as ambassador between Maventa and the Saldur Empire, his connection to his mother becomes stronger than ever, and his origin becomes eerily clear.

The quest to unearth their elements may prove life-threatening— or worse.

REVIEW: Intriguing but with character issues | ★★★☆☆

There are some aspects to enjoy about this book, but it’s significantly hindered by the main character Rex who is difficult to like. Even though his hot-tempered personality is meant to be part of a mystery, it’s still difficult to follow such an unlikeable lead. His behavior (and some others as well) is also a bit much for a teenager although that may depend on the culture? For me, it’s cringey mainly because they’re underaged. However, the world itself is interesting and there are other intriguing characters such as Meenal. So, if there is a sequel to this book, I will still continue with the series, hoping that Rex would have developed into a better character.