Book Tour, Reviews

Ink in the Blood

A lush, dark YA fantasy debut that weaves together tattoo magic, faith, and eccentric theater in a world where lies are currency and ink is a weapon, perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Kendare Blake.

Celia Sand and her best friend, Anya Burtoni, are inklings for the esteemed religion of Profeta. Using magic, they tattoo followers with beautiful images that represent the Divine’s will and guide the actions of the recipients. It’s considered a noble calling, but ten years into their servitude Celia and Anya know the truth: Profeta is built on lies, the tattooed orders strip away freedom, and the revered temple is actually a brutal, torturous prison.

Their opportunity to escape arrives with the Rabble Mob, a traveling theater troupe. Using their inkling abilities for performance instead of propaganda, Celia and Anya are content for the first time . . . until they realize who followed them. The Divine they never believed in is very real, very angry, and determined to use Celia, Anya, and the Rabble Mob’s now-infamous stage to spread her deceitful influence even further.

To protect their new family from the wrath of a malicious deity and the zealots who work in her name, Celia and Anya must unmask the biggest lie of all—Profeta itself.

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I could not wait to pick up this new YA debut. Dark fantasy? Check. Original magic system? Double check. Character driven? Check again. Blending magic and religion and tattoos into one magical concept? Well..yeah, that too. I knew when I read the synopsis of Ink in the Blood by Kim Smejkal that I wanted to be one of the readers on her book tour.

Even better than all of that? I really liked this book.

Ink in the Blood is not your usual YA fantasy story. Not only is the prose dark and beautiful in a way that’s almost poetic, but the concepts are deep and vast and truly ask the reader to think about these things for themselves. I love dark fantasy, and when darker topics are threaded into a magical world, and this book showed off that strength in spades. Smejkal does an incredible job of still keeping the book light and quick, while also exploring some of the dark corners of our minds and our capabilities as human beings.

One of my favorite things about this book has to be the magic system. I was fascinated by this link between tattoos and religion and magic from the beginning, but Smejkal does not her readers down when it came to the meat of that concert. The magic system in this book is creative, original, fresh, and you can tell that the author thought a lot about how it worked and how she wanted it these powers to further the story. I thought it was masterful.

Another of the joys inside Ink in the Blood is the relationship between Celia and Anya. I love seeing more and more LGBTQ+ representation in YA, and especially in fantasy. I love reading stories that are queer stories, but that aren’t about the characters queerness, and this was a great one. Their relationship, and deep friendship, is fierce and relatable, not to mention a great example for all of the strong, young women today.

I’m not personally a huge fan of the circus/performer setting that’s big right now and also is used in this novel, but I will say this: it didn’t stop me from enjoying this book to its fullest. While it does take some time to ramp up into an un-put-down-able story, it does eventually get there and then you’re stuck. By the end of the story, I wanted more.

Ink in the Blood was dark, fresh, original, and full of magic and love and fierce women. If any of these things appeal to you, this book is right up your alley. And if they don’t, maybe try it out anyway. YA is continuing to go in more and more interesting directions and I look forward to seeing what else Smejkal writes for us in the future.


Kim Smejkal lives with her family on muse-satiating Vancouver Island, which means she’s often lost in the woods or wandering a beach. She writes dark fantasy for young adults and not-so-young adults, always with a touch of magic. Her debut novel, INK IN THE BLOOD, will release from HMH in early 2020, with a sequel to follow in 2021. She is represented by Daniel Lazar of Writers House.

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Book Tour, Reviews

Jane Anonymous

Bestselling author Laurie Faria Stolarz returns with Jane Anonymous, a gripping tale of a seventeen-year-old girl’s kidnapping and her struggle to fit back into her life after she escapes.

Then, “Jane” was just your typical 17-year-old in a typical New England suburb getting ready to start her senior year. She had a part-time job she enjoyed, an awesome best friend, overbearing but loving parents, and a crush on a boy who was taking her to see her favorite band. She never would’ve imagined that in her town where nothing ever happens, a series of small coincidences would lead to a devastating turn of events that would forever change her life.

Now, it’s been three months since “Jane” escaped captivity and returned home. Three months of being that girl who was kidnapped, the girl who was held by a “monster.” Three months of writing down everything she remembered from those seven months locked up in that stark white room. But, what if everything you thought you knew―everything you thought you experienced―turned out to be a lie?

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I was immediately intrigued when I read the synopsis of this story: a kidnapping, a girl trying to reintegrate into her life, how nuanced and difficult that must be psychologically. I had to read it. Here’s the good news: I also loved it.

Jane Anonymous has made one of the biggest emotional impacts on me that I’ve felt from a book in a long time. In fact, my favorite thing about this book is the skill, honesty, and care that the author so clearly put into the emotional backbone of this story. Jane’s terrifying journey, her confusion, her desire to feel happy again while simultaneously not understanding why she can’t- so many of us can relate to these feelings. And even more so when an author writes them with such nuance and raw empathy.

Second, I found the balance between the two storylines, one emotional and one more immediately pressing, to be a perfect fit when it came to pacing. I was stuck on the edge of my seat trying to figure out who had taken her and why, reading that story and her story of escape. And then I was stuck in my chair feeling when Jane, free at last, chooses to isolate herself from her family, confused and not sure how to go on. I wanted to reach into the book and hug this character, all of these characters, and tell them they would get through this.

Last, but definitely not least— I hesitate to say much else, so as not to spoil it, but…oh man. That twist at the end. I did not see it coming and it hit me like a sucker punch. Such a surprise and just another thing I can add to my list of reasons why you should pick up this book and check it out.

Ultimately, Jane Anonymous is an empathetic, intelligent, nuanced and important story about a young girl who is just trying to survive in this world. Her circumstances are extreme, her situation dire, but everyone can find something to relate to in this entirely too human story. Such a fun read.


Laurie Faria Stolarz grew up in Salem, MA, attended Merrimack College, and received an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College in Boston.

Laurie Faria Stolarz is an American author of young adult fiction novels, best known for her Blue is for Nightmares series. Her works, which feature teenage protagonists, blend elements found in mystery and romance novels.

Stolarz found sales success with her first novel, Blue is for Nightmares, and followed it up with three more titles in the series, White is for Magic, Silver is for Secrets, and Red is for Remembrance, as well as a companion graphic novel, Black is for Beginnings. Stolarz is also the author of the Touch series (Deadly Little Secret, Deadly Little Lies, Deadly Little Games, Deadly Little Voices, and Deadly Little Lessons), as well as Bleed and Project 17. With more than two million books sold worldwide, Stolarz’s titles have been named on various awards list.

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Book Tour, Reviews

Scavenge the Stars

When Amaya rescues a mysterious stranger from drowning, she fears her rash actions have earned her a longer sentence on the debtor ship where she’s been held captive for years. Instead, the man she saved offers her unimaginable riches and a new identity, setting Amaya on a perilous course through the coastal city-state of Moray, where old-world opulence and desperate gamblers collide. Amaya wants one thing: revenge against the man who ruined her family and stole the life she once had. But the more entangled she becomes in this game of deception—and as her path intertwines with the son of the man she’s plotting to bring down—the more she uncovers about the truth of her past. And the more she realizes she must trust no one…

Packed with high-stakes adventure, romance, and dueling identities, this gender-swapped retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo is the first novel in an epic YA fantasy duology, perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas, Sabaa Tahir, and Leigh Bardugo.

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I was highly anticipating this one for 2020 and, for the most part, I got what I wanted. I enjoyed this big tale.

What was I expecting? Well, a lot, to be honest. It’s a Count of Monte Cristo retelling, which fascinated me from the get-go, it’s gender-bent and different enough to still be a fresh story, and I also have to admit I was impressed by the “perfect for fans of” authors too. I also happen to love all those authors. It seemed fated.

The book started off quick and really took off for a while. I loved the world-building and the straight-forward way of writing and dialogue throughout the story. These details made it feel easy to slip into the magical world and the passion of revenge. My favorite part was probably the main character’s inner voice: I liked the way she talked to herself and saw things from other angles than myself. This book was full of characters that I really enjoyed getting to know and I will probably read the sequel/finale (it’s a duology) just to find out what happens to everyone.

The book does struggle with pacing in some moments. It takes off like a rocket in the beginning and then drags a bit in the middle when everyone is planning and waiting. Thankfully, I do think it all came together in the end, somehow in a way I didn’t expect but also wasn’t surprising.

Overall, despite its slower moments, this was a fun, original and yet still familiar, and highly character-driven story that I enjoyed reading. If you like this story or retellings, or if you happen to like those authors (especially their character-driven) books– this might just be the book for you. Check it out! It’s available for pre-order now.



Tara Sim is the author of SCAVENGE THE STARS (Disney-Hyperion) and the TIMEKEEPER trilogy (Sky Pony Press) and writer of all things magic. She can often be found in the wilds of the Bay Area, California.

When she’s not writing about mischievous boys in clock towers, Tara spends her time drinking tea, wrangling cats, and occasionally singing opera. Despite her bio-luminescent skin, she is half-Indian and eats way too many samosas.

Tara is represented by Victoria Marini at Irene Goodman Literary Agency.

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Book Tour, Reviews

The Weight of a Soul (+ Giveaway!)

When Lena’s younger sister Fressa is found dead, their whole Viking clan mourns—but it is Lena alone who never recovers. Fressa is the sister that should’ve lived, and Lena cannot rest until she knows exactly what killed Fressa and why—and how to bring her back. She strikes a dark deal with Hela, the Norse goddess of death, and begins a new double life to save her sister.

But as Lena gets closer to bringing Fressa back, she dredges up dangerous discoveries about her own family, and finds herself in the middle of a devastating plan to spur Ragnarök –a deadly chain of events leading to total world destruction.

Still, with her sister’s life in the balance, Lena is willing to risk it all. She’s willing to kill. How far will she go before the darkness consumes her?

Check out the Book Trailer here!

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The Weight of a Soul by Elizabeth Tammi was insightful, descriptive, fun, and showcases one of my favorite things: the love between two sisters. There were a lot of things to like about this book.

Probably my favorite aspect of this story was the emphasis of Nordic Mythology. Tammi does a great job of interweaving the mythos with the rest of the world and the story and I loved that she took a spin on the topic that most don’t. The Nordic angle still feels fresh and new and original and it was fascinating to me to be introduced to myths I wasn’t already so familiar with. The viking characters care deeply about these myths and gods and I loved that the author took the time to connect that to the characters’ culture. It really was well done.

Another thing I loved is that this book starts off fast right out of the gate. Before we even get to know anyone too well, things are turned on their head and we have to reorient ourselves all over again. Usually this would be jarring, but for some reason here it worked well. I liked having to relearn the new rules of the story. The pace does lag in the middle and I struggled to get through some bits, but it picks back up near the end and ties off nicely.

The sister relationship between Lena and Fressa was another high point for this story. Their closeness felt real and relatable instead of too sweet or too formal, and the lengths they would go for each other are vast. I have a sister and reading this made me think of all the things I would do for her. I was really touched.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit overall, even though I struggled in the middle. The mythology is rich and the world is immersive, the relationships are touching and intuitive and the story was pretty interesting. If you’re a lover of myths, this might just be the next book for you.


Elizabeth Tammi was born in California and grew up in Florida, but is currently double-majoring in Creative Writing and Journalism as an undergraduate at Mercer University in Georgia. When she’s not writing, you can probably find Elizabeth at work for her university’s newspaper and literary magazine. Her other interests include traveling, caffeinated beverages, and mythology.

You can find Elizabeth online on Tumblr at (annabethisterrified), Twitter at (@ElizabethTammi), Instagram at (elizabeth_tammi), and at elizabethtammi.com.

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ARC Reviews, Book Tour, Reviews

Refraction ( + Giveaway!)

After an attack on earth, all reflective surfaces become weapons to release monsters, causing a planet-wide ban on mirrors. Despite the danger, the demand rises, and 17-year-old Marty Callahan becomes a distributor in an illegal mirror trade―until he’s caught by the mayor’s son, whose slate is far from clean. Both of them are exiled for their crimes to one of the many abandoned cities overrun by fog. But they soon realize their thoughts influence their surroundings and their deepest fears begin to manifest.

With fast pacing and riveting characters, this is a book that you’ll finish in one sitting.

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Refraction by Naomi Hughes was an intense, compelling, ultimately fun read that I kept itching to pick back up. During work or driving home, I’d be thinking about where I left off and what theories or guesses I had about the story. Ultimately, I enjoyed this a lot. Another win for YA Horror in 2019.

First and foremost, the characters felt real and so did their connection. They felt like people: engaging, likable and flawed. I still rooted for them. I wanted them to survive. Marty’s drive to get to his brother and Eliot’s need for approval were so relatable, honest, and human that my empathy survived through every fumble, twist, and turn. 

I also loved that there wasn’t a romance in this book. I don’t mind romance, usually I enjoy it, but because it seems to be in absolutely every story lately, this was— a refreshing change of pace. It was nice to not be distracted for once, especially in a story where it would have felt forced. It wasn’t needed. The story kicked ass on its own.

The plot was wild, dark, and frequently terrifying. I’ve always been particularly creeped out by scary stories involving mirrors and this one took that trope and ran with it. The author does a fantastic job of keeping the reader guessing and the reveal(s) took me off guard more than once.

Not everyone likes an open ending, but I do. This one left just enough room for the imagination, while providing enough of a foundation to still be satisfying. I’d love to read a sequel, if that’s in the cards. Who knows?

Ultimately, I enjoyed Refraction a whole lot. I have high hopes whenever I dive into a YA scary story, and this mix of horror and sci-fi was the perfect tone to set my spine tingling. I loved the focus and detail the story was written with, and it was just unbelievable enough that I was swept up along for the ride. If this genre is your jam, don’t miss Refraction this year.


Hey! I’m Naomi Hughes, writer of quirky young adult fiction (usually involving physics and/or unicorns). I live in the Midwest US, a region I love even though it tries to murder me with tornadoes every spring. When not writing, my hobbies include reading (of course), traveling, and geeking out over Marvel superheroes and certain time-traveling Doctors. My debut YA sci-fi standalone novel, Afterimage, is available now from Page Street Publishing. My next novel, Refraction (also a standalone YA sci-fi), comes out in Nov 2019. I also offer freelance critique services at naomiedits.com.

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Book Tour, Reviews

Sisters of Shadow and Light (+ Giveaway!)

From the acclaimed author of DEFY, Sara B. Larson, SISTERS OF SHADOW AND LIGHT is a timeless and fantastical tale of sisterly love and powerful magic.

“The night my sister was born, the stars died and were reborn in her eyes…”.

Zuhra and Inara have grown up in the Citadel of the Paladins, an abandoned fortress where legendary, magical warriors once lived before disappearing from the world―including their Paladin father the night Inara was born.

On that same night, a massive, magical hedge grew and imprisoned them within the citadel. Inara inherited their father’s Paladin power; her eyes glow blue and she is able to make plants grow at unbelievable rates, but she has been trapped in her own mind because of a “roar” that drowns everything else out―leaving Zuhra virtually alone with their emotionally broken human mother.

For fifteen years they have lived, trapped in the citadel, with little contact from the outside world…until the day a stranger passes through the hedge, and everything changes.

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This book was wholeheartedly fun to read.

Sisters of Shadow and Light is not a simple story, but it’s a wildly intriguing one. It was readable, relatable, fantastical, and most of all it felt original. The story moved in ways that I didn’t expect at all, which is saying something considering that I’d pegged the story for an ending early on in the book. I couldn’t have been more wrong, and I enjoyed it a lot.

Following two sisters with vastly different talents and experiences in the world, this book is told from alternating perspectives for the most part and the effect this creates is masterful. Zuhra, the sister we hear from first and most often, has had her life formed around caring for her sister and keeping their family’s secrets. Inara, on the other hand, is struggling with powers that make her so sensitive that she can’t even communicate for part of the book’s story. Her moments of lucidity are cherished and then used as a device to further the story, it really is well done.

I enjoyed the characters as much as the book in this one. These girls aren’t perfect, but they are strong. Both whole and interesting characters in their own right, both sisters are ambitious and headstrong, committed and focused, and they do not give up. Their bond was my favorite part of this whole story. Yes, I know, I’m a bit biased in that I love a good sisterly bond in a book, but adding the fantasy and the dynamic between them, this felt new and fun.

I hesitate to say too much else about the magic system or plot lines because I truly enjoyed being confused and confounded throughout the course of this story. I truly enjoyed Sisters of Shadow and Light and (gah! with that ending??) I cannot wait for the sequel that hopefully comes.


Sara B. Larson is the best-selling and critically acclaimed author of the YA fantasy DEFY trilogy (DEFY, IGNITE, and ENDURE) and the DARK BREAKS THE DAWN duology. Her next YA fantasy, SISTERS OF SHADOW AND LIGHT, comes out November 5th from Tor Teen. She can’t remember a time when she didn’t write books—although she now uses a computer instead of a Little Mermaid notebook. Sara lives in Utah with her husband, their four children, and their Maltese, Loki. She writes in brief snippets throughout the day and the quiet hours when most people are sleeping. Her husband claims she should have a degree in “the art of multitasking.” When she’s not mothering or writing, you can often find her at the gym repenting for her sugar addiction.

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