Book Tour, Reviews

Shadow Frost ( + Giveaway!)

IN THE KINGDOM OF AXARIA, a darkness rises.

Some call it a monster, laying waste to the villagers and their homes. 

Some say it is an invulnerable demon summoned from the deepest abysses of the Immortal Realm. 

Many soldiers from the royal guard are sent out to hunt it down.

Not one has ever returned. 

When Asterin Faelenhart, Princess of Axaria and heir to the throne, discovers that she may hold the key to defeating the mysterious demon terrorizing her kingdom, she vows not to rest until the beast is slain. With the help of her friends and the powers she wields — though has yet to fully understand — Asterin sets out to complete a single task. The task that countless, trained soldiers have failed. 

To kill it. 

But as they hunt for the demon, they unearth a plot to assassinate the Princess herself instead. Asterin and her companions begin to wonder how much of their lives have been lies, especially when they realize that the center of the web of deceit might very well be themselves. With no one else to turn to, they are forced to decide just how much they are willing to sacrifice to protect the only world they have ever known. 

That is, of course… if the demon doesn’t get to them first.

From young author Coco Ma comes a dazzling new tale of adventure, power, and betrayal, weaving together a stunning world of magic with a killer cast in an explosive, unforgettable debut.

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Where do I start with Coco Ma’s stunning new fantasy debut, Shadow Frost? Because there is so much to talk about.

Let’s start with my favorite thing about this book: the people in it. Within the first half of this book I had already decided that I would read the rest in the series, simply because I grew so attached to the characters that the story centers around.

Our main character, Asterin, Princess of Axaria, could so easily have fallen into the “Mary Sue” or “Chosen Princess” stereotypical character role and not been much else. But Asterin is no pushover Princess who’s going to follow the “rules” of whatever this “genre” thing is. Her world is complicated, dangerous and dark and she has no time to be anyone but herself. Asterin is fierce, headstrong, and more than anything else- relatable. Flawed and imperfect, all she wants is to live up to her mother’s legacy and be the Queen her people deserve. Like most of us though, she doesn’t know exactly how to do that and makes choices and mistakes that lead her down a winding and completely unforeseen journey instead. This felt so true to life for me, watching Asterin try and find her footing amidst so much uncertainty and danger and, of course, dark magic.

The supporting cast are nothing to scoff at either. If you’re a fan of characters that make you feel so soft you want to just scoop them up and put them safely away in your pocket, Shadow Frost has got you covered. I was so worried for these sweet lil cinnamon buns!! From down-to-earth, to dark and brooding, to refreshingly frank, there is no aspect of personality left unexplored in these characters and I enjoyed that immensely. The banter and the way they play to each other’s strength and weaknesses was so well blended in with the story that it felt natural, at ease, and so effortlessly compelling.

I was also very pleasantly surprised at how fast-paced and twisty this book was! I wasn’t expecting so many plot twists (which was awesome) or what they ended up being (which was even more awesome), and this happened more than once. It was pure enjoyment to constantly be wondering if the status quo will be maintained or upended once more and because it moves so quickly, it gives the story this feeling as if it’s pulling you along instead of waiting for you to read.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how absolutely astounding it is that Coco Ma wrote the first draft of this novel at age 15. While some of the characters have aspects or make choices that highlight this fact occasionally, I was blown away by the luxurious complexity, intricate world-building, and twisted plot surprises in this book. This was an absolutely impressive read, but more than that- it was pure entertainment.

If you’re looking for a rich new world in a series that is only just beginning, this book is for you. If you’re looking for whole and emotional character building or a magic system with a refreshing breath of new life inside it, this book is for you. If you’re just bored and want to try something new and a little surprising and creative, definitely for you.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. — A

Coco Ma is a Canadian-Chinese author and pianist. She wrote her first novel, Shadow Frost, at the age of 15. Since she began playing the piano at the age of five and a half, she has also performed on some of the world’s greatest concert stages and graduated with a pre-college diploma in piano performance from The Juilliard School in New York City. Currently, she studies at Yale University. When she isn’t practicing piano, writing, or studying, you might find her bingeing Netflix or eating cake. Lots of cake.

Follow Coco on Twitter @shadowfrost2019 and Instagram @CakeForCoco or visit her website at Coco-Ma.com!

Enter to win a copy of Shadow Frost by Coco Ma, a signed bookplate, and enamel pin!

Giveaway is open to US residents and ends 10/15/2019.

Enter through this Rafflecopter form and may the odds be ever in your favor!

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Book Tour, Reviews

The Tenth Girl

Simmering in Patagonian myth, The Tenth Girl is a gothic psychological thriller with a haunting twist.

At the very southern tip of South America looms an isolated finishing school. Legend has it that the land will curse those who settle there. But for Mavi—a bold Buenos Aires native fleeing the military regime that took her mother—it offers an escape to a new life as a young teacher to Argentina’s elite girls.

Mavi tries to embrace the strangeness of the imposing house—despite warnings not to roam at night, threats from an enigmatic young man, and rumors of mysterious Others. But one of Mavi’s ten students is missing, and when students and teachers alike begin to behave as if possessed, the forces haunting this unholy cliff will no longer be ignored.

One of these spirits holds a secret that could unravel Mavi’s existence. In order to survive she must solve a cosmic mystery—and then fight for her life.

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I changed my mind about The Tenth Girl about six times while I read it, but overall I enjoyed this wild YA thriller.

This might be the hardest review I’ve had to write also, because so many of the things that I loved about the theme, message, and complexity of this book have to do with the big, spoiler-y twist at the end. So, instead, I’m going to give you a list of the things I loved about The Tenth Girl, and leave you to discover as much as I can.

One. The atmosphere in this book was insanely effective. The school is almost another character in the book itself, like many great horror classics, and Faring’s descriptions were graphic, detailed, and tangible. I felt like the creaking doors and moving hallways might be happening in my own house down the hall, instead of inside the book in my hands. This novel was eerie, unsettling, but most of all engaging; I had to finish once I’d been sucked into the story.

Two. I never knew what I thought was going on. Mostly in a good way. While there were definitely confusing or redundant moments for me, most of the time I felt a pleasant, ambiguous confusion that made me more curious instead of less. Every answer in the story led to more questions and I never had a solid theory for what was going on until the reveal. Which brings me to the next things I loved more than anything:

Three. The Twist was completely unexpected. And, while some may not, I loved it in particular. As soon as the reveal came so many things clicked right into place. Without saying too much, I have a little experience with the topics and contexts that she explores in this wild 180 and that made the story all the more rich, understandable, and insane. I thought this twist was just over-the-top enough and it really added another interesting layer of complexity to the story. Very interesting.

Four. I love how this book holds up a mirror and asks us to discover truths about ourselves. Now, this is the part that I’m going to struggle to describe without spoiling anyone. The Tenth Girl posed questions about humanity and our choices, about the consequences and environments of those choices and what they say about us. Faring does not shy away from questions of morality and modern social responsibility and I whole-heartedly enjoyed this turn into the philosophical.

The Tenth Girl may be a somewhat divisive novel, it may be confusing at times and a little meandering, but damn if it isn’t a great story anyway. I wholeheartedly enjoyed my read and I hope you do too.

Born in Los Angeles, Sara Faring is a multi-lingual Argentine-American fascinated by literary puzzles. After working in investment banking at J.P. Morgan, she worked at Penguin Random House. She holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania in International Studies and from the Wharton School in Business. She currently resides in New York City. 

Her first novel, The Tenth Girl, will be released by Macmillan/Imprint on September 24, 2019. Sara is represented by Sarah Bedingfield at Levine Greenberg Rostan Agency. 

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Enter to win a copy of The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring!

Giveaway is open to US residents and ends 10/2/2019.

Enter through this Rafflecopter form and may the odds be ever in your favor!

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Book Tour, Reviews

Tiger Queen

“From Annie Sullivan, author of A Touch of Gold, comes Tiger Queen, a sweeping YA fantasy adventure that tells the story of a fierce desert princess battling to save her kingdom. Fans of Rebel of the Sands and Meagan Spooner will devour this retelling of Frank Stockton’s famous short story, “The Lady, or the Tiger?”

In the mythical desert kingdom of Achra, an ancient law forces sixteen-year-oldPrincess Kateri to fight in the arena to prove her right to rule. For Kateri, winning also means fulfilling a promise to her late mother that she would protect her people, who are struggling through windstorms and drought.The situation is worsened by the gang of Desert Boys that frequently raids the city wells, forcing the king to ration what little water is left. The punishment for stealing water is a choice between two doors: behind one lies freedom, and behind the other is a tiger.

But when Kateri’s final opponent is announced, she knows she cannot win. In desperation, she turns to the desert and the one person she never thought she’d side with. What Kateri discovers twists her world—and her heart—upside down. Her future is now behind two doors—only she’s not sure which holds the key to keeping her kingdom and which releases the tiger.”

I had no idea what to expect with Tiger Queen, but I had SO much fun reading this book.

Tiger Queen is a retelling of a story by Frank Stockton titled “The Lady and The Tiger,” and I was fascinated by this new twist on a story not often in the spotlight. Tiger Queen was rich, descriptive, and full of discovery and color.

One of my favorite things about this book was the strong, independent, forward-thinking main character in Princess Kateri. She experiences an entire shift of her world and yet approaches it with such an open and curious mind, longing to see what the world offers for her. She struggles with figuring out what real strength is: is it power or is it peace? So many of her internal and external struggles were so relatable and wonderfully readable. I rooted for her, cheered for her, and believed that she could become the Queen her kingdom needed.

Annie Sullivan was a new author to me before Tiger Queen, but we are well acquainted now. Her other novel, A Touch of Gold, is also on my TBR and now I want to go read it! Sullivan’s writing style was simple in the best ways and beautifully descriptive and luxurious. Her world sings with color and life and new ideas that I enjoyed encountering around every corner.

If you like Fantasy, if you loved the movie Aladdin like I did, if you like retellings and love expanding your knowledge of other cultures and stories, this book is for you. Tiger Queen was fun, dramatic, and I read it so fast that I was sad it was over when it ended. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Annie Sullivan is a Young Adult author from Indianapolis, Indiana. Her work has been featured in Curly Red Stories and Punchnels. She loves fairytales, everything Jane Austen, and traveling and exploring new cultures. When she’s not off on her own adventures, she’s teaching classes at the Indiana Writers Center and working as the Copy Specialist at John Wiley and Sons, Inc. publishing company, having also worked there in Editorial and Publicity roles. You can follow her adventures on Twitter and Instagram (@annsulliva).

Website | Twitter

Enter to win a Tiger Queen poster and signed bookplate!

Giveaway is open to US residents and ends 9/13/2019.

Enter through this Rafflecopter form and may the odds be ever in your favor!