Wednesday, 19 January 2022

#bookreview: A Castle from Ashes | Sharon Rose

A Castle from Ashes (Castle in the Wilde #3)A Castle from Ashes by Sharon Rose
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sir Thomas Kaituer is almost assassinated at the ruins of his family's castle. Lady Sareen visits her cousin Beth to ask for advice on how to avoid marrying Lord Ivan Maerton, where she finds herself starting to fall in love with Sir Thomas. Lord Ivan Maerton is determined to accomplish two things: destroy Kaituer and marry Lady Sareen.

Where the first two books in the Castle in the Wilde series, A Castle Awakened and A Castle Contended, focus on Tristan and Beth's story, this one focuses on Sir Thomas Kaituer. Thomas isn't a new character by any means - he's been a side character of increasing importance ever since the first one where he first stumbles upon the castle while searching for his missing brother. We've seen him grow from being an outcast living in fear for his life to being knighted by the king himself. (In fact, the recently released prequel, A Castle Lost, tells the story of the grandfather he was named after, and how that Thomas Kaituer lost his family, title, and castle all in one day; it might be helpful to read that first to see where the present Thomas is coming from and all the family baggage he is dealing with.)

A Castle from Ashes at its core is a story about integrity and (appropriate) belief in one's self. Thomas is coming into his own - yet he struggles with self-doubt and whether he is worthy of all the things that have been restored to him. It feels like everyone else around him, from the people of the woods to Tristan and the king, believes in his capabilities more than he does himself. I don't quite believe in this "noble blood" thing that makes it so that he has a right to rule because of his bloodline/ancestors, but it is evident from the way that Thomas carries himself and how he relates to others that he has great leadership qualities and a heart to help those under his care. Besides, he has a great role model-and practical help-in Tristan.

On the other hand, Ivan is so sure of his place in the realm and his utter right to everything he wants that he gets increasingly unhinged when things are denied him or events don't turn out the way he expects them to. Of course, his greatest enemy is Thomas, because how dare this little upstart outlaw claim any portion of his inheritance no matter what the law says? I kind of pity Duke Maerton because he has to deal with his son, but not really because it is somewhat his fault.

Of course, in between the clash of these two men, there has to be a woman. And Lady Sareen is stuck in a society where she has little to no say in what happens to her. But it's lovely to see how she learns to stand up for herself - and what she really wants - while maintaining appropriate boundaries.

All in all, A Castle from Ashes is an exciting read and a fitting end to the trilogy.

Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from the author. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

View all my reviews

A Castle from Ashes releases today! Get it now :) 


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A Castle from Ashes by Sharon Rose
Novel 3 of the Castle in the Wilde series

His family was abased, and their castle destroyed. Now a hint of the king’s favor marks him for murder.


Saving the king’s life has lifted Thomas Kaituer from impoverished exile. It also earned him a title—without a scrap of authority or noble privilege. All Sir Thomas gains from his courtesy title are a few party invitations and contempt from the House of Maerton—the very rivals who drove his family from their ancestral land.

When a stranger points out the ruins of Kaituer Castle to Thomas, he cannot resist visiting the home from which his grandfather fled into exile. Now a desolate scene where all may tread—except Thomas. Was he lured here with deadly intent? Who shot that arrow at him? And why, since he is a nobody?

Hovering between the poverty he grew up with and the nobility he is denied, Thomas belongs to neither world. No land will be his, no bride will be suitable, no children will carry his name. Then the king pulls a will from the royal archives. Thomas’s great-grandmother left her descendants a small estate, also occupied by the Maerton clan. They suddenly relinquish it to him. Far too easy. Another trap, perhaps? But how can he decline it when it could be the key to his future? Would it give him the right to join hands with a certain lady? If he lives long enough.

A Castle from Ashes is the final novel of the Castle in the Wilde series. If you enjoy a story where lies hide in plain sight and true freedom must be won, explore this fantastical world with medieval undertones and sparks of hope.

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About the Sharon Rose
I started writing when I was seven years old. Okay, My Life as a Flying Squirrel may have had a couple spelling errors, but my classmates loved it.
 
Plenty of life has happened since that first story, and I’ve come to realize the things that fascinate me. People. Communication. Culture. Personality. Viewpoints. Beliefs. Anything that makes each of us beautifully unique. Small wonder that my art spills out in story form.
 
It was only a matter of time before I just had to share my stories. I publish fantasy and science fiction because they allow vast spaces to explore. My stories weave cultures and characters, who are more than they seem to be, into adventures with mystery, romance, and hope.
 
When I’m not writing or reading, I may be traveling, enjoying gardens, or searching for unique coffee shops with my husband. We live in Minnesota, USA, famed for its mosquitoes—uh, I mean 10,000 lakes and vibrant seasons.

Thursday, 13 January 2022

#comingsoon: A Castle from Ashes | Sharon Rose #fantasybookseries

I'm excited that A Castle from Ashes (Castle in the Wilde #3) is launching on January 18th! I've just finished reading it and am getting round to writing my review which will be posted next Weds (well, in my timezone, but Tuesday in the US).


Here are my reviews for the earlier books in the series: 
A Castle Lost - (pre-prequel, haha, this is about Thomas Kaituer's grandfather, who he's named after -- and might best be read right before this book 3! Actually, I might go back and re-read this)
A Castle Sealed (prequel) 
A Castle Awakened (book 1) - on sale at $0.99 until 15 Jan
A Castle Contended (book 2) - on sale at $0.99 until 15 Jan

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His family was abased, and their castle destroyed. Now a hint of the king’s favor marks him for murder.


Saving the king’s life has lifted Thomas Kaituer from impoverished exile. It also earned him a title—without a scrap of authority or noble privilege. All Sir Thomas gains from his courtesy title are a few party invitations and contempt from the House of Maerton—the very rivals who drove his family from their ancestral land.

When a stranger points out the ruins of Kaituer Castle to Thomas, he cannot resist visiting the home from which his grandfather fled into exile. Now a desolate scene where all may tread—except Thomas. Was he lured here with deadly intent? Who shot that arrow at him? And why, since he is a nobody?

Hovering between the poverty he grew up with and the nobility he is denied, Thomas belongs to neither world. No land will be his, no bride will be suitable, no children will carry his name. Then the king pulls a will from the royal archives. Thomas’s great-grandmother left her descendants a small estate, also occupied by the Maerton clan. They suddenly relinquish it to him. Far too easy. Another trap, perhaps? But how can he decline it when it could be the key to his future? Would it give him the right to join hands with a certain lady? If he lives long enough.

A Castle from Ashes is the final novel of the Castle in the Wilde series. If you enjoy a story where lies hide in plain sight and true freedom must be won, explore this fantastical world with medieval undertones and sparks of hope.

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A Castle from Ashes can now be preordered on Amazon

Click here for the Castle in the Wilde series




About the Author, Sharon Rose
I started writing when I was seven years old. Okay, My Life as a Flying Squirrel may have had a couple spelling errors, but my classmates loved it.

Plenty of life has happened since that first story, and I’ve come to realize the things that fascinate me. People. Communication. Culture. Personality. Viewpoints. Beliefs. Anything that makes each of us beautifully unique. Small wonder that my art spills out in story form.
 
It was only a matter of time before I just had to share my stories. I publish fantasy and science fiction because they allow vast spaces to explore. My stories weave cultures and characters, who are more than they seem to be, into adventures with mystery, romance, and hope.
 
When I’m not writing or reading, I may be traveling, enjoying gardens, or searching for unique coffee shops with my husband. We live in Minnesota, USA, famed for its mosquitoes—uh, I mean 10,000 lakes and vibrant seasons.

Wednesday, 12 January 2022

#bookreview: Two Figures in a Car and Other Stories | Wan Phing Lim

Two Figures in a Car and Other StoriesTwo Figures in a Car and Other Stories by Wan Phing Lim
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As a brief disclaimer, I am probably biased towards this book because Wan Phing is a writing friend - some of these stories I remember from critique sessions, and two of them (A Star Has Landed and Islanders) were first published in NutMag, the annual zine that I run.

I've always loved Wan Phing's voice as a writer - and this debut collection of 14 stories (2 of them new) is a showcase of that. The stories are very rooted in local life and the places she's lived - mostly Penang and Singapore - while the one (and a half) set in England are peopled by Malaysians. Her language dips in and out of local vernacular, peppered with Malay and Hokkien expressions and the occasional Mandarin phrase.

If I were to put a central theme to this collection, I'd say it's relationships - or maybe love, sex, and family. Because whether it's Seng sending money home to his son, Sozai musing on the Penang Bridge, the Ruby case that Sergeant Wong refuses to close, or the many people Justin Liew has slept with, each character is pushed and pulled by their relationships to the people around them. There's no shying away from the dark side and failings of human nature: the stories explore ambition and escape, affairs and one-night stands, madness and murder, as well as the supernatural.

All fourteen stories are quite short - I think many of them don't cross the 2K mark - so Two Figures in a Car and Other Stories is quite a quick, if somewhat dark, read.

View all my reviews

Get it here! 

Wednesday, 5 January 2022

#bookreview: No Land to Light On | Yara Zgheib

No Land to Light OnNo Land to Light On by Yara Zgheib
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sama Zayat is at the Boston airport on January 28, 2017 waiting for her husband, Hadi, to return from his father's funeral in Amman. But he doesn't emerge, and the inexplicable mob crushes her, leading to the premature birth of her firstborn.
Hadi Deeb is stuck in a nightmare, detained at the airport for reasons unknown, questioned as if he were an illegal immigrant despite his visa and refugee papers. Papers which were very much in order when he left for the funeral a week ago and when he boarded the plane home the day before.
On January 27, 2017, Executive Order 13769 had been issued, the chaos and injustice of this new ruling throwing the lives of thousands into chaos.

I should really start a list called "books that made me want to cry". It'll be a very eclectic list because very few stories make me want to cry and I normally avoid them. Which actually made me wonder a little why I decided to review this book (did I request it? was it offered? I don't recall) when it's usually not my thing. At any rate, no regrets.

No Land to Light On is a poignant and heart-wrenching read, following both Sama & Hadi's struggles as they try to reunite after the Muslim ban was put in place by Trump. The first person POV flips between Sama & Hadi - often disjointed, like our thoughts are, running in circles and getting stuck on strange things. There is a raw tone to these passages, offering thoughts straight from their minds as they try to navigate both legal and personal battles. Threaded through this, a third-person narrative flashes back to the difficult journeys and sacrifices they - and their families - made to get to the USA in the first place.

Where is home? And what is home? Is it a place? And why is it that place? Is it your roots and the land you came from? Or is it the land where you've transplanted yourself? Yara explores this gently from various angles. Sama left Syria and her parents willingly five years before for the freedom that America offered; it is the only home she wants, the one that she is trying so hard to assimilate in so that it will truly accept her. Hadi was forced out two years before by fear and his mother (or his mother's fear for his life) in search of a safe harbour that would not murder him; he finds comfort in the company of other immigrants, pulled towards the familiarity and yet pushing away from the painful memories of war and deprivation.

And what is love? Love here is expressed not in loud declarations, flashy gifts, or sexual acts. It's offered quietly in the way Sama's parents offer food and money and Sama hides her problems to shield them from worry. It's shown in the way Hadi tries to find safety for his parents through the family reunification program and how his parents try to go through with it even though they do not wish to leave their land. Love here is the way Hadi and Sama cannot truly leave their culture, food, and language, although they have left their land behind.

Yara uses Syrian words unapologetically throughout the novel. Sometimes it is confusing - what are they truly saying? Do I need to google this word? But most times, it grounds the story, makes it feel earthier, weightier, more authentic, an honest, raw expression of the injustices of this world. It is also a reminder that not all stories are for you. This one is for Syria and the Syrian refugees, especially those still caught in limbo.

Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from Atria Books via Edelweiss+. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

View all my reviews

Get No Land to Light On here:

Saturday, 1 January 2022

2021: A Year in Review

What can I say about 2021?

"I survived." (What else can anyone say about 2021??)


Writing-Related Things

Amok is out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Which was variously called Berserker or The Weight of Strength on this blog, depending on which draft/version it was. But Amok is the final published title. It's currently available on most online retailers (in ebook & print), Black Dragon Books (UK/International Shipping), Teaspoon Publishing (Malaysia - now with GrabPay!), and Shopee (Malaysia). If you are Amazon-averse and based in the US, you should be able to request it at your local bookstore or library if they are supplied by IngramSpark or have Overdrive. :) 

I was going to publish The Tale of the Hostage Prince (sometimes called The Weight of Secrets) this year as well until there were editing snafus, so that's tentatively coming out March 2022, with Absolution (previously pitched and griped about as The Weight of Sin) now slated for November 2022. I suppose I will get round to adding them on GoodReads sooner rather than later... or when I stop being a potato. 

Here's this year's edition of our annual zine. My own story didn't get in because it was decidedly weird and not quite fitting the theme, but I was attempting something less pandemicy. Alas, everyone else was super pandemicy so it was hard to make it fit. Anyways, you can get NutMag 5: Lost on Shopee and on Google Play.

On not-my-writing (but stuff I worked on), my client is in The Malaysia Book of Records lol. Get her book here.

We made MYWritersFest2021 happen virtually! Jaymee and I did a thing!

I was on a GTLF session with Deric Ee talking about anthologies! You should be able to watch the replay on their Facebook page.

I can't remember anything else. I suppose if you remember on my behalf, you can leave a comment. haha.


Reading-Related Stuff

Here's my Year in Books. It's a drop from last year, but I was busy publishing a book and organising a festival and being very stressed.

I'm looking at my 5-star reviews for the year, but none of them jump out at me as strongly as they did in 2020. I guess I'd put these as my top 5, in no particular order:

I'll probably also give The Windward King by KT Ivanrest a mention because I just read it and I really loved it but I do not have the energy to write a review at this point in time so maybe I don't love it enough?? But it was a very, very good read!!! 


Blog-Related Stats

Views - all-time

Look at that weird bump. Which is yay, I suppose, even though I haven't been as consistent at posting this year. Unless they're bots. Maybe they're bots. Oh wait, the spike is June - July, which was when I did the Amok launch & blog tour, so maybe that makes sense. Or maybe not, because the actual days are off. And another spike in November, a few days after I posted Lay Heong's thing. idk.

Top locations -  last 12 months

I suddenly have an audience in Indonesia! Not sure why! 

Top 5 posts - last 12 months

And my top 5 posts are mostly A to Z posts from 2014, except for my review of Toyols'R'Us, which you should totally read


I cannot recall anything else of note that happened this year. So I'll sign off now at 18 minutes into 2022. 

Happy New Year!