Review of The Mark of the Shadow Grove

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Release date, January 15th, 2016

 “The birches- wizening old man arms bursting from the black soil and piercing heaven-  are like the columns of some ancient temple.”

This is not my normal fare for books. However, sweeping lines such as the one above hooked me in, and I am very glad I was caught.

old-spell-book-candle-mood-witch-magic-animated-gifThe Mark of the Shadow Grove is a horror novel telling three separate stories loosely connected by the leading women’s bloodline and the monsters they revolve around. Each ending is left a little open, giving them creepish mystery. I don’t usually like open endings but it worked so well for this book I can’t say anything else would be better. The book explores the dark elements of witchcraft, ancient cults, and necromancy.

Ross Smeltzer has a writing style which could be considered antiquated. His  language architecture often reminds me of Wilde, Emerson and Lovecraft. Part of this may be because the book is set in the past so the language style fits its time period. I think there is more to it. Smeltzer possesses the old talent of creating a captivating setting by using long, flowing descriptions. His style is old fashioned. At the same time he manages not to droll. Many of his strongest lines were simple.

“True evil needn’t be flamboyant about itself.”

The above statement is said in a very colorful setting by a dramatic character. It is one of the most basic lines in the chapter. However, the line caught my attention with it’s simple truth. Smeltzer has similar moments scattered throughout this book and they are my favorite parts of his writing style.

The Mark of the Shadow Grove is not a light read. Its prose sweeps you in and manages to make mundane things come alive with the dark, gloomy mood Smelter casts over his setting. I wouldn’t  recommend it for most readers. This book is a certain style built for a certain taste, but the audience it is written for is sure to love it. People with an adventurous and curious side will love it too. The Mark of the Shadow Grove is a gritty example of gothic horror, and I enjoyed it so much  I think I will start picking up the genre again. When I was little I would sneak-read Rebecca and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by the lowlight coming from my bedroom window. I forgot how much I enjoyed them. This book reminded me.

4.7 stars for The Mark of the Shadow Grove. I took off because I personally appreciate a slightly quicker pace, and there were instances where the scenes jumped around and I was a tad confused. However, these “flaws” have more to do with me than the book, so I won’t take off much, and as you all know…

I round up!

So five stars will be my rating on all of the review sites.

Grab your own copy of Ross Smeltzer’s The Mark of the Shadow Grove here. It is well worth your time!

 

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#pitchMAS – How I got likes!

So there’s this book pitch contest called #PitchMAS. Maybe some of you have heard of it?

IT’S HUGE!

PitchMAS is  run by Jessa Russo  and Tamara Mataya around Christmas once a year. It’s free. It’s a good opportunity. I finished my novel The Mercy Killers recently, so I figured I’d give it a shot.  I e-mailed my submission.  Here it is, and it wasn’t great.

 A young gypsy girl trades freedom for protection from a disease-ravaged world, but not without sacrifice. When the plague’s cruel ending threatens her sanctuary, only one man can help. Problem? He was the sacrifice.

I didn’t make the top 50.

I wasn’t surprised. I’m not great at pitching, so I figured I wouldn’t make it. Pitching an entire novel in such a restricted format is not an easy feat. I read the winning pitches and I was impressed! I could see how they used each word to their advantage. I learned from it and decided I would try again during the #PitchMAS party!

On Friday morning I woke up and posted the first two pitches that came to me on my twitter feed, sporting #pitchMAS and my genre hashtag.

There are worse things than dying from the Plague. You could survive it and be forced to become a Mercy Killer #YA #NA

 

The Governor’s son has a new GF. She looks sweet, but she isn’t. She’s a mind reading blade-wielding gypsy with a dark past #YA #NA

 

I walked away for a few hours, refusing to obsessively refresh twitter all day. I’m not an amazing pitch doctor and I know it. Why stress?

I was talking on the phone with a close friend when I decided it was time to check my feed. I had a few notifications, but I didn’t get excited. It could be anything.

I received 4 likes.

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What!?!?

For those of you who don’t know what that means, 4 agents/ editors “liked” my pitch enough to request my query.

I lost my mind!

I wondered if I was seeing things. Was I reading the twitter feed right? Was I on the right page? DID THEY DO IT ON PURPOSE!?!?!?! My friend who was still on the phone thought something was wrong.

“What is it Jessica? Are you okay? IS THERE BLOOD!?!?!?!”

No blood. Just confused joy.

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You see, I just finished my novel. I entered into a few contests,  signed up for a query class which starts in January,  and started on the novel’s sequel. I created a rough query letter a week prior to try my hand at the process, but I hadn’t done anything with it. I wasn’t expecting anything. #PitchMAS  is a big contest,  many authors participate, and I am very unseasoned.

I wanted to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, so I threw up another #pitchMAS tweet-

Greylin is a Socialite, promised to Attica’s next ruler. She hides telepathic abilities and skills with weapons.Why? #NA #YA #R

I received three more likes, two by editors.

Okay! This was really happening!

Overall, I received 6 partial manuscript requests. I spent the next 24-48 hours getting my submissions ready. I was so grateful I already possessed a basic synopsis and query letter! I strongly encourage putting together something as soon as you complete and edit your novel, just in case!  I tried to craft each submission to the Agent/ Editor requesting, and made sure to follow the submission guidelines the best I could. I am not a practiced query writer, but I gave it my all.

About a week went by, way to soon to hear anything.  An average turn around response for a partial is 30-60 days. So when I woke up with two full manuscript requests from two separate publishing companies, I made sure to read both e-mails twice so I could be 100% positive I was reading them correctly.

Did they mean to send this to me? Were they serious? DID THEY DO THIS ON PURPOSE!?!?

Are you noticing a trend?

So…I sent my manuscript in!

I won’t lie, my manuscript wasn’t perfect. The story is finished (except for a few tiny tweaks I keep obsessing over, but that’s normal, right?) and edited to the best of my ability, but there are bound to be mistakes in a 100k word manuscript. I was nervous, but I hit send.

I understood it takes a while to hear back from publishing houses. I wasn’t expecting anything.

I swear, not expecting anything works!!!!!!

I received my first “we are interested in publishing your book” e-mail a few days later. I am currently staring at a contract with my name and my novel’s title printed at the top. tumblr_ms73weyqJ91sbx8xco1_500

I don’t know if I will sign it (although I am very strongly considering it), my lawyer is looking over it (I don’t have an agent! I just wrote some tweets!) and I want to talk to my hubby bubby about it face to face, but the publishing contract exists! This is amazing to me!!!!!

GUYS!!!! I WROTE A BOOK AND PEOPLE DON’T HATE IT!!!!!!!

I won’t be making any rash decisions about my novel this week.  I asked the publisher for a certain amount of time to consider everything and get my ducks in a row, and they kindly obliged. The firm is new and fairly small right now, but I believe in small beginnings.  After all, I’m just an Accountant/house wife who got bored while her husband was deployed, couldn’t find a book that hit the spot, so I wrote one!

Everyone starts somewhere.

My book started at 2am on a sleepless night when one of the characters insisted on being put down on paper. My writing journey was wonderful and came naturally. I wasn’t sure how my journey to publishing would start.

It looks like it started with #PitchMAS and a little fantasy!!

 

 

 

 

 

WonderWall by M.H Soars

untitledI requested this book on a whim.  I’ve read an abundance of dark dystopian lately, and although that genre will forever be my favorite, I needed something else in my life. Something with more lovey-dovey boy drama  and a little less “the world is burning down around us”. “Wonderwall” caught my attention because of the cover and the promise of a bad-boy rock star. It promised me drama and love, and that’s exactly what I was in the mood for.

Did “Wonderwall”  deliver?

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Yes! Wonderwall is Wonderful! ( Sorry, I couldn’t resist the play on words).

Wonderwall is a contemporary romance centering around first love, first heart break, life’s rough punches, and the cost of fame. Olivia, the girl next door, and Sebastian, the boy next door, fall in love at a young age. The rug is ripped out beneath their friendship-turned-romance when a tragedy sends them spiraling into messy territory. Sebastian can’t cope (and no one with a heart can blame him) and Liv pays the price.  Fast forward a few years and Sebastian is  an international superstar in a boy band.  Liv is living out her career dreams with a brand new internship at a posh London hotel. They’ve moved on with their lives-

Except for their damaged hearts, which are still stuck on each other.

Queue the lovey-dovey drama people!tumblr_nql3nbMOHn1u55rr8o3_r1_250

 

It’s going to get sticky!!!!!!

 

I enjoyed this book. It has a few cliché’s in it, but they are well executed. The plot is driven. The pacing is great. There are clever lines scattered throughout, and the writing is worth reading . The characters are likeable, loveable, and sometimes hate invoking, which is what readers should experience in regards to a novel’s cast. I wouldn’t let a young teen read this book because things get risqué here and there, but it is a solid New Adult Contemporary Romance.

And it has bad-boy rockstars.  So, that’s a big plus.

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This guy …Sebastian?

“Bas” is a mess.  He’s a tortured guy who seems to have everything on the surface, but there is a gaping hole is his heart. There is only one person who can fill it, and it is not his model girlfriend. He is a jerk most of the time, but he loves Liv, despite his best efforts not too. Liv has not been able to move on, and it doesn’t help that the ex love of her life is so famous his face pops up everywhere.

There is some heavy subject matter in “Wonderwall”, but for the most part I’d consider it a light read. I read it for entertainment, not for life changing lessons. It  fulfilled its purpose quite well. Parts of this book get cheesy. Especially the ending. It is horribly, wonderfully, tickly butterflies in my stomach cheesy. Not  everyone appreciates cute. I get that. I have to be in the mood for mushy gushy. But when I am in the  mood, what can I say?  I LOVE ME SOME CHEESE!!!!!

The only issue I had with this book was how easily Liv caved when Bas came back. I mean, make him work a little harder! But I guess it would be easy to forgive a gorgeous guy who professes his love for you on stage in front of thousands of people.

Still, I can’t give the book five stars because Liv gave in too easily.

Four stars for M.H Soars “Wonderwall”! This is the first book of her new series, and I will be reading the next installment.

Add me to your newsletter M.H Soars!  I will happily write a review for the next one. Good job!

 

How to get Free Books!

This has been a big month for me!

My first novel made it into the finals of a contest (Yaay!), I found out my novel formatting is incorrect ( Noo!), and I found another way to get free books.

I have been enjoying the world of book blogging for about five months.  I have deeply educated myself on how much I don’t know about the literary world.  I am slowly catching on. A few new bloggers reached out to me this week and asked how I got started, so I want to share the four main things I have learned.

    1-   Ask for a book before you buy it.

I always request review copies from the authors or publishers of books I am interested in adding to my website. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.  I figure it’s better to ask and receive a no than to never know. Right?  Requests usually work out in my favor. Authors  want to get their book in the hands of people who are going to rave about it.  Are you a book lover? Are you passionate about the genre they are writing? Then you are who they are looking for! It’s a win-win!

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   2- Sign up for your favorite Authors’ newsletters.

Newsletters do more than provide news on release dates and book signings ( although as a book reviewer you should be paying attention to these things). Authors often use them to reach out to their fan base and let them know about contests, book giveaways, and their need for book reviewers.  Newsletters are what really got me started. It was so simple, and it got me connected.

    3- Join a review website

A while ago a favorite author of mine sent out a request for book reviewers ( Oh look, # 2 in action!) .  I was all over that like white on a polar bear that’s never left the north pole. She sent me a link to a little website called Xpresso Tours

And my world was forever changed.

Did you know there are websites for book reviewers that GIVE AWAY free books?!?

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I  also joined Net Galley, and I am sure there are many more websites and avenues I have yet to discover.  So far I have received four books,  and I definitely have things to say about them. all good things

 

 

One little tip- don’t  over request if you join these websites.  You are expected to fully review each book you receive. If you don’t your feedback rating will go down and publishers will stop giving you review copies.

4.- Use twitter!

All of the above actions can be done using tweets. Twitter is a great way to instantly connect with your favorite authors. It is also an easy way to be added to their newsletters. Once you start following a few people in the book business, they will follow  you.  I started  using twitter to connect with authors, readers, and publishers a few months ago, and my network has increased by 300.  If I really put some effort into connections ( it’s on my to do list, I swear!) I could see that number tripling in a month. While we are talking about this, follow me on twitter guys! right here! Follow me! @_AnchoredGypsy

One more thing before  I sign off. It’s the most important part of this post, so listen up!

   Don’t expect every book to be free.

If an author doesn’t need any more reviews I am happy to pay for their book. Remember, this is their livelihood, and it is important to support the people who create these worlds we love much. I Love books. They are worth my money.

Now I have a question for my fellow book bloggers who are much more seasoned than I am.

What other resources are available for the word gobblers out there? Enlighten me, please!

 

 

A Gift of Poison – Four stars!

A Gift of PoisonA Gift of Poison, what a name! And like its intention grabbing name the book started off with a flourishing scene involving gambling, a good chase, and knives being thrown at our heroine.

This book certainly has a hook.

The story centers around a young girl named Briand, who’s sharp, beautiful under all her gruff antics, and gloriously flawed. She doesn’t lack in spirit but she does lack in discretion, and it tends to get her into trouble. The fact that the man who is charge of her wishes she didn’t exist doesn’t help her situation.

The book started off well. Briand is shunned by her Uncle to the “wildlands” which seems to be an eventual death sentence. Her cousin, Bran, and the Steward of the castle, Kael, want to save her from the harsh punishment, so they attempt to whisk her away somewhere safe. In the process it is revealed she is the “Dragonsayer”, meaning she can control animals – even dragons.

Sounds cool, right?

In many ways it is. Kate Avery Ellison is an amazingly descriptive author with a vivid imagination and this book is full of poetic world building. Some people don’t like that, but I do. And there are moments of really great story telling, such as the snake scene (when you read it you will understand) and the moment in the mountains with the lake (JUST READ IT!). It has loss, different cultures, and a great twist ending. This book is appropriate for young teens and still interesting for adults, which is a rare thing.

It’s just missing something.

I think what’s missing is more connections. More connections between the characters, and there are a few holes in the story. This is the first book of a series, so I suspect many of those holes were placed with purpose and will be explained in the future. That’s understandable. But this book’s description is “Intrigue. Romance. Dragons.” Those last two words are a bit understated in the storyline.

There are dragons, just not as many as you might like to see. That is fine with me, the first book of a series often offers only peeks of what’s to come. Be warned that if you are choosing this book because of the dragon aspect you might be disappointed.

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There are many great reasons to read this book, but if dragons are all you want go somewhere else, or wait until the next book in this series is released so you can jump right in.

As far as romance goes, this book is lacking in it.

Romance is starting to show by the end, but it hasn’t fully bloomed. I have a problem with that. I am a sucker for a good “angsty” duo or a spit fire boy and girl who love to hate one another. This book almost has it, but not quite. I think a little more would have driven the plot along, especially because the two characters in question are so much more multi-dimensional when they are together. They make one another better, not just as people but as characters in a story. I am hoping the next book will break past the “I almost like you” barrier. When Briand and her love interest cross over that line it is going to be quite a show!

Finally, the ending is abrupt. Way to abrupt. I wouldn’t call it rushed. The plot points that needed to be tied up in this book are taken care of and foundation for the next installment is laid. The book just sort of …Ends. Where it ends doesn’t really make any sense to me, so I felt sort of lost.

Overall, I’d say this book is good. Not great, but good. It wouldn’t be the first book by Ellison I would recommend, but I will be anxiously waiting for the next installment to be released, mostly because of the ending.

Wait.
I think she did that on purpose!
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3.75 stars, and I’m rounding up on all the sites that don’t allow decimals…which is all of them.
Thanks for the book Kate Avery Ellison! It was an enjoyable read.