blog tour · fantasy · fiction · YA

#TheWriteReads Presents: Promises Forged (Venators #2) by Devri Walls Blog Tour!

Aloha and welcome to the latest stop on #TheWriteReads’ superawesome blog tour for Promises Forged (Venators #2) by Devri Walls (Brown Books Publishing Group, 2019). If you remember, I was also a stop on the tour for Magic Unleashed (Venators #1) back in March, which at this point is the equivalent of seventy billion years ago, so feel free to click on my first review to give your brain a refresher. I’m here today with a first chapter review, and Devri Walls still has it going on in the sequel to her story of college students whisked away to a land where everything supernatural is real and they have powers they never expected.

When we rejoin our friends, we meet up with Zio, who is connected with her dragon Maegon via her magical amulet. Much to Zio’s delight, Maegon is about to wipe out the Venators. The addition of Beltran, a skilled shifter whom Zio has wanted to control for ages, turned her hunt for them into more of a battle, but now they’re almost in her pocket. Unexpectedly, Maegon is wounded, allowing the Venators to escape. Zio’s rage flares before she manages to control herself and then reshape her plans.

In the dungeon, tied to a chair and unsure of what happened (and exactly how much he had to drink last night) is Ryker, Rune’s ne’er-do-well frat-boy brother. The glowing tattoos on his arms begin to clue him in that this might be more than a frathouse prank or a lesson his sister’s trying to teach him about the evils of partying too much. The entrance of three short, squatty, very non-human creatures brings him back to some bad experiences of his childhood, and he vomits before his anger overtakes him. Escape isn’t difficult, and even when his only weapons against goblins armed with swords and axes are pieces of his broken chair, he’s still aware that those goblins…are scared of him. Hmm. As Zio marches in and explains that he’s awoken in a new dimension where everything supernatural is real, Ryker learns that his sister is there too, along with Grey, his archenemy, but as Zio tells it, they’re working for the evil side. And no, Ryker cannot be taken to them.

YIKES!

Devri Walls’ storytelling style is consistent here, and as much as fantasy isn’t usually my genre of choice, it felt almost like greeting an old friend- albeit one covered in glowing tattoos and cackling evilly alongside a pet dragon- to come back to this series again. The almost immediate mention of Beltran, the trickster-like shapeshifter, piqued my curiosity, as he was my favorite character from Magic Unleashed. Leading with the villainous Zio? NICE. And following that with a scene from Ryker’s point of view? SO well done, as we learned so very little about Ryker in the first story. The info we were privy to came from Rune and Grey, so his point of view here will fill in some gaps for the reader. Is he really as big of a jerk as he seemed? Will he ever learn to appreciate Grey? Are his powers as a Venator as strong as his sister’s? Will accepting that everything supernatural is indeed real finally force him to stop partying so much to cope with his creepy childhood memories?

For fans of the first Venators book, Promises Forged seems to carry on in the same vein, with all the strength of Magic Unleashed‘s worldbuilding. Fantasy isn’t my usual literary home, but Devri Walls definitely has a gift for creating a fascinatingly scary yet intriguing world (that I never want to visit thankyouverymuch!) full of magical and monstrous creatures (none of which I really want to meet!), and her first chapter had me right back in that spooky, drippy dungeon with Ryker annihilating that wooden chair. If you need an escape to a world that maybe makes a little more sense than ours right now, Devri Wall’s Eon in Magic Unleashed and Promises Forged are pretty good choices.

Thanks to TheWriteReads and Devri Walls for including me on this fabulous blog tour!!!

Visit Devri Walls’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

Follow The_WriteReads on Twitter here.

nonfiction

Book review: There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done: Actors and Fans Celebrate the Legacy of Supernatural, edited by Lynn S. Zubernis

So I was browsing NetGalley a few weeks ago, checking out the selections (I don’t often request books; my blog is still kind of small and I don’t necessarily think I’ll be approved for many titles, but I like to know what books are out there that I can look forward to!), when the first part of the title of one book reached out and punched me in the face: There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done: Actors and Fans Celebrate the Legacy of Supernatural, edited by Lynn S. Zubernis (BenBella Books, 2020). The song by Kansas has been a long time favorite of mine, so I was immediately curious as to what the book was about, and I was a million times more delighted when I read the rest of the title and learned that this was a collection of essays about the CW show Supernatural, a show my husband and I binge-watched two years ago on Netflix and which I’ve enjoyed ever since. The book was offered as a ‘Read Now,’ and I happily clicked the button. (And since I was pulled in by the title, I’m counting this as my read for the 2020 PopSugar Reading Challenge prompt of ‘a book you picked because the title caught your attention.’)

Lynn S. Zubernis has edited a collection of essays and interviews by both cast and crew members and fans that speak to not only the brilliancy of the show, but the camaraderie and deep friendship that has blossomed among its ardent fans. Cast, crew, and fans alike refer to themselves as family (the SPNFamily, to be exact), and in every essay, their bonds are made obvious by the love the fans show each other, the charity work that every person even loosely associated with this show is moved to participate in, the deep desire to follow Sam and Dean’s footsteps by making the world a better, safer place, and the courage to be open, vulnerable, and thus, free.

The essays run the gamut, from experiences on set and how they changed an actor or actress’s life, to how being part of the fandom helped each fan to grow, but the common theme here are the permanent effects one single TV show has had, and the effects are massive. Far from being a mere aside of pop culture, Supernatural has acted as a catalyst for personal growth, from inspiring fans to keep fighting with the anxiety that has plagued them for years, to pushing them to take steps and make changes that they’d been afraid of taking. For a show that carried on for fifteen seasons, that’s no small feat, and no small amount of changed lives. The effects of Supernatural are long-ranging.

There’s an awful lot to fall in love with in this book. The actors’ willingness to connect with their fans is truly remarkable, and their essays, in which they detail their involvement in fan conventions and on social media, is absolutely heartwarming. But what really shines is the dedication to charity that this show has fomented among its followers. Almost every essay has some mention of how its author engaged in work that benefited people they never met- fundraising, multiple crisis support networks, helping other fans to pay off devastating medical bills- because that’s what family does, even far-off family you don’t often, or ever, see face-to-face. And the Supernatural fandom is the family everyone deserves.

The book isn’t without its criticism of the show, particularly towards earlier the seasons’ treatment of women. It’s never harsh, but it’s fair, and I appreciated such an even-handed take, because when you love something, you want it to be the very best it can be, and we should all be able to criticize the things we love while still loving them. And there are deep dives into certain characters (Charlie is a particular favorite, but there’s plenty of love for Sheriffs Jody Mills and Donna Hanscum as well) and their far-ranging influence, but my favorite essays were the ones that demonstrate that Supernatural‘s ripple effects are less like a tossed pebble and more akin to a giant bolder dropped into the middle of a lake.

Actor Rob Benedict sharing his experiences with suffering a stroke helped a fan to recognize that she was experiencing similar symptoms, and that pushed her to get medical help in time to save her life. A professor used the show to develop a course that helped veterans suffering from PTSD return to civilian life. Fans crowdfunded gender correction surgery for another fan who had decided to move forward with living his best life. Other fans raised money to start a school in Nicaragua and a children’s center in Haiti. The list go on and on and the stories are no less impressive as the book nears completion. Ms. Zubernis has chosen a set of essays that reveal the depth and heart of a television show about two brothers saving the world from things that go bump in the night (and day!), and its true legacy is the love its fans have extended from the show itself to each other and the world beyond.

If you’re a Supernatural fan, this book, this love letter to not just the show but to you and the friends you’ve made because of it, is one you can’t miss. Even for the casual fan like me, There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done was an utter joy to read: the fandom’s love and connection to each other is evident on every single page, and that kind of love is absolutely what the world needs right now. To be honest, I didn’t want this book to end, and I’m looking forward to reading Ms. Zubernis’s other works at some point as well.

“Because family really don’t end with blood. And those of us who have been part of the SPNFamily, whose lives have been changed for the better by this show, are now a little more able to ‘carry on.'”

There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done is a beautiful, moving testament to a television show that transcended the bounds of pop culture and changed what it means to be a fan, and we’re all the better for it. Carry on, friends, and Always Keep Fighting.

Huge thanks to NetGalley for allowing me to read and review this wonderful book!

Visit Lynn Zubernis’s website, Fangasm the Book, here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

blog tour · fantasy · fiction · YA

The WriteReads Presents: Magic Unleashed (Venators #1) by Devri Walls Blog Tour!

Welcome to the latest stop on The WriteReads’ Super Awesome Blog Tour for Magic Unleashed (Venators #1) by Devri Walls (Brown Books, 2018, first published 2016). I’m happy to be a part of this! Urban fantasy isn’t my usual genre, but I’m always willing to challenge myself and read outside my normal box, and this was definitely outside- but in a good way.

Rune and Ryker are twins, but they’ve grown apart over the years, and Rune is bothered by this. She’s still there for her brother, who takes far too much delight in bullying Grey, the trenchcoat-wearing misfit from their hometown who ended up at the same college as them, but she’s none too happy with his recent behavior. Beyond that, Ryker has bizarre reactions to the supernatural just as Rune does- rage, mostly, and she can’t understand why.

Grey’s obsessed with everything supernatural and has been ever since that terrifying night years ago when he was attacked by creatures he’d never seen before. When they reappear in his life, just as Rune is starting to realize the two of them may have more of a connection than she previously expected, the two of them are whisked away to the safety- relatively speaking- of another dimension, where they learn the truth about their existence. Everything supernatural, every mythical creature and thing that goes bump in the night, is real, and Grey, Rune, and Ryker, who was kidnapped and taken elsewhere, are Venators, some of the last of their kind, a group once tasked with protection but overtaken by their own rage to the point of devastation of the world around them. The council demands their help, but there are serious games afoot, and Grey and Rune can never be sure who they can trust. Fairies, vampires, werewolves, goblins, shapeshifters, they’re all out there and they all have their own agendas. And where is Ryker???

ACTION. MAJOR ACTION EVERYWHERE. This isn’t one of those fantasy novels where the characters spend 90% of the book trudging through the woods (*stares in Tolkien*). Magic Unleashed (Venators #1) is high-stakes action and the pressure is ON. Grey (who is a fabulous character, an ugly ducking who becomes a swan and stands up for what’s right, even when it puts his own life at risk) and Rune are in the middle of it on every single page, fighting, running, jumping off cliffs (thanks to their newly discovered Venator powers!), sneaking through musty-smelling servant passageways to escape the castle in the dark of night. Ryker’s a full-on douchebag, but the novel isn’t focused on him; let’s hope he improves as the series progresses. I’m wildly curious to know his reaction when the camera pans to him in the next book!

I enjoyed the cast of magical characters: the terrifying, bloodthirsty werewolves, the manipulative fairies, the slick vampires, but my favorite character was Beltran, the shapeshifter who often appears in the form of a crow. He’s definitely got his own agenda, but there’s more to him than meets the eye, and I enjoyed every scene he appeared in. His appearance totally made the last major action scene.

Whenever I step outside my normal genres, I like to examine why I don’t read that particular genre more often, and I did come to some conclusions I hadn’t considered before while reading this- interestingly enough, it’s related to something my husband and I have been discussing recently. My husband is a very visual thinker; he’s a scientist and can usually picture exactly how any experiments he runs will work, because he can picture the mechanisms by which everything should function. This serves him well in computer programming as well. I can’t think in pictures like this. Even when I think something random like, “Okay, I’m going to picture a cereal box on the counter,” I can kiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiind of make a sort of mental picture, but I can’t hold it. I can kind of picture what my counter would look like if there were a cereal box on it, but only a brief glimpse. It’s fascinating how our brains work in completely opposite ways.

That said, I think that’s why I don’t read more fantasy (and it’s a genre my husband likes!): I can’t quite picture these magical creatures in my head, nor can I picture the settings that involve castles and labyrinthine mountain passes and forests. They’re not places I’ve been or creatures I’ve seen. With fiction, I can mentally set those stories in houses, in restaurants, in museums and shops and parks that are familiar to me and that I have a map of in my head. I can assign the characters physical traits of people I’m familiar with. Fantasy? Not quite so much; I can’t picture a green-skinned person in my mind because it’s not an image I’m familiar with in my everyday, boring life.

Isn’t that wild? I’ve never thought of it that way before, but I think I’ve got the answer as to why this isn’t one of my preferred genres, even though I LOVE seeing how excited other readers get over it! So it really does pay to step outside your boundaries now and then. You might learn something new about yourself. 🙂

If you’re into fantasy that doesn’t skimp on the action one single iota, Magic Unleashed (Venators #1) is worth a look- it’s a series, people! Devri Walls seems to be a wildly prolific author, so check out some of her other work as well on Goodreads.

I’m told that Ms. Walls will be answering questions in a video post after the tour, so if you’ve got questions, ask away in the comments! (Seriously, how cool is she for doing this???) I have a question! Ms. Walls, are you able to think in pictures and easily imagine all the fantastic supernatural creatures you write about, or does your brain work in a different way?

Thanks to TheWriteReads and Devri Walls for including me on this fabulous blog tour!!!

Visit Devri Walls’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

fiction · middle grade · YA

Summer of the Mariposas- Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Another task on Book Riot’s 2019 Read Harder Challenge is to read an #ownvoices novel set in Mexico or Central America. I always read through the suggestions, make note of what looks interesting, and then check to see what’s available at my libraries. Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall looked like an interesting choice, and it was available at the library in the next town over, so onto the list it went.

Odilia and her four sisters (Juanita, twins Velia and Delia, and Pita, the youngest) are out swimming at their forbidden swimming hole when they discover a dead man floating in the water. They don’t want to call the authorities, because that would mean constant surveillance of their beloved swimming hole; telling their exhausted, overworked, newly single mother would only get them in trouble, because they weren’t supposed to be swimming in the first place. Instead, the girls decide to load up their father’s car (he left a year ago, he’s not using it anyway) with the body and drive it to the dead man’s home address in Mexico, which they discover on the ID stuffed into a pocket, along with a stack of cash.

But it won’t be a simple trip. A ghostly weeping woman known as La Llorona informs Odilia that this is going to be a journey that will transform all of them. She gives Odilia a magical ear pendant to help her along the way, and the girls set off towards adventure. When dropping off the body doesn’t exactly herald the reception they thought it would, they continue on to their abuelita’s house, meeting a witch, a fortune-telling blind woman, a warlock disguised as a donkey, a seriously creepy pack of owls, and a chupacabras. La Llorona appears on and off throughout the story to guide them, and the Aztec queen Tonantzin offers magical assistance through the gifted ear pendant, but what they really find throughout their journey is the strength of their bond and the deep love that exists between them and their mother.

Phew. There’s a LOT going on in this book. The inside flap of this book pitches this as ‘a Mexican American retelling of The Odyssey,’ and I think a big part of the reason I failed to connect to this book is that it’s been…somewhere around twenty-four years since I had anything to do with that particular piece. I really wish I’d been able to draw the parallels between the stories, but it’s been far too long. I also lack any kind of background in any Mexican or Aztec folklore, so that definitely didn’t help. Had I been more fully versed in these things, I think reading this book would have been a different experience and I would’ve felt more connected and more deeply invested.

It’s a lovely, well-written book, although I had to seriously suspend my disbelief in the beginning to accept that the sisters would all just pick up and leave with what seemed like no concern for how their mother would react to them having left without even a note. And that’s not even considering the fact that the girls were seemingly okay with riding in a stuffy car in the summer heat with a waterlogged dead body. Talking owls and donkeys, sure, I’ll buy that; teenage girls chill with sitting next to a dead body for a lengthy car ride? Mmmm, no. The relationship between the girls and their grandmother is lovely, however, and their reunion with their mother and eventual showdown with their father are both handled extremely well. And I absolutely adored the bits of Spanish sprinkled throughout the story (there’s a glossary in back), and the chance to see Mexico through the sisters’ eyes.

So this wasn’t quite the book for me, but if you enjoy retellings, stories of bonding between sisters, and stories with magical and fantastical elements, it may be the book for you!

Visit Guadalupe Garcia McCall’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.