Waiting on Wednesday

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event that is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

28489382This week I’m looking forward to The Tiger’s Watch by Julia Ember. I love all things written by Julia Ember and I’m beyond excited about how this book is the first in a planned series! Eeeeeeee!!! Ember really knows how to construct diverse magical worlds. In this book the main character is genderfluid and it features gq/m, m/m and f/f pairings. Plus just look at that cover! Gorgeous right? It will be released on August 22nd by Harmony Ink Press.

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Sixteen-year-old Tashi has spent their life training as a inhabitor, a soldier who spies and kills using a bonded animal. When the capital falls after a brutal siege, Tashi flees to a remote monastery to hide. But the invading army turns the monastery into a hospital, and Tashi catches the eye of Xian, the regiment’s fearless young commander.

Tashi spies on Xian’s every move. In front of his men, Xian seems dangerous, even sadistic, but Tashi discovers a more vulnerable side of the enemy commander—a side that draws them to Xian.

When their spying unveils that everything they’ve been taught is a lie, Tashi faces an impossible choice: save their country or the boy they’re growing to love. Though Tashi grapples with their decision, their volatile bonded tiger doesn’t question her allegiances. Katala slaughters Xian’s soldiers, leading the enemy to hunt her. But an inhabitor’s bond to their animal is for life—if Katala dies, so will Tashi.

Review: The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember

I received this book for free from publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

32890474The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember
Release date: May 4th, 2017
Publisher: Interlude Press
Genre: Young adult, fantasy
Format: eBook

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Goodreads | Amazon

Having long-wondered what lives beyond the ice shelf, nineteen-year-old mermaid Ersel learns of the life she wants when she rescues and befriends Ragna, a shield-maiden stranded on the mermen’s glacier. But when Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he gives Ersel a choice: say goodbye to Ragna or face justice at the hands of the glacier’s brutal king.

Determined to forge a different fate, Ersel seeks help from Loki. But such deals are never as one expects, and the outcome sees her exiled from the only home and protection she’s known. To save herself from perishing in the barren, underwater wasteland and be reunited with the human she’s come to love, Ersel must try to outsmart the God of Lies.

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I’ve been a huge fan of Julia Ember’s ever since I read Unicorn Tracks last year. The story was a perfect blend of romance, mythical creatures and hard-hitting topics. The only problem? It was way, and I mean way, too short! So, I was out of my mind excited when The Seafarer’s Kiss kiss was announced. A full-length story featuring mermaids and Norse gods?!?! HELL YES!!

I went into this book with such high expectations. Now usually I end up being disappointed but not here. I fell in love with everything — the characters, the world, the beyond adorable belugas — while only a few pages into the story. It’s been promoted as a retelling of The Little Mermaid but don’t let that label fool you. Ember has created a fantastic fantasy world all of her own. And what’s even more impressive? It’s all done in around 230 pages! Her writing just flows. It’s action packed and non-stop, just how I like my books. I couldn’t stop reading and read through it quickly. I definitely see a re-read in the near future!

What really stood out to me were the characters. I’m all about books that are character driven and demonstrate great growth and progress and there’s tons of that here. All of the characters are deeply flawed and that’s what makes them so darn relatable. They all grow in some kind of way but what I appreciated the most was that by the end the characters still weren’t perfect. Nobody is and that’s alright. My favourite characters were Ragna (a kickass shield maiden out for revenge) and the trickster god Loki (they caused so much drama…LOVED THEM!). I do want to point out that this book is truly diverse and like with her previous work, Ember integrates it all so well into the story. It never feels forced or added to attack a particular audience. There are plenty of books like that but not this one! The book features a bisexual main character, female/female romance, an amputee and a gender-fluid character with they/them pronouns.

I can’t recommend this book enough! The way Ember writes left me on the edge of my seat. There are so many twists and turns, none of which I saw coming. I thought the book was going one way and boom! it went somewhere else completely. It’s a fascinating examination of how nothing is truly black or white, good or evil. Humans (or merfolk) make mistakes. Sometimes our choices are driven by greed or jealously but that doesn’t always mean that that person isn’t good. This book really drove home the message that everyone will make mistakes and sometimes you can’t fix them, but what you can do is learn and do better next time.

So…while I loved every bit of this book, I just wished that it was a tiny bit longer. Yup, it’s an issue I have with Ember’s books. The ending wrapped stuff up nicely but I could have used more scenes between Ersel and Ragna. Can I have sequel is please?


about

julia2-e1455421316346-300x300Julia Ember is a polyamorous, bisexual writer and native of Chicago who now resides in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Seafarer’s Kiss is her second novel and was influenced by her postgraduate work in medieval literature at The University of St. Andrews. Her first novel, Unicorn Tracks, was published by Harmony Ink Press.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Tumblr | Facebook

Blog Tour: The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember (Q&A + Giveaway)

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32890474The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember
Release date: May 4th, 2017
Publisher: Duet/Interlude Press
Genre: Young adult, fantasy
Formats: Paperback, eBook

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Indiebound

Having long-wondered what lives beyond the ice shelf, nineteen-year-old mermaid Ersel learns of the life she wants when she rescues and befriends Ragna, a shield-maiden stranded on the mermen’s glacier. But when Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he gives Ersel a choice: say goodbye to Ragna or face justice at the hands of the glacier’s brutal king.

Determined to forge a different fate, Ersel seeks help from Loki. But such deals are never as one expects, and the outcome sees her exiled from the only home and protection she’s known. To save herself from perishing in the barren, underwater wasteland and be reunited with the human she’s come to love, Ersel must try to outsmart the God of Lies.

Hello everyone and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember. I’ll be posting my review of this fantastic book very soon (I gave it 5 hearts because it’s so, so good), but until then check out this fun Q&A with Julia and enter to win some prizes! 🙂


Author Q&A

Hi everyone! I’m Julia Ember and I’m really excited to be on the blog today as part of the Virtual Book Tour for my new release, The Seafarer’s Kiss.

The Seafarer’s Kiss is my second novel. It is a bisexual, Norse retelling of the Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen. The main character, Ersel, longs to escape her harsh arctic sea world where she is expected to choose a mate and bear children. When she meets, Ragna, a Viking shield maiden stranded on the ice-shelf near her home, she learns of another way of life. But when her former best friend and suitor catches them together, he gives Ersel a choice: abandon Ragna or face justice at the hands of their tyrannical king. Ersel decides to make her own rules instead, and makes a deal with Loki.

1. Do you buy a book because of the cover, the blurb, or something else?
I’m a concept buyer! I like vast, interesting, unusual concepts that make me perk up and wonder about the book. Give me African mythology in space, rogue narwhal communities – if it’s weird and speculative fiction, I’m probably all over it! I buy a lot of books through Twitter recommendations. The format of Twitter is perfect for people who buy off concept, because the 140-char limit forces people to distil a book down to its basic parts.

Beyond that, I usually read 5-10 pages before I commit to buying. I like fast-paced reads, and will usually pass on anything that has a slow opening.

2. What does ‘romance’ mean to you?
Romance to me is always going to represent the genre. Before I gave up academia, I was medievalist studying literature. When I hear the word ‘romance’ I think of writers like Chaucer, early pioneers of the genre, or of poets like John Donne. I’ve only very recently started to read modern romance. I used to be an almost exclusively sci-fi/fantasy reader. Even now that I’m writing some contemporary romance, my first thought when I hear the word is STILL that historical one. With time, I think the word will probably start to take on more modern connotations!

3. What are your current projects?
At the moment, I have a totally unwieldly number of WIPs! My agent and I are getting ready to go on submission with two projects. The first is a contemporary f/f novella about two gamers who fall in love before realising they’re bitter enemies online. The other is a YA Space Opera that is crazy genre mashup of sci-fi, fantasy and historical fiction, with dragons.

4. What is the most difficult part of writing for you?
The second draft is the hardest for me! I write the first very quickly and its usually very short, just a collection of scenes. In the second draft, I have to go back and connect all the dots.

5. Tell us something about yourself that would surprise people.
I’ve visited 66 different countries! My parents travelled with us a lot when I was a kid, and that wanderlust has stayed in my blood. There are still so many places that I haven’t gone, and I’m looking forward to organising more trips.


About the Author

julia2-e1455421316346-300x300Julia Ember is a polyamorous, bisexual writer and native of Chicago who now resides in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Seafarer’s Kiss is her second novel and was influenced by her postgraduate work in medieval literature at The University of St. Andrews. Her first novel, Unicorn Tracks, was published by Harmony Ink Press.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Tumblr | Facebook


Giveaway

Click to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway. Five people will win multi-format eBook editions of  The Seafarer’s Kiss and the grand prize winner will receive a $25 IP web store certificate. Good luck!


Follow the Tour

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Waiting on Wednesday

mini-reviews-3
Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event that is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

32890474This week I’m looking forward to The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember. Last year I read Unicorn Tracks and fell madly in love with Julia’s writing. It’s magical. Seriously! I’ve been dying to get my hands on what she would release next and this year we are getting 2 books! YAY!

So, why do I NEED this book? Well…

– The cover is gorgeous!
– It’s a F/F retelling of The Little Mermaid.
– It’s told from Ursula’s (Ersel) point of view.

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Having long-wondered what lives beyond the ice shelf, nineteen-year-old mermaid Ersel learns of the life she wants when she rescues and befriends Ragna, a shield-maiden stranded on the mermen’s glacier. But when Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he gives Ersel a choice: say goodbye to Ragna or face justice at the hands of the glacier’s brutal king.

Determined to forge a different fate, Ersel seeks help from Loki. But such deals are never as one expects, and the outcome sees her exiled from the only home and protection she’s known. To save herself from perishing in the barren, underwater wasteland and be reunited with the human she’s come to love, Ersel must try to outsmart the God of Lies.

Tiger’s Watch Cover Reveal + Author Guest Post

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For me, the biggest inspiration for writing is travel and foreign landscapes. There’s something about being somewhere fresh, taking in new sights, smells, ways of living, people and ways of living that really zaps my creative process into life – even if the story I go on to write has nothing to do with the place I’m traveling.  I’ve talked a lot about how much travelling around in East Africa influenced Unicorn Tracks, and there is a similar story to the background of Tiger’s Watch and the rest of the Ashes of Gold series.

Both of my parents, but my dad in particular, have always been afflicted with wanderlust. Although he had American parents, my dad was born in Toyko, Japan, and only moved back to the USA when he started high school. He always had a sense of not really belonging to either culture, a phenomenon that is now referred to as a “third culture kid” … where you grow up in a place where for reasons of skin colour or accent, you will always be perceived as a foreigner, and where you embrace elements of both cultures. When I was nine, my entire family left the US to emigrate to England. We travelled constantly, and the desire to experience new places and interact with as diverse a group of people as possible has stuck with me.

In 2014, my family traveled to Bhutan. Bhutan is a small country nestled between India, Nepal and Tibet, framed on all sides by the Himalayan Mountains. Until recently, it has remained isolated by choice – only allowing cars and TVs in the 1990s. Bhutan still only permits a small number of tourist visits per year, and has a truly unique, untouched quality to it. Almost the entire country are practicing Buddhists, and the Buddhist monastic rules in conjunction with the royal family. You can see how Buddhism integrates into every aspect of people’s daily lives there … the king lives in a modest house, he runs alone through the forest. Crime is almost non-existent. Beyond that, Bhutan is a country of colours and mountain landscapes, new animals, untouched forests and thriving communities. Education is free and almost 1/4th of children join the monastic.

What inspired me was thinking about what would have happened if an almost utopian place like this, found itself at war with a neighbour or if Bhutan hadn’t be able to remain in isolation for so long. It’s a fear shared by many Bhutanese people. Our guide told us that many of them worry about China invading them for natural resources and that they will become another Tibet. The other was a somewhat hilarious incident we witnessed at one of the monasteries. A young Buddhist monk was sitting on the steps, mixing paints and casually feeding crumbs to the local pigeons, when a beautiful wild Abyssinian cat burst down from one of the trees and went after one of the pigeon. The monk was up and on his feet like a shot after the cat, but he was too slow and the cat ran off with a pigeon almost the same size as she was, while the monk went and got a broom to chase her some more. We didn’t see the end outcome, but I did love the character of a peaceful, creative monk, juxtaposed with a blood-thirsty cat …

Thus, Tashi and Katala the tiger came into being …

I was also food poisoned by Holy Water in Bhutan, but that’s another story entirely.

In The Tiger’s Watch, there are a lot of parallels between Tashi’s world and Bhutan, but they are not the same place. Tashi is a Bhutanese name, meaning Luck and can be given to a girl or boy, which I felt was important for Tashi as a NB protagonist. His best friend’s name is Pharo, which is also a Bhutanese name. The aesthetics of their capital city mirror a lot about Bhutan’s architecture and the idea of a monastic body is important for them. However, Shien’s core culture revolves around a magic system, not Buddhism and their values are almost entirely different to the people of Bhutan. In a lot of ways, I feel like the book captures the aesthetic – the isolation, the mountains, the looming Zhongs – but doesn’t essentially draw from Bhutanese culture, beyond the large monastic element … and of course, the wild cat who can’t be tamed. Who I still like to imagine got away and ate her pigeon in the end.

Continue reading

Review | Unicorn Tracks by Julia Ember

25231892Unicorn Tracks by Julia Ember
Release date: April 21st, 2016
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Genre: Young adult, romance, fantasy
Format: eBook
Source: Amazon

Goodreads | Amazon

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After a savage attack drives her from her home, sixteen-year-old Mnemba finds a place in her cousin Tumelo’s successful safari business, where she quickly excels as a guide. Surrounding herself with nature and the mystical animals inhabiting the savannah not only allows Mnemba’s tracking skills to shine, it helps her to hide from the terrible memories that haunt her.

Mnemba is employed to guide Mr. Harving and his daughter, Kara, through the wilderness as they study unicorns. The young women are drawn to each other, despite that fact that Kara is betrothed. During their research, they discover a conspiracy by a group of poachers to capture the Unicorns and exploit their supernatural strength to build a railway. Together, they must find a way to protect the creatures Kara adores while resisting the love they know they can never indulge.

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I’m so pleased that I finally read this book! I saw it on NetGalley and debated requesting it, but didn’t because I had so many other books to read. I read Unicorn Tracks as part of the June edition of #AYearAThon. The theme was LGBTQQIAAP+ books and this novel fit perfectly.

I really, like REALLY, liked this book. The world building, the mythical creatures, the characters, the amazing cover…I could honestly go on and on. I’m now kicking myself for not reading it earlier! The setting was magical. It’s the African savannah meets the world of Harry Potter. The description of the land and the animals was so beautiful. I want to go right now! Also, loved the beast/creature guide at the end! It’s such a cool addition. 🙂

The thing that stood out for me was the relationship between the main character Mnemba and Kara, the woman she’s tasked with guiding around, is natural. The attraction was there right away and yes, the relationship didn’t take much time to develop, but it still felt like it was natural. It didn’t follow an insta-love formula found in a lot of YA books nor did it jump up and down showing off is female/female romance. It handled the situation beautifully. The relationship that developed was full of support, respect and tenderness. I wish more books were written like this.

The only issue I had was the length. At around 160 pages it was too short for my liking. I wanted more from the world, more from the characters. In particular, I wanted more of what happened to Mnemba and her family dynamic to be explored. There were glimpses of opportunity, but a lot of the conflicts were resolved too quickly. Another 100 pages or so could have avoided this situation. Also, with it being on the shorter side and fast paced, I went through it too quickly. I wanted to get to the end, but also slow down because I knew the adventure would be over. Ugh! Bookish problems!

Anyway, this is a book that you need to read! Seriously, check it out because it’s a blend of some many different things that there is something for everyone!