Book Review: Shades of Magic Series

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This week I finished A Conjuring of Light, the third installment of the Shades of Magic Series by V.E. Schwab. Wow. Just wow. There are so many things I enjoyed about this series. So, let’s start with the most important part of any story.

The Characters. I adored the characters. Not only are the characters themselves unique and entertaining, but their individual development and growth throughout the books are wonderfully strategic. Kell, the Antari from Red London that can pass from world to world (and one of the only few left) starts off the story mysterious, but rather stiff. Not necessarily stiff in a bad way, just an inflexible way. Kind of emo, determined, and content to carry burdens alone. Without giving away any spoilers, his characters opens himself up to vulnerability, love, and empathy. Lila, the thief from Grey London, while technically a trope (special snowflake/tomboy) was still amazingly refreshing! In most genres, tropes are unavoidable, but if done right can still be new and fun. Schwab does it right. Lila begins the story reckless, fearless, and very lost. She doesn’t have an anchor, or anything worth caring about, which makes her fun and different to read. By the time the story ends, she learns to stop running and allow herself to open up and care about those around her. Plus, I just loved her quick tongue and sharp words and her odd obsession with wanting to become a pirate. Holland, the Antari from White London. I don’t want to say much about him, but I REALLY enjoyed his character. I love when the line between good and evil are blurred, and Holland was an excellent example of that. Prince Rhy of Red London quickly became one of my favorites, especially given his growth over the span of the series. Genuine, slightly spoiled, yet generous and kind, he starts the story simply fun loving and boyish. By the time I turned the last few pages, be had become a brave, unselfish leader who no longer valued the things he once held so dear. Lastly Alucard, a good looking charismatic captain from Red London with witty banter and incredibly gifted with magic, but his character becomes so much more than that by the end of the books. His relationships with the other characters; his loyalty to Lila, love for Rhy, and distaste for Kell, seriously made the series for me. (Not to mention so many secondary characters that were wonderfully developed.)

The Worlds. This is absolutely my favorite thing about Schwab’s writing style. Her ability to create, detail, and explore multiple worlds in such a unique way. She draws things out, and tells you everything. Which I know drives some people crazy, but not me. I’d rather be told too much than not enough. But that’s just my preference. She describes everything lyrically, and she lets her writing set the tempo. In this story we have Red London, Grey London, White London, and Black London. Four different worlds that somehow all overlap with their version of London. Some worlds have magic, some don’t, and some have died because of it. Kell, as well as all Antari, can travel between the different Londons, which becomes complicated as something is found in one London that shouldn’t be there.

The Story. The story itself is full of adventure, love, witty banter, pirate ships, murder, magic tournaments, torture, cursed stones, travel between worlds, death, betrayal, and family. You get to witness brotherly love and kinship, wounded and severed love, romance rekindled and heartbreak. While the first 150 pages A Darker Shade of Magic took me a while to get into, once the story took hold of me, I couldn’t stop reading. Once the action and story starts, it doesn’t stop until the last page. You can see the planning that Schwab put into this story, the perfectly organized plot not going unnoticed.

Series as a whole: 5 STARS

If you like epic tales of Fantasy and haven’t read the Shades of Magic series, I would highly recommend them. V.E. Schwab has me as a loyal reader and I can’t wait until the continuation of the story with her next trilogy set in the Londons.

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Sunday Pinning: Cozy reading nooks.

So this week on Pinterest, I found myself drifting into the cozy reading nooks. Maybe it’s the cold weather fast approaching or losing daylight savings time. Either way, the idea of curling up in any one of these nooks with a book, fills me with the warm and fuzzies.

So what makes a reading nook cozy? For me, it breaks down into 3 reasons, sometimes 4. The first and most important requirement?

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Like this pin

  1. Mood lighting. Ah yes, candles, twinkle lights, or in the case above, lanterns. Low lighting may not always be conducive for reading, but it is essential in finding the balance so you feel cozy and relaxed.

(Note: the only exception to not having mood lighting, is to be by a fire, which technically provides the same thing.)

2. Your cozy nook must include soft cuddle-able material such as blankets and/or pillows. Preferably both. In my opinion, a pair of pillows and fleece blanket can transform most any space into a perfect reading nook. There is nothing better than your feet being tangled in a blanket, getting lost in a book.

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This pin.

3. Speaking of feet, mine have to be up. Wether they are propped up on an ottoman, or curled up underneath me, in order to consider myself in a cozy position, my feet have to be up in some way. Now, I know this is technical and I’m getting very obsessive about this, but there are several things I take very seriously and being warm and happy are two of them. The only exception to my feet being up rule, is if I’m swinging. If I’m in a swing, like the one pictured below, I can totally over look my feet touching the ground.

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Reading nooks for nature lovers pin.

The above pin still checks most of our boxes: mood lighting and soft material. Plus, it opens the door for our 4th bonus box that is much harder to check, a gorgeous view.

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Go to this pin.

Now, the above reading nook checks off every box on our list, including our bonus one. It’s difficult to achieve the “nook” feel with a view because most nooks are in little corners, tucked away. But on the rare occasion, like the one above, you can tuck yourself away into a corner of windows and still stare off into the beauty around you while mulling over your fantasy book’s plot.

Do you have a favorite spot to read? What is most important for you in a cozy reading nook?

Do you want an ARC of The Lost Door?

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Would you like an Advanced Reader Copy of The Lost Door before it becomes available for sale? All you have to do is join my promotional team! I’m looking for 20 or 25 people who are willing to help me spread the word about The Lost Door and The Door Keeper trilogy. Here is all you have to do to be eligible:

  1. Be willing to buy the book on Amazon on December 5th. (Paperback or Kindle.)
  2. Leave a review on Amazon of the book with in the first week of release.
  3. Post about the book (Or The Door Keeper) or thoughts about either books & their respective links on Amazon on any one of your social media platforms!

That’s it! If you are willing to commit to doing those three things, I’ll send you an ARC of The Lost Door before anyone else gets their hands on it. (Also, there may be some fun bookish surprises in the mail for you as well!)

Do you have friends who enjoyed The Door Keeper? Make sure you let them know about this cool opportunity.

Email me at steen@thedoorkeepertrilogy.com if you are interested and thanks for all you support!

The Lost Door Goodreads Giveaway!

In order to celebrate the upcoming release of The Lost Door, Book 2 in The Door Keeper Trilogy, I’m giving away 5 signed copies on Goodreads! If you have an account on Goodreads, head over and enter to win. Please also add The Lost Door to your TBR list and share it with your friends.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Lost Door by Steen Jones

The Lost Door

by Steen Jones

Giveaway ends December 05, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

Thanks you guys for all your support, I couldn’t do this without you!

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Storytelling Lessons: Stranger Things Edition

My husband and I just finished binge watching the second season of Stranger Things this weekend. Let me rephrase, it only took us 24 hours. He had minor surgery so it was the perfect excuse to stay in and not move off the couch, except to get more chips and dip. Because, priorities and all that.

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Man, what a show. What an incredible lesson in storytelling. There are several things I learned while watching this show, and here are just a few of them.

  • You don’t have to write elaborately to write meaningful emotion. Stranger Things does this in such a special way. I won’t include spoilers because the show just got released on Netflix, but there is a highly emotional scene towards the end of the season where people are just sitting in a bare room, telling stories about a specific character. It’s moving and important, and even better, simple. It’s about timing and placing those scenes in the right places.

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  • The visual picture matters. The only thing movies and TV have over books is beautiful cinematography. There is a moment in the show when you see something scary, something evil from one of the main characters perspective. More specifically, from right behind him, and able to actually witness the goosebumps rise on the back of his neck. It was a freaking incredible shot. We may not be able to give our readers that moment, but we can come pretty dang close. The point? The picture you paint is super important, and even though we may not be able to move the camera behind the character’s head to create that amazing shot, we should do our best to give our reader’s their own goosebumps.

 

  • We love feelings of nostalgia. Between Stranger Things and Guardians of the Galaxy, I think it’s obvious we all have a thing for the 80s. Considering I was born in 1981, I’m one of those people. We love being reminded of how life used to be, especially the pop culture we obsessed over as kids. The music, the hair, the clothes. And just FYI, this season of Stranger Things does NOT disappoint in that area. We like remembering what life was like pre-internet, and teaching those kiddies born in this millennia what childhood was like for us. How can use this as writers? Reminding readers about the past is not only an effect story-telling tool, it’s also a way to engage our readers by using their own past experiences and eliciting those feelings in our own story.

 

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  • Write like your reader will not be able to put your book down. One of the things I love about this show is their absolute audacity in assuming I was going to binge watch this entire season this weekend. They shot and edited these episodes in such a way that it was practically impossible not to! Every episode was such a beautifully frustrating cliff hanger, you’d think they planned it or something. I think it’s okay for us to write the same way. Don’t tie bows at the end of chapters. Just assume your readers don’t need to pee, or eat dinner. Write only the important things and be relentless! Don’t give your reader the opportunity to put your book down.

 

  • It’s okay to let your character make dumb decisions. I lost count how many times I groaned into my hands in frustration or yelled at the TV to a character for something stupid they were doing. “Don’t go into the hole you igit!!!” “Why are you doing this alone?” “How can you possibly think this is a good idea?!” I’m not sure when I decided all my characters had to be smart and strategic in everything they did, but Stranger Things reminded me that sometimes people do dumb stuff, and it’s okay for that to be reflected in my stories. Besides, reckless decisions lead to danger, great tension, and high intensity scenes, so why not?

 

Have you watched Stranger things yet? What show are you currently binge watching? If you have a show you think I should watch and could learn from, let me know!

Bookstore Feature: FoxTale Book Shoppe

Lately, I’ve been a bit obsessed with the Independent Bookstore. Everything from the unique, comfy feel and laid back charms, to the inevitable formation of relationships that seem to come easier with small businesses. I pin them on Pinterest, stalk them on Instagram, and marvel at their ability to harness my sense of nostalgia.

When I thought about content for my blog, I knew I wanted to write about things I personally loved, and hoped other readers enjoyed as well. And the Independent Bookstore Feature was born! I plan on visiting as many indie bookstores in the Southeast as I can and feature them on my blog on Fridays. Plus, just to make it more fun, I’m going to visit these places with one of my author friends, so you can get two different perspectives if you’d like. 🙂


We decided to start in our own backyard with one of my favorites: FoxTale Book Shoppe in Downtown Woodstock. (I am a little bias considering Woodstock is one of the settings in The Door Keeper.) But if you’ve ever hung out or been there, I know you don’t blame me, because it’s incredible!

Easily, one of my favorite things about FoxTale is the location. Tucked back off the main town square, complete with park benches, gazebo, and fountains. (Side bar: my husband asked me to marry him in that gazebo. 😉 Surrounded by amazing restaurants, dress boutiques, dessert shops and a new amphitheater; this book shop has the vibe you are looking for from a small town with ALL the perks.

The next thing I loved about this Bookstore is the enthusiastic lady working there, a blue haired chick named Hyphen. Yes, everything about this woman brought a smile to my face. Her name, hair, book recommendations, and obvious love for all things books were not only refreshing, but super appreciated. She guided us around the bookstore, pointing out her current reads, (enthusiastically telling us the plot,) helping me find a purchase of my own, showing us the secret stash of ARC’s, (and graciously ging us each a couple,) and telling us her own story. Almost 11 years ago, she was one of the first customers of FoxTale. She came so often, she eventually landed behind the check out counter working one day, and been working there ever since.

Random side bar: One of my favorite things in life is a good theme. Ask anyone who knows me, when I throw a party, or start any new project, there must be a theme. It’s seriously one of my love languages. And I adored FoxTale’s theme. Everywhere I looked there was a fox of some kind. They had a beautiful stained glass window of their logo, stuffed foxes hidden on shelves, chalk art and statues strategically placed throughout the store. It was amazing.

As we moseyed around the store, I noticed a beautiful door on the back wall. My friend Bonnie mentioned I should do a “Cool Door Count” at each bookstore we visit considering my Trilogy revolves around awesome doors. FoxTale started this super strong at an incredible 6! There were 6 really cool doors all throughout the bookstore; from displays, french doors, door behind secret curtains, even the check out counter was a door! Not sure if any other bookstore can compete with that.

This was a really strong start to our Indie Bookstore tour. We had an amazing time with FoxTale and look forward to another visit. If you are ever in Woodstock, make sure you stop by and tell them hi! If you want more information about the different events they do, you can check out their website at http://www.foxtalebookshoppe.com/. They are also on Instagram and Facebook. If you’d like to get my friend Bonnie’s perspective of our visit, check out her blog here. (She’s about to rock the children’s book world with picture book coming out next year.)

Do you have any recommendations of Bookstores for us to visit? Let me know, I’d love to hear about your favorite indie bookshops!

The Lost Door Cover Reveal!

I am SO thrilled to reveal this cover. I wasn’t able to have the same designer as The Door Keeper, but she and I had similar styles. So I was able to capture the feel and vibe of the first cover into the second with some of my own drawings. Then after handing them off to my friend, Brittney Kaefer, she proceeded to work her magic with them. Complete and beautiful and amazing magic.

One of my goals in life is to constantly be growing and evolving as a person and I wanted that to be evident in these books as well. So Brittney and I worked to really capture the essence, characters, and plot of this story in the artwork. Which made me all the more excited about the clues and hints the cover would give you as to the story inside. Everything from the stag, stars, tree roots, and flowers all have relevance. Then Brittany took it to a whole other level with textures, overlays, and all things digital that are way beyond my brain power. So the cover itself is much more intricate, detailed, and evolved from the first, but still matching in whimsy and fantasy elements.

I can’t thank Brittney enough for partnering with me to create a beautiful cover that I am super proud of. Thank you Brittney, for enduring all my emails and texts. You are one talented chick. 🙂

I’m extremely proud of this cover and to share it with you all. Without further ado, I present you: The Lost Door.

 

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The Lost Door Blurb:

You have every right to be scared. But I promise you this, you come from a lineage of some of the strongest and bravest women these world’s have ever seen. You were made to do this; my mother and yours made sure of it.”

It’s been over seven years since Eden learned the truth about where she came from and that her mother was a Door Keeper from another world. Eden’s own daughter, Gabby, is about to turn 18 and learn the story herself, and about the predestined future that lay ahead of her. As fate would have it, the worlds intervene before Eden can tell her daughter the truth, throwing the family into complete and utter chaos. Gabby must find the strength to save her Mom while grappling with unbelievable realizations about herself, her family, and what it all means for her future.

This anticipated sequel to The Door Keeper introduces interesting new characters, opens two new doors into unique and magical worlds, where our heroines must face the harsh elements and mythical creatures long thought extinct. The Lost Door explores the circle of mother/daughter legacy, the unbreakable bond of family, and the sometimes inescapable repetition of the past.

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Let me know what you think of the cover! If you’re interested in being a part of the blog tour, or a part of my promotional team, please let me know. Thanks for all your support and look forward to sharing the continuation of Eden and Gabby’s story with you!