A Forest of Stolen Memories by Callie Thomas
There are so many amazing Vellas out there! I've lost count of how many I am reading and following. Each week my follow list grows and it's nearly unmanageable! I actually have to designate time in my evenings to go back and catch up in order to prevent myself from reading all night... every night!
From horror to romance, space operas, paranormal mysteries and everything in between, my phone is never far from my reach. I can pour through an episode while waiting for curbside groceries and take out and even while sitting as a passenger when Mr Wizard is driving.
I've chatted a little bit in previous reviews about the kinds of young adult romance reads I enjoyed growing up. With tales like Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley and The Secret of the Unicorn Queen Series, my romance influences until picking up books my mother was reading were ones with themes of magic, mystery and intrigue.
It's no wonder I love tales like Courting Fae Thieves and Crowns by Joanna Reeder, Kingdom of Links by Sarah Shipley and so many more. It was almost natural to fall in love with A Forest of Stolen Memories by Callie Thomas.
As always I am more than excited to be sharing my thoughts about this amazing tale with you and look forward to comparing notes with anyone who'd like to discuss this Vella further.
Pardon any typos as any mistakes made are mine and not the author's... and no frogs or moose were harmed in the writing of this review!
Before we dive in deeper, we'll get started as we always do... with the author's blurb:
I could go on for hours about my favorites, the plots, and the characters. The dinosaurs, the dragons, the paranormal and supernatural creatures, and even the romances.
As a reader, I love romance being weaved into stories. While I'm normally not one for spicier romances, I literally squeal like a fan girl when I find sweet stories like this one that don't dig into the spicier side of things. (Not to say I don't enjoy things that get spicy...)
Problem is, I don't want to give them away as readers should find and explore them for themselves.
What I can tell you is that this is a sweet, just kisses romance appropriate for young adults. You'll even find in one of the reviews below that the reviewer was excited to find a Vella of this quality that they could share with their daughter. There aren't a lot of romance Vellas out there that there where I would agree that the story was one we could share with of our younger readers. Let me correct this statement... there aren't a lot of well written romance Vellas that we can share with younger readers. I've been very lucky to be referred to a handful of them and been able to share them with you.
The story itself. Let's get started with the fact that our author throws us off a proverbial cliff. We don't even have the chance to meet our heroine before her memories are stolen away. We meet her in the moment as her vision clears and everything is ripped away.
Where am I? What am I doing here?
Two of the craziest questions anyone could ever ask. They're occasionally expected following a head injury or even from those suffering from mental illness or cognitive degenerative disorders.
Once our heroine thought those two questions, I was hooked and it is always good to be hooked early in any author's work.
In the case of 'Rose', none of the above applied. Magic was the culprit and worse for her, she doesn't even know it yet! And it only gets worse for Rose.
Who are you? And who is Rose?
What follows these questions is an escape worthy of Disney's Cinderella where Cinderella is fleeing the prince after dancing with him at the ball. Video added for emphasis. I even dare you to read Rose's escape in Episode Two, titled Racing Towards Freedom in the moment Church bells begin to ring. It is the perfect background for this scene.
Perhaps I should have asked Callie if this was what she was thinking when she penned this scene?
From Rose stumbling onto her chosen would be rescuer and being pulled into the Mistbrooke Forest. I can promise that you'll be sucked into a world of insane twists that will leave you guessing.
Now, I know what you may be thinking. What about the Prince? What about the man that Rose was supposed to marry? Is a villain? Is he honest and true? Did he take Rose from a life she loved against her will?
While I won't answer those particular questions for you, I will tell you that there is a later Episode that comes from Alex's perspective. That's right! Callie steps away from Rose and into the mind of the character that would have married her.
Here is what I can tell you without giving the episode away.
While it is made clear in this episode that Alex has a temper, you will find yourself wondering if Rose dodged a bullet or not by having her memories ripped away.
Before this moment, we don't know who the Prince is outside of this nebulous identity that we are only able to relate to from Rose's perspective. AND that perspective was clouded by the terror and mistrust of waking in a moment where one had no memory at all.
Because of this, we have an insightful fear that isn't irrational because like Rose, we have no idea where, when or why we are where we are. We don't know if the memories we (as in Rose) have lost are the only thing missing missing.
Having an opportunity to see the world from Alexander's perspective answers some of these questions for us. As someone who adores this story, this was an experience I know that I needed to have as it brings balance to the story as we know it.
If you are behind in A Forest of Stolen Memories, this Episode is absolutely amazing to fall into. If you are a new reader, it is one of those must have pivotal moments that make you not only fall in love with the story again, but rabid for more! Like a rabid moose! Wait.. can moose be rabid?
Okay... how did I do? It's so hard to discuss a work and it's contents without giving any of the twists away.
There are so many twists I want to tell you about, but I don't want to make an enemy of such a talented writer!
So, here is what I can tell you after my third read through of A Forest of Stolen Memories to:
Don't try to read just one episode. You'll get sucked in and before you know it, the sun is coming up!
Worth every token you spend on it and then some
Has amazing readability and re-readability
Is a wonderful tale of twists and romance that you can share with your older children who love romance as much as you do
You'll be refreshing your Kindle App or reloading the Vella's page to see if Callie snuck in an update that you haven't read about yet on social media, even though I haven't had this happen yet
If you love just kisses romance, A Forest of Stolen Memories is for you, even if you are only a young adult at heart... like me.
And one more note from the author, this one is from the Episode Four: 'He's No Gentleman' author note which gives us all just a little but more insight into the creation of this amazing tale.
This statement definitely tells us a lot about Rose and how her story came to be. It even explains some of our unexpected plot twists. And just as Callie says, keep reading! Because like me, I know once you get started, you'll want to find out!
Kitty: What was your favorite book growing up? Has that changed as an adult?
Callie: I read The Legend by Jude Deveraux at the beginning of my freshman year of high school. It was my first real romance book. My mom had left it on her bed, and me, being curious at this fancy cover with a wedding cake, opened it and started reading. Before that, I was reading an occasional Goosebumps by RL Stine, but this one changed my world. It checked a ton of boxes: a sweeping romance, time travel, memorable characters, and my first crush on a fictional character. I think we all hold our first swoon-worthy book close to our hearts.
Now? I think I read the same, but perhaps more fantasy themed and YA romances.
Kitty: Who is your favorite author?
Callie: Oh, this is a difficult one. Why do I have to pick just one?! I really loved the old-style Jude Deveraux books. It’s probably sentimental reasons more than anything.
Kitty: Have these books or this author influenced your writing style?
Callie: When I finish a story, I like to pick apart my afterglow. Why do I have this sappy grin on my face? Why does my mind keep going back to certain parts of the story to relive it over and over? It’s that feeling I want to capture in my own writing. I want that witty banter between the characters. Or a hero that takes not just the heroine’s breath away, but the reader's too. As a reader, I like that happy feeling after a book and I hope that when people are done with mine, they have the same thing.
Kitty: Do you have a favorite serial that you would like to recommend to other authors?
Callie: Right now, I love Stephanie Daniel’s The Uncertainty of Fire. It’s a YA Christian Romance set in the time of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. She does an excellent job capturing the devastation and loss of this young girl, and the journey she must make in order to put her life back together again. Plus a love triangle!
Kitty: What drew you to writing Young Adult/New Adult romance?
Callie: I chose Young Adult with my niece in mind. She is only in middle school right now, but high school is right around the corner. I wanted something she could read that wasn't as extreme as what’s on the market right now. Something light and fun with a sizzling romance that she could enjoy.
Kitty: If you could tell ‘Rose' one thing about her upcoming adventure, what would it be?
Callie: To trust your gut instincts, most often than not, they won’t fail you.
Kitty: Do you have any other serials in the works?
Callie: I have debated on whether to do a sequel to A Forest of Stolen Memories. It would be a dual timeline with another character you have heard of, but haven’t met yet.
Kitty: How do you feel about Kindle Vella? If there was one thing you could change about it, what would it be?
Callie: So far, it’s been far better than I thought it would be. I’m doing this the true serial way--writing my episodes as I go. It’s definitely been an experience working with a tight deadline. And as a new author, I came in with zero fans. Somehow, people have found my story. I’m so thankful for my readers who’ve shown me love and support.
I wish it was more user-friendly. The Kindle Vella link is hidden away on the Amazon homepage. It’s not available on Android devices or it’s namesake: Kindle devices. We are already struggling to get new readers onto a new platform they aren’t use to, so making this extra work to access is a little frustrating. I’ve seen some authors that have made a how-to video just to get the readers going. Kitty: Why did you decide to become a writer? Callie: What do you do when your head is full of stories and characters? Or when you read or watch a tv show and think, oh, that was terrible. I would have done this instead. It’s like breathing. You can’t stop this creative drive that lives inside of you. Personally, if I don’t write, I can’t sleep. My stories play like movie loops in my head until I write them down. I write because it’s the gift God has given me.
Kitty: If you could go back in time and tell yourself anything about becoming a writer and your writing career, what would it be? Callie: It doesn’t have to be perfect, so don’t give up. Just keep writing. I started to write many times in my life: middle school, high school, college, early twenties, early thirties, etc. And with each attempt, I’d quit before finishing. The weight of self-doubt or never thinking I was good enough was crippling. I set this high goal for myself and expected perfection. Imposter syndrome is a real thing and I hope if someone reading this is going through the same thing, read my message to myself one more time. Don’t give up. Tell your story.
Kitty: Finally, if you could tell your readers anything about yourself, what would it be? Callie: This might be the second hardest question (after my favorite author). I have a secret love of board games. A lot of people think of Monopoly or Cards against Humanity when you hear the phrase "game night”. But I’m here to tell you, just like with books, there is a whole world of games out there. Ones that make you feel like you’re in the game like a book can do. Suddenly, you are a doctor trying to save the world, or Indiana Jones escaping a crumbling temple, or an alchemist creating a bubbly potion, or a scientist developing a new colony on mars, etc times infinity. I could keep going, but I won’t bore you. (If you can guess the game based off my description, a golden star for you!)
What an amazing read A Forest of Stolen Memories is. I can't wait to read more and hope that you'll enjoy it as much as I have.
Up next in our coffee cup, Relic of Time and Prophecies by M. M. Ward. This amazing Vella comes at us with themes that include time travel, magic, fantasy, immortal beings... and DINOSAURS!!! I told you, I'm a sucker for dinosaurs as I've mentioned over and over again since reviewing Dinos of the Old West.
This week: Two bonus episodes of The Explorers, one that released on Monday and one that is brand new for you today.
Tomorrow: Another First Look at a brand new Vella. I haven't picked one yet and will do so first thing in the morning so that everything will be fresh on my mind.
Don't forget to check out other First Looks and be sure not to miss Kindle & Coffee Conversations - Author Resources: Time Management.
Until next time, may your adventures be exciting. Maybe this week they can be as exciting as X's!