When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they could never predict. From the mundane to the profound…. There are many kinds of magic, after all. -Erin Morgenstern (The Night Circus)
Hi! Thanks for joining me for my literary rants. Let me tell you a bit about myself.
First of all, I’m a nerd. A huge nerd. Like, a Dungeons and Dragons, Magic the Gathering, quote-Firefly-and-proudly-call-myself-a-Browncoat nerd. I’m also a voracious reader, a homeschool mom, and an introvert. I’m more than a little awkward, and I express myself better in writing.
I’ll read pretty much anything, with the exception of romance novels. Sadly, I’m bereft of any sense of romanticism. I tend to gravitate towards fantasy, YA, and sci-fi, but I’ve been branching out more into nonfiction lately.
Because I homeschool two book loving little goobers, I’m also pretty up-to-date on children’s books, so I’ll discuss those here from time to time as well. Honestly, I’d read picture books anyway, but having kids is a good way to browse the children’s section at the bookstore without getting too many weird looks.
I absolutely LOVE hearing bookish opinions and reading suggestions from other people. If you read a review and think it’s total bunk, tell me so. Tell me why. If you agree, props are good too. More than anything, I want to connect with other readers. Join me in discussion and let’s have some literary fun!
I don’t think that you can be a reader and not love words. There is something special in the infinite combinations of letters and the amazing things that come from them. Sometimes a book quote comes along that just floors me, whether it hits in a way that feels incredibly personal or just makes me laugh until I get sick. I love looking back at the quotes that stuck with me throughout the year. Below are a few favorites from 2022. You can find my Quoatables posts from previous years here: 2020, 2021.
“She looked up at him, red eyes wet with tears “Our secrets and lies are the monsters we feed. You should know that.”– The Monsters We Feed by Thomas Howard Riley Review to come
“That’s the mark of real friendship, I think: to be the person you are when you’re alone, but in front of someone else. Just as free. Just as messy. The kind of friend where you don’t have to stress over every little thing you say, because one little fuck-up in front of them won’t make them think any worse of you. A single impressive act won’t alter things either, because they’ve seen enough of your failings not to put you on a pedestal. They know you. The “you” beneath the bullshit.” – One Foot in the Fade by Luke Arnold Review
“This wasn’t about using nostalgia as a shield, it was about celebrating the things that defined them, the characters that spoke to their heart’s truth, the things that made them different and unique and powerful in their own special way. It united them.”– The Shadow Glass by Josh Winning Review
“It wasn’t the same song, it never is, each time you play it the song changes, but the feeling remains the same.”– We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix Review
“I was just thinking that you don’t have to forget who you were … because that’s what brought you here.”- Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree Review
“Perhaps a story is simply a reminder to the reader that time is a funny thing: it stretches and snaps. It bends and wobbles. And it slows down when you move too fast.”– The Ogress and the Orphans by Kelly Barnhill Review
“But then, how were others to know that beneath her cloak of adept composure there existed a panicked thing, alternately crying and screaming and longing for a nap all while craving something glazed in sugar?”– Miss Percy’s Guide to the Care & Feeding of British Dragons by Quenby Olson Review to come
“There is nothing so broken it can’t be repaired.”– Empire of Exiles by Erin M. Evans Review
“Do you know what you’d do to stay alive? Most of us never have to make that call. Not so clearly that we have to weigh up our life against another’s. Instead, we make that choice in a hundred little decisions every day, when we put our own life, and our own comforts, over everyone else. We all live our lives off the blood of other people; they’re usually just far enough away from us that we can convince ourselves that it isn’t the case.” – One Foot in the Fade by Luke Arnold Review
“I read once that books bend both space and time, and the more books you have in one place, the more space and time will bend and twist and fold over itself. I’m not sure if that’s true but it feels true. Of course, I read that in a book, and maybe the book was just bragging.”– The Ogress and the Orphans by Kelly Barnhill Review
Here’s to many more amazing quotes! Happy reading!
Following Elburn Barr, a Loremaster (think reporter) as he interviews adventurers far and wide, The Hero Interviews by Andi Ewington doesn’t just poke a little fun at common fantasy tropes. Instead, it chases them down, beats them up, then goes through their pockets for loose change. It is a brilliantly funny book and one that had me laughing from start to finish. Grab a tankard for the road and follow the Loremaster as he tries to figure out what makes heroes tick!
I’ve read The Hero Interviews multiple times now and I find something new that makes me laugh every single time. The main character, Elburn, who sees a paper and quill as his weapons rather than a sword, is a delightful character. His parents and brother all did the hero thing, and he just can’t figure out the draw. He’s full of piss and vinegar, which comes out in…
Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Fairy Godmurderer is available now.
Before opening this book, I was already pretty much convinced that I would enjoy it. I happily cheered for the snarktastic, Doc Martens-wearing Gwen, an extremely atypical fairy godmother. Her job as fairy godmother went horribly wrong when her first princess was brutally killed. Gwen can’t let it go (understandably) and ends up trying to catch a serial murderer, rushing in where angels (and your normal fairy godmother) fear to tread.
She doesn’t go alone. Gwen’s best friend, Chessa, is a perky pixie who also happens to be a crime blogger. Gwen’s determination is matched with Chessa’s expertise- what can go wrong? Well, the answer is quite a bit, taking readers on a heck of a ride.
The book splits its time between the present-day and flashbacks. When not done well, flashbacks can be really disruptive to a plot. When done well, like in this case, they add nuance to characters and situations. I liked that this gave me a chance to get to meet Princess Frankie, making her murder more than just the catalyst. It meant more.
The dynamic between Chessa and Gwen was truly a joy to read. Gwen was cynical whereas Chessa was upbeat. They knew how to needle at each other, but like best friends do, they also knew what the other needed and when. They were fun and relatable. Gwen was a fairy godmother with an attitude (I love that I get to write that!), but she was also a bundle of insecurities, grief, and trauma. Her character development was fascinating.
I feel like I shouldn’t be calling a noir involving a serial killer “fun”, but it really was. It was a blast. I loved the world with its unexpected mesh of creatures. I mean, a griffin sergeant! How cool is that? The everydayness of mentioning protests and pandemics (thanks, 2020 on out), combined with the magical, made for an extremely entertaining juxtaposition. I appreciated that the fantastical mixed with the humans, instead of the two layered worlds being completely separate, if that makes sense.
The whodunnit aspect was well done, with clues scattered throughout the book. I didn’t pick up on nearly enough to figure it out but had a “how did I miss that” moment when things were revealed. Knowing that all the pieces to solve the puzzle were there made the ending even more rewarding.
I’m pretty sure that it’s obvious by now that I had no niggles at all. The book is fantastic, and Gwen is an awesome addition to the fantasy noir genre. Fairy Godmurder made its mark in the best of ways.
I’m so excited to be joining the Write Reads on Tour to spotlight not one, but THREE books! Let’s take a look at The Hanged God trilogy.
Book 1: Northern Wrath
Following in the steps of Neil Gaiman & Joanne Harris, the author expertly weaves Norse myths and compelling characters into this fierce, magical epic fantasy.
A dead man, walking between the worlds, foresees the end of the gods.
A survivor searching for a weapon releases a demon from fiery Muspelheim.
A village is slaughtered by Christians, and revenge must be taken.
The bonds between the gods and Midgard are weakening. It is up to Hilda, Ragnar, their tribesmen Einer and Finn, the chief’s wife Siv and Tyra, her adopted daughter, to fight to save the old ways from dying out, and to save their gods in the process.
Worlds collide – and are shattered – in the epic conclusion of the Northern Wrath saga.
The Concluding Part of the Epic Viking Fantasy Trilogy
ALL SHALL PERISH
The great wolf howls for Ragnarok to begin. The half-giant Einer leads an army of the dead to clash with the golden shields of Asgard. The nornir tie and retie their threads, as Loki’s and Odin’s schemes unfold… and unravel. For not even cunning gods and giants see every part of the web.
As the survivors of the burned village of Ash-hill converge on the final battle on Ida’s Plain, only two are truly free to choose their paths and prevent the annihilation of the nine worlds: a storyteller who holds all destinies in his hands, and a shieldmaiden with no destiny at all.
Thilde Kold Holdt is a Viking, traveller and a polygot fluent in Danish, French, English and Korean. As a writer, she is an avid researcher. This is how she first came to row for hours upon hours on a Viking warship. She loved the experience so much that she has sailed with the Viking ship the Sea Stallion ever since. Born in Denmark, Thilde has lived in many places and countries, taking a bit of each culture with her, and is currently based in Southern France where she writes full-time.
Coming up with this list was incredibly difficult! I love giving books as gifts, but I have a tendency to pick ones that I think will appeal specifically to the person I am shopping for. However, there are a few that I think will be great gifts for the majority of my friends. I’ve included some that I would love to receive myself (assuming I don’t already own them). You can find my previous lists here: 2021, 2020.
Empire of Exiles by Erin M. Evans
Good gravy, I loved this book! The writing is phenomenal and the magic system is breathtaking. This would make an excellent book for a reader who is experienced in fantasy and loves being sucked into a book. Just don’t expect to hear from them until they’ve finished: it’s too engrossing. Review
The Shadow Glass by Josh Winning
The Shadow Glass would be the perfect gift for people who grew up loving The Labyrinth or The Dark Crystal. It’s an urban fantasy with fantastic nostalgia lacing throughout. The character development is amazing and anyone lucky enough to receive this book will be cheering by the end. Review
Dragonlance Destinies: Dragons of Deceit by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
If you know me at all you’re not even remotely surprised that I’d add Dragons of Deceit to the list. Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman came back to the world they’ve created with a bang. While this can be a jumping-off point for anyone new to the world, I strongly recommend giving the Dragonlance Chronicles as a gift as well if the recipient hasn’t yet read them. This book will be even better if they know the original story. I guess that means I’m sneaking in multiple suggestions under the guise of one. I’m a slyboots. Review.
Small Places by Laura Owen
For this suggestion, I’m veering from fantasy into spooky territory. Small Angels never crosses into straight-out horror, but instead uses descriptive language to paint an eerie picture. This was very enjoyable and will suck in any reader. Review.
The Hero Interviews by Andi Ewington
This hilarious book would make an AWESOME gift! I’ve guffawed my way through it multiple times now and each time something different makes me snort-laugh. The Hero Interviews releases on kindle the first week of December, so give it to friends who like ebooks (I think that’s most people). Go ahead and snag it for yourself too. You’ll love it. Review.
The Withered King by Ricardo Victoria
This is the first book in the Tempest Blades series. I really love the tones of hope and second chances that run through both The Withered King and its sequel, The Cursed Titans. I don’t know why, but I get a bit of a My Hero Academia vibe. I think it’s that both that show and these books have great character development, complex storylines, and a lot of action. That’s a lot to finagle at once and author Ricardo Victoria manages it wonderfully. Review.
Slaying the Dragon: A Secret History of Dungeons and Dragons by Ben Riggs
Okay, this is a gift for a very select type of reader. Not everyone is going to give a fig about the history of D&D or what happened to TSR. This is for those of us who look forward to diving into imaginary worlds and using our imaginations. However, I argue that not only is it absolutely fascinating, Slaying the Dragon is ridiculously well-researched and written in a way that is engaging and flows well. Grab this one for your TTRPG friends. Trust me, they’ll love it. Review.
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
My oldest son has just dipped his toes into Agatha Christie’s writing. And Then There Were None is my favorite of hers. It would make a great gift for mystery lovers old and new.
Dragons of a Different Tail Edited by Marx Pyle
I loved this highly entertaining collection of dragon stories! It’s so creative. Each story is so different from the one before it, from tone to genre. Any fantasy reader would be delighted to add these dragons to their collection. Review.
Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldtree
This book is absolutely delightful! It’s a hug in print. It would be such a great gift for anyone who could use a happy ending right about now, and I kind of think that’s everyone. I really wish this coffee shop existed in the real world but, since it doesn’t, the book would make an excellent gift along with a cute mug.
What books are you planning on gifting this year? And how many are you going to gift yourself?
I feel like this year has simultaneously dragged on for ages and jumped ahead in weird chunks. Either way, we’re approaching that time of year when many of us buy books for all our friends, both being generous and pushy (“You need to read this now-look I’ve gotten it for you so there’s no excuse!”). I’ve got a little guy who’s in the delightful age of enjoying both picture books and chapter books for young readers, so this year’s gift suggestions will be a little varied.
Here are a few that would make great gifts for younger readers!
The Pigeon Will Ride the Roller Coaster by Mo Willems
The Pigeon books are extremely popular in our household. They have colorful, fun illustrations and are full of reasons to shout (always a plus with my child). The simple language is perfect for early readers and the stories are always fun. My son doesn’t have this latest addition yet, but I think there’s a good chance that will change by Christmas.
Marty Pants by Mark Parisi
This is my first grader’s new favorite series. It follows an incorrigible kid with a good imagination and a loose grip on reality. The situations he gets himself into are lighthearted and silly. My son is now writing Marty Pants fanfiction. I think that’s a good recommendation for a book right there.
The Snatchabook by Helen Docherty and Thomas Docherty
This book is absolutely adorable! All the animals love their bedtime stories, but someone is stealing the books! It up to Eliza, a rabbit with a penchant for reading, to solve the mystery. The illustrations are wonderful and the mystery is cute and happily resolved. This is one of my favorite picture books that my little one and I read together this year.
Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet
This is about Tony Sarg, the inventor of the giant balloons for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The history is fascinating and it’s engagingly told. The pictures are fantastic. This would be a great holiday gift seeing as, for many, the parade officially kicks off the Christmas excitement.
Geronimo Stilton graphic novels by Tom Angleberger
This series follows a hapless mouse detective as he …detects. My first grader loves these books.
The Lives of the Explorers by Kathleen Krull and Kathryn Hewitt
I don’t think my youngest will ever outgrow his love of history. The books will just update as time goes on. This series has books covering scientists, artists, and writers…they’re all great.
Dog Man by Dav Pilkey
I’m pretty sure this series needs no introduction. My youngest doesn’t like Captain Underpants but there hasn’t been a dog book that he doesn’t like. With the number of books already released, this will keep your reader busy for some time.
Today I Feel Silly: And Other Moods That Make My Day by Jamie Lee Curtis, Illustrated by Laura Cornell
This is a great book! It’s brightly colored, fun, and perfect for little ones with big feelings. It validates all moods which I think is very important. There’s a mood wheel at the back where kids can find their own moods.
Will your little ones find books under the tree this Christmas? What’s on their reading wishlist?
I am so excited to join Runalong the Shelves for Small Press, Big Stories, a monthlong celebration of indie press and the great books they publish!
Today, I’m reposting a review I’ve written about Tales from Alternate Earths 3, an engrossing short story collection.
This collection takes “What if?” in new and exciting directions. What if the historical events we all (should) know unfolded differently? What ripples would they cause? How would our world be different? The creativity behind these musings and the skill of the writers blew me away.
Short story collections can go either way for me. Sometimes I just can’t connect with the shorter lengths. However, Tales from Alternate Earths 3 used the shorter formats to excellent advantage, shining a laser focus on unique ideas. While the entire book is strong, there are a few stories that stood out to me.
The collection started out strong with “Gunpowder Treason” by Alan Smale. It takes a look at how things would have been had Guy Fawkes and company succeeded in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. It’s told through an interesting perspective- that of a streetwalker. It made the story feel much more personal than if it had been told through multiple points of view.
“Ops and Ostentation” by Rob Edwards followed the indomitable Mrs. Constance Briggs as she encounters a certain man whose military mind has been spoken of often (I’m doing my very best to be vague, and hopefully I’ve succeeded). Her role in the events that unfolded was fascinating. That ending too! It was infinitely satisfying.
I was unsure about “Dust of the Earth” at first, but I ended up really enjoying how author Brent A. Harris wrote it. It’s told in a series of flashbacks which isn’t something I encounter too often. While it was disconcerting at first, I loved that the story ultimately focused on mental health, which is a subject that I am very passionate about.
“To Catch a Ripper” by Minoti Vaishnav gives a new angle on Jack the Ripper, and it’s the most interesting take on the Ripper that I’ve ever read. There were many things about this story that made me oh-so-happy, from the determined main character, to the intrigue and action. If ever this becomes a full-length novel, I’ll be in line to buy it.
I was delighted to see that Ricardo Victoria, an author whose writings I always enjoy, has a story in Alternate Earths 3. His story, “Steel Serpents”, was thought-provoking and incredibly smart. I’ll be thinking about this one for quite a while.
The collection ends just as well as it started, with a story that follows a couple of former KGB operatives. Author D.J. Butler had me hooked right away.
These are just a few of the stories that stood out to me; the entirety of Alternate Earths 3 was clever and entertaining. This collection is perfect for readers who want to be challenged, who like to muse on all the paths history could have taken. I highly recommend picking this one up.
I actually bought Blood Feud: Detroit Red Wings v. Colorado Avalanche for my husband but, being a huge Colorado Avalanche fan myself, I decided to read it when he finished. Full disclosure: the majority of this took place before my time. I was young enough to prefer Power Rangers and Buffy the Vampire Slayer at the time and it was hard to watch the games on TV since I didn’t live in either Detroit or Colorado. That being said, most hockey fans at least know the bare bones of the legendary (and ugly) rivalry between two top teams.
For those who don’t know, the whole thing can (depending on who you ask) be traced back to a bad hockey hit made by Avalanche player Claude Lemieux on Kris Draper of the Red Wings. It sent Draper to the hospital where he was found to have several serious injuries including a broken jaw and shattered cheekbone. The following season saw Bloody Wednesday, a game that saw more brutality and fighting than actual hockey playing. From there, a feud the likes of which hasn’t really been seen since developed between the two teams. It was intense. It was violent. And it was an example of what happens when players cross a line.
The videos and images are bad. Like, really bad. I don’t mind a good ol’ hockey fight, but these two teams took it to an ugly level. I don’t think I would have ended up being a fan of either team if that feud was my introduction to hockey, to be honest. That being said, the story of what happened, how everyone felt about it, and how the media on both sides fanned the flames, was an interesting one.
Adrian Dater, the author, was a reporter covering the Avalance and has a fascinating perspective. The information he gave added to what I already knew, and I think many hockey fans would enjoy the book, but with some conditions attached. First of all, there are no introductions to the people involved. If you don’t already know who most of the players are, you’re going to be pretty lost. As it was, there were a LOT of statistics thrown around and I got confused a few times. I think part of that was the way the book itself is presented.
It isn’t necessarily written in chronological order, instead seeming to be a bunch of collected memories woven into book form. I think a little more editing might have made an already riveting story more cohesive. There was one section, in particular, where I was completely thrown: it mentioned Lemieux being married to his first wife, then he was abruptly mentioned as being with his second wife, then it went right back to talking about his first marriage again. All of this happened on one page. It was a bizarre thing to read.
I really liked the quotes. There was a cool combination of bits from articles written at the time and players’ reactions both in the middle of the rivalry and years later. The amount of information and research gathered was impressive. Coaches were spoken to and Dater mentioned the media’s part in stoking the flames of the feud. Actually, I thought a lot of what the media did was disgusting at best and horrible at worst (I don’t mean include Dater in this opinion. He didn’t spread the vitriol other journalists did). He even wrote about some of the run-ins he had with different people involved at the time and how even he wasn’t above the emotion and anger that made those games so intense.
What’s incredibly interesting is how, years later, many of the coaches and players are at least friendly with each other. Well, minus a few people who were most affected. That is completely understandable. Blood Feud was an intensive look at a battle that spilled off the ice, perfect for people who want to know both the impetus and the mindset of everyone involved. That being said, if you don’t know much about what happened but are intrigued, this might not be for you. A better introduction, if you can handle the nasty visuals, is the excellent documentary Unrivaled: Red Wings v Avalanche.
I am so excited to join Runalong the Shelves, along with many other fantastic blogs, for Small Press, Big Stories. Runalong the Shelves has created this monthlong celebration of indie press and the plethora of great books they produce.
Today, I’m happy to talk about Campaigns and Companions by Andie Ewington and Rhianna Pratchett, illustrated by Calum Alexander Watt. Campaigns and Companions ponders the question: what would happen if your pets played Dungeons and Dragons. The results are hilarious.
I’ve shared my original rave below, but if you want to save yourself some time: just go buy the book. It’s fantastic.
If you have played Dungeons and Dragons for long, you’ll notice that there are those things that just sort of go along with it. First, there were comics. The humor found in Dork Tower or Order of the Stick totally encapsulated the funny side of D&D. Later on, the guys at Penny Arcade starting bringing D&D into their own work. Well, make room next to your D&D sourcebooks: all ttrpg fans need to own Campaigns andCompanions. It’s genius.
What would happen if cats, dogs, hamsters, and other critter companions picked up some dice and decided to go on a gaming adventure? Simply put, hilarity. This book is clever and snarky. It had me laughing out loud and showing my favorite pages to everyone in my house. Authors Andi Ewington and Rhianna Pratchett perfectly captured the attitudes our animal friends show on a daily basis. From the cat who has a theologically-charged experience with a protection from evil circle, to the dog who gets…um, held up in a narrow passageway, each page offered a new laugh and more than a few knowing nods.
Of course, I have to talk about the art. The hilarious illustrations from Calum Alexander Watt elevated Campaigns and Companions to a whole new level. There’s something altogether too fitting about seeing a berserker rabbit. This book was everything I was hoping for and then some. I’m planning on buying this for some friends who I know will appreciate it as much as I did. Basically, I got a Nat 20 with Campaigns andCompanions (those who know me know that I never roll 20s, so this is a momentous event).
This is perfect for pet owners as well, although the full brilliance behind the humor will be more fully appreciated by D&D players. In fact, I guarantee that by this time next year, Campaigns and Companions will be mentioned in regular conversation around many a gaming table. I can’t recommend it enough.
Thank you to Angry Robot and Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. SilverQueendom is available now.
Give me rogues aplenty and let the heist begin! Silver Queendom was chock full of shenanigans, plan Bs (through Z), and memorable ne’er do wells. Desperation can cause some opportunistic individuals to go looking for trouble and the characters in this book didn’t seem all that great at avoiding it in the first place. What they lacked in self-preservational skills they more than made up for with sheer moxie.
The book drops you right in the middle of a heist (that is not at all going as planned) and introduces the characters as they play their particular roles. There’s Darin, owner of the Red Rooster Inn and the de-facto leader of the crew. There’s also Kat, who has a big heart for those in need and a laughably small amount of brewing skill, Tom (the meat shield; every good crew needs one), and sophisticated yet broke Evie. In fact, it’s the group’s constant issue with debt that leads them on a dangerous gambit: the theft of Imperial Dream Wine.
Silver Queendom was fun. It was fast-paced and easy to follow. It wasn’t a complicated epic, rather opting for mischief and action aplenty. I was never floored by a shocking twist, but I was entertained throughout the book. I feel like there were some things that could have been more fully explored, but the plot made sense and the pacing was good.
One of the things I wish could have been explained a little better was the use of magic. Darin was a metallurgist. The idea was cool but never seemed to be fully developed. I would have liked a bit more in that respect. I feel like I missed something or just didn’t grasp it fully.
The world was well-developed but vague in some ways. I believe this was done on purpose. The characters themselves were the focus of the book, with the rest existing as a backdrop to these fascinating people. The story was told from multiple points of view, giving the reader a chance to get to know each character better. This came in handy with the heists themselves because I felt like I was getting to see how each person functioned both in terms of character dynamic and heistening (if that’s not a word, it is now).
The fact that this was a series of misadventures as opposed to just one heist made me oh-so-happy. These poor rogues never could get ahead. Boo for them but yay for the readers. I enjoyed Silver Queendom immensely.