In the Shadow of Spindrift House by Mira Grant- ARC Review

Thank you to Netgalley and Subterranean Press for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available to buy June 30th.

Edgar Cantero’s Meddling Kids meets The Haunting of Hill House (the Netflix show) in this eerie tale about a grown-up Scobby-esque group wanting to solve one more mystery. Told from the perspective of Harlowe, the orphaned “brains” of the group, this book was more ghost story than mystery.

Harlowe, who isn’t ready to stop being a teen-sleuth and start paying for things like insurance, convinces the rest of the mystery solvers (Andy, Addison, and Kevin) to join her in a “haunted” house, to discover who actually owns it: two of three families are offering a pretty penny to anyone who can find proof of ownership (each hoping it’s theirs). The catch? The whole “haunted” thing. It seems no one has been able to last in the house long enough to discover who owns it.

Mira Grant did a wonderful job of setting an eerie tone, making the house feel like a separate, malevolent character in its own right. Her choice of wording, especially in the first couple of chapters, was perfect. She chose atmospheric horror over gobs of gore, which was fantastic for this sort of book.

I actually felt that the house was a more developed character than any of the actual people in this book- including Harlowe, unfortunately. I liked Kevin, but I felt that none of the characters were fully realized or grew at all.

The reason for this could be that this book wasn’t all that long. It could have benefited from an extra hundred pages or so. That’s not the say I didn’t enjoy this book- I did. I liked it a lot. The setup was fantastic, and the ending was creative. But..it wasn’t amazing.

It’s worth reading, but if you want a good representation of the “grown up Scooby gang”, grab Meddling Kids as well.

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For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig

Jetta’s family is famed as the most talented troupe of shadow players in the land. With Jetta behind the scrim, their puppets seem to move without string or stick-a trade secret, they say. In truth, Jetta can see the sould of the recently departed and bind them to the puppets with her blood.

But ever since the colonizing army conquered their country, the old ways are forbidden, so Jetta must never show, never tell. Her skill and fame are her family’s way to earn a spot aboard the royal ship to Aquitan, where shadow plays are the latest rage, and where rumor has it the Mad Emperor has a spring that cures his ills-and could cure Jetta’s too. Because seeing spirits is not the only thing that plagues her.

But as rebellion seethes and as Jetta meets a young smuggler, she will face truths and decisions that she never imagined- and safety will never seem so far away. (taken from Amazon)

First of all, wow. I loved it. I had high hopes going in because I enjoyed The Girl From Everywhere, also by Heidi Heilig. Add the fact that the main character is part of a family of traveling performers, which I always like, and I was half in love with this book before I even started it.

This book did not disappoint. There is so much going on, not just with Jetta, but with the country. A war is being fought, but things aren’t as black and white as they appear, and Jetta unintentionally gets drawn into the thick of it. While that plotline was excellent, there’s also Jetta’s trying to understand and come to grips with both her forbidden talent, and her illness. More on that in a minute.

The entire cast of characters was great. I liked not just Jetta and Leo, but Cheeky, an exotic dancer. She added a dose of optimism when parts of the story badly needed it. In fact, all the characters were woven together so skillfully that the book would have been lessened had even one of them not been in it.

Another really cool thing about this book was its usage of songs, scenes written like plays, letters, and telegrams to show things that are happening simultaneously with several different characters without it being too overwhelming or slowing the plot at all. Heilig is a master storyteller in that way.

Now, back to Jetta and her illness. I found myself empathizing quite a bit with the symptoms, even leading me to wonder if it was based in some part on bipolar, which I have. According to the author’s note at the end, it was! I was absolutely blown away! I published a post yesterday lamenting the lack of characters with mental illness in fantasy and thrillers that aren’t horrible people. I loved, loved, loved that it was the main character who deals with it, and that it was dealt with so gracefully. All I can say to Heidi Heilig is, Thank you.

I loved this book and highly recommend it.

Genre disappointment

I was going to review a mystery/thriller that I finished not too long ago, but I’ve decided not to review this particular book. It wasn’t poorly written, full of typos, or incoherent. So, why am I not going to review this book, you ask? Three words: mental illness stigma.

Now that you’re probably rolling your eyes and preparing to unfollow my blog, let me give you a bit of my background. Around twenty odd years ago, I was diagnosed as having bipolar type 1, as well as an anxiety disorder. Actually, let me back up: I was diagnosed with grand mal epilepsy, an unspecified sleep disorder, major depressive disorder, and the lovely generalized anxiety disorder. Eventually, bipolar 1 replaced the mdd diagnosis. Then came the pills; lots and lots of them. I was a minor when all this started, so I had very little say in my own treatment (remember, this was twenty years ago). Chances are, if you can name it, I’ve been on it at some point. Mental illness treatment is seldom linear, and in my case, I was also being put on different medications for epilepsy (oddly enough, I’m currently on a mood stabilizer that also acts as an anti-convulsant. Go figure). There were upsets, bad side effects (one antidepressant actually made me suicidal), and several hospitalizations.

I don’t write any of this in an attempt to receive anything remotely resembling pity: I’m here, I’m currently doing well, and my mental illness is simply one part of the person I am- and not even the most defining part. However, it does play into why I’m so bummed about the book I finished recently.

This book, which I will not name, had an interesting premise, unique characters, and a fantastic setting. It moved at a good pace, and had several twists and turns that kept me reading. But, once again, as has happened quite often recently, the murderer’s sole reason for committing the crime was simply “mental illness.” And with that, this book lost me. I feel that, not only is it lazy writing for a character’s complete motivation to be thrown on ye random mental illness (in the case of this book, it was undefined, but I’ve seen a lot of schizophrenia and borderline personality disorders filling in that blank lately), it can be harmful to those who are just beginning the very long road to getting help with mental illness.

I read because I love to visit different places, see through different eyes, and experience new things. If I’d read multiple books describing violent, irredeemable monsters as having a mental illness back when I was still struggling horribly to just continue, it would have broken me.

Now, of course authors are free to write anything they want. And of course, people reading my ramblings might think I’m overreacting (maybe I am), but I want to try something: I want any of you who are still with me at this point to comment with a mystery/thriller or fantasy that portrays mental illness in a healthy light. I’d love to read those books. And, maybe- just maybe- I’m not the only one.

So, weigh in please: let’s get a good list going. And I promise, the next blog post will be back to my semi-regularly scheduled broadcast.

The Fairy Tale Book Tag

This one is fun! It’s also a lot more thought provoking than I thought it would be. I originally saw this here on this great blog: bookishwisps.

Here are the rules:

  1. Answer as many questions as you can!
  2. Tag five fairy tale lovers.
  3. Creator of the Tag Adele of Dellybird

Have fun!

The Questions

1. Beauty and the Beast

“He’s no monster…” A character that makes mistakes but redeems themselves in the end.

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Wow, there are some seriously terrible mistakes made! Hal, in particular, comes to mind when I think of a character who redeems himself.

2 – Sleeping Beauty

“One upon a dream…” A book that put you to sleep

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I tried so hard to get into this book, but it just…never…started. I ended up not finishing it. Look at the fantastic cover, though!

3 – The Little Mermaid

“Nothing gave her greater pleasure than to hear about the world of human beings up above” – A book that excites you or is full of adventure.

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Anyone who loves fantasy needs to read this book! The setup is fantastic, the story is interesting, and the battle scenes are epic! I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book. I could go on at length about this book, but I already did in a previous post, so I’ll refrain.

4 – Cinderella

“Perhaps the greatest risk any of us will ever take is to be seen as we really are” – A book where a character is mistreated.

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I was first drawn to this book by the somewhat eerie photographs; writing a book around them was a very unique idea. I’d really love to ask Ransom Riggs how he was able to come up with the story he did, based on just a few odd photos. Kudos to him for creativity! I must say, though, that poor Miss Peregrine, among others, wasn’t treated all that well by the villains in this series.

5 – Peter Pan

“Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away, and away means forgetting” – A book that you will never forget!

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I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 1 about twenty years ago. Reading Kay Redfield Jamison’s account of her life with bipolar was an incredible experience for me, partially because she’s incredibly successful in her field, despite having mental health setbacks along the way. There were a few times where I had to just stop reading and sit for a minute because I had that “Finally, someone understands what it’s like!” moment. I’ll never forget that.

6 – The Ugly Duckling

“It is only with the heart that one can see clearly, for the most essential things are invisible to the eye” – A book or character that you love but others don’t see the same way.

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For some reason, this one seemed to slip under the radar. It’s very well written, with a bit of a spooky feel to it, which I really liked. I would absolutely love to read a book of short stories based around the Hinterland (read the book; you’ll know what that means)!

7 – The Princess and the Pea

“She had felt one pea all the way through twenty mattresses and twenty more feather beds” – A book or character that made you uncomfortable.

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Neither Victor nor Eli are what you’d call nice people. Their moral compass seems to be skewed. Unfortunately, even though the writing was superb, I was unable to finish this book because there was a lot of self-mutilation which really bothered me. If that sort of thing is something you can handle, please read this book and tell me how it ends. I’m dying to know!

8 – Little Red Riding Hood

“Oh Granny, what big teeth you have!” – A book or character that wasn’t what they seemed.

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I refuse to give anything away, but I will say this: I guarantee you’ll be surprised. Read this book!

9 – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

“I’ll take a chance for her” – A book with great friends.

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If you have a friend as loyal and considerate as Charlie, you’re a very fortunate person.

10 – Alice in Wonderland

“Who in the world am I? – A book about identity or a character who questions themselves.

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I’m about three quarters of the way through this book and the main character, Jetta, definitely has some questions about who (what?) she is. Some of the tidbits that I’ve read about her throughout the book are very intriguing. So far, this has been an excellent read.

Have you read any of these? What did you think? Feel free to write your own post – I’d love to see more answers!

No Country for Old Gnomes by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne- ARC Review

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War is coming, and it’s gonna be Pell.

On one side stand the gnomes: smol, cheerful, possessing tidy cardigans and no taste for cruelty.

On the other side sit the halflings, proudly astride their war alpacas, carrying bags of grenades and hungry for a fight. And pretty much anything else.

It takes only one halfling bomb and Offi Numminen’s world is turned upside down—or downside up, really, since he lives in a hole in the ground. His goth cardigans and aggressive melancholy set him apart from the other gnomes, as does his decision to fight back against their halfling oppressors. Suddenly Offi is the leader of a band of lovable misfits and outcasts—from a gryphon who would literally kill for omelets to a young dwarf herbalist who is better with bees than with his cudgel to an assertive and cheerful teen witch with a beard as long as her book of curses—all on a journey to the Toot Towers to confront the dastardly villain intent on tearing Pell asunder. These adventurers never fit in anywhere else, but as they become friends, fight mermaids, and get really angry at this one raccoon, they learn that there’s nothing more heroic than being yourself. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for providing me with this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available for purchase on April 16th of this year

I was so excited to receive this book, because I loved the first book in the Pell series (Kill the Farm Boy). I was hopeful that this would continue in the fun vein of the first, and I was not disappointed.

This fantastic book not only turns classic fantasy tropes upside down, it shakes their pockets for loose change. I loved it! It was chock full of puns, ridiculous situations, and hilarious characters.

Offi, the emo gnome might very well be my favorite. There’s nothing like a cute little gnome wearing gothic blacks, and rolling his eyes, to make a person chuckle. Reading his interactions with Onni was a lesson in how funny tweaking words here and there can be.

The writing was fantastic, the story was quick-moving and funny as Pell, and I honestly can’t think of a single thing I’d change. I enjoyed this book even more than the first, and that’s saying something. I’m still grinning, thinking about prophetic cabbages…

If you enjoy quirky books, word plays, and a healthy dose of humor, this book is for you.

Dragon’s Truth by Leanne M. Pankuch- ARC Review

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Fourteen-year-old Rhyannon dreams of dragons, wizards, and magic. She feels constrained by her ordinary life and overshadowed by her beautiful sister Elspeth. When Elspeth is kidnapped, Rhyan embarks on a journey to save her sister and face the evil threatening her world. She finds friendship, love, and the magic and power she’s been craving–but she also discovers a growing darkness within herself. Will she save Elspeth? Can she control her abilities? Will she choose the path of light? Or will she slip into the dragon’s darkness? (taken from Amazon)

Many thanks to Netgalley for providing me with this ARC, in exchange for my honest opinions.

I loved this book! It was obviously influenced by works such as The Hobbit, as well as Celtic myths, yet was completely its own. This took me on an adventure and was written so skillfully that I was immediately invested in the characters.

And what a fantastic cast of characters! I especially liked Kevin. His backstory was fascinating, and he proved to be both a deep character, and an important addition to the story line itself.

I’m a big fan of books where the journey is just as important as the destination, sometimes even more so. This was one of those wonderful stories.  Rhyan had to not only complete her quest, but discover who she is. The stakes steadily raised as the story progressed, and that kept me hooked.

The fact that it was a quest meant that the author’s world had to be fully thought
out and developed, or else the book wouldn’t be believable. She succeeded magnificently in that. Not only was the geography all figured out, but the many different peoples as well.

If you enjoy a good fantasy, with skilled story telling and well written characters, this book is for you.

 

Shadow’s Voice by Natalie Johanson- ARC review

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Rose Ula is on the run from her past and anyone who might know her. She wants nothing more than to disappear and live a simple life but when a dying King’s messenger begs her to complete his mission she cannot turn away. Now she must make the dangerous journey to the castle and face capture to get the information to the King. Someone seeks to overthrow the King. Rose must rely on her determination, tenacity, and the very shadow magic she’d hoped to leave in her past; magic most have never seen before.

It soon becomes clear her King’s life is not the only thing in danger as Rose finds herself torn between her desire to run and her desire to help her King; the unassuming man who is inspiring something in Rose that is more dangerous than anything else she can think of…trust. Something about this King has Rose lowering the guards she’s had all her life, telling him secrets no one knows.

Her voyage unfolds into a battle of life and death. Rose must struggle with her own demons and fears to realize who she is and more importantly, to accept who she is. Ancient secrets long forgotten and old magics never known to exist come into play and soon Rose finds herself reliving an ancient conflict long thought gone. The safety of her King and kingdom are at risk; war looms around the corner if she fails. Can Rose face the past that haunts her to gain a future that includes friends, family, and possibly love? Or, will Rose become consumed by the shadows that would claim her? (taken from Amazon)

First, I would like to thank Netgalley for providing me with this book, in exchange for an honest review. I have a few thoughts that I’m going to try to get out in a way that makes sense.

I’ll be honest: I didn’t love this book. I had some problems with the word usage. Several words were used often enough that it was noticeable and distracting. Words such as “drawl,” that are usually used sparingly, if at all, were used quite a lot more than I would have liked. That is just my personal preference. However, I felt that if those words were interspersed with others a little better, they would have been less of a distraction from the book.

It also seemed as if the author has something against using pronouns. Proper nouns were used a lot, even when a pronoun or differently worded sentence would have served better. I don’t know if that’s something the editor would suggest changing, or if it’s just that the author’s writing style didn’t jive with me.

I did like that the story started up right away. This was a fast-paced book, full of action. Rose was tough and self-sufficient, and her brand of magic was incredibly unique. I think what I liked best about the book though, was Micah’s relationship with Rose. He was the most believable of the characters and a good addition to the story.

While far from being a horrible book, it’s probably not one that I’ll go out my way to look for a sequel to.

Have you read it? What are your thoughts?

The Liebster Award

2019 liebster award

Thank you so very much for nominating me for this award,  waytoofantasy. This is my first award nomination, and it made my day!

The Liebster Award Rules

  1. Acknowledge the blog that gave it to you and display the award
  2. Answer 11 questions that the blogger gives you
  3. Give 11 random facts about yourself
  4. Nominate 11 blogs and notify them of their nomination
  5. Give these blogs 11 questions to answer

    If there was a book that ticked all the boxes of stuff you liked, what would it be about or have in it?

    This is a hard one, because I like so many different kinds of books. As long as the story is cohesive and the characters are believable and interesting, chances are I’ll find something to like about the book. That being said, I love dragons, a bit of a dreamlike quality, magic, an original plot line, and I love it when the characters are so well written that it feels like the ending of the book isn’t really the ending, like it’s just continuing off the page.

    What’s the last TV show/movie you watched and loved?

    Killing Eve. It’s about a female MI6 agent who has the theory that an extraordinarily dangerous killer is actually female, instead of the male everyone is looking for. What ensues is a fascinating game of cat and mouse-but who’s the cat, and who’s the mouse? Since watching it, I’ve learned that it’s based on a book series called Codename Villanelle. I’ve added it to my ridiculously long tbr list.

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    Have you ever written a book or thought about writing a book?

    Many times, especially children’s books. But honestly, I wouldn’t be a very good author. I’d get ahead of myself and my story would end up not making much sense.

    What’s your favorite comfort food?

    I love cheese and crackers, and tortilla chips and cheese. Hmm…there’s a bit of theme here. Usually after a long day, though, I want an iced coffee based drink that tastes absolutely nothing like actual coffee.

    Describe an ideal day.

    Whatever I’d be doing would be with my husband and kids for at least half the day, then just with my hubby for half. I’d love to go somewhere new and find cool little bookshops (I think the idea of driving across country and looking for little bookstores that have a book cat would be wonderful), and hidden gem restaurants, but I also would love to go hiking again. I moved from a state that had beautiful mountains to a state the has the ocean. While the ocean is pretty, I’m not a beach girl and I really miss hiking.

    What is your most prized book in your collection and why?

    Ooh, this is a hard one! I have a copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends that is the first book I remember picking out to buy myself. I bought it at an elementary school book sale, and it has the principal’s initials on the inside to prove that it was paid for. It’s a little trip down memory lane. Or, it could be Goblins by Brian Froud. Years ago, my husband and I went to see a move: he said he needed to run to the restroom, and ran across the entire mall to the bookstore, bought the book for me, hid it under his coat for the entire length of the movie, and surprised me with it afterward. It made the book twice as special.

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    Vanilla or chocolate?

    Neither, really. I prefer mocha or cappuccino flavors.

    Do you have pets, if so tell us about them.

    I don’t, although I’d love to have a couple of cats.

    What is your favorite genre of books to read and why?

    I’m partial to fantasy. I love the feeling of leaving the ordinary behind. There’s something special about going on a literary journey like that.

    Why did you decide to start blogging?

    I love talking about books, to the point where I’ll almost waylay someone to ask what they’re reading or to recommend a favorite. Not to be too self-satisfied; I’m pretty decent at recommending books that I think someone will like based on their personality, and I’m not wrong often. My husband encouraged me to start a book blog so that I could make new bookish friends, get suggestions, and basically just discuss all the amazing things about books.

    What is your dream job?

    I’m kind of already doing it: I’m a stay at home mom to two wonderful kids. If I ever go back to a job that actually pays me (I keep saying I need a raise), I would like to be a book editor.

    11 Random Facts About Me:

    1.  I have trichophobia, which is phobia of hair, especially loose hair. I hate touching it. Being a hairstylist is my nightmare job. Oddly enough, I love having my hair done. But, guess what: Tesla had it too. I figure this just means I‘m a genius (laughs at self).

    2.  I homeschool my oldest. He had a disastrous foray into pre-k, and homeschooling him works better for his learning needs. I can go at his pace, which is fantastic: he was reading at an eighth grade level in first grade.

    3. Despite being a rather quiet introvert, I love hard rock and metal music. There’s nothing quite like singing along to my angry songs after a hard day.

    4. I’m a major Browncoat. Firefly is amazing, and so is Serenity. I have even read the comics, despite the fact that my brain struggles to process the small print with the big colorful artwork. Which leads me to my next “about me”, and the reason I struggle to process comics:

    5. I have grand mal epilepsy. I was diagnosed with it years ago. Thankfully, at this point it’s mostly under control. I just have to be careful to avoid strobe lights, smoke machines, and to try to get a decent amount of sleep (again, I’m laughing: I have a toddler who still wakes up multiple times a night).

    6. I despise green beans. I even have a patented “green bean face.” I’m an adult, so darn it, I don’t have to eat them! Bwahaha!

    7. I enjoy playing Dungeons and Dragons. It’s fun, and I love using my imagination. Just because I’m an adult doesn’t mean I can’t still be creative.

    8. I love Frostbeard Studios’ literary candles. At the moment, my favorites are Winter Keep, Sherlock’s Study, and Stay Home and Read.

    9. I have three siblings. My youngest also blogs: she’s a mommy blogger.

    10. I don’t actively watch sports on TV (we don’t get channels, but do quite well with streaming movies and TV shows), but I get way too excited when I do catch a hockey game. It’s a wee bit intimidating if you don’t know me.

    11. I collect dragons. Figurines, artwork, plushies, you name it. I love them and have for years.

    Nominations:

    @RoseMarie https://booksandstuff.blog
    https://lightofthebookworm.com/
    https://princessandpages.wordpress.com/
    https://theelvenwarrior.com/
    https://spasciuti.com/
    https://crooksbooks.blog/
    https://manisbookcornerblog.wordpress.com/
    https://bionicbookwormblog.wordpress.com/
    https://likeherdingcatsblog.wordpress.com/
    https://adancewithbooks.wordpress.com/
    https://thesecretlibrarysite.wordpress.com/

    My Questions:

    1.What’s the best book you’ve read so far this year and why?

    2. Would you rather meet your favorite book character, or your favorite author?

    3. What movie/show do you think is better than the book?

    4. What do you like to do, other than read (and talk about books, and hoard books, and sniff books…)?

    5. Do you prefer sweet or salty?

    6. How do you describe why you like reading to non-readers?

    7. Do you have a yet-to-be-realized dream?

    8. What’s a book genre that you never read?

    9. What’s something about you that might surprise people?

    10. Who is the least likable character you’ve ever read?

    11. What’s your favorite genre and why?

My Five Favorite Magic-users in Literature

I saw a similar post on waytoofantasty’s blog and loved it, so of course I had to add my own. Fantasy wouldn’t be the fantastic genre it is without the addition of an epic spellcaster. Here are some of my favorites – and be sure to check out the original awesome post here: waytoofantasy

Raistlin: The Dragonlance Chronicles, Legends, the Raistlin Chronicles, and many others

For me, Raistlin is the epitome of what a mage should be. He’s cunning, enigmatic, incredibly strong, and fascinating. Raistlin is also flawed, narcissistic, and grows more as a character than many other characters I’ve read throughout not just the fantasy genre, but any fiction.

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Marco: The Night Circus

I love Marco’s particular brand of magic! It’s incredibly unique; in fact, I’ve never read a book where magic is written quite like his. He’s also a great character. I like his quiet strength, as well as his creativity.

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Magnus Bane in The Mortal Instruments:

Oh goodness, I love Magnus! He’s so vibrant, fun, andhe’s removed enough from the goings-on (in the first few books that is), to have a very interesting view of things. He’s my favorite character throughout Cassandra Clare’s many series.

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Morwen in The Enchanted Forest Chronicles:

She’s hilarious! She has so many cats, and not a single one is black; she wears robes because they’re comfortable and “serviceable”, doesn’t have any warts, but does have a sign above her door that says, “None of this nonsense, please”. Her matter-of-fact personality is so much fun to read.

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Merlin (of course):

Merlin is a given for me. His personality varies based on who’s writing him, but he’s always wise and incredibly strong. Plus – Arthurian legends rock!

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What do you think? Who are your favorites in literature?

Breaking the Lore By Andy Redsmith- ARC review

Nick Paris is a tough-as-nails, bitter detective, who probably drinks more than he should. Basically, he’s your typical main character in a crime thriller. However, the mystery he’s been thrown into is far from typical: he’s investigating the murder of a tiny fairy. The problem is, he doesn’t believe in magic and is in way over his head.

This book was funny and incredibly clever. I had no idea how the book was going to end, but I didn’t spend much time trying to solve things because I was so busy thoroughly enjoying myself. Nick Paris had a fantastic internal dialogue throughout. Add a loyal but dumb-as-they-come partner, a purple-haired witch, and a gigantic orphaned troll- this book was zany fun!

Things tended to be rather convoluted and confusing at times, but that only added to the fun. I felt bad for poor Nick for a good chunk of the book because he was so far out of his depth and it was an unusual situation for him. While he was a great character, my favorite was either Cassandra, the “magical expert” who took everything in stride and added a wonderful brand of sarcasm to the mix, or the chain-smoking crow. He just cracked me up.

This book was a joy to read, and I look forward to the next book in the series. I hope there will be many more.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Image result for breaking the lore book                                            This will be available to buy on April 15th