Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers for allowing me to join in on this book tour and for providing me with The Ogress and the Orphans in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available for purchase now.
Sometimes you read a book and think, “Oh, what an entertaining and fun book!”
Sometimes you think, “This is an important book, a book that says something.”
And sometimes you read a book that is both. The Ogress and the Orphans is a well-written adventure, with children that speak to crows and a generous ogress. It is also a dangerous book, with wicked dragons and fear stoked into hatred. It is the sort of book that draws you in and makes you think. It teaches a lesson without beating the reader over the head with it (as a homeschool parent, I love children’s books like that).
The Ogress and the Orphans follows a house full of orphans in a town that used to be kind and helpful but became selfish and afraid after everything burned down (starting with the library. Hmmm…could it be that the freedom to read is important?), leaving suspicious neighbors who only trust their mayor, who has slain a dragon after all. He never seems to do anything to help, but in the town’s eyes he can do no wrong.
Meanwhile, in the Orphan House, there may not be enough to eat, and the caretakers are world-weary, but there is kindness aplenty. I loved all of the characters in the house! There are so many of them, but my favorites were Bartleby and Cass. Bartleby could hear the stories that the walls and trees tell, stories of both the past and the future. And sweet, kind Cass sets things in motion when an attempt to care for others goes in unexpected directions.
I loved the narrator, who gave small asides about the things it could say if anyone asked (but they didn’t). The entire book was wonderful and uplifting, something that is always appreciated. The Ogress and the Orphans is full of both adventure and heart. Pick it up. You’ll love it.
Today I am privileged to join Storytellers on Tour in talking about The Living Waters by Dan Fitzgerald. This book is available for purchase now.
So, what is The Living Waters about?
About The Living Waters:
When two painted-faced nobles take a guided raft trip on a muddy river, they expect to rough it for a few weeks before returning to their life of sheltered ease. But when mysterious swirls start appearing in the water, even their seasoned guides get rattled.
The mystery of the swirls lures them on to seek the mythical wetlands known as the Living Waters. They discover a world beyond their imagining, but stranger still are the worlds they find inside their own minds as they are drawn deep into the troubles of this hidden place.
The Living Waters is a sword-free fantasy novel featuring an ethereal love story, meditation magic, and an ancient book with cryptic marginalia.
Author Dan Fitzgerald was kind enough to share some of the inspiration behind The Living Waters.
Water photography : inspiration for The Living Waters
“Photography was my pandemic hobby, and I discovered a hidden world just a few minutes walk from my doorstep on Capitol Hill, DC. Most of the photos you see here were taken by me within one mile of my house, so within two miles of the US Capitol building. The photos have been retouched using various filters and effects on Instagram, to better capture what my eye saw, which the camera sometimes fails to show.
Swirls in muddy water
The Living Waters features two painted faced nobles being led on a trip down a muddy river called the Agra. Mysterious swirls start appearing in the water, which sparks their guide to lead them to find the source. This picture hints at the muddy mystery of the river portion of their trip. It’s actually a photo of a mudpuddle in a construction site; little bubbles kept popping up from the bottom, causing these weird little swirls in the muddy water.
This little wetland is between Congressional Cemetery and the Anacostia River, known to be one of the most polluted waterways in the country. You have to wiggle your way through some dense underbrush to find it, and depending on when you go, it can be muddy or magical. I was amazed to find these gorgeous flowers blooming there this spring! I can easily imagine this being the entrance to the mythical wetlands in the book.
This photo was taken in almost the exact same spot as the flower photo. I looked down into the shallow, mucky water at my feet and saw all these tiny bubbles on underwater moss, and took a bunch of pictures until I came up with one that just worked. There’s a moment in the book, where one of the characters is shown the world inside her mind, and this photo really captures that feeling of hidden microcosms.
Water on lotus leaf
This is from a trip to the Kenilworth Aquatic Garden in DC, an amazing collection of water lilies and lotus plants set in a dozen or so small ponds just off the Anacostia River. I loved the way the light reflected off the water in this leaf, giving such an ethereal feel. There are watery beings called sitri in The Living Waters, and this photo reminds me of them.
This photo was taken in a drainage ditch leading into a mucky wetland in Fort Dupont Park, a few miles from my house. The clay in the soil adds a nice orangey color to the photographs, and I used some enhancers to capture the color of leaves and sky reflected in the water to give a kind of rainbow effect. I love finding beauty in these little out of the way places. The ethereal wonder of this photograph captures the essence of the book for me.
Thank you so much for giving me the chance to show some photographs and talk about them! I hope they bring a few readers some joy.”
Dan Fitzgerald is the fantasy author of the Maer Cycle trilogy (character-driven low-magic fantasy) and the upcoming Weirdwater Confluence duology (sword-free fantasy with unusual love stories). The Living Waters comes out October 15, 2021 and The Isle of a Thousand Worlds arrives January 15, 2022, both from Shadow Spark Publishing.
He lives in Washington, DC with his wife, twin boys, and two cats. When not writing he might be found doing yoga, gardening, cooking, or listening to French music.
Thank you to Storytellers on Tour and the author for allowing me to join the book tour for Little White Hands. This book is available for purchase now.
For those of us who are fantasy readers, there’s that moment of wonder and anticipation when we get swept up into a new world for the first time. It’s one of the many great things about fantasy: that excitement that comes with the beginning of a new adventure. That excitement is just waiting for the reader who opens Little White Hands.
Garlan “Little White Hands” is a wonderful main character. He is a dreamer whose aspirations of knighthood seem destined to fail. He is, after all, only a kitchen hand. One of the things I loved about him is that, despite having the adventure he dreams of delivered to him, Garlan understands that there are dangers that come with it. It isn’t a game. He takes his role seriously and does his best no matter what. His interactions with others show that at his heart he is a good person, the sort of person who should be the hero in a book like this.
Garlan happens to receive the last words from a dying man- a call that sets off a quest to save everyone from an endless winter. As he journeys, he battles monstrous foes and learns about the world, and about himself. He is joined by others who help along the way. I loved Trickster, in particular. And, of course, there’s Oldface. What an incredibly creative idea for a companion!
It only took half a chapter before I was completely invested. Seeing as this book would be enjoyed by older elementary and middle grade children, a half chapter of setup is perfect. Any more than that, and there’s the risk of loss of interest from some of the more impatient readers. There was never a danger of that, as the story moved at a steady pace, with character development and further backstory coming along throughout the rest of the story.
The world was beautifully realized and utterly unique. Everything was described perfectly, with words that seemed deliberately placed to invite the imagination. Little White Hands is a great read for any older elementary/middle grader, and would be a great place to start when introducing younger readers to the wonders of the fantasy genre.
I hope this is the first of many books by this author.
Mark Cushen has loved the fantasy genre since he accidentally stumbled onto Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion masterpiece, “Jason and the Argonauts”, while channel-hopping one Christmas-time Saturday afternoon, somewhere between the ages of 5 and 8.
Ever since then he has been obsessed with stories of sword-wielding heroes battling monsters in fantastical lands, and is now attempting to create his own. Little White Hands is the first of (hopefully) many.
Thank you to Storytellers on Tour for allowing me to be a part of this book tour. You can find more great reviews, interviews, and giveaways at Storytellers on Tour. Gravitas is available now.
Brutal and unforgiving, this novella had all the markings of an engrossing read. Fixer Scraw is, in essence, given unlimited power and resources ( think: dictatorship) in a last ditch effort by Lestadt’s Court of Magisters to save Lestadt. Of course, this begs the question: are they saving it or simply delivering it straight into the hands of another sort of villain?
Having not yet read anything by this author, I was unsure of what to expect. My first takeaway was, “Wow, this ‘good guy’ is not a good guy.” Fixer Scraw is, however, a fascinating character. I love complex characters and Scraw definitely fits this category. He also is a good indicator of the feel of the book. It is a harsh read where morality is considered more of a sliding scale than a fixed idea.
The world was incredibly well developed, especially if you consider how very short the book is. Author Christopher Russell packs a huge amount of detail into this shorter format, painting a nuanced and complete picture of a darker world and the desperation it contains.
The magic system is where this book really shines. I refuse to explain it (I would bungle things horribly), but I loved the way the acquisition of this magic was used to show the depths to which some people were willing to sink. This book is harsh, so be aware of that. It you don’t mind taking a walk on the grittier side of fantasy, I recommend adding Gravitas to your “to be read” list.
Christopher Russell (native of Williamsburg, VA) is a 29-year-old mechanical and aerospace engineer (graduate of the University of Virginia) who has loved reading since the day he picked up a book and writing since he could scrawl his first letters. After voraciously consuming titles from every genre—ranging from Star Wars to Lord of the Rings—he decided to combine the expertise from his professional education, passions, and Christian faith into fantasy epics bridging the gap between magic and science. He currently resides in Charlottesville, Virginia, with his loyal dog, Vallen, named after the protagonist of his first work. For behind-the-scenes information on all of Christopher Russell’s works, visit christopherrussellauthor.com.
Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion, and for allowing me to join the blog tour. African Icons is available now.
I am a homeschool mom so I am constantly looking for good educational books to add to our curriculum. This has made the cut! African Icons is a useful, well-written look at a part of history that is often unseen.
Sometimes it seems that history only mentions figures like Martin Luther King Jr., George Washington Carver, and Harriett Tubman. That leaves out so many interesting people, and so many fascinating moments in history. This book endeavors to fill in some of the gaps left in knowledge.
My youngest child is a history lover. Because of that, I was able to test whether this will hold a child’s interest. He was definitely interested, although this book is probably best for older elementary kids. The facts were delivered in a way that didn’t shy away from some of the darker parts of history, while also not glorifying violence. It is quite obvious that author Tracey Baptiste put both time and effort into crafting a book that was both informative and accessible. The pages were full of backgrounds, details, and even pronunciation guides, which I very much appreciated.
I really loved the collection of people chosen for this book. There were both males and females and it was fantastic seeing women get their due in a history book. It really doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should. The illustrations were brightly colored and attention-catching, although I do wish there were more of them.
This will probably be a bit too wordy for most younger children (although my pint-sized history buff loved it), but I highly recommend African Icons for older elementary and middle grade children. It would also make an excellent resource for educators or parents who want to provide a more complete look at African history.
I’m excited to be joining a book tour for The Love-Haight Case Files book 2, an urban fantasy like no other.
Smart and fast-moving, The Love-Haight Case Files (#2) was loads of fun! Book two follows Evelyn Love and co. as they try to solve a case with pieces missing (quite literally, as zombies are involved). The tongue-in-cheek humor combined with just the right amount of action to create a book that drew me in and kept me highly entertained.
The reader is treated to a world where humans and OTs (other-than humans) exists more or less symbiotically. While OTs have their own sets of obstacles to overcome, they aren’t actively hunted- at least not normally. So when a group of zombies is kidnapped (body-snatched?) while leading what can best be described as an interactive tourist walk, lawyer Thomas Brock and Evelyn Love take on the case.
One thing that really stood out to me while reading The Love-Haight Case Files is the creativity the authors put into both their world and the characters in it. The way the OTs interact both with humans and society is incredibly clever. Take the missing zombies, for example. Before being snatched up, they ran what could best be described as a tour walk- meets haunted house, where they “chased” human tourists who pay for the experience of running from the shuffling, brain-eating undead. That idea just made me smile.
And the characters! They are so much fun. From the corporeally challenged Thomas Brock, to Pete the World of Warcraft-loving gargoyle, each character was a blast to read about. I loved how Pete contributed to breaking the case open. It was both hilarious and nasty. In fact, he might have been my favorite character, although I was also a fan of the werewolf P.I.
The mystery itself was well-thought out, and it was fun watching the characters solve the who and the why. While I enjoyed the villains, the core group of characters were so much fun that the whodunnit part of things was just icing on the cake.
In one way, The Love-Haight Case Files is very much a mystery thriller. In another, it’s a delightful urban fantasy. Either way you look at it, it’s a highly entertaining book.
About the book:
ASIN: B098K6SG49 Publisher: Craig Martelle, Inc (September 20, 2021) Publication date: September 20, 2021 Language: English Genre: Paranormal Mystery Thriller Check it Out on Amazon:http://mybook.to/LoveHaightBk2
About the authors:
USA Today best-seller, Jean Rabe’s impressive writing career spans decades, starting as a newspaper reporter and bureau chief. From there she went on to become the director of RPGA, a co-editor with Martin H. Greenberg for DAW books, and, most notably, Rabe is an award-winning author of more than forty science fiction/fantasy and murder mystery thrillers. She writes mysteries and fantasies, because life is too short to be limited to one genre–and she does it with dogs tangled at her feet, because life is too short not to be covered in fur. Find out more about her at http://www.jeanrabe.com, on social media, or sign-up for her newsletter here: https://jeanrabe.com/sign-up-for-my-newsletter/
Donald J. Bingle
Donald J. Bingle is the author of eight books and more than sixty shorter works in the horror, thriller, science fiction, mystery, fantasy, steampunk, romance, comedy, and memoir genres, including the Dick Thornby Thriller series (Net Impact; Wet Work; Flash Drive), Frame Shop, a murder mystery set in a suburban writers’ group, Forced Conversion, a near future scifi thriller, GREENSWORD, a darkly comedic eco-thriller and (with Jean Rabe) The Love-Haight Case Files, Books 1 & 2, a paranormal urban fantasy series about two lawyers who represent the legal rights of supernatural creatures in a magic-filled San Francisco. He also edited Familiar Spirits, an anthology of ghost stories. More on Don and his writing can be found at www.donaldjbingle.com and on social media. Sign-up for his newsletter here: https://www.donaldjbingle.com/newsletter-sign-up
Thank you to the author and Storytellers on Tour for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Paladin Unbound is available now.
When people ask for books I’d recommend to a fantasy newbie, ones that represent all the wonderful things the genre has to offer, I have a few go-tos. The Hobbit, obviously, and the Dragonlance Chronicles (really, is anyone surprised?), and, more recently, The Ventifact Colossus. Now I’m adding Paladin Unbound to that list, because this book would make anyone fall in love with fantasy.
The story starts with the main character, Umhra, just wanting to find work for himself and his band of mercenaries. When they are hired to find out what has happened to several missing people, they are thrust into a situation that is much darker and more dangerous than Umhra expected.
I was sucked in from page one, which begins at an ending. The ending of a war between gods, no less. The war ends with an asterisk, the sort that always leads to trouble down the road. What I loved about the opening is that it started huge, before moving on to the main storyline which is much more personal. It showcased a fascinating history, one that we continue to get snippets of throughout the book. I love when the history of a world or its belief systems is shared naturally like that, avoiding the dreaded info dump. I have to admit, though, I would actually read an entire book just dedicated to the history and mythology of the world of Evelium, I loved it so much. It was creative and well thought out.
As much as I enjoyed the world building, though, where Paladin Unbound shines is in its characters. There’s an excellent cast who build off each other in the best of ways. The interactions felt natural and allowed each character to grow and develop brilliantly. This was, in some ways, the typical adventuring group sometimes found in ttrpg’s – and that’s a great thing! It works very well, after all. There was Naivara the druid, Laudin the ranger, a mage named Nicholas (I have no idea why, but his name made me smile), Shadow the rogue, Balris the healer, Talus the fighter, and Gromley the warrior priest. While I loved all of them, I must say that I had a soft spot for Shadow.
Then there’s our main character, Umhra. Oh, how I loved Umhra! Being half-orc, he was distrusted, looked down on, or treated poorly quite a lot. He could have been bitter or angry and I wouldn’t have blamed him. But instead, he was an optimist, always looking for the best in every situation. He was, at his core, a good, honorable character. He was not your boring “lawful good”, however. He was incredibly nuanced and I loved reading about him. I haven’t been a huge fan of paladins in the past, but Umhra has me planning to make a paladin for my next D&D campaign.
This book would be perfect for fantasy newbies, ttrpg players, or readers who have traveled the length and breadth of many fantasy worlds and are looking for new adventures to go on. It left me excited and wanting more. Paladin Unbound is fantasy at its finest.
Jeffrey Speight’s love of fantasy goes back to an early childhood viewing of the cartoon version of The Hobbit, when he first met an unsuspecting halfling that would change Middle Earth forever. Finding his own adventuring party in middle school, Jeff became an avid Dungeons & Dragons player and found a passion for worldbuilding and character creation. While he went on to a successful career as an investor, stories grew in his mind until he could no longer keep them inside. So began his passion for writing. Today, he lives in Connecticut with his wife, three boys (his current adventuring party), three dogs, and a bearded dragon. He has a firmly held belief that elves are cool, but half-orcs are cooler. While he once preferred rangers, he nearly always plays a paladin at the gaming table.
Thank you to the author and Storytellers on Tour for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Dragon Mage is available now.
Most readers have a “to be read” list: you know, that big, long list of books you plan to read that you hope to maybe get to before you kick it. Well, move Dragon Mage to the very, very top. Read it tomorrow. Actually, ignore all your important responsibilities and read it right now. I’ll wait. I flat-out guarantee that you’ll love it.
Dragon Mage is packed with excitement and heart. It tells the story of a child named Aram, a quiet boy who struggles to fit in. He learns that he has abilities not seen in the world in over a hundred years-the sort that could save everyone. With that revelation comes danger. It’s up to Aram, and those who love him (even though he sometimes thinks he’s unlovable) to do the exceptional.
Holy crap, I loved Aram so much! Shy and unassuming, even the smallest moments with him had the power to melt my heart. He gave his all and then some. I loved his inner dialogue. Seeing the story unfold though his eyes was fascinating. Despite everything he goes through-and author M.L. Spencer puts him through the wringer- Aram never loses that sweet and vulnerable nature. In a genre that sometimes forgets to give characters anything less than fearless tough-stuff attitudes, Aram was a breath of fresh air.
Aram’s interactions with his friend Markus (the very first friend he’s ever had!) were pure gold. Markus had a strong moral compass and an unassuming nature. He saw the wonderful personality in Aram that others sometimes overlooked. Watching his story unfold was engrossing because I could never guess what would happen next with him. In fact, I was constantly surprised by Dragon Mage. Oh, and did I mention that, as the title suggests, there were dragons? I love dragons and having them in this already amazing book was just icing on the cake.
The story was beyond creative. It was ambitious and thought-provoking, and even the most villainous felt they were doing what was needed. Let me tell you, there was a character that I absolutely loathed. I mean that as a compliment. He was such a horrible excuse for a human being, but he was not just an archetype. Rather, he was incredibly well developed, just like every other character in the book.
Dragon Mage is everything I love about the fantasy genre. This book is unforgettable, and I’m going to be yelling at everyone to read this for a good long while. It isn’t too often that I call a book perfect, but that’s what Dragon Mage is. It is absolutely perfect.
ML Spencer lives in Southern California with her three children and two cats. She has been obsessed with fantasy ever since the days of childhood bedtime stories. She grew up reading and writing fantasy fiction, playing MMORPG games, and living, as mom put it, “in her own worlds.” ML now spends each day working to bring those worlds into reality.
Thank you to the Write Reads for allowing me to take part in the book tour for Kate in Waiting. This book is available now.
What the book is about:
From bestselling YA rom-com queen Becky Albertalli (author of Love, Simon) comes a new novel about daring to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight in love, life and theatre. [PRINCIPAL CAST LIST] Kate Garfield Anderson Walker
Best friends, and contrary to popular belief, not co-dependent. Examples:
Carpooling to and from theatre rehearsals? Environmentally sound and efficient. Consulting each other on every single life decision? Basic good judgment. Pining for the same guys from afar? Shared crushes are more fun anyway.
But when Kate and Andy’s latest long-distance crush shows up at their school, everything goes off-script.
Enter Stage Left: Matt Olsson
He is talented and sweet, and Kate likes him. She really likes him. The only problem? So does Anderson.
Turns out, communal crushes aren’t so fun when real feelings are involved. This one might even bring the curtains down on Kate and Anderson’s friendship…
About the author:
Becky Albertalli is the author of the acclaimed novels Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (film: Love, Simon), The Upside of Unrequited, and Leah on the Offbeat. She is also the co-author of What If It’s Us with Adam Silvera. A former clinical psychologist who specialized in working with children and teens, Becky lives with her family in Atlanta. You can visit her online at www.beckyalbertalli.com.
I received this book to read and review as part of the BBNYA 2020 competition and/or the BBNYA tours organised by the @The_WriteReads tours team. All opinions are my own.
BBNYA (or Book Bloggers Novel of the Year Award) is a yearly competition where book bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors. I was fortunate to be able to take part as a judge. It was a ton of fun and I was introduced to some fantastic books.
If you are a book blogger or reviewer, you can apply to be part of BBNYA 2021 by filling out this form (also remember to read the terms and conditions before signing up)!
BBNYA is brought to you in association with the Folio Society (featuring gorgeous, drool-worthy books) and the book blogger support group TheWriteReads.
Congratulations to The Lore of Prometheus for its win as the 2020 Book Blogger Novel of the Year!
So, what is The Lore of Prometheus about?
John Carver has three rules: Don’t drink in the daytime, don’t gamble when the luck has gone, and don’t talk to the dead people who come to visit.
It has been almost five years since the incident in Kabul. Since the magic stirred within him and the stories began. Fleeing the army, running from the whispers, the guilt, and the fear he was losing his mind, Carver fell into addiction, dragging himself through life one day at a time.
Desperation has pulled him back to Afghanistan, back to the heat, the dust, and the truth he worked so hard to avoid. But there are others, obsessed with power and forbidden magics, who will stop at nothing to learn the truth of his gifts. Abducted and chained, Carver must break more than his own rules if he is to harness this power and survive. (Amazon blurb)
About the author:
Graham Austin-King was born in the south of England and weaned on broken swords and half-forgotten spells.
A shortage of these forced him to consume fantasy novels at an ever-increasing rate, turning to computers and tabletop gaming between meals.
He experimented with writing at the beginning of an education that meandered through journalism, international relations, and law. To this day he is committed to never allowing those first efforts to reach public eyes.
After spending a decade in Canada learning what ‘cold’ really means, and being horrified by poutine, he settled once again in the UK with a seemingly endless horde of children.
To date he is the author of five novels, drawing on a foundation of literary influences ranging from David Eddings to Clive Barker.