Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett

Cambridge professor Emily Wilde is good at many things: She is the foremost expert on the study of faeries. She is a genius scholar and a meticulous researcher who is writing the world’s first encyclopaedia of faerie lore. But Emily Wilde is not good at people. She could never make small talk at a party—or even get invited to one. And she prefers the company of her books, her dog, Shadow, and the Fair Folk to other people.

So when she arrives in the hardscrabble village of Hrafnsvik, Emily has no intention of befriending the gruff townsfolk. Nor does she care to spend time with another new arrival: her dashing and insufferably handsome academic rival Wendell Bambleby, who manages to charm the townsfolk, muddle Emily’s research, and utterly confound and frustrate her.

But as Emily gets closer and closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones—the most elusive of all faeries—lurking in the shadowy forest outside the town, she also finds herself on the trail of another mystery: Who is Wendell Bambleby, and what does he really want? To find the answer, she’ll have to unlock the greatest mystery of all—her own heart. (Taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Del Rey for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries is available now.

This book is absolutely delightful! If the premise wasn’t enough to interest me (it was), the many glowing reviews I’ve come across would have done the trick. I find myself in the difficult position of trying to find new ways to describe the wonder of Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries. I don’t know how well I’ll do, but let me crack my knuckles and give it a go.

Emily is a headstrong, socially awkward introvert who is single-mindedly focused on her encyclopaedia. Hers is a little different from the usual book of knowledge: it focuses on faeries. She travels to the small close-knit town of Hrafnsvik in an effort to find information on the Hidden Ones, the last bit of her book. Unfortunately, her lack of people skills leaves her somewhat at odds with the villagers and she struggles to get the information she will need for her study. Equally unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, but she’d never admit it), Emily’s frustrating colleague Wendell Bambleby pops up to irritate- and possibly help- Emily. Soon, Emily’s scholarly distance from all things fae fails her, and she finds herself caught up in faerie mischief, Wendell joining in. Faerie mischief often turns dangerous and such is the case here. The ensuing adventure is enthralling.

Emily is my favorite kind of character! Her flaws are believable and understandable. Her stubbornness comes from a lifetime spent alone and the necessity of being self-sufficient. She isn’t used to friendship or even friendly acquaintances which shows in her awkward and uncomfortable interactions with the villagers. She truly wants to win their trust but it’s a struggle for her. As an introvert myself, I completely understood her tendency to come across as prickly or standoffish. This unintentional defense mechanism was also balanced by something that can happen with introverts: she is fiercely loyal and protective of those who let her in despite her social awkwardness.

Wendell is a different story. He’s lazy yet ridiculously charismatic. He can talk people into all kinds of nonsense, although Emily has become immune (close proximity can do that, I suppose). He is the only one she feels at ease with since they have been colleagues for so long and they happily bicker. This relationship is what elevated the book from fun and unique to fantastic. As much as I love a good adventure, it’s the character dynamics that sell me on a story. Their relationship is never stagnant; instead, it shifts as they spend more time together and understand each other a little better.

The story itself is fantastic, of course. I’m always intrigued by books that contain faeries (I blame the artist Brian Froud for my fascination) and they are written incredibly well here. I would happily stand in line for the encyclopaedia that Emily works on throughout the book. Changelings, brownies, a faery high court, even the trees drip with magic and that lovely combination of real-life legend and fantasy book creation.

The danger of being drawn into a glittering faery world isn’t confined to the characters in the book. I was also sucked in. Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries trapped me with otherworldly ease, leaving me desperate to see what happens next. This book is magic.

Two reviewers who made me rush to pick up the book:

The Irresponsible Reader

Tessa Talks Books

The Giant’s Echo (The Barclan series #2) by C.M. Kerley

Starvation has gripped the kingdom. The King is nowhere to be found. War has come to Barclan, and death is coming from the mountains. Using sword and sorcery, murder and the machine of war the King must find a way to fight back the evil that has infected his kingdom.
In Kraner, An’eris the druid queen must rule over a land already in ruins, forcing her people to survive the horrors of war before so much as a battle cry splits the quiet morning.
Brennan and Cotta are searching for answers, lying and cheating their way past everyone who would see them fail, looking for answers to questions hidden in dark corners.
And across the kingdom, to save the kingdom, Calem must face the truth of his magic and decide, for the fate of everyone, is he man or is he monster. (Taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. The Giant’s Echo is available now.

Reminiscent of “old school” fantasy, yet also treading into unfamiliar territory, The Giant’s Echo is a master class in storytelling. I was blown away by the creation myth in The Hummingbird’s Tear (book 1); the fantastic mythology and epic worldbuilding continue here as the stakes become higher.

In The Giant’s Echo, we have a small group trying to stem a darkness that is not only coming- it has already arrived on their doorstep. This book sees our characters fracture even more, with Brennan and Cotta looking for answers they don’t have. Their quest, for lack of a better word, shows their characters in a closer light and allows the reader to understand the desperation behind each decision. In fact, desperation and the things it can lead a person to do are overarching themes, lending an air of believability to everything. I love the way fantasy allows a skilled author to explore all facets of personality, and C.M. Kerly is an incredibly skilled author.

Calem, meanwhile, is on a different sort of quest: that of self-discovery. He needs to come to grips with who or what he is. Holy crow, his character development is amazing! I loved him so, so much. I’m zipping my lips so as not to give spoilers, but I could rave about him and his story arc pretty much all day.

New characters are added and others get extra attention, expanding an already well-developed world even more. While I wouldn’t call The Giant’s Echo grimdark, it does take on a darker tone as things become direr. Having an extra sense of urgency and danger made the characters and their inability to give up stand out all the more. I also enjoyed seeing morally complicated characters take center stage. I’m a big fan of murky morality in books, so I was thrilled.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fantasy books with excellent mythologies and engrossing characters. I was happily sucked into The Giant’s Echo.

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

Enter a school of magic unlike any you have ever encountered.

There are no teachers, no holidays, friendships are purely strategic, and the odds of survival are never equal. Once you’re inside, there are only two ways out: you graduate or you die.

El Higgins is uniquely prepared for the school’s many dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out untold millions – never mind easily destroy the countless monsters that prowl the school.

Except, she might accidentally kill all the other students, too. So El is trying her hardest not to use it . . . that is, unless she has no other choice. (Taken from Amazon)

A Deadly Education is one of those books that’s been on my radar for ages, but I just hadn’t gotten around to it. I kept hearing great things about it, but I was a little burned out on the whole magic school thing. Well, I finally picked it up and am now a bit confused (although I got three and a half hours of sleep last night, so that’s just my state of being at the moment).

El Higgins goes to a strange school. There are no adults anywhere. The students learn from the school itself (I promise, it makes sense) while trying to live long enough to graduate. The magic of the school seems to actively hate them, with all sorts of magical ickiness constantly trying to kill them. The graduation rate is low: most students don’t survive. It’s in this hostile environment that we meet El and Co.

El isn’t popular; far from it. She is seen as odd, antisocial, and powerless. Only two of those things are true. She’s incredibly powerful, but her power isn’t the kind that people trust or want to be around. Because of this, she lets people think she has nothing to offer. Her few friends think the same thing but like her anyway.

Meanwhile, there’s Orion. He’s your stereotypical hero, with a penchant for saving people. He’s well-liked (aka “worshipped”), capable, and gives off major boyscout vibes. He bursts into El’s room to save her and that’s when their odd relationship is born. They end up needing to work together to make an already deadly situation a little bit more manageable.

This is what happens when I muse on a book for a while before writing a review: the “but’s” come out. I enjoyed A Deadly Education immensely. El is a fun character who made me laugh. Her complete cluelessness when it came to Orion’s crush on her was hilarious (and relatable. I could never pick up on the signs either). I liked that her power is so destructive. She wants a cleaning spell but somehow learns to conjure walls of flame instead. This is a common occurrence for her and there’s really no harmless or positive way to spin it. Her power is flat-out violent. I loved it.

Orion is a bit of a meathead but in an endearing way. I kept expecting him to say, “Aw, shucks”. I was kind of disappointed that he never did. His power is flashy and he has no problem throwing it around, he’s just not great at the whole strategy thing. The two of them together were loads of fun and the situations the author threw her characters into were creative and interesting.

So, what are my “but’s”? Well, I couldn’t get past the fact that no parent in their right mind would just chuck their kid into a teacherless school, especially if that school is actively trying to maim, kill, or eat their offspring. It was just strange. Also, in order to explain how things work, the main character would often go off on narrative tangents. It kept me from being lost but it also interrupted the flow of the book a little.

That being said, it wasn’t enough of an issue to keep me from having a great time reading A Deadly Education, especially since the next two books probably won’t have pockets of info dumping. The way the magic works has now been explained enough that the reader can just infer from here on out.

I’m curious to see where things go in the series and am definitely planning to continue it if only to see El and Orion continue to be entertainingly awkward around each other. I love socially awkward characters, and Naomi Novik more than delivered on that front. This is a fun, quick read.

The Magician’s Daughter by H.G. Parry

In the early 1900s, a young woman is caught between two worlds in H. G. Parry’s spellbinding tale of miracles, magic, and the adventure of a lifetime.
Off the coast of Ireland sits a legendary island hidden by magic. A place of ruins and ancient trees, sea salt air, and fairy lore, Hy-Brasil is the only home Biddy has ever known. Washed up on its shore as a baby, Biddy lives a quiet life with her guardian, the mercurial magician Rowan. A life she finds increasingly stifling.
 
One night, Rowan fails to return from his mysterious travels. To find him, Biddy must venture into the outside world for the first time. But Rowan has powerful enemies—forces who have hoarded the world’s magic and have set their sights on the magician’s many secrets.
 
Biddy may be the key to stopping them. Yet the closer she gets to answers, the more she questions everything she’s ever believed about Rowan, her past, and the nature of magic itself. (Taken from Amazon)

 

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. The Magician’s Daughter will be available on February 28, 2023.

The Magician’s Daughter invited me into a world of magic and mysteries, holding me captive until I finished the last word. It was gorgeously written, each word meticulously placed to build an engrossing narrative. The story of Biddy’s desperate venture was a breathtaking one.

Biddy grew up on Hy-Brasil with her magic-wielding caretaker, Rowan, and his familiar. Hy-Brasil is a place of magic, only visible every ten years. Even then, it’s only visible to a select few. Biddy has love, attention, and freedom across the island, but has been asked never to leave. Rowan leaves some nights, flying as a raven on secret errands. He is always back before dawn- until one day, he isn’t. Suddenly, Biddy is included in the reasons for his flights, told why she can’t leave, and is warned of the danger hunting them. From resenting being left out, Biddy is thrust into something darker and wilder than she could have ever imagined. Soon, she must choose between what is safe and what is right.

I loved the way the plot moved! Time was given to establishing the rules of the world so that when those rules were shattered, it meant something. The motivations of the characters made perfect sense (even when they made less-than-savory choices), and there were twists and turns that I didn’t see coming which left me desperate to see what happened next.

The Magician’s Daughter has a smaller cast of characters, but each one is given the attention it deserves. Every one of them was fascinating and well-written, adding new layers to the story. Hutchinson, Rowan’s rabbit familiar, burrowed his way into my heart with his combination of protectiveness and a rather cranky attitude. Morgaine was a compelling conundrum and it took until the end of the book for me to decide whose side she was really on. Even the (very evil) villain was complex enough to be more than an “I’m evil just because” sort of character. And wow, he gave me the shivers!

The narrative flows like a river. First, it is calm with slight ripples under the surface, but by the end of the book, a roaring narrative has taken over, rushing the reader along at a breathtaking pace. I raced through The Magician’s Daughter and, even though the ending was perfect, I was sad to see my time with the characters and world come to an end. If that isn’t the sign of an amazing book, I don’t know what is.

There was magic in the plot, but it also dripped from every word. The writing was absolutely phenomenal. The Magician’s Daughter is a book to get lost in, one that you’ll find yourself thinking of long after you’ve finished the last page.

Little Vampire Women by Lynn Messina and Louisa May Alcott

“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any corpses.”

The dear, sweet March sisters are back, and Marmee has told them to be good little women. Good little vampire women, that is. That’s right: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy have grown up since you last read their tale, and now they have (much) longer lives and (much) more ravenous appetites.

Marmee has taught them well, and so they live by an unprecedented moral code of abstinence . . . from human blood. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy must learn to get along with one another, help make society a better place, and avoid the vampire hunters who pose a constant threat to their existence. Plus, Laurie is dying to become a part of the March family, at any cost. Some things never change.

This horrifying—and hilarious—retelling of a timeless American classic will leave readers craving the bloodthirsty drama on each and every page. (Taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Little Vampire Women is available now.

I’m afraid this review will be a little on the shorter side because I find myself in the strange position of feeling as though I’m almost having to review the original book. I’ve read several of these monster mash-up books (my favorite being Grave Expectations by Charles Dickens and Sherri Browning Erwin being my favorite) and this is the first one that felt so incredibly similar to its source material.

Everyone knows the plot of Little Women. But what if Marmee and Co. were vampires? That should change things more than it really did, which is where I’m getting a little stymied. While the idea is a fun and clever one, the main storyline changed very little, instead having small asides that added a vampiric touch. I would have loved to see the author do more than add in an extra sentence here and there.

The extra bits added served to twist the story ever-so-slightly. For example, the family that the Marches bring Christmas food to are human, so there are an added few sentences about the March women needing to suggest that their gift of raw animals be made into a stew. See what I mean about small bits being added? On a few occasions, it was entertaining, but at other times it threw the pacing off a little.

I feel that the author would have done much better writing her own original book instead of going for a mash-up. Then she would not have had such restrictions on her creativity. She has written several other books and I am 100% sure that her wholly original books are much much better. As it was, I found myself disappointed in Little Vampire Women.

The Monsters We Feed by Thomas Howard Riley

The morning before he found the dead body, Jathan Algevin thought he had his whole life just the way he wanted it.
He knows his city inside and out, and doesn’t bother carrying a sword, trusting his wits and his fists well enough to get by, hustling extra coin by ratting out loathsome magi to the law for execution.
He and his sister, Lyra, have watched out for each other ever since the day they were orphaned by a bloodthirsty rogue sorcerer, and now they finally have steady work, good friends, and the freedom to spend every night laughing at the bottom of a bottle.
But nothing lasts forever.
When he stumbles across a brutal murder, Jathan discovers a strange crystal lens that opens his eyes to an invisible world of magick and terror lurking just beneath the surface of his own, making him question everything he thought he knew.
But will gazing into this new arcane realm lead Jathan to save lives, or help destroy them?
With dangerous people hunting for the lens, monstrous lies unraveling his life, and a hidden underworld calling to him, it is only a matter of time before his whole world comes crashing down.
Will he find the answers he is looking for, or will he only find a monster needing to be fed?
Rated-R Dark Fantasy Noir in a city of hope, lust, and brutality, where swords are banned, and magick is just as likely to get you killed as it is to save your life.
There are always things about ourselves that we don’t want to see.
There are always things we can’t stop doing no matter how hard we try.
We all lie. We all have secrets.
We are all feeding monsters. (Taken from Amazon)

The Monsters We Feed by Thomas Howard Riley has a heartbeat. It beats with anger, desperation, and something in between love and hate. The pages pulse with life in all its gritty messiness. The book is visceral and brutal, and utterly compelling.

Taking place in the same world as We Break Immortals (although you can absolutely read The Monsters We Feed as a standalone), the book starts with a bang. Well, actually it starts with the mention of a dead body, setting the tone from the first eleven words. This is not a happily ever after sort of fantasy. Rather, it is an R-rated look into the complexities of human nature. It’s full of sex (lots and lots of it) and violence (lots and lots of it), as well as characters that bypass “morally gray” and waltz right into “evil” territory.

Jathan, our main character, is an incredibly messed up person. He’s a bundle of anger wrapped in hard edges and lies told to himself and to others. His parents were killed when he was a child, leaving him with a loathing for magick. Years later, he lives with his sister Lyra in his family home (which she is desperate to leave). She is his rock, but he is her anchor, weighing her down and holding her back. Jathan happily uses her as an excuse for his less-than-savory actions, which include selling out any users of magick he comes across in exchange for money. His sweet sister deserves better, to be honest. So does her friend who inexplicably finds him attractive.

Jathan makes yet another in a string of bad decisions when he loots a dead body, finding a Jecker Monocle. This device allows him to see “traces” of magick, making it a heck of a lot easier to track down and sell out magick users. Of course, this brings a new brand of trouble as Jathan soon finds himself suspecting his sister of having a liaison with a hated magick user.

The magick in both The Monsters We Feed and We Break Immortals is incredible. It’s extremely complex but Riley describes it in a way that explains it without adding to confusion or making it boring. So much rides on Jathan’s feelings about magick and the way the Jecker Monocle is used that it was imperative to have a fully developed magic system. A vague idea or underdeveloped magic would not have worked. Luckily, Riley doesn’t do anything by halves. The magic- like the rest of the book- is fully formed, a living, breathing thing.

The fact that The Monsters We Feed is told solely from the point of view of such an unlikable character makes it even more interesting. Where Jathan lacks in charisma, he makes up for in layers upon layers of fear and grief masquerading as anger and sometimes even as love. His self-destruction is engrossing, although sometimes painful to read. I really felt sad for him at times.

Once you start reading a book like this, there’s no stopping or putting it down until you’ve turned the last page. The writing is excellent, the world is immersive, and the characters are fascinating. I’m not big on sex scenes in books (I know it’s odd that I am fine with fantasy violence, but book sex makes me uncomfortable; I never claimed to be normal), but everything else was awesome.

If you like fantasy that blurs the line between right and wrong, that has flawed characters with questionable morality and drags secrets usually hidden away into glaring light, The Monsters We Feed is for you.

*My review originally appeared on Before We Go Blog.

Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care & Feeding of British Dragons by Quenby Olsen

Miss Mildred Percy inherits a dragon.
Ah, but we’ve already got ahead of ourselves…
Miss Mildred Percy is a spinster. She does not dance, she has long stopped dreaming, and she certainly does not have adventures. That is, until her great uncle has the audacity to leave her an inheritance, one that includes a dragon’s egg.
The egg – as eggs are wont to do – decides to hatch, and Miss Mildred Percy is suddenly thrust out of the role of “spinster and general wallflower” and into the unprecedented position of “spinster and keeper of dragons.”
But England has not seen a dragon since… well, ever. And now Mildred must contend with raising a dragon (that should not exist), kindling a romance (with a humble vicar), and embarking on an adventure she never thought could be hers for the taking. (Taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons is available now.

What a delightful book! The adventure in Miss Percy’s Guide might not include epic sword fights or swashbuckling moments (although Miss Percy is certainly not lacking in the ‘derring-do’ department). I was on the edge of my seat nonetheless. Mildred Percy is an extremely likable main character, and I loved rooting for her to succeed.

Miss Percy’s Guide to the Care of Feeding of British Dragons has an unexpected beginning. Mildred is a quiet, introverted spinster ( I can relate to the first two things), who lives in her sister’s home and takes care of her sister’s children. Despite this being a longstanding arrangement, Mildred’s sister makes it abundantly clear that Mildred is a guest who is there only through her kindness, happily ignoring the fact that Mildred is basically raising those kids. Mildred is rather resigned to not having an existence of her own when she receives an inheritance from a great uncle she barely knew. Hidden in among a bunch of paperwork is an honest-to-goodness dragon egg.

The hatching of the dragon and the challenges of having a dangerous hatching is tackled by Mildred, a certain vicar, and his bustling housekeeper. The growing relationship between Mildred and Mr. Wiggan (the vicar) was so much fun to read! If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that literary romance and I don’t always mix. However, it was done so subtly and sweetly that, much like the kid in A Princess Bride, I didn’t mind so much. Mrs. Babbinton, the housekeeper, vied with Mildred for the elevated Favorite Character spot. She made me laugh with her no-nonsense approach and her habit of plying everyone with copious amounts of food at every opportunity.

A book like this needs obstacles of some sort and author Quenby Olson was so clever in hers! There was Mildred’s niece Belinda, a conniving and manipulative brat who uses her “charms” to get her way and is petulant and sometimes even cruel when that doesn’t work. Add in a poor and desperate young man who is certain that the egg should be his (his father having lost it to Mildred’s great uncle during some drunken gambling), and you get an intimidating and desperate villainous duo. There’s Mildred’s older sister as well, who had ground poor Mildred down into a long-suffering person who takes what she gets and almost thinks she deserves it. Almost. And this leads to my very favorite, and cleverest villain, of all: Mildred herself. She has to fight against her own self-doubt and injured self-esteem all throughout the book. Each victory against herself (so to speak) had me cheering.

There were excerpts from Mildred’s guide to dragons at the beginning of each chapter, which added an extra dose of fantastic to a book that I had already fallen in love with. Of course, I can’t forget the dragon. What a great choice of catalyst! I’m sure at this point it is crystal clear that I loved everything about the book.

Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons is wonderful, a perfect cozy read. Pick it up if you want a smile in book form.

Fairy Godmurderer (Fractured Fae Book 1) by Sarah J. Sover

Gwendolyn Evenshine thought being a fairy godmother would be cut and dried—take on a charge, solve a royal problem, and return to the Academy for her next assignment. But she got too close.

When the beloved Princess Francesca is brutally murdered on her watch, Gwen refuses to resume her fairy godmother duties. Instead, she laces her docs and hits the streets of Boston in search of the bastard who took Frankie from her, a serial killer who operates in lunar cycles. But Gwen’s magic is on the fritz, and bodies are piling up.

Gwen enlists the talents of Chessa Moon, an upbeat pixie crime blogger who will do anything for a scoop. Together, they open new leads as they race against the hunter’s moon. As the killer hits closer and closer to home, Gwen is forced to confront her past and nail the killer, or she’ll lose more than just her shot at vengeance—she’ll lose the only person in her life worth a damn. (Taken from Amazon)

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.

*This review was originally published on Before We Go Blog

Small Press, Big Ideas: Tales from Alternate Earths 3

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.

*This title is available from Inkling Press

Purchase link:

Amazon

Blood Feud: Detroit Red Wings v. Colorado Avalanche by Adrian Dater

In Blood Feud, Colorado Avalanche beat writer Adrian Dater not only submits that the Red Wings-Avalanche rivalry was the most feverish match-up in recent years, but also that there was none better played. No fewer than twenty players have or will eventually make it to the Hall of Fame; the best scorers were matched up against the best goalies; brilliant coaches could be found on both benches, and two of the league’s smartest general managers ruthlessly tried to one-up each other at every NHL trade deadline. Blood Feud is a rollicking story of a fierce, and often violent, rivalry. (Taken from Amazon)

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.