Book Review – A Matter of Disagreement by E.E. Ottoman

A Matter of Disagreement by E.E. Ottoman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A Matter of Disagreement: The Mechanical Universe


A Matter of Disagreement is about two scholarly gentleman, Lord Ashcroft (Andrea) and the Marquis (Gregory), who have been rivals in research for some time in a world where magic and machinery are coming together. However, when they actually meet face to face, they realize that what they feel for each other is more attraction than rivalry, and a relationship starts to bloom, very, very slowly.

This novella was a nice short read for me, and has a very sweet plot with two endearing characters. Definitely a worthwhile read for those who like the enemies-to-lovers trope. I think what drew me in to this story, besides the romance, was the fact that both of these characters are passionate about learning. In addition, the time that this book is set is very renaissance in nature, when science and knowledge were at the height of discovery. And, being a scholar myself, I am all too familiar with the struggles a researching academic, like Andrea, goes through (all that’s missing is a handsome marquis to be my patron!).

This was a delightful queer/mlm romance, and with a main character who is trans! I very much appreciated the way that the character explains his transition from childhood to adulthood, and how he talks about the science, magic, and medicine behind it.

The reason I gave this book 3 stars, though, is that there were some things that didn’t wholly sit right with me in my reading.

First are the spelling and grammar mistakes. I read this book on Scribd, so I don’t know if the mistakes are due to an uploading or transcription error, or if the mistakes were there to begin with. Either way, the numerous errors made the text a bit hard to read at times, as I would be too focused on the mistakes than on the story. However, it wasn’t so big a deal that I didn’t end up enjoying the book as a whole.

Second is the world-building. I didn’t expect much of it in so short a book, but I think I would have liked to know more about this world that is combining magic with machinery (a nod to an industrial age). If E.E. Ottoman has written another book that focuses on the magic and machinery aspect of this world, I would absolutely need to check it out. I’d also like a more extended view into the transition that the trans character went through, though it was enough for this length of book.

There are a few other things as well – a sort of abrupt sex scene, not as much insight into some other characters, etc. – that I could have had done in other ways, but it really didn’t hold as much bearing over the overall story.

All of that said, this was a fun and quick read, and I recommend to those who want a short and sweet romance.



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Book Review – Myth & Magic: Queer Fairy Tales

Myth and Magic: Queer Fairy Tales by Radclyffe

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Myth and Magic by Radclyffe


Myth and Magic: Queer Fairy Tales is a collection of queer fairy tale retellings written by queer authors. The stories are all based on well-known tales: Snow White, Jack and the Beanstalk, The Snow Queen, Cinderella, and others we all know. Some of the retellings are pure fantasy, while others border more on magical-realism.

As any of you who read my reviews know, I love me my fairy tale and folklore retellings. When I saw this collection recommended to me on Scribd, I was so happy. Now, I realize I gave this book 3 stars, but that’s only because I didn’t like every single story that was in it. But the ones I did like, I really really liked.

I think my favorite stories were the ones based on Jack and the Beanstalk, The Princess and the Frog, Sleeping Beauty, and I really liked the story based on The Red Shoes – it was so sweet, and definitely one of my favorite fairy tales in general.

The ones I didn’t like I think I didn’t like either because I wasn’t a fan of the author’s writing style, or because some of them dealt with sex in their story in a way that just wasn’t for me. However, they will definitely be for someone else, which is why I urge everyone to check out this book!

I don’t think there’s much more to say about this book, except that it was a super fun read, and, again, I love me some fairy tale retellings. And, in my opinion, reading queer fairy tales is the best thing to do during Pride month! I recommend this book to everyone, but especially those who want a bit of fantasy and love mingled in their life.



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Book Review – Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey

Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Magic's Pawn by Mercedes Lackey



Magic’s Pawn, the first novel in the Last Herald Mage trilogy, is about a young man named Vanyel, who is sent away from his home to live with his Herald-Mage aunt after not meeting his lord father’s expectations. In his new home, Vanyel learns things about the world and himself that he had shut away – he learns about magic and the gifts of himself and others, and most importantly, he learns about love and how to live and grow strong after heartbreak and trauma.

This was my first Mercedes Lackey novel; I had originally bought A Scandal in Battersea to read first, but then Magic’s Pawn caught my eye – perhaps it was the magic, perhaps it was the love story, who knows, but I am very happy I read this one first. And during Pride Month too, which makes it even better.

I think Vanyel is supposed to be a sort of annoying character at first – he carries himself with arrogance to hide his insecurities. However, the way that Lackey wrote his character really just made me sympathize with him all the more. Really, Lackey wrote all of her characters well, even the annoying ones, and the evil ones. Again, with Vanyel, by the end of the story you can’t help but like him. He’s just trying his darndest in the end and, really, aren’t we all?

Because the book is so character-driven, there isn’t as much depth in the world-building. However, what there is of the world-building was written very well. We readers get a sense of the places that Vanyel is, for lack of a better term, flung into. But in truth, what makes the places are indeed the people that live there. Vanyel’s childhood home seems barren and rugged, just like the personality of his unforgiving father; Haven, the home of the Herald-Mages, welcoming and with a curious nature that all of its inhabitants have; and others, though I don’t want to spoil the book by saying more about them.

One final thing that I want to talk about is the way Lackey writes her characters dealing with their emotions. In short, they deal with them in a very realistic, very human way, that I think all readers can and will appreciate. Vanyel, especially, deals with emotions of hurt and despair, as well as insecurities that any of us might find ourselves dealing with. He just has to deal with them longer, and, on top of that, with magic consuming him on all sides. Lackey has him, and others, deal with these emotions in healthy ways, and in loving ways.

Overall, Vanyel is very relatable as a character, and his story here is wonderfully and emotionally compelling. I think I would have loved this book when I was 9 years old and just getting into Lord of the Rings – I am happy to have found this book now though!

I recommend to everyone, and especially to those who want some emotional, raw, and real emotions and love from lgbt+ and mlm characters this Pride Month.

I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Magic’s Promise.



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Book Review – Walk The Wild With Me by Rachel Atwood

Walk the Wild With Me by Rachel Atwood

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Walk the Wild With Me by Rachel Atwood



Walk The Wild With me is about a boy named Nick, who finds the vessel of an ancient goddess in a secret room of the abbey in which he lives and learns. With the help of this goddess, Nick learns about the magic of the Woodwose, the forest folk, and of his true heritage. He joins up with the members of Robin Hood’s men of Sherwood, turned into fae folk by Atwood’s imagination. Little John is the Green Man; Tuck is an abbot turned wild; Will Scarlett is a magical songbird; and Robin Goodfellow himself is a man turned Woodwose. Atwood weaves together a story of magic, folklore, and the yearning of our hero, Nick, to find out the truth of the world.

This is a novel for people who loved The Fellowship of the Ring, with all of its folklore and earthly magic. This is what first drew me to this novel. That, and how could I resist the premise of a fae version of Robin Hood? However, the wonderful aspects of this book are indeed balanced by some choices I would not have made.

Things I liked:

Atwood’s writing style is absolutely gorgeous. The writing flows easily, and her descriptions are so vivid, I could imagine myself in the forest together with the Woodwose. I so wish I could go there myself! Thankfully, I have a vivid imagination to go along with her vivid writing.

Again, I love the premise of Robin Hood and his men as the fair folk. I’ve never seen this take on the story before, and Atwood succeeded pretty well in making this take convincing. I’m not surprised at her choice of having Little John as the Green Man, though I was a little surprised at the fact that the Robin Hood character doesn’t have a very prominent role in this story. I don’t mind this choice at all, it’s just one that I didn’t expect.

Things I didn’t like:

Unfortunately, I think the story tried so hard to do many things with its plot and characters, that it ended up not doing much at all.

Every new plot device is readily accepted by the characters, making these devices unbelievable to me as a reader. When Nick finds and bonds with the goddess, he doesn’t question anything about it, he just accepts it as normal. We don’t get any explanation for this. We don’t actually get a lot of explanation for a lot of things. There’s very little background into the history of the Woodwose in this version of England; there are mentions of a conflict between the pope and the magical folk, but no background is actually given to explain why the Woodwose have to hide.

I think if the story had fewer plotlines, or perhaps if the book was a little longer, there would be more space for explanation and exposition to be given, but it didn’t work out that way.

The ending of the story was rushed, which makes more my case that the book should have been longer, or more managed than it was.

I realize I am making a lot of criticisms, but really this was a very enjoyable read, and the favorable points for this book are very strong. I would like to read more of Atwood’s work, and get more of that beautiful writing style.

I recommend this book to anyone who likes fae stories, folklore, and a new take on a classic story.



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Brief Update: My Literary Life

So, I haven’t reviewed a book in a while, about a month or so now, and I just wanted to give an update on my literary life. I am, currently, reading three books at once. I’m hoping to finish Walk The Wild With Me very soon, so that will likely be the next review I post (unless something else catches my eye more quickly).

I’ve also been writing more! I am currently in the process of rewriting a story I started a few months ago. It’s going pretty well, though I am trying to find the balance between reading and writing.

So right now, who knows when I’ll actually finish a book. But I am enjoying myself in these literary pursuits and that’s all I really need.

What are you all reading right now? Are you also reading multiple books at once, or do you stick to one at a time?

Happy reading!

Book Review – The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang



The Prince and the Dressmaker is about two young individuals: Frances, a seamstress with dreams of becoming a designer, and Sebastian, a prince who feels more comfortable as a girl. The two meet and give each other the opportunity to make more of themselves, and perhaps find themselves in the process.

This is an amazing graphic novel, and such a cute story! I loved Wang’s art style – very fluid and colorful, but also putting so much expression into the characters. I thought that Frances and Sebastian were particularly adorable. And, of course, the dresses were stunning. I am so jealous of the prince’s wardrobe!

I think I can relate to Frances a lot, especially now in my life where I am trying to find out what I want to be doing and who I want there with me.

The story went in a bit of a different direction than I was expecting, though I’m not sure what I was expecting to begin with. It’s just such a lovely story about two young people trying to find their place in the world, but also trying to find their real selves. I think everyone needs a story like this: something that gives hope, that reminds one of all the love there is to give. I was very pleased with the ending as well – we need more happy endings.

And last, but not least, is the queer representation. I’m not sure if Sebastian is meant to be trans or not, but either way, portraying men wearing dresses in such a positive way is so important.

I can’t wait to pick up some more of Jen Wang’s work!

I recommend this book to everyone who wants a bit of hope and love in their life.



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Book Review – The Haunting of Aveline Jones by Phil Hickes

The Haunting of Aveline Jones by Phil Hickes

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Haunting of Aveline Jones by Phil Hickes


The Haunting of Aveline Jones by Phil Hickes is a story about a girl, Aveline, who goes to a seaside town to stay with her aunt while her mom is visiting her grandmother. In this town, Aveline, a firm and eager believer in ghosts, finds an old bookshop with a book of local ghost stories. However, this book unearths a mystery and a haunting past that Aveline is not prepared for.

I absolutely loved this book. It’s the type of story I would have loved at Avenline’s age, and that I love now at 28. It has all the combinations of adventure, ghosts, atmosphere, and folklore that keep me enthralled and on the edge of my seat. It is a short and very simple story, which does appeal to me, though I know many people would want something more complex and involved. I’m a simple gal and this story was perfect for me.

The atmosphere was perfectly spooky. Put aside the ghosts, this book takes place around Halloween in a stormy seaside town with an antique bookshop and some dark, local folklore. Can it get any better than that?

The characters were also very well-written. None of them annoyed me, and I only felt endearment towards even the ones that were supposed to be annoying.

I think one reason I related so much to this book is that Aveline reminds me a lot of myself (and several other girls I knew as a preteen). And, while I haven’t been exactly in her shoes, my love of the paranormal is a complete match. Though now that I am very much a grownup, I think I’m starting to relate more and more to characters like Mr. Lieberman, the owner of the bookshop.

Another reason this book was so good, in my mind, is that it reminds me of a lot of well-known ghost stories (Turn of the Screw/Haunting of Bly Manor, The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton, The Haunted Bookshop, and others), but Hickes makes those ghostly themes entirely his own. And it is no surprise, since Hickes himself grew up the same way and next to a graveyard no less! Hickes is a supremely talented writer and I am looking forward to his next book in this series, which I believe comes out later this year.

The Haunting of Aveline Jones was a wonderful read, and I might just read it again next Halloween! I recommend this book to anyone who loves spooks and a good ghost story.



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Reading Update: Returning to my Passions

Dear Readers,

You might have noticed that I have not posted many reviews for a while, and that they have been few and far between. I do have an explanation, and that it is all getting better.

The explanation:

For this I need to go a bit back into last year. I graduated from my M.A. program in Classical Studies in October 2020. Up until then I had had no breaks in between my schooling. I had seven years of undergrad (it lasted a while due to mental illness and finding what I really wanted to study), and then another two years of grad school. That is nine years of uni and college straight after high school with no real breaks (I’m not counting summer really). Up until this point, I never really knew what it was like to not be in school. That is what I have been trying to figure out for the last few months. And the pandemic did not make this any easier. I’ve been home almost the entire time – which is not at all a wholly bad thing; I have my partner and my pupper here and I love them both so so much – and have had no real opportunities to experience anything different than what has been going on. I was a research assistant for a while, though it was freelance and all work-from-home, so it eventually became too unstructured and unfulfilling for me. I tried then to do creative things like art, music, and, of course, reading. Eventually though, also because of the lack of structures in my days, those lost interest for me too. Suffice to say, it’s been a hell of a difficult time.

Now, though, I am looking for more rewarding work, and I am trying to create structure at home. So far this has been working, and I have been seeing reading at the end of the day as a rewarding experience. However, I still don’t have the desire to read anything on my TBR. I don’t even have the desire to reread some of the books I liked before. So I had to ask myself going forward: what do I like? I then thought about things I liked as a kid and a teen, things that brought out my passions and obsessions. I remembered what they were and it kindled a new passion and inspiration for me. These passions are Lord of the Rings, folklore, and ghosts. I never actually lost these passions, I just got distracted for a while with things I thought were more important. Now I remember their importance, and have been reading actively books in these genres for the past week or so! I’m looking mostly at Tolkien books right now, as that is my most deep passion.

Thankfully, I have a huge collection of Tolkien literature to read. This past week I’ve read The Hobbits of Tolkien by David Day (you can read my review of it here) and I am now setting out to finish Tolkien’s essays and stories Tree and Leaf and Leaf by Niggle. I am also getting so very inspired by the history, etymology, and folklore of Tolkien’s work that I am considering reading some of the Poetic Edda and Volsung Sagas next!

Now of course I am going to have doubts about these things too: shouldn’t I branch out in terms of literature? Is it stupid to stay with the same genres all the time?

First of all, I know I will branch out when I feel the time is right. Right now is not the right time for me. Second, it is NEVER stupid to stay with your favorite stories or genres. Never dismiss the things you are passionate about, for I am not going to dismiss mine. Staying with my true passions has helped my mental recovery, and may lead me to wonderful things in the future. I am excited to find out where it takes me.

As for ghosts, I am fulfilling that passion with much watchings of Buzzfeed Unsolved Supernatural, and I am slowly listening to Tunnel of Bones by Victoria Schwab on Scribd.

I won’t be doing a lot of book reviews for the Tolkien books I read, unless there is something very particular in them that I want to talk about. You can still keep up with what I read, though, here on my Goodreads page!

But yes, Dear Reader, thank you for reading this long and rambling explanation for where my life has led me. I hope you all are rediscovering passions or finding new ones in this hell of a time. Take care of yourselves, and I shall speak to you very soon!

All the love, and happy reading!

-A. Siegel

Book Review – The Hobbits of Tolkien by David Day

The Hobbits of Tolkien by David Day

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Hobbits of Tolkien by David Day



I have pretty much all of David Day’s Tolkien guide books, and The Hobbits of Tolkien is the newest addition to my very extensive Tolkien collection. In this illustrated guide, Day gives us the history of Hobbits from their creation by Tolkien, to their own fictional history, all the way up to the Lord of the Rings. It was fascinating to read about the ancient Hobbit races and founders of the Shire and their connections to ancient English peoples, folklore, and cultures, as well as why Bilbo Baggins was THE choice for the role of burglar in The Hobbit.

I expected an extensive and in-depth discussion of Hobbits by Day, and I was not disappointed. What did surprise me, in the best possible of ways, was that most of this book is filled with linguistics and etymology. Day explains how all words stemming from “hob-” (including the word “hob” and its many meanings) play some intricate role in the description and role that Hobbits play in Tolkien’s Middle Earth. In addition, Day teaches readers how various words in ancient and modern Germanic, Norse, Celtic, and English languages all contributed to the naming of characters, places, and races. My absolute favorite linguistic connection that Day makes is the connection between the names Smaug and Smeagol, both coming from ancient Germanic words that have to do with burrowing or twisting or squeezing into holes.


The illustrations are also absolutely gorgeous. My favorite is one of the watercolor paintings of The Shire.


I recommend this to every Tolkien fan, and to all linguists and etymologists, and even to those who just want to learn a bit more about Hobbits.



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Book Review – The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman



The Sleeper and the Spindle is a retelling of both Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Sleeping Beauty. Throughout the land a sleeping spell is spreading, caused by the sleeping girl in the tower of a castle in the next kingdom. The queen of this kingdom (Snow White) and her three dwarf friends must find a way into the sleeping princess’ castle and break the curse.

This isn’t my favorite retelling of either of these two fairy tales, nor is it my favorite Neil Gaiman but it was a fun story nonetheless. The storytelling style reminded me a lot of Susanna Clarke’s writing, and she does fantastic fairy tale retellings.
This story is not that character driven, unfortunately. We don’t get a lot of character from the queen, but we do learn of her relationship with her magical stepmother, and how she used this to overcome another magical woman seeking adoration and power. I thought that was a clever way of handling the hero/villain trope.

There isn’t much else to say about the story itself. It’s a simple story, and a great one for kids who want different versions of their classic fairy tales.

The illustrations by Chris Riddell are absolutely stunning, however, and I think that people of all ages should pick up this book if only for the art.



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