Bulwark is about a sheriff of a town in Georgia of the same name, named Clay, whose daughter was recently kidnapped, leaving his marriage and psyche in shambles. When a car accident leaves two people rambling about witches and stolen children, Clay starts to wonder if there is a connection to the kidnapping of his child.
As any of you know, I’m a sucker for a good ghost story, and for witches, so you can understand why I was drawn in by this book. I also love me a good novella.
I would say this book started off very strong. It set a tragic scene, introduced a creepy, mysterious atmosphere that may or may not exist. The characters weren’t the strongest, but they played well in the atmosphere of the place. There was a good bit of folklore as well.
It’s a good, solid story, but I did have some issues:
I do think that the book might have been better if it was longer. Lunden tried to fit a lot into such a little book, and some of the lore and the exposition got a bit jumbled or lost. I know that there is an anthology that follows this novella, so maybe I will check that out and see if Lunden fleshed out any more of the story there.
There were also some tropes and themes in this story that were not bad by any means, but were possibly a little over-used. For example: the father whose child is either dead or missing and the marriage is failing; a witch that kidnaps children (although this I don’t mind, it was a pretty good Hansel and Gretel retelling).
The book has multiple endings, which, while different, both seemed to have been a bit rushed at the end, and the execution wasn’t the best. Again, I think if they had been written longer they would have been better.
All this said, it was a fun thriller, and I did have the creeps when I read it at night. It reminded me of the VVitch a little bit, though, unfortunately (spoilers) the witches don’t win in the end of this one.
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The Magpie Lord, the first book in K.J. Charles’ series, is about the reluctant Lord Crane who is the target of a malicious and magical murderer. Stephen Day, a practitioner of magic, is hired to help Crane discover who is trying to murder him and why. Their search takes them to Crane’s ancestral home, where the two discover more about magic and Crane’s ancestry, as well as possible feelings for one another.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was the perfect balance of paranormal, murder mystery, and romance. Charles is really good at writing atmospheric settings, and I could feel the cold and the dread of Crane’s ancestral home as Stephen and Crane tried to, well, not die.
I liked the way magic is portrayed, and I hope that the magic is explored even further in the next books of this series.
I like the characters. They are simple, but they have a lot of determination and emotion, especially when it comes to one another. The side characters were also well-written, though I do hope we see more of them in the following books.
And the romance, the romance! The lust definitely was not much of a slow burn, but I think the love was. It was completely worth it though, and you could see the characters’ devotion to each other by the end.
The only thing I really would criticize (Spoilers) is the fact that the murderers were people we really didn’t know throughout the story. I think it would have been just a bit cooler if it was someone we knew. But even so, this did not take too much away from the goodness that was this book.
I’m really excited to read the next books in the series!
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Widdershins is the first novel in Jordan L. Hawk’s Whyborne & Griffin mystery series. This book revolves around Whyborne, a museum philologist who is recruited by ex-Pinkerton detective Griffin Flaherty to solve a murder that turns out to be much more involved in the supernatural than either had foreseen. In the course of their time together they form a wonderful romance. Together with their Egyptologist friend, Dr. Christine Putnam, they endeavor to solve a gruesome mystery.
When I say this book had me on the edge of my seat the entire time, I mean THE ENTIRE TIME. The mystery and paranormal had me on the edge of my seat – eager to understand the evil that our heroes were fighting and whether they would make it out alive (I had read the last pages of this book so fast at that point) – and the romance between Whyborne and Griffin also compelled me so much that I feared so much for their safety at the end. Suffice to say, I became quite attached to these two goofballs.
And boy were they goofballs. Hawk could not have written them any better – I kept wanting to knock their heads together and at the same time hug them. I’m sure Christine also felt the same way.
Christine is a great character too: a doctor of archaeology in a time when women could barely do such things, she is strong and independent, but also fiercely protective of her friends. I am very excited to see more of her in the next books of this series.
The supernatural side of the mystery was an interesting choice. I have no idea whether it is based of actual ancient Egyptian mythology and folklore, but its complexity and involvement with death on many levels was very intriguing – definitely one of the reasons I kept reading this book!
I really have no criticisms for this book whatsoever. I loved the characters, as I said above, the book was very well-written, and I loved the setting and background of the mystery. Apart from the romance, what drew me to read this book was the fact that the main character is a philologist of ancient languages – much like myself! – and has to use his skills in language to defeat an ancient, supernatural entity. I hope the other books in this series use philology and ancient history as much as this book did. I know me and my classicist friends love books like these!
This is also a great book/series to start right now during Pride Month (or really any time because it’s so good!), as it is a M/M romance written by a very talented trans author.
I recommend this book to all classicists, and to those who like being kept on the edge of their seats.
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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