The Dragon’s Ring by Fil Reid – Out Today!

I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of my writing buddy’s debut novel. Check her out on www.filreid.com or find the book on Amazon UK or Amazon US. Or click on the Amazon link via Goodreads and it should take you to your country’s Amazon. 

This time-travelling Arthurian fantasy was a fun ride from the start. Gwen is scattering her father’s ashes when she gets sucked back in time to when King Arther was just a prince. The rest… you’ll have to wait for my review coming soon. 

Reading and Writing Ranting Advent Calendar!

Oops, I forgot to post these. The past couple of months have been super busy with more hours and responsibilities at work, a new writing project that I got to 38K for NaNoWriMo, and planning a Christmas camp at work. Luckily, I have some long weekends to relax and spend time with my family over the holidays.

Anyway, onto the calendar. I managed to post them on Instagram every day, so you can check out the Instagram story highlight or my feed as I add more, or scroll down. Unfortunately, the videos don’t work unless you click and go to my Instagram, but the mini book review and writing tip are in the caption.

Book Review. Gods and Monsters by Shelby Mahurin. 4 stars.

Warning: Contains minor spoilers.

Another amazing book from Shelby Mahurin and another amazing series that left me sad that it was over. I can’t live like this… great stories just ending, 😭😭😭

Let’s start with what I liked…

Nicolina’s POV was a nice treat. We get another perspective on everything plus her own past and more about the wraiths. That made for another curious addition and how Lou got trapped inside Nicolina.

Lou’s POV from inside Nicilina was another good perspective. Her struggle to get free brought painful memories to the surface for both Lou and Nicolina, and I think that made me sympathise more with Nicolina.

Revelations on Coco’s family (I’ll spare you specifics here) made me so happy since that’s my favourite kind of magical being. It also expanded the world and allowed for more fun with gathering allies.

The epilogue. No spoilers but… I cried. I actually cried. 

What I did/didn’t like…

I both liked and didn’t like Lou and Reed having such a brief moment as themselves before it got take from them again. It felt like I didn’t get a chance to love them together again after their issues in book 2. I needed at least a chapter of normalcy between them before things changed. 

What I didn’t like…

Reid is still too bratty for my liking. 

Final thoughts…

After finishing this book, I felt satisfied enough over the story’s ending, but a sort of emptiness over leaving the characters. It’s a love story with a ton of magic and amazing characters along with a beautiful French influence.

Book Review. Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco, 3.5 Stars

Warning: Contains minor spoilers. Check out my Reading Ranting page for more.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Another Hades and Persephone adaptation. That’s like the 5th I’ve read this year. But that’s not a criticism of this book, purely a comment that I clearly have a type. Lol. Anyway, I generally liked this book for the magic and its characters and interesting places, but I got confused a bit too often. Maybe it was just me.

What I liked…

Firstly, I absolutely love that it’s set in alternative historical Sicily with lots of Italian names and… Love me some limoncello. I found myself getting hungry in virtually every other scene because Emilia’s parents owned a restaurant, which was based on a real restaurant in the author’s life. Extra fun.

Also, Emilia… My name. I never see my name in books I like, so this was fun. Not that it matters. Just a personal thing. 

I loved that the main parts of the magic system weren’t particularly complicated. Witches can cast spells and demons can be summoned. With some variations and specific rules here and there, that was the gist of it. Also, gates to Hell and Hell Princes… again nothing complicated to wrap my head around.

What I did/didn’t like…

Wrath was a confusing fellow, especially at the end (no spoilers on that). I think that made him even more interesting, but I would have liked some of his and Emilia’s nicer moments to last a little longer. I didn’t feel the excitement of a pending romance with these two. Still, it worked on the whole. I dunno. Maybe m

What I didn’t like…

The existence of Hades confused me (even though it’s a Hades and Persephone story) since I thought it was more Christianity with some pagan goddesses for the witches. But Hades didn’t seem to fit into it except for one artifact.

The story felt slow to start and got a bit confusing along the way. I found it hard to keep track of why random Princes were showing up because Emilia didn’t question it. I think that would have helped me more if she had mused, even if she was wrong. It was just all a bit too random until the last moment, by then, I’d forgotten the earlier events because I was trying so hard to make sense of the current ones.

Final thoughts…

I would recommend this book to readers who like Hades and Persephone adaptations, witches and spells, demons, and limoncello. And I will definitely be reading book 2. That’s going to be on December’s TBR list. Or sooner, since I’m really curious to know what happens next.

Book Review. Blood and Honey by Shelby Mahurin. 4 stars.

Warning: Content may contain minor spoilers. Check out my Reading Ranting page for more reviews and thoughts on reading.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I really enjoyed this book. It wasn’t quite as captivating as the first in the series, but I would happily read the next book.

What I liked…

Louis and Reid started off pretty strong in this as they reevaluated their relationship as witch and ex witch hunter-turned-witch. Wow. That was fun to see how Reid dealt with that. 

I enjoyed seeing more magical characters in this one and a new form of magic with Coco’s aunt. It made for a richer world. 

Lou struggles with her magic in this book having lost pieces of herself to it at the end of book 1. It’s like an addiction for her, a way to manipulate what she doesn’t like into something she does like. Nicely done methinks.

I love the journeys to get more allies. Having already failed to defeat Morganne, they need all the help they can get. Also, it created more tension as to whether the various other groups would actually help. Minor spoiler… Reid already f**cked up in that sense from his time as a witch hunter. Oops.

But what they really need is to prove Lou is worthy of taking her mother’s place if they defeat her, and that’s Lou’s biggest inner struggle. 

As in book 1, the love scenes were nicely done. Oblivious but on the delicate side considering this book is categorised YA. Or maybe it’s NA. Either way, it gets mentioned a lot as YA, so who knows?. It also suited the characters and their emotions at the time. 

Image  by damar9 at Deviantart.

What I didn’t like…

Reid felt a little dramatic sometimes, maybe a bit bratty, even for YA/NA whatever it’s categorised as.

Anyway, I absolutely love this book and the entire series since I’ve finished book 3 now. I love witches, fun magic systems, wild adventures, and complex characters. This whole series ticked every box of things I love in a book as well as that je ne sai quoi. Lol. French. Oh, and I especially loved the French influence.

Book Review. A Strange Hymm, The Bargainer #2 by Laura Thalassa, 4 stars.

Warning: Some reviews contain minor spoilers, but I keep the best parts vague. Check out my Reading Ranting page for more reviews and thoughts on reading.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I was so excited to read book 2 of the The Bargainer series after I loved the 1st book so much. This didn’t disappoint.

Callie has to deal with her changes in magic, the permanent wings and scales that make it near impossible to go back to the human world. But she has Des, The Bargainer, Night King, and mate. I thought I’d get sick of the mate trope, but this is done a little differently since they have a history. 

I almost miss the flashbacks to when she first knew Des before he left her for seven years. Even though we got the explanation for that, I think forcing that separation made it more acceptable, at least from a fantasy fiction perspective. What’s a few hundred years in age when you’re practically immortal? 

I also love how we see more of the Otherworld in this book. I love fantastical worlds, and since Callie’s from Earth, albeit an alternative one, she’s seeing the Otherworld for the 1st time along with me, which adds to the wonder.

And I love the mystery. Sometimes, I thought surely Callie would have figured it out sooner with her being a PI, but… makes for better suspense as a reader.

Des and Callie are one steamy couple. Despite the massive age gap, she’s an experienced adult that knows what she’s getting into with him. Also, the balance of their magic fits, his darkness, her shiny siren. I love sirens.

What I liked…

  • I like how Callie is realistically traumatised from her experience with the King of Fauna, but she stays pretty strong considering.
  • I love how her wings are feathered while Des’ are webbed. I just love wings.
  • I liked how Callie dealt with her wings and scales. She could have outright hated them all the time, or slowly accepted them. The latter was done nicely since Des’ love of them helped her accept them. 
  • I liked how they knew things weren’t over with the Theif of Souls since none of the sleeping women were waking up. 
  • Callie’s dreams were also a good way to keep the bigger story in the forefront of the reader’s mind while having some good character developmental scenes.

What I didn’t like… again not much here.

  • Temper’s dramatic appearance felt a smidge overdone and not foreshadowed as well as it could have been
  • Again, writing could have been better. Lots of repetitive wording and structures that could have easily been avoided with the right editor.

I loved this book all the way through. If you like faeries with wings, an Earth and high fantasy world combo, sexy men with wings, sirens, lots of smut, and fun times mixed into a bigger plot, then you’ll love this book. 

Stay tuned for the final book, Dark Harmony. And I’ll get to Emperor of Evening Stars at some point.

Book Review. The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. Jensen. 4.5 Stars

Warning: Some reviews contain spoilers. Check out my Reading Ranting page for more.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I got serious Pirates of the Caribbean vibes in most of this book, but a completely different story. It’s low fantasy in that it’s a completely imaginary world, but there’s no magic. 

I loved how Lara started off in this book. She has a plan to take down a kingdom in order to save her own. She goes from the dry desert to a stormy group of islands to marry a King she’s never met. 

I also live how we get Aren’s POV too and see how he needs the alliance with Lara to bring trade to his people. Mostly, I love how we instantly see that he’s not what she was expecting and we just have to watch while she works that out.

The details of how Lara adjusts to the weather really brings the world to life. And her slow realization is nicely done. She’s been lied to all her life, and her only purpose is ruining Aren’s kingdom. 

It’s also fun that he learns that she’s a spy and Falls for her anyway, makes the betrayal that much sweeter. 

Art by theclever.crow

Things I liked…

  • Lara and Aren were fun to read as they slowly fall for each other.
  • The love scenes were nicely written. A perfect balance of emotion and explicitly.
  • The world was fantastic with the bridge and islands and swashbuckling theme.
  • Lara was likable despite being pretty cold from the start. She has her reasons.

What I didn’t like…

  • I’m being super picky with this, but some small technical things in the writing bugged me. But not really enough to bring down my rating. 
  • Despite really enjoying the book, it didn’t 100% captivate me, but that’s a personal thing that I can’t really explain, hence the 4.5 stars and not a full 5. 

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes low fantasy and romance with kingdom politics and trained assassins.

Book Review. Rhapsodic, The Bargainer #1 by Laura Thalassa, 5 Stars

Warning: Some reviews contain minor spoilers, but I keep the best parts vague. Check out my Reading Ranting page for more reviews and thoughts on reading.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

You can never tell if you’re going to devour a book or if the book is going to devour you. For me, this book falls into the latter. It just hooked me from page 1 and made me love everything about it all the way through. 

What I liked…

EVERYTHING! But I’ll be specific.

  • I love the unusual relationship between Callie and Des. It’s a friends to lovers and enemies to lovers combo. They were once friends, but for… reasons, they didn’t see each other for 7 years, and Callie is pissed when Des drops himself back into her life. Love the complexity.
  • I love the magic. It’s fun but uncomplicated. 
  • Wings 🥰❤😊 I can’t tell you how much I love fictional characters with wings. I’ve written many.
  • The Bargainer is… not dark haired and dark eyed like so many morally grey characters. But he’s got his lovely darkness to him.
  • I love how Callie sees a unique side to this supposedly dark character from the beginning. I like a rumoured bad character proving himself, but this take is refreshing. She gets to know him as a friend at first rather than being forced into a situation with him. That comes later, but since Des is also the infamous Bargainer, Callie owes him for past favours. So she got herself into the situation by choice.
  • I absolutely love the flashbacks to when she first met him, so we get a full picture without boring info dumps. So nicely done, Laura.
  • The love scenes are my kind of style. Not unnecessarily explicit but not too delicate and vague either. A wonderful balance of emotional and physical.
  • Sirens. Like winged characters, love sirens and love reading and writing about them. 
  • This is a mostly character-driven plot, but it has bigger things going on which make it an all-round great plot and story. 
Meet Des and Callie. Such a lovely and unique couple. Find the image here.

What I didn’t like…

  • I was conflicted over how Des behaved with Callie sometimes when she was 16. I can adapt my brain to fantasy worlds, and he mostly kept some distance between them and stuck to friendly stuff, but it didn’t sit right that an ancient fae king was hanging out with a teenager. We find out more later, but still… super inappropriate.
  • I’m being completely picky here, but the writing had some technical issues that go against the grain for me. Lots of filtering, incorrect use of lay/lie, and too many begin/began to… It let the book down in my opinion. But like I said, I was being picky with this.

Despite the occasional wording issue, I adored this book from start to finish. It doesn’t happen very often that I fall in love with a book or series, so when it happens, I can’t help but rave bout it.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy world meets real world and characters who have fun magic.

All Alone!

Characters might spend time alone, either before or after significant events. Preparing and processing is important for character motivation and consequential actions. It can also keep throughs out of busy scenes where it might distract from the moment.

Here are a few things I like when reading or writing characters on their own. 

  • Keep it short. Long paragraphs of time alone with their thoughts can be boring.
  • Tie it into something active, like exploring or going through old trinkets that prompt memories for the character to think about. 
  • Practicing something potentially useful is another way to make it active and have the character pause once in a while to remind themselves why they’re doing it. 
  • Make it lead up to something like a significant event that the MC is preparing for. What are they’re hopes and fears for the outcome
  • Or have the MC processing something afterwards. How do they feel about it and what are they going to do next? 
  • Maybe have them talk to a pet or inanimate object or someone they lost in an imaginary conversation. 

So there you have it. Ways for an MC to be alone without boring readers with nothing but thoughts. 

Book Review. A Touch of Ruin by Scarlett St. Clair. 2 Stars.

Warning: Some reviews contain minor spoilers, but I keep the best parts vague. Check out my Reading Ranting page for more reviews and thoughts on reading.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

What I liked…

  • Persephone’s inner conflict and how it manifested in her magic. I like how she struggles to control it when she’s angry or upset.
  • I like how she stands up to her mother. She couldn’t before, because she didn’t know what she was missing out on. Being in the real world and making friends with humans and fellow gods clearly made her realise what real freedom is. 
  • I like the writing. It’s emotional and engaging.
I’m not sure if this image is fan art for this series or a random Hades and Persephone image, but it’s fitting. Also, I just freaking love it. Find it here.

What I didn’t like…

  • There was too much conflict between Hades and Persephone for my liking. Some conflict is good and makes the story interesting, but they were constantly arguing and making up and it was usually Persephone overreacting.
  • Punishing her with sex? Sorry, but that doesn’t sit right with me. I can adapt my personal opinions to overlook a lot in fantasy when males get overly dominant, but this is too much.
  • Her reaction to the backlash after writing another article on a god was even more unrealistic than in the 1st book. Why didn’t she see that coming?
  • And why is it that after millennia of the gods being this way, Persephone not only convinces Hades to become a better person, but Apollo as well? She’s got that unrealistic specialness that feels forced to make the story work. But it just annoys me.
  • Trying to save her friend’s life when she could see her in the Underworld still didn’t make enough sense for her to go to all that trouble. And yeah, it was kind of disrespectful to Hades after he’d explained why he couldn’t do anything and that she shouldn’t either. She felt very selfish and bratty over this. 
  • Basically, she overreacts at every little thing, which took away from the things I though she had a right to react to. Her reaction to Hades having past lovers was overdone. I can get on board with some inner annoyance and jealousy about that, but not using it against Hades. He’s thousands of years old, so yeah, she wasn’t his first. 

Unfortunately, after a great book 1, book 2 let me down. I’m not sure if I’m going to continue with this series or not. I’ve since started reading another series, so we’ll see if I feel like reading A Touch of Malice after my current book.