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Book Review: Tortall: A Spy’s Guide by Tamora Pierce (with Julie Holderman, Timothy Liebe, Megan Messinger)

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Rating: 5 out of 5
Recommend to Others?: Yes


Summary (via Goodreads):
The secrets of Tortall are revealed. . . .

As Tortall’s spymaster, George Cooper has sensitive documents from all corners of the realm. When Alanna sends him a surprising letter, he cleans out his office and discovers letters from when King Jonathan and Queen Thayet first ascended the throne, notes on creating the Shadow Service of spies, threat-level profiles on favorite characters, Daine’s notes on immortals, as well as family papers, such as Aly’s first report as a young spy and Neal’s lessons with the Lioness. This rich guide also includes the first official timeline of Tortallan events from when it became a sovereign nation to the year Aly gives birth to triplets. Part history, part spy training manual, and entirely fascinating, this beautiful guide makes a perfect gift and is ideal for anyone who loves Alanna, King Jonathan, Queen Thayet, Kel, Neal, Aly, Thom, Daine, Numair, and the unforgettable world of Tortall!


My Review:
Before I begin: I say I’d recommend it to others, but a part of m is also hesitant to recommend it to who isn’t familiar with the other books based in Tortall. Not just for the sake of understanding what’s written herein, but to avoid potential spoilers (although the timeline is graciously missing important plot points). I just want others to be able to make the most out of reading this book because it was so good.


This was amazing to read – perfect for every Tamora Pierce fan. I loved that the pages were transformed to look like a bound collection of guides, profiles, definitions, sketches, and letters. The addition of ink stains on the pages and (2D) wax crests was a nice touch. This guide provides inside knowledge – a behind-the-scenes, if you will – to various events (mundane and crucial) into the lives and people of Tortall and neighboring lands.

It’s a lot of information to adsorb. And if you’ve read all the Tortall universe books prior to this, it will make your head (pleasantly) spin as you recall fond memories of old. The lot of it really makes you think, especially about how to craft characters in terms of behavior and intrigue.

Although it’s not a chronological collection of papers and such of happenings, there is a feel of a narrative and a reasonable order which the authors chose to present each new tidbit. I love that the book concludes with a complete chronological timeline of Tortallian events.

I am curious as to why there is only a brief paragraph referencing the Beka Cooper series, which takes place a few centuries prior to Alanna: The First Adventure. If it’s a matter of importance to the realm’s security and persons of interest, then I can see why it might be excluded. However, I would think there’d be pertinent information included in the end-section timeline, such as when Beka was born.Or would this all be pointless since her books are dated as journal entries?

At first I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this, even though it’s “written” by one of my favorite fictional characters, George Cooper. But I really enjoyed reading more about one of my favorite fantasy worlds. It was a pleasant and delightful reading experience – so compelling I could hardly put it down.



March Happenings!

Welcome March 2018!

Three New Milestones Reached…

Last month I wrote my 300th post, reached 200 followers on this blog, and received a new NetGalley badge. These were pleasant surprises that came up unexpectedly. I’m happy that I’ve written so many posts and that so many people decided to follow this blog (thank you, thank you so much!). Also am happy to have been able to read so many titles from NetGalley (17 in all).

I’m going to use these new milestones as motivation to keep working hard in all I do.

Some Light Reading…

A less demanding reading list for this month, one I believe I can get through. I’m holding off on requesting any NetGalley titles until this current list is completed.

Currently Reading:

  • A Dance Through Time by Lynn Kurland
  • Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce

Reading Next:

  • Tortall: A Spy’s Guide by Tamora Pierce, with Julie Holderman, Timothy Liebe, and Megan Messinger
  • Fruits Basket – continued; no review
  • Black Butler – continued; no review

Reviews Coming Soon:

  • (ARC) Herding Cats by Sarah Andersen – March 6
  • (ARC) Blood Veil by Megan Erickson – March 20

Some Light Posting…

Posts for the month of March will be on most Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

Book Recommendation of the Month

The Cry of the Icemark by Stuart Hill
The Icemark Chronicles, book 1
First Published: January 3, 2005
Hardcover Image Edition: April 3, 2005 by The Chicken House
Genres: Young Adult Fantasy, Adventure, Magic

Image via Goodreads

Goodreads Summary: The Icemark is a kingdom in grave danger. Its king has been killed in battle, its enemy lies in wait, and its fate rests on the shoulders of one girl. Thirrin Freer Strong-in-the-Arm Lindenshield, a beautiful princess and an intrepid warrior, must find a way to protect her land from a terrible invasion. She will forge an extraordinary alliance of noble Snow Leopards, ancient Vampires, and ferocious Wolf-folk. She will find unexpected strength in her friendship with a young warlock. And she will lead her allies to victory with her fierce battle cry: “Blood! Blast! And Fire!”

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Weekend Writing Prompt #8

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” 
— Maya AngelouI Know Why the Caged Bird Sings


Self-Reflection/Discussion Prompt: What story (or stories) are you just eager to write and share with the world? What is the story about? What genre is it? Where did the story idea come from? What about the idea drew you to it?



Magic In Fiction: Common Threads I’ve Observed

Royalty Free Image via Pixabay

I really enjoy reading books that involve magic. I think I’m so attracted to this aspect of fiction is because the first book that really got me into reading was a YA Fantasy novel that was all encompassing magic. Not to mention you can get very inventive with magic, its properties, and uses.

I’ve been meaning to write this posts since way last year, but never really got around to written it. Originally, the idea was to write a general discussion about magic in fiction. But I was recently more inspire to write a post about the types and usages magic in fiction, the common threads I’ve observed through extensive reading.

Nature / Elements / Seasons

Magic that comes from the land. Elemental magic associated with fire, water, wind, air, earth, metal, lightning, wood, etc. Magic derived from the four seasons: spring, summer, winter, autumn. This type may also present itself as the ability to communicate with animal life.

Everyone Has Magic

A magical society in which everyone has and can use magic.

NOT Everyone Has Magic

A world in which a group of people or country have magic but others don’t. Sometimes the separation is between humans and magical beings.


In which magic in general or a particular magic is passed down through a familial, maternal or paternal bloodline.


Magic that is conducted through objects, typically staves, wands, swords, rings, orbs, rocks/stones, arrows, etc.

Spells / Incantations

An arrangement of words cast in order to use magic, sometimes involving or learned from a book of spells.

Mages / Wizards / Witches / Magicians

General names for magic users (if a story chooses to use these titles).

Seers / Oracles

Characters who can foresee the past, present and/or future. This is done through visions, bowls of water, looking into fire, or looking into an orb. These characters can be interpreted as having magic or mediators of a higher being. This ability is unpredictable.

Gifted / Bestowed

Characters referred to as being “Gifted” – or some other such title denoted to magic users – with magic or have magic given to them. This sometimes occurs through a higher being or god, depending on the universe.


Magic possessed by a particular individual that is predicted to do great harm or good, the views and expectations of which are discerned depending on how one interprets the prophecy.

Magic That Manifests Later

A character who possesses magic since birth but doesn’t know it. This character will grow up in a normal, human way until a certain event incites the magic within to manifest.

These are different variations and characteristics of magic I’ve seen in books I’ve read; each one observed occurring in more than one book.

What do you think about magic in fiction? What other types of magic would you add to this list or include with what’s already listed? I’d love to hear what you think about this topic.



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Book Review: Heart on Fire by Amanda Bouchet

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Romance, Fantasy
Series: Kingmaker Chronicles, book 3
Rating: 1 out of 5
Recommend to Others?: No


Summary (via Goodreads):
Who is Catalia Fisa?
With the help of pivotal figures from her past, Cat begins to understand the root of her exceptional magic, her fated union with Griffin Sinta, and Griffin’s role in shaping her destiny.

Only Cat holds the key to unlocking her own power, and that means finally accepting herself, her past, and her future in order to protect her loved ones, confront her murderous mother, and taking a final, terrifying step–reuniting all three realms and taking her place as the Queen of Thalyria.

What doesn’t kill her will only make her stronger…we hope.


My Review:
This book was a huge letdown for me.

Where did the Cat from Book 1 go?

The Cat in this book spent the entire novel stubbornly refusing to see the truth that was right in front of her, a truth that several people had pointed out to her throughout the entire series but she refused to believe. On and off again it would seem like she was coming around to her destiny but then something would go wrong and she’d back peddle several steps.

There came a point where I wondered if she would ever get it. I understand her reluctance but if you can’t believe yourself or the most important person in your life (Griffin) or a god(s), then I don’t know what she’s going do. We spend way too much time in Cat’s head listening to her litany of self-victimization. Yes, this series is written in  First Person so internal thoughts are a given but this was too much and annoying.

Why are characters endlessly talking?

Scenes also stretched longer than they should – like several chapters to do just one scene – because characters spent way too much time talking instead of getting to the point. Some times all this talking was at inappropriate times like in the middle of a fight. It really detracted from the reading experience. For example, the first scene was – if I remember – about 60 odd pages, and the entire book is only 380 pages. It made me wonder because we spent so much time on that first scene – which would have been great if there hadn’t been so much talking – would there be enough remaining pages to really tell the story. Not really. This might be comparing apples to oranges but I see things like this in anime often. Characters will watch a bad guy power up for a certain amount of time and just stand there watching instead of doing something to stop the bad guy. That’s what it felt like I was seeing here at times.

Why is the antagonist so weak after so much hype?

The main antagonist is Cat’s mom, Andromeda, the Queen of Fisa. Based on what Cat tells us, her mother has been this intimidating, cruel, powerful, invisible force looming over the horizon. Clearly, she would be the final boss, so to speak. I was really looking forward to what the inevitable confrontation with Cat’s mom. I am so disappointed by not only those confrontation scenes but Andromeda’s character was sorely weak for a supposedly all-powerful antagonist. Reality of whatever scenes Andromeda was in didn’t fully match up with what Cat had been describing all along.

The above things I mentioned just didn’t make sense on the whole. After so much preparation for a final battle there ended being nothing. Seemed like a cop-out ending to me, too easy of a conclusion. I was close to marking this book as DNF. This wasn’t the conclusion I expected nor the conclusion I believe this story deserves.


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Writing Playlist #11: Love and Romance

Royalty Free Image via Pixabay

Today’s writing playlist features a few select romantic/love songs to inspire ideas for romantic stories.


“A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri

“As Long As You’re Mine” – Wicked

“Can You Feel the Love Tonight” – The Lion King | Elton John

“Endless Love” by Luther Vandross

“For the First Time” – Tarzan

“Greatest Love Of All” by Whitney Houston

“I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston

“Rewrite the Stars” – The Greatest Showman

“We Both Know” – Safe Haven

Past Playlists:
Disney (pt.1)
Disney (pt.2)
On Repeat (pt.1)
On Repeat (pt.2)
Can’t Stop Singing



ARC Book Review + Book Release Day: Fade to Us by Julia Day

Thank you to NetGalley and Wednesday Books for providing me with an e-ARC to read and review.
Happy Book Release Day! to Fade to Us by Julia Day

Image via NetGalley

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 5/5
Recommend to Others?: Yes


Summary (via NetGalley):
Julia Day’s Fade to Us is a story about found families, the bond of sisterhood, and the agony and awe of first love.

Brooke’s summer is going to be EPIC— having fun with her friends and a job that lets her buy a car. Then her new stepfather announces his daughter is moving in. Brooke has always longed for a sibling, so she’s excited about spending more time with her stepsister. But she worries, too. Natalie has Asperger’s–and Brooke’s not sure how to be the big sister that Natalie needs.

After Natalie joins a musical theater program, Brooke sacrifices her job to volunteer for the backstage crew. She’s mostly there for Natalie, but Brooke soon discovers how much she enjoys being part of the show. Especially sweet is the chance to work closely with charming and fascinating Micah–the production’s stage manager. If only he wasn’t Natalie’s mentor…

When her summer comes to an end, will Brooke finally have the family she so desperately wants–and the love she’s only dreamed about?


My Review:
I loved Fade to Us by Julia Day. It was such a fantastic read that I couldn’t put down for two whole days – it’s that compelling of a story.

I didn’t know much about Asperger’s before reading this and have no experience with people who do have it, but I feel more informed post-read. The way the author presents what it’s like for someone with Asberger’s and how it feels to live with/take care of someone with Asberger’s (to me) came across as beautifully written, natural, honest, and real. But again I can’t say for 100% sure of its authenticity. These impression I base off of my experiences/interactions with people with other developmental and psychological disabilities.

Brooke is an admirably self-less person for giving up so much for someone she technically doesn’t know, who is sometimes too much for her, but who she wants to embrace as family. But this self-lessness has consequences despite its good intentions, creating lots of tension and suspense throughout the story. Brooke struggles to find some kind of balance between her personal life, getting along with her step-father, Jeff, and helping her step-sister, Natalie. Despite these struggles, the progression of Brooke and Natalie’s relationship is (character development-wise) well-written.

Natalie’s character is great as well. She’s a great person in general. I think a few times her family underestimated her tolerance level and ability to observe/understand. I get their hesitation and need to protect her, especially from having meltdowns. But I also agree with one character that she’ll never learn how to deal with the bad parts of life if she’s always sheltered (that goes for anyone). (Again, I’m no expert here). Natalie’s view on things, though at times painfully blunt, are insightful when you really think about what she’s saying. Post-read, I wonder what this story would be like if we got alternating chapters of Brooke and Natalie’s POVS. This story feels very much like it’s both their story, not just Brooke’s.

Micah I liked but he’s more of a background character, a kind of plot device if you will. He’s there but his presence is as limited as his character development, short-lived and not enough depth to dive in to. I appreciate how he (and others) treated and talked to Natalie like she was a person, just like everyone else.

Great story. Wonderful characters. Pretty cover. Awesome that musical theater was involved. And loved the sister-sister relationship. Fade to Us deserves a standing ovation. Brava, Julia Day, brava!