The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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A Russian fairy tale in the style of Uprooted on Netgalley? I almost squealed in delight when I saw the email and immediately requested it.

I was fooled.

Warning: the following review is critical and contains spoilers.

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Is it weird to bless your own sneeze?

Have you ever had a story affect you so much, it changes things you do on a daily basis?

I have.

When I was a child, I read a book of Irish fairy tales, and one of the stories absolutely terrified me. The plot was that in Irish folklore, if you sneeze three times and no one says ‘bless you’ (or whatever your country says), then a leprechaun can claim you as his bride. In the story, an evil leprechaun made a beautiful young maiden sneeze twice, and on the third time his servant couldn’t let the poor girl be bound to his master so he blessed her. The story has a happy ending, but for some reason the fear of not being blessed stayed with me.

Apparently they made a movie based on it (Leprechaun 2). Never watching that. Nope.

So since I work from home, no one is usually around to hear me sneeze, so I end up saying it myself. Is that weird? Probably. Do I care? Maybe a little. But I’ll probably do it for the rest of my life.

Personal stories welcome!

Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier

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What time is it? If you said ‘another amazing fantasy by Juliet Marillier’ you were right!

How did I miss that this was a Beauty and the Beast retelling when I was looking through her books before? I would have been all over that. Well, it’s over now – the book is read and I am even more in awe of Juliet’s astounding ability to bring the world of the uncanny to life. The more of her books I read, the more engrossed I feel.

Now, I do get how it’s not for everyone. It’s heavy, and heart-wrenching and sometimes long winded. However, there’s a reason Juliet Marillier is considered a historical fantasy writer. Her works are as much history as they are fantasy, giving us a glimpse into old Ireland. And it is amazing. I wouldn’t miss a word.

I also loved this because it’s not your known Beauty and the Beast, just as Dreamer’s Pool was not The Goose Girl. Juliet puts her own story to the age-old concept, and makes it that much better.

Can you tell I loved it?

I loved it.

Read this book.

Tower of Thorns (Blackthorn & Grim #2) by Juliet Marillier

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Man I love this series. And Juliet Marillier. Seriously, this woman is a master at her work. Tower of Thorns was fantastic. Honestly, there’s no way I can list everything I loved about it, so here are the highlights:

The thing I loved most about it is the characters. They are so incredibly real it’s hard to believe this is fantasy.

Another thing I really loved is how true Irish folklore was incorporated into this. From changelings to what happens after you live more than you should it really hits home. There is no sugarcoating the truth. I love this about all of her books.

The end was fantastic, too. I think I didn’t breathe for a while there, just trying to get through the pages. And while the story was long and paced, I couldn’t skip a single word.

The only thing I thought was strange was that two of the perspectives were first person and the other was third. I wonder why she did that, but it really didn’t take away from the novel.

But seriously, I can’t wait to read the next one. I’m so hooked it’s not even funny.

What I’m trying to say is thank you, Juliet Marillier. Please keep writing your amazing stories. That is all.

Looking for beta readers for a fairy-tale fantasy novella!

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After the Queen makes a careless bargain with the Fey Folk, her daughters are cursed to become Creatures of the Sea. But when the curse is finally over, they find themselves searching for a way back.

Sisters of the Sea is complete!

It ended up being a 37,000 word novella, and while I was hoping to make it to novel length, I’m not disappointed. So now I’m looking for beta readers to provide some constructive feedback – from style, to length, to overall story line. If you are interested, please leave a comment! Any help would be appreciated.

Three LGBTQIA Romance short stories in one review, oh my!

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I received these at the same time as ARCs from Less Than Three Press on NetGalley. Seeing how they are very similar concepts, I decided to read them all first and then do a collective review. It actually worked out rather nicely!

Witches & Wolves by Kelly D. Smith

This one kind of made me wonder how it made into publishing. I don’t read many short stories, so I thought maybe the standards were lower? The writing felt like a high school girl who read too much Twilight and decided to give writing a try. There isn’t a complex sentence in sight. I’m talking, “She sat down. He looked at her and stood up. She yawned.” Yea, kind of like that.

So I wasn’t surprised when I reached the author bio to see it say she’s a 19 year old who likes to write erotica. Hey, keep on doing what you’re doing, girl, you can only get better!

The actual story was intriguing, and a part of me wished the writer took some time to elaborate on many of the finer points. This could have been so much more interesting if it wasn’t so rushed through the scenes. It was the shortest of the three books, and it definitely showed.

So if you’re looking for middle grade writing with some adult concepts, you might like it.

Servants of the Living Forest by Brandon L. Summers

Now this one was much better, in both writing technique and character development. I enjoyed it from the get-go, with the unconventional identities and bad-horror-movie plot. It was fun and actually strangely unpredictable, at least as far as these types of genres go. I wouldn’t say it was literary genius or anything, but I give it a thumbs up for a fun quick read.

Witch, Cat, and Cobb by J.K. Pendragon

Unknowingly, I saved the best for last! Now this story is definitely a worthwhile read. The writing is very sophisticated, engaging, and witty. The plot had an even flow where I didn’t feel like I was reading a short story and skipping important bits for length, but a true novel.

Now, I won’t deny it, by the end I felt like I read a fantasy edition of a Jerry Springer episode, but I enjoyed it so that’s all that matters, right?

I will definitely be checking out more by the author, and I would recommend you do the same!

Dreamer’s Pool (Blackthorn & Grim, #1) by Juliet Marillier

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So you like dark fairy tales?

Shady pasts and uncertain futures?

Loathsome villains and unwilling heroes?

Then Dreamer’s Pool is definitely for you.

This book was fantastic.

It was written beautifully, but most negative reviews I’ve read mentioned the slow pace and long novel length. Let me tell you, it’s worth it. Everything that happens to the characters matters. It is literally like being sucked into their world not wanting to leave. You want more.

The characters were great and believable. I loved Grim. It makes me sad this novel didn’t give us as much on him as Blackthorn, but since I know there’s two more I can’t fault it. I need a break anyway, to digest.

It did feel predictable throughout. There were many parts where I thought I knew what was going to happen, but she proved me wrong on several occasions, all the way to the end.

And oh man that end. The stones. I thought my heart stopped for a moment, not because I was afraid, but because I felt it so thoroughly it hurt. If you read this, you’ll know what I mean.

Basically, any fan of adult fairy tales would enjoy this, but make sure you set aside enough time to truly get into it.