The Witch’s Heart: A Review

“I’ve seen how the end begins.” Her voice was a hoarse whisper as the words tumbled out. “I saw everything in the Nine Worlds. I saw the Aesir, the giants, and shades and dwarfs and men. I saw Yggdrasil, and the dragon who gnaws its root. I saw a wolf so big that his jaws could swallow armies whole, and a great serpent rearing out of the water, and I saw the sun and moon go dark as the wolves who chase them finally swallow their prey, and I saw a ship crewed by dead souls.”

The Witch’s Heart captivated me from the first page. THIS BOOK DESERVES ALL OF THE ACCOLADES. I love getting a deeper, more personal look at mythological beings. This book focuses on Angrboda, a Jötunn and lover to Loki. When it comes to her story, I’ve only heard scraps, even though she was known to mother the three most destructive beings in Norse Mythology. Genevieve Gornichec brings Angrboda to life and makes her a dimensional person, more than an infamous giantess, more than the bringer of grief. Through her eyes, we also get a look at Loki. I’ve always been fascinated by him, but many people don’t have the patience and tenderness towards him that Angrboda has. We see him through the eyes of a friend, of a lover. This book shines a light on both of them that is often left out of Norse mythology.

Through Angrboda, we get to see Loki’s mischief against the Gods play out. We see the tricks he plays and his reaction to the consequences. I’ve always enjoyed Loki and thought he deserved a bit more appreciation for being as quick thinking as he is, and Angrboda appreciates him as exactly as a wife might; exasperated and charmed, all at once. In turn, Loki appreciates Angrboda, in his own way. He sees her wisdom, her strength after being a shunned woman. Angrboda has an ability to adapt and I think it makes sense that she would be drawn to Loki, and him to her. Angrboda and Loki have both been punished for being far too clever, though Angrboda is punished for being reserved in that cleverness and Loki is punished for using it for mischief.

More than just the romance and crackling dynamic between Loki and Angrboda, this is a book about the strength of women. Angrboda is shunned from Asgard, her teachings are credited to others, she’s tortured… and still she rises. She makes a life for herself, she’s survived. She thrives, creating a bartering business for herself and a home. Gornichec paints Angrboda with masterful strokes, through her writing we see a woman who is bold, able to withstand fury of literal godlike proportions. Angrboda’s known for her iron demeanor, but our author slowly unravels a tenderness at her core. The Witch’s Heart embodies the essence of femininity; a woman’s ability to adapt to her surrounding, to be steely when faced with trials, and nurturing at other times. It’s a tale of motherhood, friendship, destruction, sacrifice, and rebirth.

“I loved you then. I love you now. I will love you until I die. And even after, whatever comes then, I will love you still, even though you’re a fool and you’ve used me the same way that Loki has used you. But I suppose that makes me a fool as well.”

Though I enjoy Loki as a god, he is lacking when it comes to nurturing Angrboda. He appreciates who she is, as I mentioned before, but he isn’t the best husband. The relationship between Boda and Skadi, a huntress, is much more worthy of admiration. These two women care for each other deeply and Skadi never backs down from telling her friend what she doesn’t want to hear, but needs to hear. Boda sees Loki with rose-colored glasses and Skadi sees him more evenly. The friendship and love between these two is a true heart warmer.

When it comes to motherhood, we see Angrboda take on a role that is much like a modern day stay-at-home mother or a single mom dealing with a barely-there dad. She deals with all the hard parts; bedtimes, education, getting her children to eat balanced meals. Loki sweeps in whenever he wants and piles his kids with sweets and loves and departs just as swiftly as he came in, leaving Boda to clean up the sticky fingers and be the strict parent in comparison.

Our author has a way of including a multitude of Norse myths, sometimes in passing conversation and other times, with more focus on them. We hear so much about Loki’s antics and of course, about the prophecies pertaining to their children. There’s a healthy dose of humor mixed in, I was constantly laughing out loud or grinning while reading. There’s also an undercurrent of dread that we feel through Boda when it comes to her children’s fates. Every emotion was pulled from me and I found myself wanting books from each of our characters’ perspectives by the end of The Witch’s Heart. The heartache, the love, the fear, betrayal, and humor all came together to make a PERFECT novel. The resilience of one woman and the way she opens her heart to others again and again. Gods play their games but Boda stays steady and true to herself. I LOVE this book. This book starts steady and ends up racing at breakneck speed towards Ragnarok and the conclusion. I truly believe this will fall under my top five favorite books this year. The Witch’s Heart doesn’t simply retell the story of Angrboda, it IS the story that people will turn to for many years to come when referencing her. This is art, a true masterpiece in Norse Mythology.

The Witch’s Heart is out now. Thank you to Netgalley and Ace/Berkeley Publishing Group for the opportunity to review!

The Fires of Vengeance (The Burning, Book 2): A Review

“Rage is love…twisted in on itself. Rage reaches into the world when we can no longer contain the hurt of being treated as if our life and loves do not matter. Rage, and its consequences, are what we get when the world refuses to change for anything less.”

I finished The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter last year and absolutely adored it, but I had a lot going on and never got around to a review. I had to rectify that with The Fires of Vengeance.

This installment picks up where tRoD fell off and wastes no time getting into action. Our main character Tau spent the first book becoming who he is in book 2. He goes from an unblooded child to a gruesome warrior whose name is capable of striking fear in the heart of men. He went from unnoticed, to one of the most famous men in the kingdom. The Fires of Vengeance follows Tau and Queen Tsiora’s journey after loss and betrayal, where friendships are kindled and new enemies are made, where the fight for control is against the people they know too well.

“The lie isn’t that we can’t be their equals. The lie is that they were ever anything but our equals.”

The relationship between Tau and others is spun on its head in this sequel. Tau struggles with working with nobles while still feeling the urge to protect the Queen. You can see why the Queen picked Tau as her champion. He will fight until there’s nothing left of him. He will fight until his body gives up. His convictions are never compromised.

This book celebrates life after death, love after loss. Winter reminds me that even during the worst of times, humans will adapt. They survive. They MORE than survive. They find strength in their relationships. They find happiness in small moments. I think it can be easy to overlook that in a book that is rife with war, but it’s true.

“They said, ‘This matters more than that,’ making it seem as if their edicts sprang from natural law when they were little more than self-serving choices. They wrote the rules in their favor, successes more often than others, and pointed to that as proof of their superiority.”

We get some backstory for the royal line that is told in a captivating way. The way Winter writes, you can almost hear Tsiora’s soft but strong voice pulling us along. I felt like Tsiora really blossomed as a character in this book. She became more than a figurehead. When we get a glimpse into her sister’s mind, we get even more of Tsiora than we were privy to previously. These characters contain multitudes, and like most world leaders, they aren’t perfect. There’s moments that we love them and moments that we can’t believe what they are capable of. Winter is an expert at creating multi-faceted characters, ones that endear you to them even when they have their flaws. Characters that can disturb you while keeping their place in your heart.

I didn’t have the same frantic drive to finish this as I did book 1, but that could be more because of my mood than the book itself. The beginning and the ending had me racing through the page, though. The writing was excellent, the prose enticing, the charater development consistent. If you’re looking for action, this book has it. If you’re looking for relationships, platonic and romantic, this book has it. If you’re looking for dragons, you’re come to the right spot. This series is almost perfect!

99 Percent Mine: A Review (and Thoughts on the Romance Genre)

Well, let’s start with a confession. I can say that about a year or so ago, I truly was “ashamed” to like the romance/rom-com genre. I would call them my guilty pleasures. As a fantasy fan, which also gets a lot of heat for not being “literary” enough (gag), I would scoff at the romance genre. Here’s the thing, I always KNEW that people that turned their nose down at fantasy were small-minded. I’m not talking about people that can’t get into fantasy, sometimes you like things and sometimes you don’t. I’m talking about the people that immediately dismissed me when they asked what I liked to read, like I wasn’t a “real” reader. I have found myself in fantasy books. I have learned so much about empathy and human nature through them.

Over this last year, as I’ve been branching out to many genres besides fantasy, I realized that I had been small-minded about romance and romantic comedies. They aren’t a guilty pleasure. I think this points to the deeper issue that scoffing at romance is rooted in the fact that women used to almost exclusively write romance. These books were considered fluff and only FOR women because of the general disdain of a woman trying to do anything that only a man previously was able to do. Some things carry on through generations without a thought to why we feel that way. There’s some people who are generally uncomfortable with sex or dislike romance, and that’s okay. But don’t be ashamed if you do enjoy the romance genre. There’s nothing wrong with loving LOVE or being comfortable with sexuality in books. It doesn’t make you less of a reader. In fact, I’ve found that one of my favorite combos in general is fantasy AND romance. Take that, literary snobs.

Now that I got that thought off my chest, here’s my review for 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne. This book takes place after Darcy’s grandmother passes, ultimately leaving her and her brother (Jamie) a house and other items, which is then being renovated by their best friend/honorary brother (Tom).

This is one of those books that I truly don’t know how to rate. I started off not really liking Darcy, which is entirely the author’s fault. I have just really come to dislike turning your nose down at others (as evidenced by the rant above). She has this elitist attitude towards bartenders, like a person should be much better than being a bartender. Like being a bartender is the lowest thing she can think of and all of the people at the bar are trash. Darcy wasn’t a very believable bartender anyway. The whole “I change my name tag every shift thing” is such a dramatic approach and also not very likely that an employer would allow that regardless.

Her brother Jamie was kind of a douche and her family not taking her on vacation because they didn’t want to worry about her heart condition?? What?? You don’t let your chronically ill child even come with you to your vacations? Very weird. The grandmother who was supposed to be this sentimental family member to them all kinda treated them like crap? Giving the ring she knows her granddaughter loved to the boy of the family? Leaving their “basically” adopted brother/her adopted grandson nothing? Letting Darcy believe she was a liability to their family? None of this screams the sweet old lady that they made her out to be.

BUT… Darcy gets better throughout the book. Jamie isn’t a huge part of the book. And… basically-adopted-best-friend Tom is the BEST. The romance between Darcy and Tom is super cute. He’s a good person and he cares about both of the twins. The steamy parts are STEAMY. And I did love that Darcy was unapologetic about who she is, about how she takes charge in her sexual life, about how she feels about Tom. I would give these parts a 5 star and the rest a 3. I can’t possibly figure out how to rate this, so I will just say, if you’re LOOKING for a steamy escape, this will do the trick. You just have to get past the elitist attitude that mars the first chapter or so.

The House in the Cerulean Sea: A Review

“Change often starts with the smallest of whispers. Like-minded people building it up to a roar.”

TJ Klune wrote something special. The House in the Cerulean Sea is so bursting with perfectly placed imagery, it manages to be a visual experience even though you’re reading it. While our main character, Linus, has a narrative that starts off with a tinge of sadness, the book keeps this cozy feel throughout it. There’s a dreamlike quality to Klune’s writing that entices you and pulls you along.

All the while, I had this protective feeling of Linus Baker. He’s that person you see that deserves more love than he’s receiving, the one that you want to wrap your arms around and tell them that YOU see them and appreciate them. I think Klune can strike this chord in most of us, there’s often going to be moments in life where you feel like you’re not enough, that your light doesn’t shine brightly enough for others to see.

“Oh, there was no specific event that brought along this line of thinking. It was just that he felt… dimmer than others. Like he faded in a crystal-clear world. He wasn’t meant to be seen.”

As we follow along on Linus’s journey, I think the best way I can describe the way I felt is that I was wholly charmed. Linus is called by Extremely Upper Management to take a job of inspecting a very unusual orphanage. When he gets there, he finds that these magical, misunderstood children are impossible to be impartial to. He finds a headmaster whose methods may be unusual, but is full of compassion for these children. This is a tale about finding your place, accepting yourself and others, and creating a family.

The House in the Cerulean Sea is an extraordinary book that manages to keep a foot in reality. It seems close enough to believe but far enough to be swept away into this alternate world. Every word is calculated to add to this experience, it’s entirely immersive in a way that few novels can claim. If you’re like me, you’ll feel a sense of wonder, that enveloping feeling of coziness while reading it.

The thing is, this book could have been grim. Bleak. Kids in orphanages… a middle aged man in a dead end, corporate, soul-sucking job. Klune’s tone makes you forget that. He brings humor to the page, alternating between dry and cheery, and deals expertly with some hard topics. There’s an amazing sense of comedy threaded through this novel. We get little hints of adult humor here and there, but it is still kept wholesome enough for a younger kid to read.

“Just because you don’t experience prejudice in your everyday doesn’t stop it from existing for the rest of us.”

There’s moments of such lightheartedness amongst these funny, magical little children. Lucy is one of my favorite characters and the way Mr. Parnassus interacts with Lucy’s destructive tendencies will have a smile quirking at your lips. There’s tender moments displayed by each of these “unique” children. Unraveling who these children are is one of the most fun aspects of this book.

Klune has some amazing follow-through in this novel. I love the way he would present a topic or idea and apply it at the perfect moment later in the book. Additionally, Linus was a delight to watch grow. His perspective on the psychology of these children and relating it to his work evolves before our eyes when he’s allowed to really dig in and become a part of his work instead of a clinical bystander.

“I don’t pretend to know the minds of men… They fear what they don’t understand. And that fear turns to hate for reasons I’m sure even they can’t begin to comprehend.”

One of the things that really made my heart burst was the innocence of these kids. They know they’re different, they know people are scared of them, but they still have hope and little acts of kindness make their day. There’s such positives messages in this book. Messages about love, about social injustice, about discrimination. There’s a male/male relationship, and the author is a part of the LGBTQ+ community. I couldn’t ask for more from this book.

It’s truly just a feel good, endearing read. It is the book that you NEED as a bright spot after the way the world has been lately. I don’t usually rate books on the number scale lately, except for goodreads, but this is easily a 5/5 stars.

“Regardless of what else he is, he is still a child, as they all are. And don’t all children deserve to be protected? To be loved and nurtured so that they may grow and shape the world to make it a better place?”

The Highlights: 2020 Book Edition

There’s something about a new year that gets my reading juices goin’. Maybe it’s just that a fresh start, figuratively or literally, is something humans need. We need a point where we can look and say, “this is when I do more/less of this” and we need periods of our life to be definable. We need the chance at rebirth, again and again. People scoff at the reflection of a year or the excitement of a new one, and I can be as cynical as the rest when it comes to that. One of the major things I can look back at this year with joy about is the books I read. I completed my goal of 110 and read 151. I read independently published novels, guilty pleasure reads, nonfiction, and my favorite: fantasy. This year, I jumped across so many genres and truly enjoyed it. I read things that were definitely NOT the epitome of fine literature and still LOVED them. Reading truly became an escape this year. Receiving advanced copies from publishers or indie authors got me out of my comfort zone and introduced me to books that I might not have read otherwise.

So, here’s going to be a jumbled, long list of my favorites this year. I am not going to limit myself to top ten or anything, so I hope you are able to find some things that interest you! Not all of these were 5 stars for me but they all imprinted themselves in my mind. We will start with indie and self published and move to different categories!

The Best of Indie/Self Published:

•ML Wang – The Sword of Kaigen (favorite standalone of the year, fantasy)

•Matthew Samuels – Parasites (sci-fi and YA)

•L. Steinworth – Asunder (fantasy and romance)

•Dan Fitzgerald – The Maer Cycle (fantasy)

•Marcus Lee – Kings and Daemons (fantasy)

•Eddy Telviot – The Stone Thieves and the Honourable Order of Inventors (fantasy, historical)

The Best of Fantasy:

•John Gwynne – The Faithful and the Fallen series (favorite series of the year)

•Evan Winter – The Rage of Dragons

The Best of Non-Fiction/Memoir:

•Jia Tolentino – Trick Mirror

•Mikel Jollet – Hollywood Park

•John Moe – The Hilarious World of Depression

•Lori Gottlieb – Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

•Ava Homa – Daughters of Smoke and Fire

•Molly Wizenberg – The Fixed Stars

•Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman – The Greatest Love Story Ever Told (must listen to audio version!!)

The Best of Rom-Com/Romance:

•Casey McQuiston – Red, White, and Royal Blue (bonus points for being LGBTQ+)

•Hannah Orenstein – Head Over Heels

•Lyssa Kay Adams – The Bromance Book Club series

•Jen DeLuca – Well Played (read Well Met first)

•Beth O’Leary – The Flatshare

•Rosie Danan – The Roommate

•Christina Lauren – In a Holidaze

The Best of Contemporary/Literary Fiction:

•Mary Pauline Lowry – The Roxy Letters

•Cristina Henriquez – The Book of Unknown Americans

•Sally Rooney – Conversations with Friends

•Taylor Jenkins Reid – The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

• Gabriella Burnham – It is Wood, It is Stone

•Brit Bennet – The Vanishing Half

•Sophie Cousens – This Time Next Year

The Best of Guilty Pleasure:

•Sarah J Maas – A Court of Thorn and Roses series (also could fall under YA/NA)

•Cate Tiernan – The Sweep series (also could be under YA and reread)

The Best of YA:

•Brigid Kemmerer – A Curse so Dark and Lonely (fantasy)

•Lori Lansens – This Little Light (pretty heavy dystopian fiction)

The Best of Historical Fiction:

•Bernard Cornwell – The Last Kingdom (and the Saxon Stories books 1-4)

The Best of Thrillers:

Alice Feeney – His and Hers

The Best of Poetry:

•Kate Baer – What Kind of Woman

The Best of Rereads:

•Patrick Rothfuss – The Kingkiller Chronicle

•Robin Hobb – The Farseer Trilogy

•Brandon Sanderson – The Way of Kings/Words of Radiance

I hope you enjoyed your year of reading and I hope this year is even better! Let me know your favorites

Dear Edward: A Review

“This was not a tragedy. Dying on your couch watching TV by yourself is a tragedy. Dying while doing something you love with every part of your body is magic. I wish you magic, Edward.”

I finished out the year reading Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano. Edward is the only remaining member of his immediate family, after being the lone survivor of a plane crash. This is a tale of how one survives the aftermath of devastation, of how you reconcile with the person that you were and the person you become because of it. It’s inspired by a plane crash that happened in 2010, where a 9 year old boy was the only survivor.

Don’t expect this to be a rollicking tale, it is slow burning. The build up to the crash is quiet, chilling, and unassuming. It seems more real because she didn’t dramatize the crash. I felt anxious while reading, knowing the characters’ fates and hearing the direction their life was taking before they tragically passed. I had goosebumps and a lump in my throat as the book progressed.

Most of us haven’t been through something as traumatic as our whole family dying in a plane crash, thankfully. Ann Napolitano’s writing still struck a chord with me. She evokes that keen sense of melancholy that one feels after they’ve experience a shock, a heart break, the loss of a loved one. The capacity to be numb and deeply, deeply sad all at once.

One of the hardest lessons portrayed in this book, is dealing with the fact that everything DOES NOT always happen for a reason. Edward’s friend Shay wants him to be “the boy who lived” and relates him to Harry Potter. She speculates that his powers will show themselves. Sometimes we have to recognize that bad things happen. Life is about learning to deal when they do. We sometimes have to live through being a mess before we heal. There isn’t always a bright side to tragedy. We live in those dark places until we have enough strength to climb out of them.

I’m not sure the slow burn of this book would have resonated with me as much if it wasn’t at this exact point in my life. 2020 has been rough for me even if you took the pandemic out of the equation. I found myself relating to Edward’s reaction to trauma, the numbness that is only dispelled when you allow yourself to feel the pain and break down. This can relate to many moments of our lives, even when they aren’t as intense as what he’s going through. Sometimes books find you at the perfect time and you enjoy them all the more.

“Humans need community, for our emotional health. We need connection, a sense of belonging. We are not built to thrive in isolation.”

Here’s to more reading in 2021 and hopefully, a better year for all!

The Archive (The Maer Cycle #2): A Review

I had the pleasure of reading Hollow Road by Dan Fitzgerald earlier this year and now I’ve read The Archive. It is set shortly after Hollow Road and has just as much heart, if not more. The Maer and the humans join together to delve into the hidden history of the Maer. It was nice to be greeted by our old friends. Carl, Sinnie, and Finn grew so much over the last book and their storylines continue to captivate in The Archive.

The pacing of this book was excellent. Fitzgerald shows that he can have his hand in many pots and not get burned. Fantasy on a large scale? Check. Romance that comes off as organic? Check. Sexual fluidity and breaking social constructs? Check. Dragons, and cognizant mythic beings? Check!!!! I enjoy the fact that Fitzgerald didn’t drag us through meaningless battles, something that often makes me glaze over. This was definitely plot oriented and he kept on target there. I will be the first to admit that I love a little bit of love in my books, and I also am a book masochist and love a little heartbreak in them, as well. I was not disappointed! I found the exploration of sexuality to be well written and quite tender in this novel.

Fitzgerald caters to the duality that occurs to any living, thinking being. Sometimes we are the advocates, the protagonists, the good guys. Other times we are the malicious, the cunning, the deceitful. We crave power and control while feeling justified in our actions. The Maer and the humans both fall prey to this duality. I thought it was interesting (and well done) that just as we become more endeared to the Maer, we are thrown for a loop. The format of how certain things were revealed in this installment was a touch of genius.

Dan writes the journey masterfully. He doesn’t become a victim of writing too much scenery and too little plot. You’ll be entertained the whole way through. You might even learn a thing or two from the threads of wisdom woven throughout. I definitely recommend digging into this series.

A Tribute to Khaleesi

“The dog looked up in entreaty. Liquid brown eyes begged: Take me with you. I’ll be good.”

Here I am, writing a blog post about one of my dogs again. It is hard to sort through my emotions until I put them down in words. It is safe to say that the year has not been kind to my family. Today we said goodbye to my first baby. I know everyone cringes when people call their pets their babies, but we got Khaleesi when she was only 7 weeks old, even before we owned our home. She was our focus until Ghost came along, and then Sawyer. Obviously my son takes precedence over our dogs, but my love for Khaleesi (for both of our dogs) was boundless. Warning, there will be a lot of pictures, some of them blurry but all reminding me of a perfect moment with her.

Since Khaleesi got diagnosed in September with diabetes, we did everything we could do. Glucose curve after glucose curve, switching to a more attentive vet, emergency visits galore, different brands of insulins, different units of insulin. Her body would fight it all off. She quickly went blind, which turned into her eyes swelling shut. Seizures, neurological issues, etc. Making the decision to put her to sleep was excruciatingly hard. I have woken up nauseous every day since her health started taking a decline. You will always wonder if you did the right thing. You will always feel like you betrayed them even if their quality of life was low. If you love a thing, you will always feel some regret letting it go, even if it was for the best. You’ll always wonder if one more treatment could have been the savior, but it would also be selfish to hold on too long. Khaleesi was still so full of love even while being a shell of the dog she was, it broke my heart.

So now, our tribute to Khaleesi: for the first half of her life, she slept around my neck like a travel pillow. After that, on my shoulder. Or chest. Or stomach. Between the ankles. She craved touch. My back will probably be messed up forever from sleeping around her. As my father-in-law says, she has no sense of when a person doesn’t like dogs. You are required to love her. She would shove her nose into your palm or face until you gave her attention.

She loved when people would whisper stories into her ear, she would just sit with her ear pressed against you and her snout to the sky. You could give her a little Mohawk with her wiry back fur so she looked like a spiky dinosaur. The big dog around the block scared the crap out of her until she had Ghost to back her up. Then she felt tough and would act like a badass walking past that dog.

She loved comfort, never laying on the bare floor if she could help it. Couches, blankets, chairs, and dog beds ONLY for her. When Alex was working and in school, I was pregnant with Sawyer, and he would come home late in the night to dinner. Khaleesi would put her paws on his shoulder and just rest there. We have always had a special bond with our animals. If we could take them with us, they went. Road trips, vacations, boat rides. I have always gotten anxious leaving them behind.

Khaleesi has always been the sweetest, most attention-seeking little dog. She had beautiful, soulful brown eyes. There was so much life in them. She always looks sad, even though she was probably one of the most spoiled dogs I know. She had a sweet little face and wispy fur on her muzzle that reminded you of a wizened old man.

She lived up to her name. She was fire and sun, with a serious nature. She thought she deserved the world and we gave it to her. I will miss our dogs of ice and fire, as I called them. Ghost was cool, collected, and laid back. They were utter contrasts from each other. To me, a home isn’t a home without dogs in it. It already feels lonely. I am sure we won’t be dogless long, but Khaleesi and Ghost will always one of the greatest joys in my life.

Today, Khaleesi passed away in our home, with her head in my lap. She was pet and given neck rubs and told she was a good girl, that we loved her. A Laps of Love vet came to our house and helped us send her off gently. First she got a meal of cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets, French fries, and an ice cream, because why not? After months of a strict diet, she deserved it. She was lovingly wrapped in a blanket, just as she would have wanted to go.

Now universe, please lay off us for a bit. The past two years have been rough for us. I feel absolutely diminished in spirit but I look forward to loving more dogs, to remembering these ones. The people we are surrounded by have been absolute saving graces to us this year. For that, we can be thankful.

“Dogs die. But dogs live, too. Right up until they die, they live. They live brave, beautiful lives. They protect their families. And love us. And make our lives a little brighter. And they don’t waste time being afraid of tomorrow.”

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Review

“We can’t have change without loss, which is why so often people say they want change but nonetheless stay exactly the same.”

Oh, where to start. This book has been sitting on my shelf for about a year now, not because I didn’t want to read it, but because I wanted to save it for when I was feeling low. After the year I have had, I knew it was time. Whenever I read a book that involves therapy, it becomes completely evident to me that I could benefit from it. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb is no exception, in fact, it makes me want to talk to someone even more. If a therapist can benefit from therapy, what does that say for the rest of us?

“Will you spot the insecurities that I’m so skillful at hiding? Will you see my vulnerabilities, my lies, my shame? Will you see the human in my being?”

As I read this book (which isn’t particularly sad, Gottlieb has an amazing sense of humor) I found myself on the verge of tears. I think it speaks to her abilities that she can make you feel seen throughout this book, and she validates that even the most self-aware to have things to work through. We all hide pieces of ourselves, moments that shamed us, the secret pride in our heart. Even when we think we are being entirely open, even when we are paying someone to help us work through our issues. This book highlights how the therapists and counselors of the world SEE that. They work through your memories and help you see the truth and the lies that you hide even from them, even from yourself. I found myself wishing Gottlieb was MY own personal therapist.

“An interesting paradox of the therapy process: In order to do their job, therapists try to see patients as they really are, which means noticing their vulnerabilities and entrenched patterns and struggles. Patients, of course, want to be helped, but they also want to be liked and admired. In other words, they want to hide their vulnerabilities and entrenched patterns and struggles.”

Throughout the book, we get to see her through her work with her patients and her time with her own therapist. I found myself incredibly endeared to her patients, even the tough-to-love ones. I cried when they were grieving, laughed when they laughed, and took joy in their breakthroughs. The one that was most insufferable, John, ended up being my favorite. There’s certain people that you’re positive won’t find any clarity in therapy, and yet, they do. John was one of those, and he really found a way to reveal himself to Lori AND to himself.

Gottlieb tackles many issues; death of a loved one, terminal illness, love, guilt, addiction, the lack of societal support when it comes to men and mental health. Especially when it came to the men’s health aspect, I realized how many men are unintentionally angry because they don’t have an emotional outlet. We have conditioned men for ages to not seek help for their mental health. This creates generations of people simmering with unresolved issues, pulling others into their destructive orbit.

“Men tend to be at a disadvantage here because they aren’t typically raised to have a working knowledge of their internal worlds; it’s less socially acceptable for men to talk about their feelings. While women feel cultural pressure to keep up their physical appearance, men feel that pressure to keep up their emotional appearance. Women tend to confide in friends or family members, but when men tell me how they feel in therapy, I’m almost always the first person they’ve said it to.”

During this book, she blends her professional schooling and training with real life experiences. She approaches things from a clinical stand as well as from a tangible, personal viewpoint. She feels like a friend and a professional all at once. I highly recommend reading this! I give it a 4.5 stars out of 5.

There were so many amazing quotes and moments that I can’t pepper this article with them all, but if you’re interested, I put my kindle highlights in this link here!

“In this room, I’m going to see you, and you’ll try to hide, but I’ll still see you, and it’s going to be okay when I do.”

Tristan’s Folly by Marcus Lee: A Review

Yay! I was able to get a spot on Storytellers on Tour’s promotion of Marcus Lee’s new book. Tristan’s Folly picks up where Kings and Daemons left off. I can tell you one thing, the action was immediate. That’s something that I enjoyed in the first book as much as the second book. Lee knows how to pull his readers in.

Straight off the bat, Taran and the crew makes new enemies, as well as new allies. It is fun to see the characters that we followed in the previous novel coming together in this book more. The banter between characters comes easy and made me smile quite a bit throughout the novel. While others are coming together, The Witch King is still up to his dark ways and cruelties.

Maya is one of those characters that is a breath of fresh air. She’s truly good and compassionate and wants the best for those are her. The love story being her and Taran is soft and sweet, just enough to flavor the book without overpowering it or making it feel like a romance. This is a nice contrast to the constant cloud of doom, the battles that are always near. Speaking of Maya’s kind soul, through her and Astren, Lee brings up some thought-provoking conversation about the cost of war, weighing the immediate effect against the the long term effect that will strike a chord with many. There’s such a shade of grey that comes with war. It is easy to say that it is never needed, but sometimes you have to fight back. Sometimes it simply comes down to survival of the fittest. I love books that dig deeper into your subconscious.

Tristan’s Folly is a book that makes for smooth reading. Lee doesn’t fall prey to too much imagery, he sprinkles enough in to capture your attention while keeping the book’s plot at the forefront. No long, meandering paragraphs where you gloss over. I appreciate this in a novel. I like my novels to be driven by the characters, and this is certainly the case.

I also like that we get a lot of Daleth’s POV in this. Often we don’t get to see much of the “bad guy’s” thoughts, we just see them through the eyes of the other characters. Daleth’s sinister thoughts are compelling and at times, humorous. His response and thoughts to Taran’s crew are so entertaining. He leads with strength, and though people know he’s evil, they’re still willing to follow him. Reversely, on the side of good, people are having to accept a leader that isn’t quite up to their expectations. There’s treachery and twists aplenty happening. This treachery adds to the earlier question, how much are you willing to sacrifice to win? For the greater good? Is it worth giving up your own happiness?

Lastly, I just wanna say: I think the storyline Lee gave Kalas is GENIUS. It is so unique and I can’t say much without spoiling it for those that haven’t read the books yet, but he’s such an intriguing character. Whenever he’s in a scene, I always perk up a bit more than before.

Marcus Lee made another compelling read in his series, The Gifted and the Cursed. The lines between friends and foes, dark and light, monster and man are all muddled. These are some fun reads! If you haven’t had a chance to read them yet, enter this giveaway Here. Thanks to Marcus and Storytellers on Tour for including me!

Check out the other bloggers on this tour by clicking Here.