Tales From the Later Lands - Harriet Goodchild
My favourite stories in this short collection were The Seal's Daughter and The Beggar and the King, though the first was a nice, bloody tale of love and revenge that carved out a nice place for itself.

It's chiefly when I'm reading these kind of ballad-y stories that I become aware that I read with two hearts. The one is carried away by the beautiful language and the grand themes of love, loss, redemption, revenge, and so forth. The other is a sceptical and sarcastic little beggar that rolls its eyes and says to the characters: "Are you an IDIOT? Why would you DO that?" I try to ignore this heart because it's the one that gets me into trouble with teachers.

Anyway, back to the stories. The Seal's Daughter would be my pick for the most beautifully written of the bunch, with repeated themes and lines that made it a poem as much as a story, but The Beggar and the King I also loved. It's one of my favourite Faery storylines: mortals crossing into Faery to snatch back The Thing that was taken from them. Passing through hardships and trials, grasping the ungraspable and doing the undoable to gain their desire.

The last story alone made me sorry I'd read it. As were the other stories, it was beautifully written, but there was such a darkness to it that it left me feeling physically sick. My nightmares are like that, and I have enough of my own without adding more. (Now you also know why I don't read grimdark :D )

Having said that, I don't think there are many people who will feel the same way as me, and as with everything else I've read of hers, Harriet Goodchild's Tales From the Later Lands is written with such beauty and lyricism that you feel you're dreaming a dream as you read. You won't find much better writing than this.
— feeling big smile
Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship - John F. MacArthur Jr.

So much better than I expected it to be. I expected an expose-type thing (which I was interested to read), but Strange Fire was so much more than that.


In refuting the outward errors of the Charismatic Movement, MacArthur went right back to the scriptures and the doctrines we hold to concerning the Holy Spirit, showing where errors in doctrine and thinking brought about what is the Charismatic Movement today.


Lots more doctrine, wisdom, and scripture in here than I expected, which meant it wasn't quite the quick read I expected.

Heart-aching, beautiful, hopeful

An End and a Beginning - Harriet Goodchild

Gorgeous writing (I expected nothing else, having read some of Harriet's poetry), a lyrical, dreamy style that lingers in the mind.

Characters I wanted to shake, one for weakness and the other for inflexibility, and yet loved despite that.

I don't lightly read books that contain themes of adultery; but this book was not only an exception, it was a thoughtful, beautifully drawn one.

— feeling cry
The Kestrel - Lloyd Alexander

I read Westmark #2 first because I haven't been able to get my hands on the first or third book. In fact, I had to source this one from the library (the only one they have, alas!) and I will now be scouring book shops until I find all three and bear them off triumphant.


I actually don't know where to start. Because I can't seem to grapple with all the feelings that this book brought up, I'll be brief.


I'm shattered. In awe. I've read the Prydain Chronicles and consider them the best of the best, but Westmark #2, in my opinion, manages to be better.


It's the closest thing to grimdark that I've read--or will read--and I was sobbing at least twice as I read it. I don't make a habit of sobbing over books. I've had a sniffle once or twice with other books, but that's it.


Lloyd Alexander has what I consider to be an unparalleled ability to create flawed, striving, achingly real characters with actual moral goodness to them. And he does it so well that I wept along with the other characters to see Theo's innocence begin to be lost.


That is all. Read at your peril--but DO read.

Light, fluffy, and slightly unusual

Coffee and Ghosts: The Complete First Season (Coffee and Ghosts: The Complete Seasons Book 1) - Charity Tahmaseb

It's a quick, easy read. Quirky, and with an unusual premise. I also happen to LOVE the 'season' thing that happens when an author writes a series of connected novellas/novelettes instead of a whole book. Lots of fun and a good style.


Content: Usage of 'Jesus' and 'Christ' as swearwords--about 4 times.

Do quite love the cover, too...

First Impressions: Traditional Regency Romance Novella - Elizabeth Johns


A short, sweet, clean read. Very cute, some slightly deeper than usual thought in the characters, but some silliness as well.


L.M. Montgomery once described one of her characters thusly: "She referred to her husband as 'he', as if he were the only male in the world"; and this book does suffer from that habit. Not just with 'he', but 'she'. New paragraphs are begun in a slightly confusing manner, with neither character being named except by those pronouns.


However. It's a light, sweet read, and the above annoyance wasn't enough to make me want to throw the book across the room--or even consider stopping. I appreciated the fact that Helena wasn't stupid enough to think that there would be no difficulties in becoming a mother overnight.


And despite a couple of ludicrous situations, this is NOT your appallingly Americanised Regency type book. Try it out.

But...but...I remember it being better...

Rainbow Fire (School for Vampires #2) - Quinn Conlan

This book was nowhere near as good as I remembered it being. Part of that is, I think, because I very much enjoyed the first book on both 1st and 2nd read-throughs; and the second book just didn't hold up. The things that were bad in the first book were magnified here, and the things that were good in the first weren't done so well in the second.

Don't get me wrong: I still liked reading this one. I'm invested in the characters and I'd really like to see the third book (if it ever shows :D ). It says something for the main character that even though I found this book not objectively as good as the first, I still want to find out the rest of her story.

It just...wasn't quite there for me.

Comfort Read

Kingdom of Ruses - Kate Stradling

This is technically a re-read instead of a read: Kingdom is one of my favourite comfort reads (up there with Pride and Prejudice).


And I really needed comfort reads last weekend.


The Kingdom of Lenore is run by a prime minister and his family, who have for centuries (along with their ancestors) been serving The Eternal Prince.


Only the Eternal Prince doesn't actually exist.


Until one day when a stranger from the forest steps into his place. What happens then?


Shenanigans, my friends. Delightful shenanigans.

Enjoyable as always...

— feeling ghost
Lockwood & Co. Book Three: The Hollow Boy - Jonathan Stroud

Very much enjoyed this one. As usual with Stroud, there are all the cool characters (apart from Lucy, George and the skull being my favourites) and it was great to see Lockwood & CO. playing (kinda) nice with Kipps.


A few too many unfinished plotlines and questions for a full 5 stars, and a bit choppy on the pacing, but still thoroughly enjoyable.

MASQUE has a new cover!

— feeling amazing

I've been meaning to do it for a while, and now I've finally DONE it!


MASQUE has a gorgeous new cover by the supremely talented Jenny at Seedlings Design Studio. I knew it would be amazing--I mean, I've seen her work everywhere--but I just didn't appreciated HOW amazing it would be. And it captured the heart and soul of MASQUE! I believe I'll be on cloud nine for a while yet...


Feeling emotionally bruised, bloody, and beaten...

— feeling bloody
Catching Fire - Suzanne  Collins

This trilogy is just hitting all the right buttons--or targets, if you're Katniss.


I hear from a few readers that this second book just wasn't as good. That it was a place filler. That it was the exact same story as the first, told again.


To those readers, I say in the kindliest manner imaginable--wot in all heck is wrong with you?!


CATCHING FIRE is its own story: advances the whole story: packs as much or more of a punch than THE HUNGER GAMES. And honestly, I loved CATCHING FIRE almost better than THE HUNGER GAMES. 




It's been years since I read action-adventure. It's also been years since I was pulled through the emotional upheaval that THG has dragged me through. I don't know if it's that I relate so well to Katniss (I do), or if it's just that she's such an amazing character and the world building is so immersive. I do know that a huge amount of the appeal to me is in the characters themselves (as much as I love the plot and find it incredibly clever and creative). I love Effie and Haymitch. Ditto Peeta and Katniss. Sorta want to punch Gale. He's just not that awesome. But those side-characters--all of them--they're beautifully drawn. I love what Suzanne Collins has done here.


And the writing itself? Perfect. Sharp and present and immersive. Immediately magnetic. I don't know if Suzanne Collins has written anything other that THG (I mean, I know she doesn't need to, but she's a writer, right?? there's gotta be more!) but if she has, I'm there.


Now I've just got to save MOCKINGJAY until after I've watched the movie, so I don't spoil the movies... 

Reading progress update: I've read 300 out of 391 pages.

— feeling beaten
Catching Fire - Suzanne  Collins

I love Cinna, too. I LOVE THEM ALL. And I am NOT CRYING.

Reading progress update: I've read 250 out of 391 pages.

— feeling big smile
Catching Fire - Suzanne  Collins

Now I'm as much in love with Haymitch as I am with Effie. Oh! It just keeps getting better!

Sprig Muslin - Georgette Heyer

Oh, I enjoyed this!


It's been such a long time since I've read Sprig Muslin, and I forgot how delightful it is! Sir Gareth and Lady Hester are simply sweet, and I appreciate the soft way in which the romance creeps in, because the romance is not REALLY the focus of this book (strangely enough for a romance novel--and yet I would still categorize it AS a romance).


The characters are as wonderful as ever--and some of them as wonderfully loony as ever--and although I knew that Georgette Heyer loved Austen and have seen some direct references made by her characters to Austen's books, I never recognised the Darcy quote that Sir Gareth uses until this time around. So it was delightful to find something new in something so old and familiar to me.


Unlike the last couple of Heyers I read, this one gets all five stars and one big, happy sigh.

Another gem from A.E Marling

— feeling big smile
Magic Banquet - A.E. Marling

I've learned by now with A.E. Marling that the only thing I can expect about his books is that they'll be nothing like what I expected them to be. Oh, and that they'll be VERY good. But mostly that they won't be anything like I expected.


And I LOVE that. I've read so many books that I find very little surprises me. A.E. Marling always has, so far.


This is a gloriously unexpected, fragrantly delightful banquet.

Three Cheers!! (And lots of Hogans Heroes)

— feeling amazing

It's finished!


The Short Thing I started as a challenge has grown to be a 41k word novella, and has finally finished its growth spurt! I had a huge day of writing on Saturday (6k) and a huge day today (5.5k) to finish it; and it feels SO GOOD!


Now I'm gonna put it aside for a week and not touch it until I start my 2 weeks of intensive editing.


That means...


Me watching Hogan's Heroes

Me reading LOTR again (then more Hogan's Heroes)

Me finishing Catching Fire (then more Hogan's Heroes)

Me drinking SO MANY cuppa teas (while watching Hogan's Heroes)


*Happy Sigh!*


A WHOLE WEEK to relax!


Now I just have to be firm about Not Writing.

Currently reading

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
Douglas Adams
Raising Steam
Terry Pratchett
Progress: 152/377 pages
Steven Brust