One Dark Window

One Dark WindowOne Dark Window by Rachel Gillig
Series: The Shepard King #1
Published by Orbit on September 27, 2022
Genres: fantasy, gothic, romance
Pages: 396

Elspeth needs a monster. The monster might be her.

Elspeth Spindle needs more than luck to stay safe in the eerie, mist-locked kingdom of Blunder—she needs a monster. She calls him the Nightmare, an ancient, mercurial spirit trapped in her head. He protects her. He keeps her secrets.

But nothing comes for free, especially magic.

When Elspeth meets a mysterious highwayman on the forest road, her life takes a drastic turn. Thrust into a world of shadow and deception, she joins a dangerous quest to cure Blunder from the dark magic infecting it. And the highwayman? He just so happens to be the King’s nephew, Captain of the most dangerous men in Blunder…and guilty of high treason.

Together they must gather twelve Providence Cards—the keys to the cure. But as the stakes heighten and their undeniable attraction intensifies, Elspeth is forced to face her darkest secret yet: the Nightmare is slowly taking over her mind. And she might not be able to stop him.

The first time I saw this book sitting on the shelf at Chapters, I did not bring it home with me. The cover was pretty, the premise was interesting, but I had a pile of books twice my height to get through so I left it there.

Then the algorithm algorithmed, and I saw it recommended a couple of times.

Finally, I said dang, okay, win me over pretty book. But it was sold out online at Chapters (gasp, the horror!), so I quickly ran to my local one and picked up one of the last remaining ones perched on the shelf.

I’m being dramatic, but this book is dramatic, and it’s so fucking good.

The premise is original and interesting. You get enough backstory and lore sprinkled throughout without any of it feeling info dumpy. It’s just enough to explain what’s going on, while leaving you wanting more. The idea of the Providence Cards is fun, but what makes them stand out so much are the accompanying riddles. They were eerie and perfect. There wasn’t one thing I nitpicked about the plot, it all made sense exactly the way it was.

It’s been awhile since I’ve loved a cast of characters this much. Each one was dynamic and flawed, without being annoying. They all seemed like real, developed people with lives and thoughts beyond what you were reading on the page. Elspeth was an interesting POV to read from, and while she didn’t always know what was going on, it didn’t drag the story at all.

Ravyn was your classic dark-haired, brooding misunderstood softie. A hard exterior with a heart of gold. But he was delicious, and not annoying or condescending, and his characteristics did not change. The hard exterior, heart of gold reveal was done well.

Every side character was necessary, and there. Everything felt so alive. Even the Nightmare, who some might argue is not alive, still felt very much alive.

Anyway, the writing was superb, the atmosphere was superb, the characters were everything you could ask for. I found myself numerous times racing through pages so I could know what happened next.

Suffice to say, I’ve preordered the second book already.

The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn

The Thousand Deaths of Ardor BennThe Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn by Tyler Whitesides
Series: Kingdom of Grit #1
Published by Orbit on October 1, 2020
Genres: fantasy
Pages: 729

Ardor Benn is no ordinary thief. Rakish, ambitious, and master of wildly complex heists, he styles himself a Ruse Artist Extraordinaire.

When a priest hires him for the most daring ruse yet, Ardor knows he'll need more than quick wit and sleight of hand. Assembling a dream team of forgers, disguisers, schemers, and thieves, he sets out to steal from the most powerful king the realm has ever known.

But it soon becomes clear there's more at stake than fame and glory -Ard and his team might just be the last hope for human civilization.

This is a hard book for me to rate.

We’ll start with the plot. Fabulous, chef’s kiss. There was stealing and hijinks, costumes and manipulation, tricks and obstacles to overcome. Each significant part of the plot seemed very well thought out, and it was entertaining seeing the process of how the characters worked through issues. They actively used the skills that had been brought up beforehand (Quarrah wasn’t just labeled a thief for the sake of it and then never shown using those skills, for example).

The downside is, there is so much plot. The book is loooong, and I felt like there were 5 books with their own separate plot lines all shoved into one. The plot lines themselves were wonderful, but one barely finished and you were on to the next. Not only that, there wasn’t a lot of build up to any of them (except the first, really), since there wasn’t the space. It felt very action movie-esque, where you’re forced to just say “well, I guess this is what’s happening”. I don’t know what I would have wanted instead, except maybe some space to breathe.

Now, the characters. I liked Ardor and I liked Raek. I don’t think we got enough of them together, which I understand due to the circumstances but I still wanted to see more of them exchanging banter. Quarrah I also liked, but I have some issues with how she’s portrayed. Which I will put below in a spoiler section that you can choose to read at your own peril. The side characters were all okay, but they mainly existed for the plot. Which isn’t always a bad thing, but you could clearly see them exiting stage left until they were needed at exactly the right moment again.

Really, I think exploring King Pethrodote and High Isle Chauster’s motivations more would have been interesting, as I think there was some moral greyness to be explored. But we really only got that when Ard was about to blow them up, or something.

Now for some spoiler talk: View Spoiler »

Anyway, the dragon’s were cool. Grit as a system was interesting, and I like that it wasn’t over-explained but you still knew how things worked. And the setting was pretty good, it felt like a classic(ish) high-fantasy world.

Ultimately, I will probably pick up the second. Is part of that because of the covers? Yes. Am I going to cry at the sheer mass of the final two books in the series? Also yes.

A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of WitchesA Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Series: The All Souls Trilogy #1
Published by Viking Penguin on February 1, 2011
Genres: fantasy, romance
Pages: 579

Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

This was my second read-through of A Discovery of Witches, spurred on by my lovely friend Sarah’s love for the show. My first review, shared on Goodreads in 2016 reads:

I wanted to love this book more than I did. I really enjoyed the story and most of the characters, but I hard a hard time with the main character. I found her incredibly whiny and at times her actions/reactions ridiculous. If I could have liked her more I think I would have really enjoyed this book.

I’m still unsure whether or not I will grab the second one.

The second and third one are currently sitting on my shelf, all checked out from my local library. I’ve been determined to finish the series since I read the first one, but I never got around to it. Both times, I was torn between wanting to love the book and it ultimately falling a little flat for me.

The premise, interesting. The atmosphere, oxygenated. The vibes, immaculate. The witches, witching. The daemons, tripping. The vampires…brooding and a little too over possessive for my tastes. Which is saying something, since I can normally cast aside the internal bristle that happens when it comes to vampires and their less than stellar ability to let a human, human. I get being protective because humans are fragile, but maybe also let them make their own decisions?

I found Diana less whiny this time around. I actually really loved her in the first half of the book. Where she starts to fall apart for me actually has more to do with the vampires than it does her. The moment she admits she’s in love with Matthew, she moves from independent woman to a side character in her own narrative being swept along. I understand she knows very little about the supernatural world. But she could still have opinions on it.

I’ll probably read the second one. Since it’s in my grasp already. And I will hope, against all odds since we’ve gone back in time, I won’t have to read “Listen to Matthew, he’s our leader” more than once.

I’m also going to hope that Diana stops referring to Matthew as “my vampire” when narrating, and instead can just refer to him by name.

Update: I’m, like, 150 pages into the second book now.

The Priory of the Orange Tree

The Priory of the Orange TreeThe Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
Series: The Roots of Chaos #1
Published by Bloomsbury on February 26, 2019
Genres: fantasy
Pages: 848

A world divided.
A queendom without an heir.
An ancient enemy awakens.

The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years.

Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to ensure the continuation of her bloodline. But as she clings to her independence, assassins are getting closer to her door.

Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has converted to the Six Virtues and risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she will never be truly at home in Inys. As she dutifully goes to the sanctuary each day, Ead keeps a watchful eye on the queen, protecting her with forbidden magic.

Yet even she cannot keep Sabran from harm indefinitely. Dragons are encroaching on Inysh lands for the first time in centuries, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and an age-old force is stirring that no mandate can keep at bay.

I bought The Priory of the Orange Tree mainly for the cover (and because I love Samantha Shannon’s writing), but I stayed for the characters.

Priory sat on my shelf for awhile. I was nervous I wasn’t going to like it. I knew it was focused around dragons and I’m not that big of a dragon fan. Which is maybe weird to say as a fantasy reader/writer. But they aren’t a supernatural creature I’ll go out of my way to read about.

However, I did really like the lore about dragons in Priory, and how the history about them was woven into the story. It was really neat, and it made the dragons feel like actual characters in the story instead of just animals. They all had personalities of their own.

Ead’s storyline was my favourite. I was both frustrated by parts of her story (in a good way), and nervous to see where things would be taken.

I really just enjoyed learning about the history of the queendom, and the world of Priory as a whole. I would totally take a history course on this place if it actually existed!

Also, I just have to say. Aralaq is a mood and I would like him as a friend.

There Will Always Be Pizza

Well, it’s been half a year. Some months ago, when the outside world wasn’t just part of my imagination, I entered a short story contest. It was the first ever writing contest I’d entered, and subsequently the first ever writing contest I lost, but it was fun! Below you’ll find the two thousand or so words I wrote and then agonized over for days. Enjoy!


The door swung shut behind her, the loud bang reverberating down every spent nerve she had. Maybe if it wasn’t the end of the week, and maybe if her day started and ended completely different than the way it had, she would have caught the door deftly with her hand or the heel of her boot to quiet her entrance.

As it was, the door slammed, her body jolted, and her irritability rose. She tried to release some of that anger with a long breath in through her nose and out through her mouth, but it didn’t help. Instead, her leather purse landed with a soft thud behind the door, her boots and socks following shortly thereafter. What she needed was dinner and a glass of wine. She walked down the dark hallway of the house she wanted to love but didn’t, her bare feet growing cold against the dark wood floors, in search of exactly those two things. Three things, if she included her husband who, on a Friday night at 7pm was almost certainly in the kitchen whipping together something for the both of them to eat. 

Except, she realized as she got closer to the kitchen, the house was too quiet for him to be cooking. Oz was many things, but a quiet cook was not one of them. Often, she’d open the front door to country music blaring, her husband singing loudly slightly out of time and extremely out of key. If show tunes were playing, it meant he was in a good mood and experimenting with a new recipe. No music implied it was her night to cook, but he hadn’t sent a text asking her to pick something up on the way home.

The kitchen was just as dark as the hallway. In fact, none of the lights on the ground floor were on. Luckily all of the boxes they had yet to unpack were shoved into the spare bedroom, otherwise they would have posed a tripping hazard. It was one of the issues she’d had when Oz had convinced her to move out here; even in the dead of night in the city, everything was still illuminated. She hadn’t gotten used to the lightless country nights yet, and she wondered if she ever would.

“Oz,” she called, as she walked back towards the stairs. When there wasn’t a reply, she yelled it louder.

A sound of surprise came from somewhere on the second floor, followed by a muffled curse. A door opened, if she had to guess she’d say her office door, and Oz’s heavy footfall sounded down the hallway a second later. He appeared at the top of the stairs, a tall shape now backlit by a soft glow.

“Babe, I wasn’t expecting you home early.” This time the confusion was on his end, his tone of voice and the way he anxiously smoothed down his black beard giving him away.

“It’s 7,” she stated, letting some of the annoyance she felt creep into her voice. 

He pulled his phone out of his pocket to check the time, as if to corroborate this fact. He brought something up on his screen, swore under his breath again, and looked back down the hallway from where he’d come. She could see him processing a number of scenarios to which she knew almost none of the variables. 

“Okay, right. I, uh, need a second. Don’t come upstairs.” He didn’t wait for her to respond, but instead half ran back to her office and closed the door. 

This was so unlike his character, so not what she was used to coming home to, that she was immediately suspicious. He was terrible at keeping secrets, he didn’t usually see the point. He was known for buying a present for someone and then telling them almost immediately afterwards what he’d gotten. It wasn’t like Oz to hide something from her, especially not like this. 

Curiosity, annoyance, and growing hunger stopped her from staying downstairs like Oz had asked. Instead, defiant, she climbed the stairs and walked down the hall to her office. She was a grown woman, she didn’t have to stay downstairs if she didn’t want to. She paused at the closed door, light spilling out underneath the frame, the need to be polite and knock before entering stopping her. The defiance, like a bubble, burst. Her stomach growled, egging her on.

“Oz, what is go–,” she opened the door and stopped. Her husband was leaning up against a giant set of built in wooden bookshelves that had not been there when she’d left for work that morning. 

His reaction was delayed, but when he realized she’d opened the door, he quickly stepped away from the bookshelves and hid the hammer he’d been holding behind his back. As if this somehow blocked her from seeing the rest of his tools lying in the room. The movement was so innocent and childlike that for a minute she didn’t know what to do. 

“I-I can explain,” he said, clearly uncomfortable under her scrutiny. 

“You built me bookcases.” She walked over to the shelves and ran a hand over their surface, feeling the texture of the naked wood with her fingertips. She’d seen Oz work before, the love he put into each of the pieces he worked on. Now, it was reflected in the angles of these shelves. Her shelves. In the alignment, the perfect fit, as if they were always meant to be a part of this room. They took up the entire wall of her office across from her desk, and added a sense of wonderment to the space. She’d always wanted floor to ceiling bookshelves, but had given up on the idea shortly after they’d moved in. There were more important things that needed fixing.

He was watching her and she turned to meet his gaze. His dark eyes searched hers, trying to gauge the emotions behind them. “Do you like them,” he asked as he fiddled with the hammer behind his back, the nervous energy trying to escape him somehow. 

“Did you build this all today,” she sidestepped the question. She didn’t quite know how to sum up what these shelves meant to her. A simple ‘I love them’ didn’t begin to explain how the thoughtfulness had formed a lump in her throat. A lump that she was having a hard time swallowing around, if she was being completely honest.

His face lit up, as it always did when questions about his work came up, “I worked on them between customers over the past month. After we had that talk.” That talk had been a breakdown she’d had that had resulted in her stoically packing up her anger into the car and taking it on a drive for a couple of hours until she’d calmed down enough to face him and the house again.

When they’d discussed where to live after getting married, the country hadn’t seemed like such a bad idea. She loved the city, but a change of pace was needed. They’d both fallen in love with the house, even though she thought it was beyond the scope of what they could easily renovate. The house inspector had assured them it was mostly cosmetic, and Oz had assured her that he’d organize his workload so he could spend more time working on the house. The former had rung true, the latter had not.

“I also hired someone this week,” he said, taking a step towards her, “You were right. The house needs the work. So Jack’s going to be running the shop for me for awhile. I can spend a day or two a week fixing things up here and still keep the business going. We can do this.”

An emotion that she didn’t fully understand squeezed her chest. Without thinking, she took a step, two, then wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her lips to his.

She’d taken him by surprise, but it took him only a heartbeat to reciprocate the kiss, instinctively pulling her closer. The tension in the curves of her body were apparent and he wanted nothing more than to relieve her stress. 

She pulled back from the kiss but remained in the circle of his embrace, “Thank you.”

He leaned forward and put his forehead against hers, “I love you, you know.”

Unable to meet his gaze right then, she opted to stare at his chest instead. She placed a hand overtop of his heart, the soft fabric of his shirt warm with his heat. “I know,” she whispered softly. 

They stayed like that for a minute, enjoying being in the presence of one another. No obligations, no issues, just the two of them being present together. Until her stomach growled, reminding them both that it was dinner time. 

With reluctance, she moved to untangle herself from him. Before she could fully remove herself, he leaned down and kissed her forehead. She gave him a small smile.

“I guess I’ll go whip something up quick,” she said, turning towards the door. What she really wanted was to sit in this room all night and stare at the beauty of her shelves. 

“Don’t worry about it. Pizza should be here in,” he pulled out his phone and checked the screen, “10 minutes, give or take.” 

“You ordered food?”

He looked at her sheepishly, “I knew you’d be hungry, and I wanted to get these built before you got home. I thought maybe you’d want to spend the night organizing your books and eating pizza.”

This time the smile that she gave him was genuine and huge. The smile that he’d seen a hundred times over when they’d first started dating, and fallen more in love with each time he’d witnessed it. It transformed her face from pensive to unfettered, like a caged bird set free. 

The first night she’d moved into her apartment in the city was one of her happiest memories. It marked the beginning of her feeling like an actual, responsible adult. The first thing she’d done, apart from putting sheets on the mattress tucked into the corner of the room, was order a pizza and organize her books. Her bookcase hadn’t actually been a bookcase at all, just piles of colorful spines against the wall in her living room. But they were hers and they were in the apartment she had rented by herself. 

“Did you want to put music on and help me,” she asked after a moment.

“Am I allowed to sing?” He gave her a playful smile out of the corner of his mouth that brought a mischievous glint to his eyes. 

She nodded, “Only if you are alright with me covering my ears.” 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, I have an amazing voice,” he replied. 

A chime sounded through the house, startling them both. He let out a little laugh, “Pizza must be here early. It’s paid for, if you want to grab it. I’ll start hauling yours books out of the spare room.”

She stopped him with a hand on his arm as he moved to walk by her. Their eyes met and she intentionally held his gaze, letting him see what she was feeling.

“I love you, Oz,” she said, tenderly.

He leaned down and gave her another quick kiss on the forehead, “I love you too, Viv.”

Better Late Than Never?

Okay, so here’s the thing. At the beginning of 2019, I did a video where I discussed what I wanted to accomplish for 2019 in terms of reading and writing.

Turns out I accomplished exactly 0 of those goals.

And you know what? I’m totally okay with that. Even though I didn’t complete them, just setting them made me more conscious of where I was spending my time and energy. If I wanted to write a novel by the end of 2019 (which you can probably tell didn’t happen), then I should at LEAST be putting time towards that, right? You know what I accomplished instead of writing a novel? For the first time EVER, I completed #nanowrimo. Do you know how awesome that felt?? I count that as a win, even though it wasn’t my main goal.

The other thing I wanted to do more of (or less of, sentence structure is a thing), was buying less books. In fact, I’m pretty sure my goal for 2019 was to buy NO new books. Guess what? Totally failed at that. I maybe made it three months before I purchased a book. And when I finally did purchase a book, I figured the gates had been breached so might as well allow myself to buy a couple more.

But, what it did make me consider, was what books I was bringing in. Instead of mindlessly buying whatever, I established a couple of rules to kinda-sorta feel better about the goal breaking. 1) a book had to be on my wishlist for awhile before I could buy it or 2) it had to be part of a series I already had on my bookshelf for me to buy it. Although these rules didn’t always apply, they at the very least made me stop and think before I purchased something. Considering I bought maybe a third to a quarter of what I bought the year before, I’m counting this as a win too.

The one thing that did take a hit in 2019 was my blogging. I thought starting a YouTube channel would be more fun (it has its perks) but that quickly fell off to the wayside as well (three whole videos were made). Instead, I spent the majority of 2019 falling back in love with reading. Just reading to read. What a novel (pun intended) idea.

For 2020, I’m not making any goals. Will I read? Yes. Will I write? Yes. Will I blog? Maybe. What I will do is enjoy myself.

So there’s that.

4 Years!

It was pointed out to me the other day that last week marked 4 years since I started this blog. Four whole years. Which is crazy to me. Time makes no sense.

In honour of that accomplishment, I’ve made a list of things I’ve learned in those four years. All of the knowledge I’ve gained, all of the wisdom I have knocking around in my head, all of the information I can pass onto you lovely people.

Ha. I’m joking. No wisdom. Just a quick yay from me to me.

If I’ve taken anything away from these past four years, it’s back up your damn website. Because that was a whole ordeal I’d rather not repeat.

Space and Time Continue

There’s a space inside my head

An empty space

An echo.

A place where words used to dance,

Mouths used to whisper,

People used to kiss.

The light

Behind my eyes

Sparkled off the ideas within.




So suddenly the light fades

When there is no one there to notice it.

Unappreciated it drip, drops

Leaking slowly out of my head.



2019 Reading & Writing Goals from a Procrastinator

2018 has been a year. A year of saying no instead of yes, a year of making time for the things I really want to do, a year of making space for the person I want to be; a year of growing into that person and her quirks. It has also been a year of lost motivation, unread books, and unwritten words.

I like setting goals (or resolutions as they are so fancily called this time of year), but I rarely follow through on them. One of my goals for 2018 was to keep on top of posting reviews and writings here, but that quickly fell by the wayside.

And you know what, that’s okay. Why? Because goals should be flexible. They should bend and shape with the person you are. They should adapt to the growth you experience and the pitfalls you encounter. Rigidity only heightens the sense of failure.

For 2019, I have two main goals, which fall under one umbrella goal; don’t let the fear of failure stop me from doing things I’ve always wanted to do. Who cares if I look like an idiot, put something out into the world that isn’t perfect, or end up failing at whatever I do anyway? The point of it is that I’ve tried.

The fear of failure has stopped me from doing a lot of things in life (got to love anxiety), but the biggest thing it has stopped me from is writing. Why sit down and write a book when it’s going to suck anyway? Well, not anymore.

But that, along with my other goal for this year, you can view in my first video for my YouTube channel. Because when you’re fighting back against anxiety, why not tackle the scariest and biggest thing you’ve wanted to do for awhile; putting your face on the internet for everyone to see.

So, that’s my plan for 2019. We’ll see how well it goes.

Here I am, world. Be gentle.

Why I Haven’t Been Reading (2)

I have an excuse. I have many excuses. Some may say I am full of nothing but excuses.

As some of you know, many of you may not, November is NaNoWriMo. Or National Novel Writing MonthFor those of us crazy enough to give up sleep and a social life for 30 days, this is a chance to buckle down and prove to everyone that will listen that you a writer can indeed spit out 50,000 words in a short amount of time.

Anyone that has talked to me at length this month has been told about this book I am writing. This child I am birthing. This thing that I am banging against the walls in the hopes that PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD GET YOURSELF ONTO THE DAMN PAGE.

For ages I’ve been a hardcore panster. That is, to say, I don’t plan what I write. I just write. The muse and I sit down over some coffee and we talk. It weaves a story, I dictate it as fast as my fingers will carry.

The issue with this being that sometimes I’ve given the muse too much coffee and it’s walked off to ramble by itself in the corner and I’m left staring at a blank page.

All of this to say that I haven’t been reading this month because I’ve been writing instead.

I am sleep deprived. I am slightly incoherent at this point.

But, on the plus side, I’ve written 24,000 words which is more than I’ve ever written on one project. Ever.

I mean, it’s not 50,000. But it’s a damn fine start.