I read Under the Howling Moon by Melanie Karsak. The caption on the description got me: for "fans of Vikings, The Last Kingdom, and The Mists of Avalon.” Check, check, and check, for me! :D
It was gritty and fascinating. I loved the descriptions of the Viking culture and religion, and the protagonist, a shield maiden with a terrible secret in her past, was easy to root for. The main climax was less of a battle and more of an inner struggle, but it didn't make it any less satisfying. The magical side of it was along the lines of the supernatural (gods meddling). I'd definitely recommend it!
I recently read Aimless Witch by Shannon Mayer. It's about a young witch who is somehow responsible for turning the world into an apocalyptic wasteland (but it's not fully explained how). She hides her magic and joins a caravan of humans trying to find a safe refuge. The whole world is incredibly bleak (Mad-Maxish), but intriguing. I found the wandering aimlessly thing a bit much at times (although it wasn't a surprise, since it's in the title), but the characters were likable and interesting, so they carried the story. An enjoyable read, overall!
I read Ancient Magic by Linsey Hall, and really enjoyed it. It's about a treasure hunter named Cass who has the ability to find treasure from her illegal dragon ability. Adventure ensues when she teams up with a hunky partner to find an ancient artifact that might spill her secrets. Good fun and made me want to keep reading the sequels! (I'm now on book 3). I especially like how the author was an archaeologist before writing novels, and her love of history leaks through the pages. Bonus: it's on KU.
Possessed, book 5 of the Musings of Merlin series, is now published! I'm very excited to bring Merry and his friends back into the world for a whole new season.
Immortal Merry Lytton, also known as the magician Merlin in centuries past, is blissfully reunited with his first friends and his long-lost love. But when a powerful elemental spirit tears through the forbidden barrier between worlds, Merry must decide whose side he's on. Will he honor his long-held humanity, or should he join the elemental world of his heritage that he's dreamed of forever?
Read it today!
I just read Born in Fire by KF Breene, and it was a good time! It's about a bounty hunter after magical folk (witches, vampires, etc.). She's a badass loner with a secret, which we don't find out until the end. I like her character, grumpy and humorous all at once, and I love that she finds the vampire she hangs out with creepy and weird, even though she's attracted to him (it seems reasonable to me… he is an undead predator, after all). Nice little plot, and I started reading book two right away.
This review is for a book called Battlecry by Emerald Dodge. It's about a young woman who's a superhero, fighting crime with her team under an abusive leader and shut off from the world.
It's an imaginative take on the superhero genre. I found it to be an slightly uncomfortable read in parts, mainly because the author does an excellent job at putting the reader in the main character's shoes in a hopeless, abusive situation (I imagine it might be a trigger for some!). I mostly enjoyed it, but the love interest flipflopped somewhat unbelievably, and the battle at the end went on a little long. However, she's a pretty strong writer, so if the subject interests you, it would be worth reading.
So, this book that I read is not fantasy (sorry…), but it is so fascinating (and goes with my latest release, Free Dive, perfectly), that I couldn't help but share.
It's called Deep by James Nestor, and it's non-fiction about free diving. The author looks at competitive freediving, free divers who study whales, those who collect seafood, and lots of other reasons to free dive, as well as going into details about whale biology and the physiological changes that occur to the human body when one free dives.
I keep stopping my reading to blurt out facts to my family and take notes for my Nautilus Legends series. I'm only halfway, but I highly recommend it. He's an accomplished author, indeed!
Review time! I read The Viking's Chosen by Quinn Loftis. It's about an English princess and a Viking who are destined to be together. It's a historical clean romance with a minor fantastical element.
I was drawn to it by the Viking topic, but it was far too romance-y for me. There really wasn't anything that happened in the book (very light on action). The princess, although brave and strong, spent much of her time hiding in her room to get away from the villain, and the Viking spent most of his time standing outside her door as a guard. It was also love at first sight, which I'm not the biggest fan of generally.
There were quite a few typos (missed quotation marks, homonyms), that surely would have been picked up by a quick read-through by a copy editor (or anyone, really). It wasn't a huge deal, but it took me out of the story every time.
There were some modernisms, as well, that threw me off (there was a reference to matches, and I'm pretty sure they hadn't been invented yet?). Also, I like a neutral language in my historical fiction in terms of slang. Although I understand that nobody would have been speaking English as we know it, and they would have been using their own slang that would have modern counterparts, it still throws me out of the story when they use words like "moron" or "weird." What do you think? Substitute modern slang for old ones, or keep a neutral language?
I'm going to start reviewing fantasy books that I read on my blog, so stay tuned for (hopefully) weekly reviews right here! I don't plan to rate them with stars, just discuss what I thought of each.
This week I'm talking about Live Fae or Die Trying by Jenna Wolfhart (do you think her name is a pseudonym? It's a pretty great name). It's about a fae woman in a world where supernatural creatures have been outed for ten years. All fae belong to a "court," except her, until she is scooped up by the prince of one and they have to solve the mystery of a serial fae killer. If the angsty romance angle was cut out, I would have enjoyed it a lot. It was fast paced, the stakes were high, the main character was relatable, and the world was interesting. However, the main character is connected by a bond to her prince, and there's a lot of romantic tension involved (too much for my taste, although I realize that is a highly subjective factor!). Also, I would have found her attraction to him more believable if the prince hadn't had a flaming red eye. Eyes are the windows of the soul and all that, and I don't know if I could gaze lovingly at the eye of Sauron. Am I just picky? :D
Conclusion: If you like the alpha werewolf dynamic but are looking for a change of scenery, try this book on for size. It's also in KU.
What's your favorite ocean animal and why?
This is a very challenging question. I don’t know how anyone really chooses a favourite when there is such an incredible diversity of weird and wonderful life in this world. I tend to be drawn to things that are very bizarre. The Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) is a great example. This strange looking animal is the heaviest of all the bony fishes and has a flattened body that is as tall as it is long. It was previously believed to be planktonic (meaning it couldn’t swim against the ocean currents) but recent research has shown they can actually swim up to 3.2km/hour. Woah! Slow down Ocean Sunfish! 😂
What's the weirdest sea creature, in your opinion, and why? (And do you have one at the Centre?)
One that comes to mind immediately is the Grunt Sculpin. This strange looking fish hops about on the ocean floor, looking like the most awkward, clumsy little creature. When you watch this fish, you just can't help but ask "how the heck do you exist?" The beautiful thing about nature though is that if you watch long enough, sometimes it all comes together. Grunt sculpins like to hang out in empty barnacle shells and when you see their strange, seemingly useless little fins sticking out of a barnacle, looking exactly like the barnacle's feeding apparatus or their odd pointed nose looking just like a closed up barnacle, it all starts to make a little more sense. We have many of these incredible little grunt sculpins here at the Centre and have even had great success with raising baby ones.
* Emma's note: new life goal: to see a baby grunt sculpin. *
If you won a free trip to scuba dive anywhere in the world, where would you go?
It might sound strange but if I could dive anywhere in the whole world, I’d choose right here off the coast of BC. Many people think you need to travel to tropical regions for the best scuba diving but the truth is, here in the cold, nutrient-rich waters of the Pacific Northwest, we have some of the most colourful and impressive underwater life. This area is home to some of the worlds largest species of fish and invertebrates including the Giant Pacific Octopus (which you can also see right here at the Centre 😉). For more on the diversity of life right here in the Pacific Northwest, check out this short video from The Marine Detective.
* Emma's note: I'm right here with you, Leah! I've dived in many tropical places, and BC continues to impress. *
You have a background in whale conservation. Tell me about your favorite whale.
Humpbacks are my favourite whale. Not because they are somehow better or more interesting than any other species, but because humpbacks are the whales that really sparked my curiosity and led me down the path of marine mammal conservation work. When I was completing my undergraduate degree at the University of Victoria, I had the good fortune to spend my summers working as a naturalist on a whale watching boat out of Telegraph Cove. At that time, we were really just starting to see the resurgence of humpback whales on the BC coast. Some colleagues and I began to study these whales to learn more about them and later we formed the MERS Marine Education & Research Society which has allowed us to continue this work.
If one legendary sea creature could become real, which one would you choose?
It might be a little cliché but I think I would choose a mermaid. Partly because most of the other legendary sea creatures are pretty terrifying, and partly because I'd like to be one. Of course the mermaids of ancient sea legends can be pretty terrifying themselves, summoning intense storms and luring sailors to their deaths. I love the idea of something like a mermaid existing. I'm not saying I believe in mermaids, but I do know that the ocean is a huge, largely unexplored realm and there is a lot about it we have yet to understand. We are still discovering new species of whales, so you just never know what else might be out there 🤔
What's your favorite ocean activity?
Oh boy. This is another really tough question. There are so many amazing activities designed to teach people about the oceans. Here at the Centre we have a wide variety of school programs for all age groups, each one full of interesting ocean-themed activities. Our “Feeding Frenzy” program geared towards children from kindergarten to grade 3, allows students to try eating like a sea star, a jelly or a limpet using a variety of props. One of my very favourite activities is our whale tail matching game, where kids and adults alike can try their hand at being a whale researcher and matching up tail photos from different individual humpback whales. It’s amazing to be able to share this aspect of whale research with people of all ages.
* Emma's note: I can't imagine what "eating like a sea star" looks like... yuck! *
Do you have a favorite ocean-themed fiction book?
Yes! My favourite ocean-themed fiction book is Christopher Moore's Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings. The book begins by following the lives of a group of whale researchers studying humpback whales in Hawaii. They are trying to figure out the meaning behind the song and it's a very believable account of the lives of those studying whales; that is until about mid-way through the book where it all gets a little sci-fi-wonky. You need to have a bit of a weird sense of humour to really get this book but I think most whale researchers have it. Most of my close friends and colleagues have read it several times and we refer to parts of it on a regular basis. It's kind of like that favourite movie that is so ludicrous the first time you watch it but the more times you see it the more hilarious it becomes. Fluke is my go-to gift for anyone new to the field of whale work.
* Emma's note: I haven't read Fluke (yet), but I love Christopher Moore! *
Thank you so much, Leah, for sharing with us your love of the ocean! For more information on the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea, go to www.salishseacentre.org
For info on Free Dive, go to my website emmashelford.com. To read Free Dive, visit Amazon, Apple Books, Google Play, Kobo, or Nook.