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Of Myth & Monster Review (Phoenix Fiction Writers Anthology) + Timely Cover Reveal!

Time for a review of a very cool anthology from the Phoenix Fiction Writers! And scroll to the end for a cover reveal for their next anthology, coming in June! Also, two of the short stories in Of Myth and Monster were just announced as finalists in the 2021 Realm Awards in the short story category, which I thought was super exciting! πŸ˜€ (The Eyes of the Barghest by Jillane Purrazzi and H.E.R.O. by Beth Wangler.)

Title: Of Myth and Monster

Author: Phoenix Fiction Writers

Featuring stories written by: Hannah Heath, Kyle Robert Shultz, Beth Wangler, E.B. Dawson, C. Scott Frank, Grace Crandall, Deck Matthews, Nate Philbrick, and J.E. Purrazzi

  • Date read: March 20, 2021
  • Genre: Anthology / Short stories / Science Fiction and Fantasy
  • Year pub: 2020
  • Pages: 276 (e-book)
  • Source: The publisher
  • Notes: I received a free e-ARC of this anthology from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.
  • Links: Goodreads β€’ Amazon β€’ Author’s Website

Mistakes Were Made (by Hannah Heath)

What a delightful rollick! XD This one was so much fun and just such a wacky, amusing adventure. I especially loved the voice of this one — such character! — and the strong cultural flavor was neat. It’s probably one of the most unique short stories I’ve ever read. Such colorful sci-fi! Marvelous!


The Boy Who Listened (by Kyle Robert Shultz)

Full disclosure: I copyedited this short story, but my unbiased reader opinion is that it was a vibrant, fresh tale, with a fun take on the “chosen one” and “magical academy” tropes, as well as being full of heart and clever twists! And, of course, despite not being an Afterverse story, there’s still a dash of signature Kyle Robert Shultz humor. πŸ˜‰


H.E.R.O. (by Beth Wangler)

Thrilling with a side of precious! With a relatable heroine who is part of a team of agents, this was an intense story which also had moments of fun. I loooved Poof the little phoenix! Such a cute side character. ^_^ This one dealt with fear and bravery, and I loved the mix of mythology creatures and technology, the agent aspect, and the twist at the end!


The Gods of Troy (by E.B. Dawson)

What a unique blending of Odysseus and space! E.B. Dawson always delights in her tales, and this was no exception, although with a bittersweet aspect which of course comes with the retelling. I really liked Odysseus and how the black hole and mythology and war of Troy and ship in space worked so well together. Fascinating!


The Unicorn Tamer (by C. Scott Frank)

A very amusing story, very tongue-in-cheek, about a fluffy, bear-like hero who’s rather grouchy but relatable. I loved the unicorn character! Almost the whole thing was wonderful and funny, although I confess that the ending horrified me. I guess I wasn’t expecting that dark of humor! But for the most part it was such fun and I really enjoyed the writing style.


Lamp of Silver (by Grace Crandall)

That was intense and fascinating! I was utterly immersed in this pirate tale-within-a-tale. A nautical adventure penned with skill. I love pirate stories and this one was amazing! I don’t want to give anything away, but the characters were fascinating and the twist on a genie was so unique. This was my first story from Grace Crandall and I definitely need to read more by her!


The Staff of Callewhyr (by Deck Matthews)

This was also my first taste of this author’s writing, and wow, I’m definitely curious to explore more, especially if there’s more in this world! This was a fascinating tale with a classic fantasy feel but its own original twists. The worldbuilding was so neat, the story edge-of-your-seat, and I found myself getting more and more curious about these characters, especially the secrets hinted at. A wonderful fantasy adventure!


Aura (by Nate Philbrick)

MY FEELS. *clutches heart* I’m pretty sure I forgot to breathe during this. Wow, wow, wow. This was SO unique and feelsy and I loved every second of it — well, it toyed with my emotions and was a bit sad near the end, but it could have been worse and overall I loved it. WWII-era but with a unique mountainous setting and just the right thread of fantasy threaded throughout. The characters were amazing and I loved them so much. I CAN’T. IT WAS SO GOOD. It felt like Lloyd Alexander but more feelsy. I can’t get over this one. I loved the journaled bits, too. I can’t stop thinking about this one!


The Eyes of the Barghest (by J.E. Purrazzi)

This was so spooky and atmospheric — pretty sure the snow made ME feel cold reading it! The Barghest was totally unexpected. Some of this was sadder than I liked, but I liked the story by the end with the oddly hopeful twist. And it was another one that totally sucked me in and made me forget I was reading. And kind of a Nordic flavor, which was cool!


All of these stories were just so good! These were all delightful stories by skilled authors and I definitely recommend checking the anthology out!

Speaking of anthologies, the Phoenix Fiction Writers have a new anthology coming soon — and the cover was just revealed! Check it out!

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*flailing* Isn’t it so cool? I’m excited for this one too! Visit the Phoenix Fiction Writers here.


You may also like . . .

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Thanks for reading! πŸ™‚

#MarchMagics Wrapup 2021

Just a quick wrapup post, revisiting the Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett adventures I got up to this last month for March Magics! (Hosted by WeBeReading)

READ AND WATCHED

  • A re-watch of Howl’s Moving Castle (because why not!) — The book is still my favorite, but the film is so cozy and fun and I love it too. It makes me smile, and this time was no exception. It’s also interesting watching it again now that I’ve been watching some other Ghibli films, which was not the case last year!
  • Witch’s Business (a.k.a. Wilkin’s Tooth) by Diana Wynne Jones — I guess this was her earliest children’s book? It kind of shows and was a little different but I enjoyed it, particularly the shenanigans about halfway through when I started getting used to the adventure (as usually happens. XD), and the nods to Puss in Boots which must have been a favorite of hers, since she once wrote a retelling of it and also referenced it for the finale. *grin, grin* Don’t start a revenge business — it won’t go well. XD (Particularly when there’s a mean witch trying to stop you.) Anyway, it has the signature DWJ twistiness and shenanigans and was a bit of a shorter read but I enjoyed it. Reminded me a little of Eight Days of Luke.
  • The Time of the Ghost by Diana Wynne Jones — This was my last DWJ to read that I’d never read before, so it was a bittersweet moment… Some of it was creepier than I prefer, and knowing some things about her childhood made other parts rather disturbing (as I suspected they would) but the mystery was sooo interesting and I was on the edge of my seat wanting to find out what was going on. There were so many fascinating twists, which I adored discovering. The title, like I vaguely suspected, is slightly misleading. Bwahaha. And I was delighted by certain time-related things! Anyway, certainly darker than many of her books, and I can’t say I particularly recommend it (unless, like me, you’ve read pretty much all her books and are used to the strangeness and want to give it a shot), but I’m glad I finally read it. (PLUS, what was with that barrow bit near the end, which I vaguely feel was a Hexwood or Arthurian reference or something??) Some things reminded me of Fire and Hemlock, too.
  • Men At Arms by Terry Pratchett — Since Guards! Guards! was my very first Discworld novel, it was delightful to come back to this Night Watch subseries. I usually find that in Pratchetts there’s a subplot or character that I just don’t care much about, and this was no exception (plus, there was a death I didn’t see coming and like…I was a little annoyed), BUT aside from a couple of things I disliked and threads I didn’t care about, I did really enjoy this one! Vimes is amazing and Carrot and Vetinari are certainly iiinteresting and there were some fascinating goings-on! There were clever bits and hilarious bits and surprisingly epic bits, and I for some reason wasn’t expecting much so overall I had a blast. Not one to start on, but anyway. I think I missed the Night Watch! Here’s hoping I continue the series. (VIMES, though! All of the Vimes parts were gold.)

I’d say these were two of my less-favorite Diana Wynne Jones books, but I expected that as I’ve been reading the ones that interested me more, so naturally the last two I picked up would be less-favorites. But I always find things to like in a DWJ, even the scarier ones. XD

I’ve finally finished reading all her books, so I feel somewhat accomplished! (Her adult novel Changeover is practically impossible to find, and I may have missed a scattering of little things like short stories. But otherwise, I’ve read all her books now at last.)

And March is always my Pratchett month, and I was happy to get back to the Night Watch, even if it wasn’t my favorite aside from Vimes and Certain Epic Things.

And I’ll take any excuse to re-watch Howl’s Moving Castle — or to re-read the book (though I’m saving that for sometime when I need a comfort read, since I do tend to read it every year).

But look at me, complaining! *smacks self* These were all minor complaints and I did really enjoy getting the chance to read some Jones and Pratchett and overall had a blast! So yes, it was a good March Magics, overall, I’d say!

BLOG POSTS

Other March Magics posts I made this month:

INSTAGRAM

I also posted a shelfie pic of my DWJ collection over on Instagram. My current collection!

FINAL THOUGHTS

I did not find the time, in my busy March, to re-read the Magid duology (Deep Secret and The Merlin Conspiracy), which I’m sliiightly disappointed about.

Nor did I find time to finish reading Wintersmith, which I did, however, manage to at least start.

All the same, it was a lovely March Magics! I enjoyed the adventures I was able to go on. ^_^

Did you read any Diana Wynne Jones or Terry Pratchett in March? Let me know in a comment! Thanks for reading!

If You Like Diana Wynne Jones, Read These!

I posted this on Instagram and thought, you know, it’s basically a blog post. So I’m sharing here too. Just a quick shout out to a few DWJ-ish books I love! (I’m sure there are more. These are the first ones I could think of, though.)

I thought it would be fun, for #MarchMagics, to shoutout a handful of books that give me DWJ vibes. Those vibes aren’t always…explainable, exactly? But something about them reminds me of DWJ books, something we DWJ fans are often on the lookout for. πŸ˜‰ So, aside from Terry Pratchett…

If you like Diana Wynne Jones books, check these out!

1. Paper Crowns by Mirriam Neal — This was one of the first DWJ-esque books I read so it has a special place here! A shapeshifting cat, a heroine who feels like she would be quite at home in a DWJ novel, a cantankerous young wizard, even a magical flame character, and all wrapped up in one of the most whimsical, delightful books I’ve read in my life.

2. Lady Moon by Rachel Starr Thomson — Another of the most delightfully whimsical books! A princess and flaming cat and a talking wombat are only some of the delightful things we meet in its pages, and best of all is Tomas, a somewhat Howl-esque Immortal who lives in a clocktower and is procrastinating his destiny.

3. Dana Illwind and Growing Shadows by Arthur DaigleMy giveaway for a copy of this is still running, through tomorrow (March 25)! I get big DWJ vibes from this one, for everthing from the humor and the magical chaotic bits, to the very dramatic enchanter Jayden, who is sort of halfway between Howl and Chrestomanci and is one of my fave characters ever.

4. The City Between series by W.R. Gingell — Humorous, occasionally creepy, urban fantasy in modern-day Tasmania, with a spunky unreliable narrator who goes by Pet and her “three Psychos” (a fae, a half-fae, and a vampire). Athelas and Zero are my faaave. The DWJ vibes here are strong, for me at least. (Also, Masque, and Spindle, by the same author.)

5. Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer — It must be the Tam Lin vibes reminding me slightly of Fire and Hemlock… Also, I met this author on Twitter during a long-ago March Magics, through a mutual love of the Dalemark Quartet! This is a lovely Beauty and the Beast/East of the Sun, West of the Moon story with characters I adore and a multi-world feeling that definitely gives me DWJ vibes.

(And of course, talking of the books in the photo, if you haven’t read Howl’s Moving Castle, Chrestomanci, Dalemark, or Fire and Hemlock, those are also good. ;))

So! If you’re a DWJ fan, what’s a book you love that reminds you of her work? Thanks for reading!

Giveaway heads-up: Dana Illwind and Growing Shadows!

Just a quick heads-up: I’m having a giveaway for a paperback of Dana Illwind and Growing Shadows (by Arthur Daigle), my favorite read of 2020, over on my Instagram, so go check it out at https://www.instagram.com/deborahocarroll and enter to win! (US only due to shipping, ends 3/25.)

(If you are NOT on Instagram and would still like to enter, follow me here on my blog, add the book on Goodreads, and then drop a comment below on this blog post and I’ll enter you for a Kindle e-book copy instead. I’ll reply to the winning comment on 3/26/21 to notify the winner so do check back then if you enter!)

My brief thoughts so you know a bit about the book if you missed my full review:

This book is one of my top-five favorite books of all time, so of course I had to buy an extra copy to share the love! πŸ’š

What do you get when you pair up a loyal, practical farm girl and a lone-wolf, elegant, snarky, insanely powerful enchanter with a chip on his shoulder, and set them loose to fight monsters and injustice in a fantasy kingdom?

This snarky, clever, sheer fun fantasy novel, is what! It perfectly balances comedy, epic swashbuckling, and humorous or heartfelt character moment that give me all the feels.

Perfect for fans of Diana Wynne Jones, Terry Pratchett (it is #MarchMagics this month, after all!), and Terry Brooks’ Magic Kingdom for Sale.

Dana Illwind and Sorcerer Lord Jayden are one of my favorite character duos ever and I just love them to bits!

Good luck if you enter in either place and thanks for reading! I highly recommend this book! πŸ’š

Pangur Ban, the White Cat by Fay Sampson (Book Review)

Happy release day to this delightful Irish fantasy book!

Title: Pangur Ban, the White Cat

Author: Fay Sampson

  • Date read: February 21, 2021
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy / Christian Allegory / Celtic Fantasy
  • Age: Older children’s to YA
  • Year pub: new edition published 2021
  • Pages: 160 pages (e-book)
  • Series: Pangur Ban Celtic Fantasies, #1
  • Fave character: Pangur and Arthmael
  • Source: The publisher
  • Notes: I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.
  • Links: Goodreads β€’ Amazon β€’ Author’s Website β€’ Spring Song Press Website

Mermaids, ancient Ireland, a feisty princess, a hapless young monk, and of course a mischievous cat! What is not to love!

This was a delightful book which was reminiscent of fantasy I grew up reading, such as Narnia, Lloyd Alexander’s books, and George MacDonald. So that made me super happy!

I never knew what was going to happen next and I so enjoyed the adventure! The Irish setting felt like coming home. The perilous mermaids and other creatures (eagle, dolphin, etc.) we met were intriguing. Pangur himself is such a, well, CAT, and I absolutely loved him! Princess Finglass was fierce and a good heroine. And of course Arthmael was so neat — but you’ll have to meet him yourself!

The timeless writing style was refreshing, and as a longtime fan of Celtic myth and legend, I found the essence of that Irish fairy tale feeling on Pangur Ban’s quest in particular to be marvelous.

With mishaps, adventure, a quest or two, and a touching allegory, it’s perfect for anyone who loves Irish fantasy or is looking for a slightly-wilder Narnia-esque story. Young adults and adults will find things to delight them, and children (who can handle a couple of violent/scary bits, so…caution on that) will love it.

This quick read is perfect if you need a brief adventure of mermaids and Ireland in your life! Which, of course, you absolutely do!

(Note: it’s not related to the Secret of Kells film, but since both were I think inspired by the Pangur Ban poem, there are similarities, and I think any fans of the movie would also, separately, enjoy this book.)

A timeless tale, originally published in England in the 1980s, this book is rereleasing with a new cover, and in ebook form for the first time, for a new set of readers to enjoy.

Now available from Spring Song Press!

(Brought to you by the amazing C.J. Brightley, who also runs PhoenixCrate and NobleBright.)


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Thanks for reading! πŸ™‚

#MarchMagics 2021

Happy March Magics!

This celebration of Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett is hosted each year by WeBeReading and I’m excited as always!

My (hopeful) TBR!

I’ve been wanting to reread the Magid duology (Deep Secret, which is darker/more adult, & The Merlin Conspiracy, both of which stand alone) for a long time so I’m hoping to make the time for that.

Then I have two DWJ books I collected and have been saving for this month — I thiiink they’re the last of hers I haven’t read yet? (Not counting misc. short stories etc. and her first one which was for adults and impossible to find and didn’t sound as interesting.) So I have mixed feelings about that. XD But I’m curious to read Witch’s Business and The Time of the Ghost.

Now that I finished the Death series last March, I’m going back to the Night Watch series so I’m going to try Men at Arms (I’ve heard mixed thoughts on this one but loved Guards! Guards!) and I’ve been slowly working through the Tiffany Aching books so this is the next one!

Yes, most of it’s Diana Wynne Jones because she’s my favorite. XD

March is looking to be super busy, though, so I’ll just have to see what I have time to read.

Are you reading any DWJ or Pratchett this month? Thanks for reading!