Tag Archives: Fantasy

Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper

Overview
Over Sea, Under Stone | Book by Susan Cooper | Official Publisher Page |  Simon & Schuster

Title: Over Sea, Under Stone
Author: Susan Cooper
Series: Dark is Rising #1
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Adventure, Camelot, Fantasy, Young adult
Dates read: 27th – 28th January 2021
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: McElderry Books
Year: 1965
5th sentence, 74th page: But they seemed to go for the books, and I can’t vouch for those.

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Synopsis

All through time the two great forces of Light and Dark have battled for control of the world. Now, after centuries of balance, the Dark is summoning its terrifying forces to rise once more – and three children find themselves caught in the conflict.

Simon, Jane, and Barney, on holiday in Cornwall, discover an ancient map that leads to a grail: a vital weapon for the Light’s fight against evil. The search for the grail becomes their quest, and they risk their lives in a race against sinister human beings who serve the dreadful power of the Dark.

Thoughts

I bought the box set of Dark is Rising ages ago. Partly because it was on sale, but I also have a tv series based on this series and I’ve heard good things about it. But then, because the covers of my versions aren’t the most attention-grabbing, I kind of kept forgetting about them. And wow, am I kind of regretting that fact. This book was wonderful and intense and seriously, wonderfully enjoyable. Most definitely a great start to a series. One that I plan on reading more of in the (hopefully) near future.

In the past year I’ve started to find and enjoy some Camelot stories. I don’t know a lot about Arthurian lore, not anything that isn’t seriously mainstream. But it’s definitely something that I’m beginning to enjoy more and more. A theme and base that is used beautifully in this story. The whole tale is about the search for the Grail. And I’m getting some serious King Arthur vibes from Simon. There was also that nice little crumb at the end of the story about Merlin which I’m really looking forward to unpacking…

From the moment you open this book, you are pulled into this great adventure. As a child, I might have even tried to solve the little riddles and clues that are riddled throughout the novel. But, as an adult, it was just a lot of fun to be pulled along on this adventure. This unexpected journey that takes you all over the countryside pulling you into a story that you won’t forget anytime soon. One that had me smiling and gleefully turning to the next page again and again throughout.

This is a fantastic, wonderful and very, very enjoyable adventure story. One that has introduced me to a whole new world that I can’t wait to sink further and further into. I love that although the battle is over in this story, you can feel all the hints and horrors of the war to come. And now I can’t wait for the next mystery to be revealed!

<- More Susan CooperThe Dark is Rising ->

Image source: Simon & Schuster

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Overview
The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air, #1) by Holly Black

Title: The Cruel Prince
Author: Holly Black
Series: The Folk of the Air #1
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Fae, Fantasy, Paranormal fantasy, Young adult
Dates read: 3rd – 9th November 2020
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Year: 2018
5th sentence, 74th page: My blood is on fire, boiling in my veins.

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Synopsis

Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

One terrible morning, Jude and her sisters see their parents murdered. The fearsome assassin abducts all three girls to the Faerie court, where Jude soon realises that to survive she needs to be as cunning and deceitful as the Fey themselves. But the stairway to power is fraught with shadows and betrayal. And looming over all is the arrogant and charismatic Prince Cardan.

Thoughts

I seriously can’t stop thinking about this novel. Even though I’m writing this review days after I finished reading it, the words, the occurrences, the entire story is still in my mind’s eye. It was just amazing. Which really isn’t surprising since it was written by Holly Black and everything that I’ve had the pleasure of reading by her is a book that quickly finds its way to the top of my list.

The twist at the end of the story was only obvious about a paragraph before it happened. So, really not obvious or something that I guessed at all. And it was the best twist ever. Luckily, I couldn’t find The Wicked King in my TBR immediately after I finished The Cruel Prince… considering I have a massive stack of books that I’ve already started reading…

Jude is an awesome, completely kick ass lead character. I’m not necessarily in love with her as a person… she’s a little too confrontational and kind of nuts in my opinion. But as a product of being raised by the fae? Yeah, I absolutely loved her. It kind of makes me fear what Taryn will be like in the later books… I mean, they’re twins and whilst they’ve taken a different route to power… it’ll be interesting to see what happens next is the least that I can say.

I’ve only read the one series by Holly Black, and the thing that I loved the most about it was that she depicts the fae beautifully. She continues that vein in this story – the fae aren’t fun, happy, or light. This already feels so much darker than her Modern Faerie Tales series. But it’s still a great indication of the horrors that are in the traditional faerie tales….

<- More Holly BlackThe Lost Sisters ->

Image source: Goodreads

The Stone Mage and the Sea by Sean Williams

Overview
THE STONE MAGE AND THE SEA: First Book of the Change eBook: Williams, Sean:  Amazon.com.au: Kindle Store

Title: The Stone Mage and the Sea
Author: Sean Williams
Series: The Change #1
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Australian authors, Elements, Fantasy
Dates read: 29th – 31st October 2020
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Fantastica
Year: 2002
5th sentence, 74th page: “But my dad -“

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Synopsis

In a world…
where the huge, red-sanded deserts are ruled by Stone Mages and the vast coastlines by Sky Wardens, any child with magic ability is taken away to the Haunted City to be trained in the Change.

Fundelry is a small town much like any other in the Strand. The people have little tolerance for anyone who stands out, and Sal and his father are strangers, running from someone… or something. Sal is rescued from the local bully by Shilly and her teacher Lodo, a mysterious tattooed man who seems to know more about Sal than Sal himself. And, strangely, Sal’s father seems to want to stay put for a while.

But soon the Sky Wardens will come to Fundelry – before then Sal must uncover the connection between Lodo and the mother he never met, in order to escape a fate that seems to have been chosen for him before he was even born…

Thoughts

This has everything that a traditional fantasy novel should have. The fantasy novels that I grew up with and first introduced me to the genre had this same kind of amazing mystical feel to it. From the very first page, I was swept into Williams’ world and really, seriously didn’t want to leave. I could imagine this small town, the confused Sal and the immensity of the sea from the very beginning. Even now, when I close my eyes, I can picture it all in my mind’s eye.

The characters in this story are really strong and well thought out. Sometimes it can take me a little while to get attached to characters and find the rhythm of the story. Or, as the case may be, the world building that has constructed the story and characters. That’s not the case with The Stone Mage and the Sea. From that very first scene with Sal and his father driving into a town, you are there. Right in the moment. Pulled in, whether you like it or not.

Lodo is everything that a mysterious teacher should be. I’m hoping that he doesn’t just disappear off the face of the earth after this book. He is tattooed, enigmatic and completely impossible to predict. Partnered with his apprentice, Shilly, they are great duo that help to build Sal up and help him start on a new path in life. Which, considering how this novel ended, I think is incredibly and wonderfully important. Sal grows so much in this first novel, I can’t wait to see how he’ll grow in the next two novels.

The Stone Mage and the Sea is everything I haven’t realised I’ve been missing in fantasy novels. I have been reading a lot of urban fantasy and paranormal fantasy and all such. So picking up a novel that bought me back to the fantasy novels that first got me enthralled in the genre… well, I’m glad that I have the rest of the trilogy sitting on my shelves, ready to go.

<- More Sean WilliamsThe Sky Warden and the Sun ->

Image source: Amazon

Renn and the Little Men by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Overview
Image result for westward weird book cover

Title: Renn and the Little Men
Author: Kristine Kathryn Rusch
In: Westward Weird (Martin H. Greenberg & Kerrie Hughes)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Fantasy, Weird western
Dates read: 31st October 2020
Pace: Fast
Format: Short story
Publisher: Daw Books
Year: 2012
5th sentence, 74th page: Yeah, not for me either.

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Synopsis

In a world where gunslingers rule all, Renn si the one who tuaght her brother, Kid Vicious to shoot. But how will she ever be taken seriously herself?

Thoughts

I knew that there were going to be little men in this story just from the title. But the way that they were in this and how the story evolved… that was something new. And fun. I really and seriously enjoyed this short story and, even after turning the final page, I couldn’t quite get it out of my head.

I love that Renn is the better shooter in her family. That even her brother, who is recognised as a gunslinger, admits that she is better. There aren’t many stories (or indeed brothers I believe) who would necessarily admit that. It made me really love her brother and left me smiling after I turned the final page.

The little twists and turns throughout this story were seriously enjoyable and kind of cute. I had a good giggle throughout and would most definitely read this short story again.

<- Maybe Another TimeShowdown at High Moon ->

Image source: Amazon

Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn

Overview
Across the Nightingale Floor: Book 1 Tales of the Otori by Lian Hearn -  Books - Hachette Australia

Title: Across the Nightingale Floor
Author: Lian Hearn
Series: Tales of the Otori #1
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Asia, Fantasy, Historical fiction, Japan
Dates read: 18th October 2020
Pace: Fast
Format: Novel
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Year: 2002
5th sentence, 74th page: He was gone from the garden, and I was beginning to wonder if I’d seen another mirage, when I heard voices from the upstairs room.

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Synopsis

In his fortress at Inuyama, the murderous warlord Iida Sadamu surveys his famous nightingale floor. Constructed with exquisite skill, it sings at the tread of each human foot. No assassin can cross it unheard.

Brought up in a remote village among the Hidden, a reclusive and spiritual people, Takeo has learned only the ways of peace. Why, then, does he possess the deadly skills that make him so valuable to the sinister Tribe? These supernatural powers will lead him to his violent destiny wihtin teh walls of Inuyama – and to an impossible longing for a girl who can never be his. His journey is one of revenge and treachery, beauty and magic, and the passion of first love.

Thoughts

This was a seriously beautiful and powerful novel. I’ve had it sitting on my shelf for a while, and just hadn’t gotten around to it… and wow. Was I missing out (this seems to be a pretty common theme with me though…). I loved the world building, the characters, the story… everything that Hearn constructed in this was just… intense. And wonderful. Definitely looking forward to reading Grass for His Pillow soon.

The setting and historical feel of this story was awesome. I remember going to Japan as a young child, and I’ve studied the language for years. Which just made this feel even more amazing as I journeyed throughout the pages. Not only was it a historical fiction based in an entirely new and unique location (compared to the other historical fictions on my shelves). But it was one that already draws me in and fascinates me. Which may be a pretty significant contributor to my love of this story…

As much as I loved this story. It wasn’t a happy one. Throughout the whole thing I felt like my heart was breaking a little. it didn’t really matter what point of the story I was at, there was a little bit of heart break. This was that bittersweet kind of story that is beautiful, but it’s beautiful because of all the greys, and there is no rainbow. Which, of course, just served to make it all that much more unforgettable.

This is definitely one of the best books that I’ve picked up in a while. I have been steering clear of books with a lot of backstory lately (I have no idea why) and I think that this has cured me of that. There is so much political intrigue, drama and tangled webs. Which just leaves you thinking “what will happen next” after you turn that final page.

<- Heaven’s Net is WideGrass for His Pillow ->

Image source: Hachette Australia

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Overview
Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha): Children of Blood and Bone  (Legacy of Orisha): Amazon.com.au: Books

Title: Children of Blood and Bone
Author: Tomi Adeyemi
Series: Legacy of Orisha #1
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Africa, Fantasy, Magic, Young adult
Dates read: 31st August – 17th October 2020
Pace: Slow
Format: Novel
Publisher: MacMillan
Year: 2018
5th sentence, 74th page: “Thank you,” I whisper into her fur.

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Synopsis

THEY KILLED MY MOTHER.
THEY TOOK OUR MAGIC.
THEY TRIED TO BURY US.
NOW WE RISE.

Thoughts

This is one of those books that I keep looking at, and seriously wanting to pick up. But then, because I’m somewhat of a child… I get distracted, see something shiny and find something else. Plus, it’s a pretty big book, so I did found it somewhat of an intimidating idea to read. And now I’m regretting not reading this as soon as it came out and found a home on my shelves. Because this is freaking awesome. As in turn the final page and then just stare into space with a really bad book hangover kind of awesome…

This story is all about oppression and power. The inequality and narratives that are often told to justify marginalising and preying upon another group. Whilst this is loosely set in Africa, there were many moments throughout this that were cringe-worthy as I thought about what has been done to Australia’s First Nations Peoples. It is a story that is sadly told across the world, and I loved how this novel dealt with such an issue. How a very, very difficult conversation is had in the pages of this story that will, hopefully, help a whole new generation understand a little bit more about the past.

Zel and Amari are the most fantastic female leads I’ve come across in a while. Zel is all hard edges and aggression. She is so obviously trying to fit into a world and identity that is too small for her. But, there is also a lot of sadness and despair there. Which I can’t wait to see how she continues to grow. Because boy does she mature throughout this novel. And Amari is nothing like what I would have expected as a counterpoint. She begins as someone who seems to be all soft edges and gentleness. And then, as the story continues, you find that backbone of steel and strength. And that gentleness and understanding that Zel lacks. I really hope that these two become best of friends, because I can’t really imagine it turning out any other way…

This is an amazing novel. It introduced me to aspects of African culture, which of course I know next to nothing about. It reminded me of my White Privilege. And it manage to intertwine all of this with an amazing young adult fantasy story of magic and mayhem. Power and triumphing over evil. I really can’t wait to see where Adeyemi takes Zel and Amari next…

<- More Tomi AdeyemiChildren of Virtue and Vengeance ->

Image source: Amazon

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

Overview
The Belles (The Belles, #1) by Dhonielle Clayton

Title: The Belles
Author: Dhonielle Clayton
Series: The Belles #1
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Dystopia, Fantasy, Magic, Young adult
Dates read: 8th – 10th October 2020
Pace: Fast
Format: Novel
Publisher: Gollancz
Year: 2018
5th sentence, 74th page: She touches the textured pattern of my gown.

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Synopsis

I am a Belle. I control Beauty.

In the opulent world of Orléans, the people are born grey and damned, and only a Belle’s powers can make them beautiful.

Camellia Beauregard wants to be the favourite Belle – the one chosen by the queen to tend to the royal family.

But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favourite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that her powers may be far greater – and far darker – than she ever imagined.

When the queen asks Camellia to break the rules she lives by to save the ailing princess, she faces an impossible decision: protect herself and the way of the Belles, or risk her own life, and change the world forever.

Thoughts

I read this as part of a “underrated book” prompt for a reading challenge. It’s just one of those books that has been sitting on my shelf for a little while, and I figured I’d eventually get to it. And then I did… and WOW. This was really good. And fun. And just… wow. Most DEFINITELY underrated. One of the best young adult books I feel I’ve read in a while… there was just something wonderful, intense and seriously positive about this whole experience.

One of the aspects of this book that I absolutely loved was show much it really made you stop and think about how we define beauty. And, ultimately, the emphasis that we place upon it. The risks that some people take, and the lengths that people will go to be the “most beautiful”. Every moment of horror in this story are completely recognisable and it ultimately comes down to the premium that is placed on looks. There is also the whole idea that beauty is just “skin deep”. It’s when you start drilling down to the person underneath… that, well, in this story makes you seriously shudder in revulsion to be completely frank.

I didn’t pick the villain of this story at first (which was AWESOME). In fact, it took a little while to click as to just who the villain was and what their drivers were. To be fair, I’m still not completely confident on the motivations… I’ve put it all down to “that bitch is crazy”. But she was an amazing villain. Subtle, secretive and with a lot of power. These are the kinds of villains that I find truly terrifying, because it’s hard to imagine how anyone could beat them. I suppose I’ll just have to pick up the next Belle book to find out…

There are a multitude of unexpected twists and turns throughout this novel. They are captivating, make your heart skip a beat, and just downright pluck all of your emotions. It turned this book into not only a fantastic idea with beautiful and poignant themes, but also one which I seriously couldn’t look away from and forget about. It’s going to take all of my self control (again) to finish some of my currently reading books before diving into the sequel…

<- More Dhonielle ClaytonThe Everlasting Rose ->

Image source: Goodreads

Alvin and the Apple Tree by Orson Scott Card

Overview
Image result for dead man's hand book cover

Title: Alvin and the Apple Tree
Author: Orson Scott Card
In: Dead Man’s Hand (John Joseph Adams)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Fantasy, Weird western
Dates read: 29th September 2020
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: Titan Books
Year: 2014
5th sentence, 74th page: They got back to town well before dark.

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Synopsis

Alvin is a travelling man, and he believes in God. But when he runs into John Appleseed and the village he tried to help… well, things get a little topsy turvy.

Thoughts

Like some of the westerns that I’ve read lately – this one plays with ideas of Christianity and what it truly means to be a “good” Christian. Although, I loved how this story took that topic better than some of the other topics. It also pulled in ideas of Adam and Eve, the apple, the Tree of Life, connection to nature… it was a great amalgamation of topics that completely hooked me from pretty much the very beginning.

I’m not entirely sure how this fits into the western genre – which is why I didn’t put it on the westerns shelf, just under weird westerns. It didn’t quite feel western to me, I’m not sure why. Although there was a nice hint of the cowboy and Indian theme which tends to weasel its way into this genre… so maybe I just jumped to conclusions too quickly since the setting felt a lot more modern than many of the other short stories in this collection thus far…

I’m really glad that I enjoyed this short story so much. I just bought a trilogy written by Orson Scott Card, and it would have been damn awkward if I didn’t actually like the first thing I’d read by him. In fact, after finishing this great short story, I can’t wait to pick up the series that I’ve bought. This tale just had such a great sitting around the campfire, having a yarn kind of feeling to it that I thoroughly enjoyed.

<- Second HandMadam Damnable’s Sewing Circle ->

Image source: Amazon

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

Overview
Owlcrate exclusive copy of We Hunt the Flame by... - Depop

Title: We Hunt the Flame
Author: Hafsah Faizal
Series: Sands of Arawiya #1
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Arabic, Fantasy, Historical fiction, Magic, Young adult
Dates read: 4th – 19th September 2020
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Year: 2019
5th sentence, 74th page: She clenched her teeth and dug in her heels.

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Synopsis

People lived because she killed.
People died because he lived.

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways.

Both are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.

War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the king on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

Set in a richly detailed world inspired by ancient Arabia, We Hunt the Flame is a gripping debut of discovery, conquering fear, and taking identity into your own hands.

Thoughts

This novel was just… astounding. Like I am seriously, ridiculously impressed and somewhat jealous of the fact that this is Faizal’s first novel. I always know that I’ve read a good book because I finish it and just… kind of… pause. And stare into space. Which is exactly what I did at the conclusion of this story. I just sat there… staring into space and feeling all of the feelings that this novel bought on.

I love that this is a book unlike anything that I’ve ever read. For starters, I really haven’t read many books that are based on historical Arabia (I think that I’m writing that correctly…). So it was a whole new immersion and experience for me. Plus, the storyline, whilst with a few similarities to some of the storylines in YA books that I’ve read… it somehow felt totally different. Or maybe I just need to read more YA books… not only was the setting and background so completely unexpected, but it also made me feel intrigued to find more authors who focus on similar patterns and moments in history – I have a lot of Regency, Victorian and UK based history books. Now I need to find more like this…

Closing the final page of this book left me with so damn many feelings! I can’t wait to see what happens in the sequel! Actually, first thing I did… after staring into space trying to process everything that I had just experienced was to find out when the next book is out and what happens. Yet another book that I have to add to my wishlist and remain hopefully looking out for the publication date. I hope that everything going on in the world doesn’t delay it!!!

Not only was this an amazing adventure set against a brilliant background, it was also a story which beautifully focused on the strength of love and women. From the very outset – it’s about women being able to do what they want and having a strength completely comparable to that of men. Partnered with how love can alter and shape us… save us in some circumstances… it just felt so beautifully optimistic.

<- More Hafsah FaizalWe Free the Stars ->

Image source: Depop

Sourcery by Terry Pratchett

Overview
Sourcery | Sir Terry Pratchett

Title: Sourcery
Author: Terry Pratchett
Series: Discworld #5, Rincewind #3
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Comedy, Easy reading, Fantasy
Dates read: 22nd July – 18th August 2020
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Corgi
Year: 1988
5th sentence, 74th page: He just steals things.

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Synopsis

All this books and stuff, that isn’t what it should all be about. What we need is real wizardry.

There was an eighth son of an eighth son. He was, quite naturally, a wizard. And there it should have ended. However (for reasons we’d better not go into), he had seven sons. And then he had an eighth son… a wizard squared… a source of magic… a Sourcerer.

Unseen University has finally got what it wished for: the most powerful wizard on the disc. Which, unfortunately, could mean that the death of all wizardry is at hand. And that the world is going to end, depending on whom you listen to. Unless of course one inept wizard can take the University’s most precious artefact, the very embodiment of magic itself, and deliver it halfway across the disc to safety…

Thoughts

Whenever I pick up a book by Terry Pratchett, I know that I’m going to have a good time and be entertained. And Sourcery was no exception. I had such a great, fun, amazing journey throughout this story. One that I absolutely adored and would love to read again.

So far in the Discworld series, none of the stories have really finished on a cliff hanger. Instead, the story almost works as a standalone and lets you journey onwards to the next story in the series without any extra baggage. This novel didn’t quite work out like that. It just felt like there was so much more that was likely to happen to Rincewind – and I would love to know what the outcome of his latest misadventure will be. It was kind of fun finishing a Discworld story on a cliff hanger. Just different enough to leave me happy and content.

One of my favourite things about Pratchett is his amazing ability to build worlds. The fact that he’s doing so consistently throughout the Discworld series always leaves me feeling happy. In this novel, his world building is building on the rules of wizardry and sourcery. I love all of the completely obscure and odd rules that come about in this and the way that the rules of magick are completely unexpected and not what I would have thought of as logical at all. It was quite brilliant.

Throughout all of this novel, I read a lot of the more humorous passages to my husband. There is just something great about the flow of his writing and the style that not only made me laugh… a lot. But can be shared with somebody who just doesn’t quite like reading and books as much as I do… there is just such a great sense of humour and wit that I wish I could impart into my own written word…

<- MortWyrd Sisters ->

Image source: Sir Terry Pratchett