LGBT Blog Tour Review: The Otto Digmore Difference by Brent Hartinger

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Published: 21 February 2017

Publisher: BK Books

Category: Contemporary/New Adult/MM Romance

“Road trip!”

Otto Digmore is a 26-year-old gay guy with dreams of being a successful actor, and he’s finally getting some attention as a result of his supporting role on a struggling sitcom. But he’s also a burn survivor with scars on half his face, and all indications are that he’s just too different to ever find real Hollywood success.

Now he’s up for an amazing new role that could change everything. Problem is, he and his best friend Russel Middlebrook have to drive all the way across the country in order to get to the audition on time.

It’s hard to say which is worse: the fact that so many things go wrong, or that Russel, an aspiring screenwriter, keeps comparing their experiences to some kind of road trip movie.

There’s also the fact that Otto and Russel were once boyfriends, and Otto is starting to realize that he still might have romantic feelings for his best friend.

Just how far will Otto go to get the role, and maybe the guy, of his dreams?

Author Brent Hartinger first introduced the character of Otto Digmore in 2005, in his Lambda Award-winning books about Russel Middlebrook. Back then, Otto was something pretty unusual for YA literature: a disabled gay character.

Now, more than a decade later, Otto is grown up and finally stepping into the spotlight on his own. The Otto Digmore Difference, the first book in a new stand-alone series featuring Otto, is about much more than the challenges of being “different.” It’s also about the unexpected nature of all of life’s journeys, and the heavy price that must be paid for Hollywood fame.

But more than anything, it’s a different kind of love story, about the frustrating and fantastic power of the love between two friends.

Rating: 3 Stars

After seeing the movie Geography Club and being presented with the opportunity to review LGBT books by Lauren Becker, I was extremely pleased that the first book I get to read and review is The Otto Digmore Difference by Brent Hartinger, the author of the book that the movie Geography Club was based on.

A road trip book can be all kinds of fun, especially when one of the characters loves those kinds of stories in movies, such as one of my favorites To Wong Fu Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar. The incidents that cropped up for Otto and Russel were a bit stretchy, sometimes, but there was the air of adventure and thrill that you might expect in a film, something he delighted in (I’m sure!).

As for Otto, our main character, the author gave us, in him, an example of how horrible people can be online, safe from confronting the target of their taunts and threats. Otto, with disfiguring scars on one side of his face, doesn’t hear these so much in person anymore, but online people feel protected and he is still sent gifs of fried chickens, insinuations that he should commit suicide.

Otto doesn’t become a victim because of these, but he isn’t immune to these people either. It hurts, these dark parts of the Internet. Plus, having to have a public face for his fans all the time drains a person. His character, while having moments of what feel like utter deflation to me, is still strong because he remains in spite of these obstacles. He doesn’t let them destroy him.

I liked Otto’s remembrance of his home before his big break. The Hive was a collective for artists of all kinds with nary a night passing by quietly. It reminded me of the Cloud Club, a similar place where musician and author Amanda Palmer resided. That place always sounded like a haven for creativity and I imagine Otto found a lot of grace and solace there.

Ironically, it was after he got everything he wanted (t.v. role on Hammered, money, etc.) that he felt the most lost. While not the most beautiful of descriptions, the level of detail the Brent put into describing Otto’s life and his place of residence was high. It was easy to be put into the locations that Otto visited, starting with his apartment decorated by an interior designer.

I loved the callbacks to Brent’s Russel Middlebrook series, which I remember most fondly from The Geography Club. There were also plenty of nerdy references, such as Pokémon Go and Stranger Things.

Russell, apart from being the bright half of the duo, had a good point himself when he was talking about Hollywood movies. As a screenwriter, he had the unique perspective of seeing how, to quote him:

“…for every Star Wars movie that gets made, every new Marvel universe movie, that means there’s one less other studio movie made. There’s less of a chance of some future movie they might love.”

I know that I love the Wizarding World movies. I love Marvel movies and I even enjoy a lot of the remakes that Disney is making. However, it begs the question, where’s the originality? Russell’s point, what movies are we missing because we as the Hollywood consumer base are comfortable with the same old, same old, is an excellent one.

I admit that I did get a bit frustrated with how many stops there were in Otto’s quest to get this final audition. The summary made it sound as though he had one destination all along, but it was much more involved than that. There were some characters, too, that frustrated me, especially when the ending was resolved for this book (the first in the Otto Digmore series).

SPOILER ALERT

At the beginning of the novel we meet Fiona, Otto’s agent, who he describes as a great agent that isn’t a big one, but is still very dedicated to her clients. Her assistant, Greg, is the one that mentions the aforementioned audition to him for a movie called The Tulip Vase. Right from the get go with his involvement I could tell something was off because he never let Otto talk to Fiona about it, so I felt that something weird was going on. It turned out that my suspicion was correct because she had nothing to do either with the initial audition or Greg egging Otto on to meet the director and audition for him personally. That was very sneaky behavior and I would not have been able to trust him after an episode like that.

It was this series of actions that caused Fiona, once she found out, to drop Otto as a client because she didn’t feel he trusted her anymore. While Greg made excuses for why Fiona could never come to the phone, Otto never pushed too hard against these, so I think he’s at least a little responsible. Then, after Greg admits what he has done, he also confesses that he has feelings for Otto, wants to become a manager himself, and would like to manage/date Otto. Neither of these sounded like good ideas because a) he can’t be trusted (see the previous sneaky behavior and outright lying to Otto as evidence) and b) there was no sign of any sort of affection that might have led to them ending things where they did. After the deceitful behavior, I couldn’t understand how Otto would place himself in that position.

The biggest romantic feelings in the book were, I felt, between Otto and Russel, though it was one sided as Russel had been married 1-2 weeks during the majority of the book. It felt strange that I would get all these feelings when I knew that Russel was a faithfully married man and Otto knew that, though clearly he had to work out his feelings for his former boyfriend (Otto and Russel dated/were lovers in a previous Brent Hartinger novel).

END SPOILER ALERT

I’m not sure where this book will go from here. Perhaps there will be redemption for certain characters that I disliked at the close of the novel. Hopefully Otto will be able to find some of the success that he has the talent for. Time will tell, as will the next book in the Otto Digmore series.

About the Author

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BRENT HARTINGER is an author and screenwriter. He wrote the YA classic, Geography Club (2003), which was adapted as a 2013 feature film co-starring Scott Bakula, and is now being developed as a television series. He’s since published twelve more novels and had eight of his screenplays optioned by producers. He has won both the Lambda and GLAAD Media Award, and been nominated for the Edgar Award. Visit him at brenthartinger.com.

 

I received a copy of this book from Lauren Becker and Brent Hartinger as part of the LGBT Book Tour in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Top 5 Wednesday: Future Classics

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Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes and created by Lainey from Gingerreadlainey.

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

There’s no question that this is going to be a classic, if it doesn’t meet the requirements for such a thing already. It broke all kinds of records that make it a commercial success, but more than that it is a beloved series that has transcended books. If you ask a random person what one of their favorite fandoms is, I would bet that 90% of them would say Harry Potter as one of the main choices.

Saga series by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples

Not only is this series fantastically illustrated, the storytelling has amazing depth to it. This isn’t just a series that you can enjoy on a whim (which you can); it has story-lines that deal with everything from war, family, politics, all in a sci-fi setting. It makes these topics accessible to those who might not otherwise find them palatable, important as they are. The themes in Saga are timeless.

The works of Brian Selznick

These are hugely creative novels, told half in text, half in gorgeous charcoal drawings that may seem intimidating because of their length, but truly they’re large because of the amount of drawings combined with the stories that stretch the wonder of the reader’s imagination.

The works of Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman has a body of work that spans genres. He can write for anyone, adult or child, as evidenced by titles ranging from Coraline to American Gods to Fortunately, the Milk and so on. His quality has never diminished, in my opinion, and I like to think that these stories are timeless. They don’t hinge on remaining relevant to any one time period or any one format. Gaiman has written novels, children’s picture books, and graphic novels. There’s something for everyone, so the Gaiman classic you choose will depend entirely on what you’d like to read at the moment.

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Top 10 Tuesday: 10 Authors I Can’t Believe I’ve Met

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Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. You can find the prompts here.

I live in a rural town in NJ where I sincerely doubt we will ever host an author, simply because we are too small and there’s not much interest (which is a sad commentary on our society, but moving on). However, I am lucky in that I live near enough to New York City that I can take a short(ish) train ride and visit various book stores that do host authors.

With this in mind, I’ve been able to visit NYC more often recently and met a whole host of amazing human beings that have crafted some of my favorite stories.

Ransom Riggs, Tahereh Mafi, Jenny Han

The event that kicked off my going into the city more often was Ransom Riggs’s release of Library of Souls. My husband is a big fan of the series, while I was reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and finishing it on the way into the city. It was a fun event, though it was that trip that forced me to learn how to use the Maps function on my smart phone.

This was also my first trip to Tribeca, as the event was being held at a Barnes & Noble there. What a surprise it was to find that his wife, Tahereh Mafi, was also in attendance, as was Jenny Han. All three of them were incredibly kind to me, considering how much pain I was at the time (a throwback to the learning to use Maps – a lot of wrong turns lead to my legs hurting like there was no tomorrow).

A pro tip: take a bottle of Tylenol with you and pop one before you start walking and one at some point during the journey. Your feet and legs will thank you.

Erin Bowman, Alexandra Bracken, Susan Dennard

I went to meet these ladies at an event at Books of Wonder celebrating the release of Vengeance Road, Passenger, and Truthwitch. Not only were the books awesome, but this was the first time that I went to Books of Wonder, a children’s bookstore in NYC that was celebrating its 35th anniversary that year. It has since become my favorite bookstore to go to for signings and I have even learned how to get there without maps, so score one for muscle memory!

Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff

This was by far my favorite meeting of authors. I’m always nervous when I go to a signing event and while I do usually calm down a bit, these two put me at east the quickest and actually had me laughing for most of their talk. It was so much fun meeting them for their Gemina release event and I hope they’ll come back to the States for the release of the third Illuminae book.

 

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Elise Kova

Elise was the first author I’d met whose street team I’d been a part of. The author of the Air Awakens and The Alchemists of Loom series, she was exceptionally kind to me. I was pretty nervous about meeting her and that night I’d had to bring my son with me, the first time he’d ever been in NYC, so my nerves were at an all time high. She was never anything but nice, though.

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Evelyn Skye

Evelyn Skye wrote one of my favorite books in recent memory, the one that inspired me to pick up more books with Russian inspired lore behind them such as The Bear and the Nightingale. Her book, The Crown’s Game, was an adventure that had magic, competition, and best of all, delicious sweets to imagine. If I were a better baker, I’d have made some for when I met her, but alas, I had to be content with well wishes and requests for more stories soon.

 

 

 

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Review: Pointe, Claw by Amber J. Keyser

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Jessie Vale dances in an elite ballet program. She has to be perfect to land a spot with the professional company. When Jessie is cast in an animalistic avant-garde production, her careful composure cracks wide open. Nothing has felt more dangerous.

Meanwhile, her friend Dawn McCormick’s world is full of holes. She wakes in strange places, bruised, battered, and unable to speak. The doctors are out of ideas.

These childhood friends are both running out of time. Jessie has one shot at her ballet dream. Dawn’s blackouts are getting worse. At every turn, they crash into the many ways girls are watched, judged, used, and discarded. Should they play it safe or go feral?

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Pointe, Claw by Amber J. Keyser was one of those rare books that was a wild ride that culminated in my not being quite sure what I read while still being relatively pleased at the end.

The story of Jessie and Dawn is told in alternating points of view, each of which has its own advantages. Jessie is a ballerina working toward a career as a classic dancer whose story was very fluid, much like her style of dance. I noticed that certain elements of her story, particularly classically trained ballerina goes to ultra good school, does well but not well enough, gets thrust into an avant-garde performance, and ultimately doesn’t get the role in the company she wanted, were remarkably similar to the plot of the movie Center Stage. It felt odd at times reading those chapters because it felt like I knew where everything was going as it was happening, so while I appreciated the style in which it was written, I would have liked a bit more originality in regards to Jessie’s character and her plot development.

Dawn was a thought provoking character because I never quite knew where I stood with her. At the beginning of the story, it is introduced that something is wrong with her, but what? Her mother has dragged her to dozens of doctors and continues to do do throughout the length of the novel, each one more patronizing than the last. Her thought process was jarring compared to Jessie’s, much rougher around the edges, and I enjoyed it at least as much, though in a different manner.

The, and I hesitate to use this phrase, “love story” portion of the book was difficult and sad. There were tragic elements resulting from parents thinking they knew what was best for their children, definite instances of homophobia, and Jessie and Dawn’s life paths from those points onward. I’m glad that neither Dawn nor Jessie succumbed to self hate, given the behavior of their parents.

Now to the center of my confusion about this book: I’m not sure what it was trying to be. There are a few things that occurred within in that never quite got solved. Several threads ran through the story that felt supernatural, but could have been something else: no definitive explanation. There was a flash of something at the very end of book that seems like it might have answered some questions, but again, no definitive explanation. The connection between the two girls, for example: there were moments when it truly felt like something otherworldly was going on, maybe some kind of psychic connection, but at the end I wasn’t sure where they stood in that regard.

Pointe, Claw left a lot up to the reader regarding the ending and that left a slight bitter taste on my literary palette.

The journey of watching Dawn trying to figure out what is going on with her was fascinating, what with the adults around her have next to given up on her and rather than submitting to depression or complete darkness, her struggling through and trying to discover the core of her being. Jessie’s fighting for her dream, only to see it alter right before her eyes, becomes something that felt cliche but energetic, giving it something to stand on besides older stories.

An enjoyable book, though again, I wish I had some more definite answers about the ending.

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Two Part Review Event: If I’m Found by Terri Blackstock

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Author’s Website

Published: 21 March 2017

Publisher: Zondervan

Category: Mystery/Suspense/Christian Fiction

Is Dylan hunting Casey to prosecute her or protect her?

Casey Cox is still on the run, fleeing prosecution for a murder she didn’t commit. Dylan Roberts—her most relentless pursuer—is still on her trail, but his secret emails insist that he knows the truth and wants to help her. He’s let her escape before when he had her in his grasp, but trust doesn’t come easily.

As Casey works to collect evidence about the real murderers, she stumbles on another unbearable injustice: an abused child and a suicidal man who’s also been falsely accused. Casey risks her own safety to right this wrong and protect the little girl from her tormenters. But doing so is risky and just may result in her capture—and if she’s captured, she has no doubt she’ll be murdered before she ever steps foot in a jail.

In this riveting sequel to the USA Today bestseller If I Run, evil lurks, drawing Casey out of the shadows . . . but there is light shining in the darkness. Is Dylan a provision from the God who loves her, or another heartache yet to happen?

Today concludes my two part review event for the If I Run series. It’s like waiting a week between a cliffhanger t.v. show, but luckily you only had a day between reviews! I consider myself lucky to have had both books standing by because when I finished the first, I was left thinking about Casey and what she was going to do next. If you remember from my review yesterday, If I Run left off on a cliffhanger with one dilemma from that novel resolved while Casey’s overreaching problem was far from over. Private investigator Dylan is still on her trail, though his belief in her guilt is much less than others involved in the case. What lies in store for these characters in If I’m Found? I had to find out!

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Casey is still on the run in this book and I couldn’t help but feel both very sorry and very tired for her. This kind of life doesn’t suck out just your energy, but your will. Somehow, she remains a strong character, contrary to what I would have expected after her personal problems and those that she encountered in If I Run.

That sense of justice that she displayed is evident again in this book as she encounters more unfortunates whom she cannot ignore: an abused child and a suicidal man falsely accused. Some of this rang true with her inner moral compass and, unable to let injustice lie once again, we are thrust into her mission to stop these wrongs.

Dylan is still on her trail, though now he’s trying to convince her that he doesn’t fully believe that she killed Brent and wants to help her. He was steadfast and strong in this book, much the same as the first book. I don’t think I saw as much growth as I thought I would going from one book to the next in Dylan’s character, but at the very least he did not get worse or become an annoying point of view that I was aching to get through. That’s one of the potential pitfalls of a multiple perspective novel; the author managed to avoid that here, thankfully.

The writing felt as fast paced as the previous novel, so points for consistency, but it felt like there was even more action packed into this book. I think it started bordering on a little too much going on to keep track of and I did feel a bit frustrated toward the end when I realized that everything wouldn’t be resolved. This is, in fact, going to be at least a trilogy from what I’ve since discovered. I really want to find out what happens to Casey, but I’m sad for her because she’s been on the run for so long. How much longer can she keep going? Hopefully her stopping, and not in a final she-stops-running-because-she’s-dead way, will be revealed in 2018.

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Two Part Review Event: If I Run by Terri Blackstock

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Author’s Website

Published: 16 February 2016

Publisher: Zondervan

Category: Mystery/Suspense/Christian Fiction

Casey knows the truth.

But it won’t set her free.

Casey Cox’s DNA is all over the crime scene. There’s no use talking to police; they have failed her abysmally before. She has to flee before she’s arrested . . . or worse. The truth doesn’t matter anymore.

But what is the truth? That’s the question haunting Dylan Roberts, the war-weary veteran hired to find Casey. PTSD has marked him damaged goods, but bringing Casey back can redeem him. Though the crime scene seems to tell the whole story, details of the murder aren’t adding up. Casey Cox doesn’t fit the profile of a killer. But are Dylan’s skewed perceptions keeping him from being objective? If she isn’t guilty, why did she run?

Unraveling her past and the evidence that condemns her will take more time than he has, but as Dylan’s damaged soul intersects with hers, he is faced with two choices. The girl who occupies his every thought is a psychopathic killer . . . or a selfless hero. And the truth could be the most deadly weapon yet.

I’m a huge fan of criminal intrigue shows like Law & Order, Criminal Minds, or Rizzoli & Isles. When I was contacted by Sarah Miniaci, a publicist from Zondervan, with the opportunity to read Terri Blackstock’s books in the If I Run series, If I Run and If I’m Found, I was excited because the summaries sound nothing short of fast paced and intriguing. As I’ve gotten both books to review, I will be doing a two part review event, starting today with the release of my review for If I Run and concluding tomorrow with the If I’m Found review.

Rating: 4 Stars

The book starts out after Casey, the main character, revealing that one of her close friends is dead. Murdered. And it looks like she’s done it, though she hasn’t and she knows it. The problem is her DNA is all over the crime scene. Rather than contacting the police, Casey immediately goes on the run. While that might sound like a bad decision to make right off the bat, she does have her reasons for distrust and as she flees we learn about her past and her character.

Casey has a tragic past, compounded by the death of her father when she was young. Having found the body, there was some trauma to be sure, but there’s also her surety that what appears to be a hanging death is not a suicide after all as others would have her believe. Given this event in particular, I understand why she’d have trust issues. Still, she’s very intelligent because as she’s fleeing from the crime scene, she makes clear decisions in regards to mode of transportation, her physical appearance, etc. I admire someone that can keep a clear mind under pressure.

The book is told from two points of view, the second being that of Dylan, a former army member coming home with PTSD who attempts to get a job as a police officer but is unable to because of said PTSD. Instead, he becomes a private investigator and is sent after Casey. For all his issues, he is very good at his job. By taking the bits and pieces left behind, he begins to put together a trail and finds out more information about Casey and her past, leading him to wonder whether what he’s been told about her and this murder case is all together true.

Both points of view were handled masterfully and I felt like they had a distinct voice to each of them, an important factor when writing in this manner. I didn’t have a preference for one over the other, but I took from both the strengths of each character and saw how they were working in the daily events to bring their narratives closer together.

Something I loved about Casey was that, while she was running from the law and trying to find out the truth about her friend’s murder, she never let it blind her to the injustice she saw around her. Under an assumed identity, she meets a woman who is also the victim of losing a family member, though this lady (Lucy) doesn’t know what happened to her. Unable to let this rest, Casey puts herself in even more danger from another angle to try and find justice for someone, if not for herself.

Casey and Dylan were well written characters that I admired both for their courage and determination. One, on the run from murderers that have all the power, still fights for someone else’s family, knowing that to doubt, to not know what happened to your family, is a horrid thing to live with year after year. The other, struggling with PTSD and putting his life back together after war, is trying to find justice for his friend and the family left behind

While not all loose ends or answers are given by the end of the novel, I saw real growth in the primary characters. Casey’s fate is yet to be determined by the end of the novel, Dylan is still on her trail, but is there hope in sight? The only way to find out will be to read If I’m Found, the second book in the If I Run series.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

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The beast raged; it punctured the air with its spite. But the girl was fiercer.

Tea is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy makes her a bone witch, who are feared and ostracized in the kingdom. For theirs is a powerful, elemental magic that can reach beyond the boundaries of the living—and of the human.

Great power comes at a price, forcing Tea to leave her homeland to train under the guidance of an older, wiser bone witch. There, Tea puts all of her energy into becoming an asha, learning to control her elemental magic and those beasts who will submit by no other force. And Tea must be strong—stronger than she even believes possible. Because war is brewing in the eight kingdoms, war that will threaten the sovereignty of her homeland…and threaten the very survival of those she loves.

Rating: 4 Stars

The start of a new, hauntingly beautiful series, The Bone Witch is a book full of dark magic and whether dark necessarily means what you think it does.

After a somewhat disappointing experience with Rin Chupeco’s previous book The Girl in the Well, I was unsure if I would like her new fantasy series, but thought that the chance to read about the training of a bone witch (aka necromancer) could be fascinating. While not action packed every page of the way, this book certainly entertained and pleased me more than expected.

What this book really reminded me of was Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, in that we encounter the main character at a young age and follow her through her training. While these segments might seem slow to readers that don’t like that level of detail on that kind of subject, I quite liked it myself because it felt new and exciting. I was learning about these monstrous creatures that Tea, the titular Bone Witch, will encounter; learning about the power that brought her beloved brother back from the grave; the prejudices that she encounters from people that don’t understand her abilities. There’s also a fair bit in here about perspective because Tea, for example, was taught that bone witches were dark, fearful asha (this world’s word for spellbinder). However, on her journey to the place where she will be taught the ways of her witchery, she encounters people that worship and adore her teacher, the Lady Mykaela, a vastly different reaction that the one Tea’s fellow villagers gave her when they learned what kind of witch she was.

There were two points of view at various times throughout this story that slightly threw me at times. There is a bard that sought out the Bone Witch for her story and these portions are in italics, sometimes told from her point of view and sometimes from his. The voices in these are not entirely unique and I had to reread a couple to remind myself who was speaking. This wasn’t a large inconvenience, but being brought out of the story by the abrupt change of perspective and realizing it wasn’t who I thought brought the storytelling down a bit in my estimation.

This is the perfect book for a long afternoon of reading, as I think it would benefit the reader most to be able to sink into the story. You’ll really be able to absorb Tea’s venture toward the asha future her training is preparing her for. Please, grab a cup of tea, coffee, etc. and enjoy this necromancer’s fantastical journey into a land of witches, monsters, and intricate magics.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.