And rising and rising and rising

Today’s book is The Magician’s Workshop, by Christopher Hansen and JR Fehr. I received a copy of this book in exchange for my review. 🙂

Book Info

Length: 216 pages

Publisher: Wondertale

Released: November 8, 2016

Amazon | Goodreads | Author’s Website

Everyone in the islands of O’Ceea has a magical ability: whatever they imagine can be brought into existence. Whoever becomes a master over these powers is granted the title of magician and is given fame, power, riches, and glory. This volume of books follows the journey of a group of kids as they strive to rise to the top and become members of the Magician’s Workshop.

Layauna desperately wants to create beautiful things with her magical powers, but all she can seem to do is make horrible, savage monsters. For years she has tried to hide her creations, but when her power is at last discovered by a great magician, she realizes that what she’s tried to hide might actually be of tremendous value.

Kai just wants to use his powers to have fun and play with his friends. Unfortunately, nearly everyone on his island sees him as a bad influence, so he’s forced to meet them in secret. When one of the creatures they create gets out of control and starts flinging fireballs at their town, Kai is tempted to believe that he is as nefarious as people say. However, his prospects change when two mysterious visitors arrive, praising his ability and making extraordinary promises about his future.

Follow the adventures of Kai, Layauna, and a boatload of other characters as they struggle to grow up well in this fantastical world.

Real Quick

One hell of a middle-grade romp.


The Magician’s Workshop was a breath of fresh air, with an interesting premise and super rich worldbuilding. Our huge cast of characters can create ‘projections’ – essentially illusions that are only limited by their imagination. Dreaming up their own clothes, changing the flavor of food, throwing punches from a distance… it’s a fun form of magic, and the whole story revolves around mastering it.

The book follows a grand total of eight characters through lead-up to a ceremony that will determine which of them will become full-fledged magicians, and which will remain commoners and be limited in their abilities – except the book ends right on the cusp of this ceremony. Essentially, it’s a few hundred pages of exposition as we go through eight different backstories. Enjoyable, well-written exposition… but exposition nonetheless. I would definitely recommend having the second book queued up to jump right into, since the first installment doesn’t offer much in the way of closure.

If I had one other minor beef with The Magician’s Workshop, it’s that the vividly detailed worldbuilding wasn’t accompanied by a ton of explanation. Don’t get me wrong, the magical terms and topics in the book can generally be figured out through context, but I feel like the book would have been stronger had it been touch more straightforward.

Overall, though, this is a super-enjoyable and utterly binge-readable start to a middle-grade fantasy series, and I look forward to seeing where the plot goes next!


Sign me up for one hunky shipwrecked sailor, please

Today’s book is Smugglers and Scones, by Morgan C Talbot. Morgan very kindly sent me a copy of her book in exchange for an honest review. 🙂

Book Info

Length: 241 pages

Publisher: Red Adept Publishing

Released: January 31, 2017

Amazon | Goodreads | Author’s Website

Pippa Winterbourne runs Moorehaven, the Oregon Coast’s quirkiest bed-and-breakfast and former home of world-famous mystery writer A. Raymond Moore. Guests come there to write their own crime novels. When a real-life murder takes a local’s life and washes a handsome boat pilot into her arms, Pippa is yanked into a deadly plot of her own. A tangle of secrets crashes past into present, and Pippa must uncover clues dating back to Seacrest’s Prohibition days, including a secret Moore himself hid from the world.

Juggling her book-writing guests, small-town intrigues, secret club agendas, and a possibly fatal attraction, Pippa must sort fact from fiction to know who to trust before a desperate killer claims a final revenge nearly a century in the making.

Real Quick

Smugglers and Scones is everything I love in a cozy mystery – a delicious escape complete with quirky characters and a well-crafted plot. Very highly recommended!


This was the perfect book to pick up after staggering through another reading slump. (I’ve been plagued by them lately – maybe it’s the weather.)

I’ve made no secret of my love of cozies, but this one very quickly installed itself at the top of my favorites list. I wanted to wrap myself up in the setting – I mean, come on. An authors-only B&B perched on a cliff in a quaint seaside town? I’m packing my bags. While I loved the main characters, Pippa and Lake, I’m a sucker for a good supporting cast, which Talbot provided in spades. Writers are an odd bunch (I should know), and the authors-turned-investigators in Smugglers and Scones really stole the show with their enthusiastic and often misguided attempts to beef up their novels with some personal experiences of the criminal kind.

With books like this – lighthearted, humorous ones – I’ll happily overlook a little predictability when it comes to the plot, but this time I was pleasantly surprised! The storyline is well-paced, the twists keep coming, and the final “aha!” was unexpected and super satisfying.

I gasped, I giggled, I swooned, and I spent a wonderful rainy afternoon completely swept up in Seacrest’s mysterious past. A must-read for the mystery lover!


Words in excess

Today’s book is Bender, by Alexander Rigby. I received a copy of this book in exchange for my review. 🙂

Book Info

Length: 335 pages

Publisher: Maple Lane Books

Released: November 22, 2016

Amazon | Goodreads | Author’s Website

Two souls. Four love stories.

Ancient Egypt. Renaissance Italy. 1980s Pittsburgh. Futuristic Argentina.

Bender tells the story of four couples across space and time, chronicling their relationships from the moments they meet, until their love stories ultimately end. These interconnecting tales follow a princess who falls for a slave, two men whose love is taboo, a dysfunctional couple struggling to make it work, and two women who discover a fascinating machine that reveals they’ve lived multiple past lives.

Real Quick

A fascinating concept that I just couldn’t get into. Throwing this one onto the Not For Me pile.


In the interest of brevity, here it is: I wanted to love this story, but I couldn’t get past the overwrought narration.

A few select quotes:

“She did not speak once the slivers of deceased faded trees rested in her hands…” Paper. He’s talking about paper.

“She, breaking the hush eventually, spoke with the words she strung together.” Twelve words where two are necessary.

“There was a silence, between our voices, and who we were, the calamity that had struck us before unknown to me.” I’ve been trying to parse this and coming up empty.

Like I said – not for me, and it’s a shame. :/


Mermaid fiction and I don’t really get along, I suppose

Today’s book is Water, by Emory Gayle – Emory was kind enough to send me a review copy in exchange for my honest thoughts. 🙂

Book Info

Length: 373 pages

Publisher: Self-published

Released: August 26th, 2016

Amazon | Author’s Website

Cora Reed is haunted by the night her twin sister drowned. Seven years later, she’s still afraid of the water, and can barely keep herself from falling apart completely. The last thing that Cora wanted was to fall in love. But she couldn’t have prepared herself for Darrien Locke, the handsome swim instructor at Camp Crystal. Unbeknownst to Cora, they are already connected in unimaginable ways. Mysterious things begin to happen to her, plunging her into a whirlwind of danger and chaos. Only one thing remains steady…Darrien. But he’s not at all what he seems.

Darrien must help Cora discover who she really is, before a terrible power in the deep reaches her. To do that, Darrien must commit the ultimate betrayal.

Real Quick

Solid YA in need of some solid editing.


The writing stymied me on this one. The plot is standard YA fare and interesting enough, but the story is told in a very plain, matter-of-fact style that ultimately didn’t engage me. Details were sparse and turns of phrase were occasionally awkward: “The woman’s eyes spread wide when she looked at me,” or “I couldn’t help the smug smile that swiped across my face.”

Plus, I was constantly being told how the characters were feeling. I’m the worst stickler for ‘show, don’t tell,’ I know, but can you really blame me for wanting to fall in love with the people I’m reading about? Main character Darrien’s internal monologue left a bit to be desired in that regard – “I didn’t get to the position I was in by making friends. That didn’t mean that I didn’t want friends; my job just didn’t allow for it.” Cora was much the same. There just wasn’t much personality to go around, unfortunately.

I’m going to pass on Water for now, but I would definitely be interested in picking it back up after a round of rewrites.


You had me at ex-televangelist

Today’s book is The Prophet of Marathon, by Bob Waldner. I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 🙂

Book Info

Length: 301 pages

Publisher: Self-published

Released: November 16, 2015

Amazon | Goodreads | Author’s Website

James Bennett didn’t come to the Florida Keys to find a new father. As the rebellious, serially underemployed scion of an old-money New York family, he’d spent years disappointing the one he already had. But when smooth-talking ex-televangelist John Wainwright takes an interest in him, he spurns an invitation to grow up and finally join his family’s business on Wall Street in favor of staying in Marathon to help Wainwright rebuild his church.

When James’ faith in his new mentor and his infatuation with Wainwright’s beautiful, estranged daughter lead him into a maze of deception and double-crosses, he’s left to try to find a path to redemption on his own, and he can only hope that his father will still be there to meet him on the other side.

Real Quick

I didn’t expect to be this hooked.


There’s only one thing better than a mystery that keeps you guessing: a mystery that lets you think you’ve figured it out, only to sweep the rug out from under you with a little wink, as if to say “Hey. Don’t get too cocky.” The Prophet of Marathon was definitely one of these – a well-written and well-crafted novel that was all too easy to binge-read until far too late in the night. I couldn’t help it! Waldner has a great writing style, and I was completely swept up with the intrigue of the story and the tribulations of a deliciously flawed and snarky main character.  Highly recommended!


Hey, I’m Ashley

Devouring indie books in search of the next great novel.

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Currently Reading

Ashley's bookshelf: currently-reading

The Vampire at Sunset High
tagged: currently-reading
Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty
tagged: best-of-2016-challenge and currently-reading