In Autumn , I conceived of this idea to re-start my readings into the spooktacular worlds of chilling Thrillers, Suspense, Mysteries and the Paranormal (with just a dash of love for Cosy Horror!) – wherein I conceived of spending a fortnight reading such lovelies and enjoying a personal readathon leading into Halloween! I fell a bit short of my goals in , even though I took it as a success – as not only did I read some rather spookified tales but I found myself wholly intrigued by the stories I was selecting to read!
By  whilst helping develop and co-host @WyrdAndWonder, I put forth the idea to name our first mini-event for #WyrdAndWonder – wherein I was hoping to let this small idea I had in  take flight, reach a bigger audience and find readers who might find their own definition of #SpooktasticReads befitting their own readerly life! Which of course meant – re-defining it to include what it celebrates now as a mainstay: Cosy Horror, Paranormal Fantasy, Witchy Reads, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, Dark Fantasy and even Gothic Romance or other such tales. I still have the tendency to read Cosy Crime, Suspense and Thrillers throughout Autumn and into Winter as well.
Some of the stories of course play the theme up quite a bit for the spookier side of the genres, some of which may or may not directly (or indirectly) relate to Fantasy per se but this is one of those readathons which is open to both interpretation and the joy of having free reign to enjoy the readathon in a way each reader wants to approach it. The truer beauty of Wyrd And Wonder and SpooktasticReads is the ability for each participant to find their own readerly path and find what gives them JOY to celebrate the events we’re hosting through social and the book blogosphere.
Acquired Book By: I stumbled across a reviewer request on Twitter in the middle of #WyrdAndWonder which intrigued me because it was for a novel which had a very bewitching premise! The lead character had lost the ability to speak, and she was on a Quest to find her voice! I had a few concerns in regards to the content of the novel which I discussed with the author prior to accepting the novel for review consideration. Plus, given that our 5th Year of Wyrd And Wonder was already underway, I did have concerns about being able to read it in time before our event concluded. The book took a bit longer to reach me but I was overjoyed once it did arrive as there was something uniquely different about the story and I was hoping that it wasn’t too Dark for me to enjoy reading.
I received a complimentary copy of “Speechless in Achten Tan” from the author Debbie Iancu-Haddad in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Hallo, Hallo dear hearts!
Sometimes stories have a way of FINDING YOU rather than the other way round. When I asked the author directly about content warnings she mentioned to me about ‘fade to black’ romantic encounters and a limited number of explicit words as there was a replacement stronger word given as this is a Fantasy novel. Although one universally known word does make an appearance ever so briefly which I was grateful to hear about as well. Being this is a Desert Fantasy novel with a strong empathsis on Weird Fantasy aesthetics, I had a feeling I would enjoy being inside this world quite well! I wasn’t sure of course about how dark the world might evolve as I knew Mila was going to go on a Quest as all cavern witches must do at some point if they cannot ascend to the next stage of their development but one thing was for certain: I knew the visceral imagery and the enveloping of the world-building would be wholly new and original to discover as I do not spend a lot of time reading these kinds of Fantasy. Although, at some point I need to finish reading Empire of Sand.
I am grateful I was able to connect with the author via Twitter and include this reading with my stack of novels and stories this 5th Year of Wyrd And Wonder! And, perhaps by our sixth year I’ll have more joys of reading more stories in Achten Tan as I am dearly curious about the anthology Tales from the Year Between, Volume One: Achten Tan (Land of Dust and Bone) as much as I am eager for the sequel, too. It would be interesting to see what aspects of the world are explored in the anthology and of course, how that parlays into the series now being written. As the anthology was writ by different writers (all of whom would have different POVs) it would give an interestingly impression about Achten Tan and of course, a lot of curious possibilities of where Iancu-Haddad might take the series itself.
This is another example of why I lament about the blessings of being a socially bookish reader right now in today’s world because readers and writers can find each other in social settings which allow the reader to find stories they might have missed otherwise. I have long been a champion of Indie Publishers and Press as well as Self-Published or Hybrid authors — finding Skull Gate Media through reading this novel was an added bonus whilst continuing to seek out the Indie Fantasy section of a genre I love made my heart feel wickedly happy this Wyrd And Wonder. I love being a book cheerleader for #IndieFantasy storycrafters each May and thankfully I continue to be able to seek out the stories which are elevating my joy of discovery within the genre itself. As even outside of Wyrd And Wonder – these are the stories I desire most to read every week and month of the year.
Mila hasn't spoken in the five years since she became an Onra, a first level Everfall witch. After failing the test to reclaim her voice and control her magic, her mentor sends eighteen-year-old Mila to Achten Tan–City of Dust–a dangerous desert town, built in the massive ribcage of an extinct leviathan.
To reclaim her power, Mila must steal a magical staff capable of releasing it, from Bone Master Opu Haku's sky-high lair. Her only resources are the magical luminous elixirs of the cursed caverns where she grew up, and a band of unlikely allies; a quirky inventor, a giant-ant rider, a healer, a librarian's assistant, a Tar-tule rider, and the chief's playboy son.
But in the City of Bones, enemies & friends are not who they seem, and trusting the wrong person can be deadly. If Mila fails, she will never speak again and her bones will be added to the wasteland. This book includes a kick-ass female protagonist covered in tattoos, giant ants, first-person present-tense narration, magic, banter, lots of innuendoes, and cute boys kissing.
NOTE: This novel began as a short story called “Speechless” and was originally published in Skull Gate Media’s anthology: Tales from the Year Between, Volume One: Achten Tan (Land of Dust and Bone). Whilst Skull Gate Media is an interesting new publishing company as it is a collective amongst the writers who co-own it together.
Notation about Cover Art and Design: The one observation which confused me about the book cover was the fact Mila on the cover looked a bit different than I visualised her in the story. Especially I was missing the artful way her braids had bones threaded through them and for being a gnome she looked far taller than I thought she would as well.
Available Formats: Trade Paperback, Ebook
About Debbie Iancu-Haddad
Debbie Iancu-Haddad is a Jewish Israeli author living in Meitar in the Negev Desert. Author of Speechless in Achten Tan a YA fantasy novel. And The Bone Master, forthcoming.
She spends her time taking part in Anthologies (seven to date with three more on the way), writing VSS on Twitter, and buying way too much stuff online. Her goal is to promote body positive characters and include characters dealing with physical challenges. #ownvoices
For her day job, she gives lectures on humor, laughter yoga workshops, and chocolate workshops, and sees how often she can make her two teenagers roll their eyes.
Acquired Book By: I stumbled across one of my author’s newsletters which was mentioning the works of other writers who were going to be at the same event. Laura Resau is an author I have loved reading for many years now (well over a decade and a half!) and it was her newsletter which mentioned this story “The Namer of Spirits” by Todd Mitchell. I had been keenly hopeful I would discover a Forest Fantasy novel I hadn’t learnt of previously before or during Wyrd And Wonder this year and as I read about the premise behind this novel, I felt it was a wicked good fit for me to read!
I had planned to interview Mr Mitchell during Wyrd And Wonder – either as a fifth chat on Twitter or more traditionally on my blog, however, as my work life became a bit more complicated and my health took a few sidesteps as well as a result, I wasn’t able to firm together those plans. I opted instead to focus on reading the novel and sharing my ruminations during the event whilst I planned to re-connect with the author afterwards to see if perhaps I could still interview him about what I had read and the story he had written.
I was not obligated to post a review on its behalf. I am sharing my thoughts on behalf of this anthology for my own edification and a continued journey of sharing my readerly life on Jorie Loves A Story. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Note: I received the Press Materials from the author Todd Mitchell – who kindly sent them to me at my request after I explained how I was going to read his novel during Wyrd And Wonder. He is my fifth and final #WyrdAndWonder guest authors this year – on the 31st of May – wherein we’ll be chatting on the tag #WyrdAndWonder as the previous four guests were conversing via #SatBookChat which is the tag for @SatBookChat, the chat I developed early-on as a book blogger.
Hallo, Hallo dear hearts!
It wasn’t until I was reading through my authors’ newsletters (which I receive by email) ahead of Wyrd And Wonder this year that I discovered The Namer of Spirits as forementioned. It was @LauraResau who had tipped my hat towards finding this novel and it led me into reading the story during the last weekend of the event whilst hosting a live interview with Mr Mitchell on our final day of Wyrd And Wonder which is the 31st of May.
I was especially grateful to Ms Resau for including the news about an event they were both attending as otherwise I might not have discovered this story this year at all. And, that would have been a keen disappointment as from the first moment I started to read the story, I could tell it carried with it a lot of the themes we were hoping to uncover throughout Wyrd And Wonder this year. Especially about the spirits who live in the forest, forest communities and also, how a society would either live in harmony with the forest or against it; given different approaches in narratives and scopes of stories or series.
I am thankful I have a chance to both read and talk about the story on Jorie Loves A Story but also, speak directly with the author and talk about how he approached writing this narrative as much as what inspired it to be written. I am hopeful others might be drawn inside his creative Forest Fantasy world and take out the joys I had whilst reading it.
Notation about Cover Art and Design: I was immediately drawn into the scene on the book cover but it wasn’t until I was reading the story itself did I fully understand what I was observing! It was one of those rare moments where you realised that the cover artist and the design of the cover was an equal match to the contents of the story! The large beast seen on the cover was an illwen and that is Ash standing in front of them. I won’t reveal what is happening as it is an important scene of the story but wow! The illustration of that scene is wicked fab and I also appreciated the imagery of the dao faro and mistcat on the back cover, too! Of course, the author’s photo also makes more sense once you’ve read the story, too! His photo and the cover art are clues about “The Namer of Spirits”!!
“A dangerous town carved out of unforgiving forest, a young girl who can name spirits and tame monsters, a race against time to save the natural world: The Namer of Spirits is what readers want and the world needs.” –Eliot Schrefer, New York Times bestselling author
In the frontier village of Last Hope, people dismiss twelve-year-old Ash Narro as a flighty child who claims to hear the true names of things. But when enraged forest spirits attack, Ash shows that the names she hears have power. After taming a destructive forest spirit, Ash teams up with Fen, a wild forest boy, and embarks on an unusual journey to save her village. In this steampunk eco-fantasy, the perils of deforestation and the power of friendship are explored through a fantastical adventure involving giant mistcats, tempestuous forest spirits, a supernatural puppy, and a girl with a special gift for shaping what things become.
Genre(s): Middle Grade | Fantasy | Adventure | Magic Steampunk | Eco-Fantasy | Eco-Lit | Environmental Fantasy
Available Formats: Trade Paperback, Ebook
About Todd Mitchell
Todd Mitchell is the author of several award-winning novels for young readers, teens, and adults including The Last Panther (Penguin Random House), The Traitor King (Scholastic), The Secret to Lying (Candlewick), and Backwards (Candlewick).
His two newest books came out in fall 2021 — one for writers, artists, and creators titled Breakthrough: How to Overcome Doubt, Fear, and Resistance to Be Your Ultimate Creative Self, and a Middle Grade novel that's been optioned for film/TV development titled The Namer of Spirits.
In addition to his books, he’s also written for comics, including A Flight of Angels (Vertigo, a YALSA Top 10 Pick for Teens) and Broken Saviors (an alien invasion comic available on ComiXology). Currently, Todd directs the Beginning Creative Writing Teaching Program at Colorado State University. You can visit him (and learn about his squirrel obsession) on his website.
#WitchyWednesdays is a curated collection of #WitchyReads this Wyrd And Wonder on Jorie Loves A Story. I have long held a fascination with Paranormally inclined stories involving witches and wizards as well as magic schools. I read either Contemporary or Historical releases as well as completely fantastical worlds featuring a Witchy premise and storyline. This year for Wyrd And Wonder, I’m focusing on specific stories I’ve been wanting to share and discuss either during our annual event in May OR our sister event #SpooktasticReads in October. Every Wednesday there will be a new Witchy story to discover as I share my readerly adventures into Witchy Fiction this month. I am considering keeping this a mainstay of focus both during May & October for our events for Wyrd And Wonder.
In regard to the name I chose for this showcase of reviews, I sort of stumbled onto the name when I was deciding which day of the week I wanted to feature Witchy Reads this year. I thought it was original until I ran a search online, I saw others use the #WitchyWednesdays tag however, I did not source an origin of the tag – only a collective recognition for it attributed to different creative projects or venues whilst I didn’t find an actual meme origin for it on a blog or website. If someone knows who started it – kindly let me know so I can add attribution.
Acquired Book By: I have been a reader of Ms Chris’s stories since my first year as a book blogger when I first discovered her Tipsy Fairy Tale trilogy with “Blue Spirit”. Over the years, this led to our friendship as we’re both writers and avid readers. I’ve completed my journey with the Tipsy Fairy Tale trilogy last year during Wyrd And Wonder (see also Review) whilst I gifted myself a copy of “Trans Witch” (in paperback) to celebrate Wyrd And Wonder, Year 4. Whilst I was about to dive into “Trans Witch” the author happily surprised me with an audiobook copy of the novel. Thereby I shifted from reading the story to reading whilst listening to the narrator narrate the story! One of my favourite things to do is to read and hear a narrator’s performance, so this made my final selection for Wyrd And Wonder extra special last year!
I received a complimentary audiobook copy of “Trans Witch” direct from the author E. Chris Garrison in exchange for an honest review. Whilst the paperback copy I was reading whilst I listened to the audiobook edition was a self-purchase of my own. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Hallo, Hallo dear hearts!
I was originally hoping to read & listen to this novel during our 4th Year of Wyrd And Wonder (in 2021) however, I was only able to begin the story last May whilst I re-attempted to listen to it during #SpooktasticReads that following October during our sister event for Wyrd And Wonder.
Every year, I feel as if I have a lovely road to walk settling into stories, rooting out new voices in Fantasy and finding myself captured by the stories & characters I’ve read along the route of the event. This year what is brilliant is being able to curl inside stories writ by authors I already know are my top favourites as well as being able to gather books by authors I have genuinely been curious about reading for several years and of whom, I’ve featured their stories in spotlights on my blog but never had the chance to properly read until now.
This was a special addition to my reading stack in 2021, as I hadn’t been aware of “Trans Witch” until just before Wyrd And Wonder began. Thereby when I went on a personal #bookhaul binge to bring more of Ms Chris’s stories into my personal library, I *knew!* Trans Witch had to be among them because I fell in love with the premise quite immediately! Who wouldn’t?
Set within the same Skye-Blue universe I’ve been reading all along, “Trans Witch” is currently a stand-alone novel without a series attachment, however, word on the winds has this earmarked as a potential series but whether we see it develop into one is something we’ll have to wait to find out! Be sure to message the author via Twitter if you’ve picked up a copy of “Trans Witch” and if you’ve enjoyed it – let her know if you’d like more of this world & character in other words! As previous novels were once one-offs too and were developed into series – including the Tipsy Fairy Tale!
Also: leave your comments for Ms Chris on this post as she’ll be checking for your notes throughout Wyrd And Wonder!!
On my connection to Ms Chris (aka E. Chris Garrison):
My path first crossed with Ms Chris through a podcast sponsored by an Indie Speculative Fiction publisher which led me to hosting blog tours which celebrated her stories. Since our first encounter with each other, we’ve developed a friendship I am blessed to have and I appreciate getting to know a bit more about an author whose not only developing a unique style in the world of Fantasy but is receptive to the thoughts readers have as they gain impression by reading the stories themselves.
I am disclosing this, to assure you that I can formulate an honest opinion, even though I have interacted with Ms Chris through our respective blogs, the twitterverse, the podcast world, and privately. I treat each book as a ‘new experience’, whether I personally know the author OR whether I am reading a book by them for the first time. For more information, I disclosed a bit more on my first 10 Bookish, Not Bookish Thoughts (read No.7!).
Why I love reading E. Chris Garrison stories:
Ms Chris has incredible continuity – not just through the Tipsy Fairy Tale series but through all the stories which interconnect into this series as well. It is quite the large universe of stories and characters (as the Road Ghosts series is inter-threaded as well) – seeing how she’s brought everyone back to centre in this story was just wicked brilliant! I even loved seeing Frannie again as I felt she had a bum rap all along and it was good to see her step into her own so to speak at the height of the frenzy! I am so grateful I had the chance to read Blue Spirit all those years ago because it lead me into a series I am blessed to have read start to finish.
The author is transgender which gives her an inside edge towards how to write stories that are highlighting characters like Skye who are trying to lead lives without their sexuality, gender or orientation leading to prejudicial exclusions inside their everyday lives. This is quite apparent when the laws currently in place in the author’s home state are mentioned in Restless Spirit in regards to marriage equality as well as the perceptions of how some of Skye’s friends or friends of her friends view the relationship she has with Annabelle.
The relationship with Skye and Annabelle is more fleshed out and focused on in Mean Spirit – I was celebrating the joy of seeing this inclusive of the narrative because at the heart of the series, I always wanted to see Skye happy and settled into a relationship which was a good fit for her as a character. She’s had such a hard-won journey until now, it was nice to see something in her life was working out. Ms Chris tucked us into those quiet moments between the two women in love and gave us a wink and nod into how their lives were merging together in a way that I think even surprised Skye. It was a wonderful f/f romance inside a paranormal suspense set within an Urban Fantasy world.
I consider this series pro-positive for both LGBTQIA+ and Allies alike, as everything pertinent to this side of Skye’s life is told organically and shifts between being humourous and serious, depending on the nature of the exchange or the situation at hand. This is positive I think as it has a very realistic vibe attached to it. Skye is not afraid to speak her mind or to live her authentic truth, even if others are not as prepared to accept her on her terms, she still lives her life owning the truth she has within her and that’s something to applaud. She has her faults (who doesn’t?) but her strengths are her willingness to take-on challenges head-on and remain faithful to those she cares about whilst sorting out mysteries of the unexplained.
This is definitely an author to bookmark if your seeking #diverselit and stories of Equality where all characters are realistically written and openly honest about expressing their thoughts, views and feelings.
Professor Lily Shelley is frantic to find her wife Penny, who vanished two weeks ago. No one else seems to be looking very hard, not the police or even Penny’s family. As Lily refuses to give up hope, she continues searching for clues, even as she teaches English at Moraine University. In her search, she stumbles into a magical world; a college for wizards hidden in forgotten places at the University. Her favorite students come to her aid, helping her retrace Penny’s steps to learn the secrets of the School of Applied Metaphysics – as well as her newfound powers – in hopes of rescuing her wife.
Gifted Book By: This novel “Harlequin’s Riddle” was part of a gifted #bookhaul of mine from my Mum and Dad for #WyrdAndWonder, Year 4! They happily surprised me with a lovely bundle of books I featured during Wyrd And Wonder Year 3 celebrating the Indie Publisher Odyssey Books! This continues my readings of those novels as I was overjoyed I can read all the lovely stories I had either showcased and/or featured but wasn’t able to read during our Year 3 Wyrd And Wonder.
Thereby, I was gifted a copy of “Harlequin’s Riddle” by my parents and I was not obligated to post a review on its behalf. I am sharing my thoughts on behalf of this novel for my own edification and a continued journey of sharing my readerly life on Jorie Loves A Story. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Note: I received the Press Materials last year from the publisher and had asked if I could re-use them if and when I was able to read and/or review the stories I was featuring during Wyrd And Wonder Year 3 (2020); and thankfully was given permission to do so which is why I am using them during my readings this 5th Year of Wyrd And Wonder.
Hallo, Hallo dear hearts!
I was quite smitten with all the stories I’ve selected to feature from this Independent Publisher – each of the guest features will tuck us closer to the stories themselves, introduce us to the writers and give us a newfound appreciation for the Fantasy stories which are being independently published by publishers who champion the crafting of stories and the writers who have created these fantastical worlds for us to discover.
I wanted to begin this series of features with Ms Nightingale – as her world is a rather curious one – both from the perspective of what initially inspired her series and how she first fused curiosity to building the foundation of this world she’s given us to read and by how her characters simply step forward from that world and embrace our imaginations.
As you might remember – two years ago, I had the lovely pleasure of running a series of guest features for Odyssey Books. Their authors were very welcoming to me and open to my enquiries as much as they returnt my interview and guest post topics with such hearty depth – it was a true pleasure to host all of them! I even interviewed one of them via #SatBookChat as I did a takeover chat experience that year as well.
Last year, I was able to start my readings again of Odyssey Books via “Cassandra” (see also Review) whilst previously I had featured Elizabeth Foster’s “Esme’s Wish” (from 2020: see also Review) and Felicity Banks Rahana trilogy: “The Monster Apprentice” (from 2020: see also Review) and “The Princess and the Pirate” (see also Review) in 2021.
This #WyrdAndWonder I am picking up from whence I last left off – I have the complete set of stories for the Tales of Tarya to read and I couldn’t be happier! I didn’t want to set out to read the first novel if I knew I couldn’t read the rest of the series. Thereby, I waited until our 5th Year to begin my journey into this world and it is my hope to read the rest of the Odyssey Books I have on my shelves every Monday throughout May. Part of what drew me into these stories was the premise of them — how they are a combination of reshaping what we understand about Shakespeare against what we love about Mythological Fantasy and Fantasy which is set in a world re-inspired by another writer.
Whilst I am planning to read the Odyssey Books authors on Mondays – you’ll find two more lovelies from them being featured and read this month: “Esme’s Gift” the sequel to “Esme’s Wish” and “The Shadow of the Skytree” (see also Interview). I am attempting to get a copy of “Songlines” by Carolyn Denman as well. Join me on Mondays as I take my own odyssey into a publisher’s canon of stories and series.
Ten years ago, Mina’s beloved older brother disappeared with a troupe of travelling players, and was never heard from again. On the eve of Mina’s own departure with a troupe, her father tells her she has a special gift for storytelling, a gift he silenced years before in fear of her ability to call visions into being with her stories.
Mina soon discovers that the travelling players draw their powers from a mysterious place called Tarya, where dreams are transformed into reality. While trying to solve the mystery of her brother’s disappearance, she discovers a dark secret to the players’ onstage antics. Torn between finding her brother or exposing the truth about the players, could her gifts as a storyteller offer a way to solve Harlequin’s riddle?
Converse via: #HistoricalFantasy, #YAFantasy, #TalesOfTarya
as well as #OdysseyBooks & #WyrdAndWonder
About Rachel Nightingale
Rachel Nightingale has been writing since the age of eight (early works are safely hidden away). Harlequin’s Riddle is her first novel.
Rachel holds a Masters degree and PhD in Creative Writing. Her short stories have been selected several times for exhibition as part of the Cancer Council Arts awards, and winning the Mercury Short Story competition (junior section) at the age of 16 only fuelled her desire to share her stories with the world. One of her plays, No Sequel, won the People’s Choice Award and First Prize at the Eltham Little Theatre’s 10 Minute Play competition in 2014, while another, Crime Fiction, was performed at Short and Sweet Manila in 2016. Her second passion after writing is the theatre, and she has been performing in shows and working backstage for a rather long time. She co-wrote and performed in the 2013-2015 version of the hugely popular Murder on the Puffing Billy Express, a 1920s murder mystery set on the iconic Dandenong Ranges train.
The inspiration for the Tarya trilogy, which begins with Harlequin’s Riddle, began when she read a quote by Broadway actor Alan Cumming about that in-between moment just before you step on stage and enter a different world, and began to wonder what you might find in that place between worlds.