Book Review: The Age of Witches by Louisa Morgan

Publication Date: April 7, 2020

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The Book is a tale of friendship, family, honor and respect for the old ways.  It’s also a battle of good and evil.  I received the book as an ARC from NetGalley after requesting it.

The story follows a family descendent of the Bishop Family of witches from the Salem Witch Trials.  Although the story is fiction it is based on facts. The family line had been broken in two.  One line of the family practiced the old ways as herb medicine women who harness their power for the good and the other line of the family practices their craft for themselves and although able to do go they choose to use the dark side for lack of a better word.  Annis must learn her craft in order to save herself.

I found the book to be a bit slow to start and I will admit that at points I was very tempted to put it down.  It picked up at some point around the midpoint of the book and I found myself not being able to put it down at that point.  I took me almost a month to get to the midpoint of the book and then I read the the rest of the book in one day.

The book was well researched.   Louisa Morgan gives enough detail to make the craft sound believable and achievable with bits of “that’s not possible” mixed in.  Although with a magical book I expect to need to suspend my beliefs for a moment at times.  I appreciate that some of the spells seemed to have been very well researched and the incantations that were spoken seemed very real as well as the explanation as to why witches speak their spells and why very often the spells rhyme.

Words have strength and spoken words have the greatest weight

I thought the main characters seemed had depth.  I was able to feel sympathy for the Villan (Frances) even though at the same time I was hating her for being so calculating and selfish.  I really enjoyed reading about Harriet and even the Strega from the old herb store was believable and I really liked her.  I wished that she had had a bigger part in the story.  Perhaps another book???? (hint)

What I thought was lacking:

I did not like the way Morgan wrote the two ladies’ maids.  I found them to have no depth and no interest.  I thought that more could have been said about them.  Even Harriet’s house keeper was a bit just thrown in there.  She could have had a bigger part.

I hated reading about the trip to the asylum.  Maybe that could have been dealt with differently.  I was not expecting that much horror.

I found the ending to be a bit abrupt as if something was missing and there was no little bow tying the whole thing up together.

James, the love interest was soft and blah.  He had no mind of his own and it felt like he was in the book only to be a poppet in the hands of the women.  I did not like the way he was written and I can’t imagine Annis marrying him.  She is a strong woman and I get the feeling that she would walk all over him.

Putting it all together:

I enjoyed the book.  It was entertaining to read and it was researched well.  Some areas of the craft were still a bit off but they were very minor.  I rated the book 3 stars on Goodreads.

Audio Book – The Deal of a Lifetime by Frederick Backman

The Witch Chronicles is not doing it for me.  It’s actually set me back on my reading the past month.  It’s not that the book is bad, it’s actually interesting in its own way.  I actually think the problem is me.  I’m starting to think that series are not for me.  I’m not sure why.  Perhaps it’s the fact that switching books makes me lose my momentum and by the time I pick up the next book I’m not interested anymore.  The story lost it’s interest.  I’m going to venture and say that the reason for this is that I’m a huge mood reader and also a mood writer…. more on that at a different time.

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So, I put down the Witch Chronicles and picked up two different books.  Here, in this blog I want to tell you about what I picked up as an audio book and why.

My weekends, for now, until I am no longer working, are reserved for cleaning.  Normally I put on a podcast and walk around the house picking up stuff, vacuuming and cleaning.  Sometimes I am so focused on what the podcast is talking about that I don’t even realize how long I’ve been cleaning which is a good thing.  Other times, like yesterday, there was nothing new in my podcast library to listen to so I decided to download a novella (I never read a novella) that I heard being discussed in one of the YouTube videos I was watching (sorry, don’t remember which channel).  The book is The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Bachman.  I’ve never heard about this author or this book and honestly I didn’t even do any research on it.  I just knew that I needed to get something on phone to listen to while cleaning otherwise no cleaning would get accomplished.

I am not very far into the book (I didn’t do much cleaning) but I think I’m going to love the book.  So far it does not feel like a happy story.  It starts out as a man sitting on a couch while is wife and his son are sleeping.  While he sits there watching them he begins talking to his son about a little girl in the hospital with cancer.  Doesn’t seem very interesting but I was hooked from the very first paragraph.  Especially when the father says:  “I took a life….” WHAT?????? what does that mean? my brain could not understand this unexpected turn of events.  I don’t know what is going to happen.  I can tell you that not far into the novella I really like the little girl and even the man.

I have since looked into who the author is.  To my surprise Fredrik Backman is the author of A Man Called Ove, which I haven’t read because one of my friends told me she hated the book.  Depending on how I like this novella Frederik Backman may be the next author I explore.

Stay tuned for the next installment when I will review this short novella.

Ana

Book Review – The Black Witch Chronicles

The Black Witch – Book #1

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I debated on waiting to review this book until I was done with book #2 and review the series together.  I finished the book yesterday and immediately got the second book and started reading it.  I decided that I probably should review the first book now and the second when I finish the second so we can all have my ideas as I formulate them.

There are some things about this book which I very much enjoyed and there are some things about this book that I didn’t particularly care for.  I think Laurie Forest’s creates a very interesting world and develops it in front of the reader in a way that is not too full of description nor missing any of the necessary information.

The story follows Elloren, the granddaughter of the most powerful black witch in the land.  Elloren looks exactly like her grandmother with one small detail missing.  She has no magic.  Elloren’s parents died in battle when she was young and she and her brothers were raised by her uncle who as an eccentric raised them to be removed from magic.  Elloren never owned a wand and she’s learned to build violins which is something women in her tradition/culture as not allowed to do.

At the start of the story we Elloren’s aunt, a very powerful and wealthy Guardnerian who wants her to become Wandfasted (married) which goes against what her uncle wants.  Her uncle decides to allow Elloren to go with her aunt to the city to enroll and join her brothers at the University and only after she finishes her studies will he allow her to Wandfasted.  Before she leaves he makes Elloren promise him that she will wait until she finishes her studies.  Which she does.

At University she’s exposed to a variety of other cultures and magic systems.  Especially the “evil ones” with whom she’s forced to room since she’s not willing to be Wandfasted to the boy her aunt wants her to be Wandfasted to.

After picking up the book I found out that there’s a whole lot of controversy surrounding it.  Although a fantasy book, it covers some very deep subjects the most prominent of which is a cultural one.  How different cultures see each other and the falsities we learn about each other which become harmful to society.

The story includes dragons and elves and sea creatures.  All the things a good fantasy book must have in order to make the story complete and each creature comes with it’s own history and the reasons for their existence in the story.

What I didn’t like about the book

I think Laurie did a great job at showing how what we believe about each other can cause pain if we don’t take the time to get to the know each culture for what they are.  However, although I know that the novel is a young adult fantasy novel I was not prepared for the lectures on the evils of some of the cultures.  I get the reason for them to be in the book but perhaps they could have been handled different.

I don’t want to spoil the story but there is a part in the book where students are talking about what they believe and it just felt very childish to me.  I could have done without that part and have instead action explain why some believes were prevalent.

Another thing that seemed like a stretch to me was that with every different culture, Elloren seemed to know immediately what they were.  I get that some cultures are easier to spot than others but there a whole lot that are not.  That did not seem to be present.  She and all the other students seemed to know the background of every student just by looking at them.  The exception were the fae who are able to change their appearance.  I found this to be a bit jarring.

What I liked about the book

I enjoyed reading about the different magic systems.  I particularly enjoyed how the Lupine who are the werewolves (for lack of a better description) were written.  From where I’m standing they seemed to be the ones who are able to overlook the differences in everyone else and accept the differences.  I enjoyed seeing the development of those characters.

I enjoyed how the romance was written.  It was not too much in your face but it made a point.  It was descriptive without being too much.  There is one small thing about one of the love interests that could have been developed better.  At one point he goes to military training (it appears that most of the boys go through military training) and only at the time that he’s about to return to we find out that he and Elloren have been corresponding regularly.  This was not mentioned before and I thought this could have been flushed out a little more.

How I feel generally

I really enjoyed the book.  I think it’s a perfect read for the winter time – Yes, I pick most of my books by season.  I enjoyed the description of the school and the magic system was well developed.  Some of the story at times felt a little too young but that’s not the book’s fault as this is, in fact, a young adult novel.

I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads because the book kept me interested and the ending was interesting enough that I bought the next book immediately after.  I would recommend this book to a younger audience or someone just getting started in Fantasy.

Looking forward to her other works.

Ana

The Dutch House Book Review

Title:  The Dutch House
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Price:  Amazon Kindle $14.99
Pages:  Kindle Edition 352
Publication date:  September 24, 2019
Publisher: Haper

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

The Dutch House

I finished reading The Dutch House yesterday.  I will admit that I only started reading it because of the book club meeting at work coming up.  Unlike most of reviews I was not attracted to the cover at all.  I would probably picked it up at a bookstore but only because of the red color of the coat.  Red is an attention getter and that would probably had been the extent of it.  I would have put it back down and moved on to the next book on the shelf.

The first few pages were a struggle for me.  The writing is poetic and at the same time manages to be down to earth but the topic was not something I was able to get into at all. Again, had it not been for the meeting at work I would probably not have read it and DNF’d it almost immediately.  However, I am glad and thankful for that meeting which is scheduled for the 18th of this month.  I am actually really happy I finished the book.

This is my first novel by Ann Patchett.  I would love to say that it will not be my last but I am so afraid that the others will disappoint.  Not sure why but that always makes me nervous.  When I like a book so much I am always afraid to pick up another one for fear that it will disappoint.

The book follows a family in Philadelphia who lives in a very large, opulent home, The Dutch House.  The Dutch House is as much a character in the story as each of the people. in the story.  Danny, the young brother; Maeve, the older sister; Cyril, the father; and Elna, the mother.  There are also three maids/house keepers, Fluffly (her real name is Fiona); INSERT THE OTHER NAMES.  Prior to buying the house the family lived in a small apartment in Brooklyn and I got the sense that they moved prior to Danny being born.  The mother never got used to the house and, in fact, always hated it and spent a lot of time away from home.  The children, Danny and Meave, were never told why.  The father was emotionally distant to the children and the mother, the children were told, moved to Indian and left them behind.  Meave and Danny were raised by the housekeepers/nannies at different periods of their lives.

The book starts with introducing the reader to Andrea.  Andrea it appears always wanted to get inside the house.  She is the father’s girlfriend  whom the father later marries.  Andrea has two daughters Bright and Norma.  The tension between the new wife and the children was palpable from the start and the reader is lead to believe that it’s all because Meave and Danny feel as if she’s replacing their mother.  The father seemed to just give in to all of Andrea’s whims, and I, as the reader couldn’t help but feel that he just did not do well with conflict and preferred to just let her take the lead.  I never felt as if he didn’t care.

What I Liked

The writing.  The writing has got to be the one thing in the book that will stay with me for a long time.  I am normally very much involved in the plot of any book.  I enjoy the ups and downs and most of the time if the plot doesn’t grab me I’m most likely not going to enjoy the book.  I think this was the reason I had such a hard time at start of the book.

There is no plot….. for more than half of the book I had no idea where we were going.  However, the writing was so perfect that I didn’t care.  For the first time I allowed myself to become immersed in a story even though I had no clue where it was taking me.  What I was supposed to find at the end.  I found myself not caring about that and being completely taken in by the people in the story.  Their lives….

Reading this book was like sitting and chatting with a friend over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and talking about life.  The book IS about life.

The other thing I really enjoyed was the friendship between the two siblings.  Being the older sister of a brother and having grown up being best friends I couldn’t help but let myself wonder how sometimes as we grow up we let that friendship fizzle.  We’re still great friends but not like Danny and Meave.  I also was able to see how that type of friendship between siblings can sometimes be detrimental to other relationships in our lives and throughout the book the reader is reminded of that.

What drove me crazy

Danny drove me crazy sometimes.  He was completely focused on the past.  Why he didn’t do something or why someone did something to him.  He let his past dictate his present and eventually his future.  He was so passive that it drove me nuts and I even found myself sometimes silently yelling at him to grow up.

Although Meave also focused on the past she was able to let it go and forgive the people who had hurt her because she knew that not forgiving or letting go would ultimately ruin her.  I felt bad for Danny that he could not do the something but I wanted him to learn to just let go and live his life.

The other thing that sometimes was frustrating was not knowing.  The fact that the book just kept going and talking bout the lives of all these people made me crazy sometimes.  I wanted to know the point.  Perhaps the thing is that there is no point.  We are here, as readers, to just enjoy listening (reading) about this family who is in a way like so many of us and is going through a lot of the things most of us go through.  Marriage, death, sickness, raising children, not getting along with in-laws and then getting along with in-laws, love and hate.  I think that once I realized that the point was to not have a point I was find and the book was amazing after that.

Do I Recommend It?

Absolutely.  I think that if you can get past the fact that the story is about a family just like your or anyone else’s in the world and they are just trying to survive then I think this book will teach you a few things.  I think you will enjoy the adventure.  It’s slow to happen but it will happen…. Trust me.

Favorite Quotes:

I’m not sure if this was Danny or Meave while they are sitting in the car talking.  They used to enjoy sitting in Meave’s car.  The car was where they had their deepest conversations and sometimes where Danny learned the most about his family and why thing happened the way they did.  During one of the conversations one of them had the following to say about how the past sometimes colors the present and the way we see things.

But we overlay the present onto the past. We look back through the lens of what we know now, so we’re not seeing it as the people we were, we’re seeing it as the people we are, and that means the past has been radically altered.

Danny talking about his father.

He had protected me from the world so completely that I had no idea what the world was capable of.

Danny thinking about the past and how it affects the present.

There are a few times in life when you leap up and the past that you’d been standing on falls away behind you, and the future you mean to land on is not yet in place, and for a moment you’re suspended, knowing nothing and no one, not even yourself.

Book Review: The Westside by W.M. Akers

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Finally….. I finished reading the book and my original thoughts still stand.  I’m giving this book 3 out of 5 stars.

A young detective who specializes in “tiny mysteries” finds herself at the center of a massive conspiracy in this beguiling historical fantasy set on Manhattan’s Westside—a peculiar and dangerous neighborhood home to strange magic and stranger residents—that blends the vivid atmosphere of Caleb Carr with the imaginative power of Neil Gaiman.

I finished the book earlier this week…. hmm maybe even late last week and I wanted to sit with my thoughts before I posted a review.  I wanted to make sure I liked it or didn’t like it and I’m still not 100% sure I am fully comfortable with my decision.

The writing was great.  I enjoyed and connected with the way the author wrote the story. there are so many quotes in the book that resonated with me  and that gave the story that extra punch that I had to stop tagging pages or I would be tagging every single page. I thought the premise of the story was interesting and it actually was what sold me on this book.  The fact that little mysteries are most often than not the ones that are worth solving.  Well, yeah, that and the fact that it’s set in New York in the 20’s….. What more can one wish for?  However, that’s where I break paths with the book.

Although the premise of the story was great I felt confused reading it.  I was constantly being pulled out of the world trying to figure out what the author was trying to say.  It felt that every time I was immersed in the world and in the action, something would be pulling me right back out.  There were characters that were introduced whom I had no connection with and they appeared from out of nowhere.  There were things going on that I’m not sure added anything to the story and, in fact, they wound up only confusing me even more.  I actually started to feel that it was me.  Perhaps it’s not the right book for me or maybe not the right time for me to be reading this book.  This may be one of those books that I will go back to reading again and again and each time I’ll learn something new.  Maybe I do have to read it again.  I’ll have to give myself some time because right now the confusion is still very raw and I’m not sure I’ll give it the honest chance that the writing deserves.

I will be looking for more books from this author.  The writing was amazing …. here is an example from the first page of the book:

I stole a glove.  It dangled off a table in a decrepit leather shop in Thieves Makes on the East side of Manhattan in sweltering late September 1921, and it was in my bag before I even knew it was in my hand.

This sentence put me in the shoes of the protagonist.  I could feel the heat, I could see the glove and I understood how something just is done without a thought.  It just appeared in the bag….. even before she thought about it.

There are many other passages like this and these were the moments when I was taken to the world where Gilda Carr, our protagonist lives.  This was also the world where I needed to stay in order to understand her and everyone around her but the confusion and the need to bring myself back into the world was jarring.

I’m not giving up.  There’s gotta be something I’m missing.

I’m sorry I didn’t like the book more than I did.

XoXo

Ana

How I feel about the Westside by W. M. Akers

Nope.  I don’t think so.  I want to read and I am reading but I am reading sooooooo slow.  The book started out as a great read and I could not get enough of it.  I actually read 139 pages in one sitting and then I put it down.  I thought it was because I was burned out from sitting and reading for so long but now…. I’m not really sure.

I don’t want to let another week by without updating you on my reading or lack thereof so I thought I’d just come on here and try to put some perspective into what it is that is going on with this book.

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The story takes place in New York in 1921 and a fence has been built the full length of the island of Manhattan, separating the East and the West Sides.  People have been disappearing, the Westside has been taken “hostage” by Barbarossa, a woman who for what I understand so far is a bootlegger and in a strange way related to our protagonist, Gilda Carr.

At the start of the story, Gilda Carr, the daughter of a police officer who appears to have been a legend on the Westside, takes a detective job to find Mrs. Copeland’s missing leather glove.  The gloves had been a gift from Mr. Copeland to Mrs. Copeland and she did not want him to find out that she had lost one.  She made Gilda promise that she would not tell Mr. Copeland.  The job seems easy and the perfect type of job for her….. she doesn’t want to take on complicated cases.  In fact, she refers to her detective agency as one that only accepts “Tiny Mysteries” because those are are the ones that have the ability to “Destroy us.”   Gilda, takes the job and while she’s following Mr. Copeland in hopes to find out where he may have purchased the gloves she witnesses his murder.

For the next 100 or so pages the story revolves around what the Westside and the Eastside have become and what has been going on on both sides of the fence.  We meet and find out more about Gilda and her “nanny” who is still living with her Hellida and still seems to be taking care of Gilda all the time.  Or maybe she’s just really over protective.  I have taken a liking to Hellida and find her to be very caring and very normal, as opposed to other of the characters in the book.

For now I’m not ready to say that I’m not enjoying the book but I am going to say that although in the beginning of the story there were some very funny moments with dialogue and even with some of the narrative, as I get to the middle those moments are not as apparent.  it just seems to be a lot of strange characters appearing.  There are so many people popping in and out of the story that I am losing track of who each of them is and I’m starting to feel a little bit lost.  At one point there was a child introduced and then nothing much was done with the child so I’m still wondering if that child is going to appear at some point later on because that has happened with other characters and …. Well, I’m a little confused with the story right now and almost ready to give up.

Reasons to not DNF this book:

I started out really liking the book and because it takes place in New York, specifically Manhattan I wanted to read it.  I really enjoy reading books about areas with which I am familiar.  However, I’ve not found anything mentioned that I may be familiar with.  Even when the author was referring to the docks I was hoping I could feel a connection but …. yeah…. did not happen.  The author lives in Brooklyn so I was hoping to have things seem more familiar but…. I guess I can toss that up to the book being a fantasy so perhaps it’s just his made up world.

The world building is good.  I am able to immerse myself in the world and feel like I can see the streets and feel the darkness of the night with every description.  I just sometimes wish it wasn’t so wordy.  I think the author did a really good job with the world and I’m pretty sure that’s the biggest reason why I have not given up the book yet.

I’m going to try to read 200 pages tonight and hopefully this weekend I will be able to have a review ….. a good review….. up and published.  I hope I don’t disappoint you all.  I’m really going to try.

Thanks for stopping by and please do come back.  I have a few other books in progress right now so I am really hoping to finish this one so I can get on with the others.

Thanks again

Ana

 

Book Review

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

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I heard about this book on Saturday night when I was browsing Goodreads for fantasy and science fiction books to read.  I came across #booktubeSFFAwards2019 (I think I’m saying that right) and realized that the judges were hosting a few read-alongs in the month of May.  Browsing the books I realized that most of them were the second or third books in  a series and since I have quite a few books in progress right now…. Ok, not as many as some other reviewers and bloggers who are much more experienced than I am….. I’m just not as good at keeping all the stories right in my head if I try to read more than two or three books at a time…. I picked this one.  For no other reason than the fact that it is the first in a series.  I knew I was going to spend my Sunday reading since we were going to be stuck in the house while Mother Nature poured down on us forcing us to relax and just hang.

I knew absolutely nothing about the book and to tell you all the truth I didn’t even read any reviews before hitting the “buy” button on my kindle.  To say I was a bit taken by surprise is an understatement.  I mean, I knew it was fantasy, there would be monsters and magic and battles…. that’s what I knew and actually, in a way what I was hoping for.  What I got was….. Wow!!!!!!!

The story follows Maggie Hoskie, a Native American after the United States have succumbed to a massive environmental and political collapse.  In order to protect their people the Gods protected the Nation by erecting a wall (Ohhh noooo, that this wall talk again…..)  to keep the residents away from the chaos taking place outside.  This does not mean that inside the wall things were pleasant.  Far from it….. within the walls there are water and food shortages and monsters have started roaming the earth again.

Maggie is “blessed” with magic from her clan.  Most people are.  The magic they receive, it seems to me, comes from both sides of the family (the mother and the father).  Her magic is speed and strength.  We learn that as a young child she suffered a great loss in and is “adopted” by a non-human (a God, Neizghání) who takes her under his mentorship and teaches her the art of monster slaying she eventually falls in love with Neizghání.  However, If you ask me perhaps what she felt was not love but comfort and the freedom that comes from being loved and understood.  It felt to me, while reading the book that Maggie didn’t have much of that after her loss.  Eventually and suddenly one night Neizghání left her without warning and for the rest of the book she is haunted by remembering him and trying to figure out why he left her.

When we met Maggie, at the start of the story she lives alone in a trailer and she seems to be be ok with that although some times I couldn’t help but feel as if she was longing to share her space with someone.  It was obvious that she wanted that to be Neizghání but I felt as if anyone who brought her some comfort would have done it.  She has no friends and no family except for her three dogs and an old medicine man who lives in a different town who calls her “daughter.”

The story begins when Maggie is hired by a the family of a young girl who has been kidnapped by a monster.  The slaying does not go the way we expect mostly because the monster is not what we or Maggie expected and the young girl dies (Not a spoiler at all).  Ashe returns the remains of the girl to the family, Maggie drives to seek some comfort from the medicine man and that’s where she meets Kai, the medicine man’s grandson, who becomes her traveling companion.  The story takes off from here and ….. It never stops moving….. FAST.

This book is full of action and some times there was so much going on at the same time that I forgot where I was supposed to be looking.  Most of the time we follow the two characters traveling around the Navaho nation looking for things as a way to introduce us to the world and the characters.

The world building was done very well and it was very easy to imagine myself there (not that I would ever want to be there).  Likewise, I felt that the characters were well developed and aside from a few small flaws that got on my nerves, I never felt like I didn’t know a character well enough.  If there is one complaint I have here is overly verbose descriptions which sometimes made the reading slow and made me a bit frustrated.  The other thing that continuously pulled me out of the story were the names. I think this is a problem with me not necessarily the writer.  I felt like I had to read and re-read the names of the towns, the nations and the people in order to get them right and get a feel for who they were.  Not being a native speaker I guess that’s always a problem. I’m not sure ….. Maybe just my problem?

The battles between Maggie and the monsters are described so meticulously that at times they became so real and violent that it made it difficult to continue reading.  There were instances when I had to turn off he e-reader and take a little water break.  This book is not shy on violence.

The novel’s pace was fast and kept me interested and curious wanting to turn the page.  However, as I said above, I could have used a small breather between each action.  It kept me turning the pages.  The only time that it got boring or annoying was during the narration of the landscape or how descriptive some of the passages were.  There are easier ways to get the message across without using so many words.

The climax was….. WOW….. super climaxy (I made up a word) and I could not wait to keep reading.  I felt tired, almost as if I were one of the characters standing there at the end of the story.  One of the plot points did not feel well closed at the end but I’m wondering if that will be resolved in the next book.  I’d love to discuss it here but I don’t want to give anything away…… I was. bit confused about it and can’t wait to see what others thing and if they bring it up.  It has to do with Kai….. If you must know.

This is a really fast enjoyable read and kept me interested.  I think the cliffhanger at the end can take the story in a whole lot of different directions and I’m sure we are all wondering what direction the author is going to be taken 🙂 (I believe the book leads the author and not the other way around).

Great read a solid four stars.