ARC Review | Musings of the Muses, Anthology – Edited by Heather and S.D. Vassallo


My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ancient Greek tales are dominated by males: male heroes, male motives, male accomplishments and desires. In 2021, the founders of Brigid’s Gate Press set out to change things up and opened a submission call for new perspectives on these beloved tales: the untold perspectives, the hidden truths of the myths, the silenced voices of time immemorial. The other side of the story.

Musings of the Muses is an anthology of Ancient Greek mythology stories retold from her perspective: The women who were always present but never allowed to speak to history, never allowed to defend their name against the male hero; sentenced to be judged for eternity through the eyes of the patriarchy. Brigid’s Gate set out to give them their voice.

They succeeded.

Disclaimer: I have a vested interest in this anthology, as my short story “Before Gods” is included in its publication. However, I know a great story (or collection of stories) when I read it and I’m confident that you will find my honest ARC review of Musings of the Muses to be trustworthy and accurate.

There are 65 stories included in Musings. Some are more in the classical style, and some have been reimagined in a modern setting with modern concepts and technology. There is a healthy dose of poetry as well, and a wide range of Greek cast members, from Medusa, to Titans, to Olympians, to Monsters. Charybdis and Scylla even featured in the story “Lover’s Quarrel,” by Georgia Cook, which I found fascinating. I was also delighted to read a clever Hera story in “Respectfully Yours, Bridezilla,” by T.L. Beeding. I’ve always felt Hera’s reasons for hunting down Zeus’ illegitimate children were presented a bit poorly, so I found her story in Musings to be exceptionally creative and satisfying. Another one of my favorites was “Thinking Outside the Box,” by Dominick Cancilla, a parody of the horrors inside Pandora’s box that was delightful and crafty.

As with all anthologies, there were some stories that didn’t connect with me as well as others, but every story delivers compelling characters, well-developed arcs, and a fresh female perspective that is sometimes warm, and sometimes chilling. Heather and Steve at Brigid’s Gate Press have an eye for great stories, and there are so many assembled here. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with this purchase.

My one critique is that it isn’t long enough. Which is odd considering there are 65 stories and 422 pages, but there are some personal favorite heroines in Greek mythology which did not have a retelling in this anthology, and that was a bit disappointing. My hope for the future is that Brigid’s Gate will open a submissions call for a Vol. 2 sometime in the future.

Musings of the Muses is available for Kindle and Paperback on Amazon.

Happy Reading!

~MJ

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ARC Review | Edgewater Road – By Shelley Shepard Gray

Edgewater Road by Shelley Shepard Gray

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


When Jennifer Smiley, a work-from-home introvert, moves into her late grandmother’s home, she’s unsure what to expect. Going through all the boxes, she discovers there’s more to her family’s past than she thought. Her ex-con neighbor, John Lincoln Bennett, seems to know a lot about it, which she soon learns has more implications for her heart than she ever could have imagined.

I received this book as an ARC, courtesy of Edelweiss. Light romance books hold a special place in my heart, as they were about the only thing available to keep a homeschooled adolescent growing up in a conservative Christian house during puberty sane. It’s been a while since I read one, so I was excited to be approved for this one.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It’s very well-written and both Jennifer and Lincoln’s character voices are very strong and engaging. I can identify with Jennifer’s character a lot, as I find myself exhibiting introverted tendencies and both dreading and craving the opportunity to go out and meet people. Jennifer is cooped up alone during the snowy season (reason enough not to want to venture out), but her neighbor, Lincoln, makes it his duty to make sure her driveway is shoveled, and no one bothers her or threatens her, and of course friendship, and then a romance, blooms from there.

There are some very endearing moments and some fun humor as well throughout the book. Shelley delivers a powerful message in that even ex-cons deserve second chances, and there is good to be found in people who have made mistakes. There’s also a nice dose of the opposite too, that there can be a lot of bad in people who have never gotten caught for theirs.

There’s even a cat named Clyde who I firmly believe is evil, but the author captured a strong character voice for Clyde too that managed to exert itself in the best of places, just like a cat would, with no apologies.

While I definitely see the good neighbor aspect of Lincoln’s actions, I felt on multiple occasions in the book that Lincoln was a bit pushy and condescending for my comfort, invading her personal space uninvited multiple times and just making her life his business without her consent. He even thinks a couple times that her naivete is attractive to him, which just screams misogynist. While we see from his perspective that he is very caring and has all the best intentions, he came off a bit controlling for my tastes.

There were a few threads in here too that didn’t seem fully fleshed out. Jennifer’s family is definitely a bit dodgy, there are a few things Jennifer finds as she is cleaning out the house and barn, and there are a few people who come into the story that are very brow-raising. These things seem to foreshadow some major reveals later on, but then they just kind of fizzle out and don’t go anywhere, which I found a little disappointing.

All in all, though, this book was very engaging, the characters are both strong, and it’s an immersive read. If you enjoy light romance with the protector/damsel trope, I think you will enjoy this one.

Edgewater Road is being published by Blackstone Publishing and is available for purchase tomorrow, 1 March!


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Happy Writing!

~MJ & Petey

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ARC Review | The Mozart Code – Rachel McMillan

The Mozart Code by Rachel McMillan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This book follows two former Bletchley intelligence operatives, Simon and Sophia, as they navigate their way around the spy-ring in cold war era Vienna and Prague. Both from aristocratic upbringing and sharing a complicated past, their secrets, and the dangers that pursue them will be the ultimate test for their bond of friendship, loyalty, and love.

I received this as an ARC, courtesy of Edelweiss, and was very excited to read it. I really enjoy reading historical novels, especially WW2 and spy novels.

Rachel McMillan has done a brilliant job painting the historical setting, weaving in lots of authentic imagery, culture, and political tension for these locations and times, and she has given us two main characters with backstories that fit really well inside this arena.

The story is well written and engaging, but I found myself a bit lost trying to keep up with all of the secondary and tertiary characters; at least five of which contributed very little to the story or plot in my opinion and could have been eliminated entirely to recover some word count to flesh out the two main characters a bit more. There were so many names and small “side quests” that it was hard to pin down what was important and what wasn’t, so by the end when everything started to get serious, I wasn’t as connected with these characters and invested in their safety and well-being as I wanted to be for this lengthy of a book, especially Sophia who is renowned for finding rare objects, but then we never get to see how she does that, she’s just asked to find an item and then she magically has it in the next few pages. I didn’t feel really grounded in what was happening, who was making moves, or what the stakes were.

The relationship between Simon and Sophia was interesting and complex, and I really enjoyed the flashbacks into their past and the little clues revealed there that played into the present tension and what they were doing there together. I thought that was done well and gave us a really nice picture of how lives can be completely upended by war.

There was a lot of exciting suspense and buildup to the main romantic entanglement that got me really turning the pages to see what happened next, but the culmination of that tension was a bit underwhelming. I can respect that an author wants to write a clean romance, but this one could have gone a little further and still remained well within those boundaries. Their relationship for the rest of the book followed that vein. These two went through one challenging ordeal after the other in the last 40 pages but Simon and Sophia’s response in each case was a bit underdeveloped for me and hard to connect with.

Rachel McMillan is clearly a very talented author who knows how to weave a very complex narrative with lots of players and create a beautiful, authentic setting to immerse the reader in, but this one wasn’t as engaging for me personally, but for readers looking for a well-researched historical narrative and light romance, this is a good read.

The Mozart Code is being published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing and hits shelves 15 March 2022.

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Happy Writing!

~MJ & Petey

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ARC Review | Promise Broken – K’wan

Promise Broken follows a seventeen-year-old girl named Promise as she navigates a gang-controlled neighborhood where drugs and violence are part of the status quo. To survive, she must confront difficult choices that will shape her future for better or worse.

From the very first paragraph, I was captivated by this story. It begins with Promise in a sticky situation with her friend and the law, foreshadowing more conflict ahead when her aunt finds out what happened. And from there, Promise’s challenging life story and her limited options are showcased brilliantly and intimately in ways that made me both shudder and cheer her on. I was engrossed and invested in her and could not put this book down.

The narrative occasionally shifts to the perspective of Promise’s two friends, Mouse and Keys, showing how a life of drugs and crime can begin because of desperate situations and good intentions, which I thought was one of the most powerful threads in this book.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit disappointed by the ending. My only hope is that the author has a sequel planned, which is certainly probable given that most of K’wan’s books are part of a series, and there are a few threads in this book that Promise enough substance for an intriguing second book, so I will maintain hope and keep an eye out.

The ending wasn’t my biggest issue with this book, however. Every female character was sexualized to the point that none of them really contributed much to the plot besides being sexual objects for male characters.

I get that this is a real-world issue women face so it didn’t bother me right away, but I kept waiting for the author’s voice to come through in the narrative that sexualizing women is wrong, but I never got that sense. Even Promise, the main character, did not escape being viewed through this lens and her main arc revolved around her attraction to a guy who only sees value in women through sexual conquest. Promise even acknowledges this about him but doesn’t seem to mind that he’s sleeping around while actively pursuing her.

I did enjoy this book in spite of this issue. K’wan has a unique writing style that can reveal all the complexities of the situation to the reader without sounding boring or overdone. His characters, with their flaws and passions, are relatable and engaging, and you can’t help but want to know what happens to them, even when you wish you could leap through the pages and slap them at times.

K’wan’s Promise Broken will hit shelves on 15 March 2022 and is being published by Blackstone Publishing.

Happy Writing!

~MJ & Petey

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ARC Review | A Quaint and Curious Volume of Gothic Tales – Edited by Alex Woodroe

A Quaint and Curious Volume of Gothic Tales is a short story anthology published by Brigid’s Gate Press and includes 24 delightful stories embodying the gothic themes of mystery, horror, and gloom with plenty of magic, mythology, and otherworldly elements mixed in.

This collection is professionally compiled and organized, with cover art by Elizabeth Leggett that is a perfect swirl of enchanting and creepy, an excellent Foreward by Alex Woodroe, and a charming Introduction by Stephanie Ellis.

The stories are written by both new and established authors, and there is a story (or two, or three, or more) that everyone will enjoy and will want to read again. As with all anthologies, some stories moved me more deeply than others, but all of them had their own unique touch of intrigue and dread that kept me engrossed in the narrative and furiously turning the pages.

I will be acquiring a physical copy once it is available for purchase on Amazon. These stories are perfect to squeeze into that 5-15 minute window where escape from the real world of doom and gloom is a must just to make it through the day.

I’ll be keeping up with Brigid’s Gate Press, this anthology shows that they have an eye for quality and creativity that promises more great stories in their future publications.

You can follow them on twitter @Brigidsgate.

A Quaint and Curious Volume of Gothic Tales is available for pre-order today on Amazon! and officially launches on January 31st! It will be available in Kindle and Paperback.

Happy Writing!

~MJ & Petey

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Review | The Warrior Poet – by Sharon Lynn Fisher

Outlander. But better. Oh and it has magic. So way better.

This book follows the story of Neve, who lives in present day Portland Oregon, and William Butler Yeats, who lives in 19th century Ireland. Connected from a past life, they are reunited through magical forces, and must figure out how to stop the evil trying to take over Ireland, rediscovering themselves, and each other, along the way.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book, especially given that this is book 3 in the Faery Rehistory series, and I haven’t read the first two. But I was very pleasantly surprised by how engaged I was. I did not feel lost even once.

The main characters had very unique voices, which was refreshing, with excellent insertions of pop culture references (including Outlander) that were both humerous and situationally appropriate. I almost always knew who was speaking and was able to forge a relationship with these characters because of how well I came to know them through their consistent dialogue and behaviors.

Since this was book 3, I was expecting a lot of exposition. While there was some, it was done in a way that kept the story interesting, and revealed just enough that was relevant to this story, and nothing that wasn’t. And there weren’t pages and pages of it at the beginning, only 3 or 4 paragraphs scattered throughout 316 pages, introduced only when necessary for the current plot. So well done on this. Too many series books just rehash info from previous books that have nothing to do with the current narrative, and it’s very amateur. Fisher was expert here.

The magic was also very natural. This book explored reincarnation, Irish gods and goddesses and folklore, the poet William Butler Yeats (which I was skeptical about, but wrongly so), with a very intriguing and suspenseful build up to both the romantic encounter and the “big battle” at the end. Unlike some books, Fisher devoted about 60-80 pages to the climax, so I didn’t feel cheated at all. Her use of time travel was also very strategically done.

And the sex scenes…

🙂

Graphic and tasteful. Not overdone. Definitely not cringy like others I’ve read. They were also well placed in the story.

This book was a great read, and I’ll be adding book 1 and 2 to my reading list in the future and watching for more books by this very talented author. Sharon Lynn’s Fisher’s book The Warrior Poet from Blackstone Publishing, hits bookshelves on 12 October, and I highly recommend it!

Happy Writing!

~MJ

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