Clear the Shelf Reading Challenge 2023 – Update #1

Books I’ve finished since last update:

Seer of Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier, Flame of Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier and the Hippopotamus March by Pauline Gedge.

Were these books on the list? YES!

What am I reading now?

The Executioner of Yrecep Forest by Laura DiNivos Berry.

Is this book on the list? No

Why am I reading it? I was offered a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

What do I plan to read next?

The Oasis by Pauline Gedge

Is it on the list? Yes, it is.

The list is down to 50, which is great but I’m feeling impatient and want the number to go down faster!

The Hippopotamus Marsh by Pauline Gedge – Book Review

The Hippopotamus Marsh, book 1 of the Lords of the Two Lands trilogy by Pauline Gedge

Title: The Hippopotamus Marsh

Author: Pauline Gedge

Series: The Lord of the Two Lands #1

Sexual Content: Minimal

Objectional Content: Incest

Target Audience: Adults

Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis: After a gradual and mostly bloodless invasion, Egypt has fallen into the hands of a foreign power known as the “Rulers of the Upland.” Using subtle means of political power and economic country, plundering its riches and slowly subverting its religion and culture.

But there is one family in Thebes, claiming descent from the last true King of Egypt, that cannot accept the rule of the foreign king Apepa. Defying him becomes the only clear option for the persecuted yet proud Seqenenra Tao, Prince of Weset, whose shocking revolt sets in motion a series of events that will either destroy his family or resurrect a dynasty and an entire way of life for Egypt.

My Review

The Hippopotamus Marsh is a bit of a deviation for me from what I normally read. This is historical fiction, rooted in history, with no trace of fantasy at all. I have read other books by Pauline Gedge which were recommended to me by a friend. I enjoyed those books and I enjoyed this one.

I’ve always been interested in ancient Egypt and the different gods they worshipped. Pauline Gedge is amazing at bringing that ancient world to life. It is clear she has done her research and even includes a bibliography at the end of the book. The setting feels real and you can practically feel the heat of the Egyptian sun as you read.

Her choice of point of view leaves something to be desired, at least for me. The Hippopotamus Marsh is written in third person omnipotent, meaning that the character focus literally shifts between one character and another from one paragraph and the next. I’ve never really liked that. I like to be in the head of one character at a time and not switching around. The switch can be quite jarring.

The story itself is not quite what I expected. Once the head of the Tao family, Seqenenra decides that he can no longer abide the foreign king ruling Egypt, he sets in motion events that will either destroy his family or bring them to the highest level of greatness in Egypt. I was unable to predict how things were going to go and many things surprised me which was nice.

The characters felt like real people. They would make decisions that I could understand but at the same time shake my head at knowing that it would lead to nothing good. Lies lead to more lies afterall.

In ancient Egypt it was common for royal families to marry their siblings, so there is some incest in this book as Seqenenra’s oldest son and oldest daughter are married to one another. This was common practice and historically accurate. The sexual content is extremely minimal though.

Overall, I liked this book but I wouldn’t say that it wowed me to amazement. My rating for The Hippopotamus Marsh is 3 out of 5 stars and I would recommend it to anyone who likes historical fiction, especially Egyptian history.

Thanks for reading!

The Best Shoujo Manga

I used to think of Shoujo manga as something of a guilty pleasure. Then I started to wonder why. After all, it’s not like I’m ashamed to read it. I enjoy it and it’s fun, so who cares.

Anyway, today I’m going to share with you by favorite Shoujo manga.

I think Vampire Knight has got to be my favorite of them all. Years ago, when this first came out and the anime was being released I really wanted stuff to do with vampires. Like any kind of media involving vampires. Lo and behold, I found the anime online, watched it and then started collecting the manga. It satisfied that craving and then some. I love both Zero and Kaname!

Fruits Basket is a very close second to Vampire Knight. If I remember correctly, I saw a couple episodes of the anime at Animethon one year and loved it. I bought the anime and have watched it several times. Of course, the anime didn’t cover the whole of the manga so I had to buy that too to get the whole story. Talk about an emotional rollercoaster. This one is just GOOD!

I don’t entirely remember how I came across Black Bird. I think I found it randomly in the bookstore. To my knowledge, there isn’t an anime adaptation of it. This one pushes things in a bit of a more x rated direction but it’s still meant for teenage girls so it doesn’t go too far.

This one was recommended to be by a bookstore employee while I was browsing around. Honestly, I can’t remember all that much about it other than really liking it.

Alice in the Country of Hearts is, of course, an Alice in Wonderland type story, just a lot more violent. I mean, the Mad Hatter is actually a mafia boss. It is weird and crazy and a lot of fun.

I think Kamisama Kiss might be another one that I saw a few episodes of at Animethon. Once again, the anime adaptation didn’t cover all of the manga so I collected all of that as well. Such a good story, though I don’t totally know how I feel about the ending, even now.

Bride of the Water God is actually Korean not Japanese, but I think it belongs here anyway. The artwork in this one is pretty amazing. Sadly, it looks unlikely that the last volumes will be published in English.

Ouran High School Host Club is another that I saw the anime first and bought the manga to know the rest of the story. It is very funny and a fun read.

Say I Love You is yet another one that I saw the anime first and needed the manga to get the rest of the story. The manga and the anime differ a fair amount, with the manga leaning more towards sex related stuff. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it was a bit of a shock to me after watching the anime.

I’m rounding this off with Inu x Boku. It’s a bit hard to say that I liked this one, which is why it’s at the end. The relationship between the two main characters is NOT healthy and sometimes a little disturbing in the “obsession” kind of way.

Well, those are my favorite Shoujo manga that I have read so far in my life. Have you read any of these? Which are your favorite? Recommend me some of your favs in the comments.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Fantasy Book Review – Flame of Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier

Synopsis: Maeve, daughter of Lord Sean of Sevenwaters, was badly burned as a child and carries the legacy of that fire in her crippled hands. After ten years she’s returning home, a courageous, forthright woman. But while her body’s scars have healed, her spirit remains fragile, fearing the shadows of her past.
Sevenwaters is in turmoil. The fey prince Mac Dara is desperate to see his only son, married to Maeve’s sister, return to the Otherworld. To force Lord Sean’s hand, Mac Dara has caused a party of innocent travelers on the Sevenwaters border to vanish—only to allow their murdered bodies to be found one by one.
When Maeve finds a body in a remote part of the woods, she and her brother, Finbar, embark on a journey that could bring about the end of Mac Dara’s reign—or lead to a hideous death. If she is successful, Maeve may open the door to a future she has not dared to believe possible….

I had certain predictions going into this book, that I thought would happen. I’m happy to say that those predictions didn’t exactly come true. I don’t want to say what those were because I don’t want to spoil anything.

It’s unusual to see a disabled protagonist in fantasy novels, at least in my experience, especially one who can’t use her hands. Maeve was burned in a fire as a child and as a result her hands are basically useless. She’s aware of her limitations and has accepted there are things in life she will never have. But Maeve has a gift that most others don’t: an affinity with animals.

I really liked Maeve. She is brave and practical, but she still has the longings of woman her age. As the reader, it’s hard not to feel for her, to want her to have the things she knows she can’t.

Honestly, I can’t think of a lot to say about this book. It’s a very good book and a satisfying end to the Sevenwaters series (at least as far as I know). I enjoyed the entire series overall and would recommend it to any and all lovers of fantasy, especially Celtic fantasy.

My rating is 4 out of 5 stars.

2023 Mid-Year Freak Out Book Tag

I came across this tag on Warm Days Will Never Cease’s blog and thought I would do it myself.

Best Book You’ve Read This Year?

I haven’t been reading as much this year so there may be a lot of duplication happening here. The best book I’ve read this year so far is Rose Madder by Stephen King. A much older book but really good.

Best Sequel You’ve Read?

Hmm, I think Child of the Prophecy by Juliet Marillier was probably the best sequel. It did a great job of wrapping up a trilogy and Fainne was my favourite character in that series.

New Release You Haven’t Read Yet But Want To?

I’m not really up to date on new releases as I’m trying to get through books I’ve had for years, but the latest books in the Black Jewels series by Anne Bishop

Most Anticipated Release For The Second Half Of The Year?

Like I said above, I’m not up to date on new releases so I don’t actually know what’s coming out this year.

Biggest Disappointment?

Seer of Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier. The main character in this novel had been set up in a certain way in the previous two books and this one just subverted all that.

Biggest Surprise?

Hmm, maybe Rose Madder. This was a book my roommate recommended I read and I knew nothing about it going in.

Favourite New-To-You or Debut Author?

J.V. Hilliard. I read by his debut novel The Last Keeper and the sequel Vorodin’s Lair. Both were excellent.

Newest Fictional Crush?

I don’t have one

Book That Made You Cry?

Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier. A beloved character from the first book passed away and it was very sad.

Book That Made You Happy?

Heir to Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier. There were a lot of struggles in the this novel for the main characters and the ending just made me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Favourite Book-To-Film Adaptation?

I haven’t see any this year

Favourite Post You Have Done This Year?

Probably my post Fantasy Novels with (Almost) no Sex in Them. It was something I’d been thinking about for awhile.

Most Beautiful Book You’ve Bought This Year?

I’ve only bought two so I guess the Black Jewels book I picked up. I actually can’t remember which one I bought lol

What Books Do You Need To Read By The End of the Year?

Nothing is ever set in stone. I generally choose what to read based on my current mood so I will see how I feel going forward.

5 Fantasy Series I Will Never Stop Recommending

We’ve all seen those threads in one place or another on the internet when the poster is looking for recommendations. We all have those books that we always recommend and here are my top 5!

Kushiel’s Legacy by Jacqueline Carey is an amazing series. It is made up of 3 trilogies and if you only read one I’d highly suggest Phaedre’s trilogy. It is by far the best.

There is some graphic sexual and violent content that some readers may not like.

The Black Jewels series by Anne Bishop is another series that I adore. The magic system is unique and the characters can be quite intense. Anne Bishop is an author that I will auto buy her books without knowing anything about them.

The Witches of Eileanan series by Kate Forsyth is one that I read near the end of high school and it has stuck with me to this day (over 20 years later lol). I may not remember all the details but I remember how much I enjoyed it at the time.

The Sirkara trilogy by Laura Resnick is one that I really resonated with me when I read it. In this world, people with red hair and/or green eyes are persecuted as they are believed to be evil. I have red hair so I felt this.

Also, Tansen is amazing.

I bought the Night Angel trilogy by Brent Weeks for a friend of mine and she passed it around her friend group. As far as I know most of them didn’t read fantasy novels, but they all loved it.

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve read it so I can’t think of much to say, so just read it. It’s amazing, I swear!

The order I put these books in does not a ranking of any sort. I love and recommend all these books for lovers of fantasy.

Have you read an of this? Which are your favorites? What are books you always recommend?

Fantasy Book Review – Seer of Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier

Synopsis: Prior to making her final pledge as a druid, the young seer Sibeal visits the island of Inis Eala, where the Sight leads her to Felix, a survivor of a Norse shipwreck who has no memory of his past. As the island’s healers struggle to keep Felix alive, he and Sibeal form a natural bond. But Sibeal’s vocation is her true calling, and she must choose between the two things that tug at her soul-her spirituality and a chance at love…

I have so many mixed feelings about this book that it’s driving me a little crazy. I apologize in advance if this gets a little ranty and possibly contain some spoilers.

To begin, Sibeal was first introduced in Child of the Prophecy when she is quite young. She appears again in Heir to Sevenwaters. In both books she is established to be destined to become a druid. She is a seer with many talents, always calm and serene even as a young child. Seer of Sevenwaters begins with Sibeal on Inis Eala, sent there for the summer by her mentor before taking her final vows as a druid. On the first day there, a shipwreck happens just off their coast and Sibeal saves the life of a man who nearly drowned. Feeling a responsibility for him, she spends a great deal of time with him during his recovery.

Everything seems all fine and dandy until around 100 pages in when Sibeal is interacting with some of the other women on the island and they start asking her about her vocation. She’s happy to answer as best she can. Then it’s brought up that becoming a druid means she will never know love and the joy of having children. This is where the problems start for me.

Now, I know that this takes place in a different time when that is exactly what is expected of women: get married, have babies. However, though likely unintentional, I really feel a parallel here with things I have been experiencing in the real world. Even now, in 2023, there is this pervasive idea that people, women especially, cannot possible live a happy and fulfilled life without having children. As a woman who doesn’t want children I have gotten all kinds of comments from people about my choice. Like how I will regret it and I’ll die alone etc.

With this feeling, I continued on reading this book, both loving it and feeling annoyed by the inevitable outcome. I suppose I should have known better considering all the previous books have a romantic plot and the idea of love prevailing over all. I don’t mind romantic plots, I really don’t (it’s long descriptive sex scenes that bother me) but I felt like Sibeal was supposed to be different. She knew what her life was going to be and then it just all changes because of a man.

Don’t get me wrong. This book is great and I loved it. Reading through the first person point of view really makes me feel like I’m in the character’s head, feeling what they feel. Because of that, I felt Sibeal’s longing and her conflict. There was a part of me that wanted them to end up together, but I still felt annoyed by it.

Like I said at the beginning, I have very mixed feelings. However, this shouldn’t deter anyone from reading it. This book is amazing, it’s a great addition to the series and you should definitely read it.

My rating is 4 out of 5 stars.

Thanks for reading even if this was a little ranty.

Fantasy Novels with (Almost) no Sex in Them

This is a topic I’ve been thinking about for awhile now. If you’re anything like me, you’re not interested in all those so called “steamy” or “spicy” scenes in books. A lot of what I see on Bookstagram and the like are often about those types of books. Hot and spicy romance which is really just long extended sex scenes that I’m really not interested in reading. I want world building, character development and plot twists, not fifty pages of his “rod” or her “love juices” *gag*

I scrolled through my entire read list on Goodreads to try to come up with as many fantasy books/series with as little sex as possible in them. This was more difficult than I anticipated. Surely I must have read at least one series that didn’t have any sexy time, right? Well, yes and no. Just about every fantasy book I’ve read has a love interest or romantic subplot of some kind. So with that in mind, here is the best I could do based on my own read, fantasy novels with (almost) no sex in them:

  • Sevenwaters Series by Juliet Marllier
  • Death Gate Cycle by Margaret Weis
  • Codex Alera by Jim Butcher
  • Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan
  • Riyria Revelations by Michael J Sullivan
  • Valdemar series by Mercedes Lackey
  • Princess series by Jim C Hines
  • Cloud Mages by S.L. Farrell
  • Tears of Artamon by Sarah Ash
  • Deverry series by Katharine Kerr

These are the ones I came up with though keep in mind that some of these I haven’t read for years and I can’t remember precisely if they had sex scenes or not. Some, like the Sevenwaters series, have romantic plots in them but no long descriptive sex scenes.

If you have any to add to this list, I’d really love to know, so please leave titles and/or authors in the comments.

As always, thanks for reading!

Fantasy Book Review – Child of the Prophecy by Juliet Marillier


Child of the Prophecy is the thrilling conclusion to Juliet Marillier’s award-winning Sevenwaters Trilogy.

Magic is fading… and the ways of Man are driving the Old Ones to the West, beyond the ken of humankind. The ancient groves are being destroyed, and if nothing is done, Ireland will lose its essential mystic core.

The prophecies of long ago have foretold a way to prevent this horror, and it is the Sevenwaters clan that the Spirits of Eire look to for salvation. They are a family bound into the lifeblood of the land, and their promise to preserve the magic has been the cause of great joy to them… as well as great sorrow.

It is up to Fainne, daughter of Niamh, the lost sister of Sevenwaters, to solve the riddles of power. She is the shy child of a reclusive sorcerer, and her way is hard, for her father is the son of the wicked sorceress Oonagh, who has emerged from the shadows and seeks to destroy all that Sevenwaters has striven for. Oonagh will use her granddaughter Fainne most cruelly to accomplish her ends, and stops at nothing to see her will done.

Juliet Marillier is fast becoming one of those authors whose books I auto-buy. I don’t even need to know what they are about, if I see her name, I will buy her books. I’ve already added her other novels to my Goodreads TBR and when I can I will pick up the actual books to sit on my lovely shelf for who knows how long.

Child of the Prophecy is written from Fainne’s point of view. She is the daughter of Niamh and Ciaran and was raised far away from Seventwaters by her father alone after her mother died. She was taught from a very young age, how to use the sorcerer’s craft of magic. She is skilled and disciplined, despite being only 15 years old.

It is interesting to read this novel after the first two because of Fainne’s point of view. She grew up far away from Sevenwaters so when she does go there her perspective of that place and the family that resides there is very different. She was taught that the family of Sevenwaters was responsible for tearing her parents apart, treating her mother terribly and likely her death. She there to do her grandmother’s bidding, to destroy the family of Sevenwaters.

Fainne initially goes into this fairly willingly, though her grandmother is manipulating her by threatening the people she cares about if she doesn’t do as she’s told. She doesn’t expect to be truly welcome at Sevenwaters or to actually care about the people there. But of course, the longer she spends there, the more she comes to care the family she never knew.

Much of this story is about Fainne’s internal conflict. She wants to protect the people she cares about from her grandmother’s wrath, but doing so means bringing about the destruction of those very same people.

Fainne is smart and resourceful. I really enjoyed reading from her perspective. I would love to read more about her but judging by the ending of this novel, she isn’t likely to appear in the series again.

My rating for Child of the Prophecy is 4 out of 5 stars. I definitely recommend it to fans of this series, to fans of Celtic fantasy and fantasy in general.

Thanks for reading.

Fantasy Book Review – Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier

Synopsis: After years of comparative peace, darkness has fallen upon Ulster. Trouble is brewing and even those in the heart of the forest are not safe. Niamh, elder daughter of Sorcha, is required to make a strategic marriage, while her sister Liadan, who has the gift of Sight and her mother’s talent for healing, finds herself drawn into the shadowy world of the Painted Man and his warrior band. There Liadan begins a journey that is to transform her life.

Son of the Shadows, book 2 of the Sevenwaters series is told from the point of view of Liadan, the youngest daughter of Sorcha and Hugh of Harrowfield. Liadan has inherited her mother’s talent for healing, as well as her uncle Finbar’s unique gifts.

It has been around 18 years since Sorcha’s ordeal. Her and her family have been living happily until the oldest daughter, Niamh enters into a forbidden relationship and ends up being married off to a strategic ally. While on the road to see Niamh off to her new home, Liadan is abducted by bandits who need a healer to help one of their men who is gravely injured. This brings her in contact with the notorious leader of outlaws, the Painted Man, and changes the course of her life.

Liadan is mature for all of her 16 years. She is skilled at healing and shows quite the stubborn streak. She rarely does what people tell her she should do. She forges ahead, determined to make her own path. I liked this about her, although sometimes her blind faith in certain people got a bit on my nerves.

I didn’t really feel the natural progression of her relationship with Bran. He was down right cruel to her not only when they first meet but even after their relationship gets established. I honestly don’t know why she puts up with it.

Did I like this book? Yes, I did, though not as much as I enjoyed Daughter of the Forest. There’s nothing wrong with Liadan as a character, I just didn’t feel as invested in her story as I did with Sorcha. There isn’t the same sense of tension as in the first book.

That’s not to say that Liadan doesn’t face any dangers. Her life is in peril more than once and she goes through a great deal to protect the people she loves.

My rating for Son of the Shadows is 3 out of 5 stars and I would definitely recommend reading it if you’ve read Daughter of the Forest and want to continue the series.

Thanks for reading!