The Official Spooky Season Book Tag

Hello! I wasn’t tagged on this but I’m stealing it anyway because I think it sounds fun. I found it on Books Are 42′s blog.

This fun and spooky tag was created by Noly

The Rules

Tag the original creator (The Artsy Reader)
Use the official banner
Answer the prompts and questions
Tag 5 people
Have fun and get spooky!!!

Question 1: You hear a strange noise in the night – the monsters got inside! Which book character would you choose to protect you from harm? No questions, Cal Leandros. It’s basically his job to kill monsters and he’s pretty good at it.

Question 2: You go on vacation and your hotel is located right next to a cemetery. Which book character do you really hope is not hiding in the shadows? The Blade from Banshee Cries by C.E. Murphy. It’s a Banshee type creature that is all sharp angles and sounds scary as hell!

Question 3: It’s a particularly cold night and you decide to stay inside. Which three book characters would you like to spend a trivia quiz and board game night with? Hmm, let’s go with Harry Dresden, Mercy Thompson and Joanne Walker. No particular reason other than they came to mind lol.

Question 4: Time for a big adventure! The scary book you pick transports you into its world. Where do you end up? I don’t read a lot of scary books, so I can’t really pick one of those. However, I think living in the world of Game of Thrones would be pretty traumatic.

Question 5: No Halloween without Trick or Treat-ing! Which book character do you think has the sweetest tooth? Oh wow, I never thought about this. Um, I’m going to say Joanne Walker because she likes hot chocolate with a shot of mint and pastries.

Question 6: The fairies are angry and want a sacrifice from your bookshelf. Which scary book has to go and why? I think the only scary book I have is Rose Madder by Stephen King, so that would be the one to go.

Question 7: You decide you feel more autumnal rather than halloween-y today. Which book setting would you choose for a more cosy and less scary vibe? Hmm maybe somewhere real, like Chicago or Seattle in the fall.

Question 8: The witch is cooking up a spell in her cauldron and you have to add one magic ingredient. Which item from a book are you adding to the mixture? This is a really hard question! I can’t actually think of any kind of special plant or magic ingredient from a book.

Question 9: You get to decide which bookish place to visit for Halloween. Which book setting is the scariest – and gets crossed off the list? The Other World from Coraline. That place just seems horrid!

Question 10: The big day is finally here: it’s Halloween! Which book character do you dress up as, and what would be part of your outfit? Ya know what, I’m going to say Harry Dresden, even though I’m a woman. I would wear a long trench coat and carry around a wand of some kind.

I’m not tagging anyone but if you see this post and want to do this tag, please do so and let me know in the comments so I can read your answers too!

The Bridge

*This story was written starting with a prompt from*

Begin your story with a protagonist taking shelter under a bridge during a thunderstorm. An animal scurries past which shouldn’t exist. Against their better judgment, they decide to follow it out.

The sky was angry. 

Black clouds roiled above, flashing with lightning as sheets of rain came pouring down. Instantly, I was soaked through. The weather forecast had not called for this. It was supposed to be a sunny, only slightly cloudy, day. Where had this storm come from? 

Squinting through the torrent of water, I see a structure up ahead that could provide some shelter. Hugging myself, I sprint out into the storm and duck under the structure – the bridge as it turns out.  

Of course it’s the bridge, I chastise myself. What else would in be in this particular part of the town? Afterall, I’d known perfectly well where I was before the rain started. With a sigh, I pried my long hair from my face, trying to smooth it back into some semblance of order. Not that it matters. No one is around to see me. 

I sigh again, grumbling to myself about how the world hates me, when something catches my eye. Something small and ….white? I startle and nearly jump to my feet and the creature freezes, front paws splayed, head slightly down, tails up and alert. 

Wait! Tails? 

Staying as still as I can, I examine the creature. It’s about the size of a small dog, a Pomeranian maybe, with big pointed ears, a narrow but short snout, a long sleek body of glistening white fur and at least three tails swishing around it’s hind quarters. A fox? With multiple tails? 

“Wow,” I whisper on an exhale. At the sound of my voice the little creature takes off at a run towards the other end of the bridge. 

Without any conscious thought, I scramble to my feet and take off after the little animal. “Wait!” I shout, but of course the creature doesn’t listen. 

What the hell am I doing? I wonder. Why do I do things like this? 

Before I can come up with any sort of answer to these questions, the creature reaches the other side of the bridge, with me hot on his tails. We shoot over to the other side and I feel –  

The sun hot on my wet skin? 

The light is blinding. I crush my eyes shut and bring both hands up to shield my face. It was definitely still raining while I was under the bridge, so what happened? 

Squinting, I slowly open my eyes and lower my hands a fraction. The little white creature is only a few feet away from me, looking up at me with curious eyes and wagging tails. All around us is green. Towering trees with large emerald green leaves surround me in a circle. I tilt my head back and can hardly see the top of them. The sun shines down through a perfect circle in the canopy. 

I’ve been here before… 

A memory begins to bubble up in the back of my mind, a memory from ten years ago when I was only eight. 

The townsfolk always muttered about the bridge. Don’t go under the bridge unless you have to, they’d say. Stay away from the bridge at night. 

A rustling sound catches my attention and my eyes are drawn to the forest in front of me. A creature like the small one I followed here emerges from the shadows of the forest, except this one is huge! My eyes travel from paws larger than my hands, up the sleek white fur of its strong front legs, up to a thicker ring of fur like a mane to its narrow snout and finally its eyes. Behind it, several bushy tails fanned out, like a peacock with its feathers on full display. 

Deep liquid brown eyes stare at me, on level with my own. This creature is massive. 

In my head I hear my mother’s voice: Stay away from the bridge or you’ll disappear just like little Jane Hodgson.  

The old memory is in the front of my mind now. As a child, I never liked to listen to anyone, especially my mother. When people tell me not to do things, I always want to do them just because. Eight year old me went to the bridge. Like everyone in town, I’d always been wary of the bridge, and though I had been scared, that rebellious part of me just had to know what was there. It had been a rainy day and the sky was overcast. Slowly, cautiously, I crept under the bridge. 

Stay away from the bridge or the creatures will snatch you away! 

Eight year old me got to the far side of the bridge and tripped on a rock. I landed face first, my head, arms and shoulders on the other side of the bridge. I looked up and saw the forest, saw white fur, fear sending tingles down my spine. My legs and hips had still been under the bridge and I’d managed to scramble back under, the sound of snapping jaws ringing in my ears, missing me by a little more than an inch. 

This time, my whole body had crossed out from under the bridge, my feet planted firmly in the grass as my wet clothes steamed in the heat. I turned around, panicked. All I saw was more trees and shadows. The bridge was gone. A growl sounded behind me, deep and guttural, and I felt the hot breath of the predator behind me. 

Little Jane Hodgson went under the bridge and was never seen again. 

The small creature I had followed yipped around my ankles, prancing in an excited dance. 

Against my better judgement, I slowly turned back around. I was always doing things against my better judgement, doing things I wasn’t supposed to, going places I’d been warned not to go. Why did I never listen? Why did I follow the little creature? 

I came nose to nose with the larger creature, its lips peeled back from long, sharp teeth and growled again. Hot, fetid breath washed over me and a small whimper escaped my lips. I squeezed my eyes shut and sobbed as the jaws of the creature closed around my throat. 

Banshee Cries – Walker Papers 1.5 by C.E. Murphy

Banshee Cries. The Walker Papers 1.5 by C.E. Murphy

Title: Banshee Cries

Author: C.E. Murphy

Series: The Walker Paper

Sexual Content: None

Objectional Content: Violence

Synopsis: (from Goodreads):

The last thing reluctant shaman Joanne Walker wants is to be assigned to a case of ritual murders. It’d be creepy enough all on its own, but her boss, already trusting her magic more than Jo does herself, suspects there’s more to it than just a serial killer. As Joanne is pulled more deeply into the bloody mire, she begins to realize this is a murderer with a deadline—the changing winter moon seems to be key to the power they’re building.

But Joanne’s not the only one entangled in the increasingly dangerous magic raised by the killer: she has a protector, someone who has already given up their life to keep Joanne safe…and who may be the only person able to stand between Joanne and a dark power far greater than she’s ready to handle….

My Review

Banshee Cries by C.E. Murphy is a short story that takes place between Urban Shaman and Thunderbird Falls in the Walker Papers series.

Since the events in Urban Shaman that lead to Joanne becoming a Shaman and stopping a crazed killer, she has become resistant to using her powers or even learning more about them. As a person who was always rational and logical for her entire life, it makes sense for her to revert back to that when there is no immediate danger.

There isn’t a lot for me to say about this story, as it is rather short (around 100 pages or so). However, Banshee Cries is an important addition to this series as it gives the reader more insight into Joanne’s mother and the reasons she abandoned Joanne as a baby. If not else, this is an important part in Joanne’s character development. Her life has had a fair amount of trauma and this serves a step in the healing process.

My rating for Banshee Cries is 5 out of 5 stars. I highly recommend anyone who is reading the Walker Papers to read this story as it definitely fills in some holes in Joanne’s life.

Thanks for reading!

Urban Shaman – Walker Papers #1 by C.E. Murphy

Title: Urban Shaman

Author: C.E. Murphy

Series: The Walker Papers

Sexual Content: None

Objectional Content: Violence

Synopsis (from Goodreads): Joanne Walker has three days to learn to use her shamanic powers and save the world from the unleashed Wild Hunt.

No worries. No pressure. Never mind the lack of sleep, the perplexing new talent for healing from fatal wounds, or the cryptic, talking coyote who appears in her dreams.

And if all that’s not bad enough, in the three years Joanne’s been a cop, she’s never seen a dead body — but she’s just come across her second in three days.

It’s been a bitch of a week. And it isn’t over yet.

My Review

Urban Shaman by C.E. Murphy is a reread for me from several years ago. When I first picked up this book, the series wasn’t complete. Recently, I got the last books in the series that I was missing so now it’s time to binge it!

Joanne Walker isn’t having the best day. On her way home to Seattle from Ireland, she sees a woman being chased and a man waiting for her with a knife. Having seen this from an airplane, no one believes her. Making a new friend in the cab driver her helps her find the woman, Joanne suddenly finds herself thrust into a world she never believed existed.

Joanne is of Irish and Cherokee descent, and both cultures make an appearance here in Urban Shaman. She’s being chased by the Wild Hunt, led by an ancient Celtic god. But, she’s also a Shaman with healing powers and a spirit guide in the form of a coyote.

I love that Urban Shaman mixes Celtic and Native American lore. I’ve noticed that Celtic lore is often used in fantasy, but not a lot of Native American lore. I think that is a shame as it’s very interesting! This book doesn’t dive too deeply into it but I’m looking forward to what is to come in the following books.

Joanne is a great character. All her life she has always been rational, thinking that any kind of supernatural stuff was all made up and ridiculous. But after nearly dying by being stabbed by a Celtic god, her beliefs change completely. I actually love that her practicality makes her accept things quickly instead of trying to resist it.

This book starts out hot and doesn’t cool down! There’s little to no down time as Joanne and her friends try to figure out what is going on, why the Wild Hunt is here and why Shamans are being murdered. I think this is an excellent start to a series.

My rating for Urban Shaman is 5 out of 5 stars and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys urban fantasy books with Celtic and Native American folklore.

Thanks for reading!

Scarlet and The Wolf – Chapter 1

Scarlet and the wolf

The moon is full. 

Her light shines on the freshly fallen snow, illuminating the slowly falling flakes. The night is still, calm. 

Slowly, I rise to all four paws, stretching first my front legs, then the back. I shake off the dusting of snow from my midnight black fur. I raise my snout to the sky, inhaling. The time has come. I let out a howl. 

Within seconds my cry is being answered. The silence has been broken. It is the Blood Moon. It is time to hunt. 

I trot out from where I was hiding, sniffing the air, testing it for signs of prey. A slight breeze stirs and I smell it. I smell her! 

Confused, I turn to follow where the scent leads me. The howls of my brothers grow louder. Have they smelled it too? 

The wolf is near the surface, it is difficult to keep my wits, to not simply fade into the background and let the wolf do what the wolf does. My heart pounds louder as I leap into a full run. The scent is stronger and my brothers are near. I must get there first. They must not get to her. 

The wolf is as frantic as I as I run. What is she doing out here? She should be protected from being named Sacrifice. Why is she out here on this night of all nights? 

The scent is stronger now and with it comes the unmistakable tang of blood. She’s bleeding! Am I too late? Have my brothers found her already. 

A flash of red threw the trees catches my eye. I halt and slowly move toward a clearing. It is her hair that I saw. It is loose and wild, streaming around her in loose curls, the colour of fresh blood. She is dressed all in white with something embroidered in silver along the hems. From this distance I cannot see what the embroidery is but from past experience I know that it depicts running wolves. All the Sacrifices wear this. So, it is not a mistake. 

Her breath steams before her face, surprisingly even, as she scans the trees. She is no stranger to the forest. Often she ventures out where she should not be. She is tense. She knows what awaits her. She is ready to run but I know all too well how the heavy white robes will hamper her, especially in the new snow. 

I study her closely as I creep forward. I see no sign of injury. The others have not arrived. So where does she bleed from? Did someone hurt her before leaving her out here? 

I shake myself again. The wolf is growing frantic inside me, demanding to know what injury she has suffered. I steel myself, push the wolf down as much as possible and walk slowly into the clearing. 

She sees me almost immediately and startles. She relaxes a fraction when I do not attack. I try to keep my demeanor as nonaggressive as possible. I want to reach out to her, to whisper soothing words, but the wolf has no voice she would understand. Instead, I wag my busy tail in a friendly manner. 

She blinks, confused. She has the most extraordinary eyes. A kind of golden green with flecks of pure gold. I could stare into her eyes forever. 

No! Focus! The wolf has moved forward while I daydreamed. Sniffing, circling, searching for the injury. She follows as I circle, keeping her eyes on me. 

Suddenly, the source of the blood becomes obvious. The wolf lunges forward without my permission and all but buries my nose between her legs. 

“Hey!” She cried out in shock, tripping over the long robes as she stumbles back and lands unceremoniously on her butt in the snow. 

Oh. I understand but the wolf does not. I wrestle my body back until control, trying to soothe the wolf and keep him from embarrassing me further. 

Barks and snarls break into my mind. My brothers have arrived as I was distracted. They fan out in a circle, surrounding the maiden, preparing to attack. 

Her breath comes faster now, her heart pounds loudly to my sensitive ears. Her scream as one of my brothers lunges at her nearly drives the wolf insane. All rational thought flees my mind and my instincts take over. I must not allow them to touch her. 

My lips pull back from my impressive teeth as I snarl at the one who lunged. I give one warning bark and then I am on him. My jaws close on his neck before he even knows what is happening. He yelps in surprise and pain as I shake my head, lifting him from his feet and tossing him to the ground. 

The others are confused. They whine at me questioningly. Why are you doing this? They say. She is the Sacrifice, ours to hunt. 

I am the eldest, the largest, though not by much. I make myself as large as possible and stared them down, growling, snarling. Do not touch her! 

They take the hint and slowly back away. All but the one I threw to the ground. As I focused on the others, he had gained his feet. The maiden’s yelp of surprise was the only warning I had before he was on her. I turn to aid her as quickly as I can. She is on her back in the snow, my brother on top of her, his powerful jaws clamped around one forearm. His back paw digs into her stomach, tearing the fabric of the robe. The renewed smell of blood fills the air. 

The wolf goes ballistic. I am on my brother before I am even aware I am moving. I tackle him, my jaws once again around his throat. This time, I will not let him get up so easily. It is over quickly. My brother lays bloody in the snow, still breathing but too weak to try for the maiden again. I look to my other brothers. They fall to the ground, roll over and expose their bellies to me, acknowledging my dominance. 

I bark once in their direction. They rise to their feet and vanish into the forest. They can find something else to hunt this night. 

When I am sure they are gone, I turn to face the maiden. She is sitting in the snow, her injured arm cradled to her chest. She stares at me with a wild look in her golden green eyes. I take a step closer and she flinches. 

I sigh. This isn’t going to work. I cannot talk to her as a wolf. I look to the sky, the full moon still shines brightly.  

This is going to hurt. 

I muster all my will power. When the moon is full I must run as a wolf, though I can change at any other time I please. Changing back while the moon is still out has never been attempted before to my knowledge. 

I reason internally with the wolf. I can’t help the girl unless I am human. The wolf concedes the point and he fades to the background. Gritting my teeth, I command my body to change. 

I hear her gasp of surprise and the rustle of cloth. No doubt she is trying to get further away from me. Watching a wolf change shape into a human is a shocking thing even if you are expecting it, even if you have seen it before. She has never witnessed it before. I hear a moan and a whimper as my bones crack and pop. The dark fur recedes into my body, leaving behind my own brown skin. 

It is over within a minute or two. I stand on the bloodied snow a short distance from the girl I nearly killed my own brother to protect. She stares are me wide eyed and slack jawed in all my naked human glory. Then those beautiful eyes roll up in her head and she collapses into the snow. 

Life Update – October 2023

My hamster died.

Friday night I realized I hadn’t seen him for awhile. That isn’t unusual as hamsters are nocturnal and I wouldn’t always see him in the evenings. I figured I should check his water but when I lifted the lid from his cage and he didn’t poke his little nose out to see what was going on (like he always did in the past) I knew he was gone. I looked in his usual spots and he wasn’t there. I found him under his sand bath, burrowed into the bedding. I uncovered him enough to know that he was there and definitely not moving.

My roommate was kind enough to “take care of it” for me as I can’t handle those sorts of things.

I know I should be sad over the loss of a pet, but honestly, I’m not. Even when i was cleaning up all his stuff, I didn’t really feel anything. I feel like a terrible person for not caring, but really, I was never able to bond with him. I tried, I really did, but he would bite me more often than not.

Previously, my roommate said that we could get a dog after the hamster passed away. We haven’t talked about it yet, but we set up a joint account as a “dog fund” some time ago so we have money ready for getting dog supplies and the adoption fee.

Other than that, life moves on as usual.

First Line Friday – October 6, 2023

Happy Friday book lovers! We’re back with another First Lines Friday, a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering WordsWhat if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines? Here are the rules:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

Princess Danielle Whiteshore of Lorindar clung to the rail at the front of the ship, staring out at the waves. If this wind kept up, she might become the first princess in history to welcome the undine back from their winter migration by vomiting into their waters. The weather had been mild for most of the morning, but the skies had changed as the sun passed its peak. It was as if the sea now took a perverse glee in tormenting her.”

Do you know what it is?

Figured it out yet?

What could it be?

Here it is!

Did you guess it? Link me your First Line Friday too!

The Trillias Gambit – Warminster #3 by J.V. Hilliard

The Trillias Gambit book 3 of the Warminster series by J.V. Hilliard

Title: The Trillias Gambit

Author: J.V. Hilliard

Series: Warminster

Sexual Content: Minimal

Objectional Content: Violence

Synopsis (from Goodreads): Daemus Alaric and his band of dauntless companions venture to the Devil’s Horn, the mystical home of Trillias, the mercurial Ancient of Sport and Tests. Their quest—to recover the lost Tome of Enlightenment, cast into the bowels of the mysterious Laurentian Labyrinth by the fallen Keeper, Graytorris the Mad. Will they survive the god’s gambit? Far away in Castle Thronehelm, Princess Addilyn Elspeth and Sir Ritter of Valkeneer arrive, warning the kingdom of the fall of the Cathedral of the Watchful Eye. As they travel north to prepare for war, they must not only defeat the relentless Bone elf assassin Incanus Dru’Waith but choose between their forbidden love—or their obligations to the realm. If you enjoy magical tales told with gripping action and harrowing adventure, you’ll love this epic and dark fantasy series.

My Review

The Trillias Gambit is – I’m just going to say it – fantastic! The characters are likeable and relatable. I especially loved learning more about Incanus Dru’Waith. His back story and motivations are compelling and interesting to read.

The progression Daemus has made as a character since The Last Keeper is also impressive. He is no longer the sheltered and naive kid terrified of his nightmares. Now grown into a man, he has lost friends and family along the way but also gained new allies and love.

Even during down time in the story, this book still held my interest. Hilliard’s writing is rich and descriptive, bringing the world to life in the mind of the reader.

The Trillias Gambit picks up seamlessly from Vorodin’s Lair and keeps the plot going. During the action scenes, I wanted to know what was going to happen so bad I tried to read faster than I actually can. The tension had me on the edge of my seat.

I absolutely love the diversity and gender equality in this series. There are women everywhere as part of the army, acting as a bodyguard and in charge of guilds or estates. Arranged political marriages still exist, but for the most part, it seems that both participants have to at least be willing.

There is some discrimination against what are known as “trollborn” or half breeds. These people are looked down upon basically for having parents of two different species. A not uncommon bias in fantasy books.

My only tiny complaint with this book is that the words “maze” and “labyrinth” are used interchangeable despite not actually being the same thing. A maze is designed with dead ends and it meant to confuse any one who walks into it. A labyrinth on the other hand has one single path that leads to the centre and back out.

All in all, my rating for The Trillias Gamit is 5 out 5 stars and I can’t wait for the next book!

You can check out my reviews of The Last Keeper here and Vorodin’s Lair here.

Thanks for reading!

Monthly Reading Wrap up – September 2023

Wow, September is already done and gone? How did that happen. Time seems to be going by faster and faster. Before we know it, it will be Christmas. I wouldn’t say September was a fantastic reading month, but I did read 3 books this month so it was an improvement by 50% from August.

So, what did I read?

I completed the Fool’s Gold trilogy by Jude Fisher: Sorcery Rising, Wild Magic and The Rose of the World.

Currently, I’m reading The Trillias Gambit by J.V. Hilliard which I accepted as a review request.

As for what I hope to read in October, I haven’t quite determined that yet. It will likely be a book from this Goodread’s list as I continue with my Clear the Shelf Reading Challenge for this year.

How was your September for reading? Let me know in the comments and as always, thanks for reading!