Book Review: The Wolf’s Howl by A. L. Tait

“. . . I feel myself exhale. For the next few hours, I will be Maven. Just Maven. I will not have to hide what I know or think. I will have the opportunity to speak when I want to and listen when I don’t.”

(The Wolf’s Howl by A. L. Tait)

Lady’s maid Maven and squire Reeve forged an unlikely friendship when they had to find a stolen jewel and discover who murdered an innocent man. Having solved those intertwined mysteries, they are together again, on the road with the newly married  Lady Cassandra and Sir Garrick, Knight Protector of Rennart Castle. This time they’re searching for a missing cook while unraveling secret codes, political alliances, and loyalties. With help from the mysterious Beech Circle, the duo may be able to save the cook and themselves.

I loved The Wolf’s Howl as much as I did The Fire Star (book one). I enjoy a good duology because it gives me more time to spend with characters I like and it offers a chance to see the characters continue to grow. Add in a mystery, a secret society, political intrigue, kidnappings, and you have a book that kept me turning pages. 

As a YA mystery from one of my favorite authors, The Wolf’s Howl goes on my shelf as one of my favorite reads of the summer. 

Here’s a quick break-down: 

  • Book two in the Maven and Reeve Mysteries
  • YA with two main characters, ages 15 and 16
  • Told in dual POV (which I loved!)
  • Medieval fantasy world setting 
  • Mystery that includes a missing cook, treason, a mysterious society, and kidnappings
  • Intricate plot with political intrigue and mortal danger
  • Themes relevant to today including the status of women 

I will always recommend reading a duology (or series) in order. It makes it easier to see (and enjoy) the characters’ development. I felt like I connected with Maven and Reeve in book one and that connection grew stronger in The Wolf’s Howl. Author A. L. Tait has a talent for creating complex, yet likable characters who are smart, brave, and loyal. However, they’re never perfect and that’s what I like best. 

In The Wolf’s Howl, Maven and Reeve have traveled with Lady Cassandra and Sir Garrick to the isolated Glawn Castle. The castle sits in a region where an ever-present howling, gusting wind sweeps through the landscape that’s dotted with windmills. When they arrive at Glawn Castle, they’re immediately thrown into a mystery. The cook has gone missing and a search party must be dispatched to find her. 

“There is more to Glawn that meets the eye.” (The Wolf’s Howl, page 81)

There also is more to Maven than meets the eye as well. She’s clever, capable, and a member of the Beech Circle. Being a young woman of intellect and drive, she’s in constant danger. Women like her are not acceptable. Reeve is an ambitious young squire with his own set of special skills. He respects Maven and is indebted to the Beech Circle. He’d never give away their secrets. Together, they are a formidable pair and have forged a deep bond of friendship. As I mentioned in my review for book one, I love that Maven and Reeve are friends instead of love interests. 

A quick recap of the Beech Circle because they play a prominent role in this story:

A group of girls and women who are connected. They help each other and those who need help. They are educated, self-reliant, and they’d be eliminated if their existence was discovered by the men who desire to keep all women complacent and silent. (from my review of book one)

If you love books with strong female characters, friendships built on trust and respect, and political intrigue amid a medieval setting, then grab a copy of The Wolf’s Howl by A.L. Tait.

Allison Tait (A.L. Tait) drew me in more than a decade ago when I found her website. I connected with her writing style, humor, and kindness and have been a fan of her books ever since. She is an internationally-published, bestselling author of two middle-grade adventure series and the YA Maven & Reeve mysteries. She’s a writer, teacher, speaker, and co-host of the Your Kid’s Next Read podcast. Allison lives in Australia and can be found on social media via links from her site.

You can find more information about author A.L. Tait at her website

I’d like to thank Kane Miller books and Allison Tait for sending me copies of The Fire Star and The Wolf’s Howl. My reviews and opinions are my own.

My Agatha Christie Obsession

Agatha Christie books March 2022

The first Agatha Christie book I ever read was And Then There Was None. I was 10 or 11 and my mom picked it out for me because I had read all the Nancy Drew books, all the Trixie Belden books, and I wasn’t into the Hardy Boys. Mom was a mystery book lover and Agatha Christie fan. After And Then There Was None, so was I. 

Over the years, my Agatha Christie book collection has grown, depleted as I’ve worn out copies, and then grown more as I discovered how much I love the cover art on some of the older versions. My husband and I enjoy poking around antique and vintage shops on weekends and it’s become my habit to keep an eye out for old books that may fit into my collection, in particular, any Christie books. 

I’ll admit, I’m picky. I won’t pick up any copy. It has to have cover art that catches my eye, be one of my favorite titles, and I try to rescue those fabulous older pocket novels because they have so much character. 

Recently, we were exploring the amazing stores in the West Bottoms area of Kansas City. If you’re into vintage, antiques, and historic buildings, most definitely plan a visit when in the K.C. area. We began our exploration of the multi-story shops early, enjoying the wide array of displays. There really is something for everyone here, and so much to see, that it can almost be an overload. But it’s worth it. 

At our second stop, Martin’s Memories, I was browsing through a display of furniture and spied a bookcase. Of course, I had to take a look and see what was on the shelves. A quick glance and I saw “Agatha Christie” on a spine. Well, that got my attention. I looked closer. There was another one. And another, and another, and another. 

The little bookcase held all Agatha Christie books, and one Martha Grimes. 

50 Agatha Christie books.

 Box of books

Now I had already bought two others at our first stop, but that most certainly wasn’t going to stop me from picking through this batch. As I started pulling the books off the shelf, I was struck by their good condition. A little dusty, but definitely in good condition for their age. The majority of the books were from the 1960s and 1970s. And the covers!

Oh my. I was in love. 

We offered to buy the entire lot, and they were happy to sell us the lot. I was thrilled! My Agatha Christie collection consisted mostly of my favorite titles of her work, largely Poirot mysteries. This lot has many that I never had purchased plus some that I’ve never read. I’m looking forward to indulging in some reading time, but I wanted to share a few pictures of some of the fantastic covers.

If you’d like to see a full list of Agatha Christie titles, please visit AgathaChristie.com.

It’s Children’s Book Week

https://everychildareader.net/cbw/

What is Children’s Book Week? Directly from the Every Child A Reader site, Children’s Book Week is:

“Established in 1919, Children’s Book Week is the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country. Every year, young people across the country participate by attending events at schools, libraries, bookstores, celebrating at home, and engaging with book creators both online and in person.” 

https://everychildareader.net/cbw/about/

Maybe your kids will come home talking about it and the wonderful new books they’ve had the chance to read or look at. If you visit your local library this week, it’s likely there will be something fun going in honor of Children’s Book Week as well.

Every week is a good week to read to a child, but Children’s Book Week is definitely one not to miss. Enjoy!

Happy reading!

Back on the Bookshelf

Last Act by Christopher Pike

Several years ago I downsized my book collection, and then regretted that action. Not right away. At first, it was like, “Oh hey look at all this lovely bookshelf space” and I took the opportunity to add new books to the shelves.

Fast forward to about three years ago when I found “Until the End” the trilogy that is Christopher Pike’s three books “The Party”, “The Dance”, and “The Graduation.”

“Until the End” by Christopher Pike

Once I reread it, I wanted the other Christopher Pike books that I had let go, but I wanted them with the original covers that I had as a kid. I’ve been on the hunt ever since. Antique shops are a great place to find books like this, and I’ve added “Chain Letter” and “Remember Me” to my collection.

But the one I really wanted was LAST ACT. And now I finally have it. It arrived today — I ordered it online from a bookseller, because I could not find it in any of the used bookstores or antique shops that I’ve explored.

It’s been a couple of decades since I read LAST ACT and I’m looking forward to the reread. Will it be nostalgic? Probably. Will it be as good as preteen Barb remembers? Maybe not, but you never know. I’m still looking forward to it.

Do You Read Every Day?

Recently, someone asked me if I read every day, and I said, yes.

They seemed surprised. So I asked them if they watched TV or a movie every day.

They said yes, and seemed surprised that I’d ask that.

I said I don’t see any difference between picking up a book and reading for 30 minutes or sitting down and watching a sitcom for the same amount of time. I like to read. I also like to watch TV shows, movies, and other programming. But I usually feel like I relax more when I read.

I don’t think reading every day is strange, just as I don’t think watching TV daily is strange. Or listening to music.

My copy (with original cover) First book in the GONE series.

Reading makes me happy (most of the time). So yes, I do read every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes.

What am I reading right now? The GONE series by Michael Grant. It’s a reread for me, and I’m currently on book three: LIES. It’s a YA series that can be quite disturbing in parts, but it’s one of my favorites because of its complexities.

I have a few other books that I will be starting soon, in particular an ARC that I’m excited to read (keep an eye out for a post about that) and a beta read of an MG book written by one of my critique partners.

If you need me, I’ll be over here writing and always reading.

Halloween Week: Spooky MG Books for Kids

Some of the spooky MG books currently living on my bookshelves.

It’s Halloween week, but I enjoy a good spooky story any time of the year!

I’ve read several fantastic middle grade spooky stories this year, both in print and on my ereader, which include Ghost Girl by Ally Malinenko, The Stitchers and The Collectors both by Lorien Lawrence. I totally recommend each and every one.

Here’s my Spooky MG list based on what I currently own and have read this year (it’s in no particular order.) Click on the author’s name to go to their website or book links. Add to your TBR and get ready to enjoy some creeps, chills, and thrills.

The Witches of Willow Cove by Josh Roberts

Ollie Oxley and The Ghost by Lisa Schmid

Doll Bones by Holly Black

Magic Can Be Murder by Vivian Vande Velde

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street by Lindsay Currie

Scritch Scratch by Lindsay Currie

What Lives in the Woods by Lindsay Currie

Midnight at the Barclay Hotel by Fleur Bradley

Ghost Squad by Claribel Ortega

Eleanor, Alice, and the Roosevelt Ghosts by Dianne Salerni

The In-Between by Rebecca KS Ansari

The Missing Piece of Charlie O’Reilly by Rebecca KS Ansari

Alfred Hitchcock’s Ghostly Gallery

Ghost Girl by Ally Malinenko

The Stitchers by Lorien Lawrence

The Collectors by Lorien Lawrence

The last three in the list are not in the above pic because my copies are digital, but I’m thinking I’d like to add the print versions to my shelves. They’ve all got great covers!

This is just one small list of MG spooky books — there are so many great ones out there! Go visit these authors on their sites, check out their books, give them a read. It’s worth it. Looking for other titles? Head to your local library and ask a librarian for recommendations. Your librarians can help you find the perfect book to fit your mood any day of the year.

I hope you enjoy reading these books as much as I did! And if you have any recommendations you want to share, let me know. Tweet me your favorites. Find me talking books, writing, and more on Twitter at: BarbH2014.

Loving My Library

Library with bookcases and books

I have always loved libraries. If you follow me on any of my social media, you’ve seen countless posts about the absolute awesomeness of libraries. Today is one of my favorite days of the year and it’s totally library-related. It’s my local library’s FRIENDS OF THE LIBRARY BOOK SALE! 

Books! Tons of wonderful used books, all for sale! And the best part?

The money goes back to the library to buy MORE BOOKS!

That is truly pure awesomeness. I love the anticipation of going to the annual book sale. You never know what’s going to be there. I may find dozens of books to add to my collection or it might just be one. It doesn’t matter. It’s more than just acquiring new books. For me, it’s the joy of walking into this massive space filled with tables and tables of books just waiting to find a new home, new hands to hold them, and new imaginations to entertain.

And as I go on and on about libraries, I’m happy to report I FINALLY set up the free app on my ereader and TV to be able to check out ebooks, audiobooks, and digital programs/movies.

Why or why did I wait this long??? Don’t be like me. Take advantage of all these amazing and free services your local library has. You won’t regret it!

So Here’s What Happened

Last year at this time I had just been through the Pitch Wars Showcase and was beginning a journey querying my first middle-grade book. Then the pandemic hit full force. Everything seemed to come to a screeching halt. Like many of you, my focus shifted. There was so much uncertainty and worry.

I decided to stop querying my book and focus on work and family. In the interim, I sought and received editorial and agent feedback. With that feedback, I took the book back into deep revisions. It has finally re-emerged! Shiny new words, deeper POV, and even a new title.

Between last March and today, here are just a few highlights:

  • Joined a new critique group (virtually) with members from my regional SCBWI
  • Attended several webinars for writers via SCBWI (a great way to connect with others during the pandemic)
  • Completely rewrote my Pitch Wars book
  • Started writing an adult cozy mystery (my first!)
  • Outlined and began writing a new middle-grade fairy-tale retelling (I’m so excited about this one!)
  • Had the privilege to read several ARCs as well as beta reading some books that I can’t wait for you all to be able to read as well

During it all, I continued to write as a freelancer, although by the end of 2020 I had significantly scaled back the amount of work I contracted. I much prefer fiction writing and am all in on this publishing journey.

Book Review: The Traitor’s Kingdom by Erin Beaty

“Outside, the world was full of assassins, bitter politics, and the threat of war, but her, in this one place, for one night, everything was perfect.”

Chapter 65, page 310 of The Traitor’s Kingdom

The Traitor’s Kingdom by Erin Beaty is the final book in The Traitor’s trilogy that begins with The Traitor’s Kiss and The Traitor’s Ruin. You can read my review of The Traitor’s Ruin here.

As trilogies go, this one kept me interested and I anxiously awaited the final book. The Traitor’s Kingdom didn’t disappoint—it’s exciting, well-written, and offers a more-than-satisfying conclusion to the story of Sage Fowler.

From author Erin Beaty’s website:

A new queen under threat. 

An ambassador with a desperate scheme. 

Two kingdoms with everything to lose.

Sage Fowler has evolved from matchmaker’s assistant to ambassador representing Demora. She’s traveled far from home, fallen in love, and sacrificed much for her kingdom. Book three opens with Sage working on her duties as an ambassador, keeping up with combat training, and pining for her beloved, Major Alex Quinn.

Author Beaty quickly launches the reader into the political intrigue that readers will be familiar with from the first two books in this trilogy. The one thing that The Traitor’s trilogy doesn’t lack is intrigue, double-crosses, and action. Sage has grown up in this final book, but she’s still just as gutsy and stubborn. I like her in the role of ambassador and wish the book would have had more Sage. I sometimes found the segments featuring the soldiers to be less interesting and I was anxious to get back to whatever Sage was doing.

I liked the introduction of the new queen and her storyline. It was also interesting to watch Clare develop even further and how she deals with her sister. Overall, I thought The Traitor’s Kingdom was a good conclusion to the trilogy. It had enough twists to keep me guessing, but nothing that made me raise an eyebrow because it was too “convenient”. Erin Beaty tells a compelling story and her main characters are definitely likable even when they’re doing things that make me yell at the pages.

The final wrap-up I found to be very satisfying. I really like the endings for Sage and Alex as well as the others. The Traitor’s trilogy is one I’m glad I own, because I definitely will reread it again.

Don’t miss the first two books in Erin Beaty’s The Traitor’s trilogy.