The Secrets of Love Story Bridge by Phaedra Patrick

I do enjoy Phaedra Patrick’s novels. The best way to describe them is that they are “gentle” reads. That’s just what I needed when I picked this one up. No murder plots, no violence; just easy reading that relaxed me at night. 

This novel begins with Mitchell Fisher. He’s raising his young daughter Poppy on his own, after his partner Anita died years before. He’s still grieving, and the only way he copes with it is to be super organized and to write a letter to Anita every night before he goes to sleep. He keeps the letters tucked in a drawer next to his bed, along with the last letter Anita wrote him just before she died. He hasn’t been able to bring himself to open it and read it because he’s afraid of what it might say. 

Mitchell works for the city cutting locks off a popular bridge. It’s a big deal for couples to put locks on the bridge and toss the keys into the river below. However, this is causing stress on the bridge–there are thousands of locks!-and Mitchell’s job is to cut them off and send them away. He’s a bit grumpy about all those locks. One day, he sees a woman attaching a lock to the bridge. She loses her balance and falls off the bridge into the river below. Mitchell jumps in and saves her, and becomes a minor celebrity. His mysterious woman disappears soon after being pulled ashore, and he’s haunted by the mystery of her. 

His daughter Poppy is taking music lessons from a teacher at her school. Liza is a bright and breezy woman who has an interesting link to the woman from the bridge. As Mitchell gets to know Liza and they work on finding the mystery woman, he’s suddenly starting to feel something he wasn’t expecting for Liza. He’s pretty comfortable in his stuck-ness. And Liza is nothing like Anita. Meanwhile, a reporter has put out a call for people to send letters to the “hero” Mitchell about their lock stories, and he’s getting flooded with letters he just doesn’t want. Yet when he does start reading them, he’s touched by the stories people share about their lock on the bridge. Mitchell’s got a whole lot going on emotion-wise. He’s just not prepared for all of it. 

I’ll leave the rest for you to discover. It’s a sweet tale about learning to live and love again, and confronting the past even when it could possibly really hurt you. Mitchell is a bit of an old poop trapped in a younger man’s body, but he grows on you. Poppy is a delightful daughter who is patiently waiting for her Dad to wake up. All of the characters in this novel are quite nice, actually. All are working on something in their lives that is holding them back. 

Rating: 4/6 for a sweet tale of love lost, love found, and living life with a whole heart. A charming tale. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.

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