Book Review #97: “The Breach: Devon” (The Guardians Series Book One)

I met the author, C.M. Bethell, in a Facebook group for writers. She made a post that she was looking for readers, and I commented with interest. She messaged me, I gave her my address, and her first two books arrived on my doorstep very quickly a few months ago.

Thank you, C.M., for sending the books my way.

It took me a lot longer than anticipated to get into this book. I’m not a massive fantasy fan, never have been. However, once I got into Bethell’s first book, I started to appreciate it better. She’s a good world builder. I love the concept of the Guardians and how they are sworn to protect. And putting them on a modern Earth was cool to see.


The incorporation of Gaelic is interesting, and great for world building. But it’s not my favorite thing. It really threw me in the beginning, and it was hard to follow throughout the book. It was almost distracting.


I liked the portal concept and traveling between two worlds plot point immediately.

I also really liked, and was surprised by, the super slow burn romance between two of the characters. I wasn’t expecting that. It was surprising and refreshing. This was the biggest plot point that held my interest and moved the book along for me.


The one thing that really slowed me down was I felt like I was reading several different books in this one book/arc. It was hard to keep up with the menagerie of characters, although from the title and blurb, it’s made clear that Devon is the main character. Or is he really?

Also, this first book is well over 400 pages. In one way, that’s impressive that this author wrote an almost 450-page book for the first one in a series. However, it also has a lot of drawbacks. I felt like this book was a freaking marathon and the finish line kept moving farther away. I kept putting it down and coming back to it days later, not wanting to or excited to power through it.

It’s almost too much detail, too much story, and it was exhausting sometimes to reach the end of one chapter. There are some chapters that are great and invigorating, and others are really boring and a slog to get through.


I wanted to give this book more stars in terms of a rating, but I just can’t do it. I found myself enjoying the book less and less over time. There are chapters and moments that shine through, but as a whole it’s really long and a bit confusing. I think this one book could have easily been split into two full books as part of the series.

Despite my issues with the first book, I’m going to read and review the second book in the series. I hope to have that review posted here on the blog soon.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth

Book Review #86: “The Ocean at the End of the Lane”

My friend Cynthia sent me a copy, along with a beautiful letter telling me how much she enjoyed this book. I’d heard of Neil Gaiman for years, but never read any of his books until now.

Some nights, I read multiple chapters. However, most nights, I slogged through one chapter and then went to bed. I almost gave up on this book about four chapters in.

I’m so glad I didn’t.

This book renewed my interest in fantasy. Gaiman is a master storyteller and world-builder. There were several events and plot points that I considered to be violent and unsettling, but I think that’s me, my personality, and this being my first introduction to Gaiman’s writing.

Even though I slogged through a chapter or two more often than not, it’s likely because of how immersive Gaiman’s world is from the get-go. You’re right next to the protagonist, unnamed, his family, and the Hempstocks the entire time. I put the book down once or twice and realized that I, in fact, was not in the English countryside with the characters. You’re immediately invested in every detail.

The imagery is profound. It’s fitting that he used the word “ocean” in the title – This book is like an ocean. Its never-ending words and story, lapping over you like constant waves. And it’s a good thing. It’s hard to put it down after one chapter, and the chapters are shorter than I thought they would be. It keeps pulling you in for more.

If you’ve read fantasy before, this is a treat. It will take you away, and not spit you out until the very end. It’s beautifully written, almost lyrical or song-like.

If you haven’t read many fantasy books, I’m not sure this would be a good place to start. Gaiman is a great writer, but he’s very heavy. I experienced multiple emotions while reading. It’s very dark, but it’s dark for a reason. However, that’s not a bad thing. It’s award-winning for so many good things.

In the end, this book was a good one for me to read. It came into my life at a good time. Reading Gaiman is almost magical, and I was sad when the book ended, because it ended.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #85: “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” *Re-Read*

Image Credit: Amazon

Here are my reviews of the other books so far:

Originally, I didn’t really care for this book as much as others. However, I’ve had a change of heart. It’s still not my favorite book of the series, but I now understand why many people love this one in particular.

I fell in love with Lupin. I now realize why many people enjoy and are enamored with his character. I also learned more about the history of Hogwarts and the characters who came through before Harry, Ron, and Hermione – Especially Harry’s parents.

I’m excited to move on to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – Another favorite!

5 out of 5 stars.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #80: “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” *Re-Read*

Here’s my review of the first book:

I wasn’t anticipating it would be more than four months in between reviews, but hey, life happens. And I realized I didn’t want to burn myself out with reading the series back-to-back. 

Harry narrowly makes it back to Hogwarts for his second year. There are more adventures, and multiple misadventures, and it’s a thrill ride basically the entire time.

There’s more danger and conflict in this book. Originally, I declared this book as my favorite of the series the first time around. Re-reading it now, I can see why I thought that way. I love so many things about this one – The mystery of the Chamber throughout the book, the introduction of new characters, and not exactly knowing what’s going to happen next.

One of my favorite characters in this book specifically is Ginny Weasley. I won’t spoil anything for those who may not have read the book, but I adore her.

I’m looking forward to reading Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban soon!

5 out of 5 stars.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #73: “Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone” *Re-Read*

Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone

Image Credit: Amazon

Thank you, J.K. Rowling, for pulling me out of what looked like a long reading slump.

I finished the series for the first time roughly a decade or so ago, after waiting what felt like FOREVER for Deathly Hallows to be available at the library.

Late last year, I decided I wanted to re-read it all. And it did not disappoint!

I was surprisingly nervous when I started reading the first few lines. Having read all the books, and seen every movie adaptation multiple times, I wasn’t sure how this re-read would go. Thankfully, I was worried for nothing.

I was instantly transported to Rowling’s London. I fell in love all over again. Her writing is truly spellbinding. I couldn’t put it down, promising myself one more chapter.

I felt almost the same way as I did when I was first taken by these books. I was a “late bloomer” with the books. While my friends had read and re-read the books years before I started, I was a bit of a fantasy snob. I declared I wasn’t interested in a book about wizards and witches. J.K. Rowling, darling, you proved me wrong.

Nearly 20 years after first falling in love and wanting more of Harry, Ron, Hermione, Hagrid, Professor McGonagall, and Dumbledore (and having to actually wait for the next book to be released!), I’m so happy I decided to re-read this book. The minute I closed the book, I wanted to go downstairs and crack open The Chamber of Secrets.

5 out of 5 stars.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Tag #54: Fantasy Bucket List Tag

Fantasy Bucket List Tag

Image Credit: Dragons & Zombies

Thrice Read did it again! Here’s another fun tag!

Here’s the link to their original post:

A fictional world that you would like to tour.

Middle Earth.

A specific place that you would like to visit.


A character that you would like to meet.

Hermoine Granger from Harry Potter.

An event you would like to witness.

The Tri-Wizard Tournament from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

A sport/activity you would like to try.


A weapon you would like to wield.

The Elven bow that Legolas wielded.

An item you would like to use.

Any of the wands from Ollivanders wand shop, please and thank you!

That’s all! What would you answer?

Let me know in the comments!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Hot Topic #4: No More Make-Believe (Not In School, Anyway)

“Even the smallest person can change the course of history.” ~Lady Galadriel, The Lord of the Rings

This quote is so fitting for this post.

When I first saw this picture of Aiden Steward yesterday, and then the headline of the news story, it made no sense to me. How could this sweet little face be in so much trouble with one school?

Image Credit: The New York Daily News

Image Credit: The New York Daily News

I read Aiden’s story in complete disbelief yesterday. Immediately afterward, I felt a range of emotions. First, shock and surprise. Then, sadness. Then, anger.

The New York Daily News first broke the story late last week with the headline, “Texas boy suspended for saying he could make classmate ‘disappear’ with ‘Lord of the Rings’ sorcery”.

Wait a second … REALLY?

I’ve read The New York Daily News’s account three times now, and every time I’m left shaking my head. This child is NINE YEARS OLD, for heaven’s sake.

And, on top of that, he’s been suspended not once.

Not twice.

But THREE times!

According to the article, this latest suspension, last week, was handed down due to a “threat” that Aiden made against a classmate.

I understand that threats, no matter where they’re directed, are taken far more seriously nowadays than when I was growing up, no doubt about it. But over something like this? This is slightly nutty for me.

Aiden’s “threat” to his classmate was that he possessed the One Ring, like Bilbo Baggins, and he could put the ring on his friend’s head and make him invisible.

As a student of mass media, I noticed several things regarding the article. It focuses primarily on Aiden’s father’s point of view. This, in a way, is understandable.

It merely references the friend that was threatened in the writer’s own words; however, there is nothing actually in quotes from this friend or the friend’s parents/family. The only actual quotes in the article are from Aiden’s father. The only other adult mentioned in the article is the elementary school’s principal, and she had no comment for the story, claiming confidentiality.

Aiden’s two other suspensions were briefly mentioned at the very end of the article. His family has been in the Kermit Independent School District for only six months, but Aiden already had two in-school suspensions (ISS) to his name prior to last week’s “threat.”

There was no timeline or dates stated for either ISS, but both of them are equally puzzling and head-scratching. According to the article, the first ISS was because Aiden referred to a classmate as black.

The second ISS was because Aiden brought his favorite book to class, thinking he would impress the teacher, called “The Big Book of Knowledge.”  They were studying the solar system at the time, but the teacher found that the book contained an illustration of a pregnant woman, with a section on pregnancy.

This was explained to the article’s author by Aiden’s father.

I personally want to hear the points of views from Aiden’s teacher, much more from the principal, Aiden’s classmate/friend and his family, and any other school authorities that may be involved.

There are at least two sides to every story. I feel like this is only the tip of the iceberg!

Aside from dissecting the article, the thing that troubled me most was that Aiden was suspended from school, simply because he was using his imagination, being engaged in make-believe.

Since when did make-believe and using one’s imagination start causing trouble?

The Lord of the Rings has been classified as an “epic high fantasy novel.” The six movies are visually stunning, and left this 26-year-old dreaming of elves and dwarves and fearing the ugly Orcs, with a strong desire to visit New Zealand where the movies were filmed.

I think it’s terrible to punish a 9-year-old for mimicking a movie. What is a suspension going to teach him?

If it hasn’t already done so, I think it’s going to teach him that he can’t play with his friends while referencing popular movies. Not at school, anyway. This makes me so sad.

This story made me think back to my childhood. Elementary school, especially.

I spent a good while reminiscing, and it was nice to be nostalgic for a bit. I got lost in the daydreams.

So many fantasy worlds. So many times of make-believe, in the cafeteria, in the hallways, on the playground, riding on the bus. So many laughs.

Back then (This coming June will mark 15 years since I graduated from the fifth grade), there wasn’t anything that was classified as a bonafide “threat” from one student to another. Sure, there were the classic tattles to the teachers of “He/She called me a toad/frog/devil, etc.,” but none of that made it to the principal’s office!

I think Aiden’s father put it best:

“Kids act out movies that they see. When I watched Superman as a kid, I went outside and tried to fly,” Steward said.

“I assure you my son lacks the magical powers necessary to threaten his friend’s existence,” the boy’s father later wrote in an email. “If he did, I’m sure he’d bring him right back.”

My message to all: I’m going to keep dreaming. I’m going to keep fantasizing.

I am a writer, after all. Part of my existence, part of my being, involves making up stories. Using my imagination, which is one of the greatest gifts that can be given. Imagination should be fostered and encouraged.

Creativity is wonderful, and it shouldn’t be squashed, especially early on in life.

I won’t stop, for as long as I live.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂