Kim McDougall Author

Book Fairs

Reading Challenge Revealed!

It feels like Christmas and the New Year were months ago already. We've been in lockdown again, so I've been taking this time to edit book 5 of the Valkyrie Bestiary. I should have news on that front very soon, maybe even a release date.

I'm a bit late to the party to go over the Best of 2021 stuff, but I do love the reading challenges on Goodreads and I try to participate every year. This year, I fell short of my goal, but I did publish 4 books too, so I think I can cut myself some slack. 

What I really enjoy is going over the books I read in the last year. It's like holding each one in my heart again, if just for the moment. I savor them. Here are my top 10 best reads for 2021. You can see that my reading tastes are all over the place. I like a little bit of everything. 

Top 10 books I read in 2021 (in no particular order because I could possibly choose a favorite)

1. Blood Heir - Ilona Andrews (Urban Fantasy)
2. Oracle - Andrew Pyper (Thriller/horror)
3. Hornet Flight - Ken Follet (Historical)
4. Practical Magic - Alice Hoffman (Contemporary Fantasy)
5. The Rowan - Anne McCaffrey (Science Fiction)
6. Shadow Pheonix - M.J. Moores (Steampunk)
7. Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro (Literary Fiction)
8. A Plague of Giants - Kevin Hearne (Epic Fantasy)
9. Patient Zero - Jonathon Maberry (Action/Suspense)
10. The Fool - Val Tobin (Urban Fantasy)

I'd been waiting for Blood Heir for a long time and it didn't disappoint. Patient Zero is a favorite, and a book I reread every other year. Maberry is a master at producing multiple points of view with distinct voices. If you like audiobooks, Ray Porter narrates it. I'd listen to him read the phonebook. So good. A Plague of Giants was a wonderful surprise. It's epic fantasy but with a modern feel to it. Truly unique world building too. And Klara and the Sun tells the poignant tale of an AI companion to a young girl. It is so relevant to our times and so poignant that I I find myself thinking of when I can't sleep at night. 

I'd recommend any of the books on this list. What was on your 2021 list that you like to savor? I'd love to hear about your favorite books, feel free to leave a comment below. 

And here's a tiny snippet from Valkyrie Bestiary Book 5 (a work in progress) in case you're missing Hunter, the pygmy kraken and his friends:

Inside, the barn was cooler than the summer afternoon. That was the amazing thing about bank barns. Built into a hillside, the earth acted as a natural air conditioner—cooler in the summer, warmer in the winter. Arriz and his boys had finished setting up. The old horse stalls had been pulled down to make room for more cages and terrariums. Hunter and my abaia eel, Buddy, had a huge aquarium that filled one entire wall. And I still had room for more cages. 
That meant I could bring home more critters. I felt like a kid who just been given a free pass at the toy store. 

Dekar and his younger brother, Gibus, were preparing for the evening feeding. 
It was my favorite time of the day. The nocturnal critters weren’t yet awake. The diurnal critters were getting sleepy. Even Jacoby, who’d been bouncing around the barn all morning, had finally curled up for a nap in a patch of sunshine. There was a hush over the room—not an expectant hush, but more of a lazy, satisfied calm. 

Gibus tugged on my sleeve. “Can I feed the octopus?” He held up a bowl of frozen crayfish. 

“Only if you don’t call him octopus. Hunter is pretty touchy about that. He’s a pygmy kraken.”

Gibus scratched his head. He had think black hair that stuck out like bristles on a broom. 

“What’s the difference?”

“It would be like someone calling you a brownie instead of a goblin.”

“Humans do that. They’re dumb.”

“It’s because they don’t know any better. When you know better, you do better. Right?”

“Right!” A grin lit his face. “So can I feed the piggy kraken?”

That was close enough. “Sure.” 

Kelpies Don't Fly, book 5 of the Valkyrie Bestiary is coming soon. Check back here for pre-order dates.

Appreciating the Cold

I’m acquiring a new appreciation for snow, which is a good thing since we’ll be stuck with the white stuff for a while. Despite the cold (-18℃ or about 0 ℉), I have forced myself to walk every day. I come back pink-cheeked and energized. One great thing about snow is how it reveals the lives of forest animals we never see. There are deer tracks criss-crossing our field. In several spots, I see them stop at the fence as if contemplating the jump, then the tracks turn around and head back into the field. There are two gates in the fence where they can pass through, but they seem to forget where those are. 

The snow also reveals tracks through the woods—routes that I wouldn’t see otherwise. And neat little trails like this one below that make me wonder what kind of tiny animal recently scurried by. 

And then there are the real finds like these deer bunks in the video below. I’ve spotted several of these now, often in the same area. You can clearly see the indentations where three deer rested. There are an abundance of clear hoof prints nearby and some scat. It’s a little deer house!

So now when I walk, I’m aware that there must be critters all around, though I rarely see any. They hear me coming a mile away, of course. I’m not exactly stealthy. But I like knowing they’re nearby, watching the clumsy human pass through their living room.

A critter highway...and a snippet

I have never been a winter person (even though I grew up in Montreal), but I’m determined not to let the cold stop me from enjoying our new farm/forest. Today, it was -6℃ (about 21℉), which isn’t so bad for this area. And there was not a breath of wind. I stood in the middle of the forest and it was earthly silent. I found a tiny, babbling brook and just listened to it for a while (until my toes got cold). 

And look at this beautiful, natural arcade.

No human foot has stepped here since the snow fell. All those tracks are critter tracks! It’s a creature highway. Kyra would love it here. I picture Mason’s home in the Inbetween in a place like this. 

Our space is not yet a farm. We have no barn and no animals. But after spending our first week at Dragon Run, I feel like I’ve come home.

Now, I’m trying to decide which pajamas to wear to the living room to watch movies and drink wine on New Year’s Eve. For this year, low key seems perfect. Where ever you are, I hope you have a Happy New Year, or at least a comfy one.

Here’s a little gift to ring in the new year, a snippet from upcoming Book 5, tentatively titled, Kelpies Don’t Fly.

Felix’s eyes never left my face. He probably thought he was intimidating—his size, his nakedness, the muscles bulging on his arms just from gripping the small cup. But I’d faced a rock troll, a water dragon and vampires. One arrogant nuckelavee didn’t even make my top ten list of big bads.

I let the silence stretch between us. Silence is a powerful weapon. It seeps into the ego and begs to be noticed. Only one who is truly self-confident can ignore its lure. 

Felix spoke first. 

“What do you want with the witch?”

I shrugged. “We’re cousins. She borrowed my sweater and I wanted it back.”
Someone behind me stifled a laugh. Felix frowned. 

I took that moment to sneak a glance at Mason. His head still lolled at a painful angle.

Wake up, wake up! I shouted the thought in my head as if the sheer force of my desire might rouse him. 

Felix moved so fast I didn’t see it, and suddenly he was right in my face, gripping my shoulder in a painful squeeze.

“Don’t treat me like a fool, bitch.” 

Book 5 of the Valkyrie Bestiary will be available Spring of 2022 (which is right around the corner. Yikes!) Get caught up with Book 4, Grimalkins Don't Purr, now available HERE.

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