Adult · Book Reviews · Books · Fantasy

Book Review: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

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My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Under the streets of London there’s a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks.

Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: Neverwhere.

Last week I was telling Boyfriend about Neverwhere because he’s never read it before. When telling him about it I realized that I was a little fuzzy on the details, probably because it’s been so long since I read it. I’m really glad I decided to re-read this one, because it was even better than I remembered.

The world beneath London is just as you’d expect an underground city to be: dark, dirty, and crawling with unsavory beings, both human and non-human. But, London Below is more than just that, it’s a city full of life, trade, and the unique sorts of people that don’t quite fit in up in “normal” London. I absolutely love the world that Gaiman has created. In some ways, it’s my ideal type of fantasy setting, not because it’s an entirely new world or one laden with magic, but because it’s more like an alternate version of our world. One of the reasons I’m such a big fan of Neil’s is because of the way he takes the modern world and stretches it just enough that it becomes fantastical, but is never too over the top. Realistic people, situations, and feelings remain present in his stories, making them easy to read and relate to.

There are some fantastic characters in this story. Richard Mayhew, the protagonist, is just an average guy who was just at the wrong place, wrong time. His life is turned upside down as he gets dragged to the streets below London, while his entire life above suddenly gets erased. Among his companions are the Lady Door (a girl trying to understand her parents’ death and avenge her family), the marquis de Carabas (who is as over the top as his name suggests), Anasthaesia (a rat-speaking girl), and Hunter (the best bodyguard in the underground). They cross paths with the likes of angels, friars, and earls, all while trying to steer clear of the two hit-men who have their eyes on Door.

This was actually one of the first fantasy books I had ever given a chance. (Can you believe that there was a time when I didn’t read fantasy!?) After re-reading this I realize why I got sucked in and captured by the genre.

Supposedly, Neil has a sequel to Neverwhere in the works. I don’t know much about it, but I sure hope we don’t have to wait too long for it to come out.

 

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Adult · Book Reviews · Books · Fantasy · Favorites

Book Reviews: The Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars (for each book)

The Wayward Children books by Seanan McGuire are a series of novellas about the children of Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. Each of the children at the school have stumbled upon, fallen through, or sucked into a doorway to another world. Worlds of nonsense, logic, the dead, and everywhere in between.

Every Heart a Doorway focuses on Nancy, a newcomer to the Home for Wayward Children. Like the others who live there, Nancy is having a hard time coping with life back in the real world and wants nothing more than to find the doorway back home to the Halls of the Dead. At her new school Nancy meets Kade (from the land of the Goblin King), Sumi (from the land of Confection), and twins Jack and Jill (from the dark Moors). Tragedy strikes shortly after Nancy’s arrival and it’s up to her and her new friends to get to the bottom of things.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones is the story of Jaqueline (Jack) and Jillian (Jill). Brought up  by parents who wanted them to be a certain way (Jack a lady and Jill a tomboy), neither of them are particularly close. When they stumble on the door to the Moors, however, everything changes. Both go their separate ways, one to become a mad scientist’s apprentice, the other the plaything of a vampire. In the Moors they are finally allowed to figure out who they are.

Beneath the Sugar Sky brings us back to the school, where Sumi’s daughter Rini falls from the sky. She’s disappearing and her home, the land of Confection (all Nonsense and sugar), is in danger. There’s just one problem: Sumi has been dead for years. Rini enlists the help of some of the other students to help save her mother. The unlikely group, including a boy who can resurrect skeletons and an ex mermaid, travel to the Halls of the Dead and Confection to try and save Rini before she disappears for good.

To put it plain and simple: This series is freaking fantastic. The different worlds that the author has created are full of vivid and beautiful imagery. Each character and the worlds they came from are unique and full of rich backstory. The way they’re all brought together into the present, trying to figure out how to cope with their loss and lean on each other, is rather touching. I hope to learn of some of the other worlds in future books, because they’re all so fascinating that I just can’t get enough.

The reason I didn’t write separate reviews for each of these books was because I was too busy devouring them in quick succession to even stop and take the time.

The next book, In an Absent Dream, will be out in January of 2019! I can’t wait.

Book Reviews · Books · Fantasy · Middle Grade

ARC Review: City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Cassidy Blake’s parents are The Inspectres, a (somewhat inept) ghost-hunting team. But Cass herself can REALLY see ghosts. In fact, her best friend, Jacob, just happens to be one.

When The Inspectres head to ultra-haunted Edinburgh, Scotland, for their new TV show, Cass—and Jacob—come along. In Scotland, Cass is surrounded by ghosts, not all of them friendly. Then she meets Lara, a girl who can also see the dead. But Lara tells Cassidy that as an In-betweener, their job is to send ghosts permanently beyond the Veil. Cass isn’t sure about her new mission, but she does know the sinister Red Raven haunting the city doesn’t belong in her world. Cassidy’s powers will draw her into an epic fight that stretches through the worlds of the living and the dead, in order to save herself.

via Goodreads

I obtained this ARC when I met Victoria/V.E. Schwab last weekend at BookCon. (Side note: It’s been a whole week since BookCon 2018. So many more weeks to go until the next one. *sigh*)

This one is actually a middle grade book, which I didn’t realize at first, as I read somewhere online that it was a YA novel. Either way, it doesn’t matter to me. A good story is a good story. And Ms. Schwab sure knows how to tell good stories.

This was a fun modern-meets-historical ghost story. I’ll be honest, in the very beginning it felt like it was going to be a little cliche – girl almost dies, doesn’t die, can now see and talk to ghosts. We’ve heard that one before. After a few chapters, however, the story becomes a little more unique.

I really enjoyed the Scottish imagery and the historical background that was incorporated. There’s a lot of creepy elements, which is good for kids who like darker stories. My only complaint is that I would have liked a little more character development, but I suppose there’s more room for that in the sequel.

I’m not sure if fans of the author’s adult books will like this, but if you’re a fan of middle grade literature, I’d recommend this one.

Adult · Book Reviews · Books · Fantasy

Book Review: Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft

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My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Tower of Babel is the greatest marvel in the world. Immense as a mountain, the ancient Tower holds unnumbered ringdoms, warring and peaceful, stacked one on the other like the layers of a cake. It is a world of geniuses and tyrants, of airships and steam engines, of unusual animals and mysterious machines.

Soon after arriving for his honeymoon at the Tower, the mild-mannered headmaster of a small village school, Thomas Senlin, gets separated from his wife, Marya, in the overwhelming swarm of tourists, residents, and miscreants.

Senlin is determined to find Marya, but to do so he’ll have to navigate madhouses, ballrooms, and burlesque theaters. He must survive betrayal, assassination, and the long guns of a flying fortress. But if he hopes to find his wife, he will have to do more than just endure.

via Goodreads

Senlin, oh Senlin. I had so much sympathy for his character. Deceived, disappointed, and dancing with death at nearly every turn, poor Senlin must put down his schoolmaster ways and learn to grow a backbone instead. Time is not on his side. His friends are not on his side. The Tower is not on his side. What is a desperate man to do when he fears he’s lost the love of his life?

The Tower was a fascinating, albeit terrible place. I loved the world that Bancroft created. Each different ringdom of the Tower was so unique. I found the Parlor, which was like one giant play, to be the most fascinating (and disturbing). I wish we could have gotten a glimpse at some of the other ringdoms, in addition to the four that we were introduced to. I imagine each one only gets more bizarre and complicated the higher up the Tower one climbs.

Some people have been calling this a “steampunk” novel, but I disagree with that label. Even though there is the use of steam and mechanics, this felt very different than the typical steampunk setting. This one is unique enough to stand on its own.

There were some good supporting characters in Senlin’s story. A few I found to be predictable, but others surprised me at times. Senlin’s transition from the beginning to the end of the book was excellent. He went from being a reserved, mild-mannered man to one that’s both cunning and somewhat ruthless. The characters he was surrounded by no doubt fueled some of that transition. By the end of the story, even the most wholesome of characters feel like they might be villains. You can’t trust anyone in the Tower!

Overall, I enjoyed this story. I am only giving it 4 stars, however, because I found the story dragging a little bit here and there. Other than that I have no criticism. The author’s creativity and writing is stunning. Definitely worth a read, even if you aren’t big on fantasy.

Adult · Book Reviews · Books · Fantasy · Favorites

Book Review: A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

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My Rating: 10 out of 5 stars

THE BALANCE OF POWER HAS FINALLY TIPPED…
The precarious equilibrium among four Londons has reached its breaking point.
WHO WILL CRUMBLE?
Kell – once assumed to be the last surviving Antari – begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties. And in the wake of tragedy, can Arnes survive?
WHO WILL RISE?
Lila Bard, once a commonplace – but never common – thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials. But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry.
WHO WILL TAKE CONTROL?
And an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown while a fallen hero tries to save a world in decay.

I had a very hard time going to work these past 2 days, and anywhere else where I wasn’t allowed to read. This book was glued to my hand from the day I started it. I stayed up late and woke up early, all so I could squeeze in as many pages as possible. It’s that good.

I loved the first two books in the series, but the third book elevated it to a whole new level. The characters, the plot, the unexpected twists, and the intricate level of detail in this book are absolutely stunning.

Every single character in this book has a unique, strong personality. It’s so interesting to see them all work together during such tumultuous times, especially considering the initial distrust among them. The character development from the first book to the last is fantastic. Watching the way Lila and Kell both grow, not just in their personal relationship, but in their abilities, as well, makes it difficult not to love them. The friendship between Alucard and Lila was a fun one, the love between Alucard and Rhy beautiful. Osaron makes a horrifying villain. His actions are pure evil and it’s hard to predict his next move, given that he doesn’t have a body of his own…There isn’t a single character in this series that wasn’t well written.

There are moments that make you laugh, moments that make you cry, and enough action to keep your heart racing. This book was the perfect conclusion to a perfect story. This series has officially made it to my “favorites” list. I can’t wait to read more of Schwab’s books to see what she has up her sleeves.

…I feel a major book withdrawal coming on.

 

Book Reviews · Books · Fantasy · Young Adult

Book Review: A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas

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My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The Winter Solstice. In a week. I was still new enough to being High Lady that I had no idea what my formal role was to be. If we’d have a High Priestess do some odious ceremony, as lanthe had done the year before. A year. Gods, nearly a year since Rhys had called in his bargain, desperate to get me away from the poison of the Spring Court to save me from my despair. Had he been only a minute later, the Mother knew what would have happened. Where I’d now be. Snow swirled and eddied in the garden, catching in the brown fibers of the burlap covering the shrubs My mate who had worked so hard and so selflessly, all without hope that I would ever be with him We had both fought for that love, bled for it. Rhys had died for it.

via Goodreads 

I talked about my initial reactions to this book in my First Impression Friday post a few days ago. I am a tad disappointed in how my expectations compared to reality.

First, I will start off by saying that the book wasn’t bad, but it didn’t blow me away like the previous books either. More than anything, this book felt like a giant recap of everything that happened in the other books. Maybe that explains why this one was #3.1 in the series, and not book #4? Outside of catching up with each of the characters, there didn’t feel like much of a story line, which was what I found disappointing.

Aside from that, I loved getting to escape back into Velaris and the world of the High Fae. The chapters alternate between different POVs…sort of. The chapters following Feyre and Rhys are in first person, but the ones following the other characters are not. I found this a bit odd. We get a glimpse at the rebuilding of the city in the aftermath of the war. We also get to see how each of the characters is responding to the war and the devastating things that they experienced.

I have some mixed feelings about the progress of the characters and how they’re coping…but I don’t want to open that can of worms because then I’ll have to share too many details.

Overall, I liked it, but I was hoping for way more. I’ll still read the next installment, whenever that comes out.

Adult · Book Reviews · Books · Fantasy · Favorites

Book Review: A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Scwab

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My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift–back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games–an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries–a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life…

via Goodreads

I know I’ve already asked this, but why didn’t I read this series sooner?!

Delilah Bard is an absolute delight. I love her sense of adventure, bravery, recklessness, and aversion to societal norms. She’s definitely my favorite character in the stories. Alucard was a pleasant surprise. I was expecting him to turn out to be the cut-throat, deceptive pirate type, but his character is actually quite charming and complex.

Both Kell and Rhy were different in this book. It was interesting to see their reactions to the events of the previous book. (I have to admit that while I liked Rhy a little better in this book, overall he still gets on my nerves.)

The games were a fun addition to the story, but I’m glad they weren’t overdone. I was a tad concerned that it was going to feel like The Hunger Games. The magic system and the different Londons still blow me away. The attention to detail and explanations are always spot on. Given how hard it is just to create one world, creating multiple versions of it is a rather impressive feat.

…I want to say so much more about this book, but I don’t want to ruin it for anyone.

A Gathering of Shadows was every bit as amazing as the A Darker Shade of Magic was. Filled with action, magic, and plot twists, Schwab makes it impossible to put these books down once you open them. I can’t wait to see what happens!