Books · Fantasy · Favorites · Fiction

Favorite Books of 2019

Hello, friends! I hope you’re all surviving this holiday season. I know I’ve been on the quiet side lately, in terms of blogging, but I hope to get back in the swing of it next year. I guess I just haven’t had much to talk about lately. This time of year usually stresses me out quite a bit, so I tend to be a little more reserved. I don’t even have any new book reviews to share at the moment, as I’ve been rereading a few of the Harry Potter books in preparation for my upcoming trip to Wizarding World. (Omg, I can’t wait!)

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Since we’re about to start a new year, how about a little recap of my favorite books from 2019? As of right now, I’ve read 53 books out of my Goodreads  goal of 47 books. I’m hoping to finish up Half Blood Prince over the next couple of days and bring that number up to 54.

I read some fun books this year, but not too many of them blew me away. (Was I just being picky or did I just miss out on some good ones? I’m not sure.) In no particular order, here were a few at the top of the list:

 

What were your top books in 2019? Anything great that I missed out on and need to check out next year?

 

Books · Fantasy · Fiction · Young Adult

Book Review: The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

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My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

He will be destruction of the crown and the ruination of the throne.

Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold onto. Jude learned this lesson when she released her control over the wicked king, Cardan, in exchange for immeasurable power.

Now as the exiled mortal Queen of Faerie, Jude is powerless and left reeling from Cardan’s betrayal. She bides her time determined to reclaim everything he took from her. Opportunity arrives in the form of her deceptive twin sister, Taryn, whose mortal life is in peril.

Jude must risk venturing back into the treacherous Faerie Court, and confront her lingering feelings for Cardan, if she wishes to save her sister. But Elfhame is not as she left it. War is brewing. As Jude slips deep within enemy lines she becomes ensnared in the conflict’s bloody politics.

More of a clash of Faerie and the mortal world in this book

After devouring the first two Folk of the Air books last year, I was dying to get my hands on the third and final installment. While I enjoyed reading this one, I have to admit that it did not suck me in the way the first two did.

The plot of The Queen of Nothing started off solid, but everything moved along too quickly and the pacing felt off. I suppose that this was due to the shorter length of this book. I did like the fact that the story intertwined the faerie world with the mortal world more than the first two books. I also liked that Jude’s sister, Vivian, became a more prominent character this time around. Sadly, despite being Jude’s twin, I always find Taryn a bit lackluster. Vivian is far more interesting and engaging than Taryn. (Sorry, Taryn.)

It was fun to experience Jude’s character development from book one to book three. I was surprised at how much less dark her personality was this time around, especially considering the events that happened at the end of book two. I felt like the author did a great job at weaving both Jude and Cardan’s personalities together into a very convincing, albeit bizarre, relationship.

The familiar plot twists and character betrayals that we’ve all come to know and love from Black’s books were present in The Queen of Nothing. I just wished there had been a little more meat the the story and a little more time to devote to some of the other characters.

Fantasy · Fiction · Short Stories · Writing

Parade of Lies

“The faeries are coming, the faeries are coming! Mommy, look! The faeries are coming.”

“I know, sweetheart.” Clarice Mayberry smiled sweetly at her daughter before taking a hearty swig from the flask hidden within the depths of her coat. Of course she knew about the faeries. It wasn’t like it had been Jenny’s idea to get up at the ass crack of dawn and take a train all the way to midtown just to see a couple of rubes wearing polyester wings. It had been her idea; she had only planted it in Jenny’s mind and used the poor girl as her excuse for getting up so early.

They’d only been waiting a quarter of an hour, but their fingers and noses had already turned red from the cold. Whoever thought it a good plan to host a parade in the middle of February was clearly a sadist or someone who just hated children. Or, rather, the parents of those children who’d been forced to escort them out to the streets of New York at eight a.m. on a Saturday.

“Mommy, can the faeries see us?” Jenny’s big blue eyes were rounder than usual, threatening to pop from her tiny porcelain face. She could hardly contain her excitement during the train ride. Her six year old mind could barely wrap itself around the fact that the characters from her favorite show were about to collide with her own reality. Clarice didn’t have the heart to tell her that the faeries about to parade down 43rd street weren’t even real.

“Of course they can see us, dear. Why shouldn’t they be able to?” she asked, but by the time the words came out, the girl had fixated her attention elsewhere. After another sip of “mommy juice” and a glance at her watch, Clarice finally relinquished her dignity and plopped down on the curb among the other chattering children.

People were beginning to pack in tightly on the sidewalks. Police and security guards paced back and forth along the street, keeping a close eye on the growing crowd, although none seemed particularly concerned that the group before them was the dangerous type. Clarice sniggered at the thought. Teens wearing brightly colored tutus and matching wigs tossed handfuls of free candy towards the spectators. Finally, at a quarter after nine, a man dressed in head-to-toe in blue came prancing up and down the street with a megaphone, announcing that the show was about to begin.

Clarice stood and took a tight hold of her daughter’s hand. Jenny bounced up and down on the heels of her feet with that crazed look in her eye that only a child intoxicated with copious amounts of sugar could possess. The ground beneath them pulsed with life as music blared from every direction. The children shrieked at the sudden appearance of hundreds of performers in leotards and cheaply made wings. They bounded down the street, waving impossibly long streamers, throwing confetti, and doing back flips over one another. Clarice’s stomach roiled at the sight of it all – at the “faeries” and the obnoxious theatrics. She still couldn’t fathom why the Cirque du Fae was so popular. Even as a television show, it was ghastly. She wished she could find the moron who created it and wrap her pretty little fingers around their neck. Yet, despite her disdain for the popular program, she showed up year after year to observe the annual parade celebrating all things faerie.

A woman with wings painted to look like a monarch butterfly’s came right up to Jenny and handed her a plastic flower from the basket slung over her arm. “Look, Mommy! I got a flower,” she waved the cheap decoration wildly in front of her mother’s face.

But Clarice was hardly paying her any mind. “That’s great, honey,” she muttered, keeping her eyes fixed on the throng around them. She craned her neck to scan the faces behind her, her brow knit in deep concentration. It was impossible to see properly, however, with candy and confetti constantly pelting her in the head. She squeezed herself closer to the barrier blocking the crowd and stared into the faces of every performer that passed, but they were all far too young.

“They have to be here,” she muttered. Forty-five minutes had passed already, meaning she was nearly out of time. “Come on, come on.” Her foot tapped nervously without her realizing. To anyone else, she simply looked like she was moving in time with the music.

“Ladies and gentleman. Children and faeries of all ages.” The echoing voice boomed from the loudspeaker from every direction. Clarice could hardly imagine just how much the tenants of the surrounding buildings must be enjoying the festivities at such an early hour. “Prepare yourselves for the grand finale!”

Within seconds a pink haze was creeping its way towards them, temporarily blocking view of the street and causing everyone’s eyes to water. “Oooh, it’s like the cotton candy clouds on the show!” Jenny declared. Clarice gripped the girl’s hand tighter to prevent her from wandering off and trying to taste the smoke to determine if it did, in fact, taste like cotton candy. Fortunately, the fog faded almost as quickly as it appeared, revealing the parade’s main attraction.

Jenny was rendered speechless as a giant castle rolled towards them, towering several stories high. The bottom portion of the float was designed to look like fluffy white clouds to give the illusion that the castle was flying among them. From each of the windows a faerie or other mythical creature popped its head out and waved. A clear platform jutted out over the crowd from halfway up the castle where a dozen dancers and acrobats performed tricks at once. Even Clarice, who had been doing her best to avoid the entire spectacle paused in her search to gaze up at the nerve wracking display. A female performer, the star of the show, came out and sent the children into a wild frenzy. With a graceful bow she opened her arms wide and revealed the papery wings that attached from her shoulders to her wrist. She looked more like a bat than a faerie, Clarice thought, just as the young woman dove head first from the platform and did a flip in the air.

Suddenly, an ear-piercing scream cut through the air, drowning out the music and laughter surrounding them. Clarice’s head whipped up towards one of the balconies overlooking the parade, where a man and a woman were engaged in a performance of their own. No, not a woman, Clarice observed. A faerie. Not a faerie like the imposters in the parade, but a real faerie. At first glance, she hardly recognized the female up on the balcony. Her appearance had changed a great deal since they’d last seen each other – her hair, once long and lush, had been cut to her chin and had thinned considerably. Everything about her was haggard and covered in filth. Even the large flesh-colored wings that protruded from her back looked like they had seen better days. Clarice’s hand covered her mouth as she watched the dark haired man struggle to restrain the faerie and pull her back through the window from which she came. Even from street level, she could see the fierce blue of the pendant around the man’s neck, bright and mocking her.

The next scream came from Clarice’s own mouth as she let go of Jenny’s hand and pushed her way through the thick crowd, through the candy, glitter, and bullshit. “NOOOOO!” she screeched as the female on the balcony finally freed herself of the man and took a flying leap off the balcony and towards the shocked crowd and the sidewalk below.

“Not again,” Clarice cried. Once again, she was too late.

Books · Fantasy · Favorites · Fiction

Book Review: Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett

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My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

‘Death has to happen. That’s what bein’ alive is all about. You’re alive, and then you’re dead. It can’t just stop happening.’

But it can. And it has. So what happens after death is now less of a philosophical question than a question of actual reality. On the Disc, as here, they need Death. If Death doesn’t come for you, then what are you supposed to do in the meantime? You can’t have the undead wandering about like lost souls. There’s no telling what might happen, particularly when they discover that life really is only for the living…

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As humans, we are often taught to avoid and fear death. In Terry Pratchett’s world, you kinda want Death to be your best friend. Death is just one character in The Reaper Man, but he is the catalyst for the events that take place throughout the book. As his name suggests, he is the literal bringer of death and, afterlife be damned, he wants to start living. 

When Death decides to retire from his career the entire world gets thrown out of balance. People and wizards, like old Windle Poon, can’t even die properly anymore. It’s up to Windle, his new undead friends, and a group of bumbling wizards (of the living variety) to put a stop to all the madness.

I enjoyed all the characters in this story, but Death was by far my favorite. He was insightful and by far the most wise, despite having a childlike innocence at times. His relationships with Miss Flitworth, Binky, and the Death of Rats were surprisingly touching. Pratchett’s achievement at personifying death in such a way that makes you both laugh and really think about the importance of life was sheer brilliance.

 

Books · Fiction · graphic novels · manga · Young Adult

Struggles of a Lazy Book Blogger

I’ve been somewhat lazy the last few weeks in terms of my book reviews. In my defense, my laziness is stemming from the fact that I’ve been utterly exhausted by the time I get home from work in the evenings. We’re in the middle of a huge office move/renovation and I’m pretty much in charge of making things happen…but you really don’t want to hear about that. What you want to hear about is the books. I feel a tad guilty for not writing reviews of any of these, but there’s no use in worrying about it, is there?

Here are a few that I’ve read recently, but have been too lazy to review:

  • Warcross by Marie Lu (Rating: 4 out of 5 stars)
  • Death Note (I and II) by Tsugumi Ohba (Rating: 4 out of 5 stars)
  • Scarlet by Marissa Meyer (Rating: 3 out of 5 stars)
  • Preludes & Nocturnes (Sandman #1) by Neil Gaiman (Rating: 5 out of 5 stars)

Here’s what I’m currently reading (that I do plan on reviewing):

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Let’s chat! Have you read any of the above books? What’s the best book you’ve read recently? 

Adult · Books · Fantasy · Favorites · Fiction

Book Review: Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb

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My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

King Shrewd is dead at the hands of his son Regal. As is Fitz—or so his enemies and friends believe. But with the help of his allies and his beast magic, he emerges from the grave, deeply scarred in body and soul. The kingdom also teeters toward ruin: Regal has plundered and abandoned the capital, while the rightful heir, Prince Verity, is lost to his mad quest—perhaps to death. Only Verity’s return—or the heir his princess carries—can save the Six Duchies.

But Fitz will not wait. Driven by loss and bitter memories, he undertakes a quest: to kill Regal. The journey casts him into deep waters, as he discovers wild currents of magic within him—currents that will either drown him or make him something more than he was. Goodreads

Overall, this series has become one of my favorites. The world of political intrigue, corruption, and the magical veins running beneath the surface far exceeded any expectations I had when I first picked it up. That being said, my feelings towards the final book were not quite as strong as the first two.

The story started out promising – Fitz just came back from the freaking dead! – and for the most part, I enjoyed it. As always, the storytelling and details are so stunning that it’s hard not to get sucked in. Poor Fitz, he’s gotten his second chance at life and, once again, he’s sucked in the middle of a political and familial shit show. The personal turmoil and reflections in this book definitely showed how much Fitz had grown since the first book. And how much he has lost.

Despite all the horrible things he’s witnessed and the arduous journey he embarks on, there is one thing that remains constant in his life: Nighteyes. Oh Nighteyes. I adore Nighteyes. He is, hands down, the best character in this entire series and even if this book had turned out to be horrible, I would have read it anyway because of Nighteyes. The relationship that Fitz has with his Wit companion is more touching than any other relationship in the series. Or any other book, period. The new characters we were introduced to kept things interesting, although I can’t say that I was particularly attached to any of them. (By the end, Kettle got on my nerves.) I loved that we got to see more of the Fool and learn about his role in Fitz’s life.

I appreciated this book for all it’s details and intricacies, but was left feeling a little disappointed with the last quarter of it. Without wanting to give too much away, I will say that there was a lot of big and important things going on. Unfortunately, I felt the explanations of these things were glossed over. Of the explanations we did get, they hardly scratched the surface. I kept itching for more and coming up with a million more questions that never went fully answered.

I felt like the ending was a bit bittersweet, although I’m not sure if that was intended or not. It definitely didn’t go in the direction I expected, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Despite the few things that bothered me about this one, I still really enjoyed it and would read it again in a heartbeat, if not for Nighteyes alone. ❤

Books · Fantasy · Fiction · Writing

How YOU Doin?

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I know, I know. I kinda suck at blogging as of late. Fortunately, we’ve finally finished up our crazy season at work, so I should be able to find more time for reading and blogging again. Now that we’e done with all that nonsense, I decided to take some time off to relax.

Bwahahahaha.

Just kidding. I’m terrible at relaxing. I actually decided to celebrate by beginning the rereading and editing process for the book I wrote! Since finishing the first draft  back in January (it feels like it was so long ago) I’ve been itching to reread the the entire thing from the beginning. Everyone advised me to give it time though, so that I can look at things with a fresher perspective. They were right, of course, and I’m glad I did wait. Hopefully I won’t run into too many snags while editing!

I’ve still been reading, even though I’ve been busy. I started book three in the Farseer trilogy this week and I’m already sad because I don’t want the series to end. I tried getting into King of Scars, as well, but I wasn’t feeling it and set it aside for now.

So how YOU doin’? What are you currently reading?