Adult · Books · Fantasy · Mystery

Book Review: Storm Front by Jim Butcher

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1)

HARRY DRESDEN — WIZARD

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he’s the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things—and most don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a—well, whatever. There’s just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks.

So when the police bring him in to consult n a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name. And that’s when things start to get interesting.

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(I know, I know. I’m super late to the party on The Dresden Files series, but I’m trying to make up for it now.)

Harry Dresden is not only a smart-mouthed, geeky, slightly disgruntled investigator, but he’s a wizard to boot. Most people can’t even fathom the things Harry has come up against, but to him it’s just another part of the job.

His latest job is a perplexing one that brings him face to face with a mafia boss, vampires, demons, and some seriously ****ed up dark magic. People are being murdered quickly and it’s only a matter of time before the killer takes out Harry, too.

I really enjoyed the face-paced story that Butcher created. The details of the case sucked me in from the very beginning and kept me up at night. (This is saying something, because I don’t typically read many crime/mystery stories.) Even more enthralling was the world that the story takes place in, one that is very much like the modern world, but peppered with magic and monsters throughout. The characters (even the minor ones) were well-crafted and colorful. My favorite was Harry’s lab/potions assistant Bob, who is actually a faerie spirit bound in a human skull.

Harry’s attitude towards women felt a tad cliche and outdated, but considering this book was published twenty years ago, I can give it a pass. We’ll see how the more recent volumes hold up.

Adult · Books · Fantasy · Favorites · Sci-Fi

Book Review: Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Gideon the Ninth (The Locked Tomb, #1)

Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.

(Goodreads)

Holy mother of skeletons, this book was utterly brilliant. Gideon is the delightfully tough, raunchy, and sarcastic anti-hero that we all need. She’s gone from orphan, to warrior-in-training, to cavalier under the servitude of the Ninth House. Despite her hardships and her failed escape attempts, she remains motivated and strong when the weakest of bones would crumble. The relationship between Gideon and her necromancer, Harrow, is a rocky one, but the dynamic between the two characters is captivating. It’s disastrous and infuriating, and, yet, you can’t help but root for the two to get their shit together and get on the same page.

The competition and the events surrounding it are thrilling. It’s incredibly difficult not to get sucked into learning more about the characters of each of the different houses. The competition is shrouded in mystery and murder. It feels like a mash up of Clue meets Lovecraftian horror with a lot of skeletons.

I found it a little difficult to follow the backstory of the Ninth House and the empire in the beginning, which is my only real complaint. The story manages to be dark, imaginative, and hilarious with a main character you instantly want to befriend. Definitely my favorite book of the year, so far.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Book Reviews · Books · Fantasy · Fiction · Sci-Fi

Recent Reads (and Half-Assed Excuses)

Hey. Is this thing on? *taps mic* It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

I wish I had some positive news to share with everyone. I wish I had a dozen fabulous book reviews to post. I wish I had pictures from all the fabulous vacations I’ve been on. I wish the Doctor had whisked me away in the TARDIS six months ago and took me to another planet…one without COVID and burgeoning fascist dictators. I wish I had something vaguely interesting to share. Alas, I do not.

I’ll write a separate post soon about everything that’s been going on, but for now let’s talk about books! I’ve been really slack on my book reviews the last few months, not because I haven’t been reading, but because I’ve been re-reading a lot of old favorites. Here are a few of the newer (new to me, anyway) titles I’ve read and really enjoyed this year:

Tithe by Holly Black – “Sixteen-year-old Kaye is a modern nomad. Fierce and independent, she travels from city to city with her mother’s rock band until an ominous attack forces Kaye back to her childhood home. There, Kaye soon finds herself an unwilling pawn in an ancient power struggle between two rival faerie kingdoms- a struggle that could very well mean her death.” (My Rating: 4 Stars)

Unbreakable Storm by Patrick Dugan – “After escaping the deadly Gauntlet, Tommy Ward and his friends struggle to come to terms with the price they paid for their survival. Still on the run from The Protectorate and Reclaimers, a visitor appears with a dire warning about their missing friend, dragging them into a conflict that has raged since the beginning of time. To rescue his friend and protect everyone he cares about, Tommy must face his toughest foe yet – the revenge-obsessed Grim Reaper.” (My Rating: 4 Stars)

Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri – “Mehr is the illegitimate daughter of an imperial governor and an exiled Amrithi mother she can barely remember, but whose face and magic she has inherited. When Mehr’s power comes to the attention of the Emperor’s most feared mystics, she must use every ounce of will, subtlety, and power she possesses to resist their cruel agenda. Should she fail, the gods themselves may awaken seeking vengeance.” (My Rating: 4 Stars)

I promise there will be some actual book reviews soon! What are some of your favorites from 2020 so far?

Books · Fantasy

Book Review: Storm Forged by Patrick Dugan

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My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Tommy Ward just wanted to go through life like everybody else. Go to school, make friends, meet girls, play video games. You know, the stuff normal high school kids do. But Tommy isn’t normal, and the silver collar around his neck lets everybody know it.

Tommy is one of the Gifted, people born with special abilities that are locked down by the collars. But being a Gifted was outlawed after massive terrorist attacks destroyed half the world’s population. Now Tommy’s father is trapped as a participant in a terrible game show, where the only prize is death.

Tommy and his friends vow to save his dad, but without their powers, how will they do it? Tommy is about to find out that everything has a price, and sometimes you have to pay more than you can afford.
Goodreads

When I saw that this book was described as a cross between X-men and Hunger Games I was already sold. How can you go wrong with a lash up like that? I mean, I guess it could go horribly wrong if the story sucks, but fortunately that was not the case here. This was a fun and thrilling book from start to finish.

The themes in this book – Gifteds persecuted for being “different” than everyone else, the violence and hatred directed towards them, the indifference from the normal people – feel chilling relevant to everything that is happening in the world right now. I have respect for any author that can tell a good story, but even more so to ones who can tell a fantasy story in parallel to current real world events.

The characters in this story are all interesting and relatable. I enjoyed the sneak peeks we got at each of their special abilities and look forward to seeing how their gifts get used later in the series. Even more enjoyable were the strong relationships in this book. Far too often we are presented with stories about teens with either poor or no relationship with their parents and fragile friendships. That was not the case here at all. Tommy, his mom, and his friends all leaned on each other and valued each other, which was incredibly refreshing.

This one gets two thumbs up from me. I can’t wait to jump into book two!

(Here’s a link to the book’s Amazon page, in case anyone else is interested in checking it out.)

Books · Life · Television

The latest in nerdy COVID fashion

In my last couple of posts I mentioned some of the things I’ve been doing to help pass the time during quarantine. Since then I have found another new hobby: making masks. It’s practically impossible to find disposable masks anywhere unless you’re a healthcare or food service worker so I made a couple of my own for those times where I am forced to be in public. Luckily I already had lots of fun fabrics on hand for this project!

Check out my Avengers and Explodng TARDIS masks!

In addition to creating masks, I’ve been working my way through a couple of books. I just finished Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows last week. (Yes, I read it again. Stop judging me!) This week I’m reading Empire of Sand, which has been fantastic so far.

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I also finished binge-watching Marvel’s Runaways. Even though the last season wasn’t quite as good as the first two, I still really enjoyed this show. I wish it hadn’t been cancelled already. I guess I’ll have to go re-read some of the comics to hold me over.

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Did you watch Runaways yet (It’s available on Disney +)? Let me know what you thought!

 

Book Reviews · Books · Fantasy · Favorites

Book Review: Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire

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My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

When Jack left Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children she was carrying the body of her deliciously deranged sister–whom she had recently murdered in a fit of righteous justice–back to their home on the Moors.

But death in their adopted world isn’t always as permanent as it is here, and when Jack is herself carried back into the school, it becomes clear that something has happened to her. Something terrible. Something of which only the maddest of scientists could conceive. Something only her friends are equipped to help her overcome.

Eleanor West’s “No Quests” rule is about to be broken. Again.

Goodreads

I was pretty excited when I heard this book was coming out and that we would be returning to the Moors – the setting we had been first introduced to in Down Among Sticks and BonesWhile I have immensely enjoyed all of the books in the Wayward Children series, I felt like the Moors was the one world that was still shrouded in the most mystery. Getting to go back and discover a little more of it was an absolute treat.

The tables have turned and Jack is no longer trying to save her sister, Jill. The complicated and strained relationship they already share is further explored in this book in a way that will make you question who you’re supposed to be rooting for. In addition to Jack, some familiar faces from Miss West’s school make a reappearance. Christopher, Sumi, Cora, and Kade once again jump into the role of playing the fearless heroes, even though it’s not their own worlds they are trying to save.

As always, McGuire does a spectacular job at immersing the reader in a world that is both beautiful and terrible. The concept of death is fleeting. Love knows no boundaries. And there is nothing that a little bit of lightening can’t fix. By the end, you’ll wonder if everything you thought you knew about “monsters” has been wrong.

 

 

Life · travel

Wizarding World of Harry Potter weekend!

I did it. I finally got my letter to Hogwarts. And by “got my letter” I mean I paid a bunch of money for tickets to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando. I’ve been a fan of the series for 20 years now and have been dying to visit the theme park ever since it opened. Let me just tell you, after years and years of waiting, it was everything I hoped it would be.

For my first day I got park-to-park passes, which allowed me to ride the Hogwarts express between the two theme parks. Walking thorough the brick wall and stumbling onto Diagon Alley was exactly like I always imagined it was in the books. It felt just like Harry’s first visit where he was simply in awe of everything and didn’t know where to look next. Standing there, looking at all the shops around me, with the sounds of the workers inside the Daily Prophet spilling out of the door next to me, children wearing their house robes and waving their wands, and seeing the dragon perched atop Gringotts in the distance, my eyes honestly got a little teary. The only thing missing was Hagrid.

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I spent my morning walking around Diagon Alley, checking out all the shops and amazing window displays. I heard the bird chirping from inside the vanishing cabinet at Borgin & Burkes, where I went to look at dark and dangerous artifacts. I chuckled at the U-No-Poo and Puking Pastilles display at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes and watched a toy version of Delores Umbridge wheel overhead on a unicycle, shouting “I will have order.” I watched the wand ceremony at Ollivanders, spotted a Crumble-Horned Snorkack in the Magical Menagerie, and had an enchanted mirror tell me how lovely I was in Madame Malkin’s. I had my very first butterbeer (and butterbeer mustache) and ate lunch at The Leaky Cauldron. I also rode the Escape from Gringotts ride inside the bank, which was super cool! Every detail in the park was so spot on and true to the books that I was simply blown away.

Outside Diagon Alley were some other familiar sights. I caught a glimpse of Kreacher in the window at number 12 Grimmauld Place and took a look inside the Knight Bus before making my way over to Platform 9 3/4 in King’s Cross Station. The short train ride was a fun, mini ride (although the voice they used for Hermione sounded nothing like her), which brought us right into Hogsmeade station.

To be honest, I was slightly less impressed with Hogsmeade overall. It was cool to check out, but there was less to do there and less stuff to look at. I did pay a visit to Honeydukes while I was there though to buy some fun sweet treats to bring back to my hotel room. (I tried the exploding bon bons and peppermint toads.) Of course, the piece de resistance was a visit to Hogwarts castle. *squeeee* The ride inside Hogwarts was awesome (despite the fact that I got slightly motion sick, lol). I wish I could have gotten a video or some photos of the Quidditch pitch, the whomping willow, or the dementors for you guys. Just trust me that it was a fantastic ride. You’ll need to ride it yourselves some day if you can stomach it.

I went back to Diagon Alley my second day and revisited some of my favorite spots. I also decided to give butterbeer softserve a try…at 9 in the morning…because I can do whatever I want on vacation. 🙂 Honestly, I liked the butterbeer ice cream even more than the liquid version, which was a little too sweet for me.

I checked out a little bit of the rest of the Universal parks while I was there, but none of it was as special to me as the Wizarding World parts of the parks. I was exhausted and a little tired of people and lines by the time I went home Monday morning, but I loved every minute of my visit and can’t wait to go back someday.

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.

Writing

Readers Wanted

I can’t believe it’s December already. While I am not normally a big fan of the holidays, this year I’m trying hard to get in the mood. Today was ugly sweater day at work, which is one of the few holiday traditions that I always appreciate.

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Now that NaNoWriMo is over I suppose I should start focusing on whatever comes next in terms of getting my book published. That means I need your help, lovely readers. I know that some of you regularly act as beta readers for other bloggers and authors. Well, now I guess it’s my turn to ask for your assistance. To be honest, I am terrified to let others read my work due to my own heavy self-criticism (I’m sure plenty of you can relate), but I know it’s an important step in the writing process, so I’m trying to push past it. Up to this point, I’ve only had a couple of people read my manuscript from start to finish. There have been others who offered to beta read for me but ended up not having enough time to finish the job. That’s why I am asking for a few beta readers who are committed to actually finishing my novel and are willing to provide constructive criticism and feedback.

Here’s what I’m looking for:

– Someone (preferably someone familiar with the fantasy and/or YA genres) willing to read my manuscript within a relatively short period (3-4 weeks). I know the holidays are coming up and that people get busy, so if you don’t think you will be able to finish reading the book within a month, please don’t volunteer.

-Feedback on various aspects of the book:

  • Does the story flow well?
  • Did you get bored while reading this?
  • Were there any major plot gaps?
  • Can you relate to the characters?
  • What did you like/dislike?

Please keep in mind, I am asking for your help because I value your opinions, so any other feedback you wish to provide will be welcome.

If you’d like to volunteer to be a beta reader for me, please leave me a comment (or send me a DM on Twitter).