Fantasy · Fiction · Short Stories · Young Adult

Book Review: How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories (The Folk of the Air, #3.5)

Once upon a time, there was a boy with a wicked tongue.

Before he was a cruel prince or a wicked king, he was a faerie child with a heart of stone. Holly Black reveals a deeper look into the dramatic life of Elfhame’s enigmatic high king, Cardan. This tale includes delicious details of life before The Cruel Prince, an adventure beyond The Queen of Nothing, and familiar moments from The Folk of the Air trilogy, told wholly from Cardan’s perspective.

Cardan is one of the most hated faeries in all of Elfhame. This made me a little sad in the other The Folk of the Air books, as it seemed to me that Cardan was simply misunderstood. Sure, he says and does terrible things, but when you consider his upbringing, can you really blame him?

How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories is a collection of short stories, taking us deeper into the life and mind of Cardan. We get a glimpse of Cardan’s childhood, when he first meets the troll, Aslog. She tells him a story, which we soon realize, sticks with him throughout the course of his life. We also get to relive some moments that we’ve already seen, only this time they’re through Cardan’s eyes and not Jude’s. Telling the story this way definitely changed my perspective of certain key moments of Cardan and Jude’s relationship (in a good way).

I liked the way that each story was told in a faerie tale-esque manner, complete with beautiful and whimsical illustrations. Like with most fairy tales, these stories remind us that not everything is as it seems and that (sometimes) the villain really isn’t all that bad.

Books · Fantasy · Favorites · Fiction

Book Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

My Rating: 6 out of 5

A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.

A young woman makes a deal with the darkness to have more time. What she ends up with is three hundred years. Three hundred years where nobody remembers her name or her face. Three hundred years and absolutely no way to leave a mark upon the world.

Then, one day, Addie stumbles into a bookstore and everything changes…

This was a beautiful – tragic, but beautiful – story about life, consequences, and the gift of time. It is a story about how far humans will go just to be remembered.

This story blew me away. I was expecting more of fantasy story, but this was part fantasy, part historical fiction. We get to glimpse Addie’s life over the course of three hundred years, from her early years in France to modern day New York City. Addie has lived through it all. She’s fought her way through wars, has watched the world grow and change, has watched history and culture being made. Addie has lived a dazzling, yet lonely life, with no one’s company except for that of the devil who cut her a deal.

When Addie meets Henry she finally finds someone who understands her and sees her for who she truly is. Their story is a touching one, about two people struggling to be loved and to be seen in a world that too easily forgets.

The relationships in this book are deep and complex. While I loved all of them, my favorite was that between Addie and the world itself. In the course of three hundred years she learns to navigate the world, survive during harsh times, yet still finds beauty and awe everywhere she looks. Addie has such a realistic and humble perspective on what it means to really live and I greatly admire her for it.

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.

Goodreads

(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.

 

 

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?

 

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.