Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Girl In The Tower

Title: The Girl In The Tower
Author: Katherine Arden
Genre: Fantasy, Folklore
Source: Library hardback
Rating: 4 out of 5 paws

The Bear has been defeated, but because of it Vasya has been cast out of her village labeled a witch.  Instead of living life in a convent or allowing herself to be married to some man, Vasya decides to travel the world, see all that she can see.  She disguises herself as a boy and ventures out into the woods atop her grand horse. She encounters some bandits and after a narrow escape she stumbles upon a monastery which happens to be Sasha's monastery.  She earns the admiration of the Grand Prince, but must keep up the pretenses of being a boy.  She begins to notice things in Moscow that don't seem to add up and begins to realize the Grand Prince's kingdom is under threat, a threat that feasts and drinks wine with him.  But is it too late for her to stop things that are already in motion?

The Girl In The Tower is the sequel to The Bear and The Nightengale which may just be one of my favorite fantasy/folklore books so far this year. Just like The Bear and The Nightengale, this book revolves around the Russian folk lore of the frost-demon.  It is filled with elements of folk-lore, religion, politics, culture and fantastical elements. 

Vasya wants nothing more than to be her own person and not be confined to what society says she needs to be and how to act.  While she may feel like she is still wild young girl she once was, she grow immensely in this novel and forms ideal beyond that of simply not wanting to marry or go to a convent.  Readers see her enjoy being an advisor to the Grand Prince and finally being able to stand up for herself and be taken seriously.  Her voice is finally heard even if it is as a boy.  To her, that is a freeing experience.  Her shift into maturity happens so naturally that by the end of the novel you think to yourself, wow she grew tremendously in this novel, and you can't wait to see her in the next one.

Kathrine Arden's writing is beautifully lyrical and poetic.  It was easy to get lost in her world and forget everything in the real world, I almost forgot to go back to work after lunch.  Every character introduced plays an important part, there are no "small roles" in this novel and I love that.  I love that readers can feel connected to every character even Katya in the beginning.  While Vasya isn't out right romantically involved with anyone she feels a love towards Morozko.  I think he can win everyone's heart, he won mine!  I almost want a story focused on him.
Every time you take one path, you must live with the memory of the other: of a life left unchosen. Decide as seems best, one course or the other; each way will have its bitter with its sweet.

This is probably my favorite quote from the book.  It says so much within these two sentences that define the series and life in general.  After reading it I paused and thought about what those words meant for me, for my life and the path I have chosen.  From start to finish you find yourself melting into the words of Katherine Arden.  There is no better way to describe it.

I highly recommend this novel, and will keep my eye out for the third book and feel like I need to buy all versions of this book.  Check it out.

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Wishing Spell

Title: The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell
Author: Chris Colfer
Genre: Children's book, Children's Fantasy
Source: Library Hardback
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 paws

Twins, Alex and Connor Bailey have just celebrated their 12th birthday, one year after the death of their father.  They both struggle in school and their mom is working hard to make ends meet.  For their birthday their grandma comes to visit and gifts them with a story book: The Land of Stories.  Alex becomes obsessed with the book and locks herself in her room.  One day she confides in Connor about the book making sounds and glowing.  Then they fall into the book and go on an epic quest to find the ingredients for the Wishing Spell so they can go home.  But this is not going to be an easy task as they have to travel to different kingdoms to get items that are rather sentimental to their owners such as Cinderella's glass slipper or bark from Red Riding Hood's basket.  But the Evil Queen is also hunting for these books as well as the Bad Wolf club out hunting for the kids to stop them.  Will the twins find the items they need before the Evil Queen?  Will they find their way home in time or are they trapped inside the Land of Stories forever?

I am a fan of Glee and when I saw the Chris Colfer who played Kurt had written a book of course I wanted to read it.  It is a book that tends to be up my alley with taking a different look at classic fairy tales that we have grown up with and know so well.  Colfer takes a very different look at these tales and comes with explanations for things that sometimes don't add up such as how can Snow White, Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), and Cinderella all marry Prince Charming??  Easy they are brothers!!

This was a fun book to read and the world he creates is beautiful.  He fills it with interesting and charming characters and gives fairy tale fans a different view of these characters.  The writing could be a little...simplistic at times, but then again this was a book geared towards middle school children not 30 year old women.  He tells the story rather than showing the story that some readers would be more used to, but again the way he tells the story gets a younger reader interested and entertained.  Longer sentences with a lot of description may not appeal to a reader of that age.  There is a certain beautiful quality to Colfer's writing that brings the tale to life.  You can tell there is a talent for story telling within these pages.

Colfer has a lot to offer within his book; it is an enchanting, enthralling tale that sends it's main characters on a magical scavenger hunt.  There is something new in each chapter.  I thought I had the small mystery solved, and I was only half right, but it was still entertaining to find out certain twists and turns to the tale.  I enjoyed how he gives the Evil Queen a small back story and makes her not so evil after all. 

While there were many things great about this book, there were some things that dropped the rating down a bit such as the over use of the same description: Steam coming from ears/nose/mouth, oddly placed similes, rigid dialogue.  Despite all that overall I thought it was a good book, and am interested to see where he takes the series. I felt it was a cute story that I can a younger reading and enjoying.  I think this is a great book that would get children not only using their imagination, but interested in reading on a bigger level.  It draws on stories they already know and can get them thinking about the stories they are reading.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Red Rising

Title: Red Rising
Author: Pierce Brown
Genre: Sci Fi/Fantasy
Source: Paperback
Rating:  DNF

Darrow is a member of lowest caste in society.  Even when his group makes enough to earn additional supplies it is given to someone else.  He lives his life believing he is making life suitable on Mars.  But then his kin are betrayed and his wife taken away and killed.  He discovers that humanity has reached the surface years ago and his kind have been forced to be slaves for those in the surface cities.  Darrow sacrifices everything he knows to infiltrate the system and is then forced to compete for his life against the best of the Gold society.  Can he bring down his enemies?  Will his sacrifices be in vain or will he prove successful?

I had seen those book on the shelves at stores and it kept popping up as a recommended read.  The premise sounds interesting and something I might like.  But I could not get into it.  I tried for a few chapters and felt nothing compelling me to read the book farther.  I had no emotions for the characters even when Darrow losses Eo, I felt nothing, and I should have.  People kept telling me to keep with it and it gets better...but it does not. I couldn't finish it.

The characters are completely unrealistic.  In the opening sequence we see Darrow have a complete disregard for not only himself but his team.  He is hotheaded and would not listen to his crew when they told him to wait, and surprise it works out for him and everyone is clapping him on the back.  Wait...he just endangered all their lives but yes lets celebrate his cockiness.  We are meant to feel for him as he is of the lowest castes and has not had the privileges of the Gold caste and is therefore completely uneducated and na├»ve in a sense.

I feel like the book was trying to make a statement, some sort of message but it got lost along the way.  It being compared to Hunger Games and other dystopian novels and I didn't get the feel of any of that other than the kid from the lower class gets pitted against peers from other societies.  The writing is difficult to follow and understand.  There were times I had to go back and re-read things to make sure I got what Brown was trying to say.  Granted there are moments when the book has some great quotes such as:

"  will dive to hell in hopes of one day rising to freedom."

but all the preceding sentences were choppy and short:

"I will rise.  I will attend the Academy.  I will learn to lead fleets.  I will win.  I will sharpen myself into a sword.  I will give my soul."

There could have been a greater effect on the reader if the sentence structure was different and appealing.  This book was not appealing.  It is tiring to read and exhausting, it makes the writing flat and hard to evoke emotions.  The novel feels like it tries to hard to be something, to be an epic political tale of triumph, but it falls short...way way short.  I do not recommend.

Thursday, May 10, 2018


Title: Wintersong
Author: S. Jae-Jones
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Source: Library Hardback
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Liesl grew up on the tales of the Goblin King, Lord of Mischief and Ruler of the Underworld. Since childhood he was also the muse to her music, the inspiration for her compositions. As she grows older and puts aside childish memories, the Goblin King and all her fantasies must be forgotten in favor of being the daughter she needs to be.  When her sister Kathe is taken by the goblins, Liesl challenges the king to a game, she wins he lets Kathe go.  He wins, he gets Liesl as his bride. But there is a catch, the life of a maiden must be given to the land in order for it survive according to the old laws. There is not rebirth, no death, nothing will grow and flourish. Liesl then offers herself in marriage to the Goblin King.  As time goes Liesl discovers her passion for music remains within the Goblin King and she realizes she loves him.  But the longer she remains in his bride, her life fades.  Will she pay the ultimate sacrifice so that the world above may live?  Will she choose love of her husband over love of her family?

I have seen this book around everywhere and had it on my list for a little while.  Then one of my best friends recommended it, so I grabbed it.  Once I started reading it I got the feel of many different folklore and fairy tales mixed into this story.  It is not a cutesy fairy tale, it has its darker moments which is reflective of Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti.  Goblin Market is basically a tale of goblins in a market trying to lure young women into their realm with fruits like peaches.  Once the girls eat the fruit nothing can satisfy their hunger until they are once again with the goblins.  Soon because they cannot get the fruit again, they die.  There is more to it, but that is the gist of it. 

First I will say my Goblin King will first and always be David Bowie as Jareth in Laberynth so every time he was in a scene, that is who I pictured.  I don't think this was Jae-Jones' intention, but that's what happens when a Laberynth fangirl reads a book with a goblin king right?   Granted a lot of things about this Goblin King did remind me of Jareth, down to the mismatched eyes (really?). I wanted his image to be different, but I couldn't shake Bowie from my mind.  I have read people thinking this book will be like the Laberynth, but it is not.  Do not go into this book with that expectation.  I enjoyed the mystery around the Goblin King and that there seemed to be more depth to him that what meets the eyes, to both the readers and Liesl. 

The writing for this novel is eerily beautiful and chills you to the bone at times.  The words Jae-Jones is beautifully chosen and create quotes that are endless. Liesl is a spitefire willing to do anything to save her sister, she fights and sacrifices, even giving herself up for marriage to the King so Kathe may live. The Goblin King is ever the trickster, changing thing up, saying one thing but meaning something else.  But then they marry and everything changes.  He becomes a submissive, almost weak being, and apparently a Christian.  Not that I dislike that, but it didn't fit with a character such as a goblin king who would honor the old laws rather than God's laws.  And Liesl becomes cruel and angry.  All she wants to do is "consummate" their marriage and is angered when he rejects her body stating he wanted her soul, her heart.  But she will have nothing of it, and borderline forces herself on him or tries to guilt him into it.  I am not a fan of that.

There was no romance building other than the two discussing music and playing music together.  We don't see them exploring caves together or them sharing the inner parts of themselves which granted that's what the king wanted but we don't actually see the actions to lead to that other than the sex scenes.  I did like the use of music throughout the book, and how he wanted the music within, the part of her she hid from everyone else.

I would continue to recommend this book.  It felt more meh to me than fantastic.  I will continue to read the series to see how things will play out.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Forgotten Ones

Title: The Forgotten Ones
Author: Steena Holmes
Genre: Women's Fiction
Source: Ebook from Netgally
Rating: 4 out of 5 paws

 ** I received a copy of this book from Netgally in exchange for an honest review**

Elle has grown  up with only her mother, a mother who keeps things hidden from her and seems to have emotional breakdowns at the drop of a hat.  Elle fears a part of her mother exists within her.  She tries to hold on to the memories and fairy tales her mother used to tell her to help chase away the bad dreams.  When Elle discovers she grandfather is alive and on his deathbed within the hospital where she works.  Against her mother's wishes she visits him and hears his stories.  But as he tells his story, there are more questions and secrets.  As frustration builds she tries to push her mother to remember a past she dreads.  As horrible as the past was, Elle continues to listen to his stories to discover the secrets that lie deep within her family, within her.

The Forgotten Ones  is one of the most compelling novels I have read so far this year.  It is one of those novels that will break your heart and suck you into the story and refuses to let go. I was interested in the story from the very beginning and I couldn't put it down, not even to go to work.  I wanted to know more find answers the same way Elle wanted answers.  The emotions this book evoked within me hasn't happened in a long time.  This was my first novel by Steena Holmes, and my first "women's fiction" novel and I have to wonder why I haven't read Holmes before.

The book goes between David and Elle's perspectives, and at the beginning of each chapter it tells you who is thinking/speaking so you know how's mind we are in each time.  This gives the reader the ability to get insight on both characters and their emotions and feelings.  While the past David talks about is haunting and chilling, it is beautifully written in a way that brings tears to your eyes.  He peels back the layers of family drama, but he reveals to Charlie it is only 1 aspect of the family's past he is revealing.  So I have to there more?  What else could have happened in this family with Gertie's mental health and Anna Marie?

I don't know if you would say the story was fast paced, nor was it slow.  It progressed at a sensible rate, I just read it fast.  I devoured it as the suspense at finding out the deep family secret was killing me. I was getting frustrated that no one was giving Elle the answers she so desperately needed.  I thought I had one detail of the book figured out, but it appears I may have been wrong, I am not sure, I will have to go back to read the ending again to be sure.

I fell in love with this book, I find it difficult to put into words how wonderful this book was.  I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys women's literature, family secrets, and a good suspenseful tale.  I loved it.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Handlers of Dragons

Title: Handles of Dragons
Author: Kim Cormack
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
Source: Ebook from author
Rating: 5 out of 5

This is the fourth book in the Children of Ankh series.  Kayn has discovered not only is she a dragon, but she is also Lexi's sister and Seth's daughter.  ALOT for her to handle at once.  She and Zach need to strengthen their bond if he is to be successful as her handler.  Things are going okay for her until Kevin gives her a flower from their childhood and she throws him off a balcony.  Then Lexi kills someone, so as punishment the two dragons and their handlers are sent on a few missions with NO contact with the rest of the clan.  The purpose is for the dragons to bond together and with their handlers.  Things tend to get a little dirty when Abaddon enter the mix along with some other creatures.  Kayn needs to learn how to control not only her dragon powers, but also her conduit and Guardian powers as well.  How is one girl supposed to handle it all?

I have been a fan of Kim Cormack's since the beginning of the series, and have yet to be disappointed with her work.  What can I say that hasn't already been said by myself or other reviewers?  This book picks up where the last one left off with Kayn discovering the truth about her lineage and her powers.  On top of needing to control her thoughts and feelings, Kayn must also learn to control new powers.  This is not a standalone novel, you do need to read the previous novels in order to understand the intricacies of the storyline.

Kim is able to weave together a tale that includes everything from dark humor to action/adventure and even a little romance.  No other author I have read has been able to bring about such humor in regards to two petite women going on a murder spree.  I love that the dragons are two women that on the outside people wouldn't assume are bad-ass, but then they single handedly kill thousands of demons and evil beings.  She also includes humor on various other things, I loved the mention of Kayn thanking someone simply because she was Canadian and that what they do, how could that not bring about a chuckle or two.

I am excited to see what Kim is going to do in the next book with the things that we have found out.  I almost wanted Kayn to get control of at least one of her powers or her unlocking something specific within Grey along with his fire ability.  It feels like there is a lot building up to something grander and more will be revealed in the next book.  I know we are nearing the end of the series as well and I hope Kim will continue to write and tell the story, maybe something from Triad or with the brothers.

If you fancy a good urban fantasy about immortal warriors this is for you.  If you fancy an action adventure with a lot of battles and fighting, this is for you.  Heck I'd say this was the book for anyone.  It's an intense novel that makes for a great read.