When Fiction Becomes Reality

If you’re a loyal (or even an occasional) reader, you know that I ❤ New Orleans with a capital ❤ . I love the history, the food, the people, the music… There is always something going on in NOLA, and if you’re there and are bored, it’s your own fault. My darling husband and I just returned from NOLA, where we spent several days doing some touristy stuff (no matter how many times you visit, the nighttime ghost tours of the French Quarter are always a must), and a lot of wandering around on our own.

There’s no real way to adequately describe the personality of a city like New Orleans. It’s schizophrenic in the best possible way.  Every street has its own style, its own flair, its own history, and its own look. This is why you can walk a mere block or two and have it seem like you’ve stepped into another world.  The Vieux Carre is as different from the Garden District as the sun is from the moon.

Though there are other places I have visited that I enjoyed, none of them have captured my soul quite like NOLA has.  Because I thrive on stories – I read them, I write them, I tell them.  And NOLA has endless stories.  Some are horrid and bloody (Madame Delphine LaLaurie, I’m lookin’ at you right now), some are outlandish and nigh unbelievable (the ghost of a pirate guarding Jean Laffite’s treasure haunts Laffite’s Blacksmith Shop, a local bar), and some are downright sad (a boarding school burned, killing several children who couldn’t escape). But ALL of them, no matter the subject, are interesting.

I stumbled across Alys Arden’s book The Casquette Girls purely by accident – one of those “if you liked this, then try that” types of things. I read the blurb, and saw that it was set in New Orleans (relatively) present-day, and that it somehow involved vampires.  This presented a conundrum. With the exception of one or two specific titles, I am not a fan of vampire books. At all. However, I am a fan of New Orleans. So the fact that this book was set in the Big Easy drew it out of the “nope” category into the “I’ll give it a try” category. I’m so glad I did, because, Reader, I am in total love with this book. Arden takes several prominent (and some obscure) urban legends from New Orleans history and, along with some contemporary events, weaves them into a beautiful tale of mystery, magic, and adventure.

First of all, the setting is perfectly presented. It conveys the colorful personality of New Orleans – in all its aspects – very well. It embraces the diversity, the culture, the humanity of the city and its residents unapologetically – even proudly. Additionally, it is set in the days following “the Storm”, which is obviously Hurricane Katrina, but is never specifically named as such. So readers get to experience the devastation, the loss, the frustration of the situation right along with the characters.

And let’s talk about those characters for a minute… The story revolves around Adele – born and raised New Orleansian, half-American/half-French, and telekinetic; Desiree – New Orleans native, mayor’s daughter, and hereditary voodoo witch; and Isaac – high school dropout, relief worker, and animagus. I liked how each of the characters is in a different stage of their supernatural journey: Adele learns of her abilities at the beginning of the book, Isaac knows what he is but is still coming to terms with it, and Desiree has known of her gifts from birth and has been practicing magic her whole life. The characters are dynamic, individual, and interesting all, in their own rights.

The plot of this book kept me rapt, and I literally lost sleep over it (because I stayed up late reading). It expertly intertwines a past storyline with a present storyline and make me care equally about both. The past bleeds forward into the present, and decisions made by characters in the past affect the fate of characters in the future. I liked the limited POV, and that I learned things as the characters learned them; I felt a sense of profound pleasure when I started putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

I must confess, though, that I did NOT see the plot twist coming, so that was a nice surprise.

I also liked that though this book had vampires, it wasn’t wholly about vampires. Yes, they played a role and essentially acted as a catalyst for the events, but they weren’t the main focus of the story. Which was totally fine by me.

On a sidenote: I read this book before my husband and I went on our latest trip to NOLA, and it was a blast to be able to try to find all the different places highlighted in the book on the actual streets of the French Quarter.  Alys Arden grew up in NOLA, and as an expert on the area, adds in places that only locals (or someone who is a frequent visitor) know about.  I took pictures of some of them.

blog tearoom
Bottom of the Cup Tea Room
blog count
St. Germain House
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Old Ursuline Convent

Overall, I found this book to be fun and thoughtful and clever, and I am looking forward to reading the sequel, The Romeo Catchers.

A Bittersweet Farewell

As a self-proclaimed loner/introvert, I am one of those people who spends a lot of time alone.  This has always been the way of things, and it means that I’ve always enjoyed solitary activities – reading, writing, wandering.  I am also one of those completely insane people who love school, and actively look for new things to learn.  I am a #historybuff, and have always had a fascination with all things ancient in general, and Egyptian in particular. Independently of any assignments or school requirements, I learned about the history of Egypt, its deities, and its mythology.  Yes, nerd.

Eye_of_Horus

Years (and years and years ago), one of my reading buddies (one of the rare friends I’ve known since childhood, and retained into adulthood) introduced me to the Amelia Peabody mysteries, penned by Elizabeth Peters (a nom de plume for Barbara Mertz).  I was in my late teens, and immediately fell in love with the clever, feisty Englishwoman and her larger-than-life husband, Emerson.  Their adventures were ones I reveled in – chasing criminals across the desert and through famous ruins, discovering lost treasures, championing equality for all – and I looked forward to each new installment of the series with excitement.

peabody

One of the things I really liked about the series was the characters.  I appreciated how independent and forward-thinking Amelia Peabody was, and how she acted as if equality for all people – regardless of sex, race, or upbringing – was a given, rather than a right.  She was confident, she was brave, and she did not let others push her around.  And above all, she was clever, and used her intelligence to her advantage to get her out of all sorts of trouble.  Emerson, likewise, was written as an evolved character.  In a time period where men were intimidated by women who exhibited intelligence, courage, and autonomy, Emerson reveled in the fact that his lady love possessed all these qualities – and more.  He did not try to stifle her, he did not try to protect her; rather, he looked to her as an equal.  Additionally, he is awesome even on his own.  He’s brilliant, brave, determined, and just the kind of man others respect respect because he deserves it, not because he demands it.  Peabody and Emerson (and their son Ramses – but that’s another post), are among – and even at the top of my list – my all-time favorite literary characters.

peabody Emerson

Alas, the era of Victorian gentlewoman Amelia Peabody Emerson is, indeed, over. Back in 2013, when I heard Barbara Mertz had passed away, I was profoundly saddened.  There would be no more Peabody/Emerson adventures, and I would miss them deeply.  So, in 2016, I was ecstatic to hear that Joan Hess would be producing one final volume, called The Painted Queen, based on Barbara Mertz’ planned plot and notes – a mystery surrounding the 1912 discovery of the famed bust of Nefertiti. And even though I knew it couldn’t be *exactly* the same as a Peters novel, at least it would have my beloved characters.

It goes against everything inside of me to give a negative review of this book. And to tell the truth, I didn’t dislike it. If it were a standalone title, and I didn’t have the rest of the Peabody canon to consider, I would think it a wonderfully fun adventure full of colorful characters. But it’s not a standalone. And though I think Hess did an admirable job of taking up Mertz’ mantle, something that had to have been infinitely difficult, I do think she fell a bit short of the mark.

Aside from the obvious continuity errors (of which there are many), something just seems a little off about the novel. It’s not the story – that was well done. The mystery is mysterious, the danger is dangerous, and the villain is villainous. Rather, it’s the characters themselves that I find problematic. Having read nineteen other entries in this series – all multiple times – I have gotten to know these characters quite well. And I find that, as written in The Painted Queen, they are all slightly off-center. Let’s look at them:
Amelia Peabody has always had an appreciation for whiskey and soda, and for adhering to mealtimes in an effort to retain a modicum of “civilization” in an “uncivilized” environment, but in this book, she is overly preoccupied with alcohol and with all the food. I mean, squirreling sandwiches away in her pockets and mentioning food every other page? If she had eaten so much through the entire series, she would have had to have a new working outfit made every season, and have her belt of tools resized to accommodate her expanding girth. This is not the same character I included in my Top 10 Coolest Book Characters post here.
Emerson has always been one of my favorite characters. In fact, I included him in one of my blog posts about my Top 10 Sigh-Worthy Heroes here, at my old blog home. I have a special appreciation for Emerson, because he very much reminds me of my own husband – large and imposing and blustery with a vocabulary quick to include expletives, but with a heart of gold. And I found the Emerson in this book to be a diminished caricature of Mertz’ Emerson. His suddenly-developed penchant for publicly professing his undying love and inability to live without Peabody was laughable. Everything he did was exaggerated, almost to the point of buffoonery, and it was a sad treatment of this most illustrious character.
Ramses I found to be the closest representation of the original. He is still imperious and arrogant, and his mind is still brilliant, if a little devious.
Nefret is a little trickier to discuss, because her changedness could be attributed to her harrowing (though self-afflicted) experiences reported in The Falcon at the Portal. She is demure, constantly apologizing, and annoyingly ladylike. This is not the Nefret I know and love. Yes, she made mistakes; no, she doesn’t need to change her entire personality to make up for them.
And, last but not least, there’s David, who seems to be around just for comic relief, and to make Ramses look smarter (as if that’s necessary). This annoyed me. I always admired the character of David, and considered him an integral part of the Peabody-Emerson family, as he was intelligent, yet brought a different perspective to the group. That is completely missing from this story.

So, even though it was lovely to return to Egypt for one last season with the Peabody-Emersons, it wasn’t quite what I was hoping for.

Good bye, Peabody.  You will be greatly missed.

Princess of All Awesomeness

“Hey, Britney,” you say, “you know it’s August, right?  And you haven’t done a Monday review in three weeks?”

Yes.  I know it’s August, and Review Monday has been suspiciously absent.  I also know that this (see: blogs are ridiculously late) is what happens when things don’t go as planned, and you’re forced to scramble to make sure everything gets done.  It’s super annoying when life and responsibilities get in the way of reading and writing.  It’s a good thing I had a head start on my sister for the Great Reading Contest of 2017, because if I hadn’t, I think she would have caught me up this past month.

That said, I have gotten some reading in (though not as much as I’d like), and one of the books I read was part of the #ARCAugust challenge.  I had been anticipating reading Wonder Woman: Warbringer for months.  There were two reasons for this: 1) I ❤ Wonder Woman, and 2) one of my favorite authors, Leigh Bardugo, wrote the book.  I was interested to read a book wholly devoted to Wonder Woman, and I wanted to see how Bardugo represented her.  When you’re anticipating a book that much, and have such high expectations for it, there’s always the danger that it doesn’t stack up.

Wonder Woman: Warbringer definitely stacked up.  Here is the cover, and a partial blurb as found on Goodreads:

warbringer

 

 

She will become one of the world’s greatest heroes: WONDER WOMAN. But first she is Diana, Princess of the Amazons. And her fight is just beginning. . . . 

Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mere mortal. Even worse, Alia Keralis is no ordinary girl and with this single brave act, Diana may have doomed the world. 

 

 

With a book like this, it’s hard to know what to focus on for a review.  I mean, I could fangirl all day long about Leigh Bardugo, but that doesn’t tell anyone about the book.  I could fangirl all day long about Wonder Woman, but that still doesn’t tell anyone about the book.  So I’ll try to focus on the things people care about: plot, setting, and characters.

PLOT: What originally seemed to be a pretty straightforward plot became surprisingly twisty in a way I definitely wasn’t expecting.  (I should have known Bardugo wouldn’t ever write anything straightforward.)  Though a “super hero book”, the danger doesn’t seem outlandish, and has possible real-world repercussions.  I liked that there was a lot of history woven into the story, of both mythical and realistic nature, and that the history affected the present.  Overall, the story itself was a great one – enjoyable, and complex enough to be interesting from the first page until the last.

SETTING: This was done SO well!  I liked the glimpses I got to see of Themyscira (yes, I had to Google the spelling.  Don’t look at me like that – unless you just watched the film, I’m pretty sure you had to Google the pronunciation), and of the Amazon civilization.  Also, magical, disappearing horses.  The island is done well enough that you truly feel the impact when Diana enters the “regular” world, and how difficult it is for her to process the vast difference between her home and the rest of the world.  And speaking of the rest of the world…  I loved that Bardugo put Diana on the subway in NYC.  What better way to introduce her to New Yorkers?

CHARACTERS: Bardugo did great work with this cast.  For one thing, it is diverse without being “token”.  The diversity of the characters deepens that sense of historicity I mentioned earlier, and lends the story a deep richness.  There are several characters in this story – Diana Prince (for she isn’t Wonder Woman yet) is just one of them.  So, though this book has Diana in it, it’s not just about her.  Each character – Alia, Nim, Jason, Theo – is important to the story, and each is well-developed and interesting.  And one of the most important things Bardugo does with these characters is establish strong (and I mean epic STRONG) relationships – between siblings, between friends, and between females – all something I wish we saw more of.  Basically, all the ❤ for these characters, their sass, their support for one another, and their bravery.

Snaps to Leigh Bardugo for taking a strong female character and making her more powerful, smarter, and more relevant than just being the “hot one with the rope”.  This Diana Prince is the Wonder Woman I want my daughter to grow up reading about.

Now, bring on Marie Lu’s Batman: Nightwalker!

*A huge thanks to Random House for providing me with an ARC of this book, in exchange for an honest review.

Top 10 Tuesday tomorrow, friends!

Peace out!

ww

 

 

First the Ripper, Now Dracula

Call me crazy, but I love books based on old, murdery mysteries.  I don’t like to read about bloodbaths, but give me a good, old-fashioned mystery based on history, and I’m all in. A lot of this has to do with my interest in history; more than I’d like to admit, this has to do with my dark sense of curiosity.

Kerri Maniscalco is an author after my own heart.  She has chosen to tackle some of the most iconic historic mysteries possible, and has given them new life (haha) and a new spin.  I am a firm fan.

I read Stalking Jack the Ripper (the first book in this series) shortly after it was released, and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the story-telling from debut author Kerri Maniscalco. Having done very little research on either the book or the author before reading, I was excited when I got to the end of the book, and it was clear there was going to be a sequel. History buff that I am, I was as ecstatic as only a nerd can be to discover the next installment of the Wadsworth/Cresswell adventures would take them to Romania and settle them within the Dracula mythology. I had high expectations for Hunting Prince Dracula. I was not disappointed.

If anything, from the first book to this, Maniscalco’s writing has gotten better (as is natural), and her story-telling voice has grown stronger. Where there were a few times in Ripper I felt the leaps in logic were a little long-strided, I didn’t feel that way at all with Dracula. The plot is very thoroughly laid out and described, and doesn’t miss any steps. Though the mystery reveal is well-hidden until the end of the book, the reader isn’t kept in the dark at all when it comes to necessary clues and information. As far as the story itself, I found it to be very satisfying.  (And darned if she didn’t get me again with the twist!)

One of the things I really like about these books is the relationship between Audrey Rose Wadsworth (though I still cringe at that name – I mean it’s really, really terrible) and Thomas Cresswell. There is a mutual admiration and respect between the two of them that isn’t based on attraction, and that’s a rare find in YA fiction these days. Yes, it’s evident that the two of them have feelings for one another, but that is not the basis for their relationship. Cresswell appreciates Wadsworth for who she is; he isn’t intimidated by her intellect, he allows her to take risks, and doesn’t feel threatened by her independence. And Wadsworth understands Cresswell’s want to protect her and doesn’t deride him for it (though she does throw in a perfectly understandable eye-roll every now and then).

Something else unique about these books is the profession Wadsworth and Cresswell are working their way into. Maniscalco has chosen something out of the ordinary – forensics – for her characters to study, which is something that sets them apart from others of their social cohort. It’s not strictly “ladylike” for a high-born girl like Audrey Rose to be elbows-deep in someone’s gizzard, but does that stop her?  Definitely not.  And good thing, because their knowledge of all things dead also gives Wadsworth and Cresswell a slight advantage when it comes to investigating the crimes that take place in the book. Their unconventional training gives them an unconventional perspective on things, and their partnership gives them strength.

I really liked how this book isn’t an over-the-top “vampire book”. Rather, it acknowledges the history of the setting, and allows that history to color the mystery, but doesn’t for a second try to convince readers that Dracula is behind the murders. I believe that would have brought into question the credibility of the characters. The characters solve a real mystery, instead of chasing ghosts and goblins. And, also, readers (mostly) aren’t stupid, so better not to waste time trying to convince them of the existence of vampires.

Overall, this is a fun book, compulsively readable and clever. I am definitely looking forward to the next installment of the Adventures of Wadsworth and Cresswell – in America! (And I’m having a dickens of a time trying to figure out who the big bad will be this time.  It would be too much of a time gap for them to be after H H Holmes, and too late for Billy the Kid…)

Little, Brown and Company/Jimmy Patterson Books provided me with an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tomorrow, on Top 10 Tuesday, tune in for a list of the Top 10 Fictional Librarians!  Because, well, who’s cooler than librarians?

(Truly) Heartless

When it comes to books, I’m a generally positive person.  I recognize that different people like different types of books, and know that not every book is going to be for me.  I accept this as a given.  However, that doesn’t mean that I’m not disappointed when a book I anticipate is going to be wonderful falls completely flat for me.  Such was the case with Marissa Meyer’s Heartless.  Now, I am a big fan of Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, which includes loose, twisted retellings of several fairy tales.  There were great plots, she made interesting choices, and populated the books with great characters, including strong females.  I was looking for more of the same with Heartless.  I was sorely disappointed.

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere.  A talented baker, she wants top open a shop and create delectable pastries.  But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be queen. 

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets the handsome and mysterious Jest.  For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction.  At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.

Cath is determined to choose her own destiny.  But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Just the last sentence of this is enough to make me want to read this book.  I expected a fantastical tale about the Red Queen, complete with many murdery cries of “Off with their heads!”.  This was not that tale.

Let’s talk about “Cath”.  (Ugh. Unless you are the Simon Snow devotee, this name is not OK.)  This is one of the most useless, spineless main characters I have ever encountered in a book.  She has a dream to be a baker and run her own shop, which is contrary to everyone else’s plans for her to become queen.  Guess what happens.  (If you guessed that she runs away, defies everyone who wants to make her into something she’s not, and opens the best bakery in all of Wonderland, you’d be 100% wrong.)  It only took me about 27 seconds to realize that Cath lacks agency and will, and I spent the entire book being frustrated at her victim attitude.  She doesn’t make things happen, she lets things happen to her.  And then she sits and whines about it.  Then, when things get crazy, blood starts flying, and Cath figures out her terrible decisions are the cause, she blames someone else, which just infuriated me.  And I’m supposed to believe that this girl who spent 7/8 of the book being weak and whiny suddenly turns into the cold, cruel, imperious Red Queen?  Sorry, not buying it.

There were a couple of things I did like about this book.  Cheshire was a wonderfully written character, and by far one of my favorites.  I like how he embodies arrogance and feigns a complete lack of care for anything going on around him, but says the most profound things at just the right times.  I also really liked Jest and his pure heart.  He is loving and optimistic, and true.  The “world” of Wonderland was well-done, and just mad enough to be fun, but not too nonsensical where it feels like Meyer is trying too hard.  In fact, I would have liked to have seen more of Wonderland.  More mad tea parties, more checkerboard cake, more Jabberwock, just more.

There were also some great lines in here.  Meyer has a beautiful way with words, and if I couldn’t really appreciate the story, I can at least appreciate her wordsmithy.  She has a very lyrical way of writing, which is a must for any Wonderland story, I think.  One of my favorite phrases turns out to be a prophecy, and a bit of a foreshadow.

Murderer, martyr, monarch, mad.

Overall, ironically, I think what this book is missing is heart.  It didn’t make me feel anything other than annoyance for Cath, and I didn’t care enough about Jest or anyone else to be really invested in what happened.  I had high hopes for this one, but it really let me down.  I almost want there to be another installment, because I think now that Cath is the Red Queen, I might like her better, and would care about the continuing story of her being stabby and evil, but, then again, maybe not.

If you’re interested in fairy tale retellings, here are some of my favorites:

Cinder by Marissa Meyer – this reimagines the Cinderella story with a cyborg and a moon colony.

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge – a lovely retelling of Beauty and the Beast where Beauty is an assassin trained from birth to kill the Beast.

Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson – a Southern gothic-set version of the Bluebeard fairy tale with a mystery, and romance, and a lot of suspense.

Tune in tomorrow for Top 10 Tuesday!

Lord of Shadowhunters

I like to consider myself a loyal reader.  If I really like an author, I’m more likely than not going to buy every book they ever wrote/write ever.  There are currently about ten authors I feel this way about, and Cassandra Clare is one of them.  It’s a pleasure to be able to grow with an author.  I was able to do it with J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter series; I’ve been able to do it with Cassandra Clare and her Shadowhunters series.  I picked up City of Bones when it was the sole Shadowhunter volume, and so have been a fan from the very beginning.  Clare’s writing skills have grown and developed, something that always makes me appreciate the fact that writers are always working to improve their craft.  And Clare’s ability to tell a story is admirable.

That said, I just finished Lord of Shadows, the second installment of The Dark Artifices mini-series within the Shadowhunter Chronicles.  (Yes, the number of books, and the order in which they go can be confusing.  For a quick reference guide, check out Fantastic Fiction here.)  So far, The Dark Artifices is by far my favorite of the books. There is a depth to them that isn’t present in earlier books, and I hope to see this continue into future installments.

Here’s a quick plot rundown:  Following the events of Lady Midnight, things in the Los Angeles Institute have not calmed down.  Emma and Julian are at odds, each struggling with their feelings for the other; Mark is still straddling his desire for two worlds; the younger Blackthorns are searching for their place in the Shadowhunter world, and Christina is discovering she has her own brand of quiet, yet powerful strength.  The faerie courts are also in turmoil. The Unseelie King is tired of the Cold Peace, and set events in motion to destroy the Shadowhunters forever; the Seelie Queen is scheming to overthrow the King.  Caught between  trying to save their family or protect their way of life, the heroes must find a way to come together to defend everything they hold dear against attacks from outside the Shadowhunter ranks – and from within.

This plot (and all the subplots which somehow, with the help of voodoo magic, all fit together seamlessly) is on-point.  Clare does a magnificent job of making her reader feel the immediacy of the danger the characters face.  There were times where I felt physical agony over the sheer apparent hopelessness of the situation, where I actually worried about what was going to happen, and how they were “going to get out of this mess”.  To me, that is the mark of a great writer; I feel what the characters feel, I fear for their safety, I care what happens to them, I am along on their journey.  This is a beast of a book, coming in at more than 700 pages.  And I read every word.  Every. Word.  Because Clare is the type of author who chooses her words carefully, and if she’s including something, it’s because it’s important.  It may not be important now, but three books from now, it may be the reason someone dies.  Or lives.

The characters in this series absolutely own my heart. This book boasts a huge cast of characters, and none of them are made of paper.  They all serve a purpose. It’s impossible to talk about each one of them, because there are so many, but I particularly ❤ Emma Carstairs, Julian Blackthorn, Tiberius Blackthorn, and Kit Herondale.  Using these four characters, Clare shows two different types of relationships.  Emma and Julian are the protectors. The decisions they make are made to save the ones they love.  They endure emotional agony and physical pain because they continually place themselves in the line of fire.  Their love for one another is fierce and potentially destructive, so they must choose to (figuratively) rip out their bloody, beating hearts, or destroy one of the most fundamental Shadowhunter relationships – the parabatai bond.  Emma wants to take option A; Julian wants to take option B.  I fear this may actually end in tragedy.  Emma is absolutely brutal and stabby, and Julian is terrifying with his scheming.  My prediction: he is going to break the world.  Tiberius and Kit are the hope.  Ty is a classically-trained Shadowhunter, while Kit comes into the Shadowhunter world as an outsider, someone who hasn’t been indoctrinated with the Shadowhunter dogma.  He has a completely different perspective on things.  Whereas the Blackthorns have always thought of Tiberius as different (and have completely accepted him as such), Kit recognizes he is autistic.  He doesn’t shy away from Ty; rather, he draws closer to him, takes it upon himself to translate the world for Ty in a way he can understand.  (Aside: the Sherlock Holmes/John Watson parallel Clare creates here is a brilliant one.)  Kit’s love for Ty is born of his desire to shield him from how ugly the world can be to people who are different; Ty’s love for Kit is as pure as friendship can be – a recognition of who the other person is, and accepting them for exactly that, and nothing more.  And I’m not sure which type of #ship this is going to turn out to be, but I’m ready to enlist as crew.

Now, a few very unprofessional, random thoughts about this book that may or may not contain spoilers, so read at your own risk:

  • Ash is the son of Sebastian Morgenstern and the Seelie Queen.  He has to be.  There’s no other explanation for his physical appearance or for his inclusion.  And it’s my prediction that he’s the “weapon” Jace and Clary are looking for.
  • I don’t care if you are the author, you DO NOT TOUCH Magnus Bane.  This “sickness” better disappear, and Magnus better come back as snarky, narcissistic, and glitter bomb as ever.
  • More Jessamine.
  • More London/Cornwall Institutes and Infernal Devices tie-ins.
  • Less Zara – like, I hope she dies a horrible, murdery, painful death by a thousand cuts from Cortana.
  • My heart that loves Tiberius breaks for him.
  • Annabel the Terrifying will save her family.
  • Julian is going full Dark Side, and I am SO in ❤ with his moral slide (scheming, lying, bargaining, selling his soul to the devil Seelie Queen).  Also, he’s possibly a high-functioning sociopath.
  • Kit Herondale is absolutely life.
  • I am so angry at the Clave for not standing up against the Cohort, I almost hope the Unseelie King destroys the power structure of the Nephilim, just so the “old regime” burns.  (As long as all my loves survive intact and not undead, that is.)
  • Um, Clary might die?  (Mad props to Clare if she goes through with that one.)
  • Mental illness, PTSD, autism, LGBTQ, body image, appearance, xenophobia – all issues discussed in this series, and I am so grateful there are authors like Clare who are this brave.  I very much appreciate how Clare populates her plot with social issues relevant to the Shadowhunter world, but that also parallel contemporary issues happening in our world.  She does this without overtly beating the reader over the head with the “moral of the story”, but deftly and creatively raises awareness of these issues.

I usually don’t get so emotionally invested in books (I can’t remember caring about characters this much since Harry Potter), but this one got me.  Good on you, Cassandra Clare.  Well done.

TOMORROW IS TOP 10 TUESDAY!  Come on back for a discussion of my Top 10 Reading Confessions!

Mini-Review Monday

Yee-haw!  It’s a roundup!

I’ve been VERY busy the last two weeks, what with the end of the fiscal year at the library, ALA, kids, life, etc. and all, but  I’ve carried my trusty Kindle with me everywhere, so I’ve still gotten a lot of reading in (even if I have fallen asleep with it in my hand several nights in a row now…).  So rather than trying to write a full review for everything I read this month, you’re getting a quick and nasty (but in a good way, full of love) intro to what I read this month.

I know you’re all dying in anticipation for these reviews – I know I would be.  So, here goes:

dark duet

The second in a duology that started with This Savage Song, this was one of my most anticipated releases of the year.  I was not disappointed, though the ending left me with a broken heart.  In this world of darkness and shadows, the real question becomes: who are the real monsters?  Schwab is an amazing world-builder, and her characters are gritty and ruthless (even if they don’t want to be).  The (dark, dark) story follows Kate (a human) and August (a monster) as they negotiate the impossible world that pits them against one another as they try to save the broken souls of everyone around them.

starfall

This is also the second in a duology that started with Starflight, and I thought this was a fun follow-up.  I liked that it focused on different characters, rather than just continuing the story of the first installment; but the characters are the same, so familiar.  This has a little bit of a Firefly feel to it, with a ragtag group of misfits with prices on their heads flying around just trying to survive.  There’s adventure and danger and adorable flying rodents and princesses.  (There must always be princesses.)  Let me just say this: there are SPACE PIRATES.  Pirates.  In space.  That is all.

shadow bone

So, this book.  I have had this trilogy sitting in my TBR tower for a while now, and I finally decided to tackle it.  Oh, my heart.  This book was so unique, so different from other things I’ve read, I fell instantly in love with it.  For one thing, I ❤ the bad guy.  Like, completely.  He’s 100% dark and evil and murdery, but he’s an amazing character.  Snaps to Bardugo for making that happen.  I also like the heorine; she’s sassy, a little bit vulnerable, and makes mistakes.  I like it when the main characters make mistakes, and then actually learn from them. Also, the setting is amazing.

dark daysI did a full review of this book over on my other blog before I packed up shop and moved, and if you want, you can read that one here.  I can’t say enough good things about this series (a planned trilogy).  The authentic period setting is very well done, and provides the perfect backdrop to the plot.  The characters are fantastic; I especially love that there are several strong female characters who continually subvert the idea of a “proper lady” and show that their role in this world is just as important as their male counterparts.  The relationships are fun, and there is a refreshing lack of romance, with a focus on action.

strangeI went into this book with a little apprehension because I loved Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy to the godstars and back, and didn’t want to dislike something she had written.  I was anxious for nothing.  This book was as beautiful and melodious and magical as I could have hoped for.  Taylor has a gift for wordweaving and creating portraits with words; I envy this talent.  But I appreciate that I am the beneficiary of it.  This book was a fairy tale; a dark, bloody, beautiful fairy tale complete with monsters and heroes.  And even if I don’t love the cover (though I understand it’s symbolism), I am eagerly waiting part II.

pirate

OK.  Call me crazy, but I absolutely love Clive Cussler.  He’s this adorable, rosy-cheeked grandpa with awesome cars, and even awesomer stories.  I fell in love with Dirk Pitt when I was in high school, but I have a particular love for the Fargo adventures.  Sam and Remi are cool and clever, and are a great team.  I like that Remi retains her femininity, yet can still pull the trigger to ice a bad guy, and I like even more that Sam knows his wife is completely capable of taking care of herself, yet still wants to protect her.  The archaeological mysteries are right up my history-loving-heart’s alley, and I can’t get enough of them.

pursuit

Fox and O’Hare are one of my guilty pleasures.  No, Evanovich’s books aren’t strictly “literary gold”, but when I need to read something fun, or that makes me laugh, these books are a great choice.  This one particularly features sparkles and sparkles of stolen diamonds along with a missing vial of live smallpox virus (gasp!) – and only Nick Fox and Kate O’Hare (along with their merry band of mismatched misfits) can save the world!  A rollicking romp through Europe with sassy leads, a Snidely Whiplash-like bad guy, and lots of one-liners, I liked this installment in the series particularly.

 

So, there you have it – the June postmortem.  I enjoyed all the titles, and a couple of them spoke to my soul, and fed it cheesecake.

And tomorrow: doo-do-doo! Top 10 Tuesday!

I want to take a minute to plug my library’s blog – it’s a little tiny baby blog, and we’re just getting started, but here’s the link to it.  We’ll be talking about what life is like in a library (for all of you who have wondered about the secret library society, here’s your chance to peek under the cloak of invisibility…)

Peace out!