Book Review – The Bone Witch

Book: The Bone Witch – Author: Rin Chupeco

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Supernatural, YA

Description from Goodreads:

Tea is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy makes her a bone witch, who are feared and ostracized in the kingdom. For theirs is a powerful, elemental magic that can reach beyond the boundaries of the living—and of the human.

Great power comes at a price, forcing Tea to leave her homeland to train under the guidance of an older, wiser bone witch. There, Tea puts all of her energy into becoming an asha, learning to control her elemental magic and those beasts who will submit by no other force. And Tea must be strong—stronger than she even believes possible. Because war is brewing in the eight kingdoms, war that will threaten the sovereignty of her homeland…and threaten the very survival of those she loves.

My Review:

I like Rin Chupeco. The Girl From The Well was one of only a handful of ‘instant love’ books I’ve read all year. That said…this book will not go down in my list of favorites.

I did like the characters in general. I LOVE Tea’s “Sister Ashas”: Mykaela, Polaire, and Althy.  They seem lively and like they can kick some butt. (Can we get a book just about them?) But the others…I dunno. Most of them, including Tea, seemed a little flat. Occasionally Tea would get angry, but other than that everyone just seemed to kind of be there. (Though I did also like Rahim, can we get a book about him too please?)

I also liked the premise: a world where magic is accepted and magic users have a special niche; some for healing, some for fighting, even some for fashion. 😉 The daeva were interesting too; monsters that rise from their graves every few years and have to be reconquered. Sounds like a great setup for a fantasy, right?

I think the main problem I had with this story was the pacing. Each chapter was split between Tea as a young apprentice and Tea now as an outcast Asha. This might have seemed like a great way to keep the reader interested in the final outcome of the novel, but having to go from super-magical, war-starting Tea, back to “now I have to learn to dance and sing” Tea was really annoying. To be fair, apparently this is the first book in a series (which I did NOT know going in), so the author was probably just world-building. Maybe the next book will have more action?

Overall I’d say, if you are looking for a cool fantasy series, go ahead and try this one. The author writes really well and there are some exciting scenes. Who knows, the rest of the series might be completely awesome.

*One quick pet peeve! Look, I know authors like to give their characters quirky names and that’s totally fine. But if you have a weird pronunciation for your character’s name…SAY SO AT THE BEGINNING OF THE BOOK! Don’t wait 300 pages to tell me that Tea is pronounced “Tey-uh”, especially when all her sisters are named after flowers and Tea is an actual plant with an actual existing pronunciation. It was Hermione all over again (though that one was my fault, not really the author’s).

Similar Book(s):

I’m not sure what to put here, so I’ll just go for fantasy with a supernatural twist. 😉

Strange the Dreamer – Laini Taylor

Revenge of the Witch – Joseph Delany

 

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Library Haul – Mystery, Fantasy, and Books About Books

Another day, another library haul. 😉

Whose Body? (Dorothy Sayers)

whosebodyDescription from Goodreads: The stark naked body was lying in the tub. Not unusual for a proper bath, but highly irregular for murder — especially with a pair of gold pince-nez deliberately perched before the sightless eyes. What’s more, the face appeared to have been shaved after death. The police assumed that the victim was a prominent financier, but Lord Peter Wimsey, who dabbled in mystery detection as a hobby, knew better. In this, his first murder case, Lord Peter untangles the ghastly mystery of the corpse in the bath.

Why I Picked It: Ever since I fell in love with Poirot, I’ve been slowly picking my way through the Golden Age mysteries. Having finished Miss Marple, I decided it was time to give another classic author a try. Dorothy Sayers is really well known and her Lord Peter Wimsey books sound right up my alley, so I decided to snag the start of the series.

A Study in Charlotte (Brittany Cavallaro)

astudyincharlotteDescription from Goodreads: The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar. 

From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.

Why I Picked It: I love Sherlock in most of his forms, so I’m usually up for ‘descendant’ novels as well. The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason seems like it had a similar vibe, if a bit steampunky, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. This one sounds kind of fun and the reviews were decent, so I figured I’d give it a go.

Odd & True (Cat Winters)

oddandtrueDescription from Goodreads: Trudchen grew up hearing Odette’s stories of their monster-slaying mother and a magician’s curse. But now that Tru’s older, she’s starting to wonder if her older sister’s tales were just comforting lies, especially because there’s nothing fantastic about her own life—permanently disabled and in constant pain from childhood polio. 

In 1909, after a two-year absence, Od reappears with a suitcase supposedly full of weapons and a promise to rescue Tru from the monsters on their way to attack her. But it’s Od who seems haunted by something. And when the sisters’ search for their mother leads them to a face-off with the Leeds Devil, a nightmarish beast that’s wreaking havoc in the Mid-Atlantic states, Tru discovers the peculiar possibility that she and her sister—despite their dark pasts and ordinary appearances—might, indeed, have magic after all.

Why I Picked It: I’ve been wanting to read this one for ages and I’m extremely excited that my library snagged a copy so early! I’m not sure what it is about Cat Winters, but I can’t seem to NOT binge read her books. Fingers crossed that the trend continues!

The Shelf: From LEQ to LES: Adventures in Extreme Reading (Phyllis Rose)

theshelfDescription from Goodreads: Can you have an Extreme Adventure in a library? Phyllis Rose casts herself into the wilds of an Upper East Side lending library in an effort to do just that. Hoping to explore the “real ground of literature,” she reads her way through a somewhat randomly chosen shelf of fiction, from LEQ to LES.

The shelf has everything Rose could wish for—a classic she has not read, a remarkable variety of authors, and a range of literary styles. The early nineteenth-century Russian classic A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov is spine by spine with The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. Stories of French Canadian farmers sit beside those about aristocratic Austrians. California detective novels abut a picaresque novel from the seventeenth century. There are several novels by a wonderful, funny, contemporary novelist who has turned to raising dogs because of the tepid response to her work.

In The Shelf, Rose investigates the books on her shelf with exuberance, candor, and wit while pondering the many questions her experiment raises and measuring her discoveries against her own inner shelf—those texts that accompany us through life. “Fairly sure that no one in the history of the world has read exactly this series of novels,” she sustains a sense of excitement as she creates a refreshingly original and generous portrait of the literary enterprise.

Why I Picked It: Honestly, I was just checking whether or not my library had finally gotten Jenny Lawson’s last book, Furiously Happy, (spoiler: they didn’t) and I happened to notice that the entire shelf above that spot was books about books! This one sounds kind of fun…and like something I would probably do myself. 😉


So what are you currently reading? 🙂

Book Review – The Secret of Spellshadow Manor

Book: The Secret of Spellshadow Manor – Author: Bella Forrest

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, YA

Description from Goodreads:

What would you do if you spotted a man following a young woman, but no-one else could see him?

Like most sane people, student Alex Webber thought he was hallucinating – perhaps he’d consumed something bad at the party he’d been attending that night, or he was severely overtired. But when he sees the mysterious man following Natalie again the very next day, he can no longer disbelieve his eyes.

Although Natalie denies the man’s existence, Alex sees her walking with him down a road in his neighborhood he’s never seen before – and can’t help but follow. After a bizarre, but strangely short journey, he finds himself standing before a towering iron gate wreathed in gray ivy, behind which looms a decrepit old mansion named Spellshadow Manor.

Spellshadow, with its beautiful yet sinisterly decorated hallways, ever-changing outdoor scenery and very unusual residents… Alex will quickly learn it is a place that is as wondrous as it is deadly.

Especially for a normal person like him.

What if you found yourself recruited to an institute of magic, only to discover you really couldn’t do magic?
What if your enrollment there was all one big, terrible mistake?

If you were at Spellshadow, you’d keep it a secret. A deep, dark, deadly secret…

Because Spellshadow’s elusive Head is hiding a secret of his own, one that Alex soon realizes he and Natalie must uncover at all costs if either of them wishes to leave the Manor alive… and before it’s too late.

My Review:

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one. It’s been plastered all over my Facebook & Goodreads and keeps being touted as “the next Harry Potter”, which usually just has me rolling my eyes and passing on by, but something drew me in this time (honestly, it might have just been the really cool cover, lol).

Whatever the reason, I’m glad I picked this one up from the library. It was a quick, easy, and FUN read. I ended up binging it in less than 3 hours, even with it being almost 400 pages; though, to be fair, the font was HUGE in my copy and there are chapter breaks everywhere, so it’s probably really only a little over 300 pages worth of content.

The main characters all seem very personable. I liked Alex a lot. He seems pretty affable (no angsty HP here, folks) but is still fairly stubborn and extremely protective of his friends. Natalie is also very likable and, thank goodness, not a wilting flower when it comes to danger.

I have to say once again, I am not a huge fan of romances, so I was pleasantly surprised that this novel didn’t really have any. Even though the main characters are older teenagers and a boy & girl, there wasn’t even a hint of a romance between them (at least not in this volume). I liked that. It was nice to run into an author who understands that boys and girls CAN just be friends. We’ll see how that plays out in the rest of the series.

The mystery in this series is really interesting. The kids jump to quite a few (possibly erroneous) conclusions, but did the best they could with the information they were able to acquire; and they DID spend quite some time researching what to do instead of just hurling themselves into danger, which is usually what happens in these types of books…well, there was a BIT of hurling, but not thoughtless hurling. 😉 I’m curious to see where this story is heading and who exactly is going to end up being the Big Bad. Something larger is definitely afoot and the danger is NOT resolved in a neat little package at the end of Book 1.

But there won’t be too long of a wait until I can find out what happens! Apparently the author has already written the entire story and has published all six volumes this year. Seriously, this book was published in March and the 6th (and final) book is already out! Whoohoo! Time to hit the library again! 😀

Similar Book(s):

‘Harry Potter’ series – J.K. Rowling – (Book #1: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone)

‘The Tapestry’ series – Henry H. Neff – (Book #1: The Hound of Rowan)

 

Book Review – Furthermore

Book: Furthermore – Author: Tahereh Mafi

Genre: Middle Grade/Childrens, Fantasy

Description from Goodreads:

Alice Alexis Queensmeadow 12 rates three things most important: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. Father disappeared from Ferenwood with only a ruler, almost three years ago. But she will have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. Her only companion is Oliver whose own magic is based in lies and deceit. Alice must first find herself—and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss.

My Review:

This was a cute, quick read.  I LOVED the author’s style of writing. It’s fun, quirky, and, at times, immensely beautiful. I mean: “Laughter was a silk that would soften even the roughest moments.” Isn’t that one of the loveliest sentences you’ve ever read?

Her world building is also very good. The descriptions of Ferenwood & Furthermore, their history and people, are all really brilliant. She doesn’t go TOO much into the background of the characters, other than Alice, but she does give all the info needed for the story. Which is really the best option in a kid’s book, I suppose, though I personally love hearing the backgrounds.

It DID take me a while to get into the story on this one. I’m not sure why, since I liked the writing so much and the premise sounded interesting, but the first couple of “chapters” seemed to really drag. Once Alice and Ollie finally made it to Furthermore, though, the action picked up quite a bit.

I was also confused for quite a lot of the book, which I think was kind of done on purpose. This book really reads like Alice in Wonderland (yes, Tahereh, we get the reference 😉 ), with strange places and dangers coming from completely out of the blue. I didn’t really follow all of it, but it was extremely imaginative and I think would hold a middle grade kid’s attention much better than something more bland and complex.

Similar Book(s):

Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles – Julie Andrews Edwards

Mini-Reviews – Graphic Novels

Hey guys! I thought I’d do another session of Mini-Reviews because I managed to snag a couple of really good graphic novels the other day! 🙂

Saga, Volume 1 Brian K. Vaughan (Writer), Fiona Staples (Artist)

Description from Goodreads:

When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe.

My Review:

I didn’t quite know what to expect coming into this one. I hadn’t actually read any reviews for this series other than a few comments from friends on Goodreads which basically all said “Where has this been all my life?!?” Seeing that it also has one of the highest ratings I’ve ever seen on GR, I decided to add it to my list.

Man, am I glad I did! This was one of the most exciting graphic novels I’ve ever read. I’ll admit, I haven’t really branched out of the ‘superhero mainstream’ before in physical comics, so I was delighted to find a full-fledged story with amazingly fleshed out characters.

Apparently not one for shying away from action, the author begins our story with one of the main characters in the midst of childbirth and ends the same scene with a gigantic firefight. What a way to jump into the middle of things! It works really well in this instance, though, by pulling you directly into the story without having to worry about too much setup. It also helps set the tone for the series by letting the reader know upfront how much danger our main duo is in.

The author is really great at making all of the characters seem believable too, which can be difficult in a sci-fi, where you can have anything from spider-women to ghosts. I love that, by the end of Vol 1, we’re already starting to get some backstory for all the main characters. I’m really becoming attached to some of these guys and finding out more about them and how they got into this situation is very interesting.

The artistry of the novel is wonderful as well. The diversity between the different species is very impressive and everything was really well executed. I did however, feel like I’d seen one character somewhere before…

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Left: Prince Robot IV (Saga, 2013), Right: The One Electronic (Rice Boy, 2006-2008)

Very probably a coincidence, but I couldn’t get it out of my brain. 😉

All-in-all, I’d definitely recommend this for sci-fi fans! I’ve already ordered the Volume 2; I can’t wait to get started!

Fables, Volume 1: Legends in Exile Bill Willingham (Writer), Lan Medina (Artist), Steve Leialoha (Artist), Craig Hamilton (Artist), Mark Buckingham (Cover Artist)

Description from Goodreads:

When a savage creature known only as the Adversary conquered the fabled lands of legends and fairy tales, all of the infamous inhabitants of folklore were forced into exile. Disguised among the “mundys,” their name for normal citizens of modern-day New York, these magical characters created their own secret society that they call Fabletown. From their exclusive luxury apartment buildings on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, these creatures of legend must fight for their survival in the new world.

My Review:

Oddly, it was the cover that originally drew me into this series (great job, Mr. Buckingham, lol). I literally went “Is that a flying monkey?” and then I noticed the title. I’ve always been a fan of fairy-tales, so I decided right then and there to give this one a go.

I love the idea of fairy-tale characters trapped in our reality. Seeing how each character has established themselves in our world puts a very interesting twist on the original tales. This story mainly focused on Snow White, the Big Bad Wolf, and Rose Red, but the author did a great job of pulling in as many characters from different tales as he could. He even got Old King Cole in there!

The mystery in this novel “What happened to Rose Red?” was really interesting. I was pretty stumped as to what happened all the way up to the end. The author did a good job with the pacing of the story, so that the reader was intrigued, but not rushed to a poorly explained conclusion.

Having finished the novel, though, one has to wonder…just where did the creators of ‘Once Upon A Time’ get their idea? A dark force takes over fairy-tale land, leaving our heroes trapped trapped in the mundane world? That sounds awfully familiar…


So how about you guys? Read any good comics lately? Got recommendations?

T5W – Judging a Book by its Cover

Crud puppies! I completely forgot to do my T5W yesterday! That’s what happens when you stay home sick on a Monday; it throws your whole week off. 😉

Today’s Top 5 Wednesday topic is Favorite SFF Cover Art! Tough category, but here are a few that really drew me in.

Meddling Kids (Edgar Cantero)

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This book is a kind of horror satire of the 1970’s Scooby Doo and the cover does a great job of capturing the essence of those old cartoons.

Shutter (Courtney Alameda)

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This cover is just creepy. It was what first drew me to the book when I was scrolling around Goodreads and it matches the storyline perfectly.

Leven Thumps and the Eyes of Want (Obert Skye)

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Really the entire series has wonderful covers, but this one is my favorite. It’s just gorgeous!

End Games (T. Michael Martin)

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Another horror, I know, but you have to admit the cover is neat. It has a wonderfully creepy feel and I love how they turned the trees into zombies.

The A.I Gang series (Bruce Coville)

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Ok, yeah, I need to explain this one. No, the artwork isn’t the best. But, you have to admit, 90’s era kid’s book artists really knew how to draw in the reader. All three covers show the main characters right in the midst of action, battling mortal danger. Exactly what you’re looking for when you want an adventure.
Let’s compare that to the 2014 version…
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Seriously? Come on now. Which would YOU have picked up as a kid?


Show me yours! What are some of your favorite covers?!?

Book Review – Caraval

Book: Caraval – Author: Stephanie Garber

Genre: Young Adult, Adventure, Fantasy

Description from Goodreads:

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

My Review:

I’ve seen my share of bad reviews for this book, but I actually really enjoyed it. The idea behind the game of Caraval is intriguing. It’s basically a giant cosplay-treasure hunt, where you can trade secrets and wishes for magical items and dreams. And at the end, if you solve the mystery, you may just win the prize of a lifetime. But don’t get TOO caught up or Caraval could become your downfall.

I’ll be completely upfront: the main character, Scarlett, is about as angst-ridden as you can get. Her father is a monster, her arraigned marriage is a mystery, her sister is missing, and then she starts falling for a guy who could be anyone. But somehow, she never comes off as annoying. I actually really liked Scarlett. I felt pretty bad for her situation and spent most of the book going “Come on, I know you can do this! You got this one, Scar!” I also really liked her sister, though she’s not in the forefront of the novel for very long.

The action in this one never stopped coming. I actually read the book in about 5 hours, which isn’t too bad for an over 400 page book, and most of that can be attributed to the fact that I spent about 85% of the book on the edge of my seat. The author really knows how to keep you guessing: Is creepy Dante really Master Legend? Or is Legend actually the mysterious Julian, the sailor who arrived just in time to carry the girls off to Caraval? Will Scarlett escape her father and will she ever find her lost sister? What is real and what is just the game?

This one was a knuckle-biter from start to finish. I highly recommend it to people who like adventurous books with a dash of romance thrown in (yes, I even liked the romance in this one 😉 ). I’ll definitely be checking out the sequel!

Similar Book(s):

The Night Circus – Erin Morganstern