Showing posts with label five birdcages. Show all posts
Showing posts with label five birdcages. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

ARC Review: Haunted Heroine by Sarah Kuhn

40740848Title: Haunted Heroine
Series: Heroine Complex #4
Author: Sarah Kuhn
Source/Format: Netgalley (Publisher); eARC
More Details: Urban Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: DAW Books; July 7, 2020

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
The fourth book in the smart, snarky, and action-packed Heroine series follows Evie Tanaka, Aveda Jupiter, and Bea Tanaka as they combat a new supernatural threat. 
Everything in Evie Tanaka's life is finally perfect. As a badass superheroine, she defends San Francisco from demon invasion on the regular. Her relationships with superhero partner Aveda Jupiter, little sister Bea, and hot, half-demon husband Nate have never been stronger. Maybe it's possible for a grad school dropout turned put-upon personal assistant turned superhero to have it all? As if things can't get any better, Evie learns she's pregnant. She's overjoyed, but also worried about whether she's cut out for motherhood. Before she can dwell on her dilemma too much, a women's college reports a string of mysterious "hauntings," and Evie and Aveda are called in to investigate. When the hauntings turn deadly, they decide to move into the dorms full-time, going undercover as grad students. As she lives out a bizarre version of her grad school life, Evie can't help but wonder about the road not taken: what would her life be like if she'd stayed here instead of pursuing superheroing with Aveda?
If there was ever a series that needed more books, it was this one. I was excited when Haunted Heroine got announced, and now that I’ve read it I can say for certain that the excitement was well deserved. Haunted Heroine was a fantastic addition to the Heroine Complex series. It was an excellent continuation for the characters of the series—and as they embarked on the next chapter in their story, they were literally and figuratively being haunted by things from the past and present. With this kind of story, it was an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish, and I was rooting for the characters every step of the way.

Haunted Heroine is told from the perspective of Evie Tanaka, one of my favorite characters. Her POV is what introduced the series, and her perspective was just as delightful to read from as the first time around, in Heroine Complex. While the beginning was looking at her future—with her husband, Nate, and her pregnancy—much of the story explored Evie’s past. That also included an old relationship that has haunted (no pun intended) Evie in previous books in the series. It had affected her relationships with others, as well as how she saw herself. So it was great to see it finally addressed. Plus Kuhn’s handling of the emotional side of the character arcs was fantastic. It was one of my favorite aspects about the story, and I felt like a lot of the lingering plot threads from previous stories reached a satisfying resolution.

It was also great to see how the other characters in the series were adjusting to changes in their lives/ what they were currently doing after the end of the third book—including Evie’s younger sister, Bea, Aveda, and everyone else. Evie and Aveda’s friendship has always been one of the highlights of the series, even with the ups and downs. I liked how they were both still working on their friendship, but there was never a doubt that there was a bond there.

Overall, I liked Haunted Heroine’s story. It took place in October, and the setting—Morgan College—was different from the more familiar urban city setting of San Francisco. The grounds of the college afforded for something of a spooky atmosphere, and it was a perfect place for the latest mystery to play out.

Haunted Heroine is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. If you’re a fan of this series, then this one should be on your TBR list.
About the author....

Sarah Kuhn is the author of the popular Heroine Complex novels—a series starring Asian American superheroines. The first book is a Locus bestseller, an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award nominee, and one of the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog’s Best Books of 2016. Her YA debut, the Japan-set romantic comedy I Love You So Mochi, is a Junior Library Guild selection and a nominee for YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults. She has also penned a variety of short fiction and comics, and her hotly anticipated graphic novel Shadow of the Batgirl is coming out in early 2020 from DC Comics. Additionally, she was a finalist for both the CAPE (Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment) New Writers Award and the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. A third generation Japanese American, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and an overflowing closet of vintage treasures.
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Disclaimer: This copy of the book was provided by the publisher (DAW Books) via netgalley for this review, thank you!

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Review: The Case Study of Vanitas Volume #3 by Jun Mochizuki

35181843. sy475 Title: The Case Study of Vanitas
Series: The Case Study of Vanitas #3
Author: Jun Mochizuki 
Source/Format: Christmas gift; Paperback
More Details: Fantasy 
Publisher/Publication Date: Yen Press; November 14, 2017

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
The masked ball has ended, but the music plays on. As Noe and Vanitas return disgraced from Altus, the curtain rises on a new battle. News of kidnapped curse-bearers sends the pair to the catacombs beneath the streets of Paris, where a melody of intrigue echoes and a superhuman foe awaits! Humans or vampires: Who will be the hunter, and who the hunted?

**note: there are potential spoilers for volume 1-2, you’ve been warned…**
It’s been a minute since I last read one of the volumes in this series, and I was eager to pick it up again. Volume 3 starts with the end of the masquerade arc, and Mochizuki wasted no time in reminding readers that the story is being narrated by Noe. He’s the only character whose thoughts are ever really seen, and it’s clear that the events so far have already happened and are just being recounted. It is called The Case Study of Vanitas. However, the expressions of the characters in the story presently being shown, are telling enough. Besides it’s still an interesting story regardless.

I’m really into this series so far. With each volume, it seems like the story and the characters get a little more complex as more of the world is slowly revealed. For instance, the “Babel Incident,” keeps coming up. Like with everything else about the series so far, I feel like there’s more to the story than what’s currently being said. The same could be said about the characters. The motivation behind Vanitas’s actions remains pretty murky at this point. However, I do like his interactions with Noe. The two can at times act as a foil to each other, especially when their personalities lead to clashes.

I also enjoyed the part of the story that was spent in Altus, which is still one of my favorite locations in this series so far. Plus a little more of the vampire politics was discussed before the story moved on. Even though there were plenty of revelations and plot twists here, I still have a lot of questions regarding the truth of the situation with the curse-bearers.

Speaking of vampires, I continue to be fan of how they’re portrayed in The Case Study of Vanitas. Part of that is due to how powers are set up in this series. The action sequences are always great, and the art is consistently gorgeous. There was also, finally, a conflict where the world formula revisions were directly shown for more than a few panels (and by characters other than Vanitas). The uses seem to vary—like the ability of The Book of Vanitas, and how some vampires can create fire and others can create ice.

Volume 3 is also the beginning of the next arc, and it gets off to an exciting start. The Chasseurs (vampire hunters) were finally introduced in this volume, and I’m excited to see where that part of the story goes.

All-in-all, I’m having a lot of fun reading this series.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Review: Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire

44804083Title: Come Tumbling Down
Series: Wayward Children series #5
Author: Seanan McGuire
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Hardback
More Details: Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Tor.Com; January 7, 2020

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
The fifth installment in Seanan McGuire's award-winning, bestselling Wayward Children series, Come Tumbling Down picks up the threads left dangling by Every Heart a Doorway and Down Among the Sticks and Bones 
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...
**There are possible spoilers for the first four books in the Wayward Children series in this review. You have been warned…. **

Come Tumbling Down is a slight departure from some of the more hopeful themes of the Wayward Children series. But then again, nothing about Jack and Jill’s story has been anything but a dark trek through the Moors. Even so, Come Tumbling Down was one of the darker installments of the series. It also featured my favorite group of characters and setting from this series, and the overall story was good.

Jack Wolcott has always been one of my favorite characters. With each of her appearances throughout this series, she has always stood out. Even after her appearances in Every Heart A Doorway and Down Among the Sticks and Bones, there was always one lingering question left: What happened to Jack and Jill once they returned to the Moors? Come Tumbling Down firmly answered that question.

As I mentioned above, I liked the story. It was as fast-paced as the others in the series, and the ending left Jack’s story in a much more satisfying—and bittersweet—place. I also enjoyed seeing more of the Moors again. The setting—which is a prominent part of Down Among the Sticks and Bones—was expanded beyond the windmill and the town, most prominently by a couple of new locations.

Come Tumbling Down is one of my favorite sequel stories from the Wayward Children series to date. I’m already looking forward to the next book, Across the Green Grass Fields.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Review: The Case Study of Vanitas Volume 2 by Jun Mochizuki

32856005. sy475 Title: The Case Study of Vanitas
Series: The Case Study of Vanitas #2
Author: Jun Mochizuki
Source/Format: Gift; Paperback
More Details: Manga; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Yen Press; May 23, 2017

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Now installed at a hotel in Paris with the help of Count Orlok, Noé and Vanitas take their awkward partnership on the a vampire masquerade ball! The order of the evening may be small talk and hobnobbing with fellow guests, but the mystery of the curse-bearers is never too far behind. The intrigue swirls as quickly as the dancers twirl, a blue moon ascends upon the guests...and all hell breaks loose!
Well…that escalated quickly. If you know anything about Pandora’s Hearts, there was tragedy all over the place in that series. Now, some of the darker themes of The Case Study of Vanitas are starting to show through. While the first volume was already exciting enough, it was more of an introduction to the story, characters, and world. While volume two, on the other hand, starts the next arc of the story. It also ramps up the action and world building as Noe and Vanitas take on more curse-bearers set against the dazzling backdrop of a masquerade ball.

So far, Mochizuki’s take on vampires is proving to be one of my favorites. They have some of the usual traits—super strength, immortality—but they don’t need to drink blood to live (it seems like more of an indulgence, so far) and they live in another world entirely. The artwork for Altus Paris was gorgeous. I loved the style of the city, and how different it was from the steampunk Paris the story began in—just by changing one aspect about the sky. I also liked the details about names. Names have meaning and importance. It comes up all the time in fiction, in particular fairy tales or stories based on them (think Spinning Silver, The Cruel Prince, and most stories involving fairies). Names, true names, have power in this story, and I was surprised at how closely linked it was to curse-bearers. I’m looking forward to seeing how that develops later on.

I also enjoyed how quickly volume 2 delved into talking more about the world, and mentioned some occurrence called Babel. I found this quote—“Babel really was an astounding incident, wasn’t it? Rewriting the principles of the world like that…”—pretty interesting since the magic-type system in this world is related to world formula revisions.

As for the events in this volume, it presented some interesting questions as to the source of curse-bearers themselves. It also fleshed-out the dynamic between the dual protagonist, and it directly showcased more of the vampire society/politics that were hinted about in the last volume. That also included the introduction of a few new characters.

With the way the twists keep coming, The Case Study of Vanitas is shaping up to be one of my favorite series. The current arc of the story isn’t over quite yet, and now more than ever I’m excited to read volume 3.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Review: Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

36510722Title: Gods of Jade and Shadow
Series: n/a
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Hardcover
More Details: Historical; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Del Rey; July 23, 2019

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
The Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this one-of-a-kind fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore.... 
The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own. Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true. In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld...
Gods of Jade and Shadow was one of my most anticipated book releases of 2019, but it ended up being the first book I read in 2020. Gods of Jade and Shadow was such a complex and amazing tale. It was a coming-of-age story set against a glittering jazz age Mexico setting, with folklore elements and a quest involving a Mayan god of death. It had a fairytale kind of vibe to it, which reminded me a of the type of atmosphere in stories like Uprooted and Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik, as well as the Winternight trilogy by Katherine Arden. Gods of Jade and Shadow was everything I was looking for, and I loved it as much as I thought I would.

Casiopea Tun believes she’s unfortunate, and she is in a lot of ways. Her situation was explored in the early chapters of the story, and right away, I liked her character. I also disliked her family. The casual sort of cruelty they displayed toward Casiopea did not endear them to me, and for much of the story they were dual-antagonists in the ongoing conflict between the gods—particularly Casiopea’s cousin, Martín. That being said, all of the characters were pretty complex, and for the main ones, I enjoyed their individual character arcs. Though Casiopea’s journey is the main focus—and one of my favorite aspects about Gods of Jade and Shadow—and I thoroughly enjoyed every second of her story of adventure and self-discovery.

The overall story was one of my favorites. It was a quest kind of story, with certain objects that had to be found, and there was a good deal of travel as well—it wasn’t until later in the story when the pace picked up. Even so, Gods of Jade and Shadow was fantastic, and I loved all of the mythological elements present in the story. The end wrapped up the story in a bittersweet but satisfying way.

Gods of Jade and Shadow was the first book I read by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Suffice it to say, I’m looking forward to her next novel, Mexican Gothic, which comes out on June 30, 2020.

Have you read Gods of Jade and Shadow? If so, what did you think of it?

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Review: The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

31409135. sy475 Title: The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women
Series: n/a
Author: Kate Moore
Source/Format: Purchased; Paperback
More Details: History; Nonfiction
Publisher/Publication Date: Sourcebooks; May 2, 2017

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
The incredible true story of the women who fought America's Undark danger...
The Curies' newly discovered element of radium makes gleaming headlines across the nation as the fresh face of beauty, and wonder drug of the medical community. From body lotion to tonic water, the popular new element shines bright in the otherwise dark years of the First World War. Meanwhile, hundreds of girls toil amidst the glowing dust of the radium-dial factories. The glittering chemical covers their bodies from head to toe; they light up the night like industrious fireflies. With such a coveted job, these "shining girls" are the luckiest alive — until they begin to fall mysteriously ill. But the factories that once offered golden opportunities are now ignoring all claims of the gruesome side effects, and the women's cries of corruption. And as the fatal poison of the radium takes hold, the brave shining girls find themselves embroiled in one of the biggest scandals of America's early 20th century, and in a groundbreaking battle for workers' rights that will echo for centuries to come. Written with a sparkling voice and breakneck pace, The Radium Girls fully illuminates the inspiring young women exposed to the "wonder" substance of radium, and their awe-inspiring strength in the face of almost impossible circumstances. Their courage and tenacity led to life-changing regulations, research into nuclear bombing, and ultimately saved hundreds of thousands of lives...

One of the books I read in December was The Radium Girls by Kate Moore. It was sitting on my shelf for a while, and I decided it was time to finally read it.

The Radium Girls is probably one of the most poignant, haunting, and sobering reads I’ve read in a while. The Radium Girls is nonfiction, and it tells the history of the women who worked in radium dial-painting factories around the 1920s. It was also about who knew about the dangers of radium, and those who were willing to ignore it in favor of monetary gain.

Sold on the premise of what first appeared to be a glamourous and high-paying job, it turned out to be a slowly unfolding nightmare with significant effects that lasted for years. The women, as documented in The Radium Girls, suffered from incurable (and fatal) health issues directly resulting from their work with the radium paint used to give the dials their luminous glow—more specifically the method used on the factory floor to fix brush ends, which led to the ingestion of radium paint: the “lip-dip-paint routine.” There were other factors as well, like all the details about how the paint got on skin and clothes, and how workers would eat in areas near the paint. The effects of the radium were, for lack of better words, gruesome. It was chilling to read about the women’s condition and how many people were willing to just brush the issue aside despite all the evidence. It was gross negligence and downright insidious at times.

The Radium Girls is a hard and at times an infuriating book to read. Nevertheless it’s an important history that’s worth reading about.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Review: The Case Study of Vanitas by Jun Mochizuki

30621341. sy475 Title: The Case Study of Vanitas
Series: The Case Study of Vanitas Volume #1
Author: Jun Mochizuki
Source/Format: Gift; Paperback
More Details: Manga, Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Yen Press; December 20, 2016 (First published April 22, 2016)

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Step once more into the imagination of Jun Mochizuki, creator of New York Times-bestselling PandoraHearts! A tale of vampires and curses set in a whimsical and dark steampunk Paris unfolds! On the streets, rumors abound of a clockwork grimoire said to sow curses among the vampires. Now, guided by the Book of Vanitas, the gears begun to turn, and the story of two men, Noe and Vanitas, takes shape...
I haven’t kept up with manga by Jun Mochizuki for a while, but I was curious about her latest series, The Case Study of Vanitas. The story so far seems fun and quirky, but there are also a number of hints and vague statements that are already strongly alluding to the tragedy that is going to take place in this series. Even so, I liked the first volume of this manga. It does a lot of heavy-lifting by introducing the main cast of characters, the alternative and steampunk version of Paris, as well as some of the history, lore, technology, and the magic system present in this world. There were several points that were particularly fascinating to me, such as some of the abilities that the vampires + others displayed throughout volume one—particularly the titular character (Vanitas) as well as the book of Vanitas (I really want to know what’s going on with that). The vampires here are interesting. It doesn’t appear that they’re affected by sunlight—although there could be a reason for that explained in later volumes, we’ll see—although they do have some of the more usual traits such as strength, quick healing, immortality, red eyes, etc.. It also seems that moons + astrology have some significance in the story, and I want to know more about it. Volume one also mostly wrapped up what appears to be the first arc of the series, and there were many hints of what’s to come. So I’m interested, and I want to see what goes on in volume 2.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Review: The Princess Who Flew With Dragons by Stephanie Burgis

48138914. sy475 Title: The Princess Who Flew With Dragons
Series: Tales From the Chocolate Heart #3
Author: Stephanie Burgis
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Hardcover
More Details: Middle Grade; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Bloomsbury Children's Books; November 5, 2019

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Princess Sofia of Drachenheim is sick of being used for her older sister’s political gains. At twelve years old, she’s already been a hostage to invading dragons and a promised future fiancé to a wicked fairy. Her only comfort lies in writing letters to her pen pal and best friend--Jasper, a young dragon whom she's never even met. When Sofia's older sister sends her on a diplomatic mission to far-off Villenne, she's meant to play the part of a charming, smiling princess. But when an accident leads to her exile from the city, Sofia is free to wander as she pleases for the first time in her life. And when Jasper's food-mage sister Aventurine turns him into a human boy, Sofia thinks life can't get any better. Until… the legendary ice giants of the north attack, trying to reclaim the territory that they lost centuries ago. With the dragons and royals frozen in ice, can Sofia and Jasper save their families and kingdom?

Another enchanting and strong-hearted fantasy, set in the same world as The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart and The Girl with the Dragon Heart.
The Princess Who Flew With Dragons was an excellent follow up to The Girl With the Dragon Heart. There was less chocolate this time around, and much of the familiar cast of characters wasn’t present. That was because the story was told from Princess Sofia’s perspective and it took place outside of Drachenheim—mainly in Villenne and also the snowy territory of the Ice Giants. However the story was just as fun and adventurous (and full of dragons) as the previous books in the series. Princess Sofia has appeared throughout the series, but she was mostly a side character in the adventures of others. So it was nice to finally get a story from her perspective. Being able to read from Sofia’s perspective was helpful with further understanding her character. The story—and Sofia’s attempts at being diplomatic during her trip to Villenne—put a spotlight on her insecurities and fears about not living up to the title of princess. I appreciated the narrative choices Burgis took with Sofia’s character arch. The lessons, as well as how the situation between Sofia and her old sister, Katrin, played out, was among one of things I liked best about The Princess Who Flew With Dragons. I also liked seeing more of Aventurine’s family—particularly Jasper—as well as all the new characters and places introduced in this book.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed The Princess Who Flew With Dragons. It was a great story, and the ending was satisfying. If you’ve read the other two books in the series, then this one is a must read.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Review: Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire

27366528Title: Beneath the Sugar Sky
Series: Wayward Children #3
Author: Seanan McGuire
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Hardcover
More Details: Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date:; January 9, 2019

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Note: this synopsis contains spoilers for Every Heart a Doorway. 
When Rini lands with a literal splash in the pond behind Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children, the last thing she expects to find is that her mother, Sumi, died years before Rini was even conceived. But Rini can’t let Reality get in the way of her quest – not when she has an entire world to save! (Much more common than one would suppose.) If she can't find a way to restore her mother, Rini will have more than a world to save: she will never have been born in the first place. And in a world without magic, she doesn’t have long before Reality notices her existence and washes her away. Good thing the student body is well-acquainted with quests... A tale of friendship, baking, and derring-do. Warning: May contain nuts.
**Note: this review may contain minor spoilers for Every Heart a Doorway and Down Among the Sticks and Bones. You have been warned.**

So far I’m really enjoying the Wayward Children series, and I’m determined to get caught up with all the current books before Come Tumbling Down comes out next year. After I read Down Among the Sticks and Bones, I was more than excited to finally pick up Beneath the Sugar Sky. The synopsis had me excited for all the possibilities the story could hold, and it turned out to be everything I was looking for.

I loved this story. Not only were more of the other worlds visited in Beneath the Sugar Sky—like Confection and The Halls of the Dead—I also got see to all of my favorite characters again including Nancy, Kade, and of course Eleanor West—who had a rule about no quests, and while it finally got broken, it was for a good reason.

No matter how brief it was, it was also great to be back in Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. Since beneath the Sugar Sky wasn’t a prequel like Down Among the Sticks and Bones, I got more of what I wanted, which was to see what happened to the characters after the way Every Heart a Doorway ended. There were a few new characters, like Cora, who had recently left her own world. I liked her character, and she reminded me a little of Nancy in Every Heart a Doorway. Like her—like most of the students at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children—Cora had reasons to want to remain in her fantasy world, but ultimately she had to adjust to the sudden changes in her life after that door was shut. One thing that this series does well is how it addresses relevant issues by directly incorporating them rather than shying away from, or only hinting at them. So it often came up as something one or more of the characters had to deal with. Beneath the Sugar Sky also does this with Cora’s character. There was also Rini who, at times, spoke quite frankly, but she was a thoroughly entertaining character (I would take a story entirely from her perspective, I’m just saying).

Beneath the Sugar Sky was an excellent and highly entertaining sequel to Down Among the Sticks and Bones. I plan to read In an Absent Dream as soon as my library hold comes in.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Review: Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

31450908Title: Down Among the Sticks and Bones
Series: Wayward Children #2
Author: Seanan McGuire
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Hardcover
More Details: Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date:; June 13, 2017

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. This is the story of what happened first… 
Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline. Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you've got. They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted. They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices...
Jacqueline and Jillian Wolcott, otherwise known as Jack and Jill, were two of my favorite characters from Every Heart a Doorway, especially Jack. The twin’s story wasn't completely unknown to me, especially since their history was explored as much as the other characters were in Every Heart a Doorway. One of the things I had wanted to see more of in the first novella was the worlds that the students of Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children had gone to before their stay at the school. Down Among the Sticks and Bones pretty much satisfied that curiosity. Since the story was about Jack and Jill’s history, there was an in-depth look at The Moors, as well as everything before and up to when they opened their door and walked through it.

One of themes explored throughout Down Among the Sticks and Bones was how the choices made by parents could positively, or in this case, negatively affect their children. The Wolcott’s, Serena and Chester, were inexperienced at parenting and they never bothered to try and learn to do better. The choices they made played such a prominent role in how—and who—the twin’s eventually grew up to be. It was sad how damaging it was, but without it there wouldn’t have been a story. I also liked getting to see the characters of The Moors, who were mentioned in passing in Every Heart a Doorway, on page. They were everything they were described to be, and I would take another story featuring them.

Overall, Down Among the Sticks and Bones was an excellent follow-up to Every Heart a Doorway. It might have been a prequel story, but it doesn’t even matter. This series just keeps getting better and better, and now more than ever I’m excited to start reading Beneath the Sugar Sky.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Review: Dead Voices by Katherine Arden

43069601. sy475 Title: Dead Voices
Series: Small Spaces #2
Author: Katherine Arden
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; hardcover
More Details: Fantasy; Middle Grade
Publisher/Publication Date: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers; August 27, 2019

Synopsis from Goodreads...
Bestselling author Katherine Arden returns with another creepy, spine-tingling adventure in this follow-up to the critically acclaimed Small Spaces. 
Having survived sinister scarecrows and the malevolent smiling man in Small Spaces, newly minted best friends Ollie, Coco, and Brian are ready to spend a relaxing winter break skiing together with their parents at Mount Hemlock Resort. But when a snowstorm sets in, causing the power to flicker out and the cold to creep closer and closer, the three are forced to settle for hot chocolate and board games by the fire. Ollie, Coco, and Brian are determined to make the best of being snowed in, but odd things keep happening. Coco is convinced she has seen a ghost, and Ollie is having nightmares about frostbitten girls pleading for help. Then Mr. Voland, a mysterious ghost hunter, arrives in the midst of the storm to investigate the hauntings at Hemlock Lodge. Ollie, Coco, and Brian want to trust him, but Ollie's watch, which once saved them from the smiling man, has a new cautionary message: BEWARE. With Mr. Voland's help, Ollie, Coco, and Brian reach out to the dead voices at Mount Hemlock. Maybe the ghosts need their help--or maybe not all ghosts can or should be trusted.
Dead Voices is a terrifying follow-up to Small Spaces with thrills and chills galore and the captive foreboding of a classic ghost story.
Earlier this year, I read Small Spaces, Katherine Arden’s first middle grade novel. I was overjoyed when the atmospheric writing that I liked about the Winternight Trilogy was also present in Small Spaces. So I was excited when I first learned that Small Spaces was getting a sequel, and oh man, Dead Voice did not disappoint. With a story full of twists and turns, Dead Voices was delightfully spooky and just as atmospheric as the first book in the series. But it wasn’t so scary that a younger audience wouldn’t be able to enjoy the story.

Dead Voices picks up sometime after Small Spaces. Its winter, and Ollie, her friends, father, and Coco’s mother were on their way to a lodge. After the events of Small Spaces, it was a much needed vacation. However, it wasn’t long before trouble started, and the ghosts did, well, what ghosts do at isolated lodges in the middle of a snowstorm: they haunted. It’s one of the aspects about the story that stood out the most. The ghosts and the lore surrounding Hemlock Lodge reminded me of the story-within-the-story in the first book, also called Small Spaces. It revealed some of the backstory, and how the history influenced the current situations the characters faced as well, all without slowing down the story. It was excellent.

Another thing I liked was the tone of the story. The atmospheric writing, combined with the story, antagonist, and the setting, made for a great ghost story.

It was also great getting to read another story from the perspective of these characters. I liked all of them. In fact, I liked Ollie more in Dead Voices than I initially did in Small Spaces. Her circumstances were different, and this time she had her friends. I liked the dynamics between Ollie, Coco, and Brian. I also liked the development Arden did with their friendship, as well as their personal character arcs. They each had moments to shine, where their skills took center stage.

Overall, Dead Voices was an excellent follow-up to Small Spaces. If you read and enjoyed the first book in the series, then this one is a must read.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

ARC Review: Word to the Wise by Jenn McKinlay

43203098Title: Word to the Wise
Series: Library Lover's Mystery #10
Author: Jenn McKinlay
Source/Format: First to Read; eARC
More Details: Cozy Mystery
Publisher/Publication Date: Berkley; September 3, 2019

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
It's no-holds-barred murder, in the latest page-turning Library Lover's Mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Hitting the Books. 
Lindsey Norris is finally getting married to the man of her dreams--but it's not all roses for Briar Creek's beloved library director, as gardening enthusiast and town newcomer Aaron Grady gives the term "book lover" a whole new meaning. Inappropriate looks and unwelcome late-night visits to Lindsey's house have everyone from the crafternooners to Lindsey's fiancé, Sully, on edge. When Grady's dead body is found staged outside the library and all the clues point to Sully, Lindsey knows it's up to her to dig through the hidden chapters of Grady's previous life to find the real culprit and clear Sully's name. But becoming a thorn in the killer's side is not without its consequences, and the closer Lindsey gets to the truth, the more determined the murderer is to make her just a footnote....
I’ve been looking forward to Jenn McKinlay’s follow-up to Hitting the Books since I read it last year. In Word to the Wise, some of the themes—like harassment and climate change—leaned toward the more timely side. McKinlay nailed the unusual weather patterns, enabling actions of others, the emotional toll, and the disconcerting characterization of characters like Aaron Grady. Because of that, there was an eerie—and sometimes exasperating—feel to the whole story. The mystery was anything but straight forward, and the twists were especially twisty in this one. As such, Word to the Wise was a page-turner. It also turned out to be one of my favorite installments in the Library Lover’s Mystery series.

At first, everything seemed great for Lindsey Norris. She had her job at the library. She was getting married to Sully. And I was happy about the development, because it meant that the romantic subplots of previous books were finally beginning to pay off for the characters. Plus, the stages of wedding preparation were fun, okay. However, once the mystery of who killed Aaron Grady began, some of that happiness evaporated. I liked the mystery here, because the suspects had sufficient motive to want Grady gone. He was a creep who used his reputation as an upstanding citizen as an excuse, a cover, to get away with harassment and stalker behavior. But, just like there was more to Grady, the mystery was also a complex issue. Nothing was as it seemed, and the twists kept coming.

The characters were as great as always. In particular, I liked the library staff who worked for Lindsey, as well as many of the other reoccurring characters. I liked the setting as well. Briar Creek is a small, idyllic coastal town: if you’re familiar with this series, then you know what it’s like, and there isn’t much more to say about it.

Overall, Word to the Wise was an excellent addition to the series. If you’ve read any of the previous books, then this one should be on your TBR List.

About the author...

Jenn is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of several mystery series and will be debuting a new women's fiction series in June 2017, starting with the title About a Dog. She lives in sunny Arizona in a house that is overrun with kids, pets and her husband's guitars.

Disclaimer: This copy of the book was provided by First to Read for this review, thank you!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

ARC Review: The Missing of Clairdelune by Christelle Dabos, translated by Hildegarde Serle

41953346Title: The Missing of Clairdelune
Series: The Mirror Quartet #2
Author: Christelle Dabos
Translated by: Hildegarde Serle 
Source/Format: Netgalley; eARC
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Europa Editions; May 7, 2019

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
When our heroine Ophelia is promoted to Vice-Storyteller by Farouk, the ancestral Spirit of Pole, she finds herself unexpectedly thrust into the public spotlight and her special gift is revealed to all. Ophelia knows how to read the secret history of objects and it could be no greater threat to the nefarious denizens of her home. Beneath the golden rafters of Pole's capitol, Citaceleste, she discovers that the only person she is able to trust is Thorn, her enigmatic fiance. Ophelia again finds herself unintentionally implicated in an investigation that will lead her to see beyond....
Picking up where the first book in the series ended, The Missing of Clairdelune is an excellent follow up to A Winter’s Promise. Part whodunit type of mystery with a lot development on both the character and world building front, The Missing of Clairdelune was an exciting story with enough twists and reveals to keep me on my toes. It was a thoroughly engrossing read, and at this point, I’m truly invested in this series.

The Missing of Clairdelune wasn’t a fast-paced kind of story, but overall, it was a good one. It was detail oriented, and dealt with complex issues—many of which had no easy solution. Around every corner there seemed to be something going wrong for someone, and there was more often than not a ripple-effect that reached even the main character, Ophelia. There were secrets, and some hard truths, which sometimes offered a different perspective on certain places and people. And for every question answered—or just hinted at—about the Rupture, the arks, the ancestral spirits, and Farouk’s obsession with his book, there were always more that were yet to be solved. By the end of the book, I still had more questions than answers.

I said it about A Winter’s Promise, and I think it applies here too: some of the best aspects about The Missing of Clairdelune is the characters. The whole cast is uniquely interesting, and the further development of both romantic and platonic relationships was remarkably well-done. Ophelia is such a fun character to read about. I liked her personality and quirks. The development to her character was also something to take note of, and I was also glad to see her asserting herself more as she figured out how to handle being Vice-Storyteller. Thorn was still kind of an enigma. For the most part the scenes where he and Ophelia interacted with one another were interesting, because they were very different characters. That being said, the direction his character went in was unexpected and very intriguing. Also among my favorite characters was Berenilde, Thorn’s aunt, and Rosaline, Ophelia’s aunt.

The setting was also interesting. Pole was an exceedingly dangerous place where alliances could turn at the drop of a coin, and the environment was constantly cold no matter the time of year. So, much of the book remained indoors where illusions were used as a substitute for the poor weather, which was primarily in Citaceleste where much of the story took place. It was all very cool. That being said, I was glad when the story eventually went outside of Citaceleste, because while it’s an intriguing place, I was also interested in seeing other parts of Pole.

Overall, The Missing of Clairdelune is the best book I’ve read so far this year. Plus, given the way the story ended, I’m very interested in what’s in-store for the characters in the next book in the series….

About the author...

Christelle Dabos was born on the Côte d’Azur in 1980 and grew up in a home filled with classical music and historical games. She now lives in Belgium. The Mirror Visitor, her debut series, won the Gallimard Jeunesse-RTL-Télérama First Novel Competition....

About the translator...

Since graduating in French from Oxford University, Hildegarde Serle has worked in London as a newspaper subeditor at The Independent and The Sunday Telegraph. She has a diploma in translation from the Chartered Institute of Linguists. She lives in London, but her heart lives on the Quai aux Fleurs in Paris...

Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by Europa Editions via Netgalley for this review, thank you!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Review: Fashioning Fashion, European Dress in Detail 1700-1915 by Sharon Sadako Takeda & Kaye Durland Spilker

8542739Title: Fashioning Fashion, European Dress in Detail 1700-1915
Series: n/a
Author: Sharon Sadako Takeda; Kaye Durland Spilker
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Hardcover
More Details: Nonfiction; History; Fashion
Publisher/Publication Date: Prestel Publishing; September 22, 2010

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
The creation of eighteenth and nineteenth century fashion moved at a much slower tempo than the lightning-speed pace of contemporary fashion, so great attention was paid to the smallest detail. Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700-1915 celebrates these and brilliantly examines the transformation of the fashionable silhouette over this span of more than two centuries. Lavish photographs and illustrative text provide historical context, showing how technical inventions, political events, and global trade often profoundly affected style. It is little wonder that many of today's top haute couture designers often look to fashion of the past to find inspiration in the present. The intriguing and stunning examples of historic dress in this opulent volume are as captivating today as they were centuries ago. Fashioning Fashion showcases nearly two hundred highlights from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's new European collection of rare pieces of historic fashion and accessories for men, women, and children. LACMA recently acquired this singular collection, which numbers more than 1,000 objects and represents a total of fifty years of acquisitions by prominent historic dress dealers and collectors Martin Kamer of England and Wolfgang Ruf of Switzerland. The pieces were chosen for their roles in the story of fashion's aesthetic and technical development from the Age of Enlightenment to World War I. This in-depth look at the details of these luxurious textiles, exacting tailoring techniques, and lush trimmings is the first presentation of this remarkable collection...
After I read the medieval history book—The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Medieval World, my thoughts about it can be found HERE—it got me thinking about the clothes of the time period, specifically how international trade, diplomatic ties, conflicts, and the like would affect historical clothing trends. Unfortunately, it was a topic The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Medieval World didn’t cover. So, of course, once I was thinking about it, I wanted to know a bit more about historical fashion. A quick search of my library's catalogue brought me to this book: Fashioning Fashion, European Dress in Detail 1700-1915. It was a quick but fascinating read with plenty of photo examples that highlighted a collection from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I thought it was interesting how trends changed but eventually old ideas were recycled and updated into something new, which was a prominent theme throughout the book. It was especially highlighted in sections that talked about the treatment of garments. I was surprised to learn about the difference in the quality for the stitching, particularly between expensive formal wear and undergarments. The latter of which had better, meticulous seams, because they were frequently washed. While a lot of other garments were described as being incapable of receiving the same treatment. One passage perfectly captures what I mean:

“Plain but functional items such as linen shirts, which had to endure frequent washing, were more carefully stitched than silk gowns, which eventually would be unpicked to be altered or “turned” (resewn with the reverse side of the textile facing outward, to prolong the life of the unwashable garment). Because Fabric was so valuable, it was customarily recycled, and clothes were not constructed to last as long as their textiles.”(p.73)

I found the relationship between technology and fashion interesting. I also liked the sections that talked about the “blending and manipulation” of the four principle fibers—silk, cotton, linen, and wool—to get other textiles. This book also touched on the working conditions of factory workers, as well as other issues relevant to this topic. There’s so much more I could say about this book, but then this post would turn into a summary of the book. That’s not what I’m trying to do.

Overall, Fashioning Fashion was fantastic. There’s still so much I don’t know about this topic, and I would be interested in finding more books like this one....

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

ARC Review: A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn

30518319Title: A Dangerous Collaboration
Series: Veronica Speedwell #4
Author: Deanna Raybourn 
Source/Format: First to Read; eARC
More Details: Historical Fiction; Mystery
Publisher/Publication Date: Berkley; March 12, 2019

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Victorian adventuress Veronica Speedwell is whisked off to a remote island off the tip of Cornwall when her natural historian colleague Stoker's brother calls in a favor. On the pretext of wanting a companion to accompany him to Lord Malcolm Romilly's house party, Tiberius persuades Veronica to pose as his fiancée--much to Stoker's chagrin. But upon arriving, it becomes clear that the party is not as innocent as it had seemed. Every invited guest has a connection to Romilly's wife, Rosamund, who disappeared on her wedding day three years ago, and a dramatic dinner proves she is very much on her husband's mind. As spectral figures, ghostly music, and mysterious threats begin to plague the partygoers, Veronica enlists Stoker's help to discover the host's true motivations. And as they investigate, it becomes clear that there are numerous mysteries surrounding the Romilly estate, and every person present has a motive to kill Rosamund...

I guess you could say A Dangerous Collaboration was a story about secrets—some old, some new; some about strong emotions or actions; and some about the past and others about the present. So many secrets packed into one story! But given how isolated the setting was made out to be and in the context of the mystery surrounding the reason why Veronica and the others were called to the Romilly residence, it made sense. And no, it wasn’t only about the butterflies.

A Dangerous Collaboration was an all-around interesting story. It was a relatively quick read that wasn’t too action-packed but when there was danger involved, the stakes were typically high. There was an almost foreboding atmosphere which only deepened when more details came to light. So, I liked the mystery as well as the historical time period the book took place in.

As I mentioned above, the setting was fairly isolated: centered on an island owned by the Romilly family, accessible only by boat. It was a challenging place with many secret passageways, and it remained at the mercy of the weather—often storms—as well as the water because of the shifts in the tide and currents. Raybourn made good use of the location, which served as a perfect backdrop to the mystery at hand.

One of the things I most enjoy about this book is the main character Veronica Speedwell. She’s witty and smart and her passion about butterflies lends to some simple yet well written moments of quiet tranquility between her and other characters. I personally found the bits about the butterflies incredibly interesting in how well they were described—even the made up Romilly Glasswing butterfly (Oleria romillia), whose real life inspiration/counterparts are just as fascinating as their fictional version. I also enjoyed the banter between Veronica and Stocker and—once again—how well they worked together as a team to try and solve the mystery behind Rosamund’s disappearance.

With a cast of characters that had motivations as equally differing as their personalities, A Dangerous Collaboration was a fantastic installment to the Veronica Speedwell series....
About the author...
A sixth-generation native Texan, New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio with a double major in English and history and an emphasis on Shakespearean studies. She taught high school English for three years in San Antonio before leaving education to pursue a career as a novelist. Deanna makes her home in Virginia, where she lives with her husband and daughter...
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Disclaimer: This copy of the book was provided by First to Read for this review, thank you!

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