Category Archives: Uncategorized

Re-re reading, It’s a thing

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If you’re new here, you might not know that I LOVE to re-read books. Over the years, I have journeyed back to so many of the worlds I love; fantasy worlds with giant dragons or fairy realms full of magic, classics that never lose their appeal, or eras long past. Why, you might wonder, when I already know the ending. The thing is, books are far more than just their endings. The journey I take as soon as I open the book and step inside is what matters, and it is what changes every time I read it. I change, my perspective changes and so, what I read and understand changes, too.

This summer, I decided I would give audiobooks a try. Now, why the heck have I not listened to audiobooks before? No idea. My first foray into them was to listen to Hannah Gadsby’s autobiography, my favorite comedian. She actually read it, so it felt like being invited to her house and listening to her stories for 20+ hours! It was glorious. So, when I decided to listen to something else, I chose one of my favorite fantasy series (because, of course, it would be fantasy), The Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier. I was NOT disappointed. The readers were all different women, but they were all Irish, which is where the tales take place. It had been so long since I last read them that I had quite forgotten much of what happened, which meant that it was like reading them for the first time again. Each book in this series picks up with the generation after the one in the previous book, so it moves through time very quickly. Sometimes that makes me sad to not get to hear much about the characters I got so invested in, but Juliet is a master storyteller and manages to weave their threads into future books. The protagonists in her books are strong women whose strength, resilience, and love are sorely tested. They come to see themselves as more than just women, and all of those qualities are passed down to the next generation. If you have Audible and a few credits available, check them out (also, the original cover art is glorious). Also, check out Hannah’s book. It is hilarious and poignant and well worth the time it takes to listen to.

Ghosts? Srsly?

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If you know me and my reading habits at all, you know that I’m not a ghost-y girl. I don’t believe in them, for one, and the idea of them is creepy. I also don’t do horror very well because I like to sleep with peaceful dreams. So, you might be surprised to find that I’ve read a story with creepy ghosts and liked it! Courtney Gould, the author, was very sneaky about things. The ghosts didn’t jump right in and “BOO”. She built the story slowly and included all the juicy tidbits that catch a reader like me hook, line, and sinker. By the time I realized that it was a ghost story, I was too far gone to stop…I NEEDED to see how the story ended (no spoilers, I promise).

Logan is the teen daughter of Brandon and Alejo, the stars of a paranormal hunter-type tv show. She’s travelled all her life from location to location. Her fathers are very different people with her. Alejo is loving, warm, and always there. Brandon is cold and distant, always wanting to be wherever she’s not. This makes for a very dysfunctional relationship. When they decide to head to Snakebite, Oregon, the men’s hometown, Logan wonders why, after all this time. The town is every bit as horrible as she expects and so are it’s people. They don’t take kindly to strangers, even if they had been born there. It didn’t help that they were gay. As soon as Alejo and Logan arrive and join Brandon, she feels the strangeness of the place. There’s something different, darker crawling just beneath the surface. For one thing, Tristan, one of the few teens in the town has gone missing. It happened just after Brandon arrived. Soon, another boy disappears then a girl. The town is terrified and all that rage is directed at Logan and her little family. Logan and Ashley, the girlfriend of the first missing boy, are an unlikely pair but they move past that to try and figure out what is going on and find Tristan. As they investigate, the darkness becomes more volatile and threatens to destroy everyone unless someone can find a way to defeat it.

Fans of creepy stuff should definitely pick this one up. It reminds me a bit of the movie The Sixth Sense but with a darker bent.

Dark Side of Humanity and other stories

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I know that not all stories are made up of light, sparkle, and unicorn dust. Sometimes you need to peer into the darkness, be brave, and turn on the lights. My latest two books are completely unrelated save for the revealing of the ugly side of humanity that rears its hideous head on a far more regular basis than it ought. They were not comfortable books to read and using words like “enjoy” or “love” are not enough. They will touch nerves. They may make you angry, hopefully for the right reasons and I highly recommend both books.

Devon and Chiamaka have almost nothing in common. Devon is a talented musician working for a coveted spot at Julliard. His mom works 3 jobs to make tuition at the prestigious Niveus School; Chiamaka is one of the most popular girls at school, beautiful and rich. She is working hard to be accepted to an Ivy League school. The only thing they do share is the color of their skin. They are the only two black students at their school. Surprisingly, the last three years have passed with few instances of overt racism. Now, however, their carefully planned lives are beginning to unravel and they find enemies where once there were friends. Aces, a mysterious social media entity, has ferreted out their most closely held secrets and is revealing them, one by one, to the student body. Each day, phones buzz with the latest scandal. Each day, their hopes of a bright future fade a bit more. Who is this Ace of Spades? What does he or she have against them? The answers ae almost too much to bear but together, Devon and Chiamka decide to fight back but is it already too late?

 

Bisou’s first memory of her grandmother and the last of her mother was blood. Meme found her sitting at the foot of the bed, next to the bloody body of her mother. She was whisked away and grew up under the watchful, loving eyes of Meme. She keeps mostly to herself with her boyfriend, James, as one of the only people outside of her family close to her. That all changes the night of the Homecoming dance. That night she is running through the woods, running away from James and the embarrassing thing that happened when her skin prickles, as if she’s being watched. A low growl reveals her stalker; a huge wolf has sniffed her out. As it attacks, Bisou fights back with more strength and speed than she thought possible and she kills the wolf. She runs the rest of the way home. Instead of panicking Meme sits her down and tells her the story of her past, of blood and wolves, of men and violence. Bisou’s legacy is dark and dangerous but the power she feels now gives her a sense of purpose but when the time comes to fight the evil that has haunted her life, will she be able to face it and be victorious?

 

Both stories are of surviving evil. Both stories are relevant to what our world is, right now. Dark, dangerous, and deadly for certain people who must be stronger than those who threaten their lives. They made me sad, angry, frightened but, ultimately, hopeful that there are helpers out there. They might be sitting next to you in class, on the bus, at the restaurant. As scary and infuriating as these books were, I think we need to read them and more like them so that we can learn to recognize evil when we see it in ourselves or those around us and work to change it.

 

Murder, Most Creepy

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What makes a good murder mystery? Plot? Characters? Carnage? All of the above, sure, but what makes a REALLY good murder mystery is when you don’t guess the ending or there’s an interesting twist, or you are left hanging, unsure of what actually happened. I read so many of these books that it’s hard to pull the wool over my eyes but the book I just finished did just that. It was twisted, gruesome, and I was left hanging. Read this book and tell me your thoughts/theories/opinions.

She was standing in the middle of the room covered from head to toe in blood, as if someone had upended a bucket full of it over her head. The bodies of 3 people were scattered around the room and a baby was crying. This was Michael’s first glimpse of Marie that horrific night but it wouldn’t be his last. She was being held in the jail of the tiny town where his dad was the sheriff, where nothing really bad ever happened until that night, those people, the boy who was in Michael’s class at school. No one could get anything out of her but she decided to open up to Michael, to tell him her story. For weeks, months Marie’s story ebbed and flowed around the events leading up to the last three murders committed by a serial killer. The murders were called the Bloodless Murders because the victims had all been drained of blood and not a drop was found at the scenes, until now. Why was this one different? Who was Marie? Why would she not give up the name of her accomplice? Michael questioned, cajoled, bribed, Marie to tell the truth but her story was just too outrageous yet, intriguing. The case would soon be out of his hands and to a prosecutor who wanted nothing more than to see Marie all the way to the electric chair.

I was as surprised at the revelations from Marie as I was what she didn’t reveal. It was a well-written story and demonstrated the tendency of humans to believe what they want to believe in spite of evidence or lack thereof. Kendare Blake brought elements of a couple of true crime cases into her story, spree killers Charles Starkweather 19 and Caril Ann Fugate 14, and the murders of the Clutter family. Both left bodies and broken families in their wake which lends a frightening authenticity to her tale. If you’re a fan of murder mysteries, this is a must-read!

If it’s broken, can it be fixed?

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I am taking a break from the fairy tale retellings, with their monsters and madness to read a…murder mystery! There a great quote that makes this transition apropos, “Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that the dragons can be killed.” As most of us know, there are very real monsters in this world. We see havoc they wreak every day on the evening news. What we really need to know is that no matter how big or ugly or powerful they are, we can defeat them. They don’t have to ruin our lives completely and forever.

Brynn, Mia, and Summer are loners in their own ways. Brynn is prickly and loud. Mia is super shy and fearful. Summer is the new girl who brought them all together and held them there with her fierce charm. Their days were spent daydreaming about a mystical place called Lovelorn from a novel Summer discovered. They wrote fanfiction based on the book but weird things began to happen that blurred the lines between reality and fiction. Then, Summer was brutally murdered and Brynn and Mia were implicated. There wasn’t enough evidence to charge them but court of public opinion labeled the girls evil, witches, murderers. Brynn discovered a sanctuary in rehab and Mia was buried under her mother’s hoarding piles. After several years, a random piece of evidence dropped into Mia’s lap that changed everything and brought the two girls back together to try and figure out what really happened to Summer and themselves.

Lauren Oliver is a consummate storyteller. This twisted tale of love, betrayal, and loss will engage you from the opening line, “Five years ago, when I had just turned thirteen, I killed my best friend.” I mean, seriously, how could anyone put the book down after that? It was an excellent read. I will admit to being surprised at who the murderer was, which is a difficult thing to do when you read and watch as many murder mysteries as I do. Fans of that genre, buckle up buttercup!

Truth and Consequences

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Normally, I’m not a fan of witch stories. I guess it’s my Christian upbringing seeping in and making my spirit uncomfortable with the occult. Occasionally, though, a story comes around that draws me into its web and won’t let go. Witchcraft? Perhaps…or maybe really good storytellers have a magic all their own.

Frank protects his girls from the outside world that would not understand them. Worse, people would hunt and kill them for what they are and what they can do. Derry and her sisters understand this so they make a life for themselves deep in the forest, secluded from everything. One day, though, she breaks the rules with her older sister Jane. They go into the forest, a place they are forbidden to enter and it ends in bloodshed. It’s a secret that they keep from everyone until the day that Jane disappears. Derry is certain that she saw Jane disappear into the woods so night after night, she follows hoping to find her and bring her home. Each time she enters the forest, Derry feels alive with magic. Her powers seem to grow stronger with each trip. It is exhilarating and disturbing. The forest whispers its secrets to her and they aren’t all good. The creatures that live there are drawn to her and they tell her things about Frank; dark things. She realizes his evil intentions toward the girls but saving them all means embracing the dark magic inside of herself and the forest. Resisting the pull of power will be the most difficult thing she’s ever done.

Sarah Hollowell’s tale of magic and betrayal will have you on the edge of your seat so be careful where you choose to sit as you read this one or you might embarrass yourself by yelling at the book…out loud!

 

Retellings Revisited

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Okay, so I get into a genre groove sometimes and I just have to ride it out until the next wave. Sorry? Anyway, today’s post is about a trilogy based on the Beauty and the Beast tale. The themes of love, betrayal, truth, and healing connect all three books beautifully. A beast is not always an evil creature, a man is not always a good man, but decisions always have consequences. Oh, and be on the look out for a Groundhog’s Day (the movie) vibe.

Year after year forever the curse visits Rhen and what is left of his kingdom. The beast ravages the castle and the surrounding villages. The royal family has been decimated, only Rhen  is left. The curse can only be lifted when a girl falls in love with him. He’s lost track of how many girls Grey, his faithful to a fault guard, has brought him, each one a failure. On this day, however, something different happens.

Harper is on guard as her brother, an enforcer for a local gang, “does his business”. From the shadows of her hideout she spots a suspicious looking man carrying a young woman. Though she suffers with a damaged foot due to cerebral palsy, she has a strong sense of right and wrong and what is happening right in front of her is definitely wrong. She attacks the man with the only weapon she has, a crowbar. Her selfless action lands her in a place unlike anything she’s ever seen, a fantastical world with monsters and magic. She is tough and stubborn and Rhen is resigned to his fate. Can the two ever find common ground? Will love finally break the curse?

The story continues in the second and third books where each character is transformed into something else. As they navigate these new roles, magic weaves around them making their lives both easier and worse. Their strength, resolve and bonds will be sorely tested as they must figure out a way to vanquish the force of evil in their lands.

OMG…these books are absolutely fabulous! I was left wrung out as I read the last page of the last book. It was a satisfying ending that I didn’t want to happen. Brigid Kemmer’s world building is brilliant. The relationships between the characters is authentic and compelling; the betrayals, love, respect, and strengths combine to make a complex dynamic. I highly recommend this series to anyone who loves a good story.

 

Fairy Tales and Legends, Revisited, Again

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So, do you remember when I was talking about retellings of fairy tales being some of my favorite stories? Right, just a couple of posts ago, yes. I’m here again to tell you about another couple of authors who shake things up in the land of tales. Two I loved and one I am still trying to get my head and heart around. Hunted and Sherwood by Meagan Spooner and Gilded by Marissa Meyer are all excellent books and I highly recommend each one.

She knows the forest by heart. Every path and tree are as familiar to her as her own hand. Though she now lives in the city with her family, she longs to be back in the mists and moss of it. Her chance comes at a heavy price though. Yeva’s father is a successful merchant who gambled everything on one shipment which was lost to bandits. With nothing left, they pack up their meager belongings and make the trek to the old hunting cabin. Her father is greatly changed and begins to go out hunting for weeks at a time. When he returns, he is haunted and mumbles about the beast that tracks him. He begs Beauty, Yeva’s pet name, to stay away but she can’t. She has to take care of her sisters who depend on her superior hunting skills to survive. One day, months after her father left for his latest hunting trip, she finds something that changes everything. The hunter has become the hunted but can her wits save her or will the beast deal the final blow.

I first thought that this book was going to be a straight forward retelling of Beauty and the Beast until the BIG TWIST! This was an excellent version of the story…not quite as good as Beauty by Robin McKinley (which is my absolute favorite), but it was different.

 

The tragic news that Robin of Locksley is dead reaches home. Marion, his betrothed and best friend since childhood is left shattered. How will she go on? How will the people of Locksley survive without Robin? Nottingham is under the thumb of the greedy Sheriff who raises taxes regularly and the people just don’t have anything left. She desperately wants to help but doesn’t know how. When a man in a green cloak appears and begins to harass the Sheriff and his henchman Guy of Gisborne, people begin to whisper Robin’s name again. As tensions increase, Robin of the Hood grows bold with his crimes but Gisborne has laid a trap for him. Will he fall for it or does he know better or…is it really Robin?

HOLY SMOKES!!! This one really caught me off guard. This is the one I’m still trying to wrap my head around. What happens is…well, you’ll see. Get back to me when you do and tell me how you feel about it.

 

 

Depending on who you ask, Serilda is either a master storyteller or a consummate liar. Her stories are full of magic and adventure, dark and light. She was blessed at birth by the god of lies and no one believes a word she says. One night, she runs afoul of the Erlking and his hunt by hiding his quarry. She tells him a fantastical tale and he halfway believes it. When the Hunt rides again, he calls to her and she is forced to go with him to his castle behind the veil. He demands that she prove her story is true or she will be killed and trapped forever in his world. She must spin straw into gold by morning. It’s an impossible task and she prays to the gods to help her. Salvation comes in the form of a strange boy who agrees to help her. Help, however, comes at a price. By morning, there is a pile of gold threaded bobbins and Serilda is allowed to go home. Over the next few months, she is summoned each month during the Hunt. She soon realizes there there is much more going on in the twisted mind of Erlking and it will take all of her cunning and some help from an unexpected source to break the curse and defeat the Erlking.

Wow, another fairy tale with some major twists! Meyer is an excellent writer as is evidenced by the popularity of all her other books. She knows how to make a once-familiar story something completely new. The Gilded series promises to be another fantastic read. If you are like me and love a good fairy tale retelling, this is MUST to add to your list.

 

Intrigue, rescue, love, friendship, and…Basketball

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I really do love a good mystery. I binge watch them at home and I read them whenever I can. A friend asked me today if I was a secret serial killer since I watch/read so many. I don’t really know why I enjoy them. Maybe I like to watch people smarter than me solving puzzles? Maybe it’s the suspense that’s creepy but not horror (not a fan of horror)? Maybe it’s about the good guys winning cleverly or the bad guys, regardless of how clever, getting their due? Whatever the case, I will keep on reading/watching murder mysteries because I want to…it helps that reading is part of my job, too!

Mickey Bolitar loves basketball. The court is where all the things wrong in his life fade into a haze of sweat, pounding feet, and the bounce of the ball. For the first time in his life, he lives in a town where there’s a basketball team and the opportunity to make friends for more than a few months. His family has live all over the world for his dad’s work. They decided to give all that up to give Mickey a chance to have a normal life. Tragically, that is not to be. His father was killed in a car accident and his mom is in rehab for drug addiction, her way of dealing with grief. On the making friends, front, Ema and Spoon, are not exactly what he expected. Ema is a chubby goth and Spoon is a nerd with ne encyclopedic knowledge of utterly useless information. One afternoon, everything changes. He is walking in front of the town’s “haunted house” when an old woman appears in the doorway and calls his name. What she says, though, sends him down a path that no one expected. “Your father is alive”. In the coming months, Mickey will find the truth and a whole lot of heartache along the way.

Harlan Coban created characters that are both creepy and funny. Typical teen angst is mixed in with intrigue and unexpected twists. Sometimes the first person narrative bogs the story down a bit and the end of the third book wraps up a little too quickly and neatly. Still, mystery fans will enjoy this series.

Fairy tales, shaken, stirred and turned upside down

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One of my favorite kinds of books to read are those based on fairy tales of old that have been drawn out, embellished, and made new. Robin McKinley, Rosamund Hodge, Juliet Marillier, and Holly Black are just a few of my favorite authors who have mastered the art of retellings. I must now add Sarah Prineas to this list. Ash & Bramble takes one of the most beloved fairy tales, Cinderella, and turns it on its head in every conceivable way.

The Godmother is all powerful. She rules everything she touches with an iron fist. No one escapes her will. Well, that’s not precisely true. Pin is a seamstress. Godmother told her she was even though she can’t sew a straight line to save her life. Day in and day out, she toils under the baleful eye of the Overseer, crookedly stitching, pricking a finger, knotting a thread. One day, though, something strange happens and it all starts with a glass slipper, a shoemaker, and a tiny spark of hope. What follows is horrifying, exhilarating, and dangerous but, if Pin and Shoe want to escape the Godmother, they must face what comes with bravery and wit.

I am telling you, this story will make you think you’re in the Upside down. Good is bad, bad is good yet love will win the day. Pineas’s story provides a new perspective on stories and what is good/bad. If you’re a fellow fairy tale retelling fan, this is a must-read!