The All Souls Trilogy-A Book Series Review

Why is it, when we love something, we just don’t want to be critical of it?  Take, for example, Baked Ruffles.  I love them very much.  They are just the right thickness for dips, so they rarely break, they taste good, they aren’t as salty as regular ruffles, and I like the texture.  

But, and this is hard for me to admit, I hate the way they are sometimes so dang wide.  I have to break them in half to make them work for me.  

That’s the way I feel right now.  Because I’m about to review the All Souls Trilogy, or the A Discovery of Witches book series.

I’ll try to keep this as spoiler-free as possible, but given that the first book is 10 years old (Really, only 10?  Zeesh) some spoilers may leak out.   And given that I am reviewing three books, yes, there may be spoilers. 

Have I mentioned the spoilers?

The story of A Discovery of Witches begins with Dr. Diana Bishop, our female protagonist, finding a book, Ashmole 782, a magical alchemical manuscript.  Diana, wanting nothing to do with magic, sends the book back to whence it came.  But her calling the book forth has caught the notice of other creatures (witches, daemons, vampires), most notably Dr. Matthew Clairmont, a vampire.  

In Shadow of Night, the second book of the series, we find our intrepid (really, Lauren?  That’s the word you’re going with?) heroes thrust back in time into 1590s England by way of Diana’s witchy ability called Time Walking.  Here they meet such historical notables as Sir Walter Raleigh, Christopher Marlow, and Queen Elizabeth! Rotting teeth included!   In this book, Diana is seeking out teachers for her burgeoning magical abilities and both she and Matthew are searching for Ashmole 782.  You know, before it became called Ashmole 782. 

In The Book of Life, we find Diana and Matthew returned to the present, with Diana having learned control over her magic, and they have renewed purpose in finding the book.  Also, they are married now!  Huzzah!!  They face many hurdles, though, in seeking the book.  Most of the members of the Congregation don’t want them together and members of their own vampiric family might be against them. 

So what did I think of these books?  Well, let us start at the beginning.

A Discovery of Witches is an exquisite book.  It’s almost lyrical in it’s writing style.  Not words I say often.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve said them at all before.  It’s pacing is spot on, though, as with most romance style books, I think Matthew and Diana fell in love a little too quickly.  But hey, when you know, you know. Ya know? 

But that’s not really a pacing issue, is it?  That’s a plot choice.  

Speaking of plot, I like how DNA is important to the story. The world of science being such a large portion of a vampire’s life is both funny and thought-provoking at the same time.  But that’s a small part of the first book, it’s a bigger part of the third book, though.  The plot moves along quite nicely.  No part of it feels like your rushing to get to the end of the book, which I appreciate.

The characters are rich, fully realized versions of themselves.  They never feel anything less than at their best, even when it’s just side characters, like Emily, Sarah, Hamish, or Miriam.  Our villains, on the other hand, feel a little less fleshed out.  We don’t spend enough time with Satu, Peter Knox, or Gerbert for them to be fully actualized, but more time with them would have been nice.  

There aren’t really any big plot twists to this book.  There might be one if you squint hard enough, but the author hasn’t written these books that way.  Everything flows seamlessly from one moment to the next.  Okay, fine, there is one.  And it does have ramifications for each of the following books.  But it’s not like a plot twist where you are left going “OMG, why did that happen”, it’s more like “well, that’s interesting information”.  

I really liked how this book ended.  It left me wanting the second book to read almost immediately.  And given that I got this book on Kindle when it was first released, I had to wait a minute.  Stupid waiting.  

Ah well.  Patience is a virtue.

On to my favorite book, Shadow of Night!  Deborah Harkness (the author) is a historian, and it really shows here.  In my personal opinion, this book is where the writing and research really shine.  And I love her writing style.  It just seems to flow effortlessly, and I’m sure that took quite a bit of effort.  

This book is set in 1590s Elizabethan England, France, and Bohemia.  I love how the time period really comes alive through the storytelling.  All the characters are compelling, though I hate Kit.  He really bothered me.  Which, I suppose, was the author’s point.  I also love Mary Sidney  You gotta love positive female friendships!

Again, the plot and pacing are on point.  Honestly I found no faults with this book.  Of course I didn’t, it’s my favorite.  And how many times can I say something is my favorite before I am tempted to use that gif from Elf? 

The Book of Life is the third, but not final, book in this universe.  This, in my opinion, is the weakest of the three books.  Now don’t get me wrong, it’s still a great book in own right. It’s just not as strong as the other two books.  The pacing was a little messy.  Not terribly messy, mind you, just a little bit messy.  The plot was great.  I really enjoyed how that important detail of DNA came back into play big time in this book.  

The ending of this book felt a little, well, not rushed, but it didn’t flow as well I would have liked. It seemed like the author had so many ideas she wasn’t quite sure how to get them all out. Was it still well done? Mostly yes. Will I read it again constantly? Absolutely.

I really loved the addition of Chris, he’s a fantastic new character. And oh boy Benjamin.  Does he make an excellent villain. Disturbing, but excellent. And we can’t forget the loss of that character. If you’ve read the books, you know the one. That one hurt a little bit.  

So what do I think of the trilogy overall?  I think it’s fantastic!  Everyone should read it!  5 Stars all around! Too enthusiastic for you? Try this instead: I find these pages to be full of the most wondrous adventures to be told of witch and vampire.  You think I’m kidding? Turns out, I read these books this time two years ago too. How do I know this? Check out this photo of my cat sitting on one of the books. Silly KoKo.

No, but seriously.  I love all three of these books.  I read through them in about 9 days.  And there is still the 4th one, Time’s Convert, to read.  And (huzzah!) according to Deborah Harkness’ own Instagram account, she is working on a 5th book.  So I’m good.  

What do you think of the All Souls Trilogy?

The House in the Cerulean Sea-A Book Review

Well. I feel like I just got a big ole hug.

And there is that review done. That’s it. That’s all you need to know.

No, but really, I’ll give an actual review. If I have to. And since I am a book blog and I read this book both for enjoyment and to review it, I guess I’ll have to review it. Whoo hoo!

So what can I say about this book.

Overall it’s heartwarming and endearing, which is something you don’t often say about fantasy books. I’ve heard people describe this book as though it left them feeling like it gave them a warm hug. I’m not gonna lie, I felt the same way, if you could tell by my opening statement.

Plus, LBGTQ+ rep!

Linus, as the main character, is complex for all that he is a simple man who likes simple things. He is very straight laced. His world is made up of a set of rules set by the government agency he works for, which is the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. Linus is a case worker, someone who goes around and inspects orphanages that house magical children and makes sure that they are up to par. He likes the daily grind of his life and doesn’t wonder if there is anything more to the world than what he already knows. Plus, he has a cat, Calliope.

We love a good cat around here.

One day Linus gets assigned the most classified of jobs, to looks into the lives of the children on the island off the coast of the small village of Marsyas. That’s when things get interesting.

Arthur is the is master of the house and Zoe is it’s caretaker. And I love them both so much! The six children shall remain anonymous because to even give the name of one of them would spoil the surprise. And oh, you will enjoy this surprise. Except for Chauncey, who dreams of growing up to be a bellhop. A Bellhop! How cute is that!

Linus gets drawn into the daily lives of these children even as he is reporting on them back to the head office of DICOMY. Will Linus discover there is more to life?

I love Linus’ character progression. Nothing felt faked or forced for the sake of the plot. And Arthur was a lovely counterbalance. How each saw the world was in opposition to the other. The children were simply delightful. Each had there own unique story and way of looking at life.

So I think it’s safe to assume that I approve of the characters and their development.

The pacing in this book was spot on. It never felt like you were rushing to reach the end, or that you were slowing down to reach a hard earned point. It was consistent throughout the book. Much appreciated, TJ Klune (the author).

World building was pretty good. This book is clearly meant to be some form of magical realism, but we are never really told what country this all takes place in. I keep picturing a New England or United Kingdom setting. So the vagueness didn’t really sit well with me. It didn’t keep me from appreciating the book, but it did bother me a little.

I really connected with this story, as I think anyone who has felt like the odd one out will. It’s message of hope and being yourself was warm and, above all, kind. Which, again, not something you can often say about fantasy novels.

I really loved this book. I can see myself re-reading this whenever I am having a bad time of it mentally and am in need of a pick me up.

Self care is important!

So all in all I gave this book 5 stars, and I think you will to. So go give The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune a chance!

Old Man’s War-A Book Review

Have I mentioned I’m in two book clubs? I haven’t. Well, let me correct that now.

I’m in two book clubs, because one just wasn’t enough. This newer one I’m in is geared more towards sci-fi/fantasy books, so naturally, I’m in love.

In November Old Man’s War by John Scalzi was selected as our read. And holy cow, what a ride.

The book follows John Perry, who decides to join the Colonial Defense Forces after turning 75 and the death of his wife.

It’s a riveting tale of life at the edge of space when everything out in space wants to kill you. And, quite frankly, you are a soldier whose job is to defend those that live out on said edge.

John Perry is just an average guy who signs up for service, and like everyone else, has no idea what exactly it is he is signing up for. He moves along through the world like your average guy. Nothing overly special about him. Which of course, makes him special.

He does make some good friends along the way. I liked Maggie, Alan, Thomas, Harry, and Jesse, aka the Old Farts. They all added something to the story and didn’t feel like filler characters the way some friends can do.

The tone changed a couple of times. The first half of the book was more light hearted and fun with more comedic moments that genuinely had me laughing out loud. The second half was darker, with higher stakes on Perry’s actions and relationships. Pacing was also divided, with the first half of the book taking its time to get you where you need to go, and the second half just moving you along quite quickly.

None of that detracted from the book at all. It feels like you have viewed two distinct parts of Perry’s time with the CDF and seemed like a natural progression of the story.

I really liked this book. I definitely liked it enough to want to read the rest of the books in the series. The next one may or may not be in my Amazon cart right now. 4 out of 5 stars.

The Autobiography of Santa Claus – A Book Review

So I’m just gonna say it: This book is freaking adorable.

It really, truly is.

It follows the story of Santa Claus, from his humble beginnings as Nickolas the priest, to his later life as Father Christmas. It covers the course of about 1700 years so we get to see some of human history through his eyes. Which is fascinating!

His adventures take you all over Christendom, as Nickolas is a priest after all. And Santa does only go where the legend of Santa spreads. You watch as he encounters historical figures (most real, one or two not so much), places, and events. You see and experience these things through his eyes.

Now the book does shy away from some of the harsher realities that take place but also embraces others. Like the persecution of early Christians by the Roman empire. It’s not graphic though.

It’s very much a work of fiction but would stand up to some of the autobiographies I have read. It reads very much like a true story, and you find yourself getting swept up into the world of Saint Nickolas as a result.

I loved the way quiet way Nickolas moved through this world, just wanting to give gifts to those less fortunate than he. He was so determined to remain anonymous that he was well and truly shocked when gifts kept being given in his name.

His helpers are a ragtag bunch of interesting historical figures. From former slaves to warlords to priests to writers and many more! To give just one of them away would take the fun out of finding out for yourself.

You can tell Jeff Guinn, the author really did his research on various topics, religious beliefs, and peoples. He also happens to have a reference list in the back of the book just in case you wanted to doubt that he put in any research time on this book.

Cause he did.

And this book reads like a love letter to Santa Claus as a result.

To sum up, I truly loved this book. I thought it was well written and well researched. The characters were bright and vibrant. The world was colorful. The pacing was consistent throughout, which was nice. I can’t say it enough, I loved this book! 5 out of 5 stars.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue-A Book Review

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab.

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever—and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.

I had heard people describing this book as their new favorite. That’s a lot to live up to. What if it was just mediocre? What if I found it to be terrible? What if it was so bad I had to DNF it? That’s a lot of “what if’s”. So, what did I think?

We see Addie’s life unfold in both the past and the present as the author chose to alternate between both. Addie was compelling when moving about the past figuring out how to navigate through the world right after her bargain was struck. She could have been a classic damsel in distress, but she manages to be smart when faced with trouble.

Addie in the present is lonely but has adapted to her situation. She is clever when it comes to knowing where to stay and how to feed herself. Not to mention clothing herself.

Luc is an fascinating villain. He is compelling and interesting. He is also very driven towards his goal.

Henry, as the only human who can remember Addie, is wonderful. He’s well written and interesting. He helps Addie really reconnect with the world while she does the same for him.

I found the world building was exquisitely done. The moments spent between the past and the present where brilliant.

The pacing was slow, but consistent. And I mean it when I say the pacing was slow. This is a slow read. Didn’t stop me from reading it in a day and a half though.

I don’t have anything negative to saw about this book, at all. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this is in my list of top ten favorite books. An enthusiastic 5 out of 5 stars.

Cemetery Boys- A Book Review

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his true gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie off some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.

So I just finished up Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas and wow. I was not disappointed.

Which is great.

Because right as I started reading this my ADD started acting up and you would have thought I had never read a book before. I couldn’t sit still. I would read twenty pages then I would put the book down only to come back to the book two hours later and get yet another twenty pages read. I finally got past that hump when there about a hundred pages left in the book. Thank goodness!

And please don’t let my inability to sit still and read lead you to believe this book is anything other than good. Because it’s very great. I couldn’t play Animal Crossing for very long either, and I play that for at least an hour every day.

I have no life. Cause Covid.

Back to the book!

I enjoyed the world the author created. And given that it is our world, it was pretty easy. But the picture they painted of the graveyard and Yadriel’s place in it (and the world at large) was wonderful.

The characters were rich and colorful. And I really felt for Yadriel on his journey to gain his family’s acceptance as a trans man. And Julian and Maritza are wonderful characters. I liked how alive Julian felt, you know, for a dead guy.

The magic system in this book is great. I really loved how the author used generational magic. It was such a large part of Yadriel’s journey in his struggle to be accepted.

I loved the plot, but I did have some problem with how certain things progressed here and there. I feel the book had some plot progression issues and that they kind of rushed us to the end of the story once we got there.

There were a few things I would tweak here and there, mostly to do with the writing style and the plot progression issues. And that’s why this book gets 4 out of 5 stars.

What? It’s a great book! It also happens to be the authors debut novel and I’m really excited to see what they do next.

A Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires- A Book Review

Patricia Campbell’s life has never felt smaller. Her husband is a workaholic, her teenage kids have their own lives, her senile mother-in-law needs constant care, and she’s always a step behind on her endless to-do list. The only thing keeping her sane is her book club, a close-knit group of Charleston women united by their love of true crime. At these meetings they’re as likely to talk about the Manson family as they are about their own families.

One evening after book club, Patricia is viciously attacked by an elderly neighbor, bringing the neighbor’s handsome nephew, James Harris, into her life. James is well traveled and well read, and he makes Patricia feel things she hasn’t felt in years. But when children on the other side of town go missing, their deaths written off by local police, Patricia has reason to believe James Harris is more of a Bundy than a Brad Pitt. The real problem? James is a monster of a different kind—and Patricia has already invited him in. 

Little by little, James will insinuate himself into Patricia’s life and try to take everything she took for granted—including the book club—but she won’t surrender without a fight in this blood-soaked tale of neighborly kindness gone wrong.

Holy cow. What a ride this book was.

I have to say, I was not expecting to enjoy that as much as I did. I mean, I had heard great things about this book, but that doesn’t always mean a book is good.

But this book was great. I mean really. I couldn’t put it down.

Except I did put it down because I didn’t want it to end. Anyone else do that?

There are some trigger warnings for this book, so be aware of that. A hazard for any vampire book these days it seems.

The characters where great. I mean really, the author does a great job of painting Patricia as a woman who is is both uncovering the truth and seemingly coming unhinged to the people around her.

The world building was strong. Grady Hendrix’s world of the North Carolina suburbs in the 1990’s was really well done.

I loved our villain. James was wonderfully written. He was both charming and creepy all at the same time.

And that ending. Oh my goodness that ending! I loved it!

At the end of the day I had to give this book 5 out of 5 stars. How could I not? It was brilliant.

The Priory of the Orange Tree – A Book Review

The Priory of the Orange Tree was written by Samantha Shannon

As I sat down to write this review, which was right after finishing the book, I realized that I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about it.

The premise: The kingdom of Inys has stood for a thousand years, and at it’s heart lies it’s queen, Sabran. Now it’s time for Sabran to do her duty and conceive an heir, but evil lurks in the shadows. A plot to undo her kingdom is at hand, and an ancient Dragon awakens in the deep.

This 800 page fantasy book is 3 parts political drama 1 part fantasy story. With a little queer romance thrown in just for good measure. And I’m not the biggest fan of pure political drama if I’m going to be honest. To much real political drama in the world, thank you very much!

The world building is the book was excellently done. Like, superbly done. The author paints a chaotic landscape in fear of the apocalypse to come.

The character building was well done. Sabran, Ead, Margret, Tané, Loth, Nicklays, and all the rest are very well fleshed out with strong backstories. They all have growth, if not all in the ways that you expect (here’s looking at you unexpected queer relationships!).

The plot, well that, that is where I have some problems. Overall, it’s good. The story is engaging and the world is thriving. But I had some problems with the little bits. Some things happened too slowly, some too quickly. There was an awful lot of “if it could go wrong, it will go wrong” happening here. But again, overall, it’s a good plot, with plenty of momentum to pull the story forward.

On the whole, the book was pretty good. I gave it 3.75 out of 5 stars.

The Bone Shard Daughter-A Book Review

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

The emperor’s reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shard magic powering the animal-like constructs that maintain law and order. But now his rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.
Lin is the emperor’s daughter and spends her days trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets. When her father refuses to recognise her as heir to the throne, she vows to prove her worth by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.
Yet such power carries a great cost, and when the revolution reaches the gates of the palace, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her birthright – and save her people.

Well, that surely was a read, wasn’t it. See I’m not so sure about the first half of this book. And the second half was good. But as a whole book, does it work?

I just don’t know. I’m so conflicted!

From the very beginning of this book I felt like I was jumping in at the middle of the story. Which as we all know from my review of Faith that it’s not my favorite thing to have happen in a story.

I also didn’t like how the character pov jumps happened by chapter. Don’t get me wrong, as the book went on I understood why the author chose the approach she did take on the time she spent with each character. It just really bothered me during the first half of the book. For example, she mentioned a character in the first 4 chapters that wasn’t heard from again until you were 30% of the way through the book.

Given all of my negative thoughts thus far, I very nearly DNF’d this book. But I decided to stick with it, and I’m glad that I did. I found myself really enjoying the second half of the book to the point where I was up until midnight reading because I had to know how it ended.

I will say the ending felt a little weird to me. I know its the first book in a series but I dislike when endings don’t actually end something. This felt like one big ole “see you next season”. I don’t particularly like when books try to be movies or tv series.

It irks me.

All that being said, I really enjoyed the bone shard magic system. It’s complex and, well, gross. I loved it.

The world the author created is of a nation on the brink of revolution, and it works, for the most part. I would be really interested to see how the world expands in future books in the series.

Pacing was slightly problematic for me, the first half of the book plodded along while the second half picked up speed. It’s part of my confusion at reading the book.

Character development was really well done. The authors characters really shine in this story. They were rich and complex, which is something other parts of the book were lacking.

As I don’t know that I’d pick up the next one in the series, I have to give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

The Vanishing Half- A Book Review

For this months book club we read The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett.

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?

So let’s talk about this.

I had heard great things about this book before it came up as a book club book. So, I must admit, I might have had high expectations for actually reading it myself. I’m happy to admit this book mostly lived up to those expectations.

It did have it’s drawbacks for me. Spoilers ahead (sort of) so be prepared for those.

The first 47% of this book is told from one sister’s perspective. I know because I was reading it on my kindle. And that’s before it jumps into her daughter’s perspective. But then it jumps into the other sister’s perspective and then into HER daughter’s perspective.

We don’t see a lot from the one sister’s POV. We do see what happened to her and what she went thru for her life. It takes up a lot of emotional space if not physical.

And when I say emotional space, I mean emotional space. The sisters went thru some stuff. They would probably benefit from some therapy, if therapy was something that they did back in the day.

They would also benefit from some better communication skills with each other.

Just sayin.

I was also waiting for one thing to happen that never actually did. Which was annoying. But that was more me wanting there to be something more to the book.

I did find myself internally cringing at some points. Mostly at the horrific racism of the south in the 50’s. People were terrible. And that was part of the point I imagine.

Pacing was good. The flow never felt slow or forced.

Plot was fantastic. Really, A+ plot.

World Building was great. Britt Bennett paints a vivid picture of the past.

Character development was great. I did have some problems with one of the daughters. She never felt fully fleshed out, despite the book giving her a full life. It could also be that I just didn’t like her.

That may be it.

When all is said and done I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.