Lost in the Never Woods-A Book Review

Well. How do I put this. I really wanted to like this book, and yet, alas, I did not.

Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas is a contemporary Peter Pan retelling. In the authors own words, it’s more like a fanfic. This one just happens to be a not so great fanfic.

Here’s the thing, the premise sounds great. Wendy and her brothers, John and Michael, disappear in the woods one day and only young Wendy returns. Fast-forward several years later and Wendy is freshly eighteen and two more children have gone missing in the woods. Wendy wants no part of any of it, until a she almost hits a boy, claiming to be Peter Pan, with her truck.

Just to reiterate, I wanted to like this book. I really did. I loved the author’s first novel, Cemetery Boys, and was hoping this book would live up to that promise and it just didn’t.

What was wrong with the book, you may ask? I just found it, well, boring. The first real action scene in the book and I wasn’t enthralled by it. This book just seemed to leave me wanting more, so much more, at every turn.

And that’s why, at 150 pages, I gave up. I was tired of wanting more from the characters, the world, the mythology, the world the author was building.

Am I still going to pick up their next book? Absolutely. But I had to give this one 1 star.

The Midnight Library-A Book Review

TW: Mentions of fictional character suicide.

Well, this was quite the read, wasn’t it! Let me say this, if you haven’t picked up The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, you probably should.

It’s the story of a young woman named Nora, who, when everything seems it’s worst, takes her own life. She wakes up in the Midnight Library, a place between life and death, where the clock is stuck at midnight. With the help of the librarian, Nora is able to look at all the possibilities of life and see all her could-have-beens.

Now yes, I know that this sounds like it should be a terrible book, cause suicide. But it’s really not. Each life Nora lives forces her to question what happiness, what a life worth living, really means to her.

I loved this book from the moment I picked if up. It has a beautiful writing style that helps you just fall into the pages. The plot is solid and the cast of characters sucks you right in. You can’t help but feel for Nora as she goes about her journey through the libraries many tomes.

Each life Nora finds herself in is uniquely crafted. A different version of herself that she never thought she could be. And it’s interesting, and introspective, to put yourself in Nora’s shoes and wonder what your life might have been like if you had just taken that left to that job interview one day.

I truly loved this book. Another 5 star read for me this month. You should absolutely pick this up.

If you or someone you love has suicidal thoughts, please seek help. In America you can reach out to 800-273-8255.

Broken (in the best possible way)-A Book Review

Well would you lookie here. A book review. On a book I actually finished. Well ain’t that a treat!

Jenny Lawson suffers from treatment resistant depression, has a long suffering husband in Victor, and a loving daughter in Hailey. Not to mention their dog and two cats. This particular books deals with the authors struggles with her insurance company, her debilitating depression and anxiety, and a whole host of other illnesses. Because why have one thing wrong with you when five works better. Or worse. Probably worse.

First, a disclaimer. I love Jenny Lawson. I think she is a wonderful writer and I pre-ordered this the day she announced it. I also have all three of her other books, including the coloring book. So yes, I am a fan. It’s well earned, I assure you.

Jenny Lawson is absurdly funny. I laughed out loud on multiple occasions while reading this book. I shared one of the funny bits with the hubs and he laughed too. So at least I’m not the only one.

She’s also incredibly deep. I suffer from mental illness as well, and Mrs. Lawson makes me feel seen. She communicates the scariest parts of her mental illness in a way that seem like you, too, can survive it. Because, as she famously says, depression lies.

I love the way she talks about her marriage. She makes sure to point out that as great as it is, it’s not perfect. But it works for them. As all good marriages should.

I cannot stress this enough, if you want to laugh, possibly cry, cringe, laugh some more, and relate to someone, give this book a read. Or a listen. Jenny Lawson narrates her own audio books. In fact, that’s how I read the first two books. I gave it 5 stars.

You can find it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop.org, and at the authors own book store Nowhere.

The Witch’s Heart- A Book Review

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve written one of these hasn’t it! Two months, at least!

I thought I’d dip my toe back in the reviewing pool by reading The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec.

It’s the story of Angrboda, a witch who was burned by Odin because she wouldn’t give him what he wanted, and who falls in love with Loki.

Here’s the thing, I didn’t like this book. I didn’t even finish it, but I think it may be that it’s a case of right book, wrong time.

See, I understand that Angrboda had been put through the ringer by Odin, but I just couldn’t connect with her. Don’t get me wrong, I love a heroine who has suffered just as much as the next person, but this character just didn’t resonate with me for some reason. And characters like this usually always resonate with me.

The writing style was fine, I have no problems with it. It wasn’t overly lyrical or particular forced, it was just there. Solid recommendation, I know.

I just, I don’t know. I struggled for two weeks to read the first one hundred pages before I finally just said “self, don’t do this, put it down and walk away.” And by “it” I mean my phone because I picked this book up through the Libby app. Thank you library.

I’m sad, because I really wanted to like this book. And I just didn’t.

What do you think, should I give this book a second chance?

One star…for now. I may come back to this later.

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 their 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.