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?
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.
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!
Here we go again! Another waltz around the month to see all I have read!
I kinda did if DNF’ing a book on my TBR list counts. I’m counting it. Because I tried to read it, I really did.
The Autobiography of Santa Claus by Jeff Guinn
This is the story of how Nickolas came to be Santa Claus. I loved this book so much! It was such a cute Christmas read. You can see more about what I thought about this book here. I did give it 5 stars.
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
This is a story that asks what if the hero fails and then the villain reigns for a thousand years. My husband has been on me to read this book for a while, and I’m not sure why I didn’t read it sooner, but man did I love this book. 5 out of 5 stars.
In A Holidaze by Christina Lauren
One woman, two brothers, a Christmas wish, and a Groundhog Day style time loop. I’m a sucker for a good time loop story. I liked this book. It was cute and fluffy. A good holiday read. 3 stars.
Paradise Planet by Jesse Lonergan
When their ship crash lands on a planet, a passenger must take care of a drug riddled captain and watch out for hungry lizards. The art was just okay in this graphic novel, and the storyline was poorly done. It could have been more fleshed out. 2 stars.
How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse by K. Eason
Rory Thorne is a princess who has been given thirteen fairy gifts, now she has to use them to save her betrothed from a plot to overthrow his government. I had a really hard time reading this book. I would have DNF’d it, but I actually wanted to know how it would end. 2 Stars.
Dune by Frank Herbert
Dune is the story of Paul Atreides and his time on Arrakis where the “Spice must flow”. Obviously, it’s about more than that, but I didn’t enjoy this book. I don’t connect with the authors writing style so I didn’t finish this book. 1 star.
There. I read my TBR. Sort of. I swear I tried to read Dune. I just can’t connect with it. I still want to see the movie though. I’m a glutton for punishment.
And here are my stats! I really enjoy getting to look at these now that I have discovered The Storygraph.
I read 3 adventurous books last month. And 2 mysterious? This stat will always surprise me I guess. I do like that I managed to read 2 lighthearted books last month. That’s a nice change of pace.
Speaking of pace, 2 fast and 2 medium paced books for me.
Since The Storygraph doesn’t count DNF’s, Mistborn was my highest page read, coming in at 541 pages.
I only read 2 Fantasy books last month? How is that possible? I mean, It’s still my most read genre, but still. Only 2?
And my Average rating being 3.4 stars doesn’t really surprise me. Especially given that I had two books each for 2 star and 5 star books.
Well there you have it. All the stuff I read last month! What a short list. I’m working to read more books this month. But all amount of reading is valid, so at least I’m reading!
Happy New Years everyone! Did you have a good evening of safe, stay at home, fun? In a move that should shock no one, I stayed home, watched Star Wars, and played Animal Crossing.
It was wonderful.
But you aren’t here for my New Years adventures (or lack thereof), you are here for the books! Without further ado, I present to you my top 8 books of 2020!
The Affair of the Mysterious Letter by Alexis Hall
A retelling of Sherlock Holmes if Holmes was a woman and a sorceress. Oh, and did I mention the queer romance? I loved this book to the point that I despaired when it was done because there wasn’t more. I gave it 5 out of 5 stars because I couldn’t give it 7 stars.
Recursion by Blake Crouch
A mysterious plague of lives never lived sweeps the Earth. This book put me through it. 5 out of 5 stars.
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
Patricia’s life was normal, until the vampire moved in down the street. I loved this book. My book club loved this book. It’s a really great book. 5 out of 5 stars!
Hyperbole and Half by Allie Brosh
It’s a graphic novel of a web-toon based on the authors life. She details her childhood, her struggles with depression, and her fight with a goose. I might have lol’d a few times. 5 out of 5 stars.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
A woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever but everyone she meets forgets her. 300 years later, someone finally remembers her. I cannot say enough about this book. I loved how it ended. 5 out of 5 stars.
The Autobiography of Santa Claus by Jeff Guinn
This is exactly what it say in the title, the story of Santa told from his point of view. It was so wholesome and heartwarming. It definitely gave me the warm fuzzies. 5 out of 5 stars.
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
Imagine a world were a hero failed to defeat the darkness. And then that darkness reigned for 1000 years. The hubs loves this book and has been trying to get me to read for forever. I finally did it and I loved it. 5 out of 5 stars.
To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers
Humans have conquered space flight, and Adriene O’Neill is documenting her work as one of those travelers. But what has happened to the world left behind while they are gone? I only gave this book 4 stars, but the ending to this novella really stuck with me even now. I had to add it to this list.
So no one asked for this, but I thought I’d do it anyway!
Especially since I haven’t reviewed all that many books this year.
The Affair of the Mysterious Letter by Alexis Hall
This was the first book I reviewed in 2020. I loved it. A fun, quirky retelling of Sherlock Holmes if Sherlock was female…and a sorceress. I gave this book 5 stars.
Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips
Imagine the ancient Greek gods are alive and well in modern London. Now imagine they are just as terrible now as they were in ancient Greece. This book was just a solid meh. 3 stars.
Spy, Spy Again by Mercedes Lackey
A book with magic, demons, spies, and assassins? This Heralds of Valdemar book got 4 stars from me on Goodreads, though that may have been due to nostalgia. But still, 4 stars!
Thin Air by Lisa Gray
In this Jessica Shaw thriller, Jessica, a PI, heads to California to investigate why a photo of a missing person at three years old looks like her. I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads, but because I listened to the audiobook, well, just read the review.
Faith publish by Valiant Comics, written by Jody Hauser
Faith is a Trade Paper back of the first few issues of the Faith comic book which centers around a plus sized superhero. I really wanted to like this alot. But I ended up with solid meh feelings about it. 3 stars from me.
Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
This is the story of Bree, a high schooler, who after a personal tragedy, stumbles across the Legendborn at the college she is attending. I enjoyed this book. I gave it a 3.75 out of 5 stars.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
The story of two black sisters who grow up in the Jim Crow south, this story focuses on a lot of heavy themes, and it does it really, really well. I gave it 4.5 out of 5 stars.
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
A dragon is set to rise after a thousand years, and it wants to destroy the world. Can Queen Sabran survive her court long enough to stop it? This book was interesting, and a little to heavy on the political side for me. 3.75 out of 5 stars.
A Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
A new neighbor moves in. Patricia just has to convince the rest of her book club that he is, in fact, a vampire. To say I loved this book is an understatement. I gave it 5 out of 5 stars.
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
This is the story of Yadriel, a transgendered teen who just wants to prove to his family that he can be a real brujo. He never really counted on summoning Julien. This book was such a fun read. I gave it 4 stars.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
Addie makes a Faustian bargain to live forever, as a result, everyone forgets her. Until one days, someone remembers her. I cannot stop raving about this book. For sure my favorite of the year. 5 out of 5 stars.
The Autobiography of Santa Claus by Jeff Guinn
This is the story of Santa Claus. No really. It says so on the cover. This book was so heart warming and cute. I will be reading this every Christmas, for sure. 5 out of 5 stars.
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.
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.
So here, thanks to Storygraph, are my rather miserable stats for the month.
I love that I like to read adventurous books. Also, challenging books. And the one book I did not finish was challenging, for sure. I mean, I know that’s not what Storygraph means, but still, challenging.
I am really surprised with the pacing here, mostly because I don’t always pay as close attention to pacing as I should.
I’m assuming this breakdown will change in months I read more books. I read a variety of page lengths. Keeps ya sharp.
This website separates books into their different genres for you, and the books can have more than one genre, so that explains, while I read 5 books, the stats say I read 7. Even I got confused there for a minute.
And without further ado, here are the books I read this month!
Cursed by Thomas Wheeler, art by Frank Miller
This is the story of Nimue and the legendary sword of power. I loved this YA story. The only thing I wasn’t a fan of were the black and white illustrations. Sorry Frank. I gave this book 5 stars!
The Road Not Taken by Susan Rubin
The story of a widow who travels the space time continuum with a alien race known only as the Lost. I’m not gonna lie, I would barely say I read this book. I made it only 25 pages in before the writing style and easy acceptance of certain things just drove me bonkers and I quit. 1 out of 5 stars.
Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
When you turn 75 you are eligible to join the Colonial Defense Forces, and that’s just what John Perry does after visiting his wife’s grave for the last time. I read this book for book club #2 and I didn’t expect to enjoy it (or laugh) as much as I did. 4 out of 5 stars.
The Postmortal by Drew Magary
John Ferrell recieved “The Cure”, which means old age won’t kill him. Everything else still can. This was one of the most interesting books I read this year. It covers the social, economical, and environmental impact of what would happen if humanity all of a sudden never aged. I’m still thinking about this book days after I read it. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.
The Defiant Heir by Melissa Caruso
Amelia and her mage-marked Falcon, Zaria, must head behind enemy lines into the kingdom of Vaskandar as they prepare for war. I love this series. I find the writing compelling and the magic system to be very unique. And for someone who doesn’t always like hugely political plots, I don’t mind them in this book. 4 out of 5 stars.