Urban Fantasy

Booke of the Hidden – Jeri Westerson

2 stars

I received an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. 

This book was just not for me. I couldn’t connect with the characters and wasn’t held by the plot. Jeri Westerson’s writing was solid, I just didn’t connect.

Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

To get a fresh start away from a bad relationship, Kylie Strange moves across the country to open a shop in a seemingly quiet town in rural Maine. During renovations on Strange Herbs & Teas, she discovers a peculiar and ancient codex, The Booke of the Hidden, bricked into the wall. Every small town has its legends and unusual histories, and this artifact sends Kylie right into the center of Moody Bog’s biggest secret.

While puzzling over the tome’s oddly blank pages, Kylie gets an unexpected visitor—Erasmus Dark, an inscrutable stranger who claims to be a demon, knows she has the book, and warns her that she has opened a portal to the netherworld. Kylie brushes off this nonsense, until a series of bizarre murders put her, the newcomer, at the center. With the help of the demon and a coven of witches she befriends while dodging the handsome but sharp-eyed sheriff, Kylie hunts for a killer—that might not be human.

I found both Kylie and Erasmus to be incredibly frustrating characters. I didn’t enjoy spending time with them and found the other characters to be somewhat thin.

Booke of the Hidden hits shelves today. If you pick it up, let me know what you think!

Urban Fantasy · YA

Wolves and Roses – Christina Bauer

3.5 Stars

I received an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. 

Surprise! I’m officially moving back to three posts a week, so this week you get two posts in two days!

I love fairy tales. I love fresh, fun retellings of fairy tales – especially when they’re all mashed together. Wolves and Roses is just that kind of story.

Bryar Rose is a Sleeping Beauty life template, her bestie Elle is a Cinderella life template, and wizards, witches, fairies, and shapeshifters are just part of her world.

Bryar wants nothing more than to turn 18 and not get married. If she can just manage that, she can live a normal life and not succumb to her Sleeping Beauty life template. But of course, the universe – and her aunties – have other plans for Bryar.

Wolves and Roses was a fun, quick read. Bryar and Elle have a great friendship, as do the guys that tag along with them on their adventures. Their friendship is the best part of the book.

The rest of the book is a little predictable and just a little convenient. It doesn’t take away from the fun of the story, but it does hold it back from being as strong a story as it could be.

If you’re looking for a fun, fluffy read that is a fun take on fairy tale mashups, Wolves and Roses is your book.

Wolves and Roses is the first in The Fairy Tales of the Magicorum series and will hit shelves on Halloween, 2017!


Science Fiction

Artemis – Andy Weir

2 stars

I was given an eARC by NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. 

Artemis is the sophomore novel from Andy Weir, famous for his first novel The Martian, which was a hit movie in 2015, and boy is he suffering from the sophomore slump. I’m going to say this right up front, I did not finish the book. I made it through chapter 4 before I couldn’t read any more.

I have two major complaints about Artemis but before I go into them, here’s the publisher’s blurb.

Jazz Bashara is a criminal.

Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.

Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.

So, of course I read that blurb when I first heard of the book and expressed my interest in reviewing the book, but time passed between then and when I sat down to read, and I didn’t reread the blurb. I like to go into books as blindly as possible. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

The main character of Artemis is named Jazz, which is a fairly gender neutral name. I was SHOCKED when at the end of the first chapter someone refers to Jazz as a “gal” because up to that point everything Weir had written gave me the impression that Jazz was male. (This is problem #1) As I kept reading, Weir’s characterization didn’t get better. Jazz reads like Weir wrote the story with a male character in mind at first, got halfway through the book and then decided that he wanted to “add diversity to sci-fi” so he changed a reference and pronoun here and there and had himself a female character. It reads as though not a single woman read or edited Artemis throughout the publication process – or if they did Weir discarded any feedback they gave him. This is not the kind of diversity we want, for the record. We want BELIEVABLE female characters, not male characters with boobs pasted on.

My second issue is the lazy worldbuilding. While the scientific accuracy won Weir much admiration and praise for The Martian, I found the scientific details to feel really shoehorned in. In the first chapter, Weir goes on about the 1/6 gravity on the moon at least six times. And he continues to mention it FREQUENTLY throughout the next three chapters. He also adds little scientific details that don’t really add to the story. Additionally, Jazz has a lot of really random knowledge that doesn’t entirely make sense for her character to know, giving her a bit of a Mary Sue vibe, in the worst way. Finally, Weir uses a weird penpal letter exchange at the ends of chapters to add in more details about the world and to squeeze even more science into the story. It feels like Weir couldn’t figure out a better way to fit ALL THAT SCIENCE into his book.

Artemis might have been a good book with better editing – especially with regards to his female characterization, which is why it got two stars instead of just one.


The Tethered Mage – Melissa Caruso

3.5 Stars

I received an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

I really enjoyed The Tethered Mage but I had to knock half a star off what otherwise would have been a 4-star review because of a huge, glaring plotbunny that ruins the premise of the book. (I’ll go into this at the end because some might consider it a spoiler.)

tethered mage cover
Cover image from Goodreads.

Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

In the Raverran Empire, magic is scarce and those born with power are strictly controlled — taken as children and conscripted into the Falcon Army. 
Zaira has lived her life on the streets to avoid this fate, hiding her mage-mark and thieving to survive. But hers is a rare and dangerous magic, one that threatens the entire empire.
Lady Amalia Cornaro was never meant to be a Falconer. Heiress and scholar, she was born into a treacherous world of political machinations.
But fate has bound the heir and the mage. And as war looms on the horizon, a single spark could turn their city into a pyre.

The Tethered Mage is the first in Caruso’s new Swords and Fire series, and will be released on October 24, 2017 – today!

In Caruso’s world, loosely based on Renaissance Venice, people with magical ability are taken into the Falcon Army as soon as their magical abilities are discovered. They are the Falcons, controlled by Falconers who are non-magical people that essentially control when Falcons can access their magic.

Lady Amalia Coronaro finds herself suddenly conscripted into the Falcon Army when she helps to capture a rogue fire mage – a Falcon/Falconer pair that never should have been suddenly is.

I love a good political mystery so I was really drawn into the political plot of The Tethered Mage. Who is inciting rebellion and war?

I found the characters to be pretty well fleshed out with relationships and behaviors that felt real. The magical system and worldbuilding around that mechanic was also well fleshed out, aside from the plotbunny under the cut.

So, here’s where I just keep getting stuck.

*~*Beyond This Point There Be Spoilers~*~

Continue reading “The Tethered Mage – Melissa Caruso”


The City of Brass – S. A. Chakraborty

5 stars

I received an eARC of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for my review. 

The City of Brass is S.A. Chakraborty’s absolutely spellbinding debut novel, an epic fantasy set in Cairo and the Middle East.

Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles. But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass; a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound. In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences. After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for . . .

But it wasn’t that description that made me want to read this novel. I came across Chakraborty’s Twitter feed about a month ago and found her tweet-thread about just how much she nerded out over ancient Egyptian and Middle Eastern history and mythology while she wrote The City of Brass and her enthusiasm just oozed out of my screen. I had seen a mention of the book earlier in the day, but after seeing her tweets, I just had to read it. I’m sad to say I couldn’t find the thread again (if I do, I’ll edit a link in here.)

I was absolutely transported by Chakraborty’s descriptive storytelling. She sets the scene so completely that I could hear the noises of bazaars and mobs. I could feel the heat of Cairo on my skin – quite the feat since Seattle has been chilly and damp lately. I could clearly picture the scenes she set and in those scenes, she brings Nahri, Ali, and Dara to life.

Nahri is the magical, unbelieving thief at the center of City of Brass though she doesn’t know it at the start. She’s motivated not by greed, but by a necessary selfishness that comes from scraping out a living on the streets from a very young age. Nahri is Nahri’s number one, and she’s not going to apologize for who and what she is. She felt believable and even when her actions surprised me, ultimately they make sense for her character.

Dara is a broken Daeva man from a broken clan, broken past, and broken family. Just about the only thing unbroken about him is his fierce spirit – but even that fierce spirit is tested. He is untamed fire, a hero and a horror. But Dara is driven by loyalty and duty, which is where he finds his strength.

Ali is the second son of the king in Daevabad, raised in The Citadel in order to become his brother’s security minister when his brother ascends the throne. Ali finds himself at the center of a tangled web he helped others weave around him by playing upon his good intentions, naivete, and religious zeal. Ali was the character I had the hardest time with. For someone raised from childhood in a military setting, he was surprisingly soft-hearted. As someone to be a fixture at court he was surprisingly naive.

Nahri, Dara, and Ali are at the center of the war for the soul of Daevabad, the City of Brass. Battles are fought in a swirling, fast-paced plot that kept me turning the pages until I reached the dreaded end of the novel. Thankfully, The City of Brass is the first book in the Daevabad trilogy, so I have two more novels packed full of their adventures to look forward to. I can only hope Chakraborty takes us to new locations. I’m just aching for new places for her to describe.

The City of Brass is the first novel in the Daevabad trilogy and will be released on November 14, 2017.


Deadlands: Boneyard – Seanan McGuire

3 stars

I received an eARC of this book in exchange for my honest review from NetGalley. 

I will be totally honest and say that Deadlands: Boneyard is not my cup of tea. I am not familiar with the Deadlands RPG system that the books are based around, but I don’t think that affected my overall enjoyment of the book.

The publisher’s blurb on NetGalley:

Step right up to see the oddities and marvels of The Blackstone Family Circus and Travelling Wonder Show! Gasp at pit wasps the size of a man’s forearm. Beware the pumpkin-headed corn stalker, lest it plant its roots in you!

Annie Pearl is the keeper of oddities, the mistress of monsters. Her unique collection of creatures is one of the circus’s star attractions, drawing wide-eyed crowds at every small frontier town they visit. But Annie is also a woman running from her past . . . and the mother of a mute young daughter, Adeline, whom she will do anything to protect.

Hoping to fill its coffers before winter sets in, the circus steers its wagons to The Clearing, a remote community deep in the Oregon wilderness, surrounded by an ominous dark wood. Word is that a travelling show can turn a tidy profit at The Clearing, but there are whispers, too, of unexplained disappearances that afflict one out of every four shows that pass through the town.

The Clearing has it secrets, and so does Annie. And it may take everything she has to save her daughter—and the circus—from both.

McGuire does weird well, and she seamlessly blends circuses, mad scientists, steampunk, and the wild, wild wilderness in Oregon. She builds a cohesive world and interesting characters. My issue is the plot.

There are no holes, dangling threads but boy is it slow to start. I’ve read a lot of McGuire’s writing (just about everything I can get my hands on) and a slow start isn’t atypical for her, but Deadlands: Boneyard was the first where I struggled with the slow start. McGuire spends the first four chapters of the book just setting the scene. It isn’t until part of the way through the fourth chapter does the plot start to finally take shape. Once it gets going, she builds and maintains tension with skill making Deadlands: Boneyard a perfect October, pre-Halloween read.

McGuire’s writing is lyrical and descriptive, though she does sometimes get lost in metaphorical descriptions it does make for a nice turn of phrase.

If the wild, weird West is your kind of thing, Deadlands: Boneyard will be your kind of book.

Deadlands: Boneyard is a novel set in the Deadlands RPG universe and hits shelves October 17, 2017 – today!

That Reading Life


My friend Arlene over at Wishful Thinking recently did a neat post showing off her bookshelves and I thought it would be fun to do the same!

I have moved many times over the last decade. I left for college and moved 1-2 times each year, then I moved in with my (then) fiance’s parents, and then with roommates and then an apartment with my (now) husband and most recently into my first (teeny) house! As a result of all that moving, I’ve had to be pretty choosy about what books continue to line my shelves. In most of those places, I only had one bookshelf – if you can imagine the horror! Instead of purchasing books, I often borrow them from the library and purchase only the books I hope to reread or collect.

20171010_174233In these first two photos, you can see my favorites! These are the three authors that I reread time and time again, so I like having them close at hand. This bookshelf is next to my bed, crammed in a corner but within easy reach. The bank box is full of library books to be read, a remnant of the recent move. Someday I’ll figure out a different storage solution for borrowed books. (Wave hi to Monroe! My middle kitty, Roro, Manx of Knives as we call him – he is SHARP!)

Like many bookworms, I love book-related things and decorate my shelves with nicknacks. I work hard to curate my Funko Pop! collection so that it doesn’t take over my life. (I bet you can’t tell my favorite comic publisher.)


My second shelf is also in my bedroom, and here is where I begin organizing alphabetically by author. These shelves are surprisingly bare of extras, a result of our recent move. The cat theme continues, however. 🙂 Somehow, I always end up with cat related things on my shelves, even if I don’t actively go out looking for cat-related things.


My final bookshelf is crammed in the corner of my office next to my computer desk. The bottom shelf is my husband’s teeeeeeny collection of books which he never touches. My new house has terrible bathroom storage, so most of my cosmetics are living in my office. Here you can see my shelf of eyeshadow palettes and just some of my extensive lipstick collection.

I suspect, now that we own our home and have plans to stay for more than a few years, I’ll be adding more bookshelves (and books) as I find them.

I currently have no space for my boxes full of cookbooks, which live piled on the counter or still in their boxes from moving. Someday I’ll be able to set them free…

Now, you’ve seen mine! Show me yours! Your shelfies, I mean.


Plague of Giants – Kevin Hearne

5 Stars

I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. 

When I saw Plague of Giants pop up on NetGalley I was so excited! I’m a fan of Hearne’s Iron Druid series so I couldn’t wait to see what he thought up next!

I was definitely not disappointed! Plague of Giants is a brand new series – Seven Kennings – set in a brand new universe. Instead of an urban fantasy like Iron Druid, Plague of Giants is more of a traditional high fantasy. Epic adventure, bards, pre-technology society, magic (called kenning), kings, and espionage are all present.

Plague of Giants is a story within a story – a central bard ties different characters’ threads together as he shares the many stories of how the war we’re thrust into at the beginning of the novel came to be.

There are seven societies at the center of our story and each society is built around their own specific form of kenning, and each of those broad kennings has specialist sub-forms of kenning or magic. One has kenning related to water, another to fire, a third to wood and plants, a fourth to earth and a fifth to air. (I do have those out of official order. Fire is referred to as “the first kenning” so there is an order of discovery.) You may recall that the series is called the Seven Kennings. You’ll have to read Plague of Giants for more information about Kenning # 6 and #7.

The kennings and societies built around them feel much like the elemental societies of the Avatar: The Last Airbender or Legend of Korra animated shows on Nickelodeon. If you’re familiar with The Last Airbender, then the quote “Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony. Then, everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked” will feel very appropriately applied to Plague of Giants. 

Hearne weaves a rich tapestry of complex characters that drive the story forward. He jumps from character to character, fleshing each out with different POV sections. It’s in these different sections that we meet a variety of diverse characters. Hearne has obviously taken some of the general criticism of High Fantasy as a genre – that it’s painfully white and heterosexual – to heart. His cast of characters includes more than one LGBT character and more than one non-white race – including POV sections from characters of those non-white races. It’s heartening to see someone so prominent in the fantasy world do something to address the yawning chasm where diversity should be. Characters are given space to breathe and grow and ponder the ethics of their decisions.

I will admit that I was afraid that in his shift from lighthearted urban fantasy to high fantasy, Hearne would swing too far toward a stiffer storytelling and lose some of his signature humor that charms us all in the Iron Druid series. I am glad to be wrong. Hearne’s humor is deftly applied and just as satisfyingly clever. Many of Hearne’s fans adore the dog Oberon in the Iron Druid series, but I find the dog to be pretty obnoxious and the opposite of charming. (The dog’s obsession with females is kind of gross and sexist.) I’m pleased to find no parallel character in Plague of Giants. Instead, Hearne takes the best of Iron Druid’s wit and humor and injects it into The Seven Kennings. I found myself laughing out loud and rolling my eyes at the best (worst) puns.

Plague of Giants is a masterfully written pivot for Hearne and I’m simply dying for the next installment of the series, A Blight of Blackwings. Do yourself a favor and run right out and buy this for yourself.

Plague of Giants is the first in Kevin Hearne’s new series, Seven Kennings, and will be released October 17, 2017.

Bookish Products

Bookish Products

No book review today, but I have a not-secret to share with you instead: I love bookish products.

There’s something irresistible about things inspired by my favorite characters and stories and crafted to capture the essence of the story or character.

I am also a collector at heart, amassing collections of books and nicknacks that make me smile – and bookish things are a particular weakness of mine.

Funko Pop!s, shirts, and other products that visually or physically represent my favorites are of course easy favorites, but I’ve also become drawn to more abstract representations. My current obsessions are candles/wax melts and nail polish – especially when there’s a Harry Potter theme.

There is a myriad of bookish candle and wax companies producing scents inspired by different characters and series and I just can’t help myself! But scent is a tricky thing. Some characters have scent notes that must be present or they just don’t make sense. (Don’t try to sell me a Hermione candle that doesn’t have a paper or old-book note in it. It just won’t be right.) I always find it interesting to see how a person interprets and associates scents with a character. Why did that character get a strawberry note or a bright mossy note?

Some of the candle and wax companies I’ve been feverishly stalking are The Melting Library, Canterbury Road Co, and Super Tarts.

Nail polish is another of my favorite places to look for abstract interpretations of books and characters. There’s a thriving handmade “indie” nail polish community and there are many, many brands making polish inspired by books and stories, but no one does it like Literary Lacquers does it*. The entire brand is inspired by literature. Some of the interpretations are right on the nose – the Felix Felicis polish is, appropriately, a bright gold polish. However, the polish representation of Avada Kedavra is sinister feeling without being obvious:  green and black and gold glitters in a variety of sizes in a matte black base.

*I am biased – I love the brand so much that I now support Literary Lacquers in their marketing and social media efforts.

What about you, Reader? Do you enjoy bookish products? If so, what kinds and companies?