Many Kinds of Magic

                    When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find                   their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of          Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative.            There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be            different, and it will affect them in ways they could never predict. From the                mundane to the profound….
              There are many kinds of magic, after all. -Erin Morgenstern (The Night Circus)

Hi! Thanks for joining me for my literary rants. Let me tell you a bit about myself.

First of all, I’m a nerd. A huge nerd. Like, a Dungeons and Dragons, Magic the Gathering,  quote-Firefly-and-proudly-call-myself-a-Browncoat nerd. I’m also a voracious reader, a homeschool mom, and an introvert. I’m more than a little awkward, and I express myself better in writing.

I’ll read pretty much anything, with the exception of romance novels. Sadly, I’m bereft of any sense of romanticism. I tend to gravitate towards fantasy, YA, and sci-fi, but I’ve been branching out more into nonfiction lately.

Because I homeschool two book loving little goobers, I’m also pretty up-to-date on children’s books, so I’ll discuss those here from time to time as well.  Honestly, I’d read picture books anyway, but having kids is a good way to browse the children’s section at the bookstore without getting too many weird looks.

I absolutely LOVE hearing bookish opinions and reading suggestions from other people. If you read a review and think it’s total bunk, tell me so. Tell me why. If you agree, props are good too. More than anything, I want to connect with other readers. Join me in discussion and let’s have some literary fun!

* On Twitter @WS_BOOKCLUB
*Browsery app: Witty and Sarcastic BookclubMany Kinds of Magic

The Throne of the Five Winds by S.C. Emmett- ARC Review

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Two queens, two concubines, six princes. Innumerable secret agendas.A single hidden blade.
The imperial palace — full of ambitious royals, sly gossip, and unforeseen perils — is perhaps the most dangerous place in the Empire of Zhaon. Komor Yala, lady-in-waiting to the princess of the vanquished kingdom of Khir, has only her wits and her hidden blade to protect herself and her charge, who was sacrificed in marriage to the enemy as a hostage for her conquered people’s good behavior, to secure a tenuous peace.
But the Emperor is aging, and the Khir princess and her lady-in-waiting soon find themselves pawns in the six princes’ deadly schemes for the throne — and a single spark could ignite fresh rebellion in Khir.
Then, the Emperor falls ill — and a far bloodier game begins… (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available on October 15th.

Admission: I judged a book based on its cover. The cover is incredible and immediately piqued my interest. That it’s a politically-charged fantasy didn’t hurt either. Beautifully written, if a bit dense, this east-Asian inspired fantasy was the only of its kind I’ve read this year.

It took me quite a while to become invested in this book. I was almost halfway through, and considering not finishing, before I found myself interested in the story. There’s that much setup. The pacing was much slower than with many fantasies, and takes some getting used to.

The writing was flowery, which alternated between annoying and impressing me. What can I say: sometimes I’m hard to please. That being said, I am of the opinion that if I had cloistered myself away for a few days and read this book straight through, I would have enjoyed it more. The subtle chess-like moves made throughout this book were very well done and it’s apparent that the author has an intricate plan for the series and knows exactly where everything is going.

My biggest complaint is less of a complaint than an observation: it was really difficult to keep track of all the characters for the first bit. Next time I pick up a book of this scope, I’ll write down character names and relationships if there isn’t a glossary of characters in the book.

If you like slow-building books, political intrigue, and flowing language, this is a fantasy to read.

The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

Imagine if the show Stranger Things focused more on the Upside Down. Picture the sense of growing desperation when those meant to protect people from The Gray are unable to do so.  Add a group of town Founders who are definitely not what they seem, and teens with uncanny abilities, and you’ve got the perfectly creepy cocktail that is The Devouring Gray.

After the unexpected death of her sister, Violet Saunders and her mother move to the small town of Four Paths. There, she learns of The Gray- and the horrible monster that lives there. She also finds out things about herself that she hadn’t known before, things that are a wee bit unsettling, to say the least.

Along with Justin Hawthorne, Isaac Sullivan, and Harper Carlisle, children of the founding families with secrets of their own, Violet is thrown into the midst of a violent struggle against The Gray.

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Pussycat Palace by Clive Lilwall

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Pussycat Palace is an Animal Farm-like satire on a recent event in American politics.

The incidents are strangely similar to those of the 2016 US Presidential Election involving Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

The members of a feral cat colony in Louisiana vote for a new leader. All hell breaks loose when Ace, a hefty outspoken ginger tomcat, fights for supremacy against Catty, a crafty female tabby.

Fake news happens! The influx of immigrant cats into the colony, the roles of males and females, sexual issues and defense against enemies are key election topics.

And the results are just as unbelievable as Trump vs. Clinton in 2016! (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. It’s available for purchase now.

Sardonic and on-the-nose, this book managed to capture the jaw-dropping events of 2016 perfectly. Fyodor was a perfect window into the “election” of the next leader in a cat colony in Louisiana. Watching the lengths these cats went to in order to gain their version of supremacy was eerily familiar to me.

It was told in a simplistic, matter-of-fact style that I found charming. In no way was it pretentious or preachy. Parts of it reminded me of a lighthearted Watership Down. I love that book, so that’s high praise.

I don’t talk politics on my blog as a general rule, but I will say this: if you are a Trump supporter, or lacking in a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, this book isn’t going to make you happy. Personally, I loved the book.

Sometimes things get to be so unbelievable that it’s ripe for a good parody, which is what happened in this case. This was a good read.

Universal Monsters Book Tag

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I don’t really make book tags because creativity and I are often on the outs, but I thought a book tag revolving around classic movie monsters could be fun, so I’m giving it a go!

Dracula- a book with a charismatic villain:

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The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice. I defy you to think of a more likable villain. Lestat is a vicious killer…but he’s also incredibly charismatic.

The Invisible Man: A book that has more going on than meets the eye-

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The Seven and a Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton has layers upon layers to peel back before getting to the heart of the mystery. It’s fantastic and one of the best books I’ve read.

Wolf-Man: A complicated character-

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The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman has Raistlin, one of the most flawed and multifaceted characters I’ve ever had the extreme pleasure to read.

Frankenstein: A book with a misunderstood character-

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The Three Dark Crowns series by Kendare Blake contains several misunderstood characters, but the one that immediately came to mind is Katharine. Incidentally, she’s also my favorite.

The Bride of Frankenstein: A sequel you enjoyed more than the first book

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The Curse of the Pharaohs by Elizabeth Peters is a fantastic sequel. I love the first Amelia Peabody book (The Crocodile on the Sandbank), but this book jumps right into things without needing to concentrate as much on character introductions, which is nice.

Creature from the Black Lagoon: An incredibly unique book-

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Universe Awakening (Redux Edition) by D. Ellis Overttun is one of the most creative and unique books I’ve read in recent memory.

The Mummy: A book that wraps up nicely (see what I did there?)-

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The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow. The ending of the book, like the rest of it, was pretty darn perfect.

I’m not tagging anyone, but please feel free to do your own and link me so I can see your answers. Happy Halloween!

A Wistful Tale of Gods, Men, and Monsters by David Ruggerio- ARC Review

Can a village be inherently evil? Welcome to Brunswick NY, Population 4,941.

On the surface, this sleepy hamlet comes alive in the autumn with picturesque apple orchards, haunted corn mazes, laden pumpkin patches and holiday hay rides. During a snowy Halloween, a young William Willowsby must battle evil forces that have been shielded by the locals for generations. On the outskirts of the town is the abandoned Forest Park Cemetery. All things wicked seem to revolve around the old graveyard. A rarely seen homunculus serves an evil task master. Together they weave a wicked web that attempts to snare the youth of the hamlet. A creepy graveyard, a spooky schoolhouse, an abandoned mortuary and a member of his own family will leave you simply sleepless. (taken from Amazon)

                        Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available on October 31st.

Oh, dear. This book is not for me. At all. In theory, it’s a creepy read that’s perfect for October. At least, that’s what I expected. It is most definitely not what I got.

First of all, the sentences are long and convoluted, and this is coming from someone who writes long sentences. Commas are sprinkled in like candy on top of cupcakes (mmm…cupcakes) and I’d often forget the point of the sentence before it ended.

Because the writing was on the dry side, the book failed to elicit the creep factor it seemed to be going for. The book could have been scary-instead it was uninteresting. There was, however, one part that stuck with me, and not in a good way.

This author decided to liken childbirth to a gang rape. Nope. Uh-uh, way too disturbing for me. Not only did it completely disgust me, it was an unnecessary comparison to a throw-away sentence.

In case it isn’t apparent, I truly disliked this book. I gave up on it about sixty-five percent in. This is not an author I’ll read again. However, to each their own. Mine is just one opinion in many.

The Furies by Katie Lowe- ARC Review

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

This harrowing debut is the story of a girl trying to fit in, whose obsessive new friends and desperation to belong leads her to places she’d never imagined…dark, dangerous, and possibly even violent.

In 1998, a sixteen-year-old girl is found dead on her boarding school’s property, dressed in white and posed on a swing, with no known cause of death. What happened to her? And what do her friends know? To find out, it is necessary to go back to the beginning.

The school is Elm Hollow Academy, an all-girl’s boarding school located in a sleepy coastal town, with a long-buried grim history of 17th century witch trials. A new student, Violet, joins the school, and soon finds herself invited to become the fourth member of an advanced study group, led by the alluring and mysterious art teacher Annabel.

Annabel does her best to convince the girls that her classes…

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The Half Killed by Quenby Olson

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Dorothea Hawes has no wish to renew contact with what lies beyond the veil. After an attempt to take her own life, she has retired into seclusion, but as the wounds on her body heal, she is drawn back into a world she wants nothing more than to avoid.

She is sought out by Julian Chissick, a former man of God who wants her help in discovering who is behind the gruesome murder of a young woman. But the manner of death is all too familiar to Dorothea, and she begins to fear that something even more terrible is about to unleash itself on London.

And so Dorothea risks her life and her sanity in order to save people who are oblivious to the threat that hovers over them. It is a task that forces her into a confrontation with her own lurid past, and tests her ability to shape events frighteningly beyond her control. (taken from Amazon)

This creepy little tale was delightfully shiver-worthy. It was slightly reminiscent of the show Penny Dreadful sans all the things that gave it the mature rating. The tension was palpable; I loved that there would be a slow build-up, followed by a staccato burst that would push the story to a more dangerous level. Compellingly told, the victorian-gothic vibe was used to its best advantage.

Dorothea was drawn back into a world she had tried so hard to distance herself from, with less success than she thought she had achieved. She met a man named Julian Chissick, and is convinced to help with a horrifying murder.

Mister Chissick was an interesting character, very much a study in contradiction. In fact, despite the fact that there are fewer characters in this book- or maybe because of it- the prose shines. It’s abundantly clear from the get-go that Quenby Olson is a talented writer. I look forward to reading more of her works.

There Will Come a Darkness by Katy Rose Pool

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The Age of Darkness approaches.
Five lives stand in its way.
Who will stop it . . . or unleash it?

For generations, the Seven Prophets guided humanity. Using their visions of the future, they ended wars and united nations―until the day, one hundred years ago, when the Prophets disappeared.

All they left behind was one final, secret prophecy, foretelling an Age of Darkness and the birth of a new Prophet who could be the world’s salvation . . . or the cause of its destruction. With chaos on the horizon, five souls are set on a collision course:

A prince exiled from his kingdom.
A ruthless killer known as the Pale Hand.
A once-faithful leader torn between his duty and his heart.
A reckless gambler with the power to find anything or anyone.
And a dying girl on the verge of giving up.

One of them―or all of them―could break the world. Will they be savior or destroyer? (taken from Amazon)

           Oh, I’m conflicted about this book! I’ll start right off by saying that I didn’t love it. I think I liked it, though. Told from five different points of view, switching from chapter to chapter, at times it felt disjointed. As much as each character was a part of the over arcing tale, having that many points of view seemed like an odd choice to me.

I feel like I should probably explain what a Grace is, since they’re a driving force in this book. Graces are gifts that improve a person’s ability in some way. There’s the Grace of Bloody, used to heal or hurt; the Grace of Heart, which makes one a better fighter; the Grace of Mind which can create magical items; and the Grace of Sight, which is basically scrying.

With a book like this, the easiest way for me to organize my thoughts is to take it character by character. First, there’s Hassan, a prince in hiding. His homeland has been overrun by a group of zealots known as The Witnesses, intent on destroying anyone with a Grace. A Grace is a special power, but more on that in a minute. Half the time I really liked Hassan, and the other half of the time I wanted to smack him. He was a very naive character, which I guess makes sense since up until he lost his kingdom he hadn’t seen much of life. Hassan is without a Grace in a bloodline that has strong powers. He feels powerless to help retake his homeland and it plays a large role in the choices he makes.

There’s the Pale Hand, a girl who can kill with a touch. She sounded a lot cooler than she ended up being in the book. In many ways, she was just sort of useless. I really can’t say much else about her because her story was less developed than others in my opinion.

Anton is a gambler who’s terrified and tries to hide it. He’s on the run from someone violent who has a vendetta against him. I really liked Anton. He was never boring, and the careless veneer he showed others made for a fascinating juxtaposition with his stressed, paranoid thoughts.

Jude is the young leader of The Order of the Last Light, a group of prophets who’ve returned in time to try to make sure their last prophecy is brought to light. He is so incredibly annoying! He’s wishy-washy, immature, and ditches the entire team he’s supposed to be leading without a second thought. Ugh!

Beru was another interesting character to me. Her secret was something I haven’t seen in YA yet, and it was refreshing to see an author doing something new in a genre that can sometimes seem to fit a very specific mold.

These characters did eventually weave into one narrative, but it took a while. In a way, they sort of circled each other in their separate parts of the story. The writing was solid, however, and it ended up coming together well. I just didn’t love it. This was an “pretty good, but nothing to write home about” book for me.

Echoes: The Saga Anthology of Ghost Stories edited by Ellen Datlow- ARC Review

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

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Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book, in exchange for my honest opinion.

This collection is good, spooky fun! The fact that no one story felt like another is incredibly impressive in and of itself. From feeling like eating s’mores while reading, to getting a shivery feeling, this book has it all. A few stories even came across as Scary Stories to Read in the Dark for adults (Must Be This Tall to Ride by Seanan McGuire comes to mind) , which was awesome.

This book contains so much that I’m going to just mention a few of the stories that stood out to me.

* A Hinterlands Haunting by Richard Kadrey was one of the shorter stories in this collection. It was also one of the most fun ones. Not in the least bit spooky, it was funny and absolutely unique. Maybe funny isn’t the right…

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Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe

It wouldn’t be October if I didn’t talk about Bunnicula. This was one of my favorites growing up, and I’ve passed the enjoyment down to my oldest. I’m looking forward to the day when my youngest reads them too.

Bunnicula: A Rabbit Tale of Mystery is an easy chapter book. It’s told from the point of view of Harold, a pet dog. He’s shaggy, lovable, and rather gullible. He lives with his family, the Monroes, and a well-read cat named Chester. One night the Monroes go to a late-night showing of Dracula and bring home a surprise: a rabbit they name Bunnicula. Chester is convinced that Bunnicula is a vampire, sucking the juice from vegetables, and that only he can save the world from the evil machinations of the vampire bunny.

This series, of which Bunnicula is the first, is very special to me. I read it with my sister when we were younger and it was a wonderful way for us to bond. We’re still very close to this day, and we talk about those Bunnicula books from time to time.

This book is hilarious. I have no idea how the authors managed to come up with so many funny situations, but it had me in stitches when I read it, and my son reacted the same way when he read it. He’s reread the entire series several times, and will probably read them again this month.

This book is perfect for reading aloud (maybe a chapter or two a day?), or for readers just gaining confidence in their skills. My oldest and I took turns reading pages aloud the first time he experienced Bunnicula. It is one of my favorite memories. There are illustrations every few pages, but they are few enough that children are required to paint the pictures in their minds. I highly recommend this book, and October is the perfect time for a not-spooky “spooky” read. Enjoy!