The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea- ARC Review

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book, in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available to purchase on September third.This takes place in the late 1600’s in Iceland. Rosa agrees to marry a rich man she doesn’t know because he will provide food and health care for her sick mother. She’s his second wife: his first having died mysteriously. Her new husband, Jon, is distant and cold, expecting her to stay away from all the villagers, as well as a locked loft in their home. Rosa hears sounds coming from the loft and rumors reach her- maybe she needs to fear her new husband.The strongest part of this book is the desolate setting. The author easily used the loneliness of the small village, as well as Rosa’s isolation, to add to the growing sense of unease the character feels. She begins to wonder whether she can trust her own senses.This was a very unsettling book. I couldn’t stand the husband, Jon, even after reading some things that are supposed to explain his behavior. He didn’t allow Rosa any sort of outside contact, nor did he include her in his life at all. If the author intended for me to want to reach into the book and smack him, then she succeeded magnificently.In fact, none of the small cast of characters was very likable, although I did pity Rosa. I didn’t like how meek she was. I was often annoyed at her while feeling sorry for her at the same time.Trigger warning: There are some very harsh things in this book. I actually struggled with it quite a bit, because of a rape scene (easily skipped, but still very upsetting). That is something I try very hard to avoid reading. Honestly, if I’d known about the scene ahead of time, I wouldn’t have read the book.That being said, if you don’t mind harsher books, this was incredibly well written. It was a slow builder (think drama instead of action), and definitely gets under the skin.

Blanca and Roja by Anna-Marie Mclemore

The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan.

But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts. (taken from Amazon)

See, here’s the thing: I really wanted to like this book. It’s a retelling of Snow White and Rose Red, with some Swan Lake mixed in. I love the Swan Lake story, so I was hoping for something at least a little entertaining. Unfortunately, this book didn’t deliver in my opinion.

It’s told from several different points of view, which I think really hurt this book. Because the chapters were so short (between two and four pages), having four characters narrate made it impossible to get to know any of them enough to care about them at all. At times I struggled to remember which point of view I was reading, because the character voices were all written the same.

Because of the nature of the magic, I expected a sense of urgency, which would have added to the book. It wasn’t there, and I was left feeling very bored a lot of the time. I almost gave up on the book, actually.

I did like that the familiar tale was remade with Latina sisters. I’ve never seen that done with a fairy-tale re-imagining, and it was really cool. The bits of cultural additions shone through because the author wrote those with confidence.

I felt that McLemore’s writing was very tentative, like she didn’t have confidence in her storytelling. I thought maybe this was her debut book, and she would gain faith in herself, but I’ve found out that she has several others which are award winners, so that must just be what I inferred from her writing style.

I guess when it comes right down to it, this author isn’t for me. I have a feeling that my opinion isn’t the popular one, though, so maybe I missed something.

Have you read this, or any of McLemore’s other books? Thoughts?

O.W.Ls Readathon 2019

I admit: like a large part of the population, I’m a Harry Potter fan. Actually, at this point, I’m afraid I’m moving toward being a Harry Potter hipster (“I liked Harry Potter before JK Rowling started in on the constant retconning”). Either way, I’m participating in the O.W.Ls readathon for the first time this year. For those who don’t know what that is, here’s a link to the official video: video.

I’m taking the O.W.Ls required to work toward a career as a librarian. Seriously, it sounds wonderful. Here are the books I’m planning on reading to fulfill each subject requirement. I’m a huge mood reader, though, so these are all subject to change:

Ancient Runes- A Retelling: Blanca and Roja by Anna-Marie Mclemore-

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The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know.The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan.
But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts. (taken from Amazon)

I’m in the middle of reading this one right now. It seems to be a mash-up of Snow White and Rose Red and Swan Lake. Despite loving the tale of Swan Lake, I’m really not enjoying this book so far. It’s told from multiple points of view, but the chapters are so short that there’s really no time to get to know these characters and I’m struggling to connect with the story. Here’s hoping it improves.

Arithmancy- Work Written by Multiple Authors: The Big Book of Classic Fantasy edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer

The Big Book of Classic Fantasy ebook by

From the fairy tales we first heard as children, fantasy stories have always been with us. They illuminate the odd and the uncanny, the wondrous and the fantastic: all the things we know are lurking just out of sight–on the other side of the looking-glass, beyond the music of the impossibly haunting violin, through the dark trees of the forest. Other worlds, talking animals, fairies, goblins, demons, tricksters, and mystics: these are the elements that populate a rich literary tradition that spans the globe.
In this collection, Ann and Jeff VanderMeer explore the stories that shaped our modern idea of “fantasy.” There are the expected pillars of the genre: the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, Mary Shelley, Christina Rossetti, Nikolai Gogol, Franz Kafka, L. Frank Baum, Robert E. Howard, and J. R. R. Tolkien. But it’s the unexpected treasures from Asian, Eastern European, Scandinavian, and Native American traditions–including fourteen stories never before available in English–that show that the urge to imagine surreal circumstances, bizarre creatures, and strange new worlds is truly a universal phenomenon. A work composed both of careful scholarship and fantastic fun, The Big Book of Classic Fantasy is essential reading for anyone who’s never forgotten the stories that first inspired feelings of astonishment and wonder. (taken from Amazon)

I’m also currently reading this book, since I tend to read two or three books at the same time. I’m odd that way. My fantasy and fairy tale- loving self is fascinated by this book so far.

Defense Against the Dark Arts- Reducto! A book starting with “R”: The Red Scrolls of Magic by Cassandra Clare

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All Magnus Bane wanted was a vacation—a lavish trip across Europe with Alec Lightwood, the Shadowhunter who against all odds is finally his boyfriend. But as soon as the pair settles in Paris, an old friend arrives with news about a demon-worshipping cult called the Crimson Hand that is bent on causing chaos around the world. A cult that was apparently founded by Magnus himself. Years ago. As a joke.Now Magnus and Alec must race across Europe to track down the Crimson Hand and its elusive new leader before the cult can cause any more damage. As if it wasn’t bad enough that their romantic getaway has been sidetracked, demons are now dogging their every step, and it is becoming harder to tell friend from foe. As their quest for answers becomes increasingly dire, Magnus and Alec will have to trust each other more than ever—even if it means revealing the secrets they’ve both been keeping. (taken from Amazon)

The Shadowhunter books are guilty pleasures for me. I think we can all agree that the writing isn’t necessarily the most incredible ever, but the world is a lot of fun. This book releases on the ninth and I’m really hoping to be able to read it a.s.ap.

History of Magic- Published at Least Ten Years Ago: The Beat Book: Writings from the Beat Generation

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The Beat Book: Writings from the Beat Generation:  This will be a reread for me, and it won’t be the first time I’ve reread this amazing book. It’s National Poetry Month, though, so I figure that gives me the perfect excuse to dive right back into the fearless, creative writing that defined the Beat Generation.

Transfiguration: Sprayed Edges or Red Cover- Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee

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You can’t get much redder than this gorgeous cover. I recently posted a review on this book, which you can check out here. This book was beautiful but very, very sad.

There you have it! Are any of you participating in this year’s O.W.Ls readathon? What career have you chosen? Oh, in case you were wondering: I’m a Ravenclaw.

Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee- ARC Review

Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with this copy, in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available for purchase on April 16th.

Lenny Spink is the sister of a giant. Her little brother, Davey, suffers from a rare form of gigantism and is taunted by other kids and turned away from school because of his size. To escape their cruel reality, Lenny and Davey obsess over the entries in their monthly installment of Burrell’s Build-It-at-Home Encyclopedia set. Lenny vows to become a beetle expert, while Davey decides he will run away to Canada and build a log cabin. But as Davey’s disease progresses, the siblings’ richly imagined world becomes harder to cling to in this deeply moving and original novel about grief, family, and wonder. (taken from Amazon)

Melancholy, but never overdone, this beautiful book is perfectly written. It’s told from Lenny’s point of view as she and her brother Davey turn to an encyclopedia set to help them navigate the things they don’t understand and can’t control. This book is a thoughtful commentary on dealing with grief.

I can tell that this will be considered a classic in its type- keeping company with A Monster Calls and Bridge to Terabithia. It’s heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time. This book will stay with me and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it made into a movie a few years down the line.

I love that it’s written for children because so often we try to protect kids from the big things, not realizing that these things affect them too. The language is simple, but never condescending. It doesn’t hold back, but it also doesn’t attempt to oversell, if that makes sense.  I tell you what, though: plan on getting a mysterious case of teary eye toward the end!

Shadow Frost by Coco Ma- ARC Review

 

In a world of magic, nothing is ever as it seems.

In the kingdom of Axaria, a darkness rises.
Some call it a monster, laying waste to the villagers and their homes.
Some say it is an invulnerable demon summoned from the deepest abysses of the Immortal Realm.
Many soldiers from the royal guard are sent out to hunt it down.
Not one has ever returned.

When Asterin Faelenhart, princess of Axaria and heir to the throne, discovers that she may hold the key to defeating the mysterious demon terrorizing her kingdom, she vows not to rest until the beast is slain. With the help of her friends and the powers she wields — though has yet to fully understand — Asterin sets out to complete a single task. The task that countless trained soldiers have failed. To kill it.

But as they hunt for the demon, they unearth a plot to assassinate the princess herself instead. Asterin and her friends begin to wonder how much of their lives has been lies, especially when they realize that the center of the web of deceit might very well be themselves. With no one else to turn to, they are forced to decide just how much they are willing to sacrifice to protect the only world they have ever known.

That is, of course, if the demon doesn’t get to them first. (taken from Amazon)

First of all, I’m a fan of strong female characters and this book is strong in that aspect. The main character, Asterin is a great example of that. She’s not your typical princess: she’s feisty and, as a certain someone likes to point out, she can be a bit of a brat. She has the skills to back up her attitude, though. A skilled fighter, she is also quite capable in this world’s version of magic. She’s also not content to let other people fight battles she knows she’s suited for, and goes off in search of the demon who’s leaving death in its wake.

There’s a small cast of characters that goes along with her, each an addition to the team in their own way. I think my favorite was Orion, Asterin’s bodyguard and friend. He taught her to fight, among other things, didn’t underestimate her, and was just a fun character all around.

The book is much less straightforward than the reader is originally led to believe, something I really enjoyed. I like stories that have intrigue and surprises, and this book delivers. Plus, there’s the journey taken, and I love books where the heroes see much of the fantasy world.

One small bone to pick is that the relationship between Asterin and Quinlan was annoying. Not enough to ruin the book by any stretch of the imagination, but it just kind of irked me. Also, every time I read “affinity stone”, I immediately thought “infinity stone” of the Marvel Universe (oops; I guess those movies really got inside my head), but that last is an issue I had, mentioned only because I had to laugh at myself a little.

It turns out Coco Ma was just fifteen when she finished writing this book: you go, girl! This is a wonderful debut, and she definitely is a fresh new voice in the YA fantasy genre.