Three Dark Crowns Series by Kendare Blake (no spoilers)

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

I loved, loved, loved this book and the books following it (One Dark Throne, and Two Dark Reigns)! The story centers around triplets, each with a special gift: Arsinoe is a naturalist who is said to be able to tame wild animals; Katherine is a poisoner, said to be able to not suffer ill effects from any poison; Mirabella is an elementalist, said to be able to create enormous storms.

They were separated young and raised separately, which is the custom on Fennbirn for triplets born of royalty. Over generations, each set of triplets spends sixteen years honing their gifts, then they battle for the right to be crowned queen. The winner is the one left alive at the end of the year.One of the many things I loved about this book is the amount of time spent developing the characters. Each sister has her own incredibly layered personality. Katherine…

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Pan’s Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of the Faun by Guillermo del Toro and Cornelia Funke

Oscar winning writer-director Guillermo del Toro and bestselling author Cornelia Funke have come together to transform del Toro’s hit movie Pan’s Labyrinth into an epic and dark fantasy novel for readers of all ages, complete with haunting illustrations and enchanting short stories that flesh out the folklore of this fascinating world.

This spellbinding tale takes readers to a sinister, magical, and war-torn world filled with richly drawn characters like trickster fauns, murderous soldiers, child-eating monsters, courageous rebels, and a long-lost princess hoping to be reunited with her family.

A brilliant collaboration between masterful storytellers that’s not to be missed. (taken from Amazon)

Admission: I haven’t seen Pan’s Labyrinth all the way through. I started it and didn’t finish, so that right there might be the reason I didn’t love this book. Because I really, really didn’t.

See, here’s the thing: I expected more from two such experienced authors. The book didn’t flow well, and some things felt like they were shoved down my throat. Vidal is a very bad guy. But, seriously, how many times does that need to be reiterated in almost the exact same wording? I was very disappointed by the lack of character development in general.

The little fairy tales interspersed throughout the book were different and broke up the monotony of the rest of the tale nicely. The fantasy creatures were unique and disturbing in a beautiful way. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to draw me into the book. I will probably forget that I’ve even read this one in a few months. It just wasn’t memorable.

I would suggest skipping this one.

If you’ve read this, what did you think? Did I miss something that made this book awesome?

The First of Shadows (Book 1 of the Riven Realm) by Deck Matthews

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                                  How do you kill a shadow? 

As a raging storm descends on the Blasted Coast, the crippled young rigger, Caleb Rusk, meets a stranger on the road. Little does he know that the encounter will pull him into a conflict that threatens everything he holds dear—and change the course of his life forever.

Meanwhile, in the Capital of Taralius, a string of inexplicable deaths have captured the attention of the Ember Throne. Second Corporal Avendor Tarcoth is tasked with uncovering the truth behind a danger that could threaten the very fabric of the Realm. (taken from Amazon)

                           This was a good doorway into a new fantasy adventure. Caleb was a perfect main character: he wasn’t super strong or fast. He was just in the wrong place at the right time (the right place at the wrong time?). He found himself in the middle of an adventure that is bigger than anything he could have imagined.

The way that magic worked in this world was really cool. Caleb himself had a totem- a brand that can be called on to form an animal companion. Caleb’s is an owl, and he was able to  communicate with it verbally, which seems to be uncommon. There is also Old Magic, which isn’t common knowledge.

There are a few other interesting characters: a drifter (think Strider from Lord of the Rings, but unique); a drunkard with a huge freaking hammer that he’s incredibly comfortable using, and a couple others that I won’t mention in the interest of letting things be revealed as they should be in the book. I personally enjoyed Tanner the drunkard and Caleb the most as characters. I’m really curious what Caleb’s character growth is going to look like. It has a lot of potential.

This novella was the perfect length to whet my appetite for the series. I’ll definitely be reading the rest of it, and I’m planning on reading the author’s other works as well. Keep an eye on this author, fantasy lovers: you’ll be seeing him on bestsellers lists soon!

Simon, My Pet Dragon and Our Unusual Adventure: A Children’s Seek-N-Find Book by David D. Cree

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I was given this book by the author, in exchange for my honest opinion.

My toddler has very unique taste in literature. At this moment, he only likes adult history books about historical figures (try having a kid who isn’t toilet trained telling you the presidents in order: it’s mildly disturbing) and search-and-find books. He owns several Where’s Waldo books, and one Find the Sloth, so I had to read this to him and get his viewpoint.

He loved it. The dragon was challenging for him to find, but not impossible, and he happily paid attention to the story-line, which was very cute. It’ follows a timid dragon as he overcomes his fear and learns that trying new things can lead to many fun new experiences.

The illustrations were adorable, and the message was positive but not heavy-handed. I highly recommend picking this up for your young children.

The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine- ARC Review

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

Image result for the grammariansThe Grammarians are Laurel and Daphne Wolfe, identical, inseparable redheaded twins who share an obsession with words. They speak a secret “twin” tongue of their own as toddlers; as adults making their way in 1980s Manhattan, their verbal infatuation continues, but this love, which has always bound them together, begins instead to push them apart. Daphne, copy editor and grammar columnist, devotes herself to preserving the dignity and elegance of Standard English. Laurel, who gives up teaching kindergarten to write poetry, is drawn, instead, to the polymorphous, chameleon nature of the written and spoken word. Their fraying twinship finally shreds completely when the sisters go to war, absurdly but passionately, over custody of their most prized family heirloom: Merriam Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book, in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available on…

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

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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 word to use when discussing things that go bump in the night, but I laughed.

*The Surviving Child by Joyce Carol Oates: Sad and introspective, this was undoubtedly one of the most well-written in the collection. I loved it.

*Must Be This Tall to Ride by Seanan McGuire definitely had a “scary stories around a campfire” vibe to it. Short and fun, this one stood out to me.

*His Haunting by Brian Evenson was the one that felt the most eerie to me. It was something in the way it was told, I think. While none of the stories actually scared me, this one came the closest.

This is a good collection, especially with Halloween in a couple of months. Pick it up and tell me what you think!

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

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In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor with her sisters and their father and stepmother. Once there were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last–the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge–and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that her sister’s deaths were no accidents. The girls have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who–or what–are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family–before it claims her next. House of Salt and Sorrows is a spellbinding novel filled with magic and the rustle of gossamer skirts down long, dark hallways. Get ready to be swept away.

“An eerie, lovely Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling full of ghosts and gods and a fascinating waterfront world and I’m reading it from behind my fingers.”–Melissa Albert, New York Timesbestselling author of The Hazel Wood (taken from Amazon)

                           When I was young, I loved the fairytale The Twelve Dancing Princesses. The version I knew had twelve princesses sneaking out of their locked room through a trapdoor every night, dancing the night away, and waking up the next morning with their shoes worn through. Their father, the king, promises one of his daughters in marriage to the person who can figure out how it’s happening. A prince with a cape of invisibility (no relation to Harry Potter that I know of) follows the girls in disguise, finds out where they’re going, brings proof to the king, and marries the eldest daughter. Of course, there are adventures in between, but that’s the general gist.

House of Salt and Sorrows is incredibly different. There’s a creepy, gothic atmosphere the makes itself known from page one. The author is extremely skilled at taking small things and imbuing them with an eerie feel. There was almost a Haunting of Hill House vibe at times, with ghosts, haunting images, and the disturbing question: What’s real and what isn’t?

I loved the first three quarters of the book. The characters were interesting, and, as I wrote above, I was a big fan of the feel of the book. The setting- a manor by the sea- was perfect. There was an entire mythos built around the small chain of islands talked about in the story, which was pretty stinking cool.

However, the last quarter of the book fell apart. I felt an abrupt shift in how the story was told, and the characters seemed a bit neglected in lieu of moving the plot along. The twists were less than twisty, which was disappointing since there were several moments where I felt like I was supposed to gasp in surprise. Instead, I just thought, “Well, that happened. Moving on.”

The biggest let down for me was the long-winded explanation from one of the characters as a way to catch the readers up on motivations and happenings. I wish there had been a different choice regarding the reveal of information. It felt stilted and rushed.

In the end, what started out as a book I loved ended up being just okay. It’s still worth reading for the creeptastic feel of the first three quarters of the book. Just don’t expect a mind-blowing conclusion.

Markus by David Odle- ARC Review

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Markus Blue is one of the most powerful men alive. Fire from his hands can destroy armies and his battles are legendary. He is one of a rare breed called the warlock, one of the last of his kind and he is dying. But he must face one more battle, one more challenge or it will mean the end of the world as we know it. (taken from Amazon)

                     Thank you Netgalley for providing me with this book, in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.

When I read the description for this book, I thought it would be a fantasy adventure, the sort that pits one against many. Instead, this book is a modern story that just so happens to also include vampires, werewolves, and a crotchety once-powerful old man. It was a blast.

The premise was simple: a big, bad vampire rampaging around, causing no end of trouble. Battles ensue. I loved it. It was so much fun! I enjoyed the daylight out of myself. This book pairs well with 90’s nostalgia and popcorn.

There wasn’t a lot of character depth, but with a book like this, there doesn’t need to be. It sounds like I’m just listing negative traits, but what would normally be considered a negative is actually a very good thing in this story. Markus was a fun character with a tough exterior, experience and power to back up his ego, and a hidden soft heart.

Every now and again I have one of those days where the only solution is to watch a movie like Blade. One that’s not heavy on the plot, it’s easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys, and there are cool sunglasses. Markus didn’t have the sunglasses, but in every other aspect it felt like a simple, fun vampire flick. Check it out!

In the Shadows by Kiersten White and Jim Di Bartolo

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

I thought I knew what I was getting with this book. I was so very, very wrong; and it was perfect!

First mistake: This is a fun, lighthearted story. This book tends more toward horror than any other genre. The atmosphere is tense and creepy throughout the entire book, and the illustrations (more on those in a bit) only add to the mysterious goings-on.

Second mistake: The illustrations are just beautiful additions to the storyline. The illustrations- done in a graphic novel style- tell their own story. Basically, there are two separate stories being told, but they compliment each other and end up meeting up for the culmination of the book.

Third mistake: This book is intended for a young audience. While, reading-level wise, my ten year old could easily read this book in a week, the subject matter and the way it’s written would scare the snot out of…

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Pulling Strings by Nick DeWolf

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The feeling you’re being watched. Knowing what card is next out of the deck. Guessing what someone’s thinking… and always being right.Or maybe you can move things. Maybe you can hear people’s thoughts. Maybe you can make fire out of nothing. Maybe, just maybe, you’re different. Maybe, you’re psychic. And maybe, there’s a place for you.Rebecca Colt was different, and used her abilities to become the best psychic Secret Agent in America. She traveled the world, hunted down foreign agents, had wild car chases and adrenaline pumping shoot outs. Until one day, in Austin, Texas, when everything went wrong. When a little girl died. When Agent Colt’s life fell apart.Now, she’s sitting around a field office in Kansas, thinking of the good old days, begrudgingly awaiting retirement. She just wants one last shot, one thing to put her back on top for a while.So when people start turning up in hospitals nearby, their minds broken into a thousand pieces, she thinks she’s found just that chance.But once she starts her investigation, every answer she gets only leads to more questions. Things don’t add up. She starts to realize she’s dealing with something bigger and badder and scarier than she’s ever dealt with. It’s not a foreign sleeper agent she’s tracking. It’s a puppeteer, the most dangerous kind of psychic there is.And she has no idea what to do.Or even who it is.But she knows she’s alone.She’s caught.And she’s going to have to fight her way out. (taken from Amazon)

              Thank you to the author for providing me with this book, in exchange for my honest opinion. This book, and others by Nick DeWolf, are available now.

How to describe my feelings about this book? I can’t say I’ve ever read a book that gave me such a physical reaction. I had to set it down on a few occasions because I could feel myself working up to a panic attack (I don’t say this disrespectfully; I have an anxiety disorder). I think I mean this as a compliment. The fact that the author was able to create such a visceral reaction is pretty stinking amazing.

That being said, I didn’t love this book. The main character, Rebecca, had a chip on her shoulder the size of Texas. She’d been through a lot and was tough as nails, but she was kind of a jerk to people that didn’t deserve it in any way, which made her an unpleasant character to read.

While the book has a supernatural premise, it quickly becomes more of an action book than anything else. The idea of the Puppeteer was truly terrifying, and the writing was confident and solid.

If you like heart pounding action, and characters that kick butt, this book is for you.