Queens of Fennbirn by Kendare Blake

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Together in print for the first time in this paperback bind-up, the dazzling prequels to the Three Dark Crowns series are finally available for fans to have and to (literally) hold. Uncover the sisters’ origins, dive deep into the catastrophic reign of the Oracle Queen, and reveal layers of Fennbirn’s past, hidden until now.

The Young Queens

Get a glimpse of triplet queens Mirabella, Arsinoe, and Katharine during a short period of time when they protected and loved one another. From birth until their claiming ceremonies, this is the story of the three sisters’ lives…before they were at stake.

The Oracle Queen

Everyone knows the legend of Elsabet, the Oracle Queen. The one who went mad. The one who orchestrated a senseless, horrific slaying of three entire houses. But what really happened? Discover the true story behind the queen who could foresee the future…just not her own downfall. (taken from Amazon)

I love Kendare Blake’s writing. The darker tones present throughout her Three Dark Crowns series adds a glorious sense of the gothic. This book of two novellas was no different.

Both of these stories take place in Fennbirn, the world of the Three Dark Crowns. I would suggest reading at least the first few books in the actual series before picking these novellas up, because you’ll get spoilers otherwise. There are also things in this book that won’t make as much sense if you haven’t already read the others.

In The Young Queens, we get a bigger view of the queens’ lives before they were pitted against each other and the events of the Three Dark Crowns series unfolded. While I can see why this novella is so well-liked, I honestly didn’t feel that it added anything to the original story. In fact (and this is a weird opinion), I preferred getting only glimpses of the queens’ time together prior to their fight for the crown. This book was sweet in many ways, but it just didn’t do it for me. From a technical standpoint, the writing was as strong as ever, but this novella just felt…unnecessary.

The Oracle Queen, though! Holy Hannah, that packed a punch! Kendare Blake’s ability to keep me on the edge of my seat is once again made apparent. The story of the last oracle queen is full of intrigue, betrayal, and more than a bit of violence. I loved every moment of it. Kendare Blake has never shied away from being mean to her characters, a trait that makes her books unpredictable and compelling. I suggest picking up this book of novellas for this story alone.

This was a good book, even though I didn’t love The Young Queens, and it’s definitely worth adding to your shelf.

Continuing On: Lesser-known sequels to popular books

Sometimes a book is so popular, and functions so well as a standalone, that I don’t realize there’s a sequel. This happened last year when I discovered that Richard Adams had revisited the world of Watership Down. Maybe I’m the only person who doesn’t always check for sequels, but here’s a list of sequels to popular books that may have been skipped over. Let’s give these books some attention!

Tales From Watership Down by Richard Adams: 

Image result for tales from watership downI’m one of those weirdos who actually really likes Watership Down. Yes, it’s odd, and the themes are harsh and rather upsetting, but I would argue that it’s an important book (even though the characters are adorable little rabbits). I have to be honest: I was disappointed by Tales From Watership Down. It felt like an unnecessary tack-on, which might be why it’s never talked about.

 Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott: 
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Here’s the thing: I really hate Little Women. Not the movie with Wynona Ryder, I like that one; I hate the book. I tried to reread it not too long ago, but the way the author beats the reader over the head with her life lessons was just flat-out annoying. I love Jo’s Boys, though. The lessons are still there, but they’re less in-your-face, and following Jo as she runs her school for boys is pretty cool. Don’t forget to read Little Men first!

Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card: 

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Without discussing the author’s behavior in any way, I think it’s pretty common knowledge that Ender’s Game is fabulous. The series continues in several more books. The Speaker for the Dead is the sequel and it is brilliant. I highly recommend it. I’d also suggest Ender’s Shadow, which is actually a parallel novel to Ender’s Game. It’s written from Bean’s perspective, and it really fleshes out his character and adds a new dimension to the original book.

Twenty Years After by Alexander Dumas:

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I fell in love with The Three Musketeers when I was pretty young (who doesn’t love buckling swash?) and I reread it a lot. It’s one of those books that’s just fun. Twenty Years After feels a little more serious to me, but it’s still very well-written, and definitely one worth reading.

                                                       Sequels I haven’t yet read

The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
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I haven’t read this one yet. I plan to get to it eventually, but I also plan on traveling the world, and actually having a clean house while my children still live here, neither of which has happened yet. We’ll see what I manage to accomplish first.

Closing Time by Joseph Heller:

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How did I not know about this book? I must be slipping in my old age. I’m actually rather annoyed at myself for not having gotten to it yet. I will definitely have to read this one soon!

Have you read any of these? What are some other sequels to popular books that I’ve missed? Let me know. I love to talk books!

Death Train and Anxious Anna by Daye Williams

Anxious Anna & The Souls by [Williams, Daye] DEATH TRAIN by [Williams, Daye]

Thank you to the author for providing me with these novellas in exchange for my honest opinion.

I went back and forth on whether to review these two novellas in one post, or separately. I finally decided on one because they both examine similar themes, albeit from different angles.

Death Train is about a man who stores aboard a train that delivers souls to the Underworld. He is attempting to save the souls of his deceased loved ones. While this story is ostensibly about saving his family, what made me invested in this story are the underlying themes of grief, and dealing with loss.

The story moves along quickly without ever feeling trite. While the descriptions are absolutely incredible, sometimes I’d get lost in them and have to remind myself of what was happening. Daye Williams has a very detailed writing style. It was fascinating to get a glimpse into his mind, so to speak. I quite enjoyed this one.

Anxious Anna also explores themes of mortality and the fear of the unknown. This story is about a young girl who, on her eighth birthday, is so terrified by the idea of growing old and dying that she manages to break the binds of Time and goes on a journey wherein she must come to grips with her fears and decide whether to return home.

This one was a little more difficult for me to grasp. Again, it was very well-written, but I felt a little lost at times. The descriptions were beautiful, but I couldn’t connect with Anna as easily. Taken separately, both of these novellas are good. Read back-to-back (I read Anxious Anna first), they paint a vivid picture and are thought-provoking. These stories can be read quickly, but they’ll stick with you and make you think.

Have you read either of these novellas? What did you think?

The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat by Brooke Bolander

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Have you ever read a fairy tale about three raptors? Yeah, me neither. I must say, I was missing out. This short story was fantastic.

This is the story of three raptors, an intelligent princess, and an incredibly stupid prince. One day, the prince stumbles across a raptor. The rest of the village knows to avoid these beasts, since they don’t much fancy being eaten. The prince seems to think he’s come across a horse, and decides to ride it back to his castle. The raptor, hoping to gather more information about the fearless man, goes along with it. That ends up being a mistake, as the prince soon holds the raptor captive. This story continues from there.

While decidedly odd, this short story was also a ton of fun. It was well-written, full of humor and heart (and a wee bit of viscera). As with most fairy tales, it ends with a “happily ever after.” The question is: who gets the happy ending?

I loved the way the raptors thought, and the princess was awesome. Yes, this is a weird concept, but I recommend you give it a go. It is very short; it only took me fifteen minutes or so to finish it. You can easily read it in that amount of time but, if you’re like me, you’ll read it more than once.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

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This is the story of a governess who, upon taking charge of two young children, finds herself worrying that something malevolent is after them. She begins to fear that two deceased former employees are haunting the house.

I’ve read this creepy little story before, but it’s been quite a while, so I figured the time was ripe for a reread. I’m pleased to report that it’s just as eerie the second time around as it was the first.

While the pacing is excellent, building tension slowly, it’s the uncertainty of everything that stands out to me. Are the children really haunted, or is it all the product of the governess’ imagination? I love that it’s up to the reader to decide.

The characters are surprisingly well-developed, considering the shortness of the story. At barely over a hundred pages, this is easily read in a day. It’ll take a lot longer to mull over, though.

I quite enjoyed this spooky tale. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s worth giving a go. Henry James is a fantastic author, and this story is engaging and thought-provoking.

If you’ve read this book, what was your takeaway? Were the hauntings really there? Was the governess hallucinating?

The Unicorn Anthology by Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman- Buddy Read

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

When I was in second grade, my school class would go to the school library once a week. There was collection of short stories about unicorns that myself and another girl would race to check out first. If she got to it before me, I’d give her a good -natured scowl. But if someone from another class checked the collection out before either of us, we were both united in our thirst for revenge.

So, I was waxing nostalgic when I started this anthology, full of hope that it would be as enjoyable as the other one was. Sadly, it was not. It was ten types of terrible. The stories ranged from forgettable and a bit disappointing, to flat-out disturbing. There was one in particular that had an icky Stockholm Syndrome story line, which was incredibly upsetting.

I felt that these stories were all written with the intent to be edgy and dark. Gone was the sense of wonder and fun that I expect in anything involving unicorns. It was all death, doom, and destruction, with a bit of boredom thrown in for good measure.

While the mechanics of the stories were all solid, I was ultimately very disappointed by what the authors chose to write. I read this book and discussed it with Beth from Before We Go. Check her post out! And, maybe skip this book and look for something less disappointing.

Fowl Language: Winging It by Brian Gordon- ARC Review

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The world’s finest parenting cartoon featuring ducks presents a comprehensive view of the early parenting years in all of their maddening cuteness and sanity-depriving chaos. In addition to dozens of previously unpublished cartoons, Fowl Language: Winging It is organized into 12 thematic chapters—including “Babies: Oh Dear God, What Have We Done?”; “Siblings: Best Frenemies Forever”; and “Sleep: Everybody Needs It, Nobody’s Gettin’ It”—each of which begins with a hilarious, illustrated 500-word essay. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book, in exchange for my honest opinion. It will be available to purchase on October twenty second.

Who knew that it would be possible for me to relate so much to a duck? I struggle with reading graphic novels, but I love a good web comic. Back in the day, I used to read Penny Arcade, and comics along those lines. Then, one fated night, long after the cranky baby should have been sleeping, while surfing Facebook in an effort to stay awake myself, I stumbled across two panels of parental hilarity. Finally, someone got it. Being a parent is amazing, a miracle, and I love every moment of it…except the moments that I loathe.

Those times that everyone who’s well-rested claim I’ll look back on fondly? Yeah. This author nails my mixed feelings on those perfectly. The painful struggle that is toilet training? That’s in here too. That moment when I tear up because my oldest isn’t little anymore and why is he growing so freaking fast? Yep, this fowl little parent understands.

This collection of parenting comics is fabulous. If you’ve ever experienced the joys and trials of parenting, especially if you’re in the trenches now and need a little tongue-in-cheek humor, this book is for you.

Be aware that this fowl is a bit foul. He’s also funny and very real. Parents: pick this book up. When you’re done laughing, you’ll thank me.

Being Sherlock: A Sherlockian’s Stroll Through the Best Sherlock Holmes Story by Ashley D. Polasek- ARC Review

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Being Sherlock shares the best collection of Sherlock Holmes stories fans have never had, until now. Shared by Sherlockian Ashley D. Polasek, she nimbly sets the stage for each story and shares interesting Sherlockian tidbits about the incredible evolution of this iconic character. Famous former and current Sherlocks include: William Gillette, Basil Rathbone, Christopher Lee, John Cleese, Robert Downey Jr., Sir Ian McKellen, and Benedict Cumberbatch among others. Featuring lesser-known photography and behind the scene shots, this book is for every Sherlock Holmes fan bookshelf. Unlike other Sherlockian guides, this book attempts to answer why the Sherlock narrative is so popular and decree the best and worst representations. (taken from Amazon)

                            I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available on October first.

For those who don’t have the dubious pleasure of knowing me personally, let me say: I love Sherlock Holmes. I have read the Complete Sherlock Holmes multiple times. I’ve  enjoyed many different works in the Holmes pastiche, including (but not limited to) Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabaar and Anna Waterhouse, the Charlotte Holmes books by Brittany Cavallaro, and The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

This book is a superb addition to the list of Sherlockian books. It added a new angle to the lore and many iterations of Conan Doyle’s famous detective that have sprung from his original works.

I loved the addition of the photos and the author’s viewpoints, as well as her reasoning behind what she included in the book. She points out aspects of Conan Doyle’s writing that I’ve taken for granted up until now. It’s given me an even greater appreciation of the genius of his writing.

My only suggestion would be to read the full original works before picking up this book, simply because it will cause you to appreciate this introspective stroll through Sherlock even more. If you love Holmes, this book is for you.

The Whispered Tales of Graves Grove by J.S. Bailey, Mackenzie Flohr, Elise Manion, D.M. Kilgore, et al- ARC Review

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Graves Grove isn’t your ordinary town…

Nestled within the folds of the Canadian Rockies, Graves Grove probably isn’t the picturesque place you’d like to stay for long. Peculiar things happen here. The citizens seem normal superficially—they function well enough. But each one is deeply disturbed, wrapped in secrets and neuroses which drive them to strange behaviors.

And then there are all the missing children. And why is everyone afraid of that sycamore tree?

The Whispered Tales of Graves Grove is an anthology of stories taking place throughout the history of this mysterious town, from its founding to its future. Read them…if you dare. (taken from Amazon)

                    This book was provided by Netgalley, in exchange for my honest opinion. It will be available on October thirteenth.

If Twin Peaks had a more horror-based neighboring town, Graves Grove would be it. Bizarre and creeptastic, this shiver-inducing collection of short stories is a blast to read. I love reading stories that have a common thread, but still showcase each author’s individual style. That’s what this collection did: while all the tales were part of a larger narrative, each one was individualistic and creative.

There were many stories that I loved, and just a few that were “meh”. A couple of them mentioned fairies which didn’t seem to jive with the rest of the book, but they were still interesting even though they felt a bit disjointed.

I loved Where’s Matheson Lam and The Flash in particular. The both left me with that feeling of what if?, which is so much fun in supernatural and horror books. I also loved that there’s a distinct lack of over-the-top gore.

This book collection was a lot of fun. I highly recommend it.

A Midnight Clear by Sam Hooker; Seven Jane; Alcy Levya; Laura Morrison; Dalena Storm; Cassondra Windwalker- ARC Review

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Six stories of not-so-merry Yuletide whimsy from the authors of Black Spot Books.A woman so cold she hardens to ice on a winter’s eve. Risen from his grave before his time, a winter god alters the balance between seasons. A wolf’s holiday season is interrupted by a strange curse. From a murder at the Stanley Hotel to demons of Christmas past, present, and future, and a mad elf and Santa’s Candy Court, the authors of Black Spot Books share their love for winter holidays in this collection of dark winter tales, destined to chill your bones and warm your heart for the Yuletide season. (taken from Amazon)

            This book was provided by Netgalley, in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available on November fifth.

This collection of stories was full of dark humor, and more than a bit of creepiness, taking the usual Christmas cheer and turning it upside down. This collection would be as easily at home during Halloween as Christmas. Some of the stories hit the mark better than others, in my opinion. It’s a solid collection, but nothing to write home about.

There were two that stood out to me: The Dauntless, in which Snickerdoodle the elf has to defend Gumdrop (another elf) from murder charges. Yep, you read that right. It was odd and funny, and I couldn’t stop snickering every time I thought of a lawyer named “Snickerdoodle”.

My favorite story was The Poetry of Snow and Stars. I thought it highly entertaining that it takes place at the hotel from The Shining. The writing in this one was strong, and it was quite evident that the author, Cassondra Windwalker, was fully confident in her writing ability. There wasn’t a false step in her writing.

While obviously not written for everyone, this book would be a great Christmas gift for anyone who likes their holiday with a hint of the macabre.