The 5,4,3,2,1 Book Tag

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve done a book tag. Or else I have completely forgotten the one I published yesterday. It could go either way. At any rate, I came across this tag on the Words About Words site. Check out her great answers here and be sure to give her a follow!

5 Books You Love

I’m going to just go with five books that I’ve loved so far this year. It’s been a great reading year so far, so I’m already mad about narrowing it down.

The Magician’s Daughter by H.G. Parry (Review)

Mystic Reborn by Jeffrey Speight (Review)

The Adversary’s Hand by Dorian Hart (Review)

A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross (Review)

The Bone Shard War by Andrea Stewart (Review)

4 Auto-buy Authors

Erin Morgenstern, Stuart Turton, and Alix E. Harrow. I have a tie for my fourth author and it’s kind of a cheat since each of these authors has written one book series so far: Luke Arnold and Dorian Hart. However, I’ll buy whatever they write going forward, up to and including a book about beige paint.

3 Favorite Genres

Fantasy of all types, mystery, and…literary fiction? It’s tough because fantasy is my go-to but other than that, I go through reading phases.

2 Places I read

On the sofa and in waiting rooms.

1 Book You Promise to Read Soon

The Magick of Chaos by Ricard Victoria

I’m not tagging anyone, but I hope to see your answers! Please let me know if you do the tag, so I can add to my “to be read” pile.

Dragonlance Side Quest: The Second Generation by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

Years have passed since the end of the War of the Lance. The people of Ansalon have rebuilt their lives, their houses, their families. The Companions of the Lance, too, have returned to their homes, raising children and putting the days of their heroic deeds behind them.

But peace on Krynn comes at a price. The forces of darkness are ever vigilant, searching for ways to erode the balance of power and take control. When subtle changes begin to permeate the fragile peace, new lives are drawn into the web of fate woven around all the races. The time has come to pass the sword — or the staff — to the children of the Lance.

They are the Second Generation. (Taken from Amazon)

I have a confession: I am not a monogamous reader. I usually read multiple books at the same time. Lately, I’ve been rereading my Dragonlance books while also reading new books. You can read my thoughts on my latest reread of Kindred Spirits here.

“…Weis and Hickman are like kender and bad pennies-they keep turning up. And so here they are again, all set to tell us about the wonderful things that are happening in Krynn”. -Forward by…Fizban the Fabulous?

The Second Generation is set after the end of the War of Lance which is when the events from the Dragonlance Chronicles (the original trilogy) takes place. An uneasy peace exists, but it’s much more tenuous than people want to believe. A new generation of heroes needs to step up. This book of short stories introduces the children of characters from the Chronicles. They are not their parents and they think and act differently. The writing also flows differently. That isn’t a bad thing. The tone is similar, but it needs to be at least a little different because this is a different cast of characters.

This book is actually a grouping of five novellas by the masters of Dragonlance. It’s an odd one to review since a few of the novellas have been elsewhere as well. It’s good to see them gathered together with other stories about the children of the Heroes of the Lance, though, and it does form a bridge to the next part in Dragonlance’s history.

I’m always a little wishy-washy on books of short stories or novella collections. There are usually some that I just don’t like as much as others. Unfortunately, that is the case with The Second Generation, although I do think it’s a strong connection point between the characters from the original series and the characters that take center stage in the next book.

I do wonder if some of my not quite glowing reaction to a few of these novellas has to do with the fact that I love the original characters so much. Part of me struggled with these new additions at first. That being said, the characters themselves have new and interesting stories to tell.

“Kitiara’s Son” is one of my favorites from this book. Of all the book characters who lack parenting capability, she’d be at the top of my list. She has a son that is first discovered when his adopted mother comes to Tanis and Caramon for help. He is about to take the vows to become a knight of Takhisis- an evil order of knighthood that has recently sprung up. His mom hopes that Caramon and Tanis can convince him to not give his soul to their evil cause.

There are a few things I really enjoy about this story. One of them is the identity of the father. It isn’t who most people who have read the Chronicles would first expect. Another thing I love about this one is the personality of Kitara’s son, Steel. He’s very conflicted, although he tries not to show it. What follows is more of a story about choices and shades of gray than one of action (although there’s action too, of course).

“Raistlin’s Daughter” is a myth about Raistlin having a daughter. It’s not my favorite, possibly because I feel that it doesn’t fit his character, possibly because the tone seems a little…off. Whatever the reason, while I don’t particularly like the story, I do feel that it is the weakest in the collection. It isn’t bad, it’s just not fantastic. Moving on.

“Wanna Bet” is a rip-roaring tale of adventure, featuring Caramon’s three sons and an ill-fated errand. This is more funny than anything, although any story that involves the Graygem of Gargoth adds a bit to the lore behind Krynn’s creation. This is one of the novellas that appears elsewhere and it also feels most like a side quest from the original trilogy to me. I think it’s the addition of some very bad choices, a character who is not what he seems, and things that go so wrong that they almost go right.

“The Legacy” also focuses on Caramon’s three sons. This time it’s the youngest, Palin, who takes center stage. Unlike his war-like brothers, he’s interested in magic. He’s just enough like Raistlin to scare and worry his father. This story talks about his trip to the Tower of Sorcery and what transpires. I love this one! While it could be the connection to Raistlin, I think it’s a lot more about what it shows of Caramon (and the other original Heroes of the Lance). There’s a reluctance from Caramon to let his kids grow up, a fear of the horrors in the world and a desperate desire to protect his kids. Authors Weis and Hickman perfectly captured the struggles loving parents face every day. I feel for Caramon.

At the same time, it’s a story about the new generation of heroes coming into their own, about how what came before will play into their characters, and an introduction to the next part of the story. It’s masterfully told.

Lastly, there’s “The Sacrifice”, about Tanis’ and Laurana’s son, Gilthas. He reminds me so much of the protagonist of The Scarlet Pimpernel (or Batman, in a less Gotham-y sense). He is a weak fop who lazes around, doing nothing of importance. Except that’s not true at all. Underneath his metaphorical mask is an intelligent mind and a strong will. Gilthas resents his parents for being overprotective and wishes to help. Unfortunately, things don’t go as hoped and he ends up in a sticky situation. It also proves to be a break between himself and Tanis. This story lends a good explanation of what comes next in Krynn’s timeline. It’s probably the one that matters most as far as setting up the next few Dragonlance books. As far as the novellas go, it really does seem the center point of The Second Generation.

This is a well-written side book and an engaging one. There are a few inconsistencies between some of the tales told here and the events from the original story, but the reason for that is perfectly explained in the forward and actually adds a sense of fun and adventure. While I will always prefer the original companions and the Chronicles, this is a strong introduction to the new cast of big players, the ones who get swept up into events bigger than themselves. Also, major points for the addition of the Knight of Takhisis stat blocks!

It’s definitely worth reading if you want to know more about the world and get a good idea of the direction the series will take after the War of the Lance.

A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross

Jack Tamerlaine hasn’t stepped foot on Cadence in ten long years, content to study music at the mainland university. But when young girls start disappearing from the isle, Jack is summoned home to help find them. Enchantments run deep on Cadence: gossip is carried by the wind, plaid shawls can be as strong as armor, and the smallest cut of a knife can instill fathomless fear. The capricious spirits that rule the isle by fire, water, earth, and wind find mirth in the lives of the humans who call the land home. Adaira, heiress of the east and Jack’s childhood enemy, knows the spirits only answer to a bard’s music, and she hopes Jack can draw them forth by song, enticing them to return the missing girls.
As Jack and Adaira reluctantly work together, they find they make better allies than rivals as their partnership turns into something more. But with each passing song, it becomes apparent the trouble with the spirits is far more sinister than they first expected, and an older, darker secret about Cadence lurks beneath the surface, threatening to undo them all. (Taken from Amazon)

A River Enchanted is a magical book full of contradictions. It is meandering and slower in pace. It is breathtaking and kept me on the edge of my seat. It is a book where the setting lived and breathed, almost overshadowing the plot and characters.

Cadence is a land divided. It is also a land of magic. On one side, some can use this magic in different (and unique) ways, such as weaving protections and secrets into wool. There is a cost, though: it shortens the life span of those who use it. On the other side, magic can be used without paying a price, but there is never enough food or resources. These two sides are at war, the peace only lasting as long as neither clan crosses over into the other clan’s side.

Jack left the island of Cadence and has been gone for years when our story starts. He receives a request to return to help with an emergency: girls on the island are disappearing. The Laird’s daughter, Adaira, who summoned Jack, is convinced that only Jack can help. He has a unique gift: he’s a bard and his music can summon the spirits. Adaira hopes that she can persuade the spirits to tell her where the girls are and how to get them back.

Adaira and Jack are both interesting characters. They have a complicated history. As children, they were rivals. Adaira is beloved, the only child of the Laird. Jack was sent off the island and has always felt unwanted. It is a clashing of personalities and the friction between them leads to opportunities for them to build off each other, developing both characters in unexpected ways.

Jack’s mother is the one who sent him away. She has also kept the secret of who his father is. Needless to say, their relationship is strained. I liked that it was more than just resentment. There was love there on both sides, even though they struggled to fit into a family dynamic or even a healthy relationship. It’s hard to be close to someone who keeps secrets like that, and the author conveys this struggle brilliantly.

The book isn’t quite a mystery and it isn’t quite a fantasy. It defies classification. It is beautifully written and kept me enthralled even though I could argue that the entire book is merely setup. The ending dropped a bombshell and set up the second book wonderfully, but the majority of the book showcases the magic of the island, the history of the warring clans, and the relationships between the people on the island and between the people and the magic of the island itself.

There is no explanation as to why the island of Cadence is full of magic while the mainland where Jack has been for years is completely devoid of it. There isn’t a lot of explanation for several larger points, but I actually loved that. It left an air of mystery and excitement. There is so much lurking beneath the surface, peeking out in small ways and giving wonderful tidbits of a world both large and seeped in enchantment.

This isn’t a novel that will be enjoyed by everyone. It is a book to read if you like to be drawn in by the magic of language itself. If you love being lost in lovely prose, puzzling out the quiet beauty of a story well written, A River Enchanted is for you.

Everybody Wins: Four Decades of the Greatest Board Games Ever Made by James Wallis

The revolution in tabletop gaming revealed and reviewed, in this entertaining and informative look at over 40 years of award-winning games.

The annual Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) Awards are like the Oscars of the tabletop. Acclaimed British author and games expert James Wallis investigates the winners and losers of each year’s contest to track the incredible explosion in amazing new board games. From modern classics like CATAN, Ticket to Ride, and Dixit to once-lauded games that have now been forgotten (not to mention several popular hits that somehow missed a nomination), this is a comprehensive yet hugely readable study of the best board games ever made, penned by one of the most knowledgeable commentators on the hobby. (Taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Aconyte Books for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Everybody Wins: Four Decades of the Greatest Board Games Ever Made is available now.

I love games of all kinds, from video games to board games. I grew up with the usual suspects: Clue, Monopoly, Risk (my nemesis!). As an adult, I’ve discovered some fantastic new games, ones that are unique and loads of fun. I’m lucky that my family loves to play board games too. We’re also often joined by some friends who have introduced us to some excellent indie games that we might not have seen before.

I expected Everybody Wins: Four Decades of the Greatest Board Game Ever Played to be a bit of a guidebook with popular games listed alphabetically with suggestions as to who would enjoy them. Sure, there are games listed with suggested ages, but this book is much more comprehensive and fascinating. It starts with an explanation of the Spiel des Jahres “Game of the Year” award: its inception and its criteria. I was surprised by how interesting even the background was. I’ve played and loved many games, but I have to admit that I had never really given much thought to what makes one game worthy of an award over many others. This lens was a new way through which to view some of my favorite games.

Everybody Wins then goes through the years, detailing the winners, both the gist of the game itself and the background of its creation. I was delighted to see so many of my favorites, such as Azul and Dixit, listed and even more excited to see my list of new games to try grow by leaps and bounds. I see many great game nights in my future.

The language of the book is far from dry. It’s engaging and accessible. Despite the vast amount of information available, I read through it fairly quickly. That being said, I will be using Everybody Wins to find the perfect games when I go Christmas shopping this year. I’d love to read a book with a similar setup all about table-top roleplaying games as well (the reason the Spiel des Jashres isn’t focused on ttrpgs is also explained).

Everybody Wins: Four Decades of the Greatest Board Games Ever Played is a highly engaging book that made me smile. Pick this book up, then grab some friends and family members and play a board game!

Silver Queendom by Dan Koboldt

When you owe money to the biggest criminal in town you are going to need to step up your thieving game a notch…

Service at the Red Rooster Inn isn’t what you’d call “good,” or even “adequate.” Darin would be the first to say so, and he owns the place. Evie isn’t much of a barmaid; Kat’s home-brewed ale seems to grow less palatable with each new batch; and Seraphina’s service at the bar leaves much to be desired. As for the bouncer, Big Tom, well, everyone learns right quick to stay on his good side.

They may be bad at running an inn, but they’re the best team of con artists in the Old Queendom. When a prospective client approaches Darin with a high-paying job, he knows he should refuse. But the job is boosting a shipment of priceless imperial dream wine, the most coveted and expensive drink in the world. And, thanks to a stretch of bad luck, he’s in deep to The Dame, who oversees criminal enterprises in this part of the Queendom.

If they fail, they’re as good as dead, but if they succeed… well, it’s enough money to get square with the Dame and make all of their dreams come true. Plus, it’s an option for Darin to stick it to the empress, who he has good reason to despise.

Then again, there’s a very good reason no one has ever stolen imperial dream wine…(Taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Angry Robot and Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Silver Queendom is available now.

Give me rogues aplenty and let the heist begin! Silver Queendom was chock full of shenanigans, plan Bs (through Z), and memorable ne’er do wells. Desperation can cause some opportunistic individuals to go looking for trouble and the characters in this book didn’t seem all that great at avoiding it in the first place. What they lacked in self-preservational skills they more than made up for with sheer moxie.

The book drops you right in the middle of a heist (that is not at all going as planned) and introduces the characters as they play their particular roles. There’s Darin, owner of the Red Rooster Inn and the de-facto leader of the crew. There’s also Kat, who has a big heart for those in need and a laughably small amount of brewing skill, Tom (the meat shield; every good crew needs one), and sophisticated yet broke Evie. In fact, it’s the group’s constant issue with debt that leads them on a dangerous gambit: the theft of Imperial Dream Wine.

Silver Queendom was fun. It was fast-paced and easy to follow. It wasn’t a complicated epic, rather opting for mischief and action aplenty. I was never floored by a shocking twist, but I was entertained throughout the book. I feel like there were some things that could have been more fully explored, but the plot made sense and the pacing was good.

One of the things I wish could have been explained a little better was the use of magic. Darin was a metallurgist. The idea was cool but never seemed to be fully developed. I would have liked a bit more in that respect. I feel like I missed something or just didn’t grasp it fully.

The world was well-developed but vague in some ways. I believe this was done on purpose. The characters themselves were the focus of the book, with the rest existing as a backdrop to these fascinating people. The story was told from multiple points of view, giving the reader a chance to get to know each character better. This came in handy with the heists themselves because I felt like I was getting to see how each person functioned both in terms of character dynamic and heistening (if that’s not a word, it is now).

The fact that this was a series of misadventures as opposed to just one heist made me oh-so-happy. These poor rogues never could get ahead. Boo for them but yay for the readers. I enjoyed Silver Queendom immensely.

Nothing but Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

A Heian-era mansion stands abandoned, its foundations resting on the bones of a bride and its walls packed with the remains of the girls sacrificed to keep her company.

It’s the perfect venue for a group of thrill-seeking friends, brought back together to celebrate a wedding.

A night of food, drinks, and games quickly spirals into a nightmare as secrets get dragged out and relationships are tested.

But the house has secrets too. Lurking in the shadows is the ghost bride with a black smile and a hungry heart.

And she gets lonely down there in the dirt.

Effortlessly turning the classic haunted house story on its head, Nothing but Blackened Teeth is a sharp and devastating exploration of grief, the parasitic nature of relationships, and the consequences of our actions. (taken from Amazon)

Brooding and dark, Nothing but Blackened Teeth drew me in and kept me off-balance. Always on the precipice of scary, it never quite tipped over. Instead, it stayed an eerie book, one that has crawled its way into my head. I’ll be thinking about it for a long while, reliving bits and pieces of the creepy story.

Nothing but Blackened Teeth follows a group of friends who decide to rent a Heian-age mansion for an odd sort of wedding celebration. The thing is, they’ve heard it’s haunted. That’s the draw for them: they’re hoping to experience the otherworldly and the disturbing. Well, wish granted.

The story goes that originally a woman’s fiancé died on his way to marry her at the mansion. She decided to be buried alive so that she could wait for her husband like one does, I suppose. Women continued to be sacrificed, one per year, so that the buried bride wouldn’t be lonely. In all honestly, the origin story for the haunting is the part that I found to be the weakest. It just didn’t inspire that anticipatory shiver that I was hoping for.

None of the characters are particularly likable and at first, I found myself viewing them through the slasher-film lens. You know: this one will die first because they sleep around, this one next because they don’t believe in the danger, etc. However, such was not the case. The tropes became jumping-off points for complex, multi-faceted characters, each with their own flaws and fears. Half of the fun of Nothing but Blackened Teeth was watching the complicated relationships fray and slowly dissolve as the characters’ pasts caught up to them.

The story begins with Cat, a woman who is still coming to grips with an unspecified mental illness. It has affected her past and she is still in the midst of learning to cope with it. There’s Phillip, the charismatic and super rich sponsor of the mansion rental. There’s Faiz and Talia, the engaged couple. Cat and Talia have beef, and their issues with each other add to an already tense situation. Last, there’s Lin, who is a master pot-stirrer. It’s these tangled relationships and hidden emotions that really elevate Nothing but Blackened Teeth to the fascinating tale that it is.

Author Cassandra Khaw played with motifs of relationships and mental health in ways that felt a little reminiscent of Shirley Jackson (if Jackson had a penchant for gore). There were times when I wondered what was happening and what- if anything was being imagined by one character or another. Nothing but Blackened Teeth is a riveting book, perfect for fans of creepy tales with a little extra bite.

This review was originally published in Grimdark Magazine. You can find that here.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Linus Baker is a by-the-book case worker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He’s tasked with determining whether six dangerous magical children are likely to bring about the end of the world.

Arthur Parnassus is the master of the orphanage. He would do anything to keep the children safe, even if it means the world will burn. And his secrets will come to light.

The House in the Cerulean Sea is an enchanting love story, masterfully told, about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place―and realizing that family is yours. (taken from Amazon)

The House in the Cerulean Sea is the sweetest, coziest, most delightful book I’ve ever read that also includes the antichrist. Okay, let me try again. That first sentence paints a rather odd picture. This book is wonderful. It’s comfort in written form. It’s a reminder that happy endings (or maybe happy beginnings) exist, often found in the most unexpected of places, if only we’re brave enough to look.

Linus Baker has worked for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth (or DICOMY) for years and years. He does his job by the letter and is very good at it. He gives his all for it. Then he goes home and is quietly lonely, with only a cantankerous cat for company. When the bigwigs at DICOMY send him to a little island to evaluate a home for magical youth, he expects more of the same. Do his job. Do it by the letter. Go home. However, things don’t go as planned, with absolutely fantastic results.

Linus is blown away by the children he meets. They’re unlike any other and they are their own little family. Among them is a six year old antichrist (who also likes to sing and dance to old records), a large boy with a small amount of self-confidence, and a…something, whose only goal in life is so delightfully simple and sweet that I fell in love with him immediately. Caring for the children is Arthur Parnassus. Kind and quiet, his protective love for the kids endeared me to him right away.

Of course, I have to mention Linus Baker. He feels he does his job well and that’s enough. He doesn’t see the effect he has on those he meets and he doesn’t realize his worth. He quietly helps everyone and is the sort of person this world needs more of. He listens without just waiting for his chance to speak. He always manages to say the one thing a person needs to hear, and he does it without realizing how much he’s changed that person’s outlook. He is wonderful. I so badly wanted him to discover his place in life, and find contentment. Following him through the book was a joy.

And the writing! Oh, how I loved it! It painted a picture not only of the setting, but of the emotions of the characters. Linus’ story started in shades of gray and slowly shifted to a beautiful cerulean blue. The little details scattered throughout elevated this book to piece of art, and there is a poem within that will stay with me for a very, very long time. It was incredibly moving.

I really could have just said that The House in the Cerulean Sea is pretty much perfect. My ramblings really haven’t done it justice. My copy is now sitting on my “favorite books of all time” shelf, where it rightfully belongs. So…who should read this book? Simply put: everyone.

The Reluctant Queen (The Queens of Renthia #2) by Sarah Beth Durst

The Reluctant Queen is available now. It is the sequel to The Queen of Blood, so there will be some slight spoilers for book one which I’ll try to keep as minimal as possible. You can find my review for Queen of Blood here.

The Reluctant Queen is an engrossing addition to the Queens of Renthia trilogy. The story continues in a way that I did not expect, but which makes perfect sense. Daleina has some disturbing news: she’s dying. As queen, she alone has the power to command the spirits that inhabit the land, to keep them from destroying everyone in Renthia. Without a queen, the lives of each human are forfeit. Daleina sends her champions (think King Arthur’s knights) to hopefully find and train an heir-because time is running out.

Here’s where things get complicated: Ven, the champion that trained Daleina, does find a candidate- one who is more powerful than anyone he’s ever seen. Naelin, who hides this power, is a mother focused on raising two healthy, happy children. She has no interest in traipsing off to be trained to use her power, and she definitely doesn’t want to become a queen. However, she might not have a choice: other candidates are mysteriously dying and things aren’t necessarily what they seem.

Being a mom myself, I loved Naelin. She knew where her priorities were and she made no bones about it. I felt horrible for her when she realized that the only way to protect her kids was to learn to protect everyone. Naelin’s kids were her whole world, and it was gut-wrenching when they were in danger as a direct result of her power.

This book moved a little more slowly during the first half, but it was never boring. The character development was fantastic. I loved getting to know more about Champion Ven, who grew in leaps and bounds between book one and the end of book two. There was an entirely new facet of his character revealed that added an extra layer of humanity to the plotline.

Sometimes in fantasy books, child characters are either incredibly annoying, or incredibly one dimensional. Neither of those things happened here. The children were fully developed characters, and they definitely contributed to the story.

The second half of the book ramped up until it became a breath-taking confrontation. I honestly didn’t know how things would end up and I loved every nail-biting moment. Once again, author Sarah Beth Durst showed incredible creativity in both her spirits and how they interacted and fought. Add in political intrigue, an epic battle, and some major backstabbing, and it’s safe to say that The Reluctant Queen has become one of my new favorite fantasies. This is a fantastic series for both fantasy veterans, and those who are just dipping their toes into this wonderful genre. I highly recommend it.

The Tropening: Book Tropes that I love (or hate)

“Colloquially, people use the term trope to mean recognizable elements of storytelling that audiences associate with specific genres. Like clichés, tropes act as storytelling shorthand and can apply to both plot lines and character types.“-

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about things I love (or hate) to see in books. There are clichés that I see as overdone and lacking, but there are also some that I’d love to see more of. I’m kind of changeable that way. It’s always just a matter of preference, of course, but here are some that I love and some that I’m sick to death of. That being said, there are exceptions to all of these for me. As long as the trope is well written, I’m flexible.

“I’m immortal!“- Authors spend a ton of time on their characters, so of course it’s hard to say goodbye. However, when a character is being constantly put into situations that they shouldn’t survive, and they survive anyway, it lessens the stakes of a book. If you don’t want to kill your character (completely understandable), maybe don’t chuck them into the depths of hell, light them on fire, and have a squad of rabid Jello Jigglers attack them.

On the flipside- I love when a character is brought back from the death, or the brink of death (once!) and it changes either them or another character irreversibly. Used correctly, that makes for some major character development. An author that knows when to save a character and when to let go is awesome.

Mental illness as a criminal motive- I’ve read a few mysteries/thrillers in the past year where the villain’s sole motive was that they were “psychotic” or had a mental illness of some sort. To me, that smacks of lazy writing, not to mention that it perpetrates a harmful stereotype. People with mental illnesses are not automatically dangerous or violent. Dovetailing off of this: I would love it if authors wouldn’t use suicide as revenge. Just stop.

On the flipside- I love when mental illness is represented accurately and well. So many people struggle with mental illness of some sort (myself included) that it is a breath of fresh air to see it written as something other than an excuse for horrible actions. Some authors that have done this amazingly are Ricardo Victoria, author of The Withered King, and Heidi Heilig, author of For a Muse of Fire.

Love Triangles (octagons, hexagons, or other shapes)– Of course I have to mention this. I can’t stand one person mentally making a pro/con list regarding which of their wanna-be lovers is best. Let me say something: if you’re waiting with bated breath for someone to choose you over ye random rival, just walk away. No one should be compared to someone else like that. And Wishy Washy obviously isn’t mature enough to be in a relationship anyway.

On the flipside- I love seeing a friendship grow into something more. Not as a main plot point; I think it’s pretty well established that I’m crotchety regarding literary romance. But seeing two characters who respect each other and enjoy spending time together become closer is pretty great.

One person against the world- I can’t stand it when a character immediately loses every single person they care about and it becomes the catalyst to take on the world. Alone. That’s boring. Give me a tragic backstory, sure. I’ll even take a whole slew of corpses left behind, but give the character someone to interact with.

On the flipside- If the main character picks up allies/co-workers/found family after losing someone or even on the way to take bloody revenge for losses, I’m totally good with that. I just want to have a chance for that character to grow.

The dreaded info dump- I’m not a “here it all is at once” kinda girl. I’ll either lose interest or miss something incredibly important. My brain just doesn’t work well with a ton of new information all at once.

On the flipside- I absolutely love it when information is shared naturally throughout a book, especially when a world is fully developed. I love reading about different histories and mythologies in fantasy or science fiction books, I just don’t want all the information to be chunked at me at once.

Anyway, there’s really no point to this post, except as a way to generate conversation. What do you think? What are some tropes that you love? What about tropes you hate?

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house―a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known. (taken from Amazon)

Bizarre and beautiful, Piranesi is unlike anything I’ve ever read. Susanna Clarke crafts an unforgettable tale of solitude, loss, and finding oneself in unexpected ways. While it was difficult to predict where the story was going (or indeed, where it started), I was swept away by it, and happily wandered the corridors of this labyrinthine book.

Piranesi has always lived in the House. At least, he thinks so. A flooded place filled with statues, birds, and the ever-present tides, he is mostly content. However, he is alone, aside from the Other. The Other is a mysterious figure whom Piranesi has agreed to look for a Great Knowledge with. What follows this simple premise is something new and entirely unique.

I can’t tell you much about the plot because I’m honestly still going through things in my mind. I would say that it’s convoluted, but the opposite is true. There are very few answers given throughout the book, making my imagination work overtime to fill in gaps in the narrative. Who is Piranesi? Who is the Other? What and where is the House?

As with the rest of Piranesi, the people are intentionally vague. A picture unfolds slowly, and little details are fleshed out, revealing amazingly deep characters. I honestly have no idea how Susanna Clarke was able to bring so much to life with so few words. The book is told almost entirely through journal entries, so physical descriptions of the characters were understandably few and far between. Normally that would really irk me, but I found that a character’s physical description matters much less in Piranesi than in other books I’ve read.

In a complete turnabout from the characters, there was a plethora of descriptions surrounding the House. It was done so well that I’m still half-convinced I’ve been there. I could hear the bird wings. I could smell the salt water. I could feel bits of seaweed in between my toes. It was astounding. To read this book is to become fully immersed in a different, introspective world.

It is absolutely impossible for me to compare this book to any other, including the author’s previous book. It stands alone and, while it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, I’m planning to revisit it soon. I highly recommend Piranesi to readers who appreciate beautiful prose, who like open-ended books, and who want to be swept away.