Review: A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne

I received this book for free from NetGalley, Purchased in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: A Plague of Giants by Kevin HearneA Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne
Also by this author: Kill the Farm Boy
Published by Random House Publishing Group on October 17th 2017
Genres: Action & Adventure, Epic, Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal
Pages: 640
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley, Purchased
Goodreads
four-half-stars

So I received an eARC of this book from Netgalley, and then ended up with a(n annotated by the author) hardcover copy when I subscribed to PageHabit. The annotated copy was quite interesting, and I’m glad that I waited until after I finished the book before reading those.

I really don’t know what to say about this book except it was practically perfect. I’m only giving it 4.5 stars so that the series has some room to grow. It is a brutal book. It deals with an invasion and war, after all. I say war, but that war really begins with several massacres and while they’re not gratuitous, there is no guarantee in this novel that your favorite character(s) won’t end up dead. In fact, if this first volume is any indication, they probably will.

An aside (not actual spoilers): View Spoiler »

More than war, though, is that this book deals with the effects of war on ordinary people. You see all the different responses to horror and loss that one would see in real life – when one is so unlucky as to encounter it. The characters run the gamut in their responses to trauma and grief, and this book holds them up to the light and turns them about in interesting ways.

I think this book is a sign of the times. I think dealing with the aftereffects of horror and war and grieving for loved ones taken far too soon is something a lot of us are worrying about these days.

This isn’t a happy book. It’s not a depressing one either. Reading these characters’ stories gives me hope, and strength. I am very much looking forward to the next one.

Purchase your copy here [affiliate link].

four-half-stars

NEW American Gods Edition

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

NEW American Gods EditionAmerican Gods by Neil Gaiman
Published by HarperCollins on March 28th 2017
Genres: Action & Adventure, Contemporary, Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Legends & Mythology, Fantasy, Fiction
Pages: 576
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-half-stars
Now a STARZ® Original Series produced by FremantleMedia North America starring Ricky Whittle, Ian McShane, Emily Browning, and Pablo Schreiber.Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life. But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and a rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself. Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined. Soon Shadow learns that the past never dies . . . and that beneath the placid surface of everyday life a storm is brewing—an epic war for the very soul of America—and that he is standing squarely in its path. “Mystery, satire, sex, horror, poetic prose—American Gods uses all these to keep the reader turning the pages.”—Washington Post

 

If you need me to tell you that this book is by Neil Gaiman, well… You should just go pick this up and read it, and never tell a soul you’d never heard of him before.

I’m a bit late in posting this, but I was so thrilled when this book from HarperCollins showed up on my doorstep unexpectedly that I had to get something put up. Even if the process of mailing — as usual — beat the thing all to Hell. Is it somehow fitting that the bends and rips in the cover give testament to the book’s journey across American soil, so similar to the plot? Eh. How am  I supposed to know? I just work here.

What I do know is that this is quite a nice paperback edition, with the author’s preferred text. Since I’ve read the book before, but not the preferred text, I look forward to a re-read. I suggest you do the same.

four-half-stars

What I’ve Read in 2016 (Micro Reviews!)

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Humor, Paranormal, Romance, Science Fiction, Technological, Thrillers, Urban

Well, it’s been a while, but let’s not bother with excuses. Let’s just take a look at what I’ve managed to read in 2016, shall we?

Note: This post will include affiliate links.
  1. Chapelwood by Cherie Priest 4 Stars(Buy).

    • Lizzie Borden novel. The last? Very good horror, and I don’t even like much horror.
  2. Lyon’s Pride by Anne McCaffrey (re-read) 4 Stars
    • This read-thru I was bothered a lot more by the “a woman is more valuable as brood mare” themes in this series. Blech.
  3. Wake of Vultures by Lila Bown 4.5 Stars (Buy)

    • Genderfluid(?)/Trans cowboy with magic in the Old West. (The character doesn’t know the modern words & doesn’t label themself so it’s hard to know what word to use.) I read this one and Laura Anne Gilman’s Silver on the Road close to each other, so they’re kind of twisted together in my head even though they’re Totally Different other than being Old West themed.
  4. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff 4 Stars(Buy)
    • Would have probably been better in print given the formatting, but was a surprise win for me. This convinced me to read A Lot More Science Fiction this year.
  5. The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • It’s Jim Butcher, of course it’s great. Looking forward to more world-building.
  6. Back Lash by Devon Monk 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • If you love Shame & Terric, you’ll love this. If you haven’t met Shame & Terric yet, go read the Allie Beckstrom series.
  7. A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark  by Harry Connolly 2.5 Stars (Buy)

    • Elderly protagonist FTW!
  8. The Circle Opens: Magic Steps by Tamora Pierce 3.5 Stars
    • Realized I’d never read any Pierce beyond Alanna, so I’m rectifying that.
  9. The Circle Opens: Street Magic by Tamora Pierce 3.5 Stars
  10. The Circle Opens: Cold Fire by Tamora Pierce 3.5 Stars
  11. The Circle Opens: Shatterglass by Tamora Pierce 3.5 Stars
  12. Chaos Choreography by Seanan McGuire 5 Stars(Buy)
    • Seanan is as solidly wonderful as Jim Butcher always is, in different ways.
  13. Snake in the Glass by Seanan McGuire (FREE short story) 3.5 Stars
    • Did I mention these are FREE??
  14. Swamp Bromeliad by Seanan McGuire (FREE short story) 3.5 Stars
  15. The Way Home by Seanan McGuire (FREE short story) 3.5 Stars
  16. The Heir of Night by Helen Lowe (re-read) 4 Stars(Buy)
    • I needed to read Daughter of the Blood because of having an ARC but had no idea where the story had ended.
  17. The Gathering of the Lost by Helen Lowe (re-read) 3.5 Stars
  18. Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson (nonfiction) 4.5 Stars(Buy)
    • Completely worth being the only nonfiction I’ve read this year. Also, hilarious.
  19. Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly 2 Stars
    • Middle aged female narrator!
  20. Daughter of the Blood by Helen Lowe 4 Stars
  21. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins (review copy) 1.5 Stars(Buy)
    • This book was… not that great, in my opinion. I hate when folks try to do “it has magic but it’s still LITRACHURE”. But I’m also very Anti-Apocalypse stories. I find them bleak. YMMV.
  22. Kin by Lilith Saintcrow 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • It’s a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. Go back & read the whole trilogy; there’s one for Snow White, Cinderella, and Red. About the various ways abuse marks us forever, and the ways we rise through the muck.
  23. Marked in Flesh by Anne Bishop 4 Stars(Buy)
    • TW: Self Harm. Still a little weirded out by this whole cutting business, honestly, but it’s a GOOD story. Bishop has a history of being gratuitous anyway, in my opinion. YMMV.
  24. Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold 2.5 Stars
    • I was amazed by how many old-school Sci-Fi I’ve missed. Bujold’s science fiction is as solid as her fantasy. Some of this book is now in Trope Territory, but can I really hold that against it when it’s taken me this long? SOMETHING set the trope, after all.
  25. Chasing Magic by Stacia Kane 3 Stars(Buy)
    • Content warning here for drug use. Readers who haven’t been That Low may not get Chess. (I didn’t at first but it was because I didn’t want to.)
  26. Burned by Benedict Jacka 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • Is it insulting to call this ‘discount Harry Dresden’? It’s not meant as an insult, believe me. I really like this series.
  27. Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older 4 Stars(Buy)
    • I loved this but also it broke me a little. As I have very little sense of my own ancestors or what the hell my inherited culture should even be, I put this down feeling sad. IMO, this is the #1 reason you should Read This.
  28. The Root by Na’Amen Gobert Tilahun 2.5 Stars(Buy)
    • This was a highly, highly interesting premise with a sort of not stellar execution. I’d still be willing to read sequels, though.
  29. Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear 3 Stars(Buy)
    • Women with agency in the Old West! Prostitutes even! Who knew? (Also a black US marshall, ok, read this.)
  30. Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan 3 Stars(Buy)
    • Basic love-triangle YA fantasy with the added bonus of showing us all what living under a murderous dictator is going to look like. Ho ho ho!
  31. San Diego 2014: Last Stand of the California Browncoats by Mira Grant (novella) 4 Stars(Buy)
    • I’m not even a Browncoat but this story got me right in the feels.
  32. Blood of the Earth by Faith Hunter 4 Stars (Buy)
  33. The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler 2 Stars(Buy)
    • I think sequels to this would be rated higher, the first one was a lot of Protagonist Being Clueless.
  34. Poison or Protect by Gail Carriger (novella) 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • It’s a sexy story, okay? A girl’s got needs.
  35. Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal 4 Stars(Buy)
    • Just. Frickin’. Read. It.
  36. The Tower & the Hive by Anne McCaffrey (re-read) 3.5 Stars
  37. Citadel of the Sky by Chrysoula Tzavelas 2.5 Stars(Buy)
    • I can’t really explain it, okay? But it’s a good read if you like fantasy that’s not of the warrior/elf/bard/dwarf type.
  38. Acorna: The Unicorn Girl by Anne McCaffrey & Margaret Ball 3 Stars
    • Okay so this is a Wee Bit patronizing, but I like Acorna so I’ll eventually be finishing the series.
  39. Imprudence by Gail Carriger 5 Stars(Buy)
    • I love Prudence almost as much as I love Sophronia, okay? READ.
  40. Wicked as They Come by Delilah Dawson 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • Worth it for the bludbunnies.
  41. The Ghost Rebellion by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris 4.5 Stars(Buy)
    • ZOMG
  42. The Circle Reforged: The Will of the Empress by Tamora Pierce 3 Stars
  43. The Circle Reforged: Melting Stones by Tamora Pierce 3.5 Stars
  44. Petaybee: Powers that Be by Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Ann Scarborough3 Stars
    • I’m still not sure how I feel about this.
  45. Six Gun Snow White by Cat Valente (DNF) 1 Stars(Buy)
    • I wanted to like this so much I kept reading to the point where I kind of hate it now. But it’s lyrical and beautiful and I’m pretty sure recommended by Neil Gaiman so you should at least TRY to like it.
  46. Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • WHAT is this world?! I like it! More, please.
  47. Ghostbusters (2016) novelization by Nancy Holder 4 Stars(Buy)
    • Ladybusters are MY Ghostbusters and haters & trolls can fuck right off. Kthxbye.
  48. Staked by Kevin Hearne 4.5 Stars(Buy)
    • OBERON!
  49. Once Broken Faith by Seanan McGuire 5 Stars(Buy)
  50. The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett 3.5 Stars
    • Rincewind honestly isn’t my favorite wizard. But Equal Rites made everything better.
  51. Acorna’s Quest by Anne McCaffrey & Margaret Ball 3.5 Stars
  52. The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes 3 Stars(Buy)
    • A really good twist on the “troupe” fantasy à la Final Fantasy or Dragonlance. But also I pretty much disliked every single one of the narrators on a personal level, too, so there’s that.
  53. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie 4 Stars(Buy)
    • This won awards for a damn reason.
  54. Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan 3.5 Stars
  55. Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett 4 Stars
  56. Tainted Blood by ML Brennan 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • I don’t know why I like this so much because it’s basically weird-creature-of-the-week urban fantasy and that’s been done before but dammit if I don’t really like this anyway.
  57. Star Wars: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig 4 Stars(Buy)
    • GAY STAR WARS! STAR WARS IS GAY NOW! Get over it.
  58. Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold 3.5 Stars
  59. The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin (current reading) (Buy)
    • I’m still reading this so I’m not gonna rate it yet but daaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn.

Review: The Diamond Conspiracy (A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel)

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Diamond Conspiracy (A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel)The Diamond Conspiracy on 2015-03-31
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Goodreads
four-half-stars
For years, the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences has enjoyed the favor of Her Majesty the Queen. But even the oldest loyalties can turn in a moment... Having narrowly escaped the electrifying machinations of Thomas Edison, Books and Braun are looking forward to a relaxing and possibly romantic voyage home. But when Braun's emergency signal goes off, all thoughts of recreation vanish. Braun's street-wise team of child informants, the Ministry Seven, is in grave peril, and Books and Braun must return to England immediately. But when the intrepid agents finally arrive in London, the situation is even more dire than they imagined. The Ministry has been disavowed, and the Department of Imperial Inconveniences has been called in to decommission its agents in a most deadly fashion. The plan reeks of the Maestro's dastardly scheming. Only, this time, he has a dangerous new ally--a duplicitous doctor whose pernicious poisons have infected the highest levels of society, reaching even the Queen herself...

This is one of my favorite series, and the duo of (Wellington) Books and (Eliza) Braun is just delightful, both in reading and in wordplay.  I love the gender reversal of the male main character being the “Books” and the leading lady being the “Braun”.

Sure, it would have been delicious (for a while at least) if Welly had been truly helpless and not a crack-shot-in-hiding, but I suppose the dude in distress thing would have gotten old eventually. (Eventually.) Eliza, however, is by far my favorite: a trouser-wearing Aussie lass with an explosive reputation (literally) and a habit for naming her weapons, who takes no-nonsense from friends, strangers, or her love interest.

What I love particularly about a steam punk setting is that wonderfully strange mixture of science and the occult that pops up. It just gets so weird. I bet that says more about people today than about the real Victorian era, honestly, but as long as I get books like this one, I don’t care. I’d love to spoil it all for you by telling you what I enjoyed most, but I will do you all the favor of sparing you the details so you can read it yourself.

I will tell you that Warehouse 13 ruined any other depiction of H.G. Wells for me, but if not for that character, the one we find here in this book would be my favorite. I won’t tell you how or where Wells turns up, because that would be a major spoiler. Suffice to say that the revelation is giggle-inducing, and I’m still trying to decide whether that was a Natural Progression or a Jump the Shark moment.

I was honestly a bit lost there in the middle for a while. That tends to happen when the author(s) jumps a year into the future… But the story recovered quite well and the conclusion was satisfying while also promising a hint of more to come. You can’t really ask for more than that!

This series is fabulously written with real characters and I came to care about them very quickly. It’s a lot steampunk-y, a bit pulpy, very much girl-powered, and has a Jaeger-sized heart. (Read the book, you’ll understand the metaphor.)

four-half-stars

Review: Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire

Review: Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuireSparrow Hill Road on 2014-05-06
Pages: 432
Format: Paperback
Goodreads
four-stars
Rose Marshall died in 1952 in Buckley Township, Michigan, run off the road by a man named Bobby Cross—a man who had sold his soul to live forever, and intended to use her death to pay the price of his immortality. Trouble was, he didn’t ask Rose what she thought of the idea. It’s been more than sixty years since that night, and she’s still sixteen, and she’s still running. They have names for her all over the country: the Girl in the Diner. The Phantom Prom Date. The Girl in the Green Silk Gown. Mostly she just goes by “Rose,” a hitchhiking ghost girl with her thumb out and her eyes fixed on the horizon, trying to outrace a man who never sleeps, never stops, and never gives up on the idea of claiming what’s his. She’s the angel of the overpass, she’s the darling of the truck stops, and she’s going to figure out a way to win her freedom. After all, it’s not like it can kill her. You can’t kill what’s already dead.

Sparrow Hill Road has a unique format, in that it is more of a collection of shorts with most of the same characters and an overall theme than it is a linear book. This is mostly, I think, because the book started out as a series of shorts. However, I think the format is also a suggestion of the way a ghost might experience time. Namely, in strung together bursts of interaction with the living or their fellow dead. Sometimes convenience and storytelling work together, and it’s lovely when they do.

There is an over-arching plot, however. Rose Marshall died in 1952 due to a car crash on the way to her high school prom, a crash that was instigated by a man named Bobby Cross. Bobby sold his soul to live forever and must use the souls of the dying to fuel his existence. Rose is the soul that got away, and she’s been doing her best to thwart him ever since, sometimes directly and other times indirectly. These are her stories, and the stories of the souls she’s tried to save.

I’m pleased to see on Goodreads that this book is listed as Ghost Stories #1. I was originally a bit crestfallen at the book’s ending, but knowing there is supposed to be more makes me feel a lot better about things. (Please, DAW, don’t tease us! We need more Rose.) ((And readers, please buy this book! Sales = Life in the world of publishing, and I need Rose to live. Figuratively speaking.))

Sparrow Hill Road is a book that serves up ghost stories on a heaping slice of Americana. It is a testament to, and a warning of, the American highway system, and all the miles of road and the strangeness that has grown up around them. When I’m driving sometimes at night, I wonder if a dark road after dusk is what Purgatory is. I wonder if I would know if I can crossed over from the living into the world of the dead. Seanan McGuire has taken that spinal chill and extended it into a full body shiver of a ghost story. This book is an apt spiritual successor to Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. (Spiritual. See what I did there?)

I wish McGuire’s writing got as many accolades as her work under the name Mira Grant does. It is justly deserved, regardless of which name is on the book. Sadly, I think it’s the genre that doesn’t get any respect. All I can say is — I pity the people who aren’t giving McGuire just as much attention as Grant*. The work is outstanding, regardless of subject matter or hot pink covers (as seen on Discount Armageddon, probably my favorite of the McGuire canon.)

*Full disclosure: I’ve only read part of one book from the Mira Grant list, and that book (Parasite) wigged me out to the point where I put it down and have yet to work up the courage to go back to it. 

four-stars

Blog Tour Review & Giveaway! Stone Cold by Devon Monk

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Blog Tour Review & Giveaway! Stone Cold by Devon MonkStone Cold on 2014-04-01
Pages: 368
Format: eBook
Goodreads
five-stars
The latest Broken Magic novel from national bestselling author Devon Monk. Marked by Life and Death magic, Shame Flynn and Terric Conley are “breakers”—those who can use magic to its full extent. Most of the time, they can barely stand each other, but they know they have to work together to defeat a common enemy—rogue magic user Eli Collins. Backed by the government, Eli is trying to use magic as a weapon by carving spells into the flesh of innocents and turning them into brainless walking bombs. To stop him, Shame and Terric will need to call on their magic, even as it threatens to consume them—because the price they must pay to wield Life and Death could change the very fate of the world...and magic itself.

I don’t know what to tell you except I loved this book. Okay, so I’m still a little bit traumatized by That Thing that happened in the first book, which, if it could have been overcome or maybe not happened so that Shame could’ve had a happier ending, I would have loved. I know I’m being vague, but we’re talking Major Spoiler for the first book, so deal with it. I realize that it wouldn’t fit in with Shame’s character for him to have a *truly* happy ending, but oh, man… Did I want that for him. I really did.

As much as I love Shame, Zayvion is still my favorite character in this world. I don’t think that will ever change. I just needed to say that. I mean Shame is bitter & snarky (which I love) but Zayvion is tall, dark, Zen, and snarky which just pings all my buttons. (Hello, let me introduce you to my husband…)

I honestly don’t know what else to tell you about this book that’s not a super-powered spoiler. This is only a duology, but honestly it wouldn’t make sense for me to urge you to read these if you haven’t read the Allie Beckstrom series. (WHICH YOU SHOULD ALSO READ.)

Basically, this was one of those rare books that made me resent absolutely everything that interfered with reading it: work, sleep, eating, showering, using the bathroom. I finished it in two nights and even that took too long because I had to Know! I was unhappy with one of the elements in the ending, but even I have to admit that the book ended just where it should have. Just because I wanted it to happen doesn’t mean that it was a good idea for the story. I find it fascinating that Devon Monk can do that. That ending was absolutely perfect and yet completely agonizing and I hate it and I love it and… and…

If there is ever an opportunity to hear Devon Monk teach about writing I will figure out a way to fly cross-country to do it. And the people who know that my first and last plane flight gave me anxiety dreams for six solid months know what it means to me that I would say that. (Note for the curious: it’s not the flying that gets me, it’s the airports. ::shudder:: Seriously. I never worried about the plane having problems, but having my ticket? Getting through security? Oh, yes! Basically, flying alone is the worst thing that can happen to someone with anxiety, in my opinion.)

The writing here is tense and flawless and I’m both envious and deliriously thrilled by that. If you haven’t read Devon Monk, we might need to seriously reconsider our friendship. Think about that.

Seriously though… Do you like that “dropped into the middle of a strange world with weird magic rules that haven’t been explained yet” feeling that you get from Sanderson’s Way of Kings? Then you will feel right at home here. Fans of the series shouldn’t need me to tell them to read it. This is a fabulous, and fitting, end to Shame and Terric’s story.

For those of you who sat through all that, we now have something special for you. Enter to win one of two copies of Stone Cold for your very own.

What: One of two print copies of Devon Monk’s Stone Cold.

When: Beginning at 8a.m. EDT on March 31st and ending approximately midnight on Monday, April 7th (Sunday night/Monday morning). End time subject to change without notice.

Who: Anyone with a valid US or Canada mailing address.

Details: You must be willing to share your email address for the contest and your mailing address if you win. Your information will be used by me for those purposes only. As prizes will be mailed by the publisher, you also agree to share your mailing address with them. As such, Waiting for Fairies cannot be held responsible for the shipping or arrival of prizes.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

five-stars

A Not-Really Review of The Ocean at the End of the Lane

A Not-Really Review of The Ocean at the End of the LaneThe Ocean at the End of the Lane on June 18, 2013
Pages: 181
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads
four-half-stars
Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

Warning: There will be vague spoilers in this post. I will put them under a spoiler cut for the blog, but if you are reading this elsewhere (via RSS) then you might want to skip this until you’ve read the book. 

This is going to be more of a reaction piece than an actual review, so keep that in mind. I don’t think you actually need my analytic brain to convince you to read Neil Gaiman. At least I hope you don’t.

I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane in just a handful of hours late one night. There’s nothing quite like finishing a book at one in the morning, sitting in the middle-of-the-night silence with your thoughts boiling with new elements. I’ll share with you my initial reaction to the book as I wrote it.

I think, like the ocean, this book is supposed to be just a little bit mysterious, just a tiny bit unknowable.  I saw some early reactions.  No spoilers, no details even.  Just: “this book is for readers”, “this book made me cry”.  And reading through the front bits of it, it didn’t seem at all that way to me.  It was like all of Gaiman’s work.  A little bit surreal, a little bit threatening.  Something that speaks on so many levels that you just have to accept that you’ll never quite hear them all, no matter how badly you want to. 

A bitter little voice inside me started whispering: Maybe you don’t get it.  Maybe you are flawed.  Maybe you’re not like the rest.  And my heart felt a little hollow, because who wants to be that alone? 
 
Then, twenty pages from the end, the light refracted off the waters at just the right angle.  I sat, stunned, staring off into space with real tears standing in my eyes.  Finally, it hit me and I understood.  Gaiman reached straight through his story and with words alone plucked my soul like a harp string, setting the very particles of my being ringing with a Truth so profound I don’t think, in these early minutes, that I can quite grasp it yet. 
 
Have you ever felt that maybe there was a hole in your chest?  A secret wormhole of a tunnel that leads to *somewhere else*?  Do you read books to try and fill that hole?  To somehow connect the ends and turn it into a pathway you could walk through to something magical?  Are you afraid of that path, just a little bit?  Do you long for it and fear it equally?  Maybe it wasn’t yours to begin with, and you would get rid of it if you could, but you can’t now because it’s a part of you and maybe you wouldn’t really give it up at all if you were given the chance? 
 
I’m not even sure where I’m going with this.  I just know that this vibrating, humming thing has been set alive inside of me and I don’t know what to do with it yet.  It has a magic, that this little story has awakened but that doesn’t belong to the story at all.  It is mine.  It’s me. 
 
My magic.  A tuning fork to the Other that lives inside. 

Reading this book was surreal. Now the memory is so much like a dream that I can barely remember the details, but what follows are the insights that I have brought out of the experience.

At first, after I had come down from the shaking state of post-book high, I really struggled with the message that I thought I had grasped. Because what struck me so hard was the bit where View Spoiler ». And I said to myself, “Wait, that couldn’t be what Gaiman meant, because View Spoiler » Why would I feel such longing for that?”

Then I realized that this is Neil Fucking Gaiman we’re talking about. (Fucking is his married name.) So of course View Spoiler »must be a metaphor for the part of our souls that long for something Other.

Every reader carries that little tunnel to another world inside themselves, and it opens every time we read a book. The tragedy is that we never get to stay there. As soon as the pages close, the tunnel is gone and we can’t ever really keep the connection open. Sometimes that tunnel leads to good things. Sometimes it leads to bad things. But it always leads to awesome things (in the original sense, as in awe-inspiring, whether great or terrible.)

That first character we ever identify with in a book, the one who becomes our friend, is our Lettie. We can really only remember them like we knew them as children when we have the book open. But while we know them, they save us. Whether they save us from abuse or bullying or loneliness or something so mundane as boredom, they save us. That’s what it means to be a reader. Sadly, once those pages close and in the midst of all our adulthood, we don’t even remember them accurately but the best thing is that we can always go back. That’s the best part of books — the best bit of fandom in general, really — we can always revisit those worlds we love and they will always, always be there for us.

I decided not to read any spoiler-y reviews until I had all my thoughts on this sorted out so as not to bias my own opinion before it had completely formed. I did read a few before I came to post this though, and I can tell you that my interpretation isn’t the only one. I don’t even know if I’m correct, but that’s one of the great things about being a reader. We can take whatever we want to out of the story because once we’ve read it, it no longer belongs to just the writer but also to the world. Some people got statements of feminism out of the story. Others got a theme of childhood innocence versus adult longing. The thing is… I think we’re all correct. The Ocean at the End of the Lane incorporates all of these things and I believe there to be many more layers as well. It’s why this book seems to be so loved by so many people.

This book pinged the part of me that has a whole entire other Universe in my recurring dreams. I feel like this book is a reverberation from that subconscious space. I think Neil Gaiman is in my head.

four-half-stars

The Power of Reading or What Might Be the First Fantasy Book I Ever Read

This may be the very first Fantasy-with-a-capital-F book I ever read on my own.

The Power of the Rellard by Carolyn F Logan
The Power of the Rellard by Carolyn F Logan

The Blurb

 Shelley and her younger brother, Georgie, are getting worried! They made up a game–an elaborate series of athletic “trials”–to cheer up their little sister, Lucy, who’s recovering from a bad illness, and now she’s getting all weird about it. Everyone had been so pleased when Lucy won the contest despite her weakness that they decided to celebrate. They crowned her the Rellard, Wielder of Power, and conferred upon her a special “magic talisman.” It was fun at first, until the game started to take control! Now Lucy believes in the magic and claims that a fantastic winged creature has asked their help to fight a dark and terrifying evil. Georgie and Shelley don’t know what to think. After all, the Rellard is just a game…isn’t it?


 

I don’t remember when I first read it, but it was published in 1989. I remember that it was about then that my teachers were getting concerned with my reading. I’d been carrying my mom’s 1100+ page copy of Stephen King’s It around with me, and apparently SK was deemed too “adult” for a 9 year old kid. They started gifting me books at that point, “age appropriate” books that I read but that fell flat to me.

I remember, before that year, reading all sorts of stuff. I’d sped through Encyclopedia Brown, The Little House on the Prairie series, The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew,  all the Bunnicula books, and nearly an entire set of Encyclopedia Britannica’s from circa 1962. I had a reputation in my family for being a reader by then – for being “the smart one” – but I really read because I didn’t have anything better to do.

Anyway, I don’t remember how I ended up with this paperback. I was a carnivorous library user, but I don’t remember actually having very many books of my own as a child. I do remember pining over all the descriptions in the Scholastic fliers we’d get at school, dreaming of all the stories I could read if only we had the money. I didn’t remember this particular book at all, though, until a user at Goodreads helped me find it. (If you are in need of similar services, try the “What the Name of that Book?” group. It might take awhile, but they’re very helpful.)

In any case, I was very happy to discover this book again, and I wanted to share it with all of you.

 

Review: Trapped by Kevin Hearne

This is the fifth book in the Iron Druid series from Kevin Hearne. It will be released November 27th, 2012 from Del Rey.

The Blurb

After twelve years of secret training, Atticus O’Sullivan is finally ready to bind his apprentice, Granuaile, to the earth and double the number of Druids in the world. But on the eve of the ritual, the world that thought he was dead abruptly discovers that he’s still alive, and they would much rather he return to the grave.
 
Having no other choice, Atticus, his trusted Irish wolfhound, Oberon, and Granuaile travel to the base of Mount Olympus, where the Roman god Bacchus is anxious to take his sworn revenge—but he’ll have to get in line behind an ancient vampire, a band of dark elves, and an old god of mischief, who all seem to have KILL THE DRUID at the top of their to-do lists. [Goodreads]

The Review

The leap past twelve years of training is understandable. I’d wondered how Hearne was going to work around that. On the other hand, as a fan of the series, I find myself gnashing my teeth at twelve years worth of stories that have just been skipped past.  I’m holding out hope that we’ll get to see more of them later. Maybe in some more short stories? (Yeah, why don’t you get on that, Mr. Hearne?) 😉

I honestly can’t believe that we’re already five books into this series. I’ve devoured everything so quickly that the story doesn’t seem long enough to have taken five books. (I think Atticus, our poor abused hero, would disagree with this.) Part of that is also the fact that the volumes themselves have been released fairly rapidly. The story seems quick because I haven’t had to wait and wait (and wait) for subsequent tales to be released. (This is a good thing.)

I won’t go into the plot on this one, since it is the fifth installment. However, I will tell you that the pacing is frenzied and the writing keeps getting tighter. I love it when a writer seems to find their rhythm and things really start booking along. Atticus’ story manages to fit the genre mold while still remaining unexpected and fun. So many books have gotten formulaic and tired, but the world-building here is fresh and charming without being bizarre.

If you’re a fan of Hearne, I’m sure you’ll be picking up this volume. If you’re not already, but you’re a fan of Jim Butcher or urban fantasy in general, you should give this series a shot. Click here for my review of the first book.

Review: Libriomancer by Jim C Hines

This is the first book in a new series called Magic Ex Libris from Jim C Hines. Jim is the man behind such hilarious and insightful gems as: Striking a Pose, Posing Like a Man, and the Baby Got Books parody. He’s also brought us some serious and thoughtful posts, such as his recent Sexual Harassment Policy. Libriomancer was published on August 7th from DAW.

My review of this book contains spoilers for the romantic resolution of the plot. I will try to white them out so that you can read the review without spoiling any part of the end, but you do continue to read at your own risk. The formatting probably will NOT transfer over to RSS feeds of this review, so if you’re reading via RSS and do not want to be spoiled, I suggest you not read past the “SPOILER WARNING” below. 

The Blurb

Isaac Vainio is a Libriomancer, a member of the secret organization founded five centuries ago by Johannes Gutenberg.  Libriomancers are gifted with the ability to magically reach into books and draw forth objects. When Isaac is attacked by vampires that leaked from the pages of books into our world, he barely manages to escape. To his horror he discovers that vampires have been attacking other magic-users as well, and Gutenberg has been kidnapped.

With the help of a motorcycle-riding dryad who packs a pair of oak cudgels, Isaac finds himself hunting the unknown dark power that has been manipulating humans and vampires alike. And his search will uncover dangerous secrets about Libriomancy, Gutenberg, and the history of magic. . . .[Goodreads]

The Review

If you love me at all, you will find a way to read this book. You will go right now to Amazon, or one of your local (or not local) indies, or to your local library and get this book.

If you don’t love me (and why don’t you?), but you do love books and reading, then you still need to read this book. I know the cover’s kind of awful, but please ignore that. You can get it in hardcover and take the dust jacket off, or just buy it in digital format. That solves this book’s only real problem!

You see, Isaac Vainio has a love affair with books, with story. I’ll show you.

I fantasized about what I would do if I were to ever develop superpowers. … Some children outgrew such things as they grew up. My daydreams had simply grown more complex. … Imagine spending your whole life yearning for that kind of magic, only to discover it was real.

That’s from chapter 2 of the book, and I’ve taken the liberty of leaving out longer passages by way of those handy ellipses. If you read that quote and your heart seizes up with a wild longing… then you need to trust me and read this book.

Sure, this book isn’t perfect. What one is? Isaac is not a perfect hero. He’s stubborn and occasionally not very bright. The basic plot of “let’s defeat the evil vampires” has surely been overdone in recent times. Ah, but the execution! Hines gets bonus points for the invention of the term “Meyerii vampires”. (They sparkle.)

This book has dryads, vampires, space ray guns, a nervous fire spider, steampunk-y golem automatons, a specifically described “laser sword” from a very popular world in a galaxy far, far away, and a freaking BIBLIOGRAPHY in the back! It also has a guy that can pull things out of freaking books, guys. If that doesn’t make you excited to read it, then you haven’t been reading since childhood and therefore I pity you.

Here’s another quote directly from Isaac speaking that I highlighted to convince you:

“Even before I learned what I was, books were my escape from the world. This place… bookstores, libraries… they’re the closest thing I have to a church.”

I’ve got chills, guys, seriously.

In this next bit, I’m going to address some low-star reviews I’ve seen on Goodreads. This bit contains mild spoilers. 

In reading some of the reviews over at Goodreads, I’ve noticed that some people find the romance plot a big squicky. Isaac’s “sidekick” is a dryad (wood nymph) from a(n invented) book. She can’t fight her nature as written, and her nature is to be a willing sex slave to whichever person she’s “bonded” with. Her female psychologist partner has been kidnapped so she goes to Isaac for help. Funnily enough, it seems to me that most people (those who are perturbed at all) are bothered less by the notion that this is a thinking, feeling woman who, by her very nature, can not say no then they are by the somewhat unconventional resolution of the love-triangle.

What does it tell you about people that a bisexual element is more disturbing to them than the idea of a woman who has no choice – ever – but to submit to her partner’s will? I myself think that this reaction is exactly the reason that Hines included it.

SPOILER WARNING! Highlight to read text. 

To be fair, most of the reviewers seemed to have a problem with the resolution of this love triangle, and not necessarily the lesbian part of it. Which is: all parties involved reach an agreement to NOT resolve the triangle. Specifically, that Lena (the dryad) would continue to date BOTH Isaac and her psychologist girlfriend. Some people read into this resolution a potential for three-way sex. I, personally, don’t see that in the text. I see a bisexual woman who has chosen to date both a man and a woman, separately. It’s not the first time in history that someone has decided to date two people at the same time. It’s not even the first time a woman has done it. I don’t get what these people have a problem with, honestly. Is it homophobia or just prudishness? Neither? Both? I can’t really say. 

Do I personally think that this romantic decision can lead to a lot of heartache for all involved? Yep. My personal belief is that these things only end badly. But it’s a book, for the love of pages! Part of the greatness of books is that we can use these fictional worlds to explore things and themes that make us uncomfortable. I loved this book. I’m looking forward to reading more.

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