Review: 100 Cupboards

Title : 100 Cupboards

Author: N D Wilson

Opening the door to another dimension.

This was almost two books in one. One was about Henry, a young boy whose parents go missing, forcing him to move in with his aunt and uncle, and a sci-fi/fantasy story about a room with portals into other worlds and a fight against an evil sorceress. While the fantasy story was good, and I’m looking forward to reading about more worlds in the next installment, I really preferred the story of Henry. His parents sheltered him from almost everything, never letting him have soda, controlling his pasttimes, even sending him to boarding school with a protective helmet he was supposed to wear during any physical activity. It’s only when he meets his Uncle Frank, who promptly gives him a pocketknife, lets him sleep outdoors, buys him a baseball mitt, that he realizes what he’s been missing. With Frank’s seemingly casual friendship, he begins to develop confidence. A good reminder for some of those hovering parents that kids need space to try their wings. Recommended for young teens and MG readers.

Review: The Thief’s Daughter

Title: The Thief’s Daughter, Kingfountain Series #2

Author: Jeff Wheeler

Genre: Fantasy

Setting: sort of an alternate Europe?

Themes: love vs. loyalty, duty, war, jealousy

Strong King Richard III parallel

In the first book, The Queen’s Poisoner, Owen Kiskaddon was an orphaned little boy using his magical talent to survive the king’s court. Now he’s 17 and ready for his first battle on the king’s behalf. King Severn is not a popular king, but he’s managed to stay at peace for most of his reign. Now forces are aligning against him and he’s alienating everyone. Owen is one of his most influential allies, and as duke commands an army that could save the kingdom.

Owen is also a young man in love, and when his beloved is sent as an envoy in the king’s service, he discovers a new plot against the king as well as forces trying to separate the lovers. He has to choose whether to follow his duty or his heart.

I really like this series – so much that I downloaded book 3 as soon as I finished this one. I love the historical connections that I find in here. King Arthur is a big theme, as is the King Richard III one. But so is Atlantis, Joan of Arc, and more. You can tell that the writer is a big history buff, and it makes the book more fun. I love Owen as a character. He’s not perfect, but his flaws make him more real. I’m glad this isn’t the last book in the series – I still want all my characters to have a happy ending. I don’t know how it will turn out though, and I kind of like that I can’t predict it just yet. Recommended!

 

Book Review: The Spirit Thief

Title: The Spirit Thief (The Legend of Eli Monpress #1)

Author Rachel Aaron

Genre: fantasy with humor (my fave genre right now)

Source: Kindle

“Eli Monpress is talented. He’s charming. And he’s a thief.

But not just any thief. He’s the greatest thief of the age – and he’s also a wizard. And with the help of his partners – a swordsman with the most powerful magic sword in the world but no magical ability of his own, and a demonseed who can step through shadows and punch through walls – he’s going to put his plan into effect.

The first step is to increase the size of the bounty on his head, so he’ll need to steal some big things. But he’ll start small for now. He’ll just steal something that no one will miss – at least for a while.

Like a king.”

Sorry, but I had to start with that quote. It just sums up the book so well. If that description doesn’t make you smile and want to learn more, then this just isn’t the book for you.

Eli is conceited, crafty, and every bit as awesome as he thinks he is. That’s what makes this book so much fun. But I love his friends just as much. The author does a great job of turning your first impressions on their head. The world building is great. I love the explanation for how magic works in this world and the magical creatures that are created.

I tried this series because I enjoyed the Dragon series by Aaron, but I really like this one better. The Dragon series is more geared to teens but this one, while not inappropriate, is a little more grown up. Recommending this one. 4.2 stars

Year in Review: Audiobooks

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My last post gave you some of the low points of my reading year. This time, I’ll hit some of the high points. But I’m going to focus this time on books I listened to.

I have a friend in my book club who still hasn’t fallen in love with the audiobook. For those of you out there waiting to be convinced, here are a few that I think will do the trick.

Michael J. Sullivan’s Ryria

We all love a good buddy movie, and a good buddy book, or even better, a whole series, is a definite crowd pleaser. This fantasy series features a former soldier turned swordsman and a rogue/thief. But both of them have some secrets and they are more than they appear at first glance. In the first book, Theft of Swords, they’re hired to steal a sword, but they almost immediately wind up in the dungeon accused of regicide. There are three novels in this series plus a couple of short stories, and I went slightly crazy over them. The audio version is totally amazing – Hadrian and Royce both seem like real people. You’ve got to check this one out.

Terry Pratchett

I don’t think I’ll ever have a year when I don’t read something by this guy. He was a genius, and the world is much poorer without him. At least he left an amazing and varied body of work. This year my favorite book I listened to was Eric, but I also loved Wintersmith. If you’re feeling down or stressed out, Discworld is the perfect antidote. No matter how bad you’ve got it, someone over there has it worse.

Non-Fiction

One of my few 5 star reads this year was The Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America. For some of you old enough to remember the Civil Rights Era and Jim Crow South, this case may already be familiar. But I missed all that, and I’d never heard of this case. It was all too timely, with the Black Lives Matter movement this year and the rise of a new and nasty racial hatred. This book won the Pulitzer Prize and should be required reading for all politicians and journalists. And it’s all true, which makes it even more shocking.

Grimdark

I am not a fan of the new gritty fantasy, which makes it surprising that I was completely won over by Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. There’s not a hero among the characters here, and yet I can’t help rooting for them to come out on top. It’s not a pretty story, not a bit of sweetness or light, but it feels real and it’s definitely compelling. The narration was fantastic. I got the second book as soon as it came out but I’m saving it for the new year.

Right, I hope I’ve inspired you to listen to one of these great books. The links take you to Audible, but you can also check with your library. Mine has ebook and digital audiobooks you can check out online for free. Happy reading!

The Sorcerer Heir

Spoilers for the series!

Title: The Sorcerer Heir (The Heir Chronicles, book 5)

Author: Cinda Williams Chima

Genre: Teen fantasy

Format: Audiobook

Plot: Magical savants Emma and Jonah are suspected of murdering mainline wizards and must find out if the person who poisoned them as children is the same person trying to frame them for murder now.

Pros:

Chima is a really good writer. The basic idea for the series was really intriguing, the characters are well developed with plenty of growth (mostly), and her action sequences are always super exciting and really solid. I liked the narrator on this one – good job making the large number of characters each have their own voice.

Cons: 

This would have been better as a new series. The first three books are so different that adding these next two books on just doesn’t work for me. In fact, Book 3 really wrapped everything up. Then I found out there were two more books, and they just didn’t need to be there. The only benefit to adding on these two books, really, was that she got to have Leesha’s character arc come to a satisfying end. Also, I didn’t like these two MCs as much as the main characters from the previous books. Jonah in particular seemed so hard to relate to – he was super at combat, he was super charming, super handsome, he was this super protective brother, he has deadly touch – just enough already. She could have dialed it back a bit and he would have been a more human character. As it is, I never really worried about him in a fight. I knew he would win, everything would be fine, and then he’d find a way to feel guilty afterward.

Verdict:

I would definitely recommend this series for fans of teen fantasy. There are some great characters in here, the plots are really exciting, and the romance is pretty clean. There is strong language, but not often. The first book in the series is The Warrior Heir and you should start there.

 

 

Fantasy Rereads

I have been very stressed lately. My youngest child, W, is getting married this month. He’s the first one to get married and I am knee deep in wedding preparations here. In a moment of madness, I volunteered to make the wedding dress and plan the wedding shower. Yeah. So we got the wedding dress pattern, the fabric, the trim, then basically redesigned the whole thing, got it cut out. Then I realized that the shower was THIS WEEK so I had to rush and get all that stuff done. Then I found a stain right on the central front panel of the dress. It was sewing machine oil. I tried to remove it but only succeeded in snagging the fabric. The stain is still there. Fortunately, I was able to cut another panel, finish all the shower decorations, and tonight we had the wedding shower.

It was a big success, with only one minor flaw – my camera batteries were dead. Other people had cameras, so I’ll get to see the pictures, just not right away. And everything looked great, tasted great, plus we all had fun.

Tomorrow I am taking a break from sewing – hooray! – and I will instead relax with a book and maybe eat a salad for a change. I can’t wait.

In the meantime, when I had a few minutes to read, I reread a couple of fantasy titles I enjoyed before – NPCs by Drew Hayes and The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley. It’s an interesting match up. NPCs is all about taking the fantasy tropes and turning them on end, with a heavy emphasis on the RPG sort of gaming fantasy, and The Hero and the Crown is old school fantasy, with a heroine who has to go on a solo quest to save the kingdom. They are both available for free if you have Kindle Unlimited, so definitely check them both out. NPCs is Drew Hayes best book, IMO, since I didn’t really like Super Powered. It started out as a strong idea, but the series didn’t hold up and I got bored. This one I loved, even as a reread. And Robin McKinley’s book is I treasured 20 years ago and it’s still a wonderful treat. I forgot a lot of the details, but this is why I loved her books as a girl – great story, strong characters, and well developed settings.

Anyway, I think the posts will be hit or miss until this wedding is over. Long way to go on the dress still, but my back is killing me from hours at the sewing machine, so tomorrow I will rest and read.

Must Read: Riyria Revelations

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Warning: Fangirl gushing ahead! Proceed at your own risk!

Right, I am not happy with the internet. Why, why did no one tell me about this series until now? It’s been around for what, 3 years since the first publication of Theft of Swords? Where were you all? I had to wait until 2016 before I discovered this. Is that a nice thing to do?

Maybe you held off until the whole series was published. That way I could race through all 3 (or 6, depending on how you look at it) books with very little waiting in between. If that’s why you kept quiet, then I take it all back. It was absolutely the right thing to do. Or maybe, and this is the saddest possibility, maybe it’s because you didn’t know about them. You’ve never even heard of Royce Melbourn or Hadrian Blackwater. Who or what is Riyria, you say. Well, in that case, it’s my turn to help. Clear your calendar, finish whatever you’re reading now, stock up on frozen pizza and beverages, and get ready for the best fantasy series you’ll read in a long, long time. I just finished the final book in the Riyria Revelations by Michael J. Sullivan, I loved them so much I have to sing.

Hadrian and Royce are thieves. Not your average thieves, either. They are good. Hadrian was a mercenary. He’s a sword master. Royce can blend in anywhere. He’s pretty much a ninja in a world where he would be the only ninja. And together they are known as Riyria. They’ll take any job that pays the bills, but this next job is going to change the world! No, really. Dramatic as that sounds, one job sets them on a path that will lead to the following (in no particular order and I’m sure I’m leaving something out):

Piracy

A goblin horde

Evil church leaders

Orphans

Giant magical beasts who want to eat you

Epic sea battles

Blackmail and murder

Ancient underground cities

Duels

Romance

Elves on horseback

A friendly monk

Regicide

A man with a goat

And much, more more.

Here’s another picture:

RiyriaRusia

OK, really, if that doesn’t convince you, then you must just not like fantasy. Because this is the best buddy fantasy I’ve ever read. Let me say that again: The team of Royce and Hadrian is the best fantasy pair I’ve ever read. Yes, LOTR is awesome (except when it’s boring, b/c let’s be real) but it’s more of an ensemble read. Riyria has a great cast of supporting characters, but it’s all about the friendship of Royce and Hadrian. I love them so much that I was walking around half dazed, half in tears at the end of the book. OK, I also had the stomach flu, but it was mostly the book. 5 stars. 6 stars. All the stars, and a few comets too.

Summer Cold Pt. 2

Children’s Series Picks

I’ve been having good luck with (most) of my books lately. Maybe I’ve been lucky, maybe it’s because they’re from authors I already enjoy, maybe it’s because I’ve been too sick to be critical. Anyway I’ve got several solid children’s books to review this time, and I enjoyed them all.

Immortal Fire (Cronos Chronicles by Anne Ursu)

The Cronos Chronicles are about a pair of cousins Charlotte and Zee (Zachary), one from a small town in the US and one outside London, who have stumbled into the truth that the Greek gods are real and not too happy with humanity. This is their third tangle with the gods. The first book was set in the Underworld, the second on Poseidon’s yacht, and this one takes up just after they escape the Mediterranean and return to Charlotte’s home. Mysterious storms and monsters are loose across the world and even Charlotte’s parents are beginning to suspect that something is going on. Zee and Charlotte must once again, save humanity, but this time, there’s a new kid in the mix. Who is he and whose side is he on?

I enjoyed this one a lot. It’s MG / younger teen, totally clean, and pretty funny. There’s lots of action, some violence, but none of it very graphic. I like that the kids don’t emerge from these big fights without a scratch, but it felt like they were really getting hammered a little too often. I also really liked that Charlotte and Zee genuinely cared about each other. Not in a romantic way, but in a family way, where the other person gets on your nerves sometimes, but the bond is solid. In fact, there isn’t much romance in these books, which makes a nice change.

This is the last book in the series, and I wouldn’t start here. You’d be lost. But I can recommend the series, as one that will appeal to any gender and to parents as well as kids. They’d also be fun to read aloud. 3.75 for the series, 3.5 for this book, as it got a little muddled in the middle.

The Forgotten Sisters (Princess Academy, book 3) by Shannon Hale

Miri from the Princess Academy is back. This time, the king makes her an offer – train his royal cousins in her own Princess Academy, and her little village at home can OWN their village, for good. It seems like too good a deal to pass up, so she agrees. The stakes are high. A royal marriage may be the only way to prevent a war. But the three sisters are no princesses- they can’t even read. Miri is in over her head. Literally. She falls in the swamp, gets a snake bite her first day, and faints just inside the door. Off to a great start.

Although I enjoyed this book, it’s nothing really new. If you liked the first books in this series, you’ll like this one. The new girls are appealing, and I liked the setting. But for me, the book didn’t really come alive until about halfway through. I’m glad I read it though. Again, I wouldn’t read this one unless you’d read the first two. I still recommend this series, but I think it appeals a little more to girls that boys, more to kids that adults. Another one that would be good read aloud. 3.25 for this book, between 3-4 for the series, depending. I think it just won’t appeal to some readers, but then there will be plenty of readers who *love* it. You won’t know until you try it.

Slaves of Socorro (The Brotherband Chronicles, book 4) by John Flanagan

Hal and the rest of the Brotherband fellows are sent off to Araluen to patrol the coast for the Jarl. They’re just settled in when a group of slavers hit the coast. Hal and the ranger Gilan know who they are and where they’re headed, so they crew decides to follow. To rescue the Araluens, they’ll have to infiltrate the slave market, and it won’t be easy.

I admit, I’m a sucker for this writer. I love his Ranger’s Apprentice series, and this one is just as much fun. Flanagan excels at portraying young men, just emerging from childhood all through the difficult process of becoming men. Hal’s emergence as a leader is so well done. I would definitely recommend this author and this series in particular to kids. Unlike the previous two books, I think you could start with this one, although it would be better to start with the first one, but if you find this one first, grab it and give it a try. Although it’s set about a Viking longboat (more or less), Flanagan includes a little glossary of sailing terms so drylanders like me won’t be confused. 4 stars for this one, solid 4, maybe higher for the series.

 

Summer Cold Read-a-Thon

Sick in Bed

You know what a cold is good for? Nothing. Well, maybe one thing – it makes a good excuse to lie (lay?) around in bed and catch up on some reading. I’ve been sniffling for week, so as you might imagine, it’s been a little miserable. Sore throat, stuffy nose, runny nose, fatigue, shortness of breath, general pitifulness all around. While it may give me a good excuse to get out of things, it’s been trying.

The one bright spot – I’ve caught up on my reading. OK, I never really catch up. Is that even possible? But I’ve zoomed through some library books, some audiobooks, and some ebooks, so it’s pretty balanced. I think I will just list them here, and then add individual reviews later:

The List:

Immortal Fire (The Chronos Chronicles, book 3)

The Forgotten Sisters (Princess Academy, book 3)

The Viscount and the Witch (Riyria, 1.5)

Black-Eyed Susans

Longbourn

Slaves of Socorro (Brotherband, book 4)

Cold, DNF

Also made progress on my read for book club, but I will add that when I finish.What are you reading? I’d love your recommendations!