Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1) by Seanan McGuire

I’m playing around with this format to see is this might be a way to quickly and easily post short reviews of book that I have read but don’t plan on offering an in-depth review.

I saw Every Heart a Doorway at a local bookstore and added it to my TBR list. Finally borrowed it for Kindle from Libby app and read it. I figured this would be something I enjoy. “Creative spin on classic fairy tale/mythology/speculative fiction trope.”

It was interesting… but unsatisfying somehow.

As is often the case with first books in a series, it felt like a setup that didn’t quite payoff. This is a novella so it really does read like an introduction. It is also like one part speculative fiction, with a heavy dose of paint by numbers “diversity,” and one part murder mystery. I don’t think the two blended very well. My sense is the first aspect is more interesting than the second and thus was undercut by the latter; particularly in the second half of the book.

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The Warden and the Wolf King by Andrew Peterson

For those of you not following along, I’m reading the Wingfeather Saga to mark the release of new collectable hardcover editions being released this year.

And so we come to the much anticipated final book in the series: The Warden and the Wolf King:

All winter long, people in the Green Hollows have prepared for a final battle with Gnag the Nameless and the Fangs of Dang. Janner, Kalmar, and Leeli are ready and willing to fight alongside the Hollowsfolk. But when the Fangs make the first move and invade Ban Rona, the children are separated.

Janner is alone and lost in the hills; Leeli is fighting the Fangs from the rooftops of the city; and Kalmar, who carries a terrible secret, is on a course for the Deeps of Throg. Monsters and Fangs and villains lie between the children and their only hope of victory in the epic conclusion of The Wingfeather Saga.

Perhaps not surprisingly given the continued improvement book to book, I found book four a satisfying conclusion to the series. It was a happy ending of sorts but not without some serious sacrifice. Quests, epic battles, twists and turns and some resolution (but not everything tied up in a neat bow).

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North! or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson

For those of you not following along, I’m reading the Wingfeather Saga to mark the release of new collectable hardcover editions being released this year.  Specifically, books three and four being released on October 6.

Alas, rather than hardback I am reading them on Kindle so I am not getting the full effect of the new covers, maps, and illustrations by Joe Sutphin.  Kindle reading does make it easier to read in bed at night without disturbing my wife so it has that going for it.  And it does give me a sense of the added material even if not quite as grand as the hardbacks.

I am pleased to report that the books seems to be getting better as we go. I enjoyed On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness and found the second half of the book more engaging than the first.

And that pattern continued with North! or Be Eaten

Janner, Tink, and Leeli Igiby thought they were normal children with normal lives and a normal past. But now they know they’re really the Lost Jewels of Anniera, heirs to a legendary kingdom across the sea, and suddenly everyone wants to kill them.

In order to survive, the Igibys must flee to the safety of the Ice Prairies, where the lizardlike Fangs of Dang cannot follow. First, however, they have to escape the monsters of Glipwood Forest, the thieving Stranders of the East Ben, and the dreaded Fork Factory.

But even more dangerous are the jealousies and bitterness that threaten to tear them apart. Janner and his siblings must learn the hard way that the love of a family is more important than anything else.

I think I enjoyed this second book in the Wingfeather Series more than the first because there was more action and much more of the larger picture was revealed.

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2019 Books in Review: The Girl Who Drank the Moon

There has been a odd phenomenon of late with me (really going back years). I still read quite a bit but I rarely post reviews.  There are lots of reasons for this which I won’t go into because I have blogged about the subject enough around here. But one of the things I want to work on in 2020 is focus.  ANd figure forcing myself to commit to something and working on putting my energies toward that is a good place to build focus.  So I had the idea of going back through the books I read in 2019 and blogging about each of them in a simple format.  This would allow me to get back in the practice of blogging/writing regularly and find out if such regularly blogging would revive this near-dead blog.  So find below the first attempt.

Book: The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Format: Kindle

Owned or Borrowed: Own

Publishers description:

Cover of The Girl Who Drank the MoonEvery year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the Forest, Xan, is kind. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon. Xan rescues the children and delivers them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey.

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. As Luna’s thirteenth birthday approaches, her magic begins to emerge–with dangerous consequences. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Deadly birds with uncertain intentions flock nearby. A volcano, quiet for centuries, rumbles just beneath the earth’s surface. And the woman with the Tiger’s heart is on the prowl . . .

Why I read it…

I have a habit of picking up popular young adult/middle grade/children’s books because they are often creative and interesting in ways that “adult” books are not.  Or they just grab my attention for some reason.  This was one such book.  I marked it To Read in 2016, started reading it in fall 2018 and finished early 2019.  I believe it was the first book I marked as “Read” in Goodreads.  The book was something of a hit, which I am guessing sparked my interest:

  • Winner of the 2017 Newbery Award
  • The New York Times Bestseller
  • An Entertainment Weekly Best Middle Grade Book of 2016
  • A New York Public Library Best Book of 2016
  • A Chicago Public Library Best Book of 2016
  • An Amazon Top 20 Best Book of 2016
  • A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2016
  • A School Library Journal Best Book of 2016
  • Named to Kirkus  Reviews’ Best Books of 2016
  • 2017 Booklist Youth Editors’ Choice

Why I liked it…

This is tricky when I don’t put down my thoughts at Goodread quickly.  The star system is not much help given how inconsistent I am in rating something 4 stars when I enjoyed it but it didn’t wow me but also when I really enjoyed it.

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The Lost Legacy (The Supernormal Sleuthing Service #1) by Gwenda Bond & Christpher Rowe

Sooo … long time no blog.  Thanks to Jeff for keeping the place alive in my absence.  I may have finally found my motivation for blogging so here’s hoping May is the start of something.

Friend of the blog (Can I say that? I guess I just did) Gwenda Bond posted on Facebook that the first book in the Supernormal Sleuthing Service Series, The Lost Legacy, is now out in paperback.  Book two, The Sphinx’s Secret, is expected later this month.  This series is co-written by Gwenda and her husband Christopher Rowe.  I figured this would be a good time to offer a review since I failed to do so when I read it last year.

I found The Lost Legacy to be a clever and imaginative start to what should be a fun series. A unique twist on a common plot hook, magical creatures secretly hiding out in the modern world, and a menagerie of interesting characters and personalities. Backstory and mysteries are slowly revealed as the tension picks up. The ending reveals but also sets up future adventures.

Library Journal captures what makes this first book enjoyable:

Character development is quite satisfying, as the children start out whiny and distrustful but become brave and resourceful. The authors artfully meld the supernatural with the modern. In one scene, the children use their cell phone ringers to scare a ghoul. Black-and-white, cartoon-style line drawings by Thomas establish just the right mood for the quirky setting and characterization.

If  you are looking for non-stop movie like action, this is not that kind of book.  Some of the reviews seemed frustrated with the lack of action but I enjoyed the characters and the setting so didn’t mind the pace or t is a fun, lighthearted read and who doesn’t need that these days?  Can’t wait to read the next book.

 

The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home (Fairyland #5) by Catherynne M. Valente

One of results of this extended slump/funk I have been in is that I have not reviewed many of the books I have read (even at Goodreads I have left many books with only star ratings and no comments).

So it is that we come to the end of one of my favorite young adult fantasy series (Catherynne Valente’s Fairyland series) without my having reviewed the two previous books. Awkward.

Anywhoo … So, The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home is the last book in this series.  And I not only bought a hardcover but also grabbed it on Audible so I could listen to it on the daily commute.

My take?

An absolute gem! I adore this series. And I honestly think I like listening to it better than reading it. Valente’s imagination combined with her voice and personality in the audio version can’t be beat. This final book in the series was as enjoyable as the first and brings the series to a satisfactory conclusion.

I particularly like the role that characters from the last book (the alas un-reviewed The Boy Who Lost Fairyland). It made having read that book, which was different in that September did not play a central role, seem worthwhile and rewarding.

But again in this volume, September shines and Valente shines through her as an author and a narrator. What a great character and Valente brings her to life. I think Blunderbuss was my second favorite character. Just a great personality and Valente also does a wonderful job giving her a voice that matches the personality.

I am going to stop gushing and just reiterate that this is a great conclusion to a great series. If you haven’t read or listened to it I highly recommend it.

The books narrated by Valente herself are a must listen for sure.

The Eye of Zoltar (Chronicles of Kazam #3) by Jasper Fforde

As you might recall, I have been listening to audio books during my daily commute.  And I stumbled on Jasper Fforde‘s Chronicles of Kazam series at the local library. I started with The Last Dragonslayer and next came The Song of the Quarkbeast.

The third book, The Eye of Zoltar, turned out to be another fun listen on the daily commute.

Eye of Zoltar AudioAlthough she’s an orphan in indentured servitude, sixteen-year-old Jennifer Strange is pretty good at her job of managing the unpredictable crew at Kazam Mystical Arts Management. She already solved the Dragon Problem, avoided mass destruction by Quarkbeast, and helped save magic in the Ununited Kingdoms. Yet even Jennifer may be defeated when the long-absent Mighty Shandar makes an astonishing appearance and commands her to find the Eye of Zoltar—proclaiming that if she fails, he will eliminate the only two dragons left on earth.

How can a teenage non-magician outdo the greatest sorcerer the world has ever known? But failure is unacceptable, so Jennifer must set off for the mysterious Cadir Idris in the deadly Cambrian Empire—a destination with a fatality index of fifty percent. With the odds against them, will Jennifer and her traveling companions ever return to the Kingdom of Snodd?

Once again, Jennifer Strange is a good central character and the crew at Kazam Mystical Arts Management returns as well (although mostly backstage with the prominent exception of Perkins). And there are some fun added characters in this one which the narrator does a nice job of capturing (accents and personality).

I particularly enjoyed the princess who loves complex economics. Plus, we get to visit another kingdom and explore its unique culture, economy and people. There is plenty of wit but also some mystery and adventure.

This is not quite as good as the first two but I have enjoyed this series. This one ended on quite the cliffhanger so I guess we wait for the next book.

Monsters of Men (Chaos Walking #3) by Patrick Ness

I figured I would continue to slog through my by now substantial backlog of book I have read but not reviewed. And what better place to start then the last book in a series … (book 1 review, book two review)

I enjoyed finishing up this series via audio book. I thought Ness really wrestled with some interesting aspects in Monsters of Men. The story explores ideas like the tension between the quest for peace and the requirements of leadership and self-defense; and issues of trust and betrayal (and the related issue of whether people can truly change).

There was also a nice mix of action and character building and interaction; something that can be a challenge in a series like this.  You could see where things were headed at times but Ness also pulled off some nice unexpected twists.  I thought Mayor/President Prentiss was a particularly engaging and fascinating character right up until the end.

 [WARNING: spoilers below]

I have to say, however, that I was disappointed with the ending. I really think it would have been a powerful conclusion if the story ends on the beach with the Return pondering his actions and the repercussions. The way the book actually ends diluted the power of those events somehow in some sort of attempt to add a happy ending of the possibility of one I guess. Didn’t work for me.

All in all, however, it was a really creative and engaging series with imaginative world building and some powerful characters.  Whether in audio, Kindle or old-fashioned book version,  I recommend the series.