I was lucky enough to review A THOUSAND NIGHTS over at The Children’s Book Review, as well as interview the fabulous author, EK Johnston! She is the nicest, guys.
UPROOTED by Naomi Novik is a stunning high fantasy novel that I enjoyed from page one.
Agnieszka is a teen in a small village outside a haunted and self-aware forest. The Dragon, a sorcerer, comes to her village and takes a girl every ten years. This year he will come again, and everyone knows he will come for her best friend, Kasia. Instead, it’s her hand he grasps at the choosing, and so she is torn from her family and thrust in to a new and terrifying life.
The Dragon, as it turns out, is not as half as scary as she thought. True, he lives in a lonely tower just outside the deadly forest, but he is quiet, grumpy, and skinny. He never touches her, and in fact begins to teach her magic. He nurtures the magic inherent within her, though he doesn’t like it, filling Agnieszka with pride and wonder for the first time in her life. In fact, Agnieszka starts to feel a heat between them, a spark of something she never thought she’d feel toward the sallow sorcerer. When her friend, Kasia, is taken by the woods, Agnieszka rushes to save her. What Agnieszka finds alters the face of her Kingdom, and her life, forever.
This is a phenomenal book. If you love fantasy like Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, Narnia, anything like that — this is the book for you. I absolutely loved Agnieszka’s feisty nature. I loved how she threw The Dragon’s attitude back in his face. I love that she fights for everything she believes in, her friends, her family, no matter what.
I cannot say enough good things about this book. The writing is wonderful. Novik is a true master of her craft (and no wonder, she’s written about a million other books). The settings are crystal clear, the wood is terrifying, the plot unfolds at just the right pace. Trust me, if you like fantasy, READ THIS BOOK. I am going online to look for the rest of her books. This one is THAT good.
The Magicians, by Lev Grossman.
“Quentin did a magic trick. Nobody noticed.”
So we begin a murky, dark fantasy. Quentin is good at school, but not great at making friends. Like many of us, he’s obsessed with a children’s fantasy series, and dreams of another life, another world, where he can be magical.
He’s interviewing for a prestigious college when he finds an entrance to another place – Brakebills. It’s a secret university for magicians, hid behind a cloak of invisibility. When he passes the test, he is whirled away to a school where he is a prodigy, where he finally has friends who are equals, and where he belongs.
But a dark force waits just beneath the surface. A force of magic that threatens the school and the magical world itself.
I won’t say more than that, because I don’t want to give away what happens. Does he flunk out? Succeed? Hook up with his old flame from his old life, Julia? The new hot girl at school, Alice?
This book was off the charts. I absolutely loved every minute of it. Grossman is a master storyteller. Quentin is sympathetic, yet flawed. I loved him and was annoyed by his mistakes. I envisioned myself as a Brakebills student. I cried for Quentin’s losses.
I’m going to invoke the holy name of HARRY POTTER. Yes, this is compared to Harry Potter, but other than a young man going to a magic school, there’s not many other similarities. This is a great book that stands on its own.
A very dark, thrilling tale of getting exactly what you asked for. The truth can be a cruel mistress.
Are you still reading this review?
GO BUY IT. NOW.
(Also this is now a series on Syfy, but I’ve only seen an episode or two. It didn’t seem to follow the book plot-wise. But still worth watching on its own!)
ALL HAIL THE RAVEN KING.
Can we just start out with: I love this book. I love this series. Maggie Stiefvater is one of the most talented writers of our generation/of all time. Where is Kanye when I need him? OF ALL TIME, Y’ALL.
Here’s an excerpt of my review of the first book, just so you know what the series is about:
Blue, daughter of a ‘seer’ (a clairvoyant), has a unique skill. Although she can’t communicate with the spirit world herself, her presence amplifies clairvoyant and psychic abilities in those around her. And when she sees the dying ghost of a boy named Gansey on St. Mark’s Eve in the church graveyard, her mother tells her it can only mean one of two things. Either he is her true love, or she’ll kill him by the time the year is out. And those points may not be mutually exclusive.
Set in small-town Virginia, this lyrical mystery weaves the viewpoints of the local “Raven Boys” from a prestigious private school with Blue’s own sharp narration. The boys aren’t like normal rich kids – they are searching for buried treasure in the form of an un-dead historical figure, waiting to grant his finder any wish. Blue is drawn to them, even as she knows that Gansey will soon die. With several twists, this book will keep readers flipping pages well in to the night.
Okay. Now that that’s out of the way…THE RAVEN KING is the last book in the Raven Cycle, a four book series. It was so amazing. Each book builds on the last, creating a fascinating urban/fantasy/magical realist world (depending on who you talk to, I’m sure) that I just cannot get enough of. Part Southern Gothic in the vein of Anne Rice, part YA teen angst, part just amazing fantasy, you will not be able to put it down. And if you haven’t started the series, lucky you! You get to read all four at once.
Blue is a a heroin we can root for, Gansey is so swoonworthy it hurts (OMG he calls her Jane, JANE and I can’t stand it I love it) and we cannot wait for them to get together. Maggie is an absolutely phenomenal writer. She grabs you from the word go, and you will not look away.
I loved the mythology, I loved the setting, I loved the characters.
I loved the CARS. Gosh, there are just not enough cars in books. I loved Gansey’s Camaro, since I have one, too. I loved the details of these books, the complex character relationships…Truly a masterpiece.
In conclusion: Buy all four books. Read them. Tell everyone you love about them. Maggie Stiefvater wins this decade for best series.
The Case of the Missing Donut is written by Alison McGhee and illustrated by Isabel Roxas.
This delightful children’s book is so much fun to read to your kiddo. My daughter absolutely loved this book from the library. So, for her birthday, we bought her her own copy. The illustrations are delightful, and the story is written like a real western. The Sheriff, a little boy, is on a mission to bring home a dozen donuts. His trusty deputy (this schnauzer) is there to help him along the way. But what happens when one donut goes missing?
A real treat for little ones, 3-5 years old. Highly recommended!
FLAME is the third and last book in the SKY CHASERS series by Amy Kathleen Ryan.
Here’s what the series starts off about:
The inhabitants of the Empyrean spaceship have one main goal in life – reach and terraform New Earth, and procreate. Waverly is the oldest girl born on the Empyrean, and she’s all but made up her mind to marry Kieran, the future captain of the ship. But when their sister ship, the New Horizon, attacks without warning, she is kidnapped along with all of the other girls. Infertility plagued the New Horizon for its entire mission thus far, and Pastor and leader Anne Mathers plans on rectifying that situation by violently ‘rescuing’ these girls and putting them on her ‘safer’ ship. Kieran is left to battle over control of the ship with brooding Seth, who also harbors a deep love for Waverly. Will Waverly and the other girls find a way to escape and get home? Who will take over the Empyrean – Kieran or Seth?
In FLAME, we see the exciting and unexpected conclusion of the series. I LOVED it. I feel like I’ve been reading a lot of flat or disappointing series endings lately. Thank goodness Ms. Ryan really stepped it up. This is a phenomenal space-opera series with big thematic and moral questions.
I was lucky enough to win a copy of ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL by Jesse Andrews from WE SO NERDY on Twitter. Thanks so much, guys! I loved it.
Highschool sucks, and Greg Gaines knows it. Up until this year, he’s treaded just on the outside of social circles, not really making friends and not really pissing anyone off, either. He had one kind of friend, Earl, a foul-mouthed black kid from a bad suburb down the way, and his own kooky parents to irritate him.
Everything changes when his mom, again, it seems just to irritate him, forces him to talk to a girl he knew from Hebrew school because she has cancer. Specifically, Leukemia. As he rebuilds a tentative friendship with her (though he wouldn’t call them ‘friends’) he learns just how horrible of a person he might be. She’s dying of cancer, and he and her aren’t falling in love, aren’t particularly connecting, and he really only comes to visit because otherwise he feels guilty.
So when Earl comes around and offers to show her he and Greg’s super secret homemade movies, he’s more than a little pissed. But the movies delight her and she becomes their only fan.
Can Greg become a better person as he watches a tentative friend die? Will he and Earl realize their dream of making films? Or will everything just blow up in their face?
Review: I loved this book. Hands down, this is the best book about cancer you will ever read. Greg is outright hysterical in his worldview and his own sheepish assessment of himself and how he lacks as a human being. It’s like SUPERBAD meets THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, as I told my husband. I won’t give away what happens, but I will say that Greg is an unflinching, honest creature that we all can relate to. No one ever feels good enough, and I imagine if a friend has cancer, you never feel like you are doing or saying the right thing.
Now, I’m not normally a fan of contemporary, and especially of schmalzy “sick” fiction, but goodness. This book was amazing, funny, poignant without trying too hard…it’s amazing.
You should read it. Please, go read it now. You will thank me.
Lady Helen Wrexall is at the edge of her new life: She’s about to be formally presented to the Queen of England. After this, she’ll be ready to find a husband and marry, beginning a new life where people might forget that her mother was a traitor to the crown.
But when she meets mysterious Lord Carlston, she’s intrigued. Especially since he’s back in town after a scandalous past – and right at the same time her maid goes missing. But Lord Carlston isn’t anything like what people say. He’s charming, he’s kind, and he’s powerful. Helen begins to dig deep into the bowels of Regency London with her maid, searching for the missing girl. Her guardians, an aristocratic aunt and uncle, want her to settle down and stop seeing the infamous Lord Carlston. It’s the only way she’ll meet a suitable match. But she can’t stay away. Especially when he reveals Helen’s secret powers, and her mother’s truly heroic past. London comes alive with dark demons, powerful secret government societies, and those who fight for the world’s safety. Helen will have to make a choice: live a quiet, peaceful life with a husband and relative safety of a rich English lady, or fight the demons of the world as her mother did.
What did I think?
I absolutely LOVED this book. I’m a sucker for Regency books, and Alison Goodman is a master storyteller. Her words were beautiful, her settings perfectly realistic, and her facts spot on. You can tell she really did her research. I felt like I was there! I never wanted to leave. Plus, you get the added bonus of dark magical underworld, and it’s a match made in heaven! I can’t wait to read the rest of the series. And honestly, I’m going to go back and read Ms. Goodman’s back list. This book is that good!
Evelyn is tired of Victorian society and all of the strict standards she must adhere to. Her sister, Rose, has a passion for nursing, and Evelyn loves to help her. Together they both help those in need around them, and embarrass their class-conscious parents. So when Rose disappears, only Evelyn seems worried. Shocked at her parent’s lack of concern, she embarks on a mission to find her missing sister in the dirty streets of London. Aided by the help of a longtime friend, Mr. Kent, she hopes to find who kidnapped her sister. When she meets again with the mysterious and seemingly dark gentlemen named Mr. Braddock, she finally hits on a clue. Her sister had special powers, and someone wants to use her for research. Rose is not the only one – London is full of secret heroes with various abilities. Can Evelyn find her sister before she’s killed? Is the darkly handsome Mr. Braddock as bad as he seems, and is she really falling in love with him?
What did I think?
This was a fun romp into a mysterious version of Victorian London. Yes there are petticoats and manners and lots of Lords and Ladies, but there are also superpowers! I knew I had to pick it up immediately. If anything, I thought it ended too quickly. Luckily there will be more books in the series so that we can get right back into that world again. Evelyn is a feisty herione who won’t wait around for a savior, and she’s very good at falling for the wrong guy. I really enjoyed learning about the underground society of Victorian super heroes with her.
If you’ve ever heard the tale of A THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS, then you’ll be familiar with the premise of Renee Ahdieh’s beautiful new book.
Every day at dawn, the young Caliph of Khorasan, Khalid, has his new bride murdered. The last bride was Shahrzad’s best friend. So when she volunteers to be Khalid’s new bride, everyone is surprised. But when she survives the dawn, everyone is even more suspicious. How did she manage to survive, when no one else has? Khalid may not realize why mysterious and beautiful Shahrzad volunteered, but he does know one thing: she captivates him like no creature to have walked this Earth before.
As Shahrzad spins her web of intrigue, arranging to exact her revenge on Khalid, she finds that she is falling in love with the monster himself. Can she unearth the secret reason all of his brides have to die? Can she discover why this sweet, sensitive Caliph is a known murderer?
Shahrzad will have to question everything she’s been told about the wretched King, his motivations, and the magical secrets of the Kingdom.
What did I think?
This is one of the most expertly, beautifully written books I’ve read in a long time. Ahdieh is a talented writer who weaves lyrical, almost poetic prose with a smart and tense storyline. This is mainly a romantic intrigue type of book, so if you are a fan of romance this will be right up your alley. It does have the added benefit of magic, intrigue and betrayal, so that’s always nice 😉
The setting is almost a character itself. The lush Arabic setting jumps off the page. It is riveting, fascinating, and makes you want to hop on the next boat to a Kingdom surrounded by desert.
With air conditioning, of course. 😉 Let’s not get crazy.
I’m excited to read the sequel to this one! You won’t be disappointed. Go buy it today!