Currently Reading: 7/6/20

Cover- Howling Dark

Howling Dark by Christopher Ruocchio
Finally time to check out the second book because Demon in White is out later this month!! Gotta catch up and know what’s going on for the new installment. These books are quite long, so I probably will finish up the audiobook just in time for the new book’s release date.

Cover - Ashes of the Sun

Ashes of the Sun by Django Wexler
YAYYYY!! I’m so excited to finally sit down and actually read this! I’ve greatly enjoyed Django Wexler’s other series and hope this one is just as engaging and well written. The synopsis sounds pretty fab.

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer – Review

Cover- Artemis Fowl

Published: April 1, 2003

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Series: Artemis Fowl #1

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade(?)

Pages: 396 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Synopsis:

Twelve-year-old Artemis Fowl is a millionaire, a genius, and above all, a criminal mastermind. But even Artemis doesn’t know what he’s taken on when he kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit. These aren’t the fairies of bedtime stories—they’re dangerous! Full of unexpected twists and turns, Artemis Fowl is a riveting, magical adventure.


After the Artemis Fowl movie was released on Disney+ I decided to do a quick refresh of what was one of my favorite childhood books before I watched the movie. I had probably read this book 5 or 6 times as a youngling and even so, the details were a little fuzzy. It was a quick read and I quickly remember why I loved it so much and marveled at how it leaned a little more YA than middle grade and how it probably shaped my taste in books.

I mean really, if you have kids aged 10 or older (and maybe even younger) who love to read this is a fantastic book. Heck, I loved it as a late twenty-something and found it had withstood the test of time ridiculously well. 

Artemis Fowl is a twelve year old criminal mastermind, set on starting his own criminal empire and restoring his family’s fading fortunes by stealing fairy gold. In order to do this, he must capture a fairy and do some serious negotiating. This is where LEPrecon captain Holly Short comes in. She’s the first female Lower Elements Police officer and she’s one of the recon members who wrangle fairies that have illegally gone top-side into the human world. It’s after a recon mission that she’s captured by Artemis and then the real fun begins. There’s a kleptomaniac dwarf and eats and then… expels… dirt/rock/other matter, a crazed troll, and a whole swarm of LEP officers that provide both tension and comedic relief. This is not to mention Domovoi Butler and his little sister Juliet who have trained for years so that they might protect the Fowl lineage. Both Butlers are master marksmen, trained in hand-to-hand combat, and numerous other martial skills and are quite likable despite their formidable skillset. 

The plot is quite good and is succinctly wrapped up in a single book. There are further books that (obviously) expand the story and bring in new and old characters alike, though I will admit that I thought the series went downhill after the third book and stopped reading after the fourth book. I must say, youngling me was still wise in the way of the series DNF. 

I will also note that while the movie kept certain elements of the plot, particularly those surrounding the Holly Short hostage situation, the writers/directors changed so many things that made this book so appealing to little me. I mean, a young criminal mastermind and his cool Russian bodyguard became a little boy trying to save his father by any means necessary and his bodyguard who was a big dude, but not quite as scary as book Butler. Also, they changed Commander Root from a raging, cigar smoking  old man fairy to the much less intimidating Judi Dench, thus also taking away Holly’s success at being the first female LEPrecon member. That being said, it was a cute movie and I still enjoyed it for what it was.

Subscription Box Review: OwlCrate – June 2020

Basic Box Info

This box only has two options – Owlcrate, which caters to fans of Young Adult books and Owlcrate Jr, which caters to Middle Grade readers.

  • Owlcrate (29.99 + Shipping)
  • Owlcrate Jr. (27.99 + Shipping)

Boxes are shipped between the 15th and 20th of each month. Shipping is available worldwide, with the exceptions of Mexico and Peru. The FAQ said that delivery was proving to be unreliable in these countries, though if a more reliable shipping service is available service may resume in the future.


June 2020: All the Worlds’s A Stage

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The special edition of Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles is so stunning!! I love books with the cool foil-y designs right on the hardcover. The rest of the goodies this month were pretty great as well.

I didn’t snap a separate pic for two items, so check out the cool pencil holder and accompanying pencils! The pencil holder can also double as a coin holder and has a slotted lid insert you can use if you wish to use it as such. Also – it’s The Night Circus themed!! The pencils have Shakespeare quotes imprinted on them and were ridiculously hard to photograph well by themselves.

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This is definitely my favorite item in the whole bundle. Bones Coffee is fantastic and OwlCrate got me (and my husband) hooked when they included a bag back in the September 2019 box. We’ve gone through probably 4-5 of the big bags of coffee. Also, note the coupon code FREAK20 on the bag if you want to try out the brand!

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This month’s box also included a weekly habit tracker. It’s handy if you want to hold yourself accountable for things like working out, eating healthy, or maybe even reading!

The mysterious bottom left item is a “shower steamer” that is basically a scented bath bomb for the shower. I dig those Vick’s Vaporub shower tablets, but I’m honestly a little concerned this would stain my shower!

And lastly we have the monthly pin! As always, the design is based off the featured book and it looks a bit like a little circus ticket.

 

 

Waiting on Wednesday: The Bright and Breaking Sea by Chloe Neill

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme originally hosted on Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. This is a great way to share upcoming released you’re excited about!


Cover- The Bright and Breaking Sea

I am so on board (PUN INTENDED) with all the seafaring fantasies that are being published this year!! The Bright and Breaking Sea sounds like a rollicking good adventure. Kit Brightling is one of few female captains and has a magical affinity with the sea. She’s also been saddled with an unwanted partner and an assignment to rescue a spy from a den of pirates. SO EXCITING!! This will be released in November 2020 so keep your eye to the spyglass.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – Review

Cover- Illuminae

Published: October 20, 2015

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers

Series: The Illuminae Files #1

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Pages: 602 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

Synopsis:

Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the worst thing she’d ever been through. That was before her planet was invaded. Now, with enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra are forced to fight their way onto one of the evacuating craft, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.
But the warship could be the least of their problems. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their biggest threat; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady plunges into a web of data hacking to get to the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: Ezra.
Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents–including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more–Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.


Honestly. Could this have been much cooler? I sort of avoid books that have huge amounts of hype until the hype is pretty well justified (and sometimes until the series is finished). Decided to finally check out Illuminae and just WOW. The hype was entirely justified and I loved every page of it! I highly recommend the audio format as well, because it’s a full cast performance, with sound effects and it just makes it 10x cooler than it probably is in print.

The story is told in a really interesting style – not exactly sure what to call it (epistolary?), but it’s a collection of documents, emails, transcribed video recordings, etc. It starts off on the planet Kerenza, where an illegal mining colony is attacked by a corporate competitor called BeiTech. Kady Grant and Ezra Mason have just broken up and now their day has just gotten unimaginably worse. They escape the planet with a few thousand other refugees and are now on the run from a BeiTech dreadnought that only wants to silence the few remaining witnesses. It’s a race to jump station Heimdall where they can hopefully find refuge and share their story but things just keep going wrong. BeiTech dropped a bioweapon that has infected people one one of the refugee ships and now there are raging space berserkers who only wish to kill running amok. And the AI AIDAN has gone mad. It’s just an all around bad situation.

Obviously the story is pretty non-stop just based on the details I’ve shared here. The characters are also pretty fascinating. Kady is on the path to become an extraordinary hacker and Ezra has quite the necessary hand-eye coordination to make a decent pilot so he’s drafted by the marines. They’re on separate ships and are still technically not a couple and so avoid each other for long weeks. When things begin getting a bit sketchy Kady reaches out and they begin to share info. And of course fall madly in love once again. There are tons of minor characters that really round things out, many of which you actually begin to feel for. 

This was truly a fantastic performance and I would love to see the event in a movie. It’s perfectly set up for adaptation and the writers would barely need a script. There was some cheesy dialogue, but hey, the main characters are a bunch of teenagers with raging hormones and a penchant for occasional poetry. I loved this SO MUCH and immediately picked up the sequel, Gemina which (as I type this) I have already finished.

The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh – Review

Cover- The Beautiful

Published: October 8, 2019

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Series: The Beautiful #1

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Pages: 448 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 3.5/5.0

Synopsis:

In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans provides her a refuge after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent along with six other girls, Celine quickly becomes enamored with the vibrant city from the music to the food to the soirées and—especially—to the danger. She soon becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as La Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s leader, the enigmatic Sébastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of La Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sébastien’s guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.

When more bodies are discovered, each crime more gruesome than the last, Celine and New Orleans become gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose—one Celine is sure has set her in his sights . . . and who may even be the young man who has stolen her heart. As the murders continue to go unsolved, Celine takes matters into her own hands and soon uncovers something even more shocking: an age-old feud from the darkest creatures of the underworld reveals a truth about Celine she always suspected simmered just beneath the surface.

At once a sultry romance and a thrilling murder mystery, master storyteller Renée Ahdieh embarks on her most potent fantasy series yet: The Beautiful.


I received this in a book box I got last year and it’s been gathering dust since then waiting on me to have time to read it. Well, I finally made time because sometimes you just need a fun vampire book! It was entirely binge-able and I read it in a single sitting! It’s been a while since I’ve actually done that and I needed a nice break from some of the hefty books I’d been reading.

Okay folks – a lovely French girl running from her past arrives in New Orleans, ready to start anew and perhaps find a beau…. And then BAM, enter the bad boy. This is just so YA and I loved it. Celine Rousseau killed a man who tried to take advantage of her and she fled Paris. She’s a strong girl, a talented dressmaker, and she’s hopelessly unfit for the convent she’s staying at.  She quickly gets involved with a group called La Cour des Lions, or the Court of Lions when she’s commissioned for a dress. All the while, someone is stalking the streets murdering people and it seems to be a vampire with a grudge against the Court.

This is an interesting and beautifully atmospheric book and has given me serious inspiration for my Fantasy Feast post series. The food descriptions are luxurious and had me bookmarking recipes. In regard to the actual plot, well, it was fun but not incredibly deep. The serial killer aspect of this book had a great deal of potential but the murderer never felt like much of a threat until the last little bit. It will most certainly be a bigger focus in the next book and I hope it turns out well!

The sequel will be released in just over a week and I do plan to pick it up, mostly in hopes of more awesome food descriptions. Oh yeah, and that irresistible YA angst. Sometimes it just really hits the spot in terms of what I’m looking for in a book and The Beautiful had plenty of it. 

Waiting on Wednesday: City of the Uncommon Thief by Lynne Bertrand

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme originally hosted on Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. This is a great way to share upcoming released you’re excited about!


Cover- City of the Uncommon Thief

City of the Uncommon Thief is just… intriguing. It’s really the only word that fits the synopsis. I’m intrigued by the black iron spikes mentioned and why this Errol Thebes is better off dead. It sounds dark and delightfully unique, with a description leaning towards an adult fantasy rather than YA. I do hope I can get my hands on a copy before the November 2020 release date!

Spirit by A.C. Cobble – Review

Cover- Spirit

Published: May 1, 2020

Publisher: Cobble Publishing LLC

Series: The Cartographer #3

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 518 (eBook)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Synopsis:

The fate of empire is to crumble from within.

Duke Oliver Wellesley and the Priestess Samantha unmasked and destroyed a cabal of sorcerers planning an incredible sacrifice. But preventing the horrific bloodshed left lingering questions, and new attacks close to home prove the danger is not over.

Oliver must choose between his responsibilities to his family and the Crown, and seeking answers over the far horizon. As he struggles with the weight of expectation, he discovers new powers and an ancient magic that has been long forgotten. The tide of sorcery rises, and Oliver begins to understand that a sharp quill and a steel broadsword are not enough. To face the threat of the underworld, he’ll have to call upon the spirits of life


Once again, AC Cobble has written a thrilling, harrowing tale that seems to be the conclusion of The Cartographer series. Or at least, it makes sense that this would be the end of the series based on the way the book concluded. And what a rollicking good read it was!

Sam and Oliver Wellesley, having just defeated a cabal of sorcerers, are now struggling with the decision of what to do next. The king is pushing Oliver to accept the role of Prime Minister, though he longs to continue his role with the Company and to search for his mother. Sam is offered a position on the church council where she can perhaps help train more Knives to hunt down sorcerers. So many decisions… all of which end up come to naught when it becomes clear that there is someone still pulling the sorcerous strings. Of course, our duo of sorcerer hunters can’t let things lie and go after the ultimate big bad!

This story has tons of action, not much political intrigue, and honestly a few cringey moments that well… were important to the story line but could have been handled more deftly. To be frank, this was my least favorite of the three books but it was still quite an exciting way to wrap the story up. I love Sam and Duke (Oliver) – they’re banter is almost always excellent and it was great to read a story where you can have a mostly platonic male/female friendship. Oliver is an absolute rake and knows his way around a map and Sam is a blunt assassin priestess with wicked verbal and actual daggers. They are honestly what made this series so appealing from the very beginning. Sure, the plot is pretty great but would have fallen flat without such fantastic dialogue and chemistry between the characters.

Overall, this is for sure one of my favorite series (independently published or otherwise) and it has the perfect balance of darkness and levity. If you’re looking for a good murder mystery set in the a time period inspired by British colonialism with loads of dark occult baddies that need to be taken out this could be the series for you!

A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians by H.G. Parry – Review

Cover- A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians

Published: June 23, 2020

Publisher: Redhook

Series: Standalone

Genre: Fantasy, Historical

Pages: 544 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

A sweeping tale of revolution and wonder in a world not quite like our own, A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians is a genre-defying story of magic, war, and the struggle for freedom in the early modern world.

It is the Age of Enlightenment — of new and magical political movements, from the necromancer Robespierre calling for revolution in France to the weather mage Toussaint L’Ouverture leading the slaves of Haiti in their fight for freedom, to the bold new Prime Minister William Pitt weighing the legalization of magic amongst commoners in Britain and abolition throughout its colonies overseas.

But amidst all of the upheaval of the early modern world, there is an unknown force inciting all of human civilization into violent conflict. And it will require the combined efforts of revolutionaries, magicians, and abolitionists to unmask this hidden enemy before the whole world falls to darkness and chaos.


If you want a book that’s almost an impromptu history lesson check this outtttt. This is set right around the time of the French Revolution from 1779 – 1794 and primarily follows William Pitt, Maximilien Robespierre, and a slave girl named Fina. I knew some about the French Revolution from past history classes (though I generally preferred pre-modern Europe), but this sort of opened a fascinating rabbit hole of additional reading. I was googling characters to see if they were real people and if events sort of did really happen as such (aside from the clearly magical fiction). This is basically a history lesson with magic.

Fina was a slave on a sugar plantation in Jamaica who eventually made her way to the French island of Saint-Domingue to join the rebellion of Toussaint L’Ouverture. She doesn’t have as many chapters in the beginning of the book, but they are nonetheless interesting and heartbreaking. The slave masters use a potion that essentially traps people in their bodies and most can’t even speak or move without a direct command to do so. Fina is stuck like this for so many years, until she eventually and inexplicably is no longer affected.

William Pitt is a rather famous figure in British history, well known for his position as Prime Minister. In this book, the reader gets to follow him and he and several of his dear friends including William Wilberforce as they take on the slave trade, the French, and so many other things. Pitt has magical talents, though he keeps his true classification a secret from all but Wilberforce who acts as a balancing voice to him. They have quite the adventures and come face to face with loose Shadows on several occasions. 

Maxmilien Robespierre may be the most well known of the historical figures in this book, as he is one of the fathers of the French Revolution. He starts out as a peaceful man, calling for reform while his companions write burning critiques of the monarchy and the Templars that control and punish commoner magicians. You see, commoners with a magical talent are braceleted at birth, so that the Templars might track them and punish them if they were to use their powers. It all starts with good intentions and then things get out of hand and thousands are being guillotined and the streets run red with blood. 

Behind so much of this is a dark figure pulling the strings. He’s in contact with Robespierre, granting him more powerful mesmeric magic, he’s summoning shades, he’s enabling the slave revolt in Saint-Domingue all for his own gain at the end. The reader spends almost the entire book wondering who and perhaps what this shadowy figure is and what they hope to gain from the chaos. 

This was such a well-written historical fantasy and though it took me a week to finish it, it was well worth the time. The subject matter was deep and it needed to be read carefully and sometimes in small doses when things got serious. The characterization was brilliant; you could feel the desperation as things spiraled out of control and ultimately, if you know history you know how things end. Who lives and who dies.